By: Joe Kubert, Sam Glanzman, Brian Buniak (story & art)
The Story: Rebel mutant aliens, dead chickens in drawers, animatronic apes, and more.
The Review: Back in my high school English teaching days—funny, how three years later you can look on such times with actual fondness*–I used to give a lesson on how stories do more than just entertain; they also reveal something about the storyteller. Reading this series, you get a sense not only of the creators’ artistic styles, but you also get a glimpse into the values they grew up with and the beliefs they hold dear.
Clearly, “The Redeemer” has a strong allegorical element to it that touches on the Biblical. It’s hard to think otherwise where you have a timeless struggle between a being full of malice (“the Infernal One!”) and a seemingly ordinary human who holds the potential for unfathomable greatness. Maybe for that reason the tale does have an oddly compelling pulse, even when its own nobility makes it a trifle wearisome. Jim Torkan keeps going on and on about his murdered crew, but despite his self-righteous anger, he seems otherwise emotionally unattached. It’s really more about his own sense of failure than loss. Ultimately, he overcomes his trial as a matter of fate rather than his own inherent qualities. How else do you explain the perfect timing of an old memory pushing him to rebellion? Kubert’s art may appear delicate, but reveals a fierce intensity when called for, the work of a master who’s honed his craft for years.
Of all the features this series has presented, Glanzman’s tales from his time aboard the U.S.S. Stevens is probably my favorite. You really don’t get purely autobiographical material out of mainstream comics anymore, so God bless DC for producing it. Glanzman doesn’t really tell his life’s story in any consistent way. His choice of vignettes are only loosely prompted by the present action and they rarely make much of a point, if at all, and occasionally they do have the same rambling, tangential tone of your grandfather waxing nostalgic in a rocking chair. Still, his little stories capture you by their very smallness, gentle memories of a quainter time, touchingly rendered in his careful, old-fashioned hand.
“Spit” remains a bleak little read, both in following the sufferings of the titular orphan boy and in the rough, shadowy art Kubert applies to the story. Still, against all that harshness, Kubert injects some of those good, redeeming points of brightness that everyone seemed to believe in as fact back in his day. The cook who lords over Spit may push the lad hard, but he can’t help revealing a deeper attachment when he rescues Spit from drowning. Sure, he may claim he doesn’t want to lose the free labor, but one doesn’t take those kinds of risks just to save himself a bit of clean-up work. Anyway, Spit is all alone when he first rolls off the boat; it takes a watchful eye and quite a bit of fleetness from a guy with a peg leg to make it there that fast, no?
There’s little to say about “The Cartoonist” except that it succinctly and poignantly captures the pain of taking artistic risks and getting utterly rejected by the decidedly mainstream powers that be. I have, if possible, even less to say about the latest installment of “Angel and the Ape” since the slapstick humor barely elicits a chuckle, the plot’s one unexpected twist has all the shock value of a furiously rubbed sock, and the art is a stream of unnerving caricatures.
Conclusion: I’m guessing only Silver Aged readers will consider the stuff in this issue particularly challenging, but even for us embittered modern readers, we can appreciate the simple interests contained in these stories.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * Just kidding. I loved it then, and I miss it rather sadly now.
– Noel Kurt is basically Golden Age Lois Lane.