Sunday, August 7, 2016

COMICS READING FOR JULY: “Wrestling with greatness..?”


* 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

NOTE: For all your online comix purchases, I suggest you head to Comixology (www.comixology.com). For hard-copy purchases of back issues at a very cheap price, it has to be Lone Star Comics (https://www.mycomicshop.com/).

1.-4. Black Jack Ketchum (Image, 2016) *
- originally published in Black Jack Ketchum #1-4 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Brian Schirmer/Artist: Claudia Balboni
“If David Lynch did a Western...” wrote one critic. Well, if it was one of David Lynch’s crappy movies, then yes...Black Jack Ketchum is very Lynchian. A huge disappointment. Being confusing, lacking logic and having a non-ending doesn’t make you clever, it makes you SHIT. Or maybe it’s just me.
5.-10. Saga: Vol. 6 (Image, 2016)
- originally published in Saga #31-36 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Fiona Staples
The best comic series out there continues to bring me great joy. After a few missteps in volumes four and five, this one is a fine return to great form. Just perfect. Sci-fi, romance, war stories, erotica and, now, Orange Is The New Black makes this the genre mash-up to beat all mash-ups.
11. Howard The Duck #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Howard: Writer: Chip Zdarsky/Artists: Joe Quinones and Joe Rivera
Gwenpool: Writer: Christopher Hastings/Artist: Danilo Beyruth
Joe Quinones (cover)
12.-17. The Vision Vol. 1: Little Worse Than A Man (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in The Vision (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: Tom King/Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta (interior); Mike Del Mundo (#1-4 covers); Marco D’Alfonso (#5-6 covers)
This was recommended to me by a lord and I’m glad I took his sage advice. This was pretty damn good.
18.-23. Jupiter’s Circle Book Two (Image, 2016) ****½
- originally published in Jupiter’s Circle Vol. 2 #1-6 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Mark Millar/Artists: Wilfredo Torres and Chris Sprouse
24.-28. Paper Girls Vol. 1 (Image, 2016) ****¼
- originally published in Paper Girls #1-5 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan/Artist: Cliff Chiang
29.-33. Stringers (Image, 2016) ***½
originally published in Stringers #1-5 (Image, 2015)
34.-36. Scarlet #8-10 (Icon, 2016) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: Alex Maleev
It’s been a long wait, but Bendis is finally back to complete the second arc of his gruelling tale of police corruption and one broken woman’s attempt to fix the problem. A lot of cop-killing, public unrest and general terrorism ensues. This is probably the most interesting book Bendis is working on right now.
37.-40. Uncanny X-Force Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Solution (Marvel, 2011) ***½
- originally published by Uncanny X-Force #1-4 (Marvel, 2010-11)
Writer: Rick Remender/Artists: Leonardo Manco (Wolverine: Road To Hell); Jerome Opeña (Uncanny X-Force #1-4)
Somewhat overrated.
41.-46. Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline (Marvel, 2016) ****¼
- originally published by Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! (Marvel, 2016)
Writer: Kate Leth. Artists: Brittney L. Williams (#1-5 interiors); Natasha Allegri (#6 interior); Brittney L. Williams (covers)
47. Spider-Man Magazine (ACP Magazines, 2012) **
Writers: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (plot), Todd Dezago/Artists: Logan Lubera & Craig Young (interior); Todd Nauck (cover)
48. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #16 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham
49. Briggs Land Ashcan (Dark Horse, 2016) ***
Writer: Brian Wood/Artist: Mack Chater (interior); Tula Lotay (cover)
Domestic terrorism and white supremacy. So this is a funny book, I assume.
50. Ginger Meggs Sunbeams Book (Shakespeare Head Press, c.19??) ****
Writer/Artist: Jimmy Bancks
A coverless comic I picked up in Paringa for $2. The Sunbeams Book was an annual reprint of full-colour Sunday newspaper strips. With the cover missing, I can’t tell what year it’s from, but they were published every year from 1924-59. I suspect it’s from the 1950s. The art is glorious while the scripts are kinda dated but still interesting from an historical perspective.
51. Bluey And Curley Annual (The News, 1946) *
Writer/Artist: Les Dixon
An annual collection of newspaper strips that I bought in the same Paringa junk shop for $1. Pretty much in mint condition. Sadly, the strip has dated badly. These are “dad jokes” of the very lowest, unfunniest variety. In fact, some gags are bafflingly stupid.
52. Australian MAD #496 (Next Media, 2016) **½
Writers/Artists: the usual gang of idiots
My friend AW gave me his copy and it was a light read. A few gags made me smile, but most of the content left me cold. I was surprised how heavily reliant the magazine’s become on American material. There’s very little Aussie content now (due to lack of money, I assume).
Still, there’s ots of talent on display in this issue including Box Brown, Peter Kuper and the seemingly immortal Al Jaffee, but the “Superheroes Unite” toons by Sergio Aragones and a TED Talk pisstake by Samuel Ferri were the highlights. The lowlight was a dreadfully unfunny feature titled “The 50 Worst Things About Superheroes And Villains”. Just terrible.
An act of cost-saving desperation can be seen with the mag reprinting an old strip from the 1950s: Kurtzman and Elder’s off-key misfire “Woman Wonder”. This strip’s ending made me uncomfortable as a child in the 70s, but it’s just so much more horrible reading it in 2016: man-on-woman violence and hideous misogyny played for laffs. It wasn’t cool in the 1950s when it was produced and it isn’t cool now. I’m surprised the magazine showed such poor taste in reprinting this trash, as there’s so much better stuff in the vaults.
All in all, MAD continues to be a mixed bag artistically, but at $6.95 (or FREE when friends give me their copy), it’s still pretty good value for money.
53. The Wild Party (Pantheon Books, 1994) *****
- originally published in 1928
Writer: Joseph Moncure March/Artist: Art Spiegelman
Incredible re-release of a classic poem about a debauched party. Art has done so many illustrations for this version that it’s practically a graphic novel. So I’m including it here.
54. The Phantom #1755 (Frew, 2016) ****
Writer: Norman Worker/Artists: Carlos Cruz (interior); Gary Chaloner (cover)
I bought this comic for the exquisite Chaloner cover, but the story (a Euro-reprint) is entertaining – and pretty accurate when it comes to its depiction of Australia both now and in the 19th century.
55. MillarWorld Annual 2016 (Image, 2016) ****
Writers/Artists: various
56. Image Firsts: I Hate Fairyland #1 (Image, 2016) ***½
- originally published in I Hate Fairyland #1 (Image, 2015)
Writer/Artist: Skottie Young
57. Deadly Hands Of Criminal (Image, 2016) *****
Writer: Ed Brubaker/Artist: Sean Phillips


WRESTLING/MMA COMIX
* My thoughts on all these wrestling comics can be found in a new podcast HERE.

58.-61. Cage Hero (Dynamite, 2016) ½*
- originally published in Cage Hero #1-4 (Dynamite, 2015-16)
Writers: Kevin Eastman, Ian Parker and Rik Hoskin/Artist: Renato Rei
Beyond horrible. A confused mish-mash of superhero-infused MMA action with a confusing plot, sketchy heroes with minimal character development and ill-defined powers. Badly written (and there were THREE people involved in the process!), weird “let’s be inspirational” dialogue (“The hero comes from within!” every fucking character cries throughout the book). Hoskin has no idea how Australians talk or that we don’t have fucking “middle school” in this country, making the Aussie character in this graphic novel utterly horrible. Cage Hero is as bad (if not worse) than any of the WWE/Chaos! dreck shat out in the late 1990s.
62.-66. Ringside Vol. 1: Kayfabe (Image, 2016) ****¼
- originally published in Ringside #1-5 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Joe Keatinge/Artist: Nick Barber
And then I read this book and my faith in wrestling comix is restored. This is really fucking good. The mix of in-ring action (not that we see much of that) and backstage politics, combined with a brutal crime noir sub-plot makes for a compelling book. Even non-wrestling fans would like Ringside, but wrestling fans will get a real kick out of it.
67. Super Pro K.O.! Vol. 3: Gold For Glory (Oni Comix, 2016) ****¾
Writer/Artist: Jarrett Williams
IT’S been a long wait but it was worth the several-year delay to finally peruse Jarrett Williams’ third volume in what is arguably the best wrestling-based comic out there. Well, not really comic – this is a friggin’ graphic novel in the form of a classic Japanese manga. It’s frenetic, funny, action-packed, poignant and gripping as hell. It was literally a page-turner while reading Super Pro K.O.!: Gold For Glory.
Mid-way through the book I was invested in the two main storylines. First up, I was rooting like crazy for Joe Samiano to pin that arrogant newcomer Romeo Colossus. And I was hoping his dad would stop being a jerk and watch his son’s big match on TV.
And even though he’s a dick, I did not want to see Ric Flair’ish champ King Crown Jr get pinned by psycho challenger Bad Bad Butch O’Rowdy.
The flashback to Crown Jr’s troubled relationship with his legendary wrestler father helped add depth to a guy who could otherwise be dismissed as an arrogant heel.
Yeah, a faux wrestling manga could do that to me because it’s created with passion and that passion was passed onto me, the reader.
The occasional imperfection (speech balloons not pointing to the person saying them was a bugbear at times) brought this graphic novel down a fraction. That said, Super Pro K.O.! continues to be as near as perfect a wrestling comic currently being published. It captures everything I love about the best that pro wrestling has to offer.



68. Headlocked: The Last Territory Vol. 1 (Visionary Comics, 2014) ****½
Writer: Michael Kingston & friends/Artist: Michel Mulipola & friends


69. Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy Vol. 2 (Viz, 2004) ****
Writer/Artist: Yudetamago (English translation)
70. Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy Vol. 26 (Shueisha, 2004) ***½
Writer/Artist: Yudetamago (Japanese oriiginal)


71. Ayre Force (BDG Entertainment Inc., 2008) **¾
Writers: Adam Slutsky and Joseph Phillip Illidge/Artist: Shawn Martinbrough
BODOG was an online gambling company run by Calvin Ayre, which sponsored a bunch of MMA fighters, poker players and musicians. He also ran his own MMA company, BODOG Fight, in the late 2000s. He lost a ton of money, but before he quit the MMA biz, he produced THIS: a bizarre graphic novel featuring BODOG stars working for Ayre as some kinda SHIELD-like team battling an evil company torturing bears (seriously!). Great art by Martinbrough, but the story is pretty bad. Of curiosity value only.
72.-74. Blackmask #1-3 (Eastern Comics, 1988) *
Writers: Franz Henkel and Jong-Jin Lee/Artist: Jong-Jin Lee
75. True Sport Picture Stories Vol. 4 #6 (Street & Smith, 1948) ½*
Writer: Al Klein/Artist: Bob Powell
I bought this extremely dry, lifeless comic for the strip on women’s wrestler Mildred Burke. It’s basically a bunch of illos drawn straight of photos. The whole comic is like this.
76. The Fifth Force featuring Hawk & Animal #2 (Antarctic Press, 1999) -*
Writer/Artist: uncredited
Easily the worst wrestling comic ever produced. Overpriced, stupid, pointless.
77. American Flagg! #32 (First, 1986) *½
Writers: Howard Chaykin and Steven Grant/Artists; Mark Badger and Randy Emberlin (main story); Joe Staton and Hilary Barta (back-up)
A wrestling plotline can’t salvage this comic.
78.-79. El Gorgo! #1-2 (Gorgo A-Go-Go, 2008-09) ***
Writer: Mike McGee/Artist: Tamas Jakab
80. WWE Kids #88 (WWE/DC Thomson, 2014) ***
- features a few kid-orient strips. Mostly harmless.
81. House Of Raging Women (Penguin Books, 1992) ****
- originally published in various issues of Love and Rockets (Fantagraphics, 1984-89)
Writer/Artist: Jaime Hernandez

FROM THE DIGITAL WORLD of COMIXOLOGY
82. Aski – Rumble in the Lost Temple #1 (Lucha Comics, 2014) DUD
Writer: Roberto Mercado/Artist: Kundo Krunch
I don’t ask much from a wrestling comic except be well-written and well-drawn. Aski fails in both categories. But even bad artwork can be forgiven if a story makes sense and is fun to read. But this comic is just shit on every level. Poorly structured action scenes that succeed in both being mundane and predictable. A plot that hinges on our hero’s friends being two of the dumbest arseholes on the planet is also a turn-off.  When a luchador says, “Don’t go into the jungle – it’s full of criminals and dangerous animals”, don’t then deliberately ignore him, get attacked by a deadly animal and kidnapped by criminals. That doesn’t make you plucky and gutsy adventurers, it makes you FUCKWITS. Anyway, this comic is terrible.
83. Headlocks and Headaches #1 (Dean Stahl, 2014) *
Writer/Artist: Dean Stahl
Confusing webcomic that’s been published as a “real comic”. It starts with a none-too-thrilling tale about kids at a birthday party preparing to watch an IWF PPV, then jumps without warning into backstage politics at the IWF, then a long-winded and confusing flashback, which ends abruptly with a final-page revelation about some evil guy preparing to crash the IWF PPV. Frankly, I found it hard to follow.
84. Misfit Wrestling Federation #1 (Bombshell Comics, 2015) *½
Writer/Artist: Michael Jasorka
I bought this digital comic off Comixology.com because Jasorka’s artwork was reminiscent of Tom Motley’s classic Steel Pulse wrestling comic. But once I read it, I knew this was no Steel Pulse. A confusing introduction to supposed territorial wrestling in Florida in 1973. There was a weird Christian undertone that I didn’t like either.
85. AWF: Amazon Wrestling Federation #1 (Xigency Studios Inc., 2013) -*
Writer/Artist: Joe D. McFee
This weird, slightly fetishy comic shows the very worst of what’s on offer at Comixology. Poorly drawn, badly written tale about an Amazonian college basketballer in love with a nerdy tutor who wins a wrestling promotion in a poker game (I’m not kidding here). At the same time, the basketballer decides to become a pro wrestler. The sheer amateurishness of this comic is positively painful. Somehow, this comic reached four issues!





86. Calavera De La Justicia #1 (On Target Network, 2015) ***¾
Writer: Carlos Serrano/Artist: Tom Rogers
And then there’s something like this. A really fun, well-drawn adventure featuring in-ring action, a heroic luchador looking for his kidnapped family and a chupacabra! Think the very best monster-themed eps of The X-Files crossed with Warren Ellis’s Fell and you have the feel of this series. Sadly, this was the only issue released. Stupid Comixology readers. Support the right damn comics, why don’tcha?


87. Hardcore Luchador #1 (Hardcore Luchador Entertainment, 2013) ***½
Writer/Artist: Angelo Gines Jr
Mindless wrestling/monster/superhero madness featuring the Hardcore Luchadores, El Fuego and El Muerto, Tag Team Champions of the world! I enjoyed it, but guess what? This was the only issue. Aaaaarghhhh! Crap survives and fun stuff dies a quiet lonely death. Not fair!


88.-91. Palooka #1-4 (Person of Merit Comics, 2014-15) ***½
Writer: Casey Van Heel/Artist: Ger Curti

92. The Unmentionables (Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics, 2015) ***½
Writer/Artist: Jack Teagle
93. Robots Fight Dirty: Poems of an Insensitive Fighting Machine (Zeph Zero, 2014) ***½
Writer/Artist: Zeph Zero
Robot wrestlers, racist Nazi tag teams, time travel, sex, killer toasters and haikus. A curious combination.
94. The Crippler's Son (Fantagraphics, 2013) ****½
Writer/Artist: Max Riffner
Adrian Tomine meets pro wrestling. Very good indeed.

95. Street Fighting Woman Vol. 1 (Kloob Comics, 2015) ***¾
Writer/Artist: Steve Thompson
Weird. Bear-headed monsters, 1920s women’s wrestling, self-mutilating villains. Confusing but intriguing.



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