The Return No One Clamored for, Coming With a Smile and a Shrug

Here I am again, writing about comics. Here goes:

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Providence #1
Art by Jacen Burrows and Juan Rodriguez
Writing by Alan Moore
Published by Avatar

In Providence, nothing is evident. Jacen Burrows illustrates post-Great War Americana in dapper garb and attentive poise. His people are reserved, stiff upper lip types (even the talkative ones), clinging to secrets and projecting an image of themselves. Alan Moore’s dialogue stresses privacy: when Midwest transplant Robert Black remembers getting his job at a New York paper, his new boss tells him “Your private life is, of course, your own affair. Just keep it away from work.” Later, on assignment, he encounters a doctor with a peculiar medical condition explaining a theory of a hidden America made up of everyone’s secrets.

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What becomes unsettling about Providence is how readers are never made privy to these secrets. Not in the sense of information being revealed explicitly. It’s in details: the way a character’s breath isn’t shown in a freezing room, how shadows of branches slither across a brownstone, or what’s said in conversations picked up mid sentence. Robert’s minor brush with weirdness runs parallel with another, seemingly inconsequential tale: a man tearing up letters, then spending an afternoon in a secluded building in a park. The connecting tissue is revealed at the end, of course, but in a revelatory pause, from which the reader fills in the implication.

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Robert himself is an enigma, bookish and curious. Back matter journal aside, Moore never reveals much of his internal life. When ending a relationship, his lover (presumably in tears) describes him as cold, as if there is nothing inside him. Barrows constantly frames Robert from the first-person perspective of others, even during his own flashbacks (sepia-toned by Juan Rodriguez). He’s the outsider, being eyed by someone or something probing into his own piece of the secret America.

Lady Killer #5
Art by Joëlle Jones and Laura Allred
Writing by Joëlle Jones and Jamie S. Rich

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A pretty textbook example of the phrase “every comic is someone’s first comic”: the fifth and final issue of a mini-series which functions well enough as its own individual unit. Jamie Rich and Joëlle Jones smartly allow the tale–of an assassin dressed as a stewardess, going after the man who put a hit out on her–to unfold, assuming readers who haven’t read the previous four issues (*raises hand*) will keep up. In addition to allowing breathing space for speed line-heavy fights and Jones’ artistic flourishes (including a film reel opening drawn like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon), this sidesteps the logorrheic tendency in adventure comics towards exposition, instead showing how Josie (the assassin) navigates around obstacles. In one instance, Josie pursues a target through a crowd at the Seattle World’s Fair, only to run into her husband, Gene, and their two children.

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She’s surprised, but not in the manner he’s thinking. Her attempts to gracefully slip away and finish her mission are cut off by Gene’s well-meant attempt at being a supportive, progressive spouse. It’s a light, humorous touch, dialogue and layouts as brisk and efficient as a hallway brawl a few pages later. It’s a typical action scene, but one crafted with the understanding of its purpose at informing character while keeping momentum. When Josie confronts her aggressor, demanding an end to the situation, it’s understood clearly what the stakes are for her. The relatively low ambitions of the material are elevated by the skill of its execution.

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Basically, We’re Screwed (But Damn, We Got Some Great Movies)

2012 was not a good year. By all accounts, 2013 was not any better. All the usual politics hyped up to catastrophic levels for anyone who works/cannot work for a living (government shutdowns, furloughs, the push to cut more from assistance programs, that sort of thing), more war, more shootings (and more shootings of unarmed kids by supposed adults), Barack Obama pushing hard to finally meet his goal of being exactly like Ronald Reagan, basically the entire Republican party dropping even the most cursory pretense of concern for actual people from their platforms, Detroit being forced into bankruptcy by Michigan’s Governor Snyder and his corporate toady Kevyn Orr (to the obvious catcalls of Americans oblivious of the same misfortunes brewing in their own backyard)–an ongoing story which resembles less an attempt to fix the broken structure of one of America’s greatest cities and more like a bunch of mobsters trying to dump a body after putting a bullet in its head. People in other countries dying because of shoddy work conditions, which pundits who advertise themselves as right or left seem to agree is okay, because, hey, slightly-less-expensive jeans, yo. People dying in this country because of shoddy work conditions, which pundits just seem to be unaware is a thing, still. Comics and video game nerds competing over who can have the worst attitudes towards women/blacks/gays//etc, only to be beaten at the last minute by Duck Dynasty fans. Which is embarrassing, really. It’s a fakey-fake-fake reality show about some fakey-fake-fake millionaires pretending to be good ol’ boys (why, they worship Jesus and have tacky, matching camouflage outfits!), whose only goal is to sell their cheapo merchandise to white people who complain about how their rights are oppressed by gay people–with their “not wanting to be beaten to death in the street simply for being grown, consenting adults fucking other grown, consenting adults of the same gender” agenda–all while snuggling up to T-shirts made by people in countries who actually are being oppressed (Brand synergy, motherfuckers!).

I mean, seriously: Duck Dynasty? That’s what Americans will be moved to stand with?

Anyway, enough of that shit. Here’s the entertainment I consumed and felt best defined 2013:

Pain & Gain: Back when it came out, I tried writing an essay about Michael Bay’s black-hearted comedy (had the title “The Grossest, Most Beautiful People” in mind), but never got around to finishing it. This was an absolute surprise, a Coen Brothers movie on testosterone and aimed at cutthroat capitalism–represented by an intense Mark Wahlberg as Danny Lugo (the leader of the real-life Sun Gym Gang) and a caustic Tony Shaloub as a sandwich shop magnate Lugo kidnaps and extorts. The way Lugo and his buddies (Anthony Mackie and scene-stealer Dwayne Johnson, as a cokehead/ex-con/born-again Christian) are seduced and corrupted by the American Dream, the way they leave people dead and broken (Johnson, as the closest the group has to a conscience, has sympathy for the victims), the way they indulge in every gaudy, lurid fantasy Bay ever committed to celluloid, and the way their situation spirals out of control is perfectly nasty, hilariously disgusting, and smartly cutting. The ease with which Lugo gets around tepid regulations of bank practices (bribing his boss, a notary, into falsely approving a transfer of assets) turns the mid-90s crimes upon which the movie is based into a perfect metaphor for the housing market collapse (doing for that crisis what The Dark Knight did for the War on Terror). If Michael Bay’s career as a Bruckheimer hack was the plot of a film, this was the third act twist. The pulling back of the curtain to reveal Bay as a much smarter director than anyone (myself included) ever gave him credit for. Transformers 4 could be the worst piece of shit on the planet, Pain & Gain still justifies its existence.

Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us: Voice actor Troy Baker’s year was defined by one theme: emotionally scarred, cynical men escorting teen girls through a sci-fi nightmare (in both, the girls are, for the most part, only vulnerable to the psychological wounds the game inflicts). The Last of Us was standard zombie apocalypse fare, with Baker’s Joel escorting foul-mouthed Ellie (Ashley Johnson) across America. Gameplay was divided between genuinely tense stealth moments (where scrounging for supplies was dangerous, yet could pay off in a tight spot) and the same cover-shooting and Quick Time Event action setpieces which defined Naughty Dog’s one-dimensional Uncharted games, but also took the time to marvel at the elegant mix of beauty and horror in nature reclaiming civilization. Joel and Ellie bonding, becoming co-dependent (she a surrogate for the daughter he lost years ago), makes up for the script’s lame attempts at deconstruction (only once does Joel kill someone who is neither threat to him or Ellie, and only after the game goes out of its way in the third act to tell us he’s a crazy, murderous psychopath).
Bioshock Infinite, however, was the more complete experience: its entire world, the floating city of Colombia, defined by violence and oppression. The bourgeois class, led by Comstock (Kiff VandenHeuvel), enjoys so much leisure they refer to their metropolis as “Heaven, or the closest you’ll get in this life,” but rest on the broken backs of slave labor (a cross-section of early 20th century black and immigrant communities) who routinely get mangled by unsafe work conditions, if not killed for sport. This inspires justified revolution (The Last of Us‘ Fireflies didn’t have real motivation…they were a plot device), except it goes so far as to murder children. Baker’s character, thug-for-hire Booker DeWitt, only adds to the chaos, with motivations for extracting teen psychic Elizabeth (Courtnee Draper) more personal than he realizes. Redemption and baptism figure prominently in the narrative, with Booker trying to “wipe away the debt” even as more and more blood gets on his hands. Pundits mistook this critique in a first person shooter as ludonarrative dissonance, forgetting that any story about the effects of violence has to have violence. Those sprinkled moments of quiet throughout the first half–Booker and Elizabeth wandering Colombia, or when they hide out in a bar for awhile, performing “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”–are about these two finding some grace, but it always exists in a fragile bubble amidst carnage they leave in their wake. Ken Levine and his Irrational team chase these themes down a rabbit hole of alternate universes and time travel, until we get to one, single conclusion: the damage we do can’t be fixed by simply repenting.

The Long Journey: Boulet’s infinite canvas webcomic doesn’t just capture modern frustration. With a story which only builds, and never really ends, as his avatar goes beyond humdrum reality to backpack across surrealist landscapes, he finds beauty in expressing that frustration. Boulet wishes to escape the world, yet keeps coming back to incidents and images he sees everywhere (graffiti being the most prominent). What he finds is the need for connection, with himself, with people, with life. The nuances within the monotony of existence, which keep us going when all is dark and the end is never in sight. Boulet finds out he can go on a little more.

Horror movies: The genre had a minor comeback this year with three movies. First was the better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be Evil Dead remake/sequel/thing, a vicious allegory about the plight of addicts. Fede Alvarez borrows superficially from Sam Raimi’s original movie (the isolated cabin, Book of the Dead, possession, girl being raped by tree) but fixates on the self-mutilation the Deadites force upon their hapless victims (two lose their hands, one as a morbidly funny bit of misdirection), calling to mind the amputation of Jared Leto’s arm in Requiem for a Dream. In a worse year, this would’ve easily been the best horror flick, but it was just warm-up: after this came Rob Zombie’s American giallo Lords of Salem, contemplative in the ways all his previous movies were (about violence, sexuality, drug use, music, and Americana) but with a much more assured hand. The big winner, though, is You’re Next, a movie as much a window into the fucked-up dynamics of an upper-class family (as seen through the eyes of Sharni Vinson, playing the fiance of A.J. Bowen’s meek middle brother) as it is the latest in the new wave of home invasion thrillers. Adam Wingard neatly divides the movie into halves, allowing the relationships between the siblings (especially Bowen’s antagonism towards his cocksure, passive-aggressive older brother) to be the core around which the movie revolves. In a way, their bourgeois affectations expose the rottenness of most Hollywood dramas and mumblecore (both about the troubles of pretty, rich, white people), while Vinson gets to portray the working-class, can-do attitude of a John Carpenter anti-hero. I cheered for this.

Arrested Development Season 4: I’m really not sure what people were griping about. Instead of wasting the new opportunity provided by Netflix cruising on fan-service, Mitchell Hurwitz and crew took Arrested Development in a bolder, meaner direction. Splitting apart the Bluths, embroiling them in schemes which became increasingly sad and pathetic extensions of their own isolated misery (George’s loss of masculinity and Maeby still going to high school), and even more explicitly attacking the American political system (Terry Crews is better at being Herman Cain than Cain is), this was exactly what the show needed to be.

Star Trek Into Darkness: Just kidding, this sucked.

XCOM: Enemy Within: It’s not often a game’s expansion pack adds thematic depth as well as content. Opening with a new, foreshadowing quote from Buckminster Fuller–replacing the too-common Arthur C. Clarke one of Enemy Unknown–the Firaxis team fills out the premise of sacrificing humanity to achieve victory with a slew of upgrades in addition to the neat tech and psychic powers: genetically modify your troops, giving them secondary hearts or the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or cut them up and turn them into cybernetic MEC Troopers (complete with an international crew of voice actors impersonating Peter Weller), players are presented with choices as existentially horrific as they are really fucking cool. A new human faction, EXALT, gives one pause when realizing how closely they mirror XCOM itself (scientist Dr. Valen hypocritically remarks about how little responsibility they show with their genetic tampering), even as their allegiance leans towards the alien invaders.

Pretty Deadly: 2013 comics were a sorry state of affairs. The mainstream littered with the jack-off fantasies of bald(ing) white men–the Brian Bendis-written non-event Age of Ultron springs to mind–and giant corporations flooding the market with crossover tie-ins, accelerated release schedules, and tightly-managed-yet-poorly-edited “content.” Even good superhero comics–Fraction/Aja Hawkeye, Gillen/McKelvie Young Avengers, Nocenti/Sandoval Catwoman, Dial H,–couldn’t maintain momentum under those circumstances. The bigger creator-owned publishers (Dark Horse, Image, IDW) didn’t fare much better, with TV pitch-comics and fake-liberal Brian Wood on Star Wars being the norm. The small guys were off doing their own thing (most of which I’d have to tread the murky realm of buying online, and I’d rather not because I’m a total Luddite when it comes to Amazon and PayPal). There was plenty of good and even great work, but almost all of it was continuations from previous years (honorable mentions: Prophet, Fatale, The End of the Fucking World, Rachel Rising).
Then this happened: a magical realist Western created by the invaluable Emma Rios and the respectable Kelly Sue DeConnick. Deploying manga tricks and the surrealist touches of Sam Kieth’s The Maxx or Todd McFarlane’s Spawn (minus the latter’s high-school philosophizing), the duo turned out three virtuosic issues transferring song and good old fashion myth into the tale of a blind gunslinger, the Native American girl he cares for, and the death which chases them. Prodding, divisive, and experimental, this was the rare comic worth arguing about. And it’s a comic worth reading more of.

Music: There was plenty of great music this year. Neko Case had a new album. I saw Murder by Death in both Detroit (at the Magic Stick) and Chicago (at Reggie’s Rock Club). There were some other songs and albums which caught my attention, but my opinions on music aren’t as strong as with other things. But still: The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight. The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. Such a great album.

The World’s End: So much to say about Edgar Wright’s final Blood and Ice Cream movie. About how great Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are (here having completely switched roles), how smart and crisp the dialogue and imagery is (“There’s nothing between us!” goes down as my biggest laugh of the year, followed only by a line from Inside Llewyn Davis), and how the fight scenes are coherent and inventive. It’s also about getting old, trying too hard to cling to youth, and watching gentrification creep up and claim everything unique and interesting in the name of mediocrity and propriety. As funny and cool as it is, it’s about as biting as satire gets.

Nemo: Heart of Ice: A small, unassuming entry in  Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, revolving around a failed Antarctic expedition. It was Moore/O’Neill’s racist/hyper-capitalist interpretation of pulp character Tom Swift, a thorough condemnation of science fiction’s often gleeful championing of imperialism, which drew the most attention. It’s also Moore and O’Neill addressing the legacy of Victorian fiction (Janni attempting to conquer what her father, Captain Nemo, could not: Lovecraft’s Mountains of Madness), its decline (Swift’s partners are fading, English predecessors), and the way literature corresponds with its respective empire. Before Watchmen never had a hope for being this good.

Inside Llewyn Davis: I could talk all about how the Coens articulate grief, the way Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) is a failure at everything but music, and callbacks to O Brother, Where Art Thou? Especially gripping were the scenes where Llewyn is presented with an opportunity to do something noble or decent, but passes it up because he’s just pent-up and confused and angry and desperate. Basically, the only closure he gets is a modicum of comfort over the tragic suicide of his musical partner, even if he will never get over it. And all of that is wonderful, touching, and resonated with me on a personal level, but I really included this as an opportunity to type these words: “WHERE IS ITS SCROTUM!?”

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard 2: David Petersen’s small publishing hit churned out another round of anthologies. All of varying quality (the best was Christian Slade’s “The Love of the Sea”), but each a celebration of storytelling and art, from its roots in oral tradition to modern publishing for the masses. Utterly charming.

Drug War: An allegory for Hong Kong/Chinese relations, Johnnie To’s first mainland action movie found humanity within the inhumane systems of crime syndicates, Chinese communism, and the global War on Drugs. Everyone here is a person–the cops have each other’s back for gas money, the crooks pay true respect to their dead friends by burning their profits, delivering 2013’s single greatest scene–which makes it all the harder to watch when the bullets fly and bodies drop. To effortlessly displays the ways even decent people, whether they have a badge or cook meth, fall prey to systems designed purely to steamroll over them.

Happy 2014.

Meat Cute

Satellite Sam #1
Art by Howard Chaykin
Writing by Matt Fraction
Published by Image

Having come out the same week as Hawkeye #11 being crowned Comic of the Year, Satellite Sam‘s debut may have gotten lost in the shuffle. Which is a shame, because that Pizza Dog thing is alright, but just an off-kilter stall tactic for Matt Fraction and David Aja. A stray tangent. A brief bit of whimsy. This? This is still Matt Fraction being  precious, this time with a 50s, Mad Men backdrop where beautiful women in flattering dresses get groped and ogled by square-jawed guys in the workplace, but there’s a lot more play with time and chaos. The way Fraction and artist Howard Chaykin depict the filming of a children’s sci-fi TV show whose star (named Carlyle White) has been murdered, unbeknownst to the crew, creates this foreboding, Cold War paranoia.

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Chaykin makes clocks omnipresent in the issue, recalling Watchmen‘s doomsday countdown. Either in the background, or as a graphic laid over the panels, readers are always kept aware the events are happening at a fast pace, often simultaneously. Multiple points of view intersect with each scene–such as when producer Mike (Carlyle’s son) goes to fix a stage light, only to drop it and cause an actor to hesitate on air–from which we see the formation of two narratives: one, the crew’s struggle just to finish an episode amidst accidents and their own dysfunction (actor Clint sexually harassing actress Kara just off camera); the other, an executives meeting where station president Doc Ginsberg plots to aggressively expand his business with government collusion. There’s uncertainty and fear in Chaykin’s figures and layouts, ending one page on a blank white panel occupied solely by one sentence: “What’s going to happen?” (courtesy Fraction and letterer Ken Bruzenak). Fraction hints at the coming social (crew member Libby being in the control room), sexual (Carlyle’s stash of girlie pictures), technological (the rise of color television), and legal changes (FCC regulations) that face his characters in a manner as real and dangerous to them as nuclear war was (fitting that this issue ends with a fantastical lie, like Watchmen). Both worker and owner struggle with such changes, whether it’s television or Twitter, but the former wishes to survive them while the latter seeks to control them. History at its most potent.

Occupy Comics #1
Art and Writing by Various Folk
Published by Black Mask

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Meant to do a longer piece on this when it came out, but halfway through dissecting it realized it wasn’t worth the effort. Cheap, sentimental pseudo-populism paired with coloring from the “shades of brown is ART!” school of comics coloring. For every interesting bit–such as Alan Moore’s academic treatise on the relationship between comic books, social activism, and capitalism, with a lengthy section on Tijuana bibles–there’s three misguided attempts at chest-thumping solidarity with the Occupy movement, which says little about collective action or the need for a thoughtful populace to keep government and business corruption in check. What’s great is how often the creators not only contradict each other (as when Ben Templesmith depicts bankers as demons in “Clever” not long after J.M. DeMatteis pleads to not demonize the opposition in his sappy “That Which is Needed”), but often plays into the media’s portrayal of Occupy (one strip shows a ninja stealing gas). As if to really kneecap the very movement it’s meant to help, it closes out with Tea Party apologia “Channel 1%.” Likening that movement with Occupy ignores how it was really a front by big businesses to get more Republicans elected, including the son of career Congressman Ron Paul (Tea Partiers are supposedly “against” “career politicians,” but look at who they vote for). I mean, the whole thing was started by a CNN mouthpiece railing against a bill to help people about to lose their homes to the banks (not by the bailout, as is claimed here), before Fox News pundits were handed the baton.

Again, not too bothered by it. It’s not the first well-meaning, boneheaded political anthology. Won’t be the last, either, and I’d certainly rather have people engaged than apathetic. Just, pay attention to what you’re saying, guys? Is it too much to ask?

Spawn #233
Art by Szymon Kudranski
Writing by Todd McFarlane
Published by Image

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Even though Kudranski is really good at fractured sensory overload, a lot of Spawn is very clinical. All those frightened eyes, clawing hands, eviscerations, spattering blood, and moments of Spawn-host Jim D-owning cloaked in darkness, mocked by the practically invisible being taking hold of him, create this sense of claustrophobia and uncertainty. It’s held back, however, by Todd McFarlane overwriting everything. His attempts to turn the Spawn/symbiote costume giving Bond villain exposition into a tension raising “This is why you’re fucked” moment fails because it lets the gambit out of the bag from the get go. If McFarlane wants to make it clear Spawn is Venom, in light of Neil Gaiman’s spiteful and pointless deal for Marvel to publish Angela comics, that’s fine with me, but simultaneously vague and impenetrable allusions to backstory and Biblical retcons become tedious, deflating the weird, horrific images Kudranski delivers. This pull between dreamlike image and mechanical logorrhea can be fascinating (Scott Snyder partners Greg Cappullo and Sean Murphy demonstrate that on Batman and The Wake, respectively), and it has moments here (a series of panels inside Downing’s profile), but McFarlane more often than not gets in his own way.

Daredevil #28; Young Avengers #7
Art by Javier Rodriguez; Jamie McKelvie
Writing by Mark Waid; Kieron Gillen
Published by Marvel

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This whole ‘ruin a good thing with double shipping’ thing Marvel is doing is cute and all, but they need to stop it. In the case of these two comics, it’s becoming clear the quirky plotting and visual style which define the mild eccentrics of Marvel’s lineup (see also: Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye and FF) are being hijacked as an end in itself, rather than a means to stray these titles afield of the house style. Waid introduces yet another wrinkly retcon into Daredevil’s origin story in the form of a bully now seeking his aid, careening the character back into Spider-Man knockoff territory (why, Matt Murdock was only bullied because he was stuck up and wouldn’t play with the other kids, of course!); meanwhile, Gillen gives us goofy aliens called Skifflefluffles and whiny witch-boy Wiccan reciting Prodigy’s backstory like a Wikipedia entry. Neither gets bogged down by dumb quirk, and the artists carry the comics through them, but minimizing the detrimental effect of your publisher’s bullshit is not cause for celebration.

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My Week In Comics: 10/3/12

Where last week I had the problem of too few comics, this week I’ve got a plentiful bounty, which leads to me going straight to the point:

Winter Soldier #11 continues Marvel’s attempt to kick Ed Brubaker in the ass as he walks out the door.  It’s all part of their continued effort to get me (yes, me!) to stop buying their comics as they try less and less to make comics with actual craftsmanship to instead crank out more grist for the mill–the mill being the ‘Keep IPs in the minds of drooling fanboys so that when the next movie comes along, we’re at least guaranteed they will come and drag anyone that still tolerates to see it’ department–a move that has only made the comics they publish increasingly unreadable, bland, and dull even by the low standards of the superhero comic book.  Speaking of which, I also bought Uncanny X-Force #32 and Amazing Spider-Man #695;  X-Force at least has some interesting (if repetitive) stuff going on, but buying Dan Slott-writen Spider-Man is essentially me self-flagellating because I used to be a huge Spider-Man fan and want to be again.  Everyone keeps telling me, ‘No, man, this is really good, you’ll love it,’ and it never fails, I come back for an arc and say ‘Maybe they’re right.’  This ends with me asking, ‘What the fuck was I thinking?’  Every.  Time.

I missed the most recent issue of Chew, but series co-creator John Layman is taking over DC’s New 52 version of Detective Comics with the thirteenth issue.  The art’s just a hair above the standard for DC by being competent at storytelling, but there’s none of the spark that gives great comic books a heartbeat, and the whole thing’s covered in the Big Two’s default brown scale color scheme.  Layman’s Batman is a bit more humorous but you can barely tell the way the visuals are all “grim grim grim grim grim grim grim grim grim.”  There’s also the fun but baffling Dial H, hitting #5 today, Green Lantern nonsense in the thirteenth issue of that title (featuring Baz,whose first appearance I talked about already), and Ann Nocenti cycling through the third or fourth artist on her Green Arrow run (Freddie Williams II is up to bat).

When I went into the comic shop today, I didn’t have a whole lot of “indie” comics on my list, which is unfortunate since I’m trying to pare down my Big Two purchases.  Then again, the “indie” layout is fairly choppy, what with the Top Shelfs and the Fantagraphics having retreated to the outside world to publish “graphic novels,” while IDW, Dynamite, and Dark Horse devote most of their resources to licensed properties my generation grew up on (also, an awful lot of John Carter comics considering that movie was a well-deserved bomb).  As it turns out, though, a new publisher named “We” had released two new titles–the manga-like Triage and all-ages friendly How I Spent My Summer Invasion–which gives me a little hope for a future beyond Rob Liefeld’s oddly expanded influence (in spite of his recent flameout on Twitter, more superhero comics than ever read like the kind of crap he’s always peddled; meanwhile, his old studio is taking his creations in interesting, avant-garde directions.  Weird).

Also, Image has Fatale #8  and Non-Humans #1 (which was pitched as “Blade Runner meets Toy Story,” no joke); I then brave the rape-and-murder-infested waters of Avatar Press and come back with Fashion Beast #2 and Ferals #9Hopefully, I survive the experience.  Finally, Jim Mahfood and Alan Martin conclude the anthology mini-series Everybody Loves Tank Girl with #3.  It’s been a little joy to read.