THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: BLACK DOSSIER HC GN
Writer: Alan Moore Artist: Kevin O’Neill Publisher: ABC Comics Reviewer: Prof. ChallengerThere is, past Britain’s tip, like to a gate, A blazing world, door to a diff’rent plane. There Prop’ro goes, nor shall his league remain, But in Time follow to another state, ‘Til when the years have in their hundreds passed, “Til other men else women lead my band And in this Blazing World shall take their stand.
Black Dossier is only superficially a comic book/graphic novel. It is more of a self-indulgent therapy session for the obsessions of unhinged writer Alan Moore. And even recognizing that, I found it one of the most fascinating and engrossing pieces of artistic excess I’ve ever plodded through – and it took me over two weeks to get through it all.
We have reached a period of time in which certain authors are given carte blanche to write without editorial intervention. It’s why J.K. Rowling, for example, jumped from a simple 300 page book to kick off the Harry Potter series and eventually produced a bloated monster with “Order of the Phoenix” that ran well over 1,000 pages – so long, in fact, that the publisher reduced the font to get the page count under 1,000. Stephen King eventually used his well-earned clout to dig out his heavily edited masterpiece, “The Stand”, and release it completely unedited so that all his self-indulgent wanderings could be shared with the world. And in both of the cases I just cited, the results were engrossing. I enjoyed them not so much because the story could not have been better had it encountered reasonable edits but precisely because the lack of outside editing provided greater insight into the mind of the writers.
Alan Moore, as a writer, has never been known for his self-restraint. More than any writer, he is the one who mainstreamed sexual content in the above-ground comic book market. It’s something only he could get away with because he is someone who writes because writing is the air he breathes; the food he eats; the water he drinks; all that he is. There’s the level of writing ability that the great comic writers sit on and Moore always sits at least one level up from that – all by himself. I honestly think he has broken from our reality and lives in another plane of perception, and his published works over the last 10-15 years demonstrate a completely altered perception of the world. PROMETHEA was his longform examination of this skewed view of the universe. LOST GIRLS was his intellectual masturbatory exploration of his own obsession with sex in all its various forms and perversities. LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN was another intellectual exercise, this time challenging himself to craft an all-fictional continuity that seems to have taken hold of his mind and heart and spiraled into outright obsession.
BLACK DOSSIER is Alan Moore’s magnum opus and it really transcends anything else that I can think of within the genre. It defies the simple good/bad determination because it’s not just a simple narrative. There is a narrative, but it’s as thin as can be simply to move the main characters of Mina Murray and Alan Quartermain from point A (London 1958) to point B (The Blazing World). The narrative also serves as a framing device for the documents that make up the “Black Dossier,” which is the most fascinating aspect of this book. These documents are incredibly dense textually as Moore chamelonizes his own writing to produce widely varied works by other writers, such as a previously unseen Shakespeare play, a Jeeves and Wooster (J&W meet Cthulhu – yes, really) story, a new Fanny Hill story, editorial cartoons, government tracts, even a sleazy crime magazine written in nonsensical stream of consciousness style, and more. Each document is printed on different paper stocks and sizes as your would expect to see in a dossier along with handwritten notations. Somehow Moore is able to interconnect these disparate documents to present to the committed reader a surprisingly coherent chronology of the period of time between the end of the second volume of the LOEG and this final volume.
Through the textual documents and the visual elements throughout the book, Moore peppers his story with esoterica and characters beyond the ability of any one person to identify. As opposed to the earlier two volumes where the story was primary and Moore confined most of his intellectual dances with continuity for the backup text pieces, in this volume every panel and page of this book is filled with fictional characters and references well beyond what he has ever done before. It appears that every background character or image is an actual fictional character, whether from text, comic strips, cartoons, or even cereal boxes (yes, Tony the Tiger makes a living appearance). In an amazing turn of creative harmony, Moore absorbs the events of the novel 1984 as a ten-year period of totalitarianism that, in 1958, the world is just now recovering from following the death of the man who was Big Brother. And somehow it works.
The main secondary characters for this story are James Bond, Emma Night (Peel), and Hugo (Bulldog) Drummond. However, because of copyright issues, Bond is referred to only as “Jimmy” and the events obviously predate Emma’s marriage to the mysterious Mr. Peel, so she’s simply “Em.” Bulldog Drummond is a famously hardboiled rough-and-tumble detective. The three of them are chasing down Murray and Quartermain in an attempt to recover the Black Dossier that they lifted. Moore’s characterization of all three secondary characters is actually pretty accurate. Drummond is quite insanely dangerous throughout his stories and is likewise presented that way here. Bond is a completely untrustworthy low-rent misogynist, exactly like he appears in Fleming’s early novels (quite unlike the tuxedo-friendly character who appeared in the movies up until Daniel Craig). Emma’s smart enough to know how to play both the lecherous Bond and her over-protective godfather, Drummond.
Where the book will likely go awry for most readers is the last act of the book. This is pure Moore and his rather insane worldview that sees all realities, whether physical or fictional, as coexistent and equally real. When Murray and Quartermain reach The Blazing World (basically a fantastical supernatural heavenly repository for all fictional characters who have achieved the proper level of enlightenment or understanding) the reader’s perception is forced to change. At this point the reader is expected to put on the red and green 3D glasses(included with the book). The Blazing World is a place of artistic beauty, with artist Kevin O’Neill pulling out all the stops and Ray Zone providing the 3D separations. In this world where the natural limitations of the physical world are thrown out the window, all things conceivable co-exist in a blissful harmony of carnal happiness. Within The Blazing World the reader is exposed to a parallax view in which some elements can only be seen clearly if you close one eye and different elements are seen if you close the other eye.
Ultimately, this book is beyond criticism. Those who love Moore’s indulgences will likewise love this and those who hate that kind of stuff will hate this too. I will say BLACK DOSSIER is probably the most literary work, to date, ever produced within the graphic novel genre. At the same time, it may be the most difficult to penetrate. Moore is not really taking into consideration his audience in this work. It is clearly Moore writing for Moore only. And while some of us can be wholly intrigued by the exercise and effort required to burrow through the density of the work to find the beauty and the horror buried within his soul, I suspect that most readers, weaned on the simplistic storytelling of over-inflated bosoms and pecs of brightly colored perfect people beating the snot out of each other, will feel they wasted $30 bucks on an incomprehensible pile of crap littered with explicit sex, nudity, and profanity. Most of us do not want to put in the mental effort necessary to appreciate BLACK DOSSIER, but I can’t help but be inexplicably fascinated by it. Moore somehow finds and presents a view of beauty within a world of darkness and perversity. However, while it is entirely outside of my personal experience or understanding, I can appreciate his efforts even while acknowledging the utterly and completely self-gratifying nature of the work on his part. Unfortunately, the “Where’s Waldo” nature of the storytelling is a distraction and will likely contribute to a more dismissive attitude towards this work than Moore’s other works.
SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE
A novel written by Austin Grossman Cover art and interiors by Bryan Hitch Published by The Penguin Group UK Reviewer: Ambush BugI know, right?
I had the same reaction when I cracked this book open.
I was like, “Man, what’s up with all of these words?”
Then I realized that this was one of those actual novels I’d heard so much about. You know, like the ones your teacher used to make you read. To be honest, my busy day job and my moonlighting job of putting together this here weekly AICN Comics column don’t really permit me to read novels. And to be even more honest, books take me a lot of time to read these days with the booze and the early MTV-induced ADHD and all of that. I prefer the breezy amount of time it takes to get through a 22 page comic to the dedication one must have to finish an entire novel. Sue me. I’m a product of the modern age. But when I came across this novel, I decided to bite the bullet here and in one plane-delayed afternoon, I chugged through SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE. And y’know what? It turns out this was one of the best superhero reads I’ve read in quite some time.
That’s right, folks, one of the best comic book stories to be published this year isn’t a comic book at all. It’s a novel by Austin Grossman called SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE.
Grossman fills this book with memorable characters, wonderful looks at age-old comic book clichés in a new and fresh light, and a story that is both structurally sound and fully engrossing at the same time. Grossman utilizes comic book archetypes such as the evil genius, the squeaky clean uberman, the dark avenging hero, the smart ass sidekick, and so on in ways that honor comic book traditions without making them seem goofy or insincere. It’s quite obvious that Grossman has read his fair share of comics and I’m not talking modern comics with its slow pacing and decompression. I’m talking about large scale, balls-out crazy capers of the Silver Age paired with today’s attention to writing structure, style, and craft. Grossman has built a universe of heroes so much like the heroes we grew up with, yet interesting on their own. This is a perfect tribute to comics and a must for anyone who has read comics and has been witness to the trends and themes, the ups and downs of comic book stories throughout the years.
The story is two-tiered, following evil genius Doctor Impossible (the self-proclaimed Smartest Man in the World) who is of course trying to take over the world, and female cyborg Fatale (the Next Generation of Warfare) who is new to the hero biz and getting used to being on a team with the big guns, the Champions (this world’s version of the JLA or the Avengers). Each chapter alternates between Fatale and Dr. Impossible’s perspectives edging the story towards a climactic battle with the world’s fate at stake.
The drama begins when Corefire (The World’s Mightiest Hero) falls dead to Earth and everyone including his arch nemesis, Dr. Impossible, wants to solve the mystery of his death. There are shades of IDENTITY CRISIS and THE WATCHMEN as the heroes investigate the death of one of their own. But what separates this book from the rest is the uber-strong characterization going on with its two main characters. I especially enjoyed the Dr. Impossible chapters which not only focused on his evil plans, but his own tormented childhood, the development of his hatred for his arch nemesis, and his general disdain towards a world that never accepted him and therefore must be destroyed. I found the chapters involving Dr. Impossible to be by far the most entertaining as the evil genius comes across as a little bit Lex Luthor, a little bit Gargamel, and a little bit of THE VENTURE BROTHERS’ Dr. Thaddeus Venture all wrapped up into one. Writer Grossman walks the fine line of parody and seriousness with his Dr. Impossible character providing some of the book’s more insightful moments regarding super heroism and some of the more humorous passages as well.
But the heart of this book resides in its chapters dedicated to the new hero Fatale. Grossman provides a voice to her inner fears and insecurities as she enters the big leagues. From her first skirmish with a fellow hero to her development of long-thought-lost feelings towards another teammate, Fatale’s story is touching and provides the spine of true heroism to this story. Up until the last Fatale chapter, I thought that her sections were the weakest of the book, but I found myself holding back a tear or two as her story came to a close. Grossman really knows how to turn a word and make even the most ludicrous of subjects (i.e. super heroes) heavy, bittersweet, and thoroughly thought out.
The best parts of this book occur when Grossman shows these two characters, who couldn’t be more different from each other, share similar thoughts and feelings. In these scenes, Grossman brings home the fact that it doesn’t matter where you come from or how different you look on the outside, there is a humanity within us that is all too common.
But wait: there are a few images that go along with this book after all! Have you heard of a guy named Bryan Hitch? I thought you have. Well, he not only provides the cover art depicting a giant splash page featuring all of the four color heroes starring in the book, but as an added bonus, Hitch adds some mock comic book covers at the end of the book depicting some key scenes in the narrative. I found myself flipping back to these images numerous times throughout the story to gain a better grasp on what these characters look like. I’m not sure if Hitch had a hand in designing the costumes of these characters, but he sure does a wonderful job of imagining them on the page.
Another bit of coolness comes in the chapter headings which sport clichéd comic book catch phrases such as “Riddle Me This”, “Maybe We Are Not So Different”, “Join Me and We Cannot Be Defeated”, and “But Before I Kill You”. From the content to the bells and whistles, this is just a top notch piece of literature through and through.
As I read through this book, I started underlining my favorite passages and as I thought about how I was going to compose this review, I thought I would do an overview of some of my favorite quotations from the book. But in the end, there were far too many quotes I found to be poignant or insightful or just downright entertaining. So I’ll just leave this review with a pair of my favorite quotes from the ever-dastardly Dr. Impossible:
I watch the pedestrians go by—old people, homeless people, other people in suits, people with jobs. Paper cups and candy wrappers, and the sidewalk spotted with old chewing gum. It just seems unbelievable. I close my eyes, for a moment. There are days when you just don’t feel all that evil. “Hey. Um, honey? I think that guy over there is Doctor Impossible.” Shit.
They could come after me, I guess, but it doesn’t matter—I’m good at escapes. Maybe into the sewers, like the old days. It doesn’t matter. You keep going. You keep trying to take over the world.
Don’t let all those words scare you, my comic book brethren. SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE is one of the best super hero reads of the year.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #116
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis Artist: Stuart Immonen Inker: Wade von Grawbadger Publisher: Marvel Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoIt’s the little things that make a comic book good. Yeah, we like the action. Yeah, we like the conversation that reveals the humanity of a character. Yeah, we like our eye-candy. But too many splash pages, too much talking, too much posturing and you’ve got…well, AQUAMAN comes to mind. Or the old DR. DRUID mini-series.
Fortunately, this comic mixes all three nicely. To recap: Shield (Carol Danvers) was using Spiderman as bait for the Green Goblin. The bait worked: Kitty Pryde to the possible rescue.
I love the friendship between Peter and Kitty. I love the fact that they have some small history together, and some issues to work through, but nothing so complex they should not be able to work it out. I love the fact that they choose not to make an already complex situation more complex, and that they show a level headedness that most teenagers not featured on trendy TV shows actually DO have.
Personally, I like comics that show people rising to the best they can be. Not infallible, but for the most part…well…heroic. If I want to see people behaving the worst they can be, or check out what behavioral aberrations humanity has to offer, I’ll watch the evening news and get depressed. Or I’ll read some Garth Ennis and get even more depressed. So when I see heroes behaving like, oh, I dunno…HEROES…I dig it. Sue me. I’m old-fashioned.
I also like it when a hero gets to vent their righteous indignation. So often Peter Parker gets crapped upon with no one to listen. At least Danvers got a snootful. And the van scene was cool. The toga was surreal and clever.
The whole thing was so well done, including Immonen’s art and Ponsor’s outstanding colors (check out the change of lighting when Spidey and Kitty are underground) that I’m willing to forgo any extended discussions as to how our dynamic duo dissipated the kinetic energy (accumulated from falling) as they phased through the street.
Excellent issue, and I’m looking forward to the final chapter.
COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS #22
Writer: Couldn’t tell ya Artist: No idea Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Sleazy GIt’s not that I don’t appreciate DC Comics’ willingness to try new approaches to storytelling. The whole linear 22 page story thing is getting pretty played out, after all. I mean, it’s been generations, and you still get the same basic thing: story starts, story continues, story ends. Sure, you can do some flash-forwards and flash-backwards type stuff or jump around the timeline, but there’s only so much room to work. Not with this issue of COUNTDOWN, though, no sir. In fact, since there wasn’t a page in the issue telling me who wrote it, I’m wondering if it wasn’t Alan Moore himself, magickally circumventing DC’s entire staff and transferring his story directly to the printed page.
How else can you possibly explain what happened here? Is there any other possible way to account for the bizarre storytelling approach taken in this issue? Five pages of story…and then THE SAME FIVE PAGES OF STORY? Whoa. That’s gutsy. But to then do the same thing AGAIN? A second set of five pages ALSO REPEATED? That takes serious stones. DC had to know when they sent this thing to press that they were going to take a lot of heat from the readers: such a bold experiment was bound to draw far more criticism than anything else they’ve tried in years. And to then end the issue right in the middle of an action scene? No splash page, no witty battle cry—just a regular ol’ panel of two dudes throwing stuff at another dude? That takes a real set a’ brass ones.
I’ll admit, at first I was surprised and angered. I thought it was just another case of a printing company who doesn’t care enough to bother getting comics right cuz there aren’t enough readers to be bothered. I mean, we’re not talking about CAT FANCY or 70+ here, after all. Or maybe their Canadian Quality Control department was still drunk from celebrating American Thanksgiving in honor of their south-of-the-border customers last week. Or maybe there was such a small batch with problems that DC didn’t think it was worth mentioning to the online press so that I’d know by Saturday afternoon to make sure my store returned the bad one and sold me the whole book.
But then I thought about it and realized what was happening. I’d seen this kind of thing before; it just hadn’t been in the medium of comic books, so it took a while to register. The repeated pages? A time loop, just like on “Dr. Who”. The last page cutting out right in the middle of the action instead of finishing the scene? Yep, you betcha: remember the controversial ending to the final episode of “The Sopranos”? Leave ‘em with no idea what’s going on, clamoring for more, and you know you’ve accomplished something.
So kudos, DC. Some people have complained that nothing was going on in COUNTDOWN. You could have listened to that and stepped up the action, accelerated the story, maybe added a few unexpected twists. Instead, you went a completely different direction; dodging all expectations and making damned sure nothing went on in this issue. You stepped up and said “you haven’t seen an issue about nothing until now!” A surprising turn, and one that has certainly left me scratching my head. It’s nice to know that in an industry built on rehashing familiar storylines, the big publishers are still willing to take a chance and do something truly unexpected.
THE INFINITE HORIZON #1
Writer: Gerry Duggan Artist: Phil Noto Publisher: Image Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugHomer's THE ODYESSEY is one of those classic pieces of literature that is often remade or modernized or reimagined. And there's a good reason for this. There's a strong foundation of feeling behind the words of this story. Everyone knows loss. Everyone knows what it feels like to long for something or someone. It is a story of determination and love that will never fade despite unspeakable odds against the hero. Many times modernizations are too literal or often try to be too clever. Most of the time these attempts to make old stories fresh and new fall flat and reek of overwriting and pretentiousness. But occasionally, a writer can tap into what makes the original story so special and is able to fit it into a new and exciting scenario. THE INFINITE HORIZON is that kind of modernization.
THE INFINITE HORIZON starts out with a blaring statement of what the story is all about. A soldier in the Middle East has a singular purpose: to get home to his loving wife, and in those first captions he states he will stop at nothing to return to her safely. You can't get much more "Torn from the headlines" than that. It's one of those palpable problems that hits everyone today especially with the holidays coming up. I'm sure everyone knows someone or IS that someone who feels the same way about a loved one who is currently fighting overseas. This emotional core is established early on in THE INFINITE HORIZON and it serves as the anchor that guides not only the hero but the reader along this often grisly journey.
But fear not, it's not all lovey dovey stuff. There's a gruesome standoff at an airport as the Captain (our soldier with a mission) must lead his troops against a surrounding enemy army. Writer Gerry Duggan does a great job of setting up an intense scenario, but leaves it to the fantastic art of Phil Noto to knock it out of the park. These action scenes belong to Noto's frantic choice of paneling (many scenes take place within the scope of a gun) and frenzied pacing. Noto's distinct style is simplistic, but he does something here that I'm not sure he's done anywhere else. Or maybe he has and I'm just noticing it here first. Noto draws a panel, then highlights what he wants you to focus on in the panel in either a different color or just more detail. This is a form of drawing that many artists use, but with Noto's drawings (which look so vivid, it looks as if they were done in colored pencil), this accentuation of specifics stands out. Writer Duggan did a great job at the beginning making us care for this character, but artist Noto runs with that, putting those characters through scenarios that twist those feelings into knots. The danger is real because we see it on the news every night. This really is a great meld of writer and artist tapping into a powerful message about love persevering over war without making a clunky or opinionated political stance.
As soon as I read the first few panels of the very first page, I knew THE INFINITE HORIZON wasn't going to be one of those flighty reads. This was some heavy shit: topical, resonant, and possibly one of those stories that sticks with you long after its over. This being the first issue, the end is a long way away. There's quite a tale to tell, but THE INFINITE HORIZON is off to a very strong start. And with THE ODYSSEY, Gerry Duggan's strong writing and Phil Noto's amazing art as the book's backbone, this is definitely a book worth seeking out.
TEEN TITANS #53
Writer: Sean McKeever Artist: Eddy Barrows Inker: Rob Hunter Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me AmodeoI love time travel stories. And I hate time travel stories. So without any need to reach for that handy bottle of lithium pills I keep in the lower left corner of my desk, I can say that I love and hate this issue (and yes, I know bipolars swing between mania and depression, not love and hate, and yes, I know lithium is a blood-level med and takes several days to take effect, so have a Coke and a simile…).
Hrmmm. Where do I start? Start with the art. The art warmed my heart (great, from Emil Krapelin to Theodor Geisel in less than a paragraph).
The art was great, full of energy and interesting angles. Good, impressive splash pages. I’m not sure if there were too many, because they were so well drawn, I didn’t mind.
As far as story, I’m seriously intrigued. There’s much, much more going on here than a simple “young optimistic heroes somehow beat their older, evil counterparts and change their viewpoints.” Yes, the older heroes are cynical and cold. But I don’t feel like they’re evil. They still have a sense of justice, and just because all of them have gotten personality implants from the Punisher (or I guess Vigilante in the DCU) doesn’t mean they’re eeeeeeeee-vil.
I’ve seen it happen before, to co-workers in the psych field, or with police officers. You get into the job for all the right reasons, but after so many years of seeing so much bad, one gets tired of the process. You don’t want to process with a malefactor or a patient anymore. You just want to bonk them on the head and tell them there’s more where that came from if they don’t get their crap together. And of course, you can’t really do that. But if you could…if you were already a vigilante…
And that’s a lot of where the older Titans are coming from. You can’t make fun of the cynical co-worker until you’ve been in the trenches yourself for fifteen or twenty years. The lines between good guys and bad guys are not clearly drawn, and I appreciate that. For all the fisticuffs, the subtext is quite nuanced.
The other thing that’s interesting is that the future and past are fluid. The meetings between past and future selves is not pre-determined to the point where, when one younger self does something radical, all the future selves can feel the ripples in the time stream.
Of course, this is the part that I love/hate. If events really change in an older self’s past, one would think that memories would be instantly and irrevocably altered. Is the hard drive aware that it’s being erased and re-written? And yet there is a retrievable iteration that can be recovered via hard drive space that is not overwritten. So maybe there is a part of the hippocampus that is tachyon oriented, like a mental logfile for chronological alterations. Like an SQL logfile. Who knows? It’s enough to make my head pop like an extra from “Scanners”. Still, it’s not as inconsistent as “The Butterfly Effect”, and executed much better.
I guess what I’m saying is: I’m intrigued. I’m entertained. I like it. I like it enough that I won’t worry about how some of these things are happening and just sit back and let Sean tell his story.
Oh, and I’ll enjoy the small touches, like one older Titan crying out during battle, “Daaarrrrrkkkk Vennngennnnce!” Now, I wonder who that misfit could be? Like I said, a nice touch, and now Sean has me looking forward to his run on BIRDS OF PREY as well.
WONTON SOUP OGN
James Stokoe: Creator Oni Press : Publisher Vroom Socko: Sweet ‘n SourThere’s a reason that Oni is currently my favorite publisher in comics: they are willing to take risks on shit that is way out there. Way out. I’m talking about comics that verge on Dadaism here. What’s great about these books is that they are imagination let loose. They’re stories that delight in being madcap, that are all about the moment. And they are certainly not created for everyone to love. (Well, there’s SCOTT PILGRIM, but…)
The point is, with some of their titles, SHARKNIFE, say, or MULTIPLE WARHEADS, you either love them or you hate them. There’s no middle ground. WONTON SOUP is the same way” either you get it or you don’t.
Me, I can’t get enough of it.
Reading like a mad hybrid of COWBOY BEBOP and “Iron Chef”, WONTON SOUP features interstellar truckers Johnny Boyo and Deacon Vans. When they’re not hauling freight, or dealing with the occasional hijacking by space ninjas, Deacon likes to fuck pretty much anything that has a pulse, and Johnny seeks out the perfect bowl of soup. That is, when he’s not trying to perfect a recipe that features a sentient ingredient who wants to become a perfectly roasted meal. Unfortunately for Johnny, this mismatched pair are forced to make an emergency landing on a planet where he not only left behind the girl of his dreams, but where he also has a challenge waiting for him--a challenge to see just who the best damn chef in this sector of the galaxy really is.
The story, though, is really not much more than an excuse to cram as much insanity and weirdness and straight up joy into as little space as possible. There’s at least one good joke on every page of this thing (my favorite involves the History Channel, with the second fave dealing with various handshakes.) This thing is nuts. It is out there. It reads like the sort of thing that Noel Fielding would come up with after binging on Pixie Stix and “Firefly” DVD’s. And many of you will probably not like it at all.
But for those of you who don’t like to take comics too seriously, or take yourselves even less seriously, you’re going to have a blast with this book. You’ll definitely be hungry for mo-
ATTENTION. THIS REVIEW WAS ABOUT TO BE CONCLUDED WITH A TERRIBLE, OVERUSED PUN. FOR YOUR SAFETY, THE REVIEW HAS BEEN TERMINATED, AND VROOM SOCKO WILL BE SUBJECTED TO WATERBOARDING WHILE HAVING THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE READ TO HIM AT HIGH VOLUME. WE NOW RETURN YOU TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED COLUMN.
DOC FRANKENSTEIN #6
Writers: The Wachowski Brothers Art: Steve Skroce Publisher: Burlyman Comics Reviewer: Ambush BugWell, it’s time to flip the mattress, so I guess that means it’s also time for another issue from Burlyman to hit the stands.
Ok, time to vent a bit.
I love Burlyman Comics. I love the madness and the imagination and the fun infused into each and every issue of both of Burlyman’s ongoing series (THE SHAOLIN COWBOY and this series). It is by far some of the best comic book reading these peepers have peeped in a long time, but damnit all to hell, why can’t we get more than two comics a year from these guys?!?!
I honestly don’t know when the last time it was when I read a DOC FRANKENSTEIN comic. I think it was right around the same time Grant Morrison had his own version of Frankenstein bounding about in all-too-similar adventures in his SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY miniseries. Back then, I found the similarities to be pretty plentiful, yet gave both a chance in hopes that one comic would out batshit crazy the other. Well, with Morrison’s Frankenstein over and done with long ago, I guess it’s a good thing that we still have the Wachowski Brothers’ version to satiate my appetite for whup@$$edness-- that is, if I could follow the damn thing.
The main problem with this issue of DOC FRANKENSTEIN is that waaaaaaaaay too much time has passed in between issues and although there are a few bits of cleverly placed exposition regarding the plot placed throughout the issue, I have to admit that I was completely lost going into this issue. I don’t really recall what went on in the last issue at all. I think a faerie was released from the Vatican. I think there was a story about what really went on with Jesus or something. I think there was a dodo resurrection. I think Doc Frankenstein met up with his ex-partner (a cowboy werewolf). But I’m not sure of anything. So much time has passed that the only vague recollection I have of the series is that something pretty damn cool went on and that’s about it.
Reading this comic reminds me of eating one Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup then setting the other one in a cabinet not to be touched for six months. I love Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They are tasty and make my brain feel warm and alive. And dammit I want another, but I know that I won’t be able to eat that other Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for another six months and that really pisses me off!
I simply don’t have that kind of patience. I would probably break down and hatchet my way into the cabinet for the next delicious Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, then sit back and let out a creepy moan as I ate it all up. But I can’t take a hatchet to Burlyman Publishing to get the next DOC FRANKENSTEIN comic. And therein lies the problem.
I love the artwork in this book. Steve Skroce is one of those artists that fills the panels with detail without cluttering it up. His characters are imaginative and fun to look at. His choice of “camera angles” bring out a big budget cinematic feel that makes you think you are experiencing something huge and worthwhile.
And the writing here from the Wachowski Brothers is definitely good. There’s the right balance of humor and adventure that was there in the first MATRIX and was a bit lacking in the sequels. This is definitely ripe material to pull a story from (Doc Frankenstein vs. the Catholic Church) and the Wachowski Brothers seem to have a definite direction they are going towards. Doc’s on a mission; I just wish it wouldn’t take him so damn long to get there.
Burlyman has been around for quite some time now. I’ve been reading and lauding their books for what seems like ages. But despite the fact that the company has been in existence for almost three years, neither of its ongoing series has reached double digit numbering. And that’s…well, that’s kind of sad, to tell you the truth.
So while I love Burlyman’s material, I really wish they could get their acts together and put out a more consistent product. Or at least throw us readers a bone and supply a recap page to keep everyone on the up and up as to the hows and whys and the what-duh-fug’s of the book, fer chrissakes.
The ad in the back of DOC FRANKENSTEIN proclaims that THE SHAOLIN COWBOY #8 is “Coming Soon Eventually”. There was a time when I would have thought that statement was pretty damn witty; a self-deprecating wink and a nudge to fans willing to hang in there for what’s bound to be good stuff. I’m one of those fans and have been from the beginning. But I have to tell you, after being unable to follow the plot in this most recent issue of DOC FRANKENSTEIN due to the amount of time between issues, I have to say that type of “Tee hee, we’re late and we know it” attitude is getting old really quick. Burlyman Comics are starting to look like that hot girl who has everything done for her simply because she’s hot. But if that smug attitude goes on too long, resentment and downright distaste is bound to develop. I still WANT to love DOC FRANKENSTEIN, but Burlyman’s publishing schedule is making it damn hard to do so.
ALL STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN THE BOY WONDER #8
Writer: Frank Miller Artist: Jim Lee Inker: Scott Williams Publisher: DC Comics Reviewer: Rock-Me Amodeo“As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly.” That’s one of my favorite quotes from the Bible, and the first thing that runs through my head when I see someone making the same mistakes in life, over and over. Never learning. Never acquiring wisdom. Just returning to the same folly, like a dog sniffing its own vomit. If you think that’s gross, you’re absolutely right. It’s meant to be gross. But it’s a great motivator for me, personally, as I don’t want anyone forced to picture me in the sniffing position. After all, age and wisdom often travel together…but sometimes, age shows up all by itself.
So imagine my surprise to find a copy of ASBAR in my hands. Sure, it’s not my folly, per se, but it was my great folly to read the first issues, and I don’t regret skipping the next few issues on sheer principle. But there I was, sniffing it.
And an even greater surprise: it’s not vomit. There you go, Frank, there’s that great quotable blurb you’ve been waiting for: “AICN says ‘it’s not vomit!’ Get your copy today!”
Now, it’s not for kids. No way. Nor does it honor the icon, or pay homage or any sort, like the very well done ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. But if you know what this book is, it’s possible to accept it and like it on its own terms. As much of a boy-scout as I am sometimes called, that’s a far stretch for me.
But here’s the deal: it’s Frank Miller’s Batman. Period.
And further, every time Miller has written Batman, it’s been HIS Batman. Period.
Once you know the ground rules, the whole pill is easier to swallow. The thing that cemented my understanding was the appearance of the FemiNazi with the swastika pasties, ala DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. And what I finally figured out is that DARK KNIGHT was not an older version of our Batman. That guy was Frank Miller’s Batman, too. It was also Miller’s Superman, Joker, Catwoman…you see? It’s Elseworlds on steroids. My problem was in trying to reconcile that guy with our Batman, and it didn’t help that the DCU decided to make our Batman more like that guy. But he’s not.
In that context, completely divorced from the characters I cherish, I can accept the narrative. It’s gritty. It’s vulgar. It’s brutal. It’s all the things you like (or dislike) about Frank Miller. I’m a fan, but I’m not a brainwashed fan by any means: I went to see “Robocop II” because it was going to be Miller’s first big screen credit at the time, and its one of only three movies I’ve walked out of.
I’m not sold on this series. Much of it I despise. But this issue was well done, especially the ending, which I didn’t see coming. In fact, it was clever enough to border on genius, and I have to respect that. Once I read that, I re-read the issue in full and have come to appreciate it on its own terms. Miller has created his own version of the DCU. Hey, maybe they’ll even give him a number between 1 and 52. As long as I keep that in mind, I can appreciate what he’s doing. For now.
Oh, and Jim Lee draws pretty pictures. But we already knew that.