Sunday, June 30, 2013

Two Great Tastes

Yesterday, I made mine Marvel. Or more accurately, I made mine Matt Fraction. I purchased two fine Fraction books from my LCS, Hawkeye #11 and FF #8. Two great comics that were not only different from one another, but different from a lot of the spandex stuff I've been reading and catching up on recently. While the fella at the counter recommended I check out East of West or Saga from Image, I just wasn't in the mood. Jonathan Hickman's stuff is full of pie charts and other graphics that anger my simple mind and Saga failed to grab me in the first four issues, despite some absolutely great artwork by Fiona Staples. So yeah, I went all "mainstream" and gave my money to that evil conglomerate known as Marvel.

Matt Fraction's work at Marvel is just on another level. I don't even know how to critique it. His run on Invincible Iron Man was a fantastic companion to the movies that were released during that time and I even enjoyed his Fear Itself miniseries from a few years ago. While many of my peers looked to Brubaker and Bendis as the premiere Marvel authors, I could never understand what made the Captain America and Avengers stuff of the last few years so great. Captain America featured some great espionage action, but the stories always seemed kind of predictable and the decompressed, drawn-out Avengers of the last era was just bad in my opinion. So anyway, Matt Fraction has been my window into Marvel since Punisher: War Journal and Immortal Iron Fist.
While I'd love to continue bitching and moaning about comics I don't like, I'd rather gush about Hawkeye #11. This comic is about a dog from a dog's point of view. Following the grisly murder that closed out the last two issues from two different perspectives, Lucky the Dog a.k.a. Pizza Dog is the third "lens" through which we witness Kazi the Clown infiltrate Clint Barton's apartment building. Pizza Dog is on the case, investigating a crime scene, falling in love, and even fighting off a gang of tracksuit mafiosos. Artist David Aja probably deserves more credit for this issue than Fraction, as he creates a visual language that allows the dog to communicate his smells into visuals. Remember what I said five seconds about about hating charts and such when they're inserted into comics? Aja uses them the right way. Pizza Dog is able to reduce each person he encounters to a simplified avatar and a collection of odors, making some humorous observations about the tenants of Hawkguy's building. In the end, man's best friend is torn between Clint and Kate (Female Hawkeye) and is forced to make a heartbreaking decision.

Hawkeye #11 will take you about five minutes to read through, which may leave you wondering where else you could've spent your three dollars and change. However, unlike many monthly titles there is more to be gleaned from this comic upon multiple readings. Wihtout venturing into spoiler-y territory, Lucky the Pizza Dog's adventure in this issue is a clever microcosm for Hawkeye's life so far in the series. Hawkeye gets involved with a love interest who's nothing but trouble, so does Lucky. Hawkeye gets knocked out by baddies a lot, and so does Lucky. Other than the car chase from issue three, it's almost a recap of what's come before. Two thumbs up, ten out of ten, whatever meaningless way you prefer to score or grade your comics, this one is tops.
And now for something completely different: FF #8. Once again, Fraction has hit the artist jackpot with his collaborator Mike Allred on this series. Allred provides funky retro visuals for this series, which is created in the style of a classic Marvel Pop Art production. Seriously, hold this up side by side next to an old Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four issue. Fraction and Allred are either having a laugh at the expense of the silver age, or presenting a flash forward what-if-that-happened-now alternative to progression. FF stars a substitute team of heroes posing as Marvel's first family while the Richards clan goes on a space/time family field trip. The same dysfunctional family moments have been recreated and reimagined in FF, with new twists and takes on classic baddies like the Mole Man. The story so far has centered around Ant-Man (Scott Lang, not Hank Pym or Eric O'grady) and his struggle to cope with the loss of his daughter. Ant-Man is the stand-in for Reed Richards, almost unwillingly put in charge of the Future Foundation kids that run rampant through the Baxter Building.

Meanwhile, Medusa of the Inhumans acts as the Susan Richards stand-in. Medusa seemingly fails in her role as surrogate mother, allowing some of the children to be carted off the infamous Negative Zone. Medusa lets her royal guard down long enough for the rest of the FF to question her maternal instincts. There's even a brief, super-powered catfight with She-Hulk, who is naturally the Ben Grimm substitute for the team. This is just a classic Marvel comic. Heroes can't get along, villains are scheming and hand-wringing, and a polite robot dragon delivers erudite dialogue. There's even a reference to the oft-forgotten Thing cartoon from way back when. The cover gimmick is a throwback as well. Remember those fold-in pictures from Mad Magazine? Fold in the cover of your priceless collectible copy of FF#8 to reveal the grim visage of Dr. Victor Von Doom. All This comic needs is an activity page.
If Infinity is too high for you to count and the Trinity War sounds like a lame Superfriends gangbang, I highly recommend either of these series for any reader who still loves "capes" books, but wants something a little left of center. I guess I should also mention both of these comics, to borrow a phrase from DC circa 2009, hold the line at $2.99. Six bucks and change well spent, Mr. Fraction. Thanks for the ride!

No comments:

Post a Comment