From Starlight #5; illustrated by Goran Parlov; colored by Ive Svorcina.

I bought a copy of Adventure Into Fear #19 for a dollar the other day. The comics speculators are out in full force again, like vampires cruising the streets, sunglasses at night, looking for that one gem of a woman, walking alone across a deserted lot, and the vampire turns the headlights of his car off and just starts circling…

Adventure Into Fear #19 is the first appearance of Howard the Duck, who is Seth Green now, and may again be Seth Green in the future. Its price is steadily rising on the secondary market — probably $75 on average, for an above-average copy. I bought mine for a dollar.

The copy I bought looks like a dog has attacked it. It’s full of tears, especially on the back cover, which looks like someone attempted to remove the cover of the comic like the rind of an orange. The interior pages are khaki. The spine of the comic is the most curious part. I don’t understand why the spine is the way it is. It seems like the paper on just the spine is flaking, like old paint cracking and peeling. I want to submit this copy to CGC and see if I can get below a 1.0 grade. I might intentionally spill wine on it, just to make sure.

I bought Adventure Into Fear #19 for a dollar and now I am doing a comic book review column again. This is Advice to Young Girls, and you are reading it.

AVENGERS UNDERCOVER #8

Written by Dennis Hopeless; illustrated by Tigh Walker; colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu; published by Marvel Comics.

I don’t read a lot of Marvel comics anymore, in part because they don’t make a lot of sense. There’s sense and there’s sense: nothing about a radioactive spider bite makes sense, but when you put twenty pages of it in the right order it should still make sense within its own binding. Someone told me that Avengers Undercover had been given the Wire-Season-5 treatment and its 12-issue run had been cut to 10. Maybe that’s why this comic doesn’t make much sense. The “three months into the future” jump is tauntingly glib. When the book started, it was a handful of traumatized super-teens trying to kill the man who had wronged them. Along the way it became a book about a handful of traumatized super-teens being tempted to become evil, or at least “evil” in the sense of “not junior members of the military-Avengers complex.” Now it’s a book about some of them being “evil” and some of them not, and it turns out that their stories are just part of an evil genius’s master plan to bring in the real Avengers and blah, blah, blah. The truncated nature of the story has left the motivations of all but a handful of characters unclear, and not good unclear. Stuff is happening because it’s time for that stuff to happen, not because it’s convinced me, the rube, that any of it needs to happen. Would another two issues have done the trick, though?

The real problem here is that Avengers Undercover lost its artist. #8 is the first drawn by Tigh Walker, who greatly enjoys Nathan Fox. (Nathan Fox did his own comic about the villainous fringe of Marvel; he and Joe Casey did Dark Reign: Zodiac, which was fucking berserk, even if it censored full-on ass shots.) Tigh Walker is perfectly fine. Better he get the book than Timothy Green. But he’s no Kev Walker. At his best, Kev Walker was the perfect artist for this comic because he makes everyone look like they’re evolved from cavepeople. It’s extremely easy to believe that a Kev Walker drawing could go either way, hero or villain. Even the “good” guys have an unsavory bluntness to the way they look (mitigated in the first seven issues of Avengers Undercover by either unfair inking, or unfair deadlines). The perfect teen superhero book, if only in its squandered potential.

STARLIGHT #5

Written by Mark Millar; illustrated by Goran Parlov; colored by Ive Svorcina; published by Image Comics.

Everything is fine inside this comic. This is a movie they used to make, before everything turned grey and shaky and the stars started acting like they were really learning krav maga. Still, imagine being Goran Parlov, drawing as well as you do, and finally having a project where people are gonna see it and know your name. And on the penultimate issue, you don’t even get a cover, because it went to Rob Liefeld instead, doing another Rob Liefeld drawing just like all the other ones, except this time it’s of the brand you’re trying to build your future off of. At least if Liefeld had covered an issue of Nemesis, the tones would have been in perfect harmony.

ZERO #10

Written by Ales Kot; illustrated by Michael Gaydos; colored by Jordie Bellaire; published by Image Comics.

I’ve read a more-than-fair number of blurbs comparing Ales Kot to Grant Morrison, but if we’re going to play that game, he’s really more of… Brian K. Vaughan, with more interesting books and movies in his library. The second half of Zero #10 contains a scene where a character explains their particular style of performance art to another character. This is a very Vaughan move — see also noted trivia delivery-mechanism Ex Machina — but I can’t recall any Vaughan character that’s ever made me think of Jean-Paul Leaud’s character in La Chinoise. I can’t tell if the game Ales Kot is playing is meant to play up the obviousness of its influences (there’s a fucking Psychic TV quote in this thing, for Christ’s sake), or if I’ve just spoiled the game for myself by being able to recognize so much.

More interesting to me is how slow Zero is. In the first half of this issue, we’re treated to a wordless multi-page sequence of lead character Edward Zero waking up, making breakfast, working out, going to his job… This is all drawn by Michael Gaydos, an artist whose strength (like Steve Dillon) is in the consistency of his characters and their world from panel to panel. (Did you see the David Fincher version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? In the sex dungeon scene, the sex harness thing that Daniel Craig gets strapped into, it looks like something someone in the real world might actually build, with no prior experience as a Hollywood set decorator. Fincher is very good at maintaining a sense of complete believability in even the smallest elements of his shots, and that’s the quality I’m talking about here. Even when Gaydos draws superheroes, they look like they actually had to put their clothes on over their bodies. The opposite of this condition in comic book art is probably Jim Lee, or J. Scott Campbell, who draws those people you see in traveling roadshows who have plastic injected into their muscles and are dead.) The newer strains of webcomics are full of these attempts to capture profundity in the anti-profound, and it’s curious to me how that might interact with traditionally published comics. It seems to me like people could put up with a hundred pages of puttering around (so to speak) in a free webcomic without complaint, and yet accuse a print comic of being “too decompressed” solely because money changed hands, despite the value in time of production probably being about the same. I don’t think Zero is a particularly strong example of this idea, or even an example at all, but it’s where my mind goes when I think about it. I also think about Tao Lin novels, and I feel certain Ales Kot has read those, too.

-LTZ 

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