June 6, 2012
You guys out there who follow comics know what this week’s Big Deal is. You should know, then, that I’m not gonna be reviewing any of it–or, hell, reading any of it. I know, I know, it’s such a let-down, especially because you know and care who I am and what I have to say about these things. I think we’ll be okay, though. Certainly that tunnel can’t get any darker.
Dark Avengers #175
Marvel Comics. Written by Jeff Parker. Illustrated by Declan Shalvey. Colored by Frank Martin Jr.
For purposes of brand synergy or whatever, the Thunderbolts have progressed from their semi-regular conceptual shake-up to a full-on rebranding. Picking up characters from Brian Bendis’s recent ‘Dark Avengers 2: Dark Harder‘ plot and hitching them to mainstay series lead Luke Cage, Parker and Shalvey hit all the perfunctory beats. There’s subplot set-up, there’s a fight, there’s a twist ending. The sad thing is that it does feel totally perfunctory at times — like these two guys are running down their checklist to make sure that the comic could be picked up and understood by the most freshly-spanked comic-cult initiate. There’s a weird balance that’s been lost since days that probably never happened to begin with: exposition, excitement, and exotica in weird but complementary proportions. The irony remains: an instantly comprehensible Marvel book is one of the most soaked in Marvel continuity, while the company’s tentpole mega-event is borderline glossolalia.
Green Arrow #10
DC Comics. Written by Ann Nocenti. Penciled by Steve Kurth. Inked by Wayne Faucher. Colored by Richard and Tanya Horie.
The old Ann Nocenti — the one we missed! In 20 pages, she and an unfortunately rushed-looking Steve Kurth kick through a weird story that brushes all the weird spots mainstreamers usually shy away from. Green Arrow, divorced from subplots, investigates a shady “servbot” enterprise after a cyborg tries to self-terminate in front of him. The dialogue is theatrical, and the situations just as contrived as an SVU rerun. But like her best stories, Nocenti clearly has something on her mind, and rather than using the comic as a heavy-handed, thinly-gloved screed, she lets those interests and questions seep and ooze around the edges. She’s let down by Kurth and inker Wayne Faucher, who turn out page after page of unfocused, uninspired staging and follow-through. It feels like this issue got a lethal case of necrotic deadline-itis, but it’s still got a great beat, and you can’t dance to it.
Winter Soldier #6
Marvel Comics. Written by Ed Brubaker. Penciled by Michael Lark. Inked by Stefano Gaudiano and Brian Thies. Colored by Bettie Breitweiser.
Ed Brubaker welcomes back old co-conspirator Michael Lark for a story of the Winter Soldier hunting down his lethal, unpredictable protege. The stakes in this first installment are strictly cat and mouse, but with a grimness that Lark does better than anyone Marvel’s got. The callbacks to Brubaker’s own first Winter Soldier arc light up like neon — sometimes too much so: the fate of Jim Davis, replacement Bucky to a replacement Cap, doesn’t really shock or awe. Brubaker feels like he’s still playing with the switches to make this title unique, trying to flesh out the titular hero’s dial-a-past continuity to make him engaging, without truly utilizing the great characters (Nick Fury, Black Widow) who are right there in the supporting cast. Watching him figure it out is still good fun, and Lark’s art is so elegantly tough that you’ll be too busy gawking to worry about anything else.
Love etc, LTZ
June 1, 2012
Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” — from their depleted-uranium juggernaut Vol. 4 — is an airless void of a song. The riff is loud and deep, the drums martial, and Ozzy Osbourne does his singular, ghostly wail from somewhere in the distance. Since the lyrics are about being an acid casualty, a time/space expatriate, or both, Ozzy really does sound like a ghost. His cries are echoes from long ago, still audible in the present day. It’s a perfectly all right song, if you’re into things like songs.
1000 Homo DJs’ cover of “Supernaut,” on the other hand, is the sound of time and space exploding. One of the numerous side projects under Al (Ministry) Jourgensen’s umbrella, “Supernaut” is most famous for roping in a young Trent Reznor on vocals. When Reznor’s record label blocked the recording, Jourgenson redid the vocal track himself, imitating Reznor. Urban legend says that he never actually re-recorded the track — he just distorted Reznor’s vocal and sent it out. The original release, with Jourgenson, is deeper and delivered with more of Uncle Al’s curt bark of a singing style.
What makes “Supernaut” better than any other single Jourgensen did with Ministry, or Reznor did with his own Nine Inch Nails, is how it just might be the one single where neither man gave a fuck. Paul Barker, Jourgensen’s longtime musical partner in Ministry, has told stories of studio perfectionism bordering on the irrational. Reznor, meanwhile, is the Brian Wilson of the 90s, laboring endlessly over richly textured sonic sculptures designed to capture the most primal, teenage emotions. Al and Trent yell on their recordings — a lot. They spew distortion and make beats that can be felt like spinal taps. It’s all carefully considered, precise anger, though. None of their “serious” work has the same recklessness of “Supernaut’s” shaggy metal-psychedelia.
Listen to the sample that opens the track: “Practically every one of the Top 40 records being played on every radio station in the United States is a communication to the children to take a trip — to cop out — to groove…” That’s exactly what Jourgensen and Reznor (and industrial superdrummer Bill Rieflin) did. Instead of going for Sabbath’s stoned Satanic majesty, they sped it up and turned it into a black magic blood ritual — industrial mosh-metal for troubled, angry seekers. Like all great Sabbath songs, “Supernaut” is both thoughtful and stupid; the 1000 Homo DJs version is so loud and frantic it can’t hear itself think.
The Jourgensen version is fine, but Jourgensen was always more at home in the wilds than Reznor. When he screams so loud it sounds like he might choke in the middle of it, it’s in line with Uncle Al’s typical teeth-bared aggression. (And yet, when Ministry re-cut “Supernaut” for its Greatest Fits album, the result was uninspired bordering on offensive.) The unexpurgated Reznor vocal was finally released in the late 90s on a box set of Wax Trax! stuff, and it blows the original (well, “original,” considering that the Reznor cut is the original original) out of the water. When Trent Reznor screams, he’s only capable of making it sound like inhuman anguish — he’s not faring the spaceways, he’s feeling his psyche being torn to ribbons as it bursts from overexpansion. Between the buzzsaw thuggery of the guitars and Reznor’s demented whooping and gargling (check that amazing end montage), 1000 Homo DJs created the 90s’ best vision of cosmic hell.