Comics of the Weak Comics of the Weak

If Kirby Was Still Alive, He Would Totally Have Killed Himself By Now

There's no Abhay this week, and there's only a few good comics to poke around with, so let's start off with an Eat More Bikes palate cleanser courtesy of Nate Bulmer.


Gladland #1
By Oliver Schulze
Published by Good Vs Evil/Hirntrust Grind

A little bit of Tim Vigil and a whole lot of something else, this black-and-white comic features some of the most challenging examples of Can You Handle It? drawing this side of sanity, the most intense being a nude bodybuilder who has a standalone vagina resting on his pompadour, an erect penis (with intact sac) sprouting out of his tongue & drooling mouth like some kind of a mid-chin dick-unicorn, and a couple of deformed naked ladies apparently growing out of his arm. One of those ladies is wearing a ball gag, and the other one is masturbating. It’s not totally clear if pages like these—and there are a few pages “like these,” one even comes with a yellow sticker covering ... something (I haven’t removed it to check, because I'm an emotional cripple)—are part of the plot, or if the pages that seem to have a plot (which is about a guy whose face became crystalline and was then hospitalized when it became necessary to hammer an air hole through the crystal) are a break from the drawings or just, you know, fucked up drawings, but forcing Gladland into a narrative box would possibly strip it of some of its charm, which, despite its foray into the grotesque, it definitely has.

Moebius 8: Blueberry
By Jean Michael Charlier & Jean “Moebius” Giraud
Published by Graphitti a while ago

Also referred to as “Lieutenant Blueberry” and featuring the stories “The Iron Horse”, “Steelfingers”, “The Trail of the Sioux”, and “General Golden Mane”, this collection is an excellent installment of the sorts of pleasure Blueberry stories have to offer. It can be a bit difficult for some to stomach for lengthy periods of time, as these tales have a tendency to smash its lead character three steps back for every two he’s permitted to take, and after a while, all that deus ex bad luck can get irritating. The art is the obvious American draw, and as such, there’s little disappointment to be had on that front. Horses, cowboys, and trains, all three drawn in such a way that points more to museum visits and less to pictures--everything has a density to the way it saddles the panel, and it can take effort to linger. Moebius lathered on a lot of care, but it’s hard to ignore the character’s desperation, to abandon that hope that success might be just coming up on the next page. Considering the decades of time clocked, Giraud clearly felt the same.

Diah H #1
By China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco
Published by DC Comics

Although it definitely wins some sort of consolation prize for not sounding/reading exactly like every single other mainstream cape book on the stands, Dial H may be the unfortunate herald of a terrifying future: crappy imitations of Grant Morrison comics. Sponsored by slumming, Dial H is written by some guy who writes those kinds of fantasy novels that look more respectable than Dragonlance books but aren’t respectable enough not to be shelved alongside them, and it's drawn by another one of those DC artists who never saw a picture he couldn’t add way too many extraneous lines to. It’s about a fat guy with a friend, a rotary phone booth that turns people into random super-heroes, and it’s probably qualitatively better than most DC comics currently available while still not being half as aesthetically successful as the last two YouTube videos somebody emailed you links to. This will be the favorite thing of exactly no one, but it will probably be a few people's number seven.

Short Cuts: Volume 1
By Usamaru Furuya
Published by Viz, 1998

A little book consisting of one to two page humor pieces centered around ko-gal, which the author defines as “a Japanese high-school girl with attitude.” It’s very funny, and some of the comics in here--most notably, “Cut 7”--manipulate the basic visual language of manga upon the reader to unexpected, rewarding ends. (Cut 7 and Cut 10 are worth whatever effort it takes to track this collection down, the former because of its ingenious visual manipulation, the latter because of its as-ingenious verbal trick; both are too special to spoil.)

Intruder #1
By Tom Van Deusen, Ben Horak, Billis Helg, Jason Miles, Tim Miller, Marc Palm, Nikki Burch, Tony Ong, Aidan Fitzegarld, Alexa Koenings, Max Clotfelter, Marc Palm
Published by Intruder

A free newspaper with one-page contributions from a variety of cartoonists, some of whom wear their influences more obviously than others. There’s some clear differences between everybody’s current level of skill, and some pages that seem like they’d be more comfortable existing as stand-alone prints to be sold to the I Prefer Stand-Alone Prints audience, but in the grand pantheon of shit that you can be occupied by, free comics newspapers that don’t descend into genre parody or cutesy “all-ages” animal shit for 43-year-old men still angry that they grew pubic hair ... these comics aren’t the enemy, you know? Some smirky kid looking at Paper Rad way too often is always going to be preferable to another self-righteous webcomic about how hard it is out there for single 30-somethings who miss the Go-Bots and Totally Hates The Racisms.

Love and Rockets #2
By Jaime Hernandez, Gilbert Hernandez, Mario Hernandez
Published by Fantagraphics

A fucking knock-out, really. This wasn’t even stuff that yours truly ranked that highly-- “Mechanics”, “Radio Zero”, “Music for Monsters”, and “Somewhere in California”--but reading it in this contained format, without the universally celebrated “good stuff” that the longer digest collections yank you foward with, it's weirdly excellent. Maggie’s impossibly beautiful, striking classical pose after classical pose, while Rand Race and Penny Century keep falling into every different kind of romance-engorged tableau that ever went to paper. There’s so much to love in here, and Gary Groth’s overly excited, Gaddis-quoting essay really sets a wonderful tone. This thing stinks of comics, it’s wet and messy. The Punisher of feelings, and thighs.

Daredevil #12
By Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez
Published by Marvel Comics

The External Hard Drive Crossover (featuring Spider-Man, Bearded Punisher, and Greg Rucka Fantasy Lady Version 3.0) concluded in last week’s Daredevil with Daredevil still wearing the external hard drive around his neck, but Waid and Co. seem to have decided they’re going to maximize whatever mileage they’re getting out of that particular storyline, meaning that this issue only mentions it in passing. More carrying a glorified address book around excitement to come! In this issue, they instead choose to tell the story of Daredevil’s first date with some lady who Bullseye will probably kill the new district attorney, and it turns out Matthew Murdock knows how to show a lady a good time, and by showing her "a good time," I mean he tells her some fucking story about that fat piece of shit he hangs out with all the time, because there's nothing a lady likes more on a first date then listening to the dude drone on and on about the moment in college when he realized he was becoming best friends with some guy she doesn't particularly like that much. Waid and Samnee try their best to uncover a secret awesomeness to a bunch of clichés, but this issue--like the three-issue crossover that preceded it--is another dud . Marvel had a clear winner on its hand with this title not that long ago, but over-shipping, overwrought crossovers, and an abysmal series of fill-in artists have turned Daredevil into the exact kind of mindless filler it spent its first seven issues acting in stark criticism of. Then again, it's fucking Daredevil, and if there’s one thing this title has historically been great at (besides murdering girlfriends), it’s brief moments of good in between years and years of the opposite.

Batwing #9
By Judd Winick, Marcos To, Ryan Winn
Published by DC Comics

Although DC is in the middle of cancelling a bunch of their "New 52" titles, this one is not only dodging the axe but getting itself included in the "Night of the Owls" crossover sprawling out of the successful Scott Snyder-led Batman title. Batwing is a weird, weird comic, almost unreadable in its initial installments, all of which were card-carrying members of the hilariously offensive variety of super-hero comics--a short-tempered black man sponsored by a rich white Westerner fights a villainous African warlord who cuts off the heads of children with a Darfur-inspired machete and openly refers to himself as "Massacre"--but this issue just sees the character dumped off in Gotham City, where he fights off some random storm trooper type by blowing the dude's arms off.

Detective Comics #597
By Alan Grant, Eduardo Barreto or Eduardo Baretto, Depending on Which Part of the Comic You’re Looking At, John Wagner, Steve Mitchell, Adrienne Roy
Published by DC Comics, 1989

This is the second part of a two-parter, and yet it would have read as a far smarter comic if this was the only issue that existed. It opens with a splash page featuring Gotham’s richest (well, except for Bruce) preparing to watch the latest in a series of Advanced Bumfights: The Batman Installment. We then see the fight and its aftermath, which is one of those weird passages that’s gone extinct in today’s hunger for faux-realist super-hero stories, a passage where Batman goes to the hospital and is treated by doctors who allow him to keep his mask on. Then Batman drives around in broad daylight, thus setting an all time record for the most-obvious suspect tailing of all time. It’s a one-trick pony, this comic, and there isn’t a note you won’t see coming. There’s some pretty drawings, but that’s it. This is the sort of comic that a childless man reads only to realize that no, he’s never going to read this to a little boy, and if his own father was still alive, he would call and tell him that they should have played a little two-hand touch instead. Life is a meaningless spiral into oblivion, there is nothing beyond the mortal realm, and average super-hero comics are far worse than those that are merely bad.

33 Responses to If Kirby Was Still Alive, He Would Totally Have Killed Himself By Now

  1. First post!

  2. ant says:

    That last comic was the first Batman title I ever bought. I know you’ll all sleep easier for knowing that.

    Great, as usual, though not as pants-pissingly funny as prior weeks….still the 2nd-best comics reviewer on the web!

  3. Lugh says:

    Dissing China Mieville means I’m out. Later!

  4. My thoughts and such:

    I’ve heard “Dial H” being compared to Morrison in both a complimentary way and at a level of, “Your momma’s so fat,” insulting. I haven’t read it yet. I will, and then I will say if it is good or toss it with the rest of my comics in the pit where I keep my mutated half-brother Hubert.

    When I read the first issue of Batwing those months ago it made my eyes bleed it was so bad.

    Daredevil’s big cross-over serving no purpose really annoys me, as Marvel pimped it as this important thing with that stupid hard-drive but instead it was a pointless meander into cross-over-event town. Daredevil best get its game up if it wants to be impressing people at the end of this year as it was at the end of 2011 instead of having us attack it with pitchforks and fire like an evil monstrosity.

    Yeah, I’m done.

  5. o0o says:

    if you like Short Cuts, try to get a hold of the compilation Secret Comics Japan, which has a good portion of Furuya’s Palepoli. it’s smart and funny formalist stuff.

  6. George Bush (not that one) says:

    Wow so Love and Rockets is good? I had no idea.

  7. Gerry M. Allen says:

    I don’t know jack about “Dial H”, but you don’t know jack about Mr. Miéville. He is one of today’s most honored writers. He sells lots of books and Comics ought to be pleased that he has chosen to spend some of his limited time with it.

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  9. Derik Badman says:

    Sure, he’s an “honored” writer (I’ve not read him, but I know he’s won a number of awards for his books), but this comic whiffs of “real book authors decides to write comic.” Which usually means it’s going to stink.

  10. Zack Soto says:

    It doesn’t stink. It’s not super great, but it doesn’t stink. Which as Tucker points out, puts it ahead of most of DC’s current books. I hope that the bit of promise it shows turns into something, but who knows if it will.

  11. Derik Badman says:

    “ahead of most of DC’s current books”

    The slightest praise one could give a comic.

  12. DanielJoseMata says:

    I never read any of Mieville’s stuff. But, I don’t really get the Morrison comparison. It seems to me to be very much the usual tone writers from the British Isles take with superheroes. That is, it has the same weird, black ironic sentiment as Peter Milligan, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, and Alan Moore. It would have worked better if Berger reigned in his use of run-ons and fragments, but they kinda fit with where Nelson’s mindset was. I guess. Still, it was a little cool (and cheesey) that the heroes were based on his obsessions at the time, smoking and wallowing in self-pity. The joke about the ex-soldier losing his lover in Iraq was a BIG surprise to see printed there, and not something I can see an American writer doing. Pretty ballsy for DC to print that.

    You’re right about the artist though. That guy sucks.

  13. DanielJoseMata says:

    Also, I miss colors like that Batman picture.

  14. Thrills says:

    “Dissing China Mieville means I’m out. Later!!

    What a terrible way to handle criticism! I really like Miéville, but I can understand that not all people have the same opinions as me? I sort of think what Tucker says is spot-on, and isn’t actually that offensive.

    I really enjoyed ‘Dial H’. Though the plot didn’t grab me loads and it did feel a lot like Morrison Doom Patrol, there were enough nice details, and I have faith in Miéville, so I’ll keep purchasing it unless it totally goes to shit. Aye.

    I don’t really feel like Miéville’s slumming it, though, but maybe that’s just what I want to believe as I like good comics and I like good books and I kind of hope both can exist without there being some sort of worthiness hierarchy between them and aw fuck I’m drunk.

  15. DanielJoseMata says:

    Or maybe that wasn’t a joke, and I’m just a dick. Wouldn’t be the first time.

  16. Dustin says:

    This makes it sound like Comics is an ugly girl that needs Mieville to ask it to the prom. If this is the attitude of people who read Comis I can understand why the mainstream looks down on us.

  17. DanielJoseMata says:

    Actually, I think people who don’t read comics think that way.

  18. Holy shit, that “I Like Drawing” page!

  19. Chris Jones says:

    I thought that Daredevil issue was kind of an alright way to kill some time, although even as I was reading it I was thinking to myself “This is a really unwieldy type of thing to turn a superhero comic into, even if it’s just for one issue.”

    I’ve read one China Mieville book, “The City and The City,” and it was…fine. It did this thing that I’ve never seen before, where it managed to be both understated AND hammy.

  20. INJURY TO THE EYE!!!!!!!

  21. Thrills says:

    Yeah, I didn’t see that as a joke, just as a thing that happened that made that particular guy feel sad.

  22. DanielJoseMata says:

    I think I just laughed because it was a little unexpected. So, sorry, gay guys. I’m getting off the internet now.

  23. Jayhawh says:

    It might be douchey of me to step in and try to offer a defense of Batwing, especially since when I first heard of it, I was like “African Batman huh? Will probably be dumb and wimpy, not really related to Africa, they’ll puss out on the violence necessary to do this right.” But I started reading it in this new reboot, and I was like hey this sounds like a cool idea, imagine if Batman was in Blood Diamond or Black Hawk Down (or hey, maybe even ACTUAL Africa!). So I thought they were really going for it when it starts off with people’s hacked off arms in a big pile, and child soldiers and stuff, I thought this could be cool to see. Then after a couple of issues, a magic flying guy that shoots lightning bolts showed up and I tapped out. It just makes me think of all them dumb kids who ask “how come Superman didn’t stop 9/11?” The answer to that being he was busy fighting a giant headed freaky alien from another dimension and couldn’t stop the planes in time. A comic version of Batwing could spend his entire life trying to fight the warlords in Africa and still have no effect, which sounds like the ultimate superhero comic book to me. Until you bring magic people into it, then that just ruins everything.

    Also Short Cuts is fawkin fantastic.

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  25. Briany Najar says:

    Is it my imagination, or is getting someone who’s known for writing texts to create a comic-book a very DC thing to do? It seems to be a fairly common attitude across mainstream adventure comics, but DC in particular seem to have always equated quality with a mixture of writerly writing and dry, comparatively realistic artwork.
    Never a compound, always a mixture.
    Speaking of which, I hate that Batwing art. The inker there and the colourist/post-production-FX-wizard need to sit down and have a substantial conversation about what they want their comic to look like. On the basis of the panel above, they seem to be engaged in some war of attrition. Graphical line-art or photo-realism? Uuh, how about both at once? That way no-one’s winning.

  26. Sean Michael Robinson says:

    Second to the Palepoli recommendation. You can actually find the rest of it in…hm, some issue or another of Pulp, the “isn’t it or isn’t it a porno” anthology Viz put out for a while back in another decade that makes me old for just remembering. Certain pages of Palepoli will live inside me forever, including children arena-fighting a stag beetle and a miniature Jesus like Pokemon. Now that’s comedy.

  27. Anthony Casaldi says:

    Here’s something I don’t get about Batman and his mythology. His whole schtick is, “A gun killed my parents so I’ll never use a gun, never kill, etc.” yet he has no problem maiming the crap out of people. And in the Batwing panel there’s one of his acolytes blowing off a bad buys arms. So, it’s fine to cause irreparable physical and mental harm to a criminal, but you can’t kill them…?

    Batman and his posse are basically the girl/guy you know who will do everything to you except fuck you. They’re blue-balls personified.

  28. Kelly Froh says:

    Is that a review of “The Intruder”? There are so many things that should be in quotes, without them I could barely make sense of it. Isn’t it a little tired to say that the styles are different in an anthology? How about discussing content, or what made you laugh, or what was drawn really well?

  29. Will says:

    Kirby wouldn’t kill himself because of shitty comics other people were doing. He’d just be off in his own ridiculous universe, he was too creative to kill himself.

  30. Zack Soto says:

    Pretty much. You’ll notice I wasn’t exactly handing out Eagle Awards over here.

  31. David says:

    If China Miéville is one of today’s most honored writers I guess that lit is in even worse shape than I feared. Hugos, Nebulas and other genre awards (and genre writing in general) are pretty lame (as it could easily be argued is true about any award, but let’s not confuse a Locus with a Man Booker prize).

  32. Daniel C. Parmenter says:

    Yes, heaven forbid someone should mistake fantasy or SF for *real* writing.

  33. Daniel C. Parmenter says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the basis of the comparison is that they’re both British and bald.

    I like the China Miéville novels that I’ve read quite a bit, though I’d say that “The City and the City” is probably his best, and it’s his least “genre” novel. It reads a bit like a novel-length Borges story and is as much a police procedural novel as it is a fantasy.

    Miéville is an interesting guy, equally unapologetic about his socialism and his love of D&D, both of which very much inform his writing. My only real criticism of him is that he seems a bit cruel to the female characters in his novels, or at least the ones I’ve read. The one genuinely likable character in “Perdido Street Station” (a sculptor from a race of insect-headed women) deserved a better ending I thought.

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