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Comics of the Weak Comics of the Weak

“Success In Market Terms Justifies and Validates Anything, Replacing All Theories”

It’s just Nate Bulmer and I holding it down this week: I feel the same way as that poor goose. It’s a short one this week, but hey, at least that’s because it’s mostly good news. Let’s get moving, efficiency expert style.

The Infinite Wait and Other Stories
By Julia Wertz
Published by Koyama Press

Julia Wertz is funny, and after reading The Infinite Wait, I’m not surprised to see that she’s fucking smart, too. Having not read anything by her before, my initial takeaway from reading this book was the confidence with which she delivers a laugh, the way a conversation between her characters falls into such a perfect rhythm that the panels speed by, layering line after line upon one another, leaving just enough room to breathe in between them before another hit lands. From a clinical standpoint, it feels like a hybrid between transcription (which is obviously isn’t, but the sense remains) and a great stage play, seamlessly leaping between the delivery of performative dialog and a more internal alchemy. Flipping to a page at random, a line can seem leaden and unclear–why was this funny, again?–but all it takes is tracing to the next one for the parts to become whole once again. As a cartoonist, Wertz will probably eternally live in that place where her own self-deprecation and blunt, pseudo-simple style keep her from receiving the credit she’s due; at the same time, it’s obvious that she’s never going to care about getting a back rub from Art Spiegelman anyway. She’s tough, this one, and while at times she may pretend not to know it, the pages that result are all the evidence the reader needs to prove her wrong.

The Punisher: Barbarian With A Gun
By Chuck Dixon, John Buscema, Tom Palmer, Klaus Janson, Art Nichols, Kevin Tinsley
Published by Marvel, 1994
I’d love to know the story behind this little gem, or at least, what John Buscema thought about it. He seems to have enjoyed drawing at least some of what turns out to be a particularly nasty story about the time the Punisher went to the Caribbean with the intent of murdering a bad guy and instead ended up having to rely on the help of an old ‘Nam buddy just to get home alive when the whole island descends into a blood soaked revolution. This story was originally serialized in Punisher War Zone, the third ongoing title for the character, who spent a good portion of the ’90s succeeding in a financially enthusiastic fashion. Dixon’s issues of War Zone are some of the few Punisher comics that Garth Ennis–responsible for Punisher Max, the closest thing to a “definitive” take that the character has ever received—praises, and while Barbarian With A Gun stands a bit apart from the group commonly referred to as “the good ones,” it’s still a compelling piece of stupidity, ably overdrawn and zealously macho in the very best way those things can be. You can not like this, sure. You just have to have to try really hard.

A VS X: Consequences #3
By Kieron Gillen, Scot Eaton, Andrew Hennessy, Jim Charalampidis
Published by Marvel Comics
I haven’t read the first two issues of this because … well, why would I? Kieron Gillen is a nice guy, Scot Eaton probably isn’t spending his time staring at the Cookie Monster and rubbing himself, and who wants to see those guys struggle through an assignment that’s probably higher on their respective bucket lists than watching their parents get murdered but still lower than taking a long dump on an airplane? And yet: who could pass up that cover! Iron Man is on his knees, and you can tell he’s totally crying inside his Iron Man mask, and he’s doing it in front of the one flower left standing—was that the only flower he could save? Or did that flower survive on its own? Better yet: is that a flower he planted, as a way to start anew, a fresh start flower he planted with his Iron Man hands? I had to know.

Unfortunately, this comic does not pay off that cover in any form or fashion. Instead, it focuses on showing Cyclops as he fights with that gigantic tattooed guy who shows up in every super-hero-in-jail comics, and then it does little one-to-two page check-ins with the various Marvel characters who were involved in the AVX storyline. FOOLED AGAIN.

Barbara
By Osamu Tezuka
Published by Kickstarter/DMP, 2012

The sort of read that makes you want to travel back in time just to slap yourself in face for not realizing that you were overusing the phrase “all over the place” to describe things that really weren’t all that strange, and would therefore find the phrase one limp dick of a description when applied to this, Barbara, the comic where Tezuka decided that getting serious meant getting seriously pervy. As opposed to, you know, what maybe I might have said myself a couple of weeks back, this isn’t bad: it’s just really weird, the sort of weird that allows for some violent divergences in explaining what-it-all-means, because the gap between what happens on the page and what Tezuka might have wanted to happen on the page is vast, and that doesn’t happen that often when you’re reading basically anything else he’s done that’s currently available in English. Oh yeah, you want to know the plot, but when you hear that it’s about a writer who finds an alcoholic sexpot and remedies her homelessness by dragging her home, you’re probably gonna fill in a bunch of gaps with all the wrong guesses. Take it from somebody with zero interest in doing any research and yet who feels confident in making claims nonetheless, because birthday cake: this is one of the weirdest Tezuka comics English readers will ever come across, if they come across it at all. Which they won’t, because its already unavailable.

Incredible Hulk #15
By Jason Aaron, Jefte Palo, Frank Martin
Published by Marvel
This is the last issue of writer Jason Aaron’s run on the Hulk character, in a title launched sometime last year with ’90s Image Comics heartthrob Marc Silvestri, who graciously allowed every available inker working in contemporary superhero comics a chance to draw “finish” his work for him. And while Silvestri was gone almost as quickly as he arrived, returning to wherever it is he goes when he’s biding his time so as to maximize the back-again enjoyment for his aging fanbase, the comic continued on as if nothing had changed, because nothing had, unless you count the sales numbers, which had rightfully plummeted upon the departure of the one thing people actually cared about. Thankfully, a whole bunch of Marvel comics happened to be in the same sinking boat, and so the Hulk has been thrown into the laundry basket that is Marvel Now, and the comic will soon be relaunched under the supervision of Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu, a match-up born in the blistering flames of availability and financial need.

In a twist of fate that will surprise exactly no one, Aaron’s final issue of Incredible Hulk wasn’t very good. Oh sure, it was better than that Gray Morrow article that Christopher Irving wrote for this website, but that’s only because everything was better than that article, even things Matt Seneca writes or smokes or tries to have sex with, and at the end of the day, Mr. Aaron should set his sights higher than merely being better than the snide remarks that Tim Hodler makes about Noah Berlatsky [Ed.: Why you…], because Aaron is getting paid a princely sum, whereas the rest of the people involved in this long, brilliant sentence receive, at most, overstock copies of Dalgoda that smell like whatever Gary Groth was eating back in 1982. (‘Cause he sat on them like a chair.) The problem with this Hulk comic isn’t a new one, in fact, its one that’s so cliched it almost hurts to bring up: the story of how the Hulk needs Banner and how Banner needs the Hulk. It’s not dissimilar to one of those Kirby FF stories where Ben Grimm discovers that he must always be the Thing, with the primary difference being that Kirby was able to square that circle in a few panels of the story and manage to get some pathos and see a baby born on the same page, whereas Aaron spent 15 issues having the two characters whine “‘Fraid not” and “‘Fraid so,” with occasional breaks where side characters wheezed out jokes about panda bears in wheelbarrows or how Bigfoot is referred to as “Squatchy.” It’s the embarrassing sort of humor you expect from a Methodist youth minister trying to conceal his diabolic self-loathing, and while one can’t totally fault Aaron for trying to make the best out of a shit situation, it would be a lot easier to play along if his jokes were actually funny. Aaron’s run on Ghost Rider won’t be replacing Watchmen and Maus as a go-to thesis topic anytime soon, but it certainly stands in as proof that Aaron can, in fact, do this sort of writing well–just not recently, it seems. Thankfully, his next project is Thor, and if there’s one thing that always works in Thor, it’s being a human being that isn’t named Walt Simonson. Best of luck!


15 Responses to “Success In Market Terms Justifies and Validates Anything, Replacing All Theories”

  1. A few stray thoughts:

    The Garth Ennis take on the Punisher makes pretty much anyone else’s effort since look like a 5 year-old trying to be grown-up and impressive by saying a new swear word he learned. Just because Ennis is a master of showing violence and using the word, “Fuck,” doesn’t mean you will be able to do it too. Aaron’s PunisherMax wasn’t too offensive though.

    Also, AVX #3 is awesome if you’re a fam of Cyclops because in this issue and the earlier two we get to see him act like a badass and otherwise be more interesting than he has ever been since Morrison wrote him because now at least the character has a trait besides, “whiny,” and that trait is, “Eager to mess-up the face of any fool who upsets him.” Angry Cyclops is much cooler than he’s been in years, who would have thought that by making him a sort of villain/political idealist as Gillen started in his Uncanny X-Men run we would end up with someone who doesn’t make me want to scream in boredom. This comic still has terrible art though, like, self-harm-yourself-in-a-rage level of bad.

    Let’s talk about Jason Aaron; his Hulk run may not be the best, but at least we still do have those old Ghost Rider comics he did that you mentioned, and of course Wolverine and The X-Men has been fantastic despite the fact Marvel seems to want to make their X-books suck by giving one to Brian Bendis, the man who proved with his years of Avenger’s comics that he couldn’t write a team-book for his life even if you threatened to make him go back to doing indie crime-books…which sadly are pretty good and show before he went too deep into heroes the man actually could write. It just seems other than his run on Daredevil and Alias Bendis has lost the ability to make a good comic. I rue the day it happens to Aaron, though if his Hulk work is anything to go by it could happen soon.

    I was all over the place with that, wasn’t I?

  2. Jayhawh says:

    Iron Man takes off his gold ring and his watch as he sobs, HE COULD’VE USED THEM TO SAVE MORE FLOWERS

    At the end Iron Man gets a letter from the third world flower he’s been sponsoring that has a crayon drawing of the kid and Iron Man and Iron Man’s elderly dead wife and his daughter who married a douchebag waterbed salesman.

    Iron Man tries to comfort his successful screenwriting twin brother that was launched out of a car windshield because of flowers.

  3. I like when Iron Man’s armor has muscles. Look at him sexily flex his robot biceps!

  4. The lettering on that Tezuka strip is terrible.

  5. One of the really weird things about Barbara is how the first few chapters dwell on the protagonist’s weird sexual fetishes…which are never mentioned again. Like, I thought it would have been a bigger deal that [SPOILER for those first chapters] the dude had a psychotic hallucination that a department store mannequin was totally into him, or that, in the parlance of our times, he screwed the pooch, but no, that turns out to be just water under the bridge. Still not the sexiest gekiga man-on-dog scene, though; that honour still belongs to Tatsumi.

  6. Dan Coyle says:

    “Keiron Gillen’s a nice guy,”

    “We don’t go for that sort of thing around here. If you think the guy’s nice, tell your wife.”– Matt Taibbi

    What is it with you bomb throwers and not wanting to get left off Christmas card lists?

  7. Joe McCulloch says:

    I agree, and I suspect Tezuka either ran into adverse feedback or just went “this isn’t working” and started doing something else, since the show must go on. I wonder how many of the dozens of lower-end Tezuka serials not yet translated have this same corrective tendency… they’re not all gonna be hidden gems of cohesion.

  8. heimp says:

    Marvel vs Consequences. Is that a sequel to Marvel vs Capcom?

  9. Chris Mautner says:

    Why does everyone forget MW when talking about sexy bestiality scenes in manga?

  10. I don’t remember any such scenes in MW — jog my memory with the juicy details.

    …and I don’t have them in front of me, but are there any sex scenes with the dog-head guys in Kirihito or that one volume of Phoenix?

  11. Chris Mautner says:

    Jones — My memory is that there’s a sequence where the serial killer starts getting it on with his pet dog, much to the horror of his girlfriend who is watching in the wings. Maybe I just dreamed that though.

  12. Jayhawh says:

    It’s a sequel to existence. ;-;

    Marvel vs Consequences, the series they’ve been doing for the past 20 years.

  13. Jim Treacher says:

    Poor Iron Man. Getting back up again must’ve been really awkward.

  14. Jayhawh says:

    He probably didn’t physically stand up again, he blasted off the ground and flew into the clouds where no one could see him.

  15. Don Druid says:

    Amen to that. I’d also note that Taibbi wrote that in 2004, well before he became as well-read or widely appreciated as those he was criticizing.

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