Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (4/6/11)

Books Reviews
Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (4/6/11)

Every Wednesday, Paste looks at some of the most intriguing comic books, graphic novels, graphic memoirs and other illustrated books.


The Madman All-New Giant-Size Super-Ginchy Special! by Michael Allred, Matt Kindt, Emi Lennox, and Tonci Zonjic
Image Comics, April 2011
Rating: 8.4

Mike Allred approaches the absurd with a straight-faced candor that’s seldom seen outside the Silver Age of comics. He creates such a loving homage to the zany ‘50s hyperbole of fake science and Rockefeller optimism that it hardly feels like homage at all. Take his latest work in the new Madman one shot. The main story features the Frankenstein-like hero chasing a rotting corpse to return a dismembered ear to a teammate. The action soon segues from hyperkinetic action to an exercise in existentialism, as the title character trips into an endless innerspace filled with monologues and floating donuts. Madman ponders a life in which all he does he eat, sleep and fall, commenting, “this is pure action and deathly dull at once.” I certainly won’t give away the ending, but it fits perfectly within the narrative’s scope of spiking conventional superhero tropes with the metaphysical goofiness of Jack Kirby. It’s deceptively simple, but not simple at all, both weird and completely awesome. The rest of the issue features three backup stories from other writer/artists, which constitutes the only real shortcoming of this book. Madman is such a product of Allred’s distinctive quirks that it feels plain wrong in the hands of anyone else. (SE)


Eye of the Majestic Creature by Leslie Anne Mackenzie Stein
Fantagraphics, May 2011
Rating: 6.0

Alternately charming and irritating, Leslie Stein’s Eye of the Majestic Creature, a collection of self-published books by the same name, is hard to categorize. Its psychedelia and general loopiness resemble Jim Woodring, but her comics are both far more recognizable/relateable than his and more verbal as well. Woodring’s proceed in silence, but in Stein’s the words really are as important as the pictures; they just don’t always make a ton of sense. When her main character, Larrybear, actually ventures into narrative, the book is effective and affecting. The other half of the pages consist of dreams, fantasies and… let’s just say Larrybear smokes plenty of pot and when her brain isn’t addled by drugs, it is by alcohol. That’s fine, and that’s her thing, but it’s probably more interesting if you, too, have the kind of brain that meanders and smells the roses. When Stein depicts complicated family dynamics, however, or the weirdness of a new job or even when she hits her stride in a not-particularly-narrative-driven story of a night out with old friends, there’s something in tune about it all. If she ever finds her way into more long-format work, the results may be better. (HB)


S.H.I.E.L.D. # 1-6 by Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver
Marvel Comics, 2010/2011
Rating: 6.7

Marvel originally scheduled S.H.I.E.L.D.: Architects of Tomorrow, the hardcover collection of the first six issues of the latest S.H.I.E.L.D. series, for April 6 before recently pushing it back a few weeks. The new S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t just more warmed-over spy malarkey with Nick Fury and his ageless crew of World War II bros. No, the dudes behind this S.H.I.E.L.D.—Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, god damn Nikolai Tesla—are even older. In the first six issues of the current on-going S.H.I.E.L.D. comic, Jonathan Hickman repositions Marvel’s longstanding espionage network as the modern-day front for the Brotherhood of the Shield, a centuries-old secret society dedicated to the protection and advancement of man. This is a clever play off such famed conspiratorial leagues of esoteric history as the Templars, the Freemasons, and the Nine Unknown Men. Learned men of science throughout history, both real (names dropped above) and fictional (Iron Dad Howard Stark, Old Man Fantastic Nathan Richards), have toiled for the Shield, but now a philosophical rift between Newton and Da Vinci threaten the entire organization. Hickman’s less interested in character than ideas, and sometimes the pile-up of big thoughts and lofty rhetoric from long-dead scientists weigh down the story. S.H.I.E.L.D. tickles the brain of conspiracy nuts and fans of fantastic realism, and is thoroughly unlike anything that’s ever carried the Marvel logo. Readers interested in well-defined characters, dramatic arcs, or definitive conclusions will hopefully find consolation in Weaver’s beautiful artwork. (GM)


Lucille by Ludovic Debeurme
Top Shelf, April 2011
Rating: 3.8

The plot summary sounds like an indie movie: anorexic girl and boy from a troubled family with some OCD traits run off together to Italy. And there is certainly a way in which Ludovic Debeurme’s OGN Lucille could have been good and interesting, but instead it misses on nearly every level. The narrative is a cascade of depressing events, related flatly; the artwork is weak and often ugly; the story is full of cliches; and there are noticeable textual errors [It’s since been brought to my attention that the textual errors have been corrected in the printed version of the book]. It’s not a complete waste of time, but when the highlights are the chapter title pages, your book has problems. It’s a quick read, despite weighing in at 544 pages, but the overall impression is that of a more annoying version of Craig Thompson’s Blankets minus Thompson’s beautiful art. You could read this in a high school English class, I suppose, but if you’re looking for a story about misfit adolescents, there are a lot of better choices. (HB)

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