Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: July 1st

Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians #2 (Dark Horse Comics) The spinosaurus who we spent much of the first issue of this series with gets a bit of a break here, as much of the action is devoted to a pack of large theropods successfully stalking, carrying off and ultimately devouring the babies of a small herd of sauropods (Sorry, I don't know the names of the specific dinosaurs; I think I mentioned it last month, but I'd really appreciate a species key on the letters page a the end of the issue. Educate us, Ricardo Delgado!).

As for the spinosaur, he spends most of his panel-time in seducing and eventually coupling with a colorful female of his species (weird; usually it's the males of species that are brightly-colored, but here its reverse; the female is mostly red with a bunch of other colors on her sail and tail). It turns out that spinosaurs, like lions, destroy the babies their mates might have had from other males, as the pages go red and we see our hero protagonist tearing apart his new mate's previous progeny.

That the scene manages to be so damn disturbing is a testament to Delgado's skills as a designer, a renderer and a story-teller; and it's but one scene of dinosaur brutality against the young, as the the theropods save a sauropod for one of their children to learn how to kill with.

Man, life is hard out there for a dinosaur.

Do note that while this book is $3.99, it offers 24-pages of full-color content for that price, an essay from Delgado that I didn't read and no ads. I harp on this because it still boggles my mind how much the Big Two charge for their 20-22-page comics, and yet they fill them with distracting ads at such a rate it makes trade-waiting seem an attractive option. One would think the smaller the publisher, the more reliant they would be on ad revenue to offset the cost of printing and hiring creators, but that's clearly not the case.

Airboy #2 (Image Comics) I was pretty surprised by the meta-take on Airboy that writer James Robinson, in collaboration with artist Greg Hinkle, was doing with the old Hillman hero Airboy, now in public domain. Hell, in this issue, Robinson sits Airboy down and discusses The Multiverse as it exists in DC and Marvel comics with the character, who the creators–the real protagonists of the book–have decided they are hallucinating.

So Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen's It's a Bird by way of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, only with Airboy instead of Superman, I guess. Most of this issue consists of the debauched comics creators hanging out with Airboy, trying to figure out if he's real or not and make him feel comfortable in their world, while Airboy is aghast at the "future" of our modern society (In a lot of ways, the aspect of the issue is reminiscent of the Tom Peyer written DC Two Thousand miniseries, where the heroes of the Golden Age travel to the future, are can't believe they fought off the Nazis just to make the world safe for pollution, bad fashion and heavy metal music). He also gets to whine about DC Comics a little too, which is both funny, sad and weird all at once.

The narrative does take a weird twist at the end though, one that should make the next issue almost nothing like the first two, and makes me more eagerly anticipate it. While parts of this Airboy revival may remind me of so many other comic books, I can honestly say I've never read another comic book quite like Robinson and Hinkle's Airboy.

Bat-Mite #2 (DC Comics) This issue makes good on the promise of the first issue, with Bat-Mite trying to rehab Hawkman into something cooler...after meeting him in a dungeon where a 200+-year-old mad scientist lady wants to switch minds with Hawkman.

"How to fix the Hawk.. ...When so many have tried and failed before me?" Bat-Mite asks himself. Good question! He considers some of teh same options we see on the cover (including the Alex Ross version from Kingdom Come), ultimately deciding on a Hawkman that looks remarkably like that of the '90s combined with the New 52 "Savage" Hawkman, the main two differences being Hawkman has a spiked-ball where his left hand would be, and he's got some pretty lame tattoos.
As with the previous issue, Jurgens' overall plotting is strong, although some of the particular gags he writes for Bat-Mite's never-ending chatter seem particularly flat, like they belong in comics from a decade or two ago. In fact, there's a two-panel speech delivered by the villain that made me wonder if she wasn't being used by Jurgens as a mouthpiece at one point:
I mean, that seems awfully on the nose, doesn't it? Particularly in a comic book written by Jurgens, coming out as part of DC's "DC You" effort, which if sull of young, fresh and new talents...? If so, Jurgens shouldn't complain too much; I mean, DC did give him two titles to write (In addition to this, he's also writing Batman Beyond).

By the end of the issue, everything goes back to normal for Hawkman (save he's still sans body hair), which seems like a bit of a lost opportunity to tweak and better a character otherwise missing from a DC book at the moment, and the broader plot begins to take shape a bit, with Bat-Mite making some friends and a villain appearing in the last panel to talk portentously about the future.

Artist Corin Howell's art is even better here than in the last issue. It seems much sharper, perhaps simply because she's growing more accustomed to the characters the longer she draws them. Her Bat-Mite is super-cute, looking more like a doll than the weird imp of the Silver Age, and her non-Mite characters remind me of Lee Moder's work on the Geoff Johns-written Stars and STRIPE series.

Bat-Mite's certainly not a perfect comic, but it's certainly a pretty good one.

Bizarro #2 (DC) Writer Heath Corson and artist Gustavo Duarte continue they're strangely-paced story of Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro's road trip to Canada (aka "Bizarro America"), which here takes them from Smallville (where they conclude their conflict with King Tut) to Gotham City to Central City to an Old West ghost town where bounty hunter Chastity Hex is looking for a bad guy (I'd love to see a map of this trip).

Corson continues to have a lot of fun with Bizarro's dialogue, and doing different things with it. I liked the bit where Tut complained that Bizarro kept agreeing with him while they battled, and Jimmy's uncertainty of how to take many of Bizarro's answers, as he gradually begins to understand the way Bizarro talks–except Bizarro is constantly deviating from the "rules" of his own speech (sometimes his no, for example, doesn't mean yes, but actually no).

Bill Sienkiwicz's seemingly random appearance last issue to illustrate Bizarro's dream is apparently going to be something of an ongoing feature, as Kelley Jones and Francis Manapul both show up to illustrate splash-pages in this issue, collaborating with Duarte (who draws Bizarro) to draw cameo appearances. Jones draws Batman, naturally (and I think this is his first time drawing "New 52" Batman, although due to the pose, it's only Batman's gauntlets and the soles of his boots which differ from other Jones Batmen, and Manapul naturally draws The Flash.
Like Bat-Mite, this is a very fun book, although it's a much more distinct one.

Mickey Mouse #1/#310 (IDW) I wish I knew a little more about the providence of these particular comics. There's a 36-page story by Andrea Castellan and Giorgio Cavazzano, followed by a trio of short stories featuring Pluto and Ellsworth, a mynah bird, filling up another ten pages (So that's 46-pages of ad-free comics for $4).

The lead story is an adventure one in which Mickey, Goofy and their neighbor Eurasia Toft go on a jungle adventure in order to rescue her uncle's long-lost explorer friends. The back-ups are humor-focused, with one of them proving too hard for me to wrap my brain around. In that one, Ellsworth is an anthropomorphic bird (he was just plain, pet bird in the previous story, in which Goofy buys him a t a pet store), apparently living with Mickey as a roommate, rather than a pet (Unlike Pluto, he wears clothes and talks). He's accosted by a dogcatcher who looks like Pete (some sort of dog, cat or bear himself), and is thrown into the pound with a bunch of non-anthropomorphic dogs and cats...which are nevertheless able to use their paws to operate files.

The rules of anthopomorphism in Disney comics are always blurry, but man, this one just had too much going on it for me. My head didn't explode, but I feared it might.

The lead story was fun, but I prefer Disney ducks to Mickey and Goofy. I may try another issue or two before deciding if I want this one on my pull-list or not.

Mythic #2 (Image) No, this didn't come out this week, but I missed it the week it did, so I'm catching up. Two issues in, I'm really rather on the fence about it. The premise is high concept, but it's the sort of high concept that seems a little too familiar to me (although writer Phil Hester does shade it differently to differentiate it somewhat from other comics and stories about behind-the-scenes organizations that deal with magic and the supernatural).

It was John McCrea's art that attracted me to the series, and while I've liked it okay so far, I was wavering while reading this issue if maybe this isn't the sort of comic I should be trade-waiting. But then I got to the next issue box:
How on earth is someone supposed to resist that...?

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #11 (DC) The regular creative team of Sholly Fisch and Dario Brizuela pair Scooby-Doo and Mystery, Inc with...Secret Squirrel? That's not a team-up I would have seen coming. Aside from both being Hanna-Barbera creations, these two properties don't seem like they have much in common.

Of course, it has been a long-ass time since I've seen any Secret Squirrel cartoons (When did Cartoon Network come into existence? Because it would have been shortly after that), but the fact that he is a giant talking bipedal squirrel seems too at odds with the milieu of Scooby-Doo (or the Scooby-milieu), and he and his giant talking, bipedal mole sidekick seem infinitely more terrifying than the ghost they team with Scooby and the gang to defeat. I'm slightly more courageous than Scooby and Shaggy, and I would run screaming from a two foot tall squirrel in a trench coat, no matter how friendly it seemed.

That said, Fisch and Brizuela make this work about as well as any of the previous team-ups, natural or not (There is a scene where our heroes are suspended over a shark tank that made me wish for a Jabberjaw team-up). The best bit may have been that the super-villains headquarters, built into an active volcano, was destroyed when the volcano erupted naturally. I don't know if I've seen that exact scenario before, despite how commonly volcanos are used as secret bases for super-villains in spy movies.

We Stand On Guard #1 (Image) Writer Brian K. Vaughan teams with artist Steve Skroce for a war comic set in the 22nd century. The combatants? The United States and Canada.

Okay, I'm intrigued.

The story opens with a horrific shock and awe bombing of Ottawa in 2112, and after we watch our protagonist get orphaned in a horrific scene, we jump to 2125, where she's trying to live off the land in the Northwest Terrotories, and doing pretty well at it (and damn, how does she keep her clothes so white?). Until she runs afoul of a U.S. military robot dog (sadly, not that big of an extrapolation from the technology we're already working on), then a group of Canadian freedom fighters, than what appears to be a U.S. AT-AT, which is cool enough looking that I kind of wouldn't mind this dystopian future. Like, if we had AT-ATs now, I would have joined the military as soon as I turned 18.

It's early in the series, obviously, but this is an excellent writer with an excellent track record, and an excellent artist with an excellent track record, and a pretty intriguing premise so far. Like Red Dawn, only we're the Russians, and Canada is America, maybe?

There's a great speech in here from one character about Superman:
While I'm not entirely sure how valid the reading of Superman as a symbol of Canadians may be, and I wonder how many Canadians agree that they have to leave their home "planet" of Canada for the states to do truly great things, it's certainly interesting, and a take I haven't heard, despite how often characters in various dramas might meditate on or speechify about the Man of Steel.

Please keep in mind that BKV is, like Jerry Siegel, a Clevelander himself.

Also of particular note? This panel:
I don't know if that's product placement, or if Skroce and company just appropriated it to hammer home the fact that this is definitely Canada, but I am glad to know that in 100 years Tim Hortons will still be around (I'm a little surprised the logo didn't change at all during all that time, though).

The panel also annoyed me a bit, though, because it made me want Tim Hortons coffee. And, as far as I know, the nearest Tim Hortons is an hour and change drive from here. Dammit, why oh why did I ever leave Columbus?


ramapith said...

In Mickey Mouse:
"The Lost Explorers' Trail" (the opening long adventure) is a recent Italian Mickey story.
The two Ellsworth gag stories are Mickey Sunday newspaper strips from 1949 and 1951, respectively.
The Pluto gag story is a comic book reprint from 1953.
(Next issue we'll start including the provenance of the stories in the credits. You're not the only person to ask.)

Ellsworth is still Goofy's and Mickey's pet despite wearing clothes, talking, and being fairly humanized—the more you read, the more you'll get it. (There's a method to our madness, and a very good reason to reintroduce Ellsworth now; just wait and see!)

David Gerstein, Archival Editor

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

That's my main problem with Jurgens and Giffen. They can still deliver decent jokes, but an equal amount are dated. Sort of like vaguely knowing you've heard it before, or a variation. Either in a comic from a decade ago or a sitcom from two decades ago.

I can't read JL3001 because of this. In the case of Jurgens, he handles it better, and I loved the Booster Gold series from the mid-00s. He really reigned in the BG we saw in the late-80s JL. But he still can follow in Giffen's steps.

Caleb said...

Thanks David Gerstein! What service! I think the fact that most of my Disney comics reading has come courtesy of Fantagraphics' elaborate collections, I'm sort of trained to expect to know where and when various stories are from, and feel out of sorts when I don't.

Anyway, thanks again!

David said...

I can't tell whether We Stand On Guard is meant to be serious or is just an incredibly straight-faced joke/parody. I suspect the latter, but can't really prove it.