John Buys Comics. Compulsively.

Stumptown No. 3


Actually, I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this comic before. If I haven’t, shame on me - I am a bounder and a cad of the highest order.

Stumptown is a classic detective story, in the “protagonist just keeps following up leads no matter how beat up they get or how many people they piss off until they get their man/woman” mode, and we’ve just gotten to the point where our hero Dex has met all of the characters but still has no sweet clue what’s going on. I was going to make a crack about it being hard to follow the mystery because the books come out so far apart, but I just read the piece at the back and it turns out that they come out far apart because Matthew Southworth is adding extra pages, and now I feel like a jerk.

Speaking of Southworth, he’s been doing a heck of a job on this book, and the text pieces that he’s been putting in the back have really been showcasing just how much design goes into a project like this. Likewise, Greg Rucka has been writing some terrific characters, which is good because that’s how you make a detective book shine. It’s clear that aside from being a damage-prone but ultimately indestructible private investigator with a cool car and some bad habits, Dex is a genuinely interesting person who loves her brother and has complicated relationships and so on. Ever since I stopped working in libraries I’ve had a really hard time finding decent detective fiction among the sea of mediocre, so this is a very welcome book.

Random Acts of Violence

So… I buy a lot of comics on impulse. I figure that since I’m doing these reviews I might as well spread my net wide and so I’ll pick up a lot of first issues and small trades that look even marginally interesting. And hey, Palmiotti and Gray! Dude in a welding outfit! Okay title! Could be all right! Was not, actually all right!

In a nutshell, Random Acts of Violence is about two guys who make a comic in the torture porn style, become immensely popular and inadvertently inspire people to commit heinous murders, until the whole thing loops around and they themselves are in the sort of situations that they’ve been writing about.

And surprisingly, it’s meh. Unlike the Eighties-style horror movies that seem to have inspired Last Resort, I have no real interest in Saw and Hostel and the rest of the subgenre that’s being referenced here, mostly because they have no joy in them. So I can’t revel in the tropes of a form that I love, and I certainly can’t celebrate the fact that they’re being transcended, because they aren’t. I can’t even get too worked up about the weird misogyny of the whole thing, because the characters manage to talk it to death round about page 30 or so. I mean, that doesn’t make it go away but now I’m kind of bored when I think of it.

Most of the entertainment value that I managed to wring from this came from speculating about the aspects of comics culture that crop up in the course of the story: do Palmiotti and Gray have a super low opinion of fans? Being as this is a book made by two guys (okay, four guys. Leave me alone!) about a book made by two guys, are there analogies being drawn here? Does that make the unfortunate girlfriend Amanda Connor? Is that as disturbing as I think it is? And my number 1 speculation: would we (that's you and me) really embrace an over-written torture porn comic book hard enough to make it as popular as depicted here - one issue and its indie creators are being flown all over the country to massive acclaim? I guess we'll see.

Husk No. 1

Maybe I should start keeping up on upcoming comics, because I didn’t know what the hell this was and so almost missed it. I was almost a fool.

Just in case you haven’t been reading up on this stuff either, Husk is the first (I think? I really do need to keep up on the news) part of a team-up between Marvel and French comics publisher Soleil, the goal of which is to introduce some fine Gallic comics to North American audiences and presumably make everyone scads of money.

This is very exciting! France - heck, Europe - has an incredibly rich comics culture that we only see in dribs and drabs, and any concerted effort to bring some of it over here so that I can read it without, you know, having to have retroactively paid attention in all of those French classes is fine by me.

As for the book itself, it’s concerned with Sarah, the devil-may-care pilot of an Arnold M5 Husk, a biomechanical exosuit used by police, military and industry. There’s a lot of philosophizing about the interface of man and machine, punctuated by wicked action and big explosions. As you may have inferred from that last sentence, it has a lot in common with Ghost in the Shell, even down to the fact that there’s a brain-hacker on the loose. I have to say though: this looks a heck of a lot prettier and the philosophy is either translated better or is less impenetrable to begin with.

Garrison No. 1

It’s the near future and the US government’s obsession with security has blossomed into full-fledged paranoia, making it the “most surveilled nation in the history of the world”. Our heroine, Jillian Bracewell, works for the National Bureau of Surveillance, and organization that is getting seriously irked by title character Garrison. Why? Because Garrison has been appearing on-camera long enough to murder people - more than 150 people - and then disappearing again, all over the country that's why.

So far, so good - a perfectly fun first issue, interesting character potential, nice art. It could go any number of ways, plot-wise, so I’m going to wait a month and do a SECOND ISSUE OF JUDGEMENT, just in case.

Okay, mostly because I haven't done one in a while.

Detective Comics No. 864

I’m ignoring the fact that Batwoman is no longer in this comic, because it would unduly prejudice me against it... Okay, done.

Hey, this is a good time!

I didn’t actually read the book (presumably Batman) that had the big “Black Mask is Jeremiah Arkham” reveal, but no matter: it’s pretty satisfying to me. The idea that Arkham was just as crazy as the people under his care has been floating around for a long time now, and while it’s a concept that could comfortably exist on the periphery of the Batman mythos forever, it has in fact been the focus of way too many stories for nothing to eventually come of it.

I mean, Alfred has been made into a super-villain. Robin has (kinda). How long could an insane asylum director reasonably hold out?

The Great Unknown No. 3

MINIATURE THIRD ISSUE RECAP: I’m sorry that it can’t be full-size, but it’s been about a year and my memory ain’t quite good enough. So: Zach Feld is an inventive genius, but every time he comes close to patenting something, someone else gets it to market first. He’s become paranoid and secretive, to the point that his family has called in a reality show intervention on him. And then, round about the middle of issue two, he discovers that someone actually has been stealing his ideas right out of his head and selling them on an online auction site called imind. Now he's teaming up with a group of funny-headed Objectivists who have also been exploited by the idea-thieves and things are presumably going to get science-awesome and possibly also science-violent.

Gah. Are there no comics that I can rag on for being slow? How can I take issue with Duncan Rouleau taking a while to write and draw and presumably colour this, especially when it looks so good? And issue four comes out next month, so I can just shut my mouth.

Usagi Yojimbo No. 128 - I’d been reading the older stories in this series as per my usual compulsive-need-to-catch-up modus operandi but I just couldn’t resist the sweet sweet samurai action any longer. I’m kind of glad I did, because the fifty-issue jump made me realize that Stan Sakai is actually getting better. That’s crazy! He was already astonishingly good! But yes: check out Usagi’s facial expression, stance and movement while he’s fighting in this issue - damn that magnificent man.

Green Lantern Corps No. 47 - Things calm down on the Lantern front, for one issue, at least. A nice little epilogue issue, with two points of excitement: Firstly: Kilowog’s assertion that he just wants to be a space cop is very encouraging because that’s what I want to read about. Secondly, the “Coming this year…” splash at the end looks very promising - a whole lot of the pictured events could fit snugly into an action-packed cosmic cop adventure. I am preparing for glee, particularly if that one guy with the flaming sword is related to the space genie that the Legion had to fight that one time.