It was Half-Term last week hence the silence. Yes, the blessed silence. But now your God has failed you and I am back! It has been quietly suggested that I put on hold my tribute to Charlie Drake and maybe look at some comics this time. So, no actors who were dead before you grew your big teeth this time out. Just comics! Just lovely, lovely comics! But were they lovely? Hmmmmm? Anyway, this... NEXUS by Steve Rude & Mike Baron
ALL STAR WESTERN #20 Art by Moritat (Jonah Hex) and Staz Johnson (Stormwatch) Written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti Coloured by Mike Atiyeh (Jonah Hex) & Rob Schwager (Stormwatch) Lettered by Rob Leigh Jonah Hex created by Tony DeZuniga & John Albano Stormwatch created by Brandon Choi & Jim Lee DC Comics, $3.99
I kind of liked this issue. I don’t know whether the worms have finally reached my brain, or what but twenty issues in and this one almost clicked. I’m not exactly the most demanding Jonah fan either, I just enjoy the scar faced twat in a hat going around kicking up dust and making life brutal, difficult and short for folks. I prefer it to be a straight western but it isn't a deal breaker.
No, I don’t mind Booster Gold turning up for no reason that is ever going to be explained (hey, that’s just how comic books roll these days). I’m just pleased the book has a bit of a spring back in its step. Maybe it’s the beneficial effect of getting Jonah out of the city and into the countryside? Like when you ferry troubled youths by coach out into the boondocks to stroke goats. Moritat’s art seems a bit more lively and engaged although that might be due to the brighter and more varied colour palette in use. Watch these backgrounds though, I’m not a native of the Americas but I’m pretty sure mesas aren't mobile. Like I say I don’t expect much really and this delivered that making it OKAY!
RED TEAM #2 Art by Craig Cermak Written by Garth Ennis Coloured by Adriano Lucas Lettered by Rob Steen Cover by Howard Victor Chaykin Red Team created by Craig Cermak & Garth Ennis(?) Dynamite, $3.99
More like RED MEAT amiright, soft lads? Here Comics’ Firmest Handshake Garth Ennis turns his surly attention to a tale of cops taking the law into their own hands. I’m sure that will work out really well for everyone involved. At the minute it isn't working out too well for me. I guess my LCS sent this as Howard Victor Chaykin is doing the covers and I like Comics’ Deepest Voice Garth Ennis’ war comics. So, okay, fair enough. I’m not turned off by the concept either. I’m always up for that old story which ends with a bunch of people dead or drenched in blood while sirens scream closer and those who aren't corpses suddenly realise why there are rules.
Maybe it won’t go that way, after all Comics’ Hottest Curry Garth Ennis spends enough time (i.e. too much time) explaining how his characters can smoke in a government building that it must surely (surely!) pay off later in an example of Chekov’s Fags! Maybe everything will go swimmingly but the racially and sexually mixed cast will succumb to a series of smoking related diseases. Maybe not. But hopefully the series will avoid plummeting into maudlin sentimentality like a sloppy drunk slurring on about The Old Country as the barkeep dials for a taxi. Not an uncommon occurrence in work by Comics’ Softest Hearted Big Man Garth Ennis. This thing seems written for the screen (no, the page and the screen are not interchangeable) and the art just isn't up to the job of hiding this. It gives me no pleasure to say that. In fact I’ll leave it there except to express the hope that you really like that panel I picked because you’ll be seeing a lot of it on these pages. RED TEAM is not a complete wash though and that’s due mostly to the dialogue of Comics’ Hairiest Chest Garth Ennis. It’s good dialogue and it means RED TEAM is OKAY! That probably still won’t save me from a beating though.
THE SHADOW #13 Art by Giovanni Timpano Written by Chris Roberson Coloured by Fabricio Guerra Lettered by Rob Steen The Shadow created by Walter B. Gibson Dynamite, $3.99
Everything in this book is so familiar that the sight of your face in the shaving mirror delivers more surprises. This issue is impressive only in its devout refusal to bring anything new or interesting to bear on the join the dots plot with its transparent mystery, its space wasting reluctance to provide more than one speech bubble in a panel and…oh...look, there’s a three page sequence of a drunk man going home, going upstairs, pouring a drink and being surprised. No. That’s not comics, that’s just horseshit. I’m not even going to scan a picture of the contents as the fewer people who see this then the less damage done to those involved. Honestly, I’m doing them a solid here. Or a salad as they say in Nyawk. So, no offence to any of the people involved here as we all have bills to pay but this was AWFUL!
WONDER WOMAN: #20 Art by Goran Sudzuka & Cliff chiang Written by Brian Azzarello Coloured by Matthew Wilson Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston and H. G. Peter DC Comics, $2.99
This is an atypically action packed issue but all too typically when the dust settles the forward plot motion is infinitesimal if not entirely illusory. With its large cast, stateliest of paces, squandered artistic talent and elevation of chat at the expense of incident it’s hard not to see WW as Azzarello’s attempt to bottle a bit of that drab Bendis magic. Luckily, despite his heroic efforts, Azzarello appears incapable of attaining such low levels of blandery. For starters his characters don’t sound like they are recovering from traumatic blows to the head; trading only in recursive whirlpools of bland doggerel. And every now and again something does happen. So, it’s an improvement but it’s still very far from being good. It still rarely rises above word play on a par with puzzles in the magazines old people in hospital spontaneously secrete in-between visiting times. Also, I think his cast have a problem with the booze. Although as the middle class assure us, if it’s wine it isn't alcoholism.
Wonder Woman by Chiang, Sudzuka & Azzarello
At some point in any given issue the chattering cast will mingle about some tasteful locale sipping drinks and hoovering up nibbles. Thankfully the medium of comics spares the reader the no doubt inevitable soundtrack of Toploader Orion snuck on to smooth things along. The whole thing is like one of those hellish networking soirees for people who do a bit of wee when they think about Powerpoint presentations. Except everybody is cosplaying Sandman and the evening ends abruptly when a big blue catfish in a crown stabs Simon from Accounts in the face. And puns! This issue’s highlight was when War asked, “Where’s my drink? You said you’d get me a Belgian White Beer!” and Wonder Woman replies “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a Hoegaarden!” Face it, Tiger; this book’s so far gone you’re not even sure if that happened. So it’s a fact that the crisp clarity of Goran Sudzuka and Cliff Chiang's art which brings this up to OKAY!
CREEPY #12 Art by Richard Corben, Richard P. Clark, Peter Bagge, Matthew Allison, Julian Totino Tedesco and Steve Ditko Written by Richard Corben, Ron Marz, Dan Braun, Peter Bagge, Matthew Allison, John Arcudi and Archie Goodwin Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot and Peter Bagge Dark Horse Comics, $4.99
There's the usal raggy grab bag of one pagers and spot illos but storywise we have:
Uncle Mangus by Richard Corben
Corben’s on first and Corben’s on form with a frivolous shamble of a shaggy corpse story. Corbenites won’t be disappointed as the shadows drape at strange angles across distorted faces, the undergrowth looks like gathia sticks from Bombay Mix, the borders are jagged when nerves become ragged and the horrific punchline is drawn with slapstick mixed with the ink. Yes, Richard Corben continues to defy Time itself and belligerently refuses to budge from VERY GOOD!
Uncle Mangus by Corben
Fishing by Ron Marz & Richard P. Clark Not entirely rote retelling of one of the usual variations on kids go fishing fear fables. Sorry, but EH!
Local Talent by Matthew Allison Allison's tale nicely conveys the grotty zest of late '70s foreign filmed schlock but would have conveyed it better in less space. Also, I know this charmingly cack cinematic genre was limited by budget but it's not a limitation shared by comic art, so c'mon let's have some backgrounds, son. Good enough for an OKAY!
The Spirit of The Thing by Ditko & Goodwin The Spirit of The Thing by Steve Ditko & Archie Goodwin
It’s Steve Ditko! "He is Dee Aye Tee Kay OH! He is Dee Aye Tee Kay OH! He’s Dee- delightful! Aye – Innovative! Tee- Totally not open to compromise on any point of principle upon which he has formulated an Objectivist stance! Kay – Kind of kooky! OH!- oooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo! He is Dee Aye Tee Kay OH!" In this reprint Archie Goodwin does his usual solid scripting but it’s Ditko’s groovy grey wash German Expressionism that makes this one retain its VERY GOOD! kick lo these many decades after its original printing. It’s also a nice reminder that aficionados of Sturdy Steve should be salivating after the Creepy Presents…Steve Ditko volume that will be dropping imminently. Pre order from your LCS now, they'll appreciate it!
Pack Leader by Julian Totino Tedesco & John Arcudi While Ditko and Corben get to VERY GOOD! on the merits of their art alone Arcudi and Tedesco’s tale reaches the same grade due to the success of their collaboration. This one really gels and even wrong-footed me at the last. That's nice. Arcudi and Tedesco knew what they were after and they went and got it. Nice work, fellas!
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #24 Dark Horse Comics, $7.99
BLACKOUT CHAPTER 1 Story and lettering by Frank Barbiere Art by Micah Kaneshiro Blackout created by Mike Richardson (?)
This one didn't grab me I’m afraid. With its slickly appealing tech sourced graphics and plot predicated on the promise of explanations further down the line it read like the tie-in to some video game I've never heard of. It’s only a few pages though so maybe it’ll pick up and improve from EH!
ALABASTER: BOXCAR TALES CHAPTER 6 Art and lettering by Steve Lieber Story by Caitlin R. Kiernan Coloured by Rachelle Rosenberg Alabaster created by Caitlin R Kiernan
My total indifference to this one is purely a case of it not being my cup of tea rather than any failure on the part of the creative team. I did read it but I couldn't tell you anything about it except it’s in space and usually it isn't. There are some talking animals and a lady, usually with a very broad accent, having magical adventures. Oh, she’s called Dancy Flammarion. Yeah, that’s me gone. I'm no Garth Ennis but fey’s not my thing, I fear. Disregarding my witless bias this is bound to be OKAY! Because Steve Lieber can sure draw nice and Caitlin R Kiernan writes proper books (she should not be confused with Caitlin Moran who doesn't). The most interesting thing was how disproportionately irritated I was by the bit where the team tell us what they were listening to when they created the strip. It was really distracting. I mean was Kiernan really listening to the Sunshine OST? Why? Was it just because it’s the soundtrack to a movie set in space? That’s a stunningly literal approach isn't it? What did she do when it was finished? Start again? Stop writing?
Like a real asshole I find it all a bit disingenuous when creators share stuff like this with us. No one ever says they were listening to Phil Collins or Cher do they? Ever. Yeah, right. Have you seen some of the people who make comics? Seriously. I mean that guy who always does that stupid thing in photos with his face so it looks like a wet thumb sliding down a window is a Foreigner fan and no mistake. Look into your heart, you know it is true. Anyway, this stuff's just the thin end of the wedge, next thing you know they're telling you about their substance abuse problems, how many kids they have or whether they get to put the fairy on top of the Christmas tree. Being an unfeeling automaton it’s just not something I need to know about creators. I mean, does it do any of you any good to know I wrote this while listening to SWANS’ Time is Money (Bastard)? Oh, alright it was Cher. "Do you belieeeeeeeeve!?!"
Bloodhound by Jolley, Kirk & Riggs BLOODHOUND: PLAIN SIGHT CHAPTER 2 Art by Leonard Kirk & Robin Riggs Written by Dan Jolley Coloured by Moose Baumann Lettered by Rob Leigh Bloodhound created by Dan Jolley & Drew Johnson
This is a revival of a defunct DC property which has now been given back to the creators to do with as they will. I believe DC also returned the less than successful Monolith property to its creators recently too. This is really rather sporting of DC and we should probably acknowledge that before reminding ourselves of their treatment of Alan Moore. It appears that the lesson here is that if you create anything successful for DC they will line up and bang you like a shit house door. Meanwhile the creators of Bloodhound have decided to put it in DHP. I liked this series when it first appeared and I still like it despite the pony tail our hero sports. He’s kind of like a government sanctioned Punisher with all his marbles and a beer belly who targets super villains. This is just a short three parter so the mystery tends to be cleared up by the characters approaching each suspect, the suspect immediately breaking down and pointing to the next suspect and then the villain breaking cover to provide a thrilling cliff hanger. Brevity isn’t doing it any favours is what I’m saying. But I still find the premise promising, the characters solid and the art pleasant enough for it to be OKAY!
BRAIN BOY CHAPTER 2 Art by Freddie Williams II Written by Fred Van Lente Coloured by Ego ("The Living Colourist"?) Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot Brain Boy created by Gil Kane & herb Castle
Although it’s not explicitly stated I guess this is an update of Herb Castle and Gil Kane’s 1962 creation for the faster paced and more luridly violent Now. Since Dark Horse published a pricey hardback of these (old and very probably nuts) tales you’d think they might want to draw attention to this. Weird. Anyway, the update is definitely fast and bloody and it’s not without its charms. Chief amongst these are Van Lente’s witty revisionism best exemplified by the call centre riff and the ‘magic cereal' which fools no one. Artwise Williams II has obviously thought long and hard and come to some definite conclusions about how to draw our hero’s nose. I can’t speak with any surety as to the conclusions he’s reached but there’s definitely something going on with Brain Boy’s hooter. Oh, it all bounces along in a lively if not altogether logical fashion, which makes it GOOD!
TREKKER: THE TRAIN TO AVALON BAY CHAPTER 1 Story and art by Ron Randall Coloured by Jeremy Colwell Lettered by Ken Bruzenak Trekker created by Ron Randall
It's super-nice that an old lag like Randall has his own creator owned property. It's less agreeable to report I found the whole future bounty hunting lady with sad past thing a tad too generic for my fussy palate. I am certain there is an audience for this but I adamant I am not amongst their number. I wish Randall well in all his travels but this, for me, was EH!
KING'S ROAD: THE LONG WAY HOME CHAPTER 2 Art by Phil Winslade Written by Peter Hogan Lettering by Steve Dutro
Oooh! It's a high concept! What if the kids from a book very similar to (but. lawyers take note, not the same as) The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe grew up and had kids who didn't know about their adventures and then The Evil Returned and the kids had to take up arms on behalf of their paunchy and totes dull 'dults?!? This. That's what. No doubt Hogan will be exploring the Christian symbols underlying his borrowings with the same rigour and aplomb as his source. Or at least get a movie deal. Just joking! This is a promising (if not a little cheeky) premise and it's made all the more attractive thanks to Winslade's endearingly gangly characters. Although these do inhabit a blurry world of boisterous blooms of colour, the intensity of which suggest Mr. Winslade should pop down the opticians pretty sharpish or at least dial his PC settings down a bit. Maybe I'm getting soft in my dotage but this was OKAY!
CRIME DOES NOT PAY: CITY OF ROSES CHAPTER 5 Art by Patric Reynolds Written by Phil Stanford Colours by Bill Farmer Lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot Crime Does Not Pay: City of RosesCity Of Roses created by Patric Reynolds & Phil Stanford
This is EH! due to the perfunctory writing and the weirdly flaky looking art. It isn't terrible but it isn't terribly exciting either. Everybody thinks crime comics are easy and nearly everyone is wrong. Everyone except David Lapham. Christ, I miss STRAY BULLETS. Why can't Dark Horse Presents find room for new David Lapham genius? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY???? WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!
NEXUS: INTO THE PAST CHAPTER 2 Art by Steve Rude Written by Mike Baron Lettered by Steve Rude Coloured by Glenn Whitmore Nexus created by Steve Rude & Mike Baron
Eventually every open ended continuing narrative strip gets to Jack the Ripper, it's likely that they get to Sherlock Holmes too, but only Nexus would throw in H.G. Wells without overbalancing, without even wobbling in fact. It's Nexus so it's VERY GOOD! In fact I'll tell you this: I'd never read Nexus until it appeared in DHP but once it did I ordered Vol.1 of the Omnibooks pretty darn lickety split. I would imagine there is no higher praise a comic creator can receive than a sale. We'll be coming back to Nexus at some point. Aw, yeah!
HUNTER QUAID: ARMAGEDDON OUT OF HERE Art by Melissa Curtin Written by Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal Coloured by Lauren Affe Lettered by Lauren Affe Hunter Quaid created by Donny Cates & eliot Rahal
I couldn’t get a grip on this one. It’s like something an artist would do to showcase their style but it has a writer, no, two writers? And they are the creators but it's the art that is the stand out feature? I don’t know. I don't get that. It looks nice but, hey, that’s all you need sometimes. It was OKAY! but only because of the artist.
VILLAIN HOUSE CHAPTER 4 By Shannon "Papa" Wheeler
It’s a kind of testament to the durability and depth of the concepts at the heart of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four that half a century later it still provides fertile soil for trees of mirth like this. As mirth trees go this is a sturdy beech indeed. This is some funny stuff right here from the surly insistence of 'Not The Thing' that everything bad is Communist to the laser targeted title of “Invisible Wife” and beyond. The laughs aren't empty either, there’s a sympathetic villain whose world is ruined by a bunch of powered berks getting all up in his business to hilariously disastrous, but not unmoving, effect. I’d hazard a guess this strip is somewhat more refreshing and engaging than yet another modernisation of an old Kirby & Lee classic. ( “Yo, Yo, Yo! Ben Grimm is Totes Sad, Bro! (Ch-Ch-Ch-check out Mi Tumb-LAH!!!)”) Wheelers’ treat of a tummy tickler may not beat the ultimate yukkifier of Don Simpson’ s Yarn Man and “Golly! That crazy gizmo really works!” but it comes closer than most in a very small space. And that’s VERY GOOD!
Christ, I think I sprained something back there. And now I know why people don't review anthologies. I still don't understand why they don't buy em. They're stilll - COMICS!!!