Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Comics Capsule Reviews

Recent Books

Weird Love #1
BOOK OF THE WEEK: Weird Love #1: Oh, the delicious pleasure of this comic. The genius team of Yoe Comics editors Craig Yoe and Elizia Gussoni (with contributions from my buddy Steven “Booksteve” Thompson) is a sublime delight. These folks have combed through years of Golden and Silver Age romance comics and chosen the goofiest, oddest, kinkiest and most unintentionally funny comic stories I’ve ever read. Whosever idea this was is my lifelong hero.

Let’s examine some of the gems in this first issue. “Love of a Lunatic” (Love Secrets #32, 1953) features the doomed love between Ruth and Ed. Bat-crap craziness runs in Ruth’s family, so naturally she lives in fear of ending up in the looney bin like dear old dead dad. After a major nervous breakdown caused by the return of said dead dad (don’t ask) and rejecting nice guy Ed (she didn’t want to saddle him with an insane fiancée), Ruth’s mother calls the men in white and they drag Ruth to the booby hatch. Blathering and pulling her hair out in a padded cell, Ed’s love eventually brings her back down to earth. The staff psychiatrist (probably educated in the Bahamas) saves the day by deciding Ruth is only insane because her mother planted the idea in her mind. A happy ending, as Ruth twitches her way into a picket fence and 2.5 children. I’m sure she’ll be fine!

In “I Fell for A Commie,” (Romantic Adventures #50, 1954) shopgirl Gladys waits on Tom and soon they are dating. After unceremoniously dumping her, she tracks him down at a meeting at the Communist Club. He tries to shoo her off, there’s just no room in his life for a Mrs. Commie at the moment. Sickened by his political beliefs but smitten with his sweltering good looks, Gladys figures, in for a penny ... I won’t ruin the brilliant twist ending, but let’s say the Reds get what’s coming and Gladys and Tom may have some baby Stalins after all.

You have to love “The Taming of the Brute” (Just Married #53, 1967). Muscle-bound Nick is a beach bum who thinks women look best naked in the back of his VW microbus. Georgie is a no-nonsense straight arrow who decides that, tamed, he may be good husband-fodder. Bit by bit she breaks him down until he is serving their dinner guests in an apron and asking her if she’d like a foot rub before bed. Tables turn as someone is spanked for their gender-wrong ideas. As it should be! All is right with the universe after all. Had me nervous there for a second.

That doesn’t even cover the totally inappropriate date rape story, “Love in High Style,” (Dear Lonely Hearts #7, 1954) or the “okay, so we’re both gross” marriage story “You Also Snore, Darling,” (Just Married #57, 1968). Or the magnificent one-pagers, gathered from decades of mainstream romance comics. These brief instructional tales feature fat, bald middle-aged male writers telling young women how to dress, eat, act and kiss properly (and virginally).

I have a good sense of humor, but I rarely just guffaw non-stop outloud. I did after every story and feature in this book. An idea whose time has come—this is the book of the week and my new favorite comic. The only negative is that Weird Love is bi-monthly—I have to wait two months for the next issue! Torture, I tell you!

***** out of 5 stars. Fantastic.

The United States of Murder #1
The United States of Murder, Inc. #1: The new book from Powers creators Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. In this alternate universe tale, the Mafia is so powerful they control most of the east coast of the United States. As the story opens, Valentine is becoming a made man and celebrates moving up in the organization. He seems like a somewhat decent guy, although his friend Dino is a mob psychopath, making for an effective bodyguard. Dispatched on a train to Washington, D.C. for a simple delivery mission, Valentine meets Jagger Rose, a hot redhead who was a childhood friend of his sister. As events unfold it’s obvious she’s not just another passenger and not there by accident. As the delivery job goes horribly wrong, Valentine is almost killed and his future with the organization is placed in doubt.

This first issue opened the story and started building Bendis and Oeming’s world. It was a decent idea adequately executed until the twist on the last page. That was a game changer and made me sit up and pay attention. That twist suddenly made another mob book a story I’m interested in reading. Needless to say, I’m in. Hopefully as this tale unfolds it will fulfill the promise of this first issue.

*** out of 5 stars

The Royals: Masters of War #4

 The Royals: Masters of War #4: This alternate history World War II story has a fascinating premise: all the world’s royal families have super powers, but they have all taken an oath of neutrality that none of them dare break. As WWII begins, British super-royals are forced to let Nazis bomb the hell out of Britain. When the young hotheaded Prince of Wales is in France for a royal visit, he witnesses the Germans pounding the French in a one-sided sea battle. Refusing to just stand by, he enters the battle and single-handedly destroys a good part of Hitler’s navy. From there, it’s on. Royals the world over have been itching to kill people and break things and they can’t wait to start a stately super-slugfest.

In this issue, everyone is pissed at Prince Henry for bringing the world’s royals into the war. That is, except for Winston Churchill, who looks at them as just another welcome weapon. A weapon he doesn’t hesitate to use. He sends Henry and his sister Rose flying to Russia to gather up a German defector with valuable intelligence. When they get there they have to fight on two fronts: one,  dethroned Czar Nicolas, who is super powerful and not quite dead after all, and two, their icky romantic feelings for one another (which Rose rejects out of hand). Action packed with layers of interesting story, The Royals is a satisfying read. If a bit icky.

***1/2 out of 5 stars

Star Trek: The Mirror, Cracked
Star Trek, New Visions #1: The Mirror, Cracked: Writer John Byrne is full of interesting ideas. He could rest on his laurels as one of the most lauded comic creators of the last 40 years. Instead, he does something new. In the 70s, before VCRs and almost any type of electronic home entertainment, we had Photonovels. Paperback books were issued of movies or TV shows with photos and word balloons adapting the story. I had a few of the Star Trek ones and the Close Encounters of the Third Kind book. They were fumetti, a sort of photo comic book. John Byrne has taken the concept and rearranged it a bit for modern times. He has taken images from Star Trek: The Original Series and given us something new. In this case, a story revisiting the original episode “Mirror, Mirror,” only with the evil ST cast coming to our universe this time.

This is a fun, wacky story that hits all the right buttons. Evil Kirk beams himself to our universe and strikes up an alliance with Commander Kor of the Klingons. Evil Spock turns from heel to face and comes over to warn the good Kirk and stop the bad one. He shaves his beard to disguise himself, but after he is revealed as an ally, Dr. McCoy quickly regrows it for him to tell the Spocks apart. There is intrigue and space battles aplenty, but the fun is in watching the characters play off each other and seeing bearded Spock in a standard Starfleet uniform. When they day is won, bearded Spock is back in his universe and Evil Kirk is left ... in a precarious position. A bit pricey at $7.99, but an excellent package. I look forward to more.

**** out of 5 stars

Saga #19
Saga #19: While I like Saga, I’ve never known exactly what to make of it. Is it serious space opera? Comedy soap opera? A romance? Straight science fiction? It is really all of those things. And none of them. It is truly unique. This always controversial book opens with another shock: A robot? cybernetic? cyborg? baby being born. In the most graphic way possible. Meanwhile, leads Marko and Alana are having marital and financial problems and are still hiding from the authorities. If the last page shock ending is legitimate, there will be another sea change in a book full of them. It’s weird; ninteen issues in, and I’m still not sure what to make of Saga. I don’t dislike it though. Brian K. Vaughn is an excellent writer, but the book is sold by the gorgeous art of Fiona Staples. I hope no one else ever touches this book.
*** out of 5 stars

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