Thursday, August 2, 2012

DC Quick Reads: Punk Rock Jesus, Dial H, He-Man

I get review copies, sometimes. Here's three from DC I read recently:

Punk Rock Jesus #1 (DC/Vertigo)

Punk Rock Jesus #1 is the best new comic I've read from DC/Vertigo in ages. It's an old-fashioned, black-and-white indie comic about a reality show that's going to take DNA from the shroud of Turin, clone it and "bring back" Jesus Christ. Written and drawn by Sean Murphy, it's full of that good ol' punk-rock indie spirit of the early 1980s and comes off as a mad little bit of all right.

Dial H #1 (DC Comics)
Dial H #1 is written by acclaimed sci-fi novelist China Mieville, and proves that it's not always easy to transition successfully from one medium to another. Honestly, I was completely lost in this story — I don't think I understood anything that was happening in this story, so I won't be picking up any further issues. The Brian Bolland cover, however, is quite nice — though that's not saying anything new.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1 is another book that confounds me. I was never a fan as a kid, being just old enough to have stopped playing with toys or watching cartoons by the time this one came along. I know next to nothing about He-Man or the story, so I'm definitely not the target audience for this book. This appears to be a complete reboot, starting over at the beginning and showing how blond woodsman Adam begins the journey that will transform him into He-Man. We only get foreshadowing of this, so He-Man isn't even really in this comic. It's pretty standard stuff for DC these days, and I do give the book props for looking better than a He-Man comic has a right be, thanks to Philip Tan and Ruy Jose. What's most disappointing to me is that this is written by James Robinson. Yes, James Robinson, the guy who wrote such great comics as The Golden Age, Starman, Leave it to Chance, Bluebeard, etc. And he's writing a toy comic for DC. Maybe he's a big fan of the character and wants to do it, but it seems like a big problem for the industry if a guy as talented and established as Robinson is reduced to doing a toy revival comic instead of something original that could reach a wider audience than adults who once played with He-Man toys.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1
(DC Comics)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Comic of the Day: Howard Chaykin's Marvel Premiere #32 (1976)

Marvel Premiere #32 (Oct. 1976)
I'll be heading down to the comics shop today to pick up Howard Chaykin's Black Kiss II #1, which I'm sure will be worth the effort. I've been on a bit of a Chaykin kick lately, so today I'll offer a quick look at an oldie I picked up on a recent trip: Marvel Premiere #32 (Oct. 1976), featuring Monark Starstalker!

This is an early effort by Chaykin as both writer and artist, and it unfortunately shows. The good stuff is the artwork, which is sleek and well-designed. It's pretty unusual stuff for Marvel at the time, though the style seen here would become more familiar with both Chaykin's later work and Frank Miller's style on his original Daredevil run. The individual panels and pages are well-designed and look decidedly un-comic-book-y for the era. Chakyin goes heavy on the blacks and it looks most like Chaykin's work on Star Wars #1. (I believe Roy Thomas stated in an issue of Alter-Ego that I don't have handy to confirm that it was this issue that prompted the Lucasfilm folks to specifically request Chaykin draw the Star Wars comic.)

While this looks great, it's a complete mess to read. The story nominally involves a guy named Monark Starstalker, who's a kind of bounty hunter pursuing a target on a remote planet. It's a simple premise, but it gets bogged down in clunky exposition intended to inject a sense of reality into this world. The character is a prototypical Chaykin hero: hard-boiled, tough and irresistible to the ladies.

This book is also awfully murky looking — the heavy inks just didn't translate well into the printing processes used for comics at the time. It'd be nice to see this done on better paper that could present the images more sharply and vividly.