Thursday, January 24, 2013

Comic Shop Comics: January 9-23

Ame-Comi Girls #4 (DC Comics) I read this in a coffee shop, and I think it was the first time I was actually self-conscious about being seen in public with a comic book since I was a sophomore in high school, thanks to Emanuela Luppacchino's cover.

Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray pull back from their on-going plot gathering various female super-characters against the invading, female verison of Brainiac and her cadre of female super-villains in order to introduce Power Girl, who is the Ame-Comiverse's Superman.
She fights Somali pirates in a scene just like the one in Brightest Day that Geoff Johns wrote, minus the threat of child-rape, she fights The Silver Banshees, she fights a giant Luthor-bot and she fights some Manhunter robots (which have boobs and glowing energy long-hair). Supergirl shows up near the end.

I like this version of Power Girl's costume okay, even the weird chain which seems randomly attached to part of her cape and the small of her back, which fascinated me (What's it attached to, exactly? Why is it even there?) It's super-busy, but super-busy in an anime fantasy, science fiction-y kind of way. The glove flares, for example, look kinda sorta like butterfly wings attached to her wrists. I thought those were cool. Overall, her too-busy costume looks better here than the too-busy costume she wears in the New 52-iverse.
This issue's artwork comes from Mike Bowden, whose sense of exaggeration makes Power Girl, who most artists are prone to exaggerate, um, parts of, look normal, as everything else around her is similarly exaggerated. I liked his artwork an awful lot.

Classic Popeye #6 (IDW) Another reprinting of another late-forties Popeye comic from Bud Sagendorf, this issue contains a story in which Popeye gives Swee'pea and one of his little friends (who also crawls about in a nightgown/sack—my four-month-old nephew wears something called a "sleepsack" that looks and functions similarly to that—but can talk and, like, build rafts and dig holes and paint boats and suchlike) an old treasure map to play with, little realizing the boys will actually go after the treasure. They encounter one of Popeye's foes who shanghais them and their map, and Popeye, fearing the tykes had drowned, spends the story in jail. He isn't needed to rescue them anyway, given that Swee'pea is just as strong and invincible as his adopted father.

The back-up story involves Wimpy braining a man with a rock in order to steal a sandwich from him (luckily, the man is a bank robber, otherwise Wimpy would seem even more evil than, um, he usually does), and there's a prose story that is actually pretty funny and, as Mike Sterling pointed out the week of release, actually worth reading.

Daredevil #22 (Marvel Entertainment) Our title hero teams-up with Spider-Man, who Spider-Man and/or Internet readers know recently had a Freaky Friday experience with Doctor Octopus, resulting in the all-new Doctor Spider-Man! (Actually, they're calling him Superior Spider-Man, but that's dumb, as what does that have to do with Doctor Octopus, exactly? Nothing. So I think he should be either "Doctor Spider-Man" or "The Amazing Spider-Doctor." Or I suppose I would be okay with "Doctor Spider-Pus." Or "The Amazing Octo-pider-Man." Or...Hm. Well, I would have loved to be in the meeting where they came up with "Superior Spider-Man," just to see all the suggestions someone thought of and someone else vetoed.

Anyway, what the hell was I talking about?

Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have the new Doctor Spider-Man fight Daredevil, before having them team-up to fight the villainous Stilt-Man, who I was fairly certain was killed off in the recent past.

It's surprisingly funny, right up until that last page which, ugh, not really something I want to read about in Daredevil frankly (I don't want to say it doesn't belong in superhero comics at all, it's just that I feel like it's been in enough superhero comics at this point that it doesn't sound all that interesting to me, but I guess we'll see where Waid goes with it).

Samnee's art is pretty incredible, as always. The new Stilt-Man suit allows him to telescope his arms as well as his legs, and Samnee captures their shooting movement in an effective and exciting manner.

I also like the little touches he uses to show us this is a new, secretly evil Spider-Man, including thicker, more lens-like eyes on his mask (which I think are meant to suggest, Doc Ock's glasses, and weren't an innovation of Samnee's), and pointy, claw-like fingers.

Daredevil remains very, very good super-comics.

Fantastic Four #3 (Marvel) The Fantastic Four and the kids got to a planet that tries to eat them. There's, uh, not a whole lot going on in these issues of Fantastic Four really, although Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley are both doing everything A-OK, craft-wise. Each of their three issues so far have just been sort of low on ambition and/or anything separating them from pretty much anything else on the racks or back issue bins.

FF (Marvel) I'm not really sure what to make of the gap in quality between Fantastic Four and FF: It's evident and it's wide, but it's also kind of weird. Both books have the same writer, both have casts pulled from the same general family of characters and their stories are at least somewhat inter-locked (although, at this point, more parallel than entwined).

And yet FF is so many times better than Fantastic Four, and it's not just the art. Yes, Mark Bagley is a better than average drawer of modern super-comics, whereas Mike Allred is the whole, total, superlative package—great designer, great storyteller, great renderer, possessing a style perfectly suited for the House That Jack Built (And, particularly, the characters that Jack created and drew).

It's also Fraction's writing. Fantastic Four reads like an assignment, like work, like something he has to do. He's come up with a temporary premise, but the action and actions are still fairly boiler plate for the franchise, and well within the established range of mediocre Fantastic Four comics. The characters are all written just as they are "supposed" to be written—World's smartest man Reed Richards is an emotionally clueless douchebag who doesn't realize what a jerk he is, Sue is an uber-competent bad-ass grizzly mom still over-compensating for the way Stan Lee wrote her in the 1960s, etc.

With FF though, Fraction seems to be having fun, and allowing his collaborator to have lots of fun too.

In this issue, the battle-damaged Johnny Storm of the future explains to the substitute Four how his teammates were all killed—it involved Doom The Annihilating Conqueror, a composite villain made by three Marvel villains with matching color schemes—and Ant-Man tries to convince Darla to come back to the team, presenting a compelling case. The action sequence mainly involves her fighting the Yancy Street Gang in her towel.

There are a couple of showy but effectively done scenes in here, including a chase down a hotel stairwell, and a really great splash page. It's only three issues in, so I suppose it's a little early to declare this the best super-comic going right now (and it's got a lot of competition, including at least one other Fraction-written book), but as I was reading it, I sure thought it was.

Also? I kind of want to go to a Darla Deering concert now:

Green Lantern #16 (DC) Is this book still on-schedule...? It seems like it's been a really long time since I've read an issue of it.

In this issue Geoff Johns finishes up Simon Baz's origin story arc—or at least the first sub-arc of his origin arc—as Baz ties up some of his earthbound business, finds his Lantern and gets a teacher in the form of Green Lantern B'dg, the more realistically-proportioned space squirrel who replaced Ch'p in the Corps.

I think Johns has done a pretty fine job introducing Baz and, with Doug Mahnke and company, making him an appealing and cool-looking enough character that I'm actually interested in him (more interested than I am in Hal Jordan, of course), and, when I saw a note in here saying the story was going to continue into an issue of Green Lantern Corps, I actually wanted to maybe buy and read that issue, which shouldn't be a remarkable thing at all, of course, but interconnectivity (or, that is, appealing interconnectivity) isn't something I've found in the New 52 thus far.

The state of the art credits remain a complete mess, as this issue is delivered by Mahnke and the regular Green Lantern Inkers Coprs; as usual, it also mostly looks very, very strong until near the end, where there are a few obviously rushed pages that obviously look like the work of different people.

It Girl and The Atomics #6 (Image Comics) Okay, I dropped this series with #4, but came back for this issue, as it is an "interlude" featuring a member of the Atomics (in this case, the Plastic Man-powered Mr. Gum, my favorite of The Atomics) and artwork from Chynna Clugston-Flores, the Blue Monday and Scooter Girl creator who I have seen far too little artwork from of late.

It's good stuff. The main problem I had with the series was writer Jamie S. Rich's too-effective homage to Bronze Age comics storytelling, made more interminable still by Bendis Age decompression. That is, the first story arc was a 20, maybe 40-page story stretched out over five issues.

This is a done-in-one, checking in on Mr. Gum, who is touring outerspace with The Atomics (the band, not the superhero team), which means cameos for Madman and Red Rocket 7.

Rich writes Mr. Gum as an off-brand JLA version of Plastic Man, the horny Jim Carey take that Grant Morrison suggested and all the other writers writing JLA spin-offs in the late 90s made more annoying still.

It's been a long time since I read those Allred Atomics comics, but I don't remember Mr. Gum acting anything like that, nor do I remember his powers working exactly like JLA Plas' (That is, instead of just stretching, he can radically change shape, which he does to punctuate his jokes and dialogue with visual puns or stresses).

I do like that he stumbles into the sort of obvious political/sociological metaphor situation involving alien races that Superman, Green Lantern or the Justice League of America might have encountered in the old days, but, rather than wisely solving all the problems, Gum is essentially like, "Eh, fuck these fucked-up people" and leaves. (Poor form on never giving the waitress a name though, Rich!).
Full-color superheroics involving a whole bunch of aliens, sci-fi sets and a giant monster aren't exactly Clugston-Flores' forte, but that is in large part what made her work on this issue particularly exciting to read. She does a fine job of it, and it's fun to see her, um, stretching here, and to see familiar characters like Mr. Gum and Madman rendered in her Archie-inspired style.

If I remember an first or second issue editorial correctly, Rich's plan was to follow each full story-arc with a one-shot interlude drawn by a different guest artist. If this one's indicative, then regardless of how much one may or may not like those story arc's, this is probably a title still worth keeping an eye on.

And man, Allred has been killing it with these pin-up style covers.
Next issue's looks even better than this one.

Legends of the Dark Knight #4 (DC) After a few issues of full-length stories, this one is back in anthology mode, with three short stories from three different creative teams. In the first, writer T.J. Fixman and artist Christopher Mitten present a kinda clever twist story involving The Joker and Arkham Asylum, probably most notable by the expressionist, gritty artwork.

The second is "Batman: The Movie," by Adnrew Dabb and Giorio Pontrelli, which imagines a Batman movie being made within the DC Universe, where it would be more like, I don't know, Oliver Stone's W than Chistopher Nolan's Dark Knight Rises. I've seen so many stories about this very thing (more than one being enough), that the premise seemed tired, even if the creators do a decent enough job with it. The Joker and out-of-costume Harley Quinn attack, the real Batman intervenes, et cetera. I liked how the movie Batman's costume looked like a mix of Norm Breyfogle and Kelley Jones Bat-costumes. Pontrelli is really a hell of an artist, so if the function of these digital-first shorts are try-outs for future, higher-profile gigs, I think he's certainly earned a bigger and better gigs at DC.

Finally, Jonathan Larsen an Tan Eng Huat present a story in which Two-Face tries a radical brain surgery to cut out half of himself. An okay enough idea for a throwaway short like this (I was actually relieved to see a villain other than The Joker in one of these Legends stories), although Eng Huat's more-conventional-but-still-quirky line work is the most interesting aspect of the story by far.

This title really feels like some sort of comics equivalent to snack food for me. You know how sometimes you feel like something sweet, so you eat something that's not particularly delicious or good for you, but nevertheless fulfills a vague craving? That's this book: It fulfills my occasional craving to read Batman comics I haven't read already, without having to commit to 40-part Joker or owl crossovers, wonky New 52 continuity or whatever.

Saga #9 (Image) We leave Hazel, her parents and her paternal grandparents for an entire issue focusing on hired assassin The Will and Lying Cat, my favorite comics character of the moment. His path crosses with that of another person hunting our protagonists, and he attempts to rescue that sex slave girl he encountered on Sextillon.

There are a lot of fun, little moments in this issue, mainly involving clever, quippy dialogue and artist Fiona Staples' always-inspired design work. I like the way Gwendolyn dresses, I like her ship that looks like a piece of giant mechanical fruit with a propellor. I like the weird-ass muscle Sextillon hires (in fantasy and in reality) and I was especially happy to see The Stalk again, if only briefly.

This is a really good comic, with really great design work and world-building buttressing it.

Saucer Country #11 (DC) By now you've probably all heard this one's been canceled, right? It's kind of too bad. I'm not terribly surprised, given the market's lack of appetite for ongoing, serially-published Vertigo comics, but I kind of liked this one, and it's plotting seems indicative that writer Paul Cornell still had a long, long way to go with the story he wanted to tell (the protagonist is a New Mexico governor running for President of the United States; she just had her first debate in the Democratic primaries).

This issue explores the fairy and false memory aspects of UFOlogy and abductee psychology, making for some intense drama and heavy subject matter, while also letting guest artists Mirko Colak and Adrea Mutti draw primary-colored, Tinkerbell-sized fairies and, in one scene, fairies fighting Greys.

I guess this book never found its audience, which is a shame, as I'm pretty certain there is an audience. It reads quite well in trade, I imagine, but isn't too terribly well-suited to the serial format. At least, in my experience, I found it kind of gets lost among all the superheroes and cartoon characters in the rest of my weekly stacks of comics, but is more satisfying in big, uninterrupted chunks.

Wonder Woman #16 (DC) Is it weird that Wonder Woman is only on eight pages of her own 20-page comic book, and that there's another, more interesting superhero on each of those pages with her?

Is it weird that I still have no idea who that guy who crawled out of the earth and ate a dude's brain is, even though he's been around for like four issues now, and is apparently a character from mythology I can't place?

No weirder than the fact that Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang have cast the late Wesley Willis as a demi-god in the cast of their Wonder Woman comic.
"Hellride." Jesus.

Young Avengers #1 (Marvel) Dardevil, Hawkeye, FF and now Young Avengers—Guys, I'm pretty sure Marvel is now winning superhero comics. More on this book elsewhere later today. (UPDATE: Okay, here)


JohnF said...

Nothing against Mike Allred, who's a perfectly fine comic book artist, but I don't quite get the love you have for him. His sense of anatomy is exceedingly sub-par. Look at that third panel with Ant-Man. No arm in history ever looked anything like that.
If crazy anatomy is your thing, OK, it's your thing. I just don't see how that makes Allred "superlative."

Caleb said...

You think so? Did you read it, or click on the image to embiggen it? Did you mean the left arm? Because it looks okay to me...we're looking diagonally down on it, and Ant-Man's shoulder is blocking our view of the arm from the elbow to the shoulder.

That was one of my favorite sequences in the book; I love how he goes from maniacally eager and excited about his ploy to win Darla back, and then looks so terribly defeated and deflated in the next panel...