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Sep 9

Last Week in Comics

Posted on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 by Al in Uncategorized

Good old postal strikes, eh? Between localised industrial action and holiday-induced late shipping, I’ve received this week’s books in the twilight of the week again, so this might all seem a little old hat to you cutting-edge kids. You’re probably all twittering about next week’s comics already. Bah! Get off my lawn. Anyway. I’ve got the new Brendan Benson album, I’ve got comics, let’s go!

THE TORCH 1: This is another of Marvel’s 70th anniversary commemoration books, like The Marvels Project, Cap: Reborn and Finding Namor*, this one dealing with the least celebrated of their original Big Three, the Human Torch. At least, that’s the theory. In this Alex Ross/Mike Carey/Patrick Berkenkotter book, the Torch appears in a non-flashbacky way in one panel. In his stead, we get the handwavingly-resurrected Toro, the Torch’s old-school sidekick, and his spirit guide, the Spectre Golden Age Vision, who’s kicking around for no real reason and to no properly explained end. The plot, such as it is, features Toro having a big old complain, then deciding to take down the Mad Thinker (who has dropped the ‘Mad’ from his name, presumably for public relations reasons) and coming a bit of a cropper in the process, while the Thinker is working on a super-weapon for AIM. If it sounds slim, then you’d be right – my sketchy summary above is essentially all that happens in the first issue. Mike Carey manages to salvage what would otherwise be a bit of a shambles by dint of his usual well-crafted script, but the shadow of Ross’s necromantic hand is all over this book, the art looks like Igor Kordey’s rough work and the colours make everyone look like they’re claymation models. The words are good enough to let you overlook the art, but the basic purpose needs to be questioned – why has Toro been brought back, and why is the Torch being brought back? What is the reason for this story? Why are these characters important or compelling or necessary? These questions should have been asked before this was commissioned, and if they were, the answers aren’t apparent.

SWEET TOOTH 1: Jeff Lemire, Eisner-nominated writer/artist of the Essex County trilogy, has just started his new Vertigo ongoing, featuring a mutant kid (but not the comic-book kind of mutant. The unfortunate kind) who lives in the forest with his dad, who unlike his son does not have antlers or deer-like facial features. This first issue gives us Gus, who is cared for by, and who in turn cares for, his ailing father. They struggle by, his dad getting sicker every day, until hunters turn up – and they’re not interested in rabbits. Lemire’s quiet, considered scenes are hugely atmospheric, and he can even turn something as ostensibly uneventful as Gus and his dad eating dinner into a moment of creeping dread. The backstory amplifies that dread, what little of it we get; it seems there’s been some kind of incident that’s led to people getting sick and dying, and kids being born with physical mutations, which suggests radioactive fallout, but the answers aren’t laid out on the table for us and we’re expected to pull our own weight. We get little help from the narrator; Gus is not an obvious protagonist – he’s simple, nervous and gawky – but his plain language is without artifice and if any reader of this book doesn’t fear for him by the end of the first issue and want to protect him then they’ve got no soul. Lemire has a fantastic way with both words and pictures, which is essentially all comics are. The fact that he’s nailed it so perfectly in the first issue is a real sign of good things to come.

YOUNG LIARS 18: A review of this Vertigo book, on the other hand, is kind of redundant. If you’ve been reading the series so far, you’ll probably already have read this issue, and if you haven’t, then for pity’s sake don’t read this issue, because it will make absolutely no sense whatsoever and possibly sour you to the entire concept. I think the series as a whole probably deserves a separate post at some point down the line, once I’ve re-read the whole thing, but in short this is as good an ending as there is likely ever to be for what will go down in Vertigo history as one of their strangest and most polarising books. There are, I’m almost certain, no comics readers who have tried Young Liars and come away from it thinking “Yeah, it was okay, I guess”. Either you’re like me, and have been gleefully holding on for dear life as it pinballed around from normalcy to Mars and back, or you’ve written it off as willfully obtuse and precious nonsense. I’ll give the detractors one thing – if you’re reading Young Liars looking for a story that will reveal its secrets on a first or second or ninth reading, you’re likely to be disappointed, because it doesn’t reveal its secrets at all. It’s a series where what you get out of it is whatever you take from it, not one red cent more, and it’s completely unapologetic about it. So, yeah. Young Liars. I loved it. Make of it what you will.

CHEW 4: Look, if you’re not reading this, you are demented, so there’s nothing I can really say that will change your mind, but if somehow you just haven’t got round to it yet, please do. In this issue, Chu and Savoy go to a remote observatory and fight some people who may or may not be vampires but are definitely Russian girls in their underwear while investigating the death of a secretly criminal Senator and Tony’s brother Chow gets pursued by some gangsters that look like they could snap him in half. Layman and Guillory are firing on all cylinders here. This is great comics.

RUNAWAYS 13: Delayed from last week but better late than never. Kathryn Immonen’s story is starting to look a little shaky on its feet here, with random and slightly inexplicable hookups, an inability to decide whether Hunter Stein is actually a bad guy or not (Chase seems to think he is, and he’s clearly wrapped up in something shady, but none of the other kids seem too bothered) and what looks like a circuitous route back to something resembling the BKV-era setup all whacking at it with hockey sticks in an attempt to take it down. The three parts of Homeschooling so far have had a slightly dreamlike quality to them, with some perfect moments and a feel for the characters that’s been lacking since Vaughan left, but like a dream the plot appears to be moving in odd directions and at an uneven pace. Events like the recent death of a major character get minimal amounts of attention given to them, and the kids have only clapped eyes on the story’s real credible thread for a few seconds. If the book’s going on hiatus (and it appears that that’s the case) then this is a slightly strange way to wrap up the series, but Immonen’s got one more issue to pull it back – the first two parts of this story were a lot more satisfying and I’m easily prepared to chalk this issue up as an atypical mis-step. Sara Pichelli and Christina Strain keep hitting the high notes, though, and to be honest, this is still the best the book’s been in a few years, and if it suffers by comparison to Immonen’s first two issues then at least part of that is because they were very good.

So that’s what I read this week (that and the Secret Six tpb, of course, which also deserves its own post). What about you?

*Not really, but it would be good, right? And if I hadn’t referenced the Disney thing you’d have been disappointed.

Bring on the comments

  1. N says:

    Thru some shenanigans involving time travel, Bucky, the Golden Age Vision, and a cosmic cube, Toro was resurrected at the end of Avengers/Invaders. Which no one read.

  2. Al says:

    I figured it probably had to be something to do with that, because that was the last series Alex Ross and Dynamite did for Marvel.

  3. Someone needs to invent time travel so Alex Ross can just go off and live in the Golden or Silver Age he loves so much and leave modern comics alone.

  4. dmcd says:

    I have no idea (is it even officially cancelled/hiatused yet?), but Runaways doesn’t read like Immonen knew she was only going to be doing four issues, what with all the Hunter set-up and the general “reboot” feel of this arc. I agree this issue was a bit weaker, but still so far beyond the Whedon and Moore (they go to THE MALL?!) material that I find it hard to criticize.

    This (last) week I enjoyed Strange Tales. I think. And Ultimate Spider-Man. Except for the haircut.

  5. simmo says:

    Runaways kind of lost its impetus since they’ve stopped, you know, running away. They don’t seem to be running from anything any more, or at least it’s not played up enough. That simple premise should be able to keep the book going (concept wise) for ages.

  6. Mammalian Verisimilitude says:

    > deciding to take down the Mad Thinker (who has dropped the ‘Mad’ from his name, presumably for public relations reasons)

    I don’t think the Mad Thinker’s ever called himself that, has he? – it’s always been something other characters have called him, but not himself.

    > the shadow of Ross’s necromantic hand is all over this book


  7. Niall says:

    Runaways was on an up. I wish they’d let the current creative team tell a 20-issue story. There’s a handful of excellent sub-plots that need resolutions. Alex talking to Molly? The Staff of One controlling Nico? Chase’s belief that the staff was evil and his desire to take it away from Nico? What exactly did Chase do when he time travelled on his own? Will Victor become evil? The Gibborium have been spotted recently. Just what is Leapfrog? One member of the cast remains stranded in space. What powers does Molly have?

  8. lloyd says:

    Al, being a New Warriors fan as you are I thought that you’d know he was calling himself ‘Thinker’ back in the ’90’s (or he was in New Warriors vol. 1 at least) and only using Mad in issue 75 because it made for better annagrams than just Thinker.

  9. Al says:

    The Thinker/Mad Thinker thing was just a gag really…!

  10. agree on the thumbs up for Sweet Tooth. It was a very compelling start, and at only a dollar for the debut issue, any comic reader who passed it up should have their Black Lantern Ring confiscated.

  11. Michael Aronson says:

    There’s nothing I like better than being called “demented” for not reading something that someone else likes.

  12. Al says:

    It’s just hyperbole, no offence intended.

  13. Dandan says:

    Runaways has been sort of a slight mess since Immomen came on, while there’s some good idea’s it doesn’t seem like her and the artist are on the same page entirely.

    Maybe it’s Immomens fault Hellcat wasn’t exactly completely coherent either.

  14. Joe S. Walker says:

    The Mad Thinker didn’t like being called “Mad” back in the old days. He had a tendency to say things like “Now that my demoniacally detailed master plan has guaranteed the destruction of the Fantastic Four, men will know me as the All-Powerful Thinker!”

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