COMICS DRINK AND GO HOME: Reviews for May 25th, 2012
May 25, 2012
More reviews, including more ‘actually new things,’ on Sunday.
Captain America: Operation Rebirth, To Serve and Protect, American Nightmare, Red Glare
Marvel Comics. Written by Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Barbara Kesel, and Karl Kesel. Penciled by Ron Garney, Pino Rinaldi, Dale Eaglesham, Andy Kubert, Mark Bagley, Doug Braithwaite, and Lee Weeks. Inked by Scott Koblish, Mike Manley, Dennis Rodier, Mike Sellers, John Beatty, Jesse Delperdang, Andy Smith, Bob Wiacek, and Robin Riggs. Colored by Paul Becton, John Kalisz, Malibu, Joe Rosas, Digital Chameleon, Shannon Blanchard, Kevin Tinsley and Chris Sotomayor.
A few years ago, while promoting these collections, Mark Waid said that he might not be able to write Cap today — he’d gotten too cynical. Here we have Cap as unassailable force of human good — walking away from the fights that are beneath him, even. Ron Garney illustrates iconic panel after iconic panel, giving Cap the unbeatable superpower: dignity. Then we get Andy Kubert, and he and Waid exchange one look and then gleefully leap over the edge, hand in hand. Abandoning the squinty blandness of his X-Men days while keeping the bizarre poses, this is Andy’s best work ever, kinetic and raging. Over and over, the stakes of Cap’s battles are nothing short of freedom itself. In each Waid/Kubert tale, one wrong step means enslavement and oblivion. There’s no cynicism here, in the final gasp of the Silver Age — just a few really shitty page reproductions.
Doom Patrol #19-22
DC Comics. Written by Grant Morrison. Penciled by Richard Case. Inked by Carlos Garzon and Scott Hanna. Colored by Michele Wolfman and Daniel Vozzo.
“Crawling From the Wreckage,” the first storyline of Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s weird, wonderful Doom Patrol run, ends when the enemy is forced to acknowledge that it does not actually exist. It begins with the throes of existential despair and the promise, however fleeting, of recovery. As the four issues go on, illustrated in Case’s style that’s permanently if slightly askew, healing disappears. That’s not to say the Doom Patrol — freaks, misfits — embrace their problems. When comic book characters are confronted with the abyss of non-existence, the only appropriate action is to keep going and extend their inkbound lives page by page. That’s what makes Doom Patrol one of the most uplifting series in Morrison’s canon. These fictional totems are surrounded by stories that fragment themselves, laugh off citations, and that aren’t so much resolved as endured. What makes them real characters is that they press on.
Marvel Comics. Written by Jim Starlin. Penciled by George Perez and Ron Lim. Inked by Tom Christopher, Joe Rubinstein, Bruce Solotoff, and Mike Witherby. Colored by Ian Laughlin and Christie Scheele.
Is it any wonder that Thanos is one of Jim Starlin’s darlings? It’s easy to imagine Starlin relating to the Mad Titan, whose bid to become a cosmic autocrat is thwarted by his own self-consciousness when he’s too patently uncool for the abstract concept of death to give him a handjob. I’m sure Starlin has better luck with the ladies, but that sense of doomed, ambitious collapse is so deeply coded in Infinity Gauntlet that the creators themselves lived it out. After starting with George Perez-drawn feats of hubris — such as assuming Mephisto, the Devil, doesn’t know how to spell “GOD” — to Ron Lim rushing out a final confrontation that amounts to a million explosions drowning out everything, including outer space (the only thing easier to draw). Throughout, Adam Warlock assures incredulous onlookers that he knows what he’s doing, which was likely verbatim from Starlin’s editorial calls.
Live Kree or Die: Iron Man #7, Captain America #8, Quicksilver #10, Avengers #7
Marvel Comics. Written by Kurt Busiek, Richard Howell, Mark Waid, John Ostrander, and Joe Edkin. Penciled by Sean Chen, Andy Kubert, Derek Aucoin, and George Perez. Inked by Sean Parsons, Eric Cannon, Jesse Delperdang, Rich Faber, Al Vey, Bruce Patterson, and Bob Wiacek. Colored by Steve Oliff, Jason Wright, Digital Chameleon, Joe Rosas, and Tom Smith.
Carol Danvers, formerly the swimsuit-clad Ms. Marvel, is now Captain Marvel in an attempt to claim the respect inherent in a red-and-blue clingy bodysuit. You laugh, but it’s a marked step up, especially when her most famous early stories amongst Internet cognoscenti are the one where she was raped and the one where she was put into a coma. In one of the periodic attempts to rebuild her into a non-embarrassing character, Kurt Busiek made her an Avenger, newly christened her “Warbird,” and gave her a drinking problem. That alcoholism fuels “Live Kree or Die,” where the Avengers fight a bunch of Kree rebels in disjointed, disconnected vignettes strung together by the throughline of Carol drinking too much and fucking things up. The scene where she staves off the D.T.s by drinking alien liquor out of an unmarked beaker must be read to be believed. Earth’s Mightiest Heroine can party.
Sparkplug Books. Imagineered by Katie Skelly.
Nurse Nurse is the sort of story that a person can only really make in their twenties. That’s the only phase of your life when thing still feel disproportionately important and confusing, but you’re just old and wise enough, barely, to recognize when it’s just ridiculous. If this little book — about Gemma, a space nurse, who goes on a strange adventure involving aphrodisiacs, space pirates, television, and identity — was made by someone in their 30s or (god forbid) 40s, it would be a lightweight lark, or worse yet, crushed under the weight of self-seriousness. Katie Skelly uses her loose, wabby-limbed style to make things cute, but also fragile and awkward. The single best panel is when Lucian, a doctor turned pirate, is having his leg amputated, and he lays in a trance, surrounded by visions of splintered bones, hearts, skulls, and butterflies. A benevolent comic book mushroom trip.
Squadron Supreme by Mark Gruenwald Omnibus
Marvel Comics. Written by Mark Gruenwald. Penciled by Bob Hall, Paul Neary, John Buscema, and Paul Ryan. Inked by John Beatty, Sam de la Rosa, Butch Guice, Dennis Janke, Keith Williams, and Al Williamson. Colored by Paul Becton, Kevin Feduniewicz, Mike Higgins, Joe Rubinstein, Christie Scheele, and Tom Smith.
Mark Gruenwald didn’t survive long enough to see his favorite work’s prophecy fulfilled: this 12-issue series is the playbook that modern superhero comics have been working from for over a decade now. Before this book, the Squadron’s world had been devastated by a demonic faux-President in the course of a Defenders story; the Defenders then went home, because it wasn’t their problem. This series asks: so what next? How do a handful of superheroes actually try to rebuild a planet, and should they? Bob Hall’s early issues have a rough, twitchy quality that suits the shaky ground — when Paul Ryan comes in, things get smoother and more “Marvel”, just as everything goes to hell. Gruenwald sews superheroic morality to the real big questions of power and responsibility (dictatorship, mind alteration, cures for cancer), and then fails to come up with an answer, which is really the only mature option.
Too Many Nitrous #1
Self-published. Imagineered by Billy Burkert and Samuel Rhodes.
In this extremely unofficial prequel to the Fast and the Furious film franchise, Vin Diesel’s character — terse gangbanger Dom Toretto — reveals his secret origin. Not only was he a fat kid, he’s a fat kid driven to become a major motion picture action anti-hero by the traumatic experience of his favorite fast food restaurant being blown up. No doubt this raises a dozen red flags about the already notoriously fragile continuity of the series — where in the films does Dom, during a heated street race, pass a glowing Burger King display and, for one moment, risk losing his focus as a cold rush of nostalgia creeps up his spine? This book doesn’t have answers, but it does have cheerful mania and the most adorable Vin Diesel ever drawn. This is only issue one — hopefully we’ll see the first meeting of Dom and whoever the Rock played.
Transformers: Regeneration One #80.5
IDW Publishing. Written by Simon Furman. Penciled by Andrew Wildman. Inked by Stephen Baskerville. Colored by John-Paul Bove.
Simon Furman and Andrew Wildman’s Transformers comics are the highest peak in the byzantine metalwork mess that’s arisen from a Japanese line of toys being resold to American kids. When I was 13, I went to a Transformers toy show, where a grown man and I got to talking about the Transformers comics. Back then, there was only the Marvel product, long out of print. I mentioned how I’d collected most of the issues, and the guy snorted and bragged about how he had all of “the UK issues” — the less candy-colored sci-fi tales where Furman got his start. After moving to the US Transformers, Furman continued pushing out grim-faced, Wagnerian melodrama with Wildman, whose work worshipped chrome-plating and angry paranoia, until cancellation at #80. Who knows what “best Transformers comics” means, but Regeneration‘s for adults at the toy show, bragging to the 13-year-old Michael Bay fans of today.
Two Eyes of the Beautiful #1-2
Closed Caption Comics. Imagineered by Ryan Cecil Smith. Adapted from the original by Kazuo Umezu.
“Why do you ask, Mrs. Coppard, and what are you doing with that rope–?” Two Eyes of the Beautiful is Ryan Cecil Smith’s ongoing adaptation of a 70s “monstrous mother hunts children” horror manga by Kazuo Umezu, Blood Baptism. Smith is a clever cartoonist, and while the techniques here aren’t as gorgeously creative as the color printing in S.F. Supplementary File #2C, it takes a lot of audacity to do a completely blacked-out sequence in a mini-comic, while still working in the necessary information in a way that flows easily. The second issue is where Smith seems to become more assured with using his own style as a bridge to Umezu’s original — there’s simply no silly cartoony way to draw a dog with its brain scooped out, if you want it to look horrifying and not like some Lenore icon, ready to be disseminated via t-shirt to Slipknot fans.
Winter Soldier #5
Marvel Comics. Written by Ed Brubaker. Penciled by Butch Guice. Inked by Stefano Gaudiano, Tom Palmer, and Butch Guice. Colored by Bettie Breitweiser.
Winter Soldier #5′s artwork looks like it was finished by a small army of inkers, who weren’t just dividing up pages amongst themselves, but panels. Butch Guice’s individual style gets stretched to its breaking point as he, Palmer, and Gaudiano struggle like oxes to crank this thing out, and Bettie Breitweiser is left with the bewildering task of tying it all together, like an engineer who has to master a CD recorded everywhere from Abbey Road to Fort Apache to a sewer pipe. There are pages in this thing that are as incomprehensible as old X-Men annuals. And yet — it’s got its charm. For one thing, seeing Guice somehow dredge up his inner Gene Colan only makes me want more. Brubaker remains committed, as ever, to long-term plotting in a straightforward Mighty Marvel Manner. When you’re this good, you can count on readers trusting that the seeds’ll pay off.
Wonder Woman #9
DC Comics. Written by Brian Azzarello. Penciled by Tony Akins. Inked by Dan Green. Colored by Matthew Wilson.
This is a comic book that opens with a David Caruso CSI sunglasses joke. A couple pages later there’s a joke about Wonder Woman’s “hole” being “filled” in her wedding chamber. What Brian Azzarello and Tony Akins have done here is make a very smart — almost overbearingly smart comic book. The most beautiful goddess of all is only shown from behind or the neck down. War, the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems, is the author himself, aged and slathered in blood. But at the end of the day, this is a comic where a hot-headed, waxy-skinned, blind-to-what’s-around-him man-child still spending his days seated in his father’s lap attempts to bully a fantasy superheroine into being his loveless, beautiful bride, to imprison her with all of the other souvenirs in his hollow kingdom. Wonder Woman is smart, yes, but then you can’t spell “smartass” without it.