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“Rodeo Ain’t Over Yet!” COMICS! Sometimes I Don’t Have A Title!

John Kane

Hello! Here are some words about some comics. The sales figures analysis is just below this. Very good it is too! To clarify, the Hibbs’ stuff is good, not this stuff. Anyway, this…

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ALL STAR WESTERN#16
Jonah Hex: Art by Moritat, written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, coloured by Mike Atiyeh and lettered by Rob Leigh.
Tomahawk!: Art and colour by Phil Winslade, written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and lettered by Rob Leigh.
DC Comics, $3.99 (2012)
Jonah Hex created by Tony DeZuniga and John Albano

Tomahawk created by Edmund Good and Joe Samachson

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I finally realised that it isn’t the sticklebricking of DC Continuity and the basic desperate casting about for stunt elements that are hamstringing my enjoyment of this book. No, it’s the joylessness of it. Its total and wholehearted acceptance of the current DC mode of storytelling which puts a premium on prevarication and encourages emptiness. Look, this book would be great if Bob Haney was writing it. Bob Haney isn’t writing it though so it isn’t great. If I’m hankering after Bob Haney in 2013 it’s a fair guess your book isn’t up to snuff. On the up side this issue doesn’t contain the dismayingly frequent page filling device of having that Oriental lass fighting for five pages. In fact she doesn’t appear once which means that any entertainment can be rightly said to be just like the cast – purely occidental. You want better jokes, make better comics.

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In the Tomahawk back up the most startling aspect as ever is Phil Winslade’s bizarre digital watercolours job which I find enjoyable without actually knowing why. In other news, the English turn out to be the villains! I guess that’s how Germans feel when they read DC war comics. A taste of my own medicine there. And it is bitter, bitter, bitter. This book, however, is only EH!

DJANGO UNCHAINED #1
Art by R M Guera with Jason Latour
Adapted by Reginald Hudlin
Coloured by Giulia Brusco
Lettered by Sal Cipriano
Adapted from the original screenplay by Quentin Tarantino
Vertigo/DC Comics, $3.99

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I can’t speak as to how good an adaptation this is because I haven’t seen the movie. I’m old and the wild and outrageous young rebel Quentin Tarantino scares me with his outrageously youthful rebelliousness and his youthfully rebellious outrageous movies. Luckily my much younger sister had seen this very movie so I asked her how she found it. She said, and I quote so the record may be deemed complete, “It was entertaining, Johnny, but it wasn’t good.” There you go then. Me, I fear I invite your youthful ire as I just don’t think Tarantino is all that. Oh, it isn’t his childishly inflammatory use of the “N” word, after all I’m sure should our paths cross the edgy auteur would be equally forgiving were I to pepper him with the “C” word like it was going out of fashion. No, but some of it is the fact that he uses the word “cool” too much. The only men his age who should use “cool” that much are Grateful dead fans who live in San Franciscan dumpsters. Mostly though it’s that he reacts to proper questions like THIS. Yeah, I’ll let that speak for itself I think. On the plus side the iconoclastic Quentin Tarantino does seem to have exhausted his celluloid fetish for Uma “Man Hands” Thurman.

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The stated aim of this comic is to illustrate the original script. Every golden word. I guess it does that. It certainly seems like a Tarantino script. The dialogue is surely as self-satisfied and in need of tightening as ever and it retains all the usual rhythm and musicality (i.e. all the rhythm and musicality of a tune played on an arse flute); scenes outstay their welcome or outstay their welcome while also leading up to a totally predictable reveal and the characters haven’t any. Usually it would take hundreds of talented people and millions of dollars to make this stuff at least enjoyable if not actually good. All this comic has is R M Guera. All this comic needs is R M Guera. It’s an amazingly savvy choice since for the last 5 years and change R M Guera has been tasked with tricking everyone into thinking that a tour through Jason Aaron’s 70’s movie memories constitutes something with anything more to say than, hey, wasn’t cinema in the 70’s just grand? Or SCALPED as it is known. Elevating the mundane to the magical is just what R M Guera does I guess. He does it bloody well though. Jason Latour throws down a few flashback panels and his art is excellent every time it appears but the shining star here is R M Guera. R M Guera with his ambulatory toby jugs and smooth storytelling once again showing everyone else up. Hey, the poor old writer doesn’t even get a credit except here: Reginald Hudlin. I don’t know why he doesn’t get a credit but it’s not a trend I want to encourage. Anyway, thanks largely to RM Guera this was GOOD!

SUPREME #68
Written and Drawn by Erik Larsen
Coloured by Steve Oliff
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos
Supreme created by Rob Liefeld
Image Comics, $3.99

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In this pulse pounding issue Erik Larsen basically says that he enjoyed illustrating Alan Moore’s script but since then he’s been noodling about and it’s been just super, thanks, but he’s off now. Apparently someone else will be taking over, no idea who but, yeah, someone at some point. Of all the moves to steal from the DC playbook that’s a pretty strange choice. At least he didn’t steal DC’s signature move which is now apparently making comics nobody likes but lots of them. Larsen’s departure is a bit of a shame because I found his Kirby with a split nib art quite charming and in this issue it’s particularly so because, for no readily apparent reason, Larsen suddenly starts drawing this thing like it’s Kyle Baker’s RONIN. (Yes, I know it was Frank Miller’s RONIN but this looks like Kyle Baker’s RONIN).

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I quite enjoyed this book. It had enjoyably stupid characters like Lion headed Supreme and Darius Duck, people flew around, punching occurred and Larsen always respectfully drew Supreme in that scratchy Liefeld mode without actually ever being as shitty as Liefeld. Sure, it was pretty basic stuff but it was basically pretty stuff. Sometimes I don’t actually want all that much from a comic and this certainly delivered that. I wouldn’t recommend that Erik Larsen make a habit of just dumping books as people might start referring to a failure to commit as having committed Larsen-y. Unlike that joke this was OKAY!

FATALE#9,10
Art by Sean Phillips
Written by Ed Brubaker
Coloured by Dave Stewart
Fatale created by Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker
Image Comics, $3.50

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Everyone can relax because I’m done here. I’ve had my doubts about this one all the way. For starters the horror elements have been inexplicably dusty and dull (cassocks! tentacles!). I don’t need my own pet Jess Nevins to know that horror in the ’70s was actually engaging with real world events and offering up savage and innovative treats which were leaving Corman’s Poe adaptations for dead. Then there’s the inescapable drab narration which mistakes deadpan for just plain dead on the page and is written in a fabulous new tense even more inactive than the passive; the comatose tense perhaps. The only sign of life in this one-note stuff is that it works the word “but” like it yearns to be a Salt’n’Pepa track.Then there’s stuff like this:

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That pivotal oh, go away moment occurred in issue 9 but due to the caprices of my comic dispersal system I still had issue 10 to go. Yes, one more chance! A chance which was immediately crushed when the central character (who thus far has been less like Fatale and more like Docile) just suddenly remembered she had special magic powers and plain killed everyone in a climax as rewarding as being inadvertently brought off by the motion of your train seat. Look, there’s no mystery about why men will act like complete tools for a pretty face, certainly not a supernatural mystery. Unless you think the contents of your pants are supernatural and mysterious. In which case your Pope just resigned. I didn’t know Popes could do that! This series always seemed less James Ellroy and H P Lovecraft and more Quinn Martin and Donald P Bellisario. An impression strengthened by future covers which indicate the series is just going to stick a new genre on top of the usual stuff. Now she’s a witch, now she’s a space man, now she’s a turtle, dis-integrating! Like my interest. Mr Ben with a magical woo-woo may well be a new direction but not one I’ll be pursuing. So, I’ll be missing future essays on The Scarecrow And Mrs King and, more importantly, the fine work of Sean Phillips and Dave Stewart which deserves better than to be yoked to work this EH!

SHADOW SPECIAL #1
Art by Ronan Cliquet
Written by Scott Beatty
Coloured by Mat Lopes
Lettered by Rob Steen
The Shadow created by Walter B. Gibson
Dynamite, $4.99
(HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!!!! FOUR DOLLARS AND NINETY NINE CENTS!!!! THAT’S INSANE!!!!)

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In the main title The Shadow is currently palling about with George Orwell. George Orwell is the author of a couple of books on how shit being poor is and how we will all willingly participate in a system designed to crush our common humanity. He was right about both of those things and remains right, although he missed a trick in not realising that the main way The System would ensure our complicity would be by making nice things for us to buy. But then there weren’t many nice things to buy back then so we’ll let him off. Rip The System! You don’t bring Orwell to the party unless you want that party to get political! Orwell also did a book about animals on a farm. I can’t remember what it was called but it was about animals on a farm. It was a metaphor or an analogy or some clever shit like that about some animals on a farm. Oh yeah, I remember now, the one about the animals on the farm? It was called BEFORE WATCHMEN.

Anyway, this isn’t the main series so George Orwell isn’t in it. No, this is a “special” but it isn’t very, possibly even at all. Except for the price. That’s pretty fucking special right there. There’s the core of a fun and pulpy tale here but something’s gone awry on the pacing front. When there’s more pages devoted to The Shadow moaning about going shoe shopping (yes, really) than there is to his fight in a minefield with a man who has courageously chosen to sport only a bouquet of barbed wire around his nuddy bod (Oooch! Owch!) then, yes, I’d have to disagree strongly with the storytelling emphases.

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Ronan Cliquet has a good go at being Alan Davis but he seems to have jumped ahead a bit; Alan Davis didn’t get to be Alan Davis until he’d got the basics right, son. I’m guessing he’s just some wee snip learning his trade but the best I can give him is – promising. The most special thing about this comic is the paper it’s printed on. Paper so much like catalogue pages from your youth that there’s a constant urge to riffle through them to the Hot Wheels section or the sports bra section depending on which age your development is currently arrested at. No, it wasn’t special unless special is EH!

And like The Pope – I’m gone! But there’s still COMICS!!!

16 Responses to “ “Rodeo Ain’t Over Yet!” COMICS! Sometimes I Don’t Have A Title! ”

  1. Always a pleasure, Mr. Kane!

  2. “This series always seemed less James Ellroy and H P Lovecraft and more Quinn Martin and Donald P Bellisario.”

    I think this describes so many comics these days. And the fact is, I like me some Martin, and love me some Bellisario. But I don’t want to be told I am reading Ellroy, because it gets in the way of me enjoying stories about a guy who uses a particle accelerator to jump through time and fix stuff.

  3. Oh, my. John apparently decided nobody has really been using the Savage part of “Savage Critic”and so will give it a go. Delightful reading, Mr. K!

  4. I came here to talk about Fatale 11-12 when I realized Tucker Stone had already done it better than I could, so I suggest you check out his comments: http://www.tcj.com/im-all-about-the-love-baby-blossom/

  5. Great stuff as always, John.

  6. So Tucker Stone is so unhappy he can only get an erection by reading a Spider-Man comic that pisses off fanboys he wouldn’t cross the street to piss on if he were on fire, and has the ability and the finances to completely avoid if he so chose?

    Does that sound healthy to anyone?

  7. @Other Chris: Always is a long time but we’ll see what we can do, sir!

    @David Oakes: Hey, I’m okay with Q-M and DPB too! Tales of The Gold Monkey in tha house! Ayup. But you gotta oversell those comicbooksuckers! There’s more to Ellroy than men in hats (there’s racism!) and there’s more to Lovecraft than tentacles (there’s racism!). FATALE’s got too much missing (racism! Oh, this was a bad choice!)to punch at that weight and it’s daft to expect it to. But. But.I get you’ve got to make these babies stand out from the crowd but it can be dangerous to set expectations too high. Ellroy! Pynchon! Shakespeare! All around us right now in funnybook form! My arse. Mind you, genre comics is a place where people can equate Brian Bendis with David Mamet without being laughed at so hard they cry. Not on my watch, sir! Sorry, where we we? Oh yeah, nothing wrong with entertainment. Might that have been my point? Maybe.

    @Jeff: Aw, Jeff! Jeff with the big Jesus-y face! Always too, too kind. But never too hairy, Gentle Jeff.

    @DanielT: That’s great, really. I’m glad someone likes this book as much as the creators intended. But Mr. Stone’s review is better than any issue of the comic I’ve read. And I’ve given that comic 10 issues. That’s more leeway than I give blood relatives! Mind you, I also disagree with the estimable Mt. Stone on BATTLEFIELDS (I like it more) so that puts us at Death Grudge Status Red!

    (Man, that Tucker Stone. You know Brian Hibbs won’t let us chuck his chair out of the Savage Commmissary? Sometimes, alerted by soft sad sounds in the dark, Jeff finds Bwana sat in The Stone Throne getting maudlin on microbrews and has to gently lead the big lug by the hand back to the Savage Dormitory. Kids. They always leave.)

    @S: Whoa, way too kind, hoss!

    @Dan Coyle: Yeah well, speaking just, and only, for myself I sure wouldn’t want to be taking any mental hygiene tests any time soon. Hey, there sure was a lot of hot piss action in your first sentence!

    Thanks everyone! I realise it was all a bit crazy old man this week, sorry!

  8. Your sisters Django review made me sad, I thought everyone would love that film. I would have said it was an excellent film, with the plus of also being wildly entertaining. The missus and I were practically cheering the screen like we were Americans (we aren’t, so we kept our joy silent and tutted about those who didn’t).
    I was a big fans of Tarrantino’s in the 90’s, and really thought his best was behind him, but I think it’s up there, if not better than, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown (and maybe the best Western since Unforgiven?). It showed the horror of history, but then gave you the joy of seeing the perpetrators get theirs, and then some. Like the feeling of joy some people got seeing Hitler get shot in Basterds, but for a whole film. This is the most he’s dropped the N-bomb, but never has it worked better – at the start it’s used as such a ridiculous put-down, by unsympathetic idiots, and by the end it’s practically empowering for Django. If he’s smart, he’ll phase it out of his scripts after this.

    Moving away from a single line of one of the reviews, sounds like a pretty rough haul of comics for you. I hate those weeks. Hope there was some good stuff you didn’t review! I don’t know if you’ve seen it, as it’s old and I only discovered it this week, but if you need a Comics! shot in the arm, the Kirby Museum has 23 minute video of Kirby doing a drawing from start to finish, whilst he and Roz chat with some fans/fan-press. It’s pretty cool.

    I want to like Larsen’s output more than I do. I grabbed a few comixology issues of Savage Dragon, and they were enjoyable enough to read, but instantly forgotten when I was done. His art and mini superhero universe should be enough to get me, but it never does. And whenever he stepsmoutsideof Dragon, the results seemed to be mixed, at best.

  9. Don’t be sad, Ben Lipman! My sister did say it was “entertaining”! (her reaction to Basterds was a sort of eye rolling shivering backstep while holding her hands away from her body and making a “nnnnn” noise, so in comparison Django got a good review!) If there was a theme this week (and there wasn’t and never is) it’s that it’s okay for stuff to just be enjoyable, stuff doesn’t need to be Important or anything. I’m glad you and your better half enjoyed the movie. I have zero problem with people enjoying things I don’t, I swear!(Except for Dan Brown, that stuff’s just shitty) I haven’t seen the film after all (also,I think I was just really annoyed by that interview with QT). Yeah, Jackie Brown’s really good!

    I did read some better stuff but this stuff was the stuff I’d read most recently. I do buy these things with the intention of enjoying ‘em but sometimes…In all fairness I’ve not been in the best of humours and I do kind of overreact for effect sometimes(!). Cheers, I’ll look up the Jack Kirby clip because KOIBY!!! makes everything all right. Fact!

    I keep thinking about trying SavDrag because like you, Ben Lipman, I think I should like Larsen more. Hey, his DEFENDERS with Kurt Busiek was pretty sweet! I just remembered that one. You’d like that too, I think. It’s well funny. Maybe that will undo the wound of sadness I have inflicted via my sibling.

    Cheers and keep on tutting in the free world!

  10. Apparently my internet-machine made an error, and popped me over to ScathingCritic.com! Although, given the comics you reviewed, it seemed warranted (I still don’t get the allure of Fatale either…)
    But, we must part ways there, as I thought Scalped, which you backhandedly backhand, was one of the better series I’ve recently read. I thought Aaron provided an engaging script, which I didn’t think was as predictable as saying he aped 70s movies would seem. We can both make amends by agreeing that Guerra makes any project more likely to be good.
    Even in disagreement, I enjoy your thoughts, good sir! Keep them coming!

  11. John – excellent work, as always. The George Orwell/Before Watchmen thing was great. You and that Padraig O Mealoid fellow are, by far, the best writers about comics we have. I like Abhay Khosla and Douglas Wolk quite a bit, too, but you and Padraig are the bestest.

    BTW – Does anyone know if Abhay draws the comics he writes? If so, he’s quite a bit more talented than he lets on. (The comics are at twiststreet.com if anyone hasn’t seen them yet.)

    While I’m giving plugs to excellent on-line comics, studygroupcomics.com comics are phenomenal.

    Anyway, back to the meat of this post…I think the problem with guys like Brubaker is they try too hard to emulate certain book authors. One that’s coming to mind for me is Hickman with Pynchon. Brubaker, Hickman, Bendis, etc try so hard to be the comics version of these guys and it just seems like a shame because they’re applying their talent in the wrong direction. That series Brubaker wrote with the Alan Moore Wildcats characters, Point Blank/Sleeper, that was really good. Yeah, it was strongly influenced by Ellroy, but it read more like it was influenced by Ellroy as opposed to being a retread of what he thinks Ellroy is like.

    I enjoyed Django because I like US history and I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy of…everything that wasn’t the focal point, I guess? Like, Tarantino doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’s going to read a bunch of history books and strive for historical accuracy, but there it was in a lot of places where I can’t imagine anyone was really looking.

    I can’t stand Tarantino in interviews, though. I’m always amazed at how much I like his work while not liking his public persona at all.

    Reginald Hudlin is a weird guy. He made one of the best movies of all time, House Party, but that could be a case of the right guy being in the right place at the right time. He also made a fortune during his tenure of BET where he really turned BET into a minstrel show. He doesn’t need to write comics, or do anything anymore, but he does. He must enjoy it…and he’s not half bad. I’ve enjoyed books he’s written, but I always feel icky for it.

    You’re spot on with R M Guera. He’s really, really underrated.

    I looooved the Jonah Hex review. Normally I don’t enjoy reviews that are just straight negative, but the Bob Haney thing was such a great take! I wish Haney was still alive and still writing comics. He was one of the greats. Whenever I see his name on a comic, I get giddy. Moritat is totally wasted on Jonah Hex….

  12. Brian Wiggett: Oho ho! Don’t you be trying to be all reasonable about stuff! That’ll never catch on. Did you know Aaron and R M Guera were originally going to do a Scalphunter revival but ended up doing SCALPED? It’s a Scalp Fact!

    @Chris Hero: You are so overwhelmingly nice about my stuff that sometimes I think you are my Mum using a fake name. Then I remember she hates me. So, I guess you are genuine. I can’t really agree with your high estimation but I am glad you enjoy my silliness so much.(Also, you forgot Jog – he is the acest of aces).

    I think Abhay does draw his comics (he’s certainly drawn some of them) and yes, yes he is quite dismayingly talented in a multitude of areas isn’t he? I understand he can play the spoons too. I will check out your plugs soonish.

    Sweet Jesus, is Hickman really “being” Pynchon? Wooo. The very best of luck with that, Mr. Hickman. I am pleased Django is historically accurate. I had no idea Reginald Hudlin was so storied a fellow!

    Now, I’m not saying Bob Haney was sophisticated or good but old Bob Haney could sure entertain. That’s all you need to do, folks! Th-th-th-that’s all folks!

    Cheers to all as ever!

  13. Wow…Abhay draws, too, huh? Geez…that guy…making the rest of us look like chumps!

    Jog is aces, too. You’re right – totally forgot about him. I always find something new to buy when I read his new comics thing at tcj.com. Tim Holder is also a super swell guy, so I should probably add him in my list of awesome.

    Hickman…I have most of his Image stuff. Generally speaking, I enjoy his hard sci-fi quite a bit, except when he either overreaches or phones it in. But yeah, he’s been giving off a Pychon-esque vibe and it’s like…dude, no. He tries to work in all these historical references and have these extraordinarily self-referential things along with some dense world building and it usually doesn’t work. Maybe I just gave him too much credit after Pax Romana…I really enjoyed that one. Willow Wilson’s work is obviously Pychon-informed, but she’s pretty much left comics behind.

    Bob Haney is the man! I’ve never read a boring Haney comic. When I was a kid, I used to go out of my way to find books written by him or Gardner Fox. Fox is a forgotten hero.

  14. Thank you particularly for this:
    Unless you think the contents of your pants are supernatural and mysterious. In which case your Pope just resigned.

    That was a diamond among, you know, rubies and other also-good stuff, but hey, diamond!

  15. @Chris Hero: It’s okay, I was just teasing. You don’t need to do an exhaustive list to avoid offending anyone! Although it is very sweet of you to do so.

    @BrianMc: Cheers, I wouldn’t try giving it any ladies as a love-token, though.

    Thanks everyone as ever for all the magic!

  16. Late answer, but yeah, I do all the drawings and lettering and psuedo-color on the comics that are online. That’s why the hands look all weird and they mostly don’t involve cars, and why no one looks the same from panel to panel. The only time I ever worked with an artist was this one time for DC. That’s why that one had … depictions of things happening, in the panels. Thanks though. Thanks for the kind words.

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