Wednesday is the day when the new comics arrive.

*First of all, “Palooka Ville” #17 was a big no-show. I also picked up the second “Doom Patrol” trade (which came out last week), and I can’t wait to dig in! I’m sure it will be full of surprises. Kind of like:

Lore #4


Oh, you scamps!

You see, the other day I noted that this latest issue of Ashley Wood and T.P. Louise’s ongoing series was double-sized, thus justifying a $6 price tag. And also expressed hope that we’d get some more of those funny text pieces. Well bless my buttons did Wood and Louise have a dandy surprise for my dear old self!

There are 8 (that’s eight) pages of comics in this issue. Four in the front, and four in the back. I’m counting the title page as a page of comics.

Between them, we have 40 (forty) pages of text. All text. No illustrations even.

It’s… it’s like I made a wish for funny text pieces with the evil djinn from the acclaimed “Wishmaster” film series and he sneered and cackled “AS YOU WISH!” and I gave him six dollars and I got THIS. I mean shit, even “Cerebus: The Latter Days” threw in some drawings to go with all the type. The last few issues of “Lore” had illustrations for the text too. But not here!!!

Hey, does IDW have anything about this on their site? Nope! No suggestion that the text would be eating up 5/6 of the page count. But tellingly, the solicitation for issue #5 says: "Featuring the prose Jonathan Bradley diaries with comic pages by Ashley Wood" (emphasis mine). So is Wood only showing up with the prose now? Will future issues be predominantly prose? And for how long?

What comics that we get are nice (half of them are full-page splashes, btw). They act as a decent framing sequence for the Feature Presentation of prose. The early, foggy scenes aboard the boat are quite beautiful. Check out the detail on that coat in the bottom panel of page 3! It looks a little like a Photoshop effect, but it’s very well-integrated. The story itself seems to be picking up some time after the conclusion of issue #3, whith a lot of character development left in the background for now.

And that text. It’s pretty good. It’s often genuinely funny (“Taking the crucifix out for a walk, are we?”) even if the ‘Englishness’ of the characters seems to be a little overplayed. A lot of background is given on the Shepards organization, and Jonathan emerges as a much more competent character than he originally seemed, and Delphi reveals a few interesting sides of herself. It’s entertaining text, sure. Flipping through previous issues, the ‘world’ of the comic seems quite thoroughly thought out. I like this story quite a bit.

But it’s hard not to feel just a wee little bit ripped off paying $6 for page after page after page of text without any sort of warning that the volume of text was going to shoot up to a much more prevalent level, pushing Wood's art off onto the borders of the story.

Joe R. Lansdale’s By Bizarre Hands #4 (of 6)

My shop had this issue all firmly sealed up in plastic. Good thinking! Here we get into what manga and anime fans like to call 'tentacle' material. And while this installment of Avatar’s limited series of Lansdale short story adaptations doesn’t quite dive as deeply into those glassy waters as “Demon Beast Invasion”, there’s more than enough to restrict this to Adults Only. Not that prior issues of this series would lead you to believe otherwise, of course.

The narration is one of Lansdale’s wittier bits, courtesy of a nuclear scientist who begins to feel a certain degree of guilt after an atom-splitting international exchange transforms the world into a mutated hellscape. He asks his bitter wife to memorialize their evaporated daughter in a tattoo on his back as they hide out in a lighthouse from giant lizards, land whales, and hungry mutant roses and their long, thorny vines. Both the malevolent blossoms and the scientist’s tattoos are physical manifestations of his guilt, of course, and all that’s left to do is let the transformation of the flesh reunite mankind through death. Real feel-good stuff, but like Lansdale’s better work (at least the little of it I’ve read) there’s an undercurrent of humor to the damnation, and Dheeraj Verma’s art is sufficiently trashy, detailing the mayhem as well as one would expect.

The court rules this pleasure guilty, don’t get me wrong, but I find myself compelled to return; these are the sort of completely disreputable horror comics I can’t help but peruse.

Metal Hurlant #13

Not as strong an issue as we've seen recently. Not only is Jodorowsky missing, but Jean-Pierre Dionnet’s oddball recommendations column is gone as well. There’s also the first installment of what may be the book’s third ongoing story, “Lucha Libre”, written by Jerry Frissen with some really nice art by a French fellow who’s known simply as ‘Bill’. It’s a really attractive superdeformed manga-fusion thing, with excellent use of color, giving the whole thing the feel of a muggy summer afternoon. The story involves a bunch of welfare-case Mexican Wrestlers battling indigent werewolf gangs in LA. It wanders around a lot and it doesn’t end as much as stop, but it would make a nice recurring feature. Better than Stefano Raffaele‘s “Fragile”, which has simply gotten boring (as far as zombie romances go), even though this installment has scary demons being ripped in half by trucks. Frissen also scripts Hurlant’s third continuing feature, “The Zombies That Ate the World”, with the ever-excellent Guy Davis on art. This episode is a Very Special one, highlighting the plight of living persons who only want society to accept their forbidden desires. For zombies. Also, fun is made of superhero costumes.

As for the non-continuing material, David Lloyd (with digital artist Snakebite) illustrates a Jim Alexander story about an overworked demon hustling to fill his soul quotas. It certainly looks nice, and there’s a fun twist that partially rehabilitates the familiar plot. Video game vets Nicolas Pothier and Yannick Corboz offer up an attractive nothing story about the romance of dreams and the resulting contrast with reality (hint: it’s unpleasant). And “Technopriests” artist Fred Beltran lends his lush style to Brian Robertson’s basic magical palace intrigue story in the cover story, “The Second Son“.

All in all, an attractive issue (with one great debut) but nothing off the book’s well-worn path.


These reviews are all over the place.

Shouldn’t You Be Working? #2

At this point, I suspect most readers know where they stand on the topic of Johnny Ryan, ultra-bad taste mastermind behind Fantagraphics’ “Angry Youth Comix”. This is the second installment of what can be dubbed a sketchbook series.

The hook behind the first installment of this series was that it was an untouched presentation of doodles Ryan scribbled out during his long hours working at a Seattle urological clinic. It inspired some mixed reviews. This time, Ryan notes in his introduction that he’s amended his piss-clinic drawings with “…some more recent drawings I did on my own time cuz I thought they were funny.

There’s a shitload of shit jokes here. One can hardly turn the page without encountering some sort of crap. Or piss. Or other bodily fluids. And don’t forget the race, sex, and gender gags! But Ryan is simply too intent on striking directly at the lowest common denominator to be offensive. Especially when stripped from any sort of story, as they mostly are here, Ryan’s drawings give off the distinct feel of peeking into a particularly sick classmate’s tablet in seventh grade, only with a higher lever of craft. Ryan’s work in “Angry Youth Comix” has gotten quite attractive; the sketches here are far less polished, if still amusing. There are also a few “Blecky Yuckerella” strips thrown in, and some stuff I think I saw originally on Ryan’s website. I particularly loved the giant-headed mind-controlling Chris Ware, commanding good citizens to kill.

The short strips are a welcome addition; Ryan is simply more funny to me when working his jokes into an ongoing story; I can giggle at an anatomically correct Gumby, or a 'Nerdbrella', but Ryan’s dirty jokes need time to build in order to really deliver some laffs.

At over 80 pages for $6, it’s a decent deal, although it reads very quickly. It’s for established Ryan fans; check out some “Angry Youth” to see his humor in a more effective state. And if you’ve already decided that Ryan is an indelible stain on the publishing record of Fantagraphics, well, keep away.

Drawn and Quarterly Vol.2 #1 (of 6)

And now we coast a little farther back in time. This came out in 1994, as the second iteration of D&Q’s self-titled anthology series (the first had run for ten issues, and selected stories reappeared in “The Best of Drawn and Quarterly”). After these six issues, D&Q would switch the book to a deluxe format, putting out volumes 3-5 as single books (my review of Vol. 3 is here). A whole bunch of these older issues, though, are on sale at D&Q’s website right now.

The book is 48 pages, with cover and endpapers by Seth, who was just finishing “It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken” at the time. There are two 'big' stories of about 12-14 pages each. First we have a selection from Jacques Tardi’s “It Was the War in the Trenches”, an account of various WWI exploits. All of the pages are set up with three rectangular panels each. There is only one word balloon in the entire story, but there are a lot of descriptive captions, providing a constant narration. Some of these captions have almost 80 words apiece, occasionally giving the impression of an illustrated short story as the all-knowing narrator relates that characters‘ thoughts and fills in the backstory. But the art is detailed and ominous, with an excellent lever of historical detail in the uniforms and environments. The faces of the soldiers are most impressive, though. They look immensely tired and dejected, yet still recognizable as young men, the sort you’d see at the gas station when off the battlefield. The story is fast and cruel, and one never gets the impression that death won’t triumph over all. It’s war as totally stripped of action and rhetoric; fighting would disturb the carefully crafted tableaux, and the story is meant to reflect the immediate afterward, the sapped state after the rush of adrenaline and fear.

The other longish story comes from Carol Tyler, a scattered and jumpy account of both her own pregnancy and her mother’s often tragic experiences as a young bride in the WWII era. The plot rambles along like an unorganized, unrehearsed conversation. But Tyler’s art is utterly gorgeous, with a superbly subtle use of color. Faces are minimal, just a few lines and circles, backgrounds often seem sketched, and clothing and trees and flesh are (at times) lushly detailed. A panel of a young woman relaxing with her feet in a lake is marvelously sensual, with the water left a blank white with sepia lines, and the grass made a cool green. The art is evocative of the strange emphasis of memory, and the story fuels itself from such a tone.

Also included is a fluffy, attractive silent number from Avril and Petit Roulet, a typically amusing history from Maurice Vellekoop, and a gag page by Marcellus Hall. It’s all at least visually attractive stuff, and worth the $4 or so D&Q is now asking for it.

Vox by Leland Purvis

An interesting collection of short stories by Mr. Purvis, gathered from his four-issue series of the same name from 1999-2003. Purvis also did a three-issue mini for Dark Horse called “Pubo” (of which I never did find a copy of the final issue), and the art for a 320-page comics biography on Danish physicist Niels Bohr, “Suspended in Language”, released earlier this year.

Purvis uses dark, thick lines to form the creases on his characters’ faces. Their clothes are dotted with shadow. Harsh strokes form the buildings they live in. Sometimes a story is drawn in a simpler, sketchier style. Sometimes the environments become friendlier, with lush trees and rolling hills. But mainly Purvis’ world is harsh and cutting, and you can hardly see around a corner, let alone into your future.

There’s a clear running theme throughout these stories: the triumph of the creative. A group of abandoned old men plan a deadly trap for the youth of their tribe, who abandoned them. Another group of old men, now in a futuristic rest home/prison, plot an escape to enjoy some beer and debate ethics. Alexander Selkirk, the real-life inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, struggles to convince his shipmates that the hull is taking on water. A young bomber plans a deadly game, even as his cohorts become nervous. The respect for creativity (or skill, or intuition, or personal ability) crosses lines of moral righteousness, and crisscrosses from fiction to non-fiction.

The writing, however, is less exact. Purvis is good at catching the rhythms and subtle boasting of conversation over drinks, between friends, but his dramatic scripting often becomes wooden. The aforementioned teen bomber handily snaps the momentum of his story by engaging in a badly stilted exchange of mutual emotional evaluation with his mother:

You think if you make something up it’ll keep my attention?

Better that than you don’t care at all.

I care about the truth.

What does the truth have to do with how a person feels?

And how do you think you’re making me feel?

Oh, but you always tell me how you think you feel and you’re sincere because you know I care.

And so on for another page of junior undergrad one-act play chit-chat. Even more clunky is a story about an eye-less man confronting his inner demons, literally personified by… well… a demon. But then the man learns to face himself, and (wait for it!) his eyes reappear. And he and the demon literally fight. But some of these stories have a way of evolving beyond their immediate impressions. A thudding confrontation between a brilliant scientist and an Evil Drug Company (who will allow innocents to die in order to maximize their profits, naturally) ends with a pleasantly over-the-top theatrical gesture, and a nice corny verbal gag. But I think Purvis is at his best when he lets us sit with characters, and has them share themselves with each other, rather than indulge in declaratory statements of vital import.

It’s a diverse book, with silent dream stories and short text entries added onto the longer stories. There’s a real effort made to diversify the mood and subject matter. And if Purvis is a bit too eager to grant his protagonists the ability to hurl beams of clarity as they shoulder the weight of achievement, he does so within an inky and sharp world, a place in need of rays of light. Stacking the deck? Maybe. But it’s worth checking out to watch the cards dealt.


Questions from people named Dave (also: new comics)

In fact, let's start with THIS WEEK'S COMICS:

Palooka Ville #17: Ah, this must be the latest chapter of "Clyde Fans", Seth's ongoing salesmen epic. It's part three, chapter two, for those with scorecards. The first half of the story (parts one and two, of three chapters each) is out in a lovely hardcover from Drawn and Quarterly. Buy that book (NOT the older softcover which ONLY collects part one) and snap up issue #16 and this new one, and you're all caught up.

Lore #4: As far as Ashley Wood goes, this is a pretty accessible book, involving mythical beast invading our world through magical misuse. Perhaps co-writer T.P. Louise is keeping Mr. Wood a bit more down-to-earth on the plotting front? This is a double-sized issue, hence the $6 price tag. Sure to look good, and I'm waiting for more of those prose interludes! From IDW.

Metal Gear Solid #1: More Wood art, this time adapting the video game from a script by Kris Oprisko (of various "CSI" comics that IDW has been putting out). I'm probably not picking this up, but these preview pages seem to indicate a blocky quality in Wood's art, in a possible attempt to emulate the polygon look of the PS1. Interesting.

Joe R Lansdale's By Bizarre Hands #4 (of 6): Avatar continues their series of adaptations of Lansdale short stories. This time, it's "Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man's Back" with art by Indian comics veteran Dheeraj Verma, who also did the honors in issue #1. Sure to be distracting.

Metal Hurlant #13: Still a full-color 64-page beast for only $4. Sadly, there doesn't appear to be any Jodorowsky stuff in here, but it does feature a story with art by "V for Vendetta" co-creator David Lloyd and Snakebite of "The Red Star". And all the usual continuing stuff (like more Guy Davis).

A Cubic Shitload of New 2099 Books: I'm not even going to name them all. Robert Kirkman writes five different future-time Marvel superhero books, none of which have anything to do with the prior 2099 line other than a recognizable brand. I guess huge Kirkman fans will want to check 'em out, but I'm not feeling the appeal.

*First up on today's questions, we have David Carter from Yet Another Comics Blog:

1. Peanut butter: crunchy or smooth?

Crunchy. Easily. Especially on a nice bagel. I like smooth peanut butter too, but crunchy just gives my teeth more to do. I like the texture.

2. The year is 2014: what does the comics market look like?

Marvel and DC are still firing away, but they've upped production of what we'd normally call Original Graphic Novels, as a substitute for ongoing arcs in several books. The floppy will still be around, especially for the Big Icons, but more and more B-Character miniseries or spin-offs are being released as complete volumes.

Seeing as how it's 10 years in the future I'm not sure how the issue-by-issue pacing will go; I think the often stretched-out six issue arc style of plotting is already nearing a breaking point. I would hope that the current popular style of pacing will have changed to the 'cumulative' style, as I'll call it: a number of one or two issue stories with recurring subplots and story elements building from one issue to the next, though each storyline essentially stands alone. There would have to be a more defined ending point for these gradually-building stories though, to prevent a Claremont-esque accumulation of abandoned/barely-acknowledged tangents, and to provide a guideline to trade collection. Often it feels that today's superhero comics are witnessing the cart of the trade collection driving the horses of plot, with stories that can't really support six issues stretched out. But ten years is a long time in the Internet Reaction Age. We may see a full-blown reversion to done-in-one storytelling on certain books.

Meanwhile, the inevitable cooling of the manga market has left a bit more room for non-Big Two books to obtain shelf space. I'm not sure if the Big Two will have much more bookstore presence in ten years than they have today; I think there will be a growing focus (well, even more than there already is) on the chain bookstore market by independent publishers with the Direct Market serving as the crucible for Big Superhero evolution. But I suspect the more successful Comic Shops will lean ever heavier toward the trade market, perhaps resembling a more concentrated, specialized version of the comics section at your local Borders, with added pop-culture doodads and games and magazines and the like.

3. Did you get any Calfornia rolls at the sushi bar last night?

No sir! I did get an Alaska Roll, though, so you're just a little too far south. Stuff's great with wasabi and soy sauce. This is in addition to my hunk of eel and some strange thin roll that got baked and covered in ginger. I forget what it was called but it was good. I considered getting a Quail Egg since it was only $1, but no.

4. Which author is best suited to write the Bildungsroman based on your life?

Oh, totally Thomas Pynchon. I'd have to be something like "V." where the story more or less follows me around but there's a large supporting cast who exemplify different aspects of the times, and there's constant digressions to the past (that, of course, informs the present) courtesy of the experiences of other characters, or whatever dvd I'm watching on a particular page. I'd also guess that given the jobs and activities I've worked at as a young person (newspaper, pizza delivery, government, college debate, comics blogging) there couldn't not be a strong element of cultural-historical satire. I'm not sure how this fits into the Bildungsroman style; I guess it's a very 'adorned' English Bildungsroman.

Heh. Maybe I just want Pynchon to throw in all sorts of historical and cultural information to distract from how boring the damn thing is.

5. Hulk vs. Thor: who wins?

Thor. Even if Hulk isn't the HULK SMASH Hulk, I'd guess that Thor would have some sort of edge in tactical thinking. Just keep Hulk at a distance and keep on throwing that hammer!


Endemic Treponematosis Sucks.


*And next, the good Mr. Dave Intermittent:

1. What is the worst Grant Morrison comic you've read?

Often the stock answer to this is either "The Mystery Play" or "Arkham Asylum", and I'm not going to provide much of a surprise, I'm afraid. I've never read "The Mystery Play".

I blogged a few days ago about how Morrison wrote a letter dated 1988 in an early issue of "Doom Patrol", decrying "angst-ridden" and "grittily realistic" superhero comics. Interestly, "Arkham Asylum" was released after that letter. Like I posted as Ian's the other day, I've always seen "Arkham Asylum" as the archetypical post-"Dark Knight"/"Watchmen" VERY SERIOUS superhero story. It's not 'realistic' per se, but there's a heavy focus on the psychological states of the "Batman" cast, with a tendency toward the over-analysis that's common in SERIOUS superhero books that exhibit a certain degree of insecurity in being superhero books. Dave McKean certainly adds to the tone. I love McKean's work, but he really lathers on the shadow and aggressive mood here, and combined with Morrison's script the book comes off as just the sort of distracted angsty thing that Morrison generally dislikes (I'm pretty sure that the book was not written with McKean in mind, and he was placed on the book by DC to help hype his and Neil Gaiman's "Black Orchid" mini). It's really sort of stultifying, even given the already agnst-prone "Batman" ensemble of the post-DKR era. And beyond that, there were some basic pacing problems too. The finale is abrupt and seemingly arbitrary; a good ten extra pages might have been needed to flesh things out.

Morrison has done a lot of emphasizing the fun and 'pop' in his work since then. And I think he works a lot better with heavy doses of humor interjected into the mix.

2. In 2014, will the cool kids be just as sick of manga cliches as they are of superhero cliches today?

Oh yes. I'm not very connected to what's going on in Japanese manga fandom (not speaking Japanese being a slight obstruction) so I wonder if there are complaints and movements against typical domestic cliches. I expect there are. And I expect that some US fans will also adopt harsher stances against Japanese comics cliches; it's just that many of these complaints will come from longtime manga readers rather than sceptical supporters of different comics styles. At that point, there may be some interesting developments in evolving Japanese tropes within America as informed by an American setting, and it will be fun to compare these artistic cultures with then-current Japanese growths of their own domestic iconography.

3. Is there a worse punishment in Hell than being forced to read an alternate version of Identity Crisis as rewritten by John Byrne?

Reading John Byrne's message board posts on the topic of his revamp, of course!

4. Why the pseudonym?

Once upon a time, I was playing one of those 'shoot the gun at the things on-screen' arcade games, which I still love. It came time to shoot at the alphabet on the screen to enter in my initials. Instead of initials, I tried to fire out my first name, but the gun went haywire and the 'g' was hit rather than the 'e'. My friends and I were greatly amused by this (since there weren't any shiny objects around to distract us) and I proceed to enter in the initials JOG in every arcade game I'd ever play again. I then began to use the initials as a name, 'Jog', on the Internet, and I just sort of kept doing it.

And Jog rhymes with Blog! That's perfect! Or immensely corny! Either one is good!

5. The worst highway in America is?

Route 81, which is a big road extending right from the Ontario border all the way down to near Atlanta, Georgia. Actually, I'm sure it's a really handy road, and I've barely seen more than 300 miles of it. I'm just mad I got stuck crawling through 8 miles of single-lane construction traffic the other day. I didn't say my answers would be fair.


Five Answers to Five Questions below!

*And prior to that - bask in the story of, the glory of, LAST WEEK'S REVIEWS:

Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz with illustrations by Stephen Gammell (not a comic, actually, but a vital part of my horror-loving development as a young fellow)

Black Widow #1 (of 6?), Astonishing X-Men #5, Ex Machina #4, Tom Strong #28, and Mister Monster: Worlds War Two

Keep them real!

*I had no clue that was coming out, but the next "Comics Journal Special" will be on the topic of manga, according to this thread. Featuring an interview with artist/filmmaker Hideshi Hino, who will soon have 14 volumes of manga released under the "Hino Horror" label from DH Publishing.

*Five excellent questions have arrived from N! Let's get right to it!

1. Can Sergio Arregones' Groo win fights barehanded, or does he always need a sword?

I am certain that Groo can hand a thousand asses to a thousand warriors with or without his sword. If he says otherwise, he's lying. Except I'd never call Groo a liar to his face. That would be bad for me, since I am weak like the sapling.

2. If Warren Ellis hates superheroes with such a passion, why does he write mainstream comics for the big two? What the hell's wrong with him, anyhow?

Sometimes I think it's like that sequence in the "Ghost World" comic where the two girls run into this former punk rocker all dolled up in a proper suit who's bragging about his prospects in the corporate world, quickly adding that he's gonna fuck things up from the inside. He asks one girl if she's going to college. She says yes so he chews her out since her mommy and daddy must be paying for it. She corrects him by saying that she's paying for it herself, so he sneers that she'll be paying off loans for decades. Then he leaves advising them to get out in the world and make some real money.

And yet, there's nothing particularly wrong with making money doing Big Two superhero work, ideological conflicts aside. I guess if I was a hardcore No Superheroes Never sort of person I'd be more steamed. But I do buy a few Big Two superhero books, and if Ellis wants to work on that kind of thing (regardless of what he says he's interested in) that's fine; maybe he'll put some stories out I want to read. He certainly has the potential to do some interesting stuff with established characters; I'm not a fan of his every book but I love "Planetary" (which is essentially a prolonged series of twists on common pop culture adventure scenarios and icons).

3. Which is better: Watchmen, Jimmy Corrigan, Maus, or Identity Crisis?

Well, "Identity Crisis" is not yet over, so I'd hate to rush to conclusions on that one. The headlines at next year's Pulitzers may well scream the name of DC's 2004 summer epic and I'll have to rush out to my local shop to collect a trade paperback copy, my face covered in shame and all the other patrons pelting me with tomatoes and corn husks for my premature decision.

In terms of sheer resonance with me I'd side with "Jimmy Corrigan" which moved me with its emotions and dazzled me with its execution a little more than the others. It's rare that a work of such ambition succeeds so well, and remains so clear in its drive. Which is not to say the other two weren't well-executed or moving (although even among Alan Moore scripts I'd rank "Watchmen" low in the top five; certainly below "V for Vendetta" and "From Hell")...

4. Do you read Supreme Power, that MAX title written by that guy with the long name who created babylon 5?4a. If so what do you think?

Never read it. Never read any comics by Mr. J Michael Somedifficultname.

5. What should my fifth question be?

You should ask: "Jog, why don't you take a rest and get back to those reviews tomorrow?"

And my answer would be: "Swell idea!"


C'mon questions!

In anticipation of all the batches of five questions I will no doubt be recieving in no time at all, here are some sample answers:

1. No. There was one piece of eel though.

2. Not just me, even when other people are driving the car, and the song is really good.

3. That's a tough choice. The lesser of two evils must be Bubble-Yum.

4. Mr. Fantastic and Hawkeye. "A Separate Peace". But only in exchange for Werther's Originals.

5. a. A plastic dinosaur.

b. Live bait.

c. A catfish. Lol!

6. 'Tired' is a good word.


The weekend is being rowdy.

*A whole lot of stuff going on. Tomorrow will be non-stop in its assault, from 7:00AM - 10:00PM. So we'll have some light-ish blogging until Sunday when I'll have reviews...

Say, let's play the latest gaming diversion - The Five Questions! It's been sweeping Internet parlors all across our world. Just comment in five of your most awesome questions, and I'll answer them all tomorrow, and we'll read all of my responses and use them to predict the future like reading the entrails of some beast.

But now is the time of sleep.


The Secret Origin of Red Jack?!

*This Comicon thread filled me in on a recent Amazon.com controversy involving author Anne Rice . In a nutshell, Rice decided to post a comment through the Amazon public review section for her book "Blood Canticle", blasting other posters for their negative appraisals of her work. I bring this up because Neil Gaiman has posted an interesting commentary on his blog, detailing his own personal responses to negative critical feedback, along with his summary of the Rice situation:

"I think Anne Rice going on Amazon and lambasting her critics was undoubtedly a very brave and satisfying thing for her to do, was every bit as sensible as kicking a tar baby, and, if ever I do something like that, please shoot me."

Good times.

*I finally got to purchase the first "Doom Patrol" trade, just in time for Vol. 2 to show up ust beyond the range of my immediate finances. "Doom Patrol" had always been too big for me to really get into in floppy form, and obviously there were no trades, so I'd simply never read most of it. I'm loving the thing, of course. While the early issues of Gaiman's "Sandman" felt awkward in their mandatory interactions with the rest of the DCU, Morrison provides a smoother fit, with the very purpose of the team's existance tied into exploring the stranger corners of DC, cleverly seperating the new team from too much interaction with the wider universe while giving the illusion of integration.

Morrison also provides a short list of his influences in the back of the book (the material was originally presented near the start of his run). But leaves out what I think is a key influence behind the character of Red Jack; Peter O'Toole's awesome performance as 'Jack', the 14th Earl of Gurney in the 1972 satirical classic "The Ruling Class", directed by Peter "Romeo is Bleeding" Medak, and one of my personal favorite films.

In the film, O'Toole plays an aristocrat who thinks he is, at alternate times, Jesus Christ and Jack the Ripper. He seeks to marry a lovely girl. He sings and dances. In Morrison's comic, Red Jack is an aristocratically dressed being that claims to be God and used to be Jack the Ripper. He abducts a lovely girl to marry. He sings and dances. He even bellows "For today is my wedding day!", a line extremely similar to one uttered by O'Toole at a key point in the film, as he's dressed in full Messiah robes, leisurely hanging on the Cross which he joyfully leaps off of into a freeze-frame. My brother and I were convinced that this freeze-frame would be what the Academy would use to end the O'Toole montage preceding his Honorary Oscar acceptance speech, but noooooo, they had to go with the old 'blowing out the match' routine from "Lawrence of Arabia". At least Meryl Streep mentioned "Caligula" during her presentation.

Anyway, I can see how the film would appeal to Morrison; it's loaded with dark humor and eccentric characters. It's also quite a sly satire, starting out as a snarky expose of upper-class perversion and hypocracy, but steaily transforming into a fine commentary on the many faces of Western Religion, and the dissonance between what a society expects of its people and what it often expects of its God. This is a truly dark comedy, with sympathetic characters killed or punished, and human ideals depicted as little more than variations of madness. But it's funny. And it actually sustains itself for two and a half hours!

There's also a famous episode of "Star Trek" involving a supernatural Jack the Ripper being, and that might have had some influence too, but Morrison seems much more in tune with the film, even toying around with the idea of God fueling Himself through suffering, a theme handled in a less direct manner in "The Ruling Class". It was a fun tidbit to discover while reading through the trade; I immediately heard O'Toole's voice as Red Jack in my head. Criterion has the dvd out now, and you should rent it.

Tons of reviews for your morning.

Black Widow #1 (of 6?)

Yeah. I’m certain that I read somewhere that this was a miniseries, but now questions have arisen. Not the first instance of such confusion coming from Our Pals Marvel. Whatever.

Several commentators have noted a tendency on Marvel’s part to take baby steps toward exploring non-superhero genres by grafting superhero tropes onto an alternate genre framework. It’s a horror film - WITH SUPERPOWERS! It’s a crime drama - WITH SUPERPOWERS! It’s “The Usual Suspects” - WITH SUPERPOWERS! It’s “I Am Curious (Yellow)” meets “Aguirre: The Wrath of God” - WITH SUPERPOWERS! No, wait. That was my Epic proposal. But you get the idea.

Black Widow” represents the outer limit of this technique: it’s a book with only a superhero’s name on it, but no superhero content, save for the enhanced fighting and survival abilities we see in many totally non-superhero spy action stories, which is what this book really is. As it stands, it’s a relatively safe way for Marvel to dip their ankles even further into the non-superhero pool, without actually having to do any swimming. The results are pretty good; the book has the kind of team that can coax some entertainment out of material that could have easily proven dead boring in less skilled hands.

Often it seems that a Marvel first issue inspires the prospective readers to ask themselves not “Will anything happen?” but “In which way will nothing happen?” A few things happen in this introductory issue, though it’s fairly typical set-up. Our heroine Natasha is attacked by a well-disciplined assassin en route to a rock-climbing expedition. This fellow is no match for the Black Widow, but he’d rather lie in the sand for an hour and bleed to death than give up his secrets. Meanwhile, a string of killings breaks out across the globe, with the dead women perhaps sharing a common bond. Natasha recruits comic relief/voice of humanity ex-SHIELD agent Phil Dexter to accompany her in an investigation. Along the way Natasha sounds off on the woman’s place in today’s world, and even snaps a would-be rapist’s spine like it’s an outtake from “Shadowhawk”. And international mystery villains sit around and drink whisky. Simple.

I suspect artist Bill Sienkiewicz will be attracting much of the initial interest in this title. Those all ready for a fully-painted gonzo extravaganza along the lines of “Elektra: Assassin” or “Stray Toasters” will be a little let down; The Sink sticks to harsh profiles and sketchy cross-hatches here. The effect is reminiscent of his classic run on “New Mutants” but bolder, more individually pronounced. We also get some of his lovely hand-drawn sound effects, spreading throughout the panel as a fully integrated portion of the art, a technique often employed these days by Ashley Wood and Ben Templesmith (other lettering is done by Cory Petit of Virtual Calligraphy). Dan Brown’s colors compliment Sienkiewicz’s lines well, respecting the blacks but giving characters a rounded, full texture.

Richard K. Morgan handles the script well, nebulous as the plot is at this early juncture. The aforementioned rapist clash is somewhat gratuitous but Morgan uses it as an efficient double excuse: both furthering Natasha’s interests in fighting for women, and providing some distracting action. There’s also a hint that we might be seeing more of the rescued near-victim; I kneel and pray that she won’t serve to bring out the Black Widow’s humanity or show her the value of compassion or something equally brow-scrunching. It’s a nice first issue as it is, keeping the familiar story amusing, and we don’t need to usher in those types of familiarity that breed contempt.

Astonishing X-Men #5

And speaking of handling passable material in a delightful way, I didn’t realize until several minutes after finishing this issue that remarkable little had happened story-wise; most of this issue focuses on Our Heroes trying to wriggle their way out of the tight spot they found themselves in last month. Mr. Whedon’s involuntary winking habit continues here: we get little gags about fan reception to the new costumes, and more musings on the impermanence of death in the Marvel Universe. Exactly how Colossus is still alive is hastily brushed aside (maybe to be picked up later), as he and Kitty continue their reunion.

Whedon happily juggles the differing motivations of various characters, with the more impulsive Emma/Logan faction amusingly gaining more control over planning. Cyclops gets a chance to show off some team tactics, well geared toward employing the different powers of each team member. Different villains also clash in their motivations. And back at the school, the student subplot soldiers on. I liked the ultra-serious psychic triplets complaining about Emma’s “sweaty and inappropriate thoughts” during class. And poor old Ord is almost entirely comic relief at this point, which is probably the best thing to do with him. Conveniently, the larger plot then literally bursts into the room for the latest cliffhanger.

It’s the very definition of solid superhero material, without quite crossing the line into the world of (forgive me father!) Astonishment. John Cassaday maintains his level of quality (his character expressions and body language are particularly good), and Laura Martin’s coloring deserves special mention for crispness and judicious washing, sometimes letting a hue dominate a scene, sometimes simply letting it dictate tone. In whole, a solid monthly pickup.

Ex Machina #4

Huh. The second book in so many weeks with a character referring to someone flying as "gay". Brian K. Vaughan is prudent enough to have the line escape the lips of one of the 'dumb' characters though, an oaf who Doubts Our Hero. And I never really caught the context of the “Invincible” quote either.

It’s back to contrivances for “Ex Machina”, with the big confrontation between Hundred’s intern and the heretofore off-panel controversial artist all but leaping off the page and poking me in the eyes.

As the scene proceeds, the artist lashes out at the intern’s attempts to ask her about the meaning behind her work, declaring that “Our generation’s been ruined by Cliffs Notes and director’s commentaries.” She urges the intern to come to her own conclusion about the painting's meaning. In response, Hundred’s intern immediately launches into a lecture on how the artist’s motivations (not artists in general, mind you, but this artist’s in particular) have evolved over the years, with convenient examples of each key work hanging on the walls of the woman’s studio for easy illustration. The intern concludes that the controversial work in question is a self-loathing 'joke' created to lash out at the hollow praise of brainless critics. The intern then challenges the artist to replace it with a work that she really cares about (presumably one that will prove less controversial).

Now. One would think that the artist would just say something along the lines of “That’s an interesting interpretation. Thus, I’ve already succeeded. Bye.” Since, you know, she just said two fucking pages ago that she wants to stimulate individual interpretation. Alternatively, if she didn’t want to stand behind her stated purpose, she might say “So what if I don’t care about the painting? It stands as a monument to critical stupidity. If they want to eat my shit, than it’s their breath to worry about. Bye.” But no, proving that “Ex Machina” takes place in an alternate Earth really not much at all like our own, the artist puts on a Sad Face because the intern’s scathing critique has sent the light of truth shining right into the dark core of her being. Then she quivers about what the Art World will think about her repudiation of her own work (don’t you see gentle readers, she has already been awakened!), which allows the intern to smirk “Maybe it’s time you stop giving a shit about what the ’art world’ thinks about anything.POW! OWNED! ZING!!!

Then the artist attacks her with a blowtorch. Seriously.

I thought Mayor Hundred being called a racist by kitchen appliances was neat last issue because it was kind of silly. I rather like silly. This sort of thing, however, is ridiculous. It’s a sloppy way of wiggling through a plotline, that doesn’t even maintain character consistency as established two pages ago. Yeah, I guess you can say the artist is only pretending, and she’s really insecure inside, and she doesn’t believe her own stated motivations, but do even the most shivering of hacks collapse into remorseful declarations of truth when confronted with a challenge to their work? Especially a challenge that has an obvious ulterior motive behind getting the work in question removed from public view? It’s a stunningly ham-fisted execution of a major scene.

There’s also a possible ‘plot twist’ this issue that I’m not totally sure is supposed to be a surprise since it was kind of heavily foreshadowed. It seems structured as an attempted surprise at least. It might be a fake-out. There’s more flashbacks to Hundred’s past, more subtle reveals about the extent of his powers. Apparently the arc ends next issue, so we’ll be in for some quick revelations, I suppose. I’m sounding like I hated the book, and I didn’t. It’s mostly ok material. But damn if some of the stuff in this issue didn’t annoy me. And when the rest of the comic is only consistent, annoyances tend to stand in sharp relief.

Tom Strong #28

Why oh why oh why does Wildstorm’s website continue to insist that Cameron Stewart did the art for this issue when it was in fact illustrated by Peter Snejbjerg of “The Books of Magic“ fame? Snejbjerg does a good job, but they really ought to change that listing.

This issue, also written by Brian K. Vaughan, focuses on Pneuman, the robot butler. Quite a lot of space is spent on Tom and the crew fighting a fine-art villain called The Eye-Opener (13 out of 24 story pages). It sets up Pneuman’s little crisis well, but the sheer length of the battle makes it feel like padding. Anyway, the mechanical manservant decides to accomplish a mission given to him by Tom’s mother back on that fateful day on Attabar Teru. Pneuman’s logical nature leads him to take a rather innovative avenue toward accomplishing the goal, but maybe there’s more to him than just programming. As far as “Tom Strong” stories go, this is comfortably B-list, but it may have been served better as a short in “Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales”.

Mister Monster: Worlds War Two

Full title: “Mister Monster Versus the Nazi From Mars or Mister Monster: Worlds War Two whichever you feel is the catchier title” as it’s listed in the fine print.

I’ve already detailed some of the history of this particular story. There’s not much else to say except that it delivered exactly what the fans expect. I’m glad Atomeka has put it this story back out. It’s a fun romp through Doc Stearn’s past as he foils a Nazi Martian invasion of the Earth, with a little help from a sexy hippy reporter, America’s Armed Forces, and a certain notorious alien invasion movie plot twist which I think this story may actually pre-date. Lots of bad-taste humor, but an unfailing good nature, and a sense of satire (Mr. Monster says no to drugs and promotes decency and wholesomeness all while gleefully indulging in bloody violence). I particularly loved the finale, which ties the book into other fine “Mr. Monster” stories. Here’s hoping for new material!


A good clean adaptation.

*Nothing like waking up bright and early, shuffling off the work, sitting yourself down, glancing at the front page of USA Today that somebody else is hiding behind, and seeing good old blue-eyed Ben Grimm staring right back at you from the front page. Yes, Michael Chiklis got the prime spot at gas stations all around our fine nation today, and there were many more photos of the “Fantastic Four” movie cast inside. You can see for yourself here. The Thing’s somewhat leathery, muddy body matches up pretty well with the recent Jae Lee depiction of the character (which is something of a throwback to Jack Kirby‘s earliest character designs anyway); of course, Lee knows how to exploit this look for good visual effect, as I noted in my review of the “Hard Knocks” miniseries thus far. How this leaner, lumpier Thing will look in motion on the big screen remains to be seen. Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards looks oddly like a younger Max Weinberg of Conan O’Brien and Bruce Springsteen fame. Chris Evans looks like he’s all ready to head up a WB teen drama. And Jessica Alba looks prepared to belt out a pop single (oooh, they can work the song into the plot, like in “Macross“!!!).

I think they all look decent, even if Reed’s too young and Johnny’s not blonde.

*In literary news, Laura links to Trash Heap linking to the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000, from the American Library Association, in recognition of Banned Books Week, Sept. 25-Oct. 2. So who’s on top? Madonna’s infamous “Sex”? Mark Twain’s perennially controversial “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”? “Harry Potter”, always in Her Satanic Majesty’s service? Feh! Mere amateurs. Representing from the top of the heap is a real keystone work in kids’ literature, the almighty “Scary Stories” series by Alvin Schwartz. Take that, R.L. Stine!

A trio of collections of urban legends, folk tales, and contemporary campfire chillers, “Scary Stories” blew my mind when I was a little kid. This stuff did not pull punches. The classic ’spider laying eggs in a young girl’s skin’ story. A variation on the old “The Lady Vanishes” plot. Evil substitute mothers with wooden tails arriving to punish naughty children. They’re all here, and it’s the first place many of us heard of these old (and new) chestnuts. There was even a little annotations section in the back, filling us in on the origins of many of these little stories. It really got me interested in fables and folklore.

And then there’s Stephen Gammell’s illustrations. Himself an accomplished children’s book author, Gammell contributed some of the most freakish and vivid inky horrors this little kid had ever seen. Just look at this stuff! It’s great! It’s more effective than a lot of the adult-targeted horror illustrations I’ve seen, and it had a way of burning into a kid’s mind.

And I loved it. I’d look for other books with similar titles but not of the same series, and I’d be crushed at the comparatively low quality of the material. Nothing had the same bite. Borders put out an omnibus collection of all three volumes for $10 a while back, and it’s definitely worth flipping through again. At least it was for me; that book was an indelible part of my childhood!

And how did “Where’s Waldo?” get on the list?!

*And on a sad note, Russ Meyer has passed away. Truly one of the innovators of exploitation cinema, and a genuinely unique talent in the world of low-down independent filmmaking. He will be missed. (Found at Franklin's)


In appreciation of Doc Stearn.


A1 Bloodmoon Special: Mister Monster Worlds War II: Ah, “Mr. Monster”. One of my favorite near-forgotten series from days past. The brainchild of Michael T. Gilbert (though inspired by the lone appearance of a Fred Kelly-created character in "Super Duper Comics #3" from 1947), “Mr. Monster” packed a deft, daft mix of laughs and action in every issue, with gorgeous art; the lettering and colors remain excellent today, but in 1985 the book must have seemed positively decadent. I have several of those 10 early Eclipse issues; Alan Moore wrote a story in issue #3, and it was great seeing subsequent letters columns discussing this strange new British talent. He was not yet ALAN MOORE and there was a level of sentiment that his now-classic run on “Swamp Thing” was overhyped, there at the time of its original serialization. “Mr. Monster” also began running classic (but freshly colored) public-domain short stories to fill out issues where the main tale wasn’t quite long enough. Soon, whole spin-off books arrived just to handle classic reprints (“Mr. Monster’s Hi-Octane Horror”, “Mr. Monster’s Hi-Voltage Super Science”, “Mr. Monster’s True Crime”, etc.) A new generation was exposed to classic horror/sci-fi/crime work by Steve Ditko, Jack Katz, Alex Toth, Basil Wolverton, Jack Cole, and many more.

The character bounced around for a while after the Eclipse series came to an end. Dark Horse released an eight-issue miniseries in the late 80's-early 90's, which was collected in the now out-of-print “Mr. Monster: Origins” trade by Graphitti Designs. The early Eclipse issues were gathered into the also now out-of-print “Mr. Monster: His Books of Forbidden Knowledge, Vol. 1” by Marlowe & Company. TwoMorrows Publishing currently has a collection of miscellaneous shorts for sale called “Mr. Monster: His Books of Forbidden Knowledge, Vol. 0”. More recently, Gilbert scripted a “Mr. Monster’s Gal Friday: Kelly” miniseries for Image (with another short script by Mr. Moore in issue #3). There have been many other one-shots and specials scattered around the comics landscape.

This new release is from Atomeka Press, who also recently put out the “A1 Big Issue 0” and “Bricktop Special” collections, both of them good presentations of material that may have originally slipped through the cracks for many readers. This particular 48-page story, scripted by Gilbert and illustrated by George Freeman, was originally intended as an 8-to-10 page short in Atomeka’s old “A1” anthology, but it grew and grew. It was then slated to be published as a one-shot from Tundra (who I believe also put out their own 3-issue “Mr. Monster Attacks” miniseries), but the company sank before work could be finished. The story finally appeared in “Penthouse Max #3” despite not having any 'adult' material. It will hopefully get better visibility here. I can’t wait to check it out myself!

Ex Machina #4: Last issue, this book began to embrace the wackier side of super-hero politics, and I hope it continues in that direction. Aside from some contrived situations and a little stiffness in the art, the title has been running pretty smoothly. This is the penultimate issue of the current arc, and we’ll apparently learn of Hundred’s connections to the recent murders. Should be decent.

Tom Strong #28: And speaking of writer Brian K. Vaughan, he also scripts the latest “Tom Strong” with Cameron Stewart of “Seaguy” fame on the art. That’s a solid team, and the story will focus on Tom’s robot servant Pneuman. I expect amusement.

Doom Patrol Vol. 2: The Painting That Ate Paris: I think this officially ushers us into previously uncollected territory with Grant Morrison’s seminal run. And I don’t have the money to buy it just yet.

Astonishing X-Men #5: A good superhero comic. Nothing groundbreaking or eyebrow-raising, but it never insults the intelligence and it accomplishes what it sets out to do with efficiency and style.

Black Widow #1: A six-issue miniseries relating the adventures of the redheaded super-spy. Science-fiction novelist Richard K. Morgan remains unfamiliar to me, but every boy and girl in Comics Town knows Bill Sienkiewicz, and that’s enough to give the book some instant promise.

*Neilalien put up a link that shows us how to order the new Grant Morrison issue of “Arthur” via PayPal for $5, shipping included. Neilalien warned us that this could only result in an impulse purchase. Neilalien is right. Rich Johnston didn’t help matters by highlighting Morrison’s exasperation with readers for not 'getting' “Seaguy” from the magazine in question. I’ll be reading the whole thing soon; frankly, I understand Morrison’s puzzlement. And taking the rise of reality television as a symptom of cultural schizophrenia? Makes perfect sense to me!


Enough about me, let's talk about me:

But first, let's remember to preserve our planet's future for LAST WEEK'S REVIEWS:

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #2 (of 6), Drawn and Quarterly Vol 3, Milk and Cheese #1

Astonishing X-Men #1-4, Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise by Gary Panter (this Jimbo book is worth the effort to seek out!)

Marvel Boy

Give these reviews a lot of love and sunlight!

*My stack of stuff to read is a big one. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. You’d be shocked at the sight of it, my friend, and you’d ask me why I continue to spend money on new comics when I’m not particularly close to finishing the ones that I already own. I’d tell you to take a look at my dvd pile, and then your eyes would fall out.

There’s two recent events that have put me into this state of reflection. First, I just finished reading the latest "Comics Journal" today. It came out weeks ago. It’s a big issue, and there’s a ton of stuff in it, and the Journal always takes a while to read, but it shouldn’t take me weeks. This is a trend with me. I still haven’t finished their Comics Journal Library volume on Frank Miller yet. I didn’t even buy the Robert Crumb one, tough I still want it.

Secondly, I have still yet to crack “Persepolis 2”. Well, ok, that’s not totally accurate. I’ve flipped through it. But I haven’t even begin seriously reading it, but there it is, happily peeking out from under my copy of Jeffrey Brown’s “Unlikely”, which I bought weeks ago. And these books are young turks, recent immigrants into the tenement homes of my ‘to read’ piles. That copy of Al Davison’s “The Spiral Cage” is an old timer. And that collection of older “American Splendor” strips, with the movie tie-in cover! I got that before the movie came out! Long before I saw it. So looking at “Persepolis 2”, I’m reminded that not only am I slow to finish reading things, but I’m prone to not beginning things, and leaving them around to fester.


The first and most obvious reason is that I don’t really have a lot of free time anymore. I have enough time to write stuff in this blog, and I have enough time to read the week’s comics, and I have enough time to watch the occasional movie or go out with friends or try to write some fiction once in a while, but that’s the max. And yet, I still make time for things I really want to do. There’s something deeper.

Regarding new books, and working with a stack of things to read, I’ve found that excitement plays a big role in getting me to read stuff. I certainly intended to read “Persepolis 2” soon after I bought it (although I bought it almost by surprise; I didn’t know it was out in bookstores yet, and it certainly wasn’t out in comic shops) but then all the reviews poured in, some of them pretty mixed, and other exciting books came out, and my interest declined a bit. Never enough to make me regret buying the thing. I don’t regret anything sitting there on my pile; it‘s only after I read books and find them lacking that I find them to be regrettable purchases. But my interest went south enough to make me think: “Well, maybe later.” And it’s now much later, and there’s the book peering out like a kitten, and here I am.

I’ve found that collecting books in a series affects me in a similar way. I get volumes 1-3 of Grant Morrison’s run on “JLA” and I don’t really want to get too into the flow, or I’ll get anxious to read the rest of it (which I don’t own) and I don’t have the money to get the rest of it right now so I’ll stew on it for a while, and then by the time I can get the remainder of the story I need to refresh myself as to what’s gone before, and so on and so on. Interestingly, I usually only get this feeling when there’s volumes available to buy; I’ll start reading “Doom Patrol” now since the rest of the trades haven’t come out yet.

Ah, me and my stack. Someday I’ll catch up. It’s funny that I’m interested in every last book on that pile. I wouldn’t buy anything that I wasn’t interested in. But there’s such differing levels of ‘interest’ to go by…


Paul O’Brien lets us know where we stand at 1/6 of the way through Chris Claremont’s “X-Men: The End”:

Apparently there's a plague which is causing mutants to lose their powers. It seems to have been going for a while, and you might have thought we'd have heard about it before issue #3. There's a completely new subplot with Dani Moonstar in Neverland, and another one with minor characters from the spin-off books (M and X-23, of all people) hunting down Sage, who in turn seems to have something in mind involving Malice. And what does all this have to do with the return of Phoenix? Uh... Well, Sinister seems to think that the return of Phoenix is going to hasten... something or other... so he's going to do... something. The X-Men are... kind of hanging around, vaguely hoping that a plot will become apparent to them. And Jean is lounging around on a spaceship waiting for... er, for something to happen. Basically, other than Sinister (who won't explain what's going on), nobody has a clue what's happening, and indeed nothing seems to be happening, other than everyone having a general sense of urgency seemingly unrelated to anything that might actually be happening.”

Sounds like a real ‘zinger’ of a story! Paul has a super jumbo-sized review feast up today, and all are welcome to partake!

*The latest new blogging trend is ‘favorite moments in comics’ which began on the Comics Journal Message Board and spread to the Greater Internet. I already contributed to the Journal thread itself, but let me expand on my original picks:

1. The first time the Rat Creatures chase Fone Bone and Thorn through the woods in "Bone":

First impressions are important. I had heard about “Bone” in “Wizard” and saw an ad for the first trade on the back cover of an issue of Image‘s “Shadowhawk” so I got my Mom to buy it for me. It was the first self-published book I’d ever gotten my hands on. This scene occurs near the end of the book, and it blew my mind. It was funny and cartoonish yet violent (not gory) and frightening. The Rat Creatures were particularly well-balanced between humorous goons and vicious animals at that early point in the story. If nothing else, this sequence made me realize that non-Big Company comics could be really damn good too.

2. The last words in the last panel in the last installment of Chris Ware’s “Rocket Sam”:

He will pick them all.

“Rocket Sam” was one of the two big stories (“Big Tex” being the other) that Ware worked on throughout the two Big Book of Jokes issues of “Acme Novelty Library”. There was lot of assorted “Rusty Brown” material scattered throughout too, which was also excellent. I’m so glad that all of this stuff will soon be collected into book form under the “Acme Novelty Library” title by Pantheon soon, because it all deserves to be read. “Rocket Sam” is a pulp sci-fi story about a stranded astro-hero who builds robots to aid him in his isolation. But his self-loathing prevents him from ever appreciating what his artificial creations do for him, or at least what they try to do, and he falls into a rut of despair and abuse. But he is his creations’ God and father, and they love him very much, and they know he knows best. It’s humor of only the darkest brand, and it builds to a stunningly beautiful and terrible finale of total devotion and the passing on of violence to successive generations. Those last words (you’ll have to see the context for yourself) are like a kick to the throat. Marvelous!

3. The close-up of Dave Sim’s eye right before the Viktor Davis segment of “Reads” kicks off:

As if to explicitly mark off where the story’s going to start getting a little… wild. Everybody and their kitten knows about “Reads”, that most controversial volume of “Cerebus”, and it’s suffice to note that the image of Sim’s eye can be ‘read’ in almost any way you choose. Is it filled with hesitancy at where the book is about to go? Or determination, and a steeling of the soul, since the book is about to dive very deep indeed, and the turning point is just now past.

4. The last page of “Elektra: Assassin”:

Frank Miller’s rollicking nightmare party of Sexy Ninja Death (as Brian Hibbs would say) and masculine introspection and Them Crazy Politics is the best thing he’s ever written. I’ve always felt that “DK2” was an attempt to recapture the same caffeinated satire glory, and while I’m actually rather fond of “DK2” it didn’t have Bill Sienkiewicz going for broke on every page. And the last page pulls it all together, the final whoopee-cushion for Our United States to sit on, the Cold War resolved in the way only superhero fantasy can do it, or maybe it’s the only way superhero fantasy can do it…

5. Quimby the Mouse walking down the stairs and disassembling the hospital bed:

Yep. More Chris Ware. This one’s out of “Quimby the Mouse”. When I read this as serialized in “Acme” I had no clue what it was all about. I thought the whole issue was style for style’s sake. But in a collected edition, it all gelled. It’s an amazingly emotional moment. It’s almost abstract, heavily symbolic, even obscure, but there’s such feeling behind it. The level of Ware’s skill seems to distract some readers from how passionate it is, how emotional. I read comments claiming that his work is chilly or distanced and I don’t agree at all. Ware’s heart is rarely anywhere but on his sleeve; he just needs to stretch the boundaries of the comics language to properly express himself. Less sophistication just wouldn’t do the emotion justice.

Say, let’s add a few more!

6. “Spectacular Spider-Man” issue #143:

I’ll have to paraphrase here. Spidey and The Punisher have just finished a battle with villains, including some psychic dork in a white jumpsuit who’s working for the Kingpin. Frank, true to his nature, shoots the bastard, who‘d been trying to brainwash him. In disbelief, Spidey shouts something like: “What the hell was that?! We could have gotten him to testify in court! We could have gotten evidence from him on the Kingpin, and all his cronies! And you just shot him!!!” Frank is not amused, and mutters something to the tune of: “Scum deserve to die. I‘ll get to the Kingpin and his cronies myself.

I was seven or eight when I read this. It really drilled into my head the conflict between differing levels of ’heroism’ at play in the world. It also (on a more direct, little kid level) made me think that Frank was such a bad-ass, telling off the star of the book, just like that! Truly a noted formative experience in the young fan’s mind.

7. The angry misanthrope ’hero’ of Dan Clowes’ short story “MCMLXVI” (collected in the “Caricature” book) tells us that he’s recently gotten into watching terrible old exploitation pictures from days gone by, and he explains why he can’t stand seeing them in public: “I used to like to go to see these movies in the theater, but I got sick of all the fucking assholes in the audiece who would laugh at everything… I genuinely love this stuff”:

‘Nuff said!

*Perhaps you remember my exploring Avatar's December solicitations and noting that the Alan Moore "Yuggoth Cultures" colection would feature 50 pages of bonus stuff. Well, turns out that some of those pages will house Alan David Doane's interview with Mr. Moore himself from a few months back! Very cool news.


*Ah, late night, swell night. Little going on.

Marvel Boy

Here we have some of Grant Morrison’s pre-”New X-Men” Marvel work, arriving just around the time “The Invisibles” finished up at Vertigo. He’d done “Skrull Kill Krew” with Mark Millar a few years prior, but this six-issue series marked the beginning of Morrison’s extended end-of-millennium run at the House of Ideas. It’s an infectiously fun and frenzied series, comparable to “Seaguy” in its rush to cram in as many ideas as possible before time is up, with the added distraction of constant riffing on Marvel history.

Noh-Varr is a young Kree officer on a parallel-reality skimming starship that’s shot down in an alternate Marvel Universe; Noh-Varr is the only survivor, and he’s kept prisoner by the wicked Dr. Midas, an ultra-rich technology scavenger who aims to strip the ship down for valuable weapons and items to salvage and patent as his own. Dr. Midas is also quite obviously the Silver-Age Iron Man (or at least he’s wearing his armor). There will be more alternate Marvels to come, as Noh-Varr breaks free from captivity, and decides to take his revenge by causing a whole lot of casualty-free property damage in New York. S.H.I.E.L.D. (in this world a space-based enclave of psychic operatives) decides to rent clones of Captain America from the UN to stop the teenage terror. And on top of that, a ridiculously dangerous life-form called Hexus managed to escape the wreckage of Noh-Varr’s ship, and now plans to spread its influence throughout the universe in the way it born to do: through corporate branding! And what of Dr. Midas’ bondage-gear clad daughter Oubliette? How do the Fantastic Four fit into all this? If a cosmic jihad is declared on DisneyWorld, how will President Clinton react? All of these questions will be answered, don’t you worry your head.

It’s a lot of gratuitous fun, though it might be a little more fun (and a lot more gratuitous) to those already steeped in Marvel lore. Sure, there’s some social satire (mostly in relation to Dr. Midas and Hexus, who can be viewed as differing aspects of the same idea: total capitalist control of humankind) mixed in with the explosions and beatings, but the most potential that’s realized is the potential freedom of the alternate universe; when it’s not the real (Marvel) world, you can temporarily enslave everyone to alien corporate interests, or tattoo obscenities onto the Earth’s surface, or have the shit beaten out of what looks like Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes, or just have the book’s protagonist act like an asshole, as does our perpetually (if understandably) pissed-off Marvel Boy, oh so annoyed to be saving those stupid humans! Aiding and abetting is J.G. Jones (currently on Millar’s “Wanted”), offering up some smooth superhero visuals; the emphasis on big action and bright science plays to Jones’ strengths, every page revealing new baubles and delights and striking kicks (hah).

There’s another similarity to “Seaguy” by the way: the book was planned as the first in a trilogy. And while “Seaguy” managed to form a highly satisfying little story in its first volume, something that can stand alone even if the rest of the saga never shows up, “Marvel Boy” simply stops, and the remainder of the adventure has yet to appear. It even ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. “Seaguy” also ended on a wonderfully ambiguous note of 'what happens next?!' though, without much damage done to the feel of the story as a stand-alone work. “Marvel Boy” is a more episodic book in its structure, with one adventure directly following another, but not all of them quite hooking together. This story feels unfinished, although a heroic attempt is made at tying up as many potentially nagging loose ends as possible before the final uncertain sequence. It’s nothing to dissuade anybody from checking out the book. Smart, irresponsible superhero thrills don’t always require a satisfying finale for their more immediate charms to register, and there is much immediacy in these pages.



*Nothing like having the dragons of the sky descend upon the town and blow out the power all of last night. Looks like sunny days for a while now, though the wind's still whipping out there. I didn't have too much to blog last night anyway; although I think this is interesting:

*You know from reading my "Drawn and Quarterly Vol. 3" comments that I'm crazy about them there early "Gasoline Alley" strips. Which is why the Comics Journal message board has brought the good word from D&Q's own Peggy Burns, regarding D&Q's long-planned series of collected "Gasoline Alley" books:

"The first volume is done and is on our Spring 05 list. Well worth the wait!"

I'm sure it will be! Is Chris Ware still designing this (like Fantagraphics' "Krazy Kat" series)?


Wolverine and Gary Panter: Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

But first a glimpse into the non-comics world:

*My dear Mother sent me some comics the other day, as part of a package with other stuff I had building up at her home. She had run across a fifty-cent bargain box at a mall set-up and dug some stuff out for me. I got a 1997 Chuck Dixon issue of “Robin” in which the Boy Wonder fights the Toyman, and the recent “Batman: The 12 Cent Adventure” which isn’t really a whole adventure but the prelude to a really long adventure that will cost a lot more than twelve cents. So yes, I now own a segment of “War Games” which is almost exactly like owning a piece of the Berlin Wall so I‘m very excited.

But she obviously cared a lot just to send me comics, and I should not tease. I phoned my Mom to thank her for her gift and we had a very interesting conversation:

Thanks for those comics Mom.

Oh, did you like them? There weren’t a lot to choose from. Have you ever heard of “Thor?”

Yes, yes I have.

There were a lot of those… I don’t know why. There was also a “Swamp Thing” and I picked it up, but I saw there were ‘mature themes’ in it so I put it back down.


Yeah. I mean, Swamp Thing is a big swamp monster. Who wants to hear mature themes out of some swamp monster?

Another dispatch from the non-fan aboveground!

*And speaking of the Thing of Swamp, be sure you don’t miss Mike Sterling’s review of the new dvd collection of episodes from the 1990 “Swamp Thing” cartoon! I’m tempted to pick up a copy to keep my “Toxic Crusaders” disc company…

*Get in on the ground floor for The Hulk Musical!!!

*The Comics Journal message board has some stuff on an interesting LA Times article that ran today. It’s interesting mainly for updates on what several great folks are up to. Tony Millionaire has a new children’s book “That Darn Yarn” coming soon, apparently featuring Sock Monkey. And Ron Rege Jr. is doing a Tylenol ad campaign?!

*Enough puttering and linkery!

Astonishing X-Men #1-4

You may have heard of this title. I got to the party late because I never quite finished reading Grant Morrison’s run on “New X-Men” and I wasn’t very eager to start a new X-Series. Then I started to get mildly interested (Dirk said it “reads like good escapist television”) and I found I couldn’t track down all the issues. Everyone seemed to have only issue #4. On a trip to my parents’ home I tracked down issue #1: the 'Director’s Cut'. I must have missed Terry Gilliam adding the character designs and alternate cover images to the director’s cut of “Brazil”. And who directed the comic anyway? I guess Joss Whedon has directed things in the past so what they really mean is that a director is working on the comic, which means every issue could technically be a director’s cut. Hey! Maybe Marvel could re-release every issue! On the other hand, I was actually able to find issue #1 due to its reprinting. Issues #2-3 proved to be tougher, but I finally snagged some copies at the sixth store I checked over the course of two weeks. I felt like I’d gathered all of the Infinity Gems, only my reward was reading about Cyclops rather than unlimited power.

There’s a peculiar whiff of hyper-sensitivity surrounding the series’ use of classic X-Tropes. Scott and Logan fighting? Hank eventually makes reference to how “the kids love that.” Time to re-instate the spandex? Plenty of meta-bitching from Logan. Popular character back from the grave? Mere panels later: “God, please… am I finally dead?” It’s like there’s some insecurity surrounding the use of clichés, so there must be a wink to justify the indulgence, a Diet Coke ordered after the Big Mac Value Meal of Wolverine acting all hot-headed with his teammates (“Are you gonna fight everyone, Logan? I just wanna know if I’m next,” snarks Kitty, drinking from the plastic cup). But it’s to Whedon’s credit that such things remain quibbles, and that the pop-culture references are kept at a hush, and that the bons mots feel like they’re coming from witty characters, not just a witty writer.

It’s a good thing that Whedon’s got a good grip on those characters, since the story isn’t brain-blasting material. The current lead villain, Ord, is kind of a snooze. There’s a ‘cure’ to mutation lurking about, a plot thread “X-Statix” toyed around with just last March, if I‘m not mistaken (and since I had already dropped the book by then, I may indeed be mistaken). And what hints we’ve gotten regarding the larger background plot make the whole thing sound pretty time-tested, though there’s potential for good fun, and the possibility that everything might go in a different direction.

But unlike some other books, “Astonishing X-Men” lets you have a good time just going in whatever direction it does. The cast feels natural in their interactions; you really get the sense of old friends hanging around, a big plus for a core X-Book loaded up with popular faces. John Cassaday of “Planetary” and “I Am Legion” does nice work with the visuals, making each character feel tactile and weighted. I loved the rounded aging babyface look he gives Scott. I even liked Cyclops’ scuba-gear bodysuit, though the other costumes fail to register.

It’s a nice book filled with nice stuff like nice drawings and nice characters and familiarity, but of a reasonably nice sort.

Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise

This is not the new Gary Panter book, “Jimbo in Purgatory”. This is an old Gary Panter book, published by Raw/Pantheon in 1988, collecting comics dating back to the late 70’s. The book is also long out of print, but I scored a used copy of the paperback version really cheap, and I urge you to do the same, because there’s some really great stuff here.

There’s basically two parts to the book. The first part, consisting of newer work, follows Jimbo, a futuristic punkish everyman, as he wanders around the World of Tomorrow. He visits an upper-class neighborhood and fights strange mutant gangs and orders hamburgers from psychic robots. It’s a rambling, stream-of -consciousness story, excellently conveyed through Panter’s ever-shifting art. Sometimes it’s loose, even sloppy. But then you notice that while Jimbo himself may look sloppy, the background characters are a sharper, more defined sloppy. There’s very carefully graduated levels of ‘sloppy’ on display here. And then you see how sharp, how tight some of the backgrounds are. And then you get to some lovely, geometrically exact skyscrapers, and some excellent Kirby-style robots. And I was amazed at how well all of these forms cohere on the page. And then Jimbo goes to a club, and we get the absolute best drug-use sequence I’ve ever seen in a comic. Layers upon layers of bodies and abstract shapes and scribbles, displaced word-balloons and intentionally unreadable dialogue, and small cuts of pure white space dashed across the pages (which are colored a dull green/gray) to indicate those untouchable moments of clarity. And the story continues and the scene grows somewhat clearer with time, but the residue of the trip hangs around for the rest of the segment, which also involves a chase scene with a giant scary robot. It’s a bravura sequence, and it instantly sold me on the rest of the volume.

The second part of the book is composed of short 1-4 page strips (originally doled out in magazines in semi-monthly installments from the looks of the dates) which begin as random gag pieces but later cohere into something of an off-the-cuff pulp sci-fi epic, with giant nuclear terrorist cockroaches kidnapping Jimbo’s new lady-friend. Almost every new strip is composed in a different style, including ultra-loose sketches pasted atop photo backgrounds, detailed cross-hatchings, and even a heavy shadow action page that looks remarkably like Frank Miller’s “Sin City” but over a decade early. Even moreso than the previous part of the book, Panter cannot sit still with the story, which changes direction with whiplash speed. The visual presentation is given prominence, and I’m certain that some readers will find the non-stop optical shifting to be unbearably noodly, at least as presented back-to-back-to-back. But there’s a power to the drive of the story. It all concludes in a jaw-dropping sequence involving a burning horse, with specks of bright orange paint flicked across the b&w pages to indicate the burning, while the narration gives us a parable about empathy and the unbearable confusion of humans doing good. It’s crushingly powerful stuff.

I’m gushing, I know. Hey, the book’s long off the shelves. I’m in convincing mode now. A varsity Internet swimmer like yourself can probably find this for under its 1988 cover price of $12.95. The good folk should keep an eye out.


In Which I Retreat Into the Past:

*Draw the shades and beat the rugs! There’s new comics coming through! All one of them!

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #2 (of 6)

More time twisting as S.M.A.S.H. encounter their Golden Age counterparts for a merrily unnecessary fight scene. At least Peter Hogan’s script manages to wring some humor out of it, as the modern heroes want to sort things out while the true-to-form Golden Agers immediately start swinging:

This is ridiculous… can’t we just sit down and talk?

Why? So you can poison us with propaganda?

And aside from the fisticuffs we get more soapy character bits, as The Fighting Yank’s girlfriend is torn between her and her former lover! And what of the romance between Tom Strange and Pantha? I won’t blame you if you don’t answer, because there’s not a lot to say.

There is a pretty neat sequence at the very end of the issue that holds promise for future chapters, if only to see how far the melodrama is going to be driven, but the core plot is still revving in neutral.

*Well! That was certainly a thorough overview of the day’s releases! I just didn’t have the cash for the first trade of Morrison’s “Doom Patrol”, which was the only other book I really had my eye on. I've been splurging too much lately; one shop had volumes three and four of "Drawn and Quarterly" cut down to blowout prices, so I snatched them up.

I'm about 3/4 of the way through Vol. 3, the one from 2000 with the Chris Ware cover. Ware also contributes a short homage to Frank King's "Gasoline Alley", in which Walt Wallet and Skeezix wander around a slowly modernizing landscape while providing biographical narration as to Mr. King. Skeezix also gradually grows older with each panel while Walt remains the same (although all the characters age in the real "Gasoline Alley" strip, still plugging away today), and the story of the creator's passing becomes the story of the newspaper comics section itself withering away. It's a clever, emotional evocation of King's own early style, which is showcased inside the book with 30 pages of rare Sundays from the 20's through the 40's presented. Some of King's more expansive layouts have clearly influenced Ware's own work, particularly a noted episode of "Big Tex" where the entire history of Tex's ill-fated clan is told off-panel as individual parts of a tree are glimpsed at varying stages of aging. King has no shortage of formal ambition himself, but his gentle humor and lush rural landscapes and muted soothing colors are also the perfect forum for wandering and dreaming (vivid, feverish things, with a McCay-style wake-up panel on the end). There's more in Vol. 4, and eating this stuff up from the perspective of today's Sunday pages leaves one agog at the prospect that so much beauty could go into an earlier era's disposable newsprint amusement.

Elsewhere in the book there's a great adaptation of "Crime and Punishment" done in the style of a Silver-Age "Batman" story by R. Sikoryak. Jason Little (later of the decent "Shutterbug Follies") contributes a stylish drop of airline whimsy. Michel Rabagliati presents an early outing for his 'Paul' character (later of "Paul in the Country" and "Paul Has a Summer Job"). There's pages from Seth's sketchbooks, which later gave us "Vernacular Drawings". It's a regular glimpse into the comics future past!

*I also picked up a copy of “Milk and Cheese” issue #1 (the first issue #1 that is), now in its eighth printing, hailing from The Year of Our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Ninety One. I’m sure the titular duo need no introduction, nor does creator Evan Dorkin. But I'd really like to say that in a world of often drawn-out and tiringly padded comic stories, it's good to take a trip back in time to witness a pair of fast-moving heroes at work. In just 24 pages Milk and Cheese preserve American justice, fight the War on Drugs, destroy some Poison and Tiffany albums, and become the 20th century’s greatest revolutionaries. And they go bowling and make rude gestures on the score board. It’s frantic and violet slapstick, just like Grandma used to cook up on Sunday afternoons, and I'm sure nobody needed me to tell them that.


Our Busy Internet.

*First things first. The December Image solicitations are here. The event of the month is described within.


A brand-new quarterly series, starting on December 29th. Featuring such old favorites as Sponge Boy and the Flying Dead Dog, plus plenty of new century flavor. If your interest was piqued by that 4-pager in the recent A1 Issue #0, you’ll want to hop on board just in time to celebrate 20 long years of horseplay!

*Hmmm. Avatar is putting out a trade for their Alan Moore miscellany series “Yuggoth Cultures” with an additional 50 pages of extra stuff (essays, obscure interviews, and additional art, mostly). And the latest adaptation of Moore material from another medium “Hypothetical Lizard” launches. A four-issue miniseries this time. Ooooh. “Nightjar” sees the release of issue #5, which is creatively dubbed (4 of 4) at the bottom. I’ve yet to see a copy of issue #2 myself.

*Let’s skip around the Internet a bit.

*The Onion AV Club has a rather curious review of “In the Shadow of No Towers” out today; it’s certainly the first review I’ve read that claims the inclusion of the bonus vintage strips actually detracts from the book as a whole, indicating they “hijack [the book], making it less personal and more craft-focused, the equivalent of a coffee-table art book reproducing famous paintings alongside contemporary imitations.” Considering that later in the same paragraph Spiegelman’s technical skill is described as “masterful”, I guess he’s really great at providing contemporary imitations.

I think I understand what reviewer Tasha Robinson is getting at, that the inclusion of such influences drag the enterprise down to the level of mere visual homage (I suppose there’s a risk in McCay and the like eclipsing Spiegelman’s own skill as a cartoonist, which could create something of a struggle of style between the halves of the book, thus tying the reading to a perception of visual one-upmanship), but I’d argue that the bonus strips do have personal impact, since they’re explicitly cited in the text as being the works Spiegelman immersed himself in immediately following his experiences. And the strips also work (in an admittedly obvious fashion given the emphasis on cartoon NYC destruction) as a simultaneously wistful and ominous peek at the formidable popular entertainment of an earlier time (not really more innocent - that newspaper headline does scream about the President’s shooting after all). Ms. Robinson seems to read the inclusion of the material on a craft-centered level, but I saw it as more emotional a presence than that. I agree with her summary of the main work as “like a state of mind, portrayed in complicated detail” however.

And at least the book fared better than Mamoru Oshii’s “Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence” which Robinson slams elsewhere in the update (I'm holding out hope, but the word is growing less positive with each new review). Plus, she conducts a nice interview with Oshii himself, where the director analogizes the use of recurring symbolic images throughout his filmography to a dog pissing on a pole, urges young fans not to go into animation, and concludes the chat by musing “Well, I don‘t care whether I have any friends.” It’s well worth a look.

*Meanwhile, Moriarty of Ain’t It Cool News reviews the Fantastic Four movie script, and he’s not too enthusiastic about the handling of Dr. Doom, who apparently experiences the most thorough ‘mainstreaming’ for Big Summer consumption. Not a lot of detail (but definitely some spoilers) and hints at a few “epic miscalculations”…

*Which leads us right into Marvel’s solicitations. Analyzing solicitations is the national sport of blogging, and I often feel like a bench-warmer given how little I have to say about everything. It just seems like a typical month for Marvel.

Well, all those “What If” books are shipping. Seven of them. I was delighted to see that one of the stories in the 'funny' issue is indeed “What If Kevin Smith Finished His Books?” just like I (and doubtlessly several thousand other fandom jackanapes) remarked, although I suspect the joke will be a bit easier to take from a bunch of readers as compared to the company itself that charged everyone money for stories that never got finished. Unless the solicitation itself was just joking; I’d hate to be robbed of good “Identity Crisis” gags. I also noticed that Bendis is now officially co-writing Kevin Smith’s issue of the ‘serious’ “What If” run. And there’s a “What If Classic” trade, so it's quite a month for pondering the implications of alternate plot developments.

Lots of new initial six-issue arcs for re-launched books, popping up like rows of corn. Maybe I’ll look at Ellis’ “Iron Man” but I’m waiting for the trades on his two “Ultimate Fantastic Four” arcs.

Wow. A fresh re-issue of the “Maximum Carnage” trade. That brings me back. Fourteen long issues of nondescript villains slaughtering hundreds of people (BUT WITHIN THE BOUNDRIES OF GOOD TASTE OF COURSE!), while Spidey teamed up with the likes of Iron Fist and Morbius to bobble around for 300 pages before wrapping things up. Venom was in there too, just entering his semi-hero overexposure state. At the time, I thought it was the most rocking Spider-Man family mega-adventure ever. I was 11 and I also thought hologram covers were really pretty.

But the Super-Nintendo game! Now that was an event. Green Jelly soundtrack. Final Fight style action. I never could beat the damned thing. It even had an advertisement in movie theaters, before the trailers. That was wild. Now there’s 17 solid hours of cola ads before every movie in America, but does Madison Avenue stop to tip their fancy urban high-brim hats to poor old Cletus Kasady? Certainly not, the pigs.

Maximum Carnage the comic did have one thing going for it: the unspeakable pleasure of the Spider-Clone epic was only a year in the future. And just as a black hole absorbs all matter, the Spider-Clone infamy cycle managed to attract much of the negative vibes surrounding that era in Spider-History. The evil thoughts and frowny faces are clutched tightly to Ben Reilly’s bosom now, and Maximum Carnage can’t help but emerge smelling just a smidge sweeter. And if you haven’t gotten intimate with the Spider-Clone years, you ought to. There's a lot of beautiful Spider-Mistakes ahead of you!