Assassinistas #2 (January 2018)

Assassinistas #2

The second issue of Assassinistas doesn’t have much of the Assassinistas. But there’s a lot with Dom–he’s Assassinista Octavia’s son–and his boyfriend, Taylor, bonding with Octavia as they prepare for their mission.

There’s a little with the other Assassinistas–there’s a fun flashback and then the one with kidnapped baby has some trouble with her husband.

Hernandez’s art is excellent, no surprise, and he gives the whole thing a rather nice pace. Assassinistas #2 is gradual, building to its unexpected final reveal. It’s unexpected but still a soft cliffhanger, partially because there’s no immediate danger, but also because of the pacing. There’s not a lot of urgency to Assassinistas, which makes it rather likable, even if it’s not reinventing any wheels. Yet.

CREDITS

Pregnant Pauses and Campout Makeouts!; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorist, Rob Davis; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kid Lobotomy #4 (January 2018)

Kid Lobotomy #4

This issue is all about supporting cast member Oletta. While she’s trying to figure out what happened to Kid, she flashes back to her “origin.” Not her full origin (i.e. she’s a shapeshifter, how, why) but her beginnings at the hotel.

Milligan even introduces tween Kid, which is something to see. Though it does make Oletta hard crushing on him a little weird, as she met him when he was ten or something.

Though given the other oddities of Kid Lobotomy, that one is one of the least skeevy.

It’s a somewhat gentle issue–Milligan never goes as gross as he threatens–and Fowler’s artwork is fantastic.

Kid Lobotomy is a sturdy, sturdy book. Four issues in but still.

CREDITS

The Chambermaid’s Tale, Part Four of A Lad Insane; writer, Peter Milligan; artist, Tess Fowler; colorist, Lee Loughridge; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editors, Chase Marotz and Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

The Ruff and Reddy Show #4 (March 2018)

The Ruff and Reddy Show #4

Ruff & Reddy has turned a corner. It’s now abjectly pointless. Chaykin has a big twist–which doesn’t come off like a big twist because artist Rey doesn’t make important panels bigger, in fact they’re usually smaller. But it’s also a really lame big twist.

Instead of doing the bickering cartoon animals shtick, Chaykin concentrates on a condemnation of the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, the cartoon animals are a terrible entry into that condemnation–and Chaykin really doesn’t have anything to say about the entertainment industry.

Or, if he does, it’s so bland, predictable, and familiar, the eyes gloss over it. In fact, mine glossed over so much I couldn’t help but notice Rey’s word balloons look funny this issue. Maybe they look funny every issue, but I haven’t noticed until now.

There are two more issues.

I don’t know if I can make it. Not because it’s too bad to read, but because it’s too bland to read.

CREDITS

A Cautionary Tale In Six Parts, Part Four; writer, Howard Chaykin; artist, Mac Rey; letterer, Ken Bruzenak; editors, Michael McCalister and Joey Cavalieri; publisher, DC Comics.

Evolution #3 (January 2018)

Evolution #3

The story develops. The characters react to what they’ve experienced. But not much else happens in Evolution #3.

The nun discovers the Church is going to try to silence her, restrict her from trying to help. The doctor realizes the epidemic is worse than he thought. The two young women in California fight about their future, luckily detached from the worst of the horrors.

It’s character work, sure, but it’s character work separate from the characters’ functions in the comic. Are the characters going to be compelling enough to warrant their own issue, with the main plot of Evolution stagnant.

Maybe?

Infurnari’s art helps. It’s super creepy, super unpleasant. He makes even the most mundane panel dangerous.

Maybe if the doctor’s section–involving telephone messages and then a phone call with his estranged wife and lots of expository information from her–maybe if it worked a little smoother, this issue wouldn’t feel so clunky.

It’s not bad. It’s just blah. With good art.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Maestros #4 (January 2018)

Maestros #4

I’m still excited about Maestros but I’m no longer worried about it. Skroce has got a handle on the book. He knows what he’s doing; four issues in, he’s established his characters. The split between present day and flashback–something he introduced and then temporarily abandoned–serves him well this issue. He’s got the mom back. The mom’s a cool character. She’s even cooler after this issue.

And the Maestro himself has an all right story to himself this issue. In the flashback, he’s background, but in the present, Skroce actually takes the time to explore the Maestro’s personal philosophy. We’ve already seen it in action–his attempts at benevolent ruling–but here Skroce shows it from the Maestro’s perspective.

Great art. Some hell imagery. Skroce does a good job with the hell imagery. And demon princesses. There are now demon princesses in Maestros.

Skroce knows where he can excel–visually–and he stays focused on those narrative possibilities. Maestros is conservative in its scope, but outstanding in that scope.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

Love and Rockets #2 (Spring 1982)

Love and Rockets #2

Love and Rockets #2 has Mechanics. Mechanics is a forty-ish page story by Jaime. Maggie is in foreign Zhato on a job with Rand Race, Duke, and Gak. Gak might not even have any lines in the whole story. Most of the story–at least at the start–is text. Maggie’s letters back home to Hopey. While Hopey was her boring life waiting for the bus, she can read about Maggie fixing a rocket ship. Said rocket ship has landed next to a dinosaur.

It’s fantastical. It’s also not. Because bureaucracy. Jaime illustrates the letter, which goes all over the place. Single panels of a scene, said scene covered in the text. Sometimes seven a page. Mechanics has a deliberate, but fluid pace when Jaime’s using the letters to guide the visuals.

Then, on page five, which is “Day 12” of Maggie’s trip, Jaime goes into regular comics. For Maggie and Rand Race getting amorous. It’s sexy, it’s funny, then it’s dangerous, then it’s sweet. There’s a lot of action, with Jaime not just scaling up for the activity well, but also using the sequence to reinforce things in Maggie’s letters. It’s awesome.

It’s also where the narrative format changes. Jaime relies on regular comic storytelling. The long narration returns occasionally, usually to set up a new chapter (Mechanics has six chapters). Or Jaime will go through the letters to Hopey and check in with her and the rest of the gang for a page or two. The contrast between normal life and Maggie’s adventuring is measured and rather well-done. So far, Mechanics is a world of infinite possiblities. Rocket ships, dinosaurs, wrestling champions, and dictators too, unfortunately.

Jaime’s got a big cast for Mechanics. And he keeps introducing new characters. The new characters often end up doing more than the regular characters, even Maggie.

The time in the jungle–Zhato’s got jungles–starts wearing on everyone, leaving Maggie isolated. Rena, the former world wrestling champion turned adventurer and revolutionary, gets a flashback to herself. Maggie’s there to chronicle it.

Jaime’s presentation of the story is wondrous. Gary Groth has another column introducing the issue–I couldn’t read it, I just can’t get into the tone–and he jabbers about the story’s excellence. He’s not wrong at all. Mechanics is a masterpiece. And it’s just issue #2.

But Mechanics isn’t the only story in Love and Rockets #2. There are three more.

First up is Radio Zero, which is about a young woman named Errata Stigmata. Hopefully you’re paying attention to her name because stigmata’s going to come into play later. Not a lot, but a little. Enough you should’ve been paying attention.

Brother Mario writes, Beto draws.

Errata has this crazy bad day, with explosives, intrigue, protests, all sorts of stuff. It’s a strange story with a strange setting. It’s futuristic, it’s self-aware, it’s erratic. There’s a lot of action but Mario and Beto keep it focused on Errata, who gets thought balloons and talks to herself.

It’s good.

Also good, also by Mario–this time story and art–is Somewhere in California. It’s this bad luck coincidence story involving revolts against foreign powers, interdimensional exploration, and some dope dealing. It’s set in a cheap apartment complex with a big cast.

Mario (with Beto co-scripting) does a great job. It’s complicated but never too complicated. The climax is oddly ineffective, with the payoff panel being strangely underwhelming. But otherwise pretty good stuff. Mario juggles a lot and keeps it all controlled but never hampered.

The last story is Music for Monsters by Beto. It’s about Inez and Bang, who were in the previous issue. It’s a very short story–four pages–with the characters encountering killer snowmen. It’s funny, with some great art.

Both Radio and Somewhere were ten or more pages. So Music for Monsters has a lot less room. Turns out Beto can do rushed action just fine.

It’s a great comic. Mechanics alone would make it great no matter what came next. Just happens the backups are all strong too.

Redneck #9 (January 2018)

Redneck #9

It’s kind of a bridging issue for Redneck. The bad guy–renegade vampire–has his Bond villain moment and blabs to Bartlett. Bartlett’s tied up, but it’s not going to last. Perry’s out of commission this issue, presumably for a return next.

Oh, there’s some stuff with the bad vampire family fighting cops and whatnot, but it’s basically a bridging issue. The payoff is next issue, the cliffhanger was last issue. Everything in this issue is connective… filler.

Nice art from Estherren. A couple good moments in scenes from Cates, but, again, it’s got a circular, closed narrative.

Something about Redneck just can’t support these bridging issues. The series goes one issue too long on arcs. Cates needs structure.

CREDITS

Writer, Donny Cates; artist, Lisandro Estherren; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Joe Sabino; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #4 (January 2018)

Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #4

I wasn’t particularly concerned about Sherlock Frankenstein #4 going into it. I knew Lemire would have something good cooked up.

And he does. He and Rubín don’t just do the history of Sherlock Frankenstein, they do the history of the Black Hammer universe, at least in the twentieth century. It goes from Golden to Silver to Bronze. Lemire doesn’t break out all the heroes it goes through, just gives Rubín space to show off some familiar–and not familiar–designs.

Lots of double page spreads this issue. Rubín goes crazy with it to great success. Lucy and Sherlock’s meeting pays off.

And the ending of the book, which has very little to do with Black Hammer itself, is a perfect finish to this series. Lemire’s been doing a lot with the “supervillains” of BH. The finish embraces that work (more than it does having a Lucy investigates issue).

It’ll be interesting to see what Lemire does with the next spin-off, which is Lucy-less.

CREDITS

The Undying Love of Sherlock Frankenstein; writer, Jeff Lemire; artist, colorist, and letterer, David Rubín; editors, Cardner Clark and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson #1 (January 2018)

The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson #1

The Further Adventures of Nick Wilson is about a former superhero–Nick Wilson–who has lost his powers and has nothing going for him in life. He’s a pot head, which the comic says makes him a loser. He’s only got one friend, his scummy business manager. Everyone knows he used to be the world’s only superhero. Now he’s doing appearances at birthday parties as a Nick Wilson impersonator. It’s all very sad.

After the introduction, which culminates in a car accident, Nick goes out to lunch with his high school girlfriend (who he left in the lurch). They have a talking heads scene. Then some guy–presumably the son of Nick Wilson’s nemesis from superhero days–shows up to confront him.

Stephen Sadowski’s art is fine. His expressions are great. Marc Andreyko’s writing is fine. The conversations work well. It’s just real thin for a first issue. Especially of a five issue limited series.

CREDITS

Writers, Eddie Gorodetsky and Marc Andreyko; artist, Stephen Sadowski; colorist, Hi-Fi Colour Design; letterer, A Larger World Studios; editor, Shannon Eric Denton; publisher, Image Comics.

The Damned #7 (January 2018)

The Damned #7

So, following up on my Damned #6 post. Turns out Prodigal Sons is really just a reprint of the Prodigal Sons limited. It was underwhelming Damned sequel. This time with Bill Crabtree colors.

And, despite the awesome art and colors–Crabtree brings vibrancy to Hurtt’s action–despite those successes, Damned #7 (or Damned: Prodigal Sons Color Edition #2) reminds what’s wrong with the original comic.

It’s way too slight.

There’s a fight, a walking sequence, and a cliffhanger. Nothing else.

Eddie’s brother does the fight. There’s some awesome action, but nothing else. Eddie does the walking. It’s funny–his guide is this (mildly) sarcastic demon–but it’s just a walk. The cliffhanger is slight too.

In some ways, I’m glad. I’ve always thought I was too hard on Prodigal Sons, which kind of ruined The Damned brand back in the day. Hopefully this repeat won’t screw up the book too much. Bunn and Hurtt did magic with the first arc (surpassing the original Damned).

One more colorized rerun to go.

CREDITS

Prodigal Sons, Chapter 2; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Randal C. Jarrell and Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.

Kong on the Planet of the Apes #3 (January 2018)

Kong on the Planet of the Apes #3

I was wondering how long I could sustain interest in Kong on the Planet of the Apes and I think that answer is three issues. Kong #3 is fine–Magno’s art is less detailed, which sometimes works better than when he’s extremely detailed. Detailed meaning lines. Lots and lots of lines.

The humans are good, the Kong action is good. The Apes? Not so much. I mean, it’s fine, but boring. Ferrier doesn’t have anything for the good apes to do this issue. It’s all the bad apes planning to attack and kidnap Kong.

Why?

Because it’s what happens in Kong stories.

Unfortunately, Ferrier forces his way through it all. The scientists keep talking about making important discoveries but they aren’t discovering anything, just talking about it. The gorilla general’s story is ominous and unlikable. It’s unpleasant. The bad apes are planning to kill all the Skull Island humans, it’s just waiting for them to do it.

There’s no humor in this issue either. No witty observations about either franchise. There is some stuff from the BOOM! Kong license, which isn’t the movies and centers around the Skull Island tribal culture.

Frankly, yawn.

But those scenes are the ones with better Magno lines.

Anyway. I say I’m done but I’ll probably be back for one more. I just remembered Ferrier’s doing a direct sequel to the first movie and maybe there are some loose ends to tie up from it. Maybe Charlton Heston comes back. Maybe Kong carries Charlton Heston to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

Probably not. But maybe.

CREDITS

Writer, Ryan Ferrier; artist, Carlos Magno; colorist, Alex Guimarães; letterer, Ed Dukeshire; editors, Gavin Gronenthal and Dafna Pleban; publisher, Boom! Studios.

X-Men: Grand Design #2 (March 2018)

X-Men: Grand Design #2

Piskor is into the original Uncanny X-Men series proper now with Grand Design. He summarizes about sixty-five issues. He covers costume changes–without fanfare, though often with humor–he covers all the weird sixties villains. The space aliens. The coming Phoenix force.

There aren’t any asides. The closest is when Jean Grey goes off to college, but she’s not there for long. A couple pages. But there’s no intense focus on any on character or part of the history Piskor covers here. He’s just getting it out on the page, efficiently, with the right mix of foreshadowing, brevity, and humor. Piskor rarely goes for anything approaching a laugh, but when he does a sight gag, it’s great. When he does a written gag, it’s great too.

The voice of Grand Design–so the Watcher’s voice, as the Watcher is still narrating–keeps the comic calm. It’s still very active, it just doesn’t have overarching intensity. Scenes and sequences can have intensity, but it’s history. Removing the intensity is why Grand Design can get away cataloging all the dumb ideas in X-Men comics and make them great.

Piskor’s art is fantastic. Again, he doesn’t really take any time out on any one thing this issue so there aren’t any art focuses. But it’s fantastic cartooning even without a special topic.

Grand Design continues to amaze.

CREDITS

Cartoonist, Ed Piskor; editor, Chris Robinson; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Jimmy’s Bastards #6 (January 2018)

Jimmy's Bastards #6

Jimmy’s Bastards #6 is all about the true horror of the Bastards’ plan. It breaks Jimmy. His partner tries to get him out of his funk–Jimmy’s gone nonverbal–can she do it in time to save the day?

Ennius juxtaposes her well-drawn but tedious visit to the mental hospital with flashbacks to Jimmy’s discovery of the aforementioned true horror.

Ennius does all right with the partner’s monologuing. Not great but definitely all right.

The problem is it’s a stretch issue. It’s issue six, it’s time for Jimmy’s Bastards to wrap up and instead we’re just going into the second arc. Worse, what if the series is planned for twelve and Ennius has paced it so poorly. Everything in Bastards is thin, everyone is caricature; Ennis doesn’t go for character development in this book, he goes for sight gags.

Sometimes exceptionally gross ones.

It’s been difficult to maintain enthusiasm for this book, despite it sometimes being good and usually being better than mediocre (Ennis mediocre being much better than most other mediocres). And now he’s dragging it out? Bastards is on the brink of exasperating.

Great Braun art, though. At least one beautiful–horrifying–double-page spread.

CREDITS

The Laughing Academy; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Russ Braun; colorist, Guy Major; letterer, Rob Steen; editor, Mike Marts; publisher, AfterShock Comics.

Copperhead #18 (January 2018)

Copperhead #18

Copperhead wraps the arc in a really, really, really quick issue. Faerber intentionally avoids half of Clara’s character development possibilities. There are four. Faerber does two. They aren’t the hard two.

There are some great Clara moments, but Moss’s art hurts every one of them. Between the rushed story–it’s written to endcap a collection, not be a full issue–and Moss’s loose faces… it’s not great.

It’s not bad at all and Faerber sets the book up for an interesting arc when it comes back, but Copperhead has gotten to the point where Moss is holding it back. Faerber’s character moments can’t connect without expression and Moss can’t do human expression.

He’s pretty good at the aliens. Like, Boo. Boo’s fine.

But it’s not Boo’s issue. It’s ostensibly Clara’s, only it ends up being no one’s.

Anyway. Okay read, good series, but the issue takes about three minutes to get through.

CREDITS

Writer, Jay Faerber; artist, Drew Moss; colorist, Ron Riley; letterer, Thomas Mauer; publisher, Image Comics.

Love and Rockets #1 (September 1982)

Love and Rockets #1

Love & Rockets is an anthology. Los Bros Hernandez–Beto and Jaime–alternate strips. In this first issue, Beto gets six parts, Jaime gets five. Most of Beto’s are chapters in one story, Bem. The issue runs sixty-eight pages. This #1 is actually L&R’s second; Los Bros put out a thirty-two page ashcan a year before. Fantagraphics scooped them up. The issue even opens with a mildly problematic introduction from Los Bros fan and Fantagraphics publisher Gary Groth. The introduction’s problematic in how much Groth emphasizes the writing over the art.

The original LOVE AND ROCKETS #1, self-published in 1981 by Los Bros Hernandez.

Anyway.

Bem.

Bem opens with mollusk shells. Detail on mollusk shells, a single page spread (with title). The first words? “Meanwhile.” Groth’s not wrong to be impressed with Los Bros’s writing, it’s exceptional. But to intro the comic and tell people not to pay attention to the art. Sorry, it grates me.

The first page of Bem introduces the monster. A moth slash grasshopper looking giant monster. Cut to Leonore. Leonore and her boyfriend, who I don’t think gets a name, get a lot of time in the story without ever doing much. She’s the Cassandra. Beto’s going to mix a lot of things–evil-looking Mothra and the woman with the strange connection to it–but he also mixes them visually. Bem gets positively absurd, while still serious because people are going crazy and terrified, but there are rayguns and maybe an alien or a clown type thing. Regardless, his name is Bob Zitz. The guy with the raygun is Harold Penis. Beto’s all over the place. He’s staying busy with the visual pacing–very noir while still keeping some comic strip visual gag nimbleness–while he’s drawing attention through the text.

Introducing Luba.

Then it’s time for Luba. Luba and her male servant. They’re on the island where the monster is going to make landfall. Luba’s going to go on to a lot in Love & Rockets and while that future’s unknown in issue one, Beto loves the character. She’s hilarious and imposing.

Then it’s the detective. Castle Radium. He’s a noir detective, just one in a somewhat futuristic (sometimes) setting. Beto goes for some weird humor with him. Then cuts away fast back to Cassandra. And it seems like the strip’s done. Only it’s not. There’s two more pages with a lot of exposition for Luba and Castle and the reader.

Beto establishes everything in Bem, then does some more. He’s a little light on the “Bem” backstory. He’s this unseen menace, the monster is the present danger. He keeps the story compelling over the characters.

Jaime does the opposite with Mechan-X, which introduces Maggie, Hopey, and Rand Race. Jaime did the story under pseudonym–Izzy Ruebens.

Meet Maggie and Hopey.

The page starts with Maggie and Hopey crashed out after partying. It’s a messy apartment. They’re sleeping on the pullout sofa. Lots of talking, lots of movement. Maggie sits up between panels, lays down between panels. She moves around the apartment, getting ready for work, bickering with Hopey. Jaime does a bunch with expression when he gets closer, but there aren’t many close-ups. Like close-ups would get in the way of the movement.

The page ends with Maggie on a hoverbike. Because there are hoverbikes in Love & Rockets. Maggie’s off to her new job as a mechanic again. She’s working with prosolar mechanic Rand Race. Prosolar just means you’re a rich and famous mechanic. Jaime introduces Race to Maggie (and the reader) along with the boss. Race and the boss both know Maggie’s cousin, “the world’s female wrestling champ.”

There’s some more bonding between Maggie and Race, some foreshadowing thanks to odd behavior, and some ground situation exposition. The mechanics haven’t gotten to finish a job in months. They get sent out, then the “business magistrates” call to cancel and the mechanics blow up the job.

The job is canceled.

Jaime splits subplots on each page. Race and his boss and the jobs never getting completed take up maybe a third of the page. More when it’s something involving Maggie. It results in this great rhythm. You read Love & Rockets at a pace. Because there’s the art to look at too. Not just the exquisite detail, but Jaime uses foreground and background to deliver information.

The story doesn’t end with the job being over; instead, there are robots the crew decides to check out. And then there’s a criminal out to get Race. Or does he just want to escape to outer space. Jaime does this section fast, never slowing to make the panels easy for the reader. Lots of jump cuts between action. It’s particularly jarring for a bit just because Jaime started the strip with such an attention to smooth movement.

After the action with the space criminal is done, there’s a quick sum-up with Maggie, Hopey, and Penny Century. Penny used to date Race, she’s not thrilled. Hopey–who pushed Maggie into the job–is perplexed why she’s keeping it. But Maggie’s excited. Even if she does end up having to take a taxi to work. Because even though there’s been a war involving robots, people still have to commute.

La Chota. Not German.

Then Jaime’s got this strip called La Chota (The Snitch). The story stars Frenchie Firme. Supposedly it’s in German, but thanks to Google translate, it’s confirmed it’s not. It’s a weird little strip. Frenchie Firme’s a blonde bombshell. She’s on the witness stand. The prosector has got a really long head. The judge is a dog. The real translation might ruin it.

Bem comes back with Leonore the Cassandra having a moment. She’s thinking about Castle Radium, the detective, who’s close to finding the Horror. Sorry, Bem. Sorry, the Horror. Because Castle Radium ends up in a fight with a giant gorilla in a mask. Only it’s not a gorilla, it’s a man in a suit. A golem suit, it’s called. Then the strip’s pretty much over. It’s back to Leonore and her unnamed boyfriend for the bookend.

It sort of reads like Beto took his giant monster and Luba on the island story and grafted it to this noir detective in semi-future hunting the evil genius Bem. The grafting works though. It’s weird but it works.

Welcome to Hoppers.

Then Jaime does Barrio Huerta, which is a Hoppers 13 strip. It’s all in Spanish. Thanks to Google translate, it’s clear the strip’s about a death. But it’s only a page. Four panels. Jaime’s going to mood through dramatic comic strip. It’s got great art and great implication. Translating it doesn’t do anything for the strip.

Then another Jaime. A one-page Penny Century strip about her devilish (literally, with horns) male friend, Mr. Costigan. Mr. Costigan is maybe the one who made Rand Race a prosolar mechanic. If not him, another Costigan–H.R. Costigan. Penny wants to be a superhero. Because it turns out superheroes are real. They’re all flying past the window at one point. It’s a beautiful strip–Penny is in an evening gown, Costigan in a tux.

So two one-page Jaime strips and it’s back to Bem. Luba on the island–her toady boy’s name is Peter–they’ve just put on their costumes for the ritual. Got to do a ritual for the monster. Maybe Bem made the monster? The Horror? Luba runs into a bunch of other people who want to do a ritual for the monster’s power too. There’s a lot of comedy, sight gags, giant monsters. Meanwhile, Leonore is missing and her nameless dude is trying to find her.

It’s the end of the world as they know it?

The monster then gets to monologue. Bem did brain surgery to make the monster smarter. Luba isn’t impressed. Beto wraps it up with some giant monster action, which looks great.

The next story is Jaime’s How to Kill A (by Isabel Ruebens). Is it the same Izzy Ruebens who’s credited on Mechan-X earlier? Who knows. But the protagonist, Isabel, is having some writer’s block. She then goes on a strange vision question, presumably to find some inspiration. It’s a gorgeous strip, with Jaime doing a lot of white on black–Isabel writing in the dark–and then the detailed (while still dark) vision quest. It’s very noirish.

Music for Monsters is Beto doing this strange future Old West comic mixing cheesecake and monsters. The setting feels like Mechan-X more than anything else Beto’s done in Bem. It always seems like it could be a Jaime strip. But it’s not. It’s Beto.

Look at all those panels.

And it’s Beto doing a lot of work. Every page of the story has something like fifteen panels. Lots of minute detail as the two leads try to survive hungry monsters, horny monsters, and sexual predatory dudes. It’s Beto showing off how well he can do big action even on a tiny scale. And he makes it work. The small panel size for giant action turns out to be perfect.

Maybe I always think it’s Jaime because one of the girls is wearing a black dress similiar to Penny’s earlier?

The next chapter of Bem establishes Leonore is just fine. She’s run off to San Sassafras, where it’s Fiesta Days. She’s finally going to meet Bem. Also there is the Monster, who moved consciousness into one of the guys on the island. Not the one with Luba.

The relentless Castle Radium.

The chapter brings together the various elements–Luba (eventually), the no longer Monster, Castle Radium, and Leonore. Radium spends most of the strip battling Bem’s associations, trying to find the Horror himself. There’s also a reference to a character maybe mentioned in the first chapter, but only as a pinup girl. It’s a strange detail. We also learn Bem is sort of an immortal evil monster thing. Shapeless if need be. What does it all mean? Only one chapter left to find out.

But first, Locas Tambien. Or, Maggie and Hopey. Without the sci-fi. They go visit Izzy. Izzy Ortiz, not Ruebens. So not from pseudonym to costar. She’s one of Maggie and Hopey’s friends. They’re visiting because Joey, another friend, wants to borrow witchcraft books. Joey’s scared of Izzy’s brother Speedy, who wants to “kick [his] ass in school.” Remember that last part.

Jaime doesn’t shy away from writing a lot of ranting dialogue for Izzy.

Izzy freaks out on everyone with a page long drunken rant about nails and the universe. Maggie blows up, gets them kicked out. It leads to a flashback to Izzy and Maggie being straightedge a few years before when Izzy introduces Maggie to Hopey.

Then it’s back to the present, where they all run into Speedy, leading to the biggest action in the whole strip. Only it’s off page. Hopey and Maggie just talk about it at the finish, when they’re at a punk show. It’s a weird, awesome device. Jaime’s great at focusing the attention. He has this expansive world going on all around, but he can refocus instantly. Panel to panel.

The final chapter of Bem is a visual freakout. Leonore witnesses the showdown between the Monster (still in human form) and Radium. And Luba’s there too.

Castle Radium exits.

Beto’s got some plot twists after the action is over. There’s a noirish moment or two, some great comic strip expressions and pacing. The way he resolves the story–through Leonore telling the still-unnamed boyfriend–is fantastic. The finale is a relief, even though Bem has never been particularly dangerous. I forgot to mention the last chapter had the Monster (in man form) getting drunk and partying.

Beto wins the issue with Bem. It’s not really a competition–as Jaime doesn’t have any long, multi-part narratives–but Bem is one heck of a starter for Love & Rockets. It goes all over, it’s loud, but Beto has it all under control it turns out.

Or maybe it’s just whoever gets to finish the issue. We’ll see what happens in #2.

CREDITS

Story and art, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez; editor, Gary Groth; publisher, Fantagraphics Books.

Barbarella #2 (January 2018)

Barbarella #2

This issue of Barbarella is a smooth read. Carey has Barbarella’s newfound, partially cyborg sidekick narrating at the start. It’s kind of nice–a chill reflection on Barbarella. Some exposition. Implications of genetic improvements and whatnot. The narration is calm against the thrilling action.

The book’s only on its second issue, so it’s hard to say what’s the norm. Yarar’s art is phenomenal, blending genres–sci-fi and witch trials; Barbarella is constantly in motion. Carey and Yarar occasionally are maintaining the momentum on their own, but it never slows down. Even when Carey does an aside with a robot terrorist, formerly a robot veternarian.

Barbarella gets a little character work, even though she’s mostly the subject here. Carey keeps a lot of narrative distance. It gives Yarar space to fill in with art, but it also keeps the characters surprising.

The cliffhanger’s a cheat, but its lead-up is well-written and the art is beautifully paced. So Barbarella. Still excellent. How.

CREDITS

Red Hot Gospel, Part Two: The Fall From Grace; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Kenan Yarar; colorist, Mohan; letterer, Crank!; consulting editor, Jean-Marc Lofficier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Comics Fondle Podcast | Best of 2017

See full episode here

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Ether, Lake of Fire, Slam! 1st series, Motor Crush, Powerman & Iron Fist, Kill or be Killed, Harrow County, Dead Inside, The Killer Inside Me, Copperhead, War Stories, Redneck, I Hate Fairyland, Nick Fury, Evolution Divided States of Hysteria, Kaijumax, Love & Rockets, Aliens: Dead Orbit, Letter 44, Sabrina, Mister Miracle, Shadows of the Grave, Jimmy’s Bastards, Dastardley & Muttley, Kid Lobotomy, Black Crown Quarterly, Assassinistas, Gravediggers Union, Barbarella, X-Men Grand Design

BEST OF THE YEAR

Black Hammer and Sherlock Frankenstein, New Super Man, Flintstones, Damned, Spy Seal, Fu Jitsu, Batman White Knight, Punisher Platoon, Maestros

BEST TPS

Baker Street Familiars, Garth Ennis Train Called Love, Providence, Empowered vol. 10

The Gravediggers Union #3 (January 2018)

The Gravediggers Union #3

Gravediggers continues on a nice pace. It’s a suspense comic (so hopefully a limited, or at least with definite arcs) and Craig’s better at building that suspense than anything else. The pacing of the reveals this issue, as he toggles between the Union tangling with a vampire and Black Temple Prophet (and former junior gravedigger) Morgan has a trippy experience getting ready for a presentation.

Great art by Cypress. As always. Though he gets less to do with the Union than Morgan. She goes all over the place, this universe and beyond. The Union goes into a haunted house. From a haunted graveyard. Or some such thing. Morgan’s storyline opens the book up a lot, because Craig isn’t really a comedy writer. He couldn’t keep it going with just the Union.

So another good issue of Gravediggers Union. Craig’s got the momentum on the book now, Cypress is always able to carry it. It’s in its stride.

CREDITS

Writer, Wes Craig; artists, Craig and Toby Cypress; colorist, Niko Guardia; letterer, Jared K. Fletcher; publisher, Image Comics.

Bonehead #1 (December 2017)

Bonehead #1

The Rhoald Marcellius art aside, I’m not sure there’s enough to Bonehead to stay conscious, much less engaged between issues.

It is the future. Drones patrol the city. Boneheads are parkour-gangs, because in the future, every male under the age of thirty will have amazing coordination. The lead of Bonehead is “56.” He doesn’t have a name, he doesn’t speak, he just is “56.” He’s out to find a drone. Because it’s worth the stunt. I had to go back twice to see if there was any motivation. Maybe there was some more.

Bryan Hill’s expository dialogue fills the book and it’s exhausting. He makes you not want to read the comic–given the illustrative quality of the Marcellius art, Image (or Top Cow–Bonehead is actually a Top Cow book) should have put it out without word balloons. Then it might be a successful.

But they didn’t; instead, Bonehead is full of boring words and good art. But the art–and the content–isn’t enough to get me back. The non-talking protagonist is just annoying.

CREDITS

Writer, Bryan Hill; artist, Rhoald Marcellius; colorist, Sakti Yuwono; letterers, Jaka Ady and Imam Eko; editor, Elena Salcedo; publisher, Image Comics.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1 (March 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #1

Despite being about show business, Snagglepuss doesn’t have a lot of show. Whenever it comes time for drama, writer Mark Russell moves on. He gives penciller Mike Feehan and inker Mark Morales a couple panels to wrap up with visual suggestion, but no drama.

Considering Exit Stage Left reimagines Snagglepuss as a popular playwright in fifties New York City… some drama might be nice.

Russell’s script is intelligent, Feehan’s layouts are great, there’s just not a lot to the book. We meet Snagglepuss, get some of his ground situation, get some of the McCarthy hearings and its effects, but not much else.

When Huckleberry Hound shows up for a bit towards the end, it feels wrong. Russell has shied away from the cartoon origins of the character and having a guest star? It’s not smooth.

Exit Stage Left is off to an okay start. But, so far, there’s nothing special about it.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Russell; penciller, Mike Feehan; inker, Mark Morales; colorist, Paul Mounts; letterer, Dave Sharpe; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Batman: White Knight #4 (March 2018)

Batman: White Knight #4

This issue of White Knight is pretty much what I was expecting from the book, best case. Murphy’s been excelling past this level and it’s a pretty significant drop.

Especially since I couldn’t tell the mayor from Bullock. They’re both obese white men. Murphy draws them the same.

There’s a lot of “politics” in this issue, but the politics are mostly how Black Gothamites feel like they’re getting the shaft from the rich white people. Murphy teases arguments between people over race, then immediately backs off. It’s kind of annoying. He’s implying edginess, nothing more.

He’s also gotten to the point he doesn’t want to have the Joker as protagonist, but subject. There’s some history with Harley Two, which intentionally makes light of her being suicidal for a sight gag.

On the other hand, there’s a Batman 1989 reference. The two things don’t balance out. Especially not since the Joker’s master plan is similar to Tony Stark’s Civil War plan.

It’s a shrug of a comic. I hope it’s not a trajectory change but the story’s pretty thin. Real Harley’s character development has entirely stopped. Though she and Mr. J do go clubbing a la Suicide Squad, just as yuppies not criminals. Yawn.

And the soft cliffhanger tying the Wayne family fortune to Nazis?

I’m now worried Murphy’s just doing DC’s version of Nazi Captain America.

Or maybe it’ll end with a Jim Gordon monologue about how “all lives matter.”

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Sean Murphy; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Todd Klein; editors, Maggie Howell and Mark Doyle; publisher, DC Comics.

Dastardly & Muttley #5 (March 2018)

Dastardly & Muttley #5

Dastardly & Muttley has had its ups and downs, but I didn’t really expect Ennis to pull it all together so well. And he doesn’t do it with restraint. There’s nothing restrained in this issue. It’s happened; the cartoonifying bomb has gone off. Lots of cartoon animals, lots of changes to cartoon logic.

Ennis handles it well. Even if the reveal didn’t end up being so thoughtful, the issue would be pretty good. It’s not laugh out loud funny, maybe Ennis isn’t comfortable without dirty jokes. But it’s pretty good, it’s a nice, amusing read. With good art from Mauricet.

But then Ennis gets to the reveal and it’s rather awesome. It’s a lot. There’s a lot of exposition and a lot of references in that exposition, but there’s also Mauricet’s ability to do sight gags.

Dastardly & Muttley isn’t going to be great; it might end up being a solid Ennis trade though.

CREDITS

5: In an Octopus’s Garden, in the Shade; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 43

The Best of 2017

Vernon and I get right into talking about the best comics of 2017. Just a warning–we go on to talk about them for almost 2.5 hours.

No spoilers on the list. Regular listeners might be able to guess a lot of them…

And we do talk about the importance of not writing off a year too soon (i.e. best of lists in November). We also give some examples why it’s a terrible idea. One of them rhymes with Fanned Whine

you can also subscribe on iTunes

Evolution #2 (December 2017)

Evolution #2

Evolution reads like a novel. Or it doesn’t. Then it does again. Then it doesn’t. The comic makes the four different writes working on different things–presumably, I still haven’t read the back matter, but there are four different plot threads going. Anyway, sometimes there’s rhythm between the writers. Sometimes there’s none. This one time there’s terrible expository dialogue, while the rest of the book is fine.

Well. Wait. The last scene has the doctor who knows evolution is happening really fast all of a sudden narrating to his journal. It’s kind of obnoxious, especially since he was part of the talky expository dialogue sequence. So whoever writes that one needs a little more editing.

But… that writer also got to do the evolved monster people are congregating in groups in something with micro-face tentacles. Kind of like The Thing but more gross. Infurnari has this beautiful way of doing gross as horror. It’s scary to look at the gross, which makes it more visually compelling.

Evolution is still solid. It’s impressive what they’ve done, four separate writers and all, but the editing could be a little tighter. Not just in the dialogue; the comic still hasn’t found a rhythm. Though it might take a while with all those different writers.

CREDITS

Writers, James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela, and Joshua Williamson; artist, Joe Infurnari; colorist, Jordan Boyd; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Jon Moisan; publisher, Image Comics.

Billie Holiday (1991)

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday begins with a biographical essay by Francis Marmande. It’s from the 2000 Casterman edition. The original trademark is 1991, so Billie Holiday has had some editions, some revisions. At least in the packaging. Because Marmande’s essay, glancing through it, appears to give the reader a thoughtful, understanding quick biography of Billie Holliday.

The subsequent comic itself doesn’t do anything along those lines. There’s some connective tissue because the players can be the same, but José Muñoz and Carlos Sampayo aren’t really doing a biography. They’re doing biographical sketches, but there’s a lot going on.

For example, I wasn’t expecting Billie Holiday to have a guest apperance from Muñoz and Sampayo’s famous detective, Alack Sinner, but he’s here. He’s integral. At the end of the story, he’s maybe the most important character.

The structure is already convulted before Alack shows up. It’s about a reporter who has until morning to write about Billie Holiday. He’s a square white dude writing the story before sunrise. Billie Holiday, thirty years later. The reporter–who’s either nameless or should be–writes the biography, apparently, with nothing but veiled racism and class hatred. In the reporter’s story, Holiday is a dangerous drug addict. In the flashbacks, she’s this tragic figure, constantly abused by the men in her life. And since the flashbacks chop around, there’s nothing much but that abuse. When Alack arrives and gets a frame of his own into the story–he was one of the cops present at her death–his profound reaction to the anniversary overpowers the rest of Holiday.

The reporter is an obnoxious, loathsome idiot. Holiday’s tragic. Wonderful and tragic. She’s not really a character though. She’s not a dangerous drug addict, sure, but Sampayo doesn’t really want to get much further into her head. So she’s never a character. She’s the subject, nothing more. And she’s not subject to too close an inspection.

At least not narratively.

The art? Well, Muñoz is having a grand time. He’s ambitious and nimble and overindulgent and breathtaking. It’s a gorgeous comic.

And it’s a good comic.

It’s just a non-fiction Alack Sinner spin-off, which is strange and not the best way to do a biography.

CREDITS

Writer, Carlos Sampayo; artist, José Muñoz; publisher, Casterman (1991/2000), NBM (2017).

Punisher: The Platoon #4 (February 2018)

Punisher: The Platoon #4

The tragedy of Punisher: The Platoon is almost unbearable. Ennis juxtaposes the Americans and the Viet Cong. The female Viet Cong Frank Castle, the Frank Castle Frank Castle. The one with a dark shadow over him, even though only the reader can see it. It’s not in the bookend narration. The vets sitting around being interviewed? They don’t acknowledge the tragedy of Frank. It’s the saddest thing in the world… an earnest Frank Castle.

And something I suppose you wouldn’t get if you weren’t entirely versed in the character. Or at least in Ennis’s Punisher MAX. Or some of it, anyway. It’s freaking intense. Nothing happens this issue; violent-wise, I mean. The two times things could go violent? They don’t. Ennis and his war comics realism.

Frank’s marines are on R and R. Drinking and whoring. Ennis loves writing the old men jovially recalling those days. It’s actually kind of cute, as very little else in Platoon ever gets to be cute. Frank’s Viet Cong alter ego’s mentor is sort of cute. But he’s also a brutal commander so it’s a problematic cute.

There’s a conversation scene with Frank and one of his men. Just talking about their lives. Frank Castle talks about his personal philosophy. The other guy offers him advice. It’s extremely affecting as it continues because it’s so foreign from Punisher comics. Freaking Ennis. So good.

Parlov’s art is awesome. No action, lots of talking heads, just beautifully paced visuals. Parlov’s really got this one down.

CREDITS

4: Absolute Consequences; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Kathleen Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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