Future Quest 3 (September 2016)

Future Quest #3

I was considering dropping Future Quest based on this issue but Parker takes that option away. Or tries to take it away. He does a fill-in issue with Birdman and the Herculoids each getting an origin story. The Birdman story has Steve Rude art. It’s awesome Steve Rude art too. Even when something is dumb–and it’s really dumb because Parker’s not trying to tone down the Hanna-Barbera dumb stuff. He’s embracing it. Future Quest feels like a cartoon you watched as a kid, only you’re watching it as an adult and the art is a lot better than it should be. But the writing is either on the same level or just being a little too self-aware.

If it were the sensation of watching a Saturday morning cartoon block, it’d be something. But it isn’t. Parker isn’t going for that sensation–he’s just doing a Crisis of Infinite Hanna-Barberas. It’s a very mundane stuff.

I mean, the Herculoids story doesn’t have Steve Rude art and it has more content (and opportunity to be dumb), but it’s still better. Maybe because it’s the second story and it means the comic is over, but Aaron Lopresti and Karl Kesel can do action art, even with dumb actors. Lopresti and Kesel don’t make the Herculoids look cool, but they do make their action sequences competent. It’s action versus the Birdman story, which was iconic superhero action without an iconic superhero. And a dumb James Bond knock-off plot. Herculoids is always dumb, but it’s imaginatively dumb.

But neither story continues the main plot. So do I want to keep reading a comic just for Steve Rude art. Because it’s not a disappointment. No one could do this approach better than Parker. It’s all just too stupid to be taken seriously. With these properties, it’s just a bad idea.

CREDITS

The Deadly Distance; artist, Steve Rude; colorist, Steve Buccellato. Vortex Tales: The Herculoids in Mine-Crash!; penciller, Aaron Lopresti; inker, Karl Kesel; colorist, Hi-Fi Colour Design. Writer, Jeff Parker; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editors, Brittany Holzherr and Marie Javins; publisher, DC Comics.

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Betty & Veronica 1 (September 2016)

Betty & Veronica #1

WTF.

Or, as Archie Andrews, as written by Adam Hughes would say, “double-yoo, tee, eff.” Because it kind of pretends to be an all ages comic; the idea of Hughes doing this 21st century good girl art version of Betty and Veronica requires it to be ostensibly all ages. Except Hughes isn’t writing it at all for kids. He’s got a bunch of pop culture references–opening with Archie and Jughead doing a Fight Club riff is only slightly more ambitious than having Jughead’s dog narrate half the issue.

As a brand, Archie Comics is about to crossover. It’s about to be mainstream in a way no one thought Archie Comics could ever be. Hughes isn’t doing anything for that effort. He’s doing this weird pseudo-retro book, smartphones but still the idea the kids of Riverdale are going into the freaking army instead of Oberlin, lots of weak anti-hipster blather while Archie compares Jughead to Wimpy over his hamburger fixation. Sex jokes about Moose and Midge but not really. Hughes also writes Moose like the Hulk, which is dumb.

What should be frustrating is the art is fantastic. Except on Betty and Veronica, who Hughes just does his good girl art poses on. They look like they’ve cut and pasted from a pin-up, not interacting with the scene around them. In the middle of the issue is two empty pages where the characters read the comic–Betty and Veronica, removed from the narrative. How meta. How lame. But how much better than the rest? A lot, it’s a lot better than the rest. The comic is so dumb, the great art doesn’t matter. Hughes not integrating his–air quotes–protagonists into the art or narrative flow (it’s either the dog or Archie or Jughead after the first act) isn’t even a problem. If they were integrated and the art were even better, the writing would still be bad.

And if Hughes’s dialogue weren’t terrible? The plot would still be meandering. He just wants to fill frames and talk.

I’m not sure I wanted to like this comic. But I did want to have some respect for it. Doing a 21st century Betty & Veronica well would be something, even if I didn’t want to read it. But Hughes is wrong for it. He’s bad at writing this comic book, he’s bad at these characters. He’s fine drawing them, of course, but so is almost every artist. There’s even a gallery of the variant covers from a bunch of other artists at the end of the book and they’re all good. So what? The writing isn’t there. Hughes doesn’t take it seriously at all.

CREDITS

Why Can’t We Be Friends?; writer and artist, Adam Hughes; colorist, José Villarrubia; letterer, Jack Morelli; editors, Stephen Oswald, Jamie Lee Rotante and Mike Pellerito; publisher, Archie Comics.

A Train Called Love 10 (July 2016)

A Train Called Love #10

What is this lovely comic? It’s not just lovely in terms of Ennis basically doing an extended happy ending, exaggerated as much as he can, it’s lovely in terms of the pacing. He resolves story threads and then gets things moved along as the reader gets to enjoy the result of all the trauma. And it’s love.

It’s so… nice. And positive. And hopeful. It’s not just slightly hopeful like one thing goes all right, it’s a happy ending where pretty much everything works out all right. It’s comedic, sure, but it’s all really sincere. Ennis has a real affection for these characters.

And the bunny. He and Dos Santos have the cute little bunny in the issue a lot. It’s weird. What the heck is this comic? Ten issues of A Train Called Love and I can’t figure it out. But I hope Ennis and Dos Santos have something else planned. Nothing with zombies or monsters though.

I really hope Dynamite collects this series well because I can’t wait to give it a single sitting read someday. It’s delightful. It’s got a lot of gross-out humor and ultra-violence, but it’s heart is in a nice place. Train’s a wonderful comic. Ennis’s writing is on, Dos Santos’s art is on. The gimmick is the sincerity. They apparently wanted to do a great comedic, ultra-violent, gross-out humor romance comic.

Success.

CREDITS

Else the Puck A Liar Call; writer, Garth Ennis; artist, Marc Dos Santos; colorist, Salvatore Aiala Studios; letterer, Rob Steen; editors, Kevin Ketner, Anthony Marques, Rachel Pinnelas and Matt Idelson; publisher, Dynamite Entertainment.

The Comics Fondle Podcast | Batman: The Killing Joke Special

The very BEST Alan Moore ending in his entire body of work. – Guillermo del Toro, filmmaker

The Killing Joke is a story about Batman and the Joker; it isn’t about anything that you’re ever going to encounter in real life, because Batman and the Joker are not like any human beings that have ever lived. So there’s no important human information being imparted … Yeah, it was something that I thought was clumsy, misjudged and had no real human importance. It was just about a couple of licensed DC characters that didn’t really relate to the real world in any way. – Alan Moore, the original writer, The Killing Joke

Wanna say that again, pussy? – Brian Azzarello, screenwriter, Batman: The Killing Joke

Out of nowhere–well, the questionably sincere loins of 2016 DC Animation–comes Batman: The Killing Joke, the animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s seminal 1988 comic book one-shot, starring Tara Strong as Batgirl, Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill in his much-anticipated return as The Joker. Matthew Hurwitz and I thought it might be nice to sit down and hash over the film, much like we did for Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Little did we know Killing Joke wouldn’t just turn out to be terrible, it would find astoundingly terrible ways to be terrible.

So join us now, as we gaze long into Batman: The Killing Joke and peel back each layer of superhero comics, animation and movie history that lead from the original book to a movie that did virtually everything wrong. Yeah, you knew we were the only ones up to the task. While everyone else is ranting about the instantly-infamous Batman / Batgirl hookup sex scene, only The Comics Fondle Podcast gives equal time to discussing the idiocy of this version having The Joker use circus freaks as a gang of deadly goons.

(We do actually get to discuss some good things, like “Batman: The Animated Series” and some comics. It’s not all doom and gloom. There’s whimsy)

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Batgirl and the Birds of Prey 1 (September 2016)

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #1

Well, isn’t Batgirl and the Birds of Prey a bit of a surprise? It’s a Rebirth tie-in so there’s a lot of exposition setting up post-Crisis, post-New 52 Batgirl and Black Canary (and Huntress), but writers Julie Benson and Shawna Benson pace it pretty well. The Barbara Gordon narration is strong. There’s some awkward points–mostly in how it addresses the Killing Joke and the writers kind of swerve, which is okay because this comic is going for fun. It’s got this dark, noirish art from Claire Roe, but it’s a fun book.

I do wish it were twice as long. Black Canary doesn’t show up until the second half or so, doesn’t get her own origin recap, which makes it seem a little unbalanced (especially since Birds of Prey was Canary’s book originally). But she and Babs are great together. Their bickering is fun to see with Batgirl fighting alongside Canary.

And this Canary is still the punk rock New 52 brawler Black Canary, which is still kind of funny to me because it’s too much. They went too far with it, but they’re committed.

Huntress isn’t impressive so far. Huntress hasn’t been impressive since Earth–2, so there’s not much to be said about it. She’s kind of like “Ultimate” Huntress, but the writers do get her setup done fairly well. They’re quick about it. Maybe too quick because then the comic’s over in a few more pages and I really wanted more story. I’m excited to read more of this comic.

CREDITS

Rebirth; writers, Julie Benson and Shawna Benson; artist, Claire Roe; colorist, Allen Passalaqua; letterer, Steve Wands; editors, Dave Wielgosz and Chris Conroy; publisher, DC Comics.

Manifest Destiny 21 (July 2016)

Manifest Destiny #21

Has this arc always had the little year tags to toggle between the flashback and present action? Maybe it did, but I feel like it didn’t, because the transitions were confusing. They’re still confusing, what with the guy in the past having a journal and there’s supposed to be a journal in the present action from Lewis or Clark but Dingess has forgotten about it. But there’s an effort to be less confusing. The effort is nice. It’s a shame it’s still visually confusing; maybe it’s colorist Owen Gieni but the transition from flashback and back is still way too gentle.

That problem isn’t the big one with the arc–or the flashbacks–no, it’s Dingess’s writing. He’s so fixated on the story in the past, he’s ignoring the main characters of the comic book. There’s an infuriating moment this issue where Sacagawea basically offers to go kill all the attacking cyclops bigfoot monsters and she doesn’t get to go. Why? Because Dingess never, ever lets her loose, which is weird–as always–because Sacagawea the warrior was a promise of the first issue.

Then again, Dingess also promised Lewis and Clark would be characters. They’re irrelevant to the comic now. This whole story arc idea, which does package the comic a little better, is making Manifest Destiny irrelevant itself. Sure, Roberts’s art is awesome and the concept is still okay and Dingess does have his moments as a writer, but it’s not adding up to anything.

The issue ends with promise of revelation and thrills next time. Whoopie. They’re never do enough to make up for the book running on fumes.

CREDITS

Sasquatch, Part Three; writer, Chris Dingess; penciller, Matthew Roberts; inkers, Tony Akins and Stefano Gaudiano; colorist, Owen Gieni; letterer, Pat Brosseau; editors, Arielle Basich and Sean Mankiewicz; publisher, Image Comics.

Prophet Earth War 5 (July 2016)

Prophet Earth War #5

This issue of Earth War feels a little like Prophet-lite. At least writers Graham and Roy know where they should be focusing their attention this issue–there’s three plot lines at least, including the tedious Earth War itself–but they don’t have enough space. The story is way too rushed. It’s the Earth War version of a bridging issue. A bunch of fast paced nonsense to move some characters around while doing some expository somewhere else.

And then there’s the art–there are four different artists and no rhyme or reason to what they’re handling. It looks like Prophet art (because it’s by a bunch of great Prophet artists), but not under close inspection. There’s no detail, there’s no joy. Everyone on Earth War is just trying to get it finished, which is unfortunate, because there’s still some great possibilities in the comic.

There’s a page filling backup–I was kind of hoping the issue would keep going to get towards the end of the series faster (the Earth War stuff is really frustrating, Graham and Roy race through it so fast there’s negative personality). As someone how loved nearly every issue of the Prophet series, I just want Earth War to finish without damaging the original’s legacy….

CREDITS

Writers, Brandon Graham and Simon Roy; artists, Graham, Grim Wilkins, Giannis Milonogiannis and Jenna Trost; colorists, Joseph Bergin II, Lin Visel and Graham; letterer, Ariana Maher; back up story, Mike McGhee; publisher, Image Comics.

I Hate Fairyland 7 (July 2016)

I Hate Fairyland #7

Funny thing about Young and I Hate Fairyland. It’s even better when it’s toned down a little. This issue isn’t too gross, isn’t too mean, has a handful of really easy jokes, and it’s maybe the most pleasant experience of the series so far. Or maybe Gert is finally just a character. But we’re getting to better meet the citizens of Fairyland and they’re more amusing than the royalty too. It’s almost an entirely different book.

But Young doesn’t lose anything. He’s gotten the series to a point where the implied, off-panel humor is as funny as if he renders it, which isn’t an easy trick. It’s a very comic strip trick and not one he’s previously seemed concerned about. But Fairyland has always had more potential than what Young was doing with it.

Not anymore, though. Now he’s trying with the book and he’s off to a great start. Some of it works because no one’s particularly bright. Not even the bee. He’s kind of dumb too; it makes the relationship somehow more stable. It’s really cool and it helps with the narrative. It lets Young use expository dialogue. He’s good at the expository dialogue, he’s got a lot of wit, but it still should flirt with tedious and it never does.

Because it’s I Hate Fairyland; it’s brilliant in its saccharine putridity.

CREDITS

How to Drain Your Dragon; writer and artist, Skottie Young; colorist, Jean-Francois Bealieu; letterer, Nate Piekos; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 15 (July 2016)

Velvet #15

No more Velvet. At least not for now; this arc ends with the end of Velvet’s initial storyline. I really should have known if it was just intended for fifteen issues. I always want that Brubaker ongoing, he always goes twelve to twenty. Or in that range. Enough to make fans out of the book, but then not to fully deliver on its possibilities.

Except with Velvet. The comic has always been very upfront about what it’s doing–it’s a spy thriller, it’s got Epting art, it’s not too creative in terms of the narrative. It’s a “cool” book. Brubaker and Epting doing a mainstream, “cool” indie title. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt Velvet is prime for media development. It is 2016, after all.

And, Velvet, the character, has never been much more than cool. She’s a great protagonist, but Velvet isn’t about her being likable or even relatable. It’s about her being cool and doing cool things, usually involving guns, car chases, subterfuge, explosions and gliding. When Brubaker returns to her narration of the book for the last few pages, it had been so long since Velvet had that kind of internal self-examination, I forgot it was one of the book’s narrative devices. And it’s been fine without it. Less ambitious maybe, but not by much.

Brubaker, Epting and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser deliver, because of course they do. Brubaker’s mastered comics pulp and always has the right artist for it.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

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