I started to feel a little guilty that there hadn’t been any
new content on the site for a week, so I decided to post these quick capsule
reviews, which are essentially just extensions of the micro-reviews I’ve been
blasting out on Twitter. This is roughly a third of the floppies that were
shoved into my hands at San Diego Comic Con 2013. Enjoy.
Letter 44 #1: Black & White Preview Variant (Oni Press):
I fell in love with Strange Attractors and was eager to sample more original work from the writer. As far as I’m concerned, Charles Soule delivered one of the belles of the ball
with this book, which is an extremely clever hybrid of The West Wing and The
X-Files, in a way that’s completely different than Saucer Country, which was
pitch-billed as the same. That said, maybe this is more The West Wing meets
Apollo 18. It involves very thinly disguised analogues of Barack Obama and
George W. Bush, with the former succeeding the latter, and receiving a
heartfelt reflective letter, as is the presidential custom. In it, the “W”
character explains the unseen challenges of the role, including the fact that, oh by
the way, I know you all thought I was an idiot, but I did what I felt was in the best interest of the country, I entered the country into multiple foreign wars so that we’d have battle
hardened troops to thwart an alien invasion being detected somewhere in the
solar system by a covert manned space mission, good luck! Gulp. It’s socially relevant,
shifts perspectives, and already offered twists. It’s fantastic! The full color
regular series doesn’t come out until October, which now feels like an
excruciating wait after so deeply enjoying this preview copy.
Ten Grand #4: Convention Exclusive (Image): I’ve been really
impressed with previous installments of this book, and it’s still visually
enthralling, but for some reason this issue started to wear thin on me. There
were a couple of typos up front, some dense exposition about the “rules” of the
occult in this world, and I already feel as if the narrative is becoming both
a) a little repetitive, and b) a little convoluted as to who is doing what to
whom and why. Your mileage, of course, may vary. The “actual” regular fourth
issue isn’t due out for a couple of weeks, so you’re way ahead of the curve if
you snagged a copy of this at SDCC last week.
Fatale #15: Ghost Variant (Image): I tuned out of Fatale,
and Criminal, and much of Ed Brubaker’s recent work for that matter, so it was
a little awkward chatting with him about this series when he signed my copy.
It’s perfectly well executed and Sean Phillips’ style has never looked better
(much more refined and less “blocky” than the old WildStorm stuff I remember
him working on), but I’m just personally burned out on the whole noir thriller
vibe. The Darwyn Cooke cover on this edition is gorgeous, though.
Sidekick #1: Convention Exclusive (Image): It’s another big
debut from JMS’ Joe’s Comics imprint; this copy I was lucky enough to have
signed by both JMS and cover artist Whilce Portacio, while interior art is
handled by Tom Mandrake. The premise of a washed up sidekick trying to get his
act together after his mentor is supposedly gunned down is right up my
superhero deconstructionist alley because of the way it plays with the
Batman/Robin or Captain America/Bucky archetypes, but as caustically
interesting (the “Robin” character shaking down a prostitute for a beej in a
back alley) as it was, I just never felt that the campy awkward art ever stood
up to the gravitas of the script. Could be something I'll revisit in trade.
The Mysterious Strangers #1-2 (Oni Press): It was nice to
find a Chris Roberson project that I felt I finally connected with. This is a
really fun, stylish, fast-paced, 1960’s style supernatural espionage throwback.
I can see myself sticking with this for a while. Verity Mills is a name I’ll
remember, reflective of the type of distinct characters and characterization
being offered by this team. With other ongoing creator owned series like Letter
44 debuting, it really feels like Oni Press is making an effort to compete in
the space largely being led and dominated by Image Comics right now.
Chew #35: “Destroy Savoy” Convention Exclusive (Image): I
still don’t quite grasp the rabid appeal of this title. I know a person who
claims this as his favorite modern book, shoot, it wouldn’t even crack my Top
30. The art is reasonably attractive, but the visual gags in the background
didn’t make me laugh. Nor did any of the writing. It’s just a pleasant read
that I stare blankly at, endlessly waiting for the funny to arrive. Typos aside
(a growing concern with the books I picked up at SDCC, as you’ll see), I think
Layman and Guillory have built a very fascinating world to play in, but it doesn’t
tickle my funny bone in the way its rabid fans usually describe.
Misc. Others: I picked up and read through about half a
dozen other small press books from SDCC that were just generally awful. I’m not
trying to subtweet; I’m just not interested in naming names when it comes to
these books. I’m still old-school enough to think that even bad press is good
press. These books just didn’t offer any type of compelling or memorable
premise, the dialogue was completely unnatural and failed the “read it out loud”
test, ideas that could have been crisply relayed in a page were strung out over
several, I generally think story ideas should have a discernible beginning, middle, and end, and the art was atrocious, looking like failed desktop publishing
experiments from the 90’s.
I saved one for the tail end of this particular
reading session because it superficially looked better. It had some really
attractive art that reminded me of the wispy detail of old Joe Quesada, circa
his X-Factor effort with Peter David. But, I cracked this book open to find
literally 10 typos on the first page. When I say “literally” here, I literally
mean literally, not figuratively. There were actually 10 typos on the very
first page. I’m confounded by this. I don’t understand the logic or
carelessness in the chain of events that leads from someone wanting to be a
comic book writer, to writing an actual script, to finding an artist, inker,
and colorist willing to work on the book, to spending loads of money publishing
it, spending another load of money getting yourself to the big dance at SDCC,
and then having the gumption to hand your project over to a critic as an example of
your foot-forward best work, only to discover 10 typos on the very first page.
Really, small publishers? Really? Nobody caught any of these mistakes at any
stage of the process? There were an additional 16 typos littered throughout the
book, but 10 on the very first page? Really? I can overlook something
discretionary like not using my beloved Oxford Comma, but this stuff was way more
basic. Not knowing how to use commas and semicolons correctly? Not knowing that you're supposed to
capitalize the names of continents as proper nouns? Randomly omitted words? Extra letters just
haphazardly sprinkled about like garlic salt and inserted into words for extra flair? Using “citys” and “city’s”
and “cities” interchangeably? Repeatedly? Come the fuck on.