Monday, November 29, 2010

Wednesday Is For Leftovers For All I Care #89

Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1
The CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2010
Skullkickers #1 (2010)
Star Wars: Knight Errant #1 (2010)

Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and the Ghastly Fiend of London #1 (Dark Horse, 2010, $3.50)
Eric Powell's side project with Kyle Hotz looks great and has some amusing dialogue, whether from the hideously adorable Elephant Man or the willfully belligerent Henry "Billy" McCarty. It strikes me as a good book to offer a reader suffering withdrawal between Mike Mignola or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen installments. Don't let that inflate you expectations, because this is a Kit-Kat subbing for gourmet chocolate, but ya takes what ya can gets. There's also a serialized Goon back-up that does nothing for me.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Presents Liberty Annual 2010 (Image, 2010, $4.99)
A good cause offering a good excuse to try an anthology, which are rarely any good. They're grab bags of unsatisfying shorts with the hope of plucking out at least one jewel, and that optimism is fueled in part by the caliber of creators the CBLDF can rally. Darick Robertson starts things off with the best looking Conan story I've seen in years, which serves an amusing story centered on political satire. Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba offer a very Eurocentric tale of dystopia that accomplishes what its four pages would allow. Garth Ennis and Rob Steen then shit the bed with The Boys, in a story whose joke I either didn't get, or was so obviously terrible I wasn't confident it was being told.

Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan emerge from '80s indie limbo with a two page Boilerplate tale about the fuckery of intellectual property law, which is better than it sounds. Rob Liefeld contributes an hilariously on the nose Freedom's Lady double page spread. The long missed Evan Dorkin returns for two pages of the best Milk and Cheese strip in ages, which just made me miss Dork! all the more. There's the obligatory Frank Miller Sin City spread, another nice (if random) one by Paul Pope, a Comic Book Guy splash by Jill Thompson, and Lady Liberty by Terry Moore.

I remember Image Comics foisting their own tepid Not Brand Ecch upon the speculating public twenty years ago, and I've always held it against Don Simpson. However, his mocking libertarianism through Megaton Man was alright. There's a one pager called "Charley Loves Robots" that's also okay. It isn't until Gail Simone and Amanda F. Gould's ambitiously awful "Monsters at the Door" that the second half slump really sets in. Scott Morse tries to save the flow with the bitter "Phaeton," but any gains he made were lost by the aggressively pointles "X-Rayz" by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins. Strong pin-ups by Jeff Smith, Skottie Young, Amanda Conner and Colleen Doran salve the wound, though. There's also a page by Ben McCool and Billy Tucci, but it looks so much like a Crusade Comics house ad, I can't objectively judge it. A two page Beanworld strip by CBLDF Larry Marder closes things out with a pleasantly delivered School House Rock message (no song,) to remind folks why they bought the book in the first place. Skip the tired gender politik excesses of "Monsters" and the moronic Boys tale, and you should come out of this feeling good about yourself.

Skullkickers #1 (Image, 2010, $2.99)
Tolkienesque vaguely medieval Middle Earth bullshit turns me off like the prospect of being the meat in a Rosies Barr & O'Donnell sandwich. Skullkickers is a relief in that within the milieu it punctures any associated pretense at every opportunity in its story of two asshole mercenaries just trying to make mead money. I'm also not big on stereotypically manga-style art with Dreamwave cartoon cel coloring, but that grows on you here, as it works for the material. The script isn't as funny as it would like to be, and the plot isn't advanced as quickly as one would wish, but it's still much better than the usual cringe-inducing comic book action comedies (Deadpool, Lobo, etc.)

Star Wars: Knight Errant #1 (Dark Horse, 2010, $2.99)
I can't even pretend I give a shit about Star Wars anymore, my enthusiasm has been so thoroughly extinguished. It's over a millennium before the movies, and it's still about the Republic on the brink of destruction as the Sith press their advantage. I know at the end of the day it's all about good vs. evil with copious swashbuckling, but when they can't even be bothered to change the names of the players, it signals creative bankruptcy. John Jackson Miller telegraphs the fuck out of this initial tale, so you know exactly where the far-famed unbeatable Jedi Master and his rebellious pupil will end up by the story's end. Throw in a parent-killing Darth Vader proxy or two and an idealistic love interest with a secret past, and you've got the predictability of geek porn. Maybe that's why so many Warsies are Jesus freaks: the comforting predictability of the same stories whitewashed and retold for generations.

The art by Federico Dallocchio looks well above par at first blush, but the creeping stiffness of obvious and extensive photo reference cramps his style. His storytelling also leaves something to be desired, with one action sequence so mangled the dialogue has to be reread to decipher what happened between panels. Regardless, the glorious coloring of Michael Atiyeh makes up for all shortcomings, making Knight Errant a lovely comic to look at and not read again and again.

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