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Comics of the Weak Comics of the Weak

Weak Violet Heights

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This is Nate preaching the truth right here. You’ll see what I mean.

2000AD #1836
By Rob Williams, Trevor Hairsine, Chris Blythe, Alan Grant, Carlos Ezquerra, Pat Mills, Leigh Gallagher, Dan Abnett, John Burns, David Baillie, Will Morris
Published by Rebellion

tcj_00012000AD gets a free pass almost all of the time because its standard for “acceptable” is higher than the one utilized by the people who publish American genre comics, meaning that even when a story in 2000AD is a piece of shit, it’s a readable piece of shit, whereas when Teen Titans gets bad, mothers drive into lakes with trunks full of baby. While this issue isn’t a barn burner that’ll have you proselytizing in the streets for the good folks at Rebellion, there’s some really nice stuff going on in the first part of the new Defoe storyline. It’s a zombie comic, sure, but unlike another black and white zombie comic that exists, Defoe is genuinely frightening to look at. It also doesn’t read like it’s ever going to produce a cliffhanger page like this:

tcj_0002

Judge Dredd The Complete Case Files 20
By John Wagner, Grant Morrisson, Mark Millar, John Smith, Alan McKenzie, Gordon Rennie, Carlos Ezquerra, Ron Smith, Clint Langley, Peter Doherty, Greg Staples, Mick McMahon, John Higgins, Mick Austin
Published by Rebellion

tcj_0003This is the 20th installment in a bestselling series that chronologically reprints Judge Dredd stories, and anything I say about it should be read with the foreknowledge that I will continue buying and reading these volumes until they run out of them or until I die, and I have every intention of outliving Judge Dredd, who, unlike Batman or his ilk, happens to age, albeit slowly. In other words: while I would prefer to read good Judge Dredd, I will settle for bad Judge Dredd. Almost everything in this volume is the latter, ranging from a terrible Dredd Versus The Mummy story by Grant Morrison to an as-bad riff on Frankenstein by Mark Millar. There’s one of those bizarrely offensive Dredd-goes-to-Mexico stories where people are named Gonzalez and they pronounce stinking as “steenkeeng”, and there’s one of those who-fucking-likes-these alt-cartoonist Dredd stories. It’s all bad, the kind of comics people should apologize for, and awesomely enough: they all totally have! Except for John Wagner, but he never has to, because his success rate is so unbelievably high that he would have to be caught boiling golden retrievers before anybody would even consider harshly tousling his hair. They outta knight that guy if they’re still doing that silly shit.

Red Team #4
By Garth Ennis, Craig Cermak, Adriano Lucas
Published by Dynamite Comics

tcj_0004This isn’t the worst thing Garth Ennis has ever been involved with, but it still kind of feels like it is just because it so consistently showed up around Fury: My War Gone By, which–despite a surprisingly limp conclusion–was one of the writer’s strongest achievements. Red Team‘s so devoid of originality and enthusiasm that it has a tendency to read like it’s the outline of a story in need of actual dialog. Despite the physical differences between the three male characters–one is black and athletic, one is older and mustached, one is young and slender–there’s rarely a time when you can remember anybody’s name. And hey: how is it “spoiling” a dog to give it water?

Men’s Feelings
By Ted May
Published by Revival House Press

tcj_0005This short black and white comic features eight stories, three of which feature bowel movements (not counting the back cover illustration), and it is my favorite thing I have read in the current calendar year. While there’s the immediate pleasure of humor to be found in men going to the bathroom, it’s the tiny mechanics of the thing that make it so rewarding–the fact that the pizza delivery guy doesn’t say “C’mon dude!”, but whispers it, the strange inhuman speech pattern of a group of poker players, the way May draws tears like runny house paint–this is everything you could want out of a comic. It’s an uncategorizable pleasure, and there isn’t a stroke in it that feels out of place.

Clutch
By Sloane Leong
Self-Published

tcj“Everything about this comic has been considered” is the first phrase that comes to mind when setting down Clutch, a short, wordless bit of horror by Sloane Leong, one of the many talented freelance cartoonists currently residing in Portland. Nothing in it feels taken for granted. There’s a dirty shadow offsetting the title, a title that is itself beginning to disappear by its final letter, followed by bookending pages coated in smog, and then a comic, beginning at the end of the day, tracing the death of an unnamed youth in a small house in the woods. It feels worked, hewn, finished; a well-made thing designed more to engross than to entertain. The audience for this will most likely be prepared for Clutch, they’ll be used to the brevity of idea, and their grunts of admiration for its more bravura illustrations will be the best kind, because they’ll come from a place of knowing how difficult it is to produce those illustrations. Excellent.

Satellite Sam #1
By Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin
Published by Image Comics

tcj_0008I emailed Howard Chaykin a single sentence one time and he wrote a single sentence back correcting my grammar, and it was at that moment that I knew I had won the contest of who gets to have the best conversation with Howard Chaykin, because I would rather have that one sentence back and forth than any long conversation where I told him about how much I liked The Shadow and he pretended he cared and then maybe I brought up some random part of his career that I bet not a lot of people ask him about and oh aren’t I so clever that I asked the question that a lot of people don’t ask, unlike all those proles who bring up American Flagg, everybody talks about American Flagg, look at me how special it is that I know the name of the thing that is different from the other thing and now maybe I can be best friends with the comics artist or cup my hot mouth on him or just hold his head down in a bowl of warm sand or whatever, however that fantasy plays out. This is God-kin’s newest one, and it’s him teamed up with Matt Fraction: and the thing about that is that those two guys (plus Rick Remender) did some really odd and wonderful Punisher comics that nobody talks about anymore because part of what made them wonderful was how they just sprang up out of regular Punisher comics and then almost immediately wilted, like a flower that bloomed while dying. The first issue reads pretty much exactly like what you would think it would–pulling back the curtain on the Golden Age of Television, look at all this sex, ego and sleaze–but that straightforwardness allows for density, and that’s clearly what Chaykin and Fraction are going for in this one. If this was in color, it would be too much. Too much! This is the best thing either of these guys have done in a while, and considering one of them is a legitimate on-paper genius, that’s a big fucking deal. (That better be the last Network reference though. That’s some undergrad shit.)

Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Hordak #1
By Keith Giffen, Brian Keene, Scott Koblish, Hi-Fi
Published by DC Entertainment (Not “DC Comics”. They make that really clear without really explaining why.)

tcj_0007In the ’90s, Garth Ennis wrote a comic called Loaded, which came free with other comics by way of a plastic poly bag. It was a comic that worked a story out of the Loaded video game, and the hope was to make one aware of the video game, and maybe even to convince you to go and buy it. That’s what this one-shot will remind you most of–an advertisement that the company doesn’t have any interest in hiding. The thing is, it’s not really clear what this is an advertisement for–it’s the origin of Hordak, sure, but who is Hordak, and why should one care about his origin? Is Hordak the Wolverine of Masters of the Universe, as in, is he the most popular character and thereby the one being drawn out for the purpose of a one-shot cash-grab? Shouldn’t that be Skeletor? Or Man-At-Arms? These were toys I used to have when I was a little boy. Why don’t I remember Hordak? I remember everybody else. I remember Orko, and I remember Evil-Lyn, and I remember Tee-La, and I remember how every time I had the two armies fight, it always ended with He-Man and Evil-Lyn, and I always made sure they hooked up even though I didn’t know what hooking up really was. But they always hooked up, and I think I even got early pre- and half-bones from those hook-ups, although that was in the old house at Anna Court, and it wasn’t until we moved to Churchill Commons that I started humping the pillow. The point being: if anybody is going to remember Hordak and know whether or not he is a big deal, it would be me.

Daredevil Dark Knights #2
By Lee Weeks & Lee Loughridge
Published By Marvel Comics

tcj_0006You go through phases when you’re reading these sorts of comics, and one of those phases is where you enjoy something out of proportion to its actual quality for purely mechanical reasons, like the fact that it was constructed under ethical conditions, or the fact that it appeals to people outside of the stereotypical customer base, or the fact that it’s drawn well when so many others are not, or the fact that its made by somebody who doesn’t get a whole lot of work and could definitely use a paycheck.

So two out of four, this time around.


36 Responses to Weak Violet Heights

  1. jameswheeler says:

    I was describing Robert Kirkman’s magnum opus to a guy – the part of the Walking Dead where the main character explains how the title of the comic refers to him and his friends and NOT the undead that surround them – and he thought I must be exaggerating, that it couldn’t be a page-turn, a full-page etc. Well, we found it online, and it was even worse than I remembered, and that is the most I’ve laughed at something being a piece of shit. Defoe looks good.

  2. Juhawh says:

    I know this is a very newb thing to complain about, but the He Man comic, just all the dialogue on the page. I know, writer wants to be seen as writing. LOOK I’M WRITING, IF I DON’T PUT A BUNCH OF WORDS ON THIS DRAWING I COULD BE FIRED, THEY’LL THINK I’M NOT you get the point. The complaint is older than I am, probably by double. Rambling text box monologues though, why haven’t they died?

    Sometimes I think to myself, if I have these complaints about comics, why am I going on comics sites and and commenting? And why am I still reading these marvel comics I got for free instead of throwing them out?

    Well,

    • Erik Missio says:

      I THINK that Giffen is doing a Kirby 4th World pastiche with that page, which explains (but may or may not excuse) the captions and prose style. As one of those (few?) people who really dug the Five Years Later incarnation of Legion of Super-heroes, and no other incarnation, I gotta say that it’s really nice to see his art again.

      But now I’m also realizing that I’m defending a Mattel-toy He-Man comic published by DC Comics, so I think I’ll probably just go back to work and stop surfing the web for pleasure and try not to think about this for the rest of the weekend.

      • Lightning Lord says:

        It’s super hilarious that some people are clutching their pearls over this He-Man comic being enjoyable, like it’s impossible for a licensed comic or one based on a toy to be good or just ok, and that they have to constantly justify and explain this fact, like they’re a flustered 14 year old boy stammering trying to explain their Magic the Gathering hobby to a pretty girl.

      • zack soto says:

        It was a fun comic. Nice to see Giffen on art chores again.

      • Lawrence R. Ronan says:

        “chores”?

        Is someone making him do this?

      • DBay says:

        But the comic sucks man. It sucks

      • Lightning Lord says:

        Says u

      • Joe S. Walker says:

        Kirby was unpretentious. His characters just SAID that kind of thing.

      • Martin Wisse says:

        Don’t forget that the forgotten by most He-Man live action movie of the late eighties really was an intentional Kirby’s Fourth World pastiche and Giffen knows this.

        It’s also an easy link to make, as both worlds are fairly similar in their silliness.

      • Iestyn Pettigrew says:

        That was a great movie, let alone considering the material it had to work with.

  3. Dennis says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever posted here before, but Tucker talking about He-man comics made me finally stop lurking like the spider in the corner of the ceiling that you can’t reach even with a broom.

    Man, I miss those little comics that came with the Masters of the Universe toys. It doesn’t get much better than Alfredo Alcala drawing the hell out of Skeletor. The new comics just can’t live up to that. Why did I even hope they could? And they made Teela blonde in the 6 issue miniseries last year? Sheeeeeit… I’d say that they were trying to go back to her look in the very first mini comic, but who are we kidding? Someone probably said blondes sell better, or Red Sonja already has a lock on the Badass Redhead in a Fantasy World market, or they just didn’t care.

    Hordak was one of the major villains in the Masters of the Universe, and the primary villain that fought She-Ra…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hordak

  4. Bpp says:

    Isnt Wagner’s a yank? Can’t give them a knighthood for fear of tainting ourselves with giving plague blankets to natives.

    Of course he’s a yank who had the good sense to grow up in Scotland.

    • Joe McCulloch says:

      John Wagner is a native son of the great state of Pennsylvania; I ought to petition the legislature for a laudatory resolution.

  5. Lightning Lord says:

    This column always makes me want to grab the person who wrote it, yell “Shut the fuck up” in their face and just force them, maybe with a weapon, maybe not, to read a whole bunch of Paul Levitz Legion comics, the ones without the benefit of Keith Giffen art, like when some guy was just filling in and you realized that about 90% of the comic’s worth was the art, but you didn’t really know that much better so you just read it anyway, just so you could keep up with the story for when Giffen came back and you told your “friends” at the comic shop about it non-stop and they just told you to shut up, they were busy rolling up their D&D characters, you fucking pipsqueak.

    • DBay says:

      Maybe you should write your own column and see if anyone reads it

      • Lightning Lord says:

        Whenever I miss the old newsarama comments section, I’ll just read DBay’s huffy post here.

        It’s not even that I don’t like the column it’s just that I know that if I ever met Tucker I’d headbutt him in the gut

      • mateor says:

        All the tough guys get together at tcj

      • DBay says:

        What I am telling you is that your writing sucks.

  6. Mat says:

    That Walking Dead(?) splash is irredeemable. Fuck.

  7. Zig Zag Zig says:

    Wait, so Hordak is the brother of Zodac? Is this canon?

    Pretty good stuff Tucker.

  8. Chris says:

    Hordak is the main baddie in the She-Ra series.

  9. David says:

    I actually had that Garfield book when I was little. Not sure if my copy came out of someone’s ass though. Possibly.

  10. Mike Walker says:

    Men’s Feelings by Ted May: Yes, total agreement, 100%. That book is fucking great.

    Satelite Sam: Pretty weird to see that dudes head copied and pasted in panels 1, 3 and 6.

  11. caleb says:

    I desperately wanted to show up and share my Hordak knowledge, but a bunch of folks beat me to it.

    If I remember correctly, he was first introduced in the (cartoon) He-Man movie, along with She-Ra, and that movie sucked, really, really bad. It introduced Hordak’s gang, The Horde, and He-Man beat ‘em all up in like ten seconds in the first real.

    The Evil Horde toys all had really lame crossbow toys. Leech was kinda cool in that he stuck to stuff. Grizzlor was cool in that he was supposed to be a monster, but his toys was fluffy and kinda cute, like a bigfoot that crawled out of a drier. Leech stuck on stuff. The Modulok toy was the height of He-Man toy achievement, surpassing even Ram-Man’s spring action legs and Man-E-Faces and Tri-Clops’ turny-head parts.

    Oh wait, then there were Snout-Spot and the snake guy who shot mist out of their face holes, and Moss-Man was made out of something that picked up lint and dog hair and smelled like one of those pine trees grown-ups hung from their rear-view mirrors…

    There was a lot of awesome/dumb innovation in those toys, huh…?

  12. Jay Evans says:

    I’d love to see the MNFTIU version of Satellite Sam.

  13. I really need to read “2000AD”, but then I think how I get all these mainstream comics that give me so much more terrible material to write about and mock. I mean, a fair amount of it is good but I still can rag on a lot of it, which is hard with “2000AD” which you pretty much can only say is, “Good” or, “Great”. I need things that inspire rage and annoyance!

    “Satellite Sam” was extremely verbose, but I mean that in a good way. You have these comics you just breeze through these days in a matter of minutes and that was a good solid chunk of my time, coming in at a half-hour to read, although I spent plenty of time after seeing the text just admiring the artwork on every page. I appreciated the reference to those Punisher comics Fraction and Chaykin did together as that really was some enjoyable and incredibly weird stuff. I sometimes think I just hallucinated all of them.

    • DBay says:

      I really need to read “2000AD”, but then I think how I get all these mainstream comics that give me so much more terrible material to write about and mock.

      That doesn’t seem like a great reason to waste your life reading bad stuff over good, my friend

      • You speak the truth, but I guess I’m a bit of a masochist with comics sometimes. Why else would I read the occasional Mark Millar comic other than to feel horrible despair? Plus, anytime I wrote about anything I get more traffic on my site for negative reviews and posts than good it seems. I do try to write about neat stuff too in addition to crappy stuff though.

      • DBay says:

        How much traffic is that

  14. Judge MANSON says:

    As always, 2000 AD is still kicking asses of all the US publishers. And, God, it’s excellent. And it’s 100% British made!!!

    Do yourself a favor and try or buy else a 2000 AD Prog (weekly, guys, it’s weekly!!! Hi-octane actions each week!!!), else a trade.

    You will learn how your comic book industry is really disconnected and is well faaaaaaaaaaaaar behind the simplest European market industry!!!

    • Paul Slade says:

      http://www.tcj.com/this-week-in-comics-71812-new-frontiers-in-police-harassment/

      Day of Chaos, John Wagner’s finest Judge Dredd epic yet, is now available as two TPB collections. Read Joe McCulloch’s TCJ review at the link above.

    • Alek Trencz says:

      As the years go by, 2000AD gets closer and closer to the ideal of its conception.
      As a consequence, it is no longer interesting.
      Once it was a black sheep, a whimsical renegade, neither fish nor fowl, a real delight.
      Now it’s a straight-up, by-the-numbers adventure comic, and satisfied to remain just that.

      RIP, Thrill-Power – your name was taken far too literally and your friends, reflexive irreverence and satirical irony, were abandoned in favour of generic drivel and half-arsed topicality.
      2000AD is today what the likes of Hotspur and Wizard were in the ’70s: a dreary relic begging to be trodden underfoot.

      They should invest in some Euro-talent, bring half of the Decedance crew onboard, and get Pat Mills back in the driver’s seat.
      Or, if Pat Mills can’t do it, y’know, they should probs just get me myself to run things.

  15. M Thorpe says:

    I had to check to make sure the Brian Keene mentioned as co-writer of that He-Man comic was indeed Brian Keene, wildly overrated horror novelist (who’s also been writing comics) and yes it was.

    I mean his big debut novel, The Rising, was awarded the Bram Stoker award and what output of his I’ve browsed since then shows he’s hasn’t improved much in his awful writing.

    Here, have a few samples:

    “Raindrops fell like tears from a black tar god — or drops of rancid milk from a dead mother’s breast.”
    -
    “Ooo ayyk! Yaaayy!”
    Baker removed the wet rag from his forehead, studying his benefactor. His age was indeterminate, somewhere between fourteen and nineteen, Baker guessed. Judging by his facial features and deformities, the boy suffered from some form of retardation. Baker couldn’t determine what type.
    -
    She was safe for now. Or was she? What if there was a zombie in here with her, lurking in the darkness, waiting to lunge out and eat her?

  16. AJ says:

    Was really looking forward to a caustic takedown of Satellite Sam #1. Maybe something about how everyone’s legs look stiff and weird and the 3 or 4 ugly patterns that are repeated over and over and how people’s hands are bent weird and their feet don’t even look like they are touching the ground but they are just like pretending to walk while hovering a few inches in the air. Like in this pic here)

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