Pull List 7/18/10
Neal Adams (writer and artist).
So, here’s a quick history lesson for all you amateur Batmanologists out there. In the early 1970s, artist Neal Adams and writer Dennis O’Neil were instrumental in ridding Batman of the campiness inspired by the Adam West TV show, bringing the character back to his roots as the brooding detective we all know and love. During his run on the character, Adams created the definitive Batman look for the decade and provided art for some of the best comics of the era, including the seminal “The Joker’s Five Way Revenge” in September 1973. In Batman: The Odyssey, Adams returns to a character he helped to redefine… and dear god is it ever awful.
For all his groundbreaking artwork, as a writer, Adams is abysmal. Things are getting off to a rocky start right away, as Batman pulls out a handgun on page two. The idea of Batman arming himself with a gun was rejected as a bad idea about sixty-five years ago, and his hatred of guns is one of his most defining character traits. With a few scattered examples in which the Dark Knight was forced to pick up a gun under emergency circumstances, the only story in which he seriously contemplated packing heat was Mike W. Barr’s Batman: Year Two from 1987, and that story was so bad it was later retconned out of existence.
So here we get a story that starts with Batman trying to stop a train robbery, before the action abruptly switches to the Batcave, where he’s hanging out with Robin and Man-Bat. For reasons that are never explained, Man-Bat apparently knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman; also, Dick Grayson is Robin, though for some reason he’s wearing Tim Drake’s costume. With no real set up, Batman and Robin are suddenly off to fight generic bad guys at the Gotham City docks, while Batman tells us that the Riddler is currently robbing the Gotham City mint (but Batman doesn’t seem at all interested in trying to stop him). The story isn’t just disjointed, it’s borderline schizophrenic. It feels like Adams took all the scenes he has planned for this miniseries, then just threw them into a hat and picked a few out at random. If you’ve seen Dennis Hopper’s “The Last Movie”, Batman: Odyssey is kind of like that. If you haven’t seen “The Last Movie”, don’t. It sucked too.
Oh, and then there’s the ellipses. Good god, the ellipses. Those little dot-dot-dots dominate Adams’ dialogue- seriously, I was bored enough that I went through and counted; In twenty-five pages, Neal Adams uses ellipses two hundred and fifty-four times. So, in his honour, here’s the bottom line:
This… comic… is awful. Avoid… Batman: The Odyssey… like… the plague.
Casanova #1 (Marvel/Icon)
Matt Fraction (writer), Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon (artists)
Matt Fraction is the best writer in comics. There, I said it. And by this time next week, I’ll probably have a different name in mind. But for this brief and shining moment in time, I can’t think of any writer whose name on a cover will put that book into my hand quite as fast as Matt Fraction. After all, Fraction is the guy who gave us a Kung Fu Billionaire fighting a civil war in the seven capital cities of Heaven, a Thor comic wherein the God of Thunder created a colossus of blood and bone and used it to re-kill the zombies of everyone that had ever died, and a story where the Punisher shot Stilt-Man in the crotch with an RPG. With this comic, Fraction and his partners Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon have brought their creator owned comic from Image to Marvel’s creator-friendly Icon imprint, and to the surprise of absolutely no one, Fraction has hit it out of the park once again.
Casanova stars master thief Casanova Quinn, the son of super-spy and dimensional guardsman Cornelius Quinn, Director Supreme of E.M.P.I.R.E.. In between dodging his father’s soldiers, Casanova’s adventures cause him to cross paths with homicidal mutated brains, an army of flying sex-robots and an evil organization named W.A.S.T.E. that can’t quite decide what those letters stand for. Casanova is equal parts Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Arsène Lupin, Hunter S. Thompson and Doctor Who, with a generous dash of Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius.
If you enjoy over-the-top super spy action and psychedelic sci-fi lunacy, Casanova is a must read. If you don’t like those things, then I most likely hate you and we can never be friends. So there.
Hellboy: The Storm #1 (Dark Horse)
Mike Mignola (writer), Duncan Fegredo (art).
It’s no secret that Mike Mignola’s Hellboy is one of the best independent comic books on the rack- critics have been singing Mignola’s praises for years, and with two blockbuster movies (not to mention two direct to DVD animated features), Hellboy is arguably the most easily recognizable comic book character out there that isn’t a product of either Marvel or DC. Mignola’s Hellboy stories are a clever blend of action, horror and comedy, centered around a lovable demon from hell whose day to day life involves crossing paths with major mythological beings, and being thoroughly unimpressed by them.
In The Storm, long-dead knights have begun to rise from their graves for some unknown reason. Having recently become the rightful king of England- no, really- it’s up to Hellboy to find out what’s what. It’s a cool premise, bearing a few similarities to Matt Wagner’s great Mage comics from the eighties and nineties, but done in Mignola’s own unique style. For new readers interested in checking out Hellboy for the first time this is a decent jumping-on point, as Hellboy provides a quick recap his adventures from the past few years (which can pretty much be summed up as “getting drunk with paranormal beings”).
It’s always a bit odd to see a Hellboy comic where Mignola scripts but doesn’t provide the artwork, but if anyone can match the quality of Mignola’s work it’s Duncan Fegredo (now on his third Hellboy miniseries in four years). Like Mignola, Fegredo boasts a styles that’s gothic and shadowy, but also incredibly detailed. His pencils are evocative of Mignola’s early work on the character, but with flairs that are all Fegredo’s own.
I say this about nearly every Hellboy comic I read, but it’s worth reiterating once again- in terms of both art and story, Hellboy: The Storm is excellent. If you’re a long time Mignola fan, you already knew that coming in. For anyone else, especially people who generally stick to comics published by the Big Two, give this one a shot- I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Andy Diggle (writer), Billy Tan (art).
Spinning out of the pages of Daredevil we have Shadowland, Marvel’s crossover du jour. When presented with an offer to become the leader of the ancient ninja cult The Hand, Daredevil reluctantly accepted, determined to turn them into a force for good. Though The Hand’s resources allowed Daredevil to bring a form of peace to his home in Hell’s Kitchen, he did so by imposing near martial law. Now it seems as though the corrupting influence of The Hand is blackening Daredevil’s very soul as Hell’s Kitchen sees the construction of The Shadowland, a massive tower built on the site of a city block demolished by Bullseye. No one knows what goes on behind the walls of the Shadowland, but Hell’s Kitchen is alive with rumours of disappearances, and a secret prison for criminals captured by Daredevil’s forces. Needless to say, some of New York’s other heroes may have a few things to say to Daredevil, heroes like Spider-Man, Moon Knight, The Punisher, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
The miniseries begins with Bullseye escaping from a maximum security prison transport and returning to Hell’s Kitchen, looking to have some fun by messing with his archenemy Daredevil. He quickly learns the hard way that the hero he tussled with so many times in the past is gone, maybe forever, and this newer and darker Daredevil isn’t putting up with his crap any more.
Andy Diggle provides a strong first issue here, one that’s dark and foreboding, drawing the reader in while at the same time daring us to see just how far a hero can fall from grace. Billy Tan’s artwork nicely compliments the gritty subject matter, and the man draws ninjas like nobody’s business. The person who really shines on this issue though is colorist Christina Strain (with Guru EFX). I don’t tend to focus on colorists very often when I read comics- in fact, I’ve always felt that the best inkers and colorists are the ones you don’t notice, whose works just blends in fluidly with pencils. In this issue though, Strain’s work bears an extra mention, because it’s vital to the tone of the book. While New York City at night is awash with deep blues, and heroes like Cage, Iron Fist and the Avengers are alive with vibrant colors, nearly every panel in every scene involving Bullseye, Daredevil and the Hand ninjas is done with a strict pallet of greys, black, white and reds. It’s a striking look, and one that fits perfectly with Shadowland‘s overall tone.
Shadowland doesn’t feel like the typical Marvel crossover. It doesn’t have the earth-shattering stakes of Secret Invasion or House of M, or the powerful political undertones of Civil War. And yet, that’s what makes it work- it’s a story about Daredevil, a decidedly urban character who has no place in cosmic battles and alien invasions. This is a story about the heroes who patrol the streets of New York, and a battle for one man’s soul. If you’re a fan of Daredevil, this is a must read, if for no other reason than to find out if a character who stands poised to fall so far can ever call himself a hero again afterward.
The Smurfs #1 (Papercutz)
Yvan Delporte and Peyo (creators).
The appeal of the Smurfs has always been somewhat of a mystery to me. I’m a few years too young to have watched the 1980s animated series, and I managed to completely avoid the comic books growing up. It’s kind of a shame they weren’t more readily available- as a student in a French immersion school, I spent a ton of time reading Asterix and Les Aventures de Tintin. But I’m always on the lookout for comics I can recommend to younger readers, and with a live action/CGI film on tap for next year, I figured it’s time to give the Smurfs a shot.
This issue is a teaser of sorts for Papercutz’ upcoming reprints of the original Smurfs albums, sixteen of which were produced by Pierre “Peyo” Culliford (with Yvan Delporte). This issue reprints the story “The Smurfnapper” which originally appeared in the first Smurf volume, Les Schtrompfs noirs (“The Black Smurfs”), and features the first appearances of the series’ main antagonist, the evil alchemist Gargamel. This comic retails at the bargain price of one dollar, and the full version of Les Schtrompfs noirs will published in English for the first time ever later this year (though, due to a hilarious bit of overly political correctness, it will be titled The Purple Smurfs).
In “The Smurfnapper,” Gargamel is working to create a philosopher’s stone to turn common metals into gold, and needs a Smurf as one of his alchemic ingredients. When he captures one of the little blue imps and imprisons it in his laboratory, it’s up to Poppa Smurf and the rest of the Smurf clan to rescue their friend and take Gargamel down (using pretty much the same tactics as the miniature reflections of Ash in “Army of Darkness”).
Peyo’s artwork is gorgeous- it completely stands the test of time, as rich and lively now as it was when it first saw print almost fifty years ago. But what about the story (which is, of course, translated from the original French)? Well, I admit the Smurf-speak can get annoying, though I imagine if I were seven or eight years old, I’d have more patience for it. I was surprised at how easily it was to follow though- it really helps that with all the Smurfing gibberish aside, this was a remarkably well-translated comic, maybe the best translation of a foreign book that I’ve ever read. And that’s essential, because this is also a very wordy comic, considering it’s aimed at a younger demographic. The first page alone has more text on it than some entire kids’ comics I’ve seen. But you know, I’ve always been a proponent of challenging younger readers instead of mollycoddling them with overly simplistic words and ideas, so I’m glad to see that’s the way Delporte and Peyo went. I’ll admit though, I was surprised how many times Smurf-speak was used to cover things you normally probably wouldn’t say in a kids’ comic. “This time, I’m really Smurfed”, “I don’t give a Smurf”… I’m surprised no one told Gargamel to go Smurf himself.
So what we have here is a great comic with stellar artwork and a story that could be enjoyed by a reader of any age (yes, including adults), and it’s only a buck. Go ahead… Smurf it a shot.
X-Women #1 (Marvel)
Chris Claremont (writer), Milo Manara (artist)
X-Women is one of the worst comic books I have ever read. It is sleazy, exploitative and thoroughly unpleasant. Chris Claremont should be ashamed of himself for writing such an utter piece of crap.
Originally released in Italy last year as X-Men: Ragazze in fuga (which Babelfish translates as “Women in Escape”), X-Women sees veteran X-writer Chris Claremont teaming with famed Italian artist Milo Manara. For those of you unfamiliar with Manara’s body of work, he is best known for his work in erotic comics, many of which revolve around themes of voyeurism, bondage and domination. Now this is not a knock against the guy- Manara is an incredible artist (considered in some parts of Europe to be among the best in the world), and he has worked with some incredible writers, including Hugo Pratt, Neil Gaiman and even Federico Fellini. His body of work within the erotic comic field is critically acclaimed, and deservedly so. The thing is, having him draw a lascivious, cheesecake comic about the female members of the X-Men, then promoting it as part of a celebration of Marvel’s female heroes… well, it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
We start off with a porntastic cover that has Psylocke cavorting under a waterfall, Rogue grinding on a vine and Storm wearing tights that ride so far up her ass, her tailor should have bought her dinner. Now it’s never a good thing to judge a book by its cover, but inside it’s more of the same. Rachel Summers appears wearing a miniskirt that barely qualifies as a belt, for no discernible reason. There are scenes of the X-Women frolicking in bikinis, and Shadowcat accidentally stumbling onto a gay couple in bed together. At one point, the X-Women have their powers neutralized, and their immediate reaction is to get drunk together; Rogue uses this rare opportunity to strip down to a bikini top and daisy dukes.
Soon, the X-Women are captured by a tribe of suspiciously Caucasian natives, who tie them up in bondage with ropes and bamboo restraints. Storm catches the chief’s eye and is given a costume to wear that’s basically Princess Leia’s slave outfit from “Return of the Jedi”, only with nipple pasties and a see-through loincloth. The chief repeatedly tries to force himself on Storm with thinly veiled threats of rape, but she just laughs it off, even having dinner with him afterward.
This comic is seriously awful. It’s such a slimy affair that I feel like I need to take a shower after reading it, just to be clean again. If you’re looking for a collection of cheesecake drawings of Storm’s ass that are of a higher quality than you’ll find on DeviantArt, this is the comic for you. Otherwise, spend your money on anything else- I’d recommend Birds of Prey, which is actually a GOOD comic about a team of female heroes, written by a woman who I’m fairly sure would have nothing to do with a tawdry trash like this.