Month: January 2010

100 Days, 100 Comics #64: ‘King City’ #2

Posted by – January 18, 2010

As of the end of issue #2, King City has a solid drumbeat going, introducing the story piecemeal and not keeping any type of pacing that feels it needs any adherence to the issue so much as each issue just turns on the faucet and lets out a little more story.

Joe’s ex-girlfriend Anna gets as much spotlight as anyone in this chapter, which also snaps temporarily into a fever-dream flashback regarding her new relationship partner’s missing leg. Again, there’s way more showing than explaining or telling in Graham’s story, but that brings with it the benefit of leaving much to the imagination — particularly whether or that dream sequence is grounded in real events. The missing leg would tend to corroborate the dream, but the guise of a surreal urban sci-fi world leaves it up to the reader to deduce whether or not he actually chainsawed through a horde of zombies.

The story information to page ratio seems to be much higher than it was in issue #1, which was much appreciated. Maybe it’s just that more characters were introduced, as well as more action scenes, but #2 felt like it really set the comic’s wheels down on the pavement.

100 Days, 100 Comics #63: ‘King City’ #1

Posted by – January 18, 2010

I picked this issue up eons ago — not during its original printing, but when Image Comics began reprinting the series. Somehow, I managed to never come into contact with the next three issues until a couple of weeks ago at Chicago Comics, though, so expect to see a few King City posts pop up over the next several “100 Days, 100 Comics” entries (which, yes, I realize have extended beyond the hundred day mark, and that is unfortunate).

My first encounter with Brandon Graham’s artwork was back during my Wizard staff writing days in New York. My pal Rickey passed a single-volume book my way that was somewhat less family-friendly than King City is, but it was no less distinctive. Multiple Warheads was my second Graham encounter, and King City comes a lot closer to resembling that series content-wise. If at some point during the ’80s ABC had tried to make a Saturday morning Blade Runner cartoon, it would have had a lot of the same dynamics — comical sci-fi moments of absurdity with muted backdrops of depressing implications in a futuristic urban environment.

Graham’s characters — particularly his lead hero in King City, Joe — move like cartooned characters should move and inhabit worlds with a physicality and weight that keep you grounded in his universe. Much like Seth Fisher and Paul Pope, Graham’s artwork just tends to blow onto his pages with heaps and piles of flotsam and morsels of detail that bring his stories to life. Following Joe for the first half of the issue unaware of virtually any pertinent facts about his identity or location, the moment of insertion for the reader is aloof and uncaring about the audience Joe narrates to, but the book’s weakness here is also symptomatic of a convention in Graham’s storytelling in my experience wherein he leaves huge expanses of his cities and cultures to the imagination by explaining painfully little. You don’t even learn Joe’s name until well in to his first dialog scene with his friend Pete.

King City #1 reads like an introductory tour through a turning point in Joe’s life, but without much structure or organization to the issue’s approach. In fact, it feels a bit like you’re being taken through a carnival ride with a restraining bar keeping you locked in a fixed position without much perspective beyond the vague clues you’re able to pick up along the way. I’d compare it to a time I was stuck at Universal Studios in Florida on the E.T. ride on E.T.’s home planet with no narration or guidance to explain to me what all of the aliens dancing on the cave and flower formations were doing while technicians tried for a half hour to free us. King City #1 was much more pleasurable than that, by the way.

100 Days, 100 Comics #62: ‘Chimichanga’ #1

Posted by – January 14, 2010

Eric Powell really puts a lot of creators — writers and artists alike — to shame with his ability to keep his work pared down but constantly surprising and effective. The movement and characterizations in Chimichanga #1 had all the energy of a Steamboat Willie-era Disney cartoon and all the horrific nuances of a Mark Ryden painting being sung about in a Tom Waits song.

The story follows a bearded girl as she encounters a witch and a beast in the woods who accompanies her home. Powell’s big panels always tell just enough, but hint at deeper depths of macabre that go unmentioned. He’s extremely adept at twisting moments from panel to panel and even word balloon to backdrop and vice versa. Elements such as the Mexican food stand and the pharmaceutical plant keep the otherwise outlandish story rooted in a disorientingly grounded world balanced on the premise that normal reality exists outside the forest and the carnival tents. There’s a hint of Roald Dahl in that concoction not unlike Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The character development is limited to the girl and the witch, but the designs and supporting cast’s humor make nearly every page keep things rolling. Heck, if every issue were as good as this one and it came out weekly, I’d probably buy them.

100 Days, 100 Comics #61: ‘Daytripper’ #1

Posted by – January 14, 2010

So story true here, I admit to being completely ignorant of this book beyond the title and creators, knowing that based on Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon’s names being on the cover I would need to read it. I just never read past the headlines to find out what it was about. Thus occurred my reading experience.

Daytripper #1 is an enchanting and richly moody first chapter with lots of character micro-vignettes on the periphery and a hollowly presented main character who happens to be an obituary writer. The artwork is subtle and the words are artfully placed. There were extended spans where the art felt like it was just along for the ride and playing an ornamental role for the dialog, but even at its most torpid the illustration is better than 90% of whats on the racks, and it does come through and punctuate the important scenes when it needs to.

I mentioned my perspective coming into this issue because when I finished it I thought I’d just read a self-contained story — and that’s a rare mistake to make reading pamphlet comics. I had to go search out some interviews to verify that there are more issues ahead (It’s marked “#1” on the cover, but you know, that doesn’t always mean a whole lot.) I’ve read worse short stories in The New Yorker, though, so I don’t think my reading suffered as a consequence. It seems Vertigo’s sold me on another second issue.

100 Days, 100 Comics #60: ‘Siege’ #1

Posted by – January 11, 2010

First thoughts to hit my mind while reading Siege #1:

• There was a missed opportunity during the aerial assault to use those personal aircraft vehicles from the Captain America and the Avengers arcade game.

• Flying a jet with Ares surfing on your nosecone must be next to impossible.

• Oh, it’s “World War Thor.” Clever.

That last one was my real “Ahhh, now I get it” moment for Siege. The kickoff for this story has been a total full circle revisitation of Civil War thematically mixing in the extra-terrestrial conflict angle from Secret Invasion. The number of Marvel Universe plot threads that Bendis tied together in this one issue speaks volumes for the amount of planning and coordination that’s obviously gone into this event.

Issue #1 comes off more as an extension of the pre-circulated preview spotlighting Volstagg and the Soldier Field disaster that kicks Siege into gear than it does a single chapter, and everything in here is an opening curtain to part of the crossover, so it’s difficult to evaluate the story as much as it is possible to acknowledge that all of the Captain America, Tony Stark, and Thor arcs are now in gear, so how they come out on the other side of issue #4 will be where I make my decisions.

Olivier Coipel’s concept execution is much more impressive than his character-by-character and panel-by-panel style, but that speaks well of his understanding of the medium. There isn’t any one Avenger in here that he really makes his own, but there are sequences such as the Volstagg incident and Sentry’s little kerfuffle as narrative depictions of action and motion that demonstrate his strengths. He leaves little ambiguity to what’s going on, even if the characters’ personalities aren’t always center stage — and that’s not necessarily a criticism so much as it is pointing out a choice that he consistently appears to make as an artist to spotlight the action. Siege seems to be on its feet and headed in a provocative direction, so I’ll probably be back on here with a post for issue #2.

Specialman?

Posted by – January 11, 2010

I’m sure I can’t be the only one over the weekend who saw the image of this bootlegged action figure and immediately flashed back to that questionable photo that purported to be from Tim Burton’s Superman film starring Nic Cage a few months back.

There’s something uncanny at work there. Am I right?

100 Days, 100 Comics #59: ‘Green Lantern Corps’ #43

Posted by – January 8, 2010

All of the red and green in Green Lantern Corps #43 was really well timed for the holidays. The story picks up where #42 left off with Kyle’s ring taking off to find its new finger. The lack of spacial orientation I’ve commented on before was as consistent as ever, but I don’t think “Blackest Night” readers are necessarily expecting any setting definition at this point. It’s all about the fights and the big colorful ring creations, and Patrick Gleason delivers.

Gleason does some of the best faces you’ll find in superhero comics right now — especially with Guy Gardner. I get the sense that he must love being able to draw a whole issue with absolutely no backgrounds whatsoever (OK, I count one small skyline in one panel) and just focus on the fights and characters. Many lesser artists wish they could be so lucky.

The fights and Guy Gardner are the highlights. Without spoiling anything in this review, the ending is a bit of an ambiguous deus ex machina that almost renders the issue unnecessary, but my hope is that there are some lasting implications for both Guy and Kyle moving forward. If that’s the case, I can see this story getting better with age. If you’re a Guy fan, this comic is a can’t miss. Better news, though, is that if you’re a Mogo fan issue #44 will probably be a can’t miss.

100 Days, 100 Comics #58: ‘Thor’ #605

Posted by – January 7, 2010

[***Light spoiler warning***] If I have a singular problem with this issue, it’s that Thor’s entire presence is consistently understated, which is typically not how I like my Thor written. It’s like ordering a cup of espresso and getting a cup of very well made Maxwell House. He’s elegant. He knocks down a wall. But he feels like a supporting cast member to Doom’s big show, which is probably why the final scene in Thor #605 wasn’t nearly as impressive storywise as it was visually.

The flipside of this whole situation is that Kieron Gillen writes as masterful a Dr. Doom as anyone I can remember in recent years. He’s nearly Shakespearean in his articulation, he’s malevolent, and he always keeps his cool.

The plot is a by-the-numbers Marvel story with recognizable ingredients and characters and no real surprises, but Billy Tan’s art keeps every page thumping. He’s come a long way since he was one of Marvel’s Young Guns. I do wish there’d been some effort to mix up the visuals after the Destroyer armor reveal, though. I counted three separate occurrences of Thor’s head being held under its foot, including the next-issue tease on the last page (which wasn’t much of a tease since we’d already seen the pose twice). The series is in a nominal state of affairs, though. Gillen and Tan are a team I’d pick up again.

100 Days, 100 Comics #57: ‘Zegas’

Posted by – January 4, 2010

ZegasI respect a creator’s ability to remain subtle and matter-of-fact with surreal elements while being able to keep a grip on characters, and Michel Fiffe’s recently concluded story Zegas” over on ACT-I-VATE demonstrated such talents. ACT-I-VATE has been a unique webcomics destination since it first launched on Livejournal, and I remain consistently surprised by what its talent roster comes up with.

“Zegas” is about a brother/sister relationship and the inner struggle of an aging single writer on his birthday. As with many surreal and magical realist works, the internal and external happenings blur. Fiffe’s color overlays and clean, inspired illustrations float smoothly with a little bit more than immediately meets eye to many of the comic’s panels. There are a few great examples here of singular panels that manage to convey time periods rather than points with live senses of motion.

The art comes across more powerfully than the story, but the emotions and struggles of Emily and Boston make the going worthwhile. And in the context of the confusing bleed between the real and surreal, the characters come across more discernibly than the material events do. The comic has an Alejandro Jodorowsky meets Dr. Seuss vibe in places, but as is the case in a number of Jodorowsky films I enjoy, that ambiguity of sensation and tangible occurrence can push other story elements into the foreground even as it blurs narrative coherence.

100 Days, 100 Comics #56: ‘Sweet Tooth’ #4

Posted by – January 3, 2010

Sweet Tooth #4Sweet Tooth #4, in which Jeff Lemire blinked at Furry culture and drew one of the most effective rifle butt beatings I’ve read recently, definitely kept things tense. Sweet Tooth’s surrogate father maintained his aging Clint Eastwoody anti-hero rep that’s been simmering thus far, and still looks like he could turn into the book’s big villain at any moment. The events in the issue didn’t seem to be all too important in the scheme of the developing story, but it was an effective vignette moment in the boy/man pair’s ongoing adventure.

I’ve already noted that I’m pretty well in for the long haul on this series, and Sweet Tooth made the top ten books of 2009 list that I submitted to CBR for their “Best 100 Comics of 2009” marathon, so I’m past the point of needing the series to win my affections. That’s kind of nice, because I feel myself judging the chapters now by how well they play off what has been established and where they take the story. From that perspective, #4 didn’t pull off any veils or twist the plot in any unsurprising ways. It mostly read like a pit stop on the road, though for what it was by itself, the sequences and character foci were engaging. Every month can’t be a game-changer, Lemire didn’t necessarily need this one to be.