There's been some problems at the factory.
Okay, comics, these are still sort of newish.
Most of the time, Gantz is a comic that's about violence & gigantic, bigger-than-you're-thinking-right-now titties. (For the uninitiated, the bits on display in any single volume of Gantz make Power Girl's chest look like she stole hers off of a six year old Chinese boy.) In volume 8, all this breast fetishism was explained in an essay by series creator Hiroya Oku, where, in true iconoclastic fashion, he admitted that he liked to draw big boobs because big boobs are the best boobs, that he just loved looking at them as often as possible. But after all that honesty, Oku decided to confine his drawings of back-snapping cans to the chapter breaks in Volume 9, relying instead on the delivery of wall-to-wall action. While the initial sequence--a one boy battle against a tribe of superpowered alien dwarves--isn't much more than an anime storyboard, the closing half, set almost entirely in the boy's high school as the last alien survivor physically tears apart thirty-odd innocent civilian children, makes for a decent chunk of nasty exploitation. Gantz is fucking mean, gnarly shit, but it's yet to reach the point where the shocks don't bring surprise. It gets even better when you realize that the main character in Gantz is the true heir to Peter Parker, and that this--sleazy violence in Matrix jumpsuits--is where you turn if you're looking for a contemporary Spider-Man comic. It's 2010, and responsibility is an advertising tagline. Nowadays, a fresh-from-puberty kid with great power would use it to kill anybody that messed with him (every volume so far) and fuck Angelina Jolie (which he did in volume 8.)
Poor Jim Rhodes. Guy's series gets cancelled due to being horrible, and when he has a chance to show up in the Iron Man title, he ends up about as useful as when Scatman Crothers traveled all the way to the Overlook in the middle of a whiteout only to catch an axe square in the chest. Sure, Jimmy still got some panel time, and sure, Salvador threw out a couple of close-ups, but in the end, all Jimmy got to do was lay on the floor and gurgle out some mucus bubbles.
It's a good thing one can't figure out anything about a writer's personality by reading their work, because if you could, you'd have to admit that 99% of the people who write comic books are way too fucking obsessed with Nazi Germany.
Scream Queen: Sand & Fury
By Ho Che Anderson
Published by Fantagraphics
Scream Queen is a dark, violent horror story that provides a contemporary update on a folklore standard. Oddly enough, it's not being published by Vertigo, but one cound venture a guess that's because it's willing to frankly depict sexual intercourse. It's a good comic, hampered a bit by the choice to mix digital replication and more standard pen & ink art with some manner of willy-nilly concern that's undoubtably obvious to a few, but completely indiscernible to most. None of that really matters though, as this will be read, for the most part, by a group of people who will pretend that they aren't actually reading a horror comic that shows the nipple, but something far, far, more important.
If you took all of the shitty Superman comics from the last twelve months--don't worry about trying to separate the issues, they're all of them horrible--and you mixed those issues with a floury paste, DC Comics could feed all of the people starving to death in North Korea, and you wouldn't even have to remove the staples. (Kim Jong Il has them eating grass and animal bones, giving them the steel stomach of a Kryptonian.) And yet, DC continues to pretend that these comics have another use. It's disgusting, insensitive, and a little bit racist.
Here it is, that watershed moment when a plot device stops being useful and joins its brothers in the cabinet of Seen It Before, Better. There was still some muscle attached to bone back when a Howard Chaykin drawn Jigsaw excitedly told Frank Castle how much he loved him, but between here and there, this trick bled out on the floor. Frank Tieri tries to spin it up a bit by never putting the hardest phrase to fake between the lips of Wolverine, but in the age of digital, everything dies a lot quicker. Have fun at the funeral, Mister X.
It used to be that you'd read Ultimate Spider-Man comics just to get some kind of Spidey fix so you could have something to talk about whenever your buddy Todd came to visit, since the only thing Todd cares about is Peter Parker and those terrible short novels that Chekhov wrote, and one thing takes less time to deal with than the other. Amazing Spider-Man was just too much of a pain in the ass, and it was ugly to boot. But now, Amazing Spider-Man is a consistently gorgeous comic, containing some of the most expressive art that Marvel publishes, and while the stories just meander around, they're easy enough to ignore. Meanwhile, Ultimate Spider-Man has reset its comic to half-ass in appearance while dispensing the same teeth-curdling inside jokes that the whole Ultimate Comics existence was intitally intended to avoid. That's time for you, but it's also the point: it's never a good idea to stick with anything for too long, especially not when its primary ambition has always been to out-cute a picture of wrestling kittens.
The classic criticism of Dr. Strange--that everybody wants to write him, but nobody wants to buy him--is probably a lot less true than it is that drawing a good Dr. Strange comic is fucking hard to do, it requires skills and time that no other Marvel character is going to demand, and right now, Big Two comics are going through a phase where writing is the big dog. That'll change, and while it hopefully won't result in a return to the days when there was a collective agreement to pretend that Todd McFarlane was a moral beacon of integrity, there will hopefully provide a chance for Marvel to put a Strange in the chamber. If and when, they can throw this little ditty out as an example of what to do right.
While the main plot never really stopped reading like a season finale to Rescue Me, and the art always came across a bit rushed, this particular installment of Criminal did introduce the possibility that the Brubaker/Phillips team might someday deliver some kind of military story, and all things being equal, that's worth looking into. War comics are better than all the other kinds of comics.
Jesus, this is like getting punched in the face by mediocrity, and you'd think that a concept wouldn't have a good haymaker, but this shit actually hurts. It's not the content that's the problem--the content is just anthology standards, you could accurately call this thing "Marvel Comics Presents" or "Web of Spider-Man" or "What If: The Power Pack n' Stuff"--but the title, the way the entirety of the "interviews" all translate to "i met some guy and he hired me, that guy is like Jesus but more into burritos", it's fucking hilarious. Why not just put a parenthetical after that ridiculous "Breaking Into" title, something like "you have to follow Marvel execs on Twitter, also draw, are you good at kissing ass, that helps", and then you can just publish a bunch of full page advertisements for other Marvel books. This costs money? Who does that money go too?
S.W.O.R.D. # 5
Written by Keiron Gileen
Art by Stephen Saunders
Published by Marvel Comics
Mmm, he was totally awesome!
-tucker stone, 2010