Comics Review – April 2015

For a few months i’ve been seeing that Revenger comic poppin’ up in my newsfeed. I was unfamiliar with the artist, but it seems we are friends on facebook. Sometimes, its that sort of thing right there that makes you lose your objectivity. I really struggle to hold myself to what i feel is a classic approach to art. Whether you believe the critic is valuable or needed when it comes to art, it always has been valuable to me to know exactly why i like something, what i hate about something, and what something needs to become an important piece of art. So here it goes, losing friends time.

(Just kidding…hopefully)

Revenger #1 by Charles Forsman

I’ve been trying to figure out what this type of work is. In the last half-decade or so, there’s been a move from some indie artists to move towards what are considered less-intellectual genres. It’s easy to say they are exploitation comics, but that doesn’t really do it justice, because they are no more exploitative than your typical beat ’em up, like a Punisher Max comic. These are the B-movies of comics, where as the B-movies of a publisher like Marvel just has too much sheen and polish to be considered low-budget. Trying to figure out what it is about Charles Forsman that has an appeal, as well as Benjamin Marra, and in a similar-but-different way Michel Fiffe is hard to pin down. By chance, i went through my old comics, and found this:

image (13)There’s this sense in modern-day pulp comics that there is no room for growth. A writer like Mark Millar will write scripts ready to be sold, to be packaged into a potential movie franchise. All the parts are manufactured to exact standards, its not exactly high quality but its definitely the same quality throughout most of a publisher. This is the house style that unites all houses: Marvel, DC, Image, etc. So only an independent creator can go back and find awkward styles that have their own appeal. Check out this comparison:

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Forsman is aping a decidely retro style, but he’s not making a mechanical copy. Instead, this faux-retro style is based on how we remember these comics being. Action-packed, to the extent that i accidentally skipped a page in this Havoc comic, and didn’t notice until right now when i flipped through it again. The story is an afterthought, and awkward anatomy is part of the appeal. Benjamin Marra draws heads that are always too large, but they somehow work to show Chuck Norris-ian style expressions. It’s hard to say that I don’t like this comic, even though my first instinct is to call out its first five pages of empty backgrounds as just laziness, and not a conscious decision. However, as the comic moves along on its one-track mind to kicking ass, the spare lines coupled with a impressive color palette can’t be said to have been anything but deliberate.

In these indie-exploitation comics, its interesting to see an approach to story telling that is normally used for memoir or auto-bio, used for hyper-violent stories more suited to the VHS bargain bin. The terms B-Movie, cult classics and exploitation are increasingly losing meaning, as creators find new value in these forgotten art forms and find new audiences that appreciate them.

Although i was a skeptic when i began reading the comic, by the final page, i was sold. The story moves along briskly, and what would’ve been 80 minutes of boring tedium that anyone is familiar with who watches a lot of bad movies, filled with padding and long shots focusing on nothing, is condensed through the miracle of comic book story telling into a fresh 15 minute read. All the action, none of what makes these stories only bearable with a lot of whiskey and friends to laugh at the film with.

Creepy character actors, Grace Jones as protagonist, a low-budget comic. The story is simple thrills and kills, drawn with a nervous linework that suits a story like this better than trying to see some wimpy English-lit major do their best hard-boiled Michael Mann impression on whatever shitty Punisher comic is currently on the rack.

Marvel Comic’s Presents: The Xmen’s Havok, Black Panther, Triton, and Coldblood by various artist and writers.

Most of this comic, that i mentioned above to compare to Revenger was garbage! Nostalgia is great at leaving out all the bad stuff we’ve consumed over a life time. The Black Panther comic (written by Don McGregor, pencils by Gene Colan) was pretty dope though, cause it’s talking honestly about the strategy of white imperialists pitting tribes against one another just to reap the benefits. Some little boy gets burned, Black Panther races to save him, only to have a white hospital try to be like “nah, we don’t do that” Black Panther isn’t about that shit, so he kicks ass til they help. Being a comic book, he is actually listened to and not shot on the spot. This comic came out in 1989, and i struggle to find any comic with black protagonists actually talking about the struggle. The struggle is real, check out this sequence. Feel that pain.

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“And he cannot stop crying, as if every promise ever given has been irredeemably lost.” That line sums up every year, every day a new tragedy happens with black and brown people, every time you think the future will be brighter, every conversation where someone suggests not talking about racism, because then it’ll go away. But all you see are children who never had a chance to talk about racism, but are still killed. We make a promise to children that they’ll get a better world, then we break that promise when we kill them.

Thor written by Jason Aaron, art by Russell Dauterman, colors by Matthew Wilson

Who is Thor? Who gives a fuck. This comic, although well rendered, goes through a lot of loops and a lot of Thor Odinson making “Who farted?” angsty-expressions just to go nowhere. You can literally squeeze this issue’s entire premise into the before-credits sequence of any movie. Do I really need to see Thor go chill with his gf in a hospital bed, talking to her about why she won’t use super-science magitek to cure her cancer, and then crossing her name off a little list? photo (3)

Just the idea that Thor is carrying around a cute list of girl’s names is way too adorable. I wish this was him trying to find out if New Thor Woman will go out with him to prom, but he doesn’t even know her name!! It’d be like the movie “She’s All That” but with Asgardians. Anyway, besides some nice art, easily skippable.

Autumnlands – Tooth & Claw 5 written by Kurt Busiek, art by Benjamin Dewey, colors by Jordie Bellaire

Did you read that title? Autumn. Lands. Tooth. And. Claw. Five. If you think that is too many words, that really is trying to cram as much atmosphere into every syllable, then topped off with two different fonts for just the logo alone, that gives you an idea about what reading this comic is like. God damn, its a beautiful book. I have a soft spot for talking animals wearing human clothes in a fantasy setting. These animals are drawn with such personality while not becoming ‘cartoony’ and the story still makes you feel like you’re reading a conversation between a rabbit and a cow. No, i don’t mean anthopomorphised rabbits and cows, i mean actual animals. You will have no fucking clue what this book is about.

There’s politics, allegiances, double dealing, magic that might just be science, and it made no sense. So often, comic writers have the horrible habit of overwriting, as if complexity equals quality. I remember having the same problem with Brubaker’s Winter Soldier comic, half formed ideas are treated like mysteries to be solved but you know it’ll probably all be solved with someone getting a cosmic cube dropped on their head. I am too used to this style of writing, that builds and builds but then the writer doesn’t have the skills to pay off. I’m just trying to satisfy my talking animals fetish, why you gotta write each character like you KNOW they got a british accent? Overwritten, well drawn. Ignore almost 90% of captions and word balloons, will make the same amount of sense, probably more sense.

DAYGLOAYHOLE by Ben Passmore

No one ever knows what “hipster” means. Go to MOCCAfest this weekend, and you’ll see so many hipsters that your dick will smell like kimchi and beer by the time you bounce. But if you asked any of the attendees or creators, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who admits they are a hipster. Even though self-publishing indie comics are one of the most hipster affectations there is, that is probably also it’s most defining characteristic: the inability to own their passions, to own their limitations. Individuality means never having to say you’re anything.

While reading Dayglo Ayhole, I couldn’t help but feel like every page, every joke had to have the same disaffection. On the store page, it is described as such:

“Half naked and cranky, a man stews in the heat and fumes of the apocalypse, but more than that he’s stewing with his failures pre-apocalypse. Sounds lame right? Don’t worry there’s weird monsters, an damaging oogle and his rubber dog, polar bears, and some sort of ham-fisted social commentary that would be preachy if its conclusions weren’t so schizophrenic.”

Its a comic that attempts to be meta but then backs off, is unsure if it wants to poke fun at genre tropes. It is pages of a character wandering a wasteland, saying they are bored, overanalyzing their own narration, trying to poke fun at feminism and capitalism, but then even backing away from that. It’s like the guy who’s drunk at a party, trying desperately to prove he’s a white cisgender ally, but still wants to be edgy enough that he can maybe convince you to give him a handjob. “Just a rub and tug, no biggie. Hahahaha, no no no, i was just poking fun at everyone else trying to get laid. Lol, but people ARE uptight about sex in America right? Where are you from, you look exotic.”

I’m from New Jersey.

Anyway, the comic has boss art, and in a few years, the dude might be funny, but these jokes need work and commitment. Everyone complains about ‘outrage culture’ now, even Patton Oswalt. Motherfuckers are just boring, and if you’re a comedian who’s upset that they can’t use a fat joke, then you need to work on your set. Comedy needs to be fresh, and i really wanted Dayglo Ayhole to crack me up, but i didn’t even smile once. The art pushed harderthan any of the jokes, where there’s more humor in the art-style alone. One sequence i thought WAS successful, was the street preacher with the bag over his head. “SINCE ALL THAT’S LEFT IS SELF PRESERVATION, SUICIDE IS THA ONLY REBELLION!” He kills himself, but then his body begins to transform.

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Ha. That was a good one. I was happy to be introduced to this artist, despite wanting more. The expectation to be impressed is ever-present, and it makes reading anything a struggle. When you read something that is impressive, in a way its effortless. You turn every page, devour the art, and when you’re done you feel transformed yourself. Then you want to read it again, or find more work by the artist. Ben Passmore is a talented cartoonist, but the comic would be better if it didn’t seem to stop and wink at you every minute, “That was funny right? But not really funny, i’m not trying to be funny..Thats the joke!”

Oh, go fuck yourself*, tell the fucking joke.

*The general You, not you Ben Passmore, I don’t know you, but i’m bored of losing friends i haven’t met yet.

End of Review.

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