Several of you seemed to enjoy my little ‘battle anthem’ last week, and with a slightly more settled consciousness, I have returned to you.
The only complaint that I heard involved the glaring absence of the addendum known as the New Hotness. Apparently, if I’m to believe some of my mail, some readers actually subscribe to these silly little recommendations of mine. Now…does that strike anyone else as strange? Yeah, me too. But since we’re on the subject of this, I decided to make amends by writing an installment filled to the absolute brim with reviews of books that you should go purchase. Consider it a last minute Christmas present if you will. And because I was struck with an epiphany while scribbling in the break room the other day, don’t miss an all-new addition to the proceedings.
I call them the “money lines,” and it’s merely an attempt to reward clever scripting. From now on, or until you tell me to stop, a line of dialogue or an exchange of dialogue that I found exceptionally clever will support all recommendations. Others would call them ‘the best,’ or ‘most notable,’ but here…they are simply…money. Let me know what you think, throw dollars at quality product, and Merry Christmas. Five books for you this week, and one from the future.
Shall we begin?
Truth: Red, White, and Black #2 (Robert Morales/Kyle Baker)
The Truth has just become harder to ignore. Morales, having appropriately positioned his dominos in the preceding chapter, begins to trigger the effect that has fandom screaming, flailing wildly at precious “continuity” to save them. The entire creative team steps things up a notch and succeed in presenting a highly prejudiced, yet unfortunately believable, environment for the leads to struggle against. With a life consisting of latrine digging and racial slurs, a dark conspiracy creeps in from the corner and threatens to make everything much worse, offering a truly chilling cliffhanger. Morales and Baker provide evidence that just maybe…just maybe we can’t handle the Truth.
Money lines: Maurice Canfield returns to his barrack after an altercation with three white soldiers.
MAURICE: I GOT SET UPON BY THOSE UNABLE TO GRASP THE PLUMBING NEEDS OF THE AVERAGE NEGRO SOLDIER.
SGT. EVANS: NO FOOLING? THEY SEE ANYTHING?
MAURICE: WELL, SARGE—HONESTLY, HOW COULD THEY NOT?
Rex Mundi #1 (Arvid Nelson/Eric J)
Image’s sleeper hit returns. And it’s going to sell out. Just like it did last time. Consider this fair warning as I break down my little formula. You take a bold concept (an ancient medieval scroll is missing) attach it to an interesting landscape (1930s Paris where sorcerers and secret societies are at play) and explore the whole thing through the eyes of a strong character (Dr. Julien Sauniere). If that’s not enough, just tell yourself that Rex is providing front row seats to the development of two future superstars in the medium. Eric J proves that with the correct artistic approach and flair, a city can become its own living, breathing character, and his partner Arvid Nelson knows when to let his co-creator have his way with things. The strongest sequence of the issue is a string of ten pages, delivered without a word of dialogue, and highlighting Arvid’s patient, surgical scripting that sidesteps a common mistake of the novice writer…talking too much. Mundi ships bi-monthly and will make you realize just how long that can be…
JULIEN: SHE’S BEEN MURDERED.
OWNER: WHAT? ARE YOU SURE?
JULIEN: WITH A SHARP INSTRUMENT. MAYBE SEVERAL SHARP INSTRUMENTS.
Ultimate Spider-Man #33 (Brian Michael Bendis/Mark Bagley/Art Thibert)
Okay, I’ll admit it…I could relate to this issue. Perhaps a bit too much in fact. Regardless, Bendis delivers a tale anchored on strong characters and driven by rhythmic dialogue that causes one to forget that not a single punch was thrown. Then you realize you don’t care. Because Peter’s hurt and confusion are bleeding off the page onto your fingertips, and you feel sorry for a fictional character. Then his excitement at re-encountering an old friend, while confronting the shadow of his lost parents hits you in the forehead. And then you start paying more attention. Eddie Brock? Is that Venom on the cover? Oh, shit. Bendis is going to do it again isn’t he? Well of course he is…and the last page leaves no question.
PETER: SHE DUMPED ME.
Y- The Last Man #6 (Brian Vaughan/Pia Guerra/Jose Marzan Jr.)
There isn’t any excuse now. The first storyline is collected in trade form, and this installment begins the next wave. As with any self-respecting ‘jumping-on’ point, familiar ground is appropriately covered, and because Vaughan is so good, it’s seamlessly integrated into the main narrative. Vaughan’s scripts continue to breathe life into his characters and his premise, alternating from speculative social commentary to biting sarcasm, while Pia Guerra continues to excel at rendering a variety of environments and personalities with increasing skill. I don’t know how else to put it. One of the best new series of 2002, and as long as Vaughan and company keep bringin’ the heat, I will tell you to give them money. Kindly pay the people.
CONDUCTOR: HOGS ARE TOUGHER TO SCORE THAN DOUBLE-A BATTERIES FOR YOUR VIBRATOR, LADY.
Automatic Kafka #6 (Joe Casey/Ashley Wood)
I don’t think enough of you are buying Kafka, so if it gets canceled…I blame you. Casey is writing monthly installments of an E! True Hollywood Story with all the nasty bits exposed by psychedelic illustrator Ashley Wood, transposed over the superhero archetype. The cover cites this as ‘a superhero comic book’, but this title is unlike any littering the stands. The $trangers were once the biggest collective of heroes the world knew, saving the world on a weekly basis and becoming pop icons. Eventually the pedestal crumbles and ‘heroes’ are led to illicit drugs, inappropriate sex, and the living hell of reality programming. Kafka, who’s an android by the way, is trying to maintain his dwindling Q rating when on old teammate calls in a favor, leading to the strangest sex scene you’ll ever witness in a comic. Now doesn’t this sound like a comic you should be reading? Of course it does. If Anna Nicole Smith can have a fuckin’ show, then Joe Casey gets to write Kafka until strangeness runs its course.
KAFKA: EVERYTHING HAS ITS PLACE. THERE ARE NO COINCIDENCES. THERE’S A REASON THEY USE THE TERM: OBVIOUS.
Global Frequency #3 (Warren Ellis/Steve Dillon)
It’s that time again folks…time to get back on the frequency. Ellis once again delivers the sexiest of packages with Steve Dillon as his trigger man this round. The strange black cell phones are ringing, and apparently it’s time to save the world again. There’s a very dangerous idea spreading down a city block, and an all-new cast of operatives has arrived on scene to burn out the infection. The logistics of this series allows Ellis to introduce one of those big ideas he’s known for on a monthly basis, grind it into nothingness, and repeat the process next month with another sexy artist at the helm. He’s essentially wasting stories every four weeks, and you’ve got to admire a scribe with that kind of attitude. Then you have to support his work. Don’t give me any of that ‘waiting for the trade’ nonsense either. Get on the goddamn frequency. Do this now.
LANA: OH JESUS.
ALEPH: THIS IS ALEPH, LANA. I HAVE A BETTER RACK THAN JESUS.
That’s all people. Have a safe holiday and return next week for my own exclusive brand of New Years’ resolutions.