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
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!!!
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!!!
Um, here's a gallery of comic book covers from a series that Marvel published from 1979 - 1984 as a tie-in to a terrible line of toys. It was also, as of issue 38, part of Marvel's first tender dalliances with Direct Market only comics (see also MOON KNIGHT and KA-ZAR). The unfortunate Bill Mantlo scripted the series solidly (as was his wont) for its duration, but the real attraction was the cavalcade of artistic talent who put food on their table drawing this stuff. Michael Golden! Gil Kane! Steve Ditko! (Howard Victor Chaykin even did some innards but, alas, no covers). Because of legal what have you, and the fact it was so heavily intertwined with the Marvel Universe it's unlikely the series will ever be reprinted, so here for your baffled perusment I present without words and purely in pictures, the mighty MICRONAUTS... MICRONAUTS by Michael Golden, Josef Rubinstein, Bill Mantlo, Tom Orzexhowski & Glynis Wein.
They are old and they are yellowed but, by Dallan, they are - 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!!!
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!!!
I don’t know if you noticed but I spent much of the first part of this magical year telling you how Marvel©™ chose to present and package their comics in the United Kingdom during the 1970s. Through the somewhat cumbersome time travel device of being old I am now in a position to tell you how Marvel©™ present and package their comics in the United Kingdom in the science fictional sounding year of 2015. Captain America by Romita Jnr, Janson, White, Remender & Caramagna
Anyway, this... MARVEL LEGENDS Vol.2 #1 Captain America:Castaway in Dimension Z Part One & Part Two Art by John Romita Jnr & Klaus Janson Written by Rick Remender Lettered by VC's Joe Caramagna Iron Man: Believe Part One: Demons and Genies Art by Greg Land & Jay Leisten Written by Kieron Gillen Coloured by GURU EFX Lettered by Joe Caramagna Thor: The God Butcher Part One: A World Without Gods Art by Esad Ribic Written by Jason Aaron Coloured by Dean White Lettered by VC's Joe Sabino Captain America created Jack Kirby & Joe Simon Iron Man created by Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Larry Lieber & Stan Lee Thor created by Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber & Stan Lee and the people of Norway Collects material first published in Captain America #1 and #2, Iron Man#1 and Thor, God of Thunder #1 Marvel/Panini UK, £3.50 (2014)
Marvel©™ comics are packaged over here by Panini, who also provide the children of Albion with DC Entertainment©™ comics content in a similar fashion. This fashion being to take material which first ran in the Americas in single issue form and then package (usually) three of these issues between two stiff covers under a thematically unifying title, and publish it monthly all for roughly the cost of one of the original American issues. The only drawback is that the most recent comics printed are around a year old(?). So you can get a chunk of cheap Marvel©™ product but you miss out on the real time bitching about whether Turner D. Century was written in character. For example there’s Essential X-Men which contains three issues of Brian Bendis’ X-Men for £3.50 rather than the near tenner it would have originally gouged you for. Since it’s Brian Bendis that’s still remarkably poor value for money so that didn’t get chosen. Other titles were disqualified from purchase for various reasons including that they were well into their runs, I just had no interest in their contents (the DC ones) or Brian Bendis had leaked out of the cordon sanitaire around his X-Men books onto the pages of another luckless book. In the end, then, I went with Marvel Legends, because it was #1 and everybody involved had made at least some comics I hadn’t despised out of all proportion.
Thor by Ribic, White, Aaron, & Sabino Marvel Legends features Captain America, Iron Man and Thor; a character roster clearly influenced by the success of the Marvel©™ movies, which makes a lot of sense. After all in the land of Good Queen Bess these books are potentially available to a less comics savvy audience than usual. Over here Panini books are not kept in controlled environments designed to mimic their original environs (i.e. specialist comic book stores) but instead are allowed to roam hither and yon across the newsagents of this United Kingdom. Every month I walk down to the newsagents next to the bridge and purchase my copy of Marvel Legends. I enjoy the ritual more than the comic, I suspect. Truly, I believe the measure of a country can be marked by the ease with which comics may be purchased. Sure, also little things like socialised Health Care, the care and protection of the vulnerable in society, not burning people who are a bit different, etc. but mostly it’s the whole being able to buy comics easily thing that matters. And here, despite The Tory beasts, you still can. But they are a bit out of date. This issue of Marvel Legends reprints the first Marvel©™NOW! issues of Captain America (and #2 as a BONUS!), Iron Man and Thor. Of course Marvel©™NOW! was not only a meaningless piece of brand trumpeting but also quite a while ago now (THEN! if you must). Usually I’d just look up what number those series were currently on and divide it by twelve (I know! I'm a human Enigma Machine! I impress myself sometimes.) but thanks to Marvel©™'s fetish for renumbering and double shipping I have no clue how long ago these issues were originally published. Unless I check my review of Thor, God of Thunder #1 from 2012 (see later). There you go then; a bit out of date this stuff but then that’s the story of my life, so who am I to carp. Physically the Panini books are quite appealing. The paper inside is matt and I like that and the covers are card because conditions in newsagents are hard. Flimsy paper covers are okay in the hot house environment of the specialist comic shop with its bags and boards, and respectful avoidance of spine bend and corner crumple. But after ten minutes in a British newsagent these delicate things’d look like they were praying for death. Kids go in newsagents and kids have hands and those hands are laden with germs and disrespect for the physical integrity of comic books. It’s okay I’ll go on about the contents now.
Iron Man by Land, Leisten, Gillen, EFX, & Caramagna
First up in the front of the book is Captain America. Here Panini made the bizarre decision to reprint an issue of Frank Miller & Klaus Janson’s 1980s Captain America from an alternate dimension where that actually happened but, crucially, it was also a dimension where Frank Miller couldn’t write very well. I am having a little joke there with you. Surprisingly, since I am forever being told about how sophisticated comics are these days in comparison to their aged forbears; Rick Remender has chosen to spend the two issues of Captain America (re)presented herein doing a really quite poor impression of Frank Miller comics from the 1980s. I’m not just saying that because I am old and can’t be arsed updating my frames of reference anymore (although that is true), no, I’m saying it because it is ridiculously obvious. What’s also ridiculous is how badly Rick Remender misses the mark. Everybody thinks 1980s Frank Miller comics are easy to write even though no one has ever managed it except 1980s Frank Miller. Even 1990s Frank Miller wobbled a bit and 2000s Frank Miller clearly has health issues so, hey, ease off the guy.
Captain America by Romita Jnr, Janson, White, Remender & Caramagna
I mean, you’d think the concept of the 1980s Frank Miller Internal Monologue would be simple enough to grasp but Remender demonstrates repeatedly that even that’s beyond him. Blunt simplicity is key with a 1980s Frank Miller Internal Dialogue and Remender constantly fumbles this with poor word choices and a lack of clarity. Basically, if I have to pause to puzzle out the meaning of your 1980s Frank Miller Internal Dialogue then, my friend, your 1980s Frank Miller Internal Dialogue has failed. Which it often does here. It isn’t the only failure; there’s a , ahem, comedy villain at the start (he’s a tree hugger but he’s violent, LOL!) whose dialogue is supposed to be amusing in an explicitly overblown and (Nudge! Nudge!) comic booky way, but while you know what effect Remender’s after you also know that it’s an effect he’s missed. That is, he’s going for that ‘70s/’80s Kirby bombast and, again, everybody thinks that’s easy but no one else’s ever managed it.
Captain America by Romita Jnr, Janson, White, Remender & Caramagna
Remender further attempts to cuddle up to Kirby by having flashbacks set in the ‘20s and Romita Jnr/Janson’s art (I think, but I’m not psychic so maybe not) wilfully evokes Kirby’s Street Code Strip from the Streetwise anthology. It’s in these flashbacks that Remender attempts to beefs up his antic larks in the main narrative. It doesn’t work. I’m not going to get upset that Captain America’s dad is a wife beater and a (it’s implied so lightly I may be mistaken) suicide but I will point out it’s poorly done. Remender brings the same level of nuance and sensitivity to the scenes of domestic abuse (and, later, child bullying) that he brings to a B52 hurtling out of the sky; that is to say, none. The art here doesn’t help as Cap’s dad smack’s Cap’s Mom right in the kisser and Romita Jnr/Janson retain every ounce of thuggery in their line. The same force is brought to a man smacking a woman as would be used with the Hulk smashing a tree. Sure, it communicates the ugly brutality of the act but undermines it at the same time with the air of unreality. None of this is to diminish the seriousness of addressing these issues. In the ‘Gents’ at my workplace (I can’t speak as to the ‘Ladies’ as we aren’t that swinging in Britain) there’s a poster about domestic abuse. Apparently people need to be told that “No matter how badly a woman has behaved she does not deserve to be beaten.” Is that news to you? If it is, drop me a line as I’m interested in what the fuck you think you’re playing at. Or I can at least send you a poster. Lightening the mood of micturatory visits there is also a colour chart against which you can check your urine to make sure you aren’t dehydrated. Admittedly this isn’t really where I saw myself ending up; surrounded by dehydrated wife beaters but there you go. Little glimpse into my life there for you; every day an adventure! Anyway, as ever with genre comics they get the cheap heat for bringing a touchy subject up but nil points for developing or addressing it.
Captain America by Romita Jnr, Janson, White, Remender & Caramagna
Ultimately the Cap stuff is carried by the strength of the art. Because, let me tell you, I am all over a John Romita Jnr/Klaus Janson joint. I see a lot of mithering over this duo’s stylings on-line but I don’t get it (the mithering). These guys are rock solid. John Romita Jnr brings bulk and solidity to anchor every ridiculous visual conceit while Janson’s frenetic scribbliness lightens it all enough to bring some fizz and pop to combat the threatened visual inertia. It doesn't hurt that the pair have chosen to channel DKSA Frank Miller, a choice I can only applaud. As a result John Romita Jnr and Klaus Janson’s images have a power so great they can only be measured in “Kirbys”. Sure the kids look like bobble heads and the minimalism can slip into incoherence but that’s part of the style. And their style is so brash and unapologetic it just tucks me under its arm as it rushes past without pausing for breath. Romita Jnr and Klaus Janson’s art is The Stuff and that would be enough, but here they also have Dean White’s colours. Dean White’s colours are glorious. And that Dean White’s got some chutzpah, I tell you. His colours are actually laid over the art, as thickly glutinous as oil paints, at times obscuring the lines beneath as though he thinks the final image should read as a synthesis of pencils, ink and, the hell you say, colour. The enormous coconuts of the man to think he shouldn’t just colour inbetween the lines and keep his head down whenever the writer enters the room. This dude thinks he’s an essential part of the team. Sonofabitch isn’t wrong either. Damn. Reading this comic is OKAY! but looking at it is VERY GOOD!
Captain America by Romita Jnr, Janson, White, Remender & Caramagna
Next up is Iron Man. This is written by Kieron Gillen who is a very talented writer, I believe. I liked that Journey into Mystery stuff he did, but otherwise I’m not overly familiar with his work. This is because I’m not in my ‘20s and don’t give a shit if anyone shares my musical taste. I didn’t think this was a very good comic mainly because it strains too hard to achieve aims I wasn’t in sympathy with. The story opens with two visually dull pages of Iron Man flying high in the sky while babbling in his head about how he’s so smart he can see everything but himself (#SADINSIDE). I guess this is so that when he acts like an overbearing prick for the rest of the book we can remember he is #SADINSIDE and maybe not find him quite so hateful. (I did remember, but I still hated him.) Then, to allay any fears about anything happening too quickly, we have more pages than any reasonable human needs devoted to Tony trying to get his tinkler milked by a lady in a bar. (The lady is in the bar, she isn’t going to actually milk his tinkler in the bar; I don’t know what bars you frequent, cochise) Big prizes are awarded here for getting Tony’s alcoholism mentioned early; as ever it has sweet fuck all to do with anything that happens in the comic but, y’know, #SADINSIDE. I hated this scene because it is so scared of offending anyone that it practically offers up its belly like a craven hound, so determined is it that we know no one was being taken advantage of. Ugh. And just to rub the pointlessness of it all in my daft face Tony doesn’t even have chance to get Lil Tony out before he’s Iron Manning about. Now, not only is Tony #SADINSIDE but he’s also #BLUEBALLS, and even I’m starting to feel sorry for him. But not for long because he’s up against Extremis.
Iron Man by Land, Leisten, Gillen, EFX, & Caramagna
Let's not dance around; Extremis is rubbish. It’s one of those Warren Ellis things where he magnanimously showed up for six issues to redefine a character for other, lesser hands. As ever, being Warren Ellis, he dispensed with silly things like characterisation or entertainment and just really slowly placed some concepts in front of the reader and then quickly stepped backwards out of the room making Ta-Daa! hands. Sure, Adi Granov’s art was nice if more than a little inert, but, c'mon, I do recall there being more than one thrilling page of people in a room looking at a phone while someone spoke out of it. Extremis, my arse. And here it is again in the hands of AIM (Extremis that is, not my arse; no strange hands on my arse, thanks. I don't frequent those clubs; we've covered that.) There’s an auction, Tony turns up, Tony kicks ass and decides to go track down the other bits of Extremis which are still out there. Personally, all these bits (the bits where things happened) could have done with stealing some of the real estate wasted on Tony’s floating regret and his futile attempt to get his end away. But then I’m old, so it’s probably that isn’t it? I didn’t like this issue of Iron Man but that’s fine. I don’t think I like Tony Stark who apparently just talks about how smart he is without ever demonstrating it and is a real asshole. Frankly, I’m not sure where Tony's appeal lies and in the pages here Kieron Gillen is unable to show me. The obvious intention of it all is that it resemble the movie(s) in feel and tone; it succeeds a bit, but succeeds more in revealing how bad those movies would be without Robert Downey Jnr.
Iron Man by Land, Leisten, Gillen, EFX, & Caramagna
Maybe with better art Gillen’ movie-centric remit would have worked better but here he’s saddled with Greg Land. So, you know how that goes - all the woman look like soulless teeth demons, visual inconsistency gives everyone and everything a woozy feel, the men are vapidity incarnate and it’s just really impressive how consistently sterile and bland it all is. Greg Land is like the rice cakes of comic art. Rice cakes with pictures from
porno wrestling lightboxed on them. Sorry, but this comic is like the Iron Man movie had been made by the cast and crew of one of those End of Life Care infomercials broadcast when everyone normal is asleep. EH!
Thor rounds out the issue. Since these are reprints I thought I'd reprint my review of this very issue from way back on December 8th 2012. Don't think of it so much as my having misjudged my time tonight, rather think of it as some excruciatingly hilarious piece of meta-wit. And so from way back, before Jason Aaron had worn out my Christ-like patience with his recent weirdly insecure creator owned macho nonsense, we have...
"It’s not a bad idea to relocate Thor as a serial killer thriller narrative. It’s certainly better than the previous writer’s decision to give priority to trying on trendy hats and alphabetising his coloured vinyl 7″ single collection while letting his artists to do all the work. It’s fine, no problems really. Aaron even seeds possible future stories with the introduction of a new pantheon of Gods here represented by The God Butcher. Consequently later stories will no doubt focus on such dastardly deities as The God Baker and The God Candlestick Maker. The whole thing is a kind of watered down Heavy Metal strip the success is which is due mostly to Ribic and White’s work which lends the whole derivative but enjoyable thing a grandeur and scale it probably doesn’t really merit...GOOD!"
Thor by Ribic, White, Aaron, & Sabino
For £3.50 Marvel Legends is not a bad package, in fact it's GOOD!
It's certainly - COMICS!!!
OK, MarvelNOW! has pretty much gotten going, where did we leave off...?
ALL-NEW X-MEN #1 & 2: If one single thing is going to harm this Marvel relaunch, it is going to be these bi-weekly shipping comics. And, heck, scratch "bi-weekly" as #3 is inexplicably shipping NEXT week (wait, what, why?), and that's a bit of a shame because I (unlike Mr. Lester or Mr. McMillan) kind of like ANX.
Now, part of that is that I am really glad we're back to the "old" X-paradigm -- they're operating out the school, mutants are no longer tied to "the 198" or Utopia island, or any of that. And part of that is that Brian Michael Bendis had long since run out his string on the Avengers titles, so seeing him get something fresher is nice. I also think he's very much toned done much of the "Bendisms" that marked too much of Avengers.
Another is that Stuart Immonen is an awesome artist, so it's a real treat to look at.
There's a buncha handwaving that one has to do with the time travel stuff, but I'm willing to give it to him because this is comics, and the story should be more important than the mechanics of it.
Ultimately, I'm willing to give Bendis a bit of rope here -- I think this is a very high OK so far, and as a general direction to make the x-books relevent again, I'm fine with it.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #1: I liked this OK as well -- Romita & Janson are always a good art team, and Rick Remender's script is zippy and actiony. I worry a little about the setup -- the text page would seem to indicate that this "Dimension Z" is the home of the book for a while, and I sort of worry about a Captain America comics not set in, y'know, America, but the bigger problem is the $4 cover price, I think.
FANTASTIC FOUR #1: Lots of setup, and a reasonable enough pitch for the next 12-18 issues of the comic. Fraction does dependable work here, and Bagley's art just screams "Marvel!" as it always does. Because it only has a $3 cover price it also gets more goodwill from me, which means I thought it was GOOD, though execution over the months will count for more here than some of the other NOW! books.
FF #1: The flipside to Fan4 above, this one is Fraction and Allred, and, hot damn, did I like this first issue. I especially liked the narrative structure that suggests you read the book a second time now that you understand on the last page the reasoning/setup for some of the interstitial pages. My absolute favorite of the NOW! books so far, I thought this was pretty EXCELLENT.
INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #1: Solid set-up for a series, which one should probably expect from Mark Waid. I'm not so sure that the art from Leinil Yu (at least on the Banner pages) really worked in harmony, but the Hulk bits were nice, so it works out. Solidly GOOD, that $4 cover keeps it from the next grade up.
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #646: Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti move the book from Young Loki, to Sif instead. I kind of don't care about Sif, but Schiti's art is a joy to behold. Hard to see this lasting for long, really, but as a first issue, I thought it was also solidly GOOD.
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #1 & 2: Yay, it's fun Jason Aaron, writing a loutish Thor. Art by Esad Ribic is super spiffy. I also quite like the parallel structures of past and future Thors and crazy godshit in space and whatever, and yeah, digging it... except for that damn $4 cover price, which caps my grade at GOOD.
X-MEN LEGACY #1 & 2: It's a damn shame that this came alphabetically last, because I have to go out on a down note, then. Cuz' this just wasn't compelling. It's nothing wrong with Si Spurrier's script, per se, or even Tan Eng Huat's art, though I get he's an acquired taste. I think the bigger problem really is the focus on Legion, who just isn't a very interesting character, and there's less than no reason to call this comic "X-Men" anything. #2 had a printing error, and they put it on paper more suited to a free giveaway comic -- this is likely to be the first NOW! book cancelled. EH.
What did YOU think?
Hopefully you all made it through any storms okay, my American friends! If you did I've got some rubbish about comics for ya.Content! You might not want it, you might not like it but it's there!
G.I. COMBAT #5 Featuring The Haunted Tank Art by Howard Victor Chaykin Story and Words by Peter J. Tomasi Coloured by Jesus Arbutov Lettered by Rob Leigh The Unknown Soldier Art by Staz Johnson Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray Coloured by Rob Schwager Lettered by Rob Leigh The Haunted Tank created by Russ Heath and Robert Kanigher The Unknown Soldier created byJoe Kubert and Robert Kanigher DC Comics, $3.99 (2012)
First up, I have to thank Corey (Ottawa) for bringing this comic to my attention. If it wasn't for our Canadian Contingent I'd not have known the art chores on this were by everyone's favourite filth peddler Mr. Howard Victor Chaykin! I wasn't expecting much here to be honest, I thought he'd probably be busy drawing comics too frisky for the UK to have any electrolytes left over for a book about a, well, a haunted tank. I don't know if it's being able to clip art the shit out of this book due to its emphasis on hardware but the bits that aren't hardware have Howard Victor Chaykin pounding the pages with a barrage of highly entertaining images. Unlike, so I hear, the pounding he's giving the pages in that other (banned) book.
Tomasi gives him a totally stupid story to illustrate involving a nutty veteran clad in The Flag being tank-napped into a supernatural rescue mission while being pursued by Wonder Woman's high-tech ex Steve Trevor. It is nonsensical stuff but, I don't know if you've ever given it much thought but, the whole concept of The Haunted Tank isn't going to win any awards for realism. So why not go wide on the goofiness. Chaykin seems to be enjoying himself and it all comes together a lot more successfully than some of his recent efforts. Not once did Jesus Arbutov's colour work have me reaching to ring the police and at times I was tempted to throw back my head and bellow Blessed-style "CHAYKIN'S AWAKE!!!" Maybe he just enjoyed ringing up his russety pal Russ Heath and irritating him by going "Pop! Just drawn a tank! Pop! Just drew another! These computers are great! Now how long did it used to take you to draw these tanks, Russ? Pop! Drew another! Hey, I ever tell ya I can see the beach from my window?" I don't know, I just really enjoyed his stuff this time out. It was GOOD!
WOLVERINE MAX #1 Art by Roland Boschi & Connor Willumsen Written by Jason Starr Coloured by Dan Brown Lettered by VC's Cory Petit Wolverine created by Len Wein, John Romita Snr and Herb Trimpe Marvel, $3.99 (2012)
While Jason Starr is a good writer of novels and I have also been known to enjoy the work of Roland Boschi the real reason I picked this up was because of Connor Willumsen. He does not disappoint! Boschi's pages seem somewhat rushed and concern the present day Wolverine fighting sharks and having no memory of why he ended up doing that. Also, his legs grow back and everyone is only slightly perturbed by this. Perturbed's too strong a word actually. I know health care professionals are rushed off their feet and are basically the busiest people in show-business and The Japanese are a modest people...but I think two legs growing back, bones and all, would cause more than a raised eyebrow and a muttered aside, suggesting such an event is more a case of exhibitionism than it is straight up miraculous. Jason Starr's handling of Wolverine's talents but in the real world is off to a choppy start is what I'm saying.
Willumsen, however, burns rubber from the off with his flashback scenes which portray Daniel Day Lewis from There Will Be Blood stepping into the original Claremont/Miller mini-series but in a grubbily humming Underground Comix stylee. So amazing are his inky doings that even the writing seems elevated with Victor sounding especially characterful in his disdain for the normals. I would buy this series purely for the further expansion of these elements. I would but Marvel seem to have upset Connor Willumsen so much that he has jumped ship. His work will not be appearing in any subsequent issues of WOLVERINE MAX and so I will not be buying them as without him this comic will be less than GOOD! Well done there, Marvel! Yes, that is sarcasm.
DAREDEVIL: END OF DAYS #1 Art by Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz Written by Brian Michael Bendis & David Mack Coloured by Matt Hollingsworth Lettered by VC's Joe Caramagna Daredevil created by Bill Everett and Stan Lee Marvel, $3.99 (2012)
I asked my LCS why they sent this (you're darned tooting I did) and they said it was because I liked Janson and Sienkiewickz, which is true. What they failed to factor in is that ladling the steaming hot writing of Brian Michael Bendis over the top of their efforts is, at this stage in the game, like climbing a stepladder to fart repeatedly right in my face as I admire a Vermeer. It's distractingly puerile and pretty quickly spoils the whole experience. The best bit (i.e. the very worst bit of very many bad bits) is when Ben Urich's (very long, very, very fucking awful) monologue accuses his audience (his readers, geddit!) of not appreciating words. This is super-awesome because he's being written by someone who treats the English language with all the care and attention of a hungover abattoir worker placing his bolt-gun to a steer's head.
This is a writer who seems to have a working vocabulary of, maybe, fifty words and whose solution to every writing conundrum (an introduction to The Incal, an introduction to a HVC art book, a recipe for quiche, instructions on how to install a Norton Commando Boyer ignition etc) is always a chatty, faux-conversational, uninformative, space devouring style which smashes grammar's head in with a brick and is in no way to be taken as an indication of a complete inability to write anything approaching a joined up sentence. Christ, this is why I ask my LCS not to send his (dismal, dismal) stuff. This comic is smug, vacuous, inane, pandering, complacent ineptitude par excellence. This comic is CRAP! I did not like it.
THE INFERNAL MAN-THING #3 Art by Kevin Nowlan Written by Steve Gerber Lettered by Todd Klein Also "...Man-Thing!" from Savage Tales #1 Art by Gray Morrow Written by Gerry Conway & Roy Thomas Man-Thing created by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow Marvel, $3.99 (2012)
And so we close the comic and close the curtain on one Steve Gerber as he defies the laws of nature and reality to bow out of comics for the final time, some four years after his physical death. As we bite back the tears lets allow a manly clap on the back for Kevin Nowlan who did Gerber proud twice over with beautifully considered art to which he then applied a thoughtful and innovative colour palette. Together with this final VERY GOOD! chapter of Gerber's playful, humane and imaginative end-song Marvel have also included Manny's first appearance. Whether placing an ending with a beginning together in such close proximity is Marvel's way of acknowledging the Cycle of Life or just another attempt to squeeze a property until the pips squeak we'll probably never know. (Steve Gerber would have known.)
I've not been impressed with this series so far but I will admit that while this issue still wasn't terribly good it was a whole lot better. Maybe it had something to with a sudden upswing in the density of incident or the fact that Phillips' art seemed more lively since he was given a couple of occasions on which to strut his stuff style-wise. I still don't find it to be convincingly evocative of a time and place; it'll take more than some beards in a VW van to make me swoon at the authenticity of the '7os vibe, man. At times I can almost smell the spirit glue holding all the sideburns on. Most deflating of all is the fact that the series is still hamstrung by bizarrely conservative and old-fashioned sense of horror (tentacles! men in robes with daggers! cemeteries!) which means the horror is never actually, well, horrible.
The humourlessness of the whole thing has also struck me recently; this was unfortunate because I then realised I couldn't recall one incidence of humour in all the work I've read by this author. That's a lot of pages in which to not crack a smile. Maybe it's me. Senses of humour are personal after all but still the funniest thing in FATALE #8 is when the rather tasteless competition in the lettercol results in one John Cleaver out writing this whole series with just one paragraph. Mind you, if any readers do want to send me pictures of them crying while they remember horribly traumatic events from their lives they are welcome to do so(*). Get really close in there so I can see the fat bulbs of those tears bloating from your sad ducts, kids! The winner could receive a pen! So, yeah, this issue was OKAY! and you can buy it from The Savage Critics Digital Shop...here! (Although if more than 10% of the comics reading audience do so a big red light starts flashing and Brian Hibbs starts rushing everyone to the shelters as AROOOGA! AROOOGA! echoes rounds his shaggy head. It's a true fact, cats and kittens!)
(*) Don't do this. It's a joke.
ACTION COMICS #13 Featuring... Superman in..."The Ghost In The Fortress of Solitude" Art by Travel Foreman Written by Grant Morrison Coloured by Brad Anderson Lettered by Steve Wands Superman in..."A Boy And His Dog" Art by Brad Walker (p) & Andrew Hennessy(i) Written by Sholly Fisch Coloured by Jay David Ramos Lettered by Patrick Brosseau Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster DC Comics, $3.99 (2012)
It's strange the connections your mind makes. In my head Morrison's recent callous remarks regarding the treatment of Siegel and Shuster and the portrayal of animals throughout his work suggests to me one of those lovely people who care more for the feelings of animals than those of people. Which is all really cuddly on the surface until you press them on the issue and they suddenly hiss at you that people deserve what they get! Which I find a less than generous rationale and more than a little confusing in its mix of sentiment and insensitivity. Almost as confusing as this comic which I have a strong suspicion makes no sense but as I too have a soft spot for tales of the gud dog I'll let its muddled nature pass this time and say this comic was OKAY!
So yeah, those were certainly some words about what I believe scientists are now calling COMICS!!!
Four superhero books below that cut!
AVENGERS VS X-MEN #12: Man, it would be nice to have a Marvel crossover once that ended right. I don't know what frustrates me more: Captain America's extraordinary hypocrisy in the face of the breaking point he engendered, or why no one is asking about what happens with all of the *good* stuff that the Phoenix Five engineered (food, energy, water, worldwide). but, these are superhero comics, and superhero comics don't like dealing with ramifications, do they? Like I said back at the review of #1, this comic clearly is reviewer-proof; nothing I could say or do would impact it's entire success as a commercial juggernaut -- I'm certainly selling twice or more copies of AvX than I do of either of the component characters any longer.
The thing is, I'm afraid that this series fundamentally broke the X-Men -- what are they any longer?
With Xavier dead, the mutants no longer an "extinct race", Cyclops considered a super-villain, what's presumably the world's stock of Sentinels melted down (along with all of the battleships and nuclear weapons in #6) "Uncanny Avengers", and so on -- well, what's next? Where can you go from here? The core metaphor might still have need today -- but can the X-Men still be the spirit of alienation in any clear way when mutants are now responsible for bringing peace and food and water to Africa, y'know? I have my doubts, especially because the first new x-book off the blocks this week is actually an Avengers title, and the "flagship" X-comic is going to be a time-travel story, which doesn't even sound remotely sustainable to me as an ongoing monthly.
At the end of the day, I thought AVENGERS VS X-MEN #12 was pretty AWFUL. Though I doubt that's any real surprise to anyone out there. I also thought that the X-Men "won", in that Cyclops was right, and his species is now viable again... even though they're left at the end as being a largely irrelevent concept in the Marvel Universe. Funny how those things work out.
AVX #6: As a modern piece of comedy, I thought this was generally pretty darn GOOD. "Captain America is level 15 in Guilt Trips," indeed! Though the Hawkeye sexploitation dream was pretty dang grody, and prevented the book from scoring higher.
DAREDEVIL END OF DAYS #1: I was originally looking forward to this, because on paper, at least, it sounds good: Bendis, Mack, Janson, Sienkiewicz all back on Daredevil for one final story. Too bad the result is a gory mess, with multiple scenes of people beating each other to death. Yay, comics? Overall the art, mostly Jansen being inked by Sienkiewicz, has the worst of each artist's tics, though there are a few nice and painted panels that entirely work. Seeing those lovely panels make the rest of the book look that much worse, sadly. Pretty AWFUL.
LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #1: So, this is a collection of Batman stories that, as far as I know, ran as digital content before being collected here. This is the fourth (fifth?) "re-purposed" digital comic, and, at my store at least, sales have all been uniformly awful on these books, but I can't tell if it is the chicken, or if it is the egg. Batman, in serialization, is going through a pretty nice period right now -- BATMAN itself is my top selling DC comic. and all five of his monthly books are selling at least 25 copies a month for me. This one? I sold 2 copies in week 1, and I'm not expecting that to grow in any manner I'm willing to carry the risk on. So, is LDK flopping out because it is digital first, and people don't want leftovers? Or is it flopping because it's Batman-led comic #6? Or is it flopping because it is shitty?
There are three stories here, one by Damon Lindelof & Jeff Lemire which is close to the worst Batman story I've ever read being, I think, a "what if?" of "What If Batman was an arrogant drunk?" Hrf?!? The second two stories are kind of NEW TALENT SHOWCASE teaming newer writers with solid artists (JG Jones, Nicola Scott) -- but the stories aren't any great shakes, neither rising above what you might hope for in a new talent anthology series: not shitty, exactly, but not so great either. At least not for $4.
The bigger problem, for me, is that these comics are kind of the "proof of concept" for the problem of what you do for natively-digital work when the iPad landscape/computer monitor being different proportions from the printed page. Mark Waid was the first person I ever heard who said, "Duh, just plop the two screens on top of each other, and your back to normal proportions", and I thought he was genius when he said that.
Except... now I've seen what it looks like in practice. It is... not very good.
So, first, if you're even slightly aware of it, you can "see" the weld made on each page as writers are aiming the "beat" for the bottom-rightmost panel of each "page", except each page now has two of THOSE, and it TOTALLY blows the "rhythm" of the comics page.
Second, because you have to present the page smaller than it displays on monitor/iPad, it feels oddly cramped, with too-small lettering.
Third, it really shows just how limited the landscape format is for density-of-content -- It is hard to cleanly fit more than 4 "panels" on any "page", then, which gives you an extremely limited number of choices of page layout and panel arrangement. then you see that twice on each printed page, and it is kind of a mess.
So, I guess now I really don't think that digital comics can be reformatted to print in this way without kind of crashing out the beauty and strength of the real unit of comic books: the page. I thought the Lindlehof story was AWFUL, but the rest was decent enough it could drag the entire book closer to an EH.
That's me, what did YOU think?
So I managed to get an hour and I wrote this. So, you know, it's hardly incisive or anything and certainly not structured but I hope it entertains. People like seeing other people fail, right? Tuck in! PUNISHER: BARBARIAN WITH A GUN By John Buscema (Artist), Chuck Dixon (Writer), Tom Palmer, Klaus Janson & Art Nichols (Inkers), Kevin Tinsley (Colourist and Jim Novak (Letterer) Collects PUNISHER: WAR ZONE #26-30 (Marvel Comics, $15.99, 2008)
This comic features the character of The Punisher created by Gerry Conway, John Romita Snr and Ross Andru here presented in an adventure I was drawn to purchase by the title and the presence of John Buscema. Also - it was on sale at my LCS for a fiver. In fact I was initially misled by the presence of John Buscema and the title to expect Frank to be swept up by a Time-Space vortex and dumped into Hyboria where he would initially act like Conan but with a gun but upon exhausting his ammo would then turn his 'Nam sharpened reflexes upon the populace of the stinky primitive land before being hailed King. This does not happen. However, if there is a comic where this does happen (and how could there not be?) then I am all ears.
What the comic delivers is, I guess, the next best thing. On the trail of a drug dealing brother-sister combo Frank is soon removed from the civilised and hygienic milieu of lovely America to the stinky and primitive land of The Caribbean jungle. No offense to my Caribbean chums but that’s how it’s presented here. This is a tale from the time before The Punisher was taken seriously (if anyone can in fact take PUNISHERMAX seriously; which it appears they can) but after the time when he wore white disco boots. The boots have been ditched by this stage which is a shame because I always believed they were his dead wife’s and he wore them as tribute to her memory. Luckily he still retains several of the goofier elements that I always enjoy about The Punisher. In several scenes Frank is pictured in a nice Hawaiian cut shirt emblazoned with his TM skull motif. This suggests that either Frank, like myself, holidays in Whitby and is partial to frequenting the make-your-own design T-Shirt shop just back from the sea front or that he spends his free time sewing and indulging his passion for crafts. Also, early on in the story Frank adopts a disguise. Now, Punisher disguises are one of my favourite things being as they are so terrible as to inspire hooting. My favourite was in the Punisher/Ghost Rider/Wolverine one-shot HEARTS OF DARKNESS written by Howard MacKie and illustrated by John Romita Jnr. In that one Frank grew a pencil tache and slicked his hair back. Luckily Wolverine’s acute smell sense pierced this quickly. I think he used his smell-sense but in all honesty he could have just used his eye-sense. In BARBARIAN WITH A GUN Frank wears a brown wig of no fixed style and another mustache. This works out pretty well until he meets a woman who had earlier seen him shoot the guy he’s disguised as and was also physically pleasured by said guy. Oh, Frank undone by sentiment!
So. Yes, it’s one of those old timey adventures where Frank has all the moral complexity of a brick and just batters himself against the obstacles in his way until everybody who should be dead is dead and then he gets on with a nice bit of sewing. It’s pretty well done, too. Chuck Dixon is certainly a professional at this stuff. He’s certainly professional enough not to let his personality infect the work and thus Frank never spends anytime whatsoever worrying about what consenting adults of the same gender choose to do with their genitals. Dixon is also professional enough to deliver a satisfyingly violent action-adventure romp that takes itself seriously enough but never too seriously. He does a really smart job on Frank’s clipped narration which includes gems like, “Carbine goes Winchester on me.” and “He’s asking for mercy. Sorry. Fresh out.” I dig that stuff, that He-Man steak and taters stuff and it’s all over this one.
There’s no politics either despite the fact that the island of Porta Dulce is bursting into revolution more often than a teen’s face bursts into zits. The ruling class are corrupt and violent, the peasants are corrupt and violent, the Americans there to make a buck are corrupt and violent even the crocs are violent (but not corrupt). The nicest character is a pig that just ambles through and rescues our bunch of heroes with its unerring sense of direction. And it is a bunch by this point because Frank has called in Micro and Ice Phillips. This latter character is a new one on me but he’s obviously got some “juice” because the back of the TPB declares “Guest starring Ice Phillips from Marvel’s controversial series The ‘Nam!” (The ‘Nam was indeed controversial since (at least for a while when it was written by Doug Murray and illustrated by Michael Golden) Marvel published it and it wasn't awful and was in fact quite good). So one for Ice Phillips fans here! There’s a great scene between the trio where Micro almost spills the beans on why Frank does what he does to Ice (who apparently thinks Frank is just doing it for chuckles or something) and Frank says, “Don’t tell him. Don’t ever tell him. He doesn't deserve to know.” Which is super-pissy of Frank. Then he just flounces off! Ooooh, get her!
Of course all this is illustrated by John Buscema. Or John “The Don” Buscema. Now John Buscema wasn’t really the paterfamilias of a crime family in much the same way as Gene Colan wasn’t the head of a faculty in a school or college but Gene was still “The Dean” and John will always be “The Don”. He was also referred to as The Rembrandt of Comics which means he was frickin aces. It’s important to remember that John Buscema was frickin’ aces because the production of monthly comics didn't do him any favours really. He was mostly relegated to pencils so they could get more of him out there but, man, he loved inking his own stuff. And if you see any you’ll love it too. BARBARIAN WITH A GUN is typically Marvel Buscema as here he provides pencils and as bare as they may seem they still display his talent for framing and generally getting the stuff that matters into the panel in a way that’s unfussy and pleasing. Oh, and he still got emough ink on his brush to draw smoking hot ladies that embody the word "fleshy". Mind you he’s not helped by the buggers muddle of inkers, sometimes there’s more than one of them having a pop at his pencils in one issue.
These comics were originally published in 1994, I think, and John Buscema died in 2002 so we're definitely looking at a Lion in Winter here or at least one that’s feeling the chill a bit. It’s all still there though, all the Buscematic bustle and muscular pop just a bit sticky with the ink of others. It’s a bit odd really because we’re talking about John Buscema here and you’d think he’d have been treated a bit better. It isn't as though Marvel were unaware of the importance of Buscema’s work in identifying Marvel as being quite good. In fact as far back as 1978 Buscema was chosen to illustrate the book HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY. His art was chosen as the template for the sausage factory. Not Gil Kane or Jack Kirby,no, John Buscema. Mind you Jack Kirby and Gil Kane would probably have told Marvel to take a flying f*** at a rolling doughnut by that point. Or at least have pointed out that How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way was to have sound legal representation at all times, never depend on verbal promises and remember that you might need money in the future. So, John Buscema’s value was clearly acknowledged by Marvel but at the end they have him pump out some books that have to have the heavy hands of others all over them in order for them to come out on time. Kirby forbid John Buscema be given time to do some stuff the way he wanted at the end of career. Nah, just get those books out, Buscema? Never heard of him, never did anything for us. Where’s my Punisher comics?!?
This lack of respect extends to the physical artifact itself. While the creative contents are fine, even managing to entertain despite the mish-mash of inking, the physical contents lack even cursory care and attention. The cover is a graduate of the school of Intern With Photoshop, the colouring in general is imprecise and wishy-washy and when blood is shown to fly from punctured bodies it is coloured yellow. Yellow. Maybe The Punisher fires harmless custard bullets? Maybe the people he kills are aliens? Maybe Kevin Tinsley needs biology lessons? Maybe Marvel don’t give a chuff? Which, y’know, is their prerogative and all but this costs $15.99 and I don’t think it’s whiny for someone handing over that amount of cash to expect a decent product in return. I hear your TPBs don’t sell so well, Marvel? Maybe that’s why.
Despite all that it is still a sound piece of hugely testicular entertainment which does its job well due to the professionalism of Dixon, Buscema et al. but the fact that it’s such a cheapjack package makes it only EH! If, however, you like John Buscema, daft violence and got it for a fiver it’s really GOOD!
And that’s it from me and now...back to the COMICS!
Yup, and so we are back with Wait, What? which some of you might remember from the days of antiquity as a thing like unto a radio play, enacted by Mr. Graeme McMillan and myself for the amusement of listeners.
Episode 65 was supposed to be a piercing search by the two of us for the more-than-two-of-you for the secrets to the considerable success of one Steve Gerber and his run on a Marvel series from the '70s popularly known as The Defenders. I would like to say we were successful but, um, well, you will hear for yourselves.
We do discuss it, mind you, but alas we also discuss Carrier IQ for the first batch of minutes, a big pile of books by Kieron Gillen, Batman #252 from nineteen-seventy-something-or-0ther, and the first collected volume of the amazingly filthy and brilliant webcomic Oglaf.
And yeah, something-something-Steve-Gerber-something.
Badoon Brothers and errant Headman may have encountered us already on iTunes, but you are also invited to listen to us here, should that be your kind of thing:
Part 2 of 2 is right around the corner! As always, we hope you enjoy.