Third-Party Noir | Thoughts on The Fade Out #2

The Fade Out #2 (Image) – I’m very happy for Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips on the success of the sold-out first issue and that others have taken a huge liking to the series. However, for me, I mentioned it with the first issue and now with #2 it’s hit me hard: my number one problem with this book is the third-person narration employed by writer Brubaker. It’s just too distant and contains too much telling. There’s a reason that overly exposition-y style is not en vogue anymore (unless you’re Chris Claremont, Neil Gaiman or Todd McFarlane). For the better part of two decades comics have largely (and wisely) used first-person narration because in a visual medium it keeps the narrative intimate and grounded in character. Watch a movie with third-person voice-over narration and tell me that isn’t off-putting. Prose in a novel is one thing, but if I can see the character(s) then I want them to tell me their story, not an outside/invisible narrator. In contrast, I think the first-person narration is at least a third (or maybe more) of what makes Velvet (Brubaker’s other hit Image series, and a lauded Fetish Favorite here) such a great read.

But, hey, I get it. Brubaker has been a prose writer “masquerading” as a comic book and film script writer for nearly two decades. That’s obvious to those who’ve been reading his work all these years. This man truly should be writing crime novels. A seasoned reader would inherently know that usually what’s contained in those third-person narrative captions is often stuff the reader can (or could) make out on their own if they’re paying attention and using active reasoning. Also, distant narrative doesn’t help matters when the characters aren’t exactly likable or sympathetic. Even in crime-noir stories they should be characters that are fascinating and make you want to root for them regardless if they’re completely irredeemable scumbags or not. Mainly, though, I just find the story and the characters facilitating the plot boring. In this issue’s backpages (its best pages, ironically), Bru admitted that The Fade Out (about the 1940s Hollywood) is his least commercial idea. To my dismay, I agree. — Rating: 2.5


“Pledged Is Pledged” | Thoughts on Wytches #1

Wytches #1 (Image) — I started out as a horror buff pretty early in life thanks to my horror and sci-fi-loving mom. I was weened on 80s horror and later got into suspense and psychological horror in the early 90s before the mid-to-late 90s sullied and soured both genres for a while. Thankfully, there was a nice resurgence in the early-to-mid 2000s that helped redeem the genres. I’m largely talking about film, but also books and some television. As for comics … I believe horror is a tough genre to pull off well in the medium.

In late 2011 I  thought Scott Snyder’s (then the “new kid” superstar writer of DC’s main Batman series) throwback horror series Severed made a decent attempt. And so does Wytches here three years later. Since I’m well-watched and well-read in the genre and have even written in it myself with my own fiction, it’s easy for me to be jaded and hard-to-impress. Is Wytches well-written? I suppose so as I couldn’t honestly say it’s badly written. I’d argue that it’s better drawn by Jock (aka Mark Simpson). I can’t really put a finger on it to truly criticize it other than I felt it was average comic book fare. Jock’s art and storytelling ultimately earns this book its slightly above-average rating.

However, I’ll close with a compliment: Wytches is better than Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta’s Outcast already, writing wise, while perhaps right on-par story and art-wise with the other horror (and now smash hit) series. That’s certainly counts for something. — Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

This debut issue premiered with some rather interesting variant covers:

Just Make Mine Image! Comics, That Is

In light of recent news making the rounds at this year’s New York Comic Con, it’s become apparent that Marvel enjoys going to the well. Often. That should now be common knowledge for those in the know. I won’t even mention the news bits here as it would make me more complicit in their mission than I care to be. However, I must say that given one particular piece of their news, it now seems that their new hobby is to truly spite their fans (likely at the behest of corporate daddy-of-daddies Disney). So, this has given me pause to re-acknowledge the fact that for over a year now (with the exception of reading Cyclops, Daredevil, Hawkeye and Storm via free digital), I’m more than happy to largely NOT be reading, but more importantly NOT be buying any Marvel comics (okay, I had one small slip-up this year when I bought the first issue or two of Warren Ellis’ run on Moon Knight, but, hey, I’m merely human). So, please allow me to reaffirm something.

With titles such as: Birthright, C.O.W.L., Copperhead, East of West, The Fade Out, Lazarus, Rat Queens, Saga, Sex Criminals, Southern Bastards, Velvet, The Wicked + The Divine, and not to mention old indie classics like Cyber Force, The Darkness, Invincible, Savage Dragon, Spawn, The Walking Dead and Witchblade….plus so many more new and exciting ideas forthcomingwell…

…just make mine:
No events on repeat cycle. No inane crossovers. No tired characters in redundant storylines. No 20-page books at $3.99, no 30-page books at $4.99. For those of you caught in Marvel’s web — particularly financially — I’m available for counseling. I’m here for you, my fellow comic book fetishists. Consider this a PSA for the comic book faithful.

Happy reading. Do not settle for less than that.


“My Dad, the Bill Cosby of Kink” | Thoughts on Sex Criminals #8

Sex Criminals #8 (Image) – SexCrimz never seems to disappoint and it’s undeniably my highest rated series since I’ve started doing the Fetish Favorites here, scoring 5.0 issues more than any other series I read. And it’s never earned a rating lower than 4.0 (out of 5) from me in all its eight issues-so-far run. Just as Velvet is Ed Brubaker writing at his best, Sex Criminals is easily Matt Fraction writing at his very best. Of course, I would be remiss not to mention Chip Zdarsky’s equal contribution to the greatness of this series as its artist (love the way he portrays Suzie Dickson). It’s amazing that despite its rather high concept SexCrimz manages to be a very grounded story thanks to its character-driven qualities. This is enhanced by Fraction’s decision to use multiple first-person narrators. In this issue we also get the internal monologue – and sexual-enlightenment backstory – of new character Robert Rainbow. Speaking of the fellow who maybe could’ve gotten lucky with Suzie, I must say there was a moment there where I thought this book was taking the Sagaroute with the implications of potential illicit relations, but – wait, actually it did do what Saga did since there actually wasn’t any illicit relations (yet). I’m not going to say more, only that I used this issue’s best line in my headline. Actually, there were other candidates, but I try to keep this program in that PG-13 range. – Rating: 5.0 (out of 5)

In the Courtyard | Thoughts on Rat Queens #8

Rat Queens #8 (Image) — Glad to have one of my absolute favorite series back (after a three month layoff), but sad that it’s a single character issue starring Violet, the Dwarf member of the Queens, dealing with her family’s tradition at the gathering of eight families in the courtyard, as well as her well-groomed beard. Timing for this one-off is odd because the previous storyline is unresolved and judging by future solicits, that story is not over. This is a perfectly serviceable character-driven spotlight issue. However, with the long layoff between #7 & #8, I can’t deny I was a little underwhelmed. For such a delayed issue, it was surprising to see artist/colorist Roc Upchurch’s work not look as good as the previous seven issues. I imagine that plenty of the Rat Queens faithful will recoil at this critique (and I’m usually not one to complain too much about the lateness of comics), but when a series instantly becomes your new favorite, your expectations tend to rise. However, I see no reason why this series can’t bounce back into form next issue. — Rating: 3.5 (out of 5) 



This isn’t a standard review, in fact, I don’t think my mind is wired for those anymore anyways. This is just a document of the random thoughts I notated as I read the book.

1. First of all, I’m hit n’ miss with Morrison. I’m also not exactly a DCU kind of superhero lover, so before giving this a try I was thinking, “It’s DC, I won’t care what’s going on, I won’t know any of the characters” and blah, blah, blah. But I pushed all of that away and got pleasantly surprised.
2. It’s science-fiction superhero comics near or at its finest.
3. Classic Morrison meta-fictional aspects abound here, as usual. But it’s maybe best summed up when Capt. Carrot says: “I always suspected that one world’s reality is another’s fiction”. That is a brilliant concept to let the mind run wild with. That entire scene, hell, just the page was so mind-tingling fun. “These comic books are showing us what’s REALLY happening on all our different earths. MESSEGES IN BOTTLES from NEIGHBORING UNIVERSES. It’s – it’s AMAZING.” Can we agree it’s Capt. Carrot FTW?
4. I always appreciate Morrison’s penchant for challenging the cognitive abilities of his audience.
5. Only problem I had was the spelling of analogue as “analog”, but that’s a nitpick. Speaking of analogues, I loved the stand-ins from Marvel (Major Comics) and Image (DinoCop = Savage Dragon). A lot of cool “Marvel Cameos” but I don’t want to spoil more than I have. I’m a little surprised DC allowed GM to include those analogues. It’s also great that he is including all of comicdom within the Multiversity of 50+ worlds/realities (all of which make up 1 true reality. Or do they???)
6. Also, I would think that Captain Carrot’s animalistic nose would help him tell multidimensional humans apart.
7. Here’s the thing about Grant Morrison…the man LOVES comics (probably more than you or I) and you feel that in his stories, especially these kinds of stories where he is essentially writing love letters to ALL manner of comics and paying homage and deep respects to the very advent of comics as a thing, as a culture, as a zietgiest — Morrison truly believes in the “real magic” of comics. And with that you get the feeling it’s less about a job for him and more about love and adoration. I get the sense he’s one of few creators who would create mainstream comics for free so long as he and his wife made a living another way.
8. Even with the Crisis aspects of Multiversity and that dire situation, it’s still a lot more FUN than the stuff Marvel’s passing off as events these recent years. This is something an old friend and fellow former comics retailer and I discussed over dinner the other night…that missing sense of FUN in mainline Marvel comics. Their event stories are all so bleak. Yet the movies are fun. Pretty sad when the comics need to take a hint from movies. But I digress.
9. I’m giving this comic a 4.0 out of 5, which means this bad boy will chart well on the CBR Fetish Favorites list for August. Easily a Top 10 book for the month.
10. I’m going to have to add Multiversity to my pull list at my LCS today.
Annnnnd, just in case you need a map to The Multiversity

Promo: VELVET by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting


I‘ve just finished reading the first arc of VELVET by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. It’s a really classy book…a spy caper/paranoid thriller book with style and grace. If you enjoyed what these two did on Captain America and the Winter Soldier books in the past, you’ll likely dig this too. I think it’s Brubaker’s best work to date, and Steve Epting’s art is even sleeker than it was on those Marvel books. Love the female lead, Velvet Templeton. Trade collection of the first 5 issues comes out on June 18th for $9.99.