Friday, December 12, 2008

Random Thoughts on a Friday Afternoon...

It's late Friday afternoon, and although I have a ton of work to do, I'm far too distracted. So here's some random comics-related thoughts:

* I love E-Bay sometimes. I just won a copy of Mad Archives vol. 1 for $11.50 + $7.00 shipping. The book normally retails for $50. Not only that, but I paid for it by selling my sets of the first two Dark Tower mini-series. I enjoyed them for what they were - overcolored, poorly executed, high-profile mainstream comics - but had no interest in keeping them. It's funny, after immersing myself so completely in Love & Rockets, it's almost blaringly obvious how limited an artist Jae Lee is. I mean, his craft is great; he captures moods and figures well, but his sequential storytelling skills in this series are almost non-existent. It's just panel after panel of brooding figures standing around in shadows (and digitally painted fog) looking somber, with an occasional Frazetta-horse or evil creature or mangled tree thrown in.

* Sequart has been down for nearly two weeks, and, sadly, right after I finally got around to posting my latest Shelf Life. It seems like the whole site has to be re-coded and migrated to a new server, so it could be a while before it's back. No way to know how long it'll be. In the meantime I guess I'll just keep cranking along and post the columns when I can. I've already got a first draft of #38 done, though it needs work.

* I just read the first four issues of Vertigo's new series Air, and I can't say I really felt strongly about it one way or another. A few things that linger in my mind about the series - the relationship between Blythe and Zayn feels contrived and wholly unbelievable. I have a hard time accepting their love based on what little setup we saw. And Blythe is a pretty bland lead character. Her personality, what little of it we get so far, is fairly boring. Artist M.K Perker is good overall (his figure drawing reminds me of 80s mainstay Pat Broderick), but can be inconsistent at times. Generally, he seems to nail backgrounds, buildings, objects, settings, etc. but his people feel a little off somehow. I think his faces are misshapen; I noticed a few panels where the characters jawlines seemed overly extended. I know that's kind of nitpicky but it kept occuring to me. I will say that the covers to the series have been pretty impressive. One other thing that irks me a little are the pull quotes on the covers from Vertigo writers and alumni like Neil Gaiman, Gail Simone, etc. This insider praise seems like a marketing ploy more than genuine acclaim, and kind of undermines the story in my mind. It's like using your mom as a job reference.

* I also just read the second story arc of Millar and Hitch's Fantastic Four and I have to admit that I am actually enjoying it a lot more than I expected. It's far better than the Ultimates. I mean, Hitch's artwork can sometimes induce a headache, it's so overly detailed, and, as with all Marvel comics, the digital coloring hurts my eyes after a while, but Millar's stories are pretty fun, with lots of high action and melodrama. And the best part is I don't have to keep up with Civil War, House of M, Secret Invasion or any of that other crap I have no patience for. Of course, I have to admit that I'm not really in the best position to judge this series in the context of its recent history as it's the first Fantastic Four I've read since James Sturm's classic Unstable Molecules.

* I'm slowly working my way through the literally hundreds of comics and GN's I've bought over the years and never gotten around to reading, and this past week, I finally read J.M. DeMatteis's Seekers Into the Mystery. The series was definitely intriguing, with some solid art, but ultimately seemed to run aground. The central premise - the spiritual journey of Lucas Hart - started out feeling like a perfect synthesis of DeMatteis's other, stronger works - Moonshadow and Brooklyn Dreams. The artwork, particularly in the opening four issues by Glenn Barr, was consistent with Brooklyn Dreams, that is to say, excellent. And Jon J. Muth did three fill in issues, all of which were superb. But, overall, the book had a few problems. For one, I think it was too wordy. While this style may have worked fine in the Pirhanna Press digest format of Brooklyn Dreams, it made this series a little tedious to wade through. Also, I don't know if DeMatteis paced the series very well. There were all kinds of allusions to this god-like Magician character, but very little actual development or exploration of the spiritual themes he set up. It felt like way too much foreshadowing with very little payoff. Of course, it's quite possible that, had the series not been cancelled after the fifteenth issue, DeMatteis may have had a master plan. I guess we'll never know. Still, overall, I couldn't really recommend the series.

* Speaking of Vertigo books, a few months ago I read the entire House of Secrets series by Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen. Now this is an under-rated series in general, but what really stuck with me is the "Elevation A" story in issue #6 (I think). This has to be one of the most under-rated single issues of any comic book series. Someday I hope to go back and do a proper appreciation of this issue, and the innovative storytelling techniques it employs.

* I can't quite figure out why, and maybe I need to go back and re-read it, but I remember feeling very disappointed after reading Or Else #5. First of all, to charge $5 for a black and white mini-comic like that felt like a ripoff, but that's beside the point. I just didn't get particularly excited about the contents the way I did with Ganges #2. I barely even remember what it was about, and I just read it a few weeks ago. I know other people have praised the book, and KH is an artist I love generally, so I might have to revisit this one.

* I was really looking forward to it, but I thought the most recent Comics Journal interview with Jason was a huge disappointment. I'm not sure if it was Matthias Wivel's fault or Jason's, but the two just didn't click. At times, I felt like Wivel's questions were sort of mini-reviews; he would describe, in great detail, a certain theme or idea he gleaned from Jason's books, and then ask Jason a general question about it, and Jason would just kind of dodge the question. This happened several times. But then I also found Jason kind of dull, so I'm not sure how much responsibility really falls on Wivel. It's too bad, because I've read every one of Jason's graphic novels and love his anthromorphic style.

* I loved the first volume of Dark Horse's Creepy Archives, collecting the first five issues of the old 50s Warren horror magazine. The stories are hit or miss, as you would expect, but there are a few surprisingly good ones, particularly the Edgar Allen Poe adaptations. But the real selling point with these books is the artwork. The reproduction of the black and white pages is stunning, particularly the Reed Crandall, Frank Frazetta and Joe Orlando stories, though, really, there isn't a bad artist in the lot. It almost makes me wish you could get all of the old EC books in black and white, too. For some reason I'm under the impression that, in the second volume, the stories improve quite a bit, but I'm a little over my budget right now so I'm going to have to wait.

* I recently got on the bandwagon and finally read Ed Brubaker's first three Criminal trades. Excellent, excellent stories. I don't need to go into it since it's already universally known and I'm a little behind the times, but still...

* That's about it, I guess. I'm going to push to finish Shelf Life in 2009 (at least the first draft, obviously there is a large amount of editing needed before it'll be fit for publication), and then hope to get back to a more regular blogging habit.


K. Ross said...

It's a shame that Sequart went down when it did because I'm almost done reading the first volume of Love and Rockets and I was planning on doing an indepth reading of all your columns.

Marc said...

Yeah, that's too bad, but it'll be back sooner or later, and in the meantime I'm still plowing ahead. Ideally I'll get through 38 and 39 before the end of the year.