Rude Chapbooks 06.25.12 | Five Finales

This week’s column bids adieu (transitorily in most cases) to a quintet of titles now gracing canny comics shops nationwide, with critiques of Casanova: Avaritia #4, Memorial #6, Next Men: Aftermath #44, Ragemoor #4, and Reed Gunther #10.

Casanova: Avaritia #4, the close of a quadripartite miniseries from Marvel’s Icon line, should fire in discerning readers hatred for fanboys, the industry, and (lovingly) writer Matt Fraction. Why? Simplicity itself. Collectively, fanboys’ altogether stunted aesthetic has conspired with industry avarice, laziness, and blindness to financially motivate a creator as conspicuously talented as Fraction to focus his time and efforts on spandex dreck instead of gems like this. Yes, dear reader: same ol’, same ol’ from the rude chapbookworm. In any event, from moron topics to more on topic, the finale to Avaritia boasts characteristically peerless pop visuals from artist Gabriel Bá and colorist Cris Peter; any given panel of this narrative kaleidoscope—a lunatic landscape splashed with psychedelic hues—radiates more gonzo energy than entire funnybooks by the latest Jim Lee wannabe. Fraction, meanwhile, continues, with brio, to abuse his Moorcockian protagonist, multiversal superspy Casanova Quinn, along the way including a cameo by Charles Dickens, some of the funniest captions in comics, and a found ukulele. Next: Casanova: Acedia. But when, damn it—when?
On its premiere late last December, writer Chris Roberson and artist Rich Ellis’ phantasmagoria from IDW Publishing earned this column’s highest recommendation, and Memorial #6, like all of its predecessors, in no way alters that assessment. This, the culmination of the first of a series of miniseries, plays so many narrative trumps so skillfully it leaves one breathless: fully revealing the “big bad” (to use a Whedonism), sketching a neo-cosmogony sufficiently satisfying (if conveniently consonantal) it out-Gaimans Gaiman, and spotlighting a Zelaznyesque clash between creatures of light and darkness—all without feeling derivative. Furthermore, Ellis further establishes himself as perhaps the mainstream’s strongest artistic find of the past year. Without spoiling any plot points, the mini ends with amnesiac protagonist Em, now provisionally known by another name, making various resolutions anticipating the sequel, which one can only hope Roberson and Ellis’ publisher schedules with utmost dispatch. In the meantime, the company will compile this first volume of Memorial in August; stragglers to its serial presentation should most assuredly start budgeting for that compilation’s purchase now.
Next Men: Aftermath #44 from IDW Publishing terminates not only the revival of writer/artist John Byrne’s worthy slantwise 1992–94 reinterpretation of mutant merriment, but also the adventures of the eponymous quintet. Probably. Possibly. Perhaps. Tellingly, the sans serif phrase “THE END?!” on a black background constitutes the cover, a bit of minimalism that might strike some as merely slothful, and the issue’s content manages to feel at once perfunctory and ponderous, as if Byrne, his publisher, or both had wearied of the whole affair. “Rude Chapbooks” has never stinted with its praise for Next Men—as a click here and a smidgen of backtracking will attest—but this potential valedictory comes as a grievous disappointment. Indeed, it succeeds only in exemplifying infodumpage, with explanatory balloons and captions packing its panels so tightly the issue resembles something from Robert Kanigher at his bloviating best. Further, would it have been too much to ask that letterer Neil Uyetake, editor Chris Ryall, or both flag and fix the manifold misspellings populating all of those balloons and captions?
Ragemoor #4, that Dark Horse miniseries’ sayonara from writer Jan Strnad and artist Richard Corben, sparks a wee whimsy. To wit, wouldn’t it be grand if some canny publisher launched a black-and-white ongoing titled Jan and Richard’s Comics & Stories? The two of them have partnered so long and so well (if, alas, so irregularly) that a monthly showcase for their collaboration, regardless of genre, would demand attention and, in all likelihood, reward that attention amply. Here, with devilish élan, Strnad and Corben finish their malefic masonry on the tale of the titular way-ancient castle, its nominal master, and his unhinged manservant and unrequited (and unfaithful) heartthrob. Twenty-four pages of blissful black-and-white depravity, it extends, to everyone’s benefit, Corben’s mastery of the medium. (Gosh! If only DC would grant him a Batbook or Marvel would honor him with an X-series!) Strnad, for his part, plays macabre like a master of the viola, ranging in a split second between soothing and brutal, as with the denouement’s (re)introduction of poor Cousin Anoria. Elegantly demented—and wholeheartedly recommended.
A babe, a bear, and a buckaroo with a ticker as big as Texas, if a brain a whole lot smaller. Who but the most pinheaded of spandex addicts could resist a comic book starring such a trio? Sad to say, the publication of Image’s Reed Gunther #10 precedes a hiatus of indeterminate duration, as noted in an afterword from creators Shane (who writes it) and Chris (who illustrates it) Houghton. A dad-blamed shame, that. Since its June 2011 debut, the wacky Western has provided an anodyne alternative to superheroic grim ’n’ grittiness, a breath of prairie-fresh air in an industry otherwise smoggy beyond endurance. The issue now under consideration, for instance, concludes a two-pardner…er, two-parter wherein the eponymous cowpoke rescues his B.F.F., ursine Sterling, from demonic possession. To do so, unfortunately, Reed relies on his noggin; more specifically, he sells his soul to the usual infernal shylock. That, in turn, compels Sterling and Reed’s they-don’t-yet-acknowledge-it-but-she-is gal, Starla, to exorcise him. The climax involves, among other felicities, “a jar of the world’s best pickles.” Sweet! | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Ragemoor #4, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of Casanova: Avaritia #4, here for a preview of Memorial #6, here for a preview of Next Men: Aftermath #44, here for a preview of Reed Gunther #10, all courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

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