Rude Chapbooks 04.16.12 | America’s Got Powerfully Sucky Comics

So-called reality TV infests funnybooks in America’s Got Powers #1, a comic to delight Howard Stern fans and other wankers everywhere. Also greeted this week with much less contempt: Avenging Spider-Man #6, Courtney Crumrin #1, Fantastic Four #605, and Northlanders #50.


From a perverse perspective, America’s Got Powers #1 invites attention by amalgamating the worst aspects of two media. To wit, from the comics mainstream, the hexapartite Image miniseries slaps the same tired superhero template on a trite trend appropriated, embarrassingly, from the medium attorney and former Federal Communications Commission chair Newton N. Minow once infamously dubbed “a vast wasteland,” and from television, it foregrounds the monumentally moronic panem et circenses (with apologies to Juvenal) more and more prevalent on the small screen during the past two decades. The 38-pager, scripted by British chat show host Jonathan Ross, centers on the televised competition to join the superteam Power Generation and more or less stars the sole member of 17-year-old San Franciscans left enigmatically normal following an empowering cosmic event. Visualizing this tedium, with inkers Andrew Currie and Paul Neary, is Bryan Hitch, the industry’s current poster child for style sans soul. A depressing and soporific waste of paper, ink, and staples, America’s Got Powers is in all likelihood already being “developed” for TV by some enterprising Hollywood studio or other.
Grudgingly, though it starts a three-title crossover, Avenging Spider-Man #6 earns a free pass because (a) Mark Waid, who made Daredevil the top relaunch of 2011, shares writing duties on it with Greg Rucka and (b) the crossover, “The Omega Effect,” leads to The Punisher #10 before concluding in Waid’s own Daredevil #11. In any event, as he’ll reportedly do on the second and third installments, Marco Checchetto provides the artwork here, and that artwork forms the crossover’s failing. Although serviceable enough on the Punisher’s series, it ill suits—figuratively or literally—Spidey and Hornhead. Specifically, Checchetto’s depiction of the former suggests Ross Andru as inked by Syd Shores, and the latter looks so badly tailored that Marvel may need to change the character’s logo tagline from “The Man Without Fear!” to “The Man Without Spandex!” That said, Rucka and Waid make this sufficiently entertaining to commend it to readers wishing to revisit the era when crossovers didn’t sprawl across a dozen series, involve 743 characters, and cost more than a full tank of gas.
For a decade now, intermittently, writer/artist Ted Naifeh has been gifting discerning readers with the “all-ages” magical misadventures of an adolescent blonde every bit as snarky as she is plucky, and this week, his delightful middle school sorceress makes her color debut from Oni Press in Courtney Crumrin #1. Hurrah! In it, as new owners take occupancy of the property adjoining Crumrin House, our gal does something almost unimaginable: she makes a friend. (Metaphorically, that is. In context, that qualification demands immediate inclusion.) Courtney’s life being what it is, naturally and supernaturally, complications ensue, leading to a cliffhanger lingering from the character’s first appearance. Otherwise, there in crepuscular Hillsborough, the “night thing” Butterworm perforce goes a-snacking in the woods—or tries to do so, at any rate—and Courtney’s grim but endearing Uncle Aloysius faces his own impending demise. Naifeh’s visuals remain as splendidly lush as ever, pen-and-brush lovelies to which colorist Warren Wucinich brings a perhaps overly restrained palette—red and orange vanish—albeit without detracting from this premiere more than marginally. Absolutely recommended.
Perhaps unfairly, Ron Garney has seemed an artistic disappointment for more than two decades now. Like the redoubtable David Mazzucchelli, he became so good so fast that one kept expecting him, at any time, to forsake work-for-hire fluff for something more substantial and aesthetically challenging—yet Garney, to date, has shown no inclination to grace us with his own Asterios Polyp. Oh, well. This week, on Marvel’s Fantastic Four #605, he partners with writer Jonathan Hickman to transport readers several millennia into the future for an incremental vision of clan Richards across thousands and thousands of years, and the preceding snappishness notwithstanding, the stand-alone tale constitutes a neat debut, largely because it eschews Action Figure Theater nonsense for a narrative centered on character. (For instance, the issue closes with Mr. Fantastic and the Thing sharing brewskis and viewing a TV boxing match. With a sidelong glower, the latter assures the former, “I’m keepin’ the remote.” Sweet!) As this column’s previously intimated, Fantastic Four, under Hickman, again deserves its cover nickname, “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!”
Glum days indeed for Vertigo devotees. That imprint’s gloriously dystopian DMZ concluded at the end of 2011, its extraordinarily harrowing Native American policier, Scalped, will do likewise in a few months, and this week, Northlanders #50 marks that series’ curtain call. With appropriately roughhewn art from Danijel Zezelj, that issue also wraps the nine-part “Icelandic Trilogy” arc and closes with the near-extermination of the Hauksson family in Iceland circa 1300. Likely never an easy sell to spandex junkies, writer Brian Wood’s Scandinavian saga ends, in short, as uncompromisingly as it began, in 2007. Always something of a “stealth anthology,” Northlanders, in its time, produced several fine shorter works and at least one novel-length tour de force, The Plague Widow, illustrated by Leandro Fernandez and compiled two years ago. Be that as it may, this issue, the arc, and the series all finish with an old man reflecting bleakly on his homeland, even as he gallops into the dawn—an image typical of Northlanders, a title whose blend of brutality and subtlety will be much missed. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of America’s Got Powers #1 and here for a preview of Fantastic Four #605, both courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Avenging Spider-Man #6, right here at PLAYBACK:stl!

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