The final issue of this mini-series ends pretty much the way you'd expect a mini-series about a super-hero's origin--he doesn't die, and he wins in enough of a heroic fashion that, instead of returning to a normal life after his trials, he buys a bunch of material from a dance supply store and starts hanging out on rooftops. Still, whatever kinks Jock had in the most recent issue have clearly worked them self out--the art here is stellar. Crashing action sequences, nice linework and just all around dynamic presentation, Jock has got quite a unique style. There's nobody working in super-hero books that draws like this, and that's a damn shame. Whether this series has sold well enough for Diggle and Jock to return with something else will be determined in the next few months, or whenever the trade edition of this series is released. The worrisome thing about this Green Arrow series is how needless it was, and, considering that C-Grade hero Metamorpho is having a Year One mini as well, it looks like DC has more of these in the works. Origin stories are rarely worth the time--there's a reason why most of them can be dealt with in a scant few pages. Fleshing any super-hero out to six issues is always going to be sort of masturbatory and boring; after all, if the goal of Green Arrow Year One was to make the prospect of a leftist archer a realistic, human vigilante, than it failed tremendously. If the goal was to tell a better drawn-than-average super-hero story, than it was a success: but why couldn't it just have taken place in a regular comic book? There's nothing "definitive" about this series, and considering the reverence with which DC wants the reader to treat these characters, it ends up back in the failure box. That's way too schizophrenic of a response to have to something that's supposed to be entertaining.
Although original soliticiations for Loveless made it appear that the series would run for at least forty issues, it certainly seems that Azzarello is headed towards a finale. He has, after all, killed off his original protagonist, and, out of the two left standing, one spends the entire issue with a noose around his neck while trying to keep balance on a rickety stool. The other, Rose Cutter, hasn't been addressed for any extended period of time in months. This issue is no different, with her hiding somewhere in the crowd, or as the bride, at the wedding that's been planned by some side characters for the last few issues. Still, this being Loveless, and Azzarello being Azzarello, ruses are aplenty, as is a level of depraved hatred that is almost toxic. Standing on the stool, with death wrapped around his neck, a freed slave turned bounty hunter finally openly admits his guilt in the gang-rape of Rose--and in a truly shocking moment of misanthropy, tells those listening that he'd do it again, and he'd rape all of their women if he could. Azzarello, like Frank Miller, seems determined to destroy any level of currency he currently has with the "I Love Countdown & Mighty Avengers" contingent of comics buyers, and it's going to be a shame if he doesn't take on another long-form project when he finishes up this series. Hopefully, the lack of sales for Loveless hasn't left him with a desire to escape the horrible taste level of Direct Market comics.
Ed Brubaker has finally done the unthinkable--he's figured out a way to sideline a superhero's wife in a new, as of yet unimagined fashion. Rape, murder, teleportation, kidnapping, brainwashing--these have all been done before. But incarcerated due to a murder committed while under the influence of some kind of mind-altering fear drug? That's a pretty new one. It's also nice to see someone reminding Daredevil that, if he's so worried about his institutionalized wife, why not just break in and spend the night with her? He is, after all, someone who has no qualms about breaking in to places he's not supposed to be when it's to catch a jewel thief. While Daredevil is merely a pretty good comic in comparison to Brubaker's work on Criminal, it's still rare to read something that's this consistently entertaining.
Diggle has spent most of this recent four issue storyline, of which 237 is the conclusion, with his lead character on the sidelines, picking up scraps of information about a group of people who have been exacting revenge, possibly for years, on the people who have wronged them. He's done little to prevent the abuse, nor has he actually had much of an opportunity--but that's mostly because John is pretty lazy. By the time he stumbles, quite literally, upon the group in this issue, he's far too late to prevent them from killing both themselves and quite a few others. John being John, he runs away and saves his own ass. All in all, it's exactly what anyone expects from a Hellblazer comic, only it comes across as completely enthralling because it's done so well, and surrounded, as it always is, by comics that are done so poorly. Hellblazer, like Daredevil, will never reach the heights of art to which it may or may not aspire, but it certainly hasn't phoned it in for awhile now.
A lot of complaints get leveled against Marvel for not having any straight up heroes operating at the moment--Iron Man acting out an Orwellian wet dream, Spider-Man fantasizing about being single, Wolverine being, you know, a guy with claws who kills people, and Captain America decomposing. Yet none of that makes a lot of sense when you read Ultimate Spider-Man--it's light, decent fare, with a likable character, the same corny dialog that the characters famous for, and a consistent publishing schedule. However, it's written by Bendis, the guy that people who don't like Marvel comics seem to have chosen as the reason why all is wrong in the world--and that's pretty much the only reason this reader can see as to why it doesn't get more love. It's the best version of the character since the days of Ditko & Romita, and it does what any decent super-hero comic on a regular basis: it's appealing to the fabled "younger" reader, it's earnestly optimistic in a field rife with an infantile angst, and it's got a stable artistic team that fits with the narrative. It's an old-school comic book, in every sense of the description.
There's nothing in this entire issue about Robin being on his high-school tennis team, and whether or not Batman is still mad about that. (The logic being that, Robin being Robin, his secret identity may be compromised by being a total BADASS tennis player. The only problem with that is twofold--Robin isn't very good at tennis, and tennis is totally boring. If Robin was on the basketball team, then maybe. But tennis? Johnny Dullsville!) Still, that's the whole reason the issue was purchased. The tennis idea was pretty fascinating--would Batman sabotage the finals? Would Robin have to out-serve the Joker to save Aunt May? Instead, this is one of those issues where the hero talks to some dead person, so you can remember how tough it is for him to keep on going, and then it ends in a graveyard where he promises to keep up the fight, or keep hope alive, or never eat bread pudding. It's times like these when you wish DC Comics characters had to deal with a draft, and all of a sudden, in the midst of his whining, Robin had to clear land mines in an Iraqi hot zone. Lesson: If somebody named "Captain Boomerang" kills your father, your father was a douche and you're better off without him.
Green Lantern Corps # 17
Written by Dave Gibbons
Art by Pascal Alixe, Angel Unzueta, Dustin Nguyen, Patrick Gleason, Vicente Cifventes, Rodney Ramos, Rob Hunter, Marlo Alquiza & Prentis Rollins
Published by DC Comics
That's way too many artists for a regular comic book. It's nice that they're trying to keep this story on schedule, but horrendously irritating to read. There's no rhyme or reason to why the art is so divergent in the book--it's just different every couple of pages. Still, this Green Lantern experiment, which started off as a lark based on the recommendations of a few nice individuals has turned down a bit of a dead end. What's the appeal to having a book with this many characters? None of the female characters seem to be any different in personality, the males are identifiable by archetype, and the only drama seems to be who's going to die--but they kill somebody on every page, and it gets old fast. It's obvious why Green Lantern fans want to read this--it's fan-fiction porn gone-crazy. But who else is it supposed to appeal to? Are there really that many people who are going to prefer this version of a lame action movie over watching an actual lame action movie?
Ends the same way it started, with good Eric Powell art and a Bizarro story that isn't as good as the one that Grant Morrison wrote in All Star Superman. Two writers, for this? What is it, exactly, that Richard Donner does for this book? Does he lay on a couch, belching and saying random words, which Johns interprets into a script? "Bizarro Planet. Blue! Moon on fire! Crashing triangle. Papa? Papa." The only thing that made this comic in any way memorable was the Goldfish cracker ad, and then only because it's always mildly unsettling when food is given human traits, and then assists human beings in solving problems so they can get back to the business of eating the food that just helped them.
In the world of Gotham City, people actually talk like this: "[You're] about as happy to see me as a prostate exam. Not that I give two craps...save that nonsense for the mooks in bat pajamas."
Really? That's the best that Frank Tieri can come up with? Chester Gould's Dick Tracy is pretty good stuff, don't get me wrong, but can't DC even pretend that it's not 1950? Who calls people "mooks?"
The other, "omigod i can't be expected to take this seriously" moment that Gotham Underground brings to the table is the introduction of a character named "Tobias Whale" who looks like an albino version of the Kingpin and kills people with a FUCKING HARPOON. It's not enough that he's a, y'know, big white whale of a dude, but his name is WHALE, and he's got a, one more time, FUCKING HARPOON. Anytime people argue that violence and sexist content is there to appeal to new readers, Gotham Underground should be the comic that you whip out to prove that, no, DC's only financial plan right now is turning people away from comics as quickly as humanly possible. There's no audience for something this stupid. Except, apparently, me.
There are three stories here, one of them only a page long, all of them examining the minutiae of a storyline that isn't really much of a storyline anyway. The first, a brilliant and detailed portrayal of the seismic narrative involvement of the Hulk's dead wife, only re-imagined that she is the grieving spouse, and the Hulk is the one who is dead. An unstoppable tale, from start to finish, one that clearly had to be told. It's as if, to steal a reference, Mr. T had appeared in a Broadway production of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. Clearly, Greg Pak's talents, currently only showcased in that comic where Hulk is at war with somebody, are severely underutilized. The second story is mildly confusing, and not really interesting beyond the idea that, if stranded for long periods of time, the Hulk and Banner develop a relationship that includes totally separate lives. Then the Hulk gets skinny, but is still carved out of steel, and muscles. What? Final page is the Fred Hembeck story, a mildly funny 3-panel joke that gets stretched to the length of a page. Although this is probably the place to mention that it's better to end a bad comic on a good note, the Hembeck passage pretty much fits this entire issue: it's an idea, not really a story, so why the hell not?
If the horrible handling of the Wildstorm line can be referred to as a metaphorical abortion, then the publishing of The Authority: Prime could be referred to as the metaphorical fetus, which for some reason is still alive, crawling out of wherever they keep fetuses, and wandering around, trailing out everything that makes it a definable person. Considering that Darick Robertson has been on books that were pretty entertaining and decently written (Transmetropolitan, The Exterminators) and ones that are still published that are pretty entertaining and decently written (The Boys), one imagines that working on this thing, yet another boring orgy of nonsense featuring a bunch of characters that look and behave like they came out of a I-wish-I-wrote-X-Men sketchbook, must be pretty difficult. Christos Gage handles the scripting the way most writers have handled any of those Wildstorm books that have somewhere around 30 characters, most of which no reader has seen, or thought about, in a couple of years: he lets Darick Robertson draw a bunch of fight scenes, and he lets it end with the promise of more fights to come. That's pretty much it. But if you're looking for a super-hero comic that will make the Justice League and the New Avengers look Dickensian in comparison, Authority: Prime is your best bet.
Smart people like to joke around about killing and maiming gang rapists and childkillers. Usually though, it's just a random sarcastic comment like "God i can't wait til they fry that dirty sunufabitch." Gregg Hurwtiz is the guy who hangs around and keeps talking long after everyone has lost their appetite. There's not much to say about this issue, other than to acknowledge that yes, it's extraordinarily violent, even by the standards set about in the MAX line, and that it's only somewhat original in it's usage of said violence. Otherwise, this is really only worth your time if you're someone who feels that Natural Born Killers is a bit of a slog, and could have used more jump cuts.
-Tucker Stone, 2007