Category: Comics

Love and Rockets: New Stories #1

So, people on the messageboard have recently been prodding me about the fact that there are threads there that consist largely of me posting and nobody replying, yet meanwhile I have let my blog languish since February. It is a fair point, and so I'm going to start putting my posts about things nobody else apparently wants to talk about up here instead of on the boards.

Sadly, Love and Rockets seems to be one of those things, and that's a shame -- anything involving Skrulls or written by Mark Millar provokes lively discussion, yet when I bring up one of the seminal series in comics history (and, for my money, a fantastic piece of American literature)? Nada.

So this week marked the debut of Love and Rockets: New Stories, the third volume of the series and a new format -- a beefy 100-page annual. I suspect that the reason they titled it New Stories instead of simply Volume 3 is that, at a glance, it looks like a trade; they want to emphasize that it is not, in fact, a collection of old stuff.

The presentation is 7 short Gilbert stories (one of which is written by Mario) bookended by a Jaime story in two 24-page installments.

Jaime's story is set, loosely, in Locas continuity -- it features Penny Century and Xo, and Maggie appears briefly -- but it doesn't fit with the series' usual realistic themes; it's a superhero story. It recalls the early Maggie the Mechanic stories, where dinosaurs and robots appeared as casual, everyday parts of life, and Love and Rockets was actually a fairly accurate description of what you were likely to see in the book.

That aside, needless to say, it's not everday superhero fare. There's plenty of Kirby love to go around, but this is still a Love and Rockets story -- it's about family issues, old friends reuniting, and strong women.

That element of the familiar pervades Gilbert's stories, too, but he abandons his established world -- there's no Palomar here, nor even any of its tangentially related characters like Venus or Fritz. They're also short -- Jaime devotes 48 pages to a single story, while Beto's longest is 16.

Papa, The New Adventures of Duke and Sammy, and Victory Dance form a trilogy of sorts, increasingly surreal as they go. Mario's story, Chiro El Indio, is not so much surreal as whimsical, and has a certain 1920's vibe to it. Never Say Never is a funny animal story about luck and sharing the wealth, while the aptly-named ? is a thick-lined, surreal pictures-only story that recalls Owly or Frank.

Beto's stories show a good deal of stylistic range -- I'm not an artist and I'm likely to stumble in trying to describe what he does with lines and shading, but each story is visually distinct.

Anyway. Love and Rockets. One of the all-time greats, and I love that it's still being published -- even if we only get one a year now.

Looking forward to Beto's story in this year's Treehouse of Horror comic.


Playing: Just finished Mass Effect for the second time; working my way through various Mega Man titles in preparation for 9.

Reading: Our Dumb World, in-between various comics. The local Atomic Comics had a 20% off sale on Labor Day and I picked up a stack; so far I've read Astonishing X-Men vol 4: Unstoppable and Batman: Gotham by Gaslight.

When a City Goes to War...

I'm involved, off and on, in a lengthy project to try and consolidate my nearly 20 years' worth of comics, bag, board, and sort them. (Precisely how to sort them presents a rub -- presumably first by year and then by title, but figuring out how many months' worth of comics will fit in any given box creates a huge headache. And many comics do not print the goddamn year on the cover.)

Tonight's run through about 100 different comics from ten to fifteen years ago was largely discouraging -- most of them were from my unfortunate X-Men phase. (There was even a Clone Saga ish of Spidey in there.) As I started going through issues of Generation X, I felt a burning desire to apologize to myself for all the stupid, stupid things that seemed like a good idea when I was a teenager. I'm big on taking responsibility for my mistakes, no matter how young and misguided I was when I made them.

But then I hit on my nearly-complete run of TMNT: City at War and that reminded me that, dammit, I made mistakes, but I still had pretty damn good judgement at times, too. It's a source of constant consternation to me that I am missing one issue of that arc -- #56, to be exact.

If you have a copy you want to part with, let me know. I'll trade you a #48, as I have two copies of it for some reason.

Meantime, guess I'll keep an eye on eBay -- I was briefly thrilled to see somebody selling a TMNT #56 there, but it turned out to be the Archie comic, not the Mirage one.

And I really should start checking out comic shops in my neighborhood. I've still been shopping at my old store in Tempe despite it being 30 miles away, because they've been good to me over the past ten years or more and I am a loyal customer. But they don't have a great back issue selection, and they're also 30 miles away.

Edit, 2007-05-20: I got a message today from somebody asking if I was still looking for TMNT #56. The answer is no; I found it -- and filled the rest of the gaps in my vol 1 collection, too -- on nostalgiazone.com a few months back. Thanks anyway.

I am still missing the bulk of the original Tales series, so if anyone has any hot tips on those, let me know. Thanks.

No Spoilers

(Okay, one spoiler. But it's for Batman Begins, which everybody's probably already seen by now anyway.)

This is just completely fucking absurd.

(And yeah, my referrals from the Bioware page have pretty much dried up, so I'm going back to gratuitous use of the word "fuck". In fact more gratuitous than usual in this post.)

Look, it's nice seeing comics get mainstream press attention (even if it's for shit like the new Batwoman being a lipstick lesbian -- who also happens to be Officer Montoya's former lover, because of course all the lesbians in Gotham know each other. Apparently in the Marvel U all African superheroes are childhood friends, too.), and I'm sure this will boost sales for an industry that could really use them, but you don't goddamn post a headline spoiling the ending of a comic within hours of it hitting the stands.

This is complete horseshit, and it's symptomatic of the complete lack of respect comic books get as a medium.

I mean, seriously. Can you imagine a paper running a story with a headline spoiling the ending of a movie that came out that same day? Even a movie about superheroes? Did you see any papers running headlines like "Henri Ducard is Actually Ra's Al-Ghul"? Or how about "X, Y, and Z die in X3"? (See that last one? The movie's been out for weeks and it's still too soon for me to be comfortable writing spoilers for it.)

The press doesn't print articles that ruin, right in the headline, endings of new movies. Or new books. I suppose they do with new TV, but they at least wait until the show's aired on the west coast. Oh, but this is a comic book. It's not like anybody cares about spoilers for a comic book.

And so there I am, sitting at work on my break -- I am still at work and certainly have not had a fucking chance to go to the comic store yet -- and the Huffington Post sees fit to tell me how Civil War #2 ends.

Fuck you, Huffington Post. And fuck everybody else who blabbed about this today without so much as a spoiler warning. Fuck you from the bottom of my heart.

And another thing: if you're going to write a headline about Spider-Man, get his fucking name right. Spider-Man. With a hyphen.

And as for anyone who wants to be surprised by the ending of Civil War #2, you'd better go pick it up right now, and do your very best not to watch, read, or listen to any news before you get it, because I don't know how long you can make it without somebody jumping out and ruining it for you.

You fuckers think that just 'cause a guy reads comics he can't start some shit?

Why I Love The Walking Dead

Break time again. Figure I may as well balance that "why I hate" I'd been meaning to write with a "why I love" I've been meaning to write.

My new favorite comic of the past year is The Walking Dead.

Actually, issue #1 is free online. Go read it.

Did you read it? Okay. You probably have a pretty good idea why I like it. But let me elaborate: the real reason I like it is that, twenty-four issues later, it's still that good. Things keep happening. From a premise that generally fizzles by the end of an hour-and-a-half movie, we've got a series that's still interesting after over two years.

I think the appeal is that we're looking at a microcosm of life. In this tiny community of characters, we see characters become close and then drift apart, families torn asunder, and a hero forced to keep the group together who finally starts to buckle under the strain. And we see all this happen at breakneck speed -- what we're seeing is life in fast motion, spurred on by the characters' knowledge that they could die at any moment.

It's easily the best zombie story I've ever seen, but the zombies themselves are incidental -- this story could take place on a deserted island, in an Orwellian dystopia, on a hostile planet, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (well, I guess that last one isn't so far off) -- in any setting where a tiny group tries to fight seemingly impossible odds just to survive one day to the next.

My uncle suggested that the draw of zombie stories is people's desire to see a story broken down into us-versus-them tribalism. I think that's a big part of it, but I think it's bigger than that: it's life distilled down to its component parts, people growing and changing and coming together and breaking apart, all sped up by the fear of imminent death.

And that's why The Walking Dead is my favorite comic right now. Some other comics I'm reading:

Transformers. I'm ambivalent about this one. On the one hand, it's nice seeing more G1; on the other, Jesus Christ how many times are we going to have to sit through the origin story?! By my count, there are already 5 different damn Transformers universes (G1 cartoon, Marvel comic, Dreamwave comic, Robots in Disguise, Armada/Energon/Cybertron) in the US -- I'm not even going to get into the various Japanese series that never made it over here -- and a sixth on the way in the upcoming (ugh) Michael Bay movie. Why do we need another one?

Don't get me wrong, the new comic's solid so far, but...why do it like this? Why start from scratch yet again? Why not do something that adds to the universe -- more War Within-era prequels, some stories set in-between G1 and Beast Wars, or even after Beast Machines? (Preferably some post-BM stories that are published by a company that has some sort of distribution besides ordering online and won't get its license revoked after four issues.)

Batman and the Monster-Men. Matt Wagner tells a good, solid year-two story (much better than, oh, say, Year Two), and examines a turning point in Batman's career: thinking he's finally got crime in Gotham on the run, he realizes he's instead created an arms race: he may have taken care of the petty thugs, but now he has mad scientists and supervillains to deal with. Add the fact that this is adapted from an original 1940 Kane/Finger story and you've got some serious fan service. Plus I just like Hugo Strange and don't think he gets enough play -- he is, after all, the original member of Batman's rogues' gallery, predating both Joker and Catwoman by a few months. That and I just dig Wagner's art.

Batman has always been one of my favorite characters, and always a book I simply can't stand to read. The character's been handled poorly for the past twenty years. But it seems that we're in a serious turnaround now, and with Morrison and Dini taking over his two books soon, I'm going to have to start picking them up.

Speaking of Morrison, good Lord that guy writes a lot of comics these days. Seven Soldiers has been fantastic, as has All-Star Superman.

Ellis has been putting out a hell of a lot of books too, and for somebody who hates superheroes, he doesn't seem to write much else these days. Iron Man: Extremis has been a great book, and I particularly liked the retelling of the origin in the most recent issue -- the original Iron Man armor is my favorite; it just looks like such a godawful burden to wear. And that was a vital part of the original character: Tony wore the suit to stay alive, not because he set out to be a hero. The reluctant hero theme in the early sixties was vital to ushering in the Marvel Age: Spider-Man was just trying to pay the rent, the Hulk and the Thing were desperate to cure their conditions, and Iron Man put the suit on because he had shrapnel lodged in his heart.

Tony's new nano-armor is a great arc-ending concept, but I'm not really looking forward to seeing it in-continuity. Hopefully it, like the Spider Armor, is done away with by the end of Civil War.

Dead Girl: I was a huge X-Statix fan from the get-go, and disappointed to see the book go (I blame the editors for not just letting the creatives run with the Princess Di story; I think any reader would agree that was the jump-the-shark point of the series). So it's great to see the team back again, and with the high-concept twist of exploring the very nature of comic book death. Dr. Strange is the perfect vehicle for this story, I'm wracking my brain trying to figure out who the Pitiful One could be, and the art is gorgeous -- I was worried when I heard Allred wouldn't be doing the pencils, but honestly with him doing the inks I can't tell the difference.

I've also been digging the comic adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and it finally hit me last night that the protagonist is a dead ringer for Arthur Dent. As Gaiman is a well-known Adams fan (even wrote a book about him), there's no way this is coincidence.

Looking forward to work from Busiek (Superman, Aquaman, Marvels 2, and of course Astro City) and wondering what Priest is up to these days.

Oh, and Superman/Batman punked out: the guy in the Batman Beyond costume is Tim, not Terry. Booooo.

Seems like I must be forgetting something, but damned if I can think what it is right now. Well, I'm sure this won't be my last post on the subject of comics.