We’ll get to who won the sweet, sweet autographed Wrath of the Eternal Warrior art book that Valiant is giving away in a moment, but before we do, I’d like to send a special shout-out to Diamond. Through your competence and prompt recovery service, it’s been 2 weeks since I didn’t get my copies of East of West and The Wicked + The Divine because you shorted my shop in what sounds like a regular occurrence. I’m super glad y’all have a monopoly and aren’t, through your regular incompetence, driving people out of stores and into digital. Good job, good effort. And now, everyone imagine a drumroll.
Benjamin Eugene Nelson! Congratulations, you won the Valiant stuff! Here’s how you claim it: email your real name (if that’s not it – it certainly looks real, but I have trust issues) and your mailing address to thejimdandy1 at gmail dot com, and we’ll get that stuff in the mail for you toot sweet. As for this week’s comics, there are a bunch of books out that seem specifically tailored to my interests. First: Garbage Pail Kids from a simpler time.
Class Photo (Fantagraphics)
Robert Triptow’s new comic from Fantagraphics is an odd little riff on the class photo of the kids at P.S. 49 in 1937. I enjoyed it for what it was: a light, juvenile series of improv jokes – Garbage Pail Kids but innocent.
Triptow’s cartooning is so classic it should be taught.His faces are perfect caricatures of the original picture, taking one aspect of the originals and amplifying them (often to ridiculous extremes) to fit his joke. Actually, I think I just described all good parody, and that’s what this is. Some of it is almost quaint – a lot of these are based off of stories he and his uncle, David Jensen, made up for the characters 40 years ago, and you can tell he hasn’t gone back to strip any of these tales of their innocence. And then there are some (Daisy Bulch, Wally Weems) that are still juvenile, but not innocent at all. Most of them are funny, full of clever puns or extended rhyming riffs. All of them look great.
Hellboy & the BPRD 1953 #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Page 1: Harry Middleton looks like DeForest Kelley. 10/10, don’t need to read anymore. I guess I should talk more about why – nothing in the subsequent pages made me temper my snap judgement – but I have the sense that Hellboy + Dr. McCoy is enough for most of you, so feel free to skip out on the rest of the review.
There are a couple of foreshadowing (I guess? What’s the word for foreshadowing within the chronology of the story, but published in a prequel so really just hopelessly dejecting) comments by Trevor Bruttenholm that work as a bit of a pivot point for the story, reminding the reader that as bad as things are in the present day for Hellboy and the BPRD, there was always a reason to believe in Hellboy. And then there’s a rolling fight through a graveyard and a mansion and a forest between Hellboy and a demon, which Ben Steinbeck draws exceptionally well. 10/10, glad I finished.
Batgirl #45 (DC Comics)
Spoiler warning, in case you want to come in completely cold: this issue of Batgirl is fairly soapy, and while heavy on the character development, it’s not like you find out that Jo is secretly like, Amazo or something, so saying “the wedding looked nice” shouldn’t really shatter the reading experience for you. But use your eyes to scroll past this review if you really don’t want to know who steals Alysia’s ring.
This issue was incredible for a hundred different reasons. Babs Tarr is one of the best artists in comics, with expressive, cartoony faces, and action framing and staging that flows as well as anybody else drawing today. Serge LaPointe’s colors are just as outstanding: it’s a wedding issue, so everything is pastel pink, but it never feels cloying or gauche (and honorable mention to Tarr for the dresses, which all look beautiful). But the best part of this is how against the grain the story flows.
Dick Grayson comes back into Barbara’s life after the whole “the world thinks he’s dead but he’s really a sexy super spy” thing and tries to sweep her away from Luke Fox, her date for the wedding/S.O. by the end of the issue. In a bad comic, he would have been successful AND he would have ruined the wedding. In a mediocre comic, she would have done something she regretted and either missed or horribly postponed the wedding. This is an outstanding comic, though, so Barbara, after a wonderful chase scene, confidently shuts Dick down while preserving a healthy friendship with him; makes it back in time for the wedding; has everything she needs for the wedding to go off; and leaves the wedding with a healthy, normal, non-soap-opera relationship with Luke still in tact. There were so many cheap outs that Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart could have taken, but they went for none of them, and the result is a well-adjusted, delightful story about a beautiful wedding full of awesome people
Black Magick #1 (Image Comics)
Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott are known quantities at this point: Rucka does great detective stuff, and Scott is exceptional at big, bright, fighty superhero comics. And yet I was surprised by the first issue of their new series together because of how it twisted my expectations. Black Magick IS a detective story, but Rowan Black is more than just a solid cop. She’s also a witch. One with powers. And someone has found that out, and takes a fast food joint hostage to talk to her about it.
Scott’s art, especially the coloring, is the best I’ve ever seen from her. Everything is black and white or washed out in grey except for three points: two of them involve fire, and one of them is a panel of Rowan using her witchy abilities. It isn’t incredibly original, but it looks amazing and has a tremendous impact in the story, heightening your immersion in those moments. I always figured this would be good, but I’m very happy with how good it ended up being.
Sam Wilson: Captain America #2 (Marvel Comics)
Gotta love people getting all pissy about a guy who wears a country’s flag as his outfit being :gasp: POLITICAL. Because despite his name and costume, he’s a pretty studiously apolitical hero, right? Except for the time he fought Tea Partiers. And the time he fought the Secretary of Defense. Or the time he fought globalization. Or the other time he fought the Secretary of Defense whose name is so close to Kennedy’s Secretary of State that every time I watch Thirteen Days again, there’s a brief flash where I expect the end to be Captain America punching his way into the White House. Or the time he quit because of Richard Nixon. Or the time he fought America’s enemies overseas. Other than those times and the costume and the catch phrases from the video games, he’s as political as Groot.
Seriously, whether you agree with the politics or not, Daniel Acuna’s on art, and Nick Spencer wrote Superior Foes, so you should be able to move past whatever ideology you perceive in the writing to see the good story and gorgeous images.
Welcome to Showside #1 (Z2 Publishing)
I spent about 20 minutes talking to Ian McGinty, creator of Welcome to Showside and the voice actor who stepped in to voice Kit, the little green* dude on the cover with the ghost backpack, at the last second. He’s a funny guy, and his comic is terrific.
It’s aimed directly at the Adventure Time/Bravest Warriors/Steven Universe crowd, and it manages to be as charming as its predecessors without being hackneyed. Kit, Belle and Moon are three friends who live near a beach and hang out and eat and do magic to plug “pixel portals” that occasionally threaten their world. Kit opens the story ominously describing a Yellow King who conquered a world by betraying his beloved, who now sits around waiting for other realms to dominate. This won’t come back at all, I’m sure.
It’s very well done: the jokes are entertaining and the art is cute. It’s a fun world that McGinty’s built, and the cartoon pilot that just went up on Youtube is a lot of fun (HENRY ROLLINS ALERT). There are a couple of points where the book is a little loose – jokes land a half a beat late, or conversations have an occasional non sequitur thrown in – but those are minor and don’t detract from the book at all. Not when it has a Teenomicon – a moaning teenage emo Necronomicon – in it.
*My wife and I routinely argue about what color this is. I am, as I write this, wearing a shirt that is the exact same color. I say it’s green. She will say it’s blue. Tropical vacations are family nightmares for us. The lesson here is that truth is subjective, reality a social construct, and the key to a happy marriage is to find someone as obstinate and possibly color blind as you.
The Black Hood #6 (Dark Circle Comics)
The nice thing about popping in and out of ongoing series like I do (because I can’t afford to stay with all the books I like. I probably couldn’t even if I was independently wealthy) is that it preserves my capacity for being surprised, even when the track record of the creators is impeccable.
Duane Swierczynski does noir violence as well as just about anyone writing comics today. Here he takes Greg Hettinger, the titular Black Hood, to rehab in California, where he is still unable to escape the violence and underworld intrigue that he thought he left in Philly. Michael Gaydos drew the first arc; here, in what’s not much of a change, Howard Chaykin takes over. His art is cleaner and a little brighter than Gaydos’ typically is, which fits the scene shift to the west coast, and man, does Chaykin still got it. Swierczynski tells a believable story about addiction that only occasionally veers into hard-boiled vigilante detectiveness, and Chaykin draws both sides of the story beautifully.
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…I need a minute to explain something first, lest your opinion of me diminish. I love obvious humor. My parents let me watch Mel Brooks movies WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too young, and his gift was for never passing up a joke, no matter how simple or juvenile. Hell, I had a rerun of In Living Color on this morning, and the Buttheads came on and still, 20 years later, I was doubled over laughing. So it doesn’t matter how lowbrow or stupid or childish a joke is. Actually, it does – those are all qualities I think I look for in humor. So I want you to make sure to take my review with a grain of salt here.
So rarely do I come across a comic that seems aimed directly at me in that way, that when I do find one, I jump at the chance. That’s why, despite its pedigree as pretty much a self-published zine, when I saw Poop Office in my Twitter timeline, I smiled and said “YES. I would like to review that comic.” And it’s…exactly what I expected. Created by Ben and Kim, who sound like they’re Brazilian, but are in fact comic creators from Naked Grape Comics in Maryland, Poop Office is basically Dilbert – gentle skewering of the mundane insanity of an office lifestyle – but everyone in it is literally a piece of shit. All the characters talk in toilet puns, and it has a tendency to explain its own jokes, but the concept of talking poop will never not be funny to me, and the fact that Senhor Ben took a concept that is usually an inoffensive reflection of today’s society and made the mirror turn everyone into an actual piece of actual human shit…you guys, I think this comic is actually genius-level social satire.
That’s what I’m reading this week. What are you picking up?