Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, November 17, 2006
      ( 11/17/2006 07:33:00 AM ) Bill S.  

THE FIFTEEN-MINUTE COMIC – Heaven 17 is currently bubbling in the background; it's been weeks since I took a gander at the smallish pile of mainstream titles that presently comprise my current floppy reading list, so let's do some quickie reviews:
  • Jonah Hex #13 (DC): Too late for me to make any snarky comments about the not-so-earth-shaking nature of this "shocking origin," though I bet those scenes of Jonah getting his face whipped would've been so much stronger played across a big screen. It's been years since I've read a Jonah Hex book (last 'un, if memory serves, was that Joe L. Lansdale GN whut got the Winters Boys so riled up), but it's good to see the basics haven't changed since the glory days of Michael Fleisher & Aparo. Blood's a little more obvious and we get a tasty maggot joke, but Hex is still the same gruff-voiced s.o.b. he's always been. Jordi Bernet's art is a treat – that final full-page panel of our anti-hero bounty hunter firing on his former tormentor has a real old testament feel – so I'll probably follow this none-too-upsetting three-ish arc to its conclusion.

  • Pirate Tales #1 (Boom!): A bit late to capitalize on the Disney franchise, this anthology of buccaneer yarns contains the by-now-familiar roster of Boom! Studio writers & artists doing ye ol' skull-&-crossbones bit. I actually enjoyed this more than, say, Cthulhu Tales, in large part because the bar set for pirate tales is different than the one for horror comics (unless, of course, you're a writer for The Black Freighter). Me, I most enjoyed Johanna Stokes & Julia Bax's lady pirate tale, "Wolf on the Wave," and Michael Alan Nelson & Chee's "Paper Rose," for the way they both focus on their very different heroines, though Joe Casey & Jean Dzialowsky's "The Walk" is an entertaining attempt at dramatizing a single scene with nothing but a series of full-page panels (would've been better if Casey'd actually given us a full story instead of a moment, but the experiment's still fun). You'd have thought I'd have keyed into "Jerky," the Keith Giffen/Chris Ward/Rafael Albuquerque cannibalism-at-sea tale, but for some reason the story felt dead-in-the-water . . .

  • Superman Confidential #1 (DC): The advantage of a sparely used character like Jonah Hex lies in the fact that it's relatively easy to tell us "shocking" stories about his past without throwing the reader. Contrariwise, the disadvantage of a long-running icon like the Man of Steel resides in that fact that each of his readers has his/her own understanding of the character's history, depending on when they first stepped into the character's story. Seems to me I have at least three different memories of the Kal-El's first discovery of kryptonite, so to make this mini-series work, scripter Darwyn Cooke had better come up with something pretty-darn-interesting to hold my attention. On the basis of his first issue, it looks as if he's trying to make the deadly radioactive element sentient, which I'm not sure I buy, but we'll see where it takes us. Still, as with Hex, this is a damn attractive piece of comic art: you can see Cooke's script playing to artist Tim Sale's strengths in a way a writer like Jeph Loeb can't approach (love the three-page Eiffel Tower scene), so even if Confidential doesn't successfully take us someplace new, the trip promises to be cool to look at. Also like how Sale adds visual elements of Kirby's Newsboy Legion to Jimmy Olsen, taking from one of the great underappreciated eras of Olsen's late lamented comic series.
Also Briefly Noted: Morrison & Kubert's first story arc on Batman (#658) reaches its conclusion: lotsa noise and explosions, but the end result feels more frantic than satisfying. Let's see what the duo do with the Joker, okay? . . . Brubaker & Phillips show us they mean Criminal bizness in #2 by killing off one of their few mildly sympathetic characters. That second episode of "Frank Kafka" is a happy bonus! . . .Vaughan gives us a panel of Doc Strange swearing in ish #2 of The Oath, while Mark Martin's art is even more engagingly Ditko-esque this time out, particularly in his renderings of the steely Night Nurse. Much more pleasurable than that Strange series . . . Three issues in and we finally return to the opening moment of Mystery in Space's story? Now, that's some decompressed storytelling. If only scripter Starlin had given us enough background info to, you know, care about what's going on here . . . Damn, but the two leads in Giffen & Chamberlain's "When Bad things Happen to Assholes" horror series, Tag, are unpleasant! But unlike the abovementioned Starlin series, Giffen has successfully managed to parcel out enough info to keep me interested. Great moody front cover, too . . . Good to see blogospherian Kevin Church doing work for What Were They Thinking's ongoing assault on uncopyrighted material: his remix for "Hairy Girls" is arguably the highpoint of the most recent "Monster Mash-up," particularly for the way his narration goofs on every aspect of its comic art ("Why is this tall panel all the way over here?") Could do with all of Thinking's sniggly sex riffs – we got that joke several issues ago – but I still found myself chuckling at this more than I expected. Beavis & Butthead would approve, I bet . . .

More later.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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