A funny thing happened after I read Jeet Heer’s twitter essay on the debt popular culture owes to Jack Kirby: I found myself wanting to get some Kirby in front of my eyes again for the first time in a couple of months.

Remembering The Beast Must Die’s classic (#classic) post on The Demon, I decided to start there and I was impressed by the supremely elegant hackwork I found within:

This might sound dismissive, but it’s not meant to be. Mark Evanier’s introduction frames these stories as an attempt to horror comic on demand – “Carmine [Infantino] wants a comic about a demon? Fine. I’ll give him one. I’ll even call it THE DEMON! - and compared to Kirby’s Fourth World books or his work on The Eternals, there’s a lack of grandiose philosophical ambition coded into this particular eruption of granite-faced monsters and face-splitting energy blasts.

The Demon is a formula book through and through, with Kirby sweating away to recapture (& literalise) the magic of The Hulk: Jason Blood socialises in glorious Gotham city until an occult menace emerges, prompting the titular Demon into action; after spending a few pages getting kicked around by this month’s threat while his friends trail or pine after him in a state of groovy bewilderment, Etrigan will best his opponent through sheer energy and force of will; eventually, Jason Blood returns to his wonderful social life with a slightly more sombre look on his face:

And yet, there’s an admirable thematic consistency to these adventures…

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. Click here to watch me search for love in all the wrong places, like a character in a story with a blunt moral!

Looking Glass Hearts

March 24th, 2011

Being: an index to my recently completed series of posts on stories, mirrors and what happens when you mistake one for the other.

Since I botched the timing of these essays, I thought I’d link to them all in order, just in case anyone felt like humouring me and reading them all as part of the one big story:

Come on, take a dive with me – you might not regret it!

All of that blather aside, I’m pretty happy with this little essay series. It’s properly modular, just like Seven Soldiers wasn’t, but I also think it pays to read the whole thing at once.

Agree/disagree/tl;dr?

Please feel free to let me know in the comments!