Thursday, August 21, 2008

August 21st, 2008

It was a slow week for me, but i had a hankerin' for comics, so i picked up some things that weren't new or on my list.

Lucky Vol.2 #1 - I read part of an interview with Gabrielle Bell on The Daily Crosshatch, and liked some of the samples i found online. I haven't finished reading this one, partly b/c i read comics until i couldn't stay awake last night, and partly b/c it's got a lot of content. It's all six-panel grids with plenty of text. That's cool by me. So i don't have much to say about this one except so far so good and i like the use of blacks on the page.

New Tales of Old Palomar #2 & 3 - I told Chris that Gilbert Hernandez's stories are more depressing than Jaime's, but that's not the case here. (I'm not sure it's a fair comparison anyway; it's just that the later Palomar stories in the Heartbreak Soup trade i read had some pretty bleak moments.) If you don't know what Palomar is, it's a small town in an unspecified area of Central America (i think of it as a small island nation on the Pacific side of Central America, but can't remember if that's accurate). Moreso, it's the home of the characters who populate Gilbert Hernandez's stories. It has a lot of the familiar aspects of small towns in fiction: everybody knows everybody, eccentric characters, childhood adventures become the stuff of legend, etc. But it has a mystical side, too: ghosts and witches are real, and the ancient stone statues outside town have a magical presence. Mostly it's the sum of its inhabitants, whom Hernandez endows with remarkable humanity. They feel like real people, for good and ill.
Having read the first Palomar stories will help you recognize some characters here, but i don't think it's necessary. Each of the stories here are self-contained. In #2, some of Palomar's boys get kidnapped by some weird people in unitards who speak an unknown language (it's rendered as a bunch of hashes, kind of like Woodstock's word baloons in Peanuts). It falls, as usual, to Sheriff Chelo to rescue the boys, and she gets into quite a scuffle with the weird people. #3 has two stories. In the first, firecracker Tonantzin is haunted by the Blooter Baby. To get rid of it, she consults with the local "witch" (who has cool Ditko-Dr. Strange windows in her house; there's a lot of Ditko influence in los bros Hernandez' work, which is awesome). It works, but the result is a bit different than you'd expect. The second story sees the return of the hash-mark-speaking people, and their rather gruesome revenge on Chelo. These stories emphasize the otherworldly aspects of Palomar. There's more focus on being imaginative than on being dramatic, which is cool by me. I really liked these.
New Tales... is in Fantagraphics' "Ignatz" format, which is oversized. I thought i wouldn't be buying these b/c i think they're kinda pricey, but, well, they're really pretty, and i enjoyed them, so i guess it was a good buy afterall.

Trinity #12 - There's a lot of action in this one, and some character development/clues about Enigma. I'm curious to see what's up with these weird powers John Stewart is manifesting. And hats off to Busiek and Nicieza for packing plenty of story into each half--maybe that's part of what i like about this, that it moves at a pace a bit more akin to the stuff i grew up with. Is Madame Zodiac a new character? It seems like i would have heard about a mystical woman living in Gotham.

Madman #10 - It's the least experimental, but most solid issue of the series. A lot of events of the last several issues are in clearer focus now. I really like Haley and Whelworne. I feel like the Madman story is moving ahead again. I know that Allred will do some more experimental issues, and i'll probably like them (varyingly, of course), but it's really nice to have a more "traditional" issue like this (and hopefully we'll see some of those experimental things woven into, and enhance, "traditional" issues). Also, the first letter on the letters page, from a Kat Roberts, echoes a lot of how i feel about comic art. It's always encouraging and refreshing to know that there are kindred comic souls out there.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Blue Beetle #29 -- The new writer, Matthew Sturges, starts with this issue. Though the cover credit still says "Rogers", who hasn't been the writer for at least two months. Rogers' run was great, so there's trepidation about a new writer taking over. So far, so good.

There was also trepidation about this issue's subject: illegal immigration.* Politics is the opposite of art and entertainment. If this story falls into politics--i.e., this party's policy is right, the other party is wrong; or the people who support X are good, and their opponents are bad--it will fail as both art and entertainment. The only way this kind of story can succeed is if it addresses the reality that the politicians are trying to manipulate. The reality is complicated, nuanced and contradictory, while the politics is simplistic, arbitrary, and deceitful.

Thankfully, Sturges is steering towards the reality so far. There are characters involved in various aspects of the issue. None of them have been portrayed as saints or devils. Everyone is sympathetic so far. The only cliches or political spin i noticed were delivered by reporters, which is appropriate, since that's what they do in real life. There is a bad guy involved, but he's clearly not meant to represent any element of the real life problem. Jaime, of course, is caught in the middle, and, true to his character, wants to find a solution that does the least harm to everyone. It remains to be seen whether this story will conclude without decending into politics, but so far, so good.

Okay, on to the good stuff. Rafael Albuquerque is still the series' artist, which is great. Pairing him with another writer on this comic highlights how much of the series' "feel" is attributable to his contribution. Plus, i can't imagine any other artist making a flying coyote dude look cool.

The coyote dude figures in a very entertaining sequence in which two wannabe supervillains fight over the right to use the name Hellhound (aparently the last guy to use that name died in Salvation Run--this is a nod to "universe" continuity that doesn't intrude on the main story or make you feel like you're missing something by having not read something else; well done). They're fighting in a cheap wrestling ring, with a small audience (presumably friends or henchmen) egging them on. Blue Beetle busts up the match and, while he's clobbering both would-be Hellhounds, suggests alternate names so they won't have to fight in the first place. This sequence makes me think that Sturges has a decent grasp on the character; it's a good sign--and it's fun and funny.

It'll take a few more issues to form a real impression of Sturges' run on this series, but after the first issue, i'm hopeful. Recommended.

*I call it illegal because, per law, it is. Don't assume that, by recongnizing that it's illegal, i think it, or the people who do it, are automatically bad. I don't. Speeding is illegal, but we all do it all the time and don't consider it or ourselves immoral. There are loads of legal activities that are immoral, and the government that writes the laws often does immoral things. So i'm not making a connection between law and morals here. Identifying it as "illegal immigration" rather than "immigration" clearly identifies the issue that people are arguing about.

Trinity #9 -- See, i knew Busiek was going to bring in the Crime Syndicate, a la his JLA run. Now all we need are the Qwardians. This issue also features some of Wonder Woman's and Batman's supporting casts. The second story features Oracle, Nightwing, and a couple of Bat rogues. McDaniel does another cool two-page spread in this issue. Like the one from last issue, it isn't just a "splash", but does a lot storytelling. This guy really knows how to lay out a page (or two). There are also more new (AFAIK) characters: a flamboyant and highly skilled martial artist called the Swashbuckler, and a bizarre guy called the Trans-Volitional Man--and what he does is even weirder than his name.

I also got Dynamo 5 #15 and Justice Society of America Annual #1. Both are good. Maybe i'll post reviews of them later, but i've felt kind of cruddy this weekend.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Previews for October 2008

Do i want to dive into this New Krypton thing? It might be fun to follow this thing across the three “super” books. That's almost a weekly series. However: do i want to add another three monthly books to my sublist? Maybe i could drop Green Lantern Corps, then it'd be a net two adds. What i really want is to read more trades, so i'm hesitant to add more monthlies.

Example: check out the Fantagraphics section on pages 288-9. They got some classic collections in Popeye, Dennis the Menace, Zippy, and Mr. Natural. My interest in these varies wildly, but at the least, any of them would show me more of the artform, whereas the Superman stuff, as cool as it might be, is something i'm already well familiar with. The argument is pretty much the same with the newer collections. So, more of the same, or something new? Maybe i should go to the library and see if they've got any of this stuff.

You know what? I'm kinda getting tired of Buffy, too. When Renee died, it was like, so that's what we're doing here: more of the same. Pointless character death? Abruptly halting the progression of Xander's character? Meh, shrug, and phooey to that. And it keeps going in all these different directions. I don't know whether i should just enjoy it as episodic stuff with a season-plot in the background, or if this stuff with Dracula and Fray and whatnot is part of the season-plot. And i like Buffy less as a character. I'm putting it on my maybe-i'll-drop-it list.

Savage Dragon is coming back. At Acme's quarter bin sale, i picked up a couple issues of this series, and i'm intrigued. It's good superhero stuff. And the issue solicited here has a bunch of the Golden Age public domain characters that were in Image's First Issue Project. So i'm probably going to pick this one up.

Image is soliciting a collection of the new Firebreather series, but the only issue i've seen so far is #1. ??? Have the other issues not shipped, or has my local comic shop somehow missed them or been shorted on them? IDK. But i'm thinking of dropping it from my sublist, b/c either the schedule is messed up, or i'm not getting the issues when it comes out.

Stuff from my sublist: Atomic Robo & the Dogs of War #3, Blue Beetle #32, Buffy #19, Comic Book Comics #3, Dynamo 5 #18, Fables #77, Firebreather #6, Jack of Fables #27, JSA #20, Madame Xanadu #5, Noble Causes #39, Secret Six #2, Trinity #18-22, Wonder Woman #25

Other stuff that interests me (my “maybe” list): The Bradleys by Peter Bagge (Fantagraphics), Delayed Replays by Liz Prince (Top Shelf), Tales to Suffice by Kenny Kiel (Amaze Ink/SLG), Kill Your Boyfriend by Grant Morrison, Philip Bond & D'Israeli (DC/Vertigo), Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez (DC/Vertigo), Outlaw Territory by various (Image), Hey Wait... by Jason (Fantagraphics), Savage Dragon #141 by Erik Larsen (Image)