Rude Chapbooks 07.09.12 | Still Miss Ya, Gerbs

Four-plus years after his tragic passing, The Infernal Man-Thing #1 should remind discerning readers of the genius of writer (and St. Louis native) Steve Gerber. Also hailed this week, mostly: Castle Waiting Vol. II #17, Dial H #3, The Lone Ranger #7, and (!) Uncanny X-Men #15.

 

 
Recalling the halcyon days when Fantagraphics Books regularly released not only comics qua comics, but also comics from the same creator in the same series, writer/artist Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting Vol. II #17 graces retailers nationwide just two months after its predecessor, lauded here. As ever, a delight. This, the penultimate issue of Medley’s black-and-white fable-based roman-fleuve, abounds with gentle felicities, including a four-page sequence wherein Leeds the demon collects a crucifix from Sister Peace. (Yes—one can almost hear heads exploding in the Vatican.) Inarguably, though, the issue’s centerpiece involves Jain’s introduction of (simple) Simon to the joys of reading, a scene immensely heartwarming in an era transitioning ruthlessly from the merely semiliterate to the unapologetically illiterate: “The proud mouse went out of the house…” (After the fact, amusingly, when Simon loses himself in a book at the dinner table, Jain laments, “Egads, I’ve created a monster.”) If memory serves, Medley’s artistic apprenticeship included a stint on some Justice League–related nonsense or other; if so, there may yet be hope for Jim Lee.
 
Regarding Dial H #3, it counts as quite a coup that DC signed China Miéville to script this new-millennial reimagining of the “Dial H for Hero” feature from the Silver Age House of Mystery; during the past decade and a half, Miéville has garnered laurels for such “New Weird” novels as King Rat and Perdido Street Station, as well as other works (among them “On the Way to the Front,” an 11-page comics collaboration with artist Liam Sharp in the 2005 collection Looking for Jake). Here, beyond a typically impeccable cover by Brian Bolland, Miéville and artist Mateus Santolouco continue to recount the mystery-shrouded misadventures of their unlikely protagonist, Nelson Jent, a rotund, depressed divorcé who’s already suffered a heart attack even though he hasn’t yet reached 30. Intriguing in a Grant Morrison–era Doom Patrol way, despite Santolouco’s grubby line, Miéville’s discernable uncertainty with some of the medium’s nuances, and gaffes categorically unbecoming of a title edited by Karen Berger (about his dial, Nelse at one point wails, “It’s still bust!!…” instead of “busted!”).
 
After a jeremiad here about the Dynamite Entertainment series’ early-January debut, it comes as a pleasure to relate that, as demonstrated by The Lone Ranger #7, writer Ande Parks and artist Esteve Polls have improved their game to the extent that that series wouldn’t disgrace one’s P&H list. To be sure, Francesco Francavilla’s covers, in their muscularity in general and brush loveliness in particular, still relegate to the myasthenic Polls’ interiors, which rely overmuch on the crow quill as well as medium shots. Meantime, more significantly, Parks has mostly tamed the jabbering and moralizing that marred the debut, allowing not just panels but pages entire to go without a word balloon or caption—almost as if he’s learned to trust his tale. Vis-à-vis that tale, herein commences “Native Ground,” an arc exploring the background of Tonto, hovering near death after being shot two issues ago and transported by the title icon (shown here in just one panel) to the tribal lands of the “faithful Indian companion,” in hopes that their shaman can restore his health.
 
When Steve Gerber died in 2008, comics lost not just one of the finest writers to join the mainstream in the 1970s but perhaps the finest writer to do so. This week, with The Infernal Man-Thing #1, Marvel at last launches a long-delayed tripartite collaboration between him and artist Kevin Nowlan, and the project predictably blends pain lingering from Gerber’s passing and pleasure in its superiority. At that point in his career, following a fallow period, Gerbs was slowly but surely regaining his voice on worthy works like Hard Time, a sadly truncated Vertigo series crafted with co-writer Mary Skrenes and artist Brian Hurtt. The tale now under consideration, as noted in a respectful, even touching introduction by co-editor Ralph Macchio, serves as a sequel to “Song-Cry of the Living Dead Man” from the December 1974 Man-Thing. Like its inspiration, whose cover and first ten pages it reprints, this premiere centers on writer Brian Lazarus, road-tripping through the Everglades with a talking cartoon tree named Mindy. A psychedelic ode to despair and outrage. Buy it.
 
Since the start of 2012, in January, March, and May, “Rude Chapbooks” has panned with neither remit nor mercy the relaunch of Marvel’s merry-mutant flagship title, and before that relaunch, even under the stewardship of a writer of Kieron Gillen’s talent, the series generally inspired little if any enthusiasm, as noted here. Nevertheless, as suggested in May and June 2011 and as Uncanny X-Men #15 reaffirms, when Gillen partners with an artist worthy of both his talent and that title’s storied history, it rocks. The quote-unquote culprit here: Daniel Acuña. During the past year and a half, Acuña has contributed splendid visuals to Captain America, Wolverine, and a moronic “event,” among other things, and herein, against all odds, he redeems a narrative (a) embroiled in the company’s latest “event” (whose characters-avatarized-by-a-deiform-entity shtick, by the way, transparently repurposes Marvel’s last such exercise in greed, laziness, and stupidity) and (b) focused, at least for the nonce, on Mr. Sinister, an X-villain so boorish that even the Sub-Mariner, himself never the acme of taciturnity, dubs him “annoyingly verbose.” | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of Dial H #3, here for a preview of Infernal Man-Thing #1, and here for a preview of Uncanny X-Men #15, all courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of The Lone Ranger #7, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

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