December 17, 2013

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Magic Bullet #6

Written and Illustrated by Various Creators, including Rafer Roberts, Andrew Cohen, Matt Dembicki, Carolyn Belefski, Joe Carabeo, and Rob Anderson
Published by DC Conspiracy

The long-running tabloid anthology, edited again by Carolyn Belefski, returns with characters old and new in one-page strips that take advantage of the size and space provided by the format, but didn't quite have the usual innovation we've seen in the past.

One of the things I really liked about the older issues of Magic Bullet was their eagerness to play with the fact that instead of a quarter or half sized comic zine (or even in full-size mode), the creators had 11x17 to work with. As we've moved further in, that's starting to fall away, replaced by comics that feel more like traditional Sunday strips.

Part of that is likely due to Belefski's taste, which runs more to newspaper strips than mine (she's part of Team Cul de Sac, and her webcomic Curls is definitely in the style of a daily strip). The other part is that the newness has worn off, given that these have existed for three years now.

That doesn't mean I didn't like Magic Bullet 6. There are plenty of good stories, including the opening one by Henry and Jacob Warrenfeltz, in which a man who is programmed by a screen in his skull has his routine life changed by a girl who orders him to "have fun," leaving him to bounce around the Metro and run off into the Washington, DC skyline. Belefski has a good eye for talent, and there's nothing wrong with the quality of the comics we see here. But I admit that I miss the more anarchic nature of Magic Bullet under Andrew Cohen and Rafer Roberts, and I hope that when there's another editorial change, assuming I can get a copy on the West Coast, we'll see more of it again.

In the meantime, there's plenty to enjoy here, with the personal highlights for me being the contributions of the creators I know best, like Roberts, Cohen, and Matt Dembicki. Rafer has Nightmare take on the ultimate prize--a great white shark, with its rows and rows of delicious teeth.  Roberts is at the top of his game with this character who is coming to the web in January, drawing hysterical dream balloons for Nightmare, who has the most amazing facial features for a creature out of a Laurel and Hardy movie.

Dembicki gets political, taking the NRA to the woodshed by turning their leader into a LEgo character, who has his real self revealed by a human Captain America (looking suspiciously like his son) while blathering on about gun rights. Cohen, of course, does his Dr. W. thing, which always skews panel boundaries no matter what medium he's working in. This time, the lithe letter is caught in a Mario problem, going after a princess in a tower while attacked by those who want to tell him how to do it. As dimension-bending as usual, Cohen's work in this big space is always a highlight for me.

Other highlights in this issue were a surprise appearance by the Rex: Zombie Killer crew, written by Rob Anderson and illustrated by Dafu Yu. Set in a traveling moment, it's a good introduction to the premise of a group of animals trying to find a safe haven during a zombie outbreak. I also really liked Donald Saves the Day (by Kevin Panetta and Mike Short), where a chimney sweep turns into a superhero, saving his town from destruction, just by doing his job.Short's art is full of thin lines and active, mobile characters, and there's a lot of humor in the panel layouts that plays well with the lighthearted script.

Another good entry was the nudist time travel epic, by  Jeff McClelland, Kurt Belcher, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, and Tom Ziuko. A man works to keep the timeline out of trouble, but he does it without trousers for an incredibly amusing reason I won't spoil here. Big and bold with lots of medium shots (tastefully obscured), this one feels like a B-movie as viewed through the lens of Mad Magazine, and was a personal favorite.

No matter what the content inside, I'll always look forward to a new issue of Magic Bullet, because I love the idea of a free tabloid full of nothing but good comics, which range from solid to amazing, depending on your personal taste. Some ideas lose their stride and speed over time. Despite some changes in the subject matter, Magic Bullet has the same quality--if not quite the same design sense--as its very first issue, and continues to be a comic collection you should grab as soon as you see it on a rack somewhere or on a comic show table.