Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bryant Has Issues #40

I was sitting around today and thought, "You know, it's been a while since I had fried chicken."  So I went and got some fried chicken.  Then I thought, "You know, it's been a while since I wrote a Bryant Has Issues."

In fact, it's been well over a month.  Unacceptable!  So: time to make amends and talk some comics.
First up is a title you won't see on the shelves at your local comic shop:

Haven: After the Storm is a thirteen-page mini-comic that is included with the Blu-ray set (and the DVD set) of the show's third season.  It takes place immediately after the third-season finale, and involves Dwight being angry at Nathan for having seemingly prevented the end of the Troubles by way of killing Agent Howard.

The comic doesn't amount to a whole heck of a lot, to be honest.  Dwight yells at Nathan; Nathan mopes; the two of them deal with a Troubled guy whose Trouble is threatening to level the town.  Dwight talks to other members of The Guard, two of whom -- from the shadows, so we can't see them (natch) -- insist that none of that matters...that Nathan must nevertheless die.  The implication is that these shadowy figures will be important to the fourth season, but we're about halfway through that season and they haven't shown up yet.  So, yeah...not so much.  Not yet, at least.

If for some strange reason you are considering buying the third season just to get this comic, I think I'd probably recommend that you consider not doing that.  The comic isn't awful, but it adds nothing to the show's story.

Here's the recently-released Hundred Penny Press edition of Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft #1.  It's just a reissue of the first issue of the series.  No bells; no whistles.  No need for you to buy it, unless you've got a spare buck or a mild social disorder that demands that you buy every edition of something you like.

I had the former.

I think.

By now, we're nearly halfway done with the series, and a pattern has definitely emerged: each issue begins with a prologue that takes place either in the distant past or in the future, and presents information that makes us lift our eyebrows in delighted bemusement.

The Wake #4 is no exception: 100,000 years ago, two tribal chieftains meet in some sort of diplomatic scenario, and one of them promptly levels the other with what appears to be a laser-cannon-armed tank.  Did I mention that the tank seems to be drawn by a giant lizard?  It does.

The rest of the issue returns to the present-day story, and involves the semi-futile efforts of the surviving members of the team of scientists to escape from the chaos unleashed in the previous issue.

I'd love to post the final panel of the issue.  I won't, though.  All I'll do is hint that if you've read the first issue, you find yourself vocalizing a knowing "Ohhhhhhhhhhh.........."

So let's have a look at a few random panels I liked instead:

Sean Murphy's art is terrific, but Scott Snyder's story is pretty terrific, too.  Great stuff all around here.

Speaking of Snyder, here's the latest issue of his run on Batman.  You can't tell from the cover, but it's a double-sized issue (complete with a double-sized $6.99 cover price), which indicates that this issue is intended to be something special.

And you know what?  It kind of is.

Here's a few pages' worth of an example:

Odds are that if you are a Batman fan, part of the reason why you are a Batman fan is because of scenes like this one.  As Kevin Smith might say, you want to see Batman doin' the kind of shit Batman would do.  And you don't want to see someone faking it.

Snyder and artist Greg Capullo are decidedly not faking it.  I haven't loved every single issue of Snyder's Bat-run, but cumulatively, it is a very impressive thing indeed, and it only grows moreso as time passes.

There is plenty going on in #24, and I'll give you this much of a hint: a great deal of it takes place inside Ace Chemical.  And involves Red Hood One.


Say, we're talking about some pretty damn solid comics this time!  With Saga, I sometimes feel that even if I thought the series itself was garbage, it'd be worth buying simply for the beautiful covers.  There's nothing complicated going on there; it's just two characters, standing on a wind-swept hill.  But damn if it isn't pretty.

In this issue: tabloid reporters meet Alana's "mom"; a cyclops vomits on an infant; flying paint-spattered sharks; a dead spider-woman talks a bald man into kissing a woman who has horns growing out of her head (not in the Joe Hill sense of things, I assume); Lying Cat makes a pronouncement; a weasel-man (or man-weasel) makes a telephone call; and a robot-man (or man-robot) uses a gas pump.

To call Saga eclectic is to undersell it in some ways, but know this: it hangs together beautifully, and is constantly surprising.

I cannot end this mini-review without showing you what a cyclops puking on a baby looks like.  Impossible.  Wouldn't dream of it.

I'm telling you, Fiona Staples is worth her weight in gold.  These three panels are close to perfect, as far as I'm concerned.  I especially love the fact that some of the puke appears to be coming out of Heist's nose.  Awesome.

From one Brian K. Vaughan series to another, we get the long-awaited fourth issue of The Private Eye.  And it's every bit as awesome as you'd hope.  Before I delve further into that awesomeness, a plug: the issues of the series can all still be downloaded (on a pay-as-you-will basis) at the Panel Syndicate website.  This is an endeavor that is well worth supporting.

In this issue: Patrick and his client search for clues as to why Taj was murdered.  They go nym shopping, pay an illegal visit to the library, and are involved in a rather surprisingly massive car wreck.  Later, someone is offered oral satisfaction, and politely accepts.  There are also Frenchmen with Chinese food, a reference to the "Paul administration," and some encouraging news for the U.S. Postal service.  It's all delightful, with superb Marcos Martin art and beyond-superb Muntsa Vincete colors.  Let's have us a look at some panels that delighted me above-and-beyond the norm:

And again -- again! -- I marvel that Vaughan also wrote the pilot for Under the Dome.  Hand to God, I think he's using that series to just punk us all.

Next up: the third issue of the miniseries Tom Strong and the Planet of Peril.  I thought the first two issues were a complete blast, but I was less enchanted by this one.  The story involves Tom and Val continuing to look for Tom Strange, and not making a huge amount of progress.

Mostly, what this issue is is an excuse to show off a bunch of cool Terra Obscura characters.  And I'm okay with that; this isn't a bad issue.  It has plenty of imagination.  It just doesn't have much in the way or forward momentum.

However, this issue is also the midpoint of the miniseries, so it might simply be a case of write Peter Hogan needing to find a way to transition from one phase into another.  When #4 rolls around, I guess we'll see whether that happens or not.

"Season 10" of The X-Files has been fairly good so far, and that continues to be the case with issue #4.  It begins with a bang (by which I mean that it begins with someone getting shot), and then works its way back in time to show us how said shooting came about.  Suffice it to say that it involves telepathy, aliens, Mulder riding an ATV, a convenience store staffed by a little old lady with enormous glasses, and a plot twist.  Duh-duh-DUMMMMM!!!!!

It's not bad.  The art has continued to grow on me, and while I'm undecided on whether or not I feel this is actually doing its job as a "tenth season" for the series, I'm enjoying it enough to find it to be worth my time and money.

Trillium #3 continues the trippy fun-with-the-comics-medium goodness that has been a hallmark of the series to date.  As with previous issues, the third splits its time between the two main characters, and each time the perspective shifts away from the futuristic sci-fi plotline to the past-set jungle-exploration plotline, Lemire turns the layouts upside down, causing those of us reading a physical copy of the book to have to flip it over.

I find this to be kind of fun.  However, I don't think the tactic works quite as well in this issue as it did in the first two, and I would be understanding if you told me that you thought it was an annoying bit of tomfoolery.  I can imagine some people feeling like it distracts from the story, instead of enhancing it.  I wouldn't agree; but I could sympathize.

For me, though, I find that this is still a strong recommend.  The sci-fi elements are becoming more and more interesting each issue, as are the character scenes.  Lemire's art strikes a good balance between cartoonish and realistic, and doesn't entirely look like the work of anyone else with who I am familiar.

I don't have much to say apart from that, apart from pointing out that this seems destined to be one of those series that lives or dies based on how well it all ties together in the end.  I suspect that Lemire has something solid in the works.

But I've been wrong before.

I enjoyed the first issue of this miniseries, which is an adaptation of George Lucas's first-draft screenplay of the film we know as Star Wars.  That first draft was immensely different than the finished product, with different characters, a different plot, and, really, an entirely different feel.

I enjoyed the first issue a lot.  I enjoyed the second issue less.  In both cases, the art is a big part of the reason why.

Artist Mike Mayhew is, unless I am very badly mistaken, using a technique that involves taking photos of people who model for him the basic postures and facial expressions that wants to use in his panels.  He then uses those photos as a reference.  A lot of artists do this; nothing weird about it.  It helps create a more realistic look, and also helps to individuate characters.  If that's what Mayhew is doing, it worked very well for the first issue.  For the second, there are numerous panels where the result is, to be blunt, too photo-realistic.  By which I mean that it looks like a photo someone drew over the top of.  Now, let's be clear; I'm not saying that's what Mayhew did.  All I'm saying is that there are maybe a dozen or so panels in this issue in which it looks like it, to my eyes.

If that's the case, then it says one thing to me: Dark Horse has this series on a too-fast schedule, and the art is going to suffer as a result.  I am purely speculating on all of that, though, and as for the suffering of the art, let's hope that what I'm describing is something that will prove to be an aberration.

Let's look at an example:

That middle panel is especially egregious.  Uh-oh indeed.

In other respects, though, the second issue continues to be fairly cool.  A moon-sized space fortress shows up, as do a pair of familiar-looking robots (one of whom speaks whereas it -- he? -- never has spoken before):

I like how old goldenrod has been given a visual design that looks a lot like the robot in Fritz Lang's Metropolis, which is what Lucas is said to have based C-3PO on in the first place.  Nice touch, guys.


And with that, this installment of Bryant Has Issues has reached its conclusion.  Please place your 3D glasses in the recycling bin, and drive carefully.


  1. All hail Sean Murphy.

    That Trillium cover looks so much like the work of Gabriel Ba (or Fabio Moon) to me that I had to look it up. Apparently they just have similar styles - and from the quick google image search I did, not across the board, so maybe it's just how that cover hits me.

    Regardless, I like it.

    As I did when you covered the first of these Star Wars comics, I seriously considered picking this up out of curiosity. But I think I'll lurk awhile longer and look at it solely via the Bryant Has Issues viewfinder.

    1. I'll do my best to live up to that responsibility!

  2. I've only recently found out that the Files comics are supposed to be the tenth season of the franchise as a whole. Other than that, I'm not really sure what to make of it.

    I've looked up some of the storylines, and...That's just it, I really don't know what to say or where to go with it all. (...sorry).

    Concerning the recent Batman issue...I'm confused, is this supposed to be a reboot within a reboot series? Because it looks like they're setting things up to come full circle or else they are starting back at the beginning.

    I'm fine with going either way though.

    The only insight I've had about the Bat-verse however is somewhat interesting, and it concerns the Joker.

    I finally figured out for myself what is going on with all the gags and set ups normally associated with the character. The key with the Joker is that all the humor and clown antics are really more for himself than for anyone else.

    What I mean is not only is the character psychotic, but he's self-aware enough to know just how crazy he is, and the gags and what not are his way more or less of holding his own insanity at bay, from going full tilt over the side.

    The reason he does it all is because he's smart enough to know if he goes full psycho, there's no going back for him, and he wouldn't be able to stop until someone popped a cap in him.

    That to date has been my only insight into any of the major DC comics characters, and in a way it sort o ruined the Dark Knight for me a bit, because Ledger's performance is more of what I'm talking about by the character going full tilt (along with Snyder's Death in the Family storyline).

    I hate to say this, but I think Ledger and Snyder might have actually gone too far with the character, and made him more sadistic than is necessary. I know I've read similar fan complaints, and it wasn't until I had the above insight that I now wonder if they may have a point.

    Again, I do wonder whether there will be a tonal shift in the future Batman incarnations, not necessarily back to the Silver Age, but maybe more animated series.

    I don't know, I have no idea.

    I do know where I got that character insight, though. It was while looking at professional vlog documentary I found by chance (it really is worth a look if only to here about a comment from Joker creator, Denny Lane, it's also what gave me that insight) :


    1. The current issues of "Batman" (the "Zero Year" arc) are definitely a reboot; not a reboot within a reboot, though. When DC launched its New 52 reboot a few years back, one of the things it claimed was that none of the established Batman continuity was being wiped out. In other words, Frank Miller's "Year One" origin story would maintain its status as THE Batman origin story.

      However, as the series (plural -- in addition to the one Snyder writes, there are about half a dozen Batman comics in the New 52 line) progressed, it became evident that all prior continuity was becoming more and more distant in the rearview mirror, and no longer actually fit. So DC handed down a mandate to Snyder: that Batman's origin be rewritten. Not the parents-killed-by-a-thug element, but the story of how Bruce Wayne adopted the Batman persona. Reading between the lines in interviews, it is fairly clear that Snyder wanted to do this about as much as he would want to punch a kitten...but it was a case of either he does it, or he gets fired and somebody else -- probably somebody else MUCH less qualified -- does it. So, he's doing it. And so far it's solid.

      If this just makes your eyes go cross with annoyed confusion, then rest assured, you are having the correct response. DC should have simply rebooted everything from the get-go. Without the element of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo doing such marvelous work, what's happening here would have been an utter disaster.

      You make some good points about The Joker, and you may or may not recall from past Bat-discussions that I'm not a huge fan of the character, for exactly some of these reasons. However, if I'm being rational about it, I have to admit that he's been a sadistic psycho for most of my life; there's no way to put that genie back into the bottle, so I guess we're stuck with him.

      As for the question of whether Ledger's version goes too far, I'd have to say no. Not for me. It walks right up to the edge, waves at everyone, and then takes half a step back; but doesn't quite go TOO far. (That happens in the comics, where The Joker cuts his own face off and begins wearing it as a mask.

      However, Ledger's death might speak to the idea that in some ways, he really DID take the character too far. I'm struck by the idea of what Alan Moore would possibly say on the subject, which is something like this: an artist -- in this case, an actor -- is a magician in some ways, communing with the deeper mysteries of the universe. In summoning the spirit of The Joker to do his bidding, and to possess him temporarily, Ledger seems to have not entirely been able to make the spirit go away once he had finished using it. Communing with someone like The Joker is dark magic -- perhaps even black magic -- and that sort of magic often has unintended consequences.

      Sort of a chilling thought, isn't it?

      Heck, Moore himself even seems to have been ever so slightly tainted by the cruel spirit of The Joker. In speaking of "The Killing Joke" -- which almost all Bat-fans hail as being one of THE seminal Joker tales -- Moore has done everything he can to dismiss the work, claiming it to be "too nasty" and "too physically violent." This from the man who wrote "Neonomicon" a few decades later! But the implication is that he feels The Joker was taken too far, and that he flirted with magic a little too dark to suit the occasion.

      As far as future movies go, I'd love to see them try to move toward something a bit more Silver Age-y, but the team they have working on the films now is not built for that sort of thing. My sense is that even if they try it, it will fail. For cripes sake, they can't even successfully make Superman a bright, shiny character! In that scenario, there is simply no hope for a semi-sunny Batman.

    2. Sort of a chilling thought, isn't it?

      My initial reaction:...Really? Moore said all that? Um, ohhhhh-kay.

      To be fair though, if a I hadn't read a book called Integration and Alchemy by Gavin Ashenden, I wouldn't have known what he was talking about.

      Whether I believe it or not is another thing, however it is a bit ironic as your comments put me in mind, briefly, of Moore.

      I was thinking what would happen if (heaven forbid) Snyder ever actually was fired, who would you want taking his place.

      Now that ask myself the question, I'd most likely go with Paul Dini, though this is not an informed decision. All I know is I thought to myself, I don't want miller coming back.

      The reason being because I've seen enough presentations of his work to know why people like Joe Hill can speak of being fans of Miler "Before he went insane".

      The key charges are that Miller is a misogynist, and that he's borderline fascist. I don't know about the last part, yet I'm willing to buy the first. A lot of the attitudes toward women I've seen Miller display, even if just in comics, makes me sick.

      Moore came in from comparing the two, and how Moore is in some ways (at least) kinda like the anti-Miller.

      As for the Joker, again, while I admit Death in the Family was over the top (for me, the key is summed up in one line: Joker: you're all a bunch of...) ...Well, I know my reaction to that was pretty much, Whoaa! What gives?!

      So yeah, I think they went over the top, and I think they should at least move a bit away from that whole area.

      It' funny because not long after thinking about what makes the Joker a Joker, I saw this video game demo preview that pretty much confirmed what I was thinking.

      It involves the Joker and an explosive prank. Bear in mind, I said the character has a sense of humor, I never it wasn't fundamentally twisted:


    3. As far who I would want to take Snyder's place...

      I am a Batman fan, but in the same way as I am a fan of many other superheroes: (typically) from afar. If a writer I love is writing the character, then I'm apt to read it, but otherwise I am unlikely to be reading. So if Snyder were to get fired from, or otherwise leave, "Batman," then I'd only continue reading if he was replaced by someone like Joe Hill or Alan Moore or Brian K. Vaughan. Maybe Jeff Lemire. Otherwise, though, I'd almost certainly bail on the book.