Weekly Reading Round-Up : 01/19/2020 – 01/25/2020

Just when you thought you’d probably seen the last of this column — anyway, it’s not that I’ve been missing my usual Wednesday comic shop pick-ups, it’s more a case of nothing standing out all that much. Which, in fairness, is also the case with a couple of the books this week, but I wanted to get “back in the saddle” with doing these Round-Ups every seven days, so now’s as good a time as ever, right? We’ve got one first issue and three last issues to look at this week, although it turns out that two of those last issues are actually anything but, which we’ll deal with in due course —

Guardians Of The Galaxy #1 marks yet another re-launch of Marvel’s premier cosmic super-team, this time courtesy of mega-popular Immortal Hulk scribe Al Ewing and artist Juann Cabal. This one referred back to events of the previous volume so frequently that I was frankly a little lost, not having read that run myself, and the team’s makeshift lineup seems more than a bit different, as it essentially amounts to Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, and last-second conscripts such as Nova and Moondragon, but the premise is pretty nifty : the Greek Gods are really aliens from another dimension and they’re popping in and out of ours in order to abscond with the energy needed to power theirs and, ya know, cause general havoc and such, but in all honesty this is a pretty discombobulated way to try to bring new readers into the fold — which may not be the point of first issues anymore, anyway, for all I know. Cabal’s art is fairly standard super-hero stuff, but he does serve up a rather inventive double-page spread or two, so points for that. All in all, though, I gotta say that there’s not a tremendous amount here that compels me to come back for the second issue. I’ve got a tremendous amount of faith in Ewing, but I think I’ll kick back and maybe come back to this one in trade if I hear enough positive word-of-mouth in the coming months. Now, let’s shift gears from the alphas to the omegas —

American Gods : The Moment Of The Storm #9 marks the conclusion of Dark Horse’s three inter-connected series adapting Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel, and while writer P. Craig Russell and artist Scott Hampton have done a fine job with this long-term assignment, this issue feels more like an extended epilogue, the story proper having more or less wrapped up last month. Still, there’s one final situation for the luckless Shadow to face, and it’s nice to get one more frisson of tension before everyone goes on to their final reward. I’m kinda gonna miss this book — it’s been a constant, reliable, steady companion for a few years, after all — but I didn’t get overwhelmed by any particular pangs of premature separation anxiety as I read it or anything. All told, then, a low-key ending that’s faithful AF to it’s “source material,” but comes off as being a little — anti-climactic, maybe?

Once & Future #6 feels like a really solid and satisfying wrap-up to Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora’s revisionist Arthurian adventure yarn from Boom! Studios — and truth be told it is — but appearances can be deceiving. After some breakneck action, some last-minute unforced exposition, and some well-executed tying up of various plot threads — as well as page after page of killer art — a double-page “end credits roll” gives way to an unexpected “post-credit sequence” that sets things up very nicely for a sequel. Which, of course, I’ll pick up, because this series has been a hell of a lot of fun, but it stands well enough on its own, too, minus that little after-the-buzzer cliffhanger. So, hey, if you wish, you can blow that off and walk away from this one feeling as though Gillen and Mora have delivered a clever, topical, stand-alone story. Which they have, it’s just that more is on the way — and in this case, that’s a good thing.

Second Coming #6 actually hit LCS shelves last week courtesy of Ahoy Comics, but my shop got shorted on it, so I’m a little late to the party having just gotten a copy this Wednesday — and, again, this isn’t really then end of the road, it just marks the finale to the first “season” of Mark Russell, Richard Pace, and Leonard Kirk’s Jesus-and-analogue-Superman “buddy book.” It’s a bit of a curious beast — Jesus and the devil face off one more time, complete with absolutely unexpected (and unexpectedly truncated) resolution, while our cape n’ tights vigilante and his wife get served the biggest surprise of their lives. The former is a genuine surprise in its tone and execution, the latter — not so much, really. Some of the overly-obvious takes on Christ’s teachings have seemed kinda heavy-handed to me throughout the course of this series, and don’t ask me where the hell the supposed “controversy” surrounding the whole thing even comes from, but Russell’s satire has been uniformly sharp, and both Pace and Kirk have done a bang-up job illustrating their respective sections of the book, so — what the hell, I’m down for more. And the extended preview of Russell and Steve Pugh’s  Billionaire Island at the back does more than enough to convince me that one’ll probably worth my time and money, as well, since a little bit of class-conscious commentary almost always livens up genre storytelling in my estimation.

Okay, the old saddle’s feeling pretty comfortable, so I’m ready to speed up from a trot to a gallop. Let’s do this again next week, shall we? Until then, it’s reminder time : this column is “brought to you” 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 me a solid and check it out by directing your kind attention to : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 04/14/2019 – 04/20/2019

Believe it or not, we’ve only got two first issue this time out, so we’ll start with those, and then delve into the other stuff —

Mary Shelley : Monster Hunter #1 hit LCS shelves this past Wednesday courtesy of the writing team of Adam Glass and Olivia Cuartero-Briggs Briggs and line artist/colorist Hayden Sherman. I suppose the conceptual and artistic triumph that was Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ Providence was impetus enough for other creators to give the “famous writer who knew what they were talking about all too well” premise a whirl, and while I won’t pretend for a second this is anywhere close to being in that class, it was a fun and well-paced introduction to a world where — well, the title proves to be literally true. The story didn’t blow me away or anything, but the esteemed Mrs. Shelley comes off as being strong, likable, and more than competent, and Sherman’s art and colors are as well-suited to these period atmospherics as they are to the sci-fi vistas of Wasted Space. I had the same reaction to this as I’ve had to any number of other Aftershock series, which essentially boils down to “can’t say I’m committed to it for the duration, but I’m game to give at least a couple more issues.” In a pinch, I suppose, that’ll do.

American Gods : The Moment Of The Storm #1 is a debut issue in name only, as any publisher other than Dark Horse would probably just keep the numbering going and label this as precisely what it is : the start of a new — and, as it turns out, the last — “story arc” in this particular series. We’re at the point now where the chess pieces are being moved into place for the big final meeting/confrontation between the various largely-dormant gods that’s been building for some time, so if you’ve been digging P. Craig Russell and Scott Hampton’s very literal adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy this installment, as well. Kind of an ugly cover from Glenn Fabry and Adam Brown this time around, but that particular “art crime” is more than made up for by the fact that Russell handles the layouts in here as well, of course, as the script, giving the proceedings a very fluid feel. And I still really dig Hampton’s art. I’ve come this far, so rest assured, I’ll be sticking with it to the end.

Gideon Falls #12 is, in fact, the “proper” beginning of a new “arc” in Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s vaguely Lynch-ian horror series from Image, and frankly this is starting to have a feel of finality about it, as well. Sorrentino’s endlessly inventive art is always a marvel to behold, and ditto for Dave Stewart’s amazing colors, but if Lemire isn’t ramping things up toward some sort of climax here, I’ll actually be kind of disappointed, seeing as how everything seems to be coalescing/dove-tailing in terms of the two formerly-separate plot threads now becoming one. I’m not in a huge hurry to put this book in the rear-view mirror or anything — it’s been, and remains, quite good — but it’s hard to see where things would be headed if, in fact, they were to go on for much longer. I’m more than willing to be pleasantly surprised, though — and this comic usually manages to do precisely that.

Port Of Earth #9 is likewise the kick-off point for a new “arc,” and this series from Image/Top Cow had been sidelined for so long that I was beginning to wonder if it was ever coming back. Writer Zack Kaplan seems to be alternating between this and his other sci-fi book, Eclipse, and the same is true for artist Andrea Mutti vis a vis this and Infinite Dark, and what the hell — the de facto “rotation” works for all of ’em. The premise of alien/human relations becoming strained over Earth setting up a landing port for various intergalactic travelers and traders who then proceed to bust every rule in sight feels new again by dint of its absence — even if the TV segments that Kaplan over-relies on are starting to seem anything but — and characters and events have “moved on” in directions that make logical sense. Mutti’s stylish and “loose” art continues to get stronger and stronger, as well, which is indeed high praise as it was pretty goddamn good to start with, and Jordan Boyd’s color work is always serviceable, if well shy of spectacular. Glad to have this one back.

And that was the week that was, so now the only remaining order of business is to remind you all that this column is, as always, “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. There’s a whole lot of stuff posted up there already, so you’re sure to get good value for your money, and needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support. Please take a moment to check it out and consider joining up by hopping on over to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

 

Four Color Apocalypse 2018 Year In Review : Top Ten Vintage Collections

Another day, another year end “Top 10” list! This time around we look at my favorite collected editions of vintage material published in the past year, “vintage” in this case being work originally produced prior to the year 2000. Eurocomics and Manga are both eligible here, as well, as long as they first saw print prior to all our computers failing, the electrical grid going dark, the food supply collapsing, and civilization falling apart on December 31st, 1999. Remember those crazy times?

10. Brat Pack By Rick Veitch (IDW) – Arguably the last great work of super-hero revisionism prior to Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Black Hammer, Veitch’s bleak and unforgiving look at the teen sidekicks of Slumburg is as shocking, ugly, and mean-spirited as ever — not to mention gorgeously illustrated. IDW pulled out all the stops with this one, loading it up with “behind-the-scenes” bonus material that all crusty aficionados of this rank, but spot-on, unpleasantness will surely find illuminating and engrossing. I still feel like I need to take a shower after reading this book to get the stain off — and yes, I mean that as a compliment.

9. Death Stand And Other Stories (The EC Artists’ Library Vol. 22) By Jack Davis And Harvey Kurtzman (Fantagraphics) – The harrowing reality of combat stress has arguably never been rendered in comics with more authenticity than in these classic EC strips illustrated by Davis and (largely) written by Kurtzman. Even people who think they probably don’t like war comics owe it to themselves to give this collection a shot and see what they’ve been missing out on all these years.

8. New Gods By Jack Kirby (DC) – This one probably deserves to be ranked higher purely on its merits, as many of the very best of Kirby’s Fourth World stories are in here, but considering that all of it was included in last year’s Fourth World Omnibus, this really just represents an essential purchase for absolute completists, or anyone who took a pass on the omnibus for budgetary or storage space (hey, it really is a beast!) reasons. Some of the finest comics ever made by anyone are found on these pages, though, so it earns a spot on the list even though it comes hot on the heels of a larger, more comprehensive collection.

7. Jim Osborne : The Black Prince Of The Underground Edited By Patrick Rosenkranz (Fantagraphics Underground) – Far and away the most disturbing book on this list, Osborne was probably the most grotesque and unsavory of the “first wave” of underground cartoonists — as well as one of the most talented, producing work so rich in detail and meticulous in its execution that it still literally boggles the mind. Editor Rosenkranz deserves tremendous credit for collecting all of this less-than-prolific artist’s work between two covers, and Dennis Dread’s detailed biographical sketch of Osborne’s troubled life is a terrific piece of comics scholarship. Not for all tastes and sensibilities to be sure — but if your “wiring” is as off-kilter as mine, this is an essential purchase.

6. Corto Maltese : The Golden House Of Samarkand By Hugo Pratt (IDW/Euro Comics) – One of Pratt’s finest and most ambitious Corto stories finally gets the deluxe treatment that has been lavished on the character’s previous adventures. If you’re a fan, that’s cause for celebration, and if you’re not — well, now’s the perfect time to become one! European genre comics simply don’t get any better than this.

5. best of witzend Edited By Bill Pearson And J. Michael Catron (Fantagraphics) – Anyone who couldn’t fork over the cash for the complete witzend slipcase collection a few years back will be overjoyed to find this well-curated collection of the finest strips to appear in Wally Wood’s legendary “pro-‘zine,” as editors Pearson and Catron present groundbreaking cartooning from artists that truly “run the gamut,” including Bernie Wrightson, Reed Crandall, Gray Morrow, Howard Chaykin, Walter Simonson, Jim Steranko, P. Craig Russell, Art Spiegelman, Steve Ditko, Vaughn Bode — and, of course, Wood himself. A superb selection that will leave your head spinning and that, crucially, “ports over” the exhaustive historical essay work presented in the earlier, larger publication.

4. Master Race And Other Stories (The EC Artists’ Library Vol. 21) By Bernard Krigstein (Fantagraphics) – The premier visual innovator in comics history, Krigstein’s astonishing work finally gets a truly deluxe presentation in this painstakingly-restored collection. The scope and grandeur of Krigstein’s imagination still positively boggles the mind, and its fruits have never looked better than they do in this sumptuous volume.

3. Love That Bunch By Aline Kominsky-Crumb (Drawn+Quarterly) – Okay, yeah, some of the material in this comprehensive retrospective came along after the year 2000, but the vast majority predates it, and it would be absolutely criminal not to find a list to include this on. I’ve always preferred Aline’s work to that of her more-famous husband, and these largely-autobiographical strips will probably go some way toward winning over even the most understandably reactionary fans who reflexively eschew anything with the “Crumb” name attached to it. I’m not here to judge how and why she can survive a marriage to one of the most talented-but-unsavory people in comics, only to state that her own work stands on its own merits and communicates a positive, empowering message in endearingly neurotic and self-deprecating fashion. I do, indeed, love that — meh, too obvious, right? Just buy the book, you’ll never regret it.

2. Kamandi Omnibus By Jack Kirby (DC) – Finally! The amazing adventures of the last boy on earth get the “omnibus treatment,” and the result — while hefty both physically and financially — is nothing less than magic. One of Kirby’s absolute best comics ever, this is also one of the most imaginative, rip-roaring, and just plain fun works in the entire history of the medium. Nothing short of comic book perfection.

1. Dirty Plotte : The Complete Julie Doucet By Julie Doucet (Drawn+Quarterly) – Pioneering feminist auteur Doucet finally gets her due with this beautiful, two-volume hardcover slipcase collection that features all of her work from her legendary Dirty Plotte series, as well as a good chunk of material that was published before and since, a wide-ranging interview with the artist, and essays of appreciation from top cartooning talents. This was one of the formative works of the 1990s that helped blaze a trail for any number of women cartoonists, and is every bit as powerful, authentic, idiosyncratic, and funny now as it ever was. Doucet is, simply put, one of the most outstanding talents to ever draw breath. Here’s all the evidence would could possibly need to buttress that assertion.

And that’s four lists down, with two yet to come! Next up : the top 10 “special mentions” of the year, an eclectic category of “comics-adjacent” work that includes no actual comics per se, but narrative works (illustrated or otherwise) either by cartoonists, or about comics. It’ll make much more sense when I post it (probably tomorrow), I promise!