JUSTIN’S PICK :: AIRBOY #3: I was never too enamored of aviation comics. As a genre, it’s not something that appealed to my sensibilities. So, when Image announced a new take on Airboy, it wasn’t a priority in my reading. Airboy is in the public domain, which means the copyright on the property lapsed, and the character is fair game for any creator that cares to use him and his supporting cast. Now, I know James Robinson to be a quality author, and although he doesn’t have a lot of published work under his belt, Greg Hinkle’s art is a thing of great beauty. I didn’t have a lot of expectations when the first issue was released, but because of the top notch creative team I nibbled, and I’m rather glad I did. Robinson uses the title as a metafictional, autobiographical clearinghouse, detailing a debaucherous and undignified mid-career crisis. This is a refreshing take, with the Golden Age stalwart as a moral springboard. This is the kind of story only comics can pull off, and if you were on the fence like me, as of Wednesday, Heroes will have all three issues available for your enjoyment. Check out what is turning out to be something of a rare treat, and even more rare, a book every Heroes staffer seems to heartily recommend.
JUSTIN’S PICK :: MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS ACTIVITY BOOK FACSIMILE COLLECTION: (phew) Like most fans of my generation, I am a victim of nostalgia. No industry exploits that propensity quite like comic books. Alongside a cache of Silver Age treasures and unreliable TV reruns, Marvel/Mattel’s Secret Wars toy line was one of my earliest touchstones for the characters I grew to love. In anticipation of its Big Summer Event incarnation, Marvel is releasing this activity book facsimile collection. I don’t think I even had this as a kid, which makes owning it now even more imperative. ‘The specifics weren’t important,’ reads a particularly illuminating appendix in the trade paperback collection of the original Secret Wars series, ‘as long as it featured unique designs that could be made into toys, and as long as it was called “Secret Wars” – two words Mattel had found tested well with adolescent boys.’ Creepy as grown men dispassionately analyzing children may be, the marketing works: thirty years on, and I’m still buying this stuff. Score one for target demographics.
JUSTIN’S PICK :: KAIJUMAX #1: This is one of those comics > movies things. Giant Monster Prison might be kind of awkward on the silver screen, but on the paneled page, flowing from the pen of creator Zander Cannon, it just works. With obvious echoes of Godzilla and Ultraman, but also notes of Rampage (one of my favorite arcade/8 bit diversions of yore), exploitation cinema, and 90s gangsta rap, this comic promises to synthesize a lot of disparate elements into a delectable confection. I can’t really say why you should buy this book, other than I don’t know why you wouldn’t.
(PS Bryan Lee O’Malley variant!)
JUSTIN’S PICK :: HOWARD THE DUCK #1: I’m a big fan of Howard. The guy’s on my business card, and indelibly inked onto me corporeally. Also, he’s in my heart and soul. A childhood love for that foul (see what I did there?) movie lead to a rekindled personal interest in the funnypapers. A lot of that had to do with the late, great Steve Gerber, the Duck’s creator and chronicler, and how his work provided a hitherto nonexistent intersection of comics and “comix”. Howard was the consummate outsider, but also a staunch everyman and rugged individualist. Personalities like that usually end up the most incisive of social critics. And that was Steve Gerber’s tack: Howard was his mouthpiece, his means of satirizing not only the insular culture of comics, but the pop culture abroad as well (even post Y2K, Gerbs was savaging his psychic surroundings…see Howard’s brilliant and underrated six issue MAX series if you don’t believe me). Howard WAS Gerber, and in other writers’ hands, well, he’s never been quite right.
Therefore, I do not envy Chip Zdarsky. Granted, people like me – fanatical Duck fans – aren’t a flock large enough to generate a blip on the radar (these duck puns are making me very ashamed of myself), but like Ty Templeton before him, Zdarsky is using high concept as his entry point, i.e. Howard the Duck PI. That’s fine, I’ll give him a fair shake; he’s demonstrated a singular enough sense of humor. He could do worse for collaborators: Joe Quinones may be drawing Howard with four fingers, but otherwise, he is a stellar artist, whose work is both elegant and entertaining, technically proficient without sacrificing storytelling. And our man Rico Renzi will certainly punch things up with his usual panache. Me? I approach the book with a strange mix of enthusiasm and trepidation. A lot of people saw that movie, and a lot of them sat through those credits. Will they all understand that there is soul behind the smartassery? That satire is the essence of what Howard is, or should be? Or do they just want a cuddly ducky with a cranky attitude to placate them for a few months, ‘til the next fad pops up?
JUSTIN’S PICK :: UNCANNY AVENGERS #1: Another Marvel relaunch destined to inspire endless diatribes of Internet nerdsnark. Nevertheless, I’m excited to see a new iteration of the Avengers’ Unity Squad. Including a historical Avenger like the Vision on the roster only deepens this group’s significance, and throwing in a left field B-lister like Dr. (Brother) Voodoo is super cool (70s genre Marvel is kinda my jam). Also, Rick Remender and Daniel Acuña play well together, so let’s check the cynicism at the door and have a little fun, shall we?
JUSTIN’S PICK :: MULTIVERSITY THUNDERWORLD #1: I am not a Grant Morrison fanatic, but I’m not repelled by his work, either. I think he’s a very good writer, mostly in that he has a broad and elastic style that can suit a plethora of subject matter. Multiversity has been proof positive of that. But I have anticipated none of the offerings in this mind-bending miniseries more than Thunderworld. Cam Stewart is an inspired choice to delineate the Marvel Family, and Morrison has a pretty sterling track record of modernizing the tropes of yesteryear. Holy moly!
JUSTIN’S PICK :: DC SUPER POWERS 8 INCH RETRO ACTION FIGURES: Comics are the peanut butter to merchandising’s jelly. There is something archly appealing about seeing our favorite characters rendered in three dimensions, and that impulse has spawned a cavalcade of…stuff, spanning generations. Now, two generation-defining toy lines – Mego and the Super Powers Collection – get melded in this new series of figures by the Figures Toy Company. Heroes has always been a comics-first establishment, and that principle will always guide us, but these figures….THESE FIGURES…were too cool to resist. And with gift season soon upon us, there’s a character in this selection to please the frothing fanboy in YOUR life (that’s if the staff doesn’t snap them all up first!).
JUSTIN’S PICK :: THE HUMANS #1: When this book was solicited, it appeared to be more of the genre mash-uppery we’ve come to crave from Image Comics. “Planet of the Apes meets Sons of Anarchy” was my small mind’s trifling conclusion. Imagine my surprise when The Humans #1 turned out to encompass a far more broad range of reference points. Steeped in the exploitative iconography of 70s cinema and lacquered (liquored?) with an appropriately underground sensibility, this book’s as entertaining as it is unclassifiable. The back cover by bountiful Benjamin Marra sums things up nicely, and it’s also hand-lettered, which always sends my heart aflutter. Take a bow, Keller/Neely/Collantes…you’ve crafted a thing of gritty beauty.
JUSTIN’S PICK :: DMC GN #1: DMC is like Marvel’s What If? mashed up with Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree. Set in 80s New York, as hip-hop took root in the streets and branched out into the suburbs, DMC #1 examines what would have happened if Darryl McDaniels opted to become a vigilante superhero instead of an emcee. Upon further consideration, there isn’t a huge gap between superheroing and conscious rap: both strive to change the world around them for the better, usually employing some sort of colorful costume/shtick/moniker. That parallel is at the heart of this particular funnybook.
JUSTIN’S PICKS: AVENGERS & X-MEN AXIS #1: I wasn’t a big Marvel reader in the Heroes Reborn days, and the subsequent emergence of the villain called Onslaught. But when promotional material started showing up for Marvel’s next big event – Axis – featured that iconic armor with the Red Skull’s head peeking out, I was intrigued. It’s been a while since the Red Skull was such a major threat, and Uncanny Avengers (the series that laid the foundation for Axis) has been one of Marvel’s more consistently entertaining titles. So this is an event I actually look forward to with some anticipation. With Rick Remender, one of my favorite writers, at the helm, I know I can count on a certain level of quality.
PUNKS THE COMIC #1: Speaking of Mr. Remender, my first exposure to the guy was an interview he did with Dog, a character from Punks, in a special that came out in the mid 2ks. The premise is simple: four roommates, Abe Lincoln, Dog, Skull, and Fist, share a domicile and engage in various shenanigans. It’s absurd and hilarious, and the art style Kody Chamberlain employs, an analogue collage approach, suits the subject matter perfectly. Now, Chamberlain and writer Joshua Hale Fialkov unleash new misadventures of this unlikely foursome via Image Comics, and I urge any fan of quality humor comics to give this one a go. Chuckles guaranteed.