The comics reading staff of the Factual Opinion experienced a sudden loss of Giving A Fuck when presented with what's affectionately referred to as "The Ocean", but we were able to send out a satellite call to the various brothers and sisters of the One True Faith. Abres los ojos: These be the writings of the Joe McCulloch, the Tim O'Neil, the Timothy Callahan, the David Brothers, the Sean Witzke, the Noah Berlatsky, Matthew Brady and the Chris Mautner.
I suppose it wouldn't be fair to dismiss this thing out of hand without mentioning how pretty it looks. Well, OK, we'll do that: this sure is a pretty comic. It is not, however, a particularly interesting comic, unless your exposure to media over the course of the last twenty or so years has been strictly limited to the previous 200-some issues of Detective.
Greg Rucka is one of those people who clearly has little affection for superheroes but nevertheless has discovered that pretending to care about superheroes is the only game in town in terms of paying the rent while writing comics. Of course, I'm not a mind reader, so I can't say with absolute 100% certainty that he doesn't totally love them but - seriously, like Bendis, all his superhero books read like crime and espionage stories in spandex drag. The one thing this book has in its favor is Williams' art, but once you get past the novelty of the protagonist being a lesbian who is smart enough to wear a long read wig to obscure her identity as well as present a handy fake target in a fistfight - well, once you get past that one tiny bit of novelty, the story really is about as boring as you can possibly imagine. See, there's this thing called the Crime Bible and it makes people act like sociopaths even though the very idea of an entire belief system based on murder and theft is the most cockamamie idea since, I don't know, Nickleback. It sounds like a particularly lazy Grant Morrison idea that other people had to run with, and Rucka likes it enough because it sounds like the kind of MacGuffin someone could write a popular Mass Market Paperback Thriller series out of. But ultimately you're still left with a church wherein worshippers are shot in the head for the fuck of it by crazy people in Lewis Carrol costumes - is that a church any sane person is going to want to join? Especially since the God of crime got shot by Batman a few months ago - that might put a crimp in new recruitment numbers. After all, if Batman killed Jesus Christ during armageddon, I think a lot of people would probably either stop worshipping altogether, or start worshipping Batman. (About the Lewis Carroll thing: Rucka was at least clever enough to get a gag out of the fact that there are now two Lewis Carroll themed villains in the Bat-verse, but that doesn't make it any less obnoxious. How about a villain based on Gulliver's Travels, for Pete's sake?)
Once you get past the Crime Bible and the vague prophecies surrounding Batwoman - well, there's not a lot. You've got a Question backup that somehow manages to make the Renee Montoya Question even more uninteresting than she was before. Read this story and tell me this is the kind of comic book you want to read: if it is, well, I guess you're doin' awesome, but the rest of us aren't on medication for crippling hypertension. If this whole Blackest Night bullshit does anything, I hope we see Victor Sage rockin' the fake face again, hopefully while jettisoning the last twenty years of crappy Denny O'Neil / Rick Veitch urban shaman New Age bullshit in exchange for some hard-edged Objectivist fisticuffs. Also, whomever insists on drawing the Question so that you can see the imprint of her face underneath the flesh mask is just stoopid: it should be smooth and featureless and ominous, it shouldn't look like someone threw a gob of silly putty on her. Besides the fact that the Montoya Question is just a straight-up painfully boring character, the revamped design is just horrendous. Because seeing the Question rockin' the wife beater / scraggly "gentleman's perm" look is just not really doing it for me. Mens' formalwear, yo: it's the one superhero costume that never fails to do the trick.
I don't really have a lot to say about this comic, except that there's one plot point that bears a little extra scrutiny. As part of the build-up to Blackest Night there was a SInestro Corps war on Daxam that was ultimately only stopped with Ion turned the Daxamite sun yellow - which, for those who are behind on their made-up physics, gives Daxamites powers just like Kryptonians. The Superman-powered Daxamites were able to rout the SInestro Corps and now are rebuilding their planet with their powers. But the problem is they're horrible xenophobic assholes who don't like aliens - any aliens, even the hot barely-legal Arisia and her Green Lantern pals. So: here's the question. Why the hell don't the Green Lanterns just turn the sun back to red? Is there a legitimate reason why they can't do that? Because while I want to stress that I am not a Guardian of the Universe, I think if I were I would be pissed that a bunch of Lanterns just created a planet full of billions of pissed-off Superman-powered Glenn Becks. They'd have some 'splainin' to do if I were sitting in that corner office. Sure, the Daxamites would be pissed if you turned off the power spigot, but hey, they already hate aliens anyway.
The Factual Opinion has a proud tradition of pillorying unnecessary Batman spin-offs, and it doesn't get much more unnecessary than this book right here. Let's see: Tim Drake? Check. Main character trying on a new, even more nonsensical identity because they're pissed about something vague and the company has a new trademark to promote? Check. Kung-fu moves being the be all and end all of super-powers, able to do just about anything the story requires? Check. R'as al Ghul being passed around like a case of herpes at an editorial retreat? Check and double-plus-check.
You know, there was a time that people liked R'as al Ghul - yeah, hard to imagine now, I realize. But the fact is that before they had at least half-a-dozen books all based around basically the same character and various copyright-upholding variations thereof, they could afford to use popular characters sparingly. But now that they've got all these spin-offs to feed they trot R'as out every time they need a supposedly "Big Time" antagonist to sell the ludicrously low stakes of whatever by-the-numbers plot device they're reanimating this month in Gotham Sirens or whatever Dini's stroke-book is called. He's not even imposing anymore - once you've had the Outsiders get the best of R'as, no one will ever take him seriously again. He wasn't even that great a villain to begin with - I mean, if you really like repetitive and boring one-note monomaniacs, sure. But he's not even as interesting as Apocalypse, who has a lot of the same schtick. Apocalypse fought Dracula, and that's not even one of the cooler things he's done. What has R'as done? Besides act like a prissy dick and call Batman "Detective" - that's basically his characterization in a nutshell. It shouldn't be any kind of "surprise" that R'as is aiding / abetting / in some way fellating any secondary or tertiary member of the Bat-crew - it's what he does, it's like the only thing he's done in a Batman book in decades. He's less an antagonist than an immortal, vaguely Persian Mr. Farley.
All things considered, I am pretty damn glad this thing showed up the week of Marvel's 70th Anniversary autographs-by-the-B&N-sandwich-counter bash, because in the midst of high-octane revamps and celebrations of old stuff made Ultimate one more time, it's valuable to find a genre comic that acts its artist's age. No, this thing probably won't inspire anyone to revise their opinion of Howard Chaykin, period crime stories, black lingerie, etc., and it seems pretty doubtful the artist'll burn the place down with innovation, sure, but you know - there's something to be said for easing back, for relaxing into thoughtful ease. This is latter-day Chaykin for sure: the page layouts are airy, with compositions tight from clashy mad textures, characters' profiles scratched out in thick black with their bodies absorbed into digital-tricked garments, devoured, often in long shot. There's hardly any sound effects anymore; it's the in-panel world that owns primacy. The people barely pop. A man leaping from an exploding plane and parachuting into a hotel's rooftop pool where he encounters a gorgeous Hollywood star actress in the nude and she all but demands he sleep with her by the bottom of the page seems... observational. It's quiet.
And fuck, that's all right! This may be a revival of a '70s property evoking earlier pulp heroes, but it's relaxed, smooth and efficient in a way that evokes Japanese works chilled for middle age, a type of Mature comics rarely seen anywhere else. The North American comics readership may be aging, but superhero comics have a way of being weird with growing old, genre expectations crashing into bathos, action movie art meeting bottomless life drama, with few lives actually ending. Here, though, is something that feels like an older man's comic, a reserved thing, studied in its Depression setting, expectant of the reader's attention in its plotting, and maybe a little long-winded, ok, but often witty - modeling the story's dastardly fascist-leaning business maven New Deal objector after Daddy Warbucks might be an easy joke, but it's still kinda funny. Fine clothes are worn, political mysteries swell, and Our Hero gets into some spicy men's adventure situations, in a classy way, so that a bit with guy getting a blowjob under his desk while on the telephone with a prospective employee, himself answering from the man's bed while in the act of lovemaking to the man's wife, seems more akin to screwball comedy than leering funnybook semi-porn in the Ant Man Emerges From a Vagina But We Don't Show the Vagina sense.
I'm okay with that. Its age suggests experience, implying life. A guy getting socked in the kisser before his throat is slit seems vastly less Old Spice macho heroic than said a man patting a half-dressed hooker's pantied hip after a drunken boor pushes her off his lap onto the floor. Why the hell not? Christ on his cross - Marvel's had an EXPLICIT CONTENT line for eight years and this is literally the second thing they've released where the characters seem incrementally more liable to have sex with each other than dole out agonizing bloody violence or acid put-downs. And Alias was the first thing they published.
Sometimes these novelists-turned-comics-script-makers like to take their time with a story. They aren't in any hurry to advance the plot -- they're writers, not trained monkeys at our barrel-organ-and-call. Shit, Duane Swieczynski writes real big-boy library books, ones shelved far from the YA section and the Bugs Meany collection. This guy's pumped out some prose classics: "The Blonde," "The Big Book O' Beer." He knows how to pace a narrative. It's dames and Milwaukee's Best and blood and tears and regret. Still, when he's got hundreds of pages to work with, each filled with words and words alone, he can take his time.
That might be why we're seventeen issues into a series about a cyborg running around with a girl who is either now or will be inevitably retconned into Rachel Summers. That's the entire story so far. Seventeen issues. 374 pages. Running with lil' Rachel (called "Hope" because she symbolizes something, though it's hard to decipher what that might be in such a densely layered narrative). Hope's all grown up now, making sweet talk with her little spastic boyfriend about the blood rain. But it's still Cable running, with no finish line even hinted at. Leisurely.
And it's nice to see veteran Paul Gulacy draw everyone so their eyeballs look painted onto their eyelids. In a far future society populated by Bishops and Stryfes, I wouldn't want to look, either. I'd want to close my eyes tight behind those fake irises and mumble to myself, "It's Rob Liefeld's world, and I'm trapped in it."
So keep running, Cable. Though as grandpa Deadpool used to say, "wherever you go, there you are."Starstruck #1
Written by Elaine Lee
Art by Michael William Kaluta, Charles Vess and Lee Moyer
Published by IDW
OK, so let's see here ... we've got half or all naked ladies, strutting around wearing art deco headgear, dorky looking fellas with blue and green 'dos that like to put on funky glasses and speak in gibberish, a guy with tiny eyes and big coif that smokes a pipe, ray guns fired at robots, a lengthy backstory involving various political and religious sects, cute kids acting tough, a huge cast of characters ... say, this book didn't by any chance appear in Heavy Metal did it? What's that? Epic Illustrated? Pssshhhh. Whatever man.
All kidding aside, the first issue of this rerelease of an almost-forgotten cult series does a pretty decent job of enticing new readers into its fold, though it risks going on information overload with the introduction and all the back pages of text and whatnot. Still, it's got spunk. It's funny and original and hearkens back to a time when comics thought more information, not less, was a good thing. And, if this sort of thing doesn't really sound like your ball of wax, there's always the titties.
Is a stupid title for a comic book. Mark Millar is back on the Ultimates, but without Bryan Hitch it feels hobbled. Hitch brought a sense of real-world immersion and physicality to what was essentially old Avengers stories with amped-up scale. Carlos Pacheco is his replacement. He's usually a more kinetic artist than Hitch - the guy actually found a way to give the melee scenes in Avengers Forever some kind of motion - but here it's stilted. Millar has dialed it way down too, the plot is basically some guy in an ugly costume (Hawkeye? He looks like a Grifter knockoff now) and Captain America fight some guys in even worse costumes (A.I.M. guys without Kirby beekeeper masks because somehow thats better) on a couple of helicopters, and a redfaced tattooed guy (the new Red Skull) throws Cap out of one after telling him he's Cap's son. Sounds boring? Because it is. Previous Millar Ultimates stories involved the Hulk raping and eating an alien nazi's corpse and Captain America flash-kicking Captain Islam or whatever stupid name that guy had. The reveal here? Captain America has a kid and he's a Nazi. There's a shocker. If he actually had a kid he'd be in his fucking 60s, and would probably end up being Peter Fonda, and would be famous for annoying George Harrison at an LSD party and then bragging about it.
Terry Southern and Stanley Kubrick named everyone in Dr. Strangelove stupid and cliched names like Merkin Muffley, Jack D. Ripper, TJ King Kong, Bat Guano, etc. David Tischman thinks this is brilliant and the best idea ever, but Tischman ain't as funny as Terry Southern or as mean as Stanley Kubrick. Few are, and yet one of those few wrote a book about a guy named Red Herring, Maggie MacGuffin, and Meyer Weiner. In the Coen Brothers recent Burn After Reading (which this comic is very similar to), they chose to just give all the characters stupid sounding names like Feldheimer, Krapotkin, and Litzke. I know that this is a comic drawn by Philip Bond and oh holy tapdancing christ Philip Bond is better than everyone else, he's never drawn a bad comic ever. Tischman isn't taking a shit here, either. It could be funnier I guess. I'm not expecting The Thick of It or anything. But it seems to be grounded in the real world more than everything else I've read this year without becoming boring pablum, if you skip over the Area 51 page. It's got a female lead that seems complex and flawed with a real voice, but she's named Maggie Macguffin. That's as good a reason as any to drop the book. I won't because of Philip Bond, but the reasons right there.The Walking Dead Volume 10: What We Become
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Charlie Adlard & Cliff Rathburn
“How many hours are in a day when you spend half of them watching television? When is the last time any of us REALLY worked to get something that we wanted?” So saith the black cover blurb, and, okay, I’m cautiously optimistic. Yeah, of course, Dawn of the Dead already did the zombies-as-metaphor-for-the-puerile-corruption-of-capitalist-modernity thing. But it’s still a good gag.
Unfortunately, Kirkman is just talking the talk, not shambling the shamble. He doesn’t loathe his human protagonists because they’re weak and stupid and soft and like to watch television. Instead, he revels in their manly bonding. This isn’t the sneering satire of George Romero. Instead, it’s earnest male agonizing, complete with testosterone fueled stand-offs which turn into heartfelt confessions about how a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. In short, this is basically a he-man war comic, all about enduring hardship and understanding the true horror of human nature and exhibiting grace under pressure. I pretty much despise Kirkman’s Marvel Zombies, but I found myself almost missing its smug, mean-spirited humor. Hating super-heroes is a poor substitute for hating actual human beings — but still, as it turns out, pointless, insular misanthropy is better than no misanthropy at all.
It seems that Howard Chaykin is going for the record for the most uses of the word "cunt" in a Marvel comic, and he might have attained it here. There's a feather in his cap. Aside from that, there's also some biplane dogfights, a parachuting into a naked woman's hotel pool, some ca-razy Hollywood partying, lots of anti-Semitism, hands on asses, dudes demonstrating how macho they are by talking on the phone with each other while being sexually serviced by floozies, inept murderers, and plenty of Old Hollywood debauchery. Good times all around; it seems like only Chaykin would do something so offbeat as a bit of 30's action and perverse adventure, and more power to him. He's paid his dues; better this than another run on Wolverine, I say.
Man, chicks are so complicated, always talking and having breast cancer and dealing with relationships and shit. I just don't get them, man, but since they do all those things, I bet they would want to read about other chicks in costumes doing them too! But they all seem the same; how can we make them different? I know, one has a boyfriend that wants to give her stuff, but she's independent so she won't take anything (I wish my girlfriends were like that!), and another has this dude who keeps trying to get with her, but she's a total cocktease, and the other one has a bad boy ex, and the last one has cancer, so that's the only part of her personality that matters. Wait, they're all superheroes, so they should fight or fly around or something, right? Nah, the babes don't like that stuff, but maybe we can ease them into it here with lots of talking and girl power. It'll be just like that show, Caroline in the City. Yeah, they'll eat it up, and then maybe I can get laid.
Dominic Fortune # 1: Dominic Fortune is Howard Chaykin writing and drawing a miniseries about a Jewish pilot and bodyguard. You know the bit in movies where one person is on the phone, but they are also secretly having sex, oral or otherwise? This one has the best of both worlds, since the caller is getting blown while the call-ee is having actual sex. It's Chaykin drawing trashy comics, and will almost certainly end in Dominic Fortune fighting White Supremacists. What part of that doesn't sound completely appealing?
Marvel Divas # 2: Turns out this book isn't about the soapy and sudsy adventures of four Marvel heroines at all. No, it's about breast cancer, bad life decisions, and creepy ex-boyfriends who want to drag your soul to hell. Turns out? That's pretty interesting, in part because it's not just spandex and grimacing. Tonji Zonjic's art is probably the highlight, though, since he's got a clean and cartoony style. His Firestar and Felicia Hardy are pretty awesome. "Leesh" is by far the most annoying abbreviated word since "totes," though.
Red Robin 3: Tim Drake whines about Batman not being dead some more, looks at proof that Batman is alive that is just out of our sight, pisses off his friends, and generally acts like a selfish idiot. In other words: same as the past few issues. Art's good, but I don't get or like how Tim Drake looks like a teenager and Red Robin just looks like a grown man.
Ultimate Comics Avengers 1: I don't like Mark Millar in general, but I read this and didn't hate it, so it's probably pretty awesome to normal people/Millar fans.
Batman: That image of Batman in the next to last panel, all thin and grinning? That's what Batman is all about. That moment right before he leaves you either spitting out or swallowing teeth, your eyes swollen shut, and with severe kidney damage. Azzarello and Risso understand that one of Batman's greatest weapons, in storytelling and in crime fighting, is that moment when something is about to go down, rather than the actual going down.
Kamandi: I didn't read Prince Valiant as a kid because it looked pretty boring. This one, though, has talking tigers, dead gorillas, and a dog scientist. This rules.
Superman: This one, though, is pretty boring. Sorry.
Deadman: This is probably the first time I've ever been interested in Deadman. He was pretty cool in the Justice League cartoon, and this story isn't anything exceptional, but it's readable. The art's pretty good, though, with a nice Kirby influence.
Green Lantern: This is way better than the real Green Lantern comic. Busiek's story took a weird turn toward flashback after introducing the villain a month ago, but it's stayed pretty decent. The art is really dope, making me think that I'll only ever like Hal Jordan when he's in the Jet Age, when douchebags were par for the course.
Strange Adventures: Awesome sci-fi space war turns to mid-1900s archeology drama and I didn't care one bit. Paul Pope is amazing, and should be allowed to draw whatever he wants forever.
Metamorpho: Neil Gaiman, Mike Allred, and me being bored to tears. That shouldn't be happening.
Teen Titans: Yo ese, this juan, it's no bueno, sabe? No me importa por culo.
Hawkman: Kyle Baker set out to draw a comic that appealed directly to comics fans. It's loud, it's dumb, and it's totally awesome.
Supergirl: You know what this did? This made me like Aquaman and cemented my love for the Palmiotti/Conner team. If you hate this, I hope you die. More comics should be this good.
Metal Men: Art's good, story's not. C'est la vie.
Wonder Woman: This, Flash, and Metamorpho are probably the only strips that couldn't just be a single page out of a regular comic book. It's got forty panels, a ton of text, and you know what? It's not as bad as I thought it was. It's dense, it has a nice take on Wonder Woman. There's the whimsy and conflict between peace and war right there, which makes this way more interesting than the main Wonder Woman comic.
Sgt Rock: Next issue: Rock kills dozens of Nazis. Or his team finds his location, and then they all prepare to kill Nazis. Who cares, it's Joe Kubert drawing Sgt Rock. You should be reading it just because it's Joe Kubert Drawing Sgt Rock.
Flash: This one was dragging a little, and isn't my favorite strip any more, but the introduction of Gorilla Grodd's strip as an Iris West replacement? That's just the shot in the arm it needed.
The Demon/Catwoman: This one's good, and I like reading it, but... it's a whole lot of talking. Luckily, this one ends with the Demon jumping up to beat the tar out of Morgaine Le Fay, which is awesome. So, all that build-up? Looking like it was worth it.
X-Men Forever # 5: I don't like this book, but I don't like it in a way that I didn't expect to. It is literally Chris Claremont picking up where he left off with the X-Men books, only this time picking up from 17 years ago. It's weird, and stacked with text and inexplicably bolded words, and Tom Grummett using way more crosshatching than I'd expected... but it's strangely readable. It's not good, exactly, but if I happen to be at a comic shop and it happens to fall into my hands, I may find myself thumbing through it.
In closing, a Public Service Announcement and Plea For Sane Discourse from the Editors of The Factual Opinion
The sooner that Dominators can escape the clutches of the "cult of the comic creator" and dance their way into the public domain, the better. There has never, in the history of fiction, been a more perfect creation than a yellow skinned alien species with gigantic exposed teeth. We've known this since 1991.
It's time to stop fucking around.