When I reviewed the Shadow Annual a few days ago, I talked a little bit about the use of cliché in the story, and how lazy it felt. So, I’m going to expand a little bit on my thoughts on how a stereotypical story doesn’t necessarily mean a bad comic. So, in that vein, I’m going to compare the first volume (Coward) of Criminal, the Ed Brubaker/Sean Phillips collaboration with the Shadow Annual by Tom Sniegoski/Dennis Calero. Obviously, spoilers for both.
I have been in London, so here are some comics I picked up there. Feel free to tell me why I’m stupid for liking something or for disliking AvX (You’d be wrong, but you’re welcome to your opinion)
Harbinger #3, Joshua Dysart, Khari Evans:
“We’re an army in training for a corporation?”
I’ve been dubious on whether or not this comic could make a turnaround from an event in the first two issues when the protagonist uses his mental powers to force a girl to fall in love with him and then has sex with her, a plot point that made the book hard to read, and harder to recommend. Still, I figured I’d give Joshua Dysart a few issues to show his hand, seeing as his run on the Unknown Soldier was one of my favorite comic runs, and I’m glad that I did. Instead of using the really gross action as a quick way to motivate Peter to advance the plot, it’s becoming clear that Dysart is actually making an extraordinarily broken “hero”, of whom nearly every other character in the book looks at with disdain or fear, an opinion echoed by the reader. At this point in time, Peter should be a disgusting individual, and even when we get some back-story to elicit sympathy, it’s immediately halted by Peter being a dick to people. I’m fascinated to see where this can lead, and whether Dysart will actually give him a positive character arc or failed redemption. Past the story part of it, the art by Khari Evans isn’t quite to my liking; he or she does a fair job at concise storytelling, but the art just isn’t quite at a level as to be a draw on its own.
SPACE JAM OF THE WEEK
Archer and Armstrong #1 Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry:
“Noooooo—I wanna ride dinosaurs like they did in Caveman times”
This right here is my jam. Fred Van Lente and Clayton Henry (of the Incredible Hercules, one of the best comedic action comics ever) reuniting for a story about an immortal, who might as well be “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski and the naïve assassin that’s been charged to kill him, teaming up and fighting people for alien technology. First issues are always tough to pull off, but Van Lente and Henry do a great job, setting up the story, introducing the characters, and having more than a few fun action set-pieces. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this comic when they fall into groove. Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel like the art’s a bit lacking, and I’m wondering if it’s the coloring. There’s a whole lot of grays and blacks in this comic, and Henry’s work on Incredible Hercules showed that a wider color palette looks just as professional.
Atmospherics, Warren Ellis, Ken Meyer Jr.:
“You’re a junkie that gets homicidal urges on heroin.”
So, this is basically a story that Warren Ellis wrote after he saw a documentary on cow mutilation and watched the X-Files for a while. It’s so short and one-note, it’s almost a waste to give any sort of plot summary to it. Of the other mostly half-baked Ellis Graphic Novellas, I’d say it’s not the worst, but why would you waste time reading a comic that’s really just not the worst?
Batman: International Written by Alan Grant and Mark Waid, drawn by Frank Quitely, Diego Olmos, and Arthur Ranson:
“Mr. Wayne, viewers want to know: what’s under your kilt?”
Frank Quitely has a two-parter in here about Batman in Scotland, written by Alan Grant, and it’s really interesting to see Quitely’s work when he’s not written by Morrison. I’m so used to their collaborations at this point that I found myself checking backgrounds and tiny details out of the habit that they would play into the story later, despite this being just a rather straightforward “Batman solves crime in a new place” story. Once I stopped that, I realized something about Quitely that I somehow hadn’t noticed before: He rarely uses speed lines or ghosting to communicate action; instead, he chooses the exact moment of time and body language of a character to imply the preceding and proceeding actions. And yes, I realize that’s the object of cartooning, and probably something that everyone knows about Quitely, but it was something I’d never realized since I was always distracted with trying to figure out Morrison’s writing. Anyway, the story’s fine, and it’s worth reading just to see how Quitely can elevate just about any comic script, which will probably be put to the test (hyperlink Millar’s comic). The other two stories are a neat Mark Waid story that isn’t jaw-dropping, but has a neat tweak on the character of Killer Croc, that if given the time and inclination, I think some writers could do some interesting things with, and an Alan Grant story that is a mediocre tale of Batman’s mystic training coming back to haunt him in the present day. This trade’s bargain bin at best, but if you can get a nice price, I doubt you’ll regret buying it.
“Rape-looking zombie bastard”
AvX #10 Ed Brubaker, Adam Kubert
“Is that a dragon?”
Why is this comic still going? UGGGGGHHHH, I hate it, I hate it so much. Every character is stupid and poorly written, and it’s not even about Avengers fighting X-Men anymore. It is seriously about Avengers (which includes pretty much all the X-Men at this point) fighting two crazy mutants with god-like power, one of whom is killing people and making others bow to her. How is this even a good plot twist? How is this worth the paper that it’s printed on? How will it end? Answers in order: It’s not, it’s not, and I don’t give a shit.
This week, when it was announced that celebrated scribe Ed Brubaker would be penning the silver screen adaptation of his critically acclaimed crime fiction series, cleverly titled CRIMINAL, fans rejoiced. Why wouldn’t they? Brubaker is one of the biggest and most successful comic book writers in recent memory not named Brian Michael Bendis and CRIMINAL, though blandly named, is a reliably brilliant addition to any shelf it sits on. This is the man who killed Captain America, brought Bucky back to life, saved Matt Murdock from getting raped in prison by Stilt Man and brought the semi-relevant ¾ of one of the eight X-Men teams back from space. His work deserves to reach the widest audience possible.
There was, however, a time before Ed Brubaker was a household name. Before he took a ride- along through Gotham and hypothesized how a Steven Bochco Batman TV show might look, Brubaker pitched a tent in Metropolis, and that tent was named BIBBO.
In late 1994, just before Brubaker and Eric Shanower’s criminally underrated PREZ reboot (PREZ: SMELLS LIKE TEEN PRESIDENT), Vertigo editor Karen Berger accidentally left an issue of Dark Horse Presents in the passenger seat of Jerry Ordway’s car after a lunch meeting. Brubaker & Shanower’s serialized tale “An Accidental Death” lay therein, sparking Ordway’s long dormant twentysomething urge to tell a darker crime story and his current, burning passion to one-up Frank Miller’s SIN CITY. DC commissioned the newcomer to pen a 4-part miniseries starring the legendary SHAZAM penciller’s co-creation, Bo “Bibbo” Bibbowski.
Bibbo had long been portrayed as Superman’s punch drunk, cranially challenged erstwhile pal. In professional wrestling vernacular, if Lois Lane was The Man of Steel’s Miss Elizabeth, then Bibbo was his Brutus Beefcake; a loyal, meaty, if less than mentally available compatriot. Brubaker set out to poise Bibbo as a classical noir protagonist, a tough and determined brute beset upon by dishonest dames, labrynthian plot dynamics, and painfully opaque exposition delivered through terse, double entendre laden dialogue. It was an exciting effort.
The story began with a lowly drug dealer on the run from Intergang enforcers seeking sanctuary in Bibbo’s bar, the Ace O’Clubs, which for whatever reason, was drawn to look exactly like Hell’s Kitchen dive bar Josie’s from DAREDEVIL. The dealer is killed by Livewire, moonlighting as a contract killer for Intergang, at the end of the first issue, leading Bibbo to solve the mystery of why the thug was on the run with the help of the girlfriend he left behind. Clever appearances from Bibbo’s scientist brother, Professor Bibbowski, Morgan Edge and mild mannered reporter Clark Kent were worked into the twisty tale’s house of wet playing cards narrative structure. Every chapter break was telegraphed by Bibbo being punched in the face before fading to black and a smirking “to be continued…” tag promised even more noir theatrics the following month.
After the third issue hit the stands and Frank Miller took serious (potentially litigius) offense to Ordway drawing Bibbo to look more and more like SIN CITY’s Marv, DC pulled the plug on the miniseries, choosing to conclude the dark tale in a Dan Jurgens written and drawn eight page back-up story in an Action Comics annual. Brubaker’s proposed grisly ending was written to feature Maxima and Knockout as a pair of lesbian femme fatales murdering members of Intergang after a double cross using only their hilariously thick thighs, where Jurgens’ new ending had the Guardian team up with an updated version of he Newsboy Legion to get to the bottom of the mystery using a simple combination of fisticuffs and journalistic integrity.
Needless to say, Brubaker found his tastes better suited to the darker adventures of the Caped Crusader and the rest was history.