Happy holidays! We’re heading into the last week of the year, which means food- and alcohol-fueled slowdowns of everything, including comics. Not here though! Fortunately “more bourbon for Jim” means I am smarter, handsomer and more deliciouser smelling. I also grammar better.
This week, Superman takes on James Joyce; Red Skull saves the day probably; Black Science wraps its second arc; The Garbage Pail Kids Movie finally gets a comic adaptation; we find out what kind of doctorate Adam Spektor has (I bet it’s a J.D.); superheroes get their own type of lyrical verse; and one of the best horror stories of the year ends. But first, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private do their thing.
Penguins of Madagascar #2 (Titan Comics)
Alex Matthews, a humor cartoonist, is writing a comic adaptation of the Penguins from the Madagascar movies (and their own spinoff TV show). It looks entertaining enough – lighthearted, a little on the nose, aimed very much at kids and not me – but this comic scares the hell out of me.
I have had that stupid damn Frozen song stuck in my stupid damn head since I made the damn joke about it when I wrote up damn Princess Ugg and if this is what I damn have to look forward to when I have damn kids, I don’t know what I’m going to damn do. HELL DAMN BOOGER.
Superman #37 (DC Comics)
My head-canon Superman, the ideal Superman in my imagination when I’m thinking of a story with him in it, is massive. He’s a giant farm boy who could menace if it weren’t for body language, so instead he’s always warm and inviting and positive.
John Romita Jr. is absolutely killing it on Superman. His Clark Kent/Supes is absolutely perfect, exactly what I (and many, many others, I’m sure) was hoping for when it was announced that he was jumping to the Distinguished Competition. Geoff Johns has given him good material to work with and created an interesting counterpoint to Superman in Ulysses, and JRjr’s character design only heightens the contrast between the two. Between this, Garbage Pail Kids and the conclusion of Axis‘s “what if the heroes were really the villains,” we’re in full on nostalgia overload this week, making the safe return of my inner child a glorious celebration.
Avengers & X-Men: Axis #9 (Marvel Comics)
Throwback time! Axis #1 was featured in my first week on the job, and then a few weeks later I grumbled about it being not terribly great. Well, I’m happy to eat my words here: I went back and read the whole series to this point in one sitting, and “Hey, Jim Cheung drew more than 1 face” sarcasm aside, I was pleasantly surprised at how fun it reads. It remains an utterly moronic premise to read out loud, but it’s given us some really fun moments, not the least of which was (spoiler alert) Carnage going out like a champ. I really hope that Cletus Kasady’s memorial, an eternal flame constantly blasting “Free Bird,” stays canon even after the inevitable Secret Wars-related reset. Actually, maybe they can have a symbiotted-up Skynyrd play a never-ending concert in Spider Land.
Eeeeh, nevermind, “We are a simple kind of men” doesn’t really have the same ring to it.
Black Science #11 (Image Comics)
At a surface level, Black Science is a mad science antihero story about a group of generally terrible people jumping through the multiverse. Go a little bit deeper, though, and it turns into a sneakily personal look at the insecurity of parenting.
I think that Scott Snyder and Rick Remender are the two writers in comics who visibly put the most of themselves in their work – Snyder on Wytches and Batman, and Remender here and on the equally terrific Deadly Class. Matteo Scalera (and Dean White, who turns everything he touches into fluorescent gold) are doing tremendous work on art chores, but I don’t think Black Science would resonate the way that it does if there weren’t the sense that the fears and insecurities and worries that the characters feel in it were coming from a very real place. Don’t get me wrong, this book rises to the top of my to-read pile every week because of the depth, but lizards riding lizards and attacking futuristic Native Americans with psychic helmets is metal as all hell and I would be buying it just for that.
Garbage Pail Kids Puketacular #1 (IDW Publishing)
Well, I don’t know what I was expecting. The GPK Puketakular is immature even for me, and I’m regularly reduced to tears at the farting scene in Blazing Saddles. So, of course, I thought this comic was amazing.
Garbage Pail Kids were the bleeding edge of poop and vomit humor when I was in middle school. IDW’s new anthology features a handful of stories from some surprisingly big names: Peter Bagge, Dean Haspiel and Bill Wray to name a few. There are stories that savage con culture, con crud and superhero tropes, and the art is all seamlessly matched to the style of the old Garbage Pail Kids cards that used to infuriate my teachers when I was 12 and stuck them to the back of their chairs right before I got hit with crippling detentions.
Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult Vol 1 TPB (Dynamite Entertainment)
Remember when Bryan Hitch was the greatest thing happening to comic art? Not to pooh-pooh his current work, which is generally as good as he always was, but there was a vibrancy to it back at the turn of the century that isn’t there for his creator owned stuff now. This is relevant because Neil Edwards apparently stole that verve and is putting it all into Doctor Spektor, the part of Dynamite’s Gold Key revival, the first collection of which goes on sale this week.
Mark Waid doesn’t really need any more praise heaped on him, considering he’s one of the most celebrated comic writers from the last 30 years, but his work here is exactly what you’d expect: engaging, brisk, with an emotional connection that, for a master of the occult, makes Spektor easy to connect with. The updated pulp magician is now a reality tv star, broadcasting his occult adventures to millions of followers every week. This is a great book, and I’m really excited for volume 2, The Real Desperate Housewives of the House of Mystery.
Memetic #3 (BOOM! Studios)
We’re going to have more on this soon, but Memetic is very good. There’s a core of emotion at the center of James Tynion and Eryk Donovan’s horror comic that makes this a transcendent horror series. The first two issues are very straightforward, full of horror tropes that made the book extremely enjoyable. The third issue twists those tropes and the reader’s expectations around and turns it from a great, really scary story into something bleak, melancholy and heartfelt.
I will be recommending Memetic to a lot of people. Hell, they can even use this as a blurb for the trade: “Memetic took me from pants-shittingly terrified to pants-shittingly thoughtful and sad in the space of 100 pages.”
Please don’t use that as a blurb for the trade.
ONE THAT GOT AWAY
Every week there are way too many comics for me to read and keep track of. So in every column, I’m going to take a look at a book that came out in the last few weeks, but that I only just had a chance to read.
This week, it’s not actually a comic. It’s MultiVerse, a collection of cape-inspired poetry compiled and edited by the folks who brought us Aim for the Head, poetry on zombies.
This is a really interesting book. Abandoning the collaborative medium of comics to muse on characters that are, in many cases, social institutions more than characters or plot devices leads to some very interesting, sometimes disturbing insights. Many of these poems are written from the point of view of a character who doesn’t usually get a point of view. All of them are using a different vocabulary to explore these characters. MultiVerse is absolutely worth checking out, especially if you’re a poetry fan or if you’re looking for a new angle to think about superheroes from. The Joker poem…man, that should have just been called “What the shit? Really, what the shit man?”
You can pick up MultiVerse: An Anthology of Superhero Poetry of Superhuman Proportions at many local book stores, or online from Write Bloody’s web store.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?