Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gone Fishin'

So things are gettin' pretty busy around the nerd farm right now, and the next couple of weeks might be a little light on the postings. But we'll be back in full force in May, with more funnybook reviews, a look at A Game of Thrones (book and TeeVee version), and the too-long-in-coming continuation of our history of the Comics Code Authority!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Super-Spies, Thunder Gods and Gender Benders: FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!

So here we are, another week older, another week wiser, another week heavier with new funnybooks to discuss…

Journey Into Mystery #622
by Kieron Gillen, Dougie Braithwaite, and Ulises Arreola

I have to like Marvel’s marketing strategy here. They’re giving Thor a new number one to better-capitalize on the upcoming movie (which I don’t think ever works, but whatever). But rather than completely abandon the original numbering they just returned to less than two years ago, they’re treating the new Thor as a separate series and restoring this series to its original title: Journey Into Mystery. Which is one of the better monster/suspense series titles ever, and one I‘m finding myself surprisingly happy to have back on the racks.

Series writer Kieron Gillen is embracing his title in earnest, too. It’s still a Thor comic, of course, but more of a Thor spin-off starring the young Loki, recently reborn and as-yet-unformed. Gillen is sending his young god of mischief off on a literal “journey into mystery,” a quest that will decide exactly what sort of Loki he will be. I’m finding it pretty compelling so far. Gillen’s Loki is clever and sharp-tongued, and driven by a refreshing mix of curiosity and enlightened self-interest. This first issue plays a little like a children’s fantasy novel, with Our Hero following a trail of bread crumbs left behind by his former self and realizing that it’s part of a larger scheme that he’s going to walk into anyway, if he wants to be his own man.

It’s a nice take on the character, and one more in line with how he was often depicted in the myths. “God of Mischief” too often morphs over into “God of Evil” in modern depictions of the Norse gods, but he’s a much more complex figure than that. There’s every indication that the Vikings admired Loki’s cleverness, even though it was of a type they also believed you couldn’t entirely trust. He exists in a queasy sort of grey area, one that I hope Gillen exploits to the fullest.

On the artistic side of things, the book is apparently being colored and reproduced directly from Dougie Braithwaite’s pencils, which gives the work an illustrative texture that’s difficult to attain with ink. I wouldn’t call the artwork beautiful or anything, but I like the feel of it. It suits the book, I think, and that’s what’s really important in the end.

Grade: B+

Casanova: Gula IV
by Matt Fraction, Fabio Moon, and Gabriel Ba

The reprints of Gula wrap up this issue, and the cat’s out of the bag on what I still consider the best twist ending ever. I have to admit, though, that I’d forgotten how Fraction cheats on it a little here at the end. [SPOILER] The way I remembered it, Seychelle’s artificial life tech had been behind the transformation of Casanova into Zephyr, but he’s just as shocked as the rest of Our Heroes to realize the truth. Which means that Fraction doesn’t actually explain how they did it at all. I’m okay with it, don’t get me wrong; in a world of weird-ass super-science and Life Model Decoys, a little gender-bending DNA manipulation is far from outside the realm of possibility. But an explanation, even one as glib and incomplete as the one I just tossed out there, would have been nice. [/SPOILER]

He makes up for that, though, with the fascinating manifestation of guilt we get from Cas. Faced with Newman Xeno’s choice to fire the gun or re-write history and die, Casanova chooses to go back to his own timeline and die, leaving his friends and family where they were if he’d never made the dimensional jump that started the series. Of course, he’s not really making that choice out of altruism; he thinks he’s really messed things up, and would rather die than face the guilt. Fortunately for us, though, the decision to fire the gun’s really not up to him, and so we get to watch the juicy aftermath. Speaking of which…

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Ward

From those fine fellows over at the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast comes their Lovecraftian YouTube sitcom, The Ward! You can go here to view all three parts of the pilot episode, but part one can be seen below...

Monday, April 11, 2011


So we just can’t seem to keep the funnybooks cleared out here on the Dork Forty. Every time we make some headway into the storehouse, somethin’ comes along and keeps us from reviewin’ everything the way we oughtta. Well, that ends now. We’re drawin’ a line in the freakin’ sand, and today I’m gettin’ this mess cleared out one way or another. Which, of course, means that it’s time for a whole mess of quickies…

Osborn #4 (of 5)
by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios

A few pacing problems surface this issue. As the story nears its conclusion, there’s still a good number of plot points to cover, and DeConnick is dutifully cramming them in. Unfortunately, there’s so much ground to cover that a major character reveal toward the end of the issue isn’t afforded the visual space needed to give it the proper impact. But Emma Rios continues to knock it out of the park on the art front, with the dynamic storytelling and convincing character acting that have distinguished her in my mind as an artist to watch.

Grade: B

The Sixth Gun #9 & 10
by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt

I missed a couple of issues of this book between the first trade and the monthly, but the handy-dandy inside-cover plot synopsis has gotten me up to date: Our Heroes are laying low in New Orleans, and have (of course) attracted the attention of the local supernatural community, as well as that of foreign powers who know more about the guns than they do. So it’s voodoo and swamp ghosts and a posse of gun slinging Italian priests for the weird western this time around. Bunn’s started fleshing out Becky Montcrief a bit, as well; she’s still the innocent in all of this, but she’s not so innocent that she won’t take a lover and keep it from her jealous partner. This book still isn’t great, but the pulpy mix of voodoo, Vatican hit squads, and compromised morality are enough to keep me happy for now.

Grade: B

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Hideous Naughty Strangeness: Alan Moore's Neonomicon, and the Doom That Came to Lovecraft

by Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

So Alan Moore’s farewell “fuck you” to the comics industry wrapped up recently, and… This unrelentingly dark and unpleasant book didn‘t exactly go where I expected it to, though perhaps I should have. He played fair with his literary mystery, after all, planting clues and images that pretty much told you where it was headed if you chose to view them in the right way. But I wasn’t exactly trying to solve the mystery anyway. I was more concerned with the commentary he was making on the works of HP Lovecraft, which is how I want to look at Neonomicon tonight.

Part of the agenda here seems to have been to give some teeth back to the incredible nihilism, the sheer hopeless existential horror that makes Lovecraft’s work so compelling, and that too often gets glossed over in the modern popular fan interpretations of the work. I mean, in a world where you can buy cute stuffed effigies of Cthulhu (I own one myself), it’s easy to forget how terrifying that fucker’s supposed to be. He’s an avatar of nameless, uncaring evil from beyond, a vast alien intellect that will devour all, and that we have no hope of defeating. He is nihilism made flesh, not a toyetic cartoon mascot.

I can understand how it came to this, of course. One of the ways people deal with scary things is to codify them, make them understandable, and (in the end) make jokes about them. And Cthulhu strikes the perfect balance between the bizarre and the relatable in Lovecraft’s pantheon of evil cosmic god-things. “Big flabby oceanic monster with an octopus for head” is way easier to grasp than, say, “formless boiling madness that sits gibbering at the center of the universe.” But it’s also more pleasingly strange than “black goat of the woods with a thousand young.” But still. Codifying Lovecraftian horrors is pretty much antithetical to the point of them. They are the unknown, the unclassifiable things that terrify us because we have problems wrapping our heads around them. That’s why it’s so difficult to do the man’s work justice on film, or in comics: visual mediums demand that you provide visuals for things best left to the imagination.

Jacen Burrows does supply visuals here, of course, and his Deep One (though a very cool monster) isn’t particularly horrifying in and of itself. But it doesn’t need to be, because of the kind of horror Moore has chosen to focus on. Which brings us back on-point, and into the realm of SPOILERS...