By Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Dave Stewart
Published by Image Comics, 2012
The best response I’ve heard to Fatale was some amused indignation from a guy who referred to the last issue as "the one where Brubaker apologized in the letter column for writing a bunch of comics that made no goddamned sense whatsoever." While I can’t totally agree with that—"hot girl shows up, ergo world falls apart" is a plot as old as Heidi MacDonald’s contempt for grammar; hell, the plot's explicitly in the title—there’s no shame in admitting that the specifics of this particular flavor of hottie-induced carnage could, on occasion, be more clear. It hasn’t helped that Sean Phillips has such a wide cast of craggy faced old men to draw, most of whom are dressed in some variation of wasted, crumpled suits--not to be racist, but yes, old white people basically look the same, except for the fat ones. But if you’ve stuck it out, through the "wha?" of the first chapter and the "oh, that's the same dude!" of the second and third, then this was the issue you were waiting for: the contracting of the connective narrative thread that brings together all these people and all their hellishness. Brubaker has mentioned V For Vendetta as inspiration, and while that’s cool and all, this is a story that belongs to James Ellroy. Tortured drunks with bodies on the brain and gaping, festering wounds where their conscience was supposed to take root; men born to die, and the men born to kill them. The comic is still labeled horror, but it's so far of the hushed and hinted variety--in this issue, a character remembers a moment when he, and only he, saw a truck pass by, driven by tentacles and full of human bodies, haphazardly piled. There's no explanation given. "An unseen clockwork that made the universe tick" is as close as it gets, and that's no story, it's just the hard excuse of a boy, and it should have been abandoned when he found out the truth. Fatale may be about that overdue moment, but unless things are playing against type, it looks like that man's run is heading towards an abrupt stop.
Lincoln Washington: Free Man #1
By Benjamin Marra
Published by Traditional
One of the main reasons such a diverse group of people get turned on by Ben Marra’s comics has to be that they’re legitimately contemporary work, comics that staunchly exist in a world where the participants are capable of talking about the GZA without sounding like they’re 700 fucking years old. Nobody is about to pretend that the grandfatherization of comics hasn’t resulted in some excellent collections, but it’s worth acknowledging that there are legitimate reasons that not everybody who came up in the '90s is interested in making comics obsessed with the heady days before Will Eisner started taking dumps in a bag. Marra’s shit--a good bit of which is indebted to the Cinemax movies and Luther Campbell CD covers most twenty-somethings started masturbating to back when they hit puberty--hits the I’m The Grown Up Now button in all the ways a Spirit relaunch (or a retro Mickey Mouse collection) can’t. Lincoln Washington aims a little differently on surface glance--it’s set in the Reconstruction-era South, who jerked off to that?--but if you dive past plot, you’ll find Knightfall references and even more. If you aren’t on board with him already, you never will be, but if you are, this is it: the best violence Marra’s done yet. Gulacy for life, indeed.
Secret Service #1
By Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, and yes, Angus McKie
Published by Icon
While Millar's fundamental disinterest in creating interesting characters will forever cripple his work, you can't fault the guy's ability to rip people off and crack wise while doing so, and you can't fault it because Millar is just way better at ripping people off than he ever gets credit for. (And by credit, we're talking about on the internet, not in the real world where Mark Millar makes a ton of money and gets to work with way better artists than everybody else, excepting those times when Grant Morrison can convince Frank Quitely to help restart an old friend's career). But saints alive, even if you go into Secret Service knowing that Millar is suckling so deep at the teat of Garth Ennis that you'll swear you can hear Warren Ellis crying "it's my turn," this is still an obscenely extreme case of imitation. Ridicule of genre cliches while in wholesale embrace of them? Check. Lustily fist-pumping praise for the hard men of the British Secret Service? Got it. How about a conversation between two older gents, looking at the world of today and complaining of the way its progress disregards their legacy? Yeah, you can't miss it. But for all its brazenness, it's hard to argue with the results, and there's a couple of genuinely funny moments in this thing. These kinds of comics--the intellectual property dry runs, the movie-pitch kind--are only good when they're sleazy, because none of the people writing them are any good at anything else. And this one, so devoid of anything but Millar and Gibbons' nihilistic pursuit of the Almighty Option, is the best one there's been in a while.
Yeah, that's the stuff. And comics news! Let's get ABHAY KHOSLA to do the comics news with a GUEST COLUMNIST BREAK:
A quote of a tweet from prominent DC Comics auteur Rob Liefeld circulated, this week, congratulating himself for having drawn covers to recent DC comic books: "The Hipsters don’t know what to do when I draw feet. It confuses them."
When asked for comment, The Hipsters issued the following response:
"I think I 'like' feet because they are differentiated from other 'traditional' parts of the body. Liking them makes me feel like I have 'good body image' but I also wonder if lamestream bros like Rob Liefeld getting into feet , if that's rlly a gimmick meant to make u and me feel like sk8r boi RobBros r in touch with 'what real people think is good.' Are feet as approachable/appealing to u as hands? Or are hands kinda jeal of feet's ability to 'generate money for goods or services'.
What did u learn from Rob Liefeld draws feet?
Are feet 'legitimate' or just 4 'lies?'
Is RobLie 'more relevant than evr' in a mainstream kind of way now that he can draw feet?
If u could get FAMOUS by buying different kinds of drawings of feet, which 1's would be MEANINGFUL enough for u to want to buy them?"
Meanwhile, in Marvel Comics news, Marvel announced that the 50th anniversary celebration of the SPIDER-MAN series would be marked by a series entitled SPIDER-MEN, wherein the Spider-Man would meet the recently introduced Multiracial Spider-Man character. Axel Alonso was quoted in press materials as saying, "This is one of the biggest stories in Marvel history." Multiracial Spider-Man was announced following the DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN story, the "biggest story in Ultimate Comics history". SPIDER-MEN will be published contemporaneously with the AVENGERS vs. THE UNCANNY X-MEN crossover event, of which Axel Alonso said, "We’ve brought together the biggest writers, biggest artists and biggest characters for the biggest story we’ve ever told." Dan Buckley, President of the Print, Animation, & Digital Divisions, agreed, stating "The release of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN #1, the biggest story we’ve ever told, is the activation point for the re-evolution of comics as a whole," while SVP of Sales David Gabriel announced, "These are your favorite super heroes, in the biggest story we’ve ever told and you can start reading comics right now." AVENGERS vs. THE UNCANNY X-MEN has been written by Marvel's staff of
sandwich artists crossover architects, including Jason Aaron, author of "the biggest Wolverine story I've ever done" and PUNISHER MAX ("The biggest story in MAX history"); Ed Brubaker, author of "CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN #1, the biggest story in comics"; and Matt Fraction, author of Marvel's previous multi-title crossover event FEAR OF FLYING, for which he stated, "We are going to be busting the doors down with the biggest story we’ve ever told." In other news, blood is coming out of my nose and ears.
Marvel hopes perchance to someday find another phrase to use in its press materials besides "biggest story" but as of time of publication, Marvel Comics regrettably does not work with any writers who know adjectives. However, Marvel's crossover architects have reportedly purchased DVDs of Battlestar Galactica and AMC's The Killing, and hope to discover if any adjectives are contained therein, though many remain worried that they will just find more plots for future crossovers. In other news, area man unable to write adequate "compensating for small penises, huh?" joke without staring into a mirror and sobbing for hours upon hours, punctuated only with desperate pleas for help that go unanswered by a cold, infinitely empty universe.
In related architecture news, Marvel released a "teaser" image for a new comic by its crossover architect Matt Fraction and David Aja, prominently featuring the color purple and an arrow pointing upwards. The vast majority fans have excitedly concluded that Marvel will finally announce a new ongoing series entitled GALACTUS'S WANG. In Marvel's "Earth-616" continuity, Galactus's Wang is understood to be a herald of Galactus's Balls. Matt Fraction is expected to announce that Galactus's Wang is the "biggest story Marvel has ever told, forever ever," though it is unclear at time of publication whether he will be referring to length or girth. All that is presently known is that Galactus's Wang is coming soon, probably on your back.
OH PLEASE TALK MORE ABOUT SOME SORTA OLD COMICS NOW
World’s Finest Comics #287
By Cary Burkett, Trevor Von Eden & Lynn Varley
Published by DC Comics, 1983
Well, here’s a piece of trash with a Rich Buckler cover: Batman is being slowly taken over by some low-rent cult made up of people with names like “Marissa,” while Superman flies around being really open about how much more important his relationship with Batman is than everyone else he’s ever met, including chicks and The Flash. There’s some unusual drawings in here that are fun to look at for the length of time it takes your eye to register the differences between primary colors, but after that, you're still reading a terrible super-hero comic and the only thing this has going for it is gonna be a part where The Flash gets noticeably uncomfortable because Superman is babbling about the dream he had where Batman was prostrate on an altar and they're making Clark watch. That part is, however, solid fucking gold.
By Kelly Puckett, Toby Cypress & Melissa Edwards
Published by DC Comics, 2002
This isn’t a landmark issue by any stripe, hell, its generic find-a-cure-for-some-superplague plot is barely memorable even while you’re reading it. However, reading it does pose a question: when did it become so much more interesting that superhero comics focus their attentions on histrionic emotional reactions to the vagaries of interpersonal relationships? Because for what seems like a really long time, that’s the well that super-hero stories have been guzzling at--way more than rape, way more than fighting, way more than any other of the stock criticisms that are constantly being levied by people who think these things still resemble Kirby and Ditko. Bloodborne, for example, purports to tell the story of the time Nightwing rescued Batman from being cold and/or having a cold, but writer Kelly Puckett is clearly way more invested in writing Nightwing as an emotional wreck in motion. It’s the oversharing super-hero tale, a backseat view of a guy who never ran into a situation that didn’t send him off into a masturbatory memory festival, even if he is also punching fucking terrorists or jumping onto helicopters at the time. There’s so many of these things, hero books obsessively detailing “having feelings about other super-heroes,” as if that’s the monolith in 2001, or girls in middle school--fascinating, but what the fuck are you supposed to do with them?--that it points towards a Pandora’s box of responses, all of which are cruel, the most obvious one being that this stuff is designed to show emotional invalids the proper response to publicly verbalize when, in Bloodborne’s example, your dad gets sick. Oh well. I guess guys who learned how to meditate from Batman: Vengeance of Bane shouldn't throw stones at prostitutes. (Pretty sure that's a saying.)
By Dave Sim
Published by Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981
Nothing too special here, if we’re talking Pure Comics shit. If you look in the back though, the letters column is completely devoted to this huge complaint letter from one of those types of readers who start off by saying “this is your best issue yet!” and then goes on for six super-intense page-filling paragraphs about what an unforgivably shitty job Dave Sim has done with closing up dangling plot loops and continuity adherence. Disregarding the fact that all of these complaints seem to have stemmed from some comments Sim made regarding Carl Barks comics (...okay?), it’s pretty astounding work, the sort of detailed lunacy that makes you wonder whether or not Sim reconsidered any of the life choices he’d made upon its arrival, if this was the sort of positive response his work was going to produce.
YOU SHOULD GET BACK TO TODAY'S COMICS AND CLOSE THIS OUT
By Jason Aaron, Steve Dillon, Ron Garney, Paul Peetier, Dave Meikis, Mike Perkins, Jefte Palo, Daniel Acuna, Steven Sanders, Renato Guedes, Matthew Wilson, Matt Milla, Rain Beredo, Andy Troy & Chris Sotomayor
Published by Marvel
This is the last issue of the Wolverine series that Jason Aaron will be writing, so Marvel thought they’d make a big deal out of it by putting a totally incompatible group of artists together to celebrate the fact that some guy wrote a bunch of Wolverine comics for two years, but is now unfortunately moving on so that he can keep writing a comic book called Wolverine and the X-Men, which is a comic book about Wolverine but also features some other characters called the X-Men, and is therefore totally different from this comic, which was just called “Wolverine” even though it occasionally featured other characters, most of whom were called the X-Men. Bittersweet stuff!
The general rule of thumb with super-hero comics is that you should always read the ones where the super-heroes are in jail, because those ones are always going to have a prison rape joke. Some people think that's the fault of the television show Oz, but it seems more likely that the Shawshank Redemption made it okay for people to constantly obsess over the concept of men forcibly fucking other men, as the Shawshank Redemption was basically a gigantic Hallmark Card from Hollywood to the straight white American male that said "someday cool black dudes will travel the world to love you, someday you'll quit your job and your boss will kill himself." Maybe? This feels like a working theory.
Fantastic Four #605
By Jonathan Hickman, Ron Garney & Jason Keith
Published by Marvel Comics
This is one of those comics that tells the “what if?” story of how the The Thing will die. It’s a story that apparently stems from the nerd decision that the character only ages one week a year, and therefore would be unlikely to die from old age for thousands of years. Which, like all those sorts of things: sure, whatever, people want to read about super-heroes dying of old age, the mere thought produces instant boners, okay. The weird part is how a story that, by its nature, involves being rocketed thousands of years into the sci-fi future of the Marvel Universe, is being used only to showcase the point where Reed Richards figures out that he should go back to the present day and watch TV with Ben Grimm. Because friendship is what counts, apparently? And nothing screams friendship like using a time machine to leap forward over and over again into the future so you can peep on your friends as they get old and die? Okay, sure. That's what everybody who has ever had a platonic male friendship wants to do with time machines, it's the absolute first thing that comes to mind. This comic is going to win so many Eisners.
Winter Soldier #4
By Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice, Stefano Gaudiano, Brian Thies, Bettie Breitweiser & Matthew Wilson
Published by Marvel Comics
Winter Soldier is a Marvel comic that takes place in the dirty warehouses across town from wherever Spider-Man is, featuring the kinds of characters who could list “jaw appearance” as a personality trait. But it’s also the sort of comic that should be first mentioned when those creepy, milk-smelling types start nattering on about the mysterious location of all the “fun comics,” because it’s about a dude with a cybernetic arm who teams up with Dr. Doom to fight a Doombot so that they can figure out where the secret apemaster Communist character with the shitty haircut is hiding. You might get fooled into thinking it’s serious at first, in part because the art (especially the coloring) is so gaudy and weird, almost as if colorist Bettie Breitweiser were trying to make the comic appear like it’s been sitting out in the sun AND buried in a basement’s wet longbox for some obscene length of time. But it’s distinctly on the comic end of the spectrum, art be damned, something way too weird to work anywhere else, and at a time where the prevalent concern is how to turn shitty comics into shitty television series or even shittier movies as quickly as humanly possible so as to minimize the amount of time one has to spend in the mediocre income streams of the unwashed direct market, Winter Soldier is pretty much the only new "Marvel" comic in years. It's gonna make a great tombstone.