@@@ AICN COMICS REVIEWS! @@@
|Issue #39||Release Date: 2/16/11||Vol.#9|
(Click title to go directly to the review)
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #655 (In stores today)
JENNIFER BLOOD #1
AVENGERS ACADEMY #9
NANNY & HANK #4
SECRET WARRIORS #24
OLD SOLDIERS #1
Big Eyes For the Cape Guy presents GENKAKU PICASSO Vol.1
CHEAP SHOTS! R.I.P. Dwayne McDuffie
In Stores Today!
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #655Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Marcos Martin
Colors: Muntsa Vicente
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Johnny Destructo
Spoiler alert: Dan Slott has a taste for bloody murder and I have a taste for...his taste..for bloody.. murder? Also: Marcos Martin should draw Spider-Man comics forever.
So, yeah. Marla Jameson didn't survive the attack of the Spider-Slayers, and while I never really cared for her one way or another as a character, Slott and Martin may have produced the best Spidey comic of 2011. I'm calling it now. From the silently somber funeral scenes through the guilt-ridden dream sequence, to the introduction of a brand new baddie, this book is just what the title's adjective describes. In every way both haunting and beautiful, this will be an issue difficult for Slott to surpass.
Marcos Martin's interior pages are exceptional in design, composition and line weight, while his cover is elegant and sad in its minimalism. Someone commented today that the mostly white cover is ripping off the DC Logo covers that have been littering the shelves recently, but I have to disagree. Those covers, while also quite minimalistic, lack the emotion and weight that this cover evokes. The DC books in question are basically pin-up shots on a white background, designed to be exciting and iconic, but don't really succeed in bringing forth their respective comics' interior stories. They are interchangeable and lifeless by comparison.
Huh. Lifeless. You know, for a book with one less life, Slott's AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is anything BUT.
JD can be found hosting the PopTards Podcast, JD's Weekly Video Blargh, discussing movies, comics and other flimflam over at www.poptardsgo.com, graphically designing/illustrating/inking for a living, and Booking his Face off over here. PS. it's his bday this week, so send him free stuff!
JENNIFER BLOOD #1Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Adriano Batista
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Garth Ennis is starting to grow on me. Not that I didn’t like him before but he wasn’t a writer that I felt I needed to read everything he put out. Obviously PUNISHER and PREACHER are both amazing (and I’m only on book 3 of PREACHER) but I didn’t really feel like I need to get every new thing he does. I haven’t read but the first issue of THE BOYS but a lot of people I talk to about comics have recommended it and I plan on catching up with it one day. But after reading PUNISHER, CROSSED and starting PREACHER, I feel like I need to at least take a gander at whatever I can get my hands on that is Ennis related. I know some people didn’t like CROSSED and that’s understandable but one of the things I like about Ennis is that he’ll do whatever the fuck he wants to in his books regardless of how fucked up it may be…the guy pulls no punches and in an industry where things can sometimes get really predictable, his style is a plus. I realize this may lead to him putting in wild shit just for the sake of putting in wild shit but hell I have no problem with that. Any new series that Ennis is doing has now become a high priority on my radar thus leading me to JENNIFER BLOOD.
Here’s an ultra brief synopsis for you. Housewife + vigilante + Ennis = JENNIFER BLOOD. You already know if you’re interested or not. For those of you not familiar with Ennis I’ll give ya a little bit more. Jennifer is a housewife who goes about her life as normal with a loving husband (who I am suspicious of…he looks like he too leads a double life…hmmm), two kids, a boy and a girl, a nice house, a two car garage and a dog named Scrappy…alright, I made that last one up. But you know the type of life I describe: the stereotypical “American Dream” except there’s a minor difference in this dream. Jennifer also has another life…at night…that of a cold blooded killing machine (a la the Punisher).
Speaking of the Punisher, one would think “ok he’s just got some extra Punisher stories up his sleeve that he’s turned into this Jennifer Blood thing!” but this book has an entirely different tone than Punisher (and even if he did his Punisher stories are so good this comic would still be worth the $4). First off she’s not a veteran like Castle, she knows about weapons and how to shoot them but she’s far from becoming the expert Frank is. The fact that she has a family puts the vigilante thing in an entirely different perspective because this vigilante remaining invisible is now a top priority, where Frank could just go around disposing of criminals left and right with no regard for his identity. Jennifer Blood doesn’t have that luxury because she has kids and a husband to keep safe. This is also a female vigilante which actually does change things a bit probably in some cases for the better and the reason I say this is when is the last time a woman went on a shooting spree (not that they are not capable, it’s just not that common?)…anybody…nothing…this works in her advantage because people are automatically going to underestimate her and as shown in a particularly brutal scene; she can use this to her advantage. I like this comic and while nothing blew my mind, I’m really interested to see how this goes mostly because of the differences between this and PUNISHER. It’s going to be interesting to see her try to hide bruises, blood, guns and other things from her family all the while being the housewife that she’s expected to be.
The art in this book isn’t bad. It actually reminds me of the artwork on GRIMM FAIRY TALES where it’s kind of good but you wish it was a little better but I’m also picky about art so it may not bother anyone else. I mean the gore part of it was great but after seeing Jacen Burrows on CROSSED, any of the artists on PUNISHER or Darick Robertson on THE BOYS, this is definitely a step down but like I said I’m picky so someone else may think this art is the best thing they’ve ever seen…but I doubt it.
I gotta tell you I’m pretty sold on this book after one issue. I love the internal dialog that’s so starkly different from the Punisher’s. I love difference of situations between Jennifer and Frank. Really I just love the things that this book doesn’t have in common with the Punisher. Ennis did a fucking great job on his run with Punisher and there were probably things that he thought about exploring with Frank Castle that just couldn’t be done with the Punisher as is and I feel like JENNIFER BLOOD may be the exploration of these ideas. The gore factor was there which is right up my alley but I felt like the artwork left a little to be desired but who knows it could get better as the series goes on. If you like PUNISHER or seeing females with guns kill chauvinistic assholes and mobsters, this may be the book you’ve been looking for.
AVENGERS ACADEMY #9Writer: Christos Gage
Penciler: Mike McKone
Published by: Marvel Comics
Reviewed by: BottleImp
This title continues to be a very entertaining read. What could have very easily become another NEW MUTANTS or early X-FACTOR (back when the original X-Men were posing as mutant hunters in order to round up and train young mutants) knock-off has instead emerged as a wonderful blend of classic, Mighty Marvel storytelling and 21st Century character sensibilities.
The creative team serves another bang-up blend of action sequences and character interaction, with both aspects culminating in the face-off between Finesse—who can learn any fighting style just by watching it—and her possible father, the Taskmaster, who shares her ability. It’s a beautifully drawn melee peppered with a sprinkle of pop culture—just enough to feel relevant without feeling artificial—and a smattering of classic comics lore. Commenting on Finesse’s attack style, Taskmaster sneers, “Daredevil versus Bullseye on live TV? That’s what ya got fer me? Your generation. If it ain’t on the internet, it don’t exist.” He then proceeds to show that Gage did his research by name-dropping obscure Golden Age hero the Angel and even more obscure Golden Ager the American Avenger. It’s little stuff like this that makes my geekness smile; Marvel has such a long and rich publication history filled with fringe characters, and I love it when a writer embraces that fact. It’s little details like this that help seamlessly integrate AVENGERS ACADEMY into the broad fabric of the Marvel Universe. But the focus of the series is not about those references, but about the characters, and Gage brings an almost startling moment of humanity to the Taskmaster that adds a surprising depth to the one-note villain.
It’s all about the characters, and one of the pleasant surprises of this series is that Gage is taking as much care in developing the teachers as he is the students—in fact, this issue shifts the balance more in favor of focusing on the elder Avengers rather than their charges. These characters have a lot of history behind them (yes, even Speedball and Justice; their NEW WARRIORS days were a while ago) and I’m glad to see that Gage seems to be as interested in exploring that history as he is in plotting their new paths. Quicksilver, in particular, stands out as a sterling example as he lectures Finesse and later Tigra regarding his own experiences serving under his father. Not only does Gage build upon the established twisted father/son dynamic of Magneto and Quicksilver, but he scores extra points in my book by taking a cue from Peter David in his characterization of Pietro Maximoff. Gage’s Quicksilver, like David’s from his initial run on X-FACTOR in the 1990s, possesses an arrogance born from living in high speed in a world at snail’s pace, yet despite his sense of superiority knows that he is an imperfect person—think Hugh Laurie in “House, M.D.” Here is a B-List character that has more often than not been utilized as a plot device rather than as a fully-realized protagonist, but I’m hoping that Gage and Co. continue to flesh out Quicksilver and the rest of the supporting cast to their full potential.
Speaking of the creative team, the letters column in this issue indicates that McKone will be leaving the title after this month. I’m kind of torn by this information, because I’ve been on the fence regarding McKone’s artwork. One the one hand, he is a superb draftsman and figure artist, and his page designs and fight scenes are extremely well-rendered. Where I’ve felt his artwork lacking, however, has been in the facial expressions of the cast. McKone is careful to make everyone very pretty—including the guys—but does so at the price of a sort of blandification (if that’s a word) of the expressions. There is generally very little emotion transmitted on these faces, as if McKone is unwilling to add the unsightly wrinkles or distortions to the mannequin-like visages that would depict anger, fear, happiness or distress. So I’m hoping that the next art team will be able to keep up McKone’s excellent pages while adding a much-needed punch of expressiveness to the young heroes.
For a while there I thought that Abnett & Lanning were the only scribes at Marvel who were keeping the classic vibe alive; I’m pleased to add Christos Gage to that roster. Whether you’re looking for something new or looking to stir up a bit of the old fanboy nostalgia, AVENGERS ACADEMY is a great place to do so.
When released from his Bottle, the Imp takes the form of Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from the Northeast. You can see some of his artwork here. He’s given up comics more times than he can remember. But every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.
NANNY & HANK #4Writer: Mark L. Miller
Artist: Steve Babb
Publisher: Bluewater Comics
Reviewer: Optimous Douche
NANNY & HANK gives me a love for the elderly I haven’t had since I watched Wilfred Brimley defy the laws of physics on a diving board in COCOON. Because even though NANNY & HANK is about a couple at the end of life’s journey., despite the fact the book is deeply rooted in vampire…excuse me, vampyre undead lore, at its core NANNY & HANK is an affirmation of life and a new lease on life…or something like it.
I had my reservations going into the first few issues of NANNY & HANK. My view on the elderly has always been they possess every pain in the ass trait as babies minus any of the cuteness (let’s be honest: if babies weren’t cute we would devour them like lions). My views on vampires are in-step with every other man that has suffered through the “Twilight” experience in search of marital bliss. Despite these reservations, I traversed NANNY & HANK because I know Miller. In my four years of writing for Ain’t It Cool my comic reading has increased tenfold. Since Miller has been doing this gig as the venerable Ambush Bug for twice that amount of time, it’s safe to say the man has read a ton of comics and with that experience is the knowledge of knowing what does and what does not work in comic books.
NANNY & HANK works. It’s a fresh take on the genre by using less than fresh individuals. From issue one Miller effectively paints life in the twilight (sorry) years. Nanny is losing a friend to illness; Hank, a tough balls Vietnam vet, is coping with the body no longer being as strong as the spirit. And they’re cool old people, too. They laugh about the inevitable circumstance of life’s end game rather than lament it. You quite honestly feel bad for them when they are turned as a grudge against the Vampyre Council.
And that’s a beautiful segue into my second favorite part of this book. Apparently Vampyre ranks are dwindling, and two men are set on the path to refill their ranks with the beautiful people…the beautiful people. Unlike Anne Rice’s lore where your transformation turns you into a beautiful flower even if you were a wilted rose before, Miller does not offer such easy outs. Vampyres are beautiful in his world because they were beautiful before. Sort of like casting for the THE HILLS, no one over 30 shall pass. That was, until NANNY & HANK. As retribution for sins past, this Vampyre Head Hunter turns NANNY & HANK out of spite and becomes the chief foil of the first four issues when the Vampyre Council sets him to right his wrong.
Issue four marks the end of the first arc. Despite NANNY & HANK’S circumstances they still set out under the cover of night to visit Nanny’s biological grand-children (NANNY & HANK are both on their retirement marriage). The circumstances over the past few issues with the children trying to figure out whether Nanny and Hank are vampyres was cuteness in a bottle. When Nanny discovers that with their new powers comes the ability to control minds was simply hilarious, as was her pseudo-guilt for going to such measures.
I have but one concern from a story perspective. When the vampyre hunters finally corner Nanny and Hank during their babysitting duties, Hank mentions that he tangled with vampyres back when he was in Vietnam. This is important since it sets this universe apart from our real world. It has transcended vampyres from fictional entities to real-world monstrosities. It will set this book on a much different path than what I was originally expecting and I hope this was an intentional choice on Miller’s part rather than a throw-away one liner to make Hank look tough.
I hate to get assed-up about the art, but as deep as my man crash for Miller runs, my pseudo-journalistic integrity runs deeper. It’s not that Babb is bad; I just believe he’s bad for this book. Part of the NANNY & HANK allure is how real Miller has made this world and NANNY & HANK’S circumstances; old age, the vampyre curse, even the grandkids have such a natural tonality you believe these events are truly unfolding. Babb’s scenes are fine, but much better suited to some form of fantasy lore or a children’s cartoon. His people, though, need work and that would be the case no matter what genre he was tackling. I can’t help looking at Nanny and thinking this is what would happen if “Sesame Street”’s Ernie fucked a Shar Pei and didn’t pull out. The one vampyre hunter literally has a dunce cap for a nose. Hank’s skin looks like he’s sporting tribal tattoos, not the shadows of old age. If these are stylistic choices, then please stop. If they are simply how Babb views the human form, please pass the dutchie on the left hand side, I wants me some of that mind bending shit.
If you love real vampyres, vampyres that must deal with the actual consequences of this affliction (and not just the benefits like our sparkly friends from the pacific northwest), then you’ll love NANNY & HANK. If you’re like me and vampyres have worn your soul thin, simply imbibe the humor and heart that make NANNY & HANK the coolest old people in comics.
Optimous has successfully blackmailed fellow @$$Hole BottleImp into being his artist on Average Joe. Look for Imp's forced labor on Optimous brain child in mid-2011 from COM.X. Friend Optimous on FaceBook to get Average Joe updates and because ceiling cat says it's the right thing to do.
UNIMAGINABLE OGNWriter: Tom Tinchuk
Art: Kurt Belcher
Publisher: Arcana Studios
Reviewer: Ambush Bug
It didn’t take me long to realize UNIMAGINABLE was not your typical comic book. The only thing stable in the world of the UNIMAGINABLE is the fact that nothing is stable. Tom Pinchuk (creator of the wildly imaginative HYBRID BASTARDS) is at it again in this aloof tumble down the rabbit hole. It’s part MATRIX, part ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and all insane.
Though the main character named Stump is trying to make sense of this world as much as I the reader was: I found the advice the various surreal characters kept giving him to be useful: “Don’t think too much about it and it’s best just to go with it.” Much like the seemingly nonsensical ramblings in Lewis Carroll’s classic, UNIMAGINABLE’s point is that it has none and while the main character believes this is all an elaborate dream, Pinchuk and his cast of oddities don’t make it clear whether it is or not. What UNIMAGINABLE is, is a whole lot of fun. It stretches the mind with the surreal and abstract while all the while telling a simplistic tale of folks who think too much and and folks who think too little.
Kurt Belcher is a name I know, mainly because he is working with me on a project, but here I get to see his work complete and I love every angular line he draws. His tone is perfect for this tale of an off kilter world filled with skewed people. His work is the perfect compliment to Pinchuk’s irreverent story.
All in all, this is a trippy OGN for folks who like to enjoy the experience rather than dissect it and pick it apart. It may not have made much sense, but I put the book down wholly entertained and interested in Pinchuk and Belcher’s next forays into the bizarre. UNIMAGINABLE is highly recommended.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/reviewer/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the names to buy)!
MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 & MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1.
VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1 and #2(interview, interview, preview, & review).
VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS #20 WITCHFINDER GENERAL(preview, review)
NANNY & HANK miniseries: #1, #2, #3, and #4 (interview, interview, interview, preview, & review, review, in stores now!)
Zenescope’s WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010
THE DEATHSPORT GAMES miniseries: #1, #2, #3, and #4 (review, in stores now!)
SECRET WARRIORS #24Wrtier: Jonathan Hickman
Art: Alessandro Vitti & David Marquez
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Henry Higgins is My Homeboy
And Now For Something Completely Brilliant…
Maybe one of the best single issues I've read in a while, SECRET WARRIORS hits a new stride. It's been on a bit of a hot streak for a while now, but with a single issue focusing on one of Fury's other teams, Hickman is able to draw you in utterly and completely. Never has Fury's personal war been so true.
Writing: (5/5) Hickman is utterly fantastic in this issue. In just a few pages (sometimes even just one), he sells and creates connections to characters we've never seen and never will see again. The big challenge with this is to make it so that we care about the people in a short amount of time. He accomplishes that deftly here. Fury's son is different enough from his father to have an interesting dynamic, but is clearly his son. I would read a team book starring Carlos, the Monroe twins, Mister Webo...hell, I'd read a mini about any of them. Each one has maybe two pages, and a real connection is brought up between them. What's even more impressive is that their eventual fate really hits home, and you feel a great tinge of sadness for the team. They had so very little time, and did so much. The twist into Fury is a great moment, and the writing here....each character stands out from the other, which is incredibly impressive for such a small amount of time. There's nothing wrong with this issue in terms of writing--absolutely none. SECRET WARRIORS has been building up, and it's doing a fantastic job with issues like these.
Art: (4/5) Vitti and Marquez turn out a fantastic looking issue. The set pieces are bold and loud without being over the top. Each setting feels different, from the area to the layout to the general feeling in the scene. The final sequence is heartbreaking, and truly makes you feel for Fury. Nothing is truly bad, save for a few shots that don't translate well. But the art is fantastic throughout.
Best Moment: The introduction to Carlos, Mister Webo, and the Twins. And the ending.
Worst Moment: That we won't see this team again.
Overall: (5/5) Superb. Simply superb.
OLD SOLDIERS #1Writer: Kevin Stone
Art: Kevin Stone
Publisher: Big House Comics
Reviewer: Mr. Pasty
If you grew up in the eighties like I did, military personnel were categorized by status, specifically active and inactive duty. Active duty meant they were traveling the world fighting terrorists with cool nicknames and even cooler gadgets (a la GI JOE) while inactive duty indicated a retirement or “prosecution for a crime they didn’t commit,” like my heroes from THE A-TEAM. To me, war was cool because you got to shoot guns and blow stuff up real good, not paying attention to my grandfather, slumped in his chair on Veteran’s Day with a glassy-eyed look and far-away gaze. The fact was, and still is, the only people who know what war really is are the men and women who experience it firsthand. And I think I can say with some degree of certainty that most of them didn’t wear gold chains and drive a black van or refer to themselves as “Snake Eyes.”
OLD SOLDIERS does a nice job of bridging both worlds. Historical events that carry with them such great significance like World War II does are a tricky business. While certain liberties are expected to be taken in this medium, a lesser artist might harness its global impact and exploit it rather than craft it to drive the narrative like Kevin Stone does. His story puts the reader in the not-too-distant future where descendants of war veterans find themselves intertwined in a conspiracy to do something bad. And I say “bad” because I don’t want to spoil what’s in the suitcase -- but rest assured you wouldn’t want to be sitting next to the guy trying to cram it into carry-on. The suitcase has a final destination and it’s a race to see it to the finish line (or prevent it from getting there, depending on what side you’re on).
Stone doesn’t give you much to work with in the first issue but I didn’t mind because I’d much rather build towards the reveal than just have the curtain thrown back. Nothing kills the mystery and suspense of a story like having two pages of haphazard exposition followed by mousketeer roll call. The art isn’t flashy or overbearing and I found an appreciation for the sort of gritty realism that Stone brings to the faces of his major players. As with any story centered on combat, there’s more than a few pints of blood being spilled but most of the R-rated stuff happens off panel, preventing the arc from bending under the weight of its own gore. And since I had to be subjected to Wilson Fisk’s prison ass-rape in last year’s PUNISHER MAX series, I’ll take a bloody shootout all day.
Trying to grade OLD SOLDIERS on its success as a series would be premature, but I think issue number one shows great promise. Stone clearly has a vision for his story and more importantly his characters and I think a rewarding journey lies ahead for readers with an interest in this type of subject matter. Considering the demographic that our medium is comprised of, I’d say that’s about 90-percent of them. The cover to OLD SOLDIERS informs readers that “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” Let’s hope the same can’t be said for the remaining six issues in this series, because it’s off to a great start and I’m looking forward to the next installment. Highly recommended.
Web heads who can’t get enough of Mr. Pasty’s word vomit are encouraged to watch him operate as Nostradumbass over at MMaMania.com here. Love, hate and Mafia Wars requests should be directed here.
GENKAKU PICASSO Vol.1By Usamaru Furuya
Publisher: Viz Media
Reviewer: Scott Green
After reading manga for a while, some of my reactions have gotten a bit muted. My jaw with drop at bad decisions, but I don't think I'm sledge-hammered as I once was by simply WTF manga. While GENKAKU PICASSO is Usamaru Furuya work with some training wheels on it, when I stop to think about it art/psychoanalysis manga GENKAKU PICASSO is strikingly odd.
With underground verve, Furuya takes a outsider stance as he lobs pot shots at popular culture. At its best, as jokes loop back on themselves, the humor is darkly clever and not just malcontent. Cute things are really dark, and yet, rather than a bleak nihilistism, there's often ultimately something to smirk about.
Until recently, regrettably little of Usamaru Furuya's bitingly weird work made it to North America. A sample of his PALEPOLI coming strips, featuring subjects like a pair of boys setting Jesus to fight against a stag beetle, made it from the avant-garde anthology Garo into Secret Comics Japan. His SHORT CUTS strips, featuring an excoriation of the ko-gal sub-culture among other trends, was released by Viz's defunct mature audience Pulp label. Post earth quake survival manga 51 WAYS TO SAVE HER a is lamented loss from the CMX shutdown. But, the lack of Furuya is being rectified. Beyond GENKAKU PICASSO, Vertical is slated to release his LYCHEE LIGHT CLUB and manga adaptation of Osamu Dazai's novel NO LONGER HUMAN.
GENKAKU PICASSO ran in JUMP SQ, a slightly odder, slightly more fantastically inclined monthly in the JUMP family (of shonen mega-hits like DRAGON BALL and NARUTO fame) . JUMP SQ, has also featured one-off work by popular, established manga authors like CLAMP's GATE7, Yasuhiro Nightow's KEKKAI SENSOU and Akira Toriyama and Masakazu Katsura's SACHIE-CHAN GUU!!
17 year old Hikari "Picasso" Haruma is introduced sitting in the back of his class drawing. Though he is teased for it, his classmates' jabs are mostly good natured, and thanks to his bad reactions, his alienation is largely self-inflicted. The one connection he has is to attractive classmate Chiaki Yamamoto. The two spend their afternoons on the river bank with Chiaki reading books on psychology or the like while "Picasso" sketches. It's during one of those outing when the two are struck down by... what's the inverse of a miracle? Against all probability, a helicopter drops out of the sky, onto the pair. Chiaki dies... Picasso winds up, not quite dead.
After life returns to semi-normal, as Picasso morns Chiaki, a mini-angelic version of the girl appears and informs him that unless he can do good in the world, his body will rot away. Stopping to consider a troubled peer, he begins sketching out a surreal scene, featuring a tiny figure on a crumbling ledge, a titanic man carrying a bound sack looming above him, a giant wall with a similarly immense scale bird peering over boxing the scene in, and a carnival down bellow. With Chiaki's help, Picasso begins trying to figure out how this art can clue him into solving his classmate's troubles.
There are the makings of a remarkably smart, thinking manga here. Early on, Picasso presents the idea that art is an expression of insight. That would seem to set up the manga along the lines of interpreting images and, at the same time, the psyche of the person who inspired it. This is perfect for manga: a sequential, narrative visual medium that allows its reader to stop and consider a single image as long as they desire. Elevated by Usamaru Furuya's skill at rendering the surreal and trangressive, GENKAKU PICASSO could have encourage the reader to stop, think and interpret the images themselves . That would have been a unique approach to conventions of manga about teen personal problems.
Unfortunately, GENKAKU PICASSO prompts more head shakes than head use. The problems are both conventional and particular. The manga uses the frequently used anime/manga reductive approach that there's an identifiable pivot point to personalities/problem's development. That simplification is fair enough if the manga is driven by discovering the source of its subjects woe. In practice, it's less about Picasso and Chiaki deducing than it is them lobbing guesses at what, in many cases, they have no reasonable expectation of knowing. Often, their sensible, relevant to reader guess prove far off the mark.
In his comedy manga Usamaru Furuya joined the familiar with the outlandish to great effect. Here, he throws in the uninteresting, but bizarre at inappropriate times. He doesn't succeed in making the problems ones with which the reader can indentify. And, he doesn't succeed in making the problems so exotic that the pronounced strangeness becomes part of the appeal. Instead, the subjects have issues that are laughably weird in such a way that one has to question the author. Or, they're sketchy in a way that, again, one has to question the author.
If GENKAKU PICASSO is as subversive as a Usamaru Furuya fan might want from one of his manga, then it's approaching that aim in a difficult to detect, terribly meta way. Maybe the oddity would be enough, and it would work better if you're a younger, fresher manga reader. It really is strange, and maybe the less jaded one is, the more effecting GENKAKU PICASSO would be. However, compared to what Usamaru Furuya is capable of, and compared to what the manga itself sets up to be, GENKAKU PICASSO is disappointingly uninvolving.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for over nine years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column every week on AICN.
DAREDEVIL: REBORN #2
Man, this…this is really…really bland stuff. I love me some Andy Diggle and the art by Davide Gianfelice is pretty dynamic in a Cully Hamner sort of way. It’s just that this story of the wandering hero has been done to death. It’s like your typical episode of INCREDIBLE HULK without the hulking out. It’s like your typical episode of RENEGADE with Lorenzo Lamas which says a lot if I’m comparing this comic to that clunker of a series. I guess it’s like BLIND FURY with Rutger Hauer where a blind guy walks around and beats up hicks who are amazed at his @$$-kicking awareness. Or it’s like FIRST BLOOD where the cops are after a lonely wanderer who wandered lonely-ly into their little town. Do you get it? It’s like all of those. Now, if Diggle is going for something deeper; something more metatextual, I’m not reading it here. I’d love to see Matt Murdock stripped down to basics; instead he’s fighting bad clichés with bad clichés as a bad cliché. I like the idea of Daredevil leaving Hell’s Kitchen, but give him something original and interesting to do or get that devil back where he belongs. - Bug
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #54
Though I haven’t been the biggest fan of Robinson’s take on the JLA with his scattershot captions and faltering grasp on the characters due to editorial mandate, but I am a fan of the old gathering of the troops issues and this is one of those issues. It makes it even more cool that it’s longtime JLA foe Eclipso doing the gathering and the foes he gathers to take on the JLA are not so bad themselves. Seeing Nightshade, Shadow Thief (awesome!), Bete-Noire (of course there was an evil monkey), a few new characters, the Shade (something tells me he may not be completely possessed by Eclipso) and DC’s version of Cthulhu gather in one place to take on the JLA is about as promising as it gets. I’m rooting for this arc to be the one to turn things around for Robinson and his JLA. This issue is a promising start. - Bug
SILVER SURFER #1 (of 5)
I’ve always thought Silver Surfer was a bland character; a character best served as a challenge for the FF or maybe a metaphor for a Christ-like figure. I have all 100 plus issues of his previous series and still, I bought that series because of the foes he fought and his supporting cast, not for the character himself. Greg Pak is out to prove me wrong and it appears he has done the impossible—made me care about the Surfer. I’m not saying I’m totally sold here, but it is a promising beginning as the High Evolutionary shows up and leaves our hanging-ten alien in some deep trouble. Though Susie Endo aka Cybermancer isn’t the most exciting of co-stars, Pak makes her somewhat interesting here. I do like Steven Segovia’s straightforward art. It lets Pak’s writing shine here. Not convinced this take on the Surfer is going to be the one to change my mind about the character, but so far I’m interested… - Bug
GI JOE: COBRA II #13
Wow! A phenomenal end to one of the best GI JOE stories ever to hit the printed page. Everything that has happened in the last two COBRA series culminates here. I can’t believe I am saying this, but Chuckles is the coolest character GI JOE has in its stable. Mike Costa, Christos Gage, and Antonio Fuso complete their Chuckles saga and it’s one for the books. Here’s hoping this book sets the standard for the upcoming relaunch of the GI JOE books with the COBRA CIVIL WAR event coming in April. The dialog is crisp and cool. The art is fantastically expressionistic. And the interactions between Chuckles,Big Boa, Tomax and Xamot elevates this from a nostalgia comic to a bonafide masterpiece. I understand Larry Hama set the stage for GI JOE, but the team behind this series made a comic series about toys into a serious drama about good, evil, and the grays in between. Each and every issue of this series is highly recommended, but this final one will hit you hard. Fantastic stuff. - Bug
Though GI JOE: COBRA II #13 was my favorite comic of the week last week, HULK #30 was the one that made me smile the biggest. Jeff Parker flexes his old school Mighty Marvel writing muscles in each and every panel of this fun filled issue with old villains returning along with old nuisances. Add some hokey comic book technology and a fun premise to get Banner and Ross into the same Hulk body and you’ve got the type of story that is an instant classic. Some may be staying away from HULK because of a dislike for Jeph Loeb, but Loeb isn’t on the title any longer and Parker is writing the hell out of this one making it THE Marvel comic that is a “can’t miss” each and every month. The addition of Ed McGuinness on art just adds to the bombasitude of this issue. I love it that Abnett & Lanning are kicking ass with HEROES FOR HIRE, Van Lente is gold on POWER MAN & IRON FIST, Slott is making SPIDER-MAN amazing again, and now Jeff Parker is making HULK strong again. These guys have been in the background while others took the spotlight for the last few years, but now it looks like it’s their time to shine. This is Marvel at its best! - Bug
Though I can’t say I’ve read all of Dwayne McDuffie’s work, I can say that the comics I did read that he wrote were memorable. McDuffie’s words have passed from the lips of such icons as Batman, Superman, the Fantastic Four, and the Justice League. He re-envisioned DEATHLOK in the late eighties/early nineties, created Static (who would later become a member of the DC Universe’s Teen Titans), was a co-founder of DC’s Milestone line (which brought attention to a cast of African American heroes), helped create DAMAGE CONTROL (the fictional company created to clean up after super heroes’ messes) and a few years ago, wrote one of the coolest miniseries I had the pleasure of reading BEYOND! (a homage/sequel of sorts to MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS). McDuffie recently became involved in writing for animated projects such as BEN 10, JUSTICE LEAGUE, and the new ALL STAR SUPERMAN (which ironically was released on the day of his death). Just a week ago, I posted a report from the premiere of ALL STAR SUPERMAN and I encourage you all to revisit the article to read what he had to say about his involvement in that project.
AICN COMICS remembers
McDuffie often highlighted African American and other ethnic characters in his writings, bringing a little color to the often lily white pantheon of four color heroes. McDuffie passed away from complications after surgery at the age of 49, definitely too early for this passionate writer who was able to capture all of the aspects of what it is like to be a hero and put onto the page. I did not know the man, but reading his stories of heroism through the years leads to me believe his work came from a man who understood the concept very well…
R.I.P. Dwayne McDuffie
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G