Rude Chapbooks 08.08.11 | Hello, Goodbye

In a real Lennon-McCartney week, the column says hello and goodbye multifariously, bidding a fond farewell to two series with Secret Six #36 and (no, really!) Superman #714 and welcoming another three with Rachel Rising #1, Snarked #0, and Zorro Rides Again #1.

To succeed his science fictional saga Echo—just compiled in a single behemoth softcover—writer/artist Terry Moore this week presents Rachel Rising #1. With this latest Abstract Studio launch, though, his focus shifts from SF to horror, albeit horror closer in tone to the work of David Lynch than to that of Roger Corman. More specifically, past a puckish epigram from Plato—a writer scarcely hailed for his humor—it opens in evocative, macabre splendor. In a lush wood, the title character, Rachel Beck, exhumes herself from a shallow grave in a dried riverbed while another woman (her future self, presumably, remembering) watches—an almost wholly silent nine-page tour de force. The mystery deepens in the issue’s remainder, which suggests that Rachel, who’s sporting a classic Little Black Dress on first appearance, has been assaulted and garroted and that she now benefits from some sort of second sight. The debut closes with Rachel seeking counsel from her best friend and an incidental character voicing a spookily effective three-word declaration. How soon till the second ish?
Probably no truth surrounds the rumor that Secret Six #36 concludes that supervillainous romp—long a “Rude Chapbooks” favorite, as established in February and May—because co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio couldn’t agree on whether to depict the “New 52” Ragdoll in panties. (Again, probably. Far be it for lesser mortals to second-guess two such titans.) In any event, writer Gail Simone—partnered, as usual, with artist J. Calafiore—accords her merry miscreants a suitably Wild Bunch–like valediction, typically betrayed by…well…a bird of a feather on a characteristically quixotic escapade that ultimately guests three-fourths of the going-going-gone DC Universe as such. In fine, almost inconceivably, this issue also (a) substantiates the notion that Simone’s focus in Secret Six, from the outset, has involved looking for love in all the wrong places and (b) adds the final delicate brush strokes to a noble, even sweet portrait of Bane, one of the last characters one would suspect of nobility and sweetness. A bravura sayonara to a series apparently too few readers supported, sad to say.
Even the grim-and-gritty world of contemporary mainstream comics observes some proprieties, and one such involves abjuring the c word: cartoonist. That dread term, after all, intimates an inappreciativeness of the mainstream’s guttersnipe glories like sex, violence, and five-and-dime nihilism. Happily enough, as illustrated by BOOM! Studios’ Snarked #0, writer/artist Roger Langridge self-evidently has no qualms about that calling. This $1 teaser/preview for the all-ages series officially launching in October both spotlights Langridge’s cartooning chops and introduces a cast and setting based on the works of Lewis Carroll, including the wily Wilburforce J. Walrus and his dim sidekick, carpenter Clyde McDunk. An absolute delight, it comprises, among other pleasantries, a laugh-out-loud eight-pager starring those two ne’er-do-wells, a faux letters page, a short sketch gallery, and an excerpt from the diary of plucky Princess Scarlett, the Red King’s daughter. Like Sergio Aragonés Funnies, whose debut this column lauded just two weeks past, Langridge, with Snarked, appears bent on returning the comic to comic book—a trend that should prompt joy in everyone but the densest fanboy. Fabulous!
And so, yet again, it all ends. For the benefit of the two or three comics fans who have somehow or other missed DC’s P.R. blitz during the last quarter, Superman #714—from co-writers J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Roberson, penciller Jamal Igle, and inkers Jon Sibal and Robin Riggs—marks that series’ finale once more, prior to September’s “New 52” festival of phoenixes. That finale sparks sadness in one regard. As much as “Rude Chapbooks” has lambasted, lamented, and lampooned Superman since the start of Straczynski’s pompous and plodding “Grounded” arc, Roberson deserves kudos. In various interviews on inheriting his so-called co-writer’s unutterably lame throughline, Roberson never, ever appeared to fake his affection for the Man of Steel, and over the past few months, sometimes subtly, sometimes emphatically, that affection clashed with Straczynski’s trite conception. Here, against all odds, Roberson solves the mystery of the woman dogging Superman’s tracks throughout “Grounded” and concludes the arc quite satisfactorily—making it all the more shameful that next month’s Superman #1 will exclude him as a contributor.
After the crashing bore of The Lone Ranger & Zorro: The Death of Zorro, a quinary miniseries burdened with miserable scripts from Ande Parks, it comes as a relief to welcome the return of writer Matt Wagner on Zorro Rides Again #1. The 12-part Dynamite Entertainment series opens with Don Diego’s father discovering his swashbuckling double life in a Los Angeles still under Spanish sovereignty. Like the miniseries, this new offering, alas, lumbers beneath merely serviceable art by Esteve Polls. As a result, the father resembles a modern professor seeking a misscheduled seminar more than a California nobleman roughly two centuries past, and on page 13 in particular, the character’s spectacles behave in a fashion spectacularly improbable. Happily, Wagner, who provides the stunning cover, remains one of the mainstream’s canniest craftsman and, unlike Parks, recognizes when and how to let a script breathe. Thus, at a minimum, Polls’ visuals lack the cramped look of the aforesaid miniseries, and this continuation of the Fox’s battle against local governmental corruption should likewise continue to be a pleasure. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Snarked #0, courtesy of BOOM! Studios.
Click here for a preview of Zorro Rides Again #1, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment

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