In the ever constant attempt to make the site more timely and more consistent, this Comics Of The Weak is extra long, as Tucker tries to get us up to snuff with two Weaks worth of the Comics. Even more books doesn't mean Even More Better.
Lobster Johnson # 1 & 2
Written by Mike Mignola
Art by Jason Armstrong
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Mignola may have spread himself too thin, adding another series to his little Hellboy/BPRD universe with this latest mini-series featuring the oddly named "Lobster Johnson." While it's always a pleasure to read a comic where the main character threatens to attack evildoers with "the overdue hand of justice" (meaning he's going to burn them with his Lobster's Claw), the character isn't really something that cries out for its own comic book. Two issues in, it's unclear whether this is supposed to be one of those omnipresent "fun romp comics" where it's more about everybody (readers and publishers) winking at each other across the store aisle, or if Mignola has something literary or arty (or whatever you call comics that are worth 3 bucks) planned for the character. The art is by a newer addition to the Dark Horse stable of "artists who aren't as great as Mike Mignola, but still better than most of the guys at DC," and it is seeped in the sort of nostalgic pulpiness that Mignola's writing requires to take seriously. At this point though, this is a pretty meager work, and it's so derivative of Hellboy that it reads as the comic equivalent of Models, Inc. If there's one thing Mignola's Hellboy universe doesn't need more of, it's nefarious Nazi villains who team up with snake monsters. Ninja villains might be nice. Or pirates. Not a lot of pirate villains in comics.
The Vinyl Underground # 1
Written by Si Spencer
Art by Simon Gane & Cameron Stewart
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics
Si Spencer writes a television show called Torchwood, which, if the previews are an accurate portrayal of the show, is totally awful and unwatchable. Vinyl Underground, his new Vertigo comic, reads more like a press release about a comic book that might also make an awful television show, with each of the main characters (four by the close of this issue) introduced with long-winded dialog boxes where the reader finds out that A) these people are really boring, so boring that one of them has to tell us about how he's sober now because he embarrassed his dead football star father when he nailed two girls and got name-checked on Page Six B) one of them is a asthmatic, autistic, psychic ex-con survivor of molestation and C) one of them is named Juicy Lou, an "arsonist and nymphomaniac porn virgin, the only on-line porn star that never goes all the way." To add to that delightful description, which made this reader want to vomit my brain out of my eyeballs, Juicy Lou is also a genius at forensic science and she has incredible fighting skills. The other girl is black--you know, because the three white characters need about 700 character traits, but black people are totally black and therefore interesting. They don't need personalities or anything. They just need to be, well, you know. Black. Although I have zero interest in ever reading this piece of shit beyond this issue, I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that someone acknowledges her race in every issue that this thing runs. By the end of the comic, the team is thoroughly ready to go solve some crime by sending the solution to some detective along with some Otis Redding albums, because that's what cool, hip individuals do. They listen to Otis Redding (on vinyl, get the title? How clever!) while solving crimes and then send the info to the police. Along with a copy of the album, so the detective can see what kind of mood this little Stereogum version of the Scooby-Doo gang was in when they were drinking chai lattes in their clubhouse. Which they actually refer to as a clubhouse. Jesus.
Metamorpho Year One # 1
Written by Dan Jurgens
Art by Dan Jurgens & Jesse Delperdang
Published by DC Comics
Considering the amount of hits this website gets, it's a fair assumption that no one at DC noticed that i'd made the now completely incorrect proclamation that comics writers never mess up the Metamorpho character a few weeks back. With Metamorpho Year One, that's been proven totally incorrect: Dan Jurgens can't write Metamorpho well at all, which is sort of ironic when you consider that Dan Jurgens is the guy who wrote that whole Death of Superman comic series that your cousin (who doesn't like or read comics) owns all the issues of, because he thinks he's going to pay for his kids college with them. (Your cousin is an idiot.) You'd think Jurgens wouldn't be able to screw up the DC Comics equivalent of tee-ball. But man, watch him go! Note to DC: characters who have origins as dumb as Metamorpho don't need an origin story. The guy just touches a meteor. That doesn't need six issues to tell. It's just "Hey, Meteor" and Boom goes the dynamite. That's like three panels.
Action Comics # 856
Written by Geoff Johns & Richard Donner
Art by Eric Powell
Published by DC Comics
Eric Powell is still something of an unknown factor here at the Factual Offices. We understand he writes a comic called The Goon, which is well liked by people who have some alright tastes. A copy of Satan's Sodomy Baby, a nasty piece of filth that was pretty entertaining is the only piece of his work that's been read by this writer. This issue of Action is his second, handling art details for the Johns & Donner team, a team notorious for starting a second storyline without actually finishing their first one. As with that first aborted story, the comic itself is light on the dialog and heavy on the action, which means you can read it in about thirteen seconds. It's also about Bizarro, which is a really bad call when you're following up a scant few months after Grant Morrison wrote about Bizarro, because he's, you know, better at writing. Still, if Donner & Johns have taught comics readers anything in the past year, it is that they could care less about finishing a story, much less writing one that is worth anyone's time.
Detective Comics # 837
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Don Kramer & Wayne Faucher
Published by DC Comics
This month of Detective showcases the return of Paul Dini after a few months away, where he apparently got drunk, forgot how to write a comic book that anyone would enjoy reading, and then turned in a script anyway. Don Kramer, who's probably a really nice guy, or at least better be, since he can't draw for shit, took that script (and it's a real page turner) and threw some pencils on the page, all of which feature a bunch of characters no one wants to read about, and then DC sold it to this reader. Lots of fun stuff here, if by fun you mean the Riddler teaming up with Harley Quinn, Batman not showing up until the final page, and a bunch of guest appearances by people like Catwoman's old sidekick, a reformed prostitute orphan person. Of course, there's a bunch of half-naked women fighting in towels, so if you are one of those comic readers who can't afford Cinemax, than lock your door and buy some Lubriderm.
Omega The Unknown # 1
Written by Johnathan Lethem & Karl Rusnak
Art by Farel Darymple & Paul Hornschemier
Based on a Story by Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes & Jim Mooney?
Published by Marvel Comics
Yes, it's that Johnathan Lethem, the one who wrote Motherless Brooklyn. How much he's involved in the writing in this comic isn't exactly clear--Karl Rusnak handles the dialog for a story that is "A Version of an Unfinished Dream" by Gerber, Skrenes & Mooney. Which means it's an old comic that Lethem is redoing--which is kind of okay, since Lethem's best work is when he reworks old archetypal stories into a fresh narrative. Still, Motherless Brooklyn was Raymond Chandler with Tourette's Syndrome. This time his source material is an odd comic book few people remember. That doesn't really equal Raymond Chandler as a starting point. The art, by Farel Darymple, has more in common with the MOME quarterlies than it does with Marvel's regular fare, which helps the comic to seem less like a goofy (yet still pretty standard) superhero comic book. It's too early in the series to be able to tell if this is going to be the sort of literary experiment that's successful--it's certainly interesting enough, but "interesting" can also work to define a comic book featuring a naked librarian who's fighting a giant cupcake. All that being said, Factual will hang on until the end of this series, good or bad, just because there's no way Lethem can ever write a comic that's as bad as something by Tony Bedard.
There's people who are enjoying this comic book. That's the most unsettling thing about reading it. There's people who are actually looking forward to it when it arrives at stores. One imagines them curled up with low-fat ice milk, which is sort of like frozen yogurt that's been boiled and refrozen, and then they take out the staple of their copy of Wolfman's latest "Please Help Me I Don't Have Any Food In This Well" version of a Nightwing comic, and carefully put the pages in a scrapbook, reading as they glue. Then they crawl under some version of an breast cancer quilt and cry themselves to sleep while listening to ocean sounds. Then they get up and teach your children social studies, or whatever geography is called these days in shitty Midwestern public schools.
This is the 7th part of a big storyline going on in the Green Lantern comics that people will tell you that you don't need to know anything about to enjoy. That's a hefty exaggeration. You need to know some stuff--like what Mogo is, and what the Guardians are, and who Sinestro is, and, see. Gone already, right? If you know what some of that stuff is, then this thing isn't that bad. It's big stupid fight comics, where the bad guys outnumber and outcrazy the good guys, and every issue basically ends on a cliffhanger, but it's done pretty effectively. Considering how random quality craftsmanship is showing up on the spandex books lately, that's actually a pretty nice compliment.
JLA/Hitman # 2
Written by Garth Ennis
Art by John McCrea
Published by DC Comics
Well, that was pretty quick. Wasn't the first issue out about a week ago? Either way, Garth Ennis violates enough of the standard Justice League story tropes that this short mini-series reads as a hell of a lot more revolutionary than anything else they've done since they tried to make the Wonder Twins relevant back in the late 90's. First off, Batman gets taken out of the picture almost immediately, whereas anybody who's read JLA in the last 10 years knows isn't exactly meat and potatoes writing. Beyond that, Superman, when rescued from the death trap of the last issue, fails to get up and go, leaving the success of the issue in the hands of Tommy Monaghan--the "Hitman" in the title. Tommy does what no one really expected him to do--kills 12 innocent people, saving the JLA and the world in the process. Then the comic ends with the rest of the team turning him over to the police and Superman admitting that neither he nor Batman could really be expected to handle things like World War II because they refuse to make the choices that 19 year old US servicemen make on a regular basis. In a thinly veiled act of contempt, Garth Ennis showcases why realism and superhero comics don't mix: because there are real situations where men have to kill to succeed, and Superman and Batman don't really have the "moral courage" to get their hands dirty. Whether that sits well with someone's political beliefs, Ennis frames it in such a way that his conclusion is basically undeniable. In addition, these two issues are laced with enough sardonic humor to outshine the last 50 issues of the regular JLA series.
Criminal # 9
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Published by Icon/Marvel Comics
Criminal is a bit of an oddity. Now knee-deep into it's second storyline, it's clear that Brubaker is highly qualified at writing this sort of neo-noir work, yet the man feels the itch to publish it in comic format. Why? A wider audience is sure to be found if the work was written for television or film, and the requisite cry that the work would be diluted and bastardized after leaving his hands doesn't really apply--each and every issue is full of pages where Brubaker professes his love for the Hollywood version of these kind of stories. Instead, the comic shows up alongside Thor and whatever the Amazons are doing. (Attacking?) It's not to disparage the comic--it's quite good, and would be missed. Still, doesn't Brubaker, like most writers, crave for a bit more of an audience? Even if Criminal was outselling spandex books, which it probably never will, the amount of people who buy comics is never going to equal the audience a film could find. Either way, Criminal is an excellent comic book, and one of the few that lands on a strong footing every time.
Deathblow # 7
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Carlos D'Anda
Published by Wildstorm/DC Comics
Here's the thing: Brian Azzarello is a pretty damn good writer. Proof for that statement is found in his western blood-opera Loveless and his like-it-or-fuck-off-and-die 100 Bullets. Deathblow, however, doesn't make any sense. It's full of genius moments of weirdness: pint-sized government assassins who look like 7-year-old children, talking dogs who form a counter-intelligence group, and a crazed title character who kills muggers while wearing a homemade Ku Klux Klansman outfit, and doesn't seem to grasp that's what he is wearing. It's got kinetic artwork that does well to make the whole thing look like an exciting super-hero comic book, even though that disguises the fact that the whole thing is soaked in so much blood that it's just shy of disgusting.
But the story doesn't make any sense--and not in that way that Justice Society doesn't make any sense, where it's dumb and the logical jumps make the reader want to cry for the sheer stupidity--but the kind of "what the hell" where you feel like pages of exposition have not only been excised, but some of which have never been written. Deathblow reads more like some kind of a dream story, where the images embrace Freudian meanings and little of what occurs is endowed with a type of reality. It's a comic that's most enjoyable when it's read as if it's silent narrator is a liar, as if what's being shown isn't really happening. Either that, or Azzarello is just seeing how long he can collect a paycheck while producing a comic that has no actual big reveal coming. The latter is more likely--the only way this entire thing is going to reach, and embrace, a sensible conclusion is if the final issue contains a scene where an autistic child is looking at a snowglobe.
If you like your Justice League to always be the same, then here's the comic for you. It's one of DC's bestsellers, so "you" applies to a large group of people. (Although the comics version of "large" doesn't match up to any other definition of the world. Interestingly enough, Halo 3 apparently made $170 million on it's first day of release. First day. Justice League is a bestseller, and yet it reaches less people than those horrifically unsettling Tyler Perry films. Tell me again about how comics deserve a wider audience. No, Seriously. I won't laugh. Tell me again about why comics fans should be taken seriously, when this is what most of them want their comics to be like. Repetitive, overblown tripe, laced with tedious artwork and characters discernible only by their costume and their idiotic, mind-numbing "continuity.") This is why something as melodramatic and silly as Nana (the soap-operatic manga) sells so well and reads like it's the most revolutionary thing since penicillin. Because the best-selling stuff that DC has is the same shit they've been shoveling out forever.
You get the comics you deserve.
If there's a couple of thing that don't not cry out for satire, it's Rosie O' Donnell & the Colbert Report. That's the equivalent of making a gonzo satire out of the Airplane movies. The source material is already dancing with over-the-top parody. Also, Cooke is running into the same problem that Eisner flirted with in his original Spirit: when your main character is kind of a boring archetype, the best place for a writer to get creative is in the plot and villains. Then you end up with something where the title character is an irritation, a slow-moving Cadillac surrounded by vehicles that are faster, sexier, and not driven by my grandparents.
Bendis is trying to dig his way out of his most unoriginal story yet by throwing in some old tricks--big pointless fights, Peter trying to act like a grown up and a cliffhanger ending. In the current comic marketplace, where anything Marvel touches is reprinted somewhere around 7000 times, it might serve Bendis to remember that the repetition of story that saved the Lee's & Romita's of the past isn't going to go unremarked upon now. After all, not only did you read this comic sometime around 4 years ago, you've got a scan of it on your computer, a trade of it in your bathroom and a hardcover on a bookshelf. (I don't personally, but that's because I donate all my comics to children with AIDS or malaria or...i'm not sure what they have. They keep coughing. What's coughing mean? Tuberculosis? No, consumption. They have consumption.)
Without peer, this is one of the ugliest comics of recent memory. Noses grow out of people's ear canals, every characters eyes are malformed and lacking in even the most drunken symmetry--best of all, the colors are so poorly chosen that each artistic misstep is glaringly highlighted. If nothing else, this issue is more likely to be re-read and re-examined than any other recent purchase. It's a fine example of how, with just a little effort, the mediocre can be pushed to awful. Unlike the rest of the drivel that brings about this readers ire, this issue tried extra hard this month--and its abysmal failure is a sight to behold. On top of that, Tony Bedard wrote it. A true masterpiece like this hasn't been around since Youngblood.
The weakest issue of the series yet, and the only one that has art problems. Jock's work has never seemed this unfinished--even the cover is the worst in the mans career thus far. It's quite possible that his first four terrific issues got him a better job, and he's just trying to get the hell out of there. It looks like Andy Diggle is following him right out the door, too, as this issue is devoid of the bon mots that occurred in the last issue--nobody develops a horrendous drug addiction that they defeat in two pages, there's no clever "you are nature, nature is green, you have an arrow, now you have a name" moments. Just a page after page of filler with bad line work.
It seems that All Star Batman has finally started getting enough issues out to finally form some kind of opinion of the series.
Well, I mean it "seems" that way.
It's bad? No, it's a joke. Wait a second.
The advised way to read All Star Batman and enjoy it is by acknowledging that it's page after page of Frank Miller's contempt for the entire genre of superhero comic books. The most clever idea in it is probably the laughing stuff, where Batman jumps from the top of buildings, laughing hysterically as he breaks people's bones, lights them on fire and so on. (It's similar to Paul Pope's idea from Batman Year 100, where he had the titular character wear a massive set of fake teeth to give him a frightening appearance. Miller's version is just as unsettling, but it acknowledges that his is a Batman who seems to fully embrace the more psychopathic aspects of his behavior.) Miller has spent the better part of his career taking the entire spandex genre far too seriously--even his finest work has always been full of a sentimental embrace of the melodramatic that irritating fans call "realism", an argument Miller (mistakenly) seems to agree with.. Again, it's yet another comic that skirts with being interesting, but only when it's treated as an object to analyze--not when it's read. Here's the thing though--analyzing superhero comics is BORING. Nothing exciting or intellectually stimulating comes of it--at the base of it, there's not enough going on at the base of this stuff for the product of thought to be worth the investment. It's not that it takes a lot of effort, it's just that it takes any effort at all--and the end result is talking about something you would have been better off with not dealing in the first place.
This comic stands head and shoulders above all super-hero comics solely for the dialog between long-time ladies man Green Arrow and long-time relationship counselor Martian Manhunter. After all those years of comics fans and creators desperate to know why exactly Green Arrow has, on occasion, cheated on his super-hero girlfriend/fiance/murderer the Black Canary, Justin Gray has finally given us the answer: it's genetic. As anyone who's ever pursued any type of relationship knows, one of the most dangerous (and just plain impossible to predict) flaws that can collapse any future with a prospective partner is the genetic predilection for cheating. It's a nefarious fucker, that cheating gene.
The Immortal Iron Fist # 9
Written by Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction
Art by David Aja, Raul Allen, Scott Koblish & Roy Allan Martinez
Published by Marvel Comics
Two Iron Fist comics in one day should be an embarrassment of riches, shouldn't it? After all, the Immortal Iron Fist comic is a comic that's been pretty wonderful since it debuted, and the people helming these issues is (mostly) the same crew that's been handling those stories as well. Still, the immediate reaction is that the content of these pages seems to be pretty thin, considering the amount of ink involved. Instead of keeping the momentum of the Enter the Dragon meets Iron Fist story, the first of the two issues has Iron Fist lose to the so-ridiculous-he-blows-minds Fat Cobra, then peel off to hang out at a retirement home for ex-side-kicks. Then the old people tell him stories. This goes on for a long time, with a few breaks for stories, one of which involves pirates. As fun as that was to write as a sentence, it was pretty boring to read, and in the end this reader wanted more Fat Cobra.
-Tucker Stone, 2007