Comics read 6/22/13 and 6/23/13

I read the following graphic novel several days ago, but never blogged about it:

PAUL HAS A SUMMER JOB by Michel Rabagliati — I bought this years ago at the Alachua County Library book sale, but never read it, largely because I remember being unimpressed by his story in one of the Drawn & Quarterly anthologies. After Rabagliati’s name came up several times at the Comics and the Multimodal World conference in Vancouver, I finally felt motivated to read this book. It was kind of slow to get started but turned out to be a funny and heartwarming comic. I found myself wondering if parts of the story were invented for literary effect — particularly the closing scene where Paul unexpectedly returns to the site of his old summer camp and finds the lost worry doll — but oh well. The book was also interesting as a glimpse of life in Québec in the late ’70s. Overall I liked it a lot and would be interested in reading the rest of the series.

And, I read the following comic books over the past two days:

JSA #39 – This issue focuses on a character who is essentially a super-powered rapist and murderer and who has a fixation on Power Girl. The writers, Goyer and Johns, seem to have intended this as a pro-feminist story; Power Girl has a closing speech where she admits she has a negative public image, but then asks “If I was Power-Man, if I was stubborn, headstrong and brash, if I didn’t take to authority well, no one would think anything of it.” However, the feminist message of this story is undercut by the fact that 1) it’s full of blatant T&A imagery (incidentally, the artwork, by Patrick Gleason, is rather ugly). And 2) the super-rapist is the narrator, which encourages the reader to identify with him, and he never really gets punished for his actions; after Power Girl defeats him, he gets sent back to prison, where he already was at the start of the story. Overall this issue left me feeling rather uncomfortable.

INVINCIBLE PRESENTS ATOM EVE #1 – This was okay but it wasn’t nearly as good as a real issue of Invincible. The artwork was average at best and the story, dealing with Atom Eve’s origin, was readable but not spectacular. I’d buy the remaining issues of this series if I saw them in a cheap box, but only for the sake of completism.

DC COMICS PRESENTS ANNUAL #2 — I think I read this story before, possibly online, but I didn’t remember it very well. “The Last Secret Identity” is a pretty good story by Elliot S! Maggin, my favorite Superman writer, and it’s of minor historical importance as it features the debut of Kristin Wells as Superman. I think Kristin is the most notable character Elliot created, though unfortunately that’s not saying much. The story is fairly predictable and the new villain, King Kosmos, is rather boring, but the story is enlivened by Elliot’s witty dialogue and Kristin’s vivacious personality. The artwork, by Keith Pollard, is surprisingly good.

ASTONISHING X-MEN #3 and #10 – This is one of the classic runs of X-Men comics, and I think Joss Whedon is the third best X-Men writer after Claremont and Morrison, possibly tied with Roy Thomas. Both of these issues are excitingly written and beautifully drawn. The second of these issues is mostly a prolonged fight scene between the X-Men and Danger, but John Cassaday makes it interesting through his brilliant ability to draw action sequences.

SNARKED! #4 — See previous comments on this incredible series. This issue has a hilarious plot involving a cross-dressing lizard. The letters page indicates that there’s a hidden message somewhere in this issue, but I was predictably unable to find it.

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN (2007) #1 – If this issue is any indication, then I prefer the original Omega the Unknown to this revival. Gerber, Skrenes and Mooney’s Omega is a delightfully weird series, perhaps made even more so by the fact that no one now knows how it was supposed to end (except Mary Skrenes, who isn’t telling). In this revival, Jonathan Lethem does a reasonable job of emulating the spirit of the original series, but his dialogue is rather stilted, hinting at his inexperience with writing comics. Farel Dalrymple’s artwork was a bit disappointing — in places it was fantastic, but I found myself comparing him unfavorably to Paul Pope.

JOHN STANLEY SUMMER FUN! FCBD 2011 – All the stories in this issue were entertaining and displayed a great sense of comic timing, but none of them were particularly memorable. I still find that I don’t quite “get” John Stanley.

THE UNWRITTEN #10 & #12 – These issues were both kind of confusing since I didn’t read issues #9 or #11, but #10 advances the plot significantly by suggesting that all the protagonists are actually literary characters brought to life. I’m fascinated by the emphasis on mapping and literary geography in this issue, but I can’t quite tell yet where it’s going. Issue #12 is hilarious in that it depicts a character who’s been imprisoned in a literary world that’s a cross between The House at Pooh Corner and The Wind in the Willows, and who wants nothing more than to escape. Peter Gross’s artwork in this issue is impressive and reminds me a lot of Charles Vess.

EERIE #41 — The first five stories in this issue feature good or even brilliant artwork crippled by awful writing. Of these stories, the most beautiful is Luis Garcia’s “The Caterpillars”, while José Bea’s “Heir Pollution” is almost as good. However, the writing, by such nobodies and unknowns as Fred Ott and John Wooley, significantly detracts from the effectiveness of all five stories; in particular, “Derelict” has beautiful art by Paul Neary but an unreadable and incoherent script by John Thraxis. Thankfully, the sixth story, “The Safest Way,” is written by Steve Skeates and actually has an interesting plot with a surprising shock ending. The highlight of the issue for me was the Dax the Warrior installment, which, again, was rather amateurishly written but had some amazing art by Maroto. The draftsmanship in this story reminded me of his later, less innovative work on series like Atlantis Chronicles and Zatanna, but the page layouts were fascinatingly unique.

I’m currently in the middle of Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s Skim, which I’m having trouble getting into.

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