The best blog from the best author you've never heard of. Assorted thoughts ranging from comic books to politics. Sometimes I even talk about writing.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bags & Boards: 7/1/15

Every Wednesday I pop into Whatever Store on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul on New Comic Book Day. In addition to the books that catch my eye, I ask them to add one book they really like. Because I like to hear my own voice (in written, non-auditory form), I toss up a few brief thoughts. Minor spoilers possible.


Secret Wars #4
Issue of the Week
The problem with any “event” mini-series is that every issue feels like a checkbox next to a part of a story outline. The question is whether that mechanical necessity can feel organic. Hickman does this well—perhaps superbly—here. This issue is the obligatory explain-the-world and introduce-characters-who-can-save-the-day story. Fortunately it’s told almost entirely from Doctor Strange’s point of view, and in his retelling of how Battleworld came to be we get just a moment where he acknowledges his personal failure—his momentary weakness that preceded Doom seizing power. Strange gets his opportunity for redemptive backbone straightening right before the end. It must be said that Ribic’s pencils continue to create a grace in this ridiculous world Doom has patched together, and Svorcina’s colors—kind of washed out but not—lend an otherworldly feel to a world we all know is only here for a little while.
 
Red Skull #1
This Week’s Whatever Store Recommendation
I really don’t know what to think about this one. It was billed to me as Suicide Squad meets Thunderbolts. And that’s a fair description of at least the series’ impetus. The middle of the issue is exposition heavy, and while it’s perfectly logical that the back story be delivered in the way that it is, the info dump is kind of a body blow to the pacing. A big end-of-the-line kind of fight tries to make up for this, but Pizzari’s pencils left me feeling that some of the panels were over-cluttered. It wasn’t a bad read; posturing bad guys are always fun. But I can’t say I’m eagerly awaiting the second issue.



American Vampire Second Cycle #8
This came home solely because I had enjoyed American Vampire when it started with DC’s New 52; the personal struggle at that book’s core was a great entry point into the fantastic world it inhabited. Unfortunately I found none of what I loved from that series in this book. Arguably popping into the middle of a complex story didn’t help, but there also weren’t any real character threads to make up for the lack of situational context—nothing that grabbed me and sustained my interest. The book felt very shoeleather-y as all the characters are on their way to important climaxes but none of them accomplish anything. Possibly I’d give this a shot starting from the beginning, but I doubt future new issues will make the cut again.


Green Lantern #42
It was the Geoff Johns run that got me hooked on this book. This is absolutely not the Geoff Johns run. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen. But it’s different, and it’s interesting. I enjoyed this take on Hal Jordan: without backup, his teeth sunk deep in a mystery, and his only restraint a refusal to kill. The question is can such a character be sustained. It looks like we got the establishment of some backup characters in this issue—a great thing since singularly dogged characters can become boring without a backup cast to play off of.


Groot #2
This issue might as well be a billboard saying “you’ll do anything for your best friends.” My experience with Groot the character has always been with him as part and parcel of the Guardians of the Galaxy; he’s a hero, and he’s always surrounded by characters that at least appreciate him. Here, absent his good buddy Rocket, we are treated to a sad, solitary Groot. The opening dream sequence makes this issue for me as Loveness takes a hilarious idea and uses it to communicate the loneliness the rest of the issue revolves around. The back story of Groot and Rocket’s friendship provides a fantastic non-answer answer as to why Rocket can understand him. Kesinger’s exaggerated cartoon-style art is probably the series’ best feature for me, as I doubt I could take a series featuring a talking tree seriously if it had an Alex Ross kind of treatment.


No Mercy #4
The guys at Whatever Store were giving away first issues of this book a couple weeks back, and I’m glad they were. Missing two and three, I was surprised to find on opening this issue that only hours had passed since the bus crash. But stretching out the time frame works great if the point is to put these kids through the wringer. It’s fun to watch these teenagers do the absolute opposite of banding together in extreme circumstances—which both splinters the group at one time but then leads to the kids making their own plan of action at another. De Campi’s dialogue and overall plotting make the book feel like a quiet drama of teenage angst even as horrible circumstances befall all the characters. That I think is this book’s great appeal; the moment this becomes more about the adventure than the people, I think it will lose its specialness.

We Stand on Guard #1
A war between Canada and the United States is gimmicky to be sure, but gimmicks are only bad if they aren’t backed up with substance. Explosions and gore kick off us off and then we fast forward to a time post-conquest. Dialogue casually tossed about in the opening pages (along with some references to water later on) point to larger world building without pulling an info dump. Vaughan uses the expected violence to great specific effect in two places: first two establish that our (likely) main character is hardened and remorseless, and second to show the tragic and unpredictable nature of war by killing off the most likeable of the apparent ensemble cast. The use of French dialogue is distracting (mostly because I can’t read it), but it feels authentic. There’s not much back story yet as the book’s plot races forward and introduces us to this world.
 
X-Tinction Agenda #2
(Battleworld) X-Men fight (Battleworld X-Men) in a story that I can’t imagine will have any long term consequences whatsoever. But from the characters’ points of view, the existence of mutants is on the line, and they’ll do whatever they have to. I’ve been mostly avoiding Secret Wars tie-ins, but Guggenheim gives us two moments in this issue that convince me this is one worth following. The plot stems from Genosha mutants being quarantined due of a plague, and the rest of the X-Men refusing to help them. After Havok’s Genosha mutants attack the X-Men, kidnapping someone they think can stop the plague, they rightly observe that they “sold their souls” by attacking their friends—especially since their plan might not work. Later, Phoenix and Beast debate the morality versus the necessity of the quarantine and their subsequent refusal to help Genosha even as a heavy-hearted Phoenix plans retaliation. There’s nothing but hard, bad decisions in this book, and it makes the short series worth reading.


Credits

American Vampire #8
Scott Snyder: writer
Rafael Albuquerque: artist
Dave McCaig: colors
Steve Wands: leters
Rafael Albuquerque: cover

Green Latern #42
Robert Venditti: writer
Billy Tan: penciler
Mark Irwin, Billy Tan & Scott Hanna: inkers
Tony Avina: colorist
Dave Sharpe: letterer
Billy Tan & Alex Sinclair: cover

Groot #2
Jeff Loveness: writer
Brian Kesinger: artist
Jeff Eckleberry: letterer
Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire: cover artists

No Mercy #4
Alex de Campi: writes
Carla Speed McNeil: draws
Jenn Manley Lee: colours

Red Skull #1
Joshua Williamson: writer
Luca Pizzari: artist
Rainier Beredo: color artist
VC’s Calyton Cowles: letter & production
Riley Rossmo: cover artist

Secret Wars #4
Jonathon Hickman: writer & designer
Esad Ribic: artist
Ive Svorcina: color artist
Chris Eliopoulos: letterer
Alex Ross: cover

We Stand on Guard #1
Brian K. Vaughan: writer
Steve Skroce: artist
Matt Hollingsworth: colorist
Fonografiks: lettering & design

X-Tinction Agenda #2
Marc Guggenheim: writer
Carmine di Giandomenico: artist
Nolan Woodard: colorist
David Nakayama: cover artist
 

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