Singles Going Steady 11/12/2013: Black Science, Bad Clowns, Rotten X-Men Comics and moreA comic review article by: Zack Davisson, Daniel Elkin, Bill Janzen, Jason Sacks, Keith Silva
Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup.
Amazing X-Men #1
(Jason Aaron / Ed McGuinness; Marvel Comics)
Have you ever gone to see a big-budget movie that you had high hopes for and was visually great but still left you disappointed? What the Transformers are to movies Amazing X-Men #1 was for me.
Before even opening the issue I was excited about Firestar and Nightcrawler being members of the team. With Nightcrawler taking centre stage on the cover it was no surprise that Marvel would be resurrecting the popular X-Man, and the previews revealed the long overdue addition of Firestar to the X-Men comics. Along with all that goodness, there is McGuinness' art. While personally it tends to rub me the wrong way when he draws the Hulk even I'll admit that he does some excellent work this issue. But then there's everything else.
One recurring problem with Marvel (and, to be fair, with comics in general) is over and over again having deaths and then inevitable resurrections of characters. The X-Men might just be the worst for it. At this point I could easily name more X-Men that have died and been brought back than haven't died at all. It wouldn't be as bad if every resurrection was done well, but as this issue shows that's certainly not the case and they seem to be running out of good ideas. The issue begins with Nightcrawler in Heaven but we quickly realize that he's depressed despite being there. As the issue continues Heaven is then invaded by a very unimpressive looking demonic invasion force. As things continue we're shown almost no other inhabitants of Heaven except for one menial character. There are no angels, no God, and no one except Nightcrawler standing up to the attackers. With Nightcrawler being portrayed as Catholic for decades wouldn't it make sense to at least try to make the "Heaven" he went to look remotely similar to what Catholics actually believe in? Even at its most basic, people in Heaven are supposed to be happy to be there. And shouldn't God be more than capable of defending from a half dozen demons, or at the very least be there?
As a Christian myself comic portrayals of Hell always make me uncomfortable, portrayals of Heaven even moreso. But the idea that a pirate ship of half a dozen demons could invade and overpower Heaven, with no sign of resistance, is frankly ridiculous and insulting.
But there's more than theological problems. Heavily featured in the issue are creatures that look like tiny little Nightcrawlers, some coloured red. The little "bamfs" are just plain irritating. I feel like I'm expected to know what they are or where they're from, but no explanation is given and even as a pretty heavy comic reader I have never seen them before. Maybe they're supposed to be funny or cute, but like Jar Jar Binks instead they end up just being really irritating... Okay, perhaps I owe an apology. Nothing's as bad as Jar Jar Binks.
After finding Nightcrawler's re-introduction disappointing sadly Firestar fares is no better. Immediately after walking in the door Firestar is rudely ignored by Wolverine, Storm and Iceman, for no other reason than that they don't want to take even a moment from their petty arguments to talk to her and welcome her to the school. Frankly it makes the X-Men look like jerks. I was excited at the idea of seeing her in the role of teacher and how she would handle a class full of mutant students. Instead we see none of that as things instantly turn into yet another over the top adventure. Sometimes seeing the day-to-day would be a nice change.
As I mentioned earlier the high point of the issue is McGuinness' work. The art is excellent with lots of fast, dynamic action panels. Panel shapes and sizes change rapidly with the rare splash page added in all combining to make a comic that's fun to look at all the way through. Guinness handles the non-action scenes just as well including great detail work that can often make the difference between good art and great art. One such detail was his drawing Firestar's glasses similar in shape to her costume mask to help make her easily recognizable even in her out of costume introduction.
Let me finish off by getting a final complaint off my chest about a relatively recent but recurring issue that Marvel comics have. What's with just shuffling around adjectives and launching a new title? Take "Uncanny" from X-Men and slap it on to Avengers and X-Force, and we're all set for two new series apparently. Even the pretty brand new "Superior" adjective from Spider-Man isn't safe as it's been thrown onto new Carnage and Deadly Foes minis. Now the classic "Amazing" from Spider-Man is taken and, despite having no connection to Spider-Man at all, is slapped onto this new X-Men title. I know new #1 issues still give a temporary bump in sales but this not even bothering to come up with original titles is just getting sad.
Overall, this was a poor start to a series I'd had high hopes for. I'd recommend giving this one a pass. If it gets better in subsequent issues you can always pick it up in the inevitable trade paperback.
Black Science #1
(Rick Remender / Mateo Scalera / Dean White; Image Comics)
Holy crap, Rick Remender has done it again. He's gone back to the same well from which he co-created one of my absolute all-time favorite series, Fear Agent, and he's created an amazing new book that is just as exciting, just as intense and just as thoroughly fucked up as that brilliant previous series.
Black Science #1 is an breathtaking thrill-ride that channels equal parts Robert E. Howard, Philip K. Dick and whatever issues Remender is trying to work out, combined with astonishing artwork by the incomparable Matteo Scalera that reminds me of some sort of mutant mixture of Frank Frazetta and Kevin O'Neill, filled with incredibly bizarre, totally strange worlds that nonetheless feel real and classical.
Everything in this book is ramped up to 11, from the opening scene onward. It's a space opera in the truest sense of the term, with glowing spacesuits and peculiar evil reptilian monsters setting the backdrop for a story filled with anger, regret and recrimination, along with a huge amount of violence, anger, the US Marine Corps motto to leave no man behind and this ineffable, irrepressible Remender trademark of infinite regrets mixed with infinite science.
Black Science #1 left me breathless with its headlong intensity, its spectacular artwork and its compelling characters. I've been a fan of Rick Remender's writing for years, but he's outdone himself here, in part because Scalera's visuals are so breathtaking. Dammit, it's 10:30 at night and I have work tomorrow, but it's going to take me a while to come down from the thrill of reading Black Science.
Thanks, Rick and Matteo. I'll probably dream about this comic too and wake up in a cold sweat.
- Jason Sacks
Captain Marvel #17
(Kelly Sue DeConnick, Filipe Andrade, Jordie Bellaire, VC's Joe Caramagna; Marvel Comics)
Captain Marvel #17 marks the final issue in this series. That means no more 'Let's Rap with Cap' letter column, no more 'to-do lists,' no more of Felipe Andrade's elastic-fantastic cartooning, no more of Jordie Bellaire's resplendent colors, no more of Kelly Sue DeConnick's quips, gibes or gambols. No more Captain Marvel.
Yes, Marvel has announced a new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Kahn, a sixteen-year old Muslim from Jersey City who will arrive in 2014. Progress. Kahn cameos on the last page here and as expected it's an inspirational moment. Inspiration is what we want from superheroes. The passionate community DeConnick christened the 'Carol Corps' proves the power of inspiration by superhero. Now that energy must go somewhere else.
Captain Marvel kept its own hours which is why it ended after seventeen issues. Like Hawkeye and Daredevil, Captain Marvel was one of the few must-read Marvel titles due to its idiosyncratic and keen take on finding the heroic in the quotidian; and of always being self-aware of what it was: a superhero comic book.
Three superhero-ey things Captain Marvel pulls off here are: she repels an impromptu drone attack faster than you can say: Taneleer Tivan, the mayor of NYC (none other than J. Jonah Jameson) invites her to live in the crown of the Statue of Liberty after she's evicted from her apartment. And she gives a flying lesson to a young girl.
Carol Danvers and Captain Marvel will land safely. She's a solider. She is also a property, so she goes wherever her editors send her. There's no crying in corporately-owned comics.
I will go wherever Andrade goes. Yes his wide-eyed and sinewy design doesn't translate for those who prefer the cozy confines of a house (style). Sometimes artists like to make art, go figure. He is as adept at Simonson-ian explosions and kick-ass action sequences as he is at introspection and spontaneous lip locks. Bless Bellaire for her magic-hour colors, her auburns and aureolins and for letting Andrade's kinetic pencil lines show through as well.
Few writers are as self-assured or as open as DeConnick gets in the last scene with Kit and Captain Marvel. One would have to be a cold cold-hearted cynic not to bask in the joy.
Here's why I will miss this Captain Marvel:
Five-year-old daughter: Who's that?
Me: Captain Marvel.
Five-year-old daughter: What? Girls can be superheroes too? Cool.
Mission accomplished, CMDR DeConnick. Mission accomplished.
- Keith Silva
Manifest Destiny #1
(Chris Dingess / Matthew Roberts / Owen Gieni / Pat Brosseau /Sean Mackiewicz; Image/Skybound)
So, Manifest Destiny #1? More like Lewis and Clark, Monster Hunters, amirite? See, Dingess and Roberts are taking on a well worn tale of exploration from the American mythos and putting a supernatural spin on it. You know... for kids!
But this isn't for kids, this is something else entirely. This is the journey/quest motif which has been ingrained in our consciousness, the patriotic monomyth on which we hang our tri-cornered hats. As Americans, it was our god given future, our Manifest Destiny, to stretch ourselves from sea to shining sea. And by golly, it was with moral imperative that we stomped on the faces of those who would get in our way.
Especially if we cast them first as monsters.
Dingess is rewriting history and adding an Area 51 to the Louisiana Purchase. Along the way, he anchors his tale in a historical context, gives what appears to be layers of depth to his characters, and throws in a hint of the genocide to come for the Native People whose lives will suffer from all this. It's a tale of true heroism, charting the uncharted, but with it comes the slippery slope of our modern “empathetic” political correctness. When you start killing things in the name of discovery (and conquest), you enter a world of moral relativism. Dingess hints at this already in first issue of his series, and it will be interesting to see if he follows this line of thought to some new conclusions.
We are making maps, after all.
Matthew Roberts' art is the perfect compliment to Dingess' story. You can tell he has done extensive research into his subject matter and he takes great pains to, I assume, “get it right”. His style reminds me a bit of Sean Murphy's, but that's a good thing in my book. Complimenting Roberts' lines is the color work of Owen Gieni – there's kind of a “chalkiness” (as I have no other term for it) to Gieni's work that doesn't necessarily flatten out the images, but, in a way, places everything in a world somewhere between two-dimensional and three-dimensional. The perfect place to tell a monster tale.
I hope this series ventures into greater questions of morality as it spins its adventure story, pursuing questions of what is lost as things are gained. As of this first issue, Dingess, Roberts, and Gieni seem to have left that door open. There is an eagerness to this book – it captures the excitement that fills the beginning of any exploration.
As with all great journeys, though, as we go further and further into the wilderness, what monsters shall we encounter? I'm hoping that, at some point, these creators take a moment to identify that sometimes the monsters are us.
- Daniel Elkin
Clown Fatale #1
(Victor Gischler / Maurizio Rosenzweig /Moreno Dinisio / Nate Piekos; Dark Horse Comics)
Umm … WTF is this? Seriously, this is one of the worst comics I have ever seen. I thought this was going to be another bit of Grindhouse fun like Bee Vixens From Mars, but it is more like a bad '90s Fantagraphics porn comic—without the porn. Scratch that; I have read Fantagraphics porn comics that were much better scripted and drawn. And, at least porn has the decency to admit it is porn. This is just … awful.
I'm not sure where to start on this comic. It looks like it was created by a 13-year-old boy who fantasized a bit too much to Quentin Tarantino flicks and developed a clown fetish. You've got your basic Skittles pack of women (all colors duly represented) who are that only-happens-in-young-boys-fantasies combination of super-hot, super-bad-ass, and super-slutty. They are ostensibly circus clowns, although I don't recall the last circus clowns I have seen that were dressed up like strippers. Seriously, the Japanese "clown" is dressed in thigh-highs, panties, and an open kimono with geisha make-up. The blonde clown is in some sort of sexy cowgirl outfit with her shirt open and her bra hanging out. But even though they are dressed like porn stars, the kids at the circus act like they are regular clowns shouting "Do something funny!"
Clearly, these girls are not there for comedy …
It gets worse. The clown strippers are mistaken for a gang of undercover assassins, and so they decide "why not?" and go to murder their former drug dealer from whom they buy heroin and other goodies. And there is a rape scene, because of course there is. With clever rape dialog like "Brace yourself baby. The train's coming into the station…"
Are there any redeeming features to "Clown Fatale?" The art isn't terrible. I don't know if Maurizio Rosenzweig likes drawing this stuff, or if he just took the job for the paycheck. Either way, I have seen much, much worse. There is gratuitous nudity, if that's your bag. I probably would have loved that nakedness when I was 13. For some reason it isn't equal opportunity nudity though; only the redhead strips down. Not sure why that is, but there it is.
Really, unless you like racism, sexism, and rape all dressed up in clown make-up, don't buy this comic. And if you do buy this comic, don't tell me. You are a bad person and I don't want to know you.
- Zack Davisson
A Voice in the Dark #1
(Larime Taylor; Top Cow/Image)
Legends of Red Sonja #1
(Gail Simone / Nancy Collins / Devin Grayson / Jack Jadson / Noah Salonga / Carla Speed McNeil; Dynamite)
(Antony Johnston / Christopher Mitten; Image Comics)