The Next Issue Project #3: Crack Comics
I've had these two swell anthologies lying around for a slow week to review, then took off much of December in that department. Now I've got to rush them out while the year of release in the fucking title still matches the year of review...
The CBLDF Presents Liberty Annual 2011 (Image, 2011, $4.99)
I didn't know that Bob Schreck was bisexual, and I don't actually care, except that an aspect of his co-editing this year's anthology seemed to be gaying it up. Maybe Lady Gaga's really the one to blame, but somehow censorship and queer bullying got all tangled up into a book that seems more concerned with the latter than the former. Let's break it down...
- Editorial illo by Moon and Ba. Baa? Bah.
- Batman pin-up by Dustin Nguyen. You know, the hero accused of being a card-carrying member of NAMBLA by Frederick Wertham, whose publisher helped create and sustain the Comic Code Authority of America. See the cognitive dissonance between stated subject and textual one already?
- Grendel in "Sympathy From the Devil" by Matt Wagner. Even a big greasy wop mafioso can dig on dick. That's One to Grow On. Pedantic and fucking lame.
- Alan Turing pin-up by Frank Quitely. It used a high minded concept as an excuse to not finish the friggin' drawing. I Googled him, as requested by the artist. Dead dandy who was persecuted while contributing to the development of computer science.
- "It's Not a Trick" by J.H. Williams and Todd Klein. Stop me if you've heard this one-- Williams sacrifices storytelling for an intricately designed page layout.
- "The Light at the End of the Tunnel" is a Hustler strip, except trading misogyny for homosexuality and somehow, impossibly, being even less funny.
- Cowboy Ninja Viking by more people I don't care enough about to type the credits for. Preachy shit that reads like comments following a Yahoo article on censorship.
- "La Caricature" by Brabdon Montclare and Joelle Jones: Finally a well drawn story relevant to the subject. Mediocre, but still.
- "Punk Rock, Gay, Time Machine" by Steve Niles and Michael Montenat. Still gay, but the autobiographical aspect makes it interesting, while sidestepping the recently ubiquitous "it gets better" platitudes.
- X-Men pin-up by Greg Land. I guess framing the muties as social outcasts and spotlighting the White Queen in her fetish costume marries the two subjects of this edition. I repeat-- Greg fucking Land best summarized this comic.
- "Dunce" by Carla Speed McNeil: I seriously have to find some Finder. Two stories in two anthologies on completely different subjects were highlights in each volume. Discusses political correctness and mental retardation from a very personal standpoint.
- "The Broken Arrow" by Michael Vincent Bramley and Fred Hembeck: What I find interesting is that you don't even have to "read" this silent story panel by panel. You can take it all in at a glance as one image with a clear message. It would make a nice poster for tolerance.
- "Radiation" pin-up by Shane Davis: Um... what?
- "The Flowering" by Kazim Ali & Craig Thompson: Easily the best of the bunch. Sensitive, thoughtful, spiritual, insightful and even sensual.
- Avengers Prime trio pin-up by Greg Horn. Big, dumb and ugly.
- "Separation of Church and State" by J. Michael Straczynski and Kevin Sacco: Strong two pages of talking points against the bullshit notion of a "Christian Nation."
- Green Lantern pin-up by Ivan Reis. Okay, I'm far more irritated about these goddamned super-heroes than I am about the homo-hijacking. They have absolutely, 100% fuck-all to do with anything, and are woefully out of place. "The Will To Power!" Seriously?
- "The Conversion" by Dara Naraghi and Christopher Mitten: Man, the examination of Islam is the salvation of this edition. Nifty story set in 1982 Iran that could in many respects be a direct reflection of Anytown, U.S.A. today.
- "God I Hate The Unfunny, Ham-Fisted Judd Winick," or something like that.
- "The Naked Truth" by Richard Starkings: Three pages of anthropomorphic animal cock and the disproportionately slim quim that accommodates them. Unnerving nude paper dolls with amusingly hyperbolic text. Why would a merciful god withhold so brutally on the poor pachyderm?
- "Being Normal" by Mark Waid and Jeff Lemire: Somehow, accepting yourself while getting your geek on feels like a more universal progressive message than Hunter Rose's making observations about the bible most of us worked out by junior high.
- "Dangerous Customs" by the guys stuck spelling out the mission of the CBLDF on the last page of these annuals each year.
Crack Comics #63 (Image, 2011, $4.99)
Almost a year late, the latest (and slowest) Next Issue Project was well worth the weight. Three issues over four years (Fantastic Comics #24 (2008) was solicited for December of 2007, while Silver Streak Comics #24 (2009) came out two years ago) is not an admirable shipping record, but this was honestly the best one yet, and one of my favorite reads of this year. Let me count the ways in which this single issue modern continuation of a Golden Age series is superior to the Project: Superpowers competitor experiment it outlived (though likely will never outproduce, at least in the 21st century...)
- Mike Allred cover: Simple but swell.
- Nifty period novelty ads.
- Captain Triumph by Alan Weiss: A dynamite story with lush art that makes inventive use of the character's central gimmick.
- The Space Legion in "A Matter of Some Gravity" by Chris Burnham: Fun art, storytelling, and effects to evoke the period, but weak characterization and an abrupt, oblique conclusion.
- The Clock by Paul Maybury: I've never heard of this guy before, but his story seriously kicked ass to the point where I want to read the next issue after that big tease of a closing splash. I suspect this owes as much to the influence of the Punisher as the Clock, but a great time nonetheless. The art is in the indie mode, along similar lines as Paul Grist's contribution to a previous N.I.J., but it suits the material, as does the muted, almost slate coloring.
- Molly the Model by Terry Austin: A bit more titillating than the source material would suggest, with art recalling early Los Bros Hernandez, which for a single page gag strip adds up to winning.
- Alias the Spider in "Curse the Darkness" by Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri: More talent unknown to me, and they seem intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but don't quite pull it off. There are one or two too many twists in the serpentine script, preventing it from ending on a high note on page five of six. Regardless, the giddy high their superb craftsmanship put me on up to that point mark them as persons of interest.
- Spitfire by Herb Trimpe: The quality starts to decline rapidly at this, the Trimping point. Actually, this was a cute story, a sort of rambling origin for an exceedingly P.C. lift of the Blackhawk Squadron. I confess to a lifelong anti-Trimpe bias, but I had no idea that he drew this until I looked up the credits, and it's the best art I've ever seen from him.
- Slap Happy Pappy by Joe Keatinge: Easily the worst story of the lot. It just plain sucked. Ugly mini-comic art and a dumb, trite story of blessedly brief two pages.
- Hack O'Hara by Erik Larsen: This project is Larsen's baby, but he's also guilty of being the most consistent provider of poor choices in this series. Featuring art stylings, layouts, and a monster deeply indebted to Silver Age Kirby, Larsen brings snarky '80s revisionism and a friggin' intra-feature crossover to boot. Larsen has the most fun with the book's conceit technically, including brown paper and off register color separations, but it's atonal in its company and reminds me of mistakes made previously in both the N.I.P. and the short-lived Dynamite Publishing Golden Age sub-line.
- Red Torpedo in "Life at Sea" by B. Clay Moore, Frank Fosco and Erik Larsen: A rather dry silent story to close out the book. Larsen's inks overwhelm Fosco, and the plot owes debts all over the place. Decent enough to not dissuade me from giving the book as a whole my unreserved recommendation.