Recent Dorkiness

Stylish, Scary Adolescent Thrills: FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!!

So here's something a little different: funnybooks reviewed the day they came out! That's right, it's TODAY'S COMICS TODAY! Moon Knight 4, by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey

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As I think I've said before, this book's all about very stylish done-in-ones. Every issue is centered around a single idea, motif, or visual. You get in, you get out, you enjoy yourself a little pop culture bonbon. Though I hesitate to use candy metaphors in relation to this particular issue, because it's really all about... fungus. Dreams and fungus. Moon Knight is contacted by a sleep researcher whose patients are all winding up in the hospital due to a dream they're all having. The same dream, every one of them. So Moon Knight solves the mystery by... going to sleep. The solution he finds, frankly, doesn't stand up to much scrutiny (which may be why Ellis deals with it so briefly, on the last page). But that's okay, because the mystery itself is not the point. No, the point is–
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SKULL.
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Woot! The point is stuff like THAT! Once Our Hero's in the dream, Declan Shalvey is given the chance to just cut wide the hell open, with page after page of stunning surreality. That's not even the best one. But, hey. This just came out today, so I thought I'd maybe not give up the money shot for once. Go buy the damn thing and read it for yourself. As with the previous issues, this one is slight. It reads quickly, even if you take the time to really pore over Shalvey's art the way you ought to. And I'm just fine with that. Story is not the only reason to read a funnybook, after all. There's the pretty pictures, too, and this issue serves those really well. Grade: A-   Caliban 1-3, by Garth Ennis and Facundo Percio
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Can't remember if I've talked about this book before, so I'll just handle all three issues together (even though 3 is the one that came out today). It's Garth Ennis doing space horror and, unsurprisingly, doing it pretty well.

The premise is simple: an Earth ship drops out of warp space unexpectedly, and finds itself interlocked with an alien vessel, the two craft fused together at a molecular level after attempting to occupy the same space at the same time. The first issue is all about the spatial horror of that situation: this wall is yours, that one's not, and if you go through this hatch over here, you find yourself walking on the outside of your own ship. It's incredibly disorienting, and leads to some panic setting in.

But that's nothing compared to the biological horror lurking deeper in the alien craft. There's some kind of preservative pods with all manner of dead creatures in them, and one of the crew seems to have been taken over by an alien intelligence who's deeply interested in stress-testing the human body. And it's an Ennis comic, so you can imagine how ugly that gets...

It's not his best work, by far. There's a tad too much exposition, and the relationships he's exploring between various crew members aren't as natural, as human, as they should be. That's a surprise coming from a writer whose greatest strength is writing believable humans you care about, even when those humans are cartoon sociopaths (good on ya, Billy Butcher!). It feels a little like Ennis Goes Hollywood, to be honest. I could see this being made into a minor space horror hit in the style of Alien (except not as good).

But, still. It's an exciting story with some great horror elements and inventive sci-fi concepts in the bargain. In the realm of Good Writers' Slush Piles Seeing Print (the specialty of publisher Avatar Press), it's damn fine.

Grade: B

Iron Fist 3, by Kaare Andrews

I want to like this book, I really do. Kaare Andrews' story is charming in its po-faced grittiness, and he even knows how to have a little fun in the mix. He's turning in a spot-on update of early Frank Miller, in both story and art, and I want to eat that shit up with a spoon just like I did when I was twelve and having my mind completely freaking BLOWN by Daredevil. But a whole lotta funnybooks have passed under these eyes since then, and... whoosh. Sometimes this book's just a little too over-heated, a little too adolescent, for my taste. When Danny Rand starts going on and on about how his rage and his hate are driving him, and how all he's ever wanted is vengeance, and how he is DEATH to everyone around him... I just have to roll my eyes a little.

Of course, on the other hand...

There’s awesome kung fu fighting.

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And that’s pretty great. There’s some cool-ass kung fu magic, too.

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Can’t beat that with a stick. And then there’s a kung fu monster!

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Ah, sweet, sweet weirdness. And, actually, you know… Even all that overblown DEATH crap is presented with style.

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So, dude. DUDE. My grown-up brain qualms aside… This is the very sort of stylish, fun, unashamedly stupid stuff mainstream super hero funnybooks should always be doing. I want to support it just for that, to send the message that, yes, this shit will sell. So please stop giving us continuity porn and moronic crap. Give us funnybooks with a voice and a look and an idiosyncratic perspective. Give us something completely batshit, something we can’t get from the artless corporate pabulum being strewn about in other media. Give us something with some BLOOD in it, goddammit, and give it to us in great, gushing quantity!

Please?

Grade: CRAZY-ASS ADOLESCENT HELL-YEAH A, MOTHERFUCKER!!!

And speaking of crazy-ass kung fu funnybooks…

Big Trouble in Little China 1, by Eric Powell and Brian Churilla

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HEH. A-heh-heh-heh…

This funnybook’s got a lot to live up to. Big Trouble in Little China is among the greatest cult films of the 1980s, a comedy disguised as a martial arts epic, starring Kurt Russell in what I personally consider to be his best role: Jack Burton, journeyman truck driver. Burton’s definitely the star of the film, but as any fan will tell you, he’s not the hero. No, he’s actually the comedy sidekick, a bumbling but swaggeringly overconfident jack-ass with an endlessly quotable line of cynical everyman patter that must be seen to be believed. The story is a martial arts fantasy epic, filled to the brim with monsters, magic, and ghosts. It’s awesome. One of my all-time favorite movies.

So, man. That’s a hard act to follow.

How does it do? Pretty well. Writer (and cover artist) Eric Powell definitely gets it. He’s a fan of the original, and if you’ve ever read his comic The Goon, you know he’s got the right aesthetic. He captures the voice of Jack Burton just right, anyway, and that’s the key to this thing. If Burton doesn’t sound like a cross between John Wayne and Hunter S. Thompson, you’re doing it wrong. But Powell nails it, filling the book with Burtonisms both old and new, and writing him with exactly the right mix of callow arrogance and basic good-heartedness.

The story, unfortunately, isn’t as well-balanced. The plot takes too long to develop, and so it can’t quite support all the Burtony goodness Powell throws in. The first two-thirds of the issue are spotty, and a little too flip for their own good. Not quite earnest enough to match the tone of the film. It rights itself by the end, though, giving Our Hero a mission and a purpose that he’s not remotely prepared to undertake.

That is exactly as it should be, of course, so I have high hopes for where this is going. This first issue, though, isn’t quite as tight as it needs to be.

Grade: B-

And that’s it! My entire haul for the week!

Well… Okay. There was also a new issue of Miracleman. But I’m not reviewing that without digging in deep. So it’ll have to wait.

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About Mark Brett (395 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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