Rude Chapbooks 04.30.12 | Bunn-y Daze

Following last week’s extraordinary “silent” issue of The Sixth Gun, for which series he recently earned an Eisner nomination, writer Cullen Bunn this week assumes the writing duties on two other titles: Captain America and Hawkeye #629 and Wolverine #305.

 
 
Perhaps; perhaps not. Since Marvel relaunched the adventures of its longtime patriotic paladin last year to stroke the company’s perpetual Hollywoody, it almost seems as if writer Ed Brubaker has been enjoying a victory lap after the darkly unsparing marathon that started with the assassination of Steve Rogers, continued with Bucky Barnes’ assumption of the shield, led to the return of the original American icon, and proceeded with the trial and apparent death of the Winter Soldier. By comparison, as Captain America #10 demonstrates, circumstances nowadays feel positively lighthearted, with Bru (one can’t help suspecting) revisiting the work of the writers who immediately followed Steve Englehart’s defining tenure on the title in the early to mid-1970s. Hence, Madbomb machinations from Jack Kirby’s controversial run have melded with the advent of the Ameridroid under Don Glut, Steve Gerber’s “Captain America, 97-pound weakling” jape, and the introduction, by Roger Stern, of Machinesmith. This latest issue concludes the hexapartite “Powerless” arc in fine style, with typically elegant art from penciller Alan Davis and inker Mark Farmer. Solid superheroics.
 
OK, now—let’s see if this column’s archivist has this straight. Captain America became Captain America and Bucky, and this week, the Marvel series once more changes its title, as well as its focus. Confusing? Why, not at all! Still, the debut of Cullen Bunn as the writer here makes Captain America and Hawkeye #629 a must-read. On this quadripartite arc with art by Alessandro Vitti, Bunn, the co-creator of The Sixth Gun, pairs the Star-Spangled Avenger with his longtime de facto Annoying Kid Brother in a battle with dinosaurs—hungry dinosaurs—in the San Andres Mountains in south-central New Mexico. Almost predictably, Bunn handles the characterization with consummate skill and makes the team-up old-school fun. (Down through the decades, Cap has worked with countless partners of all stripes, but none has ever managed to exasperate the supersoldier supreme as dependably as the battling bowman customarily does.) Sad to say, Vitti’s visuals detract from the narrative; his compositions look solid enough, true, but his technique, disconcertingly, transforms everything including characters’ exposed flesh into heat-blistered vinyl.
 
The conceit instantly prompts a chortle of seismic intensity: Spider-Man and the Human Torch…as roommates. Writer Jonathan Hickman, abetted by artist Nick Dragotta, gleefully explores just that conceit in FF #17. The issue opens with Spidey’s alter ego (the ever-beleaguered Peter Parker, of course) resolving to eject Johnny Storm, who’s been slowly but surely driving him bonkers with one silly oversight after another. Like retrofitting a hall closet as a portal to the Negative Zone. And hosting a party for a small army of extraterrestrials. And perhaps most damningly, flirting with a certain vivacious redhead. In consequence, Pete’s mental to-do list swiftly evolves from “Kick out Johnny Storm!” to “Beat Johnny into a coma! Evict unconscious body!!!” to “Kill Johnny Storm! Dispose of the body!! Collect insurance!!!” to much worse. Eventually comes the straw that breaks the web-slinger’s back, one of the most amusing final pages in Marvel history. Aptly enough, Dragotta ably illustrates the high jinks in a manner vaguely reminiscent of John Romita (Sr.) as inked by “Mickey Demeo” (Mike Esposito). Great fun!
 
Almost surely, Robert E. Howard would have abhorred the civilized barbarity of contemporary life, with its ceaseless parade of effronteries and rude refinements masquerading as politesse. In that light and in this life, reacquainting oneself with Howard’s signature character and prose alter ego provides a positively tonic thrill, thanks to the ongoing and multifarious efforts of Dark Horse. More specifically in context, King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword #4 this week closes that miniseries from scriptwriter Timothy Truman, artist Tomás Giorello, and color artist José Villarrubia. With a broadax and a magically augmented sword, the Cimmerian deals summarily with the conspirators seeking to dethrone him, as well as another assailant dispatched by…well, that would be telling. In any event, by the time Conan stands amid a royal bedchamber redecorated in grue, the climax, in all likelihood, has effected a signal catharsis for the average reader—long may the burly barbarian’s blade glint in sunshine and moonlight alike! Also included: various pinups, among them two splendidly atmospheric black-and-white tableaux by Tony Parker and Patric Reynolds.
 
At least for four months, according to Diamond Comic Distributors’ May Previews, writer Cullen Bunn will shepherd the solo adventures of Marvel’s most popular mutant, beginning with Wolverine #305. Teaming with penciller Paul Pelletier and inker David Meikis, he returns the cutlery-knuckled Canadian to Dunwich Sanitorium in California; there, the character hunts one of his newest old foes, arguably prior series writer Jason Aaron’s most ghoulishly memorable addition to the canon. (Of the four Marvel titles reviewed this week, this one alone sports not “Rated T” on its cover but “Parental Advisory”; a quarter of a century ago, for good or for ill, the Comics Code Authority would have bounced this beauty like a Wham-O Super Ball.) Bunn manages the tough task of merging a slow build with scenes of nearly unrelenting carnage, which suggests the resolution will go totally postal. Meanwhile, Pelletier and Meikis not only illustrate the (pardon the pun) Ghastliness with glee, but also take pains to imbue with character even incidental players like a bodacious roadhouse waitress who flirts with Logan. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of Captain America #10 and here for a preview of Wolverine #305, both courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Captain America and Hawkeye #629, courtesy of Newsarama.
Click here for a preview of FF #17, courtesy of Marvel Comics.
Click here for a preview of King Conan: The Phoenix on the Sword #4, courtesy of Dark Horse.

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