This week's funnybooks this week! And lookit me! Click-Baitin' the fanboys by leading with a shiny bit of corporate spandex craziness!New Avengers Annual 1, by Frank Barbiere and Marco Rudy
I will be 100% brutally honest with you here: I bought this funnybook for the art. The art, and the promise of what looked like it might be a decent Dr. Strange solo story. Because, hey. I love Dr. Strange. He's on my extremely short list of characters I'll always read if they're done even halfway decently, and frankly... That means I haven't read too damn many Dr. Strange comics in the last 20 years. So even though this isn't a proper Dr. Strange title... and even though I've never even heard of writer Frank Barbiere before... I saw this...
...and had to give it a shot. That's the work of artist Marco Rudy, who puts me in mind simultaneously of JH Williams and David Mack. The Williams influence is more obvious on that page, with its flowing layout and mixed media craziness. Line drawing, paint, and ink wash on the same page? Sure, why not?! And while we're at it, let's toss in some mad crosshatching on the final panel, just cause I like Bruce Jones so much!
And the whole damn issue looks like that! It's nuts! I mean... Here's the very next page:
This is where the David Mack reference comes from, by the way. Check out those weird triangles, man! There are whole pages of those things in Kabuki! Of course, there's also a Bill Sienkewicz thing going on in that bottom left panel, and even (weirdly) some Brian Bendis super-heavy chiaroscuro stuff, too. But he pulls it all together. Makes it work for page after stunning page.
It's nice to see this sort of work coming from a major super hero publisher on a major super hero book. It's risky, non-traditional, and awesome. Anyone doubting we're in a new Golden Age can kiss my ass.
What's that? The story? It's pretty good, too. Dr. Strange goes to help these weird techno-mystics with a demon problem, and turns out to be far scarier than what they're dealing with. It had something of the dangerous, mysterious feel of the early Strange material, and I like that. We also get a little backstory thing explaining the dark, dangerous new path Our Hero's taking, which I didn't really care about all that much. We've seen him learn this sort of lesson before, so the revisit wasn't much a thrill for me. But if this had been the first time I'd run across it... and if I was 13 years old... I'd have eaten that shit up with a spoon.
So, hey! Not a bad Dr. Strange comic! If it was the launch of a new series, rather than an Avengers annual, I'd be tempted to pick up the next issue. As it is, though... Eh. This was fun, but I'm not climbing back into that mess again.Grade: B Stray Bullets: Killers 4, by David Lapham
So if I'd realized before this issue that Ginnie Applejack's new boyfriend Eli was the same kid who got exposed to murderous violence by Spanish Scott back in issue one, I had completely forgotten it. But something tripped my memory this issue, and sent me scurrying back to see, and... D'oh! I am an idjit.
Anyway. Classic Stray Bullets this time out, a dysfunctional love story that threatens to destroy Eli's life. Not that it's a life worth much of anything, granted. His little sister's just about the only good thing in it, and the only reason he hasn't seen that before is because he's so unbelievably good-hearted. Ginnie is too, I think, but she's just messed up enough that she doesn't always show it. Still, I couldn't help but see a few parallels to Beth and Orson, and that's not a relationship anyone should want to emulate. Of course, it's the best one Ginnie ever saw growing up, so... Whoosh. Let's just hope she doesn't wind up as poisonous as her surrogate mother.
Heh. Listen to me. A Dork Forty review of Stray Bullets is less a review than it is me having a one-sided conversation with people who know the whole series by heart. If you don't fall into that category, though...
...Well, if you don't call into that category, I can't imagine why you're still reading this...
...But thank you for your patience.
If you don't know the whole series by heart, you should still read this book. You don't need to know jack about Beth and Orson to enjoy it. It's a great story that can stand on its own, about two young people with messed up lives finding each other. And a gun. So check it out. You won't read a better character-driven funnybook this week. Or most others, for that matter...Grade: A Trees 2, by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard This second issue didn't go where I expected it to. Rather than revisiting the international cast he introduced last time, Ellis instead expands it, showing us more people in more regions, including some Greek Nazis and the economist president of Mogadishu. The one setpiece from the first issue he does return to is the Arctic research station, where mysterious black poppies have begun to sprout in the shadow of the Tree, taking root even in the metal shell of an exploratory robot. I'm okay with that. It opens the scope of the book even wider, giving it a truly global perspective that I like quite a bit, while still giving us some characters to hold onto in the Arctic research team. This is not to say that it's a warm book. It's not. It's a sociological science fiction sort of thing, interested more in what the Trees are doing to humans on the large scale than it is in interpersonal relationships. That's a sort of take you don't see much in funnybooks, but it's one I welcome. At least when it's as well done as this. Grade: B+ Mind MGMT 23, by Matt Kindt To use the funnybook vernacular, this is the ALL OUT ACTION ISSUE! In which EVERYTHING CHANGES FOREVER! And A MIND MANAGER... DIES!!! Several of them die, actually. Major characters, too. All joking aside, it really does change the whole course of the series, to the point that I'm not sure where it's going to go next. But not in a Game of Thrones style “did he really just hose the storyline that badly for shock value?” kind of way. More in a “Oh shit, he's been foreshadowing this for months” kind of way. Which is much better, as far as I'm concerned. But don't get me started down that path, please. Let's stick to the funnybook at hand. One of this book's hallmarks has been Kindt's narrative experimentation, but he really toned that down this month. With a story as explosive as this one, that was probably for the best. Even still, there's a nice bit that comes up in the showdown between Meru and the Eraser. As the Eraser tries to wipe parts of Meru's memory, she has these blackouts, and... I like that. A fistfight with pieces missing. It's a device Kindt returns to several times over the back half of the issue, to great effect. Great effect that I'm not going to spoil, of course, but great effect nonetheless. Poignant, even. So! Another fine issue of what might just be my current favorite on-going series. Can't wait to see where it goes next. Grade: A The Goon: One for the Road, by Eric Powell Lotsa changes coming for The Goon. It'll be relaunching as a series of mini-series starting next month, and with that change in publishing philosophy comes a change in focus back to more serious stuff along the lines of “Return of Labrazio” or “Chinatown.” But, before that happens, Eric Powell decided to give us one more fun comedic romp with a single-issue tribute to Jack Davis. Davis is an EC Comics and Mad Magazine veteran, able to do horror and comedy equally well, so it's only fitting that Powell acknowledge his debt to the man. The result is the usual Goon comedy anarchy, a flimsy story that runs completely off the rails as it degenerates into celebrity caricature and giant gorillas. Which, hey! Great! It's not Powell's best, or funniest, but I got my tree-fitty's worth of yucks and purty drawings out of it, so who cares? Grade: B Manhattan Projects 21, by Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Browne Y'know, just when I think this blackly comedic science farce can't get any more bizarre, it goes and gives us... Well, shit. I can't tell you what it gives us without SPOILING the hell out of it. So let's put the rest of this thing... after the jump:
Yup. Sexy Space Dog. In a lesser book, I might roll my eyes at this. I might call it pandering. But this is Manhattan Projects, and that’s Laika, the Soviet astro-dog, who set out to explore deep space a few issues back. She vanished without a trace, and this issue we find out what happened to her: she got snatched by a race of alien librarians. The scene above takes place after she gets exposed to some kind of ill-defined alien goo that evolves her into a bi-pedal form.
A SEXY bi-pedal form.
Except… Not really. ‘Cause I love that she’s still got a dog’s head. Ryan Browne has cartooned it more skillfully than maybe he should have, but man… That’s some disturbing shit. Can’t wait to see regular series artist Nick Pitarra get his hands on it, because that should be right good horrorshow stuff. Especially when she finally gets back to Earth, and is reunited with Yuri Gagarin, the cosmonaut hero who, it’s increasingly apparent, is infatuated with her.
Yeah. THAT’S not gonna go anywhere ugly…
Anyway. This is all absolutely ridiculous, of course, but well… I DID say that it’s a farce in the opening sentence, right? Sometimes you just have to go along for the ride.
That said, this is not the series at its best. It’s funny, but I do miss the sheer damn nastiness Hickman’s capable of here, the pitch-black comedy tinged with real drama that marked the first year of the book. This is more fun, certainly, and probably less depressing to boot. But some of the thrill has gone out of the reading since the humor got more broad. Still. It’s good funnybooks. Check it out!