SCREAMLAND, Issues 2 & 3
This is another Image Comics book - Image is definitely my go-to publisher for interesting, original stuff these days. Writers Harold Sipe and Christopher Sebela, best known for their cryptozoological romp Proof, are covering similar but sillier ground here. Lee Leslie and Kevin Millon (of Hack/Slash fame) are on pencils and inks and Buster Moody, also probably best known for Hack/Slash, is the colorist.
In a world where movie monsters are real, most of them are just looking for work in an industry dominated by 3D, CGI and other scary acronyms. Forced to hustle their past glory on the convention circuit, Wolfman Cal London and 'Space Path' star Travis Walters put their scheduled appearances aside to stop the screening of a legendary monster porn film that threatens to ruin the careers of feature creatures everywhere. - from Image Comics' website
Oh man, and I have two issues of #Screamland, two! No wonder the #SundayComics bag is so heavy. Learn from me. Read 'em every week!
Reporting a murder to 911 -- of the Invisible Man no less -- "Of course there's a body. We just can't see it."
I'm still recovering from the Black Lagoonish Devil Fish in a red speedo from last issue, mind.
And so now all the monsters are going to solve the Invisible Man's murder since the police won't? Awesome.
Oh, they're all coming up with scenarios to blame each other. And they're hilarious!
Still can't shake the idea that these two characters are based on @briankeene and @mikeoliveri. Adds to the lulz.
But Travis is probably really based on William Shatner 8)
Moving to the preview for next issue. Light lettering on fancy-ass mauve backgrounded text boxes = unreadable.
Especially when most of the background color is a slightly darker shade of mauve. GRR.
Between the glare off the glossy paper and squinting to read the text boxes I have the start of a headache now 8(
LOL: The Mass, a gelatinous alien, oozing off with a tire, a surprised looking cow, and a kitty visible inside him.
Why yes, sometimes comics should be funny. And #Screamland totally is.
Jason analog (slasher villain): I dunno which is funnier, the 12-step for psycho killers or the love story.
Oh wait: BORN AGAIN reformed married family man Jason analog. Hee hee.
Ah, such pathos. When even a vampire gets chewed up and spit out by the Holywood starlet machine..
THE SUMMING UP
There is a lot that's very wrong with Screamland, by which I mean (mostly) right. On the whole this is, if you can't tell from my tweets, a funny idea being executed in funny ways. We've moved on since the original solicitation - the "legendary monster porn film" is still sort of the McGuffin but as plot devices go it's mostly been replaced by a murder mystery; someone has offed The Invisible Man and it's probably part of an attempt to keep the film under wraps. We're still kind of getting to know all the supporting players here through the device of Cal and Travis's half-assed attempts to follow up on half-baked scenarios casting each character as the murderer: a masked psycho killer named Slasher, a gelantinous alien named Mass and a weirdly aging vampire bombshell. It's all quite ridiculous but it passes the internally-consistent plausibility test: it's ridiculous in just the way a world in which movie monsters are real, with threatened livelihoods, should be ridiculous. And for the most part it's a great looking book, with fantastic, cartoony character designs - but then there are those captions I complained of in the tweets, of which there are quite a lot. And in these, just often enough to be really annoying, weird aesthetic choices have been given precedence over readability. Different characters' stories and perspectives get different colors and the scheme is strictly adhered to, resulting in some unfortunate clashes (mauve on orange, for instance. Ew) and darker colors, like that mauve, with thin black text inside, are all but impossible to read. If that is addressed in future issues, I'll enjoy this book even more than I already do.
GREEN WAKE, Issues 4 and 5
See what I mean about reading a lot of Image's offerings? The company has an eye for interesting ideas and creators, and Green Wake is no exception. I'm pretty impressed with all that writer Kurtis Wiebe has currently got going on, penning not only this series but also The Intrepids, a book that is about as different from this one as it could possibly be. Here Wiebe is teamed up with artist Riley Rossmo, another Proof veteran, here doing some very different, often McKeeveresque, work.
A riveting tale of loss and horror. In the forgotten town of Green Wake, a string of grisly mutilations leads Morley Mack on the trail of a young woman named Ariel, who is the prime suspect. But when a stranger with startling connections to Ariel arrives under mysterious circumstances, Morley unravels a dark plot with a shocking link to his past. - from Image Comics' website.
And guess what ELSE I have two of? That'd be Green Wake. What's up, @kurtisjwiebe?
Oh lordy. From melancholy longing to balls-out Grand Guignol in the flick of a page. FWOOM!
Oh, okay. That wasn't Carl she was boning and eviscerating? But it *is* Carl who jumped in to save her from the toothy blob man?
Did Carl's necklace of eyeballs (at least I think that's what it was) just fuse with his head and neck? Yuck!
This is turning, as I proceed through Issue 4, into a bit of a heartbreaker.
"That's what Green Wake is. It's a monster that feeds on the guilt of our past."
Going to have nightmares about Carl's face in that close-up. Every emotion you could think of, all at once.
One more issue of Green Wake. I'm still bewildered but I'm hanging on. Are any of these guys I've seen Carl?
I feel like I've landed in the middle of a Robert McCammon novel. Which is awesome, but ugly!
Still don't like the faux cursive lettering in the text boxes, though at least in this issue its on a simple BG
THE SUMMING UP
For me, Green Wake has been an anomaly: a comic that suffers from the high quality of its art. That's a strange thing to say, but it's true: the ravishing, intricate, occasionally grotesque, expressionist moodiness of Rossmo's work distracted me from grasping what was going on in the story for a long time, at first mostly just because it held my attention so completely, and then continuously because at times the character design is just too ambiguous. My plaint above, wondering if any of the people I'd seen in Issue 4 was actually Carl (the character with the "startling connections" to Ariel)? Not an exaggeration. Who is who (largely, for the ordinary humans, of which there are only a few, a matter of hair color, which is often obscured by lighting and other scenic elements) and which of them is doing what has rarely been so unclear; I've struggled and pored to figure it all out and I may still be wrong. But the fact that I was willing to struggle and pore says something: there is a lot going on here and very little of it is on the surface, not unlike in Ted McKeever's Meta4, my favorite comic from 2010 (and the introduction to the collected edition of which is written by yours truly, btw). The story is taking place in a weird, liminal space that only sort of approximates a town -- a very dark, spooky, Lovecraftian town in which a large portion of the population (none of whom is originally from Green Wake) seems to be in the process of turning into a frog. Everybody is haunted by past misdeeds and an inability to figure out how he or she (but mostly he: the demonic will o'the wisp, Ariel, is the only woman) got there, and hesitant to cop to anything. That all of this seems to be an allegory on the destruction of the author's marriage, just as Meta4 treated largely on McKeever's experience of hard-won sobriety, just adds to the weird, nearly impenetrable dreaminess of this book -- and its melancholy. I'm glad I did the work to finally figure out what the hell was (or might be) going on, but I'm also just a tiny bit wounded for the experience. I will, though, be on board for the continuation of Green Wake, for while the Ariel story arc is wrapped up, there are still lots of questions to be explored -- such as what the hell is up with the frogs.
THE MISSION, Issues 5 & 6
OK, Image is totally not paying me to blog these, but yes, this is another Image Comics release. Erich and Jon Hoeber, best known for writing the screenplay to Red, are writing this, teamed up with Werther Dell'edera, whom I know mostly from the bits he's done in the searing Greek Street but most of my friends probably know from G.I. Joe.
Paul, an average working guy, finds his life upended when he's approached by a mysterious figure who tells him he's been chosen for a mission in the battle between good and evil -- the mission is murder. Is it real or is Paul losing his mind? - from Image Comics' website.
Head shaky moment. Though for a few panels I'd picked up Jennifer Blood by mistake. The wife resembles her a bit.
"There's nothing you can do to me that's worse than what you're making me do to myself." Uh, you sure? XD
Keep waiting for this to turn into Malignant Man. It is possible I read too many comics.
See? I knew there was a way to make it worse. But this is all getting a tad predictable.
I'm weirdly distracted by Paul's anime hair.
Gah. With this art style and coloring scheme, wifey's tears look like streams of liquid mercury. Pretty much fail.
Issue 6 of #TheMission and the cover has Paul with a blowtorch. Pretty sure he's not welding. Cringe.
Sinister, melodramatic shadows suddenly cross Luke's (?) face with nothing casting them. Snort.
Bleargh. My cringe was true. Wincewincewincewincewince.
Semi-surprise twist ending to Issue 6. I'm still in. But just barely. Don't dig on torture pr0n too much.
THE SUMMING UP
The Mission may lose me. From the start it's been uneasily straddling the border between being evocative and derivative, specifically of Patricia Highsmith's best Ripley novel, Ripley's Game, in which the titular rogue manipulates the hopes and fears of a man with terminal cancer to make of him a willing tool for assassinating Ripley's enemies. Here Ripley is replaced by a supernatural figure claiming to be an angel, and instead of dangling the promise of better doctors and treatments and money for the widow and child, this figure claims the power to inflict cancer not only on Paul but on his family if Paul does not cooperate. And that's not even where it gets ugly. I mentioned a blowtorch, and torture porn, and predictability. Even the semi-twist at the end of Issue 6 wasn't that much of a surprise; it was an obvious twist to make. I'm going to give this book one more chance but may drop it.
CHEW, Issue 19
The Mighty John Layman, veteran of many superhero comics, none of which I have read, is writing this inspired insanity, teamed up with the cartoony awesome of Rob Guillory in what has to be one of the weirdest books Image has ever put out. I'm pretty sure everyone who works on this project is batshit in the best possible way.
Tony Chu is a cop with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he's a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn't mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why. It's a dirty job, and Tony has to eat terrible things in the name of justice. And if that wasn't bad enough, the government has figured out Tony Chu's secret. They have plans for him... whether he likes it or not.
Ready to dote on something a little more light-hearted now. Though since I'm kind of a sick bastard, I've chosen Chew No. 19
Cover art strongly suggests Tony's sister's gonna maneuver him into a bit of xenophagy. Awesome. And gross. And Awesome.
Talk about starting off with a bang. Actually many bangs. Not that kind of bang, gutter brains.
Bwahahaha. Lettering ambiguities and context from setting led me to read "manifesto" as "manipesto."
"Disclaimer: this never happens." Chew plays that trick a lot - but it NEVER stops being funny.
Nastiest pit stains ever. I often suspect @rob_guillory watched a LOT of Ren & Stimpy when he was a kid.
Oh the Easter Eggs. "FDA: We choke the chicken." Really.
ZOMG. NASA"s mission amidst the avian flu outbreak. Um. Um. Bwahahahahaha. Gasp.
Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. It's even worse than I'd dared to imagine from the cover.
Another Fringe shout-out. Also Star Wars, Lost, JFK, Spam... XD
Chalkboard graffiti: "Charlie Sheen is a cylon!" XD
This is one of the most elegantly structured issues yet. Major kudos to The Mighty Layman.
THE SUMMING UP
By now, I shouldn't have to tell anyone that Chew is a great comic. That's what the Eisner awards are for. I've been with it from the beginning and have never been disappointed -- indeed, it's gotten better as Layman and Guillory have developed its uniqueness. From its initial schtick, the story has grown to encompass espionage plots, aliens, cock fighting and yes, romance -- all peppered with outrageous easter eggs courtesy of Guillory. Reading an issue of Chew is an exercise in careful scrutiny for buried jokes -- like "Charlie Sheen is a Cylon." And I mentioned story structure -- Layman is become a master at this, having special fun with the trope of exploring what might have happened had not the events in the actual story happened. Possibilities loop back on themselves with just the right balance of subtlety and obviousness, so when Tony's twin sister punches out an unmasked conspirator seemingly out of the blue, you know exactly why, and what he would have done if she hadn't -- which would only be the case if she didn't have the power of reading the future/intentions from what she eats or bites (just as Tony gets the history), which is how she knows the dude deserves a punch in the nose. Simply awesome.
And that's it for this week's Sunday Comics. I still, though, have a backlog, and probably a good stack waiting for me at Heroes Only come Wednesday. Until then, read your comics!