Rude Chapbooks 03.05.12 | “…And Your Little Dog, Too!”

The Wizard of Oz–influenced No Place Like Home #1 marks a dark and intriguing debut from Angelo Tirotto and Richard Jordan, but Batman Beyond Unlimited #1—the other premiere from among this week’s five comics under review—sparks considerably less enthusiasm.

 

 
To the extent that it sidesteps “New 52” nonsense, DC’s Batman Beyond Unlimited #1 should recommend itself to certain readers, especially insofar as the new ongoing offers two futuristic serials in 40 story-pages. Alas, it satisfies less than last August’s Superman Beyond #0, lauded here, because both 20-pagers suffer from character clutter. (Too many mainstream creators erroneously think it axiomatic that increasing the number of players automatically improves the field.) The lead tale, from writer Adam Beechen and artist Norm Breyfogle, focuses on Batman-to-be Terry McGinnis and an infestation of Neo-Gotham by out-of-town Jokerz, as directed by an industry-standard lurking-in-the-shadows-till-the-final-page mastermind; the secondary tale, meanwhile, features tomorrow’s Justice League (much more intriguing than today’s team, more’s the pity) and the Kobra cult and comes from writer/artists Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs. At least for the nonce, the latter serial surpasses the former in the crispness of its visuals; Breyfogle’s work, incongruously, suggests Neal Adams’ as inked by Al Milgrom. Beyond that, though, neither tale inspires even the circumscribed approval accorded the aforementioned Superman Beyond singleton.
 
With almost laughably coy understatement, the promo copy for Invincible #89 described it as a “monumental status quo–altering issue,” while the accompanying cover illo showed the eponymous hero’s costume bedecking not Mark Grayson but a buff African-American. All in a day’s work for writer Robert Kirkman, penciller Ryan Ottley, and inker Cliff Rathburn, who have made the Image standard one of the mainstream’s most consistently entertaining (and unpredictable) series. It further testifies to their creativity that they often somehow balance a neo–Silver Age buoyancy with a quite contemporary bleakness; over time, cheerily, Invincible probably has featured more dismemberments and similar gruesome turns than any other superhero ongoing today. In any event, this latest installment of the series tidily explicates that cover, following a prior accident involving a genetic pathogen. Almost necessarily, the supporting characters (among them Atom Eve, Allen the Alien, and the star-crossed lovers Robot and Monster Girl) come to the fore, with the undeniably sociopathic Dinosaurus more and more developing into a scene-stealing presence. As ever, spandex jubilation at its best.
 
Technical difficulties delayed by a week the receipt of No Place Like Home #1, but it proved well worth the wait. To be sure, the new L. Frank Baum–inflected Image series from writer Angelo Tirotto and artist Richard Jordan exhibits a few rough edges; the quasi-religious invocation of Elvis Presley as shorthand for rusticity, for instance, long ago passed its sell-by date, and apparently no one listed on the masthead knows how to spell niece (“i before e except after c,” page 11). That said, what a promising debut! Especially technically, the visuals from Jordan recall the work of Steve Pugh; Jordan particularly excels at depicting attractive young women without succumbing to the customary comics temptation to transform them into supermodels. Tirotto’s script, meantime, opens with a deadly tornado in the fictional burg of Emeraldsville, Kansas, and otherwise constitutes a deft presentation of narrative isobars involving a Cassandra-like town drunk, decapitated crows, and, by the finale, a grisly murder. (Tirotto also scores points for treating outsider-girl Lizzie as just another Emeraldsville inhabitant.) Highly recommended.
 
Despite the tedious seriality of much of the mainstream—often obscured by relaunch upon dreary relaunch—the finest stories finally end. Ahab and the whale conclusively clash; Huck and Jim’s flight downriver leads them to freedom both social and psychological. In that respect comes the bittersweet recognition that Scalped #56 opens that luminary Vertigo series’ closing arc from writer Jason Aaron and artist R.M. Guéra. “Trail’s End” both follows immediately on the blistering events of the previous arc and flashes forward to the fictional Southwestern Prairie Rose Indian reservation eight months thereafter. At this point, it almost goes without saying that Aaron’s playing his cards close to the vest. A new day appears to be dawning on the Rez, with Dash Bad Horse no longer bearing the federal shield that always felt like anything but and Chief Red Crow wearing an orange jumpsuit in addition to his usual mantle of dark nobility; moreover, one local institution has been shuttered, even as another’s readying to rise. This valedictory arc, in short, promises a wild ride indeed.
 
As exemplified by Ultimate Comics Ultimates #7—“Department of Redundancy Department,” anyone?—Marvel’s so-called Ultimate Universe, for longtime readers, likely remains a signally dismal milieu, the Marvel Universe reconfigured for a “blow shit up” multiplex mentality, with adventures there collectively approximating a billet-doux to the military-industrial complex. In the U.U., in all likelihood, Irving Forbush suffers from P.T.S.D. from three tours in Afghanistan, and Willie Lumpkin’s trafficking in kiddie porn. Here, more specifically, Nick Fury and the titular team seek to engineer a “let’s you and him fight” conflict between two futuristic societies, one led by Reed Richards “gone von Doom,” acting as invasive species. (In the U.U., advanced intelligence inevitably entails bellicosity.) Elsewhere, a government agent blackmails the Hulk into an alternate, back-door stratagem. Admittedly, Jonathan Hickman’s script exhibits his customary heuristic aplomb, which Esad Ribic’s visuals complement splendidly. (Not so Kaare Andrews’ cover, whose composition lazily duplicates his similar contribution to Ultimate Comics X-Men #8, also released this week.) For all that, however, Ultimate Comics Ultimates, as a reading experience, altogether lacks joy. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of Batman Beyond Unlimited #1, here for a preview of Invincible #89, and here for a preview of No Place Like Home #1, all courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Ultimate Comics Ultimates #7, courtesy of Marvel.

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