Rude Chapbooks 12.05.11 | Refreshing the Ectoplasm

New creative spooks replace old on the masthead of Haunt #19, our columnist notes with approval. He also scratches his head over Green Wake #7, waves bye-bye to Herc #10, gives a welcome-back hug to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol. 2 #1, and clinks steins with Wolverine #19.

Because it comes from the writer of The Intrepids and the artist of Proof, Kurtis Wiebe and Riley Rossmo’s new Image ongoing, since its inception, has enjoyed preemptive goodwill, but sad to say, Green Wake #7, the latest issue of that title, only continues to lessen that goodwill. Focused on a series of murders and attendant mysteries in the rainy eponymous hamlet, “an ancient place, trapped between opposing tides,” Green Wake plays the “David Lynch card,” embracing an oneiric perspective that verges on obfuscation for the sake of obfuscation. That shortcoming applies especially with regard to the series’ batrachian motif, recognized but largely unremarked; weird tailoring almost inevitably reveals the unseemly seams of weird tale-telling, as too many H.P. Lovecraft wannabes learn too late. In this issue, the doubly revenant Morley Mack and his pal Kermit…er, Krieger informally investigate a hyper-puzzle that opens with a pair of clerics at odds and closes with a trio of tykes at (grisly) dinner—but like bad Lynch, everything still feels utterly uncentered. In sum, all atmosphere, no planet.
Haunt #19 marks not only a transition in creative team—to writer Joe Casey and artist Nathan Fox—but also the most intriguing event in the Image title’s history since it premiered. A dreadful patchwork, it unsuccessfully incorporated tropes from superhero, horror, and espionage fiction under Robert Kirkman & Co., some of whose decompressed storytelling felt nakedly spendthrift. (“The Apparition attacks yet again—oh, eek!” Uh-huh.) So, yes, please—let’s see if Casey and Fox can transform this stray sheet into a bona fide specter. This issue certainly inspires hope. At least for the nonce, Casey sidelines everything Supermanic and Bondian and introduces a cue-the-Gregorian-chant cult to bedevil the focal brothers Kilgore, Kurt (spook²) and Daniel (spook/spookee). For his part, meanwhile, Fox—oh, sweet Jesus, where to begin regarding his visuals? Bloody lovely, both figuratively and literally. Fox lashes ink on the page with a swashbuckling gusto reminiscent of no one so much as Paul Pope. He and Casey leave the Kilgores and their readers alike with a final-panel tableau that shrieks like a wendigo.
Inasmuch as its cover features über-assassin Elektra, one might be tempted, at a glance, to suspect Herc #10, the finale of that Marvel series starring the Roman demigod Hercules, of involving a mercy killing. It doesn’t, but it might as well. The title sprang from a dismal “event,” Chaos War, only to strain at participating in two others, the equally dismal Fear Itself and “Spider-Island.” Never, in short, did Herc enjoy any chance whatsoever of establishing its own distinct identity. A shame, really—properly cultivated, Herc could have blossomed into a superior nontraditional superhero romp. Although still groping for a replacement for a predecessor series’ boy-genius sidekick, first with an unlikely trio of supervillains and then with their protagonist’s centaur’s-ass pop, writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente once more have been finding their tandem voice, and as on the prior issue, All Nighter creator David Hahn provides solid pencils, their pleasurability undermined (a bit) by not-altogether-complementary inks from Roy Richardson and Rebecca Buchman and (a lot) by the transposition of pages 21 and 22.
Ah, well. In the “Better Than Nothing” Department, despite his exclusivity to Marvel, writer Nick Spencer, with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents Vol. 2 #1, returns for a hexapartite miniseries to the (transplanted) DC superteam on which he made such a favorable impression late in 2010 and earlier this year. Joining him is Wes Craig, an artist whose name rings no bells in these precincts, but whose visuals not unpleasantly suggest those of a lesser Peter Snejbjerg. As earlier, Spencer manages the neat trick of using the superheroic foreground to explore the more interesting background. While Dynamo and the other T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents face a hollow-Earth political upheaval, that is, the fractious, nuanced relationship between Toby Henston and Colleen Franklin, the nonpowered agents behind the capital-A powerhouses, further develops; into the latter sequences, Spencer also integrates more history of The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves with customary skill. If memory serves, this week DC likewise published a compilation of Spencer’s first volume of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, making this the ideal time for newbies to acquaint themselves with this sleeper.
This—this right here: Wolverine #19. The comic whose cover shows a big, red dragon chomping everybody’s favorite adamantium-clawed Canucklehead in mufti. If Marvel were to publish this series in this fashion with this creative team each month, it would incontrovertibly constitute one of the mainstream’s most rambunctious delights. In the conclusion of the tripartite “Goodbye, Chinatown” arc, writer Jason Aaron, artist Ron Garney, and color artist Jason Keith ditch the über-angst and the grim-’n’-grittiness, momentarily sidestep any brain-dead “events” and crossovers, and basically go old-school with the title character. More specifically, with low humor and high spirits, Logan teams with Gorilla-Man, the immortal martial artist Fat Cobra, the X-Man’s crotchety ex-sensei, and an amusing kid sidekick genuinely deserving that participial adjective to battle (truth in advertising!) dragons, a cadre of kung fu killers, and an army of carbon-armored creeps in the employ of a subterranean drug czarina with an obvious jones for Erzsebet Báthory. And it all ends, blissfully, with brewskis at Harry’s Hideaway on a quaint little thoroughfare called Graymalkin Lane. Wolverating: ∆∆∆∆∆∆ | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Green Wake #7, here for a preview of Haunt #19, and here for a preview of Wolverine #19, all courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Herc #10, courtesy of iFanboy.

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