Rude Chapbooks 07.18.11 | Slott Positively Swings

As The Amazing Spider-Man #665 illustrates, writer Dan Slott’s stewardship of that iconic title could almost—almost—make even the most jaded commentator believe in the viability of the mainstream. Also lauded among this week’s five capsule reviews: Northlanders #42.

 

 

 
Steve Ditko—inarguably. John Romita, long before critics had to specify père or fils. Gil Kane, obviously. The artists. In contemplating the adventures of Marvel’s arachnoid ace, one thinks, instantly, of artists. Of writers, readers blessed or cursed with a certain perspective will likely name Stan Lee, of course, and Gerry Conway (who, in manifold ways, changed the mainstream with a script climaxing atop New York’s George Washington Bridge) and then… Well. The Amazing Spider-Man #665 reinforces the notion that Dan Slott deserves to join Stan the Man and Conway on the laughably limited roster of Spiderscribes who matter. (Perhaps not even Lee or Conway, in fact, has written J. Jonah Jameson more adroitly.) Teaming here on two tales with penciller Ryan Stegman and inker Michael Babinski and with artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, Slott dramatizes an assault on a longstanding cast member, as well as that assault’s aftermath, and thereby provides a reminder that this title has always mattered less as a tights-and-fights kaleidoscope than as a family saga. Amazing under Slott’s stewardship? Amazing—yes, quite.
 
“Back in the day,” writer/artist Jim Starlin numbered among the mainstream’s most electrifying talents by redefining both Marvel’s Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock (whose suicide he depicted with subtle and abiding power, twice). Then eons passed. Painfully. Today, as illustrated by The ‘Breed III #3—including the typographically chowderheaded if not uncommon confusion of the opening single quotation mark and the apostrophe—Starlin has transformed, over time, into the mainstream’s most ham-handed scriptwriter. For pity’s sake, in this floppy and its dire predecessors, the man out-Kanighers Robert Kanigher. Moreover, Starlin does so not in service to a narrative starring, say, the Byronic Hans von Hammer, but a giant demonic master of all weapons—such mastery, by the way, making one wonder if some diploma mill in the past three decades has started conferring degrees in that field—battling a giant insectile plot contrivance. Like its predecessors in this Image miniseries, this issue (which guests Starlin’s Wyrd) seemingly contains more words than a small Russian novel and easily ranks among the most tedious releases of 2011.
 
Captain America #1 opens with a funeral, and but for the fact that Marvel has relaunched the title to pimp the Star-Spangled Avenger to hypothetical Hollywood-rejuvenated interest, that gambit feels at once hilariously and horrifically apt; at the increasingly necrophiliac House of Ideas, perhaps only Spider-Man, over time, has passed more time than Cap in cemeteries. Shoveling the graveyard loam here are writer Ed Brubaker, penciller Steve McNiven, and inker Mark Morales, and notwithstanding the preceding snark, this debut promises to further cement Bru’s place among Joe Simon, Stan Lee, and Steve Englehart as this icon’s defining raconteurs. Ironically from one vantage yet predictably from another, the narrative harks back to an earlier era of shield-slinging adventure, with flashbacks to World War II and much modern action involving Sharon Carter, Nick Fury, and good ol’ Dum Dum Dugan—all slickly (perhaps too slickly) visualized by McNiven and Morales. The three or four freethinkers nationwide who follow Captain America: The First Avenger from the multiplex this Friday to the closest comics shop oughtn’t find themselves discommoded.
 
As this column glumly noted a month ago, writer Brian Wood’s Scandinavian saga for Vertigo will end in less than a year, and Northlanders #42 strongly suggests that, in his words, “our depressing, often cerebral comic book about Vikings and history” will exit as depressingly, cerebrally, and, it bears emphasizing, exquisitely as it has existed. This number of the series opens “The Icelandic Trilogy,” a nine-issue arc comprising a trio of tripartite sections, and focuses with Wood’s customarily unblinking gaze on the hurt and even horror attendant on a small pioneer family’s efforts to better themselves in A.D. 871. Partnering with Wood here to breathtaking effect are artist Paul Azaceta and colorist Dave McCaig; the former’s painterly ease with ink recalls the work of Doug Wildey (1922–94), among other greats, and the latter’s palette, in which sage and diverse earth tones predominate, manages the neat feat of looking at once sere and lush. In short, if Northlanders #42 ignites the series’ funeral pyre, this longship’s last voyage will indeed constitute a blaze of glory.
 
As an intermezzo after the conclusion of Echo but before the commencement of Rachel Rising, Abstract Studio this week lets fly a rara avis of increasing rarity nowadays: an instructional comic book. Terry Moore’s How to Draw Women not only comes from that writer/artist—the acclaimed creator of Strangers in Paradise—but also reportedly inaugurates a quarterly series by him. In this black-and-white 24-pager, to be sure, Moore immediately disavows any aspirations of supplanting George B. Bridgman, say, or Burne Hogarth. “If we all know where the tibia is and how to measure it,” he asks at the outset, “why do our drawings look different from each other?” What follows provides brief, intriguing insight into how Moore himself answers that question, often with assistance from two old friends named Francine and Katchoo. Regarding future installments, he promises at the end, “With pencil in hand, I’ll get into the techniques and details I learned over the years, drawing more than 4,000 pages of published comic book stories.” A must-read from one of contemporary comics’ craftiest craftsmen. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of Amazing Spider-Man #665, courtesy of Marvel.
Click here for a preview of The ‘Breed III #3, courtesy of Comic Book Realm.

 

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