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Comics of the Weak Comics of the Weak

From The People Who Normalized Obesity, We Bring You

Nate Bulmer, ladies and gentlemen. He does this daily at Eat More Bikes.

Did you know that Nicholas Gurewitch posted a new comic at the Perry Bible Fellowship site last month? Because if you did, then hey, screw you pal: that’s the sort of thing I would have liked to have known about, and I had to find out on wiki-fuckin’-pedia, and you know how I feel supporting Julian Asspackages, or whatever that guys name is. Wikileaks? Wikiwhatever, I don’t have time to listen to your keester anymore, as I just got an email that the cancer might be back. New PBF! It’s part of a string of heartbreak comics that might hit closer to home if I hadn’t gone full Zero Dark Thirty into not knowing anything about what goes on in the lives of the people who churn out the milkshakes that fill my particular trough. In other news: I now refer to comics as milkshakes, and I now think of reading as an experience akin to eating liquidized food out of a long piece of metal not dissimilar to a urinal.

Let’s hand things over to ABHAY KHOSLA in hopes that he can turn it around.

The Avengers vs X-Men Mega-Event came to a close this week. SPOILER WARNING: The Avengers win by murdering Professor X. Or something. I don’t really know. Who cares? The important thing for fans now is Marvel NOW$. Like every crossover, by the time the last issue of Avengers vs X-Men shipped, it was thoroughly overshadowed by the dramatic new status quo that will build to the next crossover to create a dramatic new status quo that will build to the next crossover to create a dramatic new status quo that will build to the next crossover to create a dramatic new status quo that will build to the next crossover to create a dramatic new status quo THAT WILL BUILD TO THE NEXT CROSSOVER TO CREATE A DRAMATIC NEW STATUS QUO—

In this case, the big sales item for the dramatic new status quo is the heavily promoted new title, Uncanny Avengers. An exciting moment for Marvel fans, who can look forward to a Christmas where they purchase finally Uncanny Avengers, alongside Avengers, Cable & X-Force (featuring the Uncanny Avengers), Avengers Arena, A+X, Avengers Assemble, Red She-Hulk (“vs. the Avengers”), Secret Avengers, Hawkeye (which will “Change the course of Hawkeye’s relationship with the Avengers”– now Hawkeye’s going to be a bottom!), Dark Avengers, Marvel Universe vs the Avengers, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Young Avengers, Old Avengers, Geriatric Avengers, Avengers Jr., Avengers P.I., No Pants Avengers, Avengers: Ecks Versus Sever, Let’s Avenge My Grandpa: Nam Prequel Special, Avengers XXX, Avengers XXY: Hermaphrodite Special, Avengers Quest: Passionate Patti Does a Little Undercover Work, Super Avengers Brothers: The Avengers All Have Squirrel Tails for Some Japanese Reason, Steampunk Avengers, Steambath Avengers, Hairless Avengers, X-Men Avengers: Batman, Defenders of the Avengers, Avengers of the Suspenders: The Hunt for Larry King, War of the Avengers, Avengers LLC, Avengers Versus Wolverine, Avengers Versus Wolverine in Bed, Here Come the Avengers, There Goes the Avengers, Everyone Poops (including the Uncanny Avengers), Chicken Soup for the Avengers, Jane Austen’s Avengers Starring Abraham Lincoln: Zombies, Assemble the Avengers, Hey Hey It’s the Avengers, Who is Calling at This Hour? It’s the Avengers—Should I Answer It?, Now I’m Just Looking Around My Apartment Avengers, and Sex-Swing Avengers.

Marvel is promoting Uncanny Avengers with 19 limited-edition, collectible variant covers, designed for sale to comic speculators (i.e., a particularly sad sort of person who never learned how to grow their savings through legitimate investments, whose gullibility is ruthlessly exploited by the comics industry).  The exciting investment opportunities for Rick Remender and John Cassaday’s Uncanny Avengers (hypothetically) includes:

“1. DEADPOOL variant.  Retailers can get this by ordering 50 extra copies of Uncanny Avengers and 20 extra copies of FURRY AVENGERS.  Hot!”

“2. CAPTAIN AMERICA variant.  Retailers can get this by ordering 100 extra copies of Uncanny X-Men and lighting them on fire, but only by rubbing two sticks together.  Rules are rules!”

“3. WOLVERINE variant. Retailers can get this by ordering 50 copies of Naked Child Magazine from overseas. Do you have the guts to try to bring extremely illegal and soul-deadening child pornography into the United States undetected? No risk, no reward!”

“4. LUKE CAGE variant.  Retailers may not think it’s easy to purchase 412 extra copies of the Uncanny Avengers, plus recover their copies from the bottom of a large tub of raw sewage, but how many comic covers this year prominently feature the Avengers shouting the n-word? Ultra-rare and collectible!”

“5. CARL FARLEY variant.  This cover is the only drawing of Marvel characters by CARL FARLEY in existence. FARLEY, an accountant and Little League coach, is being held in a remote house somewhere in Vermont. He misses his family very much. After drawing this cover, he will never be seen again, outside of the nightmares of his orphaned children. The first retailer to pull a tooth from his own head using a pair of pliers wins!  Feel the burn!”

“6. 9/11 variant. Retailers can get this by placing their entire life savings on black at roulette. You have a 50-50 chance of walking away with twice your savings, plus this extremely rare photo of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center, wrapped around this year’s hot new comic. Not Too Soon!”

“7. HUMAN HAIR variant. One person’s chemotherapy side-effect will be another person’s good luck– Tony Stark’s mustache has never been so luxurious! This is one lucky speculator’s “hair”-portunity. And all a retailer has to do is let us use his bathroom. For two days. And to never say anything about the noises (screams). To anyone. Mercy is for pussies!”

“8. OBAMA’S REAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE variant. SPOILERS: It’s not from Hawaii. How many copies of Uncanny Avengers will fit inside of a human being? There can be only one!”

“9. NO ONE NEEDS TO KNOW variant. What would it feel like to bury your own child alive in a grave filled with copies of Uncanny Avengers? Pow-pow!”

“10. J. SCOTT CAMPBELL variant. This cover will feature drawings of big tits because that’s how that guy is spending his life!  50:30::apple:orchard.”

In conclusion, here is the first panel from the preview pages of this season’s blockbuster:

I congratulate your portfolios.

REVIEW TIME!

Message to Adolf Part 1
By Osamu Tezuka
Published by Vertical

Do people who make contemporary comics read this guy? (This has nothing to do with that “make Morrison read Powr Mastrs” meme from a few irritating interviews back.) Or is Tezuka like Fugazi sort of became, an example that people are more comfortable envying than imitating. It’s not that Message to Adolf is some mind-blistering perfect thing–although it is very, very good in parts–but that it, like so many other Tezukian examples, does so much. There are so many different sorts of things covered within, not just the long string of genre mash-ups and contemporary movie references that predate today’s culture, but visual weirdness, moments where the guy fills the page with intricate, breath-caught-in-chest cartooning, drunken pages full of detail and line, pages where you start to wonder if he had something to prove or just plenty of extra time or maybe, and this is my preference, he just got lost in the build phase and woke up hours into going too far. Comics is such a stupidly overheated kind of art: there’s so little money, an infinitesimal audience, everything is a dead zone–but that’s why it’s so alluring, there’s nothing but freedom, there’s no rules whatsoever. And yet so few people goes as far afield as this guy did, and he went this far afield as a general rule … and yet, after reading his work, even something as (so far, sorry) hideous and misstep-filled as Barbara is turning out to be, it’s impossible not to feel a bit renewed, a bit more excited, a bit more open. These comics are medicinal.

Time Twisters #16
By Peter Milligan, Carlos Ezquerra, John Higgins, Eric Bradbury, T.M.O., G. Senior, O. Stepaniuk, A. Jozwiak
Published by Quality in the ’80s
This comic is an assortment of short bits from 2000AD, but unlike most of the previous issues published under this title, only a few of the stories here are official “Time Twisters”, the overall moniker laid atop a certain type of sci-fi story the magazine regularly turns out. Most of the stuff in this issue is, oddly, what would be called “inside jokes” if we were all in sixth grade, which I perpetually am. You get the drift: it’s 2000AD joke after 2000AD joke, jibes about Tharg the Mighty (the made-up green alien that “edits” the magazine), constant references to the “robots” who produce the magazine’s content, weird jibes at people who only credit-reading obsessives would know, and shlock—that’s no surprise, but it’s a weird selection of shlock that assumes a familiarity with the 2000AD mothership that the majority of readers are unlikely to have had. There is a story near the end so audacious in its offensiveness–the underlying gag being that the men responsible for British children’s comics are the scum of the earth, flesh mounds of perversion to a man–that you can’t help but lean back a bit to catch your breath out of respect for how nasty they go. If self-referential humor is your thing, here’s a very specific breed.

Fatale #8
By Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips
Published by Image Comics

Probably the best issue of this series yet, but it’s slippery pointing to any one specific reason, especially when there’s a whole mess of examples to choose from–Phillips screwing around with his expected style (a trick he used to popular acclaim last year in the Dark Archie/Fuck Marvel Criminal arc “Last of the Innocent”), Brubaker mastering the chronological switch between story threads that had been somewhat clunky, and as is always going to be the case in this brand of tale, watching a portion of the thing go down from the bad guy’s point of view.

Detective Comics #13
By John Laymon, Jason Fabok, Jeromy Cox
Published by DC Comics

This is either the first or maybe second issue of the new creative team on Detective Comics–you can look it up if you want, but that’s going to require giving a shit and I bet paper money that you do not–and it’s also a time-killing issue, the first of two gap-fillers before Scott Snyder’s upcoming “Death of the Family” cross-over takes over the title and makes Detective Comics into something people outside of the anything-Batman audience might care about it. John Layman–a writer most only known for a series called Chew, which is a comic book that still comes out–is responsible for the story, which is about how the Penguin hired some assassins to kill Bruce Wayne so that the Penguin could donate money to a community center and thus prevent the Wayne name from being, like, everywhere, how the Penguin then discovered all he needed to do was just try to donate money a little harder, and how he couldn’t call off the assassins because they are the type of assassins that have a rule against calling things off, which makes them perfect for comics, a world without Yelp reviews that say “these guys were a pain in the ass to deal with.” It’s somewhat pleasant to be able to encapsulate the entirety of a Batman story in one sentence, even a long one, but the simplicity of it also indicates how much better off one might be if one were reading something a little more substantive, like the wikipedia entries on Scientology, which are totally great for killing a few hours and are also free, unlike this comic, which went up a whole dollar in price because, despite what you may be thinking based off the description of its plot, is actually way, way better than the rest of DC’s main line of comic books.

Uncanny X-Force #32
By Rick Remender, Phil Noto, Frank Martin Jr, Rachelle Rosenberg
Published by Marvel
Here’s your latest installment in the near-weekly Uncanny X-Force comic, this being another chapter where a team member betrays the team, some subterfuge is used to trick some bad guys, and Wolverine says something about violence. While that’s a formula that has worked extremely well before, this issue is not colored by series regular Dean White, which means that no one is available to prevent Phil Noto’s art from looking like Phil Noto drew it, making this issue as close to unreadable as a comic can be before you remember that publishers like Dynamite have spent the better part of the last decade redefining how bad comics can actually look, and Noto–a guy whose career is built around the fact that a whole lot of semi-popular writers are too busy with life-type-shit to look at the finished comics they contributed to, and are as such unaware that their artist has been recycling the same four panels since 9/11–is, at the very least, legible.

Daredevil End of Days #1
By Brian Michael Bendis, David Mack, Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Matt Hollingsworth
Published by Marvel
Well, after months of wondering, at least we have an answer to the question “Is anybody reading Batman Odyssey for non-schadenfreude reasons?”, because it looks like Bendis took that magnum crapticus as a direct challenge, while Janson took it as holy inspiration. But don’t worry, there is still a two-page spread in this comic pulled straight out of every issue of Powers, made up of little squares populated by random people so that Bendis can remind you once again that his world is made up mostly of complete morons, except for the guy in the bottom right corner, who will always be kind enough to provide whatever fuel the particular plot engine requires, and will thereby be graced with a few more panels. This time around, that lucky character will also nag the reader about the proper reverence all superheroes should be granted, which is just a little less than Jesus Christ but a lot more than what we give to Ryan Gosling. The rest of this comic is made up of hardcore violence, an embarrassing set of pages where Bendis and Mack flail around harping on the responsibility of the media–which is sort of like being lectured about style choices by the guy stealing your pants–and the whole thing is delivered underneath the general realization that none of the people involved know when they should have quit, and in all of their cases, the answer is before they squeezed out this.

Closing things out, Comics of the Weak is happy to turn the keys over the the Journal‘s own JOE MCCULLOCH.

Wolverine and the X-Men #17
By Jason Aaron, Michael Allred, Laura Allred, Clayton Cowles
Published by your friends at Marvel

This is one of those superhero comics where a writer makes the case for an underutilized supporting character, perhaps in the process offering some genial challenge to the narrative/tonal priorities of the genre status quo before turning back, resolute, to resume the duties of shared-universe craft. It’s also an issue-length homage to a well-recalled older series that’s no longer quite in style, doubling the faintly transgressive tingle for devotees while flattering conscientious objectors. I signed on when I saw that Marvel even brought back the original artists: Mike & Laura Allred, who anchored the publisher’s 2001-04 revamp of X-Force, later re-titled X-Statix before finding itself relegated to continuity’s dustbin.

Peter Milligan, the writer of that older series, seemed to anticipate obsolescence. The first issue of the new X-Force introduced a number of characters that were immediately killed. The last issue of X-Statix featured the deaths of the series’ regular cast in much the same manner. Several themes emerged over the course of the project — most particularly a very early ’00s obsession with Celebrity (to quote the ‘N Sync album), culminating with an ill-fated storyline initially pitched as the superhero resurrection of Diana, Princess of Wales — but it was only in retrospect that I realized Milligan was also writing about the superhero comics industry: how eminently disposable writers and artists can be when there’s always a waiting line of new faces ready to pick up the baton for stories built to outlive humans. So often we hear the Marvel of the early ’00s lionized as a hotbed of desperate post-bankruptcy innovation, but Milligan — a comics veteran since the ’70s — brought a jaundiced eye for history, his visions augmented by the paradoxically timeless Silver Age of the Allreds’ visual style.

Also, there was a funny floating blob named Doop, an indistinctly-powered/gendered voyeur that spoke in gibberish and served as the team’s cameraman; it was eventually revealed that Doop performed secret murders on behalf of his/r bosses.

Jason Aaron redeploys the notion of Doop-as-covert-agent in this issue, to a different effect. While Milligan’s Doop was funny but not a little creepy, Aaron characterizes the lil’ nugget as a lovably crude conductor for random antics; s/he is sentimentalized as the secret savior of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, whose surreptitious adventures take him/r into the wacky, “fun” areas of the Marvel Universe. Nazi bowlers, Fin Fang Foom. Look, there’s Howard the Duck; aren’t we happy to see that cute lil’ guy? Man-Thing too… and Deadpool! Doop even takes care of a nun who’s writing mean things about the Jean Grey School on the internet, because this is fundamentally a story about positivity – celebrating even the seemingly lame and goofy parts of the shared universe as just as cool and important as anything else, and reaping a little bit of especial praise from readers honed in enough on the virtual reality aspects of shared-universe superhero comics to feel, profoundly, some modest half-step to the aesthetic left.

I’m not against this comic in concept; it’s well-spun candyfloss. M. Allred can still draw stylish, handsome people, and L. Allred will never miss with her signature palette. Most of Aaron’s jokes are funny, and he does interesting, skilled work in gradually ramping up Doop’s activities so that s/he and the reader become exhausted; by the end of the issue fragments of scenes become unstuck from chronology, so that an image on (say) the second tier of a three-tier page will not sit in sequence with other panels on the page, but will remain in sequence with another second-tier panel on a subsequent page, creating a rhythmic accumulation of gags about Rollerblades and mad science and guitar battles with Satan. It’s sturdy craft.

But when you deal in homage, you beg comparison. I will go so far as to say that Jason Aaron, on aggregate, has likely produced less bad comics than Peter Milligan, but the latter has ways of “rattling the cage” that fortifies his often uninspired corporate work with a smack of perspective, a jitter of knowing that all of this will eventually outlive him. Grant Morrison is similar, except he likes the notion of being outlived. Aaron is sometimes compared to Morrison, but his triumphalism here is simplistic. There is no challenge or coloration or complexity to assuring the superhero reader over the space of an issue that some superheroes are just as super as others, even if their heroism isn’t as evident. Yet that is all that is said about Doop, and, tacitly, the labors of co-creator Milligan, whose anxieties were probably more tolerable to a publisher smarting from dire financial bondage. Now there’s Disney and movies and billions of dollars. Surely this is the Doop of today. This is the art of Everything’s All Right.


18 Responses to From The People Who Normalized Obesity, We Bring You

  1. Ales Kot says:

    I read Osamu Tezuka, yes sir.

  2. steven samuels says:

    “Avengers of the Suspenders: The Hunt for Larry King”

    A small correction. The actual title is “Avengers of the Suspenders: The Hunt for Keith Flint”

  3. nfpendleton says:

    Glad to know I’m not the only one who killed three well-spent hours on the Scientology Wikipedia page. Who is The Master, really?

  4. scott joyner says:

    cap and thor wanting to take someone out for coffee? no wonder i don’t go to the comic shop anymore.

  5. Don Druid says:

    But . . . what if “someone” is you?

  6. Don Druid says:

    On a related note I would appreciate the honesty of a Marvel book where the characters speak directly out of the page and the theme is that you are going on a “limited series” of dates with each of your favorite pretty-faced butch-femme rip-offs. Find out who’s awkward! Is there anyone who isn’t too good for you, who’s been traumatized enough to really relate?

  7. team spawn says:

    thanks for writing about that issue of wolverine and the x-men, jog, x-statix was the reason I got back into comics when I was in highschool, and I was pretty happy to see allred drawing a doop story, but yeah, aaron isn’t the type of writer milligan is, he doesn’t have the same depth to his storytelling (even if his stories sell better and have a larger audience than milligan, milligan’s comics are actually about something other than the surface story), and it didn’t seem like the doop I knew and loved so many years ago.

  8. R. Fiore says:

    New comics industry improvement program: “Steal From Someone Good.”

  9. Ronald Reagan's Queer Cousin says:

    REOPEN THE SIM THREAD!!!!!! There was FINALLY an old TCJ feel around here!

  10. Ayo says:

    I like that the Avengers panel came from Marvel Entertainment’s official preview pages which means that they are full-tilt trying to court the tumblrs who enjoyed the Avengers movie. Remember falafel? They like lattes too?

  11. D. Peace says:

    I’m not entirely comfortable admitting how hard Abhay’s list of upcoming Avengers titles made me laugh. Like, loudly and to the extent that my sides hurt a bit and I’m kind of embarrassed because that was a bit stupid but, damn it, brilliant at the same time. I just re-read it and it’s still hilarious. Gaddam.

    Also, Peter Milligan is and has always been insanely under-read, relative to how good he is. If you ask your favorite writer of mainstream comics who HIS favorite writer is, he’ll say Milligan.

  12. Galactus Wang says:

    I’m almost ashamed to agree, I even read some of it out to my girlfriend (real, not imaginary) she also LOFLD or ROLFED or whatever the appropriate anacronysim is.

  13. nrh says:

    I remember (dear god don’t ask me why) that way back in the day of comics comics DAN NADEL promised to write about Enigma by Peter Milligan, and never did. Please Dan Nadel, contribute a Peter Milligan centric essay to Mr. Stone’s Friday Column.

  14. John Fellows says:

    The “Now I’m Just Looking Around My Apartment Avengers” was the clincher.

  15. Jayhawh says:

    I found it shockingly easy to read for a big wall of text.

    Usually I zone out, this one I was locked on it. I think it helped that it was legitimately funny. Or in my case, I would say it was engrossing.

    In stark contrast to, like, the actual Avengers vs X Men comics.

  16. Jayhawh says:

    This is an improvement over “steal from the rock bottom” I guess.

  17. Pingback: 4thletter! » Blog Archive » LISTEN TO WITZKE

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