Links, tools and gadgets

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Recently read 2019.07.09

So, where was I...

Wait, it's still the same month as the last post? That can't be right...

Some quick thoughts on stuff I've read recently.  RED RANGE, 4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK and IMMORTAL HULK, if you want to know before scrolling down.

RED RANGE by Sam J. Glanzman and Joe R. Lansdale

This is a 2017 edition of the western adventure first published in 1999, in colour and hardcover for the first time and with lots of extras. I did get the original, though a few years after it was first published. I'm not sure if I even saw it when it came out, and if I did I might have passed by it because of the odd choice to use the completely incongruous N. C. Wyeth idyllic painting "Cowboy Watering His Horse" from 1937 as the cover. Let's just say that watering his horse isn't top on the priority list for the Red Mask, Caleb Range, the hero of the book (not sure why the title mixes his two names, like calling a book "The Lone Reid" or "Bat Wayne"). Fortunately this new edition has a much more appropriate cover, using Glanzman's interior art.

Anyway, it's a great, if somewhat brutally violent book about a black man in post-Civil War Texas who rescues a young boy named Rufus from the Klansmen who murdered both of their families. The story takes a pretty unexpected third act twist, and even promises a sequel on the final page which is only now coming twenty years later from Lansdale's son (note that the interview and images in the link will give away the twist in the original book). The colouring is well done, not obscuring any of the linework, I think I like it more than the original version. If you're familiar with the Jonah Hex work that Lansdale and Glanzman (with Tim Truman) did in the years prior to this book you have an idea of what you're getting into, only it's much more unrestrained and profane than those books.

Extras include a short western story by Glanzman that fits the theme (kind of a shame they don't have "Devil's Sombrero" from DC's WEIRD WESTERN TALES #2 [2001], another Lansdale/Glanzman work. They also did a war story together in another Vertigo anthology) and some extensive notes from Stephen Bissette placing the work in context of both the creators' careers, the history of cowboy fiction and race and the history of cowboy fiction and... something else that's part of the twist.

4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK by Tyler Boss and Matthew Rosenberg

This is a collection of a 5-issue series published from 2016-7, about a young girl and her friends who get involved in a world of schemes and heists when she tries to protect her father from some lowlife acquaintances.

The book wears its cinematic influences on its sleeve (and on the backcover, where several of them like Tarantino and THE GOONIES are namechecked in review excerpts, and again in about 3 dozen variant covers in the backmatter, many of them based on iconic movie posters, and again in the chapter breaks with quotes from various movies modified to fit the characters), but does a good job of translating those influences to a comic page, doing things in the story that couldn't have worked the same way on screen. I especially liked the opening of each issue using one of the games that the kids play to set up the situation with some added visual flair.

While there's nothing overly revolutionary about what the book does, it does it all well (though I'm not sure I really liked the ending). It's also a nicely put together book, much better designed and substantial feeling that most books that come out from major publishers.

by Joe Bennett, Al Ewing, Ruy José & Co.

This is the current iteration of the 1962 Jack Kirby creation, launched in 2018 and still on-going. These three books collect the first 15 issues of the run. Al Ewing writes all of it, Joe Bennett and Ruy José draw most of it, with occasional guest artists.  Fortunately, unlike the usual Marvel way of random artist changes, the guest art is usually used for specific storytelling reasons (flashback scenes, stories told by other narrators).

This has become a much hyped book in the last few months, enough that it probably can't live up to the hype, and it really doesn't. I mean, it's pretty good, nicely readable, builds on Hulk history going back over 50 years but for the most part it doesn't seem to require knowledge of all that history, or explains the parts that are needed, and tells a different type of Hulk story. In the last few stories of this run I think Ewing tripped up on that a bit, as I had the feeling I was missing something from my spotty knowledge of Hulk history. I do find the writing a bit thin, so where get to in 15 issues probably could have been more effectively done in about 10, but I'd need more of the story to assess how much of the extra stuff was important and how much was filler.

I was pretty pleasantly surprised by Bennett's art, which had never made too much of impression on me before. It's bold and open in a way that fits the story. I did think the bigger action sequences tended to be less clear than I'd have liked, it sometimes took me a few tries to figure them out, or it only became obvious in retrospect as the story played out, but overall I liked it.

I've heard some people talk about this run as somehow transformational, as if you couldn't go back to the classic "Hulk Smash" version of the character. I'm not convinced that's the case at all, based on the first three books. I remember hearing similar things about the run Bruce Jones did almost 20 years ago, and that run seems to be less than a footnote in comics history now. And the Planet Hulk story by Greg Pak, which at least started off better and more transformational, that was all eventually reversed.  Certainly you can read this run without any reference to the Jones or Pak version (while aspects of the earlier Peter David version are essential backmatter)  I imagine this run will be fondly remembered if it sticks the landing, however far in the future that is, or quietly forgotten if it doesn't, but in any case followed up by a return to a classic version of the Hulk or a whole other version.

For the future, they seem to publish enough for three of these thin collections a year, so I'll probably catch up once a year until it ends. I wouldn't be surprised if it goes in the 50-60 issue range (possibly with some relaunches and title changes, given modern Marvel) so that's a few years away. Hopefully they keep it to one book, and don't do the classic Marvel response to success and launch THE IMMORTAL SHE-HULK, THE IMMORTAL RICK JONES, THE IMMORTAL ABOMINATION and THE IMMORTAL SQUIRREL GIRL.

The biggest problem is how slight and insubstantial each of the books feels. Five issue collections, with most issues only have about 20 pages of story, and printed on about the thinnest paper that would be acceptable. Very little thought given to the design, just the standard Marvel cookie-cutter book design. Variant covers are thrown in at random between issues (probably so that the double page spreads line up correctly), sometimes those are covers that don't even have anything to do with the Hulk, much less this version of the Hulk. Nothing like a random pin-up of Conan fighting the Avengers to keep the story momentum going in a Hulk comic. And, I'm sure I've complained about this before, but why does Marvel continue to use the inside front and back covers of their books for ads? At least they've gotten better over the last few years and usually have ads for related books (it seemed to be random before), but it still looks cheap and crass. I don't think any other publisher feels the need to do that. Keep them blank or design some nice endpapers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Weblog by BobH [bobh1970 at gmail dot com]