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Trouble with Comics

Daily Breakdowns 096 - Back Seat of My Car

Before I get to the reviews, I just wanted to say that I’m saddened by the passing of Harvey Pekar. I remember Harv going all the way back to his infamous Letterman appearances. Although I was attracted to Letterman at my young age for his irreverence, it was Harvey who ended up impressing me then with how his irreverence wasn’t an act that could be channeled and packaged. He said what he wanted to, and damn the consequences, and that was instructive to me.

I didn’t really connect him then with comics, and it wasn’t until maybe 15 years ago that I started reading any of them, a couple of the big anthologies being the best representation of his work, his ability to convey a lifetime of frustration and compassion in one sharply observed moment after another. 

I’m not the biggest Pekar fan. Most of his work this decade didn’t quite work for me, from The Quitter to most of his Vertigo stories and the various more biographical or journalistic efforts he scripted to make a living. Even when I didn’t care for it, there was no feeling that his was a talent that would dissipate. There was always the next story to look forward to. And now there isn’t, and that’s a shame. But there’s an excellent body of work left behind to read again, and again.

Batman: Odyssey #1 (of 6)

Writer/Artist - Neal Adams

Publisher - DC Comics

For years, thousands of fanboys have wanted Neal Adams to return to the drawing board for another Batman adventure. Conceivably, a couple dozen of them wanted Adams to write the script as well, and, narrowing it down further, maybe a few wanted it to involve gun control. 

Sporting dialogue only slightly more naturalistic than Jack Kirby’s, Adams begins this journey in the early days of Batman, back when he used to wield dual chrome-plated .45s. With a stunning fight scene on top of a speeding European train and less stunning Man-Bat hijinx setting up a plot thread, Adams brings his heavily-rendered best to make something of beauty and meaning, setting in motion a “year one” story not just about Batman acquiring skills but about Bruce Wayne realizing that as much as he’s motivated by his parents’ murders, he’s not a killer. And you know, even though it’s a bit clunky, I give him a lot of credit for the effort instead of phoning it in.

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper #1 (of 3)

Story - Rober Bloch

Scripters - Joe R. Lansdale, John L. Lansdale

Artist - Kevin Colden

Publisher - IDW Publishing

I like Bloch’s writing. I like Lansdale’s writing, too. Having Joe and what I’m guessing is his brother adapt a classic Bloch story seems like a natural. However, it just doesn’t work. It could be that a three issue format is too restrictive. It could be that John L. is doing the lion’s share of the writing and isn’t as good as his brother. Either or both of those could explain the flat scripting, where pages go by with no punch on the last panel, no music to the dialogue, no investment in any of the characters and no feeling of anything at stake. Sure, it’s a period story and it’s not like I’m worried about an aged, demonic, reptilian Jack the Ripper checking if my front door is unlocked. Still, if Colden could draw an appropriately scary Ripper and use his gray tones, bloody reds and copious Zipatone in ways that tell the story dramatically rather than distract from it, I might be on board. As it is, I can admire this or that panel’s Saul Bassian composition while still being left really cold. I already liked Joe Lansdale, and Bloch, and Colden has some skills. But they’re just not meshing together here. 

X-Men (vol. 3) #1

Writer - Victor Gischler

Penciler - Paco Medina

Inker - Juan Vlasco

Publisher - Marvel Comics

I’ve been enjoying Gischler’s writing on Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth, which, although lightweight, usually has some good jokes and decent action setpieces. Here, he gets a little more serious. I guess that’s necessary, though it makes it difficult to get what makes Gischler anything other than a run-of-the-mill X-Men writer. 

Here, we meet old friend Jubilee, who lost her powers at some point. The Second Coming storyline has just wrapped up and so, in contrived fashion, Cyclops sends Pixie to check in on Jubilee, and their outdoor coffee date is broken up by a vampire martyr who exposes himself to sunlight and explodes his bloodsucking virus all over everyone, including Jubilee. For now, she’s resisting, but the same can’t be said for the other patrons, who answer the call of the Master like leather-clad lemmings. Wolverine, Angel and Pixie investigate, with Storm being left behind because of her past involvement with Dracula. As readers of the Death of Dracula one-shot a couple weeks ago already know, there’s a new Lord of Vampires in town, and he’s got some fresh new recruiting tactics. 

This was pretty okay, both art and story. Nothing really exciting but aside from a weakish X-Men team (Gischler will have his hands full trying to make me care about Jubilee, Angel and Pixie), it works well enough and at least the pacing is brisk, with a lot more happening here than any individual chapter of Second Coming.

—Christopher Allen