I READ SOME COMIC BOOKS THIS WEEK. HERE IS WHAT I THOUGHT OF THEM.

allflash.jpgAll Flash Comics #1: It’s so… awkward… and self-congratulatory. Ick. I want to say “Hey, Karl Kerschl’s art was the best thing about this” but then I’m sorta-friends with Karl and my opinion is suspect. I dunno. I was reading it and it’s exactly not-bad, not-good in the way that many (most?) superhero comics are these days. The multiple art teams, the overliance on history and continuity, the weird torture of the bad guys… None of it stood out as bad or good, it was just “here is a sequence of events that will keep you reading until next month”. Wow. There’s nothing there for people who aren’t long-time, die-hard fans of the character, and even though I’m somewhere in that sphere I was just… I don’t like this at all. And the cover by Seinkewicz is… distressing.

Batman: Harley & Ivy TPB: This collection of three disparate stories featuring Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy is pretty fun stuff, with some nice art through and through. Has anyone ever looked at the subtext… or even the text… of these stories though? Yikes. It’s exactly “Dudes who are attracted to hawt cartoon characters put them into vaguely pervy situations for their own edification,” which is… every single female hero or villain in comics? It’s fun, just don’t read too deeply into… any… of it. Like the women-in-prison-flight ‘homage’ at the beginning of the second chapter of the titular mini-series, where the butch lesbian prison guards get rough with our two hot antiheroines. Actually, that whole last mini-series feels like Paul Dini letting loose after too many years dealing with cartoon censors and Hollywood… It’s interesting, and like I said, fun… if you don’t think too hard about it. Mmmm… probably not for kids.

bigplans1.jpgBig Plans #1: This is a Xeric-grant winning comic that we got in because we more-or-less support every Xeric Comic. It’s a mini-comic though, which is kind of weird, because I’d always assumed that the Xeric thing was to help you do something a little more professional than something that looks like it came off of the Xerox machine. The comics themselves are interesting, each page a six-panel staccato with lots of white-space elevating stories of the mundane into the… what’s less than profound but still pretty interesting? Well-observed, anyway, particularly the terrorism story. If I picked this up at MoCCA for $2, I’d be pretty happy. For it to be solicited through Diamond at $5, I’m less happy. There’s just not enough to it to justify the price tag, and I can’t help thinking that the author’s chosen format won’t really help him get noticed, let alone further develop his career. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe there’s a whole industry for stapled 5.5″x4.25″ comics that I’m unaware of. That are also available at http://www.aronnelssteinke.com/ entirely for free. But yeah, this is one where the format disappointed me much more than I enjoyed the actual content.

Captain America #28: This one felt a bit like a place-holder issue, particularly after the starling revelations and non-stop action of last issue. It’ll read better in the trade. Aside from the bad guys showing you they’re bad by killing a lot of people, and Sharon Carter awkwardly dancing around a few questions… yeah. Brubaker’s setting up the pieces in this issue, which didn’t really grab me the way that the rest of the arc has. Even though it came out a few weeks ago I finally read the newest issue of CRIMINAL, which was similar (setting up the pieces, pulling together the plot, showing what a bad ass you are) and it worked far, far better.

Comics Journal #284: I’ve only skimmed this so far, but man, do I not care about Roger Landridge at all. There’s just nothing there that I find interesting. Anyway, somehow I got sucked into reading Tom Crippen’s piece on the fanboy inside all of us and that was just brutal. Like, massively depressive, mostly because you could insert “There but for the grace of God, go I” after every paragraph. I haven’t seen any online reaction to this column yet–maybe The Journal has stopped being relevant for that sort of thing, I don’t see them stirring up much controversy lately unless it’s fucking with Harlan Ellison–but I’d be curious what anyone else thought. But yeah, I’ve not read much of the rest of it yet. The Gene Yang interview is on my list though.

Don’t Say Anymore Darling: This is a new collection of old short stories from Fumi Yoshinaga, the author of Antique Bakery. It’s mostly yaoi-centric (though there is at least one entirely straight short-story about a marriage that fails due to… well… the crazy, I think) and fans of Yoshinaga’s gentle, humanistic storytelling will probably love this as much as they love everything else she does. Mmm… me included. Granted, I read this while sick in bed with a head-cold so my retention isn’t entirely there, but the stories are all strong little shorts, usually with a nice shock right at the ending to cast the whole thing in a new light just as you end the chapter. I hope the existance of these interesting, sort of random works means that Ms. Yoshinaga is fabulously wealthy and gets to do whatever she wants with manga; I’ll happily keep reading.

Flight Volume 4Flight Volume 4 GN: Reviewing this is basically impossible since 1/3 of the contributors at any given time are friends of mine, but here goes: Another strong entry in the Flight series. More gorgeous art, more lyrical short stories, definitely worth the cover price. The stand-outs are, once again, Clio Chang (this time with a meta-commentary take on the nature of fables) and Kazu Kibuishi (his story featuring duty and tradition butting heads with desire). It’s a handsomely designed and thoughtfully edited collection, each story sticking around just long enough to be enjoyable, and occasionally leaving you wanting more. I’d have hoped though, 5 years in, to see more of the contributors to the book making more of a name for themselves in the industry outside of the anthology. It still seems like a lot of the breakthrough work is in the pipeline, and as nice as 8-24 pages of work is from many of these creators, I feel like 150 pages of the same is what I really want.

Ghost Rider #13 WWH: I haven’t been “reading” Ghost Rider, so I’m assuming that there’s just someone inexperienced or whatever behind the mantle of the character right now, making the first 2/3 of the book an “inexperienced hero fights Hulk in comedy of errors” routine that was occasionally chuckle-worthy. It all comes down to earth at the end though, when we’re reminded that Iron Man is a bastard, and the Hulk is rightfully seeking Vengence on him, leaving The Ghost Rider to fuck off back out of the crossover. Not bad, I guess? Funny, but hardly essential.

Programme #1: Winner of the “Comic that would most be benefitted by re-reading” award of the week. I think I liked this, all gritty, dirty cold war paranoia mixed with ongoing wars and impotent hulking Americans. I’m not sure though, as scenes rarely last for longer than a page or two, and writer Peter Milligan has had some spectacular misfires as of late. But yeah, despite Jog’s excellent breakdown, I kind of want to figure out what’s going on here for myself, and sadly the cursory reading given to FLASH or GHOST RIDER simply won’t do. At least you’re getting your 3 bucks worth.

Shazam: The Monster Society Of Evil #4: The ham-handed political nature of the story is toned-down just enough to be enjoyable rather than distracting, leading to a fun, over-the-top conclusion. Smith has picked up a few tricks out of contemporary young adult fiction here, making the adults-don’t-believe-kids stuff just annoying enough as to make the kid in me want to jump up-and-down in place going COME ON ALREADY!, which means it’s working. The ending has plenty of heroics, gross moments, a monster-punching or two, and sets the stage for great things to come… which is why what comes next is so depressing. (“Hey kids! That character you just grew to love? HE’S DEAD NOW. Also, his little sister has grown up into a goth cheerleader. Enjoy!”) I’m also wondering about the artificiciality of serialization breaks and their negative effect on the story… but that’s for a bigger discussion down the road.

The Order #1: Sorry Matt. Nothing here grabbed me. And I was actively put-off by the colouring, which couldn’t decide if the lead dude was grey-at-the-temples or not. I’ll read the next issue I guess, but this wasn’t your best stuff and I really, really want Casanova #8 now.

Warren Ellis’ Black Gas 2 #3: I still, honestly, can’t believe that Ellis would let a comic be named after his (presumably) deadly farts. Did no one think about what this would be called? Or maybe they did, and that’s perhaps worse. Ah well. BLEAK! SO FUCKING BLEAK! And, if the gas makes everyone crazy and itching to fuck, how did they all manage to pair off into neat boy/girl pairs? Isn’t that… fortunate? I guess? That the zombies don’t have to have the added stress of having their sexual identities challenged? “Fuck, I just tore the face off that guy but at least I’m shagging the dismembered lower-half of a woman instead of being some faggot zombie!” Ah well. it’s Avatar, you get what you pay for, you just usually get it very late.

World War Hulk #2: Totally enjoyable. Whenever anyone asks me if this is any good (specifically because Avengers Disassembled, House of M, and Civil War weren’t) all I need to say is “Well, Hulk DOES Smash.” I don’t go out of my way to promote this because, quite frankly, I don’t have to. Hulk fucks shit up, which is really all you need from a Hulk comic in the first place and that most stringent of conditions is met? People gladly part with their four dollars. Hulk Smash.

I also ready a bunch of stuff from previous weeks like SILVERFISH (alright), PHONOGRAM (alright I think, not sure about it), and some assorted manga. i guess being sick has it’s up-sides.

- Christopher


17 Comments on “THIS WEEK IN COMIC BOOKS”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. Drake says:

    As to All Flash, I’ve never met Karl Kerschl so I can say, without bias, his art was, indeed, the best thing about this book. I’ve always thought his stuff was great and, to me, this stuff looked particularly amazing. I really wish he was the regular artist when Flash is ongoing again. (Or any book really…)

    I liked Silverfish. I like pretty much anything Lapham does (with the exception of that Batman City of Crime junk). I thought it might’ve been a little light on character development but the fast pace of the story helped me not care.

    And yeah, I deal with WWH the same way. Hulk sure does smash.

    Hope you’re feeling better soon, buddy.

  2. matthew says:

    $5 for a minicomic? aren’t xeric grants supposed to help comics be put out…cheaply or something (okay,t hey don’t have to be, but yeah)

  3. Tom Spurgeon says:

    What fills the hole in your heart where a love for Roger Langridge should live?

  4. Chris says:

    Drake- Thanks man.

    Matthew- It’s 48 pages I guess, but… I dunno, the whole package doesn’t hold up for me… I don’t think the Xeric Foundation attaches many strings.

    Tom- Thick oozing bile.

  5. Tom Spurgeon says:

    BTW: Adrian Tomine’s Xeric-winning comic back in what? 1993? was essentially a mini, albeit a sharply-produced one.

  6. Evan Dorkin says:

    What Tom said. Langridge’s work is just so terrific it murders me how indifferent people are about it.

  7. Chris says:

    Tom- Right off the bat, I feel the market for minis is so substantially different now from 1993 that there’s almost no basis for comparisson, but that said, I’m gonna check out what would have constituted his Xeric-nominated work because I’m curious as hell.

    Evan- I really, really don’t come off well in the “I can’t believe you don’t like that artist!” game. Exceptionally poorly. Luckily, Peter (who owns The Beguiling) tends to really enjoy many of the artists-of-note that I’m indifferent about, and that balances it out a little. But yeah, I was reading the stuff excerpted in the journal and it was doing zero for me. It’s that kind of work where I can tell it’s accomplished and even discuss how and why, but personally it leaves me cold.

  8. Tom Spurgeon says:

    It was the last issue of his self-published Optic Nerve, I think, although I’m not one hundred percent sure. It maybe had the peanut butter story in it?

    Anyway, I’m not comparing anything, just making the historical point. My understanding is that Xeric folks make the way they want to do their comic part of their proposal, and if that’s true, then I guess everything would be on the table. I don’t think a $5 mini-comic is the best format to choose, but if the Xeric Foundation were to suddenly be more rigorous about things, they would probably have given away about 1/3 the grants they have over the last five year.

    I wonder if you could get a Xeric to do a webcomic and spend all the money on web marketing? I really don’t know.

  9. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Part of me would like to see more $5 mini-comics and fewer $19.95 trade paperbacks with the Image or Alternative Comics logo in the corner, to be honest.

  10. Chris says:

    Tom- Yeah, I checked (to the best of my ability) and it was his last self-published issue. I think that’s really interesting, seeing where in the timeline that falls, because apparently that bumped his circulation into the thousands (according to the d&q bio, anyway).

    I don’t think it’s as easy as deciding winners based on format, but I would 100% rather have seen that $5000 or whatever going to promoting his webcomic, rather than what we got. I’ve got boxes and boxes of mini-comics, I’m a big fan of the production method and the aesthetic, but I feel like the Xeric grant opens a few doors with Diamond and with retailers that this dude in particular just didn’t walk through with his book.

    As for your minis vs. trade paperback arguments: Fuck yeah. I think it’s mean to pick on either Image or Alternative when they’re only representative of the problem, not the sum total of it, and I’d say at this point both of those companies have successes to counter-balance their failures. But there could be some more considered decisions on both of their parts, for sure…

    We should have a bitchy talk about this at some point, it’d make for good blogging.

  11. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I meant only in terms of those companies being a part of the Xeric process, not any general hate for Image or Alternative’s trades programs. I think these kids should actually all the way self-publish, no help from an established company.

  12. Chris says:

    Oh, then we seriously disagree. I see the Xeric as a helping-hand towards recognition and saleability, 100%. If working with an established publisher in either a publishing or distribution role will help you focus on promoting the work, promoting yourself, or even just finding a financial level at which you’re able to create comics, then by all means, use those helping hands into the industry.

    There’s a lot of knowledge to be gained from learning how to self-publish, but it’s not knowledge everyone needs to learn, and that money can still be used very effectively in different ways than just paying the print bill.

    I wanna see Image and Alternative and a bunch of publishers stop releasing graphic novels with no audience. I’m willing to give Xeric stuff more-or-less a pass at least in that regard (although I did decide to actually engage one in this week’s reviews), but I don’t know who’s supposed to be buying a lot of the graphic novels from mid-tier publishers released to the market these days. I’d love to see more folks test the market for a book without printing a 150-200 page graphic novel by a relative unkown, and minis (or web serialisation, or full-size comics, or lots of different things) seem a lot smarter to me.

    There’s also the not-entirely-unconnected problem of graphic novels that exist as film pitches first, “Proof of Concept” instead of, you know, literature. But I don’t think anyone would ever accuse Alternative of that…

  13. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Yes, we absolutely disagree on the Xeric thing.

  14. Chris says:

    Tom- Can you elaborate on your position?

  15. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I’m not sure I can. I’m tired. Let me try.

    1) There’s just something that strikes me as wrong about an award where one guy gets a trade published by Image and another person is publishing a $5 mini-comic.

    2) I think learning how to self-publish scratch to funnybook shop has value. I think there’s something to be said for an entire generation of people who aren’t cowed by the process of publication, and this cuts into that.

    3) If you’re allowed to buy the distribution services of an established publisher, why not allow the person to hire Sean Phillips to re-draw it?

    4) We need more micro- and self-publishers than Image needs another damn trade. Would Hutch Owens been as cool if it had come out from FBI?

  16. Myk says:

    I´m honestly curious as to what Milligan´s spectacular misfires were. Since I dont follow the superheroes, the last thing by him I actually read being Human Target, he kinda vanished off of my radar some time ago. I think Milligan might just be the most underappreciated writers working in comics today. (With Jamie Delano coming in at second place)

  17. Neil B says:

    Hi Chris, I hope you’re enjoying the con…

    The Flight anthology made its debut at the 2004 comic con, so we’re really only 3 years in–but, point taken!

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>