Rude Chapbooks 08.15.11 | Cloak and Dagger: Ayes Only

This week, our cranky columnist opens an unexpectedly favorable dossier on Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger #1, a sweet little romance masquerading as spandex shenanigans. He likewise lauds Hellboy: The Fury #3 and reviews three other new comics notable in one way or another.

The efforts of writer Matt Wagner and artist Aaron Campbell have made Green Hornet: Year One one of today’s more enjoyable new series, a worthy late-Depression companion to Dynamite Entertainment’s Green Hornet, which relates the title character’s present-day adventures. Sad to say, as illustrated by Green Hornet: Year One #11, the latest and apparently penultimate issue, the series has long suffered from one glaring deficiency: its coloring. Chromatically, it suggests a bushel basket packed with rotting citrus—unhealthy reds, oranges, and yellows, along with even worse blues, indigos, and violets. One can only speculate that Roy G. Biv—in the person of colorist Carlos Lopez—decided to counterbalance a necessary emphasis on his middle initial with a ghastly effusion across the rest of the spectrum or that Wagner, who receives credit for “art direction” and who scarcely qualifies as an apprentice in matters visual, instructed Lopez to do so. Whatever the case, the series exhibits a palette of stunning unpalatability, which detracts from the Green Hornet and Kato’s ongoing war against Chicago mobster Skid Caruso.
With precious few exceptions—Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III’s sublime Promethea instantly springs to mind—comics customarily fail at evoking the apocalyptic. In a month or so, after all, the show must go on in Action Figure Theater. Reflecting the lapidary talents of writer/creator Mike Mignola and artist Duncan Fegredo, Hellboy: The Fury #3 ranks among those exceptions. A thing of terrible beauty, of tears and blood, of flame and cobwebs, of a psychopomp and a special sword, Mignola’s conclusion to this Dark Horse arc chronicles his big, scarlet scrapper’s Pyrrhic victory over the ur-firedrake, and to the extent that a mainstream comic book can accomplish such a feat, it approximates the embolic squeeze of first encountering Yates’ “Second Coming”—“Turning and turning in the widening gyre…” Fegredo’s visuals, meanwhile, prompt something akin to religious rapture; the man wields ink as galvanically as God or Mother Nature unleashes midnight lightning. The bullet, then? Hellboy: The Fury affirms for the umpteenth time Mignola’s standing as one of the mainstream’s bona fide magi. Absolutely essential reading.
Under other circumstances, frankly, a miniseries starring Cloak and Dagger would inspire little if any interest in these precincts; since their early-’80s creation, the Marvel duo has customarily felt less like characters (even by the mainstream’s forgiving standards) than like placeholders for characters. Still, the announcement of Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger #1, the launch of a tripartite adventure, proved too tempting to resist, insofar as it enlisted as writer Nick Spencer, whose work elsewhere (scroll downward a bit) has earned acclaim here. Joining him on the miniseries is artist Emma Ríos, who visualized Michael Alan Nelson’s overlooked Hexed for BOOM! Studios, and well…damn…this debut does indeed rock. Predictably, Spencer contributes a smart script smoothly incorporating not only “event” nonsense, but also adroit dual monologues, in dialogue and voice-over alike, and much sly humor. (“Eggo?”) Ríos, for her part, continues to establish herself as one of the mainstream’s top new talents; when, in an afterword, senior editor Stephen Wacker likens “her lush, beautiful work” to that of the late, great Gene Colan, he’s not flacking. Recommended!
Few things will capture a crusty comics columnist’s attention quicker than a Previews solicitation with an art credit comprising Brian Bolland, José Luis García-López, and P. Craig Russell. That credit made The Spirit #17, that series’ black-and-white finale, a must-have, and visually, the trio of eight-pagers involved—with scripts, respectively, by Howard Chaykin, Paul Levitz, and Will Pfeiffer—scarcely disappoints. On his worst day, Bolland or Russell makes the mainstream’s latest nine days’ wonder look like a “simple” kindergartner sharpening a Crayola in one nostril, and in García-López’s story, the splash page alone, with its impeccable composition and tones, should leave true aficionados weeping over the fact that his byline graces so few contemporary comics. Where this valediction falls short, as ever, it does so in failing to echo the voice of Spirit creator Will Eisner, much as DC’s clockwork revivals of the Fawcett Captain Marvel have always lacked the period charm of prime C.C. Beck. (Admittedly, the same failing plagued Eisner himself late in the Spirit’s original run, but that’s neither here nor there.)
At. Bloody. Last. Amid all the emetic “New 52” hoopla and beyond all the other felicities of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #10, the final caption of that Tower title reconceived for DC but excluded from the previously hyped “DCnU” closes with a sentence that may constitute its biggest felicity: “Join us in November for T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Volume 2!” Life, apparently, will continue after DC’s linewide relaunch that dare not speak its name. (Now if only a similar assurance would greet anxious fans of Xombi…) In any event, one can only hope that writer Nick Spencer—despite his diabolical work on the creator-owned Morning Glories and his manifold Marvel contractual commitments—returns as the guiding light of that second volume, because he’s bootstrapped a perennial comics also-ran into one of the mainstream’s most intriguing new titles. Here, for instance, Spencer concludes (conclusively?) a tale of the clinically psychopathological Iron Maiden, her husband, and her daughter, with visuals from Nick Dragotta, Mike Grell, and Dan McDaid—three artists, by the way, for three distinct temporal sequences. Top-notch new-millennial superheroics. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Green Hornet: Year One #11, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.
Click here for a preview of Hellboy: The Fury #3, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger #1, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

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