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Bustin’ on the ones — Hibbs duz 6/12/2013

Brian Hibbs

ON New Comics Day? What?

Well, don’t get used to it, but I felt bad about skipping last week, that I thought I’d get way ahead on this one.  Below the jump, and all.

A1 #1 (of 6): I’m certain I have mentioned this before, but anthologies are a wicked hard sell for American audiences — despite being essentially the “default” option for other comics markets internationally (UK and Japan in particular) — and I suspect someone much cleverer than I could figure out something about the Essential National Character of each culture based upon their comic markets. But that isn’t me.

I will note that I think we don’t like anthologies in the US because I believe we judge the entire package by the WEAKEST contribution, and that we want comics to Get To The Point a little more than others. a1 is a British production — and, in fact, is the second go ’round at least for the name, as there was a pretty nice set of thick squarebound black & white comics also from packager Dave Elliot.

THAT set was a solid mix of “big names” with people I’d never heard of (back then), and, if you can find those original six, you might be surprised how much formative work there was on display there.

In this batch, however, I don’t think we’re going to look back at in two decades later with a “Wow!”, because, if anything, this is kind of merely a comics-formatted 2000 AD, without the “boy’s action!” angle. Plus? 2 of the three serials are written by Elliot.

The problem with those two is that (and this is often a problem with both anthologies AND, I would argue, UK creators specifically) that their premises are not explicit in the first chapter. “The Weirding Willows” seems like some sort of semi-LOEG literary mash-up, but there’s no real reason to be interested in the protagonist, Alice,  other than “cute blonde” — she walks through a bunch of supporting characters, but engages with virtually none of them and there’s no narrative thrust on display. You can’t spend your page count “world building” in 8 page installments until AFTER you’ve earned your audience’s interest.

Elliot’s  second serial, “Odyssey”, doesn’t even bother trying to provide a protagonist, just showing us a bunch of scientists and dire results in its WW2 milieu. Ugh, not THAT hoary chestnut again. Maybe maybe maybe I could deal with it if there was a single sympathetic character on display, but, literally, every character in this opening is loathsome.

In the hammock is “carpediem” by W.H. Rauf and Rhoald Marcellius which is much more palatable, introducing 7+ new characters AND giving them a complete adventure at the same time, while really having some very nice cartoony art attached to it, but too much of the heavy lifting is done by punning and British humor. Still, it’s the one serial in the book I’d actually be willing to read more of.

So, overall, that’s a pretty textbook EH.

 

SIX-GUN GORILLA #1 (of 6): See, you have a comic book called “Six-gun Gorilla” that stars a pistol-wielding gorilla, I am of the mind that you start and finish every damn page with the ape, and you don’t wait until the last page or three to have the critter show up. It’s that UK  world-building thing again (the world in question is, hm, a reality show of an eternal war, and it’s rich enough) — any ‘murican should be able to tell ya you start with the explosion, and only ramp it up from there. In media res, byee-otch!

The shame of it is, I really did like this adequately, but who wants to wait for the second issue until the title character is a real presence? that makes this just OK.

 

SUPERMAN UNCHAINED #1: I wanted to like this, but I think that the reason I’m merely ambivalent is the Jim Lee art. He’s simply not a Superman artist. That’s not to say he can’t draw Superman — he does just fine — but his line-style just really doesn’t work on an ongoing Superman comic.  Oh, and the coloring? Too too too dark for the character (that cover, especially, doesn’t scream “buy me!”)

This also also features a fold out poster (though that’s not cover-blurbed, go figure), which raises the price to a massive $4.99, but it’s so awkward and stops the story cold (on page 5, to boot!) and it’s not something that I see anyone hanging on their wall (Wow, Superman is fighting some wires!), so I really don’t get the point (other than, y’know, market share games)

I liked Scott Snyder’s story just fine (and that’s the majority of the basis of my final grade), but, I just feel like the art is working against the story in every place. I sort of hope, kind of, that Jim stays on for just the first arc, and then they hand it off to someone with a REALLY clean style.

Anyway, I liked the writing enough to give a very low GOOD.

 

(Joe Hill’s) THUMBPRINT #1 (of  3): Liked this.  Based on a novella by Hill (which I’ve never read), and it does a good job presenting a sympathetic protagonist, who could be an antagonist as well. The art by Vic Malhotra has a nice Aja / Samnee thing going on and was much of the drawing point for me (because at just three issues, this seems like it will read better in collection).  I really don’t have much more to say, but I was trying to hit all of the #1s this week, so…. GOOD.

 

THE TRUE LIVES OF THE FABULOUS KILLJOYS #1 (of 6): Gerard Way’s new comic (co-written with Shaun Simon) is pretty pants-shittingly terrific. This is a rich sci-fi world — and one that I’m not entirely sure that I followed with each and every jump. But it didn’t really matter, because I look forward to finding out the details.  It has backstory text pages and everything. I liked the characters, I liked the setup, and I especially liked some of the poetry of the writing (“One day… our bodies will only belong to each other, and the streets will be for shopping, not working” says one sex android to the other).

There is a crazy density to the world, which is so supremely helped by the fabulous artwork of Beck Cloonan. This is awesome comic which probably couldn’t have been done in any other media, and my only regret about it is that it is only 6 issues. EXCELLENT.

 

A USERS GUIDE TO NEGLECTFUL PARENTING GN: I think Guy Delisle is a splendid cartoonist — he’s got a strong line, and his timing is perfect and impeccable. The stories in this book are hysterical and universal and absolutely heart-felt and True. And yet, for all of that, I’m ultimately going to pan this book. Why?

Format.

This is presented as a paperback sized package with two panels per page. 192 pages, with a $12.95 cover price (which is much much better than the original solicited $16.95 cover price — it has a sticker over the original price, yikes, so I don’t know whether it was an exchange rate thing, or that someone got it in their hand, and realized they couldn’t possibly charge that much). And I, no shit, TORE through this on a single bus ride home. Under 13 minutes from cover to cover, even stopping and going back a few times to admire his pacing on the jokes. Ow.  That makes the $5 SUPERMAN UNCHAINED look like a friggin’ bargain.  It is simply 2-3 times what this should cost for the actual density of the content.

Again: that content is GREAT, and would rate a VERY GOOD, at least, on its own (I only wish that the [few] “Shit” and “Fuck”s had been dropped, otherwise this would be a GREAT all-ages title.. my 9 year old woulda loved reading these, and laughing at old dad commonalities), but the package is so criminally egregious that I have to drag it all the way down to EH. *sad panda*

 

Right, that’s me for today at least…. what did YOU think?

 

-B

 

 

5 Responses to “ Bustin’ on the ones — Hibbs duz 6/12/2013 ”

  1. I did the math, and you spent an average of 4 seconds per page on the Guy Delisle book. I was wondering how that was even possible and almost made a snarky comment about close reading. Then I Googled some preview pages and… hoo boy. Judging from those, 13 minutes might even be on the long side! Sorry Guy Delisle, but for a buck a minute, I think I’ll stick with the phone sex hotline.

  2. I’m a little confused by the idea UK writer’s take too long to get to the action. The appeal of 2000AD to me is that due to the low page count the compression is cranked up, and generally they don’t have time to spend on set-up, the protagonist is in action from page one. Contrast this with the past ten years of American comics, which seem to take pride in having the hero out of the action for as long as possible across a six issue story, and I’d argue a Brit is more likely to give you a Gorilla with a gun on the first page till the last.
    That said, I gave A1 a flick, but nothing in it caught my eye, so I put it back down. Same with Superman Unchained – although I would have gotten that with the Ordway or Garcia-Lopez cover, but my store was charging $25 for variants.

  3. So, I haven’t read any of these but I’m sure that won’t stop me chiming in. Oh, look…

    Judging anthologies by the WEAKEST effort! Whoa, tough customer! Like Elvis sang, huh: only the strong survive! So, carpediem has “punning and British Humor(sic)” – the very best kind of humour then!

    Maybe the failure to Get To The Point you (Bustling Brian Hibbs) identify is more down to Dave Elliot than UK writers en masse. There’s no way UK writers (generally) are worse than, say, US writers at Getting To The Point. No bloomming way. That’s crackers. Also, these days “boys action!” suggests Gengoroh Tagame. Because we can never be innocent again!

    Thanks for the reviews!

  4. Didn’t care for Killjoys, just wasn’t for me. I had some problems with the art as far as storytelling. Got a bit confusing to me. I also didn’t care for the staccato style of writing.

  5. I liked Scott Snyder’s story just fine (and that’s the majority of the basis of my final grade), but, I just feel like the art is working against the story in every place. I sort of hope, kind of, that Jim stays on for just the first arc, and then they hand it off to someone with a REALLY clean style.

    Yes, the art, I own my fair share of Lee comics (a million, seemingly) and the best way I’ve been able to describe it in terms of style is “Busy in all the wrong places.” I will say, in his favor here, is that his Superman is the only one I’ve seen so far that even moderately looks at home in the suit he designed.

    Also, I hadn’t been reading the Superman title (just Action) but is this Ascension Corporation part of the ongoing narrative or is it just being introduced and namechecked 3 separate times, by three different characters, in the exact same way?

    Ascension Corp. Startup Tech Firm. This seems out of their league.

    3 different times in the text! I mean, there’s signposting and then…

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