Further thoughts on terrible comics.

*But why not enjoy some prior thoughts, even on some good comics in


Conan and the Jewels of Gwahlur #1-3 (of 3) (and thoughts on adaptation)

Hellboy: The Island #1 (of 2)

Flaming Carrot Comics #3 (#35 in a series)

LowJinx #2: Understanding the Horrible Truth About Reinventing Minicomics (very funny minicomic from 2000, from some great people; keep your eyes peeled)

And what's more, lurking in the depths of Comic Book Galaxy, we've got:

Winsor McCay Early Works: Volume V

Scobble it up, while I inquire as to the proper spelling of 'scobble.'

*Excellent Ideas Dept: I received a revelation from angels last night, on the topic of the upcoming southern-rock Ghost Rider movie. I have the perfect title sequence. It’s all black, and suddenly we’re hearing the sweet tones of If You Wanna Get to Heaven by The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. We begin to see fragmented pieces of a mortocycle in operation via multiple split-screens. A grinding wheel here, a handlebar there, the road roaring by below; it’s like a motorcycle operating in abstract. All visuals are in 16mm, really faded and blurry. Views of details keep shifting as the preliminary credits appear. Then, a huge chunk of the upper screen wipes into a single wide view of Oscar winner Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze, roaring down the highway. Hopefully this will coincide with one of the harmonica bits. Overlaid across everything is a big solid yellow and red Ghost Rider title logo, just as it appeared on those 1973 early issues. Maybe a copyright notice on the bottom. Yeah.

That’s it. I saw it in my dreams and I will now tolerate no less. You’d better all congratulate me now, while I’m accessible; soon I’ll have disappeared for a swim into a money bin full of cocaine.

Sword of Damocles #1-2 (of 2)

Careful/frightening readers will note that I was recently at the shop where I buy most of my bargain comics. Every few weeks, I usually have a few more things to look for, just stuff that I’ve suddenly heard of. For example, this time around I began specifically looking for the Warren Ellis issues of the splendid 1996 Wildstorm crossover Fire From Heaven. I already spend too much space chatting about Alan Moore’s role (or lack thereof) in this little affair, but I still wanted to see how Mr. Ellis fared. Since it was only two bucks; I can justify pretty much any comics purchase for two bucks.

Ellis wrote one of the errant framing miniseries of the crossover, Sword of Damocles; you’ll recall Moore’s similarly structured Fire From Heaven framing miniseries neither framed anything nor actually formed a miniseries by any useful margin. Same here. You’ll also recall that Moore’s chapters of the story were so bound to the necessity of hitting assorted (likely pre-provided) overall plot points, that even the parts of it he actually wrote didn’t sound like him. Ellis actually does a slightly better job of retaining a semblance of his writerly ‘voice’ amid the din of Big Event noise, but it’s a mighty struggle.

Sword of Damocles was Ellis’ first work for Image. It’s also the first chapter of the 20-book Fire From Heaven event, much of which would cross over into regular Wildstorm titles, interrupting their current storylines. I was simply delighted to note, however, that the first issue of this lurching stitchwork of a storyline isn’t actually the beginning; by page 4, there’s already a footnote directing us to the first appearances of some of the cast in Gen13 Vol. 2 #1, and a helpful synopsis (yes, there’s a ‘Story Thus Far’ type text synopsis in the first book of the event) fills in the blanks of what I guess is a long-building plot, which naturally makes little sense to those not purchasing a wide variety of Wildstorm titles. This book in particular focuses mainly on the titular Sword, who’s an agent of the evil Damocles (ha ha - take that, metaphor!). Damocles is apparently the main villain of this event, although this is the only issue of the crossover in which I’ve seen him actually appear, and I’ve managed to amass six out of twenty chapters merely by following the career paths of Moore and Ellis. The Sword however is a white-haired psycho wearing a big inverted cross on his chest who goes out and kills stuff long with Damocles’ dumber henchmen. The plot (some awful thing regarding Gen Factors and inter-dimensional travel; I’m assured that the revelations herein were terribly major things that changed Wildstorm’s superheroes forever, but only if you‘ve been reading a lot of it) is basically set in motion, the Sword acts like a badass, and *GASP* a hero dies. Because the Sword is such a badass. Everything is always the same, forever.

The hero in question is back by the end of the crossover, by the way.

Ellis tries to work with the material, attempting to imbue the Sword with touches of individual cruelty and evil charisma, but he’s caught between summarizing bits of plot that have come before and setting up the rest of the story to come. But at least he has a fighting chance; by the time issue #2 rolls along, the third-to-last book in the event overall, it’s evident that there’s trouble. Another text synopsis is given; pretty standard-issue. But then, in addition, the first seven pages of the book itself are devoted to further plot summarization, followed by an issue-long fight scene between the Sword and Wildstorm hero Union, who’s obviously had some Shocking Revelations pop up in his own books in this crossover. Unlike Moore’s Fire From Heaven, at least there’s a consistent focus on something (the titular Sword), saving this ‘miniseries’ from being an isolated pair of info-dump issues. Similarly to Moore’s issues, however, there’s really no way this can be called a ‘miniseries’ with a straight face; there’s no self-contained plot, just points on the event timeline that are generally grouped around the Sword, which affords it slightly more structure. Slightly.

So the Sword and Union (who are, oh my word, inter-dimensional twins or something; keep the shocks coming, guys!) fight a lot, and Ellis tries to keep things amusing through the Sword’s incessant narrative captions, musing as to why his twin hasn’t yet castrated himself, or criticizing his girlish long hair. Ah, but it’s all for nothing. When Warren Ellis climaxes a fight scene by having the hero skewer the villain with the American Flag, with no discernible accompanying irony or comment (save for the presence of the very act itself), you know the event has gained the upper hand. “It may be a cold, lifeless chunk of rock. But it’s our cold, lifeless chunk of rock. Let’s take it back,” hollers mighty Union to the heroes assembled at the end of the book. He’s talking about the moon, but one could be forgiven for thinking he’s referring to the crossover itself. That fight is beyond Our Heroes’ power, though.

Oh, Randy Green does the art for both of these books. It’s ok; he has a more rounded style than the average Wildstorm pen of the day. Today it’d be sort of inching toward a manga/superhero fusion look. He’s a pretty clear storyteller, which was good for the fights.

So Ellis is a bit more successful here than Moore. But I’m only examining individual parts; how does the crossover work as a whole? Well, maybe we don’t want to go there. By the end of the event, books were starting to get late. Fire From Heaven #2, intended as the grand finale, wound up being the penultimate book due to scheduling upheavals. It directly followed Sword of Damocles #2. It even depicts some of the same events.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the books were late enough that they wound up being produced concurrently, without much in the way of inter-artist communication. Because that’s pretty much the only explanation for the sheer lack of basic continuity between these two consecutive chapters. Heroes are visible in the background early in the fight in Damocles #2 that are later shown just newly arriving at the same point in Heaven #2. Another hero is shown lying beaten on the ground in Heaven #2; in Damocles #2, he’s not so much as touched by anyone. The staging of the fight is different; in Damocles #2, the combatants are knocked across the moon, away from the watching crowd, so Union can grab Old Glory at that crucial moment. In Heaven #2, they stay in exactly the same place, the flag having apparently come to them. Even the goddamned conclusion of the fight is different: in Damocles #2, the Sword gets vaporized by his own energy sword (oh the irony!) after the big run-through. In Heaven #2, the Sword is simply punched unconscious. I really can’t believe that readers of this crossover wouldn’t be hopping mad at such rampant sloppiness, even if it all can be chalked up to extreme lateness. I mean, this is just silly. Stupid question, I know, but did people actually buy this crap? And does anyone look back on this fondly?! I think they do. Because stuff like this is back in style.

Fuck it. I don’t care about Infinite Crisis, but take heart, those who do. It can’t be worse that this. It can’t.