Jesus, a helicopter crash? The fucking Joker got shot in the chest multiple times with an AK47 at point blank range before his helicopter crashed, and he was back in action about five issues later. At least attempt to make it dramatic "Grant." (Use chaos magic! oh that's right that shit is made up) The most impressive thing about this issue is the backflip that has to be pulled off to argue for this to be a comic worth filing alongside truly good comics like the Doom Patrol, or Animal Man, or The Filth, or...shit, just about anything Grant Morrison has done. It's better then Aztek The Ultimate Comics For Compulsive Masturbating To Cartoons Man, but that's like saying that Spider-Man Blue is better then Wolverine: One Highlander has blonde hair, The Christopher Lambert One is a Brunette. It's not a prideful comparison, you see. You see? No, you don't see. Because "Oh Shit If You Read Zurenah backwards on page five, it says A Ne Ruz which is sort of like A New Ruse" so maybe everything will make sense in some future issue, you know, whenever, if it ever gets published, or if it doesn't, but either way, Tony Daniel actually draws a fight scene where he doesn't show the lead-up to the punch, or the point of impact, but hey, he draws it a couple of split seconds later, and it looks like shit. Like shit. Not "think about it and re-read it because of course you're missing something" looks like shit. It just looks: Like Shit. It's boring, ugly garbage. Sure, there's monkeying around in here that comes across with more dramatic impact then the Wildstorm Swimsuit Summer Special--Batman gets out of a coffin, and he does it all himself! That's an Accomplishment! Damian, the product of ye old Bat-sperm, runs an ambulance off a bridge, and even Alfred is too exhausted to emit anything but a feeble "probably shouldn't do stuff like that." But if the goal--and yes, this was the fucking goal make no mistake--was to do a Batman story that could stand alongside the hoary old classics, a story that could make good on the promise Grant showed for the character back when he said he wanted to bring back "the old Neal Adams hairy chested sex god Batman" (That being the original promise, the one he broke long before he broke the "my RIP conclusion issue is going to rock the last 70 years of Batman to the dirty core" promise) then hey, yes, no math required: Batman RIP is a miserable failure, and it's a miserable failure that actually sold out in stores in Wilmington fucking Delaware, because idiots read newspapers, and they thought this was going to be a big deal. But it's not, and it wasn't, and no matter what happens next--even if it's a "look, Patrick Duffy was in the shower all along" reveal--this ain't great, and it's a sad statement that yes, it'll probably get lionized as one. Stand alone, read together, thrown into the vacuum--whatever. The only way to read this dumb little trip into poorly drawn shlock as "a fantastic series of comic literature" is to compare it to Gotham Underground, and even then...well, which comic had a female Bane with vein-covered breasts? Take a bow, squandered talent. Make sure that you and your friend, lofty ambition, sign some autographs on the way out the door. There's a fucking line.
Of course, when you set the stakes a lot lower--like this, for instance--the hurdle can seem like a pretty easy jump. "Can seem" has to be thrown in there because the truth must be that it ain't that easy to do a decent comic book, or else companies like Dynamite (and Avatar, Image, DC, some dude in a garage) would be publishing those instead of Batman & The Outsiders and X-Force. Still, Garth has the gauge set at "basic" for this one, all he has to do is write down exactly what these Russian female bombers did in World War II, write down some random violence for the German targets/military squad, and then let Russ Braun borrow his copies of 1940's photography books to illustrate it. The heightened sense of place, persona and purpose that carried the stories he did on his Vertigo war-work, which is exactly what the whole Battlefields project is a continuation of, is markedly absent from this. That doesn't make it really bad or anything, but it certainly makes it somewhat unnecessary--especially when you can easily find copies of all the times he did better air combat comics at the same place you find Night Witches. Still, the lead characters are women, and if you just skip the next and final issue, you won't have to read about a tacked-on romance subplot. That does make it relatively unique. (The woman thing, not the tacked-on romance. Tacked-on romance is, when it comes to female lead characters, par for the goddamn course.)
How many people were confused by this cover, thinking it was a screw-up at Marvel? Hands down, after all--it only takes one: in this case, it was the one who runs the comic store that handles fielding the intern's scouting run. Good job, dumbass. No, it isn't the same as last months, although it's close enough that the irritation is somewhat lessened. One hopes not too many people were choosing to jump on board this particular title with this particular story--while it's certainly a comic that isn't going to confuse them, it's going to be one that makes them question why anybody referred to this comic as "special" in the first place. Brubaker deserves some leeway, sure--after all, he pretty much finished telling a 42 issue story not but two months ago, and is probably still trying to hammer out where he's going next--but that doesn't make this current three issue "break" any more compelling then it is, which is, unfortunately, not that fucking much. Of course, that might be his choice of bad guy--you can't really maintain the momentum of a Nazi body-possession, a dude with a microwave in his stomach, Santa Claus as a fat Third Reich psychiatrist and the death of the main character at the hands of his brainwashed pregnant girlfriend with some French douchebag in an orange costume who keeps jumping on things.
Hey, I came out. Did you read me? I'm so goddamn special, aren't I? Special all over your face. See, I was about video games, and sometimes I was cute, and sometimes I was clever, and if you walked away thinking "God, when is Johnny Ryan gonna start making fun of this guy?" then I achieved my purpose, which was to do exactly that. Did I have to compete with Batman RIP today? Oh I'm so cute and special and artistic. I bet you can't wait to read me. I'll make you believe in comics again, I will! I promise I will! Remember that part in the Care Bears movie where the Care Bears started asking you through the television screen to say "I care a lot" so that they (the Care Bears and you) could save the little kids who were stuck in the sinking rowboat? I'm as cute as that, and twice as classy! You can read me at a Fair Trade coffeeshop while you work on your novel about how girls don't understand you. Yay for comics!
No matter what does or doesn't come out of Jeph Loeb's already mid-failure Ultimatum, it seems unlikely that it's shadow will cast too much of a pall over Ultimate Spider-Man, the only saving grace of that miserable abortion of a once (almost) impressive line-up of competently put together super-hero comics. Despite the ups and downs of the overall imprint, the title has stuck to it's guns for a still impressive 128 issue run, telling stories that--while almost constantly familiar--read as if they were something everybody involved in them actually had a genuine desire to tell. This issue is just another one of those, with a stock-resurrection so tired it's almost asleep in the delivery, a false conclusion designed only to hint at what lays ahead in the future, and the painful indication that, yes, this title will have to acknowledge that Marvel has hired the creatively exhausted Loeb to try his hand at grabbing some of the attention for the line that he had helped to kill with his universally-loathed run on Mark Millar's Ultimates title. Still, Stuart Immonen & Bendis delivered what they were supposed to--a better fight scene then any of the ones in the more popular Secret Invasion, a more involving running gag then any of the ones that make up Wolverine's current personality, and a nice little bit of character development for the vastly more interesting version of Aunt May that this title has to work with. These aren't great comics. But by comparison with everything else the Ultimate imprint has to offer, it's an easy mistake to make.
It's still too early to make a blanket judgment on whether or not Joshua Dysart can tell a story that involves real-world African atrocity without it seeming like exploitative Paul Haggis level bullshit, but the day when the guy is going to have to shit or get off the pot is certainly on the way. It's one thing to rape nuns--hell, that's pretty much sport in American fiction at this point, Bad Lieutenant even has a remake on the way--but if the closing pages of this story are any indication, the next issue could be a child-killing fiesta, and it's been a while since that sort of nasty was the order of the day. (Saint of Killers? It's likely this will have a comparable body count.) The level of depravity that Unknown Soldier takes shouldn't be the barometer of it's quality, and excepting for a certain class of loser, it won't be--but if Dysart's desire to do something serious (as well as entertainingly pulpy) is for real, then he's going to have to start taking some fucking chances. So far, there's nothing here that would've been out of place in an old Denny O'Neill Question story, except for the setting--and the Question was published like 800 years ago. Man up, Dysart.
This is really going nowhere, huh? That's not really surprising--you can't do a whole lot with a bunch of non-descript werewolves, none of whom are distinguishable in or out of werewolf form. It might help if Ben Templesmith's odd--yet still intriguing--style of artwork allowed for a bit of excitement when it came time for a couple of werewolves to fight to be scoutmaster of this group of Webelos, but then it probably would lose some of it's Temple-weirdness, which is pretty much the only selling point something this generic has going for it. If the end is an indication of a future status quo for the title--that being one that doesn't involve the whole thing playing out in a prison/mental asylum/any building with lots of brown hallways--then it might still have a future to it, but it's high time for this guy to try drawing scenes that occur in the daytime, and aren't colored with a spray can of "rusty shadow." Otherwise, Hoxford is just going to become "that comic you wish Ben would quit doing because everybody would rather read Wormwood."
-Tucker Stone, 2008