Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A few items of note.

ITEM! Yesterday, I got the opportunity to read an advance PDF of the first issue of Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber's new creator-owned series from Image, Underground. Here's how Image describes it in the solicitations:

Park Ranger and avid caver Wesley Fischer is on a one-woman mission to stop Stillwater Cave from being turned into a tourist trap, but public opinion is not on her side. When locals begin blasting in the cave, Wes and a fellow ranger investigate – and a confrontation spirals into a deadly chase deep under the Kentucky mountains!

Didja see that word "Kentucky"? As a lifelong resident of the Bluegrass State, that kinda got my attention. You don't see comics that take place in my neck of the woods very often. Actually, I seem to recall discussing the idea for a story set here a year or two (perhaps) ago with Parker via email, but eventually forgot about it. I suppose this must be the end result of that line of thought! Anyway, this locale is kinda close to home for me; I don't really live near the mountains (that's East, I'm South Central), but I do certainly live right in the middle of cave country- Mammoth Cave National Park is only about 15 minutes away from my doorstep. Heck, the town in which I live has "Cave" in it, named for the good-sized cave ("Hidden River Cave", aka "Horse Cave") right on Main Street as well as the American Cave Museum and Karst Center that serves a lot of ecological causes as well as doing pretty good tourist business. Plus, there are lots of big and small caves all around here, some connected even, so while I am far from knowledgable about them I do know a thing or two, and I find the whole story setup very interesting. It highlights a very topical conflict when it comes to caves, that is the age-old commerce vs. conservation argument, and does so unobtrusively within the context of the story. Characterization is strong, as is to be expected from Parker, and while it sometimes reads (like so many comics stories do these days) like a movie/TV series pitch, it can be enjoyed on its own terms as a sequential narrative. The small-town versimilitude is good; there's a strong Native American presence in Parker's small town of Marion that I don't really see around here where I live, but I can't speak for the mountains of Eastern Kentucky; I'm sure there was a lot of migration north from Tennessee and North Carolina, so it's not a problem. I've posted a couple of pages above, the second one is a great example of Lieber's solid art- the cave scenes feature excellent blackspotting, and he's as good with the action scenes as he is the small-town diner ones. I'm thinking that this is going to be a series that people should be reading. Here's an interview with the creators at Newsarama. Underground is supposed to hit the stands in August.

ITEM! As you may know if you've read my blog for any length of time, one of my all-time favorite comics series is Elaine Lee and Mike Kaluta's Starstruck. Having first been smitten way back in the early-mid 80's via the serialization in Heavy Metal magazine, then continuing to follow when it was collected into one of the Marvel Graphic Novel series, which led to the 6-issue Epic Comics series, then the Galactic Girl Guides features that appeared in Rocketeer Adventure well as the abortive revival attempt by Dark Horse Comics in the 90's...well, let's just say that I pretty much had given up hope that it would ever see the light of day again, Lee having phased herself out of comics writing and Kaluta concentrating on covers and illustration work, and oh yeah, the little matter of being unable to find a publisher willing to commit the money. Fortunately for all of us, IDW stepped up to the plate and will soon be reissuing Starstruck once more, this time expanded from the original art by Kaluta and featuring lavish color by Lee Moyer, and unless I'm mistaken, it will finally move beyond where the Epic #6 left off. It all sounds too good to be true! Anyway, the hype machine has slowly gotten into gear, and Newsarama posted part one of an interview with the creators today, and it's fascinating stuff to me. Starstruck is right up there with Thriller, Chase, Timespirits, Gemini Blood, and all those other books that I tend to obsess over, and with Moyer's colors adding a new dimension to Kaluta's always-brilliant finished art, it looks gorgeous. And of course, Lee's dense, layered, yet humorous and exciting script, with its multitudes of fascinating characters, gets the showcase it deserves here, looks like. I'm as excited about this as I have been anything comics-related in a long time.

ITEM! This may come as a surprise to you, since I know that everyone (well besides Dirk Deppey) looks upon me as a grand old man of comics, who has seen and read just about everything, but I have never owned, nor read in reprints, the 70's Spider-Man story which detailed the death of Gwen Stacy at the hands of the Green Goblin, and the subsequent payback Pete enacted. I just wasn't buying Spidey at the time (I would have been 11-12), having loved the Ditko years, as well as the early Romita Sr. stuff as well...but by the time Gil Kane and Gerry Conway came along I had long stopped reading. So, when Comics Should Be Good at CBR spotlighted that legendary, but unseen-by-me sequence from AS-M #122 as one of their "Year of Cool Comic Book Moments" series, well, I was gobsmacked, as British comics writers tell us our friends across the pond say, to see that the screenwriters of the first Spider-Man film pretty much used this same ending, which (and I hope I don't spoil; I think I'm the last person to read this) sees Pete inadvertently cause the death of the Goblin at the pointed ends of his glider. I though the film's scriptwriters made that ending up! Just shows to go ya, I guess- I don't know everything! You can see the rest of the sequence by clicking on the link above; reading it now, I am struck by how odd Kane's pencils look with the heavy Romita inks. Also, Conway's scripting is tres pretentious, at least to me; his attempts at amplifying the drama of the scene via narration are as hamfisted and leaden. But pretty much all Marvel comics read like this then; this is the voice, I believe, that young writers were encouraged to write in at the time at the House that Jack (and Steve and yes, Stan) Built; imitative of Roy Thomas, who had pretty much taken the writer/editor torch from Unca Stan by the early 70's. I recall liking his Daredevil and the Black Widow series, which came out at about this time, but little else- and I am finding that when I do reread his stuff now, it's going down a bit better than it did, say, in the late 70's to early 90's for me, a period in which I unfairly dismissed him as a hack of the highest (lowest?) order.

ITEM! I'm all out of items for now! Reviews, which should get me caught up once and for all (till the next DCBS box shows up, that is), will be forthcoming.

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