This is a serious, adult comic about a Marvel character named Squirrel Girl, who was part of something called the Great Lake Avengers, which is one of those things that, in the upside down reality that is super-hero comic book fandom, that world where you're a fucking freaky freak-freak if you don't want to eat deep fried lamb covered in cashew butter ice cream off of a frozen antelope tibia while rooting for the Disney legal team to go thorax-deep in scat fingering Jack Kirby's corpse while Stan Lee's gigantic white chompers gnaw whole chunks of stringy flesh out of every 12-year-old girl's nethers when they dare to say "Apologies, but I prefer Twilight" in close proximity to the meat wheelbarrow or that creep with the hat who keeps pretending that editing Spider-man comics is hard (if it were hard, wouldn't they have hired somebody that doesn't embarrass America?), in that fucked up world, you're the asshole if you don't know where Squirrel Girl comes from. You're the dripping tooled shit covered prick of the world if you can't immediately call up a bunch of fond memories of that time Squirrel-Girl-did-this or that time Squirrel-Girl-did-that, blah blah blah, and now you can't come sit at the dirty-t-shirt cum-stains where grass-stains should be jean jacket table with the Sergeants of 40-year-old lead miniature girlfriends, all because you don't have some cornball best-man-style monologue to deliver about how the Great Lake Avengers were the surrogate back-patter you had in place of a best friend, and now you'll just have to go and sit at the table where all the assholes (those people who know when there taxes are supposed to be paid, those people who don't need a boycott as an excuse to not watch movies they know in advance are going to be shitty, those jerkwater foxes who don't need Eve Laurence to dress like Starfire to consumate some masturbation) are sitting. They call it the referendum.
The main reason this comic is confusing is obvious to anyone--the story was cut short when DC decided at the last minute to reboot their entire continuity, forcing Scott Snyder to come up with a new Batman arc for the new Batman comic he's doing with a new Batman artist. (That thing where they said the reboot was planned in advance? That's an actual full on lie, just so we're clear.) So Snyder had to come up with an abbreviated ending to his story, and he gave it to his artists, and these were the drawings they came up with to hide under the mountains of text on the page. (This is why the comic looks and reads like some late 80's joke about stereo instructions.) But there's a secondary reason why this comic is confusing, and that's this: it isn't a Batman comic. It's a comic about a cliched psychopath blathering endlessly to his most recent victim, and at the end, Batman shows up. But when he isn't there, what you're stuck with is page after endless page of a boilerplate crazy guy talking to his sister, who--because the only movie anybody at DC has ever seen was one of the Saw movies--he has just stabbed in the paralyzed legs with knives, both of which he has left in the paralyzed legs, which he only did so that he could pull what appears to be a tablecloth off of them like he's some kind of crazy magician. (Ta-da!)
The best part about Fear Itself isn't going to happen for at least another ten years, because that'll be when Matt Fraction does an interview with whatever 2021's version of cross-comics-promotion-internetty thing is and finally reveals that he and Stuart Immonen had actually joined Steve Bissette's Marvel boycott months before the thing even became a public thing for cardboard city builders and recycling addicts to participate in. And really, while it takes balls to not read shitty comics (except for Daredevil, Deadpool Max and Uncanny X-Force) or watch shitty movies, it takes a lot more balls to boycott the very product you're actually in the process of creating and cashing checks off of the publication of, and that has to be the reason that Matt Fraction is making this horrible, horrible comic about how Iron Man is a crybaby life's-not-fair type and Spider-Man thinks saving people from burning buildings and kill-crazed Nazi robots is less important than hanging out with his shithead cockless milkslurping friends (who, if memory serves, are a bunch of ugly versions of Big Bang Theory characters that all hang out in the most half-ass imitation of the Friends coffeeshop since the How I Met Your Mother bar booth). Alternatively, it could be that Matt Fraction lost his fucking mind when they made him participate in that ridiculous "Marvel Architects" photoshoot, as that's what would happen to any sane person when they saw up close what Ed Brubaker was doing with his facial hair while at the same moment Brian Michael Bendis screeched "mincing, i'm mincing, mincing like I've never minced before". But then I saw that upcoming Casanova cover with the panda bear, and that's when I decided I liked the boycott idea more.
The first issue was better than this, the second, but then again, there's a major character death hiding in classic unheralded fashion--apparently?--so maybe the praise that came down last time around was just a little too much, and now it's time for the requisite overcorrection. Therefore: the colors is in this are limp, and yet the credits page still says Dave Stewart. The behavior of Kate Corrigan is more similar to the Paul Hornschemeier character that Tyler Crook weirdly draws her as, but there's Arcudi & Mignola's names front and center. Overall, there's something off and unwieldy here--it's just not that good a read, and coming on the same week as The Fury, it's post-Mulder X-Files banality is all the more an aggravation.
While some might prefer the Howard Chaykin/Bolland female bodybuilder team-up, and others might get themeselves aflustered for Will Pfeifer's engaging journey into figuring out how many Art History references he can convince P. Craig Russell to draw, it's the Levitz story that'll most likely make you run screaming for the typewriter, only to find disappointment your wingman: there's no letters column to fire that missive towards, this is it, the Final Issue of the supposed-to-be-the-Shadow Spirit comic. And yet--there's something here, the idea of a guy like Levitz writing a story about--well, a guy like Levitz, an older gentleman still attached to a dying print industry, getting one last adventure with one of his inspirations and fantasies. So what if that adventure ends with the Levitz stand-in being crushed to death by his mountains of unwanted print media, his entire existence shrugged off by the random costumed hero who--unlike everyone else in that old man's world, as the story itself tells--just so happend to be the only person who knew that old man's name.
The easiest way to point out how good Hellboy comics are is to cast them alongside the shit they end up sharing shelf-space with. Just place one of these comics alongside anything else, and the comparison is so striking it hurts, and that's not just on the level of finished product, but all the way down in the constituent parts. Coloring: these look better than all DC or Marvel comics, even the rare ones where the artists are allowed to handle that part themselves. Writing: these are stronger, more cohesive stories whose references call to library cards and years of fannish obsessions. (Compare that to something as overly praised as Detective Comics #881, a comic whose main story was pirated off of quick scans of the internet popular Psychopath Test from a few months ago, a trick Scott Snyder learned from Google News copy n' paste hero extraordinaire, Warren Ellis). Visually: Duncan Fegredo's Hellboy style--something he cribbed only in part from Mignola layouts, the rest all his own, a seamless mixture of synthesized inspiration--began building a visual crescendo back in the drumbeats of The Storm's fall battles that concludes here with a bloody winter's cacaphony of collapse and brutal savagery, smashed heads, plunging claws and gut-to-throat cries of sorrow.
It doesn't do The Fury justice to play this game, of course. To couch these comics in better-than language, to lambast the surrounding tripe gives the tripe a merit it doesn't deserve, ranking them categorically belies the lie that they are related beasts. It's not only unfair, it's unseemly.
And yet...why not do it anyway? Why take the high road? Why pretend that it shouldn't be pointed out that other comic books--even other Mignola comics, like the anemic Baltimore--just don't belong in the same room with the accomplishment that this thing is? Shit--utter shit--like Fear Itself and Green Arrow and whatever that Flying Grayson thing is that lurks behind those awesomely out-of-place Cliff Chiang covers--continues to show up, often outselling Hellboy, all the while adamently refusing to learn anything from the model and maturity that Mignola has continuously provided for these many years. It's like DC and Marvel are that crazy woman on the View, that loudmouth slime who worships volume and indignation as if that will remake the world into the hard lined lair of simplicty her jello brain ejacualates itself to sleep in fantasy of. Why not call the ball as it lays and say thusly: these stories are better than comics deserve. Hail, hail.
-Tucker Stone, 2011