Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #103

Captain America and Batroc #1
Sigil #1 (2011)
Xombi #1 (2011)

Captain America and Batroc #1 (Marvel, 2011, $3.99)
Modern comic book writers are fucking idiots. See, comics were an opportunistic medium where low rent hustlers tried to collect as many dimes from as many people as possible by entertaining children for eight page stretches. When soldiers needed a cheap portable activity in the trenches, the hustlers added titties and gore to the mix. In the sixties, a burn out case figured out he could save himself some brain power by stretching the plots of those eight pages across twenty or more, and nobody would notice the dilution if he cut the stuff with cokehead verbosity and flashy characterization. Unfortunately, this attracted pretentious twat college kids who listened to douchebags that had read too much Joseph Campbell, and decided super-heroes were our modern mythology. In a bid for resonance and immortality, they began treating the old comics as scripture, resurrecting and/or killing their idols with greater frequency and diminishing returns while creeping ever further up their own assholes. Any sense of permanence anywhere was pretty thoroughly undone by the '80s, but the '90s helped mask the futility of it all with a constant barrage of Exciting! New! Valuable! The truth is that the comic industry has been slowly dying since the late 40s, and one of their greatest creative accomplishments has been managing to survive as an irrelevant parasitic life form within pop culture since the 1970s.

The rule was that only Uncle Ben and Bucky stayed dead, until Ben showed up every two years for a dream sequence/ghostly visitation/mind fuck while Ed Brubaker brought back motherfucking Bucky. I thought it was surely a joke that Bucky was a brainwashed Soviet super assassin surviving since World War II through intermittent cryogenic suspension and with the aid of a cybernetic arm. I kept waiting for the "gotcha" moment when he was proven an evil fraud, but you can't do that for five years and a lengthy run as the replacement Captain America. Bucky has fans now, at least among the tens of thousands of assholes that bother to read Captain America in 2011. The reason why this is bullshit is that once you bring Bucky back, you know nothing related to death in comics matters, and once you have Bucky become an effective Captain America, there is no hierarchy or accomplishment amongst super-heroes. The entire point of about four years on Mark Gruenwald comics was that no amount of super powers or training could make U.S. Agent into Captain America, because Steve Rogers was a uniquely wonderful human being, and Bucky Barnes shits all over that.

This is why I adore Batroc ze Lepair. His equal at DC would probably be the Riddler. You can try to have the Riddler get possessed by demons and sacrificing babies, but at the end of the day we always think of Frank Gorshin or Jim Carrey showing their nutsacks to children by wearing really tight green spandex body suits with purple question marks all over them. Give him a tie, give him a cane and bowler, have him hang out with chick assistants whose girlie parts hang out. He'll still always be the Riddler, and most people can accept that. Batroc is a foot boxer with the worst French accent since Peter Sellers. He wears orange and purple. His mustache in bigger than his head. He's unfuckupable. You know a Batroc story isn't going to be about life or death, triumph or tragedy. It's about the writer figuring out how to make a good time happen when everybody knows the villain is going to lose a low stakes fight.

However, you had best respect Batroc. No matter how ridiculous he seems, the Leaper fights Captain "Fuck Yeah" America. The real one. The guy who trained half the Marvel Universe to fight, and could still kick their asses. Clever writers have recognized this by having Batroc toe punch the shit out of Spider-Man villains and the Punisher, because you're godddamned right Batroc would do just that. Batroc would dick punch Wolverine, because if you can dance with the Star-Spangled Avenger for fifty years, you're among the most badass losers around.

Kieron Gillen gets this. Yes, he decides to expose Batroc to parkour, but that's like how Batman is already the master of that martial art you just invented five minutes ago. Only a fool denies obvious universal truths, like Batroc beimg about parkour before it even existed. Gillen also has Batroc fuck whores and psychoanalyze himself. Well, why not, if the end result is recognizing the essential Batroc in a modern commercial context? Gillen tells a great story that is true to the character in twenty-two pages, and he could have probably done it in eight, but I like it fine as is. The art of Renato Arlem is a bit haggard for the smooth master of savate, but I like the physical presence he gives Batroc, hulking over normal people while still being believable in acrobatics. Arlem also helps transition fans of Brubaker era Cap into the story, since he keeps to the "house style" established by Steve Epting. A ten page Lee/Kirby reprint closes the book out in fine form.

Sigil #1 (Marvel, 2011, $2.99)
I had hopes for Crossgen when the publisher launched in the early aughts, but not a single one of their books ever held my attention. They seemed to really want to be a Bronze Age indie, very reminiscent of the least adventurous offerings from Pacific, First, Star*Reach, Eclipse, and Epic. It felt like super-hero creators loosed from the shackles of one genre so that they could finally be bound by the shackles of other tired, quaint genres. There were a couple or three customers at my shop who bought most of the line, and I ordered 7-10 copies total of their best selling titles. That's all the audience Mark Alessi's money could buy.

Marvel purchased the Crossgen catalog several years ago, and recently decided to update the sigil and the line with a revival. Seeing as the sigil was the misguided linking device of the quasi-Crossgen universe, referencing it at all seems like an ill-considered first step. I can't recall having read a single issue of the original Sigil, but I'm confident I did, because I read all of my stripped cover returns. It was one of the least popular Crossgen titles I stocked, and clearly did not make an impression on me. The new series also barely registers. It's another one of those stories where a troubled high school kid gets sucked into a fantasy world that fucks up their real life. Ideally, this is meant to echo the dual existence in a teenage mind, between what you want and what you have. I've always found it has the "Robin" effect, saddling a fantasy setting with mundane complications as a means of reader identification, when all we really want to do is punch bitches vicariously through Batman. I don't want to read a story about how my history teacher brings me down, when what I really want to do is ride on a pirate ship for the length of a story. I want my history teacher to be represented in fiction as a dragon, and then I want to cut its fucking head off.

Sigil adds nothing new to a genre well represented in novels, television and movies. It does hint at being a lynch pin for other Crossgen revivals, seeking expanded life through association. Meet the new Crossgen, same as the old Crossgen.

Xombi #1 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
By 1994, I'd pretty much given up on getting into the Milestone Universe. I did not like the art or coloring, and none of the properties spoke to me. I picked up some books a few years down the line out of quarter bins, and aside from Hardware, my assumptions were borne out. I never found a copy of Xombi though, which was a shame. Even though the art of J.J. Birch turned me off, the premise I read in solicitation copy was intriguing. I believe that was the first time I ever heard of nanorobotics, or maybe it was in a Valiant title? Regardless, they sounded weird and cool.

The same words could be applied to the curious but welcome relaunch of Xombi. Maybe writer/creator John Rozum had a strong pitch for bringing back his two-year running series, or maybe DC was still stinging from complaints about their lack of Asian characters after the deaths of Ryan Choi and Lian Harper. Whatever the case, a strong revival seems to have been the result.

As far as I can tell, David Kim does not know martial arts. He is not the successor to a white guy's heroic legacy. He is a scientist who got himself dead, with a novel means of fixing that problem, not without its own complications. Between Xombi and Rai, Asian heroes own nanites, so he's fully his own man. He lives in a peculiar world where the apocalypse is an inconvenience, pocket change will have words with you, and allies have punny names like Nun of the Above. It's tongue in cheek fun, with elements of a potent, and the lovely art of Frazier Irving makes this book a definite contender.

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