Legendary Star-Lord #1 — Writer: Sam Humphries; Pencils: Paco Medina; Inks: Juan Vlasco
Marvel’s milking their Guardians of the Galaxy franchise hard, with two new ongoing series starring individual members out this week, but they’re doing a good job of it — both books are worth a look. Rocket Raccoon is the best of the two, because Young’s art is such a wonder: fans know him from his “little kid” alternate covers to a bunch of Marvel titles over the last few years, and from his work on the various Oz books, and he has a very fluid, cartoony style that’s good at pulling readers into his world (look at that cover to issue #1, for example). This book shows that he’s also a solid writer, as Rocket rescues a princess, gets into trouble, swashbuckles his way out of it, gets into even more trouble, and then leaves the reader to come back next month and see what happens after that. Yes, please: this is a solidly-entertaining, visually-cool comic, and my pick for book of the week. Star-Lord isn’t quite at that level (the art’s decent, but nowhere near as stylish as Young’s), but it’s similarly well-made: we get some introduction to Peter Quill and his background, some similar swashbuckling (interestingly, while their art styles are very different, and the characters aren’t even the same species, they aren’t that different in genre: both are Han Solo space-rogue-with-a-heart-of-gold types), and end on a cliffhanger to bring the reader back for another episode. Fair enough, and both of these comics are well-positioned for interested fans of the movie (assuming it’s good enough that there are any) to pick them up and like them.
Black Kiss: XXXmas in July Special #1 (of 1) — Writer/Artist: Howard Chaykin
Satellite Sam #9 — Writer: Matt Fraction; Art: Howard Chaykin
Howard Chaykin isn’t exactly like Jack Kirby when it comes to drawing speed — in fact, he’s known for being painstaking, not super-quick — so this has to be the first time in comics history he’s has three books out in the same week. No complaints here — I’ve loved his style since his early DC work, and think the first twelve issues of American Flag are one of the best series of the ’80s. The three books here show his obsessions and his range: first, The Shadow harkens back to his love of the pulps, and of the late-’40s, post-WWII era, and follows that well-known hero as he decides to retire — although not, of course, without considerable complications. Black Kiss is a coda to a stand-alone adult series Chaykin’s done twice: once in the late ’80s, and then a sequel that finished up a few months ago, about a Broadway/movie star who’s a vampire and her transexual lover. It’s definitely pornographic (that “XXX” in the title isn’t kidding), and indulges his penchant for drawing beautiful women, lingerie, sex and violence; the dark, episodic plot follows the main character’s decades-long quest for bloody revenge on five men who raped her as a child. It ranges from 1929 to 1962, giving Chaykin ample space to display his considerable knowledge of fashions, autos and other background material from mid-20th century America (with a fascinating two-page editorial in the back explaining the process he uses to produce the finished art). Finally, Satellite Sam is the one book not written by Chaykin — but Matt Fraction knows his obsessions, too, and so sets this book in the early days of the TV industry, with large cast who have plenty of opportunities for sex (although it’s much more discretely rendered than that of Black Kiss). That large cast, and long-ago setting, made this book a slow starter, but by now Fraction’s got us interested enough in everyone, and in the book’s central murder mystery, so that we can just lean back and enjoy the (considerably well-drawn) show.
Well, this is interesting — Ponchione offers a story about a younger artist getting tutored on comics history — specifically about the three artists in the book’s title — and wraps it around three separate chapters, each in the style of one of those artists. He’s both chameleonlike and knowledgeable, offering dead-on imitations of each creator’s style, while explaining their importance and paying skillful tribute to each. Wood, especially, gets little notice today, except among EC fans, but he was a pioneer too, and deserves the attention. One could quibble about whether these three are actually at the top of the pantheon — what about Eisner? What about Kurtzman? — but this is an educational and visually wonderful book, and a great buy for anyone who wants to be a student of comics history.
This is a reprint of the digital comic that bridged the gap between the end of the last DD series, and the beginning of the current one; it’s by Waid, the writer of both volumes, so it’s definitely in continuity, and worth adding to your collection (you obsessive librarians — like me — can even file it right between the two series). Matt, driving to his new home in San Francisco with Kirsten, his lady DA friend (well, she’s driving, of course…) gets sidetracked into a mystery, and ends up fighting the Mad Thinker (who, amusingly, insists that he should just be “The Thinker”). Krause’s art is, well, OK (even a little better than that, actually; it’s not his fault that he isn’t Chris Samnee), and the story is typical Waid: smart, character-centric, continuity-friendly, and very structurally sound, an example of a good stand-alone narrative.
Ellis is excellent at stand-alone stories, too — a vanishing art in today’s write-six-issues-for-a-trade mentality — although this one’s fairly slight; it reads like the script for a video game, as Moon Knight has to rescue a kidnapped little girl by fighting his way through six stories of an otherwise-abandoned tenement. This gives Shalvey a lot of chances to draw cool fighting stuff, though, and there are a number of neat little Ellisonian touches, so it all works out fine, and offers more than enough entertainment to justify its $3.99 price.
The conceit here bounces off of most of the main Marvel characters having celebrated their 50th anniversaries over the last few years, and imagines what the comics published in their 100th anniversary issues, in the 2060s, might look like. This one looks pretty good, actually; Estep’s art is buoyed by an appealingly light, almost weightless line (and the coloring — since there’s no separate colorist listed, I’m assuming that’s her too), while Van Meter’s story involves the kids and grandkids of the current FF, plus more of the original than you might think. These kinds of “maybe future” stories are a hard sell — because they “don’t count,” they don’t seem “real” — but let’s hope the others in this series are as painlessly good fun as this first one.
I began to respect this series more after the plot twist between issues three and four, but this chapter takes a little of that back: it’s mostly an info-dump about Nick Fury moonlighting as the Earth’s Protector Against Aliens for the last 50 years, the kind of necessary information that should work OK as one long scene in the graphic novel, but lacks much power as a stand-alone comic (and don’t get me started on how little sense it makes…). If you’ve been buying this series so far, you need it, but if you haven’t sampled this book yet, don’t start here.
What would happen if the Peanuts kids were actually DC’s Teen Titans (the ’60s-’00 versions, not the New 52 ones)? This comic, which answers that burning question, is back for a limited engagement, and anyone who liked the first volume’s simple, cheerful, kid-friendly Crayola-drawn tales (or was a fan of cartoons like Teen Titans Go!) should be glad to see it back.
If you haven’t picked up this Southern-Gothic Walking Tall riff — where the now-aging son of a Buford Pusser-like sheriff returns to town years after his dad’s death, gets entangled in the affairs of the town’s de-facto leader, an evil high-school football coach, and, eventually, starts swinging around a big stick — go grab the first two issues, plus this one, and sink right in; you don’t want lots of other people to tell you how hard-boiled good it is, and then have to wait for the trade collection to see why.