With this issue, it's a little more clear why this mini-series is the worst Hellboy-related series released thus far by Mignola & crew--at first, it seemed like it was because it was meaningless and derivate, two things it totally still is. But the real irksome thing wasn't clear until now, as the story has passed the halfway point: somehow, Mike Mignola, the creator of this little universe, has created bad fan-fiction, out of something he created. The story has all the hallmarks: the complete lack of gravity to the story (being set in the past and featuring all but two or three completely inconsequential characters,) the always horribly obnoxious emoting (all of which is stemming from the main characters completely incompetent behavior and his own insecurities) and, to top it all off, the incredibly low stakes of being set in a vaguely unimportant location that only serves as being a environmental deus ex machina for the plot. Run through that again, and look at it like this: if the story is going to be compelling, part of that is going to require the story to at least carry a feint of importance--but this thing, set at some random time after Hellboy's retirement, is a time when any idea of what the other characters were doing is completely irrelevant. No one cares what they were doing. It's the equivalent of writing a follow up mini-series to Watchmen that focuses on what Rorshach did when he had to drop a bowel movement while carrying around that "End Is Nigh" sign. Who. Fucking. Cares. The emoting is bad enough--what makes it even worse is that the emoting stems from a main character who's self-pity and self-loathing already straddle the line of Home Alone 3 levels of irritating, and to top it off, he's spent the entire portion of the last two issues running around and being confused. He hasn't solved anything, figured anything out, he hasn't Done Anything. The last one--the setting--that's less of a irritation, although it stinks of the one thing Mignola is usually able to smooth over better: that the guy loves to read old, weird books about shit, and then he writes a story using some random weird shit he read as a jumping off point. Here, it seems clear that all he did was read about San Sebastian (or whatever San Sebastian is standing in for) and figured the story would just flow with that for it's inspiration. It doesn't.
It's an interesting bit of counter-programming for DC to look at the publishing calendar and decide that a five dollar 80 page reprint of Jack Kirby's Kamandi comic should come out the same day as Marvel's bloated cum-force majuere Secret Invasion--at the same time, it's also completely counter-productive, as even something as meager as Kirby's Kamandi is always going to be far more rewarding than everything else DC has out. It's almost like DC is openly ceding any attempt to overtake Marvel's current sales lead: "Well, go ahead and continue to kick our ass completely, but at least we let Kirby do pretty much whatever the hell he wanted when he was here, here's the proof. Please read Brave & The Bold, you know, if you have time or something. Can we have Ed Brubaker back?"
Paul Dini's entire run of stories on Detective Comics can pretty much roundly be described as stories that would have been told on Batman: The Animated Series if Dini had been forced to deal with DC comic book continuity. That being said, they're somewhat effective--while this issue isn't exactly bursting any seams with labyrinthine plotting, it's decently told and decently illustrated. Still, it's more-of-the-sameness does serve as a bit of distraction--all of Dini's recent stories, when stacked on top of each other, are not that different from any of the others that have been produced in the line that is Detective Comics--most of the time, when Detective doesn't have to deal with a crossover, this is what it tells: short done-in-ones or brief three parters. It's pretty much the Law & Order of the DC universe--sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not-so-good, but it always looks the same, and it is never, never exciting. Or surprising. Or really that compelling. But it is inoffensive enough so that, like oatmeal, you can pretty much eat it 3 or 4 times a week for breakfast and only about once a year does it make you want to throw up.
Somehow, someway, some comic book deity looked up from reading about the Carl Barks reprints and convinced the editorial board to find some really good inkers for Don Kramer, because his work has never looked better. (And by better we mean amazingly tolerable, which is still short of "good.") The story itself, one that finishes with a tongue-in-cheek homage to Jaws, is yet another in the recent Tomasi run that is concise, somewhat intriguing and, in keeping with Nightwing's tradition of being a totally unnecessary and mediocre super-hero comic, readable. In fact, this is the first time, even in Tomasi's run, where this comic may actually be something that might appeal to somebody who's life doesn't revolve around Bruce Wayne's ephemera. (There is still always going to be the problem that this is a comic book about the poor man's Batman, that same poor man's version of villains, and his side job as the curator of a museum that will never be hip, trendy, or appealing to someone who isn't trying to figure out a way to shoehorn "education" into their repugnant children's tick-like brains by making them look at tapestries.)
That's got to be the first time someone has earned their redwings in a comic book. I bet they don't even do that shit in Omaha: The Cat Dancer. For what it is, being the basis for the entire issue, it works as a "what the fuck? Oh Jesus man, did you really make that Darick guy draw that?" Whether or not you can call it misogynistic is up to other people and their blogs, but, even without dropping that over-used and soon-to-be-neutered-of-import term, this has to be called "offensive" at least. It does serves as an intriguingly unusual form of cliff-hanger, as one wonders what odd phrase Garth Ennis is going to dig out of his brain next issue for all the other characters to use when making fun of Hughie. Will it be a military term from the first World War? Will it be something from Ireland? Will the French guy have his own?
For financial reasons, Marvel Comics like to throw Wolverine and Spider-Man together on a near continuous basis--even before Brian Bendis pointed out that the best thing to do with the low-selling Avengers books would be to combine all their most popular characters and ditch the Z-grade Jack Of Hearts and the Football character, one could pretty much rely on seeing Petie Parkins and Logie Knifehand together every two months or so. Their relationship never advances--most of the time they behave as if they've just learned each others names, and their conversations don't extend beyond Wolvie implying that Spidey has a small penis and Spidey behaving so bashfully that it almost seems like he expects Logan to invite him to a Sadie Hawkins dance. Pretty much the only way to enjoy their relentlessly predictable team-ups is to read it as if they're seeing each other after a drunken experiment with homosexuality. It adds a level of emotional gravity to stories that, otherwise, are never going to be worth reading. Ever.
Merely including Gary Panter in any fashion was going to make the best issue of Omega The Unknown thus far, so the main surprise that follows is that this, regardless of Panter's excellent work, this also happened to be the issue of Omega where everything that's been set up in the last six issues finally began to mesh together--just as every single critic has said about this series, it's always been destined to be a trade paperback, making this the chapter where all the character building begins to streamline all the narrative strands towards conclusion: this, as Shawn Carter might say, is where shit gets real. Make no mistake though-it still includes a trip to go see the film Photo Copy 2 and follows the miscreant behavior of a walking techo-junk pile politician, helping maintain Omega the Unknown's unparalleled claim to being weirder and less mainstream than anything that Marvel, DC or, depressingly, even Vertigo is publishing.
Did you know that, besides that old fogey Garth Ennis Punisher comic, the one where he looks like he's like 60, there's this totally extreme Punisher War To The Maximum Journal comic written by this dude Matt Fraction, this dude Fraction man he's like totally young and hip, I read some article where he has like a goatee, instead of being bald and stuff like that Bendis dude or that Morrison guy, he's totally young and hip and has a goatee man, I bet he really likes Benga and Burial and all that dubstep they wrote about in the new issue of XCLRTR, you know that dubstep stuff I'm talking about, that stuff is so fresh and bananas but yeah, he writes this Punisher Totally Dubstep comic and in it he's got this dude Jigsaw, remember Jigsaw yeah, weird how Punisher has villains but you know it's cool he kind of does, this guy Jigsaw talks all crazy and tortures this dude for a long time in this totally trendy Punisher v. The Mad Professor War Zoned comic book and sometimes his face is all cut up like Jigsaw and sometimes it's not, because Fraction is all crazy smart like that this comic book is so fucking trendy and cool and hip and dubstep and dope and rad and bananas and good crazy and what the eff and off the chain and off the charts and awesome and well illustrated by Howard Chaykin. You should read it, hit your mom in the face with a bicycle chain and go watch Southland Tales, that's a surefire way to be on the cutting edge and what not.
-Tucker Stone, 2008
Editorial Note for those who read this far-due to upcoming marital shenanigans, their will probably be a shortage of length to the posts over the month of April and first week of May. Apologies. Any imagined drop in quality of said posts will be completely in your mind.