Monday, August 21, 2017

Defenders is kinda crap


Since it was first reported - before even the release of Netflix's Daredevil - that the different Marvel Netflix shows would culminate in Defenders, a pure fanboy piece of me groaned. I'm a fan of the original Defenders comic book series, and that team was nothing like the Bendis-wet-dream this version was. But as time passed and the first two Marvel Netflix shows - Daredevil and Jessica Jones - proved their worth, I could begrudgingly admit something cool might be in store at the end of all this and even the disappointing first season of Iron Fist didn't spoil my hopes.

After watching the first season of Defenders, I am unpleasantly surprised to say my inner fan boy has been vindicated.

Defenders isn't bad. It has great acting talent and some fun, gripping action scenes. But it's a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn't work.

What resonates about the best of the Marvel Netflix seasons is that they are far more than super-hero stories, or far less depending on how you look at it.  Strip away all the super crap and there's still powerful stories there. Daredevil is about a man fighting his inner demons. Jessica Jones is the story of a woman surviving horrific trauma. Luke Cage is about redemption and investing in your community. Iron Fist may even be about something worthwhile, but it was too much of a ball of crap to make the effort thinking about.

But Defenders...Defenders is about Defenders. Defenders is about hey-they're-all-together-now! Defenders is Avengers without all the fun. Defenders is just another f---ing super-hero story. It doesn't have the disarming believability or raw emotional power of Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Just super people doing super shit in a super way.

And, you know, I can't help but wonder if it isn't because unlike most of the Marvel properties that have been adapted, Defenders just comes from vapor. It has no foundation in the comics. There is no source material. Yes, all four characters exist in the comics, and yes there has - on and off - been a super-hero team called The Defenders. But these four characters have never existed in this way, and the Defenders of the comics were never anything like this.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying if Marvel Studios had given us a TV series that featured the Hulk, Doctor Strange, and the Sub-Mariner fighting a techno-wizard named Yandroth (the origin of the team), that this would have given us a powerful yet fun super-hero thrill ride.

I'm saying that the best of Marvel's adaptations are rooted in the source material. Sure, there are many differences, but there's always something, some connective tissue between what's in the comics and what's on the screen.

This Defenders had no source material. Sure, there's a comic out NOW with this team, but that only happened because the series was already planned. This team has no soul. No foundation. This team is the outcome of someone asking Brian Michael Bendis "Who would your Fantastic Four be?" And they slapped the Defenders name on it because it wasn't being used anywhere else yet.

I am looking forward to the third season of Daredevil and the second season of Jessica Jones. I am cautiously optimistic about Punisher since Jon Bernthal was one of the best things about Daredevil's second season. But if Defenders or Iron Fist have second seasons, well. That's what owning books is for.




P.S. I cannot stand Netflix's Danny Rand. And I mean it how I say it. I have no issues with Finn Jones. I just find the version of Danny Rand they've chosen for the Netflix shows - the no-sense-of-humor Captain Destiny Danny Rand - annoying as hell. Ironically - despite all my talk of being faithful to source material - this Iron Fist is quite accurate in regards to his earlier stories, whereas the hero I grew to enjoy was the much later and much less ass-clenched version written by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction in Immortal Iron Fist.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Shut Up and Take My Money 3/22/2017: Trump and Night Vale

So my girlfriend sent me news about a book yesterday that immediately made me think, "Shut up and take my money." Then, just this morning, I saw a link to a graphic novel which inspired the same response. In the hopes that the future holds more of these moments of blissful anticipation and dreadfully involuntary money drain, I decided to make a tiny little feature of it. I welcome you to today's brief edition of...






First, it just so happens that I am on the last 50 pages of the Welcome to Night Vale novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, so it can't help but feel a little portentous to learn a second Night Vale novel - It Devours! - was recently announced for release this October.
 
 
 
 
And just this morning I was lucky enough to read the announcement that Eisner award-winning Shannon Wheeler has created a graphic novel of illustrated Trump Tweets: Sh*t My President Says
 
I will be pre-ordering both books, like, yesterday.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Band Name Ideas March 15th, 2017

3. Butt Dust


Date: 3/8/2017
Source: From Jen R., who found it on the Captain Grammar Pants Facebook page.


4. Cerebral Scandinavian Comedies

(I cannot even begin to figure out what picture to use for this)

3/9/2017
Source: A disturbingly specific category recommended to my girlfriend by Netflix


5. Bug Army


(This image is from the anthology comic Cinema Purgatorio #8 published Avatar Press; specifically from the strip A More Perfect Union by Max Brooks and Gabriel Andrade)

3/11/17
Source: My girlfriend describing the gathering of Boxelder bugs in her apartment.


6. Disruptive Kisses

3/11/17
Source: My girlfriend describing how my kisses always tend to change the subject (awwww).


6. Evil Ratbird


(This image is from some damn DC comic; probably a Batman one)

3/11/17
Source: My description of what bats look like during a discussion with my girlfriend regarding why people are freaked out by bats.


7. Honking Bobos

3/13/17
Source: A term my girlfriend created to describe sex. Nope. Really.


Band Name Idea list amassed since March 8th, 2017:

DICKHAED
Drugged-Up Government Bear
Butt Dust
Cerebral Scandinavian Comedies
Bug Army
Disruptive Kisses
Evil Ratbird
Honking Bobos

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Mick's Choose-Your-Own-Review: Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme #6


By Robbie Thompson and Javier Rodriguez, et al.
From Marvel
$3.99 USD


Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme #6 is written as a choose-your-own-adventure story.

If you think this is awesome, click here.

If you think this is stupid, or if you think this is cool but does not necessarily reach a level of creativity or quality which you would define as "awesome," or if you think that the word "awesome" has been corrupted to refer to quality when it was originally meant to be something that literally inspired awe and so resent the use of the word in this context in general, or if you feel completely neutral, or if you just think the lone fact that Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme #6 is written as a choose-your-own-adventure story is not enough to make an informed opinion, click here.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Single Issue Voter - Royal City #1




By Jeff Lemire
From Image
$4.99 USD

I had no fucking clue Jeff Lemire could draw.

I had no clue because I came to Lemire's career like a punk, like a jerk, like everything else Robert Deniro's character will call you before he cracks your head open with the bottom of his boot. I know Jeff Lemire only through his more recent work at Marvel; specifically the impressive series Old Man Logan and Moon Knight. I suppose those titles should've been enough to let me know Lemire might be just as talented with drawing, since the visuals in those books are compelling enough that even the guy who just wrote the script had to know a thing or two about how to make things look.

Royal City #1 opens up with elderly Peter in his kitchen. Peter's nagging wife chases him into the garage where he keeps a hoard of old radios. We think he's the narrator at first, even after hearing an impossible voice come out of one of his radios triggers a stroke, but we're in for a surprise there.

Lemire's drawing style is the perfect companion to his story.  The faces of family we follow around Royal City have an unfinished, sketchy, yet extremely expressive and distinct look. The result is an irony: that while Lemire's renderings are less concerned with hiding the reality that they're drawings, their non-style expressiveness makes them seem more real than the comparatively sleeker and more carefully inked geriatric Wolverines or Egyptian themed crime-fighters of Lemire's Marvel work.

I am hesitant to say too much about what we know so far regarding the story of Royal City for the sake of aoviding spoilers.  Suffice to say, all the members of the scattered family we meet in Royal City live with a common absence that is also a common presence, and there is some wonderful mystery around the nature of this thing. There is, to be sure, a supernatural element to Royal City, but this is no Twin Peaks.  It's too soon to tell, but I don't think we'll be seeing any séances or battles with Lovecraftian cult members or anything like that.  I don't think anyone's going to find a hatch with numbers or a little dancing man in a Black Lodge.  Royal City feels like, first and foremost, a very human story about a family that has been in quiet agony for decades, and it's a welcome addition to my pull list.

Single Issue Voter - Astro City #42



By Kurt Busiek and Matthew Clark, et al.
From DC/Vertigo
$3.99 USD

Familiar and new, the latest issue of Astro City gives us the story of Mister Manta: a super-villain marooned on an island after a battle with the aquatic hero Mermaid.  Separated from civilization for decades, Mister Manta has built himself a home on the island as well as an experimental set of rocket powered wings he hopes will get him home and back on top of the bad guy food chain.

Regular penciller Brent Anderson is replaced with Matthew Clark in this issue, and his sharper edges bring a nice change of pace without contrasting too much from the rest of the series, and the same could be said of his more modern sensibility.

The theme of this issue - of a character feeling trapped and coming to question his/her perception of being trapped - is not a new one to Astro City.  Mister Manta's shelter on his island, while constructed from nothing more complicated than bamboo and grass, is more impressive than anything that Gilligan and the Skipper ever slapped together in a hurry. The house is a multi-leveled structure and when we first meet him he is considering adding a new "wing." But soon he pushes aside the notion, opting instead to throw his energies toward his escape. Once opportunity arises however, Mister Manta finds himself questioning exactly what it is he wants.

The theme is a recurring one in Astro City, but Busiek's dressed it in interesting new clothing.

Regular visitors to Astro City will likely be reminded of the villain Junkman from Astro City #10 (from the second volume, published by Image). Junkman wants to pull off one more perfect heist before he retires, and he succeeds: getting away with millions under the noses of Astro City's heroes.  We see the ageing crook relaxing on a sun-soaked beach, but eventually the fact that Junkman's greatest victory was such that no one will ever know about it is too much for the old fool, and he returns to Astro City where he predictably returns to his life of crime and is more predictably captured and put on trial.

Astro City #42 turns the Junkman story on its head. Mister Manta is already on the sun-soaked beach, has been there for decades, and is trying desperately to get home. But once the possiblility to return becomes a reality, Mister Manta doesn't know what to do.

It's also interesting to wonder if maybe Astro City #42 is the answer to the question of why and how so many super-villains have headquarters on remote islands.  Maybe every super-villain is just someone who is A) trapped, B) resourceful, and C) never sure whether or not they want to go home.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Single Issue Voter - All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1


By Josh Bayer and Herb Trimpe, et al.
From Fantagraphics
$4.99 USD

I am not usually one to speak in memes, and have been known to knee-jerk a sigh as soon as someone responds to any kind of online conversation with a meme. However when I saw an article announcing that Fantagraphics was going to feature its own cooperative super-hero narrative, that it would fuse the work of contemporary indy creators with that of old school pros, that the very first issue of this new comic book line would posthumously publish the final professional comics work of the late Herb Trimpe, and that the first hero to get the spotlight would be a dude with f---in' giant purple fists sticking out of his shoulders, I suddenly understood all you meme-happy trolls because there was really only one reasonable way to respond:




So far, this All Time Comics is pretty great. As expected, it's a love letter back to the Silver Age of comics; to the days of letters pages and goofy ads, back when we heard super-heroes saying "Sweet Christmas" and still thought they were gritty. Every page looks like an old Doctor Strange blacklight poster with vibrant, unreal colors. Alessandro Echevarria's colors are spectacular, and have the seemingly impossible effect of rendering the comic both startlingly new and wonderfully set in yesteryear.

Thankfully, in other ways, it isn't what I expected. When indy guys do super-heroes, they tend to rev up the snark. Not just in indy books like Project: Superior, but even in the majors' own comics, like the Strange Tales anthology series Marvel released with indy creators handling their blu-ray selling headliners. And snark is good, snark is great, but eventually it just gets douchey. Eventually you just get tired of all the hipster-happy bullshit with the super-heroes with funny names and the incredibly poignant revelations. You feel like Tyler Durden on the airplane, asking his weaker half how being clever has worked for him so far.

Or they go the other route. They forget the snark and get very serious. They let us know that what they're about to show us are the true guts and bones of that thing we call "super-hero." That they will cleverly show us in ways we could never have imagined on our own exactly what super-heroes say about the creators of super-heroes, about the consumers of comics, about America, about the world, and ultimately, about the Human Condition.

All Time Comics, thus far, is neither of these. Which is not say it doesn't have it's funny moments or its own tongue-in-cheek, but it doesn't wallow in it. Josh Bayer and Herb Trimpe want to give you a good, fun comic book story with Crime Destroyer.  That's it.  They want to let the super-heroes be as ridiculous as they should be as well as being as psycho-crazy and brutal as they would be. They don't want to give you slick science fiction explanations to make you think what clearly could never happen could maybe happen. They aren't trying to endlessly lampoon or to redefine anything. Crime Destroyer seems like nothing more than an honest attempt to create a fun and colorful comic book with the soul of the Silver Age couple with the wonderful lack of boundaries today's comics enjoy, and it goddamn succeeds.

Even though this is clearly not a Hulk comic, Crime Destroyer fills me with more Hulk-fan pride than anything I've read from Marvel in years. 

Herb Trimpe was best known for his work on Incredible Hulk, including drawing the first couple of issues that introduced Wolverine. I recall years ago reading an issue of Fantastic Four Unlimited which was the last Marvel series Trimpe worked on. The book was downright ugly and I thought age had been unkind to Trimpe's talent, though having finished reading The Incredible Herb Trimpe a few months ago, I now know Trimpe was experimenting with a new Trimpe-cum-Liefield style that, while producing unfortunate results, was admittedly brave.

But Crime Destroyer, man.  Crime Destroyer is gorgeous. If I had never read the interview book mentioned above, Crime Destroyer would have set me straight regardless. Maybe I'm seeing it through rose-tinted, crazy Hulk-fan glasses, but Trimpe's work on All Time Comics: Crime Destroyer #1 is as good as, if not leagues beyond, any of the work he did on Incredible Hulk or Godzilla: King of Monsters back in the heyday. And Trimpe was 75 when he passed; 75 when he drew Crime Destroyer. Show me how many other comic book artists' work have evolved this well with age.

I am understandably skeptical about whether or not All Time Comics will get the financial support it needs from a market much more bonered up for watching Batman fight Rorschach, but I know it deserves it. If you like comics, you should buy this one. And if they keep being this good, you should keep buying them.

P.S. By the way, All Times Comics team: asking Johnny Ryan to do a variant cover and then letting Al Milgrom trash Prison Pit on the back page? That's, well. That's kind of awesome. Not because I love Milgrom or hate Prison Pit, but, I guess, just because it's allowed. Because an artist was allowed to state an honest opinion about another artist's work. I don't know. I like that it was allowed.

Though if I were Johnny Ryan, I might be pissed.


Single Issue Voter - Scooby Apocalypse #11


By Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Dale Eaglesham, et al.
From DC Comics
$3.99 USD

I know the team of Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis have left some memorable marks on comicdom- perhaps the best remembered being their game-changing Justice League International - but there is something inherently more impressive about granting staying power to a post-apocalyptic Scooby-Doo comic.

I don't know about everyone else, but one of the main differences between my comic book buying experience these days with those from back in the day, is that with all the C and D and freaking Q list properties getting thrown against the wall and with all the reboots and everything else, I am never quite sure whether or not a new series is supposed to be an ongoing or a mini. Scooby Apocalypse is a prime example. I mean, you hear about a post-apocalyptic Scooby-Doo comic and you kind of have that Archie vs. Predator response, right? Like ha ha, yes that is funny and will make a great conversation speed bump, and maybe you'll check out an issue to see if they skin Jughead, but they can't make a whole series out of that, can they?

And here we are, eleven issues in, and I can't speak for the rest of the mom's-basement-loving world, but I'm invested for the long haul.

Suffering guilt over her part in the nanite infestation that caused the apocalypse, Velma abandons the rest of the Scooby gang. Shaggy and Scooby track her across the emptied landscape while Fred and Daphne go through the laptop Velma left behind, detailing her involvement with doomsday, and argue about whether or not their bespectacled comrade even deserves their help.

I'm hoping Dale Eaglesham's work in this issue was only meant as a fill-in and that series regular Howard Porter returns soon. Eaglesham's work is great, but is better suited to a more action oriented comic. Sure, there's plenty of action in this issue of Scooby Apocalypse (including a battle with a pair of what are quite literally Monster Trucks, and in all fairness Eaglesham's renderings of them are fantastic), but Porter's more cartoony style lends itself better to the inherent humor of the story.

Scooby Apocalypse #11 brings us another back-up story showing us a different view of the monster-ravaged world, and in particular we finally meet one of the Infamous "Four," (and am I the only one who keeps reading "The Four" referred to as villains in this series and keeps thinking of Planetary?). Though once I saw there was a back-up, I hoped to get more of the Scrappy-Doo story (hey, guess how many sentences I wrote today I never thought I'd write), meeting Rufus Dinkley was pretty great, too. "The View from the Tower" ends on a particularly violent note, and it's a perfect example of how well the storytellers are balancing the different pieces of this series. The competing dark and childish cartoon elements of Scooby Apocalypse could be very easy to unbalance, to tip over in either direction, but the storytellers are doing a great job.

Each issue costs $3.99, meaning to date I have spent over $40 on Scooby-Doo comics. Never thought that would be a thing. Kind of nice to be surprised.


Parking Paralysis from Arrival at the Day Job (retroactive) March 3rd, 2017

PARKING PARALYSIS: When you've arrived but the song just started so you have to embarrass yourself with headbanging and shit before you turn off the car and go do whatever the hell.



Only song I remember enjoying from that album. I suspect the dog didn't enjoy it that much either.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Single Issue Voter - Deathstroke #14


By Christopher Priest and Joe Bennett, et al.
From DC Comics
$2.99 USD

While DC Comics is earning more of my money these days than at any other time I can remember, and while I have a history of gravitating mainly or solely to super-hero titles, Deathstroke remains the only title from DC's main cooperative universe (a.k.a. Batman Town) that I pick up. And considering the meh to jesus-please-kill-it quality of the last few Deathstroke titles, I sure as hell wouldn't be picking it up if DC hadn't gone and done the thing I didn't dare hope anyone would be able to do: they convinced Christopher Priest to write funnybooks again.

I don't like admitting it, but sometimes Priest confuses the hell out of me, and the slick bastard does it in such a way that I can't help but say to myself, "well, it's probably me who's the asshole for being confused."

Many of the hallmarks of Priest's innovative Black Panther continue here with Deathstroke, and sometimes it's not the easiest stuff to parse through. Here, just as in the Marvel series, Priest weaves intricate conspiracies too complex to not be based on real global socio-economic fuckery and injects it into the comparatively cartoon world of a man in bright blue-and-orange tights. He also hasn't been shy about employing the Tarantino-esque time shifts that helped define his Black Panther. Put all of that into a mixing bowl with the simple fact that I do not know my DC continuity as well as I should whereas Priest (who apparently did not know who Deathstroke was when he was approached by DC to write the series) has done his research as thoroughly as ever and his stories reflect this, you can end up with a bunch of comic books that impress the hell out of this grown up Marvel kid, but also leave him feeling a little dizzy.

Whether it's just my imagination or not, as Deathstroke has continued, Priest has eased up on some of  his more defining tools, and honestly it's been a relief to me. For example, in this most recent issue, Priest still reserves a black panel to give us each scene's name, but as far as I can tell, each scene actually unfolds in chronological order. Like, linear. Like, as if one thing happened and then another happened and, hence, this is how these things were portrayed.

Wow.  I really have a knack for writing positive reviews that can tend to sound pretty snarkily negative, huh?

Okay, so let me be clear; I liked Deathstroke #14.  I like Deathstroke. It seems likely I'll keep picking up Deathstroke as long as Priest is writing in it. Because of awesome.




Single Issue Voter - AmeriKarate #1


By Corey Kalman, Brockton McKinney, and Devin Roth, et al.
$3.99 USD

With an impressive crotch bulge and an American flag belt buckle, Sam the karate master and his legless, armless brother Rick come to the troubled town of Baconville - the town that hates karate - and their lives will never be the same. 

So, yeah, the biggest weakness I think in naming your comic AmeriKarate, is that it is perhaps the greatest title of anything ever in living memory, meaning you will have a lot to live up to. 

You get exactly what you'd have to expect from a comic called AmeriKarate: humor that's as merciless as its ridiculous violence, absurd parodying of all things Chuck Norris, lampooning all those eighties action movie tropes, and - sure - boobs.

I'm not completely sold on AmeriKarate, but I'm not giving up on it just yet either. Most of us, myself included, are saturated in the ironic, mature, cartoon parodies and satires that fill our pop culture landscape. Without Archer and Family Guy, AmeriKarate's job would be a lot easier.

(though to be fair, it probably wouldn't exist, either) 

There seems to be a marriage between Roth's art and Kalman/McKinney's writing that just isn't there yet. Stuff that should be funny isn't. You just kind of go, "Ha, yes, that is provocative and very much like how the movies do things but slightly funnier. No, I said slightly." 

I was convinced this would be my last issue of AmeriKarate, but a well delivered line toward the end of the issue reeled me back in. I'll give it a few more issues, at least. There is potential here. And, as was noted, possibly the greatest title of anything ever. 



Single Issue Voter - Man-Thing #1


By R.L. Stine & German Peralta, et al.
from Marvel Comics
$3.99 USD


So, Man-Thing talks now? The f--- did that happen?

Of all the new titles Marvel's letting off the chain this month, Man-Thing is the one I've been most looking forward to. The original series from the seventies is probably the first bonafide horror comic of which I could ever call myself a fan (though I didn't start reading it until long after the first and second Man-Thing series had closed their respective doors). I've never read anything by R.L. Stine, though I figured he's sold more books than I so trusting him with Marvel's favorite plant monster might be a fine idea. In fact, I was so convinced it was a smart purchase that rather than ask my local comics seller to just hold the first issue for me so I could decide whether or not I'd add it to my regular pull list, I bypassed the screening process entirely and had him go ahead and throw it on my list of monthly reads; affording the new Man-Thing a privilege I usually reserve only for the kind of proven creative teams that just never miss, or - alternatively - anything with the Hulk in it.

Kind of  regretting that now.

The issue opens on what appears to be a battle between Man-Thing and some kind of giant bug monster thing. Soon, we learn Man-Thing is in a movie studio and the giant bug monster thing is just a dude in a suit. While being urged to stay as far from his office furniture as possible, Man-Thing is fired by a heartless studio executive who is disappointed with Man-Thing's test screenings and the nausea the swamp monster inspired. Wandering the streets of Hollywood and bemoaning his luck, Man-Thing is attacked by what appears to be the older, mindless version of himself.

There is something deadening to the narrative tone of Man-Thing, like it doesn't know what it wants to be. Once you learn the monster is an aspiring actor on a movie set, you think it's going to be something in the vein of the Chip Zdarsky/Joe Quinones Howard the Duck series, but it doesn't seem to know it's own place in its own absurdity.

Man-Thing is unsure about whether or not it's supposed to take itself seriously. It's got a Sliver Age sense of humor that's poking fun at the Silver Age, but not ironically. When Man-Thing says to his mindless doppelganger, "You want to dance? How about if I lead!" and then punches him, you aren't actually sure whether or not Stine thinks, "How about if I lead," is funny. Like, does he think that's oh-let's-lampoon-the-corny-old-comics-dialogue funny? Or is he actually thinking it's funny ha-ha, like I will make a noise while reading this that is largely involuntary and signifies being entertained?

I don't know. I don't know which. Not a fan just yet.

I don't know if this will be standard for the rest of the mini, but this issue also ends with the 4-page Stine-written back-up story "Put A Ring On It." The story features wonderful art by Daniel Johnson and Mat Lopes, but the story itself feels like an afterthought, and its surprise ending will tear a horrified "meh" from your quivering bowels.

So Stine & co. get one more issue to prove to me I'm stupid. Otherwise, I'm flushing this series and picking up a copy of one of the Steve Gerber collections instead.

(though probably not right away because money)

(and honestly I'll probably eventually pick up the Gerber collections regardless of the quality of this series)

(but I needed some kind of closer)


Random from March 2nd, 2017

The symptoms of the great disease of America can all be summed up with "Gimme Gimme Gimme" by Black Flag.