Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gearheads and Pygmies and Shogunauts ... Oh My!

So one comic this week stood out above all the others, in much the same way that a giant stands out amongst pygmies. This is not to slight the pygmies, understand. Pygmies are cool. But nothing’s as cool as…

Strange Science Fantasy #1 & 2 (of 6)
by Scott Morse

I’m not sure how I missed this book when it launched, and I’m quite frankly a bit ashamed of myself for it. I go on, at length, all the damn time, about how much I love the weird and the cool and the bizarre. And then, when it’s presented to me, seated quiveringly on the funnybook shelf, awaiting the touch of my eyes like the nether bits of a virgin lover… I pass it by for the beguiling, but far less strange, charms of the familiar. Fah, I say! Fah!


But at least I came to my senses this week. Upon the second offering, I noticed it at last! I took both issues of this sucker home and ravaged the shit out of ‘em.

And… That’s enough of that particular metaphor for today…

A tribute to the rampant creativity of the old Marvel/Atlas horror and science fiction anthologies, Strange Science Fantasy is Scott Morse doing what might be his career-best work. He talks about such high-falutin’ things as “exploring modern myth” and “pop culture as religion” in relation to this book, and it does have its poetic, even philosophical, side. But ultimately that’s all just artsy excuses. This is a comic about coming up with big stupid ideas and having fun with them. And I can’t recommend that sort of thing enough.

Issue one, for instance, is entitled “Dawn of the Gearheads.” And… You know what? I could tell you about it, but Morse’s art on this book will get my point across so much better. Always possessed of a “messy brush” sort of style, he takes that feel to new heights here, and couples it with some classic funnybook character design to produce artwork that conjures up giants like Kirby, Ditko, Toth, and Mignola while still remaining recognizably Morse. The art is so much a part of what makes this comic work that I’d feel remiss not giving you a few tastes of it along the way. So here’s page one:

(Source: )

This first story deals with the future hot rod revolution. After being struck down by his drag strip enemies, the leader of the Gearheads is rebuilt by his surgeon-mechanics into The Headlight, a cyborg jalopy who would lead Gearhead and Grease Monkey alike to world domination! Or, as Morse himself puts it…

(Source: Same CBR link as above. It’s a good review, too. Go make with the clicky!)

Yes, it’s all written like that. Every mother-lovin’ page. It’s all laid out like that, too. With the exception of a rare splash (which you‘ve already seen), it’s all page-wide wordless panels accompanied by awesomely florid narration. Beautiful. Here’s maybe my favorite bit from the first issue:

(Source: )

Cool as issue one is, though, it can’t quite top issue two:

The Shogunaut! Ba-hah! That name alone made this book worth the four-dollar price tag. But Morse paid off even bigger with this second tale. Seeking answers to his people’s problems with suddenly-aggressive sea life, the Shogun consulted his mages and wise men, and they offered a solution…

But the cosmos was a damn dirty liar, and the Shogunaut’s people were set upon a course of folly, seeking revenge for the cosmos against a creature known as The Knucklehead, who was (of course!) the king of the sea. All of which leads to my favorite insane piece of philosophizin’ from this issue:

Indeed it does! But things change when… Ah, I won’t ruin it for you. But it’s awesome. Go find it, and read it. Now.

Grade: A (is for AWESOME)

And, since the rest of the comics from this week were like pygmies in comparison to Strange Science Fantasy, I guess I might as well review them as such. That's right! It's Quickies! Quickies for the pygmy masses!

Iron Man #29
by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larocca

Tony Stark throws a party! And he acts like an ass, in the name of the greater good! Another fine issue from Fraction, coupled with art that I don’t hate from Larocca! In other words, another typical Iron Man outing!

Grade: B+

Daytripper #9 (of 10)
by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Bras, somewhere in his middle age, has a very strange dream about death that reflects all the other deaths we’ve seen along the way. Though I don’t think this book’s themes are terribly complicated, the twins seem to be pulling them together here, in preparation for the end. And oh, how I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Grade: A

Buzzard #3 (of 3)
by Eric Powell

Powell’s art retains the sketchier quality it took up last issue, and the melancholy tone of all the Buzzard stories takes over completely by the end. It’s still a great excuse for Powell to draw some old-school fantasy stuff, though, so I ain’t complaining.

Grade: B+

Battlefields #7
by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun

The first part of “Motherland,” a sequel to the “Night Witches” story from the first Battlefields series. Ennis’ lead has become a seasoned veteran pilot by the time of this story, and… Well, honestly, we’ve seen that before in this series. The politics (literal, social, and sexual) of the Soviets’ use of women in WWII combat positions continues to fascinate, but otherwise this feels a bit old hat.

Grade: B

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