An issue to issue forth into history.

*UPDATE 8:29 PM: Hello all, back from my meeting and still pooped and I just noticed that I forgot once more the exotica of


The Tower (Cheval Noir #9-14) (I've gotten some nice response to this, a little jaunt into The Obscure Cities, that fantasy world of Francois Schuiten and Benoit Peeters, full of beautiful buildings and careful colors and soul! Soul I tell you! but the availability of the book is a devil's pact in terms format I fear...)

Iron Man #3, Tom Strong #32

Flaming Carrot Comics #2 (or is it #34?), Adam Strange #7 (of 8)

And why not throw in my initial thoughts on the first 35% or so of Alan Moore's "Voice of the Fire"?

Ok. On to the day's events again, with a most curious book from the creator of "Concrete".




*What do I see here, hovering over the chasm of slumber? I see only the most wonderful comics, the comics that I am bound to remember for all of my days. Come! Share in my glorious vision before I fall face-forward onto my keys and miss the fucking meeting I still need to fucking attend at seven o’ fucking clock. Come!

The World Below #3 (of 4)

Some comics will live forever. Better get used to the title here, because this is one of them.

The World Below” might better fit into the bibliography of writer/penciler Paul Chadwick under the title of “Not Concrete”, since it’s the only other extended series created by Chadwick and featuring his writing and art (with the inks of Ron Randall in this instance offering back-up). And ‘extended’ might well be an inappropriate term, since the book only saw two four-issue miniseries worth of material released: this initial 1999 color series, and “The World Below: Deeper and Stranger”, which got downgraded to black and white after low sales. Chadwick had wanted an ongoing series of single-issue adventures, following the strange quest of a crack team of six racial and gender balanced treasure-hunting adventurers deep underneath the Earth in search of valuable technology at the beck and call of an electronics magnate; at least he got the single-issue structure in place for most of the title’s life.

Thus, we’re able to hop into the fun very quickly; and what fun it is! Because this series would also feature potent allegory! For something or other!

Just take this issue, in which our team just can’t help but pause their entire quest at the sight of a rather… suggestive stone spire, standing tall and at attention and plunging into an equally… suggestive open cavern in the roof of the underground. Simply looking upon this display causes the men in the team to go bonkers with testosterone and yell and slap the ladies around. They’re then seized with an enormous urge to climb the looming shaft, up toward the welcoming cavern above. Meanwhile, the girls all get pre-menstrual headaches (and that’s exactly how they define them to one another), and note that little creatures and beasties are rutting like crazy all around the scene.

You see! It's like a classic fable, only vaguely filthy. At this point, the clever and canny reader might muse to themselves “Oh my! Mr. Chadwick is setting up some commentary on gender differences! A spat obvious, but what cheek!”

I thought the same thing. What cheek indeed.

One of the sweating men nearly falls from his position on the towering rod and gets all tangled up in his climbing gear. The other men don’t care, so vigorous is their upward crawl. They cuss at one another. Oh, the don’t really cuss. They don’t say 'fuck'. They don’t even say f$&% or some equivalent. No, Mr. Chadwick has a different plan: they say 'Eff'. As in “So how come you’re using my lines, eff-face?” “EFF YOU, HASSLER! YOU’RE the effing GIRL!” The narration cheerily points out that all dirty words have been “discretely rendered”. This will be the final discreet moment of the issue.

So even though the sight of the thing disgusts her (“…it makes my skin crawl to think of reaching the top.”), one of the more sporty members of the female side of the squad makes the climb herself, enjoying a lovely flashback to her dangerous youth and eventually saving all but one of the men, who gingerly slips himself into the opening in the ceiling.

And then, in case I and Mr. Chadwick haven’t been hinting and nudging around with nearly enough force, we get a big glimpse of the summit of the enormous rocky penis, which is all throbbing and fleshy on top, and plunged into a welcoming chamber of moist pink ruffles. “The soft tissues lining it are curved and feminine,” the narration gingerly intones, in case anyone had missed the fact that our team supreme had just entered a gigantic Cave Vagina. There are corpses of men laying all around, and apparently an opening to the above-ground world somewhere in the back where hunters and various civilians have fallen in over the years. The remaining male in Our Heroic Team is left in a drugged state of ecstasy, rolling and snuggling about among the folds of the opening. The mountain-climbing heroine is fast behind him, apparently not affected by exposure to any gender’s sexual equipment in giant cave form.

Come quickly!” she shouts, “This place is about killing people… I can feel it and evidence is everywhere!” As if to seal the aptitude of her observation, she’s pointing to a human skull lodged somewhere in a fold.

You don’t understand. You’re a woman. You can’t.” replies her teammate, in a haze.

Obviously, there’s only one thing to do in such a situation: she whips out a nice big shotgun and fire erupts from its long barrel, lead ejaculated into the flesh of the cave, creating a veritable typhoon of blood, skin, and mixed Freudian symbols, and then the cave roars and, for lack of a better term, expunges everyone. Fortunately our dynamic duo manage to rappel down the enormous Cave Penis as the flesh cavern above oozes blood all down its stony length.

I found this book in the bargain bin, you know. You find a lot of great things in there.

Back on the ground, everyone is quite embarrassed at their actions and nobody can really explain what happened. Lord knows I can’t, with the messages mixing and re-mixing and punching holes into alternate dimensions and colonizing them. I think we were supposed to get some kind of lesson about male agression and feminine coolness in the face of naughty bits the size of skyscrapers. Fortunately, there’s still time for a nice wrap-up: one of the team remarks that the discovery of the above-ground entrance could aid local law enforcement. “I bet a lot of missing persons cases could be closed with those remains.” I agree, although I’m not sure if the grief of uncertain relatives would necessarily be assuaged by the details of their beloveds’ fates.

So ends another thrilling and stimulating excursion into “The World Below”. I can only hope that similarly individualistic exploits will be recorded for our enchantment and perusal in future issues, which I managed to purchase for less than fifty cents each a while back but I never got to reading.