Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Walking Dead, Book One

The Walking Dead, Book One (issues #1-12)
by Robert Kirkman/Tony Moore/Charlie Adlard
Image Comics, 2006

Hillary Brown: So I'm not one of these people who's crazy about everything zombie. I mean, I end up watching most of the zombie movies anyway, for some reason (I like seeing brains eaten?), but they tend to be dour and repetitive. All of which may mean I'm not the ideal audience for The Walking Dead, which Robert Kirkman has admitted, nay boasted of, creating because he wanted a zombie movie that would never end. Still, I kind of liked it anyway, even though I was conscious of its flaws in the reading. Maybe zombie media just provokes a state of mild-mannered acceptance in me. I guess we're going to discuss issues 1 through 6, which are collected in Days Gone Bye, even though I've actually read through issue 12, collected in a fancy hardback. I didn't really think about there being a nice line dividing the two parts, but there is, and Kirkman does seem to have planned his story arcs well for pacing. Issues end at good points. The art is pretty good, although fairly conventional. A few very smart and surprising things happen, although they're concentrated in 7 through 12 rather than 1 through 6. There are some decent characters who don't behave like idiots or jerks all the time. And I suppose it's a relatively realistic picture of the way this kind of thing would go down. But dude. It does not snow in Atlanta. Not more than once a year. And when it does, it rarely sticks. If you're going to pick a distinctive place to set your story--and, believe me, I appreciate the choice, as a native Atlantan--you should perhaps do your research. And maybe you shouldn't have one of your first important characters wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap, right?

Garrett Martin: First off, yeah, zombies, fuck 'em. I'm sick of the zombie thing. Maybe because I've been playing a ton of Left 4 Dead lately (um, really good!), or maybe because I eventually grew horribly bored with Walking Dead, or maybe just because crazy nutty zombie obsessions are no more interesting, unique, or humorous today than they were ten or fifteen years ago. Either way, it's hard to get me interested in almost anything zombie-related.

Okay. Now let's talk specifics. We can easily discuss up to issue 12, if you like; I've read the first six trades, which takes me up to issue 36 or so. Walking Dead is another comic I expected to dislike, but wound up getting kind of addicted to for a while. Kirkman's zombie apocalypse isn't all that unique, but like you said he does a good job of making events follow a somewhat natural and realistic sequence. His characters often act like real people and not just horror movie cliches. I wouldn't say I cared for them, but I did become interested in their fate. I rooted for them, sure. And for a while Kirkman did a good job of gradually expanding the environment, introducing new characters and situations that felt like common-sensical extensions of the story. Still, the addiction had more to do with the comparatively cheap cost and the quickness with which each trade reads (I could polish one off in a single forty-minute trainride to work) than actual quality, I think. It's definitely a solid book, for the first couple of years at least, but it's mostly unexceptional, and so unlike what I normally look for that I really think I read it just because it was easy to do so. And, y'know, Kirkman's good with a cliffhanger and some cheap scares.

And I agree about the Atlanta weirdness. Kirkman and Tony Moore need to bone up on their climatology.

HB: I think this is a really good way of looking at it. It's very very readable, and if I had the first six trades or all of it or whatever, I'd definitely read it. In fact, I read it on the kitchen counter while waiting for pasta to finish cooking. I read it as much as I could read it. And yet I felt a little empty for doing so. I like how you point out that not hating the characters is not the same thing as caring for them. I mean, they could all die, and I wouldn't really care. I'd just be like, "Hmm. Interesting. What happens next?" It's the mechanics that keep you reading: Where will they get their next meal? What's with the barn full of zombies? Who's plotting what? And dang that military base does look like a good option for a more permanent home. Still, it's a little talky, isn't it? I mean, action gets boring after a while too, but a lot of these characters just unfurl their thoughts like a big-ass banner, for panel after panel, while the other person involved in the conversation nods and says thoughtful things, and eventually they all start to sound the same, which means I'd prefer that their brains get eaten. It's when Kirkman's ruthless (or more so) that the book improves. The two things I appreciated most in the first 12 issues were 1. Carl getting shot (it's unexpected and mean, which I like), and 2. The idea that maybe you shouldn't just start killing zombies without thinking about the fact that they might get better because it could just be a disease or something (even if it's eventually discounted). And both of these things are not aspects of every zombie movie ever made, which is what makes them better story elements.

GM: True about both points there, and Walking Dead is nothing if not consistently unpredictable. Characters generally don't last long, and it's usually not pretty when they go. And I agree that the dialogue and interaction doesn't always feel right, but maybe people become more thoughtful and better listeners in the midst of unrelenting zombie hell. If you don't become a zombie, you become Charlie Rose.

Those mechanics you point out never go away. It's a constant series of fighting off a zombie invasion, finding a new safehouse, settling in for a few issues, realizing the survivors can be as dangerous for each other as the zombies, fighting off a zombie invasion, repeat. It's also weird how Kirkman can make the characters memorable (I can still see and name all the main survivors, despite not having read an issue in over a year), without really making me care about any of them. Maybe he hedges against this lack of reader investment by making the deaths increasingly more graphic and disgusting? The last time I flipped through an issue on the stands there was a two-page blow-by-blow decapitation that was just unnecessarily gruesome. There's pretty much a lack of subtlety all around. But then can you have a subtle zombie story without being boring or misguided?

HB: Subtlety isn't really what zombie stuff is about, and examples of it are few. When you're pretty much obliged to show intestine ripping/eating, it's hard to shoot for the sophisticated and oblique. I do think Walking Dead could use a bit more comedy. It's not as serious as the most serious entries in the genre, but my favorites all tend to look at this horrible situation with a lighter heart. I guess it's hard to do both realism and comedy when the dead are walking the earth and eating the living.

GM: I don't know, Shaun of the Dead balanced that perfectly. Well, it skewed closer to comedy, but if it hadn't I wouldn't have liked it that much. Shaun of the Dead, Walking Dead, and Left 4 Dead are the only examples of recent zombie media I've experienced. Before them I hadn't cared for anything zombie-related since Night of the Comet. Like I said, I don't care about the undead.

Anyway. Is there any comedy in Walking Dead? Kirkman can be funny (go read the Irredeemable Ant-Man digests for proof), but I don't remember laughing at anything here.

HB: There's not really anything that could technically qualify as comedy, but it's not relentlessly depressing the way some Romero is, for example. So maybe I should have said it could use "some" rather than "more." And maybe some of our readers who are really into zombie media will pipe up and say "this is a great example" or "this is a terrible example." My guess is that people like it or it wouldn't have run to as many issues as it has. On the other hand, Two and a Half Men sure has been on the air a long time...

GM: Whether or not it's a good example of the genre, it's definitely a good example of how to make a compulsively readable serialized story. We both attest to that. That readability seems to be the only thing that really stands out about Walking Dead, going by this discussion. Is there something about it we're not realizing? Or is it simply that it's well-paced and inoffensive entertainment?

HB: Shrug.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Umbrella Academy Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite; The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1 (of 6)

The Umbrella Academy Volume One: Apocalypse Suite
Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1 (of 6)
by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
Dark Horse Comics, 2007-2008

Garrett Martin: I don't think I could've been any more skeptical about The Umbrella Academy. Not just because it's written by a celebrity, but because that celebrity is the singer and primary songwriter for a band I don't like. My Chemical Romance's theatricality makes me dislike them even more than their overwrought music. I didn't even think the blinding awesomeness of Gabriel Ba (as integral to the success of the fantastic first album of Casanova as Matt Fraction) could make up for the guaranteed awfulness of Gerard Way's story. I never would've given this series a shot if it hadn't debuted on Free Comic Book Day. I'm glad I did, though, because it's so damned good it easily overcame my total lack of faith. I'm still shocked at how much I like these comics. The obvious Grant Morrison influence no doubt helps, but for the most part Way eschews both the grandiose and lachrymose tendencies of My Chemical Romance, making for a comic that's initially far less "emo" than I expected. Is it silly to think a musician would write comics like his songs? And what were your expectations?

Hillary Brown: I think you may not be giving the arch creation that is My Chemical Romance quite enough credit. I'm not necessarily the biggest fan (they get a little shouty for me), but I've enjoyed a song here and there, and I can recognize the way their fans interpret their songs as differing from the way they might be meant. That is: there are people who think the Smiths don't have a sense of humor or that Bauhaus is similarly dour. I wouldn't say MCR is in their league, but they're not entirely serious about their emotions. Aaaanyway. This is not to say I was less skeptical than you, despite hearing good things all around. I was quite skeptical and, therefore, quite happy with the results, which are fresh, funny, interesting, and well-paced. I also thought the art would be too angular for me, but I ended up really liking Ba's stuff and fairly quickly too. The tone throughout is pleasingly dry and rather British without skimping on action, and while there's a bit of initial frustration at one's own failure to grasp who's who immediately, it fades after an issue or two. This is not to say it doesn't have flaws. Much like Morrison, whom I hadn't thought of an an influence but clearly see as one now, Way could work a little harder on his exposition. It's a fine balance to strike, though, and you want to leave just enough mystery to keep things intriguing. On the other hand, if you start to look at the plot too closely, it begins to collapse, to demonstrate that, while its way fun as you speed along, you really shouldn't get out your magnifying glass unless you want to be disappointed.

GM: I like the headlong hurtle through the plot in the earlier issues, the piling on of ideas that aren't always thoroughly explained. But then I love Morrison, Kirby, and Silver Age non-sense, so it's expected I'd dig that. Apocalypse Suite, the first six issue mini-series and collection, is at its best in the early goings, when Way and Ba are setting things up, establishing this world, and spooling out all these great little ideas. They're not all particularly original (if the dude who created the first comic book talking monkey got royalties, he could buy and sell Dubai a thousand times over), but they're presented with such obvious excitement and love for the form that I can't help but get swept up in the rush. In fact, my interested started to dim slightly when the pace slowed down and the story became more focused. That also coincides with a tilt towards the sort of overemotional melodrama I expected, though, and so I can't tell which is more responsible for the book eventually running out of steam. Or maybe it was the graphic death of a character that never, ever should've died, ever.

HB: Ah, but the smartness of the series is its flexibility in time, meaning a) there are a lot of untold potential stories, b) the time spanned is wide, from childhood to adulthood, and c) this means, especially when you incorporate a time-traveling character, that no one ever really dies, which means you can get the impact of a great character's death without having all the drawbacks. There's still so much that remains to be unpacked, like what exactly happened to number five, and this is what makes me want to keep reading, the faith that they'll get to that stuff and do so in an interesting way. You really think it's melodramatic?

GM: Maybe not melodramatic, but when the plot kicks in it sways perilously close to the sort of morose and angsty self-pity you find in bad emo music. Granted the character that most embodies these traits winds up being the bad guy, more or less, and is defeated, so Way's not necessarily endorsing that non-sense. The primary source of the book's drama is built on that whole teenagery "I'm so different, nobody understands me" schtick, and it's a testament to Way's gift for pacing, dialogue, and inspired concepts that I still like Apocalypse Suite as much as I do. And that's a good point about the flexible narrative. The character whose death bummed me out so much makes an appearance in the first issue of the second series, Dallas.

Normally I ask if you're interested in reading future installments; well, we already have, thanks to a preview copy of the first issue of the next series. What did you think of that?

HB: I thought it was a little obscure but promising, which is probably the same way I would have felt upon reading only the first issue of this first story arc. It's definitely a series I could see myself following, if not month to month then at least in trades. I just kind of still think you're overstating the emo quality of Apocalypse Suite. I mean, is it more so than Young Avengers was? Okay. Maybe it is a little. Especially since the whole "music can help me express myself but also destroy the world" theme is in there. But it didn't annoy me, perhaps because of that recent Smiths/Cure dance party Mr. Brown and I played the part of the Smiths at. Mopey adolescent music must be in my blood or something. Would you keep reading, despite being more irritated?

GM: Don't get me wrong: I really like Apocalypse Suite. I'm just noting that it initially won me over in part because it lacked a quality I expected, but that gradually creapt in to an extent. It didn't creep in enough to derail my enthusiasm for the book, but it did temper it very slightly. It's still a really fun comic with a number of good ideas, an interesting team and family dynamic, and fantastic artwork.

I was worried that Way could be the type of writer who exhausts all his good ideas in one swoop, but the first issue of Dallas allayed some of those fears. It's not as immediately striking as the first issue of Apocalypse Suite, and the villains introduced at the end are maybe too much like something you'd find in Morrison's Doom Patrol, but it definitely left me looking forward to the next issue. The final note didn't particularly resonate with me; number 5's final line, and the situation that surrounds it, are just a little too common and generic, I think.

HB: Fair enough. I wasn't giddy with excitement over the cliffhanger ending of the new storyline's first issue, but it's still so much better than most stuff like this, and I may like it as much as I like the first trade of Doom Patrol, which is all I've gotten around to so far.

GM: Yeah, the cliffhanger isn't particularly compelling, if only because the whole "bad-ass character puts over the unseen but upcoming threat that we know absolutely nothing about by totally freaking out about it " thing has been done many times in the past (and damn, hopefully a better writer somewhere can come up with a far less clunky term for that).

What other stuff would you say is like this? Just wondering. And you should read more Doom Patrol. The first trade is great, but it gets even better. Morrison's last eight issues might be my favorite comics ever.

HB: Well, it has stuff in common with what little I know of The Prisoner and Harry Potter and Heroes and, I guess, most teams of younger superheroes. There's a lot of time devoted to digging into their particular talents and backgrounds. It's like you get to tell a bunch of origin stories, and who doesn't like origin stories? The question is whether they can maintain momentum after exhausting that stuff, and I'm not sure that they can, but I also don't necessarily feel like they can't. (Also: okay. I will read more Doom Patrol. Arm twisting not necessary.)

GM: True about origin stories. Notice my interest in Apocalypse Suite slightly abated once they hit the meat of the plot. Dallas will be the test of whether Way can make us care about these characters outside their initial concept and archetypes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets

I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets
by Fletcher Hanks, ed. by Paul Karasik
Fantagraphics 2007

Hillary Brown: Usually, when people go on and on about how weird something is, it's not really that weird--it's just unfamiliar to them. I've certainly done this myself with large chunks of Japanese culture. But calling Fletcher Hanks weird doesn't quite do justice to the comics artist/writer's, um, unique vision. I've been wanting to pick up I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets for at least a year, so pairing it with Herbie was a good excuse. The thing is, Herbie is a thoroughly competent creation--it's just kind of goofy. ISDATCP, on the other hand, would be a real testament to the artistry of the strange outsider, a kind of portrait of Fletcher Hanks as Henry Darger, if it weren't so incredibly lazy. That's the thing: is obsessive repetition the hallmark of an interesting brain or is it really more of a sign flashing "don't get into a conversation with this guy"? I'm still not even sure what I think of this compilation or of Hanks. Every issue of his creations represented here (Stardust the Super Wizard, Fantomah, and Big Red McLane) follows exactly the same path: trouble is detected by superman/woman; hero/heroine takes surprisingly long to arrive, despite having known what was going to happen for some time, during which thousands of people die; "poetic justice" is enacted, often involving levitation of the bad guys. It's utterly itself, but is that self good?

Garrett Martin: Fuck yeah that self is good. Not good like Peanuts or Acme Novelty Library, and not "so good it's bad", but inherently fascinating and entertaining it its own way. Sure, a way that's often disturbing and depressing, but still, completely valid. These strips are striking not just because of the repetition and the flights of ridiculousness (the latter of which I shall admit is the main appeal), but because they're so blunt and savage, and completely unconcerned with (or unaware of) the fact that their target audience is ostensibly a bunch of kids. Yeah, Batman killed some dudes his first year or so, and folks died all the time in Dick Tracy, but Hanks' stuff is particularly violent and vengeance-crazed for the time period.

A lot of folks call what Hanks did "outsider" comics, which is kinda dumb on a few levels. I'm only comfortable with that tag when it's applied to somebody that means well but isn't quite competent, like the Shaggs, or BJ Snowden. Hanks wasn't an outsider, he was just a lazy alcoholic, like you said, and as the editor, Paul Karasik, points out in his comic strip post-script. Yeah, Stardust and Fantomah strips are a bit incompetent, but that's not from a lack of talent so much as Hanks' total disregard of comics as a medium.

HB: You mean Hanks isn't an outsider because he actually did publish these stories? Did they appear in reputable (or as reputable as comics got) publications? Or was it the kind of nonsense most city magazines publish today in order to have something to sell ads alongside? It's hard for me to contextualize them. Basically, I'm trying to figure out in what way he's "competent"? They're lettered in comprehensible English? I mean, each comic tells a story, but it's the same story every time, with minor details changed. The art may differ even less. Is that competent or in-?

GM: Stardust appeared in comics from the Fox company, who published Blue Beetle and early work from well-known, long-time pros like Lou Fine, George Tuska, and a certain li'l fella named Kirby (thanks, Wikipedia!) It was definitely low-rent stuff, but not quite the same as a dude calling himself a video game critic 'cuz he writes 150-word reviews for an unpopular free newspaper. And I'm basing the competency claim on Karasik's strip; it's been a while since I've read it, but doesn't he find a more serious Hanks drawing that doesn't look hastily tossed-off? That kind of impresses Karasick? Okay, maybe it's incompetent, but it's a thoroughly distinct and unique style, both artistically and philosophically. But since we're hung up on that word, let me ask you, do you think Darger or Finster are "competent"?

HB: Well... That's a good question. I guess I do, but then they're not trying for a narrative, or at least Finster's not and Darger's story is mostly in his crazy-ass novel and not so much in the pictures. I'd like for there to be a more direct point of comparison between them. You can probably argue that Hanks's art is competent, if weird and repetitive, but I don't know if you can say the same for his storytelling. This is terrible, though. I'm coming off as though I don't like or appreciate Hanks's stuff, which isn't true. I might be confused by it when I try to think about it deeply, but I did enjoy the unique voice at work. Maybe I should stop trying to analyze potential reactions to it so much.

GM: "Outsider" is such an open-ended term, anyway, it might as well be meaningless. So let's screw that discussion and talk about something better; namely, why this book is so damn awesome. 'Cuz, hell, it is awesome, right? I don't need to know Hanks' backstory to know he must've been one seriously angry dude, all I gotta do is read this book and get beat over the head by the totally cavalier attitude both he and his omnipotent characters hold towards both society and humanity in general. Sure, maybe Hanks held comics and their readers in contempt, or at least didn't care about the quality of his own work, but you can't deny the guy had an amazingly vivid and sordid imagination.

HB: Yeah, it's pretty awesome, even if it's a little Leni Riefenstahl at times, which is fairly awkward, considering that these books were produced between 1939 and 1941. I mean, maybe there's a reason they fell by the wayside, with their blond heroes and heroine stomping on the ugly of the world. Hanks's desire to see death and destruction, too, would soon become reality, with both fire- and atom bombing of civilian populations. Maybe that time felt as weirdly apocalyptic as our own, or maybe he was just a pissed off, violent drunk.

GM: Well, the economy was still pretty god-damned depressed when Hanks was making comics, so there's one sorta parallel to our current situation. And yeah, this stuff is fairly fascist. I generally tune out when somebody attacks superhero comics for being fascist, but it might be irrefutable in the case of Stardust. But, really, there are no politics in this book. Sure, many stories revolve around intrigue and sabotage from the Fifth Column, but, like almost every facet of Hanks' work, there's so little similarity to anything even remotely possible in the real world that it's completely incorrect to call it political. Hanks' conspiracies are "political" in the same way as Major League Baseball using satellites to spy on the American people in that Simpsons episode. His comics are like the Golden Age equivalent of Ed Anger.

HB: It's more political in the way that the letters of raving loonies to
the newspaper are political... Is that what you're saying?

GM: In terms of content, sure, although I have no idea if Hanks shared the paranoia evident in his comics.

HB: True. We don't have any evidence for that. He's still a mystery, and while it's possible that makes his comics better (through not providing more reasons to hate him as a man, which could extend to disliking his artistic creations), they really do have a strange power. The advantage of experiencing a work of art by someone who is probably crazy is that it's continually surprising, which these comics, despite their repetitiveness, are.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Herbie Archive, vol. 1

Herbie Archive, vol. 1
by Shane O'Shea and Ogden Whitney
Dark Horse 2008

Garrett Martin: There is a serious dearth of abject ridiculousness in today's comics. Yeah, there's plenty of winking Silver Age homages and (increasingly sterile) blog-friendly shenanigans of the "nazi gorilla zombie" type (or, y'know, comics made specifically for Chris Sims), but little of the genuinely inspired lunacy that litters the medium's past. Herbie Archives Volume 1, the first of three planned hardcovers collecting a particularly surreal midcentury classic, is a perfect example of the spirit that's far too lacking today. Unlike inexplicably weird comics from guys like Fletcher Hanks or Robert Kanigher, where the oddness stems primarily from alcohol (in Hanks' case), a backbreaking schedule (for Kanigher), and a fundamental lack of respect for the intelligence of the audience (um, both of them?), Herbie mostly realizes its own ridiculousness. It's not really a straight-up satire of anything, but in its Mad-style irreverence Herbie does take some clear shots at both comic book conventions (uh, not the hotel ballrooms full of dudes in Beast Master costumes, but, y'know, customs or rules, or whatever) and contemporary society in general. The obvious stabs at humor sometimes fall flat, being too broad or corny, but the storytelling is truly surprising and hallucinatory in a highly satisfying way. In that way it particularly reminded me of Fletcher Hanks, and last year's excellent I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets collection, but with far less obvious rage and violence. Did you like this book? Was it too goofy for you?

Hillary Brown: Oh heck no. I don't really know if there is much that's too goofy for me. I'd never heard of Herbie before, and I enjoyed the heck out of it, especially the cameos by famous figures in history and pop culture, which kind of seem to meld, from Fidel Castro to Kennedy (and Jackie), LBJ (and Ladybird), and the Beatles. It's interestingly international in outlook, and the art is pretty great (all colorful and amusing), but mostly it's a wonderful kind of empowerment tale for fat loser kids. I mean, Herbie's dad is really damn mean to him, isn't he? Almost to the point of emotional abuse? And yet, the little fat nothing lets it all bounce off him. Sure, he has magical powers, powers that don't seem to be limited in any way other than through the imagination of the creator, but isn't the real joy of the comic in this hero who's really more of an a-hero than an antihero?

GM: Yeah, Mr. Popnecker is so shockingly, over-the-top mean to Herbie that it just becomes another part of the book's amazing ridiculousness, along with all the historical personages and, um, Frankensteins (yeah, multiple Frankensteins, here, or at least one Frankenstein making many appearances). And that international outlook (U Thant plays a big role in one issue) feels decidedly '60's, reflecting an era when politics and foreign policy were, if not sexy (or endlessly pants-shittingly frightening), then at least more of an active concern for average citizens than we've seen the last decade or so. Maybe now that socioeconomic events have directly impacted Americans' eagerness to buy HD-TVs and $5-a-box breakfast cereals, leading to the results of this historic election, we'll start seeing Evo Morales randomly pop up in Incredible Hercules. But, yes, fraternizing with these celebrities and world leaders is another aspect of Herbie's empowerment, elevating the hopelessly marginal and impressionless to a state of ultimate, if quiet, authority. And that's also, y'know, pretty damn ridiculous.

This doesn't really feel like a comic for kids, does it? But who else would've read this in 1961? Did typical comics-reading kids know who U Thant was back then?

HB: I doubt it, but it's kind of like the two-or-more-level jokes on The Simpsons, which I know kids watch. Some people just think the bopping with a lollipop is hilarious, and others are all like oh ha ha U Thant. It's also potentially educational that way. I mean, if I didn't get a reference on Gilmore Girls, I'd go look it up. And not that these kids would have had the internet, but it's possible they'd ask their parents who some of these people were. Plus, you know, it's fairly clearly marketed to nerds, who might actually know some of this information. I'm sure you, like me, had your store of political knowledge while yet a young lad. So I guess I'm saying that it doesn't seem all that crazy to me when I think about it in more depth.

Frankenstein having magical powers, though? That's nuts.

GM: True. Even if I didn't understand Mad's political jokes when I was a kid, I certainly acted like I did.

As great as Herbie is, the concept is a bit limited, right? Will you be looking for the next two archives, or has this thoroughly scratched whatever itch might exist?

HB: Well, you're right that there's not a lot of development. I suppose I'd at least thumb through another archive volume or two, but I don't know if I'd go hugely out of my way. On the other hand, I react that way to a lot of stuff that doesn't have a compelling continuous narrative. It's a problem with anything before, like, the 1980s, though, and Herbie is certainly more interesting than most other things I'd let fall by the wayside. Noncommital? Yeah, but that's a step up from negative.

GM: I agree a lack of a serialized narrative generally inhibits my interest in something. Many of the big DC Showcase books are a total slog due to the intense repetition and lack of an overarcing storyline. But, like Metamorpho and Silver Age Superman, Herbie is so brilliantly ridiculous that I can't wait to read more.