Saturday, July 11, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: July 8

You know, I was about to apologize for posting this so many days after Wednesday, and for having let the blog lie un-updated for so long–I was busy with my day job, my night job, re-watching all the Jurassic Parkmovies and visiting family–but then I remembered that with San Diego Comic-Con going on, it's not like there isn't so much to read about comics on the Internet now that anyone could possibly be looking for more. So I could probably even take the rest of the weekend off without posting anything and no one would notice, huh?

All-Star Section Eight #2 (DC Comics) I have a difficulty with this particular cover, aside from the obvious fact that it is drawn by the excellent Amanda Conner rather than the also excellent John McCrea, who manages to capture the ugliness of Sixpack and his Gotham City infinitely better than Conner does (her Sixpack, despite being visibly drunk and dirty, can't help but be slightly cute. Also, he's totally missing his little hat. Also, it looks like she drew pre-Flashpoint GL rather than post-Flashpoint GL. Also, shouldn't Sixpack being wearing a Green Lantern-ized version of his costume while wearing the ring? Because now I really want to know what that would look like).

My main difficulty is what is going on, exactly. Is Sixpack using the ring to lift those bottles of booze and levitate them toward him, and the fact that all the other booze around them is luminous and green simply because of the green light being cast upon the boxes and bottles? I suspect not, as Sixpack and Green Lantern aren't also colored green. So then I suppose the implication is that Sixpack is using his willpower to create all of that alcohol? And, if that's the case, it makes me wonder if a Green Lantern's ability to form matter constructs with his or her or its ring can also produce consumables. Can a GL create food to eat, water to drink or, here, booze to drink? I don't know. And now that too is bugging me.

Well, now that I've completely over-thought all of that, let's open up the second issue of Garth Ennis and John McCrea's kinda sorta spin-off of Hitman, featuring Sixpack's ongoing attempts to reconstitute the second worst DC superhero team ever (I mean, they suck, but they're no Sovereign Seven) before an undefined threat that only they can stop arrives.

He's got seven members, but needs and eighth to reach that magic number (This is why superhero teams would do well not to put a number in their name, as it means the Fantastic Four always needs four, the Seven Soldiers of Victory always need seven, etc). Last month, he tried quite unsuccessfully to recruit Batman, and this issue he sets his alcohol-addled sites on Green Lantern.

He gets the idea when he sees GL on the news (note the crawl; I guess news organizations in the DCU are pretty jaded by alien invasions by this point):
But first, we learn the secret origin of Dogwelder II, get some indication that all is not at all well with Sixpack (Um, if you needed another couple clues) and Bueno Excellente gets a...rival, I guess...?

After Section Seven's failed attempt to draw GL out, Sixpack argues with a t shirt salesman, oblivious to the fact that GL is fighting a red T-Rex in a space helmet with a light saber right outside the window for a few pages. (The dinosaur villain's name, by the way, is "Tyranno****er Prime," which really sound like a villain that would be in the world of Empowered, not the DCU).

When Sixpack tries to talk to Hal, the hero pointedly refuses to even make eye contact with him, turning his head away and cutting off everything he says. He then points directly at the reader–"You should be ashamed of yourselves!"–apparently making reference to the Hitman arc "Local Hero" (starring then-Green Lantern Kyle Rayner) and, more likely, the JLA/Hitman crossover from JLA Classified, in which Kyle indicates that he was apparently roofied and sexually assaulted by Bueno Excellente, something I'm still surprised got by the editors of the book, of course there is more than one interpretation, and while they're all unsavory, I suppose their are degrees to how unsavory.

Anyway, this scene ends with the most amazing thing I've ever seen a Green Lantern do...
...hail a taxi and ride away instead of, you know, flying away.

The nature of the scene is in somewhat sharp contrast to that of the Batman one in the first issue, as Hal directly addresses Sixpack, even if he refuses to look at or listen to anything he has to say, and there appears to be another witness present who deals with the fallout of Sixpacks arrival, in a way that no one in the Batman scene did. That doesn't mean this isn't all in Sixpack's head, but it's definitely different in the way it's portrayed.

McCrea's art is as excellent as always, and the scene of GL's battle with Tryanno****er Prime playing out in the background is pretty excellent. He also sneaks some ads for his own Image comic Mythic into the backgrounds, although the best detail may the fact that when the team dons GL shirts to try and trick Hal into thinking their members of the Corps, Dogwelder's dead dog has a little dog-sized GL shirt on too.

Archie #1 (Archie Comics) Twenty-one covers, Archie? Really? I know rebooting after a 666-issue run and landing Mark Waid and Fiona Staples (!) as your new creative team are both pretty big deals, but 21 covers? I don't think my shop received all of those covers, but they sure had a lot of them, and I spent too long looking at them, my eyes racing from stack to stack while the guy behind the register stood, waiting for me to choose one. I thought about getting the J. Scott Campbell one, just to annoy my friend who hates J. Scott Campbell, but ultimately chose the Mike Norton one, simply because it appeared to have Josie and The Pussycats on it in poster form. I would have got the Staples one, had I seen it; they either didn't carry it, were all sold out by the time I got to the shop, or I just couldn't see it among the other 12-21 covers.

And hey, where was the Peter Bagge variant cover I saw online? That's a real one, right? It's not among the 21 on the two-page cover gallery in the back. Does that mean there are actually more than 21 covers for this comic? Jesus. (Yes, there are! The Bagge variant is a retailer exclusive variant, which is too bad, because I think it's my favorite of them all. That Kate Leth one which also has a Josie poster in the background is pretty swell too, though. I'm not a fan of this many variants, for several reasons, but one of those reasons is that I think it pushes readers like me into eschewing serially published comics for trades. Like, if I were just patient, wouldn't I get a gallery of all these in the back of the first Archie trade paperback collection?).

Anyway, it's really, really good, and I will talk about the ways in which it is good elsewhere. Here I'll just point its goodness out, and recommend that you give the first issue a shot, regardless of your previous interest in Archie.

And because this is something I always harp on, let me note that while the book is $3.99 (boo!), for that price you at least get a 22-page original comics story, a six-page reprint of the very first Archie story, one page of prose, the aforementioned two pages of covers and no ads (save one for next issue, and one for Jughead #1, both of which come at the end of the book). If Archie Comics can give away so much content for $4, why can't Marvel and DC? Easy. They can, but they hate you, so they don't.

Seriously though–Archie is good comics.

Gotham Academy #8 (DC) Unfortunately this remains a comic book that I want to like more than I actually like. I dig the art and character designs, I like most of the characters themselves (particularly Maps), and I like the overall premise of a private school in Gotham City full of weird secrets and supernatural mysteries, but the storytelling rarely seems to work in a way that connects all of these things and connects with me. I often find myself slightly confused by the goings-on (particularly since the close of the first story arc), and the way the book jumps around. It seems to have pulled its focus away a bit too much from Olive's secrets regarding her mom and their apparent shared powers (although this issue jumps around in time...I think...? Or else her mom just died off-panel recently and I didn't notice) and the ghost haunting the school (which was seemingly resolved), to focus instead on Maps and her brother's concern for Olive and the creepy guy she's hanging around, who turns out to be a Man-Bat, created by Kirk Langstrom, who somehow got a job on faculty, despite the post-Flashpoint Langstrom being a much more evil villain than the original, anti-hero version was.

Also, another ghost shows up...?

Maybe this is all easier to follow in trade, as I see no obvious problems in the individual construction of each issue, they just don't seem to cohere in my brain as I'm reading them, and I too-often forget what happened between issues because of it. This is one of those relatively rare cases where I don't all-the-way like a comic series, but am willing to confess that maybe it's not the comic, maybe it's me.

That's a pretty swell cover, though.

Providence #2 (Avatar) The second chapter in Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows' return exploration of H.P. Lovecraft and early 20th-century weird literature finds our reporter protagonist Robert Black heads to New York, particularly the area of Red Hook, where he's greeted by Tom Malone, a character from Lovecraft's "The Horror at Red Hook." After a long talk, Malone sets Black on the trail of Robert Suydam (a character from the same short story), and essentially revisiting aspects of that plot.

I guess I'm a little slow to catch on, but so far this seems to have the makings of a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-esque super-remix of Lovecraft's weird fiction, albeit with a more realistic, slightly more sympathetic and pschologically-complex take on it all, ala Moore and Burrows' Neonomicon. I'm fairly inexpert at Lovecraft's writings, having read 'em all over the course of one summer in college and never really revisited them, and then as now I've generally found them more funny than scary or compelling.

This issue seemed to delve more deeply into supernatural goings-ons though; there's a lot of talk about the occult, as in the first issue, but there's also a horror scene, in which our protagonist encounters a mysterious underworld that maybe shouldn't be there, and a bizarre creature.

It's good in the same highly-mannered way that all Moore-scripted works after a certain point seem to be, and I like the period-piece setting, but this is definitely a case where I'm aware I'm not getting as much out of the book as the creators put into it, or that readers with greater affection for and familiarity with the source material will get out of it. (Is this how readers who like Grant Morrison but don't know much about the DC Universe felt while reading The Multiversity...?).

Also, like Archie, this series just had way too many covers, all of them too similar to make choosing one over the others an easy decision.

Saga #30 (Image Comics) Two characters die violently, The Will wakes up, the R-word and the C-word both get dropped and, most shocking of all, someone starts school. This issue initiates another hiatus for the book, and it appears from the last page that another time jump forward will be involved. I can't wait for the next issue...which is a silly thing to say, given that I have to wait for the next issue, and if I should happen to die before it comes out, it won't be because I was unable to wait for it. Nevermind.


Say, how weird is it to get two Fiona Staples comics on the same Wednesday...?

SpongeBob Comics #46 (United Plankton Pictures) Speaking of values, it's hard to beat SpongeBob Comics, as your $2.99 goes a damn long way: 33-pages of original, ad-free comics with the only ad being an inside back-cover one for the next issue. And what comics! There's usually a who's who of cartoonists involved in these anthology gag comics, and this particular issue includes a who among whos: Charise Mericle Harper of Fashion Kitty kids comics, the Just Graceprose series, some of my favorite picture books (The Power of Cute, Cupcake, Go! Go! Go! Stop!) and a few dozen other damn things.

Here she writes and draws a four-page story about SpongeBob and Gary trying to talk Patrick out of getting a pet. The main event is a 24-page adventure by Bob Flynn, maybe my second favorite SpongeBob artist after Stephen DeStefano, in which SpongeBob must take a fantastic voyage inside the monstrous, weird-ass fish that's blocking out the sun, a Mola Mola. It's immediately followed by one of Maris Wicks' cute edutainment comics, explaining that yes indeed, Mola Mola are real, and telling us more about 'em. Also included are another page of James Kochalka's monthly contribution, Nate Neal's regular title page pirate comic and a weird two-pager by Jed Alexander.

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