Sunday, October 23, 2016
Comic Shop Comics: October 19th
Of course, Kevin Keller was introduced to Riverdale until 2010, and he's been in this new volume of Archie since the very first issue, so I suppose writer Mark Waid is simply employing characters as needed, rather than in any sort of particular order based on their first appearances or anything.
Veronica is the first to meet Cheryl, who is the current queen bee of an exclusive boarding school in Switzerland. The pair bond a bit over their vast wealth and social respectability, Veronica shares her recent heart break and then she gets a glimpse of the true Cheryl, who arranges a cruel prank that encompasses both a relatively poor classmate and Veronica.
And, of course, she's just getting started, as the cliffhanger ending reveals.
Waid continually checks back in with the gang in Riverdale, and how they're coping with the loss of Veronica and other recent changes (Betty lost her new boyfriend at the same time Archie lost Veronica).
Joe Eisma provides the artwork, and it is quite solid, conforming to the new look established by Fiona Staples in the first six issues of the series quite nicely.
The back-up is a five-page strip by pencil artist Dan DeCarlo and writer Frank Doyle, "Dare To Be Bare," in which Cheryl (and brother Jason) are both first introduced. It's from 1982, and is somewhat striking for its relative naughtiness, as Cheryl shows off her tiny string bikini on the beach to Betty and Veronica, and attempts to make this beach a topless one. Jason, in his own skimpy bathing suit, makes a lewd comment to Betty and then attempts to sneak a beer on the beach.
What's so striking about the short strip–aside from DeCarlo's always striking art, and his ability to find the perfect compromise between cartoony and sexy without going completely overboard–is that it hails from what we might now think of as the innocent, kid-friendly era of Archie Comics...and yet the content is a lot more daring than anything we saw in the more adult-friendly comic we just finished reading or, in fact, any of the twelve previous issues of this volume of Archie.
Cave has been a frequent cameo-haver in DC Comics, but he's been long, long overdue for a feature of some kind, and it looks like Gerard Way is giving him one as part of his "curated" "pop-up" imprint, Young Animal. Way, who co-writes this new series with Jon Rivera, is obviously taking a lot of cues from the Vertigo imprint at its inception, as Cave Carson, like imprint mates Shade, The Changing Girl and Doom Patrol, are based-on off-beat old DC Comics...two of which Vertigo had previously reimagined. (Fun fact: Cave Carson was co-created by artist Bruno Premiani, who also co-created the Doom Patrol.)
What's the gimmick here? Well, I don't know if you've heard, but Cave Carson now has a cybernetic eye. In this first issue, drawn by Michael Avon Oeming, we meet a clean-shaving Cave and his adult daughter, as they mourn the loss of Eileen Carson. Cave's mourning process is further complicated by the fact that his mysterious cybernetic eye is causing him alarming hallucinations that may or may not be simple hallucinations.
Given that this is the first issue of a new comic book series, I am going to go ahead and assume that they are not simple hallucinations.
Placing the book in some singular version of the DC Universe, Doc Magnus and the Metal Men make a brief appearance (these hewing to their post-Flashpoint design), as does, more randomly, Mad Dog (here in his pre-Flashpoint design; I think post-Flashpoint Mad Dog is dead, actually).
There's a Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff.
Of the three first issues I've read so far, this is the most promising. That is in part because it feels the most original, as we've already seen Shade and The Doom Patrol get the Vertigo treatment (and so many reboots of various kinds over the decades), whereas Cave Carson has never even had his own title, let alone any sort of attempt to tell a relevant story before.
Also, Oeming's art is pretty great...although I can't help wonder if maybe the title wouldn't benefit from an artist with a more straightforward, representational style. Can you imagine, say, a Dan Clowes drawn story of a middle-aged, past-his-prime underground adventurer reeling from the loss of his wife and wondering if maybe he's losing his mind? Or, I don't know, Adrian Tomine? Surely neither of those guys would actually draw a DC super-comic of such length, but a style closer to that might have packed more punch. As is, this is just barely removed from the look of the rest of DC's comics line by the fact that Oeming doesn't draw as much like Jim Lee as 90% of the other guys drawing DC Comics these days do.
But forget all that.
The first 23-pages aren't nearly as interesting as the last three. See, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye has a back-up feature and it is Tom Scioli (who you may remember from Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe, the best comic of the 21st century so far, and/or my ranting and raving about Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe) doing Super Powers, which, like The Transformers and G.I. Joe, was a cartoon/toy-line franchise from the 1980s.
It is exactly as amazing as you might think.
The first two pages introduce us to The Wonder Twins on their bizarre home planet of Exxor, while on the third page the action moves to Gotham City, wherein a small army of Joketroopers march on Jim Gordon and the Gotham Police Department, while a bike-riding Batgirl helps rescue he father. It's only one page, but it has 28 panels, so an awful lot happens on that page, including an incredibly dramatic opening in which a gigantic tank featuring the Joker's face appears over the horizon, and Scioli wrings an incredible amount of tension out of the The Joker's appearance by pointedly refusing to show the character's actual face on-panel, only his visage as it appears on the tank and the head of his mallet.
I'm not sure why Scioli's Super Powers isn't it's own book, but I have to imagine that Gerard Way and DC, like all right-thinking people in the universe, couldn't wait to see it, and so are publishing it as fast as possible, rather than waiting long enough for Scioli to finish 20 pages of it at a time.
Fingers crossed that it eventually gets collected into its own trade, featuring Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe-style commentary in the back.
Now what makes this so interesting is its creators: Longtime Archie Comics artists Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz. If you've read an Archie comic in the years prior to the reboot, then you'll recognize their work; hell, this looks as much like an Archie comic as it can sans the red-headed, freckle-faced teen himself.
I kind of wish I knew more about Parent and Ruiz's relationship with Archie Comics, as while much of the humor is directed at comics publishing in general, some of it is particularly pointed toward Archie, and I can't help but wonder to what degree the trio of villains running the publisher–including Skip, a man whose hair is so messy and disheveled there is an actual bird living in it–are supposed to be based on real people.
That, then, is the premise; a couple of guys who used to work for Archie Comics with a high-concept take in which an Archie Comics-like publisher tries to kill a Sabrina-like witch, the creators free to tell sexier stories than they likely would have been at Archie (Kitty spends the last four pages in her underwear, and loses her clothes in a magic spell earlier in the book, however a wisp of smoke covers her nipples and her leg is posed just so; there's no actual nudity in the book).
Artist J. Bone provides a "Kitty's Katwalk" two-page spread in which the title character appears in four different outfits, and one of the several variant covers is drawn by the late Darwyn Cooke.