Markley’s Fevered Brain: Surprise, Surprise

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

As a rule of thumb I try and have a theme for my blogs; a topic or an artist or maybe even a publisher. Alas this time, I do have not a one. Not a single character, a single publisher, or even a series of the same issue number. Nope. This blog is just about a number of different graphic novels I have read lately, all as different from one another as I could imagine. The one thing I could say about all of them is they were all good (and some great) and they all were a surprise to me on some level. Or why else would I write about them? (Although it might make an interesting blog writing about books I did not enjoy or even hated, and there are a few). So sit back and enjoy a look at some great reading which can help you pass these hot summer days.

Poochytown

Poochytown


First up we have the newest offering from the always fantastic Jim Woodring and Fantagraphic Books, Poochytown. If you have never read Jim Woodring I must warn you it will be unlike anything you have ever read. Almost all of his work, if not all of it, is wordless. He tells amazing stories that are told completely by the pictures and mostly involve wild and psychedelic worlds that make you think you are on an acid trip. His art style is unique although it often reminds me of the underground cartoonists of the late 1960s mixed with the great Basil Wolverton. With this 100 page story he returns to his veteran characters of Pupshaw, Pushpaw, and his most famous one, Frank. The basic story is Pupshaw and Pushpaw wonder off and Frank goes off to find them leading to a wild trip where Frank meets a new friend, loses body parts, and the reader’s mind is blown. Woodring’s style of storytelling is at times like an early cartoon when there was just non-stop strange stuff going on because in early animation the stranger you could make a story, the more interesting you could make it visually. But on the other hand when I read Woodring’s stories I find they totally draw you in and you forget you are reading a story or about the real world around you and you are totally sucked into this strange landscape with strange creatures that you feel for and care about even though everything about them and their world is so different. Almost dream like. I fully understand this is not for everyone, but for anyone who has followed Woodring career (and he does not produce a huge number of books), this might be his greatest yet. I found myself floating from page to page filled with wonder and shock over what is going to happen next and constantly being surprised. If you want a break from the traditional world of superheroes then this might be the book for you.

Betty and Veronica: Vixens Vol. 1

Betty and Veronica: Vixens Vol. 1


Betty and Veronica: Vixens Vol. 1 collects the first five issues of this comic of the same name from Archie Comics. When the single issues came out I did not read them and I thought this was silly. Betty and Veronica as biker chicks; another of Archie’s odd attempts to modernize their characters. But since I bought the trade paperback (I buy all Archie collections) I thought I should read it. I am glad I did as it was great. It was nothing like I thought it would be based on the title and the covers of the early issues. What it was is a modern take, while keeping the sensibilities and feelings of, the original Little Archie stories by Bob Bolling, some of my favorite classic Archie material. Yes, Betty and Veronica form a biker club to confront a rival group called the Southside Serpents. They recruit an all-girls group including Midge and Cheryl Blossom and a new character or two, and they have a rip roaring adventure. Writer Jamie Lee Rotante along with artists Eva Calbera and Rachel Deering create a fun tale that makes you care about the cast of characters and root for their final victory. While the style is done in “modern” look and looks nothing like classic Archie material, the story is pure Little Archie from the 1950s or ‘60s. Overall this was a super fun surprise and was most unexpected. I cannot wait for the second volume. At this point the series is planned as a 10 issue series, in full color, as is the trade, but I am hoping for more.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Road to Annihilation Vol.1

Guardians of the Galaxy: Road to Annihilation Vol.1


Guardians of the Galaxy: Road to Annihilation Vol.1 and Vol. 2 are a pair of trades that came out a few years ago that I stumbled across. I read them because I love the Annihilation storyline from years ago and I thought it might be interesting to see how Marvel thought that these stories from years past foretold this epic, one of the few Marvel crossovers I really enjoyed. Well they did it. There is a broad spectrum of stories from a variety of places all of which lay the groundwork for the space opera that was to follow. I think I am fairly safe in saying when these stories were originally written there was no plan to combine all of the various story elements laid out here to combine into one story and make for one of Marvel’s great cosmic epics. So let say how amazing I find it that writer Keith Giffen was able to pull all of these threads from a lot of different stories to make a great tale. I am going to run down each collection with basically the content and brief notes, but I would highly recommend both of these books, volume one more than volume two sadly, for any fan of Marvel’s cosmic stories, as they are large (both well over 400 pages) and they have a who’s who of creators.

The first volume opens with the sadly, long forgotten excellent Warlock miniseries (four issues) by the highly underrated Tom Lyle. This had a great story and even greater art by Mr. Lyle. The basic story is Warlock has to go to the Negative Zone to rescue, which is not really the right word, Gamora and Drax where they run into Annihilus and Blaststar. The next story reprinted is Captain Marvel (2000) issues 4-6 and 15-16 (with bits and pieces of other issues reprinted to fill in the story gaps.) I think this is the second Captain Marvel series, this one with Genis, and it is written by Peter David and drawn by ChrisCross. Here Moondragon is beheld captive by Rick Jones, with some hilarious results, Drax and Captain Marvel are trapped in the Microverse with the Micronauts and the PsychoMan, and it all ties into the bigger picture while telling some great stories. I do wish Marvel would collect all of Peter David’s Captain Marvel run. Next is the six part miniseries The Infinity Abyss by Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom. Here once again Thanos is up to no good and a mass of Marvel’s greatest heroes try and stop him. This first volume is wrapped up with Dan Slott’s great (and nicely collected into two trades) run on She-Hulk. Here, issues 7-9 are reprinted with pretty art by Juan Bobillo and Marcello Sosa. The story involves the She-Hulk being picked by the Living Tribunal to be a Magistrati to rule on a case involving the Champion, who has the power gem, and is kicking everyone’s butt, until he has to face the She-Hulk who uses her legal cunning to defeat the Champion in the middle of the arena. There issues are a great read and are a mix of Contest of the Champions and L.A. Law. (Honest). This whole collection runs the gamut from space odyssey to slapstick humor.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Road to Annihilation Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy: Road to Annihilation Vol. 2


Guardians of the Galaxy: Road to Annihilation Vol. 2 continues the mix of cosmic and humor with more reprints from around the Marvel Universe. This volume opens with John Byrne’s She-Hulk issues #44-46. These are classic Byrne from this time period, as he references and ties together tons of threads from early issue of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers, which his fun, yet there is a bitter tone to the stories. In one issue almost every page it taken up with a pin-up with one panel telling the story and then there is a bit with Byrne and his editor discussing “how modern comic artists only do pin-ups.” Sadly still true today. It is fun on a level but to me it distracts from the story. Overall the story is quite entertaining, the anger aside, and involves the Skrulls, the Dark Phoenix and the plant people she wiped out, and a surprise ending. Next in line is issues 7-12 of the first Thanos series written by Keith Giffen and drawn by Ron Lim and Al MIlgrim. This story is called Samaritan and features the Beyonder, the Gladiator and an unrecognizable version of Peter Quill. The story is a complex tale about religion that did not work that well for me but the art was great. Next was a real change of pace with Monsters on the Prowl written by Steve Niles with fantastic art by Duncan Fegredo. The story is about Man-Thing and a whole hoard of monsters. Then you throw in the Collector and the Mole Man and there are all sorts of shenanigans. I think this collection is worth the money for this story alone. Sadly, rounding out this collection is Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos. By howling commandos it means a collection of the Marvel monsters, including Frankenstein’s Monster, the Living Mummy, Werewolf by Night, Satana, Son of Satan and more. It is written by Keith Giffen (again) and the art is by Francisco and others. All six issues of the miniseries are reprinted here as well as the director’s cut. I cannot say a lot about this story as I found it to be unreadable and the art was totally wrong for this type of story. I am sure this somehow tied into the Annihilation story, but I could not say why. OK. To be honest, volume one is much better than volume two, but the Monsters on the Prowl makes up for the Giffen stories.

This is it for this blog. From the surreal world of Jim Woodring to the mean streets of Riverdale to the far reaches of space in the Marvel Universe these are four excellent books (well, three). All of them are nothing like the others, yet all are very good reads that are well worth your time and effort to find. As always I would love to hear from you about what I have written about. Have you read any of the books? Did you enjoy them as much as I did? Did Betty and Veronica: Vixens surprise you are much as me? I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley. All the words and thoughts presented here are purely my own and do not represent Westfield Comics or their employees. Honest. Till next time…

Thank you.

USER COMMENTS

We'd love to hear from you, feel free to add to the discussion!