Pick This Carcass Clean, Boys, Lean Times Are A-Comin’

Another light week. The most interesting comics thing I can think of right now is this tcj.com post, pulling up some “Blood and Thunder” letters from the archive about 80s DC book Wild Dog. It also illustrates something I mentioned previously about mainstream comic problems being just as big in the indie/alt scene.

Justice League #23.3
Art by Mateus Santolouco, Carla Berrocal, Riccardo Burchelli, Liam Sharp, Jock, Tula Lotay, Marley Zarcone, Brendan McCarthy, Emma Rios, Emi Lennox, Jeff Lemire, Frazier Irving, David Lapham, Carmen Carnero, Sloane Leong, Kesley Wroten, Michelle Farran, Annie Wu, Zack Smith, and Alberto Ponticelli
Writing by China Miéville
Published by DC

This reads like some book which fell in from an alternate universe. It’s amazing DC not only allowed this kinda/sorta coda to Miéville’s recently-cancelled Dial H series to exist as is, but to also insert it into one of the “Villain Month” tie-in issues for its marquee book, Justice League. Baffling, really.

dial-e_mccarthy

The jam issue nature of the comic–getting twenty artists to draw a page each with (at least) one new supervillain identity per page–also ends up being a great big meta-joke about gimmicky superhero comics. Miéville skirts the line of just outright insulting DC with his lineup of dialed persona too weird (Jock’s shadowy Ayenbite or Sloane Leong’s Steranko-esque Pop Art figure Mise-en-Abyme) or too silly (David Lapham’s Wet Blanket, a figure who wouldn’t be out of place in The Tick or Flaming Carrot Comics) to ever be marketable IP. Plot nor continuity really matter here: the individual artists make little attempt at making sure the central characters (a group of teenage punks who get their hands on an evil dial or something silly like that) have the same clothes, hairstyles, or even number or placement of piercings from page to page (Liam Sharp has one character’s hairstyle become an Afro from one panel to the next), and Miéville never extends the plot beyond “punks change into random supervillains”, just drops in his Dial H bad guy Centipede to keep it going. None of which is the point, really. It’s not about who lives or dies or who fucks who, it’s about embracing weird superhero ideas and letting these artists draw comics in their own idiosyncratic ways. Whether it’s Zaucer of Zilk‘s Brendan McCarthy throwing down some brightly-colored alt-comix riffs which put Jason Karns’ mediocre efforts to shame or Emma Rios’ fragmented closeups building to a mighty splash image, the artwork here has a life sorely lacking in DC’s long sludge of muddy, grim-dark Jim Lee variants.

dial-e_rios

This is an outlier, though. A lone aberration allowed to slip through by the Didio/Harras/Johns/Lee coalition, before they clam back up and demand more mediocrity. Best to drink up while it’s here, ‘cuz Dial H is being replaced by another Tony Daniel comic, this time about Superman dating Wonder Woman.

dial-e_lapham

Old Comic Time:

Evangeline: Guns of Mars #1
Art by Judith Hunt
Writing by Chuck Dixon
Published by Comico

evangeline-1_mission

Hyper-competent pulp shoot ’em up, with the lone bit of gussying up of its action-thriller tropes taking the form of outer space bounty hunter Evangeline also being a nun. Judith Hunt’s hand-painted panels express a rustic, lived-in quality evocative of Sergio Leone westerns, but starring a blonde-haired, blue-eyed evangelical woman on a quest of righteous vengeance instead of a mercenary Man With No Name. Even though she’s depicted as beautiful enough a gang of bandits risk violent death just for the opportunity to ravish her (and are rightfully dispatched), and another man tries to slip her a roofie, neither Hunt nor her then-husband Chuck Dixon fixate on Evangeline as a sexual being; rather, she’s a force of stone-cold nature, cutting through parties responsible for a murderous land grab–starting with the hired goons and going on up to the corporate executive who authorized it. When she gets nude, it’s a blase change of clothes while in the process of murdering a target, more a form of mechanical efficiency (taking place in one panel between outfits) than pinup exhibitionism. It also illustrates Evangeline’s curious nature: operating in the pious world of Roman Catholicism (reserved asexuality and divine punishment) and that of a secular frontier (debauchery and blood-soaked revenge), she’s surrounded on all sides by forces which seek to control and/or own her body. Yet, her only concern is the task at hand–get to the next stop, kill the next target, help a stranger or two if it’s along the way, rinse-repeat–an approach not dissimilar to any Steve Ditko protagonist. Dixon would bring this genre intensity to his Punisher War Journal run, but it would never be as multifaceted as it is here.

evangeline-1_badge

Finish With a New Comic:

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard (vol. 2) #3
Art and Writing by David Petersen, Eric Canete, C.P. Wilson III, and Chris Godbey
Published by Archaia

mouse-guard-legends-3_mole

This issue features the clumsiest tale of this volume of David Petersen’s anthology spinoff so far. Likewise, the remaining two shorts fail to rise to the artistic heights of the previous issue’s best pair of stories (Christian Slade’s etched, dialogue-free piece of maximalism “Love of the Sea” and Jemma Salume’s stylish, witty genre mashup “The Shade”). Nevertheless, the hand-crafted storybook quality of this series continues to be charming: C.P. Wilson’s “When Moles Are Around” is the best of the three, casually subverting its own moral by continuing to make its titular hero a destructive (albeit charming) nuisance hated by the very village which came to accept him while Corey Godbey’s “The Thief, The Star-Gazer, The Hunter, & The Tailor” rejects fairy tale conventions of heroes getting the damsel in favor of communal good and self-betterment being noble goals of themselves (while notably a working-class ethic, Godbey applies this thinking to the entire spectrum of human endeavor, from manual labor to espionage to pure academia). Only Eric Canete’s “The Mouse Generals” fails, if only because Canete errs on the side of telling rather than showing. The result is a moral (namely about vanity) which lacks the visual “aha” moment it needed to get the point across, in favor of a muddled closeup and the narrator telling readers what happened.

mouse-guard-legends-3_generals

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