Comics… across time!

*Every notable expert in the world has acknowledged me as Emperor of Time, and for good reason - I shall now review comics from across the ages!


Injury Comics #1: Well, ok. So it debuted at MoCCA and simply hasn’t shown up in Diamond-serviced comics stores yet. I didn’t say I was the best Emperor of Time. You’ll want to check this out when you’ve got access - series mastermind Ted May has maybe had the least exposure of the USS Catastrophe crew, but he’s a very funny cartoonist with a lively style conductive of both stripped-down fisticuffs and winsome vulnerability.

Both modes are served well in here - of the two feature stories (both previewed here), Panama Red (writing by Jeff Wilson, art by May) provides plenty of comedic high school pothead autobiography, with all the foolishness and paranoia such stories entail, while From Manleau’s Personal Battle Log: Your Bleeding Face (story and breakdowns by May, finishes by Jason Robards) sees the tough-talking (albeit reflective) cyborg declare all-out war on the Barnyard Animals by kicking the ass of senior regular The Fighting Cock, who bellows lines like “And I’m gonna elect you governor of the state of pain by a margin of two votes!” while raising his fists. All that and The Perils of Heracles, the comic strip that demands participation by YOU. It’s a good capsule of May’s various talents, and I recommend you keep it in mind for when it becomes available near you (or through Buenaventura’s store).


Madman Atomic Comics #3: You know, I suspect that if Mike Allred had simply titled this series Journey into Mike’s Super-Groovy Stream of Consciousness (featuring Madman), there wouldn’t be nearly as many of the puzzled reactions I’ve seen. Having a creator-owned superhero comic carries with it the freedom of doing whatever you damn well please with it, but there remain lingering expectations, particularly after the series has been running for a while.

Still, I remain glad Allred is taking the path he’s chosen. This issue, for instance, is a pulse-pounding purification ritual of sorts, in which Merry Mike metafictionally manifests the entire story as Madman’s journey into confrontation with ever-shifting personal and interpersonal views of his ‘self,’ with the art shifting in nearly every panel to mimic the many dozens of artists that have inspired Allred’s visual approach; as such, Frank Einstein’s effort to “burn out all the fiction that’s been seeded in [his] subconscious” doubles as Mike Allred’s working through of the patchwork of influence, so as to arrive at a purer, personal visual state. Right on the page! In front of your eyes!

It’s really kind of a jaw-dropping bit of interplay between creator and character (the character being physically based on the creator, I remind you), executed with consummate visual skill. Even a ‘Meanwhile’ sequence set in the real world is designed with the panels shaped as each letter in the word MEANWHILE, each in-panel composition molded to most effectively adapt to its border. The immediate downside is that the storytelling seems even more gangly than usual, with Allred drawing bits of conversation between Madman and his fictional superhero idol/spirit guide/alternate consciousness Mr. Excitement out to better reflect what’s going on in-homage. This on top of the fact that the conversation itself remains an extended analysis of the nature of introspective objectivity, a costumed superhero thinking aloud about thinking about things, while he inadvertently shifts his body into seemingly every superhero or non-superhero-as-superhero that ever meant anything to his creator, who’s also a extra-fictional manifestation of him. Got it?

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s obviously a chance that readers hoping to see Madman crack quirky quips while tangling with villains will find this entirely fucking intolerable, although I should note that Madman does indeed seem to break his way through to the real-this-time-really-real world at the end of the issue. But I love pouring through tangled, ultra-personal sequential knits of this sort, particularly when I’m a devotee of the artist. Here, Allred’s character’s (so, Allred’s) ruminations are front and center, the superhero genre, a place where some 'distance' from properties is very much the norm, temporarily incarnated as the thought-rhythms of the super-self, by a man who won’t keep himself at all removed from his costumed creations.


Action Comics #851: Last week being the past, don't ya know. This is part 4 of 5 (previously 6) of the Geoff Johns/Richard Donner-scripted Last Son storyline, which you’ll recall began in issue #844. The story will now end in Action Comics Annual #11, rather than an issue of the regular series. There have been problems.

This issue is also notable, however, as being available in a special partial 3-D edition (at a buck more than the regular edition’s $2.99), with DC happily playing up artist Adam Kubert’s involvement in a process pioneered for the medium by his father, Joe Kubert. Ray Zone handles the special effects, which are explained in-story as a perception effect of Superman’s wandering through the Phantom Zone, where he’s become trapped at this point in the plot. Note that the 3-D stops about halfway through.

The process (glasses included) is actually pretty impressive, when taken in isolation, so long as pages are kept in ‘full’ 3-D; unfortunately, some of the book tries to meld 3-D portions of the page with standard Dave Stewart-colored art, to achy effect. Moreover, the red and blue glasses play havoc with reading the never-3-D lettering, and I found it extremely difficult to actually experience the book as a cohesive work - I’d read it properly, suffering through viewing the art without the glasses on, then view the art on its own. Cute gimmick, but by segmenting the reading experience in that way, the comic ensures the process can only ever work as a gimmick - tellingly, my favorite recent use of ‘glasses required’ 3-D in a comic was on that crucial Zatanna page of Seven Soldiers #1, where the effect was so subtle that the 3-D acted more as an Easter Egg than anything (though entirely plot-appropriate!).

Meanwhile, the story itself kind of spins its wheels while things fly up toward the surface of the panels, and then quickly lurches toward its conclusion in immediately readable form. Plenty of Super-angst, and the expected uneasy Geoff Johns mix of doe-eyed Silver Age appreciation and jarring contemporary superhero ‘grit’ - the All-New Superman Revenge Squad debuts, while the treat of sexual violence against Lois Lane is duly forwarded by General Zod and his goggles. Competent stuff, slickly-rendered in the 2-D bits, but it all feels decidedly inconsequential. Which does create an interesting problem: which version to recommend? The 3-D one basically forces you to divvy up your reading, approaching the story as a gimmick object more than anything. I expect the 2-D one will seem overextended and empty without the special effects. Really, my recommendation is to just buy a better superhero comic.