I broke two legs to get this copy of Mobile Light Force 2 - luckily, neither of the legs were mine.

*New column is up: a Black Friday spectacular, chronicling my retreat into the past when confronted with the breakneck pace of near-future acceleration. As a bit of a postscript - yes, I actually was up at 4:30 this morning (well, more accurately I didn’t go to sleep) and I went charging through the aisles, looking for some deals for my dear mother. And I goddamned found them, because I am a feral beast. Also recommended is Tom Spurgeon’s Black Friday special, a lovely piece with smart recommendations.

*Well, my Thanksgiving day was fine yesterday too, thank you for asking. I did an awful lot of sleeping, which was sort of surprising considering that I’d already done more than my share the night before (it was the whiskey - puts me right out every time). The only amusing comics-related moment was when my little cousin asked to see The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics (as seen in the above column) and slammed it shut after flipping through about five pages. “These are old,” he said, “and there’s not enough color.” Indeed.

*Tideland Dept: The official site is up, including a trailer and some clips (just check the site map if you get lost). Looks pretty intriguing to me; the bit in the trailer with the doll head blinking was great, though the score in the clips seems a bit overbearing. Lots of eccentric, sort of over-the-top performances (I like the little kid); I’d have preferred an even more washed-out, arid visual style - this one seems a bit too rich, although I guess it’s striving for kind of a rotten storybook look. I sure hope this thing plays in more than ten theaters (all of which will inevitably be located in the LA and/or NY area), since I like my Gilliam on the big screen, and the sound design here strikes me as the sort of thing that’d benefit from booming directionality.

*Not all that swell a week in new comics, so far as I’ve read. Really the best thing I bought on my Thanksgiving-related travels was a 1987 reprint of the first two issues of EC’s Panic (it was Book 10 in the Russ Cochran EC Classics line of reprints). Panic, for those not familiar, was Mad’s sister title, though it was reportedly planned and shelved prior to Mad’s creation; ultimately lasting for twelve issues, it was written and edited by Al Feldstein as opposed to Harvey Kurtzman, who masterminded Mad, though there was some artist overlap between the two, which is fortunate, as vintage Will Elder and Wally Wood art is never a bad thing. There’s also work by Joe Orlando, Jack Davis and Jack Kamen; Davis handles the visuals for a particularly interesting parody of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (excellent title: “My Gun is the Jury!”), positively loaded with over-the-top misogyny, the title character (well, ok, it’s ‘Mike Hammershlammer’) constantly shooting gorgeous women to death and conveniently justifying it with various dark secrets from their pasts. Quite a lot of sex and violence throughout the whole pair of issues actually; to modern eyes this material seems unquestionably targeted towards ‘mature audiences,’ though I guess a lot of kids enjoyed the sheer transgressiveness of it all.

What surprised me most about these issues was the level of coherency each book had as a single issue; these things were designed to be read from start to finish, and there’s a certain amount of ‘nested’ humor, jokes that’ll only make sense if you’ve read earlier stories in the book, going in order of presentation (by way of example, issue #2 kicks off with a parody of The African Queen, which had been released years before Panic’s 1953 debut, and constant sport is made of the then-current John Ford film Mogambo, which was seen by some as a rip-off of the earlier Bogart/Hepburn classic - the mere mention of ‘Mogambo’ then becomes a running gag for the rest of the issue, even in parodies of other works, like A Streetcar Named Desire). I wonder if such techniques were used in part to smooth over the book’s slightly wobbly launch - a few of the stories in issue #1 really feel like they were meant for one of the EC horror books, what with the twist endings and evil twists on fairy tales. Or maybe Feldstein didn’t want to stray too far from winning formulas, not right off the bat.

The Authority: The Magnificent Kevin #4 (of 5)

Oh for the love of bugfuck. Well hey everyone, plot twist - apparently a hugely talented career killer, constantly on call for England’s dirtiest of dirty work, is simply mortified (I’m talking drastic action-taking, life’s direction-alteringly aghast) at the fact that his government has committed awful crimes upon children. Heavens! Now let’s be fair - I’m almost half-convinced that Kev as a character is so outstandingly thick that he’s never thought that maybe he’s been putting children in harm’s way before (by, say, slotting their fathers by the ton) and has to be directly confronted with evidence of kiddies being hurt to accept that his government is doing these extra-nasty things, but since writer Garth Ennis doesn’t bother to connect this to what we’ve seen of Kev’s past on any level beyond a flashback-fueled cumulative ‘oh man, it turns out these patently abusive people who’ve sending me around the globe killing folks by the score have maybe not had everyone’s best interests in mind!’ why should I bend over backwards to justify this painfully forced means of propping up the title character’s predictable moral journey?

On one level, I’m sure the image of Midnighter surrounded by innocent children squealing that he’s their rescuer is supposed to be kind of tongue-in-cheek, simply because I’d rather not believe that Ennis is this willing to dive into contrived melodrama, but given the soppiness of the rest of this issue, who knows? Oh, there’s also a bit involving retarded superheroes who’ve soiled themselves, just to reemphasize that Ennis thinks capes are a bit silly, but given the rest of the issue’s ‘aw, superheroes ain’t so bad after all since they can be moral and stuff’ drive (I’ve read that Ennis’ superhero satire The Pro ultimately adopts a very similar stance, mocking various superheroic stand-ins for most of its length then immediately spinning around to reaffirm traditional superheroic values at the conclusion, though I haven’t actually read the book so don’t hold me to that), it seems less amusing to me than calculated to offset the soppy tone of the rest of the issue. And having followed the well-trodden ways of those flashback issues, it’s even less appealing to me.

God. It occurs to me that this issue embodies exactly what I’d hoped wouldn’t happen to this title following the mistimed pathos at the conclusion of the last Kev series. At least “Oh, this is lamentable...!” is a pretty good line. Ah well. What really gets to me is that I know I don’t have the fortitude to drop this thing with only one issue left to go. Bah.

Tom Strong #35

And this thing is worth spending a few sentences reviewing just to try and articulate why it’s so difficult to review. Simply put, this issue is eminently competent yet compulsively disposable enough that virtually no words can stick to it; all verbiage falls away like strands of undercooked spaghetti. Tom and company confront Permafrost and Tom’s old girlfriend Greta. There’s a little friction between Tom and Dhalua, and a little conflict between Tom and Greta, but all is wrapped up with perfect ease. It’s good to have penciler/co-creator Chris Sprouse back, and Karl Story’s inks fit him well. The action is well-mounted, flowing right by. Maybe I’m just tired from my Black Friday activities, but I found this book to be almost supernaturally light, as if the reading of the book was dissolving in my head as soon as it registered. Nothing really wrong with it, nothing at all, but I feel I need a paperweight to keep it from floating off toward the ceiling. Here’s to Alan Moore’s return next issue, and the end of most things.