Singles Going Steady: Floppies Roundup for 2/19/2013

A comic review article by: Danny Djeljosevic, Daniel Elkin, Shawn Hill, Sean Gonzalez

 

 

Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin's weekly single issue review roundup.

 

Not everything gets covered in Singles, so here are the comics that got reviewed separately:

 

Katana #1

(Ann Nocenti, Alex Sanchez, Matt Yackey; DC)

 

 

I didn't go insane, though I might have a fever right now. I know Katana is best known as a character from The Outsiders, an F-list superhero team where she ranks above Halo and below Geo-Force. If you know who they are, it means something. If you don't, it means a lot more. Anyway, she's in a new Justice League of America comic so she's getting a solo series because of synergy. Which is cool because it's a superhero book starring an Asian woman -- never mind that it's about an Asian ninja lady named KATANA, which is like if you named an American superhero Cornflakes or Legal Assault Weapon.

But for all my ejaculatory writing about Michel Fiffe's COPRA I'd be remiss to ignore Katana #1, because if this was printed on different paper it might be considered the next great entry in the bootleg superhero comics game, which makes it deeply worrying to see comic reviewers -- like, the bros who write completely sincere editorials about Nightwing for sites with names that sound like self-negs  -- approaching Katana #1 as a legitimate DC comic as they've been doing this past week, treating it like an issue of Green Lantern: The New Guardians.

 

 

Written by Anne Nocenti -- whose comics career is so bizarre that she co-created Longshot --and illustrated in a twisted "Travel Foreman meets David Aja" style by Alex Sanchez, Katana #1 is some very strange, gonzo action comics fare, delivered in a defiantly straight-faced style. This is a comic book where our hero wakes up from having a disturbing sex dream about her arch nemesis by announcing "A nightmare!" and then finds comfort in embracing her sword -- which contains the soul of her dead husband, which of course she keeps in bed by her side. And Katana is a character who makes sure all her earrings, bracelets, necklaces and "hair-sticks" function as deadly weapons as she walks through what's labeled as simply "A Garden Sculpture Park" where all the bushes are trimmed to look like kawaii bunnies and Doraemons and Angry Birds and shit.

 

 

On the surface, Katana is exactly what you expect when you imagine a modern DC comic about a Japanese sword lady. But Nocenti's script takes such an oblique, oddball approach to the material that what we have in our hands isn't just some attempt at diversity stunted by the fact that this is a superhero comic, but some avant garde take on what bad comics are like -- right down to the bullshit cliffhanger where someone says something that makes no sense but is somehow significant enough to be the last page.

Katana is going to be the most misunderstood comic book of 2013 and I'm going to revel in it until the series proves me wrong -- or, failing that, when the entire creative team is fired.

- Danny Djeljosevic

 

Todd: The Ugliest Kid on Earth #2

(Ken Kristensen, M.K. Perker; Image)

 

 

 

This title continues to be one of my favorite this year. The team on this book are layering all sorts of different meats and cheeses and using all kinds of spicy condiments to serve up one hell of a sandwich, and you know how much I like sandwiches.

Our boy with a bag on his head is back, and this time, Todd, The Ugliest Kid on Earth, is in jail, learning the ropes, making friends, being targeted for a shanking, chasing butterflies, and picking up the soap. Once again Ken Kristensen and M.K. Perker have gone out of their way to skewer sacred cows, punch the gut of pomposity, and provide some pretty good chuckles along the way.

While our titular Todd's perambulations in the pokey are the focus of most of this issue, Kristensen has a few other story lines to season the stew. Todd's dad is all hot and bothered for soap opera star Belinda Fairchild whose embrace of Scientology made her "breasts larger" and her "vagina smaller." Todd's mom enjoys the "advances" of a big-chinned opportunist. A new headless girl's body has been discovered to the dismay of the Chief of  Police who had already arrested Todd for the crime. Finally, there is the axe murderer himself who, in his only appearance in this issue, is upset by his Domino's Pizza delivery being late. 

 

 

Oh, and there's a toilet fly who sings "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" who subsequently calls Todd a bitch and threatens to cut him.

As you can see, even in this four issue series, the creative team understands how to blend flavors to really be cooking.

This whole meal is served with a side order of subtle snark, like Oprah featuring Dr. Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent for her Book Club pick, or Shawshank Redemption references. This type of snark makes me think that the point of this whole series is to make us realize how ugliness is more horrific when it is spiritual rather than physical. Everything seems to be pointed in that direction as each new plate is served.

We're two courses into this series and, as we head into the entree and desert, I'm not sure how this whole meal is going to play out. All I know is that Kristensen and Perker are keeping the menu exciting with Todd: The Ugliest Kid on Earth #2, and they have me salivating for more. 

- Daniel Elkin

 

Secret Avengers #1

(Nick Spencer, Luke Ross, Matthew Wilson; Marvel)

 

 

 

There are two reasons I bought this comic. One is Nick Spencer. I missed his run on the last version of the title (I was partial to the Brubaker and especially the Ellis issues), but I've since got on board the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents bandwagon, loving the hell out of that short but sweet pre-New 52 series. So I was hoping this comic would read with the drama, excitement and betrayal of those covert operatives, except with the big guns.

Yes, I said big guns. Hawkeye and the Widow are that to me, I don't worry in the slightest about them not having magic powers or science fiction tech like the rest of the Avengers. They've always been the best they are at what they do, as Hawkeye's solo series demonstrates in every near-perfect issue, and as ScarJo captured with such style in the movie (if she's the reason Natasha is in every version of an Avengers comic being published now, I can only be grateful: "Looks like fun" indeed). 

 

 

So this comic seemed like a Marvel NOW! sure bet, and #1 comes pretty close, with a few caveats. There couldn't be a more Bendis-derivative Avengers comic since he's finally off the franchise. This issue picks up threads from The Initiative, from Civil War, and even Secret War. It has a very heavy dose of Maria Hill and even the palpable off-screen presence of Daisy Johnson. Nick Fury has well and truly become Samuel Jackson in 616 (yes, I believe how they did it in continuity, but it's still ripe for humor), and Phil Coulson is all over the place.

It looks like we're going to be getting another version of S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to control our supers as at least the subtext, and they may have picked Clint and 'Tasha first because they're the closest to baseline human. They've really only created a world of hurt for themselves down the road, but Maria never learns, and the action, against a formulaic human trafficker/mystic, sets up some spooky sequences that make use of everybody's sneaky spy skills. Luke Ross isn't quite up the level of creepiness required of the Cthulhu parts, but his Widow gets the job done. It's going to get more complicated when the cast grows, but the bad decisions are tempered with enough zingers to make the movie references not so distracting.

- Shawn Hill

 

The Walking Dead #107

(Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard; Image)

 

 

 

Before I go into this, I just want to make clear that I'm aware that anything I say regarding The Walking Dead is pretty much moot. If you're not reading this comic, then you just don't care for gritty, aggressive, post-apocalyptic dramas that happen to include zombies. I'm seriously not judging you or people like you. Not reading this comic is your prerogative and I totally respect that. Kinda.

 

 

The reason I wanted to cover this issue was primarily an attempt to vent the feelings that this series instills in me. The Walking Dead seems to do exactly what needs to be done in order to get me to care about the imaginary beings going about their miserable days on the page. Within the first couple of pages, the series' new favorite villain, Negan, faces readers with the reveal of what exactly has happened to Carl since his capture. Rick's response to Negan's taunting is a visceral display of emotion that seems to jack the intensity to the nth degree.  Despite being a relatively new addition to the story, this confrontation between Rick and Negan seems to be just as dire as those Rick has had with others in the past -- *cough*The General*cough* --. The altercation between the two takes nearly half of the issue, while the rest seems to ramp up to the intended close of the story arc, but even when catching up with disparate members of the community, the fear for what's coming next is evident in both their actions and expressions.

To say that this comic has literally made me gasp while reading could only illustrate a fraction of its qualities and with this issue being a lead up to the end of the arc, it's dynamic qualities are a testament to Kirkman's ability to build towards a conclusion without having to take a break from the intensity.

- Sean Gonzalez

 

The Manhattan Projects #9

(Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra, Jordie Bellaire; Image)

 

 

Jonathan Hickman writes a bunch of weirdo comics about planets and people doing questionable things with science, seemingly without regard for whether he owns the rights to the work or not, which makes him admirably consistent in some sense. But The Manhattan Projects is my favorite Hickman work because it's so goddamn daffy -- it's the act of watching a creator put out what interests him, completely unfettered of the fact that these characters need to be in movies.

 

 

As such, this issue has Albert Einstein bashing the back of a luchador's head with his own championship belt and a dog peeing on a surge protector to kill an artificial intelligence, among other scenes of strangeness for a comic book about scientists. It's got this gleeful disregard for realism, accuracy and the boundaries of what might be considered taste -- all in the name of sequential entertainment. It's the same vibe I get from that moment in Inglourious Basterds where Hitler's face gets ripped apart with a machine gun. It's this line-crossing that's easy to hate it you take yourself too seriously, but for the rest of us it's liberating. It's what Inglourious Basterds is this exhilirating love-letter to cinema and Valkyrie is just some movie we forgot about the moment the credits rolled.

Here's a very telling moment -- Hickman brings in JFK as President and completely skips Dwight D. Eisenhower in the process, presumably for the fuck of it.

- Danny Djeljosevic

 

Morning Glories #24

(Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma, Alex Sollazzo; Image)

 

 

 

For the last couple of months I have had NO IDEA what's been going on at the Morning Glories Academy. The students I had grown accustomed to disappeared -- in some cases, literally -- and I was not enjoying the antics of the group that had replaced them, especially due to the fact that I couldn't tell half of them apart from the other half -- which surprised me seeing as how much I usually understand and appreciate Joe Eisma's art.

Granted, I'm here to comment on issue #24 and not the last couple so, I have to say how relieved I was when the focus shifted back to folks I recognized. Specifically focusing on Ike and his father and the root of their tumultuous relationship. Of course, even with all the glimpses into Ike's past Spencer manages to avoid any real answers to any of our questions-- which for some of them, have gone unanswered for so long that I can honestly say that I have forgotten them. 

 

 

Many a fan of Morning Glories has espoused the practice of rereading multiple issues and waiting for trades in attempts to maintain a semblance of continuity between issues. It's with next issues' purported end to "Season 1" that I'm most intrigued with this strategy. I plan on sitting down and really tearing through the last 25 issues and, hopefully, discovering that I actually do care about these kids and the wacky shenanigans their school puts them through.

- Sean Gonzalez

 

Fantastic Four #4

(Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley, Mark Farmer, Mark Paul Mounts; Marvel)

 

 

Fraction uses his fourth issue to cut between the FF hanging out on a planet where their images have shown up on cave paintings and the early budding romance between Reed Richards and Sue Storm, a method that's reminiscent of his 2007 Sensational Spider-Man Annual, where he and Salvador Larroca took a really sweet, touching look at the Peter Parker/Mary Jane relationship. However, this time it's done in the name of marital strife, showing us how much Reed loves his wife in order to give us a sense of how painful it is that he's lying to her. It probably wouldn't be the same if we didn't have those flashbacks to show us what it was like when hair wasn't gray and nobody was poisoned by space radiation.

 

 

It's a much slower take on the Fantastic Four than we've seen in recent years, as Fraction takes time to develop his cast. The educational family vacation aspect is a strong one, and puts a focus on these characters and how they interact (or don't interact as the case may be). Some readers may be a bit antsy about where this run is going, but I'm willing to follow the characters while big ideas grow closer to coalescing.

- Danny Djeljosevic

 

 

Avengers Assemble #12

(Kelly Sue DeConnick, Pete Woods, Scott Hanna, Rain Beredo; Marvel)

 

 

This is a much more somber look at the Black Widow than the Secret Avengers version. Which is weird to say, since I also insist on reading it as an homage to one of my favorite Ms. Marvel comics (#20, when Dave Cockrum designs an eerily convincing tribe of talking lizards), though the Siberian versions seem to prefer all too human fashions.

 

 

The sobriety is because we see one of Natasha's (presumably numerous) assassinations in flashback, because it's one she regrets. She ends up back embroiled with the family of the man she killed (a scientist whose invention might have one day given a tactical military advantage to one side or the other), and here's where things get a little weird. Because while Woods has a pretty nice Immonen/Kirk vibe going for much of the issue, he makes someone everyone keeps calling a boy look far too manly, while keeping his mother (the widow of the original victim) young and sprightly. Without any captioning or narration after the sepia-flashback, the modern story gets a little hard to follow.

 

 

The best part of the issue is when the Widow and her two insistent allies (Clint and Jessica) head into the urban jungle of subterranean tunnels to find a missing girl, even if I've seldom otherwise seen Spider-Woman used for (intentional) comic relief. It's pretty cool how she and Hawkeye can carry on bickering while simultaneously surveying and reporting on the situation at hand to Natasha. Professionals all, of course.

A final betrayal takes the Widow by surprise, but then her guard is down because of her guilty mood, which makes the cliffhanger powerful despite the persisting confusion about who is doing what to who and why.

- Shawn Hill

 

I THOUGHT SECRET AVENGERS SHOULD HAVE BEEN CALLED S.H.I.E.L.D., AND NOW THAT I'VE READ THE BOOK I BELIEVE THAT MORE THAN EVER

 

Wolverine & the X-Men #25

 

 

Suicide Squad #17

 

 

Uncanny X-Men #1

 

(Keith and Jamil will say real stuff about it for the next installment of Two for #1)

 

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