Some say it’s not the journey but the destination. In this case it’s very much about the destination, which is the final issue of the artistically impoverished big ticket cash-grab from DC Comics, Dark Knight III: The Master Race. After this we’ll all just pretend it never happened and get on with our lives. We shall never speak of this again. EVER. DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & MillerRead More
Nearly there. Good soldier. Nearly there. DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller
DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #8 Pencils by Andy Kubert and Frank Miller Inks by Klaus Janson Story by Frank Miller (Yeah, right) & Brian Azzarello Colours by Brad Anderson and Alex Sinclair Letters by Clem Robins Cover by Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson Variant Covers by Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, Klaus Janson & Brad Anderson, Bill Sienkiewicz and Riley Rossmo Based on THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller (WITH Lynn Varley, Klaus Janson & John Constanza. Remember them, DC Comics? You should, you really should. You've got one more issue to remember 'em. Then it's spankin' time!) Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane DC Comics, $5.99 or $12.99 (deluxe) (2017)Read More
In which I continue to try and make up lost ground by looking at issue 7 (
of 8 of 9) of DC Comic’s big-ticket Bat event. By popular demand! Well, two people, anyway.
DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller
DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #7 Pencils by Andy Kubert Inks by Klaus Janson Story by Frank Miller (Yeah, right) & Brian Azzarello Colours by Brad Anderson Letters by Clem Robins Cover by Andy Kubert, Frank Miller & Brad Anderson Variant Covers by Frank Miler & Alex Sinclair, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, Klaus Janson & Dave McCaig, Howard Victor Chaykin & Jesus Arbuto and Chris Burnham & Nathan Fairbairn Based on THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller (WITH Lynn Varley, Klaus Janson & John Constanza. Remember them, DC Comics? You should, you really should.) Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane DC Comics, $5.99 or $12.99 (deluxe) (2017)
Make no mistake with issue 7 DKIII:TMR remains a very special comic; special in a wholly awful way. DKIII: TMR is the kind of comic that is so awful it actually makes you genuinely miserable for having sat through it. Maybe it’s the waste of talent that makes the misery sting so hard, for there are talented people here; people who have produced some pretty decent comics but this…thing, is just so awful, so pitiful in fact that to treat it with the disdain it deserves seems unfair, if not cruel. Then you remember how much money this bunch probably got ($$lot$$) for producing this vacuous piffle. It’s hard to decide which bits are worse, the bits with the words or the bits with the pictures. Only joking, it’s definitely the words. As vague and perfunctory as Kubert’s paltry efforts may be, his art’s inadequacies pale before the titanic idiocy of the writing. Azzarello firmly plants his flag in the peak of Mount Awful from the very first page with a tour de farce of faux cleverness. For the author of a comic that has spent far too long buggering about Azzarello certainly doesn’t bugger about in buggering things up. He’s straight in there. In the last characteristically pathetic issue, you will recall (because how could you not), Batman fell in battle. Actually, you might not recall that, because it was delivered with all the narrative vitality of a rural bus timetable. I didn’t see anything on The Internet about it anyway, and that’s where there’s usually some kind of moronic rumpus if a fictional character even coughs persistently enough, never mind finds a rusty red warning in their supertrunks.
So Superman picks ailing Batman up and flies off with him, which is where this issue opens. And Azzarello, for once wasting no time (but unfortunately wasting no time in being awful), in a move you just know made him fire finger guns at his screen, rejigs the old Superman “Faster than a speeding bullet..” spiel from the Siegel and Schuster days, but with a typically modern maudlin slant. “Am I, in fact, all that?” is the undercurrent to this un-Super internal monologue. Azzarello is probably under the misapprehension that this is as cute as that page in All-Star Superman which reduces Superman’s origin to its fundamentals (“Doomed Planet.” ,“Last Son.”, etc). Tragically for tobacco-beard-sporting-finger-gunning writers everywhere it isn’t cute; it’s plain dumb. For starters why would Superman know that speech? Does he make up little ditties about himself, maybe while he’s sat covered in ice (for reasons no one has seen fit to divulge over the seven issues of this blocked toilet of a comic)? Or are there Superman comics in the world of TDKIII:TMR? And were they made by Siegel and Shuster? And did they get royally fucked over like they did in this world? And if I want to read a comic where Superman and Siegel and Shuster occupy the same world why aren’t I reading Rick Veitch’s Maximortal, which is a far, far better comic? Flawed as it is from the off, Azzarello does his self-satisfied conceit no favours at all with his typically tortured syntax. Azzarello’s inept rejig comes off like the empty posturing it is in comparison to Siegel and Shuster’s breezy and effortlessly iconic brilliance. And it just doesn’t work anyway. Superman’s basically bemoaning the fact that even being Superman may not be enough to save Batman (like what’s the alternative, a fucking ambulance? Would a fucking ambulance be better? A flying fucking ambulance even? No, Superman, it wouldn’t.) “I’m only Superman” he sighs, telling us nothing about Superman or indeed anything at all except the utter failure of the writer to “get” the character. Someone should have made Azzarello rewrite this smug baloney until it worked, or until he binned it. It’s not big and it’s not clever; it’s nincompoopery of the highest order. Supernincompoopery!
But where’s Superman going with Batman? To the Lazarus pit! Who didn’t see that coming? Even Karl Marlden in Dario Argento’s Cat O’Nine Tails saw that coming! (Note: Karl Marlden plays a blind man in Dario Argento’s Cat O’Nine Tails. That’s the joke there.) But because Superman is a thoughtless dick we have several pages of Carrie being all sadznshitz because she thinks Batman is dead. You would have thought Superman would have had the wit to let her know there was…a chance! But although that would be entirely in character for Superman, and not too difficult to work into the story, he instead leaves her to wet Batman’s helmet with her lady tears (not a euphemism). These, typically for Kubert, sparsely arted pages are a complete fucking waste of space unless you like seeing young women feeling all sadznshitz for no reason. That doesn’t speak highly of you, I’m afraid. It does speak to the utterly desperate attempts of this comic to inject some drama into the thoroughly beige goings-on. Carrie’s already been sadznshitz over a not-dead Batman in issues #1 and #2 and here she is again all sadznshitz. Azzarello is so frantic to fill his pages he’s reduced to recycling things that already failed to work. So, Superman drops Batman in the Lazarus Pit. I don’t believe (I could be wrong; I don’t really care at this point) the words “Lazarus Pit” are used in this issue, so anyone unfortunate enough to be reading this without decades of useless Bat-ephemera clogging up their higher functions, would be left wondering why Superman has taken the corpse of his pal to what appears to be a particularly sternly ornamented San Franciscan bath house. Is it because they spent some good times there flicking towels at each other’s taut arses between badmouthing Lois and exchanging smoky glances?
No, it’s because it’s a Lazarus Pit! And, as the advert says - it does what it says on the tin. There’s about 4 pages wasted on Batman going into the healing waters, Superman waiting, and then Batman leaping out like a nude billionaire shaped salmon. Fully two pages of that are just Superman waiting. Just…waiting. Lad de dah…waiting. Just…waiting. Got any mints? Waiting…waiting. Thrilling stuff. If you’re an accountant. So, yeah, Batman’s young again! And we might as well shut up shop right here, because all protestations to the contrary this has been the whole point of the series – to make Batman young again. Now they can have TDKR comics forever and a day! Regular Batman can find Carrie’s soiled knickers in his washbin; we could have a lenticular cover, and when you move it Batman holds the lacy aromatic rag up to his nose! Part 1 of a 50 part event: “The Knickers”. Or Dark Knight Batman could team up with Huckleberry fucking Hound! Or Strawberry Fucking Shortcake! The possibilities are quite literally dreary beyond belief! As ever though, in their sweaty fumble after more money DC miss the point. The USP of The Dark Knight universe was that Batman was old, that Batman could die. Without that it’s all just more Batman. And still just more Bruce Wayne Batman to boot. A writer with any stones would have had Bats die, Carrie take the mantle and that black kid from issue one (the kid we all thought was indicative of some thoughtfulness, some relevance; the kid who died in one of the lumpen fight scenes) should have become Robin (but you know, in more urban attire. More “street”. Not just a Nehru collar and some piping, Jim Lee.) Instead we get the same old, same old. Seven overpriced, ineptly executed issues thus far; all so DC can just switch The Dark Knight Returns off and switch it back on again; restore the whole thing back to factory settings. What was once original and thrilling is now neutered and subsumed into the grey paste of insipid corporate product. See also: Watchmen. There’s going to be a Watchmen TV series! How fucking mundane must you be to be excited about a Watchmen TV series! How arid must your inner life that be to think The Dark Knight Returns was a bit too exciting and could really do with being more like the other umptyfuckingbillion Batman comics. The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen - now just as lifeless and drab as everything else! Huzzah! DC clearly need to brush up on their Aesop’s fables. Particularly the one about the goose and the golden eggs. BIFF! BANG! POW! Short stories, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral aren’t just for kids!
A wiser man, a better man, would stop there; the series having essentially declared itself a bleak exercise in corporate box ticking devoid of any and all artistic intentions. Why bother with it anymore? Because it is truly, fascinatingly awful. And it is important that voices are raised against precisely this kind of incompetent high-profile crap. So, I’ll go on. There is a jaw droppingly shit bit where Azzarello tries to inject some depth into the junk tumbling from his characters’ mouths. Carrie and Commissioner Yindel have a rooftop confab which is so full of horseshit I half expected Kubert to have sketched a shire horse next to the smashed Bat-signal. But that would have required some humour, and also horses are hard, and if the art on DKIII:TMR tells me anything it tells me Kubert’s not all that into graft. If there’s a shortcut, Kubert will take it. I’d rather Kubert drove me on holiday than drew my comics is what I’m saying there. Back at the Brian Azzarello Insight Corner: Was it worth it?, asks Yindel who is clearly a moron. All what, asks Carrie because she too is none too bright herself. All this, says Yindel because circuitous drivel takes up space and that’s what writing for comics in the 21st century is all about – taking up space. That and choking the imagination and beauty out of everything. The gist, I think, of all this deep, deep thought is that Yindel is asking Robin if fighting the bad guys was worth it; worth all the death and property damage. This is such a boneheaded question I worry for the state of Brian Azzarello’s mental health. Then, even better (i.e. even worse) there is some mush mouthed mental gruel about how everyone always thinks they are on the right side, so how can they know what they did was right? Deep. Oh, and (buckle UP, Wittgenstein) how masks don’t just conceal – they REVEAL! (Christ. Just…Christ.) The ideas beneath all this overcooked rumbledethumps of inane prattle barely even qualify as thoughts. But important questions are being asked, we are assured. The only important question is how anyone could write this shit and not spend their life puce with shame. This is what happens when people whose talent has really short arms reach for profundity.
Other things happen in the issue and the best I can say about those is they aren’t as hair curlingly terrible as the stuff I’ve highlighted. The Kandorians continue to hang about like a cloud of midges over a stagnant pond, before deciding to go to Paradise Island (“De plane, boss! De plane! De invisible plane!” RIP, Herve Villechaize) for some childnapping. Superman and Wonder Woman’s daughter continues to hang about with the poorly motivated Kandorians, like a posh kid slumming it with the scruffs to piss off mom and dad. The guy with the big melted face complains about having a big melted face. And to be honest I think this whole guy-with-a-big-melted-face business isn’t really worth all the space it’s getting. There’s only so much mileage in a guy-with-a-big-melted-face. But then everything (what little there is of it) gets far too much space in this comic, the whole thing is a whole load of nothing spread far too thin. Oh, the Atom’s back! It’s been several weeks now, or something, since he shrunk so he should, by rights, be covered in his own mess, winnowed by starvation and not a little boggle eyed with fear. But Nah, He’s perfectly fine, sat on a molecule working on his techno-bits. I guess he’s sat on a molecule in a piece of ham which us why he hasn’t starved to death. Why, precisely, it’s taking him so long to fix his magic machine (which will no doubt be adroitly deployed at the climax of the book) is anyone’s guess. There’s also a mini-comic, the bulk of the fun of which is in Frank Miller’s enthusiastic pencils, alas much of the fun of these is crushed by Janson’s rigid inks. The best bit (of the whole series so far in fact) is the appearance of Bat-Mite, largely because there is no mention of him on the page; so it’s entirely possible Frank Miller just drew him in there (twice) for shits and giggles. Just that small sight of goofy (possibly improvisatory) fun throws the rest of the joyless crap surrounding it into stark and unflattering relief. Bat-Mite! Yay! Unfortunately, like the main book, it’s all written in Azzarello’s dourly congested style, in which everyone thinks they are being highly insightful while merely being full of shite. Fans of stereotypically sweaty and sinister Egyptians will have a field day, but that’s probably a minority of the Direct Market audience in 2017.
If DKIII:TMR had been a Broadway Musical it would have closed so fast Spider-Man: Turn Out The Dark’s run would have resembled that of The Mousetrap. But it’s a comic, so its audience are even less discerning than a pensioners’ coach trip at a heavily discounted, matinee performance. Also, because its sales figures are inflated by the comics equivalent of sub-prime mortgages (i.e. variants) it gets to preen about pretending people like it, until every last cent has been squeezed out and you can practically hear its pips squeak. DC even added an extra issue! That was about as welcome as an extra in-law. Obviously this decision was to allow the peerless artistry of the series room to excel, and certainly not because DC wished to increase their market share for another month with one of their few regularly well performing titles. I despise this new tendency on the part of Marvel and DC to gift its audience with an extra issue of whatever over-hyped and undercooked craptacular they have induced us all into buying despite the weight of experience. There’s nothing like flagrantly taking advantage of your audience to engender good will. Here’s where that ends up: I’m not buying anymore mini-series. I’ll just get the TPB when they are done. Add as many issues as you like, you short termist donkey haunches; I’ll not be buying them. Craven and underhanded shenanigans in the extreme, as ever from Corporate Comics. There’s no artistic reason for sticking another ish in since the series has no genuine artistry, and from a creative viewpoint could have done with being seven issues less. That might have, you know, focused the minds of everyone involved. The last thing an ill-disciplined, sprawling, and fundamentally empty thing like DKIII:TMR needs is more room. When your kid starts projectile vomiting due to an allergic reaction to a Chinese meal, you don’t wander through every room in the house with him; maybe knock on next door’s as a surprise and merrily spread the trail of vomitus yet further. No, you stick him in the bath and keep him there. Damage limitation, innit. You all know the words by now, so sing along: DKIII:TMR is CRAP!
NEXT TIME: Something a bit less blatantly soulless and worthier of the name – COMICS!!!
Bit of a hybrid this time out. It’s a little bit European and a little bit American. Something for everyone! Also, Batman! Everyone loves Batman! Unfortunately it’s kind of terrible. But, wait! I’m getting ahead of myself… BATMAN: EUROPA by Parel, Camuncoli, Casali, Azzarello and Brosseau
BATMAN:EUROPA #1-4 Art by Jim Lee, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Diego Latorre and Gerald Parel Layouts by Giuseppe Camuncoli Written by Brian Azzarello and Matteo Cassali Coloured by Alex Sinclair Lettered by Pat Brosseau BATMAN created by Bill Finger with Bob Kane DC COMICS,$3.99 each (2015-2016)
Tellingly the most interesting thing about BATMAN: EUROPA is its appearance some ten years and change late. Announced in 2004, the series finally slouched out in 2015. What? Yes, Jim Lee is involved. However did you guess, Holmes! I guess Jim Lee struggled to find the time to draw an actual comic in between his high level corporate gig of wearing baseball caps and smiling his sunshiney smile. Maybe it’s unfair to blame Jim Lee though, maybe it was Brian Azzarello who was busy earning more money than I’ll ever see, vigorously, and ill-fatedly, palping the withered dugs of Frank Miller and Alan Moore in an attempt to express one last squirt of milky, milky cash; all for a company so bereft of ideas they mistake having Batman fight Rorschach for creativity. Or maybe it was one of the other folk involved that we’re not interested in because they sound a bit foreign and haven’t made awesome comics like, uh, that one that’s only any good because Eduardo Risso drew it, or whatever comic it is that makes people like Jim Lee’s scratchy tedium. (If you really need to like an artist who works at the pace of tectonic shift then I still think Barry “Windsor” Smith’s your best bet.) I don’t really know Matteo Casali but I hear Matteo Casali has written some Dylan Dog comics I’ve never read, so maybe he’s a byword for tardiness; maybe our continental chums are all like, “Dylan Dog would be a good comic if only it ever came out. Damn Matteo Casali’s eyes! That Mateo Casali makes Jim Lee look like a Japanese Rocket Train. Mateo Casali! Pah!” Ah, but do you want it now or do you want it right, someone who thinks I don’t know a diversionary tactic when I hear one is saying. Look, the Sistine Chapel ceiling took Michelangelo four years. Four years. Therefore it took DC Comics six years longer than it took Michelangelo to paint the Sistine chapel ceiling to produce a comic about Batman in Europe. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that a Batman in Europe comic that takes 10 years had better be some brand new high in Batman comics, if not a fresh peak for the very medium of comics itself. It isn’t.
Unsurprisingly BATMAN: EUROPA is mostly set in Europe. And so it’s called EUROPA, which sounds a bit like Europe. But I don’t know why it’s specifically called “EUROPA”, since that’s the website for the European Union (which we aren’t to speak of lest we be hung, drawn and quartered for Treason against Brexit Britain. TAKING BACK CONTROL!!!!) Or maybe Brian Azzarello thinks people in Europe all put ‘a’ on the end of words; like Italians in an old Chris Claremont comic (“I-a welcome-a you-a to-a Europe-a, Bat-a man-a! Bella! Bella!”) Anyway, whatever, as the kids are wont to spout. Or maybe it’s one of Brian Azzarello’s “amazing” puns (e.g. it’s Brian Azzarello on Batman, he probably got paid a shitload so EUROPA it’s good. Geddit! EUROPA it’s good! Diamonds, baby! Diamonds.) I should probably move on now, since I don’t get to be ten years and then some late; you know, like professionals do. BATMAN: EUROPA is four issues, each set in a different European city (Chisinau, Podgorica, Heidelberg and Chichester; no not really, it’s Berlin, Prague, Paris and Rome), each has a different European artist and, uh, that’s it. Well, except for the first issue which starts in Gotham, which is in America, which is not part of Europe, (also, it's not real) and so has Jim Lee tepidly involved before the series flings itself across the Atlantic to Berlin where Camuncoli picks up his pen. The premise, or the (inch) high-concept if you must, is: The Batman and The Joker are both infected by a deadly virus and have to team up and travel round Europe for a cure. And so EUROPA starts off with Batman and The Joker rolling about on the floor all bloody and kind of weightlessly sketched in that way Jim Lee will continue to do for the rest of his stint on the book. Hey, Jim Lee fans, does Jim Lee have some kind of clinical aversion to suggesting weight in his art? I’m just asking; he’s clearly talented, but everything looks too samey, and this together with the failure to allot weight to any of his visual elements just leaves his work looking like half-hearted sketches. I don’t mind Jim Lee’s art, but I’m not all that excited by it, basically. I see a picture of Jim Lee smiling in his latest baseball cap and I don’t begrudge him, you know. Equally though, I don’t get all tingly round the prepuce when I see his name. Despite Lee’s signature dreariness Azzarello/Casali try to create a mood of finality about this opener as though this time Batman will have to do the ultimate and…smash cut to splash page flashback! Ooh! What could it be? Four very disappointingly written issues will have to pass before you find out. And it’s not a bad punchline, but really four issues of set up require a punchline with a lot more, uh, punch.
You heard me right, pilgrim, four issues! Four issues this bumptious thing is! Four whole issues! Back when you could hate women openly in the street, this whole Batman and The Joker in Europe device would be the kind of throwaway gimmick Bob Haney would do in 22 poorly coloured pages of The Brave And The Bold, probably with some Jim Aparo goodness to boot. You know the kind of goofy borderline racist awesome that would result, but let’s go through it anyway because I’m fighting off sleep just thinking about this Mogadon® of a comic. In a better world, in a Haney world, in Paris they would face stripy jumpered, beret sporting thugs armed with onion bolas ; in Rome they would be homicidally wooed by stiletto armed lotharios; in Berlin they would attend an Einstürzende Neubauten concert (Blixa would be felled by a rogue blow and The Joker would have to chip in on “Keine Schönheit (ohne Gefahr)” to thunderous applause) and foil the cloning of Hitler’s dog, Blondi; in London they would discover it had all been a plot by Oliver Cromwell’s great, great, great, great, grandson, Barry; and it would all end with Buckingham Palace being attacked by bowler hat helicopters, the narrow averting of the assassination of King Henry XXIV and the escape of Barry Cromwell into a sudden pea-souper, only for him to be killed in a bitterly ironic last panel by a passing Jack the Ripper. The antidote would turn out to be a nice cup of tea and a biscuit, and all the while the Joker would go “Hoo! Hoo!” a lot. It would in short be very silly, not a little casually racist, and a ton of fun. Because Bob Haney comics were very silly and a lot of fun. Bob Haney not only survived the battle of Okinawa (01 April 1945), he also wrote the best Batman: Brave And The Bold comics ever; talk about The Greatest Generation! But Bob Haney was Then and this is Now, and North American genre comics are nothing if not needlessly po-faced, drab and kind of, well, insipidly joyless these days. Say, I bet Bob Haney wished he’d been 10 years late to Okinawa, but he didn’t get that option. Not everyone gets to be 10 years late. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying today’s comics writers would benefit from passing through the fiery hell of Okinawa. Mind you, I’m not exactly ruling it out either.
We’re all busy people so let’s not beat about the bush here; the writing is just bloody poor. The plot is a mere wisp of a thing and the actual events clinging weakly to it are so deeply unthrilling that they barely register. At one point there’s a giant robot for not much of a reason, and all it makes you think is, I wish Bob Haney was writing this. I love me some Bob Haney but I shouldn’t be missing him so hard in 2017. I mean, I won’t lie, I can’t even remember what happened in this comic it’s so relentlessly leaden. I remember a human plot shortcut in the form of a lady hacker. She hasn’t got any character as such but I remember her because at one point she is wounded and Batman leaves the Joker to tend to her. Guess how that works out. I guess they never bill him as “Batman – The World’s Greatest Judge of Character” with good reason. Ooh, there’s a mystery villain behind it all! Yeah, that reveal had all the dramatic weight of a meringue in space. I thought it was KGBeast, but I just checked (professionalism!) and it wasn’t. That’s how exciting it was. I’ve forgotten who it was again. As for motivation, well, I don’t know. Sure, killing Batman is kind of on any decent Bat-villains to-do list, but The Joker? You’d hand feed Cujo before you got that looney tune involved. And why such a needlessly protracted and highly unlikely method? I think the idea is the virus gives them a reason to follow a trail of, cough, clues so that by the end that are all tuckered out and the Guest Villain can best them. It’s a Bob Haney plan in its unlikely roundaboutness but it’s played like it’s Shakespeare. Bob Haney’s Macbeth, now there’s a thought to conjure with. Probably about a jillion times more entertaining than Azzarello/Casali’s Batman. But it’s not just Batman, it’s Batman and The Joker! “Hoo!” and indeed “Hoo!” Yes! Batman and The Joker together! Like Bing and Bob in on The Road To Europa! What a gift to a writer. Think of the cracklin’ dialogue and sinister mind games you could fill the pages with. Having to trust your life to a man who can’t even trust himself! It’s the very stuff isn’t it? The premise practically comes with a bow tied round it. Time to get your Shane Black on. More like bloody Shane Ritchie. Predictably enough nothing memorable occurs and it’s all largely page wasting, occasionally enlivened by a coughed up furball of facts about whichever city the undynamic duo are in. Basically the interaction is about as vibrant and electric as that of a long-married couple on a lengthy coach trip. Odd, isn’t it what with all these master dialogists in comics that there’s very little masterful dialogue around. Some people have an ear for dialogue, but most people in comics seem to have an arse for it; and more than one of those people are called Brian. But I digress. Frequently and with great vigour.
The art’s okay, sometimes it’s even really, really good; these guys are all Eurotalents after all; and I don’t want to upset anyone in North American genre comics, but the bar for art seems a bit higher abroad. True, I don’t want to upset anyone, but since it’s true I don’t actually mind upsetting anyone. Giuseppe Camuncoli is a known known since he drew much of Peter Milligan’s underrated run on Hellblazer. As ever his art here has a pinched and repressed air which I enjoy, and everyone looks hungry on a really deeply unpleasant level that goes way beyond the appetite for food. Creepy, in sum. His colours are a bit heavy and rob his images of energy but as individual images they are certainly pretty. But comics is all about the sequential image and he dips a bit there with a lack of flow. Diego Latorre is, sadly, not the Argentinian footballer known as the “New Maradonna”, but is still impressive in a murky way. Maybe too murky. He makes up for the murk with an experimental brio that makes it look like he's running a sizeable charge of electricity through his panels. Alas, I was more impressed than seduced by the effect. If you've ever had a migraine (no not a headache, a migraine!) then you'll probably agree that Latorre has successfully represented that visually here. Arresting stuff but maybe a bit too much so. Gerald Parel is less than fresh to me as he also illustrated the original Iron Man graphic novel I looked at HERE. He’s gone for a really lush and soft edged look. It’s a kind of accumulation of colours blossoming across the page without the hindrance of holding lines. I liked this smeary expressionism just fine, but I can’t shake the suspicion that this is what sight is like when cataracts start to kick in. He gets some real beauty going though, I'll give him that. And then there’s stolid old Jim Lee, cap at a jaunty angle and smiles for miles. His art’s boring though. Yet what does it matter how good any of these artists are when the writing’s as weak as a politician’s excuses. Your eyes feast on an image only to be brought up short by the Joker alluding to pissing on a woman (my, how edgey!) or a pun as poor as it is predictable (“Vaud-Villain.” Yeah, really). Here's the big secret about puns: they should be used sparingly, otherwise it's like reading a lushly illustrated Christmas cracker joke.
BATMAN: EUROPA is not a good comic. The first three post-splash pages (or whatever; I’m not checking) consist entirely of Batman smacking Killer Croc about. This is excellent stuff, but only if the script directions asked for as unengaging a depiction of violence as possible, and the artist was asked also to ensure that the location was never identified beyond some rudimentary lines suggesting bricks, maybe a wall if needs must, a trash can if absolutely necessary. I think they are fighting in an alley in this scene, but if so, it’s an alley with remarkably elastic dimensions. Azzarello/Casali seem to think alleys are odd in a city based on a grid, and they draw special attention to this in the reliably problematic narration. However, alleys are only odd in a grid based city if the city in question is New York; a city notable for its scarcity of alleys due to the Commissioner’s Plan of 1811 omitting rear service alleys. Gotham is often taken as a stand in for New York sooooooooooo, okay, but I’m not sure many people have any clue about the distinctive absence of alleys in New York City, and this is Gotham so it could have loads of alleys, you know, what with it not being real and people making up its geography on the fly; so I don’t know why it needs special mention, particularly as by way of contrast no mention whatsoever is made of why Batman is smacking Croc about. What I’m getting at is, the storytelling priorities here are all skew-iff, basically. Sure, there’s mention, as Croc is loaded into an ambulance, of “victims” but of what? Usually Azzarello has Croc eating people because – EDGY! And sometimes crocodiles eat people or something. Christ alone knows what Croc’s been up to this time because Azzarello/Casali don’t deign to tell us, despite having had three pages to do so. Instead they keep telling us the same thing: Batman is off his game. It’s a good job they tell us, mind you, because there’s no particular visual indication of this fight being any tougher than any other Killer Croc and Batman fight. It’s not good comics, in essence. Unusually for comics where the art often picks up the writer’s/writers' slack all parties are at fault here; it’s a failure on two fronts. I don't know exactly what's happening and I have no idea why it is happening. It's like being at work! Presented with a visual spectacle as tedious as this a writer might attempt to punch things up with captions; maybe give it some context, some stakes, at a bare minimum some reason for the scene to be occurring. I guess that’s beneath Azzarello/Casali as what they supply instead is a load of sub-Miller tough-guy guff, which takes a whole lot of space to say very little indeed. It’s difficult not to imagine that the Azzarello/Casali team isn’t itself undermined by Azzarello’s compulsive need to avoid crafting a clear sentence, so much so here that it occasionally makes you think it’s a particularly poor translation from another language (any other language). That’s the first few pages, I’m not going on through the rest of the comic but, be warned, I could do because it’s not very good.
BATMAN: EUROPA, then. Bit like that time you went inter-railing round Europe with your mate, but you both got the trots and fell out just past Rouen after someone (naming no names, Terry Blesdoe) was sick on your copy of Camus’ The Outsider (US: The Stranger), and you had to suffer each other’s sulky presence for the remainder of the trip because you’d booked everything in advance. And your train was ten years late. Yeah, a bit like that, but BATMAN: EUROPA is, quite possibly, if anything even less thrilling. I’ve read some of them there European comics and, while there is a variety, mostly I think I’m safe in generalising wildly and saying that European comics can tend towards the grandiose, with large pictures and outsized ideas which kind of sweep past in a lustrous rush, one you have to plumb for meaning at a later date. It’s this kind of Euro comic BATMAN: EUROPA seems to seek to emulate. But Batman isn’t The Metabaron. And Brian Azzarello/Casali aren’t Jodorowsky. And Moebius is dead, baby. Moebius is dead. Four issues of big pictures and tiny ideas is what you get. Um, but some of the pictures are nice. I’m uttering a very Continental – “EH!”
NEXT TIME: We talk about the elephant in the…road? Ah, it must be the how you say – COMICS!!!
Anyway, this... DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #5 Pencils by Andy Kubert Inks by Klaus Janson Story by Frank Miller (Yeah, right) & Brian Azzarello Colours by Brad Anderson Letters by Clem Robins Cover by Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson Variant Covers by Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, Klaus Janson & Alex Sinclair, Paul Pope & Jose Villarubia, Karl Kerschl Based on THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller (WITH Lynn Varley, Klaus Janson & John Constanza. Remember them, DC Comics?) DC Comics, $5.99 or $12.99 (deluxe) (2016)
DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #6 Pencils by Andy Kubert Inks by Klaus Janson Story by Frank Miller (Yeah, sure) & Brian Azzarello Colours by Brad Anderson Letters by Clem Robins Cover by Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson Variant Covers by Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, Klaus Janson & Romulo Fajardo Greg Tocchini, Guiseppe Camuncoli & Dave Stewart Based on THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller (WITH Lynn Varley, Klaus Janson & John Constanza. I'm pretty sure they were all involved too, DC Comics.) DC Comics, $5.99 or $12.99 (deluxe) (2016)
I've read these comics several times now, trying to pinpoint exactly what it is about them that gets my back up so. Every time I read them new flaws come to light. So much so that it's got to the point now that I'm afraid if I read them again I'll discover the ink is actually the blood of poor people or they are printed on capybara skin. It's hard to think how a comic could fail so badly at pretty much everything. It's a Batman comic, for goodness sake. We're not talking about PROVIDENCE or HUMAN DIASTROPHISM here. Batman. I've tried to find the bright spots but I can only come up with one: in issue #5 Batman seeds the clouds with Kryptonite and the resulting rain depowers the Kandorians enough for everyone to lay into them. I liked that, it was fun and goofy and pretty much COMICS!!! Everything else made me wonder what everyone was thinking to let this get published. (Besides $$$$!)
DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller
Eventually I hit upon the answer. Or an answer. It was during one of Brian Azzarello's tedious inner monologues which he characteristically spreads across as many panels as he can, like a miser with margarine, in an attempt to disguise the banality of the thought at its heart. In this particular overwrought paean to intellectual aridity Batman refers to Fear as “My nanny.” Eureka!, I thought. And not because the comic stank no, all had come clear. They were trying to out-Frank Frank but because they fundamentally misunderstood THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS they had outflanked themselves. The ridiculously hyperbolic interior monologue is as much The Tank as wearing a hat that looks bigger than him, but Frank knows when to stop. Azzarello thinks you just keep going, listing things until you've filled enough panels. At no point did it occur to him that the “nanny” was way over the line into bathos. I mean, a fucking nanny. How identifiable. What next? “Fear is my Hedge Fund Manager.” “Fear is my Chauffeur.” “Fear is my Personal Masseur.” Seriously, by the time Batman is telling me Fear is his Nanny, he's no longer the Dark Avenger of the Night and is instead an addelpated overpriveleged fop in need of a hired titty to suck.
DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller
The Tank would also go so large his ideas dwarfed our minds, but he'd stick to it. He'd fulfill that promise. He'd have a nuclear strike on the American mainland by Golly, and he'd make you feel it too. This clueless bunch trap Superman in a black matter shell which is, apparently, an whole 'nother infinity of bizarreness for eternity. What do we get. Pictures of Superman like he's caked in quick drying scat. The only thing Azzarello can think to do with it is set up a fucking awful play on the words “fork” and “fuck”. Seriously, is Carrie eleven years old? About that, during this series Carrie drawn as being just past Bruce Wayne's waist heightwise. How come everyone in issue #1 thought this flailing munchkin was Batman. And howcum his Bat-suit fit her? It should have hung off her like when Alfred used to wear it in the Adam West series, and be about as convincing. This comic is so terrible it makes previous issue worse retroactively, and they were pretty dire to start with.
DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson, Robins & Miller
So this Black Matter dimension, right? There's a load of people telling us how terrible a pickle Superman is in (over a whole host of pages, natch) but he just pops out of it in a stunningly dull splash page (i.e. typically Andy Kubert). I have had balloons from the fair that were weightier than this threat. It's all huffing and puffing this comic, working so hard to avoid doing any hard work that it might have just done the hard work in the first place. Having underplayed everything to a remarkably wearying degree they then have Superman recover from this awesome threat by just touching his face and wincing, and then he feels all better. It's high stakes stuff you can feel in your boots! This wholly unnecessary side road into adventure-as-tedium tries one last time to convince us something of import has happened by having Superman declare that while in the Black Matter Scat he searched his soul. Sorry, his SOUL (because Brian Azzarello's random emphases are in full effect throughout this, sorry, THIS, series). That sounds interesting doesn't it? I wonder what Superman saw in his SOUL. And I'll have to keep wondering because they haven't got a clue with how to do anything with that, and the book strolls into the next scene. Mostly though, I wonder what Brian Azzarello sees when he stares into our souls. His career? (Take your time…geddit?) And because this team can't give without taking away, the groovy Kryptonite rain pays off with Superman in a no-neck-robot suit. This suit is so hilariously drab and perfunctorily designed you wonder if your eyes are having a laugh. Even better it has a fully molded reproduction of Superman's face as the helmet. It's just...shit. Utter, utter shit. Which is two more shits than the people involved in this comic apparently gave.
Ah, the people! Thus far the ridiculously poorly thought out metaphor for Terrorism has floated about in the sky and asked the people of Gotham to bring it Batman. Now, ask yourself what you do when you want to find something. No, not Batman. Just your keys or that picture of Howard Victor Chaykin looking well buff. Okay? Right, do you run around like a screaming maniac smashing things and setting things on fire? No? Well that's what the people of Gotham do. For several days. Batman feels all put out because the poorly thought out metaphor for Terrorism has shown humanity at its “worst”. But Batman is mistaken. The people who made this comic have shown us at our “worst”. It's this nasty, tiny-minded, and thoroughly adolescent view of human nature which is the biggest bellyflop in replicating the spirit (good movie; shut your face!) of DKR. Yeah, the people of Gotham behaved abominably in the original, but there came a tipping point. Humanity came through. Jim Gordon had Sarah, and thinking of her made everything easy;Gotham rioted and looted, but it pulled together and mostly without Batman. Fires were extinguished, people held out hands and lifted others up. Sanity and humanity prevailed. Sure, Batman helped, but after the understandable initial wobble after the nuke hit, people were the best we could be.
"The SPIRIT spreads as fast as the fire. Two NURSES show up out of NOWHERE--they don't have a DAMN thing to work with..The ones they can't COMFORT they get DRUNK. a HARDHAT grabs a LUGWRENCH from the back of his dead TRUCK and smashes open a FIRE HYDRANT. The man at the HARDWARE STORE puts his shotgun away and empties PAINT BUCKETS all over his new tile FLOOR. A LINE forms." Frank Miller in DKR, 1986.
That generosity of spirit (I'm telling you, revisit it) is wholly absent from DKIII:TMR. The people of Gotham are a mob which Batman redirects at the Kandorians. In DKR people were humans, in DKIII:TMR people are weapons. Ugh. Just ugh.
All that is prologue because in DKIII:TMR #6 Batman dies! Yes! You read it here first, effendi! Batman dies! (Well, you know, "dies") OMG! Has Brian Azzarello been crowbarred onto on a US TV talk show where they clearly couldn’t give a tin shit about comics, and been patronised like a precocious child who can recite the Bible backwards? You know, fielding hardball questions like, “And the words, do you write all those yourself?”; “I see, the pictures are drawn by another person? Golly!”; “You are in your forties now and you’re on TV talking about killing Batman, do you sometimes wake up with your face inexplicably damp with tears?”, “Well, Batman sure has changed since I was a kid! Now here’s Chet with news of a dog with a very special talent. Chet…?” If he hasn’t why not? This is important business! The death of comic book characters is seismic stuff! I still remember where I was when I heard Hawkeye had shot the Hulk with a Special Bendisium Arrow. At home. Or at work. One of the two. I don’t get out much, so it was definitely one of those. Titter ye not, non-continuity-poorly-written-Batman dying is a real ball jangler! I hope that guy who studies Batman is paying attention, his reading list just got EDGY! I cannot overstate the importance of this development! These pages are soaked in historical significance like a teenagers tissues are soaked in dead jizz! The game just got changed, my friend. BOOM! My kid tried to pick this comic up, but luckily I roundhouse kicked him across the room before his germy fingers could soil this Near Mint Collector’s Edition. “THIS IS YOUR COLLEGE FEES!!! DON’T!!! YOU!!! EVER!!! TOUCH!!! IT!!! I screamed into his traumatised face as he spat out his teeth like bloody chiclets . Kids don’t get it, comics aren’t for them anymore. They are for death fetishists and preposterously optimistic speculators. Hurrah!
Remember Captain Marvel’s death scene in DKSA? “Where does a dream go?”, “Go out with a lion’s roar!”, all that, yeah? It was about a page if that, he was a supporting player if that, and it resonates through the decades to make my elderly eyes tear up still. Here in DKIII:TMR in stark and daft contrast Batman gets shot in the back by B’al-D'ee’s eye beams . Mind, he mustn’t have hit anything too vital because Bats has time to swoon into Superman’s No Neck Robot Suit arms and tell Superman not to take him to hospital because, uh, I guess he mustn’t have kept up with his insurance? Or maybe he doesn’t like those gowns that tie at the back and leave your arse flapping about? This heat beam takes its sweet time to find anything vital because Bats has chance to tell Supes to tell Carrie…what? We’ll never know. Oh! What gems from the pen of Brian Azzarello have we been deprived of! Possibly, “Tell Carrie…I’m sorry I involved her in this nonsensical belly flop of half arsed execution and poor creative choices.” Maybe it’s “Tell Carrie…I love her, tell Carrie I need her, tell Carrie I may be late, I've something to do, that cannot wait.” I can see Bruce being a big Richie Valens fan. Superman’s more Glen Miller, I think. KRYPTON-65000! Doodly doo doo! Well, that’s about as likely as Batman getting shot in the back by heat vision.
Even worse, because if there’s one thing DKIII:TMR likes to do it’s up the ante on awful, “Clever”, thinks Superman as his Bat pal is felled. “Clever.” Clever, my charred arse. Unless Superman has just realised the answer to that morning’s Daily Planet crossword clue which had him stymied over his java and Lucky Charms ("Closet's opening needs handle, quick" (6)) then I don’t know what he’s on about. “Clever.” That guy shot someone with his eyebeams. Ooh, that’s a smart move! You should write that one down Superman, maybe do that yourself sometime. What else does Superman think eyebeams are for? Reheating his java because he’s spent so long on his crossword that it’s gone clap cold. “Clever.” Sometimes I just despair. Remember Waterloo where it looked like Napoleon had won but The Duke of Wellington said he was going home, and as he walked away he spun round and shot Napoleon with his musket. “Clever”, said the history books. (Or for the Internet generation: This Entitled Elitist White Male Warmonger Won The Battle With This Clever Trick And The French Hate Him! (Picture of a dog with tits)) (NB I know Napoleon didn't die at Waterloo, I sincerely doubt Batman dies here.) The death of Captain Marvel this ain’t. “Where does a dream go?” More like, “Where does a chump go?” “Go out with a lion’s roar!””, nah, “Go out with a wet fart!” It’s not the same really is it? Not “This would be a good death. Good enough” but “This would be a shit death. Shit enough.” Nothing about DKIII: TMR is “good enough”. The “death” least of all. Who signed off on this? Who thought, “Yeah, that’s good that is.” I’d really like to know. Names, I want names. Forget it, I just want it to be over. The best bits of DKIII:TMR are when The Tank draws something, even if it is all messy and wobbly and clearly the work of a man in trouble, it's still obviously COMICS!!! While DKIII:TMR is cynical, idiotic, vacuous and tiresome CRAP!
Anyway, this… MOONSHINE #1 Art by Eduardo Risso Coloured by Eduardo Risso Written by Brian Azzarello Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher Variant cover by Frank Miller (I haven't seen it, I'm sure it's awesome.) IMAGE COMICS, INC., $2.99 COMIXOLOGY (2016) MOONSHINE created by Eduardo Risso & Brian Azzarello MOONSHINE © Eduardo Risso & Brian Azzarello
So there’s manly Brian Azzarello watching LAWLESS (2012) with a manly drink of bourbons and ryes in his manly hand when his uncle Barry, who works in unmanly IT, pops in to say hello. Raising his manly eyes from the screen, where Guy Pierce is acting and Tom Hardy is standing about looking dazed, Azzarello notes manfully that Barry is sporting a lovely 100% cotton jumper with a big wolf’s face on the front. Barry notes his manly nephew’s manly gaze and starts telling him that he has one with a hood on as well, and is thinking of getting a matching one for his wife, Brian’s Auntie Babs, but that’ll be for Christmas because she’s had the conservatory roof changed to a solid one, and that didn’t come cheap. But Brian Azzarello is manfully preoccupied because a light bulb has gone off over Brian Azzarello’s manly head. Hooch. Wolves. Hooch and wolves! And thus HOOCH WOLF was born! Oh, okay MOONSHINE (geddit!) A tad on the snout it may be, but the title is a pretty good sign of what’s on offer here; what with it being within acceptable parameters for wordplay because, y’know, it actually works, it’s kind of droll and, basically isn’t godawful. (Remember “Hello”, “Hell low”? Oh, boy. Oof! Who died in here?) There’s nothing special about it as a title and similarly there’s little special about Azzarello’s script, but the simple lack of anything bad enough to step in is cause for rejoicing. Particularly as Azzarello is once again monopolising the talents of the amazing Eduardo Risso.
Hey! This is the best writing Brian Azzarello has done for a long while. There you go. Oho! Don’t reach for the ticker-tape just yet, you little eager beaver you, because that’s pretty faint praise at this point. But yes, I’m happy to report that MOONSHINE’s more coherent than the witless farrago of DKIII:TMR (O boy! That’s like burn-it-and-salt-the-earth bad) and it’s far less of a waste of Eduardo Risso’s time and talent than LONO: BROTHER LONO (The main man wasn’t even in space and no sign of any dolphins.) Mind you, MOONSHINE’s far from spectacular, but it’s okay. As is so often the case in comics that’s mostly down to the artist, here one Eduardo Risso by name. I’m partial to a bit of Risso, so that means I get to read a lot of Brian Azzarello comics, as Azzarello has a habit of hogging Risso. Sometimes people float the idea that some writer and artist teams elevate each other to new heights. Unsurprisingly, I don’t see a lot of evidence for that. I see a lot of evidence to suggest writers get away with feeble work by having talented artists illustrate it. It’s for RM Guera’s art I suffer Jason Aaron insecurely rubbing his sweaty balls in my face, not because I enjoy the sharp tang of insecure ball sweat, you dig? But Risso has had to elevate weaker work than this (Did I mention LONO: BROTHER LONO, bastiches?) and he seems invested in MOONSHINE, even to the extent that he’s colouring his art for the first time. And that works out quite nicely. Enjoyable as his colours are, his art is too tough for his colouring to make much impact. Risso’s work has appeared in coloured and uncoloured versions (WOLVERINE: LOGAN, BATMAN NOIR: EDUARDO RISSO); neither approach significantly more appealing than the other. I’m a firm believer that the colourists’ motto should be primum non nocere, so Risso’s work is thus a great playground for a neophyte colourist, it being pretty much invulnerable. And so it goes that Risso’s colours are pleasant enough; inky blues for the night scenes, autumnal oranges in the dusk scenes etc. It’s all very good but it’s the art that’s the true strength of the pages. I enjoy just looking at how Risso has drawn his trees, that’s how good he is. What colour they are comes second. And in MOONSHINE Risso draws some mighty fine trees. He draws a whole lot of other things too; jalopies, candlestick telephones, men in hats, all that good time old-timey stuff. Yes sir, that’s my baby/No sir, don’t mean maybe! Ayup, Risso works his talented Argentine arse off bringing the ‘20s back. Why it was just the Cat’s Meow; I didn’t know whether to Shimmy or Charleston, darling!
While I wouldn’t say the writing was strong as such, it is solid enough to bounce back from an opening which, while it doesn’t employ Clichéd Opening Device #1 (woman running down street at night pursued by something (insert name of male comic creator)), it does employ Clichéd Opening Device #2 (Bunch of characters offed by mysterious thing). The funny thing about clichés is how writers just employ ‘em without thought, like a muscle spasm, and that makes ‘em just about as creative. When my arm shoots out and knocks a hot cup of tea over I don’t expect applause for my Craft©™, you know? I mean, just how much suspense is there in a bunch of Feds rooting about a still at night suddenly being torn to pieces by something never clearly shown, but shown enough to register as a big furry animal with sharp teeth. Sure some people might have their money on a rabid capybara but most folk will have read the title, which kind of gives it away. Some people are killed by…exactly what you think….SUSPENSE! The only suspense is why the Feds think J Edgar Hoover wants to fuck them, I know he liked a bit of tranny action but did he also sexually harass all his agents? A flashback to J Edgar Hoover all gussied up in his scanties chasing a bunch of young be-suited WASPS around to the Benny Hill music would have maybe been ridiculous, but it would have been a bit of fresh air amongst the mustiness on show. Everyone sing along as I tickle the ivories: It’s prohibition times and a typical ne’er do well with his typical handsomeness and his typical comic book drink problem, is dispatched by his typically small, bald and sweaty shifty slug of a boss to a typically Appalachian backwoods den of torn gingham, dirt streets, cross eyed kids and generally dirt poor hicks, to barter with a typically shifty but crafty paterfamilias in order to sell his typically special recipe hooch in the typically big city. There’s a typical sassy lady, and a sexy black lady dancing round a fire (SYMBOLISM!) Now I don’t know if that dancing black lady is typical or not, but I’m pretty sure our typical anti-hero will be typically sniffing round both sets of typical knickers with typically disastrous results. There’s not a lot of suspense here, as soon as you see that Pa Dingleberry has a scar and a milky eye you KNOW we’ll be seeing a wolf with a tuxedo and spats, no, don’t be silly, with a scar and a milky eye. It’s just a question of when. Still, inevitability can be quiet entertaining. Particularly if Eduardo Risso is drawing it. MOONSHINE is all very comfortable, it’s all very TV. There’s worse things, I guess.
So yeah, it’s looking like Brian Azzarello’s usual go-to formula: to take something familiar and populate it with people who are irredeemable shitbags. (LONO: BROTHER LONO is basically just Two Mules For Sister Sarah crossed with one of those ‘80s movies where Chet Brisket gets pushed about for the first 60 minutes, and then spends the next 30 burning through the bad ‘uns like he was an arc welder and they were cheese. But, y’know, updated, set in Mexico and populated with walking faeces. And not as good.) Obviously this whole “everybody’s a shitbag” approach is edgy and revelatory and not all as childishly one-side as believing everyone is a magical laughter machine. No, I’m not sure why that is either. Anyway, MOONSHINE is GOOD! Risso is his usual superlative self and even Azzarello is manfully reining in his worst tendencies. (Applause!) However, I do reserve the right to throw the book across the room if he uses “hair of the dog that bit me”. A man has to have some standards, after all. Even me.
SHE WOLF #3 by Rich Tommaso Pin-ups by Patrick Dean, Chuck Forsman, Brandon Graham, Brian Level, Tom Neely, Eraklis Petmezas and Jim Rugg IMAGE COMICS, INC., $1.99 COMIXOLOGY (2016) SHE WOLF created by Rich Tommaso SHE WOLF© 2016 Rich Tommaso
I say, I say, I say, who are Macbeth’s three favourite comic creators? “To-mmaso, and To-mmaso, and To-mmaso!” Ba-da BING! Ba-da-BOOM! Aw nertz, youse bums ain’t got no class, ya hear! Ya gots no class! A-hem. Unlike many comics which shall remain nameless (cough-MOONSHINE-cough) SHE WOLF#3 is cliché free! Unless there are a lot of stories where the heroine is invited into a stained glass window wherein she witnesses, in a stained glass art style, the origin of lycanthropy, which involves, Jesus (Christ), a luckless sorceror, a demon and a right silly bastard. With its flat colours and basic shapes this blasphemous and ultimately very nasty sequence pops hard against the lush colours and magnificently evocative cartooning surrounding it.
While Risso’s colours on MOONSHINE seem a handsome afterthought Tommaso’s colours are entwined inseparably with the art. The colours are the art and the art is the colour. And the genius in that combination is all Tommaso’s. There’s a single panel of our heroine waking in bed, her room a cool blue splashed with a buttery light. That panel alone is worth the paltry pennies this comic cost. But like a papery excess of largesse this comic is filled with other things besides! The exceptional panel itself leads into a dream sequence of familial violence; one made exponentially creepier by the silence within which it unfolds and the ferine shapes usurping domesticity on the periphery. Be that not enough, o seeker of thrills, then there’s a captive menagerie of monstrosities being read to by a priest with a colossal cross, reality turns out not to be, the passage of time is represented by a row of variously phased moons, a rescue occurs and, finally, an ill-starred decision is made. Summoning demons always works out really well as we’ve seen, but to be fair sometimes the only choice is the least bad choice. Choosing not to buy SHE WOLF would be a very poor choice indeed. Rich Tommaso's SHE WOLF is EXCELLENT!
“A secret society exists, and is living among all of us. They are neither people nor animals, but something in-between.” They are COMICS!!!
I sure hope everyone loves my unwieldy and turgid exercises in overkill, because here’s another one coming up right about now. But, hey, Batman’s in it. I know I said comics (plural) last time but this got out of hand so I’ve split the other bit for later, plus I couldn’t quite get that part to work. It’ll turn up though; nothing gets wasted. And now it’s over to…Batman! DARK KNIGHT: THE LAST CRUSADE by Romita Jnr, Steigerwald, Azzarello, Miller and Robins Anyway, this…
DARK KNIGHT: THE LAST CRUSADE Art by John Romita Jnr & Peter Steigerwald Written by Brian Azzarello & (yeah, right, whatever; if you say so:) Frank Miller Lettered by Clem Robins Coloured by Peter Steigerwald Cover by John Romita Jnr., Danny Miki & Dean White Variant covers by Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Jim Lee & Alex Sinclair, Lee Bermejo and Bill Sienkiewicz with John Vernon as "The Mayor" Based on The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller - WITH KLAUS JANSON AND LYNN VARLEY (See, it's not that difficult is it DC? “with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley”, that's all it takes. Try and put “with Klaus Janson and Lynn Varley” in the credits for The Dark Knight Returns before this slipshod cashgrab ends, ey? There's a good multinational corporation. Cheers, from your big pal, John.) Batman created by Bill Finger & Bob Kane The Joker created by Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger & Bob Kane Robin created by Jerry Robinson, Bill Finger & Bob Kane Jason Todd Robin created by Don Newton & Gerry Conway Killer Croc created by Don Newton, Gene “The Dean” Colan & Gerry Conway Poison Ivy created by Sheldon Moldoff & Robert “Bob” Kanigher DC Comics, $6.99/£4.99 (2016)
We all know what happened to Jason Todd in The Dark Knight Returns timeline; we’ve known since 1986. Not precisely mayhap, but enough. So a comic in 2016 about what happened to Jason Todd in the Dark Knight Returns timeline seems about as necessary as a loblolly boy. Ah, but, luckily Brian Azzarello is on the case with his very special reverse Rumpelstiltskin (Nikstlitslepmur?) gold-into-straw magic. What he plumps for is to fill in some of the pre-history for The Batman and The Robin. Turns out that in this timeline Jason Todd is Commissioner Gordon’s nephew, and inspired by The Batman’s example the plucky young fellow takes to the roofs, vigilante style. One night the dynamic duo’s paths cross, and, senses heightened and inhibitions shattered by the visceral thrill of night time crime fighting, they fall upon one another in a throbbing heap of sweat, muscle and appetite. Alas, Batman gets post-coital regrets and blanks The Robin, who cries and is sad. Then the Joker jumps out and smashes his head in like an egg filled with mince and jam. Ha ha ha ha! Only joking. That would be stupid! Not to mention monumentally crass. What kind of a dunderheaded poltroon would write something like that? Ha ha ha ha! Might work with a chick though, huh, guys? Yeah, a chick would fit. Chicks are all emotional and needy, yeah? Chicks, huh, go figure. Okay, yeah, that doesn’t happen here but there’s enough dodgy stuff on show to suggest someone’s a bit confused about this whole sexuality lark; little things like men frequently being taken roughly from behind and the main female character manipulating men into giving her stuff without giving up her, uh, stuff, her, er, you know, her, uh uh uh, sexy nectar. Now I wouldn’t want to read too much into all that, Heaven forfend, but some people might imagine such a toxic combo of hostility towards the opposite sex and tortured self-loathing could, if unaddressed, manifest in later life. For example, in the tawdry sight of a grown man insulting someone much younger who has paid money to be in the same room, and has simply asked a question about the tired rehash of a better writer’s work our (hypothetical and wholly imaginary) adult individual is shilling; most likely by calling the innocent questioner a rude name, quite possibly a derogatory term for female genitalia more suited to the playground. In his 1953 paper “Repression and its Expression: Pundits and Pussies.”, the behavioural psychologist B.F. Skinner dubbed such conduct “classy”.
So that’s what Brian “Maturity” Azzarello doesn’t do, but what does he do? Stuck with pages to fill Azzarello does a nifty swerve around expectations, dodges the whole Joker business for the most part, and instead writes a fairly mediocre Batman comic primarily concerned with demonstrating Batman’s feet of clay. If anything Azzarello’s a bit too good at the feet of clay business, because throughout the comic Batman seems to be in the wrong job. Because throughout the comic Batman is basically a bit shit. Sure, he does his bit of detecting, but otherwise he should be renamed Bit Shit Man. I get that this is Batman losing a step just before he hangs his trunks up, but there’s losing a step and staggering about like a drunk who has just hopped off a roundabout going at full tilt. When he’s not being surprised from behind by big men in small rooms, Batman’s being pounded to paste and spectacularly failing as a mentor. There’s something wrong with Robin, see, but Batman just can’t quite put his (Bill) finger on it. Just little things, like literally disarming a man, or standing on a thug so that his face bubbles like cheese on the griddle of a burning car roof. Tiny cracks, hairline fractures, I trust you’ll agree. I’m a ridiculously liberal (i.e. lazy) parent (so I’ll be regretting that in a few years no doubt, officer) but even I might take Jason Todd aside for a talk after he’s just bataranged a guy’s arm off. Seriously, it comes right off in a whoosh, a gush, a sploosh even, of blood. I mean, the whole thing of what exactly a batarang is made of so that it can sever an arm aside, Batman just wrinkling his nose and basically going, “Bit much, old chum, don’t you think?”, seems a bit light on the old response stakes. Dude’s arm just comes off. SPLASH! Seriously. Best case scenario: that guy’s crippled for life, worst case: he just bled out all over his traumatised for life wife. Sweet crime fighting skillz, guys. The streets feel safer already. This, of course, is the kind of stupid horseshit you get when someone wants to be all realismy with something as unrealistic as Batman, and hasn’t got the skill to pull it off. Frank The Tank could pull it off, and that’s part of his genius. But this…Jesus. It’s all over the place, like vomit after a teenage party. Yeah, like a lot of modern North American genre comics THE LAST CRUSADE is sophistimacated stuff.
Because I made it up I should probably define that scholarly term a bit. Sophistimacated is when comics want to be sophisticated, but can’t be arsed to do the hard graft that sophisticated involves. There’s a lot of sophistimication about in comics these days, and Brian Azzarello is a dab hand at it here. In a deluded attempt to seem to be Really Sayin’ Somethin’ (Bop bop soo-be-do-wa!) there’s some silly business about whether or not Batman is guilty of child endangerment. Smack Frank The Tank up all you like, but the satire in THE DARK KNIGHT was genuinely funny and had a point. (Whoa, I didn’t say it was subtle. C’mon, It’s The Tank.) Azzarello tries his hammy hand at a similar thing but…Glycon preserve us! There’s a surfeit of stupid hooey running through the comic which I think is supposed to be satirical, but it isn’t. Satire doesn’t need to be funny, but it does need to have a point. This comic has no point to make about anything. It is squarely set in the la-la land of comics. It has no relevance whatsoever to anything in the real world. Look: A grown man dressed as a bat aided by a teenage acrobat dressed like he’s colour blind. Is it child endangerment? Golly, I better book a day off work just to mull that one over. Deep stuff, huh? No. Why are you even wasting my time with this shit? Is it child endangerment? Yes, yes it is. But it’s a comic; so it doesn’t matter. It not being real and all, you dig? In the real world disturbed American millionaires don’t fight crime dressed as nocturnal mammals, they run for the presidency and insult Mexicans. Ho ho ho! Topical me! Now, I don’t know about you, but I think one of the costs of writing about a young man dressed like a pantomime Peter Pan fighting crime with a grown man dressed as a bat, is that you don’t get to draw attention to that. And you don’t draw attention to that because it is fundamentally ridiculous. That's part of the appeal, genius.
Despite Christopher’s Nolan’s pompous cinematic attempts to convince us otherwise, the concept of Batman doesn’t work on any realistic level. The last thing a Batman writer wants to be doing is chucking that mutually agreed suspension of disbelief overboard, particularly for boneheaded point scoring about child endangerment shorn by its very context of any actual relevance whatsoever. Woken from slumber the reader starts to ask questions about this whole Batman deal. That’s the last thing you need. Some smartarse asking questions. Better slap him down with a nasty sexual slur, right? But, alas, this reader isn’t in the same room, so your brave and manly verbal abuse won’t work. Nothing can stop the ungrateful fool of a reader now they have awoken. For starters how does Batman get anywhere? By Batmobile? Really? In the city? Have you tried driving around a city at speed? It’s not on is it? Even at night, even in, say, Chesterfield; chances are if you start haring about like your arse is on fire you’ll end up with a drunk smeared across your windshield. It’s simply not do-able. And Chesterfield’s no Gotham, and your family hatchback is no Batmobile. So major carnage is on the cards either way. (“Car”-nage and “car”-ds and, yes, I’m talking about – “car”s! Two can play at rubbish word games, Brian Azzarello! But only one of us gets paid a small fortune for it.) Maybe, you say, Batman travels by swinging about? He’d be Bat-knackered before he got anywhere near his destination. Then upon arrival (at the docks, or the reservoir, or the charity ball) he has a fist fight with a bunch of goons and has to swing back for a Bat-brood in his Bat-cave, before having a Bat-nap and then overseeing a successful multi-national Bat-corporation. Bat-Christ, my Mum’s a work-horse but Batman makes her look like a right Bat-slacker. All this is only possible because, and look, I’m sorry to have to be the one to break this to you (and I certainly don’t want to steal the thunder of that guy who studies Batman (the one in the 2000AD documentary who wears eyeliner and gels his hair like a fourteen year old on his way to his first Cure concert. Aw, bless.)) but…brace yourself…Batman isn’t real. Sorry about that. You know THE KILLING JOKE (which may not be Alan Moore’s finest hour (as he himself admits) but is a lot better than this addlepated guff) isn’t going to work as soon as you hit the panel of the “Bob Kane” signed picture on Batman’s Bat-Desk. In a world where The Joker dresses Commissioner Gordon as an S&M gimp and shoots Barbara Gordon before taking snaps of her in nude distress, there’s no room for an Ace The Bat-Hound or a Bat-Mite. Nor, crucially, is there any place for a gaily costumed child. Robin isn’t in THE KILLING JOKE. Did you notice that? Oh, I know you noticed all the stitches Alan Moore (self-confessedly) dropped in THE KILLING JOKE (Boo! Alan Moore! Boo! Yawn.) but did you notice what he got right? Robin isn’t in The Killing Joke. That’s not an accident. Even Alan Moore on a bad day got that much right. Brian Azzarello? Not so much.
For the most part DARK KNIGHT: THE LAST CRUSADE isn’t even a Batman vs The Joker comic as you might expect. (You fool! Why do you persist with such notions!) No, bizarrely it’s a not wholly awful Batman and Robin versus Killer Croc & Poison Ivy comic. People familiar with Azzarello’s Bat-work have my sympathies, but they also have probably noticed his fondness for using Killer Croc and Poison Ivy. Those uncharitably inclined might say that this is because Croc allows him to dabble with questionable racial stereotypes without risk, and because Ivy lets him have Batman slap a woman about. Which is all kinds of creepy but I think Azzarello often seems to mistake being creepy for being edgy, but then so do Mainstream North American Genre Comics as a whole, so there you go. I really liked the Killer Croc & Poison Ivy bits for the most part, not for themselves, mind; but because they were a throwback to those Gerry Conway, Dough Moench, Gene Colan, Don Newton, Alfredo Alcala, Klaus Janson etc etc Batman comics of my squandered youth. You know, when Batman did a bit of detective work? Sure, here in DARK KNIGHT: THE LAST CRUSADE all he does is find the common denominator between the victims, but credit where it's due, that’s Sherlock fucking Holmes compared to his usual modern day manoeuvres; where he just looks at a computer screen and then pulls stuff out of his Bat-backside. It’s getting to the point where I think Batman is only The World’s Greatest Detective because he exists in a world where his nearest competition is a chimp. And back then, in those old comics, he’d always have a girlfriend who would be thoroughly uninteresting and usually also part of some evil plot; her larger function being to avoid people going on about Batman and Robin having Bat-bum fun. And here, again, in THE LAST CRUSADE Batman has a girlfriend, although it’s Catwoman obvs, because then we can have a reference to them rutting in costume like sexy cosplayers. Yeah, there was a lot of Killer Croc and Poison Ivy back then, I think. My memory could err, but I’m pretty sure they popped up a lot. Black Mask was over everything like a rash, I remember that. Bloody Black Mask. Jesus, it got so it was like, why not just call it Black Mask Comics, people! I don’t even remember who Black Mask turned out to be. Harry Truman? Barbara Cartland? Sandra Bernhardt? A Dog Named Boo? Probably Tom bloody Hardy. Tom Hardy’s in everything. He was in my toilet yesterday; I told him to shut the door because no one wants to see that, Hollywood bigshot or no. Anyway, stop distracting me, so I went on The Comixology to check who made those old comics and found a listing which said DETECTIVE COMICS (1937 - 2011) #255 featured a “tiresome” encounter with Killer Croc. Seriously. “Tiresome”. I do not think that word means what you think it means, Comixiology Precis Writer. That was funny, but not as funny as the fact that the encounters with Killer Croc in DARK KNIGHT: THE LAST CRUSADE are actually tiresome, as in “tiresome”. To be surprised from behind by Killer Croc once may be regarded as a misfortune, to be so surprised twice seems like you’re in the wrong job.
Alas, if you bought this for the Joker you probably bought the wrong comic. Everyone bought this for The Joker, yeah? To see the penultimate donnybrook between Batman and his maniacal nemesis of murderous mirth. Well, tough titty to you. You don’t get that. What you get mostly, is a Killer Croc and Poison Ivy comic. As demonstrated at soul sapping length above. When Azzarello does deign to show The Joker it’s not even Miller’s creepily withered Camp Bowie, just a wearisome rehash of the old Silence of The Lambs business. You know, the bit where Multiple Miggs flicks man-fat at Clarice, and in return Hannibal induces Miggs to swallow his own tongue via loony whisperiness? That bit (the death by suggestion, not the flying man-fat) is strip-mined once again. More than once. Mrs Leeds in Human form – do you see? Mrs. Jacobi changing – do you see? Brian Azzarello – laughing all the way to the bank – DO YOU SEE? Man, remember when everyone was ripping off Thomas Harris? All those serial killers with their grand pianos and jones for Goethe? Complete bullshit perhaps, but Harris (at least for two books) gave us chillingly well done stuff. Good serial killing times; and here they are again. Only rubbish. Oh, it’s not all stale sub Alex Cross (ugh!) guff though, Azzarello brings his celebrated wordplay to bear to his portrayal of the homicidally jocular one. Mind you, I’m not sure who celebrates Brian Azzarello’s wordplay at this late stage in the game; people who hate the English language? There’s some prime wordshittery on these pages; wordshittery which I’ll not spoil because recoiling in alarm at the latest word turd thrust at your face is one of the few pleasures (if pleasure that be) of this thing. And no, I don’t think I’m missing any subtleties here, thanks. This is a book where a psychiatrist says “You want to tell me why you PULLED OUT YOUR EYES?” And, yes, it is in ITALIC BOLD CAPS. Nice bedside manner there, pal. Credit to the profession. Yup, subtle has done a bunk, old chum. So, maybe you were wondering what the Joker’s madcap scheme is; the one which succeeds in catching the Boy Wonder? Get this strategic shit: he sits in a chair reading, with his gang outside. That’s it. A regular Rommel, eh? Robin tries to pick the lock, but the gang creep up behind him and smash his head in. Worth waiting around forty years, for, eh? That’s right, They sneak up behind Robin and smash his head in. BAM! POW! BIFF! Holy twaddle, Batman! Holy Hole-in-a-cranium, Batman! Azzarello leaves what happens afterwards to your imagination, which is awfully sweet of him, but this comic might have been a bit better if Brian Azzarello had stooped to using his own imagination a bit more, instead of relying on mine.
Reading this book may well be a miserable experience, but looking at it is quite delightful. There’s something seriously bizarre about the art in this. I’m pretty sure the book was solicited as having inks from Battlin’ Bill Sienkiewicz, but there’s no sign of The Sink, or even of inks, at least not as I know them. It looks like John Romita Jnr did his chunky stuff in pencil form and then Steigerwald hurriedly smeared colours atop it all to give it some semblance of finish. Since the book was delayed, a cynic might think this was some rush job stuff to get it out. (Cynics are just awful, aren’t they just.) Wild and unfounded speculation aside, I don’t know why it looks like it does, but I know I like it. The soft haze of the colours blur everything into a dreamlike state; a bad dream to be sure, but one where the writing’s bad and the colours are dreamy. People give Romita some stick these days but I don’t know, I think he’s pretty great. Look at how the smoke curls from the Joker’s mouth; how the blood swings from his nose as his head moves; how Romita repeatedly gets the shock of impact just so; it’s good stuff. And the colours may(?) be the result of desperation incarnate but, you know, sometimes art just happens; things just work. Because this is good looking stuff. I was particularly taken with how Steigerwald gives Joker skin tones with all the allure of a mixture of guano and fag ash, and the liquid chaos of the police lights/flares were another delight. Romita Jnr’s work deftly balances brutality and delicacy, giving the whole thing a visual conviction far in excess of anything the shambolic and self-satisfied mess of a script deserves. Like the kids whom comics are no longer for, the art’s alright; it’s the writing that drags DARK KNIGHT: THE LAST CRUSADE down to CRAP! Or Bat-CRAP! If you will.
NEXT TIME: It’s time to cheer the f*** up, so up next is a bit of Howard Victor Chaykin during which we’ll discover how bananas changed history.
Or something else, because guess what just arrived in the post – COMICS!!!
It's Bwana Hibbs' Birthday! Happy Birthday, Brian Hibbs! Emotion! Ugh. Enough sentimental nonsense and back to things of far greater import: is DKIII: TMR improving? Find out below! DKIII: TMR by Kubert, Janson, Azzarello, Miller, Anderson & Robins
DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #4 Based on THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller, Lynn Varley & Klaus Janson (Yes the FOURTH time out DC again only identify Frank Miller as the author. Tsk. Tsk.) Art by Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, Frank “The Tank” Miller Story by Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello Lettered by Clem Robins Colours by Brad Anderson, Alex Sinclair Cover by Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson/Jim Lee Variant Covers by Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Klaus Janson & Alex Sinclair, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, Paul Pope & Shay Plummer, Rafael Albuquerque DC Comics, $5.99 Standard/$12.99 Deluxe (2016) Batman created by Bill Finger & Bob Kane
Man, four issues in and it's clear now why Frank Miller thinks so highly of Brian Azzarello's writing. It seemed odd at first given the fact that the first three issues were so nonsensical (Batman's dead because I said so! Oh, wait some bad guys! No, he isn't dead! I was just fooling!) with pacing as taut as the knicker elastic of an inveterate boil washer. Yeah, because I can be a bit tardy on the old uptake, it resembled nothing less than an insultingly expensive slow motion fart in the face of anyone expecting a decent comic, but it seems there is method in their madness! Because after this sluggardly thing flops to a halt (we're half way through people!) the consensus concerning Frank Miller is due for a somewhat sunnier recalibration. Sure, he said those bad things about demonstrators, and, yeah, he did that thick-witted HOLY TERROR comic which made the entry level error of mistaking Islam for Islamism and thus, despite the savage visual beauty of the thing, kneed his rep right in the crackerjacks, and then there was the thing with the maid and the used tampon, which...um, anyway, even given all that Frank Miller can make better comics than this blasé slouch of vapid posturings. I've not been reading the reviews, but I have been reading the comic so I assume all the reviews are bad. (A little joke there.) However even someone as disconnected as my fair self noticed an uptick of interest with this issue, and the uptick of interest was all down to Frank Miller. To be precise it was all down to the mini comic for which he contributed art like this:
Some people didn't like, some people liked it. (One poor bloke got into trouble for suggesting The Tank's art could have been better served by alternate methods of colouring. And then went on to show what he was talking about. Which was a big no-no because, fuck you very much for thinking seriously about this stuff! Ah, Comics!) Anyway, people were talking about Art! Comic art! And it was all down to Frank Miller. I don't know, but that seemed to me to be a refreshing change, certainly the only worthwhile thing about this cock-knockingly inept comic thus far. What? Oh, I liked Frank's art, I thought Frank's art was just peaches and cream, all grubby and energetic and altogether thrilling and everything absent from Kubert & Janson's overworked tedium in the main book. I read that mini comic and I knew that Frank's still got it, because it had never gone away. Who knew Frank Miller would be the most interesting thing about this truculently dumb thing? Who could ever have guessed? Frank “The Tank” would still, despite whatever the Hell happened to him, draw so astonishingly that comics folk would sit up and take note.
When was the last time that happened? You know, comics folk talked about the comics art? Instead of about how “these waffles shaped like Captain America’s balls will melt in your mouth like creamy Freedom”, or how the latest Marvel variant covers showing the X-Men’s corpses being rudely violated by chat show hosts of today and yesteryear “will be available”, or how “this Groot shaped tumour makes cancer fun again”, or how some comic book editor has to be quarantined from 50% of the Earth’s population because he can’t help getting a bit handsy, or how he only gets a bit handsy with the ladies because he’s overcompensating for his homosexuality. So with treatment, God willing, he’ll be getting handsy with men, however, he won’t have to be isolated then because the men will just break his hands, which will solve the problem. But in the meantime there will surely be a point midway in his treatment when he’ll want to get handsy with men and women both, and so will have to be kept in space or at the centre of the earth, or, call me crazy, he could just take some fucking responsibility for his actions and change his ways. I don’t know, I can’t really comment as I don’t have daughters and only men with daughters understand you shouldn’t press your groin against ladies faces in the gym. I have a sister though, is that enough? No. Oh, if only I could understand why ladies don’t like uninvited hands roaming intrusively over them. I know we all turned a blind eye to those Nazi rocket scientists because we had to beat Russia into space but I’m not sure editing Superman comics is enough of a boon to civilisation to merit special treatment because you can’t keep it in your pants. Um, where were we? Hey, I “know” The Tank hates the muslims and the poor and his cleaner has to be adroit at dodging flung used tampons and yadda yadda yadda. But, I don’t know, I go to The Tank for art, pictures of Batman and that, not incisive and nuanced geo-political insights or advice on employee-employer relations. I wouldn’t ask “master storyteller” Tony S. Daniel his view on whether we should leave the EU (but then I wouldn’t want to look at his art either). And I’m not flush enough to have a cleaner, so all these tampons piled up around me will have to sit unthrown. Er, basically, The Tank wins again. (But Frank, as I’m sure you are reading this, seriously, ask someone the difference between Islam and Islamism. It’ll save you a lot of hearthache.)
The rest of the comic? Oh, it's terrible. Simply awful, darlings. Were it not for the price and prestige of this project it would be hilarious in its failure. As it is it's dismayingly poor. Mostly, Superman's daughter beats Superman up, and Brian Azzarello's whimsical ideas about pacing trip up his story so badly it ends up not only with with scabby knees but also a scabby chin. It does not add up, is what I'm saying. For some reason Superman lets his kid smack him about “for hours” (and many, many thoroughly dull pages). I'm sure Superman has a reason why he does this but alas, I am not as sophistimicated as Brian Azzarello so it just seemed stupid to me. Anyway, what's Batman's response. Batman, the master tactician, Batman the guerrilla genius, what does he do with all this time Superman has bought him? He sits and watches Supes get slapped silly by his kid "for hours" on the TV. Like it's Downton fucking Abbey or something. Christ, over the four issues extant of this regrettable mess Batman has 1) walked to The Fortress of Solitude with a big hammer and 2) snuck into Carrie Kelley's bedroom to caress her sleeping face while telling himself how awesome she is (which might be normal behavior to Superman editors, but strikes old-fashioned me as a bit creepy). He's not exactly pushing himself is he now?
But John what does Wonder Woman do? Wonder Woman gets a call from Batman (probably, “Ur husbnd is gtting crap smcked out of hm! LOL!” and she just...crushes her phone. I know people who have survived apocalyptic divorces who still would lend a hand were their despised partner being kicked to death. Not Wonder Woman, though. Not the Princess of Peace! Fantastic stuff there. It's okay, you might think, because The Flash is around. Get this: Superman's daughter beats Supes up “for hours” and it is playing on every television on earth and The Flash...shows up when it's all over. I'm not exactly Geoff Johns when it comes to the minutiae of DC Comics characters but isn't the whole thing about The Flash that he's very fast? I know there's a bow tie involved, but unless you're a big Bing Crosby fan it's the whole “very fast” thing which defines The Flash. What the crepuscular fuck has The Flash been doing all this time? Brian Azzarello's pacing is so slow even The Flash can't fight it! Brian Azzarello is The Reverse Flash and I claim my five pounds! The Flash! The fucking Crap more like. Oh, and then there's The Atom who has been shrinking since, what, issue two? At what rate is he shrinking? Surely he should have shrunk out of existence by now. But, no, there Ray is, clinging grimly to a molecule, or an (heh) atom or something sciencey like that. “Maybe I can fix this...”, The Atom says. Apparently The Atom not only shrinks but is super-optimistic. More optimistic than I am. The only way to fix this pile of comic book bumblefuckery would be to have let Frank Miller write and draw it all in the first place. As it is DKIII: TMR remains consistently and flagrantly CRAP! Mind you, it's probably all Alan Moore's fault, right DC Comics?
NEXT TIME: Maybe a bit of Howard Victor Chaykin to cleanse the palate. There's a man who does good COMICS!!!
But I still went on about it nevertheless.
Anyway, this… DARK KNIGHT III: THE MASTER RACE #3 Based on THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller, Lynn Varley & Klaus Janson (although third time out DC again only identify Frank Miller as the author. Tsk. Tsk.) Art by Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, John Romita Jnr, Frank Miller Story by Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello Lettered by Clem Robins Colours by Brad Anderson, Alex Sinclair Cover by Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson Variant Covers by Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Klaus Janson & Dean White, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, John Romita Jnr, Danny Miki & Dean White Retailer variant cover by Geg Capullo & FCO Plascenia, Gabriel Dell'Otto, Paul Pope & Shay Plummer, Alex Garner DC Comics, $5.99 Standard/$12.99 Deluxe (2016) Batman created by Bill Finger & Bob Kane
Now, I’m not really auf fait with the whole sexy modern Terror thing (torture is awesome, right?) but I was around in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so I have in fact been evacuated from two buildings, watched pubs burn on the teatime news and also had my favourite Saturday shopping centre remodelled by, in all probability, Semtex©®™ (the Czech plastic explosive not the Czech energy drink), and my take away is that the big thing about terrorists is that terrorists are generally perceived (by themselves at the very least) as the underdogs. They are denied the usual channels of protest and don’t have the resources of whoever they are up against, so they by necessity, and I am in no way endorsing this, fall back on terrorist tactics. Given that, I’m not entirely sure why a city full of Superpeople who can fly faster than a fighter jet, balance a city block on each ear, punch through the earth’s crust, shoot fire out of their eyes and make steel shattering cold hiss from their mouths would see themselves as underdogs. In fact they don’t; one of the (very) few things this comic makes clear is that they consider themselves Gods, so c’mon, get worshipping! That’s their whole, like, thing. So why (WHY!?!) they would turn themselves into bombs and threaten to drop themselves hither and yon unless Earth kowtows is almost as inexplicable as the first two issues of this thing, where Batman sought to convince everyone he was dead by reminding everyone of his existence. I’m not sure there was enough air in that bottle these dudes popped out of, because their plan makes about as much sense as beating someone to death with an atom bomb. Or treading on someone whose super power is SHRINKING(!) and believing they are dead. Or trying to convince everyone you are dead by reminding everyone of your existence. Or pretty much anything in this thing. Basically, given the massive imbalance of power on show I don’t think this metaphor is working like anyone involved thinks it is. DKIII:TMR by Kubert, Janson, Miller, Azzarello, Anderson & Robins
That is of course if they’ve put any thought at all into it, because this third issue seems particularly begrudging in its display of stale thrills. There’s a half-hearted attempt at continuing the whole social media/talking heads thing, but it’s sprinkled so stingily over the pages you get the impression they wished they’d never started doing it. And the heads that talk are hardly impressive, their likenesses blunted by Kubert’s stubbornly generic approach. I think one of them is Donald Trump, which, yes, well done, is super-timely, but has it no real comment to make about him, except his is a face you’ll have seen on television. It might as well be Cookie Monster or Latka from TAXI. Amazingly in a 21st Century comic there’s actually a “my wife” joke, the best I can say about that is at least it isn’t a “my mother-in-law” joke. On the bright side though, if this whole hacking out cashgrabs thing doesn’t work out, Brian Azzarello could fall back on touring Working Men’s Clubs with Jim “Nick! Nick!” Davidson. Or maybe not, because the secret of comedy is timing, and here Azzarello and Kubert manage to thoroughly fluff a conceptually pretty good joke about how no one’s too fussed about the Kandorians until they interrupt their web service. It’s a good joke, but it just expires on the page before your eyes. Like they just couldn’t be fussed, and this air of enervation permeates the whole issue.
Which is thematically apt since most of this issue is about people being tired. Here even Batman’s a bit tired of it all. He’s not the only one. His fire’s gone out. Reading this book I can think of some other people whose fire has gone out. I’m not saying there’s some psychological projecting going on on the part of the creators but then nor would I rule it out. Batman’s throwing in the towel, my arse. To stop Frank Miller’s Batman you’d need to feed Frank Miller’s Batman into a wood chipper, give the resultant slurry to pigs, fire the Batman-fattened pigs into the sun, drop the sun into a black hole and then maybe, maybe you’d be on the right track to stopping the mad thug from coming back. Even so, you’d probably turn round and the last thing you’d see would be his grin as he unzipped you like a sleeping bag and paddled in your guts. Here, though, Frank Miller’s Batman is tired and he doesn’t want to play anymore. Bless. Fantastic grasp of Frank Miller’s Batman there. Almost as good as the one they have on Superman.
Oh yeah, then there’s Superman – he just gave up one day and sat down and stopped moving. As you do. Fantastic writing there, really gets to the nub of the character. He’s Superman, he’s what’s best in us, and he always finds a way. Of course he’d just give up just…well...er…because. It’s all got a bit much, that’s all the motivation on show here. Hey, it all gets a bit much for me too, Superman, if just sitting down and not moving was an option I’d have grabbed it with both hands decades ago. Anyway he’s sat in some ice (exhibiting truly impressive control of his bodily functions) and although conscious, is unresponsive to stimuli. Look, I’m no professional but I think once the catatonic state is breached we’d try maybe 20 to 40mgs of Citalopram©®™ and a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy initially. Were his state more responsive perhaps a talking cure might be an option, but that’s further down the line. Er, sorry. Anyway, medically Batman is a bit more hands-on and hits Superman with a big hammer. This doesn’t work. Luckily Carrie Kelly wakes Superman up by telling him what the problem is. We are told this is a stroke of genius by Batman, you know, asking Superman to help because there are a lot of Superpeople engaging in a poorly conceived metaphor about Terrorism outside. Who would have thought Superman would respond to a clearly articulated problem. Not Batman. But then he has just tried to chivvy someone out of a mental collapse by hitting him with a big hammer. I liked the big hammer by the way; it’s the only thing in three stubbornly unspectacular and bafflingly self-satisfied issues that has felt slightly “Frank Miller’s Dark Knight”. The fact that Batman carries a massive hammer miles through the snow to break the ice on Superman is just so cartoonishly dumb it spoils everything even more, because you realise all the more keenly how tepid and underwhelming everything around it is. Case in point, next issue is clearly the one where Superman gets a good leathering just like he did in the previous two Dark Knight series, because, well, fuck it, the cheque’s cashed so why not just be totally predictable. Three issues in and this thing remains a pile of stale horseapples. CRAP!
The mini-comic this time out has the typically pacy Azzarellian zip of an arthritic tortoise with a brick on its back struggling up a steep incline, and disdains the immature allure of an actual fight scene in order to favour the more sophisticated alternative of three ladies floating about while passively aggressively sniping at The Sphinx. The Sphinx it should be noted is an ancient pile of stones, so it is understandably less than forthcoming with responses. Undaunted by the futile idiocy of their actions they carry on trolling the inanimate object while chipping away at it, in the process resembling less super advanced beings and more a bunch of bored scrotes kicking a dried dog turd about while waiting for a bus to arrive. Instead of a bus Hal Jordan turns up. Or a pile of sentient broccoli which has chosen to assume the form of “Hal Jordan” (this, like so many things in this comic, is needlessly unclear). The talk turns Super Deep with questions being raised as to whether it is right than women should be unequal to men (no) or whether the colour of one’s skin makes some innately superior to others (no). Strong stuff and given the complexities of the questions it’s understandable that there aren’t any answers given (No, not even “no”), just questions raised. Quail before the philosophical might of Brian Azzarello! (Never mind The Riddle of The Sphinx! What about The Riddle of The Azzarello? “Is it right that men and women should be uneq..”, “No.”, “…Uh, lucky guess. Is it right that people’s skin col..?”, “No.”, “Um. What’s black and white and read all ove..” “Dude, no one reads newspapers anymore. Get a clue. Your riddles are balls nasty.”)
So flummoxed is Hal Jordan by the philosophical conundrums posed by his floating foes that he just hovers there slack jawed until they take him out, with a sudden act of violence clearly designed to make Geoff Johns purr like a dirty cat. However, as pompous and inanely opaque as it all is (and, boy, isn’t it just), this mini-comic is at least drawn by John Romita Jnr with inks by Frank “The Tank” Miller. Which means it is gorgeous, shimmering gloriously as it does between Moebius and DKSA era Miller. It’s like someone cracked a window in a room full of stale farts. A breath of fresh air is what I’m saying there. If these two had drawn the whole book it wouldn’t have made it good, but it would have made it better. Writing –wise the mini-comic is CRAP! But the mini-comic art is VERY GOOD!
NEXT TIME: Something a bit better than this. Something that's bit better at being – COMICS!!!
Abhay's below this, so don't dilly dally, and certainly don't shilly shally, go there! Do it NOW! Me, I'm still trying to get regular, so here's another go at that. There's a lot of toilet humour in this one. It's the only industry we have left. DKIII by Risso, Azzarello, Mulvihill & Robins
Anyway, this... SIR: The critics? No, I have nothing but compassion for them. How can I hate the crippled, the mentally deficient, and the dead? The Dresser by Ronald Harwood
2000AD Prog 1964 Art by Mark Sexton, Richard Elson, John Burns, Clint Langley, Carlos Ezquerra Written by Michael Carroll, Dan Abnett, Kek-W, Pat Mills, John Wagner Colours by Len O'Grady,the artists Lettered by Annie Parkhouse, Ellie De Ville, Simon Bowland JUDGE DREDD created by Carlos Ezquerra & John Wagner KINGDOM created by Richard Elson & Dan Abnett THE ORDER created by John Burns & Kek-W ABC WARRIORS created by Kevin O'Neill, Brendan McCarthy, Mick Mcmahon & Pat Mills STRONTIUM DOG created by Carlos Ezquerra & John Wagner Rebellion, £2.55 weekly (2016)
Borag Thungg! Another week, another issue of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! This week in Judge Dredd (Sexton/Carroll/O'Grady/Parkhouse) the decision is taken to devote the bulk of the seven page installment to a quite bloody and brutal action sequence which leaves Dredd on the edge of death. Also, some plot developments. It's a salutary reminder that when a Judge goes wrong that's way more dangerous than just your average perp. As seven pages go it's lean, mean, gory and crunchily executed stuff. Two parts in and “Ghosts” is shaping up VERY GOOD!
KINGDOM (Elson/Abnett/DeVille) takes time out from hurtling about hither and yon for a quick plot stop. Some fruity swears and mysterious discoveries later the strip is tanked back up with motivation enough to hurtle off, in the final panel of the fifth page, into what promises to be a more typically action orientated episode. Elson art possesses a crisp precision and Abnett's script remains fundamentally derivative but still just original enough to provide undemanding fun. OKAY!
Alas, the major question raised by THE ORDER (Burns/Kek-W/DeVille) so far is what exactly was achieved by the steampunk motorbike that could not have been achieved by a horse. So, obviously this one's not exactly pulling me in. It's not terrible though. And that's despite groan inducing clichés such as the masked rescuer being revealed to be a stunningly beautiful lady (and unless Boots The Chemist was operating in 1560 then her make up skills are a tad anachronistic). As if in balance there's a nifty bit of dialogue on the fifth and final page (the “...empircal evidence..” bit). That alone is enough to leave me optimistic that the ideas underpinning the series will eventually be revealed to have been worth the more predictable stretches. OKAY!
Last week, while struggling to make sense in a short space of time, I , somewhat tenuously I thought, mentioned Blade Runner in connection with the mek-nificent ones. This week Serendipity, obviously in a playful mood, shocks my socks of by having Pat Mills rejig the Roy Batty death speech everyone loves from that selfsame movie, but puts it in the foul mouth of an ailing Ro-Jaws and, thus, appropriately enough, fixes up the references within it to those of a somewhat more scatological stripe. Reader, I larfed. One of the many things I respond to in Pat Mills' writing is his unselfconscious embrace of puerility. It's particularly prevalent in ABC Warriors and is always welcome. In a strip where the authorities (who have been searching for Hammerstein) have just cottoned on to the fact that that robot that looks just like Hammerstein but with a different head is in fact Hammerstein but with a different head, having a giant robot referencing David Lynch films and also yelling about “Big Jobs!” is probably more of a help than a hindrance. (Note for Children of The Now: “Big jobs” was used to refer to babies going “Number Two” back in the day, back in the UK.) Clint Langley's art looks like it's all taking place inside an active bowel and so is perfectly appropriate. VERY GOOD!
You know the bit in every heist movie where the heist gets underway and it's a matter of watching the protagonists evade detection before things go wrong? This week's STRONTIUM DOG (Ezquerra/Wagner/Bowland) is that bit of the heist movie. The fun here is that instead of using specialist equipment provided by a character actor in a minor but showy role, they use their mutant abilities (stretchy arms, super strong fingers, x-ray vision, a Keegan perm, a bumpy heid, etc) and there is still time for a good joke about where one would hide the scared brain of a bizarre cult's founder. Ezquerra's art remains so flawlessy devoted to storytelling it never even hints at the effort and experience underpinning every panel. VERY GOOD!
DKIII THE MASTER RACE BOOK TWO Based on THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS by Frank Miller, Lynn Varley & Klaus Janson (although once again DC only identify Frank Miller as the author. Tsk. Tsk.) Art by Andy Kubert, Klaus Janson, Eduardo Risso Story by Frank Miller & Brian Azzarello Lettered by Clem Robins Colours by Brad Anderson, Trish Mulvihill Cover by Andy Kubert & Brad Anderson Variant Covers by Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Klaus Janson & Brad Anderson, Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, Cliff Chiang, Eduardo Risso & Trish Mulvihill Retailer variant cover by Sean Gordon Murphy & Matt Hollingsworth, Greg Capullo & FCO Plascenia Convention Variant Cover by Jill Thompson DC Comics, $5.99 Standard/$12.99 Deluxe (2016) Batman cteated by Bill Finger & Bob Kane
If nothing else this series has proved to be a thought provoking one. The thought it has provoked in my tiny mind is exactly how bad does the writing in a comic have to get before everyone stops just waving it through? Because the writing in this comic is astoundingly poor. I've not read any other reviews because I don't accidentally want to steal anyone else's thoughts, but unless those reviews point out first and foremost how utterly craptabulous the writing is I'd hesitate to trust anything they have to say. Because, ugh. I mean, ew. Someone wrote this with a big brown crayon, allright. It's no wonder they're so keen to drag Frank Miller's name into it. It's basically the same as blaming the old dog in the corner when you fart in company. “Man, this comic is carved out of stupid!”,“Dang, must be Frank Miller's fault!”Classy behaviour, guys. You know (of course you don't, what a stupid way to start a sentence) I was in the cinema recently, and during the performance someone broke wind next to me. Now let me tell you that was one blue ribbon winner of a fart and no mistake. It was like someone had just put a Sunday dinner under my nose. You ever smell a fart that smelt like you could chew it? This was that fart. It was a heroic achievement, to which I doff my cap; respect is due to someone who can create something like that. However, before we get carried away let's remember it was still just a fart. DKIII:TMR is the comic book equivalent of that fart. It's stink is mighty. Impressively so. But it's still just a big stink.
Oh, that's a bit much, John! Really? Have you read this? Tell me, what is not cretinous about Batman's plan to make the world think he is dead? Let me just recap it for you: After an absence of three years during which the world has probably started to stop thinking about him, Batman rides his Bat-cycle into the middle of Gotham. He then proceeds to engage in a pitched battle with the Gotham PD. At some point the media notice and Batman's return is plastered across every TV screen in the world. Batman suddenly has an asthma attack and collapses. At this point it is revealed that Batman is in fact a young girl dressed as Batman, and she collapsed due to grief and exhaustion rather than a respiratory condition marked by attacks of spasm in the bronchi of the lungs. She is taken into custody and says nothing for twenty seven days, in which time the media speculate about Batman's whereabouts to its heart's content. On the twenty seventh day the girl tells a thoroughly unconvincing story about how Batman died (in bed; maudlin, bed-bound and old). Usually the police would require a body, they are funny like that. But they just take this girl's word, as you would. With Batman now ineradicably on everyone's mind it's a masterstroke of idiocy to have the young girl sprung by the sudden appearance of a massive Bat-Tank, which trashes the part of the GPD which isn't already in traction before disappearing in a thoroughly ill-defined way. Obviously, having now convinced the world of his death Batman is now free to act. Given his fantastic plan to make the world forget him, his first act will probably be to soil himself and dance the Macarena. Christ. Batman the tactical genius there.
That ridiculous horseshit takes up most of the first and second issues but there's still room in this one for Ray Palmer to say something science-y (but not too demandingly science-y) and act like a Batman level moron. Because at no point - AT NO POINT - does it occur to Ray Palmer that introducing to the planet Earth a city full of people who can fly, fire fire out of their eyes and probably fart mustard gas to boot, might be less than stellar thinking. Jean left you because you were an idiot, Ray. There might be pages of this comic which don't insult the reader's intelligence but I couldn't recall any. What about the art? People don't talk about the art! Why should I say anything about the art when the writing is this bad. The writing here is ruinously bad. But okay, Kubert as ever manages that trick of being both fussy and lazy, while in the mini-comic Eduardo Risso's deep contrast talents are wasted on something so superfluous it's barely there. But really, what matters the art when a character describes herself as Batman's “prick”? “I was his PRICK.”, she says. Nice dire-logue, Brian Azzarello! “I was his PRICK.”, she says. She says was an old man's prick. What does that even mean, Brian Azzarello? That she got him up at odd times during the night for a piss? Boom, and indeed, BOOM!
See, the real problem is that this utter drivel is soaking up attention better used on other comics. There are too many comics today, and the good ones risk getting lost in the crush. Instead of writing about Brian Azzarello and Andy Kubert's futile attempt to polish the stale turds of greater talents I should have been writing about, say, MONSTRESS, STRAY BULLETS, ISLAND, EGOs, RAGNAROK and SPONGEBOB COMICS. All of which are probably struggling to survive while this bloated, brainless and thoroughly unnecessary thing flails about attracting everyone's attention. I mean, I don't need to write about this comic do I? Everyone else will already have alerted you to how fundamentally poor it is. (Won't they?) Look, my complaint isn't even that DKIII:TMR isn't a Frank Miller comic; it's that DKIII:TMR is CRAP!
NEXT TIME: On September 28th 2015 at 10:44 am “Peter” asked if I would be looking at the US attempts to “do” Judge Dredd. In 2016, he will have his answer! (SPOILER: It's “yes” and it's next up, thanks to my library.) I may be tardy but I will eventually get around to your - COMICS!!!
There was a new Batman comic out. It was an Event because Frank Miller was reportedly involved. I bought it. Frank Miller may well have been involved in actuality but, honestly, I could only detect homeopathic quantities of Frank Miller. Overall, I thought it was a pretty poor Event and only a mediocre Btaman comic. Yeah, that’s it; I thought I’d spare you having to read what follows. You can if you like, but it goes on a bit. Ooh, what a palaver! DKIII by Miller, Janson, Azzarello, Anderson & Robins
Anyway this… DK III: THE MASTER RACE BOOK ONE Based on The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson & Lynn Varley (Although in the comic DKR’s just credited to Frank Miller alone, which is a bit rich, and not something I want to encourage. Cut that shit out, DC Comics.) Pencils by Andy Kubert Inks by Klaus Janson Story by Frank Miller& Brian Azzarello Colours by Brad Anderson Letters by Clem Robins Cover by Andy Kubert & Klaus Janson Variant covers by Jim Lee, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, Frank Miller & Alex Sinclair, Dave Gibbons & Brad Anderson, Jill Thompson Retailer Variant Covers by Dave Johnson, Sean Gordon Murphy, Lee Bermejo, Klaus Janson, Rafael Albuquerque, Jae Lee & June Chung, Eduardo Risso, Jock, Walter Simonson & Laura Martin, Ivan Reis & Marcelo Maiolo, Aaron Lopresti, Tyler Kirkham & Tomeu Morey, Brian Bolland, Paul Pope & Jose Villarubia, Gabriele Dell’Otto, John Cassady & Laura Martin, Tony Daniel & Tomeu Morey, Matt Wagner & Brennan Wagner, Michael Allred & Laura Allred, Brian Stelfreeze, Amanda Connor & Paul Mounts, Terry Dodson & Rachel Dodson, Jason Fabok & Brad Anderson, Darwyn Cooke, Josh Middleton, Gary Frank & Brad Anderson, Howard Porter & Hi-Fi, Kevin Eastman & Varga Tamas, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave Dorman, Greg Capullo & FCO Plascenia, Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Marc Silvestri & Alex Sinclair, Kelley Jones, Dale Keown & Jason Keith, Neal Adams & Alex Sinclair, Simon Bisley, Tony Harris, David Finch, Scott Hanna & Brad Anderson, Scott Williams & Alex Sinclair, John Romita Jnr, Danny Miki & Dean White, Adam Hughes, Francis Manapul, J. Scott Campbell & Nei Ruffino, Tim Sale, Bruce Timm and Babs Tarr with John Vernon as “The Mayor” Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane DC COMICS, $5.99/£4.99 (Standard Ed.), $12.99/£9.99 (Deluxe Ed.) (2015)
PART THE FIRST: Oblique? C’est Chic!
On November 11th, 2015 it was reported in a number of British papers that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, had written to Oxfordshire council leader Ian Hudspeth criticising the council’s proposed cuts resulting from the austerity policies imposed by the very same Government of which David Cameron is Prime Minister. Dave was, we are told, “disappointed”. Dave’s disappointment was mostly because he is also the MP for Witney which is covered by the council. Austerity and cutbacks are okay as long as they don’t affect Dave’s constituency. So far, so Tory. Thankfully though like the great Statesman he is Dave pushed past his disappointment to offer Ian Hudspeth unsolicited assurances and advice on how to best allocate his reduced resources. Showing he is not without humour Dave tried out the old one about how in fact the Council had more money not less. Probably in “real terms” which is always a sign someone is having a laugh. Regrettably and no doubt to his eternal chagrin Ian Hudspeth had to point out the unfeasibility of Dave’s helpful suggestions and indeed also corrected a couple of erroneous underlying assumptions particularly the one about Dave’s government having given him more money; they hadn’t, they had taken some away. But my favourite of these hesitant corrections, and one which will prove pertinent to the Batman comic under discussion today, was Dave's wizard idea that council property be sold off as a solution to the funding deficit. Alas, Mr. Hudspeth had no alternative to remind Dave this wouldn’t work as they are one-off receipts, so you can’t keep selling the same buildings every year. And the moral of this story is as applicable to Prime ministers as it is to Entertainment Corporations: You can only sell the family silverware once.
PART THE SECOND: Imitation Is The Sincerest Form of Pandering!
Do you remember those splash pages with a one panel inset Frank Miller did in DKSA? Andy Kubert does. Herein Wonder Woman fights a minotaur for no clear reason except this is how Frank Miller introduced his characters in DKSA – with a big splashy action set piece which had little to do with anything which followed. A lot of the book is like this – Frank Miller did something in DKR or DKSA so DKIII:TMR does it too but takes up more space, has less spark, and has no idea why it’s doing it other than Frank did it first. There’s the Gotham skyline which was used by Miller to give the city a sense of being a huge gaudy (Gaudi? Oh, I can do wordplay too!) cathedral of heat hazed sin. Here the Gotham skyline is used to show us, uh, it’s Gotham. In DKR and DKSA Miller used insets of TV screens to comment on the culture of the time, the events portrayed and also the comic itself, while also employing them to propel the narrative forward and fill in exposition in a graceful and entertaining fashion. Here the same inset TV panels are used because Frank Miller used them, and here bear as much relation to satire as does a knock-knock joke. Like most of the visual language of the book it’s been purloined from the source with no thought as to its original purpose or intent. You could imagine Brian Azzarello and Andy Kubert noticing Frank Miller looks natty in a hat and buying themselves a couple only to go out wearing them on their arses. (The only people laughing would, of course, be Haters who had prejudged those hats, or fools who didn’t understand what Kubert and Azzarello were doing. Clearly.)
Then there’s the youth-speak, which in DKR was apparently contributed by Lynn Varley (and her rightly legendary colouring on DKR and DKSA is in no danger of being de-throned by the trendy lens-flare and banal gloss job of Brad Anderson) but here is by Brian Azzarello and…look, I’m inclined to leniency on this one, he has a pop. It’s not as good; it’s clumsy, ineffective and calls attention to itself more than it serves any real purpose. But, still, he has a pop. That scene also show a young POC being menaced by the cops which is so timely and relevant it’s a shame to point out the scene doesn’t go anywhere and is thus shameless attention seeking rather than any useful contribution to the debate about state sanctioned violence and institutionalised racism. I do have a sneaking suspicion that our harassed POC might turn out to be the new Robin (it won’t make the book any better but it might get some coverage; that’s what matters right? “White Man Writes Black Character in Comic Book! All Racist Violence Ends!”) Mind you, it’s reassuring to know that “The Man” is still the problem. If only we could find “The Man” and beard him in his lair! All our problems would be solved! Then we could all go down the “Disco” in our stack heels and “chat someone up”!
A similar sense of worldly awareness is indicated in the bit where Wonder Woman breast feeds her baby. In keeping with the rest of the book this takes a lot more panels than a normal human being might expect, or a writer with any self-respect would risk. Largely, I think here it takes so long to get the kid on the tit so that we all have plenty of time to get upset. Except no one has got upset. Nice try, Brian Azzarello but you failed for the same reason Matt Fraction failed with that outrage baiting issue of SATELLITE SAM which was just blow job central. Try getting out of the house a bit, guys. It’s 2015 not 1986, superstar-comic-book-writers-whose-reputations-and-influence-far-exceed-your-actual-accomplishments, and your notions of what gets people upset are a bit behind the times. Also, calling your book THE MASTER RACE isn’t “provocative” (calling it BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT: **** ALL YOUR MOTHERS is provocative. Not wise, but provocative.) and nor is seeing Wonder Woman breast feeding. Taking a dump on Superman’s chest? Sure, that’d probably get some tongues wagging even in this fallen age, but breast feeding kids not so much. I’ve sat next to complete strangers breast feeding their kids in cafes on public streets and I managed to neither touch myself lewdly nor call the peelers. Of course we won’t be seeing Wonder Woman laying some tarmac on Superman’s chest any time soon, not in this comic anyway because Superman is having a Supersulk in his Fortress of Solitude. At first I thought he was frozen and I couldn’t understand why his naughty daughter didn’t just unfreeze him with her eye beams. At first, I admit, I was ungenerous in my response and I thought it was just shitty writing. Then I figured he was just Supersulking and the ice had frozen over him. That’s still shitty writing because it’s basically saying in order for this plot to get going we need Superman out of the way so we’ll have him sulk. Batman will turn up and shout at him and Superman will get so angry he’ll break out of his ice and…look, I’m not getting paid for this so let’s leave it to the professionals. Believe you me those dudes are getting paid for it. Otherwise it’s just fan fiction. Which this isn’t. A lot of people get confused about the difference between fan fiction and professional fiction when there’s no need to. Professional fiction is precisely the same as fan fiction it just costs $5.99, or $12.99 for the Deluxe Edition.
INTERLUDE#1: I have seen The Future of Comics And It Is Expensive!
Because, yes, this comic comes in a Deluxe Edition. For $12.99 you get precisely the same comic but at a bigger size and encased in hard covers. I kind of admire the satanic genius of this. This series alone is 8 issues and a couple of “Specials”; that’s around and about $120 dollars from each punter who signed up. Imagine if your entire line of comics were in that format. Sure, there’d be an audience drop off but at those prices you could probably absorb losses of around 70% of the comic buying public. This? This is the comics retailing equivalent of David Warner at the end of TIME BANDITS! This is Concentrated Evil! This is like the comics retailing equivalent of a first strike nuclear attack. (“We’ll lose Washington, but the Eastern seaboard should still be salvageable. Forecasts are bleak for Texas, and Mexico will fall into the sea. Predictions have Lootcrate picking up the slack when the Corn Belt goes. Mr President, those losses are acceptable to our shareholders. Let the prices soar. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”) Holy terror, wait until Marvel get wind of this. Imagine $12.99 for a single issue of a slim wisp of a Brian Bendis comic! And Marvel being Marvel they’ll probably double ship the shitters too. One day all comics will be this way. Are you ready for the world which is coming? Better start saving, kids! As for comics retailers, duck and cover mes amis, duck and bloody cover. Remember WAR GAMES: The only way to win is not to play!
PART THE THIRD: The World’s Finest Splash Page!
My main beef with this comic is it is so badly written. We don’t say we love each other enough and, more pertinently, we don’t say comics are badly written enough. Comics have never been so replete with visual wonders. The standard of art these days is off the scale and we critics find that hard to talk about, but not as hard as we do to point out the failings which are rapidly rotting the craft of writing away from within. Oh, hang on I should in all fairness point out that visually this book is hardly better than average. Andy Kubert’s art is slick but thoroughly unconvincing in terms of spatial dimensions; the size of the minotaur is hard to pin down; at one point there’s a police car parked lengthways in an alleyway which is too narrow for it; a few times Kubert channels Miller and David Mazzucchelli but somehow makes it dull; but you know, it’s slick enough stuff. A bit too slick really. You can just about tell Klaus Janson’s at work here, but you have to really squint. There’s none of that lively line flurry and sparky scribbliness which usually peps his stuff up. He’s saved all that for The Atom mini-comic. Because, yes, for some inexplicable reason halfway through the comic you come to a bit of cardboard affixed to which is a mini-comic about The Atom. I can’t believe Frank Miller wrote this mini-comic. Sure, he probably said “And then the dame, she goes and gets The Atom to make them big. Damn big. Maybe some whores are involved. Not the ones with bruised vaginal walls and PTSD. Fun ones. Fun whores. Big damn fun whores.” But the execution has Azzarello’s tin ear and indecent love of decompression smeared all over it like Deep Heat on an old man’s back. Actually, that’s’ unfair. Decompression is a legitimate narrative technique, this is just pissing about. Brian Azzarello doesn’t use decompression, that legitimises what he does; it plays right into his money filled hands. It’s pissing about. At one point a door opens and we get this:
That’s a full page splash that is. It’s then followed on the page turn by this:
This comic takes ONE AND A HALF splash pages to depict a door opening. Decompression, my pile ridden arse. Sort yourself out Azzarello, you’re a disgrace, man.
Frank Miller definitely drew some of this mini-comic, but mostly, I’d say, it’s Klaus Janson. Which is okay; Janson never gets enough credit for all the weight he carried at the tail end of Miller’s DAREDEVIL run. I like Klaus Janson and it’s nice to see him here, tidying up Frank in his dotage. Dabbing the egg from his chin, artistically speaking. The best bit of the minicomic, the whole comic even, is the cover which is drawn by Frank Miller and features a Superman who’s all creased up like a pug dog’s scrotum. I liked it, but then I like Frank Miller’s art. I’m not shuck, I know he has got old and I think something has undoubtedly taken its toll; both you and I know his line isn’t as sure as it was and there’s just something off about it. It’s a frailer Frank, but it’s still Frank. I guess crumpled-up-and-badly-flattened-out Superman won’t be to everyone’s taste, what with the outline of “Lil Kal-El” (his Superwinklestick!) clearly visible to boot, but, you know, it’s what Frank’s doing now, so I like it because I like to know what Frank’s up to. Shit, I’m just glad he’s still drawing breath never mind drawing Superman. It’s a wrap-around drawing so the back of it is stuck to the cardboard thus providing a physical manifestation for the respect with which the big Two treat the art of even the giants of the industry.
PART THE FOURTH: The Ernest Hemingway Memorial Award for Clarity and Economy of Prose 2015
So, yeah, I was starting to go on about the writing and then I went on about the art. I’m not going to spend much time on this bit because it’s depressing how badly written this comic is. And, yes, people can pretend Frank Miller wrote it but he didn’t, Brian Azzarello did. You can tell because all the flaws are Brian Azzarello’s characteristic flaws. You can also tell Frank Miller didn’t write this comic because Wonder Woman rescues a bunch of stereotypical natives straight out of a 1920s Tarzan serial and no one flinches. Look, if anyone thought for one hot second that Frank Miller had written a scene in which a bunch of POCs in loin cloths with stuff stuck through their noses ran about in big eyed fear, you best believe there’d have been a right ruckus. Oh, I’m sure these natives are well researched and based on currently existent tribes but that’s not really my point. My point is that this comic is badly written and not by Frank Miller, so let’s gets back to that point.
On page 9 we have this:
“They’re afraid. And they will be, until they are what they ARE most afraid of…Dead.”
Now, I don’t know, there might be a way to make that more convoluted and unpleasant to parse but I’m happy to die unaware of it.
On page 15 we’ve got Wonder Woman describing her stroll as “Wonderfully PEDESTRIAN”.
Do you need me to walk (heh!) you through that one? She is saying her walk was both dull and something she did with her feet. It’s funny, see, because she had a fight with a minotaur which is very far from pedestrian and it was, indeed, actually something she did with her feet! O! My aching ribs.
On the first page of The Atom mini-comic we have:
“When Jean divorced me, a fundamental scientific tenet I’d clung to—since being a mind-blown grade schooler hearing it for the FIRST TIME—was DEBUNKED. Everything—from Stephen Hawking’s BRAIN to a molten flash of goo bubbling at the Earth’s core—shared an undeniable COMMONALITY—That being, every damn atom in the UNIVERSE, was made from the SAME basic matter. Well, Having my HEART BROKEN meant NOTHING mattered.”
Sorry, Ray, I nodded off there. Jean left you? You don’t say, Ray! Why? Why would she do that? Why, you are such an interesting fellow what with your oh-so-convincing and not at all crude and excessive shoehorning in of shallow science-isms (fundamental, tenet, debunked, Stephen Hawking, molten, core, commonality, matter, universe, jism) and your pulse quickening randomly EMPHASISED speech patterns. Stephen Hawking’s BRAIN, you say! Golly, Ray, and yet you say JEAN left you? I bet the winter nights just flew BY for you two. An undeniable COMMONALITY, yet! C’mon, Ray, NO tears. It’s Jean’s loss, Ray. Honest. Here let’s make a VOLCANO with some Diet Coke and some MENTOS! SCIENCE, Ray! SCIENCE! Cry into the science, Ray! Science Won’t LEAVE you, Ray! Cry into the SCIENCE!
Seriously the whole things like this. Any chance which arises for characterisation is rudely shouldered out of the way so that Azzarello can parade another of his fundamentally empty linguistic pirouettes, which impress no one more than himself. Dreadful, dreadful, self-indulgent stuff. Personally I pick as the utter nadir of this approach what came on p.10 when Wonder Woman’s brain emitted this tripe:
“How many times have we saved them? A hundred? A HUNDRED hundred? Though the math may elude…the SENTIMENT does not.”
Rushing past the weird innumeracy of “a HUNDRED hundred” we get “…the math may elude…” Seriously? I was under the impression Wonder Woman was a kick-ass feminist Amazon breaking faces in the name of Peace and Love not some Elizabethan dandy-man.
There’s barely enough plot in this comic for half a comic, and then to dollop on top all this obnoxious showboating results in a not terribly well-written comic. That's a pretty basic mistake to make.
INTERLUDE #2: Exclusive Extract from Frank Miller’s John Ford’s “’TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE”!
Scene: The interior of YE OLDE COMIC EXPERIENCE. Scrolls and leather bound volumes festoon the sturdy shelving. A bear of a man (BRIAN A HIBBS) hunkers behind the counter tapping at an abacus, his florid and hirsute face cauliflowered in concentration. A small brass bell tinkles as the stout door opens inward and tumbling into the shop, resplendent in doublet and hose, cassock aswirl, is the slighter but no less furry figure of JEFF OF LESTER.
JEFF OF LESTER: “Privvy, Sirrah, hast thine crusty experience and tender mentals allowed thee to ably scry the quantities required for the 1:200 Jim Lee “Static and Over Rendered Variant”? Pray tell, lest FOC pass ne’er to return! Pray tarry not and fly thine answer on wings fleeter than Hermes!!”
BRIAN A HIBBS: “Hey nonny ho, a ho nonny hey! Nay, sweet Jeff. And ‘tis to fear I shall ne’er do such. FOR MAY THE DEVIL TAKE ME FOR A PAPIST, THE MATH DOTH ELUDE!
PART THE FIFTH: Concluding Remarks
Basically I think I disliked this comic because whatever the faults of DKR and DKSA (of which there are none, clearly, but let’s pretend) they were both at core genuine expressions of a remarkable artistic vision. The DK books were Frank Miller and Lynn Varley’s books. I bought them because I wanted to know what Frank Miller & Lynn Varley were up to now. I didn’t buy them just for fucking Batman. There’s plenty of fucking Batman comics as it is, but there aren’t a lot of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley Batman comics. DKIII:TMR thinks all I want is more fucking Batman comics. DKIII:TMR thinks all I want is a largely inept but still not entirely unentertaining Batman comic set in the Millerverse. DKIII:TMR thinks all I want is an unthreatening remix; a toothless rehash of familiar elements which speaks to an ultimately condescending view of the comic book audience and embodies a complacency the source texts actively kicked against. If DC had sold this book as an Azzarello and Kubert book set in the Millerverse I’d have been a lot more indulgent, I think. All its flaws are their usual flaws after all. But DKIII:TMR’s biggest flaw is to pretend it is Frank Miller when it is patently not.
…there is an easily sated part of me that doesn’t mind this comic for all its flaws (which are not small – characterisation, ostentatiously awful wordplay, sluggish pacing and a fatally mistaken sense of self-satisfaction shining up from every adequate page) because I don’t expect a great deal from a Batman comic, but there’s also a part of me that despairs that something so flawed (and they are not small flaws– characterisation, ostentatiously awful wordplay, sluggish pacing and a fatally mistaken sense of self-satisfaction shining up from every adequate page) can be treated as an Event. That what is basically a fan fiction pandering remix can be met with such acclaim. Cue STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS joke. DKIII:TMR as a comic is EH! As an Event it is CRAP!
And that’s it for 2015!
Thanks for all the magic, and I’ll see you in 2016 at some point when, in all likelihood, I’ll be writing about – COMICS!!!
Yeah, so I'm not getting it together at all over here. Sorry. Let's just leave it as I'll be back in the New Year then we all know where we are. But wait! No one leaves empty handed! So until we next meet let me gift you with the pathetic results of what happens when an old man messes with Paint. Yes! Please be seated and feast your eyes upon a tribute to DKIII: The Childishly Trollingly Fascistic Title, with particular emphasis upon the rocket ship pacing and Shakespearean word play of Brian Azzarello and, naturally, the visually scintillating fireworks of Andy Kubert.
I sincerely thank each and everyone one of you for your patience, attention and forbearance during 2015 and I hope to see you all in 2016. Have a great Holiday Season!
All artwork by Andy Kubert & Klaus Janson.
Merry Christmas! See you in 2016 for – COMICS!!!
As tradition dictates I read some comics and then wrote about them. However, I feel it incumbent upon me to direct your gaze further down the page where two other people have done some real writing. Don't worry there's none of that below this cut; consistency is key! By Scioli & Barber
ALL-NEW DOOP #4 Art by Frederico Santagati & David LaFuente Written by Peter Milligan Coloured by Laura Allred Lettered by VC's Clayton Cowles Cover by Michael & Laura Allred Doop created by Michael Allred & Peter Milligan Marvel Entertainment,$3.99 (2014)
In which Ingmar Bergman is invoked, the man whose name is an anagram of Racial Kite returns, points are avoided, developments delayed and a Free Digital code still isn’t any compensation for charging three dollars and ninety nine cents for a slim pamphlet. I could buy a house for that. A house that looked and acted very much like a coffee anyway.
If I just ripped right into this as it so richly deserves (it’s a mess, and not one of blues, nor of eggs) you’d probably think I had some kind of beef with Peter Milligan. I don’t. Just because I dislike this ungodly and resolutely lifeless muddle doesn’t alter one iota the joy and wonder of all the stuff Peter Milligan, together with various talented artists, has done which I do like. It’s not to be sniffed at either that stuff: Bad Company, Skreemer, Enigma, The Eaters, Shade The Changing Man, Skin, Rogan Josh, Paradax, The Extremist, Vertigo Pop: London, Egypt, X-Force, X-Statix, Animal Man, Face, Girl, The Minx, Human Target, Hellblazer and probably some other bits and bobs here and there. The art is good but it’s by two different people and this together with the fact that last issue a character appeared in a scene they shouldn’t have been in suggests some backstage shenanigans. Pure conjecture there but what remains beyond doubt is this book is refusing to work. If you’re a big hearted soul you could read this as some impish piss take of how vacuous busywork is now the hallmark of the current X-books but for those with normal sized hearts the best way to read this remains not to read it at all. EH!
BATMAN '66 #13 Art by Dean Haspiel Written by Gabe Soria Coloured by Allen Passalaqua Lettered by Wes Abbott Cover by Michael & Laura Allred Batman created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger DC Comics, $2.99 (2014)
Hey, Dean Haspiel! I like Dean Haspiel! He draws his figures all chunky and loaded with momentum dspite an oddly flat aspect. I like it and I liked seeing it unfold in service of Gabe Soria's comedic conceit about how in the frothy primary coloured world of Batman ’66 a Batman TV show would be all grim and B&W but still as fundamentally ridiculous as the world in which it was transmitted. Possibly even more ridiculous even. The highlight is obviously the whole “bat-business” schtick which is even better if you use the voice of that “Ya filthy animal” guy from Home Alone for TV Batman. I mean, you are doing The Voices in your head anyway aren’t you? Do people do that? I know I’m reading a good comic when I stop “reading” and realise I’ve started acting it out in my head. Some people might think it’s strange but I certainly have no problem admitting I do that as long as it’s a common enough to pass for normal. If it’s grounds for having my kid taken off me then I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about; get the fuck away from me you bloody lunatic! GOOD!
BATMAN '66 MEETS THE GREEN HORNET #2 Art by Ty Templeton Written by Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman Coloured by Tony Avina Lettered by Wes Abbott Cover by Alex Ross Batman created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger Green Hornet created by George W. Trendle & Fran Striker DC Comics,$2.99 (2014)
In which Batman ’66 meets The Green Hornet and a malevolently mirthful villain is revealed! Actually, technically, Batman ‘66 meets The Green Hornet again since the pair actually met in the first issue but then they get split up and so meet again. If that happens every issue there will certainly be no complaints lodged with the Trading and Standards people as far as this comic is concerned.
This comic showed up because I get and like Batman ’66. However I have little to no interest in Kevin Smith and in fact have actively avoided his doings ever since, over a decade ago now, I realised with the kind of diamond hard clarity I wish I could experience about things of real importance, that I didn’t actually like his movies; I just liked watching Jason Lee being sarcastic. Turns out you can watch Jason Lee be sarcastic in things which have nothing to do with Kevin Smith. The Free Market in action there. I think we can all agree that being able to watch Jason Lee be sarcastic and know Kevin Smith was not involved is worth every bit of inequality such a system fosters. Anyway, the good news is that this comic isn’t as dreadful as I feared. Now I don’t know who Ralph Garman is but he seems to be exerting a steadying influence on Kevin Smith; there’s no scene in which Robin ends up sat in his own shit or any ridiculously long-winded fulminating the humour of which is in inverse proportion to its length. So, Kevin Smith fans beware!
I mean it still isn’t much cop but it isn’t much cop in such a low key way it’s hard to say precisely why it isn’t much cop. We just don’t seem to have got very far after two issues and we certainly haven’t laughed very much, or indeed at all, but then we’ve not really resented the experience either. And by “we” I mean me and the unquiet ghost of Dandy Nichols, obviously. This qualified success can’t just be down to Ralph Garman as there are also the calmative effects of Ty Templeton’s art to be reckoned with. And this is despite said art being a bit raggedy, a tad approximate even, in places and generally looking as though he’s loaded up his brush with too much ink. Little matter, because underneath all that there’s still the appealing solidity of his figures, the slight quirk of his line and a definite talent for the delineation of Caesar Romero. And yes, Children of The Now, I realise this brush very likely never existed nor was ever dunked in ink as this is one of those digital books they chuck into print to maximise revenue streams or whatever the expense account big boys chunter over by the white boards. Alex Ross’ covers are fun too. Don’t want Alex Ross sulking in the corner; nice covers, Alex Ross. So, yeah, you can probably tell from the preceding that I wasn’t really engaged by this comic but in tribute to Kevin Smith I did give it an overly verbose, self-indulgent and resolutely charmless review. OKAY!
THE GREEN HORNET (2011) Directed by Michel Gondry Screenplay by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz and Tom Wilkinson Green Hornet created by George W. Trendle & Fran Striker
My spawn wanted to watch this so we watched it. I swear he has powers beyond mortal ken (also I didn’t mind if I did either). Naturally I had been assured by the world outside my window that it was a big old stinker but since that’s the same world that liked the Nolan Batman films I didn’t listen. Also, The Lone Ranger had been denigrated by all and sundry and my spawn enjoyed that so, yeah, ignoring all warnings we gave The Green Hornet a shot. First of all there was too much f*cking effing and jeffing; if they’d f*cking cut that shit out a lower rating might have resulted and what should have been a f*cking kid’s film may have actually been seen by some f*cking kids. You know, kids other than those whose parents are terrible gatekeepers. Because, yes, I know it was a 12 certificate but, oh alright, I’m just a sh*tty parent and while we can talk all day about the sh*ttiness of my parenting (it’s pretty sh*tty by all accounts) I think we should all just move on to the movie. I could be biased there. So, The Green Hornet; I liked it. More importantly Wallace Kirby Chaykin Ditko Kane (or “Gil” for short) liked it. Although a lot of his fun was looking at me with a “HOO! HOO!” face every time someone swore. Which was pretty f*cking often. He had a good time though; Kato was his favourite because Kato kicked butt like butt kicking should be done. I liked the colours and general design sense of the thing and I thought Gondry was surprisingly good at action; it’s not really his usual stamping ground is it? And yet I always knew what was going on and there was quite a lot going on at times. Seth Rogen plays that “Seth Rogen” character he always plays and I find that amusing but I don’t need to see any more of it for a bit; Jay Chou was funny and charming and got all the best physical stuff; Christoph Waltz was just a joy and, yeah, um, Cameron Diaz unwisely hogs a role that should have gone to some up and coming actress and is just plain embarrassing every time she appears. It's more of a Seth Rogen film than a Green Hornet film but that's OKAY!
THE SHADOW: MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW #2 Art by Howard Victor Chaykin Written by Howard Victor Chaykin Coloured by Jesus Arbuto Lettered by Ken Bruzenak Cover by Howard Victor Chaykin & Jesus Arbuto The Shadow created by Walter B. Gibson Dynamite,$3.99 (2014)
I think the only person who enjoyed the first issue of this series more than me was Howard Victor CHaykin because here it is again. OKAY!
WONDER WOMAN #33 Art by Cliff Chiang Written by Brian Azzarello Coloured by Matthew Wilson Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher Cover by Cliff Chiang Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston DC Comics, $2.99 (2014)
In which all things move towards their end and Diana, the newly anointed God of War, rejects an offer of Love from that guy seemingly made of compacted corned beef while her allies savour the sour taste of loss. (OR: Wonder Woman’s search of the jungles of Paradise Island for a headache remedy proves fruitless as the paracetamol.)
If you scrape past the crap (and we’ll get to that; the crap) that’s accreted around it this run of Wonder Woman has been a pretty interesting if slow moving in the mighty modern manner. It’s been a bit of a go at a Sandman for the iPod generation or maybe a nice try at a Percy Jackson, but for children (insert smiley emoticon to indicate a joke nearly happened). Definitely more of an ensemble piece than usual and thus Wonder Woman has sometimes been lost in her own book. But on the plus side there’s been some clever reinventions of ancient idols without falling into that “Denzel - God of 8-Bit Cartridges” trap most mythic modernisers run right into (see: Neil ”Have You Now Or Have You Ever Been A Scientologist” Gaiman). Unfortunately there’s a lot of nose holding going on even as I enjoy the parts of the book which are actually enjoyable. And let’s be clear here absolutely none of the faults of this book lie in the art (except for a bizarre colouring blip this issue where it’s like someone accidentally pressed the “Edgar Delgado” button or something). The art here and throughout this run has been pretty fantastic. I mean there’s a reason I’m still sticking this book out and it sure as cupcakes ain’t the words. Chiang’s back for this final trot towards the end and most of the art for the book’s run has been from either his hands or Goran Sudzuka’s. It hasn’t been as consistent as one pair of hands but it’s been pretty consistent and while Sudzuka’s been no Chiang he’s been no slouch either. There’s been a Toth-ian emphasis on clarity throughout and the detail light results have hovered near the cartoony end of the illustrative spectrum, but that’s been all to the good; some of the stuff they’ve been called on to draw would have been pretty repellent if it hadn’t been presented with such a lightness of touch. Sadly lightness has been entirely lacking from the touch of the giant ham hands of Brian Azzarello’s writing.
I try not to be a complete idiot so I realise the staginess of Azzarello’s work is intentional. That’s okay, I don’t mind that; Jack Kirby’s comics read in much the same “stagy” way (but in a way that actually "works"; for me anyway, and I'm all that matters). But Azzarello takes it to excess. There’s this thing he does where there’s very little dialogue in a panel and it creates a kind of beat of silence as you move onto the next panel; this is a very stagy effect. It’s an intentional pause for the reader to digest what they’ve just read. It’s thus implicit that what you have just read is worth the extra seconds of contemplation your sluggishly bovine mind is humbly being afforded. And that’s okay in moderation (like heroin) and while it would be wrong to say Azzarello does it all the time, it feels like he does it all the time because he does it far too much. Chuck in the mannered phrasing and nearly every utterance becomes a self-consciously theatrical stentorian oration; as though every part were played by the worst melodramatists to ever tread the boards. It’s fine in moderation (like murder) but so much of it is just fucking wearying. And most of this pause for effect business is purely an invitation to bask luxuriantly in Azzarello’s majestic word play. Unfortunately the level of Azzarello’s word play is such that this is like being invited to bask luxuriantly in cow flops. And it’s everywhere, from the terrible titles (Throne To The Wolves, Icy France; the pain, the pain) to the dialogue (or direlogue; clever, eh? No.) There is nothing remarkable in noticing that two different words sound the same and then using one in place of the other. it’s wordplay all right but it’s just play; there’s no serious import there, no further depth, no…it’s just farting about. It’s stagy stuff but it’s stagy to excess and…I don’t know but this isn’t an isolated case is it? Isn’t this what happens with comic writers now? They mistake their quirks and ticks for the reasons for their success and their work becomes just quirks and ticks. It just seems odd that in The Age of The Writer quite a lot of the time the writing is the crap you have to scrape past. I told you we’d get to that; the crap you have to scrape past. Thanks to the art then Wonder Woman was GOOD!
THE TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #1 Art by Tom Scioli Written by Tom Scioli & John Barber Coloured by Tom Scioli Lettered by Tom Scioli Cover by Tom Scioli Transformers & G.I. Joe created by Hasbro IDW Publishing,$3.99 (2014)
In which two popular children's toy properties I have no clear knowledge of nor any fondness for combine, with the almost certain result that I will express hostility of an almost hateful stripe. Only Tom Scioli and John Barber have the power to avert this disaster; the rest of us can only watch...and pray.
It took an invasion by robots that can turn into cars and stuff but there’s no longer any hiding the fact that Scioli’s work was a sneak attack all along. Flying under The Flag of Jack it’s now revealed for all to see that all that Kirby inflected (KOIBY! infected) alt art attitudinising was all a feint; the real crown he sought to knock askew was that of Wallace Wood. For was there ever another artist who tamed the thrill of toy soldiers and delivered it on the comics page as wonderfully as Wallace Wood? No, Cochise, there was not for it was a hypothetical. From the isolated panels of tanks and trucks and swarming hordes which punctuated such exuberant fare as T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents to his greatest evocation of the child at play, M.A.R.S. Patrol, Wallace Wood ruled supreme in the toy box of every child's mind.
True to his era Wood’s soldiers were all kin to the one piece moulded plastic cast bought by the box in militaristic multiples but Scioli inhabits times Science Fictional by comparison. His roster of rip snortin’ gun toters are the larger, more articulated figures bought by the single in bubble pack mounted on board. Scioli with Barber channel the magic of play so well you can imagine the tips of their tongues protruding from their mouths as they did so while every panel is pregnant with the possibility that a humongous dog will run through it scattering all and sundry hither nd yon before slipping behind the sofa to slobberingly chew General Flagg's head off. And it all takes place on pages artificially aged so well that the only omission from the illusion are those flecks of dark matter which grace most old comics; those which one always suspects are fly shit. These are pages rich in play also with the very format of comics from the hand lettered SFX to the occlusion of speech by the Krackle and flare of gun fire. Not only have Scioli and Barber done Wallace Wood proud they have done it by producing 21st Century comics' first great work of art. Blowing no smoke up your ass here either; it's EXCELLENT!
It is a truth universally acknowledged that people who start a sentence with those words have probably not actually read any Jane Austen but will very probably have read some - COMICS!
Still stinging with shame over his balky pull list J_Smitty gets it together, remembers his password and partially rights the ship.
Wonder Woman #21
Azzarello / Chiang / Wilson
DC Comics $2.99
This issue heralds the return of Cliff Chiang and it’s not a moment too soon. Or, maybe it is too soon. Chiang will undoubtedly keep me on this read where I would have otherwise fallen off by now. Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. Azzarello feels to me as though he’s embracing a new supporting cast; largely leaving the gods (both G and demi) behind - or at least fallow – and moving in the direction of Kirby’s Fourth World “modern” pantheon. Orion seems to be a semi regular at this point and we get our first glimpse of New Genesis so we’re definitely trafficking in that vein.
Chiang is a lush stylist and among other gems here really lays on some impressive boom tube effects (though that may be a collaboration between himself and colorist Matt Wilson) and – as usual with Cliff – the EYES have it! Ah, see what I…anyway to the pretty!
Also of note, one character dies while defiantly chanting the lyrics to Millwall FC’s ode to hooliganism.
Good job this year, Millwall, you lost to Wigan in the FA semis. Maybe (snicker) next year.
Conan the Barbarian #17
Wood / Gianfelice / Stewart
Dark Horse Comics $3.50
Conan’s bad acid trip continues in part two of three in The Nightmare of Shallows arc. A LOT happens in this so allow me to jump off a bit here.
After doing a brief run through of a fantasy version of his earlier imprisonment (Hint: It could be titled “How to Kill with Loose Masonry,”) Conan and Belit soldier on through their shared Yellow Lotus induced dream state.
Relaxing on a sedan chair in an air pocket of a sunken Khitai treasure ship (how cool is that, by the way?) Conan and Belit espouse their world views in a single exchange of dialogue:
Wood is at his best (for me) working through interpersonal dynamics. He has an ability to populate his characters with consistent viewpoints that don't just sound one note or as an echo of an overall writer’s voice. Belit’s presence throughout the series has put Conan on backfoot in an exploration of young love and how the immediacy, ferocity and depth of passion can be a simultaneously thrilling and blinding experience. Sure, it’s Romeo and Juliet dynamics but consider this:
In Conan’s savage history you get the sense that Belit was either the right woman at the wrong time (tragic, to be sure) or perhaps even more painfully the right woman at the right time. Wood is willing to travel that awkward road of hopes, weaknesses, fears and confusion in the midst of killing giant snakes and dropping acid.
For that brave dare alone, for allowing Conan’s new iteration a modicum of psychological flexibility, he should be lauded.
Davide Gianfelice works in the bold, minimal line style I enjoy for its representational flexibility (meaning it is recognizable and clear at any depth of scale) and despite the occasional tendency to oversexualize Belit (I preferred Cloonan’s weird Banshee) he is a VERY capable artist that works at a high level in what Dark Horse would do well to make their default “house style.”
Lastly, it would be CRIMINAL to undersell Dave Stewart’s coloring work. It delivers so much of the mood, sense of place and emotional context. The slightest bloom of a cheek as Conan and Belit embrace is a detail that is neither over or underplayed. Note perfect.
He is truly a super power in his world and a driving force of the Dark Horse look. If you need further evidence…
B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth # 108
Mignola & Arcudi / Campbell / Stewart
Dark Horse Comics $3.50
They say when you become a parent your whole life changes.
I’ve enjoyed the weird super spooky creepshow that has been B.P.R.D. and I will continue to buy it but this one finally put me over my comfort line for what horror really is and illuminated why I’ve always had such a difficult time processing it. It’s the destruction of innocence that really gets me. The awful fall of the unprotected and the gentle that makes me rage and have a fit.
All of this is done capably and horribly. It is a wrenching experience and all the determined semi-photo linework and deep, blazing color do their job very well indeed. You pained me this month, B.P.R.D. and you showed me something scary. Thank you and damn you. Also, Johann is well hard.
Kirkman / Ottley / Rathburn / Rauch
Image Comics $2.99
Look, can we talk for a second? You need to start buying this book. It’s Spider-Man, all right? Great Cast, Great Action, Great Narrative. Kirkman goes to great pains to make sure each issue is accessible and comprehensible as a unit and as a whole. Ottley never met or imagined a thing he couldn’t draw free hand. Just do it as a favor to me. Ok? I don’t have much to say on it except it has held my attention for over a hundred issues and that’s not an accident.
Also, Twitter rec’d by Rob Liefeld! Err…
Batman Beyond Unlimited #17
DC Comics $3.99
Whoa, that’s a lot of people.
JT Krul, not bad on the Superman peace pitch. Truth!
Howard Porter, your line has thinned somewhat! A positive change.
Adam Archer, you have a wonderful – WONDERFUL manga-esque Darwyn Cookery about you, sir. Also, you learned how to make that Batman “Oh sh!t” face from Norm Breyfogle. I know it. Good on you.
You uncredited guys at the back outdid the Geoff Johns version of the Shazam / Captain Marvel yearlong thing by about a million miles in two panels. That deserves a donut! Let me know where to mail it.
That’s the great thing about charting the world of the future in comics. No one gives a damn about it. Isn’t that weird?
Till next time when I make my case that ARMAGEDDON 2001 WAS THIIIIIIIIIS CLOSE TO BEING THE GREATEST EVENT CROSSOVER EVER CREATED.
Signing off in the Signature Savage Style:
It was Half-Term last week hence the silence. Yes, the blessed silence. But now your God has failed you and I am back! It has been quietly suggested that I put on hold my tribute to Charlie Drake and maybe look at some comics this time. So, no actors who were dead before you grew your big teeth this time out. Just comics! Just lovely, lovely comics! But were they lovely? Hmmmmm? Anyway, this... NEXUS by Steve Rude & Mike Baron
ALL STAR WESTERN #20 Art by Moritat (Jonah Hex) and Staz Johnson (Stormwatch) Written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti Coloured by Mike Atiyeh (Jonah Hex) & Rob Schwager (Stormwatch) Lettered by Rob Leigh Jonah Hex created by Tony DeZuniga & John Albano Stormwatch created by Brandon Choi & Jim Lee DC Comics, $3.99
I kind of liked this issue. I don’t know whether the worms have finally reached my brain, or what but twenty issues in and this one almost clicked. I’m not exactly the most demanding Jonah fan either, I just enjoy the scar faced twat in a hat going around kicking up dust and making life brutal, difficult and short for folks. I prefer it to be a straight western but it isn't a deal breaker.
No, I don’t mind Booster Gold turning up for no reason that is ever going to be explained (hey, that’s just how comic books roll these days). I’m just pleased the book has a bit of a spring back in its step. Maybe it’s the beneficial effect of getting Jonah out of the city and into the countryside? Like when you ferry troubled youths by coach out into the boondocks to stroke goats. Moritat’s art seems a bit more lively and engaged although that might be due to the brighter and more varied colour palette in use. Watch these backgrounds though, I’m not a native of the Americas but I’m pretty sure mesas aren't mobile. Like I say I don’t expect much really and this delivered that making it OKAY!
RED TEAM #2 Art by Craig Cermak Written by Garth Ennis Coloured by Adriano Lucas Lettered by Rob Steen Cover by Howard Victor Chaykin Red Team created by Craig Cermak & Garth Ennis(?) Dynamite, $3.99
More like RED MEAT amiright, soft lads? Here Comics’ Firmest Handshake Garth Ennis turns his surly attention to a tale of cops taking the law into their own hands. I’m sure that will work out really well for everyone involved. At the minute it isn't working out too well for me. I guess my LCS sent this as Howard Victor Chaykin is doing the covers and I like Comics’ Deepest Voice Garth Ennis’ war comics. So, okay, fair enough. I’m not turned off by the concept either. I’m always up for that old story which ends with a bunch of people dead or drenched in blood while sirens scream closer and those who aren't corpses suddenly realise why there are rules.
Maybe it won’t go that way, after all Comics’ Hottest Curry Garth Ennis spends enough time (i.e. too much time) explaining how his characters can smoke in a government building that it must surely (surely!) pay off later in an example of Chekov’s Fags! Maybe everything will go swimmingly but the racially and sexually mixed cast will succumb to a series of smoking related diseases. Maybe not. But hopefully the series will avoid plummeting into maudlin sentimentality like a sloppy drunk slurring on about The Old Country as the barkeep dials for a taxi. Not an uncommon occurrence in work by Comics’ Softest Hearted Big Man Garth Ennis. This thing seems written for the screen (no, the page and the screen are not interchangeable) and the art just isn't up to the job of hiding this. It gives me no pleasure to say that. In fact I’ll leave it there except to express the hope that you really like that panel I picked because you’ll be seeing a lot of it on these pages. RED TEAM is not a complete wash though and that’s due mostly to the dialogue of Comics’ Hairiest Chest Garth Ennis. It’s good dialogue and it means RED TEAM is OKAY! That probably still won’t save me from a beating though.
THE SHADOW #13 Art by Giovanni Timpano Written by Chris Roberson Coloured by Fabricio Guerra Lettered by Rob Steen The Shadow created by Walter B. Gibson Dynamite, $3.99
Everything in this book is so familiar that the sight of your face in the shaving mirror delivers more surprises. This issue is impressive only in its devout refusal to bring anything new or interesting to bear on the join the dots plot with its transparent mystery, its space wasting reluctance to provide more than one speech bubble in a panel and…oh...look, there’s a three page sequence of a drunk man going home, going upstairs, pouring a drink and being surprised. No. That’s not comics, that’s just horseshit. I’m not even going to scan a picture of the contents as the fewer people who see this then the less damage done to those involved. Honestly, I’m doing them a solid here. Or a salad as they say in Nyawk. So, no offence to any of the people involved here as we all have bills to pay but this was AWFUL!
WONDER WOMAN: #20 Art by Goran Sudzuka & Cliff chiang Written by Brian Azzarello Coloured by Matthew Wilson Lettered by Jared K. Fletcher Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston and H. G. Peter DC Comics, $2.99
This is an atypically action packed issue but all too typically when the dust settles the forward plot motion is infinitesimal if not entirely illusory. With its large cast, stateliest of paces, squandered artistic talent and elevation of chat at the expense of incident it’s hard not to see WW as Azzarello’s attempt to bottle a bit of that drab Bendis magic. Luckily, despite his heroic efforts, Azzarello appears incapable of attaining such low levels of blandery. For starters his characters don’t sound like they are recovering from traumatic blows to the head; trading only in recursive whirlpools of bland doggerel. And every now and again something does happen. So, it’s an improvement but it’s still very far from being good. It still rarely rises above word play on a par with puzzles in the magazines old people in hospital spontaneously secrete in-between visiting times. Also, I think his cast have a problem with the booze. Although as the middle class assure us, if it’s wine it isn't alcoholism.
Wonder Woman by Chiang, Sudzuka & Azzarello
At some point in any given issue the chattering cast will mingle about some tasteful locale sipping drinks and hoovering up nibbles. Thankfully the medium of comics spares the reader the no doubt inevitable soundtrack of Toploader Orion snuck on to smooth things along. The whole thing is like one of those hellish networking soirees for people who do a bit of wee when they think about Powerpoint presentations. Except everybody is cosplaying Sandman and the evening ends abruptly when a big blue catfish in a crown stabs Simon from Accounts in the face. And puns! This issue’s highlight was when War asked, “Where’s my drink? You said you’d get me a Belgian White Beer!” and Wonder Woman replies “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a Hoegaarden!” Face it, Tiger; this book’s so far gone you’re not even sure if that happened. So it’s a fact that the crisp clarity of Goran Sudzuka and Cliff Chiang's art which brings this up to OKAY!
CREEPY #12 Art by Richard Corben, Richard P. Clark, Peter Bagge, Matthew Allison, Julian Totino Tedesco and Steve Ditko Written by Richard Corben, Ron Marz, Dan Braun, Peter Bagge, Matthew Allison, John Arcudi and Archie Goodwin Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot and Peter Bagge Dark Horse Comics, $4.99
There's the usal raggy grab bag of one pagers and spot illos but storywise we have:
Uncle Mangus by Richard Corben
Corben’s on first and Corben’s on form with a frivolous shamble of a shaggy corpse story. Corbenites won’t be disappointed as the shadows drape at strange angles across distorted faces, the undergrowth looks like gathia sticks from Bombay Mix, the borders are jagged when nerves become ragged and the horrific punchline is drawn with slapstick mixed with the ink. Yes, Richard Corben continues to defy Time itself and belligerently refuses to budge from VERY GOOD!
Uncle Mangus by Corben
Fishing by Ron Marz & Richard P. Clark Not entirely rote retelling of one of the usual variations on kids go fishing fear fables. Sorry, but EH!
Local Talent by Matthew Allison Allison's tale nicely conveys the grotty zest of late '70s foreign filmed schlock but would have conveyed it better in less space. Also, I know this charmingly cack cinematic genre was limited by budget but it's not a limitation shared by comic art, so c'mon let's have some backgrounds, son. Good enough for an OKAY!
The Spirit of The Thing by Ditko & Goodwin The Spirit of The Thing by Steve Ditko & Archie Goodwin
It’s Steve Ditko! "He is Dee Aye Tee Kay OH! He is Dee Aye Tee Kay OH! He’s Dee- delightful! Aye – Innovative! Tee- Totally not open to compromise on any point of principle upon which he has formulated an Objectivist stance! Kay – Kind of kooky! OH!- oooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooo! He is Dee Aye Tee Kay OH!" In this reprint Archie Goodwin does his usual solid scripting but it’s Ditko’s groovy grey wash German Expressionism that makes this one retain its VERY GOOD! kick lo these many decades after its original printing. It’s also a nice reminder that aficionados of Sturdy Steve should be salivating after the Creepy Presents…Steve Ditko volume that will be dropping imminently. Pre order from your LCS now, they'll appreciate it!
Pack Leader by Julian Totino Tedesco & John Arcudi While Ditko and Corben get to VERY GOOD! on the merits of their art alone Arcudi and Tedesco’s tale reaches the same grade due to the success of their collaboration. This one really gels and even wrong-footed me at the last. That's nice. Arcudi and Tedesco knew what they were after and they went and got it. Nice work, fellas!
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #24 Dark Horse Comics, $7.99
BLACKOUT CHAPTER 1 Story and lettering by Frank Barbiere Art by Micah Kaneshiro Blackout created by Mike Richardson (?)
This one didn't grab me I’m afraid. With its slickly appealing tech sourced graphics and plot predicated on the promise of explanations further down the line it read like the tie-in to some video game I've never heard of. It’s only a few pages though so maybe it’ll pick up and improve from EH!
ALABASTER: BOXCAR TALES CHAPTER 6 Art and lettering by Steve Lieber Story by Caitlin R. Kiernan Coloured by Rachelle Rosenberg Alabaster created by Caitlin R Kiernan
My total indifference to this one is purely a case of it not being my cup of tea rather than any failure on the part of the creative team. I did read it but I couldn't tell you anything about it except it’s in space and usually it isn't. There are some talking animals and a lady, usually with a very broad accent, having magical adventures. Oh, she’s called Dancy Flammarion. Yeah, that’s me gone. I'm no Garth Ennis but fey’s not my thing, I fear. Disregarding my witless bias this is bound to be OKAY! Because Steve Lieber can sure draw nice and Caitlin R Kiernan writes proper books (she should not be confused with Caitlin Moran who doesn't). The most interesting thing was how disproportionately irritated I was by the bit where the team tell us what they were listening to when they created the strip. It was really distracting. I mean was Kiernan really listening to the Sunshine OST? Why? Was it just because it’s the soundtrack to a movie set in space? That’s a stunningly literal approach isn't it? What did she do when it was finished? Start again? Stop writing?
Like a real asshole I find it all a bit disingenuous when creators share stuff like this with us. No one ever says they were listening to Phil Collins or Cher do they? Ever. Yeah, right. Have you seen some of the people who make comics? Seriously. I mean that guy who always does that stupid thing in photos with his face so it looks like a wet thumb sliding down a window is a Foreigner fan and no mistake. Look into your heart, you know it is true. Anyway, this stuff's just the thin end of the wedge, next thing you know they're telling you about their substance abuse problems, how many kids they have or whether they get to put the fairy on top of the Christmas tree. Being an unfeeling automaton it’s just not something I need to know about creators. I mean, does it do any of you any good to know I wrote this while listening to SWANS’ Time is Money (Bastard)? Oh, alright it was Cher. "Do you belieeeeeeeeve!?!"
Bloodhound by Jolley, Kirk & Riggs BLOODHOUND: PLAIN SIGHT CHAPTER 2 Art by Leonard Kirk & Robin Riggs Written by Dan Jolley Coloured by Moose Baumann Lettered by Rob Leigh Bloodhound created by Dan Jolley & Drew Johnson
This is a revival of a defunct DC property which has now been given back to the creators to do with as they will. I believe DC also returned the less than successful Monolith property to its creators recently too. This is really rather sporting of DC and we should probably acknowledge that before reminding ourselves of their treatment of Alan Moore. It appears that the lesson here is that if you create anything successful for DC they will line up and bang you like a shit house door. Meanwhile the creators of Bloodhound have decided to put it in DHP. I liked this series when it first appeared and I still like it despite the pony tail our hero sports. He’s kind of like a government sanctioned Punisher with all his marbles and a beer belly who targets super villains. This is just a short three parter so the mystery tends to be cleared up by the characters approaching each suspect, the suspect immediately breaking down and pointing to the next suspect and then the villain breaking cover to provide a thrilling cliff hanger. Brevity isn’t doing it any favours is what I’m saying. But I still find the premise promising, the characters solid and the art pleasant enough for it to be OKAY!
BRAIN BOY CHAPTER 2 Art by Freddie Williams II Written by Fred Van Lente Coloured by Ego ("The Living Colourist"?) Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot Brain Boy created by Gil Kane & herb Castle
Although it’s not explicitly stated I guess this is an update of Herb Castle and Gil Kane’s 1962 creation for the faster paced and more luridly violent Now. Since Dark Horse published a pricey hardback of these (old and very probably nuts) tales you’d think they might want to draw attention to this. Weird. Anyway, the update is definitely fast and bloody and it’s not without its charms. Chief amongst these are Van Lente’s witty revisionism best exemplified by the call centre riff and the ‘magic cereal' which fools no one. Artwise Williams II has obviously thought long and hard and come to some definite conclusions about how to draw our hero’s nose. I can’t speak with any surety as to the conclusions he’s reached but there’s definitely something going on with Brain Boy’s hooter. Oh, it all bounces along in a lively if not altogether logical fashion, which makes it GOOD!
TREKKER: THE TRAIN TO AVALON BAY CHAPTER 1 Story and art by Ron Randall Coloured by Jeremy Colwell Lettered by Ken Bruzenak Trekker created by Ron Randall
It's super-nice that an old lag like Randall has his own creator owned property. It's less agreeable to report I found the whole future bounty hunting lady with sad past thing a tad too generic for my fussy palate. I am certain there is an audience for this but I adamant I am not amongst their number. I wish Randall well in all his travels but this, for me, was EH!
KING'S ROAD: THE LONG WAY HOME CHAPTER 2 Art by Phil Winslade Written by Peter Hogan Lettering by Steve Dutro
Oooh! It's a high concept! What if the kids from a book very similar to (but. lawyers take note, not the same as) The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe grew up and had kids who didn't know about their adventures and then The Evil Returned and the kids had to take up arms on behalf of their paunchy and totes dull 'dults?!? This. That's what. No doubt Hogan will be exploring the Christian symbols underlying his borrowings with the same rigour and aplomb as his source. Or at least get a movie deal. Just joking! This is a promising (if not a little cheeky) premise and it's made all the more attractive thanks to Winslade's endearingly gangly characters. Although these do inhabit a blurry world of boisterous blooms of colour, the intensity of which suggest Mr. Winslade should pop down the opticians pretty sharpish or at least dial his PC settings down a bit. Maybe I'm getting soft in my dotage but this was OKAY!
CRIME DOES NOT PAY: CITY OF ROSES CHAPTER 5 Art by Patric Reynolds Written by Phil Stanford Colours by Bill Farmer Lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot Crime Does Not Pay: City of RosesCity Of Roses created by Patric Reynolds & Phil Stanford
This is EH! due to the perfunctory writing and the weirdly flaky looking art. It isn't terrible but it isn't terribly exciting either. Everybody thinks crime comics are easy and nearly everyone is wrong. Everyone except David Lapham. Christ, I miss STRAY BULLETS. Why can't Dark Horse Presents find room for new David Lapham genius? WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY???? WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!
NEXUS: INTO THE PAST CHAPTER 2 Art by Steve Rude Written by Mike Baron Lettered by Steve Rude Coloured by Glenn Whitmore Nexus created by Steve Rude & Mike Baron
Eventually every open ended continuing narrative strip gets to Jack the Ripper, it's likely that they get to Sherlock Holmes too, but only Nexus would throw in H.G. Wells without overbalancing, without even wobbling in fact. It's Nexus so it's VERY GOOD! In fact I'll tell you this: I'd never read Nexus until it appeared in DHP but once it did I ordered Vol.1 of the Omnibooks pretty darn lickety split. I would imagine there is no higher praise a comic creator can receive than a sale. We'll be coming back to Nexus at some point. Aw, yeah!
HUNTER QUAID: ARMAGEDDON OUT OF HERE Art by Melissa Curtin Written by Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal Coloured by Lauren Affe Lettered by Lauren Affe Hunter Quaid created by Donny Cates & eliot Rahal
I couldn’t get a grip on this one. It’s like something an artist would do to showcase their style but it has a writer, no, two writers? And they are the creators but it's the art that is the stand out feature? I don’t know. I don't get that. It looks nice but, hey, that’s all you need sometimes. It was OKAY! but only because of the artist.
VILLAIN HOUSE CHAPTER 4 By Shannon "Papa" Wheeler
It’s a kind of testament to the durability and depth of the concepts at the heart of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s Fantastic Four that half a century later it still provides fertile soil for trees of mirth like this. As mirth trees go this is a sturdy beech indeed. This is some funny stuff right here from the surly insistence of 'Not The Thing' that everything bad is Communist to the laser targeted title of “Invisible Wife” and beyond. The laughs aren't empty either, there’s a sympathetic villain whose world is ruined by a bunch of powered berks getting all up in his business to hilariously disastrous, but not unmoving, effect. I’d hazard a guess this strip is somewhat more refreshing and engaging than yet another modernisation of an old Kirby & Lee classic. ( “Yo, Yo, Yo! Ben Grimm is Totes Sad, Bro! (Ch-Ch-Ch-check out Mi Tumb-LAH!!!)”) Wheelers’ treat of a tummy tickler may not beat the ultimate yukkifier of Don Simpson’ s Yarn Man and “Golly! That crazy gizmo really works!” but it comes closer than most in a very small space. And that’s VERY GOOD!
Christ, I think I sprained something back there. And now I know why people don't review anthologies. I still don't understand why they don't buy em. They're stilll - COMICS!!!
Skip week is over so we are back for another episode or two (we will probably skip Valentine's Day, I am betting that right now). Before we get into it, though: look at that Jaxxon! What a great drawing of a very old, obscure Star Wars character that I dearly love! Well done, Mr. Graeme McMillan, well done. Please email me if you want to be part of the crew that tries to peer pressure Graeme into drawing more comics...
After the jump: Love! Links! Show notes!
So, yes. Links first, eh? Long-time listeners should be not at all surprised that we are fans of ol' Jaxxon (the space bunny portrayed above). And, similarly, you may remember that we both have much love for Mike Russell's Sabretooth Vampire. So imagine my delight to come across the link for "Jaxxon's 11," a Star Wars fan comic by Russell and David Stroup--it's currently incomplete but, hey! 68 pages of old-school Star Wars nerdery. For free!
All right. Let's get our show notes on, shall we?
0:00-3:03: "Previously on Wait, What?" An introduction/apologia/master plan/what have you with a super-brief discussion of our skip week time off and then moving right into… 3:03-25:33: issues of Green Lantern's Rise of the Third Army crossover that Graeme has read, and our befuddlement about Geoff Johns and the current state of the Green Lantern franchise generally. 25:33-32:31: Graeme also received a copy of the Batman & Robin Annual and quite liked it! Jeff read Batman Inc. #7 and was squirrelly about it! Also, thanks to the continuing recommendations of Martin Gray over at Too Dangerous for a Girl, Jeff also read Superman Family Adventures issues #8 and 9 and greatly enjoyed those! Yep, you should think about picking those up. 32:31-38:59: Speaking of cute, Graeme points out that the Comixology collection of Superboy has gotten up to issue #50 of the '90s run, which means Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett's "Last Boy on Earth" storyline is now easily available for Kirby fans like me who'd missed it the first time around! Also, currently on sale (at least by the time I initially post this) and verrrry tempting at .99 an issue: Green Lantern Mosaic. 38:59-39:34: Soulful Intermission #1 39:34-51:48: And we're back: with more Green Lantern talk (for a moment or two). And with more personal chit-chat, as Jeff tells how he and Edi survived their first sleepover with their three year old niece. Somewhat longish, very little comic book talk is involved (although there is some chit-chat about Dora The Explorer) and obviously should be considered optional and bonus material. Will not be covered on the final exam. 51:48-54:34: Comic book news! There's…not much. Although we do discuss the terrifying process of WTF certification DC Comics is putting forward. 54:34-59:22: Wonder Woman #16! Jeff has some words about it. 59:22-1:06:57: By contrast, Jeff has other words that he has to use about the other comic, Flash #16. Some other chit-chat ensues about the DC New 52 books (specifically, Action). On a similar-but-different note, Graeme picked up the trade of New Deadwardians after hearing Jeff singing its praises and also quite liked it. That means New Deadwardians is two-for-two on the Wait, What? Approval Meter and you should considering picking it up. 1:06:57-1:14:29: We're just about ready to get to questions (no, really) but we thought it perhaps prudent to talk about Uncanny Avengers #3 first. 1:14:29-1:32:11: Oh, and Avengers issues #3 and #4. Yeah, a lot of talk about Avengers #3 and #4. 1:32:11-1:36:59: And then there were….Questions! Kid Showbusiness on December 6th, 2012 at 1:48 pm asked: What’s your take on this Jonathan Hickman quote: “Most of the talent creating books at Marvel are fairly progressive, so generally we all want diversity in the abstract,” he said. “The problem comes from the fact that the catalog of Marvel (and DC) characters are predominantly straight white male because of the era they were conceived in — and it’s the basic building blocks of what we have to work with. Which begets the question: Well Jonathan, if this is really one of the root causes of the problem, if you really feel that way — if you’re not a fraud — why don’t you just go create some new, more diverse characters? “Which is where things get tricky,” he continued. “In light of numerous historical examples, contractual realities, and the shelf life of creators, is it really in a creator’s best interest to be making brand new IP for the big companies on the cheap? I mean, we still do it sometimes, because, frankly, we can’t not…it’s in our DNA as storytellers and problem solvers — but is it the ‘right’ thing to do? Would it be right for people to ‘expect me’ to do that? I don’t think so. But that’s just one example — There are others (some even more negative, plenty positive).” 1:36:59-1:48:49: George T on December 6th, 2012 at 1:54 pm asked: 1) I have never read an Avengers comic. If I were to read one issue of the Avengers what should it be? 2) I have never watched or read any Dr Who. What is a good place to pick it up? Other than 1966… 1:48:49-2:06:33: Mike Loughlin on December 6th, 2012 at 4:41 pm said: 1) Which Marvel and DC characters that headline their own books or are members of a team should be put aside for a year or two? Which Marvel and DC characters have been poorly-written the longest? 2) If the Big 2 super-hero comics were redesigned to be more all-ages- and woman-friendly, do you think sales would increase? Has the new readers ship already sailed? Also mentioned in there somewhere, is Chad Nevett's amazing blog-a-thon over at Graphic Content and Comics Should Be Good, where you can catch Graeme and Chad talking Peter David's Star Wars books, Chad and I swapping thought on Jim Starlin's Dreadstar, Tucker Stone bringing the pain, and much, much more. 2:06:33-end: Closing comments! Natalie Imbruglia! Our first podcast without any discussion of Misfits in almost a month. And only twenty some-odd questions to go. Wow!
Amazing, eh? Yes, Graeme and I thought so too, undoubtedly. As you know, we've got ourselves a little ranch out on the iTunes/RSS frontier, you can stop by any time you like. But you can also kick up your boots and sample our wares below, if preferred:
As always, we hope you enjoy and stop by next week for the next one!
Oh, man. Remember all the questions you guys asked us and we didn't get to? Well, don't say we didn't start 2013 right!
After the jump: Show notes, no more terrifying photos, still kissing with saliva, etc., etc.
0:00-12:00: Greetings! Before the comics talk, Graeme and Jeff catch up with what they did during the holidays. Unsurprisingly, Jeff got sick and moped. Even less surprisingly, Graeme worked. And worked. And worked. Other exciting topics covered: inadvertent tech problems, deliberate tech problems, Cocoa Pebbles, Cocoa Puffs, and Cocoa Krispies and Honey Monster, the Sugar Puffs mascot. 12:00-29:03: Jeff talks about the first season of American Horror Story, which is another "what we did during the holidays" topic, and that leads into a discussion about things that go wrong, TV, and includes mention of The West Wing and Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence. And, just as we almost start talking about comics, we swerve and talk about Misfits about which, in a weird reversal of the status quo, Jeff is caught up on and Graeme is not. Also, you will never know how much coughing I had to edit out to make this sound at all listenable, but it was kind of a lot. Some of them I had to keep in so we could (sort of) hear Graeme. Sorry about that. 29:03-36:16: Graeme lists the comics he's read! Hey everybody, we're talking about comics! Well, starting to talk about comics! Well, almost…starting to…talk… 36:16-36:52: Intermission Uno! 36:52-38:52: Hey, who has two thumbs and has been interviewed again by Canadian Television? This guy….Graeme McMillan, whom we all know. Yes, CL Cool Graeme (Canada Loves Cool Graeme) is burning up the airwaves. 38:52-56:58: Comics! We were supposed to talk about all those books Graeme listed so of course…we don't talk about them. Instead, we talk about Amazing Spider-Man #700. 56:58-1:05:35: And from there, we talk a spot of news--the promotions of Bob Harras and Hank Kanalz over at DC. Also, those great lists of CE's top-selling books for 2012. 1:05:35-1:05:50: And so…we finally get around to talking about the list of comics Graeme bought! Or….do we? (Hint: we don't). 1:05:50-1:06:38: Intermission Two! 1:06:38-1:07:23: And we're back…and the sound is a bit hinky for some reason? Have we thanked you for continuing to listen to us recently? We really should! 1:07:23-1:23:23: Remember that list of comics Graeme mentioned way back when? Here it is! A delightful batch of old issues Graeme picked up at his local comic book shop's sale: Batman and the Outsiders Annual #1 (1984); DC Comics Presents #60 (Superman and Guardians of the Universe); Machine Man #10 by Marv Wolfman and Steve Ditko; Micronauts Annual #1 (1979); Mr. Miracle Special by Mark Evanier and Steve Rude (1987); and the DC Comics Mystery In Space DC Presents One-Shot (2004) featuring Elliot S! Maggin & J.H. Williams III, and Grant Morrison & Jerry Ordway. 1:23:23-1:39:12: Also, something comics-related(!): Graeme and I talk Final Crisis since both of us (weirdly enough) had re-read it in the last month or so: ccontinuity, the New 52, reverse time, and issues of race, are among the subjects of our conversational hand-wringing. Then…techpocalypse forces us to cut things short in mid-convo and try again. 1:39:12-1:39:32: Intermission 3! 1:39:32-1:42:35: And we are back! (After a few failed attempts, which were a bit on the crazy-making side of things?) So it's back to more Final Crisis talk--where are those Batman issues? What about the Legion of 3 Worlds? 1:42:35-end: And now on to some quick chat about new comics--Flash #15 and its amazing second half by Francis Manapul; New Avengers #1 by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting (including a shout-out to Abhay's fantastic commentary on Hickman's Secret); Sachie-Chan Good!! by Akira Toriyama and Masakazu Katsura (which inspires Graeme to recount the "Miss Universe" pitch from the Downey Files podcast); Batman Inc. #6; Saga #8; Wonder Woman #15; Fatale #11 by Brubaker and Phillips; Prophet #32; Godzilla: The Half-Century War #4; Witch-Doctor: Mal Practice #2; and (digitally) the first volume of Kikaider by Shotaro Ishinomori (sooooo good!) And then a little after the two hour mark--we are finished! For now. [Cue ominous music...]
As I'm a bit out of practice, a bit sick, and staring down the barrel of an early wake-up call, let me just cut through the niceties and say: it's good to be back! (Hold up, brain: isn't that a nicety right there?) And blah blah blah blah iTunes, but also right here, and so on:
Ah, but no worries we will be back next week--here is to a Happy New Year to all and, as you may have guessed, we thank you for listening!
I've heard some people only read Marvel comics! Also, some people only read DC Comics! That's okay, 99% of all psychiatrists agree - compartmentalisation is really healthy! It's also okay because I only wrote about some DC Comics! Marvel people will have to wait a bit. I know, I know but I'm sure you'll find the wherewithal to cope. Next: words...
Throughout this comic Cliff Chiang provides outrageously gorgeous artwork, I just want to make that clear. Because as lovely as his work is it can in no way distract from the petty failures of Azzarello's script. This reads like an attempt to channel the scripts of old complete with their overwrought narration and abundance of redundant information. In the hands of a respectful and talented writer this would be a cute homage, a neat tip of the hat, a cheeky wink, a clever and enjoyable comic. But not here. Azzarello's bitterness and contempt for the work of all those who came before him is evident on every chippy little page. The first narrative caption contains not only this creepily layered insult to both readers and women, "the monthly monster strikes again!" but goes on tell us the tale originally appeared in "All-Girl Adventure Tales For Men".
I imagine the intention was to be humorous but I don't have to imagine that the reality is so soured with loathing for the audience, the self and even the genre that it's a relief when the curdled homage ends a few pages later. Yes, because as primitive and rubbish as we are implicitly assured the writing was in comics of yore, it's actually beyond Brian Azzarello's sophisticated and modern talents to replicate at even a satirically joshing level for a full issue. As base as they were he can't do it. Which is the best joke of all. It's thanks only to Chiang, Wilson and Fletcher that the book hovers around GOOD!
ACTION COMICS #0 Art by Ben Oliver, Cafu Written by Grant Morrison, Sholly Fisch Colours by Brian Reber, Jay David Ramos Lettered by Steve Wands, Dezi Sienty DC Comics, £3.99 (2012) Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
Unlike the assured work in his BATMAN books (work so assured that it it kind of glosses over how bad some of it is) I've not found Grant Morrison's run on ACTION COMICS to be terribly convincing. It's had the air of him having been asked if it's still his dream job to write a regular Superman comic, to which he's replied, "Hoots! Aye tha ken right, maboab! When am ah starting?" And then he's been told "Er, we need twenty two pages in the next five minutes." "Crivvens!" indeed! The results have been a bit patchy to say the least. Although maybe it's just that he was writing in a burning temple. That would put anyone off.
(I guess I should apologise for that outrageous descent into Jockface but I'm sure you understand that I am an artist and, even though I’m very far removed from Scots culture, I really love it. I don’t even eat a lot of shortbread, I eat a lot of fish and chips but the fascination with the Scots remains part of our everyday British culture. It would be wrong of me not to rip the piss. Also, Grant Morrison is really acting like a bowffing staigie these days.)
It's just a bad comic all over but you can see how it could have been a good comic had some time been spent whipping it into proper shape. Children being saved from awfulness by the sheer Goodness of Superman should be a slam dunker but this thing is under-worked at both words and art level. Underworked to the extent that the art isn't even art at times, it just flat out descends into silhouettes like a cack handed Han Dynasty Chinese shadow play rather than a Twenty First Century American comic-book. As it is the whole thing is a lost cause anyway; totally scuppered by its failure to decide where it stands on quiffs. Initially the quiff is seen as a force for good, embodied in the choice of basing Superman on Film Critic and All Round Good Egg Mark Kermode. Yet later a drunk child abuser (boo!) is introduced sporting the self same pompadour. Mixed messages are one thing but if a comic can't even decide where it stands on the morality of a haircut it's pretty much bound to be EH!
ALL STAR WESTERN#0 Art by Moritat (and Pia Guerra) Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray Coloured by Mike Atiyeh Lettered by Rob Leigh DC Comics, £3.99 (2012) Jonah Hex created by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga
Fortuitously for the writers Jonah Hex has had an eventful life because then they can just fill the pages offhandedly routinely recounting his doings in a manner that would make the personification of Perfunctory raise her fan to her face and blush. This happened, then this happened and later this happened? that's not actually a story. It's things happening. There's no attempt to add anything to Jonah's story it's just: Jonah's Dad was violent but not a drunk, now Jonah's Dad is violent and a drunk, etc. It's just there. Moritat is clearly overworked here but he does manage the odd panel that it's worth lingering over amongst all those that you'd rather rush past in embarrassment. Despite the rote plodding of the writing thanks to Moritat's occasionally interesting art and a travelling salesman called "Mr. Dazzleby" the comic manages to be OKAY!
Sometimes people point out that they don't like that rasher of skin connecting Jonah's upper and lower jaw. Somehow this weakens the whole character for them. Luckily I ignore my family and think about things like that, important things. Yes I'm here to help. Place your forefinger at the point at which your lips meet, now place your thumb at the point where your teeth stop and your jawbone begins (you will have to press against the flesh until you feel the difference), now move your forefinger in a rough circle between its starting point and where your thumb has paused. Imagine that that flesh has been cut away. Hi ho! There you go! The mystery of Jonah's strange face solved. Next!
BATMAN INCORPORATED#0 Art by Frazer Irving Written by Grant Morrison (story by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham) Coloured by Frazer irving Lettered by Pat Brosseau DC Comics, £2.99 (2012) Batman created by Bob Kane
Even though Frazer Irving's art is obviously rushed, veering wildly from the astonishing to the embarrassing, and he badly fluffs the final "beat" with the boomerang his work here is still fascinating in a really pleasing way. I like the way the colours are presented as just shapes and your eye has to skitter about the image, like a spider seeking shelter when you suddenly switch the light on, until it gleans enough information to figure out what the Holy Mother of Pearl it's looking at. Your eye that is, not the spider.
Maybe that's why the story here works so well. Because it isn't really a story it's more a of a sleight of hand in which a jumble of moments manages to create enough mental connections in the mind of the reader to make it seem as though a coherent narrative has occurred. It's a neat trick. A good enough trick in fact for the comic to be GOOD!
I buy this comic for Johnk(UK) V.2.0 in the hope that he will also wish to waste large amounts of his life on blathering on witlessly about the artform known as comics. Yes, he enjoys this but then so do I. I enjoy it for lots of reasons beyond the fact that I am a child-like simpleton. I enjoy the fact it is quite sophisticated in its treatment of the Olsen-Lane-Kent dynamic. Lois knows Clark's secret she just pretends she doesn't and Clark knows she knows and that she is pretending she doesn't while Jimmy is just comically plain vanilla oblivious.
Also, I like the Super-pets and this comic is the only place you can see them unless the main DCU finally matured enough to stop being embarassed of its heritage in exactly the same way that a teenager is embarassed by their parents. Look, the book's neat stuff. A lot of the time I have no idea what is going on, but that's okay. Even when it is just brightly coloured gibberish the kids seem to understand. And since that's who it's for this is VERY GOOD!
I hope you all had a nice weekend and enjoyed some COMICS!!!
So, you know how it should go: 1) Read comics 2) Think about comics 3) Write about comics 4) Post writing 5) Fret about having upset someone. Rinse and repeat.Well I did 1) and forgot to do 2) so that shivved 3), 4) and 5) right in the kidneys didn't it? So all you get is what I read last night. I'll try and do better next time.
Also: Don't forget the 100TH PODCAST BY GRAEME MCMILLAN and JEFF LESTER is due THIS WEEK! It will be MONUMENTAL! It will be ASTOUNDING! It will be the BEST THING EVER!
No pressure, guys!
In which all things come to the usually inconclusive and possibly clever but certainly unsatisfying end most of Azzarello’s work casually bellyflops into. Recasting a standard crime tale in sci-fi (S-F!) trappings turned out not to be enough. Possibly it turned out to more hobbling than helpful. Azzarello seems to actively avoid clarity in his storytelling at times, possibly confusing complication with complexity. Fair enough but then factor in his Footcha-Speek and the reader ends up trying to figure out the simplest of things while momentum and interest dissipate softly but noticeably out and away, like the sly fart of a dog under the Sunday dinner table.
The Futcha-Spik wasn’t all that good either, I’m not expecting Orwell’s Newspeak but I am at least expecting an effort on a par with Jack (Under-Rated) Womack and I’m certainly expecting it to be more than an excuse to force in more terrible puns (Real-Tee!). Also, I have a strong suspicion all this stuff just served as a distraction from the fact the end made no sense. No one went, “Actually, he didn't do it.” No one? How convenient. Luckily Risso and Mulvihill’s work remains visually sumptuous, engaging and altogether too good for the material at hand, thus raising it up to GOOD!
AMERICAN VAMPIRE: LORD OF NIGHTMARES #4 of 5 Drawn by Dustin Nguyen Written by Scott Snyder Colours by John Kalisz Letters by Steve Wands VERTIGO/DC Comics, $2.99 (2012) AMERICAN VAMPIRE created by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque
They held off quite a while didn't they? You do have to give them that, but in the end all Vampire roads lead to Vlad. Here they've plumped for the spooky baldy Murnau version; respectful but a mistake I feel. This comic could really have done with Gary Oldman’s Jack-cool-AH! livening up its sadly lifeless pages. Sometimes this thing just makes less sense than an extraordinarily senseless thing, like a clam in a coma. After doing a load of hair pulling and garment rending about how super awful a threat Dracula is the strip then seems to suggest a train crash would finish off Dracula like he was some luckless commuter on a particularly ill-fated 6.45 to Basingstoke. It also thinks having our cast trapped on a plane bickering is of interest, yet since much of the cast is made up of spooky humanoids this just ends up being like reading about the argumentative occupants of a flying supernatural pet shop.
What happened to Dustin Nguyen? Has he had an accident? His art is usually lovely but here it looks like he did it during a bumpy bus ride and the bus was one of those with crates of livestock on it, some of which kept getting loose and flapped right up in his face while he was engaged in his act of creation. Look, this is a series in which the Big Threat is revealed to be a chair, so yeah, it was EH!
FATALE #7 Drawn by Sean Phillips Written by Ed Brubaker Colours by Dave Stewart IMAGE, $3.50 (2012) FATALE created by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
I know they don’t need any encouragement here but this would make a great TV series. Every week a special guest star could stumble over Josephine’s wall with an item of wider relevance to whichever decade the series was currently set in. So you could have Jim Belushi as Richard Nixon fall into Josephine’s bougainvilleas sweatily clutching a Watergate tape to his chest. He would find her attractive. She would wonder why she, an attractive woman, had such power over him, a clearly foolish man. It would be a real mystery. Only a supernatural solution would suffice. The gardener would get all shirty. She would help him out and find another clue to the central mystery of the story which is so ill defined I can’t even remember what it is. Richard Nixon would die and be sad. Josephine would be sad he had died. Then she would look out of her window to find Charlie Sheen as Elvis falling into her poison Ivy clutching the proof that Colonel Tom Parker was an illegal immigrant. And on and on and on. Robert DeNiro in Angel Heart has already shown up, although he’s now wearing those eggs he kept peeling as eyes.
As far as horror goes the most horrific thing about the book is when Sean Phillips draws people in the middle distance. They start to bloat and their proportions subtly shift from those of a human to something more akin to a Robert Aickman phantasm. Unfortunately he’s just drawing normal people but his skill with scenery and faces ensure the art is still the second best thing here. Dave Stewart’s colours being the first, check out the lovely felt-tippy green on that Green Door, Shakin' Stevens! I have no idea why the critical reception of this book is so orgasmic but then I didn't think CRIMINAL having flashbacks drawn like ARCHIE comics was exactly warming my face with the Promethean fire. I’m probably just a demanding prick so take my verdict of EH! With a pinch of salt.
Show me I'm just a big old partypooper by buying FATALE #7 from HERE. Remember - the more copies you buy the more you'll be showing me how wrong I am! Knock yourself out!
POPEYE CLASSIC COMICS #2 By Bud Sagendorf YOE Comics/IDW $3.99 (2012) POPEYE created by E.C. Segar
These are POPEYE comics from the ‘50s by Bud Sagendorf and if you have been paying attention to me then you know how I feel about that! If you have not been paying attention to me, why NOT? Jesus Christ, you know I only do this for the attention! Yes, only for the heat of your Love I feel through the screen do I do this thing! And the money. Anyway, these comics are mental and there are about twice as many pages as in a normal comic so that offsets the fact you’re paying 3.99, I feel. In case that was a concern. I really like the way they retain the original colouring because there’s something to be said for those halcyon days when upon reaching the age of 60 every citizen was forcibly taken to a warehouse where they were chained by the ankle to an enormous table and here, amongst ranks of equally liver spotted and doddering companions, they threw carcinogenic inks in the rough direction of where their cataract occluded eyes guessed the pictures were.
Nowadays it’s all done by computers and I think we've lost something there, something real, something human, something magical. As great as the contents are (and, yes, they are great) the cover is awesome as, if we take the Freudian view of firearms, it portrays Popeye punching a man so hard in the cock he ends up wearing his foreskin like a sleeve. Fuck you, Johnny Ryan, Bud Sagendorf rocks! It’s POPEYE by Bud Sagendorf and is, clearly, VERY GOOD!
POPEYE CLASSIC COMICS can be bought from HERE!. It's just like buying it from Bouncy Brian Hibbs! Except you don't get to go to San Francisco ("The World's Favourite City!"). But you do get a good comic instantly in your PC! Swings and roundabouts, people!
I hope you had a good weekend, y'all! I also hope you enjoyed some COMICS!!!
Man, do I pity the poor fool who has to follow that awesome post by Abhay -- it's going to make anything else sound like "Dur, duh, durdur!!" Oh, wait, the fool is me? *sigh*
Yeah, poor sad me -- my brain's not even fully in gear, since I had to work the entire weekend (and got the order form AND Onomatopoeia finished) -- but tomorrow I have to go to a vendor fair about what kinds of plastic bags will be acceptable (San Francisco's Board of
Nannies Supervisors has decided no store will be allowed to give out bags come October), so if I don't get this done now, then I'm out for ANOTHER week, and that's not the deal, now is it?
And while I said that I was just going to totally skip the 6/13 books, I've decided instead to combine 6/13 and 6/20, since there wasn't a LOT I wanted to say about 6/20.
ASTONISHING X-MEN #51: I really do think that writing TO a plot point, rather than a plot point arising because there's no other way the character could act, is just plain weak, and I think the former is strongly on display here. I don't know, maybe it is because it is Pride week in San Francisco (Twin Peaks actually had a glowing Pink Triangle on it this weekend, made, I think, of Fiber Optic cables), which always strikes me as an excuse for outrageousness, rather than a celebration of actual outrageousness, if you see what I mean? I don't know, maybe it's all of the "Good Corporate Partner"-ing of beer companies trying to get a piece of that pink dollar, when Pride started as a way of remembering the anger of Stonewall; maybe it's that 50 foot high glowing Pink Triangle, which I don't think is actually an ironic recasting of the mark nazis put on gays and lesbians in the concentration camps (if 10% of the partiers know that, I'll be surprised), but this comic seems so deadly cynical and horrible to me, despite all of the tourists who flocked in to buy it. I don't know, it isn't my community, I don't actually get to judge, but it feels transparent and pandering to me. At least I'm not in Arkansas where I have to deal with the complete opposite reaction. *brrrr*, terrifying!
I think maybe the thing that set me off the most about this issue was the "con" side, as expressed by the character "Warbird" who says she can't attend the wedding because she thinks gay marriage is a lie. Yeah, except she's a half-bird alien, whose wiki page says (and I'm not making this up) "Warbird's life since birth has been, according to her, an endless parade of combat and murder and at unknown point in her life she conducted "mating rituals" with someone while trapped inside another being and surrounded by flesh eating monster aliens."
So, y'know, credible straw man.
Hell, why not have it be Rahne (Wolvesbane), who we already know to be a bigoted little lassie?
I'm sure Marjorie Liu has all of the best intentions, but this feels like cynical pink-washing to me, probably mostly because Kyle isn't even a character yet, just a hostage.
I did like Logan getting all drunk and maudlin though!
Anyway, I thought this was pretty AWFUL
AVENGERS VS X-MEN #6: Man, it LOOKs a whole lot better, doesn't it? But, seriously, no mention of the demon princess or her bound-to-Cytorak brother? I mean, I know the whole set-up isn't exactly air-tight in the first place, but that seems like a significant detail to overlook? The other thing that made me nuts? That the solicits dropped, and the AvX HC is *$75*! Jeez louise, that's excessive! Oh, oh, and the OTHER other thing? that's there's ANY connection between Phoenix and Iron Fist. I can't possibly hate that idea more. Anyway, this issue was highly OK, but most of that is how much nicer that it looks now that Olivier Copiel is drawing it.
AVX VS #3: I just want to give a strong and hearty "Fuck you!" to whoever it was who thought it was prudent and wise to have the Black Widow vs Magik fight take place mostly in Russian. That's a really cruel thing to do to a readership that has plunked down FOUR DOLLARS. "Ha ha, you can't even read it!" Cunts.
BATMAN #10: I have to say, when I first got to the reveal, I was all "bogus!", but then I read the spoiler piece at Rich's, and I felt a smidge better. But, really, pre-existing relationships or not, my bigger problem is "Yet Another Ideological Doppelganger", as Batman has just too many of those. I know that this is the most popular regular Batman story in a real long time, but I'm really really ready to see the back of the Owls, and to just have Batman be self-contained superhero stories for a few months, dang it. This story (and issue) is GOOD, but it's been dragging on for at least 2-3 months too long.
FUCK ALAN MOORE BEFORE WATCHMEN SILK SPECTRE #1: After Minutemen, I was ready to write the whole project off, but then Darwyn Cooke went and completely made this one everything you might want in a prequel -- actually dwelling in a period that we don't know anything about, expanding the actually CHARACTER of Laurie, and containing subtle callbacks to the original work (Look at the staging on the fight between the Spectres, remind you of anything?). It also doesn't hurt that the art is absolutely lovely (just as everything that Amanda Conner draws is), AND also contains a (modified) 9-panel grid. I'm still not certain what the audience really wants from these (if anything), but this was very nearly straight-up "Rebellious Teenage Girl Comics" that would never ever be greenlit without the Watchmen connection, and, despite myself, I thought it was actually VERY GOOD. FUCK ALAN MOORE BEFORE WATCHMEN COMEDIAN #1 : this, on the other hand, was everything I feared and dreaded it might be. The Comedian is really just a plot device in the original, and a horribly loathsome one at that, and Azzarello chooses to go for the lazy political allegory than to show where the character might be from, or what shapes him. That last scene made me vomit in my mouth a little, too. While I thought this was AWFUL, I'm apparently in the minority -- this was the best selling of the three released so far, at my store.
SAGA #4 : has now become our best-selling comic book at Comix Experience, something that thrills me utterly. I had first printing #1s up until this weekend, and was shocked (and kind of amused) to see that it is a FOURTH printing that I'll be receiving when I get in my reorder. There's really not a single page of this I'm not loving (and that includes those letter pages!), and I really thought that the presentation of Sextillion was perfectly perfect. I know I'm not adding anything new to the conversation, but I just like having at least one review where I can enthusiastically say: EXCELLENT!
SHADE #9: Again, I don't care so much for the story (Shade's a supporting character, blah blah blah), but this issue was crazy good because of the fabulous Frazier Irving. Man, that page that's JUST a car driving was one of the best designed pages I've seen all year. This needs to be put up for an Eisner right here. VERY GOOD.
SPIDER-MEN #1: this is the kind of first issue that just kills me -- that makes me want to close up the store and just give the entire thing up. For $4 we get a bunch of Peter running around, and he meets Miles on the FINAL PAGE. this is everything wrong with modern first issues. Why not have it start with them already having met, and actually have something (ANYthing!!!!) happen in the first issue. We wonder why Marvel's sales are circling the toilet right now (except for AvX?) Exhibit fucking A right here, people. Not only is this a cynical little exercise (Joe Quesada: "We're officially out of ideas"), but it's ineffably shabby and thin. Completely AWFUL.
X-MEN LEGACY #268 AVX: And, just to end us on a down note (sorry, It's alphabetical!), can I ask how on earth Marvel gets off billing something as an AvX crossover when it's almost exclusively about how Frenzy was abused as a child, and how Abuse is Bad, mkay? It's not neccesarily bad, but it sure isn't the kind of thing i want to read for entertainment, no. AWFUL
Right, that's it for me until later in the week -- what did YOU think?