Sunday, November 17, 2013

COMICS READING FOR OCTOBER: “Why the fuck did I buy these?”

* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

*****     Watchmen, Miracleman, V For Vendetta
****      From Hell, Supreme, Swamp Thing, Fashion Beast, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (first two series)
***        Axel Pressbutton, Tom Strong
**         Promethea
*           LoEG: Century: 1969
DUD (or lower) any of his non-comics stuff

1. Sin Titulo (Dark Horse, 2013) ****¾  
Writer/artist: Cameron Stewart
The nice people at Dark Horse send me PDFs and links to where I can download their wonderful graphic novels and comics. In return, I shall plug them on my blog at
2. America’s Got Powers #7 (Image, 2013) *½
Writer: Jonathan Ross/Artists: Bryan Hitch & Paul Neary
Arguably the most disappointing miniseries I’ve read in years. So much promise, so much blah. Thank fuck it’s finished, so I can sell off the series on eBay and get some of my hard-earned coin back. Ross is a terrible writer. Hitch’s art is nice but passe - cinematic comics are dead, motherfucker.
4.-5. Giant-Size Sidekick #5-6 (Comic Heroes, 2013) ***¼
Writers/Artists: various
An always great sampling of new graphic novels and collections. The highlight comes in #6 with a complete reprint of Gorgo #1 (Charlton) from 1961, with art by Steve Ditko. Plus John Byrne’s Star Trek and more. I usually find something in each issue of this free mag worth buying after I’ve read the preview.

6.-8. Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper (IDW, 2010) **½
Writers: Joe & John Lansdale/Artist: Kevin Colden
I remember reading Bloch’s short story when I was a kid and it was both creepy and stupid at the same time. So I bought this adaptation, then didn’t read it for three years. The Lansdales’ story alters Bloch’s original version enough to stretch a one-shot to three overpriced issues. It’s passable But the bigger letdown is the scratchy, underground art by Colden. Where did they find this clown? He’s terrible.
9. Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 (DC, 2010) ***

Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artist: Phil Noto
The “First Wave” pulp noir universe, incorporating the likes of Doc Savage and Batman, should’ve been fun, which is why I really got into buying this series. But DC blew it by weirdly setting it in the present-day (although in this alternate universe, mankind still hasn’t flown to the moon, etc). It’s a 1940s world but with mobile phones and CDs. Weird. That aside, this one-shot/prologue team-up is kinda fun and Noto’s art is exquisite. But you could tell that this new line was doomed from the start. Making Doc Savage a substitute Superman, Batman a rookie and Jim Gordon crooked were bad moves.
10.-15. First Wave #1-6 (DC, 2010-11) **
Writer: Brian Azzarello/Artists: Rags Morales & friends (interior), JG Jones (covers)
Azzarello clearly had major plans for this universe, but he failed to properly explain what it was all about. Clearly, it’s set in the modern-day, but people act and dress like it’s the late 1940s. Government and police corruption is rife, yet masked adventurers are allowed to operate with near impunity. It’s an alternate world crying out for an explanatory article at the back of the comic, but it never comes. Instead, we’re given an over-the-top, convoluted pulpish yarn that doesn’t make sense, featuring villains with bizarre, unfathomable motives. The characters are all underwritten or done “wrong” – The Spirit is reduced to an amoral clown who gets hit a lot, the Blackhawks are villains (or are they heroes?), and other characters bought by DC are given a short shrift. The Spirit’s assistant Ebony (now a female) is last seen digging her own grave at the hands of the Blackhawks for no discernible reason, Commissioner Dolan is corrupt and evil for no apparent reason, Batman doesn’t even make an appearance till issue two and he’s depicted as a fairly unimpressive fighter, Doc Savage’s father dies – or does he? There’s a lot here not to like. In the end, it’s all terribly pointless and boring.
16.-27. Doc Savage #1-12 (DC, 200-11) ½*
Writers/artists: various
If there was ever an example of everything that could go wrong with a licensed comic, then this is it. I bought the first 12 issues of this awful series (it limped on to #17 before being mercifully axed), but I’ve only finally got around to reading it. Clearly, my sixth sense was telling me something three years ago. This updating of the Doc Savage mythology fails on every level. The first four issues is poorly written by supposed modern pulp writer Paul Malmont, positioning Savage and his crew as victims fleeing the US after being framed by a sinister cabal for crimes they didn’t commit. Malmont is a terrible writer, but he’s not helped by Howard Porter, one of the most inept artists ever to be given a major title to work on. Porter’s so shit he can’t even draw hats properly. Seriously, a five-year-old could draw a hat better than this dipstick. Issue five is a standalone yarn set in Greece. Writer B. Clay Moore is better than Malmont, but that’s faint praise. Porter’s art actually gets WORSE in this issue. Doc Savage was floundering by this stage, which is why “First Wave” creator Brian Azzarello came aboard with #6. Co-writing with Ivan Brandon, they craft a promising yarn where Savage and his team (who remain woefully underwritten for the entire 12 issues) are given the opportunity by the US military to be pardoned for their crimes if they go into the Middle East to track down some WMDs and an old friend, long thought dead. As Azzarello has never explained the “First Wave” world to readers, we have to work out for ourselves that much of the Middle East is a fiery atomic wasteland after “the last war”. Anyway, Nic Klein’s art is a vast improvement on Porter’s retarded scribbles (he can draw hats on men’s heads for starters). But the story soon falls apart again and makes little sense by the end of the arc. Savage has also morphed under Azzarello’s writing from a guy who is stronger and smarter than the average person due to decades of rigorous training to a substitute Superman whose capabilities border on the ludicrous. In the end, Savage shows that even death is only a minor inconvenience. Klein’s art becomes more disjointed as the issues progress – action scenes are hard to follow and at other times it’s left to the reader to fill in the gaps on what really happened in a scene. I felt like my head was gonna explode by #12 and it was a blessed relief when I realised I didn’t have to read another fucking issue. This series is definitely not a keeper, even if JG Jones’ covers are beautiful. The first nine issues also have a back-up feature, Justice Inc. (writer: Jason Starr/artist: Scott Hampton). It’s kinda brutal in a Steve Ditko-kinda way, and far more entertaining than the main feature.
28. Area 10 (Vertigo, 2010) ***
Writer: Christos N. Gage/Artist: Chris Samnee
I bought this graphic novel ’cos I was going through a crime noir-buying phase and there were a lot about at this time. Also, I enjoyed Gage’s work on Avengers Academy and I rate Samnee’s art very highly. But this B&W effort falls just short of the mark for me purely ’cos basing a quasi-supernatural yarn on trepanation – the dangerous “science” of drilling of holes in one’s head to receive enlightenment – is stupid. And the ending is very silly.
29.-31. Punx #1-3 (Valiant, 1995-96) **
Writer: Keith Giffen/Artists: Keith Giffen & Claude St Aubin
I got this ’cos it got praised by someone – possibly Comic Heroes mag – as an unheralded work of genius from the mid-90s. Wrong! It’s Keith Giffen doing Ambush Bug for a non-DC company. It’s sarcastic, it spits in the eye of the comic book genre, it’s irreverent, it’s...oh, spare me. I think the only person who believes Giffen is witty is Giffen. As a writer, he’s shit. Punx makes no sense – apparently there was supposed to be a fourth-and-final issue, but the series got axed. But that didn’t stop...
32. Manga Punx (Valiant, 1996) *
Writer: Keith Giffen/Artist: Kevin Lau
You have to read the comic backwards – like real manga. GEDDIT? Oh, for fuck’s sake...
33.-36. Planet Of The Apes: Urchak’s Folly #1-4 (Adventure/Malibu, 1991) **
Writer: Gary Chaloner/Artists: Gary Chaloner, Greg Gates & Dillon Naylor
I got this ’cos it’s drawn by Chaloner, a favourite Australian artist of mine. Sadly, Gary’s no writer and this series is pretty bad. Plus the artwork suffers in the final issue when he heavily relies on Gates to finish the art. Gates is no Chaloner.
37.-48. The Mighty #1-12 (DC, 2009-10) ***¼
Writers: Peter J. Tomasi & Keith Champagne/Artists: Peter Snejbjerg (interior #1-4), Chris Samnee (interior #5-12), Dave Johnson (covers)
It sounded like a cool concept – a faux Superman, Alpha One, with serious delusions of grandeur and a desire to reshape Earth in his image, with himself as dictator – but something got lost along the way. The ending is a giant slugfest that makes no sense except to give Alpha One a weakness that leads to his final defeat. Lovely art by one of my fave artists, Samnee, but I’ll chalk this maxiseries up as a noble failure.
49.-55. Conan The Cimmerian #1-7 (Dark Horse, 2008-09) ****
Writer: Timothy Truman/Artists: Tomás Giorello (main story), Richard Corben (flashbacks), Frank Cho (covers), Joe Kubert (alternate cover #1)
I got this for Corben’s art, obviously. Came for the art, enjoyed the yarn anyway.
56.-58. It! The Terror From Beyond Space #1-3 (IDW, 2010) ***
Writer: Dara Narachi/Artists: Mark Dos Santos (interior), Steve Mannion (cover)
Mannion’s cover art sold me on this miniseries. And I was in a horror comic-buying frame of mind at the time.
59.-62. CBGB #1-4 (BOOM!, 2010) **½
Writers/artists: various
Helen and I only visited CBGB once – when we visited New York in 2005, a few months before it closed. To be honest, I never went in, I told Helen to check it out. When she did, she said there were some scary people sitting inside, so she turned around and went out again. That was our CBGB experience. Boring, huh?
Anyway, when I saw this comic, it sounded fun, so I bought the miniseries.
Reading it now, I find the comic disjointed and very patchy (as all anthologies are). The only story that I particularly liked was the abbreviated-but-passionate bio of CBGB covered in “A NYC Punk Carol” (writer: Kieron Gillen/artist: Marc Ellerby). It’s a shame none of the other short pieces in the four issues approached this first strip for its intensity and explicit love for CBGB and everything it stood for. Another noble failed effort.