Sunday, July 31, 2011
Saturday, July 30, 2011
For the uninitiated like I was, here’s a quick recap of the CHEW series published by Image Comics: It’s written by John Layman and illustrated very stylistically by Rob Guillory. The art fits the story perfectly as much of the humor comes from the facial expressions of the characters. The story stars Tony Chu, who is a Cibopath. This means he can get psychic readings from the things he eats. While Tony prefers to eat Beets, which give off no reading, he usually has to eat lots of gross things, such as dead people. This helps him in his job as a FDA agent tracking down killers and people involved in the illegal chicken trade. See, thanks to the bird flu that killed millions all poultry products are now outlawed. Many people believe this is all a government conspiracy and that something else caused those people’s deaths.
Tony has a girlfriend, Amelia Mintz, who is a Saboscrivner. This means she can write about food so well that when you read it or hear her talk about it, you can experience the taste of the food. She’s a great asset to Tony in many ways, but he can actually enjoy the experience of eating without the complications of his “special” gift when she’s around. Tony has a partner, John Colby, who is a cyborg now after getting brained by a meat cleaver and an ex-partner, Mason Savoy, who is a Cibopath like him and a murderer (hence the “ex”-ness). Tony’s FDA boss, Mike Applebee, hates his guts and tries to make his life miserable by giving him the worst cases that will often lead Tony to ingest the most disgusting things. There’s also a faux-vampire, a weird alien fruit that when cooked tastes just like chicken, Tony’s iron-chef brother, his twin-sister, and his daughter. Oh, there are more characters then that running around, but that should be enough to give you a taste.
If you’ve never heard of some of those terms before, you’re not alone. Layman just made them up, but the amazing thing is how easily it is to accept them. This is the beauty of Layman’s writing, his ability to matter-of-factly state something (which can be totally outlandish), and the reader immediately suspends their disbelief and are sucked into the story (I wonder what he would call that?). He also wastes NO time. Just when you start to have questions, he explains something and you move right along. Comic readers often complain about stuff not happening in their books, but in CHEW unexpected stuff happens ALL the time. It bears repeating: the pacing is brilliant. Not only is Layman the writer, he’s also the letterer, which I think is really cool. What an awesome way to contribute to the look of the book (and make last minute edits on the fly).
After such glowing praise, why can’t I recommend the series? Well, the language is too much for me. CHEW obviously pays homage to Quentin Tarantino films, with its extreme violence and vocabulary (Book 2 chapter 3 or issue 8 had two covers parodying QT’s films.) So, I understand why Layman is using so many “colorful metaphors”, but something about reading a word sticks in my head more than hearing the word. I tried several approaches to bypass this “problem”. One option was to skim some of the dialogue. It worked to some degree, but it upset the flow of the story. Another option was to substitute the “bad” words with something else inspired from the book itself. No, I didn’t use “Fricken”, which refers to a genetically altered Frog with Chicken DNA. It wouldn’t have been broad enough anyway, because it wasn’t only F-words that I wanted to replace. I ended up using “CHEW”, which I thought was fittingly ironic. There’s one hilarious part of the story, where Tony’s boss makes him eat a “ripe” finger (when there was already DNA evidence) and calls him “Agent finger Chu-er”. This actually was fairly effective. Instead of labeling somebody with as an “M-F”, you could say “Mother Chewer”, which relates to the detestable cannibalism practices in the book. I’d say they’re about on par with each other if you took the meaning literally.
Alas, even that solution did not prevent the overloading of my brain with all these angry words. I’m convinced that after having a nearly perfect day off last Friday, my post-nap mood was significantly more sour due to having read CHEW before catching some Z's. We all struggle with anger, but we don’t always act on it. Filling my mind with such “junk” is like holding a loaded handgun. You’re more likely to “pop off” if you’ve got the tools at your disposal. It probably took a good 24-hours after finishing the last volume before my thoughts were sufficiently clutter free. I honestly don’t know how people can go around with so much negativity in their heads all the time. Whenever the eventual CHEW HC series collecting the planned 60-issue run is published, I hope the pages are thick enough to take some Sharpie edits without bleeding through!
A great read, but not for me. You know I think the IMAGE “i” icon is actually an upside down exclamation point. Most of their books are harsher on language than I’d like. :(
Friday, July 29, 2011
|Front of Angers Cathedral
|Facing the alter
Then she was stripped naked… and flayed… in front of the entire court.
|The back of the church, where you enter
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Now, most people like Mark Waid and I think he is considered a good to very good writer by most of the comics readers I know. But this week I was reading Daredevil #1, which has to be one of the best first issues I have ever read. Now a lot of that is clearly down to the phenomenal art team, but this was book was an amazing introduction to a new take on the character and it was written by a guy who clearly understands what makes this character tick. I honestly haven’t been this excited by a new comic in ages and as I read it and thought about Waid’s work, I realized he has got a bibliography that easily rivals that of Morrison or any of his contemporaries.
Here’s a thought experiment. How many big time comics writers have a “definitive” run on a superhero title? Most writers, even big name writers, would be lucky to have one or two. By my count, Waid owns definitive runs on the Flash, the Legion of Super Heroes (Twice!), Impulse, Captain America (Twice!), and the Fantastic Four. Not to mention his involvement with 52. Lets compare that to Johns, who has definitive runs on JSA, 52, and Green Lantern, or Bendis who has definitive runs on Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Avengers (no matter what you think about his run, he’s made a huge impact on the book’s history) or Busiek who has definitive runs on Avengers and Thunderbolts. Hell, it even stacks up well compared to Morrison’s definitive runs on JLA, 52, Animal Man, X-Men, and Batman.
Throughout his career, Waid has consistently written strong character based superhero work, with an output that can rival the most impressive of his peers. So why doesn’t he have bigger name recognition? Well I think his style of focusing heavily on character and not crazy ideas (like Morrison) or a certain type of storytelling (like early Bendis) makes him harder to summarize in one sentence as anything other than a guy who writes really good superhero stories, which is something to be proud of, but doesn’t make you sound distinct in the comics industry.
Also, I think his relative lack of creator owned work also makes him less distinct. Now this second reason is a little less valid if you dig a little deeper. Waid’s best creator owned work, Empire (the story of a supervillian who has actually conquered the world), can stand along any creator owned work published in the last twenty years. It’s great and fun and it’s a shame we haven’t gotten more of it. Unfortunately it was beset by the publishing problems of the Gorilla Comics imprint and years passed between the publication of the first batch of issues and the last. As the editor in chief of Boom, he has done a great job publishing new books like Potter’s Field and Unknown. These books are great, but they’re not the long form indie work of, say the Invisibles or Jinx. However, Irredeemable and Incorruptible seem to slowly becoming the long-term indie successes that have so far eluded Waid’s career.
Honestly though, these are stupid reasons though. Quite simply, Mark Waid is one of the giants of the comic book industry and deserves to be treated as such. He has been writing comics basically as long as I’ve been reading them, and no matter what phase of my life I’ve been in, he’s been doing something great. Its now almost 20 years since his first issue of the Flash, which really catapulted him to everyone’s attention, and in an industry where people struggle to stay relevant after a decade, let alone two, he just produced Daredevil #1, which was one of the best constructed and best written books of the past year and given his track record, it is probably the start of something great.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
My day started in a bad way when I got a call from Gwen that Vox had died. Vox was Gwen and Andre’s dog and Vox was a great dog.
Now I have been lucky and have yet to lose anyone close to me and the death of my dog when I was in my early twenties hit me harder than many other things did in my life. I can remember living alone in my apartment and just bawling like a kid a night or so after we had to take the family dog of fourteen years to the vet to be put down, so I know Gwen is heartbroken. I’m sad too as I loved visiting Vox when I visited with Gwen and can’t imagine how tough it will be when Kiki, my dog, dies.
Vox was always an energetic and happy dog and she had two great owners with Gwen and Andre. My own dog only plays tug of war, but Vox would happily chase a ball and bring it back to you over and over and over again. She was a ball of energy and a loving dog. No matter what type of day you had or how tired you are the family dog is always going to be there for you and love you. My own dog would come up to be when I had a bad day and just put her face in my lap in an effort to make me feel better. Whenever I visited Vox was always happy to see me and would let you know it. I know she cheered up Gwen and Andre no matter what crisis or headaches they were dealing with over the years.
I’ll always remember Vox as fun, energetic and just a great dog, I miss you Vox.
Monday, July 25, 2011
First and foremost a review should tell the reader what the comic was about. Let’s use Daredevil #1 by Mark Waid (writer), Paolo Rivers (pencils) and Joe Rivera (inks) as an example. Of course this book has a second Daredevil tale by Mark Waid (writer) & Marcos Martin as a backup story but this is about the main story. The story starts with Daredevil going to a wedding of a mobster’s daughter because he heard a rumor that a hit was going to happen. Instead it was a kidnapping by a super villain named Spot and DD foils the plan. The second half of the story is about Matt Murdock trying to rebuild his and Foggy’s law firm. Matt’s efforts to defend a client is wrecked by the fact that most people understand him to be Daredevil. Clues are laid that Matt’s client had other attorneys scared off the case causing Matt as DD to go tracking down some leads. DD is attacked and the cliff hanger shows the attacker maybe Captain America.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Saturday, July 23, 2011
Like I mentioned last week, I’ve been going a little Captain America crazy lately. I always have a huge Marvel Omnibus wish list, but due to some financial limitations this past year (Translation: I had to spend much of my ASM sale money on my regular comics, instead of reserving it for special purchases), I’m behind it getting some of the recent ones. I have about 16 of them so far, but I’ve only completely read three (They go out of print Thomm, so I have to get them now before the price increases too much). However, I’m about to finish a fourth (and my most recent one), Captain America Volume 1, which contains the stories from Tales of Suspense #59 – 99 and Captain America (vol. 1) #100 – 113 (or if you prefer the first three Cap Marvel Masterworks). Thanks to a pre-movie sale at Tales of Wonder, I got it for 50% off too! It arrived around Father’s Day and I’ve been devouring it ever sense. Clocking in at over 800 pages, this is probably the quickest I’ve ever read one of these massive doorstoppers.
A good portion of this material is new to me (one the reasons I’m so eager to finish it). I had the first printing of the Captain America MMW (baby blue cover) published back in 1990! You know the one WITHOUT the issue covers! Since I recently upgraded, I passed that edition along to my friend, J. Jackson, Marvel Team-Up LOC writer and lyricist/lead singer of ApologetiX (my favorite band) [shameless plug]. That volume only went up to ToS #81, the culmination of the first cosmic cube saga. I know I read it once, but that was over two decades ago! However, my familiarity with the first dozen or so of those stories goes back even further to my much loved Captain America Marvel Pocket Book from 1979. And I do mean “much loved”. I loved the cover off the thing and when I had the opportunity to buy a nicer copy, I gave my original to my nephew. The Pocket Books may have been small, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying those tales when I was a kid. Who needs an iPad, when you can carry a paperback around wherever you go? The great thing about this collection is that it also included Avengers #4 with the first Silver Age appearance of Cap after spending his time since the war encased in a block of ice. That story has always been one of my all time favorites and I even had the privilege of owning the original issue before I traded it for a Silver Age Flash Archive Vol. 2 several years ago (“sob”).
I do still have my copy of ToS #63, featuring “The Origin of Captain America”. I bought it for $70 over twenty years ago and have been waiting for a chance to get my money back on it. It’s probably a “6.0”, so it’s still not a very high dollar book given the explosion of CGC in recent years (investors and collectors now know what else is out there). Part of me wouldn’t mind keeping it, but the color separation is a little off (I’m sure that’s true in every copy), so it’s not very enjoyable to read it in it’s original form. The story, however, is wonderful and a classic, which is why it’s a big budget film right now! Other than a scattering of Marvel Double Feature and Marvel Super Spectacular reprints from this era (which don’t count), the only other original issue covered in this volume I have is number 106. I’m on issue 102 now in the Omni and I’ll soon be able to read 106 in context! Who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of patience? I probably would have finished it already if not for my Avengers cartoon binge last week.
If you think I’m going to give you a detailed play-by-play of all the wonderful stories in this tome, you’re CRAZY…I mean I’m sorry to disappoint you (I’ve had to pack you know). There’s just too many of them, but I can give a general overview. I really enjoyed the tales covered in the Pocket Book again. One of my favorites is from ToS #62, “Break-out in Cell Block Ten!” Cap is invited to a prison to show off his fighting skills, but it’s all really a ruse to capture his shield with all of its high tech gadgetry. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the inmates Cap had removed all of the magnetic devices Tony Stark had added to his shield, because it upset it’s balance (This theme of the juiced-up shield is revisited later). The WWII flashback tales of Captain America and Bucky are great too, especially the one featuring the origin of the Red Skull (Hey, aren’t we getting a new Marvel series with that title by Thor: Mighty Avenger artist supreme Chris Samnee soon? YES, INDEED). Ed Brubaker didn’t retcon Bucky’s gun-totting abilities with his Winter Soldier storyline, he’s showing off those skills in several of these stories. This version of Bucky has always appealed to me over the Frank Robbins (another artist I used to hate, but now really enjoy) one in Invaders. He always seemed to be on the verge of crying in that book, but it could be just the way Frank drew his expressive eyes.
I understand that this fall, Netflix will also be carrying all of the old Marvel cartoons from the 60’s. The ones where they just traced the art from Kirby’s stories. The aforementioned cosmic cube tale is one of the few cartoons I’ve seen from that time (we used to have a copy on VHS). I could still hear the dialogue in my head as I reread those chapters. Of course, that cartoon is where we get the classic theme song quoted in today’s post title. We’ve been singing it a lot around the house lately. My youngest child, Matthew Jr. (nicknamed “Manny”), has been wearing his older brother’s Captain America mask and shield a LOT lately (even to bed a few times). It sure beats his orange and green “pumpkin prince” outfit (Oh, the joys of being influenced and playing with four older sisters). There’s even a new version of the mask and shield to go with the movie. The wings are only painted on, but the shield is actually designed the throw like a Frisbee.
I used to have my own Captain America mask that my mother made for me one Halloween. I’m guessing it could have very well been around 1979. That would’ve coincided with the Pocket Book publication, our move further out from town to six acres of wonderful tick-infested woods, and the fact that I could still wear my Captain America Underoos T-shirt. My costume looked pretty good (sorry no pictures to my knowledge). I wore jeans with snow boots, a long sleeve white thermal shirt with the Underoos print over it, which had the star and at least five stripes on the front. I’m sure I had some kind of gloves (maybe dishwashing gloves), but I doubt they were red. My shield, an unpainted metal trash can lid. I thought it was pretty neat, even though it wasn’t as good as my 5th grade award winning (I’m serious) “Luke in Hoth outfit” the following year, which had another hand made hat and my Star Wars electric toothbrush in the shape of a lightsaber hilt.
I’m getting so caught up in my own personal stories that I’m neglecting Stan and Jack’s…
Even though the Omnibus ends with Jim Steranko’s groundbreaking issues, the majority of this book all belongs to Jack Kirby. Even when he’s not doing full pencils, he’s often handling layouts. There’s a few chapters by Gil Kane, which are VERY different from Jack’s work. It’s great stuff, but a little jarring when compared directly with the “King”. I think one of the reasons this book is so enjoyable is the consistent look of the art (The Incredible Hulk Omnibus was all over the place). I never knew Joe Sinnott inked Kirby in this series. I was only familiar with his FF work, but it’s stunning here. Ditto, for Frank Giacoia. Syd Shores (from Cap’s golden age) on the other hand, inks very heavily, but after a few issues, I’m actually starting to like it too.
I also love the shortened ten-page stories. They’re perfect for a quick read (You know what I’m talking about here Lee). Tales of Suspense was a dual book (thanks to Marvel’s imposed publishing restrictions prior to 1968) of Cap and Iron Man. I’ve been reading all of the letter pages too, including the next issue blurbs and it’s really getting me excited about finally tackling my two Iron Man omniboos. When reviewing my copy of ToS, it’s slightly unsatisfying to have the book broken up with two separate characters, but here where they’re all collected together in sequence, it reads very well.
We meet Peggy Carter (her funeral was in last week’s Cap book) in a beautiful John Romita flashback tale, just before encountering her sister (now retconned niece) Sharon in the “present day” (a.k.a. Agent 13 of S.H.I.E.L.D). Cap falls for her because she reminds him of Peggy, but for numerous issues he doesn’t even know her name. They go out on what looks like their first date together and he proposes to her! What a classy guy, no pre-marital sex for him (at that stage). Along the way, we get the first appearance of M.O.D.O.K. (Yes, it WAS awesome). Batroc, the French leaper, is introduced as well as the Super-Adaptoid. The Red Skull returns at least three times and we even get an interesting tale with the Black Panther and a faux-Zemo. Cap actually invites the Panther to join the Avengers, which he later does after breaking into the mansion in Avengers #52. There’s a lot of hand wringing about Bucky’s death too. (One of the really cool episodes in the Avengers cartoon had Cap and Baron Strucker grab the cosmic cube at the same time. Cap claimed he wished for nothing, but we see at the end Bucky falling off the exploding rocket (one arm missing), paving the way for the Winter Soldier in season two!)
I could go on and on, but this has gone on long enough. I hope the movie lives up to my expectations, I don’t want it to dampen my enthusiasm for all things Captain America right now. It’s been fun!
I finished the entire Omnibus! (I wrote the bulk of this post last Saturday morning, but now I’m getting to the update with only a few hours to spare before embarking on our summer vacation. And you thought Comics had a problem with linear storytelling.) I read the last four issues fast and furious, but I didn’t want to carry that cinderblock halfway across the country. (Even though it does open fairly flat with its sewn binding and flexible pages.) Packing, reading the Omni, and setting up things at my “real” job to go on while I’m incommunicado for a couple of weeks all explain why I only had time for a one-word review of Daredevil #1.
The book ended with issue #113 and low and behold my LCS had a 90% off sale and I picked up #114 for a buck (reading copy only). I used to have #115, 116, 118, 119, and 122 – 124(?). I can’t recall exactly, but I sold/traded those several years ago. I have some Essentials that cover the next few years, but I really want to read the stories in color. So, I’ll wait for the next Omnibus (probably next year – hopefully). Besides, having completed the first issues of Cap Vol. 1, I’m bringing along the last issues of Vol. 1 (Waid/Garney) and the first 14 issues of Vol. 3 along with me for our trip. (Too bad, I can’t read in the van.)
So, before I disembark (and the kids wake up – too late!), a few quick thoughts on the latter stories…
Remember when I told you Steve proposed to Agent 13? (We get Sharon’s name in #103.) Well, I forgot to mention that in the same issue (ToS #95) he QUITS being Captain America! (It lasts two issues.) Not only that, but he OUTS his secret ID too! I was totally shocked and had no idea how they were going to rectify that little issue. (Boy, were people upset about that in the letter pages.) Jim Steranko’s Death of Captain America trilogy provides the answer. The solution: He’d just been going around with a Steve Rogers facemask! There’s a nice four-page afterward by Steranko in the book and he goes into a play-by-play of all the innovations he used during his short tenure. (Madame Hydra was based on Jim’s girlfriend.) Fool that I am, I had no clue he brought so much to comics. (I’d heard, but didn’t know the details.)
I discovered the reason the Marvel Super Action reprints don’t really count, because you can’t fit 20 pages of story into an 18-page mid-70’s comic! They cut out Mao in #106 for goodness sake! Turns out I wanted to read the story in the Omni, rather than my original “ish”. I really enjoyed the first appearance of Dr. Faustus in #107. It was an awesome story. I was overjoyed when Cap made an inference to Jesus Christ at the end of #105, but there were at least two scathing, but thoughtful, letters against having “religion” in comics. (Maybe, I’ll tackle that another day…) It was interesting how readers were explaining what is now Marvel-lore such as the secret of Cap’s shield and how the 1954 Cap fit into continuity. It was a great read and I highly recommend it.
Take care, everyone. I’ll be away, but I won’t be gone.