Sometimes people in positions of power royally #@$% things up. I’ve never had the amazing opportunity to do this before, but this new year has been all about new experiences for me. After 9 brutal weeks of spending 20 minutes a week writing semi-nonsense about new comics in this column I think we can all agree I now wield a remarkably frightening amount of power in this world. And what did I do with my power? With great power comes human trafficking. I offered up Forbidden Planet’s poor basement dweller/demerit collector Ben to you all like he was some sort of man-shaped cookie… Which he sort of is. Poor, sweet Ben. 9 “lucky” contest winners got to take Ben on a date this past week. Poor, sweet, gentle Ben. And what did you, the loyal readers of TRY SOMETHING NEW, do? I legally can’t go into all the details but suffice it to say that Ben will never be the same. Good job readers. My power and your depravity royally #@$% this up. No more contests for at least 2 weeks. Poor, sweet, gentle, exsanguinated Ben needs to rest and regenerate around 4 pints of blood… and an eye. How long does that take?
These double digit columns are rough. Now I’m onto my second apology/retraction of the week. Last week I suggested you pick up Mr. Diggle & Mr. Jock‘s Snapshot #1 from Image. I just wrote “Mr. Jock.” Huh. Anyway, I pointed out that is was a newly colored update of the UK version. Well if you bought the book you might have noticed that the colors they used are both the color black and the color white. There aren’t even ink washes. And if you didn’t buy the book, what the hell? Buy the stuff I recommend. C’mon. I went back and edited that part out of last weeks blog post because this is the 21st century and information is supposed to be fluid and temporary. But for those of you who read the newsletter, you Guttenberg-ites, you are all stuck with what we used to refer to as “mistakes” but what we now refer to as “artifacts of non verified information.” I would feel bad for lying to all of you print readers but in a way I feel like it’s social Darwinism. You get bad information, it slows you down, and a lion eats you. The comic reading herd begins to move faster and make better choices. Malthus smiles from his grave. Sucks to be you. So anyway, yeah I sort of $#!% the bed on that one. You see I don’t get sent many preview versions of books (You hear that marketing/pr folks? Sort your stuff out.) so I go off what I can. What I saw was the black & white stuff and I was told the great colorist Lee Loughridge was going to be adding more colors beyond black & white. Mr. Loughridge is a great colorist and I met him at a party once and we talked about hardcore bands for 5 minutes so he’s basically the coolest guy working in comics right now. Either way, he didn’t color the book. Don’t know what happened. Like most reputable news outlets I get my news from various disreputable news outlets. They said it would be colored. It wasn’t. So there you have it. Either way the book is really good and worth your time. Stop being such a prude and read black & white comics. It’s better for your eyes. (No. It probably isn’t.)
Onto the parade of new books. When Mike Mignola created Hellboy in 19XX (too lazy to google that) there was a weird byproduct that I don’t think anyone could have predicted. The “monster/freak as adventurer/government agent” genre is certainly weirdly specific and probably only exists in western comics. You got the Hellboy spinoff monster cops book B.P.R.D., and new series like Yeti cop book Proof, monster cop book Frankenstein: Agent Of S.H.A.D.E., other Yeti cop book Footprints, and robot adventurer (cop) book Atomic Robo. The weird thing is that all of these books are pretty good. It is a premise that lends itself well to big exciting stories. Personally I have a real soft spot for Atomic Robo and was really glad to see ATOMIC ROBO vol 7.: ATOMIC ROBO AND THE FLYING SHE-DEVILS OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC out this week. Atomic Robo manages to differentiate itself from the crowd by maintaining a serious amount of fun at all times. If Hollywood people were smarter Atomic Robo would be a successful film or cartoon franchise already. (Do they make cartoons in Hollywood?) Equal parts Hellboy and Indiana Jones, Atomic Robo is one of the few ongoing (pretty much) all ages books of any real worth and is a real treasure. Before you pass over the book because it is kid friendly let me remind you that you are reading the newsletter/blog of a comic shop. You are, by definition, at least 60% manchild or womanchild depending on your genitals. Stop being pretentious and read something fun.
You remember 2007? I don’t really. I looked online and it seems almost nothing really happened that year. Some Marvel character probably died. The Loch Ness monster was caught. George Clinton was president. That Battles record that came out was really good. I discovered basketball shorts. 7/11 perfected making “chicken” nuggets out of Loch Ness Monster meat. The U.S. became the first country to use giant robots in actual combat. I meant to see Michael Clayton. Forbidden Planet’s Executive Director of Web Development, Halal food, & Mini-Comics, Tyler, was born. I had my first milkshake with pieces of cake in it and I refused to believe it was as gross as it actually is. Crazy all the stuff you can find out on the internet, huh? All of that stuff was ok but the one really interesting thing the whole year was that Vasilis Lolos released his super weirdo comic Last Call. Did you miss it? Well it’s about… I don’t really know what it’s about. Some dudes get on a train that is magical or demonic or metaphorical. Not sure. Then lots of weird stuff happens. Well now it’s 2013. Cake shakes ARE gross, basketball shorts are out in favor of smart ties and v-neck sweaters, I probably still won’t watch Michael Clayton, and Tyler is 5 years old and makes more money than me. Also, Mr. Lolos has released LAST CALL vol. 2. There is a lot of killing, some playing with relativity, and lots of “train as metaphor for _____”. In short, the book is pretty awesome. Another of the up and comers making western comics with strong Manga influence, LAST CALL vol. 2 feels like the freaky offspring of Scott Pilgrim, Prophet, and Orc Stain. If you have been digging the work of people like Giannis Milogiannis (some folks just have dope names), James Harren, Brandon Graham, or James Stokoe, this book should be a no-brainer for you. Remember; if you just read vol. 2 and don’t bother to track down vol. 1 first you haven’t earned your sense of confusion.
Let’s talk about Powers for a minute. Michael Avon Oeming draws it. It looks like he puts more thought into each panel than most cartoonists put into their careers. That’s cool. Good look, Mike. But I am, in some shameful misuse of the word, a writer. I like words. Words are sexy to me. Words are the things I use to both mock and lie to the people around me, and that gives me most of the joy I get in this world. People who use words well are better than people who don’t in my world. Now let’s talk about Brian Michael Bendis. But let’s talk about him via me. I had a shameful period in my life where I didn’t care about comics more than I care about everything else. I was into other stuff and comics just weren’t doing it for me. The thrill had faded years ago, like the shine on so many foil covers. Artists turned writers had abused me and left me bitter and broken. If I did hard drugs this would be my opium years. I was aimless, vacant, distant bordering on ethereal, and almost always nodding off in the back of that cockfighting place on Mott Street. Then someone came to me and saved me. They handed me POWERS vol. 1: WHO KILLED RETRO GIRL? It was an epiphany. It was a chance to see a world I once loved through virgin eyes again. It would have been cool for the sake of this story if the person who handed me that book was Brian Michael Bendis himself, but it wasn’t. I don’t know him. He probably doesn’t hang out at cockfights (“probably” is a strong word.). It was a creepy Gollum-like man in a comic shop that shall not be named who gave me the book. Anyway, I read it and I felt something. Brian Michael Bendis writes dialogue not like the way people talk, he writes it better. It’s idealized dialogue. It’s conversation, perfected. I can’t explain how important his dialogue and the way it forms his characters is to me. In my love of writing I have stopped and obsessed on folks like David Mamet, Elmore Leonard, Quentin Tarantino, Aaron Sorkin, and Whit Stillman for periods of my life. But here is where I say the crazy thing that gets me hate mail. None of them do for me what Bendis does. Bendis made me realize that comics are supposed to be better than all the other mediums. It is the best of all the worlds.
The Powers premise, police procedural in a superhero world, is so simple yet so perfect. This is the chocolate and peanut butter of comics. And the things Bendis does within the book, they were a revelation at the time and can still give you a jolt if you let them; the talking head panels, the multiple interwoven arcs, the focus on the relationships of characters, and lets not forgot the monkey sex issue (google it). All of this was eye opening for me (and most of the comics industry it would seem). The man brought me out of my smoky backroom cockfighting ring and into the less smoky but equally sketchy comic shop once again. Powers is my moment of clarity. I knew I wanted to give myself wholly to comics after I read it and I knew I would follow Mr. Bendis until the day he writes his final panel description. Sadly, Powers has come to an end. And like Lazarus, frozen yogurt shops in New York, and noisy indie rock, Powers has returned from the dead better than ever. POWERS BUREAU #1 comes out on Wednesday. I would say buy it but I might buy all of them and give them out in Port Authority to lost souls and wayward Aaron Sorkin fans. They have nothing left anymore.
Hey, did you read that last paragraph? Did you like it? Don’t care. This awkward obsessing train rolls on. So… Brian Michael Bendis. I don’t expect all people to like his work. I get that he can be polarizing. He occasionally sacrifices old characterization continuity to serve story and people like their weird old continuity baggage. He pushed the medium forward and there always have to be people who push back. Sometimes his female characters are treated like second class citizens… (I don’t have a funny quip for that one. It’s a bummer.) He is good and most people don’t like good things. I get all that. But for me this new Bendis era of X-Men is about as exciting as comics gets. The X-Men were my childhood obsession, and smart comics are my adult obsession. This week childhood me and adult me meet up for a very excited 22 pages as Brian Michael Bendis begins writing UNCANNY X-MEN #1. His All New X-Men is the standout book of the very excellent Marvel Now! relaunch. Now his “X-Men on the run” team gets their own book, harkening back to the mutants as outlaws origins of the characters. The recent evolution of Cyclops, from preppy milquetoast, to his “heavy is the head that wears the crown” version, to his current radicalization, is one of the best things either of the Big 2 has done with one of their characters ever. This is actual growth and development. This is art. It is sad, hard to read sometimes, and compelling as hell. My guess? When all is said and done Mr. Bendis does the best X-Men book of the last 25 years. Get it now and watch the X-Men take their place once again as the most exciting team in comics.