So we’re getting ready for a little Halloween vacation here on the nerd farm, and that means we’ll be keeping it brief this week, as we play a little catch-up with the Funnybooks of October…
Mister Miracle 3
by Tom King and Mitch Gerads
Two things struck me as I read this issue:
One, Tom King’s use of narrative quotations from Jack Kirby’s original Mister Miracle as a sort of greek chorus, responding to the more dour goings-on of this series, has the air of mockery about it, and it’s starting to piss me off. That may not be what’s happening at all, of course. It may instead be a sort of inspirational rallying call to Scott to fight whatever’s happening to him. If that’s the case, I like it a lot. Looking at King’s past work, though, that really doesn’t seem like his style. So, hmm. HMMM. We’ll see.
The second thing that’s struck me is that my theory that we’re seeing Scott Free trying to escape Darkseid’s Omega Sanction…
…might not be what’s really happening. It might be, instead, that Darkseid really has attained the Anti-Life Equation, and what we’re seeing is actually the impact of that on reality, and the New Gods themselves. That, I think, may be the point of Scott’s confrontation with Orion at the end of this issue.
If “Darkseid Is,” in other words… If his will has become the will of the universe… His face must be the “Face of God.”
Which is chilling, if true, and which may in the long term be a huge mistake in terms of the storytelling surrounding the New Gods. Because actually pulling the trigger on Anti-Life pretty much rips the guts out of the concept. If Darkseid achieves that, we’ve been told, it’s all over. The universe is his, and there is no escape. His more mundane plans can be defeated again and again, with no real damage done to his stature as an ultimate villain, because there’s always the threat of Anti-Life looming behind him, just out of reach. But if he actually achieves it, and Scott finds some way to overcome it… He’s done. Reduced to just another tyrant space god, no more threatening than Mongul or Thanos. The potential is the thing here, in other words, and I worry that Tom King is about to squander it.
None of which makes this issue of Mister Miracle any less fascinating. Even if this turns out to be an abortion of a story that mocks Kirby’s work and ruins the very thing that makes it work so well… At least it’s been one hell of a ride.
Punisher: The Platoon 1
by Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov
Garth Ennis tells the story of Frank Castle’s first tour in Vietnam. And it’s a hum-dinger. This is Castle before the Punisher, before his family was murdered, before Nam did whatever it did to him to start him down that later path. I’m sure we’ll find that there’s still something wrong inside him eventually. But here at the beginning he just seems like a greenhorn lieutenant who comes into the conflict unusually well-informed about how things work in the field, and unusually willing to bend the rules if it means looking out for the welfare of the men under his command. The kinda guy who, in a better war, might have become Captain America.
Ennis is accompanied here by Goran Parlov, his partner from the Fury maxi-series of a couple-three years back. His European-tinged art works just as well here as it did there, bringing members of Castle’s platoon alive both in the past and the present-day. Granted, it looks a little generic on the cover (which I won’t bother showing you). But the interiors are light years better, especially on the faces.
At any rate. There’s no particular surprises here, if you’ve read Ennis’ war comics before. It’s just a well-executed example of one. But I haven’t read an Ennis war book in a while, and I do like to dip a toe in every so often. So I’m looking forward to the rest.
Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil 1
by Jeff Lemire and David Rubin
I bought this book for two reasons. Number one, it’s called “Sherlock Frankenstein.” Which is awesome, and almost enough all by itself. But it’s also drawn by David Rubin, one of my personal favorites, whose work on Ether with Matt Kindt should really be far more widely-read than it is. It’s also written by Jeff Lemire, whose work away from the world of work-for-hire comics I generally like quite a bit. Put all that together with this amazing cover…
…and I was sold.
It was only after I sat down to read it that I noticed the From the World of Black Hammer tag across the top. Which… Oops. That’s a book I keep meaning to get around to, but which I never quite have. That’s neither here nor there, though, because I went ahead and read this comic anyway, and enjoyed the shit out of it. This is Lemire and Rubin doing some top-notch world-building, establishing the particulars of the super hero universe the heroes of Black Hammer left behind. It’s an awful lot of fun. The characters are colorful and imaginative, simultaneously familiar and all-new. They hit just the right tonal note, too, with a mix of enthusiasm and tragedy that’s neither too cute nor too grim. Rubin’s art and character designs don’t hurt, either. His experimental layouts don’t always work as well as they should, but scenes like this one blow me away.
Now, I’ll grant you… The book’s not perfect, nor does it seem particularly deep. But I liked it a lot, and I’ll be reading more. Hell, it might even get me to finally pick up some Black Hammer…
Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses 28
by David Lapham
It’s a time-distorted romp this month, as Orson, Beth, and Nina’s road trip antics get completely out of control. Orson once again becomes Derek (his fake-porn-stached alter ego), going on a cocaine-and-vodka-fueled bender to show Beth that he can be as exciting as she wants him to be. His memory of… however long this lasts… is spotty and chaotic, and so is the way Lapham tells the story. I’m still not entirely clear on everything that happened, but it involves bananas, sausages, public nudity, grand theft auto, wild sex, and, uhm…
SO MUCH FUN TO READ.
Batman: White Knight 1
by Sean Murphy
This one’s all about the premise: it’s a tale of role reversal between Batman and the Joker, with Batman becoming a threat to public safety and Joker becoming Gotham City’s hero. It’s a neat idea that allows Sean Murphy to explore the more problematic side of Batman’s vigilante activities, and the nature of the Joker’s madness. I’m particularly taken with the idea that the Joker is Batman’s biggest fan.
Like Murphy’s previous writer/artist outing, Punk Rock Jesus, the premise is designed to shock. But it has interesting ideas behind it, and it’s those ideas that really make it worth reading. This first issue didn’t completely blow me away, but it’s fun and interesting, and sometimes that’s enough.
The Wicked + The Divine 32
by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
An awful lot happens this issue. An awful lot, and nothing much. It’s what they used to call an “All-Out Action Issue,” with tons of stylish violence and death, and not much else. There’s some interesting character bits here and there, and lots of actions whose fallout will no doubt lead to serious drama later. But mostly, it’s all kicking and punching. And every so often, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Royal City 6
by Jeff Lemire
The second arc of Jeff Lemire’s magic-realist family drama starts here, as the story flashes back to 1993, and we meet the cast when they were teenagers. And when youngest brother Tommy was still alive. He’s suffering from severe migraines, literally transcendental headaches that, just for a few panels, take him somewhere else. Though I’m sure I know where this story will end up (with Tommy drowning in the lake), I’m fascinated to see how we get there.
I’m really loving Lemire’s artwork this time out, as well. He draws fascinatingly weathered faces, and his color work over the various lines and wrinkles really brings them to life. It’s a winning combo, on a book that I hope finds a wider audience now that the first arc is out in trade.
Kid Lobotomy 1
by Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler
This is the first comic I’ve tried from Shelly Bond’s new Black Crown imprint. Bond oversaw some of my favorite books back during Vertigo’s heyday, including Pete Milligan and Chris Bachalo’s Shade the Changing Man. And it’s that book’s pedigree that made me pick up this one. It looks to be classic Milligan, turned loose to be as weird as he wants to be on a story dealing with madness and damaged-but-impossibly-beautiful fey youth.
Granted, I’ve seen his tricks before, and they played better when I was in my 20s. But this is still entertaining stuff, a nostalgic nightmare for aging goth-punks. Whether it’ll play as well to today’s disaffected youth, I couldn’t tell you. But it’s at least as good as anything Gerard Way’s cooked up lately, so I suppose there’s hope.
by Donny Cates and Garry Brown
I’m tempted to say that Babyteeth jumped the shark with this issue. I’m not sure it actually did, mind you. But I’m tempted to say it, if only because of the introduction of this asshole:
That ridiculous exposition-dumping bastard is a magical warlock who goes by the name of (I shit you not) Dancy Cherrywood. He has a formal and vaguely British air about him, and seems designed to be a “breakout character” for the book. But really, he’s a plot device. He KNOWS things. He has magical powers and a disarmingly exasperating manner. He’s like the illegitimate offspring of Gandalf and Oscar Wilde, and I took an immediate dislike to him.
We’re supposed to think he’s ridiculous, I’ll grant you. But he still kind of breaks the book for me, because he’s a type. A kind of character we’ve seen before in other things who fills a similar purpose. At worst, it’s lazy writing. And at best… Even if the point of him is to mock that kind of character, he still sucks because he doesn’t fit. Babyteeth has, thus far, been a story about (relatively) normal people dealing in a (comparatively) realistic way with insane circumstances. And Dancy Cherrywood is anything but that.
We’ll see where it goes. But unless he’s killed off in a spectacularly entertaining manner, and soon…
But, hey. I still liked the rest of the issue, so…
Mage: The Hero Denied 3
by Matt Wagner
I like Matt Wagner’s world of evil faerie monsters and flawed heroes. I like the Arthurian legends he’s drawing on to mythologize his own life story. Hell, for that matter, I like the idea that he’s mythologizing his own life story. But there’s something lacking for me in the execution of this latest volume. Our Hero’s kids are probably part of it. They’re just a little too cute for my taste, like they’re Wagner’s fond memories of when his kids were young rather than the more flawed, more nuanced reality of them.
I dunno. But I like this book a lot more on the pages that don’t feature them. The new Grackleflints’ hunt for the Fisher King is entertainingly gruesome, and Kevin Matchstick’s return to the fight is satisfyingly legendary, word of it spreading through story and rumor of battles we don’t actually see. That’s great stuff, but it makes everything that’s come before it feel like set-up more than anything else. So here’s hoping things pick up now that the story’s really going places.
Dept H 19
by Matt and Sharlene Kindt
This series has been a very strange read for me. First I couldn’t decide if I liked it. Then I decided that I very much did. And now it’s settled into what feels like a smooth, steady groove, filling in details of the characters’ pasts as an on-going crisis unfolds in the present. I like that groove. It’s a good groove. I could stay with it for a while. But now, looking at the rising water gauge that’s been counting off the issues throughout the run, I realize that there are only five issues left. So the adventure’s going to have to wrap up, and the murder mystery’s going to have to be solved, pretty damn quick. But it still feels like we’ve only just scratched the surface. Damn.