Into the Longbox

Two weeks in here:

Captain America #39, Brubaker, De La Torre, D’Armata. The Skull (?) continues his move, but the good guys are moving, too. From a plot perspective things are on the move more than the characterization this issue, but there are still some nice touches. We get to see Sam and Bucky working on the superhero tradition of talking and fighting simultaneously in a sparring session, and Sin find out once again how ineffective she is against real fighters; fortunately she’s a teen-ager and will never notice it. Still great super-hero work.

Madame Xanadu #1, Matt Wagner & Amy Reeder Hadley. Madame Xanadu is one of the many mystic powers of the DC/Vertigo universe who’s never really been a headliner nor a personal favorite, so it wasn’t out of any love for the character that I picked this up. What drew me to it was Matt Wagner who’s been a favorite creator since his Mage days. Wagner doesn’t disappoint in this issue with a fast-paced, introduction of the players and conflicts in this first arc, set in Arthurian times – obviously a setting with which he has some familiarity. The action is brisk and clear, and though the connection to Madame Xanadu is obscure at this point, it’s very diverting. I expected great things from Wagner, but I’ve never read anything by Hadley. Her art is really breathtaking: every page layout conveys the enormities of the settings and powers at play without slowing the narrative; individual panels are clear and crisp. Even the clouds of pixies that surround the magicians are enjoyable rather than annoying. This is a remarkable combination of storytellers. Well worth checking out.

Glamourpuss #1, Dave Sim. The problem with being Dave Sim – or I suppose one of the problems with being Dave Sim – is that you’ve become such an outsized personality that no matter what you set out to do, part of your work will always be judged partially as a reflection of you personally. Given that Sim is perceived as being either ridiculously conservative on women’s issues or downright misogynistic, when I saw what is apparently a fashion magazine parody from him, I feared the worst. Didn’t stop me from buying it, mind you, but I expected some sort of rant trailing off into incoherence thinly disguised as parody. What I got was something else altogether.

Often when a reviewer throws out that phrase – “something else altogether” – they mean that there was a twist in the plot, or a particularly well executed piece of work that elevated it above expectations. Compared to its front cover, Glamourpuss really is something entirely different. (OK, Roy Thomas’s description on the back cover description is accurate, but who would believe it?) The book includes a (workmanlike) parody of fashion magazines in there that does hit the content advertised in the cover blurbs, but basically it’s 25 pages of Dave Sim polishing his considerable art skills by drawing photorealistic pictures of young girls. And he’s very up front about this inside. This is a Dave Sim sketchbook where he’s translating fashion magazine pictures into comics idiom working from lessons from some of the classics of serial comic strips. The word balloons and captions are mostly a discussion of what he’s learning and how he’s executing the work. It’s remarkably diverting and gorgeous to look at.

Whatever one thinks about Sim’s opinions are on Pressing Issues Of The Day, I think his opinions on the study and creation of comic art are fascinating. I think he’s an authentic genius of the comic page and it’s a delight to find him sharing that genius, especially in this bizarre format. A must.

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