Friday, October 12, 2012

Bryant Has Issues #20

A quick consultation of my calendar informs me that this column is nearly three weeks overdue, which means that I've got a much larger list of comics to cover this week than would normally have been the case.  Which, in turns, means that this week's column will probably be short(er than normal) on substance.

My excuse is that I'm in total James Bond mode right now, so I've been spending most of my free time making excuses for Moonraker, or trash-talking the score to GoldenEye, or walking around and singing all three-syllable words to the tune of "Goldfinger."  Hey, what can I say?  I'm a nerd.

And, like most nerds, I love me some comic books.  Time once again to prove it by talking about how much I dislike new issues of them!

That'll have to wait a bit, though, because (unsurprisingly) I really liked American Vampire #31.

In this issue: bedside confessions, photo albums, an annoying advertisement (for the new CW television show Arrow) that has been running in all DC titles and sucks ass and resolves me even further to NEVER watch that show, a tense conversation, a vampire on a motorcycle, a vampire skeleton in a big jar, lots of glowering, at least one smirk, a creepy giant doll face, some red eyes, some red hair, a really gross face, and another gross face that is less gross than the really gross one but nevertheless fairly gross.

Pretty solid.

Well, the negativity is going to have to continue to wait, because here's another good issue.

Scratch that.  This is a great issue.  I've enjoyed the snot out of The New Deadwardians, and this is one of the best issues so far.  It pains me greatly to think that there is only one issue left.  (Although writer Dan Abnett has dropped at least one hint -- in this article -- that a second miniseries could be in the offing.  Bring it the fuck on, pal.)

In this issue: an awesome cover, a beating, fisticuffs, red eyes (again!), a leap (or possibly a bound), a major mind-fuck, a trip to church, more delightful Cockney phrasings from Louisa, typing, and the grabbing of a sword.

I know I say this every time, but seriously: this is a great comic, and provided that the final issue doesn't fumble right at the goal line, this is will be near-mandatory reading for fans of horror comics when it comes out in trade.

Negativity.  Found it!

This issue of Ozymandias isn't terrible, but I continue to just not be particularly interested in it.  To be honest, I can't remember a single thing that happened in this one, and I'm not motivated enough to flip through it and refresh my memory.  Moving on...

Didn't get much out of this one, either.  The cover is cool, in a gross kind of way.  There's some good art inside the issue.  Not bad; but, as has always been the case, "not bad" simply isn't good enough for prequels to Watchmen.  Bring awesome or stay at home.

After two issues, it seems evident that Rorschach should have stayed at home.

I was, at the very least, much more entertained by Dr. Manhattan #2 than I was by the other two issues of Before Watchmen I just discussed.  I'm by no means convinced writer J. Michael Straczynski has pulled it off; not yet, at least.  But, depending on where the final two issues go, it seems to be a possibility.

To be honest, there is some stuff in this issue that is intriguing as hell.  It isn't a stand-alone issue, though; it is merely a part of what seems to be VERY much a four-part story, and without knowing how it all turns out, I'm not prepared to offer a concrete opinion on this issue yet.

But it definitely entertained me.  There is a development midway through that leads to some terrific layouts that are worthy of Alan Moore.  Yep, I said it.  The art by Adam Hughes is awfully good, too, although I object somewhat to the way Janey Slater is drawn as a sexpot.  That doesn't quite seem to mesh with Watchmen.  Not a huge deal, but notable.

Love that cover, too.

Meanwhile, in Angel & Faith, the "Family Reunion" arc -- which was really rather good -- comes to a satisfyingly grand conclusion.

In this issue: a floating redhead with solid black eyes wields an enchanted axe, a Godzilla-sized demon vomits a river of what appears to be oil, Angel makes vampire-face, and the final page apparently assumes I will remember something I totally do not remember.

Very solid, all things considered.

I continue to not quite enjoy this series enough to justify me continuing to read it for much longer.  If I enjoyed the interior art as much as I enjoy the covers, that would quite probably not be the case.

I'll say this, though: this was the best issue so far of the first four, and it bought the series another month or two of being on my pull-list.

Alan Moore, of course, will always be on my pull-list.  Which isn't as naughty a thought as it sounds, although the gender confusion resultant from reading another issue of Fashion Beast might certainly make one think it was.

As was the case with issue #1, I loved every page of this.  In a sense, nothing much happens -- Doll loses his job, then goes on an interview (seemingly successful) for another -- but I found it all to be riveting.

Now, normally I'd be quick as hell to give Alan Moore all the kudos for this, or at least 75% of 'em; he's famous for being hyper-detailed in his scripts, so that even when the art is great in one of his comics (which it almost always is), Moore gets a certain amount of the credit even for that because he was the one who told the artist -- in excruciatingly specific detail -- what to draw.
Fashion Beast is a different sort of situation; so it seems, at least.  This is based on a screenplay penned by Moore, but the actual script for the comic -- the "sequential adaptation," as it's called -- was written by Antony Johnston.  Did Johnston pull some of the same tricks Moore would have pulled in directing (as it were) the art by Facundo Percio?  Did Moore himself read Johnston's scripts and make suggestions/alterations?
Frankly, it doesn't matter.  Percio's art is tremendous.  I think I mentioned in my review of issue #1 that a big part of what made it work for me was the sense of drama Percio was bringing to the endeavor, specifically in terms of characters' movements.  Here's one of my favorite pages:

Great art here, combined with great dialogue, and an excellent job -- by Johnston, or Moore, or whoever -- of laying the whole thing out so as to make it all pop.

I also made it a point to buy the variant wraparound cover:

Who is that?  Is that Doll?  I'm not really sure.  And it may only be an homage to ... oh, I can't remember what ad it is, but there's some famous old image that (I think) involves a dog pulling down a baby's diaper.  I spent a short amount of time on Google Images trying to find it, but the site kept vomiting up close-ups of baby dicks, and I ain't into that.

Speaking of not being into dicks, here's another variant cover:

I didn't buy this one, on account of how it would've cost, like, $9 or something.  But I wish I had it, because to be frank (pardon the pun), I find Doll to be kinda hot.

Now, let me be clear.  Bryant Burnette is all man.  He's all man, and he's about 325 pounds worth of balding-yet-bearded single man, too, so he can understand how someone might squint at him for a moment and wonder whether he ought to be lumped into the Bear category.  Bear Bryant; lol.

No.  I think Louis C.K. put it best when he said (and I'm paraphrasing from memory) that he had no particular opposition to trying gay sex, except that he's never once seen a dick that made him want to suck it.  Me neither.  They're kinda gross.  Men in general are pretty damn gross, in fact; we're hairy in all the wrong places, we fart a lot, we're prone to wearing the same pair of underwear for days on end.  Women, on the other hand, are awesome.  I've seen pictures of 'em without clothes on, so trust me on this.

I've always been a little confused by the whole transgender thing.  I mean, look, gay is fine by me; if you're a dude who likes dudes, go getcha a dude, 'sfine by me. It ain't what I'm into, but if it's what other people are into, what do I care?  However, dudes who dress like chicks but who also like dudes seem weird, and dudes who like dudes who dress like chicks seem weird, too.

The only time I've gotten close to understanding what that was all about is watching Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Cause I'm here to tell you, that dude is flat-out HOT in that movie.  Does this mean I want to have sex with him?  No, definitely not; ick.  (We'd have to get either a dong or a cornhole involved in that, and I'd really just rather not.)  However, it does mean that I find his manner, movements, look, etc. to be extremely appealing, partially because certain elements of it strike me as being very feminine.  It's the femininity I'm responding to.

And yet, I can also see how those feminine aspects would serve to make the masculine aspects seem that much stronger, for someone who responds to masculinity.  And I've heard from many, many straight women who say that if they had the ability to do so, they would climb ole Frank N. Furter and show him a thing or two.

That element of things -- a seeming contradiction that actually serves as a strengthening agent for the very idea it seems (but only seems) to be weakening -- had not occurred to me until recently, when I was contemplating the how-and-why of my responses to Doll in Fashion Beast.  In comic form, it's an amplified version of the same thing that is going on with Tim Curry as Frank.  There are panels in these two issues in which Doll looks completely feminine to me, and therefore strikes me as being hot as hell.  Then there are other panels where the masculinity shines through very clearly, and when I noticed that, I suddenly kinda understood the whole thing.
Or, at least, I think I understand it; somebody in the know, feel free to set me straight.  (So to speak.)  But it seems like a solid working hypothesis on my part, and the comics medium seems uniquely well-suited to exploring gender in this way.  After all, what you've got in comics is a series of captured moments; it makes sense that from one moment to the next, a character like Doll could be more or less masculine or feminine, or could be perfectly balances somewhere in the middle.  A great performer like Tim Curry can capture it, but is perpetually in at least some degree of motion, and therefore perpetually in flux; a great artist (which Percio certainly seems to be) captures the moments, and suggests the motion, and the perpetual flux that creates it.

In any case, that's probably much more info than you ever needed on my mental process, so let's move it along.

Before we go, though, let me re-emphasize: so far, Fashion Beast is awfully damn good, and I can't wait for the next issue.  So to speak...

Along with this month's Animal Man, this issue of Swamp Thing sets up this Rotworld thing that's going on in certain DC titles over the next few months.  As such, the focus here isn't on ole Swampy himself as much as it might normally be, and that's mildly disconcerting, especially for someone who -- if he's being honest -- doesn't give much of a shit about the larger DC universe.  In a perfect world, I'd read every superhero comic there is; this isn't a perfect world, so I have to pick and choose quite severely, and as such, I just don't necessarily get much out of these crossovers.

But I like looking at Poison Ivy as much as the last dude (my review of Fashion Beast notwithstanding), so at least there's that.

Don't get me wrong, though; this is by no means bad, and the art by Yanick Paquette is excellent.  I'm just not terribly engaged by the whole thing.

Please reference above comments, substitute Animal Man specific in the place of Swamp Thing ones, and let's then move on.

In more Scott Snyder-y goodness, Batman #13 brings the long-awaited return of The Joker to the DC Universe.  I say "long-awaited" because that's obviously the intent on DC's part.  Here's the thing, though: I don't give a shit about The Joker.  Is he a great villain?  Yes; undeniably.  Is he a vital component on the Batman mythos?  Yes; undeniably.  Has it been basically a year since he appeared in a Batman comic?  Apparently so.

Do you hardcore comics nerds really NEED him to be there more frequently than that?  Let his ass stay away for another few years for all I care; I don't need him.

Which is not to say that this isn't a damn fine issue, because it most certainly is.

It all starts with the cover, which is cool as hell.  The Joker face is actually a separate cover (printed on heavier stock paper), which you turn to reveal the real cover, Batman's face.  Now, there's a lot going on with the idea of faces in this issue.  For those of you not in the know, the last time The Joker was in a Batman comic -- Detective Comics, I think -- he apparently cut his own face off and gave it to The Dollmaker for some nefarious purpose.  That's disgusting, and while it's cool in a Saw / Hostel sort of way, I don't know that I need that sort of thing from Batman comics.  Snyder was stuck with it, though, and he uses it here to some really excellent horror-comic-type effects.

The whole thing is apparently in service of yet another DC crossover miniseries, this one titled "Death of the Family."  It'll be running throughout all of the company's Batman family of titles for the next little while, and -- just as I did with "Night of the Owls" a few months ago -- I'll be skipping all of them except the ones written by Snyder.

Those?  I'm hella in for those; he continues to do great work on this series.  (Speaking of Snyder: as if his plate was not already full enough, it was recently announced that he'll be taking on two additional titles in 2013: a new Superman series and an original, creator-owned series for Vertigo called The Wake.  I'm in, dude; I'm in.)

God damn deceptive covers; Buffy Summers is not in this issue for even a single panel, except in a brief conversational sense.  Instead, we get the dawn of Billy the Vampire Slayer, a gay teenager.

When I first heard about this, I rolled my eyes viciously under the assumption that the series was going to make the declaration that whereas only girls can be called as Slayers, gay dudes are kinda like girls, so therefore, gay dudes can be Slayers.  That would have been a horrifyingly lame -- and offensive -- plot development, but luckily, the writers had no intention of going in that direction.

Instead, Billy -- under the tutelage of a Slayer-obsessed classmate named Devon (who may or may not also be gay, and, to be clear, is obsessed with Buffy's brand of Slayer, as opposed to the "Raining Blood" brand of Slayer) -- simply decides to start killing vampires, on account of how they seem to be a growing problem in his hometown.

It's a solid issue, helped in large part by having been scripted by Jane Espenson (who was one of the key writers on the television series).  I'm not a huge fan of the way Billy is drawn; why does he have Angelina Jolie lips in some panels?  I'd like to direct artist Karl Moline to Fashion Beast for some excellent examples of how to draw a feminine man.

And on that transgendered note, I'll call it quits for this week.

Wait...!  No I won't!  One final plug:

Out this week in trade paperback: Volume One of Saga, which -- if you've been reading this column -- you may know from my rave reviews of the single issues.  Well, here they are collected under one cover, and the collection will cost you a mere $9.99.  That's right, kids, they're priced to move, so visit your local comics chop, or bookstore, or click this handy-dandy link; I don't give a shit which, but trust me when I tell you that it is in your best interest to do at least one of these things.  This is a great series so far.

Check you nerds later!


  1. Very entertaining, Bryant - it says something that I have only read one issue here (Fashion Beast) yet enjoyed the whole thing.

    Excellent I'm-not-gay-but-guys-can-be-hot rant, lol. I forget which French filmmaker said it, but it was something like we are attracted to the masculine in the feminine and the feminine in the masculine, or something like that. I've always found that to be true. Not that I dig on mannish-looking chicks or DON'T dig on uber-feminine ladies, but there's a quality to that statement that makes sense to me. The endless dance of the yin and yang, as only Moore can deliver.

    I'm enjoying Fashion Beast, by the way. I agree, the art is outstanding. I'm curious to find out what's going on, world-building-wise. I'm also curious as to more behind-the-scenes stuff. How the hell did Malcolm McClaren and Alan Moore end up working together? Was this supposed to come out before his death, or is this a posthumous tribute, etc.?

    One thing I really hate about Avatar (not that they're the only ones doing it) is their proliferation of variant covers. It's just a trend in comics-making I've disliked since the early 90s, pretty much, but they seem to have cornered the market on going overboard with it. They make up for it by designing some really cool ones. (The variant covers for Neonimicon, especially, were amazing) But it just bugs me on a fundamental level.

    Still watching my Before Watchmen piles stack up... can't wait to have them all and then spend a day tearing through them.

  2. I'm not a fan of variant covers, either, for the same reasons. However, if I like them, I don't mind buying them once in a while; I will not, however, spend more than a normal cover price for them. The "Road Rage" comics that came out recently had variant covers for the first two issues that were illustrations of King and Hill riding motorcycles and making goofy faces; I wanted those BAD. However, they were 1-in-25 variants, so it would have cost me something like $50 per issue. The hell with that.

    I can shed a wee bit of light on the background of Fashion Beast. It was a screenplay that Moore wrote based on ideas that came from McLaren (although I suspect Moore did a LOT of development on them). He wrote it at roughly the same time he was writing Watchmen and Swamp Thing and Miracleman, so this is vintage-era Moore. The movie, obviously, never got made.

    As for the whole masculine/feminine thing, I think it can be summed up very neatly by a simple image: a woman wearing a man's dress shirt as pajamas. This is universally hailed as the hottest thing in existence. Case closed.

  3. I accept your example, happily, as a scientific truism, done and done.

    Thanks for the extra info. I didn't realize this was vintage-era Moore!

    And yeah, if I'm going to spend $50 on a comic, you can be damn sure it's going to be illustrated by Kirby or Steranko or be from a world where JFK was still alive...