Punks Not Dead #1 (February 2018)

Punks Not Dead #1

Punks Not Dead #1 opens with the protagonist–Fergie–introducing himself. And talking about he’s got a punk rocker ghost friend named Sid. Yes, Sid looks like that Sid but he’s not that Sid. He thinks he’s that Sid. It’s all writer David Barnett’s back matter.

Anyway.

The comic sets up the kid, Fergie; he and his mom are reality show actors. They’re at the airport, Fergie discovers he can see the ghost, Sid. Sid gets tethered to Fergie. A comic book will ensue.

But then there’s this government agency–British government, it’s U.K.–for paranormal investigation and there are demon imps and ghosts and whatever else. The supernatural is real. So maybe Sid the ghost isn’t just some figment of the imagination or even a real ghost friend.

And it’s cool. Both sides of the story work. The teenage stuff, the secret agency thing–there’s a new guy starting, working for the tough lady who’s run it for years. Barnett’s setup is outstanding.

And Martin Simmonds art accentuates both the teenage stuff as well as the supernatural. The supernatural elements–the way Simmonds visualizes them alongside the mundane–it’s outstanding.

Oh, right. The kid might be a wizard too. He’s got magic of his own.

Another good one from Black Crown.

CREDITS

Teenage Kicks, Part One: Don’t Let Them Take You Alive; writer, David Barnett; artist, Martin Simmonds; colorist, Dee Cunniffe; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Kong on the Planet of the Apes #4 (February 2018)

Kong on the Planet of the Apes #4

Maybe a quarter of the way into Kong on the Planet of the Apes #4–really makes me hope there’s a Son of Kong Beneath the Planet of the Apes sequel–but about a quarter in, I couldn’t help but wonder why I’m reading such a depressing comic. It’s not like there’s a happy ending for a Planet of the Apes story or a King Kong story. This issue doesn’t just have a captured Kong crying–dashing hopes of him stomping Ape City–it’s got the gorillas kidnapping one of the Skull Island natives and then a big twist for fans of the original movies. Especially the first three movies.

Of course, not all in the first quarter. The first quarter just has kidnapped native and crying Kong.

But I kept reading. Because even though reading some depressing sociological look at a fictive future society seems not just pointless but downright unpleasant… Ferrier writes sociological looks at fictive future societies quite well. He covers a lot. Religion. Hucksterism. Science. Military. The intersections of the four. It’s a smart script. It just happens to be for a mostly disposable licensed franchise crossover.

The last quarter of the issue is far more action-packed, with Ferrier and Magno pacing it beautifully.

I knew I read this comic for better reasons than I’m a sucker for Kong.

CREDITS

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

Punisher: The Platoon #6 (April 2018)

Punisher: The Platoon #6

Here’s the thing about Garth Ennis. His story arcs might read well in trade. His limited series might read great in a sitting. But he writes comic books. He paces comic books. And Punisher: The Platoon #6 is one hell of a comic book.

Ennis goes an unexpected route resolving the previous issue’s cliffhanger. He uses the frame a lot, revealing the frame isn’t a frame so much as a perch. It’s the reader point of view, whether they know it or not. Ennis has his epical story arc and juxtaposing and it flows nicely, but these things aren’t the most important thing. The most important thing is how the comic has read and reads.

Because Ennis delivers. He confirms he made a promise earlier in the series–one entirely without verbalization–and he delivers on it. He shows he can do this comic and do a war comic and also do a Punisher comic and then he moves past proving he and Parlov’s abilities to someplace else.

Or maybe Ennis just wanted to make a bunch of grown men cry. With the added bonus it’s a Punisher comic making them cry. It’s one hell of a comic.

Parlov’s art is on, of course. There are a lot of talking heads moments cut into the big action–with the narration and the talking heads so strong the big action flashback panels are almost intrusive. They don’t break the pacing because they’re supposed to be intrusive. Ennis is sort of doing the Wizard of Oz reveal on how the comic works and he needs to get the reader alert.

Damn.

What a comic. The issue and the series. Ennis and Parlov.

Damn.

CREDITS

6: Happy Childhoods; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Goran Parlov; colorist, Jordie Bellaire; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kathleen Wisneski and Nick Lowe; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Barbarella #3 (February 2018)

Barbarella #3

Carey and Yarar finish the first Barbarella story just right. Barbarella gets half the issue; she’s recovering from the cliffhanger and trying to figure out how to stop the foreign agents from killing all the religious nutjobs’ babies. The other half of the issue is the foreign agents as they execute their plan.

Their scenes create the tension. Barbarella’s scenes create the fun. Starting with her little space Chihuahua. Then she gets a surprise sidekick. Carey has a lot of fun with both.

The Barbarella scenes should nullify the tension–since she’s never deterred or worried–but they don’t. Carey paces the various reveals well and Yarar’s wacky art matches them perfectly. Yarar’s always got a lot of detail, whether it’s in movement or background; it keeps Barbarella distinct without ever slowing the book down. In fact, because of Yarar’s panel transitions, the distinctiveness usually helps the momentum.

And the wrap-up is good. Carey gives the characters time.

Barbarella keeps impressing.

CREDITS

Red Hot Gospel, Part Three: Fire and Sword; writer, Mike Carey; artist, Kenan Yarar; colorist, Mohan; letterer, Crank!; consulting editor, Jean-Marc Lofficier; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Star Wars: Thrawn #1 (April 2018)

Star Wars: Thrawn #1

Even through Thrawn gets a fair number of close-ups in Thrawn #1, I finished the issue feeling like he didn’t. Thrawn is a Star Wars comic–one of the new official ones so all those old official ones from Dark Horse starring Thrawn are out of continuity. Though, since they’re all based on Timothy Zahn novels, there’s got to be crossover.

This issue deals with how blue super-intelligent alien Thrawn gets into the Imperial Academy. There’s even a cameo by the Emperor (which is maybe the comic’s only draggy scene). Otherwise, it just moves and moves.

Some of the brevity is thanks to the narrator. It’s not Thrawn, but some Imperial cadet who gets stuck translating and babysitting him. The cadet’s not a jerk, but he’s completely disinterested in his assignment. Writer Jody Houser uses the cadet as the reader’s vantage point, but the cadet’s got more information than he’s sharing in narration. Got to keep it dramatically compelling.

And Houser and artist Luke Ross are able to keep it compelling. Even when the comic hits a second or fourth talking heads sequence. There’s sporadic action, but most of it is just seeing how Thrawn reacts to this new world around him. There’s Star Wars minutiae but the better, not-created-by-George-Lucas minutiae (i.e. the Galactic language being called Basic–it’s immediately self-explanatory).

It’s an exceedingly competent comic book. Good art, good scripting.

CREDITS

Writers, Timothy Zahn and Jody Houser; artist, Luke Ross; colorist, Nolan Woodard; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editor, Heather Antos; publisher, Marvel Comics.

VS #1 (February 2018)

VS #1

Despite a rather boring cover, VS is all about the art. Specifically the Esad Ribic art. Pretty much every panel of the comic looks like some awesome seventies sci-fi book cover. Not awesome sci-fi book, but its cover. Though maybe it does read like some of those seventies sci-fi books….

Brandon’s script is perfectly servicable. It starts like it’s about a futuristic alien war–except the aliens all look mostly human or at least are buff like humans (see, sci-fi book cover). But it’s not. It’s really about a sporting event. “War has become a spectator sport,” says the publisher description.

The first half is a battle, then Brandon switches over to focus on the protagonist. Who–gasp–appears to die at the end of the issue. Probably won’t. Not based on next issue’s cover, which is included.

Ribic’s a great artist.

VS just isn’t great comic. It’s fine. It’s worth it if you’re looking to see some great art. Otherwise. Eh.

CREDITS

Writer, Ivan Brandon; artist, Esad Ribic; colorist, Nic Klein; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Sebastian Girner; publisher, Image Comics.

The Gravediggers Union #4 (February 2018)

The Gravediggers Union #4

Half the action in Gravediggers Union involves the Union members doing research at a library and arguing about what’s an appropriate use of union dues.

The other half of the action is Morgan, daughter of a Union member and prophet of the Black Temple, bargaining with some dead souls for their help in destroying humanity or something. Morgan’s half of the issue is where Cypress gets to go crazy on his art–the dead souls are part of a “ghost-storm,” basically a hurricane; the art’s gorgeous. Even when people are being eviscerated.

Craig’s comedic writing comes through on the other half, the Union half. It’s exposition but well-done. Cypress’s art is strong on it as well, it’s just not a ghost-storm. It’s a trip to the library, with some very pop culture references.

Gravediggers Union continues to be a strong book. Craig’s juxtapositioning of Morgan’s story and her father’s is working out a lot better than I thought it would.

CREDITS

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

Dastardly & Muttley #6 (April 2018)

Dastardly & Muttley #6

Ennis does indeed pull off Dastardly & Muttley. The finale is a mostly action book as Dastardly and Muttley fight about how they’re going to save the world. As in, their method. It’s a bunch of good dialogue from Ennis–who has a lot more fun integrating cartoonish dialogue than he has previously–and a great pace.

Mauricet’s artwork is outstanding. He can do Ennis’s cartoons as people humor scenes–though Ennis really should’ve reminded the fox president is George Clooney. Anyway, Mauricet can do those absurdist sequences, he can do the action sequences, but then he can also do the “real life” things. Like the establishing shots and the transition shots.

In a book with either extreme facial expressions or anthropomorphized ones, it turns out Mauricet excels at muted, dramatic expressions.

It’s a neat book. Could be better, sure, but there’s only so much you can do with a Dastardly & Muttley comic book in 2018.

CREDITS

6: You Build me a Thingumabob; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Mauricet; colorist, John Kalisz; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Diego Lopez and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

Love and Rockets #4 (Fall 1983)

Love and Rockets #4

Love and Rockets #4 opens with Jaime and 100 Rooms, a Locas story. The first page is a recap, sort of, of the previous Mechanics and Locas stories. It’s an introduction from Isabel Ortiz Ruebens, who appears to be a nun. She’s not Izzy (as in Maggie and Hopey’s friend) but maybe she’s the author from a few of Jaime’s stories in #1.

It doesn’t really matter because after the nice intro page, Jaime just drops the narration and goes into the story.

This issue ends up being rather distinct because both Jaime and Beto are going to be doing amazing work. 100 Rooms is a twenty-six page epic. It also doesn’t have any jokes about Maggie being dumb, which is nice. Instead, it’s sort of a Maggie grows or at least Maggie realizes how she wants to grow story.

Jaime opens it with a visit to Tía Vicki, who he has been mentioning maybe since issue one. Vicki. The wrestler who cheated to beat Rena Titañon. Vicki used the ropes. But visiting Tía Vicki isn’t the point. Maggie’s just looking for money. Because she desperately wants some boots. She drags Hopey around town trying to find someone to loan it to her. They come across Penny Century, who has a plan.

Jaime never shows the full exterior of the mansion, instead relying on interiors to show the grand scale of it

That plan lands the girls–Maggie, Hopey, Penny, and Izzy–in billionaire H.R. Costigan’s mansion. In that mansion, lots happens. Like Maggie getting lost and kidnapped. And then there’s a party. And a supervillain fight. And Rand Race.

100 Rooms has five parts, not including the one page intro. First part is all about Vicki and the boots with an appearance from Speedy. Speedy is Hopey’s cousin who Maggie thinks is hot. Part two is an intro to the mansion then Maggie finding dangerous romance. Part three is romance plus the girls bonding. Part four is the party setup. Part five is the rest of the party. Each first page of the “chapters” has a big establishing panel. Otherwise Jaime sticks to three rows of three panels. Sometimes he joins two of the panels. But mostly 100 Rooms is read across, down and back, across, down and back. There’s so much with the narrative flow too. The visual transitions. Jaime changes angles between panels to move the story along, but also move the characters in the scene. It’s breathtaking.

And probably should, experimentally, be cut up and read horizontally.

Supervillain action, Love and Rockets style

Once again Hopey gets a lot less to do than Maggie–but more, especially when Maggie’s missing–and Maggie gets this strange, but sexy subplot involving European royalty in exile. The party is where Jaime goes crazy with the action. Before he’s being deliberate but casual with the angle changes. The party is all about being full and action-packed, whether it’s in the establishing panels or the regular ones. Which isn’t to say Jaime doesn’t employ the angle changes to move the action and story along. He just adds to it.

It’s awesome. The best Locas so far.

Next is Beto’s Twitch City. It’s cyberpunk, with noir narration. Emico is the lead. She’s a sixteen year-old cop in New Hiroshima (in South Oregon). It’s a five page story. It covers Emico at work then at home. It’s rather depressing. Beto does a great job with it.

Music and Monsters goes to sea

Then is another Music for Monsters (so the issue has three Beto stories and two Jaime). Inez is babysitting a monster’s egg. For four fifty an hour. The egg is at sea, so Inez is fighting off sea monsters. Bang parachutes in to hang out with her. It’s another short one–four pages this time–but Beto manages to get in some drama over a messed up Errata Stigmata comic. The first issue of Love and Rockets had an Errata Stigmata story.

And, of course, there’s a monster they need to fight.

One of Out O’ Space’s perfect panels

Jaime then has Out O’ Space set in a “Jetsons” future with the lead–a teenage girl named Rocky–hanging out on an asteroid belt with her robot, Fumble. She’s lost, cutting school, and decides to claim her own planet. Unfortunately a rock creature named Patrick has crashlanded on the other side of Rocky’s planet. A turf war ensues. It’s a fun strip with some great art.

And, then, finally, it’s time for Palomar and Heartbreak Soup Part Two. A twenty-one page continuation of the previous issue’s story. Beto takes the first two pages to recap everything in that story. The principals of the story change a little. Gato, who had a lot to do last issue has very little to do in this story. Manuel and Pipo, having made repeat visits to Soledad’s house while he’s out of town, both get a lot. Manuel because he’s breaking Pipo’s heart and Pipo because her heart’s being broken. At the same time Beto is moving along the Luba vs. Chelo storyline.

The tween boys figure in a little, mostly serving to inadvisably gossip within other people’s earshot. Hercalio figures in more than a lot of characters–Carmen, for instance–but it’s mostly just Manuel and Pipo. Or about Manuel and Pipo.

Pipo tells Tipin’ Tipin’ all about Sopa De Gran Pena (Heartbreak Soup)

Beto mixes styles–Pipo and her siblings versus Manuel on the make–or pretty much any of the exterior scenes. Palomar is simultaneously empty but teeming. The story takes a lot of unexpected turns, including in the to the two-page epilogue. There’s also a lot of dialogue. Pipo makes the titular Heartbreak Soup for herself and Tipin’ Tipin’ and tells him all about their lives in Palomar. He’s still around because, in the most minor subplot, Carmen is trying to rehabilitate him.

It’s a sad, aching story. And rather beautiful. And better than the first part.

Love and Rockets #4 is sixty-four pages of phenomenal comics. Jaime and Beto both hit highs with their exquisite storytelling.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 44

Our first podcast for 2018!

Which we actually didn’t realize.

It’s straight into the comics because the second half is devoted to a single feature–surprise–topic.

Floppies – Hungry Ghosts, Ruff and Reddy, Punisher: Platoon, JLA/Doom Patrol Special, Kid Lobotomy, Assassinistas, Barbarella, Maestros, Kaijumax: Season Three, Vinegar Teeth, Sherlock Frankenstein, Comic Book History of Comic Books, Redneck, Snagglepuss, Dastardly and Muttley, Batman: White Knight, Damned, Grave Diggers Union.

Trades – Spy Seal, Fifty Years of the Fabulous Frak Brothers, Black Hammer

you can also subscribe on iTunes

The Damned #8 (February 2018)

The Damned #8

I’d forgotten how Damned: Prodigal Sons ended. Now it makes sense why it’s included–it was a setup for another series. But it didn’t happen back then.

So in the context of setting up what’s to come in Damned? Sure. It’s a fine arc. Kind of deserved two more issues, as it’s clear Bunn needs the five. I don’t even think the original Damned was five.

There’s some great pacing with Hurtt’s art here. There’s a talking heads action sequence, then a real action sequence. A fight sequence, in fact, with Eddie’s brother kicking demon ass.

Sons works as an arc in an ongoing. It’s still got a lot of problems. But for the finale, the biggest problem is it’s rushed. Bunn needed to spend time with these new characters. A page here or there.

Anyway. Can’t wait for #9 and the return of the new.

CREDITS

Prodigal Sons, Chapter 3; writer, Cullen Bunn; artist, Brian Hurtt; colorist, Bill Crabtree; letterer, Chris Crank; editors, Randal C. Jarrell and Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #2 (April 2018)

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles #2

So, Snagglepuss. How many more issues of Snagglepuss.

It’s okay? Feehan and Morales’s art is good. Enough. It’s not exciting art. And Russell’s storytelling is more than competent.

But the book is kind of pointless. Sure, Snagglepuss as a gay playwright finding his way into trouble with McCarthyism is an idea, but there’s still no story. Snagglepuss wanders around, hanging out with humans and manimals. Humanimals. He keeps on giving people jobs. He wants to help.

Sometimes even when people don’t want his luck. Like when Huckleberry Hound has a cruising fail. Funny part about that? There’s something to look at when it’s a manimal getting punched in the face–it’s for a (somewhat sad) laugh. Huck’s physical suffering isn’t considered.

Anyway. Snagglepuss, even though he’s a great playwright, is sort of naive when it comes to threats from the government and warnings from his friends.

This book still feels like an underdeveloped idea put to series.

CREDITS

A Dog’s Life; 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 #5 (April 2018)

Batman: White Knight #5

Watching grizzled Batman bicker with White Knight Dick Grayson almost feels like a grimdark version of early eighties Batman but not exactly. Murphy has definitely made White Knight its own thing–down to Harley Quinn being the voice of reason–and there’s only so much to do with it.

Most of the issue has to do with Batman not wanting to join the Gotham Terrorist Oppression (GTO), which is the super-cop team setup by the Joker. The “good” Joker. There’s also Neo Joker, but she’s the replacement Harley Quinn gone rogue.

Then there’s the Neo Joker finding out the Wayne fortune is probably based on Nazi gold. Murphy even suggests there’s going to be some meat on that subplot.

White Knight has three issues left and Murphy could pretty much do anything in those three issues. But there’s no reason he needs eight. Whatever he’s doing he could’ve fit in six, because there’s nothing essential here. There’s some excellent art–with grimdark Batman being the most visually boring character (after Dick Grayson in his GTO uniform).

Murphy’s burnt through all the initial goodwill and is keeping White Knight moving. With issue #5 though, it’s clear it doesn’t really have anywhere interesting to move. Neo Joker might give the series some big set pieces and some drama, but she’s none of the big ideas Murphy promised to tackle at the start.

CREDITS

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

Vinegar Teeth #1 (January 2018)

Vinegar Teeth #1

Vinegar Teeth is a lot. Like, a whole lot. Because it’s gross and Troy Nixey’s art manages to hint at the gross without ever inundating with the gross.

It’s a cop story. Only the lead, drunk rogue cop has a new partner–a giant toxic waste monster named Vinegar Teeth. Vinegar Teeth didn’t pick its name. It isn’t even sure it wants to be a cop. It definitely wants people to be nice to it and one another.

Damon Gentry’s writing keeps up–mostly–with the art, which isn’t easy. Nixey’s doing this extremely detailed noir with some cartoonistisms. The ending comes way too quick–Vinegar Teeth doesn’t get to be a character enough–but the cliffhanger is cool. Gross, but not too much, and cool.

Apparently the Lovecraft influences start next issue. Woo!

CREDITS

Writers, Damon Gentry and Troy Nixey; artist and letterer, Nixey; colorist, Guy Major; editors, Cardner Clark, Brett Israel, and Daniel Chabon; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Hungry Ghosts #1 (January 2018)

Hungry Ghosts #1

Hungry Ghosts is the story of restaurant staff who get suckered into telling ghost stories with one of their hideous rich customers. The hook of the series, presumably, is “executive producer” Anthony Bourdain. He’s credited as co-story but–from the back matter–it’s clear Joel Rose, the other story credit, did the writing work.

Though, presumably Bourdain agrees most of his customers are hideous rich people.

Alberto Ponticelli and Vanesa Del Rey do the interior art. Ponticelli does the setup and the first story, Del Rey does the second story. It’s the one about the pirate ship rescuing a drowning woman just so they can rape her. It doesn’t go as planned. It’s not scary though. None of Hungry Ghosts is scary or even disturbing. It’s PG–13, conceptually as well as visually.

Yawn.

The first story has a cook not feeding a homeless guy and the homeless guy turning into a demon to exact retribution. So, maybe if you bring a copy of Hungry Ghosts #1 to a Bourdain restaurant you get a free meal? Because the story literally says not feeding the hungry deserves death.

So. I guess the comic is for people who just love anything with Anthony Bourdain’s name on it? Because there’s nothing else to it. Sure, it’s updating Japanese “Kaidan” but so are a lot of things. Even some actual scary things, which Ghosts isn’t.

At all.

CREDITS

Writers, Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose; artists, Alberto Ponticelli and Vanesa Del Rey; colorist, José Villarrubia; letterer, Sal Cipriano; editor, Karen Berger; publisher, Dark Horse Comics.

Kaijumax: Season Three #6 (February 2018)

Kaijumax: Season Three #6

I’m not sure Cannon would want the compliment, but Kaijumax: Season Three just duplicated the feel of a problematic third television season perfectly. After stumbling through the first half of Season Three, Cannon rallied. That rallying has led to this issue, which is a great comic.

It’s an action issue. There’s a prison riot. The warden is out of town. The prisoners are trying to settle scores–including Electrogor, who’s far from the lead, but clearly needs to be in the comic–and all the plot threads get completed. Including some leftover from Season One. It’s an awesome, awesome finish. And one where Cannon could take however long he wants before Season Four, frankly.

Some great art. Cannon does big action real well–he also gets to play with his visual pacing, as they related to narrative reveals. Everything going so fast–monsters to guards to monsters to interlude to monsters to guards–he’s got rhythm. The issue flows.

I can’t imagine it’s going to seem such a victory in trade as it does in this one issue, where Cannon doesn’t exactly save Kaijumax (clearly it wasn’t in any real danger), but he does resurrect it.

Of course, Season One and Season Two didn’t have cliffhangers anything like this one so hopefully he starts next series as strong as he finished this one.

CREDITS

Consequences; writer, artist and letterer, Zander Cannon; colorists, Cannon and Jason Fischer; editors, Charlie Chu and Desiree Wilson; publisher, Oni Press.

Punisher: The Platoon #5 (March 2018)

The Punisher: Platoon #5.

One issue to go. Why am I so surprised Ennis is bringing the two plotlines together–Frank and his platoon, the Viet Cong and the female soldier. But he handles it in a way it can surprise, even after a whole issue of visual reminders the two subplots are very, very close to intersecting.

Ennis and Parlov do it on the last page. They completely change what Platoon might be about. They introduce all sorts of new potential in the penultimate issue. In the last page. Because Ennis has been so careful at advancing the Viet Cong plot line. He never neglects it.

The Frank plot line has the platoon on a body reclamation mission. Ennis gets some history and some commentary out of that subject. Parlov gets to do some gorgeous green landscapes. Those Jordie Bellaire colors. Then, little by little, Frank and the platoon lose the sky. It’s not night, they’re just going deeper and deeper into the jungle. It’s incredibly claustrophobic.

And it’s all a distraction so Ennis can bring out the proverbial big gun. He foreshadows it a little and builds expectation, but it’s still a surprise; the foreshadowing is nonspecific, ditto the expectation. Parlov and Ennis pace this issue deftly, confidently guiding the reader to the cliffhanger.

Next issue’s going to be something.

CREDITS

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

Love and Rockets #3 (Fall 1983)

Love and Rockets #3

Love and Rockets #3 opens with a Jaime story. It’s just called Love and Rockets. A car stopped on the train tracks, its driver reminiscing about a lost love. Then the lost love thing takes a comic book-related twist. And then Jaime goes crazy with the intensity of an oncoming train and the driver’s endurance. The two-page story then has two additional twists… in the last two panels. Jaime turns it all upside down and inside out in a panel. And that last twist simultaneously grounds the story and makes it even more ethereal.

Love and Rockets‘s second page has a lot of black. There are nine panels on the page and only one of them doesn’t use silhouette to focus on the driver in her car. The next story, Beto’s Sopa De Gran Pena–you know, Soap’-uh deh Grawn Pen‘-uh–Heartbreak Soup opens with a white on black title panel then some more dark blacks. It also has all the violence Jaime teased. Though Beto shows the effects of the violence a lot more than the action of it. It’s for humor, after all. Tip in’ Tip in’ is just getting his butt kicked by another girl who doesn’t want him. It’s only his eighty-seventh such rejection.

Three pages into the story, on the bottom panel–after establishing a narrator to Soup–Beto brings in its protagonist. Carmen.

Carmen

Carmen is maybe ten. She lives in Palomar, she tells the reader (so Beto’s gone from an in-story but uninvolved narrator to the protagonist breaking the fourth wall). Palomar. “Where men are men, and women need a sense of humor.” At the bottom of every page, Beto has pronuncations for the characters’ names. It’s also a good way to keep track of how many new characters Beto is introducing per page.

Seven on the first page, for instance. Because Beto moves to around nine panels a page (somewhere between eight and eleven), and he uses the foreground and background to bring characters in. It’s a beautifully drawn story. Beto loves his detail. There’s Carmen’s sister, for instance. Her younger sister, Lucia, not the older one. Lucia never talks and never gets to do much. Instead so just glares wickedly. Sometimes at the reader. It’s this fantastic visual detail.

Beto’s visual transitions between panels are something else. Something else good, but something else. He completely reorients the reader, sometimes with every panel on the page. The perspective has changed, time has changed, the characters sometimes are changed out. It creates a rapid pace for Heartbreak Soup. An urgency for the reader (and some of the characters), but not at all for the majority of the characters. And not really for Beto. He’ll slow down and linger, even when he’s doing radical cuts between panels.

It’s awesome.

Foreground and background actions.

The story continues, focusing mostly on Carmen and her older sister, Pipo. Pipo is fourteen and “all women” (ew). She has multiple suitors, with Manuel being the cute one and Gato being the kind of creepy one. The story is set when Pipo and Carmen’s mother is out of town. Pipo’s in charge, which leads Carmen to letting drunken melancholic Tip in’ Tip in’ (the guy who got beat up at the beginning) stay with them. Most of the rest of the story builds around that subplot. Though the teenage boys just hang out. New-to-town Heraclio learns about town and so does the reader. But he and his friends are mostly loitering, which also has Luba–from Bem in the first issue–showing back up. Chelo is the town’s bañadora (she washes the town’s men, who either can’t bathe themselves or just don’t have tubs?). There’s nothing creepy about it though. At least not yet.

Luba is the town’s new bandora. Their growing competition is a subplot. A quiet one, but one Beto returns to again and again. It helps him establish the town and gives him a surprising, touching grand finale to the chapter. Because Heartbreak Soup is to be continued.

Next up is Maggie vs. Maniakk, which has a Fourth Worlder monologuing at the start. Then it gets to Maggie and Hopey and Penny and company. Penny wishes she was a superhero (still) and it turns out Maggie was a superhero for a day.

Turns out she was sidekick to Ultimax, a washed up superhero who she has to convince to come back and save the world after she lets Maniakk out of an alternate dimension. It’s a fast, funny story with some great panels. Jaime will move the story forward not just in a panel’s narration from Maggie, but also in the dialogue. It’s great. He keeps up the pacing when it gets to the fight scenes too.

Mario writes Maniaak’s Kirby-esque dialogue.

The story does, however, establish how mean some of Maggie’s friends are to her, which is going to come back in a bit.

Of course, nothing can prepare for Beto’s one page story. It’s a wonderfully done twenty-four panel (on a single page, usually with the same “shots”) weird little thing. Showcases Beto’s understanding of how dialogue works when being read against certain visuals. Amazing economy.

Then is another installment of Somewhere in California, by Mario. The last issue’s installment of this strip had a rather final ending, so a continuation is a surprise. The tone is a little different–and it’s much easier to follow on a casual read–but it still is a big story. The revolutionaries from the previous installment are still around. They’ve just trashed a movie director’s house. One of the revolutionaries slash terrorists has a girlfriend. Her ex-husband and his cleaning crew is hired to take care of the messed up house. Turns out the ex-husband is a failed screenwriter. There’s a lot of story. But most of it turns out to be about the protagonist failed screenwriter–Brian–ingesting some kind of lizard egg and the creature is growing inside him.

The blasé way Mario handles the lizard living inside the guy is the coolest thing about California. The ending is overcomplicated and the flashforward doesn’t work great, but it’s still a strong strip. Especially since it seems the flashforwards aren’t important (at least the first story’s wasn’t so why would this story’s be any different).

Back to Jaime (and Maggie and Hopey). Locas Tambien. It’s a two-page strip. It’s great–twenty-four panels over two pages, covering Maggie and Hopey going grocery shopping. It references Rand Race, who otherwise doesn’t make an appearance, but also establishes Maggie and Hopey’s friends think Maggie is dumb. Hopey doesn’t get much action after the first eight panels, instead Jaime uses her as a reaction touchstone for the reader.

The many panels.

Very cool.

There’s another La Chota strip. She’s a waitress. She beats up the cook. It’s all in Spanish. Maybe Spanish. But not a dialect Google likes to translate.

And then another creepy weird–but gorgeously illustrated–Beto one-pager. It’s about life in the Lower Side. Beto implies a lot in the three sentences of narration, which is cool. It’s just very, very weird.

Everybody knows Maggie’s aunt used the ropes.

Finally, another Jaime. It’s twelve pages–Toyo’s Request–and it’s a direct sequel to last issue’s Mechanics. Though it’s about world champion wrestler and revolutionary Rena Titañon. Only from the perspective of an ex-boyfriend. Rena is a great character–she’s doing a noirish detective story in the flashback, along with a bunch of action. Then the action increases to include airplanes and bombs and old wrestling rivalries. It’s a lot of fun with some excellent art.

It also introduces young Duke; old Duke was Maggie’s boss in the first two issues.

Jaime runs out of time to tell the full story in the flashback, hopefully he’ll come back to it.

So #3 introduces quite a lot. However many characters in Heartbreak Soup, not to mention Palomar in general. Then Jaime’s building up the characters from the Mechanics, particularly Maggie, but also the supporting mythos.

And the weirdness of Somewhere in California, which has more danger than anything else in the issue. After Jaime’s first two-page story, anyway.

It’s great.

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