I've been looking at the comics in old newspapers. It's made me realise how competitive the comic strip business was. To my surprise, the Melbourne Argus ran Connie in the latter 30s, and Brick Bradford in the late 30s/early 40s. I wouldn't have guessed they'd made it down here.
For a period the Mandrake the Magician Sundays employed the images-with-text format of Prince Valiant and some others strips, rather than speech balloons. Dick's Adventures in Dreamland also employed this format, and was very Prince Valiant-ish in flavour.
Finally started "The Sinners," the most recent Criminal arc. Tracy Lawless is back, still working for Sebastian Hyde. He's losing his taste for being a hit man, so Hyde offers him another job. Lawless is to investigate a series of recent murders of mob-connected people, people who should have been untouchable. The first two issues quickly start to reveal what is going on, but only to the reader. So the fun will be watching Tracy get to the bottom of it, and how he resolves it in a way that will satisfy his debt of honor to Hyde.
Continuing my rough chronological trip through Vertigo miniseries, I started American Freak: A Tale of the Un-Men, a five-parter by Dave Louapre and Vince Locke based on minor Swamp Thing characters. These Un-Men are only loosely connected to the originals created by Anton Arcane (which didn't stop Vertigo from using this story as the background for the recent Un-Men series). Louapre's "On The Ledge" column says that this was his first attempt at a traditional comics format, and it shows. It's too wordy, and the story is taking forever to get going: it's taken three issues just to get to the real point. I remember liking Locke's art in The Sandman, but it seems drab here, and it's not helped by the muddy coloring. Reminds me a lot of Guy Davis here, which would normally be a good thing. Interesting that they both live in Michigan. Must be something in the water!
As usual "The Sinners" takes some surprising twists before it's through. Tracey gets through it OK: he seems to think the Army is the best place for him, and it's easy to agree. Amazing bit of knot-tying at the climax. Tracey manages to use the C.I.D. investigator to his advantage, as well as the teenage hit squad. And there's a beautiful twist right at the end, full of noir poetic justice. Terrific stuff!
American Freak finally gets moving at the end, too. The Un-Men achieve closure, and Damien Kane even finds some peace. I suppose the commentary on American celebrity culture was a big part of the intended point. Might have been effective if it hadn't been so heavy handed, and if the story hadn't gone all over the place before it got there. I have trouble even seeing the point of the series, other than hauling out some old DC baggage that isn't creator-owned. Just goes to show that not everything Vertigo is golden, even in the early glory days that most fans look back on so fondly.
Read Daredevil Noir this morning, which....wasn't bad, but of all the Marvel properties, is probably one of the least altered in transition to a "noir" setting. There were a few cosmetic changes — Nelson & Murdock are private investigators instead of lawyers, stuff like that — but effectively, it could have served as pretty much any old Daredevil story.
Also read the second Warren Ellis Thunderbolts volume, Caged Angels. I still don't think the way the Thunderbolts were handled in the post-Civil War Marvel Universe was entirely believable , but since this book was mostly self-contained within Thunderbolts Mountain and just dealt with the characters without much interaction with the larger universe, it was much easier to enjoy on its own merits.
And then yesterday I read Angel vol. 5: Aftermath, the storyline immediately following Brian Lynch and Franco Urru's After the Fall. I skipped these when they came out, and I think my instincts were pretty on point on that decision. It's not that it's bad, exactly, and it brought in some new supporting characters who were interesting enough, but the whole thing felt a little too...I dunno, exactly, but off, like it was trying to be more a run-of-the-mill comic book than a chapter in this well-established universe. And Dave Ross's more comic book-y art just isn't as good as Urru's, so it falls in comparison that way, too.
Oh, and also, the first...three, I think, issues of Jonathan Hickman's Fantastic Four run. He's definitely exploring some big ideas in there, which have me intrigued, but I really don't like the way Dale Eaglesham draws Reed or Johnny; he makes them look more muscle-y action star, which didn't strike me as right.
Anyone know if these strips have ever been reprinted? "Connie" was one of the most beautifully drawn comic strips I've ever seen. Alas, I've only seen it via microfilm of one of the Nashville newspapers. It apparently started as a comedic "flapper" strip in the late '20s, and somehow morphed into science fiction.
As for "Brick Bradford": In the '30s, it may not have been as gorgeous as Raymond's "Flash Gordon" ... but it looked a heck of a lot better than "Buck Rogers." But almost anything did!
I finished up the Essential Showcase up at work, I wish they would have cut one story out to include a Rip Hunter story. Like maybe the second Challengers of the Unknown issue just so I could get a taste of Rip Hunter. And that second Challengers issue was a little lackluster.
Started The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man. I'm so glad my former employer added this to the library collection, because I was afraid I might have to wait for months before I could afford to buy it. The title arc certainly adds a lot to the mix. Tom Taylor apparently can actually do magic; Elizabeth Hexam seems to be well named, as there is a lot to her that we still haven't seen; and the new character, journalist Richie Savoy, should add a useful non-magical perspective to the story. Not to mention the appearance of the real Count Ambrosio, who possesses the prison warden.
Back in 1993 with Vertigo, I read the first "Vertigo Visions" one-shot, The Geek by Rachel Pollack & Michael Allred. These were all based on obscure DC characters, in this case Brother Power the Geek. Neil Gaiman had revived the character for a Swamp Thing story, and Chester (the recurring hippie character) also shows up here. I'm sure the story was intended as an indictment of the greedy '90s, but it's so surreal that it's hard to take it seriously as social commentary. Allred has a lot of fun with the art, which helps keep things interesting, albeit incoherent.
BACK ISSUES!! of unsual team-ups that someone has dreamed up.
Brave & The Bold 150th anniversary issue that answered the question for me whether or not the world;s finest team ever workked together in an issue of the Brave & The Bold. I liked the cover depicting the covers of past issues and the question mark to make persons guess who the guest star was. http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/brave-and-the-bold/150-1.jpg
Finished the second The Unwritten collection. The "Jud Suss" arc was an effective two-parter, which took us to a new place: a frozen bit of Stuttgart in 1940. Looks like the map brought them there, and it's a very desirable object. Tom finds a way out, to London three months after the prison break. I'm betting the map will drive the story for awhile. The final single issue, "Eliza Mae Herford's Willowbank Tales," tells the story of another adventurer who tried to steal the map. It has a lot of fun with the children's picture book genre by making the trapped rabbit character a foul mouthed malcontent who is constantly confusing the "real" characters with his bad attitude and escape attempts. One thing I forgot to mention yesterday. I thought the "Interlude" issue of the "Inside Man" arc was the first misstep in the series so far. The concept of showing the children's perspective on events since Tom came to the prison is interesting, but the issue doesn't advance the story much. In fact there are several scenes which are literally repeated from earlier issues. It's a bit like those compilation episodes on series TV where the characters are recalling earlier events, so the bulk of the episode is a rerun.
The second "Vertigo Visions" issue was Phantom Stranger by Alisa Kwitney & Guy Davis. This is more like it! It's the story of Naomi Walker, a woman who comes to a retirement home to be the night caretaker. The house and its occupants become increasingly bizarre and frightening, until it's revealed that this is an "infernal house" that is part of Hell. The Stranger helps Naomi to remember who she is, and her true role. The story ties into the larger Vertigo narrative by using Lucifer's abdication as the setup for the chaos in the house. But it really does stand alone as a fine self-contained horror story. Worth seeking out if you haven't read it.
My LCS finally got Scott Pilgrim vol. 4, so i read that.
I also started reading Marvel Visionaries: Jim Steranko. The art is freaking awesome, but my problem with this is the same I had with the John Romita Jr. one. You don't get the whole story some times. The Steranko one had two issues he drew in X-men, but it was a 3-parter so I didn' t get to read the concluding issue. I will just assume that Magneto killed the X-Men and they were never seen again.