SPECIAL “LOVE UND ROMANCE” EDITION

As you’ve probably noticed, it’s Valentines Day, and since we’ve already established that FEELINGS ABOUT COMICS ARE THE ONLY TRUE FEELINGS, I thought that it might be a good time to get a bit soppy about some of the comics I’ve read recently…

It’s been hard to think loving thoughts about comics in the past week or so (because: WA2CHMEN, Gary Friedrich), but I’m a trooper, and I’ve got my good buddy Mister Attack (aka The Boy Fae the Heed, aka The Beast o’the Bar-G) to keep me company, so here it goes!

Winter Solider #1, by Ed Brubker, Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser

Fatale #2, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

It’s a bit awkward to read these two comics back-to-back, and to find yourself preferring the one that’s built on the soiled dreams of Jack Kirby, but it’s also hard to pretend that clean hands make for good art when you’re not a teenage boy.  The first two issues of Brubaker and Phillips’ latest collaboration have proceeded exactly as expected – this is the sort of work (solid, well-crafted, “ugly things in the darkness/worse things in store”) that makes it easy to under-appreciate one of corporate comics’ best partnerships.

It’s perfect pulp, in other words, but at their best these guys can suggest a whole city’s worth of stories in one panel…

…and there’s been nothing in the first couple of issues of Fatale that’s hinted at that sort of imaginative depth. Winter Soldier #1 meanwhile, is absolutely full of potent images. Despite having a truly ugly, gurning cover – despite looking like a superhero book, basically – it’s a sneakily great wee comic, all slick superspy action and unexpected quietness. This panel has caught the attention of a few other commentators

…and rightly so.  Butch Guice’s art here has a softness too it (and not just in the sense that it contains – ugh! – kissing) that couldn’t stand out more in context if it radiated ethical integrity (ooh, burn – take that, comics!). If I was looking to get all thematic on your ass I’d point you in the direction of Clive Barker’s comment that comics aren’t good at making room for love, but I’m not feeling particularly clever today, so instead I’ll  just note that while most individual images will yield lots of strange, abstract patterns if you crop them artfully enough, this image gives itself more readily to this treatment than most:

Look, I don’t want to make too much of a prat of myself this early in the post, but there’s something beautiful about the way that the boundaries between the two characters in this panel seem to have been gently and willingly collapsed, isn’t there?

Yeah… there definitely is.

Action Comics #6, by Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert and John Dell

Marc Singer was  right when he pointed out that Grant Morrison’s mouth and his talent are running in opposite directions in this comic, which leaves me in the awkward and unusual position of hoping that we don’t spend too much time with the “socialist” Superman of the first few issues.

“Sod off socialism” – you might often find yourself thinking this, The Comics Internet, but I don’t think this way, not even when I’m thinking about  Tommy Sheridan, who’s went from representing a socialist party in the Scottish Parliment to publicly arguing about whether the shit on his bedsheets is his or whether it was planted there by Rupert Murdoch during my voting lifetime.* What can I say, I’m not like you, I’ve got all the correct political opinions.**  Still, it seems fair to say that this issue – in which Morrison continues to abandon the  adventures of the young, blue-collar Superman*** in favour of a story where the Legion of Superheroes get their Innerspace on in an attempt to save our hero – was the best one yet, from premise to the execution.

Speaking of which, if it’s strange to catch this Mindless hoping to read about a less politically active Superman then it’s equally strange  to find me cheering for the arrival of a Kubert brother on art duties, but that’s the situation I find myself in here.  Kubert’s enjoyably unremarkable art is a perfect match for the comic itself, but it’s hard to look at this comic and not to think back to the climactic image of a much more beautiful comic, namely, Morrison and Quitely’s All Star Superman:

If that sneaky bit of graphic design seemed hopeful at the time, that was probably because it came at the end if a series that worked hard to shape the initial promise of Siegel & Shuster’s creation seem tangible and new.  The more unsettling connotations of this image were always there in the background with the legal drama Superman’s creators faced, but right now they’re harder to shake. As Carmen the Salsa noted in our comments section the other day, the idea that Superman is “bigger” than his creators doesn’t have to be a romantic notion – indeed, it has a certain overwhelming, corrosive poetry to it. Like Paul Gravett, I’d rather see the spirit of Siegel and Shuster’s version of the character at work in our world, but the machinery that’s built up around the character is so powerful that hoping for half-decent superhero comics seems like the more reasonable unreasonable thought.

Or, to rephrase all of that with an eye to the romance theme, reading Superman comics right now is like getting off with someone who’s just ate a Kit-Kat Chunky. Is kissing still fun when it tastes like dead babies? Probably. Should you feel good about it? Well, that’s pretty much up to you.

*All of which has very little to do with Socialism and a lot to do with what Tommy’s penis has or hasn’t been up to, but hey.

**Obviously, if you find yourself thinking “But I like socialism too Dave!”, then that’s okay, you’re on the right side, I give you an Honorary Orwell Award, I kiss your face, etc.

***This ≠ a story about an actual socialist hero, of course, but it would still have seemed resonant right now, for various (obvious) reasons.

Red Lanterns #6, by Peter Milligan, Ed Benes and friends

If a trick’s worth doing once, it’s worth doing a million times, right? If there’s any lesson we can learn from the past twenty years worth of superhero comics, it’s surely that, so – time to engage the cut-up engine again, this time using the text of Red Lanterns #6 as the source!* Curdle your pilgrimage:

Call him steaming blood, he’s playing with her – you will obey me woman! – how is this explode English literature? The damned black stuff - proud Bleez, Atrocitus – stay away orphan boy! How can this incredible bullets?  Together I am what I’ve become – baBUMbaBUM! – I feel the rage, it all makes perfect sense, the fury inside of me, try to relax, he’s buried here, she has infected them, the blood ocean. I’m sorry man.

Seriously though, this is the best/worst comic I read any week it comes out. Best because it reminds me of Millgan’s classic (#classic) 2000AD strip Bad Company, and partly because of the Blood Ocean; worst because it reeks of Geoff Jeans and looks like a comic by Ed Benes.

DC comics, listen up: if you’re done being total shits for a couple of minutes, how about throwing The Biz some money to draw this bastard?

You’re welcome.

*I won’t even pretend to talk about love & romance while talking about Red Lanterns, because these things have no place in the comic, no matter how many awkwardly “sexy” poses Ed Benes might fit in there.

Red Lanterns is about Blood Oceans, not Frank Ocean. Unless you feel the need to have more disappointment in your life, it’s probably best that you know this coming in. 

Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye – Liars A to D Part 1: How to say goodbye and mean it.
Transformers: Robots In Disguise – The Autonomy Lesson

Mister Attack: OK, so, while we all collectively fret about whether the Furman-scribed Regeneration One series is going to rock us gently to sleep or induce unhappy migraines, let’s take a look at the two new IDW series in their Transformers cannon.

Put simply, you should maybe give More Than Meets The Eye a chance, but be more reserved on checking out Robots In Disguise.

Why?

RID is the drier affair. The plot of this series is about Bumblebee and Prowl trying to hold together a Cybertron that’s in ruins. The Autobots have effectively won, neutering and booby-trapping the ‘Cons to keep them in line, while the planets indigenous population returns from self-exile, less than impressed that the ‘Bots have ruined the place with their war. For this one, you really have to be quite invested in the Transformers and know that you’re going to enjoy a series that has a fair chunk of moral posturing to it.

MTMTE on the other hand is from the guys that brought you Last Stand Of The Wreckers.

Wreckers was a great little series. A crack unit of Autobots raid their own prison that has fallen into Decepticon hands to regain control of a secret that, if they’re lucky, will only cost them their lives. Produced by two fans of the Marvel UK series, it has all the violence and drama one would expect of the early Furman, but instead of the crazy cosmic elements, it instead has a cheeky sense of humour that makes you want to root for it’s cast as you wait to see who’s not going to be around for the finish.

So, here we have Rodimus, Drift and Ultra Magnus rallying anyone who’ll listen to go on a cruise through space. Why do all the fighting to inherit a wasteland populated by people who hate you? Let’s go on a fresh start and see if we can’t find these legendary guys we’ve heard about and see if there’s a chance at a proper happy ending.  Most of this issue sets up the various oddballs who’ve thrown their lot in for this quest and dangling little tidbids to make us want to see where Rodimus and the crew of the Lost Light end up and how bad things are going to get.

If any of the panels on this page amuse you in any way, shape or form, then, seriously give MTMTE a look.  Then go back and grab Wreckers!

All thanks to the TFWiki for images, ‘cos I didn’t managed to get anything scanned.

Illogical Volume: I read these too and struggled to engage with them as earnestly as I wanted to, possibly because my childhood enthusiasm for Transformers comics was so strong that a project like this can never hope to live up to that distant ideal.

Guess we’ll find out when the guy responsible for those old comics, Simon  “Fucking” Furman, has his go, eh? 

Deadpool MAX II #4, by Kyle Baker and David Lapham

The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #1, by Shaky Kane and David Hine

You might think that the above image is just another example of Kyle Baker’s unworried sense of humour, but it’s actually a really concise summery of what both Deadpool MAX and The Bulletproof Coffin are for. These are superhero comics for people who’ve got used to walking in on their loved ones while they’re voiding their bowels, basically, and thank fuck for that.

After all, love is easy until you have to deal with the fact that your partner likes up to dress up like a Rob Liefeld character just to go to the bathroom, and if you can live with that little secret then congratulations, you’re a grown up!

Kyle Baker and Shaky Kane are the two artists in superhero comics least likely to give a fuck about your fragile sense of romance, so it’s fitting that they’re the ones who’re getting to draw long underwear characters out of their long underwear right now. Sometimes quite literally, in Shaky’s case:

Deadpool MAX has never quite lived up to the wanton cruelty of its first three issues, but it’s still fun to watch Baker and Lapham poke fun at TWAT in the Mighty Marvel Manner once a month. It’s punk as fuck, the Deadpool MAX, and I look forward to seeing it as a choice on the Scottish Independence referendum.

The first issue of Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred, meanwhile, is good enough to make me hope that this second series might surpass the first, if only because the mix of pure pulp thrills and crafty meta-commentary seems better integrated this time. The first issue is a basically a warning about the dangers of using comic books as a Wikipedia for life, and while this might come a little bit too late for me, it’s nice to see Kane and Hine trying to scare other readers off before comics have a chance to break their hearts…

 

8 Responses to “Tues Reviews, fuck the winter blues! (featuring Mister Attack)”

  1. Thrills Says:

    That Transformers ‘Wreckers, combine!’ panel made me laugh, like the disgusting dweeb I am. I don’t know if I fancy Transformers comics nowadays, though – I tried them again ages ago with the Simon Furman ‘War within’ ones, and they did nowt for me, and was also sorely tempted to purchase them recently because of this guy’s art: http://ulisesfarinas.com/

    But, I guess they just don’t work for me in the same way that formative-years Time Wars stuff did. Which is fair enough, really.

    And is Red Lanterns ‘Good Milligan’, then? Ed Benes has bascially made it a no-go comic for me, but I love Milligan when he’s ‘on’. Maybe a trade purchase.

    That said, after the first two issues of ‘Action Comics’ (which is sort of good, I guess?), I decided to wait on the trade for that, too, but I might just go back and purchase the hyper-priced shite-looking ‘floppies’, though, as the trade’s not oot until september or something. Ideally, I’d just drop the comic as I’m not really enjoying it, but my actual OCD makes me a completist fuckwit.

  2. Mister Attack Says:

    To be honest, the panel with Red Alert and Swerve wasn’t really what I wanted to use, but I thought it was a decent representation of Roche’s style, which I figured to be a make or break thing. The fandom tends to schism into support for guys who either draw massively overdetailed robots and who can’t grasp basic storyteling, or hyper-cartoonish stuff that has more life to it, but has less chance of being a toy.

    Furman’s IDW stuff is quite off the boil, until it got to that point where he had to cram two planned mini-series into two issues, and the it becomes kinda joyous in it’s total mess. I think the more room he has to work at a regular pace, the drier it becomes.

    I really recommend Last Stand of the Wreckers, if you can get it on the cheap. It might not be the glorious read that something like Legacy of Unicron but it’s… Well, it’s just fun, Y’know? It shies away from the trend towards trying to attach pseudo-philosophical posturing onto the motive of each faction, or the need to logically drive this robots in disguise premise. It’s closer in spirit to the black and white back-up strips from the old UK comic.

    New ish of More Than Meets The Eye came out today, so maybe more on that after I read it.

  3. rob Says:

    ”Red Lanterns is about Blood Oceans, not Frank Ocean”

    gold.

  4. Fletcher Wortmann Says:

    I can’t quite manage a full boycott, but I’m committed to buying used copies of Big Two comics instead of new ones. That might be worth a shot for anyone else out there who can’t quite stomach directly feeding the Disney/Warner Brothers apparatus.

  5. Illogical Volume Says:

    Thrills – Red Lanterns is “pretty good Milligan”, it would probably be “good Milligan” if it had good art, but… I dunno, it almost works.

    Ed Benes’ art *is* rubbish, despite what Gail Simone might want you to think, but it’s shit in a way that works well with Milligan’s attempt to grow strange flowers out of the gore-sodden muck of Geoff Johns-era DC comics.

    His art works as a sort of thematic fertiliser, is what I’m trying to say. How this squares with my previous claim that good art would make the comic better, I’m not sure, but I could probably make it work if I knew a bit more about fertiliser.

    I think waiting for the trade of the (reasonably entertaining/perpetually unsatisfying) Action Comics is probably fair, because those back-up strips are definitely not worth the bloody price of admission.

  6. Thrills Says:

    I know too much about fertiliser, being a farmboy, so I appreciate your metaphor. Yes.

    I like the idea of Milligan writing someone called ‘Atrocitus’ who pukes blood, and I am one of the few people who really enjoyed his X-Men run and Toxin, so I’m all for Milligan superhero stuff. But if the art isn’t as off-putting as I feared, I may well ‘gie it a go’. Cheers!

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