Better Late Than Whatever: Graeme blows the schedule.

Dear MUNI - It really shouldn't take that long to get from the Sunset to downtown first thing in the morning. Seriously, please sort your shit out so that I don't have to wait 20 minutes in the tunnel between stops again. Thank you.

Appropriately, on the day I'm spectacularly late for work, reviews of a couple of spectacularly late books.

ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER #5:Hibbs is right - At this point, Frank Miller is clearly just taking the piss and trying to see how far he can push things. You know that as soon as you see the first page, which has Wonder Woman in a cleavage-displaying trenchcoat (and with an impossibly-thin waist - Jim Lee, I know you know human proportions better than that) saying her first line in the series: "Out of my way, sperm bank."

Yeah, exactly.

Of all the ridiculousness in this issue - which includes Miller literally lapsing into self-parody, giving Batman a caption that reads "I love being the goddamn BATMAN" - it's the treatment of Wonder Woman that really stands out. It's not so much the cliched, fetishized, man-hating narration ("Men always lie. About everything. Men always make a mess. Out of everything.") as it is the fact that her man-hating ways fall apart when Superman kisses her, which happens after she tells him "You bastard! You bastard. I hate your guts. I hate your guts. You make me sick. You make me sick."

Thanks for sharing your crazy fucked-up take on gender politics with us there, Frank.

All of that said, the issue - despite being eleven months late (Or is it ten months? I can't remember, was this meant to be bi-monthly, way back when?) - is entirely Eh. It's not even funny-bad, it's just boring. Miller's writing? Kind of messed up, but nothing that we haven't really seen from him before. Lee's art? Not as good as it used to be. The whole package? Not only not worth waiting a year for, but not even waiting until you get to the store for; this will be defended as a funny subversive take on the iconic characters by many, but I kind of wonder what's meant to be actually funny about it.

That said, ULTIMATES 2 #13 isn't much better. Sure, it's exactly the kind of thing that has worked for its fans for the past 25 issues across the last, what, five years or so, but that means that it has the same flaws, as well. Ultimates really works best as the self-conscious Image book - it's really all about the art, and better if you don't concentrate too much on the story. That's definitely the way to approach this final issue, which begins with Loki telling Captain America, "Do you honestly believe [Thor] could kill me with a hammer?" after Thor has, indeed, just slammed his hammer into Loki's head and failed to kill him. So it comes as no surprise when Thor ends up killing Loki with his hammer later in the book. Foreshadowing, you see? Just like a real writer! Okay, cheap shot, but the only thing that's really surprising about the writing of this finale is the lack of spectacle - we're shown extended sequences of an Asgardian army appearing to fight giant wolves, trolls and monsters (the bad guys get three pages worth of their appearing in DC, and the Asgardians two pages), but don't really get to see that battle; instead, we get a foldout showing the main characters in tightly rendered action poses with the epic fight as background. It's a really odd and unsatisfying choice, but what can you do? Everything else goes exactly as you expected (Complete with Millar's trademark dialogue. You know that he'd script any scene in exactly the same way at this point; even someone buying a loaf of bread would get five pages, including two pages where the customer hands over the money to the person behind the counter and you get a close-up of the customer smirking and saying "Keep the change sweetheart." Then there would be a couple of panels of him leaving the store, before you see the person behind the counter turn to her friend and, in a full page splash, say "Jeez. What an asshole."), and as such leaves you unsatisfied by its perfunctory nature. Eh, again, but those who loved it before will probably love it again.

Tomorrow - The best book of the week.