Pipeline: Christmas Comics, Goodbye Gareb & More

Tue, December 6th, 2011 at 2:58pm PST

Comic Books
Augie De Blieck Jr., Columnist

THE LAST CHRISTMAS: GROSS, BUT FUNNY

"The Last Christmas" is a post-apocalyptic comedy which ponders the fate of Santa Claus in a world where nobody remaining believes in him because the world has gone to hell. Complete with zombies, impaled corpses, buxom babes, and bodily function humor, it's an immature collection of action movie trappings mixed with crude grade school humor -- and it works.

Writers Gerry Dugan ("The Infinite Horizon") and comedian Brian Posehn (the mailroom guy from "Just Shoot Me" -- kids, ask your parents/much older siblings) combine to give us a suicidal, hard-drinking Santa Claus surrounded by war-mongering elves looking to avenge their quaint home's destruction by roaming ravagers. The whole thing is narrated by a talking snowman who in your mind is already a Rankin Bass character, but with a smirk and more attitude.

The story arc isn't anything terribly original, nor is it meant to be. This is a revenge tale staged like a stereotypical action flick, with the hero (Santa Claus) having to come back from a devastating loss to reclaim his life and avenge a loved one. A big action sequence in San Francisco in the last two issues gives you all the Kick 'Splode Boom that you could ask for, complete with over-the-top Christmas-themed one-liners to punctuate the slaughter with hilarity.

The art by Rick Remender (with inks from Hilary Barta) made me sad that he spends so much time writing well-regarded Marvel titles these days, because his cartooning skills are so strong. Marvel should bring "What The -- ?!?" back just so Remender can draw something funny again. The snowman narrator of "The Last Christmas" is my favorite character in the book. He's expressive and well-drawn. The elves are gnarly little buggers, well-animated and creative in their body language. Even Santa -- drawn as a down-on-his-luck old man -- has enough exaggeration put into him that he bounds across the page like a force of nature, even when he's staggeringly drunk. Honestly, the weakest part of the book is whenever Remender has to draw "normal" humans, who look relatively staid. I'd take a whole book of elves at war with each other -- sequel time! -- over elves at war with human-looking ravagers.

Remender, as you might expect given his past efforts like "Black Heart Billy", isn't afraid to draw blood and gore, and you'll get a heaping handful of that here. I could have done without most of it, to be honest, but to most of the audience for this book, that's going to be a strong draw: blood, guts, and bodily humor. As long as that doesn't bother you, there's a lot to like in this quick read. (It took me less than a half hour to read this one, and I'm generally a slow comic reader.)

Published by Image Comics in 2006 (time flies!), "The Last Christmas" later received trade paperback treatment with all five issues and a few sketchbook pages added in for just $15. If you have a strong stomach, it's a funny bit of Christmas reading unlike everything else on the stands. Come for the one-liners, stay for the cartooning, then watch "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" to clear your mind out. (CBR had a preview of the first issue, as well as an interview with Duggan and Posehn.)

DIGITAL COMICS LINKAGE

  • Dark Horse announced their day and date program last week. For a brief moment in time, it was even thought that they were doing away with the digital tax and providing digital comics cheaper than print comics. Sadly, Michael Richardson clarified that statement just last night, saying that Dark Horse would be following DC's lead in dropping the price only a month after release.

    So Dark Horse went from being an innovator and an industry disruptor to a follower. With a pack of licensed titles that would appeal to those not already entrenched in the Direct Market, Dark Horse had a strong position to play to bring new readers in at a cheaper immediate price point. Sadly, they bailed, and with that we lost the last best chance at digital comics disruption for the near future.

  • Last month, Mark Millar let it be known that he wants you to buy his new comic at a comic shop. Don't buy his new comic digitally. Wait to buy his new comic for six months, then you can buy his new comic digitally, if you want. Die-hards are the only ones who need to buy his new comic in comic shops. The media tie-in people he brings to comics aren't so time sensitive to buying his comic, so they can wait -- and should wait -- four to six months before they buy his new comic.

    What's this all about? Did you notice that Mark Millar had a new comic published a couple of weeks ago? After that blow-up, I bet you did. And I bet he sold more both in print and digitally. If nothing else, Millar is great at marketing his comics.

OTHER LINKS

  • Happy Blogiversary to the web's #1 Swamp Thing fan, Mike Sterling.

  • The best thing that could possibly happen if "Watchmen 2" is for real? DC might choose that project as an excuse to finally publish an "Absolute The Spirit by Darwyn Cooke" volume. There's a bare spot on the bottom shelf of my bookcase, just aching for it. "Absolute New Frontier" looks so lonely thereā€¦

    And if Cooke isn't doing "Watchmen 2," then let's quickly get him onto something high profile enough at DC to justify their marketing department's list of requirements to give us that book -- I know The Spirit isn't part of The New 52, but: Pretty please, DC?

  • Remember when Wizard had trading cards of Santa Claus? That was back in the seventeenth issue (1994) of the magazine. Rob Liefeld drew "Santa the Barbarian," and Todd McFarlane had "Santa Todd." A year later Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti one-upped them with a chromium trading card featuring a ripped Santa with an elf.
Chromium doesn't scan particularly well

GOOD-BYE TO GAREB

In recent months, I've come to regard Gareb Shamus as a sad side note in comics history. His power having waned to near-nothingness in the comics world (dead magazine, dead digital magazine, dead blog, dead Twitter account, a comics convention circuit dropping shows like flies and no longer able to compete for dates against conventions that feature comics, etc.), he finally departed Wizard last week and with it, one can only hope, the comics industry. I find it hard to get worked up anymore over such a backwards-thinking ex-publisher. Farewell to thee, have a nice life, don't let the door hit you on the way out. The end.

Or, you know, it might just be a bait and switch.

But then this BleedingCool.com story made me want to jump up and do a jig on Gareb Shamus' comics career's grave. It made me sad he wasn't involved with Wizard anymore just because it means I couldn't claim to be boycotting everything Wizard did just to get even with him.

Going after someone's day job in retaliation for a cartoon he did about you is beyond dirty pool. The string of expletives I muttered under my breath when I read that story isn't fit for publication in this column. I want to go burn all my back issues of "Wizard" now. I think ripping them up is too kind, and that Frank Miller was a wuss. The heck with fire code regulations, he should have just burned the mag when he had the chance.

I hope that any comics professional (especially aspiring comic professionals) who may ever be enticed to work with the man -- should he decide to do anything in the comics world again -- remember this incident.

THIS WEEK IN COMICS: 07 DECEMBER 2011

I'm looking at the projected new releases from ComicList.com, whose track record is very good. While I long ago gave up on looking for ten interesting releases to track, I'm still amused by the releases.

When I see that 12 Guage Comics is releasing a trade paperback titled "Boondock Saints Volume 1 In Nomine Patris", and I start singing Mister Mister's "Kyrie" quietly to myself. Am I mixing up my Latin prayers too much? (My jokes this week are current, as of the second Vatican Council of 1965.)

Over at Aardvark-Vanaheim, did you know that Dave Sim is still producing "Glamourpuss?" It's up to issue #22 this week, so I imagine we're not too many months away from the first phonebook collection of it. Dare to dream?

BOOM! changed the title of their new series "Outcast" to "Valen the Outcast" after the owners of the Valiant properties pointed out their trademark on the "Outcast" title. No word on whether Babylon 5's owners will be talking to Boom! next.

Dark Horse isn't publishing any comics this week, but are offering a Drinky Crow shirt for men and woman in multiple sizes and colors. With all the t-shirts they're selling, you'd think they were web cartoonists.

DC Comics is back to publishing New 52 titles this week after last month's fifth Wednesday skip-week. But the big ticket DC item is the "Complete Smallville" DVD set. That's a big, honking doorstopper of a box. There's also a new printing of "Absolute Watchmen" out this week to capitalize on the latest internet rumors. Or maybe DC planted those rumors to goose sales of the book? As if comics could be that organized...

Dynamite launches their new "Voltron" series with 8 different covers. Collect them all and they merge together to form a crane whose wings flap when you pull on the tail.

IDW is publishing "Eternal Descent Volume 2" #2. Much to my chagrin, this is not a licensed title based on the best, but sadly forgotten, first person shooter game of the 90s, "Descent." They are, however, publishing a "Shaman's Tears" trade paperback, because Image knows it still won't sell nearly as well as their other titles.

Marvel Comics offers up the "X-Statix Omnibus" for $125.00. I'm not a big Mike Allred fan, but I loved this series. I don't have any problems with Allred's art aside from it just not being my cup of tea, so save your hate mail. I'm happy you enjoy it, and now you'll have an awfully fat collection of it. If you haven't read the series before, this is probably the most expensive possible way to catch up without a safety net, but I think it's a good title.

And don't read the title too quickly or you'll be as disappointed as I am that "Deadpool MAX X-Mas Special" doesn't feature Sam Kieth's purple guy as a guest star.

I'm back on the bandwagon of trying to slim down my comics collection. I've got eBay auctions going, but I'm also announcing sales on my Twitter and Google+ feeds. So see the links below if you're looking to buy some relatively cheap back issues out of my longboxes.

AugieShoots.com || VariousandSundry.com || Google+ || Twitter || E-mail || Pipeline Message Board

TAGS:  pipeline, rick remender, gareb shamus, wizard, dark horse comics, joe quesada, rob liefeld, todd mcfarlane

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