TEENS GONE WILD: Recent comics about killer kids set in 1993 - Part 2 (of 2)

*I love a good theme. This one has given me the extra vigor I'll need to get through my day. Oh, and first:


JLA Classified #3, Planetary #22

We3 #3 (of 3)

The Spirit: The New Adventures #1-2 (nice proto-ABC Alan Moore work in this Kitchen Sink series)

Blue Spring (unique manga about the many varieties of teen dissatisfaction)

That's quite a few, give or take some!

*And now, a proper review of a book that'll be on store shelves tomorrow.

The Couriers 03: The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker

I have not read the two prior volumes in this action series by writer Brian Wood and artist Rob G, nor the “Couscous Express” book from which it sprang. You’ll have to bear with me on that, but considering that this seems to be something of an origin flashback volume, I don’t think there’ll be too much trouble.

An awful lot of action comics are exercises in wish fulfillment. This one just happens to be more naked about it than most, which is perfectly fine with me. Across the book’s 96 pages we become acquainted with a pair of ultraviolent heroes and follow their adventure, but much of what really needs to be understood is summarized well in the opening sequence. Johnny Funwrecker, king shit of the NYC criminal underground circa 1993, is cruising around with a motorcade of female ninja goons. A rival gang suddenly opens fire, right in the middle of the street, taking out the motorcade pretty easily, and reducing Funwrecker’s personal bodyguard to a quivering mass of jelly. Enter (out of nowhere) 15-year old master killer Special, her twin pistols and natural homicidal ability more than sufficient to blow the heads off of every attacker. She’s covered in gore, she’s hired as Funwrecker’s new bodyguard, she gets to freak out the (ICK!) business folk gawking on the sidelines, and she even gets to drive without a license. It’s a world a lot like our own, just stripped of subtlety, and with daydreams of power pasted up in place.

In due time we meet 12-year old small-time pot dealer Moustafa, who’s eager to join the Funwrecker clan’s elite force of big-money drug dealers. Circumstance dictates that he meet up with Special, and the two head out to rip off some coke from Moustafa’s snooty parents. The two soon become a team to be reckoned with, especially when they seek to break away from Funwrecker because, well, it’s just better to make up your own rules, and that‘s pretty much the point of the book. Our Heroes rip off crooks and Feds alike, shed a ton of blood, drive fast cars, make tons of cash, and generally soak in flawlessness. The only faults that either of these characters display come out for humorous purposes; when it’s go time, it’s always all good. The supporting cast registers in only the broadest sense; in the space of one and a half pages, Moustafa’s mom wanders in with a glass of wine, calls Special 'trash', spits in her eye, cracks Moustafa in the face, and haughtily storms out. Characters here should consider themselves lucky to reach two dimensions.

Not that it matters much. The book is a pure youth fantasy, a reverie of ruthlessness. The kid heroes are bound by nothing, not society nor good taste, and their only limits are those on their own excellence, which is to say none. But gracious, it‘s not to say that they‘re outright evil! In one scene, Special trains Moustafa in the use of the sniper rifle. Naturally, he‘s an Olympic-level master from shot one, but he doesn‘t kill anyone; he merely annoys the (ICK!) business folk across the river in Jersey. No, the kids here are conveniently attacked first (or made witnesses to other being attacked) every time before they unleash the bloody goods, which is another element of the fantasy: a semblance of moral high ground, but not enough to dilute the romance.

And as wish-fulfillment, I liked it. It’s utterly unpretentious, and dedicated to entertainment. It’s infectious in its imagination, and doesn’t claim to have a message for the reader. Nobody shows the reader what their face looks like as they’re fucking the reader in the ass, thankfully. It understands that it’s all surface, and the surface is made as pleasant as possible. Wood manages some funny lines and amusing situations. At its best, the book riffs off of separate teenage concerns while maintaining the action fantasy: at one point, Special runs into a fellow Funwrecker killer, a boy she used to date, and the two wind up having an argument over proper post-breakup behavior, which ends with brains flying and someone’s cheek shot open. That sort of thing is a lot funnier than the slightly overextended slapstick of Moustafa’s training, which feels too similar to like-minded sequences in various comics and anime.

Rob G. focuses his attention where it really counts in this sort of book: fast movement and good action. He knows how to explode a head or depict a gunshot wound, at least in a style I prefer: deep dark blobs of ink with generous trails scratched out from the center. I always think of Katsuhiro Otomo when I see stuff like that, and I prefer it to over-defined gore. Jacen Burrows, for example, is decent at this sort of thing in his own way, but he spends too many lines defining the gore, highlighting every ripple or bit of flesh. I like the opaque style myself, and that’s what we’ve got here. The action is depicted clearly, and character art remains fairly solid, though background details and (especially) vehicles seem to become simpler as the book moves forward, occasionally resembling clean sketches. But the energy is preserved, and that’s the key.

And so the books goes. It’s quick and bloody and utterly escapist, and it strives to be only that, firing bullets while pubescent and perfect. If that sounds good to you, check it out.

*And don't forget:


Seaguy: Now in a handsome $10 collected edition! C’mon, give it a shot. It was the best Big Two superhero book of 2004, and it’s ripe for rediscovery. And the self-contained format will make the book’s keen internal logic all the easier to grasp! You’ll have a good time.

Bizarro World: Ha ha, here you go big spenders! A nice 200-page $30 hardcover anthology of traditionally non-superhero creators mixed and matched into odd formations and told to ‘be good’ regarding content. This is, of course, because only superhero fans (having become cruelly desensitized through month after month of stories about people being hit in the face) truly have the mettle to face up to the hardscrabble grit of Mature content; people who’re interested in this book will just start to cry. And DC wants no tears in the comics store, just your money (and a good chunk of it at that). But the contributors look good, really good.

Planetes Vol. 4 Part 2 (of 2): In which the crossover marvel draws to a close. At least I think so. This is the last volume, right? I’m sure I read that somewhere.

Alan Moore’s A Hypothetical Lizard #1 (of 4): It had seemed like forever since Avatar released an Antony Johnston sequential adaptation of some non-comics work of Moore’s. This one is more shadowy than usual; it’s a prose novella of Moore’s which was reprinted in a 1988 anthology titled “The Year's Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection” by St. Martin's Griffin, though I don’t know where it first surfaced. Art by Lorenzo Lorente, previews of which you can view here. Might be interesting; I enjoyed “The Courtyard”, Avatar’s last adaptation of a Moore prose work, as opposed to the miscellaneous poems and song lyrics that fill many other Moore volumes from this company.

Blood Orange #4: Soon to be transmogrified into the international quarterly anthology “Bete Noire” under the same editor (Chris Polkki), I believe that this is the final edition of this book in its current format. It’s been more uneven than average for anthologies of this sort, with an often curiously low hit ratio considering the caliber of the contributors. At $6 for 48 pages, the price wasn’t much of an enticement either. Perhaps the European/Japanese focus of “Bete Noire” and an increased page count (up to 88) will be what this book needs. The English language scene will be covered by a second, all-new anthology of regular contributors called “Mome”, also debuting later this year. And as for this issue, well, maybe it’ll prove to be more impressive than the “Blood Orange” average?

Concrete: The Human Dilemma #2 (of 6): I bought the first issue of this and never read it. Yeah. I’ll get around to it…

Adam Strange #5 (of 8): You know, now I’m just thinking that as long as it turns out to be a nice self-contained story, I don’t particularly mind if bits and pieces spin off into something else (that Major Miniseries from the issue #8 solicitation). The problem is, when something like that is set up there’s usually a huge pressure to leave large plot threads dangling, to ensure that readers actually come back for the next series, in effect spoiling the story as a single work. And I’m not really looking for that out of “Adam Strange”, a perfectly nice self-contained sci-fi serial throwback adventure. Things are still developing nicely as of now though, so no reason not to look into this new issue.

The Intimates #4: It was awfully nice of Rich to inform me of the controversy regarding the cover of this month’s issue; somehow in all of my Internet wandering I hadn’t heard a peep! Man, you could almost swear that nobody really gave a shit until they were prompted to… fortunately, this is “The Intimates” we’re talking about so even those who gave a shit couldn’t keep it up for longer than five minutes. Not a bad book though. You should buy it for the saucy cover then, like, read it!

Shanna the She-Devil #1 (of 7): Hey, what a coincidence! A stray nipple above and now a holocaust of aborted fan service! It was brave of Marvel to briefly consider taking the stunning step of adding actual naked breasts to a Big Company cheesecake book, but poor Shanna got busted down to Top Cow status. You burned too bright, dear shining star, but not a man or woman drawing air could avert their eyes, and your fleeting luminescence was a wonder to behold! Enjoy your Heaven, “Shanna the She-Devil”, your titty book paradise.