October 26, 2012

The Pull List: 24 October 2012

I am addicted to comic books.

I don't just mean I'm addicted to reading the graphic story medium. I mean that my honest-to-god preferred format for comics is the original magazine format issues. I know the industry is slowly gearing itself towards graphic novels, but when it comes to ongoing action-adventure stories I like the 20-24 page instalments. I love cliffhangers. I love the wait to find out how a story is going to progress. Now if I particularly like a comic I will usually buy the trade paperback or hardcover collection at some stage, but for the first read it's the individual issues for me.

I think that's why I've found it relatively easy to buy some comics in digital editions. While you lose the tactile enjoyment of the printed page, you do get the serialised feel and the cliffhangers intact. I can see this becoming the future of the medium, at least in terms of American comics: digital serials that are subsequently published in collected print editions. On the one hand it would be sad to lose a near-century-old tradition of the printed comic book, but on the other I'd finally have some extra room in my house.

Reviewed this week: All-Star Western, Batman Incorporated, Debris, The Flash, Multiple Warheads, National Comics: Madame X, Prophet, Revival, Superman and Talon.

All-Star Western #13
DC Comics. Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti. Art by Moritat.
While the Batman titles focus on the return of the Joker, Jonah Hex is fighting killer clowns in 19th century Gotham City. It's a nice thematic tie-in to its 21st century cousins. Speaking of thematic tie-ins, I do love how Gray and Palmiotti have effectively constructed an entire roster of wild west superheroes and vigilantes in this comic. If only it got more readers - we could have a whole mini-line of western comic books set in the DCU. Weird title though: they're now titling it as All-Star Western featuring JONAH HEX, which makes me wonder why they don't just cut to the chase and rename it Jonah Hex. (4/5)

Batman Incorporated #4
DC Comics. Written by Grant Morrison. Art by Chris Burnham.
First up, this issue has the best take-down of Merlyn the Archer ever. Secondly, like Gray and Palmiotti's All-Star Western, Batman Incorporated has such a rich and enjoyable roster of supporting characters that DC could easily spin a whole line out of them. To be fair, they already have to a certain extent: we've had a Knight and Squire miniseries and the Batwing ongoing. I'm still holding out for the Melbourne-set Dark Ranger comic though. This issue feels like Morrison is beginning to tie all of the threads together, which makes me wonder how much longer this title has to go. (5/5)

Debris #4
Image Comics. Written by Kurtis J. Weibe. Art by Riley Rossmo.
Debris ends on an extremely satisfying note that manages to wrap up the story and provides moments of joy and sadness at the same time. Rossmo's art continues to be vivid and eye-catching - with only two months to go I don't think there's going to be an American comic book I've liked the look of more. This hasn't been an exceptionally original miniseries, but it has been a very enjoyable one. It deserves to do great business once collected together in a trade paperback or hardcover. (4/5)

The Flash #13
DC Comics. Written by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato. Art by Francis Manapul.
I think the best achievement of The Flash in the New 52 is that this issue can see the Flash's fight against the Rogues of the Gemstone Cities interrupted by a gorilla invasion, and not for one page does it feel forced or out of place. Gorilla Grodd always seemed a fairly wacky villain to me, but he's being established as something a lot more formidable and terrifying here. While this issue starts in the middle of a fight, and ends in the middle of the same fight, it's still hands-down the best superhero comic I've read this week. (5/5)

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1
Image Comics. Story and art by Brandon Graham.
My first experience of Brandon Graham was his stunning work on the relaunch of Prophet (an issue of which is reviewed below). This is my second: Multiple Warheads, a post-apocalyptic story of assassins, road trips, singing cigarettes and radiation-sensing squids. While Prophet is heavily influenced by the science fiction and fantasy works of Jean "Moebius" Giraud, Multiple Warheads seems inspired to a large degree by Moebius' comedic, more surreal works. It's got a cartoony style and tone reminiscent of that work, along with Tank Girl, Aeon Flux and a bunch of other surreal sci-fi stuff. It's a breezy, laconic work that I find very hard to resist. Plus it's part one of a four-part miniseries, so you know it isn't going to break the bank picking this series up. (5/5)

National Comics: Madame X #1
DC Comics. Written by Rob Williams. Art by Trevor Hairsine.
While I'm really enjoying the National Comics series of character-introducing one-shots, I have to admit they've all felt less like comic books and more like illustrated TV pilots. Eternity in particular could be a ratings winner for the first network to give it the green light. Madame X is another TV series-in-waiting, and follows the exploits of a fortune teller working for a New Orleans law firm. It's enjoyable, but it left me a little confused about who the title character was. I figured it was a solo outing for Madame Xanadu, currently in Demon Knights and Justice League Dark, but this is a different fortune-telling mystic who just happens to have a similar name. She's also unrelated to obscure Batman villain Madame X. So really DC, you couldn't spend 10 minutes finding a different name for this thing? (3/5)

Prophet #30
Image Comics. Written by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy and Giannis Milonogiannis. Art by Giannis Milonogiannis.
While Prophet has continued to be one of my favourite comics, it's felt a little bit lacklustre in recent issues - I haven't been rushing to read each instalment as soon as its published, and it felt like each individual issue was blending into the others. Thankfully this new issue bounces back to the strange, vivid kind of storytelling that hooked me back when it was relaunched in the first place. Just read Image's synopsis: "Old man Prophet's team goes looking for supplies on a city built into the torso of a giant at war with its other body parts." Yes it's not much more than a Moebius pastiche, but it's an exceptional pastiche - and with Jean Giraud dead we need all the Moebius-style comics we can get. (5/5)

Revival #4
Image Comics. Written by Tim Seeley. Art by Mike Norton.
Tim Seeley's "rural noir" continues, and I have to be honest the impression it's forming on me is that it's essentially "Twin Peaks if produced as a DC Vertigo comic". It's quirky, well-observed, dark and horrific. We're four issues in and the quality doesn't seem to be wavering. If you're a fan of the more literate, dark-themed comic books that Vertigo made famous you should absolutely check this book out. It's got a large, appealing cast and a growing number of plot threads weaving around a killer central concept: what if the dead simply got out of their graves one day and came home? (5/5)

Superman #13
DC Comics. Written by Scott Lobdell. Art by Kenneth Rocafort.
Clark Kent quits the Daily Planet because god damn it news isn't news any more. It's an event so significant I even heard it reported on NPR Radio yesterday. Problem is that this is something like the fourth time the character's quit and his reasons are liberally and visibly stolen from Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom, who liberally and visibly stole from Paddy Chayevsky's Network. Then Superman has to fight a giant lizard until Supergirl shows up to pout at him. I gave this issue a whirl because it promised a fresh creative direction. Oops. Kenneth Rocafort's Supergirl looks like she's naked with her costume painted on. It looks skeezy and leery, and pretty much guarantees I won't be back next month. Give me Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade any day. (1/5)

Talon #1
DC Comics. Written by Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV. Art by Guillem March.
Scott Snyder's "The Court of Owls" storyline in Batman was a masterful work, pitting Batman against a mysterious, shadowy cabal that had watched over Gotham for centuries without anybody's knowledge. Part of its success came from the monolithic, anonymous nature of the Court itself. Talon, which focuses on an ex-assassin on the run from the Court, goes a long way to shatter and deconstruct that. Suddenly they seem like just another evil organisation, and it makes Batman seem a little bit incompetent not to notice them running Gotham City for all those years. The issue itself is enjoyable without being sensational, but conceptually I think it's just a bad idea - and I doubt it's going to last for more than one or two years. (Plus boy does that costume look ridiculous.) (2/5)

Winner of the Week: In a three-way race between Prophet, Revival and Multiple Warheads, I'm going to give the new guy the crown: Multiple Warheads is a quirky, inspired slice of surreal sci-fi/fantasy.
Loser of the Week: Superman #13. Seriously, the guy just made out with Wonder Woman. Why is he pining so badly after Lois Lane?

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