Monday, April 29, 2013

Wednesday One in One Way or Another #173

G.I. Joe Special Missions #1 (2013)
Mind MGMT: One for One
Morning Glories #26
The Shadow: Year One #1

G.I. Joe Special Missions #1 (IDW, 2013, $3.99)
I was a big fan of the Joes as a kid, and Marvel put out an involving sci-fi military soap opera back then. I've sampled G.I. Joe comic product since Dark Horse's pathetic '90s attempt at a revival and Devil's Due's successful one of the early aughts. Still, I'm not a kid anymore, we're no longer in Reagan America, and the nostalgia trip was the only limited draw for me. I couldn't buy into it as a generational saga, not wanting to own Despero Junior or anything from the last several years of the toy line. I also found overly serious attempts at portraying the Joes in a post-9/11 world distasteful.

Like its namesake, the good thing about Special Missions is that it seems to be somewhat divorced from the greater "saga" of toy soldiers fighting cartoony snake-themed terrorists and just tells a cool action-packed story. I bought this book because Chuck Dixon is reliable in writing this kind of affair, and the promise of Paul Gulacy drawing the Baroness was too fabulous to ignore. I continue to miss the tone shading in Gulacy's work, but the dude can still slather ink for leather in all its fetishistic glory, and he's great on the spy stuff. He's a little more wonky on the desert combat in the harsh light of day, but the colorist covers for that. This is light adventure with a slick sheen, and I think I'd be in the market for a reasonably priced trade paperback to complete the tale.

Mind MGMT: One for One (Dark Horse, 2012/2013, $1.00)
So look-- here's the thing. I'm okay with this sort of writerly DIY artwork in a biographical hipster Drawn & Quarterly tome telling a story too niche to attract an actual draw-er type person who needs to pay their rent. I'll even allow for it on something like Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth, where the awkward indie vibe is meant to contrast against the cliché apocalyptic genre setting. Mind MGMT on the other hand is firmly established as a thriller in this debut issue, and I don't find funky amateurish artwork thrilling. This is basically an update of those old Jim Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. stories that figured counterculture psychedelica into its goofy sci-spy intrigue, but drowning in Fantagraphical pretension with its obtuse narrative, metatextual quirks, and its being a fucking eyesore.

Remember that Julianne Moore movie where she thinks she lost her son in a plane crash, but everyone tells her she never had a son, or that Jodie Foster movie where her daughter goes missing on a plane flight and no one believes she even brought a daughter on board? This is like that, but without anything exciting or engaging happening. There's some violent shit at the beginning that isn't explained, and then a plane full of people being introduced to mass amnesia, and then some chick at wit's end trying to figure out what happened. I don't give a fuck. Maybe is Paul Gulacy drew the chick in her underwear instead of writer/penciler/inker/colorist/hubrist Matt Kindt, but probably not even then. There's just too little to go on story wise, and too much ill will built up in such a short span of pages, that I cannot bring myself to care.

Morning Glories #26 (Image, 2013, $1.00)
Pardon my French, but Nick Spencer is a stupid motherfucker. This book normally sells about 8,000 copies. This special sampler issue retails for a dollar, which means your shop paid about fifty-cents per copy. Diamond Distribution probably takes a sizable percentage as well, so lets says that with the temporary sales boost Image grosses four grand on this issue. Once you factor in production costs like talent and printing, the sub-studio Shadowline is probably in the red. It's what they call a "loss leader," where you offer a product at such a deep discount that it costs the seller money, with the intention of "getting people through the door" to buy other stuff. You take a hit on one in order to sell more.

Based on that premise, this comic fails spectacularly. I read the first trade a couple of years ago, and liked it well enough, but wasn't compelled to keep reading from there. If a publisher wants to hook new readers, prime candidates would be guys like me with a passing familiarity, or better yet, an entirely fresh audience. That isn't going to happen when your sampler comic is a thunderous "FUCK YOUUUU" to anyone who hasn't read the previous twenty-five issues, and I mean all of them. Shit is impenetrable. I have vague recollections of the basic premise of Morning Glories and still don't have a friggin' clue about who 95% of the characters in this story are or even a rudimentary understanding of what is going on. There's a blond girl named Casey who might have been the star of the first "season," but she might be new to this second one, but I'm not sure and it isn't made clear. She dresses up like the evil teacher from the debut volume, or maybe the star of the first volume is another person, and Casey is the new star or something. Seriously, I'm not going to pull that first trade off the shelf just to make the slightest sense of what the fuck is going on here, because that's not how this kind of goddamned thing is supposed to work. I'm actually not joking about being kind of pissed right now that I'm even being asked to make that kind of effort, so I can imagine how annoying this would be for the completely uninitiated. There are nine "silent" pages that act like the opening of All-Star Superman, which had a series of disconnected images that were perfectly understandable to a world made intimately familiar with the Man of Steel over the last 75 years. The same technique applied to a minor Image comic read by less than ten thousand people goes beyond mental retardation into a near catatonic state of storytelling. There are three splash pages with a single line of dialogue, and three pages wasted Jonathan Hickman style on a "credit sequence" announcing the title of the book against a stark background. I want to kick something right now, like that guy from the Charles Atlas ads once he got home from the beach.

Also, I still hate looking at Joe Eisma's drawy-drawn drawings representing people and objects that look like drawings that the talents of colorist Alex Sollazzo barely make palatable. I've been to three conventions Eisma attended and have been magnanimous enough to try to figure out one character I think that he could draw adequately as a commission, but can't bring myself to actually put money in his hand because it feels like an unforgivable ethical compromise to encourage him to continue his "craft." Maybe he'll read this and confront me and I can hit him because I totally want to hit somebody over this book. This is the Lindsay Lohan of comics-- irredeemably squandering enormous opportunities in favor of being as infuriatingly worthless as possible. Fuck all'y'all.

The Shadow: Year One #1 (Dynamite, 2013, $3.99)
I realize that in 2013, "socialite" is a euphemism for "vacuous monied whore with a catalog entry at Vivid," but I don't think that's what it meant when Margo Lane was created as the female lead in a 1937 radio program. Can we maybe try to allow a forerunner to modern feminism and a probable influence on the creation of Lois Lane enough dignity to not survive as a mobster's joy toy and blackmailing babymama? Matt Wagner, you wrote Sandman Mystery Theater. You're better than that. The rest of the comic is okay, and I quite liked the art of Wilfredo Torres, who reflected a period vibe without being enslaved to it. Dug Brennan Wagner's antique palette as well.

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