Rude Chapbooks 02.20.12 | By No Means Snarky About Snarked

This week, writer/artist Roger Langridge’s Snarked #5 makes our otherwise congenitally cantankerous columnist…well…positively burble. Dreadfully uncharacteristic—and not a little icky. Also reviewed: Fables #114, Moriarty #9, Peter Panzerfaust #1, and Wonder Woman #6.

Bill Willingham’s scripts on Vertigo’s second–longest-running series constitute something of an embarrassment of riches: their quality and dependability since that series’ debut a decade ago could lead even the most conscientious critic, inadvertently, to take them for granted. By way of recompense, then, let us salute Fables #114. In that issue, with penciller Mark Buckingham and inker Steve Leialoha, Willingham commences an arc entitled “Cubs in Toyland,” which focuses on the preadolescent pack of Snow White and Bigby (the archetypal wolf, albeit tied by huff-and-puffiness to meteorological magic) following the touching self-sacrifice of their grim grandfather, the North Wind. In the main, young Winter continues her training to replace him, even as a recurrent dream of forbidding frigidity plagues her, and palace intrigues upstairs and down swirl about the succession; moreover, Winter’s sis Therese falls under the sway of a talking toy tugboat scarcely as sweet as it seems. In short, this issue reaffirms (as if such reaffirmation were needed) why Fables has enjoyed such longevity in so feckless and even feculent an industry.
A diabolical conceit informs writer Daniel Corey and artist Anthony Diecidue’s mostly new Image series: the other insufferable polymath did indeed vanish if not perhaps perish at the Reichenbach Fall, yet in the absence of Sherlock Holmes, “the Napoleon of crime” has lapsed into a fitful quiescence for two decades—until circumstances conspire to relight his fires. Moriarty #9 concludes “The Lazarus Tree,” the series’ quinary second arc starring Conan Doyle’s (almost) nonpareil professor. In colonial Burma, its intrigue involves the remnants of the infamous East India Company, coolies, opium, Dr. John Watson—and “an anti-imperialist imperial policeman” named Blair. A most peculiar work, Moriarty. Corey’s script here, for instance, blends the Bible and Werner Heisenberg—the uncertainty principle, physics geeks, not the theory of ferromagnetism—and Diecidue crosses Sidney Paget with Roy Lichtenstein in an unapologetically post–pop art visualization of après-Victorian adventure: dottiness à la Mr. Day, slashes à la Sharpie, smudges à la Photoshop. Improbably, the duo transforms Doyle’s cipher into a swashbuckler with the grandest case of dyspepsia in human history.
Peter Panzerfaust #1. The title of the Image ongoing alone rattles one’s brain: J.M. Barrie + Nazi antitank projectile launcher = ?!?! (N.B.: A potential anachronism. Calais, the setting of this adventure, fell to the Nazis in 1940, but the Panzerfaust 30, the first model of the aforesaid projectile launcher, went into production not till 1943.) Sad to say, writer Kurtis Wiebe and artist Tyler Jenkins’ tale of six orphaned Allied lads and their enigmatic leader in World War II prompts much less enthusiasm than one otherwise might have hoped it would. Jenkins’ serviceable but scarcely galvanic visuals recall those of Glenn Barr, and in a musical analogy, the work of Wiebe (previously praised here for The Intrepids) feels less like the opening chords of a concerto than a bit of tickling the ivories. Furthermore, in its juxtaposition of Barrie’s famous 1904 play and a global martial conflict, Peter Panzerfaust, perhaps unfairly but no less inevitably, recalls, to its detriment, another, decidedly different graphic narrative that did likewise: Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s Lost Girls.
Among the manifold debuts of 2011, few if any could equal for utter delectation writer/artist Roger Langridge’s Lewis Carrollian ongoing from BOOM! Studios, whose zero issue and official premiere this column hailed without reservation. Snarked #5 advances Langridge’s manic epic and, both figuratively and literally, launches the second book of Queen-presumptive Scarlett and wee Prince Rusty’s search for their lost-at-sea royal pop, with aid from the ever-dependable (not!) Wilburforce J. Walrus and Clyde McDunk. In this issue, the doughty quartet commissions a ship (previously christened something besides Old Gertrude and captained by a certain Bellman) to sail to the dreaded Snark Island, even as a trio of palace plotters set once more on their trail the “taxonomically-ambiguous” Gryphon. Along the way, the Cheshire Cat—garbed, with a nod to the 1971 DePatie-Freleng TV adaptation of a tome by a chap named Geisel or something along those lines, as “el gato in a sombrero”—reappears and redisappears, and with characteristic gusto, the walrus (let us say) gives the boot to an adversary named Big Norman. Stupendous!
“Rude Chapbooks” has scarcely concealed its contempt for DC’s “New 52” chicanery; neither, in general, have the products of that naked grab at market share sparked much interest, let alone excitement. That said, include among the exceptions proving the rule Wonder Woman #6, the latest issue of writer Brian Azzarello’s surreal reconception of the mainstream’s preeminent if oft-neglected heroine. Most emphatically not your mother’s Amazon princess, his take on the character alters her origin in a fundamental but quite satisfactorily logical fashion, introduces a distaff human step-something (it’s complicated) and other intriguing supporting players, and embroils her in conflict among the Greek deities, albeit as they’ve never previously appeared. (Hera wears nothing but a cloak and cowl made of peacock plumes, for example, while Poseidon conflates a catfish, a cephalopod of some sort, and a whale.) Meanwhile, guest penciller/inker Tony Akins and co-inker Dan Green, subbing for regular artist Cliff Chiang, visualize all of Azzarello’s lunacy stunningly; a three-page clash with two sword-wielding centaurs herein surely numbers among the finest Wonder Woman set pieces ever. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Moriarty #9 and here for a preview of Peter Panzerfaust #1, both courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Snarked #5, courtesy of Good Comics for Kids.
Click here for a preview of Wonder Woman #6, courtesy of io9.

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