I don't have anything interesting to say, but I noticed the other people who write for this site— they were all having busy weeks; I thought I'd try to chip in with some quickie reviews before work. Here’s what I’ve read lately…
Incredible Hercules #116: I was flipping through the latest issue at random-- I like Khoi Pham's art, so I was glancing at it for that when I noticed this issue has this sweet detail: the bulk of the action takes place on the Hellicarrier from the 24-issue Doug Moench Godzilla comic book Marvel published in the 1970's. Shit, man, I never even read those comics, but I just liked that detail so I read the rest of the issue.
It's a big ridiculous fight comic-- I guess the book shares the same creative team as World War Hulk, which also succeeded with me by focusing on things punching / getting punched. With this Hercules comic, I didn't really understand what people were talking about in-between punches but maybe more attentive fans found those bits pleasurable. Near the end it turns into some strange mythology thing; lessons are learned; morals are taught; Blossom learns why she's bleeding; etc. But I want to look on the bright side, and on the bright side? On the bright side, some guy grabs a missile from out of the sky and hits another guy with it. I approve.
It's a nice detail, the thing with the Godzilla Hellicarrier, though. I'll have forgotten 21 pages of this comic in a week, but that page where they mention the thing about the Hellicarrier is probably what'll stick with me. Its just a nice piece of nerd archaeology. It creates a sense of the "Marvel Universe" being its own place with its own history -- even the decommissioned hellicarriers rusting away in junkyards have a history to them!-- without being a "This will only make sense to you if you read issue #8 of DAZZLER (i.e. "Hell... Hell is for Harry") in 1981" type thing, like out of some DC comic. The rest of the issue doesn't depend on understanding the significance of the particular hellicarrier, at least that I could tell. For me, it's just marshmallows in a cup of hot chocolate.
Plus, it's a shout-out to one of the too-few series to star one of my favorite Marvel characters: Mr. Dum Dum Dugan.
He just seems violent! SHIELD is a massive international, multinational counter-espionage organization, outfitted with the most advanced technology, manned by the best and the brightest-- and one of the guys in charge is a violent Irish nonagenarian in a bowler hat...? I think that services a potent theme: all the fancy technology or well-trained people can get you so far, but you still need to have a couple guys handy who seem willing to kick some ass and wear hats while doing so. I think that’s a way better theme than the thing about responsibility or whatever—a better theme for practical living. Dum Dum Dugan – there’s just a lot of unrealized upside to that character.
Nijigahara Holograph: I re-read this scanlated manga the other day. I'm surprised I didn’t see Nijigahara Holograph end up on more best of the year lists; it was in the top 10 of that lengthy Journalista list; it was on mine and I didn't even like it that much last year. I guess a lot of people may not be cool with the whole scanlation thing though.
If you missed it, Nijigahara Holograph is a fractured comic that alternates between a group of young students and those students in their early adulthoods, both mired in a seemingly endless cycle of abuse and violence. The story unfolds like a puzzle. After my first read through, I'd mistaken a lot of the imagery for surrealism-- I don't really like surrealism so I didn't rate the comic as I highly as maybe I should have, though I was still very impressed with it for technical reasons, for the mood of it. But having read it again recently, I think my earlier reaction was wrong. There's more of an underlying logic to the series than I'd picked up on the first time through. I think I got more out of it the second time because I got to read it faster, so I was able to connect fragments that I'd missed before.
I feel like I've read essays by people who think comics can't be scary, because the static imagery of comics aren't conducive to horror-jolts, because the ability of the reader to control the flow of the comic undercuts the ability of a work to take over and frighten the reader, etc. But Nijgahara Holograph to me is ... it's at least spooky, though not because of some cinematic effect. If a comic tries only to recreate cinema or recreate horror literature-- it's leaving a lot off of what comics can do off the table, and spooky might be out of reach. What I think Nijigahara Holograph is a good example of... What's happening in the panels isn't scary-- but the choice of panels, the selection of images in the panels, and their juxtaposition, those all make me think, you know, "Who the hell is the guy that made this thing? What was going on with that guy? Why'd he draw this thing? What was going on that day that he put that image next to that image?" I think it's at least spooky when a comic gets you asking those questions. Why do I keep using the word "spooky?" It's altogether ooky.
What else... Ghost Rider and Iron Fist: I liked the latest issue of both of those. I thought both of those were fun. Art on both had good pages and bad pages, or good panels and bad panels, but … has Iron Fist ever punched Ghost Rider in the skull? I have no idea; I never really read either character’s book before on account of both characters being pretty crappy. I’m always confused when I read other people talk about Iron Fist, what they’re getting out of it since it seems like they’re getting more out of it than I am. It’s a nice kung fu comic—it’s pleasant to follow—there’s nothing wrong with it. I feel like other people are getting way more out of it than I am, though.
Oh, classic comics… I read Tintin in the Land of the Soviets a couple months ago—December? I thought I’d try reading all the Tintin books in order, but Tintin in the Land of the Soviets put the kibosh to that. That’s sort of Tintin before Herge had figured out what the hell he was doing. It’s not very good. Tintin wanders around a fake, propaganda version of Soviet Russia, and has an incessant number of dumb, improbable, and usually boring adventures. It’s a long book which overstayed its welcome-- I don't think it was intended to be read all at once. If you like seeing comics before they’re good, or artists before they figure out their style, it’s an option, I suppose, but I'm not sure what you'd get out of the experience. I also read a Carl Barks comic the other day, too. The Fantastic River Race from 1957. That was fantastic, but I don’t… you know, I just don’t have anything to say about it. This page was fun. The duck characters get in a steamboat race with the dog characters, and cause so much craziness that they lose the race but win the day…? How the hell do you review that? If you hate dogs or love steamboats, that’s the comic for you. I assume you don’t have an opinion on ducks. Who has an opinion on ducks? Well, to eat, I suppose—I don’t think duck is particularly tasty eating. I guess when I read a comic about ducks, though, I usually don’t think about what it’d be like to eat the main characters. Maybe I should. Maybe that’d make the reading experience more pleasurable. Couldn’t hurt.
Someone once told me they test jet engines by shooting ducks into them. I don't know if that's true, but I suppose you could have an opinion of that. I don't think Carl Barks ever made a comic about that, though.
Oh, wait, I also read the new issue Iron Man: Is this arc still not over yet? It’s an extremely long storyline—I don’t dislike it but I’m just sort of surprised it’s still going. The latest issue is all about how Iron Man can built a fancy armor suit with repulsor rays in it, but he’s too cheap to put a camera in his helmet. So Iron Man has this fight last issue, but this issue, everyone’s like “We don’t believe that actually happened.” Iron Man doesn’t have one of those cameras (like the ones cops keeps in their cars) in his suit somewhere, or a webcam or …? Why didn’t he film that shit? He doesn’t even build a Kodak into that thing?? Most people have cameras in their cell phones; how is a cell-phone better than Iron Man armor? Maybe the camera got broke when Iron Man had the big fight with that one asshole, back whenever. I guess that would explain it. Incidentally, how is this arc not over yet? It doesn’t even feel half over! Maybe the plan is for it to never be over… This comic also featured Dum Dum Dugan, though, so again, points for that.
I like this page from Strange Tales #151—layouts by Jack Kirby, illustrations by Jim Steranko. I saw that the other day, though I didn’t read the issue. That’s early in Steranko’s career—the first issue of Strange Tales he did, the first Marvel comic he did from 1966. I guess I like the bit with the grenades. I think that makes the page for me. In real life, I don’t think that would work though. Please be careful with grenades. I didn’t read the issue though so I can’t really talk about it—sometimes, old comics are just for looking at and not for reading.
This comic also featured Mr. Dum Dum Dugan. Let’s start a fanclub.