*I was picking up my new books today when the doors to the shop swung open and a young man, gasping for breath, burst in and asked:


The shopkeeper stared at him for a moment (was he a regular?) and replied:

No, not this week.”

The young man nodded, turned, and immediately left the store, hopping into a waiting car which sped away. I don't think anyone quite believed what had happened, and we all sort of glanced at each other to affirm that it wasn't just some vivid talking mirage.

So keep this in mind, Marvel! You have one reader chomping at the bit already!

Flaming Carrot Comics #1 (or #33 in the regular series, as the legal notes tell us)

How can one hope to approach “Flaming Carrot”, now a quarterly book from Desperado Publishing as housed by Image Comics (Desperado will also be handling the upcoming revival of Caliber’s “Negative Burn”)? Well, it’s 25 pages of comics, plus the classic ‘What is this Flaming Carrot?’ one-pager from way back when (so way back that Carrot is punching a Soviet in one panel). Creator Bob Burden’s art hasn’t substantively changed in the last batch of years; it still has that simple, somewhat hazy quality, a little like Ditko by way of rough-and-ready 80's independent publishing (though Carrot dates back to the 70's), but not quite. His writing, however, as he notes in an essay in the back of the book, is striving to capture the more stream-of-consciousness quality of the earlier Carrot adventures. Burden does work his story around a unifying theme however: political correctness.

Yes, the hypocritical newscrews want only to castigate the heroic Carrot for his violent ways, while simultaneously cashing in on all sorts of sensationalism. Why, he’s even compared to Bill O’Reilly in giving the PC mass media that what-for! So Carrot, having just killed a foul-mouthed fiend with baloney and unwittingly gained custody of his pop music-crazed zombie sidekick, tries hard to be more sensitive just as he’s confronted with his deadliest challenge yet: bread-thieving pygmies with a thing for tickling pretty young ladies (and who sort of resemble Winsor McCay’s Jungle Imp). Don’t forget the obligatory nosy female reporter (who *NOT SPOILER* melts into the Carrot’s manful arms by the end) and cameos by two beloved supporting cast members of issues past, seemingly tossed in as Easter Eggs for longtime readers. And if Burden occasionally seems to be straining a bit too much to be Wacky, he generally errs on the side of good naturedness. For all its politically incorrect posturing, “Flaming Carrot” has always been a decidedly genial book; it’d be genuinely difficult to take offense to its good-natured shenanigans, fatal though they may be to the occasional throwaway character.

Which sadly makes this review a bit short, and probably unhelpful. The Carrot is mostly how we left him, if trying hard to be a little more random. But the flavor of “Flaming Carrot”, one I’ve gotten to like over 33 odd issues, is essentially unaltered. If you liked it before, you’ll like it now, and ditto the other way. If you’ve never tried it out before, I’d say give it a spin. The book has a very distinct feel: non-sequitur gags, dizzy girls, giggly violence, and ambling tough talking. It’s a timeless feel, really, which is maybe why the Carrot always seems ready to reappear, now well over two decades since his arrival, with only the mild struggle necessary in getting his sea legs back. It’s not every book that would benefit from remaining largely the same for this many years, but the random universe of the Carrot welcomes such contradictory consistency.

The Intimates #3

I’m starting to enjoy the playing with visual style here. Really! Not within the context of the ‘enhanced’ type of layouts themselves, but in the switching between the ‘enhanced’ style and the ‘unadorned’ typical comic book style, which now appears to be popping up whenever a character is left in a state of solitary emotional contemplation, or quiet conversation, away from the barrage of information that simple interactions with a large group of peers can bring. In other words, my more optimistic assumptions regarding the sudden disappearance of stuff like the bottom text crawl last issue seem to be holding as true, and that’s nice. It gives the book’s ‘look’ an extra bit of utility, if only in a symbolic sense, and even loans its normal appearance a few shreds of extra meaning (now its cluttery non-utility can be seen as a virtue, adding to the info overload of everyday school life). Very cool.

The book’s cast is still teetering right on the edge of being interesting without crossing over; after three issues of non-stop character work it’s kind of impressive how I still feel like I’m barely introduced to anyone. This issue’s core story involves the horror of teen romance and the casual cruelty and hypocrisy of kids and their hormones, with superpowers used to supply obvious surface indicators of interior feelings. In terms of semi-communicative emotional scorch, it’s not exactly “Optic Nerve” (and to some that will be a relief), but blood is drawn, and I suspect that the events of this issue will prompt much of the cast into revealing more about themselves.

Writer Joe Casey still hasn’t quite gotten Punchy’s style of slang down to an authentic-feeling beat (he still sounds way too ‘writerly’) and just can’t seem to nail internet communication (does any teenager compose their text messages in full sentences?), but his more casual bits, like the louder kids commandeering a quiet boy’s gaming system are well-handled, and the info pieces across the bottom are funnier than average this time, as was the fake ad (“Okay, Kids! Hand over your ATM cards and write down your pin numbers!”). Jim Lee has bowed out from any art chores beyond the cover (which nonetheless does not alter his recieving second billing), but Giuseppe Camuncoli (pencils) and Sandra Hope (inks) are maintaining a nice smooth look for the interiors. I complain, but I’m getting to like this book a bit more each month, and that keeps me coming back.

Wild Girl #3 (of 6)

No offense intended to Shawn McManus, who’s doing perfectly decent, attractive work here, but J.H. Williams III’s six pages here (out of 22 story pages total) are really striking; this time out he tackles a Noah’s Ark vignette, and his gentle lines, aided by the painterly color of Wildstorm FX, give off the feel of early 20th century illustration, with just a bit of Japanese flavor added to the sloshing of the sea’s waves. This is the third dream sequence in as many issues for the title heroine, and I suspect that writers Leah Moore and John Reppion are setting up a series of visions of animal experiences as connected to world myth and story, which the heroine, she who communicates with beasts, perhaps draws her strength from. That certainly looks to be what happens this issue; much of the remaining space is devoted to a test handed to the girl by a vital bird, while the book’s villain stalks around town, furthering his murky plans.

A lot of the plot is still obscured at this point, halfway through, but it’s proving to be a compelling trip, even if not a lot of ground seems to be immediately covered. It’d be nice if more people were checking this book out; I think it’s worth following.

*Yeah, I confess, I looked through “Youngblood Imperial” at the store. I even giggled a bit at the awfully familiar-looking line-up of that UK supergroup on the final page. I wonder if (already former) writer Robert Kirkman was planning to steer the book into outright satire, much like Mark Millar is doing with “Youngblood Bloodsport”? All I know is that maybe Rob Liefeld should have edited his concluding essay to remove references to projects upcoming in September of 2004...