Four Colors to Infinity: Kung Fu Madness Edition

The beat goes on at my local comics shop, by which I mean the beating of my skull as I shell out scarce cash for this globulous piffle.  I keep telling myself if I can just get through the month of May, which future generations will refer to as ‘The Great Water-Treading of 2015’, I will be rewarded with a rebooted Marvel and DC universe, and I’ll finally be free of this Secret Wars/Convergence twaddle, but who am I kidding?  A preview of the new DC came out in this week’s issues, and it’s predictably insulting and dumb.

The “DC You” feature starts out with that hot bag of pestilent air, Dan DiDio, vaporing witlessly about how they’re taking Batman “back to basics”.  And, sure enough, Batman is now Commissioner Gordon in a robot exoskeleton, just like back in the ’30s.  The ever-lovable Geoff Johns assures us that the new Justice League will be both an “epic event” and “character-driven”, and will be served with hot ice cream and non-alcoholic beer.  Finally, here’s my favorite bit of marketing gibberish:  “How do you like your Gotham?  Super-sexy spy?  Not enough 007 in your superheroes?  Grayson has you covered.  Superhero antics mixed with grad school woes?  Batgirl has never looked so good.  Teen drama set at a spooky Hogwarts-esque campus?  Nothing is as it seems at Gotham Academy.  And where is Bruce Wayne?  Commissioner Gordon is the new Dark Knight in Batman!  Find out how it happened!  How do you like YOUR Gotham?”  Thanks for asking; I like my Gotham with Batman, and when it’s a comic book, and not Harry Potter or James Bond or whatever the fuck other fading cultural touchstone you clowns are trying to capitalize on these days.

Anyway, we got crap books to wade through.  Let’s get going.

BATTLEWORLD:  MASTER OF KUNG FU #1:  “Master Drunk”.  Having “Battleworld” in the title is as loud a warning klaxon to stay away as having “Convergence” in the title, but I basically just pick these books at random.  I loved the old MoKF series; Doug Moench could infuse his stories with real poetic darkness and menace, and Gene Day was one of the best artists to ever work in the medium.  Dalibor Talajić means well, and he’s not bad, but he lacks Day’s ability to capture the rhythms and movement of Shang-Chi’s fighting, which renders a lot of the book inert.  The story is okay, but I dislike the choice to have everyone speak in a modern argot — is there no mystery left? — and the whole concept for Battleworld is that it’s made up of tiny fiefdoms in which established Marvel characters get new, soon-to-be-forgotten identities.  Not only does this remind readers of, rather than distract them from, the fact that all these characters are basically interchangeable, and that this is non-continuity stuff that’s going to be thrown in the trash come June, but it also leads to situations like here, where the Morlocks are involved in K’un-Lun, despite their lack of Asian ancestry, martial arts prowess, or any connection to the Shang-Chi character.  So this is going nowhere, but at least it’s doing it fast.  That gets it an impressive 6.9 Si-Fans from me.

CONVERGENCE:  THE NEW TEEN TITANS #2:  “Game of Heroes”.  I know I usually complain about the lack of titles, but nothing is better than this shameless rip-off of Game of Thrones, right down to the distinctive lettering.  Just be a comic book, guys.  Thankfully, the story has no references at all to that overrated show, possibly because it was written by old pro Marv Wolfman, who is 70 years old and probably thinks Game of Thrones is a card game.  Marv’s not really at the top of his game here, but no one can say he doesn’t know how to write the Titans; as an old-school ’70s writer, he plays up character beats a lot more than most writers  he nails the characterization; and he’s unusually adept at playing up the tortured-love angle, which was a lot more fun before everyone got so broody.  Anyway, decent old-school superhero storytelling, but thank goodness it’s over with.  Neither particularly good nor particularly bed, this gets a disheartening 5.5 Trigon the Terribles.

CONVERGENCE:  SWAMP THING #2:  “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes!″.  Sigh.  Remember when a young, untested Alan Moore got assigned to a floundering horror title and used it as a springboard to write the greatest superhero stories in the history of the medium, before we all decided to hate him for pointing out that publishers have the business ethics of hyenas who have been spliced with Donald Trump’s DNA?  Anyway, this one features Swamp Thing fighting Vampire Batman, thus qualifying it as the Convergence conflict I care the least about.  Len Wein writes this one, because it’s old-timer’s week at DC, but he just doesn’t have as much on the ball as Marv Woflman, which is a sentence I never thought I’d find myself writing.  And that’s too bad, because it wastes a fine art job from Kelley Jones, who works in a throwback ’70s horror style that’s as appropriate as it is dark and moody;  Good talent thrown away on a pointless story, which earns it a mere 3.7 Firebugs. 

KAPTARA #2:  “The Road Less Traveled By Cat Tanks”. This book, on the other hand, is just a non-stop delight, and as much as I love to piss and moan about how much I hate comic books, Kaptara is a reminder of what I’d be missing if I were to just give up on them altogether.  Chip Zdarsky is one of the talented, funny people working in the medium who you hope finds success not only because he’s a good guy, but because he’s producing good work.  It’s a hilarious, giddy take on the space-traveler-marooned-on-a-world-he-never made chestnut, and Zdarsky’s story is a constant source of enjoyment. (This month’s highlights:  a gay male protagonist who’s not even remotlely a stereotype or a token; the headline “ALIEN COWARD BECOMES LOCAL COWARD”; and two of the most memorable robots in recent fiction in Motivational Orb and Mr. Help.  Kagan McLeod’s art is fluid and inventive, and even the color palette here is engaging and clever.  These are the things I like to see in comic books!  It is possible to make compliments about interesting coloring!  That is real!  Buy this book because I give it 8.8 Uncle Martins.

SECRET WARS:  BATTLEWORLD #1:  “Soldier Supreme”.  It took eleven people to make this comic.  There are two stories in it.  The first one has a combination of Dr. Strange and the Punisher fighting a combination of a bunch of other characters and a bunch of other other characters in between tedious backstory.  I forgot it two seconds after reading it.  The second story involves MODOK, and I used to love MODOK so much that I would award a MODOK Bonus to comics just for having him in it, and this one actually starts out pretty funny:  everyone’s favorite organism designed only for killing imports other MODOKs from other dimensions in the belief that since one MODOK is invincible, a dozen could take over Battleworld without even breaking a sweat.  Unfortunately for MODOK, the only thing that matches his power is his arrogance; unfortunately for us, this means they all hate each other and break into a corny laser fight.  Still, it tries for about eight pages, and that’s something.  Not much, but something.  Enough to get, I dunno, 3.7 Eyes of Agamotto.

SHAFT #6:  “No Title”.  Yeah, shut yo mouth, we all know how the song goes.  I tend to stay away from Dynamite titles because I’m not particularly interested in reading scripts that weren’t good enough to appear on screen with its original properties, but I made an exception for this because of the groovy Bill Sienkiewicz cover.  It wasn’t a wise choice.  The art, by the entertainingly named Bilquis Evely, is only so-so, and David F. Walker’s script is a bloodsoaked revenge fantasy that has lots of violence, but lacks the sense of energy and fun that characterizes the movies.  Not terrible, by any means, and it might just hit your sweet spot if grim humorlessness is what you think is missing from blaxploitation, but otherwise, give this a pass.  For nostalgia value and Sienkiewicz only, this one gets  5.7 Petey Wheatstraws and my sincere hope that they don’t get around to doing a Blowfly comic.

Thanks for stopping by; we’ll see you next week for comics I’m sure to hate as we celebrate the new, final, this-time-for-sure rebirth of Marvel and DC!  Make mine moronic!

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