Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Wednesday Review: Creator Pwnage All Over The Place

 A full half of the books I read this week were creator-owned. I usually read a bunch of creator-owned books, but the proportion is much higher this week. And the proportion of damned good books was higher this week as well (not a coincidence). J. Michael Straczynski gives us two offerings from Joe's Comics, Jeff Lemire raises the Vertigo creator-owned banner, Panel Syndicate for the win, and much more in this week's Wednesday Review.

Ten Grand 4, Sidekicks 1, new from Joe's Comics
J. Michael Straczynski is going to have one a hell of a year. Outside of work-for-hire gigs doing new Twilight Zone and Terminator books, his Joe's Comics imprint at Image is set to restart Book of Lost Souls & Dream Police, Protector's Inc is coming in the fall, he's got a trippy book with Bill Sienkiewicz in the wings, and at least two more projects that I'm forgetting. Dude's busy. And as an avowed fan of the Great Maker, I'm pretty bloody excited.

Ten Grand with Ben Templesmith has been going strong and issue four this week ratchets up the stakes significantly. Joe Fitzgerald knows something's amiss in Heaven and Hell, and he has to sacrifice quite a bit of himself to find answers. Templesmith's art continues to be perfectly suited for Straczynski's story, filled with demons and dark alleys and pain and suffering. There's a nifty sequence where Fitzgerald talks to a broken ghost and a brutal fight with demonic types and we're just getting warmed up. I'm really enjoying this book.

And today also sees the release of Sidekick #1 with Tom Mandrake. In the backmatter, Straczynski professes a hate for sidekicks, and it certainly shows here. Flyboy, the sidekick to the superpopular superhero the Red Cowl finds himself rudderless, jobless and broken after Red Cowl is brutally gunned down. No-one believes Flyboy can cut it on his own, and things turn shitty pretty quickly. Resorting to shaking down hookers for blowjobs and creating false crimes for credit in police reports, things continue to spiral out of control for him. And things get worse, and worse, and worse for Flyboy. This is really funny, really mean, really entertaining stuff. We usually don't get such visceral authorial cruelty with corporate sidekicks, and, gawd, do I ever agree with Straczynski that such treatment would be more than welcome. Straczynski isn't the first to tackle the incongruities of sidekicks - see Rick Veitch's Bratpack - but Sidekick is certainly a lot of fun. Even more so if you replace Flyboy with your sidekick of choice in your head. Seriously, fuck those guys.

Jeff Lemire's Trillium, new from Vertigo
Trillium is Jeff Lemire's fully creator-owned Vertigo follow-up to his recently completed Sweet Tooth. I've been really digging Lemire's stuff (though Sweet Tooth was quite uneven), and the cover to Trillium was honestly enough to sell me on it. Well, one of the covers - it's an honest to goodness flip book, the stories in each half of the book meeting in the middle. "Chapter 1: 3797 - The Scientist" was enough to sell me on the book for the long haul. What's left of humanity is on the run from a sentient virus, they've been chased to the edges of time and space and their only hope may be in a flower (the titular Trillium) controlled by an alien species. Nika, the scientist, goes out to the aliens to negotiate anything to help humanity, and things take some fantastic turns. My description does not do Lemire's story justice. The setting and details of the future Lemire paints are astonishing. And his art here is leaps and bounds beyond what I'm used to from him. What's not colored by longtime collaborator Jose Villarrubia is water-colored by Lemire in a style seemingly inspired by good friend Matt Kindt, and that is a good thing. The other half of the book, which takes place in 1921, follows a former soldier exploring the Amazon. There is more to his story, and it connects to Nika's, but I won't say how. Trillium is that rare species, an innovative new fully creator-owned book from Vertigo from one of comics' most distinct voices, and seems it will be worth seeking out and sticking with.

Image, Image, Image, Image.
I loved Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin's Satellite Sam 1 a ton. I love today's #2 with as much tonnage. Prophet 38 is just as impenetrable as the rest, but good grief is it a weird, wonderful little book to just kind of pour over. Brandon Graham, Simon Roy and Giannis Milonogiannis are sure doing something. Who the hell knows what it is, and that's alright. The Brubaker/Phillips Fatale 16 seems like the weakest issue of the series, but that's like saying I'm not really liking this duffel bag of diamonds that just fell in my lap. But, hey, lots of stuff happens and I still can't wait for more. A whole hell of a lot happens in Manhattan Projects 13, my favoritest Jonathan Hickman book. We begin to see the puzzle of the various Projects, and the games being played behind the scenes. Oh, and coked out Kennedy. This book, from Hickman's unhinged story and characters to Nick Pitarra's expressive art, is always so much fun to read.

And then this happened.
The most successful creator-owned superhero comic of the last decade or so, Kick-Ass 3 #2 came out today, too. I continue to enjoy the attempts by normal idiots doing superheroic stuff with only superhero comics as a touchstone, I just don't care about any of the characters. After five years, the book just doesn't have the same pop. But I've stuck with it this long, may as well see it through to the end. And it wouldn't surprise me if Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. surprised me in that end. I hope. And finally, over at Panel Syndicate, Marcos Martin puts those ridiculous DC "Director's Cuts" to shame by publishing the entire behind-the-scenes process of his and Brian K. Vaughan's Private Eye. Why pay $5.99 for warmed over crap when you can pay what you want for a whole art-book worth of material covering one of the year's best comics with all the money going to the creators. No question mark, that's rhetorical. Go to Panel Syndicate and melt your brain. 

Comics! They're a thing, y'all! Read my other Wednesday Reviews here. Read my essay on J. Michael Straczynski here. Read my essay on Panel Syndicate here. And check out Comic Pusher on Facebook here, because Facebooks are a thing in this future we got even if its not the future we want.

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