Photographs of Starving Children Sell Heaps of Records - Forever!

*I was in a pawn shop earlier today trying to unload some old dvds; one of them had a layer of dust on its cover a half-inch thick. I guess Being John Malkovich didn’t have quite the replay power I’d expected. The guy at the counter was straining to decide whether or not to give me two dollars per disc rather than one, when suddenly his eyes widened and began to glow with a fearsome torment, his gaze leaping over my shoulder.

HEY! Kid! Don’t touch that!”

Turning around, I saw a pair of tiny boys tittering around a rack of slick, polished guitars. One of them was handling a particularly glossy piece, its reflective skin masochistically begging to be dropped to a sadist concrete floor. The boys’ mother peeled away from the used cd section.

PUT THAT DOWN! Put it DOWN! Whatcha think you are, a rock and roll singer?”

The clerk and the mom arrived at the now-spooked child’s side, and the clerk gingerly set the guitar back on its place upon the wall as the mom continued her harangue.

Rock and roll’s over,” she said.

*Before we get rolling with the reviews, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you to this fine rant on the topic of Batman Begins. There’s nothing in our art-loving world quite like reading page upon page of back-slapping, fist-pumping praise for a creative work, then encountering a smart, withering, knuckle-cracking critique of that very same piece. Lovely! I’ve not seen Batman Begins, although it’s looking like tomorrow you’ll all get to enjoy my thoughts on War of the Worlds...

Planetary #23


In a recent comments section, I wrote a little about how Planetary has seemingly deviated from writer Warren Ellis’ original proposal for the work:the story of Elijah Snow waking back up to the world and embracing its strangeness. Frankly, that sort of development was within spitting distance of completion by the end of the first trade. I postulated that maybe the story has become more of a tale of Snow’s transformation from excavator, archeologist, observer, into a proactive force, one who acts to change the world, rather than chronicle its prior and present hidden glories. This issue, Ellis suggests the final form of the evolved Snow: savior.

There’s more than that in this issue, especially as far as deviations from the original plan go. Maybe the old brain is just enjoying its Independence Day hibernation a little too much, but I really can’t place exactly what genre or story-type this issue is emulating as it provides the Secret Origin of our pal The Drummer. It can't be The Origin Story itself; Jakita’s ‘origin’ has appeared prior, and it wound up mixed with a Lost City type jungle romp. There’s a lot of action, but again, this title has already seen an ‘action’ homage, the HK action piece with the ghost cop from many issues ago. So I don’t know. Maybe with the home stretch in sight, Ellis has begun to dispense with the individual examinations for a Unified Pop Aesthetic.

Or maybe the genre of choice this time around is the Big Dumb American Action Flick. There’s certainly more than enough nonsense this issue. For example: you’re one of the smartest guys on the planet. A real killer genius. You’re trying to foster a psychic affinity in young boys with technology. Only one of your subjects has shown any significant aptitude toward embodying your goals. And you’ve made the decision, by the way, to booby trap all of the young test subjects with explosive neck collars that will prevent anyone else from reaping what you have sown, just in case of emergency. So how do you program those explosive collars? Do you fix them so they’ll all explode at the touch of a button? No! Of course not! You have them all explode in sequence, one after another! And where in sequence to you position your prized specimen, the one who’d logically prove most dangerous toward you interests if captured by opposing forces? Right in front, right?

Ha ha.

No, you place him last, so Our Heroes can race against time and exploding adolescent heads to save their rhythmic soon-to-be colleague. While you’re at it, you have Snow and flashback regular Ambrose Chase manfully saving one another’s life by doing things like shooting that last gun-toting villain in the back at just the right moment (to Ellis’ credit, he is sly enough to play this into the ongoing ‘savior’ theme of the issue). And be sure to crack lots of jokes about how nobody recognizes how awesome the Internet will be because it’s the past. Haw! Internet! Hey - while we’re at it, let’s dust off the Most. Overused. Simpsons. Reference. Ever.

Oh, but Planetary, your ongoing plot is still kind of intriguing. Ellis has such a good grasp of Snow’s character that he can even pull off a man-to-man chat with the Little Drummer Boy without sounding lethally forced. And John Cassaday, well, let’s just say that the first few pages of this issue feature some of the very few integrations of photographic background material into comics pages that don’t look irredeemably tacky from the first glance. Keep striving, Cassaday, and Laura Martin too.

More Planetary later this year,” states the ‘next issue’ box, nakedly hopeful but worldly enough to surrender its space to the also-late Ocean #6. We know it’s coming. It’s coming eventually. But where is it going, judging where it has been, that is the question...

Doc Frankenstein #3


Oh Jesus, I should have known better. Not again, not a fourth time.

You know what? Let’s start this out on a positive note. The Burlyman launch has been pretty damn good. As publishers, Larry and Andy Wachowski realize the value of patience and focus. Kicking the line off with a singe trade, a sure-fire tie-in hit (The Matrix Comics collection), the brothers then restrained themselves from indulging in massive launches and product flooding and other dangers unheeded by too many novice comics publishers. Instead, they began two books. And they focused on those books. Maybe in the future there’ll be more (there has been a second Matrix Comics volume), but two books are fine to focus on for now. Slow and steady, building that fanbase, working to convince readers that they’re serious about their books, not just a pair of Hollywood big-shots toying in littler arts. And one of those affection-lavished books is Geof Darrow’s lovely The Shaolin Cowboy.

Tragically, the other one is this, the one Larry and Andy write for themselves.

You know, I can figure out what they’re shooting for, now that we’re three issues in. It’s obviously supposed to be a larger-then-life satire of Our Troubled Times with strapping figures from our collective pop iconography parading around with fists clenched, extreme caricatures of extreme days causing beautiful havoc throughout a cracked history. But it’s just not working, and that’s because the writers just don’t have the light touch necessary to make such swaggering sentiment avoid the pits of shrillness. And sweet Christ is this a shrill book.

When we last left Frankenstein’s Monster, a liberal Forrest Gump for our science-hero age, he’d been taken captive by the evil forces of (*gasp* *choke*) Religion, played in tonight’s performance by a fascist-chic paramilitary Roman Catholic Church. The very evil religious folk say they’ll let Doc’s happy community of freaks and outcasts live if Doc surrenders himself. But (OH NO!) the evil religious folk are also evil liars and plan to blow up the happy community of freaks and outcasts anyway once Doc is out of range! And, just for those keeping score, the members of Doc’s happy community of freaks and outcasts who are given actual bits of dialogue throughout any part of the series thus far still consist of: a pair of traditionally attractive women, an ugly traitor, and a weird bird.

The bird dies this issue.

Larry ‘n Andy even accompany his death with a whole battalion of eye-rolling omniscient narrative captions (“The simple truth is that she had given him more than life. She had given him love. And for that there was nothing he wouldn’t do for her.”) as a single charred feather poignantly drifts to the ground. Stay seated, the book actually gets more obvious from here.

So Doc encounters the Evil Pope (or whatever the fuck he is) and it turns out that Evil Pope hates Doc because science scares him, all dating back to a childhood trauma. Oooh! And get this - the Evil Pope also used to be a Nazi (HAHAHAHA OMG JUST LIKE OUR CURRENT POPE AM I RITE?!?!) and he fought Doc back then too! And good ol’ Doc is so nice and liberal and stuff that he even apologizes to the Nazi forces when he kills them! And then he fucks three red-hot French chicks all at once but the mean disgusting religious (BLAH) Evil Pope hates sex and French women I think and tries to kill Doc again! Will he have his nefarious revenge?! Will that handsome, questioning second-in-command of the Evil Pope see the light (not like the ‘light’ of dumb old religion, folks, don’t get me wrong!) and team up with Doc?! Will the writers either give any of the human outcasts who aren’t attractive women something to do or stop having Doc chew out other characters as hypocrites? Will Doc ever stop speaking in thuddingly direct declarations of sentiment like “That’s how you people always respond to the truth, isn’t it? You think the truth is something you can control. You think you can make the sun revolve around the Earth as long as you keep Galileo in prison. But it doesn’t work. Sooner or later, the truth... gets... FREE!”

The above-quoted “FREE!” is accompanied by Doc literally bursting forth from chains, by the way.

Elsewhere, a fairly amusing invincible Texan battles agents of Homeland Security (BOOO *HISSS*). In the end, Doc is dumbfounded by seemingly magical events. Maybe the whole book is actually a canny trick of theme, working double-time to make its hero a pompous bore, intentionally infusing its tone with insufferably shallow socio-political comment, only to spin around and chew out the good guys, providing a call for moderation in the end. It could happen.


And Burlyman could put out a second-wave launch of twelve titles next Wednesday.