Rude Chapbooks 07.16.12 | J.F.C., What a Rotten Comic!

Our cranky columnist all but crucifies everyone involved with Punk Rock Jesus #1. He sings the praises of Sparrow and Crowe #1, though, and also lauds The Lone Ranger: Snake of Iron #1, Tales Designed to Thrizzle #8, and Wolverine & the X-Men #13.

 
 
In these (admittedly opinionated) precincts, writer Chuck Dixon’s superhero-based work has rarely inspired much enthusiasm, as opposed to his non-spandex narratives, like the mayfly piratical saga El Cazador, produced with artist Steve Epting for CrossGen in 2003 and ’04. That pseudo-tradition continues with The Lone Ranger: Snake of Iron #1. The Dynamite Entertainment offering qualifies as…well…dynamite entertainment. With consummate skill, Dixon herein begins to recount an old-school adventure of the title icon that involves a Kiowa uprising and that opens with the Lone Ranger and Tonto separated, with the former seeking a totemic “spirit horse” in northern Texas and the latter returning south by rail from a mission as yet unspecified a few hundred miles away. By the issue’s end, the masked man has acquired a charmingly quirky temporary co-traveler, and his “faithful Indian companion” has encountered a Native American lad being escorted to a Pennsylvania finishing school by a tippling bigot in a bowler. Interpreting Dixon’s script is Esteve Polls, whose visuals look astonishingly robust, perhaps because of painterly colors from Marcelo Pinto. Recommended!
 
Even to someone who (passively) renounced Christianity and all other religions more than four decades ago, Punk Rock Jesus #1 constitutes an affront bordering on the sacrilegious. One can scarcely imagine how this black-and-white travesty from writer/artist Sean Murphy (the premiere of a hexapartite miniseries) earned a green light from Vertigo executive editor Karen Berger. Yes, Murphy’s visuals—praised in this column in March 2011 for the flagrantly delayed Joe the Barbarian mini—still demand approbation and recall the pencils of Carmine Infantino at his most masterly, as inked by Klaus Janson also at his most masterly. Alas, Murphy’s art serves a narrative of such mind-boggling improbability—the in vitro birth/rebirth of “J2” on Christmas Day 2019 from DNA obtained from the Shroud of Turin, all as part of a reality-TV program—that it calls into question the lucidity of everyone connected with this project. Murphy presumably intends it as a satire; if so, though, he’s wielding a machete in a situation wanting a scalpel or surgical laser. Thirty-two pages of the vilest vomitus conceivable.
 
Despite these financially straitened times, with DC and Marvel transparently maneuvering to oligopolize the market, one still succumbs (with increasing infrequency, to be sure) to the temptation to risk sampling a new comic from unfamiliar creators, a far smaller publisher, or both. To have succumbing to that temptation lead to a rara avis (pardon the pun) like Sparrow and Crowe #1 consequently feels like Christmas in July. The five-part miniseries from Hermes Press originates from writers David Accampo and Jeremy Rogers and artist Jared Souza and derives from an online audio drama titled Wormwood. It stars Dr. Xander Crowe, a supernaturally crippled L.A. parapsychologist, and his snarky, tattooed Watson, the mononominal Sparrow. With assured dramaturgy and dialogue of surprising snap, Accampo and Rogers relate a tale commencing with a lesser possession and concluding with what promises to be a much more dangerous exercise in exorcism. Illustrating this intriguing debut in an equally intriguing fashion is Souza, whose work resembles that of a sunnier, more mainstream Richard Sala. A four-color fledgling of considerable promise—highly recommended.
 
“Finally a salad dressing fit for Caligula,” assures a faux advertisement in Tales Designed to Thrizzle #8 from writer/artist Michael Kupperman, and like its predecessor last December, the Fantagraphics Books jape revels in unmitigated perversity. It opens with an eight-page “coloring book” devoted to trains and buses, featuring a shot of two locomotives in congress; proceeds with the five-page blunt-force-trauma TV parody “Murder, She Goat”; pauses for an ad page whose main component inquires, “Do You Have Thin, Wispy Pubic Hair?”; and then presents a six-page mock biography of a Middle Ages idiot savant who rises to a leadership position, not unlike many American politicians nowadays. The issue more or less finishes with “Moon 69: The True Story of the 1969 Moon Launch,” a lunatic 12-pager interspersed with ads like the one quoted at the beginning of this review for Roman Pizza Garden Style Ranch Dressing; typically, it incorporates Nixon in hippy regalia, Woodward and Bernstein disguised as an ant and an owl, and cameos by Jack Klugman’s Quincy and Peter Falk’s Columbo. Utterly depraved.
 
On its launch this past October, writer Jason Aaron’s new X-team series suffered an unqualified pan from “Rude Chapbooks” for its strained humor and prettily indecipherable art. In the intervening months, however, it has improved vastly, and the latest issue, Wolverine & the X-Men #13, extends that trend decisively. Although the issue neglects the sweetly introverted and nerdy Broo, it does hinge on another new X-fave, the hilariously extroverted Kubark, Kid Gladiator (the two of whom simply must become best buds). The tale focuses, though, on the alien Warbird, tasked with securing Kubark’s safety while his father, Shi’ar Emperor Gladiator, fights a doomed delaying action against the Phoenixed X-Men. As both a character study and a bona fide science fiction adventure, it easily ranks as one of the most noteworthy superheroic single issues of the year to date, despite its embroilment in Marvel’s latest “event.” Moreover, intermittent penciller Nick Bradshaw (as inked by Walden Wong, Cam Smith, and himself) contributes some absolutely stupendous visuals, making this an X-tale to number among the finest of X-tales. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of The Lone Ranger: Snake of Iron #1, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.
Click here for a preview of Tales Designed to Thrizzle #8, courtesy of Fantagraphics.
Click here for a preview of Wolverine & the X-Men #13, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

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