Sunday, September 18, 2011


First off I want to thank Grits Gries and his smaller but getting bigger sidekick Ursa Fanghorn for providing the above interpretation of the new Justice League cover.


Comics, like all art and music, is an ongoing discussion of the form. There are comics that move the conversation forward, comics that hold it in place, and comics that pull it backwards. I would put this, Justice League number 1, in the latter category. A comic that pushes you and the medium in reverse. The cover alone, too ugly to place at the top of this post, gives no message of a bright new era in the DC universe. This is the song of stagnation. Justice League, the flagship book for the revolution, got the most hype for it's costume redesigns which seem to center around higher collars. Yes, higher collars. Jim Lee, out on the golf course, saw a young man wearing a polo shirt with the collar up and thought to himself; "That. That right there. That's 2011. I can already taste the new readers."

The biggest reason I can think of for DC comics to reboot it's whole line is the need for stories that easily translate to movies. They want simple tales of heroes meeting heroes. Powerful beings, not yet friends, beating the shit out of each other, questioning one another's loyalty to the cause and eventually staring up at the moon from a romantic rooftop, shoulder to shoulder, united in the face of some great evil. Hollywood can't mine the ancient and wacky stock of DC's infancy for solid origin stories because they would unearth Batman meeting Krypto the Superdog and today's blood thirsty movie going audience just won't buy it. So instead of creating a separate Ultimate Universe like Marvel did to forward a think tank for big screen enterprises, DC threw everything back into the blender and we get,

Alzheimers. We get narrative Alzheimers. We get DC on track to retrofit every story they ever told. And here I thought computers were making us smarter. But there's no No-Prize in starting from scratch. It's about building bridges from unbelievable situation to unbelievable situation. That's the basis of universe building comics. Back to the comic let's see what happens next to Green Lantern and The Batman,

Ok, fake out, that's not what happens next. That second page is from 2005's All Star Batman. The Frank Miller/Jim Lee atrocity that was so wrong it couldn't even curse-word it's way past the finish line and drowned itself in masochistic bile by issue 10. But it is also an example of another recent Batman meets Green Lantern issue drawn by Jim Lee. The man must wake up thinking he's living in Groundhog day. But I'm psyched that Jim Lee put Jim Lee (as he now runs the DC show) on the new centerpiece title even when the last two projects he has been involved with, All Star Batman and Wildcats, just quit mid or not even mid story. And it's unfair to compare All Star Batman to this new Justice League. Geoff Johns is a finely tuned writing machine with a deep understanding of his characters and he's a world away from the twisted propaganda of Frank Miller. But what both stories have is a new beginning for major characters and a celebrated macho flare. But maybe macho flare is just Batman where ever you find him. And Justice League, instead of having All Star Batman's cast of half naked battered woman, just chose to have no woman at all. Playing it safe. Bringing in new readers?

I was introduced to Geoff John through his writing on Justice Society. It had a cast of characters I didn't really care or know all that much about but Johns made them interesting. Here in Justice League between Batman and Green Lantern are two characters I do care about, and Johns makes them, well, uninteresting. Sure, it is only one issue deep into his run but I can almost see the stick'em note above his desk that says, "dumb it down", next to one that says "Teenagers". When you are dealing with super heroes, dumbing it down brings you(and them) very close to catatonic. Now every comics reader wants the level of storytelling in their favorite books to age with him/her. When I was 16 I wanted to read what I thought was cool, and now 22 years later I still want to read what I think is cool. How can an industry indulge in the needs of one aging customer? What about today's new 16 year old? What I didn't know 22 years ago but I pretend to know now is that good superhero comics have always been written for adults, but with a simplicity of delivery. You don't and you can't write comics for teenagers.

Jim Lee still turns out a solid easy to read product. A little craggier around the edges than he used to be, slightly rushed perhaps to get this book out monthly, but he still draws male buttocks like a true champ. Him and Marc Silvestri, "The Buttock Kings". I was looking forward to Grant Morrison and Lee's run on Wildcats. If it hadn't been abandoned it could have had the push and pull of two different minds creating a mainstream yet stirring series. JL feels like there might be too much agreement between creators. No tension. Nothing new to learn from each other. It's just, "hey man, let's bring in new readers. Yeah dude, let's play it safe."

Oh yeah, one other thing on the costume redesigns, the case of Young Superman's mysterious new armor?

Now DC's mammoth reboot isn't all mediocrity, in fact I would call it a conceptual success as I have bought way more DC titles this September already in 2 weeks than I normally would all month(Though I also bought way less since they announced the reboot than I normally would in the last couple months). But so far, Batgirl, OMAC, Action Comics, to name a few. And there are some titles, specifically the B-E list characters that could be or could become great. Like Swamp Thing, Frankenstein, and specifically Animal Man.

Written by Jeff Lemire with art by Travel Foreman(inks by Travel and Dan Green, and I think inks are a big thing here) Animal Man is off to a great start. And it is pushing the conversation of comics forward. Jeff Lemire wears Buddy Baker aka Animal Man's skin as if it were his own, with delightful details like Buddy taking on the weight of a bumblebee so he won't wake the kids while walking on the squeaky floorboards he has yet to fix, or after stopping an armed depressed man who is holed up in the children's ward of the hospital Buddy just yearns to get home to his family. The reliable internet tells me that when Jeff Lemire talked to Grant Morrison(the mastermind behind most of the Animal Man mythos) about writing Buddy, Morrison replied "Don't fuck with his family". But fucking with Buddy's family seems to be the name of the game. I picked up the first few issues of Lemire's Vertigo book "Sweet Tooth" and though I liked it it did not win me over. It read really really fast, so smooth it slipped right off me, but I think now i'll give Sweet Tooth another chance. Now Lemire is Canadian. I don't in any way want him to leave these new DC titles, but Alpha Flight. Someday, please. Do an Alpha Flight run.

Travel, a strange artist(with a cool name) turns out a striking issue 1 cover, (his Loki mini series covers were also well designed)

but certain interior pages look bare to the point of having to mutter, "oh this is one of those artists who can't draw backgrounds".

It's a weird thing, the figure and the background and whether they intersect or not, but I think it is a thing that artists struggle with. Schooled artists take "figure drawing class" but I don't recall an emphasis on "figure in relation to setting" drawing classes. It makes one wonder if as an artist the relationship between your figure and your background, integration versus separation, mimics your relationship with the world in general. But just when you start thinking Travel wants people to live in a white bubble he hits you with this...

...and you just don't care whether he walks in the yard with bare feet or shoes on. You just dig into it. (And you wonder if Travel is looking at Kentaro Miura's insane endlessly creative Berserk manga from Dark Horse)

God I hope he is. I hope everyone is. All in all, Travel Foreman's layouts are surprising, daring, at times nonsensical, sometimes a failure but most times interesting. His line, or possibly Dan Green's inks, has variety and vitality. I'm excited to see Travel with an ongoing series, evolving, getting stronger and more daring as he goes. For the Animal Man infomaniacs, the character was first seen in 1965 as simply Buddy Baker in issue 180 of Strange Adventures.

Buddy moved into a higher profile position in the 1988 Vertigo Animal Man series by Grant Morrison. I personally came too late for Morrison's run but just on time for some horrifyingly beautiful work by writer Jamie Delano and Artist Steve Pugh. Brian Bolland does this astounding cover. This. Cover. Rules!

If memory serves me this 1993 storyline has Buddy Baker dead and attempting to travel back through an assortment of animal forms and mutations to his original human shape. Meanwhile a crazed Uncle Dudley is assaulting his son, Cliff. Buddy's daughter Maxine is the voice of trust on this next juicy Steve Pugh page, where she tries to set up a rendezvous with Buddy's wife, Ellen.

Animal Man has always had a wealth of creative talents behind it, and has always been a playground for experimentation. Shamefully I haven't read the Morrison run that began the Vertigo title, but I plan too. Oh I plan too. Here's hoping the new title keeps up the enlightened weirdness. We need it.

Now before we move on to more reviews we have a final word on Animal Man and Justice League in this special feature, a visit with guest professional comic book reviewer Anu King! (with bonus appearances by Rahul(spiderman), Lucia, Yesah and Hunter)

Thanks Anu! We'll keep on the lookout for "Amulet". And now, on with the reviews!


And now to the Marvel Universe! In this "annual", Simon Williams, a.k.a. Wonder Man, continues his Brian Bendis scripted spiral downward into hate and revenge, a subplot that wanders into the Avengers titles on occasion. The idea that Wonder Man has turned on the Avengers could be a good one, and about 5 pages into this I thought we had a "The Boys" rip off on our hands set in the Marvel U. And I wish that's what this was. I wish there was one teaspoon of intelligence behind Wonder Man's plot a.k.a. this comic's plot. But no. The Avengers cause violence and therefore Wonder Man will bring violence upon them to teach them a lesson because he is going crazy or something, possibly due to his Ionic energies. By the close of the book the mansion is destroyed yet again and the New Avengers lie unconscious, defeated. Tomorrow they will wake up with a fist induced hang over and nothing consequential will have happened. Wonder Man and his gang of second rate dudes have defeated Wolverine, Luke Cage, Spiderman, The Thing, Ms. Marvel, Doctor Strange, Jessica Jones and Mockingbird and now gaze upwards at Avengers tower where the more powerful Avengers live. The book's a dud. A dull fight scene between dullards, a joke really. Line up for it folks. Gabriele Dell'otto paints a great cover though, but turns in his most lackluster work to date for the interior.

It's some of that "pencil only/digital inks" stuff superhero books have been delivering like the work of artist Ron Garney over in Wolverine and Ultimate Captain America. It all just ends up looking soft, blurry and rushed. Reads kind of like "Sorry, couldn't afford an inker". I know I know, "raw, untamed pencil". Yeah well, you wish. There's enough background on this raw untamed Garney Ultimate Captain America page to at least let you know where they might be.... the muddy jungle. It looks kind of cool small, not so cool bigger if you click on it.

If they really want to do some "pencil only" work these guys should check out CF's Powr Mastrs.

These notes scrawled on the back of a Powr Mastrs page might give some insight into what CF is looking at.

Hey he's looking at Berserk! So should we! again!

and now, on with the reviews!


Let's break from all the manliness for a quick moment and look at Aidan Koch while we are in pencil mode. Having read a few reviews of last year's The Whale I came away with two thoughts. People seem to like her other books better, and people seem convinced she is taking a walk near the beach with her dog. Well, it's not her dog. It's a dog that is visiting her much like the seal is visiting her much like the ghost of the lost loved one "S" is visiting her. It is such a overt and fleeting visitation that the dog is even named "Casper" which translates to "friendly ghost". I thought this small story was wonderful. A floating moment of sadness, unable to drift out to sea.

And now onto the final barely a review!


Gantz is on a bi-monthly schedule now from Dark Horse publishers and I think it, above all others, is the book I look forward to the most. Artist/writer Hiroya Oku provides us with a thrilling sci-fi action drama set in modern day Japan. Ultraviolent, disturbing, grotesque, surprising and genuinely weird this tale is of a group of reincarnated citizens involved in some sort of hunting and fighting game that takes place in public in Tokyo yet is invisible to people uninvolved(though it can still be lethal to them). Chasing aliens, fighting monsters, staying alive, and in many cases getting dismembered or killed permanently is the basic story, all set against the mystery of "who knows about and is controlling this game?". It's an impeccable book. And issue 18 is specifically action packed. No room for the protagonists to ponder their situation or fantasize about magazine models in this one. Some people may be turned off by Gantz's computer generated art or its blood spattered shock or it's gratuitous nudity or it's sometimes jumpy narrative structure or the fact that certain characters basically look like others except their hair is an inch longer but I say it rules and as for the over the topness if it's gonna rain I would rather it pour. This book will have you on the edge of your seat one minute and in tears the next. Gantz!

And just when you think you are starting to sort out what is going on, forget it.....Gantz!

Here's the Tanaka Alien they fight in issue 4. Pretty vicious huh? Gantz!

Alright. That's plenty. Oh yeah so what's the connection between all these books. I mean, Gantz and The Whale and Jim Lee? Well. They're all comics! hahahahahaa!! Hey Animal Man, what do you think of the new Justice League?