Brand Recognition

Star Wars #5
Art by Carlos D’Anda
Writing by Brian Wood
Published by Dark Horse

starwars5

It’s a good thing colorist Gale Eltaeb was paying closer attention to the script than Carlos D’Anda was on pencils, because otherwise the fifth page of this thing doesn’t make much sense. Well, it still doesn’t make much sense, because while Eltaeb uses red and blue helmet markings to distinguish between Leia in an X-Wing uniform and another female X-Wing pilot depicted with the exact same face, the second panel has this exchange, which features who I presume to be Not-Leia:

“Nice one, Corellia.”

“Same to you, Corellia.”

Doesn’t help when nobody in the scene depicted (either Rebels or Empire) is shown doing anything noteworthy–the X-Wings all blast the TIE fighters in unison on one panel–so why this character (and her squadmate with the exact same name?) is given praise is beyond me. A lot of the art and dialogue just don’t match up. Then again, this isn’t really a comic meant to be read by anyone other than Star Wars fans: it fills in the gap between Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back–said gap being a criminal oversight to someone, apparently–and also treats Darth Vader as a shocking, splash-page-worthy cliffhanger. Not Vader capturing/Force-choking/otherwise doing something to someone, Vader standing around and then turning his head. Such laziness and incompetence is par for the course in a franchise where the only bar for quality fans have is whether or not an entry mentions Jar Jar Binks or midichlorians.

Doomsday.1 #1
Art and Writing by John Byrne
Published by IDW

doomsday.1-1Oh, John Byrne, how adorable your remake of your own Doomsday +1 is: the two  burly, bearded men who bicker over whether one of them paid for their shuttle to launch or not(?), the guy with the most improbable accent ever (“Nor’ or’ west at twenty knots, Cap’n.”), the “safety measure” on the previously mentioned space shuttle which conveniently requires someone to stay behind and die dramatically (textbook definition of safety), the completely forced title drop on the last page (“Doomsday…point one”?), and completely unnecessary drama between one crew member and his General Dad who works in the White House, which serves to spill their strained relationship just before the Dad dies from a solar flare. Truly, a comic that needed to be made.
At least your cover’s gnarly.

Catwoman #20
Art by Rafa Sandoval, Diogenes Neves, and Mateus Santolouco
Writing by Ann Nocenti
Published by DC

Even though Rafa Sandoval is backed by much more complimentary guest artists this issue than the previous one, this one is actually much, much worse. Scraping together a thin veneer of a plot from what little room she was given in the previous eight issues (shackled to other people’s stories by those fine editors DC has), Ann Nocenti tries to jump forward–Catwoman learning Penguin’s been flexing his muscle to earn a cut of her scores between issues, and trying to turn the tables on him–but it’s just a lot of maneuvering and really bad prose (“…no one can smell that Cobblepot’s fingers ever touched it–or rather that his fingerprints did”) to get a fight scene to set up the next couple issues. A fight scene that starts semi-decently (Sandoval, Neves, and Santolouco employ a lot heavily skewed angles to suggest movement), but flops on the landing when Catwoman decides to use lethal force in a panel that shows both her making the decision and the outcome, but not the actual act. This succeeds in making it look like she killed her enemy, a Penguin flunkie possessed by a demon called “Escalate,” just by thinking it, which is just…odd. So much of this could, should, and would be better if it were either more or less desperate to try to fit an actual story in before DC mandate yet another crossover.

catwoman20

Twelve Reasons to Die #1
Art by A Few People
Writing by A Few More People
Published by Black Mask

12-reasons-to-dieLot of typical crime comic fluff, mixed in with some (possibly?) supernatural stuff. The credits page lists five artists and five writers (spread out over “created by,” “story by,” and “written by” credits), and Bedlam colorist Jean-Paul Csuka doing his dingy palette of brown, grey, and brownish gray with the occasional splash of some other colors. Naturally, between the eleven creators listed (not counting the production artists, the cover artists, or the “producers”), there’s not a whole lot I actually remember about this comic outside of Ghostface Killah making an appearance as “Anthony Starks,” a guy who kills a bunch of other guys single-handed. He also co-created the comic.

OLD(ER) COMICS TIME!

(and by “older,” I mean 2011)

The Bulletproof Coffin
Art by Shaky Kane
Writing by David Hine
Published by Image

bulletproofcoffinThanks to this, I have to reconsider my thoughts on David Hine. His more mainstream work at Marvel, Image, and others left me with the suspicion his idea of plotting was to stick two clichés together and call them a story (not much different from many of his peers in that regard), existing solely for the purpose of pumping out more David Hine comic books. Bulletproof Coffin, on the other hand, has a much more personal touch, ironically by making his liberal borrowing from other sources more transparent: 50s EC horror, the trajectory of Marvel Comics, and British Invasion metafiction (of the hard-bitten Alan Moore variety). It’s a comic mostly about the comics industry, how it did wrong the people who did the most for it, and how that’s left the medium to stagnate and die. This is mostly done through the use of comics within the comic, which house cleaner Steve finds in a dead man’s home, the contents of which start manifesting in his humdrum, suburban reality, and will ultimately lead to the Earth become a zombie ravaged apocalypse. Soon, Steve’s become a hero from one of the comics and falls in love with a woman who has been turned into another (a blonde, bikini-clad cavewoman).
That part of Bulletproof Coffin is actually kind of gross, and ultimately drags down an otherwise fine comic: the woman, Sharon, returns Steve’s affection by calling him by his real name, but Steve only ever refers to her by the character she unwittingly becomes. Even while condemning the industry (via “Big 2 Publishing” and their Shadow Men) for its crimes, the comic doesn’t seem to have a problem with objectification: Shaky Kane depicts Sharon (a.k.a. “Ramona”) as voluptuous and often naked; Hine writes her as someone only concerned with this man she’s barely met and only thinks of her as the fetish material from his collection. There’s no irony or subtext here, it just is.
That is partly the point, celebrating junk culture, but it’s far removed from the comic’s best moments–such as when Steve reads a comic depicting him reading the same comic, or meeting Kane and Hine (inserting themselves as a Kirby/Lee duo), or the fake ads sprinkled throughout. Those confront the medium’s pull between commerce and art and hero-worship. Yet ultimately, Hine and Kane choose blind love of genre over their own ethical considerations.

Back to New Comics…

Demon Knights #20
Art by Chad Hardin
Writing by Robert Venditti
Published by DC

demonknights20

Kind of funny how this version of Shining Knight, previously depicted as lean and androgynous, suddenly has a B-or-C-cup this issue. You’d think someone was, if not actively working to undo Paul Cornell, Diogenes Neves, and Bernard Chang’s inclusive approach to gender and sexuality in superhero comics, then they were missing the point. Honestly, given how weird the Big Two and many of their fans are towards women, neither would surprise me.

G.I. Joe: Real American Hero #190
Art by S.L. Gallant
Writing by Larry Hama
Published by IDW

gijoe190

This is a nice counter to Brian Woods’ Star Wars thing: a competently written, drawn, and otherwise produced licensed comic book. Hits a lot of familiar beats (political reasons interfering with soldiers taking out a guy that is a real scumbag, appreciative villagers coming to the aid of someone who helped them, scumbag murdering said villagers, etc.) in an effective manner, and the characters–despite the two GI Joe women in this issue being tan-skinned and wearing white tank tops–actually look and speak distinctively enough to make them actual characters rather than convenient dispensers of plot information. Hama might be coasting here, but unlike Wood, he gets that “coasting” is a) something you do after putting in a number of years on a body of work that earns you a bit of leeway to not try so hard, and b) doesn’t mean “churn out a piece of shit.”
Wood should really take notes.

FF #7
Art by Michael and Laura Allred
Writing by Matt Fraction
Published by Marvel

ff7Okay, so this issue really hammers on the whole “family” aspect of Fantastic Four/FF, which can always threaten to get very syrupy when done on any level other than subtext (the same way X-Men comics get really awkward when the racism metaphor gets taken too literally. There’s a lesson there). It counterbalances that by having purple-helmet enthusiast the Wizard be so obsessed with the idea of having a family he becomes almost pitiable for mind-controlling Medusa into being his wife* and trying to destroy the FF in some weird bid to keep up with the Joneses. Meanwhile, the FF itself is more a surrogate, something for Scott “Ant-Man” Lang to hold onto while he deals with his personal issues.
The repetition of the dead tree on a hill, from Lang’s dream in previous issues, serves as a marker for his psyche. Previously, the Allreds (and Joe Quinones last issue) had it cut into Lang’s waking world with a serrated edge; here, it gets small, quiet panels, where the only interaction between dream and consciousness is when Lang is imposed over the shot of the hill. It’s final appearance, on the second to last page, separates the tree and the hill from people altogether (up until this, either Scott, his deceased daughter, or other people were juxtaposed with the image), suggesting Lang’s grief is still there, but not as crippling. Community as family as therapy isn’t exactly profound, but like with Fraction’s critical darling Hawkeye, it’s honest, and I’d much rather have more of that.
*At least, it would be as long as you don’t think of how Bendis and Deodato made him a slobbering pervert who stripped Spider-Woman naked in New Avengers just for giggles (for both himself and readers). There’s another lesson there of not letting Bendis get a hold of characters that are a bit silly, because he will turn them, Brad Meltzer-style, into rapists.

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