That is true. It could well have been that the December 21 story was the same one that would have run anyway, but I don't recall an earlier one that was military themed. (Flipping ahead, i see there are more to come.) IIRC, Alex Raymond had already done a Japanese invasion story in Flash Gordon as early as summer 1941. I recall Terry & the Pirates (set in China) first mentioned the war directly in a January 1942 daily. Prior to that, Caniff had referred to the Japanese obliquely as "the invaders."
I first read The Spirit in the Harvey Comics' The Spirit #1(OCT66). I fully appreciated it, being 18 at the time. It presented a full-color sampling of wonderful stories, including the stories of Lorelei Rox, Rat-Tat the Toy Machine Gun, Gerhard Shnobble and the magnificent Ten Minutes.
Most of my Spirit reading came via Kitchen Sink Press. both the ongoing serires as well as trade paperbacks such as The Spirit Casebook and The Christmas Spirit. I once was of a mind to review all of the "Christmas Spirit" stories in the month of December but I never got around to it. Maybe someday...
FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #5 & #67: Y’know how I said that each time I re-read an old Lee/Kirby FF I discover something new? I never noticed before how much Lee/Kirby’s Psychoman, Live Wire, Ivan and Shell Shock resemble Lee/Ditko’s Big Man and the Enforcers (Montana, the Ox and Fancy Dan). Regarding the “Who did what?” debate, when I see a concept used by Jack Kirby solo or with Joe Simon from the ‘40s or ‘50s re-used in a Lee/Kirby comic from the ‘60s, I tend to credit that to Jack Kirby. This is pure speculation on my part, but perhaps the composition of this group ofbaddies (a masked leader and three visually similar flunkies) came largely from Lee…?
Something else I don’t think I noticed before about issue #67 it that it foreshadows Sue’s pregnancy (revealed in Annual #5). Reed refuses to let Sue accompany the team to find the missing Alicia, saying, “I can’t let you face [the danger]—not you—not now.” Apparently Reed and Sue already know but have chosen not to tell anyone for the time being.
Issue #67 is also the last one Kirby drew on the larger size art board before Marvel made the company-wide decision to switch to the smaller modern size. I’ll have some observations about how this change affected Kirby’s artwork in a later post.
The Sheriff of Babylon, Vol. 2: Pow. Pow. Pow.
Tom King, writer; Mitch Gerads, art and colors
Vertigo Comics, 2017
King's tale of occupied Iraq winds its way to its conclusion. The danger is palpable most of the time. The collection opens with former Saddam loyalist Nassir captured by American operatives. They demand information about the infamous terrorist Abu Rahim, he is completely uncooperative, and it looks like they may kill him any day. Power player Sofia meets with a CIA agent who convinces her to arrange a meet with Abu Rahim. He assures her that Rahim was responsible for the bombing of her car earlier in the series, and he frees Nassir as a show of good faith. As the double-cross meet proceeds, it becomes clear that nothing is what it seems. The CIA doesn't know what it's doing--and Abu Rahim is not the terrorist mastermind everyone thought. The dark revenge taken by Chris, Sofia and Nassir at the end really is an ending but not a conclusion. Nothing is proven, and it's not even a satisfying act of revenge. A bleak, hopeless final act in a story full of shadows, and very little light.
Sometimes I will let the momentum of one creative team carry me into the next, or the momentum of one title carry me into its successor. I’m often reluctant to buy comics from talent I’ve never heard of, so in this way I sometimes discover new wrtiters and artists with whom I am unfamiliar. Such is the case with this week’s Falcon #1 by writer Rodney Barnes and artist Joshua Cassara. This series flows directly from Secret Empire and Nick Spencer’s Sam Wilson: Captain America, the latter of which I enjoyed very much. It doesn’t stand to reason that just because I liked Specer’s Sam Wilson title that would like Barnes and Cassara’s, but I gave it a try anyway.
Barnes took Spencer’s theme of racial tension and ran with it. The conflict and the dialogue stike me as authentic, and the series seems to continue the trend of racially diverse comics (despite recent comments from Marvel I have read).
The one thing I don’t like about this book is that Steve Roger’s betrayal of the trust the country had placed in him is now treated as canon. (Why wouldn’t it be? Nothing in Secret Empire reversed it.) Hearing Sam Wilson speak of how Steve Rogers lied to him all these years doesn’t sit well with me. Marvel is treading a fine line here. I stopped reading Spider-Man several years ago when Joe Quesada authorized a similar tone-deaf stunt, and I haven’t read Avengers since Brian Bendis broke the Scarlet Witch. I hope something similar hasn’t happened to Captain America. I look to Mark Waid to fix that.
Monstress Vol. 2: The Blood
Marjorie Liu, writer; Sana Takeda, artist
Image Comics, 2017
Monstress continues to be an epic fantasy with a unique tone, both in the unusual world setting and the visual storytelling. It can be beautiful and horrifying, sometimes at the same time: violence has rarely looked so attractive. The fanciful people and animals are remarkable inventions, and of course many of the inhabitants are animal-like, if not completely animal in appearance. Protagonist Maika Halfwolf is still trying to learn about her dead mother, and much of the action in this arc involves a sea voyage to the Isle of Bones, a dreaded place that her mother was lucky to return from. Her departure is hastened by the two great kingdoms that are hot on her trail. It's a grand adventure--even if she does not learn much from it--and the story reveals a lot about her companions and her past history in the process. It can be difficult to keep track of the politics. There is a map of the world in the volume, but a summary of the main players would have also been helpful.
A graphic novel, Mimi Pond's The Customer is Always Wrong. Not bad. I'm going to read its predecessor.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #5 & #67... This is pure speculation on my part, but perhaps the composition of this group ofbaddies (a masked leader and three visually similar flunkies) came largely from Lee…?
Come to think of it, there's a subtle similarity between the leaders as well. They both have costumes that hide their true sizes/true selves. Also, neither was the kind of villain who engages the heroes in combat personally. (The Psycho-Man did when he reappeared, in Fantastic Four #76-#77. But in Annual #5 the suit he's operating through goes dormant the second it's attacked.)
Redlands #3: This series isn't necessarily as linear as I thought it was going to be, but I don't care at all. In fact, it works in its favor. Jordie Bellaire and Vanesa Del Rey are creating a world here out of back-woods swamp lands in Florida. Everything spooky about that set-up is brought to the table. This issue focuses in on a gator-man living out there, the stuff of legends and folklore. Scary stuff!
Lazaretto #2: A zombifying spore has broken out on a college campus during the first week of school. The thing is, the students, who are entitled and used to daddy handling all of their problems, decide to party in their quarantine. The character interaction is interesting, but I get the feeling we are in for a really awful ending in three issues. I am train-wreck rubber-necking the characters here, and I'm in for the remainder of the mini.
God Complex: Dogma #1: I bought this issue on the strength of what Matt Hawkins has done with mega-church based stories (The Tithe series of miniseries). They weren't incredible works of art, but I did like seeing the subject matter being dealt with. This book takes that path on a pretty sharp turn with the introduction of a super-hero-looking higher-up clergyman (kind of?), visible paths of connectivity, and then another retread of the tired detectives who are assigned the case. I notice now that, although it is Top Cow and seems to be connected to the Tithe-verse, I don't think it actually is. It's written by Paul Jenkins, and seems to be a part of the "Glitch" universe? New titles called Bonehead and Dissonance are coming soon. I don't think I will be there for either.
Archie #24: Betty deals with being in a wheelchair in her outwardly-confident way while it tears her up inside. Archie can't do anything, because he's both grounded for life and unwelcome by Betty's family. This is a heartbreaking issue, but it ends on kind of a high note. Mark Waid keeps on writing this book, thank goodness. The art is usually good, but by a revolving door of artists--this time, Audrey Mok (who is one of the best Archie artists).
Batman White Knight #1: Sean Murphy shows us what it would be really like if the GCPD worked with Batman the way they have for decades. Add that in to Batman going over the edge a little bit, accidentally curing the Joker. I liked this a lot. It definitely gets wordy in places, which I would normally have a problem with. There are enough pages with very sparse words that it balances it out. Sean Murphy's art is beautiful, of course. I loved it from the first time I discovered it on Off Road, way back in the day, and I've followed him ever since. It's amazing how far he has come.
Slots #1: Another writer/artist doing his thing is Dan Panosian, who brings us the story of a down-on-his luck mess of his own making, Stanley. He has a gambling problem, a drinking problem, and he's a smoker, so he is self-medicating in many ways. Oddly enough, this was the second comic in a row to directly mention Lucky Strikes. This character would fit right into a Brubaker/Phillips book, a Parker book, or a seedy noir movie. Damn, if Panosian isn't one of the best artists in existence. The scene at the end where his son turns around and punches him is so dynamic. I get a little scared by the look in the boy's eye. Now, I'm just trying to decide whether to trade-wait this one (as well as White Night) or collect them, give them away, and then trade-wait for myself.
Lastly, I read Atomahawk #0. This one is written by Donny Cates with art by Ian Bederman. It looked really interesting, but honestly, I bought it based on the quoted recommend of Grant Morrison on the front, who compared this to Jack Kirby. Not sure if anyone has noticed or not, but in the past year or so, I have really developed a penchant for comics that remind me of crazy 70's album covers in art and story style. I know it seems niche, but I have found this in books like Space Riders by Fabian Rangel, Jr. and Alexis Ziritt, the Grrrl Scouts book by Jim Mahfood, and even Dark Nights Metal.
While I expected this book to scratch that same itch, I kind of found it lacking in coherent story. It's drawn by Ian Bederman, who is apparently an exceptional tattoo artist. I thought the layouts were extremely interesting, the art was appealing (in the album-cover kind of way that I enjoy), but somehow I just found the story falling flat. I could see myself buying this trade eventually as a coffee-table book, because the art really is pretty, but not because of the story. It's a very cool experiment, and I hope it finds its footing. I'm not rooting against it; I'm just not going to read it in its monthly format.
I should note that it is in an over-sized format, which is really pretty similar to album covers when opened up.