Thursday, January 31, 2013
Higher Earth is a grandiose science fiction epic, one that overreaches on occasion, sure. but any crazy sci-fi worth its salt should. It start off small in scale but epic in scope on a planet of trash, an Earth with many moons in its sky from which garbage seems to perpetually fall. A man one day falls from on of the moons, a most dangerous man named Rex, in search of a girl. As we soon learn, the "moons" are not really moons, but dimensional portals, and this version of Earth is just one of many which serve the multi-dimensional Empire as landfill planets. Other planets serve as population displacement projects, or as resource planets, or as elite territory, or as military and scientific centers. The empire has conquered hundreds of dimensions and will continue to conquer hundreds more. But Rex has the key, this girl from the trash planet, she can undo it all. Theoretically speaking at lest.
Sam Humphries is still relatively young in his professional comics writing career -- having made his biggest splash with the futuristic sci-fi romance/bestiality one-shot Our Love Is Real -- so he's got no shortage of ideas. Higher Earth, particularly, puts on display a dizzying array of SF concepts (my favourite are the utterly bizarre animal/cyborg exo-skeletons), rarely calling attention to them, just keeping them as part of the atmosphere. His accomplices in this are penciler Francesco Biagini and inker Manuel Bracchi, who quite ably bring all these concepts to the page. Biagini and Bracchi work in a looser style than I prefer for my science fiction (I like tight pencils to show off the intricacies of the environments) so it took some acclimatizing on my part, but by the time Morning Glories' Joe Eisma adeptly fills in on the fifth chapter, I actually found I was missing Biagini's consistency on the characters. This is a book populated with dozens of characters, but most are different iterations of the same two or three, so they need to be boldly designed so that they're readily identified as an analog, but also changed in design to distinguish each iteration. Biagini and Bracchi resolve this exceptionally well.
If there's a flaw with Higher Earth it's that it's a little to rapid paced for my liking. I want to spend more time in each environment, and have a bit more insight into the effects of the Empire on its people in those environments (though, given the fact that the series was cancelled and he would have to compress his end game anyway, it's probably for the best it's this briskly handled). At the same time, when things do slow down, particularly the fifth-chapter interlude detailing the creation of the Empire, it interferes quite a bit with the pacing. Still, it's a testament to how rich and stimulating both the concept and execution of the concept are that I crave more. Maybe Humphries should continue it as a novel?
This trade paperback is exceptionally cinematic in its feel, and I think Higher Earth could be adapted into an exceptional A-list feature largely as-is (or a less impressive B-list movie with a smaller budget and few key set pieces). I only mention it because any kind of mainstream exposure would probably allow Humphries and co to do more.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
I actually bought many of these on their original issuance to the newsstands, but in the intervening years some have gone missing and others I never had, so I made a list and promptly forgot about it, until today, when I came across a handful of that 20-issue Action Comics run. Unfortunately the only one there I knew I didn't have was this one, in which Superman teams up with the New Gods.
Okay, he teams up with Darkseid.
But not really.
Unfortunately, unlike DC Comics Presents, which did a great job at making fun comics out of big superhero team up spectacle, Byrne's taking this stuff way too seriously and this is the third part of a three-part story that crossed over from Superman #3 and Adventures of Superman #426 along with being a Legends tie-in (Chapter 19... those "Chapter Indicators" back then were such bullshit, since there was no logical story flow from one chapter to the next for the most part. The only way they really connected was through the main Event comic itself, but I digress). As well it seems, even with 25 years between me and the comic, that Kirby had just put the New Gods to bed and with this and Legends Byrne is throwing stones at their window and stomping his feet to wake them up again. They needed their rest.
There is some absolutely terrible exposition bogging down the first 10 pages of this book. Deathly dry and dull, particularly as Amazing Grace and Darkseid mince on and on about the grand scheme that's taking place in Legends. Snore!
The crux of this issue is Superman has been brainwashed by Darkseid into thinking that he is his son, and when Orion and Lightray come knocking, he's sent out to challenge them. Meanwhile Lightray resists the temptations of the comely Amazing Grace, because, really, we all know that Lightray is totally Sam Wise jonesing for Orion's Mr. Frodo.
In the end Orion uses wits instead of brawn to defeat his amnesiac foe, and has Mother Box apply a mental remedy so that Supes is all normal-like again (but minus the memory that he slaughtered hundreds of Darkseid's servants during a quelled uprising. Because, as Orion explains, that's not something a champion should worry about, and that he's something special (methinks that Orion is perhaps Sam Wise-ing for Superman's Mr. Frodo).
Monday, January 28, 2013
Sunday, January 27, 2013
While I haven't read the first two issues, diving within the pages I cannot escape the Battle Royale or Hunger Games comparisons. But then, you're not supposed to. Most tellingly, the Avengers Arena's logo is a flagrant copy of the Battle Royale shield, while the Greg Horn cover to issue 3 is a brazen pastiche of the flaming Mockingjay symbol from The Hunger Games. Marvel isn't even trying to hide the fact that it's just doing it all over again.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Friday, January 25, 2013
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Okay, So cooler heads prevailed and Diana and Orion didn't wind up throwing down (again) as l had anticipated, but that's okay because Azzarello has started tightening up the weave on this story. The first year of this book is starting to fold itself back into this second one. Month after month I am continually amazed by how much I am enjoying a Wonder Woman book. The last (and only) time I enjoyed it this much prior was Greg Rucka's great run almost a decade ago now... and I think I like this so much more. Diana's so stripped-down, raw, primal and yet Azzarello is giving her more flavour in small doses. I kind of dread reading anyone else writing her in the New 52... but then I look at the other books this week and I know that's not true...
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
There's a new issue of Brian Azzarello's Wonder Woman out today, one which, I'm sure (or I hope), has Diana squaring off against Orion, a clash of Greek and New Gods. I haven't read it yet, but I did read this not-so-classic tale in which Wonder Women and a disguised-as-Green Lantern Steve Trevor square off against Dr. Polaris. Polaris has the power and technology to shift the Earth on its axis, and what does he hold the world hostage for? Green Lantern. He just wants to square off against GL. Idiot.
Meanwhile, in the Huntress backup, Mr Wind and Mr. Kid (sorry, just watched Diamonds Are Forever) have put our heroine onto a conveyor heading into a cremation furnace an left her unattended so that she may escape without interference. Fight, explosion, cliffhanger ending. A tight 7 pages from the middle of the story with very little context.
The letter column is shockingly 6 or 7 issues behind.I thought 4 was always standard.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
I mentioned in yesterday's Firearm review that by the mid-90's I had tired of "New Universes". Quantum and Woody came out early in the Valiant relaunch but I had abandoned the line completely after the cancellation of Archer and Armstrong and wasn't going back. Though I was tempted genuinely by this series, because it was getting very well reviewed by fans and critics alike, and I've enjoyed most, if not all of Christopher Priest's work to that point (and after).
I suspect the drawbacks at the time were budget and a general dissatisfaction with MD Bright's art tracing back to the late '80's...he's an old-fashioned comic artist, and not as flashy as all the new talents that were emerging at the time (the "Image era"). To be honest, I still don't like his style much, mostly his jowly, square-jawed faces put me off. But I have to concede, nay, appreciate how good a visual storyteller he is.
Of course, Priest nails this one too, with a deft sense of humour that doesn't hold back, particularly when it comes to race. The opening pages, delving into the titular character's history together is the book's highlight and the tease of them in costume without any real explanation is frustrating but clever from a sales standpoint. It's a buddy comedy about two friends who discover they can't stand each other. That's a good character premise in any genre.
The rumors were true. I need to track more of this down in the bargain bin.
Monday, January 21, 2013
This was back in the 90's when everything was EXTREME! Notice they don't even show the comics in the commercial. Back in the 90's around this time there was a lot of discussion about how to grow the industry, to bring more people to comics, and "advertising on TV" was constantly brought up. Well, Malibu/Ultraverse did it, and now you know why it's never been done again.
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Really the only thing worthwhile here is Infantino's art, distinctive and special as always. I love his Kara who is attractive but not sexied up. Her blousy top and short shorts is fantastic, simplistic, probably my favourite Supergirl look. On the other hand Infantino did not seen to understand that Arani from the Doom Patrol is supposed to be Indian. Either that, or he didn't know how to draw an Indian woman... she looks like Liz Taylor. Gil Kane does a little better on the cover though.
The book is divided into 2 parts: a 15-page lead story and an 8-page Lois Lane back-up, with a 2-page letter column between them (featuring this great missive:
I'm sorry to have to tell you how disappointed I am in the Daring New Adventures of Supergirl.
You have not only done the unforgivable by making her 19, but you have also made her selfish, smart-alecky, rude, arrogant, and snobby. She is also a crybaby, a wimp and a nerd."
Gasp! 19! Gasp!
A...A NERD!? Noooooooo!
The Lois Lane story is rediculous as Lois goes into the hard-hitting field of celebrity journalism accompanying Jamie Lee Curtis analog scream queen (star of "Hallowe'en's Day") who has all the Daily Planet boys flustered then causes riots in the streets. Lois joins her for all the Superman-related sights and a little "slap dancing". At the end of The evening Lois gets a gun waggled in her face by a deranged hotelier and accused of being a witch. Could be worse, the place he took her to looks like a total rape dungeon. Yeah, it's nuts.
Friday, January 18, 2013
At that time, being around 11 or 12, I remember finding random Eclipse comics at "San Francisco", a novelty store in the neighbourhood mini-mall near my house - Reid Fleming: World's Toughest Milkman and Kamui, if I recall correctly. In one or more of those 4 or 5 issues I found, there was an ad or perhaps "bullpen" page writeup on it. The art looked great and the name, Winterworld, simplistic, catchy, and evocative, reflecting the concept perfectly. Not that it stuck with me but when I somehow overlooked IDW's reprinting of the 3-issue mini-series in 2009, but the started seeing it in the remainder shops around town mid-last year I was drawn to it instantly. It was only a matter of time before I picked it up.
This is one of those post-apocalyptic environments where the events that occurred happened long enough ago that memories of the old world are scarce, and the supplies of former civilization are nearly depleted. Times are tough, people are generally desperate, and it's truly survival of the fittest. Scully is a born forager, intelligent, somehow educated, accustomed to a solitary life looking out only for himself amidst a cold world of savages. He's known in the terrain as a trader, but people don't really earn reputations here, as everyone is constantly viewed with suspicion. When Scully runs into trouble with some other traders and rescues, then in turn is rescued by the teenaged Wynn, he finds himself for the first time questioning his loneliness preference. Along with his loyal (and vicious) badger Rahrah they traverse the dangerous ice and snow covered wastes of the southwest, constantly finding themselves at a disadvantage and frequently paying a price for their isolationist ways.
The story and characters of Winterworld are well-developed and excellently conceived. Dixon obviously has a larger world envisioned than what actually made it to the page, as well as more back story for Scully than what we ever learn, but it's this richness what makes it so easy to invest in. The pacing and flow, particularly of the first series, can be choppy at times (which may be a result of translating the script to his Argentine artist), and Scully's mood swings are puzzling at first until you begin to realize that he's just kind of like that. Chuck Dixon had been working in the industry for about a half decade by the time Winterworld came about, mostly on creator-owned projects for Eclipse like Airboy and Evangeline, and it wasn't long afterwards that he established himself as a key player at DC throughout the '90's. Obviously he's established a name for himself over his journeyman years that will draw attention back onto an earlier title of his, but once there, the focus (which Dixon plainly acknowledges) falls to Argentinian artist Jorge Zaffino.
There are some incredible, nay, awe-inspiring illustrative skills at work in this book. Zaffino's art is at once effortless and passionate, there's a free-hand element to it that gives it a roughly hewn look, but it comes from the hand of someone who is fully confident in what he's drawing. Shading and hatching are used to their utmost effectiveness. He captures the bleary whiteness of a snow-covered landscape, but exacerbates the dreariness of this dying land and the darkness of its people with shadows and heavy lines. It's a style of comic illustration we see from Latin cultures past, like Enric Bada Romero (who I'll get to in the near future with some Modesty Blaise coverage) and Paolo Serpieri, and we still see in creators like Mike Deodato Jr., Sal Velluto. It's not as popular a style anymore as the influences on artists have gone international, as well, artist are striving to define their own sensibilities more by straying away from anything deemed too traditional. But looking at the black and white art of Zaffino, and we could stand to do with more art like this in our modern comics.
This collection reprints the original mini-series, and the 2-part follow-up, Wintersea, that was never before published (though originally intended for Marvel's Epic line before it was dissolved), so it's a special treat. I'm always happy to see hard work that was once shelved come to light. Zaffino's style between the first and second parts changed somewhat noticeably, becoming a little looser, more free-form in the second but at times even more powerful than previously. The most amazing element of Zaffino's work is the thought he put into the details, particularly the character's wardrobes. There's a plantation that exists in a half-buried Texas stadium (the Houston Astrodome I'm guessing), and all the guards are decked out in remnant baseball gear. It's wonderful little touches like these that really sell the reality.
Overall, a beautiful piece of work which I wished I had picked up sooner, but am happy to have now. A third part to the trilogy was planned but, as Zaffino sadly passed away in '02 at a young 42 years of age, Dixon doesn't feel right continuing on without his stellar collaborator. I think that's the right choice, Chuck.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
That horse is all like "Aw shit, is that Batman. Batman's aweso...ow why the fuck did Batman punch me in the face. Aw, wait, now Batman is on my back. This is some wicked shit right here... is that Mr. Freeze. Aw no, worst brainfreeze ev..."
For some reason that horse thinks like a 14 year old suburban kid who totally just discovered Wiz Khalifa a couple weeks ago after previously only ever listening to top 40 radio and now is trying to establish his whole identity around liking Wiz Khalifa but his stupid parents wont take him to West 49 to get some new clothes and aren't really even sure where he got the Wiz Khalifa music from or what his attraction is to it (really parents, never heard of torrenting?). They think it's just a phase and leave the kid to his own devices, and he will delve deeper into current rap trends for about a year, buying a new era 59 hat of some sports team he doesn't even know but he saw it in a video, but ultimately abandon this new identity when he totally gets into whatever MMORPG is popular in two years time, and he totally unknowingly virtually hooks up with a 39-year-old single mother from Missouri for about a year. He goes on to be a moderately successful investment banker, divorced with one kid who he doesn't spend enough time with because he has a crippling addiction to internet pornography. It's the life the horse concocted in his mind and which flashed before his eyes in the panel between when his head got frozen and then all smashed-like.