Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #45

Beasts of Burden #1
Bomb Queen Vol. 6 #1
Justice League of America #38 (2009)
Old Man Winter And Other Sordid Tales

Beasts of Burden #1 (Dark Horse, 2009, $2.99)
So this is the one where I hear, "What? But they're cute little doggies and kitties! They're reaching out for audiences young and old with literate stories. Evan Dorkin is funny and Jill Thompson paints pretty!" Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know what? It's just okay, and it has problems in common with your average X-Title. Pages are filled with obtuse references to past stories which, per the letters common, were short pieces published in obscure anthologies dating back six years. I didn't read that shit, I doubt many others did, and the fucking book has a goddamn #1 on the cover. Indulge me with a clear entry point, assholes.

My next problem is that this is a book about dogs. Fairly realistic ones-- not that Disney shit. I'm trying to keep up with a cast of something like a dozen pooches, sans introductions in most cases, and with a couple or three personalities between them. There are a few kitties too, but they're like "the black guy." Regardless of how little space they have for dialogue, they're cats, and I can keep up with that.

Third, the book is pretty graphic at times, with some coarse language. Coupled with the "sophisticated" storytelling, I don't know that it's appropriate for all ages. I'm not some bible-thumper-- I mean that I'm not sure your average kid could follow this, and if you hand a copy to one, consequences could range from pissed off parents/partner to the kid having nightmares from the fucked up imagery involving Spot and Fluffy and Kermit.

Finally, this is a bite-sized chunk of a larger story that preceded and follows it. It's packed with vague bits of exposition, and little resolution. It isn't bad over its running time, but it isn't really satisfying on several levels. I appreciate the effort, and expect it would read a lot better collected, but it underwhelms as a stand alone chapter.

Bomb Queen Vol. 6 #1 (Image, 2009, $3.50)
This is one of those titles you might have snickered at, if you paid it notice at all, and then suddenly you realize it's been running longer than any five critically-acclaimed series that got canceled before their time. "Fucking hell-- Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose is a decade old? It's outlived Lady Death, is closing in on Vampirella, and is outpaced only by-- Femforce has been published for nearly thirty years!?!?! Fuck me!!!"

So yeah, Bomb Queen rates a review, and you know what, it's actually kind of good. This is the "Commemorative Jump The Shark Edition" with Barack Obama as an actual character. What's interesting is that, while most books think it's cute to have Obama play the role of the president from Independence Day, or offer sub-Mad satire by placing him and his "foes" in genre settings, this book is actually about politics. That's that stuff on C-Span where the old white dudes decide important shit about your life, but you don't care much beyond deciding whether or not you're a Dittohead/FOX News devotee.

New Port City was turned by the U.S. government under Bush into a walled prison city along the lines of Escape From New York. Bomb Queen runs the town, and each mini-series is about someone trying to get in her way. Previously, it was super-heroes and other villains. This time, it's Obama, treating New Port like Gitmo and vowing to clean up the mess he's inherited with it. Despite tons of unfamiliar characters and subplots, exposition and solid characterization do a better job of orienting the reader than that more respectable book I just reviewed. The comic manages to be crass and gross while simultaneously out-thinking most of what's on the stands, and again, did I mention it's pretty much a serio-comic political thriller in bad girl's clothing? Speaking of which, this is a series that has managed to sustain a female antagonist as its star for something like four years. It seems to me creator Jim Robinson is due some serious consideration of his own.

Justice League of America #38 (DC, 2009, $2.99)
Right off the bat, any book that opens with an extended, lethal pursuit of Blue Jay is campy, intentional or otherwise. Judging by the rest of the story in this, James Robinson's continued slumming in the mainstream, I'm going to go with a chuckle in the face of hackwork.

This is another of those time tested issues where an incoming writer thinks it's cute to go metatextual and point out the previous team sucked. This time, he has Vixen do an about face and explain to Plastic Man, Dr. Light II and Red Tornado that she wants to pull a reverse Aquaman and disband the latest Detroit League in favor of-- oh shit, you've seen the advance solicitations-- the Teen Titans plus Congorilla. Woof.

As an added bonus, this all spins out of a mini-series Robinson is also writing, and refers to events that won't actually see print until next year. In fact, so much time is spent explaining this and setting up upcoming issues, an utterly pointless fight was almost forgotten. Can't have that, so Despero comes out of nowhere, proves the current team sucks, and adds Gypsy to their number for no damned reason at all. That's not true-- she's there for the Detroit-era resurrection in two months, where zombie version of former teammates will kill her and maybe Vixen, because crossovers require body counts. Speaking of, Despero disappears without warning so that he can go get his head chopped off in the R.E.B.E.L.S. annual from two weeks ago. Whoops-- spoiler?

After all the Image artists left Marvel in the early '90s, dudes like the Kubert brothers, Ron Lim and Mark Bagley made it easy for me to ditch as well. Rob Hunter performs the herculean effort of inking Bagley to the point of kewlness. If only someone could have put the same effort into redeeming the Post-It notes Robinson scripted this book on while working through all the plot elements handed to him by editorial, this comic might not have read like those titles the Image artists "wrote" in the early '90s.

Old Man Winter And Other Sordid Tales (Birdcage Bottom Books, 2009, $6.95)
As a 56 page squarebound indie one-shot, you'd think this review would rate a Dirty Trader spotlight post. However, with all the large panels, brief dialogue and splash pages, this is like Jeph Loeb's shot across the bow at APE Expo. The twenty-four page titular story is about a sad old guy in his last days. It's a slice of life number that can be read in less than five minutes. From there it's a "silent" four-pager about how animal experimentation is bad. Later, there's a "silent" and quite graphic thirteen-pager about how meat processing is bad, followed by a "silent" two page spread about how elephants being forced to join the circus is bad. Seeing a pattern emerge here? The best story runs eight pages, and is a autobiographical piece about a series of pranks writer/artist J.T. Yost played on a friend while in his teens.Unlike the rest of the book, it's reasonably dense, unpretentious, and doesn't preach to the converted (or not, as the case may be.)


mathematicscore said...

I always heard Robinson's name in hushed tones "starman" "JSA" etc. Now I'm only impressed with how one note he is. His killing off minor characters for no real reason is pretty much his only move. When I was checking out the Blue Devil blog I found out that in Starman he killed Blue Devil during Starman, in like, '96 or something like that. This is all he does. All of the Bloodlines crew save Hitman, a bunch of batvillians as a minor plot point in one year later, Jimmy fucking Olsen, and now, poor man's Yellowjacket (rich man's if you ask me), Bluejay. And that's just off the top of my head. All of the other recent DC deaths were at least earned.
Okay, I'm done with the rant.

Frank Lee Delano said...

Starman was a pretty good series that read a bit like Neil Gaiman doing mainstream super-heroes. There was a lot of city/world building and a well-utilized cast of pre-existing or recreated catalog characters, not to mention a lot of sophisticated retroactive continuity. Beyond that, Robinson had The Golden Age, which was a Moore/Chaykin hybrid that worked, Firearm, which was cute before wearing out its welcome, and a lot of middling shit for DC, Wildstorm and others.

I liked his brief WildC.A.T.s run with Travis Charest, but he'll always be a low rate Alan Moore wannabe, as evidence by how much more memorable Moore's run was following Robinson on WildC.A.T.s, of all things.

Jimmy Olson is dead? I missed that.

In his defense, only Crimson Fox was supposed to die in that issue of Starman, but other writers decided he'd left Blue Devil and Amazing Man in bad enough shape to write off. Good issue, actually.

Rant away. I'm happy to provide a forum.

mathematicscore said...

I'm still following his Superman stuff, so I'll probably eventually read Starman and such, as he's not completely lost me. Cry for Justice is just atrocious though.


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