Rude Chapbooks 04.04.11 | Low Society

Justice Society of America #49 extends Marc Guggenheim’s wretched run on comics’ premier team, alas. On a cheerier note, praiseworthy funnybooks starring two rowdy redheads number among the subjects of this week’s five capsule reviews: Archie #619 and Jimmy Olsen #1.

 
Archie #619—and why not? Kid stuff? Sure. No one will ever mistake the misadventures of the eponymous redhead for From Hell. Then again, at no point has the world’s most youthful septuagenarian (the character debuted in Pep Comics #22, from December 1941) ever flaunted fake chest hair, like far too many contemporaries; to steal a phrase from another comics icon, the Andrews lad yam what he yam and tha’s all he yam. The Archie Comic Publications offering under consideration—scripted by Tom DeFalco, pencilled by Fernando Ruiz, and inked by Jim Amash—forms the second half of a romp wherein the Riverdale regulars go all Sherwood Forest with neither ado nor explanation how this whimsy ramifies throughout the Archieverse. (Scandalous!) Amid the longbows, quivers, and arrows, DeFalco affectionately deploys the tropes customary to the series, including the usual Archie-Betty-Veronica tensions. On capturing the redhead with the blonde, for instance, the main villain cackles that “Robbing Arch has a date with the hangman!” The brunette, of course, instantly snaps, “What? You’re dating the hangman too?!”
 
If the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution has so far failed to torch your comics shop, that failure strongly suggests that the D.A.R. has yet to take notice of Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #1, an affront to everything pure and right and decent and true about this great nation of ours. Although created by writer Joe Casey and artist Mike Huddleston, this Image debut reads like Captain America co-written by the late, much-missed Hunter S. Thompson and Stacey Grenrock Woods; in all likelihood, the mainstream will see nothing more gloriously perverse this year, perhaps this decade. (At no point in the Star-Spangled Avenger’s 70-year history, for instance, has anyone established the character’s refractory period.) The first page alone features what appears to be a former V.P. of the U.S. and a certain jut-jawed TV talk-show host visiting a New York club with a singular door handle on what, in 2011, seems all too believably like a quasi-diplomatic mission. Buy this nasty, subversive, and utterly indispensable comic—while you still can.
 
For far too long now, the adventures of our ur-superhero have plumbed the depths of tedium, in such low-profile, ephemeral series as…oh…Superman. (Memo to DC: We readers couldn’t care less about Kryptonians en masse or this spandex-clad Mother Jones in drag that so enchants you—give us the big, bright, bulletproof Boy Scout, and cut the crap, OK?) Jimmy Olsen #1 recalls the halcyon days when funnybooks starring or otherwise involving the Man of Steel did indeed incorporate an element of fun. Perhaps predictably, this 68-page singleton, which derives in part or in whole from an Action Comics backup, comes from writer Nick Spencer—who seemingly can do no wrong with his work on such titles as Morning Glories. Graced with gorgeous art from (primarily) penciller R.B. Silva and (ditto) inker Dym, it relates “Jimmy Olsen’s Big Week” and includes an alien invasion averted by a visit to Yarn Barn, a mystery babe with a briefcase aflutter with a million bucks, and a junior Luthor plotting to conquer the world via video game. Humongously recommended.
 
“I’m…determined to create a few new toys to play with because it occurred to me that this was a golden…opportunity to add some new things to the DC Universe, to put a few new toys on the floor to play with,” writer Marc Guggenheim assured Comic Shop News in mid-January regarding his stewardship of not just DC’s oldest team but the mainstream’s. Given his eloquence, it seems needless to toy with the preceding noose, especially after being floored by Justice Society of America #49, Guggenheim’s latest exercise in slow strangulation involving that team. Toys. Certainly. Since assuming scriptwriting duties on this title, Guggenheim (herein partnered with artist Scott Kolins) hasn’t been crafting bona fide narratives for DC with protagonists and antagonists and frivolities like plots—he’s been vomiting potential ad copy for DC Direct. Here, he hurls the JSA (with at least two characters never previously associated with the team) at foes that would have to assume depth to qualify as shallow. A sheer and utter travesty. Time to consign these “toys” to the Dumpster.
 
Thor #621 concludes the arc by writer Matt Fraction and artists Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth previously celebrated in this column. Alas, without spoilers, the conclusion feels rushed, even perfunctory, as if to sync the comic with next month’s movie featuring the title character. A maddening coda reinforces that suspicion. Solicitations from Marvel in mid-January noted that (a) this series will (again!) revert to its ditched-in-’66 original title with Journey Into Mystery #622; (b) writer Kieron Gillen and artist Doug Braithwaite will then take over the series; (c) Fraction will jump to a new series starring this character; and (d) artist Olivier Coipel will replace Ferry and Hollingsworth on that series (titled, with stunning originality, The Mighty Thor). Such machinations, in mainstream comics, pass for editorial acumen. Apologists—of which, God knows, the mainstream never suffers a shortage—will undoubtedly argue the reasonability of the preceding in light of the forthcoming flick. Hogwash. The mainstream’s powers that be continue to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic—and because of that, they deserve the coming berg. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #1, right here at PLAYBACK:stl

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