Rude Chapbooks 12.27.10 | There, There, Logan—These Things Happen

Wolverine, in Uncanny X-Men #531, shows Cyclops how desperately he needs adamantium Viagra, everyone except the receptionist and DC’s interns contributes to Wonder Woman #605, and all of that “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy” noise from last Monday’s weekly review of five new comic books accompanies the shredded holiday wrapping paper and sundered ribbons to the nearest Dumpster.

 
 
Mainly because the title’s followed no schedule—preferable to setting a schedule and then constantly blowing it, all things considered—and because it’s lacked the visual verve of Dynamite Entertainment’s main series starring Fran Striker’s masked rider of the Plains, The Lone Ranger & Tonto has never packed the punch of The Lone Ranger, which soon concludes its bravura redefinition of that character. With The Lone Ranger & Tonto #4, happily, Sergio Cariello, the Kubertesque artist on the main series, teams with Brett Matthews, that series’ writer, co-writer Neil Turitz, and co-artist Esteve Polls on the neat conceit of an East Coast newspaperman visiting Texas to investigate a frontier legend. Almost predictably, the newsie’s interviewees all provide distinct, sometimes contradictory perspectives on that legend. If this 32-pager falls short of Rashomon—it lacks the gravitas both of Akira Kurosawa’s film and the main series—“The Man Behind the Mask” at least showcases more painterly pages from Cariello depicting the title duo. That will perforce suffice till The Lone Ranger #25, his and Matthews’ valedictory, ships.
 
Largely through the efforts of Dark Horse, the present must strike fans of pulp prodigy Robert E. Howard as a new golden age in comics. This week, to its roster of titles starring Conan, Kull, and Solomon Kane, that publisher adds Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword, an 80-page anthology whose name pays homage to the long-running black-and-white Marvel magazine Savage Sword of Conan. Sad to say, its premiere buckles little swash. Of the story pages in Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #1, 61 percent reprint “Worms of the Earth,” a dreary, mediocre Bran Mak Morn adaptation by writer Roy Thomas and artists Barry Windsor-Smith and (predominantly, alas) Tim Conrad from the mid-’70s, and the new material all displays deficiencies, some grievous. The most promising component? A four-page preview of the El Borak feature written by Mark Finn and strikingly illustrated by Tim Bradstreet…starting next issue. Perhaps most troublously, that “next issue” ships in May—what seems a disastrously long stretch for a title involving two serials. In all honesty, this project scarcely feels viable.
 
Set the fanboy klaxon blaring: The Sixth Gun #7 launches the second arc of this Oni Press title and thus, in comics parlance, constitutes a splendid “jumping-on point.” (Counterpoising that phrase, incidentally, is jumping-off point, which describes the rooftop-plus-gravity impulse one suffers on reading far too many contemporary comic books.) This weird Western from writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt has inarguably numbered among the brightest debuts of the year, as the inaugural installment of this column burbled. This issue largely dwells on the anger and bitterness of derby-topped treasure hunter Drake Sinclair, Bunn and Hurtt’s focal antihero, following the resolution of the title’s first arc. It also introduces to Becky Montcrief, who possesses the titular occult revolver, a suspiciously amiable (and pink-shirted!) gunfighter. Truly, as in that first arc, Bunn and Hurtt accomplish in a single issue of The Sixth Gun more than many mainstream titles do in four or five—and they do so with breathtaking style. Would that the mainstream nurtured more such series instead of fatigued “franchises” and idiot “events.”
 
Despite its industry prominence since the mid-’70s, Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men ranks as one of the most soporific titles now being published; its own mutant power apparently involves inspiring mediocrity in even top writers like Matt Fraction, who created the brilliant Casanova, but who’s been shepherding this series with only minimal luminosity. With Uncanny X-Men #531, Kieron Gillen—co-creator, with artist Jamie McKelvie, of the similarly brilliant Phonogram—joins Fraction as co-writer. Only time will tell whether this cursed title can tag-team two such talents. (Unpromisingly, in this issue, many mutants catch the flu—no, really—and Wolverine experiences esniktile dysfunction.) It scarcely helps Uncanny X-Men, of course, that most of its visuals come from Greg Land, who makes even an artistic anorexic like Whilce Portacio look professional on fill-ins and who abuses photo reference so clumsily that his work approximates barely disguised fumetti. In German, uncanny translates to “unheimlich,” yet too often, scanning Land’s putative art may make a comics reader of even minimal discernment feel as if he or she instead needs the Heimlich.
 
Perhaps because William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, served as a psychologist, the character has long seemed to warrant several years’ worth of visits to the 50-minute couch, but lately and incongruously, things have grown more schizo, not less, for the Amazon princess, as Wonder Woman #605 testifies. This issue, Phil Hester starts backstopping J. Michael Straczynski as writer because…well…Straczynski decided he has bigger fish to fillet. (“This is a character that is interesting enough and compelling enough to merit being in the top 20 books at a minimum,” he thundered six issues ago, at the start of his run and what co-publisher Jim Lee proclaimed “her ultimate rebirth.” So much for that hoopla.) One can’t help pitying Hester for landing the assignment, which this issue continues the transparent Buffyization of Marston’s creation and introduces the martial Morrigan (Ares in drag and in triplicate—’cause, y’know, it takes three chicks to do the job of one guy). Moreover, suggesting DC’s lack of commitment to the title, the issue involves three pencillers and four inkers. Embarrassing. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of The Lone Ranger & Tonto #4, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.
Click here for a preview of Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #1, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of The Sixth Gun #7, courtesy of Hypergeek.ca.
Click here for a preview of Uncanny X-Men #531, courtesy of PLAYBACK:stl.
Click here for a preview of Wonder Woman #605, courtesy of DC Comics.

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