"WHO WANTS IT FIRST?!": Jog on the disreputable tales of 11/29

I love a good theme post like I love a good meal. Which reminds me that I'm going to have to trudge through tomorrow's ice storm to get food.

Speak of the Devil #3 (of 6): Back in July when I reviewed the first issue of this, Gilbert Hernandez's sex-horror trash film in comics form, I qualified my then-lukewarm reaction by noting "I expect better as it collects itself." Reviews of works in progress operate as analysis in progress. My qualms with the debut stemmed from Hernandez's use of a spread-out 'cinematic' style to start up a larky story, making it seem especially vaporous.

Well, it's now halfway through and Hernandez has provided some condensation; the initial masked night romps of young Val -- popular high school student, and a peeping tom with a special interest in her exhibitionist stepmom -- have given way to several plot complications, and the flighty joy of Hernandez's wide panels is accordingly replaced with tighter, troublesome panels. As always, the artist is in total control of pacing (both in-issue and across the wider story - this guy knows how to serialize), and even toss-off sequences are rich with storytelling technique - there's a swell page of back-and-forth conversation where each speaking character is kept off-panel, to express their lack of connection in spatial terms. Nice.

The story, oh... there's graveyard sex and older women bedding young fellows and teenage lesbian tension between gymnasts and half-dead infants kept in drawers. Hernandez's ever-building tension climaxes with a nice midpoint explosion of violence, and it'll be something to see where he takes things from there. I do still think this sort of stuff would have been better delivered as a single book, like its similarly conceived, as of now far superior sibling work Chance in Hell (one of the best comics of the year, btw), or maybe in the larger chunks Love and Rockets will soon be providing, but I can't deny the cumulative effect brewing. I'm having a GOOD time.

Foolkiller #2 (of 5): Of course, maybe I'm just a ghoul, and a sucker for exploitation nonsense. This latest issue of Marvel's MAX update for the Steve Gerber concept sees writer Gregg Hurwitz recounting the origin of the new Foolkiller, Michael Trace, who has two evident skills: (1) getting members of his immediate family killed; and (2) making shitloads of money by sheer chance. As a boy, Michael shoplifted some comics, then told a lie about his crime - this resulted in his father being shot and killed. Later, as a troubled young man, Michael walked into a casino and won ten million dollars on his first try at the slots. Ah, the tides of fate.

But I think the part where I really started grooving had Michael practicing his katana moves during a board meeting of the corporation he founded with his winnings, only pausing to ok the use of cheap alloys in their automobiles. Alas, those alloys go into a car driven by Michael's own dear mother, causing her to fatally crash... into a busload of innocent children!! It's like Spider-Man's origin is this guy's mutant power! We also get the origins of all of Foolkiller's stuff - his tattoos, his staff, his dog (complete with the pup getting bigger and meaner with time) - it's comprehensive!

The tone is strange, with tongue-in-cheek moments that'll probably only register to those who'd dig the content were it totally straight. I suspect the tortured 'fools' theme won't help - the title character delivers a long speech over the last quarter of the issue, and I could barely even parse it. On the other hand, Lan Medina's art is the best I've seen from him (is Andy Troy coloring from pencils?), every panel full of rich grot. Still OKAY, but maybe it's just me.