Thursday, May 20, 2010

Comic shop comics: May 19th

Atlas #1 (Marvel Comics) Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman and the Agents of Atlas are back in another attempt at an ongoing featuring Marvel’s Atlas-era super-characters posing as a criminal empire.

This time, Parker gives us an outsider’s point-of-view, with the lead story starring Delroy Garrett, the former Triathalon and current 3-D Man, whose trying to track down the Agents on account of weird dreams he’s been having about them. The Agents only appear on the very last page, save for some glimpses during dream sequences.

It’s a pretty effective technique, introducing the characters—and reintroducing them to those of us who read the last volume—from a different angle.

As before, Hardman’s realistic art accentuates the alien nature of the outré characters, making him a perfect artist for the series. They’re strange and silly enough without the art underscoring it. Under Hardman’s pencils and pens, any comedy comes delivered in deadpan style, and become incidental to the appropriately serious plot.

Sure there’s a mute killer robot, a man trapped in a gorilla’s body and a space alien with a fishbowl helmet over his head, but this is the Marvel Universe, so they are more or less (exceptionally interesting, sure) facts of life, not excuses to demolish the fourth wall over.

So: Jeff Parker’s scripting is still good, Gabriel Hardman’s art is still top-notch, there’s a fresh approach, this is a perfect jumping on point/introduction to the characters, and there’s even a totally sweet new logo.

Oh, and Marvel still doesn’t know how to sell me comics. This is priced at $4, and although the solicitation claimed it would be 40 pages long, it’s actually only 23 story pages long (an introductory story focusing on 3-D Man, and a back-up set in the ‘50s telling the story that lead to 3-D Man’s dreams).

A bunch of non-comics stuff that amounts to little more than house ads make up the rest of the non-ad page count: A wasted recap page that has a single, 25-word sentence in giant font, an advertorial interview with Kelly Sue DeConnick, 3-D Man’s Official Handbook entry, a letters page and a two-page transcript of a Marvel Universe version of Coast to Coast that’s referenced in the story.

If the solicits for June and July are to be believed, Atlas will become a 22-page, $3 comic again with #2; I still don’t understand why Marvel occasionally launches new series with these tricky, price-gouging, $4 books. A #1 issue, particularly for a new series based on this still-hasn’t-quite-caught-on franchise, should be as welcoming as possible to new readers…why does the publisher dare such readers to not feel ripped off?

Batman: The Brave and The Bold #17 (DC Comics) Writer Sholly Fisch and artists Robert W. Pope and Scott McRae have produced what just might be the very best issue of this series so far. This issue breaks with the usual format, which reflects the short team-up followed by feature-length team-up of the televsion show, to bookend a slew of team-ups with a fun little joke about why it is a loner like Batman has been participating in so many team-ups.

By “slew” I mean seven or eight, and these include plenty of heroes and villains from the show, plus plenty that have yet to appear there, like Merry, Girl of 1,000 Gimmicks and the Hiro version of Toyman and The Inferior Five and a couple of real surprises. Hell, Chief O’Hara even puts in an appearance. Judging by either a superhero-per-page ratio or plain old quality scale, this book is probably the best value I ran across in the comics shop this week.

Check it out, here’s Batman’s growing frustration over the fact that Metamorpho and Mr. Element are too evenly matched:

Brightest Day #2 (DC) In this issue, a housewife slits her husband’s throat with an electric meat carver, impales her son with a pair of drumsticks, and then beats her daughter to death with a Rock Band video game guitar before peeling off her skin to reveal that she’s an alien or monster of some kind.

After the violence and gore of the previous issues in this series, I’m beginning to think they should have just went ahead and put the title in scare quotes on the cover, as they apparently named it Brightest Day sarcastically.

Did any of you guys read this? If so, is it just me, or did Firestorm look black in this issue, whereas in the last two he seemed to most definitely be white? The coloring here seems a simple solution to the What Color Skin Should Firestorm Have question—color him lighter than Jason and darker than Ronnie and leave it up to readers to see him as whatever race they want to interpret that as indicating.

Galacta: Daughter of Galactus #1 (Marvel) Most of, if not all of, this 31-page comic has appeared elsewhere before—in an anthology comic I did not read, and in Marvel Digital Exclusives, which I never read (They seem to publish them all in print eventually anyway).

It’s written—and covered—by Adam Warren, and it is typical Adam Warren. It’s extremely clever, and clever in the various shades of clever that exist in the Adam Warren Cleverness Rainbow. There’s big, awesome, Jack Kirby or Grant Morrison ideas, there are funny little jokes, big funny jokes, irritating too-cute jokes, fun wordplay, grating wordplay, a twist ending and on and on.

The premise is that Galactus, the godlike, planet-eating giant purple space giant who was introduced by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in one of the greatest superhero comic stories of the Silver Age, has a daughter. Rather than trying to eat earth, she protects it—by eating various alien life forms that attack it. Of course, she can eat planets, and is thus constantly tempted to eat earth and the living things upon it herself.

A comic about a young woman with food issues and daddy issues, as the cover and Galacta herself tell us written by a man could quite easily teeter into uncomfortably territory, but Warren is a master of tiptoeing dangerous lines, and he handles Galacta and her conflicts with the same wit and grace that he brings to Empowered.

The book is quite densely plotted, and features a few cameos from other Marvels—Wolverine, The FF and Thor—but it’s much more densely narrated. Galacta narrates, either in the form of communications to her father or via Twitter, and she’s a chatterbox, with some pages looking downright intimidating with the walls of purple text boxes on ‘em.

That text is usually worth wading through, however, and the concepts Warren bounces around pinball machine style in this work make up for any wasted words or too-cute turns of phrase. (That said, there are seven full pages of nothing but Tweets from Galacta at the end of the book, and I haven’t been able to force myself to read these yet).

Warren only draws the cover, with the interior art being provided by the quite capable Hector Sevilla Lujan. He shares some influences with Warren, so the interiors have the same manga/anime style one would expect a Warren project to have, but Lujan’s figures are general less round and pneumatic; they’re more stretched out and thin. There’s an awful lot of computer business going on in the art, but because Lujan’s work is so stylized, it’s not as irritating here as it is in other Marvel books. That is, nothing looks computer modeled, cut-and-pasted from Google Images or overly-photoreferenced; it’s all just super-slick, brilliantly colored and border-to-border special effects. Every panel looks like it could have been a cover, and I mean that in a good way.

I really like the way Sevilla uses manga techniques in the story too. For example, here’s the FF reacting to Galacta suddenly disappearing midway through Reed conjecturing about sciencey stuff: I may just be an easy mark for things familiar from manga being grafted onto old school Marvel characters, but seeing the FF all say "..." simultaneously, or Ben Grimm's jaw drop like that brings such a smile to my face...

Justice League of America #45 (DC) How on earth is Mark Bagley able to pencil an entire 30-page monthly comic all by himself and without the benefit of fill-in artists? Well, the splashes probably help. This issue has one double-page splash panel, and five single-page splashes.

In this issue, What The Hell’s Been Going On starts to become clearer—Basically, the Starheart is starting to possess superheroes and basically fucking up the world, and its up to one of the most random assemblages of DC heroes imaginable to save the day (This is nominally a JLA/JSA crossover, but the JLA currently consists only of Donna Troy, Congorilla, the Starman from one comic in the seventies and Dick Grayson in a Batman costume, and Supergirl, Jade and Faust, son of Felix Faust, are also hanging around.

This comic seems needlessly complex to me, with a ton of back story only half-communicated, but if any DC Comic should include a bunch of random shit from throughout the history of the publisher’s output, a Justice League comic is the one that’s best-suited to get away with it.

I really like the way Bagley draws the floppy ears and cat-jowls on Wildcat’s cowl—in certain panels he looks like an unshaven man with a black octopus laying on his head.

I really hate the narration boxes, and the way they’re used to communicate characters’ interior monologues and spoken dialogue from a speaker when they’re off-panel.

Tiny Titans #28 (DC) This issue is completely devoted to gags involving the Super-Pets and other animal characters. There’s so much cute and funny stuff here that I don’t even know what to point out. There’s all those guys on the cover, there are crowd scene cameos of Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen and Geoff Johns, there’s Beppo The Super-Monkey’s secret identity (a monkey wearing a dress shirt, bow tie and glasses), there’s Brainiac 5 from the Legion of Super-Heroes (“In the future, Brainiacs are awesome!”), there’s the most darling incarnation of the Green Lantern Corps ever (Even Tomar Re is cute!) and then there’s this:This is a really great issue of a really great comic.


The Irredeemable Shag said...

I noticed the same thing about Firestorm's coloring this time. He definitely appeared to be a mixture of white and black color. I think that's the best solution possible.

Keep the great work!

The Irredeemable Shag

Kid Kyoto said...

I like Galacta but I'm worried Warren is really in a rut. She speaks in the pseudo hipster slang (uberchica!) which no living human being uses but EVERYONE in Livewires and EVERYONE in Empowered uses and is getting as gratting as Snapper Carr's psuedo 60s hipster slang.

I love Warren's stuff but he needs to start writing normal speech again, or invent some new pseudo hipster slang at least.

Unknown said...

I thought the previous issue had Firestorm colored darker than the plain ol' Ronnie version used to be, so I didn't see it as being as big a deal as others made it out to be. This latest issue, though, it's a bit darker, which should calm the fears of anyone who thought it was a whitewashing.