Oh My!

*Yes! I remembered LAST WEEK’S REVIEWS!

Solo #3 (Paul Pope releases a comic and proves once again Why We Wait. Really fine stuff here)

Untitled #1 (all-new Kevin Huizenga mini, these days meaning another look into low-tech thoughts and process, rather than comics storytelling - still, fans like me enjoy it)

Seven Soldiers #0

A gold star for me.

*Well, I half-watched the Oscars last night, and it was about what I expected. I’m pleased that the show’s organizers have dropped the ridiculous idea that anyone cares about anybody who makes these films beyond the most glamorous and visible parties; some of the lesser folk were lined up onstage, and some of the really useless awards were handed out at the nominees’ seats. Live action short subjects? Ok folks, you mean nothing, your films mean nothing, your dreams are tiny, your art is insignificant, if you’re not working on big and/or (preferably ‘and’) visible films you’re not really doing anything but existing, and that’s nothing. Sit down, take your trophy. You a Best Song nominee? Sit the fuck down, asshole. We’ll get Beyonce to sing your little tune; if you were worth shit you’d be Beyonce, but you’re not. Thank the good lord above that Oscar has finally shown these uppity shits their place, they’re almost as bad as independent comics publishers.

Maybe all of the non-stars can sit in a bus or something next year circling the theatre on the highway! Then nobody would have to breathe their air. That would work great!

*Yeah. This is already too much here. Why the hell would anyone expect anything more from the Oscars? It’s a glamour train, it’s always been, and now it’s a bit more honest about it; I shouldn‘t be making tongue-in-cheek comments, I should applaud. I guess it was sort of funny when Chris Rock made a joke on the topic, but not really; it just gives everyone an opportunity to giggle about themselves for two seconds and then the show grinds on.

*Anyhow, most of it was pretty stupid, but the whole Antonio Banderas/Carlos Santana team-up was stupid enough to be kind of neat instead of just sitting there, like most everything else.

*The funniest bit was when after Chris Rock made a joke about Jeremy Irons being a comedian (because he plays serious characters, rotfl) Irons proceeded to deliver the funniest line of the night in response to some technical gaffe. I also liked the fellow pretending to sleep in his seat during one of The Awards the Telecast Doesn’t Care About… at least he’s adopting the right attitude in the face of it all.

*Chris Rock was decent; he was better reacting to stuff in the show itself than with his stand-up or skits. Johnny Carson from beyond the grave was a lot better overall (ok, in fairness, they got to cherry-pick from the best of several performances there).

*I have no idea why mean old bullies like Trey Parker and Matt Stone like to antagonize you, Sean Penn, I just can’t understand it.

*The dude who sang his acceptance speech was the coolest man in town. Even cooler than Prince, although I wish I could make pink slacks work that well.

*I was sort of hoping that Michel Gondry would get in a few words at the podium; he’s credited with ‘story’ on the “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” script and he got a trophy, but I guess it’s Kaufman’s ‘moment’.

*Oh Marty, don’t you see it’s better to not care about this club? You’re secure in your accomplishments! You don’t need any of this, not these days! Let it go, champ, you‘re in good company in line outside the club.

*Actually, I should let this go too. Good work to Abhay and Tom the Dog though, for some funny stuff. Why do I watch this show again? For funny comments from other people.

*Er, comics? Let’s just say that you should go look at some minicomics from Ted May because they’re good, funny stuff. Buy his things. More on that a little later.


Hello Internet City!

*I have no more time today, so why not slake your thirst for entertainment at one of these fine live-blogging Oscar events:

Abhay is right here,

And Tom the Dog is right here.

I just saw the trailer for "Finding Neverland" again the other day and good god that looks like the polar opposite of anything I'd ever want to pay money to watch. But it's a Best Picture nominee so somebody connected to the production or who owes a producer a favor or something is gonna climb up on that stage and introduce the montage that they dedicate to every Best Picture nominee and talk about how it's "an inspiring story of a man who taught us all about the power of imagination" or something and everyone's gonna politely clap and really that's the tone of the whole thing: gritting your teeth and smiling for everything and celebrating every fine nominee. Material beyond that can't help but fall flat in such an atmosphere, an atmosphere nobody wants to spoil. I'll sure savor Chris Rock's cracks at "The Passion of the Christ" and Michael Moore, quick and acceptably 'edgy' as I'm sure they're allowed to be...


Well, what do you know?

Seven Soldiers #0


Amusingly, the cover art seems to indicate that the full title is “7 Soldiers of Victory” issue #0, while the information page in the back refers to it as “Seven Soldiers Special” #0. The simpler “Seven Soldiers” #0 is what’s in the legal text, so as usual that’s what I’m calling it.

That information page was a very good idea on DC’s part. Not only do they give out a nice concise overview of what the project is setting out to do, they even provide a tentative release schedule for every one of the thirty comics that will eventually comprise this project, the book at issue here being the first. Well done. And yet, I still have some questions about some of the things that have been said about this project, dutifully repeated on this back page.

“Seven Soldiers” as a total unit will be comprised of seven four-issue miniseries, and two bookend specials, all of which may be read independently. Does that mean that the two bookends together can be read independently as a two-part story, or that they each stand on their own? I’d have to go with the former if I were in the mood for granting the benefit of the doubt, since this particular bookend doesn’t work very well at all as a single story, and I’d hate to read it as an early indicator of the project’s ambitions not quite panning out.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s quite good as a set-up. Not so good as a single story, largely because there’s hardly any ending (unless taken on the most basic ‘oh no the heroes were being hunted the whole time and now they die’ level, which isn’t very satisfying at all, placing the impact of the conclusion on the level on one of those “Tharg’s Future Shocks” Morrison used to write at “2000 A.D.” There’s a ton of loose ends too, even a nice little ‘To Be Continued’ box at the close, so I may have just been operating under a misunderstanding. Maybe both of the J.H. Williams III-illustrated books join to form their own story, and this is only the first half. That seems probable.

I’m only going over this since “Seven Soldiers” as a whole is such an ambitious undertaking, spanning well over one year of releases, and purporting to present a collection of both stand-alone and interconnected adventures, and it’s only fair to examine the work on the (tall) terms of achievement it has set out for itself. But just as I was (maybe) confused by the stand-alone status of this particular volume, I think the whole concept of ‘stand-alone’ needs to be discussed as well.

“Seven Soldiers” #0 is quite thick with references to other books. I’ve been assured that there’s a connection to “Starman”. I’ve been told there’s a tie-in to the more recent “Breach”. I’m sure that some of the older heroes Morrison mentions in this book have their part in DC history. The miniseries to come are also tied to the DC past. None of this really bothers me; my comprehension of the story wasn’t limited by not being aware of any of these connections. It didn’t stand in the way of the story. Indeed, I’m guessing that a thick stew of revamping and reviving will prove to be integral to the final work’s themes, which at this early point seem to gravitate toward the idea of the ‘revamp’ itself.

Take the lovely opening pages. Williams is teamed here with colorist Dave Stewart and letterer Todd Klein, and they craft a lovely, brooding atmosphere as Z-list superperson Tom Dalt is escorted through the swamp to a meeting with Seven Unknown Men, who then confront him in a psychedelic wonderland nightmare of hues and abstractions. We can’t see the Men, but they inform Tom that they’re going to use “tools and machinery you wouldn’t understand” to change him. “We’ll get you some cool new clothes, Tom,” says one of the men. A new costume. A new attitude? Kind of like what I’m expecting for the seven upcoming miniseries (go here for a nice guide to the original characters Morrison plans to make over, and read the comments too). Mr. Dalt will soon return, as a very new (yet sort of the same) character. Who is Tom Dalt, anyway? I got that feeling that he was a pre-existing character while reading. I now believe he had something to do with "Starman", from what I've indicated before. It doesn’t matter; I got what Morrison is working towards.

The story continues, and we meet the new Whip, granddaughter of the original Whip, mystery man of the American southwest. There are few more efficient ways of revamping a hero than having his descendants carry forward the torch, after all, but this Whip is largely interested in thrills, writing about her superhero experiences, and moving on to even higher levels of superhero adventure. Naturally, the next step is to join a team, so she checks the superhero want ads in Powerhouse Magazine and gets herself a job with The Vigilante, not the asshole in the ski-suit that I’m familiar with, but a cowboy adventurer who ran with the original 7 Soldiers of Victory, dating back to 1941 in our world. Small-time character, really. But as he warns his young new associate as they ride through the desert, sometimes the low-grade heroes encounter the craziest things, and there‘s a giant spider on the loose, and he wants to recreate the original Soldiers to face the threat. Unfortunately, the seventh soldier never showed, so they’ll have to deal with six, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all of these characters are tied to the past in some way; one of them has superpowers derived from old Golden-Age mystery rings he bought online. One of them seems to be based on the Golden Age kid headliner Little Boy Blue. And one of them is Mr. Tom Dalt, ‘I, Spyder’, decked out in an all-new style. He has been revamped.

Not for much. The six of them ride out to confront the big scary spider and manage to pull together as a team enough to put it down. William’s art is very nice with the action, reminding us that the more typical superheroics in “Promethea” were just as smooth and attractive as the more immediately unique parts. Even when he recycles some visual techniques from that recently-concluded earlier work, it’s put to good use: the appearance of icons in boxes to signify the abilities of all of the superheroes on a team was used to amusing effect near the end of “Promethea” to signify the re-forming of America’s Best (Tom Strong’s old team), here, such a technique is used twice, once at the team’s introduction before we know what anyone’s powers are (to stand in contrast to their somewhat uninspiring appearance) and once again in the heat of heroic battle (where we can appreciate what they’re capable of). Williams’ linework is a bit scratchier than usual, especially in the desert scenes, which fits the atmosphere of the setting. But his talent at bravura layout is called upon again at the end, as vile supervillains pop in to kill the (six) soldiers. Leading the charge is Neh-Buh-Loh, but unless you’ve read Morrison’s recent arc on “JLA: Classified” you’ll have no idea who he is besides some scary-looking fiend, which is maybe all that’s required for now.

And then, in the final scene, the Seven Unknown Men are seen, all of them aging bald fellows in fine suits, fleeing their base of operations, a gigantic sewing machine that apparently creates the timestream of the universe. But they don’t abandon ship before selecting seven more conscripts, for seven more miniseries. You can see two of them packing up what sure looks like Guardian's helmet in the back. And then they literally box up their revamps in lovely packages with pretty bows on top and set out into the backwaters of the DCU to offer up a little authorial intervention.

There’s quite a bit of talk about the nature of the superhero in this book. The set-up of superteam dynamics, the progression of the superhero’s career. And it certainly looks to me that the project will be dealing with the concept of the superhero revamp in a very direct fashion, which could be a lot of fun, and probably a bit more thoughtful than the average Corporate Superhero Event. This issue certainly had some fun action, and nice ideas. And if you’re directly dealing with revamps as a concept, than surely you need to delve into the past and concurrent histories of the DCU, right? It doesn’t really hurt the story, per se. But…

I’ve read Morrison’s arc in “JLA: Classified”. Thus, I know that the villian as glimpsed at the end of this book is called Neh-Buh-Loh, also known as Nebula Man, and that he is really the time-traveling adult version of the Infant Universe of Qwewq, itself with an origin in Morrison’s prior “JLA” run. Oh, and it’s strongly hinted that Neh-Buh-Loh is actually our universe, the reader’s universe, one where even the silliest villian can cause great havoc, because there are no superheroes. Or, at least there weren’t until the JLA sent the Ultramarines into Neh-Buh-Loh himself when he was still in infant form (thanks, time paradoxes!) and urged them to protect a harsher, crueler world.

So now, it seems that the reader’s universe is seriously intruding on the DC superhero universe, desiring to destroy superheroes. Al that can stop it is the revamp of a whole bunch of little-known, even forgotten heroes from the DCU past. The all-seeing, identical benefactors making heroes new to stave off the invention of a gritty, realistic world made ‘flesh’, which threatens the ruination of everything. Now that’s even more interesting to me; it seems like a literal exploration of Morrison’s well-known philosophy regarding the current direction of superhero comics, transformed into a working conflict within the confines of the superhero universe itself.

Of course, you don’t know all of that if you haven’t been reading Morrison’s other books.

But it’s a balancing act, these Events; casual readers and seasoned fans and veritable historians all know different things. And while this first glimpse of “Seven Soldiers” can’t work all that well as a single unit, it at the minimum offers a lot of anticipation for the future, although said anticipation level may vary depending on one’s acclimation with prior works before plunking down that $2.95 and jumping in.


No Title

*New column is go. This one is a bit more… burlesque than usual. Check it out!

*Almost done with my busy busy week. Just two more things left to do, then I’m home free. Working on a “Seven Soldiers” piece, but it’ll have to wait for tomorrow. The storyline won’t be over until April of 2006 anyway, so another day shouldn’t be a problem.

*Say! I know what’ll roll in the big hits! A minicomic review!

Untitled #1

I’m pretty much insane for Kevin Huizenga at this point. His stories in “Drawn and Quarterly Showcase” Vol.1 and “Kramer’s Ergot 5” were truly superb pieces, excellent short-form comics by any standard. His current solo series, D&Q’s “Or Else”, also offers some intriguing work, some of it refurbished from Housing’s “Supermonster” minicomics series. But most of Huizenga’s formal stories now seem to be featured in anthologies, or books released by established companies. His most recent minicomics work has seen a turn toward the more behind-the-scenes, so to speak.

Untitled”, dubbed a ‘zine’ on Huizenga’s site, is subtitled “KH Book #4”, the latest in this particular line. Book 1 was “Sermons”, a thick, compact collection of sketches and comments marked down on a small notepad brought to church, photocopied and presented to the reader in raw form. Book #2, “The Feathered Ogre Designs + Sketches” only cost fifty cents; it was a very short presentation of some of Huizenga’s preliminary design sketches for the title beastie, as featured in his “Drawn and Quarterly Showcase” story, along with some reference material. And Book #3? That was “Or Else” issue #1 itself, a D&Q release. So this curious labeling scheme doesn’t seem confined to minicomics or books published by Huizenga himself; it’s just a grouping of the creator’s most recent output, although it’s interesting that all of the self-published materials released under this label feature no ‘comics’ as we most commonly understand them; it’s work product, personal sketches.

Which is a fine way of describing “Untitled”, costing $1.50, running 40 pages, and consisting largely of hand-lettered titles. As in book titles. Prospective book titles, to be attached to Huizenga’s new series, which we now know as “Or Else”. There’s some brief handwritten commentary too: “Any, well almost any word is good if written in the right typeface on the cover, but I’m in it for the long haul with this one, I want years out of it.” So Huizenga lists out all of the titles he can think of: “Jeepers Weekly”, “Uncle Animal”, “The New Propriety”, “Afraid Magazine”, and so on. Some of the titles seem to be geared more toward getting Huizenga motivated than anything else (“Old Book Smell”). There’s a host of alternate designs for the “Or Else” logo. There’s even some tiny thumbnail sketches of cover ideas, and even at such a small, loose state, Huizenga’s chops are obvious.

It’s a cute little booklet (quite small in dimension, it must be said), and a fun buy for devout fans like myself, looking for another look behind the scenes. But a line seems to have been drawn, the “KH Book #X” line. The most recent minicomics releases seem to back away from comics storytelling, and toward a more personal glimpse into the creator’s procedures and thoughts. The shorts that have captured my attention will be published by others. Nothing in the world wrong with that; just an observation by a new and earnest fan.



Solo #3

What I like most about Paul Pope at the moment is his writing, which isn’t the first thing that leaps out at you when you stop to consider his work. I’ve set myself up for such a reaction, though, having reviewed some of his earlier work in the down-time since the last issue of his self-published “THB” and the conclusion of his Vertigo miniseries “100%”. While this was an incomplete survey, the earliest issues of “THB” being long out-of-print and difficult to find, I could sense a gradual calming of his dialogue, a transformation into a more naturalistic approach to character conversation. In his early work, Pope had a tendency to have his characters narrate their philosophical positions and motivation to other characters (and thus the audience), a stilted effect that didn’t mesh with the unique rough-hewed elegance of his lines, all swirling movement against words of oak. But Pope’s movement towards more conversational style fits his work well: surely the rigorous world-building of “100%” wouldn’t have had such an absorbing effect had the characters not seemed so utterly grounded, such natural denizens of their world. No longer do the words in the bubbles distract from Pope’s visuals: they are a needed expression of humanity from characters whose very skin seems to twist with comics energy.

This progression in Pope’s writing takes on an interesting form in his issue of “Solo”, that creator-focused DC title that gives noted talents a forum to do whatever they please, including taking on collaborators. Pope does all of the writing and art himself, but works with assorted colorists and letterers. There are five stories here, and all but one feature an omniscient narrator.

The first and last of these stories are connected by narrative style in a deeper way; the narration is executed in a laid-back, very casual style, as if Pope is going over the artwork with you and considering the meaning of his stories. The first of these plots is a retelling of the Theseus and the Minotaur myth. The art is typically lovely and kinetic, with handsome Theseus slashing his way through bloody battles. Pope’s narration, however, doles out his theory on how Theseus is in fact a damned vicious killer and that the Minotaur is largely a victim of circumstance, having been damned by a god at birth in retaliation for actions well beyond his control, given both a hideous appearance and a hunger for human flesh. The lavish appearance of Pope’s art (fine Jose Villarrubia color too) offsets the informal tone of the narration, as if Pope wants you to know what he really thinks of all this mythological action, having completed all of this lovely visual work. Such a style continues in the book’s final story, a Batman adventure in which young Robin is captured by the Joker and his goons. It’ll be impossible not to get caught up in Pope’s excellent renderings of these familiar characters, from the compact, lithe Robin to the Joker’s greasy hair and mustache stubble to Batman’s wonderfully round face and chunky, seemingly hand-made costume. But Pope also expends his captions chatting about his feelings on the characters, almost reading the story with you and commenting thereupon. It’s a fun way to execute a Batman short, and certainly the action looks gorgeous.

A more formal style is adopted for two other stories. There’s a very short autobiographical (?) piece, with first-person narration, in which a young boy (bearing a striking resemblance to the author as evidenced by his photo in the back) orders some stuff from those old novelty product ads you see in aged comics. I’d not really known how those X-ray specs worked, and now I do. The other story is a day-in-the-life piece centered around a certain bar on a certain corner in a certain city. The narration here is much more detached, even literary, and perhaps doing a little too much work in describing things we can plainly see, although it’s largely focused on filling in myriad background details on the bar’s many patrons and workers, which we cannot see through our panel view, which gives us many lovely city sights regardless.

The fifth story is a bit of a departure, at least compared to the rest of the book. I daresay that it’ll prove to be the most memorable story to many readers. It’s a narration-free high-action homage to Jack Kirby’s “OMAC”, stocked to bursting with ludicrous, over-the-top dialogue, cheeky period language (“Good gravy!”), searing, garish colors by Dave Stewart, and tons of insane action, booming sound effects, loose, wild expressions, flowing pillars of flame. It’s a 16-page blast of pure Pope action, maybe what many still know him for, and certainly not dimmed in intensity over time.

So as I’m sure you’ve sussed, I liked the book a lot. It’s easily my favorite issue of this title, though since I’ve liked Pope’s work a lot before this I suppose such a result was all but pre-ordained. Well, not really. Pope could have screwed up, or phoned it in, and he hasn’t. He remains a fascinating creator of formidable skill, and if his production of new stories is a shade intermittent, he never seems to be wasting his down-time, as evidenced by the fine work on display here, and it's varied work too. This is a great sampler of Pope's many talents, and a fun read on its own. If you don't know much about Paul Pope, go check this out!


Fast Observations.

*Didn't read "Seven Soldiers" yet, but from glancing at a certain page it looks like it ties into Morrison's "JLA Classified" arc. I've been told this was coming by a few people, but for some reason I never saw it myself. Hmm.

*"Following Cerebus" #3 has a lot of talk on copyrights (always one of Sim's pet topics), reprinting an essay by Joe Bob Briggs and presenting reactions from several talents. The best quote is from Frank Miller:

"I've sold away creations - hell, even given them away, when I was young and stupid - but I intend to take Sin City and my other creations to my grave. And beyond."

*Paul Pope's issue of "Solo" reveals the title of his upcoming DC book: "Batman: Year 100".

*Probably unintentional, but this week's Comcis Journal has perhaps their greatest cover ever. It's the 2004 Books of the Year issue, and they point it out right under the title, listing a whole bunch of books that made the cut: "Fred the Clown", "Dogs and Water", "Eightball" #23, etc. But it's impossible to read them all, because a nice chunk of these titles (and all of the visible ones are non-Big Two books might I add) are blotted out into nothingness by the inky profile of feature interview subject and Marvel Comics workhorse Brian Michael Bendis. See it here. A very telling cover, even if it didn't mean to say what it does...

Flipping through, I noticed that Tom Spurgeon's (superhero-themed) column is also missing from this issue, along with Steven Grant's as I pointed out yesterday. Space issues? And there's a nice profile of Rich Johnston by Michael Dean, just to add to the Internet flavor of the issue. Also, the slick paper is gone, but the color remains.



*Yes, there’s just no way I can remember


Astonishing X-Men #8, Ocean #4 (of 6)

Tom Strong #31

Promethea #32 (hmmm... the permalink is broken... I'll need to try and fix that, just scroll down a bit to see the review for now EDIT: 8:02PM - OK, working now... yeah, check this out, it's one of my more detailed pieces, and I think it turned out pretty well)

Scurvy Dogs: Rags to Riches (a preview: look for it this Wednesday!)

Tune in next week, when I forget again!

*Hell, why not THIS WEEK IN COMICS too?

Really, there’s only three items you need to pick up:

Solo #3: The Paul Pope issue. If you didn’t pick up “100%” when its five issues were released by Vertigo the other year, I really must urge you to get in line for the upcoming trade collection. It’s an excellent series of romantic story-pieces running through a lavishly detailed, gorgeously drawn future world. I’m confident that Pope’s dedication to quality will permeate this upcoming comic, a collection of stories ranging from superhero stuff (Batman and OMAC) to classic myth to slice-of-life. As usual with this book, it’s not quite ’solo’ work; Pope does handle all of the writing and art, which is closer to ‘solo’ than the prior two installments of this series, but he’s aided by a gaggle of awesome colorists, Jose Villarrubia (one of my favorites) among them. I’m just picking nits though; I’m sure the work will be fine, regardless of titular accuracy, and I’d strongly recommend you don’t let this book slip away among this week’s other worthy offerings (hey, it might even make a nice sampler for that “100%” trade).

The Comics Journal #266: The cover interview is little-known neophyte writer Brian Michael Bendis. Here’s some deleted portions of the interview, quite a lot of stuff. I suspect that the proper chat will be quite a monster. But beyond that, it’s the Journal’s 2004 Year-In-Review gala, now with honored books split up into Helpful Categories! Wow, now I won’t be confused! All of your favorite bloggers and ex-bloggers will be there too, like Dirk Deppey, Sean T. Collins, Bill Sherman, Chris Butcher, Tim O’Neil, Tom Spurgeon, and Ian Brill (yay!). Plus, a big color section spotlighting Garrett Price’s gorgeous, underappreciated “White Boy” newspaper strip. Another fine issue, I suspect. But where’s Steven Grant?!

Seven Soldiers #0: Being the anticipated, inevitable team-up of Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III, along with the kick-off of Morrison’s ultra-ambitious 30-issue story cycle, essentially a cross-over event where none of the characters really interact and all of the books are written by Morrison, and nothing invades any pre-established books, which really sets it very much apart from the traditional notion of a ‘crossover’ in Big Two superhero comics, which presumes an interruption in action for ongoing titles for the purposes of inflated sales through story tie-ins (tenuous or not) and assorted continuity acrobatics as a bunch of characters vie for the World-Changing spotlight outside of their own titles (and spin-offs and related ‘family’ titles). Oh, and rather than a lumbering mega-story, this project is intended in be enjoyed as individual parts as well as a whole; for example, this issue purports to tell a complete story that will also serve as the prologue to an epic. It’s a strongly modified sort of crossover, possibly modified to the point where it’s no longer a crossover, but something else (DC uses the wonderful-in-spite-of-itself term of ‘storytelling venture’ in its solicitation text; and check out the preview on the same page). Morrison is on a hot streak still; lets see how well he does in redefining the crossover presentation for easy access.

There’s other books too, all miniseries in various states of progress.

BPRD: The Dead #4 (of 5): Ambles along. Maybe I’ll get excited?

Black Widow #6 (of 6): Ends. It was pretty good, but we’ll have to see this issue.

Ultimate Nightmare #5 (of 5): Also ends, and I’ll be floored if it offers anything more than an extended lead-in to the next miniseries; if I hadn’t have gotten the first three issues at a discount I’d have not touched this, but at least now I can say from experience that it’s not particularly worth touching.

Grimjack: Killer Instinct #2 (of 6): Bought issue #1 on a whim, mostly liked it.

And that’s that.


See You, Hunter.

*Yeah. I'm at a loss for words otherwise.

*World of Delight: I finally got around to reading the first two issues of “Concrete: The Human Dilemma”, and I liked them quite a bit. I’d always been sort of confused by the many “Concrete” stories and specials and the like, so I started searching around Dark Horse’s site to acclimate myself (the best part about Dark Horse is that they’ve got a database up of pretty much everything they’ve published, going back to “Boris the Bear” #1 in 1986. So I’m poking around, and I notice that they’ve got the solicitations up for the rest of the “Human Dilemma” series. I decide I’d like to see the covers. So I start with issue #6. Bad bad bad bad baaaaad move. Not only is the cover image itself a pretty big spoiler, but the solicitation text blows no less than three upcoming plot twists. I mean, crap; is this the text they used in Previews to sell this thing? I guess it’s sort of my fault for clicking on a link promising info for an upcoming issue, but boy it must have hurt for anyone perusing the big old catalog looking to make sure everything’s coming out on time…


Scurvy Dogs: Rags to Riches

This book is being released on Wednesday of this week. It’s $12.95. It’s a very good deal considering the amount of stuff you’re getting, and I think that established fans of this series (and I know there are quite a few) will want to spend the money to upgrade. There’s been a real effort made to provide extra value to this compilation, beyond merely re-presenting previously published material. And as for new readers, well, suffice to say that if you enjoy gently surreal, heavily pop-culture laden humor, and can tolerate a certain amount of visual roughness, you’ll have a good time.

Scurvy Dogs”, in case you missed the reviews the first time around, was a five-issue series from AIT/Planet Lar, although the first issue was initially self-published by the creators, co-writer Andrew Boyd and artist/letterer/co-writer Ryan Yount, under the auspices of their own company, Admiral Southpaw. The series focuses on the adventures of a quintet of mighty pirates who find themselves constantly caught up in silly adventures, often involving monkeys, hobos, small jobs, and the Allure of Fame. Sometimes there’s two stories in an issue. Sometimes the story spans several issues. Sometimes we get less a story than a grouping of skits dealing with the lives of the cast. But always the point is nothing more than getting some laughs, and laughs are always the trickiest things to predict. Lord knows my own sense of humor isn’t exactly universal.

That admission aside, I’d personally say that the book grows steadily less funny as it moves along, but not due to any sudden loss of skill on the part of the creative team. Rather, the book becomes more and more devoted to (or enmeshed in) pop-culture humor, largely pop-culture of years gone by. You know, “Lancelot Link”, “Battle of the Network Stars”, Menudo, “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”, etc. The problem is, I don’t particularly like pop-culture focused humor, at least not the brand that presumes that knee-slapping laffs will result by mixing the miscellany of one‘s childhood entertainment with certain dissonant elements (like pirates). So, myself and the book couldn’t help but arrive at an impasse; by issue #5, I was barely cracking a smile, as the whole story revolved around the cast getting mixed into television and advertisement parodies from assorted eras, with various B-level characters and celebrities from across the spectrum of American junk culture popping in because, well, presumably the teaming of Rod Stewart and Dr. Theopolis is just inherently hilarious to some readers. Nothing wrong with that. You might be laughing right now at the mere suggestion; you should check out this book. There were parts that made me chuckle: the old four-leaf clover in the blender gag really does work every time. Oh, and slaying lepers! That’s pretty funny. There’s some good lines too: “I will resist your rocking, like Odysseus resisted the Sirens!” But even a funny line like this is immediately followed by two solid pages of parodies of various and sundry 80’s rock bands, which doesn’t do the trick for me (although there were some decent shitty puns... I always love those).

Mr. Yount’s art gets the point across more often than not. Early scenes suffer a bit from uncertain perspectives, as is noted in the bonus materials (ah, more on those soon). There’s usually very little in the way of backgrounds, just pure white or black. Character art is the focus here, and it’s nice to watch Yount’s figures change slightly over the course of the book, becoming looser and lighter; our pirate crew seems far less solid at the end of the book, and maybe a bit more expressive. This extends to scenery and objects in the book’s world too, however; architecture in particular seems far less defined in later issues than it does earlier on, with exteriors of buildings looking hastily drawn in (although it must be said that the scenery onboard the various pirate ships is always well-rendered). But those character designs are good ones… Blackbeard looks pretty funny just standing around, with his gigantic hat and his beard tied into mighty braids. It’s enough for the purposes of the book, so long as one’s sense of humor won’t be confounded by a lack of masterful draftsmanship (and I doubt anyone‘s will be).

As mixed as my feelings are on the series itself, there’s little doubt that this book’s presentation will appeal to folks who’ve responded better to the content than I. First and foremost, we get full commentary by both creators on every issue, 14 pages worth, all in teeny tiny type. There’s a little too much explaining of simple jokes for my taste, but a lot of background info is offered, including bits on character inspirations, analysis of some of the more obscure references, talk of cut material (including script excerpts!), perceptive pieces of self-criticism, and general horsing around. Also included is a four-page crossover short with Vampirella (also with commentary). There’s ten pages of pin-ups by assorted artists (always good to see Ian Gibson), early character art and sketchbook excerpts, photos from conventions and at home, and an introduction by Adam Beechen, writer of AIT/Planet Lar’s “Hench” and animated cartoons like “Teen Titans” and “The Batman”.

It’s a very nice package. For less than thirteen bucks full retail you get a lot of extra stuff, and it’s largely informative extra stuff that’ll probably enhance your reading experience. It’s a really great deal, even for folks who’ve already bought every issue, and if you think the book will be to your liking it‘s worth taking a chance on this upcoming new comics day.



*The hooks are in again: every time I pick up a bunch of cheap comics, I wind up starting some series that I'll need to finish at higher prices. This time, it was P. Craig Russell's "Elric: Stormbringer" mini, which was released as a co-production of Dark Horse and Topps Comics. I really only wanted to pick up the special issue #0, which is actually a comics adaptation of Neil Gaiman's "One Life Furnished in Early Moorcock", one of Gaiman's better prose stories, a piece on how the Elric stories touched the life of a young boy not entirely unlike Gaiman himself; I'd heard that this comics version existed, but I hadn't been able to find a copy until now. And since it was only a dollar, I also picked up issue #1 of the proper series, a straight adaptation of Moorcock's climactic Elric story. Now I want to find issues #2-7, since the trade seems to be long out-of-print...

*Also found a copy of the 1991 Canadian benefit book "True North II", which has a whole buch of creators teaming up to raise money for the Comic Legends Legal Defense Fund. The two most fascinating pieces? Dave Sim and Gerhard provide the cover, depicting Cerebus boldly slaying a vile monster representing Censorship, its scales emblazoned with terms like 'Cops', 'Overly-Protective Parents', (*gasp*) 'Religion', and (naturally) 'Knee Jerk Feminists'. But it's a fold-out cover. Once you fold it out, you glimpse the fair maid Cerebus has fought to rescue: an overweight, unattractive woman, covered with tattoos like 'Aircel' and 'Faust', the joke being that for all the high-minded rhetoric surrounding the fight against censorship (and there's no doubt that Sim and Gerhard are totally devoted to that fight), the books that are actually protected tend to be... less than exemplary works of comics art. But that's the trade-off; that's the battle. It's a telling infusion of knowing doubt into the proceedings, though, interesting to see. The other telling bit derives its impact from history: it's a 'Potato-Man' pin-up by Todd McFarlane, having not yet begun "Spawn", brutally lambasting Marvel Comics for their cross-overs and variant covers and spin-offs. The very next year, there would be a new company out as a result of McFarlane and others' concerns...

*Today is going to be way too much. It's gonna start snowing soon, around the exact time I have to go out for some meetings, which are going to last well into the evening, then when I get home I really have to finish up this project for These People. And then next week is going to be the most hectic thing in a good long while. At least I got sick last week. I'm not seeing all that much delay in blogging though, I've managed to factor that much in, thanks to an unusual blast of foresight on my part. So stay tuned, good stuff coming up, etc etc etc...


I'm punting this one.

*Nothing much today. "Entertainment Weekly" reviewed a few comics, in teeny-tiny 100 word spaces, including volume 1 of "Apocalypse Meow" which came out months and months ago (it got an 'A-'). "The Couriers 03" gets a 'B+'. And as for stuff I haven't read myself, an 'A-' for the currently running Vertigo series "Trigger" and a 'B' for the IDW release "Sword of Dracula". Oh, and the "Constantine" movie got a 'C+', slightly better than the 'C' of "Son of the Mask". Of course, both of these movies got larger reviews (at least twice the size) of anything handed the comics.

*Has the whole Internet seen this? Yeah, I bet. Well, I just got escorted to this page and I demand you download video clip #3, which is a masterwork of comedy. The awkward beats, the totally abrupt shifts in conversation, the kid sitting in the very center getting more and more explicitly bored as the clip moves on, the look on the face of the little girl in the hat as the robot launches into a story about a hawk in the forest... it's my favorite thing of the week. Smooth robot moves too (I love when he folds his arms and contemplates).


This is TEXTure.

*All-new column, hot and fresh, on a timely topic! It's like a tasty hamburger, only for reading. Enjoy it.

Promethea #32


A series hasn't ended with this much of a whimper since Cerebus.”

- Found in the first post of this Millarworld thread, spotted by Alan, just as I began to wrap this review. It’s a sign!

The proper plotline ended last issue. The story is all over. This issue is a rousing arts and crafts project coupled with a fun and simple dexterity test melded to a newspaper funnies-style farewell strip mixed into an annotations guide crossed with a game of ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’ where the Crown of the Tarot replaces the star of “The Woodsman”. There’s a little plot info, I guess. Lizzybeth has already highlighted one of the more interesting twists in the tale: the apocalyptic hype to what ultimately turns out to be a simple change in seeing and hearing and feeling the world. But the senses are all we have to experience the world with; there could be no identification of what existence is without them, even on the most basic level. Changing how we sense the world thus ends the world (as it is), and replaces it with a new one, even without the untold millions catapulted into the Lake of Fire to suffer their melting and writhing flesh for hundreds of billions of eons as an infinitesimal fraction of their agony. That’s covered here in a shade more detail.

But this one is for the fans, so they can watch that crazy team make those crazy comics just one more time. Actually, I guess a total neophyte could pick this one up. It works surprisingly well as a simple and creative primer on Alan Moore’s theories of magic, and although the book is addressed to longtime fans, I bet this might serve as an attractive preview to the book‘s more esoteric subject matter, although these theoretical new fans will be missing out on some nice superhero fun too, something that shouldn‘t be devalued when discussing “Promethea”. It had some really excellent action, and the layers upon layers of magic discourse often served as amusing and intuitive fantasy action world-building as much as educational tract. This aspect of the book’s appeal has vanished from this final segment, and it will be a shame when the fine action storytelling is overshadowed fully in a few years to better facilitate discussion of Moore’s spiritual wander. Yes, I said ‘when’, not ‘if’.

But we have the book that we have.


I was on a message board about a year ago, discussing the latest “Promethea” (probably #28 or something at the rate it was going) and somebody asked what the comic was ‘about’. Somebody gave him a fairly complete, compact answer, that it’s more-or-less a superhero comic, at least at first, but then it transforms into an exploration of the writer’s beliefs regarding philosophy and spirituality, with his theories and experiences taking full control of the plot, and becoming a vital, defining background for the story’s resolution. The questioning poster, a new fan of US comics, remarked that it sounded like the anime “Neon Genesis Evangelion”. Insufferable wag that I am, I replied that Eva starts out like “Promethea”, but transforms into “Cerebus: The Latter Days” by the end.

It was a pretty dumb joke.

For those who’re not familiar, the infamous final two episodes of the original Eva television show consisted of little more than a series of still frames of animation art, live action photographs, intertitles, and very brief flashes of animation, all to simulate the perceptions of the program’s lead character as he experiences Something, just to be vague enough to avoid spoilers. Reactions to this finale tend to be, ah, mixed (two theatrical films were later released, providing a still wildly ambitious if more traditionally executed alternate conclusion). And “Cerebus”, of course, spend a good 100+ pages near the end of “The Latter Days” (the overall project’s second-to-last volume) presenting, in text format with the occasional pretty picture, a very lengthy conversation between the title character and an associate as they dive into the deep seas of line-by-line biblical interpretation. This led to much puzzlement during the book’s original serialization, at least among those still following it.

The analogy didn’t even fit well. But it started me thinking. Forget that anime.

“Promethea” and “Cerebus”. There’s a pair.

In one way, the final issue of “Promethea”, out just yesterday, is extraordinarily similar to a certain piece of “Cerebus”, a different story: the opening sequence from the final book, “The Last Day”. In that little ditty, writer/artist Dave Sim (working largely without collaborator Gerhard for the first stretch of the series in over a decade and a half) presented a Revelation to his title character, parsed out in the format of a religious text. Accompanying the words, in panels, are what initially appears to be a series of abstract images, though it gradually becomes clear that we’re seeing scientific phenomena: the Big Bang, the birth of stars, the creation of Earth, the growth of a human in the womb, etc. And it becomes doubly clear that the text is commenting upon what we’re seeing, creating a word (religion) image (science) connection in the reader’s mind, through the unique attributes of comics art. The close-reading Torah exploits I’ve described above weren’t the world’s finest use of the comics page, adding up to little more than a chat show transcript spiced up with lavish spot illustrations. This one was quite adept at utilizing the best of the form, though, translating science into religious terms, and embedding religious significance into scientific events, largely through word/picture analogy. Oh, and Cerebus himself (who cycles through his various character and costume designs from throughout the book’s history as the piece moves forward, thus tying the growth of the character to the rest of the content) pops up every so often, looking on and commenting. These scenes are accompanied at the bottom of each page by extensive prose footnotes by Sim himself, elaborating upon the many personal observations and religious and scientific texts he’s studied to arrive at this master explanation for the workings of the universe and the spirit, a vast web of connections and relations that link the teachings of various scriptures to the very workings of the universe itself. A Unified Theory of Every Goddamned Thing and All This Stuff He Didn’t Damn Too.

Now. Let’s look at this new Alan Moore/J.H. Williams III/Todd Klein release (don’t you dare forget the excellent Mr. Klein, the series’ regular letterer, who‘s co-credited with Williams for ‘design’ this time too). There’s a set of instructions on the inside front cover, cheerily informing you that some of the pages are going to be upside-down. This is because you can choose to read the book in two forms: poster or pamphlet. For poster form, you have to take the book apart and reassemble it as a single sheet. A double-sided poster is formed, revealing a hidden image of the title character. Hey, guess which other comic tried this trick before!



Having learned my lesson after mutilating the fold-out cover on an issue of “Shadowhawk” I had when I was a kid, I opted for 'pamphlet' form here. What you do is very simple. You read the page (there’s no panels, only full-page images). Then you turn to the next page, and read that. In the likely event that you reach an upside-down page, you turn it around so you can read it, then you turn back around to the way you found it, and you proceed. And yeah, once or twice I momentarily forgot which way I was holding the book, but I just glanced at the cover to re-orient myself.

Like in “The Last Day”, we have a mass of swirling, psychedelic art (in color here), that will eventually add up to represent a larger image, albeit only if you take the comic apart in this case. We have a narration on the state of Being, the Crown and the Universe. We have informational notes. We have the book’s title character hanging around too. And we have some really nice utilization of the potential of the comics form. But there are differences, both in execution and in content.

Here, instead of Sim’s omniscient (nyuk nyuk) narration, with Cerebus offering the occasional comment, we have Promethea on every page, directly addressing the reader, delivering the main address personally. Instead of verbose footnotes at the bottom of the page we get little fact bubbles floating around, sometimes with a picture of some notable personality off to the side. You can go through the book reading only Promethea’s dialogue, but the fact bubbles always comment on what she’s saying on any given page. There’s also a little informational box on each page, letting you know in which order the pages go if you’re going to make the poster. And the numbers also represent a path of the Tarot, and complimentary colors, scents, plants, etc.

There’s 32 paths. There’s 32 issues of “Promethea” There’s 32 pages in the average superhero comic (counting ads, but there’s no ads here). That’s fitting, because superheroes are part of a tradition: humankind inventing superior figures of varying levels of excellence (like gods) to emulate, to make humanity itself better. This power of invention, imagination, is where everything humans have ever accomplished has originated. Such illumination is regularly seen through myth and religion symbolized by the Moon. But imagination must be made utilizable, even comprehensible, or nothing will ever be created, not gods nor comics; we need words, language. Language is associated with gods like Hermes and Thoth, themselves associated with the snake. The snake is also seen connected to early shamanism, practicing with hallucinogenic mushrooms, which sends one traveling through the imagination. The joining of the snake and the moon, which are respectively male and female fertility symbols, joins the immaterial and the word. From their sexual joining was birthed the human consciousness, and with it all human development, all human creation, the solidification of unremembered dreams into remembered dreams into recurring ideas into plans into creations. The Universe. Which is the 32nd path of the Tarot. Which is being explained in the 32nd issue of “Promethea”, the title character of which is based on lunar and serpentine symbols, the joining of which forms the basis of humankind. She’s the one, you'll recall, that blows humanity’s consciousness into the next level in the last issue, which was really last issue. Hey! Moore didn’t forget the superhero bits after all!

Wasn’t that fun? I love that stuff. What I just said is vastly simplified, probably to the point of absurdity or obfuscation, but that’s the general tenor of this issue, a rocket-powered jaunt through language, science, myth, art, snapping up recurring symbols and themes and sewing them all together into a map (or poster?) of the Universe. Moore does this a lot better than I can; he even pulls out the debut of Winsor McCay’s “Gertie the Dinosaur” and connects it to the psychedelic experience of early humanity. I love it.

Here’s a decent starting point in a recent thread at the Pop Culture Bored. Abhay enjoyed the visual breakdown of this issue; he perceptively noted that this sort of layout breaks the flow of traditional comics reading, especially when you encounter two upside-down pages at once, essentially forcing you to read from right-to-left, utterly distorting the time-flow of the comic, which also has no panels. That’s ok, the comic also touches upon the nature of Spacetime as a four-dimensional solid, retaining every moment forever. Which is what comics do on a more selective basis in terms of moments. Perhaps this sort of comics structure is thus a different means of exploring this miniature Spacetime Digest, especially when you fold it out into a poster and read it from all different directions. Contrast this with Sim’s relations between Science and Scripture, played beautifully in comics terms but proceeding forward in traditional comics ‘time’ from left to right.

Abhay was a bit underwhelmed with the book as a whole. And his concerns are good ones. Isn’t it all just a lecture on Alan Moore’s religious beliefs, presented in a particularly clever way? And isn’t it odd that one of the Big Two is even publishing such a thing? I’d say that first of all, I think it’s really entertaining. Then again, I liked that issue of “Cerebus” too. I enjoy seeing writers delve into human history and dig up analogous moments across culture and time and match things up with the development of language. It’s great. It’s never perfect; I recall a “Comics Journal” review (Tom Crippen’s, issue #252) taking “Promethea” to task for basing an inordinately huge chunk of its mystical content on Western human development, which seems a wee bit disingenuous when cooking up a story about humanity as a whole. And besides, all Moore is really doing is uncovering a series of synchronicities and correspondences, which can be done at varying levels of skill by pretty much anyone with a broad grasp of history and pertinent subject matters therein; it’s just that Moore is amazingly good at it. Crippen dubbed the book’s mystical content “pointless brilliance”, and noted that while such things can be exhilarating for 24 pages, it’s punishing at 200 (his review focused on the third collected volume, the most thickly entrenched in Moore‘s magical meanders). Fortunately, this issue is only 32 pages. As Abhay himself says, the religious beliefs here are a thousand times more interesting than average. They’re beautifully conveyed too.

And yet, I think one thing that’s been missed a little is that the universal schema of “Promethea” acknowledges the very act of its own creation. The beauty and progress of human existence is the union of the word and the imagination. Creation. And Moore is creating his own connections, forging his own synchronicities, as he sees them. The universe’s plan, as he sees it, even accounts for the drafting of its own blueprint, after the fact. Moore seems to understand that he’s telling a story here, probably not the only story, because much of the story is storytelling itself. The snap-burst of human consciousness is tied to the act of reading comics. Through the Moon and the Serpent “we parthenogenetically conceive and birth the shining, redeeming child of our own sacred Will,” as this issue’s final (pamphlet form) fact bubble reads. It’s up to us then? Inside us? Telling our own stories?

Not much of a plan for mankind. But then, this isn’t the type of thing to command us how to act. It’s not a decree, it’s a blueprint. The Sim story, interesting as it is, more or less lays down the law, telling us what's going down with God, and pulling in a ton of connections to prove it. This book is a guide, but we make our tour up as we go along, and that sort of presumes that we can be our own guide, thank you very much. But making our own guide is creation itself, which is fine. And at the end of this guide, we’re thanked for reading. Which is nice of Mr. Moore. Although his complete "Promethea" has provided us with more than just a guide to the cosmos. It's provided us with a Story. A good one.

I’ve enjoyed our dance. You were the perfect partner, and I’m going to miss you. But Spacetime is eternal, with everything in it. And you and me are always here, always now. You and me are forever.”


Well, Alan Moore used to write this one...

*I feel a lot better. It was a shit of a day anyhow, but at least my health is flowing back. There's been sickness all over the land this week.

*This “Promethea” #32 review I was writing for today is turning into a monster. I’ll have to finish it up for tomorrow morning. STAY TUNED!

Tom Strong #31

Meh. After the fine Ed Brubaker/Duncan Fegredo arc we had for the last two issues, this one feels a bit weak. Michael Moorcock takes the writer’s seat, and spins a dimension-hopping yarn as Tom and the gang pose as pirates on the high seas, chasing after a foul villain, although they wind up sailing through the portals of time and space. Seeing pirate ships cruising through psychedelic skies with their fancily costumed crews gaping through their eye patches as lizard people glance upward from the ground and tree gnomes hop about… that’s pretty amusing. The story is especially jumpy, as if Mr. Moorcock had somehow overestimated his available pages by four and had to make some judicious edits. We sometimes feel like we’re hopping from event to event with very little connecting material, especially in the final third of the book (the story is divided into three chapters).

Actually, my favorite part came right at the beginning, before any pirates show up at all. Solomon, bold ape that he is, strides into a proper English pub to escape the rain, and proceeds to strike up a conversation with a fellow Englishman, Sir Seaton Begg, a recurring character from various Moorcock prose and comics stories. The two sit down and shoot the breeze, and the reader’s ‘eye’ drifts around a bit to examine other Millennium citizens drinking and socializing. But artist Jerry Ordway milks the absolute maximum amount of fun out of the fact that Solomon is, well, a gorilla with glasses wearing a suit, still prone to bearing his teeth when angry, much to the fright of nearby patrons. All matched up to Solomon’s ‘bally well, wot?’ type dialogue, a bit thicker here than usual.

The book’s all in good fun, but that sort of thing is better fun. The pirate stuff, well, once you’ve see the requisite tavern brawl and enjoyed Tom’s fluffy powdered wig (along with the fact that nobody seems to mind that he’s got an ape and a robot aboard his ship - pirates are jaded souls), that's about it.

So… yeah. It’s passable.


It sounds like the inside of a seashell.

Astonishing X-Men #8

Ok, now The Truth is skating on thin ice.

You know The Truth. Those ads? The ones with the eyes sewn shut, then the lips (or maybe the other way around)? Well now they’ve really done it: they’ve hit the ears. We’ve got a big colorful two-page spread of some guy with his ear folded over and sewn shut. And you know what? It just isn’t doing it for me anymore. For one thing, I know what’s coming next.

The nose.

And goddamn it, the nose is a danger zone of comedy, a veritable minefield of potential laffs. I find huge close-ups of noses humorous enough already for some reason, but nostrils sewn shut? I'm laughing right here as I type this. Now I’m imagining someone stapling their nose shut; that’s hilarious! Just the image of someone putting their nose in the stapler; that’s vintage, if not immortal comedy. And it’s the only place left to go.

The big problem is that The Truth blew their proverbial load right at the start with the eye and lip business. Injuries to the eye are a classic squirm generator, burnt into the human psyche, and part of any learned comics fan’s extended stock of classic images. And the lips, well, at least sealing the lips has an instant psychological effect. It’s the same as images of a gag over the mouth; an immediate response is triggered as based on simple metaphoric understandings. But the ear… the ear is clunky. You have to fold the whole thing over to one side, and the reader doesn’t even recognize what the image represents for a few seconds; much longer than the instantaneous recognition of the prior two motifs.

And then the nose. Jesus.

Wait, I do recall one nose-related incident that got to me. It was this public-service commercial, with this guy talking. He’d been badly injured, and he was wearing a prosthetic nose, but a very convincingly realistic one, so it initially looked like he didn’t suffer any big injuries. But at the end of the commercial, he casually reached up and removed his nose, right off his face. Now that really hit me. Of course that brings up another problem inherent to this style of public education/service/scare advertising: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE COMMERCIAL WAS ABOUT. I just don’t remember. All I remember was that guy taking his nose off. It must have been some nose-sensitive malady or danger. Cancer awareness? Fire prevention? Smoking at the gas pump? Americans United Against Mean Dogs?

Exactly the same problem here. I mean, I suppose the whole point of the ad is to get you so interested/disgusted/confused that you log on to The Truth’s website and find out that they’re an anti-smoking group. They seem to have TV ads too. I’d have to imagine that they’re setting up a metaphor in regards to people shutting themselves off from The Truth About Smoking as well. You know, gradually cutting off the senses. Oh! But what about touch?! They gonna sew someone’s fingers to their palms? You can still touch things with the rest of your hands, or other parts of your body! Ho ho, painted into a corner aren’t we now, The Truth? Maybe they’ll use that last sense to just break the flow and have a double-page black space with the center bearing the words 'We give up. Now you give up - SMOKING, THAT IS!!!' That would be at least as funny as sealing somebody’s nose shut, although it would be even better if they’d just stop right now.

Anyway, the X-Men fight things this issue. It’s pretty good. Joss Whedon sets up a new mystery along the way, and uses it to string us through the fights, right to the end. He’s seemingly purged himself of the need to nervously drop wooden self-referential one-liners every time he recycles some vintage X-Technique, so that’s a point more in his favor with me. John Cassaday and Laura Martin (can’t forget the colors here) make it all look fine. I loved the all-red display of Cyclops’ full power. There’s some cool little horror images. A pair of supporting cast members pop up to remind us that the main plot is still proceeding. And seeing a giant Sentinel rising, as if from the belly of the Earth itself, and calmly saying “I hear you, lord” is just delightful. I’m not sure I’d go so far as the good fellow on the letters page who beams “This is the comic-book medium elevated to a higher art… This is truly one of the most important serials of any media,” but it’s good superhero fighting stuff.

Ocean #4 (of 6)


Background time. A little more of Inspector Kane’s past. A pinch of the Doors Corporation’s purpose out in space. A dollop of revelation about the thingies under the sea, and a double scoop in regards to their devices. In contrast, a look at how weapons technology is progressing back on Earth And the secret motivations of the sinister Station Manager of Doors’ outpost.

With all this gap-filling, it feels like the plot itself isn’t moving forward very much, but all of the info suggests a pretty clear theme developing. Kane is a weapons inspector. His job is centered around removing weapons from undesirables. He claims that he hates guns. He still has to use them; he’s up on all the latest gun technology, actually. All the better to identify that which he loathes. Humankind (or at least the most powerful, moneyed factions thereof) is constantly in a race to develop newer and better weapons. New guns. ‘Safe’ guns, which means they kill more efficiently, more swiftly. Some people give up quite a lot of themselves in service to such interests, and even their rebellions benefit their masters in the end.

And what’s under the sea. Well, they’ve got 163 words in their language for ‘murder’. They seem to be buried, but they’ve brought their own weapons. Huge weapons, that could blast an arrogant little babe of a civilization such as that of humanity’s straight to dust. Live weapons of dead aggressors, seized by the unfit latecomers. But maybe the point will be that nobody is truly fit. Two more issues left to develop.


Batch of Links.

*Four Color Meat and Fish recently ran a "Fables" contest where entrants would deliver a pitch for a comics adaptation of a Disney animated film as translated to Vertigo. I came in second place, but the first place winner, Mr. Ryan Murray, decided to kindly donate his prize (the first "Fables" trade) to me since he already owns it, and then the fine folks at the site tossed in volume 2 as well, because they're awesome. I've never read "Fables". So now I will. And I'll discuss it too. Just like my with my big "Scott Pilgrim"/"Lost at Sea" bonanza which is coming up very soon now. And thanks so so much to everyone and FCMF!

*Here's some more "Vimanarama" stuff, for those craving background. First up, Rose gets into some great discussion on the dress of some of the characters and the ever-shifting character dynamics. Very nice stuff.

Also, Silver Bullet released a gigantic batch of reviews for the book over the weekend; I particularly enjoyed Olivia Woodward's piece at the very bottom, which explores some of the symbols and spiritual overtones present in the work. Lots of fine reading there.

*Too much stuff hurting right now. More tomorrow.


Boy, That Wolverine Sure Makes Me Think.

*I'm still sick and it's raining and there's more work to do in a half hour and then even more late into the night and this post is really tardy and Happy Valentine's Day yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.


Empire (early Chaykin, and a strange encyclopedia of just recently modern comics concerns, preaching the future from 1978)

Doc Frankenstein #2, The Punisher MAX #17

Vimanarama #1 (of 3), Wild Girl #4 (of 6)

Swamp Thing #140-143 (early Millar, with a little dab of Morrison)

St. Swithin’s Day (earlyish Morrison, with a cameo by Millar in the ads in the back; a very interesting departure from the usual.. but maybe not)

Cough cough cough cough cough.


Promethea #32 (of 32): Ok, so that’s it. Although, really, it said ‘The End’ last issue. “The Invisibles” did that in its penultimate issue as well, didn‘t it? There’s no telling what this issue will bring (aside from a sloppily-pasted poster with jagged edges if you’ve got my arts-’n-crafts skillz and not enough cash to spring for the limited $50 pre-assembled edition). I’m guessing a poetic summary of the themes of what has gone before, with an added affirmation of the reader’s fine taste and a bidding to go out and do good works. No twists or final mind-blowing revelations, certainly; I think you’re setting yourself up for disappointment by expecting otherwise. But we’ll see, we’ll see.

Tom Strong #31: Beginning the two-part Michael Moorcock and Jerry Ordway arc, and then I believe Peter Hogan’s coming back to wrap up some of his own plot threads from his earlier run. Or maybe that was just a rumor, like the rumors of Moore and Sprouse returning to put the book to sleep. Well, the last arc (the Ed Brubaker one) was pretty solid stuff, so it’s not like it’s impossible for this title to be entertaining without Alan Moore; although, the Brubaker plot did focus a lot of its energy on Moore’s contribution to comics anyhow.

Apocalypse Nerd #1 (of 6): From Dark Horse, the latest Peter Bagge epic. His last miniseries, “Sweatshop”, needed a good three or four issues to start clicking; unfortunately, it croaked at issue #6. Still, there mere sight of a wacky industry insider workplace comedy was quite a sight in DC’s lineup. This one’s a bit more high-concept: following a world-crippling cataclysm, a sensitive young hero mostly mopes around and gnashes his teeth at his sorry lot, while all of the worst annoyances inherent to mankind become amplified. A comedy. Very chatty preview here. It might turn out well; Bagge is funnier when he’s vicious, and there’s a lot of potential for venom in this one.

Ocean #4 (of 6): Some fun ideas in this series. I’ll be counting on more as we move deeper into the mystery of the core plot, although the world-building bits have been fun too. A pretty satisfactory book.

Robocop: Wild Child #1 (of 1): Oh Avatar, you crazy scamps! Three bucks for a 16-page comic? That’s what you did with the last Robocop one-shot too, right? You’re just setting up hurdles for yourselves to jump now. At least IDW has joined in on the ‘$4 for 32 color pages’ pricing scheme, but I don’t think a lot of consumers are quite ready to cut the size in half while only decreasing the price by about a fourth. I know, the only comic that’s too expensive is one that sucks, yeah, and I like Steven Grant and all, but I think a whole lot of on-the-fence browsers are going to find themselves mysteriously predisposed toward a ‘suck’ analysis in the store with this price matched with this length. Still waiting on those last two issues of the core “Frank Miller’s Robocop” book, btw.

Garth Ennis’ 303 #3 (of 6): But this is gonna be worth the four bucks, to me at least. Ennis is sort of in “Punisher MAX” mode, and sort of in “War Stories” mode, and leaning a bit farther toward the latter than in the military-themed bits of the proper “Punisher MAX”. Jacen Burrows and Nimbus will make it look nice. I’m looking forward to it.

Astonishing X-Men #8: Here you are, decently entertaining core X-Book! I’ve been looking all over! Let’s hear those old tunes! Hi-Fidelity!

Wolverine #25: Death is not nothing in the Marvel Universe; that would be over-limiting out grounds for argument. No, death is symbolism. Death in ongoing serialized fiction always carries some voice from beyond the boundaries of the fiction-reality, of course, and a different tenor from deaths in other fictions, close-ended works. But death, being death, usually carries a more pressing immediate concern in the operation of the fiction itself: the absence of the decedent from the ongoing plot. This primary attention is stripped away in Big Two superhero comics. Dead most certainly does not mean dead, it means ‘leave of absence’ or ‘vacation’ or ‘bon voyage until we need to act upon our copyrights’ or ‘we don’t recall who you are but we know how to make you Shocking’, but not ‘dead’. With the finality of death stripped away, the act of killing an established character reverts to symbolism as its primary projection; when it’s impossible to acknowledge death as death as applied to fiction, we acknowledge death as an indication of weather currents upon the fiction, of a certain make-up of rain clouds and pressures and temperatures. Popularity. In lieu of that, visibility or notoriety. Inter-title consistency (even in its current devalued state). Attitude among creative teams. Presumed effect on the readership, bearing in mind the absence of death’s primary purpose, factoring in the metaphor present in the killing, now the primary focus itself. These are the storm conditions of Mighty Marvel Murder, but the storm reads us as we read it. What does a character mean in death? What do we think it means when the character is ‘killed’? What does the writer think it means in terms of effect on us when the character is ‘killed’? These questions form the basis of our attentions when a superhero is killed, and provides the excuse for the very presence of said attention at the same time. Because without these questions, well…

Who fucking cares?

We know the bastard’s coming back.


Old Stuff From Today’s Stars Part 3 (of 3): MORRISON!

*Hey, crew! Blo.gs has been shot for about 14 hours now, so thanks for stopping by from sources outside of the Comics Weblog Update Carousel Party. I actually did a second update yesterday, the shock of which doubtlessly contributed to Chipper falling down and being carted off to the Internet Municipal Medical Center, so just keep scrolling below this entry for more thrills and adventure. EDIT 7:00 PM: Ok, dear ol' Chip is back in action!

St. Swithin’s Day


Now here’s something fairly unique. A Grant Morrison story with no superheroes, no science-fiction, no magical realism, no giddy spritzy violence, nothing fantastical save for the wholly interior conjurings of the human imagination. Delightful pop enchantment? What we have here is sad, deranged 19-year old lad walking the streets of England (or is it India… no no, England), preparing to assassinate Margaret Thatcher. No particular political motive, although he doesn’t seem like much of a Conservative booster; rather, he’s eager to become something, to become briefly noted throughout pop culture, to shine and burn out. According to legend, St. Swithin was originally buried amongst the paupers; when they dug him up and moved his body into a proper shrine, it rained for forty days, the tears of St. Swithin, torn apart from the people and cruelly put on a pedestal. Our young protagonist knows the story, but he hates the rain. Everything bad happens in the rain. He will not be buried anonymously with the common slag. He will have his media cathedral of assassination.

Unless, of course, he won’t.

The story was originally serialized in six-page bits in 1989-1990 across four issues of the UK-based Trident Comics’ aptly named anthology book, “Trident”. Lasting only eight issues, “Trident” seemed like a pretty interesting comic, featuring original tales of Eddie Campbell’s “Bacchus”, some work by Neil Gaiman, and a very early piece by Mark Millar; indeed, Millar’s first ever comics work, the five-issue “Saviour” (a thematic ancestor of the more recent “Chosen”), was published by Trident, along with Millar’s “Shadowmen”, and it was there where Millar would meet Morrison, leading to many teamings in the future, both at “2000 A.D.” and off with the Big Two. “St. Swithin’s Day” was soon thereafter collected into a colored collected edition by Trident, and much later was reprinted in largely the same format by Oni, so there’s two versions to choose from. It’s the act of serialization itself that provides the work’s structure, however: each six page bit covers a day in the life of the lead character, counting down to the titular feast. I have Trident’s collected edition, which creates a bit of confusion by providing a chapter heading before each segment counting upward, even though the titles in the story itself count downward, giving the reader the treat of seeing a title page reading ‘First Chapter’ followed closely thereafter by the story’s title of 'St. Swithin’s Day - Four', with the next chapter reading ‘Second Chapter’ then ‘St. Swithin’s Day - Three’ and so on. I have no idea if Oni has retained this uniquely dissonant means of presentation in their own edition. Morrison would later return to the ‘countdown’ style of chapter numbering with the final volume of “The Invisibles”.

The story has just the right artist: Paul Grist, who provides thin, simple, attractive character designs, and lovely environments. The colors, by Steve Whitaker, are gentle and warm, though blackness has a tendancy to swallow up everything when night falls. Aside from immediate surface concerns, though, Grist’s linework is vital to humanizing the lead character: the expressions on his face are carefully, subtly rendered, and his excursions into fantasy are well-handled. Oh, did I mention the imaginative bits? Our young friend also has a habit of flitting through daydreams, which are presented visually to us as incursions into the real world. So our young protagonist will imagine that he can push cars around with amazing powers, and we’ll see it happen, and in the next panel the story proceeds without missing a beat with everything restored to normal. Or he’ll be sitting in a café, looking at pretty girls, and a young woman he seems to know will sit down for a conversation with him, but it quickly becomes obvious that he’s actually talking to himself, and imagining the young lady’s presence. This fact is never acknowledged by the character himself; it’s revealed visually, and there’s never a lack of storytelling clarity in this regard, which becomes quite important later.

One can sense some of Morrison’s concerns floating around in the story. The boy lead is keenly aware of the attention that will be paid to his actions, so he tries to structure tings carefully, picking up a copy of “Catcher in the Rye” to mislead media experts and later abandoning the idea as stupid. Regardless, it’s a conscious reinvention of the self on the part of the boy, an attempt to be something, to become visible and affect the world through visibility, if only for largely selfish reasons here. The boy reflects on his favorite song, and dances through a graveyard, a monument to Karl Marx visible in the background, reading “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways - the point however is to change it.” There’s quite a bit of Morrison in this story: some have dubbed it ‘semi-autobiographical’ while others have noted that parts of the lead character’s interior monologues were allegedly based on Morrison’s own teenage diaries. There’s something interesting to take out of this.

BUT - That’ll require me to blow the ending to the book, and frankly quite a bit of the story’s impact depends on its ending, so maybe you want to STOP READING HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS. Go find a copy of this story and read it, then come back or something.

The lead character, at least partially Morrison himself, is building his own story around his life. In the end, Thatcher shows up, Our Hero leaps out of the crowd, reaches into his coat, and pulls out: nothing. He points two fingers at the Prime Minister and says “Bang”. Then the cops beat the shit out of him. “It was worth it just to see her scared,” muses the boy has his head is cracked against the sidewalk. Did he decide not to go through it after all? No, I’d suggest that he never planned to kill her in the first place. All of the scenes with him holding a gun are fantasies, just like the bit where he throws the cars around, or chats with the girl. His interior thoughts do make mention of the Wicked Witch dying, but he could simply be playing with himself, nurturing a pure fantasy as opposed to what he really wants to do: have a laugh, become mildly infamous, but not hurt anyone. There’s superficial pleasures to this sort of twist: you get to go through the book again, reading the lead character’s depressed ramblings in a different light, now that you know he’s not a deranged killer but more of a troubled joker. But the twist fits the character too, especially how he’s been presented, and how his world has been presented through Grist’s art. He just needs to act for himself, to do something to make his imaginings real, so the rain won’t bother him anymore, and even if his action is imperfect and leads up to little change in the real world, it’s done a lot toward helping him make his personal stories into reality without, you know, killing anyone or committing any particularly awful deeds, although it‘s suggested that maybe Our Hero‘s acts have cost him his own life. As Morrison the author entered “Animal Man” to change things around for his Fiction, here the imagining storyteller (with a bit of Morrison in him) brings a bit of his Fiction into reality, and the author is all the better for it, having grown up a bit, as his final fantasy sequence indicates (and dig that vintage train he’s riding): his imaginings are brighter now, and the rain does not bother him, and he will be buried where he will be buried, and there will be no tears, no, not anymore.



*Well, this turned out too long to be an update to the prior post.

*I'm getting sick. Scratchy throat, cough, I feel kind of warm in my head... shitty shit shit.

I do have the new "Entertainment Weekly" (#807) though and wouldn't you know it, there's a huge "Sin City" cover story. 'Is this the next Pulp Fiction?' screams the caption. Oh, and when I said 'huge' I meant five pages, two of which are taken up by a big (color) partial cast photo, which actually is a pretty decent size for a feature in the 'front half'. Still, there's some nice info, including some choice quotes from co-director Frank Miller, who even alludes to some of his upcoming comics projects: "All-Star Batman" is never mentioned by name, but we do get a tentative title for Miller's other Batman project, the book he's been writing and drawing since "DK2" wrapped: "Holy Terror Batman". Stick a comma after 'Terror' and slap an exclamation point on the end and I'm already sold. Also, Robert Rodriguez reveals exactly what Quentin Tarantino is directing (not an action scene) and notes that he's already wrapped another 3D family film, with yet more in the cards. I guess that means that "Madman" movie he's supposedly had coming up 'next' is shitcanned for another few years? There's also some stuff about the "Constantine" movie in the 'Spring Movie Preview' section, but the whole thing's one of those fluff pieces where they let the creative team gush about how awesome everyone was to work with and not a frowny face is seen on every fucking set of every movie due out from now till April. Blar.

On some more interesting pages, we get a nice illustration by "Blab" regular Gary Basemen for some 'The 50 Greatest Love Songs' quickie (#1: The Beach Boys - "God Only Knows"). And off the back section, Books reviewer Nisha Gopalan more or less blasts the shit out of Posy Simmonds' "Gemma Bovery", giving it a 'D' grade, dubbing the lead character "a snore, a Bridget Jones knockoff", and generally mustering as much distaste as one can realistically be expected to when given a 100-word capsule review space to fill.

Hey gang...

*Busy day today: not much time for fun. Our limited series of staring at old things will conclude tomorrow with a fine selection.

*However, just so today's update isn't a total wash: THE USS CATASTROPHE SHOP HAS UPDATED! New look! New comics! In particular, a new Kevin Huizenga mini, "Untitled", a 'comic/zine'! Yow! (Thanks to Ingwit for the heads up)

*Hell, while I'm at it, here's some info on how to get the new John Porcellino collection, "Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man", collecting stories from "King Cat Comics" from 1989-1999. I know some of you will be interested in this...

*I'm link crazy. Go read Alan's "100 Things I Love About Comics". It's good.

*Enough. Enough.


Old Stuff From Today’s Stars Part 2 (of 3): MILLAR (and Morrison)!

*But first: new column alert! Click here! This one is about the bargain bin and how I’m a big fraud. The kids'll love it!

*And new dvds too! On February 22, we finally get R1 releases for two of Shinya Tsukamoto’s more recent films: 1998’s “Bullet Ballet”, and 2002’s “A Snake of June”, from TLA Releasing (who haven't got either of them listed on their site yet). Tsukamoto was once a darling of fans of low-down low-budget rough-edged Asian cinema, with his 1988 feature debut “Tetsuo” (perhaps better known in the US as “Tetsuo the Iron Man”), a feverish dime-store wonder of metal-flesh sexploitation, b&w and barely over an hour long. Nobody who’s seen the uncontrolled camera work in this film can forget it, and despite being made for plainly no money the film achieves an amazingly potent atmosphere of erotic confusion and the joy that comes from shattering society‘s grip on behavior, a theme that will recur in sever of Tsukamoto‘s future films. But around the mid-90’s, Tsukamoto’s work became less visible, and he seemed to slip from the American radar after the releases of “Tetsuo 2: Body Hammer” (absurdly violent, pushing the themes of the original straight into a redefinition of the family) and “Tokyo Fist” (a pretty excellent meditation of boxing, romantic jealousy, and feral human violence). Perhaps this is because Tsukamoto has only released 8 feature films in 17 years, quite the opposite of his contemporary, Takashi Miike, who’s directed one complete film in the time it’s taken you to read this far (the two filmmakers, both the same age, are thoroughly connected: Miike once shot a documentary on the making of Tsukamoto’s 1999 film “Gemini”, and Tsukamoto has appeared in several of Miike’s films, like “Ichi the Killer” and “Dead or Alive 2: The Birds”). And while I guess if you’re a hardcore fan, you’ve probably already seen this stuff via bootleg or region-free players or whatever, it’s good to note the presence of official R1 discs. I’m looking forward to these.

*So right, back to the theme.

Swamp Thing #140-143

“…I look forward to seeing [Mark Millar] become the comic-book field’s equivalent of perhaps Harlan Ellison or Gerald Kersh. As I understand it, his style is along the lines of what Alfred Bester… termed ‘arrest fiction’ - grabbing the reader off the street or shooting bullets past his/her head.”

- Sean Donnelly, from his letter published in the back of “Swamp Thing” #143, in reaction to the opening of Millar’s run on the book, with Grant Morrison in tow.

Quick! We’ve got a popular, long-lived brooding hero, with a strange past that sometimes casts him in the role of little more than a monster. A new creative team hits his book, hoping to pump some life into things, so this dark title hero suddenly goes on the rampage, driven by sinister forces that control his formidable killer instincts. He murders indiscriminately; perhaps not every member of the supporting cast is surprised, as he’s always been kind of edgy, but they’ve got no choice but to take their former pal down. Mark Millar is involved in the writing.

Am I talking about Millar‘s recent “Wolverine” arc?

Well, yes.

But I’m also talking about Millar’s initial 1994 arc on “Swamp Thing”, a four issue arc that’s sometimes collectively dubbed “Bad Gumbo”, although the issues aren’t specifically titled as parts of any proper multi-part story. Millar is not flying solo, however, as mentor Grant Morrison is also along for the ride; the two had just begun collaborating on “2000 A.D.” the year before, and this was their first collaboration in the US. Indeed, it was Millar’s first work at all for the Big Two, while Morrison was floating around in quiet period at Vertigo after “Doom Patrol” but before “The Invisibles”. From examining the editorials and letters in the back of each of these four comics, it becomes evident that much of the attention surrounding the arc is on Millar, who is plainly understood to be assuming the solo writing duties after an initial period with Morrison. It’s a ‘big’ arc, one that’s meant to redefine Swamp Thing and give him a Bold New Direction following the lengthy individual tenures of writers Doug Wheeler (who had taken over directly following Alan Moore successor Rick Veitch’s ill-fated run) and Nancy A. Collins. Millar’s run would last until 1996; he would be the final writer of that iteration of the book, until its relaunch under Brian K. Vaughan, four years later.

So naturally, to kick things off, we begin with one of the classic New Direction tricks: claiming that what has come before was but an illusion. Moore had pulled a similar stunt with his own revamp way back in the day, so it seems almost respectful for Millar and Morrison to tap a similar vein, although their plan isn’t nearly as far-reaching. Basically, Alec Holland wakes up in human form in the jungles of Peru, having apparently dreamed his entire life as Swamp Thing over the course of a three-week fever brought on by a powerful natural hallucinogenic. Perusing his own journals, Holland discovers that he’s really a researcher, curious about the spiritual symbiosis between man and plant that can be established through the use of natural mind modifiers, an experience dating back to the roots of tribal shamanism. His visions of Swamp Thing were merely his mind crafting a crude allegory for animal/plant interrelation. Or, rather, that’s what it looks like for about three quarters of the first issue; by the end, back in the US, something resembling Swamp Thing explodes out of a guy’s stash of weed and starts slaughtering folks connected to Swamp Thing left and right, with Swampy’s beloved Abby Arcane as his prime target.

Alec, dully warned of the danger by a strange local shaman, begins wandering through the jungle, ravaged by industrial development, the sorry state of it mirroring his own tortured mind. Then he boards the Soul Train, where he encounters lots of tortured spirits, and a fellow who I’ll just call the Infodump Warlock, due to his scary hat and staff and his purpose to the plot. He tells Alec that, ha ha, no all that stuff from earlier in the arc was just tomfoolery and really Alec’s human aspect has been cast out of his swamp body by the Parliament of Trees, since, well, he’s just acting too damn human, but then his human aspect traveled to the mysterious Far Beyond and met a bunch of mysterious entities that told him some mysterious stuff and now he’s back and he’s On The Run (and he can maintain a human appearance), and his ex-body is busy wiping out all of his connections to the human world on autopilot. And he’s being watched by the mysterious forces of the Parliament of Stones who need him for (all together!) mysterious reasons. And then in the fourth, concluding issue, there’s a huge fight scene, complete with Abby trying to drive away to escape The Monster but her car Just! Won’t! Start! and the evil Swamp Thing gets hit by a truck and it all ends in a massive eruption of flame. Boom!

It’s slightly dopey, although it does hearken back to the image of Swamp Thing as a menacing killer beast of the bog (perhaps I sense the hand of Morrison, guiding Swampy back to a bright monster-mash world in rejection of angst... unless I'm totally off base with Swamp Thing history?), while retaining much of what’s gone before. It’s very much a set-up arc, with ideas and themes (drugs as the connecting fabric of man and plant, industrialization as a severance) tossed out then left to fall, maybe to be picked up later. There’s a delight in this book, in seeming like it’s changing its world when really it’s closely tied to the past. One can sense the presence of future Millar works through this, from the Avengers of “The Ultimates” to the supervillain analogs of “Wanted”. He indeed grabs you off the street and shoots those bullets, and besides arresting the reader's attention he draws it away to where they can't see where these stories he's telling have gone before.

But more than anything, I was pleased with how effective a set-up arc this was, considering that it doesn‘t just shitcan what‘s happened before (the simplest road). You might dub the swiftly dropped ‘everything I know is wrong’ façade a cheap trick, a half-hearted shock opening meant only to reel the reader in. But by orienting Alec to his surrounding environs, the new reader becomes informed as to current happenings in the “Swamp Thing” universe. And even some of those neophyte readers might find the execution of said orientation to be clumsy (to say nothing of longtime fans), but it does eventually work. I felt fully up to speed on Swampy’s adventures, and I could see a clear path to the future. It’s a temporary sacrifice of smoothness in the name of building a new readership. I don’t know if it pays off. I haven’t read the rest of Millar’s run. But it’s a noble, flawed, precognitive start for a new Big Two writer on an old Big Two book.