Yes, it may be Halloweek™, but our proud tradition of shoving our characters’ weekly picks down your throat must continue unabated. Click, review, and see if there’s anything you missed this week!
Tracy Jordan’s "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah." Yes, they recorded a whole song for a throwaway gag on 30 Rock.Comments Off | Posted: October 30th, 2007 | Filed under: Uncategorized
So, the last three Iron Man collections, written by the Knauf father-and-son team and drawn by Patrick Zircher and Roberto De La Torre1? They’re very well crafted and move along nicely while simultaneously making me very much dislike the character of Tony Stark as directed by Marvel’s current editorial climate. They’ve taken Ellis’s vision of a futurist (which I was admittedly very smitten with) and turned him into an out-and-out villain hopped up on technology and power while simultaneously returning him to a more “adult” version of the unpleasant characterization that cropped up during the much-heralded 80s stories.
How is it that a character with such a great logline2 consistently misses the target? The frequently-cited material – The Armor Wars and Demon in a Bottle – is barely-above-average superhero work while the rest of the character’s story disappear down the memory hole. The last thing I wanted from these comics was a grimmer, grittier version of Bob Layton’s material, but that’s what they seemed determined to deliver. B+ for competency, D- for the end result.
1Along with excruciatingly pointless contributions from Christos Gage working with Jeremy Haun and Brian Michael Bendis with Alex Maleev in the form of two Civil War tie-in one-shots.
2Billionaire military industrialist atoning for his sins by wearing armor and beating up people? C’mon! That’s Catholic Batman!
What’s this? Is this the second guest strip in this week’s special event? Yes, it is!
And to remind you (because yesterday was so, so long ago): there’s a special treat for our readers as part of Halloweek™: wallpaper!
It’s available in four different sizes.
I realized something while watching the Charles Schulz episode of American Masters tonight. I can’t instantly recall the names of any of the kids I hung out with while in elementary or middle school, or any of the teachers I had. I can’t tell you precisely where my family went on vacation (outside of one trip to Disney World,) or what any of my birthday parties were like. I don’t remember any of the addresses my family resided at until my 9th grade year.
But I remember picking up a beaten first-print copy of You Need Help, Charlie Brown at a used bookstore in Jackson, Mississippi and reading it while my parents were in a grocery store. I recall knocking sand out of Happiness Is A Warm Puppy after a day at the beach somewhere. I remember using my allowance to buy I’m Not Your Sweet Babboo! (a big seven-by-ten inch collection that I kept on a shelf for years) at a Waldenbooks and sitting under a tree with it, reading all of its nearly 200 pages in one sitting. I can rattle off the names of the strip’s cast without blinking, remember the contents of the individual volumes of the Charlie Brown ‘Cyclopedia (#7 had space travel – that was my favorite,) and I know that Frieda is a red-headed girl, but not the red-headed girl, so stop making that mistake already.
Charlie Brown was probably my best friend when I was growing up and despite my years of being a devoted fan, I never realized it until tonight.
So after last week’s post that generated much more controversy than any bit of “this is why I’m not reading X” should1, I decided to use some of my fat credits and pick up a few recent Marvel books that were recommended to me by people that know my tastes. This week, I’ll talk about them. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
First up is the recent revamp of the Heroes for Hire concept, where Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray take time away from writing unneccessary rape scenes into Jonah Hex and instead introduce us to Misty Knight and Colleen Wing’s superhero startup using a familiar name. With the events of Civil War providing an impetus for the group’s reorganization as government contractors operating under the aegis of Tony Stark, the title takes a potentially-interesting new approach to the tried-and-true (if rarely long-lasting) series formula, using the current political climate of the Marvel Universe to inform the plot and provide a backdrop. At least that’s what they tried to do for the first trade, creatively titled Civil War: Heroes for Hire.
This idea of “realism” gets tossed to the side pretty quickly and it’s probably a good thing: the dialogue and forward momentum of these comics grind to a halt whenever Misty Knight and Tony Stark have a discussion about what’s happening around them and I didn’t need to see Luke Cage and Steve Rogers reiterating the same things they said in other comics yet again. Frankly, editorially-mandated guest appearances are one of those things that’s always rankled me, and this sort of material doesn’t help the case any. It’s a creative boondoggle for the writers from the start, tying their hands and narrowing their story paths significantly while forcing readers that may have been interested in a new title to know more backstory than they probably should.
What does work in the favor of the first trade (and much more in the second) is the gonzo sense of fuckedupedness that the usual big gun writers in the Marvel Universe aren’t quite sure how to handle: characters as goofy as Orka and Humbug are featured members of the cast and once the overly heavy proceedings of the first arc are out of the way, things are livened up significantly with female mob bosses getting jacked up on Skrull organ transplants at the end of the first trade with the return of the Headmen, a Doombot gone even more horribly wrong, and a mission to capture Moon Boy in the Savage Land (written by Zeb Wells) making up the second volume.
There’s a genuine sense of fun to these superhero stories that only rarely seems forced: the team’s personalities serve to liven up the action nicely and Gray and Palmiotti’s screenplay-influenced dialogue generally gets the job done nicely. While Billy Tucci’s facial expressions and body language in the first book are more than competent, his insistence on making almost every shot of a female character a cheesecake shot gets tiresome much more quickly than looking at pretty women should. I found myself actually enjoying Al Rio’s work for the first time ever in the second volume: he’s gone from being a third-rate J. Scott Campbell imitator into a decent-enough sequential artist in his own right.2
Overall, if I were rating this as some sort of superhero comics class project, I’d rate it a C+ or a B-3, depending on my mood that day. There’s some nice usage of pre-existing Marvel universe concepts and a few clever surprises, but nothing that will knock the socks off anyone.
1Seriously, some people need to separate what they read from their self-esteem. I had to delete a few comments, including some that crossed the line from “spirited commentary” to “out and out ranting dickery.” Guys (and yes, it was all males): it’s superhero comics. Geez.
2That is, as long as I don’t look a bit too long and notice what he’s biting from Bryan Hitch now.
3It should be noted that I’m deducting a few points for using the Black Cat again, as I have never much liked that character.
The opening salvo in our Halloweek™ celebration begins with our first special guest artist. Go, look, ooh and ah over the awesome.
Also, there’s a special treat for you loyal readers as part of our Halloweek™ offerings: a giant-sized rendering of the below image perfect for placement on our computer’s “wallpaper”:
It’s available in four different sizes.
While I was resting on my laurels, my good pal Roel Torres went and started a comic book studio.
You really should check it out – there’s some serious potential being shown off and you get to gaze at some lovely art by my friend Jason and others.
(Best of luck, Roel!)
From Avengers Annual #16, a pretty crappy comic for the most part.
(That means you can read more about it over at Dave’s Long Box.)
Holy Calamity, Scream Insanity!
Yes, it’s late.Yes, it’s completely worth it. I guess this means Heather Graham’s boobies will have to find another home in my brain because Birdie is my muse now, I swear.
(Found in the same kickass MetaFilter thread as the Chick parody.)
Read “The Trancecracker” if you’ve ever lost your shit on a dancefloor.
You’ll thank me later.
Jonathan Busch at Vue Weekly (Edmonton’s 100% Independent News & Entertainment Weekly)just reviewed the recent vampire movie. The headline? 30 DAYS OF NIGHT TAKES GRAPHIC NOVEL FILMS OUT OF THE FAN-BOY GHETTO.
My usual bitching about how utterly unnecessary comic book movies are aside, I’m pretty sure that Road to Perdition and Ghost World and A History of Violence did that before this vampire schlock movie did. Sorry, Jonathan and/or whoever wrote that idiotic headline, but Oscar nominations mean more (maybe just a bit, but still) than the fact that Josh Hartnett maybe wasn’t as wooden he has been in previous performances.
I know things are sometimes a bit slow to reach Alberta, but surely somebody there has a DVD player.
Since Bill Jemas left Marvel Comics, things have inched closer and closer to a neoconservative-friendly version of how a superhero universe should work. During Jemas’s tenure, the Avengers became an internationally recognized body empowered by the UN. Once he left, they were transformed into a privately-run team funded by solely by Tony Stark thanks to Avengers Dissassembled. A couple years and one Civil War later, they’re now are a US-government run superteam acting under SHIELD.
You know, the same internationally-recognized SHIELD that is now being helmed by billionaire government contractor Tony Stark, acting as some strange combination of Super Homeland Security and police agency for the world. I wonder how North Korea feels about that, or the increasingly hardline Russian government. Do you think there’s meetings at the UN where SHIELD’s Psi Division is scrutinized, or that whole Life Model Decoy technology and its possible uses comes up in discussion?
Think about how frightening it would be to live in the Marvel Universe now. Think about being a political commentator not knowing if your thoughts were being monitored because of a blog post you made. Think about being someone in power, not knowing if you were actually standing beside who you thought you were at a government banquet. Think about being a person with extraordinary abilities who’s forced to sign up with The Initiative or stay in the closet for fear of prosecution. Finally, think about being an ordinary citizen having to tolerate a de facto police state because of an accident in a small town in Connecticut.
This is probably me being some sad Captain Yesterday sort, but when I pick up a superhero comic, I want something that doesn’t provide a version of our current state of affairs with even more paranoia lumped on top. Weird, I know.
The latest Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane1 digest turned me into a twelve-year-old girl and I swear to god, I actually made that horrifying “Squee” noise when I reached the last page. I’m sorry to see Sean McKeever go, but his afterword did a fine job of explaining his decision. At this point, I’m unsure if I’m going to continue reading when Terry Moore takes over. Part of me thinks that working with an editor may help show off his strengths and tamper down his excesses, but the other part remembers how hopelessly lost Strangers in Paradise got when he overcomplicated the formula. I’ll probably throw a few pals at that particular wolf and see if it bites them before I investigate.
Speaking of graphic design, that Jonathan Adams cover for Awesome: The Indie Spinner Rack Anthology is a clever beast, set up so that the back cover can be placed next to the front cover to form one complete image. Ideally, this would mean the book gets double the shelf space, but I would imagine there’s a handful of stores that would order enough copies to pull off that particular trick. More should, actually, as it’s a damned good value at $15. Some of my favorites show up here, including Jamie Tanner, Liz Prince, Matt Kindt, Al Columbia, and Alec Longstreth. Overall, the material’s of high quality with a few very low spots (Neil Schwabb’s super-misogynistic “What Women Are Really Saying” strip seems like it stepped out of an issue of Hustler circa 1987). True to form, though, the cover artist’s single-page return to the Truth Serum universe was my favorite entry – blackly hilarious and capable of pulling off a joke that would have left me hiding behind my couch, waiting for the inevitable Reader Backlash to begin.
Finally, I’m going to admit something. It’s probably going to shock you. I freakin’ love Marc Guggenheim’s Blade comic and with the release of the second (and last) trade paperback, I feel I can admit that to everyone in the room. It’s high-energy horror schlock set in the Marvel Universe with pure pulp flowing through its veins. Howard Chaykin’s angular, graphic design-influenced art gives the entire thing a polished look that compliments the just-turgid enough scripting perfectly, making the entire affair like Steven Soderbergh directing a Shane Black-scripted adaptation of The Spider.
There. Three books, three paragraphs. Happy?
No, neither am I. The malaise, it’s unbearable. Here’s some one-or-two sentence commentary.
The latest Justice League of America featured Ed Benes coming back on the title, and my losing a bit more patience with the whole affair. I can almost feel McDuffie wanting to pull the script forward and editorial telling him to slow it down for the trade market.
I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: you should be reading Army at Love. There’s a trade paperback out for ten bones.
Yes, I looked at Death of the New Gods. No, I don’t think I’ll do that again.
Skyscrapers Of The Midwest #4 means there’s going to be a collection soon, probably with more stuff by Cotter. You’ll want to get that.
DMZ‘s biennial celebration was a bleak one-shot look at Amina from the Public Works storyline. When he’s on like this, Wood is compelling to a degree that no other current Vertigo writer can match.
I am purposely going to avoid talking about the latest Showcase Presents volume. The rest of the blogerati can point out how gay Superman and Batman are; I’ll just read and cackle on occasion. (Hey, everyone else has been pooping at their keyboard-tapping brethren, I might as well be dismissive.)
Hey, that was three sentences. That’s my cue to ditch this thing.
1 I initially typed that as Spider-Man Loves Mary Janes, which would be much more logical tie-in than that disturbing Superman/Airheads ad that’s been running in the DC books lately.
So, a while back, somebody was bemoaning1 that we engage in unreasonable amounts of self-promotion. That’s why I feel I should remind you that reading The Rack is completely optional, but if you want to know what the staff picks at Yavin IV are this week, then you may want to click on that link.
1On their own weblog, of course, not to our faces, so they can be fucked to death by a Cactus Bear as far as I’m concerned.
(No, there is no such animal as a Cactus Bear.)