Friday, November 2, 2012

Bryant Has Issues #22

Fair warning: this is not exactly going to be me at my best.  I got some terrible work-related news earlier this evening, and while it doesn't affect me directly, it's almost certainly going to make for some interesting times on the job in the near future.  You know the ancient Chinese curse relating to interesting times, right?  Well, we seem to be there again.

So if I seem a bit off my game tonight (to the extent I even have game), chalk it up to distractedness.  Or to sucking in general.

Speaking of sucking, let's talk about the new issue of American Vampire, which doesn't.



I'm on the record as having been unimpressed by the wrap-up to Lord of the Nightmares, the recent five-part spinoff miniseries; and so it is with great pleasure that I say the main American Vampire series continues to impress me.  It's one of the best ongoing comics on the market.


A quick note about that: Scott Snyder announced at NYCC a few weeks ago that after issue #34, American Vampire will be going on a bit of a hiatus.  The majority of 2013 will apparently see a distinct lack of American Vampire, although the series will return toward the end of the year, and there will apparently be a few one-shots scattered here and there to keep fans sated in the meantime.  The reason for this seems to be to allow Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque some time to work on an as-yet-unspecified title for DC, and also to give them some breathing room in terms of getting some work done (and banked) on American Vampire.

In other words, it seems to be a case of Snyder / Albuquerque and Vertigo feeling that an extended hiatus would be preferable to a series of month-to-two-month delays.  In the case of an established series like this one, they are probably 100% correct.

It's also worth pointing out that Scott Snyder is a busy, busy man.  He's (thankfully) leaving neither Batman nor Swamp Thing, and 2013 will also see him starting a new ongoing Superman series, as well as a twelve-part miniseries called The Wake.  Dude needs a breather; it that means Skinner Sweet and Pearl and company need to go AWOL -- or AWL, in this instance -- then I'm zen with that.

Now, as for this particular issue of American Vampire, it's a dilly.  It consists almost entirely of exposition, which can be tricky, but here, it's all interesting, and it seems to genuinely mark a turning point for the series.  Snyder has said on several occasions that the current arc represents what feels to him like roughly the halfway point for the series.  So it makes sense that things seem to be making a definite pivot, even if it is not yet clear exactly what that will represent.

Good stuff, with a big-time cliffhanger; can't wait for the next issue to see the resolution, even though I suspect there won't be much in the way of happiness.




Sticking with Scott Snyder for a bit, this week also brought the first annual for the new version of Swamp Thing.  Snyder co-wrote the issue with his longtime friend Scott Tuft, with whom he also co-wrote Severed (more on which later).

This is a solid issue that I enjoyed a heck of a lot more than I enjoyed Snyder's Batman annual.  Here, we get a flashback to an apparent meeting Alec Holland had with Anton and Abigail Arcane at some point well before the "accident" that turned him into a mossy green monster.  Is the scenario wholly plausible?  I don't know.  Really, the only Swap Thing knowledge I have comes courtesy of Alan Moore and Scott Snyder, so I'm sure there is tons of history I'm missing out on.  I get the sense that it's plausible only if you squint your eyes real hard and make a loud "lalalalalalalalala" noise with your hands over your ears.

I can accept that.  When reading any long-time comic series, you eventually learn that accepting conventions like this are mandatory; if you can't, best to bail out on the whole thing.

All I ask is that when digressions and/or retcons of this nature happen, they be entertaining.  This one is very entertaining.

A lot of the credit for that goes to guest artist Becky Cloonan, whose work here is just wonderful.  She popped onto Snyder's Batman for an issue a while back, and I loved her work there, too; so much so that I'm practically itching for Snyder and Cloonan to start a genuine collaboration, rather than these fits and starts that have happened so far.  They mesh quite well.  Cloonan's Abby Arcane is just gorgeous, but I don't think there is a false note in a single of the panels she draws here.

Here are two exquisite pages from this issue, and they'll give you a good idea of the range Cloonan has:





I'm going to have to find out more about Cloonan's work, no doubt.  She was the artist on a series called American Virgin that sounds like a good place to make my first stop.

In the meantime, loath though I might be to ask Scott Snyder to put any more on his plate than he already has, I think he needs to find more excuses to work with Cloonan; she is awesome.





I'm at a bit of a loss as regards Fashion Beast this month.  It... it...

Hold on, let me compose myself...

Okay.

At this point, I need to issue what I suppose counts as a spoiler warning.  I've got to reveal something that happens in this issue that -- I think -- is intended as a major surprise.  Or perhaps it isn't.  To be honest, I'm not sure, but it makes sense to cover the bases.

5...

4...

3...

2...

1...

Waitwaitwait ... Doll is a woman?!?

The last time I wrote about Fashion Beast, I was issuing a sort of "no homo, bro!" defense of how I, as a straight man, nevertheless found the transsexual Doll Seguin, as depicted by Facundo Percio, to kinda be smokin' hot in certain panels.

And yet here, in this issue, Doll gets beaten up by some protesters -- the very one shown on that wraparound cover above -- and is found, one tit hanging out the top of her dress, by Tomboy.  (Does "Tomboy" have a name yet?  I don't think he does.)  He touches her nipple and accuses her -- gently, on both counts -- of being a girl.  "What is that, is that relevant now or something?" Doll snarls back at him.

So, I guess seeming-transsexual Doll Seguin was actually a girl pretending to be a transsexual?  Or is there some sort of supernatural gender-bending going on here?

My money is currently on the former, but if that money ends up losing out to the latter option, I won't be too terribly surprised.  To be frank, I have no fucking clue what is going on in this comic.

Nor do I care.  This is easily the comic I am currently most looking forward to on a monthly basis.  No surprise; this is Alan Moore we're talking about, and Antony Johnston (a proven talent when it comes to adapting Moore).  And I'm starting to think that i the future, when the name Facundo Percio pops up on an upcoming comic, I'll be inclined to give it a look.

This is great stuff.




Speaking of "great stuff," The New Deadwardians comes to a conclusion this month.  This ended up being a hell of a fine miniseries, and enjoying it as much as I did makes me melancholy over the fact that I don't take a chance on more comics that fall a bit outside my normal buying patterns.  This one sounded cool, but I wouldn't have picked it up if not for the fact that the manager at my comics shop pressed a preview comic into my hands; I felt bad for not reading the preview comic, and came away from it thinking, well, that New Deadwardians looks kinda awesome, I'd better give that a shot.

So I just know there are ... how many? ... probably dozens of other comics I'd enjoy just as much, if only I had the time and the money to devote to them.

I don't, though, which makes it all the more satisfying that something like this that I took a chance on turned out to be so excellent.

If I'm being honest, I have to admit that the final issue didn't blow me away quite as much as I'd hoped it would.  However, it accomplished three things quite nicely: (1) it wrapped up the central mystery, and in a satisfying manner; (2) it left the door open for further tales in this world; and (3) it ended things on a note that brought Suttle's characterization to the forefront.  In other words, it was a complete success; a home run, and while I'd been hoping for a grand slam, that was always unrealistic.

When the trade of this comes it, it will be WELL worth your time to pick it up and check it out.




This month's Angel & Faith is pretty light on Faith.  It's a sort of two-tale anthology, with the first consisting of a conversation between Angel and Whistler and the second serving as an origin story for Pearl and Nash.

It's good, solid stuff; I don't have a heck of a lot to say about it, except that I enjoyed it.




Boy, and I thought that Zero-Month stuff from DC was stupid...

What THE FUCK is this Point One crap?  No, don't tell me; I'll tell you.  It's stupid, is what it is.  Just call it #17!

Either way, this was a damn good issue, so I guess the joke is on me; I got all worked up fer nuthin'.

What we've got here is Betty Brant on the trail of discovering the identity of the new Spider-Man.  As with Angel & Faith, I've got little to say, except that it was good.  You annoy me, Marvel, and these types of shenanigans -- plus your tendency to double-ship titles -- keeps me from reading more of your comics.  But I'm with you on this particular one; it's too good for me to bail on.

I cannot quite say the same for our next title:




Didn't I just buy a new issue?  #5?

I feel certain that that was just a couple of weeks ago, and yet here another one is.  And it promises the return next month of regular artist Dexter Soy, whose work I disliked rather intensely on #s 1-4.

That combo of facts was enough to get me to drop this title, so in case anyone from Marvel happens to be reading this (unlikely), know that those are the reason why I hopped off the train.

A shame, too; this was my favorite issue of the six I bought, and it brought the arc to a satisfying, intriguing conclusion.  I like Captain Marvel as a character, and I think Kelly Sue DeConnick is a good writer who is only getting better.  I'd like to keep reading, but since this is a title Marvel seems to be prone to want to produce twice monthly every once in a while, I just can't justify the expenditure.

*****

That's it for floppies this week, but I've got a graphic novel I wanted to mention real quick.




I'd been meaning to pick up a copy of Scott Snyder and Scott Tuft's Severed hardback for a while now; I missed out on reading it issue-by-issue, and intended to buy the collected version as soon as it came out, but one thing or another kept getting in my way.

My local comics shop had a Halloween sale this week, though, so I used that as an excuse to finally pull the trigger and get a copy.  I read it last night, and am here to report that it's pretty good.  Not great; I was ever so slightly underwhelmed by certain aspects (including the art by the awesomely-named Attila Futaki).  Overall, though, it's a solid horror comic that will probably give you the creeps, and in the good way.

The setup is this: Jack, a young boy (aged twelve) circa 1916 runs away from home, intent on finding his biological father, whom he has never met.  His dad is a musician, and he's inherited that talent, and wants to combine forces, as it were.  Along the way, he makes a friend, and falls in with some extremely bad company.

I don't want to say much more than that, but I will say this: thanks to a prologue showing Jack as an older man, we know that he loses an arm in this adventure.  So you just know things will be turning bloody and fucked-up at some point; Snyder and Tuft do not disappoint in that regard.

I was, however, somehow expecting more.  I can't quite explain why that is, and it may be that my perceptions are at fault moreso than the comic itself.  A reread would likely clear that up, and I'm sure that someday I'll give it one.  My snap judgment, tough, is that Futaki's art style never grabbed me, and consequently I was reading the comic at a bit of an emotional remove, and never quite recovered from it.  That happens sometimes; when I stop reading a comic, nine times out of ten it is going to be largely due to not liking the art.  (Case in point: Captain Marvel.)

I was reminded at times, just a bit, of The Talisman, which was also about a boy named Jack, on the road and working his way across the nation.  That's about as far as the similarity goes; but the thought crossed my mind, and hey, this is (mostly) a Stephen King blog...

One final note: Snyder's collaborator here, Scott Tuft, had never worked in comics prior to co-writing Severed.  If I'm being honest, I have to admit that I don't feel much of Snyder's voice here.  If I were forced to speculate, I'd speculate that Snyder and Tuft co-wrote the story together, and then Tuft wrote the scripts, which Snyder almost certainly polished and revised to make them flow a bit more easily for Futaki to draw from.  The dialogue simply doesn't sound like Snyder to me.  That might also be part of the reason why I felt less engaged than I normally do with his work; or, just as likely, it might be my imagination.

If we can use baseball terminology again, Severed is a solid double.  Nothing spectacular, but definitely nothing to sneeze at.

If you're a Snyder fan, or a fan of horror comics in general, this is almost certainly worth your time.

*****

Speaking of time ... this may well prove to be the end of Bryant Has Issues.

As I mentioned earlier, I got some bad work-related news earlier tonight, and the likely end result of it is that I will get to add ten hours or so to my work week for the foreseeable future.  That time doesn't just materialize from thin air; it has to come from somewhere.

And the fact is that even though I feel like what I wrote tonight was a cursory, uninteresting column punded out just because I felt the need to pound it out, it has taken me a full three hours.  It always takes three hours or so, sometimes more.  Given that the Dark Tower comics have come to an end, and The Stand, there just isn't going to be much in the way of Stephen King content present in these columns, and as such, they already seem like a bit of a distraction.  Couldn't that three hours be spent on one of my actually-King-related projects?  Shouldn't it be?

Maybe, maybe not, but if my work-week increases by ten hours or so, the feeling that Bryant Has Issues is a distraction will seem magnified.

So, it may not be long for this world, is what I'm saying.  My inclination is to -- initially, at least -- scale it back to once a month, and cover only a few of the more relevant titles: American Vampire and Scott Snyder's other titles, Locke & Key (when it comes back), any Alan Moore comics.  I don't really know.

It'll play out however it's going to play out, though.

5 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear about the bad work-related news and its potential effect on Bryant Has Issues. Hope it's not as bad as it seems or plays out a different way.

    I'm going to have to get that Deadwardians trade when it materializes - you sold me on it.

    I thought the same thing with Fashion Beast and meant to pull out the first couple of issues and re-read them. But, I forgot to. (And likely will again) I, too, am enjoying this series, but this one felt way too short to me. I wish Avatar wouldn't have six pages of ads for Crossed et al. at the back of every comic. But, on this trend, it's not just Avatar. Anyway - this has been an intriguing series, and I'm curious how it'll turn out.

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    1. I think the page count is normal; it's just that your hands can feel that there are quite a few pages left, and then the carpet gets yanked out from under you when the thing ends what seems (but probably isn't actually) early. The same thing happened to me, so I I totally hear ya!

      I don't know why it always surprises me when something written by Alan Moore turns out to be great. He's Alan effing Moore! The odds are ALWAYS in favor of it being great!

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  2. Ten hours a day.

    With all that in mind I'm not sure if this is any consolation or not, or even if you'll a spare moment, however here's this web series called Atop the Fourth Wall.

    It's a series in which one man tackles the good, bad and the not even really trying were they? in the comic book world.

    Now I'm disqualified from judging any of this, for reasons I've outlined elsewhere. I do know that some of the comics he reviews are rare hard to find's like the spin off comic from John Carpenter's "The Thing," and I know he reviews Action Comics No. 1. Yes, that Action Comics.

    Here are a few links for what they're worth. The first is really a phone conversation in which the Fourth Wall guy talks with another comic fan about the possible future of digital comics. The other is FW's take on the Watchman film (he's a fan of the comic) along with the webpage for ATFW proper. This guy also has a blog on the main site by the way.

    So, here it is, Atop the Fourth Wall: apologies for the maybe crappy intro credit sequence.

    Watchmen film review:
    http://atopfourthwall.blogspot.com/2009/03/watchmen.html

    And here's the link for the discussion of digital comics and DC's 52 reboot:
    http://blip.tv/at4w/special-a-discussion-of-the-reboot-5420347

    ChrisC

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    1. Sounds interesting! I will definitely check those out when I have a chance.

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  3. Here as promised is a link for ATFW proper.

    http://blip.tv/at4w

    ChrisC

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