Rude Chapbooks 11.21.11 | Gage-ing Excellence

Our perpetually overstuffed columnist here gives thanks for writer Christos Gage’s Avengers Academy #22 and, among the week’s five focal floppies, also relishes Batman #3, Hawken #1, and Mudman #1, but considers Kirby: Genesis—Captain Victory #1 something of a turkey.


Since the character’s introduction early in the quote-unquote Marvel Age of Comics, Quicksilver has constantly buffaloed scriptwriters at all levels of dexterity, which makes Christos Gage’s success on Avengers Academy #22 in particular and that series in general all the more praiseworthy. No one—no one—has ever written the company’s modern mutant Mercury with greater skill, counterbalancing Quicksilver’s inveterate (if understandable) imperiousness and (even more understandable) insecurity in a way that seems less brittle than bluff. This issue, neatly visualized by departing penciller Sean Chen and inkers Scott Hanna and Rebecca Buchman, spotlights Pietro Maximoff as his controversial dear ol’ dad (a.k.a. Magneto) visits the titular academy’s new West Coast digs to assist in trying to solve a cyberhomicide of lunatic complexity. In the process, of course, pandemonium ensues, with some old-school “action” galvanized by top-notch interplay among Quicksilver, the mutant master of magnetism, and academician Finesse and, as always, leavened with sly humor—including a final kicker from Pietro himself. A mainstream must-read. Issue after issue, Gage makes Avengers Academy a peerless pleasure.
To a card-carrying Batfan with a C.V. as such dating from the mid-’60s, it comes as a decided delight to cheer Batman #3, easily one of the strongest series among DC’s “New 52.” A large part of this quasi-relaunch’s appeal derives from writer Scott Snyder’s adroit treatment of foreground and background. From those defining gunshots in Crime Alley onward, Gotham City has influenced its midnight paladin as much as the obverse circumstance has obtained, but Snyder has seemingly brainstormed about that interaction more comprehensively than any of his predecessors and here emphasizes its psychogeography, to use a phrase that may well look like a pun to those who have read too little of Iain Sinclair and Alan Moore. Moreover, he’s pitted the Dark Knight against the generations-spanning Court of Owls without Grant Morrison’s conceptual claustrophobia. Abetting Snyder with knockout visuals are penciller Greg Capullo and inker Jonathan Glapion. “This is the Batman story we’d tell if we only got one chance to do it,” Snyder told Newsarama in mid-October. Batfans everywhere should pray it isn’t.
In form and content alike, the work of Timothy Truman has always exhibited a merry crudity, which IDW Publishing’s black-and-white Hawken #1 showcases to invigorating effect. Formally, his technique has long recalled that of the great John Severin, without ever matching Sev’s gracefulness at depicting human anatomy. Here, happily, that formal failing dovetails with the content. More specifically, the hexapartite weird Western—which Truman conceived with son Benjamin, who contributes a notably deft script for an apparent first-timer—stars a geezer gunslinger in the desert wastes of southwest Arizona three decades before its statehood. In that regard, a degree of stiffness seems natural to the snaggletoothed eponymous character, who, bestride a blind mule and accompanied by a pug named Caramba, is seeking vengeance for having been scalped and otherwise tortured. Dogging him, à la Jay Faerber’s Near Death, are numerous “haints” whom Hawken himself likely consigned to the hereafter. Caramba takes a whiz, the mule takes a dump, and their master takes quite a number of lives. Gauche as all get-out—and recommended with glee.
Although not a crashing disappointment equal to Kirby: Genesis—Silver Star, whose debut “Rude Chapbooks” panned last week, Kirby: Genesis—Captain Victory #1 still falls far short of the parent publication from Dynamite Entertainment. Even with “art direction” from Alex Ross, Wagner Reis’ visuals recall those of no one so much as Rich Buckler during his early Marvel days, four decades ago, for pity’s sake: a maladroit mix of swipes from Jack Kirby (the title hero’s creator), insufficiently integrated photo reference, and compositional amateurism in general. (The eleventh page, in particular, borders on laughably incompetent.) In that light, Reis here transposes a chord from supernatural horror ineptly executed (Vampirella) to superheroes executed with congruent ineptitude. More tellingly, scriptwriter Sterling Gates lacks anything like the mastery of Kurt Busiek, the word wizard behind Kirby: Genesis, at both approximating and extending the King’s conception; among other faults, Gates overpacks the narrative and overplays the “grandpa factor” (i.e., the captain’s familial relation to a © ™ villain elsewhere ensconced) while underplaying anything resembling Kirbyesque joie de vivre. Pass.
Writer/artist Paul Grist, God bless ’im, seemingly has dedicated himself to counterposing, all but solo, the grim-and-gritty tedium of superhero comics of the past two and a half freakin’ decades. Consider, in that respect, Mudman #1, his latest Image offering. Its title pretty much tells the tale: Owen Craig, professional teenager in a coastal town in southwestern England, visits a mysterious, abandoned mansion for a spot of spray-paint vandalism and, through means as yet unexplained, gains…well…mud-based prowess. On a subsequent visit to “the old Scooby Doo house” to aid his police-detective father, he also gains a costume whose torso emblem, amusingly, resembles that of Marvelman/Miracleman, Alan Moore’s mid-’80s reconception of which character partly inspired the industry’s current G&G mire. As on earlier projects like The Weird World of Jack Staff, gracing Mudman #1 are both Grist’s minimalist, assured visuals and his gentle wit. In his idiosyncrasy, in short, the poor, benighted bastard verges on Ditkoesque—suggesting that he’ll never have Hollywood call about transforming his valuable intellectual property into a blockbuster like, oh, Green Lantern. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Avengers Academy #22, here for a preview of Hawken #1, and here for a preview of Mudman #1, all courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Batman #3, courtesy of Comics Cavern.
Click here for a preview of Kirby: Genesis—Captain Victory #1, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

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