Individually Wrapped: Jeff’s Post-Xmas Digital Comics Report

December 26, 2014
AJ Throws a P

Andrew Jackson Expresses Something I Feel Around the Holidays

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE! Guess who was cleaning up the wrapping paper early this morning and suddenly remembered he had a post to write?  Don’t worry, it won’t be too horribly long (or…will it?) but just a little update of comics-related stuff going on around the holidays…. (more behind the jump because I went crazy with the images…)

Let’s see, where do I start? Oh, right…

LOOT CRATE (ANNIVERSARY EDITION):  I gotta admit, as a guy who used to hoard crap like nobody’s business, Lootcrate sounded pretty appealing to me months ago but I managed to stave off the temptation because, well, I used to hoard crap like nobody’s business and I really had to work pretty hard at tamping that down, getting rid of stuff, etc., etc.

But I dunno, I think the slow steady hyping over at Bleeding Cool finally got to me, plus it just seemed like getting a box of random nerd stuff seemed like a nice way to treat myself over the holidays.  Halfway through a terrible day at work, I just decided “fuck it” and signed up for a three month subscription.

Now if I was really smart and a true fan of comics analysis, I would’ve sent a gift subscription to Joe McCulloch b/c I think his examination of this Lootcrate (and the sad, small thing inside us all that makes us, basically, sign up for a service that pays someone to give us presents) but instead we’re going to deal with my dashed-off nonsense.

So…basically, this Lootcrate was simultaneously delightful and underwhelming, each item having a shifting ratio:  some of the stuff that was outright crap (the Captain America air freshener, the Ghostbusters door hanger, the 30 day free trail of Crunchyroll) amused me with its outright tackiness, the stuff that was technically pretty good  underwhelmed me (the Funko pop figure of a Joker-ized Batman had me nerdishly picking apart the description on the back of the box,  the number of  Tetris stickers seems kind of low, and I already bought Batman #36 although the exclusive cover by Capullo is pretty great),

photo(5)

(tiny photo of great cover)

and the stuff I really liked (the Simpsons wallet, the adorable Groot socks, and the Batcave diorama inside the Lootcrate box itself) I just can’t see myself using at all.  It looks like if I wanted, I could flip the Funko fig and the Capullo comic for more than the cost of the Crate?

So: simultaneously delightful and underwhelming, generous and cheap, with the possibility of profit via speculation?  I am both looking forward to the next one and overcome with buyer’s remorse?  It’s pretty much the 21st Century equivalent of comic books, isn’t it?

ANDREW JACKSON THROWS A PUNCH:  I picked this digital-only comic up from Comixology during the recent 12 days of Comics giveaway—looking at my own history of digital purchases this year, it became obvious that at least as far as digital comics go, I am an ideal candidate for loss-leader promotions:  the more often I visit a digital site for a freebie, the more likely I am to make a purchase of some kind.

Hence, AJTAP, a comic I bought just because the cover had a great use of color and design and because I appreciated the pun of the book’s subtitle: “An Inaugural Brawl.”  And the insides totally pay off on that front, with Andrea Tsurumi crafting a funny mix of penciled cartooning, perfect colors and plenty of “puns” for the punch-’em-up (which is itself a great pun for the book).  It’s light and over in half a heartbeat but it’s such a delightful introduction to a cartoonist of crazy potential that I didn’t begrudge the ninety-nine cents I spent.  In fact, between now and January 1, you can use the Comixology Submit sale to get it for fifty cents, at which point it more or less into steal territory.   I really liked this.

MEGAHEX:  Another Comixology purchase. I tried to buy it from Comix Experience first but it was out of print (again?) which makes me worry that maybe Fantagraphics is managing to be overly conservative in its print runs even as it gets crazily audacious with the number of titles (ostensibly) in print. That’s kind of great for passionate collectors who are delighted that “[INSERT TITLE HERE] has finally been collected!”, but I worry it just means we’ll all be ponying up for the next “hey, let’s save Fantagraphics!” kickstarter in 2018 or so.

Anyway, yeah, Megahex is absolutely as good as everyone says, with Simon Hanselmann crafting a hilarious and depressing tale of dysfunctional dead-end friendship.  The glib “Charles Bukowski writes a Sabrina The Teenage Witch comic” is not inaccurate, especially since, like Bukowski, the picture of dead-end living is so streaked with grime and misery your laughter is constantly tempered by pity.

On the other hand, you will laugh a lot: I was both surprised and appalled by the number of times I couldn’t help laughing aloud because the crass, awful situations were also genuinely hilarious.  (A lot of that is Hanselmann’s pitch-perfect timing:  it’s not that Werewolf Jones takes a cheese grater to his balls that’s so funny or what happens, as much as the timing of everyone’s reaction).

Anyway, it’s a brilliant book.  It’d be nice if it ended up in print again soon.

GHOST RIDER #1-4, KINDA:  Marvel Unlimited sorta harshed my mellow by not failing to load issue #4 properly (in fact, I wonder if the number of new accounts on Christmas crashed their server or something because at a certain part of the day all of my books failed to load properly), which is a shame because I think there’s a lot in this reboot by Felipe Smith and Tradd Moore to love.  As Marvel titles go, it’s a pretty harsh book with a lot of stylization of the characters, stylization that might’ve gotten me kinda antsy if (a) I wasn’t familiar with Felipe Smith, and (b) the stylization is in fact pretty well-observed, so that even when the characters seem like they might be ugly racial stereotypes, they’re at least all different sizes and body types and designs?  I don’t know, that’s probably the worst kind of excuse-making in the world and I’m sorry I brought it up.

But!  As a guy what loves him some Ghost Rider, I like how Smith re-captures the feel of the “original” Johnny Blaze origin by just having Robbie Reyes, his hero, be a decent guy who’s trapped in a no-win situation (even though that no-win situation seems more like an East Los Angeles update of Christine).

But mainly, I’m just in love with being able to read pages designed like this:

Ghost Rider 1 2

Pretty, right?

or this:

Ghost Rider 1 1

Also, pretty, right?

For whatever reason, they kinda remind me of the Cameron Stewart/Babs Tarr work in Batgirl, although look at how that gunfight just changes and re-changes the temporal flow, slowing it down and speeding it up again and again until it’s like the page itself is hyperventilating!  This book is one of the few that makes me sorry my Marvel boycott lasted as long as it did, because I really would’ve loved to be an active cheerleader for it at the time the individual issues were coming out.  Nonetheless, if MU is working for you, you can check out the first four issues of this.  It’s pretty keen.

The Hole in Things

THE HOLE IN THINGS

BATMAN & ROBIN #13-16: Picked these up during the recent “World of Batman Eternal” sale on Comixology and reread ’em.  A few scattered thoughts:

(a) Man, they’re fun.  Like a Disney rollercoaster, once you go through the ride for the first time, you can spend the next few times just looking for all the small details.  Like, in the excerpt above, I love how even though the “facts” of the story match Batman’s interpretation of events, the thematic resonances of Morrison’s Batman run matches Hurt’s.  By the end of Batman, Inc., Batman is indeed shown as trapped in a never-ending curse, a hole in things that he can never fill.  Also, fun to spot are the number of times where Hurt casts a satanic-looking shadow on the wall (and, of course, knowing that Morrison started his whole run inspired by the Batman graphic novel “Son of the Demon” which in Hurt’s version of the story he literally becomes).

(b) Also fun is how Snyder is yoinking the whole “is Batman’s enemy an immortal evil? Or isn’t he?” approach for his current take on The Joker over in “Endgame.” Let’s face it, “yoink” is a fun word to say and apparently it is a very fun thing to do, especially if you do so consistently enough to become DC’s most successful and well-paid writer.

(c) These issues are also really sloppy?  Frazier Irving’s art is a beautiful but between the stuff he doesn’t feel like showing and the stuff Morrison doesn’t feel like underlining, there are sequences that are hilarious in their bad storytelling:  there’s a sequence where Commissioner Gordon sneezes that neither felt like dramatizing so it seems like Batman is saying “gesundheit” to the Commissioner before the sneeze happens?  Or maybe I missed the point about how Batman’s so prepared and ahead of the game, he knows when someone’s about to sneeze before they do?

(d) Issue #16, “Black Mass,” has no credits in it that I can see at all—if I remember correctly, they end up on the letters page which the Comixology version does not have.  This particularly sucks in issue #16 as, unless my eye deceives me, Chris Burnham shows up for a crucial page or two and doesn’t get any credit.  (The Comixology book information in fact lists Burnham but doesn’t mention Cameron Stewart who at least gets cover credit.)  I know the last thing anyone wants to do with their digital comics is spend additional money on them, but come on, DC.  Having issues where the only accurate way to get the creator credits is to combine the incomplete credits on the cover with the incomplete credits on the store page?  Historically speaking, that’s pretty punk-ass.

Black Cat 1

BLACK CAT COMICS CLASSICS #1:  This turned up on Comixology when I did a search for Bob Haney, and what’s amazing is that these comics from the early ’40s show that apparently Bob Haney was writing like Bob Haney long before Stan Lee became the guy to imitate.  I mean, “The nimble-footed noted nemesis Black Cat…” Wow.

Anyway, the price on this was decent in that you get 47 pages of comics (well, and an impressively poorly written Black Cat all-text story) for $1.99 and the quality of the pages are really quite good for public domain comics (says the guy currently trying to learn about public domain comics).  On the other hand, you’re giving money to Bluewater Productions, and the amount of gleeful racism—while entirely consistent with the times—is hair-raising.

But if I end up becoming obsessed with tracking down Bob Haney comics in the public domain, you’ll know where I got the itch.

Cuz Every Girl Crazy ‘Bout A Sharp-Dressed Man…

JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE VOL. 1, or VOL. 12, OR PART THREE, OR WHATEVER THEY’RE SAYING NOW:  There are a few series I read in official translation, then sold off or lost, and am now thinking about re-purchasing in digital, and this series is near the top of that list:  I had all fifteen volumes (I think?) although I quit reading when the publication schedule went from “occasional” to “mysterious.”

If you’re a fan of really weird horror-infused superhero comics, but with a strange obsession with 80’s music running through it?  Like, if Son of Satan had been a long-running series at Marvel and then got taken over by a dude obsessed with A-Ha lyrics?  Then I really recommend the first two volumes of this series which are currently only $1.99 at Comixology for 220 pages (oop, scratch that, they’re back to $4.99) and are just packed with hilarious strangeness. Like, there’s a chapter where our heroes (above) are stuck on a passenger jet and have to fight a fast-moving psychic insect committed to ripping out the tongues of innocent bystanders?  As the series goes on, creator Hiohiko Araki manages to up the ante even more, so that the book becomes a demented travelogue of epic psychic battles deriving their energy from a unique meshing of deeply sublimated xenophobia and fetishization of the Other via cultural exoticization?  (Did I just make up two words in that sentence, or three?  Even my spellcheck isn’t sure.)

Unfortunately, from what I’ve sampled, neither the Comixology app or the Kindle iPad reader have had the digital files re-adjusted for page creep and the spine-related gutter (or digital’s lack of page creep and spine-related gutters ?) so that the double-page spreads—of which manga has a ton—have a schism between the two pages?   I guess I should show you an example, right?  See, look at this:

JoJo Again

Not great, right?

That’s clearly supposed to a long slow pan across an enclosed space ending on JoJo’s disaffected face(s), but now it’s a jarring disconnect, right? It’s actually worse for me on Drifting Classroom (which I’m reading via the Kindle) where the images are joined together but not lined up properly. I guess in a way, it’s cool that digital comics continues the grand tradition of comics being a low-cost investment designed to bilk the money out of ignorant suckers but…I guess my wish for the New Year is that they get treated a little bit better than this.

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9 comments on “Individually Wrapped: Jeff’s Post-Xmas Digital Comics Report

  1. Eric R Dec 26, 2014

    “30 day free trail of Crunchyroll”

    Does that include their manga? If so, you should definitely give it a try as there is some good stuff on there. Same for the anime but I can definitely understand not wanting to wade into all of that. If you do give it a try check out Gatchaman Crowds which is a superhero anime with a heavy social media theme to it. The first two story arcs for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure are on there as well. Viz is also going to release in them hardcover next year but I don’t know if they are going to do the third arc and beyond.

    • Jeff Lester Dec 28, 2014

      Eric: thanks for reminding me about the manga—in the past, that’s been the only reason I’ve considered joining and why I would consider it now.

      If I do and it does, I’ll let you know. In fact, it’s not a unique code from what I can see just a discount log-in page so if you want to check for yourself, go to: crunchyroll.com/lootcrate . It may be a few days before I get around to trying it….

  2. Brendan Dec 26, 2014

    All-New Ghost Rider is awesome! Although beyond the premise, and I like cars better than choppers in the first place, the heavy lifting is all Tradd Moore. He killed this book, unfortunately only for 5 issues I think, then I tuned out. Doesn’t hold up without him. GR+TM seriously a perfect match though.

    • Jeff Lester Dec 28, 2014

      Yeah, I just finished issue #5 (gifted to me a while ago by an awesome Whatnaut) and it’s impossible to imagine the book without him. Although, frankly, as much as I love the new team, the five issues seemed a little off—so much time was spent divided among three separate bad guys that Robbie just didn’t end up with enough to do.

      Still, though, I wish the book had gotten a bit more time to grow. It’s a very fun read.

  3. Tom G Dec 27, 2014

    Jeff,

    I’ve been having the same problem with new issues on Marvel Unlimited (classic back issues load fine), but I’ve found a workaround. I just click the read offline button and download it and it works fine.

    • Jeff Lester Dec 28, 2014

      Ah, this is a great tip, Tom. Just used it to read issue #4. Thank you!

  4. Mike Loughlin Dec 28, 2014

    All-New GR has great art but I found the story undistinguished. If I don’t care about what happens within 4 issues then You haven’t crafted a compelling enough plot or lead character. Compare this with the John Rogers & Co. Blue Beetle series from a few years back; the first few issues were rocky but I really liked Jaime and his family. Or with the new Ms. Marvel, which made me want to read about Kamala from issue 1.

    My favorite 6-months-late-but-new-to-me Marvel Unlimited reads have been She-Hulk, Loki, Daredevil, and Ms. Marvel (of course) as well as Secret Avengers. What a fun comic! M.O.D.O.K. working for S.H.I.E.L.D. is a fantastic idea. Alex Kot is my favorite new (to me) writer.

    As much as I like the good stuff, I love that I can read comics I would never spend money on. I can hate-read Avengers, marvel at the ineptitude of Uncanny Avengers, and keep up with events I don’t care about all for pennies on the dollar. It’s guilt-free brain cell wasting!

  5. When I see manga stories that do the kind of stylish, super-powered action similar to American superhero comics, I can’t help but find them more enjoyable in their general aesthetic (obviously taking into account differences between the quality of individual works). Perhaps it’s because manga artists are much more willing to embrace the inherent absurdity for what it is; not trying to justify, glamorize, satirize, fetishize, sanitize, darken, deconstruct, mock, avoid, homage, or any other verb that shows the self-conscious way Western comics creators view superheroes. There is nothing ironic about the above images and characters, even though they look like the cast of Street Fighter by way of the Village People. They just are big, muscly, shiny fighting men with hair that would’ve been too eighties for people who actually were in the eighties.

    I haven’t actually read JoJo so I don’t know how far it goes, but I’m thinking of things like the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann anime, the absurd Looney Tunes characters and actions of One Piece, the iconic hairstyles and grunting of Dragon Ball, or the fabulous hamminess of Code Geass. They don’t have to negotiate their fantastical elements, or even point at them like Jason Aaron’s Marvel books and try so hard to say “OMG isn’t this wacky?”.

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