Matt Hetrick was kind enough to fill in for Shawn today. He’s written plenty of columns on the website before. Poke around. And of course you can also hear his opinions on Cosmic Comix Conversations every month. New podcast this Sunday! – Rusty
Maybe it’s just late July ennui, but a lot of this week’s comics left me wanting. Too many seemed interested in a return to the status quo after some promising new directions. After blowing up the Capitol and claiming northern Europe, the City didn’t even show up in The Ultimates since they were too busy getting the band back together. Hal Jordan got his ring back and he’s still upset about those meanie Guardians while we have Black Hand and black lanterns again. Black Widow got brainwashed, again. Ho-hum. Still, it wasn’t all sour grapes and I did find three comics bravely doing what they do in interesting ways.
The Goon #40
Dark Horse Comics
Written and Illustrated by Eric Powell
In every issue I’m never quite sure what I’m going to get with The Goon. Some are touching tributes to the creator’s relatives and some are heavy-handed bashings of the comic industry, but they’re never boring. This month was a Prohibition-era series of stories about fast cars with a Dukes of Hazzard tribute thrown in.
Eric Powell somehow walks the line between making fun of something while finding something redeeming within it. The Hank Williams-style narrator of the story is clearly a lampoon of the nostalgia for the “good ole days” when men were men and America was awesome. What saves this from being totally mean-spirited is that it’s funny and Powell clearly sees some truth in the decline of American craftsmanship. What makes Goon a hero is that he’s not afraid to use his hands, build a car or beat up some bad guys.
The issue is split into three parts that all take place in the days of prohibition. The art and story of part one is a great combination of action shots and detailed little moments like a drowned policeman, but it’s ok because “that dude was unkind to his momma.” The Dukes of Hazzard conclusion is catnip to anyone who loved that show as a kid.
Part two is the heart of the issue as Goon and Frankie confront a family of competing bootleggers powered by black magic. Of course they prove no match for the Goon. I won’t spoil the details, but I loved the art and framing of the drag race. The issue ends with a psychedelic surrealist Hooch Monkey caper that shows the breadth of Eric Powell’s influences and talents.
Final Word: Another great caper for The Goon and Franky with fun and attention to detail.
The Manhattan Projects #5
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Illustrated by Nick Pittara
There have been a spate of great creator-owned comics coming out this year, but it seems like Saga has sucked the oxygen out of the room for a lot of them. Don’t get me wrong, I too really like Saga, but I wanted to give some attention to another new book doing some really interesting things.
The first four issues of The Manhattan Projects have each focused on one scientist: Oppenheimer, Richard Feynman, Werner von Braun, and Albert Einstein. While I’ve enjoyed them all, it has seemed a bit disjointed and a little confusing. In this issue they’re all brought together for a nice stand-alone story that still furthers the overall plot.
Aliens have arrived on Earth and we get a nice juxtaposition of what they’re saying in English with what they’re saying to each other. Turns out they’re not as nice as they claim. When Oppenheimer figures out what they’re up to, all hell breaks loose and we’re now at war with an alien race on the other side of the galaxy.
I really loved the art from Nick Pittara. It has echoes of the best work of Geof Darrow with lots of detail, but he doesn’t get bogged down in it. It’s detailed but still stylized and looks especially great in the character designs for all of the alien races and action scenes.
In the midst of the action, we also learn more about the characters. Oppenheimer has an interesting way of gathering intelligence and Richard Feynman has daddy issues. I also love that Einstein is the resident badass. When they figure out a way to get to the aliens before they can get to us, it has nice echoes of the actual Manhattan Project and some of the problems with applied science.
Final Word: It starts to come together and it’s not too late to board the crazy train.
American Vampire #29
Written by Scott Snyder
Illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque
When I opened this issue I just smiled since the look of that first page put me back into the world of American Vampire. The art itself makes this book great as month after month, Rafael Albuquerque manages to keep the look consistent while growing as an artist. He has always been able to illustrate the vampire-fight scenes well, but I really love his use of detail and shading to make a world imbued with shadow, but not overwhelmed by it.
Of course, if it was just pretty pictures, it won’t be one of the best ongoing series, which it is. In terms of overall plot, there’s not much here. Pearl and Skinner are still looking for vampires. They follow a lead, but the guy gets killed and they go back to base, end of story.
But within that, we learn a great deal about the characters. The opening scene with Pearl arriving in Los Angeles both reminds us of where we started and how much has changed. Pearl is no longer the naive young lady and when they find a vampire, it’s Skinner Sweet who is the voice of reason. I love that Pearl is aware of these changes and not too happy about them either. She makes a point of correcting the others with her married last name and it only emphasizes the love for her husband. Then we learn that when she gets hungry, her tastes she runs to is peculiarly close to her husband’s blood type. We also gets hints of what happened to Skinner Sweet, why he’s on the straight and narrow, and just what might bring back the old Skinner.
Final Verdict: Another outstanding issue that builds on the overall plot with some great character moments. Best Book of the week.