In Which I Retreat Into the Past:

*Draw the shades and beat the rugs! There’s new comics coming through! All one of them!

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #2 (of 6)

More time twisting as S.M.A.S.H. encounter their Golden Age counterparts for a merrily unnecessary fight scene. At least Peter Hogan’s script manages to wring some humor out of it, as the modern heroes want to sort things out while the true-to-form Golden Agers immediately start swinging:

This is ridiculous… can’t we just sit down and talk?

Why? So you can poison us with propaganda?

And aside from the fisticuffs we get more soapy character bits, as The Fighting Yank’s girlfriend is torn between her and her former lover! And what of the romance between Tom Strange and Pantha? I won’t blame you if you don’t answer, because there’s not a lot to say.

There is a pretty neat sequence at the very end of the issue that holds promise for future chapters, if only to see how far the melodrama is going to be driven, but the core plot is still revving in neutral.

*Well! That was certainly a thorough overview of the day’s releases! I just didn’t have the cash for the first trade of Morrison’s “Doom Patrol”, which was the only other book I really had my eye on. I've been splurging too much lately; one shop had volumes three and four of "Drawn and Quarterly" cut down to blowout prices, so I snatched them up.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through Vol. 3, the one from 2000 with the Chris Ware cover. Ware also contributes a short homage to Frank King's "Gasoline Alley", in which Walt Wallet and Skeezix wander around a slowly modernizing landscape while providing biographical narration as to Mr. King. Skeezix also gradually grows older with each panel while Walt remains the same (although all the characters age in the real "Gasoline Alley" strip, still plugging away today), and the story of the creator's passing becomes the story of the newspaper comics section itself withering away. It's a clever, emotional evocation of King's own early style, which is showcased inside the book with 30 pages of rare Sundays from the 20's through the 40's presented. Some of King's more expansive layouts have clearly influenced Ware's own work, particularly a noted episode of "Big Tex" where the entire history of Tex's ill-fated clan is told off-panel as individual parts of a tree are glimpsed at varying stages of aging. King has no shortage of formal ambition himself, but his gentle humor and lush rural landscapes and muted soothing colors are also the perfect forum for wandering and dreaming (vivid, feverish things, with a McCay-style wake-up panel on the end). There's more in Vol. 4, and eating this stuff up from the perspective of today's Sunday pages leaves one agog at the prospect that so much beauty could go into an earlier era's disposable newsprint amusement.

Elsewhere in the book there's a great adaptation of "Crime and Punishment" done in the style of a Silver-Age "Batman" story by R. Sikoryak. Jason Little (later of the decent "Shutterbug Follies") contributes a stylish drop of airline whimsy. Michel Rabagliati presents an early outing for his 'Paul' character (later of "Paul in the Country" and "Paul Has a Summer Job"). There's pages from Seth's sketchbooks, which later gave us "Vernacular Drawings". It's a regular glimpse into the comics future past!

*I also picked up a copy of “Milk and Cheese” issue #1 (the first issue #1 that is), now in its eighth printing, hailing from The Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Ninety One. I’m sure the titular duo need no introduction, nor does creator Evan Dorkin. But I'd really like to say that in a world of often drawn-out and tiringly padded comic stories, it's good to take a trip back in time to witness a pair of fast-moving heroes at work. In just 24 pages Milk and Cheese preserve American justice, fight the War on Drugs, destroy some Poison and Tiffany albums, and become the 20th century’s greatest revolutionaries. And they go bowling and make rude gestures on the score board. It’s frantic and violet slapstick, just like Grandma used to cook up on Sunday afternoons, and I'm sure nobody needed me to tell them that.