08th Dec2013

Panel Discussion #28

by Jack Kirby

Jack-Comics

So Infinity (w. Jonathan Hickman a. Jim Cheung, Dustin Weaver) concluded what’s been an interesting if not exactly mind-blowing run. The Avengers return to earth to sort out Thanos and his nasty mates, Maximus of the Inhumans cracks wise and saves the world and Rocket Raccoon makes an all-too brief (like, one panel appearance). The main point of the event seems to have been to launch the Inhumanity series – which to be fair, does look kind of interesting – but beyond that, I’m not sure what we’ve learnt. None of the characters seem to have radically changed from what I, as a pretty casual Marvel reader, understand to be their default personality setting to be. What happens to Thanos (and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that yes, something happens to the primary antagonist in the last issue of a comic book series) is cool, but it’s fairly obvious that it’ll affect continuity until such time as Marvel feel the need to roll him out again as the big bad in something else. It may have helped my appreciation of the series if I’d read a number of the tie-in books, but I believe that a story should be able to be told coherently without having to rely on the reader shelling out for additional books. Infinity more or less does this, but it felt like I’ve been missing something throughout it.

My main comic book highlight over the last couple of weeks has undoubtedly been Harley Quinn #0, which acts as a teaser prior to the launch of the villain’s own title proper. Impressively, seventeen different artists (including Becky Cloonan, Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea, Stephane Roux, Dan Panosian, Charlie Adlard, Adam Hughes, Art Baltazar, Walt Simonson, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Bruce Timm, Tradd Moore, Dave Johnson, Jeremy Roberts, Sam Kieth, Darwyn Cooke, Paul Mounts, Tomeu Morey, John Kalisz, Lovern Kindzierski, Alex Sinclair, Lee Loughridge, Dave Stewart and Alex Sollazzo) contributed to this fourth wall-breaking, genuinely laugh-out-loud exercise in manic creativity. Quinn muses upon what it’d be like to be have her own comic book whilst the voices of creators Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Chad Hardin (who’ll be doing the art regularly) trade witticisms with her and barbs about the comics industry (Palmiotti’s All Star Western and Batwing get a bit of a kicking and Jim Lee is roasted excellently). The book was unpredictable and delightfully so. It struck me that more books should be able to surprise the reader with greater regularity, as well as being funny. If the ongoing series has even a fraction of this zero issue’s chutzpah and off-the-wall sensibility, then this will be a very goof thing.

On the slightly more serious side of the DCU, Batman (w. Scott Snyder) continues his Zero Year antics. I wasn’t expecting it to, but it seems another mini-arc has begun, with the re-introduction of a very vintage Bat-villain who is killing folk in a very gruesome manner, depicted with wonderfully icky clarity by Greg Capulllo. We also get to spend a little time with Lucius Fox and Jim Gordon, both of whom have been given rather more complex relationships with Bruce Wayne than in previous continuity, though the circumstances of these relationships is yet to be fully expanded on. It shouldn’t go unsaid that Fco Plascenia’s colours are really impressive in this issue and throughout the Zero Year run, giving the book an almost psychedelic look. In the back-up story, a young Harper Row returns after a rather long absence; which bodes well, as she seems a fairly interesting character and I’m hoping we’ll see more of her in the future.

Sticking with Scott Snyder, if you’re not reading The Wake, then, well, I really think you should be. The series reached its halfway point with this fifth issue and its conclusion offered a curve-ball I honestly wasn’t expecting. We rejoin Lee’s science team as they mount an all-or-nothing attack on the mass-off mer-monster that’s arisen from the ocean’s depths. The series’ mix of sci-fi and mythology has a startling appeal, but it also manages to smuggle in some humanity through its sympathetic and convincingly driven lead character . The book doesn’t return until next year and Snyder is promising even bigger better stuff in the second half of the series and my mouth is watering at the prospect.

Death Sentence‘s (w. Monty Nero a. Mike Dowling) second issue also came out in the last couple of weeks and despite the near-rapturous praise it’s garnered, I don’t really see the appeal. A writer on Popmatters has apparently described the book as ‘easily the equal of Dostoyevsky or Dickens’. I have no problem with comparing comics to literary texts but if that’s not hyperbole of the highest order I have no idea what is. Its tale of sexually-transmitted superpowers doesn’t feel fresh and it’s unhelpful that none of the characters are particularly likeable people. There is, however, a well constructed sequence in which a character with invisibility attempts to elude capture from hostile forces and I liked the ‘how to’ guide after the main book that describes the story’s transition from idea to printed page is a nice addition but otherwise it was a bit of a drag.

New from Image is Black Science (w. Rick Remender),which if you’ve noticed any trend in the kind of books I like to read, you probably could’ve guessed I’d be giving a read. An anarchist, dimension-hopping scientist adventuring his way through a planet inhabited by sentient frog-beasts? Yes, that will do nicely. There’s some lovely artwork by Matteo Scalera and Dean White, which perfectly suits the pulpy nature of the story. Initially, it feels a little throwaway but when we start discussing anarchist principles and concepts of freedom whilst beheading monstrous amphibians in unknown dimensions, I think it’s clear there’s something a little more engaging at hand.

Finally, I want to give a special mention to Five Ghosts, the seventh issue of which begins a new storyline entitled ‘Lost Coastlines’, which surely promises adventure on the high seas. We catch up with Fabian Gray, who is gathering information on the dreamstone, prior to teaming up with the sort of proto-Catwoman figure of Jezebel, whose latest steal could provide a vital tool in rescuing Gray’s lost sister. It was a great relief to have the art of Chris Mooneyham back this issue, I think he may well be my favourite comics artist. Orbital Comics were lucky enough to be graced with the presence of both writer Frank Barbiere and colourist Lauren Affe, both of whom were very nice and happy to chat with we the fans. It’s a decidedly very good thing that Five Ghosts has become an ongoing series; like the aforementioned Black Science, it’s a monthly dose of healthy pulp, accompanied by a great deal of heart. It provides accessible, engaging and beautifully presented adventure and I urge you to pick up the recent trade if you haven’t already.

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