Some comics that have gone from my “Read” pile to my “Read” pile in the last couple of weeks (don’t you just love the English language!):
1. Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing (Marvel / Epic, 1990. Writer: Pat Mills, Art: Kevin O’Neill)
This is a collection of the very first Marshal Law miniseries from Marvel / Epic in 1987, depicting a dark, violent, extreme future where mass numbers of humans genetically modified for war return from the battlefield to become a disenfranchised, decadent, violent, criminal class which the hero Marshall Law — also a veteran — hunts down. I’m not sure that I’ve read anything written by Pat Mills before. Artist Kevin O’Neill I know for his collaborations with Alan Moore on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and that notorious Green Lantern story.
As far as superhero deconstructionism goes, this thing should be totally dated, but somehow it’s not. I mean, a lot of the same ground is covered by Watchmen, Miracleman, Astro City, Rick Veitch’s The One, The Boys, Scott McCloud’s Destroy!, Hitman, and dozens of others that I’m sure I’m forgetting. But the art is great, and frankly despite the fact this this is supposed to be an over-the-top parody / satire of superhero comics, it reads like most DC titles do today. It struck me as still kind of relevant in that respect, but at the same time I really don’t know that superheroes are an important enough subject to be worth deconstructing in the first place in every one of the above cases. (Sometimes I feel that Watchmen works despite all of the superhero trappings around it.) Also, the action is at times somewhat hard to follow, but I don’t know that it’s O’Neill’s fault. I had trouble following American Flagg at times too — was it a problem of some indy comics in the 80s trying to cram too much in at times…?
2. Groo the Adventurer (Marvel / Epic, 1990. Story & Art: Sergio Aragones)
This is a collection of the first four issues of the Marvel / Epic series of Groo by Serio Aragone and Mark Evanier. I don’t have much to say about this except that — like Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo — Groo is just completely reliable. It’s always hilarious and fun and remarkably well-drawn (especially the hyper-detailed opening splash pages), and I have yet to read an issue or TPB that was anything less.
3. Marvel Fumetti Book (1984, by: various) / Generic Comic (Marvel Comics, 1984, by: unknown
These comics both came out the same year: 1984. In both cases, I don’t know what the fuck Marvel was thinking. I guess they figured they were such an awesome company that they could put out books parodying themselves, and that they would automatically be funny with minimal effort thanks to their aforementioned awesomeness. Fumetti Book is printed so shittily that you can barely tell what’s going on in most panels — it’s just a muddy pulp of gray most of the time. It’s sadly unfunny, though some of the images might have been neat if they were more legible. Anyway, basically the book takes you on a tour of the Marvel offices and depicts the hijinx that ensue as they try to put out books.
Generic Comic is just weird. There are no credits listed whatsoever — I don’t know if that’s supposed to be part of the gag. The art is amateurish — is that part of the gag too? There are occassional typos — is that part of the gag as well? I have to ask these things because this comic makes no attempt to make any jokes or parody Marvel’s superhero comics. It simply reads like every Marvel comic published in 1984. Except for the cover, it is completely straight-faced (except for one possible joke I think I came across) and boring as hell. Instead of parodying superhero comics, they just put out a superhero comic. Bizarre.
4. Unknown Soldier 1 (DC / Vertigo, 1997. Writer: Garth Ennis, Art: Killian Plunkett)
This comic was written by Garth Ennis. I loved Garth Ennis’s Punisher, most of Preacher, and some of his war stuff, but there is nothing really interesting going on in this comic. Some goody-two-shoes FBI agent starts creeping around on files on The Unknown Soldier — a mystery-man from WWII — and is then targetted for assassination. Neither the Soldier (seen in WWII flashbacks) nor the agent seemed particularly engaging and the cliff-hanger ending had me on the back of my seat thinking about getting a chocolate milk. I will not be looking for issues 2-4.
That said, I hear that the recently-cancelled Unknown Soldier series set in Uganga was excellent, and I will check it out.
5. Jughead 200 (Archie Comics, 2010. Writer: Tom Root, Art: Rex Lindsey)
This is one of the best comics I’ve read so far this year. It’s laugh-out-loud-hilarious at times, the story is compelling (Jughead trades his metabolism to a witch for a mega-burger, and the gang try to get it back for him), and the characters are very well delineated in a minimum amount of space. In fact, I was amazed at what a complete, solid little story the creators had managed to construct in twenty-odd pages, averaging about six panels per page, and with no narration or captions. The presence of a witch seems a bit weird for the Archie universe, but then the story smartly reminds us that there is already a witch of long-standing in Riverdale. Amazing.
The comic was written by Tom Root, who is a writer on Robot chicken, which is a show I have never seen, but after reading this, I will be sure to check it out.
6. Somerset Holmes 2 (Pacific Comics, 1983. Writer: Bruce Jones, Art: Brent Anderson)
I bought this comic because the cover was phenomenal and I loved some of Bruce Jones’s other writing (especially his collaborations with Richard Corben), and when I first read it, I felt like I should try to track down the other five issues. But when I flipped through it again, I couldn’t remember a single thing about it, couldn’t even remember ever having seen the scenes I’d read a week earlier even though I definitely had. Weird. Sorry, Bruce. (Nice art by Brent Anderson of Astro City-fame though.)
More reviews later in the week…
More reviews tomorrow…