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
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:
(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.
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
High-class funnybooks here, vying quite closely with Miracleman
for book of the week.
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
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.
Hawkeye 18, by Matt Fraction and Annie Wu
With this issue, the “Kate in LA” issues of this book finally come into their own. As I’ve said before, they’ve been fun diversions. But that’s what they’ve felt like: diversions. Little side stories that have taken focus off the Clint Barton story that I’m reading the series for. But now… Now we have something more interesting. We have a mystery worth sinking your teeth into, and a feeling of greater danger for Our Heroine. In other words, shit just got interesting, and I’m looking forward to more.
It’s still not as good as any of the issues drawn by David Aja, mind you. But at least it’s got my attention.
Sex Criminals 5, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Technically, I think this book came out two weeks ago. But let’s pretend just for funsies, eh? Consider it roleplay, if you must. The reviewing equivalent of a French Maid outfit, and…
Getting THAT image out of my head as quickly as possible…
Ahem. The first arc of Sex Criminals ends in a way I found completely unexpected: with Our Heroes on the run as wanted criminals. I mean, you know… Considering the title, maybe I SHOULD have expected that. But, somehow I just didn’t. The title had kind of slipped my mind, to be honest. In my head, this was a book about relationships and sex. The “crime” part seemed… just kind of incidental.
But, hey. Lo and behold, it’s not. Who’da thunk it?
Anyway. It’s good and shit. You should be reading this joint. And if you’re not, well… You totally should be. If nothing else, it’ll explain why Fraction’s currently known as “Butt-Stuff Werewolf” on Twitter…
Satellite Sam 7, by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin
This isn’t the kind of comic that’s going to be a buzz book. It doesn’t have fighting or derring-do, and the spaceships are all fake. It doesn’t have cute modern nerd-snappy dialogue. It’s not even in color. But it does have a complex ensemble cast moving through a mystery that might not be a mystery. It has political maneuverings on both the large and small scale. It has blackmail and drinking and kinky sex. It has some of the best writing Matt Fraction’s ever done, and artwork from an industry giant. It’s damn fine funnybooks, and I wish more people were reading it. Just so I could talk about it more, if nothing else…
Manhattan Projects 19, by Jonathan Hickman, Ryan Browne, and Nick Pitarra
The issues taking place inside Oppenheimer’s head have slowly become my least favorites in the series. I still enjoy them, understand. This book’s not getting anything less than a B from me. It’s just that I enjoy the Oppenheimer mindscape stuff a little less than everything else. So I should probably be happy to see that situation resolve itself here. And I am. It’s just that, in a week that saw the release of so many really great comics… It’s hard to get enthused about this one.
The last page makes up for a lot, though. An awful lot. No spoilers, but… It’s something regular readers of the series have been waiting to see for a long time, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Fatale 21, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
As this book rounds the corner into its final story arc, I’m really starting to feel how much I’m going to miss it. As regular readers are probably aware, I’m a big fan of this kind of weird supernatural pulp, and it still feels like Brubaker and Phillips have barely scratched the surface of what they could do with it. Still, the story’s advancing well. In the years that have passed since the last arc, Josephine has obviously gained in confidence. That, or callousness. Brubaker’s keeping her at a distance from us here at the end, so it’s hard to tell which. Either way, she’s finally living up to the series’ title, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad one.
The increased confidence Sean Phillips is showing is definitely a good thing, though. He opens this issue with a dream sequence that takes his art out of its usual reliable solid reality and into the realm of pop art:
click to embiggen
That’s snazzy, that is! I like the double face in that last panel, particularly. And the book as a whole is, as always, a great read. As much as I’m looking forward to the rest of this storyline, I’m also dreading its end.
Silver Surfer 1, by Dan Slott and Mike Allred
I was on the fence about whether to pick this book up or not. I mean, on the one hand, I love me some Mike Allred. I’ve been reading his stuff since Graphique Musique, and I’m always willing to give him a shot. And I dig the Surfer, too, when he’s handled well. But on the other hand, I’m not really that big of a Dan Slott fan. I might even go so far as to say that I’ve found the issue or two of his Spider-Man work I’ve read kind of sub-par. Ideas that I could take or leave, combined with scripting that’s a touch too glib. So I was real iffy going into the funnybook store last week. I figured I’d give it a flip-through, and see if it looked worth the money. That’s when I saw this…
(pardon our staples, and click to embiggen)
…and immediately put it in the buy pile.
Was that a good call? Eh. The story’s okay. It certainly gives Allred a chance to draw lots of whacked-out cosmic stuff, and that’s fun to look at. But the writing’s a bit cute for my taste, as I feared it might be, and I don’t think I’ll be coming back for more. I mean, it’s fun and all. But ultimately, it feels too safe. It’s got no edge, and (in spite of that awesomeness above) not as much wow factor as it should. And I need a little of that if I’m gonna spend my hard-earned funnybook dollar.