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Rude Chapbooks 12.06.10 | Royal Flush

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Brandon Graham fans one last winning hand with King City #12, over which our columnist gushes like a Texas hold ’em groupie. Otherwise, Ol’ Grumpypants counts cards on four other floppies “flopped” during the past week, including RASL #9 and Irredeemable #20…and excluding any comics at all starring the Batman. (What? How the hell did that happen? Call the pit boss, now!)

 

Because writer Brett Matthews, on The Lone Ranger, has so admirably succeeded at updating that icon for the new millennium, it inspires more than a little melancholy that his work on a related hero fails to pass muster, as shown by The Green Hornet Strikes! #5. To be sure, page by page, the Dynamite Entertainment series—which boasts solid art from Ariel Padilla and focuses on a near-future incarnation of the title character—scarcely stinks. Matthews’ scripts, as such, lack nothing for professionalism. Sad to say, though, even after 100-plus pages and even to someone rooting for it, The Green Hornet Strikes! still feels disappointingly inchoate beside the publisher’s main Green Hornet title (praised not once but twice here during the past month) and Green Hornet: Year One (similarly lauded in this column’s debut). With all due respect to Matthews, his reach, to date, has exceeded his grasp in trying to establish both a new Green Hornet and Kato, to reintroduce the original Kato, and to introduce the future mise en scène and supporting cast.
 
Although writer Mark Waid’s flagship title at BOOM! Studios almost inevitably promises some sort of redemption, however qualified, that title will likely never rank as a four-color source of warm fuzzies. After all, as summarized on the frontispiece to Irredeemable #20, the Plutonian, the title’s focus, went mad for one reason or another and murdered “tens of millions of innocents.” The trick of the title, ironically, hinges on the finesse with which Waid—here teamed with main artist Peter Krause and Diego Barreto—backgrounds such a monstrous foreground. Because he’s become one of the mainstream’s most dependable (if not Solomonic) scribes during the past two decades, it should come as no surprise that Waid manages that trick with panache. Here, for instance, poor Tony—a brilliant faux folk nickname for a superhero with so chthonic a nom de guerre—wanders in memory and dawdles in delusion as a captive of the alien Vespa, while on Earth, Survivor, the hero previously known as Charybdis, swirls deeper and deeper into megalomania. Like its sister publication, Incorruptible, recommended.
 
Writer/artist Jeff Smith’s RASL ranks as the science fiction comic book that the late Terry Carr would have fostered had Carr edited comics instead of prose SF. Among other feats, Carr—who died far too soon in 1987 at the age of 50—edited the Ace Science Fiction Specials line, whose first run included The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin and Isle of the Dead by Roger Zelazny and whose second included William Gibson’s Neuromancer. With those three novels, Smith’s Cartoon Books series shares a breathtaking surety of conception and purity of vision; like the best SF, it approximates simultaneously losing one’s virginity and having Dr. Castaneda introduce that aging little Native American. As in prior issues and in Smith’s prior series—something called Bone, which apparently concerned either hard-core porn or osteology—RASL #9 showcases his consummate skill at applying ink to paper (Smith has long exhibited a lusciously lush line) and includes a developmentally disabled gamine that another character identifies as…well…God. A must-read? Oh, please—ask a stupid question.
 
Supergod #5 concludes that Avatar Press miniseries from writer Warren Ellis, penciller Garrie Gastonny, and inker Rhoald Marcellius, and it does so in an adroit manner. Probably. Maybe. Perhaps. In all honesty, this conclusion’s so-called scheduling long ago zotzed its narrative integrity in a serial context. More specifically, Diamond solicited it in the January Previews—so this sayonara took 11 months to arrive. Of course, mitigating circumstances may have obtained; Ellis (customarily one of the medium’s top talents) or another member of the creative team may have suffered a personal tragedy. Nevertheless, as last week’s “Rude Chapbooks” kvetched, far too many comics series during the past decade have fumbled their seriality in what appears to constitute a collective kamikaze betrayal of retailers and readers alike. The potential ramifications of that trend, both formal and financial, would demand an essay much longer than this column. Regarding Supergod #5, though, the trend did prompt a resurgence of seriality, in a silent interrogative: “Who are these characters, what are they doing, and why was I supposed to care?”
 
Those who haven’t previously followed the series should scarcely read cold the Image offering identified in its indicia as Tokyopop Presents: King City #12. No. Rather, they should obtain its 11 predecessors somehow or other, pay their Friendly Neighborhood Comics Retailer for this latest and (alas!) last issue of writer/artist Brandon Graham’s blissful testament to his own insanity, and then savor one of the most exuberant and exhilarating comics of the past decade. A comic book prodigy, Graham may have only Evan Dorkin as a contemporary non-underground rival in extending the fearless frenzy of Harvey Kurtzman–Will Elder MADness. Packed with more puns and eyeball kicks than any one reading could possibly disclose, King City #12, like the series in toto, also radiates more heart and soul than three-fourths of last week’s comics collectively. Also as usual, it features weaponized cats, as well as the single funniest offhand dismissal of the industry’s big, dumb events ever: “I’ll catch the next war to decide the fate of whatever.” A work of sheer and utter gonzo genius. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
 
Click here for a preview of The Green Hornet Strikes! #5, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.
Click here for a preview of Irredeemable #20, courtesy of BOOM! Studios.
Click here for a preview of RASL #9, courtesy of Jeff Smith.
Click here for a preview of Supergod #6, courtesy of Warren Ellis.
Click here for a preview of King City #12, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.

 

 

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