Stuff I’ve Dug

Lately.
Seven Soldiers: Klarion
Okay, I’ve mostly dug this, particularly due to Frazier Irving’s stupendous artwork, which is both spooky and children’s-book sing-song-y in a way that nobody else’s is. I do kinda wonder where the whole Klarion and Kitty merge into GIANT TERMINATOR DEMON MONSTER came from. Seems like they dropped a page or two along the way. That said, Grant Morrison shows with terrifying ease how well he knows these characters and the sitauations that they find themselves in. And his Sheeva are so unremittingly evil that they’re a joy to watch. And that double-page spread with the drilling rig bursting into Klarion’s village? I’m swooning! Lovely stuff that more than makes up for its flaws.
Marvel Monsters redux
These have all been a lot of fun. Which is good, because who needs deadly serious Fin Fang Foom in their lives? The Hulk/Devil dinosaur smash up was great, not simply for Eric Powell’s art (though that was certainly part of the appeal), not simply because of the appearance of the Celestials (one of my favorite Kirby creations), not simply because of the sheer joy of “Hulk hate space!!”, but for a combination of all these things and then some. The embrace of Marvel monstrosity extends even to the underrated Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan, which is some kind of wonderful as well (even if the ad-content ratio drives me batty, and I’m likely to wait for the trade just so I can have the whole thing on my bookshelf instead of a box full of chaos.) I’ll also remind my gentle readers that they can get another monster fix in the pages of the Fantastic Four “baby book”, Fantastic Four Adventures, with the latest installment (featuring the Thing versus a brontosaur and Mr. Fantastic on the receiving end of a Tryannosaur chomp). Not to mention Jeff Parker’s re-conception of GOOM as a bling-lusting MTV freak a couple months back, which made me laugh out loud more than once.)
Superman Showcase
This stuff is bonkers. It’s not always good storytelling by our standards, with >CHOKE< providing its primary emotional thrust, but what it lacks in nuanced characterization it more than makes up for in SHEER, DESPERATE INSANITY. Superman with hydrocephalis? Got it. Superman shoots proxy Superman out of his hands? Got it. Supergirl wished into existence by Jimmy Olsen? Got it. Superman marries Lady Luck and has superbabies that he can't spank into submission? Got it. Superman has to do the will of a vile swindler to maintain his honor? Oh yeah. Imagination on the page, man. It's right there.
The Wintermen
And on the other end of the spectrum is a very sober, non-crazed, expertly-crafted character study/suspense thriller. The characterization is strong and believable, and from my reading in the area, spot on, from a cultural standpoint. Of course, most superhero readers are going to be disappointed, as there hasn’t been even a single page of caped heroic, though there’s been a few panels of flashbacks here and there. This story could easily be transplanted into today’s environment and work just fine (though I don’t know how long that will hold true), which does make me wonder why Wildstorm’s putting it out at all (instead of Vertigo as it was originally going to be published there.) This is a dense read, but there’s not a lot of fat there; like the lead character, this story is all muscle. Hopefully folks pick up on it before the series comes to a close.
Picking up from where I left off this morning…
Amazing Joy Buzzards, v2 #1
I’d liked the title before, particularly as it wasn’t being anything more than what it was: densely-packed fun. However, with this issue, things just jelled in a way they hadn’t before. Probably because I’m genetically predisposed to lunge at anything Tesla. With a first line like “We have Tesla’s ray,” and the looming menace of the mod Spiders, something hit me. And when the book goes horizontal for the road race in Monaco, I was knocked out. It all worked. Sure, a reductionist sees that AJB is The Monkees with vampire robots and Mexican wrestlers, but I’m having a hell of a time with it.
Dr. Ready
Brought to you by Curtis Broadway, the Dr. Ready books defy easy explanation. They’re part dream narrative, part spy story, part parable, part symbolist fantasy and all good. If you’re looking for a linear story, best turn back now before you’re irratited by Broadway’s staunch refusal to overtly hook everything together. However, if you want a direct taste of someone else’s brainspace (and an entertaining one at that), drop by his site and tell him I sent ya (’cause I don’t think you can buy the books anywhere but though him–correct me if I’m wrong, and you happen to see this, Curtis). There’s two volumes: Cosmogeny and Casa de Perros. One of ‘em is in Spanish, but that doesn’t present any barrier to getting the joy from the books. Oh yeah, I forgot the banjos, but there’s plenty of ‘em. Dig it.
Doomed
Doomed is IDW’s shot at bringing back the black and white horror anthology magazine (and really, we need all the alternate formats we can get in this business). It seems a tad steep at seven bucks, though, but the ink doesn’t come off on your hands and the paper is mostly a uniform shade of off-white and not blotchy, patchy grey like the old Warren mags of my memory. Also, the blacks print black, which is pretty crucial for horror, really. The stories themselves are okay to pretty good (hard to go wrong when you’re adapting the likes of Matheson and Bloch. F. Paul Wilson adapts his own short piece “Cuts,” which works well. The art delivers as well, Ash Wood bringing some sketchy brushwork that lends “Blood Son” an allegorical, storybook quality that I’ve not seen from him before. There’s a slight disappointment in Eduardo Barretto’s work on “Blood Rape of the Lust Ghouls”, in that it’s not as clean as some of his more recent work (such as on The Long Haul), but it suits the style of the story well enough. Geez, but aren’t people who work in the entertainment industry real pricks who get what’s coming to them? Oh, and “The Final Performance” delivers a real shock and scare with its twist ending, which I was trying to unravel before I got to it, but then it’s Robert Bloch we’re talking about here. You demand that sort of thing from his work. The adaptation, however, by Chris Ryall and Kristan Donaldson works very well, desperation and ultimately insanity oozing from the pages.
As for Ms. Doomed, the hostess of the affair, of course she’s over-the-top to the point of ridiculousness. That’s the whole point. That said, it’d be nice to see that mold cracked and something else worked up. Yeah, it’s an homage to the Warren magazines in that regard, but if this is to work, we need to move past homage and make something that’s our own. That admonishment could (and should) be applied more broadly to the industry at large as well.
I’ll be around for the next issue, though. Hopefully it takes off, or at least gets a sustainable audience. Which is kinda sad when you have to hope for as little as that…

2 comments to Stuff I’ve Dug

  • I’m absolutely crazy about The Winter Men. I’ve been singing its praises to anyone who’ll listen, and even a few who won’t …

  • I second(or is it third?) the notion that the Wintermen should be read by everybody. Warren Ellis, take note. Whoever is writing Wintermen(I forgot their name) can do the mean-SOB-with-a-heart-of-gold bit so much better than you. Sorry, but its true.

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