Rude Chapbooks 11.29.10 | Grisly Adams

One word describes Batman: Odyssey #5 from comic book auteur Neal Adams: unbearable. In addition to that title, our ursine columnist growls about Incredible Hulks #617, but also shares some honeyed comments regarding Green Hornet #10, Incorruptible #12 and Conan the Cimmerian #25.

 

 

Between 2003 and 2005, DC released three handsome hardbacks, each priced at $49.99, collectively titled Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams, which compiled that artist’s work on the character from 1967 to the then-present. In light of that work, which included landmarks like “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge,” it may agonize longtime devotees to contemplate the abysmal Batman: Odyssey #5, the latest issue of Adams’ much-ballyhooed 13-part miniseries. Although his pen has lost a measure of finesse, Adams’ art remains generally solid. As a scriptwriter, however, he exhibits a shocking paucity of talent; the man suffers from a tin ear so dismal his dialog reads like a MAD parody of itself—to denounce it as soap operatic would be to unfairly besmirch the soap opera as a genre. Laughably bad without including an instant of genuine humor—in places, even though this offal boasts both Deadman and the Joker, Adams targets comedy with an aim to match his skill at scoping drama—Batman: Odyssey may well rank as the most gruesome mainstream train wreck of 2010.

 
Nowadays, to fans “of a certain age” and of even a slightly demanding aesthetic, comics starring Robert E. Howard’s barbarian hero Conan constitute the equivalent of comfort food; they never stray into dear (and customarily dire) crossovers with six or seven other series, for example, and it seems unlikely that Conan’s loincloth will ever become possessed by an alien intelligence and start marauding on its own. In that light, let us celebrate Conan the Cimmerian #25, the finale to this title before Dark Horse bifurcates the swords-and-sorcery icon’s adventures into the ongoing Conan: Road of Kings (with scripts by ur–Hyborian Ager Roy Thomas) and a series of King Conan miniseries by the present creative team. In the comic at hand, that team—writer Timothy Truman and artists Tomás Giorello and José Villarrubia—concludes their four-part adaptation of Howard’s “Iron Shadows in the Moon” (first published as “Shadows in the Moonlight” in the April 1934 Weird Tales). Their conscientious stewardship of a beloved character warrants not only attention but also approbation. Well done, gentlemen!
 
Of late, many comic books seemingly have expunged periodicity from their existence as periodicals. Some whose indicias claim monthly status appear, at best, bimonthly, while others arrive often enough to prompt suspicions that their publishers are trying to glut the market. (As if!) Now, the predecessor of Dynamite Entertainment’s Green Hornet #10 hit shops just two weeks ago, as noted by a review here, but despite the unfortunate timing, this new issue merits regard for two major reasons beyond the fact that it marks Kevin Smith’s last as writer. First, amid widescreen action choreographed by artists Phil Hester, Jonathan Lau, and Ivan Nunes, it shows the title character vanquishing the malign Black Hornet in a signally outrageous yet, on reflection, organic manner. (As an aside to older readers, the unorthodoxy of this scene may recall the late, great Steve Gerber in his prime.) Second, it includes a didn’t-see-that-coming character-based reveal that amusingly underpins one of the most satisfying final pages of a comic book arc in recent memory. “Shut up and start punching people”—indeed!
 
With BOOM! Studios’ Irredeemable and Incorruptible, writer and chief creative officer Mark Waid has birthed noteworthy twins; the first series stars a Superman gone wrong, with the second focused on a Lex Luthor “gone right.” Of the two, the latter, which launched a few months later than the former, enjoys a certain underdog cachet and also suffers from a lesser generic burden. (One can’t help suspecting that any title with Irredeemable’s portfolio will forever dwell in the elegantly nightmarish shadow of Alan Moore and John Totleben’s “Nemesis,” from the November 1988 Miracleman.) As Incorruptible #12, the newest issue, illustrates, villain-turned-virtuous Max Damage makes quite a likable protagonist as he wrestles with his newfound conscience and other annoyances, strains to keep an amusingly errant female sidekick on the straight and narrow, and strives to build trust with a police detective and a Lois Lane cognate. Also, in an adventure visualized in a quasi-cartoonish but agreeable style by Marcio Takara, Max rescues his ravaged hometown from a nuclear assault vehicle the size of a high-rise. Recommended.
 
“Some people are meant to be alone,” one character remarks in Incredible Hulks #617, and in context, that remark boggles the mind, albeit likely not for the intended reason. After the tedious “Fall of the Hulks” and “World War Hulks” arcs and related crossovers, minis, and one-shots, this title’s cast has less grown than metastasized: Skaar, the Hulk’s son; the Red Hulk; She-Hulk; Red She-Hulk; Savage She-Hulk, the Hulk’s daughter from an alternate future; A-Bomb, the Hulk’s mutated B.F.F., Rick Jones; and Korg, Ben Grimm’s lovechild with a Conehead named Chloë. (OK—I fabricated that last appositive.) Writer Greg Pak has paired with Fred Van Lente on some of the most memorable Marvel scripts in recent years on Incredible Hercules. Where that series radiated a lighthearted charm, though, this one has ranged from lightheaded to downright feverish—and not a fun feverish. Partnering here with Pak on the conclusion to the six-part “Dark Son” arc are artists Barry Kitson, Scott Hanna, and Jay Leisten, who provide craftsmanlike but otherwise unremarkable visuals. A dreadful bore. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of Conan the Cimmerian #25, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of Incorruptible #12, courtesy of BOOM! Studios.

 

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