Casanova: Avaritia III
By Gabriel Bá, Matt Fraction, Cris Peter, Dustin Harbin
Published by Icon, 2012
This comic has so many dongs on display that one can’t help hoping that Matt Fraction has Maurice Vellekoop’s e-mail address. But don’t go drowning in fantasia: there’s serious business to be had here, and by serious business we mean The Creation of Pop Art Masterworks, something up there With The Classics. It’s always worth noting, like it or lump it: when Matt Fraction ain't going corporate, he's one of the last men standing who want to write sincerely for the mainstream in an environment where all the likeable people gave up on sincerity a long time ago, due to that whole commerce-poisoning-art thing. Casanova, here's yer basics: it's a sci-fi spy comic set in a bunch of alternate dimensions, has a reference library, is violently opposed to nostalgia, and it’s stopped making complete sense a little while ago. It's American Flagg for today's malcontents. It’s been argued to be autobiographical, which is wholly possible, except for the fact that labeling things as autobiographical is a surefire way to make them far less interesting, the same way that people become far less interesting when you find out that they don’t want to have sex with you, or they have a blog.
Age of Apocalypse #2
By David Lapham, Roberto De La Torre & Lee Loughridge
Published by Marvel, 2012
There was an alternate future X-Men storyline published years ago where the bad guys won, and last year, the Uncanny X-Force series tied into that universe for a minute or two during its well received run. Marvel seemed to think that the popularity of the Uncanny X-Force was primarily due to its story (that may be true, although it seems unlikely), so they decided to hire some really cheap, fast artists and put out that title as frequently as possible. And then, to cover all their bases, they went and hired David Lapham, a guy who says no even less than Steve Niles (which seems impossible, but is actually true) to churn out stories based in that alternate future that the X-Force title had rekindled some interest in. Age of Apocalypse is that title. It features art by Roberto De La Torre, a guy firmly indebted to the willing embrace super-hero fans have for guys that assemble faces out of pictures they find on Google Image search and manipulate in Photoshop. Now, if none of what’s been previously described turns your stomach, then you’re probably going to enjoy this comic quite a bit. It actually is a good version of a Photoshop-y scritchy-scratch comic by David Lapham about a bunch of post-apocalyptic X-Men turned bad guys featuring lots of characters that only a small portion of comics fans could possibly recognize. It even has a curmudgeonly guy in a wheelchair who tests people's fighting abilities, and features a pretty lady in a jail cell. What more could you ask for? (In a comic book set in a Marvel Comics post-apocalyptic alternate reality comic book where the Wolverine character is the genocidal ruler of Earth, specifically.)
OH MY STARS AND GARTERS HERE IS A GUEST COLUMNIST BREAK
To give the Weak In Comics some context, here’s ABHAY KHOSLA with the only comics news you need:
Emerald City Comicon was last weekend in Seattle. Besides being the nickname for Seattle, "Emerald City" is the name of the capital city from The Wizard of Oz, a story about a band of costumed weirdos who lack "a brain" or have various other self-esteem issues pointlessly trying to please a self-aggrandizing authority figure who is ultimately revealed to be a worthless charlatan. Emerald City Comicon was very, very different, in that The Wizard of Oz has live monkeys running around terrorizing people, and (unfortunately) that didn't happen in Seattle last weekend. No live monkeys; can't shout "BINGO" at the Sadness Games just yet.
The only noteworthy news out of Emerald City was an announcement of a colorized version of the popular Scott Pilgrim series, for people who heard Scott Pilgrim had a good story, jokes, characters, themes, but were waiting for it to be drenched in the color brown. One preview image featured roughly thirteen shades of brown within a single panel-- twelve more shades than my turds, which raises many serious questions, most of them about my diet. The good news is that in color, the Scott Pilgrim books will now finally feature the vibrant Technicolor that I think we all mentally associate with a Canadian winter.
In other Great White North news, a picture continues to emerge of life at Marvel comics thanks to an interview that editor CB Cebulski gave to the Porkosity blog and Toronto Star in what sounds like one of those Silence of the Lambs quid-pro-quo exchanges for "brisket + potato hash (sautéed garlic & onion, confit potatoes, layered with chunks of smoked brisket, rabbit, top with poached eggs and thyme" and "panzanella, the Italian bread salad, here [made] using fried cornbread chunks and sausage." After explaining how everything wrong with comics is exclusively the fault of comic fans and comic retailers, etc., etc., Cebulski noted that despite Disney's purchase of Marvel, "we haven’t gotten the Disney health insurance or the Disney benefits yet, which we all want after two years." After referencing his inferior health care, Cebulski then immediately resumed consuming his smoked brisket, rabbit, sausage, and fried cornbread, while Canadians looked on, nestled in their warm blanket of socialized health care, and experienced Canadian emotions. News of Marvel's inferior health care plan joins word late last year that Marvel comic employees all share a single, fetid bathroom to paint a grim picture that resembles a Victorian madhouse more and more with every passing day, though it's important to remember that Victorian madhouses never published a comic with a title like Avengers vs. X-Men: Versus. Victorian madhouses had dignity.
Finally, Comic Book Resources published an interview with writer Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead; the defendant in lawsuits about The Walking Dead). The title of the interview was "Robert Kirkman Remains Invincible & Thieving." Now that's a BINGO!
NOW HOW ABOUT SOME RANDOM BACK ISSUES
Love and Rockets #1
By the Hernandez Brothers
Published by Fantagraphics, 1982
Nice and messy, and packed as tight as a dorm room hamper. There’s so many directions being taken here, and it’s all being done with such ambitious fervor that it’s almost foreign to see, even though it’s only been thirty years and the main players are still regularly producing great work, especially if, like Jog, you're a tit man. Looking at a Hernandez Brothers comic, an issue of Love and Rockets, even one like this that is occasionally chore-ish to get through (Jaime’s overly italicized lettering has a screeching quality to it, and there’s times when even Gilbert clearly thinks the jokes aren't funny enough), it’s hard to equate this to the sort of "independent" comic one would see today. Even saying that beckons eye-rolling, the same kind of response that we give when somebody rambles endlessly about that time Kirby drew thirteen pages a day while showering in the blood of the Vietcong. Of course the Hernandez brothers are better, they’re ge-nius-es. And while they are--no dispute or but is coming!--they're still human beings. Looking at what they accomplished, it’s hard not to come away from a Love and Rockets comic and think that today’s dire state might, for a second, not be entirely the fault of super-hero comics, the direct market, and Kevin Smith acolytes. You’re not constantly stealing from these guys--why not, exactly?
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #54
By Mike Mignola, Dan Raspler, Mark Chiarello
Published by DC, 1993
Released in the waning months of 1993 a short time before Hellboy was to appear in his own title, it’s not hard to see a bit of what could have been in this Mignola Batman comic. (While Dan Raspler is credited with the script, Mignola has a story byline, and there’s never been a more obvious Mignola story than this.) A story where Batman essentially murders a guy and then lays around bleeding from a knife wound while talking to the skeleton whose coffin he falls into, this could have been the start of a fondly remembered run of well drawn Batman stories culled from Mignola's rejected Hellboy pitch. (DC was put off by the word "hell.") Instead, it's just a barely remembered stop on the way towards a man finding financial and artistic satisfaction in an industry that's arguably designed to ensure both never occur.
Let's close this out with cheap shots and double aughts.
By Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, Nick Filardi
Published by Icon
This is a "creator owned comic," and everything you need to know about what that means in 2012 can be found in the back, where writer Brian Michael Bendis gives his entire letters column over to a conversation he had with noted industry advertising maven Kiel Phegley, featuring lines like “we’ve got a question from scouse mouse” and then goes on to reprint some babbling about the specific what's-gonna-happen-in-an-upcoming-comic question, to which Bendis delivers a 750-word response that translates to “buy the comic,” plus a shitty joke about Squirrel Girl—cuz he's a college teacher now, apparently. It’s worth stripping it down every once in a while, just in case your stomach is growling: this is a guy with enough pull in comics to pretty much do whatever the fuck he wants to do (in comics), and he is choosing to use that pull to do a Harbinger rip-off (!) about amoral college students getting the superpower to say “fuck” a lot, and he's also choosing to use his own letters column to reprint a mind-numbing smirky conversation he had with one of those CBR dudes who never met a super-hero comic they couldn’t figure out how to hawk, and in which they talk about some Marvel comic that every single Brilliant reader was already going to buy in the first place. You have to wonder, because Bendis isn’t a drooling mongoloid getting his chin wiped by an ex-con with a mail-order associates degree--what's the deal with this guy? Was it that important to him that he ensure non-internet people got to read that part of the interview where giving up the Avengers gig got compared to children finding out their parents are getting divorced? Was it necessary to paste in the part where Phegley is telling people to go to the CBR Message Boards and post their questions for Jonathan Hickman, which relates to a conversation that apparently took place on the Internet at the end of February? Is there a map to buried treasure in all this nonsense? Did Jason Shiga design this letters column to send Jeet Heer a secret recipe for Robert Crumb-shaped pancakes? Why hasn't my mother called me back? Why aren't there any Stoya videos on EskimoTube? wahwahwah
Avengers Versus X-Men #1
By Brian Michael Bendis, John Romita Jr, Scott Hanna, Laura Martin, Ed Brubaker, Jason Aaron, Jonathan Hickman & Matt Fraction
Published by Marvel, 2012
In case you’re wondering, the reason this comic credits so many writers is because they all sat around in a room and came up with the story together, and then each of them got to go home and write their own individual scripts, just like yearbook club. The reason they’re doing it this way is because all of the Big Event comics since that Civil War one haven’t been as successful as that Civil War one, but the guy who wrote that Civil War one won’t come back and fix things for them because he is too busy making more money by having all of the popular artists draw super violent stories about how scary homosexuals and black people are. Marvel's big hope is that all of these non-Civil War dudes put together on one book can add up to one Civil War in terms of sales, while at the same time help to institutionalize an even more demeaning work environment than the one Marvel Comics already has, which was already pretty demeaning, even when you compare it to what those Thai women have to go through everyday with the ping pong balls. Remember when you were a kid, hoping that you could be a good enough of an artist that you could spend your early forties in a boardroom being given homework assignments by Brian Michael Bendis? In 2012, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
So hey, what did these Katzenjammer Kids come up with in the Be Ordered Around Workshop? Well, how’s about the Phoenix (some old Claremont shit that Marvel writes about every five years) returning? That’ll get some X-Men all fisticuff-y with the Avengers, and they can even have the fight be set up in a way that totally fits in with the Weaver family in Ruby Ridge, or the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, both of which occurred in the early '90s, leaving them glistening with the fetid aroma of nostalgia perfect for luring the mid-thirties-aged demographic. Who doesn't like their super-hero comics to be intelligent? Who doesn’t want to be challenged, intellectually and emotionally, by a comic that dares to ask whether or not
David Koresh Cyclops is right to stand up and say no to the federal government? He might be protecting a young girl so that he can feed her to an unstoppable force of destruction, so that, in return, that unstoppable force might restore the powers of all of his acolytes who happened to lose their powers when the Scarlet Witch took said powers away in something that he keeps implying is sort of like the Holocaust even though that’s so incredibly tasteless and just—honestly, it's fucking weird. It’s deeply, deeply fucking weird, to keep hinting at that in X-Men comics over and over again, to the point where you kind of wish that the people writing the comics are leading up to a part where some random voice-of-reason character like Daredevil or whatever the Marvel equivalent of Snapper Carr is will say in a really quiet voice that it is really fucking weird to keep comparing some once-in-a-lifetime moment where a crazy women in a bodysuit said something crazy to the systematic execution of human justified by their religious beliefs, sexual preferences, and/or mental or physical handicaps—because those two things are totally not the same, like at all, like never at all ever are they the same. And then Cyclops and Magneto and that ridiculous guy from New Orleans or the bald cripple can go like, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh shit that’s totally right I am sorry that we keep doing that" and we'll all say that it is okay guys, and maybe to make up for it won't you now please get back to fighting with the other super-heroes and also please comic hurry up and get to the part where the Hulk rips out Iceman’s teeth, because oh that ICEMAN, he is such a big ole dingus merriweather post pavilion, oh my gosh I hate him like I hate Whit Stillman movie trailers