Thursday, September 29, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: September 28th

Deadman: Love After Death #1-#2 (DC Comics) I read this Mike Baron-written, Kelley Jones-drawn prestige format miniseries from 1989 once a long time ago, but I don't actually own it. So when I noticed both issues bagged and boarded and selling for just $4.99 in a back-issue bin right next to the cash register at my local comic shop today, well, how could I not buy it? That's $7.90 worth of Kelley Jones-drawn comics for just $4.99! It's a savings $2.91 cents!

I did not re-read it tonight, but, if memory serves, it was awesome, and I imagine it remains so. The title character is maybe the only character who looks even more radically different under Kelley Jones' pen than any other artist's than even Batman. Wait, does that sentence make sense? I've read it like three times and keep tweaking it, and it still seems like a bad sentence. Let me try again: If you think Jones' Batman looks radically different from every other artist's version of that iconic character, wait until you see his Deadman! (Better? Eh, whatever. No one's paying for these sentences).

Josie and the Pussycats #1 (Archie Comics) I have always had a special place in my heart for Dan DeCarlo's Josie and the Pussycats characters for a variety of reasons tied to nostalgia both personal and as related to media consumption, and so I was particularly looking forward to what seemed like Archie's inevitable launch of a new look Josie series to go along with their Archie, Jughead and Betty and Veronica.

There was a fair amount of suspense involved as well, as while co-writer Marguerite Bennett was a known quantity to me, her co-writer Cameron Deordio and artistic collaborator Audrey Mok were not. In that regard, I couldn't immediately assume I would like the book in the way I did Archie or Jughead based on the knowledge that they were launching under Mark Waid and Fiona Staples and Chip Zdarksy and Erica Henderson, respectively.

Well, it turned out perfectly okay. Solo artist Josie, performing at a coffee shop before an audience consisting solely of the lady working there and Alexandra Cabot who shows just to belittle her, hears about a benefit show for an animal shelter, and convinces her boy-crazy, date-happy ditzy friend Melody and a girl who works at the shelter, Valerie, to join her.

There is some Alexandra-seeded conflict, which they resolve by the end of the show (and issue), wherein they meet Alan, who, at least as presented in his few panels of appearance, seems like he might be a combination of Alan and Alexander (Alexander doesn't show at all; hopefully we'll get to him in future issues).

Jose and Val both seem a little bland at this point, and hard to get a handle on. Bennett and Deordio do a pretty interesting version of Melody as a stereotypical dumb blonde stereotype, I thought, making it so that she doesn't necessarily lack intelligence, she's just focused on different things, or, in some cases, unfocused. She loses the musical note in her dialogue bubbles too.

Alexandra seems to be a pretty straightforward transplant, in personality as well as look.

Translating these particular characters into a 2016 narrative can be somewhat fraught, but I think Archie Comics has pulled it off okay, at least so far. It's going to take an arc or so to see how everything settles and takes shape, I think.

I should note that Sophie Campbell's spectacular art on Jem and The Holograms for IDW during two of the first three or so story arcs on that Kelly Thompson-written title have sort of spoiled the presentation of music in comics for me. That is, Campbell drew music so well that to see a more standard approach like the one here--lyrics in dialogue bubbles, musical notes hanging around them and the instruments.

Given the contested history, I would have loved to see a "created by Dan DeCarlo" credit, but there are probably legal reasons for why there isn't. The one-page prose history does acknowledge DeCarlo's creation though, and the fact that the title character is based on his wife, and their iconic cat costumes on a costume of hers.

As per usual, Archie published way too many covers, meaning that you will likely have to choose between those of some of your favorite artists. I thought the above Derek Charm one was the strongest image, even though it meant passing up covers by Colleen Coover and Marguerite Savauge (I didn't really like her Beatles homage, conceptually, but the rendering was srong). That seems to be an argument for trade-waiting, however there is a short, classic DeCarlo-drawn strip in here, that won't appear in the trade. So, there's an argument for reading this serially.

Lumberjanes #30 (Boom Studios) Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh and Carey Pietsch continue their story of a gorgon on the loose around camp, and the Lumberjanes' attempts to stop it and restore the petrified campers of Zodiac Cabin back to normal. I was relieved to find that, once again, things aren't quite what they seem–I find it kind of charming that the monsters of Lumberjanes very rarely turn out to be actually monstrous–and the bad guy we thought we were getting isn't anywhere near as bad as we thought.

Also, I liked the bit about the history of Medusa, in which Poseidon is presented as a bro, complete with a baseball cap.

Saga #38 (Image Comics) In this issue, a character dies! Maybe! Probably? I mean, it sure looked like they died! Who is it? Literally the last character I ever expected Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, this book's two rather ruthless creators, to kill off. It's a pretty sad moment, and the blow isn't necessarily cushioned by the introduction of another amazing-looking Freelancer with another awesome pet with a cool name, nor by the fact that the script has the words "taints" and "queef" within the first three pages, which would have really endeared it to a younger, even more immature Caleb than the current, middle-aged and rather immature Caleb you're used to hearing from here.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #18 (DC Comics) Remember Scooby-Doo Team-Up #13, the issue where the cover showed ghostly heroes The Spectre, Deadman and The Phantom Stranger, but the inside was chock-full of what looked like pretty much every ghost character in DC Comics history that writer Sholly Fisch could think of a way to cram into a 20-page story for kids?

Well, this issue is just like that. Only with DC's canine superhero characters.

Scooby-Doo and Wonder Dog (from Superfriends, not to be confused with Rex, The Wonder Dog) are just wrapping up an off-page team-up on the first page, when Krypto the Superdog, Ace the Bathound and Green Lantern G'Nort swoop in to recruit Scooby-Doo's help. The five of them fly to Sirius-9, where they team up with the Space Canine Patrol (!). And why did that band of canine superheroes need the help of Earth's dog superheroes and, in particular, Scooby-Doo? Because their headquarters is being haunted by another group of superdogs: Nighthound (Nightwing's, not the Nightwing you probably thought of when I said "Nightwing," but the other one, from the bottle city of Kandor), Bulletdog (Bulletman and Bulletgirl's dog, given a more Bullet-appropriate makeover), Robbie The Robot Dog (Robotman's, not the Robotman you probably thought of when I said "Robotman," but the other Robot man, from the Golden Age), Yankee Poodle (who, okay, granted, doesn't actually belong here at all) and motherfucking Rex the motherfucking Wonder Dog (!!!!).

Those are some deep, deep cuts, guys. I have never read a story featuring Nighthound or Bulletdog before, nor have I seen them in any guidebooks or even cover images of them; I just had to spend some time online figuring out if they were really who I thought they were.

It will likely come as no surprise to you that it ends happily before the final page, and the final, most magnificent dog pun, in which the dog equivalent of a long-time DC supervillain appears. I was a little perplexed by some of artist Dario Brizuela's artistic choices–his G'Nort seemed particularly rotund to me, for example, his Rex too shaggy and Krypto had sharper features than I might have liked–but he did his usual astounding job of mixing the design sensibilities from a wide range of sources spanning decades and making them all fit together in a way that feels organic.

There are a couple of funny bits about the term "Wonder Dog," which allows Scooby to name-drop Dyno-Mutt...who I've been waiting to appear in this book since it was first announced. Hopefully Fisch and Brizuela can get to Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt in a future issue (and man, I am shocked they weren't included in DC's weird-ass Hanna-Barbera reboot, as they seem naturals for it...although perhaps I should be glad, as I hate two of those four books).

Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard Travelin' Heroz #2 (DC) There are perhaps just two things I don't like about this book.

The first is that it is drawn by Russ Braun, an excellent artist whose only real fault is that he's not John McCrea, who is, any way you look at it, probably the only artist who should be drawing this series (although an argument could perhaps be made fro Doug Mahke, who drew Section Eight in 2000's Hitman/Lobo: That Suptid Bastich #1). I will try not to repeat that every month, but it's difficult to read a spin-off to writer Garth Ennis and John McCrea's Hitman comic and not notice McCrea's absence on every page (there's even a three-panel sequence in this issue featuring flashbacks to Baytor's appearances in The Demon and Hitman, in which Braun draws Etrigan and Tommy, Nat and the boys from Noonan's).

The other is the swearing. There is a lot of it, much of the most effective swearing coming from The Spectre, who shouts it in huge green text, each letter the size of one of the members of Section Eight, but it is all rendered as a series of asterisks, which I do not care for. I'd prefer they just go ahead and use the actual swear words (This is rated "T+" for older teens; not sure why it's not "M" for mature if the "M" means they can swear, since the target audience here is obviously people well over 18-years-old, and not 16 and 17-year-olds). Or, if they are going to not use real swear words, then to at least use the traditional comic book grawlix.

So, for example, if The Spectre is going to say "Okay, you are really starting to **** me off...You ************* are gonna find out I am the wrong ***** to **** with," I'd really rather see "piss," "motherfuckers," "bitch" and "fuck" in there, or just "@#$%," "mother@#$%ers", "@#$%^" and "@#$%".

By the way, I didn't know "piss" was off-limits in a "T+" book, nor can I figure out what the five-letter word is...I'm assuming "bitch," which has five letters; I guess it could e something unexpected though, like, um, "fucko"...? When I heard "the wrong (redacted) to (redacted) with," I personally thought immediately of a particular Ice Cube song from Death Certificate, but that word has six letters...unless The Spectre is quoting Cube exactly, and replacing the "-er" at the end of that particular word with an "-a" in which case it is a five-letter word and...oh yeah, that is what The Spectre is saying!

See, this book should be rated "M" for mature, because come on, the world needs a comic book in which The Spectre, the spirit of vengeance, the personification of God's anger in the universe, bellows "I am the wrong nigga to fuck with!"

So! The last issue ended with an off-model Spectre appearing in a green cloud outside of Noonan's Sleazy Bar, pointing his finger at Section Eight...or, more specifically, Baytor, who, don't forget, is an actual demon from hell. And The Spectre wants to send him back there...however, he's not quite sure what Baytor looks like.

Quoth The Spectre:
Oh, his likeness was lost in one of these ******* [fucking, I imagine, or perhaps goddam] re-shuffles... The fifty-two infinities or the resurgent crisis or something... This stuff's all very well, but it's no fun if you're the one running around re-ordering the realities afterwards.
So this leads to a character whose only real dialogue is shouting "I am Baytor!" having to restrain himself from saying "I am Baytor!" and a rather unexpected Spartacus moment, with even Gotham's most famous resident getting in on the act.
Meanwhile, John Constantine shows up, suffering the effects of being thrown from the Vertigo universe into DC's superhero universe, which here means wearing a space helmet, holding a ray gun labeled "Hellblazer" and standing atop the Silver Surfer's flying surfboard, because why not?
As with All Star Section Eight then, here we have Garth Ennis making fun of special DC Comics guest-stars–The Spectre and Constantine mainly–but he's really taking the piss out of the state of DC Comics as a whole at the moment, and it's nice that DC is letting him do so.

Now if only they'd let him swear and have waited for McCrea's schedule to be free enough to draw it all...

Snotgirl #3 (Image Comics) I kind of love that this book isn't going in any of the directions I thought it was going in at various points in the first two issues. The one I was kind of worried about at the end of the first issue is kinda sorta resolved here, but there's still a mystery about what exactly happened in that once scene, and what's been going on with some characters since.

Basically, I have no idea what to expect from the narrative, although I do know what to expect of the visuals each issue: They are going to be beautifully, effectively drawn by Leslie Hung and perfectly colored and lettered by Mickey Quinn and Mare Odomo.

I love this comic.

Suicide Squad #3 (DC) The first 12 pages of writer Rob Williams' rather uniquely-formatted Suicide Squad book, which devotes just three-fifths of each issue to an ongoing storyline and the remainder to back-up solo stories in order to accommodate pencil artist Jim Lee, takes another stutter step forward. Here, the surviving members of the Squad–I hate to say it, but the member who seemingly got killed off in the previous issue still seems to be pretty dead here–fight the completely unexpected threat they found at the end of the last chapter.

It made me rather curious about the character's previous appearances in the post-Flashpoint DCU, because Lee's conception of this character, who I will name in the next paragraph, seems pretty unusual.

The villain is General Zod (that's right, the villain for the first DC Cinematic Universe movie is battling the protagonists of the latest one!), and Lee draws him as somewhere between 10-15 feet tall, depending on the panel. He's a giant; his head about as big as the other characters' torsos. I...don't recall him being so huge in his previous post-Flashpoint appearances, and assuming this is the same Zod, I don't see why this one particular Kryptonian would be so much bigger than the rest of his species. Lee's art–I know it's futile to criticize it in any way–plays fast and loose with that scale, and he often draws Zod standing in rather bizarre, squatting stances so that he can be both gigantic and fit in the same panels as his smaller opponents. It was pretty distractingly weird, really.

This issue's 10-page back-up solo story, drawn by Philip Tan, was a real disappointment after the previous issue's awesome Captain Boomerang story. This one stars Katana, whose two defining characteristics in the four Suicide Squad issues so far (there was a Rebirth one-shot, remember) are that 1.) She barely ever speaks and 2.) She has a sword. This is a pretty straightforward recap of a story that could be told in a line or two of dialogue. Her sword is a magic one that holds the souls of its victims, and the soul of her husband is trapped inside it. And...that's all that's terribly relevant, although Williams tries to find some drama in her husband's murder by his brother and her taking vengeance upon him.

Tan's artwork is...serviceable, although he has a weird idea about the size of Katana's katana (i.e. it's point to hilt, it's as long as she is tall, and it's hilt alone is just a little shorter than her arm) and her random shoulder pad is gigantic, in the last panel more closely resembling a shield.

It's straightforward, which is in pretty sharp contrast to the funny back-up we got last issue, and it doesn't even have the sort of twists that the first issue had.

As a whole package, I'm still not sure I'd go so far as to say Suicide Squad volume 4 is good, or even necessarily entertaining, but it's definitely interesting, and that's far better than uninteresting, which is perhaps the worst thing a superhero comic book could be.

Wonder Woman #7 (DC) I really rather like Liam Sharp's artwork, and his redesign of The Cheetah is pretty bad-ass, but I can't stop thinking about her ears. They look cool, but they are very big and pointy, like  housecat ears, and, um, don't really look anything like Cheetah ears.

Sharp's drawing of The Cheetah's ears:

A real cheetah's ears:

That's not a criticism of the design choice, just an observation, and an admission that I can't stop thinking about them.

I think that may be why I prefer Justice League Unlimited's version of The Cheetah to all other were-cheetah takes on the character:
Anyway, this is a Sharp-drawn issue of Wonder Woman, meaning it is set in the present and is another chapter in Greg Rucka's "The Lies" storyline. Relatively little seems to happen: Wonder Woman fights the heavy metal album cover model you see on the front of the book to save Steve and others from an African warlord, and Barbara Minerva reverts. It takes about four minutes to read. It looks gorgeous. I bet it will be mores satisfying in trade, if you're strong and patient enough to wait for it (I am not).

Wonder Woman: The True Amazon (DC) I haven't yet read Jill Thompson's fully-painted original graphic novel, but I can't wait to do so.


Anonymous said...

After all, Ennis did the Phantom Stranger as a rapping African-American in All Star Section Eight. Is the Spectre still Crispus Allen post-New 52?

Jose Gregorio Bencomo Gomez said...

Caleb. I know this doesn't pertain this post, but after reading another, still fairly recent post of yours, I came across this:

"As apparently the only DC Comics fan who doesn't find Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's Harley Quinn comics the least bit funny..."

I just want you to know you aren't alone. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.