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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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