Sunday, September 29, 2013

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #178

The Bounce #1 (2013)
Dawn: The Swordmaster's Daughter & Other Stories #1
Empowered Special #4 "Animal Style"
Green Lantern #23.2/Mongul #1
Grim Leaper #1
Justice League #23.4/Secret Society #1
Mighty Avengers #1 (2013)

The Bounce #1 (Image, 2013, $2.99)
Something I came to realize sometime in the early 1990s is that I greatly dislike the Spider-Man archetype. The "funny" well-intentioned everyman that suburban white boys embrace as their own. Not only is it fucking boring as shit, but the way it generalizes and homogenizes the comic reader demographic is borderline offensive. Spider-Man replaced Superman as the most broadly accepted aspirational super-heroic figure, and by my reckoning we traded down-- lowered our expectation of ourselves. It doesn't help that, like Batman, Spidey has a rogues gallery full of homicidal maniacs that ol' Web-head routinely "locks up" for all of five minutes before they bust loose and kill more people without the hero ever being held accountable for his ineffectual management of the problem.

So here's Jasper Jenkins, who is exactly like Peter Parker in every essential element except-- woooo, he's a pothead! And he gets his powers from drugs! Just say yes! What a twist! How subversive! Blow me, Joe Casey, creator of Stacy X. The Bounce is the edgy bong-hitting Speedball revamp you've been dying for, since he gets to call his lethal bad guy noun/verb adversary "asshole" before they fight to a draw! Imaginative, no? At least the Terry Dodson-flavored art of David Messina is attractive.

Dawn: The Swordmaster's Daughter & Other Stories #1 (Image,2013, $3.99)
The team of Joe Monks and Joseph Michael Linsner were a revelation to me when I read Cry for Dawn during the original Bush Administration. They dealt in cutting edge contemporary horror that was mind-expanding to an adolescent. After the team busted up, I followed Linsner to the Drama one-shot, which I found to be a head-scratcher. When he decided to launch Dawn as an ongoing fantasy narrative, I talked the owner of the comic shop I was working at into ordering heavily-- far heavier than I'd intended-- and we sold that book like crazy anyway. I was proud that a bet I'd helped place paid off, and the book was gorgeous, but the story left something to be desired. I liked the character Dawn as a horror hostess, but Linsner continued the fluffy fantasy elements begun in Subtle Violents that left me cold then and now. Linsner also had a tendency toward dumb, vulgar genital symbolism and borrowed heavily enough from world myth to seem unoriginal while incorporating too many coarse modern elements to demonstrate fidelity to the source material. As a fan, I picked up most of the early product of Linsner's company Sirius, but none of it rocked my world. Crypt of Dawn was especially disappointing, since it seemed like a return to JML's horror anthology roots, but presented nothing of remotely comparable impact. By the time the six issue initial Dawn mini-series wrapped up, I was disinterested in going further with the property, and my dissatisfaction with Sirius had tainted my affection for JML's art style.

I still buy the odd pin-up special and one-shot, which leads us to The Swordmaster's Daughter, a series of loose adaptations of folk tales. The titular story places JML's proxy hero Darren Ashoka into a samurai myth, the longest and most enjoyable of the pieces. Linsner has always had an issue with differentiating faces, so I appreciated the subtle variations between the Daughter and Dawn, though the need to insert his Aryan creations into foreign myth is galling. "Samsara" seems to run long at just two pages, visually pleasant but painfully predictable (apologies to the Sufi.) Finally, "The White Phoenix" borrows from The Bhagavad Gita, which I happened to read a couple of years ago. This was not that, as JML rendered an already problematic text comically simplistic, and yes, of course he manages to work in the curious combination of Vargas/Olivia, Maiden/Megadeth album covers, and splay-legged beaver shot with bonus circle of life pablum. Nothing lays on the saltpeter like Linsner in dunderheaded pseudo-philosophizing mode.

I like the first story, and I would have gone easier on Linsner, but a text piece at the back of the book applied paper cuts to the peter with the salt. Linsner had a bad break-up with his creative partner of fourteen years Eva Hopkins, and he posts a subtweet screed so blatantly one-sided that I had to hop online to research the other side, and found this. I figured out JMS was a probable dick up his own ass some time back, but the Henry Rollins riffing while thoroughly demonizing a relative unknown with a less substantial platform for rebuttal. I used to be prone to emotional histrionics, fantasizing about impossible sexual conquests, and dying my hair colors not occurring in nature, but that sort of thing is pretty unflattering by the time you hit thirty. It's heartbreaking when you see super talented guys like JML and Frank Miller encase themselves in bubbles of their own bullshit for decades, never growing as artists or as human beings, until their former audience looks upon them with disdain.

Empowered Special #4 (Dark Horse, 2013, $3.99)
In the second stopgap floppy since Empowered Volume 7, Adam Warren teams with John Staton to continue coloring Emp's world with side stories. It's great seeing Emp's rising competence and confidence, and Staton's style is closer to Warren's than his other partners in these specials, so that you almost forget that this is still just an EP of B-sides until the LP drops.

Green Lantern #23.2 (DC, 2013, $2.99)
Jim Starlin co-created Mongul back in 1980, so I was hopeful that he might restore the villain to his Bronze Age glory days. Len Wein gave the character an interesting back story in his debut appearance, and his m.o. was expanded by Paul Levitz and Alan Moore in appealing ways. Unfortunately, the Superman creative team from the chronically overrated, thoroughly mediocre "triangle" days offered a reboot of the character after Crisis on Infinite Earths that quashed all of his former grandeur and future potential. In more recent years, he was embraced by Pete Tomasi as the poor, uneducated, sadistic man's Darkseid. Jim Starlin didn't actually write any of those good old Mongul stories, so my enthusiasm for their renewed association was misplaced, since all Starlin did was rewrite the major Mongul beats since the late '80s into one sour introductory comic.

The "Death Star" original version of Warworld is combined with the gladiatorial arenas from Post-Crisis, while the Tomasi origin story from '90s Showcase issues is abbreviated. When Moore created the Black Mercy, it was just the latest in a series of imaginative threats Mongul came up with. Halfwits like Tomasi kept revisiting that one trick, but missed the story point by having it induce nightmares instead of "too good to be true" fantasies. Starlin merely acknowledges both versions here, like he's adapting a Who's Who entry into a story. The plot is stupid and showy; so needlessly brutal that I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn't a Keith Giffen paycheck gig. The presence of his occasional muse Howard Porter on art contributed to this cognitive dissonance, and it's good Porter, but still very very Porterry in post-JLA fashion, so it's probably best that no humans were depicted in the story. NuMongul does have an oddly metrosexual quality here though, despite a fairly hideous new costume design that reflects a host of fashion faux pas (Cloud City headgear, Paco Ramone green fingerless gloves over yellow skin.) To sum up the book, I'll point out that the Mongul's familiar chestpiece has now been replicated on both his shoulders and a pair coming out of his ears, with no one seemingly realizing that doohicky actual served a purpose 33 years ago, but now it's just a bunch of ugly excess ornamentation.

Grim Leaper #1 (Image, 2013, $3.50)
I sat on this book for a month or two, because from a quick toss through I could tell that I didn't want to read it. I finally bared down to push it through, but if anything, it was shittier than I expected. The premise is that a guy who keeps getting instantly reincarnated into other people's bodies, each swiftly dispatched themselves in a Final Destination fashion, has to figure out why. He's distracted by a drive toward amore, until he finds a girl in the same circumstance as himself. The end. There are several more issues in this series, but nothing here compels me to investigate further. Kurtis Wiebe's script is lightweight, and the already ugly art of AluĂ­sio C. Santos is made worse through his minimally chromatic coloring. There's also a five page back-up strip that summarizes old movies like The Shop Around the Corner and The Night We Never Met without improving on them in the least.

Justice League #23.4 (DC, 2013, $3.99)
Before I even crack this thing open and get started, let me say that this was the only Villains Month 3D cover book that I didn't get the chance to swap out for a dollar cheaper standard edition. It's flat two-dimension images stacked unconvincingly on top of one another with annoying quirks and blurriness, plus it sounds like corduroy pants when it slides against my fingertips. Your futuristic gimmick technology fails to impress. DC is like a homely chick in the bleachers flashing her deflated pimply breasts at anyone who can be bothered to pay her the slightest attention. The video game ad on the back cover is also 3D, and is it a nipple, a mole, or an infected ingrown hair?

Another reason why the cover is a dog turd is because it features two characters who barely get a cameo in the foreground and the title "Secret Society," but it's really about how the third featured player Earth-3 Alfred Pennyworth became "The Outsider." I have no fuck to give about that false advertisement, especially when it's depicted by Szymon Kudranski, whose art is the closest thing to shitting directly into my eyeballs without enlisting the Secret Society of German Scattologists. 68% of every page is black ink, and what shows through is amateur Photoshop tracing garbage. I want to force assistant editor Kate Stewart and senior editor Brian Cunningham to fight in a pit until one gnaws the other's throat out for allowing this book to be published as is. Geoff Johns' "plot" involved swiping the last scene from Se7en and forcing Sterling Gates to write a script around a bunch of foreshadowing to an upcoming issue of Forever Evil. I'm grateful for the purchase, because I'm down to buying only two DC books on any given month, and this made me realize that I'm still not being critical enough in my choices. I'm officially done giving DC books a chance. I'll buy the surprisingly upbeat Vibe until it gets canceled in a few months, and whatever book Martian Manhunter is in, and that is it from now on. I think Geoff Johns and Dan Didio are seeking the anti-comic equation, an elusive formula for the most absolutely wretched four color experience conceivable. At this rate, it is possible that they will produce a comic so offensively bad that it will convince mankind that God is dead and that we should join him by converting to Crossedisism and bodily obliterate all animal life on Earth, including one another and our own individual forms. I do not want the New 52 to command me to eat my own entrails.

Mighty Avengers #1 (Marvel, 2013, $3.99)
Yes, yes; we're all calling it "Black Avengers" under our breath, and there's nothing wrong with that. I don't know that I've ever read Al Ewing before, but he clearly read the same '80s Marvel comics I did. There is nothing in this book that couldn't have been found in an old Roger Stern or David Michelinie comic from when Big Jim was editor-in-chief, including a sober Luke Cage mentoring a stereotypical Power Man, and Monica Rambeau going by yet another codename for no particularly good reason. I've found the whole Superior Spider-Man thing to be a fun idea, but haven't had a chance to read m/any of his comics, so his appearance was nice. So far, this is Heroes for Hire under Avengers branding, which only makes me like it more. Even Greg Land's art was palatable, though I'm sure Jay Leisten's inks and a reduction in obvious photo reference helps. Not enough happens and I'm not quite bowled over enough to actively seek a trade paperback, but I'm glad this book exists.

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