Sometimes You Just Kick Back And Watch ‘Em Drown

Avengers Versus X-Men: Versus #1
By Jason Aaron, Adam Kubert, Morry Hollowell, Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Jim Charalampidis
Published by Marvel Comics

This is one of those titles that most people probably won’t believe exists, even if you show it to them, so here it is: Avengers Versus X-Men: Versus. It’s a comic consisting of two segments (not stories), and those segments are the extended versions of fight scenes that appeared briefly in last week’s issue of Avengers Versus X-Men #2. This little spin-off experiment is set to run for six issues. And again, yes, because it’s too wonderful to pass over: it’s called Avengers Versus X-Men: Versus. The first half of it is written by the same guy who took the time to clamber up on a soapbox and publicly say “Fuck Alan Moore” after Alan Moore theorized that modern super-hero comic books might have run out of good ideas. (In support of Jason Aaron's position, it's now obvious that the point at which idea drought was reached did not actually occur until quite recently, as until quite recently, Marvel was able to refrain from publishing something called Avengers Versus X-Men: Versus.) This installment of said comic features extended editions of the fight between Iron Man and a Holocaust-referencing Magneto (Iron Man wins) and the fight between The Thing and Namor (The Thing wins). Neither of the fights are poorly drawn. However, nor are they drawn in such a way that'll make you jump out of your seat and screech CONFOUND IT, THIS BE THE KING'S OWN ENTERTAINMENT while spitting on that picture of Jack Kirby that everybody spits on whenever they read an Avengers comic, because fuck that dead guy and his shifty family, they keep trying to steal the pajama gang movies from the big company that makes all the best presents, and they're gonna lose anyway, because justice is for douchebags and so is trying.


Crossed: Badlands #4
By Jamie Delano, Leandro Rizzo & Digikore Studios
Published by Avatar Press, Inc.

So: Garth Ennis vacates the premises, and Crossed immediately transforms into an Italian gore movie version of The Walking Dead circa 1981, by which I mean the pace is guided by a certain cack-handed dreaminess while characters occasionally speak like they were not originally written in English. “Like to know a some of your story,” remarks outdoorsy down-South protagonist Gregory, having recounted his tale of spontaneously blacking out and vomiting blood upon hearing the murders of his wife and disabled son by phone to a scantly-clad, Amazonian-proportioned and waterboarding-prone prisoner conditioning and interrogation specialist named Steve who theorizes as to the Islamofascist origins of the series’ zombie-ish aggro plague when not flashing back to nights spent coked up in a skyscraper penthouse over the burning skyline of Atlanta.

We are no doubt well and truly in for 120 pages of American satire from Northampton, England’s own Jamie Delano, he of accents and grue and tumbling narrative captions, but this debut number is less a work of cutting pulpy critique than trustee of a surrealism born from shrillness so ultrasonic as to resemble a Ryoji Ikeda composition built around vumming cracks and glitches in your sound equipment. As Steve tunes into her trusty radio, the scene shifts to dubious white supremacist homosexual pothead Leon, bumming around his dad’s militia compound with nothing to entertain him save for reminding Cousin Ray -- a dear ringer for Johnny Ryan’s Loady McGee -- of his propensity for incestuous cocksucking in exchange for drugs. Meanwhile, near a pier at the edge of an inferno, a pair of nude teenage Christian hottie twins slowly creep into skintight wetsuits while fretting over (1) uploading naked pictures of themselves to their stepdad’s computer, prompting their mom to stab him in the testicles; (2) speeding off in mom’s car while she got gang-raped by infected police officers, a scene accompanied in artist Leandro Rizzo’s depiction by a topless cheerleader standing in sunglasses atop the squad car, waving a machete; (3) subsequently machine gunning their biological father to death (illustrated supra); and (4) if they’ll ever have consensual sex. “But the way the fire is flushing out those freaks, I’d gamble on the other, scary kind,” remarks one twin, before the other gazes into a sniper lens at a multi-pierced bodybuilder standing in a lake of fire dressed as a tribal shaman and screaming with a corpse in his arms.

I am narrating for a reason. Not because Delano’s plotting is slick or deep, but because it barks and staggers erratically through a dimestore hellscape while characters spit dialogues adapted to the usual precisions of the life. As Steve lays dreaming on the final page -- “…pinned helpless under the relentless assault of some sick dream monster…” -- I can imagine how such raw stock, this potential hysteria of Jamie Delano, might benefit from a picturization less beholden to realist proportions than the C-grade Zenescopeisms of Rizzo and his hot women and stilted action, which drag the whole production across the border of where weird comics become something people start to ask about, like, “Do you really like this? Are you making fun of it?” Duly, the importance of art in this visual medium is reaffirmed, because here we don’t have a comic that howls with HELL ETERNAL, no. This comic is a black diamond slope for devoted assholes. In sum:














So then what happened is a DC-affiliated writer Chris Roberson tweeted that he would no longer be pursuing or accepting work at DC or Marvel. Roberson initially only cited a Comics Alliance article critical of those companies' ethics as an explanation—before giving an interview to Amazing Heroes or whomever explaining his position further.

In response to his tweets, DC announced that it was immediately retaliating against him by refusing to publish something called The Fairest, a series previously promoted to mainstream media outlets as having been directly inspired by the success of Roberson's work on Cinderella comic books.  DC Co-Publishers Dan Didio and Jim Lee were then questioned about this retaliation at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (presumably while Jonathan Franzen answered the hard questions at The Gathering of the Gargoyles on some kind of foreign exchange student system I was previously oblivious to).

Pressed, Jim Lee explained that DC needed to retaliate against Roberson because he was worried about 'internal morale':  "You have to imagine from our perspective, for our own internal morale, what does it say for a company to hire somebody who’s that vocally against our principles and yet we’re still paying them." And sure enough, after firing a freelance writer repulsed enough to risk irreparable comic career damage in order to voice opposition to DC's lack of business ethics, internal morale at DC is probably back to being sky-high. "We fired someone who'd already quit.  I'll show you my tits if you give me beads," one DC staffer might have been quoted as saying, at the internal morale Mardi Gras that no doubt ensued once Jim Lee rescued the company's spirits.  DC employees are probably preparing a parade float at this very moment, for a parade demonstrating their internal morale-- a parade float made out of broken dreams and the lamentation of widows, but a parade float nonetheless. (In other news, Internal Morale 27 is the title of my favorite porn film.)

Lee began his response to the questions at the L.A. Times Festival of Books by bemoaning the fact that Roberson hadn't contacted him first: "I don’t know the writer Chris and it certainly would have helped if I could have talked to him or if he had reached out to me." DC comic creators probably all agree with Jim Lee that he's easy to reach, happy to find compromises with the creators who work for him, and open-minded to their concerns-- because if they don't agree, I guess Jim Lee has to fire them.

In attacking the Comics Alliance piece mentioned above, an upset Lee claimed that there were two sides of the story and that fans have over-focused on Alan Moore's side of the story.  Unfortunately, Jim Lee's side of the story, like almost every other story Jim Lee has ever worked on, is apparently shipping late.

NOW, how about some Eat More Bikes kaiju with Nate Bulmer:


The Core
By Dieter Vdo
Published by Hirnplatzt

This is a recently published Austrian mini-comic, full color, that details the Wicked Witch-style frustrations that occur when a well-built man who may or may not be suffering from alopecia shows up out of nowhere on August 7th, 3012 for an indeterminate mission in “The Belgium.” While party-crashing, he rips off a dude’s ears and is then invited by a dog creature to head into “the core,” as all champions must. The whole thing is drawn quite well in a style that could briefly be described as Johnny Ryan mixed with Matt Furie, and although it is neither as violent or as funny as the work those two put out, it is light years beyond most of the mini-comics that try to play around in in the same territory. It’s also Austrian, so you know, bragging rights.

Alec: How To Be An Artist
By Eddie Campbell
Published by Top Shelf, 2001

This is still an extraordinary, life-affirming piece of work. But reading it again in light of current events, one event near the final pages leaps out and steals all attention. It’s almost unfathomable to see how little the comics community currently cares for a man who was once accosted at the urinal for signatures. One wonders now--if he’d been more of an groveler, would the fans of today be more accommodating? How much of Alan Moore’s current reputation--as prickly, as difficult--is due to the fact that he so long ago abandoned being the sort of kept pet that so many of comics creators today pride themselves on behaving like?

Wolverine #305
By Cullen Bunn, Paul Pelletier, David Meikis, Rain Beredo
Published by Marvel Comics

This is the debut of the new Wolverine creative team, and if you were pressed to describe their first issue in the most succinct fashion possible, the word “throwback” comes to mind. Now, “throwback” isn’t synonymous with “classic,” but even if it were, there’s no “classic” period of Wolverine to point to unless you start to monkey around Wittengenstein-style with the agreed upon definitions of words like “classic” or “good” or “tolerable” or "I guess since I'm not crying this is okay." Now, this is not a horrible comic, just an incredibly generic one--a buxom barmaid tries to bed Logan, he turns her down while imagining her ripped asunder, the comic consistently skirts drowning in an issue-length internal monologue containing passages like “The churning in my gut tells me the place is still crawling with old ghosts. Coming back here...it feels like i’m tearing open painful wounds.”--and while incredibly generic Wolverine comics are certainly bad, they're only bad in a sheepish, dopey fashion. It’s melodrama on mute, as if the people involved are embarrassed to have to write like this, but remain unconvinced that an alternative method exists. They’re probably right. It's Wolverine: what can you do?

Aquaman #8
By Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado
Published by DC Comics

Aquaman, huh? This guy doesn’t really deserve a mythos. The best part about this comic is the part where it’s revealed that, prior to the orange shirt with the scales on it, Aquaman’s original getup was just a necklace, no shirt at all. And while Geoff Johns is so fan-service-oriented he probably watches Paul Levitz sleep at night, the question now becomes: is that fan-service enough? Because you gotta be one hardcore gap-filling son of bitch to get your big balls out and pen the story of the day when Aquaman looked at the shirts of the world, nodded his head and said, “Orange. I’m going with that orange one.”

New Avengers #25
By Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Deodato, Will Conrad, Rain Beredo
Published by Marvel Comics

This comic ties into the Avengers Versus X-Men series, although the story it tells is set thousands of years ago in the magic city where Iron Fist got his powers, or learned fighting from, or ... whatever Iron Fist’s background is. That secret Asian stereotype city he talks about, where they filmed Kung Fu Panda. It’s in the mountains. That’s where the comic takes place. In the story, we find out that some guy was having dreams about the Phoenix destroying the world thousands of years ago. The guy--he’s important in Iron Fist comics, but those comics got canceled--decided to train a red haired chick to do something, and at the end of the comic, it cuts to the present day so that the guy, who is still alive, can say “we knew this was coming.” This comic costs four dollars.

Battle Scars #6
By Chris Yost, Cullen Bunn, Matt Fraction, Scot Eaton, Andrew Hennessy, Paul Mounts
Published by Marvel Comics

This is the final issue of a mini-series that sold so poorly that Marvel decided to increase its meager profits by printing the cover on the same cheap-ass paper they use for the interior, which results in an object that feels like it should be free. And while it wasn’t clear at first what the purpose of Battle Scars was, it’s now become totally apparent: this comic existed so that Samuel L. Jackson could become the in-continuity Nick Fury of the Marvel Universe, both in print and on celluloid. It did so by conjuring up a non-descript black dude named Marcus Johnson, killing his mother, and then revealing that if you gouged out a nondescript black dude’s eye and shaved his non-descript head, he magically turns into Samuel L. Jackson. Also, you can throw in some dialog to reveal that he’s actually named Nick Fury, Junior, because his mother had sex with Nick Fury Senior a long time ago, and nothing says "Thanks for the fucking and letting me raise our illegitimate son on my own" like giving him a secret name that he finds out about after you get waxed by some Transformers-looking piece of garbage. And then your comics will look like your movies, which will fix some of your cross-branding problems for your intellectual properties. And in the end, isn't that what really matters?