Fresh Flesh For The Fleshrender

The wait is over, all you Nate Bulmer fanatics: the Koyama Press edition of Eat More Bikes is available now, and yes, all of the comics it contains are new, hot, and fresh. If it seems like Nate is blowing up right now, that's because he is, and it's well deserved. Piping fresh, bludgeoned out of chrysalis--we couldn't be happier to have him here.

This week's reviews are a little different than usual: first off, we'll have the Internet's own Joe "Jog" McCulloch on a special Election Day story from 2000 AD, and then we'll plow through the superhero comics, and then Abhay will handle the Tony Harris business. (By the way: Tony Harris? The fact that people like Tony Harris enough that he got consistent work, like--what the hell is wrong with Brian K. Vaughan, Mark Millar, that they chose to work with that fucking clown for so long? The guy's art was always terrible, absolute bottom-rung tracing horseshit, the kind of crap that would have been humiliating if a seven-year-old had brought it home from school. This bullshit Team Comics open-door policy--when on earth has the stereotype that Tony Harris so gorgeously represents not been proven true? When have guys who make hideous, low-rent garbage--while talking about themselves in the most absurdly overblown terms, and being celebrated by a bunch of C-list hacks who would perform wire-hanger abortions in a Donald Duck outfit on their own mother if it meant they could do an X-Men Origins one-shot--ever turned out to be  awesome, fun, forward thinking dudes who just happen to suck at making comics? Here's an idea: keep being super positive and inclusive, but limit it to all the people who haven't dedicated their entire existence on this planet to making comics that look like fucking Starman.)

It's been a heady and busy time--in case you forgot, this last weekend saw the latest installment in the extraordinary comics shows that have blasted their way around the country over the past year, this one being the free one in Brooklyn that is run by retailer Gabe Fowler, critic and publisher (and fanzine editor) Dan Nadel, and that guy Bill Kartalopoulos, who apparently was a hard core right-wing Republican whose road to Damascus moment occurred the second he realized he lived in Williamsburg. The comics that were purchased there will be covered when this column comes back from Thanksgiving.

The Brooklyn Fest is always an inspirational event, even when it dips, because it's a room (two rooms, actually) heavily tilted towards people who are actively pursuing artistic fulfillment and have enough craft that you're more than likely going to find something there that you'll never find anywhere else, and it's going to speak to you in a way that absolutely nothing else can. (One has to acknowledge the possibility that some will leave wholly disappointed in the show, even if that is only due to their own failings as people: after all, the part of the weekend this columnist found himself most impressed by was eavesdropping on a couple of clueless Marvel freelancers, standing squarely in the midst of the excited fray, talking about how incredibly stupid Marvel fans are with one of those mouthbreathing shitbags that helps promote their garbage via Serious Superhero Comic Book Criticism before they departed en masse, their hands as empty as their skulls have always been. Not everybody is willing to be happy; I, on the other hand, had as great a time watching that unfold as I did buying all the random shit that I always end up buying at a place where the things I want are shown to me by the people who make them. It's a good show, and if I'm being honest--and I'm always honest, I'm resigned to the life I've ended up in, nothing is likely to change--every shitty moment of passive aggressive grossness that I encountered can be traced directly to decisions I still remember proudly making, many of them here, in this very column. So with that, some blind items: screw you, lady; die in a fire glasses-face; linen shirt, you suck as a person; and Mr. Homemade Clothes? Fuck you most of all. I hope everybody in your family dies in the Monster Plantation ride at Six Flags, right in front of the guy who tells everybody not to go into the marsh. Do go into the marsh, Mr. Homemade Clothes. Take your family with you. And then die, don't forget about that part. That's the most important part!

Jog! Take over now. Talk to the people about 2000AD.

You got it. AHEM.

2000 AD #1807-1809
By Al Ewing, Henry Flint, Chris Blythe, Annie Parkhouse, Simon Spurrier, Simon Coleby, Simon Bowland, Rob Williams, D’Israeli, Ellie De Ville, Pat Mills, Clint Langley, Ian Edgington, I.N.J. Culbard
Published by Rebellion, 2012

So, in case you missed it, two weeks ago 2000 AD ran a special Assassinate the President of the United States (of the Future) cover to tie in with the American elections - dig those bloody stars & stripes!  I’m the kind of degenerate that’ll pretty much always find this sort of thing funny, but Prog 1807 also marked the beginning of a more comprehensive pleasure, in that all three of the Dredd universe serials running at the moment seem to be engaging in a surprise crossover, with the events of Ewing’s & Flint’s Judge Dredd proper spilling over into Spurrier’s & Coleby’s noir-ish The Simping Detective and Williams’ & D’Israeli’s overtly comedic Low Life.  It’s a rather old-fashioned Marvel U idea, a happy assurance that (uh) ‘Hero’ A could always run into Hero B in this crazy little work, kept away from the brink of superhero crossover irritation by the fact that you only ever have to buy one 2000 AD each week to get the full experience. Charming stuff, even while the magazine maintains its slightly baffling devotion to both sides of the youth literature coin via the chaste YA-tinged fantasy of Edgington’s & Culbard’s Brass Sun and the leering, junior high locker room sexuality of The Simping Detective.

Ironically, it’s the chief executive mayhem of A.B.C. Warriors that proves most disappointing, despite artist Clint Langley’s welcome decision to set his feverish digital fumetti style aside and return to Bisley-inflected b&w drawing for a multi-chapter flashback. Writer Pat Mills, however, waffles on the excellent, exceedingly current idea of the titular robotic Warriors as military ‘drones’ loaded with a moral code and waylaid by the United Nations into ending the industry of war with extreme prejudice, insofar the presidential target is… George W. Bush, basically, by which I mean it’s the smirking scion of a political dynasty in the thrall of arms manufacturing, albeit with a Reaganesque slick to his hair for that extra throwback quality. Of course, the whole strip is arguably a vivified bit of nostalgia, but it’s still a little disheartening to see the Galaxy’s Greatest gazing so intently backward.

There are, of course, approximately 110,000,000,000 potential problems with a ‘murder Barack Obama (of the future)’ scenario, the most pragmatic of which would be that utilizing a president so frequently Othered for the purposes of stoking xenophobic sentiment could potentially disrupt Mills’ UN Strikes Back!! joke on US exceptionalism. A less charitable theory would suggest that Mills and/or Tharg the Mighty is concerned with alienating politically like-minded readers, or appearing to cluelessly play into just the xenophobic sentiment noted above. Yet Mills nonetheless contradicts himself, because his story isn’t really about assassination, but the assassin’s angst over killing somebody who’s swallowed so much American myth that he genuinely doesn’t process his nation’s abuses as faults. It’s about politics as an opiate, which makes it seem timid for its writer to gild the lily with boo-worthy signifiers from half a decade ago; wouldn’t such an addiction affect all walks? Fun as it may be, here 2000 AD traffics in juvenilia too of a deeper sort.

AHEM. That's nuts. Let's get back over to this side of the pond.

All-New X-Men #1
By Brian Michael Bendis, Wade Von Grawbadger, Stuart Immonen, Marte Gracia
Published by Marvel Comics
Two internet heavyweights weighed in on this comic, one saying that he had high hopes for this one due to the fact that its writer Brian Michael Bendis seems so excited about the concept behind it, while the other pondered how much more interesting Chris Claremont's decades of X-comics would read now if one were to cut out all the parts that don't focus on Cyclops, who is both star, moral center, and villain of this new series. (Cyclops manages to pull off the multiple roles by a time-travel conceit so old that Bendis didn't even wait for Twitter Wiseguys to make the obvious Back To The Future reference, he just included it as an actual line of dialog. Don't make fun of me, you guys! I made fun of me first, you see?) But forget about all that for a second; if you want to enjoy this comic, forget about it forever: there's some good stuff here, some evidence of major character development in a genre that absolutely never has a little bit of it, and while it doesn't manage to land on the right side of great, it certainly has a crisp snap to it, like a bed made with hospital corners. X-Men comics aren't for regular people--they're too convoluted for the uninitiated, too soapy, whatever word you want to throw out they're that, with a "too" as modifier. But a comic like this, with its goofy time-travel conceit--can young Cyclops convince his future self to stop being evil and, you know, relax and shit?--can play closer to the middle than those other ones can, the ones built around whatever 30-odd characters are currently alive in this corner of Marvel's fake America. This, after all, is the first of these mutant comics in a good long while that gets it right: being bad--and based off the last few stories, that's exactly what Cyclops has become--is the best part of reading these things, and the only place where the cheese gets left to stand. And man: those panels above make for some  good motherfucking cheese.

S! #12
Edited by Annie Koyama
Published by Biedriba Grafiskie stasti, Latvia
Don't get a huge boner or nothing, this is mostly people you've seen before, it just happens to be printed in a foreign land. (And in that foreign land, they tell you the weight of both the paper and the cover stock right alongside the editorial credits. God bless you, Munken Print Cream 100g! You should be the paper of record when people print Jesse Jacobs comics!) Anyway: there's some comics in here from a lot of familiar names, everybody who reads it will have a different favorite, which is why they'll all be wrong because life is a contest, and so is art, and Ryan Cecil Smith's "Mud Diamonds" beats the shit out of every other page of this book so badly it'll have the most prissiest of prisses trying their hand at a tasteless Ike Turner joke. Ryan Cecil Smith: he's so good at making comics you guys! You guys he is so good! You! GUYS
(DeForge acquits himself well here, which is unsurprising but shouldn't be ignored or passed over even though it does seem like he's been making quantum leaps in skill even though there isn't a specific thing he's doing differently that you can lay an argument on. That won't stop some people from trying, but you can ignore them comfortably, confident while doing so that everyone else is as well. The two panels where the Leather Space Man throws out two thumbs and then fires the finger guns--there's definitely something a little changed there, a playfulness and sense of humor, but it's not like previous installments in DeForge-ology are rigid, unfunny exercises. There's nobody else working today who I would more like to be able to hit the fast-forward button on, just to see what ten years' worth of his comics look like all at once.)

Thor God of Thunder #1
By Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, Dean White
Published by Marvel Comics
I'm glad that it's not a matter of personal pride that I've so consistently disliked the work of Jason Aaron (barring my memories of my sweet, sweet, Ghost Rider, that is) because oh the egg, it would dry on my face and leave me so unprepared for the next ice cream social! This a stupidly delightful superhero comic book, so unpretentiously in love with being about a big man with a big appetite who likes to hit shit with his big hammer while talking like a high maintenance drama major who just discovered Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet that one can't help but imagine a world where this was the model being followed, instead of the dour, creepy one that Marvel and DC have been obsessing over the last 10 years, where all the characters wear costumes they're embarrassed by and all the writers mistakenly talk about David Mamet's The Unit as if it wasn't a boring piece of crap. This is a funny, over the top, and adorably clumsy superhero comic book, and while I bet it'll be terrible really soon, there's no wine more intoxicating than the one drunk in the presence of potential not yet spoiled.

Batman #14
By Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion
Published by DC Comics
Of course, then there's something like this: DC's only real, honest to goodness new thing in years, Batman comics gone full grotesque, drawn by a guy who, if lacking in any real innovation, is still the furthest afield visually that company has gone on a consistent basis since the '80s. (If Jon Bogdonave had been permitted to go into his Frazetta homage more than the single time he did, he might have earned the title, but as it was, DC has spent the last twenty years masturbating to pictures of Curt Swan. Unfortunately, all of those pictures were drawn by Dan Jurgens.) And while Scott Snyder blatantly thinks that the best superhero comics are the ones where superheroes talk to each other about the dead bodies they just saw, right before a panel where they talk to each other some more, it's difficult to blame a writer who has been living in a shower stall of success for the last year or so, with accolades raining down like the hot spunk that is most assuredly accompanying those accolades' creation. Is he as good a writer as--oh, every single superhero-focused website claims? Of course he isn't, no one but Garth Ennis ever is. And yet, the constant struggle between the two men who make these comics is unnerving, at times even excitingly so. Capullo's whipsaw points of view for Snyder's never-ending talking-head scenes will turn the reader/viewer into both the insect and the giant kid with the magnifying glass, while Snyder's 50/50 ability to land one of those unvarnished hamhocks of soliloquy means that sometimes you get a line like "I stare until it all blurs and I'm looking at nothing, looking at myself, my own eye, reflected back from the lens," and in the same way that Capullo's refusal to let you become part of the story makes this Batman seem unknowable and frightening, Snyder's macho poetry makes him sound like a lunatic drunk on compartmentalization. The same general themes, attacked together, by two men working alone. (Kenneth Rocafort and Scott Lobdell are basically doing the same thing on Superman, although the dissonance between the two men's aims--Rocafort just wants to draw weird shit with super-heroes, and Lobdell is content to abandon panel to panel serialization if it means he can use thought bubbles and internal monologues--seems far more mutual a partnership than Capullo's valiant attempts to break Snyder of his logorrhea.)
It's too bad there's no one there to push them harder, but it's hard to lay that particular coat on this title's editors; after all, all of DC's comics could stand harder scrutiny, their entire line of product dances from grammar mistake to spell-check fiasco, to say nothing of the fact that they never met a female character they could resist depicting as a gigantic whore. But here, in Batman, with the pages so scant that a misstep by Capullo--this time, it's a half-page drawing so confusingly rendered that it at first seems like a printing error--effectively annihilates the drama of a scene right when Snyder's hide-nothing, say-everything dialog could've most used the help; it's grating to recognize that nothing has changed but the flavor this month. This one could be better, but until something changes--and regardless of what they're doing with Cyclops right now, nothing ever does--these Batman stories are just going to be popular. It would be nice if that weren't the only thing that those involved in its creation cared about.

ABHAY! You talk now!

This week started with reports of an angry internet squabble involving people I don't care about, employed in the comic business in some nebulous way that doesn't appear to pertain to my life in any way, fighting over a photograph from a movie I'm probably never going to see called TED, namely of a teddy bear that an unknown third party had scrawled over with a thoroughly nonsensical point about hating women, using the word "WHORE," for some reason I couldn't begin to guess. If you missed it, I assure you it was scintillating.

But then things took a turn for the skin-tillating (wordplay!) upon the arrival of a miserable Facebook screed from veteran comic industry employee Tony Harris (Roundeye: For Love, Browneye: For Anal). Harris explained his passionately held belief that "COSPLAY-Chiks," as a rule, are only "Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot" yet are nevertheless preying upon the average comic book fan attending comic conventions (most of whom are virgins, but "ALL" of whom have issues talking to women) using their "Big Boobies" (which Harris is careful to distinguish from "GREAT Boobies") because the thought of comic fans masturbating to fantasies of fucking them is so thoroughly delightful that it makes these women's "head[s] vibrate"-- all of which Harris (and the other comic industry professionals with whom he collaborated in reaching these conclusions, who he describes by saying "We are LEGION") finds "REALLY PATHETIC" because the "Quasi-Pretty" women "DON'T KNOW SHIT ABOUT COMICS."

... that was just part one.

Part two involved Mr. Harris (who proceeds online under the sobriquet "Tony Effing Harris") (1) causing emotions by referring to his Comic Book Convention table as "my office. Fuck you", (2) saying "Good riddance" to various people who might have taken offense to the foregoing, (3) denying that he's gay, and (4) telling other comic creators not to defend him because "You'll just get shit on."

Of course, other comics employees helpfully ignored this last point and quickly rallied to Mr. Harris's defense, including DC's Ron Marz and Gene Ha, as well as Marvel's Jason Aaron and Mark Brooks.

Because of course they did: comics have a systemic, pervasive culture stupid/oblivious/hostile/miserable to women, but any attempts to ever discuss this are consistently greeted by angry bellowing that so-and-so likes ladies fine (hey more than that cause they're heterosexual so they're all AOOHGAH AOOGAH)(that's also my impression of how the song "Cannonball" starts), so-and-so is a great guy, wonderful guy, it's always all about one guy and not a culture that he's just one small cell of ("We are LEGION"), desperately reducing every conversation, every time, every single time, to one guy. "White Lion's roadie is not a misogynist because he has a daughter." Because sure, what father wouldn't want their daughter to grow up in a world where they are the constant Suspicious Other, judged incessantly on their looks by bros whose style guru is Hagrid-from-the-Harry-Potter-movies, their very right to co-exist debated by under-educated men scowling behind flea market tables? Where do I cast my vote for Dad of the Year?

The official position of every comics employee is to loudly bellow that they refuse to admit that they're a misogynist, racist, flawed, human, needing to learn or grow or improve, sometimes wrong, sometimes needing to be forgiven, culpable, responsible, for anything, at any time, because they are each rugged individuals, superheros of their own lives, invincible, that card-table with a "I'll Draw the Batman for you for $20" sign on it is their office-- they're living their childhood dreams-- fuck you, fuck humble, he's Tony Effing Harris.

Like other comic industry employees, Harris triumphantly included in his second rant that the outrage would soon move on and find something else to hate, meant nothing, was impotent, a common refrain from the submental-- the People Behind the Minx Line Thought of Everything You Jerks, Comic Pundits Don't Get How Switching Artists On a Book Every Issue Is Wonderful Because They are Pundits, etc., etc., etc.  Harris is probably right: the world will move on and Harris will proceed unabated, without repercussion because he is one of the limited number of people who can spend their lives tracing over photographs in a way that what remains of that audience finds pleasing. Comic artists get to be tragic because who else is going to draw this shit? The SKU's requires pages to ship, and the pages require enabling. Without comic artists, comic writers would learn how to pitch their movies using words coming out of their mouths that express good ideas, OH NO, so yes, comic writers tweet away in support, support, support-- who else is going to draw this shit???

Harris's paragraphs also set off a small cottage industry of think pieces, response-essays, and video-blogs, slowly explaining various rudimentary concepts of being a fucking human being like "Women are People" and "People Should Feel Welcome Places" because Jesus Christ, those were things that were necessary to be said out loud, those ideas were what people needed to use words for, holy shit, are we all fighting over gasoline in the Outback? Did the apocalypse happen? How bad has it gotten? What kind of shape are we in? I thought we were living in a civilization Jesus fucking goddamn.

So, congratulations on having all this inside of your brain now.  Just flopping around inside your brain like a fish that's suffocating, in the places where music or poetry could go-- Mazel tov! I don't know-- I wish I had jokes for you, or any kind of interesting emotion to express, besides just wanting to sigh, and look out a window at the horizon for a while, and try to imagine the people living there. What do you get out of any of this exactly? What possibly do you get out of knowing any of these people and this miserable world they've constructed for themselves exists? But silver lining: if a third person says "whore" into a mirror, Frank Miller may magically appear behind them and kill them.