Hey folks, Harry here... Couldn't fit all the greatness that these @$$HOLE$ create for you in one column, so I've split it up over two columns... what a joy... As Cormorant suggested with Pepto, frankly I suggest Kaopectac... Nastier, but if you cut it with Brandy it's dandy...
ALAN MOORE’S “THE COURTYARD” #1 & 2
Writer: Alan Moore
Sequential Adaptation: Antony Johnston and Alan Moore
Artist: Jacen Burrows
Published by Avatar Press
Reviewed by Cormorant
Avatar Press is best known to me as the comic book company that produces material that makes me embarrassed for the whole medium. The biggest offenders in their line-up are “bad girl” books like Demonslayer, Threshold, and Hellina. Lately, though, the company’s been making a bid for credibility by bringing aboard the likes of Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, and yes, Alan Moore. You’ve got to wonder what Avatar’s offering ‘em that makes it worth writing for a company whose readership is probably still pining for the “big titty” version of Lady Death lost when the character switched from Chaos Comics to CrossGen. My guess? Total, unfettered creative freedom to write whatever twisted, outrageous stories they want with zero editorial interference. Now at a glance, the Ennis and Ellis stuff hasn’t been up my alley, and I’m still not fond of the murky gray-tone aesthetic that seems to inform all the Avatar art, but when funnybook deity Alan Moore makes a showing, I take notice. When it turns out that Alan Moore has actually penned an homage to the mythology of H.P. Lovecraft, I actually have to investigate…
First up, a mild disclaimer: While I consider myself to be a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, I’ve hardly devoured all of his material with the fervor of his most ardent fans (I’m looking at you, Buzz). As a result, some of the nuances of this creepy little two-parter may have been lost on me. For instance, I didn’t know that the mini was adapted from an Alan Moore prose story featured in the 1995 Lovecraft tribute anthology, THE STARRY WISDOM. That info came from my consultant for this review, an esteemed scholar of all things Cthulhu, whom I shall refer to simply as “Reverend Nye”. The Reverend tells me that the anthology as a whole was pretty “eh”, but he thought the comic was an entertaining read, and so did I. There’s a peculiar kind of pleasure to be found in Lovecraftian stories as you’re drawn into a murky and bleak world in which no depth of paranoia is without merit. I’d even call it a voyeuristic thrill. The reader knows full well that the protagonist is going to go mad, get killed, or in some unutterably alien way, get fucked over. It’s just a matter of how…
The subject of THE COURTYARD’s descent into madness is Aldo Sax, an FBI investigator with a perpetual scowl and more than a passing resemblance to Lovecraft himself (well, a butched-up Lovecraft anyway). With Alan Moore, these allusions are never coincidental, so it comes as no surprise that the detective’s narration is also laced with racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic thoughts – an acknowledgment, presumably, that these unpleasant views were among the all-too-real demons Lovecraft never exorcised. Asshole or not, Sax is still good at what he does, and his specialty is “anomaly theory”, picking up on unusual patterns that others might miss in murders and the like. In the words of his own narration:
“…it’s like taking the leftover pieces from various jigsaws and seeing what picture they make when you put them together.”
The concept is very much up Moore’s alley. This is the guy whose built an entire writing style out of finding ironic synchronicity between seemingly unrelated events, even taking the concept to metaphysical levels since he began exploring the world of magick.
In THE COURTYARD, Agent Sax is investigating a series of dismemberment-packed murders, and as his investigation takes him to a drug-heavy music club. The band’s lyrics seem alien and indecipherable, there’s word of a new drug named “Aklo”, and what’s with the weirdo dealer who wears a yellow veil that obscures everything below his eyes? Here’s where the synopsis ends – after all, the descent itself into increasingly inescapable horrors is the appeal of Lovecraft. Suffice to say, Moore finds some innovative new ways to bring the horrors of The Great Old Ones into a modern setting, and he obviously had some fun aping the distinctively pulp sensibility of Lovecraft’s narrators:
“Club Zothique: a strange neon cancer grown out from the crumbling stone of a waterfront church…”
Or how about:
“Hypodermics crunch underfoot, frosting the cobblestones with glass in a scintillant Disney-dust.”
At two issues, the story felt a little on the short side and failed to cast that truly gloomy pall upon me that the best Lovecraft stories can do, but even a quick dip into that world yields some enjoyably grim rewards. Real complaints? Well, I still don’t think much of Avatar’s gray-tone shading. It lacks punch and tends to make entire panels look flat, but the actual penciller – Jacen Burrows – is no slouch. His detailed and wholly linear work reminds me of a Geof Darrow in training. I wonder if perhaps his style is too literal for some of the more hallucinatory sequences, but otherwise, no complaints.
My consultant, Reverend Nye, tells me that the only real problem he had with the book was that Moore name-drops references to Lovecraft stories, their inspirations, and the stories they inspired, at the drop of a hat. Literally dozens of references. Didn’t bother me much, as I only caught a handful of the obvious ones (like a painting from the infamous Pickman of “Pickman’s Model”), but hardcore fans may find it distracting like the Rev did. He likened the experience to “taking a Lovecraft bath”. I figure that might be fun for some folks, but I wonder if Moore is perhaps too enamored of showcasing his breadth of literary knowledge? Certainly I’ve found his work on LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOL. II to suffer a bit from that particular malady.
Final judgment: Serious H.P. fans should pick this up. Even if the name-dropping gets to you, well…it’s still a mind-bending Alan Moore story! Casual fans like should seek it out, too. You might find it a bit slight, but… it’s still a mind-bending Alan Moore story! And for those of you completely unfamiliar with the works of Howard Philip Lovecraft, consider it your first sample of his peculiar brand of madness, then check out his own stuff to really mess up your head.
SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS #2
Writer – Chuck Austen
Artist – Danijel Zezelj
Published by DC Comics
Reviewed by Village Idiot
You can’t talk about SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS without talking about the art.
The art in SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS is urban: it has the feel of the city; the streets, the alleys, the gutters. It has a raw, shadowy texture; dark, but not like the noir of the forties; it’s more evocative of something from the seventies. (For some reason, Miles Davis album covers are coming to mind.) The heavy black charcoal lines and rough feel to Danijel Zezelj’s images are striking at best, ugly at worst, and always part of your awareness as you read the book. If you tend to prefer your comics drawn with a more conventional approach, then this art will make SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS a bit of a struggle. Beyond that, the question becomes whether the art is appropriate, both for the story and the context.
So let’s look at the story.
SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS is the story of Jimmy Olsen trying to unravel the mysterious actions of “The Tech,” a pervasive futuristic technology that has turned Metropolis into a literal “City of the Future.” The mysterious actions amount to The Tech not only making various technical adjustments to the local Metropolis citizenry (fixing a politician’s bullet hole to the head, rejuvenating old people), but manifesting a personality and communicating with Jimmy Olsen.
How well does the art work with this story? Well, last month, when fellow @$$hole Cormorant gave his positive review of SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS #1, and in subsequent discussions (of which this review is something of a rebuttal), he described the art as wholly appropriate on the basis of the fact that the story was “rooted in mystery and paranoia.”
This is true – to a degree. In METROPOLIS #2, Jimmy’s relationship with sentient Tech draws closer, against his will, and we get a feel for his anxiety. The signal watch through which Jimmy notifies Superman in case of an emergency is a conduit through with The Tech speaks, and in order to solidify their relationship, the watch embeds itself in Jimmy’s arm. Disturbing, yes, along with other moments of techno-fetishism, as wires invade bodies left and right.
And yet, at the same time, I felt the story heading into buddy movie territory. You see, the sentient Tech, like every other newly sentient technology to come down the science fiction pike in the last 50 years, wants to know what it feels like to be truly human. I’m afraid it’s chosen Jimmy as it’s partner in self-discovery. I sense this series will fall into an episodic series of life lessons for Jimmy and The Tech. Not exactly mystery and paranoia.
Furthermore, regardless how much the story is rooted in mystery and paranoia, the story is also rooted in the comic world of Superman and with the character of Jimmy Olsen, a character that carries inescapable cachet in regard to tone. This is not to say that the effort to break out of preconceived styles should be abandoned; on the contrary, I welcome the ideas of investing Jimmy with more depth and of giving the world of Superman more dramatic gravitas.
However, the manner in which these elements were expressed in SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS, especially the visual aspect, resulted in something that didn’t feel innovative or challenging, but simply alienating and unsatisfying. Simply put, the art is TOO strikingly bleak and TOO essentially ugly to work in a story which trades on such a familiar world with familiar values. Ultimately, the art acts as an obstacle to any real connection that the reader might form with the story. It was distracting.
Consequently, I felt distanced from the story I read in SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS #2. I can liken the experience to what I imagine it must be like watching TV through a rainstorm: you see the images on the screen and tell what’s happening, but you can’t help feeling you’d be enjoying the experience much more if it wasn’t raining. Again, you can’t talk about SUPERMAN: METROPOLIS without talking about the art, because in the end, the art so dominates the experience that it gives you little else to actually talk about.
@$$hole Casting Couch!
Hey gang, Vroom Socko here. It seems that regular casting director Ambush Bug is too busy to send in his suggestions for this week, so I’ll be stepping in. The only problem is that I have absolutely no good ideas for a comic book movie cast. None. I can’t even come up with a good comic to adapt that either isn’t coming out soon or that Bug hasn’t done yet. But a bad comic movie, based on a BAD comic with a BAD cast? That I can do.
Does anyone here remember the Marvel comic Team America? A group of motorcross racers dressed in red, white, and blue that fight crime with the help of the mysterious Marauder? 4Color Review once did a gag bit about this happening that even had the great and powerful Knowles on the writing end, remember? Wouldn’t it be great if this really happened? Christ on a Yamaha! It would be the best shit movie ever made!
First we’ll need a director guaranteed to stink up the theater. Somebody who has no concept of quality entertainment, and will gleefully rip off XXX without understanding what made that film work. David McNally (Coyote Ugly, Kangaroo Jack) sounds about right.
Now, the cast. First up is team leader James “Honcho” McDonald. We need someone who’ll suck the energy right out of the film, hell, suck the energy out of the audience. My vote goes to cinematic black hole Freddie Prinze Jr. And as you know, where Freddie goes, Matthew Lillard must follow, so he gets the role of R. U. Reddy.
Every team has a badass, but the closest Team America has is Wolf, a bad Wolverine clone. What this character needs is someone who looks tough, but is big and dumb. David Boreanaz (Angel) should stink up the role quite nicely.
Guess what kind of person Luke “Cowboy” Merriweather is. I say any unknown Texan could pull off this non-character, but for the sake of completeness, let’s throw Christian Kane (Just Married) into the mix.
Leonard “Wrench” Hebb is, obviously, the team mechanic. He’s also the token black member. The ideal person for this part then is Shawn Wayans, since he’s the token Wayans brother. As for the role of his wife Georgeanna, just pick any actress from a UPN sitcom, and they’ll suck just fine.
Finally, we have The Marauder. Since this guy is clothed and masked head to toe in black, anyone could play this part. If you want this flick to really suck, however, then there’s really only one choice: Jean-Claude Van Damme.
There you have it. A movie so horrid it’ll bring Joel and the Bots out of retirement. Easily the worst comic book movie ever. Well, maybe not as bad as Steel, but… no, it’d definitely be worse than Steel. Of course, you’re all free to agree, disagree, or tear us a new one in the Talkbacks. If any of you actually want to see this movie made, please seek professional help.