Rude Chapbooks 06.11.12 | You Can Lead a Horticulture

Suuure, open with a Dorothy Parker allusion—that’s a winner! (Ahem.) This week, our short drink of water horses around with these five new floppies: Earth 2 #2, Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever #1, The Mighty Thor Annual #1, Morning Glories #19, and X-O Manowar #2.

 
As this column’s always-hypothetical habitués know, Ye Olde Rude Chapbookworm fosters an abiding fondness for DC’s Justice Society of America and can react savagely to abuse of those Golden Age icons. That said, like the 40-page premiere that preceded it in May, Earth 2 #2—written by James Robinson, pencilled by Nicola Scott, and inked by Trevor Scott—prompts uncertainty, in all honesty, insofar as it only kinda stars the JSA. This issue, for instance, 72-year-old speedster Jay Garrick gets Kid Flashed, and Hawkgirl, one of the company’s most-retconned characters ever, apparently undergoes a change in race; moreover, amid many media mentions, on page 12, Alan Scott, the once and future Green Lantern, publicly locks lips with another male character—shamefully not Doiby Dickles, his faithful, if pudgy and double-Dutchy, companion for seven decades. (Cad!) The Scott-squared artistic duo, meanwhile, contributes solid superheroic visuals, so whether this slantwise relaunch succeeds will hinge on whether its scripts originate from the Robinson behind The Shade or the Robinson behind the pre–“New 52” Justice League of America.
 
At times, in spite of the lingering economic slump, one succumbs to impulse. Case in point: Henry & Glenn Forever & Ever #1, co-published by L.A.’s I Will Destroy You Comics and Portland’s Cantankerous Titles, at least seemingly. (The indicia on the 5.5- by 7-inch black-and-white offering leaves something to be desired.) The 32-page oddity from seven creators showcases a farcical relationship between heavy metalists Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig. Although writer/artist Ed Luce’s eight-page 50-minute-hour jape boasts the strongest visuals and a fairly funny script, writer/artist Tom Neely’s more cartoonish ten-page opener, the “weeell, maybe” to-be-continued “Buried Secrets,” earns top honors for incorporating next-door Satanists Daryl and John (Hall & Oates); studio sensei “Dick Doobin” (consonantally, shift from d to r); post-mani/pedi sauna amigos James (Hetfield), Lars (Ulrich), and the hilariously dismissive Lou (Reed)—and a special guest from (yikes!) Riverdale. Although polished in neither form nor content and cover-stickered a bit dearly at six smackers, in short, this comic’s goofy DIY bonhomie makes it more interesting than far too much of today’s mainstream.
 
Once both a spandex-saga workhorse and the creator of more arcane delights, J.M. DeMatteis contributes so seldom to comics nowadays that his byline as writer on The Mighty Thor Annual #1 preemptively landed it a place on the P&H. Alas, almost predictably, this Marvel 44-pager, illustrated no more than serviceably by Richard Elson, in no way approximates the delicious idiosyncrasy of Brooklyn Dreams or Moonshadow. If anything, indeed, it warrants attention as the latest example of the mainstream’s put-it-up-to-11, Spinal Tapped–out inanity. More specifically, it embroils the eponymous hero and the Silver Surfer in a timeless conflict between two really, really, really cosmic entities, one of them intent on ending…well…everything. (Nowadays at Marvel and DC alike, one could swing the proverbial dead cat without missing two or three such entities each month. Even in this economy, the ending-everything industry appears to be thriving.) Action Figure Theater at its best—i.e., its worst—this annual redeems itself solely by constituting a stand-alone work. Otherwise, it exhibits all the sensawunna of a bowl of week-old ramen.
 
Where so many offerings from DC and Marvel today inspire less “Whoooa!” than just woe, Image lately has excelled at series of demented wonderment, among them The Manhattan Projects, Mind the Gap, and No Place Like Home. Even among those lunatic lovelies, though, reading writer Nick Spencer and artist Joe Eisma’s ongoing from that last-named publisher can rattle one’s brain in the skull with a ferocity to approximate a spastic “playing” the maraca. In that respect, Morning Glories #19 concludes that series’ latest arc, “P.E.,” with little if any relief from that pleasing discombobulation. Both verbally and visually, Spencer and Eisma don’t so much tell their tale as stalk it with ferocious inexorability, usually in four panels per page. This issue opens with one of the series’ six foci, gripping a bloody chef’s knife, dogging another of the six through a benighted wood and, after a central, outré flashback involving a hospital TV broadcast, closes with a total WTF moment topped, three pages later, by a second such moment. Still one of comics’ strangest blossoms.
 
In the comics mainstream, “universes” remain drearily overrated—only aesthetically stunted fanboys, barricaded by longboxes in the parental basement, could privilege them over discrete tales told with skill and style—and in that wise, the latest revival of Valiant Entertainment’s universe, as such, prompted a sigh and a roll of the eyes. Nonetheless, X-O Manowar #2, like the 29-page debut of the revival’s flagship title, packs more pizzazz than many other mainstream mediocrities, some of which fall shy even of mediocrity, and writer Robert Venditti, penciller Cary Nord, and inker Stefano Gaudiano deserve kudos for taking their time in reintroducing their Conan–goes–Iron Man protagonist. (An amusing goof, by the way: “[y]ears later,” according to a helpful caption in this issue, the pseudo-Conan still sports a crude cloth bandage on his left wrist, from which a borrowed Barsoomian has severed that hand.) Still, that’s damning with faint praise, and as “Rude Chapbooks” each week meditates with varying degrees of delicacy, why would one nurture mere mediocrity in an industry parasitizing a medium so marvelous? | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of The Mighty Thor Annual #1, here for a preview of Morning Glories #19, and here for a preview of X-O Manowar #2, all courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

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