Tales of the TMNT #4 (2004)

Comic book, 2004

This contains the second part of a Ninja Turtles story I didn’t like very much. After that, it has something truly baffling; Steve Murphy and Jim Lawson hand in an earnest attempt at a piece of drug-themed melodrama, starring tiny, pink, brain-like aliens. At one point a hard boiled detective, complete with his hands in the pockets of his overcoat, walks into their drug den and one of them pleads through its drug stupor “Please don’t tell… my parents.” It’s just crazy enough to enjoy.

Tales of the TMNT #3 (2004)

Comic book, 2004

I was excited when I found out about this, as I’m a big fan of Steve Murphy’s writing and Rick Remender’s art. But I found the story lacking the passion of Murphy’s best work, and seeing this I remembered that Remender’s art was being inked by Hilary Barta when I fell in love with it, and I found it much less compelling here. The story itself is the worst kind of sequel. Continuing off one of the biggest moments in Ninja Turtles history with an addendum that has no reason to exist story-wise or thematically, and whose light nature is an affront to what came before it, it actually takes away from its predecessor. A lightly drawn and written backup by a different team of creators doesn’t really help matters.

Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset #3

Comic book, 2002

One indication of an inspired work can be a high number of connections made by the author. By this measure Alan Moore’s America’s Best Comics, publishers of Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset #3, was a lightning rod for inspiration. Greyshirt: Indigo Sunset #3 is full of references. It references the issues of Greyshirt that came before and after it, it references the careers of its creators, it references the industry that spawned it, it references the medium it’s constructed in and it references itself (a faux newspaper in the back reports on the fallout of events taking place earlier in the comic). This policy of connection-making works well with creator Rick Veitch’s most consistent theme across his entire body of work, dream logic, which seems to have an influence over even his most conventional work. The fact that Veitch seems to have here been given the freedom to make as good a comic as he could, combined with the high production vales and conventional slickness, to make this seem like a culmination of Veitch’s career. (In fact, one of my favorite creators, his mainstream work from the 90’s is my favorite work by him, by which I mean this and Tekno Comics’ Teknophage.) The fact that Greyshirt is played almost exclusively for fun also makes it a lot easier to get behind than Veitch’s more recent political work. Also, can we talk about how great V For Vendetta artist David Lloyd is in this? Where are we hiding him and how can we get him drawing more comics?

Glory #23

Comic book, 2012

Almost literally the sister comic to Extreme’s other high-profile relaunch, Glory is looking to a lot of people like one of the forerunners of the evolution of comics. A bold step away from the past, the past being both its source material and the direction of mainstream comics at large, and a step toward a type of mainstream comic that you can show to someone who isn’t predisposed to like them without shame or embarrassment. And it probably is that, whether the rest of the industry takes its lead is another matter. What’s not helping is the fact that it ain’t great. The plot is trite, the dialogue is underdeveloped, and the art has a lot of distracting crossed eyes and lumpy-shaped heads. But this book does have one, absolutely stunning aspect to it. The artist, Ross Campbell’s, depiction of its protagonist. The mere way he draws her is spitting in the face of the entire history of how superhero comics have depicted the female form.  It’s the type of thing that if we lived in a better world wouldn’t bat an eye, but just making the people of this world look at is going to force them to confront their preconceived notions of gender on sight alone. Look at Liefeld’s cover for the exact same issue. He can’t even entertain the notion of drawing the character the same way as Campbell for even a second. I almost wish I’d gotten the comic with this cover. It’s a sterling antithesis to the progressive message of the interior art. Even if I was never rushing out to read it, I’ve always been in awe of Campbell’s apparent agenda of producing comics that young girls wouldn’t have to insult a part of themselves in order to look at and enjoy. He’s got that quality cranked up to eleven on Glory, and that alone will have me showing it to anyone who I might think could enjoy it, whether they already read comics or not. And that may be the greatest gift of the Extreme relaunch.

B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Long Death #1

Comic book, 2012

Hail hail, James Harren, new B.P.R.D. king! While he lacks the balance of Guy Davis, this guy’s strengths are tremendous, and the writers know just how to cater to them. Namely, monsters. This guy’s monsters move, really move, on the page, with such velocity and force, and their appearance holds such subconscious-triggering terror, that it produces an almost physical response from your body- what you’re looking at is coming for you, and it’s bad. Your survival instinct looks up from the paper it’s been reading since the day you were born and spits out its tea. It’s not all gravy however. While Herren’s skills at depicting simple conversation have improved markedly since his The Devil Does Not Jest days, he still makes some baffling decisions when it comes to human gesture. And although he sometimes pushes the boundaries of cartoonish expression too far, there are still a hell of a lot of other brilliant subtle touches, from Johann’s fat body and chicken legs to the U.N. monitor’s face looking like a messy bowl of spagetti. But let’s not forget the backbone of why this series works, the writing. It’s all about Johann today. B.P.R.D. isn’t always about character. Sometimes it’s driven by large, planet threatening forces. But it’s in issues like this, where the character flaws of the agents are propelling the events, that I’m really enthralled. Here, Johann shits the bed. Big time. Knowing Johann as we do, having been shown his passions, his strengths and his flaws for years, we know what drove him to this. Why a baker’s dozen of human lives were sacrificed so he could make an almost blind stab at personal revenge. The level of remorse he’s shown to feel over this is going to be very telling toward just how corrupted his soul, which is all that remains of him, has become.

I’d also like to add something in here for the people who are reading these books in trade; you’re missing out. The “Kate’s in England” gag in this issue simply isn’t going to work when the DHP short they’re referencing is slammed up against the first issue of this series in the trade. I also remember Memnan Saa simultaneously debuting in B.P.R.D. and Lobster Johnson, in stories taking place a half a century apart. The monthly pamphlet schedule brings the timelines closer to your own, making it easier to feel involved in the stories.

Daredevil #9 (2012)

Comic book, 2012

Well, this is going to be hard to give up. I’m really enjoying Daredevil, but Marvel’s recent actions against Gary Friedrich have not only made me swear off Marvel Comics, but have made me decide to become more considerate about who I support with my money, and vow to stop supporting corporations altogether. (Or as much as I reasonably can, anyway.) Now, I was buying about ten Marvel comics a year. They’re not going to feel the sting of my departure, but I’m doing this for myself. I just can’t be in involved with such a malicious organization. A big bully. I’m really bummed I’m not going to be able to see The Avengers with my dad this summer, and I’m really going to miss reading the Paulo Rivera issues of Daredevil. Daredevil is a character I have no history with and no attachment to. I was enjoying this romp based on the silky smooth writing and art alone. This issue, through both the plot and the art, sets up highly effective claustrophobic and foreboding atmosphere. And Rivera actually comes really close to making superhero sex look like not the most embarrassing thing in the world, a step up from last issue‘s artist’s work in that arena. I don’t totally buy the characterization of Daredevil, however. He frequently points out his own flaws with a clear and comprehensive perspective that make you doubtful he could truly possess them. The writing has it where it counts for a book like this- fun action and ideas- but the characterization is pretty thin. Real characters have flaws that guide their behavior, Daredevil is trying to convince us he has flaws so Waid can hide the fact that he’s using the character as a fantasy avatar. But maybe I’m being a bit too critical here. After all, isn’t one of superheroes’ greatest uses as a fantasy avatar? Anyway, this book. Good time. Fuck Marvel.

Prophet #21

Comic book, 2012

Yeah, so, everyone’s right. This is great. It’s kind of like Daredevil for me. This shouldn’t be special. There’s nothing new or remarkable about it other than the sad fact that it’s as good as it should be and that stands it head and shoulders above everything else on the stands. The coloring is a conscious throwback to 80’s genre comics (but more sophisticated), and the drawings are great. Just loose enough to give your imagination room to play, and the protagonist’s pursed lips evocative of the playful sensibilities of it’s writer, King City cartoonist Brandon Graham. I like it when this happens. When someone with a normally loose style with some substance to it buckles down and makes a straightforward genre piece without winking. Not that Graham’s older work is slighter than this, but this feels like the big league culmination of everything he’s been doing up until this point. I was worried about it’s aimlessness. I’m not sure I would’ve been on board every month for a comic as aimless as most of this issue is, but an overarching plot is breached toward the end and that was enough to make this the second regularly released comic I currently have a sub for at my local shop.

Daredevil #8 (2012)


Comic book, 2012

So I’ve been buying only the Paulo Rivera issues of this series. I picked this one up, opened it, and… you know that jolt you get when you take a sip of something, and it’s not the thing you thought it was? That confusing disorientation? That’s what happened here. This issue’s surprise (to me) guest artist’s work looks just enough like Rivera’s to extend that disorientation into “I thought I was drinking milk?” territory. This guy’s pretty good sometimes, makes some baffling choices others, so whatever. The issue’s even poorer for it’s content: it’s part two of a Spider-Man crossover, and is the kind of superhero comic that’s made for people who like modern superhero comics. The type where you get the impression that the writer plotted the book out by smashing action figures together in his hands. The kind where we’re supposed to be so dazzled by the sight of superheroes jumping around that we don’t notice that the actual story is so, so boring. Then, just when everything’s sailed well into the territory of mediocrity, it commits the cardinal sin of superhero comics. You know that Sarah Mclachlan ASPCA commercial everyone hates? She should make another one, pleading people not to write their superheroes having sex.

Side note: I don’t care about Spider-Man, but Paulo Rivera beats the fuck out of everyone at drawing Spider-Man’s eyes. It looks great and is super distinctive. It’s how everyone should be drawing those things, but they can’t because they’d be ripping him off. C’est magnifique!

Fatale #1

Comic book, 2012

I think I got off on the wrong foot with the Brubaker/ Phillips team, which is to say that I got off on TOO good a foot. The first thing I read by them was Incognito. I’m forced to wonder if seeing their work for the first time, as they’re one of those acts that only tells one joke, albeit really well, is the reason I enjoyed it more than anything else I’ve picked up so far. But I feel like it’s not. That series, the first half of it anyway, was so thematically strong. I didn’t see anything in Fatale #1 to get behind other than “this is a monster/ pulp gangster comic”. Which hey, Phillips sure can draw and Brubaker can write some fairly absorbing dialogue, so maybe that’s good enough. (Anyone who can write pulp pistache without it being mortifying for anyone who isn’t predisposed to like it, and I don’t include Frank Miller in that group by a longshot, has my respect.) But I think I’m always going to be looking for that magic I saw the first time, and I’m not sure I’m going to see it. Not to mention the fact that this is kind of a dull opening. You take an unexpected punch, but the promise of the cover is never delivered on- there’s no monsters!

Lobster Johnson: The Burning Hand #1

Comic book, 2012

Holy smokes. Arcudi and Zonjic, what a team. Two great tastes that tase great together. This is like eating a penut butter and Nutella sandwich for the first time. So rich, so smooth and so complimentary. A part of this  is simply due to the two creator’s shared sensibilities. Zonjic is clearly at home in the first half of the century, and even when Arcudi is writing a story about an occult military fighting a Jaguar-god in the modern day it feels oddly like a John Wayne movie. If there’s a disconnect it’s only that Zonjic’s images may be a little too delicate for Arcudi’s blunt disposition. But I’m really looking forward to drinking the rest of this series in.