What was today?

*The longest day, and tomorrow will top it.

*Big new issue of “The Comics Journal” today, and there’s a sudden proliferation of columns. Matt Silvie (who’s easily the funniest poster on the Journal’s message board, btw) fills in on the Minimalism minicomics column, making way for Daniel Holloway as the regular author in upcoming issues. Holloway used to write the Journal’s online minicomics review column Dogsbody, which had now been relaunched with Austin English at the helm. Meanwhile, former Minimalism columnist Tom Spurgeon (also blogger) debuts his superhero column Cape Fear, in which he gives some insightful reviews of recent stuff like “The Ultimates” and slightly older material like Grant Morison’s “Marvel Boy”. And yet another new column also launches, a webcomics section by Tim O’Neil (also blogger) titled Ctrl-Alt-Delete.


This is all in addition to Steven Grant’s Fun Fun Fun, this time covering the origins and evolution of misogyny in superhero comics, as prompted by recent “Identity Crisis” discussion, and Dirk Deppey’s Journalista, which revisits the old topic of the Direct Market creating an atmosphere suitable largely for one type of book then complaining when publishers of other types of books decide to focus their business elsewhere. It's ok, but nothing we haven’t heard from Dirk as a blogger, back in those golden-hued days of reverie. The rotating guest essay is filled by Noah Berlatsky, raising some valid and interesting points on how a critical focus on the moodiness and psychological depth of “Peanuts” has on one hand led to a critical underestimation of one of the strip’s primary virtues, its humor, and on another allowed a league of art comics snobs to subvert the strip’s fundamental characteristics to suit their own masturbatory literary/aesthetic agendas. All of this would be a good deal easier to take seriously if the essay wasn’t positively soaking in condescension and peppered with vehement if occasionally puzzling attacks (a solid 1/6 of the essay’s space is spent blasting Jeffrey Brown’s work, apparently because Chris Ware once compared him to Charles Shultz in an interview somewhere). By the time I got to Mr. Berlatsky’s About the Author blurb, which crows about how many folks were pissed off at his “In the Shadow of No Towers” review last issue, I couldn’t help but smirk; then I remembered how the same space in the review itself last issue was spent declaring how the author would be 'run out of town on a rail' for his Biting Words of Truth, and I giggled aloud at the sheer puffery of it all, and I asked myself: “Is this what non-readers think everything in the Journal is like?”

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #5 (of 6)

Gonna keep these quick, since there’s not a lot to say. I’m still enjoying this book, although it’s the sort of thing Alan Moore can do in his sleep at this point (Moore, of course, is only co-plotter here with Peter Hogan tackling the scripting duties). Basically, we have Superman analogue Tom Strange and Batman stand-in The Terror interacting in different situations throughout separate alternate realities, the result of time-travel gone awry. In one situation, they‘re Silver Age pals, in another they‘re aged retirees, in another mortal foes, and matters are doubly complicated by the fact that Tom himself is essentially an alternate version of Tom Strong, star of his own ABC book.

But it doesn’t add up to much beyond simple, familiar entertainment. There’s been some cute little notions of older characters being loaded into younger bodies (revamps, if you will) with all of the old neurosis and baggage added in, preventing any real development as characters. The framing sequence, with a particularly nasty consequence of history gone detached, is distracting enough. There’s some nice funny bits, like Tom’s paramour Pantha working in the kitchen with an apron over her jungle bikini in a certain alternate world. The art now sports three separate inkers, perhaps indicating where the delays on the book’s release originate from, but ti doesn’t add up to much visual distraction.

It’s a solid middle of the road superhero book, perfect for a light week like this.

BPRD: The Dead #3 (of 5)

Any readers itching for more dirt on the secret origins of Abe are just gonna have to wait until next time, although I’m getting the strong notion that not a whole lot is going to be revealed at the end of this series anyhow. Editor Scott Allie refers to this book (and connected volumes) in the letters pages as a “monthly” instead of a miniseries, and I noticed the legal type now contains a little statement reading “Number 15 in a series,” essentially confirming what most readers had been suspecting all along: that these “BPRD” one-shots and miniseries really comprise an ongoing series with a system of pre-planned 'breaks' implemented to allow the creative team to keep ahead. Miniseries titles are provided to make these breaks appear more natural. And thus it makes more sense for Abe’s origin to not be confined to this nominal miniseries; I expect little more than for him to escape his current dilemma with maybe a bit more information than before, while probably providing more entertainment than anything in the story‘s proper plotline.

Most of the action this issue takes place in the rusty steel environs of the team’s new digs. Dave Stewart’s colors are worn and aged, matching up well with Guy Davis’ wrinkly character art. There’s little of the pure reds and blacks of Mike Mignola’s smooth lines, but one can easily imagine this as an equally realized aternate perception of the same universe. It’s too bad that co-writers Mignola and John Arcudi seem to be pushing so hard to make the boring new semi-zombie team superior a dominant badass, even to the extent of having Liz largely just stand around reacting (ineffectively) to stuff and relegating Roger to comic relief. It might be my disconnect to the characters that’s keeping me from really getting into this arc. Good tie-ins to some older “Hellboy” arcs, though. It’s hard for me not to at least sort of enjoy this comic, as most of the ingredients for fun seem to be in place, but the mixing of said ingredients just isn‘t as effective as before.