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2009.11.30

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That was a nice swerve on the Blackest Night review. I was reading it going like "Whoa, did he actually like this?" but then it's like "Naw".

See, that's why I'm wary of Geoff Johns' writing. He's not so much a writer as he is an entertainer, and his works read much more like "hey how cool would it be if this happened guys??" rather than some deeper and more meaningful story. Of course, that can be said for a lot of "big name" writers, such as Mark Millar, but Johns has made a habit lately of making sure he holds our hand as we walk through his precious comics so that absolutely no one will miss the oh so clever story beats that he's so proud of. I'm pretty sure the very idea of meta-text would give him an aneurysm.

On the positive review thing - I was thinking about that. How does one write a positive review of a guilty pleasure book? I just read Jeph Loeb's Hulk run this weekend and while they're pretty awful, I had a lot of fun reading them, so I was thinking - how could I write a positive review of a book like this? I'm pretty sure I could pull it off by talking about what the book does well - in this case, lots of splash pages to show off the artist's cool pictures of dudes punching each other - and how it only works depending on what you're looking for going into the story. Because books like Hulk or Blackest Night or whatever aren't Acme Novelty Library r Ganges - they're not meant to challenge the form and structure of comics or show off design chops - they only exist to be fun for people who enjoy the pleasures they're offering.

World's Finest # 2? I thought that was the cover to the new issue of Cold Heat.

I think Caleb Mozzocco has nailed the "positive review of a guilty pleasure" thing pretty well when he talks about Johns' Green Lantern, describing it as perpetually teetering on the edge of "stupid" and "awesomely stupid". I think that works perfectly for that sort of thing, probably including stuff like Loeb's Hulk, or, I dunno, the current Franken-Punisher storyline? Some of Millar's stuff might fit that mold, but I usually give him a little more credit than that. Not too much though; Kick-Ass and Old Man Logan fit right in that guilty pleasure area, and something like 1985 tips over into "just stupid".

"That's how easy it is to write about a positive comic book review."

I'll disagree, only because writing positive reviews are more difficult for me than negative ones... I hate writing about things I like.

I agree with Chad that positive reviews can be more difficult to write, but also disagree with the whole idea of the "guilty pleasure." Kick-Ass and Old Man Logan aren't trying to do the same things as Ganges or another artcomic, but then again, neither are all-ages comics or humor comics or porn comics. If they're done well, where's the guilt? The Ramones' goals weren't the same as Radiohead's. Jim Thompson wasn't trying to be Pynchon. At the same time, I'm sure most highbrow artists have some lowbrow stuff they not only like but which influenced them. How old do people have to be, or how much therapy do they need, before they can just say they like something with no shame?

Chris, I think I see where you're going, but I don't think I agree. Lowbrow stuff can be done well - I think most critics would agree a Ramones album is better composed than a Dru Hill album, but how does something like a Brittney Spears album or a Christina Aguillera album fall into that spectrum?

Matt, you might be right on that "awesomely stupid" vs "just stupid" classification. Loeb's Hulk is *incredibly* stupid, but I would put it into the "awesomely stupid" category because I like cartoony pictures of superhero fights. On the other hand, Loeb's Ultimates was "just stupid" because the poor story got in the way of enjoying the pretty pictures. (BTW - Thanks for the Millar nod! Even if I am the only guy in the world who thinks his stuff is "awesomely stupid.")

I haven't read any of Blackest Night (I bought the key books, no spinoffs, but probably won't read for months at best) but my question is: why is it soooo popular. It's (inc spin-offs) consistently taking all the top spots at my lcs, plus I often read/see people saying things like "i can't help it, I've decided to become a bn junkie -- I'm signing up for it all, spinoffs, 1-shots, ahhhh!"

So, wassup w/that? It seems to be pretty sucky, but what itch is it scratching? is it simply zombie-superheroes as a zeitgeist thing?

I think it's mostly that people like seeing All Their Cartoon Pals and mistake gore and strangeness for maturity.

Christ knows I hated that comic, it was the only one I ever gave a 0/10 for when the site I wrote for was still up, but people seem to really love it.

That first issue, though, I dunno...RELENTLESSLY retarded, in terms of everything from plot to dialogue.

Y'know you're pretty much obligated to write all positive reviews next time.

And I honestly, and critically, like Jeff Loeb's stuff a lot, 90 % of the time. He figures out his artist's strengths perfectly - (Really. Look at the "quiet" ink-washed Jim Lee stuff in Hush - ) and gives them cool stuff to draw.

He's trying to put together a series of cool visuals and he (virtually always) succeeds in putting together a series of cool visuals. (It bothers me how many people - And by "people" I mean "English Majors" simply don't understand this.)

Apropos of nothing, I enjoy that each of your reviews with the current year as if it will live on through the aeons, perhaps to be discovered by a distant future civilization who will ponder what a "Snapper Carr" is. Presuming these future-people still use the Gregorian calendar, they will know that Tucker Stone wrote this insightful but horribly antiquated snippet in the year of our Lord 2009 AD and DEFINITELY NOT 2008.

EDIT: That should read "...each of your reviews ends with the current year.." I was too quick to hit Post.

I've been trying to remember why I put the year on there in the first place. I had a reason, I'm sure of it, but who knows now what it was.

@MarkAndrew: Being totally pedantic here, but is JEPH not JEFF. If you plan on going around defending his work. Just some advice from a former English Major who finds all of Loeb's recent Marvel work stupid and incoherant, regardless of what artist got shackled to him for the book...

On the other hand his "Batman/Spirit" one-shot with Darwyn Cooke surprises me every time I read it by how cool and fun it is...

Oh god, that Batman/Spirit book. I thought that thing was terrible, despite some nice art. That thing is Loeb to a T though: just cram a bunch of characters in, have them do some "cool" stuff, try to give the artist some opportunities for nice visuals, screw any plot coherence whatsoever. It was just relentlessly stupid, to the point that even Cooke's awesomeness couldn't save it.

And that fits pretty much everything Loeb has done lately (if not ever; I don't really want to go back and read the older stuff to find out), and why even if he does put together some cool visuals (or rather, allow his artists to do so), his comics suck. That's what the English majors are complaining about, I imagine: plots that don't make sense, characters that act inconsistently, and just plain aggressive stupidity. Cool visuals are nice, but if that's all you need, why not just put together a poster book or something?

As for the "guilty pleasure" question, I do realize that there's a point where you should be able to enjoy something without feeling like you have to apologize for it, but this is something else, I think. There's "lowbrow", and there's just "bad". I dunno, comics are weird that way, for some reason they inspire strong emotions, maybe because they're still seen as childish. I can give a counter-example, in that I love martial arts movies, and am willing to overlook dumb plots, bad acting, and even some atrocious dubbing if the action is good enough. Do I have to ask for more from comics? For some reason, I guess I do. I actually barely buy any superhero comics, so my perspective is that of somebody who just wants to read some good ones, which are few and far between. I dunno, it's something to think about, I guess.

Even if I am the only guy in the world who thinks his stuff is "awesomely stupid."

Oh no no. There are sometimes variations, and I think his high-concepts are actually quite clever on occasion, but typically executed on a range of stupid to aggressively stupid to fully-retarded. I love Mark Millar.

Matt: a bad Marvel or DC comic is usually about fifty times worse than a bad just-about-anything-else, though, isn't it?

I wish we could stop talking about this whole "guilty pleasures" thing -- you can only try to level the playing field so much, before you get to a point where if you didn't get any pleasure out of some piece-of-shit book, then you have to get into some pissing-match over whether your aesthetic criteria are any good, is there any objective difference between Bach and Weezer or some goddamn thing like that. Which is bullshit: if the guy who thinks Comic X is moronic has to back it up, so does the guy who thinks Comic X is awesome. They both have to expose their tastes to public ridicule.

But, really...when we're arguing over whether Budweiser tastes better out of a bottle than out of a can, we ought to be able to leave the Chateau Latour out of it.

All of you need to watch Crank 2 and Gamer a few dozen times and get your shit straight. There's stupid and then there's stabbing yourself in the brain with stupid until you smell colors.

plok: Yeah, exactly.

No one is beholden to some sort of taste tribunal, despite what the internet would have us all believe. Whatever you're into, that's what you're into, and if some small person makes a federal case out of it, fuck 'em.

However, that really doesn't come into play when we're talking criticism. "I just like it!" isn't a defense, or an argument. Real criticism involves cogent points and being critical.

Additionally, there's a substantial difference between comments like "This is bad because it is of this worthless genre/medium/style" and "This is a bad example of genre/medium/style" One is useless snobbery, the other is legitimate criticism.

"and then there's stabbing yourself in the brain with stupid until you smell colors"

Is that a good or a bad thing? People seem to LOVE Crank 2, but, well, it sure seemed like a Jeph Loeb comic in movie form to me.

Jeph Loeb used to write bad movies - the guy wrote Commando - so that makes sense. I think it's a good thing, that movie makes me want to punch people in the throat and I pay stacks of money for a comic that made care a third as much as that movie did.

LurkerWithout

"@MarkAndrew: Being totally pedantic here, but is JEPH not JEFF"

It's not my fault that some people can't spell "Jeff."

", I imagine: plots that don't make sense,"

Well, sometimes. I can't think of a worse plotter working in the mainstream. It's a series of interesting and or cool visuals.

I'm gonna get maimed for this, but in a lotta ways it's the same thing as Finnegan's Wake being about the beauty of the language used.

"characters that act inconsistently,"

I've read 90% of Loeb's output, and I don't see it. His characters might act inconsistently with what other writers are doing, but I've read enough superhero comics that I just accept it.

I mean, I've sat down and read Captain America. WHole thing, every issue. And there's at least 6-7 different characters there. And I like most of 'em fine. Stan Lee's Man Out of Time isn't Englehart's troubled liberal isn't Kirby's social mythology isn't Gruenwald's pulp adventurer, but they're all pretty cool in their own way.

"and just plain aggressive stupidity."

I don't see it. I think he enjoys his job more than most of his contemperaries - Is that what you're getting at?

"Cool visuals are nice, but if that's all you need, why not just put together a poster book or something?"

'Cause you don't get the sense of motion, the sense of interlocking panel design, and, even in the abstract, there's a different tool-set to using comics than still, static images.

Jephffoffph Loeb books do, s'far as I can tell, exactly what the author wants them to do. If taken as one chapter of the Hulk story by people who REALLY CARE about what happens to the Hulk- Yeah, I can see why it's bad.

But if it's read as a series of cool visuals created by a highly visual writer - In other words approach the works on it's own merits - Than I think his stuff almost always works.

@plok

"Matt: a bad Marvel or DC comic is usually about fifty times worse than a bad just-about-anything-else, though, isn't it?"

I dunno. The worst Marvel and DC comics at least have to pretend to try to entertain. It's not crappy rhyming poetry about how your girlfriend left you over photo-shopped panels from Eightball. (I own this comic. It is worse than any Marvel or DC comic I've ever read.)

"The worst Marvel and DC comics at least have to pretend to try to entertain."

I don't know, man...you're sure setting the bar pretty low for "at least"-ing. And basically I'm just saying that the standards Big Two books have to meet to be allowed out the door are way low, so Matt shouldn't beat himself up for cutting lousy kung fu movies more slack than lousy JLA stories; not when the worst Big Two comics I've ever read are things that were worse by far than any book, TV show, movie, play, or puppet show I've ever seen.

That said, I would LOVE to witness the awesome insanity of the comic that is worse than Force Works! Get out that scanner and get down to business, Mark!

We actually used to have a woman in my office who did openly refer to herself as a slut, in those exact terms.

Of course, she was well passed the days when she could actually find anyone interested, so... there's that.

Man, ain't nothing in this world worse than a desperate ho.

"'and just plain aggressive stupidity.'

I don't see it. I think he enjoys his job more than most of his contemperaries - Is that what you're getting at?"

If enjoying his job means seeing how much nonsensical idiocy he can get away with, then sure. I really can't tell how much he enjoys what he does, but unless it's a snickering, purposeful, "look what I managed to get Marvel to publish", I would hope he doesn't get too much out of it. The guy's like a junior high student drawing pictures of his teacher getting shot or something; I suppose he might like it, but that doesn't make it good, and it really shouldn't be enjoyed by anybody else.

I think Caleb Mozzocco has defined this better than I ever could, with his looks at Ultimates 3 or some of the Hulk stuff, but I think "aggressive stupidity" is about the best way to describe what he does. Spending a full-page splash on Sabretooth yelling "Suck it!", or having Hulk turn into Wendihulk for no reason other than because it might be a neat (but yes, still stupid) thing for the artist to draw are good examples. Of course, I didn't actually read those books, but I did read some issues of Ultimatum, and that thing was full of moronic nonsense, like Magneto getting his arm cut off by a metal sword, or the Thing squishing Dr. Doom's head, or tons and tons of other examples of pointless violence on every page. And that wasn't even good art, just ugly, ugly David Finch grossness. It's just bad, and having it strung together in some semblance of storytelling in hopes that it might look nice doesn't redeem it.

As for inconsistent characters, that's probably giving Loeb too much credit, since it presumes that characters would be established well enough to act differently than they had previously. Loeb just treats them like cardboard cutouts or action figures, smashing them together like a ten year old, then maybe tearing them apart, melting them with a lighter, or blowing them up with firecrackers, because that's so kewl. That's the level of storytelling we're dealing with here, and having it drawn by Leonardo Fucking Da Vinci wouldn't make it any more readable.

"there's no making out to be found here."

God dammit, if I can't see Supergirl and Billy Batson bone, then what's the fucking point?

Freddie I think. Billy was dating Star-Girl for awhile though...

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