Trade Post: Frank, Midnighter, Constantine, Spirit & Batman/TMNT

trade-pileAnother week has gone by and I’ve knocked out another pile of comics, most of which came from my local library system. As you can see, we’ve got a mix of amazing indie artists, classic comic visionaries, crossovers and newer books. Hit the jump to see what I had to say on this batch!the-portable-frankFor whatever reason, Jim Woodring popped into my head when I was kicking around the library website. Several years ago, I read and reviewed Weathercraft. I was blown away by the Manhog-filled book’s artwork. I was equally impressed by The Portable Frank from Fantagraphics.

This collection features a variety of previously published stories featuring Woodring’s signature character. Frank’s kind of a cat-looking thing who lives in a world that looks like it might have sprung from Walt Disney’s nightmares. On the surface, his super clean lines might make you think of fun comic strips of old, but Frank lives in a world with beautiful monsters coming through rips in reality and an unnerving moon-faced man.

Story-wise, I’m not really sure what I read in this book. Many of them revolve around Frank being kind of a jerk, but maybe not as much of a jerk as moon guy. On the other hand, the art is absolutely beautiful and should be witnessed by every fan of the medium.

midnighter-volume-1-outFrom there I moved on to a pair of DC books, the first volumes of Steve (not Joe, even though that’s what I want to type every time) Orlando’s Midnighter and Jeff Lemire and Ray Fawkes’ Constantine. In the New 52, Midnighter’s still a badass whose computer brain allows him to run any fight a million different ways before throwing the first punch. In this book he deals with his post-Apollo love life while also trying to track down all of the world-crushing inventions stolen from the God Garden which includes a team-up with Dick Grayson, agent of Spyral.

Once I got past the fact that I missed Midnighter being with Apollo and let myself get absorbed by this story, I had a lot of fun with it. Let’s call the rest of this graph SPOILER TERRITORY. I was honestly a bit lukewarm on the whole thing until Orlando busted out Prometheus as the villain! Huge, huge props to him or whoever else suggested that the guy who can program his brain with multiple fighters should try to take down the guy who can run multiple fights in his head! If you’re going to have a book in the DCU, it should NEED to be in the DCU and this one did exactly that. My only real complaint is that I wish ACO had done the artwork on all the issues. No offense to the rest of the artists, but his style is so expressive and distinct and beautiful (even when rendering awful things) that I missed it all the more when someone else took over.

constantine-1-the-spark-and-the-flameWith that in mind, I was glad to see that the fantastic Renato Guedes stuck around most of these first Constantine issues. Over the years I’ve become somewhat well read when it comes to John “Hellblazer” Constantine and think that Lemire and Fawkes did a great job of taking that energy and infusing the New 52 with it.

One of the problems I’ve had with some of Jamie Delano’s early stories is that they’re oppressively dark. They come from the pre-TPB era, so they were meant to be read monthly. When you do go and check out those wonderfully complete Hellblazer trades, though, they can be TOUGH to get through. There’s still plenty of darkness in The Spark And The Flame here, but it’s not nearly as deep and devoid of light, which I appreciate.

The actual story finds John living in NYC, seemingly forced out of London for unexplained reasons. As is his eternal lot in life, he’s run afoul of seemingly more powerful mages who want to, well, kill him or torture his soul or whatever you do to a guy like Constantine. Like with Midnighter, this is a character I’m very familiar with, so the New 52 differences pop out quite a bit, but both books did a great job of not going too far afield when it comes to these characters I’ve been a fan of for years.

spirit-archives-vol-6The comic shop in New Paltz that I like to go to has two bookshelves of discounted trades that I always go over whenever I’m there. For YEARS they had a nearly full set of the Will Eisner Spirit Archives that DC published several years back. I always thought about grabbing one, but figured they’d be there next time. Well, one of the next times I went they were having a huge sale and only a few were left. I grabbed Volume 6 and have finally read it.

After cracking this book open, I was actually a little disappointed because I read that the comics in this one — which came out between January 3 and June 27 of 1943 — were neither written nor drawn by Eisner! Lou Fine, Jack Cole and others jumped in to fill in for Eisner while he went to serve in World War II!

But, from my limited experience, I’d say Eisner’s assistants did a bang up job of carrying the boss’s hard hitting hero through the Big One. If you’re not familiar with the character, Denny Colt was a detective who apparently died and came back. He donned a blue suit, mask and hat and started fighting crime alongside Commissioner Dolan. This collection features a lot of fun 8 page crime stories that can be read at whatever pace you want, making it the perfect coffee table trade, one you just pick up and read whenever you have the chance without needing to remember what happened last time.

batman-tmntOne of my favorite things about comics is that they allow for all kinds of great crossovers. It reminds me of getting my boxes of action figures out as a kid and coming up with wild scenarios that found the Thundercats teaming up with G.I. Joe to fight evil! So, I was pretty excited when I heard that James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II would jam on a Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles book from DC and IDW!

And the book definitely delivers as the Turtles find themselves dimensionally displaced on Batman’s world along with Splinter, Shredder and members of the Foot Clan. Worse yet, spending too much time in Bats’ dimension degrades the mutation that turned a bunch of regular turtles into the radical dudes we’re so familiar with.

Tynion does a great job of bringing in some current elements of both books while also keeping the proceedings separate enough to enjoy even without much knowledge of what’s been going on in the respective universes. Even so, I’m glad to see that the follow-up takes place in the animated worlds! Speaking of the artistic approach, I love how Williams made a conscious effort to bring in elements of Kevin Eastman’s style. It’s kind of like someone dumped mutagen on an Eastman story and it morphed into this different-yet-clearly-related thing that makes me smile with every consecutive panel.

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