FINAL CRISIS: RAGE OF THE RED LANTERNS #1
Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Shane Davis Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Optimous DoucheI adored 99.99% of every blood soaked page in this book. Like the “Sinestro Corps War” this was not just a title that will titillate Green Lantern fans, but should also tweak the pleasure centers of most comic aficionados. Between all of the blood and gore, unexpected twists, and a so cavalier that it’s funny take on mass carnage akin to when Monty Python told us to “bring out our dead”, Johns weaves yet one more appropriately dark set-up for the impending “lights out” that is about to consume the DC galaxy.
For the first time in many months Hal Jordan has stepped out of Doc Brown’s Delorean to join the rest of the DC universe in the here and now (sorta – more on that in a minute). I know many fans have been irked by the seven month sojourn into Hal Jordan’s past that just finished in GREEN LANTERN, but all will become clear as you traverse the pages of RED RAGE and realize the pivotal roles being played by Yellow Lantern Sinestro and Red Lantern Atrocitus. Staying true to its name, “Secret Origin” truly was a game of three card Monty, when you were watching Hal Jordan you really should have been looking closer at the villains because RED RAGE has solidified that the villains will be the real stars in the coming “Blackest Night”.
To give a plot summary would be an affront to the sheer deliciousness of this title, because it is not the plot itself that spurred girlish eeks and agape expressions as I read each page, but rather each small moment that drove the plot. Know this: Sinestro is finally being asked to walk “the Green Mile” (no pun intended – OK yes it was) for his crimes against the Green Lanterns and the entire universe during the Sinestro Corps War. Does Sinestro meet his macabre fate? I’m not saying, but I will offer my three favorite moments of this title: a perfect yellow head shot, some red Lanterns are real pussies, and one more nail in the coffin of Sinestro’s unrequited bromance for Jordan.
“Hey Douche, what’s this 99% bullshit? It sounds to me like you would have had this comic in the biblical sense if it wasn’t for unsightly paper cuts on your Optimous Dick.” And you’re right in that assumption; Johns delivered a great story and Davis did some amazing pencil work especially on the tight close ups. Alas, my one dissatisfaction falls on DC editorial because I can now say without reservation that FC no longer stands for FINAL CRISIS, but rather fucked continuity and find currency. I’m conflicted because the greedy marketer in me applauds DC for their chutzpah in trying to suck Green Lantern fans into FINAL CRISIS, but the comic purist in me cries bullshit. There is a panel on page one that says, “These events take place between Final Crisis 1 and 2.” OK, so there is no death algebra consuming the universe yet, thanks for the heads up. Surely then we’ll see Hal Jordan and John Stewart getting the Alpha Lantern smackdown while investigating the death of Orion. Nope. Ahhh, so maybe Darkseid or Libra will be the financial backers of the Red Lanterns. Nope, there’s not a “Night at the Roxbury Darkseid” or “Gay pride Leotard Libra” to be found. There was not one connection point to FC and the Blackest Night. So, why wasn’t this entitled “Blackest Night Part I”, or here’s an even better idea, GREEN LANTERN number 36?
This is a small nit in the context of enjoying this book, but a monumental Mecca size nit in the context of affairs at DC. I’m going to go back on my earlier statements about FINAL CRISIS not changing anything at DC. FINAL CRISIS has torn their universe in three: there’s the Morrison Universe, the Johns Universe and the also-rans universe. And for now, none of them seem to be colliding.
When Optimous Douche isn’t reading comics and misspelling the names of 80’s icons, he “transforms” into a corporate communications guru. Optimous is looking for artistry help, critical feedback and a little industry insight to get his original book AVERAGE JOE up, up and on the shelves. What if the entire world had super powers? Find out in the blog section of Optimous’ MySpace page to see some preview pages and leave comments.
ASTONISHING X-MEN: GHOST BOXES #1
Writer: Warren Ellis Artist(s): Alan Davis, Adi Granov Publisher: Marvel Comics "Reviewed" by Humphrey LeeI apologize for this "review" right now. Those expecting me to come in here and dissect this comic and discuss material like what I thought it achieved and where it's going and how its role in fitting into the main AXM story Ellis has created and etc etc...well, you ain't getting it because I didn't read it. I had planned on it; even had it on my pull list and everything. Showed up to the store, went to my box and there it was as I flipped through my pile and then its pages to take in the art, something I was really excited by when I read the solicits and saw two of the best in the field, for varying reasons. But then I noticed something. That there wasn't much art in this book, from either of these esteemed gentlemen. Likewise, not much story either, just a lot of so called "bonus" material. And then I double checked the price tag and thought... wow, that's a lot of balls. I mean, when they solicited this book, I did recall there was a price increase, but I also saw that there was to be 48 pages of material. Material that I was under the assumption would be, y'know, FUCKING EXTRA PAGES OF STORY AND NOT SOME BULLSHIT COPY/PASTE JOB OF A SCRIPT THAT SOME/MOST COMICS WILL JUST FUCKING GIVE YOU FOR FREE BECAUSE THEY ACTUALLY GIVE A SHIT WHILST ALSO NOT FUCKING TAKING AWAY SIX PAGES OF MATERIAL FROM THE NORM AND CHARGING YOU FOR THE FUCKING RIGHT TO DO SO!!!
.... ah...so much better...
Listen, I understand times are tough all around, just like I understand that, quite frankly, this is just a comic book and nothing to get worked up about. Unlike things that are actually pertinent and/or essential in life, I can just put this back on the shelf and be done with it. But at the same time, the idea that someone thought they could cut back on six pages of story, give us "extras" that can be found for free in, well hell, in the back matter of pretty much any of Warren Ellis' creator owned products, and then have the audacity to charge another dollar for it...it's just working on a plane of asininity that I can't really fathom. And really, Marvel's pricing schemes of late are something that has really pushed on my nerves and this brought it to the forefront. I'm looking at you, "$3.99 books that have no extra pages, just a cardstock cover". And y'know, I get it sometimes. I really do. I've got a Bachelor's in Business Management, I understand something about bottom line and margins and insert whatever jargon, but for fuck's sakes you're really leaving some people out in the woods here. Give a couple extra pages here and there, or at the least keep the page count the same and give us bonuses. Last I checked, DC is giving us an extra page count AND that nifty little cardstock cover (you know, the thing that was on all the ULTIMATE titles just a handful of years ago when they were still $2.25 with no added cost? Those things…) for an extra buck, why don't you, y'know, price competitively?
Oh, that's right. You don't think you have to. Because readers will buy it anyway, most times without even noticing. And you're right, they won't. Which is why SECRET INVASION is a buck more with nothing but that little stock cover to bolster the increase, despite the fact that it's the highest selling title right now by a large margin. Which is why you get something like the last issue of GHOST RIDER that put material that is normally, and should really, be relegated to Handbook style specials and not put in the back of the monthly with the assumption the reader will want to read it and pay extra for it. Which is why now all your collections go to that lovely "Premiere" Hardcover format first, which AT THE LEAST are just as expensive as the issues themselves, if not moreso, pretty much negating half the reason people trade wait to begin with, which is to save a little scratch off the cost of buying it monthly since they have the patience to wait for it. But it's okay, this title/issue in question only has double the readership of, say, THE BOYS complete with advertising and everything, so of course it needs to take away six pages of content for an added cost. Just the cost of doing business, right?
But this is just comics. Nothing to get worked up over. It's only entertainment; a luxury at best. Honestly, besides incidents like this, I've had a lot of good will going for Marvel recently. I love books like NOVA and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and pretty much everything Brubaker writes, and I've been damn well please to see them recognizing talent like Matt Fraction, and giving guys like Jason Aaron and Rick Remender and Jonathan Hickman some spotlight. I don't even mind their events for the most part, even though I think they need to happen less frequently. I just don't get where this nonsense is coming from, and how they think it's not going to bite them in the ass. I'm also angry at the fans, though, for not voting with their dollar and calling them on this shit, but that's a whole ‘nother rant. And again, for those of you who wanted a review of this book, which I'm sure had some good Ellisonian one-liners and kind of confusing but still highly intriguing techno-babble, I apologize. It looked really pretty I saw as I flipped through it. That's about all I've got. It's just the cost of doing business though, I guess.
Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to Ain't It Cool comics for quite a few as well. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to - funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He's a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, The MySpaces, and a Blogger Account where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn't the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.
DC UNIVERSE DECISIONS #4
Writers: Judd Winick and Bill Willingham Penciller: Howard Porter Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: JinxoI was tempted to skip reviewing this book. By the time this review will hit the web the election will be over and this “Be Sure To Vote!” book will be pointless anyway. If you haven’t bought it by now, don’t bother. But I decided to talk about it because it just annoyed me so badly. I finished reading it and immediately looked at the price on the cover. A $2.99 four issue weekly published book. It just hit me that I got soaked for twelve bucks for a “Very Special Episode Of Blossom…err…the DC Universe”. This book had three levels it was working. The hook was the action level. Someone is trying to kill fictional DC Universe politicians and they are mind controlling innocent people to do it! Not a bad hook. Next is the ethical plot level. Should heroes endorse political candidates? And the final level is the “Very Special Episode” level with the book serving as a PSA for us to get to the polls and vote! A twelve &%#$! dollar PSA.
So how do those levels pan out? On the action front, the resolution of who was behind the assassination attempts was just okay. There’s a decent fight but the reveal of who was behind it and why isn’t exactly mind blowing. It’s just enough to finish the plot up cleanly but not enough for me to feel like it was worth hanging a whole miniseries on.
On the hero ethics front…it just falls flat. In the end we find out that heroes really shouldn’t endorse candidates. We learn this from a big speech at the end from Superman. With the action stuff just being okay, this book for me hung on this. It’s clearly supposed to be a deep and profound speech from the big guy but reading it…to me he sounded really full of crap. It didn’t sound honest or well reasoned. It was full of logic like, “Well, if I throw my support to candidate A to be President and then candidate B wins, maybe candidate B won’t fully trust that I’ll be there for him to help when I’m needed.” Yeah. Because candidate B would be that stupid. Because Superman didn’t back him in the election, clearly Superman will stand back and let an assassin kill him or will let a bus of kids get blown up just to make the guy look bad. The rest of his logic is about that solid. It isn’t really Superman saying something that matters, it’s the writers closing the concept down so they don’t have to ever deal with it again. Oh! Then there is also the weird moment where Superman says the heroes actually operate outside the law and that their actions “are governed by no one”. What the hell??? Okay, they aren’t sanctioned law enforcement agents but I never thought of the heroes as being beyond the law. If Superman were to kill someone I’d expect him to stand trial. This line actually scared me in what it seemed to infer. But maybe Superman is right. Why would we ever look to the smartest and noblest of us to help us make up our minds on important issues? That’s just stupid!
They also try so hard to maintain Superman/Clark Kent’s political neutrality to the point of absurdity. Okay, you want Superman to represent ALL Americans, Republicans and Democrats. But the end has Lois still pestering Clark to tell her who he voted for and Clark refusing to say. All I could think is, wow, they must have the worst marriage EVER. Clark’s so closed off that even his wife can’t determine who he’d vote for? REALLY??? They’re married news reporters and he has never said enough for her to get any idea of his political leanings??? I think I could tell you who everyone of my friends is voting for even without them telling me, even friends I only talk to once in awhile. I guess at the Kent home conversations go like this: “Hey Clark, how do you feel about gay marriage?” “Well…you know…well…” “What about evolution versus creationism?” “Well…yeah…eh…” “Clark, didn’t you actually go back in time that one time where you saw how the Earth came into being?” “Yes I did, but…well, eh…no comment.”
So, with the action plot being just passable and the ethics thing just not making a lick of sense, what comes to the front as the main point of this whole book is that it is in fact nothing but a get out and vote PSA. I paid twelve dollars to be preached at. I’m so annoyed…I’m sort of now rooting for Darkseid in this Final Crisis thing. Screw ‘em all, Darkseid! If he’s in charge Darkseid won’t be putting up with this sort of crap. Never going to be a “Very Special” Darkseid story. Although, come to think of it, THAT I would pay to read. Jinxo is Thom Holbrook, lifelong comic book reader, and the evil genius behind poobala.com. He may appear cute and cuddly but if encountered avoid eye contact and DO NOT attempt to feed.
THE EVIL DEAD TPB
Writer: Mark Verheiden Based on Characters created by Sam and Ivan Raimi Art: John Bolton Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Rreviewer: Ambush BugI always get a little sad this time of year. I don’t know about you, but during the month of October, I go on horror overload. My Tivo is filled with classic horror films that I’ve been meaning to see for years. I go to just about every horror flick in the theaters. I buy more horror DVDs. I even try to take in an all night movie marathon (this year it was Chicago’s Music Box Massacre and it was top tits). I admit it. During the month of October, I’m a horror junkie.
Then, at the stroke of midnight on Halloween Eve, everything seems to change. Decorations come down from windows and yards. No more horror film blocks on AMC or TCM to enjoy. And everything just seems a little less thrilling. If this were a gradual change, I might not be overcome by such a sense of melancholy. But it’s the abruptness of the horror cut-off, as if some uptight people couldn’t wait for the month to be over, that really knocks me on my ass and makes me long for just a bit more horror.
I came across this trade paperback from Dark Horse at just that time. This past weekend, after flipping through the channels and finding not one scare to spare, I decided to crack open this book ad see what it was all about.
Damn this was a good choice! I missed Dark Horse’s THE EVIL DEAD miniseries when it first came out. I suppose I overlooked it with all of the SECRET CRISES and FINAL INVASIONS going on. I’m sure some of you overlooked it too. Let me tell you that if you are a fan at all of the original Sam Raimi horror rollercoaster, you will have to pick this book up.
This isn’t a boring rehashing of the same THE EVIL DEAD movie we’ve seen a hundred times. Nor is it a “completely original” story spun-off from the movie. This is an elaboration on the classic horror tale and a phenomenal one at that.
The highlight of the book is the art from John Bolton. I’ve seen Bolton’s gorgeous images in the past, but his renditions of the Deadite possessed victims in this story are just as nightmare-inducing as the characters from the original. There’s an eloquence to Bolton’s handling of the paints and renderings that makes his imagery look both horrifying and beautiful. Bolton takes liberties at times, giving the Deadites more of a ghostly presence, making up for the more mechanical and claymation feel of the creatures from the films. Simply put, this was the most beautiful scarefest I’ve laid my jaded eyes upon. Occasionally the characters are a bit overly photo-referenced, but just when it’s becoming distracting, Bolton tossed another original looking panel in your face.
Mark Verheiden does a great job of respecting the source material enough so that this book is not blasphemous to die hard EVIL DEAD fans, yet adds new depth to the story that doesn’t seem like filler or unnecessary extrapolation. What we see here are extended scenes filling in the backstory of the four campers in this haunted cabin. We also get to see the story through Ash’s eyes. Verheiden nails the voice of Ash perfectly, giving him just enough snark and attitude that’s made Ash such an icon without going all cartoony or phony with it.
I’m a huge fan of the original EVIL DEAD. I prefer its rough edge to the big budget bend-overing that was ARMY OF DARKNESS. I even prefer it to EVIL DEAD 2, even though I feel that’s a phenomenal achievement for completely different reasons. But when I originally saw EVIL DEAD as a kid, I was scared shitless. Bolton and Verheiden’s love song to the EVIL DEAD movie pleases this die hard Deadite and, dare I say it, improves on the film by not only fleshing out these characters, but tying the first and second films together in a manner that is more seamless than the films themselves. If you’re suffering from horror withdrawal, seek out Dark Horse’s THE EVIL DEAD Trade. You may be just as surprised as I was at how good and scary it is.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, reviewer and co-editor of AICN Comics for over seven years. Check out a five page preview of his short story published in MUSCLES & FIGHTS 3 (AVAILABLE NOW at Muscles & Fights.com.) on his ComicSpace page. Bug was recently interviewed here and here at Cream City Comics about indie comics, his own artistic process, the comics industry, and other shades of bullsquat. Look for Bug’s follow-up this Fall in MUSCLES & FRIGHTS!
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #26
Writer: Dwayne McDuffie Artist: Ed Benes Published by: DC Reviewed by: BottleImpAnd my newfound interest in JUSTICE LEAGUE ends…now.
The intriguing plot that saw Anansi the trickster-god altering reality on a whim, leaving Vixen as the only unchanged member of the JLA lost in an alternate world? Resolved in a manner only slightly less hackneyed than the classic, “it was all just a dream” method. The “Elseworld”-esque version of the JLA that I was looking forward to seeing in action? They barely qualify as being fleshed out enough to be ONE-dimensional characters, let alone two-dimensional comic page drawings. Which brings me to the art…
Benes’ artwork turned me off this series from its beginning, and reading an entire issue drawn by him (as opposed to #25’s roster of a bunch of artists) just reinforces my initial reaction. Lots of muscles so thick and knotted that arms look as if they’d break rather than bend. Plenty of Vixen’s cleavage shots. And hands down, some of the blandest facial expressions ever put to paper. On the first three pages, Vixen is running along city rooftops of a strange world, looking for the Justice League in whatever incarnation it has become. Her face? Bland. Vapid. Sometimes smiling slightly. If one were to look at the images without reading the captions, one would think that she was off to meet a date for the evening (or maybe just heading back from one). Comics being a visual medium, you’d think that the art should be able to show plot’s emotional timbre rather than relying on the text to tell it. And on a related note, check out the big “climactic” double-page spread fight scene towards the end of this issue. The JLA and its doppelgangers from Anansi’s world are at the beginning of what looks to be a huge, (Bat)man-on-man and (Wonder)woman-on-woman melee. The BEGINNING. Vixen’s narrative captions read, “I don’t know if we were that much better than them. Seems to me like they were almost helping us to win… They might have been characters in Anansi’s story, subject to his authorial whims, but deeper still, they were Justice League. And when it comes down to it, that means doing what’s right.”
Let me stress again that the visual provided to illustrate this text does not show one side winning or losing. It’s a classic “good guys on one side of the page, bad guys on the opposite side, coming in to meet in the middle” battle shot. The next page? Vixen talking to Anansi. The page after that? The JLA we know comes to stand by Vixen’s side, and the alternate version is nowhere to be seen. The first time I read this issue I flipped the pages back and forth, convinced that I had skipped by two pages that had stuck together. I don’t know if the blame lies with McDuffie for not writing the battle scene as something shown rather than told, or if Benes dropped the ball on his end and didn’t read the script closely. But whoever is to blame, the end result is still sloppy storytelling.
Need further examples? We learn that the entire plot going back to when Vixen’s powers first started behaving strangely was just Anansi’s test to make sure that Vixen was strong enough to bear her mystic totem. Then Vixen clicks her shoes together, says, “There’s no place like home,” (or at least she might have just as well said that) and everything’s back to normal in a nice, neat little package.
JLA might be to some people’s tastes, but I for one would rather have a delicious meal for the eyes and the brain rather than the comic book equivalent of fast food.
When released from his Bottle, the Imp takes the form of Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from the Northeast who's given up comics more times than he can remember. But every time he thinks he's out, they pull him back in.
LOCKE & KEY VOL 1: WELCOME TO LOVECRAFT TPB
Writer: Joe Hill Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez Publisher: IDW Publishing Reviewed by Humphrey LeeIt's very rare that I end up admitting I was late to the party on what ends up being an amazing comic book. Sure, sometimes I may glance at the first issue or two of a book before resigning to pick up the trade. I've done that several times before with some of the best books out there like THE WALKING DEAD and INVINCIBLE, and I was one of the first to snag up FABLES Vol. 1 when it hit the shelves oh so many years ago and on and on. Sometimes you just don't know about something until you get the flip through its pages right, or you don't recognize any creators involved in the project, or the solicit doesn't hit you right and yadda yadda yadda - but at the end of the day I like to think I know something special when I see it.
Anyways, to get to the point, up until the last issue that is collected here in this premiere volume of LOCKE & KEY, I didn't have a fucking clue in the world this book existed, or what it was about, or who the hell Joe Hill was... and I'll be damned if that hasn't turned out to be one of the biggest shames of my comic reading career.
Furthering my haste to the point, this book is excellent. I've mentioned before in some of my reviews (not that I'd expect anyone to notice or remember) that I've kind of relegated myself and my coverage these days to trying more and more books like this title here, the underappreciated or overlooked titles, and trying to either give tough love or push them with praise to give them a chance. So again I say, this book is just damn excellent. This first volume is packed with more intrigue and suspense and atmosphere than I really can recall. In my blind state of ignorance, I would have assumed Joe Hill had been at the comic booking for years given the level of craft in "Welcome to Lovecraft". Like I tend to be a good bit of the time, I'd have been wrong there as well.
So what does LOCKE & KEY do that makes itself worthy of such praise? Well, for starters it does very well to establish itself as a book that marches to the beat of its own drum. It takes a lot of time to bring in its cast of characters through some very harrowing circumstances, that of the violent death of Rendell Locke, husband and father, and a conflict with his killers that sets the stage for a much deeper and mysterious narrative. As you can imagine, this immediately makes you sympathetic for the characters - that of his sons Tyler and Bode, daughter Kinsey and wife Nina - but gives you the notion that this is sadly just the beginning of a string of instances of terror in their lives to come. This couldn't be more true once they move into the Keyhouse, a generational home with an enigmatic past and supernatural essence we've just barely scratched the surface of.
The reason I found it easy to become enthralled with this book is that it's not an easy comic. It toys with you, and it tends to jump around with frames of reference and time frames to give you just enough information to work with to want to get onto the next comic to see how certain situations resolved themselves, or to just set up some good old fashioned tension. It really makes you work, narratively and visually - something that I want from my upper tier comic books - effort. And Hill has a great knack for just giving you enough hints or examples of how deep the history of the house, or powers that lay within it and the beings/people that are involved with it intertwine to make you want to gain more knowledge of past events but also see what happens next to its current inhabitants. It's great execution, even though if I were to knit-pick I would say a couple "links" between some of the characters and beings in this first volume were pretty obvious, but the wonder is still not lost.
LOCKE & KEY is a well built comic book. It endears you with the characters, pulls at your sympathies with their plight and tickles your curiosity with the setting and circumstances they've been put in. It's visually stunning as Gabriel Rodriguez really knows how to detail and texture the hell out of a panel and he has the eye and flow of a master storyteller. He's the absolute perfect compliment to Hill's writing style - he doesn't take it easy on the reader either. There's a lot to love here, a lot of magic in this story and between the pages of this book. Don't make the same mistake that I did; this is going to be something special. Best get in on the ground floor now - you won't want to be one of those uncool kids caught not reading this when it becomes the next big thing.
Storyteller/Scripter: Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza Artist: Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: JinxoI’m keeping with this book, but…it is flawed. Has been from the start and continues to be. The book is called TRINITY. The trinity in question is Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The three big heroes represent some sort of cosmic force. So you’d expect the book to be a huge cosmic adventure with the big three in the middle of it all. Only they made it reaaaal big. In addition to the big three every other hero in the DC universe seems to play a role in the story. And I guess because it is such a huge story we got a long buildup to the meat of the story. For the beginning of the story this ended up meaning tons of characters who are not the big three following multiple meandering plots the finally lead to the big stuff.
So, having reach the huge, cosmic heart of the story you’d think things would kick into high gear. But, again, the thing is just off. See, three villains have used magic mojo to erase our central heroes from reality and to replace them as the central power trinity. Now on the face of it I don’t think that’s a bad idea. Okay, you are erasing the central characters. Time and again people here have complained about the big three getting benched for the big DC events and so benching them in their OWN event book may sound utterly stupid but done right, it could really work. If the story was about the world losing the big three and having to deal with that loss, you might have a powerful book. The heroes would be powerfully present in the weight of their absence, in the hole they left. TRINITY does try to bring that element in but it… it misses. The Trinity is erased! They don’t exist. The world is changed in such a way that most people aren’t even aware they’ve lost anything. To be able to work the loss angle they have the population in a way subconsciously aware of what they’ve lost. I hate to say it but they pulled the Mephisto: the world has been changed, no one is aware, but somewhere in their souls a piece of them will be in pain for what is gone! Bwahahaha!!!
Just as flat for me this time around as before.
Now this issue in particular is about reality being rewritten some more. People in the far past aware that things are wrong trying to put them back on track, the present seeming to be rewritten minute by minute because the evil plan is coming apart. Because of the heroes taking steps to fix things? Nope. Because the villains are dumbasses. They goofed up the magic. Oops.
And, if I may ask, do we NEED a zillion “the DC universe is being rewritten” stories all coming out at the same time? I mean there’s this one, there’s the current JLA story (Not an Elseworlds!), you’ve got Darkseid’s peeps rewriting the place in his image. To give big blue and grumpy some props, at least in FINAL CRISIS they’re rewriting from the present on, not going back and monkeying around with the past. But I am getting a little tired of the DC Universe continuity gone crazy thing already. Can I just get a villain looking to rob a bank or take over a small country? The simple things.
Back to TRINITY, I am sticking with it, partly because I’m far enough in I do want to see it through, but also because despite me tearing it up a bit, it isn’t horrible. There are always some interesting things going on. The problem is given the concept it should be insanely epic. There should be strong emotions coming into play. It should be edge of your seat exciting. Instead the best I can say is only that there’s always something interesting going on.
IT CAME FROM THE 90’s
By Vroom Socko and Humphrey Lee
At the time of this writing, there are 72 hours to go until Election Day. By now, everyone will know who our next president will be. (I'm going to go out on a limb and saying it isn't Bob Barr.) In any case, there are certain election traditions I go through every other November. I rewatch All the King's Men, as well as the Free For All episode of THE PRISONER. I reread Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. And, to get to the 90's comics connection, I reread the whole of TRANSMETROPOLITAN, the masterful comic by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson. This is a perfect example of how comics can simultaneously convey rage and heart, the best use of the medium as a personal soapbox, and a damn cool looking romp. Sure, the plot may be full of holes, but...Vroom, you Goatfucker!
Outside of that fateful day back in February of 2005, where the legendary Hunter S. Thompson took himself out of a world he forever left changed in his wake, I can only think of two tragedies that could rival such a moment: the day that TRANSMETROPOLITAN ended, and the "beard" that my colleague Vroom Socko sports. Much like that day when Hunter left the earthly plane, seeing the last run of Warren Ellis' mad bastard of an homage leave the comic book medium made the industry feel like such a tame place to be in. Everything was less exciting, less dangerous, less energetic. When TRANSMET was running, it really felt like the last time the comic book industry had any balls or creativity. I fucking miss that feeling.
Did I mention that it's also the number one favorite comic of fellow @$$hole Humphrey Lee?
Leave Erika out of this, you...oh, you meant my actual facial hair.
There's also a slight chance Spider Jerusalem may be my real father. I don't know how the fuck a fictional character went back in time by eighteen years to do the dirty with me mum, let alone found the constitution to pull off such a feat (Which is a lie, moms was still a looker back then) but I'm sure if there was a way Warren Ellis found it...
Anyway, TRANSMET is set in the far-flung future, and focuses on newspaper columnist Spider Jerusalem. He writes for The Word, the largest paper in The City, the largest city in The World, which is our world, only with more gadgets, cloned meat, talking dogs, and strippers with bar codes for nipples. Spider is, as Humph pointed out, an amalgam of Hunter S. Thompson, H. L. Mencken, and Woodward & Bernstein. He is foul, hateful, loaded to the gills on drugs, and devoted to the truth above all else. In other words, he's a Mary-Sue for Warren Ellis, and thank god, because I find that Ellis is at his best when he has something personal to say. And does he say a lot in TRANSMET. Spider/Ellis talks about his views on death, television, religion, children, and above all else politics. We get not one but two corrupt, nasty-ass presidents in this story, the first a vile crook who nevertheless has scruples, and the second an insane criminal who cares about nothing but stroking his own ego. What Spider does to each of them, through words more than deeds, is deserved, as well as entertaining, poetic, and sublimely nasty, much like Spider himself.
All kidding aside though, Spider Jerusalem and the world he occupied (especially the world he occupied) were some of the biggest and brightest highlights of the world of comics while they existed, if you ask me. Between Ellis' channeling of all those great, great writers that made up the essence of the bald tattooed one and just the wonderfully mad vision of the future he had put Jerusalem in, TRANSMETROPOLITAN just positively crackled with energy, and like I said before, it's something that I feel is really lost in comics right now, or rare to come by. The fact that the social and political commentary that broadly and proudly made the book what it was can still be felt today, and honestly most likely in any time period, really made TRANSMET a timeless book. Remember kids, politicians will always be a big group of fucks, as we're apt to see just by turning on the television right now...
And a lot of what made that world pop also has to be credited to the artwork from Darick Robertson. There's just so much insane shit crawling through the corners of the panels, as well as through Spider's head. Not to mention just how expressively Robertson draws a face: never mind the nanotechnology clouds, or the werewolves fucking in the street, or the alien hybrids, just look at the character's faces! It's freaking beautiful.
Don't forget one of the most unsung heroes of this book, either: Rodney Ramos. If there was ever time to praise an inker, it would be on this piece of classic comic. Lines just don't come that smooth on their own.
That's what I love the most about this series: the level of humanity that is on display underneath all the meanness and snark. One of my favorite single issues of all time is #8, Another Cold Morning. There's very little of The City seen, and Spider only shows up as a narrator, and it's the most beautiful, heartfelt work Ellis and Robertson have done in both their lifetimes. And it illustrates the most defining element of Spider's personality: he's a guy that gives a shit. In the whole of The City, he's just about the only guy who gives a shit. The posers on the street don't give a shit. Cult leader Fred Christ doesn't give a shit. The President most certainly doesn't give a shit. But Spider, in his own fucked up way, is the guy who cares. He cares about his City, about the truth, about justice. He's like Superman, if Superman used profanity and injected heroin into his eyeballs. And if you were to say that to his face, he'd gut you with a broken gin bottle, shit in the wound, and use your scalp as toilet paper.
There's just so much this book has to offer the industry and medium as a whole, though. One, as a big kick in the nuts with a golden shower to the face of those books that dare to revel in their mediocrity. TRANSMET was always one big cocaine high to the next with the occasional downer in the middle before the next line was cut. Good old fashioned mad bastardry, as Internet Jesus would say. This probed the medium for all it was worth visually, verbally and conceptually. Spider could go toe to toe with the most iconic of the icons and snarl in their face for importance in the moment and relevance whilst Robertson and Ramos could give any top-selling artist a run for their money with depth, detail and timeliness. That's right folks, not only was this comic excellent, it was fucking on time. The irony of a book with an homage to Hunter S. Thompson hitting its deadlines is not lost on me...
And speaking of Hunter, I do want to talk about one or two things about this book that I really don't like. They pertain to the ending, so I suppose now is the time to say:
First is the issue of Mary's final appearance: She reveals that she took an important and damning photograph of Presidential agents preparing to do... something. The thing is, she was given her camera by Spider after the event in question. They even discuss it, for god's sake. For a story that was so well made up until this point, a plot hole like that is unforgivable.
You pigfucking whore! Why can't you just let things be? We forgive continuity gaffs in mindless capes and tights books month in and month out don't we?! Why the fuck are you dwelling on...oh, wait. We don't do that, do we? Shit...
Second, there’s the last three pages. Without saying too much... well, I don't hate it because of comparisons to Hunter; it actually prefigures his actions. I hate the ending because it has Spider Jerusalem, the great champion of the truth no matter what, living a lie. It rang false. It didn't work. And it betrayed everything the book was about.
But anyways, that does suck, more because it could have been easily fixed had someone paid attention. I don't think it was done as a last minute fix to the plot, I honestly think Ellis probably meant to put that in her hands earlier to make it work in the end because on the whole the series was very well laid out even though I think the final "conflict" between Spider and the Smiler wrapped itself up a little too neatly with the Source Gas trick. But if an editor had caught that mistake with the incriminating photos I think the scene easily could have been worked around to, I dunno, have it catch the hired gun used to shoot up the Print District or something. A bad miscue, sure, but something you can easily fix in your head if you're willing to forgive the mistake. The irony of a fucked up "fact check" in context here is also not lost on me.
I really don't get your vibe on the ending though. I honestly don't see anything more perfect for it. The man had done his mission, he got his story, and he finally realized that he didn't have the energy for the art anymore. He Superman 4'ed it, only this time with a lying scumbag politician instead of nuclear weapons. He overcame his obstacle and it wore him out in the process; time to let the younger, angrier generation take over. The fourth-walling of his revelation might have been a little much, but other than that I think it's one of my favorite series ending issues I've enjoyed in my time.
It just seemed like too much of a betrayal of Spider's principles to me. I can get past the camera bit, if I really try. But the finale...I keep using the word betrayal, don't I? But then, I wouldn't feel this way if the rest of the story wasn't so goddamn amazing, wouldn't I?Or it could be that you're a whore to the system, sucking on its udders like a junkie in a back alley drags on a crack pipe after he gathered a few rocks putting his handjob arm to good use for a fix...
... I'm sorry, I didn't mean any of that. Once TRANSMET is invoked, it does something to me - shifts my personality. It latches onto you. Makes you see the world in a different way, like any good masterpiece should, and if there's any book that Ellis is going to be known for legacy wise (whatever that fucking means in the world of comics) it's going to be this.
Agreed. Folks, trust the fuckhead.Spider Jerusalem. Cheap, but not as cheap as Vroom's mom...I think that's how it goes. Sorry, I need my pills.
Vroom Socko and Humphrey Lee first came to blows over Superbowl XL, when the officials just HANDED the game to the Steelers. (The AFC is inherently superior to the NFC, Vroom! Get over it!) Oh come on, the Refs were blatantly anti-Seattle! Blatantly! *sigh* Thankfully, Humph’s main sports devotion is to the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins, while Vroom is a fanatic for the USL Portland Timbers, so unless hockey players decide they have the stamina to take on a soccer team, these two should live in relative peace.
LE CHEVALIER d'EON VOL 2 & 3
Story by Tou Ubukata Manga by Kiriko Yumeji Reviewer: Scott GreenWith all of the Bat-Manga talk of late, I decided to take a step towards catching up on what I consider to be a particularly enjoyable Batman-esque manga ("step" because this piece will cover volumes 2 and 3 of the title; volume 6 has recently been released).
Tow Ubukata's LE CHEVALIER d'EON invented a supernatural explanation for the life of Chevalier d'Eon, a historical 18th century French diplomat and spy who is remembered for cross-dressing during his missions and living his later life as a woman. In the case of Ubukata's fictionalized d'Eon, the young nobleman and member of King Louis XV's secret police began sharing a body with the soul of his beloved sister after her murder by a conspiracy of magician philosopher Poets.
Le Chevalier d'Eon is probably best known in North America for the Production I.G's (BLOOD+, GHOST I THE SHELL) anime adaptation of Ubukata's novel, but the manga trends closer to the spirit of Ubukata's work. Like other prominent I.G anime, LE CHEVALIER d'EON brought together impressive team of creators to craft a distinctively detailed and at times experimental series. The results were comparable to an 18th century alchemistic GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX. The manga is substantially quirkier...
Ubukata is one of the hyper-informed geeks working in the anime/manga field (he also writes light novels and has been involved in games). Perhaps partially as a result of growing up in Singapore and Nepal and attending Waseda University's school of political economics, he seems to bring a broader perspective to his works than many of the otaku turned creators. Rather than return to the overdrawn wells in fantasy and sci-fi or settle for the generic, he seeks out interesting spots in history (such as pre-Reign of Terror France in LE CHEVALIER d'EON) or invents new situations. At the same time, there is generally a playfulness and flamboyance, not to be found in the LE CHEVALIER d'EON anime.
The manga's d'Eon lives a triple life. By day, he's a foppish member of Paris' nobility and an officer in the city's police. Much to the aggravation of his raging commanding officer, he ducks out when there's a riot to beat down. He never completes an investigation. His equipment is frequently broken and his paperwork is shoddy. At the same time, d'Eon is also a member of King Louis XV's Le Secret du Roi, minding France's relationship with foreign powers such as Russia and England, and, in theory, collating classified information. By night, d'Eon dons a wig and his sister, Lia's gown to become The Sphinx, a swashbuckler channeling Lia's spirit to solve the riddle of her death and punish the murderous, supernatural agents known as Poets. d'Eon/The Sphinx is aided in this venture by the young attendant, previously in the employ of Lia, Francois de Robespierre, aka "Robin."
When approaching LE CHEVALIER d'EON, Production I.G took the route of rendering an intricately realized vision of 18th century France, with an emphasis on establishing a concrete notion of time and place. Kiriko Yumeji took that context and used it as a spring board for more modern, more niche associations. One of the key ingredients in the Gothic Lolita fashion movement is the Roccoco style of design. Given Louis XV's palaces to work with, Yumeji has a Mola Ram handle on the heart of the Roccoco movement. With that opportunity, she projects modern loli-goth sentiments back upon its origins.
Yumeji's look, especially as it applies to Chevalier d'Eon is somewhere on the gore-goth to loli-goth spectrum between Yasushi Nirasawa and Junko Mizuno. It can be quite goofy, but there also is a lot of shock rock horror showiness to it. Part of the fun of the manga is watching Yumeji map Enlightenment notions and personalities onto the notion and personalities into this aesthetic. For example, Jean Le Rond d'Alembert becomes a Marilyn Manson figure.
Fans of the loli-goth look or exotic stylistic flare will find plenty to appreciate in Yumeji's illustration. Those looking to just sit down and read a story might by overwhelmed be the visual intensity of the manga. Between the bulky men, busty women, loli-girls who sprout out in frills, parasols and coils of hair, everyone in the manga crams the panel with their presence. Bursts of swords, blood and speedlines slice out as the Sphinx duels against the extending claws and horns of gnarled gargoyles. Back to the Batman metaphor, it's a "biff!" "pow!" comic, but in this situation, those collisions are merely cymbal crashes in the middle of an outright cacophony. With barely any negative space apart from the middle of an explosion, even when not engaged in full bore action, there is little opportunity for the eyes to rest.
LE CHEVALIER d'EON is a remarkable manga, but in terms of a series of graphic novels to read through, it's lightweight. Storytelling never seizes hold from the stark design decisions, with attention being directed to Ubukata and Yumeji rather than d'Eon, Robin and company. Because the manga is showy and meta, the graphic violence mostly sits well with the silliness of pope blessed lances wielded by British SS officers and murderous loli cabaret twins (do either of these make any sense?), but the same qualities don't encourage much investment in mystery and danger of the situations.
Any Ubukata work to be translated into English is worth scooping up. The North American release of his Renaissance fantasy PILGRAM JAGER is incomplete and difficult to locate, but with a tangible sense of physicality to its action and appearances by personalities like Machiavelli and Ignatius Loyala, its worth the effort to find. I was never won over by NewType USA's industry-booster reviews and page dominating images, but I did appreciate the now-cancelled magazine for including translated Ubukata's columns.
The concept of LE CHEVALIER d'EON cracks a ledge off the mountain of storytelling, then holds up the sedimentary chunk, covering gender alternating alchemistic lore, early modern pop adventures like The Scarlet Pimpernel, comic heroes like Batman, and the exhibitionist alter-egos found in loli-goth and shock rock. LE CHEVALIER d'EON might not be one of the better reads in the field, but three volumes in, Ubukata and Yumeji's pageant of loligoth vigilante, speculative history continues to yield inventive surprises.
Scott Green has been writing for AICN ANIME for close to seven years. If you like what you see here and love anime & manga, be sure to check out his latest AICN ANIME column here.