Weekly Reading Round-Up : 07/14/2019 – 07/20/2019

What better place to start this week than with the end of an era?

Or three of ’em, to be precise, as The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen : The Tempest #6 marks not only the final installment of the long-running, if sporadic, series (or should that be “series of series”?), but also the much-publicized last comic ever written by Alan Moore and the less-well-publicized last comic ever drawn by Kevin O’Neill. Both (extraordinary, let’s be honest) gentlemen are off to greener pastures than this beleaguered medium has to offer, and they finish their epic in fun, smart, surprisingly understated style, having a go at just about everything on their way out the door, most notably themselves. This concluding arc, co-published by Top Shelf and Knockabout, has divided some — funny how these things always do — but for my part it was everything I’d been hoping it would be and then some, with obscure pop culture references flying at readers a mile a minute but never distracting from the crisp action, sharp storyline, and packed-to-the-gills-with-greatness artwork. It’s a bittersweet things to see these guys go — assuming either retirement actually sticks — but they’ve certainly more than earned a curtain call should they ever wish to take one, and they even manage to get a welcome dig in at the right-wing incel horde known as “comicsgate” on their way out the door via the letters page. More celebration than eulogy, this was the perfect way to wrap up a story over two decades in the making, as well as the careers of a pair of genuinely visionary and transformational talents. Yeah, I cried (wanna make something of it?) — but I laughed a lot, too. Effing sublime stuff, in addition to being an instant piece of comic book history.

And speaking of comic book history, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillps’ latest Image graphic novel, Bad Weekend, is positively steeped in it, relating as it does the story (originally serialized in their monthly Criminal series) of a composite character (with a good 75% of said “composite” apparently being based more or less directly on Gil Kane) who used to be a big shot artist in the funnybook game, but is now reduced to petty crime in order to make ends meet and settle old scores. The last couple Brubaker/Phillips projects came up short in my estimation, but this book — expanded to include something like eight new pages not included in the “floppies” — is proof positive that they’re still pretty well untouchable as a mainstream creative team when firing on all cylinders, and that those cylinders are far from burned out. Maybe not the one of the “best” book of the year as some are claiming, but I’ll happily go out on a limb and declare it to be one of the most enjoyable. Work for hire makes desperate fools of all who toil under its remorseless regime.

Also from Image comes Little Bird #5, the concluding act in Darcy Van Poelgeest and Ian Bertram’s five-part tale of resistance to a theocratic dystopia, and it’s a pretty solid send-off, loaded with cinematic battle scenes, smartly-executed characterization, and of course breathtaking, Moebius-esque artwork. I dunno, I guess it’s fair to say that some things come up a bit flat story-wise and not everything gets wrapped up with a bow, but these two are apparently working on a second series set in the same fictional world, and I’m ready to get in line for that already. Bertram is one of the most exciting artists in the mainstream right now, and as long as Van Poelgeest serves up scripts that give his collaborator plenty to sink his teeth into, that’s really all that matters. Decent enough to read, absolutely glorious to look at.

Lastly, DC serves up a thoroughly modern “throwback” comic with Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber’s Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #1. Fraction seems to be making a play for the title of Grant Morrison’s heir apparent with this one, brimming over as it is with a kind of deliberately nostalgic “high weirdness” that feels awfully calculated but nevertheless makes for fun storytelling, while Lieber, for his part, brings a lot more personality to the part than most “Big Two” comics artists these days could ever conceive of, much less get past editorial. This comic didn’t blow me away or anything, but I had a good time with it, there are surprises aplenty, and it’s determined to give readers value for their four bucks, which is a lot more than you can say for most things coming from the house Siegel and Shuster built — and had stolen from them.

And that was, as Walter Cronkite used to say, the week that was. Which means our only remaining order of business here is to remind you all that this column is “brought to you” each and every week by my Patreon page, where I serve up three original and exclusive pieces of writing (bet you thought I was going to say “shit,” didn’t you?) on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics weekly in exchange for as little as a buck a month from you good readers. Any support I get helps ensure a steady supply of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site, so please take a moment to check it out and consider joining at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse


Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/10/2019 – 03/16/2019

First issues : they’re what we do around here. In fact, it seems like nothing else even comes out anymore. Here are four more from this past Wednesday alone —

Image’s Little Bird #1 kicks off a five-part epic of dystopian sci-fi (one that’s not slated to be collected in trade — which is remarkable given that’s how most Image creators get paid) with some Native American folklore around the edges about a child soldier on a post-apocalyptic Earth fighting on behalf of indigenous peoples vs. an oppressive religious totalitarian state. Screenwriter/director Darcy Van Poelgeest handles the scripting duties with superstar artist Ian Bertram of House Of Penance providing the illustration and colorist extraordinaire Matt Hollingsworth on hues. This opening salvo has terrific “world-building,” breathtaking action sequences, stunningly detailed art, and beautifully evocative colors. It also boasts a higher-than-usual page count, slick paper, and heavy-duty cardstock covers. A superb value at $3.99 — hell, just a superb comic altogether. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Also from Image in general, and Robert Kirkman’s Skybound label in particular, we have Assassin Nation #1, the opening salvo in a new ongoing written by superb-cartoonist-in-his-own-right Kyle Starks and drawn and colored by popular former Unbeatable Squirrel Girl artist Erica Henderson. A smart and fun “piss-take” on the “ultravioelnce” subgenre that focuses on the formerly number-one-ranked assassin in the world hiring as many of his previous competitors as possible to protect his own ass when he comes under threat,  we start out with 20 world-class assassins here (current rankings are displayed on the opening title page), but end up with a lot less after a gloriously over-the-top bloodbath. At first I thought that Starks, specifically, was punching well below his own weight class with this one, as he’s best known for both writing and drawing his own stuff, but I’m happy to say that assumption was entirely off-base as he and Henderson make for a great team and have produced a comic that wrings plenty of entertainment value out of each of the 399 pennies you’ll spend on it. Well worth getting in on this from the jump.

Writer Magdalene Visaggio is a positively ubiquitous presence on LCS new-release racks lately (we just talked about her new Oni Press series Morning In America last week), and while her stuff can be hit-or-miss for me, Calamity Kate #1, the first chapter in a four-parter from Dark Horse, was her most direct “hit” yet, offering a delightful mash-up of banal relationship drama (protagonist has just been through a painful break-up and is overstaying her welcome crashing on a long-suffering friend’s couch) with monster-hunting. This world feels every bit as workaday and bog-standard as our own, only there’s dragons and Kaiju and shit everywhere. The Girl In The Bay (another Dark Horse book I absolutely love) artist Corin Howell turns in more of the supremely confident and highly eye-catching illustration that we’re quickly becoming accustomed to from her in this one, and colorist Valentina Pinto eschews the flashy in favor of the wholly functional, resulting in a comic that looks every bit as good as it reads. Another four dollars very well spent.

Finally, DC brings us a cash-grab (and a $4.99 cash-grab, at that) one-shot called The Batman Who Laughs : The Grim Knight #1, a spin-off of the current The Batman Who Laughs mini-series which is itself a spin-off of Dark Nights : Metal. If you can keep up with all that, you’re doing better than me, as I couldn’t make head or tail of Scott Synder and James Tynion IV’s story about some “alternate universe” Batman who uses guns and spy-camera technology to not just “protect” Gotham City, but basically take the place over and prevent any and all crime by preventing any and all freedom. I wasn’t here for the story, though — I was here for the art, courtesy of the legendary Eduardo Risso and best-in-the-biz colorist Dave Stewart. Lush, cinematic, and gorgeous, this book looks like a million bucks, so I guess it was worth spending five on, but I wish DC would put this first-rate tandem to use on better projects than one-off continuity circle-jerks like this. Which, I guess, is my way of saying that this is a pretty shitty comic, but sure doesn’t dress the part. I can ogle over just about any page in this thing for hours.

And that should about do it for another Weekly Wrap-Up. Just enough time left to, of course, remind you that this column is “brought to you” each and every week by my Patreon page, where I offer exclusive thrice-weekly ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there allows me to keep things going and also ensures a steady stream of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. Check it out and join up today at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse