Sunday, August 17, 2008

Comics Round-up 17/8/2008

This time I have a lot of comics to cover. These include ones I bought before I went to Ethiopia, as well as ones that came out while I was away.

Criminal #4, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

So yeah, you remember this noir-ish title, yes? This story focuses on a newspaper cartoonist and partially reformed counterfeiter who showed up previously in the most excellent Lawless storyline. I fear that in true noir style, the counterfeiter will regret the night he set eyes on the heat packing dame pictured on the cover.

Batman #679, by Grant Morrison, Tony Daniel, and Sandu Florea

I may have mentioned in an earlier comics round-up that this Grant Morrison title is just a bit disjointed. The story seems to involve some bad people who are trying to kill Batman, or make him go mental, or something. As part of all this, Batman seems to have dropped into some kind of weirdo fantasy world, or started imagining that he is someone else, or something, and on any given page it is not immediately obvious whether you are seeing something that is actually happening or just being imagined by someone (with the obvious proviso that as Batman is not a real person then none of this can be said to be actually happening). So yeah, the most terrible fun.

Daredevil Saga

This is one of those free promo comics they sometimes throw into my new comics bag. It presents a summary of the Ed Brubaker/Michael Lark run thus-far on Daredevil and is probably meant to make you think that the Brubaker/Lark Daredevil is so kewl that you will want to buy the next issue. It kind of had the opposite effect on me, largely because summaries of a good long run on a superhero title always sound pretty ridiculous. In this one, characters seem to keep dying and coming back to life, while Daredevil's secret identity as blind lawyer Matt Murdoch is revealed and then un-revealed. Mmmm. I did read one of the Brubaker/Lark issues of Daredevil a while ago, and it seemed pretty ponderous. I know that this title has always been one of the more "serious" of the super comics, but I nevertheless feel that it can be done with a bit more zip and zap.

Dan Dare #7, by Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine

Double sized final issue! Amusingly, I was pretty wrong about how it would end (i.e. Dare is not killed by a Treen sniper just as he leads his fleet to victory), but the final battle is still clearly modelled on Trafalgar.

It's all very exciting, and you can't fault the thrill power of the huge-o space battle, but fundamentally I don't think Ennis really has the measure of Dan Dare's character. He writes him as too hard and cold, and too like every other super-macho Ennis character. I know this is meant to be an older Dan Dare than the one who appeared in the 1950s Eagle, but it seems like too much of a leap. I reckon Grant Morrison and Rian Hughes were better at portraying an older, sadder Dan Dare in their 1990s reworking of the character (recently reprinted in the Rian Hughes compilation Yesterday's Tomorrows, of which more later).

100 Bullets #94, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

I often think it is a shame that ongoing comics no longer start with summaries of what has gone before, though in the case of this title such a thing would risk warping the time-space continuum. This issue is interesting, but I don't know what someone would make of it who had not read a lot of what has gone before. This contrasts with the last issue, which would work well on its own.

War Heroes #1, by Mark Millar, Tony Harris, Cliff Rathburn, & Jo Mettler

This is written by Mark Millar. I am suspicious of Millar, as I have read quite a bit of not-good stuff that was nevertheless highly praised in certain quarters (I am thinking of his run writing The Authority, or Red Son). That said, people do speak highly of his work on The Ultimates (a high-octane reworking of The Avengers (a team of superheroes)), and they do so in terms suggesting that they are not smoking crack. So I thought I would give this a go. It is set in the future, where to lure volunteers into the armed forces, the US government have started dishing out superpowers to its soldiers. In basic premise then we are back in territory similar to that ploughed by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill in their fondly remembered Marshal Law, though the writing and art is less grotesque. It still seems entertaining enough, and I reckon I will pick up an issue or two more before making a definitive decision on it.

The Exterminators #30, by Simon Oliver, Tony Moore, & John Lucas

So this is the one in which the heroes are pest exterminators, and the villains are a variety of disgusting insects and other vermin. And this is the last issue, in which the heroes battle to save the very world from some weird Egyptian insect god. Will they succeed? (answer: yes)

I get the idea that this title was only somewhat successful, but it has given me considerable enjoyment over the course of its run, not least because there are many cheap jolts to be gained from just how disgusting cockroaches and their friends are.

Glamourpuss #2, by Dave Sim

If you have even the most passing interest in comics then you have probably heard of Dave Sim, the crazy man who wrote and drew three hundred issues of a comic about a three foot tall talking aardvark. Everyone loved the early issues of Cerebus, when it was a rofflesome parody of barbarian fantasy tropes, and everyone loved it even more when the plot became super-complex and serious, and then everyone stopped reading it when Sim discovered post-modernism and started to use Cerebus as a vehicle for his reactionary and misogynist opinions.

Still, it is always worth keeping an eye on what Sim is up to. This title seems to be very much a game of two halves, albeit with both halves happening near simultanaeously. Part of it is Sim talking about the history and development of comics, with a lot of this issue discussing Alex Raymond, creator of the newspaper strip Rip Kirby, and his rival Milt Caniff (who gave us Steve Canyon and Terry and the Pirates). Not knowing that much about newspaper strips, or the techniques used by their producers, I found this stuff rather informative. The rest of the title seems to be weird pop culture parody, with Sim tracing in women's magazine ads and detourning them, often by having the attractive model who appears in them (the eponymous Glamourpuss) make strange and ironic comments (sometimes bitching about her evil twin sister Skanko). Sim does go off on one about anti-depressants in the middle, but it all seems a bit more gentle than his rep as Mad Misogynist Dave Sim would suggest, and I found all the Glamourpuss stuff amusing in its strangeness.

There is also an ad on the back cover for a future issue's variant cover, written in language specially aimed at Zombies (or the existence-challenged, as they prefer to be called).

I don't think Glamourpuss is essential, by any means, but I reckon it would be worth picking up occasional issues. There is nothing else like this being published.

for complicated reasons it will not be possible to include pictures of pandas with the next run of posts.

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