Rude Chapbooks 08.01.11 | In a League All Its Own

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From its last recorded romp, set in 1910, the indomitable Mina Murray’s occult strike force leaps almost six decades, to 1969, in the “paging Professor Castaneda” glory of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century #2, the finest of the five floppies under review this week.

 

 
Reflecting the Pander to Hollywood Syndrome and the consequent debut of a new Captain America title, the series previously called that this week appends and Bucky to its indicia—and in all likelihood, the Overstreet indexers are gobbling more fistfuls of bennies to pace all of this titular idiocy. In any event, Captain America and Bucky #620, under other circumstances, would engender caution because Ed Brubaker is now only co-writing the new/old Marvel series, and too much of the time, comics co-writes just plain suck. However, Chris Samnee’s visualizing this series, and Samnee holds an advanced degree from the Sickles/Caniff School of Ink; especially inasmuch as this issue launches an expanded reprise of how Bucky became Cap’s partner at the dawn of World War II, his contribution verges on invaluable. Moreover, happily enough, co-writer Marc Andreyko largely acquits himself well, with only a few bobbles that Bru solo probably would have avoided. (One caption, for instance, misuses the idiomatic phrase a bag of hammers.) Flick flackery notwithstanding, a “new” title very much worthy of attention.
 
Scriptwriting duties on three ancillae to Marvel’s Fear Itself “event” went to Cullen Bunn, co-creator of The Sixth Gun. A singleton starring the Black Widow failed only partly because its artist evidenced inadequate knowledge of female anatomy. (Blissfully treacherous things, breasts.) A second, FF-related singleton, meanwhile, achieved mere mediocrity. This week, though, welcomes the arrival of Fear Itself: The Deep #2, the latest chapter of a quadripartite miniseries illustrated by penciller Lee Garbett and inker David Meikis, and it’s proving much more entertaining. Hinging on a crisis of confidence by the Sub-Mariner, it co-stars Dr. Strange, the She-Hulk Lyra, the Silver Surfer, and (no idea) teen mutant Loa—basically, the Defenders, reconfigured for 2011. In that respect, it seems a pity that the company recently announced a revival of the nonteam team as (yawn) the “weird Avengers” under other creators, because Bunn’s work recalls arguably the two strongest runs on The Defenders, Steve Englehart’s and Steve Gerber’s, without aping either—Lyra and Loa nicely complement Namor, Strange, and Norrin Radd, in fact. Again, a pity.
 
Like some outré conflation of Oz, the Great and Terrible’s balloon and a discarded condom, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century #2 shoots into the skies and lands in the gutter. That it does so triumphally defines one of the manifold paradoxes of this Top Shelf Productions gem from writer Alan Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill. Indeed, one can’t help suspecting that 2011 will witness no comic more exuberantly depressing than this latest LOEG adventure, which takes Mina Murray & Co. to London in 1969 (the superimposed subtitle of this, the midpoint of Century) in their continuing quest for the moonchild, the diabolical MacGuffin here. A psychedelic kaleidoscope, it would likely still strike “mundanes” as a funnybook commonplace—if such folks ever looked at comics, that is—and in the Alan Moore bigger picture, it necessarily constitutes a lesser work in comparison to From Hell and Lost Girls. Just as necessarily, however, its offhand grandeur makes most of the rest of the mainstream (and almost certainly any other leagues soon to relaunch) pale into insignificance.
 
Several months have passed since this column hailed the return of Next Men at IDW Publishing, and in that period, little has happened in writer/artist John Byrne’s creator-owned title. Scattered throughout space and time, one character lost a foot to Confederate tormentors; another, both eyes to a Nazi doctor; a third, her very mind to a living interment lasting almost two and a half centuries. This week, in Next Men #8, Byrne takes it easy on his beleaguered regulars. Instead, he relates a tale explaining a mystery involving the Greenery, the superscience enclave that spawned the title characters. A sheer and utter marvel of compression, it functions as a reminder that Byrne, at the top of his game, enjoys few real rivals in the mainstream; he could teach a grad school seminar on jump cuts. Even at that, the insidious bastard manages a sotto voce cliffhanger imperiling his protagonists at an existential level. In an industry constantly awash in them, in short, Next Men numbers among the infinitesimal population of relaunches that actually hold water.
 
Spontaneous human combustion? Coooool—um, in a manner of speaking. Although its premise sparks interest, sad to say, Spontaneous #1 fails to ignite in a naturally supernatural fashion, to coin a phrase, and may well leave readers feeling disgruntled and irritably tracing touches of an accelerant—a faked flame. To be sure, Brett Weldele’s art, which recalls that of Guy Davis and Ben Templesmith, scarcely lacks appeal, albeit low-key appeal. No, the deficiencies of this Oni Press debut derive from Joe Harris’ script, which strikes a false note almost immediately. (“Melvin, what did I tell you about our greeting policy?” Oh, come on now!) That false note fast builds to an abysmally bogus extended crescendo with the arrival of an “investigative reporter at large” who not only shoots photos with a camera outfitted with flashbulbs, but also takes notes, in pencil, with both her right and left hands, depending on the vagaries of staging. That said reporter ultimately invokes gonzo giant Hunter S. Thompson, furthermore, transcends mere ineptitude and blunders into something like sacrilege. Underdone. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of Captain America and Bucky #620, courtesy of Newsarama.
Click here for a preview of Fear Itself: The Deep #2, courtesy of Comic Book Realm.
Click here for a preview of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century #2, courtesy of Top Shelf.
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