Sexy God Tales: FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!


New week! New funnybooks! New blatherings! Let’s go there now, shall we?

The Wicked and the Divine 1, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

The thing I like best about the work of Gillen and McKelvie is the way it pushes the envelope of mainstream funnybook storytelling, while never being anything less than 100% accessible for a general audience. That was true of Phonogram (especially the brilliant second volume, Singles Club), and it was even true of Young Avengers (maybe the only “teen hero” comic ever that actually captured what it feels like to be part of a youth movement). Both those books told their stories in sometimes wildly inventive ways, while never losing sight of an audience of readers who don’t have a lifetime of funnybook reading under their belts. And it looks like The Wicked and the Divine is set to follow suit:

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

That’s just the cover, of course, but I like its willingness to play with text and image. It promises something with a grand design sense, and the insides of the book deliver. There’s a circle diagram thing that echoes the work of Jonathan Hickman (a rare example of this team copying rather than innovating), some stuff with numbers, and a nice pop-art style use of Benday dots when something happens that steps outside of reality, and into the realm of funnybook super powers.

(No, I’m not going to tell you what that thing is! The book just came out yesterday, and– What? Oh, come on! You can’t possibly– Oh, alright fine. You don’t have to get abusive about it. A guy’s head explodes, okay? A guy’s head explodes in a riot of garish color and funnybook dots. There! Are you satisfied now? Geez…)

They don’t go overboard with the technical pyrotechnics here, though, and that’s probably wise. This first issue’s got a lot of heavy lifting to do in regards to the story, and so too much play with the storytelling tools might confuse matters.

What? What’s the book about? Oh. Well, it’s set in a world that’s pretty much our world, except that, once a century, 12 gods are incarnated in human form. They inspire and guide and offer ecstatic religious experiences…

embiggen the ecstasy

embiggen the ecstasy!

…and then, two years later, they die. But in the meantime (in their current 21st-Century incarnations, anyway), they live like pop stars, with all the money and fame and groupies that entails. This first issue is told from the perspective of one of those groupies, a young woman named Laura, who seems all about Amaterasu at the beginning, but who gets awfully chummy with Lucifer later in the issue. Laura’s a great “point-of-view” character. Or at least, I guess she is. I normally hate point-of-view characters with a passion undying. But Laura’s okay, so I figure she must be great. She feels real, anyway, like nearly all Gillen/McKelvie characters, and that’s enough to carry her.

And that’s all I’m giving you on this book. It’s a fine start to an intriguing premise, with mystery and comedy and an honest to god cliffhanger ending that makes me wanna come back for more. They say this one’s a proper on-going series, in fact, so I’ve got the feeling that I’ll be coming back for a LOT more as the months wear on.

Grade: A-

Sex Criminals 6, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

So with this issue, I realize that Sex Criminals is really, to some extent, a metaphor for love.

(I realize this because Jon all but tells me that in his narration. But, still. REVELATION!)

So if the first five issues were all about the mad, crazy, pulsating rush of New Love, then the story starting with this issue seems to be all about coming down from that, realizing that, holy shit, you love someone, and figuring out how to work that into your daily routine. For Jon, that means dealing with his shit: he’s a little bit crazy, and and he needs to get right for Suzie. That means going back on his meds, and offers the opportunity for some entertaining discussion of the pros and cons of anti-depressants. On the one hand, they leave Jon feeling like this:

embiggen the no-dick!

embiggen the no-dick!

But on the other, they keep him from descending into situations like this:

(He does not, at this point, have the CancerAIDS.)

(He does not, at this point, have the CancerAIDS.)

As with everything else this book has dealt with from day one, it’s funny and touching and real, but with just enough sardonic wit to keep the whole thing from reading like a fucking Afterschool Special. So, high marks.

Oh, yeah. There’s also some more stuff with the Sex Police, and Kegel-Face, and all that. Just in case you worried that the book was going to stop being about people with magic orgasms just because Our Heroes were settling down into a normal relationship…

Grade: A

 

Thor, God of Thunder 22 & 23, by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

God, this book is dumb.

God, this book is awesome.

God.

God-DAMN, even.

(If you’ll pardon the blasphemy.)

I was gonna say more, but… really… This is a book that gives you troll-punching, environmentalism, pointlessly evil corporations… and ALL-BLACK the NECRO-THOR!

embiggen the awesomeness!

embiggen the awesomeness!

And that pretty much says it all.

Grade: B+

 

Fatale 23, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Only one more issue to go, and my favorite Brubaker/Phillips collaboration to date will be over. I’ll miss it like hell. But in the meantime…

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

As the cover sort of implies, this issue, Fatale goes COSMIC. And it does so through an issue-long psychic sex act that would put Carlos Castaneda to shame. It’s an act of astonishing intimacy, Josephine using her deliciously ill-defined abilities to not just show Nicolas who she is, but to allow him to experience her life first-hand. He literally becomes her at various key points in her life, points that we previously haven’t seen: the moment she became what she is, and her disastrous attempt to raise a son. That second one’s a real missing puzzle piece slotting into place. It explains a lot about the life we’ve seen her living as we’ve touched base with her over the decades, a life of seclusion that I had just chalked up to her not wanting to deal with the unwanted attentions of men. But, oooh man. It’s so much more than that.

The first one’s the really exciting one for me, though, touching as it does on the high weirdness at the series’ core. And, since the image of that I wanna share with you is a bit NSFW (and SPOILERY besides)… I think I’ll just tuck it safely away after the jump… Continue reading

More Comics You Should Totally Be Reading: FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!


Elektra 1, by W Haden Blackman and Michael Del Mundo

Del Mundo Elektra 1

(click to embiggen every stroke and splatter)

Marvel’s very pointed answer to the recent Batwoman kerfuffle, pairing JH Williams’ writing partner on that book with an artist whose work has a similarly heightened reality to it, and whose layouts ebb and flow across the page in much the way that Williams’ do. He’s not as good at it, mind you. But I kind of feel bad saying that. Because Michael Del Mundo is a fine artist in his own right, and I do like the results.

(click to embiggen)

(click to embiggen)

So, yeah. I’m just gonna drop the comparisons (inevitable as they may be) to Williams, and judge Del Mundo on his own merits. He’s good. That’s a nice flowing spread that draws your eye across the page smoothly without the use of traditional panel borders. That’s not easy to pull off (I assume it’s not, anyway, or else I’m sure we’d see more of them). Look at the depth he’s worked in there, too. The reflections in the far back are really impressive. And though you don’t really see it above, there’s a cartooniness underlying his figures that I like a lot. It’s appealing, and it fits the story well. Speaking of which…

Blackman’s script is what I was really interested in when I bought this book. I always wondered how much of Batwoman was his, and how much was Williams’, and I figured this might be a chance to figure that out. Of course, as it turns out, I still don’t know. Elektra is a far less serious book than Batwoman ever was. That works to its advantage, though; good as it was, Batwoman sometimes felt a bit too po-faced, especially when Williams’ art wasn’t lending the proceedings visual depth.

But here, Blackman’s touch is far lighter. He seems, in part, to be drawing inspiration from Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz’s infamous Elektra: Assassin, a broad farce of a comic that’s probably not considered to be as much of a classic as it should. Not that this book’s as… extreme as that one. Not quite.

(click to embiggen)

(click to embiggen)

I mean, sure. It’s got a character who absorbs your memories and skills by eating you. And that’s pretty batshit. So, you know: it’s hardly a Brubaker-style (Brubakian?) exercise in spandex realism. Granted, the immortal flapper who brokers assassinations and speaks in century-old slang borders on “too cute for its own good.” But Blackman pulls back before he plunges over the edge into that particular dork fiction abyss, so it’s okay.

And that, I suppose, sums the book up as well as anything could: a bit awkward in places, but the good outweighs the bad. I doubt I’ll ever re-read it, but it’s fun while it lasts. It would be tailor-made for me to read digitally, in fact, if it weren’t for the art. Because it’s awful pretty, and my tablet screen’s just not big enough to do justice to those two-page spreads.

3 Star

 

Thor 20 & 21, by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

Another book I’d be reading digital if it weren’t for the art. Because… Look. Jason Aaron’s turning in fun stuff here. He probably writes Thor himself better than anyone in the character’s history as a spandex hero. His Thor is equal parts nobility and bravado. He loves life and hates evil with equal passion. He’s impulsive when angered, and he doesn’t always think before he acts. And his adventures are, as the run develops, rollicking big things that pit him against schemers and brutes and impossible odds that seem calculated to break his warrior spirit. It’s like the Thor stories of myth, wrapped in the aesthetics of Lee and Kirby. It’s all great pop culture fun, and I’m enjoying it big-time.

But, again, one read of these books is enough. There’s not much to bring me back for another turn, so the physical comics just take up space in a life that, frankly, already has too much stuff cluttering it up. I should just wait for these comics to drop to a reasonable price digitally and read them in chunks. It’s how I’ve read Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men, and there’s not a single reason I shouldn’t do the same here. Except…

Ribic Thor 21

Except Esad Ribic. Because, damn. DAMN. This is a pretty book. SUCH a pretty book. And that keeps me picking it up in print. Because, again, my tablet’s just not big enough to do it justice. Good news for my funnybook dealer, bad news for my bank account.

3 Star

 

Mind MGMT 22, by Matt Kindt

Always one of the more innovative books on the market, Mind MGMT takes things a step further this month, with a variation on the classic “silent issue.” The most famous of these is probably Larry Hama’s early 80s GI Joe issue, in which the mute ninja Snake Eyes infiltrates a Cobra facility to rescue his girlfriend Scarlett. Not a word is spoken by anyone in that comic, and likewise not a word is spoken here as Meru and Lime step right into the trap set for them by the Eraser. It’s an opportunity for great, moody visual storytelling, and Kindt steps up to the plate on that front:

(click to embiggen)

(click to embiggen)

Of course, this being Mind MGMT, he also offers a twist. The silence of the story leads Kindt somewhere he’s never really been in this book before: inside his characters’ minds. Don’t get me wrong. Kindt’s very good at revealing character. I think I know the cast pretty well at this point. Well enough, at least, to know that any of them could be lying at any given moment. But since nobody’s talking in this issue, Kindt decides to dig into their heads in a very funnybook sort of way:

(yep. totally embiggenable.)

(yep. totally embiggenable.)

That’s right. For one issue only, Matt Kindt has brought back the thought balloon. Heh. For a book that’s so very much about our inability to truly understand and trust even our own minds, that’s a pretty radical concept.

Or at least, it could be. But Kindt leans on the technique a bit more than is necessary for exposition. I don’t mind it so much in the early going, when Duncan is analyzing the situation, the action, and the people around him. That’s how his ability to predict the immediate future works: he takes in all the angles and makes accurate predictions based on split-second observation. So getting into his head in a crisis is interesting. But as the issue goes on, there’s too much of it, too many coherent statements explaining the action from characters who don’t have Duncan’s unique ability. It strains belief.

It also exposes the reason the thought balloon was largely abandoned as a storytelling tool back in the 90s: nobody thinks that way. It’s less coherent statements than it is intuitive leaps and sudden ideas. Wordless base thoughts that we then turn into language to explain ourselves. Kindt does his best to reflect that by having the thoughts come out as phrases rather than complete sentences, but it’s not enough.

Of course, there are also a couple of instances of “word pictures” like the one above. That’s a split-second impression of what goes through Lime’s head when he tastes his own blood, and I wish there’d been more like it. There are genuinely revelatory moments, too, and those make up for a lot. The hatred that the Eraser’s hidden agents feel toward Lime and his group is shocking, for instance, and makes me wonder more than ever who, if anyone, I should be rooting for here.

So it doesn’t all work, but it’s not all bad either. In fact, I’d say the good outweighs the bad; just the fact that Kindt was willing to try something like this earns him big points with me. It’s a hum-dinger of a comic beyond the formal trickery, too, an action-packed thriller in a series that’s often glacially still. I know I’ve said this before, but Mind MGMT is state of the art funnybooks. If you ain’t reading it… You’re missing out.

4 Star

 

Powers Bureau 9, by Bendis and Oeming

Powers rolls on with an issue that… honestly… felt a little like a waste of time. A lot of the issue, and I mean A LOT of it, is taken up with a giant generic super-fight of a type that typically happens in funnybooks I don’t read. I mean, it’s all drawn by Mike Oeming, so it’s a well-rendered giant generic super-fight. But it’s still a giant generic super-fight. I’ve read my fair share of those, and I’m not particularly interested in reading very many more of them.

So when, in the middle of it, Dana Pilgrim says this…

(if you click, it will embiggen.)

(if you click, it will embiggen.)

…I’m right there with her. And when she’s admonished by the suspect who’s telling us the story of this giant generic super-fight for missing the point of the giant generic super-fight, I’m just as pissed off as she is. Because fuck that guy. And when she storms out of the room a few pages later, I damn near stormed out of the comic right along with her. Because, seriously… I’ve got better things to do with my time than read this shit.

I mean, I get it. I do. With this Rob Liefeld parody that opens the issue…

(ooohh, the embiggening to be had!)

(ooohh, the embiggening to be had!)

…it’s kind of hard not to. But, really. After that, I didn’t need page after page of fight scene telling me that Liefeld comics are simple-minded, morally-questionable pablum. I already knew that, and don’t care to learn the lesson again. I mean… If the fight had been shorter, I wouldn’t complain. Hell, if it had been funny, I might have even been down for it. But as it is…

I kinda wish I’d bailed with Pilgrim.

2 Star

 

 

Manhattan Projects 20, by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

This is one of those on-going series that’s hard to review on a regular basis. It’s really good. I enjoy every issue. But I enjoy them all for pretty much the same reasons, so over time I feel like a broken record. You can only write “gonzo alternate history sci-fi starring the greatest scientific minds of the 20th Century” so many times before you start to feel like you’ve got nothing new to say.

But that’s not entirely fair to a comic that really is one of my current favorites. I mean, it’s good. It’s so stinking good. Funny and wrong and kinda brilliant in its own demented way. This issue’s all about how Albert Einstein became an interdimensional barbarian after getting knocked in the head by his evil other-universe twin Albrecht. You should totally read it.

4 Star

 

 

Lazarus 8, by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Another book that’s just consistently good. You should totally read this one, too. But I do have a little more to say about it than that.

Rucka and Lark are dealing in this series with a near-future dystopia of a type that I often find tedious. It’s something of a post-apocalyptic take, with people struggling to eke a living out of an environment that seems made mostly of mud. The corporations that hold all the wealth and power run their territories like feudal serfdoms, creating an air of locked-down oppression sitting uneasily alongside banal lawlessness. It’s the sort of thing that normally bores me to tears.

So it’s something of a testament to Rucka and Lark’s skills as storytellers that I am, instead, fascinated. They’ve pulled that off, I think, by not being simplistic about it. They’ve developed the culture of the corporate Families as something more than a one-dimensional oppressor, and thus given their world a depth too often missing in these types of stories.

In other words, they’re not being dumbasses about it. And that makes all the difference.

4 Star

Dork Awards: The 25 Best Funnybooks of 2013, Part One


It was a good year to be a funnybook fan.

I mean, they all are. There’s always SOMEthing good coming out, even in bad years. But 2013 offered up an embarrassment of riches, with exciting new talent, continuing excellence from old masters, and a blitz of original projects from the cream of the big-time comics crop. There was so much good stuff, in fact, that it was tough paring it all down for our annual list of the year’s best funnybooks. We persevered, though, and settled on 25 titles that we thought deserved special notice.

With such a big list this year, we’ll be splitting it in two. The first half of this thing is already longer than the average interweb attention span, so we figured it was just basic survival tactics. And as always, remember: our list is just one dork’s opinion. I like what I like, and make no excuses for it. Some books will be conspicuous by their absence, and others will undoubtedly send someone into a snit over their very inclusion. But if you’re into left-of-center mainstream funnybooks, we think you’ll like our choices. And if you don’t… good! Everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

So, without further ado, here are the Dork Forty picks for the 25 best comics of 2013, starting with an…

Honorable Mention:

Thor: God of Thunder, by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

This book’s initial storyline, involving GORR, BUTCHER OF GODS!!!, was beautifully illustrated and so metal my mouth felt coppery after reading every issue.

Ribic Thor 11 KRAKOOM

It offered up a fascinating look at Thor’s personal development over the centuries by giving us not just the Thor we know, but also the loutish Young Thor and the grumpy Old Thor. It also felt particularly Norse, with both the bleak fatalism and broad humor of the Eddas. The arc went on a little too long, but the ride was good enough that it didn’t matter so much. It was everything I could want out of a Thor comic.

Then the second arc started, and it was obvious that Marvel wanted a story to tie in with this year’s Thor movie. The focus narrowed to just present-day Thor, Malekith the Accursed was trotted out as the villain, and things generally became stupider. The artwork suffered as Esad Ribic was traded out for Ron Garney (who’s fine, but not as good as Ribic), and Jason Aaron’s scripts started to feel like something he was just tossing together for the paycheck. It was quite a disappointment, and by the end of the year, I wasn’t reading the book any longer. I’ll go back when the Malekith arc is over, but as long as the story feels hijacked by corporate, it’s not worth my funnybook dollar. Nor does it earn a place in the Top 25.

But now, without further delay, let’s get to the countdown…

25. Pretty Deadly, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

One of several strong new series to emerge in the Fall, Pretty Deadly is the Western framed as myth. It’s about murder, revenge, and redemption. It’s about the daughter of Death, a blind man who can see, and a skeletal rabbit telling stories to a butterfly. It’s beautiful and violent and mysterious, and I couldn’t begin to explain all its secrets to you. But that’s the good thing about secrets: they keep you coming back for more.

24. Trillium

Jeff Lemire is maybe the most extreme example of the current breed of funnybook creators whose personal work I love, but whose corporate super hero writing I don’t waste my money on. Much as I found Lemire’s Green Arrow to be uninspired and derivative, for instance, I find Trillium to be fresh and unique. Ostensibly a time travel story about the future extinction of the human race, it’s also an alternate history comic about gender. And it’s as psychedelic as anything in all those old Jim Starlin comics I spent most of December going on about:

embiggen for extra ball-tripping!

embiggen for extra ball-tripping!

23. Shaolin Cowboy, by Geoff Darrow

Heh. A-heh-heh-heh. This book has always been more about letting Geoff Darrow draw whatever crazy-ass thing he feels like than it has about story. But that’s never been more clear than in the insanity on display here. Two full issues were spent on two page spreads of the title character slicing apart an army of zombies with two chainsaws lashed to the ends of an impossibly-long stick! That’s right! Two entire comics, filled with nothing but super widescreen panels of zombie-killing. And in all those panels with all those hundreds of zombies…

Darrow Shaolin Cowboy vs Zombies

…NO TWO OF THEM LOOKED THE SAME. That’s a beautiful thing, and well-worth a spot among the best.

22. Action Comics, by Grant Morrison and Various Artists

I will always look upon Grant Morrison’s Superman relaunch as a missed opportunity. He’s working with grand ideas and good material, crafting a First Chapter for the character to go alongside the classic Final Chapter that is his All-Star Superman. And as far as that goes, I think he succeeds.

Morrison’s Action Comics is a great set up. He firmly grounds Superman in the brown Kansas dirt, planting the seeds of the legend he will later become. He gives us an introduction to the ethics and enthusiasm that will make Superman into the greatest hero of all time. He shows us the beginnings of the friendships and conflicts that will define Our Hero’s fictional life, and promises a colorful flowering of mad adventure to come.

But he stops with the promise. We never get to see the mad adventure. I suppose the point is that we’ve already gotten it. That there are more than enough crazy-ass stories in the character’s 70-plus years of publication to fill in the gap.

But, man. MAN. Just as this Action Comics run was an attempt to re-tell Superman’s earliest adventures for a modern audience, now I want the same thing for all those stories in-between. I want a new Superman mythos defined by high imagination and craziness, and with Morrison gone from the series I’m not gonna get it. I’m not even gonna get decent follow-up on all the stuff he set up in this story whose entire purpose was to set things up for other writers to build upon.

Thus, the missed opportunity, and thus, the series’ relatively low ranking in the list.

21. Young Avengers, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

This book is like the best kind of hook-crazy pop single, the kind you can’t get out of your head, and don’t want to. It’s not deep, but it’s fun. And fun goes a long way. It’s a corporate spandex comic with a taste for narrative experimentation, but the storytelling is always crystal-clear and never less than utterly modern. It’s a teen hero comic with a penchant for representing its angst not as X-Men style pidgen-noir oppressiveness, but by turning Our Heroes’ parents and mentors into cheerfully creepy pawns of the series’ primary villain. It gave us one of the better romances of the year, and didn’t make a big deal out of the fact that it was between two gay characters. It’s glib and self-referential without being cute about it, and as effortlessly cool as a Beatles record. Or at least one from the Kinks.

20. Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman and JH Williams III

I hesitated including this one on the list, because only one issue appeared in 2013. And it’s so relatively low on the list because there was only that one issue. But it’s such a good comic, such an amazing art job from JH Williams, and such a great return for the Sandman series… That I would feel remiss not including it.

19. The Bunker, by Joshua Fialkov and Joe Infurnari

Near-future science fiction with an irresistible premise: five college friends find a bunker in the woods, filled with information from their future selves telling them that they will be responsible for the extinction of the human race. The series jumps between flashes of that future time, and Our Heroes’ reaction to revelations that break their friendship apart. The writing is sharp, and artist Joe Infurnari is turning in some very nice work that puts me in mind of Gene Colan:

Infurnari Burnker 5

In addition to being sharp comics in general, The Bunker is also indicative of a trend I think we’ll be seeing more of in the future: it debuted as a digital-only series, planned for eventual print collections. That’s a great way for lesser-known creators to get their work in front of an audience, and to make some money at it without the overhead involved in print publication. And in this case, it’s a plan that worked: Oni Press will be collecting the digital-only issues in February, with regular print editions planned thereafter. Check it out then, or hit Comixology for it now. Whatever your medium of choice… give it a shot. It’s not God’s gift to comics or anything, but it IS good enough to make the list.

The countdown continues… after the jump. Continue reading

Sci-Fi Rules the Funnybooks of August


So many funnybooks!

So little time!

CAPSULEREVIEWSAREGO!!!!

Infinity 1, by Jonathan Hickman, Jim Cheung, and Mark Morales

Cheung Infinity 1

(Fake cover is also go.)

Not entirely sure why I bought this. I generally find “event” comics to be a cancer on the body of the comics industry, creatively-compromised stories that are very seldom satisfying, and that usually just interrupt the flow of more interesting on-going series that I’m enjoying. I’m not even reading the Avengers series this one flows out of, finding the eight-dollar-a-month price tag too expensive for even a giant Jonathan Hickman epic. So why did I spend five bucks on this thing?

Probably because I’d just gotten the first three issues of Hickman’s Avengers for 99 cents apiece in a digital sale that charged me about what I think those books are worth. At that price, they were an enormously entertaining bit of spandex fluff with the sort of ridiculously weighty cosmic tone of Jack Kirby and Jim Starlin, and I was hungry for more. So congratulations, Marvel Comics marketing! Your brief flirtation with cheap-money comics got me to drop a five-spot on your next big bullshit event!

Will I spend more? Well… Infinity was pretty awesome, so I just might. I mean, I’m still not going to submit to the highway robbery that is the bi-weekly Avengers series. That would be insane. But I don’t need to. Hickman’s handily written this book so that you don’t really need all that expensive backstory. It’s also a big ol’ chunky slab o’ comics. I’m not gonna sit here and count pages, but the book is thick enough that I didn’t really feel like a chump for spending that five bucks. There’s a ton of gigantic, sprawling action taking place all across the universe and starring a cast so huge that it takes a whole page of Hickman-designed thumbnail drawings to identify them all. There’s creepy stealth assassin stuff, huge action set-pieces, ominous warnings, humorous small-scale skirmishes… You name it. There’s no real character development, of course, but that’s okay for a story like this. We already know and care about these characters, so you can coast a bit and rely on action and plot to engage the reader. There’s just enough human drama to keep the proceedings from being soulless, and that’s all you need.

It’s also pretty. Hickman contributes his trademark clean graphic design with chapter headings, flow charts, and a giant two-page spread for the credits. And while Jim Cheung is not what I’d call a master cartoonist, I like his clean lines, and his style is just idiosyncratic enough that I consider him an ideal super hero artist. All of which makes Infinity a stylish and creatively-satisfying piece of big corporate spandex event writing that might very well bring me back for more.

4 Star

 

Trillium 1, by Jeff Lemire

Lemire Trillium1

Aahh. Good to see Jeff Lemire continuing to work outside the confines of the work-for-hire playground. I’ve been rather harsh in my estimation of his DC Reboot work, but Trillium is another beast entirely, a science fiction tale published in flip-book format. Sure, it’s a gimmick. But it’s a neat gimmick, and one that plays to the story itself. Because Lemire’s telling two stories here: one of a far-future scientist searching alien worlds for a plant that can save the human race from a deadly disease, and the other of a shell-shocked WWI veteran searching for meaning on archeological expeditions in the post-war years. It doesn’t matter which side of the book you start with; Lemire directs the reader to flip back and forth between them enough that you’re sure to get a proper taste of both. It’s an entertaining mix, with the two stories playing off each other thematically, weirdness, mysticism, desperation, and horrible violence all coming into play. The literal connection between the two isn’t obvious until you reach the end (or, rather, the middle), and even then it leaves you with questions. Intriguing mystery to carry you through to the next issue. A next issue I will almost certainly be buying.

4 Star

 

Collider 1, by Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez

Nathan Fox Collider 1

Collider is blue collar science fiction about near-future civil servants who are called out to fix things when the laws of physics break down. The reason they’re breaking down, and who’s benefiting from it, are the book’s core mysteries, and I’m sure we’ll get to all that down the line. But this first issue is primarily concerned with introducing the characters and the problems, and it does a fine job of that. The writing is strong, grounded without being humorless, and a bit less jokey than the last comic I read from Simon Oliver, The Exterminators. But it’s the art that really puts this book over the top. Robbi Rodriguez draws regular people engagingly, and when the sci-fi action starts, he really shines. So while I won’t say that Collider‘s going to set anyone’s world on fire, it is strong, grounded sci-fi of a type we probably don’t see enough of.

3 Star

 

Manhattan Projects 13, by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

This lucky thirteenth issue finds Hickman and Pitarra slowing things down a tad in the wake of Enrico Fermi’s outing as an alien hunter-killer sleeper agent, reassessing their various plotlines, setting their players up for the next act, and–

Okay, wait. Sometimes with this book, it pays to stop talking for a minute and reflect on what you’ve just said. To whit: Enrico Fermi’s outing as an alien hunter-killer sleeper agent. Seriously… Holy crap. This is a comic… an on-going series, mind you… starring Einstein, Oppenheimer, (until recently) Enrico Fermi, and most of the other greatest scientific minds of the 20th Century. The sheer damn oddity of that is so great that it should really earn each and every issue of Manhattan Projects an extra star whenever I review it. Because SCIENCE!

Ahem. So, that in mind… Good issue. Oppenheimer’s going crazier, Feynman still hasn’t figured out he’s dealing with an other-dimensional Einstein doppelganger, the non-geniuses are plotting, Kennedy’s in the White House… Holy crap I love this book.

5 Star

 

Prophet 38, by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, and Giannis Milogiannis

Rugg Prophet 38

As bizarrely represented on Jim Rugg’s cover, this issue of Prophet forgoes the grotesque biological excess that’s become the series’ hallmark in favor of the clean weirdness of a being that’s chosen to exist as a group of shimmering lights. That being is Suprema, younger sister of Supreme, Rob Liefeld’s Superman stand-in. Suprema always was something of a prim and proper type (or at least she was once Alan Moore started writing her), so this complete denial of the flesh makes a sort of sad, weird sense.

Fans of the series’ trademark body horror need not worry, though: this issue also sees Newfather John Prophet get a new insectoid arm, and Long John merge with his giant lobster shell-brother to make a space jump and fight weird-ass aliens. So there’s plenty of goopy bio-weirdness, too. The Suprema thing just stands out for its pristine cleanliness. It’s also a hallmark of where the series is going as it continues and develops. As the only survivors of the Extreme Studios relaunch, Brandon Graham and his collaborators are inheriting the whole of the Liefeld-verse to play with, and they’re gleefully taking advantage. Glory and Badrock seem to be on the horizon, and I can’t wait to see what ravages Prophet‘s far-future dystopia have visited upon those two.

4 Star

 

Fatale 16, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

The current Fatale storyline sees an amnesiac Josephine finding refuge amongst a bunch of directionless Gen X artistic types in the 1990s. It’s a story that offers Ed Brubaker a chance to write something a bit auto-biographical (having been a directionless Gen X artistic type himself), but it also reveals something interesting about his heroine: she may be as much a victim of her supernatural sexual magnetism as the men she attracts.

Stripped of her memories and the emotional baggage that goes with them, Josephine reverts to a primal state. “She makes love like a force of nature,” one of her young benefactors says, and that’s a good description of her unfettered behavior in general. Freed from all the horrors that drove her into isolation earlier in the series, she spends most of her time half-naked, swaying to music, admiring art, and seeking sex with whoever strikes her fancy at the moment. This is her true nature, I think, what she really is as opposed to what she wants to be. It would be refreshing to see her so uninhibited if it wasn’t something she’s fought so hard not to be. And, of course, if she wasn’t unknowingly weaving a web of attraction and resentment among everyone around her. Her freedom can only end badly, and therein lies the real horror.

5 Star

 

Satellite Sam 2, by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin

More stylish intrigue in the world of early television. This issue sees Mike White (our ostensible hero) mostly reeling from his father’s death. He drinks too much, and wanders through his life (including the funeral) clutching the big fishbowl space helmet his dad wore in the title space opera. Around him, the rest of the cast schemes and maneuvers, the network’s survival depending on the show, and Mike’s ability to continue in the lead role.

It’s great stuff, with Fraction leaping athletically from scene to scene, the story taking shape piece by piece as we get to know the large cast, all of them suspects in the murder. Chaykin’s in fine form here, too, illustrating his favorite era and bringing his full artistic toolbox into play. These pages are just caked with zip-a-tone (or its electronic equivalent), giving the whole thing a kind of texture you seldom see in funnybook art. A classy package dealing with events that are anything but.

4 Star

 

Buck Rogers 1, by Howard Chaykin

Chaykin Buck Rogers 1

I remember reading an interview with Howard Chaykin, sometime back in the 80s I think, in which he said that everyone who was at all worth admiring in Depression-era America was a communist sympathizer. Now, that was a long time ago, so I might be remembering wrong, but it was nonetheless on my mind as I read this first issue of Chaykin’s take on Buck Rogers. That’s because Chaykin’s Rogers is a communist firebrand, a WWI patriot who soured on the system in favor of the rights of the working man. That’s an unusual take in the long history of the character, but it’s actually pretty faithful to the political subtext of Philip Nowlan’s original Buck Rogers novella, Armageddon 2419, in which rival American gangs (quietly organized along communist lines) fight under the oppressively capitalistic rule of the Han.

Now, don’t get me wrong; this is primarily an adventure story, as it should be. Chaykin might draw on the politics of the original Buck Rogers tales, but he also delivers all the two-fisted airship-jetpack-and-raygun action you could want from a Buck Rogers yarn. It’s kinda dumb in places, and the action is definitely the focus. It’s a fun bit of fluff, not a political screed. But the political angle does give that fluff some weight, and makes things a little more interesting.

3 Star

 

East of West 05, by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta

Hickman East of West 5

I’m pleased to see this book breaking some of the action-adventure cliches it initially seemed to be built on. There’s more going on with the Evil Men Who Control the World, for instance, than just maintaining their power base. Death’s unstoppable quest to free his wife doesn’t end with the expected tearful reunion, either. And both of those breaks with expectation revolve around the same thing: the series’ actual plot. Which is to say, the end of the world. Not that we haven’t seen fictional apocalypses before, of course, but I like the cut of this one’s jib.

4 Star

 

Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde 0 (of 3), by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse

Resident Alien was a pleasant surprise last year, a good-natured, low-key small-town murder mystery starring a stranded space alien posing as a human doctor. This sequel looks to be more of the same, picking up the day after the first series concludes, moving forward with its themes, filling in more of the backstory of how the alien became Henry, and of course confronting him with another mysterious death. It’s a fun light read combining two of my favorite genres, and it’s always nice to see Steve Parkhouse art, so I’m happy to see that a book this… quiet… sold well enough to continue in a comics market that doesn’t often reward such things.

4 Star

 

Thor, God of Thunder 11, by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

At last, the conclusion of the God-Butcher saga. It’s been a fun ride, don’t get me wrong. GORR, BUTCHER OF GODS has been a totally Metal Thor villain, and I’ve particularly enjoyed Jason Aaron’s exploration of faith vs atheism, and how easily the latter becomes the former if you’re not careful (Richard Dawkins, take note). But it was time for this story to end. And man, did it ever end BIG.

Ribic Thor 11 KRAKOOM

click to embiggen THE THUNDER!!

KRA-KOOOOMM, indeed! This issue’s full of giant splash images like that, images of Thor being Thor, of total cosmic viking bad-assery on a grand scale. It also (in the manner of serial fiction) introduces another threat with a name that’s even more Metal than the last one: ALL-BLACK THE NECROSWORD! The SLICER OF WORLDS!

So fuck yeah I’ll be back for more! I’ll be back for more, even though the gorgeous artwork of Esad Ribic won’t be. Ribic is apparently due to return at a later date, but it looks like we’ve got Ron Garney coming up on the next arc. Which… Garney’s a fine funnybook artist. I like his stuff. But his work doesn’t transcend the way that Ribic’s does, and I fear that the series won’t be worth the four dollar cover price without something special in both story AND art.

But that’s the future. God of Thunder‘s been a great ride for the duration of the God-Butcher storyline, and this was a damn fine conclusion for it.

4 Star

 

The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys 3, by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, and Becky Cloonan

I must admit, I’m reading this book primarily because of Becky Cloonan’s art at this point. The story’s fine, and it’s got interesting ideas about the destructive nature of conflict, and how oppressors and freedom fighters become all too similar in the end. But it’s not developing those ideas all that well, and I’m kind of bored with it beyond that. Or… not bored, exactly. More… disconnected from it. I understand the basics of the series’ future world (dehumanizing corporate rule in the cities, mere anarchy in the wild), but it hasn’t been realized richly enough to make me care about it. It’s not actively bad, understand. But it’s not worth four bucks an issue, either. If this weren’t a mini-series with Cloonan art, I’d have dropped it by now.

3 Star

Butcher of Thongs!


 
Thor, God of Thunder #2:
Blood in the Clouds
by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

The first issue of this book came out just two weeks ago, so I’m not going to give you a full review tonight. Suffice it to say that it’s still pretty freakin’ metal. Especially as this issue primarily stars Young Thor, the hard-drinkinest, wench-lovinest, ass-kickinest road warrior this side of Lemmy Killmister. This may be the closest Marvel’s ever really come to the Thor of myth (who was totally bad ass, but also kinda dumb). He’s a bit of an arrogant blowhard here, to be honest. Not unlikeable, but… Well, let’s just say it’s not entirely surprising that he’s not worthy to lift Mjolnir yet.

This issue also gives us our first look at the villain for this first arc (that would be GORR! THE BUTCHER OF GODS! if you’ve forgotten). He’s even more metal than Thor himself, a massively creepy grey-skinned killer with red-rimmed eyes, wearing an amorphous black cloak, and… very little else…

THONG!

Awesome. He’s rocking that cool-ass metal sorcerer look, but with just the right kind of nudity to also scream “torture basement!” What more could you ask for, really?

So. That’s eight bucks Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic have gotten me to spend on Thor this month, and I still feel like it’s money well-spent. Good job, gentlemen! Rock on!

Rockin’ Out with the God of Thunder


Hey, remember when we used to review funnybooks around here? Let’s get back to a bit of that, shall we…?

Thor: God of Thunder #1, by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic

This book is pretty goddamn metal.

I mean, look at that shit! Lightning, armor, axes, hammers, a creepy dude in a hood… All that’s missing is some kind of faux-rune logo tarted up to look like it’s made of steel, and–

Oh. Right. Check and fucking check.

Meh. Tahl.

Aside from being totally metal-up-your-ass, the above illustration from series artist Esad Ribic also does a really nice job of illustrating the broad strokes of writer Jason Aaron’s story, which follows Thor in three distinct eras. On the right we’ve got the noble and heroic Present-Day Thor (or NOWThor, to mock the obnoxious marketing campaign behind this new #1 issue). Up top we have Future Thor, the haunted ruler of Asgard millennia from now. And on the left we have Young Thor, who hangs out with vikings, gets drunk on their mead, and has prodigious sex with their women. He’s an unreconstituted lout, and therefore the most entertaining.

As for the guy in the hood… I’m not 100% sure, but I’m assuming that he’s the villain of the piece: Gorr, the Butcher of Gods, who– Actually… Wait. Let me give that name the touch of awesome it deserves…

GORR! The Butcher of Gods!

Yes, Jason Aaron has created a divine serial killer. He’s created a divine serial killer, and given him a name so brilliantly dumb-ass that it’s worthy of Lee and Kirby at their best. We don’t even see Gorr in this first issue, but he’s already a great villain in my head because…

Well, because GORR!

But also because we see his handiwork in all three eras of the story, with god-corpses already piling up before we even get started, and a promise of a future that’s very dark indeed. It’s nice build-up that both delivers a little meat in the now and has enough spice to whet our appetites for what’s to come.

(An aside: Speaking of Gorr, and how great he probably is… I’ve been seeing and hearing about quite a few new characters popping up in the work-for-hire spandex field of late. Which makes me wonder if the creative teams have been given a sweeter deal on future use of those characters, or if we’re seeing yet another generation of writers and artists giving away marketable ideas. Considering some of the things I’ve heard about DC tightening up the contracts under Warner Brothers’ greater corporate control, I doubt it’s the former. But I guess we’ll find out when we see who’s suing for royalties ten years down the line…)

Anyway. This first issue also sees Aaron hint at what’s up his sleeve with this whole “three eras of Thor” story structure. No, it isn’t to lube up history so it can accomodate the insertion of the Gorr retcon. We’ve seen that crap a dozen times before, and this ain’t that. No, Aaron’s actually going to be charting Thor’s character growth over time. And I think he’ll be looking at it, appropriately enough, through the character’s choice of weapons. As you can see in the picture above, Young Thor is fighting with a giant axe. But NOWThor has Mjolnir, his more familiar magic hammer. And Future Thor has both Mjolnir and the Odinsword. How does that indicate growth? Well, Thor had to earn the right to use Mjolnir, after all…

…and if this page of preview art is anything to go by, that problem will be a plot point:

I assume a similar personal evolution is necessary before Thor can use the Odinsword (which has, in the past, been cast as a weapon of such awesome power that it can only be used by the All-Father Himself). But I think it might require a physical change, too. In the Future Thor sequence this issue, Mjolnir seems too small in his hand, and I was thinking at first that Ribic had just messed up the perspective. Then I realized: Odin is often drawn over-sized, as if he’s just too much for normal human-sized reality to contain. The Odinsword is of similar proportions, and Future Thor’s swinging it around one-handed. Which means that Thor gets bigger, and Mjolnir does not.

Which, now that I’ve put it that way, seems potentially brilliant in all kinds of ways. For the moment, though, that little visual cue indicates a change a scale without making a big deal about it. That’s the sort of nice, subtle touch that’ll keep me coming back to pay my four bucks every month.

And, yes, I will be back. I don’t spend four dollars on a funnybook lightly. I want something at least a little bit extraordinary for that kind of money, but I think I might just get it here. Aaron’s story is intriguing, and Ribic’s art (as you can see) is stunning. He can’t do 12 issues a year in that style, of course, and so we’ll see what the quality of the inevitable fill-in art is like. But, barring a complete art-fail… and assuming that Aaron’s left alone to tell his story without Marvel cross-over event shenanigans… I can see myself slapping down that four bucks without blinking an eye.

Grade: A-

 

Oh, and also this: