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Pancakes Are Good For Me

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I wonder if that’s what it will really be like? I hope so. Let’s let Abhay be our lighthouse, we can do reviews anytime.

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Dear Diary, I will never forget the last X number of weeks, where X equals however long it’s been since the last time we did this nonsense and didn’t think about how we’re only on this planet for a short amount of time and what are we doing, what the hell are we all doing?

San Diego Comic-Con happened– who can forget all the major comic book news that came out of Comic-Con? What were comics like before that happened? The 2013 Eisner Award winners were announced! Congratulations, winners– your lives have now been irrevocably changed. Who can forget where they were or what the air smelled like when they heard “Dark Horse Presents? Really?” for the first time.

Kevin Maguire, who’s been a star artist for DC since … what, 1987? He was fired off a Justice League comic. “This is what they call a no-brainer!” Keith Giffen said, one whole entire day later, when DC announced Maguire’s replacement, or to put it another way, Holy Shit, what is going on with Keith Giffen? Maguire has described the situation as “very humiliating.” When asked, small children with pants full of poo, their own poo, a strangely noticeable quantity of other people’s poo, have also stated that Maguire’s situation is “very humiliating.” Of course, in that poo joke, I’m not really sure how we’d figure out that some of the poo belongs to “other people”– is that something scientists can test for? I think if you really sit and think about it, the implication of that joke is that I go around defecating into the underwear of small children, and that’s how I know– I know because it’s my own poo. That’s not what I intended or how I wanted that joke to play out, but it’s really the only way to solve the math on that one. I don’t really like where that joke went. I haven’t done this in a while and I am out of shape. This is not going well. This is going very badly.

Speaking of failures, comic book publishers can’t even publish gimmick covers successfully anymore. Which… Good? Bad? I don’t even know what I’m rooting for anymore. Watching DC Comics is like watching Charlie Brown try to kick the football right now, except if there was no one holding a football anywhere in sight, and you were basically just watching a stupid little kid fling himself onto his own head over and over. (And then you do horrible things with your own shit to the little kid…? Is that where this hypothetical is headed, too? We all felt it going in that direction, right? Okay. Okay, I’m a little out of practice, a little flabby, and things may have gotten a little derailed, but… We’re going to get this back on track, youse guys. We can still do this.)

What else happened? Comic creators talked about women and/or featured women in their comics, with the inevitable result that “Comic creators constantly have fucked up attitudes about women” became a thing. Again. Twice over simultaneously, this time, so… again-squared. My favorite part was when the “Hey, let’s focus on positivity instead, you guys” cliche happened this time around because they had to dig pretty, pretty deep. But dig, diggers indeed dug! Guess what? Boom Studios hired themselves a lady, and to draw a comic even! I believe in you now more than ever, Bagger Vance!

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Quick– to the parade ground! We must parade, you and I. Let us throw a parade, you and I, because one whole comic publisher managed to find themselves a lady what can draw! Why, a parade! A parade is what’s called for! Imagine the floats! Imagine the pageantry! Imagine all the small children there, easy victims for the bizarre fecal schemes that I just keep bringing up for no reason. No reason at all! Because I’m carefree! Yaay!

I could just go up there and delete the joke and it’d be like nothing ever happened.

No one would ever know.

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Lone Wolf and Cub Omnibus 2
By Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima
Published by Dark Horse Comics

IMG_1184If I were to pick a primary irritation with The Avengers besides its interminable length, it would be the way that it depicts fight scenes, specifically the fight scenes that take place between non-super powered characters. Consistently, an action sequence is delivered with short, hysterically edited cuts between elbows and fists, interspersed with longer shots of a face turning toward the camera, invariably in an imitation of those classic kung-fu movie moments when a trail of blood is wiped away from the nose with a look of “It’s on now.” The worst offender was the fight that took place between the Black Widow character and Hawkeye. There, the viewer is presented with a nonstop barrage of images, be they heads against pipes or knees against chests, the sound effect an obnoxious mix of grunts and an overblown score. Who’s winning? It’s impossible to tell based off the information you’re given, you just have to wait until the bodies hit the floor. By comparison, Michael Bay’s first Transformers film contains a far more complicated action sequence where a giant robot kills two other giant robots with a sword underneath an overpass, and not once are you ever confused about who’s putting points up on the board. The scene that one would imagine is more simple–two physically fit people with movie combat experience fighting in one specific area–is completely outperformed by a mix of reality and fakery that was composed over the course of months by a thousand computer programmers.

IMG_1185I bring this up for no reason other than to complain. That being said: sometimes it’s hard to tell what is happening in a Goseki Kojima fight scene. I look from panel to panel, only to realize that the large panel on the top right of the page continues over to the top left of the next, or I experience those strange hiccups that eject me out of the book and into the question of what flipping a manga does to the composition of a page, what the little blips and blurbles of fill-in images does to the symphony that Kojima’s lifework is performing. But more than that–because honestly, those are just hiccups–sometimes it’s just hard to tell what’s happening when you stop to marvel, and stopping to marvel is something that Kojima will make you want to do. The little shattered teacup mouths with their jagged howls, the cherubic circles of cheek that bloom when Daigoro’s pride in his father swells, the sickled fingers and hands that seem to stagger, to quiver, as they claw toward the heavy battle sword that has just amputated them–the layout is a turn-on, of course, the layout and lifework will always inspire those who care to draw, but for those of us with only reading on the brain, it is where Ogami’s blisters pop that paint our memories. I want to cringe: fuck construction.

IMG_1186The problem is his skill, and that’s why rereading Lone Wolf can hurt it a bit. That first hot blush, the impassioned immersion into Koike’s narrative–are-they-gonna-make-it keeps you moving so quickly through the pages that Kojima’s battle panels cascade, they play as quickly as they would in reality, with Ogami’s hateful perfection annihilating everything that approaches. It’s not a case of that old comics intellectual saw, the philistine who only cares about the words, but the case of the reader meeting the work on its terms, and Kojima’s terms are those of ultimate speed: Ogami Itto is the best that there has ever been, the best there will ever be, and his work of revenge will be honored at the proper rate. It’s intoxicating because it’s supposed to be, its death-dealing can’t be mistaken for delirium because that’s exactly what it is. This isn’t Texas rap. You don’t get to slow it down, because when you do, it will leave you behind. And it should–because you’re never supposed to look at that last panel of Lone Wolf and Cub, you’re supposed to be chasing an ever-present next, plunging forward to find that place where you first got in.

Battling Boy
By Paul Pope
Published by First Second

IMG_1189How you feel about Paul Pope’s Vision Quest In Manga-opolis for A Young Thor is going to come down to how much you like Paul Pope comics, as Battling Boy isn’t about to change your opinion of him one bit. He would have to put something of himself on the page for that to be an option.

Kick-Ass 3 #2
By Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.
Published by Icon 

IMG_1192Although it’s difficult to take most Mark Millar criticism seriously, as it so often comes from those who would be incapable of praising quality satirical megaviolence even if were to leak from the pens of the milk-eyed and sweatshirt adorned, it is actually far more difficult to defend Kick-Ass, a comic that distinguishes itself only in how skillfully it manages to produce lowest common denominator entertainment that’s entirely lacking in any of the entertainment one expects from those sorts of things. If I had ever been able to make it through that Criminal Minds NCIS spin-off featuring LL Cool J, I feel confident that it would carry themselves with the same dysfunctional poise. Kick-Ass has the same problem as the Jupiter’s Legacy comic: it’s not any good, which means all it is is bad. Your legions are ready to apologize for you, dingus. But it’s up to you to get on fucking base.

Prophet #38
By Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis, Bayard Baudoin, Joseph Bergin III
Published by Image Comics

IMG_1190The most consistently impressive aspect of Prophet single issues that isn’t related to the art is the way each chapter can be understood in the most basic of terms. Everything else about the comics narrative can be experimental, cute, tricky, whatever you want to call it, but all that improvisation and design comes from an initial place of mechanical sensibility. What’s this issue about? It’s the one where our dueling protagonists sit on their sides of the fray and prepare themselves for the coming conflict. It’s prep time, the minutes when you boil up some household chemicals and make your own plastique, where you sight a rifle, or practice your judo. It’s the moment when the team looks off at the horizon and think about accepting death. It’s a smart way to do this kind of entertainment, and the surety of the form (or the reliability of cliche, if that’s your particular take) leaves the rest of the playing field completely wide open for the visuals of the comic. The bloodless facts n’ noir narration leave the choice of tone in the hands of the colorist, who can marry his decisions to open compositions (many of which spread across both pages) that will tell you how “this part” feels before you even recognize what you’re looking at. In the course of human events, it becomes necessary at times to remind oneself that there’s an extremely good comic coming out, no matter how often its success gets glossed over in the rush to mention something no one else has talked about yet. Prophet is still that thing.

Optic Nerve #13
By Adrian Tomine
Published by Drawn & Quarterly 

IMG_1195For example: the previous issue of Optic Nerve wasn’t Tomine’s debut as a humor cartoonist, but it did serve as a sterling reminder to many (well, me, at least) of how funny he can be, making issue 13 feel like a victory lap, albeit one taken two years later. Returning to the Charles Schulz-gone-Harkham style that made 2011’s “Hortisculpture” such a charming story despite its lead being such an uncharming man, Optic Nerve 13’s majority is devoted to the love story of a couple of damaged people who meet in group therapy. That story, “Go Owls”, is almost routine in its excellence, and I’ll leave it up to my betters to discuss it in more detail–what I’ll be taking away from this issue is A) the stupid perfection of Tomine’s depiction of a mustached art supply clerk in a v-neck sweater who can’t help but recommend that Tomine abandon paper for a Cintiq tablet (I recommended this issue to a freelance superhero artist, and after reading those panels, he immediately said that he knew exactly what kind of paper Tomine was talking about, and he knew “that fucking Cintiq guy” as well) and B) how rare it is for a cartoonist to use sincerity to such a degree. There’s an interview with Chris Ware and Gary Groth where the two of them bemoan the popularity of sincerity in comics, and while all of their complaints are right on, that abundance of drivel makes the more successful attempts more welcome when they arrive. “Translated from the Japanese’ is a quiet sidewinder that closes the issue, telling the story of a mother and child on a trip to see an estranged father through a series of frozen illustrations and fat blocks of perfectly lettered text. The influence of Tomine’s work for the New Yorker is keenly felt, with each panel landing with the clean, heavy confidence of an illustrator who understands how to make the eye want what you’re showing it without feeling led. The basic plot could have been stolen from a thousand and one Raymond Carver imitations, but here, with these images, it’s maddeningly personal, a story that feels stolen from its unseen narrator for the purposes of our illicit pleasure. It feels like the work of a spy. It’s my favorite thing by him I’ve ever read.


21 Responses to Pancakes Are Good For Me

  1. The series “Prophet” and “X-Men: Legacy” (the current, Si Spurrier written one) give me hope for mainstream comics. Then I look at all the other X-Men comics I just quit reading out of sheer boredom, the new works by Mark Millar, and DC doing these B.S. three-dimensional covers and lose hope all over again.

  2. Mike Walker says:

    I guess you could have seen other people pooing into the small children’s pants, but this just raises other troubling questions. Why didn’t you stop the individual (or individuals) from pooing in the children’s pants? And why did you ask these children about Keith Giffen’s newsarama interview? Why was this the right time to ask them about Maguire’s situation when they obviously were dealing with their own problems? Kids have it pretty rough sometimes.

  3. Ryan Watkins says:

    “IT IS A NCIS SPINOFF!”exclaimed the sad little man.

  4. Frank Santoro says:

    I met someone who worked at First back in the 80s when they were publishing Lone Wolf and Cub. He said they had to flip the art to read left to right – but that many panels had to be flipped back because of the specific way samurai’s wear their swords.

  5. Ian Harker says:

    Where’s my Kamui-Den omnibus muh-fuckas?!!

  6. mateor says:

    I have never really gotten into the legacy/remuneration beefs. I don’t care about Before Watchmen or the Kirby heirs, for instance. (yeah, yeah I know).That Kevin Maguire situation is a really shoddy way to treat a person. I would certainly hesitate to sign a contract with DC, of any nature.

    I don’t necessarily expect huge corporations to “do right” by the employees of yesteryear, no matter the talent. “Before my time”, the money might say. However, today’s political environment is trending towards a player’s league, DC should attempt to establish some goodwill in the face of a future CBA.

  7. Kevin Maguire is now one of those “employees of yesteryear.” Why should DC do right by him?

  8. Nicole Rudick says:

    Agreed about Optic Nerve 13. “Go Owls” is the most tightly written and affecting story he’s done so far. I thought so immediately on finishing it. His stories are typically subtle, but this one seems especially perceptive. I think you’re right, too, about the influence of his New Yorker work on “Translated from the Japanese.” Great observation.

  9. Elwood says:

    “He would have to put something of himself on the page for that to be an option.”

    Care to elaborate on this one?

  10. i realized the mistake while sitting in a traffic jam and I felt legitimately disgusted with myself. i should probably fix it, but your comment makes me feel like it was worth it after all. by our next meeting, i will find an episode of this show, which apparently also stars Chris O’Donnell, and i will watch the pants off of it.

  11. michael L says:

    yeah wheres kamui-den

  12. Bpp says:

    Spurrier is writing a great comic there, primarily because he isn’t writing an Xmen comic at all. Much like he isn’t writing a Crossed comic either.

  13. Patrick says:

    Anyone know where I can find a good summary of the supporters and detractors of Mark Millar? My guess is I’ll be one of the latter, but I’d like to read some of the former too.

  14. Nate A. says:

    Do you mean supporters of Millar’s ideas or of his writing?
    A lot of folks will defend his work as a writer (listen to the “Comic Books Are Burning Hell” podcast on “Jupiter’s Legacy;” one of the boys makes a case for his work there).
    I don’t know of anybody who has gotten behind his persona.

  15. You basically said it perfectly, friend.

  16. Even I’ve said some of his work is actually good (Ultimates was pretty snazzy until it really petered out in the end), but I struggle to think of anyone who defends Mark Millar’s actually thoughts and attitudes on a variety of subjects. The closest I can get to people defending him is how some retailers really like him for being more pro-print than digital.

  17. Lightning Lord says:

    It was Matt Seneca, wasn’t it?

  18. Nate says:

    Yeah, but I should add that he was making a case for his ability to tell a good superhero story in a particular style… It was hardly unqualified praise, and at no point did he proclaim sympathy for Millar’s views.

  19. AFR says:

    I may be drunk in Kansas, but that poo stuff cracked me up. Having said that I appreciate the insight on the impossible task of translating comics. Also, I always felt that Millar nailed the power fantasies inherent in superhero comics without ever bothering to stop and think about what he was actually writing, which starts to explain the duality of opinions about his work.

  20. Pedro Bouça says:
  21. Pingback: Cele mai bune benzi desenate din 2013 - part I | Geek Network

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