The Beef #1 (February 2018)

The Beef #1

Honestly, is there time for The Beef? Shaky Kane’s art is all right, but it’s far from enough to hold up the rest of the book. It’s a middling indie book, juxtaposing this guy’s life with beef (his father worked at a slaughterhouse, he works at a slaughterhouse, everyone eats the slaughterhouse’s burgers in town) and his bad experiences with his bullies.

The bullies get more to do than the lead, because when it’s all the metaphysical exploration of man and beef, it’s nothing about the character specifically. He’s just there. So he can turn into The Beef, presumably. The Beef looks like the Hulk without any skin, just muscles. According to the cover and the single appearance on the last page.

Not sure if what the Beef is going to do to warrant a five issue comic book.

Richard Starking and Tyler Shainline’s script pretends being loose is the same thing as being nimble. The narration is overwrought, which is out of sync with Kane’s art. Of course, Kane drawing grown-up rich kid redneck gangsta bullies is pretty out of stylistic sense.

It’s kind of exhausting. And it’s only the first issue. The Beef is nowhere near as filling as its creators pretend.

CREDITS

Tainted Love, Part One: Fast Food; writers, Richard Starkings and Tyler Shainline; artist, Shaky Kane; letterer, Starkings; publisher, Image Comics.

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Assassinistas #3 (February 2018)

Assassinistas #3

Assassinistas is starting to lose momentum, which isn’t good considering it’s just the third issue. Beto’s panels are getting sparer and sparer, he’s rushing through the action sequences. He slows down for the flashbacks and there are a lot of flashbacks. The flashbacks have the three Assassinistas in their prime. The present has the women separate, with Octavia having her son and his boyfriend as her sidekicks. The flashbacks are better.

But even they’re not without issue. There’s always an awkward transition as Octavia forgets she’s telling a story and then goes back to it. Writer Howard is dragging the revelations out–and playing with the idea of dragging them out–but Assassinistas can’t get stretched that thin. The boys are likable. No one else is likable. In flashback, the three women are funny and the action’s good, but they’re not likable. They’re still too thin.

And the whole thing about a kidnapped toddler just makes it feel forced. Like… we have to care, a child is (ostensibly but probably not really) in danger.

Also, for whatever reason, Beto’s expressions for the characters often doesn’t match their dialogue. It gets real noticable since there’s not just flashback, there’s exposition about getting to the flashback.

This issue’s a concerning turn (or concerning standstill) for the book.

CREDITS

Don’t Find Me — I’m Allergic to You!; writer, Tini Howard; artist, Gilbert Hernandez; colorists, Rob Davis and Robin Henley; letterer, Aditya Bidikar; editor, Shelly Bond; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Sax Rohmer’s Dope (September 2017)

Dope

Sax Rohmer’s Dope was originally serialized in the Eclipse anthology magazine in the early eighties, which makes a lot of sense. It’s not paced for a single reading, not with the final “reveal” (which isn’t pertenant by that time) and the long blocks of exposition.

The early eighties origin also makes the ickiness of the adaptation make more sense. Dope, the original novel, is from 1919. It’s British. Having not read it, I’m just going to go ahead and assume all the racism in the adaptation is from the original as well as the gentle misogyny of it all.

It takes a while to get to it–again, why it would read better serialized–but the story is about a police detective investigating a murder and a missing person. Dope’s very convoluted in the setup. This person meets that person, then visits that person with an acquaintance and on and on (there’s a lot of society stuff in it).

And adapter and artist Trina Robbins does great with that society stuff. She paces out these long conversations in a couple panels, word balloons crowding one another, the dialogue briskly paced. Not so with the exposition blocks, unfortunately. When Robbins is doing exposition, it all just hangs. There’s so much text. And none of it is particularly good. The source novel is mostly unknown pulp, after all. There’s none of the efficiency Robbins brings to the dialogue.

The second half of Dope, which reads a lot faster, is this police inspector investigating. I’m still not sure how he solves the crime. It’s on page, but there’s no explanation for how or why it works (or he would think it would work). He’s not a particularly likable character either. No one in Dope is particularly likable. The society men are all shallow jackasses, the women are deceptive dope addicts or unfaithful wives; there’s the one good woman, but she’s just a vessel for an exposition dump.

Dope is an interesting piece of work, but it’s too much for one sitting. The finale is this incredibly tedious (and racist) trip to London’s Chinatown so it’s not like the comic builds to anything. Serialized, it’d probably read a lot better. The ick factor wouldn’t be as relentless and the weak characterizations would play episodically, not as de facto character development.

It’s rather disappointing, actually. But clear from early on it’s not going to be able to overcome the source material. Or particularly interested in overcoming it.

CREDITS

Adapter and illustrator, Trina Robbins; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Love and Rockets #8 (September 1984)

Love and Rockets #8

Jaime gets a few more pages on Mechanics this issue and it changes the reading experience a bit. He has time to dawdle. This installment brings Rena Titañon in–it’s been a while since her last appearance (in present or flashback)–but also has time to give Hopey a whole subplot. And a whole other implied subplot because Izzy had an accident at Hopey’s apartment, a serious enough one to put Izzy in the hospital. Even though it doesn’t get explained.

There’s also enough room for Jaime to explore the band. At least, the bandmates gossiping about Hopey, Maggie, and whatever else. Jaime introduces some too obvious to be serious foreshadowing with the bandmates scenes too. It kind of works, kind of doesn’t. Similarly, Dot the reporter kind of works here and kind of doesn’t, as her seduction of Race (away from Maggie).

Then there’s the action finale, which Jaime executes beautifully.

Jaime’s not exactly stretching with the extra pages but he’s definitely exuberantly reaching. Again, he’s letting Mechanics get away from Maggie, which means more action maybe, but also less focus.

Then Beto has two Palomar stories.

The first one, The Laughing Sun, brings in the tween boys from the first Palomar story. They’re not tweens anymore, it’s ten years after that story (the first time–I think–there’s been an exact duration given). One of them attacks his wife and child, the rest reunite to track him down. Beto’s got all sorts of nods to the original story–or does he, because maybe it’s just how Palomar is going to progress. In temporal fluidity. But they feel like nods. With flashback, he can foreshadow past events for effect. And fun. Sometimes he just seems to be doing it for fun, which is nice because it’s a heavy story. And it cliffhangs because everything resolutionary is next issue.

And Beto’s second story is under the Heartbreak Soup Theater banner, On Isidro’s Beach. It’s a Luba story, more specifically, it’s a Luba’s daughter daughter Lupe story. She’s the second oldest (I think) and obsessed with Les Misérables (the book). And she’s a great protagonist for the story. Or the most pages of it. Because it goes back to Luba for the last three pages when the heaviness arrives. The sadness of life stuff.

Beto still gets in some good jokes, including a great finishing one.

It’s a strange issue. The stories don’t feel balanced, like Jaime’s going too long and Beto’s getting shorted. But not exactly because Beto’s pace on his stories is so good. They’re just breezy reads. Kind of too breezy. While Mechanics is full and good but clunky. But not exactly because Jaime can still get it to flow smoothly, full and clunky or not.

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