3.09.11 Reviews

Comic Book Comics #5 (Evil Twin): Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey dive into the “All Lawsuit Issue!” and chronicle every major case, from Siegel and Schuster’s battle with DC over the Superman rights, to the Air Pirates vs. Disney, the trouble with Fawcett’s Captain Marvel, and onto the Miracleman debacle which embroiled Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane. The duo do a nice job of explaining the convoluted history of copyright law and vexing nature of work-for-hire arrangements in the comic book industry, which seems to be an area of law constantly evolving and being unraveled (made up?) as time passes. The big exception on copyright infringement has traditionally been a work done for the purposes of satire or parody, but it’s extremely difficult to prove that. As the book progresses, some of the legal tales are dense and fairly dry, but Ven Lente and Dunlavey always do their best to entertain and throw in sight gags or interesting facts. I enjoyed a young Alan Moore with his foppish hat and oversized lollipop, as well as the startling statistic that Captain Marvel was selling 14 million comics in 1944 alone, even eclipsing Superman. By comparison, throw the same character in a book today and you’re lucky to break 20,000 units per issue. Another great truth-is-stranger-than-fiction moment was the U.S. Marshal restraining one of the Air Pirates gang in a courtroom while he appeared in cowboy garb with a holstered banana(!). One bit of information I learned was that MAD Magazine’s “Superduperman” send-up was a big influence on Alan Moore’s deconstructionist tendencies toward the superhero paradigm. The creative team digresses pretty heavily with the introduction of Moore, chronicling the Watchmen saga and its impact. We see the door being opened to the “British Invasion” and a nice nod to Sturgeon’s Law regarding the industry producing 90% crap and 10% high art. The team is quick to point out the differences between a work with superficial “grim and gritty” elements, and a work with truly mature or sophisticated themes. In their urge to tell the Watchmen story, I think they lost the copyright throughline that connected all the chapters of the book somewhat, but it was still pretty interesting, and there’s no denying the sheer amount of research and fact-checking that went into a book like this. Even if the book had a few rough spots (including a couple bad typos like an extra “the” or missing “of”), I was impressed with the overall package and visionary effort. Grade B+.

Captain Swing & The Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island #3 (Avatar Press): Warren Ellis and Raulo Caceres finally get around to delivering the penultimate issue after a several month delay, and I can’t really say it was worth the wait. The entire proceedings just felt a little flat for me. I do enjoy the experimental gusto with which Caceres flips back and forth between the more traditional comic pages and the “woodcut” effect used in the scene breaks, but the regular pencils feel like they were rushed. They’re looser and thicker, without the more refined and controlled line I’ve come to expect from him on earlier works or even earlier issues of this series. The fight scenes appear overwrought or over-choreographed or something, certainly not organic, but there are occasional flashes of brilliance, such as the clever reflection in the glass blowing scene. I don’t recall much of what happened last issue, so motivations are a bit unclear, but it appears one of the pirates and one of the policemen have joined forces, and ultimately anoint a new Captain while a morally questionable Bow Street Runner attempts to track down the stronghold at Cindery Island. There’s at least two typos sprinkled about (adding to that rushed feeling), which just furthers the assessment that this is one hot mess. As an aside, I still don’t understand why a 4 issue mini-series takes the better part of two years to produce. It’s getting to the point where even a celebrated writer like Warren Ellis isn’t enough to get me to support such practices. You might as well write the scripts for the entire 4 issue series and get them penciled and in the can prior to the first issue debuting in order to release them at a reliable monthly, or even bi-monthly, pace. Announce your schedule, then stick to it, it’s pretty straightforward and shouldn’t be a mystery for any publisher. As is typical for Ellis, he touches on some interesting themes here, the danger of imposing social order, the willpower of men driven to a singular task, the guise of free knowledge accelerating the progress of the future, and the hierarchical morality of a class system. Unfortunately, it never quite congeals, and I find myself annoyed by his standard assault of: set up (ish 1), set up (ish 2), INFO DUMP (this third issue being the expository one), and then abrupt end (4th ish, which is sure to read anti-climactic). This rates a fairly low Grade B.


At 9:39 AM, Blogger Ryan Claytor said...

Good to hear an overall positive review of the copyright/trademark issue. I picked it up on a whim last week, but haven't got to it yet.

Always fun seeing the occasional oddity reviewed here.

Ryan Claytor
Elephant Eater Comics

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

Overall, such a boring week for comics.

At 12:48 PM, Blogger Matt Clark said...

Glad to see we're on the same page regarding Ellis. When do we think Captain Swing #4 will be out then? 2012?!

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

It could be, Matt! I mean, it's taken us 18 months to get to this point, so another 6 isn't out of the question in terms of averages per issue!


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