With the whole series over as of last week’s tenth and final chapter, I’ve been thinking a lot about The Private Eye, A.K.A. “that other Brian K. Vaughan book, the one that’s not Saga.” I’m unsure if it’s the fact that it’s been a digital-only release, or the irregular release schedule, that’s to blame, but it feels like it’s been something that’s been somewhat overlooked in terms of the larger comic book conversation, even as Saga has become accepted as The Next Big Thing. Continue reading
Yup, here we go! Remember, if you don’t dig the player and just want the link to the episode to cut and paste into your own player, another browser window, or whatever you prefer, check out our first comment which will hook you up.
That said, let’s get cracking with the show notes! This ep. runs a bit over two and a half hours and cutting all my stammering coughing fits took a bit more time so…
00:00-5:18: Greetings! Time marches on, bringing you the podcasting equivalent of chocolate bars and cigarettes—another episode of Wait, What? Of course, you should expect us going off track almost immediately, with talk of Princess Superstar and Eminem.
5:18-39:21: It’s been a tough week for comics with Graeme declaring four minutes in, “I’m burned out.” We’re both a little bit burnt on books by the Big Two, and the Chris Sims/Valerie D’Orazio situation has made things seem quite grim. Only in the existence of Mr. T’s upcoming DIY TV show, I Pity The Tool, can Graeme find any joy. Neither of us are friends with Chris or Val but Graeme is in a “friend of friends” situation, so our discussion about the situation is a tad on the politically fraught side but considering it’s a case of comics criticism that is also an act of bullying, and so we feel it’s worth talking about.
Capsule Reviews! Time for Jeff to realize it’s Sunday and his larger review isn’t coming together at all and try instead to give you shorter, entertaining things instead!
(Please note: there’s a chance some of what I blab about here also gets blabbed in the upcoming podcast? I know that’s true in at least one of these cases (but I can’t quite remember which one?). So apologies for any overlap.
FUUKA (Chapters 52 and 53): Okay, so the love interest is still dead, the woman with the same name is still off-screen, and Fuuka is still a rock band manga for these two chapters. In Chapter 52, after completely blowing their big number, the band comes back for the last show of the concert and wins over the concert promoter with their first original number, inspiring the promoter to issue one of those great sweeping generalizations this kind of manga loves to state as a golden rule among insiders: “[A] truly great concert is one that gets your body moving, even to songs you’ve never heard before!! That is where songs that sell, and bands that sell, really come from!!”
And then in Chapter 53, Yuu, the protagonist, gets advice from her brother about songwriting who says: “It’s true that some songs can only be written after your world has expanded and you’ve had more experience…but the opposite is true, too. Right now your narrow world is everything to you. That’s exactly why things that seem trivial, from an adult’s perspective…can be concentrated into really rich, passionate feelings.”
Oh, and he also accidentally walks in on his female bandmate as she’s just finished showering:
So, you know, totally formulaic manga? But also entirely enjoyable? It’ll be interesting to see if Kouni Seo gets enough of an audience with this track that he can keep at it, or if we’ll end up getting a ghost Fuuka as some fans fear.
THE BLACK HOOD #1: Got this thanks to the last round of Comixology SXSW giveaways, and god damn is it great. Graeme had talked it up on the podcast, saying that people who liked Bendis’ Daredevil would like this and while I get the comparison—as Graeme also pointed out, Michael Gaydos is drawing (and Kelly Fitzpatrick is coloring) this like he’ll lose the farm if he can’t place first in the Alex Maleev impersonation contest—but writer Duane Swierczynski is serving up something far darker. After having half his face shot off by a shotgun and accidentally killing The Black Hood in the process, Philadelphia police officer Greg Hettinger’s life falls apart. Descending deeper into isolation and an addiction to painkillers, Hettinger somehow ends up at the end of the issue facing down a gang of thugs in mid-mugging. How he gets there is somehow utterly convincing, more than a little depressing, and yet still darkly satisfying.
Anyway, god only knows where Swierczynski and Gaydos will take this, but this first issue was a genuine treat, and I’m totally on board. If you like Brubaker’s and Phillips’ Criminal—or even some of the indie gritcore stuff like Chuck Forsman’s Revenger—you’ll dig this. Definitely recommended.
THE JOKER: A CELEBRATION OF 75 YEARS: Some of you may recall my misadventures with one of the stories in Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years. If so, it probably won’t surprise that I finished that volume and moved on to its companion, The Joker: A Celebration of 75 Years.
Let’s not kid ourselves. These books are about as much of a celebration as a McDonalds offering a limited-time Mardi Gras burger: they are first and foremost an excuse on the part of the publisher to make hardcover dollar money. If you don’t remember that point, you might spend too much time like I did thinking about what the state of today’s world that you get a well-designed, hardcover “celebration” of a gleeful serial killer who is more or less the living embodiment of death.
Anyway, as much as I enjoyed the very early stories where The Joker is just a non-stop killing machine (in his first appearance, he’s more or less killing a person on every other page), the book spends about 87 of its 400 pages on the Joker of the mid-40s and early-50s, the non-lethal Joker of bank sprees and elaborate pranks, and those stories were pretty great, too.
It helps if you’re a fan of the “here’s an impossible thing on the cover; here’s how the story explains it happening” formula DC had going from before its Silver Age: The Joker captures Batman, so Robin has to help commit crimes to keep Batman alive; Batman and The Joker switch bodies; The Joker inherits a million dollars and quits crime…none of it is quite as good as Bill Finger’s “The Man Behind The Red Hood” which has Batman teaching a college course on criminology and recruiting his class to help solve the crime he never could. It’s filled with all those great detective-y bits Finger was so good at (one of the students deduces a suicide was actually a murder, just by noting the photo of the victim shows the hand with the gun doesn’t match the shoulder holster) even before you get to the bonus of the stealth Joker origin.
In fact, the book doesn’t get particularly leaden until it hits the modern age and the Joker once again becomes Mr. Death’s green-haired boy: both the O’Neil/Adams and the Englehart/Rogers stories are fine (and lean heavily on bits from the early Finger/Kane/Robinson material) but Englehart and Rogers are lucky the editors decided to run both parts of their two part Joker story. J.M. DeMatteis and Joe Staton only get the second issue of their four-part “Going Sane” storyline included; and Rucka/Grayson/Scott/Eaglesham only have part 3 of their “Endgame” storyline reprinted in this volume (which is itself part of the “No Man’s Land” event, so have fun with context, casual reader!). But that’s nothing when compared to Starlin and Aparo’s “Death in The Family”: not only is it just the second issue in the four-part storyline that gets reprinted, it’s not even the whole issue—the first 22 pages of the 44 page issue are left out.
Throw in only part three of Snyder/Capullo’s “Death in the Family” and the first issue of Tony Daniel’s sublimely dumb Detective Comics run, and you’ve got close to 180 pages of incomplete stories, which I imagine I would not be the only person to find more than a little disappointing. There’s an amusing paradox at the heart of this modern section of this collection: the more epic a Joker story creators try to tell, the smaller it feels by the time it hits this book’s procrustean page count.
So desperate are the editors for a halfway decent done-in-one from the modern era that there’s a John Byrne Superman issue in here. Consequently, the two writers in the modern section who come off the best are Chuck Dixon and Paul Dini: Dixon’s Detective Comics #726 (with artist Brian Steelfreeze) is light and flashy—apart from an early double-page early spread, every other page in the story is a full-page splash—but also satisfyingly constructed (good ol’ Chuck Dixon).
And Paul Dini and Don Cramer’s “Slayride” (Detective Comics #826), with Robin helpless in the passenger seat of the Joker’s Christmas hit-and-run spree, is even better. I’d read this story when it first came out and enjoyed it but in this context it doesn’t just hold up, it excels. Unlike the splash on every other page approach, Slayride uses a four tier structure to jam in all its story—the end result feels a little claustrophobic but what else do you want from a story that takes place largely inside a car?
But, still. Considering that, well, of course, you’re not going to get any of Miller’s Dark Knight Returns in here, nor Moore and Bolland’s Killing Joke, and you get a collection that’s like watching a sunset in the days following the destruction of Pompeii: what you’re looking at is the result of world-shaping explosions but you’re not allowed to see any of that directly. You’re only allowed to look at what’s in front of you and imagine.
The announcement of Giant Days — the new Boom! Studios series written by John Allison and drawn by Lissa Treiman, based on characters from Allison’s solo webcomics like Scary-Go-Round and Bad Machinery — was something that I found myself both incredibly excited, and surprisingly worried, about.
I’m a relative latecomer to Allison’s work, having only discovered it when Oni Press put out Bad Machinery in print back in 2013, but there was something about it that I immediately gravitated towards. It sounds like an insult, but it’s intended as a compliment to say that its artificiality and artifice was a big draw — the characters don’t speak naturally, the situations are wonderfully unrealistic and Allison’s art was specific and cartoonish enough that the whole thing added up to this joyful, ridiculous world that existed outside everything else, complete and wonderful in and of itself.
Giant Days, then, manages to fulfill both the fears and hopes I had for it when it was first announced. It’s not a comic book version of Allison’s web work — not only does it look very different, but there’s a more traditional narrative structure in place that alters the pacing that I’ve come to expect from his work. It all feels, oddly enough, more like a traditional comic book than what I think of as Allison’s style.
On one level, that’s not a bad thing — Giant Days #1 is actually a really cute, really enjoyable comic book, with female leads and mystery and distinct characters and some wonderful artwork from Treiman, who brings an animated life to everything. It’s fully-realized and inviting, and if I hadn’t been a fan of Allison’s other work, I’d be far less ambivalent about it and far more you guys, you have to read this, this is amazing.
And yet… it’s not the same as Allison’s other work, and that dissonance makes me wary. Is that self-defeating? I feel foolish about it, because I’m normally far more willing to let go of preconceptions when something gets adapted from one format to the other. Do I care that the X-Men that appear in the movies aren’t the ones I grew up reading? Not particularly. Am I bothered that the Barry Allen that speeds around on the CW isn’t the same Flash who runs around in the comic books? Not at all. (And also, last night’s episode was great, wasn’t it?) So, what is it about Giant Days that’s different?
I really can’t answer that, frustratingly. Instead, I’m going to keep reading the comic — which feels like a good companion piece to Lumberjanes in many ways — and trying to convince others to do the same, while I try and work out my discomfort and confusion in silence. There really is a great comic here, if only I could get past my preconceptions to be more excited about it.
(In related news, Giant Days, Bad Machinery and Allison’s webcomics are all worth hunting down and enjoying more than I make them seem here. In particular, Scary-Go-Round: The Continuing Adventures are really, really great.)
Previously on Baxter Building: Stan Lee and Jack Kirby introduced some of the greatest comic book heroes the world had ever seen, and then went on to prove that, while the series has a lot going for it, bringing villains back for second go-rounds wasn’t necessarily one of those things. You can find the first two episodes here.
I’ll be honest: for awhile there, it really looked like this was the episode that was never going to happen, due to technical problems during recording, editing and even now, as I write these show notes. (To that end, I apologize for a “MARVEL” watermark in one of the images — I don’t have access to Marvel Unlimited right now, so you’re getting them straight from the PDFs Jeff and I are reading, this time around.) Nevertheless, here are two hours of Jeff and I suggesting Mad Thinker revamps, talking about the greatness that is Jack Kirby and complaining about Reed Richards. In other words, my friends, another Baxter Building for you to enjoy (and if you don’t want to enjoy it here, then there’s always Stitcher and iTunes to fulfill your listening needs.) Show notes (and more!) under the jump. Continue reading
It’s more than a little silly I’m writing a whole post advising you about possible comics to get during this Flash 500 sale Comixology has going on through January 16. Not that I’m writing a whole post about it; more that I’m writing a whole post.
Although it’s glib, I’d say if you thought of Graeme as “the DC guy,” and me as “the Marvel guy,” I think you wouldn’t be entirely right, but I think there might be more truth to that than not. (Although if you think of Graeme as “the smart guy” and me as “the dumb guy, and his self-esteem is problematic too,” I think there’s even more truth to that.)
[More after the jump if you’re inclined; once again, I imaged the crap out of this post…] Continue reading
I keep trying to write a review of The Surface #1, the first issue of the new Ales Kot/Langdon Foss/Jordie Bellaire/Clayton Cowles/Tom Muller series that is released tomorrow, but every single time I start, my brain jams. Part of me wants to blame it on events outwith my control and Wait, What?‘s purview, but it’s the comic itself; there’s so much to unpack and talk about that I find myself stuttering and starting over, second-guessing myself: Shouldn’t I concentrate on this? What about this? Isn’t that even more important? and so on, and so on. Let’s pick things apart and leave them in pieces, instead, shall we? (I’ll do so under the jump, however; you should probably scroll down the listen to the latest episode, if you haven’t already.) Continue reading
Greetings, Whatnauts! We hope Episode 171 finds you well, since it found us on the edge of wellness (look for the DVD marketing of Edge of Wellness to confuse everybody into thinking it’s actually called “Cough, Mute, Repeat”). Despite our professed love of the partially muted cough or sneeze, Jeff put a lot of work into editing that out so all you get are two hours and seven minutes of pure, unfiltered comic book opinionation! Look at the show notes below and see!00:00-10:29: Bonus musical opening! And then we *finally* announce the winners of our Rogue Trooper Last Man Standing contest, where the contestants told us what they would rename us if we were biochips and what piece of equipment you put us on. Listen in as we announce the winners and read their entries because they are, as Graeme so perfectly puts it, “harsh but fair but harsh.” Congratulations to Eric Reehl, Brendan O’Hare, Michael Loughlin, and Matthew Murray, and big thanks to Last Man Standing author and Whatnaut Brian Ruckley for making it possible for us to share the love (no matter how belatedly).
10:29-36:13: Graeme has been catching up on a bunch of old comics recently and one of them is the collected edition of DC’s Forever Evil spinoffs, and tells us about Forever Evil: Blight, a sixteen issue sub-event that starts out great and then burned through so much of Graeme’s good will, it’s kind of a shame. Also discussed: Alan Moore and American Gothic and John Constantine (and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice); J.M. DeMatteis; DeMatteis’ run on Defenders and Captain America; Ray Fawkes; shout outs to Jesus; Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer run; Gary Seven; the Star Trek: Vanguard series; and the phrase “come through my magical portal!” which Graeme says with such panache it really does deserve to become its own meme.
Remember, if you do not like our audio player (and many of you do not), and you don’t like retrieving our podcast from the RSS feed or what have you, check out the very first comment for a plain text link for you to copy and paste freely! As mentioned above, we will be back next week with Episode 3 of Baxter Building. So if you excuse me, I have some crazy-ass Kirby/Lee comics to attend to…but, as always, thank you for listening!
There are some characters that are some completely of their time they somehow manage to transcend that time entirely. Such is the case with Rich Buckler’s Deathlok The Demolisher, whose original incarnation I revisited recently thanks to a Comixology sale. If you’re willing to accept the premise that comic books can fail at things like story and character and thematic consistency and internal logic and still be considered good, then you might find Buckler’s Deathlok to be a great comic.
(Follow me behind the jump so I don’t swamp the main page with images?) Continue reading
I’ve been trying to catch up on recent Marvel series through Marvel Unlimited lately; I forget quite what the era I’m reading — the second-to-last wave of launches, basically — was called: All-New Marvel NOW!, I think? I know the most recent was Avengers NOW! and that there was also Marvel NOW! (The all-caps was, I believe, a branding decision on Marvel’s part to emphasize the now-ness of it all), but was there another one in there somewhere? I really can’t remember.
I mention this, nevertheless, because one of the good things about being so far behind is that I can read a bunch of issues on MU before making a decision one way or another on any given series: I didn’t really dig the opening issue of Magneto, say, but later issues brought me around. The first issue of She-Hulk was cute but nothing that knocked my socks off, but watching the trick repeated every issue gave the series a welcome, cumulative charm that is hard to resist. That kind of thing.
And then, there’s Iron Fist: The Living Weapon by Kaare Kyle Andrews, a book that is clearly a work of passion for the creator, and an unexpected flashback to a dark time for comics for me. It is, intentionally or otherwise, the most “Image Comics” comic I’ve read in years — and that includes the many titles actually being published by Image today that I pick up.
When I use that descriptor for Iron Fist, I’m neither talking about the publisher’s current output — perhaps obviously, given what I said above — nor even about the publisher itself, per se; what I’m talking about is the cliche of the comic book produced by the Image founders in their heyday. You know what I’m talking about: titles that are so visually-driven that everything about the writing is simultaneously the furthest of afterthoughts and wildly overwrought. (”His webbing — Advantageous!” indeed.) The school of comics that made Rob Liefeld a joke apparently forever more, and Jim Lee the co-publisher of DC Entertainment. Wait, maybe that was a Faustian pact or something.
Iron Fist, though, is so very “Image Comics” in that school that it’s surprising; it’s very much not for me — as attractive as the art may be, I can’t get over the amount of Dark Knight Returns-era Frank Miller in it to fall in love with it, and the writing is far too lacking in subtlety on every single level for me to fall for it in any way. (For those wondering what that last comment means: the story revolves around a couple of retcons to Danny Rand’s origin, while also changing Rand’s characterization entirely from where he was when we last saw him so that he becomes a more intense, cartoonishly flat figure that honestly is reminiscent of little as much as the Christian Grey that appears in the 50 Shades of Grey trailers. There’s also a return to K’Un L’Un, because that mystical kung-fu Brigadoon has to be visited in every single Iron Fist story these days, for some reason. Oh, and there’s ninjas and Danny’s dad is a bad guy, because of course he is.)
But while it not being something that I enjoy isn’t exactly a surprise, the ineptitude of it on a narrative level is. There are some bold, and utterly misguided, storytelling choices in both art and writing in the first six issues of the title that I’m surprised got past the editor, whether it’s because they’re unclear, nonsensical or merely so unsubtle as to be laughable — the “DEATH” yelling out from some panel layouts, for example, being the latter and recurring in multiple issues. Do you get it yet? DEATH. SHIT IS SERIOUS, YO. Weirdly enough, the feeling I got from these issues wasn’t that Andrews was at fault for the failings of the book, despite his being responsible for writing, drawing and colors, but that the editors were. As I said before, Iron Fist is clearly Andrews putting his heart and soul into the book, and that passion really is visible on the page — but, like the Image books it feels close to, it’s something that needed a stronger editorial hand to remind him when to pull off the throttle a bit, or perhaps reconsider some of his choices.
Iron Fist: The Living Weapon is something that will undoubtedly have found some fans — Miller junkies worried about how problematic he’s become in later years will find things to adore here, as will those for whom those early Image books arrived at just the right time in their childhoods — but I can’t help but feel as if the purpose it’ll serve best in the long run is reminding people of the importance of having a trusted outside eye look over things and saying, “Yeah, maybe you want to take a second swing at that.” Who would have thought that a Marvel title in today’s era would stand as a cautionary tale of too light an editorial hand?