Luke Cage, keeping it realer than most

March 12th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Richard Corben - Cage - fence

Richard Corben, Brian Azzarello, Jose Villarubia. CAGE, 2002.

I re-read this one the other week. It’s one of the comics I got way back when I was getting back into comics, and was probably one of my first Corben comics, too. I hadn’t read it in years, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I re-read it. It looks like the last edition debuted in 2002, and the series hasn’t been re-packaged since, which is a shame. The intro to the hardcover, written by Darius Jones, is called “Straight-up Real Nigga,” something I can’t imagine Marvel ever associating with Cage in the here-and-now, but also an idea I’d love to see the character actually be able to deal with in the comics themselves.

Corben and colorist Villarubia put in work on this page, and it’s probably my favorite image of the character. There’s no tiara, no yellow shirt, nothing that screams “This is Luke Cage!”, but it’s still signifying nonetheless. You get the sense that he’s dangerous, he’s mad, and he’s invincible. You can hurt him, you can knock him down, but you don’t get to win. That background Villarubia threw behind him in panel 4 is great, a bloody sunset that follows in Cage’s wake.

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Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman #1

June 2nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

New York Times bestselling writer Brian Azzarello, author of The Joker and 100 Bullets, teams up with the immensely talented artist Cliff Chiang (Neil Young’s Greendale) for WONDER WOMAN #1, an exciting new series starring the DC Universe’s greatest superheroine. The cover to issue #1 is by Cliff Chiang.

I’m going to go on ahead and call this DC relaunch a success, because they’re getting me to buy a Wonder Woman comic for the first time in… years, probably, during a brief dalliance with the Greg Rucka run. It’s creator driven, obviously–Azzarello and Chiang a team that is too good for most any cape comics character–but here we are nonetheless. Also, I liked this bit from the last time Azzarello wrote Wonder Woman in Superman: For Tomorrow (two trades: one and two):

Couple other bits that seem interesting:

The world’s third-smartest man – and one of its most eligible bachelors – uses his brains and fists against science gone mad in MISTER TERRIFIC #1, the new series from writer Eric Wallace and artist Roger Robinson. The cover to issue #1 is by J.G. Jones.

I still think “third-smartest man” is a dumb gimmick (It’s on the level of “When a lady walks to me says ‘Hey, you know whats sexy?’ I say, ‘No, I don’t know what it is, but I bet I can add up all the change in your purse very fast!”), but I liked the Eric Wallace who wrote Ink and I like Mr. Terrific in theory and a few times over the past few years (Infinite Crisis talking with John Stewart, Checkmate, maybe a couple other spots). Titans, though, I’m not even remotely keen on. Fellas: wow me.

Rising superstar Francis Manapul, fresh off his acclaimed run on THE FLASH with Geoff Johns, makes his comics writing debut in THE FLASH #1, sharing both scripting and art duties with Brian Buccellato. The Flash knows he can’t be everywhere at once, but what happens when he faces an all-new villain who can? The cover to issue #1 is by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato.

Manapul draws nice.

One bit I’m not interested in:

Welcome to a major new vision of the Nuclear Man as writers Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone team up with artist Yildiray Cinar to deliver THE FURY OF FIRESTORM #1. Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond are two high school students, worlds apart – and now they’re drawn into a conspiracy of super science that bonds them forever in a way they can’t explain or control. The cover to issue #1 is by Ed Benes.

Ethan Van Sciver? Thanks, but no thanks–I’m not the type of guy who can knowingly put money in the pocket of a Joseph McCarthy fanboy and known associate of Breitbart/BigHollywood types. Not a chance, son. Those people are human scum.

I’ll have fuller thoughts once the solicits hit in a couple weeks, I guess. I’m gonna be checking for that new Justice League by Johns & Lee, too. More details here.

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5 Series: Hellblazer

July 22nd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

My favorite Hellblazer run is the one Brian Azzarello had a few years back. In it, John Constantine was essentially cast as a trickster demon, stepping into and out of trouble with ease, and never really coming into danger. He ruined lives, found vengeance, and generally was just an insufferably smug magician douchebag. It was an extremely entertaining arc, and sort of set the stage for how I view Constantine. He’s good at what he does, with impeccable luck even when entirely removed from his comfort zone.

Peter Milligan’s ongoing run, on the other hand, is about a man that believes a little bit too much of his own hype. He has a reputation, and one that he’s earned several dozen times over, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Side characters, people who step into and out of the story, hate him. His best friend Chaz’s wife wonders aloud if he didn’t curse their daughter and cured her out of his own guilt. A noted local kingpin has heard of Constantine and isn’t even remotely impressed. He’s openly hostile and at one point is ready to murder him with no fear of repercussions.

Tucker was the one who put the idea of Milligan’s run being about Constantine failing in my head, and it’s one that’s proved to be true. He’s been forced to face his failures, whether recent or vintage, over and over. He did a cheap little spell to make some quick cash and it came back to haunt him decades later. His failure to rescue someone he loves, or thinks he loves, drives the more recent portion of the run. Milligan is putting Constantine up against something he can’t just magic away. You can’t fight time, and when you get old and your bones start creaking, you can’t just keep up with the big dogs like you used to.

Milligan is writing as much about Constantine’s rep as he is about Constantine himself, which makes for very interesting storytelling. Constantine is old and everyone knows it. He knows it, too, but he refuses to accept it. Like so many old men, he’s trying to hold onto past glories, but the old cliche proves true. The tighter he squeezes, the more slips through his grasp. He can’t bring anyone back from the dead, his magic is poison, and he’s made a lifetime’s worth of bad decisions. You don’t get to walk through a rainstorm and come out dry. Constantine suddenly has consequences to deal with.

Azzarello’s run feels like it’s haunting Milligan’s. I can’t not think of it when reading Milligan’s run, even though there’s not a direct connection between the two. I don’t even think Milligan’s directly referenced Azzarello’s run, but the difference between the two is striking. Azzarello’s Constantine, drawn by Marcelo Frusin mainly, was young and unsettling. Azzarello’s Constantine is cruel. His smile was something to be afraid of, and if he was happy, you were probably a neo-Nazi getting your face bashed in by a golem.

In contrast, Milligan’s just looks tired. Giuseppe Camuncoli and Stefano Landini draws him with thin, dishonest eyes and a prominent scar over his eyes. His permanent stubble make him look haggard even when his clothes are clean. Simon Bisley’s take is even more ragged. He looks like a beat up old boxer, with a broad forehead and ugly mug. He looks like about fifty miles of bad road, and so far past his prime that he’s completely off-putting to anyone with sense.

I like that Hellblazer has this call and response thing going on, even if it’s unconscious or unspoken. There’s a lot to like about Milligan’s run in and of itself. He’s got a great grasp on Constantine and he’s telling new and interesting stories with an old characters. He’s introduced new characters into the series, ones that I honestly would like to know more about outside of Constantine’s sphere of influence, and the stories have been great. The art is good, with Camuncoli, Landini, and Bisley doing great work. It’s a genuinely good comic, is what I’m saying, and this contrast between a run I enjoyed and a run I’m currently enjoying is like icing on the cake. A little bit extra on top of something good.

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Fourcast! 54: Doctor 13 vs Batgirl: Year One

July 19th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-Minimal shownotes because it’s currently 0230!
-You Made Me Read This!
-David made Esther read Doctor 13: Architecture and Morality!
-The last page is a killer!
-Esther made David read Batgirl: Year One!
-The dramatic irony is sickening!
-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-See you, space cowboy!

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Just Thinking About. Tomorrow.

March 23rd, 2010 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

This was a tough one.  Even the second issue of Birds of Prey looks grim.

But there’s still First Wave, and its unabashed pulp to fall back on.  I like The Spirit, though.  I like that it looks like Doc Savage is punching him in the nose.  And I like that the shadow of Batman’s hand looks like a cartoony claw.

It’s funny how David loved the idea of this series and I was luke-warm, and now I’m having much more fun with it than he is.
Of course I’ve only seen the first issue.

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Fourcast! 25: Blast from the Pastcast

November 16th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

There may be a few audio hitches in this one. I tried to even it out, but some of them were unavoidable. Recording problems blah blah blah, it should be fixed for the show after the next.

-Intro drop: Jamaal Thomas of Funnybook Babylon. And he does like comics. He liked Luke Cage Noir, the recently ended Marvel miniseries set in Harlem.
-Theme music: 6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental
-The Shield: I was surprised I liked it, and try to get across a little of why I did.
-Batman & Doc Savage Special #1: I was surprised I didn’t like it, Esther was surprised that Batman grabbed a boob, and we gab about it for a bit.

Some visual aides, words by Azzarello, art by Noto:


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Wednesday Comics #12

September 24th, 2009 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

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100 Bullets: The Saint

April 25th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

The more I think about it, the less I have to say.

100 Bullets is really a series that speaks for itself. The craft and love that went into it shows on every page. You’ve got a ton of fully-realized characters, a mega-arc that gives up amazing chances for discussion and speculation, and a concept that could go on forever.

The main reason why I just did five days straight of images is because I know that fans of the series, those who stuck with it and came out on top, are gonna get it. You see “Jungle or zoo?” and know what it says about Jack’s life. You can look at a single panel of Remi Rome and see his try-hard swagger. You see “Pun. First syllable a PUN-ish-ment,” and think back to how Loop went from a boy to a man, and ended up smarter than anyone else expected.

The thing about being a comics reader is that you come to expect a certain kind of storytelling. X-Men, Superman, Green Lantern, Spider-Man, all of those feature characters, but aren’t really about the characters. They are corporate icons, mascots, and on some kid’s underwear. They can’t change too much, so all of the bang of the characters has to come from action. It’s Frank Castle putting on some superhero gear, holding a gun, and saying something out of an action movie. It’s Hal Jordan once again proving that he’s the prettiest princess on the block by overcoming everything and everyone. And, at the end of the issue, everything is back to normal.

100 Bullets is a story about the characters. It’s money shots aren’t all tied up in explosions, headshots, and fist fights. Those are there, of course, and they are good, but the real bang comes from the characters. It’s Wylie and Dizzy reminiscing over lost loves together, the look in a man’s eyes as he sees his brother for the last time, or the quiet respect that everyone has for Mr. Hughes. It’s the quiet goodbye a man gives to his family before he goes off to do some dirty work, and a peck on the forehead that tells you all you need to know about him and his viewpoint on life.

The Trust, the attache, the mega-arc, all of that is wonderful, but for me, the real joy in 100 Bullets is about the characters. It’s about how they bounce off one another and figuring out what they’re thinking. It’s about who, not what.

I discovered 100 Bullets shortly after I got back into comics, and month-in, month-out, it has been heads and shoulders above every other comic that I’ve read. The weakest issues or arcs are only weak by the high standard set by the others. Risso, Azz, and Mulvihill blew me away for six years straight, and have me looking at other comics now with a jaded eye.

Blackest Night and Dark Reign are boring to me. After the deep-seated menace of Lono and his inability to tell right from wrong, Norman Osborn’s Snidely Whiplash antics are cheap and hollow. After reading about Remi Rome being the most cocksure, try-hard, desperate to please young kid on the block, Hal Jordan is a caricature of somebody’s grandpa’s idea of a superhero.

I can’t take all these stories about how Soandso Lass and Generigal are strong female characters and wonderful and et cetera, because they aren’t. They’re stupid, hollow, and empty. The black characters, too. Luke Cage leads the Avengers now? De-evolve, thug, crawl back in the ocean. Loop and Curtis Hughes, Dizzy Cordova, and Megan Dietrich are characters that you can appreciate without having to go, “Well, they’re great, except for…”

You want your strong, fully realized, and respectful characters of whatever race, creed, or sexuality? 100 Bullets has your black dudes, latinas, old white dudes, Russians, whatever.

That’s where 100 Bullets wins. Even with all of the insane acrobatics, intrigues, and unkillable villains, 100 Bullets is real. It gives you characters who you can believe in, characters who seem like people you could actually know, and put them into situations that only make them more interesting. It’s a book that challenges you with its story and forces you to care about the people you’re reading about.

I had six years of glimpses in on these characters that I’ve grown to love. Its quiet moments are just as loud as the bits where someone is being murdered. I’m going to miss it.

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100 Bullets: The Monster

April 24th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Images in this post from Once Upon a Crime, Dirty, and Wilt. Tomorrow? Commentary on 100 Bullets as a whole.

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100 Bullets: The Bastard

April 23rd, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Images in this post from Strychnine Lives, Decayed, and Once Upon a Crime.

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