So, to the business of this weeks comics. One-word summary at the end.

I had a read of X-Men:Divided We Stand in the shoppy because $4 or, I think, £3 – as my shop’s monopoly-mark-up is rather steep – for really 8 pages of Matt Fraction and Jamie McKelvie, just about recognisable buried under the high-rez colouration, doing a story on Scalphunter (did you know he’s a clone, or like an Nth Gen. clone? I did not know that,) Nightcrawler and Christian charity. It was pretty good for free though, I have to say, and I’m kind of looking forward to Fraction splitting duties on Uncanny X-Men with Brubaker, who’s suddenly got good at writing the comic now he doesn’t have to piss about with no-marks like Havok and Warpath. I say “kind of” because I have pretty strong reservations about Greg ‘Sports Illustrated’ Land. Reservations like “what if someone sees me carrying this?”, which are only natural, but Greg Land is an enhancile of that sort of thing. There’s some Skottie Young art in the book, too, and he’s a really interesting stylist who gets up traditionalist’s noses immensely but it looked kind of a winsome, or other antonym of ‘awesome’, story he’d penned for himself, so I didn’t dwell on it. Dear.

Given the ennui that suffused my viewing of the new stuff – which did not include items such as RASL (which… I thought that came out a while ago? If it did, it wasn’t there then, and it wasn’t today. I’d be more adventurous maybe if these things were available to browse, probably) – I picked up the OMAC: Countdown Special. Countdown has been, I’m told, execrable. Perusing the first issue it seemed self-evident that it was heading down shitey lane, so that’s fairly unsurprising. These things are always tempting though, because they all have Ryan Sook doing a ‘lusher than Adam Hughes, almost even James Jean power level’ cover for a start. The contents, well, I can’t say with any certainty I’ll get round to ever reading the Starlin middle-section, it looks so made-of-boring that… look, I cannot believe someone thought it was a good idea to change the eyes and mouths of the Global Peace Agents from zig-zags. That is a phenomenally upsetting image from the Kirby #1 reprinted at the book’s opening; one of many, what with the Build-a-Friend and workplace bullying. What occurs, reading it, apart from how much better it is than the entirety of DC’s output for at least the last five years (excluding two or three Seven Soldiers issues, maybe), is how like Valis the integral concept is. The cover scan seems to have been upgraded for publication, but if you click the pic, I’m sure the right hue of pink emerges. The GPAs are not dissimilar to the scanner-suits from A Scanner Darkly, either. But it pre-dates both. I bathe in that sort of guff, really. Guffy suds, mm. The main impulsion to read it was actually Bobsy’s(?) extremely high recommendation of the last story, a Wein/Perez joint from ’83, where OMAC battles Superman. Apart from the neat, white-suited mystery ending, I couldn’t say I agreed with the contention it was the best Superman story before All-Star #10, really. Superman, I think, without the direct involvement of Kirby, Moore or Morrison is like a vacuum for fun, investment and interest – Dan Jurgens being, as always, the high-power setting – and this did little to dispel the notion. Distressing.

Captain America #37 opens the third year of Brubaker’s consistently excellent run on the book. As amypoodle mentioned recently there isn’t much done here, or anywhere at Marvel, that pushes the formal envelope very far. Flicking through, Steve Epting – who’s been, barring last month’s cover débâcle, nothing short of a brilliant action penciller and delivered one eye-popping frame, or splash, per issue – does actually switch up the grid a great deal, playing with 3,4,5 horizontal panels, using the classic 6 for TV news, moving about the 8. It seems more than normal and I’d be interested to put this side-by-side with Phillips on the last Criminal because I think it’s employing similar tricks. But, yeah, the ambition is evidently to deliver a thickly-plotted, cliffhanger-heavy, espionage thriller; something it does with pretty much utterly unparalleled, panache (I use words of French origin in tribute to the VE scene at the opening). So well, in fact, that Brubaker’s craft is almost invisible, unforced – plot-points are not dinged loudly. Though with this month’s shock! ending! there are a couple unresolved mysteries I immediately turned to, primarily involving whatever Arnim Zola (whose bright, primary look – slight criticism but must be said – has been utterly ruined by over-rendered colouring) has been up to for the last year. It’s an exciting, surprising and engaging read pretty much from inception, this series, and “solid” always seems like damning with faint praise, so… Adamantine.

War is Hell: the First Flight of the Phantom Eagle # 2 is a little bit of a disappointment, though it is the second Garth Ennis comic in a fortnight to have lovers begirded by a pink heart on the cover. I’ve not read The Boys for a while, but I imagine it probably involved menstrual blood? Grown-up comix! This is, comparatively boringly, a commerical transaction in which the john is unaware that it is such. At the end. There’s a blow-job, which you don’t even get to see, which I had thought was surely the point of MAX comics? And then the guy is dead cheerful, like Arseface that time. Don’t even recall any swearing, just a thicker cover which will be $1 extra, plz! Is it water-resistant? It’s a bit of a disappointment this, I can’t even remember which character is the Phantom Eagle – I think he’s the john? Everyone looks quite similar except some of them have moustaches or different hair colour. I think one guy had freckles, and his features were puggishly centred in a smaller radius atop that trademark jutting Chaykin chin. Maybe he was the Phantom Eagle? He seemed pretty cool, cooler than the other guy. There’s some WWI trumpery in barracks. It’s a bit like lots of Garth Ennis comics, but without the better bits. Punisher is still magnificent, bleak, black poetry – I dunno. Carded.

Speaking of comics that are a lot like Garth Ennis comics, which aha! I have arranged my week’s reviews specifically to make this segue, we have Ghost Rider #22. This is the third issue by quite-exciting breakout talent, Jason Aaron, and best so far by miles because it escapes it’s extraordinarily Preacher-like plot (Ghost Rider wants to get to Heaven to kill an angel that gave him his ghost-rider-powers) and locale (which, in fairness, is also the writer’s locale) with flaming bike-stunts, something Preacher was not o’erblessed with. There’s one near the end, and Roland Boschi (after seeing his excellent concept-sketches which melded the aforementioned Young and a more Euro aesthetic, like a lot of these Croat guys; Zezelj, Kordey, even Scalped‘s Guera – I hope they’re all Croatian, uh, former Yugoslavian maybe?) has been kind of a rudimentary disappointment but he just sells the dead-soul gasoline afterburn in this sequence. Additional to the heavy, heavy Ennis-influence there’s some Grindhouse cinema, pinches of Russ Meyer. An interesting blend, if not one I’d immediately turn to for a pick-up. It’s delivered quite goofily, with a sense of the concept’s essential ludicrousness (the character wields a scythe on the cover and within, you know?). This issue – which was supposed to be called ‘Deathrace on Ghost Cannibal Highway’ instead of ‘Hell-bent and Heaven bound, Part Three’ – is not without an amount of Southern charm. Self-deprecating.

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10 Responses to “Head on fyaah: comics. week. this.”

  1. bobsy Says:

    No no – I meant that the Superman /Kamandi story which was I think reprinted in the Kamandi special the other week is my favourite Supemran story. Although, it doesn’t actually have Superman in it (I was being very clever, very cool, very a wanker.) It’s an early, possibly the first, excavation – literally – of the Superman mythology, recontextualising the big blue S-Dawg (what?)as a Greek hero-figure or something. A real tearjerker for the internal fanboy who wants to go around rending his chest and wailng with love for Superman, but has few opportunities to do so.

  2. bobsy Says:

    Oh, and re: Fraction/Brubaker – so they’re leaving Iron Fist already? I know you have big mad love for the character, but that run was blown bad by the second arc – it should have been the perfect comics riposte to Street Fighter II, which the superhero genre has been in sore need of for some years, but got bogged down in its boring plot, and wasted months pissing on about Iron Fist’s dad, who I JUST DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT. If they’d gone for another fifty issues then we might have been able to forget how much this tournament story didn’t deliver, but to run after less than like twenty issues…

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  4. Botswana Beast Says:

    Yeah, they’re leaving Iron Fist in true Claremont/Byrne heritage style (the CC/JB stuff is actually a real high point for both) with #16; I think you’re right about Fraction being, or becoming rather, entirely too pleased with himself, and Brubaker has said in interviews that he’d essentially removed himself from any role on the book other than consultant, writing a couple pages here and there, iirc; it’s a shame, really, I think he turns out to have been the fulcrum from which the wilder imaginings could be well struck at – the Orson special and the last ish seemed particularly rudderless to me. The dad stuff, though, is the long-running, emotionally tangled mystery and more an EB hallmark than his counterpart’s.

    It could have been something really special, there was a magic kung fu equilibrium from about #4-#9 (excepting the IF of the past ish, which was again rather self-hugging, and the first three issues were more Brubaker very slooow build,) and now it’s a curio. Aja’s having a kid too, and he’s been less and less evident which also hurts it.

    Re: Kamandi – ah. I expect I’ll get that if it’s still kicking about, I absolutely LOVE these Sook covers alone; it did seem a bit of a mystery why you’d endorse such a boring story but then I recalled your bewildering love of Roy Thomas Avengers… I thought, oh, Len Wein, it’ll prolly be decent.

  5. Garrett Martin Says:

    It’s hard to review Captain America from month to month, because every issue is so consistently good, but also so similar to every other issue. Pretty much everything you’ve said about #37 is on the mark, by the way.

  6. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    Thanks, Garrett – yeah, Brubaker for me is an ideal Batman or various Marvel books scribe; not particularly showy or overtly thematised on an issue-by-issue basis… it is hard to not sound offhand discussing him, using phrases like ‘meat and potatoes’ or whatever – it’s REALLY GOOD meat and potatoes? I wish I’d the patience to wait for the trades, really.

  7. Matthew Perpetua Says:

    I fully reject the notion that Ed Brubaker is even a little bit good at writing the X-Men. He is wonderful on Captain America and Daredevil, don’t get me wrong. But his X-Men is dull and uninspired, and he has no idea how to write Scott and Emma, the current lead characters! In three issues, he has entirely ignored the past seven years of development for both characters, and just opted to write them as bland superhero types. Soooooo laaaaaaaame.

  8. Qthgrq Says:

    Having very little invested in the X-Men, and as someone who only picks up the odd issue, I don’t feel particularly qualified to comment. Compared with X-Factor, though, the little I have read does feel lifeless.

    What say you to X-Factor, Matt?

  9. Bots'wana Beast Says:

    I’ll be impressed with Peter David the day he manages to write an entire comic consisting of Star Trek references: that day is not far off, I feel!

    Interesting that you cite DD as ‘wonderful’, Flux; the first arc is probably the best ever ever Daredevil story and everything since seems a little – or extremely – muted to me. I’ve possibly been reading the comic too long, almost seven years straight.

    X-Men, hmm, it was actually the first post-Messiah Complex issue won me over with it’s portrayal of Scott and Emma – not upping the pervoscope as Whedon did quite yet, if ever – but there was some extrapolation on, I think, Scott’s secondary mutation and their relationship: the stuff… the conversation with Shanna(the She-Devil) seemed to indicate consolidation, stability. Maybe I admire the aims more than the portrayal? his Nightcrawler, certainly, and I’m embarrassingly invested in the X-Men, is the only one I’ve found remotely acceptable since (well, Rucka’s cameos were okay) Claremont, really. Maybe Elliscalibur?

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