Buddy of mine actually groaned when I showed him this one, I couldn't believe it. Might be a love it or hate it this time around? I'm all about this one. This comic makes me want to start a church. Nate Bulmer, people! Eat More Bikes!
HERE'S SOME OLD STUFF:
Love and Rockets #8
By the Hernandez Brothers
Published by Fantagraphics, 1984
Before the letters get started, Gary Groth writes a little "why I liked this issue" blurb where he singles out the part in "Mechanics" when Rand Race agonizes over whether he's betrayed Maggie by sleeping with a reporter as example, only to mildly chastise himself for singling out a moment and thereby "schematizing" Jaime's work as a whole. It's charming, like the issue itself, to see Groth chiding himself for the crime of having a favorite moment. That aside, there's some truth to Groth's self-recrimination, as this issue doesn't lend itself to being stripped for parts. "Mechanics" gives way to "The Laughing Sun" and then "Isidro's Beach", each story falling across itself in its attempt to get out what it has to say. It takes more effort to stop reading these than it does to stop, fighting to linger on a panel can feel like trying to hold onto sand as the tide goes out--a lost cause, and due to the amount of available sand, a pointless one.
209 is a follow-up to the Harlan Ellison issue, it's also credited as being "from an idea" by the man; 210 is a continuation of some interminable series of stories where Daredevil faced off against a guy named Micah Synn, who, if you need to do a class presentation on the subject, could be cursorily described as "Evil Tarzan." Both issues were drawn by David Mazzucchelli, which gives them a level of notoriety that will evaporate by the time you reach the halfway point of reading them. Mazzucchelli wasn't flashy or experimental enough at this point to do anything but tell the story, and the stories in both of these comics is pretty dismal. Mike Zeck's cover for 210 is worth taking a look at if you're a fan of being seasick, and of course, the sequence above is a delight.
HERE'S SOME NEW STUFF:
Winter Soldier #10
By Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice, Bettie Breitweiser
Published by Marvel Comics
The last issue of this series undercut a completely pleasant ending by revealing that no, everything was not going to be okay because yes, everything was in fact going to go horribly wrong. This issue is stuck a bit in the clean-up position, opening with a few pages depicting the moments of blood-soaked betrayal that had been briefly teased out in the final moments of the previous issue, and then jumping to the "where everybody goes now" that is required to set up the next. Still, it's a return to gaudy, hideous form, as Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser make up for all of the trying-too-hard that infected the last few issues. Nothing else looks like this book, it's closest aesthetic parallel would be if you made Steranko draw a bus window's reflections of Vegas from the inside, with said bus never allowing its rate of speed to achieve predictability, thus ensuring that all the depictions of characters fluctuate in size and completion within each single drawing. It would be surprising if Ed Brubaker had saved his best for last--so far, his work on Captain America still looks to be his best non-Phillips work--but along with Guice, he certainly seems to have decided to let his sense of humor off the leash.
Fantastic Four #610
By Jonathan Hickman, Ryan Stegman, Paul Mounts
Published by Marvel
This is a well put together Fantastic Four story, which means its still a mile or two away from being well written. Most of Hickman's comics are like that, going back to his meathead manifesto, Nightly News, the name-making Image series that re-purposed lines from Chomsky & Herman's Manufacturing Consent so moronically that it makes comics like Channel Zero read like Noël Coward by comparison. (That isn't to say that Nightly News wasn't entertaining--it very much was, but for none of the reasons that it was intended to be.) News had a cursory, unfinished style, and Hickman has continued producing comics the same way--"here's an idea," said over and over again. Superhero comics are actually perfect for that kind of weakness, as nobody expects the guy to explain the dynamic of the Fantastic Four or who they are, it's not even necessary for him to master the way the characters speak. That's the job of the reader, and one they're happy to fulfill. He's not much of a writer, but for the right price, he'd probably make a great Dungeon Master.
Crossed Badlands #13
By David Lapham & Jacen Burrows & DIGIKORE
Published by Avatar
Terrible, terrible comic, but there was a pretty good joke in there where some guy showed up as if he was going to be a big turning point in the plot, but then he just turned out to be a necrophiliac who left two pages later—but that wasn't the joke, the joke was that he's Nice Pete, and if you don't think Nice Pete is funny, even when he's got a different name and is only showing up in a gore comic for a cheap laugh, then well: I'm not even gonna bother addressing what I think of you, because you're not the kind of person who reads the Comics Journal anyway.
Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum
By Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Tonci Zonjic, Dave Stewart
Published by Dark Horse Comics
This one-shot comic ends the same way the movie Point Break does, except Lobster Johnson doesn't wait a year and take a trip to Australia to get his man, he just murders him in the sky and saves on airfare. Tonci Jonjic--who is a lot like Alex Toth, if Alex Toth had quit working with shitty writers--does the same thing he did in the other Lobster Johnson comic, only this time it looks like his line might be a bit thinner. More Tintin than Bravo, maybe. The result is a comic much like its main character--pluggy, successful, confident. He's Lobster Johnson. His job is to protect Americans and kill Nazis, and this is the story of one of the times when he was able to get that job done in short order.
Batman and Robin #0
By Scott Snyder, Peter Tomasi, Pat Gleason, Mick Gray, John Kalisz, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion
Published by DC Comics
These are the only 0 issues I believe I have read; if there are others, they did not make it into my memory, making me unqualified to make a statement on this latest stunt from our friends at DC Comics, or as I like to call them, "That gigantic collection of creeps who make all the shitty comics, that's them right there, right over there, see the guy with his hand down Jonah Weiland's pants? That's them, those are the men who don't treat Amethyst with the respect she deserves." However, I do feel qualified to describe to you what a zero issue of Batman is like, as I read two of them, these two, and both of them were readable--and yes, you've heard this song before, but when the content is unchanging, so is the response: readable DC Comics are few and far between. Both of these comics are gap-filling stories, Tomasi's focusing on what Damian Wayne's life was like up until he first appeared in a Batman comic, a page originally drawn by Andy Kubert that Patrick Gleason sort of recreates in a style that pointlessly reminds everyone that Patrick Gleason wouldn't be anybody's first choice for penciler even if you were restricting yourself to only hiring the people who live in Patrick Gleason's house, while Snyder & Capullo decide to tack on a period of time when Bruce Wayne fought crime with fake noses, underground motorcycles, and failure, all while living in the heart of Gotham's slums. If only he would go and sit in a chair, the comic seems to say, then he could see a bat crash through the window and so on and so forth. But instead he plays with a boomerang, and, if you read that panel above keeping in mind the time elapsed based on what it says on the boomerang, acts like a huge asshole when Jimmy Gordon asks him if he can have a smoke outside. Eleven seconds? Not cool, Bruce.
AND HERE'S SOME ABHAY KHOSLA:
But how are the artists in the comics industry doing, lately? The lowly page-monkeys at the bottom of the comic book pyramid-- they doing okay?
There was an interview with artist Vasilis Lolos where he talked about what happened when the deaths of his mother and best friend negatively affected his productivity: "At the same time I saw a face of the industry that I never suspected. It was a side where I was told things like, 'I have a list of young, talented artists as long as my arm who would crawl through broken glass for the opportunity you — blah-blah-blah.' Not a fun place to be."
Meanwhile, Jason Pearson wrote about coping with suicidal depression by embracing cheesecake art: "Maybe I'm stupid for using cheesecake to answer questions about psychiatry and quantum physics but it gets me through the fucking day." He also noted, "I have avoided any attempts to reconcile with Marvel or DC, who could enhance my financial status because-- it just doesn't feel right. They don't care about me or my journey. And just like a child who has come to realize that his own parents hate him, or a man in a bad relationship with a spiteful woman, I have learned how to say goodbye -- finally without hate or remorse. I hope they find what they find what they are looking for but I won't, I can't continue with that bullshit."
But if you can only read one thing, it's probably because you will soon be dead of crotch rot. For the rest of you, I'd probably suggest this interview with the artist formerly known as Mario Gully, which is... difficult to summarize. But skip to the end: "Long story short the D.A was told by my public defender that I was a comic book creator and it just so happened that the D.A was a comic book fan. I speak the truth. I got a sweet deal and here I am."
In response to this sweet deal on a burglary charge, Gully has changed his name: "So in my mind Mario Gully is dead. I'm a new person. I think different. I talk different and I don't pretend and bite my tongue for nobody. Mario did a ton of that. He wanted to be liked. I feel like I'm now the person I was meant to be. My MIND is free and I feel alive. So I'm now O.M.G! That stands for 'The Original Mario Gully.'"
Best of luck to O.M.G. TYCLO, BMOC, TYCLO.
Finally, the trial of veteran comic artist Brett Ewins has started. Back in January, back when this delightful Year in Comics was just a twinkle in Satan's eye, Ewins, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, allegedly "stabbed a police officer with a kitchen knife after being sprayed with CS spray, hit twice with a truncheon and struck in the head as he resisted arrest."
So, in summary: depression, schizophrenia, suicide, death, stabbings, burglaries, and tear gas. But on the bright side, things could be worse: they could be John Byrne.
(Hi: did you not like the punchline this was all building to? Neither did we! John Byrne is a pile of crap!...not really a cutting edge sentiment. There were other bits that could go there-- "But on the bright side, at least they don't draw like Mark Bagley"-- but that felt a little too mean to Mark Bagley, Sal Larrocca, Tony Daniel, Mike Deodato, Dan Jurgens, and the many, many, many, many other people whose name we tried out there. I may not like their art, but not as much as I dislike violent stabbings (though Sal Larrocca is right on the line). Of course, there's your musty old classic, "But on the bright side, I'm having sex with your mom and dad in really sinister ways that involve lots of bodily fluids being sprayed all over the place." But that's a little too vaudeville-- it's ancient. So. Have a suggestion for what would have been actually funny? Place your suggestion in a Gatorade bottle and then insert the bottle deeply into your ass. Or leave a comment below! Whichever feels right. I'm not here to tell you what to do. I'm not your mom-- I'm just the guy watching your dad urinate on her).