John Buys Comics

I’m a bit out of sorts today, so forgive any lameness in the ol’ writing.

Chew No. 1

They had me at the house ad. A couple of weeks ago, Image slapped an ad for Chew on the back of… something, probably Invincible, and I knew that I’d be buying it. Standard detective fare doesn’t generally turn my crank, but show me a book where the investigative role is filled by something oddball (a dinosaur in a human suit, a fictional character who has emerged from a historical novel, a gang of computer nerds in a camper van, etc.) and I’m a pretty easy sell. There’s something about the mystery genre that benefits from the addition of strangeness. This is probably why I like Detective Chimp so much.

In Chew, the oddball investigator is one Tony Chu, who is ‘cibopathic’, meaning that he receives psychic impressions from virtually anything that he eats and therefore that he doesn’t eat much of anything at all. Tony’s world is slightly different from our own (outside of the psychic power thing) in that the US government’s response to the non-starting bird flu epidemic was to ban chicken. So: the story opens with hungry vice cop Tony Chu staking out a chicken speakeasy. I would be sold on this book already, so if you’re not, I don’t know what else to say.

This is another one of those terrific creator-owned books from Image that I’ve been loving so much recently. John Layman’s written a pretty great intro to the setting and characters here, with a throwaway mystery to showcase the amazing gustatory detection of Mr. Chu. Nice pacing, good characterization - heck, you really get a sense for the plight of a justice-seeking, eternally-hungry grump. Rob Guillory’s the guy on art and colour and is extremely well-suited to the book, particularly in his command of facial expression and body language. Likewise, he lays down some highly appropriate and super evocative colours. See? This is the lame writing thing kicking in. It was great: the art was great, the colours were great. The story was great. The premise is great.


Secret Six No. 10

Woo! Now this is what I am talking about. The past nine issues of Secret Six have been great and all but have featured the Six in what is basically a heroic role - they’re after the Get Out of Hell Free Card but so are a lot of much less savory people, or they’re killing potential child-killers or whatever. The point is that they weren’t doing anything that, say, the Outsiders wouldn’t get up to but the methods and dynamics that came into play were different because the people that were doing it were amoral villain types. Now, not that I had anything wrong with that setup - I’d be pleased to read more adventures of the Semi-heroic Six - but it’s really quite refreshing that this storyline revolves around the team signing up with what are very clearly some bad bad dudes and that the choice is not how they will go about achieving their reasonably good ends but exactly how evil they are prepared to be; how compromised they are going to allow themselves to become for the sake of a job. Moral ambiguity, yeah!

Superman: World of New Krypton No. 4

Heh, I just noticed that this sucker doesn’t have an “of 8” or what have you after the issue number. Clever ploy to obfuscate the exact length of this “World Without a Superman” dooflappy? Don’t worry: even if it is, Dan Didio will spill the beans on Superman’s return to Earth well in advance (if he hasn’t already, that is). As with Jersey Gods, I’m really enjoying this ongoing look at the workings of an alien society, all stitched together out of the Kryptonian history that’s built up over the last seventy years (“Ooo, a Byrne-style Kryptonian! And an allusion to the old story about all of the black people on Krypton living on an island!”). Seeing the Green Lanterns interacting with this new society was a good time, though I’m a bit confused - over in Strange Adventures folks are having a hard time raising Oa on the space radio due to all of the craziness happening with “Prelude to Blackest Night” stuff. Is this happening before that? After? I’m normally pretty willing to look the other way on minor continuity gaffes but if this book synchs up with that crossover just in time for a bunch of Black Lanterns to show up I may slowly raise one eyebrow.

You know, just this week I was talking about Mon-El’s space-explorin’ Daxam vs. Sodam Yat’s xenophobic Daxam and wondering which one Mon-El came from in current continuity. Like, is he a sociological anomaly or did someone forget to recon him? Judging by Yat’s reaction to hearing about him, my questions may soon be answered. Yay, closure!

Batman and Robin No. 1

Terrific! New Batman! Basic Batman! Fighting guys, detecting, gadgets! Sure the team is Dick Grayson and Damien but so what? Batman and Robin chase down a guy named Mr. Toad in their flying Batmobile - this is enough for me.

Morrison’s doing a helluva job here: he’s unleashing some of his trademark weirdness but it’s focused and channeled into making the bad guys suitably freakishly weird for a Batman yarn. Meanwhile, Dick Grayson is easing into the Bat-role and Damien is happily not just a one-note spoiled brat. He’s a good addition to the Bat-team, that Damien. I’m sure that Tim Drake would have fit quite snugly into the role of Robin in this series but there have been a veritable legion of stories featuring Nightwing and Robin palling around. I certainly hope that Tim has some role in the Bat-books but this Damien thing is definitely pregnant with story potential.

Good job, DC. I was extraordinarily skeptical at first but it looks like you pulled it off: you broke down Batman and then killed him off in a very heroic manner while still leaving open the possibility of his return, you churned up Gotham and established the status quo with the whole Battle for the Cowl brouhaha and you started fresh with a new Batman and Robin without having to resort to retcon or reboot. I mean, if any character needed some sort of massive change and was more resistant to it thanks to the baggage surrounding him then I can’t name ‘em, and only one really shitty series in the bunch!

Oh, and Quitely’s art is both great and very much contributing to the fresh feeling of the whole thing. I’m foregoing my normal cautious optimism for the full-blown, rose-coloured, glass-half-full, uncut real stuff. Don’t break my heart, guys.

Jersey Gods No. 5 - I like this comic so much - I wish I had new good things to say about it. It’s still astonishingly fun epic/cosmic Kirby-esque but not Kirby-derivative stuff, full of action and fun. Much like the best Kirby stuff, I want to find out more of the history of the gods of Neboron, so I’m happy to see that the historical backup story is returning next issue, especially as the story looks to be moving to Earth for a time. Important Question: when Fusion and Union join… what the heck do they call themself?

Strange Adventures No. 4 (of 8) - Nothing new to say, really. Still a fun comic; still all spacey. The most impressive thing about this issue was the backup story, which supplied Lady Styx with an origin and thus made it possible for me to give two craps about her. Seriously, she was almost painfully generic before. Is there hope for her now? Possibly.

Irredeemable No. 3 - We get a little closer to the reasons for The Plutonian’s breakdown and turn to wicked evil. There’s no sign of this comic losing momentum, folks. Now: can I figure out what’s going on before it’s explicitly spelled out for me?

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! No 2 (of 6) - Well well well… I was liking this before and I like it even more now. I was expecting a steady slide into desperation and hardship for old Mr. Human Flame but it looks like he’s in for more a roller coaster ride, which is great! ZOOM! The depths of degradation! ZOOM! The heights of joy! ZOOM! Back down again! Plus (and he’s on the cover so it’s only a semi-spoiler) General Immortus, who doesn’t get used enough, and Condiment King, who definitely doesn’t get used enough. It absolutely makes sense for a world full of superhumans to have super-losers, and Condiment King is possibly my fav’rit.

Okay, I have company so this is it. I might write more about this stuff later so I'll list what else I bought this week. If you really care what I think, come back in a day or so. Maybe.

I did it! Compulsive behavior, yay!

Captain Blood No. 1

It’s a good sign when an adaptation makes me want to read the original work. Okay, I guess sometimes it’s because the adaptation is so bad - Postman the movie, I’m looking at you - but in this case I just want to check out the aspects of the story that had to be left out in order to fit the comic book format.

If you have an irrational fear of black and white comics, I guess that you should avoid this one, but I also thumb my nose at you. Michael Shoyket is the man on art here and his style is looking goooooood sans colour. Actually, this might be one of those “sketch variants” that I hear so much about nowadays (uh, that Tiina mentioned that one time last week, rather), as the art is uninked as well, so don’t blame me if you buy a copy and it’s all colourful and stuff.

Issue numba one deals with the rise of Captain Blood, from soldier to doctor to slave to pirate. Blood is an interesting figure, a learned and complex man who doesn’t look like he’ll be ravishing wenches any time soon. Matthew Shepherd does a fine job on the writing/adapting front - another reason that I want to check out the original: to check out which of those two arts he is practicing more. Neal Stephenson fans take note that the events of Captain Blood take place at about the same time as the Baroque Trilogy. Look, it’s Jefferys, the hanging judge! Anyone? Am I the only one who’s read that damn series?

Werewolves on the Moon (versus Vampires) No. 1 (of 3) - I passed up a zombie western genre-mash comic this week because it didn’t look entertaining enough to justify the six dollar price tag, so how could I pass up a comic about Werewolves vs. Vampires on the Moon for only three-fifty?

This is a pretty great comic. The jokes are good, the drawings are suitably amusing without being flat-out goofy and everyone involved is absolutely unapologetic about the premise. Of course werewolves want to get to the moon. Of course the vampires that are already up there aren't too happy about it. Yay!

Dead Run No. 1 (of 4) - Not that this isn’t a tremendously lazy way to describe things, but this is like Transporter plus Mad Max. You’ve got a tough-as-nails, cool-as-ice courier saddled with an unwanted female companion and attempting a nigh-impossible task in a post-apocalyptic wasteland while being stalked by deformed thugs in jury-rigged vehicles. It’s exactly as good as it sounds. Uh, which is pretty darn good, if you’re me. And I am.

Astro City: the Dark Age Book Three No. 2

Man, Astro City. I didn’t really get to say too much about this when the last issue came out due to, you know, life (my girlfriend is wonderful and tolerant and never gives me grief about my hobby or the time I spend on the blog, but there’s only so much reading and writing about comics that I can do in an evening without feeling like a big dumb neglector. Someday I will get a big grant and spend all day doing this stuff, if I can finally catch that dang leprechaun). I love Astro City, unconditionally. I love the Alex Ross covers (Alex Ross plus new characters equals great) and the extensive and eternally-unfolding history and all that. The only time that I was ever glad to hear about someone getting mercury poisoning was in the context of that being the reason for the long hiatus in this comic. Man, that sounds bad. Okay, I wasn’t glad that Kurt Busiek was poisoned so much as that there was an external reason for the disappearance of Astro City and that it would return. Maybe I should edit out the poison part of this review.

Astro City: The Dark Age has been a damn good time - as I mentioned last week, it’s both a trip through a portion of the history of Astro City and an examination of themes and trends in the comics industry itself, as the innocence of the Silver Age(nt) gives way to the darker, more violent days of the late Seventies/early Eighties. Busiek’s been focusing on the people on the street rather than the heroes and villains for a while now, so you get to piece together the histories of fascinating characters like the Apollo Eleven bits and pieces at a time while following the perilous history of brothers Charles and Royal as they seek vengeance for their parents’ deaths. Blah blah blah. It's good! I want to convey that it's good and I'm just running my mouth (fingers) off. Rah rah rah!

Atomic Robo: the Shadow from Beyond Time No. 2 (of 5) - Remember how happy I was about this comic the last time? It’s still just as great as I said in every way, except that HP Lovecraft’s head is now a giant monster, so he’s not babbling so much. IN ADDITION: these great things occur: a) since Lovecraft’s head is now a giant monster there is a giant monster running around wearing a human body like a little hat. b) While fighting the Lovecraft-beast, Robo has a highly entertaining father/son-style phone call with Nicola Tesla. c) Lightning guns. d) A backup feature that takes the form of a fairly hostile article about Robo and that I hope continues in a future issue. May Atomic Robo have a long and glorious life.

The Muppet Show No. 3 (of 4) - Man, this just keeps on being great. A Gonzo-centric issue, with a couple of decent songs and the usual high joke quality. This is the issue that really underlines the love that Roger Langridge has for these durned puppets, which is probably a big contributing factor to the quality of this series. Also: there’s a Generic Pig Muppet on the cover, near Gonzo’s cape on the left. I have an irrational fondness for Generic Pig Muppets, so hooray.

Seaguy No. 3 (of 3) - This is where Grant Morrison is putting all of the weirdness that he’s not using in Batman and Robin. Is it confirmed that he planned Seaguy as a three-part tale? I mean, it could easily end here but I can definitely stand to have more of this. What the heck is going on? What’s with Mickey Eye? Wait and see, I guess.