Rude Chapbooks 05.28.12 | Against All Odds, Redemption

This column bids a fond adieu to Irredeemable #37, which concludes its run this week in a signally satisfactory fashion. It also salutes the return of two old friends in Dark Horse Presents #12 and welcomes Batman Incorporated #1, MIND MGMT #1, and Resident Alien #1.

DC’s Batman Incorporated #1 begs the customary question: “Good” Grant Morrison or “bad”? That is, does its script originate from the innovator behind Doom Patrol and a myriad of other works or the narcissist behind Final Crisis and another myriad of works? The answer: yes. More specifically, this relaunch of a series only launched in November 2010 sports some intriguing bits, most of them centering on the pain-in-the-ass characterization of Damian, the latest Robin. (It also sports some intriguing art from Chris Burnham, whose work increasingly recalls that of the young Michael Wm. Kaluta.) However, it likewise suffers from many of the faults typical of “bad Grant,” the Morrison whom the fanboys too frequently and eagerly allow to function as the emperor’s new clothier: abattoir chic (literally), dadaistic japes (an assassin called Goatboy, the oh-surely-not introduction of Bat-Cow), and out-and-out narrative laziness (an apparently invariant patrol route by the Dark Knight, that famous cowl’s ability to retard the brain-pulping kinetic impact of a high-caliber round delivered from less than a yard away). So: predictably infuriating.
Fans “of a certain age” should find it impossible to resist Dark Horse Presents #12 on the strength of its variant cover. That cover, whose “nonvariant” twin Sam Kieth contributes, comes from Dean Motter and features his signature nonesuch from the mid-1980s, Mr. X—a lovely, even iconic visual. Furthermore, this latest edition of publisher/editor Mike Richardson’s essential monthly comics salmagundi (which “Rude Chapbooks” somehow hasn’t lauded since February) boasts not only the first eight-page chapter of a new misadventure of that character by Motter as writer/artist, but also the opening eight-pager of a serial starring another hero that debuted in the ’80s, writer Mike Baron and artist Steve Rude’s Nexus. (Paging Matt Wagner and Kevin Matchstick…) Also included in this, the mainstream’s best value month after month: eight more pages (its tenth chapter) of the latest Finder phantasmagoria from writer/artist Carla Speed McNeil, as well as a customarily brutal seven-page exploit of the Eltingville Comic Book, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Role-Playing Club and a take-no-prisoners Milk and Cheese one-pager from writer/artist/madman Evan Dorkin.
Writer Mark Waid’s Superman–turns–Lex Luthor saga concludes this week in BOOM! Studios’ Irredeemable #37, and Waid and artist Diego Barreto, against all odds, craft what may well constitute the most stunning superhero valedictory to grace the mainstream in 2012. It almost goes without saying that Barreto illustrates this finale with grace and style; in his sporadic tenure on the title, he has invariably ranked as an artist’s artist, with never a line out of place nor a composition of less than consummate intelligence. One can only hope some canny publisher continues to showcase Barreto’s talent. Waid, meanwhile, plausibly partners the “irredeemable” Plutonian and the supergenius Qubit not only to save the planet from a terminal cloud of radioactivity, but also to provide the former with a chance to atone for his sins against humanity. Toward the end of the tale, of course, sufficiently astute readers should foresee Waid’s denouement, which boasts a cameo from two special guests, but that in no way lessens the heartbreaking perfection of that denouement. Bravo, Mr. Waid—bravo!
MIND MGMT? To support an altogether unprepossessing logo, the orthography of that Dark Horse title feels, frankly, bogus; at a minimum, one would expect the use of mgt., the lexicographically preferred abbreviation, over mgmt. (Moreover, one can’t help suspecting too many fanboys will sound out, “M, G, M, T.”) Like its logo, MIND MGMT #1 prompts ambivalence. In his afterword, writer/artist Matt Kindt envisions producing “a monthly book that would get [him] reading monthly books again” about “a secret espionage organization that is unconventional to say the least,” but in general, his reach appears to exceed his grasp. Case in point: the first four pages alone treat as something new and phenomenal what Freud long ago dubbed “secondary revision”—talk about reinventing the wheel. Thereafter follows cross-border intrigue involving an airliner whose passengers and crew, in midflight, all suffer simultaneous amnesia, but that narrative lacks weight—a hypnopompic sally that calls into question whether Kindt, in seeking the unconventional, has ever properly acquainted himself with generic convention or whether he’s merely operating on oneiric torpor.
In tone, no other mainstream title currently matches Dark Horse’s Resident Alien #1. Even though it hangs on a murder—an April “zero issue” compiled prefatory episodes serialized in Dark Horse Presents—the tripartite miniseries from writer Peter Hogan and artist Steve Parkhouse exudes a gentle bonhomie unlike anything else being published today. A classic fish-out-of-water tale, it focuses on an otherwise-innominate extraterrestrial, crash-landed here, who employs circumscribed extrasensory powers to personify Harry Vanderspeigle, a physician retired to the charming hamlet of (ouch!) Patience. While awaiting, perhaps naively, his rescue, Harry amiably interacts with the police chief, the mayor, and other townsfolk, while attempting to solve the murder of Patience’s non-“other” other doctor. Parkhouse, as always, contributes pristine visuals, here complemented with some non-naturalistic coloring that pleasantly “pops” like acrylic, and if Patience actually existed, it could hire Hogan as its press agent, given his skill at limning even the hamlet’s ne’er-do-wells. The two of them rank among talents too little appreciated in comics; this mini gives canny readers the chance to rectify that oversight. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Dark Horse Presents #12, here for a preview of MIND MGMT #1, and here for a preview of Resident Alien #1, all courtesy of Dark Horse.

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