Month: October 2009

100 Days, 100 Comics #38: ‘Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy’

Posted by – October 31, 2009

Abe Sapien The Haunted Boy“Well, they can’t all be like the burning army of Chien-Chi.”
–Professor Bruttenholm

This Abe Sapien one-shot, which came out from Dark Horse last week was remarkably fulfilling on several levels (not surprising, since it’s written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi), even if the suspension of disbelief hoisting the ending comes off as hastily patched together. Luckily, the extended ending, which in other cases might seem superfluous, actually ties things up thematically quite nicely.

Patric Reynolds’ artwork immediately pulls the setting for this story apart from the B.P.R.D. minis I’m used to. Rendering Abe Sapien: The Haunted Boy in a more realist style than the typical Mignola-inspired horror look, transplants Abe into the human world, and emphasizes his displacement as an outsider during the case. Essentially, Arcudi frames the book from the beginning as a minor story in the B.P.R.D.’s history, which is an interesting tactic, but ultimately it’s about how even the lesser cases in their files provide perspective and research data. And the writers made their case.

The resolution of the case which [*SPOILER*] is a Zippo lighter hitting a bedpost from across a room and producing enough sparks to ignite the demon villain, felt really wedged in, out of nowhere and awkward, though. To the story’s credit, if you forget that one page, it’s totally worthwhile read though. As far as great Halloween reads out on the racks this year, you can’t do much better in one issue than this one.

100 Days, 100 Comics #37: ‘Blackest Night: Superman’ #3

Posted by – October 31, 2009

Blackest Night Superman #3Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds must have spoiled me on giant crossover spin-offs, because the full stories from these now-wrapping “Blackest Night” books just aren’t cutting it for me. Granted, this one had much more of a structured finish than Blackest Night: Titans, but the whole New Krypton thread ending was framed as a bit of an afterthought in terms of the more open-ended Smallville storyline. I was hoping the two plots would intersect or something by the final page of issue #3 (of 3).

Ah well, again the action scenes were spectacular. James Robinson set them up well, specifically with Ma Kent and Krypto. That has to be the best Krypto fight I’ve read this year. The forcefield arm-severance was equally gratifying — though maybe not quite as much considering the Black Lanterns have regenerative capabilities.

The whole Psycho-Pirate demise was interesting in and of itself as a microcosm of how “Blackest Night” has been zombifying the DCU’s iconic elements — for instance, where the crowd of onlookers gazers starry-eyed at the heavens has he’s bludgeoned into dust by Superman and Superboy rushes up to use the Medusa Mask in space. The zombie bit lets Superman get away with killing an organism, since its just a husk of a real, living being who’s already deceased, so it allows the readers a taste of what we wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. Clever move, DC editorial who don’t typically let Superman kill things.

I’ll be interested to see how these spin-offs get collected — if they get collected — in the end, though, most for the reasons I outlined a couple posts ago discussing Titans. At three issues long each and shallow on full-circle narrative, I’m curious to see what sort of trade fate they have in store.

100 Days, 100 Comics #36: ‘Green Lantern’ #47

Posted by – October 30, 2009

Green Lantern #47“Go ahead and play the universe’s largest violin for me.”
–Hal Jordan

I want less Indigo Tribe talking and more Hal Jordan talking. Also, more bickering between Sinestro and Hal. This issue felt like a lot of broken up scenes more than it really worked as single read, but the core Hal/Sinestro vignette was worth picking Green Lantern #47 up for.

It’s actually hard to evaluate what this book did other than establishing that the Red Lanterns’ rings really do replace the function of their hearts and don’t just metaphorically replace them. Beyond that it was just another drop in the bucket for the crossover. It was a little jolting to watch Atrocitus come out of nowhere on Okaara in the end after the opening sequence where he’s clearly on Ysmault. This whole crossover has the tendency to feel like its narrative structure is emulating a Jackson Pollock painting at times in that respect, where there are so many different fights taking place back to back that it’s difficult to understand if there’s an intentional narrative gap meant to cause suspense and bewilderment or whether editorial just wanted to fast forward through a narrative wormhole for action’s sake.

At this point, I feel like I’m in for the long haul with “Blackest Night,” though, so I’ll let you know how it works out when I get out on the other side.

100 Days, 100 Comics #35: ‘Blackest Night: Titans’ #3

Posted by – October 30, 2009

Blackest Night Titans #3Oh boy. Before I start sounding like I didn’t enjoy Blackest Night: Titans #3, I liked it a lot — but the ending was a one-two punch of confusion. [Also: *SPOILER WARNING*]

In stark contrast to Blackest Night #4, the cover here was on the mark. I have absolutely no idea what happened with Dove’s powers at the end and why she seems to be the deus ex machina that will save everybody, but I guess I’m not supposed to. The big reveal with Donna at the end that the Black Lanterns can bite and infect a victim partially was a double whammy though. They’ve been totally gutting or otherwise killing off their victims before turning them up until this point, which was part of what set them apart from typical zombies in everything I’ve read up until now, but it seems that they may be more like zombies than they pretend to be after all. I can’t wait to see the spin-off franchise of rulebooks and manuals for Black Lantern zombie attacks that will be created in the crossover’s wake.

J.T. Krul was a solid writer for this mini page by page. I can dig the Rob Liefeld school of scripting that went on in it where you can punctuate most any line with a close-up of a ridiculous punch and make it work. And Ed Benes batted about 60% for me making those action scenes click. The dialog scenes were a bit weaker, though. I’ve seen much better Benes comics before, but he slam dunked a few of the Beast Boy moments.

Actually, the Beast Boy Stegosaurus and grizzly bear shots stole this whole comic for me. Those alone justified this miniseries.

In the end, though, I didn’t feel this as a warranted tale from beginning to end. I mentioned “Age of Apocalypse” in my last post, and one of the things I really appreciated about that Medusa head of a crossover was that even though there were three or four books coming out in a given week, each of the miniseries had a self-contained quest or dimension of the broader crossover that had its own free-standing plot. Then, in the end, each of the series complimented each other. Blackest Night: Titans — not so much. If someone were to pick up a trade of all three of these issues, I’m sure they’ll enjoy the fights, but the story doesn’t really go or finish anywhere in particular.

100 Days, 100 Comics #34: ‘Blackest Night’ #4

Posted by – October 30, 2009

Blackest Night #4You’re about to see me go on a “Blackest Night” binge for a few posts — which looking back isn’t all that out of character for this review series thus far. Four out of six books I picked up this week had “Blackest Night” in their titles (the other two were Dark Horse books). I can’t remember this happening since back in the “Age of Apocalypse” days, which were actually what strangled my adolescent billfold and made me give up comics (along with the “Clone Saga”) for about five years.

There was just the right amount of Black Lantern Firestorm in this, and I enjoyed the extra dose of JSA-oriented action toward the end. I’ve still got the same level of detachment reading through the Black Lantern/hero dialogs for the same reasons I’ve gone over earlier, but it was nice to make it through a full issue without another one of those extended, obtuse Indigo Tribe monologues.

Also, the Lex Luthor moment was just what I’ve been hoping to see, and my pal Ryan has instilled an appreciation for Dr. Polaris in me, so I hope the moment referenced in that sequence shows up in one of the other books in my stack.

The cover choice of the guy who’s not Serpentor but looks like him and who I don’t know because I don’t read that many DCU stories and want to call King Cobra but know that’s a Marvel character was an odd cover choice. One of the lagging problems for me is that this story and the actors are all over the place, and while I appreciate seeing up-close battles with the cowboy twins and other D characters, sacrificing full pages and covers to characters I’m not familiar with and who aren’t central to the plot or necessarily doing anything interesting has only further obfuscated the central storyline in the main series here.

That said, the Flash sequences here were totally on target — all peripheral action considered. Also, I must have missed when Azrael became a Black Lantern, because that came out of nowhere. If anyone reading this knows, chime in in the comments and let me know where to look. Anyway, we finally got to 100% with the power levels, and that moment definitely wasn’t a failure, though it was more of a base hit than a home run for the final spread (which I won’t spoil), but in the end this issue did what it needed, pretty much putting it in third place for me out of the series as a whole up until now.

Link Sausage: 10/27/2009

Posted by – October 26, 2009

• I’m becoming increasingly underwhelmed with both Windows Vista (which in the fourth week now of Microsoft customer service back-and-forths still won’t install its security updates) and now Apple, which sounds like it wants to advertise to me through an already pricey piece of software, given this patent Apple is seeking.

• Here’s what “The Last Supper” looks like when assembled from 4,050 Rubiks cubs.

• It really cannot be overstated that this Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles attack involves projectile beams from cow udders.

• Finally for this week, my pal and fellow Central Illinoisan Chris Ward reflects on his “10 Worst Childhood Halloween Costumes.” The shark is a true masterpiece.

100 Days, 100 Comics #33: ‘Asterios Polyp’

Posted by – October 26, 2009

Asterios PolypFor such a behemoth piece of work, Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli was a completely engrossing read from beginning to end — and despite the end, which I’ll get to later. As a unified piece of work, it’s an astounding accomplishment, and it takes graphic representation in narrative forms to an entirely new level beyond most everything else I’ve encountered. That said, I think the narrative construction was far more interesting than the story beneath the surface, which flickers with fascinating elements but finally left me unfulfilled on the last page.

The visual machine that Mazzucchelli constructed for this book rivals the ingenuity of Chris Ware and the virtuoso icon composition of Marjane Satrapi. Furthermore, his use of CMYK colors to define tonal and thematic emotional shifts drove home what he was already accomplishing through shapes and styles.

Fundamentally, Asterios Polyp deals with conflicting world views and ideologies, calling into question their role in facilitating human relationships versus dividing them. The aging and lauded “paper architect” for whom this novel is named suffers a late midlife crisis that drives him out of New York and into a new exploration of his own identity and relationship to society. There’s a really vivid Joycean quality to the organic use of flashback and association that Mazzucchelli adeptly harnesses to flesh him out. I have to admit, though, that the concussive and repeated allusions to classic stories and characters probably washed over me more times than I connected with them.

The book deals with him through the analysis of his profession creating genius works of architecture that will never be built. I’m sure I’m not the only comics reader who first read through the story’s revelation of Asterios’ deceased-at-birth twin and recalled the Professor X/Cassandra Nova twist of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men run. Anyway, his relationship to that twin acts a continuing thread throughout. That seemed to be the personal crisis within the title character that drove his fascination with materially useless concepts and how unrealized ideals fuel the construction of society.

Still, Asterios Polyp‘s continued meditations that pop up throughout the book were more provocative for me as sketches in narrative mechanics and character exploration than they were as a compelling beginning-to-end tale. There is a vivid Modernist personality to this graphic novel that unrelentingly defies the reconciliation of its disparate forces. And I’m not a reader who needs fairy tale endings, but without spoiling anything, final event of the book felt not only unbelievable, but entirely contrived concluding a story that otherwise felt consistently like it was being driven by human emotions and thoughtful authorial investigation.

100 Days, 100 Comics #32: ‘Green Lantern Corps’ #41

Posted by – October 15, 2009

Green Lantern Corps 41Normally I’m impervious to these superhero events, but I guess all you have to do is look at the percentage of comics thus far that have turned out to be Blackest Night tie-ins on here. Page by page, namely in the Arisia Rrab sequence, the art did stutter a bit, but as a whole, this was one long Gatling of explosions and punches that still manages to slip a story into the margins.

There was a really fulfilling crescendo, too, leading up to Kilowag’s big moment, and I did appreciate the cliffhanger, even if it didn’t come at the end. Actually, this issue would have been fundamentally more effective for me if it had ended with the [edited for spoilers] moment, rather than the (spoiler you don’t and shouldn’t care about) Indigo Tribe entrance at the end. The Indigo Tribe are not endearing themselves with me at this point, and they’re easily the weakest link in a mostly well executed event right now.

The really well time historical confrontations between deceased and former Lanterns has been one of the highlights for me in these books and deserves to be called out as well. It’s one of the great features you get when you let a writer like Johns drive a crossover event, and it’s been paying out in spades thus far. I know I pointed this out before, but given the the ambiguity in what the Black Lanterns really are, it’s still questionable whether any of these confrontations will have any lasting impact — as my impression right now is that they’re basically just vocalizing whatever fears, paranoias, or insecurities they’re target is feeling in any given fight. That significantly mutes the impact of these scenes, but nonetheless it does make for good reading in the moment.

100 Days, 100 Comics #31: ‘Sweet Tooth’ #2

Posted by – October 14, 2009

Sweet Tooth #2This book still has me after two issues. It became distinctly more The Road in this outing and looks like it may verge way more into post-apocalyptic Peter Pan & The Lost Boys territory based on what’s transpired thus far. I think the biggest danger right now is that it could drift into becoming just another post-apocalyptic book, which my reading diet has been pretty over-saturated with for the last couple of years.

There definitely weren’t as many surprises in this issue, as last month it appeared there would be a steady trickle of details that gradually expanded the environment and shed light on the event behind the story’s societal downfall. Jeff Lemire introduce a few more characters in #2, and his graphic storytelling (just look at that brilliant two-page spread) made the whole read enjoyable. The big problem is that there are so many standardized tropes and plot devices in this genre that its going to take some more innovation to get this series moving out on the water, but the seeds for that outgrowth definitely exist.

I loved the late page in here where the native boy Snout Spout character appears to be hugging him and there’s a real moment of hero/villain ambiguity that sets in before the ending. That said, it seems like we’re destined to see a native tribe of animal kids embrace Gus, and if things proceed on course, by issue #5 we’ll be seeing post-apocalyptic anthropomorphized Lost Boys fighting the world’s equivalent of pirates. And I’m not saying that’s bad, but I hope surprises await.

Link Sausage: 10/13/2009

Posted by – October 13, 2009

Jeffrey Brown

• Most everyone I used to work with at Wizard has some sort of ongoing sketchbook theme that they update at conventions. Rick has his Hunter S. Thompson book. Sean has his David Bowie book. Dave has his Lockjaw book. I’ve even got my neglected Matter Eater Lad book. Well, my pal Rickey Purdin has a Watchmen book, and Jeffrey Brown recently did a commission for it that Rickey posted over on The Cool Kids Table. Feast your eyes.

• And speaking of sketchbooks, you could fill one with this stellar gallery of Harvey Pekar portraits done over at SmithMag.net in honor of his 70th birthday. They really do capture the range of eccentricities and passion that have powered his comics over the years.

• This Dalek jack-o-lantern is one of the greatest DIY projects of the season. It’s features in a gallery of nearly-as-cool robot-based pumpkin sculptures.

Dalek pumpkin

• Did you know that Dave from Alvin & the Chipmunks was named for the stage name of an actor in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window? Metfilter educates us all on the secret origins of Alvin & the Chipmunks.

• A finally, holy cow(!), look at the price difference between these two copies of Matt Furie’s Boy’s Club #2 on Amazon.com and tell me how that seller named ANY_BOOK thinks they can get away with that.