A heap of things:

*ATTENTION INTERNET: The good Mr. Mike Sterling has sent urgent word to me via carrier pigeon that his blog is down for a bit due to technical difficulties. The return of normal Progressive Ruin service is anticipated in short order. That is all! UPDATE 9/3: Mike is now back online. Click that link away!

*I woke up this morning, did some work, sauntered around. I checked my site. Where the hell did all these hits come from? Ah, John Jakala linked to me. And then I visited his site and found out that he’s hanging up his blogging hat.

You don’t need me to tell you that Grotesque Anatomy was a fine site; it’s pretty self-evident.
Good luck John, and thanks for the good reading!

*Meanwhile, Mr. Ed Cunard’s new blog has been getting some attention; you should check it out.

*Popmatters’ Jesse Hicks examines the similarities between Mickey Eye of “Seaguy” and the current Walt Disney Corporation. Given my own thoughts on the book, I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Hicks’ analysis. It’s good food for thought. (Found at Tim’s)

*And a quick update: “Persepolis 2” may not be on Diamond’s list, but some major chains have it on their shelves; Borders even made it a ’Fresh Voices’ pick or something, which shears a good 20% off the cover price.

Hulk and Thing: Hard Knocks #1 (of 4)

Oh, I am weak.

There’s one certain panel of note, at least one, in every superhero work that’s drawn by Jae Lee. It’s rarely a crucial point in the story, but it’s vital in a very different way. A character strikes a curious pose, as if he or she’s suddenly become aware of his or her status as a fictional character in a superhero book, a realistically drawn character at that, and the character is fully aware at the absurdity of a heavily realistic human drawing running around in colorful tights, or being surrounded with other superhero accoutrements. Bet here’s the rub: the character is not embarrassed. The character is proud, even pleased to soak in the ridiculousness of the endeavor, while an Alex Ross character would remain iconic and unaware.

This moment arrives on the third story page, first panel of this new miniseries. The Thing walks into a bar. He is shirtless, and hitching up his pants in the way you’d imagine an elderly man doing. A hat covers his eyes. He’s grinning very slightly, his belly looks almost paunchy. A sound effect alerts us to a door being broken, but the door is clearly already smashed, and The Thing is not in action anymore; he is at eased, and very pleased with himself. It’s like the action can’t quite catch up to the image. This happens more than once in this book; The Thing is sitting next to Bruce Banner, drinking coffee, and in the next panel Banner is on the ground, Ben Grimm’s rocky arm still extended from his strike, and only a belated ’WHAMMM’ present to help us fill in the blank.

Not a lot happens this issue. Mostly, Grimm tells stories to the Hulk, about old adventures with his team, fighting Dr. Doom. Lee makes Grimm look very old in profile in the present day sequences; the rocky plates that form his face resemble wrinkles, and he’s glowering a lot. Compare that to the ’past’ sequences, where Grimm is always in action, grinning, or seen straight on, the reader’s eye right in his face. It’s an interesting choice, and it sets the tone nicely for Bruce Jones’ script which, as I have said, consists mainly of two aging superheroes sitting around and talking.

Given the modern standard of storytelling in the Mighty Marvel Manner, it’ll come as no surprise that little of note happens. Grimm never even finishes his flashback. The Hulk mostly plays audience, occasionally reverting back to human form, only to be forcibly goaded back into monstrous shape by the ever’ lovin’ rockhead. There’s a little action in the flashbacks, where Dr. Doom (more than ever looking like a lower-tier serial villain, given the chintzy nature of his plotting) makes fun of Grimm for being a freak. The rest of the Four are either off-panel or in shadows (Lee just can’t help but make Reed look sinister). There’s a very arbitrary fight late in the issue, followed by a real eye-roller of an encounter with an innocent child who sees that the monster heroes are really nice inside, and the less sympathetic local townsfolk. They’re really religious (PLEASE SIT DOWN FOR THIS BREATHTAKING SHOCK I DON’T WANT YOU TO HURT YOURSELF REELING IN ASTONISHMENT) but not very tolerant and actually quite angry inside! Yow! One woman’s dialogue merits special mention, as it brought back a flood of memories of the very best of Rogue’s dialect adventures in the pages of “X-Men”.

Thar she is! Oh my God in Heaven… I told you she waren’t in the back’a the pickup!

Comedy gold. Beyond that, Jones’ script leave virtually no impression; the story proceeds, and there’s some funny bits, and the book is able to burble along with only the aforementioned rough patches.

It’s a very easygoing story thus far. Often, Lee’s art gives a sense of power, of foreboding. There’s a sense of relaxation here, in the most direct sense; you can feel the characters sitting in their skins, green and rocky as they may be.