Saturday, December 19, 2009

3 Comics I Had the Misfortune of Reading This Year

Here are reviews for the three worst comics I read this year.  I'm sure there were worse out there, but these were the worst that I personally weathered.

1. Models Inc. (Paul Tobin & Vicenc Villagrasa) - "Borrowing" the name of an ill-fated television series (a spin-off of Melrose Place, at that), Models Inc. launches at Marvel, a mini-series that brings together several of the top models in Marvel's universe for a cheeky little Sex & the City gossip-fest that turns into a murder mystery by issue's end. Together on this fashion shoot are Toni Turner, Jill Jerold, Chili Storm, Patsy Walker (Hellcat), and the focus of this debut issue, Millicent Collins aka Millie the Model. Not only does this series "borrow" the name of its book, but also the faux-magazine covers that were the trademark of The Luna Brothers' breakthrough series Ultra: Seven Days. And the rest of the issue kind of goes with that theme, showing nary an ounce of originality by the chapter's conclusion. Even the dialogue, which was heavy in this story with nothing else really for the models to do, was mediocre. Trying to make things a little edgy, the creators threw in a lesbian model (oooh, scandalous) and a grab-happy security guard. I don't know what Marvel was thinking publishing this. Trying to gain interest from female readers is one thing: putting out a product that would make them blush at the stereotypes is another. To make matters even worse, there's an utterly embarrassing back-up story featuring Tim Gunn (by Marc Sumerak and Jorge Molina), using as many catch-phrases from the pop culture icon as possible before throwing him in an Iron Man suit to give him a reason to be there. And it's a bad drawing of Tim Gunn at that. The only thing I liked about this part of the book (or the book in general, really) is incorporating Wasp's fashion history into the story via a Janet Van Dyne Memorial Wing of the New York Fashion Museum. That was a nice little touch. Otherwise, this was a pretty lame attempt to garner media attention, with superhero cameos for the sake of tying this book loosely to a universe that's infinitely more interesting than this piece of half-hearted "art." The TV series was better, and that's saying something.

2. Wolverine: Prodigal Son (Antony Johnston & Wilson Tortosa) - It was only a matter of time before Wolverine made the leap to OEL manga, and here it is under the care of Antony Johnston (Wasteland) and Wilson Tortosa (Battle of the Planets), who retell Wolverine's story and origin for their manga universe. In this version of his backstory, Wolverine was left at the door of "Quiet Earth," a school that teaches young students how to defend themselves, and shares earthy wisdom. A wolverine was standing over Logan in the doorway, thus his "codename" was attached to him. When Wolverine first joined the school, he bested the original champion of the school, who immediately left in disgrace, but of course, his story isn't over as he brings the real threat to Logan at their front door much later in the story. Wolverine, like in his superhero appearances, is not a people person: he's a broody loner who goes off into berserker rages when things don't go well for him. But he makes a few friends and his teacher sees the potential in him, which is how Logan became the first student to pass the "Wind, Wood and Water" test. All of this is fine, but it really lacks imagination. It seems like both of the creators on this book had an idea of what manga should look like and applied them to this work. Johnston's ideas are so basic and par-for-the-course when it comes to action manga that it's utterly tame and boring when held up to other works with schools that train students to fight - this is a complete embarrassment when held up against something like Naruto. And Tortosa's art doesn't fare much better. While the sketches in back show a lot of potential for the character designs, when executed it just looks hastily executed, with seeming little intuition for what looks aesthetically pleasing. And the action scenes are a mess, the artist resorting to action lines constantly to the point that it's difficult to see past them to the actual action being depicted. I think there is a lot of potential in Wolverine the character to translate to manga in a good way, but this just isn't it. And any characters beyond Logan in this title are complete throw-away characters with no personality or character traits of their own whatsoever. One thing I can give this book is that the artist and writer seem well suited for each other...

3. Domo: The Manga (Clint Bickham, Rem, Sonia Leong, Lindsay Cibos & Jared Hodges, Created by Tsuneo Goda) - Domo is the mascot for a Japanese television network, and his popularity has led to his being plastered all over t-shirts, mugs, toys and now, his own manga series for kids. Basically, Domu is portrayed in this book as a lovable oaf. He doesn't understand things and gets so excited that he's constantly breaking things, making people angry, and being a general nuisance. Ultimately, he's pretty annoying. I'm not sure if I should be rooting for him when he's causing so much havoc, and he doesn't seem to learn from any of his mistakes whatsoever. I was more sympathetic with the supporting cast, who I wouldn't have minded seeing kick his brown furry butt, special needs or not. I like how many of the stories revolved around the television, either video games or television programs, as Domu got his start on TV, and the art was surprisingly pretty consistent with so many creators working on the manga together, alternating art chores with chapters. Since this is a kids' comics, it was appropriate to release this in color, and the cartoony style worked well, as each of the creators was able to graft their style with the character designs and environment pretty seemlessly. But aside from the obnoxious protagonist, the stories are all pretty dopey. Really silly. I didn't care for the humor myself, but I can see children really enjoying this sort of book, and as this is for them really, I would say it's a success in that regard. Unfortunately, the vibe I got from this book overall, with the talking forest creatures living in what's basically a human world, made me feel like the creators grafted the figure of Domo to a generic Saturday morning cartoon, like Arthur or Franklin, and didn't really have anything else to say. And as Domo isn't a forest animal, I'm not sure it was the right fit either. Overall, there's nothing really original to the concept behind this manga. It's executed competently, kids will probably enjoy it, but their time is better spent with something more substantial and original.

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