Last week, Bluewater Comics, the publishing luminary behind such magnificent comic biographies as Honey Boo Boo and the shitweasel who shot up the Colorado movie theater announced a name change. They’ll now be known as Stormfront Media, and in a delightful (not delightful) coincidence, they share a name with the most prominent white supremacist message board on the Internet. Great idea, guys. The only way this idiotic name change could be topped is if DC changed their name to “The Protocols of the Elders of Comics.”
Let me just pre-emptively review the comic they’re promoting, a Metallica “story” that looks like the same hot trash fire of a book that they usually put out. Instead of buying this book, take 499 pennies. Swallow all of them mixed in with some Indian food, or whatever gives you the most predictable, powerful GI distress. Then when it’s time to pass your just-eaten change, try and shoot them into an empty Big Gulp cup from 10 paces. Take the change that makes it into the cup, rinse it off, and use that to buy a stack of comics from your shop’s quarter bin and read those. You’ll enjoy that a hell of a lot more than you would reading these pieces of shit.
This week in comics, we’ve got webcomics galore! But first, a sci-fi comic adaptation of Canadian Bacon.
We Stand On Guard #2 (Image Comics)
Steve Skroce is my jam. My favorite Age of Apocalypse mini was X-Man almost entirely because of how fantastic his art was. So when I heard he was teaming up with BKV for a story about a future war between Canada and the US, I sat on my shop’s web page refreshing until I could add it to my pull list. The first issue of We Stand On Guard didn’t disappoint.
Most of his career has been spent storyboarding movies for the Wachowskis, and you can see how that work has influenced his art style in this series. He’s drawing a future war, so everything has that same kind of grubby mech future feel that we saw in the Matrix movies, but instead of time-wasting EDM orgies, the non-giant-robot parts here are filled with snappy dialogue and smart just-barely satire. I was mostly kidding about the Canadian Bacon joke, but there is a tiny whiff of humor to the setting, a parody of current society. This had a great first issue, and I’m sure it’s only going to get better from there.
Looking for Group #5 (Dynamite Comics)
Dynamite is publishing print editions of Looking for Group , a webcomic that twists fantasy tropes from D&D-style high fantasy into comedy. Jokey D&D stories are like, a cottage industry in the webcomic universe, so in order to stand out, one needs to be particularly good at something – impeccable art, a compelling fantasy story, spotless comedic timing.
Unfortunately, it’s got none of those things. It’s generally just competent. The art is cartoonish and exaggerated, but the colors are dull and too computer-ey. The facial expressions are good, especially for the masked characters, but there’s so much dialogue that the lettering steps on the art. The jokes are sometimes very good, but sometimes they end one panel and a punchline too soon: early on, there’s an exchange – Richard the warlock is trying to redo a battle pose, and he says “Was it not menacing enough? Let’s do it again. Say the ‘entire kingdom’ line.” The bit ends right there, though. I feel like to add punch to it, there should have been another panel where the line is actually repeated and Richard contorts himself into some ridiculous pose.
All the elements of a good, fun comic are here, and with a little more polish, Looking for Group could be great. Right now, I don’t know that I’d recommend buying it, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Justice League: Gods and Monsters – Wonder Woman #1 (DC Comics)
For a guy who owns all of the Timm DCU cartoons on DVD, I’ve been shockingly, embarrassingly slow at jumping into Gods and Monsters. Thankfully, DC’s putting out webcomic prequels to the movie that should help me get into it, and this Wonder Woman preview looks excellent.
It’s amazing to me that for all of his excellent, renowned comic work, what I know and love J.M. DeMatteis for best is his cartoon writing. Part of that is probably because I didn’t read “Kraven’s Last Hunt” for the first time until last year, but check out the guy’s TV credits – the Metabrawl and Shazam episodes of JLU, the last two episodes of the grossly underrated Legion of Super-Heroes show, the surprisingly good Batman vs. Robin direct to video movie. And he did one of the best New Gods episodes in Justice League‘s entire run – the Flash/Mr. Miracle episode early in season 4.
That’s relevant because in the Gods and Monsters universe, Wonder Woman is Orion’s widow who arrived on Earth in the high-hippie ’60s, and with this issue being her origin story, I’m excited to see him screwing around with alternate universe New Gods. Rick Leonardi looks like he’s doing a good job of aping the Timm/Darwyn Cooke style while still maintaining his own artistic identity, but I’m most excited about the guy who wrote JLI running a New God through the Age of Aquarius.
Infinity Gauntlet #3 (Marvel Comics)
Like any mega-crossover, the miniserieses tying into Secret Wars are a mixed bag. Some are good (E is for Extinction), some are bad (Ultimate End) and some are just meh. Infinity Gauntlet is one of the rare books that’s so good that it would justify the entire event, even if Secret Wars weren’t my favorite mega-crossover ever.
Seriously, the good vastly outweighs the bad with these tie ins, but Infinity Gauntlet might be my favorite. Gerry Duggan and Dustin Weaver are doing the work of their careers here, a pretty tall order considering the popular acclaim Duggan’s won for his Deadpool run and the incredible work Weaver did/is doing on S.H.I.E.L.D. I can’t understate how gorgeous this comic is – Weaver’s pencils are so sharp and his colors are so vibrant and energetic that I find myself stepping back and staring at whole pages – I reset my Comixology reader to see the full page going in and out of the book when I read these issues.
Duggan’s strength as a writer isn’t actually his comedy (though he’s certainly very good at that – Hawkeye vs. Deadpool was incredible). It’s how much earnest heart he puts into his characters. This is an excellent family superhero story, about a family fighting to survive in a world (country, nation, whatever) destroyed by the Annihilation Wave, and that universe’s Infinity Gems slowly finding their way back together. Everything about this book is fantastic, and if you’re a fan of Duggan, Weaver, or all the things that are good about Marvel right now, you should be buying this.
JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood Volume 3 (Viz Manga)
I was actually aware of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure because of trawling fighting game sites for combos for the games I played – I saw Eventhubs and Shoryuken talking about it, and I figured “ok, there’s a manga based on this. It’s probably ridiculous, but let me check it out.” HOOOLY SHIT was I unprepared for how nuts this is.
This book is everything I expected to see when I started my grand manga adventure: over the top violence, figures positioned in ways that only make sense in the context of that page, muscles so big that they’d make Cable feel inadequate, and a story that has a peculiar but impeccable logic. Allow me to explain: [deep breath]Jonathan Joestar (the titular JoJo in this particular Bizarre Adventure) is stepbrothers with Dio Brando, an absolute lunatic who kills JoJo’s father by putting on an Aztec mask and becoming a vampire after spending years ingratiating himself into the Joestar household with the intention of discrediting JoJo and inheriting the Joestar fortune, and spending months poisoning JoJo’s father [stage exhale]. Oh yeah and half the people in the book are named after 80s rockers – Dio, Robert E.O. Speedwagon, Zeppeli (for Led Zeppelin).
I’m not one to generally advocate for “turn your brain off” fun, because that’s usually a backhanded compliment. It implies that the entertainment is a mindless, simple affair without much to recommend it. That said, you should keep your brain on here, but try not to think too hard about it and just enjoy the bonkers kinetic glee of one of the strangest, most entertaining comics out there.
Lion of Rora (Oni Press)
Lion of Rora is the story of Joshua Janavel, the leader of the Waldensians, a persecuted Protestant sect in 1650s Italy. Or whatever city-state it was back then. Italian political history is ridiculous, you guys. It’s drawn by Jackie Lewis and written by Christos and Ruth Fletcher Gage, more commonly known as two writers from the Daredevil show. Ruth descends from the Waldensians, so this is apparently a very personal story for her, and I’m glad she decided to share it.
Janavel’s story is one of those ridiculous moments in history that would be impossible to believe without proof. The Waldensians were a small group of strict-ish Protestants whom the Duke of Savoy decided to wipe out to solidify his rule over his territory. Janavel, after a massacre that took place on Easter, led a group of 7 people to victory over an army of 600 through misdirection and cleverness, and spent the rest of his life fighting to secure his people’s land from an ongoing campaign of terror. Lewis does a very good job of depicting his entire story, using black and white art effectively to underplay the violence a little, but not completely wash it out of the story. I know I harp on this a lot, but I really love using comics as a vehicle for nonfiction stories, and this is a great example of why. Janavel’s story is very compelling, and telling it in comic form lets you pick up so much detail in such an engrossing way that I think I really benefitted from reading it like this first. The Gages scatter so many little humanizing details about Janavel’s life and personality into the book that he’s an awesome character in a story, and an even more interesting historical figure.
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 Dengue by Rodolfo Santullo and Matias Bergara. Dengue is about a detective and a news reporter in Montevideo, years after an outbreak of some kind of zombie dengue fever drove everyone indoors or into suits, and it plays as a mystery/government conspiracy tale. I usually go into these postapocalyptic wasteland stories expecting a kind of dull cynicysm – not dull as in boring, but dull like blunted and weary. It’s there in Dengue, but it’s playfully witty, almost like everyone in the story is aware that it’s how they’re supposed to behave, but just under the surface they’re really having a lot of fun. Bergara’s monsters are perfectly grotesque, but Santullo’s writing is the best part – really sharp, smart, funny in just the right places and different enough (especially at the end of the story) that what could have been a standard disease zombie apocalypse and makes it a fun, worthwhile read.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?