Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wednesday Is REH ERB BMW For All I Care #138

Conan the Barbarian: Queen of the Black Coast #1
Lord of the Jungle #1
The Transformers: Robots in Disguise #1

Conan the Barbarian #1/88 (Dark Horse, 2012, $3.50)
How many fucking Conan stories did Robert E. Howard produce, anyway? They've been adapting the things to comics since the goddamned '70s, and usually across multiple titles. For instance, while this is supposedly the first issue of a new Conan the Barbarian series, it's actually the eighty-eighth consecutive issue since 2003, and there's a King Conan mini-series running alongside it. Anyway, Brian Wood is supposedly a big enough name that he gets a cover credit where Howard receives none. I doubt that's how Roy Thomas would have done things, but then, he also wouldn't spend an entire issue on prologue to the introduction of the titular villainess, either. Look, what Wood wrote isn't bad, and this pacing might work in a trade, but as a floppy its nothing but a tease. Where Wood is reasonably faithful to the Conan legacy, its hard not to look at artist Becky Cloonan and assume this is the first hipster Cimmerian. With the ships and character designs, this looks like a nice Northlanders issue, but I don't see Conan here. Her take on BĂȘlit is choice. A quick google tells me most artists draw her as indistinguishable from every other sword and sorcery chica, but Cloonan depicts her as some kind of albino Shiva, which makes a serious impression. I'm just pissed because part of the joy of reading Conan stuff as a kid came from getting a complete story in each issue, not a preamble to one.

Lord of the Jungle #1 (Dynamite, 2012, $1.00)
It's funny that Tarzan barely appears in this book, doesn't progress in the story past infancy, and it still feels like more of a complete unit than that Conan tale. I guess we do cover the last months of his parents' lives, which offers a sense of finality to this issue. The art by Roberto Castro is interesting. It reminds me of of the Philippine pencilers thatr might have done this for Marvel or Warren in the '70s, but inked like Bill Sienkiewicz in the '90s, but with colored cel-animation style lines seen in the '00s. It simultaneously timeless, dated, and modern. I do like it though, and writer Arvid Nelson shows strong chops, as well. I'd consider buying a trade, but that assumes the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate doesn't sue this and the Dynamite John Carter books out of existence.

The Transformers: Robots in Disguise #1 (IDW, 2012, $3.99)
I never had much use for Transformers, and cannot become emotional invested in robots that turn into cars. It screams "toy" just a little too loudly, I guess. I went into this book with a lot of prejudice, but it turned out to be a quality first chapter of a series I surely won't follow. I assume IDW had a big blow-out with the franchise, and launched two new ongoings in its wake. This is the one with sectarian violence arising from the tension between Autobots, Decepticons, and NAILs trying to rebuild the revived but hostile world of Cybertron. It's fairly political, as the central concern is police brutality and perceived abuse of power, with an undercurrent of racism besides. I expect John Barber is trying to follow in the footsteps of the British in trying to reconcile their writing for licensing by telling a meaningful story. The art by Andrew Griffith is good, if a bit cartoony for the script, though clearly not the base material. His anthropomorphic approach favors life forms that happen to be robotic, rather than robots that would like to sell you merchandise. This allows a cognitive dissonance that allows the violence in the book to have impact without getting gross. If there must be a Transformers comic, you could do a lot worse than this.

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