More Cowbell: Jeff on Things and Stuff.

At first, I was just going to write about Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover's Gingerbread Girl, but I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to say about it.  (Uh, things?  And, uh, stuff?) So, after the jump, Gingerbread Girl, X-Men: First Class (the movie), Star Wars Omnibus (Vol. 3), and more...things and stuff.

(oh, and don't forget to scroll down for the shipping list...and John's reviews...and Graeme's reviews?!  Holy shit. We need to learn how to pace ourselves.)

GINGERBREAD GIRL GN:  In an age where comics are taking their cue from movie and cinema, it's delightful to read Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover's Gingerbread Girl, a graphic novel about a mysterious twenty-something in Portland, OR and her odd affliction:  it's comics shot through with a big ol' dose of live theater, as every character breaks the fourth wall to address the reader about what they know about Annah Billips.  (I'm not much of a live theater guy at all, but more than once I was reminded of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker (basis for Hello, Dolly?  I did not know that.  Thanks, Wikipedia!).)  Tobin's speeches are shot through with high-end whimsy -- "But of course that's all we really we want from someone," Annah's reluctantly smitten date says at one point, "Destroy a lover's mystery and they're less glimmering.  Throw breadcrumbs at pigeons and they'll flock to you in droves.  Throw a bread loaf at them and they'll scatter.  Crumbs of a mystique are just right. A loaf of explanation is too much." -- but they've still got nothing on Coover's delicious art, able to invest seemingly anyone and anything with charm and clarity.

Gingerbread Girl is a mystery of sorts, with the lead character believing she has a twin created from her own stripped away Penfield Homunculus, and everyone else trying to figure out if she's crazy or not.  As the above speech suggests, the graphic novel decides not to solve that mystery, but rather leave us tantalized on the edge of realization.  It's a fun choice, but one that left me feeling more than a little cheated.  I'm sure the idea is to make me look from the book's plot to its possible theme -- I'll take "narratives about narrative strategies" for $500, Alex! -- but I can't help but feel we could've gotten that and a more traditional nod toward conventional narrative climax.  One of the things this gorgeous looking book repeatedly reminds us about its main  character is that she's a tease.  It's a reminder the reader would do well to take to heart about Gingerbread Girl itself. Being teased is much more fun when there's little to lose, and $12.95 doesn't exactly grow on trees these days.  GOOD stuff,  I think?  Or maybe just at the very highest end of OK?  I still can't decide.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS:  The last thing I expected from this movie was to be reminded of Mario Bava, and yet as the film hit hour 35 of lovely visuals, paper-thin characters and a boredom that teetered on the edge of hypnotic, it was the reference point I came back to.  Of course, I expected a movie about a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Something-Or-Other-Because He's-Still-Magneto-To-Me (Michael Fassbender) recruiting mutants to fight Sebastian Shaw's Hellfire Club to have more than a dash of Brian Singeresque touches to it, so I figured there would be the usual queer subtext (tearful speeches by young teenagers about how they wish they could be like everyone else, young men with full lips and big eyes rubbing their bare arms).  But Matthew Vaughn turns X-Men: First Class into a sensual free-for-all, with ladies walking about in excessively cumbersome lingerie, diamond girls being tied to beds by the rails of the bed itself, excessively nude exploding female mannequins, and I'm not even getting into the whole Xavier/Magneto/Mystique triangle.

More than that, though, Vaughn's tremendous sense of visual flair and attention to detail makes the movie just visually sensuous: it sounds goofy, but there's a scene where Magneto plucks a submarine out of the water, and the way the droplets spun off the propellers had me transfixed. There were at least a dozen more moments like that and I savored each one of them.

Unfortunately, the movie has just too much fucking stuff in it -- it's sodden, is what it is -- showing us not just the opening of the first X-Men movie where a young Erik pries at the gates of Auschwitz, but also the scene that comes after that, as well as what Charles Xavier was doing at that point.  We not only get their meeting in mid-action scene, but the CIA's decision to help them recruit mutants, a long recruitment sequence, Hank McCoy as both versions of the Beast, a long sequence introducing the Hellfire Club...none of it is bad, exactly (except for January Jones, who in her inability to smile, talk, drink or even walk convincingly I now believe to be the genuine embodiment of  the Martian Spy Girl from Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!) but there's just no fucking room for anything to breathe.  It's three good movies jammed into one exasperatingly long and dull one, with every dramatic conflict boiled down so much they might as well been bullet points on a Powerpoint presentation.

I think if I'd seen this movie while hopped up on prescription pain medication, I would've loved its horny languor. (If it turns out that Vaughn knocked up January Jones as the rumors have it, it won't be surprising at all.  In fact, what would be surprising would be if he didn't also impregnate the script girl, Zoe Kravitz, Rose Byrne's slip, and that kid who played The Beast.) But it was a slog and a chore to make it to the end of this movie and it really didn't have to be.  Somewhere between EH and AWFUL.

STAR WARS OMNIBUS, VOL. 3:  At Graeme's suggestion, I picked up a copy of this from the library way-too-long ago and have been poking through it at the rate of a few stories a week.  These are the Marvel comics from the early '80s reprinted, covering the period immediately following The Empire Strikes Back.  As I told Graeme on the podcast, the ESB is exactly where I jumped off the Star Wars comic wagon, in no small part because it became obvious that none of it really mattered:  nothing says "we've told the creators of our licensed product nothing" like a romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia and the infamous "Luke, I am your father" speech.

Did I say "nothing"?  That is a lie, I admit it -- what really says "we've told the creators of our licensed product nothing" is reading this volume in light of the events of Return of the Jedi.  The subtitle for this volume is "A Long Time Ago..." but it really should've been "George Lucas' Galactic Twincest Follies." There are no less than half-a-dozen disquieting scenes where Luke and Leia almost kiss or spend quiet moments pondering their unspoken, but strongly felt feelings for one another.  If only V.C. Andrews could've written that "Splinter of the Mind's Eye" sequel!

But Graeme is right in a lot of ways -- these stories, the majority of them by David Michelinie and Walt Simonson, with Simonson plotting and doing layouts with Tom Palmer doing heavy finishes, are a lot like watching the original trilogy over and over again.  Curiously, even though this takes place after Empire, the only real bits the talent take from that movie are Lando and the idea of a rebellion always on the run from a seemingly all-powerful Empire. Otherwise, it's a lot of impervious imperial bases that need exploding, blasters that need blasting, feelings that need trusting, and possible romantic triangles where two of the participants are siblings.  There's probably a good reason why Marvel's creative teams continued to treat Luke Skywalker as the untarnishable focal point -- my guess is Luke, young and orphaned and full of questions and potential, was much closer to the '70s Marvel hero archetype than awesome, dashing (kinda assholey) Han Solo -- even as Lucas threw a whole bunch of cold water on the idea of Luke as hero in Empire.

Ultimately, the story I enjoyed the best was the weirdest one -- the two-parter by Chris Claremont, Simonson and Carmine Infantino where an inventoried John Carter of Mars story is shoehorned into a Star Wars story.  I've always enjoyed Claremont's infrequent work on Star Wars (pre-teen Jeff would've told you that his favorite Marvel Star Wars issues were #17, co-plotted by Claremont, Star Wars Annual #1 with art by Mike Vosburg...and also Star Wars #38 with that awesome Michael Golden art, Claremont be damned) and here he gets a chance to let his ham actor instincts dig into a story in which Princess Leia crash-lands on a world suspiciously like Barsoom, and the swashbuckling hero suspiciously like John Carter gets something suspiciously like a space boner for her.  Strong, courageous, and the survivor of brutal torture, Princess Leia is Chris Claremont's idea of a hot chick and he makes the most of the first person narration by the Carter pastiche to talk about her brave resourcefulness and sad eyes.  In its way, the story is a better acknowledgment of Star Wars' roots than what Lucas went on to do in The Phantom Menace, though the airships here show a marked similarity to what is done there.  However, because these stories were written in simpler, far less ambitious times, there's not the thorough airing out of influences there could be, where we can really get the sense of just how much Star Wars owes to Burroughs' desert landscapes, exotic princesses, alien pals and low-gravity swashbuckling.  There's just a repurposing of art, a light feeling out of topics that will later become fetish (for Claremont, anyway) and then it's on to the next.

I thought this stuff was highly OK, and in some places quite GOOD, but I guess I prefer more Cosmic Twincest Follies far more intentional and far less accidental.  It was fun revisiting what so many of us thought Star Wars was, instead of what it actually turned out to be.

FLASHPOINT: LEGION OF DOOM #1:  "My name's Heatwave.  I've got a hunger... burning in my gut.  The only way to stop it... is to satisfy my appetite."

So begins the dumbest, most inept comic I've read in a while.  It's so bad I'm shocked Hibbs passed it over for his ever-increasing number of "I Have Read The Worst Comic I Have Ever Read" columns.  Here, Adam Glass and Rodney Buchemi treat us to a tale of  non-starter supervillain Heat Wave, who starts off the book incinerating one-half of Firestorm's secret identity because he wants to fight a guy whose head is on fire.  Then Cyborg shows up and awesome dialogue like "Didn't your mommy ever tell you not to play with matches, Heatwave?" "Sure did! So I burned her to death."  Then Heat Wave makes a train run out of control by...shooting it with flames?  Then Heat Wave ends up in prison where he proves himself to be a bad-ass by breaking the leg of a dude who must have shins made out of breadsticks.  Then Heat Wave gets manhandled by prison guard Amazo, which totally makes sense because Amazo is a robot with all the powers of the Justice League in an alternate universe where there never was a Justice League.  Then there's a Hostess cupcake ad, just like we had back in the '70s, except it's eight pages long and it's about Subway.  Then the awesome Legion of  Doom headquarters shows up but here in the Flashpoint universe it's a prison for super-tough criminals but for some reason Heat Wave is put in there, too.  Then Zsasz threatens Heat Wave. Then Clue Master turns up.  Then Heat Wave kicks a dude in the nuts.  Then, later in their cell, Clue Master clutches his stomach, coughs up blood, and then Plastic Man pulls himself out of Clue Master's mouth.  Yes, Clue Master was a mule used to smuggle in Plastic Man who on the last page is standing there grinning evilly, saying "Okay, you ready to blow this popsicle stand?" as one bloody arm still juts from Clue Master's mouth.  The next issue caption helpfully says, "NEXT ISSUE:  PLASTIC MAN!"

(Finally, I know why Jack Cole killed himself. Poor precognitive bastard.)

If you're the fan of the noise that's made when someone scrapes the very bottom of the barrel, this is the book for you. I actually hope this book has 100% sell-through for retailers, because I worry it will otherwise end up being donated to a hospital somewhere and make ill and injured children lose the will to live.  This book gets the seldom-used ASS rating which is actually overrating it by just a tad.  Please don't tell me you bought it and enjoyed it.

Hibbs' some of 5/18

It looks like Graeme and Jeff and I are now playing Chicken again.  Which of us will blink first?  

(duh, me!)


ALPHA FLIGHT #0.1: Ugh, seriously? We're now attaching fractional numbers to numbers before #1? Given that a rational person might think "Ah, this will be about who Alpha Flight is, and what they've been doing since the last time we saw them", but no, it isn't.


Let's see if I can make my own version of a "0.1", then?

Alpha Flight is a reallyreally weird team. They had those great cameos in those Byrne/Claremont X-Men, and everyone thought they wanted more, but then it turns out that no one really has any good ideas for STORIES with them, just the sketched out concepts sound good.  Even John Byrne himself didn't have the slightest idea what to do with them when he launched a solo series.


That series astonishingly lasted for 130 issues despite it really never having much of a direction or voice, which is why they keep trying to bring it back -- the problem is that very few people who read any of those 130 issues are reading comics today.


Marvel's latest solution to the Alpha problem is somehow rebooting the team, mostly -- we're pretty much back to the "original" cast, with even Mac Hudson back from the dead... and Heather is there by his side, too. I have a vague recollection of this happening during... "Chaos War", was it? but I'm utterly fuzzy on the details, but there's no, zero, none, zilch explanation in this comic of how (OR WHY!?!?!?) they resurrected a 20-something year dead character.  I could see THAT being a compelling story -- you've been DEAD for 20 years, not just frozen in ice or "presumed missing" or something, but actually deceased, how is that dealt with by the government, or your team mates, or society.


But there's nothing like that here, and, actually, these characters are all portrayed as complete and total ciphers -- you're expected to KNOW who they are and WHAT their backstories are supposed to be... even those those appear to be mostly the backstories of older incarnations of the characters. The only one with half a personality is Northstar, and his half is "he's a jerk, but a loving gay!", which... well fine, whatever.


Anyway, I think that who this comic is aimed at is "fans of John Byrne's Alpha Flight, but not fans of anything he DID with those characters" which is actually really probably fair enough when you think about it, but is not a well coveted demographic, really, but I guess it could work somehow?


So, yeah, no personalities, just page after page of each member running off to become Alpha Flight (and, no, "... and this one is actually a meter maid; no one likes meter maids!" isn't actually a personality!), then they fight the some silly enemies in the most illogical manner ever. First up half the team fights some generic "anti-government FANATIC in an adamantium exoskeleton" who isn't espousing any kind of understandable political position that I can ascertain, and he's beating them until... until... untillllllll.... man, I don't know what happens at that point -- Marrina says "come with me, LAND MOLLUSK", then Shaman has swirly things around him, but "Citadel" doesn't seem to be confined or in any trouble, in fact he's just spouting off more, and then they vaguely cut away from that team and the enemy with no explanation of what happens next.


Next,  it's Purple Girl, who was once a member of Beta Flight, and she's the daughter of the Purple Man with the mind controls and everything.


PG here, mindcontrols the crowd to form a giant person out of people, and, erm, Alan Moore stories notwithstanding (if you're going to steal, steal from the best!), that wouldn't actually, y'know, make any forms of propulsion or combat or anything because mind control doesn't *actually* change the physical laws of our universe or anything. But, whatev, lets go with it.


Finally, Snowbird comes along and Purple Girl can't actually control her mind because Snowie shapeshifts a bunch and "Gahh - transforming too fast -- too many minds -- can't-- " and kapow that's it -- but that's not how I understand PG's powers to work, but ah, whatevs!


The giant made out of people... well, we don't know what happens there, they didn't show it, but presumably it falls apart, and several people fall many stories to their deaths, but whatevs!


Alpha then poses for a picture, despite most of them not actually doing a thing here. Anne-Marie has her legs spread. No one mentions the other fight they had, or what happened to Citadel.


Then, suddenly there's an inset panel at the bottom of the group shot where Marrina (I think?) inexplicitly starts shouting that she's an alien, and "BITE ME, EARTH MEDIA!" Wait... what?


We cut away from that from-nowhere outburst to re-establish that Northstar is a good gay and he kisses his boyfriend, but uh oh, he forgot to vote. I think what they mean to imply by the final shot is that Gary Cody is the new... well, I'm guessing Prime Minister of Canada, but it's not actually made clear anywhere in the text what he's running for, so it could be Ottawa Dog-Catcher for all I know, but it actually looks like he's just finishing the speech he's started at the beginning of the comic, and not actually won an election, so I don't really know for sure.


Wow, lousy lousy comic. CRAP.



INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #504: That may be the most violent comic book I've read since that issue of Miracleman where KM destroys London while he waits for MM to return. Gross. Also very effective in actually conveying that horror, which is rarer than rare in a crossover issue, but, still mostly gross. OK


ROCKETEER ADVENTURES #1: Look, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to try and do "more" of Dave Steven's fun little character... but IF you're going to do it, then doing it with John Cassaday, Mike Allred and Michael Kaluta is probably the way to go. Not one of those stories was of an particular weight or consequence, yet I very much enjoyed looking at them all. Pretty pretty stuff. Fluff, too, but sometimes pretty wins. GOOD.



IN the "I don't have anywhere else to put it" department, I want to publicly boggle at the Giant game of Telephone that the internet is.


Whenever a new tilting comes out, I always spend a few days googling "hibbs tilting" and "latest results" looking for blogs and message boards I don't normally read, but even I am kind of shocked by Comic Book Resources.


A member over there took the latest tilting and decided the point of wisdom to glean from it was to decide what books should be cancelled right now. He posted threads in both the Marvel and DC sections of CBR's forums that were "WHAT SHOULD BE CUT RIGHT NOW!" and linked to the column.


People then start posting, without, I believe, reading the underlying column.


4 or 5 pages into the DC one a user from Sweden says

"I dont care at all for some american comic shop owner and that he want to sell more of the big superheroes. I enjoy many of the smaller dc comics and if they were cancelled i would vote with my wallet,punish dc by buying less Batman type."


the next reply:

"I still don't see how canceling a bunch of books is going to help anyone other than this guy who doesn't seem like he can even run his own store."


the Swede again:

"Exactly but he isnt a reader who wants a good story no matter how small or big a comic is. He just cares about selling, he doesnt need smaller,acclaimed series for that."


Which is almost exactly the direct opposite of everything I think and believe, stand for, and present in my store... wrapped up in one comment thread. Yay Internet!




As always, what do YOU think?



I have read the worst comic I have ever read

...which is saying a lot; I've been reading comics with at least some tiniest sense of critical thought for 25-ish years. I've read some howlers in my day; and it is always going to be hard to top, say, TAROT and the Haunted Vagina. For a really really bad comic, I have to end with my mouth wide open, and the thought racing through my head of  "....the FUCK did I just read?" as I sit there poleaxed. Well, I think last night I have read the poleaxest of all poleaxes -- I felt incredibly dirty and gross after I put it down.


"Arsenal", of course, is the new nom de guerre (or at least it will be by the end of this series) of Roy Harper, the sidekick formerly known as Speedy.

Speedy, perhaps you know, has recently been known as "Red Arrow", and is/was a member of the Justice League of America.  He's had a weird and tortured past: his name used to be "Speedy", after all. He was famously addicted to heroin. He slept with Chesire (who he calls "Jade") -- a genocidal mass murderer in the DC Universe who once blew up the country of "Qurac" with nuclear weapons. They had a daughter, named Lian, who was recently killed (along with tens of thousands of other people in "Star City") by Prometheus. Prometheus also ripped off Roy's arm, leading us to this series, where he's meant to "rise" to become Arsenal.

That's the backstory, here is what happens in issue #3:

Page 1: Chesire shows up to (theoretically) kill Roy, blaming him for Lian's death. They fight, and Roy's thought captions on this page are about how hot she was in bed. No shit: " Next to Kendra (Hawkgirl), Jade was the best in bed." Chesire has poisonous fingernails that will kill you fairly instantly. She is shown scratching him with those fingernails, though he isn't poisoned (?), and the scratch marks completely disappear on page 2 (??).

Page 2 -7:  they fight, to such scintillating dialogue as "Bite me, Jade." and "You're a skilled assassin, but as a mother -- YOU SUCKED!". Roy uses various things sitting around (a tennis racket, a stapler, an extension cord) to battle Chesire -- this is apparently Roy's new superpower, fighting with whatever junk is sitting around, which is excitingly McGyver-esque! Using the extension cord like a whip (which is OK, "She likes it ROUGH anyway"), he ties Chesire up, porn-submission-style. Then they make out, and start to fuck....

Page 8: .. except it turns out that he's impotent!

Chesire then disappears from the comic without another word or mention of her.

Page 9:  Since he can't fuck, he decides to go beat up guys. "I need a release."  and "For me, they serve their purpose" he thinks, as he sticks knives in faceless people's arms.

Page 10: full-page splash of Roy standing over a bunch of unconscious guys. "Much better" says the caption as Roy makes an O-face.

Page 11: his dead junkie friend appears, and talks about the time they double-teamed a "couple of real skanks" in Nashville.

Pages 12 & 13: His daughter dead, and his dead friend prodding him, Roy decides to jump down off the rooftop in full costume and buy some heroin from a street dealer.

Page 14 & 15: he smokes heroin and nods out, in a two page spread.

Page 16 & 17: his dead daughter appears to him in his drugged out state.

Page 18 & 19: ...but is interrupted by five Prometheus' in an alley, and he beats and stabs them...

Page 20 & 21 (also a double page spread)... but it turns out that he's actually just beaten up his junkie alleymates, apparently with a dead cat (!), while Batman shows up and declares Roy needs to stop.

Now I've done a number of drugs over the years, but never heroin. I have, however, known a few junkies, and I can assure you that when/after they got high they weren't capable of fighting ANYthing, or really doing much other than sit there and drool.

Pages 22-25: Roy and Batman fight to the tune of "Roy, I'm your friend" and "I am here to help you". Yay, Dick!

Pages 26 & 27: Roy wakes up with Black Canary standing over him. He's strapped to  gurney (all four straps!), and Dinah is kind of moralizing without actually sitting with him, and she walks out, rather than stay with him to help him through getting clean. This is apparently in a hospital, though we oddly don't get a caption explaining this until...

Page 28: Batman and BC talk about how this is a  special hospital specializing "in convicted villains with substance abuse problems"

Page 29: Roy apparantly babbles to his dead friend some more, but then we turn to...

page 30: and his daughter is there again, this time covered in wounds and gore. "Next Issue... Death of a Hero", the end.

This is followed by five pages of dialogue-free, black and white images of Batman shooting guns at people (!), apparently killing several of them (!)

This comic book costs $3.99.

This comic book is branded as a "Justice League" title, did I mention that?

Now sure, I get the idea that "If we show him hitting rock bottom, then his eventual return to heroism is that much more powerful" as a concept, but the execution here is maybe about as good as, say, REEFER MADNESS.

And I really don't want to see, in a "Justice League" comic, this level of sexual frustration and violence. There's no "mature readers" notice on the book, yet Vertigo comics with 1/100th of the degradation get labeled...

Is this what we've come to? This was billed by DC as one of their "big" stories of the year. And we wonder why people aren't buying comics like they used to?

I really wonder if we had time machines, what might happen if we traveled back to 1979, or 1969 and showed DC people this comic. What might they think about the corruption of our culture, of the degradation that we've devolved into?

This comic was gross. Everyone involved in its production, especially the editor, Brian Cunningham, and publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee should be deeply ashamed of what they've done here. It actually has me sitting here, stunned, thinking "Wait, why am I in this business again?"

Shame on you, shame on all of you.


Abhay Wrote a Quick Description of Dark Reign: The List -- X-Men #1, For No Reason

This one is not a review, really, so much as just a description of a Marvel comic book that was released in September 2009 called DARK REIGN: THE LIST -- X-MEN #1. Spoiler warning! Here is my first attempt to explain the context of this comic:

Marvel's comics have been contributing to an ongoing "Event" storyline entitled DARK REIGN. Within that larger event, THE LIST was a smaller sub-event, marketed as follows: Marvel would combine its top writing and art talent (and also, some other people) on a series of one-shots that would feature pivotal moments in the ongoing DARK REIGN storyline. Specifically, it would feature the Green Goblin, the lead antagonist of the DARK REIGN event, attacking various key heroes of the Marvel Universe-- those whose names he apparently kept on some kind of list.

DARK REIGN: THE LIST-- X-MEN #1 was one of those one-shots, one dedicated to the popular X-MEN comic franchise. This particular one-shot was a success: it sold out at Diamond, went to a second printing, and was favorably reviewed on various internet websites including this very blog.

When the DARK REIGN event began, the character of Namor the Sub-Mariner had been revealed to be a part of the new Masters of Evil assembled by the Green Goblin. Thereafter, Namor quit the Masters of Evil and joined the X-Men during a crossover between the DARK AVENGERS and X-MEN that took place in a previous DARK REIGN sub-event called UTOPIA.

Here is the premise of DARK REIGN: THE LIST-- X-MEN #1:

The comic opens with the Green Goblin angry that Namor has quit the Masters of Evil, and has instead joined the X-Men. As retaliation, the Green Goblin has decided to weaponize the horniness of Namor's ex-wife.

Here is the dialogue explaining his weaponize-the-horniness plan: "She's part human and part Plodex-- the Plodex are some kind of alien race apparently-- and when you mix'em up you get this. We've modified her to keep her perpetually in estrus which explains her rotten attitude... but the result is a genetic W.M.D."

Estrus is defined as follows: "A regularly recurrent state of sexual excitability during which the female of most mammals will accept the male and is capable of conceiving."

Here is a drawing of Namor's Ex-Wife: drawingx The monster is a canal with teeth, plainly invoking the classic image of the "vagina dentata"-- the vagina with teeth. Wikipedia: "Various cultures have folk tales about women with toothed vaginas, frequently told as cautionary tales warning of the dangers of sex with strange women and to discourage the act of rape. The concept is also of importance in classical psychoanalysis, where it is held to relate to the unconscious fears associated with castration anxiety."

In the monster genre, the origin of the monster frequently contains a warning to the reader. The Frankenstein Monster is a folly of science. Godzilla is awoken by the atom bomb. The Host is created by pollution the United States forces Korea to inflict upon itself. The origin of a monster is the part that speaks to the audience's true fears.

The origin of our vagina monster? It's a woman wanting sex. Sex makes women crazy and dangerous. The result of female sexual excitability is a "genetic W.M.D."

(As the New York Times Magazine pointed out last week, the true facts are that the opposite is true: women whose sex drives diminish over time report suffering from a profound despair. Here's psychologist Lori Brotto from that article: "I want to have sex where I feel like I’m craving it,” Brotto quoted from yet another file, giving voice to a desperation shared by many of her patients. “I want to feel horny. I want to want.”).

The obvious conclusion to draw from DARK REIGN: THE LIST-- X-MEN #1 is that at the close of 2009, a woman with an appetite for sex is apparently the very definition of fear and horror for Marvel comic creators and their audience.

I would diagnose such a belief as gynophobia.

This is not a metaphor; this is not sub-text. This is the explicit text of the comic: "We've modified her to keep her perpetually in estrus which explains her rotten attitude... but the result is a genetic W.M.D." This is page one. This is the establishing shot. Here's a line of dialogue from page 2: "Her gonadotropic hormones make her so hungry she's been driven insane."

Later in the comic, the arrival of the giant vagina is heralded as follows: "There's nothing to her but hunger and rage and... and hate." Here is the punchline:

dxxxxxx So, to be more specific: DARK REIGN: THE LIST-- X-MEN #1 isn't just about castration anxiety and gynophobia, but very specifically, the castration anxieties and gynophobia of a middle-aged man.

Here is a second attempt at explaining the context of this comic:

"Man Versus Castration Anxiety" has been a recurring theme for this generation of Marvel Comics "events". The first major "Event" CIVIL WAR began when Captain America was asked to submit to the authority of a woman named Maria Hill.

Captain America then initiates an all-out superhero civil war rather than take orders from a woman. At the conclusion of the comic, Iron Man has won that contest; however, the comic goes bizarrely out of its way to assure the reader that the patriarchal order has been restored: the comic's celebratory final three pages feature Iron Man forcing Maria Hill to get him coffee.

civil The CIVIL WAR can only truly end once a woman is put back in her "place". CIVIL WAR was then followed by a comic called-- oh God, here I go again-- SECRET INVASION, in which an alien Queen attempts to institute a matriarchy on Earth. In response, the Earth's superheros murder the Queen, specificially by repeatedly destroying the Queen's head. In issue 7 of the series, her head is shot through with arrows. In issue 8, it is revealed that she's survived the arrows, but then her head is blown off by the Green Goblin. In the same panel as her head being blown off is a drawing of Wolverine, poised to slice into her head with his adamantium claws.

The comic takes a perverse glee in damaging this woman's head, basically. Freud often suggested that the head was a symbol of the repressed desires of the lower body, that is to say, he often associated the female head with a vagina. As David D. Gilmore explained in "Misogyny: the Male Malady": "Freud wrote a paper specificially on this subject, 'The Medusa's Head' published posthumously in 1940. [...] Freud argues that Medusa's head represents the vagina in general and the mother's vagina in particular, the archetypal 'hairy maternal vulva'. Here is the Oedipal terror displaced to the head: Medusa embodies both mother and woman, and the hairy vulva typifies incestuous temptation." The SECRET INVASION can only end when the offending vagina has been destroyed.

As DARK REIGN's primary antagonist the Green Goblin was a male, one might have worried that the theme would not continue into present event. Luckily for Marvel Comics: DARK REIGN: THE LIST- X-MEN #1. The Green Goblin is not only an evil man with evil man plans, but he also literally has his own vagina. He was just waiting for the right moment to unleash it onto the Marvel Universe, apparently.

beyondthevalley14 DARK REIGN: THE LIST-- X-MEN #1 transforms the DARK REIGN event into a battle between the patriarchy of the Marvel Universe and an evil hermaphrodite.

Here is how the comic concludes:

Namor the Sub-Mariner's ex-wife is seen on various pages munching men to death. Accordingly, Namor the Sub-Mariner murders his ex-wife, rips off her head, and throws her severed head through a window at the Green Goblin.


Vagina dentata myths typically end with the teeth being destroyed, and the vagina made safe at last for penis. That seems to be what's happened here: Namor has apparently kept the bottom half of his wife's vagina-body, presumably to have sex with it at his leisure. Note that Alan Davis has reinforced the Green Goblin's hermaphorditic nature by his positioning of the severed head: Green Goblin is all man for the top half; all woman for the bottom half.

(Unfortunately, the reader doesn't get to see how Namor leaves the scene after throwing his ex-wife's severed head through a window, but-- whatever the reader devises in their head about how that scenes goes would probably be too hilarious to top).

Here is a Third Attempt at Context:

This is the second time that Namor has apparently murdered his ex-wife; and to be clear, not A ex-wife, but this specific ex-wife. From Wikipedia: "When [Marrina] became pregnant, the Plodex DNA reacted to her condition by turning her into a savage beast in the North Atlantic Ocean, a Leviathan. Namor was forced to slay her, impaling her with the Black Knight's enchanted Ebony Blade."

Namor being forced to kill Marinna, his ex-wife who has involuntarily become a savage sea-monster...?

That's been done before.

Dude: motherfucker's a re-run.

What the what now?

Obvious caveat: a wikipedia summary isn't the same thing as reading the Walt Simonson comics from 1988 referred to in the Wikipedia footnotes. There may be some quite rational explanation for why the motherfucker would seem to be a re-rerun, and a Wikipedia page isn't enough to draw any hard conclusions from. And hell: being reminded of the Simonson-Buscema-Palmer AVENGERS run isn't the worst thing that can happen to your day. The Kang/Dr.Druid shit in that run was fucking crazy-ass, says me, age 12.

Here are Two Digressions about Television and Movies:

98910945 Digression #1: No physical confrontation ensues after Namor throws his wife's head through a window. There's no conflict for a physical confrontation to resolve; the story has attained an equilibrium: the comic has begun with Green Goblin threatening to castrate Namor; it ends with Namor threatening to castrate the Green Goblin. What's interesting to me here is that the Green Goblin has a "witty comeback" to having his own ruined vagina thrown at him:

ax2 Green Goblin does not actually respond in any meaningful way, but only quotes the catchphrase regularly repeated by the bad guys of telvision's the PRISONER. Green Goblin is evil, inter alia, because he says dialogue that evil people on television say.

Digression #2: The story of DARK REIGN: THE LIST-- X-MEN #1 is also basically a story about a strange foreign man (Namor) who teaches his nebbish American cousins (the X-Men) how to tame the fairer sex (vagina monster)

zohan This is essentially the story of YOU DON'T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN, Adam Sandler's hit 2008 film about a Israeli super-agent (Zohan) who teaches nebbish American Jews (Nick Swardson) how to tame the fairer sex (Emmanuelle Chriqui). At the conclusion of UTOPIA, Namor joined the X-Men to live on an island nation that X-Men fans appear to be taking to be a metaphor for ... the state of Israel. Coincidence... or Zohan?


Well, okay, that one's probably coincidence.

Here is My Favorite Dialogue from the Comic: xxx1

The next panel is a giant monster head flying through a window.

Here is a Fourth and Final Attempt at Context:

The comic was created by Matt Fraction, writer of the independent comic CASANOVA (which was not published in this calendar year), a comic often described as "psychedelic."

Also published this year: various mediocre Batman comics written by Grant Morrison, writer of the psychedelic comic classic THE INVISIBLES.

J.H. Williams, prior to 2009: PROMETHEA. J.H. Williams in 2009: BATWOMAN.

Paul Pope prior to 2009: HEAVY LIQUID, say. Paul Pope in 2009: ADAM STRANGE comics. hodgman December's not over, but I'm going to go ahead and declare 2009 a victory for my fellow squares. Poindexters, and materialists. For those keeping track at home, that's squares: 1,000,000 billion. Heads: zilch.

Here is a Link to the Crusher:

This doesn't really have anything to do with DARK REIGN: THE LIST-- X-MEN #1, but I just love the Crusher.

Here's the part where I just throw my hands up and says "Marvel Comics are TOO good":

Namor the Sub-Mariner's ex-wife Marrina didn't take his last name, at least on her Wikipedia page. She's not referred to as Marrina the Sub-Mariner. Her last name?


Marrina Smallwood.

Oh, God.

So an argument can be made that Namor must kill his ex-wife, repeatedly, not only to resolve his and the audience's castration anxiety, but because the Marrina character is an embodiment of Namor and the audience's insecurities over the size of their manhoods. Marrina mocks the audience, by her very existence, and so that existence must be ended through loving male violence. TWICE.

True believers, we will agree: Marvel Comics are TOO good.

Here are two quotes I saw today that I want to conclude this one:

"I always believe in following the advice of the playwright (Victorien) Sardou. He said, 'Torture the women!' The trouble today is that we don't torture women enough." -- Alfred Hitchcock

"As for suffering: I believe that there are fewer people than ever who escape major suffering in this life. In fact I'm fairly convinced that the Kingdom of God is for the broken-hearted." -- Mr. Rogers