Wednesday, August 31, 2016

COMICS READING FOR AUGUST: “The things we do for family”


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

1.-25. Showcase Presents Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld (DC, 2012) ***
- originally published in Legion Of Super-Heroes #298, Amethyst, Princess Of Gemworld #1-12, Amethyst Annual #1, DC Comics Presents #63, Amethyst #1-11 (DC, 1983-85)
Writers: Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn/Artists: Ernie Colon, Rik Estrada and friends
26.-39. Marvel Ultimate Super Hero Collection (Marvel/Scholastic, 2016) ***¼
- collecting Spider-Man, Iron Man, Thor, Nick Fury, Ant-Man, Avengers, Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Wasp, Ultimate Spider-Man: Team Heroes, Falcon, Hulk
Writers/Artists: various
This 14-part series (with a free slipcase) came as a two-week promotional deal from the trashy Murdoch tabloids – in Sydney’s case it was The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph. So I sold my soul for 14 days and bought the comics for $2.60 apiece each day, so the kids could enjoy them. And they did.
After going to all that effort I decided to read them, too. Turns out they were all Marvel Adventures strips, some dating back more than six years. I remember reading a few of them the first time round in the cheap digests that collected them at the time. The tales ranged from mediocre to fun and were definitely geared towards kids, with a cute little moral at the end of tale. Sadly, because the comics came from a range of series over a long period of time, there was little cohesion. Characters changed personalities from issue to issue. Some of the Avengers-related strips had a story arc where Loki was trying to destroy the team after stealing powerful artefacts belonging to Odin. However, this storyline was dropped without a conclusion with the Falcon comic. It wasn’t even mentioned  in the Hulk book. All in all, a mish-mash, but at least the kids got a real kick out of them.
40. Small Things by Mel Tregonning and Shaun Tan (Allen & Unwin, 2016) ****¼
A beautiful, wordless hardcover book about a boy who feels alone with his worries. But he eventually learns there are people around him who can help him. He also learns that everyone has worries – his classmates, his big sister, everyone. It’s a beautifully drawn and told tale – made more poignant by the knowledge that Tregonning took her own life before this book could come to fruition. Kudos to Tan for finishing the job. It’s a wonderful book.
41.-43. Timely Comics: Squadron Supreme #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in Squadron Supreme #1-3 (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: James Robinson/Artists: Leonard Kirk, Paul Neary and Scott Hanna (interior); Alex Ross (cover)
44. The Soldier Legacy (Black House Comics, 2011) **
Writer/Artist: Paul Mason
45. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #17 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
46.-50. Starve Vol. 2 (Image, 2016) *****
- originally published in Starve #1-5 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Brian Wood/Artist: Danijel Zezelj
51.-56. Super Zero Vol. 1: The Beginning (Aftershock, 2016) ****
- originally published in Super Zero #1-6 (Aftershock, 2016)
Writers: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti/Artists: Marcelo Maiolo (interiors); Amanda Conner (covers)
57.-62. Citizen Jack Vol. 1 (Image, 2016) ****½
- originally published in Citizen Jack #1-6 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Sam Humphries/Artist: Tommy Patterson
Donald Trump has made this political, satanic-tinged parody into a thinly-veiled factual account of The Donald’s rise to within a pussy hair of the US Presidency.
63. Superman/Batman: “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice Day” Special Edition #1 (DC, 2016) ***½
- originally published as Superman/Batman #1 (DC, 2003)
Writer: Jeph Loeb/Artist: Ed McGuinness
This was good enough to convince me to buy the first trade collection.


64. The Banana Splits (Western Publishing, 1971) *
Writer/Artist: unknown
This is a curious lil’ B&W Aussie reprint. It’s unnumbered but the photo cover is from The Banana Splits #5 (Gold Key, 1971), while the contents come from issue #6. Sadly, the comics are uninspired, unfunny dross, with the second yarn bordering on offensive racism even by 1971 standards when it comes to its depiction of modern Native Americans. Still, I loved this TV show as a kid, so I’m glad to have a copy in my collection.

THE LAST HURRAH
I swore I’d never do it, but a few weeks back I went back to Comic Kingdom to pick the bones in its 50% off closing down sale. There wasn’t much left, but here’s what I found for a handful of change.
65. Dave Stevens Selected Sketches & Studies Vol. 2 (Bulldog Studios, 2003) *****
Limited edition sketchbook. Sadly, unnumbered and unsigned.
66. Avengers Rough Cut #1 (Marvel, 1998) ****½
Writer: Kurt Busiek/Artist: George Perez
Perez’s unlinked pencils are exquisite.
67. Starlord, June 10, 1978 (IPC Magazines, 1978) ***
Writers/Artists: various
I loved Starlord far more than its more successful, more established counterpart 2000A.D., probably because it was produced on better quality paper (2000A.D. was printed on toilet paper around this time). Most of the stories were frankly lame, especially the execrable Mind Wars, while Planet Of The Damned was designed to be offensive and little more. Timequake – with its time-travelling cops trying to stop disruptions in the timeline – was better, but the strips that showed the most staying power were Ro-Busters and Strontium Dog. They benefited from better artwork – Ian Kennedy and Carlos Ezquerra, respectively – and successfully survived the merger that inevitably came when 2000A.D. absorbed the poorer-selling Starlord.
68. Wally Wood’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #5 (Deluxe Comics, 1986) ***½
Writers/Artists: various
It’s a pity this series never got off the ground – a problem constantly faced by Wood’s creations no matter who publishes them – as the stories were intriguing and they had an impressive list of creators involved, including Keith Giffen and Jerry Ordway.

Off the eBayz
I bought a bunch of comics off eBay as I hadn’t done so in years. Let’s see what I picked up for relative peanuts.
69. 22 Brides #3 (Event Comics, 1996) *
Writers: Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti and Fabian Nicieza/Artists: Scott Lee and Jimmy Palmiotti
Shit sub-early 90s Image wannabe, guns’n’babe, makes-no-sense crap. Considering who’s involved in this project, this is a major disappointment. That said, this is the gorgeous Mitch O’Connell variant cover, signed by Quesada and Palmiotti. Which is the only reason why it earns one star.
70. One Life (Topps, 1996) ****
Writer: Neil Gaiman/Artist: P. Craig Russell
I still stumble across oddball Neil Gaiman pieces that I didn’t know existed. This is appears to be an adaptation of a Neil short story, which is the lead-in to a new Elric series published by Topps. Whimsical, thoughtful, disturbing tales of an adolescent coming of age in a private boys’ school and all the horrors that entails. His one beacon of hope in a strange world? Michael Moorcock’s body of work, particularly the albino prince Elric. Really lovely work by Gaiman and Russell.
71. Untold Tales of Spider-Man ’96 (Marvel, 1996) ***¾
Writer: Kurt Busiek/Artists: Mike Allred and Joltin’ Joe Sinnott; lots of friends
If only all superhero comics could be this fun and pure.
72. Spawn #11 (Image, 1993) *
Writer: Frank Miller/Artist: Todd McFarlane
Everything that sucks about early 90s Image and Frank Miller, all rrolled up into one neat package. Still, a cool centrefold from Geoff Darrow, so I’ll bump it up to one star. 
73.-75. Murder Can Be Fun #2, #8, #11 (SLG, 1997-98) ***¾
Writers/Artists: various
Good, clean, murderous fun.
76. Worlds Collide #1 (DC/Milestone, 1994) DUD
Writers/Artists: various and shit
I only bought this crap for the free stickers. Godawful crossover – no wonder Milestone folded. It should stay folded.
77.-113. Legionnaires #0-5, 8-12, 15-22, 33-34, 38, 42-43, 47-48, 51-53, 55-56, 58, 67-71, 78, Annual #1 (DC, 1993-99) **
Writers/Artists: various
Every Legion of Super-Heroes title since Crisis On Infinite Earths has been problematic. No writer – not even the great Grant Morrison – has known how to resolve the many contradictions, anomalies and general mess that the Legion has accumulated in the past 30 years. This early 90s series is a classic example. Cloned younger versions of the LoSH (or are they the REAL version) have various misadventures and give of vibes as the creepiest, most annoying super-powered teens of all time, especially misogynistic Live Wire (aka Lightning Lad), Inferno (Sun Boy) and Matter-Eater Lad, whose creepy filming of female team members in the shower is treated as lighthearted humour and not the sexual assaults they actually are. I want to blame Tom and Mary Bierbaum, but other more accomplished writers like Mark Waid also stumble with the incredibly clunky plot and dozens of one-dimensional cast members.
And then......
In issue 16, Zero Hour rears its misguided head and fucks EVERYTHING. Suddenly, old LoSH members ar emerged with the newer team members, then their entire history is retconned. Add the fact that DC had TWO Legion-related titles at this time, running alternate fortnights and they were interconntected means it was impossible for me to follow any of the storylines because I was literally missing out on half of them.Characters who were integral to the early issues – like Catspaw – vanished, only to be mentioned in passing as minor characters 50 issues later. Dead characters were suddently alive again – and vice versa.
The most radical change was Chameleon. In the pre-Zero Hour issues, he had been revealed to be LoSH benefactor RJ Brande. Post-Zero Hour, they were two separate characters again.
As for the artwork – except for some nice early work by Chris Sprouse – it was done by a series of increasingly incompetent hacks who infested DC and Marvel during the first half of the 1990s. Just godawful, although Roger Stern and Abnett/Lanning seemed to be getting a grip on the characters in the later issues. Still, this was a hard slog for me and I’m a LoSH fan.

And...finally....something really enjoyable to end the month
114.-119. Deadpool & the Merc$ For Money Vol. 0: Merc Madness (Marvel, 2016) ****½
- originally published in Deadpool & the Merc$ For Money #1-5 and Deadpool: Masacre (Marvel, 2016)
Deadpool & the Merc$ For Money: Writer: Cullen Bunn/Artists: Salva Espin (interior); Declan Shalvey (main covers)
Deadpool: Masacre: Writers: Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn/Artists: Scott Koblish (interior); Francisco Herrera (cover)


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