Spandexless Reads 8/5/12 / by Anthony Rosen

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Greetings true believers! It's my favorite time of the week, where we all get a shot  to talk shop and steer you towards our sensational finds.  This week, I re-title the column "Patrick Reads", and turn the majority of space over to him. He's joined the Hawkeye bandwagon, and so should you! David reminds us that KC Green is insane and John Campbell is weirdly obtuse, while I tackle  an unexpectedly good find and Beth gets philosophical on a webcomic in the shower...

Read on to find out what that means!

Patrick Smith // Word Smith

This was a pretty light week for me, so as cliche as it might be, I'm going to join the chorus of praise that's being thrown at Hawkeye #1 because it really is that good. Granted, reading an interview where they said this book was going to be about turning "Hawkeye into the Jim Rockford of the Marvel Universe" might as well have been marketing specifically designed to appeal to me, but this book also marked the return of David Aja to a (hopefully) monthly title! Aja's style has continued to grow since his work on The Immortal Iron Fist a few years ago, and this issue shows he's fully embraced a style reminiscent of David Mazzucheli, with an emphasis on motion that gives the book a real visual kick. That style is elevated by the color work of Matt Holingsworth, who uses a fascinating pallet of yellows, reds, inky blacks and (of course) purples to really make the art pop.

Matt Fraction's script is appropriately pulpy, matching Aja's style and evoking the work they did together on Iron Fist. "This is what he does when he's not being an Avenger," states the title page, and that pretty much sums it up. Hawkeye is only in costume for the first two pages and for the rest of the book he looks like a regular dude. Hell, he doesn't even use his bow for the entire issue, and given the current state of cape comics that is FASCINATING. The issue is as close to perfect as a cape comic could be. It's light enough that you can still have fun with it while appreciating the sophistication of the whole thing. I'm sure in a couple of months this book is going to fall into the Marvel Editorial bear traps that are double shipping and fill in artists, and I'll feel the need to drop this book in a huff, just like I did with Daredevil. But for now I'm content and looking forward to whatever else this book will bring.

I also recently got a mini comic from Kyle Starks called Untitled Monster Thing because I just happened to be on Twitter at the right time and he was giving a few away because he had some extra stamps. I am really glad he had those extra stamps because this was just an incredibly fun read (and he threw in a sketch of Ghost Rider which was super cool of him). The mini is (obviously) short, but Starks manages to pack a lot into those pages. An adventurer sits by a campfire at night when suddenly a giant monster descends upon him. From there the story takes an absurd turn, as a recognizably dire situation becomes incredibly funny. For some context, the mini gave me about eight good sized belly laughs. For a sixteen page comic, that's a pretty good average. Stark's elegant cartooning style makes good use of negative space, wide expressive faces, and natural sounding dialogue, creating a seamlessly cohesive work in this fantasy setting. I don't know if this mini will ever be readily available to everyone, but I do know that it reads a lot like his webcomics on Robot Mountain, which I also highly recommend.

David Anderson // Internet Archaeologist

I feel like a switch flipped in the brains of two of my favorite webcomic artists, or maybe I changed in some way that screwed with my perception of them. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make for some odd/interesting observations. KC Green's work always drew inspiration from the slightly more unhinged side of his brain, but lately I feel like his thought process goes something like this:

-Find object.

-Go on the most insane tangent possible

Maybe it's always been that way, but to me there's been a perceptible shift in the non-sequitur aspect of his work. Maybe a little more existentialism than usual.

Meanwhile, John Campbell was slapping pictures of stuff on his main site for Pictures for Sad Children, and while he's also made some comics, I kind of got worried that the pictures were code for some kind of disaster that claimed him. The panic's over now though, so I guess we can go back to work.

Anthony Rosen // Poster Poster

While my favorite read this week was also Hawkeye (seriously, it's really good!), my most interesting purchase was Detectives Inc. #2. An Eclipse Comics production from 1985, the book is a fascinating blend of humanistic story telling, intriguing prose breaks, and stellar panel work. The layout and design of each page is excellent, perfectly paced and plotted to delve into the story's beats and accentuate the setting. Just check out the first page, which flawlessly moves from its short story-esque opening to the panel work, moving up from underwater to set the scene, highlighting the noise and atmosphere of the pool in between the panels in a way that really sneak ups on you. It's great stuff, and I'm really looking forward to hunting down some more issues from the run.

Beth Scorzato // Writing Wrangler

After I read this week's Multiplex strips (Gordon McAplin) I just got to thinking about how good the webcomic is. When I first discovered it (after we did a review of it) I pulled an all-nighter reading the entire archive. I hadn't meant to, but, at least for my reading palate, it's just kind of perfect. In my "day job" I work in editorial development so I spend a lot of time with outlines and authors and one of the hardest things in telling a story is getting the characters right. You can plot an arc perfectly but if your characters are boring or aren't relatable, who cares? But McAlpin nails it. All his characters, particularly his main protagonist Jason, manage to walk the line between being totally unique and just a little bit tropish without seeming cliche. You end up caring so much about each of the players because the more you read you get to really understand them on a deeper level. You realize, "Oh my god... I know that guy!" But you never feel like any of them are a ripoff of anyone, real or not. Point is, I would highly recommend you read it. Or even throw your money at Volume 1. I supported the Kickstarter for Volume 2 and that should be out soonish (maybe?) too.

These are the things I think about when I'm shaving my legs in the shower. It takes a really long time, okay?! You men just won't understand.