Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jeff Lemire's THE NOBODY

Let's hope Jeff Lemire doesn't sink into the same cesspool that David Lapham is apparently wallowing in. Both are writer/artists, both come from true indie publishing backgrounds, and both worked primarily in black and white. And both, sadly, made the jump to DC's Vertigo line.
To say that Lapham's post-Stray Bullets (his indie title) work has been a letdown would be like saying the Hindenburg was a letdown. Let's face it: his major publisher work has been terrible. This is Lemire's first work for Vertigo, and instead of a monthly series, he's started off with a standalone graphic novel. The NOBODY is pretty much a modern day retelling of the H.G. Wells classic, "The Invisible Man." Certain changes from the original have been made, such as the setting now being a small rural town in the midwest, the main character (Griffen) is nowhere near as big of a dick as he was in the novel, and (spoiler alert!) it ends differently. At least, I think it does. I read the Wells' original quite a few years ago, now.
Thankfully, all in all, this is a pretty good book. Lemire's previous works, the Essex Country books and Lost Dogs, have all been a bit melancholic and slow-paced, to say the least. Not to say that they weren't good; I'm a big fan of his indie stuff, and this new title is at least as good, if not waaaaay better. It's much more fast-paced, and has somewhat of a 'big budget' vibe to it. Which is not to detract from the quality of the work itself; none of these changes come at the expense of his talents.
Lemire's next series for DC is coming out soon. In fact, it may already be out. It's about some kid with antlers or some shit like that. So far, he's batting a thousand, so I have high hopes for the new book (whose name escapes me). Unfortunately, I didn't order it because I figured I'd just wait for the trades. Most people probably feel the same way, and the book might die a slow death on the vine. Let's hope not.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday Comics!

Alright, I just got my stack of comics on Monday, and they were all books released during July. Therefore, I've only read the first two issues of DC's new anthology, Wednesday Comics. Think of it this way: you're living in my future, if you've read the title consistently, week by week. Fear not; I'll get there soon, time soldier!
Getting back to point, Wednesday Comics is a great title. As many individuals on my "trust list" will verify, I am a long-time fan of old school newspaper comics. The giant, oversized (by today's standards), colorful "broadsheets" are wonderful works of art of a bygone era. This latest DC project really does manage to bring back some of that vibe, at least as anyone who's still alive today can verify.
The opening, cover-title character (and it really does hit you, how large this sheet is. A true wonder to behold), of course, is Batman. And the team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are a great combo for the front cover, incidentally. They manage to get the two essential elements of a vintage strip: a consistent, bewildering art style, and a compelling, tension-building plot. They manage to knock it out of the park from the very first chapter.
Dave Gibbons is usually a bit of a dullard in my book. Sure, he was good on Watchmen, and his style, though not to my tastes, does have its merits. Overall, I just don't care for his stuff. Especially not if, as in this case, he's not the artist... but the writer.
Ye Gods, throw in the mix that it's Kamandi, which probably stands as one of my all-time favorite Kirby creations. But somehow, despite all of this, he manages to pull it off. Gibbons, along with stellar artist (nay, 'illustrator') Ryan Sook, stands as a convincing Hal Foster/"Prince Valiant" homage.
Sadly, some others fail to reach such heights. In fact, it seems like many aren't even trying. The shitty Green Lantern story seems like it's just "page 1" of any GL comic, and the Wonder Woman image was such a clusterfuck that I couldn't even tell what the Hell was going on.
Lots of other drek was contained, but there were also several more gems. The Kyle Baker Hawkman tail (heh) is psychotic, and much darker than anything he's done in recent years. I guess "Nat Turner" was pretty bleak, but wasn't it inspiring, too? I never got to the end of it. Nevertheless, even his artwork here is much different. He's doing a more realistic style, and seems to be relying less on computers. Or, knowing Baker, he just figured out how to do a 'more realistic style' on a computer. Either way is fine with me; everything Baker does is always top-notch.
On a more humorous note, the second installment of the Superman page was a real pisser. It was about, basically, Superman meeting Batman on a rooftop so he could vent a little. Maybe he was hoping Batman could console him in some way; who knows. Anyway, it ends with ol' Supes looking especially dejecting, flying away, whining out "waah, why would I ever think I could talk to you about my problems!" Or, legally speaking, something to that extent.
One area of high-concern for average citizens is the price. At four bucks a pop, that adds up to about $16 a month. Is that worth your almighty entertainment dollar? I would have to say, sadly, 'no.' Throw in the online discount available at several comic book distributers, and you can suddenly start talking turkey. It sure as sugar was worth about $8.43, tax-free! Viva la Newspaperancci!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Millar/Hitch on/off Fantastic Four

I haven't been paying attention; has anyone made a stink about how terrible the Millar and Hitch "Fantastic Four" run was? Christ Almighty, the only thing I even remember from it is that I dreadfully wanted to forget reading it. When I received my month's fix of funnybooks yesterday, I couldn't help but notice (especially since I always double-check the box's contents against the invoice. You'd be surprised how often these so-called 'mistakes' occur. You really would), much to my surprise, that there was not one... but two issues of the Millar/Hitch FF. Even better, they were the two final issues of the "Doctor Doom" story, which had proved to be the best of their run. Overall, this series has been a string of boring, monotonous scenes of the characters in their private lives. Hey, I'm all for characterization, but this shit ain't Hamlet! Even he knew when to die.
Only, it really wasn't two new issues of the Millar/Hitch FF. Because the two creators didn't even bother to show up. For chapters three and four, Millar is merely credited as "story," with someone else doing script. At least he phoned it in; Hitch didn't even show up for the final issue, and barely contributed content to chapter three.
You know, when Marvel announced this 'historic' team working on this historic title, it was all secrecy and "whoop-dee-doo" fanfare once it was finally revealed. What a shitty thing to do. These creators could have at least honored their commitment to a twelve issue storyline. If you're announcing twelve issues, deliver twelve. Don't move on to other things.
It might sound ironic that I'm complaining about not getting more of something I hated, but allow me to explain. As bad as the comic has been, even multiplied by ten or twelve, would still not reek as rancidly as the trash they delivered in place of the aforementioned creative team.
Now, before anyone raises the old "can you do any better" flag, heed these words: No, I doubt I could make a better Fantastic Four comic. Of course I can't. But I'm not expecting anyone to pay me to do it, either.

Monday, August 3, 2009

IDW's Darwyn Cooke's Richard's Stark's PARKER

Holy Shit. I just read this graphic novel, in one sitting, earlier this afternoon. I usually never use that fancy term, 'graphic novel,' but this case seems somewhat appropriate. In the hands of Cooke, this adaptation of a 60's crime novel transfers mediums seamlessly. The extended opening segment (and a good deal of interior content) is wordless, while other segments are what appear to be straight-up illustrations accompanying the original text. A third approach, naturally, comes in traditional comic format.

What an amazing work. I've never read the early 60's novel it was based on, but I'm thankful as fuck that IDW and Cooke will be furthering their adaptations of the series. Seriously; this was a great comic. I highly suggest you get a copy and read it. And the printing is beautiful.... don't rely on some shitty online scanned-in version. Get the real deal. Fans of grit, early-60's 'men-tality,' and the crime genre in general will all find something of merit within these covers.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Comic of the Year!

Well, that title might still go to the last Acme volume, but a close runner up has got to be Weapon Brown: Blockhead's War #1. It's by Jason Yungbluth, and the Comic Book Haters dedicated an indie video spotlight episode to the previous issue, Weapon Brown. 
The first issue introduced the basic concept: Charlie Brown and the gang re-envisioned as post-apocalyptic, Mad Max meets Terminator surface dwellers. It was bleak, it was sick, and it was fun. Although the characters were doing horrible, horrible things and committing horrible, horrible acts, it never felt like it was sacrilegious towards the original Schulz creations. 
While the first Weapon Brown was a solid read, bordering on awesome, this latest offering goes above and beyond. It delves beyond the Peanuts pantheon, an introduces permutations of various other strip characters. Most predominately featured are the gang from Beetle Bailey, who do battle with Ol' Charlie from their uber-violet tank. 
Peppered throughout are lots of other cameos, including an extremely disturbing depiction of Alley Oop. It's the "Top Ten" of newspaper strips, but oddly enough the majority of them are of mainstream characters from the last thirty years or so. Come to think of it, there are a lot of older characters represented (including a McKay, Segar, and the aforementioned Hamlin). 
The best parts about it, though, are not the homages. The story itself is a solid, 1980's vibe, dark sci-fi story. But it's over the top. The closest thing I can compare it to is the early 1990's DC comic, "Lobo's Paramilitary Christmas Special." When that came out, it blew me away. Kieth Giffen really pushed the limits of a mainstream comic of the times, and Simon Bisley was the perfect madman to see it through. This comic has that same gut-punch feel to it; it really shocks you while instilling the urge to cheer. 
It's awesome. Yungbluth is an incredible cartoonist, and he really knows how to work the medium. The characters are consistent, the pacing is impeccable, and the facial expressions are exactly what they should be. The fact that it's a dead-on satire as well is just awesome fucking icing on an awesome fucking cake. What a great comic!

PS Please, if you're just going to leave a comment saying "Fuck you Sloofus, how dare you actually enjoy a comic this much? You are an asshole!," just fuck yourself instead. Capice?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Marvel Zombies 3 4

What the fuck is it with Marvel Zombies? What is it that makes it so goddamn compelling? Is it the fact that the concept is built around two iconic creations (or, at least 'interpretations'), both germinating in the 1960s? Could it be the raw power of Sean Phillips' artwork (on the previous series)? Or is it just the fact that seeing a Jack Kirby creation rip into the jugular of another and start feasting is just too fucking cool?
Whatever it is, it works. I really enjoyed the very first Marvel Zombies series, but by the most recent output I had become a little waned. Who can blame me; how much Marvel Zombie can one man take? When I found myself flipping through an issue of Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness, a title which doesn't even seem to make grammatical sense, I knew I was in too deep. I had to get out.
Enter DCBS and their damned 75% off sales. Certain titles are featured, usually a first issue. Marvel Zombies volume 3, written by Fred van Lente (of the excellent Comic Book Comics series) and some new penciller were taking over. I was prepared to hope it got me through at least one crap; anything more than that was icing on the shitcake.
Well, it turns out I loved it. What a great fucking series! I daresay, it may be the best of the lot. Nah... the first series is still the best, but this one was fucking great. Well worth checking into when it comes out in collected form, and I hear a fourth one is already solicited. Keep 'em coming! Until they get boring....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vertigo Shmertigo

I defy they nature, Gods, and speak unto thee: Has Vertigo ever published a great comic book? Not counting comics that were republished (or reprinted) under their banner, that is. For example, "Vertigo" republished Alan Moore's seminal run on Swamp Thing, both as individual issues and collections. Midway through Neil Gaiman's popularized Sandman series, the Vertigo label came into being. 
As a branch of DC, it quickly became known as a spotlight for various British creators, most of whom emphasized surreal, metaphysical, and symbolic elements in lieu of plot, characterization, and enjoyability. Later on, it became known as a spotlight for American creators who tried to mimic that exact formula, without ever understanding it (or, without understanding that there's nothing to understand about it). Now, who knows what the fuck they are publishing. I have to admit that I have not read the majority of Vertigo's output, but I defy anyone to provide an example of a "Great" Vertigo comic. Just as a forewarning: I am already convinced that Transmetropolitan (which technically isn't even a Vertigo title), Preacher, Starman, Y the Last Man, and just about any other 'major' work is anything from detestable to enjoyable, but never 'Great.'  I welcome your comments. Just send along an email.