Friday, June 25, 2010

Comic shop comics: June 16-23

Atlas #2 (Marvel Comics) This second issue rinses away the bad taste of the first issue, which Marvel solicited as being 40-pages and priced at $4 but which actually only contained 23 story pages. It's back to $3 for 22-pages of content, as God intended, for one thing. It's also, as Jeff Parker's various Atlas comics usually are, pretty good. In the 17-page lead story by Jeff Parker and regular artist Gabriel Hardman, the new 3-D Man and the Agents complete their fight-than-team-up ritual, while some other mysteries revolving around the number three are teased, and, in the Ramon Rosanas-illustrated back-up, the 1950s Atlas team finishes off those reanimated zombie things they started fighting last issue.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #3 (DC Comics) Grant Morrison keeps on keeping on with this pretty intriguing storyline, with snowballing series of connections between characters, times, places and seemingly unimportant details piling up as the series continues. Also, there’s plenty of just plain old awesomeness, like pirate Bruce Wayne dressed up as old DC character The Black Pirate sword-fighting Blackbeard on a bridge made of human bones while a tribe of Anthro-descendants who worship Batman’s time-lost cape and cowl pick off pirates with batwing-fletched arrows from the shadows.

Also, Grant Morrison writes the JLA again, even if it’s only for two-to-four panels (it’s the version of the League that existed for about two issues worth of the current James Robinson run, with Barry Allen, Wonder Woman and Huntress thrown in).

Yanick Paquette pencils, and it’s very good stuff, although if you want to get nitpicky (and I always want to get nitpicky!) he draws a pretty terrible Tim Drake…Red Robin looks like a professional football player in his mid-thirties.

As much fun stuff as the issue contains, it ends with a promise of an even cooler next issue, as a couple of guys hire Jonah fucking Hex to bounty hunt down unshaven Cowboy Batman. And best of all, it’s going to be drawn by Cameron Stew—Oh, right. Well, while Georges Jeanty isn’t a favorite the way Stewart is, I recall him not being too shabby in the drawing things department, and you’d have to work pretty hard to make a Jonah Hex vs. Cowboy Batman comic not at at least a little fun.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam! #17 (DC) I’ve really been digging Mike Norton’s artwork for this series since he’s come on board, but the Art Baltazar and Franco’s scripting in that time hasn’t been exactly what I wanted from the series. It was a little too leisurely paced, and much too decompressed for a DC kids comic, as they are usually done-in-one stories.

But in this issue Norton continues to do the great work he’s been doing, and Baltazar and Franco turn-out a nice fun, funny done-in-one strip that mentions the ongoing plots without giving the story over to them.

It’s great stuff, including one panel that actually made me laugh out loud (the reveal of Farmer Cosley’s sure-fire method of protecting his cattle from alien abduction) and what sure looked like foreshadowing for the eventual introduction of a version of Hoppy, The Marvel Bunny.

I’d quibble with Captain Marvel’s solution of the problem at the end of the issue—surely the wisdom of Solomon would have ocme up with a wiser solution—but I can’t do it without spoiling the gag.

If you’ve been curious about the book but haven’t tried it out, then this is probably a pretty great issue to sample.

Brightest Day #4 (DC) This is the issue of the Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi-written bi-weekly in which the storylines apparently begin to start intertwining, as the now-visible Deadman crosses paths with Hawk and Dove, an encounter which ends with a pretty typical Johns-ian cliffhanger, wherein I find myself surprised and in suspense about something I immediately realize that I really should have seen coming.

What’s more noteworthy, and what will no doubt be talked about much more, is the fact that this is the first appearance of the Aqualad…or at least, the boy who will eventually be Aqualad. It’s a short, two-page scene set in the desert around Silver City, New Mexico (No sign of The Comics Reporter’s comics reporter Tom Spurgeon yet, but I hold out hope that he and Aqualad II will cross paths…hopefully in a scene drawn by Sam Henderson).

The artwork remains decent—easy to read, consistent in style despite the multiple artists—if nothing that gets me so excited I feel like doing cartwheels after reading it. With the possible exception of the Firestorm section, which continues to use drawn figures on top of photos, which makes my own personal aesthetic sense sad. Here’s a sample:

Heralds #3-#4 (Marvel) Another advantage to the weekly shipping schedule this short, five-issue limited series is on? By the time a reader has given it a few issues and is perhaps reconsidering how much he or she likes it, and whether or not that $3 being spent on each issue might not be better spent on lottery tickets or something in a 40-ounce bottle to help one make it through the recession, it’s more than halfway over, and it seems perhaps silly to drop it with only an issue or two to go.

At least, that was my experience. About halfway through the third issue I realized that this is essentially an oddly marketed Fantastic Four miniseries starring a completely random half-dozen superheroines, with the FF not showing up until the second act.

The plot revolves around a former herald of Galactus that used to date Johnny Storm and/or be friends with Susan and the rest of the FF and also lived with some lady named Julie…? And her name was Nova, but she’s not related to the male hero named Nova in the helmet…? Does that all sound right? This was all long after the early FF stuff I’ve read, but long before the more recent FF stuff I’ve read, and I don’t remember this lady from any of the cartoons, so I’m pretty thoroughly lost on the back story, and the various character conflicts being referenced.

Luckily, Immonen is an engaging enough writer that the dialogue is generally snappy and fun, and I find myself wanting to see what will happen in the next scene, even if I feel like I went to see a movie and accidentally walked into the wrong theater.

The artwork on these two issues remains troubled, and getting more troubled. Announced artist Tonci Zonjic is still getting help from James Harren on #3, and by #4 the pair is joined by Emma Rios. I like all three artists, and all three are doing a good job, but it’s weird to see the style shifts—even if they’re on the subtle side—as this is a miniseries that’s off in its own little corner of the Marvel Universe, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to publish it in June (other than the fact that there are five Wednesdays in this month) instead of in November or next January or March. So why was it even put on the schedule if the art wasn’t ready yet?

King City #9 (Image Comics) I honestly live every single thing about this comic. The punny names of the various weird devices that Joe finds in one of Beebay’s “lok boxes” (“Blow and Aarow Dart Gun,” “Spy-Anide” poisins, etc). The way she has her assistant pass a kiss on the cheek on to Joe. The street scene with crowds of funny, interesting characters. The way Brandon Graham draws the arrows in the traffic lanes. The evil building’s evil stairs, evil door and evil lobby. The comfortable dialogue (“You guys remember that week where we ate nothing but sandwiches?” “Yes, Sandwich Week”). The white space on page 21, and how the lines all suggest that it’s real space. The simple, casual romanticism (“Eating sandwiches across from here for twenty minutes felt better than a month of weird, cold Beebay sex”).

Guys, this is pretty much a perfect comic book. And I didn’t even mention the two-page board game spread, which contains more verbal and visual information than you get in 22-pages of most comic books.

I love you, King City. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way about a comic book, but I don’t have another word for it. If only you were a human being, or I were a comic book, but alas, are stars are crossed.

(And hey, if you’re trade-waiting this book, don’t! Your $3 gets you 32 black and white pages of story and art, with zero (0) ads, and little drawings and jokes all over the inside back and front covers and back cover. King City is one of, if not the best values for your comics dollar).

Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark #1 (Image) The name and cover image seemingly include the whole sales pitch here: This is a $5, double-sized comic book about a great white shark that stalks the forests and a man-eating bear that hunts in the seas. Ryan Ottley writes and draws the shark story, Jason Howard writes and draws the bear story.

In my estimation, “Sea Bear” was the weaker of the two, perhaps because Howard found less jokes to tell about a sea-going bear than Ottley had about the similarly out-of-place shark.

After a grisly opening scene in which the sea bear kills a young boy’s family in front of his eyes and, after growing up, he returns to seek vengeance, Howard throws in some elements that seem like a distraction form the core concept of a submarine grizzly bear: The boy is part of some government program that has given him transforming cyborg weapon arms, he fights a robot, and there’s an island of subhuman people who are descended from the Sea Bear and worship it like extras in a Lovecraft story.

I guess it’s silly to complain about a ridiculous story like this, as it amounts to little more than me saying “I would have done it differently” in a long, roundabout way, but while robots and monster people are often welcome elements in comics, I think a marine grizzly bear is a high enough concept that it would have worked better without distraction.

“Grizzly Shark,” on the other hand, keeps its focus mostly on its ridiculous premise, and finding different ways to riff on it. A family is bringing a special hunter into the woods to help them exterminate the shark that’s stalking the area, a shark which appears out of the bushes the second anyone bleeds even the littlest bit in order to make like Pac-Man and chomp them into a red splash with a simple “MUNCH” sound effect.

Here, for example, is a scene in which two of the characters climb into the treetops to try and get their bearings, and see a telltale sign of an impending shark attack:

It’s weird and it’s fun, and that’s probably all one could really ask for from a one-shot about a grizzly bear and a great white shark that, as the tagline says, “got mixed up.”

Tiny Titans #29 (DC) I went right form the comic shop to Niece #2’s tee ball game this week, so I started reading my comics on the sidelines. Niece #1 (age seven) and I will sometimes draw on the sidelines while her little sister plays, but my man-purse was full of new comics instead of a drawing pad this week.

I was trying to read Atlas at first, but she wanted attention, and messed with me for a while (turning to the last page and forcing me to read it, demanding to know what the gorilla was talking about, asking me who my favorite Marvel hero in an ad was, etc).

So I ended up reading her Tiny Titans, while she handled the sound effects. (At seven, she can naturally read all of it, but just wanted to read the fun parts)

This is the first time I actually read it with a kid.

She (and her mom and her little sister) asked if the character key on the first page was actually stickers. It is not.

She asked who Kid Devil is, and why he’s named Kid Devil (“Because he looks like a devil.” “Oh.”). She didn’t laugh at all, or ask for clarification, so I guess she was neither enthralled nor confused by any of it.

She did the activity in the back. I didn’t really explain how to use the squares (I never could get the hang of those when I was a little kid), but she did a fairly decent job, I think: I had to remind her to do the hair though, and she commented, “Oh yeah, he has girl hair.”

Er, I don’t know how valuable any of that information is to you. It’s like all issues of Tiny Titans, I guess: Super cute art and a gently amusing story. Supergirl babysits the various toddler characters, which include The Tiny Terror Titans, Jericho, Wildebeest, Miss Martian, Smidgen of The Atom’s Family and Robin fans Tim and Jason. She gets some assistance in entertaining her charges from Beast Boy and Zatara. Baltazar draws some dinosaurs.

Tiny Titans! You either love it or maybe you don’t!


Michael Hoskin said...

Is it just me or does the lightning bolt exclamation mark on Billy Batson & the Magic of Shazam look more like a question mark?

tomorrowboy 2.9 said...

I'm not sure if King City even is getting collected.

Unknown said...

Shame on your for not paying attention to every second of your niece's game.

Phillip said...

Those aren't drawings on top of photos, they seem to be drawings on top of 3D rendered models, which I think is worse.