Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/22/2018 – 03/28/2018

The last week of new comics until who-knows-when owing to the Diamond shut-down — okay, owing to COVID-19 is probably a more accurate way of putting things — yielded a mixed bag of reading for yours truly, so let’s take a look at what was in said bag before this column goes on hiatus (to be temporarily replaced by a standard full-length review post of a small press or self-published comic, as is my usual wont around these parts), shall we? Indeed we shall —

While it’s nice to see Alan Davis back drawing the House of Xavier — and it’s kinda nice to see the House of Xavier itself, come to think of it, given that it’s been abandoned in favor of the mutant island nation of Krakoa — Jonathan Hickman’s script for Giant-Size X-Men : Nightcrawler #1 reads like precisely what it is : an 8-page backup strip extended out to 30-ish pages so Marvel could charge five bucks for it. In other words, this is a naked cash grab — but then, so is the whole extended X-line these days, consisting as it does of, what? A dozen titles, at least? And now a slew of one-shots are forthcoming as well, this being the first. Nightcrawler is pretty much relegated to the role of a supporting player in this book bearing his own name about a small band of mutants, under his nominal “leadership,” heading back to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters to see why the portal to Krakoa located there is fucking up. If this were a short yarn, it would probably be a fun one, but there’s nothing here to hang an “extra-length” issue on, even if Davis’ art is a fun mix of his usual signature style with a hint of Dave Cockrum homage around the edges. Buy it if you’re a completist, I guess, but otherwise give it a pass — and let’s hope that Marvel avails themselves of the opportunity to trim the glut of X-titles down by at least half during this economic downturn.

Sticking with Marvel, and with higher prices, The Immortal Hulk #33 carries a six dollar price tag and a couple dozen or so extra pages due to the fact that it apparently marks the 750th issue of any and all Hulk comics, provided you go by the so-called “legacy” numbering.  This has a suitably “epic” feel to it, and features the climax of the current (okay, now former) story arc pitting big, green, and mean against the false-memory-implanting alien monster known as Xemnu, and while Al Ewing brings things to a more than satisfactory close — while also setting the table for some intriguing shit to come — it’s the eye-candy art that steals the show here, with Joe Bennett serving up some of his very best double-page splashes and batshit-crazy character designs yet, while guest second-fiddle (or should that be co-star?) Nick Pitarra knocks it out of the park with his tripped-out “mindscape” pages.  Another absolutely essential issue of the best “Big Two” series of the past decade — and probably the next one, too.

At this point Red Sonja seems to be Dynamite’s X-Men, spawning any number of crossovers in recent months, and now it’s got its first spin-off miniseries. Killing Red Sonja #1 teams regular scribe Mark Russell with co-writer Bryce Ingman to tell the story of the entitled little shit son of the aloof and stupid emperor of Zamora recently killed off in the pages of the “flagship” RS series, with half-assed art provided by one Crair Rousseau, who’s clearly going for some kind of singular, idiosyncratic look, and just as clearly falling well short of the mark and simply producing work that looks sloppy and out of place for its genre. Fortunately, Russell and Ingman are penning an interesting tale about a complex and intricately-plotted revenge scheme from the point of view of the asshole doing the plotting, so it’s a fun and interesting read, and Christian Ward’s cover, as you can see above, is just plain — errmmm — killer. I’ll ride this one out even though the art blows.

And the last “capsule” review I’ll be writing until new books start getting shipped again is for Vault’s No One’s Rose #1, an “eco-thriller” that sees Zac Thompson paired not with his usual writing partner, Lonnie Nadler, but with newcomer to the scene Emily Horn, while the art chores are handled by one Alberto Jimenez-Albuquerque. The story here takes place within the confines of a “bio-dome” powered by renewable energy to protect its inhabitants from the post-apocalyptic shithole the rest of the planet has become, and focuses on a sibling rivalry between a genius young scientist determined to make Earth inhabitable again, and her douchebag brother who wants to make sure that never happens. The characterization is about as unsubtle as it gets, and the script is overly verbose, but it’s also pretty damn interesting and well-thought-through, and the art is slick, lush, and generally pretty gorgeous, so I’m interested to see where this goes — if, indeed, it goes anywhere at all. Or should that be — has anywhere to go to? The longer this crisis goes on, the greater the number of shops that simply won’t be there once it’s all over, so please — now is probably the most important time ever to support your local comics retailer of choice. Assuming you’re allowed to leave the house, and they’re allowed to open their doors.

And on that joyous note, we’ll adjourn the Weekly Reading Round-Up until there’s new stuff on LCS shelves. I’ll miss my Wednesday ritual of picking up my books, reading them (and taking some quick notes on them as I do so) at my favorite coffee shop, and then cranking this thing out on Saturday night, but it’s not like this blog is going anywhere, it just means that our one tether to the comics mainstream is temporarily severed. And, of course, also still very much a going concern is my Patreon, this column’s unofficial “sponsor,” where I will never cease to offer up thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the world of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my ongoing work, so I’d be very appreciative indeed if you’d take a moment to check it our by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/08/2020 – 03/14/2020

Image Comics dominated my admittedly-small pull list this week, so let’s have a look at all four of their books that I picked up and see which ones are worth your time and money —

Jonathan Hickman is back with another typically ambitious and expansive creator-owned project, but the best thing about Decorum #1 is Mike Huddleston’s wildly varied, and in some cases quite experimental, art. Yeah, there’s some intriguing “world-building” going on here — hell, it’s more than that, it’s “universe-building” — but, as with all things Hickman, we’ll have to see how fully he develops all that, or even if he fucking sticks with it. For my money, the only one of his Image projects where the steak matched the sizzle was East Of West, but let’s be fair : they’ve all started out well enough, and this tale of the universe’s most purportedly polite assassin is no exception. We jump around a lot in time and space here, though, and it’s Huddleston’s uncanny ability to come up with a completely unique visual language for each of the book’s segments that really seals the deal with readers and makes the idea of sticking around for more seem like a winning proposition. For the time being, at least, I intend to do precisely that.

Just when you’d probably forgotten about them, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Leslie Hung are back with Snotgirl #15, the first issue in something like a year — and the last for probably almost as long, given that the creators announce on the inside back cover that they’re about to go on an extended hiatus while they pursue other projects in comics and life. All told this isn’t a bad issue — I still despise all the characters, but that’s rather the point, and protagonist Lottie’s relationship with her would-be paramour “Cool Girl” becomes both more defined and mysterious as a result of some weird goings-on out in the woods, so that’s cool, but who are we kidding? Any number of Image books have fallen by the wayside due to creators not so much quitting outright as drifting away, and this one bears all the hallmarks of doing the same. Lengthy breaks between issues always have the effect of taking readers out of the story, and while this one is easy enough to jump back into given it’s not too terribly complex, finding out the return visit is just a short one? That’s a real buzzkill. Hung’s superb cartooning has been reason enough to stick around up to this point, but if it’s going to be another year until this thing comes back? I think I might just be done.

And with Moonshine #17, I can safely say that I’m officially done with this book. Wrapping up the third arc of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s series, this is gorgeously illustrated, as always, but goddamn if Azzarello isn’t just sleep-walking through his career at this point. Protagonist Lou Pirlo finally completes a pretty major transformation here that’s been a long time in coming, but the scripting is so listless and lazy that you won’t care, and the entire supporting cast — which should, by rights, be pretty compelling for guys like me who are intrigued with voodoo — is something less than a collection of one-dimensional ciphers at this point. They leave the issue on a cryptic note that suggests they might just be finished here, but that’s honestly of no concern to me either way, because I already know that I am. A book that’s been trending downward creatively almost from the beginning has finally hit rock bottom.

Lastly, “over” at Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint, we’ve got Stealth #1, the first “starring turn” for a character Kirkman and Marc Silvestri created some 10-15 years ago (if not more, for all I know). I had a fair amount of fun with this one, digging as I did the Detroit setting and the vaguely “blaxploitation” vibe that served Saladin Ahmed and Sami Kivela’s Abbott (which was also set in Detroit) so well, but it’s the switcheroo that writer Mike Costa pulls off in relation to his ultra-violent vigilante’s secret identity that really won me over and opens the story up to an exploration of the same kind of questions that any number of punch-drunk fighters have found themselves facing toward the end of their careers, and artist Nae Bellegarde does a solid, workmanlike job that doesn’t bowl you over with its style, but impresses you in terms of its visual storytelling fundamentals. This one’s slated to run six issues, and I’ll likely be around for the duration.

And that’s this past week in comics — specifically Image Comics — in a nutshell. I’l l’ll be back in seven days to see what some other publishers are up to, but until then please consider supporting my ongoing work by subscribing to my Patreon, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Money well spent, I promise. Here’s your link : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 10/13/2019 – 10/19/2019

We have three first issues and one last issue to go over this week and so, in the spirit of taking last things first —

A mercy killing that arrives three issues too late, Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.’s Superman : Year One #3 exits the world the same way it came in — with no clear idea of its reason for being and no coherent plan to at least fool us into thinking it has one. Miller’s script changes narrators frequently but tone never, Romita’s art is up and down and seriously down when it’s down (a splash near the end of this one features arguably the worst Wonder Woman illustration I’ve ever seen in my life), and precisely why this non-canonical revisionist take on Superman’s origin even exists is, at this point, anyone’s guess. It doesn’t count for anything, it only plays around with surface-level details of the story as already known, and just before it ends it shoehorns in a Cliffs Notes version of Zack Snyder’s Batman V. Superman and some creepy narration about Lex Luthor wanting to tame and break Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman wanting Superman to tame and break her. It also doesn’t “end” so much as simply stop, with Supes headed off to take on Brainiac — which means we’re probably, and depressingly, looking at the strong possibility of a sequel to this mess somewhere down the line. Remember when DC was marketing this new Black Label line as some sort of “prestige” imprint? News flash : that was a lie. And so is the title of this comic, because it covers roughly the first 20+ years of Superman’s life. Who at DC editorial thought that any of this sounded like a good idea?

Maybe it was Dan DiDio, because revisionism for no reason seems to be his stock in trade, as evidenced by Metal Men #1, the first of a 12-part series that would probably, and justifiably, have been laughed out the room when it was “pitched” if the “pitcher” weren’t, ya know, the boss. Yeah, okay, I’ll grant you that Shane Davis’ art is the most lifeless and generic New 52-era holdover stuff imaginable, but the script is the real villain when it comes to offending your sensibilities here : Will Magnus is a fraud, his Metal Men have all been killed dozens of times and he’s got a bunch of spares handy, they’re not actually sentient and are rather derived from templates based on his own personality — and we get a double-cringe out of that already-cringeworthy premise because, hey, Magnus is romantically involved with Platinum, the “female” member of the group. Go fuck yourself, indeed.

Shifting gears over to Marvel, this week saw the release of the highly-anticipated X-Men #1, following on from the revolutionary (no exaggeration) events of House Of X and Powers Of X, the highly-regarded interconnected miniseries that propelled Charles Xavier’s team back to the top of the sales charts for the first time in a couple of decades. My big question coming out of those comics was : with all mutants now on the same side and living in a paradise of their own making, who were the villains gonna be? But fear not, mastermind author Johnathan Hickman begins to answer that question here while continuing to flesh out the society of Krakoa, which he’s obviously thought through right down the smallest detail. There’s a lot of talk about “world-building” in comics these days, and Hickman’s putting on a veritable fucking clinic on how to do it here, while Leinil Francis Yu provides more distinctive and eye-catching art than we got in either of the lead-in titles to this. About the only thing that could kill the X-momentum at this point would be for Marvel to overplay their hand — and so, in customary fashion, that’s exactly what they’re doing, cranking out something like six or seven interconnected books every month, each most likely bearing a $4.99 cover price for their first issues. I’m really digging what Hickman and co. are doing, but can I even afford to stick around to follow it all?

Last but not least (because we started with the last and the least right outta the gate), we’ve got Charles Forsman’s Revenger Halloween Special #1 from Floating World Comics. This comic is in no way necessary in the larger scheme of all things Revenger-related, but it is a fun, brutal little one-shot that sees our heroine start off by rescuing a kid and end up by killing off a vampire, so if what you thought this de facto franchise had been missing up until now was a dose of the supernatural, this book should make you really happy. For my own part, I had a good time with it even if it’s obviously disposable stuff, but I think I enjoyed Matt Harrison’s snappy little backup strip even more. Forsman gets a lot more credit for being an innovator than he deserves, but when he’s just cutting loose and having fun following established genre tropes, the results can be pretty damn entertaining, as they are here.

And that’ll do it, apart from reminding you all that this column is “brought to you” every week by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Do a jobbing freelancer a solid and check it out at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse