Big news from Casa Dandy: over the next week, I’m turning 30+ and moving 350 miles. SO! I’m already drunk. Also! I’m moving to a Comcast area, so who the hell knows if I’ll ever get Internet again. In the
unlikely event that I get Comcasted really hard, I’ve got a treat loaded up for next week: I sat down with Steve Orlando, the awesome writer of the awesome Midnighter, and talked to him about Virgil, his new queersploitation comic from Image. You’ll get to see that interview next week, and then even if I have to hike into town for Internet service, I’ll be back with your regularly scheduled reviews the following week.
But first, we got comics this week! Demented imports from Spain; twisted satire; cool cyberpunk; fun spy comics; and ooh a Thundercats/Barbarella crossover? Shit! It’s not that. Stupid typoglycemia. First up, though, we get a glimpse behind the local news camera.
Stringers #1 (Oni Press)
Y’all know Nightcrawler, right? Not the character, the movie about Jake Gyllenhaal chasing crime around to sell video footage to local news? Well, Marc Guggenheim and Justin Greenwood’s Stringers bears only a superficial resemblance to that, but it’s a good place to start.
Paul and Nick are stringers out hunting video, trying to eventually make some decent money by filming something that goes national. They find themselves in the middle of a car chase between the LAPD and MS-13 (a gang of some very, very bad people) and end up with a mysterious, encrypted flash drive. That’s about it for the first issue – it doesn’t explain a ton about Paul or Nick; the book drops you in the middle of their world and gives you clues to figure out their story yourself. Guggenheim is a throwback comics writer: he seeds plots and lets them boil to the top naturally, rather than forcing a little movement on everything just for the sake of movement (look at Arrow, which he co-showruns. That’s structured more like a comic book than half the actual comic books on the market today). As this is the first issue of Stringers, he’s still just in the seeding phase, but he hooks you in with the fun dialogue and an interesting setup, so I’ll be sticking around for the backstory payoffs.
Greenwood, (who you may remember from Stumptown) has a cartoony style that keeps the talking heads panels interesting, but he really stands out on the action sequences because of a choice he made with the sound effects. Instead of your standard FWOOSHes or KERANGs or SCREEEECHes, the sound effects describe what’s making the noise. So “BALLSOUTCHASEAT90MPH” or “ACLOSECALL.” It took a second to register what he was doing, but as it dawned on me, I smiled and muttered “aww that’s pretty cool.” I hope he keeps it going for the whole series.
RunLoveKill volume 1 (Image Comics)
I can’t be the only one who was quietly wishing the whole book was Manu Fernandez’s 3D models, can I? Thankfully, while the interior art was different from the cool-as-hell covers, it wasn’t any less great.
Eric Canete and Jonathan Tsuei’s cyberpunk story sees its first (cheap! Highway robbery cheap! Remember, it’s an Image trade) collection go on sale this week, and the arc it collects was a fun, exciting introduction to a cool world. It’s the story of Rain Oshiro, an assassin who wants out of a repressive, walled-in city. Before she can try and leave, though, she gets hunted by the military. And when this military hunts, they hop in their dinosaur mechs for the chase.
RunLoveKill is very well done. The pacing is outstanding; Canete’s art is vibrant and clear and expressive enough to not need dialogue, and Leandro Olea’s colors are at times amazing – he adds a “lens flare” effect that’s not really a lens flare, and whenever he uses that or focus changes, they always perfectly serve the story beat they’re emphasizing. It’s weird, between the cyberpunk setting, the dinobot mechs, and the assassin snipers parkouring their way out of trouble, it feels like it’s a comic that’s trying really hard to be cool. But Canete’s art is good enough where it completely succeeds.
Dead Drop #4 (Valiant Comics)
Ales Kot and Adam Gorham wrap up their action miniseries that saw Neville Alcott using a bunch of different agents (X-O, Archer, Beta-Max) to chase down a virulent alien plague headed for the black market. We looked at the first issue, and now that it’s wrapped up, I figured it’d be a good time to look at it again, because I really liked it.
Adam Gorham’s art was excellent, but the most impressive thing about this is how easily Ales Kot moved between types of humor. He does dry wit and Archer’s fish-out-of-water schtick one right after the other, and doesn’t miss a beat. Dead Drop is another great mini series from Valiant.
By the way, Beta-Max is somehow even funnier if the quick-glance mistake I made – I swear the first time I looked at one page, I saw half of the Valiant logo on his black tanktop – was somehow real. I know it was a coincidence of the review copy watermark, but I got unduly excited that someone added another layer of meta comedy for a quick second.
Drive #1 (IDW Publishing)
This new comic from IDW is an adaptation of the novel, which was itself turned into the acclaimed movie with Baby Goose and Walter White about a stunt driver who drives getaway cars on the side. It’s a solid enough effort from the creators, but I’m struggling to see exactly why this comic exists.
Each of the two prior versions of Drive has a particular creator’s stamp put on it. Nicolas Winding Refn’s movie is distinctly his, a very odd, spartan, intense, atypical action movie that was still an excellent action movie. James Sallis’ novel, the book that spawned the movie (and now comic) adaptations, is supposed to be the epitome of noir – I haven’t read it yet, but the raves I saw while I was looking into the comic made me want to check it out.
Ultimately, though, when you have such distinct, excellent versions of a story in other media, it makes me ask what the point of adapting it into comics is? Is there something they can do with this story in comics that no one was able to do in film or in a novel? Antonio Fuso and Emilio Lecce combine to make the art vaguely Tony Harris-ish, only with the brighter, more vivid colors I raved about last week. Michael Benedetto’s dialogue is terse and sparse, but he also has Driver narrating the story, which feels a little bit like nervous chatter when I wanted to see the artwork stand on its own.
Drive the comic is a fine enough book. It’s probably unfair to judge the comic on its source material’s impact on the other medium, but the same way we don’t really want movie or tv adaptations of comics just for the sake of seeing them in a different way, I don’t really think this comic was necessary, and I don’t really think the first issue was good enough to feel like there was any great point to adapting it.
Prez #3 (DC Comics)
There are two post-Convergence comics that, every month I see a new issue on the stands, I sigh half from joy, half from disbelief. Disbelief because I’m stunned that I live in a world where DC publishes them. The first is Omega Men, the book about space terrorists trying to bring down the…religious…fundamentalists(? But they’re also religious fundamentalists? Lots of upward lilt in this description that I figure will be flatter after the next new issue reread) that are oppressing the Vega system.
The other is Prez, a comic that on its face makes no sense as a DC book except for its pedigree of one issue of Sandman and a couple of Boomers’ maybe-acid-flashbacks. But whether it fits in with the larger DCU or not is irrelevant, because it’s hilarious. It manages to be smart and stupid at the same time, using utter morons and apathetic fools to make a larger point (and probably several larger points when all is said and done) about society and the current world. Mark Russell is never afraid to get too stupid with his jokes – horsetrading a naval base with a landlocked House member is something so idiotic it has to have happened before – and he does a great job of combining lowbrow, shitty, hilarious puns (Pharmaduke); the utterly ridiculous (Carl the End of Life Bear); and the genuinely terrifying (the corporate personhood amendment that makes it possible for a teenage Vine star to run for president). Ben Caldwell’s art helps the comedy land perfectly. A story like this is so heavily reliant on facial expressions, and his characters are perfect. Like I said, I can’t make it through an issue of Prez without saying at least once “I can’t believe DC publishes this,” and I hope I get to for however many issues Caldwell and Russell want to do it for.
Swords of Sorrow: Pantha/Jane Porter Special (Dynamite Comics)
Emma Beeby and Rod Rodolfo join Dynamite’s lady character crossover for a one-shot focused on Pantha, an ancient Egyptian half-goddess; and Jane Porter, Tarzan’s ladyfriend and daredevil swashbuckler in her own right. The Swords of Sorrow elements feel mostly incidental to the overall story when the best part is how Pantha and Porter interact with each other. The story does kind of follow the crossover trope with a good meet-fight, but Beeby keeps it light with dialogue that has a good patter to it, and Rodolfo draws clear, solid enough action sequences.
However, and this is really just a “me” problem, I really need to stop reading her name as Jane Foster. No shit, when I was outlining the column, I kept writing and seeing “Foster” and getting progressively more confused. I know this is Dynamite, so how the hell are they doing a Thor/Teen Titans crossover? And then I got really excited about it, and then I got a little sad that it only existed in my head. So if anyone at DC or Marvel wants to get me a birthday present…
|Dark Horse Comics|
Zodiac Starforce #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
I cracked this one open with a little bit of an exasperated sigh and thought “uggh, another off-brand Sailor Moon?” And I tried, I really tried hard, to keep my grump going through the entire issue, but you know what? Zodiac Starforce was just too charming and too much fun for me to care that the premise is a little derivative.
I’m not a Magical Girl Team expert, but I highly doubt this is anything anyone here hasn’t seen several times before. Magical ass-kicking powers were bestowed on a group of teen girls, who used their abilities to defend Earth from vaguely terrible shadow monsters. The difference, what makes Zodiac Starforce stand out, is in the execution: Paulina Ganucheau’s art makes most of the issue very light and fun, but the effects she uses when Emma runs into the shadow monsters, or when the girls visit Astra (the bestower of said magical powers) is really cool. Likewise, Kevin Panetta differentiates this story from the other Magic Girl Team stories by giving each girl a lot of personality and moving us forward a couple of years from when they first get their powers. Now the mystery isn’t “where did these girls come from;” instead it’s “why did they stop?” And when you get to the end of the issue, you can add “oh shit what were they thinking by stopping?”
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 Mox Nox by Joan Cornella. I had read a little about this last week, but I was kind of expecting it to be smart, black comedy. It’s not. It’s like if the Perry Bible Fellowship did shrooms. There isn’t a single word of dialogue in the entire 55 pages. Cornella does a wonderful job of conveying everything through body language and facial expressions, not an easy task when everyone looks like a Weeble. And the comedy is a demented surrealist’s…I guess this would be a demented surrealist’s regular dream? I don’t know, I feel like a demented surrealist’s wet dream is probably just her sitting quietly and eating a bowl of cereal. ANYWAY. These strips are pretty messed up and ridiculous and absurd and nonsensical on their face. But when you dig into the logic that’s clearly set up in each strip, they make perfect, perverse sense, and they’re often INCREDIBLY funny. I don’t want to spoil any of the jokes, but the best ones here make PBF look like Dinosaur Comics.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?