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The Odd Couple

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Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson don’t appear to be comic creators that have much in common. But the pair is working together to bring us Beasts of Burden this week.

Both have spouses that work in the industry. Both have worked on projects where they were both the writer and artist. And, of course, both are veterans in the comic book industry. But, outside of that, you can’t find two creators who appear to be more diametrically opposite than Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. However, the two are uniting to bring us a new series, Beasts of Burden.

Evan Dorkin has brought an underground sensibility to the world of independent comics. His most famous creation, Milk & Cheese, exhibit the “anything goes” maximum that typifies the underground genre.

Milk & Cheese, the self-proclaimed “dairy products gone bad,” are Dorkin’s voice as they rail against all sorts of annoyances in everything from pop culture to everyday life. It is biting satire at its most sarcastic. No punches are pulled, nothing is held back, and no victim is left unscathed. Milk & Cheese are hyper-violent and more often than not riotously funny.

The success of Milk & Cheese led Dorkin to other work. He was picked to helm the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book for Marvel and has worked on various projects at DC, including Superman and Batman: World’s Funniest, Bizarro Comics, and Bizarro World. He also has been active in the field of animation, working on the Superman animated series and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. But while he might have experienced some mainstream success, he keeps his indie sensibility.

If you were to look for an opposite to sarcastic and biting, then an acceptable choice might be charming and whimsical. These are words that sum up the work of Jill Thompson.

Thompson broke into comics in the late 1980s doing work for then-big independent publishers First and Comico. But where she really made a name for herself was at Vertigo comics. She provided the art for the “Brief Lives” arc on Sandman, and has also worked on Swamp Thing, Invisibles, and Black Orchid.

Her talent for drawing adult fantasy led her to create The Scary Godmother series, a number of spooky books aimed at children but fun enough for adults. Her work on the series won her an Eisner Award in 2001 and has been adapted into a stage play and several computer animated specials.

Thompson would go on to win the Eisner two more times on projects she has done the art on. Who was her writer both times? Evan Dorkin.

Tomorrow’s Beasts of Burden isn’t the first collaboration between Dorkin and Thompson, or even the first time the concept has appeared. Both creators originated the characters as part of Dark Horse’s series of The Dark Horse Book of…one-shots (Hauntings, Witchcraft, the Dead , and Monsters) The stories feature a group of neighborhood dogs who come across instances of the supernatural that they alone must deal with.

So, while the pairing of Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson might seem like one of polar opposites, they do work well together. The results are seen in the acclaim given to their partnership in the past. Now, finally, the pairing is leaving the pages of an anthology series and getting a miniseries of their own. Expect Beast of Burden to be the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of comics, two great tastes that work great together.

 Also out this week:

Vengeance of Moon Knight #1

Moon Knight is the latest character to have his series cancelled and have it replaced with a new series with a brand new #1. The hope is that restarting the series would bring enough new readers in that the title will no longer be in danger of cancellation. This tactic has been employed many times before to varying degrees of effect.

Whether this works or not remains to be seen.  But Marvel is going the extra mile by having this series tie-in at least tangentially with the Dark Reign event by making Norman Osborn Moon Knight’s target. Tying in to such an event could mean a sales boost, but the original series tied into Civil War and that didn’t keep it away from the chopping block. Maybe this time it will be different.

Gregg Hurwitz (W), Jerome Opena (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Brave and the Bold #27

When it was announced that J. Michael Straczynski was moving over to DC, this title was supposed to be his base of operations and where he was to bring the Red Circle characters into the DC Universe. That was changed so this book simply became an opportunity to have JMS play with some of the best characters DC has to offer, which isn’t half bad.

Of course, the question I have is will JMS be working with present day continuity? This first issue features Batman, which could be either Bruce Wayne or Dick Grayson. But his partner is Robby Reed of Dial “H’ for Hero and the solicitation makes it seem like it is a different, younger Robby Reed than most recently appeared in the defunct H-E-R-O. So, does this issue take place in the past, or is JMS simply showing a Loebian distain for what has come before. Continuity geeks like me want to know the answer!

J. Michael Straczynski(W), Jesus Saiz (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Amazing Spider-Man Presents: Anti-Venom—New Ways to Live #1

Like him or not, you have to admire Venom. Most characters created in the 1980s or 1990s are either laughing stocks or consigned to the dungeon of forgotten memory. Venom has lasted and is a major part of the Marvel universe even today.

As most comic fans know, the original Venom was a man named Eddie Brock. As of last year’s “New Ways to Die” arc in Amazing Spider-Man, he has replaced the Venom identity with a different one— Anti-Venom. He is now an anti-hero struggling to stay on the straight and narrow. This proves that Venom’s longevity is tied to the fact that he inspires creators to go in new directions with his mythos.

Zeb Wells (W), Paulo Siquera (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Three-Issue Miniseries.

Ghostbusters: Displaced Aggression #1

It’s accepted that the first Ghostbusters film is an undisputed classic, but it’s seldom seen that a franchise gains a resurgence two decades after its last offering was made public. But that is what happened with Ghostbusters this year. The original cast reunited for a brand new video game and there is a 2nd sequel in the works.

IDW must be clairvoyant because they released a Ghostbusters comic last year before all the new hype hit. And their timing is good too because now they are back with a new miniseries to capitalize on all that hype. In this one, the boys are scattered through time by an ancient demon. If they want to save the world, they will have to survive long enough to figure out a way home.

Scott Lobdell (W), Illias Lyriazis (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Athena #1

From the company that brought you Barack Obama being saved from zombies by a certain chainsaw-fisted antihero comes the standing American President’s meeting with an ancient Greek goddess. I wonder what the religious right is going to say about this?

Yes, Dynamite is publishing the adventures of the Greek goddess of strategic warfare, wisdom and heroic endeavor in the present day. And one of those adventures involves her meeting the Obama family, which is related in the flip sequence to this first issue. 

Considering that books with female protagonists don’t sell all that well, and this one has a lot of similarities to Wonder Woman, a guest shot by Barack Obama could give it the boost it needs to separate from the pack.
 
Doug Murray (W), Paul Renaud & Fabiano Neves (A), Dynamite Entertainment, $3.50. Ongoing Series.

Ultimate Comics Armor Wars #1

If you were asked to give a definitive Iron Man storyline, “Demon in a Bottle” would be the one you would probably pick. If you were asked what the second most definitive Iron Man was, odds are you’d say “Armor Wars.” The character defining arc sent Tony Stark after just about every armored character in the Marvel universe, good or bad, to protect his inventions which were stolen from him.

This storyline has been revisited—twice—in the last several months. Last month featured an all-ages friendly with Iron Man and the Armor Wars and now a version of the storyline is hitting the Ultimate Universe. Why so much interest in this particular storyline?

Well, if the footage shown at San Diego Comic Con is any indication, apparently someone other than Tony Stark will be building an Iron Man-like suit in Iron Man II. And it appears corporate espionage is involved. Could the next time we see “Armor Wars” be on the big screen?

Warren Ellis (W), Steve Kurth (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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