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Abhay: Traditional Capsule Reviews

Abhay Khosla

I was out all week, so spent tonight in, recharging.  I usually try to avoid the capsule reviews– I don’t think I’m very good at those.  But I thought I’d try again tonight.  My apologies before we begin– I can’t really promise much here.  Just some randomly selected books I’ve read in this past month, I think…

The Lil’ Depressed Boy #3 by S. Steven Struble & Sina Grace: I have no idea what this is, but it’s published by Image Comics apparently. Impulse buy. It’s about some hipster whose body looks like it’s made out of dirty socks, and his cutesy relationship with some random girl with a nose-ring. There are “jokes.” Then, the random girl invites him to a party, where him and some other random hipster bond over the fact they hate the other hipsters at the party for being hipsters– it’s not clear if either the characters or the artists creating the book realize the fact that those characters are at the party themselves makes them hipsters, too. Or the fact that one of them is named Jetson…? Oh, whoops– spoiler warning. Anyways, then the band The Like shows up. Which is an actual band– I went to one of their shows at the Viper Room, like, six or seven years ago. Afterwards, River Phoenix and I overdosed on heroin in the bathroom. That’s just the sort of lifestyle I live–you probably guessed that.  So, anyways– that happened. I guess…?  Mostly, this fucking comic book just made me feel old.

The Blue Estate: The Rachel Situation #1 by Victor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, and Robert Valley: Oh, this was a very nice looking comic, as you’d expect with the art team they lined up– Victor Kalvachev, Nathan Fox, Toby Cypress and Robert Valley. I like all of those guys– well, Kalvachev was a new name for me, but the latter three are all welcome names; Valley, especially, I wish would do more work as his MASSIVE SWERVE comics are such eye-candy.  Again, published by Image.  The story– it’s “Tarantino-esque.” Back in the 90’s, and a little bit even in the 00’s, there was this genre of bad movie, the Tarantino-esque movies, hyper-active psuedo-crime things that were nothing like actual Quentin Tarantino movies but were all labeled “Tarantino-esque” in reviews or overly optimistic marketing material. TWO DAYS IN THE VALLEY, LOVE AND A 45, BLOOD GUTS BULLETS & OCTANE, LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN, VERY BAD THINGS, SMOKING ACES, 8 HEADS IN A DUFFEL BAG, SUICIDE KINGS… pretty much all of them were useless, though I was probably a little more fond of THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD and WAY OF THE GUN than I should admit to, today.

This has that same thing of … a large number of “outrageous” characters colliding in lieu of a story being told. But I don’t think that’s a formula that’s been done to death in comics, so I’m fine with the idea of sticking around for more. It’s pretty, and I’m shallow. And I don’t know– bigger than life crime weirdos… That’s a genre of comic I guess I’m generally in for. I think I’d rather read Grotesque Crime than another “Oh, I’m sad about having sex with all of these women something something whiskey something something murder” Jim Thompson impersonation. Which isn’t to say that I’m going to avoid the next CRIMINAL but…

ACTION COMICS #900 by Paul Cornell, Pete Woods, Jesus Merino, Paul Dini, Richard Donner, Gary Frank, David Goyer, Geoff Johns, Damon Lindelof, Ryan Sook, Brian Stelfreeze, and More!: I guess people are all worked up about the “controversy” of this issue. There’s a story where Superman renounces his U.S. citizenship, which has random people mad on account of politics or whatever. Mostly, I’m just confused on a nuts-and-bolts level: in what capacity was Superman a citizen of the United States, to begin with? Was Superman paying taxes? He wasn’t paying taxes pre-Crisis, but I don’t know about the status of those loopholes post-Birthright.  Or if he’s a citizen– did Superman have a driver’s license? Why would he bother– hello, Superman can fly? Or even if Superman got pulled over, and he didn’t have a driver’s license– it’s not like a cop’s going to give Superman a ticket anyways. What kind of horrible human being would give Superman a ticket? Forget about the ingratitude that would take– politically, that’s just career suicide.  Or if Superman was a citizen before, was he voting twice? Was he voting one time as Superman, and a second time as Clark Kent? That’s voter fraud. Was Superman committing voter fraud?

So, I’m just confused by the whole thing. But if nothing else, seeing people talk about Superman is just fun for me because… It’s like… Marvel can kill the Human Torch, right? Marvel can kill the Human Torch, and have Doctor Doom stuff his dead body full of dog poo, so that his funeral is ruined by the stench of canine feces– which is what I assume is what happened in the Jonathan Hickman FF; I’m pretty close, right? Based on the other Jonathan Hickman comics I’ve read, I’m going to go ahead and assume the death of the Human Torch in some way or another was reminiscent of dog shit. (Oh, that’s a joke. Or… that’s 55% joke. That’s more joke than not-joke…).  But anyways, they can do all that, and publicize it in the NY Post or whatever– but all Superman has to do is mutter about politics for, like, fucking TWO panels in the back of a 96 page comic, and people care a billion times more. So: I think that’s kind of neat, how much more people care about that character than … than well, sanity or perspective, as it turns out, but…

How about the rest of that comic, though? I liked that Brian Stelfreeze pin-up; it’s a shame Ryan Sook’s work is being overshadowed; I like Pete Woods, generally– it’s a shame he’s moving on.  I thought the lead story was a cute end to the long-running Lex Luthor plot– I don’t have a theory as to why, but the best Lex Luthor stories tend to  build to a “How ridiculously far can we take it to show how much Lex Luthor hates Superman?” ending.  (Well, one of my favorite Luthor stories ends with Superman helping Lex Luthor to celebrate Einstein’s birthday, but…).  That’s sort of the classic ending for that character, which is weird to me because… I like Luthor for being the “Scary Dad” to Superman’s “Good Dad.” I like him best when he’s just a scary, bald psychopathic genius that terrorizes Metropolis because he hates people and wants to conquer them all. I’m not as interested in the “villain as shadow version of the hero” idea that I think modern comic writers are maybe overly-obsessed with. But that ending for Luthor does just tend to work, so there’s something to it, something I must be wrong about…

Green Wake #1 by Kurtis Wiebe, Riley Rossmo, Kelly Tindall, and Jade Dodge: Another book published by Image.  I read some review that was flipping out about this so I picked this up, though I forget now who did the review. This might be something, though. It’s sort of in a Dylan Dog vein, about an investigator in a supernatural city of secrets, dealing with a rash of strange murders. The art is by Riley Rossmo, who’s improved pretty significantly since Cowboy Viking Ninja, where I thought his work was underwhelming. I liked that he’s cast everything in these sickly green hues, everything pustulent and wet, everything dying and diseased. I’m not sure what I make of the story yet– it’s all still a little vague by the end of the first issue. But I thought as a total package, it conveyed a mood successfully, at least. People flipped out hard for NONPLAYER but I got more of a buzz off this, though maybe just by virtue of getting to discover it for myself rather than have to cope with that much hype. I mean, it’s early though. Still, I hope this GREEN WAKE thing turns into something…

Hulk #31 by Jeff Parker, Gabriel Hardman, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Ed Dukeshire, and Pals: Oh, I had liked the couple issues I’d seen of Jeff Parker & Gabriel Hardman together on AGENTS OF ATLAS, so I thought I’d check out what one of their HULKs felt like. Apparently, there’s a Red-colored Hulk, who I guess is General Ross…? He’s a Red Hulk now. And he’s fighting army guys in the desert now instead of the Green Hulk. Which, you know, seemed like a reasonable premise for the Hulk. It fit the basic parameters of what I’d expect from a Hulk comic, you know? Except at the end, a lady version of the Watcher turns up. Which is gross because then the reader is inherently invited to think about what it’d look like when Watchers fuck one another. Giant, hydrocephalic baldies grunting over one another– that’s just gross. I never wanted to imagine Ed Asner fucking Sinead O’Connor, but here we are. Thanks, Incredible Hulk!

Anyways, blah blah blah, they kept Elizabeth Breitweiser on the team, which I think was key. I think she’s probably the key part of what I dig about that team actually, more than Parker or Hardman. Those guys are fine, and what have you, but I actually think Breitweiser’s taking them from a 6 to an 8. There’s just a layer of textural information that I suspect she’s bringing to the pages– smoke and dust and debris– that I think that I’m responding to more than all that words/drawings bullshit.

Butcher Baker the Righteous Maker #2  by Joe Casey, Mike Huddleston, Rus Wooton, & Sonia Harris:  The first issue of this Image comic got by me, so I picked up the second one. This was just gibberish, though, impenetrable. I’m going to go ahead and assume it’d have been legible if I’d read the first issue, but– oh well…?   It was kind of neat to look at, at least. At one point, it seemed like it was about to turn into Smokey & the Bandit, and I got excited about that, I suppose.  Sure: there was a big rig in some of it– I like the big rigs.  I think people overlook how much this country depends on its trucking infrastructure and takes it for granted– especially right now with these gas prices. I mean, it’d be nice if they eased up on the crystal meth, and maybe murdered a few less hookers, but… pobody’s nerfect. So, yeah:  after the comic was done, it ended with 6 pages of Joe Casey writing about how he feels about Art, which made me laugh at least after 20-something pages of … whatever was going on here (?). I thought the discordance of that was entertaining, at least.

Next Men #3, 4 and 5  by John Byrne, Randa Pattison, Neil Uyetake and Chris Ryall: I always assumed that me having liked NEXT MEN back when, that just said something about where I was at mentally, at the age that I read it. Because the other John Byrne comics I’ve read, I’ve not really connected with, to put it in a polite way. But five issues in to the revival, from IDW…. I’m not really sure what’s going on, but I’m kind of right back in it. I don’t know what it is exactly about NEXT MEN that I respond to, where his other comics have left me so cold. There’s just something fucking trashy about it, especially, especially in its earnestly serious moments. These issues have featured the Next Men taking on slavery, Elizabethan sexual hypocrisy, and the Holocaust, which… I know we’re supposed to never forget the Holocaust but can’t we make an exception where Next Men comics are concerned?  And the great thing about it is it’s all presented seriously…?  I don’t really know if it’s naive camp or deliberate camp, but I think or at least hope that it’s the latter. To the extent it even matters.

Uncanny X-Force #7 by Rick Remender, Esad Ribic, John Lucas, Matthew Wilson, VCs Cory Petit, Jared K. Fletcher, Jody Leheup, & Pals: I got this because I noticed Esad Ribic drew it. That’s just one of those automatic buy things for me. The story is that the X-Force team are wandering around in some surreal space, fighting some guys, until Deadpool’s homosexual panic leads him to decapitate a senior citizen, at which point the comic ends. I guess meat-headed bros might find that kind of thing funny…?  Remender’s usually pretty strong on long term plotting, so maybe this is a good comic in all of the issues before and after this one that I’m not going to read. That’s entirely possible.

The Girl & The Gorilla by Madeleine Flores: This is a graphic novel published by Blank Slate Books– they seem to be a pretty interesting outfit in the UK: handsome editions of good-looking comics by some names that are new to me, at least…? This particular book– well, I am not the intended audience for this book. It’s about a young girl who chases a gorilla into the land of Creativity, where she learns a valuable lesson about the importance of writing stories, and the imagination, and ignoring criticism, and Oh god. I am miserable old man, with nothing to warm my cold black heart but half-memories of concerts I went to 12 years ago. So, this was a little on the precious side for me, even setting aside that I don’t think I agree with whatever it is this book was trying to say about rejection letters. To be perfectly honest, there was more than one part where I found myself rooting for the villain to stamp out the “creativity of young people.” Is that normal? Maybe that’s not normal. On the other hand, I really did quite like how Flores laid out her pages. She eschews panel borders, which gives the whole thing a more improvisational feeling that I think suits the subject matter.  Some of the purely visual sequences were enjoyable.  There’s probably an audience for this book, but a MUCH, much younger one– or hell, maybe just a nicer one. After I read this, I found myself thinking alot about GOODBYE CHUNKY RICE, remembering how much I’d liked it at 20-something, wondering what it’d be like if I read that for the first time now.

I also found myself eating cookies. They were pretty delicious.

8 Responses to “ Abhay: Traditional Capsule Reviews ”

  1. For what it’s worth, that X-Force issue is an unusually bad place to start. It’s the end of a three-parter with a very convoluted premise set up at length in the earlier chapters, and a couple of the key moments depend on you being familiar with other ongoing subplots. It’s a bit garbled even if you do know the context, so I can well see that it’d be impenetrable if you don’t.

  2. The first issue of Butcher Baker was more straight-forward/still underwhelming. But hey, it was still very trucking-centric, of which I also approve, w/ the same nods to Smokey And The Bandit.

    I like the cognitive dissonance between the dull meat of the issues and Casey’s conviction that he’s really making something interesting in the back matter – I think I’ll continue with the series just because of that.

  3. I bet those guys are going to regret putting The Like in their comic in maybe five years–doing that immediately dates the book, and the fanboy admiration for the cool-band-at-the-moment just looks silly with the passage of time. Do you think Doug Moench is ever embarrassed over his Fleetwood Mac wankery from 35 years ago?

  4. Yeah, I did find that scene in UNCANNY X-FORCE #7 funny. I’ll have to mention it to the guys at the gym.

  5. Baroza –

    I mentioned something similar occurring in New York Five. One of the characters was in some tiny dive bar opening for Vampire Weekend. Those guys had a #1 record first part of 2010 and were relatively famous by 2008. How tough would it be to change that so your hip New York book doesn’t immediately look clueless? And I LIKED that series. A LOT. Gaffes like that can take you right out of the narrative.

    Personally, I don’t mind the topical because art and products are of their time but if you’re going to do it – you know – do it well. I’m not saying you need to go all Captain America punches wiki-leaks in the face – FOR FREEDOM! Googling promising New York bar bands can’t take that long.

    How about the janitor outside Dr. Manhattan’s room singing along to The Police “Walking on the Moon?”

    Also, allow me a moment to nominate Abhay for humblebrag. His capsule reviews are hugely entertaining and well done. Excellent when I’ve read the comic in question (Action 900) and when I haven’t (everything else).

    Finally, “stamping out the creativity of the young,” needs to be in some kind of epitaph.

  6. J_Smitty:

    I cut Brian Wood some slack because wasn’t New York Five planned to be a Minx book? It may well have been written a couple years back when Vampire Weekend could have headlined at an NYC club without suspending disbelief. By 2011, not so much without it being a much bigger deal. But you’re right, he could and should have made a quick change before the book’s release so that it looks, I don’t know, less pandering. But that’s the danger of trying to allude to cutting edge pop culture in the first place; more often than not you’re gonna look foolish.

    That Watchmen thing was entirely different. It was a guy in 1986 singing a song from, what, 1979? Alan Moore could never be accused of trying too hard to be the hippest guy in the room. That Krystalnacht death metal band playing at Madison Square Garden was more embarrassing, since in ’86 it would have more likely been Warrant or some other hair band playing there. But it was an alternate universe, so I guess we can excuse him.

  7. 1979?


    Jesus, you’re right.

    Clearly I’m a victim of 80’s time compression.

    Yeah, the metal thing felt like an offshoot of the universe – the drug scene – the youth movement. I guess the more fantastical the piece the more likely you’ll be to allow things that “don’t fit” to slip past the filter. When you’re doing something so clearly “real world” those guards are up and clearing or rejecting everything.

    (comics shop – Wed. – 80’s – final issue of Watchmen is being discussed. Oh, uh, spoiler warning for those who haven’t read it.)

    Guy: “Dude the fucking space squid! Holy shit!

    Other Guy: “Yeah but the band in the Garden? Those guys could have filled the Bowery but the Garden?”

    Guy: “…”

  8. i enjoyed this.

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