And so the Rucka/Trautmann era of Checkmate ends, and it's with neither a bang nor a whimper, but a bunch of supposed bad ass muthas cuddling with some really hideous lizard babies. While that sentence, in itself, sounds pretty fantastic, it's more of a cogent description of failure than the zooma-zoom-zoom implies. After all, one of the things that the best Rucka writing has to offer is unpredictability, and there's nothing more predictable than super-heroes not killing babies. But in the Checkmate/DC philosophy, nature vs. nurture boils down like this: Nature (genetically and murderously engineered killing machines of doom) will never beat Nurture (in this case, bad ass robots and cowgirls cuddling babies.) What's that? You don't want to read comics about killing babies? Well, hell, you didn't read Checkmate anyway, so it's not like you get to have a vote.
It's kind of odd to not have read anything that this mini-series or it's spin-offs has offered in the last ten months, only to pick it up on the final issue and discover that...well, that is seems to be exactly the same as it was then. That Mary Marvel character is wandering around being mean, Jason Todd is mumbling about Batman on roof-tops, and the Monitors are still terribly named and wearing dumb outfits. Obviously, something must have happened, as the Atom-person is there, being mopey. Jimmy Olsen says he has the "story of the century/millennium/some wording we can't be bothered to remember," but that "no one will believe it." Fucking A Jimmy, I can't believe somebody based a 52 part comic series on you and a bunch of other characters that have no more pop-cultural cachet than Bubble Tape. I'm with you, I don't "believe it" either. It's not like we can call this a disappointment when we didn't read the other 200 parts of it, but hell, if you're going to use that kind of reasoning than you can't call sex with a dead body "gross." But that's what sex with a dead body is, it's fucking gross. So was Countdown. And you can drink away the memory of fucking a body.
Once again, a new Justice League of America issue takes an interesting sounding idea that would have been dealt with in a couple of pages in the Giffen/DeMatteis League and stretches it out an entire issue. Apparently the Flash, who is the "fastest man alive" (except for all the people who can keep up with him) can't be bothered to come to Justice League meetings, and Wonder Woman got sent to talk to him. In other words, yeah, no, that's it. There's no "other words" to describe this. Sure, there's a fight sequence, but it's delivered in such a mercenary fashion that the script for this issue was probably a transcription of the dialog to be delivered, and a page that said "Insert Fight Sequence" in the middle. If the intent with this issue was to get the 100,000 people who buy the JLA to join the dwindling numbers keeping up with the Flash and Wonder Woman, then, for the team here at least, it failed.
If there were more issues of Mighty Avengers like this one, this series wouldn't be constantly used as the comic book example of poorly thought out concepts that it has become. (Yes, that means it was good. Hell, it was fucking great. They should have all issues of Mighty Avengers be about Nick Fury and his newly shaved head, but they should keep calling it Mighty Avengers, and Alex Maleev should be drawing comics all the time.)
Flashback stories are rarely worth doing. Usually, the only thing they end up producing is disappointment, both because they read like the time-fillers that they often are and because they succeed mostly in destroying the intrigue of a characters personality by jacking in some kind of half-ass "motivation" for their current...angst, or whatever bullshit emotion they're yakking about. Comics aren't the sole place to find this kind of irritation, if anything, film and television are the worst offenders. While there's no dead kitten or failed marriage in this issue of Northlanders, there is an aspect of it that is all a bit wearying. The surprise factor of the last issue was that the bad guys showed the good guy they were willing to track down his ex-girlfriend and cut off her head to show they meant business. The good guy got really upset, and was clearly very upset about it because he still thought she was pretty spectacular. This issue consisted of showing their previous relationship, from when her head was still attached to her body and still working, and kissing him, and what that meant to him--but who really cares? It's a blank that didn't need to be explicitly filled in. Nobody needed some dull story about growing up, about sex, about lurv. We didn't need it because the last issue let us know all we needed to--that he loved her, and that killing her made him want to kill them.
Ms. Marvel # 26
Written by Brian Reed
Art by Adriana Melo, Mariah Benes & Chris Sotomayor
Published by Marvel Comics
Ultimate Spider-Man # 121
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger & Justin Ponsor
Published by Marvel Comics
And so we reach the point where we don't really have the time or the proper frame of mind to deal with reviewing some comics that were either somewhat engaging while ugly to look at (Batman), completely unmemorable (Ms. Marvel) or pretty much the same, while not irritatingly the same. (Ultimate Spider-Man) So, blah blah shitty art plus Grant Morrison equals shitty art plus Grant Morrison, Secret Invasion cross-over failed to convince the reader that missing the first 25 issues of Ms. Marvel was a mistake and Ultimate Spider-Man is a decent form of entertainment in the same way that anything else is that only takes about ten minutes or so to read, so hopefully the price won't ever go up without a corresponding wage increase, because it isn't worth much more than the three dollars it cost.
What else do you want, anyway? The Factual has been operating on a skeleton crew for the last three days--the only reason these even got talked about was because the office is the only place you can smoke in Brooklyn without some angry Phish types making those coughing noises that only succeed in making you want to hit them with a golf club, Austrian style. Everybody who normally helps out with these things--the coffee makers, the store-runners, the associate editors who will receive neither byline or a living wage--they've all been sent here to handle final arrangements, and the satellite offices have been sent here to prepare fruit cocktails. All reviews are being given to you raw, like cocaine straight from Bolivia, and Cash Rules Everything Around Me, and I don't really give a shit about figuring out some way to praise Grant Morrison for writing another Batman comic that deserves a better art team, or coming up with a new way to point out that adding Secret Invasion to a shitty comic book just ends up making Secret Invasion seem shitty, or reworking the same complimentary write-up that Ultimate Spider-Man gets every time it comes out. Honeymoon, ice cold, swimming pools, interviews with the BBC. Busy beavers, building a dam.
See you on the flip.
-Tucker Stone, 2008