20 April 2006

Comics Roundup 4/21 (CS)

So i'm gonna try to cover as much of the past two or three weeks of my comics buying as I can being that I've been out of action for a while now. You might wanna wear a hardhat....*

Man Is By Nature A Political Animal

You know what? Let me just get this out of the way right now. Fuck you, Judd Winnick. The latest Green Arrow was friggen terrible. The first several pages were bloated with what was basically Judd Winnick's politics (gay marriage, Katrina/FEMA, etc). We've heard it all before from 1,000 other people miles more qualified. The dialogue was formulaic to the point of being unbelievable and I just realized... Winnick never resolved whatever the hell happened to Mia buried under all that rubble before all this OYL stuff started up. So how does one reconcile that with the fact that she's running around with the Titans in the pages of infinite Crisis and The Battle of Bloodhaven. Plus, this was the second issue in a row where the "big surprise" on the final page is already shown to us ON THE COVER before the story even begins. Argh. And listen... If I wanted to read about a mayor/super-hero, then I'd be better served picking up an issue of Ex-Machina.

Speaking of which, the first part (of two) of the Ex-Machina special came out this past Wednesday. It was a step away from Mayor Hundred as mayor and showed one of his adventures as The Great Machine. Good stuff. I'll let my personal nerd out of the closet to ask, which would you choose, Hundred's ability to talk to/control machines or Pherson's ability to talk to/control animals??
Of course, if you're interested in seeing what Brian K. Vaughan has to say about politics in his comics, you can just check out his neato torpedo interview at Chud.

And as long as I'm touching upon politics within comics, I'd like to address the most recent issue of The Comics Journal. They had an interesting write up on "The New Patriotism" in comicbooks, dealing with the war in Iraq and our Global War on Terrorism (bleugh to that phrase). They touch upon the comics Freedom Three and Cobb, both of them being aggressive in attitude to the point that some might even call jingoistic. The comparison is made to comics that came out during World War II (and of course Captain America is mentioned since Freedom Three's first cover is an homage to Cap's first cover, substituting Osama Bin Laden for Hitler). It's a decent article but it makes it seem like this is the only type of comicbook dealing with the war. I assumed a follow up article in the next issue, and there is one. But that next article will deal with a study at Smith college that found "during times of violence, unrest, or economic stress, superhero comics in the U.S. consistently engage in a kind of circle-the-wagons response involving themes of patriotic aggression and support for authoritarian structures." This is ridiculous. I don't know what comics the people at The Comics Journal or Smith College are reading. I find that in most comicbooks, if you read behind the lines, you will find an incredible amount of criticism against America's aggressive actions abroad. A recent opinion article in the London Free Press pointed out several examples of this and I can think of several more off the top of my head, including Captain America's New Deal story arch, which was the first major arch to follow the events of 9/11. Either TCJ and Smith College think that superhero comics don't deserve that much of a discerning eye to find this sort of criticism or they are suffering from the academic disease of "finding what you want to find, and that's all."

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Aint it the way of the world that just when things were getting good, things fall apart?
Swamp Thing gets better with every issue. Plus, they've had Eric Powell doing absolutely incredible covers. Figures though that just when things were getting warmed up, they would drop it on us that Issue #29 will be the conclusion of the series. I'll be looking forward to a revival (it's gotta come eventually, right? ...right?!?!) I mean, c'mon, DC can have one of their new heroes endorsing Pontiac, but they can't keep around the swamp god defender of the environment??

Art, n. This word has no definition

Comics are always battling to be taken seriously. The Comics Journal does a decent job of portraying comic books as serious art and literature. Fantagraphics has published a fair amount of comic book criticism as well and recently I saw their The Sandman Papers on the shelf. It contains interesting literary and artistic criticism of The Sandman and I'd recommend any big fan of Gaiman's master-series to give it a glance. One essay in particular dealing with Gaiman's (and Alan Moore's) continuation of the Gothic tradition of literature made me realize that these guys had a huge hand in saving comic books from stagnation. Also, it got me thinking about writers/artists that are continuing on that tradition today within comics. Of course, the first to spring to mind is Mike Mignola with Hellboy and B.P.R.D. The B.P.R.D series has really taken off to the point of being Hellboy's equal and the arch that just concluded I think proved (if it still needed proving) that Mignola can be more Lovecraftian than Lovecraft and still be fresh and fun to read. I'm really looking forward to the next arch, The Universal Machine (it just sounds cool).

My Heart Leapt Up When I Beheld....

New issues of Shaolin Cowboy and The Goon!!!

Shaolin Cowboy definitely wins the prize for coolest cover, looking like a beat up pulp, letting you grab crazy snippets of whatever wild story lays beneath. Of course, those pulp pages and whatever the contain can't be half as crazy as what unfolds within the pages of this issue. Geoff Darrow's talent for incredible detail combined with incredible scope can be classified only as absurd. Since the Cowboy is roaming the dessert (and he's already killed everyone else in the dessert in the previous issues) you'd think that there wasn't much else for Darrow to draw. That is, until he makes a massive lizard beast rise from the ground with an entire city on its back and swallow the Cowboy so he must adventure on its insides filled with its own eco-system of birds, sharks, brokedown cars, and corpses. I'd also like to say that the stock that this book is printed on smells fantastic. That's right, the book itself smells great.

Those of you not creeped out enough by my "this book smells great" comment to run away are probably appreciators of the Goon too. This issue was chock full of punching, machine guns, zombie monster children born of tumors, and the incontinent elderly. Imagine all that brought to you by the art of Eric Powell. Magnificent, isn't it? What little dialogue there is to this issue is mostly devoted to Powell's sick humor as the characters make wisecracks about yellow snow or wearing a zombie as a hat (Zombie Priest made a funny!). Still, without any nasty expository dialogue to get in the way, Powell sets up the throw down to come between Goon and the Zombie Priest... especially now that those tumor babies burned down the ol' watering hole. Yeh, that would piss me off something fierce. Plus, there's a nice little homage/parody of Hitchcock's The Birds to start the issue off which had me smiling.

*Bonus points to whoever can identify where my bold headings come from...


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