Sunday, December 7, 2014

5 x 5 Graphic "Novel": C.O.W.L.

So, while Wonder Wife was relaxing her birthday afternoon away in a Korean Spa, I had a chance to visit an actual comic book shop and get myself a few presents. This was one.

C.O.W.L. Volume 1: Principles of Power.

Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel, Rob Reis.

Image Comics.

1. I was drawn to this book by its cover - specifically by the union logo it depicted. Here's a closeup:

With this design sensibility and a back-of-the-book blurb that reads Welcome to the Chicago Organized Workers League - the world's first superhero labor union, I was expecting a trade-unionist, maybe even socialist interpretation of the superhero trope. It's not. While C.O.W.L. is indeed a union, and much of the plot circles around contract negotiations, the ambience is much more Mad Men than it is Matewan. The members of C.O.W.L. are certainly not working class, and the personal and political agendas on display have little do with the relationship between capital and labor. That was the first disappointment.

2. The second disappointment was that this is not a graphic novel at all; it is a collection of the first five issues of an ongoing comic. I blame myself for this one - it's clearly stated on the back and I should have noticed - but after have some good experiences recently with true stand-alone GNs, that this one ended in media res was a bit jarring.

3. The story is pretty engaging and the writing is competent, although it sometimes reads like the early days of cable when formerly-banned language was first creeping into broadcasts: just keep dropping those f-bombs so we remember this is "realistic." The art is quite good; Reis reminds me a little of Bill Sienkiewicz.

4. Not for the first time, I thought that a comic was part of the who's-gonna-be-the-next-Walking Dead phenomenon: even in its best bits, I couldn't help but feel that C.O.W.L. was a pitch for a movie or television series. Some of the staging and a lot of dialogue just feels too cinematic and not at all comics-y.

5.  I am really tiring of the banality of powers. Superhero teams have become just another collection of stereotypes like any other overworked genre. Instead of the planner, the face, the tough guy, and the gadget man in an A-Team ripoff, we have the flying guy with energy bursts, the guy with the power glove, the girl with telekinesis. There's no wonder, in-story or out, that humans can do these amazing things. Listing the character names with their specialties in the front matter of the book evoked the rules set of a role-playing game more than it did the old school "roll calls" of team comic books.

Wow, that sounded more negative than I expected, but I guess that some good parts aside, I really didn't enjoy the book as whole and won't be looking for Volume 2. 

Bonus fun bit: I cannot hear or read the word cowl without thinking of this lettercol title. It debuted in World's Finest in 1964, when I was 6 or 7, and I am pretty sure it was my first understanding of the word's meaning.

I also remember wondering about the title itself, because Batman had a cape, too...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How'd I miss this guy?

So, my google-fu must be slipping: when preparing for this post about bison-themed heroes, I completely missed this character:

Buffaloman is a character from the superhero manga Kinnikuman; from what I can tell, he is a good guy, but it looks like he started out as a villain.

I am still not satisfied, despite the glorious golden-age name this guy carries; while he is an appropriately powerful character, he doesn't have quite the shagginess that I would expect from a bison-based hero. The Kinnikuman Wikia offers some clue:
The buffalo in his name more than likely comes from the water buffalo, as his Long Horns resemble theirs. Also, his hailing from Spain and his habit of charging forward with his Long Horns in front implies he may be inspired by bullfighting as well.
I think the musical motif of this video confirms that bullfighting connection:

Once again, we have been led down the primrose path: I guess I will have to keep searching for that perfectly-realized superhero based on the American Bison. Or not.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wonder Wife Wednesday: Fantastic

So, my sister sent me a gift just because. Just because it was comics-related and just because she is sweeter and more sentimental than she would ever let on. But here, let Wonder Wife help describe it for you:

Now, there's no way I would have expected Wonder Wife to get Karnak or Gorgon or Crystal, much less Wyatt Wingfoot, but besides Thing, maybe she should have been a little closer to the mark on the FF, since we did watch the first FF movie together.  Although she did in fact fall asleep during the climactic final battle.

That she did get Medusa says something about the purity of that character design. If I recall correctly, wasn't Madame Medusa created independently, and then retconned into the Inhumans with the ol' amnesia gag? That might be germane.

As always, thanks to Wonder Wife for being such a good sport about these pop quizzes.