No Sacrificing, Strike Like Lightning: Tucker on 6/16

Hey, I'm into single issues of things that come out on a weekly basis in a paper format that I can purchase with American currency. Here's a few of them.

Amazing Spider-Man # 633
I’ve enjoyed quite a few of these short story arcs that Amazing has been doing since “The Gauntlet” started, but Shed was the first one where I felt like what I was reading was living up to what I was seeing. The Marcos Martin issues, that Javier Pulido Rhino short, Paul Azaceta’s Electro, cosmic Lee Weeks--all of those were really beautifully drawn comics. But behind the art, I could tell they were supposed to be building towards a broken down Spidey (ala Knightfall), and it never seemed to get there. (Here's some advice: steal Jim Aparo's old "draw some stubble" trick. That's how we knew Batman wasn't at his best.) That might be more tied into the way the comics constructed (the ever-changing writer) than any specific creative failure. Being the last chunk of pain before the big finale, Shed was able to push the point further than the rest, but it’s probably selling Zeb Wells short to imply that his spot in the rotation is responsible for the stories quality. 

More than any of the rest of the stories leading up to Grim Hunt, Shed was sad, a dark story that concluded with Spider-Man rejecting self-preservation when it demanded that he hurt innocent people. (He survived, blah blah blah, the drama of that moment had nothing to do with “how’s he going to get out of this”, it was a showcase for determination, a flipped version of the standard Spidey “whatever it takes” moment.) Visually, 633 suffers from the same Bachalo-didn’t-draw-it-all problems that hampered 632, and the only real arguments that can be made in defense of that is that 1) the work that is here is incredible, and 2) it’s not as hard to stomach as that Sinister Spider-Man mini-series where he only drew the fight scenes. (Did anybody else read those comics? Not-Bachalo draws Venom jumping off of a building, and Bachalo draws the landing? Not-Bachalo draws Venom walk through a door, Bachalo draws what’s inside? That didn’t work.)

The most memorable moments in Amazing in the last few months have all been visual--Azaceta’s catching-the-ceiling moment, Marcos Martin’s Family Circus casino fight and his inset square of a Ghost World style Carlie, Javier Pulido’s repetition of the seated Rhino while a jailbreak goes down--and Shed had at least two more, the first being when Curt Connors “died” in 631 and the second being when Spidey got buried at the bottom of a pile of crazies in this issue and chose not to fight his way out. Problems? Yeah, 633 has some. VERY GOOD nonetheless.

Ultimate Comics X # 3

I don’t think anybody was expecting Jeph Loeb to come riding in on a white horse with a new African-American super-hero right when Heidi Macdonald needed one most, but hey, here he went, and look what he brung. Art’s art is EXCELLENT.

Hellblazer # 268

This is the second part of “Sectioned”, which is probably the scariest Hellblazer story since that Warren Ellis issue about a room that made people commit suicide. It’s got a similarity of tone to one of the earlier Milligan stories, the one that achieved all of its drama by behaving exactly like one of those “i’m going to save the girl” soap operas right up until the point where it ended by saying that no, you dummy, the girl is dead and will always be dead and you’re as dumb as John for thinking that dead doesn’t mean dead forever. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that most of the tension right now in Sectioned is wrapped up in wondering whether or not John Constantine actually did beat a woman so badly that he chipped her teeth, split her lips and broke her nose. I’ll admit, it’s pretty fucked up to have the primary importance in a story that involves a woman being beaten to be about ensuring that the male hero of the story isn’t responsible for doing it, but I'm hoping that’s an accidental casualty of the serialization of the story more than it is a reflection of what “Sectioned” is really about. I hope it is. This guy wrote Enigma, you know? I can’t see him busting up ladyfaces as window dressing.

What’s unsettling about "Sectioned" is how its taken John and turned him into one of those crazy/doomed side-characters in a Shade The Changing Man storyline, and now Milligan’s bringing the actual Shade on board as fellow protagonist. It’s scary because the story--like all of Milligan’s so far, except for the India arc--is about breaking John down, about attacking every aspect of the character’s historical behavior. What’s John done since Milligan took over? Failed, consistently. He hasn't saved most of the people he was trying to save, he very nearly raped a girl who didn’t want to date him anymore--get somebody else to explain that--and now Milligan’s bringing the story closer to Delano’s old threat (mental collapse) than any writer has since Ennis.

Not to encroach on Brian’s territory, but most Hellblazer readers have to be aware that the comic has a shitty trade program and low single issue sales, that its continued existence stands in stark opposition to the business model that every other Vertigo comic follows. Hellblazer is the one nostalgia hold-out that Vertigo publishes, and Vertigo’s gotten pretty merciless in the last few years. (Regardless of their quality, Air was a comic that they wrote about in Elle fucking magazine, and Unknown Soldier got a sales-jump write-up in the New York Times, and those comics still got shut down.) So when somebody like Peter Milligan comes along and starts writing Hellblazer stories that keep slamming against what-Hellblazer-is-usually-like, and then he starts doing thematic callbacks to the way the series began (with John’s fearing a return to straitjackets and suicide attempts), and when all of that is coming after two failed Hellblazer graphic novels (Dark Entries and Pandemonium), there’s an added measure of “this could be for real” attached. I’m not trying to imply that “Sectioned” is scary because “oh shit they might cancel Hellblazer”, but the fact that they very well might cancel Hellblazer gives Peter Milligan--one of the original writers that helped establish Vertigo in the first place--a gravity of consequence that the series hasn’t had since Azzarello figured out how freaked out he could make readers by making John into the factual bisexual Delano probably always intended him to be.

Anyway. “Sectioned”. It’s a GOOD story right now, Camuncoli’s still draws some of the most fluid bodies-in-motion panels of anybody right now, Vertigo’s gotten over their early decade fear of non-rust coloring, and Simon Bisley’s covers are goofy perfect. Blah blah blah, I like this one.

20th Century Boys Volume 9, VERY GOOD

This relates, but it's still tangential and you have to guess why.

I had to go to this mega-life-important meeting at this out-of-my-income-bracket hotel recently, one of those kind of meetings that you show up an hour early for because being late for it is a non-option. Being early fucks me up though, because that means I spend an hour milling around in the nearby vicinity getting myself more worked up until I’m as nervous as I get, which is a decent amount, although not as much as some. I was listening to “Chase Scene”, which is the only song on the new Broken Social Scene album that I’ve fallen in love with as much as I fell in love with that song “Atlas”, which was what I used to listen to when I’m nervous and needed to pump myself up a bit. Anyway, I walk towards the hotel, take a deep breath, walk inside the hotel, hit the marble staircase, and right then, at the height of my anxiety, I look up and see this totally-out-of-place guy standing at the top of the marble staircase: he’s wearing a brown t-shirt, one in that  bleach-washed style that Old Navy probably has a patent on, and it says something about “always being in a Florida Keys state of mind”, and its tucked into his jeans, which are stone-washed, lycra-tight with hand-rolled cuffs (!), and yes, because he’s a real person who lives like a cartoon character, he’s wearing a gigantic fuck-you-heroes fannypack right over his junk. Rocking some glasses like they came from mail order. He’s looking past me as I hit the marble stairs, and there’s somebody behind me that he knows, because he straightens up, claps his hands and goes Bang Bang with his finger guns, and then he--i’m not making any of this up--he spins on his the ball of his right foot and starts walking toward the front desk.

He immediately tripped, hit the ground.

He hopped up real quick, didn’t need help from the bellhop or his friend, both of whom came running. I silently thanked him over and over again while I was waiting for the elevator to take me to the 18th floor. That guy saved my life.