Each week, Paste reviews the most intriguing comic books, graphic novels, graphic memoirs and other illustrated books.
Ed Brubaker accomplished the unthinkable twice over when he began his Captain America epic back in 2005. Not only did he make Captain America popular again, but he brought back Bucky, Cap’s long-dead teen sidekick whose death was the most significant funny-book passing this side of Uncle Ben’s, in a story that was so good that the expected fanboy uproar barely materialized. Six years later, after the Billy Pilgrim-esque non-death of Steve Rogers and the grown-up Bucky’s brief tenure behind the shield, Brubaker’s Captain America story continues with an unnecessary series relaunch tied to next week’s Captain America movie. Captain America #1 bears all the hallmarks of Brubaker’s Captain America. The story ties into a previously undocumented mission from World War II where Cap teamed up with a never-before-mentioned fellow costumed hero named Codename: Bravo and the super-obscure Golden Age Marvel character Jimmy Jupiter. Apparently some shit went down and 70 years later Bravo aims for revenge in the present day. One of Brubaker’ s strengths is plotting out long-form storylines perfect for today’s trade paperback mentality while still providing enough action and enough of an arc in each issue to satisfy those who read month to month. That continues with Captain America #1, as Brubaker squeezes in a couple of fight scenes, a very brief and broad recap of Cap’s origin, and a flashback that introduces us to Bravo and lays out his apparent motivations, all in what is obviously the first part of a larger story. The surprise reveal at the end lightly references Brubaker’s previous Captain America #1, when the true mastermind was revealed to be an enemy from Cap’s past. It’s all topped off with McNiven’s excellent work with character and action, resulting in a splendid start to Cap’s latest adventure. (GM)
Dark Horse, 2011
Considering this comic a) serves as an introduction to a video game (from the folks behind Doom and Quake) and b) has a rather amazingly and unironically ugly cover by Glenn Fabry, who can do much better, featuring a hideous mutant, a screaming woman, and a futuristic soldier, you certainly wouldn’t expect it to be readable, let alone not half bad. And yet the interior belies the exterior, with art that’s nothing like the mish-mash of ideas going on in the title’s lettering (anarchy? gunshot? lava? who knows?) and a story that catches you up in spite of yourself. Yes, there’s a lot of post-apocalyptic nonsense and exposition, but that’s expected, as is the nicely sculpted posterior of protagonist Dr. Elizabeth Cadence. The plot moves quickly, and although nothing is drop-your-comic surprising, you may end up thinking it’s a bit of a shame Rage is planned as a limited three-issue series. (HB)
I’ve never seen so many bodily fluids in a single comic before. It’s a little overwhelming. Johnny Ryan’s pointedly offensive comics lose a lot of their ability to shock or disgust when you read 160 or so pages of the stuff in one sitting. It’s like watching a few pornos in a row when only one scene gets the job done. Take A Joke collects issues 11 to 14 of Ryan’s Angry Youth Comix, along with many of his gag pages for Vice Magazine and more narrative single-page strips for anthologies like Hotwire. If you’ve ever read anything by Ryan you know what to expect: lots of grotesque sex, violence, and non-PC humor drawn in the cutesy cartoon style of newspaper comic strip artists like Mort Walker or Dik Browne. Ryan’s best creation, Boobs Pooter, is an old-time hack comic whose schtick is creatively murdering others for his own amusement. Pooter is like a one man 4chan whose quest for world-destroying lulz actually provides twisted laffs, unlike most of the /b/ bottom dwellers. It’s pointless to knock something as witlessly vulgar when witless vulgarity is the point, and at their best Ryan’s strips are surreal and hilarious enough to render any concerns about maturity or appropriateness irrelevant. Take A Joke is a book to pick at, though, and not in public. (GM)
Writer Garth Ennis wears quite a few hats—reflective war poet, blowout action choreographer and nauseating horror scribe are some of his most common. But the native Irishman seems most content when he’s holding his pen like an erect middle finger, desecrating the superhero institutions that have paid many of his ludicrous bar tabs. The Boys will probably be remembered as the book that proved DC Comics couldn’t take a joke, evidenced when the publisher dropped the blasphemous series after it reimagined most of its marketable icons as sociopathic sex freaks. Judging from the latest issue, DC didn’t necessarily make a bad choice. The latest Boys case features the namesake team of superhero watchers investigating the mangled corpse of a transvestite prostitute pimped by a Dr. Strange analogue. Also featured: green AIDS monkeys. Ennis has written some of the most memorable dialogue of the past twenty years, most of it served with a heavy dose of ribald humor. But the exploits in these panels are neither particularly shocking nor funny, and even worse, compensate for a serious lack of plot progression. There’s a bombshell premise behind this overarching title, concluding that the common man would recklessly abuse superpowers just like any unearned authoritative power. It’s too bad this provocative downer of a concept usually takes a back seat to face-humping monkey gags…no pun intended. (SE)
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