Posts Tagged ‘Charles Soule’

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Oh, yeah — it’s party time!

Charles Soule and Ryan Browne’s new Image Comics (ongoing, I presume) series Curse Words has looked like all kinds of batshit-crazy fun since it was first solicited some months ago, and now that the extra-sized first issue is here, I’m pleased to say the preview pages that have been non-Wiki leaking out didn’t lie : this is a high-energy, full-throttle, goofy-ass, balls-out book that doesn’t care half as much about making sense as it does about just giving its readers a good, old-fashioned good time.

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Not that Soule’s script doesn’t make sense, mind you — in fact, it’re pretty simple, straightforward stuff :an other-dimensional evil wizard named, get this, Wizord finds himself thrust into our world (New York, to be specific), and rather than destroy the place as was his original intent, he decides to hang around, make some money, and live the good life first. But in order to do that, he’s gotta establish himself as a “good guy” before he can pimp out his services as a magician-for-hire. And so, with “funny Koala” sidekick Margaret in tow, it’s time to become the first genuine wizard of the celebrity age.

It all works like a charm until it doesn’t, and if the premise here sounds more than a bit similar to that of Image stablemate Birthright, rest assured that those “happy coincidences” continue right through to the cliffhanger, which sees another practitioner of the so-called “dark arts” rip the sky open and come after Wizord in order to force him to stick to the plan for global destruction — or die. Whichever comes first. But whereas Birthright adds family drama and personal redemption into the sword-n’-sorcery mix, Curse Words spices things up with with subtexts perhaps more appropriate to the Trump age, chiefly : personal greed, lust for power, and moral and ethical decadence. All delivered with the most knowing wink and nod you can possibly imagine, naturally.

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Browne, fresh off blowing minds with God Hates Astronauts, is all about the dynamism with his visuals here, as well, and if there’s an artist better-suited to the sort of “leave it all on the page” craziness the subject matter here lends itself (with considerable interest) to, I’d be hard-pressed to name them. Inventive panel layouts add a further eye-glueing aspect to the proceedings, as do the vibrant, explosive colors supplied by Browne, Jordan Boyd, and Michael Parkinson (don’t feel too bad — this book has three letterers, as well, Browne himself also being one of them), so all in all you’ve gotta say these are pages that almost dare you not to examine them for several minutes at a time. So why not do yourself a favor and do just that?

 

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If you need a legit “good guy” to root for in order to enjoy a story, then fair enough — Curse Words doesn’t really have one on offer and you might be better off dropping your $3.99 elsewhere. But if watching reprobate magicians hurling lightning bolts from enchanted spears at each other in the middle of Yankee Stadium sounds like a good time to you — and trust me when I say that it is — then congratulations! You’ve just found the comic you probably didn’t even know that you were waiting for.

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I could start this with a cheesy pun, I suppose, and say that when I  heard that DC Comics was planning on bringing back Swamp Thing yet again — this time in a six-part mini-series written by the character’s co-creator, Len Wein, and illustrated by Kelley Jones, who probably does the closest stylistic approximation of anyone out there to the work of Swampy’s other co-creator, Bernie Wrightson — that it sounded to me like the big green muck monster was “going back to his roots,” but I dunno — is it still a pun if it’s absolutely true?

When it was first announced, however many years back now (about five, I think),  that the one-time Vertigo “supernatural characters” would be folded back into the “proper” DC Universe as part of the “New 52” initiative, I honestly thought that Swamp Thing was the only one who could potentially benefit from such a move, especially given that Scott Snyder was going to be writing the then-new book, but let’s be honest — the results have been far less than impressive on the whole, with Snyder and his successor, Charles Soule, both doing their level best to immerse the character ever-more-heavily into a shallow contemporary version of the “Parliament” mythology established back in the 1980s by Alan Moore and modified, with ever-diminishing results, by just about every writer who took a crack at the book (in any number of newly-numbered “volumes”) since. I’ve read ’em all, of course, but about the only time I think they came close to getting it right in terms of moving the character forward (by moving him back, but I’m getting ahead of myself) was during  Nancy A. Collins’ criminally-overlooked run on the Vertigo version of the series back in the early ’90s. Her approach was very much a “fundamentalist” one, if you will, essentially choosing to simply ignore the already-convoluted-by-that-time continuity that had been piled on top of her charge and to go back to just telling good old comic book horror stories with a decidedly “Southern Gothic” flair, and ya know what? It worked. But they could just never leave well enough alone, and one failed re-launch after another has left Swamp Thing well and truly bogged down at this point.

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Enter Wein, Jones, and colorist Michelle Madsen (with a nod to variant cover artist Yanick Paquette), who have again chosen to blow off, rather than blow up, what’s come before, and have given us an all-new Swamp Thing #1 that, to be perfectly blunt, feels anything but. And wouldn’t you just know it? I’m not complaining in the least. From page one on, this comic feels like stepping back to about 1976 or so, but it’s not a pale imitation or lackluster approximation of the real thing (I’m looking at you, The Force Awakens), it absolutely is the real thing — and that, my friends, makes all the difference.

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Wein’s prose it still as deliriously purple as ever, with the “show, don’t tell” school of modern comics storytelling  nowhere to be found in these parts, and while that may be frustrating for some given that Jones’ art is more than capable enough to do most of the “heavy lifting,” this is a book that knows what it wants to do from the outset and proceeds accordingly — and as your options as a reader are as immediately apparent as they are simple : go with the “old-school” flow, or put the book down. I chose the former, of course, and so far it’s proven to be a very wise decision.

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The story’s nothing complicated, of course, nor should it be : Swampy, his supporting cast completely absent, is hanging out in the bayou doing nothing more than contemplating his newly-stripped-down existence, when The Phantom Stranger shows up, warns him of some typically-ambiguous bad shit about to go down, and then we get familiarized-by-force with the goings-on at a local college where an unorthodox (to say the least) professor has decided to take it upon himself to resurrect the dead — but first he’s gotta kill one of his student “volunteers” to do it, as you’d no doubt expect. And while some among you may feel that the inclusion of a zombie in this story is indeed some sort of nod to modern horror tropes, I assure you that this typically- tragic villain would in no way be out of place in a 1970s horror comic, be it CreepyEerieTomb Of Dracula or, of course, Swamp Thing, Plus, this particular zombie seems to owe more to Herbert West, Reanimator than to The Walking Dead — thank goodness.

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Look, it’s no secret which way things are going in terms of the overall trajectory here — we’re headed for an extended confrontation between two slow, shambling, supernatural foes, with a bit of dime-store occultism and “secret college cult” shit thrown into the mix for good measure. A guest appearance or two from the likes of Deadman and/or The Spectre is certainly not out of the question. And Jones will have plenty of gooey and gory scenes to sink his still-considerably-sharp artistic teeth into. He and Wein previously teamed up, with unspectacular results, for the two-part Convergence Swamp Thing mini-series early last year, but there they were hamstrung by heavy editorial constraints related to the “one alternate reality vs. another” over-arching theme of the predictably-rancid crossover “event” of which it was a part Here, there’s a definite feeling that they’re just being allowed to do their own thing — and that “thing” hasn’t really changed much in 40 years.

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Look, I won’t kid you — there may not be a ton on offer in this first issue (entitled, awesomely, “The Dead Don’t Sleep!”) beyond pure nostalgia — and certainly as the basis for a new ongoing series, this “throwback” approach would probably get pretty old pretty fast to modern readers, but never fear — Alec Holland will be getting back to his gig as “Avatar of the Green” or whatever in due course, I’m sure. And us old dinosaurs will probably take a pass on it at that point and let you kids have your fun. I hope the next inevitable re-launch of this character will be good, sure — but given the track record of the Jim Lee/DanDiDio regime at DC, I wouldn’t bet on it.

For the next six months, though, there’s absolutely no harm in letting how things used to be play-act at being how they are again (however temporarily). Swamp Thing #1 was a blast, and I’m eagerly looking forward to the rest.