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“It’s Not Like I Have Much DOWNTIME Anyway…” Comics! Sometimes I Fear Craft May Not Be Enough!

John Kane

When I’m not inadvertently lying about Wally Wood creating Captain Britain I read comics and then I write some poorly judged words. Yeah, salesmanship!

So, yeah, not a great week for comics, ey? Still, before I was utterly crushed by depression at the various items of unpalatable truth the Internet was souring my eyes with I wrote some words.

Trying to be a bit quicker so this is rough as a badger’s backside. If it doesn’t make anyone physically ill I’ll try this again and thus be a bit more frequent. Everything in moderation, as my Dad used to say! Except boooshhhe (hic!), he’d add about three hours later.

Yes, it is all mainstream tights and fights crap this time. But I’ve plenty of other stuff to share, it just takes a bit more thought and time to digest than this stuff.

(Dear me: Shut up and just let it go! Sheesh!)

WOLVERINE #12

By Renato Guedes/Jose Wilson Magalhaes(a), Jason Aaron(w), Matthew Wilson(c) and VC’s Cory Petit (l)(Marvel, £3.99)

Wolverine’s Revenge!” Part 3

Wolverine’s enemies gather around a TV to watch their hated enemy carve his way through a series of remarkably daft enemies. This has been happening for three straight issues now.

Another exciting issue of Wolverine: The Myth of Sisyphus! I think we get it now, Marvel Architect Jason Aaron. I think the point has been well and truly made. I’d go so far, if you’ll pardon my presumption at speaking on behalf of the entire readership of Wolverine, as saying that we’d pretty much got the point with the first issue, the one that was exactly the same as the two subsequent issues. And while we’re all here can I humbly request a moratorium on naff villains commenting on the fact that they are naff as though this self aware self deprecation somehow magically negates their naffness.  “I’m ToeTeeth, I have teeth in my …pretty lame, huh. Let’s you me fight!” It was cute a couple of times but it’s just grating now. A bit like me? I can read your mind!

I mean it’s grating in this comic because this is the third straight issue of it but its also grating because it’s pretty rife throughout Marvel comics as a whole. I just want to nip this one in the bud before it becomes as prevalent as Spider-Man telling women his spider-sense is “tingling!” (Haw! It’s funny because he means his penis! He’s telling the woman she is making his penis chubby with blood! Now she’s compelled to imagine his swollen and lightly moistened bulb trapped between his clammy skin and his taut uniform! With great power must come great sexpesting!)

Still, at least no one can complain that Jason Aaron hasn’t created any new characters. They are all rubbish mind you (but they know that – so it’s okay!) but they are all yours Marvel. Go make a movie about this bunch of sad sacks! But. But the bit where the guy makes the hobo dress up as Wolverine and then beats him to death was pretty funny. It would have been even funnier if he gave the hobo $3.99 first and his last word was EH!

(Wolverine was created by Len Wein and John Romita Snr. His first appearance was drawn by Herb Trimpe (Trim-PEY!))

CAPTAIN AMERICA #619

(Marvel, $3.99)

By Chris Samnee/Mitch Brettweiser/Butch Guice/Stefano Guadiano(a), Ed Brubaker(w), Bettie Bretweiser(c) and VC’s Joe Caramagna(l).

GULAG” Part 4

Will Steve Rogers’ stop dithering long enough to rescue Bucky from his very Russian Hell? Or will salvation come in a shapelier guise? Surprised? You won’t be!

I don’t know, I just don’t know. It’s okay. There’s plenty of craft here. People are big on craft aren’t they? Apparently craft cures all ills. Lots of craft here. Hits the beats, does the job. You can’t complain if it’s got the craft, I’m told. It plods along and then stops right on the mark.  Art wise Chris Samnee makes everyone else look pallid in comparison no matter how many tricks they nick off Steranko. In the Not Chris Samnee bits Clark Gable turns up as the warden. Clark Gable is dead so it’s okay to steal his face it seems. These are the times we live in. When you die people take your face. Your face? Turned out you were just keeping it warm. You read CAPTAIN AMERICA #619 and it has craft so it is okay but you wish at some point it had had some life in it. If it had life in it perhaps it could wear its own face.

Oh, wait; there is one brief spike on the flatline of interest. It comes in the very final caption. This is quite clearly the result of someone coming back into the room after steaming up the John, only to find that in his absence the Totally Autonomous and Independent Marvel Architect Editorial Hive Mind has just picked Bucky, the very character he has just finished setting up a long term plot for, to be the victim of The Quarterly Death Sales Spike Lottery. Welcome to Groupthink, Marvel Architect Ed Brubaker. Welcome to Hell.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #619 has got Chris Samnee so it could never have been less than OKAY!

(CAPTAIN AMERICA was created by Joe Simon and JACK KIRBY.)

CAPTAIN AMERICA #1

(Marvel, $3.99)

By Steve McNiven/Mark Morales(a), Ed Brubaker(w), Justin Ponsor(c) and VC’s Joe Caramagna(l)

American Dreamers” Part 1

Like a teenager on a Saturday night Captain America’s about to find out that sometimes dipping your wick can lead to violent retribution! Yes, once again The Past has returned to haunt him! While we can’t reveal our mystery villain let’s just say we almost called this one “Finding Zemo”!

After CAPTAIN AMERICA #619 comes CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 because as Mr. Jeff Lester says, “F**** numbers!” Got a potty mouth, that guy, but he’s kind to animals so it all evens out. Yes, obviously, it’s a new number one to take advantage of all the movie goers who tumble through the doors of every LCS in the land when a super-movie is parped out. Any minute now…(tumbleweed rolls across your screen)…While we’re waiting then I’ll just say that this is eerily like you might expect CAPTAIN AMERICA #620 to have been, in that it is exactly like every other Captain America story by Marvel Architect Ed Brubaker. Something happened in The Past and now Captain America must deal with the consequences in The Now!

Whenever I read a Captain America comic by Marvel Architect Ed Brubaker I find it handy to compare it to that issue where Bucky cried because he hadn’t had any Birthday cakes while he was a brainwashed Russian Assassin (CA#23.75,  “…All The Cakes That Are My Life!”). This is better than that one. But then that one was Godawful. Christ, that comic. Despite the wealth of craft I’m expected to care about what’s happening without being given any reason to other than if I don’t I’ve just wasted $3.99 (or 5 shillings and 6 pence). I mean that’s a pretty powerful stimulus but I’d prefer a creative one. I did like the way that the whole revenge thing could have been avoided if Peggy Carter had been less of a round heels. Men, Oy, such children they are! Oh, this has craft and…yes, it has craft. It’s certainly got craft. Craft, it’s got. Well done on the craft end of things, everybody.

Steve McNiven draws it. I hear people like Steve McNiven. He has craft too. He’s very popular; I’m guessing this is because Travis Charest fans need something to read while they are waiting for more Travis Charest things to read. I enjoyed the attention the colourist paid to Nick Fury’s face lines and seeing tiny wee Red Skull doing his Donkey Kong dance always cheers me up. I also enjoyed Steve McNiven’s attempts to vary his page layouts. By which I mean I enjoyed the fact that he had attempted to do so rather than I enjoyed the final results. Steve McNiven’s okay, he’s fine. He’s no Chris Samnee but, y’know, maybe one day. This was perfectly decent but at $3.99 I’d like a bit more than OKAY!

(CAPTAIN AMERICA was still created by Joe Simon and Jack KIRBY.)

 

(Everybody okay? Everyone make it out to the other side?)

Have a nice weekend y’all but remember – everything’s nicer with COMICS!

21 Responses to “ “It’s Not Like I Have Much DOWNTIME Anyway…” Comics! Sometimes I Fear Craft May Not Be Enough! ”

  1. I thoug it was a great week for comics. I picked up all of the following which i really enjoyed:
    Detective
    League of extraordinary gentlemen 1969
    Xombi
    Criminal
    Red wing

    Also picked up Casey’s butcher baker and force X-force which i thought were okay.

  2. “When you die people take your face.” is a great line.

  3. From the description of issue #1 I’m glad I dropped Captain America books some 8 or so months ago.

    You would think Captain America only had some much time to get into trouble in the past, yet it seems he made constant mistakes. In order for all this stuff to constantly come back and haunt him in the present day he must have been making a fuck-up daily back in the 1940s during the short time he was Captain America in the past and not a frozen popsicle for 70 or however many years we need to say it was for Marvel’s ever-shifting continuity.

    I just look forward to when we are so far removed from WWII that anyone Cap could have pissed off has to be dead and we can’t do any more, “This person from the past is out to get me” tales. Eh, they will probably just make it so that person’s angry kid hunts down Cap. They’ll give the arc a lame title like, “Sins of the Father,” or something predictable. I should pitch that to Marvel in another 40 years if the gremlins that live a mile beneath earth’s crust haven’t awoken from global warming and come to the surface to eat our precious bone marrow.

  4. @George: Well, it was more the news about and around comics and their creators that whistled the Black Dog out of his kennel. As your list shows as far as actual comics goes it was a fine week. You are a man of taste and distinction, sir.

    My spies tell me you are having trouble with Simonson’s THOR? I’d say have a rest between issues. These are old timey comics and benefit from a lull inbetween. Being collected and then read bam!-bam!-bam! was never even considered a factor when they were made. But remember not everything is for everyone so you might just not like them! Fair do’s and all!

    @K. Thor Jensen: Judging from the preview of PUNISHER #1 Morgan Freeman’s face is fair game too; you don’t even have to be dead it seems. You don’t even own your own face! This world of ours. I thought Marvel had knocked that stuff on the head.

    @David Bitterbaum: It does wear on the old suspension of disbelief somewhat doesn’t it? I mean, it’s a perfectly decent comic but it’s just like all the other perfectly decent CA comics. Lord knows there are worse things on the shelves. Got to watch those gremlins, sir!

    Cheers all!

  5. i haven’t touched a Marvel comic since they ran the Marvel Architects piece.

    is it too much to ask that Marvel allow their Architects into the actual comics? forget Clark Gable and Sam Jackson, i want Ed Brubaker as Cap. i want Jonathan Hickman as Reed Richards. i need Brian Bendis as Moon Knight. then watch Ben Affleck and Sean Penn and Idris Elba come calling on Marvel to put craft on display. they can star in the movies and write the comics starring themselves as the movies-comics. and computer games.

    there’s starfucking and then there’s as Dan Slott says, going and fucking yourself.

  6. @Tim Pilotus: Shush now, you funny man, you’ll be giving them all sorts of notions! Say now, do you remember when Alex Maleev had that irritating tick of drawing Bendis into their comics? I’m sure he was drawn as the Kingpin or something in DAREDEVIL and then as Price Namor in some comic or other. I’m sure it was great. I bet I missed some great stuff there.

    By the way, folks, I don’t have a problem with the label “Marvel Architect” but I do think maybe it should be used to describe Jack Kirby before it’s used to describe anyone else. I think that’s fair.

  7. See, I would like to hear Spidey making inappropriate sexual remarks in every appearance he makes, but that’s how I roll, I guess.

    Aw, Mr. (UK), you’ve guilted me into buying you a beer (make sure you get it from Hibbs), for coming off as Katie Couric in that Captain Britain post. Or worse, I stepped on your joke without realizing it–I think I need that beer, this morning! Cheers, and thank you for your work!

  8. Ya know, reading Captain America recent stories, it really is all craft, isn’t it? It’s nicely drawn, has all its terse, serious character monologues, INTRIGUE!flashbacks, required superhero comic book fight scene(“Uh…just have Steve and Nick Fury fighting robots in a factory! It’ll look good, cuz Samnee’s drawing it! Mmm, I love being me”), characters trade 1, sometimes even 2 lines of banter.

    But it aint very exciting, is it? Its not something that you wake up your neighbor and tell him to read before he grabs the shotgun and chases you out of his house. It aint gonna “blow you through the back of the theater”, as the old Die Hard poster’s not-so-enjoyable-when-you-think-about-it tagline it so proudly presented. Personally, I really wish we’d never do another WW2 flashback again, although I strangely really enjoyed Captain America and Bucky #620. Although it might just be that Samnee guy.

    And yes, I’m so damn tired of this Wolverine story. I’m convinced its a meta-commentary of the stupidity of readers like us, “How many times can we ship the same fucking story in a row without people catching on?”. Jason Aaron, you wonderfully talented man, WE GET IT. We are dumb. That’s why we aren’t Marvel Architects. Let’s do something else now.

  9. I’m a huge fan of Criminal but have never really obsessed over any mainstream superhero other than Batman. I’ve tried Brubaker’s Captain America a couple times, with the special milestone issues that were being billed as good jumping-on points, and the book has never really grabbed me.

    I don’t think it’s just the absence of Gotham City, because I think Sleeper is at least as good as Brubaker’s work on Batman, Catwoman, and Gotham Central — and in some cases better. I’ve drifted away from the mainstream superhero books in the last couple years, but it’s not like I’m no longer moved by a well executed story involving capes and masks.

    I tried Captain America #1 to give Brubaker’s highest-profile work another fair chance, and again it didn’t do much for me. I’d agree with the comments here, that there was technical competence but nothing really quite special.

    On the one hand, the comments in this thread are reassuring: it’s not just my general antipathy to the Marvel universe.

    (I care even less about what was the WildStorm universe, but that didn’t matter with Sleeper.)

    On the other hand, it’s perplexing, because Brubaker’s current creator-owned work is fantastic. The second issue of Criminal: The Last of the Innocent just came out, and it’s shaping up to be a high point in a really, really great series.

    I’ve heard pretty great things about Cap before Steve Rogers’ return, but I wonder if working with others’ intellectual property and having to work around big event after big event too frequently waters down the work of even a really strong writer: the stakes are artificially limited, and the throughlines are being constantly interrupted.

    Does anyone have other explanations?

  10. @johnk(uk): I’ve started reading Thor omnibus a much small doses and it is becoming more enjoyable. Does simonson let the art speak more for itself over time?

    On cap, I’m really just not interested anymore now that Bucky is gone. I thought cap and Bucky was going to be a present day story about bucky. But now he’s “dead”and I get a great illustration of a story I am not interested in. So cap and bucky did not make it home.

  11. Not to be too much of a semantic jagoff, but I think you’re using the wrong word dismissively. If these comics were nothing but craft, they’d be things that engaged you as you read them but vanished from thought after that. Take Sal Buscema, or example. I doubt too many people ever sit and gaze in awe at any of his pages, but his work managed to hold the attention of more people for a longer time than most big name artists today.

    What you seem to be describing are comics that clearly display a level of skill, but are actually poor examples of craft.

    Mike

  12. Mike, you semantic jagoff! You have crafted your message in a way to critique us all, and now I feel foolish, my honor destroyed.

    We will battle at dawn.

  13. I am stuck in an ikea for the last two hours trying unsuccessfully to purchase a Swedish chair, with this blog entry on my cell phone my only source of amusement / warmth. Craft!

  14. @A. L. Baroza: Judging by your preferred taste in Spider-comics you should maybe keep your pennies for sound legal counsel! Bless you and all who sail in you, sir, but there really was no need to do that. Correcting a mistake should never engender guilt in the correcting party. What a lovely man, ladies and gentlemen, big hand for Mr. A. L. Baroza!

    @Jeremy: Yes, your enjoyment of #620 is probably due to that Chris Samnee guy. He’s the reason I’ve ordered it anyway. Chris Samnee! By the way I hear your neighbour has wired up his house like Joe Don Baker did in CAPE FEAR, so you be careful now!

    @Bubba: Hey, I think SLEEPER and CRIMINAL are quite good too don’t get me wrong there. Your reasons sound fine to me. I am appalled you did not care about the Wildstorm Universe.

    @George: That’s good news, George! Yes, Simonson does start letting the art breathe a bit later. Oh, that art is fine stuff. I envy you reading this for the first time. Well, I would if you were enjoying it more. I don’t know if Buckaroo is dead. I don’t think Cap Mentions him in Cap #1. And if anyone likes a good mope over Dead Bucky it’s Cap. I’ve got 3 to 1 at Ladbrokes on Surprise Resurrection in Fear Itself, myself.

    @MBunge: I’m more than happy to take your correction on board. Now go tell that to the Marvel Architects, or do they use the word ‘craft’ correctly? They sure use it a lot anyway. ‘Craft’ and ‘skill’ seem pretty interchangeable today but your concise summation is convincing in its clarity. You win, MBunge. You win, sir. Hey, Sturdy Sal’s okay in my book. In fact I just read a new comic he inked t’other night. That’s talk for another time though but: he’s still sturdy is Sal.

    @Abhay: If this was all you had for warmth/entertainment I guess you froze to death with a big frowny face. Ikea! Skill! Craft! Crafty skill!

  15. Marvel Architects? Really? I missed that one. Interesting choice of name. Architects design buildings and produce something static. Seems an odd idea when it comes to fictional universes which should live and grow on ideas. Which should breathe.

    Yep, its all about skills and craft and only a tiny percent of inspiration. No wonder that the current Marvel is so uninteresting and basically empty. Nice to look at, but who wants to live there?

  16. I’d live in the Marvel Universe as outside of NYC with its costumed heroes it it pretty much just our world. Meanwhile DC has a world where cities get blown up all the time. Coast City, Bludhaven, it seems if you live in a big city in the DC Universe the odds are pretty good you’re going to die a terrible death, as opposed to the Marvel Universe where it is just NYC where the odds are good aliens will attack or something extreme like that.

  17. I would not even want to live in a *HOUSE* designed by the Marvel Architects. Because shit would be *janky*.

  18. @mbunge

    With you on this one. Professional and rendered by trained pros but lacking something close to heart of what we think of as craft. It’s why I like seeing Chris Samnee post his favorite things he’s inked today on twitter.

    More often than not it’s a tree or a vintage espresso machine. That’s craft and care.

    Getting Samnee back into the thread. #synergy

    What I say next is – of course – without firsthand knowledge so it may come off as overly apoplectic and ill informed.

    What’s really strange is that I think of it as an unknowingly symbiotic relationship on the part of writers and pencillers. Writers deliver 4 books a month so they write them rather thinly. Or perhaps they’re worried about overwhelming a slow penciller. Or maybe just making them mad? I don’t know. Pencillers aren’t going to gripe when they only have to deliver four images per page.

    Where the relationship becomes parasitic should be clear. Those purchasing comics now rip through the average issue in under 5 minutes. Whether people enjoy that or not is a matter of personal preference. The only truth of it is that the less time an issue spends in your hands the less opportunity you have to form any kind of meaningful attachment or feeling for it.

  19. “What’s really strange is that I think of it as an unknowingly symbiotic relationship on the part of writers and pencillers. Writers deliver 4 books a month so they write them rather thinly. Or perhaps they’re worried about overwhelming a slow penciller.”

    One of the structural problems with modern comic creating is that, from what I gather, almost all comics today are written full script. That is, writers carefully block out the story panel by panel like each individual shot in a movie as opposed to Stan Lee Style, where writers hand the artist a plot, he draws the comic and the writer than fills in the dialog.

    Now, full script is entirely appropriate if you’re Alan Moore and you’re writing something with the narrative complexity of WATCHMEN. The overwhelming number of creators and books do not qualify.

    Mike

  20. I know that Grant Morrison and Dan Slott still write in “the Might Marvel Manner” that Stan Lee did. They will give a plot and some placeholder dialog, then when they get the finished art, they go back over it and write it up again. I always imagine Dan Slott did that(his writing really does feel like a modern day Stan Lee on Spider-Man), but Morrison surprised me. I imagine he just stares at Frank Quitely artwork forever, getting those perfect little chestnuts of dialog for All-Star Superman.

  21. If Frank Quitely gave me artwork I would be amazed by the beauty to create text,

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