Friday, February 15, 2008

Comics Out February 13, 2008

Punisher 16. I am going to expose myself as a Philistine, in the hopes of getting an education. Because the only alternative is nodding my head and feeling like an idiot. I love Matt Fraction's stuff, and really trust him. So when he says Howard Chaykin, one of his big heroes, is a great artist, I believe him. Other comic book creators I trust tell me that Chaykin is great and I believe them too. I have faith. But I do not SEE. Can someone here explain the charms of Howard Chaykin to me? With examples, possibly images online? I have other Chaykin books in storage -- some American Flaggs, an Elseworld JLA story, some oversized thing with Wolverine, I cannot remember what else, and have not seen them in a while. My memory there is hazy, but I remember not getting it at the time. In the house I have Punisher 16 and the Iron Fist Annual. I have heard talk of his sexy women, but to me they all look too deranged to be properly sexy. I asked Sara, and she balked when she saw the art in Punisher 16 -- specifically at the hooker's left leg on page 8, panel 2, the wife's right leg on page 10 panel one, and the wife's fingers on page 15 panel 1. I BELIEVE and can also SEE that Chaykin is a better artist than Rob Liefeld, but I cannot help but notice that those three examples from Punisher 16 are similar to the kinds of anatomical mistakes Liefeld does with legs and fingers that we were all laughing at a few weeks ago here (compare the Punisher examples I mentioned to numbers 24 and 17 on that site). I have a hunch the difference is that Chaykin CAN draw, and is being mannered (like Frank Miller, who I love), while Liefeld is simply making errors. But still, I need help to appreciate this. I am open to learning. I do not hate the guy. I just do not get all the fuss.

Fantastic Four 554. Oh, did Ultimates vol 1 screw Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. If they deliver more of the same big action they are repeating themselves, as they did in the second half of Ultimates volume 2. Try and go the other direction, and you leave yourself with no real conflict, as in Fantastic Four 554. The cover is supposed to look like a magazine, but it does so in the dullest way posisble. The collar on Johnny Storm, and to a lesser extent Reed, make him look like a priest in a book where Millar wants to establish him as the Paris Hilton of the superhero set. The colors are washed out, a quality emphasized by the white gutters, which is an odd choice when doing BIG DUMB FUN. In the first panel they are being chased by indians; in the second, and again on that page, and again on the next, Sue is shielding them from a HAIL of bullets in spite of the fact that only three of the 25 or so indians have guns, and you have to assume they are, you know, muskets and not semi-automatics. And here is some subtle exposition:

SUE: I've got the girls coming over to talk about this new team I'm putting together.
REED: New Team?

(I have no patience for bad exposition; and no, I do not care that it is supposed to show us that Reed is so in his head he is forgetful -- we have a whole sequence devoted to that later this issue, so it is redundant anyway).

"How did she ever walk away from that?" says a teacher getting sexy to impress Reed: the page turn is supposed to reveal sexy, but Reed just looks dull, and haggard. We get a cliched joke about Reed being so in his head he talks to the kids like they are adults, and the Thing does his friendly Monster thing I have seen him do a thousand times. We set up a romantic conflict with Sue and this other woman, but it is all pretty dull. "Anyone we should know" Janet says when she shows up, to which Sue replies "SURE LET ME TELL OUR READERS ALL ABOUT HER." Sue's sexy rival by the way looks simply AWFUL, like a mutant white trash ELF in the panel where she hugs Reed and Sue looks back at the two of them jealously. The Thing says that "She's about ten time hotter than I remembered." I never met her before but I KNOW that cannot be true.

To end where I begun. I know why Millar does not want to end with something as crass as the murder that ends Ultimates 3 issue one. I see how that is a cheap ploy he wants to avoid. But in going the other direction we get something completely bloodless. The hook at the end of the issue is the plan to save everyone. WHO MAKES THE HOOK AT THE END OF A FIRST ISSUE THE SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM THAT HAS NOT BEEN INTRODUCED?!

"Oh, Buffy, you are the Vampire Slayer, gifted with special powers. That will be important if any vampires ever show up, or, you know, EXIST. SEE YOU NEXT TIME! [roll credits]."

In Comics News Newsarama has an interview with Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones about Final Crisis, but nothing really substantial is in it. It is more of an advertisement than anything else. X-Force came out, and I had it in my hand, but could not take the art, and so put it back.


David Golding said...

Steve Gerber died.

Pat(sadly)NotLoika said...

There might not be anything too substantial in that FC interview, but there are some pretty wonderful tidbits of info dropped.

I can expect to see Frankenstein AND Streaky the freaking Super-Cat, and that makes me a happy boy.

Chad Nevett said...

Couldn't agree more with your assessment of the latest Fantastic Four issue. Although, the white space between panels reminded me a lot of Fantastic Four 1234 where Jae Lee did a similar thing, particularly in the second issue, which was devoted to the Invisible Woman. Considering that each arc in this run is meant to focus on one member of the group more than the others, I wonder why that technique was used in the Mr. Fantastic story.

But, then again, I'm probably one of eight people who even remember that mini, so the connection is unlikely...

Anonymous said...

i COMPLETELY agree with you about xforce! i had it in my hand, but the art completely turned me off!

as far as mark millar goes...he's as OVER RATED as bendis. they do a few good issues, blow their wad and then slap together the ending.

Blake Petit said...

Man, you just listed everything I thought sucked about FF 544 and then added about five MORE things. Kudos, sir.

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Fnord Serious said...

Boy, Jason sure wants you to know about that extra cash he made......

I haven't been able to crack into my new books yet, but I picked up New Avengers #38 and the awesome looking Fantastic Comics #24, the launch of the Next Issue Project from Image.

Re: Chaykin. I used to like his stuff but it seems like he just isn't trying as hard anymore. I wouldn't let him put me off of buying a book, but I'm not buying anything for his art anymore.

Geoff Klock said...

Deleted comments were spam.

Marc Caputo said...


A creator who's a notch above the average comic-book writer, that's who!

Seriously, though. The artists we honor are the ones who bend, break, smash, rewrite the conventional rules of their medium/genre. So we have this. Over at my blog, I ran down why I like the issue so much. I did allow that the ending might end up to be typical mad scientist BS and that WOULD SUCK but for now, I'm willing to see where Millar's going with this. Why is works for me is this: Mr. Fantastic is one of the MU's smartest people and as such, he's explored countless other universes and made his safer time and again. Why this cliffhanger works is:

1. Obviously, there's a problem out there that he isn't aware of, let alone able to solve.

2. The fact that this project has gone on unnoticed also has a lot of potential.

3. The last problem he saw and attempted to solve (the impetus for "Civil War") ended in a Pyrrhic victory for everyone involved. The fact that this seems to outstrip the other is humbling to him and the last page sells that quite well.

Also, the irony with Reed Richards is that he IS a very handsome and desirable man in the MU but is completely unaware of that fact. This dynamic is a cornerstone of FF lore. The dull look on Reed's face shows that he may be a genius, but he's also pretty frakkin' clueless.

Geoff Klock said...

Marc --

"The artists we honor are the ones who bend, break, smash, rewrite the conventional rules of their medium/genre."

Just because great artists break rules does not mean that everyone who breaks the rules is, therefore a great artist. Liefeld breaks the rules of basic anatomy, but he is not, because of that, a true visionary.

"Obviously, there's a problem out there that he isn't aware of, let alone able to solve."

It is NOT obvious that there is a problem. And even if it were, it is too vague to be interested in.

"The fact that this project has gone on unnoticed also has a lot of potential."

True, but this is too paltry to hang the last beat on. As for your third point -- it is all vague. This feels like the old Marvel no-prize to me.

"IS a very handsome and desirable man in the MU but is completely unaware of that fact."

By "dull" I did not mean bored, that was a bad choice of words. I meant uninteresting to look at, not handsome, as the woman describes him. This is not a novel. If you want me to know a character is good looking you have to SHOW me this, not just tell me. He does not look like a handsome man in that image. I see your point about him being clueless, but that image is not a self-portrait. That is Hitch showing me what he looks like -- haggard juxtaposed with someone saying he is Hot. That does not work.

Do you also disagree with my other objections?

Marc Caputo said...

Funny - I went back to look at the shot of Reed and Ben on arrival at the school (I posted from memory of the issue) and I actually saw: a) a twinkle on Reed's eyes that I didn't notice before, b) a bemused smile, indicating that he may not be as clueless as we (us AND the MU) may think and c) a glance from Ben signaling the same.

Also, I can see where my "break the rules" comment would open it up to the "Liefeld parry" - fine, just please NOBODY think I qualify him as any sort of iconoclastic creator (or any type of creator). But I did say "the ones we honor" - I'm speaking about the good ones, you know.

I stand by my defense of the ending - it works for me. But to clarify my third point: Reed and Tony saw the events in Stanford (from Civil War) as practically a sign of the apocalypse. With the Skrull infiltration and the events of Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest as well as this, it's being shown that maybe it wasn't. The fact that Millar wrote Civil War and this is pretty interesting, at least to me.

As to your other objections:
I didn't give the collars a thought. In general, I thought that they were fairly sexy.

Bad exposition in mainstream comics is, unfortunately, part of the territory. And as someone who's read comics since he was 8, I can tell you I've seen a lot worse. For those reasons, I'm always going to cite bad exposition as a secondary offense - I'll only call on it if there's other stuff that makes me crazy.

The bullet stuff is weird: you saw what you saw, but my problem was: shouldn't the casings have separated from the bullet?

Overall, I was very happy with the book.

And I'm taking advantage of the vacation to look at some Miller and Morrison. I pulled down my Daredevils, my Frank Miller Batman HC and my DKSA. Clearly, Miller's art style has, changed?...over the last 25 years. Which is healthy for an artist, I know. But I know it borders on prohibitive for some people I know. With Chaykin, I've enjoyed his work for many years but also have to admit that he's gotten less attractive. For me, the appeal of his art is that I get an energy and an attitude from his work - his characters may not look sexy, but they come off that way. It's a very subjective thing and I'm not able to speak too intelligently on art, but there's my 2 cents.

Matthew J. Brady said...

Geoff, that's a really good, thoughtful takedown of the FF issue. I didn't think it was that bad (of course, I didn't pay for it), but you do a great job of explaining where its problems are. Well done, sir. However, I still think I'm somewhere between you and Marc on the issue. I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it. And knowing Millar's tendency to write for the trade, I expect he's setting up some stuff that will eventually pay off. I think he's good at the slow build, as seen in both volumes of the Ultimates.

Re: Chaykin - I'm kind of in the same place as Geoff here. I haven't read enough of his stuff to form a complete opinion, but I'm just not that impressed with his artwork. Maybe it would be different if I had read more of his earlier stuff; one of these day's I'll have to read American Flagg and see what all the fuss is about. But maybe he's like Frank Miller; I've read a good amount of his earlier work, and I can appreciate how it has evolved. If the first thing of his I read was DKSA, I would think he was terrible.

Chad: I also dig FF 1234. Since Morrison is held in such high regard around these parts, I'm sure most people will agree with you. Hmmm, I should read it again sometime...