Last Week's Comics In Fourteen Panels – Including Mark Millar's Greece
Dr Manolis Vamvounis writes for Bleeding Cool. From Greece;
Strap yourselves in. Things are about to get catty!
This is the past week's worth of comics in select panels and lots of very opinionated geekery. Or Greekery.
COLOUR ME INSULTED
Sure, it's probably not directly Millar's fault. He's a lovely chap, I used to call him "daddy", he used to try and find me a nice geek boy to marry (or at least that's what I thought he said), it was the best of con times. Then this week in SUPERCROOKS #4 (a phenomenally fun, bloody and twisty mix of classic heist movies, superheroes and Millarisms) he literally keeps piling on the insults to my country.
Consider this an open letter. Hey, we can take a joke. Fine. We're dirt poor, any crook (super- or otherwise) can buy us off with his share of the illicit winnings from a well-executed heist. Ha ha. But do try and get our map right. Don't paint the Aegean Sea as a land mass and Turkey as our ocean.
Now, if you'd ever come visit, you'd know the difference ;)
How appropriate that this week's YOUNGBLOOD #73 would be devoted to a poor defenseless girl who gets bullied all the time – and turns into a complete and utter hatchet-wielding raving psycho? This could not be more perfect. The funny thing is, I'm actually looking forward to Youngblood more and more each month. Sure, the storytelling is subpar, artist Jon Malin turns the dial from "brilliant" to "hack" in the blink of an eye, but this is still a FUN book. It's the essence of the early 00s edgy relevant media-obsessed superhero revolution, ten years too late. It's all too appropriate for words and I've already spent too many.
LEAVE THEM HANGING ON BY THE SKIN OF THEIR SCALPS
SCALPED #60 marks the end of the road for Jason Aaron's landmark Vertigo series, his best and most mature work, the most violent and most emotional. This is the book that *really* launched Aaron's career, a Sopranos-esque mob drama set in the Prairie Rose reservation and casino, starring the token deadend bad boy turned undercover federal agent returning home to, well, stir even worse shit up.
Dash Bad Horse has constantly flip-flopped from one bad decision to another, falling deeper and deeper into his own grave – and still digging on – for the past 60 issues. This final issue pays tribute to just how far each of these characters have changed – matured or downright decayed – during the course of this series. No one person has been left not fundamentally altered through this. It's a testament to Aaron's writing abilities just how organic these changes feel looking back, how you can safely pinpoint the moment each of these people (for they do feel realer than real) hit rock bottom and either clawed their way back up or festered there.
DON'T JUDGE A COMPANY BY ITS COVERS
Before my friend (the uber talented Ilias Kyriazis again, whom you'll hear me hype more and more these coming weeks) started taking regular work from Zenescope, I had dismissed their books as nothing more than what their covers alluded to: cheap exploitative bondage porn for Superhero slash Fairytale slash Slash fetishists. Some sort of imitation Jim Balent book without the humour and self-satire. GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76 is, quite enjoyably, nothing of the sort. Instead we get treated to a very adequate self-contained prison romp that works exceedingly well as an introduction to the main character and the themes of the story. Not having read any of the previous issues, this could easily be mistaken for an engrossing first issue to a (very Fables-influenced) new Image series. Um, present-day Image, that is.
I'm not subjective when it comes to Ilias' art so I won't embarrass myself here. I'll just say this. Even with the script calling for the protagonist to walk through a spray of rain, dripping wet, onto an actual honest-to-god gang bang rape (or what could have been interpreted as one by other popular artists), the actual art doesn't have a single hint of gratuitous sexual objectification. There's a heavy hand of emotional intensity and some great storytelling choices all around.
I can imagine a lot of disappointed horny nerds leaving the book unfinished. (drum cue)
LET ME GO ON, LIKE A SPIKE IN THE SUN
SPIKE (A DARK PLACE) #1 is a full issue of everyone's (well, apart from me, apparently) favourite bleached vampire captaining his starship of space cockroaches straight towards the sun, catching some rays and fighting off evil aliens. Everything you never expected a Spike story to ever include. I do enjoy the pure kookiness of Spike's entourage that Whedon is revelling in during this "9th Season" of the Buffy saga. And this could very well be Victor Gischler's best book to date. Who knew he COULD actually write vampires?
ONE THING YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND HERE IS THAT:
THIS IS NOT ACCURATE.
Quantum physics say nothing of the sort. JMS has probably as good a grasp on Quantum Physics as he does on Alan Moore's Dr Manhattan. Shroendinger's box has a cat. A dead one or a live one, you don't know, but you know it's a bloody cat because you put it in there.
That's besides the point though. Alan Moore's Dr Manhattan was based on a very linear, cemented destiny principle. This character that JMS is creating here in BEFORE WATCHMEN DR MANHATTAN #1, may be rehashing the events of the Watchmen series, but is instead looking at the world as an array of endless possibilities. One was eternally a slave to his perception of predestination, the other is enamoured by his complete freedom of alternate choices. Other than a big fat paycheck (and to get on Moore's nerves as he really seems intent to), I see no reason to even name this character Dr Manhattan. Trust me, I'm a Doctor too.
WILLINGHAM, YOU HORRIBLE SADISTIC BITCH
FABLES #120 is a heart-breaking exploration of desperation and creator cruelty. Bill Willingham has spent the last few months gleefully torturing the most beloved and cutest of his cast members, Snowwhite's Seven Little Cubs, into an abrupt and disconcerting maturation. Now he is writing this one poor kid literally begging him, his unseen god of storytelling for mercy, as he reaches the end of his rope of fairy tale heroic happy ending expectations and crippling reality checks. This book will make you feel rotten inside for the rest of the month. It's the sort of writing that is giving Kirkman ideas.
THE GREAT RIVERDALE TRANSVESTITISM AFFAIR
You gotta love a good gender swap! In ARCHIE #636, everyone in Riverdale (and we do mean everyone, from "Regina" to "Joey and the Junkyard Dogs") switches gender (and gender roles) for a day – yet some things remain dependably the same, as Archina still struggles to decide between "Ron" and "Billy". Cutesy, offbeat and even surprising at times.
THE ARROW BIKE
And you thought Green Arrow's hacker arrow was the coolest archer gadget of the year! Rick Remender is bringing the tech in SECRET AVENGERS #30 – amidst a frenetic high speed chase involving both Vengeance (I assume?), the Taskmaster and a whole lot of smart-quippery.
STILL NOT AS COOL AS THE LADY-BIKE
Rob Liefeld's legacy in the DCNu may have been brief but we will still always be left with the insane brilliance of Pike's Lady Bike from SAVAGE HAWKMAN #12, the concept of the talking vehicle taken to its more entertaining logical extremes. The flying menstrual cycle. Yes, I totally went there. Boo-ya.
DARK WONDER GIRL
Yes, she's every single "dark X" cliche costume design element from the 90s rolled into one (a bit of Malice and lots of Stryfe and every single Image book) but I LOVE it. Look at all the gold and the spikes (and the spikes upon spikes) and the glowiness! Lobdell had already won me over from the opening scene of TEEN TITANS #12 with the possessed Cassie correcting her friends on her name – "Wonder Girl" – after spending 11 issues very adamantly (and while consistently acting quite insulted) insisting on the former.
MIND THE SPOILERS
No big loss there. I was not a big fan of the relaunched Sinister from Kieron Gillen's X-run. I found him missing the most appealing aspect of the character, the true obsession and twisted care with which he approached the Summers, Grey and Lebeau family lines. To see him casually mass-produce and sacrifice his clones here without a second thought, while being diluted into whatever that underground Sinister civilisation was all about, left me… uninterested. Sinister's most recent death at the hands of the Phoenix Five at the end of UNCANNY X-MEN #17 felt like a mercy kill.
The deliberate SilverAge-isms of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN caught me a bit off guard, as the introduction, empowerment and rise to fame of "Spider-man's new sidekick", Alpha, take place in rapid fire succession within this first chapter of what is VERY telegraphed out to be a tragic story of -waitforit- Power and Responsibility. It's unfortunately a telltale DanSlottism of late, escalating the story prematurely, before the reader has a chance to familiarize himself with the premise and accept whatever preposterous comic book insanity he is being fed. The character of Alpha, what blatantly inverted Peter Parker qualities of it we manage to make out, is surprisingly endearing in a way but he does indeed scream cannon fodder a mile away. Dan Slott, I'm waiting to be wowed here.
I've defended Rob Liefeld on two separate occasion during this week's column, I'm totally within my rights to go berserker NERD crazy over Jeph Loeb for WOLVERINE #312. Within the same issue Loeb casually dismisses the "immense revelations" of his previous story arc, Wolverine and the other feral mutants as direct descendants of cavewolves or somewhat (which had never been mentioned again in the passing years anyway), only to counter them with an even more preposterous last minute twist about Logan being the mastermind behind the Weapon X program. I enjoy a good twist as much as the next geek. A GOOD twist. Not just some half-assed "kewl" reversal just for the sake of it with no real pay-off other than the short-term buzz of pissed-off nerds.
P.S. Stop trying to make Romulus happen. He's never gonna be cool no matter how many different popular character he imitated or how many claws he pops
What did you think of our week of "diversification"? I tried to cover as many non-Big Two superhero books as possible, and resist the urge to plaster DEADPOOL KILLS THE MARVEL UNIVERSE panels all over the place – although the final issue of the series cemented it as one of the year's best reads.
It was a week of obvious targets (hello Loeb, JMS), unexpected fancies (two Rob Liefeld books, Zenescope, even Archie!), miscommunications (oh Millar) and crazy crazy rides.
The ending of SCALPED trumps everything else out this week, and I hope the hype generated by the readers of the series will convince you to check it out in trades. It's rare (well, not so rare for Vertigo) for a comic series to maintain such great quality throughout its run and provide an ending that satisfies its long-time readers and stays true to the creators' vision and their characters. This has been one of Vertigo's all-time best series (and I'm not making this statement lightly).
Oh, and Millar? I'm waiting to hear back from you, daddy.
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