Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wednesday Is All Image & Pretty Vacant For All I Care #118

The Infinite #1
Marksmen #1
The Red Wing #1

The Infinite #1 (Image, 2011, $2.99)
According to his editorial, Robert Kirkman was fourteen years old when seven of the hottest artists left Marvel to form Image Comics and prove to the world that not a single one of them was an exceptional writer or original thinker. Okay, I may have editorialized a bit there. Kirkman went on to point out how the comics of the early '90s were among his favorite and most influential, which explains why I am so consistently disappointed with his writing on anything but The Walking Dead. See, in the zombie book, Kirkman has to script mundane people under fantastic but very grounded circumstances where he gets to show that British people with writing credibility also influence his work. Meanwhile, Kirkman points out that he owns every single Rob Liefeld comic ever, and how he was the catalyst for the founding of Image at the ripe age of fourteen. Once again, Image hates editors at least as much as writers, or there might have been someone to catch that typo.

Kirkman was the first person who made their name as a writer to achieve "founder" status among what was left of the dudes that started the company, presumably because Image hates low sales even more than writers and editors. Seemingly part of the price Kirkman must pay is to co-create a book with each founder, of which only Haunt wasn't a complete turd. I would like to say that Kirkman is just hacking this stuff out in obligatory fashion, but I've been reading his older stuff lately, and it was always like this. The single most obvious influence on Kirman's writing is Erik Larsen, which explains the awkward phrasing, tongue in cheek grandiosity, sophomoric humor, and shock value twists. Probably the reason why The Walking Dead is good is because it forces Kirkman to rein in his excesses and work out the logical progression of people in an RV moving from place to place. In every other book by Kirkman I've read, he embraces the ridiculous and nonsensical, usually to the detriment of quality storytelling. Pairing with Rob Liefeld just brings out the very worst of his cancerous inclinations.

I can't really discuss the meat of The Infinite at length, because it is in total a few slices of Carl Budding. To say it is much better than most Rob Liefeld projects is to state that dysentery is more pleasant in the hospital setting than a jungle hooch. To say that it is about as bad as the worst Kirkman material is a given. People you do not and will never care about die violently. Facial features are largely identical. Shortcuts like an army wearing helmets that could be drawn with a compass or guns traced around a sideways eraser are constant. The first half of the book is a fight scene with only the bare minimum storytelling amidst the spreads and partial splashes. Pants and jackets look like rubber tubing. Every character is a hardbodied gym rat. Fuck physics. Fuck dimensions. Fuck anatomy. The lead characters are a slightly younger Cable and a much younger Cable, and they will battle Jack Kirby's OMAC and possibly the least visually interesting Image villain ever. That last bit is an unfortunate accomplishment of considerable malignancy on a par with the great atrocities of the medium.

This book is Hermann Esser in digital color with nice lettering. Not Hitler or Himmler or Goebbels or Eichmann or Göring or Göth or Mengele or any of the truly great evils of der Reich. It's just a negligible shit weasel that looks the part and steps mit der goose. Liefeld bailed on it for a Hawk and Dove series. Let that sink in.

Marksmen #1 (Image, 2011, $1.00)
There were zombie books before The Walking Dead and even more after. In film, the zombie renaissance had already begun, so bandwagon jumping was a given, but quality bears out. The post-apocalyptic future as a genre has yet to see such a resurgence, but in our current environment, it seems inevitable. Marksmen seems to want to get ahead of the game, mashing up The Road Warrior, A Boy and His Dog, Megaforce and more low budget dreck. The trick is to elevate the influences, and when I read the inside front cover exposition, I knew that wouldn't be happening here. See, the entire world collapses into feudal warfare, setting most countries back centuries, due to a massive recession. A recession is a widespread economic slowdown, usually as part of a natural correction or in reaction to the bursting of a sector bubble. When your entire premise is based on the misunderstanding of a term that you probably pulled out of somebody's talking point, you're most likely too stupid to elevate a genre. Once you add in San Diego being about the last bastion of civilization on the West Coast thanks to its being rebuilt by Navy SEALs, your best hope is be so overwhelmingly dumb as to be unintentionally amusing.

That doesn't pan out, either. Some cypher in armor battles cannibalistic rednecks inadequately, necessitating the help of good non-cannibal rednecks. These fine folks are from Lone Star, the only functional city in the south, which has been enveloped by fundamentalism and a need to steal Cali's renewable resources as their Texas tea runs dry. Yes, they do all ride horses and wear cowboy hats, as an invading army makes its way to San Diego, forewarned by the small band of conscientious objectors.

At thirty-two pages with no ads, the book feels like a long, involved read. There are tons of scenes and several different action set pieces. A lot of ground gets covered, so it's kind of amazing that not a single likeable character is introduced and the reader is still not invested in the plot to the slightest degree by the end of the issue. The art by Javier Aranda is attractive, with old school storytelling sensibilities. It's reminiscent of all the guys from Valiant's glory days, from Bart Sears to Sean Chen to Rags Morales. From the coloring on down, the book looks professional, and the dollar entry price point couldn't have come cheap. All indications then are that Michael Benaroya of Benaroya Publishing LLC had plenty of bank for a vanity project to display his hopelessly journeyman writing. Not a scene or piece of dialogue from this thing indicates skill beyond direct to DVD sci-fi crap of the most by-the-numbers flavor.

The Red Wing #1 (Image, 2011, $3.50)
Full disclosure: I met artist Nick Pitarra at a convention this year, and he's a super nice guy who clearly enjoys his work. He did a great commission for me, and his portfolio made it clear that he will be a big star someday. I've been looking forward to this book for months, because it was to be early exposure to the acclaimed writing of Jonathan Hickman, and I knew what Pitarra could do. I certainly have no interest in slagging the book.

Of course, if I did, I would have to point out that it was some pretentious Heavy Metal reject bullshit with the same daddy issues as Hickman's Fantastic Four that wasted four nearly blank fucking pages on a typeset "title sequence" and ejaculates so prematurely as to not even become unsheathed from its tighty whities. Hopefully the Hickman brand will give the talented artists some exposure, at least.


Nick Ahlhelm said...

Liefeld is actually doing Infinite and Hawk & Dove at the same time. We will see how long that lasts.

Diabolu Frank said...

Assuming Kirkman got some lead time out of Liefeld, and DC surely got little to none, I'll lay odds on three Infinites and two Hawk and Doves before Marat Mychaels shows up in a credit box. In fact, I wouldn't even be surprised if Hawk & Dove started splitting credits per issue before the inevitable exit...


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