Inert, but Not Forgotten!

July 31, 2009 at 12:42 am (Comic Books)

Wednesday Comics #4

It’s already been four issues, hasn’t it? It seems like just yesterday this title was bursting with promise, and now it’s trying to actualize it. It could use a check-in.

(More reviews below the jump)

The title above pretty much refers to just this comic, which has proceeded pretty much by the numbers since its first issue, which is very bad for a couple reasons. Most of the stories in the comic retain their charming form but chilling mediocrity, with Batman being the sterling strip that continues to actually move forward while still being underwhelming. Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. has progressed exactly one plot notch since the first issue, and retains its nine grid panel that looks like a blown up comic page.

Superman has progressed into becoming absolutely terrible, this issue’s main crux being Supes remembering that he felt off at one point in Metropolis. With all this foreshadowing of a coming human-krypton slugfest, or whatever, I have to wonder when we’ll see the light. And, no, packing an unseen but opened crate as a cliffhanger does not count as advancing the story. When we see what’s in there, maybe, but for right now this entire page was just exposition and a bad cliffhanger. Just terrible.

Similarly, Metal Men, while still having the saving grace of Garcia Lopez inked by Kevin Nowlan, is pearls decorating a swine. It keeps its clever sense of negative space blocking out panels (admittedly a trick I may like too much), and facial expressions are brilliant as ever. But after four strips of nothing (will we ever find out why stopping the bank robbery was a bad idea!?!), the cliffhanger is a suicide bomber against an indestructible metal team. Yawn.

Demon and Catwoman was a fine stretch that finally included the Demon.

I’ve given up on Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. For the latter, if I needed a magnifying glass to enjoy, the comic should come with one! For the former, if the comic needed massive amounts of pot, it should come with it!

The good ones (except for one) have remained good, though: Strange Adventures and Flash Comics are still top of the cream, Kamandi’s still struggling to have a little more movement and a little less prose, but all of these need little words. Deadman has actually gotten better, shifting from a Cooke crime scene to Ditko abstract spaces to Kirby’s inferno from the Demon. And it economically managed to progress the plot (into a bigger fight scene, but still), something that most of these strips seem reluctant to do. I could’ve done with a little more in Green Lantern than half a memory, but thankfully Metamorpho snapped out of its two issue daze of having only a single panel as its image. Supergirl’s still cute, fun, and light, probably the standard for for all of the strips here. The main strip deserving mention, though, is Baker’s Hawkman.

As these things normally go, I happened upon a horrible truth (scroll down) at Comic Book Resources*. Mark Chiarello mentioned in a seeming compliment that Baker turned in all fifteen of his Hawkman pages in two weeks, whereas most artists were struggling to finish theirs.

*Who, it must be mentioned, won the Eisner for best comics related periodical/journalism over Comic Comics, Tom Spurgeon, and The Comics Journal. If you look at their web site at the time of this publication, a breaking story is Marvel Comics on Sale this week.

To which I say, “Struggle, Kyle!” I defended your appropriation of a Millerism on another blog, and I stoically read through the last two strips, hoping to find your Hawkman actually be a stark raving alien terrorist! But the comic has just remained dreadfully inert. I mean, sure, the Star Trek graphics look pretty with a layer of ink and dust as detail on top of models

And your air monster is even suitably grotesque, a gaggle of tentacles that isn’t even shown fully on the page, implying such monstrosity

You even handle the tremendous space of an entire newspaper page admirably, exploding fight scenes to huge sizes and shrinking other panels down to quicker rhythms of facial expressions by the end of the page.

I know that you’re trying so hard to make the pages crackle and pop, and they do, but the main selling point of the strip, its main promise since #1, has just flagged on with no follow up. Apparently, it’s become a well drawn Hawkman beat ‘em up. Which is much worse than it should be.

All in all, a little disappointing, but it may have had to be, after spirits ran so high four weeks ago. At the very least, it’s a great way to warm up critical reflexes before tackling something bigger. A fair role to ask from a newspaper comic.

Detective Comics #855

One thing I noticed about this issue, first: Williams III likes to draw his women. Let the lascivious countdown begin: No less than four panty shots of Alice and a man bending down in front of her, crotch height, as well as constant reminders that spandex on lesbians makes their nipples stand on attention (not to mention a panel of Batwoman crawling, drugged and doggy style with ass pointing at the camera, holding onto stone for dear life), and to combine the two, there’s a frisking moment that takes place over the entire page. Alice may be crazy but she knows what superhero audience members want to read.

(I’m, uh, not going to scan these images)

Which made me imagine what a Williams III piece of erotica would look like. Probably with an elegant border wrapping around everything, and with every thrust or sensation the art explodes into a rubble of images and panel borders, a bright stained glass window behind a couple in mutual climax.

All of which brings me to commentary on the actual issue itself, never mind thirteen year old me.

This issue is even less focused on Rucka’s script than that auspicious debut. With a plot that’s little more than Batwoman fails at getting information from the cult and the Colonel failing at rescuing her, it’s safe to say that not much happens in this issue besides confirmation the Thirteen Covens are indeed the source of Kate’s woes, and a spare hallucination of a woman (or boobed person) with a bag over their head, I’m guessing to hint at a tortured past. Nipples are stiffly present but clothed.

There is (at least) one scene worthy of mention, however. The interrogation scene in 855 provides a remarkable counterpoint to the scene in 854. Earlier, delicacy led Kane to her shiny info after she played both bad cop holding a perp to the wall with her foot, and good cop with a delicate touch to his kneeling face. The sun shined for a two panels for tonal convenience. Life was good: criminals had information and weren’t crazy; Kate finds it simple and effective to use touch and feminine sensitivity when needing to pry information from a male.

When needing to perform the same function for Alice, who’s all panties and pathology, a different thing occurs: she doesn’t get anything. Her questions are even worse, asking why instead of who, and without sexuality to fall back on, Kate can only threaten and yell. The worsened superheroing may even stem from a sudden vulnerability. The frisking scene referred to earlier, dismissed it as decompressed cheesecake (the best kind!), gains new importance as panels of Kate’s eyes, their touch reversing the roles from the prior issue where Kate is the quivering victim and Alice the madwoman in control.

What really interests me is the last panel, though:

Flirtin

Williams III (edit 8/02/09 9:27 PM: Or Rucka) makes the two have a moment of eye contact where no dialogue occurs, a sudden loss of control for Kate as well as a sudden shift in Alice’s facial expression from frightened to computing. I can’t help but see that awkward silence, Kate staring intensely into Alice’s eyes instead of assessing the situation around her, as the moment when Kate really failed. What really seals the deal is Alice’s more personal question on the following page, “Please, would you tell me –kaff– what you call yourself?” From a cult leader that has intense interest in Batwoman (and, from its assassination of its tributaries, little self interest that may stem from anger at losing Batwoman), the probing question seems more fit over romantic candlelight than a castle. Add to the fact that they call her “Twice-Named”, and some interest in self-appellation seems downright friendly.

Rucka seems a little wise to this subtext, and, naturally, Kate’s downfall comes from Alice’s lips. Except this French kiss has a poisoned razor blade instead of a tongue, climaxing (!!!) Alice’s sexual feint.

I’ll be interested to see if this aspect ever gets developed any more past a quick way to make Batwoman vulnerable. At the very least, Rucka deserves a tiny pitter patter of kudos for embedding a psychosexual game within a straight faced superheroic book. Even if it’s just a femme fatale moment out of Eisner’s playbook transposed onto a lesbian (so fanboys win out even more by having a relatable protagonist, and a scene where boobs are totally bared), it’s at least subtle.

Predictions for next issue: Alice goes all Legend of the Seeker on us, and tortures Kate in a bizarre and unsettling story, while she invokes religious reasons why they can’t be together, and she just has to hurt her.

Froghead Hangover

Disclaimer: This review is total nepotism for my bro, William Cardini.

When we last checked in on Mr. Cardini’s work, Hyperbox, the artist was packing Kirby fauna into crosshatching pages rarely containing more than one panel. The linework was chunky and shadows were thick pools of black or warm cross hatches. Consider this, then, a spinoff to that Hypberox series in more ways than one. The comic retains its linework and characters, but instead of the ongoing narrative in that comic of mythic power and revelation on every other page, we get a quiet, quick read, and one that shows growth of the artist.

While not necessarily a bad thing, the prior comics lumped all their information on the single page, and without panels of more quiet movements, very little in the comic moved. While first stepping out of the box with Trans, a comic that was twelve page long studies in metamorphosis. Froghead Hangover is the fruit of that effort to shake up his regular style, and it’s one that comes with a strong narrative and a touch more humor across its pages, not to mention a great punch line tact won’t let me reveal.

All mentioned comics (Hyperbox 1-3, Trans, and Froghead Hangover, as well as the unmentioned Masks) are available from Mr. Cardini if you e-mail him at markphensel@gmail.com. He’s a friendly guy whose comics are $2, except for the bigger and screen printed cover Trans, which is $3. He also blogs at a distressingly increasing rate.

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1 Comment

  1. Big and Little Things « Psychopomp & Circumstance said,

    […] Williams III has the army dress when half naked moment, eroticizing the encounter for Kate (which, as we’ve already seen, has been a source of tension before in this […]

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