Monday, August 6, 2012

Bryant Has Issues #13

It seems utterly appropriate that as soon as I sat down to begin work on my latest comics column, there came a knock upon my door, ad that knock turned out to be from the friendly neighborhood UPS driver.  Who, as it turns out, was delivering to me a couple of awesome graphic novels I recently purchased.  One of those was the Absolute edition of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier, which is an excellent addition to my burgeoning Alan Moore collection.

I'm actually more excited by the second one, though: Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft - Special Edition, the oversized hardback of Vol. 1 of Joe Hill's comics masterpiece.  I've included a hastily-composed photo of this book side by side with the trade paperback of Welcome to Lovecraft for comparison.  Apologies for how lousy my phone's camera is.

As you can see, we're talking about something that is clearly WAY bigger.  It's hard for me to emphasize enough how good the art looks in deluxe editions such as this one, especially when the art in question is as good as what Gabriel Rodriguez produces.

It would also be hard for me to emphasize enough how excited I am to read the hundred-plus pages of Joe Hill's original scripts for the issues, which are reproduced here.  IDW has put out a stellar product in this special edition, and I dearly hope they will continue to do so for subsequent volumes.  So buy one!

Now, because it amuses me to do so, here is a photo of Action Jackson as he gets in my way prior to me taking the above photo.

Terrible photo; awesome cat.

Moving on, let me briefly add that at some point in the next few weeks, I'll devote an entire post to that special edition of Welcome to Lovecraft.  It's too good for me not to.  For now, though, let's dive into the latest group of floppies that are deserving of our attention.

Sticking with Joe Hill for a bit, here is issue #2 of The Cape: 1969.  I didn't much care for issue #1, so color me surprised by the fact that I liked #2 quite a lot.  Reading comics -- especially modern comics -- issue by issue can be a frustrating process, and I sometimes think that I might be better served as a reader by simply waiting to read them until I've got enough issues in hand to digest entire series or story arcs at once.

However, the fact is that while a majority of readers will ultimately experience something like The Cape: 1969 as a single story, in trade format, they DO come out on a monthly basis, and it seems like a valuable thing to write about them in that way.

So, yes, whereas I might have been a bit less harsh toward #1 if I read #2 immediately thereafter, in the end that isn't how it happened.  And consequently, I might have enjoyed #2 less.

Which is a gross sentence, if you think about it the wrong way, so let's not do that.

This is a very straightforward issue, the bulk of it focused on a bizarre encounter between Captain Chase and the weird flying monk guy we met briefly in #1.  I won't give anything specific away, but if you've intuited that this odd gentleman may have something to do with the fact that a man is, decades later, able to fly using an old blanket, congratulate yourself on your powers of deduction.

One of my fears about this series was that I worried it would overexplain things, and thereby remove some of the mystery inherent in Joe Hill's original story.  It's too early to call, but based on what happens in issue #2, it appears I may have been worried for no reason.  If so, then kudos to Jason Ciaramella, and I look forward to seeing where the final two issues take us.  The art here by Nelson Daniel is awfully good, too.

Ever want to see Skinner Sweet fighting lions with his bare hands?  Here's your chance.

Other than that, and pointing out that I enjoyed this issue just as much as is typically the case, I have very little to say about American Vampire #29.

I first began reading Animal Man because it came to my attention that it and Swamp Thing not only shared plot details, but would be actively crossing over at some point.  Well, we've reached "some point," and as if the many rewards of Animal Man didn't justify my reading that series on its own merits, I can now say with certainty that the only way to read Swamp Thing currently is to also read Animal Man.  Hence, these two issues -- which tell a two part story -- receive the courtesy of being reviewed by me as a single entity, because that's what they are; if you read one and don't read the other, you WILL be lost.

For the record, Animal Man is Part 1 and Swamp Thing is Part 2, and yes, they definitely need to be read in that order.  If there is a flaw here, it's that DC elected not to simple issue a deluxe annual-sized edition that served as a #12 for both series but collected the entire story under one cover.  It will be interesting to see what they do when it comes to the trades; I assume these issues will be reprinted in both series' trades, but you never can tell.

In any case, taken as a whole, it's a fairly excellent story.  It's all setup, of course, leading into the larger "Rotworld" story which will spread out across the next few issues of both books (and also, apparently, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E., although I have no plans to buy those to find out).  It's good, though.  Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire co-wrote the thing, and share credit on each others' books.  It feels like a completely successful collaboration; their writing styles mesh quite well, and apart from the understandable differences in the styles of the various artists at work here, it really does feel like a single sustained comic.

Good stuff!

What are the odds of me talking about two Vietnam War comics in one column?  Apparently, they're decent, because here I am talking about the second one.  It doesn't begin in the shit; it begins with the Clay/Liston fight for the heavyweight championship, and with Eddie Blake talking to Bobby Kennedy during that fight.

What we get then is a highly entertaining story of The Comedian going in to wrestle Charlie to the ground.  He stabs some people, he plays some practical jokes, he seems like a super-competent badass.  I'm not sure it makes sense for Blake to be an exceptional soldier, but since that element can be inferred from the original Watchmen comics, it's hard to fault this series for following suit.  And anyways, it's so much malevolent fun, it hardly matters.

I didn't like the first issue of Nite Owl at all.  In fact, it would probably be safe to say that I hated it.

So, as with issue #2 of The Cape: 1969, I again find myself in the position of being surprised to find that I enjoyed the snot out of the second issue in the series.  There is a much better sense of how and why Nite Owl and Rorschach made good partners, and the rather kinky plot that begins developing here -- which involves a run-in Dan has (as Nite Owl) with an S&M queen -- seems highly appropriate to both characters.  Their reactions are wholly consistent, and I enjoyed the resulting interactions that grew out of them.

I'm not wild about the art by Andy and Joe Kubert.  I did enjoy it more this time out, though, so maybe it's simply a matter of me getting used to what they're doing.

In the ongoing roller-coaster of emotions I'm feeling for Before Watchmen, we seem to have crested a hill back toward enjoyment.  This coming week brings Ozymandias #2, so I'd guess if nothing else, I'm in for some quality Jae Lee art.

Meanwhile, The New Deadwardians motors along.  The series is over halfway finished now, and this issue brings the mystery at its heart into (what at least seems to be) sharper relief.  The entirety of #5 is set at Cadley House as Inspector Suttle follows a lead.  There, he meets at least three highly intriguing new characters, all of whom are excellently drawn by I.N.J. Culbard, whose art I have come to absolutely love.

This is continuing to be a miniseries I'm happy to have decided to buy.


That last sentence is so poorly written that I'm just going to leave it right where it is.  I could revise it, but it seems as if it needs to persist, as a warning to other such sentences that might appear in the future.  Sheesh.

Anyways, yeah, I am digging The New Deadwardians.  If Dan Abnett is able to stick the landing three issues from now, I might be prepared to call it a bit of a triumph.

Here's hoping!

This month in Angel & Faith (which continues to be the more satisfying of the two main Buffyverse comics), the crew follows Connor into Quor'Toth, the hell dimension where he grew up back in season three of Angel.  Granted, this happened off-screen, but even so.

Turns out that the denizens of Quor'Toth -- where, as you may remember, time moves much more rapidly than it moves on our plane of existence -- still remember Connor.  Oh, yes; yes they do...

Meanwhile, Giles's no-account aunts have a run-in with Whistler and those two weird floating villains from earlier in the series.  Now, I kinda vaguely remember Whistler from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but only kinda and vaguely; and I remember nothing about the floating baddies.  Does this make me a bad viewer/reader?  Probably.  But it also meant that the end of the issue landed with a big old thud for me.

Overall, though, it was good, and I'm still onboard.  The last issue of Buffy had me threatening to pull the plug on the whole 'verse, but nah, I ain't gonna do it.  I was just goofin'.

First things first: this was a pretty good issue, and Ultimate Comics Spider-Man continues to be a good series.

That said, allow me to make some complaints.

I hate crossovers.  Hate 'em, hate 'em, hate 'em.  IF, that is, I'm not following them.  Apparently, Marvel has recently begun some sort of ongoing crossover within its Ultimate continuity.  It's called "Divided We Fall," and it's got something to do with the United States dissolving, or some such nonsense.  I simply don't care enough to find out, and the fact that this issue begins by failing to explain what's going on sufficiently really put me off from the get-go.

This may not seem like a big deal, and probably isn't a big deal.  But it annoyed me, so I'm doing what all good Americans do: I'm complaining about it on the Internet.

The rest of the issue is quite good, though.  Captain America --who I guess has been out of action in some way, due to being away -- finds out about the new Spider-Man and decides to get involved.  Meanwhile, Miles is shaken by his Uncle Aaron's accidental death, and is disturbed and furious to learn that the media -- and his father -- blame this new webhead, and are calling him a murderer.  This, frankly, is an outstanding development in the series.

The best section of the issue, though, is unquestionably Miles's confrontation with Batroc the Leaper, who is one of the all-time worst villains in Marvel history.  So awful that he is, in fact, awesome, which is exactly what he is here, what with his Monty Python-esque stereotypical French accent and all.  I wouldn't want to see him very often, but a surprise appearance once a decade or so seems like a great idea to me.

The whole thing ends with a quiet sort of cliffhanger which offers the possibility of a completely new direction for the series to take.  It probably won't, and I hope it doesn't ... but it could, and either way, I'm there.  You've got me, Brian Michael Bendis!


Well, kiddies, that's about all for this time.  However, continuing in the comic-book vein, I'll be back soon with the first installment in what might prove to be an ongoing feature: a chat I had with two of my best friends about The Dark Knight Rises.  It was fun, and hopefully that will be evident from the transcript.  I'll get it posted as soon as editing is complete.

See ya then!


  1. "Reading comics -- especially modern comics -- issue by issue can be a frustrating process, and I sometimes think that I might be better served as a reader by simply waiting to read them until I've got enough issues in hand to digest entire series or story arcs at once."

    Couldn't agree more. For me, collections are the way to go. Graphic novels, with their self-contained stories--definitive beginnings, middles, and ends--are even better. I have great memories of reading comics on a month-to-month basis, but it seems anachronistic to me now, something the medium outgrew years ago.

    1. I suppose it's really the same with any type of serialized storytelling isn't it? For example, many people now wait to watch a television show until the entire season has completed (if not the entire series).

      In the end, it's a matter that sorts itself out. If I'm reading comics issue by issue, I'll either like them enough to read them again later or I won't. If I don't enjoy it enough in single-issue form to want to re-read it later, odds are good that I wouldn't have enjoyed it all that much in a concentrated dose (i.e., a collection) either.

      Of course, I could be wrong. For example, I've been slowly catching up on reading "The Walking Dead" in trade format, and I've been enjoying it. (I'm through Vol. 12 now.) However, there have been stretches where if I had been reading it month-by-month, I'm not sure my interest would have held out!