THE QUARANTINE QUAGMIRE [Vol. 4]: Kirby’s Dreamland.

“Great Rao” Bass @kidtimebomb

I’ve had a chance over the course of the past week to read #8 and #9 of SOLO (click here for Quagmire 3’s focus on prior SOLO issues), fine work by Teddy Kristiansen and Scott Hampton, who I both only know from this project, but for this week’s Monday Night Mass quarantine edition, I decide to power through the last three issues first thing.

Damion Scott is #10. Another new name to me. Hailing from Jamaica, this guy describes himself as a hip-hop artist and says graffiti art is a huge influence on him. He certainly wears it where everyone can see it. Scott’s striking imagery is kinetic and dynamic, busting loose off the page, which is well-suited to the opening Wally West story. He’s also got eight pin-ups of Superman that are all bold and iconic, followed by a Stephanie-Brown-Robin story that switches to a style more reminiscent of Ty Templeton doing animated-series adaptations. Then, Damion finishes up with a Tim-Drake-Batman story where he’s trying to romance Cassandra-Cain-Batgirl but keeps getting distracted by fighting bad guys, this in the same graffiti style of the opening Wally story, providing stylistic symmetry to this issue.

Next up is titanic cartoonist Sergio Aragonés, who was almost 70 at the point that he created his issue and a widely acknowledged master of the craft. This one’s quite a bit of a leap for those folks not already familiar with GROO THE WANDERER or any of Aragonés’ other work through the years, much more of a humorous MAD MAGAZINE sort of situation. Probably my favorite of the nine stories written and drawn by Aragonés is “It’s Always Hard at the Beginning, or, My First Three Nights in NYC,” a quality little five-pager full of wit and the expected catastrophe. Though Mark Evanier pens the final piece, “A Batman Story,” that’s pretty great as well.

The final issue of SOLO is by Brendan McCarthy. I’ve always been a big fan of this guy, who in the eighties designed the characters for Grant Morrison’s ZENITH, as well as the wonderful Danny the Street for DOOM PATROL, and then also got noticed for that SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN relaunch with Peter Milligan. He would go on to co-write and work on that insane MAD MAX: FURY ROAD just a few years back with George Miller, but in 2006, Chiarello tapped him to close out this series, and the man knocked it out of the park.

McCarthy has a color palette completely unique onto himself, very much a day-glo Yellow-Submarine psychedelic thing, and his short stories are absolutely mental. There’s a three-page FLASH hit that’s as crazy as anything I’ve ever seen someone do with old Barry, then a page in the style of Frank Quitely featuring a character attempting a “Ditranko Download.” There’s a page in the style of Dave McKean and a Batman prose story with illustrations in the style of the Allreds before he careens back into his own original palette and style. Really a tour-de-force and a strong way to close out this volume. Top marks and highest praise to everyone involved. Everyone should check out SOLO.

I really don’t have much left after just those 144 pages of madness, but lately I’ve been finally after all these years reading Kirby’s THE ETERNALS, so I do #5 before bed. This contains a pretty wild beat for me because I’ve been peripherally aware of these characters for decades and knew the lead was named Ikarris, but I never put it together until this issue that everybody’s based on Greek/Roman mythology, just the same deal he did nearly twenty years earlier with Norse mythology, only the spelling’s tweaked. Makarri is Mercury, Thena is just missing that first A, Zuras is clearly Zeus. It’s a fine idea that I can’t believe I never knew about for all these years.

But those last three examples are actually introduced in this issue, so it certainly carries you right along. The general consensus is that Jack Kirby artistically peaked in the early seventies and never bounced back from the heartbreak of Infantino cancelling them mid-stream, but only three years later, he’s still operating at an extremely high level of craft, particularly because if you check that Nov. 1976 cover-date, he also produced CAPTAIN AMERICA #203 that month, as well as his penultimate BLACK PANTHER #12. Consider that. Telling definitive tales of two iconic characters he created in 1941 and 1966 in 1976 while also nonchalantly updating Greek/Roman mythology into future-science crackling Kirby greatness. That is an insane level of productivity.

ALL PRAISE JACK KIRBY!

WE ACCELERATE OUR IMAGINATIONS IN HIS NAME!

Another wonderful night of quarantine reading. I hope you find something cool in your own back-issue bins to fall into yourself, loyal readers. Keep on, y’all.

-Rob Bass

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