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
April 18, 2012
This morning as the sun was rising I finished reading Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, the big hardcover of all of Gilbert Hernandez’s old Palomar stuff from the first series of Love and Rockets. It’s an intense read, but honestly, if you’re the sort of person who reads comic book blogs, I would hope you already know that. I don’t really know how to summarize what happens in the book, other than: “Somewhere south of the Mexican border, generations of people live and die, in glorious español unless otherwise noted.” Of the Hernandezes, I still think Jaime is the better artist–his strongest gift is his ability to effect nuanced, emotive facial expressions with so few lines that it looks effortless–but Palomar, if nothing else, cements Gilbert as the better storyteller. People always make big deals about the magical-realist elements of the series, but I barely noticed them. Compared to the patient lyricism of Beto’s characters, the truly fantastic stuff is small–the spice rather than the meat.
Palomar hits its peaks-among-peaks with the stories that delve into single characters’ perspectives on things: Holidays in the Sun with hardening jailbird Jesus Angel, Bullnecks and Bracelets with glamorously suffering Israel, For the Love of Carmen with awkwardly intellectual, sad-eyed Heraclio… The landscape of Palomar isn’t defined by the simple, almost blandly featureless homes, but by the intersections of the residents’ perceptions of one another. I won’t be so stupid as to describe the characters in Palomar as “real people”–of course not, they’re drawings and words–but the judicious selection of moments, thoughts, and dispositions is effective trompe l’oeil.
In the more spread-out stories like Human Diastrophism, Beto reveals himself as a master of true comic-art montage. We ride his scenes like waves until they break–shattering into quick flashes, managing to weave together multiple climaxes into something that leaves you disoriented, but never confused. It’s been a long time since I’ve torn through a comic this ravenously, and longer still since I could immediately consider it a masterpiece, elbowing its way into my personal canon.
What I’m getting at: if I say everything sucks this week, it’s because I spoiled myself rotten beforehand.
Marvel Comics. Written by Dan Slott. Penciled by Humberto Ramos. Inked by Victor Olazaba. Colored by Edgar Delgado.
Speaking from my position in the untouchable caste–that is, long-time fans of Spider-Man–I’m not sure how I feel about the current blockbuster mega-arc, Ends of the Earth. In the last installment, Doctor Octopus and the Sinister Six took the entire world hostage, defeated the heavy hitters of the Avengers in a matter of pages, and effortlessly sabotaged Spider-Man’s new, supposedly everything-proof Spider-Armor. In this issue, the two non-captured Avengers–Spider-Man and Black Widow–hook up with semi-obscure European mercenary Silver Sable, and fight the Sandman in the course of trying to block Ock’s plans to something something something.
The last Doctor Octopus vs. the World situation I can remember was around the release of Spider-Man 2, which featured Ock. To tie in, Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos did an arc of Spectacular Spider-Man. The arc–Countdown–continued the ongoing trend of Jenkins’ Spider-Man tenure, which was taking classic villains and humanizing them to an understandable, if not always sympathetic, degree. It was there–and in Zeb Wells and Kaare Andrews’ excllent Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus: Year One–that we learned about Doctor Octopus’s troubled childhood, which pushed him away from humanity and sanity and into the eight arms of science. The stakes of Countdown were potentially global, as Doc Ock kidnapped a Palestinian politician who was spearheading a peace accord, and directly personal: the price for the politician’s freedom was the unmasking of Spider-Man, his most hated and insurmountable foe. (By this point, Ock had already conquered death, after being offered up as cannon fodder to Clone Saga villain Kaine–a.k.a. the current Scarlet Spider. Spider-Man continuity isn’t usually as convoluted as the X-Men’s, but sometimes…)
The reason I bring up Countdown is that it puts into a sharper relief what’s missing from Ends of the Earth. Both stories exploit the Global Stakes/Personal Stakes dialogue–disrupting the Middle East peace process vs. frying the ozone layer, frustration with an enemy vs. facing the inevitability of death–but in execution, they’re inverses of one another. While Countdown‘s Ock Caper was certainly dangerous and in need of stopping, the real focus was on his emotional state and his adversarial relationship with Spider-Man. Here, people’s emotional motivations are a matter of course, treated like necessary set dressings in order to get to the real business of the story, which is all the high-tech one-upsmanship. Thus far, it’s a story of Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus going to increasingly absurd lengths to outsmart one another, with everything else a middling concern at best. It’s like if Sleuth forgot about the wife.
The saving grace is Humberto Ramos, for whom a character like the Sandman is an early Christmas gift. His antic, infinitely pliable bodies and his penchant for pop-eyed over-emoting are perfect for Spider-Man–note that he was on Countdown, too, nearly ten years ago. Outside of the Sandman scenes, though, I can’t really think of what to say. I wouldn’t want to read Ramos on a 24 comic, illustrating the tense, sweaty phone calls between Jack Bauer and the chick who hucked the baby on Mr. Show–and it’s not much of a step up for him to be drawing people talking into headsets and commlinks, and having the big triumphant moment come from thrusting iPhones at the villain until he confuses himself into a coma. If the story had the sort of emotional oomph that he could mine frantic body language from–like Spider-Island last year–it’d be different. But it’s not. Instead, we have a comic where Spider-Man is so wrapped up in some science-nerd rivalry that he doesn’t even think twice about effectively ripping someone’s living brain out of their body. I’m not sitting here, steaming like some hydra-headed editorial staff has perpetrated some horrific crime against imaginary real person Peter Parker, but I am left sitting here wondering where they missed the trick.
Marvel Comics. Plotted by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, and Matt Fraction. Scripted by Jason Aaron. Penciled by John Romita Jr. Inked by Scott Hanna. Colored by Laura Martin.
It comes back to this idea of comic books being written by committee, and whether or not that’s a good thing–or even a viable thing. It’s important to consider that previous comittee-driven comics that worked–as opposed to ones that didn’t work, such as Fear Itself–did so under specific storytelling circumstances. A quick list of things I thought “worked” (maybe not spectacularly in all cases, but they worked): Defiant and Broadway Comics, Brand New Day-era Amazing Spider-Man, the mini-series that rolled out in preparation for DC’s Infinite Crisis series…
In those three examples, what’s important is that the gathered heads put themselves together and came up with a big picture that could then be rolled out in separate but consistent pieces across an entire product line. Jim Shooter, JayJay Jackson, and others maintained a tight hold on Defiant/Broadway continuity by planning out the arcs and interrelationships of their various titles and then group-writing issues of each book–to that end, each part of the committee could both function as a peer-checker of the other members’ work, and a memory that might keep in mind certain interests or emphases that the others could forget. The significant trip-reset and architectural work necessary for Infinite Crisis was no doubt decided by committee and then parceled out to individual series. Each series could then be assigned to creators that fit the specific intent of each series, and they could do their own thing while achieving a piece of necessary Infinite Crisis set-up. Amazing Spider-Man, in its Brand New Day phase (#544-#647 or so), had writers’ conventions that would map out a year or so of storytelling, and then break it down further into arcs that played on each writer’s strengths, while chaining them all to the same necessary minimum of forward momentum regarding various subplots.
When it doesn’t work, it’s like eating a soup that has chunks of whatever people thought tasted good floating in it, with no regard for whether or not they taste good together. The modern crossover model, pioneered by Marvel–a core “essential” mini-series, that fans out into innumerable tie-ins that, in theory, support and expand upon it–malfunctions in a different way, where you get a taster’s plate by one chef, and then a shove in the direction of the buffet line and its cacophony of hot plate lids. So even if you liked the way one of those initial morsels tasted, the full-size portion of it is being prepared by someone else entirely, and it could just totally turn you off. A successful committee exercise is more like your choice of three courses, all consistently prepared by the same chef, even if the exact menu was decided above his head. You don’t want a pastry chef tasked with finding a way to incorporate hot chili and stir fry.
Alternately, a bad committee exercise is something like the song “We Will Rob You,” on Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II. Raekwon and GZA do the first and second verses, narrating tightly-focused crime-story narratives, and then Masta Killa arrives for the third and final verse and just burps out a list of all his Wu-Tang bros and some Nation of Islam stuff. Slick Rick is featured, but only sing-songs the chorus and a couple ad-libs besides, which is as cruel a bait and switch as anyone ever pulled. (Less cruel, but still blatant: Game’s “Martians vs. Goblins,” which credits Lil Wayne as a feature but just has Wayne wheezing “Bitch I’m a marsh” in what sounds like a sample from voice-mail message.)
And so we return to comics, and Avengers vs. X-Men. Well, on page one I hurled the comic away in a rage when Storm said “God help us” instead of “Goddess” like she always does. After I took a while to cool off, I stapled together the burnt remnants of the issue and read the rest of it.
As it turns out, I liked this a lot more than both #0 and #1. JRJR draws the fuck out of it–that will never be in dispute. Dig Cyclops’ dented visor after Cap clocks him with the shield. It’s a perfect little touch. Storywise, I don’t even think it’s entirely down to the change of scripters between #1 and #2–Aaron’s dialogue certainly wastes less space, but there’s less space in this one to waste, period. Hell breaks loose on page two, and continues throughout. The immediate comparison that jumps to mind is something like G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #50, by Larry Hama and Rod Whigam. That book took time to pay off old subplots and introduce new ones in between the all-out (but curiously gore-free) carnage of the G.I. Joe team invading Springfield, an entire town that functioned as a front for the terrorist organization Cobra. Replace “the G.I. Joe team” with “the Avengers,” “terrorist organization Cobra” with “X-Men,” and “subplots” with “for more on Namor vs. Ben Grimm, see AvX: Vs. #1″ (although the comic actually offers no such indicator)–you get the idea.
Is this a success or a failure of the committee-written model, though? At this point, it could really go either way–the batting average is low, but it’s not .000 yet. What it really represents to me is a blown opportunity, because a huge event like this could have been one giant multiple orgasm. Set up the plots, build them, and then resolve, resolve, resolve until the crowd’s screamed itself hoarse. Make it WrestleMania, or at the very least Starrcade. I’m sure that things will get resolved here, but so much of it feels vague and inelegant. The Cyclops/Wolverine schism, sure. The Hope Problem, definitely. Beyond that, uh…
Well, you know, the Thing and Namor have fought a whole bunch of times over Susie, right?
It’s a collection of little details and tiny moments, but what does “This is exactly why we have a marriage counselor!” or “microscopic telepathic tasers” offer other than that? If AvX Vs. is, as they say, “comic book porn,” then so far, this is Zalman King scoring a cinematographer above his pay grade.
Marvel Comics. Same creators as above.
I don’t even know what to say here. Full disclosure: I’ve worked in publishing. Specifically, I’ve worked in textbook publishing, where the name of the game is to constantly provide new and essential forms of value for your consumers–value that requires a constant stream of income from new customers/students, because otherwise if all you do is sell them some fucking book they’re just going to buy it used on-campus and suddenly you’re not seeing a dime off that content anymore. What this entails is usually web interactivity of some kind: study help, test prep, essay feedback from trained monkeys with Master’s degrees, and ebooks. The ebooks in particular can get particularly sophisticated, incorporating built-in media supplements to expand upon the points of the text, and direct students to offsite material provided by the publisher.
By contrast, Marvel AR is kind of a joke.
The sum total of Marvel AR content in Avengers vs. X-Men #2–a flagship Marvel title that was supposed to help usher in Marvel AR–is a motion-comic recap on the cover (narrated by what sounds like a 15-year-old sarcastically pretending to do a dramatic reading), a trading-card biography of Quicksilver on one page, and pencils-to-inks-to-color animated process videos on two panels. That’s all. The point this gets across to the consumers: “we either don’t know what we’re doing or we don’t have the time to give a shit, or to hire someone who does.” The blown opportunities are endless.
I mentioned this last issue, but christ, look at that recap page. It’s something like 40 headshots of characters with no explanation. “Loa?” I’m Joe Somebody who hasn’t read Academy X or New X-Men or Namor: The First Mutant, so who the fuck is Loa?
What if Marvel AR could tell my tablet/iPhone/cyborg-parts to offer me a link to a specially-built web page full of capsule biographies? What if, when Storm and Black Panther have their marital spat, I could use Marvel AR to see a brief explanation of their status quo? Likewise Tony Stark and Emma Frost. “Hi, I haven’t read X-Men in a couple years, why does Wolverine hate Cyclops (moreso) now?” Shit like “See the now-classic X-Men: Schism miniseries! -Splittin’-Hairs Stan” is way out of vogue, but if nothing else, the Marvel AR app is a new way of doing footnotes.
I’m not even looking at this entirely from a “make the medicine go down easier for new fish” perspective, either–if a customer has the money for an iPhone or a Galaxy Tab or a whatever-the-fuck, they probably have the money for a TPB of Generation Hope or whatever you want to refer the kids toward. Will some people cry foul and go “Marvel, stop trying to sell me things”–? Of course, but you know what, right now, right here, fuck them, because the alternative is something like this half-assed crap–this issue doesn’t even include an awkward voicemail message from Bendis.
I’m not even getting into how the images still display like pixelated dog shit on my tablet. Get the big stuff right first, Marvel, for fuck’s sake. I don’t even know why I’m getting worked up. By the time anyone even tangentially connected to Marvel reads this it’ll be 2025 and we’ll all have Comixology implants in our taints or whatever anyway.
Marvel Comics. Plotted by James Asmus and Ed Brubaker. Scripted by James Asmus. Illustrated by Francesco Francavilla.
These didn’t come out this week, but my store was having a sale. By now, I’m pretty sure Captain America and Bucky has totally transmogrified into Captain America and… where you can finish the title with whatever hero is hanging around that month. That’s the final evolution of the confused existence of this book, which started off as Ed Brubaker and Marc Andreyko doing a four-issue retelling of Bucky’s origin with Chris Samnee, followed by a single-issue story that, once and for all, gave us the Untold Secret Origin of Black Widow and Winter Soldier’s affair. Afterward, we got this: a four-issue arc that brought in James Asmus as co-plotter and scripter, Francesco Francavilla as artist, and ditched the flashback idea for a story firmly set in modern times. It also features “Bucky” in the sense of Fred Davis, the second guy to play the role–at the behest of the U.S. government, because the original Bucky supposedly died in a plane explosion.
The actual content of these things appears to be repurposed surplus parts from old issues of JSA. Davis-Bucky narrates with fawning lines like: “Bill Naslund and I were just two regular joes. That is, until we were given the greatest honor I could ever imagine–we got to fight alongside the most amazing men of a new era–and carry on the legacy of our nation’s greatest heroes.” Francavilla’s art likewise seems to harken back to a different set of comics, but they go further back than Asmus’s script. Looking at his art, the posed figures and moody but unfussy linework call to mind the artists of the 40s–Bill Everett, Bernard Baily–filtered through the sensibilities of a modern digital illustrator like Larenn McCubbin. Unfortunately, he doesn’t exactly hinder the JSA-style nostalgia drone. His coloring is heavy on orangey-red and yellow light, making the characters look like they’re in a world where the sun is forever setting but never actually going down.
The whole premise–”you don’t know who William Naslund is, let alone Adam-II, but here, let us assure you over and over that they’re a big deal while a modern menace repurposes their concepts in a way more palatable to modern adult superhero readers”–is the opposite of how Brubaker operated on his own salvaged villains in Captain America. We didn’t need some steady patter of monologue narration to remind us that Sin is a fucked-up crazy menace. Sin just went around being a fucked-up crazy menace, and we could infer the rest from her sadomasochistic interactions with Crossbones. It’s OK for a story to hold my hand sometimes, but I object to it gingerly placing my fingers around the base of its cock. It’s the last great frontier of adult-comic-reader dissatisfaction: forced nostalgia. “You care because of all this stuff you don’t even know about, so let’s hit you with a double-barrel of between-the-scenes flashbacks and melodramatic hero-worship captions, all with the subtlety of shooting a gun into the air.” It ruins too many good stories, straight up.
DC Comics/Vertigo. Written by Peter Milligan. Layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli. Finished illustrations by Sal Cipriano. Colored by Brian Buccellato.
It’s not enough for Hellblazer to be the best book DC publishes, hands-down. It also has to have on lockdown the two best artists for drawing people looking fucking crazy–Simon Bisley when he’s got the time, and Giuseppe Camuncoli and Sal Cipriano for the rest. Since Cammo drifted off to work as a penciler for Amazing Spider-Man, he’s only contributed layouts–which has been Cipriani’s cue to make everyone look even crazier. The lines have gotten harsher, the thick shadows of the cheekbones have gotten sharper, and the overall looseness of it–as much as work this grounded in real things like trenchcoats and bookshelves can be “loose”–gives it a Kubrick-stare vibe, like you could see a coked-up Jack Nicholson playing any/all of the characters in the film adaptation. It’s all in the whites of the eyes and the teeth and it hints at the kind of inner depravity and ferocity that Hellblazer doesn’t let spill out onto the page these days, except in hints and rumors. It can’t be coincidence that Constantine’s eyes are scratched out on the cover. They’re the window to the book’s existential terror.
The current Hellblazer storyline–Another Season in Hell–is all about the shambles that is John Constantine’s family. Constantine himself has only just escaped from Hell, where he was seeking to liberate the damned soul of his sister. Meanwhile, his wife Epiphany has brokered a deal with Lucifer, lord of Hell, to restore her father to life after she inadvertently killed him–because he’d beaten the shit out of Constantine’s fucked-up niece Gemma, who had been sleeping with Piffy’s father to anger Constantine. Do you follow?
For years, the trick of John Constantine has been his self-prided bastardry, mixed with his equally deep self-loathing–he’s too much of a fucking shit to make connections with people, and he rationalizes it by saying that they’re better off without his bad juju anyway. Granted: they are, but is it a self-fulfilling prophecy? Hell, is it just a case of the damage being done? Is it too late to fix your ability to hold someone close after a life of neglectfully and mean-spiritedly pushing everyone away? That’s the sort of thing Peter Milligan is on with his Hellblazer run, and it’s a valid, even sometimes poignant emotional impulse felt by everyone except for sociopaths and teenagers in KMFDM shirts (there’s overlap). Everything turns to shit as you get old. Is it because you’re getting old, or is it karmic payback for once being young?
Meanwhile, in Justice League Dark, they throw rocks at vampires or something. That’s Milligan for you.
Rebellion/2000 AD. Written by Alan Grant and John Wagner. Illustrated by Arthur Ranson, Ian Gibson, Romero, David Roach, Siku, Kevin Walker, Mark Wilkinson, Steve Sampson, Tony Luke, Charles Gillespie, and Xusasus.
Douglas Wolk ran this one down pretty damn well over at his ongoing Dreddblog project, Dredd Reckoning. So I’ll just do something quick for you guys to return to when you get back here after you lose a couple hours over there. (You should, too.)
The first Anderson Psi-Files book was, it must be said, not exactly what legends are made of. Judge Cassandra Anderson–gifted psychic in the employ of Mega-City One, the fascist cyberpunk remnants of the post-apocalyptic eastern seaboard–was meant to be a counterpoint to uber-thug and 2000 AD torchbearer Joe Dredd. Where Dredd was dour and tightassed, Anderson was wry and tight-assed, a glam blonde Debbie-Meets-Dirty Harry who could make with wisecracks and actually, on occasion, feel feelings. That’s all well and good, but because Anderson was so defined by her opposition–that is, her characteristics came through mostly as a list of things Dredd wasn’t. The first volume stuck Not-Dredd into a bunch of Mega-City crime adventures, and the harsh truth stood revealed: the things that made Anderson different from Dredd made her the same as all those generic action heroes who Dredd was meant to be different from in the first place.
Volume 02–which flubs chronology a bit mostly to put the color-printed stories together–is where Anderson became her own character. In 1988, John Wagner and Alan Grant–longtime writing partners and architects of Dredd’s world–split over creative differences. In the divorce, Wagner took Dredd for the most part, and Grant took Anderson. As the story goes, at the end of the Dredd epic “Oz,” Grant wanted to have Dredd kill the character Chopper, and Wagner wanted to keep him around in case they wanted to use him later. This is noteworthy because in the wake of the split, Wagner’s Dredd became even more blatantly brutal and fascistic, and Grant’s Anderson became a kind of psychic cosmic punk travelogue.
The peak of the book comes early–Shamballa, with Arthur Ranson, whose work as an illustrator of celebrities for TV and music mags made him perhaps the most adept and creative lightboxer in all of comics. After that, there are hills and valleys, but throughout, there’s a determination to explore new territory that just couldn’t fit in with the adventures of a Judge chasing crooks in the Big Meg. No other Dreddverse stories were ever quite so… well, cosmically aware.
Image Comics. Written by Brandon Graham and Farel Dalrymple. Illustrated by Farel Dalrymple. Colored by Joseph Bergin III.
By now, it’s not too much of a drag to realize that Prophet uses a list of equipment and weapons in place of a coherent personality for its hero. He himself is of a piece with his gear–he’s a walking weapon, a tool in the most literal sense, being used by higher purposes. That’s pretty much exactly what happens in this issue. A Prophet–for there are many John Prophets, of the Earth Empire, dateline unknown–awakens and is guided through the halls of a degenerating, mind-destroying starship until he reaches his mysterious goal. Farel Dalrymple gives us a different world for a different Prophet; the last arc featured Simon Roy’s soft ridges and brown light, and this world is thinner, stiffer, and colder.
That’s the thrill of Prophet. With a lead whose characterization can be summarized in grunts and stab wounds, our focus has to spread outward, and it becomes a comic that’s about the thrill of exploration, as much as anything else. Prophet is a blank slate we can project ourselves into, a kind of quietly masculine alter-ego: instead of being garish and blatant like, say, Wolverine in his blue and yellow, this take on Prophet is competent and unyielding, keying into the simple human desire to be strong enough to never quit in despair. Prophet pushes through unfamiliar worlds on sheer force of will, and we bounce after him, enjoying the fruits of his thankless labor, getting to marvel like cultural tourists getting off to his bleeding wounds and vomit.
Before, I likened Prophet to a video game–Fallout, specifically–but now I’m not sure that’s accurate. Video games are built around the principle of you do this task, then that task, then a third task, and eventually after you’ve jumped through enough hoops, you’re at an ending, or at least a set-up for a sequel. I get the feeling Prophet could keep exploring forever, mining the infinite vein of humanity’s ability to mobilize into the places that don’t even fucking want it.
Marvel Comics. Written by Jeff Parker. Illustrated by Declan Shalvey. Colored by Frank Martin Jr.
It’s been 15 years and original T-Bolts artist Mark Bagley–present here on cover duty–hasn’t forgotten what we like out of our villains-pretending-to-be-heroes. Check Zemo on that cover, wry Eurodickhead grin patently obvious behind his mask, palm firmly planted on Meteorite’s metal-coated ass while her future self, Moonstone, grinds that same rear against Zemo’s thigh. He’s even thrusting his pistol into the air, like the exact reverse of that notorious Steranko Nick Fury panel. The stiff barrel pointing straight up–putting it in a holster would have confused the imagery.
Does this have anything to do with the story inside? Well, not really. The old Thunderbolts meet the new Thunderbolts and party together, because scum game still recognize scum game. Declan Shalvey draws one of his best issues yet–things feel off-the-cuff but self-confident, like he’s learned to trust the intuition of his lines. His acting and emoting seems to get better with every issue I see.
The twist at the end, too, man–this comic is like old Ostrander Suicide Squad in the best possible way, where it’ll let you get used to having characters around, warm you up to them, maybe let you fool around a bit, and then it’ll lean in close and grin and you can sort of make out blood caked up in the gums and smell meat on their teeth and that warm voice is right up in your ear saying “by the way baby we’re crazy and we don’t give a fuuuck” and you can’t help but feel your thighs twitch because it’s hitting something innate that maybe you don’t want to admit you’re into, and you catch yourself laying awake at night, wondering when’s the next time Parker’s gonna write a scene where Songbird gets her toes sucked.
DC Comics. Written by Brian Azzarello. Illustrated by Cliff Chiang. Colored by Matthew Wilson.
Bullets and bracelets and you could almost swear she’s winking at you–Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman gives even less of a fuck than the Thunderbolts, but in a more noble, selfless style. She marches into Hell in thigh-baring armor as if daring the lost souls to try and let their dead eyes roll up toward her bikini zone. “Go on, try some shit,” she says, even when she’s smiling with a jaw that’s slender but’ll still break knuckles. “Hades?” she says, for real this time. “You stole someone I love.” The key to that bluntness is the last word–she’s a warrior who’s not afraid of her emotions, which–as Josh Bayer taught us–are the ultimate battlefield.
But you know what? I’ve sat around all day reading comics about villages in Central America, spacemen with cancer stabbing each other, two superhero varsity teams bashing each other’s brains in, bargains with Satan, time travel, flying off into space to feed your head like the fucking end of Repo Man…
…and the end of Wonder Woman #8 was still the last bit that made me go “damn, that’s fucked up.” I love it.
This Weekend: I’ll be at the Boston Comic Con, so if you see a guy with platinum blonde hair and a red mustache that straddles the line between “Castro District men’s room” and “obvious pedophile,” say hey or something.
April 4, 2012
No, but seriously: two weeks into me deciding I’m going to review (or at least make fun of) comics again, they drop a week like this on me. Dear comics professionals–y’all some greasy fuckers.
DC Comics. Written by Grant Morrison. Illustrated by Rags Morales, Brad Walker, Rick Bryant, and Bob McLeod. Colored by Brand Anderson and David Curiel.
It’s like, they knew that after eight months (including a two-month interruption to go time-travel bugfuck), they knew that people would be hyped up and ready to see the biggest Super-shitkicking since the time Samson and Atlas used their combined might to engineer a nano-organism that feeds only on Lois Lane’s skirts. That’s in here, somewhere–the rotating artists and awkward framing made it so that it took me a couple pages to realize that Superman was, in fact, fighting Metallo, who was riding Braniac like a giant, phallic brain-bronco. (I’m sure you all got enough of me talking about penises when I rambled about Supreme, but really–is there a better thematic touch for the likes of Metallo than the pinnacle of advanced technology being held between his thighs like a giant, writhing erection?) Superman beats them up and saves the day. Manifesting a touch of Silver Age Super-hubris, he keeps Brainiac around as a houseboy for the new Fortress of Solitude.
Then we get the touches that point to the future, and really, that’s what’s got me excited. Instead of Lex Luthor being a purple-collared sci-crime whiz, or a doughy Wilson Fisk rip, or worst of all, the “well, he’s like Doctor Doom, but every now and then he takes his armor off” version we’ve been getting for years now, Luthor here is a weaselly little fuck with pillowy Michael Pitt lips, constantly relying upon subterfuge to get what he wants. It’s very nearly a new concept for the character, which alarms me to even read back to myself, having just typed it. Then there’s the landlady’s name, and the final panel, where a dinosaur’s head messily explodes.
That’s the statement of intent for future Action Comics tales: “Listen, mac, a t. rex’s head exploding is just the prologue to where we’re headed from here.” That’s a big hole in the skull to fill, boys.
Marvel Comics. Written by Dan Slott. Illustrated by Stefano Caselli. Colored by Frank Martin Jr.
You know, I feel leery of ever commenting on the coloring of Stefano Caselli’s work, just because no matter what happens, it’s like “well, at least everything isn’t cast in bizarre pink light like those old Secret Warriors issues.” Still, for a guy who gets a lot of his strength from the texture of his linework, this cover sure did a great job belt-sanding it all off, as if to say, “April fools, we meant to commission a cover by Clayton Crain, or possibly create a backing board on which to package 1995-era action figures.” It’s a mean thing to do to Caselli.
The plot: the Sinister Six, something something, Doctor Octopus, something something, threat to planet Earth, Spider-Armor. Most of the issue plays out like someone’s YouTube clip-show edit of a half-season’s worth of 24–roughly half of the comic is spent with various people yelling at each other tensely, to show us that the stakes be high, and so on. This isn’t so bad. Caselli draws great yelling, like a Terry Dodson who’s not scared to draw people making ugly faces. The other half is Spider-Man, wearing his new, everything-proof Spider-Armor, rolling up on the Six with his Avengers bros and summarily watching everyone on his side get taken out like they were small babies.
This new Spider-Armor is Mysterio-proof, Rhino-proof, Electro-proof, Chamelon-proof–Spider-Man was able to tell that Al Gore was an impostor because the real Al Gore isn’t a Howard Chaykin drawing–but not, as it turns out, cliffhanger-proof. I’m not sure how big a deal I was supposed to think the new Spider-Armor was, since Spider-Man himself seems so casual about it–”yeah, dude, I built a new Rhino-proof suit, what of it?”–to the point that he almost comes off like a dick. I don’t look at the ending of this issue and go ‘Parker Luck strikes again, oh no!’–I look at it and go ‘well, serves you right for being more arrogant than a Cam’ron track.’
Marvel Comics. Written by Christos Gage. Penciled by Karl Moline. Inked by Jim “Suicide Squad #52″ Fern. Colored by Chris Sotomayor.
I hate that side band on the cover. Like, I understand the reasoning for it–the way most stores shelve their product, it’ll stick out and people will go “Oh, shit, Runaways–war–I’m in.” (Cut to recap page: “…begins with a W.“) Still, it’s just sort of gross and it defeats the whole idea of having commissioned a joined diptych of a cover. I don’t want to be that guy, but sometimes I gotta be that guy.
Anyway, this is the most interesting story Avengers Academy has had in months, if not more than a year. The initial charm of the book was that it was kind of the hormones-and-acne version of Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley’s original Thunderbolts proposition–where a new team of superheroes were secretly veteran supervillains, poised to exploit public goodwill and rob the world blind. Instead, in AA, we had a couple nothing-else-going-on Avengers starting a training program for super-teens who had been discovered and exploited by a renegade government program. The kids were told they were the ones with the most promise as future superheroes, but really, they were just the most psychologically damaged and at-risk for descending into villainy.
Let’s be clear: I love that concept. I leapt onto the book with the vigor and enthusiasm of a Doctor Who fan leaping onto being annoying. Then it all just kind of wandered away–into a lengthy Fear Itself crossover and then into a story that reinvented the Academy status quo into something like “Well, it’s not quite the X-Men, and it’s not quite the West Coast Avengers, but…”
Dragging the Runaways in for a couple issues brings back some of the good stuff–the surging swell of furious angst, like that one Teenage Depression 7″ cover. The Runaways are homeless superheroes, like D-Man but with fashion sense and deodorant, and they roll with two little girls on the cusp of pubes, so Tigra and Giant-Man want to spirit the kids away and put them with warm, loving families, like the one Giant-Man has created for himself over the years. (I’m swinging a golf club, but you can’t see it.) The teen teams do battle: “So you’re fighting for your right to keep two little girls homeless.” “As opposed to what? Soldiers in your child army?”
I mean, it all gets resolved in a fairly pat fashion and people develop empathy, and that sort of stuff, but then we see near the end, Tigra standing there looking–what, amused? depressed? both?–as the two Runaways kids lay her werecat infant on the lawn and then dangle a ribbon over him so he can paw at it like a housecat, and it becomes clear that Avengers Academy is still full of people doing totally, totally fucked-up things to each other, and babies.
Marvel Comics. Plotted by Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, and Matt Fraction. Scripted by Brian Michael Bendis. Penciled by John Romita Jr. Inked by Scott Hanna. Colored by Laura Martin.
Jesus, it really is 2012, isn’t it? If Marvel had done this crossover in 1997, that roster line-up page would be totally flipped–instead of 6 X-Men and 400 Avengers, it’d be the other way around and for some reason Forge would have a major part in it, if only to slap Tony Stark for boning Mystique (except it would turn out that Stark was really Mystique all along, and Forge was really Douglock, and Sabretooth would be revealed as his alternate future self with alopecia, who was just wearing a big, ugly yellow wig all the time).
We’ve also got little ‘AR’ tags in the corner of pages like ‘Audience put your 3-D glasses on now,’ but more on that later.
Last week, I went on a whiny tirade basically accusing Bendis of wasting space, which is to say, giving characters fluff dialogue that exists without any narrative or aesthetic purpose. I’m not enthused by our first significant page of dialogue, which is page six: Ms. Marvel arrives at Avengers Tower and goes “What’s going on? Never mind, don’t care.” Yeah, and? I’m sure it’s “more realistic” for Ms. Marvel to show up and make snarky noises (probably drinking again), but how does this set us up for the Avengers vs. the X-Men vs. the Phoenix vs. people spending their money on Game of Thrones box sets?
The thing now is that so many people call so many comics “decompressed” that the word has even less meaning than “overrated.” If you call a comic “decompressed” now you’ll get just as many people chortling about how what, maybe you want every comic book to be an old issue of Mark Gruenwald Captain America? As usual with comics discussion on the internet, everyone is insufferable, and here’s a statement that’s just as true: this comic book needed to tighten the fuck up more than a Jersey Shore vagina.
A page with five panels is positively packed by the standards of Avengers vs. X-Men #1. I’m not saying that this should be some hokey retro production where Cyclops explains his optic blasts in more time than it takes to actually shoot them, but it’s like, the dissemination of information from this comic book to the reader is so inefficient that you want to shake the fucking pamphlet and tell it to hurry up. There’s also the usual issue where one cadence and rhythm of dialogue is spread out across every character, ever. After a certain point, people come off less like they’re explaining their viewpoints than they are reciting someone else’s summary of said viewpoints.
And if you cut out every panel that was just people standing around, reacting without action to something that was just said or just done by someone else, this comic would be at least a third lighter. I didn’t bother to do the proper math on that, but it definitely feels that way.
“It’s the first issue,” the devil’s advocate says. “It’s setting things up. It’s a prologue.” Then what was #0 last week, a prank? Oh, go fuck yourself.
Marvel Comics. Same credits as the other version, plus more production staff, I guess.
Back in the 1990s, my folks gave me this CD-ROM thing that was, like, an “interactive” version of Giant-Size X-Men #1. You could click through the pages panel-by-panel, and there’d be little buttons that, when hit, would play sound effects, or direct you to relevant excerpts from other comics, or… actually, I’m not sure if they did anything else. I liked it when I was a kid, but watching the Marvel AR’d cover of Avengers vs. X-Men #1–lightning crashes, an old mother dies, and a motion comics (remember those?!) prologue plays with animated Greg Land art–I dunno, man. I really wish I’d instinctively remembered just about anything else, because it’s not a good connection to make.
Still, it’s like, this is a new toy, it’s pretty cool as a concept, I’ll give it a shot and not be a bitch about it.
The main problem I had was that all of the images came off pixelated and out-of-focus, as if they’d been done at iPhone size and then blown up, rather than “done at tablet size and then blown down.” Maybe it was just them punishing me for having a Samsung Galaxy Tab. Not sure. Either way, what’s the use of seeing JRJR’s original pencils when I could get better image fidelity by trying to take a picture with my shoe? Plus, there’s one page where the AR bit is just a bio of Hope Summers, like the back of an old trading card. Like the actual story itself, it just felt like a scattershot, “eh, that sounds good enough” way of making information manifest for the consumer. Why not just make that “who’s who on each side” page link to a special web page of bios, or whatever?
Then the whole thing was completely ruined for me when, on the first double-page splash of the Phoenix Force destroying, like, a shitload of stuff, the AR content is Axel Alonso walking across the page and not even having the decency to stop and pretend to cower in fear of the all-consuming cosmic nuclear death-flame. Immersion: gone.
Marvel Comics. Written by Mark Waid. Illustrated by Stuart Immonen. Colored by Marte Garcia.
This is, I swear, the last bit of Avengers vs. X-Men blather this week, if only to preserve my own sanity. Luckily, I saved the really enjoyable part for last. The bizarrely named Avengers vs. X-Men #1: Infinite (I guess it’d sell better than Avengers vs. X-Men: Prologue: Nova: The Phoenix Force: Nova: Digital #1) is Mark Waid and Stuart Immonen playing with what can be done in the traditional digital format. This “traditional digital format” is, it must be said, “basically looking at static comic book pages on a screen.” So there’s a lot of room to maneuver.
It’s not that Waid and Immonen are doing technically innovative work here–unlike other mediums, which tend to evolve at the speed of technology (i.e. cinema), comics are doing a breathless scramble to catch up to digital transmission formats, and this first big step for the latest “digital addenda” initiative is to fuse comic books with PowerPoint presentations. You tap the border and new captions appear next to the old ones, filling out the narrative of a panel piece-by-piece. Or a second image appears next to the first one, continuing a sequence. Or a static “camera angle” is maintained while drawings ‘move’ across it, one tap at a time. Or, and I liked these best, you tap and they pull a rack focus stunt, suddenly making apparent the threat behind our intrepid hero Nova–and later, the black screen of death.
The story is told in sixty-five “phases”–”panels” seems a misnomer–and feels more full and rich than nearly any 20-page pamphlet I’ve read in a while. The plot is thin–Nova outraces the Phoenix Force through space, and crashlands in New York, setting up Avengers vs. X-Men #1–but the pacing is so tight that it’s like the opposite of that Jersey Shore joke I made a while ago.
The crucial thing to consider is that Waid and Immonen may not be advancing new technology, but what they are doing is drastically restructuring the reading process of comics. The traditional means of absorbing information at will–letting your eye wander where it will, from panel to panel and page to page, flipping back and forth at your leisure, taking in entire sequences of action and conversation in a single glimpse of a page layout–don’t work here. Instead, there’s an enforced chronology, not just of words and captions, but also with regard to the examination of the panels themselves. When you tap to hit the next phase and the image doesn’t flip over into a new thing entirely, you’re forced to scrutinize the small details of the panel image and absorb more concentrated shortwave bursts of data than you would just glancing at a printed sheet. (I would not be able to say any of this truthfully if Stuart Immonen was not a master craftsman.) Or, to put it bluntly: Mark Waid and Stuart Immonen are fucking around with an element that print comics can’t even dream of controlling–the time it takes you to read it.
Motion comics my ass.
Marvel Comics. Written by Mark Waid. Illustrated by Khoi Pham. Colored by Javier Rodriguez.
This is a Point One issue, designed to be an easy access point for new readers–fair enough, considering that I’m pretty sure this is the eighth or ninth issue of Daredevil to be published within a four-week radius.
Waid remains a great Daredevil writer, and to put a cherry on top of that, he actually fulfills that Point One remit, rather than just treating it as a bonus issue of the title. If you’d never read Daredevil before, you’d probably be okay with this–it holds your hand just enough, like a teacher who’s scared of a parent finding out.
The wild card here is Khoi Pham, whose work I can’t claim too much familiarity with, mostly because what I did see–in stuff like X-Factor and a little bit of his Avengers stuff–I didn’t really care for. There were, to paraphrase Emperor Joseph II, “too many lines.” Here, he chills the fuck out, and it works very nicely, although I sort of wish he’d had an inker–someone like Scott Hanna or Mark Morales who can balance the spacious thickness of his shapes with enough fiddly linework to give them texture and weight, which occasionally things lack here. Still, he acquits himself well, and the bold moments are definitely as bold as they should be.
It’s just that shit, man, not getting Paolo and Joe Rivera every month is some kind of unwitting cruelty.
Also, Daredevil is threatening to “Julian Assange” people and he’s just lucky no one in that group of crooks was a lady. (Maybe the Secret Empire one was, but under that burqa, who can tell?)
Image Comics. Written by Ed Brubaker. Illustrated by Sean Phillips. Colored by Dave Stewart.
Fatale–like any Brubaker/Phillips enterprise–is a bit tricky to write about because the impulse is to treat it as a component of a story rather than a complete story unto itself, and there’s only so much you can do to say “this piece is just as good as the other pieces, and they’re all great, and everything’s great.” Brubaker’s mix of L.A. noir and H.P. Lovecraft is finally making eye contact, though–after four issues of build-up and teasing, out comes a cultist with a dagger and suddenly Sean Phillips has laterally shifted his work into the realm of Ed Repka album covers, and Brubaker isn’t lying when two pages later he describes what you just read as the point where things get “really fucked up.”
I can’t even front, though, Sean Phillips illustrating thrash metal LP covers–wouldn’t that be insane?
DC Comics/Vertigo. Written by Grant Morrison. Illustrated by Frank Quitely. Colored by Peter Doherty.
No, you can’t lay the fucker flat, but really, that’s a little thing.
The big thing is–shit, why would you even want to lay it flat? This isn’t a textbook. You’re not an animal–not come cat needing something to lay on. If you feel anything at all, why would you do anything but feel this book? Take the dust jacket off. Feel the varnish warm against your fingertips, or your fingertips warm against the varnish, or something. Stick your thumb in the cleavage and become part of your own view of the page. Connect. If you can’t connect with Flex Mentallo you’re hopeless.
Meta-this, meta-that. There are other blogs by people who own sweater vests that’ll get into all that. Still, some points bear stating: Flex is the most coherent treatise Grant Morrison has yet written on his theory of the Evolution of Utopian Super-Ideas, and the most heartfelt and affecting, too. It’s so open and so naked, despite being cloaked in fiction–Quitely draws a row of shuttered shops in the background and it just looks like Great Western Road to me.
“That’s what I remember; hot summer nights, sweltering in my bedroom, reading comics and dreaming and drawing, while life went on outside the window. Imagine a jail cell, yeah? A fallout shelter, where the walls are covered with so many drawings you can’t tell it’s a prison anymore. It’s so bright and colorful; sexy girls, handsome musclemen, adventure. You start to forget it’s not real. You don’t realize the world’s ended for you. Hot days and nights in jail…”
Grant Morrison wrote about 2012 something like 15 years before it happened. Either he’s a prophet, or none of us were paying attention.
DC Comics. Written by Ann Nocenti. Illustrated by Harvey Tolibao. Colored by Richard and Tanya Horie.
I love Ann Nocenti. At a convention I’d want her to sign the inside of my eyelid. Her Daredevil run from back in the 80s–the first comic I can remember wanting for myself, unprompted, was one of those. (It had Mephisto and Blackheart and stuff, as was the style at the time.) Now that I’m older (but no wiser, considering how I still read superhero comics), she stands out as even more of an odd duck amongst all these fans-turned-pros, because she asks and answers the sort of “well, really, what about this aspect of life…” that usually ends up fodder for cliche comics by people struggling to subvert their own super-hardons.
Back on Daredevil, Nocenti’s trick was to surround Matt Murdock–conflicted lapsed-Catholic vigilante and crusader–with women. Not just “women,” i.e. those things that keep Kyle Rayner’s fridge full, but actual women, with varying opinions on things and different personal aesthetics and all kinds of hang-ups of their own thank you very much. Green Arrow isn’t yet a repeat performance of that technique, if only because this New 52 take on Green Arrow doesn’t quite have the same strata of trauma tissue to cut into, like Daredevil. Instead, she’s entering slowly, but with no less of a flair for the obvious: Green Arrow feels no angst whatsoever about sleeping with a trio of super-villainous triplets, or even regret, beyond the loss of a bunch of technology and dignity–he’s half hero, half Tucker Max, and the only non-carnal lesson learned is not to let them sucker him like that again.
We’re also getting into environmental issues, patriarchal family dynamics, corporate intrigue, Shakespeare, animal experimentation… it might not be a total revolution, but it’s still frantic with willingness, and Tolibao’s art matches that idea (while occasionally dissolving into post-Neal-Adams page-layout LSD freakouts).
One line says as much about it as anyone could. In Ann Nocenti’s superhero books, the collection of DNA samples held by a mad scientist are rattled off thusly: “Napoleon, Rasputin, Byron, Mishima… others.”
Dark Horse Books / SAF Comics. Imagineered by Hermann. Translated by ???.
Picture Uatu the Watcher bearing down on you with his toga and his giant mutant baby head: “What If… The Turner Diaries Actually Happened?”
In the late 70s, when other Europeans were doing things like “inventing italo-disco” or “being Chantal Akerman,” Hermann left the Western adventure strip he’d been doing–Comanche–and started writing his own scripts. The product of this was Jeremiah, his best-selling book yet, and one which I’m pretty sure he’s been continuing as a series of albums ever since. The idea is simple: Jeremiah’s a good-hearted, kind-of-naive country kid, and Kurdy is a scrappy, clever little shit, and the two of them go around having adventures in a Neo Old West that civilization regrouped into following a nuclear Race War.
It’s gorgeous, as it should be, and the edition that Dark Horse and SAF Comics have put out is equally handsome, with vivid colors and an eye for the texture of Hermann’s line. Plus, I think it’s been re-translated and re-lettered–I read an English-language edition of the first volume years and years ago, and the dialogue hung a bit differently (not better or worse, just different), but the lettering on that older version was so self-consciously “Euro” that it was distracting to read, like back in the day when Wolverine was lettered with some font Comicraft probably sold with the label “unreadable chickenscratch.” No such problem here.
What you get out of Jeremiah is pretty much down to how much you get out of vaguely post-apocalyptic Westerns. If you feel nothing for ‘em, it can’t help you, dude, sorry. If you’re into them, you gotta bear in mind, this is some John Wayne shit right here. After a first page showing that the conflict that ended this modern world was, essentially, “white folks versus black folks,” the next seventy pages or so do absolutely nothing to follow up on that–it’s just a dude and his buddy and the messes they’re getting themselves into, with more of a distinct emphasis on class-on-class violence than anything else. In the post-Racialicious.com world, that sort of concern (“no, seriously, what happened to the black people here?”) chafes more than I imagine it did in 1978 Belgium, but it doesn’t diminish the beauty of Hermann’s artwork, which is what’s gonna put asses in seats here. 500 asses, specifically, because I guess Dark Horse knows what size market it’s investing in here.
Dynamite Entertainment. Written by Kurt Busiek. Illustrated by Alex Ross and Jack Herbert. Colored by Vinicius Andrade, whose name I typoed like six times trying to type it out.
I love one thing that Kirby: Genesis does with all of the warmth that my comics-defeated heart can muster, and that’s how it depicts the Pioneer Two–two otherworldly giant beings who float around in the sky holding hands. Where the rest of the world around them is Jack Herbert’s ink drawings, the beings themselves are Alex Ross paintings in that neo-psychedelic style he’s gotten more comfortable with over the years. In the right spots it really does look amazing, totally underlining the difference between men and supermen.
There’s other stuff here too, stuff like “THE SHE-DEMON DOES AS SHE PLEASES–AND SHE HAS SPOTTED MUCH TASTIER PREY!” and all that, but most of the plot revolves around new people showing up and showing off, and I’ll be honest, I barely even remember the names of the old ones. I think one of them is called, like, Miss Hair. Possibly Hair Madame.
Image Comics. Written by Alan Moore. Illustrated by Erik Larsen and Cory Hamscher. Colored by Steve Oliff.
Listen, all I’m gonna say is that Supreme talks about the Mir space station on one page. Suprema talks about Youngblood–like, the Alan Moore Youngblood–plot/character stuff on another. Kids are in a fucking comic book store. It’s like the comic book version of Awakenings or whatever that movie was where the guys in comas woke up and just kind of staggered around, confounded by the far-flung future of like 1991.
Larsen was right, though–Moore left a fucking hell of a cliffhanger.
Marvel Comics. Written by Jeff Parker. Illustrated by Declan Shalvey. Colored by Chris Sotomayor and Jordie Bellaire.
It’s hard to believe that something like forty issues ago–that is to say, what, two, two and a half years, ha ha Marvel–this comic was mostly about stuff like Nuke shooting an old Untold Tales of Spider-Man villain in the head while they tried to make Grizzly look less like a furry and more like some other kind of sexual deviant. My, how the Jeff Parker run has grown–and now, at #172, it proudly declares ’15 YEARS!’ (of Thunderbolts) on the cover, about three issues before the book is finally getting the Operation and becoming a woman, whose name will be Dark Avengers.
And just to bring it all full circle and remind us all what’s important for the big anniversary throwdown, Parker gives Citizen V dialogue about “that enormous phallic symbol in Central Park” while Shalvey tags in to draw V in a pose where he’s pretty much Michael-Scott-ing an outcropping of rock, lifting one leg so high that the only possible intent could be to showcase his sweet bulge while he yells about dick-towers, and that’s another week of superhero comics for you.