...which is saying a lot; I've been reading comics with at least some tiniest sense of critical thought for 25-ish years. I've read some howlers in my day; and it is always going to be hard to top, say, TAROT and the Haunted Vagina. For a really really bad comic, I have to end with my mouth wide open, and the thought racing through my head of "....the FUCK did I just read?" as I sit there poleaxed. Well, I think last night I have read the poleaxest of all poleaxes -- I felt incredibly dirty and gross after I put it down.
JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE RISE OF ARSENAL #3
"Arsenal", of course, is the new nom de guerre (or at least it will be by the end of this series) of Roy Harper, the sidekick formerly known as Speedy.
Speedy, perhaps you know, has recently been known as "Red Arrow", and is/was a member of the Justice League of America. He's had a weird and tortured past: his name used to be "Speedy", after all. He was famously addicted to heroin. He slept with Chesire (who he calls "Jade") -- a genocidal mass murderer in the DC Universe who once blew up the country of "Qurac" with nuclear weapons. They had a daughter, named Lian, who was recently killed (along with tens of thousands of other people in "Star City") by Prometheus. Prometheus also ripped off Roy's arm, leading us to this series, where he's meant to "rise" to become Arsenal.
That's the backstory, here is what happens in issue #3:
Page 1: Chesire shows up to (theoretically) kill Roy, blaming him for Lian's death. They fight, and Roy's thought captions on this page are about how hot she was in bed. No shit: " Next to Kendra (Hawkgirl), Jade was the best in bed." Chesire has poisonous fingernails that will kill you fairly instantly. She is shown scratching him with those fingernails, though he isn't poisoned (?), and the scratch marks completely disappear on page 2 (??).
Page 2 -7: they fight, to such scintillating dialogue as "Bite me, Jade." and "You're a skilled assassin, but as a mother -- YOU SUCKED!". Roy uses various things sitting around (a tennis racket, a stapler, an extension cord) to battle Chesire -- this is apparently Roy's new superpower, fighting with whatever junk is sitting around, which is excitingly McGyver-esque! Using the extension cord like a whip (which is OK, "She likes it ROUGH anyway"), he ties Chesire up, porn-submission-style. Then they make out, and start to fuck....
Page 8: .. except it turns out that he's impotent!
Chesire then disappears from the comic without another word or mention of her.
Page 9: Since he can't fuck, he decides to go beat up guys. "I need a release." and "For me, they serve their purpose" he thinks, as he sticks knives in faceless people's arms.
Page 10: full-page splash of Roy standing over a bunch of unconscious guys. "Much better" says the caption as Roy makes an O-face.
Page 11: his dead junkie friend appears, and talks about the time they double-teamed a "couple of real skanks" in Nashville.
Pages 12 & 13: His daughter dead, and his dead friend prodding him, Roy decides to jump down off the rooftop in full costume and buy some heroin from a street dealer.
Page 14 & 15: he smokes heroin and nods out, in a two page spread.
Page 16 & 17: his dead daughter appears to him in his drugged out state.
Page 18 & 19: ...but is interrupted by five Prometheus' in an alley, and he beats and stabs them...
Page 20 & 21 (also a double page spread)... but it turns out that he's actually just beaten up his junkie alleymates, apparently with a dead cat (!), while Batman shows up and declares Roy needs to stop.
Now I've done a number of drugs over the years, but never heroin. I have, however, known a few junkies, and I can assure you that when/after they got high they weren't capable of fighting ANYthing, or really doing much other than sit there and drool.
Pages 22-25: Roy and Batman fight to the tune of "Roy, I'm your friend" and "I am here to help you". Yay, Dick!
Pages 26 & 27: Roy wakes up with Black Canary standing over him. He's strapped to gurney (all four straps!), and Dinah is kind of moralizing without actually sitting with him, and she walks out, rather than stay with him to help him through getting clean. This is apparently in a hospital, though we oddly don't get a caption explaining this until...
Page 28: Batman and BC talk about how this is a special hospital specializing "in convicted villains with substance abuse problems"
Page 29: Roy apparantly babbles to his dead friend some more, but then we turn to...
page 30: and his daughter is there again, this time covered in wounds and gore. "Next Issue... Death of a Hero", the end.
This is followed by five pages of dialogue-free, black and white images of Batman shooting guns at people (!), apparently killing several of them (!)
This comic book costs $3.99.
This comic book is branded as a "Justice League" title, did I mention that?
Now sure, I get the idea that "If we show him hitting rock bottom, then his eventual return to heroism is that much more powerful" as a concept, but the execution here is maybe about as good as, say, REEFER MADNESS.
And I really don't want to see, in a "Justice League" comic, this level of sexual frustration and violence. There's no "mature readers" notice on the book, yet Vertigo comics with 1/100th of the degradation get labeled...
Is this what we've come to? This was billed by DC as one of their "big" stories of the year. And we wonder why people aren't buying comics like they used to?
I really wonder if we had time machines, what might happen if we traveled back to 1979, or 1969 and showed DC people this comic. What might they think about the corruption of our culture, of the degradation that we've devolved into?
This comic was gross. Everyone involved in its production, especially the editor, Brian Cunningham, and publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee should be deeply ashamed of what they've done here. It actually has me sitting here, stunned, thinking "Wait, why am I in this business again?"
Shame on you, shame on all of you.