THIS WEEK IN COMICS! (6/3/10 – Bulletproof Delay)
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Monday was Memorial Day here in the U.S., which means UPS had the day off, which means comics (including new Shaky Kane) don’t arrive until Thursday, which means Diamond didn’t release their finalized new comics list until this afternoon, which means I’m here 24 hours later than expected. Given the benefit of an added day of contemplation, I realized that this would be the first New Comics Day since the middle of May to feature no Joe Kubert comics — no gigantic Sgt. Rock in Wednesday Comics, no inks over son Andy’s pencils in DC Universe Legacies #1 — so I took it upon myself to post the above image, a pencils & paint depiction of combat from the artist’s Dong Xoai, Vietnam 1965, a drastic severing of sides of the brain in the body comics.
I haven’t heard a lot about the book online – I imagine it looks and quacks like some of Will Eisner’s later work, if you manage to claw under the shrink wrap, but it’s really a far odder, conflicted work, paring Kubert’s drawing down to its barest and most nakedly expressive, even more so than his 2003 Yossel: April 19, 1943, a fictional sketchbook autobiography from an alternate life. There he marked out places and faces and scenes; here he depicts action for just under half of the book, but without the panel borders that might impose a tighter notion of pacing, or restrain his slashing lines from almost reaching into adjoining scenes. The given sensation is less depiction than recollection, scenes still woozy behind the eyelids of someone who knows how to draw these things so damn well he can work as if by prolonged fit of instinct. It’s not ‘finished’-looking art, no. Sometimes it doesn’t even behave as if finished – I had trouble just telling characters apart at times.
But, I never didn’t know how they felt. Look at those faces. Bodies. In loosening his war comic style, Kubert’s excitement segues into terror, and froths with agony.
Also, look at those captions: white and digital in keeping with DC’s house style, and, in several instances depicted here, defiantly failing to match Kubert’s penciled guidelines, which somewhat unnervingly remain on the page. And the lettering/production is in fact the work of another person — Kubert cohort Pete Carlsson — although it’s Joe writing the transcript-style dialogue, and the ultra-dry, stolid narration, not that either mode sounds particularly different. To say the words and pictures in this book jar isn’t halfway enough – they don’t even seem to occupy the same space. It’s like the drawings were a comic somebody found, and then a narration was constructed around it, as if to make sense of it.
It’s a fictional story, albeit hewing very closely to the activities of the eventually-designated Detachment A-342, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Vietnam in 1965, leading up to the actual Battle of Dong Xoai in June. Fascinatingly, an included 40+ pages of text-based supplements are apparently not supplemental at all – they’re Kubert’s source material, a newsletter put together by surviving members of Detachment A-342, through which you can observe how events have been compressed or combined in the story proper. And, just as the newsletter is largely unconcerned with conveying the personalities of the men involved in favor of hard procedure and incident, Kubert’s invented dialogues serve as almost purely transitional between alternately choked and purplish spreads of info-rich narration. And, of course, those leaping drawings.
I realize my interest in this book is a little esoteric; I couldn’t flatly recommend it without some major caveats pertaining to its clash between text and drawing, the latter more overpowering than ever. Yet – that’s the beauty. This is a heavily fact-based work of fiction, broken down and adapted and put on the page, as logic would dictate, but the art nonetheless feels like it existed first, because it is expressive and personal, and primal to battle, and it called for facts and text to tease it into a slightly heavier place of recognition so we can know which uniforms are worn and how the scenes should doodle in. Push it back, loosen it up a little more, in the second half of the book where the shooting starts, and suddenly it’s soldiers everywhere.
Anyway, as for my fellow latecomers:
The Bulletproof Coffin #1 (of 6): Holy smokes it’s Shaky Kane! All-new, all-color, written with David Hine, published by Image! It goes without saying that Shaky Kane is a favorite among many of us — he graced the cover of our fourth printed iteration, still available — and this is his first new comic book format project in a good while, one collector’s dangerous journey through the history of beloved comic book publisher Golden Nugget and the troubled relationship between its most popular creators, Shaky Kane & David Hine, both of whom are suddenly needed to save humanity from infernal cosplayers and other terror. I think? Don’t ask, just etc. Preview; $3.99.
Moving Pictures: A new Top Shelf collection of a WWII-set love/intrigue story from Kathryn & Stuart Immonen, initially serialized online. A museum curator is entangled with a Nazi officer during the occupation of Paris, as the city’s precious works go up for categorization and storage. ” The narrative unfolds along two timelines which collide with the revelation of a terrible secret, an enigmatic decision that not many would make, and the realization that sometimes the only choice left is the refusal to choose,” says the publisher. It’s 144 pages in b&w. Preview; $14.95.
A God Somewhere: And now, out of absolutely nowhere – a 200-page color softcover graphic novel by B.P.R.D. co-writer John Arcudi and Peter Snejbjerg, one of those forthright, no-fuss storytellers that sneaks the impact up on you, working with colorist Bjarne Hansen. It’s apparently an emotive, sweep-of-time superhero project — which maybe explains the book’s presence under the genre-friendly Wildstorm banner — in which a young man observes a powered, troubled do-gooder friend’s transformation into something else. Preview; $24.99.
Stuck Rubber Baby: Being Vertigo’s 15th anniversary hardcover edition of Howard Cruse’s much-noted Paradox Press original, a semi-autobiographical account of ’60s societal transition in terms of sexuality and race relations. I haven’t read this work myself, and, at risk of projecting, I’m under the impression that it’s one of those highly respected works of the medium that hasn’t been so widely read at all since the eruption of ‘literary’ comics in the past decade – I think its last reprint was in 2000. Hopefully some interesting evaluations will result; $24.99.
Jet Scott Vol. 2 (of 2): Hell, I hadn’t even heard of this 1953-55 Jerry Robinson newspaper strip creation (written by Sheldon Stark) until Dark Horse started putting out the hardcovers, but I’m told it involves a bold science hero who solves speculative problems with the boundless virtue of midcentury American technological progress. It’s 12″ x 9″ and 256 pages to finish the run. Witness; $34.99.
Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago… Vol. 1: Or maybe Dark Horse can sell you a 480-page color brick of ’70s tie-in comics, compiling issues #1-26 of the original Marvel run, including the initial Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin tenure and diving deep into material scripted by Archie Goodwin (with contributions Chris Claremont and Mary Jo Duffy) and drawn by Carmine Infantino, Walter Simonson, Herb Trimpe and others. I hear there’s a big bunny rabbit! Samples; $24.99.
Slam Dunk Vol. 10 (of 31): Yesterday’s ultra-popular cultural phenomena is today’s niche affair; story of pop (comics). I’m glad Vertical’s release of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack is doing well, and while I know Takehiko Inoue doesn’t have quite his cachet and sports manga has a rough time under even the best of circumstances, I still hope for best for Viz and this gigantic basketball smash of the ’90s, because at its best it’s as purely and straightforwardly entertaining as comics get. Really; $9.99.
The Muppet Show Comic Book #6: Note that artist Amy Mebberson fills in for Roger Langridge (who still scripts) this issue. Preview; $2.99.
Starstruck #10 (of 13): Note that this issue, three off from the end of this version of this stretch of the series, marks the first meeting of the story’s main characters. Expanding universe. Preview; $3.99
Sky Doll: Space Ship #1 (of 2): And finally, a quick Eurocomic selection from Marvel’s quiet-but-continuing relationship with French publisher Soleil – a broken-up comic book presentation of a short story anthology album for Alessandro Barbucci’s & Barbara Canepa’s satirical, manga/anime/Disney-informed glowy sci-fi project. Matteo De Longis, Claudio Acciari and Pierre-Mony Chan are among the totally-unfamiliar-to-me artists involved, but I get the feeling it might be like Flight with tighter focus and smaller outfits. French-language preview; $5.99.