Rude Chapbooks 07.11.11 | An “Event” Event

Against all odds, an “event”-related miniseries earns praise from a columnist almost congenitally hostile to “events”: Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance #2. Also reviewed from this past week: Elric: The Balance Lost #1, Screamland #2, and two other titles.



For BOOM! Studios, it counts as a coup to have secured the license to Elric of Melniboné, the famed anti–sword-and-sorcery S&S hero of contemporary fantasy fiction’s ur–mad-dog Englishman, Michael Moorcock (once characterized by no less a critic than John Clute as “a deeply meditative creator of myths for the millennium”). Elric: The Balance Lost #1, from writer Chris Roberson and artist Francesco Biagini, ably opens the 12-part series and features not only the albino wielder of the sword Stormbringer but also other avatars of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion. Perhaps necessarily, this original narrative feels introductory, as it chronicles a mysterious new Multiversal upheaval between Chaos and Law, Moorcock’s primal forces; at this point, readers so inclined simply must trust Roberson, who, to be sure, has been doing noteworthy work on the thankless task of shepherding another scribe’s lame throughline on Superman. Following in the footsteps of titans like Barry Windsor-Smith and Walter Simonson, Biagini visualizes everything adroitly, albeit without equaling the gonzo panache of his underappreciated collaboration with Michael Alan Nelson on Dingo. Recommended.
Of the 743 ancillae to DC’s alt-history Flashpoint “event,” few stirred any prepublication interest, and only one sparked enthusiasm, because of the involvement of writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso, the team behind 100 Bullets. With Flashpoint: Batman Knight of Vengeance #2, that spark blossoms into a midnight conflagration. The debut of Flashpoint itself, of course, recast an aging Dr. Thomas Wayne, not Bruce Wayne, as the Dark Knight for a grim if convincing reason. In this tripartite miniseries, Azzarello continues the process of temporarily retooling the Batmythos with offhand ease and believability: Oswald Cobblepot serves as the doctor’s lieutenant at Wayne Casino; someone occupies Oracle’s wheelchair and role as über-hacker; and Renee Montoya and Harvey Bullock also show, albeit not as Gotham City detectives. As both Wayne père and his best friend, Jim Gordon, race to locate Harvey Dent’s children, whom a familiar homicidal clown has kidnapped, Risso, as ever, visualizes with nonpareil skill this descent into madness—and the issue closes like a chop across the trachea. A tale of horrific loveliness.
A quarter? Sure—why not? Talk about a blast from the past, though. When last the average comic book cost just 25 cents, it was selling not at a comics shop but at…well…a 7-Eleven, ironically (at the risk of making a date-of-upload gag). In any event, past its price, Pixies (technically, according to its indicia, Arcana Studio Presents Pixies) appears designed as a loss leader for both a graphic novel and an animated film forthcoming next year. With a script by Sean Patrick O’Reilly, Shawn DePasquale, and Robert Olmedo and art by Leisl Adams with Chandran, it focuses on an unassuming auto mechanic cursed by the title sprites. A few glaring continuity errors blemish the tale. At one point, for instance, the protagonist’s cellphone migrates from one pants pocket to the other, strictly for convenience of staging; also, his obvious love interest–to–be thanks him by name before he’s introduced himself. Otherwise, though, Adams displays beguiling talent as a cartoonist, and the project’s lightheartedness makes one wonder if it can transcend mere fluff. Interesting.
As Screamland #2 affirms, Image has abounded this year with quirky releases that provide a splendid alternative to stale superheroics—ranging from the sweet goofiness of Reed Gunther to the paranormal thrills of Who Is Jake Ellis? The ongoing under scrutiny, a sequel to a 2008 miniseries by writer Harold Sipe and artist Héctor Casanova, fits comfortably on that odd roster. Now co-written by Sipe and Christopher Sebela and illustrated by Lee Leslie, it revisits a milieu wherein the Universal monsters and similar characters are (no pun intended) eking out a living in the CGI’d present. This opening arc focuses on the suspect death of the Creature From the Black Lagoon (more or less), a long-suppressed “blue” movie entitled Phantasmagorgya—and the murder of the Invisible Man at a cheesy convention in La Jolla. Investigating all of this are Travis Walters, a Star Trek Scotty counterpart, and Carl London, the series’ endearingly trailer-park Larry Talbot; predictably, the two buddies almost immediately focus on different potential perps—and less predictably, hilarity does indeed ensue. Fun stuff!
Distinguishing the creator-owned projects of writer Joe Casey from his “company” projects, it seems, is a tendency for the former to involve the genuinely outré, whereas the latter rely more for effect on continuity razzle-dazzle. A comparison of his deliciously demented Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker to Marvel’s Vengeance #1 would certainly support that hypothesis. The premiere of the six-part miniseries, inexplicably, enlists Magneto as a self-appointed chaperone for younger mutants, launches two or three mysteries that will presumably dovetail somehow, and promises what appears to constitute the secret history of the Teen Brigade, Rick Jones’ former boys’ club, since World War I (!). It also includes a flashback to a 1944 conversation between Adolf Hitler and the Red Skull, making one wonder when, during WWII, those two psychopaths ever slept. Readers seeking anything even vaguely approximating initial cohesion from a narrative, in short, should likely seek elsewhere. Also, disquietingly for a longtime fan, Nick Dragotta’s visuals in places recall nothing so much as Jim Steranko and John Tartaglione’s uneasy X-Men #50 collaboration from 1968. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Elric: The Balance Lost #1, courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

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