Saturday, September 6, 2014

COMICS READING FOR AUGUST: “Who guards the Guardians?”


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

HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE ALAN MOORE SCALE
*****     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. Guardians Of The Galaxy #0.1 (Marvel, 2013) ***¾
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artists: Steve McNiven & John Dell
2. Guardians Of The Galaxy: Tomorrow’s Avengers #1 (Marvel, 2013) ***½
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artists: various
3.-15. Guardians Of The Galaxy #1-13 (Marvel, 2013-14) ***
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artists: Steve McNiven & friends
After seeing 20 minutes of the GotG movie in 3D – and in anticipation of seeing the full movie in late August – I went back and reread the first seven issues of the “Marvel Now!” relaunch (which I first read last year) and then all the other GotG comics I’ve been religiously buying each month but not reading...till now.
And I have to say that while I liked 0.1 and Tomorrow’s Avengers, the main series has left a sour taste in my mouth.
The problem is that Marvel has positioned GotG as one of its major titles – along with Avengers, X-Men, etc. While this is cool and means they’re taking the series seriously (we probably could have guessed that by them getting Bendis on board as the writer), it also leads to the same problem the other main titles have. Which is...whenever there’s a major crossover event (of which there are seemingly 2-3 a year now), these titles get sucked into them. If you don’t buy every issue connected with the crossover event in question, then you don’t understand what the frig is going on. This is what’s happening when I read all these GotG issues back to back.
After a solid seven-issue start introducing the Guardians, new members Iron Man (what a blatant attempt to get the series off to a flying start, but that’s another story) and the universally displaced Angela (of Neil Gaiman and Spawn fame), we cop two issues of the Infinity crossover (#8-9), then parts one, four and six of “The Trial Of Jean Grey” (#11-13). As I didn’t get Infinity and I don’t read X-Men, much of this run makes no sense. Overall, I have a feeling of frustration reading GotG. How the hell will they collect these issues into a coherent run of TPBs? Ack – great art by a range of artists and fun dialogue from Bendis isn’t enough to salvage this series. So...why am I still buying it?
16.-19. Guardians Of The Galaxy #14-17 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artists: Nick Bradshaw, Michael Oeming & Walden Wong
Finally, this series hits its stride due to the fact it isn’t being kicked about by stupid crossover events. This is a solid four-issue arc where the Guardians are all individually captured and put on trial for their “crimes”. How they escape and come to each other’s aid is rollicking old-fashioned sci-fi fun, kinda like the movie. Which is why I rate this arc so highly and hope that it augurs well for the future.
20.-21. Guardians Of The Galaxy: Galaxy’s Most Wanted (Marvel, 2014) ***
- back-up originally published in Thor #314 (Marvel, 1981)
Writer: Will Corona Pilgrim/Artist: Andrea Di Vito (main story)
Writer: Doug Moench/Artists: Keith Pollard, Dan Green & Pablo Marcos (Thor)
A fluffy tale of Rocket Raccoon and Groot being loveable rogues kicks off this one-shot. It’s okay but forgettable. The back-up yarn is an early appearance of Drax and it’s godawful. Like DUD awful. Marvel in the 80s was really shit.
22. 100th Anniversary Special: Guardians Of The Galaxy #1 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writers: Andy Lanning & Ron Marz/Artists: Gustavo Duarte (interior); David Lopez (cover)
I didn’t follow the rest of this unique miniseries, but I thought the GotG one-shot was a hoot. I loved the fact that Rocket had morphed into a Donald Duck-type character with three nephews (ala Huey, Dewey and Louie). Maybe Marvel and Disney are trying to create further synergy here.
23.-24. Rocket Raccoon #1-2 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer/artist: Scottie Young
25.-26. Legendary Starlord #1-2 (Marvel, 2014) ****
Writer: Sam Humphries/Artists: Paco Medina & Juan Vlasco
Finally, someone is doing these GotG characters REAL justice. Both these series are lotsa fun. Starlord has a step-sister and she’s a bad-ass alien? Rocket has a bunch of jilted exes who want to kill him dead (and an evil doppelganger)? This stuff is seriously awesome!
27.-29. Star-Lord: Worlds On The Brink (Marvel, 2014) **
- originally published in Marvel Preview #14-15, Marvel Super Special #10 (Marvel, 1978-79)
Writers: Chris Claremont, Doug Moench/Artists: Carmine Infantino & Bob Wiacek, Gene Colan & Tom Palmer (interior), Steve McNiven (cover)
30.-33. Star-Lord: Tears For Heaven (Marvel, 2014) **
- originally published in Marvel Preview #18, Marvel Spotlight #6-7, Marvel Premiere #61 (Marvel, 1979-81)
Writer: Doug Moench/Artists: Bill Sienkiewicz, Tom Sutton & Bob McLeod (interior), Sara Pichelli (cover)
Starlord is a way cooler character nowadays. He was so shit in the 70s.
34.-35. Silver Surfer #4-5 (Marvel, 2014) ***½
Writers: Dan Slott/Artist: Michael Allred
Guest-starring 2014’s version of Wolverine...the Guardians Of The Galaxy. And The Defenders! Is this the end of the series? It certainly feels like it.

BY THE WAY, THE MOVIE WAS FANTASTIC!

36. Neverwhere #1 (Vertigo, 2005) ****
Writers: Neil Gaiman (novel) & Mike Carey (adaptation)/Artist: Glenn Fabry
The comics adaptation of Gaiman’s critical and commercial hit novel gets off to a cracking start. An easy read and Fabry’s art is delightful. I’m definitely buying the rest of this.
37. Snowpiercer Vol. 1 (Titan, 1984, 2014) ***½
Writer: Jacques Lob/Artist: Jean-Marc Rochette
What inspired the movie. Pretty good, but I don’t need to read Vol. 2.
38. The Originals (Vertigo, 2004) ***½
Writer/artist: Dave Gibbons
Was this really published 10 years ago? My, how time flies. I liked this retro/future remake of Quadrophenia. Great art, snappy fashions, kinda pedestrian storyline. Then again, Gibbons is an artist, not a writer. Still, I don’t know why he set essentially a 60s tale in the far future? It felt unnecessary.


39.The Multiversity #1 (DC, 2014) ***
Writer: Grant Morrison/Artist: Ivan Reis
Listen to my podcast about this comic HERE.

40. The Fade-out #1 (Image, 2014) ****
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips
More gritty, noir action from Mr Ed. Lovely stuff. Looking forward to the next instalment...also, it inspires me to get off my arse and read the rest of Fatale.
41. A1 #4 (Epic, 1992) **
Writers/artists: various
How could a comic featuring the talent of Dave McKean, Peter Milligan, Jamie Hewlett and Roger Langridge be so.....ordinary?
42. Kafka: The Executiion (Fantagraphics, 1989) ***¾
Writer/artist: Leopoldo Durañona
I remember reading a few of these dark adaptations of Franz Kafka’s work in Heavy Metal (or was it Epic Magazine?). Anyway, this one-shot collects a bunch of them and they’re all fucking disturbing.
43. Starlight #5 (Image, 2014) ****
Writer: Mark Millar/Artist: Goran Parlov
It only takes five minutes to read, but this comic is a rollicking, old-fashioned, swashbuckling sci-fi comic. It’s lots of fun.
44. The Sundowners #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) ***¾
Writer: Tim Seeley/Artists: Jim Terry (interior), Chris Brunner & Rico Renzi (cover)
A quirky start to this series about a superhero self-help group. Are these people delusional whackjobs or real superheroes caught in the middle of a bizarre conspiracy. I’m leaning towards the latter.


45. Blade #2 (Buccaneer, 1989) *
Writer: Seab Mercer/Artists: Tony Harris, Eamon Glennon & Chris Renfroe (interior); Craig Hamilton, Tony Harris & Michael Pierce (cover)
An unpleasant, confusing Faust rip-off, featuring homophobic writing by Mercer. I guess he can be forgiven somewhat as he was only a dumb schoolkid at the time. It's hard to believe that Harris went on to be THE great Tony Harris of Starman fame.
46. Dream Police #4 (Image, 2014) ***½
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Sid Kotian
47. Guardians Of The Galaxy #18 (Marvel, 2014) ***
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Ed McGuinness & Mark Farmer
48.-50. Two-Step #1-3 (WildStorm, 2003-04) ***
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artists: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
A throwaway miniseries that takes SEVEN months to reach the third issue? What the fuck, Warren Ellis?
51.-53. Reload #1-3 (WildStorm, 2003) ***
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artists: Paul Gulacy & Jimmy Palmiotti
Gulacy is overrated.
54.-56. Anna Mercury 2 #1-3 (Avatar, 2009) ***½
Writer: Warren Ellis/Artist: Facundo Percio
Goddamn you, Ellis. Where’s the rest of this bloody series?

57. EasMeets West #1 (Innovation, 1990) -*****
Writer: Paul Ppower/Artist: Paul Ppower, Nestor Redondo & friends
The worst comic ever. Ever. Ppower is an Aussie artist and noted movie storyboard artist (Top Gun, Predator, etc), but this comic is a fucking mess. Confusing plotting, bad layouts, dull writing, "heroic" characters with few redeeming qualities, muddy-as-shit colouring. Just so amateurishly bad on so many levels, especially as it came from a "professional" company. The fact that true talents like Redondo, Dave Rocketeer Stevens lent their assistance to this abortion of a series makes it even sadder.
58.-63. Justice League Beyond: Konstriction (DC, 2013) ***¾
- originally published in Justice League Beyond Digital Chapters #1-16 (DC, 2012)
Writers/artists: Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen/Additional art: Eric Nguyen, James Brouwer, Ben Caldwell
It seems the DC series I enjoy most are the ones set in the future and removed (or mostly removed) from current New 52 continuity. I enjoy Justice League 3000 and I’m finally getting into the Batman from Batman Beyond (who has a personality similar to Marvel’s Spider-Man) in DC’s animated universe, now that he’s a featured player in Future’s End. Picking up this trade was a no-brainer as it has Batman and a bunch of JL characters (or their children, protégés, etc). It’s set in the near future but whether it’s in the “real” DC universe or the animated one, I couldn’t say. Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot.


64. Heartland(Vertigo, 1997) ***½
Writer: Garth Ennis/Artist: Steve Dillon
On the back of Preacher’s success, Ennis could write anything for DC and it would get published, it seems. This slow-moving tale of love, family, selective childhood memories and betrayal in Belfast in 1994 is kinda self-indulgent, but entertaining all the same.
65. Dalgoda #1 (Fantagraphics, 1984) **¾
Writer: Jan Strnad/Artist: Dennis Fujtake
Two things strike me about this shaggy dog tale about canine aliens interacting with a paranoid, aggressive mankind: 1. Jan Strnad is not a very good writer, AND 2. $2.25 was a fucking helluva lot to pay for a comic in 1984.

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