*But first, we have this week’s new column, which probably best serves as a portrait of my state of mind at the time of its writing; you probably won’t have that challenging a time puzzling out how I was feeling when you notice that I characterize myself as a grasping twit at best and a complete schizophrenic at worst. Still, I’m kind of pleased with the atrocious wordplay I got to use, and any opportunity to make fun of The Eagles is one you’d best take, in my humble opinion. I think the point of the whole thing is that comics news is something best grasped through the corners of your eyes, but there’s lots of driving safety tips too. Hope you all dig it, then fill it back in once you’re done.

*Choice Tidbits Dept:

The Best Lines From Cromartie High School Vol. 3 (tie):

Whoa, check it out! It’s ‘He Kills Everyone’ Takashiro from Niigata! I heard he can talk to bears!”


I came here to beat the crap out of him, but somehow I’ve ended up on a game show instead. Well done, Honey Boy! This is a most amusing turn of events.”

Also, the series of chapters in which Mechazawa is transformed into a motorcycle and Kamiyama rides him around town fighting crime is the greatest sequence in manga history. I know this because I have read every manga.

Iron Man #4

Ah ha! Now we get to the more typical contemporary superheroic bits - the Lasting Changes© to the title character! Sure, I could be wrong, keep in mind; writer Warren Ellis might simply intend this gentle revision of the character’s powers to be exclusive to his storyline. After all, the intentions old Tony acts upon here tie right into Ellis’ running themes for the book (the sins of rampant weapons development forgiven through heroic peacekeeping technology, with a side order of conflicted tough-liberal guilt, and a tall glass of humanity‘s increasing ties to information systems), recasting Iron Man as more of a mirror image to the nasty domestic terrorist villain with Bad Weapons coursing through his blood. Note how both protagonist and antagonist keep their scientific advancements close to them, though Tony is a man in an iron shell, and that vile dastard is basically a meat costume hiding a swarthy mess of cutting beams and poison ichors. Now Iron Man must strive for a finer fusion.

A decent enough theme for Iron Man the comic, suggesting that this kind of superhero thing is maybe the most adaptable to Ellis’ running concerns. He even chucks a bone over to the historians in the audience by evoking memories of Iron Man’s origin, though I’ll admit that such allusion fuels my theory that we’re seeing the birth of a new Iron Man for a new ongoing series. But hey, so what if the story’s good? I guess, at the bottom of it all, I don’t particularly care about what this means for Iron Man as a character, though I know that such considerations are at the fore of many established superhero fans’ minds in evaluating these types of books. A bad writer will still produce crap, no matter what groundwork has been laid for new expansions on the old franchise, no matter how good the ideas are behind the work of prior teams.

This, the present book, has good ideas and a good team, though. I’m even starting to warm to Adi Granov’s art, which makes effective use of foggy, scratched backgrounds amid the chaotic mental state of the last few pages; it’s the sort of effect you see Ashley Wood and/or Ben Templesmith utilize today, and it meshes surprisingly well with Granov’s stiffly posed, hyper-realist characters. He’s still at his best in rendering the sleek contours of Our Hero, and the plastic look of his flesh textures fits the villain of the piece well, as per the plot. The regular people still need some work, though; the mom on page six looks simply grotesque, like an over-acting mime wearing a flesh-colored latex mask.

As for the script (thematic analysis aside, I mean), Ellis indulges in some classic superhero warehouse favorites, like the trusted confidant (just introduced this arc, I do believe) who shockingly discovers the hero’s identity. And gosh, the means of tracking that villain that Tony busts out is awfully convenient, don't you know. But Ellis has some fun with details, like a cute little ‘safe mode’ joke and a nice fire-snuffing sequence (a tiny ship-in-a-bottle view of the book’s point). There’s a sequence between the villain and a random disaffected youth that teeters on the edge of bathos, but manages to ably highlight a disconnect between ideological extremists and those just wearing the garments of rebellion. And again - Iron Man has a real live point. Really.

So yeah, it’s still a good book, when it’s out. Lots of 'T+' rated blood and gore too, the imagery more frank than I keep expecting. It’s mature in other ways too, though, certainly as far as today’s Marvel Universe goes.

The Punisher MAX #24

And on that note…

The first few pages of this concluding chapter to Garth Ennis’ latest arc form a small masterpiece of absurdly overamped sex and violence, reaching a sort of Russ Meyer tinge around the time two ladies (one of them nekkid as when she was born) embrace in a tense, grinding clinch, and one then rips the other’s nose off with her teeth. Always interested in diversity and balance, Ennis leaves Frank in the buff as well. Soon enough, brains and gore are all over plenty of bare flesh, and most of the bedroom as well. It’s the sort of sheer bedlam that other Big Two books tend to skimp on, even when given the freedom of ‘Explicit Content’ or ‘Suggested For Mature Readers’ allows. Obviously, not every ‘mature’ Big Two book needs to do this sort of thing, but something like The Punisher only benefits from it, I'd say. Is there anything else quite like The Punisher at the moment, actually? Not with Ennis at the helm.

Leo Fernandez and Scott Hanna get credit too, their supple handling of the characters fitting the book’s deceptively delicate mood quite well; it’s not just the action and the shooting, but the carefully positioned frump of O’Brien’s hair and the way her t-shirt droops too low. The proper positioning of a line of snot dripping from a screaming man’s nose makes all the difference in balancing the exploitation; a splash panel depicts a majestic forest as Frank shoots someone down low on the page. A few readers might feel disappointed that the chaos of Frank’s rampage is largely discarded for this concluding piece (I for one wanted more of the Mayor and his crew), but then, as Frank tells us:

No matter how far into Hell I go, eventually my vision clears.”

An apt sentiment for this much-revised character to make; it’s not Ennis’ first gesture in the direction of the cyclical nature of such Big Two properties (take the last few pages of The Punisher: The End, for example), but it fits this late period in the ongoing title sufficiently.