Rude Chapbooks 02.07.11 | Sev! Sev! Sev!

Welcome to Gushville. Our columnist goes all “chiclet at a Justin Bieber gig” over some inkslinger named Severin and the debut of his miniseries, Something Something Witchfinder Something Something. (Yo, publishers—“brevity is the soul of not draining people’s lungs when they discuss your comic,” dig?) Otherwise, said columnist also praises…all of the other titles in this five-comic roundup. Huh. Probably cerebral oxygen deprivation occasioned by chipping sleet after last week’s wintry blitz. Medic!

 
“THE BEST SUPERHERO COMIC BOOK IN THE UNIVERSE!” reads the standard banner atop the cover of Invincible #77, and from issue to issue, damned if it doesn’t appear the creative team means it. Writer Robert Kirkman, penciller Ryan Ottley, and inker Cliff Rathburn are peddling comics crack here—perhaps no more addictive superhero saga is now unfolding. The success of Kirkman & Co. on this Image series by and large derives from the skill with which they’ve updated for the new millennium the groundbreaking early-’60s Lee/Kirby/Ditko gestalt. By way of example, they’ve bloodily modernized old-school “action” in ways that, in lesser hands, would seem not merely gratuitous but grisly, even vile—as in the first three pages of this latest issue. The penultimate chapter of the war with the Viltrumites—think “Superman versus the Kryptonians, without the tedium”—Invincible #77 reaches the climax of that conflict with stunning understatement and unassailable style. Has the fat lady sung? Well, only next month and another $2.99 will tell—but that’s how funnybooks rolled before “event” toxicity, y’know?
 
Especially on those offerings that in no way involve a given title’s current creative team—Thor #620.1, say—the “Point One” initiative feels like just more gouge-the-readers, swamp-the-marketplace Marvelousness. The briefest glance reveals the falsity of its rationale. Happily, as Invincible Iron Man #500.1 establishes, “Point One” can yield not just readable but remarkable comics. As this column testified just two weeks past, writer Matt Fraction and artist Salvador Larroca have made Invincible Iron Man one of Marvel’s preeminent titles, and they may actually have topped themselves on this done-in-one wonder. (Gee, remember comics stories that took just a single issue?) In the amusingly titled “What It Was Like, What Happened, and What It’s Like Now,” the pair not only encapsulates their protagonist’s history in 20 pages, but also does so in the form of a dual monologue between past and present—a stunning feat of storytelling. The issue culminates in a silent last page of both superlative ambiguity and considerable charm and continues a landmark run on perhaps the company’s most conflicted hero. Bravo!
 
The title character of a certain long-running DC series has been taking a lovely walk in recent issues, while in BOOM! Studios’ Irredeemable, the √úbermensch Plutonian has been murdering millions of people, including some of his closest allies. The former series, in consequence, has transformed the hero that started it all into a crashing bore, while the latter, month after month, ranks among the most enjoyable exercises in superheroics today. Irredeemable #22 suggests why. First and foremost, unlike those guiding DC’s flagship, writer/creator Mark Waid hasn’t been taking a walk on his title. That is, he continues to evoke old-school comic book sensawunna without resorting to five-and-dime moralizing; in this issue, for example, the Plutonian descends further and further into recriminatory (even piteous) dementia. Partnering with Waid are artists Peter Krause and Diego Barreto, who—miracle of miracles—excel at illustrating superhero action. (Moreover, unlike at least one artist attached to the DC title, they have nothing against the human nose.) All things considered, unlike other series vying for readers’ money, Irredeemable’s really super, man.
 
Bane. Catman. Deadshot. It beggars credibility to assert that a series starring those three third-stringers and a tandem trio of otherwise forgettable villains could number among DC’s finest, but for almost three years now, writer Gail Simone and various artistic partners have indeed made Secret Six a mainstream must-read, often simultaneously touching and teched. Secret Six #30—though lumbered with being the first half of a crossover with the latest lame Doom Patrol revival—should establish the title’s fiendish bona fides for new readers. Artist Jim Calafiore, as ever, handles with dispatch the thankless task of depicting a team whose membership includes ragtag rogues like Ragdoll, and Simone’s obviously having a gas filling the balloons here. Somewhere, in fact, one can’t help picturing the late, great Steve Gerber, who once worked wonders on an equally improbable team title at Marvel, laughing aloud at a sequence wherein Bane makes a love connection. (Bane to a teammate after pulping a strip-joint masher’s face: “Shall I snap his spine? I am unsure of the etiquette.”) Very much recommended.
 
In this column, nobody rides for free—but if anyone enjoyed such a distinction, it would probably be John Severin. Soon after World War II, Severin launched an artistic career in comics which has involved work for almost every publisher one could name—including, of course, EC—and which has diminished not one whit for the clarity of its composition and the grace of its line. This brings us to Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #1, the debut of a five-issue Dark Horse miniseries visualized by him. The story, from Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, focuses on a bit player on Hellboy’s vast stage and involves occult woe in Utah in 1880. It appears to be solid enough. But the art—holy God Almighty! At nearly 90, Severin is still creating work that should leave breathless all true devotees of the medium, work whose brilliance invites the eye to linger on every iota of ink on the page, work whose sublime refinement redeems the collective rudeness of these little chapbooks of ours. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of Invincible #77, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Invincible Iron Man #500.1, courtesy of PLAYBACK:stl.
Click here for a preview of Irredeemable #22, courtesy of BOOM! Studios.
Click here for a preview of Secret Six #30, courtesy of Newsarama.
Click here for a preview of Witchfinder: Lost and Gone Forever #1, courtesy of Dark Horse.

 

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