Rude Chapbooks 10.10.11 | Covering Casanova

Casanova: Avaritia #2 pandas (sorry—couldn’t resist) to our curmudgeonly columnist’s adoration of oddity, and he otherwise praises Avengers 1959 #1, the splendiferous Snarked #1, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #1, and Turok, Son of Stone #4.


In 1977, in Justice League of America #144, Steve Englehart related “The Origin of the Justice League—Minus One!” In it, Adam Strange, Congorilla, Plastic Man, Robotman, and the Vigilante, among others, convened in a proto-JLA months before the JLA officially formed. That scenario should sound familiar to readers of Marvel’s Avengers 1959 #1 from writer/artist Howard Chaykin. As Ecclesiastes 1:9 long ago proclaimed, of course, “there is no new thing under the sun,” and besides, this quinary miniseries springboards from a tale earlier this year by another writer who’s made a career of cannibalizing previous comics sagas. In any event, under Nick Fury, Chaykin here assembles Dominic Fortune, Kraven the Hunter, Namora, Sabretooth, and others in a toast before dispersing these prototypal “Avengers.” After their dispersal, though, each of them comes under attack by…well, that would be telling. Meanwhile, intrigues somehow related to those attacks unfold in Latveria and Wakanda alike, and a fashion plate with a blade sheathed in his brolly (points to Chaykin!) accosts Fury. Unlikely? Yes. Delightful? Yes again—quite. Recommended.
It almost goes without saying that Casanova: Avaritia #2, the latest scintillant installment of the Icon miniseries from writer Matt Fraction and artist Gabriel Bá, again with exquisite colors from Cris Peter, should grace everyone’s P&H list on general principles. This review focuses on one particular facet of that gem: its cover. One can’t help suspecting that “industry numbers” during the past decade or so have declined, at least in part, from a trend toward pinups qua covers over tableaux with real narrative content—glorified blister-pack illos, bereft of all brio. Bá’s cover to the new Casanova numbers among the blissful exceptions and suggests the tragedy of that trend. It depicts Fraction’s über-conflicted Moorcockian antihero, in samurai gear, clutching a katana and hurling himself into battle atop a bamboo-bracketed, ancient Chinese stairway. Confronting him in a sun-splashed midair duel are two adult giant pandas, their teeth and claws uncharacteristically bared. A gloriously gonzo and kinetic image, that cover shouts, “Buy me! Read me! Let me fry your mind!” Discerning comics fans will heed its blandishments.
Upstairs, Carl nudges a comrade among the clouds. “Hey, Floyd,” says he. “Glom this—this kid’s got the stuff!” Then Barks hands Gottfredson a copy of the new all-ages BOOM! Studios series from writer/artist Roger Langridge… Fulfilling the promise of a bargain-priced zero-issue preview from August, Snarked #1 exudes a joie de vivre worthy of Lewis Carroll. More specifically, following the disappearance of the Red King on what may be a notorious nautical exploit, doughty eight-year-old Princess Scarlett, the heir presumptive, and her toddler bro, Rusty, seek to evade palace intrigue on the advice of the enigmatic Cheshire Cat. That advice, inexplicably, leads the royal sibs (with Rusty’s indispensable, if nameless, pet mouse) to Wilburforce J. Walrus and carpenter Clyde McDunk, two rogues with pyritic patter but hearts of gold. Glorious! With its impeccable cartooning and deceptively easy dramaturgy, Langridge’s witty, warm, and altogether wonderful Snarked would more likely lead new readers to this beleaguered medium than could any imbecilic spandexfest from the usual suspects. So buy it, read it, cherish it—and share it.
What a pleasantly outré debut! The Strange Talent of Luther Strode #1 feels like Kick-Ass without that title’s congenital snicker or the “New 52” Action Comics without its transparent flackery. More significantly, unlike either of those boondoggles, this opening of a sextuple Image offering from writer Justin Jordan and artist Tradd Moore satisfies. Based on a goofy-as-hell premise—“What if those old Charles Atlas comics ads actually worked?”—Jordan’s script opens in medias res, in a scene worthy of Warren Ellis at his most gleefully grisly. (Translation: not recommended reading for those lunching on mostaccioli.) From there, with dexterity striking in a seemingly neophyte writer, it backfills, introducing the scarecrow title character, his supporting cast at (love it!) Voorhees High, a mundane mystery involving Luther’s mother, and a second, far-from-mundane mystery involving a dandy called the Librarian and what appear to be five exceptionally dangerous captives of his. Moore, furthermore, visualizes everything here superbly, his work recalling that of Invincible’s Ryan Ottley or a slightly more stylized John Romita Jr. So—the bullet? Buy this!
Does Turok, Son of Stone #4 constitute the end of a narrative arc or, even though Diamond has solicited another two issues, the end period? Such uncertainty has long beclouded this Dark Horse update of the Dell Silver Ager during its short life, with industry scuttlebutt mentioning company licensing complications and with Eduardo Francisco here mysteriously ceding artistic duties to James Harren. If this issue does put the kibosh on the revival, that untimely adieu, frankly, would stink because scriptwriter Jim Shooter—by no means a “Rude Chapbooks” fave, but give the devil his due—has made this an old-school romp. The issue opens with the Native American protagonist, his longbow taut, swooping to the rescue of his lady love and his sidekick, astride a 22nd-century warplane nose-diving a pyramid packed with homicidal Aztecs in a time-lost land. A nifty atavism, its blood-and-thunder allure incorporates no Threat to the Whole Damned Universe, no where’s-the-scorecard cast, no snippets from and references to a dozen other series and anything-but-special specials—just unapologetically traditional mainstream adventure. Refreshingly retro. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Avengers 1959 #1, courtesy of Marvel.
Click here for a preview of Snarked #1, courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

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