ElkIn: Okay, so, I'll freely admit that I am one of those cynical bastards who was driven away from superhero comics because of the proliferation of “events” and “must-reads” and “new number ones”. That's right, I'm THAT GUY, smug in the face and proudly rubbing my belly while sonorously pontificating about the corporatization of comics. I'll swig from a glass and loudly rue the turn my favorite heroes made when they became IP's.
And I know I'm not alone here, I'm assured daily that there is a vast unwashed hoard of us intellectually pompous asses casting aside and eschewing left and right those stories which in our more innocent times held so much sweet laiche.
It just got too much, you know. For me, with all the events and tie-ins comics became this enormously expensive puzzle that never really fit together all that well, one which the process of putting together left my geek teats feeling overmilked. Comics had become a commodity, not entertainment, and my previous joy had curdled.
Then along came the Valiant relaunch, and here was a publisher putting out books that rose to the top like a sweet ambrosia cream. Superhero books became exciting again, and I couldn't drink enough to slake my thirst. Once again the clarion call of thick muscled heroes punching the shit out of evil dudes rang loudly in my ears.
Now, Valiant's going event.
And my hackles are up.
But if X-O Manowar #24, the “essential prelude to the Valiant Universe event of 2014”, is any indication of the direction this thing will be going, I may be heading out to the barn for the full run.
Wunderlich, god help me, I think I'm excited for Armor Hunters.
Robert Venditti has made Aric of Dacia – our X-O Manowar, the “fifth-century warrior bonded to alien armor and transplanted to the modern day”, a character I actually care about. He's written him sympathetic while enigmatic, powerful yet amiable, savvy yet innocent. Aric is more a complicated individual than dude in a suit who punches things, and I'm all in and I understand and I want more of what he's bringing. Now there's a big bad on the horizon, and Venditti is playing this thing for keeps. It's drama without being dramatic, the hook doesn't cut through my cheeks. Venditti is sculpting his hero not out of wood or stone, but out of our own aspirations.
In the last month I've spent the same amount of money on Sam Alden comics as it costs to buy a moderately priced bottle of Kentucky bourbon. I say this not as some 'hey-look-at-me-supporting-small-press-comics-instead-of-drinking-booze-come-to-Jesus' kind of moment, no. I'm talking economics here, comic economics. What is a comic worth and where is it best to invest one's time and money?
Alden's Backyard has become the next step in my evolution as a reader of comics and small-press promulgator, washed clean in rain and chicken blood. I cannot stop thinking about this book. There's more in these twenty-four pages, this 6 X 5 inch package than most of the weekly fix I receive from my LCS pusher. My gut says, 'why can't all comics be this deep, this good?' While my head says, 'I know Backyard is good, but is it that good?' It's probably me. I should shut the fuck up. The problem is; it is that kind of book, sticky and troubling.
Backyard is a deviously simple (read: deceptive) comic. It's like a good short story or, better, an actual 'shorter letter' for fans of the Pascal-by-Locke-by-Ben-Franklin chestnut: 'If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.' The final page (not counting an inside back cover coda) offers an ending, but not a resolution. Or is it the other way 'round? Either way, uneasiness runs rampant in Backyard; a squinchy and squirmy anxiety within and without the narrative.
The story takes place in a New Orleans commune. A community where phrases like: ''Okay, if we feel okay about the compost thing?'' and ''I was fired by a fucking unjust system'' are commonplace. What's a little outside the norm is Molly. See Molly ''stopped wearing shoes in June … and she stopped talking a little after that.'' Molly's gone to the … well, she's feral, more feral than most. There's more, of course, and all of it too wrong, too strange and too beautiful to ruin. Backyard lingers … like the smell of chicken shit in high summer.
After my first reading I thought I had Backyard sussed, judgments were made and rulings were delivered. Then I read it again and again and again. Each time I (re)read it I discover new information. My opinions mutate and everything turns from black and white to grey all except when it comes to Molly. For her, my sympathy only increases. What about Molly? What about Molly?
Wunderlich: This is my first issue of Unity. I know all the characters involved, I love all the creators behind the book and I’ve even read most of Valiant’s original Unity title from 1992. What was stopping me from taking the plunge and finally diving into what should be Valiant’s dominating team book? I’ll be honest, it was Ninjak.
Ninjak is a British ninja. He’s got swords, fancy spy gear and a crummy name. I didn’t see the appeal of the original Ninjak in 1994, didn’t understand why he got a reboot in 1996 and can’t for the life of me figure out why he’s still a popular Valiant property. When I heard that they were bringing him back forUnity,I yawned.
Then again, I love Matt Kindt. Super Spy, Revolver, Mind MGMT—yeah, this guy can write. When he finally tackled mainstream superheroes with DC’s Frankenstein, I swooned. His art style is something to behold and his dialogue is never dull, but his plots always steal the show. In issue 6 of Unity he may be playing things a little loose, but he’s still a man with lots of ideas.
Ninjak, Eternal Warrior and X-O Manowar are out to rescue fellow teammate Livewire, who’s recently been captured by the diabolical Dr. Silk. We begin with our heroes trapped, wrestling with the physical cage they’re encased in as well as the moral dilemma that accompanies it. It’s a great scene to open with, showcasing each character’s personality and ethical compass. Unfortunately this trap also takes four pages to escape. This sort of pacing isn’t my cup of tea.
Wunderlich: Last week’s Archer and Armstrong failed to thrill me, but I still had high hopes for this final chapter of “Mission: Improbable”. Our muscular drunkard Armstrong was on the move to rescue his little (though incredibly talented and powerful) buddy Archer from the evil clutches of Project Rising Spirit. And the only thing that stood in his way? Bloodshot and H.A.R.D. Corps! It’s got potential, no?
With reliable writers Christos Gage and Joshua Dysart on board, of course this story had potential! Unfortunately, I found myself underwhelmed at the climax of this arc, though it did provide a few interesting twists and turns.