I'll try to avoid spoilers and skip the Jump; sorry if I screw up. THE ASTOUNDING WOLFMAN #7 by ROBERT KIRKMAN, JASON HOWARD, and RUS WOOTEN: I watched this video of Robert Kirkman the other day; he put out this odd video saying that established comic creators should focus exclusively on their own comics, and quit their jobs, and something-something-kids. But I had a weird time turning 30, too, so who am I to judge?
Anyways, it at least worked as a marketing video, and successfully reminded me that guy existed and that I didn’t really have an articulate reason why I don’t read his comics other than “Tony Moore stopped drawing them.” So, this WOLFMAN thing: it’s apparently about a werewolf who wears a drawing of a werewolf on his chest...?? Part of me wants to applaud, but it doesn’t get better than that: issue #7 is the BIG TWIST issue.
Having not read any prior issue, I had no emotional investment in any of what was happening. It’s funny to see a twist from that vantage point: it all seems so transparent, the things that writers do to push buttons. “Here’s a puppy with a gun to its head.” It makes the whole enterprise seem so mechanical. I don’t want to spoil this comic, but it’s drearily typical in terms of what it thinks is shocking.
There’s not much here of any noticeable interest besides the Twist. But if you liked INVINCIBLE, it's the same sort of thing. It’s similarly simple. The character design works. “Monster hero” is a decent character type no one else is doing very well right now. Characters explain their feelings at each other at numbing length and in precise detail. It’s easy.
Jason Howard is credited as “penciler, inker, colorist” instead of “artist." Which is kind of sad, if you think about it too much. Which I did. I think I spent more time thinking about that than any of the contents.
I’d rather watch more videos where Kirkman calls for the heads of the 5 Comic Families to assemble on a cruise-ship, though(?). That part was fucking excellent.
SECRET INVASON THOR by MATT FRACTION, DOUG BRAITHEWAITE, PAUL MOUNTS, VC’s JOE CARAMANGA, GABRIELLE DELL’OTTO, ALEJANDRO ARBONA, WARREN SIMONS, JOE QUESADA and DAN BUCKLEY: I don’t know about the story-- it takes Thor off the board, in order to service some unnecessary pregnant white woman subplot. Pregnant white women, puppies in danger, crying Chinese babies, cat up a tree, Jessica Tandy on a horse that's headed the wrong way, Michael Clarke Duncan crying while holding a decapitated teddy-bear, Meredith Baxter Birney dying of a Woman's Disease but making a video for the daughter she won't live long enough to see graduate—- sure, all those things work 99% of the time and get the audience on your side; I guess I’m just being a shit-bag, but the pregnant lady caught me in a bad, cynical mood. Not a good mood to be reading comics in, I guess. I’m not really a big fan of the Morgan Freeman narration, either; it's a little anxious to be taken seriously for a comic about Kirby gods fighting green aliens.
But: Doug Braithewaite, huh? That’s a reason to take a look at this comic; it’s a good looking comic book. Paul Mounts colors from his pencils, which is usually not a technique that I’m particularly enamored with. But here, it works: maybe because the unfinished feeling of the pencils somehow conveys these characters as being otherworldly, not part and parcel of our fully-inked reality, not just crappy Vikings with delusions of grandeur. I don’t think it would work on every book; besides, Braithewaite and Bill Reinhold on inks ala their PUNISHER run, say? That’s a pretty solid team I’d rather not see messed with.
I’d enjoyed the Jason Aaron BLACK PANTHER tie-in more, for going into the mindset of the enemy, and being more of a war comic. This one promises to be a little more epic in scale than that though, which might yield dividends in future issues. Heck, maybe the pregnant lady will work in the later issues, and this will end up being a weirdly moving Viking versus Alien comic about birth in the face of war or some shit. Who knows? Not me. Maybe Michael Clarke Duncan.
MUMBAI MACGUFFIN by SAURAV MOHAPATRA, SAUMIN PATEL, V. VENKATA SUBRAMANIAN, NILESH MAHADIK, REUBEN THOMAS, AND SETH JARET: This is the first time Virgin Comics has ever put out a comic I was willing to read. I’m not a huge fan of “Chief Visionary” Deepak Chopra, or I’m guessing “Chief Creative Officer” “Gotham” Chopra, either. I don’t really know much about Richard Branson, except I have the vague impression he’s some kind of doucher. Besides all that, they’re not a company that has me in mind. The company has been fairly open about being dedicated more towards pleasing Hollywood executives than comic book fans. I am not Ashton Kutcher’s agent.
The company employs Indian writers and Indian artists, but this is the first time I’ve ever noticed them putting out a comic about India, and not just peddling a watered-down version of the mythology. It was reasonable. Saurav Mohapatra’s scripts a dopey action-comedy in a mix of Hindi and English, and heaps together a Mumbai filled with gangsters, taxi drivers, hitmen, CIA operatives, spiritualists, and terrorists. It’s a silly mish-mash. It could be better-- the ending makes little sense, and it’d have been nice if they’d given the lead white character a personality, any personality at all. As for the art, the inexperience is noticeable, but it’s at least clear and the character designs are fun enough, even if there’s a definite need for improvement on composition, storytelling, and inking.
But it moves fast and it doesn’t take itself seriously, at least, and I guess I found it endearing despite its flaws, like a B-movie on at 2 a.m. on HBO that’s better than I’d have guessed: it’s not as good as REAL MEN or SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO, but I’d watch it all the way to the end. Light-hearted action-comedies set in the real world? I’m the audience for those. Indian comic creators, inspired by Japanese manga or French sci-fi comics, selling comics in America, swapping spit with Pico Iyer? It all sounds great in theory, before you add in Ed Burns or whoever pitching their shitty D-list movie ideas, or Chopra & Family hawking discount spirituality and crackpot nonsense to credulous westerners, or god knows what ridiculous business practices they’re almost certainly engaged in. There were Indian comic creators before Virgin, and if these guys can improve their game, let’s hope there’ll be Indian comic creators after these Virgin people are gone, gone, gone.
CRIMINAL #4 of VOLUME 2 by ED BRUBAKER, SEAN PHILLIPS, and VAL STAPLES: I don’t know. This arc, the main character is a cartoonist who sometimes visualizes his creation speaking to him-- hardboiled private-dick Frank Kafka. What do you make of that? I haven’t decided if I think it’s clever, or if I think it’s a Dabney Coleman vehicle. I guess we’ll find out.
Besides that, it’s the usual laughs and hi-jinks. As ever, the series’ dedication to un-cool, unpleasant fuck-ups is admirable, though the umpteenth lady character who’s an emotionally-damaged sperm-bank is maybe … I don’t know, maybe going to start getting weird eventually? There’s a fine line between “genre convention” and “skuzzy creep-o shit” that I don’t think has been crossed yet for this book, for me, personally, but… but that way lies Frank Miller, and, shit, I’d hate to see that happen to anybody.
TORPEDO 1936 VOLUME 6 by E. SANCHEZ ABULI and JORDI BERNET: IDW recently announced plans to reprint this classic gangster comic, but after I’d picked up a batch of the Bernet run from Bud Plant. Holy crap! Remember my hoity-toity line between “genre convention” and “skuzzy creep-o shit”? This book crosses that line, and the next line past that into “should I be embarrassed to be reading this?” territory. It’s not … It’s not as embarrassing as Wally Wood’s CANNON, say, but still: I didn’t know anything about TORPEDO besides that Bernet drew it, so I was surprised by what a cheerfully depraved comic it turned out to be.
For example: in this volume, the main character organizes a gang-bang—and that’s the least unpleasant part of what happens. You don’t root for the main character to win because you like him, so much as you want to see what horrible shit he’ll pull next. Bernet makes it all look beautiful, of course, but that fact that a dog with a boner playing with lit dynamite is being so well drawn? That sort of adds to the crazy of the whole thing.
I’m still trying to comprehend how Alex Toth worked on this series—how do you spot blacks for a gangbang? “Dear Steve Rude, Why didn’t you research the gangbang? Library card! Dedication! Silhouette! Dildo-play!” That’s not a letter you want in the mail.
SAMMY THE MOUSE #1 and #2 by ZAK SALLY: So, this is about an alcoholic rat either suffering from serious mental problems, or stuck in the middle of some kind of spiritual awakening— which is probably the same thing. The rat’s friends include other broke-down, alcoholic animal cartoons. The art’s got plenty of nervous energy, black & white with blue & brown accents—- the best bits summon up a sort of horrible run-down cartoon world broken down from neglect and mental illness.
The timing’s good; the storytelling’s fun; I’m clueless what any of it possibly means, but I like watching cartoon characters drinking, so I suppose it’s entertaining. Most of the comic’s been spent watching characters hang out; something larger seems to be happening, but there’s no telling what that is exactly. If the project is aiming for 300 pages though, at an issue a year… well, if I’m doing the geometry right there, which I might not be, there might be a pretty decent wait to find out what this is all about.
I don’t know how to judge it really, in the meantime. So far, it at least feels mysterious instead of random, but there’s no telling how long that’ll last. I liked #1 more than #2: #1 was funnier and had better drawings than #2. But I especially liked a panel in #2 where a hand’s absence is depicted by the vacuum it leaves in space. It’s a neat depiction of speed and shock: something should be there but it's suddenly not.
I’ve been re-reading old Jaime Hernandez comics though—early LOVE & ROCKETS stuff. I hadn’t been interested in his superhero half to the new issue (though Gilbert's Martin & Lewis bit was killer). But it got me revisiting things like Mechanics, 100 Rooms, The Lost Women— that brief rocket half of LOVE & ROCKETS. People dismiss that stuff since Jaime’s later stuff was better, but: the early Jaime work isn't exactly shabby. It’s not really fair to read stuff like SAMMY THE MOUSE at the same time; it feels so slow & under-populated by comparison.
That's not a fair place for me to be coming from, maybe. That maybe goes for all of the above. All of these reviews are so goddamn unfair. "Dear Steve Rude, Have you read Death of Speedy lately? Dildo-play!" He doesn't deserve that in his mailbox. Who deserves that? Nobody. Maybe Michael Clarke Duncan.