Four Colors to Infinity: All-Pandering Edition
And now, we return once again to Four Colors to Infinity, where I go to a comic book retailer (yes, they still have those!) and plunk down an obscene amount of money for a handful of randomly selected funnybooks. This week’s special edition is special for several reasons: first of all, I am in Chicago, and shoveled my mad money at a Logan Square comics shop instead of my regular shop in the U District of Seattle. That didn’t make too big of a difference, actually; it was the same pudgy, hostile middle-aged nerd behind the counter, the same heterosexual-intercourse-averse woman stocking the shelves, and the same unidentifiable but not pleasant smell emanating from the back room as my local stop.
Second, there’s some kind of ‘event’ this week (isn’t there always?) where all the DC comics have cosplay favorite and professional woman turned latex bustier model Harley Quinn on the cover, and all the Marvel books have fanboy bloodlust inculcator/cheap joke delivery vector Deadpool o the cover. I believe it’s called “Crisis on Earth-Fanservice” or possibly “Pander Wars”. Anyway, I hate both these characters, so it’s going to be an extra fun week of bad comics here at my spot! Relax, strap it down, and let me do all the work while you sit back and have nightmares about how much it would suck if you had to read these comics.
THE BLACK HOOD #1: “The Bullet’s Kiss, Part One”. This week’s reviews start out with a couple of books really selected at random, as I knew absolutely nothing about this other than that I kinda liked its Howard Chaykin cover and, since it’s a debut issue, I thought I might stand a decent chance of understanding the plot. As it happens, this is one of the week’s bright spots: the script, by Duane “No, I’m Not That Guy, I’m A Different Guy” Swierczynski is a tight, focused piece of writing that does a very solid job of portraying the origin of a vigilante not as an exciting opportunity, but as a horrible fate the main character would just as soon avoid and is desperately ambivalent about. I’m nota huge fan of the painterly realist style employed by Michael Gaydos, but it’s very competently executed and well fits the superhero-noir style of the book. This could definitely be work watching, folks, so let’s give it 7.6 Cowboy Sahibs.
D4VE #1: “No Title”. Another indie debut, and another solid winner! D4ve — which I assume is pronounced “Duh-four-vuh”, is an android from a world where robots rose against their human masters, annihilated them, and then, lacking anything better to do, simply took their places, falling into the dull routine of family life, dead-end jobs, and existential despair. D4ve himself is a former war hero who longs for the day when he was a brave soldier courageously blowing the heads off of humans and aliens, instead of an office drone with a family that doesn’t like him. Some of the jokes, especially the repurposed tech puns, are a little dopey, while some, particularly D4ve’s action-hero wartime quips, are delightful, but overall, the book is lots of fun, with a huge upside, and it performs the neat truck of immediately getting you on the side of its main character despite the fact that he was one of the leading participants in an intergalactic genocide. Lives up to the hype, with an amusing , agile script by Ryan Ferrier and some very sharp-looking art by Valentin Ramon, this gets 7.7 Homer Gints.
DEADPOOL #42: “Sand and Deliver″. Ugh. I never liked Deadpool or Lobo or any of the other ‘self-aware, wisecracking mass killer’ characters who arose in the 1990s when America was super busy misunderstanding what Pulp Fiction was about. I don’t like them any more now. So apparently Deadpool saved a little Arabic town from some big lunkhead named Omega Red who is now going to kill him for it, and for some vague past transgression that Deadpool insists he didn’t do and who cares because this just results in a 15-page puncharound that is not interesting. I picked this one because Brian Posehn co-wrote it (with Jerry Dugan), but there’s precious little of his personality here, and while I suppose it’s kinda churlish to complain about too much Deadpool in an actual Deadpool comic, I am no more enamored of his weak pop-culture references and mild fourth-wall gags than I was 20 years ago. They’re still just would-be clever window dressing on dull shoot-em-up stories, and I’m still better off without them. This gets 4.3 Dinah Soars.
FUTURES END #43: “No Title”. Okay, so, it’s five years in the future. Braniac has taken over New York and put it in a Simpsons: The Movie invisible force dome. Beardo Superman is there, and Batman Beyond Batman, and some other Batman, and black Mr. Terrific, and oh, I don’t even care. This is written by Brian Azzarello, Keith Giffen, Dan Jurgens, and Jeff Lemire, though I question the contributions of the first two guys, since the book has no interesting plot twists or a discernible sense of humor. It does have a lot of running around and explosions, so it’s good for that at least, but honestly, if you need four people to write a comic book, and it still doesn’t make any sense, maybe you’re throwing good money after bad. Dull, alienating, and Christ, this thing has been going on for four fucking years? Who is even reading it? I must know. Award it the most ambivalent rating I can think up: 4.4 Sodam Yats.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #39: “The Amber of the Moment, Part Five: Prayala”. Giffen’s old partner in crime during the best years of the Justice League was J.M. DeMatteis, and it’s on the strength of his name that I bought this thing, but like his former co-conspirator, he wasn’t able to bring any of their old trademark verve and humor to this story. I mean, the thing is called Justice League Dark, and I suppose it’s foolish to expect bright, funny stories from it, but they did stick a deceptively wacky cover on the front, so I could reasonably call shenanigans. It’s not that the story was poorly executed; unlike most of the big group punchouts I’ve read over the last month, this one at least was coherent, well-drawn (by Andres Guinaldo), and possessed of some cleverness. But it was the same story I’ve read in a hundred books by a hundred people: same boring omnipotent cosmic villain, same unstoppable doomsday scenario that can only be avoided by the same continuity-destroying sacrifice by a second-string character, same stakes raised so absurdly high that it’s impossible to care what happens. Doesn’t anyone tell small stories anymore? I’m suffering from universal devastation fatigue and award this story 4.9 Shivering Jemmy of the Shallow Brigades.
SECRET AVENGERS #13: “…And What Do You Believe?, Part Three of Five”. As previously mentioned, Marvel is trying to turn the Avengers into the X-Men, with the latter group comprising “all mutant superheroes” and the former group “everybody else”. This has, of course, resulted in approximately 173 Avengers titles, none of which stand even a slight chance of being understood by readers. I got this one in hopes that the credited author, identified on the cover as “KOT”, would be rock critic Greg Kot and all the Avengers would be played by various Rolling Stones guitar solos, but sadly, it is someone named Ales Kot instead. Anyway, this is another meta-comic, and, oddly, much more in the spirit of the old Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League than either of the books by Giffen and DeMatteis I read this week. Kot is all over the map in this story of MODOK infiltrating, then triple-crossing, the Secret Avengers (but, honestly, who cares what these things are about?); some of the jokes are pure corn, others are too-clever-by-half inside baseball jokes, and some are really solid laughs, including the main villain of the story being a prototypical self-identified “nice guy” turned heartless asshole/pick-up artist by “bullies” (that is, everyone who won’t give him what he wants). There’s a funny bit where MODOK runs some militant atheist game, and even the inexplicable Deadpool cameo isn’t terrible, but the book is so tonally scattered, trying to tell a pretty standard super-team story while dropping lots of popcult jokes and shoving its artificiality up its own ass, that it feels pretty schizophrenic. Good art by Michael Walsh, though, so let’s leave it with 6.5 Living Lightnings.
Join me again next week, when we’ll have a new batch of crude nonsense featuring people I’ve never heard of knocking over skyscrapers to defend our precious freedom! Make sure you watch your calendars, because I bet next week’s comics will all be super great!