Archive for Jason Latour

Uncharted Territory: The Walmart Comic Rack

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 11/12/2016 by Kevin Entrekin

* Tuesday’s Gone- Metallica “My baby’s gone with the wind” RIP Sophie, my Baby Girl.

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I hate going to Wal-Mart. There is a suffocating air as soon as you walk in the place. An air that reeks of artificial attitudes and a tension that feels like a brawl could break out for no reason at any moment. Unfortunately, the store is only a two-minute drive from home, so I have to brave the sanctified aisles of the mega cathedral of consumerism to acquire necessities.

While I hurriedly was trying to find the shortest check out line to purchase my sriracha and boxed quinoa, I saw something familiar, yet out-of-place: Comics. Not individual issues mind you, but packs of three relatively recent issues from Marvel and DC. They were inconspicuously stuffed between Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon cards and had a nice round price of a fiver on them. (Edit: this is a more recent photo of the display, where it is now directly marketed as Marvel/DC packs and the Marvel issues are now $10).

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Maybe this isn’t anything new and I’ve just missed it. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, really. It’s a logical business stepping point for the Big Two to start selling books at… well, practically anywhere they can. Like when Piggly Wiggly had a random rack of comics next to a Pog vending machine when I was a kid (90’s kid trigger warning).

These comic packs are water-testers. I wager it won’t be long before people can go to their local mega store for Wednesday pick-ups. Yet another threat the local comic shops will have to weather.

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Let’s dissect the bag I bought: I picked up the more mysterious packaging of the two, the Marvel pack (Which isn’t advertised as a marvel set as you can see from the scan above). It promised the possibilities of “randomly inserted Bronze, Silver, & Modern Age Keys”. A promise I suspected to be hollow and fruitless before ripping the package open.

I was surprised though when I did actually open it up, because I was expecting some stuff from a fifty-cent bin. Instead they were all three relatively recent Marvel issues: Star Wars: Shattered Empire #02, Radioactive Spider-Gwen #01, and Hercules #02. The oldest issues (SW and Gwen) date back to only December 2015 and Hercules is as recent as March 2016.

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  • Radioactive Spider-Gwen #01

I guess this was the “key” (gotta sneak in that insider comic lingo like “keys” to draw in the kiddos) first issue the promotion bubble was talking about.

I love Spider-Gwen. Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez’s creation is one of the best things Marvel (had) came out with in a long time. But, this is the second number one Gwennie received in 2015. The first five issues were disrupted by the marketing series Secret Wars, and after a few months Spider-Gwen “continued” with a new name and first issue.

And even though this is a continuation, a lot of the uniqueness and fun of the original initial issues have been lost. Rodriguez’s art hasn’t changed and Latour’s writing isn’t much different. But the fun is gone, and I think I know who is responsible: Marvel.

Marvel is its own worst enemy when it comes to good series like this, Howard the Duck, and Spider-Woman. Secret Wars was forced into Gwen’s world and had to “start over”. Then only a few issues into Radioactive, Gwen was sidetracked once again with the Spider-Women arch (combining forces with Silk and Spider-Woman). That series was quite fun actually, but still off course. Then they saw that the cream was sweet and made a Gwenpool series, thus trying to milk a cow before it can produce..

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  • Hercules #02

Hercules was the mystery issue in the pack. For starters, I had not heard of it. For a series that came out this year, it went unnoticed on the shelves at my local shop and I had not heard any praise for it. But this was issue two, and a second printing at that apparently. Maybe there was some thing more beyond the Liefeld-esque cover.

There wasn’t, sadly. I secretly wanted this to work and I can see what they were going for: The tarnished hero that must seek redemption. But it doesn’t really work when all I keep coming back to is thinking of Thor. That doesn’t usually matter to me, but the plot itself is predictable and the art forgettable, making the hero himself forgettable.

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  • Star Wars: Shattered Empire #02

Shatter Empire was the most interesting issue, and the far superior read in comparison to Hercules (in comparison to issues I hadn’t read, as I already had read Spider-Gwen).

I don’t remember this 4-part series when it first came out among the slew of almost 20+ Star Wars titles Marvel released to promote The Force Awakens. Before reading I did a little research and learned it was about Poe Dameron’s parents essentially, which put me on edge that it was just a flaming fandom rubbish pile.

But the plot is handled by storied writer Greg Rucka, and it’s a strong plot. Although I had not read the first issue, it was easy to catch up and get involved in the story. It mainly focuses on Poe’s mother Shara Bey, who is an ace rebel pilot assigned to escort Princess Leia on a mission to Naboo, where things go awry.

I think what surprised me more than the good story was the art. The art by Marco Checchetto, Emilio Laiso, and Angel Unzueta is solid and beautifully colored. Especially the fight sequence at the beginning of the issue between AT-ATs and rebel squadrons.

While there are some weak/unnecessary plot like Princess Leia writing condolence letters, this isn’t just a random story thrown together to be a promo for The Force Awakens. Assuming the rest of the series is as strong as this issue, I am intrigued enough to pick up a trade and read the whole series.

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So, let’s break down what you get with this mix bag of comics: You get three comics from Marvel. Considering they are all fairly recent releases, for five dollars (or now it seems ten) you get twelve dollars worth of comics (each book individually cost $3.99). That is a bargain from a technical standpoint. But you have to consider what you’re getting: A mystery pack of issues that aren’t fresh. Yeah, I got a nice surprise with the Shattered Empire issue but still, that issue is for a series that ended a year ago. These are overstock issues comic shops have in discount bins so they can make space.

I see these packs, again, only as market testers. Something chain stores use as a litmus test to see if selling comics is profitable for them. I also see them as underwhelming gifts a family member gets you because “you’re into comics and I saw this while checking out”. Instead, do yourself a favor and venture into a comic shop. Yeah, you’ll have to pay regular price like the rest of the nerds, but at least you get something you want to read. And you’ll also maybe find a whole new community to be apart of.

 

Southern Bastards #13

Posted in Comics with tags , , , , , , on 20/03/2016 by Kevin Entrekin

(listen: “Take it Easy“, by The Eagles)

Its Caucus time in the Kingdom of Fear at the time of typing this (who knows when this will get published, but it’s getting worse) and Fuhrer Trump and his minions are kicking a Black Lives Matter protester out of their Klan rally on television. They’re throwing punches and trash at the kid, which isn’t unusual for the crowd you see at El Comandante’s rallies. This is Phobos incarnate, broadcast to either the lust or disgust of the masses.

I went to the polls for Super Tuesday, a perfectly dreary and wet day in West Tennessee. No waiting in line as I entered a florescent-lit room in the back of a church with a lone Trump sign out front. I pushed the red button and cast my vote for Bernard Sanders. I thought for the first in my voting history, I’d feel satisfaction after voting. But I didn’t. I knew the state of Tennessee would go Trump and Clinton. My vote didn’t matter.

The pundits and media are already craving for Jefe Naranja and Clinton to gore each other with broken pool cues in the general election. They already have belts around their necks and hands down their pants waiting for each candidate to speak. Bernie is being discredited as a real threat in the aftermath of recent early voting, even with his numbers steadily rising and winning a few important states. He’s not out, but it’s not going to be clear until the ref raises the victors hand. Bernie is going to have to go the full twelve with the last jab thrown. Then its on to the title fight.

Why am I being so candid on politics? I don’t normally talk publicly about my opinions on this glorified soap opera, even though I like to keep my nose in it. People get irrational and violent when talking about politics, same with religion and guns. I avoid those toxic conversations.

Maybe because I actually believe in this candidate. The first politician that I don’t look at like all the other perverted, greedy politicians. Bernie gives the aurora of authenticity and being unsullied. He remains (presumably) uncorrupted or bought by the evil bastards and industries.

People say that about Trump as well, but that’s a lie; he’s malleable like Reagan. Pliable to the will and saccharine words of anyone who gives the front of being “intelligent”. That’s why Republicans love him so much. He’s a puppet for their bidding, and just the right sensual words whispered into his ears results in the carpet bombing of some far-away land or the holocaust of “undesirables”.

But what can you do, really? I guess just sit back with a cold Miller and watch the kids argue. Might as well enjoy it, especially for like-minded individuals who think Trump is a proper bastard. I’ll probably be black-bagged on the way to work one day by his newly instated SS division in a grandiose sting operation and shipped off to a black site in Kentucky run by Charles Graner and Lynndie England.

(Listen: Dead Flowers, by Townes Van Zandt)

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Southern Bastards, #13

Published by: Image Comics. $3.50 Print/$2.99 Digital. Story by Jason Aaron. Art by Jason Latour.

(Read: Jason Latour on The Charleston Terrorist Attack, the rebel flag, and the modern south, featured in issue 10).

As a southerner raised on Alabama football and Memphis BBQ, Southern Bastards is a work of art. It highlights what makes the south home, blemishes and beauty. There’s the humble hospitality of southerners, then the underlying sinister side of the governing individual law enforcement, a biblical eye-for-eye system.

The story is handled by a good ‘ole boy from Bama, Jason Aaron. The language in the pages of each issue he produces is authentic linguistics and mannerisms exhibited in the southland. To some, the characters probably seem exaggerated. And to an extent they are, but there’s a awful lot of truth in them as well. You meet people like this down here, good and nasty.

The south is also a land of underlying beauty with a seething slime of sinisterism just below the surface, which Jason Latour captures beautifully in his art. Both ragged and stunningly gorgeous, he includes little things that make the books an authentic southern experience. Even something as simple as background details and fashion choices of the residents of Craw County makes you fell the thick, humid heat and scent of roasted pig flesh in the air.

I guess I should take a moment here to advised this will be spoiler territory here on out. I don’t like to take something away from the potential reader of a book or viewer of a film, so I’m alerting you now: If you haven’t read this beautiful series or issue 13 yet and plan to, maybe come back at another time.

From the front cover, you know this issue is going to be different from the previous twelve. It has a blue color scheme, whereas the past issues have been red. Things are more tense than usual in Craw County with the rivalry game against Wetumpka finally here.

This is a turning point in the series: Craw County gets walloped in the game, and the biggest crack in the Coach Boss empire is now visible. He is vulnerable, especially when after the loss he finds the biggest player from Wetumpka and beats the crap out of him. And every enemy Coach Boss has ever made has taken notice that he’s weakened. The vultures are circling.

Aaron in previous issues has found a way of making you sympathize with the villain by looking back at what made him the villain in the first place. Does it excuse Coach Boss of his sins because of his past? No, but you do understand why he is who he is. Whereas Earl Tubb’s was the protagonist in a Walking Tall role during a the first arc of this series, Euless Boss has in turn become the protagonist. He’s a crooked man in jackpot, and there’s a hell of a lot of people trying to keep him from getting out of it.

Latour somehow makes Coach Boss look harder in this issue. His features are more cut, his face more skeletal and grisly. Overcast that with the gloomy weather ever-present in this issue, the entire atmosphere of this issue is suffocating. And with the reveal that Earl Tubb’s daughter is finally making her way to Craw County for Southern justice, things are bound to get even more tense.

How much longer can this series go on before it losses its steam? One or two more arcs? Fifteen to Fifty more issues before its sauce is too vinegary? I don’t know. Maybe we will venture outside of Craw County to keep the stories coming. I’m not sure, but I do know that I’ll be patiently waiting until the next issue comes out. Patience, after all, is a southern virtue. Though, it is hardly practiced anymore.

*Bought at Comics & Collectibles.