Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bryant Has Issues #5

In this week's edition of Bryant Has Issues: succubi, vampires, zombies, trucks, more vampires, more zombies, MORE vampires, and cyborg Nazis.

One of these things is not like the other...

Yep, that's a succubus, and anyone who has read The Gunslinger knows what's going on here.  Roland certainly isn't as helpless as he seems to be.

This issue brings the latest arc in Marvel's The Gunslinger to a close.  I've enjoyed The Way Station, and a good amount of that is down to the art by Laurence Campbell.  He has occasional problems with character work (especially with faces, which may be part -- though perhaps not all -- of the reason why he depicts Roland's face in shadow so frequently this issue), but he has an excellent sense of drama, and the colors by longtime series colorist Richard Isanove help out tremendously.

Some of the better scenes this issue, visually-speaking: the splash page of the demon looming over Roland at the beginning of the issue; the demon recoiling from Roland's gun; a green-infused panel depicting Roland's mescaline-enhanced vision*; tantalizing glimpses of Eddie Dean and Odetta/Detta when the demon mentions "the three"; and Roland and Jake looking upward and seeing the Man In Black looking back down at them.

(* I wish this element had been made more of here.  Imagine what such a scene might have been like if Alan Moore -- whose Promethea and The Saga of the Swamp Thing had many trippy scenes -- had scripted it!)

All in all, it's a good issue, and while I can understand the complaints of "fans" who are bored with the comics now that they are adapting the novel so closely, I don't particularly sympathize with them.  Isn't the point of an adaptation to take a story from one medium and retell it in another medium?  Did I miss something? For my part, I'm enjoying seeing this new version of one of my favorite novels.

And there are occasional differences, if not in plot then in characterization.  

Let's do a comparison.  Here is a short segment from the revised edition of the novel:

     "You're sick!"
     Jake stood up fast when the gunslinger shambled back through the last trees and came into camp.  He'd been huddled by the ruins of the tiny fire, the jawbone across his knees, gnawing disconsolately on the bones of the rabbit.  Now he ran toward the gunslinger with a look of distress that made Roland feel the full, ugly weight of a coming betrayal.
    "No," he said.  "Not sick.  Just tired.  Whipped."  He gestured absently at the jawbone.  "You can let go of that, Jake."
     The boy threw it down quickly and violently, rubbing his hands across his shirt after doing it.  His upper lip rose and fell in a snarl that was, the gunslinger believed, perfectly unconscious.

Now, here are the panels that correspond to that bit of the scene:

This Jake is not exactly the Jake of the novel.  He's seemingly more self-assured, and is definitely snarkier.  That's fine by me, I suppose, though part of me feels like this version of Jake is edging a little too close to Eddie Dean's territory as far as the snarkiness goes.  On the whole, though, I think I like it, and changes of this type are typical of what's going on in the comics lately.  So for me, it's a straight adaptation, but one with enough differences to keep me engaged.

The next arc in the series will be The Man in Black.  Presumably, that is the final arc in The Gunslinger.  Will Marvel then begin tackling The Drawing of the Three?  If so, will they break it into five arcs, as well?

If so, they can count on my dollars.

Meanwhile, in American Vampire, this month writer Scott Snyder begins a two-part tale called "The Nocturnes."  Calvin -- who, as you may recall, got turned into a vampire during the "Ghost War" arc last summer -- is front and center here, and he's a black man walking around in 1950s Alabama, so you know there is bound to be some racial intolerance going on.

One of Snyder's great strengths is characterization: he has a way of making characters relatable and interesting in a short amount of time, and here it only took about four pages before I began wishing quite strongly that Calvin would be staying around in American Vampire on at least a semi-permanent basis.  Will I get my wish?  Only time well tell.

The art this go-'round is handled not by series regular Rafael Albuquerque, but by Roger Cruz.  I'm not familiar with Cruz's work, but I'll say this: he does a more than capable job of filling in for Albuquerque.  I didn't even notice that Albuquerque was missing (even though it says "Roger Cruz" right there on the cover!) until I got to the last page and saw the credits.  Flipping back through the book, it seemed fairly obvious in retrospect; but Cruz really fit right in, and you've got to admire a guy stepping onto a book on a temporary basis and doing as consistent a job as this.

There are lots of twists and turns in this month's issue, and while it remains to be seen whether it will have any real bearing on the overall series (or whether "The Nocturnes" instead represents a more stand-alone type of tale), the first issue was highly enjoyable.  This, of course, is typical of Snyder's work lately.  Speaking of which...

In Snyder's Batman, the much-hyped "Night of the Owls" event begins in the most recent issue.  

Now, for those of you who may not know, this is an event which is crossing over from Snyder's Batman into various of the other DC titles in the "Batman" family of comics.  Specifically: Catwoman, Batwing, Detective Comics, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Batman and Robin, Birds of Prey, Batgirl, and Nightwing.  None of those are written by Snyder, so I won't be reading any of them; I'd like to, but this geek's budget has room for only so many comics, and I simply can't afford them without sacrificing something else.  It's possible that if there is a collection of the entire event, I might buy that at some later date; but that's then, not now.

In any case, it seemingly isn't going to be necessary to read all of those auxiliary titles to get the gist of the story Snyder is telling.  I don't want to give away any details, because they are totally badass and ought to be kept somewhat under wraps, but this issue sets up how the rest of the crossover event will proceed, and it is evident that skipping those issues will not prevent you from enjoying Batman itself.  In other words, you'll be able to read Batman #8, skip the other titles, and not feel lost when Batman #9 rolls around.  I appreciate that in a crossover event.

The "owls" in question are Batman's newest adversaries: a team of elite zombie-esque assassins who are (kinda) brought back from the dead, trained to be the ultimate in badassery, and .. well, I don't want to tell you too much about their origins, their mission, or their motivations.  Find out for yourself, if you've a mind to.  For now, let it suffice to say that this issue is essentially just a long cat-and-mouse fight scene between Bruce Wayne and a pack of the Owls.  It's all told with Snyder's customarily fine grasp on the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman, and Greg Capullo's customarily fine art.

But THIS month, there's a bonus: a backup story by Snyder, with art by his American Vampire co-creator Rafael Albuquerque!  (This perhaps explains Albuquerque's absence on American Vampire.)  Albuquerque's art is very different from that of series regular Greg Capullo, and the shift in artistic style is maybe a bit more jarring than it ought to have been: for example, Albuquerque's Alfred looks so different from Capullo's that I initially thought I was seeing a completely different character!

However, like Capullo, Aluquerque is VERY good at what he does, and after just a couple of panels, your eyes make the adjustment, especially if you're familiar with Albuquerque's work.  He's only got ten pages here, but he makes a strong impression, and I'm looking forward to seeing the continuation of this backup story.

After adapting the Stephen King/Joe Hill story "Throttle" during the first two issues, Road Rage now turns its attention to the story the Kings drew their inspiration from: "Duel," by Richard Matheson.

I've never read Matheson's story, so my only real frame of reference here is the movie version, which was directed by a very young Steven Spielberg way back in 1971.  That movie is a legitimate classic (and, by the way, if you want to know some of my thoughts on Spielberg, check out a post I wrote on another blog ranking the 'berg's movies from worst to best), and was apparently a favorite Dad-and-son flick for Stephen and Joe back in the day.

I admitted back in issue #2 of Bryant Has Issues that I was not all that impressed with the adaptation of "Throttle."  It felt like the story was rushed, and even the Nelson Daniels art -- which was, in theory, the primary reason to buy the comic -- didn't seem all that great.  It wasn't a bad adaptation; it just felt ... I dunno, it felt a bit like a soda that had been left unconsumed long enough for just too much of the ice to have melted inside it.  Not bad, but unsatisfying.

Maybe it's my lack of familiarity with Matheson's actual story, or maybe it's something else entirely, but I enjoyed this issue a good deal more than I enjoyed either of the "Throttle" issues.  As with "Throttle," "Duel" is being scripted by Chris Ryall, and he seems more confident here, in some way that I can't specify (and might be totally wrong about).

However, I think the difference may be that I like the art by Rafa Garres more than I liked Nelson Daniel's art on "Throttle."  Here, Garres makes the killer truck (and its never-glimpsed driver) of "Duel" seem scary in a way that Daniel never managed with the killer truck (and its never-glimpsed driver) of "Throttle."  Some of this is down to Matheson versus King/Hill, of course, and here is where it would be to my benefit as a reviewer to have read "Duel" before reading the comic; it may simply be that Matheson's story is superior to "Throttle."

Beats me, but either way, I was very pleasantly surprised by Road Rage #3: I wasn't expecting much from it, and picked it up only to satisfy my completionist tendencies.  However, I enjoyed it quite a lot, and am looking forward to the finale.

If'n you're so inclined, you can find my thoughts on the premiere issue of The New Deadwardians here.  As I recall, I was fairly enthusiastic.

Well, the second issue gave me no reason to be considerably less enthusiastic, although I will admit that it was a bit slower-paced than the first issue.  I wasn't bored, but I can imagine that some readers -- the theoretical ones who basically only want to read 22 pages of zombies-eating-people action -- would be.

For those of you who don't know, the setup for this limited series is: in 1910 London, zombies are a fact of life, and in order to preserve a sense of stability, much of the British upper crust has "taken the cure" (i.e., turned vampire) so as to be essentially invisible and impervious to the undead.  The other undead, that is.

Part of what I'm loving about this series so far is that the focus isn't on the zombies, and it's not particularly focused on the vampirism of the vampires, either.  Instead, this is basically a detective story: our lead character is investigating an unlikely murder, with vampirism and zombieism as backdrops.  That may change eventually, and if so I feel relatively confident that it will change for the better.

I continue to be impressed by the artwork by I.N.J. Culbard, and this issue I actually noticed myself enjoying the lettering.  When the fuck does THAT happen?!?  Beats me, but the letters here are by Travis Lanham, and he is doing a bang-up job with them.

Bring the "Daddy Issues" arc to a close, the newest issue of Angel & Faith continues the streak of winners for this series.  I continue to be very impressed with it overall; I think Christos Gage and his crew are doing a very capable job of handling Angel and Faith and their related characters while Joss Whedon is away playing in bigger waters.

I've been enjoying Rebekah Isaacs' art quite a lot so far, too, and this might actually be her strongest issue to date.  There is a lot of emotion coming from Faith (and from Drusilla, too, for that matter), and Isaacs handles it masterfully.

The issue probably deserves to have more said about it than that, but the old word-well seems to be starting to run dry tonight, so let's move along to my final title.

Two issues in, and I'll be honest: I don't actually know what The Manhattan Projects is about.  The setup is that what we know as "the Manhattan Project" was actually a cover for a more extensive and advanced series of scientific endeavors.

But so far, the series is just kinda bouncing around.  I don't know who the main character is supposed to be; I don't know what the stakes are; I don't know whether I am supposed to think this is a secret history of our own reality, or whether it's supposed to be a completely different alternate history (I don't recall that Wernher von Braun had a cyborg arm, so it's probably the latter, but I'm not sure of it).

I enjoyed the issue, but I was simultaneously annoyed by it, partially for the reasons detailed above, and partially for reasons that I can't quite figure out.

I'm going to stick with it, but it's on moderately thin ice: I'm beginning to feel the urge to pare back my comics budget a bit, and when and if that happens, this one will be one of the first to go unless I become radically more interested soon.


Now is the time when I typically talk about the collected editions I've read recently.

Well, guess what?  The only one of those I've read since the last time was Vol. 11 of The Walking Dead, and I don't want to talk about those comics here.  I suspect my readership may consist of people who are watching the television series, but are not reading the comics, and so I don't want to say anything that would serve as potential sideways spoilers for the tv show.

So, suffice it to say that Vol. 11 was one of my favorites so far.  If you ARE a fan of the television show, I'd imagine you'd enjoy the comics as well.

See you next time, True Believers!


  1. I don't know if you're aware of this. They just got a new face lift over at the official Dark Tower sight, new lay out and everything.

    While there i was given the heads up on "The Man in Black", the next Dark Tower comic installment.

    Looks like their gearing up to take on the trilogy itself, though I could be wrong.

    If so, oh well, if not, holy freaking cow.


  2. I did not, in fact, even know there was such a website. Consider it bookmarked!

    I like that cover that they posted for the first comic in "The Man In Black." Looks very different from anything else from the comics so far.

  3. Well, let's hope so, I guess. Here's a correction for the earlier post. I made reference to a so called trilogy, seeing as the the Tower series is eight books I have no idea where I got he idea for a trilogy, and as as far as I know the Rings trilogy wasn't even on my mind.

    In fact, my mind was circling around an a school essay on Fenimore Cooper, don't ask.

    Anyway, well have to see how this new comic develops. the website by the way is part of King's official website with it's own heading on the main page.


    1. I knew what you meant, Chris!

      I've heard about the game, Discordia, that I saw a section for on the website, but I've never played it. I might have to do so soon.