Sometimes I enter a fugue state at the comic shop. I’ll be searching through longboxes of dollar books and suddenly get what a doctor assures me is called “a wild hair up one’s ass” and suddenly want to buy every single issue of Marvel Comics G.I Joe I can find, or piece together the “Fatal Attractions” story arc in single issues so I can get THE FULL STORY of how Master of Magnet took out Claw Man’s metal bones. Usually I’ll have what Samuel L. Jackson says that alcoholics refer to as “a moment of clarity” and realize, “oh shit, they don’t have issue #3 of The OMAC Project“ or “you are holding FIFTY DOLLARS worth of toy advertisements” and instantly put back everything in with all the emotion a mother dog might display while disregarding pups that are not her own.
I guess the moral of the story is that we were born to consume and there’s a reason casinos don’t have windows or clocks.
(grant morrison, frazier irving, legendary)
I like that the studio that made a bunch of serious movies for nerds also occasionally takes the time to publish special interest pop comics like the tenth best graphic novel of 2011 and, just recently, slipped in a new Grant Morrison comic that got completely overshadowed by his years-in-the-making Multiversity project.
One can hardly blame a reader dismissing a comic published by a movie studio, but look — I’ve read Dinosaurs vs. Aliens and Happy! so please trust me when I say Annhiliator is actually a pretty slick, impressive comic. All you need to hear is that it’s NOT about a hitman, and it’s illustrated by Frazier Irving, whose generally painterly art starts to go full Sienkiewicz at times.
On paper it sounds like everything you’ve ever heard of before — a down-on-his-luck, drug-fueled screenwriter who starts living in a haunted house to better inspire himself for his latest project, a sci-fi horror movie. I think Neil Gaiman probably wrote some short stories like that. The ones that aren’t about little girls, obviously. I guess it’s like The Fisher King meets Change or something. You like movies, right? But the approach is more in common with The Mystery Play than some of Moz’s cynical attempts at glorified screenplays. So far it feels like it was made to be a comic, which is all I ask of comics by people I like.
Ignatz award-winning mini about a girl who has had plastic surgery but has to visit her disapproving parents is steeped in “selfie culture.” That alone will put off some of the fogies but the meat of the comic is about identity — who we are, how we create our own identity, and how that clashes with what people thought we were and how our parents used to look at us. My dad tells me I was really smart as a child and my mom says I used to be a happy kid.
Sakugawa’s got an impressive knack for transitions, using silent close-up panels to capture minor objects in the scene to suggest the passage of time — a cup of coffee, an OPEN sign on a storefront, even just a widescreen panel of clouds in the sky. There’s also a really amazing sequence where you basically scroll down the girl’s Instagram feed to see her recovery from surgery in reverse, from beautiful new face to bloody bandage wraps to “the last selfie you will see of me before I go into surgery.”
She also transliterates background details as opposed to just transcribing the mundane — there’s a salon where tiny mice creatures paint nails that show the cartoonist trying to keep the visuals amusing. I’m tempted to compare it to the animator Sally Cruikshank in terms of how the extra details create a fun world where there’s more to enjoy than just the foregrounded characters.
ORIGINAL SIN #0-8
(jason aaron, mike deodato, marvel)
As stalkers of mine know, I love me some superhero event comics, and whenever there’s a hot new crossover, I do this thing where I buy the main series and ignore the tie-in books because even mark-ass tricks like me have their limits. This sometimes works out okay enough (Forever Evil) and sometimes results in a comic book that makes no goddamn sense (Infinity). Original Sin, which cost me at least $36 dollars to read in single issue form, thankfully falls in the former category.
I LIKED IT. The use of second-tier characters is fun (albeit they’re all slated to be in movies in the next few years) and Aaron pulls out the strangest villains to serve as threats. It’s all Mindless Ones and Grant Morrison Marvel Boy characters and the goddamn Orb. Then there’s an issue that’s just cosmic assassinations with Nick Fury as a faux Fear Agent. A bunch of weird stuff happening will generally win me over any time in these things.
Loser City co-founder Morgan Davis unfavorably compared the plot to Identity Crisis, which is pretty apt — someone’s been murdered, and the result is a bunch of deep, dark secrets get out, creating schisms amongst the superheroes, but it works in the Marvel Universe where everybody hates one another already. Meanwhile, Identity Crisis’s function is basically, “Hey, do you like those harmless old comics about Elongated Man? Well, just slightly off panel EVERYBODY WAS BEING RAPED.” In Original Sin, it doesn’t exist to make your goofy old comics seem grittier.
In other words, the comic where a corpse’s eyes get dug out of his skull is somehow less gross and exploitative than Identity Crisis.
BATTLE OF THE ATOM
(marvel comics editorial, brian bendis, the sexual harasser guy, jason aaron)
Conversely, gaah, this was a frustrating read. It’s one of those crossovers that happens across three books, so a bunch of dudes take turns telling the story of battling atoms, as Professor X goes “How, my X-Men, do you fight something you can’t SEE…?” and taps his index finger to the side of his head. I can’t believe this is still a viable storytelling option in the Year of Our Lord 2014, since it makes for really disjointed, incoherent storytelling. You’re reading some Bendis X-Men comics, which have their own set of characters and style, but suddenly you get to the sexual harasser guy’s issues and suddenly everybody is using completely different speech patterns and Jubilee is a major character when she didn’t even appear in the background in previous issues.
This series did help me figure out what irks me about Brian Bendis’ comic book writing. So, dialogue is his thing, right? Pitter patter, no you go to lunch, bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogie said up jump the boogie, coffee’s for closers, fuck you, no fuck YOU! And that’s fine, I usually enjoy it. But it’s become clear that dialogue is his primary interest as a writer — in a really detrimental way. (His secondary interest is Kitty Pryde.) If you read any of the fight scenes in Bendis’ issues of the series, they’re not driven by the action, but by the dialogue. In one panel, Iceman says something goofy while throwing a snowball, and in the next one Gambit is throwing a playing card at one of the atoms they’re battling and responding to Iceman, “Oui oui Paul Prudhomme mon amis!” And it goes on like this. The art becomes secondary, like the animation in an episode of Family Guy. Which is a strange thing to do in an action comic, especially one from a guy who used to be a writer/artist. It’s almost like there’s a distrust of the art, that only The Writer’s words can convey this narrative of people punching one another.
This has some stuff I like, though. While there’s another team of future X-Men who come back to the present to prevent a dark future, it has a nice twist that doesn’t depend on the reader having an intimate knowledge of X-Men comics. Kitty Pryde gets to have another “Professor Xavier is a JERK!” moment on a grand scale. These days I’m a fan of any time someone realizes the X-Men are shitheads, because they kind of are.
THE FADE OUT #1
(ed brubaker, sean phillips, image)
TWO comics about screenwriters and my stooge ass liked them both. Brubaker/Phillips are duo that we already know what to expect from at this point, and with The Fade-Out they ditch all the spookiness from Fatale in favor of some good old fashioned Hollywood noir about a drunken screenwriter and a dead lady that he may or may not have killed. Oldtimey Hollywood is a great era to dramatize, because there’s a certain danger and lawlessness even half-a-century removed from the Wild West, and The Fade Out hits all them Chinatown // James Ellroy // LA Noire levels, which is a thing I knew I liked but didn’t realize I loved. You like movies, right?
The backmatter is an essay by Badass Digest’s Devin Faraci about Peg Entwistle, a successful stage actress from “back east“ who jumped off the Hollywood sign when she couldn’t find any screen work. It’s a really fascinating story, and Devin brings his A-game in conveying it. A lot of people hate that guy but he’s one of my favorite critics to read. [Weirdly, Peg Entwistle’s death is about to become a Hollywood blockbuster, too- ed.]
Nick Hanover also reviewed The Fade Out for Loser City.
SILVER SURFER #75
(ron lim, ron marz, captain ron, ron simmons, ron: spaceknight)
This has a holofoil cover. I kind of love these things. I get a tinge of nostalgia from the rainbow effect generated by light hitting stupid comic book covers. There’s that issue of Fantastic Four where Sue Storm has the dumb 4-shaped boob window and everybody’s got jackets and big boring gray guns? But the colors, duke! THE COLORS. The 1990s were an amazing time for comic books and anybody who says different is writing for Buzzfeed.
Ron Lim is probably nobody’s favorite artist but I love him in this era of drawing cosmic characters who are 97% jaw and always waving their arms to hit a dude in the chest like they’re Ric Flair. People wanna dig on Liefeld and his crew, but nobody drew bare teeth grimaces like Lim. They just meant more when he did them, y’know? I kind of wish he was still doing notable Marvel work but I don’t want to see modern overblown computer coloring on my precious Lim. Could you imagine Frank D’Armata coloring Ron Lim? Do you even know who that is?
This comic — part six and lord knows how they got five other parts out of this — concludes a story that I’ve gathered as such: Galactus’ new herald is a dick so all the other heralds team up to beat the shit out of him. I guess his name is Morg? It kinda reminds me of Infinity Gauntlet without the interesting parts where you’re unsure how the heroes will win if PUNCHING doesn’t work and then the answer is dumb luck and literal metaphysicality.
Yeah, it’s dumb as hell but in a charming sub-Gene Roddenberry way, where the dude thinks he’s writing something meaningful and Shakespearian — the goddamn thing’s called “The Herald Ordeal” and features a lengthy quote from Romeo & Juliet — but the climax is still just one bad guy killing the second bad guy with his own axe because it has special herald-killing powers. The big highlight is Silver Surfer convincing Galactus to intervene but Galactus spends the rest of the issue flat-out denying that Silver Surfer convinced him.