Rude Chapbooks 10.31.11 | Tanks a Lot!

Tank Girl: Carioca #1 approximates the proverbial breath of fresh air in a room filled with folks who subsist solely on beans, sauerkraut, and pickled eggs. That said, flatulent foci of this week’s column otherwise include Incredible Hulk #1 and Wolverine & the X-Men #1


“Surely you jest?” As good as immediately—by its third page, where the credits appear—Incredible Hulk #1 prompts that unspoken expression of incredulity. Those credits to the 743rd relaunch of that Marvel title already list Michael Broussard for “pencil assists” and three inkers: Joe Weems with Rick Basaldua and Sal Regla. Almost predictably, if still vexatiously, that small army supports pseudo-penciller Marc Silvestri. One can see why: four of the pages here sport six crushing panels, with a fifth, unthinkably, containing seven. (With luck, the company underwrites Silvestri’s physical therapy following so arduous a debut.) As scriptwriter, meanwhile, Jason Aaron continues the trend in recent years of portraying the title character as Hamlet with biceps like green beach balls. Please. Where once conflict dogged the Hulk because of the chasm between his childlike naïveté and modern life, nowadays the jade giant radiates the angst of a pampered teen, here brooding among some of the Mole Man’s subjects—even as (quelle horreur!) a familiar antagonist impersonates Dr. Moreau in the tropics. Trite from the outset.

Although his FF and S.H.I.E.L.D. work has garnered praise in this column, a creator-owned title from scriptwriter Jonathan Hickman would almost perforce spark even more excitement from a columnist who cheered the explosion of such titles in the ’80s (and who deplores recidivistic tendencies in the past decade among the mainstream’s top talents). Cue The Red Wing #4, which comes from Image and wraps a miniseries with art by Nick Pitarra. However stylishly executed, alas, the mini feels derivative. Ironically, its narrative, which focuses on fighter pilots who navigate not just space but time, reads like the less robust prototype for Hickman’s work on the aforesaid Marvel series, and Pitarra’s visuals suggest a less brutish Frank Quitely. Further burdening the mini in toto is the “Blackhawk Factor,” whereunder action involving aircraft—or, as the case may be, spatiotemporalcraft—tends to distance the reader. Finally, in a terminal time paradox involving the mini’s trio of protagonists, a (no pun intended) prop integral to the denouement strains the bounds of credibility. A worthy experiment, but ultimately unsuccessful.

A mid-August online interview with Brian Azzarello regarding his then-forthcoming Vertigo science fiction miniseries with artist Eduardo Risso likely disquieted true SF devotees. “If you like Blade Runner,” Azzarello assured Newsarama, “you are going to like Spaceman.” Yes—the writer of a nine-issue comics offering in SF, a genre preoccupied with innovation and the future, citing a 29-year-old cinematic adaptation, no matter how soigné, of an admittedly landmark Philip K. Dick novel under a title slantwise borrowed from a 37-year-old work by Alan E. Nourse. To be sure, Risso’s visuals to Spaceman #1 look as electrifying as ever; in his mastery of composition and chiaroscuro, the man could transform an anthill beside a puddle into Saint-Tropez. Where this premiere falters, it does so because of Azzarello’s script; his characters’ patois strives to echo (say) A Clockwork Orange but rings false, tripping off the mental tongue with none of Anthony Burgess’ verisimilitude. So this dystopian tale of Orson, a genengineered collector of scrap metal drawn into a celebrity child kidnapping, demands attention—but with definite reservations.

The launch of a tripartite Titan Magazines miniseries from writer Alan Martin and artist Mick McMahon, Tank Girl: Carioca #1 glories in its abject lack of politesse, taking to a new low high the rude, the crude, and the obnoxious—and in its excess achieving a splendiferous success. The 44-pager opens with the eponymous antiheroine and droog Booga attending a live TV game show they genuinely revere. Its front man, unfortunately for him, cheats and insults the pair, and thereafter, events unfold with a gleefully sanguine inevitability. To wit, in the Carioca Club—“[c]heap entry, crap entertainment, dirty glasses, a good chance of getting head-butted, and a vomit-covered toilet with no seat”—Tank Girl and her cohorts begin to devise a Rube Goldberg revenge involving, among other things, an airborne ax, a Turkish cannon, a Brobdingnagian sponge cake, and a statue hefting both a spoon and, more tellingly, a sword. In the end, while Team Tank celebrates their victory, their leader suffers a “dark night of the soul.” One can only pray she recovers swiftly.

Wolverine & the X-Men #1? Um, OK. Given the mainstream’s fetish for comparability, this new Marvel ongoing from writer Jason Aaron, penciller Chris Bachalo, and (noted with a sigh) inkers Tim Townsend, Jaime Mendoza, and Al Vey relates to the once and future (it’s complicated) Uncanny X-Men as Josie & the Pussycats relates to Archie. Then again, maybe not. The debut under consideration, of course, springboards from the life-changing X-Men: Schism “event” detailing the heartbreaking split between BFFs Cyclops and Josie…errr, Logan. Here, Josie…errr, Logan reopens Professor X’s quondam mutant prep school in downstate New York, and the whole affair reads like tin passing for titanium. Aaron stresses the humor, which, given the dismal solemnity of most things X, would prompt jubilation—if it worked. Moreover, Bachalo remains arguably the mainstream’s preeminent quasi-talent of the past two decades. His visuals, as ever, largely observe no demarcation between foreground and background; one could desire no more gracefully choreographed a display of utter clumsiness. Increasingly, Marvel seems to have dedicated itself to extracting the X from exciting. | Bryan A. Hollerbach

Click here for a preview of Incredible Hulk #1, right here at PLAYBACK:stl.

Click here for a preview of Red Wing #4 and here for a preview of Wolverine & the X-Men #1, both courtesy of Comic Book Resources. 

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