Rambo 3.5 @ Poopsheet Foundation
Check out my latest review over at Poopsheet Foundation.
Currently Reading: Astro City, The Autumnlands, Blackcross, Black Road, Black Science, Copperhead, Deadly Class, Descender, Drifter, The Dying & The Dead, East of West, The Fuse, Injection, Invisible Republic, Lantern City, Lazarus, The Legacy of Luther Strode, Letter 44, Low, Manifest Destiny, Nameless, No Mercy, Punks, Rebels, RUNLOVEKILL, Saga, Southern Bastards, Starve, Stumptown, They're Not Like Us, Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, Trees, We Can Never Go Home, The Wicked + The Divine
Scalped #38 (DC/Vertigo): Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera deliver a tale that begins with a family legacy of service to a country that has marginalized their entire race. That story alone is a gut-wrenching examination of the blessing/curse one soldier finds amid the Vietnam War. It allows Aaron to show off his ear for Vietnamese people speaking broken English, and his unique way with prose, with lines like “I remember it raining cold mud and hot gore.” Along the way, this tale of Wade the Indian amid the Fall of Saigon is rendered bleak and gritty by Guera, while still retaining the beauty of emotion. Even when Wade attempts to do the right thing, he realizes he’s still part of an oppressive system of enslavement that hits a little too close to home. Keep in mind, this is really just the “main” story – and it’s terrific. But then, fucking Jason Aaron, he gives you an added little twist that takes a great book and makes it absolutely go ballistic. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but let’s just say that FBI entanglement runs in Dash Bad Horse’s family. There’s an odd logic trap the characters are presented with that means either being traitorous to their own people or risking not being part of the solution. When we get to the end of Scalped, as a series, one sad day in the future, I think it will become increasingly apparent that the only “hero” in this book is going to be the one person who is able to figure out how to break this inescapable cycle of violence on the Rez. If you’re not reading Scalped, you’re missing out on not only one of the best comics being published today, but also a cultural treasure that highlights a seldom seen part of the holistic American experience. As ugly and violent and uncomfortable as it may be, it is a beautiful piece of art, with real world social relevance. Grade A+.
Northlanders #28 (DC/Vertigo): Brian Wood is a clever guy. He uses a writing tool here that I’ve seen loosely referred to as “The Great Wish.” By juxtaposing two sets of images, one revolving around the way times bleakly are, and the other a nostalgic projection of things desired that may never come to pass, what comes out the other side of the equation is a set of visual ideals that fill in a lot of information about a character’s desires and motivations. One prominent example of this in popular culture is at the end of James Cameron’s Titanic (not that I'm a fan, but it uses this trick very well), after Jack and Rose have died, and you see that long shot of Rose ascending the staircase aboard the grand glory of the ship, passing by friends and family, finally meeting Jack at the top near the clock. Another example would be at the end of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator when General Maximus has died, and as he passed into Elysium (the Roman “Heaven”) he strolls through amber wheat fields to be greeted by his wife and son. The opening passages of this issue do just such a thing, contrasting the life desired and the unfortunate life actually present. On top of that, it also sets up the analogy of birds fleeing the cold. There’s just so much going on here, it’s deceptively simply, but is actually quite a complex script. Wood hits other notes about shielding your children from harsh realities, both mental and physical, the strength required of women in a world largely dominated by men, and the realization that sometimes being strong means being quiet or asking for help. Leandro Fernandez, whose art here bears a strong Eduardo Risso influence, helps Brian Wood bring this final chapter of The Plague Widow to a close, and it’s a subtle but emotionally satisfying conclusion. At the end of it all, Karin learns the greatest lesson about capable self-reliance, and even though her mother may have perished, she ultimately succeeded as a parent. Grade A.
Joe The Barbarian #5 (DC/Vertigo): Sean Murphy makes those first page maps feel like coming home. It’s such a welcome invitation signifying your re-entry into this world. And as soon as you flip the page over, you get speed lines making objects jump off the page in a rousing chase sequence; it's a rousing chase sequence in a book that’s already been full of them. Murphy’s art, which here looks like a blend of Kevin O’Neill and Carlos Pacheco, never lets up, opening up further to reveal magnificent two page spreads. Todd Klein on lettering makes you remember why he won all of those Eisners for Promethea, with clever additions like “pedal pedal pedal” as the sloop ship dives. Yeah, it’s all here. With Grant Morrison, Sean Murhpy, Todd Klein, and Dave Stewart on colors, this is really a rock star creative team. It’s almost like you can see the pitch for this idea gestating in Morrison’s drunken Scot brain, taking popular genres from different media sources and toy properties, putting them in a blender, pulse-pulse-pulse, and then spitting out Joe The Barbarian. At times, the influences may be a little too transparent – the reveal of the Hall of Heroes bears a similar tone to Aragorn at places like Amon Hen amid the crumbling decay of times past, and the face off with the dog does smack of Gandalf at Kazadhum, wow, I’m really getting my LOTR on here – but at any rate, it’s a success that makes you want to plunge head first into the world, but also the possibilities inherent in the blender. Like, where are my action figures of the weird sail ship the issue opens with?! What I appreciated the most about this unison of scripting and art is how it’s not at all insulting to the reader. Some of the corollaries between real world and make believe are obvious, some not so. I enjoyed the duality of the Iron Knight’s presence, pairing the line “all to secure ten years of peace” with images of Joe’s father in real life. This parity continues with the alternating proportions and perspective of the dog in the hallway. Even in the art, you’re asked to participate and work things out. Notice during the opening chase, there is a panel of the rat drawing his sword. In the next panel, the sword is already impaled into the helmet of their pursuer. Look at how much action you had to imagine for yourself, and how quickly it must be done to keep up with the story. There’s so much closure occurring in your mind’s eye between the panels, it’s almost as if Morrison and company have drafted you to be a part of that creative process that can only take place as the story is actively consumed. Morrison displays a master’s ear for speech patterns, evidenced by the broken cryptic interrupted conversation Joe has with his mom on the phone. At the end of it all, you get so swept up in the momentum of the story and your participation in it, that you almost miss how Morrison has created a near perfect adventure, with the faint familiarity, challenge, adventure, charm, and psychological underpinnings of an instant classic. When you add in the amazing art, this just might be vying for contention as my favorite Grant Morrison project, clawing its way up and actually trying to duke it out with Flex Mentallo and All-Star Superman for recognition. Grade A.
Vertigo is doing it right this week, releasing two sure fire hits with Northlanders #28 (DC/Vertigo) and Scalped #38 (DC/Vertigo). Brian Wood delivers the final issue of The Plague Widow arc, while Jason Aaron brings the Vietnam flashback issue, which promises insight considering his first breakout book. Both still priced at only $2.99, I might add. Also out from the Distinguished Competition is Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 (DC), which is kinda’ cool considering I hadn’t remembered this was going to be a bi-weekly affair. This one is another 40 pager for $3.99, with sometimes Grant Morrison collaborator, Frazer Irving on art. If nothing else, it will look terrific. The Wednesday Comics HC (DC) also makes its way to the shelves, clocking in at $49.99. I know it’s an oversized hardcover and all, but I swear I remember this being originally advertised at the $39.99 price point. It seems like a big mental jump for me. $39.99? Well shoot, it’s only two 20’s, those things are practically disposable once they get spit outta’ the ATM. But, $49.99? Dang, that’s half a Benjamin already! That just sounds expensive. This might be the type of thing I wait to find at the con for 30% off or something. Or, I guess I can still hold out hope that *just* the Paul Pope strip will be collected all by itself, since that’s all I’m really interested in owning anyway. I mean, sure, the Ryan Sook and Kyle Baker Kamandi and Hawkman are nice respectively, but not essential by any means.
DV8: Gods & Monsters #2 (DC/Wildstorm): Brian Wood and Rebekah Isaacs' re-visitation of this property hums with a quirky and offbeat sensibility that’s full of smart wordsmithing. If you really study the subtle distinctions over Gem’s statement about being perceived as a god, or the description of Bliss’ power effect as “riding that wave of pleasure,” it’s clear that Wood is having fun with the language and the semantics of it all. Even from the first issue until now, it seems that Isaacs prowess as a sequential artist has grown too. Her female figures are really attractive, while still being natural looking. Some of the males are a tad bit stiff, like the awkward proportions of the width of Frostbite’s wrist, but that’s a nitpick. Overall, she employs a good variety of shots, varying the camera placement to reveal medium shots, small inset panels, and aerial establishing shots that all flow together really nicely. The night time sequence with Nikki is a favorite. It evokes a mood that’s obviously been intelligently planned and command’s attention. Issacs’ art is capable of achieving a soft line when it needs to, and alternately a hard edge when that’s what’s called for. It doesn’t matter if it’s a silhouetted love scene or any of the brief bouts of violence found in the book, they all reverberate with the correct tone, aided by the gorgeous colors of Carrie Strachan. Wood really captures distinct voices for Nikki, Leon, and Gem. If you tried to read their lines aloud without the actual visuals for reference, I think it’d be easy to ascertain who’s who. There’s a panel or two of tease for the debrief occurring on The Carrier, and I really want to see more of that! Down on the surface, it’s interesting to see the characters try to solve the mystery right along with us. They attempt to match powers to motives and sync that up to a certain tribe for a certain purpose, in an entertaining trail of logic. It’s an intellectual challenge not often associated with these particular characters, at least in their earlier incarnations. Wood puts a clever turn on his hallmark theme of identity, postulating that if superpowers would be interpreted as godlike by primitive eyes, then the terms become interchangeable in the right context. This book really seems to be about exploring how that idea would play out. I still don’t quite feel like I have all of the pieces here, but it’s due to Wood’s absolute restraint with any sort of exposition. There are very subtle clues along the way, like the sophisticated translation devices suggesting someone higher up is pulling the strings. In spite of the frustration at being out of control as a reader and having to wait for the next installment for further explanation, it’s a fun ride. DV8 operates with an intellectual swagger and visual appeal that’s instantly compelling. Grade A.
Inbound 4: A Comic Book History of Boston (Boston Comics Roundtable):
While I enjoyed the thematic connections of this anthology, overall it’s an extremely art-centric book, even going so far as to credit the artists before the writers in the table of contents. This isn’t something usually seen, but it does live up to its self-proclaimed premise of showcasing up and coming artists in the greater Boston area. For those not in the know, the Boston Comics Roundtable is a loose conglomeration of artists (and writers!) that publish an anthology twice per year. This book was from 2009 and presents a very strong diversity of style. It covers a plethora of subject matter, from colonials, to pirates, to slaves, assassins, and poets. At 140 pages for only $12, it’s packed with material and really could function as a marketing brochure, being housed at museums, hotels, and tourist information centers. In terms of comic books, it manages to avoid the most common pitfalls of anthology style books; it not only achieves a high level of quality, but is miraculously able to sustain it throughout the project for the most part. I say this as someone who isn’t really a fan of anthologies simply because I’ve been habitually disappointed by their inherent inconsistency, but this is probably one of the best anthology books I’ve ever read. With grades clocking in as mostly A’s, a few B’s, and nothing lower than an isolated C or two, this is largely a win. Grade A-.
I thought it might be fun this week to sort what’s on the horizon by publisher. First up, we have Art of Blade of The Immortal HC (Dark Horse). I’m a bit of an on-again-off-again fan of the Hiroaki Samura epic, but these “Art of” books from Dark Horse have been stellar. From Hellboy to the Usagi Yojimbo volume, they’re really beautiful coffee table books. For only $29.99, this will be tempting. Also out from Cheval Noir this week is End League TPB: Volume 2: Weathered Statues (Dark Horse). Shoot, I forgot all about this book. I bought the first couple of issues penned by Rick Remender, but when they started changing artists part way through and then there were multiple month delays between issues, I gave up. I’m not going to pay $16.99, but if I ever find it for 50% off, it might make decent reading. The book always seemed to have a strong core premise, but the execution was all over the map.
Daytripper #6 (DC/Vertigo): It’s no undiscovered secret that Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba are terrific artists, but what really struck me this time was the degree of versatility in their artistry. Whether it’s a dank truck stop illuminated by the dim glow of exterior parking lot lights, or the vibrant airy crisp refreshing limitless feel of an airport on the very next page, one begins to comprehend their phenomenal range as visual storytellers. Of course, the entire effort is invigorated enthusiastically by colorist Dave Stewart, really turning in the work of his career here. He’s got an immaculate control of color hue, understanding intuitively how to pair color tone to story theme. His colors are earthy and warm when they’re needed to reflect the somber mood of the story, and alternately pop with striations of bright color when that sharp clang of visual emotion is necessary for the script. Moon and Ba play with the collective consciousness’ post-9/11 paranoia, and underscore the overlooked importance that obituaries play in the process of psychological closure. It’s smart of them to personalize the tragedy for Bras by introducing the possible impact to his friend Jorge. That personal connection tempers his writing with so much more humanity, even for people he doesn’t know. This near death experience functions as a wake up call to make every day count, and that idea serves as a primer for the entire series. It’s almost as if Moon, Ba, and Stewart are reminding us with this powerful treatise on the old idiom, that no matter what direction your life takes, it’s about the journey and not the destination. You have to appreciate the journey of your life, the moments along the way, because in the end, everyone’s final destination is all too similar – you die. It’s serendipitous to me that Karen Berger’s essay about the passing of industry veteran Dick Giordano bolsters this notion of living life in the moment. While Giordano’s professional innovations are impressive and certainly noteworthy to the industry community, Berger remembers the character of the man and what he meant to her personally more than any would-be bullet point on his resume. In order for life to be about a person’s fullest potential, it must center on the warm personal relationships that linger on in memory, not the cold material accomplishments that fade with time. Grade A.
Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 (DC): For me, artist Chris Sprouse and long time inker Karl Story are the real draw here. They deliver an outstanding performance that seems to be informed by early Joe Kubert work. The overall aesthetic is strong and hard-edged, yet still full of vibrant emotion. The dialogue is fueled by interesting speech patterns; the story is told from the perspective of prehistoric men, so Bruce’s “foreign” speech is almost indecipherable to them. Simultaneously, there’s just enough for the audience to parse; it’s done in a very clever fashion, so that a slurred statement like “thayawlmannsted” is able to be deconstructed phonetically to arrive at “the ol’ man’s dead.” There are interesting ideas at play, the tale firmly entrenched in Bronze Age DC properties, the emergence of a prehistoric “Robin” archetype, Justice Leaguers tracking Bruce through time with ominous overtones, and an interesting notion of Bruce’s rebirth in the DCU rippling through time. Simply put, the art is fantastic, but I’m not sure if I love the Grant Morrison story. I do really appreciate that it’s very different, making it unique and interesting enough to come back for more. I thought it was a nice package holistically, with a Tom Strong preview, and even an ad for the impending oversized hardcover version of Wednesday Comics. Grade B+.
There are a mere two books I can say I’ll definitely be purchasing this week. Those are Daytripper #6 (DC/Vertigo) and DMZ #53 (DC/Vertigo), which is part 3 of the M.I.A. arc. Aside from those two gems, there are bunch of hmm-I-should-take-a-look-at-that type entries. Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1 (DC) doesn’t sound like the type of book I’d normally buy, but with additional story content for the $3.99 price tag, Grant Morrison, and especially Chris Sprouse (really, this guy should be working more), it starts to get tempting. Birds of Prey #1 (DC) reunites Gail Simone and Ed Benes, with a cast of fun characters, but I’m not sure I’m ready to commit unless this is really astounding. Justice League: Generation Lost #1 (DC) has all the makings of fun nostalgia porn, Keith Giffen handling Booster Gold, Captain Atom, Fire, and Ice as they look into the attempts on several old JLI comrades, but Judd Winick’s involvement doesn’t bode well, I don’t feel like Michael Keaton being my Booster Gold, and it seems less than surprising that the “secret” new villain will probably be a returned-from-the-dead Maxwell Lord. I think it’s disgusting that The House of Ideas is offering Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #1 (Marvel) from Warren Ellis and Kaare Andrews when Ellis still hasn’t finished his regular Astonishing X-Men run, which stalled mid-arc with #33 back in December if I recall correctly. It’s sort of reminiscent of the clusterfuck they pulled during Ellis’ first arc on the title, where they took a multi-month stall to flop out that Ghost Box mini-series mid-arc. It’s kind of insulting to expect your audience to support a mini-series when the company/creative team can’t get their act together on the main title that the mini supposedly supports. Lastly, I’ll take a spin through Daredevil: Cage Match #1 (Marvel), which is a one-shot from Antony Johnston and Sean Chen. Fans of 13 Minutes know that we’re big Johnston fans around these parts, and it’s exciting to see him becoming a rising star in the Marvel U, with subversive work on the main Daredevil title, this one-shot, and the upcoming Shadowland mini-series.
The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1 (Archaia): Luc Jacamon and Matz bring us another tale about the eponymous Killer returning to the only occupation he knows after a period of inactivity. The book hits all the right thematic notes, monotony leading to boredom, and boredom leading to depression. This time out, he’s got more to lose personally, which adds a heightened sense of tension as he comes out of pseudo-retirement. The jobs are suddenly more brazen, closer to home, and the Venezuelan oil connections provide an offbeat mystery that begins to unfold. Even moreso than the first volume in my recollection, the book is full of thought provoking ideas worthy of further contemplation, inducing that brand of self-reflection that qualifies it as "art" in my subjective definition. There’s an interesting page of digression which reads as a primer on the inherent hypocrisy of organized religion. The Killer himself, and by extension – the audience, attempts to find his place in the world, to navigate his existence and how he interacts with the world around him. Surprisingly, he finds himself with an ethical objection that runs contrary to his chosen profession. There’s smart placement of other literary references, like the Gabriel Garcia Marquez selection, which is a particularly interesting choice for anyone who’s read that specific Marquez classic. Amid the pleasant variety of earth tones and stunning use of color and shadow, there are disturbing philosophies about culture, about people who “have to hang on to their shitty lives because they know it could all get shittier any moment.” Like it’s phenomenal precursor, Modus Vivendi continues the rich tradition of being a fascinating character study, a deep look inside the complex psyche, and the conundrum of moral flexibility. Grade A.
Demo #4 (DC/Vertigo): “Waterbreather,” Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan’s latest, superficially reads like a disturbing primer on childhood torment. However, it’s more like the first volume of Demo than perhaps any of the other issues in the second volume to date, in that it focuses on the weird manifestation of latent adolescent powers under duress. It’s almost like Wood’s indie mutant riff, probably informed by residual lines of thought from his time on Generation X. I think if you put this tale in context with his larger body of work, you see the familiar motif of disenfranchised youth trying to find their place in the world. It’s another strong example of the writer’s core competency, shared thematically among the majority of his stories. His characters might be power usurped Vikings, or half Japanese/half Swedish mobsters, or embedded war correspondents, but they all share his fascination with identity. It makes me want to write a book about Brian Wood, the way that Timothy Callahan wrote Grant Morrison: The Early Years. I think I’d call mine Brian Wood: Master of Identity, or Brian Wood: Identity Revealed, yeah that’s better. Heh. Anyway, I found the back matter interesting, particularly the gap between a true full script and plot-style scripting. It really shows the true collaboration between writer and artist here. It’s deceptive to see how easily Cloonan shines; whether it’s the inky water, birds flying through the tree line, stray wisps of hair, or facial expressions, she makes translating words on the page really look effortless. I guess my only real complaint is that the story feels like it ends a bit abruptly. I’ve realized that, at times, Wood’s writing can be a lot like Warren Ellis’, and I mean this as compliment, that it’s not so much about the satisfaction around the story’s ultimate destination, but about the style and subtlety, the glorious points of digression, along the journey. If you’re waiting for the big blockbuster payoff to blow your ears back, you have to consciously adjust your mindset to get maximum appreciation. His work is more cerebral, and in an age of spandex spectacle, that's a welcome shift, even if it does require some additional effort on the part of the audience. Grade A-.
The Way It Crumbles (Boston Comics Roundtable): From the very first page, I could tell instantly that I was going to like the new comic from Dan Mazur (firstname.lastname@example.org). I love the extremely detailed backgrounds, like the opening page establishing shot of a decayed village street. In other panels, it’s a fun Easter Egg hunt, trying to find all of the various fantasy tropes, characters like the scarecrow, death, pan, minotaurs, and centaurs are typically found lurking in the backgrounds, providing a sense that the world he creates extends beyond the panel borders. Mazur’s art has a complex, lived-in look that he achieves by varying the line weight. Sometimes he uses light crosshatching to achieve the desired texture, other times we see thick syrupy inks to provide the right mood. Looking at the way he stages shots and frames panels, it’s easy to see Mazur’s cinematic experience shine through. He also has a natural ear for dialogue that’s probably been aided by script writing. It’s complete with the small pauses, stammers, and stutters which mar real speech patterns and have been hallmarks of guys like David Mamet or Aaron Sorkin for years. It’s the mixture of these realistically flawed speech patterns and smart effective word choices that pulls readers into this tale about a culinary reporter investigating the authentic cuisine of the “magick folke.” Mazur also displays a fluid understanding of how the medium works, relying on many silent panels to tell his story visually, such as the sequence of the drunken elf informant passing out on a table. The tale quickly spins into one of forest elves baking cookies in a hollow tree. Sound familiar? When the commentary about corporate greed winning the battle of culinary creativity is coupled with stoic deadpan humor like “I make a mean patty melt,” it’s a hit. It almost feels like a dark children’s story, proof that Mazur’s job experience in other sectors is a boon to his success in sequential art. This is definitely a creator I’d like to see more from. Grade A.
It seems like a rare week when so many things catch my eye. Oh, I’m not saying I’m actually going to purchase all of these books, but an inordinate amount seemed noteworthy. In order to separate the wheat from the chaff, let’s begin with what I will definitely be buying. First up is Batman & Robin #12 (DC). It’s the last issue with artist Andy Clarke. I was skimming all of my back issues over the weekend and sheesh, even “the good ones” by Frank Quitely appear to have been better in my memory than in person. I think I’ll stick it out for the next Frazer Irving arc and then seriously evaluate my need to continue on with this title. Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan deliver Demo Volume 2 #4 (DC/Vertigo). It gave me a panic-filled feeling when I realized the series is already half over; it seems like it just began. If the first two issues were more cerebral and subdued, the third certainly woke me up and seemed to move with the most overt energy. I’d have bought them all anyway, but seeing the cover and blurb for the sixth issue recently solicited really sold me, since it seemed reminiscent of Volume 1’s last issue – Mon Dernier Jour Avec Toi – which became an instant favorite single issue of all time. Uncanny X-Men #524 (Marvel) is also out this week and I finally realized why I keep buying this series, despite having some problems with it. Here’s a funny little secret – I own a run of Uncanny X-Men from #94 (yeah, that one) to #266 (yeah, the first appearance of Gambit) and most of those are CGC graded and “slabbed” at 9.6 or better (except the #94, which is an 8.5). I did that a long time ago when I collected Silver and Bronze Age books pretty hard. Around the time I was putting this run together, a friend of mine mentioned that he has a run that he began collecting as a kid that goes from #200 up until the present, and that he bought those all individually as they came out. At some point, I remember saying to myself, huh, I wonder if I could ever buy 100 issues in a row, new as they came out. I think I started with #500. While I’ve enjoyed-more-than-despised the majority of Matt Fraction’s run so far (the scale does tip in that direction slightly), it’s sort of weird to think that I’m already a quarter of the way there. And when I say “weird,” I mean slightly embarrassing, because I think I’m subconsciously doing it for the wrong reasons. Ugh. Help. Now, The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1 (Archaia) is the type of comic I should be buying. I loved the first series, the Franco-Belgian thriller from Luc Jacamon and Matz, and I hope this six issue series lives up to the quality of the first. Rounding out the definite buys is Terry Moore’s Echo #21 (Abstract Studio), which never ever disappoints. It remains simply one of the best books being published today.
I can’t say that this will be much of a report, more like my general impressions, but it’s become tradition around here so I couldn’t resist posting something. The bottom line is that since moving to San Diego, I’ve really been soured on the experience by retailers who don’t seem to understand the point of the day and completely botch its execution. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I’ve ranted at length about it numerous times before, but to me there are two primary tenets to understand about the day. One, the point is to give away free comics. Now, that might seem like a Master Of The Obvious comment to make, but you’d be surprised how retailers don’t seem to grasp that this is an opportunity to get comics into the hands of non-readers with a no-risk proposition. Two, the promise of free comics only gets people to your store, it’s up to you to do something with them once they’ve arrived, namely converting their interest into sales, sustained sales if you can, by growing your customer base.
BodyWorld (Pantheon): On the back of this hardcover book, David Mazzucchelli’s pull quote pays homage to music critic John Landau’s description of Bruce Springsteen and reads “I have seen the future of comics, and its name is Dash Shaw.” I don’t disagree with that bit of projection, but in the here and how, I’d say that Dash Shaw is the Gary Panter of our generation. Instead of infusing comics into his Fine Art the way that Panter did, Shaw seems to infuse Fine Arts into his comics. To see the most ostensible connection between the two artists, look no further than Shaw’s “Origin Story” for Johnny Scarhead. For me, it was a big signpost that called to mind the uncredited work that Panter did for Marvel’s reimaging of Omega: The Unknown about the origin of the Omega Corps. If that’s an obvious visual cue that connects the two, the more subtle clues in their shared approach involve the way Shaw blends so many cultural influences and nods to various arts into his work. There are literary references to John Norman’s Goreans, advertising imagery, the still life of Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, dance moves from Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal video, and plenty of sci-fi nods to George Lucas’ “Outer Rim,” and James Cameron’s “No Fate” carved into a table. All the while, Shaw is careful to root the endeavor in comics, with some panel emulation of Charles Burns’ Black Hole, a copy of Ross Campbell’s underrated sleeper Wet Moon in the background, a Professor X and Magneto analogy, and Alan Moore’s The Courtyard from Avatar Press, which seems to be a seminal work in this 2060 setting.