A new weekly column about what washes up on the walls Wednesdays; it's more or less like this
As you may have heard if you're one of my stalkers, I'm back working comics retail -- which means I'm back in contact with the mainstream of the medium. Literal contact, I have to touch these things, man! Usually it's pretty tough for me to actually make it through a full issue of a current superheroey comic, but I really do have a lot of fun flipping through them looking for bits. A nice punching panel, a knee-slapper editing mistake, an unintentionally hilarious bit of dialogue, a sign that comics are moving another little bit closer to total aesthetic and commercial transcendence. Or bankruptcy, it's so hard to tell the difference. Either way, I thought I would use the internet to let everybody do that with me each week for the next little while. This was actually a really good week for the serialized stuff: Hellboy and BPRD on the same day and a new fucking issue of Rasl makes three comics I can look at in a completely unironic fashion. But that's no fun. So get ready to flip the shit like a thalidomide baby...
Detective Comics #879 and Black Panther #521, drawn AND colored by Francesco Francavilla, written by hacks. Marvel/DC.
Neither of these was a terrible comic to read, actually, though DC just stays making comics designed to disgust the living ass out of anyone who hasn't netflixed Hostel twenty times (you want to know how the splatterpunk Geoff Johns aesthetic works in the real world, people? Small children covering their eyes and plugging their ears in terror during my visit to Green Lantern at the cinema is how). The rise of a villain whose main power is his racism, seriously, in Black Panther was legitimately gripping. But who cares about stuff like that when I'm rereading Dostoyevsky's short novels in my secret identity as a consumer of other forms of media? This is comics, and comics have a) pictures, and b) bright colors. When an artist colors himself it's always a good sign. When they bring a highly competent fake-Mazzucchelli drawing style to the table it's even better. But the reason I want Francesco Francavilla to be my new boyfriend is because he colors that drawing like this
Psychedelia is alive and well on the pages of second-tier superhero comics, people, just as free of the limitations of "depictive" pictorial techniques as ever. Keep on rockin' in the free world, dude, and keep doing it to the tune of two issues a week please. Steranko would be proud.
Captain America volume NEW #1, by Steve McNiven and Ed Brubaker. Marvel.
Didn't Marvel just defy math to get Captain America to issue 600 like a year ago if that (there were really only 590-something), only to turn around now and relaunch the thing? They should just stop doing sequential numbers on these comics. If you look at the sales charts it's always an extra few thousand people buying it whenever any comic whatsoever hits a round number, so just imagine if like, every issue of Avengers was #25, every X-Men was 1, every Hulk was ZERO, and Thor ping ponged between 100, 1000, and 75 from installment to installment. The day is coming, guys. (Marvel has also introduced decimals to their issue numbering, I swear to god, but that is literally too hard of math for me to follow. Dropping out of high school before you understand fractions completely really limits your enjoyment of superhero comics, which is probably why I prefer shit like Houellebecq essays.)
Anyway, I haven't read a Brubaker book since the Sleeper days or thereabouts -- anybody know the exact moment when that guy became boring? Seriously: this issue has a premise of Captain America versus Hydra, which means guy in red and blue fighting guys in green and yellow, a coloring potentiality that can save even the most wretched pages, and we see those two sartorial choices in the same panel a total of THREE times, two of them on really small figure drawings. Congrats to Brubaker for moving up to the next level of ex-Crossgen artists to write for, though. It's only a few more years of toil before the big Greg Land collab we've all been waiting for, brother! McNiven doesn't do terrible work on this comic, though the complete lack of drapery on any piece of black clothing is weird up against the meticulous detail on everything else. Gotta get the issue out on time somehow, I guess. For every thirty-head high figure like this
there's a nice shot like this
so call it even, I guess?
Batman The Dark Knight #3, by David Finch and Uncredited Writer Paul Jenkins. DC.
While Marvel struggles to figure out how to make a comic issue #1 and issue #HISTORIC at the same time, the new order at DC is letting high Image-style artists chop the pseudo-pulp novel scripts of some of the worst writers in comics history to bits in order to draw more Batman splashes. So as with your average PictureBox comic, your enjoyment really depends on how boss you find the man with the pencil's style. David Finch is no Kevin Huizenga (newsflash!), but there is a lot worse if you ask me, and dude's sequencing can actually get really cool at times. Observe:
I did not realize the newly reinstated yellow circle around Batman's logo glowed until I read that page. Must be the tiniest lightbulb of all times. That kind of stuff takes work though, enough so that by the last two pages of the comic what are you gonna do but say fuck it and fill 'em up with THIS. Too big for the scanner bed, bitchiz!
If you think DC's going to get 52 monthly books out under the sterling crop of quality controllers they've got at the helm right now, you... you probably won't get your mind changed by anything I have to say. Don't stop believing! The future of the medium as a commercial industry is in your hands! Literally! I'm not really crying, I just ate a jalapeno is all.
BPRD Hell On Earth Monsters #1, by Tyler "Da New Boi" Crook and the most consistent writing team to have worked in comics this millennium. Dark Horse.
It's BPRD so it's good. You think I have anything to say about the construction besides that? Nah, the only question here is how some guy nobody's heard of is going to measure up to Guy Davis, who put together a run of periodical comics work over his past eight years on this title that stands shoulder to shoulder with the best by many a Lifetime Achievement Eisner Award recipient. Tyler Crook? Not too bad, actually. Not too bad at all. He's not Davis -- a little cartoonier, a little of the fake Paul Pope magic that shows up in Becky Cloonan and Nathan Fox, but what keeps springing out is what was also notable about Duncan Fegredo's early Hellboy comics: consistent attempts to incorporate the mannerisms of the book's previous (great) artist into a different but complementary style. From here it looks like it could be pretty interesting to watch Crook develop. Also this, so he's good in my books:
The Amazing Spider-Man #665, by see below. Marvel.
This comic: as pleasant and unremarkable as falling asleep at the end of the day. This cover, though: well thought out as hell. Paolo Rivera in full effect, take a second with it.
Also, hand-drawn title lettering!
I just think it looks nicer than computer kind, but that also means that when he drew this page they had enough time before the comic came out that they knew who was going to be working on it from start to finish, as opposed to planning for sending half-inked pages off to seventeen freelancers' inboxes a few hours before press time with promises of American dollars. A totally rhetorical reason to like a comic better, but it helps put some of the illusions back in a boy's head.
KING OF THE HEAP THIS WEEK:
Sherlock Holmes Year One #5 Giant Dick Variant Cover, by Aaron Campbell I Think. Dy-no-mite!
Figure that one out if you can.