Friday, July 5, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #34

Well, I had plans to sleep in until an unholy hour today, but a phone call from work seems to have scuttled those plans.

So, let's talk comics, howsabout?  It'll be a brief one this week, because there are only four titles on the docket, beginning with this one:

You know that thing where you'll be talking to somebody and you catch yourself saying something that is true, but is also so optimistic that you feel as if you may have risked annoying the universe?  Example: you're driving cross-country and you say to your traveling companions, "This is a really reliable car.  I've never had a single problem from it, EVER."  And then everyone, including you, braces yourself for a moment, like you expect a tire to flatten right that very moment in retaliation against your good luck up to that moment.  Usually, this leads you you knocking on a piece of wood, so as to appease whatever gods or spirits you may have just offended.

Well, bearing that in mind, I would say this: I don't want to jinx it, but two issues in, it seems to me like The Wake might be the best comic Scott Snyder has written to date.

The issue begins with a three-page sequence that takes place on the Gulf of Guinea, 5.1 million years ago.  We see a massive wooly-mammoth corpse lying at the edge of the ocean, with spears sticking out of it in multiple places.  We then see the people who hurled the spears: a group of...uh, primates, I think, but primates who have webbed hands, and are underwater.  So probably not primates at all, really.  These are some sort of prehistoric amphibious people.

On the second and third pages, we see a massive shark leaping out of the water toward the wooly mammoth, which we understand has been bait.  The amphibious people rise from the water, stabbing at the shark -- a megalodon? -- in an attempt to kill it.  From a nearby cliff, another group of amphibians rains a cloud of spears down into the shark, which disappears under the water, dragging many of the hunters with it.

Ah, screw it; let's have look:

This is a hell of a striking way to begin the issue, and in case you were wondering, yes, it will turn out to be connected with the rest of the story.

The art by Sean Murphy is clearly one of the main attractants to The Wake.  It is dramatic as hell, extremely striking, and the worst thing I can say about it -- the only negative of any sort, really -- is that I am not a huge fan of the way Murphy draws people's mouths.  Not much of a complaint, that.

I don't want to say too much about the story for the benefit of those of you who want to read it for yourself, so I'll just say this: the creature that was revealed to be a captive in the submarine at the end of the first issue is almost certainly a member of the evolved version of the same species.  I suspect, based on the events of this issue, that that is going to end up having major ramifications for the understanding of what the phrase "life on Earth" means.

The whole thing ends with a bang.  I won't say anything past that.

Also well worth your time and money: issue #3 of The Private Eye, which can be downloaded at the Panel Syndicate site on a pay-what-you-wish basis.

Here's what you this issue: much action centered on the middle finger, its uses and applications, and its whereabouts; somebody's mother dressed in a catsuit (not literally); inept gunplay by Frenchmen; a kick to the groin; good news for Blockbuster Video; a successful bribe; some creepy implications about the P.I.'s gramps, who was a doctor once upon a time; a big wall full of static; good news -- or possibly very, very bad news -- for Julian Assange; and a rather large rocket.

The art by Marcos Martin -- with even gorgeouser colors by Muntsa Vicente -- continues to be gorgeous.  And not only is it aesthetically pleasing, it's also very satisfying in terms of the layout style; in The Private Eye, you genuinely feel as if the art is part of the story, rather than just something that enhances the story.  (That is not as common in comics as you might think.)  Let's have us a look at an example or two:

I dislike nothing on this entire page.  I'm not sure I dislike anything in the entire issue, but I'm sure I dislike nothing on this page.  

That top panel is fantastic; it was preceded on the previous page by a panel in which the bus's headlights were reflected in the redhead's eyes.  Also, what's with the guy wearing a Jules Verne-style deepsea diving helmet?  Don't know, don't care.

I paid $1.99 apiece for the first two issues, and I liked them so much that I paid $2.99 for the third.  I don't know that I'll go above that for the fourth, but I might; I might.  And if not, it certainly won't be because it isn't worth it.

Brian K. Vaughan has said in interviews that there are no plans to collect the whole thing in a print edition, and I'm a-tellin' you right now, if that continues to be the case, it will be a crime against my book collection.  This thing cries -- moans, laments, begs -- for a coffee-table-sized flipbook.  Did I say that in my review of the previous issue?  I think I did.  It was true then, and it's true now, and I betcha it continues to be true across the next seven issues, as well.

Great, great stuff.

Angel & Faith is really a pretty doggone good comic, and I feel like I typically give it short shrift in these columns.  I'm not entirely sure why that is, either.  I think it may be because they have literally no connection to Stephen King whatsoever (no obvious ones, at least).  The previous two comics at least come from people who have either collaborated with King or who have adapted his work; in that sense, both The Wake and The Private Eye are at least tenuously related to the King universe.

But when it comes to Angel & Faith, I've got nothing.

So, in lieu of having anything interesting to say, I'll simply reemphasize here that Christos Gage's plot is epic and convincing in a way that could have come straight from the television series (Angel) that spawned the comic.  Also, Rebekah Isaac's art is superb; she does as good a job as I've ever seen of capturing the spirit of the actors' faces without falling prey to being too slavish to recreating them.  These are cartoony versions of David Boreanaz and Eliza Dushku, but the cartooniness allows the characters on the page to actually feel like Angel and Faith.  A lot of licensed comics get that wrong, frequently to an embarrassing extent.

The colors here are by Dan Jackson, and he does outstanding work in this issue.  Not considerably less good than Muntsa Vicente's colors on The Private Eye, in fact.  Have a look:

A solid book, no doubt about it.  Which is more than I can say for our next issue:

Yes, it's about forty pages, but $4.99 is too much to pay for a single issue of a comic book.  That's one of my big problems with this issue.  Another is that Vertigo, since #4, has apparently decided that Django Unchained will be a seven-issue series instead of a six-issue series.  If this particular issue had been as good as the first four, I'd be okay with that, even though the $4.99 price tag would make me grumble.

However, the art this issue is by some guy named Danijel Zezelj, and it is really rather awful.  Look at these two panels, both from the same page:

Is that supposed to be a face?

Seriously, is that supposed to be a human?  Or am I meant to think this guy is a Cardassian?

That's a Cardassian; Gul Dukat, to be specific.

Zezelj's layouts are effective; he has a good sense of how to present a story dramatically.  But the art itself is often hideous, so much so that I found it difficult to look at in places.

Yep; there's one.  Christ...!  Are those eyes, or is Dr. King Schultz wearing those white eye-plates that Spider-Man wears?!?  And is Calvin Candie a descendant of the Elephant Man?  This is a horrifying panel, and not on purpose.

It is beyond excusing that Vertigo has proven unable to have a single artist draw the entire adaptation.  And frankly, that's ruined the whole thine for me.  I'm considering just not buying the final two issues, but I'll probably go ahead and get them.  What I won't be buying is the collected edition, which up until this issue had seemed like something I was almost certain to get.  This atrocious art, though, has chaned my mind about that; permanently.

Quentin Tarantino deserves better than this, Vertigo; you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

Speaking of being ashamed of yourself, I'm going to go eat some pork rinds and drink a soda-pop.  Catch y'all next time.


  1. One of these days I must get down with the Buffyverse comics. I've been saying this for far too long. Looking at these panels from Angel and Faith really makes me feel like I'm missing out on the fun.

    Those Django faces look horrid. Seriously, how does this pass the editors?

    I remember when Secret Wars 2 came out, I was shocked at some of the terrible faces therein and wondered how it could pass inspection. Only much later did I find out the behind the scenes Marvel meltdown at the time with Shooter et al. That's always been my benchmark, tho - unless the editor-in-chief is getting fired and the staff is revolting and the corporate shenanigans are Bernie-Madoff-level, I have a hard time excusing an editor for not demanding panel re-draws, etc. Anyone can see that is horrible; no excuse. This isn't cubism.

    1. The Buffyverse comics -- which I have been buying since "season 8" began -- have been hit or miss, but at their best, they've been very good. And "Angel & Faith" has been close to exceptional at times, not merely for a licensed comic but just in general.

      As for that lousy Django art, man, I do not know. There is nothing that will put me off a comic faster than crappy art, with one exception: lousy art that appears unexpectedly (i.e., in the middle of an established series or miniseries). I'm strongly considering telling my comics-shop guy that he need not get me copies of the final two issues. The whole thing seems tainted now.

  2. I haven't read The Wake # 2 yet.

    And those Django pages look damn awful. I'm glad I didn't buy this mini.

    Private Eye looks AMAZING.

    1. The good news about the last two issues of "Django" is that R.M. Guera appears to be returning for them. So I guess the fill-in artists on the past couple of issues were to give him time to finish. I GUESS I'll go ahead and finish out the series, but I can't say it excites me much. Which is a bummer, because I like the story.

      Yes, "The Private Eye" is terrific. Some of the best colors I've ever seen in a comic.