Rude Chapbooks 01.23.12 | Waid “Yayed” Yet Again

For a second consecutive column—and the fifth time since mid-December!—a certain writer nabs accolades for the (ahem) Mark-ed superiority of his work, this week on Daredevil #8. Also reviewed: Conan: Road of Kings #12, Fables #113, Lord of the Jungle #1, and Xenoholics #4.

Conan: Road of Kings #12 ends with élan writer Roy Thomas’ picaresque revisitation of the pulp powerhouse he and a British lad then named simply Smith introduced to comics four decades ago and, perforce, extends Dark Horse’s praiseworthy expansion of the exploits of Robert E. Howard’s barbarian brawler. Thomas, it almost goes without saying, knows his fictional man backward and forward. Captured, jailed, and seemingly pre-sentenced to the hangman’s noose, for instance, Conan stoically retires for the night. (“[T]here is no sense in troubling myself,” he tells a fellow prisoner, “concerning an outcome that nothing short of an act of the gods will change.”) Thereafter, the Cimmerian explores a career in diplomacy, however fleetingly, and engages in his own brand of judicial review. As in most of the rest of the series, penciller Mike Hawthorne and inker John Lucas (their work reminiscent of that of a young Frank Miller) portray everything nicely, and without spoiling any surprises, the issue closes with Conan galloping toward the Messantian docks—as well as a darkling temptress named Bêlit.
As noted in last week’s column, Daredevil #8 concludes a bipartite brouhaha begun by staunch scriptwriter Mark Waid in The Amazing Spider-Man #677 whose geniality and brevity alike hark back to the halcyon days before Marvel succumbed to the rapacity of clockwork “events.” Behind a characteristically puckish playing card–like cover by Paolo Rivera, guest artist Kano ably assists Waid in recounting how DD and the web-slinger clear the bodacious Black Cat of grand larceny. Pleasures of the issue range from a set piece showing the eponymous hero’s defeat of four gunmen using a helicopter’s rotor—jubilant goofiness—to a small, tight smile inspired by a villain’s overconfident assertion. As ever, one cannot laud highly enough Waid’s characterization. At one point, for example, lasers interrupt heavy flirtation between ol’ Hornhead and the Black Cat, and the former, in a “voice-over” caption, confesses, “Welcome timing. One of us was about to make a billy club joke.” Subsequently, poor, lovelorn Spidey witnesses the two locking lips and grumbles, “I think this is my super villain origin.” Marvelous!
Although it strains the imagination to envision a comics devotee who hasn’t yet sampled and embraced one of Vertigo’s oldest and most engaging series, Fables #113 exemplifies that much-ballyhooed non-“event” event in comics, the jumping-on point. Despite failing to advance (or at least to advance overtly) any of writer/creator Bill Willingham’s multifarious exploits focused on Fabletown and the Farm, the stand-alone issue does serve as a fine primer to the title’s tone. Under the umbrella of “In Those Days,” it comprises diverse vignettes and anecdotes that include a tale of an adulterous queen transformed into a tortoise and cursed to balance on her shell a teacup magically containing an archipelago full of innocents. Visualizing that enchanting three-pager is the ever-extraordinary P. Craig Russell; rivaling it for delightfulness is another three-pager (the third of three, all told) illustrated by Adam Hughes and centered on a porcupine by turns haughty, horny, and hapless. Elsewhere contributing art to this sweet hodgepodge are Rick Leonardi and Ron Randall; Zander Cannon and Jim Fern; and Ramon Bachs and Randall again.
Prepublication flackery from Dynamite Entertainment floated the notion that the company’s new Tarzan title would do justice to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ icon with a fidelity previously unseen in comics. Stuff and nonsense, of course. Nonetheless, happily, Lord of the Jungle #1 does indeed reward consideration. With a script from Arvid Nelson and art from Roberto Castro, it launches what appears to be a fairly straightforward adaptation of Tarzan of the Apes, the centennial of whose appearance in the October 1912 All-Story adventure fans are commemorating this year. Nelson’s script works well enough, although without reviewing E.R.B.’s original, one can’t help suspecting him of taking just a few liberties with the narrative. Castro, meanwhile, pictures that narrative serviceably, even though his conception of jodhpurs verges on the anorexic; further, to be brutally frank, he scarcely holds a candle to many prior delineators of this character in comic books (Jesse Marsh, Russ Manning, Joe Kubert, John Buscema). Still, if this endeavor leads even a single new reader to the bliss of Burroughs, it will constitute a success.
With embarrassing tardiness, dear reader, let us celebrate a new Image offering from writer Joshua Williamson and artist Seth Damoose (fostered, by the way, under the imprimatur of Jim Valentino’s increasingly noteworthy Shadowline enterprise). Xenoholics #4 brings to the brink of a climax the duo’s charming, even heartfelt tale of a Portland, Oregon, support group for alien abductees: an ex-cop, a boxer, a career soldier, a homemaker, a riot grrrl, and, unbeknown to them, an undercover journalist, all led by a secretive professor named, by accident or design, Campbell (if by design, think either John W., Jr. or Joseph). In opposition to that intrepid little band, Williamson, with polish and brio, has arrayed an Amazing Randi–like debunker, a celebrity abductee, and various white-clad “Men in Black,” headed by the vicious Agent Wax, and Damoose illustrates the ongoing clash between the title characters and them (as well as U.F.O.-borne interlopers of predictably enigmatic intent) in a cartoonish but delicious manner. The latest in an ever-lengthening line of Image titles to earn a “Rude Chapbooks” recommendation. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Conan: Road of Kings #12, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of Daredevil #8, courtesy of Marvel.
Click here for a preview of Lord of the Jungle #1, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.
Click here for a preview of Xenoholics #4, courtesy of Comic Book Newbie.

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