Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

September 4, 2015

Go, Read: R. Fiore On A New Bunch Of Mainstream Comics

imageI enjoy reading R. Fiore whenever I got the chance. Fiore was the most important critic in Comics Journal history -- not a history that everyone's interested in, I'll admit -- because he showed that the contrarian stance that the magazine took towards corporate output and material that adhered closely to corporate output could be applied over and over again, via humor and insight, to a dozen comics a month. It seemed likely this would be the case from Marilyn Bethke forward, but Fiore was the one who served on point the longest. His is the default voice for all of comics reviewing, including for many people who have no idea he exists.

Fiore may be a bit unsuited for social media-driven comics culture because a lot of his constructions are personal ones, and pulled out squiggling into the sun on their lonesome can be surrounded and hectored to death with a million modern rhetorical antibodies. For someone who's been reading him as long as I have, though, it's a joy to see new material. I found this latest column fascinating, both for its undercurrent of self-criticism and for the usual array of cleverly written but super-solid insights into the work discussed. He praises Matt Fraction's wit, which is an excellent avenue into that writer's work that rarely gets consideration. And he's still good with the asides like when he describes David Aja: "he is after all like Alex Toth with a good writer." I know people might blow past something like that, but for me it's a stop and stare at the screen moment. Is that who David Aja is? Does that sound right? Does that hold up to what I know?

When I talk to people that wrote about comics in the 1980s and 1990s, they often claim their superiority; the 1980s folks in particular. I always thought that writing comics criticism of that confrontational type was a lot easier when the job was comparing the latest run of All Star Squadron to a few issues of Love And Rockets, all for an audience primed to believe the direction you were probably going to go. Today there's a relatively high level of craft and artistic effort on the best mainstream books, alternative books where the subtle differences in quality thwart easy one-liners, and considerable work in all sort of revived genres that has to be processed on its own terms. To have a Bob Fiore drop in for a few words is great; that he's genuinely engaging with this work and questioning past assumptions, that's such a wonderful thing even if you disagree with him on both ends.
posted 12:05 am PST | Permalink

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