Sunday, June 14, 2009

You've Been Warned Vol II Issue XXI

Comic reviews by a fan, for the fans.

**As always, mind the spoilers, fanboy**

- OPENING REMARKS -

Batman & Robin #1
by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
DC Comics


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Books like this make comics worth reading. It's Batman like you've never seen him before, and Batman as you've always known him. Did you expect anything less? I'm sure I'm not telling you anything new. Everyone and their mother bought this book. And if you didn't, why the hell are you even reading comics?

A Drifting Life
by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Drawn & Quarterly Publications


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I took me a month to read this book. A whole goddamn month. Not because it's a terrible read, and not because I'm a slow reader (okay, I'm a bit of a slow reader). It's just so goddamn dense! 800+ pages of meticulous, thinly veiled autobiography, every page denser than a grade school dropout's skull. I don't want to meet the person who can blow through a book like this in one sitting, 'cause I bet they're an asshole.

A Drifting Life is a fascinating tale following both the lives of a manga artist and the realization of manga as an art form. Starting in post-WWII, and ending with a memorial service for Osamu Tezuka, the story chronicles the coming of age of Manga and young "Hiroshi," or Tatsumi's sequential doppelganger. In a clever symbiotic relationship, we watch over the years as Hiroshi pushes the boundaries of what his beloved art form can accomplish, and in turn is pushed to delve deeper and deeper into his own humanity by the same art form he's nurturing.

As you may be able to tell by now, this book is not for everyone. It's a piece that requires a patient eye and a love for a slowly paced story. If you're looking for a revealing glance into the personal life of the author you've got the wrong book, as Tatsumi focuses almost exclusively on his professional career (although the few person anecdotes he slips into the narrative are all priceless, albeit few and far between). Contrarily, if you're thirsty for an extremely detailed account of the rise and fall of many early forms of Manga, or you enjoy historical testimonials of the sequential arts in all various forms, or you're an artist in search of inspiration from a man whose accomplished such a dumbfoundingly vast amount of work, you've found the perfect book.

Personally I would have liked a deeper look at the author's personal life, not just his professional one. Still, it was a humbling, enlightening read, and in the end I'm finding myself quite grateful to the author for taking the time to put his triumphs and tragedies in such a gorgeous and detailed form. I can't say this for many books, but I actually learned a lot here.

Absolution #0
by Christos Gage & Roberto Viacava
Avatar Press


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Lately there's been quite a few anti-hero super-books on the market. It's getting to the point where I'm starting to believe I'm a retarded teenager in the 90's again, buying Sabertooth and Venom mini-series. May the Comic Gods help us if shit ever gets that bad again.

Anyway, here comes Absolution, another "good guy gone bad" comic by another author relatively new to the genre. And I bought it, because why the fuck not? It's two bucks. I'll give anyone a chance who's willing to cut me a deal at the cash register.

Things are off to a decent enough start here. The narrative is fairly simple: super-hero is leading double life, playing the concerned good Samaritan alongside his cop girlfriend by day, handing out bloody, vigilante justice by night. I'm very interested to see where Gage will go from here. He's already let the cat out of the bag concerning his cold-hearted protagonist. I'm hoping he can surprise me with the story, 'cause it's fairly easy to see things spiraling into another "good guy who's actually the bad guy in opposition of his love interest who's honor bound to take him down" kinda cliches. From this first glance I'm getting whiffs of things being different, but I can't say for certain.

Either way, this book's piqued my interest. It's warm when it wants to be, blunt when you aren't expecting it, and not afraid to throw in a quick sucker punch when you're looking the other way. I'm excited to see where it will go.

Love is a Peculiar Type of Thing
by Box Brown


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Generally I try to stay away from taking shots at the small press guys, especially when it comes to really small press guys who get their stuff put out through blood, sweat, tears, and Xeric Foundation grants. All power to Box Brown for following his heart, doing what he loves, and ultimately getting it out to the masses. That's all the props he's getting from me though.

I am personally stupefied as to how many "slice of life" books are being produced in the industry lately. Can't anyone just tell a story anymore? Is life so dull that we're willing to tolerate self-indulgent, pointless narratives about the non-events of any person willing to put pen to paper? Don't we seek out stories, be they non-fiction or otherwise, for different reasons, primarily to be entertained and to grow from the experiences of others? In an optimistic sense we can grow and find pleasure in any situation, but in a more realistic sense I don't want to deal with my own high school yearbook or my own crappy job, let alone read about those of someone else. Unless you've got one hell of an amazing anecdote, the subject matter's a wasteland waiting to smother any potential for expansion of self. Maybe others harbor different reasons for reading and seeking out "good" stories. Bugger me if I know what those reasons might be.

I can't see how a person can take a look at such an overcrowded genre like autobiography in comics, dominated by so many storytelling masters, and try to carve out a niche while bringing absolutely nothing new or exciting to the table. No fresh tricks or perspectives or techniques. Just another book full of self-involved musings meaning little to anyone but the author and his loved ones.

Maybe I wouldn't be so quick to pan this author's works if he wasn't constantly addressing the audience directly in his pieces. I fucking hate that device. Breaking that barrier between the audience and the storyteller is a telltale sign of vanity and laziness, and it's always pissed me off. I want to be shown a story. If I wanted to be told a story directly I'd head down to the bar, sit next to the loudest, smelliest, drunkest dude there, and ask him why he was so blue.

I guess in the future I need to be a little more choosy about which books I buy. I've also been a little too rough on this young author, as this is his fledgling effort (as far as I know). Hopefully he's just breaking himself in, and is gearing up to show the world something new. I hope he is. The world just doesn't need another comic artist who can't do anything but talk themselves.

- PICK OF THE WEEK -
Punisher: Frank Castle Max #71
by Victor Gischler & Goran Parlov
Max (Marvel) Comics


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Yeah, it was a faily slow week down at the ol' comic shop. This is kinda a default pick. Still, I stand by it.

It took Victor Gischler one issue to breath new life into the stagnant Punisher: Max series, and holy crap did he ever. The Punisher is only a sucessful character when he's doin' one thing: killing people who deserve it. Well, Gischler sure did create a few people who need a few well placed bullets. Nothing says "vigilante justice" like a bunch of backwoods cousin-fuckers feeding tourists to alligators. With some very crisp dialogue, some brilliant pacing, and exceptionally poignant framing courtesy of Goran Parlov, this storyline promises to be the best on the series since Garth Ennis left.

- PAN OF THE WEEK -
Ultimate Spider-Man #133
by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen
Marvel Comics


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I can honestly say I've never paid four bucks for a comic that took 30 seconds to read. What a spectacularly crappy end to an otherwise wonderful series. And to think: I actually used to look forward to this book once a month. I don't know who's responsible for this latest anal-rape of a comic from Marvel, so fuck everyone involved. One less book I've gotta worry about losing money on.

Fuck you once again, Marvel.

YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.

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