There's more going on here then there was last time, but this is still a mini-series that seems even more inconsequential then Lobster Johnson, if that is something that's even possible. Hey, did you ever wonder how Abe Sapian felt after Hellboy left the Bureau For Paranomal Research & Defense? Did you think he was sad about it, and worried that he wouldn't be able to cope now that his friend and leader went away to Africa? You were right! Here's a mini-series about the fish-man and those exact feelings, and we'll throw in a snake creature as well! There's got to be something more interesting to say about Abe Sapian then this--oh, that's right, there was, it was called Garden of Souls, and it came out last year. (That's not to slight Jason Alexander's art--as much of a retread as this mini is turning into, Alexander has a real flair for the creeps and the crawls. But ye, this story be dull.) As boring as the Drowning was, there's still something great to be said for Mike Mignola. Keep reading. Just not this comic. Keep reading the reviews.
And here's another layer of wet cement slathered all over the monument that is Mignola's B.P.R.D. being the one little corner of the mainstream comic world that never disappoints. As slight a work as the off-shoots might be, the B.P.R.D. proper is consistently an immense pleasure to read. The art, while leaping from various different able hands, is a joy by itself--Paul Azaceta, even more so than Mignola, looks to have cut many of these pictures straight out of wood. (Possibly a sturdy oak?) It is also admirable that, after so many stories, Mignola still refuses to try to do anything beyond tell ripping yarns about the various ghosts and beasties, and the people that attempt to stand in their way. Hell, there's a little girl that's a host for some type of Satanic demon who quotes Hamlet to Sgt. Rock-style soldiers in an attempt to--what? Calm them? Creep them the fuck out? The main A plot is hinging around a Nazi attempt to breed vampires coming to catastrophic results after World War II. The B plot surrounds the aforementioned little girl, the devil that she truly is, and her feelings regarding owls. What's not to like about that? Oh, how about the editors of the B.P.R.D. responding directly to the still-whining jackasses who won't read Mignola's work unless he draws it? It's in the letters column. You're welcome.
Batman: Confidential # 14
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Rags Morales, Mark Farmer & I.L.L.
Published by DC Comics
There's a couple of odd missteps here--a purple hand, in direct contradiction of any possible human skin colors, and a scene where two nervous cops fire point blank at Batman and Commissioner Gordon with what appears to be automatic weapons, the result of which is both that A) no one gets shot and B) neither cop is reprimanded, but beyond that, this is pretty much exactly what's been happening for the last 13 issues of this series: anemic stories regarding the most trivial aspects of Batman's past, like "the time he met Lex Luthor," "the time the Joker killed some people" and now, "the time he met some cop-killer's understudy." While there's always going to be a lot more of a cogent argument for the dilution of the Batman brand by focusing on the production of ugly t-shirts and those obnoxious action figures, this series is continuing to rapidly turn itself into a fine example of why Bruce Wayne is totally over-exposed. Of course, the same thing could be said about the entire decade where his adventures seemed to consist of ice-skating and fighting circus bears, so maybe Batman is just impervious to bad stories. Or taste. And bears?
Gotham Underground # 6
Written by Frank Tieri
Art by J. Calafiore, Jack Purcell, Mark McKenna & Brian Reber
Published by DC Comics
It is curious to this reviewer if there are really going to be readers who react to the final pages of this issue with something like horror--while we assume that comics fans are smart enough to know that, regardless of what the surrounding characters said and what's depicted as happening, Nightwing (who is shot in the chest at close range, if you care) is not in any danger of actually being dead. Or even hurt that badly. Why should everyone know this? Well, because Gotham Underground has, and is, so completely full of completely bizarre additions to the DC universe that it clearly has to be a story that is going to be totally ignored by anybody who ever wants to write future Batman comics. They can't really expect anybody to accept what's been presented here--a four page spread of 33 new villains, all of whom are in some way correlated to other (still alive and available) villains. In some cases, the villains are just gender-reversed versions of other characters, like the disturbing female version of Bane--complete with vein covered breasts and a ponytail that looks like it may have been removed from an actual pony. In some cases, it is just a lame update of a costume and a change in race. Although this is presented with complete sincerity and seriousness, there is just no way this series can be anything less than a strange joke, the sort that will elicit a grimace of pain after it gets explained. Like the Reader's Digest Humor In Uniform page, or...what's that one called? Life In These United States? That one isn't funny either. Drama In Real Life though, that shit is the bomb.
In the same way that Batman Confidential provides an anemic, toothless venue for boring blueprints of ideas about Bruce Wayne to be presented, Green Arrow has become a series made up of issue long explorations of five minutes in the lives of Green Arrow & Black Canary. A one minute fight and conversation takes 7 pages, ten seconds of Ollie's rage fills two, and then the remainder of the comic focuses on about 3 and a half minutes of a van ride, a motorcycle ride, and a crashed spaceship. And that's all. It takes 22 pages to do that--not because there is a lot of dialog or anything, but because that's all there is to it. Some time passes, one or two things happen, and the comic ends with the zany reveal of some 1940's looking aliens wearing matching uniforms. Oh, and Green Arrow, we guess, calls people he is mad at "Butt monkeys." Which totally would make sense, if, I don't know, Green Arrow was an eight year old at recess. Either way, Cliff Chiang is done with the book in one more issue, according to the sort of people who claim to know about that sort of thing. We will be too.
There's this band in New York called The Big Sleep, opened for the Baltimore super-crew that is Wilderness a couple of years back. The Big Sleep, while having nothing to do with Raymond Chandler, is pretty much fifteen kinds of badass--a three piece that plays mostly instrumental music designed to crush your brain, they are the sort of band that takes the stage and proceeds to straddle the line between "so loud that it hurts" to "loud enough to remind you that your just one human being on the planet, and are basically useless in the greater scheme of our shared spinning globe." So they pretty much, when playing live, will rectify any ambition you had to be more important than anybody else, because by yourself, you couldn't create something of that jackhammering power, no matter how many quotes you can remember from Fanon's The Wretched Of The Earth. They got some more non-New York exposure recently, as their latest album has made the rounds of the internet tastemakers, which means it's time for that this-never-gets-old talk about how just because somebody in Kansas City who's 14 likes the same band you've been holding close to your secret vest for a couple of years, that doesn't mean that their new album sucks. But you know what? Some of the songs, the ones where they feel the need to sing? Those songs kind of suck. The first three tracks are all about kicking your fucking ass, and starting a military movement on top of your kicked ass. Then track four drops, and the lady starts singing, and she's got a decent voice, and the lyrics are ethereal enough to be inoffensive, but jesus, it just doesn't really work. Madman Atomic Comics? Same goddamn thing. Madman, even when it's just a round-about bad issue like the last one, is a comic that, silly or bland or whatever, needs some dialog. Otherwise, it's issue 7--silent but for sound effects, all whimsically and colorfully drawn--and an agonizingly boring piece of shit. If all you want out of a Mike Allred comic is pretty pictures, then here you go. But if you want to read something Allred-ian you'll enjoy, stick to the back issues and hope he's warming up a keyboard.
Has there even been a comic book or science fiction story where a giant, indestructible robot has been devised for good but hasn't turned to evil? There are stories where bad robots turn good, and there are stories where bad robots stay bad, but the good robots? They go evil every time, don't they? It makes a vague sort of sense that they would, because a good robot doing good probably wouldn't be that interesting--hell, they had to give Robocop those contradictory rules in the first movie just to make him interesting. Remember the ED 209, that big walking thing with the guns? It didn't even have a personality, all its most compelling traits stemmed solely from the animal noises it made. But still, if you're just going to follow the regular story points of Big Robot Is Now Evil, How Can Mankind Stop This Frankenstein-like Turn Of Events, then why use a Big Robot at all? It's just--hell, can we say boring again? Every week, the Factual fights the temptation to use a thesaurus and come up with another phrase besides "boring as shit" or "double-B boring" and the rarely used, but well known "bored to tears." We're not tired of bland yet, that's a good one. Anyway. Mark Millar continues his love affair with the Thing spitting out catchphrases from a Dr. Phil desk calendar, the Human Torch is hip! cool! and so with it! and Reed Richards is still, after the last forty or fifty or however many years, not capable of seeing the emotional consequences that result from his obsession with science. You'd think that a man who can make a nuclear reactor would comprehend that the warmth in his bed isn't produced by fusion or Onsager reciprocal relations, it's through the love, and presence, of a "good woman." Yet look at him go, chasing that never-to-be-caught magic of science! Oh, Reed. You may be Mr. Fantastic, but you certainly aren't Fantastically Understanding.
For some reason, Joe Casey and Keith Giffen have gone crawling through the detritus of the Marvel universe, grabbing hold of some of it's most ephemeral strands, and come up with a six issue mini-series to tell about it. Creating a new Defenders, they've called it the Last Defenders, and it consists of She-Hulk, Nighthawk, Colossus and the Blazing Skull. Although this reader has never heard of the Blazing Skull, who is a sort of squat overweight Ghost Rider, he "used to bust nazi heads," which makes him somewhere around 70 years old. Considering that Joe Casey and Keith Giffen are both talented writers cursed with a recent history of writing great comics that no one wants to buy, it is sort of awe-inspiring that Marvel is letting this project go ahead. And letting them set it in Hoboken, New Jersey. And letting them use the Son of Satan. While the first issue isn't anything that'll make anybody wet their pants, there are so many things about the ideas behind this that are completely incongruous and designed to fail that, the actual comic notwithstanding, this is pretty much the greatest bad idea so far this year. And it's still only March, so FUCK YES.
If it wasn't for the letter columns and web presence that Bendis maintains, he'd probably be a far more intriguing individual. His comics would still bring about the same basic reaction, but wouldn't it be sort of fascinating not to know that he's a foul-mouthed, pop-culture obsessed man-boy with a completely out-of-proportion love affair for the work of David Mamet? God, if Bendis ever gets the chance to sit down with David Mamet, that's going to be maybe the greatest thing ever. It'll be like when they pulled down the Saddam statue for the media, except it'll be the collapse and destruction of a basic part of his idol worship, and it'll happen inside Brian's brain. Mamet is such a...ugh, such a horrible human being to be around. Just awful. Oh, so about Mighty Avengers--yeah, like if you didn't know what Bendis was into from his constant natterings about what he's into, you'd just go to the store, read a guilty pleasure Ultimate Spider-man, and then read a guilty pleasure New Avengers, vomit, and then you'd see something like this latest issue of Mighty Avengers, which was by far the best issue yet--which is sort of like being the nicest rapist in Bosnia-Herzegovinia. Too far? Maybe too far. But seriously, (we mean it, seriously, let's Be Serious about the Mighty Avengers) seriously: this entire issue hinges on some understandings of time travel that make you want to write a letter to Iron Man care of the North Pole that is just a card with Snoopy on the front as the Red Baron and the inside it reads Frankie Says RELAX Iron Man, you. are. not. real. And Dr. Doom turns out to be the most fun and most wonderful person to be trapped in the past with, and the Sentry behaves as he always does when he's being used solely as a plot device, meaning his behavior makes-no-sense-like-AT-ALL, but that's okay, because at this point the Sentry is starting to become more like a tire, or a tumbleweed, or the Energizer Bunny--he just shows up, he rolls through a comic book and you wave at him and go back to making out with Dr. Strange. He's sort of like a homeless person who is homeless through being crazy and poor, instead of rich, which means he gets to play drums for U2. If you could read this stuff, on a regular basis, and yet couldn't ever find out what Bendis looked like, or acted like, or what he fought with Gail Simone about (hint: It was about who takes themselves more seriously, and both of them lost.) then you'd probably enjoy your Bendis comics a lot more, just because he'd live in your mind like a cool uncle, or a mildly perverted grandad who dents cans of green beans for a discount and says things like "Jennifer Connolly? Nice set of LUNGS on that one!"
Wolverine # 63
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Ron Garney & Jason Keith
Published by Marvel Comics
Is the cover of this comic supposed to look like a real wanted poster, or is supposed to look like a wanted poster that you buy at Coney Island or the County Fair? On that note, what sort of crimes do they usually list on those family wanted posters anyway? Can you tell them? Do they (carny folk) have rules in place to prevent somebody from taking it "to far?" It seems unlikely that you couldn't sway the mind of a carny with money. Anyway, the Virgin Read handled the first issue of Jason Aaron's regular run on Wolverine, and then somebody who pretended to be Ron Garney showed up and told her to re-read the issue because she didn't "get it." In the interest of maintaining a decent relationship with one of our most consistent of contributers, we'll take the Virgin's side and admit that we were a bit confused by the dynamics of the last issue--however, there was no such confusion this time: Wolverine was in Kansas City in the Roaring 20's and it was a heady time to be a degenerate scumbug with claws in his hands. Or at least, that is what we learned in this issue, along with the requisite scene where Wolverine babbles endlessly about how he's been "shot a lot over the years," as if that's something that doesn't go without saying, as if it's something anybody cares about, and as if saying that doesn't pretty much make the reader go, yeah I know, that's why I read this goddamn comic, because I get off on you being hurt you whiny little six year old. Maybe not so much that last part? Maybe not so much. It's sort of amazing that Jason Aaron is setting this comic in the present day, in the Afghan mountains, and it's all about Wolverine planning to assassinate someone who's gone "too far this time" but instead of that being, oh, i don't know, you know, c'mon, we're not going to say it, no, it's Mystique, who, if we're not remembering our Mutant History correctly (and we're not, because we don't care) wasn't Mystique a member of X-Factor like two years ago? She must've done something really bad. Was it as bad as when those...you know, when those? In New York? That thing?
Atomic Robo: meet M. Butterfly. Sure, there's stuff there, basic stuff, that's pretty great--John Lone's performance, while at time veering into caricature, is still pretty likable throughout, even in those moments where one just wonders what exactly was going through his head around the time the marriage hit six years. Also, just as everybody kind of wonders when exactly Jeremy Irons figured out that his wife was actually a dude, this reader wonders when exactly the Atomic Scientists who follow Robo around are going to realize that they have some dangerously ridiculous jobs, and should just take the civil service exam and see if the department of Parole has any placements available. Following around a quirky robot with a taste for big fights isn't exactly a position that will guarantee a future not full of broken legs. In other words, if you're looking for more cartoonish version of Hellboy, with a funny robot instead of one of the devil's relations, then you'd probably get a kick out of Atomic Robo. It straddles the line between adorable enough to be totally wonderful and so adorable you might need to take some insulin. Your call. We thought it was pretty satisfying.
It's been a little while since the DMZ did a six-parter, so this is a welcome return? Maybe? We'll see. As was pointed out by a reviewer who's taste usually veers towards the mundane and awful, there might be a vague real world connection between the latest character addition to the DMZ world--a smooth cat with a strong base of support who's quick with the polemic, yet non-verbal enough to leave more critical minds wondering whether there's any actual ideas backing up his ability to motivate a crowd. The opening pages let us know that, at some point, our protagonist is going to be lugging around a machine gun (while still wearing his "Press" hat, which points to a lack of objectivity, but oh well, that couldn't last forever, right?) so we know that at some point, this story is going to leave the realm of "vote for the people's champion" and end up in the "nasty people are gonna shoot that people's champion." Wood's series has earned enough cred at this point that it's a bit useless to try and fill in the blanks for him, but even with that being said, if this story does end up being one of those tragically short-sided metaphors where a holier than thou motivational speaker (with a cool hat and a fresh outlook) turns into a sacrificial lamb, it's going to be a disappointment. But hey, after the turn for the brilliant that Northlanders has taken, and all those solid done-in-ones that DMZ has had, there's no reason to even consider giving up on this series yet. Besides all that, Burchielli is in for the win for this storyline, and, alongside Daniel Zezelj, he's the best artist DMZ has had.
-Tucker Stone, 2008