Doctor Gorpon (1991) #3

Doctor Gorpon  1991  3

So last issue was a surprise as far as creator Marc Hansen’s plotting for Doctor Gorpon goes and this issue is no different. The issue opens having to resolve three cliffhangers—all of the monsters Gorpon has captured over the years has gelled into sentient ooze bent on destroying him, his former assistant is at the back door also bent on destroying him, and the police chief (not captain, which just makes the cop stupider) is watching the animate chocolate bunny monster eat people while waiting for Gorpon to show up so the chief can… destroy him.

There’s a throwaway line about why Gorpon wears a mask—he’s got his new assistant, a dopey teenage punk—but it turns out to be incredibly important in the mythology building Hansen ends up doing in the issue. He’s got three cliffhangers to resolve (which he spends a bunch of the issue doing), some major reveals, and he still manages to fit in a third act and an epilogue. Doctor Gorpon is a visual delight of gross cartooning and funny dialogue—Hansen also explains why Gorpon’s got such a peculiar vocabulary—but it’s also a great example of good plotting. Hansen covers a whole bunch of narrative without ever forcing it (the mythology-building stuff doesn’t get—or need—any spotlight, Hansen just puts it in organically) and never sacrifices the cartoon gore or humor.

The issue ends with promise of future Gorpon adventures but not of a sequel (Hansen’s been getting more mileage out of the concept since the first issue and exponentially increasing it in the subsequent issues), leaving a wonderful satisfaction to the comic.

Doctor Gorpon’s a win; Hansen and his creations ooze through any genre or medium constraints.

I’m really impressed with Hansen, but also with Eternity for giving him three issues of this madness.

Doctor Gorpon (1991) #2

Doctor Gorpon  1991  2

I was expecting Doctor Gorpon #2 to be gross and funny—and it is both gross and funny—but not have much of a story. Instead, creator Marc Hansen has a bunch of it. In fact, the story even overshadows the gross and some of the funny.

Everyone who survived the first issue is back. Gorpon’s struggling to get through menial tasks since firing (and maiming) his assistant; he can’t do laundry. Meanwhile, some decomposing scientist comes up with a cure but it ends up infecting and animating a chocolate Easter bunny, which starts feeding on human flesh. That sequence—the decomposing scientist interlude—is probably Hansen’s best art in the issue. The level of detail on the decomposition is horrifically wonderful. But the point isn’t the scientist, it’s the animated, human-flesh eating bunny, which ties into the idiot cop from the first issue’s return. Given where the issue cliffhangs, with three dangers in the mix… Hansen’s plotting is far more impressive (and effective) than I was expecting. Even after the successful first issue. There’s a lot of plotting to keep straight here and he does an excellent job.

The stoner teen from the first issue’s back, getting to go for a job interview at Gorpon’s, where Hansen gets to do some exposition on the state of monster hunting in the big city. It also feeds into one of the cliffhangers. Very nicely executed.

Similarly the former assistant trying to get revenge for the firing. And maiming. Probably more the maiming. He’s hired his own muscle bound grotesque to take on Gorpon, which ends up being the issue’s C plot, presumably to get a focus next (and last) issue.

Gorpon’s a good read. It’s assured enough I’m almost not surprised at the quality by the end of the issue, but it’s an Eternity comic and I’d never heard any of them were actually good. Gorpon’s actually good.

Doctor Gorpon (1991) #1

Doctor Gorpon  1991  1

Doctor Gorpon is a nice bit of gross-out gore. Creator Marc Hansen’s cartooning has these thick inks, which perfectly complement the tentacles and intestines the title character is pulling out of monsters throughout the issue. Doctor Gorpon is a monster hunter, one who charges for his services whether they’re requested or not (his first target is a monster masquerading as a harmless suburban husband), and terrorizes everyone around him, monster or not.

As Gorpon deals with having an incompetent assistant (who destroys Gorpon’s Gorpon Mobile through said incompetence), two teenage punks call forth a demon as part of their band practice. The cops—getting reports of the demon eating people—want to respond, but the police captain has it in for Gorpon, who steals his replacement car and thereby becomes public enemy number one.

Everyone in the comic is absurd in one way or another, with Hansen laying it on thick for Gorpon, the used car dealer, the cops, the punks. The demon is almost the most sensible one—he just wants to eat people and get stronger—whereas everyone else moves through the comic with a dangerous amount of dumb. Hansen plays the dumb up for laughs; there are some rather good ones.

And Gorpon himself is something of an exception. He’s not capable of being dumb because he’s too savage. He’s a barbarian loosed on the modern world. A lot of Gorpon’s fun consists of seeing Gorpon’s bull in a china shop routine, though it’s just as entertaining during the big monster fights thanks to those inks of Hansen’s and the humor.

Hansen gets twenty-eight pages of material out of the okay but definitely thin premise thanks to the humor—which includes the exposition—and, especially, the art.

The Weatherman (2019) #1

The Weatherman  2019  1

I read the first Weatherman series because Nathan Fox having a steady gig seemed like it was worth seeing. And the series was fine… I didn’t even remember it ended on a cliffhanger though. This second volume continues the action as mind-wiped former interplanetary terrorist turned weatherman turned fugitive (so he was mind-wiped out of being the terrorist into the weatherman, who got found out and became a fugitive) and his Scooby gang head to Earth to try to unlock the terrorist memories in order to stop the other terrorists.

This issue’s all establishing; writer Jody LeHeup shows how Earth is doing—where people are still stranded with an incredibly lethal virus, which will get them someday soon if the rest of the humans living off planet done kill the survivors off first so they can get the real estate back (Weatherman’s cynicism is on point)—and how things are going on the Weatherman’s mission. He’s pissing off the rest of the gang while still trying and failing to flirt with the secret agent woman who first found him and is basically his love interest. At least fits that role’s spot in the narrative, whether or not they’re actually getting together is besides the point.

There’s a lot of exposition, a lot of hints at future personal conflict (one crew member’s tattoo pisses off another crew member for some reason), all while there’s the time crunch with the terrorists still out there and then political intrigue as the solar system female president doesn’t want to kill off all the Earthlings without trying to save them but the white men don’t care about trying to save them.

It’s… all right. Kind of a lackluster return for the series, which hasn’t got any exposition for anyone starting here—you’ve got to be versed in the previous volume not just for information but also for investment. There’s no reason to read Volume Two if you aren’t invested from before.

Fox’s art is good. A tad restricted. Probably not enough on its own to keep the interest up for the series. Especially not since it seems a little too streamlined here. It’s not interesting on its own.

If Weatherman Volume Two #2 were sitting here, I’d read it. But probably not if I had to reach for it. It’s perfectly fine.

Just… not exciting at all.

Pope Hats (2009) #6

Pope Hats  6

I’ve read Young Frances, which collects Pope Hats, but haven’t actually read any Pope Hats issues. Based on this issue, it’s different to the point I can’t imagine what it’s like to read Young Frances serialized, not if Hartley Lin intersperses it with his one or two page lyrical comic strips. They’re all non-fiction (or at least appear to be non-fiction), often involving either becoming a parent or just plain parenting. One strip is Lin up late trying to get the baby to sleep, another is a flashback of sorts to the hospital room where the intensity of labor starts to fade into memory. Memory also plays a big part, with Lin reflecting on his past, usually as to how it’ll affect his parenting.

For example, will Lin pass his terror of worms—scoleciphobia—on to the next generation or will he be able to handle the slimy cylinders once his son gets old enough to consider them. Lin’s got a great observation or two about how much of his life is going to be just for the son’s experience—i.e. Lin’s only going to learn constellations because he doesn’t want to pass bad information to the kid.

It’s a somewhat tender moment—all of Pope Hats #6 is tender—but implies a murkier depth. Most of the insight in the strips are observations about others or the discernible, much less about Lin himself.

He’s got this obsession with the empty house across the street, where teenagers go to drink beer; when he reminiscences—or the strip reminiscences—about the lost friends of his youth, it’s hard not to juxtapose those histories against the (off-panel) teens. Other than some recurring—numbered, in fact—drives through Vermont, not many of the strips call back or ahead to one another. Instead, there are these gentle echoes.

It’s a strong comic. Lin sometimes relies more on the writing, which isn’t always startlingly insightful (people have been writing parenting anecdotes for thousands of years now?) but he’s always got the accompanying art and the art’s always superb. And Lin always chooses the right accompanying imagery for the anecdote.

After Young Frances, I wanted to read more Lin; I need to read more Pope Hats.

Clue: Candlestick (2019) #1

Clue Candlestick  2019  1

Dash Shaw’s style is perfect for Clue: Candlestick. His cartooning is through, detailed, and loose. His figures seem to expand and contract as needed, when they’re pontificating they seem big, when they’re recoiling they seem small. Works with them being noisy and not as well. The comic opens with Professor Plum getting an encoded letter, which reveals a bunch of backstory about the game pieces—Candlestick is a licensed Clue comic—although Plum’s physically imposing, his calm makes him seem anything but.

He lasts for most of the issue as the protagonist, or the closest thing to one, until the ending when the attention shifts to Miss White and Miss Scarlet. Shaw showcases some of the other characters throughout—especially Colonel Mustard, who does the exaggerated pontificating during the dinner scene. It’s a pretty simple first issue—the invitees go to the mansion for a dinner party, someone ends up dead, they have to solve it, then by the end of the issue someone else ends up dead. Cue cliffhanger.

Shaw plays with the board game rules at one point as he describes the “rules” for the characters investigation (it remains to be seen if they’re actually going to factor into the story or plotting) and he’s always pointing out details. Are the details clues or just details… are all details clues? Something else we’re going to have to wait and see about.

There’s some really good investigating towards the end, but with one character discovering things and, while not making any conclusions about the clues, Shaw definitely knows how set up the intrigue and the implications. It’s an extremely well-designed narrative. Better, obviously, than the board game itself. I love me some Clue but it’s not the best mystery.

And Shaw’s wholly resisting leveraging Clue: The Movie. Clue: Candlestick feels like its own thing, with the board game references just adding meat instead of gristle.

Chasing Echoes (2019)

Chasing Echoes  2019

The most perplexing thing about Chasing Echoes isn’t how it got made—there’s a writer, there’s an artist—but how it got published. Specifically, the market research saying there are people who are going to buy this thing. If it weren’t for the swearing and the women always bonding over the most unrealistic sex talk anyone's gotten published in ten years, maybe it'd be good for YA. Only there aren't any active teen characters. Pseudo-protagonist Malka has a teenage son who goes off to live with his dad because Mom’s a poor at the beginning of the book; she ostensibly spends the rest of the book worried about being homeless but not really because writer Dan Goldman doesn't know how to write worrying. Or really any other emotional state.

It's a problem. One of the many.

Goldman’s characterizations are bland—caricaturization is the word (and a word)—but so’s his dialogue (even with the occasional f bombs) and plotting in general. The book’s about an extended Jewish family going to see an Elton John concert in Poland and hitting up the family history sites, specifically concentration camps and the grandfather’s hometown. Except they need to find the hometown, which no one except Malka’s going to have any idea about because she’s the family historian even if reigning patriarch (and Malka’s uncle) Jack, doesn’t realize it.

But then they discover Poland’s just as racist and Nazi-primed as ever. It doesn’t really figure into the story—the big moment where it does is so managed it has the same resonance as if someone told off a racist in a Facebook thread—but only because there’s not a story. The book’s about the family deciding even though Malka’s a poor, it doesn’t mean she’s a bad person. But no one has any good eureka moments or comeuppance moments; Goldman doesn’t have a take on any of his caricatures or their ideas. He’ll bring up stuff like modern day genocides or whether or not Japanese-Americans get to be upset about internment and then immediately run away. Thank goodness it’s an early eighties extended family without any gays—just lots of divorce, (let’s not go too far now, it’s not Parenthood) interracial coupling, and “class” differences—because it’s unclear how Goldman would handle any actual friction.

He’d do it poorly, obviously, but probably in some really icky way.

You can tell how artist George Schall would handle it because he’s bland in very predictable ways. He’s technically proficient at his art, though never interesting or ambitious. He doesn’t have a caricature-style (he’s got no distinct style) but he manages to incorporate the details well. Like how Malka’s a wine drunk. Ha. It’s funny. Wine on the face. Ha. Funny. Drunk. Poor.

I mean, props to Goldman and Schall getting someone to pay them for this work but it’s concerning to think someone’s out there earnestly reading it. It was pretty clear how blandly bad Chasing Echoes was going to be a quarter of the way in. I only finished it out of morbid curiosity. Was Goldman ever going to do something well? No, he was not.

Eve Stranger (2019) #1

Eve Stranger  2019  1

Eve Stranger feels a little retro. Lead Eve is a woman who only can remember the last week before her memory resets. She’s an assassin or something. Some kind of mercenary. Her mission this issue is shockingly unimportant; the story skips from her getting normalized in her situation and to the mission itself. Nothing about the aftermath of the mission, which is kind of a bummer because everyone likes ice cream and there’s the promise of ice cream.

Anyway. There’s action and mystery—Eve’s got a handler who follows her around and seems to have some kind of romantic history with her (the whole thing feels a little like Memento crossed with Run Lola Run, with what seems to be a Rocket Girl nod)—but there are also the people who want to hire Eve’s services, which is a very secretively and potentially lethal process.

The only thing keeping Eve going, as Eve tells herself in a letter to herself (from one self to the next, which is a convenient device for writer David Barnett, but nowhere near as good as he seems to think), is the hunt for the truth. Her dad is out there somewhere and he knows all. Someday she’ll find him.

Probably around issue three… though it’s a five issue series, not four, so maybe issue four.

It’s a solid read. Philip Bond’s art is good. He doesn’t really get a lot to do (it’s mostly establishing shots, not action) and Barnett seems a lot less interested in his narrative than its setting. Eve going past a women’s march, for example, has a lot of built-in subtext given her situation, whereas the comic itself doesn’t have any. Yet. It’s unclear if the things on the walls (proverbial and not) are Chekhov rifles or just decoration.

But it’s definitely one of those first issues where you get done and have no idea what the rest of the series is going to read like. It’s also a fast read… a tad too fast. Especially given there’s back matter with the protagonist in an alternate life as a reporter in a slightly absurd comic strip—art by Liz Prince, script by Barnett—and it’s got more entertainment potential than the feature. Like, it’s a biting smart and funny, where as the feature’s a safe smart and a tad too efficient.

Lodger (2018) #2

The Lodger  2018  2

I may have already read this issue of Lodger. I thought I’d only read (and mostly forgotten) the first issue, but this one seems very familiar. Going into it without having read the first issue recently and not really remembering the setup—it’s about some white guy named Dante who travels around causing trouble without people realizing it while he does his travel blog and then some white girl who’s chasing him down because he did something to her. Can’t remember if he did it in the first issue or if it’s going to be a reveal later on in the series. It’s not in this issue.

I also don’t know how Lodger would read if you were unfamiliar with David Lapham, co-writer (with Maria Lapham) and artist. There’s no way there’s not some creepy thing going on with the Dante guy even if he weren’t blogging about how he happened onto a serial killer—even though it’s fairly clear he’s the serial killer who’s framing the other guy—and perving on a teenage girl. The Lodger is just a Stray Bullets remix. It could even be a spin-off, though apparently not at IDW and Black Crown (Stray Bullets is at Image, at least as of this issue’s publication based on the house ad). So it’s hard to get too invested in any of the characters. The teenage girl, Ricky, is a victim, whether she knows it or not, the reader knows it. Her mom is a victim. Her dad is a victim. And so on and so on.

The issue starts a little weak on art—Lapham’s very inky style doesn’t work well in extreme closeup but does great with medium shots in small panels—but it’s fine. For what it is, it’s fine. Is there any reason to keep going on it? Did I keep going on it before? I never wrote about it, but there’s a long stretch where comics only went on the Comics Fondle podcast versus blog responses. But I don’t even remember talking about it. I just remember reading it and thinking… oh, Lapham’s doing the teenage girl victim in danger thing. Again.

It’s kind of his genre.

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