It's just Nate Bulmer and I holding it down this week: I feel the same way as that poor goose. It's a short one this week, but hey, at least that's because it's mostly good news. Let's get moving, efficiency expert style.
The Infinite Wait and Other Stories
By Julia Wertz
Published by Koyama Press
Julia Wertz is funny, and after reading The Infinite Wait, I'm not surprised to see that she's fucking smart, too. Having not read anything by her before, my initial takeaway from reading this book was the confidence with which she delivers a laugh, the way a conversation between her characters falls into such a perfect rhythm that the panels speed by, layering line after line upon one another, leaving just enough room to breathe in between them before another hit lands. From a clinical standpoint, it feels like a hybrid between transcription (which is obviously isn't, but the sense remains) and a great stage play, seamlessly leaping between the delivery of performative dialog and a more internal alchemy. Flipping to a page at random, a line can seem leaden and unclear--why was this funny, again?--but all it takes is tracing to the next one for the parts to become whole once again. As a cartoonist, Wertz will probably eternally live in that place where her own self-deprecation and blunt, pseudo-simple style keep her from receiving the credit she's due; at the same time, it's obvious that she's never going to care about getting a back rub from Art Spiegelman anyway. She's tough, this one, and while at times she may pretend not to know it, the pages that result are all the evidence the reader needs to prove her wrong.
The Punisher: Barbarian With A Gun
By Chuck Dixon, John Buscema, Tom Palmer, Klaus Janson, Art Nichols, Kevin Tinsley
Published by Marvel, 1994
I'd love to know the story behind this little gem, or at least, what John Buscema thought about it. He seems to have enjoyed drawing at least some of what turns out to be a particularly nasty story about the time the Punisher went to the Caribbean with the intent of murdering a bad guy and instead ended up having to rely on the help of an old 'Nam buddy just to get home alive when the whole island descends into a blood soaked revolution. This story was originally serialized in Punisher War Zone, the third ongoing title for the character, who spent a good portion of the '90s succeeding in a financially enthusiastic fashion. Dixon's issues of War Zone are some of the few Punisher comics that Garth Ennis--responsible for Punisher Max, the closest thing to a "definitive" take that the character has ever received---praises, and while Barbarian With A Gun stands a bit apart from the group commonly referred to as "the good ones," it's still a compelling piece of stupidity, ably overdrawn and zealously macho in the very best way those things can be. You can not like this, sure. You just have to have to try really hard.
A VS X: Consequences #3
By Kieron Gillen, Scot Eaton, Andrew Hennessy, Jim Charalampidis
Published by Marvel Comics
I haven't read the first two issues of this because ... well, why would I? Kieron Gillen is a nice guy, Scot Eaton probably isn't spending his time staring at the Cookie Monster and rubbing himself, and who wants to see those guys struggle through an assignment that's probably higher on their respective bucket lists than watching their parents get murdered but still lower than taking a long dump on an airplane? And yet: who could pass up that cover! Iron Man is on his knees, and you can tell he's totally crying inside his Iron Man mask, and he's doing it in front of the one flower left standing—was that the only flower he could save? Or did that flower survive on its own? Better yet: is that a flower he planted, as a way to start anew, a fresh start flower he planted with his Iron Man hands? I had to know.
Unfortunately, this comic does not pay off that cover in any form or fashion. Instead, it focuses on showing Cyclops as he fights with that gigantic tattooed guy who shows up in every super-hero-in-jail comics, and then it does little one-to-two page check-ins with the various Marvel characters who were involved in the AVX storyline. FOOLED AGAIN.
By Osamu Tezuka
Published by Kickstarter/DMP, 2012
The sort of read that makes you want to travel back in time just to slap yourself in face for not realizing that you were overusing the phrase "all over the place" to describe things that really weren't all that strange, and would therefore find the phrase one limp dick of a description when applied to this, Barbara, the comic where Tezuka decided that getting serious meant getting seriously pervy. As opposed to, you know, what maybe I might have said myself a couple of weeks back, this isn't bad: it's just really weird, the sort of weird that allows for some violent divergences in explaining what-it-all-means, because the gap between what happens on the page and what Tezuka might have wanted to happen on the page is vast, and that doesn't happen that often when you're reading basically anything else he's done that's currently available in English. Oh yeah, you want to know the plot, but when you hear that it's about a writer who finds an alcoholic sexpot and remedies her homelessness by dragging her home, you're probably gonna fill in a bunch of gaps with all the wrong guesses. Take it from somebody with zero interest in doing any research and yet who feels confident in making claims nonetheless, because birthday cake: this is one of the weirdest Tezuka comics English readers will ever come across, if they come across it at all. Which they won't, because its already unavailable.
Incredible Hulk #15
By Jason Aaron, Jefte Palo, Frank Martin
Published by Marvel
This is the last issue of writer Jason Aaron's run on the Hulk character, in a title launched sometime last year with '90s Image Comics heartthrob Marc Silvestri, who graciously allowed every available inker working in contemporary superhero comics a chance to
draw "finish" his work for him. And while Silvestri was gone almost as quickly as he arrived, returning to wherever it is he goes when he's biding his time so as to maximize the back-again enjoyment for his aging fanbase, the comic continued on as if nothing had changed, because nothing had, unless you count the sales numbers, which had rightfully plummeted upon the departure of the one thing people actually cared about. Thankfully, a whole bunch of Marvel comics happened to be in the same sinking boat, and so the Hulk has been thrown into the laundry basket that is Marvel Now, and the comic will soon be relaunched under the supervision of Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu, a match-up born in the blistering flames of availability and financial need.
In a twist of fate that will surprise exactly no one, Aaron's final issue of Incredible Hulk wasn't very good. Oh sure, it was better than that Gray Morrow article that Christopher Irving wrote for this website, but that's only because everything was better than that article, even things Matt Seneca writes or smokes or tries to have sex with, and at the end of the day, Mr. Aaron should set his sights higher than merely being better than the snide remarks that Tim Hodler makes about Noah Berlatsky [Ed.: Why you...], because Aaron is getting paid a princely sum, whereas the rest of the people involved in this long, brilliant sentence receive, at most, overstock copies of Dalgoda that smell like whatever Gary Groth was eating back in 1982. ('Cause he sat on them like a chair.) The problem with this Hulk comic isn't a new one, in fact, its one that's so cliched it almost hurts to bring up: the story of how the Hulk needs Banner and how Banner needs the Hulk. It's not dissimilar to one of those Kirby FF stories where Ben Grimm discovers that he must always be the Thing, with the primary difference being that Kirby was able to square that circle in a few panels of the story and manage to get some pathos and see a baby born on the same page, whereas Aaron spent 15 issues having the two characters whine "'Fraid not" and "'Fraid so," with occasional breaks where side characters wheezed out jokes about panda bears in wheelbarrows or how Bigfoot is referred to as "Squatchy." It's the embarrassing sort of humor you expect from a Methodist youth minister trying to conceal his diabolic self-loathing, and while one can't totally fault Aaron for trying to make the best out of a shit situation, it would be a lot easier to play along if his jokes were actually funny. Aaron's run on Ghost Rider won't be replacing Watchmen and Maus as a go-to thesis topic anytime soon, but it certainly stands in as proof that Aaron can, in fact, do this sort of writing well--just not recently, it seems. Thankfully, his next project is Thor, and if there's one thing that always works in Thor, it's being a human being that isn't named Walt Simonson. Best of luck!