Rude Chapbooks 04.25.11 | A Bouquet of Alts and Indies

This week, readers seeking critiques of DC and Marvel series should seek elsewhere, as “Rude Chapbooks” celebrates alternatives and indies: two titles previously praised here, the revival of an old fave in a fab new format, and a brace of dynamite debuts.

Dark Horse Presents #1 qualifies as a blast from the past. Almost two decades ago, before it devolved into a paddock for corporate nags, the anthology stabled comics stallions jockeyed by the likes of John Byrne, Paul Chadwick, and Frank Miller. This revival revisits those thoroughbred days. Indeed, the 80-pager features both Chadwick (with—hurrah!—an eight-page Concrete tale) and Miller (with a two-page interview on the 300 prequel and a four-page preview), as well as Patrick Alexander, David Chelsea, Geof Darrow (just spot illos, alas), Michael T. Gilbert (Mr. Monster!), and Randy Stradley and Paul Gulacy. Also, Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, Richard Corben, and Carla Speed McNeil all contribute the first chapters of serials, and the great Harlan Ellison provides a short prose story, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon (a reprint from 2010). Regarding any single component of this $7.99 full-color steal, naturally, “individual mileage may vary.” (At a minimum, Adams’ eight-pager reaffirms that the man cannot write.) Collectively, though, the components of DHP #1 define how to craft an anthology with style.
“[Y]ou’re not effing superheroes,” Clutch—the distaff Kato’s quasi-slacker cousin—advises the title character midway through Green Hornet #15 following various misfortunes. That advice, in context, should make supporters of the Dynamite Entertainment series smile; slowly but surely since its inception, Green Hornet has blossomed into one of today’s most satisfying new superheroic adventures. In fact, this issue, entitled “Death and Rebirth,” could easily serve as a textbook example of how to do it to it. Beyond a typically impeccable Alex Ross hommage to a classic Amazing Spider-Man cover, writer Phil Hester and artists Jonathan Lau and Ivan Nunes adroitly develop diverse subplots (including introducing the new Green Hornet to the deadly Red Hand) and subject the title character to a crisis of confidence. As a welcome lagniappe in an era often swamped with seriousness, they accomplish all this with considerable wit—as with a brief, language-related exchange between Britt Reid fils and Clutch and with a cameo appearance by one “Esperanza Gottlieb.” Effortlessly superior to any five given “event”-driven crossovertures from the Big Two.
When, a third of the way into The Sixth Gun #11, the demonic Marinette of the Dry Arms dismisses Becky Montcrief as “a wounded little girl,” readers of the Oni Press series may well treat themselves to a small, grim grin. Since coming into (pardon the phrase) possession of that infernal revolver, the auburn-haired lovely in question has shown herself to be a young lady of extraordinary mettle, and this issue extends that trend while concluding the second arc of the weird Western, which putatively stars enigmatic, bowler-clad antihero Drake Sinclair. (Along the way, poor Billjohn O’Henry, resurrected as a golem, cements his reputation as comics’ most mistreated sidekick.) As ever, writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt relate their tale with almost unseemly skill; they make it all look so damned easy, and the level of adeptness the two of them lavish on The Sixth Gun explains why they now number among the medium’s hottest creators. One can only hope other commitments never smother the heat of their devotion to this fine comics flame.
As a glance at Diamond’s Previews reveals, every topic under the sun is nowadays receiving comics “treatment,” often with dismal amateurism or, worse, amateurish professionalism. The debut of a series inspired by the website should thus come as no surprise. Rather, the surprise derives from the quality of IDW Publishing’s Suicide Girls #1. A thoroughly entertaining and intriguing piece of work, it features a script by Brea Grant (from a plot by Steve Niles, Missy Suicide, and Grant herself) and art by penciller David Hahn and inker Cameron Stewart. In introducing the distaff troop of Sana, Cassius, Kim, Porter, Wheeler, and new recruit Frank, devoted to destroying Way*of*Life, a “private prison company focusing on ‘rehabilitation,’” it also appropriates the element of multiethnicity from Quality’s 1941 Military Comics #1—and from a somewhat later comic called Giant-Size X-Men #1. Whether this title will enjoy the impact of those, of course, remains to be seen. Still, Suicide Girls #1—rounded out, both figuratively and literally, by four pinups from Stewart and other material—commands attention. Recommended.
Let us thus define high-concept bliss: “The fate of the world rests on the shoulders of a ten-year-old kid and his best friend, a nine-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus Rex who loves to play video games.” Perhaps predictably, that promo copy describes the latest offering from the mad genius behind Invincible and Science Dog, writer Robert Kirkman: Super Dinosaur #1. Partnering with him on this ongoing is artist Jason Howard, and it surely appears that the pair has added yet another winner to Image’s recent run of splendid new series, among them Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker, The Infinite Vacation, and The Intrepids. Designed as an “all ages” romp, Super Dinosaur stars the aforesaid tyrannosaur and Derek Dynamo—almost surely a slantwise Clapton joke—as they combat evil Max Maximus and his own saurian lackeys from Inner Earth, like Terrordactyl. In a brief afterword, Kirkman confesses, “I’m trying to write a comic that is fresh and new and at the same time a throwback to the kind of storytelling I read in comics growing up…” Success! A must-buy. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Dark Horse Presents #1, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of Green Hornet #1, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.
Click here for a preview of Suicide Girls #1, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Super Dinosaur #1 and here for another look at the series from PLAYBACK:stl’s Mick Martin.

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