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And, As Promised…

Brian Hibbs

Since Bri actually did post some more (to which I heartily say “fuck, yeah!”), and since it was a pretty great week for trades, I wanted to review of the trades quickly. Actually, it’s such a great week of trades for CE, there’s a ton of good stuff to choose from: Vol. 11 of Battle Royale? Bill & Ted? Gemma Bovary, fresh from an extremely laudatory review by the extremely hard-to-please Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times? Legend of Grimjack? The budget release of The Superman Archives? And I’m just listing the cool stuff I didn’t get. Out of the trades I did pick up, I wanted to briefly mention:

BIZARRO WORLD HC: Bri and I disagreed on this one at the store Friday, and somehow none of that made into his review. Thinking back on it, I do have to agree with his best point (which he didn’t have time to scale into this review): this volume of Bizarro World feels a lot more Mad Magazine-ized than Vol. 1. There’s a lot more of the funny and wacky here than the original Coober Skeeber premise of Vol. 1 where alt. cartoonists used their styles to explore the DC characters, which is why I think Brian sees the Kolchaka piece as the great piece in this volume (separate and apart from it being a great piece)–it’s where Kolchaka’s interests and DC’s (silver age) interests cross and highlight each other in exactly the Coober Skeeberish way.

But, that said, I felt like I actually enjoyed this volume more: The Green Lantern story where we *finally* get a valid explanation for the color yellow thing; Dorkin’s “Batman and Monkey The Monkey Wonder” story; the story (drawn by Dorkin) of Kamandi: the Laziest Boy on Earth (of course I would love that); that Dave Cooper girlfight; that Wonder Woman story by Mo Willems and Ellen Forney (can someone get more Forney work into the market and pronto?); and at least three or four other pieces. I can’t imagine this is going to do as well in the marketplace (I think, based on what I overheard in the store a few times, is that a lot of people grabbed Vol. 1 expecting it to be Matt Groening’s take on the DCU) but I think it’s still worth the coin–if not in HC, then certainly in SC. I give it a high Good.

RUNAWAYS VOL. 3 DIGEST: I waited for the trade for this, and thought it read great even though the format is…not so great. Still, if you haven’t had a chance, I highly recommend you pick up these three volumes: I think Vaughan does a dazzingly good job of creating an all-ages adventure packed with twists, characterization and witty dialogue. Although I was pretty sure I knew the twist resolution, I was impressed with how well it was handled, and how true to the characters it stayed. And the art’s great, too. Very Good work and worth picking up–and if Marvel is smart, they’ll pimp this one out to the movie people because it would be (to quote the Trump) hyooge.

BLACK PANTHER BY JACK KIRBY SC: I read through this expecting no more than typical late-70’s Kirby at Marvel–great design, dynamic pacing, stinky story–and was surprised by the subtext–actualy god-damned subtext–encoded in the “Collectors” storyline. In this set of stories (running the first seven or so issues of Kirby’s run–I don’t have the trade in front of me), T’Challa ends up helping a collector called Mr. Little, first in correcting a problem with an ancient artifact/time machine once in the possession of T’Challa’s family, and then, against his will, in a quest to recover water from the Fountain of Youth. In every issue, we get some choice bitching from The Panther about Mr. Little and his competitors (commonly referred to as “The Collectors”): “You Collectors may have a sense of value, but little sense of worth!” and like that. At first, I attributed the endless reiterations of such comments to Kirby’s breakneck creative process until about mid-point it hit me: Here was T’Challa The King, fretting about wasting his time while being sent on fools’ errands by The Collectors, as written and drawn by Jack “King” Kirby after the apparent rejection of his New Gods work and his return to Marvel. These quests involve time machines and eternal youth, as conceived by a guy in the later years of his career put on a book mainly because he co-created the character and expected to schedule and sell as if Kirby was still in his prime.

Mother-fuckin’ subtext, yo.

All the more impressive to me is that Kirby doesn’t use this for self-pity: his Panther is amused and annoyed by the Collectors but never cowed, frustrated that his attentions are forced elsewhere but never furious. And it’s just a little thing, woven in underneath all the Yetis and lost Samurai and the very creepy Man from Hatch 23. I admit it’s not prime Kirby, but that guy could still jam-pack a comic book and the industry could still learn a lot from him. Good (maybe even Very Good if you’re a Kirby nut like me) and eye-opening.

SEAGUY TPB: Finally, on the opposite end of the subtext spectrum, we get this collection of the three issue mini by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart. Here, the subtext isn’t discreetly woven in but the essence of the story itself–Seaguy is a Z-Grade character (I love how Cameron Stewart draws Seaguy less like a comic book hero and more like an action figure who once got a single page comic strip ad *in* a comic book) who, in a world bereft of adventure, has an adventure where everything changes, and yet nothing changes one whit. It’s about as devastating a commentary on how media corporations control all their icons (even their lowliest) and keep them from genuine growth as I’ve read, and, amazingly enough, it’s presented through a publishing arm of Time-Warner Communications.

Although I think Morrison wants to have it both ways, and implies that Seaguy may be smarter, more vital and more emotionally connected to his past than appearances might show, I prefer the glass half-empty approach, and see Seaguy as a bitter pill with a sugar coating–a sadly knowing commentary on the world of mainstream comics disguised as a goofy skylark. Very Good stuff, if you ask me.

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