First, Abhay Khosla: Handsy perverts, sex droogs, and lesser rohypnauts preyed upon nubile, cosplayed flesh at New York Comic-Con this year. The comic convention was reportedly a bonanza of sexual-harassment and lewd half-entendres. Worst of all, even when women weren't being sexually harassed, they were still at an event with panels like "Valiant: Must Read", "Spotlight: J. Michael Straczynski", and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Oh, the humanity...
Perhaps not coincidentally, New York Comic-Con was apparently sponsored this year by the titmongers working for Arizona Ice Tea, whose ad campaign at the convention ("I love big cans") focused on selling the company's high-fructose-corn-syrup-laced death-water (or as they call it, "tea") by reminding male con-goers how the corpora cavernosa of their penises become flush with blood upon the sight of the female breast. "Nothing sates an erection like tea, bro"-- official motto of Sigma Chi. "Sigma Chi or Die," added Jack Kirby. "This seems entirely appropriate," said some ad person guessing what NYCC would be like three to four months ago.
Arizona Ice Tea -- some people when they hear of Arizona, think about Arizona's refusal for years to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, or their draconian anti-immigration law SB1070. But that's unfair, and Arizona Ice Tea would really much rather that you please think about patriarchal rape culture instead of thinking about institutionalized racism, so... that's... sensible? Anything that takes your mind off the fact you're drinking the manufacturer of two of Men's Health's 20 Worst Beverages in America. (One can of Kiwi Strawberry is the sugar equivalent of seven bowls of Fruit Loops cereal, or forty-two sugar cubes!)
But when it wasn't celebrating pre-diabetes and nonconsensual frottage, New York Comic-Con also saw all sort of comic book news getting announced. Among other things, Marvel Comics announced roughly a million brand new comics, mostly never-was concepts spearheaded by relatively untested creative teams, all of which were hinted at previously with a "teaser" campaign. The way the "teaser" campaigns worked was that Marvel Comics would announce a single word in order to create "buzz" prior to NYCC, as fans speculated what that single word could possibly mean because that's the kind of free time they have on their hands, I guess.
NYCC Announcement! Namor the Sub-Mariner smells like butt, decaying butt. But how do you tell someone who lives in water that they need to bathe? Wouldn't they find that entire bathing concept confusing? What's the etiquette there?
NYCC Announcement! A new comic about a character that's never sold well before, but this time they're joining the Guardians of the Galaxy during an Inhumans crossover because apparently in 2013, those have all become things people say with a straight face? Really? Okeydokey, artichokey.
NYCC Announcement! Most people hate zombies but not the Mighty Thor who finally sees an opportunity to let his necrophilia run wild. Join him on a journey of erotic reawakening.
The good times are now. Prepare accordingly.
Now, Tucker Stone:
The high water mark for Prophet thus far, this issue sees Brandon Graham taking his biggest risks yet, telling the story of one creature's ten thousand years. Doled out amongst a laundry list of Graham's friends and aesthetic compatriots, the comic's cohesion relies on a narrative conceit most well known for overuse--the almost-always-pointless date stamp--and wrings out more pathos and grandeur than many stories do in a stack of chapters. Caring about the robot's feelings in a science fiction comic is a bush league mistake, and yet it's one that most will be happy to make. One more time, because it'll never get old: thank you for this, Rob Liefeld.
There's probably more to the "Red Sophia" character than the parts of this series where she essentially begs for Cerebus to have sex with her in various embarrassing ways, but all of that imagined "more" doesn't add up to enough this early in the series, when the art is getting better only by increments and the jokes are still more miss than hit. This chapter in particular is made mostly up of duds, with the Meirgen character serving as a toothless example of the loudmouth cowards who will eventually become one of Sim's funniest staples. It's a trial run, and sometimes trials just teach you what you aren't supposed to do.
The first issue of the series to make great use of Frank Quitely is, unsurprisingly, the best of this series so far. While it still would be nice for Millar to come up with… well, anything that might differentiate his characters in a way that would make them recognizable as individuals, he's doled out enough of cliches to give the plot some framework. If nothing else, the dope doesn't look like Iago, and the crybaby has shorter hair than the badass, so we can count on Frank to keep them separated. There's nothing new under the sun in this particular genre, but that was never what was promised (or expected) in the first place. Viva la parricide?
This comic is so smart it'll make your head hurt. Not like a caffeine headache, but more from the family of headaches where you fantasize about taking a sharp ice scream scoop to your temples, just to saw away the pain. It's completely out of step with other comics, it just doesn't read like it's coming out on the same planet that people who read Lazarus or Dragon Ball Z or Jupiter's Legacy live on. It reads like it's part of a different medium. It's not the subject material--the subject material is the life of a vaguely loserish guy who looks like a stencil of the Michelin Man and considers himself a rapper. That's a plot, and a lot of comics have a plot. Here, the plot is just the frame to hold the page together. Sometimes that page will have narration, sometimes the comic is broken up into traditional six-panel vignettes, and sometimes its just transcriptions of message boards and online Twitter fights. In the fourth issue, when you get to see the guy rap at a club for an extended period of time and he seemingly has a semi-psychotic break where he just repeats "I can't communicate"--which is presented in a way that's hysterically funny, incredibly disturbing AND terribly sad--it's hard to believe that you've only spent a scant twenty-four pages with the character. It just hurts too good.
An all pink comic about a Rubenesque giant named Jennifer Nova who is described as being so famous that she is "better known than dirt and more popular than water", American Mainstream Big Busty Psychic Celeb Votes Satan isn't a comic that lends itself to easy explanation, but it does lend itself to a whole raft of really obvious review cliches like "lend itself" and "easy explanation." It's visually congruent, so while its narrative may read like the assemblage of a hundred different websites, it never looks like it's flitting around, leaping from idea to idea like some kind of logorrheic Tumblr addict. It's not really funny, but that could be as purposeful as any of the other choices being made here--it's hard not to look at this and not see it as a success purely because of its specificity and unwillingness to explain itself. Urkowitz continues to be far more in touch with a special kind of perversion, and he clearly relishes the opportunity to depict everything surrounding his voluptuous heroine as the tiny, pathetic wastrel that her world would view itself as. Next to Jennifer, the world is an anorexic wraith or a mindless lemming, and while she doesn't hate it for being that way, it clearly hates itself. There's no rest stop here for guilt or misogyny--it just goes straight from unrequited lust to an all-encompassing self-hatred. But then Jennifer tears apart her own body into its constituent parts and you're back wondering what the fucking thing meant again. If it wasn't so sexy, you might even think it was deep.
Strawberries--which purports to tell the story of a young woman who has small strawberries growing inside her vagina--isn't a comic that I could say I totally understood, but that doesn't mean I didn't like it an extraordinary amount, although I'm somewhat at a loss to explain why. It's a charming kind of disgusting, a comic that looks vaguely adorable (this is a compliment), as if Mia could churn out three hundred gigabytes of a pseudo-sitcom webcomic about a couple of funny misanthropes who live with a talking panda bear in San Francisco if she could only convince herself that was a worthwhile way to spend her time. (It probably isn't?)
A fat fifty-two-page anthology comic from Josh Simmons, featuring five different stories, two of which are continuations of Simmons' primary ongoing concerns--the thousand-pages-to-come White Rhinoceros and the thirty-six-years-to-go Jessica Farm. Furry Trap readers might bring trepidation to bear, but they'll also unwittingly be bringing with them the high tolerance that collection of horrors instills, and as such, they'll make it through with room to spare. Nothing in here is as disturbing as the final panels of "Cockbone", or as shocking as the "NOW you're pretty" passage from "In A Land of Magic". Instead, it's all juxtaposition and dementia, damage with crackpot whimsy. One page sees a little girl choosing a straight-up adorable little pony--giant eyes and an all-overbite smile--instead of a stoned chicken or a giant muppet creature with a sloppy penis where its nose should be. Why not? As the story's title indicates, "The Choice Is Clear". It's funny because it's true. These are comics that seem as intent on examining the reader as they do being read--the passage where a child is ripped to shreds in the face of a midnight tidal wave feels more like a doctor probing for lumps than it does like a horror movies--and what the experience lacks in immediacy it makes up for in its leaps of imagination. These are passages, not installments or chapters, but they're satisfying nonetheless.