Jon Burr is the lead singer of geek rock champions How I Became the Bomb. He is also my friend and a rather obsessive comic book nerd. When he approached me about doing a series of reviews each week for Surfing the Bleed I gladly said yes. Partially because the man really knows his stuff, partially because, well, I hate writing reviews. Before we go on, I want to state that in an editorial capacity I stand behind Jon and his right to express his opinions one hundred percent. That isn't to say that he and I will always agree, but the man is informed, intelligent and honest and I want that kind of material here on the site. So if anybody has a problem with his opinions I want to remind you that there is an open comment forum just underneath the post. Let's be constructive and stay on point, shall we? Without further ado, I give you...
The Segment Which Has No Name!
Greek Street #13
Well, I’ve given it a year. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Peter Milligan is amongst my favorite comics writers. I’ve followed him for over a decade. My favorite comics artist - Darwyn Cooke - described him as the only collaborator whose words he wouldn’t touch or change. Human Target is one of the four or five long runs I’d pass along to a non-comics reader as proof that the medium isn’t simply fun genre trash. Skreemer and Rogan Gosh are titanic works in comics, unlike any others I’ve read. Hell, I sought out and purchased the B-movie he penned (It’s not bad, actually. Ray Liotta is in the lead, which insures victory). And, yet, here I am, giving up on his latest Vertigo piece. I’d like to think I don’t understand The Classics upon which this series is based or that maybe Greek Street is “written for the trade” as so many are prone to say these days. Perhaps it’s just too British; too Soho. Alas, I’m afraid I’m dropping this book because it’s just not good. I’m not even going to blame the artist. David Gianfelice and this week’s fill-in, Werther Dell’Edera, have been more than adequate. My old standby has finally let me down. I don’t condemn him. After such fine form for so many years, he’s earned a free pass. At least, as long as his Hellblazer stays up to par.
I’ll admit it. Scalped isn’t always the best read. I know it gets almost universal praise. I know it is THE latest critical darling in comics, next to Scott Pilgrim. But it really hasn’t been the spiritual successor to 100 Bullets everyone claims it is. Sure, it has a Pulido-esque talent in R.M. Guera and it has the grit and the slow burning storyline of its Vertigo forebearer, but it has lacked the consistency. Lately, though, it has given me some hope. This is a book that just won’t quit. For every rough edge or clunky device, there’s a character like Shunka, the conflicted right-hand man. For every reveal that doesn’t quite work, there’s a hook at the end of an issue that keeps you on the reel. This issue keeps the fire stoked. The main thread of the story, which is Claudine’s rocky upbringing, didn’t really reveal anything to me, but the further unraveling of Bad Horse’s cover and life has me clamoring for more. And isn’t that Jason Aaron’s job? Simply put, he just needs us to keep coming back. Simple economics, really.
Vengeance of the Moon Knight #10
This little surprise came to me thanks to Surfing the Bleed’s own Brett Williams hoodwinking me into thinking that this was a Secret Avengers crossover. Now, mind you, The Secret Avengers were, indeed, in this issue, but that was inconsequential. Writer Gregg Hurwitz, on holiday, I imagine, from his farcical V television series remake, is either simply not up to snuff or is rebuking some sort of editorial mandate. Ah, I can see it now! Sweaty, cigar-chomping editor Axel Alonso cajoling Hurwitz: “Sales are in the tank, kid. I pushed for Deadpool, but we’ll have to make due with the Secret Avengers. Now they’re gonna be on the cover, so we’re gonna need a story here, kid.” Cut to Hurwitz hastily pecking away this hackneyed script, which of course employs a laconic monologue not unlike the purposefully putrid voiceover turned in by Harrison Ford when the studio started interfering with Blade Runner. I choose to believe this outlandish scenario and will give this book another chance as I am strangely in love with Juan Jose Ryp’s art, which is, to your humble narrator only, surely, reminiscent of Crumb and Richard Corben. Only he draws men in their underpants fighting sea monsters.
Hauntingly rendered tortured figures somehow finding serenity. And so ends the second run of Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s Demo. It’s fitting, really, as the series was comprised of fantastic imagery that was sometimes hamstrung by some plodding metaphors, yet always seemed to find a way to be compelling and heartfelt by story’s end. Cloonan’s work was daring and excellent throughout the series, from her wildly effective experimentation to her always resonant use of body language. The story struggled here and there, particularly on this issue and the first, with some truly transparent concepts, but they always managed to bring some truth to the comic by the last page. And this week, it was literally a last page save. The entire issue struggled with the clunky metaphor of a superpower that kept a couple ever together yet slightly apart. Oh, like a long-term relationship? Ugh. Obvious choices were mounting and this one was really growing tiresome until that last image, wonderfully conceived and drawn: The weary couple, reading together. They aren’t touching, of course, but they finally seemed at ease with each other. A masterful panel.
As an addendum, I can’t stress enough how much the extras at the end of the books - which I think the kids are calling “backmatter” - add to the series. I know it’s mostly an indie thing, but Vertigo should take note. Hell, I’d take some of this newfangled “backmatter” in my capes n’ underpants comics! It really makes for an immersive, insightful experience.
Thor The Mighty Avenger #1
I am finished with origin stories retold. A relentless horde, a insurmountable tide. These are the things I told myself, as I dropped books by good creators (Joe Casey’s Avengers: The Origin, anyone?) for the sole reason that I just didn’t think I could handle the same tales any longer. I was out. Or so I thought. Roger Landridge and Chris Samnee’s simple, evocative take was compelling and thrilling. It provided the quick, vibrant rush that is unique to the comics medium. I put the book down, stunned smile on my face, and wondered, “What’s next?”
Jonah Hex #57
I’ve snagged a few Jonah Hex issues this year. The odd Darwyn Cooke contribution here and there have certainly helped, but I had never read an issue of Jonah Hex with series regular artist Jordi Benet. I assumed he was another member of the Brazilian talent agency that has slowly developed the DC House Style I’ve come to loathe in the last couple of years. I was sorely mistaken. Not only will I pick up anything else with Bernet’s name on the credits, but I am now on a mission from god to familiarize myself with the rest of the man’s oeuvre. This includes any previous Hex issues, as Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti’s script had me pining for days of comics past. Between Bernet’s Caniff-meets-Kubert draughtsmanship and the pure-comics-ness of the writing, this issue left me devastatedly nostalgic. This is what comics should be. This is what comics can be. This is what comics were.
Brightest Day: The Atom Special #1
Sweet Tooth has been a good ride, thus far, with this week’s issue being another quality effort. Essex County was solid and I’ve heard nothing but good about The Nobody. Jeff Lemire is becoming a creator one must follow. Be that as it may, it was still difficult to pick any book bearing the Brightest Day banner. As it turns out, I probably could have skipped it, because this book, at least in the beginning, had all that I feared. Needless origin retelling? Check. Tenuous link to crossover? Check. In the latter half of the book, Lemire finally breaks free and plants the seed for what I’m hoping will be a fun tale, but it remains to be seen if his capes n’ tights debut will bear fruit, as we readers weren’t given much to work with here. Quick aside: Ray Palmer’s life is hysterically terrible! Is the domain name “www.RayPalmer’sLifeInARefridgerator.com” taken? Someone get Gail Simone on the horn.
Doom Patrol #12
If you don’t like the notion of Keith Giffen somehow finding a way to meld the tone of his Legion: 5 Years Later story with the humor of his JLI and THEN finding a way to incorporate the characters and spirit of Grant Morrison’s exceedingly brilliant DP run, then you should do one thing and one thing only: Stop reading comics. Now. Thank you.
I can’t get a read on Matt Fraction. His X-Men books have entertained me. I absolutely loved the Iron Man covers he spearheaded, as I really think comics and modern design need to become friends again. However, I read last week’s Iron Man Annual and it was one of the most putrid, long-winded, and dull stories I’ve read in recent months. Thus, I’ve waited for Casanova for some time, as I had hoped that it would be my Matt Fraction Rosetta Stone. I’ll have to wait a little longer, seemingly. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to love here. Ba and his brother are always fun, and watching how they’ve developed was certainly interesting, but there was so much Morrison and Ellis influence that it was hard for me to fully enjoy. I’m certainly not writing this title off, but I’m going to need a little more before I give Fraction credit for his talents as a comics writer and not just a guy with some great ideas about design and a genuine love for good comics.
Things I also read that weren’t bad:
Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #2 (Pulp-y goodness!)
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #1 (Bold prediction: Penciler Jim Cheung will rule the comics roost someday. Or quit comics and make a real living as a storyboard artist or in advertising.)
Steve Rogers: Super Soldier #1 (Brubaker’s Bucky-Cap’n has been pretty aimless. This had purpose. That SuperPro costume is still hard to look at, though.)
X-Force #28 (Don’t listen to them. Second Coming was great. Sure, Nightcrawler died, but look on the bright side: they finally killed Cable.)
King City #10 (Imagine your wittiest, most stoned friend could draw like the bastard child of Moebius, Otomo, and Toriyama. I ran out of room, but you can bet that I’ll review this soon.)
Sweet Tooth #11 (I want Lemire to pick up the pace, but it’s still a quality issue.)
Batman and Robin #13 (A line from my shop owner, Mark Angell: “There are two Grant Morrisons. Good Trip Grant and Bad Trip Grant.” I THINK Grant’s on the good stuff here.)
X-Men #1 (Everyone is so sick and tired of vampires, thanks to True Blood, Twilight, etc. Here’s the thing: I don’t watch or read that stuff. So get fucked, all of you, and let me read my X-Men.)
Things I also read that weren’t good:
Fantastic Four Annual #32 (Ah, Bryan Hitch. There you are. Sorry, chum.)
Scarlet #1 (Cute, Bendis, but a little late to the party on so many levels. I commend him for his return to creator-owned stuff and will definitely give this a few more issues, though.)
Shadowland #1 (Look, I read most of the books associated with this. I should be the guy who gets this. I don’t get this. Daredevil did what now? Punisher is human again? Beg pardon?)