Something New, Something Different: FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!


So I got these funnybooks here, and I thought I might, like, review ‘em or somethin’. You know. For a change of pace…

Stray Bullets: Killers 2, by David Lapham

Lapham Killers 2

I was a bit surprised this issue to see the series return to Virginia Applejack so soon. I mean, she’s been a constant presence in the book, even when she wasn’t its main character, so I don’t know why I was surprised. But I was. I guess I expected Killers to focus more on the series’ recurring cast of, well… killers. And Ginny isn’t one of them. Yet. I don’t think. Hmm. Actually, she does say this issue that she spent some time hanging out with The Finger after we last saw her. And that might have been some kind of mill-town version of The Professional, I guess….

(And if it’s ever up to a vote as to whether Lapham tells us that story… Count me in for a great big freaking “YES.”)

Anyway. Where was I? Ah! Yes! Ginny. This issue finds her in late 1986, seeking shelter with her aunt and uncle. Their marriage has been damaged by madness and depression following the death of their son, and Ginny tries to help fix things. But Ginny’s obviously been pretty badly damaged herself, maybe even moreso than before. So things get twisty. There’s teenage decadence, a nice guy with a fake foot, and the ugly truths hiding behind the suburban facade. In other words… Everything that makes Stray Bullets great.

5 Star

 

 

Moon Knight 2, by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey

Shalvey Moon Knight 2

I like this new Moon Knight book. I like it pretty good. Declan Shalvey draws right pretty, and does so in a style you don’t often see on the super heroes.

And, much like his run on Secret Avengers from a few years back (They’re secret! On the moon!), Warren Ellis is writing each issue as something of an exercise in storytelling. The first issue, for instance, was a procedural detective sort of thing, with a protagonist who’s clearly insane. This time, he cribs the storytelling device of Ray Fawkes’ One Soul to follow the lives of 8 people who are, one by one, being picked off by a sniper.

It’s a great device, put to good (if far less affecting) use here. If you haven’t read One Soul, I won’t spoil anything for you. It’s that cool a technique. But if you have… It does feel a little bit like someone ripping off The Seventh Seal for the pre-credits sequence of a James Bond film. But Ellis keeps things smart enough that I don’t mind so much. Continue reading

I Back Jack!


Alright, so now I’m gonna be That Guy for a little bit…

New Captain America movie came out last weekend. I hear it’s good. A very faithful, well-executed adaptation of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Winter Soldier. Which, hey, good. I like that funnybook. Glad they didn’t fuck it up. I hope everyone enjoyed it. But I won’t be seeing it.

Why? Because every time I think about seeing it, I remember how badly Marvel Comics screwed over Captain America’s co-creator, Jack Kirby. And how far out of their way they went to do it. And for how long (close to 20 years, if I’m counting correctly). I’ve gone into the history of how Marvel hosed their greatest creative talent before, so I won’t repeat the full list of offenses tonight (though you can read it here, if you’re interested – just scroll down past all the Alan Moore stuff). This week in particular, though, the Captain America deal does bear repeating.

Kirby Captain America 109

Cap was created in 1941 by Kirby and his Golden Age creative partner Joe Simon, and published by Timely/Atlas Comics, the company that would go on to become Marvel. In the late 1960s, Simon cut a deal to sell Cap to Marvel (because they didn’t actually own the character, it seems, in spite of an assumption that they did). Kirby, as co-creator, was to be paid the same amount as Simon. Pretty simple.

Except that Marvel didn’t want to pay Kirby. So they worked a contract loophole to pay him not the same amount they paid Simon, but the amount Simon received after legal fees. Which is bad enough all by itself. But then they didn’t even pay him that. Kirby waited for two years, occasionally calling up his deadbeat publisher to ask them where his money was, and always getting the runaround. Then, finally, they contacted him and said that they would pay up… if he agreed to sign over all rights to every other character he had ever co-created while working for the company.

Kirby Captain America

Why did they want that? Well, it seems that the work-for-hire contracts he’d been working under since his late-50s return to Marvel might not have been administered as well as they should have been, and it was possible that Kirby could loophole some rights out of their clerical oversights. They understandably wanted to close those holes up, so they essentially held Kirby’s Cap money hostage.

Now, at this point, he should have sued their asses. They had refused payment on a legally binding contract for two years, then came to him demanding the rights to dozens more characters, all for the same amount of money they’d already agreed to pay for one (an amount they had, let’s not forget, already reduced through slimy legal tactics). He should have refused to sign, taken them to court, and pursued those other rights they were so afraid of him getting.

Kirby Cap vs Batroc

But he didn’t do that. Instead, he signed and took the money. Why? God only knows. Kirby was a notoriously bad businessman, but this seems beyond the pale. Some think that it may have come down to his lifelong fear of not being able to provide for his family. He grew up poor in the Great Depression, and saw hard times again when the comics market collapsed in the mid-Fifties. He never wanted to be in that position again, so it may have seemed better to swallow his pride and take the deal, no matter how much of a slap in the face it might have been.

And that’s my real problem here: Marvel slapped Jack Kirby in the face, and kept right on doing it pretty much up until the man’s death. They could have conducted business in good faith, but they chose not to. And so now, forty years later, I’m choosing not to give them the price of a movie ticket.

Kirby Movie Set

Don’t get me wrong, now. I’ll still buy some funnybooks from them now and again. I don’t feel as bad when we’re just talking about the publishing side of things. That’s what the initial contracts Kirby signed were for, and even if I might think they were exploitative… Well… Let’s face it: there’s just not that much money in comics publishing. I mean, there’s enough. It can be pretty lucrative for the major houses. But it’s little enough money that I can look at it as just some guys trying to make a living. Ultimately, super hero comics appeal to a small market, mostly made up of people who at least know who Jack Kirby is, and maybe even respect his contributions to the medium they love.

But movies, now… Movies are another thing entirely. Movies make boatloads of money. Their audience is a mass audience, mostly made up of people who’ve never heard of Jack Kirby, and don’t give a shit if they ever do. Mistreated but respected in a niche market, I can handle. But mistreated and forgotten? When his characters are more famous than they’ve ever been? And the bastards getting fat off it are NOT Jack Kirby? No. No, fuck that action.

The last Marvel movie I saw was the first Iron Man, and not only will I never pay to see another one, I won’t even watch the fucking things for free. I understand that many of these films are well-done. I understand that, as a funnybook dork, I might very well be greatly entertained by them. But I don’t care. There’s a lot of entertaining movies out there. So many that I already don’t have time to watch everything I want to. So why should I waste time on something whose very existence makes me angry?

Now, please understand. This is a personal thing. I’m not begrudging anyone their enjoyment of Winter Soldier. I know the source material is excellent, so if the movie does even a decent job of adaptation, it should be good stuff. So by all means, enjoy it if you like, and don’t feel bad about it. But I won’t be joining you.

Alright. End of rant. Y’know, it’s funny. I wasn’t even planning on mentioning Winter Soldier tonight. I was just going to quietly do a gallery of Kirby original art, focused on technique. But then… One too many people just assumed that I’d seen the movie, or that I was going to see the movie, or that I was going to really really like the movie, and… Gah! I needed to blow off a little steam. And maybe educate somebody in the process. So thanks for reading that. Catharsis is good.

Surfing, Sex, and Miracle Men: FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!!


Last week was a good week for great funnybooks, so let’s just jump right on in…

Miracleman 4, by Alan Moore, Alan Davis, and Garry Leach

Davis Miracleman 4

At this point, I have to admit that I’m enjoying reading the monthly reprints of this book so much that I may have to stick with it, in spite of what I still consider to be an inflated price for a bloated comic. Ah well. So much for saving some money and waiting for the inevitable hardcover…

We start “Book Two” of Miracleman here, and Moore’s growth as a writer continues apace. The Don-MacGregor-esque narration is gone completely at this point, replaced by a new interest in character voice. We get sequences narrated by Sir Dennis Archer, head of the Spookshow. We get a page of internal monologue from Liz Moran, pregnant and working late and worried about her missing husband. And, most controversially it seems, we get a sequence narrated by the assassin Evelyn Cream:

(Note the censorship in the final panel.)

(click to embiggen, and note the censorship in the final panel.)

Now, Cream is kind of a problematic figure to begin with. He’s introduced at a point when the story is transitioning from something that still somewhat resembles a traditional super hero punch-em-up to something with larger concerns. In the former, he works as a colorful villain. In the latter, he becomes a reborn religious supplicant. The transformation is bizarre, coming out of nowhere as a, frankly, less than believable solution to a cliffhanger. I mean, yes. It’s interesting how much like a voodoo loa the Miracleman transformation is. But asking me to believe that this particular character was raised in the voodoo tradition… I dunno. Of course, I suppose that’s the point. A real super-human would seem so godlike that even civilized men might be reduced to primitivism by his presence.

If that’s the point, though (and I think it is)… Is it really so bad to have him refer to himself as a “crazy nigger” in a moment of self-mocking doubt? It’s an ugly word, a racial slur that I agree wholeheartedly should be set aside. But I don’t think it’s good to bury it, either. In this case, for instance, it speaks to Cream’s self-image, his feeling that he’s “practically white.” It gives Cream a depth and vulnerability he would otherwise be completely lacking in, and censoring the word takes the bite out of that revelation. It’s meant to be shocking, and should be shocking, so I’d say… Let it be shocking.

But, hey. I’m a middle-class white boy. I’m not so sure my opinion matters on this issue. So let’s move on to things I’m better-qualified to discuss.

This issue also brings us the first definite split between Mike Moran and Miracleman. Mike was having trouble dealing with how differently Miracleman thinks last issue, and this time out we’ve got Miracleman pointedly correcting Cream when he calls him “Mr. Moran.” Moore, thankfully, leaves the motivation for this open to interpretation. Is this Mike’s doubts carrying over to the god? Or is it the god suddenly feeling vulnerable because his human body is too easy to kill? Either way, there’s a sort of amused arrogance to Miracleman in his dealings with Cream, and an eerie calm in the way he deals with the conventional military assaults he faces on the approach to Project Zarathustra. This is, of course, the series’ central theme. Moore’s been exploring it all along, and will continue to explore it until the bitter end. It’s just nice to see how patient he was getting there.

This issue also reprints the last of the Alan Moore Warpsmith stories, an epilogue to the first. It’s weird and contemplative, a look into the Warpsmiths’ culture that foreshadows their influence over the later chapters of Miracleman proper. There’s an alien poetry to the writing that showcases Moore’s growth, and I’m glad they included it. Especially considering that the story never ran in Warrior. It was meant to, but never did, eventually seeing print in Leach’s A1 anthology. I had sort of assumed that Marvel wouldn’t bother getting the rights to it, and the fact that they did impresses me. They really are shooting for the Complete Miracleman here, and that’s nice to see.

Grade: A

 

Sandman: Overture 2, by Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III

This book was somewhat famously delayed by a couple-three months, but it would be churlish to fault it for that. Because, yeah, it’s that good. Maybe not quite as good as the first. Gaiman has Dream accompanied on his quest by the cat version of himself, in a scene that smacks of the kind of cute shit that mars his work from time to time. But overall it’s marvelous. A nice scene set in the present-day with the new Dream surprises, the pages of the old Dream meeting with his multiple selves from across the vast universe are entertaining but thankfully restrained, and of course JH Williams turns in an absolutely stunning job on the art:

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

High-class funnybooks here, vying quite closely with Miracleman for book of the week.

Grade: A

 

Mind MGMT 20, by Matt Kindt

Another contender for book of the week. Unlike the first two, though, it’s not a return to past glories. No, Mind MGMT is about as NOW a funnybook as you can get. It’s an exciting adventure story told in an unconventional manner. It’s a character study, an exploration of human consciousness, and a pulp spy narrative all wrapped up together under some of the most unique artwork in comics:

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

That’s as good a super-team picture as you could hope for right there. Kindt’s base style is realism. His people not only look like people, they look like average people, the kind of people you see every day. But he can also bring it on the freaks and the exotics, and as time goes on his figures are becoming more and more dynamic, adding a Kirbyesque grandeur to the proceedings. Combined with his growing penchant for leaving the gutters exposed and letting the color get rough at the edges, he’s delivering some of the most remarkable pages in comics today.

So, yes. Comics of the now. Kindt is forging his legend here, and he’s doing it in stories that are as inventive and fascinating as the early work of the two men we’ve already discussed here tonight, but that come from an entirely different aesthetic. This is the real deal, folks. If there’s any justice in the world, one day we’ll be talking about the influence of Matt Kindt on the comics that came after him. We should be so lucky.

Grade: A

Continue reading

The Seedy World of Rafael Grampa, Part Two


So, back a couple of years ago, I did a post on the art of Rafael Grampa, and I labeled it “Part One.” Then, as sometimes happens around here, I never got around to the follow-up. Kinda forgot about it, even though that folder full of Grampa art was still waiting patiently in the Dork Forty folder on my desktop. Then, I was looking at my blog stats over the weekend, and I noticed something:

The number of you sick bastards who’ve found this site through the search term “Gimli Porn” is appalling. Almost as appalling as the joke I made about it.

But that’s not the only thing I noticed. No, I also noticed that my original Grampa post is now the most-viewed article on the site. Well, damn. Now I feel like a putz for spending all that time analyzing Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. I could have just tossed up some pretty pictures, and had done with it. Ah, well. Consider that LESSON LEARNED.

Grampa - Strange Tales

click to embiggen

 

That’s Grampa’s cover for the issue of Strange Tales he contributed to, and it’s chock-full of his usual hyper-detailed variations on the traditional super-suits. So we’ve got a weird deformed Hulk, and Thor with a wrestling belt, knee-high Chuck Taylors, and a lightning bolt tattoo. Pretty sweet. I’m just surprised his Captain America and Spider-Man are so on-model.

Grampa Spider-Man

(Granted, he does do nice things with Spidey just by following Ditko’s original design.)

 

But it’s Grampa’s Wolverine that’s the fascination if you’re talking Strange Tales. On the cover, he offers up one of the better designs I’ve ever seen for that weird-ass mask of his. I like that he brought back the “whiskers” from John Romita’s original design, but made them look totally bad-ass, and the eyes are pretty awesome, too. Then you’ve got the short sleeves, the very practical elbow pads, the even-more-practical arm tape, the big trucker belt buckle (nice touch), and… NO PANTS!

Man. I don’t know why briefs on a hairy dude are so damn funny, but… There ya go.

The Wolverine story behind that cover is also kinda funny, playing as it does on Grampa’s love for over-the-top tough guys and sleazy biker-bar aesthetics. The premise is that Wolverine’s set up a sort of Fight Club for his fellow unkillable super-bastards, one part bloodsport, one part professional wrestling. And that’s as hysterical an idea as you might expect, coming from the guy who drew the cover above. But the jokes stop there, because the story’s actually a nasty bit of masochist noir, narrated through a letter from Our Hero’s most recent girlfriend. I don’t usually excerpt stories in large chunks, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Click to embiggen each page below, and read “Dear Logan.”

SO many nice things to say about that story. As I discussed, oh so long ago, Grampa is phenomenal at sequential art, melding traditions from Europe, Japan, and America with his own sensibilities. You get action, drama, cinematics, even some fine art stuff with the crowd shot on the bottom of the fourth page up there. It’s just too much to go into detail on, but I will point out a couple of personal favorite moments. I really love that moment on the second page, when we transition from Sophie in the crowd to her memory of the bedroom, the way her forlorn eyes in the now overlap her wide, crazy eyes in the memory. There’s also the sheer number of weapons sticking out of Logan at various points, and the fact that the announcers are a fat guy and a robot. But it’s all so good. The speed blurs, the composition, the fight choreography, the sound effects… I particularly like the way that font on Wolverine’s bedroom laughter makes it look brittle, like bones.

Then, of course, there’s the story itself to consider. Very few Wolverine writers have handled the character’s healing factor to its best potential (which is to say, kicking the crap out of him at every available opportunity). But even fewer have dealt with his relationship to pain in any real way. In fact, I think Grampa may be the only one. Now, I can understand that. Masochism isn’t really the sort of thing you deal with in your average piece of super hero fiction. But Strange Tales offered the chance to explore these corporate-owned characters in ways not usually possible, and Grampa delivered on that, in spades. The idea that he’d crave the thrill of the pain makes all kinds of sense for the character, to the point that this story has become canon in my head. This is what he does when he takes his little trips away from the X-Men. This is the catharsis he seeks from playing the hero, and the mentor to young mutant girls. I mean, I know I’d need to let off some steam if I was hanging out with Jubilee all the damn time…

Anyway. So far, we’ve focused on Grampa’s work-for-hire stuff. It’s what’s put him on most readers’ radar, after all, and he’s doing the kinds of things with those characters that I wish was more the rule than the exception. But he does have his own book out there, too, and it’s a real tour-de-force.

Grampa Mesmo Delivery Cover

Mesmo Delivery is about all the things you would expect from Rafael Grampa: tough guys, ugly people, stylish graphics, horrible violence… Yep, it’s the whole Grampa aesthetic in one awesome package. It’s a story about two truck drivers, delivering a mysterious cargo and getting into trouble on the road. They get into an altercation with a couple of other tough guys at a truck stop, and it swiftly gets out of hand:

Grampa - Mesmo Splat

There’s nothing I don’t love about that panel. The cartoony poses, the sleazy women, the dynamic action, that one dude’s giant hand… And then, of course, the absolute bloody horrorshow of that punch. He was aiming for Big-Hand there, of course, who ducked it, heedless of the woman who’d just jumped on his back. And, my god, it looks like he’s killed her. And as if the momentum of it, the head snapping back and the gout of blood, wasn’t enough, Grampa’s also given us a great double sound effect there: the BOOM of the impact overlaid with the wet SPLAT of her face exploding. Horrible violence, beautifully drawn. You can’t ask for much more out of this sort of ugly pulp concoction.

The fight continues, and doesn’t go well for Our (nominal) Hero, which brings his laconic partner into the fray. And that brings us to another great Grampa action sequence, starting with this rather profane image of the hapless truck stop crown when he makes his presence known:

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

And continuing into a two-page sequence I’m just going to show you rather than trying to explain (click to embiggen the fun):

Now, that “into the mouth” beheading slow pan is pure demented genius, the sort of Grand Guignol inventiveness that elevates Mesmo Delivery above the crowd. But, as in “Dear Logan,” all this stylish sleaze and gore (sleazegore!) does have a point. I’m not going to tell you what that point is, mind you. But it’s got something to do one of my favorite images from the book (which I’ve cropped to make it as UN-SPOILERY as possible):

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

I’ve been waiting for Grampa’s second book for a few years now. It’s called Furry Water, and as yet there’s nothing but a few promo images:

I have no idea what it’s going to be about, but when and if it appears, I’ll be buying it. I’ve heard nothing about it in quite some time now, but I’m assuming that Grampa’s still working on it between cover work like this variant for Brian Wood’s The Massive that makes that book look a lot more exciting than it actually is…

Grampa Massive

…and this fine bit of Burlesque Grotesque from The Unexpected:

Grampa - Unexpected

He’s also recently done a short film for Absolut Vodka, called “Dark Noir.” The story’s kinda cheesy, but the look of the thing has all of Grampa’s trademarks about it:

So there you go! The Seedy World of Rafael Grampa, Part Two! Only two or three years late! Hope you enjoyed it.

STRAY BULLETS, MUTHA– Ahem. Stray Bullets: A Fine Comics Reading Experience


Stray Bullets Über Alles Edition
Stray Bullets 41
Stray Bullets: Killers 1
by David Lapham

So as my… rather enthusiastic… early review of the above books may have indicated, I’m pretty damn excited about the return of Stray Bullets. But it wasn’t until Sunday morning that my level of enthusiasm really sank in.

I got up, took a shower, pulled on a t-shirt, and then realized that I needed a weather forecast to finish dressing for the day. So I fired up my computer to check on that. The Über Alles was sitting there on the desk, so I started flipping through it while the computer booted up. I noticed a detail from about halfway through that I’d forgotten, and that lead me to skim a bit to remember a name, and that lead me to skim some more because the story was so good, and that lead me to flip back to see if I remembered an earlier story correctly in light of what I’d just read, and the change in how that made me view the overall series blew my mind sufficiently that I jumped ahead to check the date on a later story, and that date lead me to check another date, and that lead to the realization that something I thought I’d understood actually happened earlier than I thought it did, and that lead me to skim-read the entire last story arc, and then…

Then I looked up from the book to realize that three hours had passed, and I was still sitting there in front of my computer without any pants on. THIS is the power of great funnybooks.

What makes Stray Bullets so great? Primarily, it’s that the book works on two or three different levels at once. On the surface, it’s a transgressive crime comic in which something outrageous or wrong happens almost every issue.

But it differentiates itself from the crime fiction pack by wringing its drama out of small towns and average people.

(Dork, indeed.)

(Dork, indeed.)

And it stands out from the transgressive likes of Crossed or Lapham’s own Dan the Unharmable with complex, strongly-written characters.

(Yes, even this guy.)

(Yes, even this guy.)

And to top it all off, it’s a fine example of take-no-prisoners storytelling. While it’s easily understandable on a single read, you’ve got to pay attention to get the most out of it.

(Okay, this isn't technically from the comic, but it sums up so many of its themes so well that I can't not share.)

(Okay, this isn’t technically from the comic, but it sums up so many of its themes so well that I can’t not share.)

Let’s start from the top, there: Stray Bullets the transgressive crime comic. This is the glamour, the sizzle, the thing that catches the eye of the prospective reader, and Lapham’s been trading in it since issue one, of which this is the final panel:

Lapham Stray Bullets 1 End

Now, I’m not going to tell you what happens to put all those bodies in that trunk. And backseat. And on the ground outside the car. But, man, is it ever ugly. And funny, in the way that completely horrifying things often are. The really important things to take away from this issue, for our purposes here tonight, are thus: It’s set in 1997 (which was the future when the story was published in 1994). And it stars Joey, an inexperienced young criminal bag-man who seems to be something of a simpleton. Joey’s fixated on a girl named Janice, and that leads to trouble. Lots of trouble. Trunk-full-of-bodies trouble. The violence starts small and escalates, and the more bodies that pile up, the funnier (and more horrifying) it gets.

I remember reading that issue when it came out, and walking away thinking that comics had birthed its own Quentin Tarantino. That’s a comparison I still think is pretty accurate. Like Tarantino, Lapham uses genre and outbursts of horrible violence as a hook to grab your attention while he tells you a story that’s really about character and theme. He also has a penchant for neat storytelling tricks, and occasionally plays around with knocking time out of joint.

That’s evident from issue two, which moves the action back to 1977, and introduces us to the series’ central character Virginia Applejack (more about her later).

Lapham Stray Bullets 2

Things move forward from there, with the odd stop to jump back out of sequence a year or more for the purpose of filling in a gap. And periodic visits with the mysterious Amy Racecar, who exists outside of time (but, again, more about her later).

Lapham Amy Racecar

Continue reading

STRAY BULLETS ÜBER ALLES!!!


STRAY BULLETS IS BACK, MUTHAFUCKAS!!!!!!

Ahem.

I’m sorry. I… I don’t know what came over me, but–

Lapham Stray Bullets 41

EIGHT YEARS!! EIGHT FUCKING YEARS I WAITED FOR THIS BOOK! AND IT’S HERE! HERE NOW! TWO ISSUES IN ONE DAY AND IT’S BEAUTIFUL, MAN, BEAUTIFUL! LIKE… SOME FUCKIN’… REMBRANDT SHAKESPEARE SHIT, MAN! I– I– HOLY FUCKING SHIT IT’S BACK!

IT’S BAAAAAAAAAAAACCKK!

Oh! Oh, dear. Again, I’m terribly sorry. I- I really have been waiting eight years to read issue 41 of this comic, to see David Lapham finish the story of young Virginia Applejack’s kidnapping by her psychotic schoolmates, and I suppose my excitement’s gotten the best of me. But I didn’t realize it would… overtake me so. I–

Lapham Stray Bullets Killers 1

HOLY SHIT SPANISH SCOTT! SPANISH SCOTT! ALL NEW STRAY BULLETS STARRING SPANISH FUCKING SCOTT! BACK TO THE BEGINNING, MAN! BACK TO THE BEGINNING! AW, IT’S SO GOOD! SO FUCKING GOOD!

SOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOOOOD!

Whoa. Okay, now. Hold it together… Hold it together…

Yes, not only did Lapham publish the long-awaited conclusion to the final Stray Bullets story arc today, he also launched Stray Bullets: Killers, the first issue in a new storyline launching exactly 19 years after the original series did in 1993. I started reading the series then, and–

WAIT! HAS ANYBODY OUT THERE NOT READ STRAY BULLETS?! OOOHHHH, DUDE! IT’S, LIKE, THE BEST CRIME COMIC EVER! IT’S ABOUT HOW CRIME AFFECTS THE LIVES OF THE PEOPLE WHO SEE IT HAPPEN! IT’S PERVERTED AND WEIRD AND REAL AND–

HERE! READ THIS!

Stray Bullets Uber Alles

Whoosh! Ahm…

Yes. Yes, you should read Stray Bullets if you haven’t. Pictured above is the new Stray Bullets Über Alles

(HEH. UMLAUT.)

…an omnibus edition which collects all 41 issues of the original series (including the new one just published today). At 60 dollars, it’s a little steep. But it’s also probably easier (and, I would guess, cheaper) than tracking down the individual issues, or the long-out-of-print trades. And some of the sting is taken out of that price tag when you realize that it’s 1194 pages long. Which is something else neat: the original series used continuous page numbering. So opening up issue 41 today and seeing the first page numbered 1079 brought back some nice memories.

And, in case you’re wondering, I did buy the Über Alles today, too. Which, yes, means that I bought issue 41 twice in one day, before I’d even read it.

BUT YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, MAN! THIS IS STRAY BULLETS! STRAY BULLETS, MUTHAFUCKA! I KNEW IT WAS GONNA BE GOOD BEFORE I EVEN OPENED THE COVER! BEFORE I PAID FOR IT! BEFORE I EVEN… WALKED INTO THE FUCKIN’ FUNNYBOOK STORE, MAN! BECAUSE… BECAUSE…

BECAUSE STRAY BULLETS!!!!!

Alright, that’s it! I had intended to write an intelligent, in-depth review of one of my favorite comics of all time, but obviously my enthusiasm at its return is too great for that. It’ll have to wait until I’ve calmed down a bit.

BUT YOU AIN’T GONNA CALM DOWN, MAN! YOU AIN’T GONNA CALM DOWN BECAUSE THIS BOOK IS THAT FUCKIN’ GOOD! YOU KNOW WHAT GRADE ISSUE 41 GETS? A FUCKIN’ A, MAN! AND YOU KNOW WHAT GRADE THE FIRST ISSUE OF KILLERS GETS? ANOTHER FUCKIN’ A! AND ÜBER ALLES? ÜBER ALLES, WITH ITS… MASSIVENESS AND… AWESOMENESS AND… AND… AND ITS FUCKIN’ UMLAUT, MAN? THAT GETS AN A, TOO! THEY ALL GET AN A! BECAUSE THEY ROCK! THEY FUCKIN’ ROCK!

STRAY BULLETS FTW!!!!!!!!!

Indeed. Stray Bullets. Fuck the world.

Thank you, and good night.

Something Old, Something New… And a Pleasing Return to Form


The Comics of February, in convenient capsule form!

FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!!

Moon Knight 1, by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey

Moon Knight is a character who hasn’t been served well in a long time, which is a shame. He’s got a great costume and an even better gimmick: he’s a highly-trained martial artist and ace detective who suffers from multiple personality disorder.

Essentially, he’s Crazy Batman, and that’s exactly how Warren Ellis is writing him in this new series. The first issue sees him riding around town in his computer-driven white stretch limo with the moon logo on the grill, out to investigate a serial killing in his stylin’ white suit and full face mask.

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

That’s quite a change from the classic costume I was just raving about, but holy crap how can I complain about it? I mean, just LOOK at that! It’s a costume that simultaneously looks cool AND makes him seem even crazier. This is the look for his “Mr. Knight, Consulting Detective” identity, the face he uses when working with New York police detective Flint, who plays along because he needs the help. And glimpses of future issues show the classic cowl, so that’ll be around as well. But I’ll take all of that suit I can get.

The villain for this first issue is, honestly, a little lame. Great concept (former SHIELD cyborg agent gone rogue, picking off fitness nuts for body parts to replace his own missing ones), but he’s there and gone so fast that he doesn’t get much chance to shine. The focus here is on Moon Knight himself, and that is thankfully so crazily compelling that I can forgive a less than stellar bad guy.

So! Crazy, funny, idiosyncratic street-level spandex comics! With nice art! This is a thing I could do with more of!

Grade: B+

Veil 1, by Greg Rucka and Toni Fejzula

Fejzula Veil 1

I’ll give any new Greg Rucka comic at least one issue. Sometimes that pays off big (like with Lazarus), sometimes I’m left less enthused (like with Stumptown). With Veil… It’s hard to say just yet. There’s not much to this first issue: our heroine awakens naked in what appears to be an abandoned subway terminal, alone except for a herd of rats. She’s obviously addled, speaking in a nonsense stream of rhyming words, and wanders out in the street, where (being nekkid) she attracts unwanted attention. Then something horrorshow happens, and we’re out.

So… Intriguing, but a little thin. And while I appreciate the unusual style of Toni Fejzula’s artwork, it also doesn’t do a whole lot for me. Will I buy another issue? Hmmm. At a price of three-fifty, it’s hard to say. If it cost four, I definitely wouldn’t be back. If it cost three, I’d probably give it another go. So, hmmm. I guess we’ll find out next month…

Grade: B

Miracleman 3, by Alan Moore and Garry Leach

Yes, yes. I KNOW I spilled quite a few words on this book last week. But I forgot to mention the reason I bought it in the first place: they reprinted the Warpsmith stories! This was a short two-part companion strip that also ran in Warrior, starring characters who would later have major supporting roles in Miracleman itself. It wasn’t published as part of Miracleman in the series’ first American printing, and I’ve never gotten to read it. I’ve been curious about it ever since, though, so this was quite a thrill.

How is it? Pretty good, actually. Moore tosses in some alien slang that’s slightly ridiculous, but it’s crafted well enough that the dialogue is understandable from context, so I can only fault him so much on that front. But Garry Leach’s art is beautiful and strange…

click to embiggen its Ditkoesque glory!

click to embiggen its Ditkoesque glory!

…and I like the weird paranoia hanging over events. Moore’s exploring alien minds and alien morality in the story as well, and that’s interesting to see. But it’s the ending that sells it for me. I’m not going to spoil it, but that’s where the alien nature of the Warpsmiths really hits home. It’s short, punchy science fiction writing that’s like a more well-considered version of Moore’s Future Shocks or Tales of the Green Lantern Corps. It’s not perfect, but I dug it quite a bit.

Grade: B+

Starlight 1, by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov

Jupiter’s Legacy 4, by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely

Mark Millar’s not the hack popular funnybook fan opinion would have him out to be. He’s most definitely written some hacky stuff. Nemesis comes to mind, as does Superior, and the later installments of Kick-Ass. But sometimes I think that stuff’s as much a big middle finger to his critics as it is a sensationalistic cash-grab. He’s capable of better, and every once in a while he proves it. Last week, he proved it twice.

Parlov Starlight 1

The buzz book is Starlight, and the attention it’s getting is well-deserved. It’s the story of a Flash Gordon style space hero in his twilight years, and Millar skillfully bounces back and forth between his hero’s glorious past and the crushing depression of his wife’s funeral. It’s simple, stylish, effective storytelling that strikes right at the heart while still being devoid of the angsty over-emoting that mars the work of so many mainstream funnybook writers who don’t get labeled as hacks (well, other than by me, it seems). Combined with the classic cartooning of Goran Parlov, Millar’s work here makes Starlight a must-read. Grade: A

Quitely Jupiter's Legacy 4

Getting less attention, but almost as impressive to me, is the long-awaited fourth issue of Jupiter’s Legacy. This one’s a generational super hero story that delves into Millar’s familiar fascination with super-celebrity in relation to the morality of the genre, and goes deeper into the super hero’s political ramifications than I’ve ever seen him go before. In some ways, it’s the promise of The Authority brought to fruition. In others, it’s Wanted in a wrestling match with All-Star Superman. But all the way round, it’s the natural extension of the themes Millar explored at the turn of the century. It’s like he’s continuing the intelligent discussion he was having with us funnybook lifers about spandex fiction, after a decade-long interruption. He’s in top form, aided and abetted by one of the best artists in the business, and it’s good to have him back.

Grade: A-

What else, what else? Just the usual suspects, I suppose… Continue reading