I think things. Then I write about them. It's the narcissism, you see.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Bags & Boards: 7/22/15

Every Wednesday I pop into Whatever Store on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul of new comics. Because I like to hear my own voice (in written, non-auditory form), I toss up a few brief thoughts; if it’s a heavy week, the five that left the biggest impact (good or bad) get a full review treatment while the rest get quick hits. Minor spoilers always possible.

Wolf #1
Book of the Week
This Week’s Whatever Store Recommendation
I was already curious about this one based on the noir detective meets Sandman concept. What struck me most in this first issue (ad-free, max sized) was the breathing room. The first third to half of the issue is sparse on dialogue as Taylor’s images of main character Antoine Wolf and the city surrounding him convey Wolf’s unhappiness and, to me anyway, his boredom—both of which make sense since we are told he has a deathwish; we don’t even get into Wolf’s point-of-view narration until the main plot gets set in motion about halfway through the issue. Speaking of that plot, it’s easy to suspect that what looks to be a major story may be misdirection as two less straightforward stories are weaved in at the end. There’s also an interesting structural choice where the story develops a moment of tension before deliberately skipping its payoff; Kot, breaking the fourth wall, tells us the payoff will be revisited and revealed at a later time. It’s also worth noting that the issue is light on exposition. The existence of the supernatural is made plain through dialogue, but only clues are given as to Wolf’s exact nature and the wider circumstances of the world; it’s a choice that requires the reader pay attention. I’m looking forward to the next issue.


Archie vs. Sharknado #1
Absurdity for the sake of absurdity. I could fill a review with nothing but fun quotes. I don’t know what it says when Sharknado, itself a pinnacle of action movie parody, gets its own parody. The greatest thing about a Sharknado story in comic form is the excessively excess gore (cartoon though it is). Heads fly with careless abandon, randomly scattered in the background of panels throughout the book; mountains of bloodied, dismembered sharks are strewn about; minor characters lose limbs without any comment at all. Meanwhile it’s a checklist of pop-culture movie tropes making up the plot: Betty and Veronica bond over the conflict; love blooms for background characters; and Archie gets his Big Motivating Speech ™ before a climax that might make even less sense than the conclusions in Sharknado movies. If you can’t enjoy this book, you have a black, broken heart.

Grayson #10
Dick Grayson—super spy. It sounded interesting, anyway. And there’s an appeal in making the character into something other than a low-rent Batman or old-folks-home Robin. The first few pages felt like a campy spy movie or old pulp novel. Layers of potential double crossing follow. But where Seeley’s writing contains plenty of the trappings you expect in a spy story, Janin’s art doesn’t do much to support the concept and create an identity for the book. I felt like I was reading a super-hero book (which, yes, it is) that’s just one more piece of the Batman family rather than the fresh take I hoped to find.

Teen Titans #10
The obligatory heroes vs. heroes issue. The Teen Titans fight to protect Superboy while the Elite fight to apprehend him. Superboy’s wanton destruction of people and property lend little credence to his claims of being innocent of mass murder (though the story insists that he is); his near-drowning of Wonder Girl feels unnecessarily extreme, and I hope this isn’t just a case of making the character edgy just so he’s edgy. I could have done with about three less panels of action for the sake of action in favor of some acknowledgment by the Titans that Superboy’s reckless choices are making their job of helping him a lot harder. A little shoe-leather happens at the end to set up the lengths the Teen Titans will have to go to prove Superboy’s innocence; these feel like the only moments of value in the whole issue.

Uncanny X-Men #35
!Spoiler Warning!
15 minutes of fame—X-Men style! I have no idea what the state of affairs is in the X-books, but here we have a bunch of younger mutants acting like a super team. One of them, a character named Goldballs (naturally because he can shoot gold balls out of his body) gets caught on video shouting “Goldballs!” as he shoots gold balls at a villain. The video becomes an internet sensation, and we’re off to the races. The rest of the issue follows the team as they bask in the celebrity Goldballs has earned them. They fight bigger villains. They go on tv. Then people find out Goldballs is a mutant (which begs asking just how stupid people in the Marvel universe are) and the fifteen minutes end with near tragedy. I wasn’t sure where the story was going through most of the issue, wondering if it was some weird misdirection or dream sequence because it spun so quickly away from my expectations and started to cover a lot of time. But the ending, a gentle reminder of humility, wrapped the entire issue into a perfect little package. There was also a great moment where Goldballs (who is not rippling with muscles) gets to comment on the fact that he doesn’t have a typical super hero body, and he’s not ashamed of that—a sentiment that is all too often missing simply because of the nature of the comic book medium. This issue doesn’t cover new ground—these are all old ideas—and the “plot” is shoe-string thin at best. But Bendis infuses the issue with so much heart that it doesn’t matter.

The Rest
Star-Lord and Kitty Pride #1 left me as underwhelmed, reminding me of a poorly scripted romantic comedy; set pieces like a world where Disney movies were never made (thus making Peter Quill a celebrity when he performs hit Disney songs) and lucky knives carved from Longshot’s bones are fun, but there isn’t enough substance to justify giving this part of the story its own issue.

Credits
Archie vs Sharknado #1
Anthony C. Ferrante: story
Dan Parent: pencils
Rich Koslowski: inks
Jack Morelli: letters
Andre Szymanowicz with Casey Silver: colors

Grayson #10
Tim Seeley: writer
Tim Seeley & Tom King: plot
Mikel Janin: artist
Jeremy Cox: colorist
Carlos M. Mangual: letterer
Mikel Janin: cover

Star Lord and Kitty Pryde #1
Sam Humphries: writer
Alti Firmansyah: artist
Jessica Kholinne: colorist
VC’s Joe Sabino: letters
Yasmine Putri: cover

Teen Titans #10
Will Pfeifer: script
Felipe Watanabe: pencils
Trevor Scott: inks
Dan Brown: colors
John J. Hill: letters
Bengal: cover

Uncanny X-Men #35
Brian Michael Bendis: writer
Valerio Schiti: art
Richard Isanove: color art
VC’s Joe Caramagna: lettering & production
Kris Anka: cover art

Wolf #1
Ales Kot: writer
Matt Teylor: artist
Lee Loughridge: colorist
Clayton Cowles: letterer

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