Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Comic shop comics: November 13-20

Afterlife With Archie #2 (Archie Comics) Here are a few phrases I never expected to read in an Archie comic:

"...Jughead Jones ate Ethel Muggs right in front of us, and no one did anything but stare..."

"I'm done playing 'Brokeback Riverdale' with you."

"...the thing that was once jughead Jones..."

Of course, that is a large part of what makes this unlikely series, a zombie horror movie story featuring the cast from Archie Comics, such a kick. Well, that and the fact that Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa writes a perfectly solid zombie story so well, using the pre-established characters to great effect without descending into parody at any point, and that Francesco Francavilla straight-up draws the hell out of the book (And his moody, Halloween coloring is great).

Zombie cannibal aspects aside, I was a little surprised at how adult the book was, including Cheryl Blossom referencing alcohol, a panel suggesting sexual jealousy toward Archie coming from her brother and a rather frank discussion in a diner between two lesbian character (I'm not sure familiar enough with the citizens of Riverdale to know if they are new characters or if they previously existed).

And if you're curious as to what Francavilla's art might look like were drawing the cast in the more traditional Archie house style rather than the realistic versions he's using here, there's an awfully nice next issue panel:
Finally, this issue also includes a reprint of an old 1970s horror comic from the pages of old Archie horror anthology Chilling Adventures in Sorcery, a six-page, black and white story called "...Cat" written and drawn by the great Gray Morrow. It's extremely wordy and a somewhat typical supernatural twist story, but good God almighty is Morrow's art gorgeous. I guess the plan is for future issues of the series to include reprints of such stories. Great value for a $2.99 comic, really.

Batman '66 #5 (DC Comics) Two things about the cover, which is once again drawn by the great Mike Allred and colored by the also great Laura Allred. First, the credits cite a "Jarrell" as one of the artists, but the story not drawn by Coover is actually drawn by Rubin Procopio; what's up, cover credits? And second, wow does Mike Allred draw a sexy Batgirl! His It Girl covers long ago convinced me how good he is at drawing the female form, but I guess it's been a long time since I've seen him apply his thick, curving linework to a famous superheroine like that. I've long hoped Allred would do some interior work on this series; now I kinda hope it's a Batgirl story.

The artist they get to draw the Batgirl story is no slouch either, though. That would be Colleen Coover (Her Bandette, written by Paul Tobin, is available as a graphic novel from Dark Horse is in stores this week; you should really check it out if you're not already reading the strip online).  It's the first appearance of Batgirl in this particular series, and I had forgotten how much I liked the librarian-by-day, superhero-by-night version of the character. I had also forgotten that this Barbara Gordon didn't have red hair, but a short black bob, and she put on a wig to become Batgirl (In my defense, I haven't watched this show since grade-school). While Batman and Robin "are in Japan, "helping their police hunt down the elusive Lord Death Man" (!!!) it's up to Batgirl to stop Catwoman, who in this episode story is now played by Eartha Kitt.

The lead story features Batman and Robin battling The Sandman, a villain from the show I have no memory of. This is the one drawn by Procopio, whose style is a lot more consciously funny-looking than that of most of the artists involved in the series so far (His Bruce Wayne also looks extremely Adam West-ern).

Daredevil #33 (Marvel Entertainment) I'm guessing Chris Samnee at least did the breakdowns for this issue, as he again shares a "storytellers" credit with Mark Waid, while a Jason Copland is credited as the "Art" (Interestingly, most of the folks involved are assigned a noun describing what they do, like Colorist, Letterer, Assistant Editor, etc, but the artist and cover artists are just assigned "Art" and "Cover." Well, it's interesting to me, anyway; I also lay awake at night trying to figure out why DC and Marvel spell "penciller" with different numbers of L's).

To everyone's credit, this is another issue that Samnee did not draw that it took me a while to notice that he didn't draw it (page eight, I think it was); that's another reason I suspect he might have done breakdowns, but, either way, it's to Copland's credit that the look and feel of the book remains so consistent even when Samnee's not putting the all the lines down on the page.

This is the conclusion to the two-part arc in which Daredevil teams-up with the Legion of Monsters, part of a larger arc in which our hero seeks to combat the Sons of the Serpents' infiltration of the New York judicial system. Given the scope of the conflict, and the ongoing subplot involving Foggy Nelson's cancer, I'm really surprised to learn that the book is ending in just three more issues. I understand Waid and a new artist will take the character into online only (?) comics, but I won't read those until they see print (if they ever do; I'm hoping their digital first, like a bunch of the DC comics I read now, rather than digital period).

Forever Evil: Arkham War #2 (DC) In this issue, nothing anything at all like what's on the cover happens!

What does happen? Well, if you read the first issue, you'll remember that the various Batman villains carved up Gotham City into their own little themed fiefdoms (sorta like what happened in No Man's Land), with The Scarecrow acting as the villains' leader and The Penguin acting as the city's de facto mayor. Meanwhile, Bane has invaded the city with an army of soldiers hopped up on Venom and made landfall at Blackgate Prison, where he plans to free and arm the sane criminals there to add to his forces and take over Gotham (also, I guess all the leftover owls from the first year of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman are cryogenically stored under there?).

So Bane's forces invade Man-Bat's block, where Man-Bat has turned a bunch of guys into Men-Bats, and Bane himself takes a meeting with Mayor Penguin. The Bat-villain army preemptively attacks Blackgate and try to steal the frozen owls before Bane can wake 'em up and use them. Also, Commissioner Gordon tries to rescue Blackgate's warden, because that gives writer Peter Tomasi an excuse to put Gordon in the story.

I can't say the story makes a whole lot of sense, in large part because I don't really know many of the players very well anymore in the wake of the new 52 reboot and others I've never even heard of before (Brute...?), and in small part because bits of penciller Scot Eaton and Jaime Mendoza's art don't read very clearly, particularly at the climax (Did Bane rip off one of Man-Bat's wings? Did he capture The Scarecrow? Did the Scarecrow inject him with toxin? If not, why not? Did those two get away? The scene just...changes, leaving what should be a big part of the conflict unresolved).
So what's up with that lady in the background's right arm, exactly? Venom is, as they say, a hell of a drug.
It's interesting to see the ways in which Eaton and company try to make the comic book Bane more closely resemble the movie Bane. They still draw him like the Hulk, with fists as big as his head, but they have him holding his vests or suspender like Tom Hardy does in the movie. Eaton also draws Bane with his eyes visible through the holes in his mask, akin to movie Bane, rather than with red lenses in his mask, ala comic book Bane, but colorist Andrew Dalhouse gives Bane glowing red eyeballs (?).
The best part of the issue, though, is the next issue box, which reads "Next: Das Bat!"

Did no one ever make a Batman/Das Boot joke before? It really seems like the sort of joke someone should have made by this point.

Harley Quinn #0 (DC) So this is maybe the most exciting comic book DC has published in...I don't know, when was Wednesday Comics? (Well, the new volume of Batman: Black and White was pretty exciting too, but that story where Dan DiDio had Batman stuttering about not fighting kiddie porn while he has Man-Bat eat the guy who was making porn films with Man-Bat's kids kinda made me want to forget that project exists.)

So, here's the pitch for this: It's a 20-page comic book in which Harley Quinn writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti appear as voices in Harley's head and discuss potential artists for her upcoming series with her, with nearly every page featuring her in some form of bizarre situation or another, drawn by a different artist. These artists are among the most talented and noteworthy stylists who don't seem to mind working for DC at all, having done work for them in the recent past. So we see work from Becky Cloonan, Darwyn Cooke, Sam Kieth, Bruce Timm, Adam Hughes, Walter Simonson and Art Baltazar (who draws a Harley invading the Tiny Titans treehouse). Conner draws a bit, as does Chad Hardin, who will be drawing the series when it officially launches with a #1, and then there's Jeremy Roberts, a newcomer who won whatever goofy contest there was associated with the book (For what its worth, his art is nice, but seems to be exactly the wrong tone for the page of script he gets; his style is very straight, very representational, and a lot like everything else DC publishes, meaning the Duck Amuck aspect is lost; also that last panel doesn't really work...if you're going to visually quote a famous movie image, you should probably put some effort into actually resembling it).

Tony S. Daniel, whose New 52 work included the first arcs of the rebooted Detective Comics, a Justice League arc and who is now drawing Superman/Wonder Woman, contributes a page, although he draws Harley as a giant, building-eating robot. Jim Lee's contribution is actually just a page from his short  Batman run, with Harley's costume "digitally tweaked" (i.e. changed form her original duds to her new New 52 costume, as seen on the cover). Palmiotti's voice points out that Lee's three-panel contribution isn't exactly a new drawing and, in fact, he and Conner tend to discuss the work of the artists involved on almost every page, often making fun of them in one way or another (In some cases, they or Harley mention that as good as the artists are, they just can't keep a monthly schedule and thus can't draw the ongoing; I found that particularly amusing, given than Conner and Palmiotti are themselves artists, and neither of them are going to be drawing the book, just writing it).

The best part may be Cooke's contribution, in which Harley teams up with Catwoman to rob Palmiotti and Conner's wedding, as it sees Cooke drawing in a highly-exaggerated cartoon style that doesn't look like what one might expect from the artist.

I was rather curious about the book's construction, as in some cases it seems like Harley and the writers are commenting on the art as if they were seeing it for the first time, so I imagine the artists had a great deal of latitude, and jokes or references were filled in after it came back.
For example, check out the Simonson panel, where she mentions "some robot guy," presumably just because Simonson drew a robotic hand at the bottom of the page.

And the worst part? That would probably be the last panel tag reading, "Continued in Harley Quinn #1, where we swear we sill stop breaking the Fourth Wall!" Other than some of the great art on display  (I'll take some more Tradd Moore in the future, please), that's probably the best part of the comic.

That last page does seem to tease the premise a bit, as Harley is willed some Coney Island real estate. I'm not sure how the book will go once the creators stop making fun comics and have to get serious—and it's not like there's a great variety of tone in the New 52, so I don't have high hopes that they will be allowed to be very funny moving forward—but this here is a pretty damn fun comic book, and well worth your $3 for the tour of artists alone.

Classic Popeye #16 (IDW) This may have started becoming evident in previous issues, but this is the one that it really struck me. Bud Sagendorf's comic book Popeye has at this point begun to more closely resemble the cartoon Popeye more so than the original comic strip version. For example, now he's only bullet-proof and super-strong after swallowing a can of spinach, rather than being inherently invincible.

I like the other way better.

Ah well. This is still the one of the best values in serial comics, in terms of dollars-to-good comics, and remains one of my favorite reads each month (Given that these are reprints from comics made before my dad was born, I think that might say something less than flattering about the current state of comic books. Or maybe it just says something about how awesome a cartoonist Sagendorf is, and how compelling E.C. Segar's creations are).

In this issue, Popeye and Olive visit African in order to try and convince some animals to come back home with them to live in a zoo (Is that how zoos get their animals...?), then they protect a gold shipment from bad guys in a story that ends with Popeye doing some real horror movie shit in the last panel, then Wimpy tries to score five free hamburgers by wearing various disguises, one of which involves what has to be one of the worst ways to make a false beard (see above) and then there's a prose story I didn't read and a Ham Gravy solo story in which a Native American stereotype gets the better of Olive's old cowboy sweetheart.

Scooby-Doo Team-Up #1 (DC) I had pretty high hopes for this comic, which re-teamed Scooby and the gang with Batman and Robin, and am happy to report that my expectations weren't only met, but exceeded.

Writer Sholly Fisch's "Man Bat and Robbin'" finds the Mystery Inc team investigating reports of a giant bat creature and, in the parking lot near a mall, they encounter one such bat creature: Their old pal Batman, and his partner Robin ("Long time, no see, Batman-- Ever since our run-in with The Joker and The Penguin!" Daphne says, referring to the 1972 "The Caped Crusader Caper" from The New Scooby-Doo Movies).  When a panic erupts inside the mall, they find not one but three Man-Bats engaged in petty robbery (or are they really Man-Bats, and not, say, run-of-the-mill thieves in rubber masks seeking to take advantage of the panic caused by the real Man-Bat?), in addition to the genuine article.

Fisch pulls off a heck of a balancing act in the script, leaning quite close to the tone of the current Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated series' sense of humor, which often makes jokes at the expense of the franchise, but never going too far in that particular direction.  His Batman and Robin aren't the same Batman and Robin that appeared in those old Scooby-Doo episodes, either; those were basically animated versions of the Adam West and Burt Ward Batman and Robin (in better costumes), whereas as these seem like more straightforward, less silly versions; these are the classic comic book Batman and Robin.
While making with some good gags—I don't think I laughed out loud at any point, but I did think "heh" a good half-dozen times while reading—Fisch also hits the requisite beats of a Scooby-Doo adventure, from the un-masking scene to Scooby and Shaggy accidentally playing a pivotal role in the climactic capture, to Scooby repurposing a mask for a post-climax, pre-credits scaring of Shaggy.

The artwork, by Dario Brizuela, is pretty incredible. His Scooby and the gang look like they were taken directly form the old cartoons, right down to every character's every pose and expression, only here they are better "animated," the integrity of their designs staying more consistent than they often did during the old cartoons.

Robin and Batman are wearing their original costumes (Well, it's technically "New Look" Batman, with the yellow oval, but you know what I meant, right?), and look like compromises between how they appeared in the old Scooby-Doo cartoons and more modern, comic book-y versions of themselves. Batman in particular wears colors that are more black than blue (like Superman's hair used to look, his costume is perhaps so black its blue, or else its blue but Batman is so dark he just sorta emanates his own moody lighting), and the first panel he appears in looks like it could have come straight out of the DCU line.

As for Man-Bat, he looks like the version from Batman: The Animated Series.

It's a lot of juggling of styles, but Brizuela blends it all smoothly. I got a lot of good comics during this latest trip to the comics shop, but this may just be the very best of them.

SpongeBob Comics #26 (United Plankton Pictures)  Joey Weiser, Vanessa Williams, James Kochalka and Maris Wicks are among the creators offering up short SpongeBob gag comics this issue. The one I admire most (aside from the first of Kochaka's three strips, which actually made me laugh out loud) is Robert Leighton and Gregg Schigiel's "Sundae Stroll," in which the artist draws a series of five consecutive two-page splashes, with little, repeated images of Gary, SpongeBob and Patrick walking across them, their actions playing out on several different crisscrossing tiers. It's hard to explain, and I'm doing a bad job of it, but it's really quite inventive and I'm pretty astounded by how well executed it is.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #5 (Marvel) The only thing that surprised me more than the fourth-to-last page was the second-to-last page. And that last page was pretty surprising too, come to think of it. I love this book.

Young Avengers #12 (Marvel) Oh superhero comics, you're just incorrigible. I like how this book has the words "Young Avengers Part One" on the cover, a few millimeters way from the number "012." I guess this is a story arc called "Young Avengers" in a book called Young Avengers, and someone thought that needed to go on the cover, which already says Young Avengers in a rather large font-size across the top of the book...?

The art, by  penciler (one L!) Jamie McKelvie and inkers Mike Norton, Stephen Thompson and McKelvie himself, is as excellent as always. As for the story, now that I know the title is ending and writer Kieron Gillen is leaving the book, the whole thing seems a lot worse in retrospect, as this seems to be nearing the conclusion of the book's very first story arc, telling the origin of this incarnation of a superhero team. But it's actually ending now? Seems a bit like watching a TV series where the pilot episode was somehow stretched out to 13 hour-long episodes, or a movie that is all first act. On the plus side, I guess Gillen may end up beating Brad Meltzer's Justice League of America run as the longest one story arc run on a Bit Two superhero comic book in the 21st century. That's...something.

I'm actually kind of annoyed that I've read 12 issues of this series, almost the entirety of this creative team's work on the book, and I have no idea who Miss America is, or anything about her, other than the fact that she calls Loki "Chico" for some reason.

Oh, and hey, how weird is it to see Marvel comic book characters talking about Scott Pilgrim?
Weirder still that Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O'Malley drew a variant cover for the first issue of this series.

I hope when Marvel re-relaunches this series as part of their All-New Marvel NOW! promotion, O'Malley is the new one-man creative team, and that the Earth-616 version of Kim Pine and Wallace Wells are in the new line-up.


Aki Alaraatikka said...

Batman could also be referring to a Batman: brave and the Bold-episode.

A fascinating entry. As usual.

Vanja said...

Re: Young Avengers #12 What's even weirder than the random Scott Pilgrim reference is that this week's Uncanny X-Men also makes mention of the book

SallyP said...

Oh that Loki...he's so hip. But seriously, some pretty darned good books, and they are cancelling two of them! Arrggh!

Greg said...

Isn't that "Cooke" drawing by Walt Simonson? I didn't buy the book, but when I looked through it in the store, I thought his name synced up with that page. It certainly looks like Simonson's art, so if it is Cooke, he's doing a good Simonson impression!

Caleb said...


Well that's an awfully weird coincidence.


Oh, I didn't post an image by Cooke. That IS Simonson's image I posted (you can see his dinosaur signature on the right border). That was there to illustrate the point I make in the NEXT paragraph, not the previous one, but maybe I shoulda placed that image a paragraph lower. I'll revisit that later.

Greg said...

Whoops, I forgot about that. The spacing made it seem you were talking about Cooke, and then I forgot you actually did mention Simonson. My bad. Carry on! :)

JohnF said...

Don't you understand? Miss America says "chico" because she's a latina (whose actual name is America, no less). If she didn't drop extraneous Spanish words into her fluent English we'd never know she was anything other than a very tan caucasian.
It's basically the Chris Claremont school of storytelling, which is sad because I like the book otherwise.