Rude Chapbooks 01.09.12 | Oh, Mac, You So Suck!

This week’s column targets a Jack “King” Kirby revival dismal enough that it verges on posthumous regicide: O.M.A.C. #5. From among four other floppies, our ever-gentle columnist likewise likens The Lone Ranger #1 to something its protagonist’s horse might drop on the trail.

 
Only a dolt would disregard any new collaboration from the creators of the Criminal and Incognito miniseries, so discerning readers this week should welcome Fatale #1. In that Image offering, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips cross Dashiell Hammett and H.P. Lovecraft with diabolical style. It opens with a present-day prologue involving a funeral, an alluring brunette, a manuscript of some significance, two bowler-clad goons, a decidedly Hitchcockian chase, and a character (shall we say) upstaged by a prop—all in just the first ten pages. Past that point, hilariously, Brubaker and Phillips’ conflation of crooks and Cthulhu goes into overdrive with a flashback to 1956, itself nesting a flashback to World War II. At the moment, Bru may rank as the mainstream’s most dependably adroit scriptwriter, edging out even Brian Wood, and Phillips, visually, can do no wrong; the two of them, if memory serves, have never teamed without nonpareil panache. The obvious course, then? Speed to your friendly neighborhood comics retailer for the latest from the Simon and Kirby of new-millennial noir.
 
“The moral of the story is…” “The moral of the story is…” “The moral of the story is…” Like an heirloom Victrola, its needle fuzzed with dust, Ande Parks’ script to The Lone Ranger #1 maddens with its mechanical inadequacy and confirms reservations birthed by his earlier ham-handed handling of The Lone Ranger & Zorro: The Death of Zorro. Parks less relates an enjoyable tale than gifts the reader with Great Truths About the Human Condition, typically (to verbalize a noun) blivitted into voice-over captions or tin-ear dialogue; here, specifically, he recounts the heartbreaking, multiple-hankie conflict between some cardboard robbers and a valiant widower in “Oklahoma Territory, 1870”—two decades before any territory so designated officially existed. Esteve Polls illustrates this Dynamite Entertainment relaunch serviceably, but no better than that. In sum, a monumental disappointment compared to writer Brett Matthews and artist Sergio Cariello’s work on the prior series under this title. Silver, the eponymous character’s famed white mount, has favored Great Plains bluebottles with more appealing things the morning after nose-bagging gamey stallion kibble.
 
Artistically, Keith Giffen started robbing Jack Kirby’s grave roughly two decades before the King occupied it, so it comes as no surprise to see such ghoulish tedium continue (with inks from Scott Koblish) in O.M.A.C. #5. Suggestively, Kirby’s “one-man army corps” has become a “one-machine attack construct,” and the script from DC co-publisher Dan Didio (with Jeff Lemire) certainly reads as if hardware and software have altogether supplanted wetware. This issue bears the title “Occasionally Monsters Accidentally Crossover,” establishing the inability of its staff, including said co-publisher, to distinguish between the verbal phrase cross over and the noun or adjective crossover. (So much for a decent grade school education or, y’know, the ability to consult a lexicon even as lame as Webster’s New World College Dictionary.) Worse, reflecting Lemire’s involvement, it marks the first “New 52” pas de deux, with Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. One can practically hear comics debs everywhere moaning, at such a prospect, with fanboy abandon—not. All things considered, O.M.A.C. sparks so little excitement it might as well be titled C.O.M.A.
 
Odd. A survey of several comics shops in St. Louis (whence, of course, this column originates) over several months strongly suggested that not one was slotting a fundamental Image title from writer/artist Erik Larsen. As a result, morbid curiosity, as well as an apeshit Previews solicitation depicting a giant, revenant Osama bin Laden pounding an American cityscape with quasi–Where Monsters Dwell gusto, prompted adding to the P&H Savage Dragon #177. Revisiting Larsen’s signature work after…well…ages almost perforce inspires more than a little perplexity, however, and a hopeful but hapless counterbalance for new or returning readers on the fourth page constitutes a dialogic infodump worthy of late–Silver Age Robert Kanigher at his worst. Beyond that glaring infelicity, though, Larsen gleefully and successfully transposes onto this nation’s terrorist nemesis the funnybook vitriol focused during the first half of the ’40s on Adolf Hitler, with what appear to be the title character’s children trading roundhouses with al-Qaeda’s erstwhile leader, gone green and radioactive. (Early in the issue, amusingly, a spectator exclaims, “Godzilla!”) Freakish enough to fly.
 
A Marvel mutant misadventure seems an unlikely project for writer Brian Wood to follow work as lapidary and thoughtful as DMZ, which concluded only two weeks ago—but oh, well, what the hell. His Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha & Omega #1 focuses on the Canuck with the claws (the X–alpha male, that is) as he contends with the über-irritating Quentin Quire (the so-called Kid Omega) at the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. The quinary mini’s credits instantly prompt suspicion by listing tandem art teams with seven total contributors: (a) Roland Boschi and Dan Brown and (b) Mark Brooks with Andrew Currie, Jay Leisten, Norman Lee, and Ronda Pattison. Yet as early as the eighth page, something (pardon the joke) uncanny starts happening: Wood and his small army of visual collaborators make this work. The story’s structure rationalizes the inclusion of those artists—most of them, anyway—and Wood, almost inconceivably, humanizes Quire without lessening his threat as a mutant able, mentally, to construct and populate—but, aaah, that would be telling. Recommended. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of Fatale #1, here for a preview of O.M.A.C. #5, here for a preview of Savage Dragon #177, and here for a preview of Wolverine and the X-Men: Alpha and Omega #1, all courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of The Lone Ranger #1, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

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