Rude Chapbooks 12.19.11 | Pre-Christmas Crossover Craziness

In this week’s review of five new comic books, KISS trades licks with a certain redhead from Riverdale in Archie #627, and Captain Kirk and Cosmic Boy clash in Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #3. So swig some more eggnog, dear reader, and keep scrolling!

Although technically it “streeted” two weeks ago, Archie #627 with the Francesco Francavilla variant cover dawdled till now in arriving; still, that variant’s puckishness justified the wait. Those who equate contemporary comics solely with superheroes, of course, will likely disregard this salute to the Archie Comic Publications chestnut—especially on learning that it commences a quadripartite meeting between the Riverdale gang and (très après-garde!) KISS. Their loss. Such a meeting seems too lunatic to ignore, and Francavilla certainly does it justice, with the eponymous redhead shredding something like an Electra Flying Wedge before a giant close-up glare from Gene Simmons’ Demon. Almost necessarily, the story itself—from writer Alex Segura, penciller Dan Parent, and inker Rich Koslowski—falls far short of that glorious image, inasmuch as it opens with the series’ regulars convening as the “Riverdale Monster Society” in a treehouse HQ, for pity’s sake. One probably oughtn’t expect excessive verisimilitude from Archie, but even when the Andrews lad first appeared seven decades ago, the conjunction of teens and a treehouse would have bespoken imbecility.
Like its precursors, Batwoman #4 provokes a critical response profoundly bifurcated. It may well rank as the loveliest series among DC’s “New 52” through the artistry of J.H. Williams III, who visually originated the title character’s exploits in Detective Comics and, of course, who collaborated with Alan Moore to phantasmagoric effect on Promethea. Truly, Williams’ visuals dance across the page like a prima ballerina. Nothing like a congruent grace, alas, infuses his and co-writer W. Haden Blackman’s scriptwriting; their efforts in that capacity suggest nothing so much as a dockworker going en pointe in worn clodhoppers—practically a willful parody of the narrative precision Greg Rucka brought to the ’Tec run. As a result, this issue constitutes one long string of “grim ’n’ gritty” clichés: the overconfident sidekick, the mondo creepy villain with a sickle for a left hand, the government investigator dedicated to dispatching the protagonist instead of any of her antagonists. That the issue interlaces such hackneyed drivel with a depiction of lesbian lovemaking feels less progressive than…well…perverse. Beautiful but banal beyond endurance.
“Nothing can wreak as much mischief as a well-chosen present,” a signally odd supporting character observes in Journey Into Mystery #632 regarding the Yule, and the context of that observation strongly positions this issue as an unlikely tale of Christmas spirit worthy in its whimsy and warmth of Will Eisner. Although “Rude Chapbooks” lauded writer Kieron Gillen’s stewardship of the Marvel title little more than a month ago, the delights of this gem demand expedited repetition. Graced with noteworthy visuals from Mitch and Bettie Breitweiser, it opens with Volstagg the Voluminous temporarily assuming a new role and Hela briefly visiting from the Norse underworld. With a gift. For our hero, Loki as a lad. In a big cardboard box. (Who would’ve suspected Niffleheim of having a shipping department?) Complications perforce ensue—as does hilarity sufficient to send tears of mirth streaming down the face of even the most jaded comics commentator. Even at that, with five words (page 17, panel three), Gillen deftly applies enough English to the narrative ball to clear the table. Wonderful!
One can’t help conjecturing that masochism afflicts writer Chris Roberson. First, during 2011, he shepherded to its conclusion another scribe’s über-lame yearlong arc on Superman and achieved that feat with style and jubilation. Now the poor bastard’s helming an intercompany teaming of two (what an odious term!) “properties” of such long standing and such opinionated fandoms that, for one reason or another, it should satisfy absolutely no one. Nonetheless, as Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #3 demonstrates, Roberson soldiers valiantly onward, and the IDW Publishing/DC venture does proffer its charms, however small, such as a “never really considered that” comparison of the two groups’ milieus and a “battle” between Brainiac 5 and Spock—one can nearly hear Leonard Nimoy dryly intoning his lines. Perhaps predictably, penciller Jeffrey Moy and inker Philip Moy falter at depicting Nimoy and his fellow players from Gene Roddenberry’s 1966–9 TV nonesuch. Had, say, Paul Gulacy illustrated this odd (some puns defy resistance) enterprise, it and this review alike would have differed, in all likelihood, to a substantial degree. Oh, well.
Zorro Rides Again #6 continues scriptwriter Matt Wagner’s commendable interpretation of the rollicking, black-clad swordsman that Johnston McCulley introduced in “The Curse of Capistrano” in the August 9, 1919, All-Story Weekly. This issue marks the midpoint of the Dynamite Entertainment series and, effectively, concludes its first act, with the title hero avenging a recent tragedy and his alter ego, under doubly woeful circumstances, becoming a man of means in Spanish California in the early 1800s. Esteve Polls’ art, sad to say, still fails to satisfy fully and does so in the integral area of derring-do; in action sequences, more specifically, his portrayal of human anatomy exhibits a creakiness that unbuckles the Fox’s swash and tangles him in his own pantaloons. (In less frenetic sequences, Polls acquits himself much better.) Also undermining enjoyment here is editorial ineptitude previously ridiculed on various offerings from this publisher—more specifically, the duplication of an extremely significant word balloon from the seventh page to the eighth. Does anyone at Dynamite Entertainment read its titles before they ship to the printer? | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Archie #627, here for a preview of Journey Into Mystery #632, and here for a preview of Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #3, all courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Batwoman #4, courtesy of iFanboy.
Click here for a preview of Zorro Rides Again #6, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

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