Tuesday, July 16

Comics Other Than DC – August 2013

Reviews, commentary, general reactions, and random notes on comics by publishers other than DC that were released during June (mostly) that I received near the beginning of July. Caution: Spoilers ahead! [Link to previous month] [Link to this month's DC Comics]

It seems that my monthly purchases from Dynamite Comics are dwindling away, but I'm branching out slightly with some upcoming purchases from other publishers besides the 95%-plus that are always DC Comics. So I've decided to rename this monthly round-up post to include all of them rather than potentially have two (as this month) or even three single-comic posts.

For a post logo I've “repurposed” a slightly edited logo from a venerable Silver Age Marvel title, Not Brand Echh!, whose tag line used to say, “Who says a comic book has to be good??”  (Any implication regarding the current state of affairs with DC Comics is intentionally subtextual....)
Cover A (25%) by Alex Ross
Masks #8 of 8 (Dynamite)

Well, this title continues to falter in the end. This issue is altogether too talky – something I'll rarely say since I tend to think today's comics are distinctly lacking in words and try too much to tell the story via pictures only – which can work in some instances. What makes the comics story-telling medium unique is, however, the blending of text and pictures to tell a story. As Len Wein is quoted in The 1980s volume of TwoMorrows' wonderful new series of hardcover histories, American Comic Book Chronicles (The 1980s edited by Keith Dallas), commenting on the virtual disappearance of third-person narrators and thought balloons that began during the that decade:

This is a total supposition on my part, but I think … younger comic book writers were trying to emulate the narration styles they were seeing on television and in film. With few exceptions, televisions shows and movies do not have omniscient narrators. So these comic book writers were trying to make comics more like TV and less like comics, which I always thought was a mistake because if you want something that's like TV, you watch TV. There is nothing like comics but comics. But if you try to make comics a different medium, you lose what's special and unique to the comic book format” (p. 23).

In any case, there is a four-page sequence where each hero – in the midst of the climactic battle of the series – proceeds to state his particular crime-fighting philosophy at fair length. It's almost comical how each seems to try to out-gab the others – scratch that, it is comical! – and just imagine how that would look on film (hint:  like a bad episode of Power Rangers). On the other hand, the debate between the Shadow and the Black Bat that follows, once the insane mastermind of the plot to impose tyranny for the greater good is (seemingly) subdued, is interesting – including how it is resolved.

Overall, I consider this series to be a noble effort that suffers from an increasingly flawed execution as the issues passed, breaking down pretty significantly in the last two chapters. I still like it on balance, but really wish it had been better.

Main Cover by Paulo Rivera
The Green Hornet #3 (Dynamite)

For something this good, I'm surprised that I don't ever have more to say. Britt Reid's spiral downward continues, with a very real chance that by issue's end he has hounded an innocent man to suicide with unfounded accusations. He has, at the very least, driven Kato away. I'm not usually a big fan of the “hero deconstruction” type stories, but this one is just so blamed good!

Captain Midnight #0 (Dark Horse Comics)

This special introductory issue to the new series from Dark Horse, part of a another initiative by that company to penetrate the super-hero genre which is, of course, the bread and butter of the Big Two, reprints three eight-page stories from Dark Horse Presents, bringing Captain Midnight of old-time radio fame into the present – literally, as part of the story. There is also a five-page preview of the first issue of the new series.

I only have limited history with Captain Midnight, although I've heard of him all my life. My father must have been a fan, based on his occasional references to "Captaiiinnnnnn Midnight!" A couple of years ago, when I was just starting to take a more intensive interest in the old pulp heroes, that included finding and downloading some old-time radio shows – The Green Hornet, The Shadow, and several months of Captain Midnight, which I listened to during the frequent two- to three- hour drives I was making for several months in 2011 from my current home to the town I grew up in, until we moved my elderly mother to an assisted living facility here in Natchitoches. Mainly, if I recall correctly, the story arc I was listening to was “The Perada Treasure” from 1939-40 (link). I also picked up a paperback of recent short stories published by Moonstone that introduced me to a more “super-heroish” version of the character than appeared in the radio serial (link), and I am aware of a Golden Age comic book series that I have not, however, done more than glance at (link). I'm thinking that's probably what the modern short stories were mainly playing off of, however. Through the radio episodes and those modern pastiches, I have a passing familiarity with Jim “Captain Midnight” Albright, his side-kick Chuck Ramsey, and so forth, as well as the Captain's arch enemy Ivan Shark and his daughter Fury. All those characters make appearances in this comic, but I don't have enough familiarity with the source materials to really be sure how much of the back story that is hinted at here comes from which of the original genres. Not that it really matters, I guess.

I'll also say that I'm typically not in favor of jerking a vintage hero out of his proper context – in Captain Midnight's case the 1930s-1940s, and attempting to “modernize” them, even through what seems to be the current cliché of literally attempting a Captain America-style “hero out of time” story, e.g., several attempts with The Shadow and DC's Doc Savage; Dynamite's Miss Fury – to be fair, I've not even looked at that one; their Owl as well – same caveat, and I don't claim to be reasonable about this – I just have a gut reaction against the very idea, generally preferring to see the heroes in their native context. Whatever. Your mileage may vary. Something intrigued me about this particular example when it was solicited, so I pre-ordered it, and I must say it looks promising. I haven't pre-ordered the subsequent issues, but I may well pick them up digitally, and maybe follow them up with the print collection when it comes out. I did enjoy this issue quite a bit, and am curious where the story is going to go from here.

I actually did get another issue of Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris, but I thumbed through it and couldn't bring myself to read it, so I'm not writing anything about it. I'm done with that. And I may be done with Warlord of Mars as well depending on what the next six or eight issues are like. Dynamite has solicited that far ahead of where they are in getting the material out … or, more accurately, they are that far behind in publishing that title! As you can see if you bounce back through my monthly posts, Warlord may go for two or three months without an issue hitting – then maybe two will come in rapid succession, but that has not enabled them to keep up. That in itself kills any kind of story momentum or excitement for the title. It's a shame, really, because I enjoyed the first year or so. Compound that sporadic publishing schedule with the increasingly significant divergences from Edgar Rice Burroughs' story canon, and I'm just not that interested anymore.

Thanks for reading.

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