B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: The Long Death #3
By Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, James Herren, & Dave Stewart
Published by Dark Horse Comics
It’s in keeping with the cultural embrace of hyperbole (and faint praise to boot) to refer to this little three issue mini-series as the high water mark of American action comics. It’s also completely accurate. Even under the hot lights of just-getting-read, The Long Death is a rarity, and a triumphant one at that. The final act for one of the most compelling narrative arcs in the B.P.R.D., this three-issue series was painful, unpredictable and incomparably exciting. Consisting mostly of a fight that’s been teased since 2008’s Killing Ground, this particular issue contains a thirteen-page action sequence that’s completely foreign to the comics it shares space with, and it comes from an artist whose previous work (a surprisingly inert Abe Sapien mini-series) was merely an above-average take on what one might call Mignola-lite. But these thirteen pages are masterful, the kind of drawing that stops even the most jaded reader cold. The fight’s conclusion --delivered in the best flip-the-page transition since Frazer Irving’s crowbar trick in Batman & Robin--is an exhilarating look through the eyes of a character only seconds away from a death we won’t confirm until the final page. Past a mouth covered in blood, over shoulders of gore, there’s a moon whose cold you can almost feel. It’s seconds long, and as you count the stars, the obvious conclusion comes rushing in.
Wonder Woman #8
By Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang, Jared K Fletcher
Published by DC Comics
In this issue, Wonder Woman’s controversial creative team controversially depicts her controversial bondage bracelets failing to deflect a bullet that then pierces her armor and enters her controversial bosom, leaving her incapable of fighting back when a small child with candles for a hat claims her body for marriage. He doesn’t say “I claim this lady’s carcass for marriage,” but the way those candles look, you get the sense that it wouldn’t be a weird thing for him to say at all. You put candles on a little boy’s head, he could claim a woman’s vagina for Spain and it wouldn’t be out of place. It’s fine. This comic is fine! It would be nice if it was about a character with a personality, but apparently “having no personality” is the one part of Wonder Woman continuity that Azzarello refuses to fuck around with. Mostly, I’m just impressed that nobody has quit or gotten fired or written an article (via Twitter) where they claimed “the worst part of working on Wonder Woman is the way Matt Idelson makes me explain the upcoming plot to him while he gets his balls massaged.” Aren’t you? Fess up, buddy. You're surprised that people can work on Wonder Woman comics for longer than six months without 9/11'ing their way through an inner city Cub Scout troop. Hell, I just read the fucking things, and I keep finding myself staring at my wife, wondering how she'd react if I started stapling index cards to the webbing of my hands. I'm not convinced that they aren't the reason I have crabs. Cancer. Dude, I have cancer.
Let’s do a GUEST COLUMNIST BREAK so that ABHAY KHOSLA can tell us all the COMICS NEWS
And then there was a C2E2 convention the other day, in case you were worried that comic people weren't convening with a sufficient frequency. 2012 began with Image Comics attempting to brand the year as the Year of the Creator. And sure enough, thanks to C2E2, and its related convention panels, interviews, and tweets, fans were treated to Creators ... In Action!
As reported in detail elsewhere, one such Creator was J. Michael Straczynski (NINJA ASSASSIN), who used DC's horrific, ongoing mistreatment of Superman creators Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster and their heirs to justify his work on Watchmen 2: "Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So has everyone at this table. Worse was Siegel and Shuster, worse was a lot of people."
Straczynski then presumably added, "DC's action subjected Siegel & Shuster to years of extreme poverty. They forced Jerry Siegel's wife to beg DC to give her husband work. By the time Joe Shuster was 62, he was almost blind and living in a California nursing home, despite having created a character known and beloved throughout the world. And those are the reasons why I'm extremely proud to make comics for DC today. Those are my dogs! Those are my dogs that did that! That's how my bros make it do, nephew! Woot Woot! Alan Moore signed a crummy contract, Joe Siegel signed a crummy contract, Jerry Shuster signed a crummy contract, DC is an empire of cruelty built on a mass grave of crummy contracts signed by broken men, but if that's why I can make money today, then obviously, it was all worth it. And if I can anticipate your next question: no, there's technically no evidence yet that anyone at DC was implicated in the death of Whitney Houston, but my fingers are crossed."
Prior to his involvement in Watchmen 2, Straczynski was famous to comic fans for up and quitting less than halfway through a heavily promoted, widely reviled run of Superman comics, leaving other writers to pick up the pieces. Watchmen 2's other A-list creators include J.G. Jones, best known for that time he quit drawing DC's heavily-promoted Final Crisis series, due to reasons;Jae Lee, who quit his creator-owned book Hellshock for about eight/nine years because he felt like it; Adam Hughes, who couldn't create a Wonder Woman comic over the course of six years before ultimately quitting—arguably the highest profile time he quit, one that certainly overshadows his failure to ever publish his comic No One for Blanc Noir or quitting Dark Horse's Ghost after, what, somewhere in the middle of its third issue?—; and of course, Brian Azzarello who quit writing First Wave with his fingers halfway through issue one, choosing to instead write the remaining issues with his butt. So, congratulations to comics' A-List for this, the Year of Creators!
But how is the B-list doing? C2E2 saw not less than four entirely new crossovers events announced: (1) Thor with other Thor shit; (2) Danger Girl with G.I. Joe; (3) something called Prophecy from Dynamite, and (4) Marvel's latest Ultimate something-or-another. Creators at C2E2 also teased previously announced crossovers like (5) Star Trek meets Doctor Who, (6) Animal Man meets Swamp Thing, (7) Avengers meets X-Men, (8) Batman with other Batman shit, (9) Spider-Man meets Multiracial Spider-Man, (10) potential future Valiant shit, and (11) something called Omega Effect.
"This is the crossover we always wanted to do," stated crossover-writer Kieron Gillen. "In my deepest days as an indie/small press comic creator, my assumption was that these sorts of event-oriented comics were, by default, Not A Good Thing. Now, on the other side of that, I can appreciate the amount of work and the care and attention to detail, and I can see how a story can be built up in a collaborative way," stated newly initiated crossover writer Brian Wood. "Hey indie folks, quit worrying about shitting on the mainstream and just make great comics. Fucking bored of your sniveling snark bullshit," tweeted crossover tie-in writer Rick Remender. "It wasn't a dream come true," said Watchmen 2 creator Adam Hughes.
"Right now, we’re blasting headlong into the future and creating some of the best comics in history," Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson declared. "I agree completely," said (presumably) his grandmother, before giving him a shiny silver dollar to spend however he liked. And sure enough, new work was announced in this Year of Creators. Legendary Pictures has assembled the "best in the biz" to create a comic about a "supernatural bounty hunter." The supernatural elements will finally answer the question that has pestered writers and artists since time immemorial: How in the hell do you make real-life bounty hunting seem interesting? OMG, it's worse than reading about accounting. "Blah blah blah hunting down desperate criminals on the run--this is like reading a stereo manual," said Alec Baldwin's character from Beetlejuice. Luckily, "the best in the biz" will be writing a supernatural (ooooh!) character who is also "a bit of a tortured soul," exciting news for those who've never heard of any Marvel character invented subsequent to 1971. "We just opened up a TV division," added Bob Schreck, because of course he did.
Other books announced include a comic about a vampire dating a serial killer, described as "Kind of 'Dexter' meets 'True Blood", a "high school supernatural adventure" featuring aliens from Scott Lobdell, and a wacky superhero-sidekick comic for digital platform that Eisner nominee Mark Waid should just go ahead and declare the eternal "Future of Comics," while Jerry Goldsmith's soundtrack to the The Omen plays in the distance and blood drips from the walls and a beast with many heads and on each head a blasphemous name trots out of the sea.
2012: It's the Mayan Year of the Creator!
Today's Comics News Makes Me Want To Look at OLD COMICS
This is the infamous (why not?) Howard Hughes issue of Batman, where Bruce Wayne buys the identity of an industrial tycoon shut-in so that he can “reveal” himself publicly, thus saving three innocent men (and Wayne) from being murdered as possible Batman suspects. Of course, the Hughes stand-in--who, until that point, had been a law-abiding hermit who eschewed publicity so that he could stare at the television all day--loses his shit watching Batman prance around with his face, getting all the admiration and affection that rich people get when they run around in a Batman costume, hiccuping with the laughter of the upper class. The rest of the comic from that point is kung-fu lessons, airplane explosions, and concussions, and it’s all wrapped up in that special, 1960s kind of horrible that all mainstream entertainment had back then, because it was trying to distract people from the fact that the country was melting and they might have to go murder a bunch of strangers in the fucking jungle for no sensible goddamn reason whatsoever.
These are black and white adaptations of Kafka short stories, the longest one being an abbreviated take on "In the Penal Colony" called “The Execution”. It’s good, but compared to the other ones, it’s a little too straight. The best one is “Before the Law”, a brief, doom-laden four pages that goes straight to nightmare in a way that Kafka didn’t intend, but probably would have respected.
This is an unusual little book made up of sixty odd pages of single-panel gag cartoons by Joost Swarte. The format seems to be (this copy is untranslated) that each two-page spread is read as one piece, as many of the pairs repeat images and characters--”don’t do this, or this will happen” or “do it this way, not this way” looks like the general structure. None of these cartoons appeared in the recent Fantagraphics collection of his work, Is That All There Is--to which we can now apparently answer “no, there’s this thing”--which is too bad, as many of them are very funny to look at, and yet the amount of untranslated text makes it clear that there’s a lot being missed.
In this issue of Cerebus, a couple of morons called the Fleagle brothers try to kidnap Cerebus, which provides the aardvark with the opportunity to be violent, and he does so. He then goes off with them anyway, because he’s bored, and turns their shitty kidnapping into a real deal money making scheme. He also plays cards with them, which gives Dave Sim a chance to show off his RPG roots with a full page of rules for the made-up card game the characters are playing, and then the whole thing wraps up on a cliffhanger where Cerebus gets hit in the head. It’s a good issue.
OKAY BUT NOW SUPERHEROES
This issue’s scripting details are left to Jason Aaron, and as he hasn’t done as many of these things, one probably won’t find the dialog gratingly familiar. That is, unless you happen to have watched any American action movie released in the last thirty years, as that’s the only cultural pool Aaron has to draw inspiration from. Then you’re fucked. In a pleasant twist though, Marvel seems to have gone somewhat against the usual grain and taken to heart a bit of the criticism all of their events have received since Civil War, the most obvious one being that all of those events were way too invested in talking and crying. And while Aaron is somewhat notorious when it comes to tear-stained super-hero tales about girlfriends who don’t understand how tough it is to jump out of a jet and fight space dragons, he clearly took the hint this time around, as there’s somebody hitting, zapping, or stabbing somebody on eighteen pages of this comic. It’s all very impressive, especially the part where the character from the movie hits the other character from the movie and then somebody watches it on a television screen and then they cut to a part where it says “dream journal,” only to get back to somebody saying “sorry about your broken nose” and then the other person says “what broken nose?” and the first person says “BAM” with their elbow, breaking the second person’s nose. Essentially, this comic is a lot like masturbating on antihistamines. You get there, but you keep having to focus on the process way more than usual, and when you’re done you just feel super exhausted.
This issue of Punisher is tied into a Daredevil/Avenging Spider-Man three-parter called Omega Effect. The title refers to a thing called the Omega Drive, which is an external storage device containing terabytes of information about all the criminal organizations in the world. Daredevil has this drive, and all of the major or minor criminal organizations (Iike Hydra, the Hand, so on) want this thing for themselves, because they don’t want people to know their real names or addresses or tax information or whatever else. Yes, this is a comic about an external hard drive. That’s it. There’s some running around and fighting in it, Greg Rucka has Marco Checchetto draw a “getting ready” montage that you’ll recognize from every movie ever made. Everybody on this comic is working very, very hard. Checchetto is trying to cram as much real drawing in alongside all the computer trickery he uses to put in the recognizable New York City landmarks, Greg Rucka is working extra hard to make it seem like this version of Tough Stoic Lady Character is different from the ones he did in Batman, Checkmate, Huntress, Queen and Country, Whiteout, Ultimate Elektra, Batwoman, and Stumptown. But you know what? It’s still a comic about an external hard drive.
The artist on the previous issues of Judd Winick’s Catwoman was an ex-porno guy with a solid understanding of the human figure who liked to draw fucking and fetish-y poses, so DC figured it would be in the best interest of all concerned to get somebody on the title as soon as possible who could deliver all the same fucking and fetish-y poses, but without any requisite comprehension of what the human body actually looks like. In a rare home run for DiDio and his crack squad of Villanova grads, Time Warner's finest were able to accomplish the stated objective while at the same time employing a woman, which has been one of their biggest hiccups since this relaunch thing began a scant eight months ago. So it's winner time, all around! MEOOOOOOW