I’d Like To Declare My Independence From These Pants

Comic from Nate Bulmer, more of 'em at Eat More Bikes

I hit a deer one time. When I got out of the truck to check on it, it hopped up, ran ten feet directly into the truck for a second taste, fell down again, got up again, and then ran off into the woods to die.

The second hit was on him.

We got a lot to deal with this week, even though it was somewhat abbreviated, so let's turn it over to ABHAY KHOSLA'S NEWZ BEAT

In the latest Space Talking news, Marvel Comics has announced their latest branding initiative, entitled "Marvel NOW!" with the word "now" written in all-caps so as to best suggest an image of a three-year-old throwing a tantrum.  I'm sure Pam's going to jump in here, but the premise of Marvel NOW! seems to be that there will be new #1 issues for hit books like The X-MEN (which last had a new #1 all the way back in November 2011) and The AVENGERS. Who can remember the last time The AVENGERS had a new #1 issue in May 2010? God, remember the clothes we wore? What were we even thinking?? Were we ever so young? However, not every comic is going to be re-branded with a new #1-- some titles, like Daredevil, will continue on as Marvel THEN! titles, I guess.

So: all in all, exciting news for fans of numbers.

The new #1's will also feature changes of the books' creative teams, so whereas before fans had to settle for Avengers comics from Brian Michael Bendis and X- comics from Rick Remender, fans can now look forward to X- comics from Brian Michael Bendis and Avengers comics from Rick Remender. We're through the looking glass here, people. Truly, the only thing we can trust is that we can trust no one, now. "My, oh my, it's enough to give a lady the vapors," said some lady who's too scared of vapors and not nearly scared enough of the clap.

"The thing that keeps them contemporary and modern and of the moment is new people, new creators, come in and come on board and reinvent and make relevant once again the stories these characters are involved in," said Marvel's executive editor Tom Brevoort, promoting a Brian Michael Bendis comic about Marvel Girl coming back to life or something.

Meanwhile, in other news, NBM Publishing issued a press release celebrating their upcoming volume of lady drawings from Tanino Liberatore (of RanXerox fame) entitled Le Donne, promising that it'll include a chapter entitled "Intimacies" featuring "never before seen angles on the nude figure." Never before seen angles? Which angles of the nude figure have never been seen before, exactly? Pretty sure that's code-talk for staring down some sci-fi buttholes, you guys. Exciting news for fans of Italian butthole angles.

Finally, independent comics fans were thrilled this week by the preview and cover to Big City Comics's Whore #1. From the super-classy Crazy Horse III-esque logo to the in-no-way-creepy scenes featuring President Obama, this graphic novel (get it?) is sure to live up to its name by giving your eyes the Clap. The Clap of Love which... Well, that's just the Clap, or ... No, wait, I've screwed this up-- maybe I could make the Clap a metaphor for applause-- just give me a second. I've got this, I just got too excited by all of this news, but just give me a moment to think and I'll... OH NO-- OH NO PAM HAS JUMPED IN! NO, PAM! I JUST NEEDED A MOMENT TO -- NOOO! NOT THE EYES! NOT THE EYES! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. PAM-- I'M SORRY I DIDN'T MEAN-- AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIE. NO! NOOOOOOO LEAVE MY FAMILY OUT OF THIS, THEY DIDN'T DO ANYTHING TO YOU, PAM. YOU DON'T HAVE TO-- WHERE DID YOU GET THE PUPPY? WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO THE PUPP-- THAT'S NOT SUPPOSED TO GO IN THERE!? STUFF COMES OUT -- IT DOESN'T GO IN. I'LL PUT THE LOTION IN THE BASKET JUST MAKE IT STOP, PAM. WHY PAM WHY PAM-- PAM, WHY? WHEN WILL THIS LAME BIT END? END IT NOW! NOW! NOW! PLEASE, PAM, N-


Well! I never! Cup of tea and such forth!

Did you ever wonder what the Journal's own Joe McCulloch thought of a Len Wein comic? WONDER NO LONGER:

Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1
By Len Wein, Jae Lee, June Chung
Published by DC Comics

This is an account of the beloved corporate-owned superhero property Ozymandias' troubled childhood and virile coming-of-age, expanded from two-and-one-third pages (eighteen panels) in Watchmen issue #11 to twenty-three pages of $3.99 modern funnies. Approximately half of the original’s narrative captions are paraphrased or restated directly in the expanded text, the action of which appears to be set at or near minute zero of “thirty-five minutes ago”; the title character narrates, in flashback, from his wall of television screens. The issue is titled “I Met a Traveler…!” in acknowledgement of the Before Watchmen project’s status as prequel, evoking the opening line from Shelley’s Ozymandias, and thus necessarily preceding “Look on My Works, Ye Mighty…”, the title of the original chapter 11.

I will resist any bankruptcy metaphor, however, and instead observe that the opening to chapter 11 of Watchmen, as written by Alan Moore, also sees Ozy narrating something:

It’s a commentary on very act of staring into multiple television screens, positing a means of discerning some meaning from contemporary media overload; William Burroughs’s cut-up technique is cited, and, insofar as a wall of television screens is analogous to the stern grids of artist Dave Gibbons’s page layouts, the alert reader is duly congratulated for having sifted through the unorthodox POV shifts and fragmented character histories of the past ten issues to arrive at this point of a nefarious master plan’s gala revelation, though Moore, being Moore, slips in a final puckish joke through the issue’s title: a statement of bravado which the English majors among the readership will know is the last-standing legacy of a doomed ruler’s supreme plans. Basically, Moore is giving away the book’s ending, beyond even the seeming ambiguity of the famous corporate-owned ketchup dripping onto the world-renowned corporate-owned smiley face t-shirt of that fat guy whose childhood I am dying to explore.

Len Wein, in contrast, spends his opening page basically explaining the concept of ambiguity to the slower readers, via a block of metafictional rib-nudging wherein Ozy goes on about how very nearly flawless his crazy plan is, though history will be the judge in the end — because his plan totally might not stand up to history at all, that was the ending of the original book, remember? It’s dramatic irony!

Beyond this opening salvo, there are two other sequences that best summarize the book, though they are best taken together.

First, there's a panel with baby Ozy playing with alphabet blocks, in which he stacks the blocks to spell the word "GENIUS," so as to indicate to the reader that Ozymandias is a genius. Initially this image confused me, as I thought Len Wein, or possibly the artist, Jae Lee, might be cracking a joke at the terribly vain title character. This is not the chummy, toxic idealist of Moore’s delineation; the Ozy here is a squinting, sneering, pompous psycho of the type portrayed in the Watchmen movie, a villain you can spot from way down the longbox end of the comics store and totally the kind of baby that would announce his excellence at home to mom and dad.

All became clear, though, later in the story, when adult Ozy, standing nude and playing the stock market over an old-timey phone in front of -- yes -- a giant clock, says: "I have goals to achieve, dreams to make come true."

This, of course, is a supremely awkward phrasing totally unbecoming of a man of Adrian Veidt’s supreme refinement, so I was initially very shocked, until the Sexy Girlfriend Character laying in Ozy's bed responds with: "Well, then, let's see what else you can make come in the meantime, shall we?"

I'm leaving open the possibility that Ozymandias, in his "GENIUS," was actually playing 4th-dimensional chess with the poor girl and deliberately molested grammar in anticipation of his lover jumping on the opportunity for a terrible pun, thus reinforcing his sense of superiority over her, but coupled with that fucking thing with the blocks the circumstantial evidence becomes persuasive that Len Wein is simply writing a spectacularly crap script, the kind of misbegotten effort that flails at edgy sexuality by presenting one panel implying that the title character might have had sex with a man -- thereafter defaulting to black lingerie routines straight out of an era when Moore was doing backups in American Flagg! -- and seeks to match the richness of the original text with little more than soggy fan service. When little Ozy sulks in his bedroom, he sits under a movie poster showing a giant squid-like alien because.

I feel I am perhaps too charitable. But couldn’t some of this be the fault of Lee, the artist?

The problem is, Lee presents here that rarest of superhero occurrences: art that seems to be making textual contributions exclusive of the scriptwriting. Lee is reunited here with frequent colorist June Chung, who applies an uncharacteristically bright-ish palette (directly, it appears, upon pencils) to accommodate a wholesale transformation of Lee’s aesthetic into a bizarre cross between Alex Raymond (circa Flash Gordon) and J.H. Williams III. Everything, suddenly, is bent to serve the page: clocks and posture and the curve of shoulders and knees.

Circular and arcing motifs are everywhere, on almost every page. Privately, they seem in communication with Dave Gibbons’s relentless squares, replacing the chilly god’s eye view of Watchmen with a sense of enclosure, a mathematical construct elegant enough for our Ozy but also suggesting a futility to his mission. Perhaps Wein is demanding all of this in his script, but I doubt it. I suspect Lee is even making his own discreet citations to the original text, as a confrontation with ultra-cliché bullies:

…is symmetrically complimented by the moment when lil’ Ozy gains the upper hand:

…in homage, no doubt, to the “Fearful Symmetry” of chapter 5. I still prefer the super, super, super Jae Lee panels the best -- Ozy dressed in black in a cemetery of shadow headstones with roses dropping from between his fingers; Ozy and Sexy Girlfriend Character dressed in black in a construction site composed primarily of geometrically precise slashing black lines; young Ozy striking a cat pose in half-silhouette having sent a classmate's kneecap exploding out of his leg -- but it appears Lee’s career-long build toward frustrating the cinematographic expectations of superhero comics by applying a sense of theatrical dramaturgy has now pivoted to accommodate Moore-like symmetries into its very mise en scène. In other words, it rejects Dave Gibbons, almost totally, in favor of absorbing Alan Moore into visuals.

It’s not a perfect whole, mind you. Lee & Chung are still prone to odd compositional hiccups, so that children’s arms at one point seem to jut through a solid banister, or Ozy’s foot vanishes into a classmate’s torso from inadequate color differentiation. Fans of inking will probably deem the art unfinished, and admirers of nuanced character acting will note Lee’s extreme favoring of tableaux over panelized interaction, to the point where a long description of the title character’s wanderings gets slapped in captions atop a page-length map — Lee’s the only superhero guy whose transition to mostly cover art seems less financially inclined than a natural evolution of his art.

But sometimes, when the script calls for completely silly extrapolations from one panel of the original that finds Ozy, say, processing his parents' deaths by standing in front of a gigantic bust of Alexander of Macedonia day after day and thinking really hard -- Wein loves the "Alexander" in Adrian Alexander Veidt so much he references the conqueror explicitly on about 1/3 of the issue's story pages (8 of 23, I counted) -- it comes off very nearly like opera, albeit a stagecraft coerced to elect the most obvious images at every possible opportunity, by which I mean when lil' Ozy goes to learn martial arts, he stands in front of a gigantic red banner bedecked with Chinese characters while a bald monk in a robe stands piously in a darkened window. In New York City.

In the end, this comic confirms everything I'd expected from this particular wing of the Before Watchmen franchising opportunity: a freakish blend of emphatic, imperfect, searching visual style with a goofy, purplish script that only seems capable of banal "homage" to the original, and only then on the most superficial of levels. You know what finally prompts Ozy to slip on the purple & gold? Len Wein kills off the Sexy Girlfriend Character to spur him to vengeance. Jesus F. Christ. Yet when Lee & Chung depict the sorry girl's descent into drug abuse from her boyfriend's neglect, she enters the top-most panel through a red curtain and pouts her way through a hellish void of scarlet mist and white silk that recalls the Rectum from Irreversible as framed by F.W. Murnau, with a Luciferian villain pulling giant hooped-plunger syringes from his velvet coat.

Then Ozy poses in black before an umpteenth giant clock, in silhouette -- ticking, dear reader, down to midnight -- after which Wein has him narrate: "Whoever was responsible for supplying poor Miranda with the filthy drugs that had killed her had best beware, I thought."

I'm thinking the remaining five issues are all about Ozymandias' war on '80s cocaine, though I can’t know for sure, since he doesn’t put the goddamned costume on until the final page. Yet if the extraneous exclamation point in the issue’s title is due warning that we are to expect a more classically superheroic take on this material, then it can at least be said that while Wein does not seem especially empathetic to the book he once edited -- noticeably less so than his artist, amazingly enough -- he does grasp the modern genre necessity of withholding the proper superhero stuff until the reader has paid at least eight dollars.

And that’s all a modern corporate-owned hullabaloo needs, here in our stronger loving world.


WELL! That's what we call "getting taken to school." LET'S SEE IF THE LESSON TOOK:

Hit-Girl #1
By Mark Millar, John Romita Jr, Tom Palmer, Dean White
Published by Icon

It would be nice if Romita and Palmer had decided to draw this comic’s small children with the same level of dexterity that they bring to the blood spatter, because then the cruel remarks about clothing and ugly bangs would make sense. But in the end, who cares? This is a "mid-quel"--that's a story that takes place between two already told, this one being set between the two Kick-Ass mini-series--and that's probably the only story category that makes prequels seem brilliant by comparison. The best thing that can come out of this is that Mark Millar can make some money, get a movie deal, and keep all the people involved in these various books getting residual checks for the rest of their lives, before comics stops talking to them the way Marvel has stopped talking to Lee Weeks. In a way, that’s the real hiccup with trying some form of moral criticism in comic books: the guy who will serve up many of the worst case creative scenarios is also the guy with the most ethical track record in terms of what happens to his collaborators. Mark Millar may be a merchant of filth, but at least he’s ensuring that the guys who do the spunk work won’t have to rely on Kickstarter just to get a fucking tombstone.

Punisher #13
By Greg Rucka, Mico Suayan, Matt Hollingsworth
Published by Marvel Comics

It’s starting to seem like Greg Rucka might be a closeted misogynist, a sexist sleeper agent, with the way he’s built his entire run on Punisher so far around one solitary female character so uniquely uninteresting--and yet still so derivative!--that one can’t help at this point but stare at her beautiful face (this series biggest artistic accomplishment has been how consistently attractive "Marine Sergeant Rachel Cole-Alves" gets depicted) and wish a never-ending list of sorrows to be laid atop her meat chassis for the fun-sucking banality she leaves in her wake, a feeling that carries into all of one’s post-Punisher activities; specifically, that feeling that women ruin everything.

Action Comics #11
By Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, Rick Bryant, Brad Walker, Brad Anderson
Published by DC Comics

Oh hey, Batman’s in this! Action Comics is still set in some early time period, pre-Justice League, pre-everything, a place where Grant Morrison can assumedly do what he wants and not have to worry about what’s going on in the rest of the DC universe, which actually proves he’s got it all figured out way better than that creepy corporate apologia manifesto thing he churned out. (Did you know he believes he was kidnapped by aliens? Because MASSIVE FART, he totally does!) Think about it this way: unless you’re a writer like Geoff Johns, who gets so turned on by editorial fiat that he probably can’t ejaculate without three people in the room constantly rearranging the furniture, the job of writing a DC comic means constantly being on the hook for the successes and failures of a bunch of people who you have zero control of, and in an even more hilarious twist, that bunch of people is most likely going to fail anyway, because if they were prone to success, they wouldn’t be working at DC comics in the first place. But if you’re Grant, and you can convince them to let you do some weird-ass stories where Superman wears jeans and runs around trying to cry out a personality, you’re totally set, as long as you don’t do anything that goes too strongly against the company line, like making a Superman story a human being would actually enjoy reading.

Avengers Vs X-Men #7
By Matt Fraction, Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Bruabaker, Jonathan Hickman, Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, Laura Martin
Published by Marvel Comics

Last week we made a big deal out of that Cyclops thong thing, but you can wipe the red paint off our tush and listen for a whispered “aw shucks”: you really can get used to anything, and Cyclops little panty thing was born to be filed under “anything.” It just doesn’t matter, see, not when so many important things are happening, the first being the part where Marvel admits they’re not just stealing the reboot idea from DC, but they’re stealing the part where they force the reboot into being the conclusion of whatever super-hero prom it is they’re currently running through. In keeping with the historical legacy of super-hero comics, it looks like we’ve got another one that hinges on the Some Girl Fucked Me Over chestnut, which means I’ve got Mah-Jong, bitches. See, it turns out that a certain somebody can't get over Cyclops in a thong, that someone being his girlfriend Emma Frost, who is seen in this issue kissing another dude, and by super-hero comic-book law, kissing another dude--even when under the influence of a cosmic annihilation force--would be the equivalent of you and your dad returning from Boy Scout camp early to find your mother getting her DVDA on with a Coldplay cover band. Actually, that’s not enough. It would be the equivalent of you and dad walking in on that and her looking you in the eye and, since going DVDA leaves the mouth free for jibber-jabber, saying “I sold the dog to a Chinese restaurant, and after that I cancelled Major League Baseball. And I used to read Zuda Comics."

Fury: My War Gone By #4
By Garth Ennis, Goran Parlov, Lee Loughridge
Published by Marvel

Moving from the ‘Nam into Cuba, it’ll be interesting to see how Ennis deals with the next phase of American military failure--the “ultimate horrors of war resulting in a scorched earth hall of spiked heads” dog can’t be brought out again, no matter what happens on what beach, with what chainsaws. The Law Of Ellroy bears bad tidings for our young Hatherly--he’s sure to click red soon, if Ennis plays it right, and it should hurt tremendously--but it’s also starting to look like Nick might follow suit and ruin his quarterly gal’s life as well, which will leave us no one to cheer for. (Except Fidel Castro.)

Age of Apocalypse #5
By David Lapham, Davide Gianfelice & Lee Loughridge
Published by Marvel Comics

While most of this comic reads like a role-playing game supplement, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a horrible thing to read, and honestly, this isn’t that bad. It has a bit going for it, incidentally--small creative team, the by-design stand-alone quality that being separate from continuity creates--and while neither the writer or artist are going to make anybody’s shortlist of modern masters, they acquit themselves well with the relative freedom this comic’s alternate reality setting allows. Comics like this--crossover-free fuck-arounds--aren’t long for this world, and it would be really infantile to mourn their passing....

Basically, the idea here was going to be that super-hero comics are like prostitutes, and Age of Apocalypse is the sort of prostitute that is really low down and dirty, which, to my mind, would seem to be the sort of prostitute people who are into prostitutes prefer, right? People who want to be with whores want to be with whores, there’s just no way that Soderbergh movie is the real thing. And Age of Apocalypse--that’s a dirty whore with a Tom Waits voice that won’t let you feel bad about yourself, whereas other super-hero comics, like Uncanny X-Men, or New Avengers, those are whores that try to hard, they float around the room and tell you they used to have dreams, they’re the kind of whore where you can’t help but think “this is someone’s daughter, this is someone’s daughter”, and then you just feel terrible, unless you’re that character Chester Brown was playing in that comic, which in that case you just think “well, I won't be tipping her.”

But that just seemed so obvious, y'know?