Month: October 2010

100 Days, 100 Comics #91: ‘Strange Tales II’ #1

Posted by – October 17, 2010

Two of my favorite moves Marvel has made in the last few years involved relaunching their What The–?! brand as a Robot Chicken-styled absurdist take on their universe and re-introducing Strange Tales as a vehicle for indie creator populated anthologies. The initiatives asserted an awareness of Marvel’s places in the broader ecosystems of online media and the real world’s creative community.

As for Strange Tales II #1, I’m going to opt for another bulleted overview for my varied reactions:

• Nick Bertozzi and Chris Sinderson’s opening vignette was hilarious. The Watcher has always had some perplexing Q-ish (Star Trek: TNG reference there) qualities to his race’s culture and the deviations that don’t always stick with their original premise. It was a perfect start to the book.

• What do you want to see from a Rafael Grampá Wolverine story? You want to see a fight, and you want to see his extremely idiosyncratic style and its techniques whip up an orchestra of tiny lines and character renditions. His story delivers.

• Gene Luen Yang’s turn took the issue into another gear for a cartoony, yet sobering slice of life look at the son of Leapfrog. The talent Marvel wrangled together here does short stories better than a lot of writers in comics today to 6-issue arcs. Three stories in, #1 is worth its cover price.

• Frank Santoro’s Silver Surfer is minimalist, psychedelic and momentous when it wants to be. I think it hit the emotional notes it wanted to with me, but in the end its premise felt a little cliche and wasn’t the most memorable Strange Tales contribution in the scheme of things.

• Kate Beaton and Bill Crabtree’s Spider-Man/Kraven was gut-bustingly over-abbreviated, adorable in its tone and exactly what I’d hoped for.

• Kevin Huizenga’s Wolverine/Silver Surfer segment puts a syringe right into your cerebral cortex with its graphic breakdown of a hypothetical video game adaptation. It goes on to execute some blistering art kung-fu in its quick series of panels.

• Jeff Lemire’s Man-Thing was cleverly structured and set up a huge panel displaying Man-Thing clutching a flaming bear by the head just as well as you would expect it to.

• Finally, Jhonen Vasquez and Nicholas Gurewitch are worth their weight and more in gold, and the best laughs come from them at the end.

100 Days, 100 Comics #90: ‘Knight and Squire’ #1

Posted by – October 17, 2010

Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton’s Knight and Squire #1 was a rare breed of launch to see up on the shelves this week. In fact, it wasn’t on the first shelf I scoped out in my neighborhood Wednesday evening. Luckily, I put a call in to the crack team down at Chicago Comics, who had a spare copy and generously put it aside while I drove down Clark to add to the day’s stack. It’s a comic full of contradictions, chance-taking in terms of its overall approach for the U.S. market and a direct descendent of Grant Morrison’s landscaping work in the DCU over the last decade, but all of that adds up to a layered and artfully bound tale.

Batman and Robin’s British counterparts enter their new series in a world that’s liable to seem alien to a lot of readers, but Cornell handles the introduction in a way that’s accommodating. In a very Doctor Who-ish feeling maneuver, he sets issue #1 in a single pub and crams it full of characters, gobs of information about Knight and Squire’s world and what’s going on, and uses both the characters and setting as a lens by which readers can get acquainted with this series’ context. It’s funny, there is of course a bar fight that drives the action needed to propel the story, and by the end he’s tied the whole thing up with a bow and put the sails up on a new, inviting DC series. Consequently, this book comes with my highest recommendations.

100 Days, 100 Comics #89: ‘The Bulletproof Coffin’ #2

Posted by – October 3, 2010

There’s a lot going on in The Bulletproof Coffin, and while the coloring choices remain the most compelling component of the artwork for me, the stocky manchild proportions and occasionally anatomically indifferent depictions of women really throw some rust on the story’s flow from time to time — and I can’t figure out if that’s 100% intentional or not. The story is a commentary on masculine hero fantasies and boyhood hang-ups, so I tend to think that it is, but this series really grinds its nose hard into ambiguous territory.

Somewhere in inspired orbit around the meta-medium storytelling of Watchmen and the devil-may-care aloofness of the pacing in a Love and Rockets issue, Coffin has found a voice, though, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be picking up the rest of the miniseries. Shaky Kane’s neo-juvenile pyschedelia and the understated madness in David Hine’s script here both have a unique energy that rarely surfaces in pamphlet comics. It’s the kind of content you’d expect from a minicomic but wrapped up and produced as an Image book.

100 Days, 100 Comics #88: ‘Thor’ #615

Posted by – October 3, 2010

In the age of the $3.99 30-page comic, it almost seems to take a Matt Fraction/Pasqual Ferry team to get me to pick up the first issue in a new run on a mainstream superhero comic these days. Fraction has become a dependable source of researched character and story depth in recent years, and Ferry lit a fire under my interest years ago thanks to his Mister Miracle collaboration with Grant Morrison. Seeing him land on another Jack Kirby creation with one of Marvel’s top writers muscled the $3.99 out of my pocket for Thor #615, and while the issue does contain a few memorable moments, my ultimate verdict is going to have to dock it a few points based on the fact that most of it felt like a PowerPoint presentation announcing Fraction’s general intentions about where he wants to take this series.

The first three pages confine Ferry’s artwork to a bit of a slow-paced treadmill with 6-panel talking head layouts that establish the groundwork for what’s to come. Things shift gears for the next 12 pages when the action I won’t spoil erupts in Alfheim. Matthew Dale Hollingsworth’s colors complement Ferry’s figures superbly, and Fraction leaves this thread separated from the events immediately surrounding Thor, who doesn’t get to raise his hammer toward anyone just yet.

In the end, it’s a better-than-average read, but not one that had me diving into my pockets to set aside bucks for the next issue. We’ve got well-designed if conceptually cookie-cutter villains looking to march through spacetime on a pillaging romp, a Thor who’s misty-eyed about losing his brother and a creative team capable of making the dialog and shiny parts of everyone’s costume entertaining to watch. Thor #616 will have my attention. It’s going to have to enter the ring strong to compete with whatever else is on the rack on October 20 in order to make it into my bag though.