Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Reading Comics 204 "Fifth Trip 2017"

American Gods #2 (Dark Horse)
Amazingly, this adaption of the Neil Gaiman book still really hasn't reached the actual concept of the story.  Although Spider does drink an amazing amount of mead, and beats up a rather tall leprechaun.

Bane: Conquest #1 (DC)
Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan reunite and return to the chronicles of Bane.  The results may baffle readers who are less familiar with Vengeance of Bane (parts 1 & 2) and more "Knightfall," Dark Knight Rises, Tom King's recent "I Am Bane," or any manner of terrible Bane appearances over the years, but they're entirely in-character, especially, again, for the Bane of Vengeance of Bane (parts 1 & 2).  The luchadore mask Nolan gives Bane for this comic is a fun little nod to the fact that the character is, technically, Latino, even though that never seems to come up other than his base of operations and/or origins.

Batman #21 (DC)
The Flash #21 (DC)
Batman #22 (DC)
Parts 1-3 of "The Button" see Tom King and Josh Williamson collaborate on a sequel to Flashpoint (the importance of this classic story to yours truly is chronicled in the early period of this blog) that also helps set up later DC-wide storytelling first introduced by DC Universe Rebirth.  Very, very good storytelling here.

Blue Beetle #8 (DC)
Giffen/DeMatteis have apparently taken over the title as of this issue, and bring a strong Larfleeze feel to the proceedings.  I loved the original Jaime Reyes series post-Infinite Crisis, and so it's great to read his Blue Beetle again.  The big draw for the issue, however, is that the magical scarab that has granted him powers (and/or de facto Iron Man suit) all these years has been taken from him.  So he and Ted Kord (the second and most famous Blue Beetle) make a bold decision: Jaime will now, even if temporarily, revive Ted's classic costume.  Yeah!

Divinity III: Stalinverse #4 (Valiant)
Matt Kindt will be moving on to Eternity, a sequel rather than continuation to Divinity, so this is the conclusion of this particular vision.  And I think, having read it twice, he came up with a good one:
"This world you've built may be real.  But you know it is not true.  You read books when you were younger.  Just as I did.  Do you not remember?  We are similar, you and I.  We were not forced to read.  We were encouraged.  But my adoptive parents raised me.  Treated me as their own.  They gave me books.  Science fiction was my favorite.  I read everything they gave me.  It wasn't until much later that I realized what they'd really done.  My parents couldn't force me...or anyone to be good.  Just as the Soviet Union cannot.  All they could do was present me with their example.  And with stories.  With writing.  With ideas.  Through those books I learned the danger of power.  I learned of the terrible effects of violence and conflict.  Of the unending cycle of war that we should be working to break.  And I learned the importance of love and to be loved.  Earth...humanity?  They are our children, Kazmir.  They can't be forced to learn.  They must learn by example.  They must be taught with stories.  With experience.  We have the power of gods, Kazmir.  Yet you choose to live a parasitic life inside Myshka.  And you choose to obey a small-minded oligarch.  But there is an entire universe out there for you.  Worlds to see.  Galaxies to explore.  Just like in the books we read when we were younger.  I am sorry for what happened to us out there...in the unknown.  I am sorry I did not bring you back when I returned.  And I am sorry that Myshka broke your heart.  I understand why you came back for revenge.  What I don't understand is why wouldn't you stay out there?  Why wouldn't you go further?  Why wouldn't you want to see more?  Our conflict will have a winner and a loser.  That is the nature of the game.  But why should we confine ourselves to the game?  Ti these pieces?  To this artificial boundary?  To Earth?  When there is the unknown all around us?  Waiting to be explored?  I tell you all of this, Kazmir, not to "win."  But to set you free."
That's the best argument an hero has probably ever made to their enemy, in a comic book.  It's an argument that can only be made in a comic book, I think.  It's a perfect synopsis of superhero logic, as has Divinity been from the start.  I don't know why Divinity hasn't become more important among comic book readers.  It's the Watchmen of intellectual superhero storytelling.  It's surely one of the most fascinating comics I've ever read.  Every issue has someone involved in creating the issue provide commentary.  Most of it is somewhat hugely overblown praise. Most of it seems to miss the point.  It's not just how it's executed that makes Divinity great, but its ideas.  I'm hugely glad to have read along.  And to see where Kindt goes next.

Planet of the Apes/Green Lantern #3 (Boom!/DC)
This latest mash-up is about as good as Green Lantern/Star Trek (which is to say, good), but it's the art I came to see.  Omega Men's Barnaby Bagenda, to be precise.  That guy deserves to reach the stratosphere, like his collaborator, Tom King.  Hopefully it'll happen at some point.

Green Lanterns #22 (DC)
The adventures of upstarts Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz have now reached the stage where they're actively interacting with the rest of the Green Lantern Corps.  Continues to be what I've long hoped to read in a Green Lantern comic again.

Nightwing #19, 20 (DC)
Well, hot damn.  Tim Seeley has turned Nightwing into a must-read after all.  Nightwing has been so hit-and-miss since the Dixon/Grayson years, a lot of creators coming in hot and then sort of sputtering out.  This includes Grayson, Seeley and Tom King's bold revision that saw Nightwing become a spy for a couple years.  But to take Nightwing away from Dick Grayson is to take away the essential part of the character, no matter how intriguing the results.  Too many of these writers have tried to forget this or that element of the character.  Seeley seems to have built not only on the Grayson momentum, but folded Dick's Batman and Robin days back into his adventures.  "Nightwing Must Die" is a Dr. Hurt story (the whole thing plays nicely with Batman and Robin, Grant Morrison memories), but it remembers that Dick's whole history is what defines him, perhaps more than any other superhero.  Possibly the two best issues of Nightwing I've ever read (Grayson: Futures End notwithstanding).

Savage Dragon #223 (Image)
If you were to read, in 2017, only one comic book series in its entirety to figure out what superheroes are all about, I think Savage Dragon would have to be that series.  Erik Larsen is the Image creator who never gave up on the original vision of the company, who never decided to pursue other interests at the expense of the creative freedom and opportunity his vision gave him.  The letters column is almost more important than the comic itself this time:

"Change is inevitable and being more stuck in the past is no solution. Styles change, people change. You loved that old stuff because you were 12 and that was your sweet spot. You may not want change but I crave it. Doing the same drawings the same way for decades is mind-numbingly monotonous. I love nothing more than finding new ways of tackling a similar problem. I look at the older issues and see all the mistakes. I see all the poor drawings and attempts to hide my deficiencies behind a wall of crosshatching and it doesn't do much for me. The lines aren't defining shapes and establishing light sources. They're lines for the sake of lines. Emulating that seems insane. 

Strong iconic poses are great, sure, but ultimately, I'm trying to tell a story here, not compose pictures to be popped onto T-shirts and lunchboxes. And given the choice of repeating a familiar shot or finding something new--nine times out of ten I'll go with the new.

It's not an easy path. Some artists get stuck in a rut, forever repeating and emulating their old work. Readers get bored and move on. Others keep trying new and different approaches but that can alienate old readers who liked the way things had been. There's no simple solution, clearly, but in order to preserve my sanity, I need to keep moving. If I'm not kept engaged, I can't expect my audience to be. If I'm bored, it's reflected in the work. So I tend to try something new. Sometimes it's successful and sometimes it's not, but hopefully it's worth your attention.
And honestly, it's important to unlearn what you've learned. A lot of what made earlier work vibrant and full of life was the learning process. I was figuring stuff out. And part of that involved screwing up. I can look back at old art and see where arms were clearly too long or faces were constructed poorly, where compositions and anatomy and perspective are all skewed and line work makes no sense. It's hard to recreate that--and why would I want to? It would be like going back to high school."
To my mind, it reads like Larsen becoming the Bill Watterson of comic books.

Superman #22 (DC)
I really need to read more of this run.

Old Man Logan #22 (Marvel)
Jeff Lemire continues his concluding run with Wolverine exploring the character's fictional past, brilliantly, literally revisiting famous stories (at one point his origin in the pages of a Hulk comic, complete with the original dialogue).  If anyone had to tell Old Man Logan stories as a surrogate to actual Wolverine stories, I'm glad it was Lemire.  He proves why it was such a good idea all over again.


  1. My curiosity always peeks during a great reading with characters providing awesome escapism for me really, really super highs