They’re a day old, but still… It’s THIS WEEK’S COMICS THIS WEEK!!
That’s Because You’re a Robot, by David Quantick and Shaky Kane
It took only three words to convince me to buy this comic: New. Shaky. Kane.
Kane’s work is always a pleasure. Warped-lens pop culture fun from the depths of the creative unconscious. This particular example won me over with its premise alone: “Two cops: one of them is a robot. Only they don’t know which!”
The result is bizarro action-adventure sitcom, a series of high-powered cop show clichés rendered ridiculous by Our Heroes’ continuous arguments over which one of them is a robot. The joke shouldn’t be able to sustain itself over the course of an entire funnybook, but it does, somehow getting funnier the farther you go into the story. In part, that’s due to the distraction of the strange future setting, populated with mutants and hover cars and random collections of villains that seem to have been pulled out of a child’s toy box.
That feeling of a child at play is a favorite theme of Kane’s, it seems. It’s the whole point of his book Monster Truck, and it’s even revealed as the final truth at the end of the second Bulletproof Coffin series. And though it doesn’t seem to be the literal truth of things here, I couldn’t escape the thought. All the vehicles seem crazily toyetic, and the city is filled with billboards that look like trading cards and ads from old funnybooks. It’s a cool aesthetic for a cool comic.
I’m not saying that this thing’s a masterpiece, understand. It’s not even Kane’s best work. But it is funny, entertaining throw-away funnybooks, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
United States of Murder Inc 2, by Bendis and Oeming
A marked improvement. Yes, this second issue of the new Bendis / Oeming joint is a marked improvement over the first, and that’s a good thing. This issue is lean and focused, and the story is by far the better for it. There’s little of the empty posturing bullshit of the first issue, and more a sense of who the characters are. There’s also some fascinating background on this alternate history we’re getting here, including the inciting incident, the moment where history diverged from what we know.
I’m not going to tell you what that moment is, of course, because that would be kind of a dick move only 24 hours after this thing hit the stands. But it’s big. Really big. Enormous, even. And I dig it.
I’m also a fan of the way Bendis is playing with the big revelation from the end of issue one: by pushing it completely to the side. It’s a nice storytelling gambit. He turns the world of Our Hero, Valentine Gallo, completely upside-down, then has Valentine reject the twist outright. I doubt it’s going to be as easy to escape the truth as he thinks, of course, but Bendis sends him into complete denial before he even has a chance to hear the details, thus leaving his most tantalizing plot hanging out there while he fills us in on how the world came to be the way it is. Which would be frustrating if the backstory wasn’t as good as it is. But it’s good. It’s real good, so I don’t mind waiting.
I’m getting used to the simpler style Oeming’s using on the book, as well. I don’t like it as much as the more fully-rendered stuff he does on Powers, but the simpler art gives him leeway to play with shapes. He seems to be shooting for a looser, more graphic approach. I’m just not sure he’s entirely got it down just yet.
I’m also not sure about Taki Soma’s color choices. I see what she’s shooting for, I think: it’s an attempt to give the settings and characters distinct looks through bold, single-color rendering. It doesn’t pop the way it should, though. While I appreciate the richness of the colors, they all seem to be either too bright or too dark, leaving some things weirdly day-glo and others so murky you can barely see them. I wanted to show you an example, a page with purples so deep the blacks got lost in them, but my scanner apparently isn’t capable of capturing it. Every scan I did wound up looking better than the printed page, which wouldn’t really make my point very well.
I hate to crap on the work, because it’s obvious a lot of thought was put into it. But when the best-looking pages in the comic are the black & white flashbacks…
That says something unflattering about the colors.
Still, though. A strong second issue of a series I’m now looking forward to a little bit more than I was a month ago. Hope it continues to grow.
FBP 11, by Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez
I don’t think I’ve talked about this blue-collar sci-fi series in a while, but it rumbles on as before: reliably entertaining and strange, if nothing that sets my world on fire. It does feature yet another in a series of really great Nathan Fox covers, though…
…and I must admit to being belatedly impressed with the way Oliver’s telling this story. There were two plot threads running earlier, both taking place in the same town, but certain details just didn’t seem to jibe. I had actually written it off as either sloppy writing or poor reading on my part, but I hadn’t bothered to go back and figure out which (again… much as I like the book, it doesn’t excite me enough to dig back that way). But this issue, I suddenly realized what was happening: half of our cast is in a simulated “quantum reality” generated by their own subconscious. So of course some of the details don’t add up. Nicely-done, Mr. Oliver! In the future, I will make the effort to re-read. Seems that it may be rewarding, after all.
Story-wise, the corporate conspiracy plotline continues to unfold. It’s great liberal paranoia stuff, with special interests manipulating events (and politicians) to undermine a perfectly good public service so they can take it over and make money at it. Granted, all it takes is a close look at things like the real-world corporate prison lobby, or the world of private school voucher systems, to see that Oliver’s not fantasizing all that wildly here. But it’s still fun reading, if you’re a suspicious bastard like me.
She-Hulk 1-5, by Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, and Ron Wimberly
Decided to finally give this book a try a couple of weeks ago, and was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t a big fan of the one Charles Soule comic I’d read before this (an issue of his Swamp Thing run), and something about the premise of this book told me that I’d find it entirely too cute.
(First rule of the nerd farm: Can’t abide cute.)
But man o man, do I love me some Javier Pulido art, so… I got bored one day, went down to the funnybook store, thumbed through the first issue just to look at the pictures, and… Well. Nothing in that made me want to hurt somebody at all. Huh. The humor’s got a little edge to it. It’s flip, but not vacuous. It offers a comedic take on the characters without making them look like fools for cheap laughs. And, mah god, the pictures. The pretty pretty pictures.
So, yeah. Wow. I like this book. I don’t love it. It’s still not really my kinda thing. In fact, it’s exactly the sort of thing I generally don’t like. But it’s the sort of thing I generally don’t like, done really well. And that makes it a curiosity to me. Three dollars’ worth of throw-away wonderment. And, as I’ve said already tonight… There ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.