I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting the heart and soul of the Dork Forty here recently: funnybook reviews. I’ve got a lot of ’em piled up here, so many that I’m not even going to try to do full reviews of everything. Instead, I thought I’d point out one interesting thing about each of them, one thing that makes me spend (or regret spending) my hard-earned money on them. A rare exercise in brevity, then. Or at least an attempt to see how long it takes me to crack and run off at the mouth…
Sex Criminals 1, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
So here’s a book about two of my favorite things: crime and sex.
(Understand, one of those is something I like to do, while the other’s something I like to read about. I’ll let you figure out which one’s which.)
(Hrm. That’s already two things I like about this book. Not good. Need to focus.)
So. I like the tone of this book. It’s funny without being jokey. Conversational without being cute. Or… Maybe it is cute, but with an edge of black humor that makes me not want to stab someone in the eye. Case in point: the scene in which Our Heroine, as a kid, asks for sex advice from the class slut, only to get a litany of weird sex acts that looks like the Urban Dictionary throwing up on a copy of the Kama Sutra. In a bathroom stall.
I also like Chip Zdarsky’s art (though it’s perhaps not best-represented by the above smutty bathroom drawing). And the fact that this issue is “dedicated to the brave men and women who love to fuck.” And that shocking pink cover with the book-pubes. And that the book-pubes are actually appropriate to the story inside. And–
Well, shit. That’s a lot more than one thing. Ah, well. What can I say? Sex is complicated. Especially when crime is involved.
So, wow. Not only did I talk about more than one thing, I also posted a drawing of a pee-pee, right up front where it can offend the most people possible.
Off to a roaring start, then!
Lazarus 4&5, by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark
There’s a lot to like about this book, too, from its complex political and interpersonal relationships to the rough beauty of Michael Lark’s artwork. But what I think I’ll concentrate on (because I must… focus…) is the rather chilling, and disturbingly convincing, portrait it paints of near-future corporate rule. That wasn’t an aspect of the series I put much stock in initially, but the timeline Greg Rucka’s providing in the back pages, detailing the world’s slide from democracy back into feudalism, has brought the world to life. Coupled with some of the news circulating about real-life corporate power-grabs (look up ALEC or the TPP if you’re interested), Lazarus has become a timely piece of speculative fiction in my mind. A timely piece of speculative fiction, I should add, with a kick-ass female lead who beats people up with enough regularity to keep it all from becoming a stale polemic.
Spoonful of sugar, and all that…
Jupiter’s Legacy 3, by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely
I also like the political underpinnings of this book. It’s one of Mark Millar’s rare excursions into intelligent storytelling, and I always like it when he gives his blockbusters a bit more meat. But let’s face it, the real attraction here for me is the art of Frank Quitely. Because of his severe back problems, we don’t get nearly as much Quitely as I’d like, and what we do get often comes slowly. Jupiter’s Legacy isn’t even his most inspired work. But, damn. DAMN. This is a pretty book.
Young Avengers 10, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
There are a handful of perfect teams in funnybook history, partnerships between writer and artist that push both to a higher level, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Lee and Kirby. O’Neil and Adams. Milligan and McCarthy. Morrison and Quitely. That’s pretty rarified company, but I’d place Gillen and McKelvie into it. Together, they bring a sense of freshness to stale material, and have a drive for storytelling innovation that neither has shown working with other collaborators. This issue, for instance, features a character literally devouring a narrative caption:
And that actually seems subdued in comparison to their usual work. That says a lot.
Secret 3, by Jonathan Hickman, Ryan Bodenheim, and Michael Garland
I was tempted to say that my favorite thing about this issue is that it actually came out after a long wait. That would just be glib, of course (heaven forbid!), but it’s been so long since the first two issues came out that I felt like I needed to go back and re-read them before I could make much in the way of intelligent commentary. Then it occurred to me: I really like this book’s color design. That’s been a hallmark of Jonathan Hickman’s work, but I’m particularly taken with how well Secret colorist Michael Garland uses a monochromatic color plan to set mood. It’s most obvious when he uses gray tones, with punches of red for anything of emotional impact.
But this issue features a funeral scene decked out in mournful muted purples, a tense conversation in orange with spikes of yellow, and a scene of sinking realization done in a sickly green. It’s good stuff, and especially nice to see in this era of gaudy, overdone computer coloring. I know it’s a critical cliché, but sometimes less really is more.
Infinity 3, by Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opena, and Dustin Weaver
Except, of course, when more is more. I still dig the crazily grand scope of this crossover mini, but the one thing I carried away from this issue was that its very crossoveryness has done it in for me. I’m starting to feel lost because it turns out that, for once, the crossover issues (or at least the ones written by Hickman) actually matter! That means that, to get the story of Infinity, beginning to end, I’d wind up spending something on the order of 65 dollars. And that’s insane. So, as much fun as I’m having with it… I’m done.
Uber 6, by Kieron Gillen and Caanan White
I like how this issue opens up the series’ scope. The first arc focused on the European campaign in World War II, and how the insertion of Nazi super-men changed history just as Berlin was about to fall. Here, the scene switches to the Pacific, the destruction of the Battleship Yamato, and how Japanese super soldiers make American victory anything but a sure thing. It’s a move I wasn’t expecting, but I’m glad that Gillen is dealing with the war as a global conflict. If nothing else, it’s good to see some blue skies and open water after five issues of little else but mud and blood.
Zero 1, by Ales Kot and Jordie Bellaire
An interesting companion piece to Uber, Zero deals with the rise of the super human in modern warfare. It’s brutally unsentimental, but the conclusion of this first issue seems to indicate that the series as a whole will also be deeply moral. That’s an interesting combination, one that’s making Ales Kot a must-read funnybook writer for me. And you can never have too many of those.
The Star Wars 2, by JW Rinzler and Mike Mayhew
Much as I liked the first issue of this adaptation of George Lucas’ Star Wars rough draft, the second loses all sense of the dramatic. The reveal of the Space Fortress (aka The Death Star) is a good case in point. We’re told that something the size of a small moon is approaching, and sure, anybody who’s reading this comic knows what that means. But we get our first look at it in a rather matter-of-fact mid-distance shot, followed by a close-up reveal that only takes up half a page. And all of this is accompanied not by awe and fear, but by standard pilot chatter, as if nobody’s particularly surprised by the biggest space ship anybody has ever freaking seen. After the nice job this team did in the first issue of building mystery and playing against expectations, that’s… disappointing.
Prophet 39, by Brandon Graham and a Host of Artists
This issue chronicles the life and times of Diehard, with a different artist tackling each era of his existence. I was particularly psyched to see James Stokoe draw a section, but the thing that really tickles me the most about this issue is that Graham has managed to give a sense of epic grandeur to a random collection of characters Rob Liefeld tossed off for shits and giggles in the 90s. I mean, I’m waiting with fascinated anticipation to see freaking Badrock, for god’s sake, and that has to be some kind of magical funnybook alchemy.
Thor: God of Thunder 13, by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney
Only one question mattered to me going into this book’s second story arc: could Jason Aaron maintain the epic tone without the art of Esad Ribic? The answer turns out to be… yes and no. He does give us a drunken Thor leading Sif and the Warriors Three into battle, and I’m glad the action so swiftly moves away from the decidedly less-than-epic setting of Asgardia, Oklahoma (don’t ask). I’m on the fence about the depiction of Malekith the Accursed as some kind of Elven terrorist, but he does wind up riding an awesomely ridiculous flying white tiger before it’s all said and done, so I might yet be convinced. But Ron Garney’s artwork is just not metal enough, and that lessens the experience somewhat. So… fingers crossed.
Well, alright! So far, so good. Haven’t strayed too far off the premise since that first book, I don’t think. But this stack of funnybooks is still pretty damn big. So let’s switch things up a little…
LIGHTNING ROUND! One thing I like about each of the following comics… GO!
Fatale 17: Josephine is even scarier than I thought.
Manhattan Projects 14: Oppenheimer is also scarier than I thought.
Collider/FBP 2&3: The story’s moving faster than I thought it would, but nothing feels rushed.
Mind MGMT 14&15: The characters are revealing themselves to be just as complex as the plot.
Resident Alien: Suicide Blonde 1: This book maintains its easy good nature even as it deals with the ugly details of murder.
Marvel Knights Spider-Man 1: Marco Rudy’s psychedelic artwork goes a long way toward carrying what seems to be a rather thin story.
Powers Bureau 7: A rare single-issue Powers story, and a good one. Anything else I could say would be a spoiler.
East of West 6: The Texas Rangers re-imagined as Judge Dredd. ‘Nuff said.
Batman Black and White 2: Raphael Grampa’s Joker story, while not his best, is still his usual “make-it-look-easy” master class in sound effects and page design.
Satellite Sam 3: Sleazy, but still respectful of its readers’ intelligence. A rare combination.
Trillium 2&3: Weird in the best freaking way, and better than the action movie cliches it slips into.
God is Dead 1: I really like Jonathan Hickman’s cover for this issue.
And not much else.
So! That’s all for our exercise in brevity. Hope you enjoyed it. Next time: Review Haiku!