Abhay vs. His To-Read Pile

I haven't bought comics in some months (October? November?), but I have an out-of-control to-read pile, filled with impulse buys that I have not made much progress on for a very long time.  I had a whole night last night, and worked pretty hard today, so I'm staying home tonight, doing laundry, making pasta, having a quiet evening, and thought I'd try to make a dent in the pile.  Thought I should take breaks and ramble around.  So, you know, just hanging out, reading some comics that came out a while ago, spelling errors, paragraphs that go nowhere, "reviews" that add up to nothing, hemming, hawing, a lack of wit, tedium... FRIDAY NIGHT!  WOOOO!

563139998a358 You know: people talk a lot about all the girl-friendly comics right now, but I never see people talk much about the one that I like, which is the Dennis Hopeless-Javier Rodriguez Spiderwoman series...?  It feels weird to admit that I like that one or any of them-- but that's the one I like.

I just bought one last year because some of you folks requested that I write about the other bigger, more popular superheroine comics of the moment, back when I was doing those Q&A's (which I want to get back to, but).  I thought I'd do a whole month that was just those books, all analytic-like-- that was one of my Big Ideas, before the shit hit the fan with me, schedule-wise.  Anyways:  this series was the only one that made any kind of positive impression.

It’s just such a lame character-- pretty much the lamest. The smart move is they recognize that the character sucks and turn into the skid. It surrounds her with an even lamer supporting cast -- her sidekick is the Porcupine...?   (The Porcupine is a supervillain who dresses like a porcupine). Ben Urich is in there, too-- that character's always been pretty underrated, considering he had some of the best scenes in Born Again; that scene with the nurse, at least. But Urich hardly qualifies as a fan favorite, either.

I just like how they’ve made that d-list quality the appeal of the book, how that forces them to be warm towards these loser characters instead of trying to convince me some character that's always sucked is actually really great.  I always really loved that move in superhero comics -- not trying to pretend some shitty thing is great (the "oh yeah Aquaman could drown this city awwww shit Aquaman" move that fans tend to prefer), but just acknowledging that some shitty thing is shitty and that it doesn't fucking matter because the creators love it anyways (one of my favorite comics as a kid was the issue of Secret Origins about the Legion of Substitute Heroes).

The stories are just corny mystery shit (there was an issue about a road-trip that was about as good as it ever got). You know, it's all very unambitious-- it’s not a very deep read, at all-- but it’s landing the tone I think they’re aiming to land at, at least.  It's not trying to be Some Other Thing, like the stuff that gets buzz tends to do-- I like that it's just trying to be a Marvel comic.  The adventures feel like the kinds of adventures Kurt Busiek talks about in Astro City, instead of being, like, the thing-trying-to-be-the-other-thing and just reminding you how much you'd rather be reading the other thing...?

Anyways, blah blah blah: most importantly, Javier Rodriguez just fucking draws better than other folks.   I think that guy’s fucking solid, since forever now. That's the big appeal for me, at least.  His layouts are usually really fun without being intrusive or show-off-y. Plus, he colors himself on this one and every so often, he does some stuff with color that's pretty sweet, at least for a monthly book like this. I really like watching him work.

It’s the only Marvel book I fuck with, at all, but I don't really know too much what else is out there.  And I'm months behind because like I said, I haven't been to a store in ages...

I don’t get why she’s pregnant all of the sudden, though-- is it because of Secret Wars? Did the Beyonder make all the superheros stop using condoms during the Secret Wars? “Beyonder says Raw Dog It” was my favorite Frankie Goes to Hollywood song.  Was it a secret war on birth control, like the ones the Republicans are waging against our sisters??  Got deep on you there.  You thought you were reading a sad pasta-fueled middle-age man type into the night about Spiderwoman, and then no, this turned into a Comics Alliance article. GOTCHA!  Welcome to my social justice war!

"Keeping all you motherfuckers on your toes!" -- Betty Friedan.


Read the James Harvey / Harvey James (?) issue of We are the Robins, uhhh #4.  I've followed James Harvey James's work, since that Mario Brothers comic he did in 2008, so I was checking this out just to see him work.

I'm obviously not the audience for this one.  That said, boy, there was an impressive amount of whiplash to this comic, just in the disparity between how interesting I found some of the choices the art made and how lame and rote the writing was.  That whiplash happens all the time with comics-- ALL THE TIME!-- but this comic really packed a punch in that department...

I'm kinda weird in that I really get antsy when comic artists drop gutters-- I like a nice gutter between my panels.  But besides that, there's a visual-noise to the art (see, e.g., this panel), purposeful imperfections, detail-overload moves, a bunch of  choices that I thought were pretty interesting.  And then the writing could’ve been equally served by stick-figure theater.  It's just by-the-numbers DC junk.  It had nothing to it that the art's choices was actually advancing.  Not even close to being on the same page...

But probably the kids this was aimed at wouldn't mind so much...?  If multicultural Robin gang comic is some kid's jam, this issue probably was just a cool-looking issue of a thing they liked to begin with.  Nothing to get angry about, a pretty normal thing to happen with these kinds of comics, but... Just a pretty glaring example-- they're on such different pages...


Caught up to issue #5 of the Fade Out.  I'd read the first one or two, and then got behind-- it usually takes a while to muster up any energy to read a Brubaker-Phillips comic-- they're not really high-energy cups of coffee.

I think this series just wrapped up the other day?  So far, it's their usual thing-- well executed, but I'm not sure what any of this is adding up to.

I don't know-- it must suck to be doing any kinda historical thing in the wake of Mad Men because I felt like that show, whatever it got wrong, whatever choices they made that I might not have liked, the thing it nailed was I never felt lost what it was about.  With this, I just don't know what it's about yet.

Plus, that time period, people have really worn a groove into that time period-- I've never been that interested in the Hollywood blacklist, as historical topics go... It's not even really my era movie-wise, or fetishizing-LA-wise or anything, except for loving LA Confidential or those terrific articles that formed the basis for that terrible movie Gangster Squad.  All the stuff that the comic fetishizes doesn't really get me off-- we go to different churches.  I was more the audience for the LA stuff in Fatale.  I'd rather hear the B-side stories of De Palma and Spielberg and Margot Kidder on some beach in Malibu; any random paragraph out of Easy Riders Raging Bulls tops it for me any day...

But they know how to keep a thing interesting without ever doing anything splashy or fun or exciting, that team.  Like, pleasure-wise, their comics are  the anti-Akira-- it's just panel after panel; all in that same monotone; there's never any kind of "hey we're making a comic" glee to it all.  But the consistency of aesthetic and tone and style, comic to comic, book to book-- I can't help but admire what they've carved out for themselves, overall...?  Like, judging any one thing particularly just seems sort of besides the point, misses the fun of the entire enterprise, what I think keeps me coming back, of just watching these guys assemble their life's work one brick at a time.  I kind of like that overall "this will be a whole thing, you know, when they're dead" of it all more than I like the bricks...?

If they ever did try to do anything exciting to look at, Brubaker-Phillips' Nth Man the Ultimate Ninja, it'd be the worst thing to ever happen because ... it just wouldn't fit that chunk of bookshelf they're building.  (I didn't see that magazine-sized issue of Criminal though so no idea what they did there...)


Goddamn, this is so good.  It's Frontier #6, the Emily Carroll issue...?  Frontier, I think, it's like an anthology where cartoonists each take an issue and do their thing for an issue...?  I don't see it in the shop I usually go to, so this came out a while ago, 2014, I think, but I only got it mid-to-late last year sometime.

Anyways, it's a Emily Carroll horror comic-- there aren't many times that's gone wrong for me.  I really like how she tells her story in this one, mixing past-tense "documentary" stretches and present-tense fiction scenes.  She just adjusts her visual style so slightly to cue up new scenes-- I never felt lost.  The last page is a little too Goosebumps, but I like the mythology she built for this one.  It's not her in fairy-tale mode-- it's closer to her doing a found footage thing, really.

Carroll really excels at creating a little room for you in your mind to fill up on your own, at letting the reader fill in the space between panels with the terrible bits.  I wonder why it took me a while to get to this-- I like her work very, very much.

I don't know-- I've been listening to the Comic Books are Burning In Hell crowd's 2015 Wrap-Up on my commute-- I guess one of my goals for this year should probably be to get back into shape re: expanding my horizons.  I got pretty flabby with my reading last year, didn't really seek out interesting work very consistently beyond whatever passed through my store, the c-grade stuff.  I didn't have to listen very long to notice that I needed to up my reading game, to the extent I want to actually do that, which I don't know, I could just watch movies instead... Have you ever seen movies?  "Movies are pretty great, though" -- my review of comic books. 20150716_183858

Finally sat down with Island #1.  I have a handful of these Island's lying around, figuring it'd be a kind of thing I would be into.  But never sat and pulled the trigger on one since they're all pretty thick and my attention span's only just starting to come back to me, after the year I had last year...

I got that weird thing where I get a little outside my head when I'm looking a thing like this. Just apart from the immediate experience of it, I go to a "well what about the business part of comics" place that isn't really cool to admit to.  Especially on  a thing like this, where it's so strikingly different in goals and tool-sets from whatever else is out on an ordinary comic shop shelf there that ... my mind goes straight to wondering if there's enough here for Joe Q. Ordinary Regular Comics Reader to latch onto to orient themselves.  Or Anthologies have always been a tough road for comics-- or-- or....

But like, I think I shouldn't care about any of that stuff, or that it's uncool to care about that stuff at least, and I should just talk instead about how ...

I guess the interesting thing with this is just how all the comics are constantly present-tense experiences, more interested in visceral reactions to a panel or a page, moreso than to a sequence or building a story or inhabiting a character.  Which isn't uninteresting-- it's interesting they all went in that direction, how that was a common appeal for artists whose surface qualities are so different.

Like, one part that I really liked was there's a story (by Ludroe?) where a skateboarder does some trick.  A character watching the trick in a big empty panel yells "fucking righteous" (Ludroe separates the character from the word balloon, puts space between the two so it's like those words have risen up into the air).  And then there's just this nice moment where the comic follows that up by having the bottom third of the page just be "FUCKING RIGHTEOUS" written in block letters on an all-black background.  That felt like more of a mission statement of Island #1's aesthetic than anything else-- a sort of dedication to in-the-moment enthusiasm, trumping any other virtue.

It felt like the anthology was trying to speak to one particular experience of what the fun of comics might be... uhm, the kind of experience that's the hardest to articulate where ... where it's just the juxtapositions, the timing of images, transitions between panels. Like, the Emma Rios story and Brandon Graham story are both a lot of fun, but from a "looking at page layouts" perspective, or choices of what to put in panels perspective (though that shade of red Rios chooses is a pretty aggressive choice!).

But if the juice for you for comics are stories and writing, scenes and character arcs and themes... well, I don't know what you'd make of this guy.  I barely understood what happened for most of these stories-- not that I particularly cared because ... there's more reliable things to read for stories than comic anthologies, you know...?  But that's where my "worrying about the business of comics" hat goes right back on and...

(Though I might be exaggerating how confusing the stories were, just in that the last big comics-reading experience I had was reading Ranma 1/2 where it's ... the pleasure of that comic for me was how completely direct and immediate and LOUD the storytelling in that comic is-- that way you can grab a page out of context and show it to someone, and ... And the emotions of it are just immediately clear.  It's just all cymbal crashes, the pages of that thing, so maybe the difference between that and the Island comics is just more jarring for me, as a result.  The transition to Graham, say, is pretty pronounced because his strategies are so very much the opposite-- he tends to like to have the emotional content of his stories accrete very slowly and over much longer spans of time, so the reader doesn't really notice until by the end of a comic, an emotional weight has built up around a thing.  Similarly, I suspect Rios works better in quantity because her work is about shifting readers into a different flow-- bringing readers into her aesthetic universe... Which is completely the opposite of what's going on in Ranma 1/2, which is just a completely and totally unsubtle comedy where you don't have to do any work... So... long paragraph; short version-- "maybe I suck at reading comics").

I kinda want to go back and find how other people received this issue.  I can't help but imagine some folks might've gotten thrown.  But maybe not-- maybe people are open to having this kinda experience... That'd be nice, too...   I did like the ... what do you want to call it, aesthetic coherence.  I like that editorially it seems to evidence an overall aesthetic argument being made, instead of trying to be some kinda free-floating something-for-everybody thing.

Anyways, I've rambled around enough and probably need to give that Emily Carroll comic some space-- nothing's topping that tonight, probably... Plus, my burps have gotten weird.  FYI.  I need to go figure out what's going on there.  The last couple were pretty alarming.