Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Comic Quotes Should Be Good on Fred Van Lente Day!

On the side of this blog are a lot of fine blogs where folks talk about comic books. Each week I pick out ten cool quotes about comics from those blogs during the past comic week. I cannot promise that my picks will be thorough, or even the best quotes. They are just quotes that made me laugh or smile or say, "Good line." Please note that the folks who write on this here blog (Comics Should Be Good) are excluded, as it strikes me as a bit too self-serving to quote any of them here. But be assured that I think they are all quite good!

Let's begin!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Shawn Hoke gives us some pertinent advice regarding Matt Wiegle's Underpanting:
Underpanting is a twelve page black and white mini-comic hiding a little known myth between its covers. You see - and now you’re in on this whole myth thing, mind you – the underpants traditionally worn by the devil have special powers. They’re seductive and powerful. They can promise you things and deliver. They can let you down when you need them the most. They can startle your enemies and fool your friends. But, just as often the fool will be you.

After searching through musty libraries and newspaper stacks, Matt Wiegle has collected seven unfortunate tales and condensed them into twelve pages. Most of these stories are distilled into a single powerful tale, but one of the tales is spread out over three pages.

Underpanting is available to anyone with a dollar to burn. Just go to the Partyka store and push a few buttons. I’d do it if I were you. This is one of those things that you don’t want to be kept in the dark about.
Earth's Mightiest Mortal, Paul Teel, gives us a nice review of Fell #3 (or Smell #3, as Paul puts it),
I bought this issue on a whim and I tell you I was pleasantly surprised. Ellis loses a lot of the annoying tics that have come to define his work. And though his protagonist is only a shade away from becoming the typical Ellis mouthpiece, I think the format has caused him to have to shed a lot of that extraneous cynicism. This work, at least this issue anyway, feels a lot less...overwhelmingly negative than normal. Which is odd, considering the subject matter and the very fact that it's called "Fell."

Ok, THAT'S an annoying tic that he didn't get rid of...he really desperately needs to stop giving his characters proper names that're actual nouns and verbs! I'm waiting for "SWIRL" starring Thomas Toilet and Jonathan Flush. Can you guys tell I have to go to the bathroom as I write this? This is not a gimmick for the sake of potty humor. I actually have to go, right now. Wish me luck in there.

And I may be alone on this, but I love the artwork.

I'm going to go back and find #1. If #1 and #3 are as good as #2, I'll be adding it to my pull list. I'm not a huge fan of the cheapass binding, but for $1.99, it's worth it. I'm not reading this shit because I care about that.
Mistress of Density Rose returns from a nice break to give us her thoughts about All-Star Superman #1,
Reducing the origin story to one page was marvelously cheeky precisely because Morrison could. We all know the tale, so there's no need to waste time on it. On to the next bit of business and then the next and then the next. This debut had a fantastic pace, deftly bobbing and weaving in the fight against the Exposition Fairy to explain how this universe is different from everywhere else in the DCU (a skill that will prove more necessary and sadly more rare in the coming year). In no order: Lex Luthor's status is revealed, Lois Lane and the staff at the Daily Planet is brought in, the peril explained, the protagonists introduced, the primum mobile plot device brought out, and the status of Lois and Clark is not only explained but also changed... all in 22 pages.

Brian Bendis's head is still spinning three weeks later.

After all this time, there are no truly unique spins on Superman anymore. But Morrison does cobble together a pretty good basis for a story arc: a Superman in cahoots with a mad scientist benefactor (or is he?), a Superman who knows that he is dying a slow death and has time to make preparations, and a Lex Luthor who is far more clever than anyone else has written him recently save for Brian Azzarello. These bits -- along with the last page reveal by Clark -- have legs.
The Dark Knight Detective David Campbell talks about New Mutants #40, which featured the Avengers fighting Magneto,
Claremont keeps putting Magneto in situations where he has to choose the difficult path, the noble path – and he does, even if it’s not his first instinct. These issues made me really dig Magneto as a character, and I regretted his inevitable slide back into villainy. I thought the reformed Magneto was a more interesting character than the master villain Magneto, but what do I know?

Before The Avengers can take Magneto into custody, The New Mutants show up and rescue him, teleporting their headmaster out of harm’s way. The White Queen lets the kids go and they return to Xavier’s and everybody’s happy.

Claremont gets an “A” score for his portrayal of The Avengers in this issue. Sure, they are the antagonists of the story and we’re rooting for Magneto, but their unwillingness to give the guy the benefit of the doubt (except Cap) makes sense. They don’t act like assholes because the plot demands it; logic and circumstance make them the antagonists. Plus, Claremont captures their teamwork and professionalism well.
J. Donelson, the Spectacular Pickytarian, supplies us with a nice look at IDW's Chicanos,
Chicanos #1 - I was fully prepared to overlook IDW's reprint of this European comic, but then I noticed Eduardo Risso's name on the cover. I picked it up for a flip-through, and sure enough, the 100 Bullets artist handled the visuals for this black and white crime story. I'm a huge fan of Risso's; he never fails to come up with inventive layouts, and his beautiful conflation of the three-dimensional demands of narrative storytelling with the 2-D design aspects of the printed page is without peer. He did not disappoint in this book. In fact, the lack of color brought out subtle variations in his line weight that I either never noticed or that simply aren't there in the colored 100 Bullets. His figures writhe and twist across the page, arranged in a tapestry of flowing forms. Risso pushes the ugliness of his characters' faces almost to the point of grotesquerie, stopping just short enough that their character and personality pop off the page before you read a single line of dialogue.

That strength of Risso's is the saving grace for this book, because the one-dimensional characters and thin story would not hold up without it. Carlos Trillo's script does have high points; the crimelord's incompetent flunkies make for solid comic relief and the unexpectedly offbeat look of the detective protagonist is cleverly used as an important and original plot point. The uneven dialogue, however, is sometimes so awkward and clunky that it becomes a major distraction. I suspect that this shortcoming can be traced back to poor translation, but that fact doesn't improve the reading experience.

Another thing that's not in this book's favor is the $4 cover price for a 24-page black and white comic. Fans of Risso's masterful graphic storytelling will get their money's worth, but the script has room for improvement and the awkward translation doesn't help.
The Masked Manhunter, Chris Sims, takes a look at the rather surreal-sounding Champion Sports #2, by DC Comics,
The second story is a tale of the Gridiron, involving Dan, the Quarterback, and Chuck, also known as the Animal, who brutally runs interference for Dan's plays. Dan gets all the credit, naturally, and even though he's a swell guy who makes sure to give credit to Chuck even while nubile coeds are throwing themselves at him, Chuck starts to resent the attention and demands to be made quarterback. Dan, in a show of sportsmanship, agrees, and as it turns out, Chuck's really good at that side, too. Unfortunately, the rest of the team couldn't block a troop of girl scouts, and the coach begs Chuck to go back to his old position. Chuck agrees, saying that he wants to be the Animal again, and goes out to the field to rend hamstrings and snap legs--LT style!

The team wins, of course, and when he's getting interviewed by a TV crew, Dan says that he couldn't have done it without Chuck. Then--and I swear this is true--it cuts to Dan, now middle-aged and balding, sitting in his armchair while his homely wife cooks dinner, watching The Animal play pro on TV, and wondering what that must be like. He now sells insurance.

The moral of the story? I have no idea.
The Man of Steel, David Welsh, takes a look at Cromartie High School (see T, I got some Cromartie action on the site!),
Last week, a copy of Cromartie High School Vol. 4 (by Eiji Nonaka, ADV) accidentally wound up in my reserves. It was a slow week, so I let it ride. After giving the first volume a quick browse, I wasn’t really motivated to pick it up, though I’d heard good things about it.

What an odd, odd book. It’s absurd and utterly deadpan, and it very rarely makes much sense, but it doesn’t really seem to need to. Robots? A gorilla? An angry horse? A guy who may or may not be Freddie Mercury? Everything just seems to blend in without much comment, creating an atmosphere that’s discordant and weirdly relaxing at the same time.

It isn’t a consistently great book, in my opinion. At points, it isn’t much better than the fight manga it parodies. But the highs are insanely so, like when two thugs talk about thinking globally and acting locally while mucking out a stall. And it’s almost always likable.

So I’ll chalk this one up as a happy accident and keep Cromartie High School in reserve. A little pointless, rambling absurdity is a good thing every now and then.
The Fastest Man Alive, Johnny Bacardi, takes a gander at Jeff Nicholson's COLONIA: ON INTO THE GREAT LANDS TPB. from AiT-PlanetLar,
Now here's a strange duck, and I'm not necessarily referring to the talking golden egg-laying one which is part of this book's cast- but the entire concept as I understand it, which is that this is the ongoing saga of a young present-day man named Jeff, who along with his two uncles, apparently has some sort of seafaring mishap on a fishing trip and washes ashore only to encounter pirates, lost conquistadors, other assorted magical beings, as well as intelligent fish that arrange themselves inside of clothes and walk upright on land as fish-men of a sort along with the duck which befriends him. Not having read the first collection, I was a little at a loss at first when trying to read this; but after a while I just sort of went along and let myself get caught up in what comes across as a surreal succession of events in place of a narrative; it's like someone's particularly potent and feverish dream which takes place in an exotic, faraway locale- but still a familiar one, at least to anyone who's seen a pirate movie. And it's all done so cheerfully and open-faced, that the dreamlike impression is reinforced even more. Little Nemo worked a lot like this, unless I'm mistaken. The book's biggest liability, for me anyway, is the one thing that creates that cheerfulness: the bland, inoffensive but quite primitive-looking art, which looks to me a lot like Scott McCloud or Paul Chadwick drawing left-handed. Or right-handed, if they're left-handed. You know what I mean. Hardly offputting, and I will always respect anyone who's committed enough to not only write something this elaborate and imaginative, but draw it as well...but I still wonder how good this would be if he had an artist that was as accomplished with the pencil and pen as he was with the wordsmithing and concept. All in all, an engaging epic fantasy that I wish was differently illustrated, but has me curious just the same and I can recommend it to anyone seeking epic fantasies of a more cerebral nature. B+
The Caped Crusader Jog gives a disheartening (but well-written) review of Jeffrey Brown's AEIOU or Any Easy Intimacy,
And when removed from a cumulative effect, the book strikes me as little more than an array of tiny selections from a relationship, though I readily admit that such a thing might be of great interest to some readers. To me, there just isn’t much of interest being said - Jeff and his new girlfriend Sophia meet, they begin dating, they encounter problems, they sort of break things off though they still have sex, then they sort of drift apart, but then they’re apparently still friends, and then Brown infers in an afterward that they’re not yet reconciled. Brown also warns us in that same afterward against taking the work as autobiography: “…this book leaves so much left unsaid that you may as well consider it to be fiction.”

The problem is it’s not particularly engaging fiction; while adept at creating moods, Brown is not as skilled at developing characters - indeed, while Brown admits that Sophia’s side of the story is “necessarily lacking,” it doesn’t quite excuse the fact that I could hardly remember a thing about her after closing the book. She acts largely as a springboard for the creation of one or another emotional beat (as, admittedly, does Brown himself, though he has the benefit of having appeared in two books prior); this isn’t necessarily a problem, if the assorted expressed feelings cohere to create a kaleidoscopic view of a relationship’s emotions, as has happened in Brown’s earlier books. But when the work is as haphazard as this as a single unit, it only draws attention to the lack of individuality afforded the characters, and conversations suddenly have a tinny edge to them. I find myself thinking back to the lovely finale of Clumsy, which suddenly darted backward in time from Brown weeping at his phone, presenting a happier wish for dreams of the future, underscoring the short-lived lifespan of certain relationships. This is universal, and affecting. All of this is absent from the current volume - it’s a collection of things I’ve heard before, and heard better.
Finally, just to show that I have no bias against Mark Waid, I present you this review of Legion of Superheroes by the Man of Tomorrow, Sean Maher,
I really loved Legion of Super-Heroes this week. I mean, I fuckin' loved it. The title has come under fire of late for what folks are calling "pacing issues" or an overall slowness of the central plot. I really can't agree with you folks at all.

You know those Big Epic Stories where there are a bunch of different plot threads weaving around with different characters, and things move along at a nice clip up to the climax, whereupon that little thread at the beginning that we haven't seen for the last half of the story all of a sudden rushes in to Save The Day and while it might be kind of exciting and unexpected, and you get that chance to re-read the whole thing and look for the clues, it still feels like kind of a gimmicky cheat?

I mean, we've all read at least one of those. They're great when you're, like, ten.

Waid's not letting himself get away with it. See, what this reads like to me is a history. And my favorite histories aren't the ones where Giant Force One collides with Giant Force Two and we find out what happens in the second paragraph; the really good ones are those that follow Rosencrantz and Guildenstern through their own personal stories, while history happens around them (and, God willing, they make some minor contribution to it at least).

Waid's using a cast of at least eighteen living protagonists, of whom at least ten get Starring Moments in this issue. That's hard to do, and the Big Plot might not move as fast when we're looking at every heroic (or at least interesting) moment our heroes undertake. I particularly enjoyed the elements of teamwork we saw in this issue, especially since they were parallel to each other: Brainiac, Invisible Kid and their suprise third partner made a great impact (and, it must be pointed out, brought the plot forward pretty significantly in traditional terms), while Chameleon finally got to help out by teaming with Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, providing a storytelling payoff to the "Cham is worthless" setup we've had since the beginning - again, something bringing the story forward in a fairly significant way. It's imaginitive storytelling and frankly, I'm only getting more invested in the series as it goes on.
That's it for this week! Thanks for giving me so much to work with, folks! I hope you had a good Fred Van Lente Day!!

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Blogger Tom Foss said...

I feel rightly ashamed that I always scroll through these to see if I'm mentioned before I actually read the post. Ye gods, I'm narcissistic.

12/06/2005 11:47:00 PM  
Anonymous jdonelson.nyc said...

I made it on to Comic Quotes Should Be good! And on Fred Van Lente Day no less!! And... I've been described as SPECTACULAR!!!

Thanks, Brian!

12/08/2005 12:31:00 AM  
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