Rude Chapbooks 12.26.11 | An Unforgettable Premiere

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In Memorial #1—writer Chris Roberson’s latest phantasmagoria, in collaboration with artist Rich Ellis—our columnist sees a fantasy potentially rivaling the best now being published. Also praised this week: Daredevil #7 (most emphatically) and three other new floppies.

 
As submitted a few months ago, the work of writer Mark Waid, with artist Marcos Martin as well as penciller Paolo Rivera and inker Joe Rivera, has positioned the new adventures of one of Marvel’s oldest protagonists among 2011’s most appealing relaunches, and the Riveras’ cover to Daredevil #7 suggests why. A rooftop view of an older section of New York—i.e., one not dominated by skyscrapers—it shows the title character recumbent on the conical cap of an aging water tower. Snow is falling and has, in fact, already fallen heavily enough to blanket the tower’s top, and ol’ Hornhead is lying on that blanket, making a snow angel. An image of exquisite and dexterous jubilation, it graces a done-in-one tale illustrated by the Riveras and written by Waid which reaffirms the latter’s status as perhaps the mainstream’s preeminent classical raconteur. A “man versus Nature” narrative of superlative craftsmanship, it involves DD in mufti on charity work, eight blind children, a bus accident in the rural Northeast, and a blizzard. Storytelling at its finest.
 
Another review of Dark Horse Presents?” one can almost hear a stray reader here and there grumbling. Well, yes—live with it, fanboy. Publisher/editor Mike Richardson’s exemplary monthly anthology again demands attention because its latest edition, DHP #7, boasts an eight-page contribution from writer/artist Brandon Graham, the utterly depraved founder of King City (which—woo!—Image plans to compile in February). In “The Speaker,” Graham, with customary impishness, literalizes the figurative; more specifically, a never-shown everyman less loses his voice than suffers its intentional flight. (“I escaped through the phone lines,” relates the faceless white thing, its brow labeled “VOICE.”) Time elapses, the man dies, and the Voice returns home, to confront embodied Secrets, Doubts, and Ideas, as well as the man’s Shadow. Although this may sound like an extended and quite jejune century-old editorial cartoon, Graham stages and depicts it all with Mœbius-gone-manga glee. Great fun. Otherwise, DHP #7 launches “Concrete Park,” an intriguing-on-first-impression SF/crime serial from writer/artist Tony Puryear, and boasts Hellboy and Usagi Yojimbo eight-pagers from writer/artists Mike Mignola and Stan Sakai.
 
Sometimes, despite the cost of the average comic, a given creator’s work on one project will tempt readers to follow him or her elsewhere. Case in point: Hulk #46. Earlier this year, with writer David Liss, Patrick “Patch” Zircher so stylishly visualized the Mystery Men miniseries that his subsequent assignment to an arc on the exploits of Marvel’s so-called Red Hulk prompted interest, however passingly, in those exploits despite zero affection for the character. “Hulk of Arabia,” that five-part arc scripted by Jeff Parker, this issue concludes in an irritatingly entertaining fashion. The bullet? Chaperoned by Machine Man—classified herein, with realpolitik finesse, as a drone for diplomatic purposes—General “Thunderbolt” Ross, the eponymous antihero, seeks to avenge a fallen comrade in arms in extreme northern Africa, only to encounter a classic “lost world” with otherworldly origins and a superpowered pseudo-Gaddafi. Although inferior to his Mystery Men work, Zircher’s visuals here concretize hulking hauteur quite pleasingly. Not only solid superheroics, but also one of the precious few enjoyable Hulk-related adventures of the past five years.
 
A preview of it in various IDW Publishing titles this past autumn instantly situated Memorial #1 among the most eagerly anticipated debuts of 2011, and it scarcely disappoints. In addition to crafting noteworthy work on series like Elric: The Balance Lost and iZombie, writer/creator Chris Roberson cites as a specific influence the late Roger Zelazny—he could do far worse for inspiration. On this hexapartite mini, Roberson partners with artistic discovery Rich Ellis to introduce an amnesiac young brunette wearing a pendant monogrammed with what (ahem) looks like an M. The mystery immediately intensifies with a jump-cut to a “pocket reality” ruled by a largely unseen, petrifying queen and populated by a malign, autonomous puppet, among other odd creatures. Connecting the two scenes, apparently, is an enigmatic key. A year then passes, and having acclimated, the brunette (named “Em” after the pendant by the E.R. workers who found her) stumbles across a curio shop called…Memorial. But let’s cut to the chase: a fantasy to rank with Fables, Journey Into Mystery, and The Unwritten. Highly recommended.
 
As this column lamented in February, Gary Groth and Kim Thompson nowadays publish so few comics as such that any Fantagraphics Books release all but guarantees squeals of rapture. So cue the squeals, and scan the racks at your friendly neighborhood comics retailer for writer/artist Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed to Thrizzle #7. Beyond a cover whose hilarity strangely if successfully depends on its all-day-sucker coloring—tangerine, lemon, lime—this dadaistic offering opens with a six-page excerpt from Scary Bathtub Stories, a faux–Golden Age comic, and thereafter spirals further and further into neo-psychedelic weirdness. Predominantly, its oddity hinges on a recursive jape starring Quincy, M.E., Jack Klugman’s forensic pathologist from ’70s and ’80s TV. St. Peter guests, and Sigmund Freud eventually explains everything as a dream: “I’m riding a giant hamster, there are witches stirring a bubbling cauldron over there, a bat-frog is destroying the city, your feet are dogs, the couch is made out of living turtles…” Poor Kupperman. Such irreverence, in all likelihood, will doom his shot at a second-round “New 52” assignment. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of Daredevil #7, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Dark Horse Presents #7, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of Hulk #46, courtesy of Comic Book Realm.
Click here for an 11-page preview of Memorial #1, courtesy of Newsarama.
Click here for a preview of Tales Designed to Thrizzle #7, courtesy of Fantagraphics.
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