Stuff I Read This Week, 10/7/2012-10/13/2012: Special “I’m On Vacation” Edition

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Get Jiro!, written by Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose, art by Langdon Foss

I was convinced this book would be a worthless vanity project.  This turns out to be not quite the case, though how much actual writing Bourdain did is anyone’s guess–it wouldn’t surprise me if his involvement were limited to contributing the basic plot and consulting on the culinary elements (which are very well-handled here).  The book has some interesting things to say about the state of American food culture, essentially saying that the current conflict between assembly-line corporate restaurants and organic locavore cuisine presents a false choice.  It’s hilariously gory in its violence–the part where Jiro debones a guy’s arm with one swipe made me giggle.  The absurd plot and setting (a future LA where gourmet food, and the eating of same, have become the sole remaining form of artistic/cultural expression and entertainment) somehow work in spite of themselves.  And aside from the glassy, beady eyes, Foss’ art–his sound effects in particular–is quite nice.

Thing is…I’m not sure why this is a comic.  It’s not really paced like one; rather, it feels more like a film treatment that never got any traction, so it became a graphic novel instead.  In fact, I’ll bet that’s precisely what happened.  (No, this isn’t a Jiro Dreams of Sushi adaptation.  Morons.)  I’ve said before that I hate this–I see it as disrespectful to the medium.  You never see this the other way around, after all.  The weird part is that I probably would have liked this a lot more as a movie–give it to Robert Rodriguez and you’d have yourself another Machete, this time with sushi-knife decapitationsHowever, releasing this as a comic simply takes the flaws you’d gloss over in a goofy action movie (the non-existent characterization, that it’s basically Yojimbo with chefs, etc.) and makes them impossible to ignore.  This would have needed to be much longer and more fleshed-out to work as a comic.

Ayako, by Osamu Tezuka

Those familiar with Tezuka’s other work (which really should be all of you by now, especially the weeaboo scum) will likely be in for one hell of a shock upon first reading Ayako.  I certainly was.  This book is nothing like the rest of Tezuka’s oeuvre.  It’s not goofy in the slightest–no people randomly turning into distressed pigs, no “at yer service” gnomes or anything else of that nature.  Even the figurework is strictly realistic, with none of Tezuka’s cartoony repertory cast making an appearance.  It’s just as well; all that shit would have seemed horribly out of place here.

Much like another series I’ve been reading recently, Barefoot Gen (about which I’ll have more to say in a future SIRTW), Ayako concerns itself with Occupied Japan in the aftermath of World War II.  But where Gen is idealistic and condemnatory, Ayako is introspective and regretful.  Acceptance of guilt and admission of wrongdoing cannot be denied or deferred for long without it metastasizing out of control, and that’s exactly what happens to the family in this book, and by extension Japan as a whole during the period (and arguably to this very day).  And boy does it ever spread–the book’s crowning horror, in the form of one of the worst acts of child abuse imaginable, takes place barely a tenth of the way through this 700-page story.  From there, it’s a thirty-year slippery slope of murder, assassination, rape, incest, and live burial.  This can all get a bit on-the-nose, but Tezuka keeps a tight grip on the reins, keeping the work firmly on the “foreboding” segment of the scary-silly meter.

Resurrection Man (New 52) vol. 1: Dead Again, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, art by Fernando Dagnino

Speaking of books in need of fleshing-out…Like Suicide Squad, this is a reboot of an older DC series I really liked in its original incarnation.  Unlike Suicide Squad, this cancelled-as-of-last-month series at least manages to not take a skunky beer-shart all over its own legacy.  Bringing the original writers back no doubt helped immensely with this, as well as having an artist who avoids the first series’ Nineties-style BS, replacing it instead with Tens-style BS, but Dagnino’s not obnoxious about it.  Sadly, this is not to say that the life (and life, and life, and life, and so on) and times of the “new and improved for a modern audience” Mitch Shelley ever rises above the level of “okay”.

I don’t really know what happened here–wait, yes I do, DC editorial happened of course.  All the elements of the original RM are here and largely untouched; they just don’t gel the way they did in the original.  The whole thing feels rushed and not fully conceived–Mitch is just as likeable a guy as ever (kudos to DC for resisting the urge to stick him in a costume, BTW), but somehow the all-important reader-character bond never takes hold.  The personal touch is lacking–remember that scene in the original series where Tommy Monaghan kept shooting Mitch over and over until he came back with a power he deemed sufficiently useful?  Hilarious, right?  Yeah, nothing like that happens in this book.  Moreover, you just know, on a gut level, nothing like that ever will happen.  Only a very few New 52 titles have slipped the “make everything as underdeveloped and off-putting as possible” editorial net, and for all the creators’ noble efforts, Resurrection Man ends up being just another tuna-dolphin.

DC Universe By Alan Moore, written by Alan Moore, various artists

This just in: you know all those pre-Watchmen stories Alan Moore did for DC back in the Eighties?  Yep, they’re still totally awesome and DC are still totally idiots for alienating the guy.  The de rigueur selections such as “For The Man Who Has Everything” and “Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?” are on display here, but this volume also includes somewhat more obscure stuff, such as a Green Arrow story in which Moore manages to make him not a complete d-bag for once.  Also, there’s a Batman story whose title I can’t recall, because for some reason it’s not “The Creepiest Damn Clayface Story Ever”.  Even if it is about some other Clayface I’ve never heard of who’s apparently made of lava or something.  There are some missteps here as well, but they’re mostly due to Moore being given inferior tools to work with.  I have no idea who Vigilante is, all I know is that he’s awful.  I mean, like, Terry Long bad, and that is not a thing I say lightly.  Also, most of the Wildstorm stuff (the book is cheating a bit here, as this stuff was all published well before the buyout/merger) leaves me cold, though it does include “Majestic: The Big Chill”, which still stands as the one and only WildC.A.T.S story I completely and unreservedly love.  However, even the less-great stories aren’t near so bad as some other Moore books I could name *COUGH*neonomicon*COUGH*.  Most of the art’s pretty awesome, too–nobody (except maybe Frank Quitely) can gainsay Curt Swan when it comes to Superman, and the other pre-Wildstorm stories had the good fortune to come along just as DC’s stable was getting the hang of aping Neal Adams.  Vigilante aside, this is an awesome compilation of Moore at his best.

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