Comic Picks By The Glick
Phonogram vol. 3:  The Immaterial Girl

Phonogram vol. 3: The Immaterial Girl

April 16, 2016

I’ve been eagerly anticipating this volume since it was announced back in 2012 as we’re helpfully reminded by its backmatter.  I won’t begrudge creators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie for taking so long to get back to it, particularly since we got “Young Avengers” and “The Wicked + The Divine” in the meantime.  As those series showed, they remain one of the best creative teams in comics and there was every expectation on my part that this third volume of “Phonogram” wouldn’t disappoint.  Spoiler Warning:  It didn’t.  “The Immaterial Girl” may not hit the sheer heights of fun that “The Singles Club” did, but it winds up being an immensely satisfying conclusion for this series.

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Tokyo Ghost vol. 1:  The Atomic Garden

Tokyo Ghost vol. 1: The Atomic Garden

April 15, 2016

Rick Remender’s creator-owned output through Image can be charitably described as “uneven.”  Though he’s clearly a skilled writer, he needs to find a new approach beyond simply tossing his characters into hopeless situations and then starting to grind them down.  It’s an approach that has worked on “Deadly Class,” is on the verge of breaking “Black Science,” and managed the impressive task of getting me to quit “Low” after one volume.  Now he’s back with a new title that shows him to have ever so slightly tinkered with his established formula.  If that was the only thing “Tokyo Ghost” had to offer then it’d be easy to write off.  As the art comes from the enormously talented Sean Murphy, I’m actually thinking about sticking with it.

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Comic Picks #208:  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Comic Picks #208: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

April 13, 2016

Myron joins us to talk about the Heroes in a Half-Shell's history while I talk up the new comics from IDW.

Goodnight Punpun vol. 1

Goodnight Punpun vol. 1

April 11, 2016

After “A Girl on the Shore” didn’t entirely satisfy my craving for a new quality manga from Inio Asano, this one hits the mark.  Let me say upfront that it’s kind of a depressing read as well.  It’s about average grade school kid Punpun Punyama trying to make his way through life as his situation is upended, warped, and complicated by friends, family, and love.  Part of the series’ appeal so far is how Asano manages to nail a lot of the little details particular to being a young boy.  Hanging out with your friends trying to unpack the mysteries of sex (and find porn, though the internet has dated that one).  Falling in love for the first time.  Or contemplating dreams like becoming an astronaut and discovering a new planet when they still seem possible.  If the series was just made up of these bits it’d be a pretty decent read by itself.

Except Asano’s tendencies have always trended more toward the avant-garde and surreal.  That’s put front and center here as Punpun and his family are rendered as cartoonishly simplistic bird-like characters.  Why would he do such a thing?  I’m in agreement with Scott McCloud in the sense that abstracting a character in this way makes it easier to become more involved with them.  Asano gives us the minimum of visual cues to understand Punpun’s emotional state in a given moment while providing copious text boxes for us to understand his train of thought.  Everything else is left for the reader to fill in for themselves.

So it’s a neat trick to draw the reader into the narrative, but it also cuts both ways as it allows them to distance themselves from some of the more disturbing parts of this manga.  Such as the aftermath of violence that greets them at the end of the first chapter.  After all, it’s not happening to a real person, just a cartoon bird.  There are also other surrealist touches that characterize this series, such as the borderline psychotic behavior displayed by some of the adults and Punpun’s conversations with God -- who is inserted into the story as a photo of a Japanese man with an afro.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that this is Asano himself.  Which just makes Punpun’s conversations with him about the meaning of life all the more foolish.  Don’t ask mangaka about such things:  They’re not big on giving out straight answers.  Yet if you can bring yourself to buy into the weirdness that permeates this series, you’ll be rewarded with a compelling and immersive read.  Not for everyone, but bound to be beloved by those it is for.

Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham Book I:  The Golden Age

Miracleman by Gaiman and Buckingham Book I: The Golden Age

April 10, 2016

Alan Moore tends to leave very deep footprints in his non-creator-owned work.  His run on “Swamp Thing” still reverberates to this day whenever someone tries a new take on the character.  The short stories he told with Batman and Superman still stand as some of the most memorable ones featuring the characters.  Even his run on “Wild C.A.T.S.” stands as one of the few good things to come out of the endless parade of crap that was 90’s Image superhero titles.  Then you have “Miracleman” which stood as one of the great revisionist superhero epics of the 80’s that still holds up well today.  The final volume also served as a transformative narrative that left the series in much different shape than when it began with Miracleman and his companions becoming virtual Gods on Earth.  How do you follow up something like that?  Who would be crazy enough to try?

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Secret Wars Roundup

Secret Wars Roundup

April 9, 2016

I probably should’ve mentioned this earlier, but tie-ins to “Secret Wars” came in three different flavors.  The titles branded with “Last Days” showed how their characters reacted to the end of the Marvel Universe (such as it was).  “Battlezones” gave us a look at the goings-on in different regions while the main event was going on, while “Warzones” did the same but with the aim of setting up future stories in the reborn Marvel Universe.  It’s those last two kinds that I want to talk about here with “Siege,” “Thors,” and “X-Men ‘92.”

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Batman & Robin Eternal vol. 1

Batman & Robin Eternal vol. 1

April 8, 2016

The sprawling “Batman Eternal” weekly series gets a follow-up of sorts focusing on all of the sidekicks the Caped Crusader has had over the years.  It may be telling a less epic story in half the space (this ran for 26 issues rather than 52), but that decision turns out to be the right one as things get off to a strong start here.  Years ago, in a case involving the Scarecrow, Batman and Robin came across a human trafficker known only as Mother.  She dealt in supplying the super-rich with people who had been brainwashed and modified to meet their every need.  Mother was never brought to justice for reasons unknown, which catches us up to the present day as Dick Grayson comes face-to-face with her handiwork while on a mission for Spyral in Gotham.  This leads the former Robin to team up with other former Robins Jason Todd and Tim Drake, Batgirl, Bluebird, Spoiler, and even the “We Are Robin” movement to find out just what Mother’s game is here.  Also, to answer the question of whether or not Batman actually killed for this person in order to secure her services to make Dick into a stronger and better Robin.

I wouldn’t recommend this story to first-time “Batman” readers, but that’s the kind of person you’d have to be in order to take that question seriously at all.  However, Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV are responsible for the story behind this series and it’s safe to say that they’re aware of that.  So it’s all a matter of accepting it and letting yourself be taken along for a ride by a couple of pros and the talented group of writers (in addition to Tynion, Tim Seeley, Genevieve Valentine, and Steve Orlando are some of the writers working on the individual issues) who are on hand to realize the story.  If you can do this, then you’ll be rewarded with a fast-paced action story that has lots of twists and a strong focus on its cast of supporting Bat-characters.  The writers do a great job of nailing the dynamics between these characters and in re-introducing pre-”New 52 Batgirl” Cassandra Cain -- though the jury’s still out on their work with Azrael.  Some parts of the story will flow better the more well-versed you are with the other Bat-titles (on that note, “Superheavy” is the most relevant here as it explains Bruce Wayne’s current status quo), yet there’s enough context provided for you to suss things out if you pay attention.  Even if we know that Batman didn’t kill anyone for Mother or have her make a better Robin, it looks like the explanation as to what really happened is going to be a fun one.

Star Wars:  Chewbacca

Star Wars: Chewbacca

April 6, 2016

Everyone’s favorite wookiee gets his own miniseries from Marvel with some fantastic art from Phil Noto!  Seriously, the art is the strongest thing about this series as Noto invests a great amount of detail and style in rendering the world that Chewbacca has crash-landed on.  From the mines filled with explosive larvae, to the rural and wasted countryside, and the bustling starport, everything on the page really draws you in.  The artist also gets the look of familiar “Star Wars” characters and tech, like the Stormtroopers and Star Destroyers, just right while making new things like partially enviro-suited crime boss Jaum look like they belong to the same universe.  Noto’s storytelling is spot-on as well.  This is particularly true with the main character as Chewbacca may only grunt or roar in the dialogue bubbles, but always gets his point across through (usually very violent) action.

I want to stress that last part because it’s the only halfway decent one that writer Gerry Duggan came up with for this miniseries.  While we’re used to having wookiee-speak interpreted by someone like Han Solo who is fluent in it, that’s not the case here.  It’s an interesting dynamic to observe as Chewbacca is paired up with a young girl named Zarro whose family has been taken as slaves to work in Jaum’s mine.  The problem is that as the two can’t properly converse with each other, Duggan has Zarro driving the conversation at every opportunity and turning her into a spunky female protagonist who Will.  Not.  Shut.  Up.  Duggan has some experience with a protagonist like that with his still-ongoing stint on “Deadpool,” but Zarro doesn’t have half the personality that the Merc With a Mouth does.  There is a general irreverence to be seen in most of the dialogue here, which is nice.  Regrettably, it doesn’t make up for the fact that the core story Chewbacca finds himself in -- that of a warrior with a mission who finds himself sidetracked by the plight of others -- is awfully generic and would’ve worked just as well with any other “Star Wars” character.  

Weak as the story is, “Chewbacca” isn’t a bad read thanks to Noto’s art.  Which also raises my interest for the “Poe Dameron” series he’s illustrating.  It is, however, the least of Marvel’s “Star Wars” output so far.

Inuyashiki vol. 3

Inuyashiki vol. 3

April 4, 2016

I talked about the first two volumes a bit at the end of the “Gantz” podcast as they represented a dramatic shift from mangaka Hiroya Oku’s seinen sci-fi action series.  It’s still a sci-fi action tale, but one more concerned with how a timid old man, the titular Inuyashiki, adapts to the power granted to him by his rebuilt alien war machine body and his perceived loss of humanity.  While the second volume indicated that the primary conflict in this series would be between the old man and a teenage boy who was transformed in the same way but doesn’t possess the same morality, vol. 3 takes us down a different and decidedly less interesting path.

The volume starts off by introducing us to a tall, dark-skinned, decidedly ruthless yakuza and lets us know that he’s into rough, dominant sex with either gender.  We’re then shown an average, happy couple and the girl eventually catches the yakuza’s eye with predictably dire circumstances.  I don’t think it’ll surprise anyone if I say that Inuyashiki eventually shows up and starts fighting the good fight against less-than-impossible odds.  This is familiar, predictable stuff.  Oku’s chops for depicting action in manga are still intact, and while he does his level best to get us to care for the new couple and hiss the new villain his efforts never really overcome the fact that we’ve seen this stuff done before and better elsewhere.

It all leads up to a volume that doesn’t feel satisfying in terms of storytelling or the amount of content delivered.  Even if individual volumes of “Gantz” had their problems (and boy did they have some problems…), there was still a meaningful amount of progression to the story in each of them.  With this volume of “Inuyashiki,” it feels like the main story was put on hold for Oku to tell a generic action story where his protagonist shows up halfway through it to go beat on some bad, bad men and save a happy couple.  We don’t even get the end of this story here -- we’ll have to wait until vol. 4 comes out for that!  This series started out with such great potential, but now I’m starting to think that Oku doesn’t have a plan for it and is just making it up as he goes.  To fairly dull results as seen here.

Thief of Thieves vol. 5:  Take Me

Thief of Thieves vol. 5: Take Me

April 3, 2016

After the previous volume saw master thief Conrad “Redmond” Paulson get himself and his family out from under the thumb of Lola, it would appear that our protagonist has finally got everything he ever wanted.  Well, except for the fact that his ex-wife still hates him.  And, more pressingly, his former partner Celia is still pestering him about getting back into the game.  After (a night of booze and sex) Conrad shuts her down, Celia makes the highly questionable decision to assume the Redmond name for herself.  Thanks to the involvement of disgraced former FBI agent Elizabeth Cohen, this goes about as well as you’d expect it to for someone who was only part of a master thief’s gang.  Now the FBI is looking to pin ALL of Redmond’s crimes onto Celia and the rest of her gang is worried that she’ll crack and spill her guts on their entire operation.  Looks like it’s time for Conrad to come out of retirement to sort things out his way.

In the face of declining sales and the conclusion to all of the major story threads in the previous volume, I was expecting this to bring the “Thief of Thieves” adventure to a close.  As I mentioned last week, that’s not the case.  However, vol. 5 doesn’t lay the best groundwork for things going forward.  On one hand, writer Andy Diggle makes the action hum along as skillfully as you’d expect from his previous efforts, and his work rehabilitating the character of Conrad’s son Augustus can now be described as “astonishing” after this volume.  I was actually sympathetic to the young man’s plight here as we see him trying to make a go at a normal life only to be dragged back into the game by his dad.

That part is emblematic of the volume’s biggest failing as it gives us a Conrad that’s more self-centered and arrogant than we’ve seen before.  Not that these aren’t new traits for him, but they’re presented in a way here that makes him both unlikeable and suggests that the series going forward will be about seeing him get what he deserves.  Which is decidedly contrary to how the title has operated up to this point.  Even with Diggle’s skills, and the always-slick art of Shawn Martinbrough, I’m not sure if that’s the kind of story I want to be reading here.

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