Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Comic Quotes Should Be Good for the 1/5 Comic Week

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!

David Welsh, who is a nice guy, talks to us about jerks,
In his run on a previous version of X-Factor, it was Quicksilver, who had gone from hero to villain and back, with several stops at jerk along the way.

In one of the best issues of David’s run on the series, the team goes through psychological debriefings. During Quicksilver’s session, he succinctly describes the reason for his aggressive unpleasantness: the nature of his mutation makes it seem like everyone around him his moving at a crawl. They can’t possibly keep up, and crankiness just naturally ensues.

It’s a great bit of characterization, not excusing so much as explaining. Quicksilver is still a jerk, but he isn’t an irredeemable one. (Unfortunately, just as David’s take on the character was gelling, Quicksilver got swiped by Bob Harras to mope around as a noble cuckold over in Avengers.) One of the recurring agonies of watching soap operas was the certainty that a smart, mean, funny character was destined for one of two depressing fates: they would become so evil that their usefulness on the canvas would run out and they’d be dumped to the nuthouse, prison, or morgue, or their rough edges would be sanded off in some brutal way to make them sympathetic. As the Witch put it in Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, “You’re so nice./You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice.”

I’m glad to see that David still has a fondness for the jerks and can portray them in imaginative, entertaining ways.
Johnny Bacardi takes a look at Seth's Wimbledon Green, the Greatest Comic Book Collector in the World, from Drawn & Quarterly,
I'm about to make a shocking confession. As someone who is regarded as having Good Taste In Comics, whatever that means, it will amaze when I confess that I do not own a single book by critical darling Seth. Although his praises were sung long and loud by the Comics Journal, back when I was a subscriber, what I saw just never really moved me to buy. Not that I didn't think he was talented, or worthy of my attention, but I just wasn't interested. So what caused me to invest in this handsomely packaged and surpisingly moderately priced lark, you may ask? A small preview in D&Q's Free Comic Book Day offering, if you must know, proof positive that FCBD is indeed a worthwhile effort. But I digress. Seth celebrates the Comic Book Collecting Culture with one hand as he ridicules it with the other, then hides behind the false modesty of the "It's merely a sketchbook exercise" dodge. He needn't have done that- while his smirk is prevalent, this is really a richly imagined fantasy of the highest order, with just enough truth to make it sting although I kinda wonder, in my rural insulation away from this aspect of comics fandom (which I thought kinda peaked over 10 years ago) if anyone will feel stung. Sometimes the 20-panel grids become a tad monotonous, and I can't look at the titular character without thinking of the Mayor on all those Monopoly game "Chance" and "Community Chest" cards, but really, this is a meticulously drawn, often amusing, somewhat smirky, and impressively imaginative exercise in satire, and while I think he'll have a hard time topping this, I'd urge him to do a whole book of "Fine and Dandy" stories. A
Let's be honest, here at Comics Should Be Good, there's ALWAYS going to be room for people to say nice things about All-Star Superman, as Alex does here,
The original Man in Tights is back. My favorite author and one of my favorite artists brought me a simple story about a man who only does good. I ate it up with a wooden spoon, and re-read it until the staples fell out. I drank in the art like milk with cookies, and I felt like an eight year old all over again. Not since NEW FRONTIER has my nerd weiner been so fondled. SEVEN SOLDIERS came out of the heavens as well, pulled from the rushes in a basket, and delivered to me in swaddling clothes. It was a good year to read comics. Aside from Grant Morrison, there were lots of delicious treats. But everyone knows that. It was a good year.
Jog does a marvelous job of defending Chris Ware's storytelling abilities,
Frankly, I think Ware is one of the most attentive creators out there in relation to how stories work in differing forms - serialized, collected, whatever. And Acme Novelty Library #16 does indeed provide a satisfying single experience, as a panorama of human concerns and consternation. Maybe this fits into Larsen’s definition of what a ‘character study’ is (as opposed to those stories that don’t add up to much yet are still worthwhile, which has to be a different thing since, let’s remember, this work fails as a story). All I know is that Ware employs a damned effective (and utterly simple) double-tiered storytelling structure, simultaneously following the journeys of Rusty and his dad (and the characters they encounter) on the top tier, and the experiences of eventually-to-be pal Chalky White and his sister on the bottom, the two paths occasionally crossing to provide multiple viewpoints of the same events. Which is both the point, and what makes this thing work as a single unit.

It’s climbing through the minds of these characters, guided by Ware's hand, that provides much of the interest: Chalky’s sister Alice often thinks in fragmented, excited interior utterances, while Rusty’s thought bubble-powered stylized musings (“Golly...”) belie his melodramatic, comics-fueled soul. Even more notable is 'Mr. Ware,' an art teacher avatar for the author himself, whose interior dishonesty is revealed through his rambling, jargon-laden narration, far more formal and reader-targeted than Alice’s purely personal use of the same narrative device; Ware the character is here to convince us, but Ware the creator reveals his dishonesty by contrasting his words with damning images. Rusty’s dad, meanwhile, uses a wide variety of devices, all of them actually, which ultimately is what draws the story together.

Indeed, there’s even a nice bookend provided. We have the technical, if slightly sugared narration of that snowy television at the beginning (beautiful flakes instantly zapped away into electronic 'snow'), and at the end we have Rusty’s dad, 'drawing' his own surprisingly eloquent interior musings on the board, restating the television’s opening narration from a more humanist (and more pleading) standpoint, human life and snowflakes alike dissected into their components, all unique. This is a both statement of the story’s theme, as well as its very structure, its reason for being. We follow a wide variety of characters (using a narrative design that allows for maximum visibility) and all of them reveal their thoughts and trajectories though a multitude of comics-specific narrative devices, many of them quite smoothly deployed through Ware’s command of the form. Rusty’s dad employs all of them, from thought bubbles to snap-cut intrusions of fantasy, finally adopting the use of familiar cursive-font narration to tie things together, and his role as final ‘speaker’ matches his role of most studied character, given many ways of expressing himself (ironic, since as a person he’s arguably the most sheltered among all of them).

And that’s the story, right down to its own stated intent. It wraps up quite nicely, with a reiteration of its introduction, the objective having been completed, and a matching view of the snowy city to compliment the introductory view of stylized snowflakes - we can now see the inhabitants who have the snow fall upon them, and things aren't rendered artificial and televised anymore. I will concede that there’s little in the way of an arc for these characters, but claiming that the story simply stops ‘mid-scene’ with no closure doesn’t seem accurate to me at all, as the book is quite straightforward as to what it wants to do, and it does it with panache.
Graeme McMillan reviews a bunch of comics, including Superman/Batman #23,
I get a lot of shit for being a fan of this book, and it’s around this point where I start thinking that I may be deserving of it. We’re four months into Jeph Loeb’s phoning it in, with a plot that substitutes dramatic reveals for substance or logic and dialogue that’s entirely injoke or cliché. What makes it different from the times where this book has worked for me – Ed McGuinness’s first run on the title, or the Carlos Pacheco run – is the lack of big stupid idea fun. Yes, there’s a half-chuckle at seeing the Maximums poking fun at the Ultimates, but that joke’s old within a few pages, never mind a few issues, and there’s nothing behind it to make it last. Kryptonite Batman? Great, but make it something more that him hitting Superman for a few pages and then going away with no explanation. The return of Red Son Superman and Batman Beyond? If they were there for any reason, sure. I don’t know; there seemed to be some internal logic to things like the Giant Composite Superman Batman Robot, or the Zombie Justice League, in the past that’s lacking here. It’s as if whatever gonzo credibility the book had has been abandoned in the rush to the finish line. Ed McGuinness’s art is still the bouncy castle of the superhero world, though. Eh.
Scipio has something to tell us,
If you're not enjoying All-Star Batman, why aren't you reading "Batman and The Monster Men"?

It's Matt Wagner's near perfect retelling of Batman's first clash with Hugo Strange. Great insight into all the characters, logical plot developments, fun art. And, after sixtyish years, Julie Madison has finally blossomed as a great character, someone I actually believe young Bruce Wayne would date.

By the way, Bruce Wayne is so cool, that when he denies you a night of passion, he does it politely and in haiku:
I apologize.
I would love to spend the night
in your arms again.

AND he makes you feel good about yourself in the process. That's how it's done.

Remember that the next time you turn down an offer from a sexy and intelligent red-haired heiress who wants you badly.
Kurt Addams has some harsh words for Young Avengers Special #1,
At first glance I thought this book was titled YOUNG AVENGERS SCHOOL since Giant-girl’s head - alright, Stature (horrible) – obscures the word “special” in the masthead. In hindsight an issue showing the Young Avenger's receiving some superhero-type training might have been more entertaining than this turned out to be.

Instead, this is a guided tour of how the Young Avengers came to realize their powers, with Jessica Jones and Michael Gaydos providing the narrative and visual anchors. Gaydos draws the Jones sequences with an impressive array of talent filling in the flashback origins. I like Gaydos’ work and would have had no problem with him drawing the whole shebang, but then our focus might have been drawn to the actual text of the issue, and to crib from Gertrude Stein, there’s no there there.

We didn’t really need an origin issue. In a general sense we know how these characters got started because we know how characters like these usually get started. We understand the mythology that the genre dictates so detailed origins aren’t a requirement and the origins provided give us very little insight into these characters. If anything this may detract from them as what we’re presented with is series of predictable, pedestrian origin stories that left me wondering if that was really the best they could come up with.

The whole thing is in service to Marvel’s renewed love affair with Annuals and Specials. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing -- many of us have fond memories of these issues and some of these recent attempts have been quite good -- but this falls flat and leaves me feeling that Marvel is going through the motions simply because they can or perhaps because someone thinks it’s expected. Equally, I can imagine them thinking that readers are anxious to explore every inch the Young Avengers lives, past and present, after all their appeal is a humanist one that relies a great deal upon who these characters are when they aren’t in costume. But Heinberg had been slowly, successfully dishing this information out in the regular series making this book feel that much more forced and needless.

Specials and Annuals provide opportunity to explore a title’s characters and themes outside the continuity of the ongoing series and they should be fun. This book fails on both fronts.
Chris Tamarri takes a look at a book I enjoyed a lot, Death, Jr.,
Really, this story exits in two worlds, on two levels, rubbing up against the boundary of parable territory. Superficially, it's fun to absorb the trappings of the Goth mindset filtered through--and for--the minds of children. Here, there's no reason why Death shouldn't have a son, that he shouldn't have friends like Stigmartha (whose hands bleed when she's nervous), Smith and Weston (twins conjoined at the head who personify their respective lot in the right brain/left brain lottery), Pandora (who has a thing for boxes, natch), and the Seep (an inexplicable, legless, baby homunculus who rolls around in a huge formaldehyde jar propped up on tank treads). And there's no reason he shouldn't be able to save the day, even if, through foolish naiveté, he imperiled it in the first place. On a deeper level, this story's themes are both familiar and timeless, with lessons--and without the sanctimoniousness that the word implies--of identity acceptance, recognizing and meeting responsibility, extending and fulfilling trust, and, of course, growing up.

What's really impressive is how Whitta uses the story's particular weirdness to illustrate these themes, and even grant them something like novelty. One of the simplest examples is in the way that Jr.'s classmates react to his odd appearance (he's got a skull for a head). For an adult, trained to extend his extension of disbelief instinctively, it's not necessary to question why a kid that looks like this is sitting in a classroom filled with other, "normal" kids. But for a younger reader, that'll probably be a question that comes up, and Whitta meets it head (no pun intended) on. DJ--that's "Death, Jr." for the time-impaired--fails to see any difference between himself and kids like the Seep, and the other students. It's naïve, sure, but it's also charming in its simplicity. If I were a more cynical reader, I might suggest that the reason Death's son looks at everyone the same is that, from his perspective, they all are the same, corpses-to-be. Good thing I'm not that cynical.

In all seriousness, the nature of death (and of Death) is broached just enough to acknowledge that it's going to be a factor, and can't be ignored if you're gonna put that name in the marquee. At a particularly low point, DJ and his "she's not my girlfriend!", Pandora, argue and he, in a fit of anger, kills her. Well, he doesn't kill her, not exactly, so much as… take her life, I guess. Whatever. She's not alive afterwards. In any other story, this would be a deal-breaker, the point at which you can no longer sympathize with your protagonist. But here, it's just what DJ does, by his nature, albeit hopefully without as much flippancy. Whitta's able to have his cake and eat it, using the death of a main character as a dramatic turning point for the hero's journey, but without the inherent increase in stakes that death usually brings (at least, not to the same degree).
Shawn Hoke has kind things to say about David Yoder's Lou Season,
Lou Season is cutesy in that “Awww, look at the talking animals” way, but Yoder infuses it with enough emotion from our own childhood experiences that it’s relevant. Maybe you weren’t the one picked on in school, but you’re hopefully old enough to empathize with those that were. Lou is one of those misunderstood kids that find solace in escaping from his peers, but in doing so he ignores the girl Sally who aches to be closer to Lou. Oblivious to Sally, Lou treats Candice as his friend and confidant, even though she can only manage a few squeaks in response to Lou’s conversation.

Issue one of Lou Season is breezy and carefree; duck and gerbil have fun in the park and Yoder includes a page of trading cards featuring the four main characters from the story. Issue two gets kind of hairy though, as Candice is stolen from Lou’s room. The gerbil-napper leaves a note and Lou retaliates in an unexpectedly violent manner.

Yoder’s art is boldly brush inked giving his lines a lot of depth. Joey Weiser inks the first issue and David does the second. I enjoyed the cartoony art a great deal; he does a nice job on sound effects and concentrates on only the details that matter to the story.

Lou Season is a wonderful two-part story appropriate for any age group. Each mini-comic is 26 black and white pages and you can email David Yoder through his website. While you’re there Yoder has plenty of online strips for you to read including You Want to Know How I Make Comics?!!?.
Finally, Chris Sims talks about how cool Impulse #3 is, which is good, as I loved that issue, as well, proving that Sharknife likers and non-likers CAN like the same things!,
Bart Allen, to keep things short, is the grandson of the Silver-Age Flash, Barry Allen, who was born in the 30th century and, due to uncontrollable super-speed, was aging rapidly. To deal with that, he was raised in a virtual reality simulation, and the result of growing up inside a video game left him a little unable to comprehend the consequences of his actions. Then he came back to the present, teamed up with the Flash, and fought KOBRA! THE DEADLIEST MAN ALIVE!

And then they sent him to live in Alabama.

That poor, poor kid.

Anyway, this issue focuses on Bart's first day at school, and features the single best portrayal of a teenage super-hero dealing with High School since Peter Parker clocked Flash Thompson in a boxing match. See, Bart's the new kid, and the small-town high school heirarchy of Manchester, Alabama abhors a new kid. But with the attention span of a super-speed goldfish and no regard for anything beyond the moment, he goes through the entire school day just pissing off bullies constantly, broken down by Waid and penciller Humberto Ramos into a series of "encounters." And he just keeps making more enemies as the day goes on, walking unscathed through a food fight and giving the business to a bunch of jocks who apparently forgot to Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge. And each one he cheeses off calls him out to fight at a different part of the school.

All of which leads up to one of the best school scenes in comics history: The bell rings, and Bart takes a slow lap around the school, walking past each group of high school toughs that wants to see him creamed, leading them all to the football field. Why?

"I figured we could use the room."

With the entire student body gathered to either watch or perform a serious beatdown, Bart keeps it cool, and as the groups argue about who's got first dibs on him, he busts a quick move...

Probably grounds for expulsion....and starts a fight with the entire school.

Now that's badass.
hanks, folks, for providing me with so many great quotes! See you next week!

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