Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Comic Quotes Should Be Good for the 1/25 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!

Shawn Hoke takes a look at Francois Vigneault's Friends (and at the end of the column, he even gives us a link to see more of Vigneault's work!),
Issue one of Friends has a wonderful, organic feel to it when you hold it in your hands. The thick, brown cover has a thin layer of wood pasted to the front, and it’s on this wood that the title, “Speak Now or Forever,” is stamped in the style of an old wanted poster. This is one of the most interesting mini-comic covers I’ve seen in some time. Inside, the pages are a light butter color usually split into four equal sized panels. Vigneault’s art is warm and I enjoy the way he draws his faces. Sometimes your initial reaction to a comic can color the way you judge it, and this may be one of those times.

Whether he purposefully left earlier faint pencil lines in some panels or not, they are often quite noticeable. This is especially noticeable when you look at the lettering; the ruled lines are often visible as though they weren’t fully erased. I wasn’t bothered by this at all, which is strange because I’ve probably complained about that on another mini-comic before. In this first issue of Friends, the faint pencil lines are almost like seeing through the skin of the story. It’s like you can see the bones, muscles and ligaments, and it adds to the organic nature of the book. The art feels rich and fully realized, but strangely the level of detail isn’t high. The panels feel textured rather than inked, if that makes any sense.
Alex knocks our socks off with a nicely detailed examination (this quote is but a drop in the bucket) of Frank Quitely's art in All Star Superman #2,
Page 8- Superman gives Lois flowers, and he's kinda shy about it, standing there like a little kid. Lois also seems a little shy, with her hands crossed in front of her, and her back straight, as if she's nervous. They're both like kids on a first date... and if you think about it, that's what this is.

Page 9- Lois is back to being slightly annoyed and pensive. She doesn't believe that he's Clark kent, and is irritated that he's saying it. (Let's face it... whether she believes him or not is beside the point- she wanted to break that story, and now he's ruined it for her.)
Arms crossed, not looking at him, teasing him. She's questioning everything he says ("Kal Kent, Huh?")
Superman, on the other hand, is trying to show some pride in his home without letting his secret slip. Look at him there, as he looks at the floor when he lies to her about his health. His shoulders are drooped, he's leaning in the wall for support. He hates this lie.
The last panel is one more look of Total Sincerity from Big Blue. "The Dawn of the Age of Superheroes." You know he means it... that fortress really isn't for him- it's his gift to posterity. Total selflessness.
Johnny Bacardi reviews some comics, including Northwest Passage,
NORTHWEST PASSAGE #'s 1 & 2 (Oni Press)S/A: Scott Chantler This one completely slipped under my radar, despite a recommendation from my friend Mike Cary- it's early 60's Disney-esque adventure, starring fur trappers and Native Americans vs. villainous French soldiers set in the Canadian Northwest of 1755 and written with historical integrity, as well as action/adventure and drama, in mind...and while you'd think the Phil Foglio-by-way-of-Jason Bone cartoon-style art would undercut it, far from it- Chantler has a deft hand for drawing faces and body language, well capable of getting across heroic or villainous, simply by virtue of the way he poses someone or the type of line he uses. There's an assurance about his stuff which really gets the essence of his protagonists across. He doesn't scrimp on backgrounds, either- his woods and forts are all utterly convincing. This flags just a wee bit in the story department; all the characters are a bit broadly written, kinda predictable and not as fully developed as one would like, but heck- it's early in the series and I have a feeling that will be remedied soon. Nitpicking aside, this is shaping up as grand high adventure in a fairly novel setting, and I can't wait for the third volume. The second volume will be released soon, I understand. A
David Welsh examines a rape storyline in Young Avengers,
Can anyone remember the last time a comics character actually reported a sexual assault to the authorities? I can’t. The protagonist in Dramacon didn’t. Sue Dibny never got the opportunity in Identity Crisis. And now it’s revealed that Kate Bishop can be added to Ragnell’s depressing list of characters who have been raped.

I had switched over to trades on this title, but a friend suggested I pick up the special issue because it tied into things that have been on my mind a lot lately. I’m glad I did, because it’s an extremely well-written comic filled with nuanced observations about Allan Heinberg’s cast of young heroes. Kate’s sequence is good, too, particularly for the textured back-and-forth between Kate and former super-heroine Jessica Jones.

But I’m still left wondering if, well-written or not, comics need any more unreported rapes. Obviously, sexual assaults go unreported all the time in real life, no matter how much we all wish they didn’t. In this particular fictional context, though, it seems to be the default setting, and that makes me extremely uneasy.

In the story, Kate is assaulted by a stranger in the park. In the aftermath, she talks to a therapist about the crime and she learns self-defense, but she doesn’t inform the police or tell her family. While the crime isn’t her only motivating factor for becoming a costumed heroine (she also has her late mother’s example of social conscience, doing what one can with the means they have available), it’s significant.

“You can do your best to make sure that what happened to you ever happens to anyone else.”

Except that she didn’t, really, because she never tried to get the man who raped her off the streets.

The friend who recommended the special to me had to talk me down a bit. She pointed out that the apparent disconnect isn’t really implausible, given an adolescent’s sometimes abstract and developing concept of justice, especially in a world full of vigilantism, where the role models are often disguised and apparently unaccountable. And she noted that the crime isn’t Kate’s sole driver for what she does; she was already inclined to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

And wow, do I hope I’m not sounding like one of those twits who think young readers can’t handle anything challenging or complex, but it bothers me that there are so many instances of this. Sexual assault can be portrayed well in any medium, and Heinberg arguably does well with it here. It’s specific to Kate, and it’s portrayed with sensitivity. Even if they aren’t the choices I want Kate to make, they’re believable as her choices.

But why do writers never think to show a victim going through the justice system? Reporting the crime, getting support from their family, testifying against their attacker, and seeing the criminal punished?
Chris Sims explains to us the defining moment of Avengers #214,
Defining Moment - The scene where Ghost Rider abandons the kid falling off the water tower is big contender, but for sheer Badass Panelitude, it just doesn't get better than the scene where Ghost Rider talks trash to Thor, asking him what the heck kind of god he is that he won't let mortals worship him, prompting Thor to let loose with a bit of the ol' long-distance smoting. That's when the Ghost Rider puts his Master Plan™ into effect, outrunning Mjolnir on his motorcycle, then grabbing onto it as it soars back towards the Thunder God:

What happens next will echo throughout history as one of the most awesome moments in the history of Marvel Comics. Ladies and Gentlemen, I submit to you...


Attention Readers: YOU HAVE NOW BEEN ROCKED.
The rocking makes up for Sims' horribly wrong take on Plastic Man #20, where he states
Brian Cronin makes the claim that it's a "shame" that Kyle Baker's last issue of Plastic Man was a "mocking send-up of the DC Universe" rather than a straight-up fun comedy story, and that's--no offense--one of the most ridiculous criticisms I've ever read. Not because the issue's not great, which it is, and which is something Cronin and I could definitely agree on, but because spoofing the DCU is pretty much Plastic Man's stock-in-trade, going back to at least #8--twelve bi-monthly issues ago-- when Baker riffed on the nonsensical Joe Kelly JLA run, and continuing to my favorite moment of the series, #14's hilarious parody of Superman/Batman #13. I'm just saying, I don't expect the last issue of a series to do anything but what it's been doing for the past few years.
I, of course, stand by my initial statement that Plastic Man #20 was unlike the typical Plastic Man issue. You, dear readers, must judge for yourselves!

David Campbell discusses what was perhaps Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's coolest idea ever, the use of Ra'a Al Ghul as a villain in the Legion of Superheroes,
In a nutshell, the Legionnaires discover that the President of The United Federation of Planets is actually Ra’s al Ghul in disguise. The bastard is still alive hundreds of years into the future, no doubt due to the Lazarus Pit spa treatment he regularly receives. That, and a lot of water-rich foods and plenty of exercise and fresh air. The fact that he’s still alive kind of makes him the winner in the big Batman vs Ra’s contest, doesn’t it?
Anyway, Ra’s has always been keen on remaking Earth and ushering in a new age of perfection, and in the future he’s found the means to do just that, and big time. He unleashes a destructive wave across the planet, “terrorforming” humans into creepy pure lifeforms.

Naturally, only The Legion and one plucky six-year old girl stand in his way. Sadly, the plucky girl gets crushed by a rhino on page two – so it’s up to The Legion!

I loved this story because it caught me by surprise. As a reader you knew something was fishy about the President, but when it’s finally revealed that he’s Ra’s al Ghul in holo disguise – somebody give me a F*@% Yeah! That’s just a great idea.

My favorite bit in the storyline (which spans numerous issues of The Legion) is the part where Ra’s captures Mon-El and inters him in a chamber bathed with red solar light that saps him of his Daxxamite powers. Mon-El has spent some time in the 20th century as the hero Valor in the DC series by the same name, so he knows what Ra’s is capable of, but he can’t warn his fellow Legionnaires. We get this great scene where Ra’s shows up to give Mon-El the typical “join me or die” speech:

Mon-El tells the villain to get bent, which may not be the best idea because Ra’s is packing some heat, Dirty Harry style. Weakened by the red solar rays, Mon-El’s invulnerable body is anything but… and Ra’s pops a cap in his ass!

That’s cold.

Does Mon-El die? YES. He totally dies! Oh, hang on. I just flipped through the comics again. No, he doesn’t die. My bad. Still, it makes for a great cliffhanger. Please note that I’m cheating a little and am including scans from other issues in the storyline, not just issue #6.

The whole damn thing is well executed and fun. The story is epic, fast-paced, and features a host of characters – just like the Legion stories I read as a kid. Every Legionnaire gets a chance to kick ass or gets a good line, and they’re all wearing chic superhero uniforms, just like in the good old days. They even slip a roll call page in issue #6 for the benefit of new readers. Check it out.

Olivier Copiel’s art is crisp and cute without being too cloying. I don’t know if that even makes sense. If memory serves Copiel left the book shortly after this storyline to draw Chuck Austen’s run on The Avengers, which proves that there is no God.

I’m a big fan of Copiel’s work, and with The Legion he is at the top of his game. It looks like he’s having fun. What comic book artist wouldn’t want to draw spaceships and sexy women and weird aliens and Science Police? It might be a lot of work, but if I were an artist I’d rather draw that stuff than twenty-two pages of Peter Parker and Mary Jane talking in a bedroom.
Jog continues to assist me in saying what I basically feel about certain comics, but am too lazy to get around to saying, in this instance, he gives a good review to a comic I liked a bunch, Local #3,
This is a nice issue. It seems that every new release in this series is determined to play around with a different approach to presentation - we had the repeating imagination structure of #1 and the long silent stretches of #2, and now we have a drifting mass of events floating from one member of a recently-disbanded musical quartet to the next, as all of them attempt to engage with a post-band life. And each of them illustrates a different facet of a frankly communal situation that all are submerged in, having returned to lovely Richmond, VA for a little settling down.

Involuntary narration is provided by the band’s singer/guitarist, who spends way too much of his day talking on the phone with a music journalist, who largely seems intent on relating everything going on now to the band’s past. Why did you leave Virginia? How was your sound changed? What do you think of your fans’ reactions? Writer Brian Wood quite nicely handles the tenor of the interview, the journalist adopting an apologetic stance for tough questions, gently flattering the subject to get him back on track (“Happy birthday.”) - I’ve listened to the recordings of interviews like this. The singer/guitarist thus represents the inescapable presence of what’s gone on before, (literally) stuck dealing with his and his bandmates’ own past accomplishments.

Elsewhere (as the narration continues), we have the group’s bassist/vocalist, who’s attempting to restart a relationship that got shunted aside for the sake of her art. We have the drummer, who’s dealing with the economic side of things, hawking off his old works at inflated prices (nominal series protagonist Megan makes a cameo here, and it’s nice to see that artist Ryan Kelly still has her wearing her apartment key, as covered in issue #2). And we have the (non-singing) guitarist, who’s playing a solo set at a small club. All the while, the conversational narration continues, sometimes complimenting what we see, and sometimes contrasting with it. It’s ultimately clear that the realities of the breakup situation and the ephemeral qualities of recognition are so great, that the only truly lasting pleasure comes from the act of creation itself, and only one band member is ultimately glimpsed in what can be read as a state of unrestricted happiness.

It’s a good, low-key little story, possessed with authenticity of theme, and willing to allow its themes to simmer. The space-spanning narrative structure allows for some nice local color, and Kelly continues to do a good job with the atmosphere. For bonuses, there’s the expected essays, two pages of designs and roughs, a pair of pin-ups by Richmond-connected guest artists Chris Pitzer and Rob G., and two pages of the new ‘My Local’ feature, in which readers can send in pictures and words about their own surrounding environs. Still a nice package.
The Pickytarian tells us something we should already know, Kevin Huizenga is awesome and we should all be reading Ganges,
This morning I read a comic book that blew me away, one that was focused almost entirely on the internal life of its main character: Ganges #1 by Kevin Huizenga.

Huizenga tells the story of a relatively mundane day in the life of Glenn Ganges. Glenn goes to the library to pick up some books and CDs, which he brings home and enjoys while his wife Wendy does some animation work on her computer. That doesn't sound like much of a story, and if I were to add that Ganges accompanies his humdrum activities with ruminations on the nature of time, life, and love, you might be inclined to tune me out even further. I know I would flip through a book like that and put it back on the shelf; I've done just that, in fact, with Huizenga's Or Else any number of times. I see now why that was such a big mistake. It's not just because Huizenga's insights are engaging and interesting, it's because he is such a gifted cartoonist that he can weave them into an utterly enthralling narrative that wouldn't work in any other medium.

Along with his economical, engaging cartoony drawing and his knack for beat-perfect storytelling, Huizenga engages in a fair bit of formal experimentation in this book. In the first "chapter," for example, Glenn walks to the library, pondering the passage of time. Huizenga goes crazy with the interplay of panel borders, thought balloons, and narrative captions in this sequence. It isn't always intuitive to read, but it definitely forces the reader to consider the relation of the past to the present and the way that sequential comics represent these concepts. Another notable sequence comes at the end of the book, when a caffeinated Glenn lies in bed watching his wife sleep. He considers the billions of people throughout history who have done the exact same thing, thinking the exact same thoughts. In a quiet, beautiful sequence on a black background, Huizenga lays out a series of panels showing various people (including characters from earlier passages in the book, such as Native Americans and elderly Glenn and Wendy), silently admiring their sleeping lovers. It's not showy or saccharin-sweet; it's understated and sublime.

I'm not afraid to eat crow, and it's a good thing, because I have a steaming plateful in front of me. Consider me converted. Kevin Huizenga is one of the best cartoonists working today. Ganges #1 will be in stores tomorrow; fans of the comic medium would do themselves a major disservice by overlooking it.
Oh, just for the record, check out this piece where I talk about how awesome Kevin Huizenga is.

Another Kevin, Kevin Church, talks about how cool Godland is (and it is),
Giving into the rest of the Morlock hordes, I finally picked up the first collection Hello, Cosmic this past week and gave it a read. Then, I gave it a reread. And another. Hot damn, it's good stuff.

It's rare that I find somebody actually applying Kirby's lessons to the form. Morrison does it very well, as I've pointed out previously, but for the most part there's very little in the superhero realm that applies his search for "the new" to the form. For the most part, the people writing superhero comics now are the spiritual children of writers like Roy Thomas, where creation is secondary to the sheer glee of getting to play with those favorite characters of youth.

Casey and Scioli, though, are tossing new concepts and story ideas at the reader left and right and while the art's outright aping of Jack vexed me at first, I realized that it was sort of essential to their version of the exercise. By using the Kirby art style, Scioli's giving the reader a familiar riff, a nagging sense of deja vu that informs and broadens the work beyond its script. Subtext in superhero comics art is rare enough and it's a genuine pleasure to watch Scioli break down and remix Kirby's familiar tropes in a new ways, something that guys like Bruce Timm and John Byrne fail to do when they're approaching his style.

To me, it feels like GØDLAND's creators are providing an indie rock version of the bombast that Kirby always made operatic. Short three-chord riffs that slam into your forehead and leave you punchdruck instead of a full symphony that presses your entire body down until you finally given in. A strange creature from another galaxy, a villainous drug fiend who's quite literally a skull in a jar, a despotic freak torturing America's Greatest Hero - these are all tossed into the the first trade's mix casually with only the barest of explanations given or needed. You'll catch up or you'll drown, fanboy. The book's not going to stop because you need a breather.

Excellent material that I'm looking forward to getting another dose of when the second trade comes out.
Sleestak has some fun snark about the most recent issue of Adventures of Superman,
Adventures of Superman #911 Oops! I mean...#648. This Infinite Crisis tie-in didn't do much for me because it was basically filler*. It reminded me way too much of the black cover Spider-Man 9-11 issue and those interminable CoIE "Red Skies" issues of the Detroit Justice League when the writer had no direction or clue what to do with the team for 6 months. It was also odd to see Green Lantern sitting on his backside when every other hero in town was lifting collapsed brick walls off the citizens.

Really, it read like someone's rejected script for Volume 3 of DC's 9-11. I kept expecting to see a scene with Lex Luthor shedding a tear to show up on a page.
Good thing there isn't a hell, or I'd be going there.

So I guess those Batman readers who couldn't get enough of the No Man's Land and War Games story arcs from a while back get another heaping helping with the upcoming Battle for Bludhaven opus I'll be ignoring.
Thanks, folks, for providing me with so many great quotes! See you next week!

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Blogger Michael said...

"But why do writers never think to show a victim going through the justice system? Reporting the crime, getting support from their family, testifying against their attacker, and seeing the criminal punished?"

Because no one ever does that in a superhero comic.

2/01/2006 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger David Welsh said...

Does that mean no one ever should?

2/01/2006 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger The Dane said...

In the world of superheroes, the standard vehicles of law enforcement (police, national guard, military, etc.) are necessarily hamstrung by the needs of the story - in order that the vigilantes' role in comics-society be assured. Case in point: in Marvelland, if the American justice system was at all effectual, Daredevil wouldn't exist. But he does, and despite his firm desire that the justice system work, he nearly always resorts to vigilantism in the end. Reprting a rape and going through the proper lines of authority might make a great storyline, but it would draw attention from the superheroes - something that superhero comics are still shy to do.

2/01/2006 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Sims said...

Yea, the very heavens themselves shall be rent asunder when titans clash!

Cronin vs. Sims!

Blog Wars: IT'S ON!

2/01/2006 10:39:00 PM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...


You missed "Can Wonder Woman Dance" at the Absorbascon. Which was the blog post of the week, if not the millenium.

Or maybe it was last week...

2/02/2006 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

That WAS a fine post, Mark, but sadly, it came on January 17th, and I did not do a Comic Quotes Should Be Good for that week. I was away.

Here is a link to the post, though!

2/03/2006 12:29:00 AM  

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