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 10, 2015

Bags & Boards: 7/8/15



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.

Strange Fruit #1
Issue of the Week
This Week’s Whatever Store Recommendation
This was no soft-sell. They loved it at the shop, and the enthusiasm came through when they talked it up. Taking place in Mississippi during the floods of 1927, most of this book is a real-world slice of life under Jim Crow in the Deep South. Our main character, Sonny, spends most of the book trying not to get lynched after being recognized by a white man as an alleged thief. Waid and Jones tell a story that is faithful to the circumstances of the time; at one point an upper class white man and woman defend our Sonny from the Klan—not out of charity so much as the cold calculation that black men make up a large part of the work force and it’s not economically viable to lynch them all. Jones brings a level of love and detail to every panel, giving the book the full-on painted treatment; the art is captivating all on its own. The book doesn’t encroach on super hero territory until the last few pages, and all I’ll say is that it involves a meteor. This is a must have for the week, to be sure. And I’ll be getting the next three issues of the mini-series without question.


Age of Apocalypse #1
!!Nostalgia Warning!!
The original Age of Apocalypse was the first major event I read as a younger comic book reader. Before Age of Apocalypse, I read comics casually and for a while had this crazy notion that I had outgrown super heroes. Then AoA happened and I became a Marvel fan for life. This story follows Doug Ramsey, also called Cypher, as he is hounded from one end of the Age of Apocalypse land to the other. Nicieza, whose writing here appropriately lacks the humor he is deft at, weaves a tale that brings in pretty much every main AoA character (and kills a fair share of them). Cypher seems to see into all of them, and in all of them he sees darkness: humans plotting genocide, two villainous brothers who couldn’t be more opposite, an X-Men leader who is tired of his life. It’s a busy book—arguably too busy. But it’s a blatant call-back to the original AoA event—right down to Sandoval’s mimicking of the art style that infused the X-books during the event and gave the Age of Apocalypse its distinct look—and that makes it fun.

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #2
Full disclosure: I’ve never enjoyed a Spider-Man story by Dan Slott. I came to the conclusion I just didn’t like his writing. Turns out I didn’t like the Spider-Man that Marvel was having him write because he has knocked it out of the park with this mini-series. This second issue shows a world after Regent—the big bad from last issue—eliminated most all the powered heroes. Slott throws out a few references—so quick that they’re easy to miss—to the people’s willingness to give up free expression in exchange for “flying cars and a new coat of paint.” This mini-series could turn into a long conversation about security vs. freedom if it wanted to—and Slott writes a few pointed comments for Peter—but a civics lesson isn’t what this book is about. It’s about Peter Parker, always a slave to his own sense of responsibility, having given up Spider-Man because his greatest responsibility is protecting his daughter. There’s no questioning that decision—until keeping his daughter safe forces him to don the webs again. This is the Peter Parker that seemed to disappear when the marriage was wiped out years ago. It’s nice to have him back.

Batman #42
A novel concept: Jim Gordon trying to become Batman. Not because he has powers. Not because of some deep seeded personal trauma. Not for revenge. But because there needs to be a Batman and he’s been tapped to do it and make Batman official. Two issues in, though, and I’m still waiting for it to be more than just a concept. Snyder introduces the beginning of a longer term arc here, but the issue is still mostly navel gazing from Jim Gordon. While that’s perfectly fair given that the character is new to the whole super hero gig, it just feels like there’s something missing—something that makes this Batman and not just a random crime fighter with great technology. Also, and it’s possible this is only my problem, the new Batman suit reminds me a lot of Azrael’s Batman suit from the 90’s. And I don’t think that’s a compliment.

Civil War #1
Marvel’s doing a great job highlighting how past storyline went wrong. Here we have the logical end of Civil War taken to its absurd extreme. Among other problems Civil War suffered from was an impossible to believe conclusion where these people didn’t end up hating each other and never trusting each other again. Sure—there was some token fallout. But it was easily swept under the rug to make room for the next big event. Here Soule gives us a story where Rodgers and Stark hate each other and the super-powered Civil War resulted in destruction that split the nation and its citizens. Another civics lesson in a comic book—though this one is more on the nose—materializes in a metaphor about coerced registration versus little-regulated freedom. The opening pages set the stage for a potentially tragic end to the story because both Rodgers and Stark believe the other is responsible for an attempt to kill their opposition during the civil war—a plot resulting in millions of deaths that sets up the national split. The book’s not fun really. It’s depressing. It’s heavily frontloaded with exposition to catch the reader up. But it’s well-written and a far more honest end to Marvel’s Civil War than what we originally got.

Red Hood/Arsenal #2
I’m a sucker for a funny super hero book. I loved Nextwave: Agents of Hate. Cable & Deadpool was pure gold. Scud: The Disposable Assassin is one of my favorite series of all time. If this issue is any indication, Red Hood/Arsenal promises to be very much in that vain. The humor ranges from absurd to self-deprecating but it’s all held together by the best friend concept at the book’s core. A lot of us have those friendships that kind of make no sense when thought about logically but are almost indestructible regardless of what we may think about each other from time to time; Lobdell keeps the relationship between Red Hood and Arsenal front and center at all times, and the very honest thoughts running through Red Hood’s head are a great balance to zaniness that in this case includes nano-composite killer mimes. Yes—mimes. The plot of this issue is somewhat immaterial; it’s a story designed to set-up an ongoing state of affairs and that’s fine. This kind of humor is hard to pull off consistently, and I look forward to seeing if Lobdell is up for the challenge.


Credits
Age of Apocalypse #1
Fabian Nicieza: writer
Gerardo Sandoval: artist
David Curiel: colorist
VC’s Clayton Cowles: letterer
Gerardo Sandoval and David Curiel: cover artists

Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #2
Dan Slott: writer
Adam Kubert: artist
John Dell: inker
Justin Ponser: colorist
VC’s Joe Caramagna: letter
Adam Kubert and Justin Ponser: cover artists

Batman #42
Scott Snyder: writer
Greg Capullo: pencils
Danny Miki: inks
Fco Plascencia: colors
Steve Wands: letters
Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, Fco Plascencia: cover

Civil War #1
Charles Soule: writer
Leinil Francis Yu: penciler
Gerry Alanguilan: inker
Sunny Gho: colorist
VC’s Joe Sabino: letterer
Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho: cover artists

Red Hood/Arsenal #2
Scott Lobdell: writer
Paolo Pantalena: artist
Tanya Horie; Blond: colors
Dave Sharpe: letters
Howard Porter and Hifi: cover

Strange Fruit #1
J.G. Jones & Mark Waid: storytellers
J.G. Jones: art
Deron Bennett: lettering
J.G. Jones: covers

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