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THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (1/18/11 – Nobody Knows the Future)

Not a lot to say this week; not an enormous amount of stuff due out that catches my eye (emphasis on catches my eye, as Marvel alone has over three dozen items readied, not counting posters or variant covers or reprints). Mostly I’ve trained my eye on the above image, a not inconsiderable percentage of the very brief comics career of one Mr. Chris Halls, who would later become known under his familial name of Cunningham as a director of music videos for Aphex Twin, Björk and others, among various video installation, music composition and feature movie pursuits. In severe contrast to these high-profile works, the majority of Cunningham’s output as an artist of comic book interiors comes from a single fill-in episode for the early ’90s Judge Dredd crossover Judgement Day, which was a forum for quite a lot of throbbing painted cartooning that followed the influential example of Simon Bisley. Nonetheless, there’s something rather Bilal-like about what’s displayed here, maybe the product of a relatively untested comics artist wearing his influences on his sleeve for a rare published outing. Cunningham would eventually know more about struggling to be vivid in a hard landscape, as his fx work on the notorious 1995 Judge Dredd movie would bring him some attention and direct him well away from comics.

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PLEASE NOTE: What follows is not a series of capsule reviews but an annotated selection of items listed by Diamond Comic Distributors for release to comic book retailers in North America on the particular Wednesday, or, in the event of a holiday or occurrence necessitating the close of UPS in a manner that would impact deliveries, Thursday, identified in the column title above. Not every listed item will necessarily arrive at every comic book retailer, in that some items may be delayed and ordered quantities will vary. I have in all likelihood not read any of the comics listed below, in that they are not yet released as of the writing of this column, nor will I necessarily read or purchase every item identified; THIS WEEK IN COMICS! reflects only what I find to be potentially interesting.

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SPOTLIGHT PICKS!

Prophet #21: AW YEAH, ROB LIEFELD PROPERTY IN THE SPOTLIGHT PICKS! Despite the advanced numbering, however, this comic marks the beginning of an extensive revising of Liefeld’s line of Extreme creations for Image Comics with some interesting talents, among them Wet Moon creator Ross Campbell as artist for superheroine Glory and Savage Dragon creator Erik Larsen overseeing completion of unused Alan Moore scripting for Supreme, with later work to spring off from that. Still, Prophet might be the spiritual front of the line, both from coming first and from featuring scripts by King City creator Brandon Graham, as fascinating a choice as I can think of for this man-struggling-roughly-through-the-bad-future concept. The interior art is by Simon Roy (the above cover’s by Marian Churchland), whom I recognize as writer/artist of Jan’s Atomic Heart, an effective little sci-fi comic from a few years back. Hopefully this all serves to push some of Image’s more… period-specific titles toward the often lively visual attitudes exhibited by less burdened contemporary series with the publisher. Preview; $2.99.

Steve Canyon Vol. 01: 1947-1948: This is a new IDW edition of vintage newspaper adventure strip material from Milton Caniff, most recently published by Checker in trade paperback format around the mid-’00s. Now we see the full Golden Age of Reprints treatment, chronologically from the start as a 336-page landscape format hardcover shot from the artist’s syndicate proofs. Basically, it’s set to match the publisher’s six volumes of Terry and the Pirates, which Caniff left to start Steve Canyon in the interests of creator ownership; $49.99.

PLUS!

Steed and Mrs. Peel #1 (of 6): Deep cuts from the Grant Morrison catalog here, as Boom! reprints a 1990-92 Eclipse Books/Acme Press miniseries derived from The Avengers (not the one with Hawkeye, that was M*A*S*H). It’s pleasant enough stuff, with a special emphasis on British games of chance as an organizing factor, though Morrison’s voice is probably less evident in the material than usual. Note that the three original Eclipse/Acme issues were a 48-page Prestige Format-y deal, despite being rather evidently structured for a six-unit release; Boom! has presumably bisected the originals along the dotted line to form six plain vanilla unprestigious comic books. Also, be aware that Morrison’s story only runs to four chapters, with the remaining two segments comprising a totally different scenario by writer Anne Caulfield. Art throughout by longtime 2000 AD contributor Ian Gibson, of The Ballad of Halo Jones. Preview; $3.99.

Mazeworld: Speaking of 2000 AD, here’s the newest import item from Rebellion, a 192-page complete collection of a 1996-99 serial from heavy realist artist Arthur Ranson, originally conceived in 1991 for publication in an ill-fated rival anthology, Toxic!, along with Ranson’s similarly displaced mercenary action series Button Man, scripted by John Wagner. The writer here is longtime Judge Dredd and Batman contributor Alan Grant, who formulated the condemned-man-whisked-away-to-a-world-of-likely-maze-related-mystery scenario on Ranson’s request to do a ‘serious’ fantasy comic, later opining that “the story didn’t take off.” (Per ex-2kAD editor David Bishop’s 2009 history Thrill-Power Overload.) Nonetheless, I’m an easy mark for a comprehensive packaging of obscure thrills, particularly one with a title like “Mazeworld.” Samples; $29.99.

Strange Worlds of Science Fiction: The Science Fiction Comics of Wally Wood: A new 208-page collection of vintage Wood from Vanguard Productions, presenting various genre pieces the artist produced in the ’50s for publishers like Avon and Youthful, offered in evident counterpoint to his better-known work at EC. Note that a softcover edition is expected for next month; $39.95.

Twin Spica Vol. 11 (of 12): Your manga pick, 360 pages closing in on the conclusion for Kou Yaginuma’s delicate study of youthful attitudes toward the prospect of space travel. If you’d have told me a couple years ago that Vertical would be polishing off these long series with seeming ease, I’d have probably asked who you are. I only know you on the internet; $13.95.

Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby: Finally, your book-on-comics of… last week, sort of, but since I still feel silly having omitted this 304-page University Press of Mississippi production from the Journal’s Charles Hatfield in my 1/11/12 rundown, know that the publisher will have a hardcover edition available through Diamond this Wednesday. “A critical exploration of cartooning, of superheroes, science fiction, and the technological sublime, Hand of Fire is the first academic monograph in English about Kirby’s work…. it’s a book about why Kirby blew off the top of so many readers’ heads, and why he still does,” sez the official site; $65.00 ($25.00 in softcover).

CONFLICT OF INTEREST RESERVOIR: I remember reading a Bill Griffith strip about Rory Hayes in the ’08 Hayes compilation Where Demented Wented and being really impressed by Griffith’s graphic style, something I’d only really had much exposure to in newspaper strip form via Zippy. Among its 392 pages, Bill Griffith: Lost And Found – Comics 1970-1994 aims to present many various comics, underground and otherwise, along with reflections from the artist and some added Zippy stuff, including an unfinished comics adaptation of Griffith’s screenplay to the never-produced movie of the character; $39.99. Also, Midtown Comics in NYC (at least) appears to be getting Kramers Ergot 8, but Diamond doesn’t have it listed. Stay alert, should you desire.

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11 Responses to THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (1/18/11 – Nobody Knows the Future)

  1. Jeppe Mulich says:

    Chris Halls has an interesting line, which I think rises somewhat above the other 1990s Bisley imitators. If I’m not mistaken, the Judgement Day storyline was collected just last year in volume 17 of The Complete Case Files.

    There really is something inherently appealing in a comic book titled Mazeworld, isn’t there? I’ll certainly be giving it a look based on your brief description and the title alone, so thanks for bringing it to my attention. And I cannot wait to see what Graham and Roy have brewed up with this first new issue of Prophet!

  2. Joe McCulloch says:

    Yeah, Judgement Day is in vol. 17… that’s the most recent printing, I think it had previously come out under the DC/Rebellion deal in the mid-’00s, owing to Garth Ennis’s presence as scriptwriter, though it’s only fleetingly Ennis-like (as was true for most of the Dredd stuff I’ve seen from him for that period, though I haven’t read all of it)…

  3. Smith says:

    Hand on Fire was a great read

  4. ant says:

    Didn’t Cunningham/Halls also do a strip called “Bison” in 2000ad, too? Except this was computer-coloured and drawn in a high-contrastey conflation of, I dunno, Gene Ha and Jock. I’m sure it was him. Could be wrong, though, and since I got rid of 80% of me 2000ad’s I’ve no way to check…..

  5. Joe McCulloch says:

    Not familiar with that one, but the Internet tells me it was drawn by Laurence Campbell (Gene Ha plus Jock is not a bad description) & Lee Townsend… maybe you’re thinking of the co-writer, Chris Dows?

  6. NRH says:

    I hope that, conflict of interest aside, you’ll be discussing the new Kramers somewhat? I liked your comments in the Inkstuds show, even if I thought your interpretation was ultimately more interesting than the book we got…

  7. Joe McCulloch says:

    ***BONUS NEW COMICS WEDNESDAY HIDDEN SECRET FOLLOW-UP COMMENT***

    I liked Prophet #21 pretty good; I think I used exactly these words with Orc Stain a while back, but if more mainline action comics behaved like this I’d probably have a bigger weekly comic book stack. It’ll make a fine companion for RASL in my burgeoning ‘homely, sweaty-looking protagonist dude who can hold his own in a fight’ action comics specialty shortbox.

    Some folks seem to be treating this as a throwback, or maybe a lateral move – I don’t know much at all about the Liefeld concept, but it looks Graham & Roy have jettisoned enough of the series’ baggage to basically turn it into a different comic, a displaced warrior in a sci-fi/fantasy savage land kinda thing. I’ve been seeing lots of Heavy Metal references flying around, which in a way is apropos — I mean, it’s about a dude having sex & violence adventures on a mission to reset a satellite called G.O.D. in orbit around the Earth (I thought a LOT there about Graham’s comments on his mother’s own fiction in his interview here last year) — but it also might be a bit misleading, given what a big tent the old Métal Hurlant-tinged HM used to have. This is the Corbenesque stuff, like a straight-ticket genre riff that resonates from the unique enthusiasm of a particular off-kilter vision tackling some basically off-the-shelf pulp content: wild creatures; weird women; sinister natives; dreams; destiny. That’s fitting for what’s (in the end) a work-for-hire superhero-ish revamp, as the comics mainstream in which the lingering Image founder properties exist is pliable enough to accept these modular alternatives, much in the way that Corben himself works by and large now in front-of-Previews comics. In the ’70s or early ’80s you’d need an unfamiliar forum to distinguish the (mostly visual) texture of those works from ‘proper’ Conan comics, be it a new magazine or small, post-underground or early ‘alternative’ comic books; now there’s less need for such differentiation.

    That doesn’t mean the comic is indistinguishable from any random superhero thing, obviously, though it’s a very different, more traditional thing than any of Graham’s (or even Roy’s) solo comics. There’s certainly not much in the way of visionary, seat-of-your-pants, I’m-gonna-run-with-this-and-too-bad-if-you-don’t-follow Moebius/Druillet stuff that tends to enter my mind when I hear Métal Hurlant; there was kind of a challenge to those comics, which were beautiful and awesome, yes, but also a bit intimidating, at their best, sort of a divine opacity (or maybe aloofness) that spoke to a mystery hidden far behind the adventuresome surface, to say nothing of the very internal, improvisatory project behind the serialization of The Airtight Garage. That’s the kind of thing that does not translate easily to superhero revamping, for reasons of both mass readership taste and business security, and while I can’t know or say what’s in Graham’s & Roy’s hearts or minds, I can affirm that such an aspect is distinctly missing from this learned barbarian romp. As, admittedly, it’s often been missing from Heavy Metal itself.

    Actually, if I was going to be totally frank, it not even nearly as visually/texturally unique as Neverwhere was, although there’s a lot more content out there now, from many more forums, with a flattened, accessible set of tools to use. I think the most Brandon Graham-like moment of the whole thing was the obligatory sex scene between the hero and a random woman, in which the female partner is a slithery snail-like non-humanoid creature that takes what she wants as the warrior goes from surprise to fleeting shame to a pretty blasé wasn’t-so-bad resignation as he chews on the flesh of devolved future humans for a post-coital nosh. The rest of it’s fun world-building suggestion mixed with action/chase routines and a mostly superfluous caption narrative; that last part’s where Graham slips a bit, in that he’s not a very flavorful writer when divorced from character interactions (not enough to evoke the pulpy feel I suspect he’s aiming for), largely resorting to describing quite a lot of what his artist is drawing. Roy does a nice Crumb-like drawing of the hero hunched in the shadows with his pants down his ass after the sex scene, and there’s a mild Vaughn Bodé look to some space-suited people on the last page of the issue, although mainly his look here is less new-classic-underground than reminiscent of Guy Davis, from the lumpen face of the hero to the wriggly creatures skittering around – Richard Ballermann’s colors remind me of Dave Stewart’s B.P.R.D. work, which probably feeds that notion for me.

    Mignola’s a good reference point for this… maybe the best, and not just because he keeps working with Corben; the Hellboy universe is grown from very basic, monster-smashing stuff, but it’s very particular in how it’s been cultivated, so that it least retains that personal texture. It wouldn’t hurt for this comic to evolve in that direction, though Hellboy will always have the advantage of a devoted original creator at its center. Prophet has more of a Liefeld diaspora going, which makes it seem more radical now, but holds the possibility of quick reversion, which remains a work-for-hire revamp’s own special potential.

  8. ant says:

    Thanks! Yeah I probably was thinking of the writer, then…maybe I imagined it but I’m sure I’ve come across some non-Dredd Cunningham stuff in 2000ad.

  9. ant says:

    Mazewold was a pretty enjoyable series with heavy Kabbalist overtones….worth it for the art alone, really.

  10. Basque Breakfast says:

    Prophet #21 is sold-out at 2 different Manhattan comics store locations. Cray-zee… Thank Jah for Kramers Ergot 8 this week. Also, thank Jah for Joe McCulloch! HUZZAH~!

  11. Pingback: Convention Sketches – Part Five « Something for the Weakened

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