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.