There are a lot of comics that come out each week, and I never seem to be able to cover all the ones that I want to. So from now on I will be doing a weekly round-up, where I take three of my favourite comics for the week, and one I don’t particularly like, and give you a short reason why. I still plan to write about some bigger events by themselves, but single issues that I enjoy will go here. So without further ado, here is my picks for the week of 8/09/2014!
Southern Bastards #4 – Jason Aaron and Jason Latour
Four issue in, and Southern Bastards is easily within my top five favourite comics right now. It tells the story of Earl Tubbs, a man returning to his childhood home of Craw County, deep in the American south. Coming back to clean up his childhood home, Earl is confronted by the memory of his father, a small town sheriff who administered his justice with a thick tree branch. Craw County has changed since his fathers death forty years prior, now being run by the corrupt coach of the local football team, and Earl is forced to become the man he never wanted to be.
The thing about Southern Bastards is that it is so much more than that description. Both a meditation on masculinity and violence, as well as living under the shadow of a father who was almost larger than life, Earl Tubb’s tale is a somber and depressing look at the sins of a father, and a town that has given up on being anything but complacent with its criminal underbelly. #4 brings all these themes to a head, as the fallout of the last issue has forced Earl to rethink his place in Craw County, both as a citizen and as the son of a violent man, as he confronts Coach Boss. This issue is easily the most action packed so far, bringing Earl right to Coach Boss’ doorstep – with unexpected consequences.
Aaron should be commended for committing to the world he has created. Any lesser writer would not have headed in the direction he has decided, but Aaron has gone right down the rabbit hole without so much as a stop to take a breath this issue, and by doing so has laid down the rules for the future of this series: anything can, and will, happen.
But this series would not be anything without brilliant art, and Latour is a master artist, both in style and execution. His quieter moments are drawn with a wide frame, as he works to show how slowly this town works, but as soon as the action begins, he gets right up in the character’s faces, showing the raw emotion and the gory details of each individual blow dealt. His subtle colour work this issue should also be commended, as the palate slowly draws on more of a red hue as the action ramps up. This is easily some of the most inventive and brilliant use of colour I have seen in a comic.
With it’s first arc wrapping up, Southern Bastards presents an exciting new direction. With a huge character reveal in the epilogue, this series is only going to shine brighter as the year progresses. The Jason’s have struck gold, and I can’t wait to see what is next.
Death of Wolverine #1 – Charles Soule and Steve McNiven
Wolverine tends to be a more divisive character within Marvel’s ranks, with most people bemoaning his tendencies to turn up in almost every X-Men/Avengers comic imaginable. Well, Charles Soule figured out the one way to fix this – kill Wolverine. Death of Wolverine only needs the the most basic understanding of the character, and that in Paul Cornell’s Wolverine arc “Killable”, his famous healing factor was taken from him. this is how events should be done – no over complicated setup; no need to read thirteen separate tie ins to get the full picture (yet), just a fully featured, standalone story.
Death of Wolverine begins with a fantastic full page spread of an injured Wolverine. It becomes clear that Steve McNiven of Old Man Logan fame really knows how to draw Wolverine, with his panels showing every inch of the intensity of such an important character. His work is bloody, violent, and downright impressive. Justin Ponsor’s colours help this along nicely – while they aren’t nearly as stylised as some other artists, instead opting for a more realistic colour scheme, he still manages to use muted colours to give the entire proceedings the feel of an old Western film, the last stand of a loner gunslinger.
That’s not to say that Soule isn’t up to the task. Having not written Wolverine in an X-Men comic before, you’d think he may need a moment to find his stride, but you’d think that he had been writing the character all his life. Soule’s Logan is sad and reflective, finally aware of how much time he has left, and of how much pain his lifestyle really brings. He uses different captions, one each for pain, smell, and sound, to highlight how much the character takes in. This is especially important in regards to pain, as it gives the reader a chance to understand how little the character was aware of how little he paid attention to such feelings, and now they are brought to the forefront.
Death of Wolverine begins strong – Soule has a firm grasp of the character, and McNiven definitely knows how to draw him. But events have started strong before, so hopefully because of the quick turn around between issues means that this series doesn’t lag. I guess we all hope that Soule has a clear idea of where we are headed – he certainly hasn’t failed us yet.
God Hates Astronauts #1 – Ryan Browne
My theory when writing something completely off-the-rails insane is that you have to commit – you don’t only go part of the way to creaking something completely bonkers, only to find a point that they realize they don’t want to cross. God Hates Astronauts is that theory in practice, as writer-artist Ryan Browne creates something incredible – a tale that is going to be really hard to explain in such a short piece (I’d struggle in a larger essay so bear with me here), and makes it surprisingly readable, even if we aren’t sure what direction it is heading in.
God Hates Astronauts begins with a man with a crab for a head and the admiral of his ship, named Admiral Tiger Eating A Cheeseburger (obviously), being blown to bits by a makeshift rocket ship. From there, the tale changes gear to one of bestiality, galactic royalty, infedelity, Deadpool-style non sequiturs, and a whole load of other things. I couldn’t possibly string these all together to provide a decent synopsis, but trust me the issue is a blast.
Browne is a master of insane plotting, but manages to make it cohesive. Everything that happens in this universe makes complete sense in regards to everything else – this isn’t an insane man in a sane world a la Deadpool, it’s insane people in an insane world. Yes, we don’t really know where the story is headed by the end of the issue, but it sure was a ride to get there.
His art is nothing to scoff at too. He is well suited to his own weird sensibilities, such as a man with a ghost-hippo head, and his amusing sound effects are equally as weird. Everyone looks suitably manic in a cartoon kind of way, and it really is pure unbridled fun.
Really the only thing I wanted to put in this review of God Hates Astronauts was “Sean likes Comic” but it wouldn’t have really sold it to you anyway. Not that I did a particularly good job with it, but trust me on this – God Hates Astronauts is easily one of the funniest, if not the most insane, comic you will read all year.
Grayson: Futures End #1 – Tom King, Tim Seeley, and Stephen Mooney
Let me begin by saying that the current ongoing of Grayson, telling the story of Dick Grayson becoming his own little 007 after being demasked in Forever Evil, is really good. I love where he is headed, free from the doom and gloom of the regular Bat family proceedings to pursue an international man of mystery story, with the excellent Mikel Janin on art. That series, as it stands, is really good. Grayson: Futures End#1 however, set five years ahead of the rest of the continuity, isn’t. That’s not for lack of trying – Tom King and Tim Seeley get the tale to somewhere in the end, giving a brief recap of Dick’s past , but most of the issue is a bit of a mess.
It’s a story written in reverse, like the Christopher Nolan film Memento, but that’s where the similarities end. Where Memento gives itself a strict set of rules in how each of the preceeding scenes play out, Grayson jumps time frames erratically. From minutes before, to potentially years, the story jumps around without so much of an explanation of where it was headed. We don’t see why Dick does what he does this issue, nor do we understand his motivations. He seemingly commits an act that is incredibly out of character, without building it up at all. This story would have been better suited if it had been told in a way that was more cohesive, even in a more standard chronological order format, but it’s not the technique that is the fault – it’s how it was used.
The art isn’t particularly anything to write home about. While some of the later scenes where colourist Jeromy Cox uses more than the reds, greys, and greens are more suited to Stephen Mooney’s style, the earlier stuff is confusing and not nearly gritty enough for the content. No, it’s not bad, but it lacks the oomph required for the story.
I really do have to hand it to the team for trying – they could have made a succinct story that utilised the backwards storytelling to a better effect, but the story they wanted to tell was too broad, and covered a large time frame. The shame is that this team really does good work in the main series, they just miss the mark a bit here.