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Croonin’ into the beer of a drunk man: Douglas vs. 6/3

Douglas Wolk

BATMAN AND ROBIN #1: I love just looking at Frank Quitely’s art for this comic. The little details are the most immediate pleasure: the evenly spaced blobby teeth in Toad’s mouth, the cutaway diagram of Wayne Tower, and most of all the utterly indignant, entitled expressions on every single iteration of Damian’s face. And the in-art sound effects are a particularly nice touch, a subtle riff on the ’60s Batman TV show that Morrison and Quitely are rehabilitating here. Going back to re-read it, I’m noticing more of Quitely’s layout tricks, especially the preponderance of extreme closeups and long-shots; almost every page is composed as a cascade of pagewide panels, with the prominent exception of a couple of sequences that are all about vertical motion. (There are also not one but two scenes in which characters are climbing vertical ladders while holding something away from the ladder in one hand.) I don’t know about the weird pixelated colors Alex Sinclair is using for a lot of the backgrounds, although I like the dominant-color-in-each-panel scheme he uses for that Geoff Johns-style “preview of coming attractions” page–yes, okay, these are all going to be different storylines! A VERY GOOD start.

SEAGUY: SLAVES OF MICKEY EYE #3: Yes, I am a Morrison stan. But this is one of the most purely delightful comics I’ve read this year, from Chubby da Ché on the cover to the Silver Age-y expository dialogue (“If he’s Doc Hero, let’s see him prove it by picking up those ten-ton chains”). I think I laughed aloud at almost every page, sometimes at particular gags but more often from how dead-on the whole thing is and how neatly it milks whimsy out of bubbling existential discomfort. Cameron Stewart seems to have drawn this issue in bolder strokes than he has before (literally–I can’t remember the last non-kids’ comic with contour lines this thick), and it’s appropriate for the fabulistic tone of the story. Also, the conclusion to the big revolutionary showdown, in which everything is Disneyfied right back to old-fashioned consensus reality, and our hero gets offered the chance to serve the game now that he’s beaten it–“S.O.S. the status quo!”–is a nice corrective to the excesses of Morrison’s familiar “why destroy your corporate masters when you can become them?” rhetoric. The X that Jog pointed out on the last page also stands for EXCELLENT.

CHEW #1: First issue of what is apparently an ongoing Image title by John Layman and Rob Guillory, and I can scarcely think of a concept that’s seemed less likely to sustain an ongoing series since The Mundane Adventures of Dishman (where the narrowness of the joke was kind of the point). Our hero, Tony Chu, is a “cibopathic” detective–he can eat anything (except beets) and get psychic images of its entire history. (He’s kind of a cross between Matter-Eater Lad and Josie Mac, if anyone remembers her.) On top of that, the series is set in a near-future scenario in which bird flu has caused the U.S. government to pass an amendment outlawing chicken, which is only available in “chicken speakeasies”… and so on. This is a premise for a one-off comedy sketch, not an open-ended epic. So there’s an odd dissonance between the ways in which Layman and Guillory are taking it seriously (the book’s tone and, in some ways, its color schemes have a lot in common with Fell, and there are some impressive bits of storytelling, like a two-page spread in which Chu is overwhelmed by hundreds of tiny panels’ worth of psychic impressions of a spoonful of soup) and the ways in which they’re playing it off as a goof (“nutty” dialogue, the super-broad caricatures of Guillory’s character design). It’s highly OKAY–at the moment, I find it promising much more for Layman and Guillory as creators to keep an eye on than for itself as a series, but I’m prepared for it to surprise me.

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