Friday, November 25, 2016

Comic Shop Comics: November 23rd

Citrus Vol. 2 (Seven Seas Entertainment) Okay, so I might have suddenly totally gotten into yuri manga so what it's none of your business don't judge me!

Deathstroke #7 (DC Comics) Okay, the testing-out period of DC's "Rebirth" period is officially at an end...even if they've yet to launch Super Sons and added some Justice League-related books which they will be launching with some Rebirth-branded one-shots. And that means I am not in the process of picking and choosing which books to add to my pull-list to buy each Wednesday that they show up on that shop. This is one of them. (Expect Superman and Detective Comics to start showing up in here in the near future too, probably, in addition to All-Star Batman and Wonder Woman, both of which I had added sight-unseen. Other books may vary from issue to issue, like Nightwing and Suicide Squad and Batman, depending on the artwork and/or the storyline).

So, Deathstroke: Never a big fan of the character, haven't kept up with any changes he's experienced during the last few reboots and/or rebrandings and, honestly, I've found his backstory and large cast of friends and family a little on the unwieldy side. I've nevertheless been enjoying Christopher Priest, er, Priest's new series featuring the character, which embraces all of that stuff in a way that is intriguing rather than alienating (That, I think, is the big difference between including and excising complicated continuity, it can work or not work based on the skill of the writer, not its mere existence or absence).

Priest has amped-up the book's realism, while keeping it quite clearly embedded in the DC Universe (The Clock King shows up immediately, Batman and Robin have appeared and Superman appearances bookend this issue, leading to a conflict in the next). What super-stuff there is generally gets explained in convincing scientific (or comic book-scientific) dialogue.

The narrative is complicated, which each scene getting a little title, like it was a chapter in a book. Thus far, it's been the portrait of an extremely dysfunctional family of meta-humans and super-killers, all with their own agendas and all relating to the title character in uniquely broken ways. I honestly can't tell where it's all going--beyond the fight with Superman next issue, of course--but Priest's plate-spinning is quite impressive to watch. The art varies issues to issue, but for the most part has been on point. Here it's by the pencil and inker team of Carlo Pagulayan and Jason Paz, working from breakdowns by Larry Hama.

I'm curious what long-time fans of the character might think of the book, as I don't know if my general ambivalence towards him but enjoyment of his new series means that those who really like the series must love it, or if it's because I don't know/care all that much about Deathstroke and company that I am primed to like this particular take.

Lumberjanes #32 (Boom Studios) This appears to be the conclusion to the Diane Vs. Monsters With Petrifying Gazes storyline, as the Greek goddess-turned-teenage campers, the Lumberjanes of Roanoke cabin and their new friend Ligo the gorgon flee the bird monsters, work their way through the challenges and traps of a buried temple and ultimately confront Zeus himself, who here rather hilariously appears as a cartoon swan wearing a tie--because he of course turned into a swan in order to seduce Leda (gross; did she have a swan fetish or something) and because dads wear ties (obviously).

Shannon Watters and Kat Leyh's story would seem to reach its naturally conclusion here, just after a scene in which their script allows artist Carey Pietsch to pretty much go nuts and draw a whole mess of awesome monsters from Greek mythology, but there's a little "Too Be Continued" box in the bottom of the last panel for some damn reason, so I guess this story arc, like most in this series, is going to go on a little longer than it would seem to need to.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #20 (DC) Between my childhood experiences of watching Space Ghost cartoons and the present lie what must be dozens of episodes of Cartoon Network's Space Ghost Coast to Coast, many episodes of which I've seen more times than I'd care to admit. It can therefore be pretty hard to divorce my reading of the character from those experiences to, you know, take him seriously (a cognitive friction that pretty much powered Joe Kelly and Ariel Olivetti's completely straight 2005 miniseries featuring the character; I'm trade-waiting Future Quest, so I haven't encountered him there yet).

The Space Ghost who shows up here is the one from the original cartoons, and he does so with his original running crew of Jan, Jayce and Blip, and the two foes who spent so much time on the set of his talk show with him, Zorak and Moltar (I suppose it's a good thing that Brak didn't show up). Writer Sholly Fisch, who generally does everything he can to wring every possible joke out of each guest-star, naturally mentions the Coast To Coast experience, however.

"Once, to keep Space Ghost busy, they hypnotized him into thinking he was a talk show host!" Jayce tells Mystery, Inc at the end of the adventures. "Fortunately, he snapped out out of it after eight seasons."

Space Ghost simply crosses his arms and scowls, "I don't want to talk about it."

This crossover blew my mind a little, as it posited that Space Ghost exists in the present rather than the far-flung future, wherein I always assumed in my little kid brain his adventures were set. Zorak and Moltar have joined forces and crippled Space Ghost's ship just outside of Earth's orbit. To make sure that he can't get help from Earthlings, they send a message from their secret base on the moon to warn of an alien invader, and Shaggy and Scooby are certainly primed to fear Space Ghost upon his arrival, given that his last name is "Ghost" and he has all kinds of ghostly powers.

Once they get everything straightened out, they repair The Phantom Cruiser, outfit with Mystery Machine for space travel and journey to the moon to take down Zorak and Moltar.

Man, Space Ghost has such a rad design.

This was far from my favorite of the team-up so far, but I was really excited about it, especially if it means we'll get more Hanna-Barbera superheroes showing up in future team-ups. I've been eagerly awaiting a Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt team-up since this series was first announced.

She Wolf Vol. 1 (Image Comics) I love this book. I had previously read the first issue, missed the second, and decided to trade-wait it. And now the wait is over, and Image has released it in one of those very convenient, very low price-point trades where one feels almost foolish not buying it: Four issues, and a black-and-white, 24-page, weird standalone Dracula comic, for just $9.99.

She Wolf is the story of a teenage girl in the 1980s, back when devil worship and the occult (or at least alarmism about them) were, like, a real thing that real, supposedly serious grown-ups really worried about. After her boyfriend, who has turned into a werewolf and wounded her in the process is killed by police, Gabby starts having all kinds of crazy, nightmare experiences, some of which may or may not be real; she (and the reader) can have a hard time figuring it out at first.

Then she meets Nikki, a vampire, who helps her deal with being a werewolf (after she turns at the mall), and she learns the history of werewolves and summons a demon.

It's awesome.

Cartoonist Rich Tommaso's artwork transforms the the book from otherwise straightforward genre business. I hate to use the word "alternative," but I suppose that is the best and most effective descriptor of how his art will look to anyone picking this book expecting more standard comic book fare. His characters are flat, angular and expressive-to-the-point-of-epressionistic in their design and movements, rather representational. His werewolves are amazing in their design, impossibly long, lithe creatures with heads, necks and torsos of equal length; they are almost serpent-like in shape. Which I guess would make them look more like giant minks or otters or weasels or the like, rather than the traditional wolf (although their faces can be very wolf-like, particularly in Gabby's visions). Their arms and legs remain very human-like though, although these too are impossibly long.

They are also gigantic.

They are real monsters then, and no matter how many times you may have seen werewolves in movies or read about them in comics, you haven't seen ones like these (if you have, let me know where though, because I want to see those movies and read those comics).

I was just trying to think of way to describe the artwork in this series, and having some trouble. I wanted to say that it looks like a cross between Kelley Jones and Adrian Tomine, but I also feel like there's a bit of Richard Sala-ciousness in there too?

I don't know. I liked this a lot. If you like horror or monster comics at all, or werewolves in particular, buy it. It's only $9.99.

The back-up is called "King Blood," and it's about how Vlad Tempes became Dracula, met a demon and fell in love and married her and then they got a divorce. In hell. The art is pretty amazing as well, but much more cartoony, and when Dracula turns into a wolf here, it's a more traditional vision of a werewolf, like that from The Howling, but fuzzier and a little cartoonier. There are a few panels of a skeleton riding on a skeletal horse that are pretty awesome.

Finally, there are a couple of pin-ups from artists you likely know and some you likely don't, including Brandon Graham (who has done his own rather striking werewolf comic book before), Tom Neely and several others.

Snotgirl #4 (Image) The mystery deepens, as Coolgirl shows up alive and well and has no memory of anything terrible having happened in the bathroom at the end of the first issue, and police detective John Cho appears acting extremely inappropriately...but with a clue confirming that something bad did indeed happen in the bathroom after all. What is going on? I don't know, but I love Leslie Hung's artwork, and the endearingly shallow and self-absorbed main character she and writer Bryan Lee O'Malley have created.

I also love that Lottie appears to be dressed as "naught Plastic Man" on the cover. Well, sorta.

Super Powers #1 (DC) While I question the wisdom of using the exact same title and logo for an all-ages, kid-friendly series by the Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures team of Art Baltazar and Franco and Tom Scioli's back-up strip running in the mature readers Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye simultaneously, this was about as fun as expected...although not quite as funny as expected (sweet Alfred appearance notwithstanding). I wrote a bunch of words about it already for School Library Journal's Good Comics For Kids blog, so maybe go read more about it there, if you are so inclined.

Superfuckers Forever #4 (IDW Publishing) This issue took about two minutes to read, and the back-up added another 25 seconds or so. As excited as I am about the existence of a Superfuckers monthly comic, coming out regularly in the size and shape of a regular superhero comics, it's really hard to explain to my wallet why I need to take four dollars out of it each month for such a slight read. I may have to switch to trade on this book, although given the free-form nature of the storytelling and how little happens in each issue, it's kind of hard to know exactly where to jump off, you know?

Maybe Superfuckers For Two More Issues instead of Forever...?

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It (Marvel Entertainment) Hey, it's the latest collection of my favorite Marvel comic book, which is also probably the best Marvel comic of the moment, but of that I'm not 100% certain because they are actually publishing a couple of very good comics at the moment.

This one contains issues #7-#11 of the second volume of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, but thank goodness the spine-numbering didn't get rebooted along with the issue numbering, or this would be a much harder comic book to pick up and follow, like, say, Daredevil, maybe, or anything with an "X" in the title. Oh, or Iron Man! I think there are what, like four different Iron Man books with #1's on them, all written by Brian Michael Bendis?

I kinda wish Ryan North would write Iron Man, because I do so enjoy his frequent appearances via social media account on the recap pages of each issue of USG. In fact, my main concerns regarding the outcome of Civil War II is that Tony might "die," and thus be unable to continue interacting with Doreen Green via social media (Howard The Duck is pretty amusing on social media too; he is the Marvel character closest to me in terms of being good at social media, I think).

Anyway, this collection! First, there's a done-in-one issue that I would say was in a "Choose Your Own Adventure" format, but I'm pretty sure that the Choose Your Own Adventure people have copyrighted "Choose Your Own Adventure", so it's certainly not that. You do get to make decisions though, and work your way through an adventure in which Squirrel Girl and Koi Boy team up to fight maybe the greatest Marvel villain of all (Swarm, obviously), one in which there are several different outcomes, a few in which Squirrel Girl wins and a few in which America is presided over by a single bee and/or Doreen dies from studying so hard she forgets to eat.

I was afraid this issue would be really annoying, but then, North did recently release Romeo and/or Juliet, which I borrowed from the library, brought home, set on my floor for two weeks, and then returned without reading (Too many words, North! And no Erica Henderson drawings of Squirrel Girl!). So he knows his way around these extremely complicated story formats. It felt like it took a good half hour to get through this one issue, which is a really good value for a comic book.

Next up? A three-issue arc in which Doreen Green attempts to date! It starts with a New Avengers team-up (That's the team she's on, right? New Avengers? At least, on the title of the book? I think they call themselves something different inside, like A.I.M.). I actually laughed out loud during this one (when Tippy-Toes writes a profile for Doreen), so great job there guys. Also, Brad is the best.

This arc mostly centers around The Mole Man, who is so smitten with SG that neither her ability to reason nor her punching is able to defeat him, and the ending involves the single grossest panel I've ever read in a Marvel comic. (Oh wait, I just remembered that panel in one of the dumb Ultimate books where The Blob ate the Wasp, so never mind.)

Finally, there's another done-in-one issue which is Erica Henderson-less. She is filled-in for by Jacob Chabot and Tom Fowler, and while I was surprised to see her miss an issue, I suppose it's well worth remembering she also drew an entire original graphic novel and a Jughead story arc this year so, yeah, she deserves an issue off. I think her workload might have destroyed many a lesser artist.

Actually, I think she draws a single panel of this issue, so the deployment of a fill-in artist is actually incorporated into the story. Aside from the very last panel, in which we see Doreen sleeping, the rest of the issue takes place in her dreams, so of course she looks a little different than usual, right? This is a Nightmare vs. Squirrel Girl dream, which also involves her fighting Classic Doctor Octopus, Classic Count Nefaria and Nightmare-possessed by Venom.

North completely lost me during one two-page segment of this book, which was honestly super boring to me as someone who has zero interest in computer science and/or math. It involves Doreen teaching Count Nefaria how to count in binary on one's hands.

But! That scene was worth slogging through because it allows her to flash devil horns with her hands on a splash page where lightning flashes from the sky and an army of squirrels all "chht" loud enough that the sonics of their squirrel noises peel the Venom symbiote off of Nightmare.

So: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, the one comic I would want a subscription to if I were stuck on a desert island but for some reason could still have a subscription to a comic book.

Wonder Woman #11 (DC) Wait a minute, I though it was previously established, back during the time when Greg Rucka was last writing her monthly adventures, that Wonder Woman was a vegetarian? What's she doing with that cooked bird on her plate in this issue's feast scene?

And I like how the Amazons served Steve a hamburger and french fries. Were they doing that because he's a super-picky eater, and that's all he'll eat? Or were they trying to be nice, and serve him food from his home country's cuisine? Or were they just trolling him, and serving him a hamburger and french fries to subtly be jerks to him?

I find all three interpretations equally amusing.

In this issue, a Liam Sharp-drawn "modern" issue, Wonder Woman gets back to general confusion over and distaste for her current continuity. Join the club, sister! Also, more Veronica Cale and Sasha Bordeaux, for boringness' sake.


Bram said...

She Wolf — it's the conclusion of the arc, I see there's another one starting. Would you describe this volume as pretty self-contained, you could read just this volume for a satisfying story? Or is it setup for the next volume?

Caleb said...

It's a little of both. There's resolution to Gabby's initial conflict of "What the hell is going on?" as she learns what she is and the origins of werewolves and reaches a certain amount of peace in terms of her status and her new friendship.

On the other hand, it seems like there may be some set-up, in terms of something bad escaping into the world, and maybe regarding her secret getting out?

I was reading for the art more than the story, though. The story's fine, but were it drawn less distinctly, I wouldn't have been that interested.