Nate Bulmer, holding it down.
There was supposed to be a column last week. In fact, some of what you're about to read was actually written for that column, but then there wasn't a column. Why? I blame Lawrence Wright, whose new book on Scientology is so hideously addictive that your trusty columnist honestly did nothing but read it over a 20-hour period of time that may or may not have been a time during which he was supposed to be sleeping and/or eating, and when it came time to write about comic books--the comic books that you and I love, the comic books that have rightfully taken the place wherein my affections for family and friends once resided--all that could be mustered up was the regurgitation of bizarre anecdotes about Gold Bases and Going Clear and OT Levels, to say nothing of Tom Cruise tales. A man could live off Tom Cruise tales. I have all the evidence right here, in my heart which still beats after spending last week living off nothing but tales of Monsieur Cruise. So allow me to apologize, and then let's check in with ABHAY KHOSLA, who has something to say about Orson Scott Card, a man who is being allowed to write Superman comics despite the fact that he wears cream-colored suits, and people who wear cream-colored suits are, if I'm being frank, human shaped garbage that would benefit mostly from wholesale extermination. I don't mean to ruffle feathers, but unless you're a drug dealer in the '80s or a slave trader in the Civil War, you shouldn't go cream.
Creative visualization time: imagine Colonel Sanders tapping an orchestra stand with a severed horse cock embalmed in amber. He opens his mouth, his wet, red mouth and you see that pink quivering thong of a tongue that old buzzard used to famously lube up his dirty birds. He licks his lips, and then he smiles all nervous, he grins real quick. Then:
"Take it away", he says. "Take it away, Abhay."
So, DC hired a hate-monger and a leading member of an organized hate movement to write Superman comics a couple weeks back. Comics didn't have one of those, yet, a "leading member of a hate group." What else could DC do? Comics has the crazy woman-hater. The science kook with the "Earth is breathing" insanity. That guy who pretended to be a war hero or whatever the hell that was. It's got Frank Miller-- there's a whole lot going on there. There have been some retailers who murdered people, right? So, murderers. Solid there.
Now, finally, finally, it's got "leading member of hate group" covered. So, where does that leaves us, Breakfast-Club-wise? Can comics get one of those doctors who switch all the sperm in a sperm bank with their own population-pudding, and then all the kids wind up looking like Dr. Spunkfingers? Let Dr. Spunkfingers write Power Pack or The Fantastic Four... after he washes his hands. Old ladies who put razors in Halloween candy-- are those people real, and if so, can they write Nightwing? Would they want to? Putting razors into snickers bars-- there's at least an art to that...
Can mainstream comics hire the Green River Killer? Is the Green River Killer willing to demean himself by working for Marvel or DC?
The hatemonger in question is Orson Scott Card. Here's a fun thing: one of Card's longtime friends is lesbian recording artist and author Janis Ian, who was married in August 2003 (and who has defended Card in the past): "We got married because we could. As a couple, we wanted the same rights and the same social recognition as our heterosexual friends have." Card writing about gay marriage in February 2004, six months later: "So if my friends insist on calling what they do 'marriage,' they are not turning their relationship into what my wife and I have created, because no court has the power to change what their relationship actually is. Instead they are attempting to strike a death blow against the well-earned protected status of our, and every other, real marriage. They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won't be married. They'll just be playing dress-up in their parents' clothes."
In his spare time, when he's not shitting on the happiness of his friends, Card hates Larry David, David Letterman, Magnolia trees, pet turtles, Martin Scorsese, and Woody Allen. As many people have noted, he's also called for the violent overthrow of the US government, though... I mean, haven't we all at this point? I call for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government every time I'm in line at Subway. Obviously, in the wreckage of society that ensues, the droogs and the wasteland dwellers would be more open to my ideas on forced sterilization and I think we could really make a positive difference. Look, you've been to Subway; you know what I'm talking about, no need to belabor this.
But that's just his personal life-- professionally, he's a board member of the National Organization for Marriage, an organization denounced by, among others, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP (for also being pretty racist)(surprise!). I live in the state of California, where they've damaged the quality of life for countless people and burdened our court system with years upon years of nonsense, thanks to money from ... well, from Orson Scott Card.
However, on the other hand, he wrote some books about robots or some shit, so ha ha, here we are. When do you separate the art from the artist?, thoughtful people asked, thanks to the guy who wrote a book about robots dressing up like dinosaurs to seduce unicorns while Bigfoot watches from a closet and jerks off his Bigfoot-dick. At least, that's what I'm guessing. Leader of active hate-group damaging actual human lives right now right this second in the world we live in vs. a story about cyborg elves using the puddle of Bigfoot-semen to glue leprechaun pubic hair to their faces so they have weird leprepube-beards, or some bullshit -- it's a moral quandary for the ages.
But DC issued a statement siding with Card's "freedom of expression": "As content creators we steadfastly support freedom of expression, however the personal views of individuals associated with DC Comics are just that — personal views — and not those of the company itself."
It's good to know that mainstream comics supports the freedom of expression regardless of one's beliefs, creed, philosophy, politics, political activities, hate speech, leadership in organizations planning to use the divisive powers of race to promote hate, or traitorous beliefs that the government of the United States should be violently overthrown. Even if you're campaigning against basic human rights or dignity, including of other people DC has worked with in the past like Phil Jiminez, Chip Kidd, or the late Neal Pozner. Even if you hate Annie Hall or Goodfellas? Mainstream comics will support you no matter what.
Just as long you're not a black guy. They don't hire those.
Batman Incorporated #8
By Grant Morrison, Chris Burnham, Jason Masters
Published by DC Comics
Although you have to take it with all the "it won't last" caveats your trembling hands can contain, this death-of-a-super-hero character story is a ripping yarn, or a solid read, or a good 'un, whatever positive turn of phrase you like. All of these recent Batman Incorporated comics have been that, actually, good Batman comics about a big bad plot and a funny little sidekick, all laced with people kicking and punching and attacking and yelling about loyalty and trying. Burnham's action drawings are weird piles of bodies, flailing around in triangular panels and for every one that doesn't totally make logical sense, there are three in a row strong enough to force involuntarily chuckles. It's a funny melodrama, and while it closes on a tragedy whose drama is now so overdone as to be drained of oomph, the emotional punches that do work (Damian desperately protecting his adopted brother against his monstrous twin, the moment when he looks at the reader and, in Morrison's voice, says that he doesn't care what any of us thought) are as well executed as anything in the guy's catalog. No one--not a single person--is interested in reading another series of Bruce-Wayne-in-mourning comics though, so hopefully, we'll get to the Lazurus Pit sooner rather than later. Ignore the hype, try to forget the personalities. This, the comic itself, was an actual fun thing, and there aren't many of those.
Captain America #4, Punisher War Zone #5, Daredevil #23, Thor: God of Thunder #5
Published by Marvel Comics
One could write separate notices for each of these comics, in fact, there are websites so devoted to doing so that they now consider themselves worthy of actual human contact, and will often appear in public places, usually to complain about the lack of respect they receive for their 7 stars out of 10 reviews whenever they try to get press passes for toy conventions. Hell, some of those craven death-worshiping fascists have gone so far up their own asses that they actually think they have something to say that needs saying, when the reality of all their work is that they are merely water carriers for an industry that is composed off the fact that, 1 star or 10, they are a bunch of dumb motherfuckers who would buy a flipbook of their baby sister getting bludgeoned if it were in continuity and Jonathan Hickman drew a graph that bridged the confusing sequences. There's absolutely nothing spectacular about the four Marvel comics listed above, but they were all relatively tolerable ways to pass the time when the time needed passing, and they were all competently drawn with some occasional flourish. Would they keep you from killing yourself if you were hell-bent on doing so? No. But you can bet a lot of people ate bullets during the original Galactus saga, so that isn't a very good thermometer in the first place.
Justice League of America's Vibe #1 and Justice League of America #1 VERSUS Uncanny X-Men #1 and Guardians of the Galaxy #.01
By Geoff Johns, Andrew Kreisberg, Pete Woods, Sean Parsons, David Finch, Dale Murphy, Francisco Cabrera, Chris Bachalo, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, Jaime Mendoza, Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, John Dell, Justin Ponsor, Sonia Oback, Jeromy Cox
Published by Marvel and DC Comics
This is kind of interesting? Bendis and Johns are the two most dominant writers at their respective companies, and both of them seem to have ended up in a place in their careers where their bag of tricks is no longer that new and interesting, and both of them are making some pretty major (for superhero comics) moves in terms of which versions of superhero they will use to ply their trade--Bendis by leaving the Avengers for the X-Men, and Johns by quitting Green Lantern and expanding his Justice League duties. And from a certain perspective, these comics have a bit in common--both JLA and the Guardians are comics with heavy film interest, and both have rocky sales histories--while Vibe and Uncanny X-Men come bearing the faintest whiff of successful alpha males trying to prove they can be successful at difficult tasks, like pleasing the most irritable fanbase in comics (X-Men) or resuscitating a character who has no fanbase whatsoever (Vibe). Other than that, these comics are sort of exactly what you'd expect these guys to do. JLA consists of two people talking about their favorite superheroes in a room, and then they reveal they have made up a new team for their favorite superheroes to be on, and there are moments of super-intense violence that are kind of strange and over-the-top. All of that--characters obsessing over the perfect line up of super-heroes the way a hardcore fan would, those super-heroes being super violent--is standard Geoff Johns. Bendis' stab at Uncanny X-Men also steals from other other Bendis comics, with the conceit being that its actions are being described from the point of view of some guy who isn't revealed until the end of the issue, which leaves Bendis with a nice cliffhanger and a free pass to have multiple pages of people sitting in chairs and talking. Neither are very special comics, all tied up as they are in preparation for later stories, which any longtime reader of Bendis can tell you will never actually come. In that department, at least Johns has unpredictability going for him.
Turning one's eyes then to Vibe: what? A character whose greatest influence on the culture is that he historically served as an excellent example for what it looks like when people who only know stereotypes try their hand at writing non-white characters, in an industry where one of the most notable African-American characters is an ex-con who they don't even depict in a costume anymore, because they've decided "being a black guy" is enough? Hell, I even like this character--he appeared in the second comic book I ever read, and I'm not about to shit on those happy memories--and I still know that he doesn't have anything to offer. It's no surprise to see Johns (who has already quit the book) and Kreisberg writing like a couple of guys who woke up from a drunken weekend only to realize they'd signed a contract without reading the fine print, and are now hoping that a generic "clean up the neighborhood, get revenge for my family" spin around the block will get them to church on time. Over at Guardians of the Galaxy, the generic mill is running even hotter, with the only major difference being that there's less queasiness involved in the character's origin ... or at least, there was before you get to the seventh page of this comic, when it becomes about how some alien that looks like Ryan Gosling impregnated some farm girl whose house he nearly destroyed before flying away and leaving her to die at the hands of a couple of aliens, who are then blown away by the product of that impregnation, who grows up to be a superhero who hangs out with Iron Man. You can't be too harsh on a comic that's a 0.1 issue--well, you can, but it's sort of like yelling at yourself--because being a 0.1 means its as unnecessary as it gets, and whatever happens will be efficiently recapped in about a sentence. In fact the "grows up to be a superhero" part described above is actually handled in just that fashion, with the hero going from a 9-year-old who just killed the aliens that murdered his mother to a dude talking to Iron Man in the course of a sentence. We'll give up on these two with the same brevity they gave up on themselves. Here's a dead mom for you:
So yeah, this is a cage match with a question mark. No winners to be found.
The Superior Spider-Man #4
By Dan Slott, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Edgar Delgado
Published by Marvel Comics
This is as disappointing as the third issue was a pleasure, which is too bad considering that Giuseppe Camuncoli remains one of the more interesting Marvel cartoonists in a long while. He's a good egg, this dude, but the only time he had anybody decent coloring him was on some throwaway issues of a comic called Dark Wolverine (featuring Daken, Wolverine's illegitimate mohawked bisexual son with tribal tattoos), and that was probably because nobody was paying attention. Ever since they started paying attention to Camuncoli--putting him on Spider-Man, having him be the launch artist for the aforementioned Daken when the character was given a short-lived ongoing--he's suffered tremendously, a victim of that shiny digital coloring that has to be one of the most bewildering of the many things super-hero comics readers tolerate. He's also an artist who is confusingly ill-served by Dan Slott--Camuncoli's work on Mr. Fantastic and the Daken character in Dark Wolverine was an excellent showcase for how super-hero artists should depict acrobatics, and there's no greater Marvel vehicle for acrobatics than Spider-Man comics. And yet here, it's clunky posturing framed from dizzied points of view. It's an ugly comic, and while that gives it an aesthetic parallel with its terrible plot--a mass-murderer named "Massacre" escapes, killing his way through multiple innocent people, including one character who first loses her eyeball--the end result is a nasty embarrassment.
Red Team #1
By Garth Ennis, Craig Cermak, Adriano Lucas
Published by Dynamite Comics
One of the most interesting bits of 2012's End of Watch is that, while its a supremely violent movie about South Central Los Angeles police officers, it's not actually about corrupt cops, but valiant true believers whose aw shucks fuck-you posturing works to conceal two near-cartoonish portrayals of overgrown Boy Scouts. It's a choice that seems impossibly difficult to have made, until one takes a step back and remembers that today's anti-hero fetish is a fad, a temporary flavor. (You get a point, marketing, but I'm onto you now.) It's relatively difficult not to immediately think of other forms of cop fiction while reading Red Team. The characters here are painted in the broadest of strokes, and the settings are all stock locations--the backyard beer conversation with the team was previously seen in The Shield's pilot episode, and the framing of an off-panel I.A. interrogator to present the narrative in flashback is so generic its difficult to think of a time when it ever did work--and the dialogue never fails to be cheap, obvious, or both. It's not a travesty--there's a brief scene here depicting the relationship between a couple of older cops that has possibility--but this is a pretty dismal effort from all involved.
By Daniel Way, Steve Dillon, Guru eFX
Published by Marvel
Adventure and superhero don't quite fit, so we'll just call this one an okay little violence comic. It's about a team of anti-heroes or outright bad guys put together by the Red Hulk, who is still some sort of military authority due to the fact that he used to be General Thunderbolt Ross and Captain America trusts him. I don't really understand either of those things. I was always under the impression that a consistent go-to thing in Hulk comics was that the Hulk wouldn't cause any problems if you left him alone, and General Ross therefore represented the destructive nature of humanity when we refused to compromise our rules, and were therefore responsible for the Hulk's destruction. There was always a general sense of Apocalypse Now going on with Ross too, the way he went after the Hulk like the world could die as long as the Hulk went with it. There was an entire comic book series that featured Ross as the Red Hulk and probably went deep into his motives, so it's possible that all of these sorts of questions have been dealth with--questions admittedly based on a imagined memory of what I think Hulk comics have been about, and not necessarily based off what they actually were about. But this Thunderbolts comic also prominently features The Punisher as a core member of the team, and is in fact at its absolute best when focusing on that character's actions or on the way that character's maniacal zealotry for slaughter affects the other members of the team, and yet this version of The Punisher behaves nothing like the Punisher character that has appeared in the last five years of Marvel Comics, and actually only makes sense if you view him as coming directly from Garth Ennis' "Welcome Back Frank" storyline, a silly black comedy of a comic from 2000 that was also drawn by Steve Dillon. Actually, nobody in this book--the Flash Thompson Venom, Elektra, the Punisher or the Red Hulk--behaves anything like what you might have seen in recent Marvel Comics. Deadpool, the one exception, is a fourth-wall-breaking meta-character whose entire post-Liefeld Marvel existence has been one of unreliability and taking the piss out of Marvel. The image above, while not tremendously funny, is an example of this, with Deadpool filling in the role of mandatory recap page, which, until this point in the story, the comic did not have. That inconsistency is really at its most amusing in the following example:
Not everything in that cover is inaccurate--the Punisher does make a face like that when he kills people, and Elektra, Deadpool and Venom at some point do hold weapons in a menacing fashion before using those weapons. But the Red Hulk doesn't roar, and the Leader--who is also Red now, although I have missed the part where that was explained--does not in fact wear a red hoodie and spit crazy fresh rhymes in the fashion in which he is depicted doing so on the cover.
See? His hoodie is green.