Clever Titles are for Better Writers Comics Round-Up 01/23/12

It’s a big week, and I talk a lot. Sorry suckers. Good thing you ain’t paying to read this, huh? Also, fun fact: Bears are sometimes known to kill people and wear their skin like a disguise, so that they may infiltrate human society. Are your friends bears right now? Would you even know? No. You wouldn’t. Not until it’s too late. (Fake Editor’s Note: I don’t even know, but he wouldn’t let me delete it) Anyway, here’s comics.

Archer and Armstrong #6 written by Fred Van Lente, penciled by Emanuela Lupacchino, inked by Guillermo Ortego, colored by Matt Milla, lettered by Dave Lanphear:

“We’re just lucky my baby bro can’t kill us twice! (though if there’s anybody who could figure out how, it’s Gilad…)”

There’s a tendency in recent comics to try to break our expectations for stereotypes in the same issue that we’re introduced to that self-same stereotype. Unfortunately, it can lead to a kind of whiplash, with readers forming preconceptions only to have them immediately proven wrong. Van Lente fell into that trap this issue, but it’s not really his fault; with the state of comics these days, you can’t be assured that a reader will stick around for more than an issue, let alone long enough to really see a character’s arc. There’s no easy fix, but luckily I’ve got Van Lente’s fun dialogue and Lupacchino’s clear art to distract me from the abstract nature of monthly period comic books as a whole.

SPACE JAM OF THE WEEK

Chew #31 written by John Layman, drawn and colored by Rob Guillory and Taylor Wells, lettered by John Layman:

“Brain cancer, eh? Hell of a way to go.”

Gosh, Chew is just so good. When a writer and artist collaborate and really share a vision… well, sometimes you get a comic book as perfectly fully formed as Chew. Layman’s got a huge plot, laid out years in advance, so every single panel and line means something, even, especially, when you think it doesn’t. Each issue has a stand-alone story that introduces something new to the world while continuing to expand the universe and characters’ development. Even his lettering is clear and poppy. But the real star of this comic is Rob Guillory. He nails every single beat and idea that Layman gives to him, infusing each character with a Looney Tunes-like solidness. He peppers the background with jokes, and can draw anything in the comic: from the (incredibly) horrific scene in the last issue, to the quietly sad blowback in this issue, and even  the hilarious absurdity of people bursting into flames from an energy drink. One more thing before I stop heaping praise on Guillory: there’s a time jump mid-way through the issue, and it’s brilliant how subtly he’s able to draw Tony Chu’s aging so that it’s clearly the same character; he’s aged pretty well, but he’s definitely younger in specific panels. This is a great comic, and it’s only improving with each issue.

Fables #125 written by Bill Willingham, pencilled by Mark Buckingham, inked by Steve Leialoha, colored by Lee Loughridge:

“I don’t mind the name Stinky.”

There’s something kind of nice about getting Fables monthly, even though it’s much cheaper—and definitely reads better—in trade. It’s the kind of title that’s sometimes great, rarely bad, but always pretty good, and I like having a bit of consistency in my monthly stack. That’s about all the review you’re getting, but here are two other things I noticed: 1) Lee Loughridge colors browns probably the best out of any colorist I’ve ever seen; they’re always deep and inviting: never unclear or muddying the art. 2) Bill Willingham puts himself in the credits as writer/creator. I don’t know how long he’s been doing that, but it’s kind of skeevy, right? No matter how fully-formed a writer’s idea is, the artist helps create the world. The first artist on Fables was good, but Mark Buckingham really defined the world, and it’s a bit off of Willingham to ignore his contributions.

The Massive #8 written by Brian Wood, drawn by Garry Brown, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered by Jared K. Fletcher:

“Just five steps to kill Ninth Wave.”

Prophet #33 written by Brandon Graham, drawn by Giannis Milonogiannis, colored by Joseph Bergin III, lettered by Ed Brisson:

“Do you not feel them? Feel them pulling at your minds!”

I’ve been rolling this comic around my brain for the last 12 hours, and I kind of feel like it’s disingenuous to review this comic with the rest of my weekly pull list. Prophet’s really on a different level. Not to say that it’s “better” (although it is), just that… it doesn’t fit with the rest of my pull-list. It’s a deep comic, and it deserves more than these quick reviews. This is a comic that I gotta chew over like bubble-gum, absorb like a masterpiece. It warrants that level of attention and interpretation, and it oughta have it from everyone, not just cool cats like Darryl Ayo.

Uncanny Avengers #3 written by Rick Remender, drawn by John Cassaday, colored by Laura Martin, lettered by VC’s Chris Eliopoulos:

“To me, my S-Men!”

Looks like it takes three issues for these Marvel titles to find their groove between the artist and writer. Just like with Indestructible Hulk last week, I finally start to really enjoy Uncanny Avengers this issue. Part of it is the sense of schadenfreude (German word reference definitely intended) at seeing the Red Skull get his ass handed to him by three Aryan-Ideals (one the actual blue-eyed, blonde-haired Norse God), two ladies (one half-gypsy/half-Jewish), and Wolverine. That’s great. Plus, Remender seeds the comic with nice EC horror-style touches and Red Skull steals great lines from speeches written by other people, which… Nazis, right? It’s grand and epic, and it feels good, although hopefully we’ll get some POC next arc. They’ve gotta have Prowler, right? The nice part about Remender’s team books is that he’s never been much of a character-driven writer on them, instead focusing on ideas and plot, so a bigger team wouldn’t hurt the title in any way. Anyway. It’s getting better, and the third-person narration really makes the dialogue smoother without the “necessary” exposition.

Wolverine and the X-Men #24 written by Jason Aaron, pencilled by David Lopez, inked by Alvaro Lopez, colored by Morry Hallowell and James Campbell, lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna:

“The saddest part is… This isn’t even the first time I’ve been stood up for a brood.”

I was a little surprised at the, let’s say “romantic entanglements,” until I realized 1) the characters might have been made by Claremont and Cockrum, but they’re corporately owned, which means writers can play hot potato with their personalities, 2) I can still read those old comics whenever I feel the slightest (and I do mean slightest. Imagine one single grain of sand on Miami Beach level-slightest) bit of Fanboy outrage that _____ is dating _____, and 3) Aaron addresses it in the comic itself. It’s true, the only thing X-Men do more than die is hook up with each other randomly. As to the other parts, there’s a two-page scene in here that single-handedly justifies the existence of All-New X-Men, and, let me tell you, it is a delight. This comic never ceases to bring some measure of joy to me, and hey, David Lopez is a way better fill-in artist than Alfred Molina, even if he’s no Ramon Perez or Nick Bradshaw.

Witchdoctor: Mal Practice #3 written by Brandon Seifert, drawn by Lukas Ketner, colored by Andy Troy, lettered by Brandon Seifert:

“Quadruple crossed? You bastards!”

It would be really easy for this comic to slip into the basic “House, but also Dr. Strange” elevator pitch it’s usually described as, but it rarely does. Seifert clearly does a ton of research, and has enough jokes or tidbits to make it worthwhile, and Ketner brings it all together with a heavily detailed style reminiscent of a lot of great artists, but unmistakably his.

Young Avengers #1 written by Kieron Gillen, drawn by Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton, colored by Matthew Wilson, lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles:

“Come here. You’ve got a head you don’t need.”

Earlier I mentioned that these new Marvel titles usually take a couple of issues for the creators to really sync up. Since Gillen and McKelvie have been working together for years, it’s no surprise that this comic starts off pretty great. Gillen’s got an really unmistakable sense of flow in his comics, and when he’s not working with Greg Land… well, it’s a sight to behold. Plus, McKelvie’s not just a person who isn’t Greg Land, (although he is also that, joy be unto him for this great act) he’s a great artist, with clear facial expressions like no one else drawing comics nowadays. You ever see McKelvie draw a smirk? Betcha you’d remember if you did. On another note, unlike approximately 99.99999% of the people buying this comic, I’ve got no attachment for the original comic series, so I’m curious how my reaction stacks up against the mega-fans.

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