(Mostly) Comics Reviews (July 20th, 2016)
From worst to best, with things I didn’t buy marked with a *. If you want me to review something that’s not on my “next week” list, you can either send me a copy or Paypal me/send me a Comixology gift card for the cover price with a note as to what you want me to read. That’s snowspinner; a gmail account.
The Hunt #1
I’m trying all new Image #1s, just because it seems like where things I’m going to be interested in comics-wise are going on. This… is not a recommendation for that plan. A muddled book of the sort that one usually associates with Vertigo after the period where they were meaningfully creator-owned and were thus no longer the first choice of actually good creators. Generic horror tropes, muddy storytelling, and, for good measure, utterly irritating “let’s try to capture an Irish accent” dialogue. A complete mess of a book. The art is pretty, but this is pretty classic “artist decides that he should write his own material when that’s not where his strengths are” comics. Which makes it oddly appropriate for an Image book, if not quite in the right decade.
The stuff about Wendigos is smart and funny, and Hopeless’s “Spider-Woman as mom” characterization is as delightful as it was in Spider-Women. Pity Civil War II comes crashing through the door halfway through to be stupid all over the place. I’d probably enjoy an extended run of this where Hopeless was doing his own stories, and may well check it out again if such a thing ever exists, but man, Civil War II is a fucking disaster.
Kim and Kim #1*
Much to love about the aesthetic here; queer punk space bounty hunters yes. But it doesn’t quite click together – it’s very “standard tropes made more diverse,” which is good and valuable, but my interest in standard tropes is a bit low. It fails at one of those crucial first issue tasks of making me care about the characters and concepts. Very pretty, though, and if you want a by-the-numbers queer punk space bounty hunters comic, this is absolutely the one for you.
The Ultimates #9
Some good bits here and there, but even Ewing is having trouble rescuing one of the biggest problems with Civil War II, at least based on its tie-ins, which is that Captain Marvel’s role in it seems to be to just act like a completely unreasonable jerk at all times. Her side is self-evidently the wrong one, and everyone writing the books recognizes that. Her big interaction with Adam in this issue is just awful, hinging on her being horrible to him with no justification whatsoever. Add to that a super rough stitch job between two artists of very different styles and skill levels and you have a weak filler issue. Alas.
Only four more issues of this! Woo! Obviously from it’s ranking it’s not that bad, but man, I am 100% just slogging through to the end of this out of some horrible sunk costs fallacy and not actually caring.
The Flintstones #1*
There’s a manic genius to putting Steve Pugh on this book, and more broadly with jettisoning the iconic cartoon designs for a more “realist” art style and more adult sense of humor. (Not in the “sex and swearing” sense, but in the “assuming the audience isn’t seven” sense.) And smartly, the fact that they’re doing this isn’t the joke. But none of the jokes are particularly sharp – for my money there’s one or two good lines. Smart and interesting that this book exists, but it’s not easy to see who the audience for a mildly transgressive Flintstones book is.
As with Spider-Woman above, this divides neatly into the good part of the book and the Civil War II crossover. It’s interesting to see Jessica Jones crop up in two books in the same week (the other one was actually a few weeks back and comes in higher than this), especially two with very different tones. Here her use is much more serious and hard-boiled PI, which fits this book and is compelling – the issue’s cliffhanger is a great dilemma that I really look forward to seeing how is unpacked. And then there’s the crashingly obvious “LET ME EXPLAIN THE THEME OF MY BIG CROSSOVER TO YOU DEAR READER” Civil War II stuff, which can go fuck itself, and I say that as someone with the utmost sympathy and interest in the actual theme.
A smart and focused issue, which is nice to see, as I know I’ve been rough on both this book and Rucka in general. This shows his strengths – including, notably, a solid silent fight scene that takes up several pages but doesn’t stray into ostentatious excess or lack of readability. Having Papa Carlyle (whose actual name I totally forget) back spices the book up nicely, and things feel focused and engaging. I just hope they can keep to a release schedule that makes following the book plausible, as this is a welcome reminder of why I actually read the thing.
Darth Vader #23
Careening towards a big climax in the most satisfying of ways, Gillen manages an interesting cliffhanger that puts Vader in a new sort of situation that’s at once an entertaining threat to him and one that gives him loads of interesting ways out. Aphra and Triple-Zero remain terribly entertaining. Lots of things explode. I look forward to the triumphant finale.
This continues in the delightful vein of the first two issues. Tilda remains one of the most delightful tech sidekicks in comics. Some very smart use of time-jumping. And colorist Tamra Bonvillain not only has a fucking awesome name, she makes a wonderful decision to use hot pink as a blood color in what’s actually a pretty gruesome scene, which makes for wonderful weird contrasts and tension. Also, and this is an utterly little thing but one that really satisfied me, an incredibly welcome flashback panel to make sure that the reader remembered a crucial detail that was going to affect a character’s reasoning. Thank you comics that don’t assume readers have eidedic memories!
Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat Volume 1*
The first trade of this series, which I’d meant to pick up and then somehow failed to. (I think my shop sold out of #1. Ah, the niceness of digital.) Absolutely delightful – it’s very much in the same “Marvel humor book” style as Squirrel Girl and Howard the Duck, but with its own spin, mostly staying more rooted in character and less inclined towards ludicrous excess. Very, very smart stuff. I think this is my first Kate Leth comic, and holy shit do I see what the fuss is about. This is absolutely going onto my pulls, and I’ll catch up on issues #7 and 8 next week. (Which will include the actual Jessica Jones plot, as she’s just teased as a future engagement here.)
If you imagine the constellation of things that a book called Snotgirl is likely to be, this book is almost certain to exist outside of it. It’s slightly more expected for things the new Bryan Lee O’Malley book is likely to be – plugged into popular culture and with a protagonist who is not necessarily a good person but who remains engaging. But there’s a wickedly dark turn in it (albeit one that I had to reread a few times to be 100% solid on what had happened) that’s delightfully out of sync with expectations. Tremendously exciting first issue, and the first major win of my “yeah, let’s buy all new Image #1s for a bit and see what happens” policy.
Normal Parts One and Two
The promised “not comic” of the title, the first two installments of Warren Ellis’s serialized novel about a mental institution for futurists suffering from “abyss gaze” and the mysterious events that go on within. The cliffhanger of the second issue comes when Ellis’s Mencius Moldbug parody reveals himself and explains his worldview. Along the way is typical Ellis hilariousness (the book’s first line is “‘Hand over the entire internet now and nobody gets hurt,’ she said, aiming the toothbrush at the nurse like an evil magic wand.”) and philosophical digressions about the nature of cities and futurity. In short, everything you want out of a serialized Warren Ellis novel.
- Normal Part Three
- Batgirl #1
- Wonder Woman #3
- Mechanism #1
- Black Panther #4
- Karnak #5
- Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #9
- Ms. Marvel #9
- New Avengers #14
- Spider-Gwen #10
- Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #10
Yeesh. That’s quite the haul.
July 20, 2016 @ 6:51 pm
Geez, Marvel, just because “Tony’s actions and attitude are clearly appalling” was one of the main things everybody commented on about Civil War I, that doesn’t make it a thing you should actually try to replicate.
July 21, 2016 @ 2:31 am
I think this is actually worse. Tony’s position in CW1 was at least basically coherent. The story made him an utter dick, but at least he made some sort of sense. But Tony effectively shredded Carol’s entire argument in the first issue of CW2: “but he doesn’t predict the future. If he did, we couldn’t have stopped it.” And it hasn’t started making sense since then.
July 21, 2016 @ 2:18 pm
What’s amusing about Tony’s position is that in the 90’s, he had built a computer precisely for predicting future events to be able to do exactly what Captain Marvel wants to do now, and he didn’t show any “buyer’s remorse” from that at the time.
It’s a shame they have to shoehorn bad characterization on the characters just to artificially make this conflict happen so they can have an “event”.
Fortunately, it hasn’t really impacted Al’s other ongoing series (since Contest of Champions just wrapped up this week), New Avengers, since that was always going to head to a S.H.I.E.L.D. vs Avengers Idea Mechanics fight anywhere whether or not Civil War II reared its ugly head.
July 22, 2016 @ 2:17 pm
Yeah, that does sound worse. I think when Marvel UK reach this point, I’ll take a sabbatical from Avengers Universe and any crossover books, like I did with Disassembled, and like I should have done with Civil War.
July 20, 2016 @ 7:06 pm
Fascinated by the good review of Snotgirl. For all it had pleasant art, it fumbled the climactic fall, and I wasn’t impressed by the writing. All in all what it reminded me of the most was Dave Sim’s Glamourpuss, but without the sidetrack into the history of photo realistic comic art and the death of Alex Raymond.
July 21, 2016 @ 2:33 am
Glamourpuss was always flatly mocking fashion from the outside, though. Whereas one gets the sense, or at least I get the sense, that O’Malley knows his subject and has real affection for it.
July 21, 2016 @ 6:58 am
Ah, I think that explains our divergence: I didn’t think it was written with affection: it came across to me as something quite spiteful, in all honesty. That said, I may simply have been in the wrong mood for Snotgirl when I read it yesterday and a rereading is in order (something that is happening more and more frequently recently).
Although I went into reading Lemire and Ormston’s Black Hammer not expecting much beyond a post Watchmen dissection of the super team concept and found myself enjoying it, although I don’t know if I can justify buying it monthly on my current budget.
July 20, 2016 @ 7:32 pm
Do you mean “Kim and Kim”? Or is this another comic?
July 21, 2016 @ 2:27 am
No, I meant Kim and Kim. Will fix.
July 21, 2016 @ 12:05 am
Andy & I are still pulling for the KFC-themed, Green Lantern-inspired propaganda–it’s free. And, frankly, I love how you write.
July 21, 2016 @ 3:53 am
I actually enjoy Chew quite a bit when I get the chance to read it. But the insane release schedule the past couple years has killed any actual enthusiasm I have for it.
Glad you enjoyed Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat. I was getting tired of wondering every time an issue came out “Why isn’t think on Phil’s list?”
I may look at Snotgirl at some point, but just the title bugs me enough that it will take a lot more good reviews to convince me. Not sure why I find the name quite as revolting as I do, though.
July 21, 2016 @ 4:01 am
“Why isn’t this on Phil’s list?” Curse you, typos!
Anthony D Herrera
July 21, 2016 @ 7:44 am
You probably find it so revolting because nose and throat stuff are the grossest substances the human body produces and that is a hell of a competition.
July 21, 2016 @ 2:22 pm
Well, there is an argument to be made for pus being grosser, but that’s not a regular occurrence (hopefully)
Anthony D Herrera
July 22, 2016 @ 5:09 am
We could have that argument but for the sake of everyone let’s not.
July 22, 2016 @ 1:42 pm
Oh, I agree totally with that
July 22, 2016 @ 1:47 am
Hi Phil. Not sure how else to contact you directly so I’m putting this here–please delete after reading. Choronzon tells me you know him by name now. He asked me to contact you. I will answer your questions if I can.
July 29, 2016 @ 11:05 am
All your reviews have a frustrated bitterness about them. Like you think you could do better yourself. Well, why don’t you?
July 30, 2016 @ 1:00 am
I don’t think that at all. The frustrated bitterness is more seeing a medium I love in a state where 90% of books are unequivocally and in no possible sense worth their cover price, and even the best books make you swallow hard at the price tag.