Every week, I go to a comic book store and pick out some comics that I want to read and then I read them and then I think about them and then sometimes I write about them. Sometimes I just read stuff because people on the internet say they are totally awesome and full of win.
Sometimes those people on the internet are dirty liars with bad taste. Dark Reign: Hawkeye # 4
Some of the Dark Reign books have been pretty entertaining, and that's not really surprising--Marvel's got a lot of writers who would clearly prefer writing espionage/crime thrillers, and doing a bunch of short mini-series focusing on shlocky villain characters and hardcore action allows them to ignore the whole "good guy wins, makes speech about values" shit that morons find necessary. Of course, none of these books are going to fight with Asterios Polyp for a seat at the "I took a French class" card table, but fuck it, that doesn't make them bad comics.
No, what makes them bad is shit like this:
Oh, I see what you did there! Like we're inside Bullseye's head! Like that guy Solo--he's a real character from Spider-Man, but it's pre-marriage done gone Spider-Man, and all those people have abandoned comics from what I've heard--he's...wait a second. What's that guy doing? Is he supposed to be hitting you in the face, Bullseye? Because if he's hitting you in the face, why did the perspective change all of a sudden? Shouldn't the fist be going directly into your face, or directly towards the reader, since this is a POV shot? Oh, maybe he's just showing you his fist, like when they burned Gary Busey's arm in Lethal Weapon, like "Don't play the blues with us, Gary Busey's crazy." Hey pal, I don't need you to burn Gary Busey's arm, I already know Gary Busey's crazy. I watched the second season of Celebrity Rehab, that dude makes up acronyms all the time. "Freedom: Facing Real Exciting Energy Developing Out Of Miracles". Burning flesh don't mean shit, that guy eats bricks and shits victory.
Okay, bad panel, no big deal.
Are there any super-hero comics where the villain doesn't have an extensive security system that includes 8 to 10 video cameras in one room? They haven't shown a Joker hideout in a while, I bet he doesn't have video cameras. I realize it's standard practice for villainous characters to be hardcore snuff & torture film enthusiasts, so it makes sense that they'd want to videotape their exploits, but why, if you were in the process of explaining how you've been lying to some erstwhile wanna-be hero, wouldn't you turn off the cameras attached to the Room Of Explanation? Because the guy just left the room. And the room he just left is within walking distance of a room where he can go and watch you talk about betraying him from at least 8 camera angles.
And yeah, let me get this out of the way: "It's just a comic! Fuck you, it's just a comic! Fuck me, I liked this comic! Walls of televisions are cool to look at! They've been cool to look at ever since Sliver hit Showtime!" Yes, of course, it is just a comic, and fuck, like away: but the constant slide rule that gets whipped out is hard to keep up with. I could give a rats ass, a tight, sweet rats ass, about Peter Parker's dumbass wedding to dumbass Mary Jane Watson, but the irritation makes sense: because one day Marvel is saying "Need you to get on board with this idea, it's about the Devil at a swap meet, weddings on the table" and the next day saying "hey, just let it go man, It's Just A Comic, who cares about all the cameras that are in Bullseye's dads torture room". I can keep up without a recap page. I'd trade that for a checklist of which of the retarded devices I'm supposed to "suspend my disbelief" on that make it through whatever they call the editing process over at Goof Shoes Headquarters.
Stuff of Legend # 1
Ah, finally these fucking comics people have listened and given readers what they really want: a serious version of Toy Story. If there's one thing that was really missing in those art house Pixar flicks, it was solemnity. Thankfully, the creators knew a hardcore Indian In The Cupboard might not be enough, so they've gilded the lilly and thrown in an absent father who is off fighting in World War 2. I know what you're asking: did the guy storm Normandy or did he walk into a concentration camp and take off his helmet with a look of shock on his face?
There's more issues to come, I'm sure we'll get in a reference to the concentration camps soon enough: God forbid somebody be stuck reading a WW2 story that doesn't mention Normandy or Buchenwald.
This comic is supposed to be the new Mouseguard, or the new Chew, and if you're wondering what that means...well, good for you. Seriously, good for you. Because it means something shitty, and it means something sour, and it doesn't have anything to do with whether or not this comic is any good or not. It just means that it's been picked at random to become fodder for more attention than its derivative story deserves because there's potential for trashbag people to make thirteen bucks extra selling it the day after it comes out. Now, sure: this comic is rare and hard to find, but only if you have trouble remembering the part of the alphabet that starts after the letter R. Otherwise, you can find it under S, next to Sinister Spider-Man, which has a page where Venom eats a bunch of panels, a squirrel, all while alluding to raping an ex-girlfriend. That's where I found it, and now I know my community college degree was worth the dick I sucked to pay for it. I can spell.
Unknown Soldier # 10
The latest Unknown Soldier storyline started as a graphic expletive at celebrities visiting Third World troublespots, and it proposed the sort of late-night macabre "solution" that appeals to college students who stay up late at night coming up with macabre solutions to political problems while putting Jolly Ranchers in bottles of Zima. Due to the propensity Vertigo has for some seriously pat excursions into allegory barely hidden behind juvenile bloodsport, it was a pleasant surprise to see the main character decide not to murder his Angelina/Madonna hybrid. (Although the reasoning for it is the same kind of last-minute fictional luck nonsense that they used at the end of Training Day, where that Maori actor who plays both Iraqi revolutionaries and Latino ganglords finds out that Ethan Hawke had previously rescued his cousin from a rape, thereafter deciding not to shoot him in the mouth.) If Unknown Soldier had just ended there, it wouldn't have been much more than an interesting reverse-twist, where a Vertigo polit-comic decided not to go all cynical and mean--but then it had a solid little back-and-forth argument where the character spits out five solid directions in which to help the country, and the point of the comic kind of shone through. That's the thing about Unknown Soldier--the art seems mostly interested in making the lead character look cool to the detriment of all else, the situations said character end up in are rife with sentimentalized, predictable turns of fate, a huge chunk of the plot seems derived directly from The Manchurian Candidate--but the intent behind it is written on every page. This is a comic that wants to look at something more important than a super-hero comic does, it has another goal besides "sell well enough to make more". And shit, you can't really make fun of that: who doesn't sort of hate their job, and their life, when they realize that nothing they do will ever help all the suffering people in the world? Joshua Dysart did a lot of research, he fucking WENT to East Africa--and instead of using that information to just publish a bloodsport horror show comic, with page after page of Real World Atrocities as entertainment, he's shooting to make something that's got actual substance, and he's trying to do it in a marketplace that's proven, over and over again, that it likes its politics as Black Hat/White Hat as possible. If somebody says they like The Photographer, and they want more comics like that...well, what do you offer if they've already read Persepolis and everything Joe Sacco does? God forbid if they're interested in the New Release buckets.
Of course, intent doesn't mean that people should buy something, and it also doesn't excuse Unknown Soldier for being a kind of boring comic most of the time. But unlike most of the author-as-mouthpiece stories, Dysart's voice is the best part of the comic. If he was willing to give himself over to that sincerity--which he was doing for a good while at the Unknown Soldier blog--this comic wouldn't need any mulligans.
Then again, it's Vertigo. It also might help if there was more titty.