November 19, 2013

Comics Review – Gaiman & J.H.Williams x 3, Yanow, Deforge, Rinzler & Mayhew, Snyder & Capullo

9:28 am in books,comics,product,reviews,zines Ulises Farinas

Be prepared to give a negative review. If you give one to the work of a friend, and they’re not your friend any more, they weren’t ever your friend. As Robert Altman once told me, “If you never gave me a bad review, what would a good review mean?” He was a great man. He thought over what he had said, and added: “But all your bad reviews of my films have been wrong.” – Roger Ebert

When i started writing these reviews, my boy Arnaldo sent me this link to Roger Ebert’s review rules. And i’ve been thinking lately, about tone and what’s a bad review exactly for? Is it a waste of time to somehow harp on only the negatives of a work? I don’t believe so. As i said before, we’ve got enough PASSION in comics. We got enough people who LOVE comics. What we don’t know have is any critical thought encouraging better work. Most of the reviews in comics are poorly disguised press releases, and even i’ve had interviews that were basically the equivalent of me repeating information in the solicits. “So when’s this come out?” “How’d you start working on this project?” I wanna yell “THAT ISN’T IMPORTANT AT ALL” But i just say “Oh, end of the summer,” and even i gotta be polite sometimes.

Geek culture has transformed from the niche interests of the few, to a economic behemoth. What used to be separate honest, devoted fandoms have transformed into a cultish Tetsuo-monster that must buy! buy! buy! buy! buy! The reasons so much trash is literally pumped out every month, is because there are hoards of fans that are consuming it. They don’t need quality, and i don’t even believe that my reviews will stop this monster. But i can look at it, and say in no uncertain terms, “This is ugly” The blogs, journals, publishers that are kept alive by this monster, can not criticize it, can not change it, because they basically look like Tetsuo’s girlfriend losing her identity in the body of the beast.

So what’s a brother to do? I can go on and on about how i love Paul Pope’s brushwork, how i think Yale Stewart knows his way around a comic strip and creates some genuine heartfelt moments. And if you’re a fan, YOU KNOW THAT TOO. I’m not living my life to join the fan-domination, i’m over here seeking some enlightenment era revolution. And shit, you know what happened when Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense? Motherfuckers got shot.

I won’t politely ask for change, and i cant wrap my reviews up in the nicest words. I’m not trying to sell wrapping paper, i’m giving you lumps of coal for christmas cause thats what keeps you warm. Don’t believe that a bad review, even if it’s your bad review, is just misspent energy. You wanna prove me wrong, don’t debate, get back to work and draw a better comic. I’ll be the first person to sit up and shut up. At the end of the day, i want to be proven wrong with not what you’ve said but what you’ve done. That’s why i’ll give some of my best friends, the worst reviews, cause i want them to make me never open my mouth again. And if i do, all they’ll hear is angels crying and jesus praying.

On to the hits, my rating system is Horrible, Crappy, OK, Good, Great, AMAZING:

Sandman Overture #1 – Neil Gaiman & J.H.Williams x 3 – OK

This shit was 5 fucking dollars. Honestly? Could they pack more advertising for shit in this issue? Was a bunch of ads, really annoying. Didn’t need to cost $5 really. So my dude, Joe Keatinge said he wanted to see what i thought about this book. And truth be told, i’ve never ever ever read any Neil Gaiman. Every dude with a wallet-chain and chick with dyed black hair has been recommending me Sandman comics since i was in highschool, and i was disappointed. Here’s a sample bit of writing “The book is heavy. It is bound in leather, made from a hide of a beast that has never existed. The only eyes that read the book are blind. They see only darkness and the contents of the book. The book is the UNIVERSE…” This is Vincent Price, if he was reincarnated and worked at Hot Topic all summer. What, do i give props to this comic because he found flowery ways to describe absolutely nothing for 20-something pages? Here is this comic, that has got these literally larger than life characters having dreamscape conversations, and i’m only thinking ‘DONT CARE DONT CARE DONT CARE DONT CARE” The only reason i kept reading, was for the art, and there’s a really amazing quadruple page spread, that’s got a pretty creative way of unfolding. It’ll make for a good poster, and this comic has about the same depth too.

The Star Wars #1 – J.W. Rinzler & Mike Mayhew – OK/Sorta Crappy

Why was this made? Because Star Wars is the best example of brain-dead fans. First of all, the original series, although visually impressive, is a kid’s story. There are no subtle complexities beyond whether or not Han shot first. But now years after the originals have been released, the monster continues the grow, beyond the creator’s control, and the fandom will never.ever.ever not feed it. It is guaranteed that the next star wars will make a bazillion dollars, and so will the next, and the next. In fact, it will probably make all of it’s costs back before any ticket is sold, on merchandise alone.

George Lucas is not a good writer, so why would a rough draft of a young and dumber George Lucas, make for a compelling story? Forget compelling – a decent story? There’s nothing in this comic that hasn’t been covered by the constantly revised final version of the films, so it’s held aloft on novelty alone. Here’s a new stormtrooper design, oh look, Darth Vader ain’t got no helmet, and here, the name “Anakkin”! The art is decent, but i can’t imagine its a very rewarding project. So why was this made? Because a long time from now in a galaxy far far away, Star Wars will still be making money.

The Boy in Question – Michael DeForge – Good

Independent comics allow creators to do their own thing. If they wanna draw a comic about animal fucking, they can (and probably have) and its this freedom that allows for experimentation, and experiments can lead to fresh ideas. But what of an experiment for it’s own sake? What kind of results will it yield? Often times, i’ve bought many many many indie comics, and they may be expertly drawn, but the story is basically nonexistent. They are often explorations of themes, more or less, or almost illustrations in sequence. That’s not really a problem, and if an artist is talented enough, such as Yuichi Yokoyama’s work, then that can carry a work alone. But its just as often it seems, a lot of these artists simply don’t know HOW to tell a compelling story, or have figured out what they want to say, and so we are left with a glutton of work that is simply sequential. This happens, then this happens, then this happens, and in The Boy in Question, it ends with “ETC.” I enjoyed reading it though, and kept wanting to know what would happen next, so it’s not a failure, but this book was too easy. Comics are writing and arting, and just farting around doesn’t satisfy after awhile. Still, i’m glad i got it. Maybe i’ll draw something like this one day (i already did in an issue of Faesthetic actually)

Batman: Zero Year – Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo – Crappy

If Batman: Year One is maybe one of the best Batman stories ever put to paper, then the title of Batman: Zero Year, is appropriate. Because it says absolutely nothing of importance. It’s fanfiction. And lots of people call ALL of superhero comics, ‘fanfiction’, as if their derivative ideas are somehow more original, but this is really at the imagination level of a 14 year old boy. Unfortunately, i’m pretty sure the dudes are in their late thirties or forties who made this book. Snyder is a capable writer, but he ain’t a beast. He ain’t throwing down the mic after his set. And this comic, i imagine was something he was more or less, forced to do. And the thought process must’ve been,”I’m gonna read better batman comics and put the things i remember into this story” The purple gloves from the golden age, a goofy roadster batmobile, a young honest Commissioner Gordon. Greg Capullo has a lot of fans, but he’s not my cup of tea. I’m not gonna rag on him, cause i can see technique even if i don’t like the final product. DC doesn’t stand for detective comics anymore, but it should, because maybe Scott Snyder would figure out why he’s working at Dead Corpse. DC has one successful property right now with Batman right now, and even though they label EVERY FUCKING COMIC with “THE NEW 52” they gotta take Batman and MAKE HIM EVEN NEWER. Not year ONE, YEAR ZERO. Maybe when DC has a editorial meeting that consists of more than 12 year old boys finding out what their dicks do, we’ll get some good comics again. Until then, stick to the classics.

In Situ No 2 – Sophie Yanow – Good

I didn’t have a great comic this week, but this one could have been it. It’s sort of a collection of stream of consciousness, rambly inner monologue vignettes. It is also the only comic written by a woman this week. On skills alone, her writing would make most of these guys go back to middle school. But unfortunately, she’s basically chopped off her feet and decided to dance on stumps. I was trying to follow along, but her incredibly sketchy art style is close to making the book unreadable. There were at least a couple pages, where i couldn’t tell who was speaking, if that was supposed to be her at all, or if the short vignette had finished and a new story began. There are lots of artists that have a scratchy, loose, willfully uncontrolled style, but your style shouldn’t get in the way of telling your story. Clarity is king, and i could not tell what was what.

One thing i noticed, was the distinct difference between how sex was depicted in this comic, vs. DeForge’s book. Every indie dude has to draw a dick, and it’s always drawn with the same “LOOK AT ME, I’M NAKEDDDDDDDD” approach. They don’t care so much about the relationships we have, that occasionally stimulates our genitals, they only care about the genitals. And that simplistic interest is about as satisfying as a dude jackhammering away at his girlfriend in bed, only to cum in 30 seconds. Good job, that was so impressive. In Situ, shows scenes that may be sexual, have lead to sex, or have occurred just after sex, and these brief moments say more about the actual moments that matter to humans, than the “Insert rod A in slot B” mechanics of DeForge and other male artist’s work. It’s not that a female writer would or could or should write a sex scene better than a man, but this is what diversity is for.

When you see the same ideas being regurgitated, by the same creators, and the majority of them are approaching middle aged white guys, how could any intelligent critical person, look at that and say “I don’t care about sex/race/gender, i just want to read good comics.” This week’s comics were overall, mediocre. And this boy’s club that many people are upset with, isn’t wrong because there’s something wrong with white dudes, it’s because white dudes can only tell so many stories. The backup piece in Batman: Zero Year, shows 2 poor kids, dealing with an oncoming storm, no power, no heat, and an abusive father. Once again, poverty in Gotham City only has white faces. In the entire comic alone, i counted TWO black men, and the rest of the cast was depicted as entirely caucasian. I dont know about anyone else, but if you grew up in the inner city, you got a real good chance of being a minority. I guess Gotham City must’ve succeeded in pushing through those redline laws.

I wanna read stories that speaks to my experience, that speaks to all different experiences. I’m not the most straight dude in the world, i’m not the most most masculine, i’m not the most latino either. And the diversity of people reading comics is close to infinite. You wouldn’t know that from going to a local comic book shop. Regardless of these issues of inclusion in other mediums, it can’t be denied that the Cosby show was a mainstream hit in america in the 80s. That Madonna was vogue-ing in the 90s. Even the ridiculous attempts of Miley Cyrus twerkin’ are signs that the rest of pop culture is miles ahead of mainstream comics. Shit, half the time i read something current in a comic book, its already 5 years too late.

I do care about race, sex, gender, and if you care about reading great comics, you should too.

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