Rude Chapbooks 03.14.11 | Once More, Well and Truly Doomed

The banality of Doom Patrol #20 should have that team’s longtime fans praying for an apocalypse. Also among this week’s quintet of capsule reviews of comics issued last week: two praiseworthy titles (one from Mike Carey, the other from Warren Ellis) involving…pirates?



B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Gods #3, the finale of a Dark Horse miniseries starring Mike Mignola’s Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, mystifies with its mundanity. Despite a cast including an amphibious man and an ancient Egyptian mummy, it prompts as much excitement as a bowl of week-old oatmeal. Gigantic demonic grotesques (afflicted, by the way, with what resemble mutant hemorrhoids) rampage in Texas, and the B.P.R.D. and law enforcement agents there riddle them with bullets. (One can only hope that Clem Robins, the hapless letterer here, demanded a per-BLAM bonus.) Meanwhile, the name of the mysterious lass inspiring some or all of this mayhem, “Fenix,” suggests not so much an immortal fire-reborn bird, as seems the intent, as a Big Pharma product involving three pages of “ask your physician” disclaimers. If Mignola and John Arcudi’s story exhibits zero zip, Guy Davis’ art fares somewhat better with its Kurtzmaniacal technique, but even it falls short of (say) his gonzo collaborations with writer Phil Amara on The Nevermen and its sequel from roughly a decade ago.
At present, for whatever reason, writer Warren Ellis (much to his chagrin, in all probability) may be setting some sort of record for the greatest number of concurrently delayed comics projects from a single creator. The second volume of Desolation Jones? M.I.A. Doktor Sleepless? Comatose. Newuniversal? Oldschedulingenigma. The appearance, therefore, of his Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #3 occasions more than a little relief. This penultimate chapter of the Avatar Press miniseries also inspires no small delight. Its darksome art, from Raulo Caceres, recalls that of the youthful Bernie Wrightson—albeit with feathering understandably less fine than Wrightson’s neurotically focused work—and Ellis’ mad steampunk tale, with its sky-sailing galleon and incandescent bullets and visionary techie swashbuckler, earns the miniseries’ deliciously absurd title. That Ellis’ tale does so while sketching a debate about past, present, and future—its and ours alike—constitutes a philosophical lagniappe. Finally, this issue incorporates a genuine “didn’t see that coming” plot twist. Recommended. Now if only Vertigo would at last premiere Ellis’ Sugar and Spike: Adolescence
Doom Patrol #20 serves as a reminder that “the World’s Strangest Heroes” have fundamentally clicked only twice in their 48-year history: at their debut in DC’s My Greatest Adventure #80 under writer Arnold Drake (with Bob Haney) and artist Bruno Premiani and in the late ’80s and early ’90s under then-wunderkind scribe Grant Morrison. Since Morrison’s definitive tenure, this most recent run marks the third or fourth revival—after a while, even the most conscientious auditor tends to lose track—and it, too, is ending, in just two issues. The latest, with a script by Keith Giffen and art by (count ’em!) five pencillers and three inkers, nicely illustrates why. Rarely has absence so defined a comic’s presence: absence of drama, absence of humor, absence of interest—despite the inclusion of both Mr. Nobody and General Immortus, for pity’s sake. The paramount irony here? As a writer and an artist alike through the decades, Giffen has never transcended marginality, yet for almost two years now, he’s failed miserably to do justice to DC’s preeminent outsiders.
Lefty: Hi, Power Girl! It’s us—your breasts. Righty: Yo! Lefty: We wanted to compliment you on the exposure you’re earning in your team title. Righty: You go, girl! Lefty: Case in points… Righty: Oh, you! Lefty: Artist Freddie Williams II racks up another winner with JSA All-Stars #16. Righty: Yeah, he keeps pumping out art that demands a double take. Lefty: Did you grok Matthew Sturges’ script, though? Righty: With the giant junior high “Intro to Sculpting the Figure” rejects and the baddies with big teeth? Lefty: Yeah—as if fanboys read comics for big teeth. Righty: True dat. Anyway, no. Then again, Sturges and Williams ended last ish by showing an EEG with an “incoming connection,” so who knows? Lefty: Netbotting flatliners—tha’s cold. Righty: Word. Anyway, P.G., keep fighting the good fight with those Justice Society of America schlubs… Lefty: “When Titans Clash!” Righty: And maybe DC’ll give us…um, you a second solo series. Lefty: The Pulchritudinous Power Girl, maybe. Righty: With art by Jim Balent. Lefty: Oh, my, yes—huge fan.
Of late, Marvel and DC alike have seemingly adopted a “whoever dies with the most toys wins” philosophy, whereunder the former has just elected to resurrect select titles from CrossGeneration Comics, a Floridian publisher active for a few years at the turn of the millennium. Its output? Largely forgettable. Cannily, though, Marvel signed Mike Carey to write Sigil #1, all but guaranteeing that devotees of The Unwritten, his Vertigo stunner, will give this CrossGen revival at least a look. With penciller Leonard Kirk and inker Ed Tadeo, Carey makes an agreeable start at reintroducing (more properly, for convoluted reasons, introducing) troubled high schooler Samantha “Sam” Rey, a mystery involving her newly deceased mother, a cast of supporting characters that includes a distaff Flash Thompson, Sam’s modern milieu, and another milieu entirely, derived from a second CrossGen title, El Cazador, Chuck Dixon and Steve Epting’s promising but short-lived pirate saga set in A.D. 1687. An intriguing debut—but heaven help Carey & Co. when some latter-day Moral Majoritarian mistakes Sam’s sternum birthmark for a supernumerary nipple. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Gods #3, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #3, courtesy of Avatar Press.
Click here for a preview of Sigil #1, courtesy of Newsarama.

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