Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1, which was really good ("There will be no eating of teammates."), and G.I. Joe: Cobra #1-3. People who know me know that I don't just pick up and read a G.I. Joe comic. I've never been into them, and I was never even into the toys, really. But the guys on iFanboy really recommended this book, saying it doesn't feel like a Joe book at all. And it really doesn't. It's a lot more like a Queen and Country story. One of the guys (in the Hawaiian shirt) goes undercover, and it's an extremely good spy story so far. Cobra nor G.I. Joe (I believe) have never been mentioned in this book, but some of the characters have. VERY highly recommended!

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The Love Bunglers

Jaime Hernandez

Fantagraphics Books, 2014

I clearly have a lot of Hernandez Brothers stuff to catch up on. This story was originally published in Love and Rockets: New Stories numbers 3 and 4. It centers around Maggie and Ray--probably the "Love Bunglers" of the title, although the same could be said of most of these characters, so it's hard to be sure. Hernandez's characters have always aged in real time, but this story is an especially vivid example of that. A couple of chapters are devoted to Maggie's childhood, including the teenage years when she became an auto mechanic. The sad story of the sexual abuse suffered by her brother Calvin--a family secret--comes back to haunt her as an adult. In the present Maggie is middle aged, and feeling a bit past her prime: one of the younger women, unable to understand Maggie's continuing attractiveness to men, refers to her sarcastically as a "fat Mexican." She has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Ray for years, and we see them move together, apart, then together again in the course of this installment. It's a tragic story in many ways, yet it has a bittersweet conclusion. There's as much heart here as in any of Jaime's work, which is saying something. An added bonus is a quick visit with Hopey, now also looking respectable and middle-aged, raising a child with her lesbian partner. Clearly you would have to have been following the series to fully appreciate this story: it assumes long familiarity with these characters, who become like family over the years.

Marble Season

Gilbert Hernandez

Drawn & Quarterly, 2013

This is a semi-autobiographical self-contained graphic novel that is not set in Beto's imaginary Latin American country Palomar. The main character is Huey, middle child in a large family growing up in a California suburb in the 1960s. He is introduced to comics by his older brother Junior (similar to Gilbert's relationship with older brother Mario). In addition to reading comics Huey writes plays that he performs with his friends, and he's also a fan of monster movies and other popular culture. So the rise of fan culture (and its relationship to Latino culture) is an undercurrent throughout. It's a completely kid-centric view of the world: like Peanuts, the adults are mentioned, but they are completely off-panel. Nothing happens in the action/adventure sense common to most comics. It's just kids growing up in the neighborhood; but rarely is the feeling of childhood captured so well. And many things happen, albeit quietly. The kids learn to cope with friends moving away; a tomboy becomes interested in boys and starts wearing dresses; two of the boys flirt with larceny; two of the boys fight periodically, in a friendly way. In short, they learn life lessons and grow up a little bit. The story is so full of pop culture references that Hernandez included a page of notes explaining them (for what its worth, I'm of an age close enough to his that I recognized all but two or three of them).

I believe I borrowed this one from the library and read it a few years ago. Isn't it the one where everything is 1970's except for the presence of cell phones and iPads? I remember thinking that was kind of an odd touch. It didn't bug me, but I remember thinking it was strange. 

Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) said:

Marble Season

Gilbert Hernandez

Drawn & Quarterly, 2013

This is a semi-autobiographical self-contained graphic novel that is not set in Beto's imaginary Latin American country Palomar. The main character is Huey, middle child in a large family growing up in a California suburb in the 1960s. He is introduced to comics by his older brother Junior (similar to Gilbert's relationship with older brother Mario). In addition to reading comics Huey writes plays that he performs with his friends, and he's also a fan of monster movies and other popular culture. So the rise of fan culture (and its relationship to Latino culture) is an undercurrent throughout. It's a completely kid-centric view of the world: like Peanuts, the adults are mentioned, but they are completely off-panel. Nothing happens in the action/adventure sense common to most comics. It's just kids growing up in the neighborhood; but rarely is the feeling of childhood captured so well. And many things happen, albeit quietly. The kids learn to cope with friends moving away; a tomboy becomes interested in boys and starts wearing dresses; two of the boys flirt with larceny; two of the boys fight periodically, in a friendly way. In short, they learn life lessons and grow up a little bit. The story is so full of pop culture references that Hernandez included a page of notes explaining them (for what its worth, I'm of an age close enough to his that I recognized all but two or three of them).

This morning I read Starman #8 (the 1988 book). This was by Roger Stern and Tom Lyle. I love reading this book (and books of this ilk) because of just how late 80's it is. It's not late 80's in the terms of the stereotypes, but more like what it really was. 

It's kind of funny how Will Payton interacts with his mother and his sister. They dote on him, and he feeds on it a bit. 

In this issue, Lady Quark comes to find Starman so that he can be the king to her queen on a new planet. She is still reeling from having lost her husband and daughter during the original Crisis. Of course, she gets jilted. 

Other interesting bits here include Will Payton learning how to alter his facial appearance, and the fact that Kitty Faulkner is trying to tell him that she understands what it's like to not be human. I can't remember if he knows that she is the superhuman known as Rampage or not, but this implies that it's a secret yet to be revealed. 

MONSTERS: I moved on to volume two over the weekend. It’s more of the same Lee/Kirby goodness, but the second volume contains as a bonus all of those monster variant covers from a year or so ago. Yay!

MIGHTY LOVE: The latest on my Howard Chaykin reading project is this OGN from 2003. Delaney Pope is a conservative cop who moonlights as the super-hero Skylark. Lincoln Reinhardt is a liberal attorney who is also the superhero Iron Angel. In their civilian identities they can’t stand each other, but when they meet in their heroic identities sparks fly. Mighty Love is a contemporary super-hero love story, but with no sex and surprisingly little nudity (surprising for Chaykin). As with most of Chaykin’s creations, I would like to see more of them. I can only conclude that Chaykin has no interest in writing a continuing series. His properties would be great for him to launch and then turn over to others to develop, though.

More of my weekend reading after lunch…

BADGER: After reading United States of Hysteria and Holy Terror I moved on to the latest Badger series. It which begins with an Al Qaeda link, but by the second issue has moved to an antic thing pitting Ham and Norbert against Vladimir Putin et al to fill the vacancy of the Wizard of the North when Ham was forcibly removed from what is now Wales to what is now North America in the fourth century. Putin, it turns out, is the Wizard of the East (which actually explains some of his more bizarre behavior, come to think of it). He is auctioning off steaks from preserved remains of a recently discovered frozen mammoth, while Ham has hired a genetic scientist to clone extinct species for the sole purpose of using them for sacrificial purposes. As much as I enjoyed this five-issue reboot, I would love to see the Badger back in an ongoing monthly.

GRIMJACK – “OLD FRIENDS”: The first volume of “Legends of Grimjack” (which reprints the Starslayer back-ups) includes an eight-page framing sequence of new material set at some point during John Gaunt’s first incarnation. At the beginning, the reader arrives in Cynosure and makes his way to Munden’s Bar, where GrimJack begins telling his tales. He can’t remember where he left off, so he starts over where he started before. This device works really well because the back-ups are all told first person to begin with. As the framing sequence ends, Grimjack departs to track down the Manx Cat again. It’s tempting to see this as the direct lead-in to the Manx Cat mini-series I dealt with last week… tempting, but impossible.

As I continue my examination of old Grimjack stories I will attempt to place them in a good reading order… but not necessarily strictly chronological. As “Old Friends” makes clear, these are stories told by a guy in a bar. He’s going to relate them as they occur to him, not necessarily as they happened. Last week I said that “Grimjack has a more detailed backstory than any other comics book character I can think of.” Well, I thought of another, which leads me to my final selection of the day…

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCROOGE McDUCK: I have read this material only once before. I knew it would benefit from multiple readings, and it does. I’m only two parts in but I’m taking my time and delving into the text features provided by Don Rosa as well. Not that I didn’t read them the first time through, but by this time I have read many more of the stories these are based on in “The Carl Barks Library.” As my college LCS owner frequently used to exclaim, “Ducks! Ducks!”

No, there's nothing anomalous in this one. Beto is quite prolific, and there are other projects from the last few years I haven't gotten to yet.

Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man said:

I believe I borrowed this one from the library and read it a few years ago. Isn't it the one where everything is 1970's except for the presence of cell phones and iPads? I remember thinking that was kind of an odd touch. It didn't bug me, but I remember thinking it was strange. 

Mark Sullivan (Vertiginous Mod) said:

Marble Season

Gilbert Hernandez

Drawn & Quarterly, 2013

This is a semi-autobiographical self-contained graphic novel that is not set in Beto's imaginary Latin American country Palomar. The main character is Huey, middle child in a large family growing up in a California suburb in the 1960s. He is introduced to comics by his older brother Junior (similar to Gilbert's relationship with older brother Mario). In addition to reading comics Huey writes plays that he performs with his friends, and he's also a fan of monster movies and other popular culture. So the rise of fan culture (and its relationship to Latino culture) is an undercurrent throughout. It's a completely kid-centric view of the world: like Peanuts, the adults are mentioned, but they are completely off-panel. Nothing happens in the action/adventure sense common to most comics. It's just kids growing up in the neighborhood; but rarely is the feeling of childhood captured so well. And many things happen, albeit quietly. The kids learn to cope with friends moving away; a tomboy becomes interested in boys and starts wearing dresses; two of the boys flirt with larceny; two of the boys fight periodically, in a friendly way. In short, they learn life lessons and grow up a little bit. The story is so full of pop culture references that Hernandez included a page of notes explaining them (for what its worth, I'm of an age close enough to his that I recognized all but two or three of them).

THE LAST FANTASTIC FOUR STORY: I read this last night for the first time since its initial release. It’s by Stan Lee and John Romita, Jr. The plot is more like a fable than a comic book story. It’s simple, yet big and bombastic. It moves way to fast and is resolved too easily to be a convincing story, yet I think it achieves its objective.

Briefly, here’s the plot [SPOILERS]: The FF wrap up a mission, return to the Baxter Building and consider retirement. The Watcher appears to bid them farewell because he knows what’s brewing. Far, far away, an all-powerful but not all-knowing race (?) calling themselves the “Tribunal” (demonstrating Stan Lee doesn’t have a firm grasp on the definition of the word) decrees that Earth must be destroyed. They send their emissary, the Adjudicator, to carry out the mission. He appears across the globe in capital cities simultaneously. Heroes in New York, fail to defeat him. Atlantis attacks and fails to defeat him. Blackbolt shouts at him, destroys a mountain in the process, yet fails to defeat him.

Reed Richards summons the Silver Surfer who, in turn, fetches Galactus. Galactus won’t fight the Adjudicator, but Reed Richards requests only information. Reed learns of a mindless, destructive rac e and sets them against the Tribunal homeworld. Then, feeling remorse, he decides they cannot be responsible for the destruction of an entire race so, along with Galactus and the Silver Surfer (like that’s gonna happen), they travel to the Tribunal homeworld and (far too easily) defeat the aliens they set against it. The Tribunal decides they were too hasty condemning a planet with such compassion and reverse their decision.

Returning to Earth, the FF decide they can never top that, and decide to retire and leave Earth. The last panel shows their spaceship head toward the Moon, but whether or not they are heading to the Moon is uncertain. [END SPOILERS]

I thought the story was enjoyable enough when I first read it, but I like it a little more now. It’s easier to swallow when I think of it as an allegory and not a literal depiction of events within the Marvel Universe. It was originally released in 2007, and the MU is a somewhat different place now than it was then. For one thing, there actually was a Fantastic Four comic book at the time. Now there is not, and I would have much rather seen it go out on this note than as it actually happened.

It was refreshing seeing the (more-or-less) “classic” depictions of the characters: Steve Rogers as Captain America, “Odinson” as Thor, Tony Stark as Iron Man (not an AI), the Vision alive (I think he was “dead” at the time of publication). I don’t think those depictions were necessarily current in 2007, but for a project of this nature it doesn’t matter. I can’t help but compare this simple, straightforward story to Secret Empire, which is dragging one, and on, and on

GRIMJACK – “YOUNGBLOOD”: “Youngblood” (serialized in issues #70-81) tells the story of John Gaunt’s childhood in “The Pit”, from birth through age eight, when he was thrown in “The Arena” and forced to fight. The story is told in a series of flashbacks linked by a framing device from when Gaunt was 31 years old and had tracked down his brothers, Nick, Jake and Joe. After he was cut loose from The Arena when he was 22 years old, Grimjack spent some time in the land of Pdwyr (where he learned some magic and met the love of his life), fought in the Demon Wars, then rode with the “Law Killers” for a time. But those are other stories for another day.

“Youngblood” tells the story of Grimjack’s early life, his family (father, mother, step-mother, uncle and brothers), and reveals not only how he got his scar, but also why he hates his brother Nick so much. These events had been alluded to from time to time throughout the course of the series, and were to be revealed at last.

The art is by Steve Pugh, who lately did the art on the recently-completed Flintstones series. I think “Demon Wars” (#66-69) and “Youngblood” was his first professional work, and I liked his style to begin with, but he has improved vastly over the years. The style he used for “Youngblood” is almost fascinatingly ugly, but perfectly suited to the story being told. [NOTE: the cover above is from Grimjack Casefiles, which reprinted the back-ups from Starslayer and the first three issues of the ongoing series.]

Although “Youngblood” tells the earliest story chronologically, I wouldn’t recommend a new reader to start at this point. It will have more meaning to someone who is familiar with how these events shaped his future life.

Generations: Phoenix & Jean Grey #1

This was not my cup of tea at all.  I'm not sure if I've read anything by Cullen Bunn that has grabbed me. The pictures are pretty but I found it very confusing. Maybe someone can set me straight. I thought that the Phoenix of the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne years was retconned to be an alien entity that took the place of Jean Grey. Is that retcon still in effect? Or am I remembering it wrong? 

I read it, too. I thought it was just okay. (I thought the Hulk one was just okay, too. I'll probably read all of them, just to keep a toe in the MU.) Regarding the Phoenix retcon, could it be that Jean Grey-the-younger is not aware that Phoenix is not the true Jean Grey...?

I still haven't really forgiven Bendis for bringing the young-original-X-Men to the present day Marvel universe...with no obvious plan what to do with them.

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