Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sequential Art - January 5th, 2012

Much less manga than usual today, thanks to Jump skipping a few weeks in December and January. I'm making up for it with some comics volumes I bought with Christmas money.

Table of Contents

Action Comics #5
Batwing #5
Animal Man #5
Swamp Thing #5

Hajime no Ippo ch.961
Rosario to Vampire ch.49
History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi ch.459

The Unknown
Irredeemable Volume 6
Lost in the Andes

Rating System
MVP = Most Valuable Pages. Best issue or chapter of my week.
STAR = Good comic being good, makes me want to keep reading it.
GLUE = Not outstanding, but not bad. Could be worth reading.
FUNK = Good series has an off week. Haven't lost faith yet.
BENCH = Subpar comic. Doubting its value. Needs to redeem itself.
CUT = Bad comic. Not worth continuing to subscribe.

 Action Comics #5

We're finally starting to see what Action Comics is all about, and it comes from two unusual perspectives - the AI of the ship that brings Kal-El to earth and John Kent. From the AI's perspective, we see Kal leave Krypton, the Kents exchange the baby for a dead calf to throw the government off the trail, and far in the story's future some unknown villains steal the ship's Krypton engine, effectively killing the poor thing.

From the Kents' perspective, we see them as a young couple in love, then struggling trying to start a family, and then finally seeing baby Kal as a gift from God and presumably adopting him. This was an extremely successful issue for a variety of reasons - not only does it retell Superman's classic origin story in spectacular fashion, but it is tremendously respectful to both the Els (hero scientists!) and the Kents (good-natured farmers!) and teases us a few really fuckin' ominous future villains. This was the best issue of Action Comics yet. MVP

 Batwing #5

Not bad at all. We have Batwing and Batman battling Massacre's hired goons in The Kingdom's former headquarters. I still want to see some more Kingdom action similar to issues #2 and #3, but this was a solid book. Solicitations have teased Batwing going to Gotham and teaming up with Batman, Robin, and Nightwing. Damn right I'll shell out three bucks for that. GLUE

 Animal Man #5

Now we see the major connections to Swamp Thing. Molly may have unwittingly unleashed the Rot parasites seen in Swamp Thing by tapping into The Red to defeat the last one of the Hunters. This issue had uneven art, but the action was okay and certain scenes and pages were downright chilling. Soon we should get some Swamp Thing action up in this, which is 100% awesome. GLUE

 Swamp Thing #5

Some serious emotion in this issue. Alec and Abby have a moment, and Alec chooses to embrace his new role as the Swamp Thing just in time to stop an offensive from Abby's brother. But in the background, another agent of Sethe unleashes The Rot in the Amazon rainforest. Now that Alec has accepted his place, we should get more crazy plants vs. bugs action and soon. STAR

Hajime no Ippo ch.961

Decent chapter overall, and aw man, poor Itagaki. His lack of experience and focus means that chapter 961 is mostly Saeki punching the shit out of him. While I'm sure Itagaki will storm back into contention in classic comeback fashion, I'm not sure he'll win. I'm okay with that, though, since if anyone in this series needs to be taken down a peg, it's Takamura. ...but right behind Takamura it's Itagaki. GLUE

Rosario to Vampire ch.49

I understand that this chapter was probably necessary, but it doesn't live up to the awesome action and setup in the past 3-4 chapters of Rosario. Fong Fong makes up with his buddy Miu, who is soon killed by one of the senior members of Fairy Tale, a Miu patriarch and ancient enemy of Fong Fong's great-grandfather. Miu and Fong Fong had a decent bro moment (broment?) for a second, and then Miu bites the dust. I hope that we see Gin or Haiji in action, or really any combat at all. FUNK

History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi ch.459

We're close to Sakaki vs. Jenazad, which could be the most devastating fight since Apachai vs. Agaard. But in the meantime, we have Kenichi trying to restore Miu's memories by groping her breasts. Oh, right, almost forgot what I was reading. FUNK

 The Unknown (paperback)

My great appreciation for Mark Waid's Irredeemable is leading me to sample his other work. The Unknown stars Catherine Allingham, the most brilliant detective in the world, who has solved every mystery in history from the Black Dahlia to Jimmy Hoffa, and is obsessed with the one question she has no answer for: what happens when we die? From this platform, The Unknown launches into a supernatural detective story, with a good mystery but a difficult-to-understand conclusion. There's a second Catherine Allingham book out there and I'm curious, but not compelled. GLUE

 Irredeemable Volume 6 (paperback)

I was blown away by volume 5 of Irredeemable, so how does the sixth match up? Well, the plot moves along, but this is a setup chapter. Plutonian is stuck in a bizarre alien prison, but we only see some hard time and nothing close to a jailbreak. On earth tensions are high between Survivor, Kaidan, Qubit, Modeus, and Scylla's reanimated corpse (!?) when Survivor starts acting like a superhero despot and it appears that he might be every bit as dangerous as The Plutonian was. Looking forward to the next one. GLUE

 Lost in the Andes (hardcover)

First, some background: Carl Barks is one of the most influential cartoonists of all time, but few people outside of hardcore comics fans recognize his name. Barks was a Disney animator who impressed The Man himself when Walt Disney found and loved a few of Barks's Donald Duck one-page gags. Disney made Barks a story developer for Donald Duck cartoons in the late 1930s and after six years of that Barks started composing Donald Duck stories for two Disney comic books, eventually spinning off a third series starring Scrooge McDuck, an original character created by Barks.

Over twenty-five years, Carl Barks wrote some 500+ comic book issues and shorts starring Donald, Scrooge, and other citizens of Duckburg, never using assistants and given a free rein by his editors. Because his name was rarely credited (the stories were published under the Disney label), Barks was almost totally unaware of his popularity for the first 10-15 years of his writing; and this is when Donald Duck was one of the highest-circulating comic in the early 50s, with over 2 million subscriptions. Comics legend Will Eisner referred to Barks as "the Hans Christian Andersen of comic books" and Barks was an inaugural member (along with Jack Kirby and Eisner himself) of the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1980. The 1980s Duck Tales cartoon was adapted from and inspired by Barks's comics.

Carl Barks's work has been collected into dozens of anthologies and reprints, but mostly in Europe where Disney comics are extremely popular and still being written today (!?). This review is of a recent Barks anthology that is to be the first of several in the United States - it collects about 270 pages worth of stories published in 1948 and 1949, chosen because they're among Barks's most well-regarded. The book contains six 30-page stories starring Donald and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie plus another eight 10-page shorts and several one-page covers and gags - Scrooge McDuck features in a few comics, but this was before Scrooge had his own series. All of them are in 4-color format, with each page arranged in two by four square panels. Barks's characters are expressive and the transitions are solid, but he wasn't one to experiment with layouts. The book also features essays and analyses of Barks's work by leading Barks scholars, mostly university professors.

Barks's work always starts in Duckburg, where anthropomorphic ducks, dogs, and other vaguely mammalian creatures coexist and refer to one another as human. These stories range from surreal and exciting ("Lost in the Andes" and "Race to the South Seas" were my favorites) to madcap and silly (one where Truant Officer Donald tries to arrest his nephews for playing hooky). There are a bunch of stories (at least four) about Christmas, but they weren't bad so I won't hate. Look, I won't go into specifics, since I've already went on too long. Carl Barks's Donald Duck comics are great, and still hold up after more than 60 years. If you have an opportunity to sample some of his comics, then do so. He's regarded as one of the masters for a reason. STAR


Playing several games at the moment, but the one that has me sucked in is Mass Effect. It's one of my 2012 targets, so that's good. I have a feeling I'll want to play Mass Effect 2 soon after. But I won't be beating anything soon - it's off to MAGFest!

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