And so it begins, the much a-waited Garth Ennis goes after the X-Men by way of his "hey this comic isn't as good as Brat Pack" The Boys. While all the Animal House homaged cover contains (besides a really rank masturbation gag) is a one page introduction of the characters--who, unsurprisingly answer their own mansion door by striking fighting poses despite being fully aware they are greeting invited guests--it's a beaut. The only complaint that could be leveled at the page might be that if the Wolverine character is going to have hammers for hands, couldn't they be upholstery hammers instead of these, which look like some kind of sledge hammer? It's a minor tweak, but god: upholstery hammers. As hands. Dynamite would just be printing money.
What does Captain America think about when he's using one of those machine guns you have to set up on a tripod to shoot enemy soldiers who, due to the poorly designed panels of this comic book, are actually running away from him? Well, he thinks about how he's such a badass because he's "from the lower east side." You'll want to note that part of the comic, because except for that one sequence, where Steve Rogers massages his own ego while shooting soldiers in the back, this comic is yet another chapter in the library of stories that are so repetitious in plot that they read like some kind of inside joke. Here's the basic story: Cappy goes into Nazi Germany to rescue a rogue scientist looking to defect. Does his plane blow up in transit? Does his one compatriot, a brunette woman, turn out to be a traitor? Is he captured and incarcerated next to the scientist, so the scientist can give him some key information before he breaks out in some kind of amazing feat of willpower and strength? And then does he get his chance to give his captor, a man who easily bested him earlier in the story, the comeuppance all scar-faced Nazis deserve? Yes, of course she does, the scientist even has a bad accent, and Cap actually rips out the Nazi's eye before he stands in a splash page against a fire and uses the words "a chance for tomorrow." Now, you may like your comics to be completely predictable and poorly drawn. If so, here that comic is. Enjoy the television dinner your mother is warming up for you, you stupid fuck.
There aren't that many testaments to short-sighted writing that are as jaw-droppingly dumb as creating a bunch of characters who showcase their power by vomiting some acidic form of viscous fluid. Sure, if this whole candy-colored clown twist on the old Lantern mythos doesn't work, then hey: this is just a weird little comic that will seem awesome in 50 years when lazy bloggers are looking to fill up posts with the requisite out-of-context panel of a kitty-cat purring right before it vomits on dude's face. Well, of course. That's just fact. But on the flipside? Say Red Lanterns, through sheer feat of some type of analytic gymnastics, become really, really popular. Like so popular that a whole bunch of comics readers start buying comics featuring them. Say they get one of those company wide crossovers, like the one DC did for the Joker a few years ago. Say Red Lanterns turn out to be the next Venom, or the next Tim Drake, hell, what if they actually want to make a movie and use these blood-vomiting, shitty poetry quoting, nondescript ridiculous characters as the heavy: god, that'll be fucking fantastic. Because if there's one thing that will never, never never never, get old, it's this comic book, these characters, and that dumbass oath.
The best thing Mike Mignola could've done when it came time for him to return to drawing duties on his successful Hellboy character would've been to do exactly what he's done here, which is tell a simple done-in-one story that doesn't demand the reader do anything other then marvel at how well the guy can tell simple done-in-one stories. Considering that the sales for the issue are certain to do well, as anecdotal evidence (based off those terrible letters they keep printing in the back of previous Hellboy issues) indicates there are still people out there who only care about the character when Mignola is drawing it, trying to deal with where the world of the Hellboy universe has gone since the publication schedule was so dramatically amped up would have been asking him a bit much. All in all, Chapel of Moloch is little more then an exercise in standard Hellboy misadventure, with a big monster and a running "ripping-off-Goya" gag, but the whole thing is surrounded by so much affection that it's hard to get irritated by. Marvel Comics, take note: if you want to repeat yourself ad nauseum, this is how you do it--with enough passion so that the end always seems to be vaguely in doubt.
If nothing else, Night Witches will hopefully lead some people to look into the real women they were based on--even if that's only to the wikipedia entry on the subject, which includes links to all kinds of information about what was the most highly-decorated unit in the Soviet Air Force. It seems unlikely that Garth will need to do much beyond the most basic character work for this comic to be quite entertaining--the real Night Witches were something else, and there very real feats of bravery and precision air war against the German Army are more then enough to fill three issues. Russ Braun, a newcomer to the Garth Ennis team-up, acquits himself well, although he may be overdoing it when it comes to the breasts department. Knowing Ennis obsessive reading of war history though, these characters are probably based off some old black and white pictures. Still--jesus christ, it's kind of distracting to make them that big.
Huh. This doesn't seem to follow the rules of literature, and it doesn't really look like a run-of-the-mill comic book. It's almost like this Kevin Huizenga guy has been bombarded with an amazing amount of personal and cultural baggage and that he's decided it's his job to sort it out and make sense of it while deciding what's worth keeping (and passing on.) He's taken a real risk in betting that readers would find that process entertaining, or moving, or helpful in some way.
If you're the type who wants to get a gander at what Paul Pope's eventual 50 page fight scene in Battling Boy might look like, you could do a hell of a lot worse then checking out the 70 page one that closes out this latest installment in Del Ray's translation of Iwaki's Parasyte. Of course, if you prefer your comics to be slow-moving exercises in excruciating emotional dialog regarding relationships you don't care about, you could also check out this volume, since it has a bit of an overdose of that as well. Thankfully, all that stuff, most of which consists of a girl that no one on Earth could possibly fall in love with unless they have a fetish for one-note neediness dressed up in ugly school uniforms and your mom's haircut, is interspersed between sequences where people get their heads sliced off. It's the biggest question of 2008--can you tolerate something that makes The Hills look like Jane Austen long enough to read something that would make David Cronenberg masturbate himself raw?
It takes a lot of balls to enter the fictional word of telling a story about a Japanese train, after all, didn't Akira Kurosawa pretty much kill that field totally with High and Low? Luckily, it's Yuchi Yokoyama handling the storytelling details here, in yet another PictureBox publication sure to cement the publishers name in the fields of "this is cool and all but how the fuck do you stay in business publishing this kind of stuff" reputation. If you're the target audience for this--a delightful high octane silent manga with a "story" that builds and builds until the final pages read like some kind of weird fever dream--then you probably already picked it up. If you're not, hey. That's why God invented bedpans and in-home nursing staff, you silly, silly old man.
Apparently spider-powers isn't all that Peter Parker got; he's also blessed with the most pathetic sexual libido of any 15 year old on Earth. Seriously, if this comic is to be believed, if it's really supposed to be swallowable that Peter wouldn't drop his pants and prematurely ejaculate the second after Mary Jane Watson tells him that she wants to, you know, "do it," then the creative team needs to stop treating the character like a sexualized super model and putting MJ into sleek, crack-nibbling thong underwear every other issue. While there's probably some kind of prize to give for this comic book catering to that oh-so-important part of the world that sits around having shitfits anytime that teenagers take it past the grind-erection-into-zippered-jeans stage, this is a comic book that's earned a little bit of the old in-and-out. Christ, it took less time for Brenda and Dylan to fuck, and they didn't have multiple near-death experiences within which to cement their "chemistry."
-Tucker Stone, 2008