Sunnytime Review Show: Adventure Time #5

Adventure Time’s sixth issue came out last Wednesday, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend a little time talking about Adventure Time #5

It’s rare that we get surprised anymore.  Usually books are previewed and spoilered all over the Internet (and make no mistake there will be SPOILERS here, too) so that by the time you get it home and in front of you, you usually know exactly what you’re going to get when you crack open the cover.  Past that, once a few issues have been released you get to know the tone and approach of the book, so even with a great title the latest issue tends to feel like  just the most recent installment of an excellent run (see also Jeff Parker’s books, or Jason Aaron’s, or Jonathan Hickman’s). 

And so it’s been with Adventure Time, the comic anthology of Cartoon Network’s hit (I have to assume) show.  Written by Ryan North (of Dinosaur Comics) with art by Mike Holmes, it’s been a pretty consistent book.  Fun, zany mayhem with the characters you love, chock full of anthropomorphic candy and fist bumps, it’s a breezy read that somewhat betrays exactly how funny it is.  I mean, there’s a joke in almost literally every single panel.  Plus hidden messages!

When I brought home issue 5 I figured I knew exactly what I was into.  In this issue Jake the dog and Finn the human visit their pal BMO, who offers them a cupcake, but since they can’t decide how to share it a contest is devised: whoever can walk in a straight line the longest wins.  It doesn’t take long for their friendship (and most likely, laziness) to override their competitiveness so they can work together.  Then they stumble across Adventure Tim –a Finn/Jake composite — and his friend ALN.  They discover that their friends and adventures are almost exactly the same, but just a tad askew.  The Mice King attacks, they team up, and Finn and Jake return home having learned how to share.

Which is amazing.  I mean, it just works on all levels.  A kid could pick this up and get a funny, self-contained story (it’s a standalone issue) with a nice moral about teamwork and sharing that doesn’t feel overworked or preachy.  An adult can read it and stay happily delighted by the gags. 

But then — and I apologize if every other reader got this immediately and I’m just slow to arrive — North surprised me.  The entire issue was a love letter to fandom. 

Finn and Jake’s race in a straight line?  That’s a pretty straight homage to the first Superman/Flash race from Superman #199.  Adventure Tim is an admitted mashup of Finn and Jake, but it’s also a nice reference to the Composite Superman/Batman.  And Tim’s friend?  There’s been a long-time theory that when Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey, the insane computer HAL 9000 was a reference to IBM because those are the letters you get when you subtract one from each letter of IBM.  And when you subtract one letter from BMO it equals ALN.

None of this is done with an overt nod and a wink, but it’s there if you choose to see it and otherwise completely transparent, as it should be.  This is an exceptional and amazingly-crafted book, and that’s just the main feature.  The second backup is by indie legend Paul Pope, who manages to tell a short four-page story that’s true to both the characters and his own sensibilities.  Finally, the last story is a one-pager by Superman savior and Monkeybrain founder Chris Roberson and his 8 year-old daughter Georgia, with art by Lucy Knisley.  It’s a nicely-told story, but  the involvement of actual children along with their professional parents is such a charming touch I hope kaboom! continues to utilize it.

These days there are so many comics out there that just don’t know how to package and deliver entertainment.  All too often a story gets split into 6 issues and winds up stretched so thin that each part feels like the middle, or is bogged down in needless continuity, or frustratingly ignores any continuity whatsoever.  It’s so REFRESHING to pick up a comic where every single one of the 22 pages is packed with content, where there are no extraneous panels and every one is a delight.  Seriously friends, this is a perfect comic book. 

A Look at Free Comic Book Day 2012

Free Comic Book Day 2012 has come and gone, and judging by the crowds of excited people I saw at every store I went to (5 over about 4 hours that morning) it was a pretty big success.  But how were the comics that were given away?  Well, I managed to come home with a pretty big stack of them, so let’s take a closer look.

  • Adventure Time/Peanuts – The classic Peanuts stories are great, the new stuff leaves me cold.  Okay, that half of the flipbook out of the way, let’s talk Adventure Time.  This is a great example of what Kaboom is doing with their AT series.  The main story follows all the style guides (and fits within the gutters of issue one), but there are also a couple short stories by indie creators where they can go off and tell whatever stories they like.  It’s a good, fun mix of a good, fun series, and an excellent representation of what you’d get in an issue of Adventure Time.

  • Archaia Presents Mouse Guard and Other Stories – Man, did Archaia raise the bar with their FCBD issue, giving out a 41-page (unless I miscounted) HARDCOVER sampler.  I can’t say every sample was good — Cursed Pirate Girl was somewhat illegible and I had to skip past it — but the Mouse Guard synopsis story (I really need to be reading that!) and Cow Boy by Nate  Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos were excellent.  Cow Boy is definitely going on my next order.  Another fun surprise: a Labyrinth story!  There’s no branding on the story itself but once I recognized Hoggle (okay, it’s not that hard), the other characters came flooding back to me. THIS is what FCBD should be about!
  • Atomic Robo/Neozoic/Bonnie Lass – Even though Archaia put out this Free Comic Book Day’s strongest issue, the Atomic Robo team of Brian Clevenger and Scott Wegener yet again put out an amazing offering this year.  Usually reserving FCBD for a Robo/Dr. Dinosaur fight, this year they teamed up!  Well, in a way.  As always it was hilarious, and as always you should be reading it year-round.  The other samples in here didn’t offer content nearly as strong.  Neozoic hopped from scene to scene (and even from person to person in the same  conversation) so much it felt like panels were missing.  Transitions definitely were. Bonnie Lass was fine, but nothing remarkable.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron #0.1 – This is a good FCBD choice from Marvel.  High-profile (or rather more importantly, highly talented) creators, recognizable characters appearing in a movie opening the same weekend, and the first part of what will obviously be a huge storyline.  It’s well-written and well-drawn, but after going through it 3 times, I just can’t decide on it.  Is it for the new reader or us established folks?  It definitely feels like part 1 of 13.  The return of Ultron is great, but it feels unusually built up. I just have no idea about this one.  Strategically it’s a good call, but it mostly left me cold.  Maybe that’s just a reflection on my relationship with mainstream superhero comics than anything else.
  • The Censored Howard Cruise – Outside of the obvious creators Crumb, Pekar, and Sheldon I’m not terribly knowledgeable about the original Underground Comix creators, so this joint effort by Boom! (really!) and the CBLDF was a nice addition to the day.  And it really is censored for the FCBD edition, though the upcoming releases will not be.  I was trying to come up with a good way to describe Cruise’s work until Charles Brownstein put it much better than I could have in the backmatter: “Cruse’s technically accomplished line style has a wholesome quality that provides a stark contrast to his candid discussions of sexuality, drug use, and censorship.”  A great offering for the student of both comics and comix.  It’s also worth noting that Boom! has a new Roger Langridge collection coming out called “The Show Must Go On” that we’ll both need to keep our eyes peeled for.
  • Dinosaurs vs Aliens – Since we’re discussing how comics work, DvA fails completely, offering only 8 pages of actual comic book and filling up the rest with sketches, concept art, and text pieces.  It’s an interesting book, but not really enough sequential art to qualify as a comic.  Skepticism ruins the rest of the goodwill I have for this title.  Movie director comes up with painfully obvious mash-up (since those are all the rage), hires the best comic writer in the business to write a screenplay, then does a comic to provide street cred (see also: Cowboys vs Aliens).  Oh well, at least the art will be beautiful.
  • Image 20 – Image takes their shot this year with a sampler of their upcoming titles.  Going with a book full of teasers is probably a good call (although I’m obviously biased towards a full comic) but nothing I read inspired me to pick any of them up.
  • The New 52 – Despite my DC boycott I still picked this up, figuring it at least wasn’t putting any money in the Time-Warner coffers.  Another teaser book, this kicks off the backstory behind Pandora, the mystery woman who appeared in each of DC’s 52 #1 issues.  No disrespect intended to the creators involved, but a passing familiarity with Greek mythology and a play-through of God of War is probably all the Pandora stories we need.
  • Spider-Man: Season One – This whole “accessible universe” thing is getting out of hand.  A decade ago Marvel kicked off the Ultimate line with the intent of luring in new readers.  Then DC launched their Earth One line of OGN’s for bookstores and rebooted their whole damn universe.  Unwilling to be beaten at their own game, Marvel then launches THEIR line of bookstore OGN’s, doing the exact same thing every other relaunch has done since John Byrne did Spider-Man: Chapter One.  If you love modernized Spider-Man reboots this will be right up your alley, but otherwise this is pretty inessential.
  • Stuff of Legend/Finding Gossamyr – I’m always charmed by the soul and charming artwork of the Stuff of Legend books, though I don’t see it on the stands often enough to keep up with it.  (Fortunately, there’s an ad in the back for a collection of the first two volumes, which I will definitely pick up).  Finding Gossamyr was a little confusing…It looks like a young boy solves a math problem that leads to a portal to another dimension, but tI had a little trouble reading the transition between the two worlds.  The artwork was a nice cartoony style, and the story was intriguing more than mysterious for it’s own sake.  If you enjoy Narnia-type alternate world stories, this is a title to keep an eye out for.
  • Transformers: Regeneration One #80.5 – My love of comics started with the original Marvel Transformers series.  I was given a three-pack innocently enough, but suddenly it’s 30 years and thousands of issues later.  There will always be a soft, biased spot in my heart for those Robots in Disguise. Sure, their adventures were mainly used to reinforce toy lines, but by the end of the original 80-issue run we got to some truly original stories as we reached the final battle with Unicron written by Simon Furman and (mostly) drawn by Andrew Wildman.

Yes the Cybertronians were victorious, but in the aftermath were some of the grayest, bleakest stories I had ever read as the Transformers struggled to find purpose again.  Furman got to tell stories that didn’t require introducing new toys and could focus on the characters.  Wildman, who if I recall was a pretty divisive art choice at the time, was my favorite TF artist ever, able to draw alt modes and robot forms equally well and distinctly.  What really set him apart were the distinctive (and dare I say, human) faces with spittle frequently flying and battle damage showing they may be robots, but they’ve clearly been to Hell.

Together they got away with telling some truly weird stories.  Galvatron travels to kill his past-self before realizing he would cease to exist.  Megatron and Ratchet fuse into a Two-Face robot.  And then five issues after defeating the ultimate evil they were gone.

Their run based my entire opinion of what Transformers COULD be.  Even though it’s been a while since I’ve gone back to see how they hold up, make no mistake: I know full well that most of the comic series was pretty bad, not to mention some truly awful cartoon episodes.  But those issues…well they showed a lot of growth and potential for more.

Wildman and Furman have teamed up many times since that series end, even on Transformers, with Armada.  Those darker issues seem to have inspired other approaches to the characters as well, but none of them have worked for me.  The names and characterization are roughly the same, but the Armada or Energon Optimus Primes just aren’t the
same to me like the G1 Prime is, just like Alan Scott is not Hal Jordan is not Kyle Rayner.

Now here we are, 21 years after that series ended, and Furman and Wildman are back, picking up where they left off. Or rather, 21 years after they left off.  They do so fairly seamlessly.  Furman’s story could have been more linear rather than bouncing around, but we’re definitely going to get back to the original (and if I may be so bold, my) characters.  And Wildman’s art returned to exactly where I remember, without all the overly-angular jagged faces obviously inspired by the movies.  This is a very good comic, and I’m really excited to see where they take us.

(Now after having written all this, I feel like I’ve done Geoff Johns a disservice by my griping about him turning DC into what he loved most as a kid.)

  • 2000 AD – The surprise find of FCBD 2012!  I’ve never seen a 2000 AD FCBD issue before; I didn’t even know they participated.  The first pleasant surprise was the large magazine size, so it stands out from all the other offerings.  Then it gives several complete chunks of comics.  Sure, some of the stories were a part one but it’s an accurate representation of what to expect from 2000 AD.  Then the contents showcased a little bit of everything: classic sci-fi, some horror, a vintage Alan Moore story, and a superhero satire.  I’ve never read an individual issue of 2000 AD before, but after this I think I might need to add it to my pull list.
  • Valiant 2012 – Even though this was just a teaser book, it worked. I’m sufficiently piqued for the Valiant relaunch this summer.  Unfortunately, it’s still a bad free comic.  Marvel and DC put out things like this monthly; it’s a promotional item.*

* Yes, they’re all promotional items, but the point of Free Comic Book Day is, you know, a free comic book.

  • Yo Gabba Gabba – I really don’t know what to say about this one, since I am neither a small child nor a guardian of small children.  It definitely won’t appeal to anyone whose age is approaching double-digits, and there’s no hipster cred other than some nice work by Mike Allred and Evan Dorkin.  But might it get small children into appreciating comics?  Yes.  Yes it might. And that’s one to grow on.

And that was my 2012 Free Comic Book Day.  I think it was a raging success, even if not every book was.  I hope you found some great comics out there and have maybe been inspired to track down a few new things.  And only 11 months until next year’s!

Son of Game Tape

…ANNNNNDD we’re back.

Comics were purchased. Stories were told. The dust has settled and now it’s time to review the game tape to judge how the week went.

KABOOM's Adventure Time #1 (second print)

This first review will echo several of the excellent points that Jesse noticed in his review, but we came away from the book with two different feelings. This time I’m wearing the grumpy pants.

How is it that a cartoon series that tells stories in 12 minute chunks can’t seem to do the same in a comic book? I’m looking at you Adventure Time with Fin and Jake. I love this property; the cartoon is easily the smartest, weirdest, and funniest show on television. However, I was reticent to pick up the comic book for fear that it might not work in a static form. KABOOM’s new book (I picked up the second print this week) translates that weirdness very well. Ryan North and company also manage to translate the show’s hyperactive pace and kinetic feel well through page and panel layouts; it’s rare to see a page with more than four panels. The art in the main story mimics the cartoon well, down to the little details hidden in the back ground. The back-up story’s art is more stylized, looking as though it were painted by Vincent van Gogh. It’s bright and vibrant with a contrasting texture that the main story’s cartoon art won’t have. One other thing that was impressive was the little messages in the bottom-most gutter of many of the pages. This was something that I loved in Bob Burden’s Gumby. It’s nice to see that here in what is a successor to the surreality of Gumby.

At the end of the day, this is not something I’m going to pick up regularly. As I said earlier, I strongly disapprove of the fact that the main story in the book was not a done-in-one. Younger readers are going to be lost by this approach because a whole 30 days will pass before the second part comes out. That’s a friggin’ eternity and any number of other things have attracted their attention and money in the mean time. Heck, I’m in my 30’s and there are some books written for trades that I have a hard time keeping up with because the last issue was uninteresting middle.I appreciate the perceived need to keep the kids coming back to a comic based on a show, but I know that the same goal could have been achieved with a book that offers a similar experience to the show without replicating it exactly.

On a side note, why isn’t anyone replicating the successful digest model that has worked so well for Archie?

DC Comics' Action Comics (vol 2) #7

Action Comics (vol. 2) #7 is as good as it’s ever been, and after two woefully lackluster (filler?) issues this is a welcome relief. I’m not sure why the Collector story was so interrupted with trips both to the past and the future, but now that we’re back on track things are picking up and we’re getting a strong and fun story. Morrison’s reinvention of Superman and the world of Superman through Action is generally enjoyable. This issue especially. There’s great interplay between Luthor and…everyone really. We see less of Clark and more of Superman in this issue than we have in the past. Also, to his credit, Morrison also found a way to naturally introduce Superman’s actual costume into the story. I was reminded this month of why I read Action Comics first when it comes out.

 

Another book that I’m enjoying more in its newest volume is The Lone Ranger. After is nigh interminable origin volume in which the Ranger chases down Butch Cavendish, something new: shorter stories. Issues 1 & 2 were both fantastic in terms of telling western tales without being generic. This month’s issue #3 is starting a two issue arc that proved to be quite entertaining, and it provided a solid story with a cliff hanger at the end. Well done.

Finally, I really enjoyed Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra’s Manhattan Projects #1. World War II, and the Manhattan Project specifically, is my favorite time period to read about. Hickman’s alternate history presents the historical players is a skewed and fantastically engaging light. From it’s hyper-science and portrayal of Einstein as a violent psychopath to it’s blending of zen

Manhattan Projects #1 published by Image Comics.

meditation, magic, and science, this is going to be a great ride. Pitarra’s art is easy to read. His style is the love child of Frank Quietly and Geof Darrow. It is fun, it fits well with this story, and the characters resemble their historical counterparts without being photo reference. 30 days can’t pass quickly enough.

In Brief

This week Kieron Gillen wrapped up his second arc in Uncanny X-Men (vol. 2). While the itself is essentially cribbed from Star Trek: The Next Generation, what makes the story enjoyable is the character interaction and the sharp dialogue.

G.I. JOE continues boldly with its new Cobra Commander. Although they’ve been three steps behind for a while, this issue shows a hint that a turning point is ahead. The rally inning is near…finally.

This Week’s Comics

I’m a little grumpy about this week’s comics, but that may just be the fault of last week’s comics.  Here are THIS week’s new and noteworthy titles.

  • ATOMIC ROBO GHOST OF STATION X #5 (OF 5) – Well okay, THIS gets things off to a good start: the conclusion of the 6th volume of Atomic Robo!
  • FANTASTIC FOUR #603 – I’m one issue away from being able to get caught up on both Fantastic Four and FF, but unfortunately that issue is #587, the death of Johnny Storm, which is both rare and pricey at this point.
  • PROPHET #22 – I was VERY impressed with the Prophet relaunch and will be keeping up with it for a while.  It’s not really in the vein of what I normally pick up, but it’s interesting and very readable (unlike the original Prophet run, which I couldn’t wade through) so this comes highly recommended.
  • SECRET AVENGERS #23 – $4?  Yeah, no.  I’m sure I’ll snag it eventually, but not for 4 bucks and not based on the .1 issue that just came out.
  • TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ONGOING #7
  • UNCANNY X-FORCE #22
  • VENOM #13.3 – Just what in the world is going on here???  Point 3?  No Remender?  This is messed up, Marvel.

I’m not the biggest fan of the Adventure Time cartoon writing here, that honor goes to Matt, but I do enjoy it a great deal and check it out somewhat regularly.  Therefore when Boom! ??? announced they were doing a new Adventure Time series written by Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics, I was in. I’ve got to say, it’s pretty great.  It opens with a really
interesting sequence that reveals how the cartoon’s opening sequence was created, in a way that allows for the uninitiated to understand while providomg more depth if you get the reference.  There’s all sorts of easter eggs in this book, including light blue notes in the gutters that are JUST legible enough to read…if you see them.

The main story’s art by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb is drawn in the Adventure Time house style, but Aaron Renier’s backup tells a story in his own painted style instead, and it’s a nice touch that we get to see other artistic interpretations of the characters. Boom! and all the creators involved really knocked themselves out with this one, and it’s well worth picking up if you’re a fan of hijinks, high adventure, and high…fist-bumps.

I feel like I’m the only one excited by Rob Liefeld’s Extreme relaunch, but I’m genuinely enjoying it.  Prophet #21 was excellent, and Glory #23 continues the streak of success.  The Rob obviously knows to set up his talent and then get out of the way, as the characters are established and yet feel all-new.  Or in Glory’s case, 500 years old.  Credit artist Ross Campbell with that, as he manages to make Glory look young and childlike yet world-weary and battle-damaged, all at the same time.  The artwork really is an amazing strength.  Writer Joe Keatinge manages to incorporate a healthy amount of intrigue (and provides answers to key questions in the first issue!  What an concept!) while working in enough humor and action to keep things moving.  In fact, the only knock I can think of is that it feels a bit too much like Promethea in places.  As much as I enjoyed Prophet, I loved this book.  It’s been selling briskly, but if you find a copy on the shelf, grab it. 

 

 

Do. Not. Buy.

Bloodstrike and Youngblood will round out the relaunch in the next few months, and while they’re the titles I’m least looking forward to, the strength of the first half are going to force me to give them a chance.

The less said about Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #12 the better. With the story mostly wrapped up in issue 11, IDW felt it was appropriate to charge $4 for shots of wreckage and a few wrap-up captions.  This is the biggest waste of money I may have ever spent on a comic, and IDW should never have put it out.

Ranting complete, that’s it for me this week.  What looks good to you?