29th May2013

Panel Discussion #007 with Jack and Mark

by Jack Kirby

JandM-Comics

May 23rd 2013

Mark

Young Avengers #5, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Marvel

The conclusion of Gillen & McKelvie’s first arc sees the proper (re)formation of the teen team, a revelation or two about new addition Kid Loki (inherited from Kieron Gillen’s recently-concluded Journey Into Mystery run) and of course a couple of innovatively-rendered fight scenes from Jamie McKelvie, who somehow manages to turn a pentagram into an incredibly effective AND plot-related page layout. Check it out, if only for that sight.

Not that it’s the only thing worth reading in the book. The run so far has been filled with inventive artistry (issue #4’s floorplan(!) raid by Marvel Boy has to be seen to be believed) and Gillen’s quick wit and knowing asides, which could make for an aloof and potentially alienating series if not for the pathos both writer and artist inject into the teenage angst and dastardly plotting, making us feel for both the self-sacrificing hero and the conflicted villain(?) with ease.

Oh, and Hawkeye’s in the book too, which gives it an automatic A for Awesome. No, not Hawkeye. Kate Hawkeye. Though even if she didn’t do or say much of anything this’d still be my second favourite Marvel book (Don’t worry, Hawkguy. You’re safe at the top.). Though I am a little disheartened that McKelvie won’t be on art duties next month, I’m content to believe that he’s hard at work on the next series of Phonogram.

[It’s the only thing that keeps me going sometimes.]

The Unwritten #49, Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Vertigo

The Unwritten is one of my favourite independent books and highly recommended to any literary types who revere the written word but wouldn’t ever think about cracking open a funnybook, being as it is about the incredible power of stories and containing allusions to works as diverse as Harry Potter, Moby Dick, Willowbank tales and, in this concluding issue of its latest arc, Orpheus in the Underworld. A summary of events thus far would be helpful but impractical for those uninformed (though a retrospective article may be in order to coincide with the book’s 50th issue and the beginning of its Fables crossover), so suffice it to say that Carey and Gross’s story compels and delights in equal measure, a strong return to form after a middling arc at the tail end of last year.

Part of that is due to the presence of one Pauly Bruckner, a rightfully pissed-off bunny (literally) with an axe to grind and a mouth like a sailor, but a more substantial portion derives from the return of some familiar faces and unresolved conflicts, not to mention a deeper investigation into the central themes and mystery of The Unwritten which leaves us in a place I’m incredibly excited to read about.

If you’re not reading this right now, pick up the trades and catch up while you still can. I’ve a feeling you won’t want to miss where this is going.

Avengers #12, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, Mike Deodato Jr., Marvel

I just can’t seem to get along with this book: while last issue was far too trivial, the lofty notions and platitudes brought up in the latest issue of Hickman – joined by co-writer Nick Spencer, presumably both to carry the weight of J-Hix’s annual 36 issue commitment and pave the way for the Infinity storyline that’s starting in a couple of issues.

This chapter sees the story pick up a thread from an earlier issue: namely, the zebra-skinned, evolutionary marvellous (ha!) kids that popped up in the Savage Land not long ago (it’s a long story). Thor and Hyperion take the lead in teaching them human – or, rather, superhuman – values so that they can help the world live without need or somesuch. Oh, and Spider-Man shows up to be a dickhead for a few panels to remind us all that Doctor Octopus is inhabiting his body.

I’ve always had some trouble with Thor – he’s something of a hard superhero to connect to emotionally, being godlike and speaking in faux-Shakespearian nonsense as he does – and his worst iterations leave me feeling cold. He’s best used when humanised, his godhood put in proper context or used in the manner of his original myths, fighting dragons and waging overwrought melodrama in Asgard. Unfortunately, neither form is utilised here, as the God of Thunder and the equally impenetrable Hyperion (he saw his planet collide into another, don’tcha know) sit discussing the fate of humanity in a way that felt uncomfortably like two rich, white men talking about the charities the fund.

Which is more or less all that happens, really; Tony Stark tells us repeatedly that he’s in space (you get the feeling that this issue was edited to death) and endless rhetoric fills the page from beginning to end about how much these kids matter – not that it matters what they think about their destiny, of course. The whole issue has the distinct scent of being overwritten, something that the duo of writers are likely responsible for, either egging each other on to fill up as much available space as possible or failing to pare down Hickman’s original pages to a terminable length.

I’m becoming less and less impressed with Hickman’s run each issue, and I’ll give him a couple more to turn it around and deliver something of real substance (he may be famed for his meticulously-planned setups, but I shouldn’t have to buy 6 months of issues before reading a satisfying issue) before I throw in the towel. What sums up the run for me at this point is that, even though I read the issue hours before writing this post, I had to flick through it again to remind myself what actually happened.

Fantastic Four #8, Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley

A solid issue from Fraction and Bagley concerning Ben Grimm (aka The Thing)’s annual return to human form – established in Hickman’s previous run on the comic – and his return to the NYC and Yancy Street of his youth, an anachronistic and nostalgic ‘20s mobster pastiche. While it was enjoyable to see Grimm take a more central role in the book, I was reminded that perhaps the reason he’s more often on the sidelines is that his position as the moral centre of the FF makes his actions much too predictable, as in this issue wherein he defends the innocent, takes the high road and clobbers a whole bunch in typical Grimm style. But it did have the scent of filler about it, as the tracks are laid (a little clumsily, I thought) for next issue’s more plot-centric story. Not the best work either Fraction or Bagley have done, but by no means a bore.

Jack

Five Ghosts #3, Frank J Barbiere, Chris Mooneyham, Image Comics

Barbiere and Mooneyham’s pulp odyssey continues in this third of a five issue run. After being rescued by a mysterious stranger in a neat flying boat thing last issue, Fabian and his travelling companion find themselves in a strange ‘forgotten city’. We learn some truths about the nature of Fabian’s abilities and the schlocky styling of the series is offset with some more considered ideas about the nature of storytelling and the collective unconscious.

Which is all good stuff. More than anything, this series is for those who don’t just enjoy good storytelling, but the idea of storytelling itself. It doesn’t matter that the actual action feels like the kind of thing you’ve seen in old cartoons since you were a kid at your grandparents’ house – that’s almost the point. All narratives refer to similar hallmarks and generic touchstones and this book attempts to ask why – framed by a classic treasure hunting adventure.

To supplement this, Chris Mooneyham’s art is simply gorgeous. Most frames look like hand drawn film posters from the nineteen forties convey a great sense of movement and expression. Excellent use of colour too. They’re the kind of images you want to blow up and hang from your walls. Or at least set as your desktop background for a while. Either’s good.

The Bounce #1, Joe Casey, David Messina, Image Comics

I’d seen this advertised for some weeks prior to its publication and as it’s a number one and as it’s Image, I thought it’d be rude not to give it a go. I like number ones because you don’t have to know anything about the book before you read it, which is really handy. I like Image because they seem to put out loads of good books by talented creators with interesting and engaging plotlines, accompanied by good artwork that aren’t generally about people with superpowers who wear tights and are usually unencumbered by decade’s worth of backstory and mythology.

The Bounce is about a guy with superpowers who wears tights though. To a point, I guess. We meet Jasper who appears to be a big stoner but is also a superhero who fights villains by uh, sort of bouncing at them. That happens in the first few pages, then there’s a whole military conspiracy thing that takes up most of the rest of the book followed by a weird tripping sequence.

I hate to write another wishy-washy ‘the first issue is kind of interesting but it’s too soon to make a judgement about how good it really is’ type review, but the first issue is kind of interesting and it really is too soon to make a judgement about how good it really is. Sorry. I’ll pick up another issue, if it’s good, continue to collect, if it’s okay, maybe get a trade when it comes out, or if it’s not, never buy anything of its ilk again.

Nowhere Men #5, Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde, Image Comics

Nowhere Men is something I’ve stuck with. I’m not sure it’s making a whole lot of sense yet but I’m loving getting lost in its mire each month. Along with the similarly themed Manhattan Projects, this is a story of science run amok in an alternative history. The neat hook of the series is that it reimagines pop-culture in a way that equates scientists with rock stars who carry similar cultural currency and are adulated by the media in much the same way. And along with Manhattan Projects, it’s probably the book I most look forward to reading each month.

So far this series, something very wrong has happened on a secret space station and its crew have returned to earth with strange abilities and/or unpleasant ailments. Scientific partners turned rivals are competing with each other to seize control of the situation in the aftermath. Along with some lovely artwork, Nowhere Men makes use of other found texts to tell its story in a similar way to how Watchmen did all those years ago. There’s a similar doomy feel to the narrative too.

Credit must also go to Fonografiks, the graphic designers responsible for the book’s distinctive design which adds a great deal to the enjoyment of it. If you haven’t sampled its joys already, I would strongly urge you to check out Nowhere Men. The first collected volume is out soon, which will present a great time to get on board. For me, I’m going to go back and read from the first issue and check if the bigger, jumbled picture is becoming any clearer.

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