Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #37

Last week on Bryant Has Issues we eviscerated reviewed "So Fell Lord Perth," the final issue of Marvel's Dark Tower series.  Which means...

Holy smoke, Indy my friend...!

There are no Stephen King comics being published currently!  That's the first time that has been the case since February of 2007.  Quite a long stretch, that.

It brings up a question: should I continue these columns?  Personally, I think the answer is a yes; King's son Joe Hill is obviously going to continue to publish comics for the foreseeable future, and notable King collaborators like Scott Snyder and Brian K. Vaughan work in the medium on a monthly basis.  Plus, I'm sure some publisher is going to go sailing on Lake King again one of these days.  I'd still love to see King do an original series for the medium; maybe with Hill collaborating, even.  But an adaptation of some other King novel is just as likely.  I vote for It.

So, I guess that's settled.  Bryant Has Issues stays alive!  If you've got a dissenting opinion, feel free to fling it at me.

First title up this week is Saga, which returns after a months-long hiatus.  So far, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are kinda publishing each arc of the series almost on a season-by-season basis; and frankly, I think this is a terrific way of going about things.  It gives Staples a chance to keep up with the art, gives more readers time to climb onboard the series via the collected editions, and creates a bit of cliffhangery tension every six or seven months.  I approve.

I also just approve of Saga in general.  There is nothing about this series that I don't like.  Mostly, I love it, even.  I don't use that word lightly.  I mean sure, I don't love it the way I love my cats, or Coca-Cola, or women with tattoos from The Dark Tower.  Let's not get crazy here.  But Saga rates not too terribly far behind those things.

I went through this issue and counted 25 panels (some of them full pages) that I'd give an A+ on their report cards.  It's just a nonstop parade of inventiveness, excellent character detail, amusing non-sequiturs, and surprising reveals.

Let's have a look at a few:

One of the major charms of the series is the way Staples and Vaughan mix the mundane and the fantastic.  A hobo with wings; who'd've thunk it?

It's the small details that sell things in Saga.  Like the neckerchief on the bear in the first panel.  Genius.

D. Oswald Heist -- does he have a Facebook page yet?  Yep.

So, you might be wondering what happens in this issue.  Well, I can tell you this: it backtracks in time compared to #12, so that we see a bit more about how things got to where they got in that issue.  I can theoretically imagine this annoying some fans.

Not this one, though.  Great stuff.

Next up: another installment of Scott Snyder's "Zero Year" story for Batman.

You know what I just don't need to see in another Batman comic, movie, or whatever, ever again?  The scene in which Bruce Wayne looks meaningfully at something and decides to become Batman.  Guys...I've seen it.  It's been done; it's been done numerous times.  You're probably not going to improve on it, so maybe stop trying?

The majority of this issue involves Bruce Wayne getting the piss beat out of him by the Red Hood Gang.  It leads to some great Greg Capullo art, and Scott Snyder's dialogue is pretty good.  But since the whole thing culminates in the umpteenth version of the "Bruce decides to become a bat" scene, I find myself feeling quite grumpy about the issue as a whole.  Maybe it was necessary, but for the moment, I pretty much didn't care about this issue at all.

Look...I probably shouldn't admit this, an X-Files fan, I occasionally found myself annoyed by the CSM.  Yeah, I get it; his very nickname is "the Cigarette-Smoking Man."  But did he have to smoke in, like, every single scene he ever appeared in?!?  I get why that was maybe a necessity over his first few appearances, and I get why you'd want to show him smoking every once in a while.

But overkill is overkill, and I think the series overkilled that conceit.  And so it is that I find myself ever so lightly grumpy for the second time in a single column, because here the CSM appears to be agai, alive and well, smokin' up a storm.  Sigh...

This was still a pretty good issue, though.  I continue to grow more and more accustomed to the art by Michael Walsh, and the story from Joe Harris is moving along at a rapid clip.  This week -- heh; I said "week," but I meant month -- we are introduced not only to the CSM, but to the adoptive parents of William.  Agent Reyes also makes an appearance, although she doesn't fare much better than Doggett fared last month.

The bulk of the issue is devoted to Scully trying to figure out who has captured her and why; and also to Mulder's long conversation with the Cigarette Smoking Man.  Are there aliens involved?  Does somebody mention 2012?  Yes and yes.

Not bad.  Keep it coming.

Season 9 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer nears its end with this penultimate issue, in which everyone continues to forget about Dawn, Willow continues to try to bring magic back to the world, the bad guy continues to try to do whatever he's trying to do, and Buffy continues to fight the Slayer who has turned into a zompire.

It's alright.  But I'm a grump tonight, so I kinda don't care about any of it.

This is bad news for our next issue:

Except hey, whattaya know, this issue is pretty solid!  The art is better than it was last issue (it'd be hard for it to be worse), and the story covers one of the more satisfying stretches of the movie.  The adaptation does, amazingly, omit one of the movie's major setpieces (Django attempting to shoot his way out of the plantation shortly after Schultz kills Candie); this makes me wonder if that scene of the movie was a late addition.  This comic is being adapted from an earlier draft of the screenplay, so it might be that the scene in question did not exist at that point in time.

To be honest, the story works relatively well without the shootout.  I like that scene in the movie (though it goes WAY over the top), but I didn't much miss it here.  It surprised me a bit; but not necessarily in a negative way.

I still wish that Vertigo had found a way for the entire adaptation to be drawn by a single artist, though.  There have been something like five guys who have drawn this miniseries, and for my tastes, that's four too many.

But I'm in for the final issue; I hate to not finish a miniseries out.

Final issue this week is an old one-shot from 1997, in which Alan Moore tells a cosmic tale featuring Mister Majestic (aka Majestros).  Now, I don't know much of anything about Majestros; he's popped up in a few Moore-written issues of WildC.A.T.s I've read recently, so I have some sense of him; he's essentially a stand-in for Superman, as far as I can tell.

Moore didn't create the character, incidentally; this is more work-for-hire at Image.  But in the case of this particular one-shot, he definitely seems to have been engaged by the material; this is vintage Moore, and I was reminded of both Swamp Thing and Watchmen at times.

The story is that Mister Majestic is one of a small band of immortal beings who is left at the end of the universe.  The final stars are literally winking out as this group of ceaseless wanderers try to find someplace to go, something to do.  Majestic is one; another is Eucrastia, the final vampire (a Moore creation, I believe); the Wandering Jew; a strain of syphilis that inhabits the body of one of the immortals (!); and so forth.

This is excellent stuff.  By turns, it is horrifying, heartbreaking, hilarious, sexy, and repulsive.  In other words, it's Alan Moore.

In doing a wee bit of research about it, I found some opinions indicating that some people feel the story cribs a bit too much from two classic sci-fi stories: "The Last Question" (Isaac Asimov) and "The Nine Billion Names of God" (Arthur C. Clarke).  I've never read either story, though I'd heard of both.  You know who I bet had read both stories?  Alan Moore.  I'd wager that he was assuming plenty of people have read both, and that those people would recognize that he was playing with some of the concepts from Asimov and Clarke. 

Let's have a look:

The art is by Carlos D'Anda; it's very good, especially on certain pages toward the end I'm not going to talk about.

The issue doesn't make me do a whole heck of a lot in the way of wanting to know more about Mister Majestic, but it invigorates my appreciation of Alan Moore anew.  And that was pretty damn invigorated to begin with.

Right now, I'd say Stephen King is still my favorite writer by a wide margin; Alan Moore is duking it out with Joe Hill and Larry McMurtry for the number-two position, though, and right now, I think I'd have to say he's winning the fight.

Look for more discussions of his '90s work in the next Bryant Has Issues.  I intended to write more about it tonight, including a look at the amazingly good final issue of From Hell, as well as the surprisingly decent miniseries Spawn/WildC.A.T.s, but I think I'll hang onto those until next week.

So, for now, let's let that be enough blathering about comics.  Check ya later.


  1. Give me a pack of Morley's...

    That's a good call on the CSM.

    I've never even heard of Mister Majestic, so that's one by me. Sounds and looks pretty great, though.

    I've probably asked you this before, but have you read Voice of the Fire?

    1. Funny you should ask. I started it last night. I only read about five pages. They are...daunting. But enjoyable-daunting.

    2. I regret I had to return it to the library before I finished. It was slowgoing for me as well. I was very impressed and more than a little fascinated, but it's very demanding reading. So: one more for my rainy day pile.

    3. My sense of it so far is that if I were not already an Alan Moore fan -- if this was something that I got handed by an author I'd never heard of -- I'd probably have given up after two pages. Not because I thought it was bad -- I think I'd recognize that there was something interesting going on there no matter who wrote it -- but because I just don't have enough time to make myself power through books. The ONLY exception is if it's by an author whose work I'm determined to follow.

      Otherwise, life is just too short.

      But since I'm reading it AS a Moore fan, I'm already interested and invested.