Now that they've finished the portion of this six part imaginary story where Archie marries Veronica, it's time for him to settle down with Betty. As in the previous chapters...fuck it, why not call them "Chapters", the art consistently knocks one out with bizarre, Colorform style concoctions. Eyes, noses, mouths--it doesn't matter how big or small the faces are, just attach the shit anywhere, it's a game of pin-the-feature-on-the-pancake. It's impossible to single one out, there's tons of shit in here that doesn't even make Archie-sense, much less the regular kind. There's also an odd preachy quality to the whole thing, with multiple characters referencing how Archie has "chosen love" over money, which has the whoops! result of turning the previous arc--where Archie married Veronica--into one about Archie, The Gold-digging Scumbag, who chose "Ronnie" for purely financial reasons. It also clashes with Archie's decision here, where his attempt to assuage Veronica's hurt feelings comes wrapped up in an explanation that it isn't like he or Betty are ever going to make it out of their shitty little town or these shitty little lives. (Nice one, that. Not only does Archie condemn himself, but he seems to believe that Betty couldn't possibly have a future either.) On the factual aspect, it's not like the story allows for much disagreement--they'll marry in the shitty diner, with the honeymoon at the local fleabag hotel. But considering that the story is so clumsily scripted that it fails to make it clear whether Archie is only marrying Betty because Veronica is leaving town and therefore unavailable, god knows how reliable "the story" is supposed to be.
Creepy # 2
Written by Dan Braun, Mike Baron, Joe R. Lansdale, Joe Harris & Dave Sims
Art by Greg Ruth, Nathan Fox, Rahsan Ekedal, Jason Shawn Alexander, Angelo Torres & Russ Heath
Published by Dark Horse Comics
It's called Creepy, and that's what it is. It's also Predicatable As Fuck, which could ironically make it sell more copies, because the type of people who look at something called "Creepy" and say "not for me" are quite likely to take a chance on something called "You'll See The End Coming" or "You Ever Read Tales From The Crypt? This Is A Lot Like That". The most unsettling section of this anthology is the short part at the end where a writer/artist team vomit out one panel renditions of old school torture methods (each far worse than what one might see in a Saw movie), all of which are designed to eventually kill somebody after horribly disfiguring them and causing unimaginable pain. That's sort of the trick of it, actually--by themselves, the panels are just information delivery, they're completely predicated on the reader imagining seeing these fucking things in real-world action, possibly to themselves or their coworkers. Pleasant strokes for greasy folks, one imagines.
The first issue of this series consisted of an entertaining mash-up of boot-camp war movie tropes--Full Metal, Patton, etc--but it left off without a clear sense that it had anything to offer beyond meta-referentials. And while issue 2 isn't without in-jokes, they're actually in the service of a story. In all, it's a surprising combo-comic, as much in love with war movies and crash mythology courses as it is with Marvel's obsessive publication of super-powered Black Ops stories. Ares has spent the better part of five years at the front n' center of various Avengers books, with little to explain his participation beyond "lack of Thor", all of which makes Gillen's ubergod of violent action flicks take on the character one more reason why it's not such a bad thing for Marvel to publish all these three issue mini's.
This consists of a team-up between The Guardian (a Superman-related character) and Robin (of Batman fame), the story is set in Metropolis (where Superman lives), the villains are a team-up between Mr. Freeze (he's visiting from Batman's hometown) and The Parasite (he usually fights Superman). Basically, it's your Typical DC Comic Book Team-Up Version # 3, and it reads like that. Whatever goofy shit it is that happens to Ramon Bachs' art when he does Azrael doesn't show up here, because instead of looking like weird alt-mash-up Azrael, this just looks like warmed-over Nightwing.
It's shit like these that just make the whole try-to-get-into-it game no goddamn fun, because what can you say about a comic book character who keeps a framed picture of his fucking dog in his briefcase? Even if it's because he's bringing it to his first day at the job so that he can forever more be the dude who has a framed hero shot of his space dog on his desk at work, it's still--who wants to read that? How far removed is showcasing that piece of information from coming up with a scene where Clark Kent pisses on the side of his pants on purpose, so that his co-workers will always and forever assume that the dude who looks like Superman can't be Superman, because Superman would never piss down the side of his pants. "Eeet!" Really? "Eeet?" Hell, if he's going the dog on the fucking desk/let the elevator man screw me over route, why not start prank calling his female neighbors, Philip Seymour Hoffman style?
(And since when does the office slut joke about her sluttiness openly? If you've ever worked with an office slut, you know as well as Geoff Johns does that the office slut never thinks she's a slut. She's always got some wonked out I'm Just Being Me explanation for why she keeps blowing the interns.)
But that's not what really matters here, what matters is whether the old song works, whether the original narrative thread buried within this dross of "updates" can still provide enough of a spine to keep the thing from collapsing in a pile of slime on the floor. In a way, it does--after all, Superman appearing for the first time is a story that just works, and no amount of Reeve worship and what-a-glorious-ass-you-have Lois drawings can completely obscure that, although it's estimable how hard Frank tries. (If drawing Superman as an 80's actor was ever going to work, it was going to be when Superman's age caught up with said actor.) And while there's certainly some merit in questioning the necessity of this particular project, those aren't questions that have much of a lifespan--super-hero comics are supposed to repeat themselves, ideally because their readers would be cycling through, aging and moving on. (To what, god knows, it's not only comics that are proselytize the remake and the remaster as primary function, but then again, this is "ideals", and the actual audience for this has, of course, Read It Before.) What Johns Wrought isn't holy text, but it's pointed how sensible the whole thing is--still predictable, but in a way that allows for some contemporary improvisation. (Superman questions the tightness of the outfit, he's angsty and full of self-doubt--Johns has his obsessions, and one could at least be thankful that the weird dad shit is kept to a slow boil.) And while none of that make up a thing that would appeal to anyone who it wasn't already going to appeal to in the first place, and it's certainly undeserving of anything more than "it's not horrible" praise, it does function in the way that it's supposed to. Which is more than one can say for Metamorpho Year One, if that counts.
This comic doesn't tie into an event or Dark Reign, there's no monkeys, and it's self-contained. Those are either pluses or minuses, depending on what side of the bed one wakes up on. It does prominently features precocious children in key roles, because comic books have two kinds of kids, precocious wiseasses and victims. The art isn't as wet as previous issues, but it still has a few problem panels, most notably a page where the male version of precocious Fantastic Kid is depicted with the face of an elderly woman. All told, it's an issue of Fantastic Four, and while it's not awful or anything, it's the Fantastic Four. If it were possible for super-hero comics to reach "run its course", it would be this one. Because this one isn't even bad, and it's still about 20 years away from being any good.
The tagline on the cover is "Love & Dismemberment", but it's only half-true--there's no making out to be found here. There is a bit of dismemberment, with Red Arrow getting his arm forcibly removed by somebody, maybe a good guy, who knows. In the place of "love" is one of the oddest pieces of back-and-forth this particular comic has had so far, and considering this is the same comic that built an entire conversational dialectic around people screaming the word "justice", you know it's pretty fucking special. Besides that, there's multiple cases of confusion paneling, with characters depicted at greater or lesser distances form one another over and over again--imagine having an argument with somebody while both of you run to opposite corners of the room mid-sentence, that's the sort of thing that happens here.
There's a really nice article in the back of this issue about Australian films, which is great, because The Proposition and Chopper are both really fucking great movies--hell, Proposition has pretty much achieved full-on Predator/Jaws status, in the sense that it's the type of movie that always wins when the choice is "get to work on time" or "finish watching Guy Pearce let flies crawl across his eyeball without blinking." The comic is pretty nice too, although Brubaker's backpage mention that the issue was a bit rushed sort of goes without saying, considering the oddness of some of the faces drawn here. It's Criminal, and Criminal is always satisfying, but if it turns out that this is another one of those stories about kids killing their molesters, that's going to be really obnoxious. It'll probably still be well-told, but--egh. If a story has made it to all the way down to the level of Rescue Me subplot, that should make it anathema for at least fifty years.
Vibe probably wasn't initially created to be a ridiculous racial stereotype--a breakdancing, jive-talking Latino who wore gigantic parachute pants--but that's what he was, and that's why you don't really see him much anymore. Bringing him back as a Black Lantern doesn't mean that any of that has to be confronted, it just means that whoever does it has to smooth the edges off, and it's not hard to see what's missing. (He doesn't say "Chu" in every other sentence, for one. Also, tight pants.) What's hilarious is that, after you peel off all that shit, there's not a whole lot left to deal with from a "who is this character" POV, which is why Vibe is the only Black Lantern in this issue of JLA who gets three pages of backstory despite him being only one of four that show up in this issue. The others--Steel, Zatara & Dr. Light--hell, you know who they are, or you can figure it out. But Vibe?
You kind of had to be there.
Here's a thought experiment for you: this comic book has absolutely no metaphorical content whatsoever. It can't be read as being about anything (beyond what the plot says) without straight-up lying about its contents. It's not about power and responsibility, or what it means to be a hero, or fish out of water, or don't judge a book by its cover, or self-sacrifice for the good of the combine, or the difference between justice and forgiveness, self-empowerment wish-fulfilment, etc, so on, any of those various things that comics are almost always about, except when their about how fucking wacky it is to be gay/black/trans-gender/straight/Christian/Muslim/atheist/cartoonist/barista Americana, which is what the rest of them are about. Blackest Night isn't about any of those things. It's sort of about team-work, and there's some weird meta-connections to it, in that it's a zombie horror movie being written by somebody who doesn't seem to have done anything but read DC comic books, much less watch a horror movie. (They're violent? Got it, i'll get back to reading Zero Hour.) Otherwise? It's Blackest Night. It's about Blackest Night.
Now that it's reached it's half-way point, it's been made clear that, yes, a big part of the story will hinge on all the various Lantern characters teaming up together in the biggest "fuck all ya'll Superman/Batman fans" twist in DC history, and while that's only offensive if you're taking these things too seriously, that doesn't make it any less weird, because...a big event comic is using the writer's favorite characters as a hinge with which to swing the door o' plot on? All so that everybody can see how the purest and most wonderful thing in the universe is the awesomeness of White over Black? But yeah, if you're going to go down that road, then you're going to be talking about racial connotations, which--nah, it's obvious that this doesn't have anything like that, because this thing doesn't have any connotations at all. It's about exactly what it says it's about, which is that a whole bunch of various colored and various emotion themed magic ring wielding teams are going to team up and combine the colors of their various wishing rings to construct another, more powerful and more pure color so that they can stop the physical embodiment of death, which is a bipedal humanoid character who speaks English that used to fight Captain Atom. The best part of the entire thing so far was in an issue of Green Lantern Corps, when a big black thing tried to steal Queen Coleman from the Smurf planet, but then he was stopped by a Mexican suicide bomber.
And honestly? You can pretty much add exclamation points to those last two sentences right there, and you can add the word "Awesome!", and you'll have produced a rough approximation of every positive review that this piece of shit is ever going to get. That's how easy it is to write positive comic book reviews. Make a fucking note.
-Tucker Stone, 2009