I've packed the bags under my eyes.

*Excuse me if everything seems kind of jumbled here; I just got back from 2046, and there’s only so much glacial rapture one can take before individual parts of the mind begin devouring one another.

Jack Cross #3

Oh come on now. I wanted to give this thing the benefit of the doubt, and it only spits in my eye. Sad.

Yeah, so this issue is almost entirely action scene after action scene, loaded with quips and posturing and all of the high-octane farting around we’ve occasionally come to expect from writer Warren Ellis. I wonder if the whole thing might have been more forgivable with more muscle in the art corner? I haven’t exactly been lauding Gary Erskine’s art in prior posts, but the opening fight scene this issue is just plain sloppy, with characters positioned mere inches away from each other yet still left unable to successfully shoot one another, would-be dynamic poses left merely flailing and awkward (with their hands constantly flying into the air and their eyes closing, Cross and his foe look to be engaging in interpretative dance), x-ray views of snapping bones so badly established and tightly blocked that they’re almost incomprehensible, and oh so much more. What the hell is even going on with story page 7? Cross starts out punching a guy in the head (we get a nice shot of his brain to... um... establish that the guy has a brain, I guess), then he knees him in the chin, then in the next panel he’s seen jumping over a table in pursuit of the same guy - where the fuck did the table come from?! And did Cross just stand back and let his foe get a head start before pursuing him again? And why are Cross’ hands occasionally as big as his skull (seriously - keep your eye on those hands)?

I don’t know. Let me reiterate that I do sort of enjoy the idea of a half-crazy government agent focusing more on internal politics than actual foreign threats, all while on the trail of Saddam Hussein’s secret complacency beam (yes, I know it’s not actually called a complacency beam, but that’s what it acts like). This issue we discover the fate of said weapon, and it’s pretty much exactly what you’d have written down had DC printed an essay quiz in the back of issue #2 reading “What happened to the complacency beam?” This all occurs on the final three pages of the issue, after a rip-snorting helicopter battle that demonstrates how chopper-mounted chain gun ammunition is powerful enough to blast air-to-air through an enemy vehicle’s windshield, yet not quite capable of tearing through the back of the hapless pilot’s seat in order to strike Our Heroes. I wish I could base my criticism on something other than picking apart the mechanics of the action scene, but that’s really all the book is bothering to produce. And it’s not even personality-driven, or weird and kicky violence - it’s just aggressively brainless dross, like the end of Ocean, or one of the weaker issues of Global Frequency. And I dropped Global Frequency after four issues.

Speaking of which, this particular storyline ends with issue #4, the next issue, and I think that’ll be about it for me. I maintain that there was potential in this thing, and I hold out some hope that next issue will provide some sort of means of holding my interest. Right now though, it’s looking like the cleanest possible means of wrapping up Cross’ internal conflict in a neat bow, with plenty of tough guy stuff added in. Maybe the book won’t keep lurching forward, seemingly unaware of the interesting stuff lurking underneath, but this issue doesn’t instill much hope.

The Authority: The Magnificent Kevin #3 (of 5)

Ok, here’s the big trouble with this book right here. Garth Ennis thinks superheroes like The Authority are ridiculous. So he makes ludicrous, exaggerated fun of them. He also creates his own character, a lewd (yet golden-hearted) Ennis sort of protagonist. And for a while, he uses that character to make fun of superheroes like The Authority. And then he decides to use the superhero banner of The Authority to explore his own, original character’s past adventures. Left to his own devices, the humor is dialed down. The problem, however, is that the ‘ludicrously making fun of superheroes’ parts are frankly a lot more entertaining and energetic than the rather standard-issue Ennisisms of the original character’s adventures. Thus, through sheer force of his own displeasure, Ennis has inadvertently made The Authority that much better a thing for his book - it’s only really alive when they’re around. He’s reinforced the necessity of superheroics in his own superhero hate book! Now there’s some bloody irony.

This issue is practically a stand-alone adventure for Young Kev: Superkiller, and it’s telling that most of the humor arrives through the present-day framing sequence. Presumably the exploits of Kev and his team in the past will have some sort of effect on Kev’s current life, especially in regards to his relationships with his teammates, but there’s really no reason for this sort of material to be taking up a second straight issue, save for Ennis seizing the opportunity to write a fairly straightforward action thing in the middle of his Authority series, setting up a personal comfort zone in the midst of hostile territory. And it’s not bad, certainly better than last issue’s dive into Kev’s overly familiar origins. Basically, Kev and his crew are hired to knock off a quartet of extremists on both sides of the troubles over in Ireland (circa 1994); things get messy and lots of folks die. It’s pleasing enough, though it’s obviously only tangentially connected to the rest of this miniseries; I suspect that compressing this and last issue’s flashback sequences into a single unit would have done the trick without compromising the main story, though obviously I need to see the rest of the main story play out to be sure.

Still, an interesting comparison can be made with Jack Cross - Carlos Ezquerra’s art is never less than clear (‘clean’ wouldn’t be the correct term at all), the action flowing with perfect logic. There’s a nice moment of extreme gore that sort of reminded me of the earlier Punisher MAX issues; there was also a similar mist of superkiller tactics hanging over the thing, with the dark humor a bit more pronounced, and the intensity accordingly dialed down. A less intense Punisher MAX isn’t really a bad thing for the book to be, and I implore you not to think that I found this issue to be awful; it was good enough Ennis entertainment. But I just happen to like the farce a little bit more, and I notice that the humor has quieted down a bit in the last few issues, the ones that have gotten heavily into Kev’s background. The next chapter promises a return to the present, and I’m looking forward to it; it’s a special kind of comedy that has me wondering if superheroes need soar down to rescue Garth Ennis from a less amusing book.