Comics Of The Weak: If Peter Milligan Had Written Fantasy Island, That Guy Probably Wouldn't Have Shot Himself
The Trial of Thor # 1 Written by Peter Milligan Art by Cary Nord & Christina Strain Published by Marvel Comics
Although part of Thor's schtick is that he spends his time in a world somewhat removed from our own, where He-Man figures walk around wearing layered outfits mixing Viking/Mongolian Horde/Knights of the Round Table styles while talking about Thor as if they're little girls at a slumber party--seriously, all you need to complete that vision would be footie-pajamas and the line "he's so dreamy too"--Milligan delivers two relatively smart bits of humor amongst the Cary Nord bloodfest to keep the whole ship afloat. The first is that Thor's home team has its own CSI team, although it's just one "smelly mage" who depends upon the Norse version of DNA, which is called "haltija..the true thatness of a thing." The second is that the title of the comic--The "Trial" of Thor--is a big ha ha joke. When Asgard tries to put Thor on trial, Thor sneers and says "How about I put YOU ON TRIAL BITCHES" and then he goes around owning the local police force with the cunning tactic of hitting people with a hammer, before reaching a Hugh Laurie style epiphany after throwing a temper tantrum. If only the last page of the comic included a bit of dialog where The Divine Hammer looked down at his erstwhile imitation and said "Suck it", this would just about be a perfect comic. (It would also help if Marvel Comics had any interest in subtlety when it came to coloring, but at this point reading any big two super-hero comics means you've long given up on caring about the Crimes Of Adobe.)
Batman Streets of Gotham # 1
Written by Paul Dini
Art by Dustin Nguyen & Derek Fridolfs
Published by DC Comics
Apparently Paul Dini is worried you aren't paying enough attention to him, beyond saying "oh the cartoon fella, the one who works with that Dustin Nguyen guy." His solution is to go for skeeving it out as much as possible, bringing in some of that good old "who wants to fuck a ten year old" action, because God knows that's necessary to make a Bat-Story work, some moment where we wallow in the swamp of ten-year-old prostitutes heading for that whole "I've shut down my emotional life due to horrible sexual trauma." The nice thing about it, and by nice, read disgusting, is that Dini does such a fine job of presenting a tiny tot rape victim that one can't help but think "hey, save her now, sure, but she's clearly been raped multiple times before, where was Batman then, pardon my weeping." While it's true that this is the sort of depravity that the aging Bat-reader apparently demands--not just costumed supervilliains, but abused little girl rape victims--that doesn't make it any more tolerable, especially when the story's climax reveals that the little girl probably was incinerated by the Firefly. Oh, and if that line about Star Trek is the sort of shit that was in that Manhunter comic on the regular, no wonder it got cancelled 800 times and is now appearing in back up features about how she's the worst job-hunter in the world.
Captain America # 600
Written by Ed Brubaker, Roger Stern, Mark Waid & Stan Lee
Art by Butch Guice, Howard Chaykin, Rafael Albuquerque, David Aja, Mitch Breitweiser, Frank D'Armata, Edgar Delgado, Matt Hollingsworth, Kalman Andrasofszky, Marte Gracia, Dale Eaglesham, Paul Mounts & Al Avison
Published by Marvel Comics
There's a potential here for the Bru to write a really strong, intelligent story that stays in line with the work he's done so far--but having faith that's coming-for-sure is a stupidly optimistic assumption based around a thought process where Marvel gives a rats ass about who works on their film properties. They don't. The evidence for that isn't hard to find either, it's in this particular issue itself: an opening story by Brubaker that does it's best not to collapse in on itself in shame and laughter due to the notion that the Steve Rogers resurrection is apparently built around a "magic bullet" fired by a "magic handgun" that Sharon the crybaby finally magically remembered, which is still sitting in some guys bedroom closet. After that, it's a terrible story about Cappy's old next door neighbors--which is obviously going to be part of whatever stupid thing is coming next, and is completely lacking in any of the tone or appearance that D'Armata, Brubaker & the house artists have spent the last few years creating--followed by one of those if-you-hold-your-breath, Captain-America-will supernaturally become a part of the fabric of the very real American history itself, you just have to wish at the wishing tree, and then, because why not, there's a reprint of some old story where caricature-people-fight-other-caricature-people and somebody responds to the line "you're doomed" by saying "ha ha ha, it is you who are doomed!" In other words, it's the same kind of crass "everybody in the pool, even the guy with pinkeye" mentality that shows up with every anniversary issue, ever, including the one where they retold Batman's first adventure 800 times in a row. As a bonus, there's one of those Alex Ross stories that lasts two pages long. Actually, that's probably a punishment for something.
Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem # 1
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Mark Bagley and Stuart Immonen
Published by Marvel Comics
If you called the terrible "climax" of Ultimate Spider-Man an abortion--which it totally was, a tremendously lazy comic built around the idea that since Stuart Immonen is a good artist, he will probably be able to spin a meandering idea made of shit into Eisner-winning gold, like the alchemists of old--then you really don't have any more words to use when it comes time to talk about Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem, especially if you've previously said insensitive things about the gross thing that comes after abortions back when you were reading UltimatePower. Of course, you do kind of have to stick to your guns, and this cynical piece of garbagio--where Bendis turns back the clock on both Peter and J. Jonah Jameson for another sentimental tour around the pre-school definition of "what it means to be a hero"--is pretty similar to whatever you find in the biological waste bins behind Planned Parenthood clinics. The only difference is that those dumpster-divers have the decency to leave it behind--human fat being easier to move than 'widdle' toes--whereas Marvel feels the need to yank it out, put it in some formaldehyde, and sell it as new.
Hellblazer # 256
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Stefano Landini & Jamie Grant
Published by Vertigo/DC Comics
While this week certainly brought the Hey We're Adults Now, Look At This Blood And Stuff, this issue of Hellblazer takes an altogether different tactic in its attempt to keep up the yuck factor with its shelf-space brothers, as John Constantine pulls the old "let's do some mental rape" to a perfectly nice, sane girl who just happens to have made the mistake of not wanting to date the Vertigo version of Matthew Murdock--i.e. a horrible boyfriend with a history of headstones on the "relationship" star chart. Of course, taking "he's a bastard" seriously has always been one of the tools in the Hellblazer chest-of-tales, so it's not too off base for John to be doing stuff that's just plain disgusting. Still, this is a rough road to go down, and if it wasn't for the fact that Peter Milligan was handling the story, one might even have to resort to one of those "You're doing it wrong" complaints. But it is Milligan, so fuck it. Even if this was somebodies first taste of the 'Blazer, they'd still be getting an accurate, if particularly mean-spirited, introduction. Considering that this issue also worked out to be the first thing old Simon Bisley's done for DC in a good long while, there might just be some popped cherries anyway.
Hawkeye # 3
Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Tom Raney & Scott Hanna
Published by Marvel Comics
And so continues the saga of doing things in the incorrect order: does the BullHawk drop any dames, SAT-requirement style? Does he re-up on his membership to the in-vogue "comic book character blows up helicopter with little effort" club? No? Oh. Well, what's in place of that? Something meaner?
How about a scene where he goes and talks to a psychiatrist and uses the "My friend has been fantasizing about scat-porn and his brother for a couple of weeks, will medication make that go away" method of talk-therapy by subterfuge? Yikes. These are the kind of twists old enough for Stan Lee to claim he's being plagiarized. Of course, he'd probably take credit for inventing black presidents if you let him. There is a mystery here, kind of, since the main character doesn't recognize someone the comic later tells us he should easily remember, but there's still going to be a lot of work necessary to top a story that seems to have peaked back in the first issue, when the BullHawk taught the reader about the easiest way to remove a contact lens.
Punisher # 6
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Tan Eng Huat & Lee Loughridge
Published by Marvel Comics
After a tour of duty on Ghost Rider, Tan Eng Huat moves over to the head-shaking-why-again mainstream Marvel Punisher comic currently being steered by Rick Remender, and while your extra dollar will net you an opportunity to read what Remender and Huat think of the various Z-grade characters they've resurrected--the best part being Huat's claim that "I took a lot of time-redesigning the helmet. In the end he looks like he's wearing an old diving suit"--it's still just another Punisher comic where the fundamental lack of tension won't serve it well. Whereas the MAX Frank Castle was able to prove that a Punisher story could be believably edge-of-your-seat-y, as the actual climax could never be specifically predictable, this particular tactic--a bunch of joke characters resurrected so that Frank can kill them--couldn't be less suspenseful if it was a comic book version of the Onion's Shooting People In The Face FPS. Will Frank be able to take Turner D. Century down? Of course, that's not the point, asshole--the point is this: Turner D. Century! He rides a bike! Isn't that hilarious? Of course, with the world the way it is, there'd probably be just as rabid an audience if Frank was fighting the SWAT Kats: Radical Squadron too, and that's sort of the point as well. Instead of admitting it's just low-hanging fruit for the "i'm so goddamn ironic I'll even quote poetry" club, you wink and say "Yay comics". Whatever. Getting raped by a clown is still getting raped. Ask my cousin about that one.