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Joe Kubert Presents #4 – Review

JOE KUBERT PRESENTS #4

By: Joe Kubert, Brian Buniak, Sam Glanzman (story & art)

The Story: A Confederate savior and a talking ape, but it’s the “Asiatic” who’s crazy—figures.

The Review: When I said that I choose to evaluate stories for what they’re intended to be, not for what I want them to be, I think I had titles like this one in mind.  Against all the flashy and splashy superhero books out there, the tales presented by Joe Kubert probably don’t offer much competition in the pure excitement department.  But I’d plead with readers to give this series a chance on its own merits: as a piece of living history with eager ambitions of its own.

I don’t think anyone reading “The Redeemer” can claim to not know where the story is going at all times.  In a way, though, this feature is pretty radical, even by contemporary standards.  After all, Jim Torkan, though identified and feared as the source of humanity’s salvation, wanders into some very questionable moral territory with his actions.  He kills (even if the victims are would-be rapists); he abandons a woman to fend for herself alone amidst the ruins of her town (even if he leaves her some food and money); and he continues to follow Doc Bender, despite witnessing the older man killing someone in cold blood—and he’s a Confederate in this incarnation.  But perhaps that’s the whole point.  This is about redemption, not perfection, and one must have sins to be redeemed, as Torkan does.  Kubert’s fraught narration aside (“Examine their inner-most hearts and you will find less nobility and a plethora of selfish aggrandizement!”), his light and easy linework makes even the simplest images look pleasant and profound.

In sharp contrast, Buniak’s ongoing tales of “Angel and the Ape” feel like the worst of both worlds: a tribute to the most formulaic and insipid of past stories and a dull, predictable offering for a modern audience.  Whatever smidgeon of a plot this issue’s chapter offers, it eventually devolves into a spat between Angel and Sam over his heretofore unrevealed ability to speak fluent English.  Buniak’s caricature-style art is pure buffoon, the hammiest and broadest expressions and movements possible, the visual equivalent of a double-wink and elbow nudge.

Of all the features in this series, I think perhaps Glanzman’s anecdotes from the “U.S.S. Stevens” are probably the most valuable.  Maybe this is just my inner geek coming out,* but I loved all the detailed explanations about how U.S. destroyers operated.  Being a decidedly non-military oriented person, the whole feature gave me a really deep appreciation for the power, the dedication, and the valiance of these craft.  I think also the fact that Glanzman’s stories come from a real, historical place also lends them a special authenticity that pretty much no other title on the stands has.  Had “Crazy” Buck been fictional, it would’ve been very likely that a writer would go overboard with his craziness, gleefully inserting whatever nonsense that writer can imagine into his mouth.  But Buck’s spiritual philosophy and ethereal view of life feels credible and real, down to his recitation of a Zen poem (“I always remember Kiansu in March, / the cry of the partridge, the mass of fragrant flowers.”), one that is neither speech (for it has no meaning) nor silence.  Buck’s fixation of the Stevens’ lack of figurehead eventually reveals a subconscious fear and truth: no matter how grand and powerful the ship, it bears little to no hope of protecting its sailors in this conflict.  Glanzman’s straightforward but intricate style of art perfectly conveys the non-fictional qualities of the feature without bogging you down with excessive realism.

Conclusion: Interesting, it not thrilling, and rather original in its own right.  This mini is for those who want a broader sample of what comics can be as storytelling devices.

Grade: B

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * And I am seriously a geek.  In high school, we had a shooting scare that made about ninety-five percent of the student population stay home from school one Friday.  I was not one of them.  Instead, I attended all seven of my classes that day out of anxiety that I would hurt my teachers’ feelings if I didn’t.  Yeah, you might have beaten me up freshman year.  Search your hearts; you know it to be true.

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