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Reviews: 11/18/12

Posted on November 18, 2012 at 7:25 AM

This weeks comics were better than last, but I'm still waiting for something to hit the wet spot.



FANTASTIC FOUR #1

By Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley & Mark Farmer




It's another reboot from Marvel and another lukewarm production outta this whole "Marvel Now!" thing they got going on. Matt Fraction, Brian Vaughn and Brian Wood, all graduates of the mediocre storytelling school somehow have gotten popular enough to produce comic after comic. They're famous to me for inserting a small dash of unique weirdness to get me to check out their comics from time to time, but always oversaturate that tidbit of goodness with a load of mediocrity. Although my opinions on Vaughn might change soon if he keeps it up on Saga. So with this Fantastic Four #1, Matt Fraction keeps his current streak of obtuse mediocrity going. There's some timeline jumping, Mr. Fantastic gets all fucked up and I guess The Human Torch rules the Negative Zone. Plus Fraction plans on taking the whole family on some interstellar travels, kids included, in the next few issues. Sounds decent, but where's the excitement? It wasn't present. Fraction went very soft on this one. I guess he used up all his inventiveness for the next few months over on his other comic Casanova. I don't know.




Now Mark Bagley, the artist on this thing has always been one of my most hated comic artists of all time, but with the solid full inks of Mark Farmer, Bagley's work is suddenly more palatable. The problem I've always had with Bagley is everyone and everything was so bright and bendy and too fucking cute. Farmer's inks, have given Bagley's art scrupples some earthiness. That awful cuteness of Bagley's work disappears under Farmer's inks and Paul Mounts the colorist, does a really good job of adding the right amount of texture to dull Bagley's candy coated sheen style. Maybe none of that makes sense, but the bottom line is, I was ok with reading a Mark Bagley comic for the first time ever.


Maybe I'll try another issue of this down the road, maybe not. I'll check out the upcoming companion title "FF" because Mike Allred is doing that and rather hope that it's better than this one.



THE PHANTOM STRANGER #'s 1 & 2

By Dan Didio & Brent Anderson




This has to be one of the worst freaking comics currently published by the multi-million dollar corporation called DC Comics. If I didn't know any better I would think this is fan fiction. The plots are un-stimulating, the writing is plain, the art is awful, the coloring while doing it's best to make amends for the art is distracting and ugly. How did this get approved for publication? Oh, the writer of this is also the publisher, so no one would tell him that he sucks and this comic is a piece of shit, I see. There needs to be a catch all editor at Marvel and DC that makes some final decision on books set for publication so when a book like this gets started they can shut it down and just send all the money planned for expenditure on it sent to a charity instead. That would definitely be a more worthwhile venture then letting a comic like this happen.


When is someone at DC going to tell Dan Didio to stop trying to write comics? And when did Brent Anderson turn into a shell of himself? I read Astro City, and while at times Anderson gets a little loose with things, it was never as bad as this latest work of his. At times his work has the look of an amateur (check the page below for example). I give this book 9 issues before it's canned. It would be wise to just stop it right now, but I know that won't happen.




The thing is that once upon a time when I really cared about fictional characters in comic books, The Phantom Stranger was one of my favorite characters. When I heard they were going to do another Phantom Stranger comic, I got a little excited in my inner child. But when I saw who was writing this comic, I gave up all hope. And after reading these first two issues, rightfully so.


So what Didio did is put the Phantom Stranger into some normal facade of a family life, giving him a white guy name, a wife and two kids. He then leads a somewhat typical superhero double life. One part secret identity, the other part battling evil demons and such. So boring. I am not privy to the decisions on the creation of this comic, so I don't know how it was decided this comic would be published and how it was decided that Didio would be writing it, but considering Didio's past writing jobs, wouldn't it have been better to have someone a little more experienced writing mystical style stuff? Didio's style, if he has one, is standard straightforward stuff and it does not do this comic well. 



DRAMA

By Raina Telgemeier

Published by Scholastic




I realize I'm not the target audience for this book, but I really liked her previous book "SMILE". I didn't care that I was obviously in a different demographic than the intended or hoped for audience. I find Telgemeier's cartooning style very enjoyable. It's simple, bright and easy to follow. So while I'm not the intended audience (probably 10-14 year old girls), I'm still going to review this as an aging 38 year old male who has nothing better to do.


Again, I really enjoyed her previous book Smile, so much so I bought a copy for my 12 year old niece who also ended up loving it. But this newest book of hers was very droll. The first 3/4ths of this book was a snooze fest. Boring, boring, boring and more boring. I had no problem with the lead character, a 7th grade girl with purple hair and obsessed with theatre and set design. Actually all the characters were pretty cool. But maybe because I'm an aging male sour on the idea of love, I found the whole deal with the little girl obsessing over a boy to love, and which boy to hook up with very boring. It was nothing new and I was feeling kinda dissapointed by Telgemeier. Halfway through the story I considered dropping the book and not finishing it.


Now the book has received a little bit of controversy for a Scholastic book because there's gay issues dealt with in the book. Personally, I had no problem with it and it wasn't until the gay stuff started to be discussed did this book come alive for me. Finally Telgemeier was doing something new. I am not aware of too many mainstream teen comics dealing so openly and un-sensationalist with the idea that (Shock!) people are actually born gay. So as the book was nearing it's end and one of the boys the main character was crushing on turns out to be gay, it finally got interesting. It was actually a nice surprise the way it was written. It was technically very well done. And I like how Telgemeier ends the book with the girl being ok with not hooking up. An ending very unlike any current pre-teen or teen drama, tv show or what not that's out there. I'm kinda disgusted how all these kid shows lately heavily push that every girl and boy has to find a hook up or they're considered an outcast. I have an 8 year old boy and it's hard to find shows for him that don't have this as one of the main plot lines.


So while I can't be too snarky about this book because it's intended for a pre-teen audience and not my demographic, I wanted to comment because I really wanted to read this book and I honestly like Telgemeier's work. Maybe I was expecting another book of the quality of "Smile", and am disappointed that it didn't turn out that way? I do hope this book is recieved well and Telgemeier is able to continue doing books, cause she has real talent.



TRANSFORMERS:  ROBOTS IN DISGUISE #'s 1-10

Published by IDW




I picked these up all at once and over about a week read them including the annual that was released earlier in the year. I'm a Transformers geek. So far only my 8 year old son knows this. I don't think anyone else knows or even suspects and I will deny it if accused. So between you and me this is a secret, because I'm a grown man and should be establishing a normal life, or really have already established an acceptable life. But I'm still obsessing over petty details of Transformers continuity and that's kinda sick. Anyway I had stopped reading the Transformers comics for awhile... umm is there anyone reading this review that isn't already reading Transformers comics? I'd like to talk to those who aren't first, cool? IDW is publishing two seperate Transformers ongoing series right now. This one and one with the tagline, "MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE." That one is about a bunch of Transformers on various space adventures and in my opinion is the better series. This one, "ROBOTS IN DISGUISE" is about Bumblebee, Prowl and the other really boring Transformer characters trying to establish democracy or rule of law on Cybertron since the war between the Decepticons and Autobots ended. I haven't read those comics yet, how the war came to end, so I'm probably missing some info, but whatever. It doesn't matter much to me now. I'm sure Optimus Prime died and came back at some point during the course of that.


So this series is the boring one and also has a constantly rotating cast of artists, some good, some not. I think they're trying to make an allegory to what is happening in America at the time being on a political level. Two opposing parties trying to form and make a government work and failing. Plus an immigration issue which contributes to some of the angst amongst the polar opposite Autobots and Decepticons, much like the Democrats and Republicans. Over these 10 issues we are treated to Bumblebee now the appointed leader by decree of Optimus Prime, Prowl who is a devious son of a bitch, Arcee a pyschopathic killer, Ironhide now some new age spirtual guru type and Starscream who has turned good guy. Add lots of silly juvenile arguing, and the slow build up of the return of the Autobot/Decepticon war, plus some very vague and long winded background evil planning by Shockwave and that's this series in a nutshell.


There are two issues out of the ten which feature Optimus Prime, er-Orion Pax now that he gave up his name because of some reason or other. The stories with Optimus are illustrated by the guy who did the awesome "Autocracy" series and are the best single issues of the series so far. As a long time fan of Transformers, in a sense you really only want stories that feature Optimus Prime, but know that you would kill the appeal of the character if you used him too much. So you have to throw in these secondary characters like Prowl and Wheeljack and such just to give some freshness to more stories of Optimus. But when the only really good stories so far in this series were the ones with Optimus, you hunger for more because you know the other stories are just wasting time.




So yeah this is a rather boring Transformers series and I prefer the other one. I guess if you are a Transformers completist you are probably still getting this book. And yeah I will still be picking up this book, cause they're free and I'm a total geek. 



BILLY FOG

Published by Archaia Comics




This one was released in 2011, but only now did I finally get a copy. Some of the previews I've seen online, have not shown some of the better pages in my opinion. I don't know how the sales were on this, but I have a feeling it probably didn't do too well. Which is a sad thing because this is good stuff. Weird, but good. This was originally a Spanish release and translated into English by Archaia last year. Archaia has been really trying to expand it's line and is doing a relatively good job at it. This one, that Jim Henson book, those Matz books, Secret History, etc. etc. Archaia is definitely one of my favorite publishers and I'm not saying that just cause they give me free comics. I sincerely like what they are doing and am eagerly awaiting more Artesia comics which got their whole publishing thing going.


Billy Fog is a dark melancholic playful style of book which I found entertaining and technically very creative. The book was a mix of somewhat common panel to panel comic book style, intermixed with prose inserts detailing some of the creatures and characters depicted in the mix of stories. The prose pages while at first entertaining got a little boring by the end as the comics pages were my favorite. Artist Guillaume Bianco is obviously inspired by Edward Gorey with his scratchy dark drawing style and depressing, but cute stories. I almost wanted to read this to my 8 year old boy, but decided that characters like Knife Girl who liked to knife people to death and Girl with Scissors in her eyes was a little too morbid for my child's still sensitive mind.


I absolutely loved Billy's obsession with death as the running theme to this book. If you could call such an obsession cute, that would be how I would describe it. Morbidly cute is probably the best way to describe this entire book. If you're into that kind of thing don't pass this up.



BABA YAGA AND THE WOLF

Published by Koyama Press




This was a comic released earlier this year. I remember it coming out and had every intention of picking it up, but for some reason or other totally forgot about it, till I found it for free online the other day. Having read many a Koyama Press book in the past I kind of knew what to expect. Something arty, something weird, pretty to look at but possibly more a kitsch thing than an actual comic worth holding onto. If that makes any sense.


So yeah Baba Yaga and the Wolf is a pretty looking thing. It's a breezy read, completely odd, but engrossing in that way that the weirdest things possible are. Part lyrical poem, part fairy tale, part sequential art is what this "comic" is. But if I were the person in charge of publishing at Koyama, this woulda never gotten published. How many of these alternative "art" comics fail at delivering a solid read from start to finish? Many many many. I love comics that push the form, absolutely love that, but I am really tired of comics that don't have any intention of finishing their stories. I get it in an abstract comic or something of that kind, but this comic was telling a lateral story and then just stopped. No "to be continued", nothing. It just ran out of pages. Is it really that hard to create an end to your story? I do some writing (yep there's your comedy for this weeks column), but if I'm not trying to be weird, coming up with an ending is a pretty simple thing to do. I was halfway through reading this and already planning all the positive things I was going to say about this comic and then the pages ran out. 


I'm glad I didn't pay for this, but I will keep an eye out for more from the artist, probably. And yeah I will still read as many Koyama books as possible, because they are some pretty looking things when they do come out.

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