Comic book, 2013
Rain Comic #1 is a recent release in a series of anthology comics published by Mickey Z and featuring work by her, Patrick Kyle, and Michael Deforge, each focusing of a different subject (Basketball Comic #1, Xmas Comic #1, etc.) Sometimes the subject, as with the most recent release, Butler Comic #1, contains thematic elements so intrinsic that they can’t help but surface in each author’s piece, no matter how far outside the realm of human experience and perception they twist it. So I was interested to see how they handled the subject of rain, possibly their most thematically broad topic yet. Reading it, I was surprised at how central the authors managed to make rain to their stories, both to the plot and thematically. In the various stories, ranging from one to six pages long each, rain is used to talk about legacy, experience, and as a transformational agent. All in all, only a couple of the one page strips seemed to say “oh, and it was also raining”. After I finished the book, I remembered what James Kochalka did with the same subject in his Hulk Vs Rain story, and felt silly for not realizing ahead of time that, in the hands of a storytelling lineup as strong as this one, a broader subject could actually serve as an even more direct tool.
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.
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.
Comic book, 2012
I stopped buying the new Dark Horse Presents a few issues ago, due to the slog to gold ratio being insufferably high. Much too high to throw eight dollars a month at. But they pulled their trump card with issue eight- B.P.R.D. I didn’t buy the issue with a Hellboy story in it, and the jury’s still out on whether I’m going to pick up number nine for its Lobster Johnson story (the Paul Pope doesn’t hurt either), but B.P.R.D. is appointment television for me, and I’m going to show up any time they trot that shit out. Fegredo’s art is fine, but doesn’t really play to his strengths. I can’t imagine anyone who isn’t already a dedicated B.P.R.D. reader getting much out of this. I’ve always been kind of amazed at B.P.R.D.’s willingness to drop major plot developments in short stories obscured in hard to reach places. (Full understanding of the current issue of the main B.P.R.D. series, for example, requires your having read and remembered a short story from a Mignola-themed Free Comic Book Day issue from 2008 for chrissakes.)
Let’s fire though the rest of this turkey in order:
- Beasts of Burden remains a difficult read for me, as I’m one of those people who can’t handle seeing harm come to animals in entertainment, although that’s clearly a part of its power. And its quality is undeniable.
- Concrete Park plays it a little too straight for my liking, but at least there’s some nice art to soften the blow of the poor storytelling.
- BLOOD IS STILL HAPPENING GUYS. I’ve missed two issues, like twenty pages of story, and it feels like I only blinked my eyes (but maybe one of those issues was a flashback to the protagonist’s time as a character in the Golden Plates or whatever the hell.) It’s still JUST bafflingly crazy enough, like Gary Busey in comic form, to make this trainwreck worth looking at.
- Chaykin’s Marked Man comes to an appropriately Chaykin-y conclusion, Chaykin Chaykin.
- There’s like a future Tarzan story here or something? I guess if you’re predisposed to like Tarzan that would be a pretty cool idea. Don’t worry man, sometimes I strip down naked for my walk home too.
- Wood’s The Massive seems to me, like all of Wood’s work, to be an inspired idea stiffly executed. Some really nice moments and serviceable art and storytelling, which puts it head and shoulders above most other comics, but there’s something there that fails to hook me.
- Time to Live is so, so weird. Like, if you’re the writer of a story about a scientist who invents time travel and you honestly think they’re going to refer to it as a “time machine”, as if the way they phrase that isn’t going to undergo any development between the time they’re five and the time they’re thirty, then I think you’re weird. Also the artist, clearly not having the time to fully conceptualize what emotion the protagonist would be feeling at the last panel’s reveal, instead decided to have them spontaneously transform into a blow-up doll.
- The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne, whoo, bad art. Like, in what world do you NOT make the blood on the second page a bright, vibrant red?
- Okay, I just feel like I’m heckling at this point, so I’m just going to not say anything at all about Skultar the Questionable.
Comic book, 2011
The new Dark Horse Presents series, on a base level, just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t feel there’s a broad enough comics readership to support a monthly anthology, even if they are loading it with all the biggest print comics names they possibly can. And it costs eight dollars. Monthly. Okay guys, I’m sure you know what you’re doing. But in my experience comics fans cling tenaciously to the idea of smaller purchases that reward them with a slowly revealed extended narrative. Prove me wrong! Really. Overall I’ve only kind of liked the content of this series. There’s no one short I can point to and say “This. This is why the new Dark Horse Presents needs to exist,” but I’m hoping it comes. The biggest problem with this series is its lack of scope. The editorial on this thing is… not fresh, to say the least. Pretty much everything here looks twenty years old. My advice to Dark Horse would be to make this thing more diverse. There have been a few new names to hit the scene since Neal Adams and Dave Gibbons, guys. They’re great old masters, but they’re not going to give you the wide appeal that could make this book really vital. Get Kate Beaton, CF, Cursed Pirate Girl, Ethan Rilly, the guy who draws Dresden Codak. This is all new stuff that would totally fit Dark Horse Presents that people who aren’t forty would get fucking jazzed about, and you could mix it right in with the stuff you’re doing now. This could be so great.
Here’s what we get in this issue:
- Dave Gibbons’ Treatment is I don’t know. I like looking at his art sometimes, but it didn’t do too much for me here. The story seems kind of like a bunch of cliches thrown together (cop’s last day before retirement, reality tv parody, ultraviolence, etc.)
- Number 13 is awful. Awful writing, awful art. I checked to see if any of the creators have the last name “Richardson”, but they don’t. The worst part about it is probably the colors. They’re not terrible, they’re standard mainstream comic book coloring. But the art is most definitely “underground” and would probably look better if it wasn’t colored the same way as Dave Gibbons’.
- The new DHP is my first exposure to Finder, which always seems to be a pleasant little poof of a story that leaves my head just as soon as I turn the page.
- The Concrete story is appropriately preachy, but has an ending so silly and weird I kind f love it.
- I only found out about Howard Chaykin within the last couple of years, and other than loving Black Kiss, I just can’t seem to “get” his stuff. But I don’t really care about Snatch or Reservoir Dogs either, so maybe it’s not just for me. Something about this installment of Marked Man really caught my eye though, enough to make me think about going back and reading the previous installments.
- Similarly, the Jim Steranko material seemed good but not for me.
- Patrick Alexander’s humor material, of which there will apparently be some in every issue, has taken a nose dive for me, going from brilliant in the first issue, okay in the second and this issue’s Indecisive Man being totally boring.
- Richard Corben’s Murky World serial has been my favorite thing in all of the issues, due to it being nothing but a clearing house for Corben’s unbridled imagination and skill, a feat for which the medium of comics is particularly suited.
- Rotten Apple reads like the dull, lifeless adaptation of a video game that, as far as I know, doesn’t exist. I read the first installment a month ago and remembered nothing about it, then promptly understood nothing about the second installment.
- David Chelsea’s Snow Angel is delightful, but it seems to take up a bit too much space for how light it is.
- I consider having read every word of Neal Adam’s Blood to be an achievement in endurance, like holding your hand in a bucket of cold water for an extended period of time. Seriously, what the fuck is this?
- Mr. Monster. Dude. ENOUGH! This is the third goddamn loosely drawn story about Mr. Monster fighting the same tree monster. I would have preferred that Michael T Gilbert work three times as hard on a story 1/3 the length, or made three completely different MM stories. Reading about this fucking tree monster again and again feels like work, and that’s the worst thing you can say about something like this. I’d say thank god it’s over, but I’ve been burned before.
At this point I’m kind of waiting to see how long it takes my ambivalence toward most of the material to win out and cause me to yank this title from my pull list. But for now there’s enough stuff coming that I’m genuinely excited about (Beasts of Burden, Geoff Darrow interview, Bob Burden, Hellboy and BPRD stories) to give it a stay of execution.
Not as developed as his more recent, brilliant work but there are a few bright spots in this collection of short stories by Graham Annable. Particularly the lengthy closing story which hits on a more human level than anything else I’ve seen him do. 3.5
I’ll say this about Secret Prison: They sure make good choices when deciding which of their contributors to have draw the cover. 2.5
The common wisdom, or perhaps common decency, of “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is at odds with my goal of having this blog be a comprehensive collection of my thoughts on all of the media I consume. In fact, something feels flat out wrong about publicly saying anything negative about the clearly diligent efforts of the organizers of this anthology. Why? I guess because it’s a truly independent effort attempting to showcase art and artists from their own city. Those two things deserve praise no matter the merit of the work. But looked at in a broader perspective, the work in Secret Prison largely seems to have nothing interesting to say, and much of it is highly derivative of better known, idiosyncratic artists. As with any anthology there are some bright spots (Luke Pearson’s How to Exist For a Day, Simon Gardenfors’ Hobby and you certainly can’t ignore Ben Marra’s hot pink highlighted Lingerie Models, Secret Assassins), and it sure is packaged attractively, but by in large I feel like the anthology’s ambitions outweigh it’s content. 2.5