Sunday, April 7, 2013

2013 In Comics: The First Quarter

American Vampire - Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque, Stephen King - In an effort to re-establish the mythic vampire as a nasty, foul animal and scour away any residual sparkle left on the fangs after the tyranny of teen chastity castrated the creature for a significant popular culture moment, and further, to re-invigorate the American myth with new er, blood, American Vampire sets its sites high with Skinner Sweet the titular sucker. Sweet's the all-American vampire and that's a vastly different beast from, say, a European hemoglobin goblin. Intriguing, but far from self-contained, opening chapter. I'll be interested to see where the series goes.

Axe Cop: Volume Three - Malachai Nicolle, Ethan Nicolle - I just saw that there's an Axe Cop television entity about to debut with Nick Offerman lending his voice talents to the mustachioed menace, and while I welcome the attempt to make with the motion pictures and all, I can't imagine that the roiling, schizo-frenetic sensibility of the web-comic-cum-paper-funnies-book can satisfactorily be harnessed and expressed in a medium as labor-intensive as scripted, televised, animation. Speaking of non-sequiturs, Bad Guy Earth was an amazingly cohesive (and full-color) bit of long-form Axe Coppery, but proved perhaps too-exhaustive an undertaking to follow up in kind. Volume Three is back to the mostly black and white and more vignette-heavy fare that is available at For those un-initiated out there, the creators, the brothers Nicolle consist of writer Malachai (now 7, 5 years old when they began) and illustrator/prompter Ethan (30) who fleshes out his younger sibling's vision. It's full of fantastic ultra-violence, fart-humor and grade-school misogyny (Axe Cop checked The Dumb List to see if The Girls were on it. The Dumb List is a list of Good Guys and Bad Guys who cannot be on Axe Cop's team. "Look: All Girls are on The Dumb List." This made The Girls super mad, and they wanted to fight Axe Cop. So Axe Cop smacked them all in the head with the side of his axe to knock them out. He didn't chop their heads off because they were not bad guys - They were just dumb and bad at fighting.) It's pretty fantastic.

Get Jiro! - Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, Langdan Foss - Bourdain sees a future where chefs rule - hold all power and influence (as it should be, right?) - and rise to the level of their own skill, ideology and corruptibility. They are the new gangsters, rock stars and cult-leaders and in Los Angeles, two major kitchen war-lords vie for the soul of the city and the allegiance of an independent warrior - a sushi samurai with no fealty, but to fish. Jiro is a purist who might behead a customer for vulgarity in his humble strip-mall temple, and who will play both poles against the middle in this rather bizarre and uneven re-imagining of Yojimbo. Clever at times and satisfying, for sure, to witness the slaying and mutilation of many a wrong-headed foodie and Phillistine, but you're still better off with Kurosawa's original (or Sergio Leone's A Fistful  of Dollars... or even Walter Hill's Last Man Standing) for a kick-ass, bad-ass story.

The Massive - Brian Wood, Kristian Donaldson, Dave Stewart - Happily-Eco-After is probably not in the cards for the earth of The Massive - already more than halfway to Waterworld (but without behind-the-ear-vaginas), but all the better for a stem-the-tide adventure for deciding the way the end of the world may play out. Mystery and intrigue and pirates and a fantastically-realized half-submerged Hong Kong make more installments of The Massive a big anticipation for me.

Punk Rock Jesus - Sean Murphy - More social satire than religious  send-up, Punk Rock Jesus sets ridiculous on eleven and then does its damnedest to follow through. Entertainment as religion - as life - political violence, science abuse, substance abuse, child abuse, redemption and damnation, not to mention music, are all topics disgust in this wild messianic tale.

Rat Catcher - Andy Diggle, Victor Ibanez - An underworld legend - an unstoppable mob assassin - and a feeb on collision course is a set-up I could easily get behind, and the rocketing-high body-count kept me turning pages right up to the end. Pulp that does it right - delivers the goods without aiming too high or making you hate yourself for digging it.

Red Handed - Matt Kindt - Not since Kindt's one of a kind Super Spy have I found anything so delightfully... Kindty... Kindt-esque? Kindtred? Where-in the deceptively simple style of the pages belie the density and complexity of the images - the pictures are worth at least a few thousand words apiece, and the surface whimsy of first impression gradually gives way to a deeper, resonant melancholy that would overwhelm any heavier-handed pen. But then there's that light touch again. The strangeness of the crimes chronicled in the case files of the brilliant detective Gould is compelling for a while, but it's the emotional connectedness and firm faith in the wholeness of the project that make each successive puzzle piece land in fitting arrangement with surety and satisfaction - each chapter illuminating and bolstering the previous - so that you want to turn from the last page back to the first and re-experience the work of an artist experimenting and exploiting with gusto the singular qualities of his chosen medium.

Ride: Southern Gothic - Paul Azaceta, Kody Chamberlain, Tomm Coker, Toby Cypress, Nathan Edmondson, David Lapham, Jody LeHuep, Rick Leonardi, Ron Marz Tom Raney, Andrew Robinson, Dexter Vines, Doug Wagner - An auto-centric crime anthology anchored by The South? Sounds like a sure-fire winner to me. As with any anthology, the tone and voice change with each new interpretation and exploration of the bounds, but the quality is consistent. Short bursts of sex, violence and general ruination that are just right to ingest with your lunch and carry you through the rest of the day in your life that you previously thought was so miserable.

The Sixth Gun: A Town Called Penance - Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, Tyler Crook, Bill Crabtree - The struggle for the six mystical weapons wielded, for now, by Becky Montcrief and Drake Sinclair just keeps getting bigger. The supernatural supra-western world gets even weirder. The occult, militant masonic societies, and the deformed and deranged of frontier grotesquery are all trot out for your entertainment. And what a heady mix. This trade also includes the 'entirely silent' issue - an action extravaganza that doesn't hold back. Looking the hell forward to seeing the NBC dramatized version in the Fall.

Stumptown: The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case - Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, Rico Renzi - Finally! Stumptown returns! Fuckin' stoked! The continuing adventures of Dex Parios, Portland's not toughest, not smartest, not most cunning, but certainly resolved, resilient and ballsy private detective. You like your PIs to be sexually-frustrated hustlers scraped off society's shoes with the rest of the city-grit? Stumptown's for you. Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case feels a bit slighter than The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo But Left Her Mini, but it rocks along in stride and features a truly show-stopping car chase sequence - really, how do you pull off a car-chase that exciting in a comic book? Let's just hope there's more coming soon.

Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods - Jeff Lemire - Started this series just as the final issue was hitting stands. Glad to know it continued and very interested to see where it concludes because damn, if this ain't some weird-ass shit in the first trade. Part The Road, part The Road Warrior, this post-apocalyptic, mutant, monster epic walks a winding trail through a waste-land of deep, dark Americana. Harsh, inventive and moving. Where do we go now?

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