Fred Reads Comics! Week of October 24th
All Star Western featuring Jonah Hex #13
If I may gush for just a moment… How great has All Star Western been? Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have brought Jonah Hex back into the DC world and seamlessly integrated him into Gotham’s history. The story arcs weave him into every aspect of the city’s culture, whether it’s dealing with some of the most prominent families and figureheads (Cobblepots and Waynes ahoy) or working with the man behind the now infamous Arkham Asylum. Moritat’s art brings this frontier style Gotham to life, varying between intricately detailed backgrounds to simple, sexy characters, depending on what the story needs.
In issue 13 we are treated to another of Gotham’s staples as a setting for Jonah’s adventures: Haly’s Circus. Integral to the Batman and Robin mythos, the Flying Grayson’s misfortune appears to be yet another tragedy in the circus’ gruesome past in Gotham. Arkham, Tallulah and Hex are led there after some vicious attacks target priests and leave the victims’ faces painted like clowns with their own blood. Shades of the Joker, though the culprit is a completely different frightening clown. Seriously though, find me a clown that isn’t terrifying.
Palmiotti/Gray reintroduce a character they focused on in a previous issue as a wild card during Hex’s investigation. It makes for some stellar fight sequences and a more complicated plot than it seemed on the surface. Add in an imposing, creepy but familiar, antagonist and you have an intriguing recipe for the next chapter in Hex’s story.
I love the way Palmiotti/Gray write these characters, archetypes with enough originality to prevent them from becoming predictable or stagnant. It’s a fascinating look at the city that created Batman and really creates the feeling of a place that couldn’t have evolved any other way. Gotham is as much of a character as any of the people and that’s exactly how it should be, no matter which hero’s name is on the cover.
After the heart-wrenching end to the Cubs in Toyland story arc in Fables #121, Bill Willingham has diverged from the main narrative to bring us a tale of the Great Wolf. Beautifully illustrated by Gene Ha, a guest artist who truly understands the tone of the Fables world, unlike others who have cameoed in issues past. It’s not too abrupt a shift away from Mark Buckingham’s spectacular ongoing pencils and Ha captures a level of emotion and movement in his pages that few others can boast. Art Lyon’s colours are beautiful as well, appropriate to the setting and mood of the storyline, enhancing the art without disguising or destroying the gorgeous pencilwork in the process.
The tale is set far in Bigby’s past, long before Fabletown and fully entrenched in the magic and mystery of the Homelands. Introducing a sexy new antagonist who manages to come out on top in a battle of wits with Bigby (her mistake), what initially felt like a one shot story continues on to another issue. A curious foray into our favourite furried heroes’ past, complete with Willingham’s trademark witty banter; only in his universe could a despondent wolf mutter “Eating your own dad could get weird.” How’s that for an out of context quote?
Though it still maintains the sombre undertones ever present in the Fables world (Kill Train, anyone?), it’s a welcome diversion from what promises to be a long, dark chapter in the cubs’ lives. A required chapter I’m sure, as these things tend to be in the grand scheme of things, but constant heartbreak over these beloved characters requires at least a few distractions along the way.
Also included in this issue is a brief Revolution in OZ chapter that lightens the mood, despite some senseless violence, as well as a sneak peek of the “Werewolves in the Heartland” original graphic novel out in November. Pick it up for the gorgeous art and playful, out of continuity story that can be read no matter how far you’ve made it through the Fables series.
Is there anyone who wasn’t excited to see Gorilla Grodd finally show up in the New 52′s Flash universe? I wasn’t the biggest Flash fan before the relaunch but I couldn’t help but giggle with glee when Grodd appeared. One of the the more ridiculous yet oddly well-suited villains for the Flash, Grod has been reintroduced by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato in a way that somehow adds more believability to the character.
When Grodd’s minions invade Central City, it’s in the midst of Flash getting his ass handed to him by Captain Cold and the Rogues, the local bunch of baddies. With Flash’s impressive speedforce abilities, he seems undermatched by the Gorilla City monkey brigade but Manapul introduces a plausible flaw that allows for great fight sequences and authentic tension in the scene. They’re suddenly monkeys that can almost hold their own against the speedster, and in great numbers, a force to be reckoned with.
Grodd’s brutality is known but re-established through a brief but vicious encounter with a token Central City Judas figure. By the end of the issue, things look bleak for the Flash and his hometown but at least there’s a great set-up for an epic Flash vs Grodd fight scene in the next issue.
Manapul and Buccellato manage to make the Barry Allan a consistent, sympathetic and accessible character; an everyday guy trying to do right with the abilities he’s been given. The art has not suffered at all during Manapul’s run and continues the trend of dynamic splash pages that incorporate “The Flash” title into the art itself. And who doesn’t love a brief homage to Planet of the Apes during a fight sequence?
Worth a read, whether you’re a monkey lover or not.
A-Babies VS X-Babies
As adorable as Skottie Young’s cover and promo posters were for the A Babies vs X Babies comic, I had no real intention of reading it when it came out today. The main AvX series soured me on any VS type stories. However, after Moss vouched for it, calling it a lot of fun and worth a read, I decided to give it a shot.
This book is ridiculous, wonderful and cuter than a box full of kittens. Seriously. I wish the regular AvX series had been this enjoyable.
The catalyst for this epically adorable battle is when Cyclops steals Captain America’s Bucky Bear for no apparent reason. It’s already a better premise than the forced tension between the characters in the AvX story and douchey toddler Scott rings true based on his behavior in the X books the past few years. Ok he’s not that bad but sue me, I’m a Xavier girl at heart.
Before you can say crossover, Avengers assemble and X-Men… show up. Boiling down each character to what fans love about them, it’s a simple recipe for success, especially when you add in baby faced action. This is absolutely a book that could have ongoing potential with the right writers and artists tied to it. Skottie has a great handle on authentic character chatter while still keeping the cuteness quotient high. Gurihiru’s art is precious and manages to suit every character without feeling repetitive. There’s no doubt as to who someone is in the books, which is a danger when simplifying characters or doing group scenes.
Honestly, in a world of serious comics for adults, this is a refreshing blast of comic fun for the sake of fun. Don’t miss it.