Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday Is Christmas For All I Care #167

Arrow #1 (2012)
Indie Comics Horror #1
Judge Dredd #1 (2012)
Swamp Thing #14 (2012)

Guess what? I've got lungs full of dogshit and a fever-- the only prescription is more butthurt comic creators!

Arrow #1 (DC, 2012, $3.99)
Another fine example of the failings of modern comics. Collected in this overpriced advertisement circular are three stories by as many creative teams made to tie into the ersatz Batman Green Arrow TV show on the CW. These were made for the internet as digital first downloads, and I think they sold for a buck a piece, so it's kind of important to tell a satisfying story in ten pages. None even come close.

The first retells Oliver Queen's show origin while offering the parallel tale of his initial homecoming after five years as an island castaway. Both are given short shrift, too vague while offering less details than the preview trailer for the show. While it's cute that they got Mike Grell to draw the character given his history, likenesses and modernity aren't his strong suit. The buff twentysomething show star more resembles a late life Steve McQueen after raiding Jan-Michael Vincent's late '70s wardrobe, and the art style would be more appropriate on a sports & outdoors t-shirt.

Then again, that's much preferable to second artist Sergio Sandoval's storyboards that seem intent on avoiding backgrounds whenever possible. Ben Sokolowski's script is the closest to being a complete entity, even if the plot is dumb, hackneyed and riddled with holes.

The final tale is a China White spotlight, although comic fans should immediately recognize Helena Bertinelli's origin story with dashes of Virginia Applejack and I guess the laziest homage to O-Ren Ishii possible. Each of the tales feel like a prelude or aside, and just sit there.

Indie Comics Horror #1 (Aazurn, 2012, $4.75)
As with Creator-Owned Heroes, I ordered this book in hopes that in the midst of an anthology boldly defying the corporate mainstream mentality, there would be at least one diamond in the rough. Optimism is a key ingredient in the formula for cynicism. You haven't heard of most of these guys for a reason. Furthermore, each story starts with a text biography of the writer, and only the writer, at the top margin of the splash page. Way to bring the team together fuckwits, especially since the writing doesn't even meet the standards of adequacy of the better art found here.

  • "Immortal Resistance" by Rob Anderson and DaFu Yu is "What If King Leonidas was a super-zombie?" The art is best suited for low rent heroic adventure, so it works on that front, but not at all in the horror department (especially the tacked-on epilogue.)
  • Students of the Unusual: "Worm Cheese" made me wonder where my free CD got to? In four years, their efforts haven't improved one iota, and you can tell where the story is going within a few panels. Art's lousy, too.
  • "The Standard" was this sort of modern pulp social commentary thing, which aside from a not-really-twisted ending, didn't play as horror. Adrian Rodriquez's art, which I'm sure exists in full digital color somewhere, is better than the limp story deserves.
  • "The Belt," also drawn by DaFu Yu, who is again too Image-y for the gore to be any more terrifying than the sophomoric ultraviolence in an early Rob Liefeld book. The script comes the closest to the area of The Twilight Zone, but is more like the cable version of Outer Limits. It's dark sci-fi with a constant sardonic Verhoven meta-narration that distances the reader from the characters' plight almost as much as their lack of a personality does.
  • "Minister to the Undead" almost tells a story, but instead just sort of stops at establishing a premise. A tie-in pin-up is five years old, so maybe this was a stalled pitch at some point.
  • "Witch Hunters" sucked so bad in execution that I have to assume writer Paul Bradford was forced to simply salvage what he could from Allen Byrns' wretched excuse for art, which takes the near talentless laziness of Ben Templesmith to its least logical nigh-incoherent stick figure extreme. Then again, Bradford turns around and rewrites the same lousy sad goth boy poem three times over for as many artists under the pseudonym "Hierophantom," so maybe he's as much to blame.

Judge Dredd #1 (IDW, 2012, $3.99)
The Judge Dredd franchise is a thing I want to like, have tried repeatedly to like, but do not in fact like. He's the biggest name in British genre comics, and that stuff Brian Bolland drew sure was pretty, but that's that. I read Fleetway reprints of Dredd and Psi-Judge Anderson stories in the '80s, saw both movies, and bought most of the Dredd books DC published in the '90s (including two short-lived ongoings and a bunch of team-up specials.) I'm a fan of Mills and O'Neill's Marshal Law, which is pretty much Judge Dredd for the spandex crowd. I love me some black comedy, especially at the expense of the U.S.A. I'm sure a big part of the problem is that I don't tend to enjoy the writing of Dredd mainstays like John Wagner and Alan Grant, and the approach I most gravitated toward was the smarter, more acerbic American Andy Helfer. In truth though, the post-apocalyptic setting and specific flavor of sci-fi have been done to death, and the creators' approach to the fascistic state in which Dredd thrives is too flat and arch. I don't have to root for Dredd as an anti-hero or stealth antagonist, but I do need at least one character to give a fuck about, and never find one.

Duane Swierczynski does not appear likely to buck the trend. The lead story with artist Nelson Daniel is Dredd 101 (and perhaps a touch of Magnus Robot Fighter.) The art is serviceable, the story gets across its intent, and so I will nod at its workmanlike quality. A second story would appear to run during the first, but there is contrary evidence in the art, so it instead seems like the writer simply failed to display range. I've always been fond of Paul Gulacy, but he takes advantage of Dredd's skewed world to offer poor anatomy, occasional hyperactive detail amidst broad stretches of bland basics, and editorial cartoon noodling. The story explores the failings of Dredd's law, but without the slightest nuance, projecting to the cheap seats. The most interesting thing in the package is a one page text piece by Douglas Wolk about what made Dredd a Anglophile phenomenon, which contrasts severely against IDW's sad product.

Swamp Thing #14 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
Scott Snyder has gotten to be a biggish deal in comics over recent years, so my natural inclination is to try and take him down, but he hasn't given me much ammunition. For the second installment of a crossover event read cold, the issue is surprisingly comprehensible. It gives a sense of who the characters are and what stakes they're fighting for, plus there's a blessed lack of ellipses for a Swamp Thing comic. Yanick Paquette is overly enthusiastic about rendering big ol' titties, but he otherwise serves the marriage of horror and heroism well. I'd have rather gotten further along in the narrative, but like Abraham, it was a good floppy for its time.

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