Recent Dorkiness

Day Old and Bold: Catching Up With More of the Funnybooks of July

Still too many comics! Still too little time! FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREonceagainGO!!! Punk Rock Jesus #1 (of 6), by Sean Murphy Vertigo's doing its best to make this corporate publication feel lo-fi. From the black and white artwork to the grainy newsprint to the ad-free interiors to this cover... ...Punk Rock Jesus is definitely supposed to feel like a zine put out by people who want to stick it to THE MAN! Or maybe it's just a cost-cutting measure. Hmm. Nah, seriously, it's hard to feel too cynical about this book. Its heart's in the right place. It's got the proper anarchic attitude, and the little touches on the production side of things are actually much-appreciated. While the paper stock is of sufficiently low quality that it's already setting off my newsprint allergies after only a week, I actually love it. It's got a pleasingly rough texture that fits the story well. Ditto Sean Murphy's black and white artwork, which is at turns scratchy, cool, and panoramic as needed. All of which is entirely appropriate for the story of the genetically-engineered Second Coming. Taking DNA recovered from the Shroud of Turin, TV producers use it to inseminate a virgin girl who'll give birth to the star of their new hit show J2! Did I mention that this is a comedy? It's a comedy. A satire, to be more accurate, with Murphy taking aim at two pretty big targets: religion and the media. These allow him to branch out, of course, and touch on things like science and terrorism as well. It's entertaining, if not especially sharp, stuff. He has a good feel for his characters, but some of them thus far seem a little too stereotypical for their own good. Which can be fine for satire, but the core cast feels like people we're supposed to care about at least a little, and at this point they fall into predictable plot roles too easily. He may still surprise me, though, so we'll see where things go. It is pretty funny, though, and I can forgive a lot in the name of funny. I mean, I wasn't belly-laughing all the way through, but the book did give me some satisfyingly nasty snickers, and sometimes that's enough. There's also a nice plot turn towards the end that I didn't see coming, and that adds a lot to the proceedings. So while Punk Rock Jesus isn't God's gift to comics (sorry; couldn't resist), it is an entertaining and edgy read that I enjoyed quite a bit. I will definitely be back for more. 3 1/2 Stars Parker: The Score, by Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark The third of Darwyn Cooke's funnybook adaptations of the classic Parker crime novels is damn fine reading, but it may not be as much of a triumph of the form as much as the first two volumes. Don't get me wrong. All the hallmarks of the series are in place: the one-color printing process, the flawless comics storytelling instincts, the seemingly effortless ability to capture the books' early '60s design aesthetics... It's all there. But Cooke isn't as inventive this time out. Of course, that may be down to the original book itself being so compelling; maybe he didn't want to distract too much from the story with fancy tricks. What's it about? Well... This ad for it might give you a clue:

That’s right: in The Score, Parker leads a team of thieves who rob a whole town blind. It’s audacious and exciting, and widely considered one of the best (if not THE best) novel in whole Parker series. Cooke frankly doesn’t need to get fancy or tart this one up very much, and so he doesn’t. It’s a wise choice, if one that cranky old bastards like me find mildly disappointing.

This is not to say that there aren’t some bravura sequences. One of the thieves has an active fantasy life, and Cooke illustrates those fancies very literally on the page, from the man envisioning the team as a World War II combat unit to the movie musical charm he exudes while seducing a pretty young secretary. There’s also some tense business with driving a large truck down a steep mining road, something Cooke depicts entirely in page-tall vertical panels that accentuate the danger.

My favorite moment, though, is this:

The Score’s single color is yellow. A bright, orangy yellow. And this image (part of a two-page spread) drops out all the ink lines to better-express the power of a massive explosion that’s key to the book’s resolution. Hot damn, that’s good stuff.

4 Stars

Bulletproof Coffin #6 (of 6), by David Hine and Shaky Kane

Kiss the Clown. Jeezus. I think this was the most disturbing issue yet.

Bravo, gentlemen. Bravo.

5 Stars

God and Science: Return of the Ti-Girls, by Jaime Hernandez

Return of the Ti-Girls is the best super hero crossover story of the last ten years.

No, wait. Scratch that.

Return of the Ti-Girls is the best super hero story, period, of the last ten years. It captures the imagination…

…the mystery…

…and the out-and-out weirdness…

…of the genre at its best. It’s got awesome fight scenes…

…incredible powers…

…touching character moments…

…and hot babes in spandex:

Of course, alongside it being a playful and entertaining spandex funnybook, it’s a smart commentary on the genre that rules the comics roost from one of the medium’s all-time greats. I don’t really see how you could want much more out of a super-comic than all that.

5 Stars

Wild Children, by Ales Kot and Riley Rossmo

I’m still digesting this book. It’s been compared to things like The Invisibles and Kill Your Boyfriend (both Grant Morrison comics of high pedigree), and while I certainly see why, it’s… I dunno… More blatant? More obvious? More directly concerned with its philosophy? Than that stuff. METAPHYSICAL SPOILERS AHEAD…

It’s brutally meta-textual, with characters not only aware that they’re living in a comic book, but actually addressing the art team to prove a point. That should feel gimmicky, but it doesn’t, because that’s part of the point being made. This is a book that delves into theoretical physics, the science of LSD and meditation, even Hauntology, to prove…

Well, I’m not exactly sure what. And that’s my problem with it right now. I need to sit down and re-read it… WANT to sit down and re-read it… before I can decide if it’s a brilliant little deconstruction of revolution, or… what? An intelligent failure? A story whose reach exceeds its grasp? A mess? Hrm.

Whatever it turns out to be, it’s excited a lot of thought in me, and for that alone I have to rate it pretty high. But I reserve the right to change my mind. Which is a sentiment that this comic would respect, I think…

4 Stars

Action Comics #11, by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, and Brad Walker

Another issue of Action marred by inconsistent art. Neither Morales nor Walker are bad, by any stretch, but their styles are miles apart, and that makes for a jarring reading experience. I also wonder, when you’re dealing with scripts as complicated as Morrison’s, if the rotating artists can possibly follow what’s going on in the series well enough to convey the nuances of plot and character that are the writer’s trademarks. That’s difficult to tell at the reader’s end, of course, so let’s move on to things that are easier to discuss.

Story-wise, this issue deals with the fallout of the death of Clark Kent. Caught in a suicide bombing, Clark is presumed dead, and Superman has decided to let him pass, establishing a new secret identity for himself as fireman Johnny Clark. That’s a job that lets him save people 24-7, which is what he thinks he wants. Except… he misses his friends. He’s making new ones among his fellow firemen, but they seem more like acquaintances, guys he hangs out with every so often, than they do people he’s actually close to.

He even reaches out to Batman about the problem, in one of my favorite scenes in the issue. Bats would seem an odd choice for life advice on the surface, but last issue we discovered that he and Superman had figured out each other’s secret identities. So Batman it is, and Bats grasps Superman’s problem immediately: he needs the support network that Clark Kent represented, the lifetime’s worth of friends and contacts that kept him feeling… human.

And that, ultimately, is what this new storyline’s all about, I think. It’s not “OMG! Clark Kent is DEAD!!!” It’s about why Clark is necessary, and why Superman can’t devote his every waking moment to saving the world. Action’s all about the learning process that went into making Superman into the character we all know and love, after all, and this is a lesson that, it seems to me, would be very hard-won indeed.

4 Stars

And… And… I think that’s all I’ve got in me tonight. There’s more to talk about… new issues of Defenders (still fun and weird), a couple of Brian Wood comics (hope I don’t get burned out on him again before his Star Wars comic starts up), another gut-wrenching issue of The Boys (God! That ending!), even the fourth Fury MAX (Bay of Pigs… Ah, I get it! This one’s about America’s military failures!). But this is long enough, and I’m tired. I’ll have to catch them another time…

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About Mark Brett (400 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

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