Comics Review – Thanksgiving ’15

Its been awhile since i’ve reviewed a comic, but it’s also been awhile since i purchased a comic and it did something more than sit in my bookbag until it transitioned to sitting near my toilet on my “Books to read if my cellphone ever dies” stack. The comics i’ve mostly been reading have been what i buy at Koch Comics down in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Come with me sometime, buy a whole lot of dope old shit, and leave satisfied. Unlike some of the comics i read today.

I will be reviewing Iron Man #1 relaunch (???), Secret Wars – Planet Hulk #5, Secret Wars #6 and Kaijumax. Of these three comics, only one of them actually served more turkey than stuffing.

Iron Man #1 – Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez

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Honestly purchased this comic cause it comes with a removable cover that is a cool print. I am not so much a fan of Iron Man as i am a fan of Iron Man Costumes. Anytime they release a new series, i buy the new issue to check out the new design. So mad props because i dig the new streamlined costume which is a big departure from previous designs. It is smooth, but with sharp angles. Compare to the Bleeding Edge Iron Man, which was just like poured baby oil on Tony Stark’s smooth balls. Not a fan.

I’ve also never been a fan of Bendis’ writing. Not on anything, but he’s hard to avoid in the Marvel Universe, even though his writing style is really only suited to stories taking place in a very limited quasi-whedon-esque section of Queens, somehow he ends up on across the Marvel Universe, resulting in a universe that sounds like a small section of Queens. When it comes to dialogue, its something that he can handle with ease, but if you want anything, like say a character who’s primary appeal his cutting edge science fiction and big robot action, you will have to be satisfied with about three pages of that. For a relaunch, its a failure. There’s maybe one line about this new armor and why it (and this series) is different than any previous take. It somehow (remains unexplained) able to replicate the capabilities of any other previous iron man armor ever made. How this machine is now any different than magic actually serves to weaken the introduction of the new armor, as science fiction works best with how a writer introduces rules to his world and then works within them to provide unexpected stories.

There’s something happening with Madame Masque, and you can’t bring yourself to care about it, because Bendis treats a relaunch like an extended teaser trailer. There would be more character development if it had some Nolan BRRAAAAAHM noises over a feverish montage.

The bulk of the issue takes place on a date where a woman calls Tony Stark a ‘horn dog’, and he acts surprised. The sheer lack of self awareness that Tony Stark would have to have to be surprised at this, reminded me that Bendis is best when writing teenagers, not grown ass men who live in an age of social media and celebrity gossip. Overall, the writing fell flat, although the art was clean and served to tell the story well – there wasn’t much in this relaunch, and I have no confidence that Bendis could bring any new or interesting ideas about robotics or cybernetics into this series.

Secret Wars #6  & Secret Wars – Planet Hulk #5, – Jonathan Hickman & Esad Ribic, Sam Humphries & Marc Laming

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Secret Wars should be right up my alley. As a kid, i read more “What If?” comics than the actual canon. I love seeing new takes on familiar characters, and for the most part, it is fun to see the different varieties and costumes of a character side by side. Nostalgia is effective, and this parallel universes allows one to indulge in nostalgia while also satisfying that fan-fiction impulse to remix.

But its hard to derive anything more than that from these series, as besides an almost impenetrable plot, none of these characters seem to matter at all. They are the literal left overs of destroyed universes, and you can’t make a meal out of scraps. Like, i guess you could, but Marvel is building their house of ideas into an actual house (BattleWorld is where all these characters from all of the marvel multiverse are …battling live), but you need more than just “Look at this Evil Hulk, its actually Evil Steve Rogers, WHOA!” as the emotional climax of your issue. In Secret Wars #6, most of the drama is derived from the fact that Evil Dr. Doom is leader of the Fantastic Four, and Good Guy Reed Richards seems to have an evil-lish Reed Richards partner. I shouldn’t have to read that trope three times in two issues.

I’d say Planet Hulk’s was a brisker read, but compared to its name-sake, The Original Planet Hulk was much more compelling and engaging, with actual Hulk still feeling hulkish in a world where he can be hurt. In this world, Steve Rogers can easily kill a Hulk in one axe swipe. Secret Wars #6 is such a drag. That shit feels like you woke up in the middle of a lecture and your professor is just staring at you mad offended that you don’t get what their talking about. I’m sorry, all three of these Marvel comics are obstensibly action/adventure stories, but there is way too little of any action, and these writers are not bringing any kind of real ideas to justify having these great artist draw a lot of biceps not lifting shit. Imagine if that next Ip Man movie with Mike Tyson has them just having a nice conversation, how disappointing would that be. These comics are trading on the excitement of a PLANET of HULKS, a WAR that is SECRET, and a MAN of IRON. We get a convo with Hulks, a convo that is secret, a convo about making iron man suits. Stop talking, start showing. None of these I would say are poorly written, but it often feels like they forget what they are writing.

These were three issues, one at the beginning of a new story, one in the middle, and one the final issue – none of them felt like anything more than just a few ideas tied together that amounted to “So, this happened.”

Esad Ribic paints some beautiful scenes, and his landscapes and otherwordly locations make me wish the script could keep up. There are some interesting ideas, like a school of leviathans in a massive ocean, or a lonely island fortress housing a holographic head of Dr.Strange, and the art makes it worthwhile to visit them. But that’s all you do, I wish the story did more than jump from cool little idea to another. I can’t say much about Planet Hulk’s artist, because on page one there’s a glaring anatomy error where the left arm of Bucky has a hand that is facing the wrong way. Worse – Captain America is holding hands with this hand. The rest of the art was fine, but i couldn’t see how that got past an editor.

Kaijumax by Zander Cannon

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Some people told me about this comic, and for awhile, I avoided it. I draw a comic called GAMMA, and its a parody of many elements from the tokusatsu genre, so I try to keep away from things I feel like could influence what I wanna make. I gotta go back and get the earlier issues. I had no idea this was such a funny book. Great idea of putting giant monsters on a giant island prison, and playing it like an actual prison drama. Its pretty twisted and silly and all the parts work together. The art is loose and very cartoony, and it rings really true for a fan of Kaiju monster movies. This was my favorite read of the comics I recently purchased, and I can’t wait to read more. Also, I wish i had this idea, which is the biggest compliment you can give someone.

Now i’ll just steal this idea, even bigger compliment right?

That’s my review for Thanksgiving. Hope you liked it.

 

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Comics Review

The last time i reviewed comics was about a year ago? I’m not really sure, i mostly stopped reading comics after reviewing comics for a bit and when i actually began thinking about what i was actually consuming, felt deeply dissatisfied. Reviewing comics is exhausting, but more so it really began feeling like i was trying to find the critical value in cereal box literature. Lately though, i really began wanting to read a comic again, not anything significant, just anything i can find. Something short and sweet. Maybe it was because i’ve been making more work for myself again, feeling happier just doodling comics and telling stupid stories. When you think about taste, we don’t perceive our own perception as part of that taste. In the same way as when you take a bite from a piece of food, you don’t account for the flavor of your own mouth to see if you like it.

Maybe criticism is useless in a stagnant medium, like ice cream losing its flavor after many bites, and just tasting vaguely sweet. The comics i purchased were 3 old comics, and 2 brand new ones, all of which seemed to share a common DNA – junk food. But not all junk food is created equal.

Guardians of the Galaxy Team Up #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Art Adams

I only buy comics based on art nowadays. For the most part, i believe the writer in most american comics is almost completely unnecessary. I don’t know of any writer that i’d choose to read their work if they weren’t being carried by a fantastic artist. I don’t know of any of my peers that actually look forward to reading any comic writer’s work if its just prose. As an artist, most scripts i receive i treat mainly as blueprints or suggestions, the final form is something they aren’t aware of.

Arthur Adams is a really gifted cartoonist, and Bendis is a talented writer in as much as he is an extremely capable writer. He knows how to cross the street in the fewest steps possible. But reading this comic was probably the least exciting of all the books I purchased. It was so “by-the-numbers” that it read as a mad libs for superheroes. Vague cosmic threat, generic skull-faced aliens, quippy witty bantering superheroes. Bendis is one of the pioneers of the over-saturated ping-pong style of dialogue, he fills the same role as Joss Whedon did for television, and Tarantino does for film. It is absolutely boring at this point. Sometimes it feels every writer in mainstream comics writes in some variation of this style.

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Occasionally, Gamora, the green female character speaks in the haughty ways of a space warrior, similar to Drax the Destroyer, the muscle bound green fellow. But it’s handled completely inconsistently. This is a criticism i have for this style of writing at its worst, its always at the mercy of being quippy, even if it means the character switches from Thor-speak to Gilmore Girls on the same page.

Reading this comic, i wonder how bored Bendis and Adams must be with these stories, but i also wonder if they aren’t bored at all, and believe this is great work. It reminded me of the disappointment i always felt when i was reviewing comics on the regular, so many hours are being spent around the country, so many artists and writers and conventions and airplane rides, based on so many vacuous empty ideas that say nothing new and are fully satisfied in their mediocrity. Guardians of the Galaxy Team Up #1 was made by a machine, its components happen to be humans. It is a well made product, be sure to buy the slightly different variation of this product next month.

Some Beautiful Panels:

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I actually thought the above panel was some fine cartooning. Its simply a sequence where the space ship is twirling about, and so the panels themselves being flipping in circles. It is disorienting without becoming confusing, so i gotta give props to the artist for handling it with style.

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That expression is awesome. Its such a cute little moment, that it reaffirms my hopes that these aren’t completely soulless automatons churning out products. A lot of Art Adams work reminded me of one the last comics i read and enjoyed, Elias the Cursed.  Elias the Cursed, is a fairly typical sword and sorcery comic, but as a total piece of work, just has a bit more vitality and heft to it. I would love to read a Guardians of the Galaxy comic that was treated as a bit less disposable. I think that’s a feeling that i experience a lot reading new comics.

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Ms. Marvel #9 by G.Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Ignore that cover, its straight up terrible. Medusa, the long haired woman sitting in the throne is well rendered, but Lockjaw has a strange lecherous appearance. Some artists are great at rendering one thing, like pretty women, but drawing giant bulldogs, not their strong suit. It’s okay, sometimes i’ll get a cover job, and i don’t got time to do it, but i really need the dough, and i just wing it. I’ve made some garbage covers, and i just think “Oh well, i gotsta eat.” So Jamie McKelvie, i understand and forgive you. Please read my comic “Pug Quest” for some tips on how to draw cute smushed face doggies.

But this comic was great! Super fun and the writing WAS whip-smart and cute without trying so damn hard to seem whip-smart and cute. This was like the Tina Fey of comics, where that Bendis comic was the girl on OkCupid who insists she’s JUST LIKE TINA FEY, OMG. This is a comic where i feel like the artist and writer are not only in tune with each other, but also are working towards making a really great project, not just getting it done and cashing the checks.

It’s harder to say why something is good, versus why something is bad, so i usually spend less time on things i like. Hey, maybe i suck at telling my parents i love them too. Don’t hate me cause i have trouble handling emotions.

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The way Ms. Marvel’s stretchy powers manifest is drawn with such cartoony imagination, that her powers aren’t just this neutral feature of hers, but actually reflect the character’s personality. Imagine when we thought about how Superman flies, or how Spiderman swings, artists really thought about how those characters would do those activities. Oftentimes it seems Superman flies just like every other character flies. Their is so many little moments in Ms.Marvel that the writing and art really is inspiring. Compare the stiffness of Lockjaw on the cover of #9 to the interior art from issue #8, where he is a goofy bouncy huggable giant pug.

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“Hey girl hey,”

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“…hey,”

 

The Saga of Crystar – Crystal Warrior by David Simons and Ricardo Villamonte

I bought this because the cover was dope, but this was pure junk food. The thing with junk food is quality still matters. You can go deluxe and get Ben & Jerry’s ice creams, or you can be a broke ass homie getting that fake vanilla stuff for 2 dollars. I did a little googling, and Crystar was supposed to be Marvel’s shameless toy cash in. I had a feeling it would be, because the comic goes through the motions of introducing and giving a brief synopsis of almost a dozen characters. At least 4 of them are superfluous. But it’s a cash grab, and these are all dope action figures. Story-wise, even for a clearly commercial property like this, there’s way more plot packed into this comic than the Guardians comic above. This thing took me like 5 times the amount of time to get through. At some points, i was like “THERE’S MORE?”

But yo, check out these dope panels.

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“I AM SATISFIED” What a smug dude answer. The villain is the twin brother of Crystar, who both inherited the kingdom, and villain walks in and is like “Yo, technically, i still am also the rightful ruler of this place too, even though i’m like evil now.” And their advisor dude uncle actually finds this to be a very reasonable argument, and exiles Crystar. How he made the mental leap from “You two chill out and just rule together,” to “Ok get out Crystar, you weren’t being fair so now you get nothing,” escaped me. But I really found it hilarious that evil dude’s grand plan was arguing on a technicality. I love evil dude’s design too.

I really wanna go on ebay and buy the toys now. Merchandise advertisement = successful.

DEVIL DINOSAUR #5 and #8 by Jack Kirby

Save the best for last. Sometimes i find Jack Kirby comics boring. Like you open them up, and it’s like the moment you become an adult and fireworks no longer impress you. But every once in awhile, you hear the boom-pop-fizzle and see the brilliant lights of a fireworks display, and you become a kid again and you can’t look away. Devil Dinosaur is like that. Its such a silly idea, where Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy are practically a Sherlock Holmes and Watson arrangement. Moon Boy does all the talking, but you really get the feeling like Devil Dinosaur is the brains of the outfit. One comic was about some cavemen trying to steal Devil Dinosaur, the other one was about some giant robotic aliens have kidnapped Moon Boy. The Result – Devil Dinosaur just tears shit up. The whole book is just an excuse for action, and its pure and you really understand why Jack Kirby is so universally adored. There’s so much energy and fire and power in each panel, and it just hurtles forward. There’s no ego, no self-satisfaction, no “Look how clever and topical i’m being,” dialogue. These comics exist in their same powerful form now as they did decades ago, like a radioactive isotope with no half life, all killer.

Check out some of my favorite panels:

 

A lot of times i hate that we call Jack Kirby “The King”, not because the title is undeserved, but because now sits an empty throne, everyone seemingly too humble to attempt to take it. But everyone’s not reeeeally humble, they are just too fake to admit they want it, and too scared to think they’d deserve it. But greatness doesn’t come to cowards, you can’t make great art unless you see the heights that can be reached and try to go higher. I wish more artists and writers would strive and fail to be as productive and unrestrained as Jack Kirby, imagine what comics would look like if we all believed we could be like him or even better.

 

We are all making junk food, but i feel like Jack Kirby was like Willy Wonka, asking questions like ‘What if we made a football helmet out of brownie dough and then drove our cars into dipping dots ball pits?” meanwhile, Bendis is like ‘Here’s a chocolate chip cookie with precisely 9 chocolate chips, the optimal amount of chips for this cookie,”
Anyway, read Ms. Marvel, it does a body good.

Summer Time Reading

I’ve been reading some crazy good stuff lately. When i go to a comic book store nowadays, i think “Hey, if i’ve been this harsh with comics for so long, maybe i should just give up on comics like how some dads give up on their other family.” Like a sick part of my brain, wants to buy comics just to hate on some shit, but like a lot of comics don’t even inspire hate. You ever hear something described as so ‘meh’ its ‘meh’? That’s what’s mostly everything, you don’t even wanna review it, you just want your time back. But you can’t ever get that time back, and why waste time not being passionate. I love haters, i love lovers, i even respect a motherfucker who tells me that they LOVED Man of Steel. Shit, i can’t take that away from you, no matter how many times i tell you you’re wrong. You are wrong, you should not like that movie. But even myself, i’ve watched Man of Steel like 3 times now, and it’s fun to hate. It is inspiring. It is inspiring in the same way as Shia LaBeouf’s face is inspiring to punch.

So i’ve changed my approach. I’m no longer getting random comics from Floating World, i’m no longer even really caring what the words on the page say. Truth to be told, the writing is usually the weakest part of a comic. Writers are like grilled cheese instructors. Some dudes need instructions to make a grilled cheese. Do you put the butter on the pan first or on the bread? How many slices of cheese? But the artist is the one who brings the ingredients and puts them together. I’m not saying all writers are this lame (i’m not contractually obligated to say NOT MY WRITERS, but i’m gonna say NOT MY WRITERS, cause i really like working with Douglas Wolk, Joe Casey, and Erick Freitas – shout outs), but a lot of writers could use a refresher course on not being lamer than the end of a horse racing movie. I only go looking for that high level, pure shit. Art that makes me regret leaving it in the store. Art that makes me feel small, makes me feel stupid, makes me feel like if they ever dated a girlfriend of mine, i’d know i couldn’t measure up. So this is the stuff i’ve been pretty happy to read.

I’ll start with the floppies, which i mostly avoid.

Star Slammers by Walt Simonson

So who doesn’t like some Walt Simonson. I found the story nearly incomprehensible, these are like a race of mercenaries, the BEST mercenaries, and they can just beat up everyone. I read this nearly at the same time i read the Metabarons, and they are almost identical in the way they approach this race of bad-asses. I don’t know if its a swipe or whatever, probably someone who reads a lot more comics can nerd me out on this, but its basically a whole race of perfect superdudes. Kind of if you liked Thor, Superman, etc. but thought they needed more guns and klingon style dialogue. But the art is pretty star slamming. Something about those fat lines, the little ink scratches on the edges of armor, the stippling and kirby krackle, you can understand how this style evolved into the “put scratches on all textures and faces to look cool” style of the 90’s.

This is your fault Simonson – just kidding, i love Liefeld

So the whole thing has got that retro appeal, with ridiculous costumes that don’t look ridiculously bad. Its strange, you see all the weird knee pads, shoulder pads, gauntlets and helmets, and you just think “That works.” I don’t know why even Kirby’s giant Galactus Helmet works, but they are so outlandish that they just read as “legendary”. With superheroes, there’s like an uncanny valley with costumes. Very close to something we can make/buy ourselves, we accept it. Something that goes to the other extreme, that’s cool too. But that weird spot in the middle, just looks like bizarro pajamas. Compare movie Thor to movie Superman –

Magic Science Armor

Magic Science Onesie

The most impressive part of the art is some truly innovative panel layouts. The scene where all the warriors are trying to mind link, is done with these fractured layered panel grids, some of which are full-white out until they finally unify as one connected mind, on this perfect grid. It looks like it would inspire a hundred imitators to do poor imitations of this sublimely simple device. Remember, everything you love about comics, you’ll eventually see a shitty version of. Star Slammers was fun, even with its goofy story, and i love the proto-Warhammer 4o,000 designs.

The next floppy i picked up was that latest She Hulk #5 by Charles Soule and Ron Wimberly.

The cover alone is worth the price of admission, by Kevin Wada

I’ve read the previous issue, and Soule’s got some light elegant writing. I ain’t mad if i keep reading this, but i’m not reading cheap tricks to try to force drama or write so little story i have to buy the next issue. Half these comics nowadays feel like they are asking you to deposit 50 more cents to finish your phone call with a sex line. You’re always just so close to being satisfied before the writer starts acting coy again. Just giving me the damn story in 22 pages or less, is that so hard? Last issue of She Hulk, she’s rumbling with Dr. Doom, and it was funny and She Hulk brings more than just punch punch pow to every situation. Same here with #5, which is illustrated by the ever-kinetic Ron Wimberly.  I don’t know why everything is done with a fish eye lens, but i like it, and it makes you feel like you’re watching the dopest Busta Rhymes video featuring Marvel Superheroes. Even a scene of She Hulk and the Shocker having some chinese food is infused with a cool energy.

He’s got that head nod shit, that makes you break your neck. Woo-Hah! He’s got you all in check

On to the next one – Batman Incorporated #13 by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham

It took me awhile to actually finish reading this one, even though its a year old. There was some shit about Talia Al-Ghul, their son, blowing up Gotham Tower, tearing up Gotham City, blah blah blah, It wasn’t actually very interesting. It almost felt like Morrison was tired of writing this story, cause it wasn’t so much an epic conclusion than just a “I’m gonna leave the bathroom cause i can’t shit anymore, but i still feel like i have to shit”. But don’t let this get you down, cause i got this for Burnham.

Lately i’ve been seeing a lot of Mike Allred, and it’s like i’ve hit an over saturation point with his work. It’s not that i think he’s a bad artist, i think his stuff is great, but it feels like it’s gone as far as it can go. If i’ve seen one faux-retro Allred piece i’ve seen them all. The colors, the lines, every human face. Why am i talking about this? Because i remember when i first saw Chris Burnham’s work, and my first thought was to dismiss him as a Quitely clone. I wasn’t into it, like someone switched my mayo for miracle whip. But he’s an artist that i think has more ahead of them than behind them. I really like his work now, and part of that is that it keeps looking fresh. For a Batman comic, which is always so deadly serious, its nice to see a sense of fun. Here’s a world where a dude has made a whole gang of Bat-dudes. It’s like watching that Warriors movie. The faces are gnarly, and that scene above, feels closer to the tone of the sixties Batman show, than any of the Batman ’66 comics i’ve read.  Chris Burnham is more Allred than Allred at this point, and it’s only because Burnham isn’t getting comfortable. Below is a variant cover for Aquaman, in which Allred simply swiped images for underwater creatures from google imaes. Go ahead, google “megamouth shark” “frilled shark” and “hydrothermal worm”, its like he copied and pasted them on to the page. This is still a cool cover, but you can see that the least amount of effort has gone into it. Swiping is only cool if it says something about what you just swiped or you transform it enough, otherwise you’re just being lazy. I hate lazy artists. I really like Chris Burnham. Since its a year old this comic, i should see where he’s at now.

Swampson by Bjorn Daniel Miner

Bjorn gave me this comic at a signing. It is a pretty little package, thin and hefty. When i see work like this, it makes me proud of all the artists who are striving to make comics. Most of the time, all i feel is anger at going to a small press show, and table after table has identical looking work. They’ve all figured out that most of their currency will be in trades, so everyone’s trying to get rid of their hyper-inflated currency. Its three short stories, all of which have some pretty funny moments, without having to resort to drug and/or genital references to get its edgy laughs. Its refreshing to read an indie humor comic that’s not trying to fulfill all of Vice Magazine’s editorial mandates (Please add someone on the toilet, please add crude sexual antics, please write something that will be offensive on tumblr).

The best story is the one about the jerkwad kid trying to get into the main characters’ tree house. The Jerkwad isn’t entirely unsympathetic, but he goes to pretty disturbing extremes to get what he wants. I remember when my brother and I were kids, we had a neighbor who was our enemy. We never walked past each other without yelling at him, and vice versa. But we could never understand why the kid would pull his penis out at us. The kid would drop his pants and swing his dick around, and we’d be disgusted and tell him that he’s gross. This is how the stories in Swampson feel, you don’t know why they are doing this, and kids often have the most mysterious motivations, but it all makes sense to them. Bjorn ties it all up though, and it never feels like he’s just writing stream of consciousness comics. The stories are dreamy and strange, but the writing is on point.

Adventures of a Japanese Businessman by Jose Domingo

This is probably the best comic i’ve read in months. A static panel layout, and within there’s the craziest adventures of a static character. If you’ve ever played the videogame Katamari Damacy, you’ll know the joy of turning a corner and finding some strange scene playing out that you could not imagine. The colors are so vivid, and the movement through the world is so animated, it made me want to stop what i’m doing and draw a comic in this same format. I want this to be a genre of comics in itself, something everyone tries their hand at, just to see what they come up with when they only impose the fewest rules on themselves, but follow them strictly. The book, published by NoBrow, is also a beautiful object in itself, with a hard cover and spot gloss. Really, you should have this in your collection, because it’s a book you’ll keep coming back to for inspiration.

Metabarons by Jodorowsky & Jimenez

Steelhead with a new head

This is one of those comics that i’ve been meaning to read for a long time. You know, one of those things you’re embarrassed to say you haven’t read? This is it. I finally got a chance to pick it up, and it is as beautiful as everyone says. Its like if Star Slammers started working out one summer, lost all its baby fat, and the next time you saw him, you’re all like “Daaaaayum!” But the story leaves something to be desired. It’s mostly repetitive like the bible. This dude begot that dude, this person slept with this person and begot this person. There’s incest, father-son rivalries, and the women are there to just keep the genes going. I didn’t care that the story wasn’t mind-blowing, because the art often was. Alien vistas, strange civilizations and awesome mega-violence that never lets up for hundreds of pages. The sheer size of the thing is impressive alone, and i wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t have its own religion in 100 years. At least it wouldn’t result in wimpy Jedi-faith followers cosplaying in bathrobes.

Finally, the last great book i got, wasn’t a comic, but a book of Maps by by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

I always say that my biggest influence in my life, when i started out drawing, were children’s books. Children’s books have an efficiency to them. It becomes impossible to find what you’re looking for on wikipedia or google, because you’re not allowed to browse or aimlessly explore. Children’s books provide an entry way to a billion concepts, without being overwhelming. Perfect clarity is necessary for a simple understanding, and simplicity encourages further exploration. Combining maps with hundreds of adorable illustrations related to each place is the perfect introduction to a new world. A world that we live in and never know enough about. For seasoned pros or new creators, this book is a must have for anyone who loves maps, world building, and history.

All of these comics and books i was happy to have read, because each one has planted seeds in my head for my own art. What if i draw maps more like the Mizielinskas, or how do i refine my work to Juan Gimenez’s level? The energy of Wimberly, or the playfulness of Burnham? I never review comics for other people, those reviews are always in my head. My harsh approach is universal, because it must inform my own work. A lot of conversations about criticism are always demanding GOOD CRITICISM, and i’ve read more effective criticism about criticism than i’ve read of actual criticism. It’s all pretty circle-jerky. But what is criticism for me? It’s just a way of putting in words, not what i want from the comics medium, but what i want from myself. All the hate and harshness, all the praise and pleasure – Its just a letter from my future self. People get the impression that i think i’m the best there is, but doing most creative work, often feels isolating and depressing. You’re doing all this work, for what? Because there’s an 85 year old man, somewhere in the future, who is everything i want to be. I’ll never become that man if i don’t believe that he’s better than i’ll ever be, or that comics can be better than we ever expected.

Thanks for reading.

 

Comics Review – May 2014

My god…is this another comic review?! But, wasn’t I done reading comics?! Wasn’t I done writing about comics?! Nah. Escobar Season has returned. It’s been a long time coming. This is what makes me, this is what I am.

Anyway, this is what I read this week:

Flash Gordon #1 by Jeff Parker, Evan Shaner & Jordie Bellaire

 

Man, this comic was cornyyyy. But corny in the same way Prince Valiant is corny. It begins with Flash Gordon bungee jumping, which already wasn’t cool anymore when Vin Diesel did it in XXX, and maybe the last time I was impressed with seeing bungee jumping was when Alicia Silverstone did it in that Aerosmith video. I was crying when I read you, but now I’m trying to forget you. Haha, just kidding. I really just wanted to use that joke, and it just fit so well. Honestly, sometimes I come up with the joke before the criticism, and it’s just gotta fit. I actually enjoyed this comic. There’s really no way to tell an old dime-novel style comic like this in a modern way, you just gotta embrace the pulp like its your morning orange juice. The story jumps around a bit, but i prefer a comic gets to the fun parts in a #1 than try to convince me how smart it is. I’m surprised this wasn’t marketed as a kids book, cause it’s got some nice safe adventure, big monsters, jetplanes and an evil dude named Ming. It seems like only yesterday where Ming was an evil racist stereotype. We don’t have racist characters anymore, we just cast white men and ignore the faux-eastern naming cliches.

 

Khan

Mandarin

 

Fortunately, with places called Mongo and Arboria, the “Ming” Thing doesn’t really stand out. What does stand out is some beautifully illustrated locations, some of which i wish we’d get to see more of. But this being a #1, if they keep the same artist, i’m sure we will. One thing i HATE is when they switch an artist mid-book, or worst – MID COMIC, just like this comic called:

 

Guardians of the Galaxy #14 Double Sized Anniversary Issue by Bendis, Bradshaw, Wong, Ponsor

MAAAAN, LOOK HOW DOPE THAT COMIC COVER IS. This is probably why Marvel chose to make a Guardians of a Galaxy movie. Pure Visual Spectacle. That’s what so exciting about the Marvel movies, they haven’t forgotten how to entertain. They don’t get bogged down with useless continuity, boring melodrama, or overwritten plot mechanics. Unfortunately, Marvel comics DO. Its not dog-shit terrible, but its like stale popcorn bleh. Recycled plots of father & son conflict (He doesn’t hate his father cause he wasn’t there for him, he hates him cause he’s a Warlord!), Groot goes off and saves some forest creatures from being hurt and is banished for it (Of course this ancient civilization hasn’t figured out a proper justice system yet! Of course!) and there’s the old cliche of a futuristic Captain America still instilling hope in some futuristic slave folk and somehow recycles superhero costumes from 1995. For an Anniversary Special, i was definitely not inspired by its history, nor inspired to read more. All the cliches would’ve been fine however, if it was just fun. It’s just so damn serious. And there’s like 2 panels of Rocket Raccoon. C’mon, that’s your breakout star. Seriously?

And who the hell honestly believes that an Archer is a useful addition to a team in the year 3000?

5 pages of Generic Blue Man Group Heroes instead.

Punisher #1 by Edmondson & Gerads

This wasn’t that bad. I don’t even got much to say about it. I like Punisher, he’s a character i just like to read, regardless of writer/artist a lot of the times. Sometimes i’m pleasantly surprised. I think there’s two ways to go about him, you either go true-crime hardcore porn-equivalent of shooting people or you go DieHard Gallows Humor approach. This doesn’t really do either. Franky is tracking down a drug network. Drugs are bad, Reagan said so. I’m a bit surprised, that even nowadays, so many people have thoroughly swallowed the “Drugs are Bad” kool-aid, that its never even considered that perhaps the low level drug runner in the alligator infested swamp in the middle of the night, might not want to be there, and the economy is only being kept afloat by the drug trade, which only exists because of abusive global policies on the part of the United States. Yeah, geopolitics, ain’t nobody got time for that. But fuck it, drugs are bad. So Franky gets info from drug runner, kills him. This info is reliable, he goes and finds the name the drug runner told him. Kills him. He goes and finds the distribution point and blows it up. Its so straight forward, gots no twists, no turns, it makes me feel like the Punisher should have an existential crisis in the first issue. “Is this just getting too easy?”

Jammers by Lizz Hickey

This comic made me laugh. I hem and haw about technical skill a lot. I just can’t stand a poorly drawn comic, indie or mainstream or whatever the fuck those terms mean. I just think skills over everything, no excuses. And for sure, this comic has skills that pay the bills. The drawings are crude, messy and sometimes hard to understand, but it’s all in the service of a good joke. Cause the jokes are crude, messy and a bit hard to understand too. There’s at least three references to beastiality and it’s lovely. There’s a girl who has a crush on a secretive frog. It’s partly creepy, like white guys in thailand, but also very satisfyingly silly. Drawing mistakes become fodder for jokes, and jokes run on too long until a strange drawing happens and brings it all together. Technique isn’t just about pretty lines, but knowing exactly what kind of line you wanna draw. Don’t try to draw a straight line and then call whatever kinks its got your ‘style’. Own it, learn how to compose it. Jammers got good jokes and funny drawings.