Thought Bubble #1 (Image): The Leeds Comic Art Festival’s First Ever Anthology. I caught some stray rumblings about this online, but never really paid much attention. It had an attractive cover, I saw names like Mike Carey, Becky Cloonan, and Antony Johnston advertised, and it’s in the “Newsprint Revivalist Movement” format (a term I invented to describe a wave of mini-comics a couple years back), so in an otherwise slow week of comics, I decided what the hell? And HOLY SHIT, not only is that cover by Becky Cloonan, but the first piece is a Wasteland strip from Antony Johnston and Charlie Adlard! It showcases the harsh environs and deadpan drifter Michael. Duncan Fegredo turns in a secret origin for himself, which I really enjoyed, especially the mentions of Kid Eternity and Enigma. There’s a closed room time travel murder mystery from Andy Diggle and D’Israeli which was gorgeous. I found the art itself a little stiff in A Thief’s Tale by Furth, Rutter, and Beazante, but it’s colored beautifully. The Da Vinci story by Mike Carey, M.D. Penman, and Andrew Tunney begins as a straight history lesson, introduces subtle humor, and then quickly builds to LOL proportions. The amazing art has an almost Winsor McCay vibe to it. The anthology contains 3 pieces from the 18+ entrants, and 3 from the under 18 set. Of those, I liked The Very Best by Sally Jane Thompson, which had a bit of a Jason Shiga aesthetic by the end, and Let’s Go Fly A Kite by Will Morris, which was clearly influenced by the great work of Gipi. H.P. Lovecraft’s The Hound was interpreted by Stuart Gordon and Tula Lotay. It balanced great horror motifs, great detail in the pencils, and nice colors, especially the bloody bits that literally bleed off the page. Considering the $2.99 price point, sheer diversity and strength of the work, and a format I’m partial to, this was clearly the book of the week. Grade A.
The Defenders #1 (Marvel): So, it’s like you have this really cool friend who is usually pretty smooth and you head out clubbing one night, right? But, instead of “Matt,” let’s call him, being a really good wingman who usually entertains you with his antics, he’s having an off night, and he’s trying reeeally hard to be hip and cool and funny, and instead you just feel embarrassed for him. Yeah, it’s like that. Fraction and Dodson open with some weird awkward one night stand involving Stephen Strange and then the hooking up with random chics thing becomes an ongoing bit in the rest of the book. Hulk shows up and then for some reason a bunch of heroes get together to help him, and then they go to Wundagore Mountain, but I have no idea why any of that is happening. One interesting thing about the book could be the clever info scroll at the bottom of the page, but I feel like Joe Casey was experimenting with that years ago in books like The Intimates. The shifting narrative POV was fun for a minute, but then you realize you’re overwhelmed by all of the random dialogue and straight exposition. The walking stereotype Flight Attendant does it: “Mr. Rand, I’m flying in a super duper plane that cost a gazillion dollars you invented doing a zero-g dive and blah, blah, blah…” Iron Fist does it: “It sounds like you just asked me to blah, blah, blah…” She Hulk does it (why is she red again???): “I’ll be the tourist, what is Wundagore Mountain?” so another character can go blah, blah, blah… I’m also not really sure how this is a sentence: “Namor’s shouting but she can’t hear him, but she reads his lips it looks like Rand.” Huh? Dodson’s soft serve art looks a little more at home here than it did in Uncanny X-Men, but the prevailing feeling is that Fraction is just trying too hard to be clever. Danny is reading Marvelman comics. Ok. I suppose he crams a lot of character intros into a small space, but there’s no real reason for these characters to be together. I guess that’s kind of the point of the book, but instead of playing like self-aware tongue-in-cheek meta, it just lays there with no real raison d’etre besides the obtuse “protect the world from the impossible,” whatever that means. Maybe this will congeal in a couple of issues, but based on the strength of this, I doubt I’ll be around to find out. Man, I love the guy, but it seems like Fraction has had more misses lately than hits. Grade B-.