Thursday, March 27, 2014

Comic shop comics: March 27

Mike Allred
Okay, so obviously the portmanteau word "cambot" being used to refer to a robot that is also a camera isn't the most brilliant or inspired word ever created by man or woman, but is it cool for Dan Slott to take the name of the quietest but most vital of the four robots who serve as the crew of the Satellite of Love and pluralize it? When I read that panel in the really rather good Silver Surfer #1 (Not reviewed here! But to-be-reviewed elsewhere tomorrow!), I admit to thinking, "Hey, you can't do that!"

Or I don't know, maybe he can. Maybe Jack Kirby invented the word "cambot" in 1966, and Joel Hodgson and company coincidentally chose it as the name of their robot cameraman 25 years later. Jack Kirby invented a lot of stuff that people forgot he created.


Superman's pre-New 52 costume: Proof that absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Adventures of Superman #11 (DC Comics) Writer Jim Krueger's issue-length story gets off to one hell of a rocky start, with some pretentious, purple prose that might be okay in a Superman short story, but doesn't fit too comfortably into a comic book story, in part because of it's length (the second panel is so full of narration boxes that the image is almost completely covered) and because it is immediately contradicted by the imagery (the narration tells us of a planet devoid of light, and then we see a well-lit bar full of artificial well as a guy with a glowing green ring sitting next to a lantern). It's also a little on the stupid side ("Even ancient mariners feared to use these vacancies to chart their courses as they cast their visions toward the heavens for guidance," Krueger writes; is that why sailors navigated by stars rather than dark? Because of superstition? And not because it is easier to use something rather than nothing to, anything?).

After that opening, though, it's a pretty fine little story, mashing up Green Lantern mythology with Superman mythology. The continuity is a little wonky, maybe, as it appears to reference certain events from past Green Lantern and Superman stories, and Neil Edwards and Scott Hanna's artwork takes some cues from post-Rebirth GL stories, while other story elements feature pre-Kyle Rayner facts, like the yellow weakness. That's fine; this title exists in a sort of a continuity-free zone, and it's individual stories need really only be consistent within themselves. I still couldn't help trying to slot this into a DC continuity I knew, though; the publisher has basically trained me to do so at this point.

Krueger plays with a couple of ideas, like whether or not a Green Lantern's ring would allow him to commit suicide, how one might "quit" being a Green Lantern without formerly tending a resignation to The Guardians and, if the Superman story and the Green Lantern Corps exist in the same universe, why didn't the Green Lantern assigned to the space sector including Krypton save the planet from destruction?

Essentially the story asks and answers these questions rather elegantly (rocky opening aside), and while drawing a decent portrait of Superman as the super good man he's often portrayed as (at least in this book, if not so much in The New 52-iverse anymore). Speaking of drawing, Neil Edwards does a fine job on the pencil art, and inker Scott Hanna and color artist Jason Wright compliment that work quite nicely.

Demi-god, technically.
Aquaman #29 (DC Comics) So, this was kind of weird. On the cover, we see Aquaman facing off against a giant with a hood on his head, carrying or lifting a gigantic, spherical boulder, which recalls both the minor, Kirby-created DC hero Atlas (who James Robinson reintroduced into his pre-New 52 Superman comics as part of his effort to get everyone from the cover of a 1st Issue Special into an espionage effort built around Jimmy Olsen) and, of course, the traditional, Classical image of the mythological figure.

I also thought that maybe the giant, hooded character bearing a large sphere of stone might be Atlas because this is the solicitation for this issue said:
Written by JEFF PARKER
On sale MARCH 26 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
It’s all-out action as Aquaman feels the wrath It’s all-out action as Aquaman feels the wrath of Atlas as he makes his first appearance in The New 52! And the environmental havoc seen in the pages of SWAMP THING may put Arthur on a collision course with a certain Avatar of the Green!
But inside the book that DC published and released this week, the character isn't referred to as Atlas at all. Instead, he's introduced thusly:
"[T]he Earth-born son of Zeus Himself. The Lion of Olympus who came only to help. MIGHTY HERCULES."
Pretty weird, huh?

The solicitation for next month's #30 mentions the New 52 debut of Hercules, and while the cover image accompanying it features someone throwing Aquaman into the sea, the figure is so far away it's hard to tell if it's the same one that appears in this comic or not—but he looks smaller and slimmer.

I suppose it's possible that it was merely a typo in the original solicitation for Aquaman #29, but, from the way the Hercules/Atlas character is drawn and the context—in ancient times, he drove a group of forgotten monsters of pre-history calling themselves the Giant-Born into a gate to hell, which the King of Atlantis sealed behind him—making him a Titan of Myth rather than an Olympian demi-god would seem to fit better.

But whether this represents last minute story-fiddling of the sort so many creators at DC have been complaining of off and on over the last three years or so, or if it was a typo, it seems to be one of those dumb unforced errors the publisher makes an awful lot of. (If this is the New 52's Hercules, I guess that raises some questions about Wonder Woman's altered history, as he played a part in the story of the Amazons in the George Perez reboot, and appeared repeatedly in various capacities in Wonder Woman comics since).

The issue is a pretty good one; not as funny as the previous one, but otherwise quite strong, featuring a single art team throughout (Well, page 20 is inked by a different inker than the first 19 pages, but that's pretty close!).

In the first panel, Aquaman shouts "Outrageous!", the catch-phrase of the bearded Aquaman of the sadly ended cartoon series Batman: The Brave and The Bold. For the purposes of that series, the producers basically remade Aquaman in the image of Marvel's Hercules, so having a reminder of that in the same issue that introduces "The Lion of Olympus...Mighty Hercules" to Aquaman? It filled me with fantasies of a Brave and The Bold Aquaman/Mighty Hercules crossover that will never come to pass.

DC Universe Vs. Masters of The Universe #6 (DC) In keeping with the first five issues, this comic was...well, I don't want to say a piece of shit, as that's crass and kind of mean. "Garbage" or "trash" is less crass, but still kind of mean. "Terrible"...? Yeah, this was terrible. So points for consistency, I guess. The most disappointing inter-franchise crossover I've ever read started out terrible, and remained terrible for six straight issues.

I will nevertheless discuss it in way too great detail in the very future, because unlike the folks who made this comic, DC superheroes, the Masters of The Universe characters and comic books are things I actually care about (Ha ha! That's a mean, stupid thing to say! Obviously this Keith Giffen guy cares about comics; it's his goddam job, after all. I'm being a real dick here, huh? I guess I should clarify that, based on the quality of this series, it doesn't seem like it's creators care about any of those things).

Let's move on.

Empowered Special #6 (Dark Horse Comics) Brandon Graham is one of my favorite comics artists, one of those guys of whom I might hyperbolically declare, "Man, I wish he drew all the comics I read!"

So this is sort of a wish come true, as it is Brandon Graham drawing one of those comics I read that he doesn't normally draw, Adam Warren's Empowered. This is, of course, one of those full-color, done-in-one comic book format stories that Warren writes (and draws book ends for) while a guest artist draws them. They tend to come out between volumes of the all-Warren original graphic novel series.

They are, like the main Empowered series, always awesome, but this issue was particularly awesome.

Given Graham's skill at drawing sexy women as well as cool, crowded science fiction-y settings, he is naturally a perfect fit for drawing the scantily-clad stars of Adam Warren's ever-expanding superhero universe. In this issue, Empowered and Ninjette are called to a special superhero hospital (Like Kurt Busiek and company's Astro City and Alan Moore and Gene Ha's Top Ten, one of the pleasures of Warren's Empowered has been the way he superhero-izes even the more normal, pedestrian aspects of his world) to Fantastic Voyage into a the sentient, organic babyship of a sentient, organic mothership in order to surgically remove a parasitic infection; if they fail, the mothership will destroy a large portion of earth in revenge.

The hospital is staffed by nurses in super-sexy nurses' outfits that make even the skimpiest naughty nurse Halloween costumes look modest (male and female nurses; another of Empowered's many virtues is its ability to be sexy without being sexist), and full of weird, superhero shit—I particularly enjoyed the waiting room, and the Crisis On Infinite Earths gag.
Context, if needed.
Graham does a great job on the protagonists, accentuating the differing body types of the two characters—something Emp herself obsesses over—and it's great fun to see Warren's designs filtered through another artist who I like just as much. Graham also letters the story himself, just as Warren letters his pages and Empowered, so it was nice to see the Empowered characters "sound" like King City characters (One thing I don't like about Warren's Empowered? The way he underlines words for emphasis. Graham doesn't do that, but instead uses italics and bolding. The only other thing I don't really like about Empowered is the way Warren handles swearing, putting black bars over swear words, but there's no swearing at all in this issue).

I also liked the way Emp's powersuit is dull, solid blue all the time, until she uses her powers, and then it gets sparkly and star field-y. That might always happen, I don't know; if so, it's not as obvious in black and white as it is in color.

I actually kind of feel bad that I'm only reviewing this comic here instead of somewhere that will earn more eyeballs. It was a ton of fun, and I'd highly recommend it.

I would love to see more of Graham's version of Empowered, Graham being one of those artists I kinda wish drew all the comics I read, but then, Warren is another of the artists I kinda wish drew all the comics I read (I do Warren should contribute a cover or pin-up to the next Multiple Warheads comic).

Hawkeye #18 (Marvel Entertainment) And back to L.A. for another chapter of the Kate Bishop narrative, drawn by Annie Wu. This comic has become a really fucking weird one, in terms of the way it's constructed. Have Marvel or DC ever published a comic like this, where two characters with the same superhero identity take turns starring in alternating issues of the title, by alternating artists, in two separate and distinct storylines that aren't really connected, but occasionally acknowledge the existence of one another?


googum said...

I kinda love the black censor bars in Empowered! They always remind me of Adult Swim shows that block swears with a horn (like Space Ghost: Coast to Coast) or a guitar riff, like Metalpocalypse.

SallyP said...

I did enjoy Superman, who as you say actually behaves like...well...Superman.

I completely overlooked the "Outrageous" comment in Aquaman, and now I feel like a dunce, because that is pretty funny.

Hawkeye was a bit weird, but I like it because it IS different, and I'm willing to keep going along with the ride.

Anonymous said...

You sold me on Hawkeye. I blew my bank account on back issues last week and damn am I glad I did.

One of the funny things to me is how perfect this little pop culture capsule is, really. Perfect like a album full of awesome singles (Sky Ferreira comes to mind), or a teevee show with bitesize seasons like Nurse Jackie. Once you get past the surface level of style (Mazzucchelli mockups, mimicking Matt Wagner) the actual story content / structure is nicely nested, with highly mundane callbacks to this or that scene interlocking in a lovely jigsaw: Barney in the bathroom as Clint gets chewed out by Kate and Lucky listens. As a serial fic Hawkguy owes more to television than to film, which I think is a nice trick to play on that six percent of Marvel film fans who arrived at the book by way of Whedon's Avengers. (That is to say, the comic is like a well-built Whedon show, yet The Avengers movie is the least Whedon-flavored project scriptwise.)

It doesn't reinvent the wheel or restart my heart for superhero comics, and it doesn't have to. It sells me on a monthly title and that in itself is enough. It gives a foundation to a character who's always needed a home outside the team du jour-- the Avengers being a dysfunctional family at best --and provides a highly entertaining vehicle for a supporting cast I can care about. The divided narrative covers the division in labor pretty nicely, too, in addition to emphasizing that East/West thing that's been a big part of Hawkguy's history. Fraction does a hell of a lot with very little and makes it look easy.

Thanks for making it part of my monthly intake, C.