This has been an incredibly good week for comics, I have to say. Under the cut: GANGES, ALL STAR SUPERMAN and MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN.
I have no idea why two of the biggest comics stores in NYC didn't get Kevin Huizenga's GANGES #2 (they weren't sold out, it wasn't even on their new-arrival lists)--I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope there was something wrong with the shipment. But this is a thoroughly Excellent issue, the kind of thing I want to hand to people who ask "what kind of comics do you like?" It starts with another of the wonderful "Fight or Run" abstract-combat stories Huizenga was doing in Or Else--they're totally idiomatic to Huizenga and totally unlike any other current comics I can think of, and this one frames the central conceit as a video game. (The combat isn't just a conceptual abstraction, it's a visual abstraction.) As it turns out, it is a video game in the context of the issue's second, longer story, "Pulverize," which is about Glenn Ganges working at a dot-com in 1999 and spending all his time after hours playing a first-person shooter with his co-workers. It's a fantastic, hilarious, perfectly observed piece of cartooning, and almost every panel has some great detail: the grayscale, black-line-less, vector-graphics Himalayas; the way we never see Wendy's face when she's awake, even on the back cover; the little explanation of the origins of abstract combat as video games; the description of "Yipper Yap World," a nonviolent game involving a "native tribe of Rasta-ostriches"; the motto of the useless dot-com, "we don't know... and that's a good thing"; the ultraminimal way Huizenga draws Fritzi, and the enormous amount of facial-expression and body-language mileage he manages to get out of, like, five lines...
Jog has already sung the praises of ALL STAR SUPERMAN #10, but I'm going to chime in and say how much I adored this issue, both despite and because of its implied punch line: if Superman did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. I love how compact Morrison's writing is here--he keeps using the late-Invisibles trick of the single panel that stands in for an entire sequence, and he gets better and better at it. (The panel with Superman mapping his own genetic code, circles with increasing magnitudes of magnification radiation from the back of his hand, would be the best panel in pretty much any superhero comic right now; here, it's just another hit-and-run.) And I'm happy seeing Morrison bring more of his personal obsessions into the story--the infant universe of Qwewq from JLA: Ultramarine Corps (not to be confused with Italo Calvino's Qfwfq, of course...), the cube-forms that signify so much in Seven Soldiers and Invisibles, "matters of scale," and metafiction. Excellent stuff.
The oddest and most welcome surprise among this week's comics, though, was MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN #39, which I'd never even have picked up if a staffer at Midtown Comics hadn't seen me hovering over that Amazing Fantasy hardcover and pointed it out to me. The surprising part isn't the lead story, a fun but pretty par-for-the-course Spidey/FF team-up: it's the backup feature, a little eight-pager about Spider-Man fighting the Green Goblin, dialogued by Kevin Marlow and plotted and drawn by somebody credited as Tod Keevits. I say "credited," because one glance at the artwork makes it easy to figure out what that's an anagram for: I'm pretty sure this is the first Spider-Man story Steve Ditko has published in upwards of 40 years.
That's "published" and not "drawn," because looking at it it's not clear to me when he drew it: it's much more tightly rendered than the more minimal, gestural style I associate with the Ditko of the last decade or two. (Unfortunately I'm on the opposite side of the country from my scanner right now, and as usual, none of the usual online suspects even bother scanning the MARVEL ADVENTURES stuff.) The story ends fairly abruptly, and given the Goblin connection, I'm wondering if it was actually an abortive stab by Ditko at Amazing Spider-Man #39 that somebody found in a drawer; it's very weird to see his distinctive style with new-school modeled color, though. A Good curiosity on its own, but it's definitely worth seeking out for historical reasons, and if you're interested I'd snap it up before tomorrow.