The Comics Fondle Podcast | Episode 47

We’re back on track! Sort of!

Floppies – Ether The Copper Golems, Barrier, Black Hammer: Age of Doom, Doctor Star, The Sentry, Kill or Be Killed, Lazarus, Snagglepuss, Kaijumax, Bloodstrike, Damned, Magic Order, Mister Miracle, Plastic Man, Resident Alien, Weatherman, Barbarella, Flavor, Punks Not Dead, Coda.

Retro – Love and Rockets, DC Comics Presents, Star Trek.

Trades – The Troublemakers, Young Frances.

Mixed media – Whatever Happened to the Girl of Tomorrow, The Flash, Luke Cage, Ant-Man 2.

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Love and Rockets #21 (July 1987)

Love and Rockets #21

I misunderstood last issue when the letter page said it was the last Heartbreak Soup story for a while. It might have been the last Heartbreak Soup but not the last Palomar. Palomar is going strong, with a very creepy–while still very funny at times–story about a serial killer coming to town as Archie proposes (again) to Luba. There’s also a bunch of back story on her kids. Other plot points include Carmen, Pipo, and Diana worrying abut Tonantzin’s fear of invasion, as well as the introduction of Alcalde… the mayor. Who knew Palomar had a mayor.

Beto moves between the characters, focusing mostly on Luba, before wandering from person to person. Heraclio inadvertantly claims his (unknown to him) daughter with Luba as his own, leading to a scene at Luba’s, which introduces the workers outside town. One of them is the serial killer, one of them is the man Luba can’t resist (and father of two of her children), one is Ofelia’s love interest. Kind of cool for Ofelia to finally get a love interest.

Meanwhile, Beto has the creepy monkeys–all silhouette except pointy teeth–making “chit chit chit” noises to raise the tension. Plus, one of Luba’s kids won’t stop making the noise. Creepy, romantic, funny. It’s an awesome story.

Beto’s also got a one pager opening the issue, Bala. A guy runs at the glass wall of the third wall. It’s visual, it’s funny, it’s the first time he’s had anything but Palomar in a while.

Jaime’s got two stories. First is Jerusalem Crickets, which is a quickie–seven pages–about Hopey and the band on tour. Turns out Hopey’s scared to call Maggie, who was originally supposed to go with but then they cut out on her. Jaime remembers Maggie’s a mechanic again so it’s so unclear why she had that dude she worked with fix her car a few issues ago.

It’s a fun story, especially since the bandmates have barely figured into any of the Locas stories. They’ve been present, but rarely active. Terry’s a whole lot more likable here than ever before. Things aren’t going well on the road. Jaime’s got some great single, wide panels of their shows.

Meanwhile, back in Hoppers–and after Beto’s Palomar story–Maggie’s dealing with her sister, Esther, moving to town on weekends. There’s a misunderstood love square with Maggie, Speedy (who Maggie kind of liked and who kind of liked Maggie), Esther (who likes Speedy and who Speedy now likes), and Ray (who likes Maggie but thinks she’s dating Speedy).

Alongside that story, which Jaime plays a little for laughs, a little not (Maggie is rather conflicted about her feelings, Speedy is a manipulative monster of a dude), is the Dairytown gang driving through and raising the possiblity of violence. Ray–back in town so giving the reader an entry perspective–reflects on what he sees, which lets Jaime get away with quite a bit of exposition.

Jaime uses comedic comic strip techniques on serious subjects and vice versa; it works out beautifully.

Both Bros Hernandez seem a lot less interested in being likable–if Beto was ever interested in it, but Jaime certainly made his cast likable at the start–and more confident in their storytelling. Jaime’s art for the stories this issue don’t have the big art emphasis–literally big, like big panels, where he used to let loose. He’s got a single big panel, everything else is eight panel pages, in three rows–and he lets loose in those, confidently using silhouette for mood and abbreviation, ditto expressions.

It’s a great issue. Of course it is.

Love and Rockets #20 (April 1987)

Love and Rockets #20

I’m getting my Carmen story. I knew I was getting my Carmen story last issue because the “next issue” thing said, it’s time for the long-awaited Carmen and Heraclio story. So apparently reading the book thirty years ago, people had the same anticipation for a Carmen story. Shame it’s not a Carmen story.

It’s a Heraclio story. And it’s good. It’s dense. It’s Heraclio’s history of Palomar, basically covering everything occuring in Beto’s Palomar stories since Love and Rockets started, but it’s not Carmen’s story. She’s the subject of it–Heraclio relates his love for Carmen. He thought she was a funny little tween in the first Palomar two-parter, just like everyone else, but she was the protagonist and narrator of that story. Since then Beto’s pulled way back and changed the angle on the stories. Even though occasionally it seems like she still might be the narrator, just more removed.

So it’s dense. Like twelve panels on most pages, starting with Heraclio moving to town and then retelling everything from his perspective. It’s pretty much as expected, since Beto hasn’t ignored Heraclio stories in the new Palomar time frame, but there are some surprises. Like why Israel is really staying away from Palomar and Heraclio having a history of getting shit-faced and bothering Luba about her deflowering him as a teenager. But nothing about how maybe one of her kids is his. It’s all in summary and even with some great expressive art, which implies a lot about Carmen’s present-day antics, she’s still a mystery. There’s one word balloon in the story and it’s not her’s. It’s not even Heraclio’s.

It’s a lovely, successful story. It’s just not a Carmen story. Arguably it isn’t even a Heraclio story. It’s the story of Palomar from Heraclio’s perspective. Beto’s narrative summarizing work on it is phenomenal. And the art is precise and precious. Not a lot of room with twelve panels a page; his composition is always just right.

That story is actually the second in the issue. It’s just, you know, I’ve been waiting for it for fifteen issues.

Anyway. The first story is Jaime’s. It’s a Locas, about Maggie without Hopey. Not just not living with Hopey, but after Hopey and her band has gone on tour. Jaime introduces a lot of new characters while cementing the new supporting cast (basically, bye, Penny). Maggie’s mom makes an appearance as does a younger sister, Esther. Speedy’s back, but only for long enough to foreshadow some trouble ahead with Esther and him.

Izzy smiles. It’s kind of trippy. Daffy’s back for a page or two and it seems like Doyle’s going to be big in the supporting cast. Or at least he’s going to be around more.

Maggie spends the day with Danita, who she worked with before both girls quit their jobs. They bond, with Maggie sort of giving Danita a tour of she and Hopey’s regular stomping grounds. And Danita asks about Maggie and Hopey, which leads to some real talk from Maggie.

Jaime juxtaposes in flashbacks, visually toggling between past and present, with some relationship development. Hopey’s not in the present but she’s always present.

Of course, the whole thing is about Ray Dominguez coming back to town. Maggie liked him in high school. He knows Doyle, he knows Maggie’s family, he’s in the flashback. It’s an interesting introduction because Ray gets thought balloons, something the supporting cast usually doesn’t get in Locas. If ever.

It’s an excellent story, lots of great art, beautiful pacing from Jaime on the story. Some great scenes and tough moments as Maggie settles into her new normal. Beto’s got the Heartbreak Soup label for his Palomar stories, but Locas this issue reverberates with Maggie’s missing Hopey. It’s great.

Love and Rockets #19 (January 1987)

Love and Rockets #19

Most of this issue of Love and Rockets is Beto’s. Jaime has three stories, but none of them are long ones. The Locas story, which starts the issue, is six pages. It’s mostly a flashback story, framed in the present with Hopey and Terry talking reminiscing. Though reminiscing has some positive connotations and there probably aren’t any of those for Terry.

The flashback is to when Hopey and Maggie become friends, set after they first meet, which Jaime covered at some point earlier. Hopey’s still got her shaved head and she’s best buds with Terry. Terry, who has the same haircut in the flashback Hopey has now. One of Jaime’s more subtle details. And Terry and Hopey are together together, not maybe or sometimes together like Hopey and Maggie.

It’s a mostly funny, quick Hopey story. Maggie’s very different. Some great silhouettes from Jaime and a mix of more comic strip humor pacing and, what I imagine, a romance comic would look like. The flashback is to when Maggie’s still living with her aunt (the first time). Also: Jaime remembers Maggie’s a mechanic in the flashback. So fingers crossed it was a fluke she wasn’t in the last issue (or the one before).

And then the end frame is a one panel joke about Maggie’s life with her aunt now.

But there’s also another flashback; four panels with Hopey waking Maggie up to bother her. It’s kind of funny but mostly cute.

And then comes the Palomar story. And wow, the Palomar story. Israel’s story. Not set in Palomar, except in flashback. The flashback reveals Israel had a twin sister who literally disappeared during an eclipse, which haunts him throughout his life. The flashback also establishes Pipo was friends–as a kid–with the boys. Also establishes basically every tween boy in Palomar lost their virginity with Tonantzin.

Anyway. The present. The present is Israel living in the city, a bisexual gigolio, living off “the old man.” Of course, Israel steps out on the old man to find his pot–weed is very serious (a little too serious)–and hook up with a lady friend. Beto then reintroduces Marcos, who was in prison with Jesus. Jesus never makes an appearance (outside the cast list at the beginning), but there’s some exposition about him.

See, Israel is on some kind of quest, off to the town of Olympus, which is kind of a surburban atmosphere but it’s unclear. There he visits Pipo, who’s having problems with Gato (but not the problems Beto implied earlier in that picnic story, in fact, he directly walks back Gato being physically abusive).

Then it’s off to see Satch, who turns out to be physically abusive to his wife (after the initial implication he’s not). In the one page with Satch, Beto follows up on that Vicente story from last issue (or whenever) with he and the roommate being out of work. The roommate’s name is Saturino, which never got mentioned in the story and the table of contents said it was Jesus. So. At least he gets a name. But they’ve gone off to the States to look for work.

Then Israel meets up with Tonantzin–by chance at a party–and there’s the flashback after they get it on. Of course, Israel is actually at the party because he’s talking to a psychic about his sister. So he loses it after he and Tonantzin hook up. Then Israel’s got an encounter with an ex-boyfriend, then with Gato, and finally he’s shacked up with an old lady. Carrying on with a dude on the side. Flip flop, flip flop.

It’s a lot. Israel’s never had this much material on his own before, so Beto’s not just establishing his whole life, there’s also the catch-up to the other residents of Palomar who’ve left Palomar. It’s a little bit like that Vincente and Saturino story but without the first person narration. Because it’s all framed around Israel’s sadness over losing his sister and the mystery of it.

It’s a fantastic twenty pages of comics.

Then come Jaime’s two final stories. First is a two-pager about migrant workers. Speedy makes a cameo, but otherwise it’s just all new characters. They’re worried about getting busted by immigration. Lots of silhouette, some gentle humor, but it seems like the strip has to be setup for something more later. Or I’m just remember when I read the Locas collection a decade ago.

Then it’s a two page Rena story, set after she and Bernie Carbo hooked up, while Bernie still flew with Duke. It’s mostly laughs, but some great art–and anti-silhouette, the ship is crashed in the snow–and it’s nice to see Rena and Bernie.

The Jaime stories are fine. The two-pagers feel a little like filler, the Locas flashback is nice, but it’s Beto’s issue. The Israel story is phenomenal.

Love and Rockets #18 (September 1986)

Love and Rockets #18

The issue opens with the second part of Beto’s Palomar story. Luba is still stuck in a hole, daughter Guadalupe still hasn’t told anyone (or gotten her mom any food), the bruja has brought a plague to town–her baby’s skull is missing–and sheriff Chelo is down for the count. So Chelo enlists Tonantzin as a deputy.

There are three plotlines: Tonantzin and Guadalupe get the big ones, Chelo gets the third. Because Chelo comes in late–to save the day–while Tonantzin is getting radicalized by a guy out to kill Chelo for killing his brother (last issue). Guadalupe catches the bruja sickness and starts hallucinating while out trying to save Luba from drowning; there’s going to be a major storm.

Lots happens, including a cameo from Errata Stigmata (in Guadalupe’s fever dream). Beto also brings back the original Luba–from the first issue of Love and Rockets–to terrorize Guadalupe. It’s intense. Meanwhile Tonantzin’s pal ends up getting more and more dangerous, including to her, and Chelo’s just trying to get the bruja out of town.

Beto paces it for humor after a while. He starts with it being dangerous and, frankly, gross (everyone’s got brusing on their faces from the bruja’s plague). It never loses either of those traits, Beto just brings in the humor eventually. Because Guadalupe is fun. Tonantzin is fun. He puts off embracing it until the last possible moment.

Then he ends it on this ominous, sad, desperate note. Only to do a final page of nine panels showcasing life in Palomar after the plague and the troubles it brought its cast. It’s an excellent comic. And completely different than the first part of the story. Beto’s visual pacing is different, how he lays out the town–visually presents it for the reader to track the action through it–is different. Probably because the streets are mostly empty due to plague and storms.

Locas gets the second half of the issue. A lot happens, including the return of Penny Century, who’s no longer the fun loving pal from earlier issues but now a slightly despondent trophy wife. And she’s dyed her hair.

Jaime also confirms Hopey and Maggie are occasional lovers. He also seems to forget Maggie is (or was) a mechanic. At her new job, her car breaks down and her dude coworker has to fix it for her. The Penny thing is a little strange, because she used to get her own strips and now she’s uncool. Maggie and Hopey getting it on is fine. Not sure why the confirmation is coming here, maybe because Maggie’s moving in with her aunt for a while. But the mechanic thing? It’s bothersome. Really bothersome.

Because it’s not even like Maggie just lets the guy do it. She actually appears to have forgotten her mechanic skills.

The story itself is Maggie and Hopey moving into Terry’s. Their moving day and all the things they have to do; it’s a direct sequel to the previous issue’s entry, with Hopey profusely apologizing to Terry happening off-page.

After twelve pages of Hopey and Maggie getting through the day, which includes a wake, a trip to the guitar shop (bringing further revelations about Hopey’s band), a second appearance from Doyle (who’s got a truck and is helping move), and some Izzy insight too. Jaime does a whole lot.

He’s established an excellent overall pace to the recent Locas strips. They’re slice of life but dramatic and revelatory. There’s not as much ambitious art–no full page silhouette pages, for example–but Jaime keeps busy integrating all those ambitions into the panels. Anything with a shadow is all shadow. It makes everything real sharp, including the humor panels.

Hopefully Maggie remembers she knows how to mechanic soon, because it’s the only concerning thing. Otherwise, awesome. Even when–particularly when–it’s slightly uncomfortable or unpleasant.

Barrier #5 (July 2017 / May 2018)

Barrier #5

Barrier #5 finally translates Oscar’s dialogue. He and Liddy are both plugged into the aliens’ heads and, after Liddy’s flashback–revealing what had happened to her husband, though without dialogue–the aliens talk for a bit in Spanish then it’s Oscar’s flashback. With English dialogue.

Given how important not translating Oscar’s dialogue has been the entire series, it’s a little weird to see his tragedy unfold in English. Especially when it turns out Vaughan and Martin only hinted at the actual tragedy. Well, didn’t really hint. Lied. They lied about the tragedy. Unless you read the Spanish? It’s unclear.

There’s some good art. It’s not exactly good comic art. It’s good art though. I can’t even remember how the book read when the visual pacing was so good. None of its here, even though there’s a lot of art. There’s no opportunity for that kind of pacing anymore, not with the narrative.

Then comes the twist ending.

It’s an eye-roller. And makes the English translation even more of a cop-out.

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Marcos Martin; colorist, Muntsa Vicente; publisher, Panel Syndicate (2017) / Image Comics (2018).

Judge Dredd: Under Siege #1 (May 2018)

Judge Dredd: Under Siege #1

Judge Dredd: Under Siege reads kind of exactly how one would expect it to read from the unrealistic proportions of Dredd compared to everyone else and his really bad one-liners. It opens with the revelation football has been outlawed because it causes concussions. The Judges don’t want people with brain damage or something. Fascists.

Other than the one-liners and the eye-rolling attempts at social commentary, writer Mark Russell doesn’t bring anything else. Under Siege doesn’t bring anything else. It reads like a bad adaptation of the Dredd movie, only Russell thinks Dredd is a dick, not a hero.

Oh, and there’s an armed civilian force. They’re fighting the mutants, who have gotten in from the Cursed Earth.

Doesn’t matter. The story beats in the first issue are almost identical to the movie. Except the mutants.

Dunbar’s art isn’t terrible; other than the Dredd as Frank Miller Dark Knight. Yawn. It also isn’t good enough to make the comic worth reading.

CREDITS

Writer, Mark Russell; artist, Max Dunbar; colorist, Jose Luis Rio; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, Denton J. Tipton; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Lazarus #28 (May 2018)

Lazarus #28

Once again, Lazarus is fine. It’s fine where Rucka’s going with the book–turning exiled, thought-dead Jonah into a real hero, for example–but there’s something else going on too.

The art. Lark and Boss are drawing less, the colors are doing more; the backgrounds have a dullness to them. By the end of the issue, the characters look like animation cels. It’s real obvious.

The issue itself, with Jonah’s new “family” going to war right after his baby is born, is also fine. It’s effective, well-paced. Kind of manipulative, but sure, fine. Rucka has oodles of goodwill on Lazarus and doing an interlude away from the main plot doesn’t spend as much as a regular issue.

But the art. The art isn’t there. It’s distressing by the end of the issue, because it gets progressively worse. The finale sends Jonah into the new “main” arc, a single parent who’s survived through determination and the good fortune of family medicine. It’d be exciting (kind of, he’s now even more a trope), but all the art promises for what’s next is lessening quality.

Frankly, it’s bumming me out. I’d rather Lark exit gracefully than go out this way.

CREDITS

Fracture, Prelude: Part Two; writer, Greg Rucka; penciller, Michael Lark; inkers, Lark and Tyler Boss; colorist, Santiago Arcas; letterer, Simon Bowland; editor, David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Love and Rockets #17 (June 1986)

Love and Rockets #17

Love and Rockets #17 starts off with a Locas but split between Hopey and her brother, Joey, who’s been in the comic before but I don’t know if it was established he was Hopey’s brother. This issue is where a bunch of supporting characters start shit-mouthing Maggie (behind her back) about gaining weight. I remember this era from when I read the Locas collection. It makes for a lot of unpleasant (and unsympathetic) characters.

I hope the Tony kid gets hit by a bus. Ditto Terry, to be honest.

The strip–running ten pages–is a masterpiece. Joey is questing for his record. He goes all around town, eventually getting to Hopey. She, Maggie, and Izzy all have to be out of Izzy’s house the next day. Not sure it was established to be a rental, but whatever. So Izzy and Hopey are packing while Maggie is tired. Maggie doesn’t have a single line the whole strip. She’s too tired. Jaime uses Hopey yelling at her for not helping as a jump cut system. It’s an awesome move.

The story takes place over an afternoon, introduces some possibly interesting new characters–and gives Daffy some page time–and ends with this lyrical mood. Jaime gets to use his silhouettes, he gets to do a lot of comic strip style–particularly for Joey–he gets to do like three or four layered plot lines. It’s a masterful ten pages of comics.

Then comes Beto’s Palomar side story. It’s set in the city about Vincente and his roommate. I don’t think the roommate has a name; the table of contents identify him as “Jesus” but it’s a typo. Four pages, lots and lots of first person narration, all great, about Vincente and the roommate trying to find work. There’s action, comedy, romance, joy. It’s a beautiful strip with a great tone. It doesn’t feel like Palomar because it’s not. It’s the city. But it’s also Beto combining styles; it’s like his non-fiction riff strips, just with the Palomar connection.

Next is what seems to be the last Rocky and Fumble. It’s a great strip, straight to the jugular from Jaime, who’s apparently done with the series. It’s particularly harsh because it begs a sequel.

Then comes another Palomar. It’s a two-parter this time, with Beto doing this awesome, flowing narrative about… well, let’s see. Chelo fatally apprehending a murderer. Luba being stuck in a hole and her kids trying to get her food but not help because Luba’s embarrassed. There’s a complication with everything, like a short scene with Gato and Pipo after the funeral (it was Gato’s brother). Ofelia is sick and sleeping, which fouls up Luba’s plans for food. Then there’s a hunt for food, with a Tontazin appearance. Then some kids playing when a bruja (witch) comes to town.

And Chelo’s banging one of her misdemeanor offenders while the deputies are away.

Then the whole bruja thing with Chelo. It’s a crazy lot of stuff. Kind of a comedy of errors but more situtions. Beto speeds it up, slows it down, it’s fantastic. Maybe better than the earlier story, but so entirely differently told it’s hard to say. It’s also a two-parter, ending on an incredibly unnerving cliffhanger.

So, great issue of Love and Rockets. Tony’s a dick. Rocky and Fumble shouldn’t have ended. It’s an exceptional comic book.

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