Weekly Hit (and Miss) List: 11/14/2011

by Ben Peirce

The Weekly Hit (and Miss) List is a rundown of the best and worst things I read this week regardless of their original publication date. It doesn’t have to be new – just new to me.

THE HITS

Elephantmen Vol. 3 | Image | Richard Starkings (w), various (a)

At the 2009 Baltimore Comic-Con, I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Starkings who, aside from being one of the nicest and most engaging people you’ll meet at a convention, is a man who knows how to bait the hook. He asked me if I had ever read Elephantment and when I told him that I hadn’t, he pulled out two issues, signed them and handed them to me – gratis. A year later I was back in Baltimore to pick up the first 3 oversized volumes of Starking’s creator-owned epic because 1) I respond well to free stuff and 2) I just plain needed more. If the way Starkings treats his fans is any indication, he must treat his artists even better because he has some amazing talent including Moritat, Ladrönn, Boo Cook and more helping to bring this elaborate future world to life. “Elephantmen” are human-animal hybrids once geneticly-engineered as soldiers and now doing their best to find a place as everyday citizens of Mystery City. Elephantmen is a case study in “show, don’t tell”. It’s a stampede of world-building but it’s done by placing you into the lives of the characters and letting you experience it through their eyes rather than explain it all in a heavy-handed way. This 3rd volume (a 4th was recently released), focuses on some of the beautiful women of Mystery City and their relationships with Hip Flask, Ebony Hide, Obadiah Horn and the rest of the surprisingly-human Elephantmen. Billed as “Pulp Science Fiction”, Elephantmen is a fascinating world filled with amazingly 3-dimensional characters, that continues to reveal itself with each turn of the page. BUY IT

Orchid #2 | Dark Horse | Tom Morello (w), Scott Hepburn (a)

I’m enjoying this new series from Dark Horse Comics enough to make it 2 for 2 on the Hit List. The art of Scott Hepburn is sharp and stylish and his storytelling chops are a great compliment to Tom Morello, who continues to find his way in the visual medium of comics. Unlike Elephantmen above, the world-building in Orchid is spelled out more overtly, but it’s still intriguing and the voices of the characters are distinct and compelling. What really lands this book back on the Hit List, though, are the free music downloads offered with each issue. A visit to nightwatchmanmusic.com offers up a free track (when you enter a code found in the back of the book) that serves as an audio score for the issue. It’s a cool concept and a great way for Morello to get fans of his music interested in comics.

Wolverine & the X-Men #1 | Marvel | Jason Aaron (w), Chris Bachalo (a)

Much as I’d hoped to, I didn’t love this issue, but I liked it enough to talk about it here. The new post-Schism X-book takes us to the newly-reformed Westchester school under the tutelage of Headmaster Logan, Headmistress Kitty Pryde and in the capable writing hands of Jason Aaron. The return to the school is welcome and long overdue. The school aspect of X-Men is one I’ve always loved and, as I mentioned on Facebook, I thought renaming the school after Jean Grey with the tagline “the best there is at what we do” was a pitch-perfect detail. What I didn’t like about this book is also its best quality. It’s light-hearted. The focus is on the characters and there’s more yucks than there are snikts. Let’s face it, some levity is welcome in the X-books which have been mired in desperate times since Grant Morrisson’s run. I enjoy the soap opera-esque aspect of the X-Men but I’d hate to see this become a full-on joke book. Ultimately, I love Wolverine and I love the X-Men, so I’ll keep the jury out on this one, at least until the first baseball game is cancelled on account of Sentinel attack.

THE MISSES

Spaceman #1 | Vertigo | Brian Azzarello (w), Eduardo Risso (a)

As you can tell from my first 2 selections (along with many mentions on the podcast), I love me some dystopian future post-apocalyptic sci-fi. So that, along with the proven track record of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (100 Bullets, Batman: Broken City) gave me high hopes for this new Vertigo series. But if there’s one thing that can turn me off faster than a superflu spreads, it’s made-up future slang. I don’t care if you’re fraking Joss Whedon or blue-hot Alan Moore, it just don’t shiv! From what I could discern, this story of caveman-like creatures genetically engineered for space travel to save a dying planet had some potential. But the copious dialogue, spoken entirely in made up sci-fi dialect, turned it into a confusing indecipherable mess. If you’re planning to give this one a try, be sure to pack your decoder ring.

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