Dark Horse Presents #122

Comic book, 1997

Man, so Dark Horse Presents was hitting it pretty hard around this time. Regular work from Paul Pope and Renee French, plus DH proper putting out all the Legend stuff. A great, substantial place for short, one-off stores. (A valuable thing that no medium seems to be able to sustain.) This issue alone has John Arcudi and Troy Nixey. And the stories in here are good, something branded as Lords of Misrule although nothing about it suggests that it’s a continuing serial. A western drawn by someone named Jack Zero who looks halfway between Troy Nixey and Peter Chung. Then you’ve got Troy Nixey himself, a wonderful and strongly distinct voice in comics for a time who just dropped off the map. Is he working on something, or did I hear that he left comics for movies? Man, movies suck.

Strange Tales II #2

Comic book, 2010

I wish Marvel didn’t put the two stories by the Hernandez brothers right next to each other. It kind of destroys the illusion that they’re ordering this thing like a mix tape, by theme or feeling or whatever. This issue is more solid than the last, but nothing here is quite as good as the best stuff in that issue. 3.5

Strange Tales II #1

Comic book, 2010

Hey, new Strange Tales! This is where Marvel Comics gets cute little indie comics artists to make cute little stories using their superheroes and everyone is delighted. It sure would be cool if Marvel had interest in doing some longer form, more substantial stuff in this vein, but this is the world we live in and I’m happy, and more than a little surprised, to at least have this from them. The opening “Who Will Watcher the Watchermen?” by Nick Bertozzi is as funny as it was in the last volume, and it probably the outright funniest thing in any of these books. Let’s talk about the stories, starting with my favorite and ending with my least favorite: I’m a Frank Santoro fan and the Silver Surfer story he does here is his prettiest work ever, it almost looks like stills from a deleted scene of the old Heavy Metal movie. Kate Beaton’s Kraven strip is funny, even by her standards. Dash Shaw’s Spider-Man story gets big points for being super pretty, and I would’ve liked to have spent more time dissecting it before I say anything definitive about it, but I’m pretty sure that he’s engaging in some sort of meta commentary about Marvel and it’s movies and that’s not the type of thing I usually enjoy. The Rafael Grampa Wolverine story is more pretty than it is a good read, but what I really love is Grampa’s luchador-esque take on superhero costumes (and dig Wolverine’s pants-less look subtly snuck onto the cover). Kevin Huizenga seemed to be doing the same sort of thing as Shaw, but his pages aren’t as pretty. The Shannon Wheeler Red Skull story was almost kind of funny or interesting. I was very bored by the Jillian Tamaki Dazzler and Jeff Lemire Man-Thing stories. And I downright didn’t like the Gene Yang Frog-Man story. I similarly hated the Jhonen Vasquez Wolverine story, but when I thought of it as a continuation of the Grampa story, I liked it a lot better. Two really great ones, a few pretty good ones and a few more bad ones isn’t too bad a record. Consider me delighted. More please! 3

THB: Comics From Mars #2

Comic book, 2010

THB: Comics From Mars #1 was, I’m pretty sure, my favorite Paul Pope comic ever. Straight up all time! And I say that as someone who’s been reading his work since they were 13. It was absent of the constant cries of “Hey, look at me, I’m a sexy rock star… now prepare to be enchanted by my thoughts” that make Pope’s work so hard to read, and it was as pretty to look at as ever. Although it didn’t further the narrative of the long-on-hiatus THB series, I loved the stories featuring it’s protagonist, HR (specifically the one where she talks about the history of the colonization of Mars and the one where she and her friend get free ice cream from gangsters). So maybe it’s my own fault for expecting more of the same from #2 of the same series, but it lacked those things and I was disappointed. None of the stories, in any way that I could tell, had anything to do with THB, save for some possible thematic connection known only to Pope. I feel like a Big Two nerd bellyaching about the fact that this book didn’t have enough continuity, but that’s how I feel. It seemed more to me like a free for all of whatever Pope felt like drawing. Which would be fine, but even if taken as that there’s nothing I was too interested in. “The Brief Career of the On-Call Stellar Repairman”‘s protagonist had a great character design and “Motor Race” had a gorgeous aesthetic (although the credit for that one may be due to the artist it’s an homage to, Guido Crepax, who I’m not familiar with), but I was fairly bored by “1977” although it had a nice ending, “Action!” was a long setup for a weak gag, as was “Max Maximus”, and “Masked Karimbah” wasn’t as fun or as crazy as it seemed to think it was (although the cheesy joke in the last panel made me laugh). The best part about this book? The cover. I’ll tell you, the cover on this thing is worth the price of admission alone. It’s printed in a way that you really can’t just look at a picture of it on the internet and know how gorgeous it is. That’s the great thing about AdHouse: even if the book’s not great, you know that just holding the damn thing is going to be a satisfying experience. 3