I Read These Comics Last Week: January 20-26

faked by Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Another week of hastily sketched thoughts on funnybooks new and old . . .

Invincible Iron Man #500. I know, I know, “Guy who likes Matt Fraction comics enjoys Matt Fraction comic” isn’t really news to anyone, is it? Still, this was a gorgeous done-in-one about a broken future that nicely encapsulated some of the major themes of Fraction’s run on this title: the simultaneous impossibility and necessity of anticipating the real, material, human consequences of the choices you make every day; working out the shades of difference between guilt and responsibility. Sal Larocca, who keeps getting better, is joined by several guest artists; Nathan Fox and Javier Rodriguez, in particular, impressively convey the creepy, degraded nature of the possible future. The other semi-recent Marvel story it reminded me of was Priest’s two-part “Once and Future King” in Black Panther, which is high praise as far as I’m concerned.

Also, Marvel did a weird thing in this issue where they printed every cover of Iron Man since the beginning of the character’s solo title. Nice gesture on the anniversary, but they ran them as many as 121 per page, so get out your magnifying glass. What’s interesting, though, is that even at that diminished size, you can still easily pinpoint at a glance the moment when Marvel shifted from narrative covers that gave some hints of the goings-on inside the comic to iconic pin-up covers. This spread should be exhibit “A” in the argument for returning to the narrative mode, even, heck especially, in at its most feverish and huckstery. (And hey, this is a good opportunity to go read all of Paul Tobin’s posts on great cover designers.)

The Goon vol. 10: Death’s Greedy Comeuppance. If any other comic made the abrupt shifts in tone that Eric Powell’s The Goon does—from tragedy to comedy to sentimentality to gleeful ultra-violence to outright absurdity—it would surely shake apart from the stress. That goes double for this odds-and-ends volume, which collects a couple of standalone stories from the main Goon series along with the three-part Buzzard mini-series, a sort of horrific fairy-tale Western. But Powell’s great achievement is that the idiosyncratic world of The Goon is so richly imagined and thoroughly immersive, so completely its own thing with its own inherent logic, that it’s only on a closer inspection that you even experience those hairpin shifts as shifts. All of which is to say that this is a collection that features both the tragic death of a young child and a walk-on by Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont to explain why prison-rape humor isn’t really humorous and it all kind of makes sense.

The Shadow Annual #1 (1987). Joe Orlando draws a really terrifying demon sheep.

The Shadow #7 (1988).

“Hey guys, we got Marshall Rogers to draw an issue.”
“Wow, great! What’s it about?”
“A bunch of kids on a field trip.”
“Does the Shadow kill any of them?”
“No, but he watches one die.”

Justice, Inc. #1-2 (1989). I picked this up to feed my growing interest in Kyle Baker after reading this post on the visual style of the series by Frank Santoro. I didn’t have high hopes for the story after having been disappointed by Helfer’s first several issues of The Shadow, but I found this to be a pretty appealing potboiler—spies coming in and out of the cold, the conflict between duty and principle, shocking origins about a character’s past, all that good familiar pulpy stuff well handled with a distinctive visual flair. The fuzzed-out faces that Santoro highlights are perfect for a story about the slipperiness of identity, the limits of the knowable.

Why I Hate Saturn (1990). And speaking of Kyle Baker! This can be a tough book to take on its own terms. I picked it up a few months back, read the first few pages in which a man and a woman offer theories about the battle of the sexes, and promptly put it back down again. I’ve been down this road a few too many dozen times already, I thought. But I’m glad I picked it up again—Baker takes what could be a very sitcommy premise and twists into something weirder and darker, something that anticipates Seinfeld at its most misanthropic and twisted. Baker uses his Cowboy Wally visual style here, with dialogue and narration running under or alongside the images—usually close-ups of characters talking and reacting to each other. I thought it worked better in Cowboy Wally, where the deadpan expressions of the characters were a hilarious counterpoint to the frequently terrible things they were saying. Here, though, I found that I kept having to remind myself to look at the pictures. Nice pictures, though.

DeadpoolMAX #4
Thor #619
Secret Warriors #18, 20-22

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