Rude Chapbooks 06.27.11 | Diner Finery

Set in and around an East Coast choke-and-puke, All Nighter #1 plates a tasty narrative about young adults straining to tell dusk from dawn. At the opposite end of things among this week’s five reviews, though, Flashpoint: The Outsider #1 may make readers literally choke and puke.

 
In the search for fresh, sharp comics, counterbalancing endemic and often epidemic disappointment, week after week, month after month, year after year, is an all-too-rare reward: a series that introduces its cast, its mise-en-scène, and its other components with electrifying surety, skill, and style. Writer/artist David Hahn’s All Nighter #1 numbers among such rewarding rarities. The debut of the quinary Image offering verges on scarily promising, in fact, because in form and content alike, it recalls nothing so much as Jaime Hernandez’s earliest Love & Rockets work. Opening with neo-punk protagonist Kit Bradley perched on the roof of A&J’s All Nite Diner, the mini also directly ushers onstage Kit’s boyfriend, Dwayne—“actually, he’s more like an ex-boyfriend that I’m somehow still dating, if that makes any sense”—and her roommate and B.F.F., Sally-O, a waitress at the greasy spoon. Thereafter come an aside to a stuffed swordfish, a burglary involving a collection of gold coins, and a new beau for Kit and Sally-O’s other roomie—all depicted with pen-and-ink pop peerlessness by Hahn. Highly recommended.
 
Assembling an anthology, maddeningly, demands balancing aesthetic impulses concurrently liberal and conservative—striving for the utmost diversity while setting and maintaining standards of some sort. In that regard, like its predecessor, Dark Horse Presents #2 warrants attention and acclaim alike. This column, of course, welcomed that anthology’s resurrection at the end of April, and the revenant DHP continues to excite with its potential. Perfect? By no means. A new serial, “Number 13,” exemplifies science fictional comics at their most god-awful (which see also Vertigo’s Strange Adventures #1). Moreover, on his own serial, Neal Adams again demonstrates that, as a writer, he sucks like a Hoover. (Would some editor, somewhere, please so notify him?) Otherwise, though, the new DHP features more fab work from Paul Chadwick, Howard Chaykin, David Chelsea, Richard Corben, Michael T. Gilbert, and Carla Speed McNeil; it also commences an intriguing serial, “Rotten Apple,” by writer Chuck Brown and artist Sanford Greene and includes an amusing fillip by writer/artist Patrick Alexander that reads like The Dark Knight Returns as envisioned by Lewis Trondheim.
 
Ages ago, Batman and Robin found themselves bedeviled by the Outsider, who sported a violet diaper and who looked as if he were composed of cottage cheese; eventually, that malefactor stood revealed as the Wayne family’s dead-but-not-really retainer, Alfred, in Detective Comics #356, a funnybook so awful it spurred this column’s cranky curator (then aged five) to pan its failings in several hundred words…albeit words scrawled in crayon on a Big Chief tablet. Beside Flashpoint: The Outsider #1, however, that bit of silliness from 1966 borders on Shakespearean. Even by the standards of mainstream comics, of “events” therein, and of ancillae to DC’s Flashpoint “event”—whose creative teams largely seem to comprise the company’s interns and a stray copier tech or two—this…this artifact appalls. Redeemed solely by a cover from the ever-excellent Kevin Nowlan, this debut of a tripartite miniseries otherwise involves interior art from the amateurish Javi Fernandez and an abysmal script, vile and nihilistic, from James Robinson. What, oh, what, happened to the great-souled tale-teller behind Starman? At once heartbreaking and gut-wrenching.
 
Projects that pimp creators lacking any background in comics instantly provoke suspicion; but for the industry’s congenital blend of insecurity and cowardice, there seems little if any reason to privilege, say, TV experience over time spent in the trenches. (“Wow—you wrote two episodes of Outsourced? Wanna script Superman?”) It thus comes as both a relief and a pleasure to hail Mystery Men #2 from novelist David Liss and artist Patrick Zircher. Set in the Big Apple in 1932, the quinary Marvel miniseries showcases the exploits of such pulp-inspired protagonists as the Operative (a shadowy Robin Hood figure) and the Revenant (a spectral African-American) as they battle corrupt cops, the infernal General, and the even more infernal Nox. Liss misses nary a beat; indeed, his work, in its dramaturgical finesse and in other ways, recalls that of mainstream man-with-the-plan Ed Brubaker on The Marvels Project. Zircher, meanwhile, awes with his visuals; unlike seemingly 99 percent of younger artists, he can even depict fedoras. Memo to Marvel: Sign Liss and Zircher to make this an ongoing!
 
As has happened sporadically since “Rude Chapbooks” debuted, this week’s column invokes the Classic Disney Exception to laud BOOM! Studios’ Uncle Scrooge: The Mysterious Stone Ray & Cash Flow. The $6.99 special reprints 54 pages of timeless material in two stories (dating from 1954 and 1987, respectively) by Carl Barks, “the Good Duck Artist,” and Don Rosa, the G.D.A.’s adoptive son. Uniting the two is the appearance of an oddball, cabbage-obsessed professor, surely a relative of inventor Gyro Gearloose. In the Barks tale, Scrooge, on his physician’s advice, takes a busman’s holiday with nephew Donald Duck and Huey, Dewey, and Louie to an uncharted south Pacific isle; in the Rosa, everyone’s favorite Duckburg plutocrat grows a tad too overconfident in repelling the larcenous Beagle Boys from his three cubic acres of moola atop Killmotor Hill. In both cases, it almost goes without saying, high jinks and hilarity ensue. Furthermore, in all honesty, any fanboy who ignores this gem in favor of the latest Fear Itself or Flashpoint jetsam will be getting everything he F’ing deserves. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of All Nighter #1, courtesy of Bleeding Cool.
Click here for a preview of Dark Horse Presents #2, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of Mystery Men #2, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

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