April 11, 2012
Before sitting down to read all this stuff, I sat down (same chair even) and watched Fix: The Ministry Movie. If you ever want to learn anything about Ministry–the band, the culture that gave rise to it, the musical innovations they stake a reasonable claim toward, the total collapse–go read the Wikipedia entry. If you want to see a bunch of interviews about how much heroin Uncle Al Jourgensen was doing in ’96 and a bunch of undated footage of him getting high and acting zany, then definitely go with the movie.
DVD bonus features: the lingering question of why Casey Chaos was asked to participate, since all he had to contribute was the comic relief of seeing him looking like this:
Kaboom/Boom Entertainment. Written by Ryan North. Illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb. Backup story #1 written and illustrated by Michael DeForge. Backup #2 written and illustrated by Zac Gorman.
In Adventure Time #2, the Lich King–mystical enemy of all that lives, etc., particularly our heroes Finn and Jake–used a magic sack to destroy the world. Adventure Time #3 opens with same–”And that’s how the Lich won and the Earth was destroyed forever.” The next page is solid black but for a ‘THE END’ logo and credits. By page three, we’re back to normal, which is sort of a let-down–they could have milked it another page or two at least. In the footnotes for page 3, writer Ryan North notes: “I was going to make this and all the remaining pages in the book entirely black…” and now that he’s broached the idea, I kind of wish he had.
It’s like this story about that old Chris Elliott TV show, Get a Life–the showrunner, David Mirkin, wanted to go into one act break (commercial break) by having Chris Elliott’s character appear to die, and then spend the entire next act/segment with a static shot of Elliott lying dead on the ground.
What I like most about Adventure Time–the TV show–is that willingness to embrace perversity and, well, wrongness. There’s that one episode where Jake and Finn meet a shriveled little old gnome knight who’s talking about how weary he is of life and duty, and then the heroes of the show cheerfully advise the little guy to commit suicide. Then this:
Instead, the comic book just does the conventional thing, which, you know, it results in a story that you can read and enjoy, but what’s that worth compared to provocation? Speaking of provocative convention, it’s also sad to see them kowtow to the demands of the industry’s slam-banging hormones and put Princess Bubblegum into a retro two-piece swimsuit with a bowed belt. Which begs another question: do Bubblegum and Marceline just shop at like, some off-camera local American Apparel, or are my friend and I correct in assuming that the Land of Ooo is post-post-post-apocalyptic Williamsburg? And if it is, that opens up even more questions–do they regard Vice‘s Dos and Don’ts pages the same way we regard the Dead Sea Scrolls? Will history note that anyone ever gave a shit about Grimes? Just think–an all-black comic book. No questions. Just tranquil oblivion.
Also, Michael DeForge’s backup is pretty great and all, but maybe I should have buffered myself somehow, considering the last thing I read by him was hardcore pornography.
Image Comics. Written by Jonathan Ross. Penciled by Bryan Hitch. Inked by Andrew Currie and Paul Neary. Colored by Paul Mounts.
This is why I normally don’t read recap pages: sentences like “Details of the new look games that will help ring in the changes and, it is hoped, reverse the slide in ratings that marked the last Season were announced.” Sure, I trip over my own fucking sentences all the time, but that’s because I do this blog for free, without an editor.
And then there’s another black page–as if they’re mocking me.
People are going to shit themselves over this. From glancing around the net, I already know that they are, really. “Five-star”–that whole run. Anyway, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why: a writer who’s famous for a non-comics thing, competent, and not yet overexposed or shark-jumped, and Bryan Hitch, who invented “widescreen” comics as we know them. The story here is that years ago in San Francisco, a New Universe-style Event happened, and people got powers. For whatever reason, the people with powers were then raised in camps, and made to compete in an extreme-sports/super-combat reality show tournament, with the prize being a space on the world’s “only official superhero team.”
I got nothing against all that. It’s hardly innovative–Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, The Running Man, Death Race 2000, the roller-derby issue of Jack Kirby’s run of Captain America and the Falcon, the basketball scene in Escape From L.A.–but the idea of desperate bloodsports is at least so inherently melodramatic that the right people can make something explode out of it. Where America’s Got Powers fails is in differentiating itself from our world, our culture. That’s probably the point–our world, just a bit to the right–but we don’t get any idea as to what motivates… well, anyone, least of all mass culture. The only real context we have to anchor us is that the lead, Tommy Watts, is more or less a walking Belle and Sebastian song. Beyond that, all we have is well-constructed bombast, which entertains, but says nothing. People will talk about this series as if it means something man, if only because superhero fans are positively starved for work that they can act like a grown-up about. Unfortunately for them, this is America’s Got Powers #1, summarized in fifty seconds:
Marvel Comics. Written by Greg Rucka and Mark Waid. Illustrated by Marco Checchetto. Colored by Matt Hollingsworth.
I haven’t kept up on the new Punisher series but it looks like all I’ve missed is that Frank Castle is dead (again) and Solid Snake and Meryl Silverburgh have taken over. So Snake and Meryl go visit their buddy Daredevil to try and get him to give them his magic zip disk full of all of Crime’s Secrets, and Spider-Man intervenes, and then the Hand is there, and Snakisher is saying dialogue like “Fall back… enfilade on the chokepoint,” and honestly, this comic is just kind of a dull throb that ditches the post-whatever Lee/Romita update of Waid’s Daredevil series for, like, a bunch of people standing around and having an unexciting ninja fight, and you can’t see it in the art but you can be sure that all of their assholes are just maximum clenched.
Zeb Wells–the guy who wrote Avenging Spider-Man #1-5, and the last great Spidey/Punisher team-up in Amazing Spider-Man #577–is gone for now, and he’s sorely missed. Wells would have at least made things a bit more manic, which is how things need to go when the Punisher crosses over into the other street heroes’ turf. Hell, when Punisher guest-starred in Wells’ Anti-Venom miniseries, pretty much the first thing he did was to shoot Eddie Brock in the back of the head, just as a matter of course. Otherwise you get stuff like Shadowland, where the Punisher stood around talking about how he’s going to shoot Daredevil in the fucking face and all the heroes on his team, Spider-Man included, just seemed to shrug and go “Oh Frank.” What a card, right? Hey, remember this?
DC Comics. Written by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman. Penciled by Amy Reeder. Inked by Rob Hunter. Colored by Guy Major.
Were Amy Reeder’s layouts this berserk on Madame Xanadu? Granted, yes, it’s a bit of a moot point now, but still, there’s something that just feels off about her attempts to shoehorn her style into J.H. Williams III’s bastard of Symbolism and Art Deco. It’s like watching A Dangerous Method, that Cronenberg movie–you sit there and the story’s fine and the acting’s great, but why the hell is David “Videodrome” Cronenberg treating all of this with the preciousness and distance of a lesser Merchant-Ivory? You get through A Dangerous Method and even Michael Fassbender spanking Keira Knightley felt airless and tame, and you go “thank fuck” when you see the teaser for Cosmopolis and it’s tweaking off its tits.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, this is Amy Reeder’s A Dangerous Method, and thank fuck she quit to go hopefully work on something that actually suits her like Cosmopolis suits Cronenberg. Then there’s the inking–oh, wow, the inking. If you want to do an Amy Reeder superhero noir action comic, give her an inker that can handle shape and weight and line variation. John Dell? Someone. Don’t give her this dude who makes her work look like “back when Dustin Nguyen kind of sucked.” Anyway, Amy Reeder is great but she’s not great here and it makes the comic she’s drawing not great too, even if Batwoman syringe-roofies her girlfriend during domestic violence. (And you thought Wonder Woman was rough on its ladies’ morals.)
Image Comics. Written by Joe Keatinge. Illustrated by Ross Campbell. Colored by Ms. Shatia Hamilton.
So this issue is about Riley, the Kitty Pryde of Glory, having a dream about five hundred years in the future, when Glory is Brandon Graham’s Prophet as written by Robert Kirkman during one of those dark-storm-clouds-and-red-mist “I think I’ll just have Invincible and the bad guy rip each other’s entrails out” moods. Then it turns out Riley is destined to “stop” Glory somehow. Hey, though, what about that shocking reveal you guys ended last issue with? I mean, the series is structured around something more than filling pages until you get to the requisite twist cliffhanger ending, right? Right. So is Glory ever going to be, like, a character? It’s cool, I can wait, but you know.
Image Comics. Presumably written by Joe Casey and illustrated by Nathan Fox.
Diamond didn’t ship any to my local store. Racist conspiracy? Almost certainly. Anyway, in my imagination this issue was when Haunt and the guy who looks like Jeff Bridges finally got married after Haunt’s ghost brother got his certificate from Marrying People School or DeVry or something.
Image Comics. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Illustrated by Fiona Staples.
It occurs to me, reading Saga #2, that Brian K. Vaughan is just about the only writer in comics, male or female, who could get away with a page where a woman says “I’ve got quick vines trying to get inside me” being followed by one where that same woman admits to enjoying the taste of breast milk, without getting crucified. Like, seriously, if this was Scott Lobdell writing Starfire? It’s 5:53 pm as I write this sentence, and in the six hours since comics went on sale there would already have been 900 Tumblr posts using phrases like “what in the actual fuck” and “alienating millions of potential fans.” It might be because Fiona Staples draws Alana with kind of a Rihanna haircut, and those of us with our finger on the pulse of the internet are just too used to Rihanna not giving a fuck and tweeting about her tits or whatever. If the Stalk doesn’t have a million fans by the end of the day, incidentally, there is no justice and everything is fucked, your ass and mine included.
Vertigo/DC Comics. Written by Paul Cornell. Illustrated by Ryan Kelly. Colored by Giulia Brusco.
This book is getting cancelled before #24, calling it here. On the one hand, it’s a good idea, but you know what, so was American Virgin, and look what that got us. A lot of the same problems are at play here–too much pussyfooting around because… okay. You ever tell someone a story and get so caught up in the telling of it that you’re talking, but you’re not communicating, because the significance of everything is plain as day to you, but you forget that the person you’re talking to has no idea how to make heads or tails of what you’re saying? That’s Saucer Country, free-floating and sort of confusing despite what should be a pretty straightforward deal. It’s like, just come out and say “anal probing” already, Christ. Take the kid gloves off. If Hillary Clinton got her ass blasted by aliens, you know things would get fucking gnarly, fucking fast.
Marvel Comics. Written by Rick Remender. Illustrated by Gabriel Hardman. Colored by Bettie Breitweiser.
This arc of Secret Avengers is all about fighting some dude called the Father. The current arc in Batwoman pits her against the Mother. Have comics finally entered their misunderstood teen years, ready to kick back at avatars of mommy and daddy by having their precious superheroes go grimly geared-up and take down all those rules once and for all? NO ONE’S GONNA TELL CAPTAIN BRITAIN TO TURN DOWN HIS STEREO EVER AGAIN, MAN. No, but seriously, this is like reading mid-90s “everything you know is wrong! again!” retcon-happy X-Men and I kind of wish the entire team would get left to die in Antarctica like Gambit, except I know it’d just turn into some storyline detailing the secret, mind-blowing truth of the staggering importance of Spat and Grovel.
Marvel Comics. Written by Kieron Gillen. Penciled by Carlos Pacheco and Paco Diaz. Inked by Cam Smith. Colored by Guru eFX.
I don’t think you can get more literal about superhero comics than this cover. Does what’s inside even matter?
Marvel Comics. Written by Ed Brubaker. Penciled by Butch Guice. Inked by Stefano Gaudiano, Butch Guice, and Brian Thies. Colored by Bettie Breitweiser and Matthew Wilson.
For the past couple issues I’ve been trying to resolve the nagging familiarity of Butch Guice’s page designs in my head. Like, yes, obviously there’s Jack Kirby in there, and Neal Adams, and a bit of reined-in Gene Colan, but there was something else that I couldn’t put my finger on, especially with the women. The women in Winter Soldier look out of place half the time–like they’re superimposed onto the action, or like they’ve been tricked into thinking an international thermonuclear crisis is actually a fashion shoot. Then it hit me–the women Guice draws in Winter Soldier look like they come straight out of 1960s magazine ads, the kind that Playboy and Esquire would have run in the days before human beings were sufficiently tan and wide-lapeled to appear in photographs. Look at the page of Black Widow sitting on her motorcycle in the rain–now imagine the white gutter space giving way to some bold serif font (or Cooper Black or some shit who knows): “When she said she wanted something powerful between her legs… it should have been obvious she meant a Harley.“
Next week: Some kind of comic book about Trent Reznor loving the BK Value Menu?