What follows is the second in a series of 12 posts, capturing the official Savage Critics rating for all of the comics that I read but couldn’t find the time (or space) to write about in a more “professional” capacity. The first one is here.
Hotel Harbour View Taniguchi Viz
Weird, wonderful stuff. I first heard about these stories via the Savage’s own Joe McCulloch. The big draw for today's reader is obviously going to be the chance to see Jiro Taniguchi drawing crime, but the curious will probably walk away just as impressed with the script, which is oddly sweet for such a bullet-laden plot. VERY GOOD!
Silence of Our Friends Long, Demonakos, Powell First Second
Hey, did you know this thing existed? Yeah, neither did anybody else. It’s a Nate Powell drawn graphic novel detailing some real life civil rights history in one of the two writer’s past. It’s pretty terrible, although Powell acquits himself well. There's probably an interesting story to be made out of what Mark Long’s family experienced, but it’s pretty clear that neither he nor his co-writer cared to try and find that story. Instead, you’ve got 200 pages detailing social back-and-forths between a white family and their black counterparts in 1968 Texas, most of which revolves around shining a spotlight on the audacious realization that people are often more complicated than pat racial stereotypes might lead one to believe. For example, sometimes a black man will slap his child out of anger. Other times a white man who is normally polite drinks too much. Sometimes the two of them behave in a way that seems racist to onlookers out of a fear of social reprisal. Will these two groups be able to come together over a shared mutual affection for Sam & Dave?
Things pick up later in the book when it depicts a protest gone wrong, but all of that interest evaporates as the book meanders its way through the most boring court trial comics has ever produced. A really cynical reader might think that the people involved in this comic’s production have so little imagination that they honestly believe that "boring" = "intelligent", but it seems more likely that there just wasn’t anything here to get excited by. That’s sort of First Second’s bag, if you’re keeping score--with very few exceptions (George O’Conner’s comics, Gipi, Blaine), they pretty much stick to rushing out middlebrow crap designed by committees, for a fabled "adult" audience that's perfectly content to stick with television. EH, because Powell certainly tries his best.
Fatale #2 Brubaker, Phillips Image
I like this issue. It’s more Ellroy-tinged set-up stuff, with an angry alcoholic (i’m assuming he is one, but I think the ground is safe) twisting lives into violent, confused contortions for the sake of a woman who they already know they’re gonna lose, and there’s a nasty cult thing going on in the background--this comic is sour, it feels irritated, like the actions depicted within the panels are a little pissed off that they’re on display. Brubaker’s best comics are the ones that have a freighted plot moving through them, something that crushes and mangles the lives of the people that populate them. (If you go back and read his Captain America run from the beginning, you’ll see that the absolute best parts are whenever Steve is depicted as being alone, scared, or exhausted. That character has unfortunately been taken over by the incessant need of Marvel, and it’s unlikely that their new publishing style will ever allow for somebody to do the kind of long-range work Brubaker got to do in those first 30-40 issues of Cap, but the current status quo doesn’t render those stories any significant damage.) Fatale: GOOD!
Chopper: Surf’s Up Wagner, Ennis, Artists 2000AD
Decent shit, Douglas has you covered on this one. There’s some fascinating panels in this collection that are worth excavating for examination, but this collection is mostly interesting for the way it drags a shitload of material (most of which is solid) out of a character that internalizes all of his feelings, choosing to express himself by action. He’s a skysurfer who lives with his eyes half-closed. OKAY!
Walt & Skeezix Volume 5 King D&Q
There’s no massive plot driving this collection the way the previous volumes were, and in fact, it reads a bit like a mild reworking of Frank King’s greatest hits--there’s the backdoor conniving regarding Skeezix’ inheritance (bringing with it Walt’s old fears of kidnapping, which means PUNCHING), a bit of romantic bungling with Lora that recalls those sleazeballs who used to pursue Phyllis, and then, of course, there’s a new baby and all the cutesy bits that bring with it. As is always the case with these collections, there’s some random bits of difficulty in tow--Phyllis is often depicted as disturbingly greedy as her past nemesis, Mme. Octave, and it's impossible not to squirm at Rachel. Still a great collection though, one of the best things Drawn & Quarterly publishes. There’s some extra stuff in here too--essays and a DVD--but most of that stuff seems like fetish objects for people who want all comics to be autobiographical. I’m sure it’s quite lovely, but I have a decent enough relationship with my father, and thus have no need to pretend that Frank King would have been a better one. EXCELLENT!
Athos In America Jason Fantagraphics
The “autobio” strip in here is my hands-down full-stop favorite thing Jason has ever done, earning this book the EXCELLENT rating for that reason alone. The rest of the book is totally satisfying, but I can’t pretend I didn’t read all of it with my brain obsessing over all the little beats in “A Cat From Heaven”. There isn’t a dead moment in the thing. “Hey, Fuckface”...so funny, this thing.
Prophet #22 Graham, Roy, Ballerman Image
Dug the first issue, loved the second. One of Graham’s greatest strength is that he’s actually read and watched different stuff, so when he’s resorting to inspiration, it isn’t the same crop of minimalist Wu-Tang covers or Wong-Kar Wai screengrabs as everybody else. In comics, it’s hard to ignore the fact that everybody wants everybody else to have the same line-up of idols as they do, which is why Graham is so interesting: he seems to have escaped all of that and forged a taste all his own. It’s unfortunate for Roy that he’s having to work under such a big shadow--he’s doing good work, and definitely getting better--but I’d imagine he sees this as too good an opportunity to pass up. Comics could use a lot more people like Brandon. We already know what it’s like to have a whole lot of people who aren’t. VERY GOOD!
Batman The Dark Knight #6 Finch, Jenkins DC
This one was pretty weird. It’s just Bane fighting Batman and Batman running away. They talk about Knightfall a bunch. There’s a really bad drawing of Superman. Remember when David Finch was supposed to be a big win for DC? There must have been a bunch of people at Marvel giggling when that announcement was made. This comic isn’t as bad as the Superman one that has a different creative team on every other page, but that doesn’t mean it's any good, either. AWFUL!
Ultimate Spider-Man #7 Bendis, Samnee Marvel
Well, that’s how you waste a date with Chris Samnee. If this guy has an agent, he should fire that person. I’d like to believe that his Daredevil stint is going to be special, and it probably will be...but c’mon, all Marvel does is bean this guy every time he gets up to the plate. AWFUL!
The Flash #6 Manapul DC
Very pretty comic book here. The inclusion of Barry Allen saying things like “girlfriend” and “is that okay” and “I have feelings” will certainly appeal to a type of personality (unfortunately, I very much doubt that type of personality would find much else in super-hero comics worth their time), and I’d overall call this one OKAY! I can’t make myself read this title, but I hope somebody can. Super pretty.
Judge Dredd Complete Case Files 13 Misc Dredd Folks 2000AD
Solid collection of stuff here, if I had notes to refer to, I would do so now. The biggest stand out in my mind is the introduction of Giant, who will become a big part of Necropolis (which is in the 14th Case File), but there’s a whole crop of solid short bits in here. Reading these, I can’t help but wonder what kind of world Wagner would have created if he’d stuck around the Batman franchise. Grant did fine without him, but...that could have been something. Oh well. GOOD!
The Dead Man Ridgway, Wagner 2000AD
Great stuff here, here’s another Douglas Wolk write-up for those who like detail. I wish I could have read this as it was happening without having to live in Britain whenever that was. But even if you the big reveal in advance, it’s still a pretty satisfying read. Call it GOOD!
Voyages Volume 1 Toth, Chaykin, Geary, Vess, Russell, Muth, Robbins, Dowling Nautilus Dreams
There’s a great Alex Toth story in this, a Bravo For Adventure story that I’d never read and which is, contrary to what I’ve always heard, solidly written. It gets really abstract near the end in this really ballsy way, with these grids of jagged lines tracing the movement of excited protagonists. It ends up being so good that it (unfortunately) overshadows everything else you read. That being said, the only things in here that are anywhere near Toth’s level are Rick Geary’s murder standard and a nasty color insert by Howard Chaykin about a guy on his way to serial killing. Everything else is trash. For the Toth alone (which is the longest thing here), call this one VERY GOOD!
The Broken Ear Herge Little, Brown
I find it very easy to get wrapped up in how these comics look, chasing Herge’s lines around to see where they begin and end. I kept forgetting to read the dialog, I just liked watching things move around. I'm mostly interested in reading these Tintin stories to see how they relate to Swarte and Chaland, but I'm also always curious about things that are amazingly popular. I don't know that I learned much here. It’s fun to watch Tintin get wasted with the guy who is supposed to kill him, or to see the general get his feelings hurt when he thinks he’s been betrayed. The actual goal of this one--the location of a stolen curio--seems to get away from Herge a bit eventually, but I can’t say that I really care, or that I think he should have done it differently so that hadn’t happened. It’s just a lot more fun to watch the kid fuck around and do shit than would have been to be all serious about the treasure hunt aspect. VERY GOOD!
Is That All There Is Swarte Fantagraphics
Everything I feel comfortable saying about this book right now already came stumbling out on this Inkstuds podcast I did with Jog, Seneca and the Studster, but it deserves some kind of Savage rating. How about EXCELLENT? There’s stuff in here that I wish was bigger in size, but...so what? I hope every single person who complains about the size of this book gets buried in shit after being murdered by their family, and I hope they get murdered with Lou Gehrig’s disease. If they're a cartoonist, I hope it happens to them twice.
The Blobby Boys Schubert Zine Police
A short, very funny comic featuring what acts like a regular cast of oddly colored humanoid creatures acting like assholes in urban environments. Blobby Boys was oversold to me as someone’s favorite comic at the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, so the initial read through was a bit like a confused treasure hunt. Reading it again, I just see it as an extremely funny comic with unusually vivid art. That’s not a bad thing at all. VERY GOOD.
Comics Class Forsythe Koyama
Pseudo autobiographical comic (“mostly untrue”, according to the back cover) about a comics class for 11 year old children, taught by the author. It’s very funny at times, other times it’s trying too hard, but the scale mostly ends up in Forsythe’s favor. The art is pleasant, chunky stuff, there’s just not a whole lot that’s very visually exciting about a guy standing in front of kids, talking. Does anyone talk about the cinematography in Stand and Deliver? Lean On Me? Dangerous Minds? I rest my case, my case is rested. I’d still call this one GOOD.
Night Business #4 Marra Traditional Comics
I love this comic, love all the comics this guy makes. I also have a lot of affection for the movie Cobra and the sex act, so I was pretty much swimming in clover the whole time I read this, because it has all of those things put together all at once. VERY GOOD.
Now that I think about it, it kind of disgusts me that there's comics bloggers out there who sit around reviewing Marra's work all willy-nilly, without having experienced the movie Cobra.
White Whore Funnies #1 Misc Ful-Horne
This is a group of black cartoonists making fun of racist stereotypes. Some of it is very extreme and funny, like the symbol of a black power fist punching its way into a Venus symbol while the text screams “LET US ENTERTAIN YOU”. Some of it is just disconcerting and obnoxious. The art is mostly terrible, with most of the cartoonists delivering weirdly prudish takes on naked women. I’d be disappointed, but I’m convinced the primary point of this project was to entertain the guys who created it. It’s AWFUL otherwise.
Lone Wolf and Cub #26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35 Kojima, Koike First Comics
I’ve read all of these stories before, but I’d only read about half of the First Comics editions. Not all of Goseki Kojima’s work is “better” in the standard American comic size--some of it just looks unfinished and schizoid--but so much of it is that it still stings that First went out of business before they could finish printing these glorious comics. There’s translation screw-ups, printing errors, ordering mishaps; if you’re an obsessive type, yes, there’s much to be irritated by! But there’s also perfect comics here; a story that grapples and explodes, visual moments of perfection--violence and silence both--and it would have taken serious, nefarious dedication to destroy that. Lone Wolf and Cub is EXCELLENT, and anyone who says different is a huge, huge racist.
Time Twisters #2 Moore, Morrison, Gibbons, Ridgway, Milligan Quality
This is basically the Alan Moore issue, and while the reproduction value still lingers somewhere between “absolute shit” and “also shitty”, the old wizard shines through with a couple of smart Future Shocks. Milligan rips off the Thing--it doesn’t really work--and Morrison rips off Ray Bradbury, which works fine. This is the best issue of this comic I’ve read, in heroic spite of the people who so horribly printed it. GOOD!
How anticlimactic. I should really come up with a conclusion for these. The only thing that comes to mind right now is AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS AIDS HUNTA VIRUS, and that's just a meaningless string of words. I'm not even sure that's how you spell Hunta virus. I spent most of the month of February obsessively singing the song "i want to fuck my own father" to my coworkers and wife, but that doesn't conclude anything either. I give these last few sentences the rating of EXCELLENT.