09th Oct2013

Panel Discussion #23 with Jack and Mark

by Mark Allen


This post is a little outdated, and that’s entirely due to my faffing around and taking far too long to read emails, so don’t blame Jack. Er, sorry. – M


I’ve recently been catching up with The Wake, Scott Snyder’s fishy tale on DC’s Vertigo label, illustrated by Sean Murphy, now on its fourth issue of ten. The Wake is a story about a marine biologist who is brought into a government facility deep under the arctic sea to study a grisly looking merman beast, which inevitably escapes, rallies his mates and starts attacking the hapless science team. The story is interspersed with snippets of humankind’s ancient past and far future, the implications of which raise questions about the course of our evolutionary process and of course on the story in the present.

I was happy to give this series a go on the strength of Snyder’s work on Batman and Swamp Thing and I was curious to see how he would treat wholly original material. Needless to say, it’s really very good, with properly interesting science fiction mixed in with creation myths and fairy tales. Characters are well judged, likable and believable and Murphy’s art is of the sketchy, vaguely impressionistic variety that I really like. So I suggest you read it.

The Battle of the Atom crossover is bringing me to strange and new X-Men books, the latest of which is Wolverine and the X-Men #36, written by Jason Aaron and pencilled by Giuseppe Camuncoli. I understand that each book focuses on a slightly different combination of characters, but as this crossover seems to deal with pretty much all of them simultaneously, the key differences between each book seem a little arbitrary. Sure, the art differs a bit (though not greatly) and I’m not really familiar enough with each of the writers to pick up on their individual tics and stylistic flourishes. Still, I’m enjoying the story, which is the main thing. Essentially, it isn’t afraid of not taking itself too seriously, which is a blessed relief.

If you were to use the Friends naming convention to describe each book in the crossover, this would be The One with the Big Psychic Fight, as Future Jean Grey, Past Jean Grey, Emma Frost and The Stepford Cuckoos concentrate very hard at each other. Meanwhile the other X-Men pontificate on the futility of it all – including an amusing set piece monologue from Deadpool – and Past Beast, Past Iceman and Magik do some sleuthing to usher in the surprise/not too surprising twist ending of the book, as the plot reaches its halfway point. It’s fun, it’s daft, it knows it’s daft, it’s enjoying throwing lots of characters together and seeing what happens, including past, present and future versions of the same person. I like it.

DC’s slightly tedious villains month draws to a close for me with Bane, written by Peter J Tomasi and illustrated by Graham Nolan. In this book, Bane beats people up, kills them and is sailing a boat to Gotham to continue doing the same in the absence of Batman (who isn’t around because of whatever happened in Trinity War/Forever Evil).

I have periodically really enjoyed Tomasi’s writing on Batman and Robin, the post Death of the Family dream sequences issue was wonderful, as was the wholly silent requiem after the death of Robin. Here though, everything feels a bit by the numbers and lazy and the artwork looks fairly slapdash to me. I’m glad normal Batman is back next month.

Lastly, East of West #6 (Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Image). I’ve flip flopped between being excited about this book, then unimpressed pretty much issue by issue. This one is a good one, serving to introduce a new character with a cool backstory, a badass attitude and robot dog, which is more than enough to keep me entertained. There’s also a freaky tentacle beast from another dimension that gets all up in one character’s grill, ensuring this issue truly delivers bang for buck. Our new character, as yet unnamed is a so called Ranger, responsible for purging the United States of its corrupt politicians and judges a few years back. I guess this is the start of a new arc and again, I’m back on board for now. Any chance it’ll remain consistently interesting and exciting? God knows.


Unfortunately I haven’t been able to visit the shop in a couple of weeks so I’m way behind on my pull list and have only read the handful of books I simply had to resort to ebay for. This time it’s only Sex Criminals #1, the long-awaited new series from Image by writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky. Both well known for their wry sense of humour, their description of Criminals as a “sex comedy for comics” seems a little broad for their tastes. Upon opening the book, I realised they were wrong. It’s not a sex comedy – at least not in the way they mean, in the 40 Year Old Virgin or Porky’s sense – because it’s a hell of a lot more than that.

High concept pitch: Sex Criminals is about two twenty-somethings with the power to stop time when they orgasm who meet and begin a life of crime. Issue #1 gives us the female lead Suzie’s backstory in the form of flashbacks narrated by her adult version with an endearing pathos and self-awareness that’s to be expected from Fraction’s writing. Teen Suzie uses her blossoming sexuality as an escape from the pain of her dead father, and that’s another clue that “sex comedy” really is a misnomer for this book. It’s definitely got a bunch of funny moments, sure – especially if you look at Zdarsky’s wondrously warped background images and come-faces – but there’s much more of an emotional core than there are belly laughs in this first issue.

There’s a darkness to Suzie’s early years, from her exploitation of sympathetic middle-agers on Hallowe’en to her frozen-time yelling bouts at her alcoholic, widowed mother – but also a deeply felt sense of romance to Suzie and Jon’s first meeting, in which he recites the opening passage of Nabokov’s Lolita and the party they’re at slowly falls away to leave them alone on a couch in a white void. Zdarsky’s art is incredibly cinematic, effectively conveying the stoppage of time in an obviously difficult medium to do so and bringing something new to almost every page in terms of layout and panel allocation.  Maybe there’ll be more actual comedy once the plot properly kicks in, but for now Sex Criminals is just a romantic, charming, insane story about glowing penises and time travel.

Which I’m just fine with.

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