The tagline with Chris Ware is that he's trying to create comics as if the medium was untouched by film, the tagline with the Lone Wolf and Golgo crew is/was that they had/have a hard on/boner for spaghetti westerns, and the gig with Will Eisner is that he sat in the dark watching penny dreadfuls (he was a plantation owner who lived in the 1900's, according to Jeet Heer's "notes"), or so the legends go repeated. Those references and inspirations are cute but fuck all those posers, says Bendis. What would comics look like if they were pure translations of reality show confessional booths? That's what comics calls a high concept, nursery school, so shove that Batman comic in your cupcake sucking mouth. And yeah, so what if that means the majority of this book is 12 panel pages of head shots and bad jokes? We got a streak of wasting the abilities of interesting artists by giving them almost nothing of interest to draw to keep intact, and when the goal is to keep Daddy so worked up in the other room that Mommy can go to sleep and dodge that getting pregnant bullet one more time, you know which exit ya'll bitches can take on expressway future: it's the one that says "screw".
Apparently the numbers for Batman & Robin finally crossed some arbitrary bottom that set off the no-shame alarm bells, because there's no other believable reason for Guillem March's cover to go that hard in the "After Quitely" paint: and maybe it'll work, all craven Hail Mary as it is. "Remember when a lot more of you bought this comic" is, as they go, a pretty decent way to get people saying "yes" and Dale Carnegie always said that first yes is where the sale begins. That's all brinkmanship though: how's this Winick comic read, you ask? Eh, like most of them do, they say: not enough happens to fill the pages, and even when some of its blatant rip-off-the-Punisher stuff works, it's rough trade copy of the moment when a frantic Batman drove somewhere while screaming something like "the call is coming from inside the house" is only the most obvious version of this comic's greatest problem, which is that this is ground recently well-covered being covered spuriously here.
This is a comic that probably only exists just so that Marvel can keep guys like Goran Parlov too busy to take work from the frantically seeking fill-in factory over at DC, but it's still Parlov with Gischler, and those are the two guys responsible for the only good non-Ennis Punisher comic since Romita on War Zone. Being set in the feudal Japanese era, Gischler has to include a nod to Lone Wolf and Cub (that's the one part of the Comics Code you'll only forget at your peril), but he otherwise follows the same formula that showed up in that weird Death of Dracula comic that Giuseppe Camuncoli drew last year: overtalking mixed with good-to-great violence drawings. Totally diggable stuff, but only in so much as you treat it like a sketchbook.
While this title has essentially pumped steroids right back into the Only Extreme Positions May Apply war between Morrison's most obsessive fans and Morrison's most obsesssive detractors (still this generation's most boring comics argument, although Why Don't You And Your Fucking Masters Degree Shut The Fuck Up About How To Fix Wonder Woman lurks forever in the rearview despite it not having the "both of you are the same" irony found in Morrison's Cafeteria), none of that silliness is Batman Incorporated #6's fault. Of course, it's also not its fault that it fights against the expectations bred of the dying flower that was Return of Bruce Wayne, which was a strange experiment in trying to create an ongoing story based off of ideas that had already been taken away from its writer once before by a man whose lifelong ambition is, apparently, to write really ugly comics about Geoforce, Katana, and a gigantic racial caricature named Freight Train. Anyway, there's no better case for why Grant Morrison comics would be so much fucking better if they were about whole wheat bread statues and Jewish hobo boxing champions, basically anything other than Big Two super-heroes, because this comic is a smart and dare it be said funny tear through all of what might someday make Bat Inc great, and as that greatness is never ever going to be allowed to happen, it would be awesome to see him hang out around something that didn't so closely resemble the word "debacle" every couple of years.
This was great, both for bullshit "what a horrible comic, comics are horrible" reason as well as just a straight up "that was perfect" reason, and you don't get a lot of comics like those. The dumb part was the part where a long time NYC detective played by fat Laurence Fishburne--seriously, can somebody loan Deodato a movie that didn't come out in the last two years? thanks!--claims to have never heard of Luke Cage, which is all kinds of confusing for about 75 reasons, 12 of which have to do with the fact that you can guaran-godamned-T-ya that every black cop in the city knows full fucking well who Luke Fucking Cage is, and if you make me go into that I'm going to start crying, and you don't want to know what I mean by that because it is something I'll only explain while spooning. AND. The stand alone good part was when the dude got his head all blown to spaghetti while the Red Skull was saying something about Superior Races, all because of the way Chaykin delivered one of those masterful head spins where it looks like the Red Skull's cranium is a globe on an axis. That's how you draw dumb shit gloriously, and if the world cared, it would show up be cemented forever in the brains of America in one of those "Sequence of the Week" columns that Sean T. Collins delivers over at Newsarama, but he's too busy watching Bethenny Ever After to mess with us proles. Confound you, snobbery!
The all time best invitation comic ever was that JLI issue where Fire pretty much foreign language fucked El Diablo for the entire page count, so this issue of FF will have to get spot number two. (If only DC had the balls to publish the story where all the super-heroes were given "wear your costume to the Identity Crisis funeral" orders when the stretchy guy's preggo wife got the burnt remainders of her carcass shoveled into one of the many DC landfills!) As with all the Hickman issues, this is arguably a really smart math comic about the thought experiment of whether or not a bunch of Reed Richard's from alternate dimensions are more boring than one regular Reed Richards all by himself. This is, however, arguable, so you should show your work. Spoiler! This comic will put you in a coma.
We got a couple of complaints across the desk here at TFO headquarters not too long ago, and while they ended up the same place that all of your letters go to, we did notice the irony that one was from the Mars, and one was from the Sun, and far be it from us to ignore whenever the God of War teams up with the the guy (girl?) from Stargate all for the purposes of pulling out the old namby pamby "you hate everything" card, a card that makes sense when its slapped down by a beanie baby from the breakworld and not so much otherwise. So here's a class action suit fired in preparation of a libel case: this is a great issue of Captain America, in no small part because its able to use a fight scene involving a bear even after webcomics and Robert Kirkman came along and turned all of those late-night-drunk-being-silly kinds of stories into an actual genre that each one of them seems to think they do better than the last, despite the obvious truth that all of them do it more horribly than the ones who came before. So good on you Ed Brubaker, and good on Butch Guice for drawing shitloads of panels on the page, and good on the Breitweiser family for producing so many various people with the last name Breitweiser that you eventually had to end up with one who colored comics better than Frank "The Steamroller" D'Armata, and good on Chris Samnee for still being Chris Samnee, and I guess good on Mike Deodato's Computer for having lots and lots of pretty women's breasts to trace or whatever it is that does that thing with the nipples and the bottoms in the catsuits. Sisterhood!
He's not dead yet.
Ultimate Avengers Vs. New Ultimates #4
Written by Mark Millar
Ar by Lenil Francis Yu
Published by Marvel Comics
But somebody else is dead!
A lot of people keep asking: What's the deal with Flashpoint? Where did it come from? Who makes up these crazy ideas? Of course, as you already know, DC is keeping a pretty exclusive lid on Flashpoint so that all those people staying at the Holiday Inn Express can read about it first in their free copies of USA Today, after which they will spread the story via word-of-mouth in what's come to be known as "viral" marketing (because herpes is a virus, and everybody who reads USA Today probably has herpes because seriously: who fucking reads USA Today? whores and junkies, that's who!) However, your trusty website was able to reach out through the magic of the internet and get some actual answers on the historical backgrounding of Flashpoint, which we now present below via the medium of copying and pasting:
TFO: Yo, fuckface.
Geoff Johns: What is up cockmaster?
TFO: Not a whole lot, actually. I was thinking I needed to book myself a stay at the local bed and continental breakfast to rustle up one of those free copies of USA Today, find out what the deal is with the Flashpoints. Then I remembered: I still had your email address from that time you gave that private online press conference explaining why you kept inserting abandoned or abusive fathers in all of your hero scripts.
Johns: Ah, the "Cub Scout" explanation, I remember that. You know I can't talk about how we're using Flashpoint to reboot all the Grant Morrison Batman stuff after this is all over and done, right?
TFO: Of course dude, this is just a private conversation. Treat it like this: I'm metaphorically nude right now, a moist infant, searching for a teat of Flashpoint historical information that I can suckle upon for my pleasures. I crave understanding the way Judas craved some simple recognition when he said "nah, thirty sounds fine." Let me curl up amongst your hairy bosoms like the wolf cub I so long to be.
Johns: I can't give you much, but how about I share my original moment of inspiration? Will my brain's lightning bolt be enough of a nipple for you to sup some nom-noms?
TFO: I'm puckered up like a 9 year old Catholic lighthouse keeper. Plop that shit into my gullet like you're fly-fishing.
Johns: First, a question: who's the lead character in Flashpoint?
TFO: You are, you fucking shortstop. Why not ask me something that won't cause me stupid cancer?
Johns: Alright smart guy: who's the lead COMIC BOOK character in Flashpoint?
TFO: Well...It's the Flash, right?
Johns: Nope. It's Cyborg.
TFO: What's so special about Cyborg?
TFO: What the hell is this? And why does Superman want to know my two favorite breakfast foods? Hey! Why can't I have more than two? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
Johns: Don't get bogged down in the details, buttercup. That's just the kind of stuff he liked to "rap" about before John Byrne made him a Communist, dig? What I want you to focus in on is Q5. Do you see what i'm looking at?
TFO: Let me see..."how interested are you in reading about..." oh. Oh my!
Johns: Allow me to explain, with American words. This survey, found in many DC Comics in 1970, was used by DC Comics as a guideline to the stories that those creators told. Now, my first action following my promotion to DC Story Overlord was to give myself two week's paid vacation so that I could meet the guys who invented Kirsten Dunst, but my second action was to summon all of DC's historical documents to my bedchamber. It was there that I made an astonishing discovery.
TFO: Was it a sexual discovery? Like on that show Survivorman?
Johns: What? No, you gotta focus. No, what I discovered was that the DC reader of 1970--what Levitz used to call "our wet creature"--wasn't just a fan of hot AND cold cereal, he was also an old school hardcore racist. He wasn't very interested in black people. He wasn't fairly interested in black people. Brother, he was straight up NOT INTERESTED.
TFO: People actually ripped these surveys out for the sole purpose of telling DC Comics that they didn't want to read comics about black people? Is that what you're telling me?
Johns: Not only that, they also wanted to let us know what they liked to eat for breakfast along with their passion for comics about astrology. Now, you gotta remember, there was a war on. Lots of kids were doing heroin and stealing bras so they could burn them at heroin parties. It was a different time. It was a racist time.
TFO: So what's this got to do with Flashpoint?
Johns: Well, when I sat down in my bedchamber with those survey results, I cried, I'm not going to lie. I cried like I was watching Marley and Me. I haven't cried that hard since the last time I read that part in New Frontier where Hal Jordan meets his flight jacket for the first time. I wept.
TFO: That's crazy. You think of Hal Jordan's jacket as a sentient thing capable of meeting human beings?
Johns: I'll ignore that, because you obviously haven't turned your life and will over to Stephen Ambrose. When I was looking at those survey results, I realized why so many people think of DC as a stodgy old company that pumps out a never-ending stream of inherently fucked up content in hopes that one of them might have a strong enough grasp on some swath of the American overconsumer that our corporate overlords can make some money off of the merchandising fees. They think that because we're still trying to please some racist kid who eats multiple breakfasts!
TFO: Broseph, I can get behind that kind of reasoning, as it makes perfect sense. Go on.
Johns: So my question became: what would things have been like if it had gone the other way? What would it have been like it our readers had responded to the survey and said that they were VERY interested in reading about black people? And hobbies!
TFO: And your answer was Flashpoint?
Johns: No, Cyborg was my answer. Flashpoint is just the leaves that grew off of the Cyborg tree!
TFO: I feel like you're hiding something.
Johns: Of course I'm hiding something! There's more comics coming, a lot more, and some of them are going to blow your mind. But here's a tasty example: what if the Greatest Generation was only Great because Hal Jordan became a Green Lantern? To be more specific--and this might be hard for you to understand--what if the only reason why we defeated the Nazis in World War Two was because of super-heroes?
TFO: That question doesn't even make sense. And what's that got to do with the survey?
Johns: Son, forget about the survey, I just got the black people thing from that. Now I'm talking about Nazis.
TFO: Yeah, I don't really want to talk about Nazis. I'm just...
Johns: Scared? I'll bet you are! You should be scared. See, in Flashpoint, the Nazis have taken over parts of South America. They never lost! They're still out there, goosestepping, talking in German, ironing their epaulets...
TFO: I'm not scared. I'm bored.
TFO: Like, Nazis? Really? That's what I'm supposed to get a hard on about? I mean, i'm probably into the thing were Wonder Woman kills millions of people, that seems like there's a lot of potential for some hardcore gore. But Nazis? C'mon dude. Didn't you read that Wolverine comic where he ghosts all those Nazi bitches in the concentration camps? That shit was unreal. It was like Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark level shit, like "two dead boys stand up to fight, back to back they faced each other", you know?
Johns: Oh shit, "drew their swords"?!
TFO: "And fucking SHOT each other". Yeah, now that's the kind of Nazi versus super-hero shit I'll get behind.
Johns: God, that sounds so rad. I can't be seen packing that gear though, you know? It's bad for business.
TFO: You seriously can't read badass Mark Millar Wolverine comics? Not even as a "know your enemy" kind of thing?
Johns: Nah, it's...honestly, I think it's that some of those dudes--you know, like Sattler, Berganza, those cats--they just take this shit home too much. I remember Jim used to have some old issues of X-Men in his office, just as a reminder that he'd drawn the best selling super-hero comic like EVER, like, The All Fucking Time shit, and Ian was walking by, and he saw them gangbang mothers laying out...
TFO: All gatefolded out like a Sports Illustrated calendar...
Johns: You know it, with Magneto in the Kathy Ireland spot! .... Shit. But yeah, it was just sitting there, and Ian starts bawling like Jim had broken his Tonka truck. He locked himself up in the toy design rooms, refused to write the DC Nation for a couple of weeks. They had to let him fire some Vertigo people just to get him to stop crying. After that, the unspoken rule became an unspoken law.
TFO: That's so crazy.
Johns: Yeah, why do you think everybody keeps bailing for LA? That place is about as fun as a methodone clinic. Well, listen, I gotta bail. It's fucking l.a.t.e. It's Skinemax late.
TFO: All good. How's that Green Lantern movie looking, before you go?
Johns: Pretty good, I guess. We hired Helen Mirren to redo all of Blake Lively's lines in a Jamaican accent. It was going alright until Blake's agent found out. But that's all legal shit, not my game. I'm just waiting for the checks to roll in.
TFO: Living the life, sergeant.
Johns: You know it. We done here?
TFO: Audi 5000.
-Tucker Stone, 2011