Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Weekly Treats! Flex Mentallo, American Barbarian, Avengers Vs. X-Men

So how do you like your comics? Modern? Post Modern? Let's start with Meta-textual! Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery (Vertigo) is considered by many to be one of Grant Morrison's finest works. Throw in the fact that it's illustrated by Frank Quitely, arguably his greatest collaborator and one of the finest illustrators in the business, and you can see why the re-coloured, hardcover release of this long out of print work is so eagerly anticipated.

The reason it has been so sought after for so long - the four issue series appeared in 1996 - is the titular character, who first appeared in Morrison's Doom Patrol series is based on those Charles Atlas adverts featured regularly in comic books for a couple of decades (see here). The Charles Atlas estate weren't happy (and you wouldn't want to upset the original Real Man) and a lawsuit was eventually settled with DC agreeing to give a percentage if ever the character went into print again. So it didn't.

Flex Mentallo was the book that Morrison so succinctly explored his favoured themes of realty/fiction, the enchanting affect of Silver Age comics and growing up and leaving childish things behind. But don't worry it's not a purely intellectual exercise. Flick through the book and you'll see an highly imaginative super-hero yarn. It's all there inter weaved in the story - for example the journey begins when Flex investigates the disappearance of his former comrade: The Fact. There are a few works of analysis on the book; if you're interested there's an article on AreYouASeriousComicBookReader? (see here) and ComicBookResources (see here).

Even by Quitely's supremely high standards, the artwork is wonderful - imaginative, playful and confidently dancing a merry jig on the fine line between humorous parody and human drama. Is Flex Mentallo Morrison's Watchmen? No way - it's much too fun. Essential.

Did someone mention the word 'Parody'? Tom Scioli has been paying respectful homage to the goofy, spectacular sci-fi world of Jack Kirby with Godland (Image). American Barbarian (AdHouse) collects his webcomic in which he basically went up a gear. So now we have a red, white and blue-haired human barbarian living amongst dinosaurs on the outer limits of Moving City. And now. He must protect his homeland. Against. Two-Tank Omen...!!! Fight! BTW: Two-Tank Omen is called Two-Tank Omen not because he only has two tanks but because he has tanks for feet! See here for Scioli's website. Pretty hard to resist...

PS. Is it a coincidence that Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus vol. 2 (DC) is out this week as well...?


And finally, Terry Moore continues to explore genres (Strangers In Paradise for thriller, Echo for Sci-fi) in his own style of way, way down-to-earth characterisation. This time, in Rachel Rising vol. 1: The Shadow of Death (Abstract Studios) he tackles horror and yes, the lead is a female once again. Impeccably drawn (the first nine pages are silent) Moore really is in a league of his own for this sort of thing and his success is even more remarkable when you consider that his line of titles are self-published.

And so to the Weekly Treats and after last weeks #0 we're all more than ready and settled for the main event. So why are Marvel's two greatest super-hero teams prepared to battle each other? It's all here/I don't care let's just get on with the fighting (delete as appropriate). For the next six months; twice a month, five writers and three artists take turns mixing it up. Avengers Vs. X-Men #1. Here. Now. Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr. take the first watch. See here for our previous posts and checklist.

There are plenty of other comics out of course including Detective Comics #8, Lenore vol. II #5, Fatale #4 and Images' relaunch titles continue with the final story arc of Alan Moore's Supreme #63 illustrated by Erik Larsen. For a full list check out the tab at the top!

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