In a Surprise Upset, John Buys Comics

Welcome back to the 21st Century, where the comics aren’t perfect but they’ll always be a hell of a lot better than those of the 90s. In aggregate, I mean.

A few items from last week:

Citizen Rex looks to be a good time. I’ve always liked Los Bros. Hernandez and a new series from them is just dandy. It’s not too fresh in my mind, though, so I’ll expound further upon the release of issue no. 2.

Well, Tales of the Corps was a bust. Look, guys, the math is easy: 8 corps divided by 3 issues times about a million characters equals a series chock-full of stories about, say, that cat that Atrocitus has riding around on his shoulder. My tally shows two stories about background characters (Red Lantern Whatshername, Orange Lantern Giant Head Guy), two stories about important characters who haven’t been around forever (Young Mongul, Saint Walker), one introduction (the Indigo Tribe) and two stories about decades-old characters who have been thoroughly examined many times before (Kilowog, Carrol goddam Ferris). Oh, and no Black Lanterns at all. Booooooooooooo. Regardless of the fact that I enjoyed the Kilowog and Young Mongul stories, why the hell are they here? All I wanted were 7 stories about crazy aliens with crazy ring-based powers, plus maybe a yarn about a zombie Vibe going breakdancing or something - heck, if you’d given me just one or two more looks at the minor Lanterns I wouldn’t have even complained about your bullshit “Director’s Commentary”. I really shouldn’t have been bored for as much of this series as I was.

Two things that I will not be bitching about: Thomas E. Sniegoski and Dark Horse put out Lobster Johnson: The Satan Factory, a pulp-style novel featuring everyone’s favourite pulp-style Hellboy character. As you may know, I love me some old-school pulp action, so this was a treat. Sniegoski has done a bang-up job on replicating the flavour of a team-style book like Doc Savage or the Shadow without overusing pulp clichés. Like the pulps of old it was a fast, fun read.

And of course, Beanworld Book 2: A Gift Comes! came out last week. This volume consisted entirely of comics that I hadn’t been able to track down, so I had a joyous time reading it. There’s a lot of exposition about the history and ecology of the Beanworld, and I was left very excited for the new material that is due out this Fall. I think that I may expound on my love for this series in a separate post some time but in the meantime I shall once again use my astonishing hypnotic abilities to compel you to pick it up. Doooooooooo iiiiiiiiiit…..

On to this week:

The Hangman (One-Shot)

Oh boy, the first of the Red Circle characters to sidle their way into the DCU proper! And it’s the Hangman! Who I don’t know very well!

As I recall, the Archie Hangman was the Comet’s brother and was a standard vigilante type in the Batman style, only his suit was pea-green. This ain’t that guy (and there’s a question: is DC intending to bring all of the Red Circle characters into the fold? I sure hope so). This Hangman is a Civil War-era doctor, reborn as a spirit of vengeance and protector of the innocent.

Now, I know that the DCU already has two or three guys that match that description - the Spectre, Deadman, maybe Ragman - but this variation on the theme could work. For one thing, the Hangman isn’t quite sure who he works for: could be Heaven, could be Hell. For another, he looks pretty cool and DC doesn’t really have much in the way of Old West style characters running around. Actually, he only kind of looks cool. I like the costume, but the messy, dirty-looking art suits the Civil War battlegrounds better than the latter-day stuff. Also… the Hangman has the physique of a steroid-soaked early-Nineties Image character and it doesn’t suit him. I mean, if you’re going to have a character who is supernaturally strong and impervious to harm, why not stick with the weedy book-learnin’ physique that his alter ego already has?

Other than that, though: not bad. I look forward to the rest, particularly The Web.

Doom Patrol No. 1

Well, well, well. The comic that I’ve been waiting for has snuck up on me. And how was it? Not bad, not bad. I’m going to hold off for now and SECOND ISSUE OF JUDGEMENT it next month.

And why do I feel so ambivalent? Eh, I don’t know. It’s not like there’s anything glaringly bad, just a collection of things that I like and things that I’m not so sure about. Let’s list them!

The good: The Doom Patrol as agents of the government of Oolong Island. I sure do like the idea of a scientocracy and it’s nice that this one survived the end of 52.

Negative Man and Robotman are looking good. I particularly like the more mummy-like look that Larry’s bandages have, especially as compared to the bondage gear look he was sporting under Byrne.

Looks like there are going to be plenty of crazy science-villains.

Niles Caulder is his delightfully bastardly self.

The not so sure: Is Caulder too bastardly? Even in the Morrison era he had some humanity buried under his cold exterior.

Elasti-Woman looks terrible. Maybe that costume will grow on me, but I doubt it.

Casual character kill-off, eh? And super-duper telegraphed? Bah.

It is the first issue, so I can’t really say that they’re not using all of the characters that they could, but I’ll be keeping an eye on that. If you have an expanded Doom Patrol you might as well use it, right?

So, we’ll see. On the other hand, the Metal Men Backup was terrific. Seven neurotic robots plus crazy adventures plus nosy neighbours equals good times. The book is worth my nickel for them alone.

Young Lovecraft: The adventures of a young HP Lovecraft, as promised on the cover, done in a comic strip style and with a distinct hint of Calvin and Hobbes, if Hobbes were a ghoul. I like ol’ Howard P. to an unreasonable degree, so I can’t really say if this book will appeal to everyone, but like Unspeakable Vault (of Doom), Young Lovecraft succeeds in mixing goofy humour with macabre source material. Of course, also like Unspeakable Vault (of Doom) the occasional joke falls flat due to wonky translation, but chubby-headed Lovecraft is adorable enough that I can forgive. For the faint of heart: there are a few boobs. Watch out.

Saga of Solomon Kane - Somehow, Dave knew that I would be buying this. Possibly it was because I bought every issue of the recent Dark Horse series. And then the trade paperback of the same series. And also the old Marvel series (well, he gave me those, but I would have bought them). And the original stories, which I then declared to be some of the best pulp fiction of all time and a million times better than Conan, much as I enjoy him. What can I say, I love reading about Puritans fighting ancient evil and sometimes Frenchmen. If someone ever makes a god Solomon Kane movie then I will see it twice. (Oh great. Now the Dark Horse web site tells me that there's another Solomon Kane collection coming out in December. Guess who's going to buy it?)

Irredeemable No. 5 - Remains entertaining, as the Plutonian gets all creepy and seldom-seen hero Volt gets some time in the sun. I’m still pretty interested in learning the cause of the Plutonian’s change of alignment (Lawful Good to Chaotic Evil, my heavens!) but it’s becoming more of a mystery story with every issue, so I’m willing to sit back and gather me some clues.

Jersey Gods No. 6 - Barack and Zoe go house-hunting! Barack meets the future in-laws! A mysterious new villain appears on the scene! All this and a new installment of “Tales from the Great War”! Man, Jersey Gods is one of the comics that just consistently brings me joy, on both a cosmic-super-hero and drama-laden-romance level. And next month: a fashion show!

Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! No. 4 (of 6) - More hijinks of the Human Flame. I find myself hoping that the big dumb asshole survives this series, but I’m not sure that it’s going to be possible, given the speed at which he garners enemies. In other news, the last page of each issue of this series has been a great segue to the next, and this is the best one yet.

Chew No. 3 - Chu falls in love! With a savoscrivner, which is yet another excellent new mental power that John Layman has given us. Good show, sir! This is another one of those series that delight me every month. Even though there’s lots of barfing.

Secret Six No. 12 - And a series that I enjoy makes it past the magic number without being cancelled! Celebrate in the streets! Dance! Pat a dog! I was going to harp on about how the Secret Six/ Wonder Woman fight at the beginning of this issue was unnecessary, since none of them actually killed Artemis, but in retrospect I guess that they figured that she might not believe ‘em, which is reasonable. Highlights: lots of boxer short fun, some bullets & bracelets and Gail Simone building on established DCU banshee lore instead of just making up something new.

Astro City: Dark Age Book Three No. 4 - So Astro City is going monthly, hooray! As much as I’ve enjoyed The Dark Age, it’ll be nice to have it finished and see some other stories after a couple of years with this one.

Absolution No. 1 - It ended up on the bottom of the stack this week, so it doesn’t get much text. Luck of the draw, I guess. Absolution’s about an officially-sanctioned super-type named John Dusk and features his slide into moral ambiguity. It looks good and might just be worth following but be warned: this one’s not for the kiddies - it’s fulla blood, guts and brains.

Well, good night everybody. Read more comics.