Friday, January 28, 2011

Comic Book Carnage #003: Infestation and Astonishing Thor

It's time for another edition of Comic Book Carnage, in which Mike (from It's a Bit of a Shame) and I rant and rave about some recent comic books.

Yan: So I haven't had breakfast, but I found this lonely little piece of bread crust in the cupboard, which I'm now eating. That'll give me enough strength to get through this without fainting.

Mike: You're eating just crust?

Yan: I'll be fine. I'll get lunch when we're done. So, should we start with the good or the bad?

Mike: Hmm. I suppose it would be better to end on a high note.

Yan: Okay.

Infestation #1
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; art by David Messina; IDW

Yan: Then let me start by apologizing for making you buy this awful, awful book.

Mike: Why did we pick this again?

Yan: Well, it sounded like a crazy crossover event and it's totally outside of my usual reading material, so I thought it would be fun. I wasn't necessarily expecting a masterpiece, but I thought it would have Transformers and all those other franchises fighting against zombies, which at the very least could have been entertaining. Instead we got... whatever this was.

Mike: Yeah, I hear you. Robots shooting zombies should have been brilliant. I guess it wasn't exactly a great idea to start the series off with some random characters I've never heard of. CVO? What the hell are they from?

Yan: Exactly. That's what really pissed me off about this. I'm just looking at the solicitation from Previews again, just to see if it mentions anything about these characters, and it doesn't. It's billed as a crossover that affects the Transformers, GI Joe, Ghostbusters and Star Trek universes. Which is also what you'd expect from a comic book that has Spock, Optimus Prime, Bill Fucking Murray and what's-his-name from GI Joe on the cover. And none of these characters are in the book!

Mike: Instead we get the poor man's BPRD. It was naive of IDW to assume that the main draw of the crossover was the story.

Yan: Well, I don't think they did. I think they knew full well that the draw was those franchises, which is why they promoted it that way. And to be fair, I understand the need for there to be a kind of bookend story that sets up the context of this "infestation." I expected some of that from this first issue. But what I didn't expect was a story about a bunch of characters I've never heard about, but that obviously have some history I was supposed to be familiar with in order to give a shit about them. That was the biggest obstacle for me. Throughout the whole comic, I kept asking myself who these people were and why I should care about what happens to any of them. I cared so little that I actually had a hard time making it to the end of the comic. I kind of skimmed the last few pages, 'cause there was nothing compelling about it.

Mike: But I feel like even if the impossible happened and you grew to like these characters, it still wasn't a strong read.

Yan: It's basically an episode of Stargate SG1, isn't it?

Mike: Yeah, it felt like that.

Yan: Except they're all vampires, for some reason. I think it would've been better if Macgyver was in it.

Mike: I would read this.

Yan: We should probably also talk about the art.

Mike: The art by David Messina is an example of why I can't read any IDW books. It looks like something from a decade ago.

Yan: I think it's one of the ugliest books I've ever bought. If it weren't for the fact that we'd already agreed to review it, I would have put it back on the shelf at the store after flipping through the pages based on how ugly it looks.

Mike: Yeah, after I read it I said to myself, "Y'know, this is what the average person thinks comics are like". Vampires and women with giant boobs blowing up zombies.

Yan: But it's not just the content or the style. It looks like it was put together by an amateur. Some of it may be because of the colouring. But for some reason, everything looks out of focus, like either someone went crazy with the digital blur effects in Photoshop or they're printing it from some low-resolution jpeg. Whatever it is, it just looks terrible. It made me angry while I was reading it! And it's too bad, because at the end of the book, there's a preview for the Transformers issues in the crossover, and it looks a lot better. The art is nice and smooth by comparison, and it has characters I recognize doing what I expected them to be doing in this book - i.e., fighting zombies. I would totally buy that and probably enjoy it. But now, after this terrible introduction, there's no way I'm spending another penny on this event. In fact, I may never buy another book from IDW again.

Mike: Wow, harsh words.

Yan: Well, it's not like I was buying any of their books before.

Mike: It's books like this that make me wonder how IDW has done so well for so long.

Yan: I don't know. I probably shouldn't hate on the publisher so much. I think their success can simply be explained by the fact that they have all these very popular franchises at their disposal, which all come with their own fanbases. I don't really have any interest in reading Transformers or Star Trek comics when I barely even pay any attention to those franchises in other media. But if they're doing a good job with those and fans are enjoying them, then cheers to them. I think in this case I was swayed by some of the positive buzz I'd read online, and by the fact that they had big-name writers involved, so I expected some level of quality that just wasn't there.

Astonishing Thor #2 (of 4)
Written by Robert Rodi; art by Mike Choi; Marvel

Yan: Anyway, why don't you say some nice things about Astonishing Thor #2? I'll shut up and let you start on that one.

Mike: There's been a lot of Thor mini-series coming out lately, and I've actually done the impossible and have read most of them.

Yan: Impressive.

Mike: Out of all of them, I would say that Astonishing Thor is the only one anyone should be reading.

Yan: Really? I guess I lucked out on this one, since it's the only one I've picked up.

Mike: Well it's by Robert Rodi, who wrote that Loki mini-series some years ago, which easily one of the best Thor stories ever. So yeah, Rodi continues to show he has firm grasp on these characters.

Yan: Cool. I'm coming at this from a fairly noob perspective. Aside from a few random issues when I was a kid, the first trade collecting Simonson's run, and the recent Matt Fraction stuff, I haven't read any Thor. And as much as I'm enjoying Fraction's Thor, it's pretty weird and conceptual and doesn't really feel like a Thor story very much - or at least not what I expect a Thor story to be like. This is a lot more on the money.

Mike: It's very much inspired by the epic space odyssey Kirby-era Thor. Which seems to rarely get acknowledged.

Yan Faction's is, or this?

Mike: This. Now what did you think about #2's big revelation about Ego?

Yan: Well, I don't really know anything about Ego. So I'm not sure I really understand the impact of the revelation. Also, I'm assuming the revelation at the end of #1 was a bigger deal? The fact that the Stranger created Ego? This wasn't previously established, was it?

Mike: No, it was not.

Yan: And Alter Ego is new as well?

Mike: Yeah.

Yan: It's kind of surprising that it took this long for someone to come up with that obvious play on his name.

Mike: Which I think is kind of goofy.

Yan: Totally. But it's kind of cool. I'm looking forward to learning more about Alter Ego.

Mike: What did you think about Mike Choi's artwork? I'm on the fence.

Yan: I'm pretty sold on it. That's what convinced me to pick this up in the first place. This mini-series was totally off my radar until the guy at the store showed me the art in it.

Mike: What is it about his art that you enjoy?

Yan: I like the detail of the line work, I think, and just the style of it. And it's complemented nicely with the colouring. Except in those panels that use digital blur, the bane of my existence, but I'm saving that rant for another time. The only panel I didn't like in this was the full-page splash of Zephyr, which was really cheesecake-y in a way that doesn't appeal to me at all. It felt really out of place with the tone of the book, also. Why are you on the fence about it?

Mike: My problem is the same problem I have with most photo-realistic artists. I don't feel like there's any sense of movement or action. Like the part where Thor throws his hammer through The Collectors menagerie, I didn't feel any since of chaos.

Yan: Yeah, I can see that. I usually really dislike photo-referenced art in comics. I'm not sure what makes it tolerable for me in this instance. But this kind of ties into what I don't like about the digital blur aspect. Like in that panel you mentioned where he throws the hammer, it's like they're using the digital blur to create a sense of movement because it's lacking in the art. I really, really hate that. And it's becoming so widespread as a technique. I see it in almost every comic I buy from Marvel and DC these days. I wish someone would realize how ugly it is and put a stop to it. It never works for me.

At this point, Mike's internet connection was suddenly cut, so I wasn't able to get his concluding remarks. But there wasn't much more to add at that point anyway.

We're trying to do these every month, but it kind of depends on our schedules and whether there are any books that fall on both our pull lists.


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