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Monday, March 06, 2006

Remarks on recent comics (2006.03.06)

Picked up some of the old style stapley comics recently, a few decent ones and some recent DC stuff.

RUNAWAY COMIC #1 - Mark Martin returns from, I dunno, exile? Witness protection? Vacation? Something like that. The important thing is that he returns, and he brings with him comics, and Fantagraphics is printing them. So that's okay. For the first issue of his new book, Martin brings back his TANTALIZING STORIES feature Montgomery Wart (along with Murgatroid, of course) for a long adventure that involves bodily fluids, slapstick violence and cigars. All the things kids like.

Also in this issue is a two-page biography of temperance crusader Carry A. Nation, which I was kind of horrified to learn is pretty accurate. Meanwhile, another story provides a hopefully not quite accurate look at the Martin homelife, and the backcover has a colour story about Bill and Hilary (but not that Bill and Hilary).

It's always good to see Martin's work, full of frantic energy and lots of different styles for every story. I look forward to future issues.

SOULSEARCHERS #76 - First issue of this I picked up in a while. First time I've seen a copy on the racks in a while, in fact, so I guess the recent publicity around the potential cancellation did some good. Anyway, Joe Staton joins as the regular artist this issue, so that's always worth taking a look at. He doesn't seem to quite have the look of the characters down yet, and I'm not sure Al Milgrom's inks are completely complimentary to his style yet, but it's still some nice Staton.

The story is intended as a "jump-in" point for new readers, so there's some background information on the team and their history for new readers. It's not too bad, although a bit heavy with the in-jokes about that aforementioned potential cancellation and low sales. The characters are still comfortable and well defined, and the jokes are plentiful enough that not all of them have to work to make the book funny.

I'll probably pick up the next few issues I see, hopefully with a bit more practice the Staton/Milgrom team will mesh with the characters.

USAGI YOJIMBO #90-91 - Stan Sakai does a two-issue story, "The Ghost in the Well", which seems to be setting up the next series of big events in everyone's second favourite rabbit samurai comic, in particular with some of the events surrounding Tomoe in this issue, in combination with some of what has been revealed about her in the last year. Sakai's writing is still top-notch, of course, and it'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Has anyone else noticed some changes in Sakai's art lately, though? I'm not sure if it was just that I was reading some of the older UY stories recently, so the small gradual changes seem bigger, but his inking in the past few issues really seems a bit different in some hard to define way. A bit less variety in the line weight, a bit less depth of detail in the medium and long shots. The overall artwork is still good, of course, but I wonder if anyone else has noticed a change.

For other stuff, I enjoyed the first issue of Joe Kubert's SGT. ROCK miniseries, and am looking forward to the eventual collection to read the rest. The art is as good as you'd expect, and the story isn't quite as off as most examples of Kubert trying to write Rock. It could still go that way, of course, but it should be worth seeing.

The various goings-on at DC have led to some new creative teams and fresh starts on a lot of their books, skipping a year into the future. I'm not really a big fan of the route they're taking to get there (I'm not really following it, but it seems to me I like the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS model of heroes banding to fight a big cosmic foe a lot more than the INFINITE CRISIS model of heroes fighting other heroes), but a few of the books looked interesting enough to give a read, maybe pick up when they're collected.

AQUAMAN gains the subtitle in AQUAMAN - SWORD OF ATLANTIS #40, and the new team of Kurt Busiek and Butch Guice. It looks to be a much more fantasy oriented series, with adventures among the loosely defined undersea realms, introducing a younger new Aquaman with the same name but different background from the real Aquaman, who may or may not still be around. I liked bits of the writing, Busiek always does set-up well, but I never was much on Guice's artwork, and I don't think the murky colouring helps it at all. I especially don't like those creepy dead eyes he gives Aquaman.

James Robinson introduces the new direction for Batman in an 8-part story beginning in DETECTIVE #817, with Paul Dini and Grant Morrison taking over the two main books afterwards. I'm kind of curious about Dini's run, as he's usually done good work on his comics based on the cartoon (and of course on the cartoon itself). Anyway, Robinson's job seems to be to re-establish the status quo they've gotten away from and drop some hints on how they got there in the missing year. So Gordon is Commissioner again, lights the Bat Signal when a super-villain (Poison Ivy) attacks and Batman and Robin respond. It's not bad, but nothing special either. Mostly sad that Batman had gone so far off track that hitting such traditional beats is notable. And a lot of the other stuff (like a second rate villain getting two bullets in the head) don't sit well. Don't think I'll read the rest, but might still check out Dini.

Paul Levitz has his first non-trivial bit of writing in a long while with a run on JSA, starting with a one-shot story pretty much set on Earth-2 in #82 with art by George Perez and then a 5-part story with Rags Morales starting "one year later" in #83. I usually like Levitz, although he's had his share of missteps, and this is one of them. #82 isn't too bad, I suppose, if you ignore the framing sequence with Power Girl that ties it in to the big crossover thing and just pretend it was an unpublished tale from the 1970s. #83 I could barely get through, though. It doesn't seem much has changed in the year long gap, and the dialogue was really rough at points.

Doesn't look like the new DC is going to appeal to me much more than the old one. I might still check out the Superman revamp, but I think I'll skip the intro story and look at the books after they have their new creative teams.

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