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.


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.


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!


Daredevil #7 (2011)

Comic book, 2011

I don’t read a lot of superhero comics, but I’ve been picking this one up. Only when Paulo Rivera draws it. I recognize that Marcos Martin is good, and he’s pulled off a lot of really cool storytelling trick shots, but I love Rivera’s work. It’s got an edge to it that really appeals to me. So I started picking this up, and as it turns out the story’s good too. I’m totally unfamiliar with Mark Waid other than some unreadable 90’s X-Men comics he did, so this was a pleasant surprise. There’s nothing groundbreaking or remarkable about it other than it’s quality. I like what Tucker Stone had to say about it in his recent Comics Reporter interview. He said that this book wouldn’t stand out to someone who doesn’t read comics because there’s nothing unique about it. It’s every other book that would stand out, because they’re all so ugly and vapid. Anyway, this is their Christmas issue. That classic bit where you stop pretty much everything else that’s going on and tell a story that conveys the spirit of the season. The twist on this is that it’s absolutely harrowing- Daredevil has to save a group of children under extremely adverse and rapidly worsening conditions. It’s pretty effective, but the big heartwarming payoff at the end is a little too far-fetched, so it loses a good deal of it’s emotional punch (and I’m a sucker for that stuff). Most comics have bad art and bad writing. Some have good art and bad writing. I can only assume there are ones with good writing and bad art that I’ve never been able to bring myself to look at. Daredevil has good art and good writing. Dig it.


Stange Tales II #3

Comic book, 2010

As I made my way to the store to buy this issue of Strange Tales, I had an unexpected feeling. I wasn’t excited. “Okay, buying another issue of Strange Tales” I thought. The novelty’s worn off. I’ve seen so many cute indie versions of Marvel superheroes that it’s all starting to seem kind of same-y. Once I got into the issue there was some good stuff, however; Benjamin Marra’s being the best, with Michael DeForge turning in a strong entry and James Stokoe, Terry Moore, Eduardo Medeiros and even Dean Haspiel’s pieces having their moments. (Meanwhile, the power team of Nick Gurewitch and Kate Beaton’s entry somehow falls completely flat.) I don’t know how interested I’d be in buying another series of this. My hope would be that by this point, if this series has been successful enough for them, Marvel would expand it into something larger- a full story by one of these talents might offer the depth for me to become interested in it again. If Eduardo Medeiros, for example, were allowed to create an entire Spider-Man comic book it might be something that normal children who read webcomics and watch Cartoon Network might be willing to read, rather than Marvel’s current “Same thing we’ve been doing for forty years-lite” approach to children’s comics, which seems to be aimed at young shut-ins. Your horizons have been expanded Marvel; now let’s see you use what you’ve learned. 3.5

Tom Strong #2

Comic book, 1999

The way I saw it, and I believe I’ve heard Alan Moore confirm this in interview, was that Moore’s ABC line of comics were his attempt to make the opposite of Watchmen. That’s fine, but all that really mattered was that he was putting the best superhero comics on the stands at the time, four different titles a month (one of them containing four different stories in itself). It was staggering. Somehow I missed this issue of Tom Strong at the time, but I’ve got it now. It’s good, just the same as all of the other issues of Strong. There’s a whole fucking story in this thing, beginning, middle and a big end. The art id great. When you set it down, you go “That was good”. I never understood why these books didn’t get bigger. Too smart for the dumb people and too dumb for the smart people, probably. Tom Strong always had an emptiness to me, like the characters were hollow somehow, but it’s probably the result of my not being familiar with the serial adventure old-timey comics that this was riffing on. 4

Spectacular Spider-Man #14

Comic book, 2004

I went through this thing a while back where I was buying, or at least looking at, everything drawn by Paulo Rivera. He’s got a great retro style, almost like Steve Rude but with more of an edge (which is not necessarily a good thing, but it works for me). His line art is great- he did a short story where Spider-Man and Wolverine go out drinking together and another full issue where Spider-Man and Punisher team up- but I wasn’t as in love with his painted work. He did a series of fully painted one-shots starring the major Marvel characters, and they were muddy and dark. I don’t know if it was a problem with the reproduction or what, but this issue is the same way. It seems like the paintings are good, just printed poorly. Which makes no sense- I’ve seen Marvel reproduce paintings beautifully, so it makes no sense that this one guy’s stuff would look crappy across the board. But take a look at the muddy, Marvel released image above and the same image on Rivera’s own site. Pretty big difference, huh? Anyway, the story is one of those ones where you don’t have to squint too hard to see the writer attempting to put his stamp on a seventy year old character that’s already completely covered in stamps. It’s one of those things where they show you the character by showing you how someone else sees him. And the punchline, a disabled person saying they feel sorry for Spider-Man because he seems so sad, comes off as weird, transparent and forced. 3

Dark Horse Presents #123

Comic book, 1997

This issue of Dark Horse Presents contains the second part of a John Arcudi two-parter called Imago. It’s why I bought this issue and the one before it, being a longtime fan of his Mask and Major Bummer comics, and a huge fan of his recent B.P.R.D. work. It’s a short story exploring the superhero/ sidekick relationship. Like all of Arcudi’s solo writing it’s got rock solid characters and heavy emotion, but is probably a little too straightforward. Arcudi’s a great writer though, and his lack of success is an indicator of some of the things that are wrong with the comic book industry. He can’t write a good superhero book, or at least one that people want to read, so that’s it for him. Or it was, until he started churning out B.P.R.D., the best book on the stands. But even then, people didn’t talk about Arcudi much, they mostly attributed it to Guy Davis’ art. I’ve only recently, after years and years of great comics, seen people start to casually mention that Arcudi could be a part of what makes that formula work. Anyway, I liked this story because it’s so clearly meant only to be a short. The characters are Batman analogues that wouldn’t support any additional material. But the story sets up it’s scenario, makes it’s point and ends. It’s point, while seeming a little plain, strikes a cord and sets up a character rich with the regret of a lesson hard learned. 4

The Maximortal

Comic book, Originally serialized 1992/1993 this edition assembled 2002

The Maximortal is one of those works of fiction that forsakes a straightforward narrative and puts it’s themes in the driver’s seat. It’s a surreal, Sun Ra-style jazz riff on an old favorite- superheroes. Well, Superman, really. I didn’t spend much time considering that the author, the great Rick Veitch, was trying to say about the character and it’s convoluted, shameful history, but I enjoyed the wild places he went with it. As with all of Veitch’s work there are moments of disturbing surreality that contain an intrinsic logic that makes the reader feel like he somehow hand-picked the images right from the darkest places of their own subconscious. Those moments were the highlight of The Maximortal for me, along with the intriguing way he split up the narrative. He shows us chronological scenes, each with several years between them (and often skipping over hugely important events in the overall timeline), and then ties it all together at the end by implying that the idea of Superman gave birth to itself. 4


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