I peeked.

*Good Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean interviews over at The Onion A.V. Club, all in preperation for McKean's feature-length directorial debut Mirrormask, scripted by Gaiman. I really enjoyed the frank tales of script clashes between the longtime collaborators, and Gaiman's unique position as an OG of comics blogging provides some fun insights. But I liked McKean's chat just a little bit more; it covers much of his career, and I was delighted to hear that he's considering doing another Cages-length comics work after the upcoming Signal to Noise film. For added fun, compare McKean's comments on Arkham Asylum to Grant Morrison's; sometimes the two agree, and sometimes they certainly don't (McKean basically takes credit for pushing Morrison's script into odder and odder territory, while Morrison has been known to say that his script was always odd, and that he'd simply planned on getting a more straightforward artist for the project). Nice stuff.

*Candied Delite Dept: Just a heads-up to let you all know that the final page of the last issue of The OMAC Project is hands-down the funniest page of comics this week; really, I don’t even need to see anything else. I’m so very glad that I opted to live up to my sacred blogging duties and keep abreast of the latest Event happenings because oh man… maybe I’m screwing everything up because I didn’t actually read the book, so do tell me if I'm off-base.

Basically, (and here’s your fanboy-friendly SPOILER warning), it appears that the book concludes with what’s more or less a snuff film being beamed out and aired in public for a ton of people to see. So the last page has folks recoiling in disgust, yowling in acute horror - I think one guy might actually be fleeing the scene with his hands flailing in the air, maybe a handkerchief dangling from his fingertips. It’s public snuff film bedlam! And then, in the lower right hand corner of the page, directly below a screaming man’s fear-twisted face:

A bright, jaunty superheroic THE END in the happiest font ever!

Good to see that the mass public display of authentic death footage isn’t gonna spoil a nice ending! The hip-happy look of the text, plastered over that mortified soul, coupled with the delightful pig-headedness of it all (it doesn’t look to me like ‘THE END’ of anything) - good times. I hope the laughs and memories continue into whatever book this leads into, like Infinite Crisis or Infinite Tie-Ins or possibly Seven Soldiers #1.

Yeah - I’ve decided that since it’s last in line, and since (let’s face it) there’s probably going to be some threads left hanging after Infinite Crisis, Seven Soldiers #1 ought to finish off these miniseries too. From what I've heard, there wasn't much more resolution than what we got in Shining Knight or Guardian. Actually, why waste a golden opportunity? Seven Soldiers ‘#1’ should turn into a miniseries (like Dark Horse Presents #100 and THB #6), and it should resolve every currently outstanding story in every DC or DC-owned or affiliated book! Hell, Morrison and Williams can do it! Seven Soldiers, Infinite Crisis, Seaguy, Stormwatch: Team Achilles, that storyline in The Shadow where he’s a robot; all of them can be wrapped up at once!

And then in the final issue Mark Waid can explode out of Neh-Buh-Loh’s chest riding Comet the Super Horse, accompanied by Ambush Bug and Flex Mentallo (wearing a bag over his head with the words FORBIDDEN BY LAW emblazoned upon it) and they’ll save the day using some combination of The Power of Hypertime, The Power of Copious Narrative Captions, The Power of Rock (either rock ’n roll or just rolling large rocks down a hill, I haven’t decided), and at least one deployment of the line “I’ll modify your continuity!” In the end Superman and Batman will shake hands and Superman will go “Still friends, Bruce?” and Batman will reply “Are you retarded or something?” and then he’ll wink at the reader and DC will suspend publishing operations indefinitely.

At least that’s the initial plan.

Jack Cross #2

This is getting likeably insane, which is probably the best path for the book to take. Sure, writer Warren Ellis is probably having too giggly a time with the surface elements, meat ’n potatoes badass antihero nonsense, but protagonist Cross is rendered in just mad enough a style for the whole thing to sort of slide through. I remain hopeful that the storyline will chronicle Cross gradually and irrevocably losing his shit in the middle of a high-stakes inter-intelligence chess match; the office-against-office set-up nicely matches Cross’ boiling interior state, his liberal philosophy so at odds with the day-to-day facts of his job that he’s turned to prisoner executions and ‘cutting’ in his hotel room (a motif also present in Ellis’ more recently-written Fell) when he’s not screaming about Real Threats to DHS toadies. Add in the fact that the secret item that everyone is chasing after appears to be Saddam Hussein’s secret mind-control ray, which makes populations obedient and docile, and I think there’s the makings of some decent satire along with the action.

Granted there’s always the risk that, like in the recent Ocean, Ellis will jettison the neat ideas in the final stretch and opt for mind-numbing action; I can certainly see how this material can easily be played too straight, focusing on semi-awkward tough-talking lines (“DO YOU WANT SOME?”) and the easy temptation of cruising on the ‘liberal badass acts like a fascist thug then makes a speech about it’ concept. Those not prone to enjoying Ellis’ work probably feel he’s doing that already, but I think there’s enough raw insanity at work in the lead character to keep me coming back for at least a third issue, just to see if anything comes from these strange ingredients. As for Gary Erskine’s art, it’s still sort of stiff and awkward (especially when characters are simply walking around), but he loves those facial expressions, especially when Cross is firing upon people, simultaneously adrenalized and terrified.

Speaking of strange things, the book’s weird attitude toward explicit content continues to befuddle. There’s a handful of shootings this issue, with each one treated a bit differently. One shot to the head releases a thin trail of blood and a neat little hole. Another shot to the head has panel after panel lavished upon it, the bullet sensually pressing against its target’s skin, then a detailed cloud of brains and blood spilling out the back of his skull. And yet another fellow hardly bleeds at all, gunshots creating those little pops of flame again. It’s pretty weird, especially coming from an apparently all-ages DCU title. Hey - maybe it’s as torn and nearly schizophrenic as the lead character!

ABC: A-Z: Tom Strong and Jack B. Quick #1 (of 6)

Perhaps banking on the fact that ABC fans who’ve already scooped up everything else won’t be able to pass up anything this close to the end, we now get this entirely unnecessary if somewhat attractive reference miniseries, complete with a one dollar price hike in exchange for three more pages of content than average. This might have been an easier sell had ABC overlord Alan Moore provided the scripts, but instead we get Peter Hogan of Terra Obscura and some assorted Tom Strong issues. He acquits himself for a little over half the issue, but I think we’re gonna need more than that for a bunch of $4 guidebooks.

It should be said that all of the original creators on the art side are present: Chris Sprouse on Tom Strong (with inker Karl Story), and Kevin Nowlan on Jack B. Quick. I’ll also note that everything in here is in comics format, with the characters narrating their life stories and backgrounds while moving through splash pages and charts or some sort of nominal story. Basically it’s a particularly reader-friendly character handbook, though necessarily somewhat light on information to make way for the art and stuff.

This kind of thing demanded Moore’s deft touch; he could have lit the characters up, and made us feel like we were getting good entertainment with our light background (and tall price tag). Hogan is less apt, though he acquits himself nicely enough on the Tom Strong material, amusingly playing up his own storylines (“This one I can’t ever forget.”) and offering some inoffensive plot summaries and yet another origin recap. I don’t know if the bit at the end with one character assuring us that “I think you’ll find it much more exciting to read about the future as it happens, in the pages of Tom Strong magazine.” was supposed to be a gag, since the series is ending this December. Oh well.

The Jack B. Quick material doesn’t fare as well, mostly because the character’s whimsically sinister cliché-logic experiments are custom-built for Moore's particular style (not surprising, since the character is basically an American pre-teen variation on Moore's old 2000 A.D. character Abelard Snazz). In Hogan’s hands, the whole thing comes out wrong, with corny jokes (hoo hoo, an Internet gag!) and stillborn one-liners suddenly the norm. Sure, the Chaos Theory hurricane prevention bit was funny, and it’s nice to see the Doomsday Machine from Promethea making a surprise cameo, but it’s mostly six pages of miscellaneous cornpone. Let’s hope Moore will be back on the character in that upcoming two-issue Tomorrow Stories Special, ready to send him off in style.