REVIEWS FOR THE WEEK
UNCLE SCROOGE #334 features the long-anticipated Don Rosa adventure epic, "The Quest for Kalevala." If you're Finnish, or of Finnish descent, that might mean something to you. As a hopeless American of Belgian descent, I had no knowledge of Finland's grand folk tale/mythology. Without that vested interest in the story, I'm afraid much of the heart was ripped out of the story for me.
This isn't to say the story is a complete waste. No, Don Rosa proves here that he can make an interesting and, at times, emotional story with raw material that's uninteresting to me. Rosa's keen sense of humor and cinematic storytelling devices are in evidence here, often keeping me from nodding off as a string of exposition dumps Finnish proper names on my head.
I can also appreciate the extra work that must have gone into the drawing of the final scenes, where Rosa is clearly redrawing a Finnish city from reference material. It's very detailed and specific stuff. Looks great, even as a backdrop to a GODZILLA or -- heaven help us -- JURASSIC PARK 2 type ending.
This doesn't, by the way, mean that I hate Finland. The country did, after all, give us Linus Torvalds. Sweden, on the other hand, gave us Ace of Base.
UNCLE SCROOGE #334 is available now at local comics shops for $6.95.
INVINCIBLE #16 marks time this month, setting up the next story arc while cleaning up the last one. I thought for sure that the opening scene of Invincible controlling the world was leading us to a "Days of Future Past" type situation. Kirkman pulls up just short of that, but leaves the door open to come back to it. I think it would be interesting to see an alternate earth story in this comic. Kirkman does such a great job playing with so many other comics cliches in this series that it would be a natural fit.
Mike Wieringo draws the cover, accommodating his style to the work of Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley. I didn't even notice it was his art at first. Looks good, though. Pin-ups in the back are courtesy of ULTRA's Luna brothers, plus a sequence of Li'l Invincible character designs that have to be seen to be believed. It includes just about every character in the series, plus its creators. Letterer Rus Wooton, as it turns out, is Professor X. And don't miss the hilarious two page WALKING DEAD parody after that.
This issue is packed full of goodness for just $2.95. It's due out this week from Image.
I'm not quite sure what to make of HARRY JOHNSON #1. For one thing, I'm glad it's finally out. The thing's been advertised for what seems like forever. The company producing it -- Fulp Piction -- had a booth in San Diego without a comic. Just t-shirts. I bet they had a dozen Hollywood agents taking their business cards there, though. The booth was, I'm sure, a worthy investment.
The one undeniable aspect of the book is that it's beautiful to look at. They packaged it well. The glossy pages hold Craig Rousseau's art, and are necessary to accommodate Liquid!'s coloring style. The end result is a big bright book that looks as if the paint is still wet. In a day when so many comics are colored in dark monotones (THE AVENGERS, for example), it's a nice break for the eyes.
The problem with the book, though, is in the story. This is an adult send-up of INDIANA JONES, more or less. While there's no actual nudity or sex in the issue, every other word balloon is an innuendo. It's not subtle in the least. It hits you over the head and then runs to the next set-up/punchline as fast as possible. This is a sexual farce along the lines of what you'd expect to see The Zucker Bros. attempt. It rings hollow, though, because it pulls up so short. These are grade school gags given form.
It's the kind of book that a 13 year old would probably snicker at. "Look, he said 'poon.'" The "Harry Johnson" name jokes, alone, are enough to give up all hope on the book. There are a few genuine laughs spread out across the book if you're in a forgiving mood, but otherwise this one will seem like an obvious bore.
The thing that confuses me most is who the audience for this book is. The "Parental Advisory" logo proudly displayed on the cover seems to be the magnet to draw the younger audience in, while warning against the same crowd. Ignore for a second the question of what they can see on the internet for free these days. When they open up the book and see nothing visually to pay off the verbal puns, they're going to be disappointed. For example: Harry goes to a strip club at one point to enlist a stripper's aid, but all we ever see of the scene is a shot of the club's front entrance. That takes up a half page.
There's a bit of bad timing luck to go along with all this, too. One of the sources for many puns is a cannibal resort. The problem there is that "Weird Al" Yankovic did all the jokes in song on his album "Poodle Hat" last year. They were painfully obvious then, but at least the rhyme scheme let them seem clever as a collection. This comic doesn't have that excuse.
It's a shame, really. The book looks great, and the author, Charles Fulp, is trying something that nobody else in comics is doing today. He's trying for a laugh a minute giggle fest that doesn't make any pretense at being a serious comic. Unfortunately, I think his delivery is not aimed well enough to sell this comic. And it's too shallow by half for me.
THE AVENGERS #502 kills off the character I thought least likely to die. Of course, death is a relative thing in comics. I can think of a couple really quick cop-outs on this death to bring the character back. That means the smart comic book writers probably have a half dozen ways to do it in mind already. Want to bet that Kurt Busiek already has the script page written?
After three issues of this storyline, though, I'm starting to see where some of the overkill fatigue is setting in. I liked the first issue, just because it was something different for Bendis. He started out on the high action. I assumed by the third issue that we'd be filling in the details and bringing the story to a satisfying point, if not a conclusion. Instead, each issue has become an increasingly tiring activity of scattershot fighting. David Finch draws some cool stuff, but he's not Bryan Hitch. Even the coloring is starting to get to me now.
Finally, the appearance of a certain character on the last page is annoying. I can't explain why without spoiling the moment, but I firmly believe in more down-to-earth explanations for the kinds of things happening in the current storyline. Yes, even aliens can be down-to-earth. If this whole thing is the fault of some magical entity, I'll give up on it all.
OK, so I probably just spoiled it anyway. Ah, well.
ONE-LINERS, UPDATES, CORRECTIONS, AFTERTHOUGHTS
- AiT/PlanetLar's BAD MOJO (reviewed here last week) is, indeed, intended to be the first part of two or three books. I hereby give the first volume a little extra slack on that account.
- According to WIRED Magazine's calendar on page 75 of the October 2004 issue, October 11th sees the drop in the UK of ENIMEN: IN MY SKIN. It's a comic book drawn by an artist named "Flameboy." I'm guessing that this is the artist's web site, but don't quote me on it. I'm too close to press time to look it up.
There's also a more mature version of the web site here, which includes art from the Kurt Cobain graphic novel, but nothing on Eminem.
You can order the book here.
10 points to the first person to respond to this story by asking if Mark Millar wrote it. Actually, make it 10 demerits. If Millar had written it, you'd have seen much more press about it.
- Last week, the New York Times printed a comic written and drawn by Brian Michael Bendis. It was credited, however, to "Michael Bendis Smith." Obviously, the Times now has Dan Rather on retainer.
- FCBD 2004 data shows that the most effective promotions for comic shops were those done in connection with the Spider-Man 2 movie. This is the same group of retailers who overwhelmingly voted to fix the date earlier, rather than move it to coincide with a movie release. Whoops. ICV2 asks if knowing this ahead of time would have changed the vote. Of course not. Retailers know Marvel hates them, so they hate Marvel and would do anything to discredit them. Yes, even if the movie promotion for 2005 is a DC-based one. The cycle continues.
- There are so many great artists with web sites out there that you can't possibly visit them all. I'd like to highlight a few of those as I find them, starting with the sketchblog of Brad Fitzpatrick. He's done a wide variety of work for comic strips, web animation, children's books, and more. Check out his sketchbook for the best of the stuff. I love original pencil work.
- Phil Noto's website has a page of his beautiful sketches. You can also buy a few pages of original art that he has left in stock, or just enjoy some of his final art and covers.
- Here's an oldie but a goodie: Brian Bolland describes how he creates a cover. It's done almost entirely on the computer, by the way.
- Remember when BIRDS OF PREY's Ashley Scott was cast on JOEY? In retrospect, she looks a little silly in the role here, but for all I know, they may have rewritten the character after kicking her off.
- Completely off-topic, but I got a giggle out of it: The Chewbacca Defense.
- Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of man better than these two words: Fetal Hulk. Words don't do it justice.
Pipeline Preview is coming on Friday, with a look at some of the highlights and lowlights of December 2004.
Pipeline Commentary and Review returns, of course, next Tuesday.
Over at Various and Sundry this week: The new computer came in, which partially explains how short this column is. People like free stuff. Poker Bots are coming! Compress your e-mail boxes! Lots of Firefox news and tips. CSI: NY is dark and gloomy. How editing affects THE APPRENTICE 2. And lots more.
More than 500 columns are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically. The first 100 columns or so are also still available at the Original Pipeline page.