Look, we all know that last time John read some comics released this century it all got a bit hairy. John would like to point out that this was not out of malice, low blood sugar, jealousy, his piles flaring up or sunspot activity. No, difficult as it may be to believe, John maintains it was the result of those comics not actually being all that good. Think of it as being a bit like John was showing you that sometimes he and Comics would argue but it didn't mean they didn't love each other any less and it certainly wasn't your fault. John can see why Doctor Doom talks like this – it’s fun. Anyway, this…
Due to the lack of a scanner all pictures are stolen from other people. That's what I'm reduced to. I hope you are all proud.
(Note: Doctor Doom was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Or Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, whichever floats your boat. The important thing is to get both names in there. It’s free and respectful, Marvel.)
CREEPY#11 Art by Gilbert Hernandez, Amy Reeder, Peter Bagge, Chrissie Zullo, Johnny Craig and Joelle Jones Written by Gilbert Hernandez, J. Torres, Dan Braun, Peter Bagge, Alisa Whitney, Archie Goodwin and Jamie S. Rich Lettered by Gilbert Hernandez, Amy Reeder, Peter Bagge and Nate Piekos of Blambot® Dark Horse Comics, $4.99 (2013)
CREEPY is a horror anthology comic so it’s a given that it'll be a mixed bag but this issue kicks itself in the head from the off by kicking off with The Gilbert Hernandez Show and so everything after that is done no favours whatsoever. Oh editors, you never put Elvis on first. Hernandez’ tale is haunted by the phantom sounds of a thousand readers’ eyes revolving as his statistically gifted heroine grits her teeth through her lower back pain and bounces through a story as trashy and daft as all get out. By the final full page reveal said fun parched eyes will be revolving so fast that dogs from miles around will be howling at the resulting sound. The only way this nonsensical and nasty strip could have been improved would have been to slather it with hot pinks and crystalline greens a la Stuart Gordon's From Beyond. Ayup, fear fans, that’s the toxic territory we’re in here and while there does not actually exist a monograph called Basket Crepes: The Nearly Edible Imagery of Frank Henenlotter if you wish one did you’ll enjoy this magnificently shameless embracing of schlocky horror by a man so gifted he just doesn't have to care anymore.
"...like a gingerbread man!"
After that, Amy Reeder illustrates a story about a pining husband and his inadvertent contribution to the locally sourced fishing industry. This one is mainly notable for Amy Reeder’s art being far better than it was on her BATWOMAN stint. Then there’s one about how a lady’s monthly cramps might be hunger cramps because women are unknowable monsters who prey on men. I've made it sound really misogynistic there because I wanted to see who reached for their buckled hat and flaming torch. And now I know, don’t I? Now we all know. Alas my New Puritans it’s far more mundane than all that; the tale isn't terrible but is too derivative and tamely delivered to work as a terror tale. Filling in the cheap content reprint slot there’s Johnny Craig joint from an old CREEPY. It may be from the '70s CREEPY, but could just as well have come from a '50s EC Comic which is fine and dandy by me but might not be by you. I feel quite tremulous merely mentioning EC Comics on The Internet as currently any conversation involving them seems to devolve rapidly into a fucking chimps tea party where the winner is whoever gets the most shit in Eddie Campbell’s hair. The final story reads like someone excorcising the baggage of a bad relationship through the medium of words and pictures; with the pictures not quite sleazy enough to do the job justice. Throughout the book there’s a drizzle of Peter Bagge strips which, if you are a Peter Bagge fan, I guess you’ll like. Like I said, it’s a horror anthology so if you like horror anthologies what with their customary blemishes and surgical scars and all then this one was GOOD!
GLORY#31 Art by Ross Campbell & Ulises Farinas Written by Joe Keatinge Coloured by Owen Gieni Lettered by Douglas E. Sherwood Glory created by Rob Liefeld Image, $3.99 (2013)
Ah, Glory. What a fine comic this is. Sales aren't so hot so I hear. That’s most likely because Glory is a female character who hasn't been designed with the aim of appealing to the lowest portions of the lowest portions of fandom. She’s a bit butch, this lass and no mistake. Glory doesn't so much look like she’s built like a brick shit house as she looks built out of brick shit houses. A sturdy pile of at least five on top of which sits a creepy wee Barbie head but with Action Man’s scarring. Flesh may be on display but the flesh on display has the bluish-marbled sheen of freezer burned meat. Fancy your chances, chaps, and Glory will snap it off and feed it to you. Which is refreshing. What’s also refreshing is the jumble of outrageously gory issue(s) long fight scenes and convincing character interactions the series has managed to deliver thus far . The splatterhouse fight scenes are by Ross Campbell, who gives the offally antics a Darrow/Quitely/Burnham/Burrows burnish of detail; a level of detail which explicitly testifies to the relish with which the task is attacked. With GLORY Keatinge and Campbell (et al.) have built a sweet story of friendship, a brutal story of family and a comic that’s basically just all round engaging entertainment. Although I greatly enjoyed Keatinge's effective deployment of undercutting (pancakes, anyone?) his savage and serious buildup I think I most enjoyed the issue which flash forwarded to a point in the narrative where everything looks to have gone tits up. Now we've jumped back and the suspense is doubled; nice one. I enjoyed this stratagem when I first encountered it in the WARRIOR SUMMER SPECIAL in 1982(ish) where Alan Moore did it in Marvelman. I don’t know if Alan Moore did it first and nor do I care because what’s important is that Keatinge deploys it at least as well as The Magnificent One; meaning GLORY is GOOD!
1982 - That was certainly a special Summer!
Of course a lot of you won’t be familiar with Marvelman due to the reasons outlined so smashingly in Padraig O'Mealoid’s fascinating, informative and wholly necessary investigation into the history of Marvelman. An investigation which promises to reveal who actually owns Marvelman. This, of course, is a bit of a cheeky maguffin as the ownership of Marvelman is beyond doubt. Why, as any fule kno, Marvelman is owned wholly and totally by Marvel©™, man! Oh sure, sceptics call this into doubt and wave at the fact that Marvel©™ has released nothing Marvelman related except for a bunch of insanely overpriced reprints of the Mick Anglo strips and a bad Joe Quesada poster. Now while these Anglo reprints are certainly of nostalgic interest (which is of more interest than the Joe Quesada poster) they are not the Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman material; i.e. the only material anyone cares about. Hataz fixate on this as though it proves something and yet these Hataz fail to take into account Marvel©™’s publicly stated position that they are taking their time so that when the MM stuff appears it will be done right. I mean, let’s face it perfectionism is a major, if not the defining trait, of Marvel©™. After all they do a perfectly good job of (and seem perfectly happy doing so) of denying Jack Kirby any credit or compensation for his co-creator role in the creation of the IPs without which no one at Marvel©™ would have a job. Oh, you thought I was going to do that thing where someone looks at Marvelman and has the shit shocked right out of them like brown toothpaste from a tightly squeezed tube by the bloody remarkable fact that in the last 30 odd years Marvelman has dated somewhat. But I didn't. Probably will do at some point though!
BATTLEFIELDS#4 Art by Russ Braun Written by Garth Ennis Coloured by Tony Avina Lettered by Simon Bowland Dynamite, $3.99 (2013)
Garth Ennis once popped up in one of the Dynamite back pages to bemoan the fact that no one read this here comic and that writing the series was pretty much a thankless and financially fruitless task. Since the contents of Dynamite back pages don't exactly inspire credence I thought Garth Ennis was just being a drama queen because he seems that sort doesn't he? A bit flaky; no good in a firefight; dress as a lady as soon as the lifeboats are struck; you know the sort. Seriously though, who believes anything comic creators say anymore? No, no, no, their wives just say they do; it’s part if the matrimonial pact. Anyway, I had a look at the sales figures and this comic is the #300 best-selling comic. That means people find that there are 299 comics better than this one. At first I thought this meant that readers would much rather read a bad super hero comic than a good war comic. Then I realised these were sales to Retailers. So really Retailers were happier ordering bad super hero comics rather than good war comics. Then I realised the “super hero” and “war” were red herrings and basically retailers were okay ordering bad comics rather than good comics. And at those deep discounts and attractive retailer incentives who can blame them! I guess everyone’s okay with comics being a giant Ponzi scheme? Do they generally work out well those things? Ha ha ha, only joking. I know nothing about retailing and I'm sure it's all fine! Say, while I was enjoying myself reading comics (or, if it was a Tuesday, enjoying myself staring into space silently weeping) my long suffering partner pointed out that there had been a programme on TV about the Hindenburg. Apparently the Hindenburg worked really well. Until suddenly it didn't.
Everything was going so well!
So, this comic no one is reading? Turns out it’s pretty great. BATTLEFIELDS is basically a banner under which Ennis and his various (and variable but very good at the least) artists deliver three part story arcs. Sometimes these arcs are stand alone and sometimes they involve recurring characters. There’s usually a good reason if the characters don’t recur. Death, I’m talking about death there; happens a lot in war, so I hear. Obviously raised on British war comics of the '70s Ennis synthesises the chippily anti-authoritarian swagger and honest violence of these with modern sophisticated storytelling to create (along with his artists) some of the best comics (apparently) barely anyone is reading. They also usually have covers by the divine Garry Leach (and maybe one fine and shining day he could do some interiors?), Leach is of course the man who first drew Alan Moore’s reinvention of Marvelman and is one of the few people who give cross hatching a good name. I’m getting off the subject now, but let’s be clear here – Marvel own Marvelman, Padraig O’Mealoid! MARVEL! Also (SPOILER!) Marvelman may have dated a bit in the last three or so decades. OMG! KIMOTA! Anyhoo, this issue of BATTLEFIELDS kicks off a new three parter involving Anna Kharkova; she being a female Russian pilot previously featured in an arc you need not have read to enjoy this comic. All you need to enjoy this comic is to read it.
Because, yes, despite the fact that comics is a primarily visual medium this comic, one which consists for the most part of two people in a room talking, is pretty great. It’s pretty great because the words coming out of the characters’ mouths are not bland pap; you know, the kind of page filling sub-TV blather dependant on some weird mutual non-aggression pact between the reader and the writer. These words here have content, these words here have substance and within these words a world unfolds. Admittedly it’s a world consisting primarily of a Quonset hut populated by two people but, still, it’s a world. Unfortunately for all involved it’s a world within a world and all that divides the two is wood, tin and glass which is little use against the irrevocable intrusion of the larger, madder and infinitely more savage world which is the world at war. It’s fine work in the words department is what I’m saying. The staging’s good too with both Ennis and Braun working with very little to convey the passing of time in an unobtrusive but effective fashion. It’s mostly Ennis’ show given the confined cast and setting which means Braun isn't given much to work with. Then again Braun is given the human face to work with and that is everything a decent artist needs; he proves to be a more than decent artist by the way. So, this issue was engaging, effective and intelligent and I’m going to go all the way up to VERY GOOD! Should you have the temerity to doubt my words then you’ll have to read it won’t you now? Check. And mate.
Oh, and because there is no podcast this week here's some thoughts on the latest Big Ticket Thinks in Recentville:
1) There is no question to which the right answer is arming Brian Hibbs. We "don't want any more trouble like you had last year in the Fillmore District", Brian Hibbs! 2) I won't be buying anything by people who actively seek to deny other people equal rights. You do what you want. That's how that Freedom stuff works. 3) Jerry Ordway is a good artist and yet he's still basically turning up at the WalMart parking lot at 6 in the morning hoping someone will pick him to go in the back of the truck. Nope, nothing wrong with this industry. 4) Howard Victor Chaykin is starting a new series about General George Custer in the next issue of DARK HORSE PRESENTS - aw, yeah! You'll miss him when he's gone you know!
Now go and fight like the mad dogs you are! But only fight about what's worthwhile - COMICS!!!