Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #82

Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet #1
Magnus, Robot Fighter #1 (2010)
Murderland #1
True Story, Swear To God Vol.2 #13

Avengers & the Infinity Gauntlet #1 (Marvel, 2010, $2.99)
Let me say this: the original Infinity Gauntlet was not a good story. It was a great premise: a death-obsessed demigod wiping out half of all sentient life and battling everything in heaven and earth that's left for his personal amusement. There were some fantastic moments and satisfying tie-in books, plus the art was pretty great. Unfortunately, it becomes an overlong Tex Avery cartoon crossed with a What If... of heroes rallying and getting crushed by Thanos for about four extended length comics out of six. Actually, the What If...? follow-up was solid, and anything would be an improvement on the stinky sequels.

Point being, Infinity Gauntlet is no sacred cow, and part of what makes this all-ages reinterpretation fun is the way it takes the piss out of the original. While semi-serious, this book doesn't seem to care too much about its subject matter, with constant character banter and occasional meta-commentary. However, that carefree attitude extends to the art, which is slipshod and serviceable at best. Also, I have a tough time seeing an Avengers book starring Spider-Man, Wolverine, Invisible Woman, the Hulk, Ms. Marvel and Dr. Doom. Still, it's four blessedly standard length issues, and the surprise reappearance of U.S. 1 declares this a lark, so what the hell...

Magnus, Robot Fighter #1 (Dark Horse, 2010, $3.50)
Minimum wage in this country is presently $7.25. That means a balding, middled-aged, pony-tailed McDonald's employee has to steam his long-lived zits over a deep fryer for over half an hour in order to buy the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man, which he'll read in about five minutes. This is the sound of your publishing industry dying. That's why I must heartily and most sincerely applaud Dark Horse for releasing twenty-two pages of new comic and twenty-seven pages of quality reprints on high grade glossy stock for just three-fifty. Fucking aces, guys.

I decided to read the reprint first, since it was the original 1963 debut of Magnus, and because I figured I would enjoy it more. Russ Manning created the simple story of a future where humanity's overreliance on robot labor led to a power shift where machines dictated to society. Magnus in a human who was trained by a benevolent robot from infancy to beat the hell out of other robots with his bare hands (and legs) while taking advantage of an illegal receiver in his brain to listen in on robot transmissions. Magnus uses simplistic strategies to work his way up the evil robot pecking order to beat up their leader and free humans, as well as to get into the good graces of a senator's foxy and rebellious daughter. It's a nifty done-in-one story that leaves the door open for continuation and outside licensing. I would so play a Magnus video game, if only to hear the robots go "squeeee" when you karate chop them.

The new story by Jim Shooter feels very much like reading early Valiant all over again. Shooter is still an industry pariah, and he's still working with whatever well-past-prime journeyman artists he can get. Valiant was Shooter's company, so he gave those books his all in hopes of finally showing Marvel who should have remained boss. His eyes on the commercial prize, Shooter wrote as close an approximation of what Alan Moore giving the Dell/Western characters the Watchmen treatment would read like as he could manage without alienating audiences or painting himself into a corner. At Dark Horse, Shooter is just a freelancer putting forth a much milder effort. There are incongruous dark elements, but at its heart the book is still a man in a skirt and go-go boots punching robots. However, the story began in an oft-references giveaway comic a few months back, and does not end here. A bunch of stuff established in the reprint is restated here, so nothing feels consequential, and there's no closure. If Magnus had still been published during the Bronze Age, this is almost exactly what the book would have looked like (save some robot designs, media references, and the gun-toting cyborg.) I enjoyed Shooter's edgy and irreverent return to Legion of Super-Heroes a couple years back, but I guess his efforts weren't well received, because he's strictly retrograde here.

Murderland #1 (Image, 2010, $2.99)
I don't know what the fuck this was supposed to be. It's about a mistress in disguise/assassin with existential identity issues, and her unkillable handler/boyfriend on a job. There's a ton of violence and weird Cronenbergian organic weaponry, but fuck all in the way of plot or characterization (outside the foreign rival with the Pepé Le Pew accent. Shit happens, there are tits, there is blood, but it's all nonsense.

True Story, Swear To God Vol.2 #13 (Image, 2010, $3.50)
I picked this issue up because I'd always meant to give it a try, and because I've had my own misadventures with the little blue boner pill. While I could relate to some of Tom Beland's anecdotes, he still hovered between situational comedy and drama without falling far enough in either direction to move me. Further, his problems are magically resolved between the second-to-last and final pages without explanation. I didn't laugh, I didn't cry, and I didn't really relate either, so this turned out to be a wash.


LissBirds said...

There was a Magnus, Robot Hunter running gag in the Giffen and DeMatteis Metal Men series....I didn't realize he was "real!" I thought they just made him up.

I like the idea of a rebel-against-a-dystopia kind of story, so now I'm intrigued. It sounds a bit like Metropolis, only from a male perspective. (The 1927 Fritz Lang silent film, not the fictional city.)

Diabolu Frank said...

Well, this is '60s pseudo-dystopia. Everyone is educated, living in safe, segregated luxury with clean streets and trains running on time. I think North-Am is the Republicans' platform this year. Magnus sure is mavericky.

I wish Dark Horse would knock out some Dell/Western black & white phone books. Their reprints are mostly still in the archive format, and they don't even recolor the pages, from what I can see. They've got a couple of $20 trades as well, but the volume isn't there.

LissBirds said...

Oh, geez. I just went back and checked and it's "Douglas, Robot Hunter" that was in the Giffen and Dematteis series. I'm guessing they're parodying Magnus, Robot Fighter, though.

Educated, safe, AND the trains run on time?! As long as I can sit around in my pj's reading comics and watching old movies without a robot attacking me, that sounds like UTOPIA.

Too bad Dark Horse doesn't have some cheap reprints so I could catch up on the original series. But I added this issue to my weekly order and I'm pretty stoked nonetheless.

Diabolu Frank said...

More like a toga, and the robots would tear up all your comics and real books and movies. So much for Shangi-La.

LissBirds said...

Damn. Well, it was a nice dream while it lasted.

LissBirds said...

I ordered this issue and of course liked the older story better. I sent for the "archives" edition at my library, but in case you were wondering, how cool is this? An affordable paperback of Magnus's 1963 adventures, available in January.

I wish they hadn't changed out the girlfriend's cute cellophane dress for the uninspired steampunk bustier. Plus, where'd Magnus's awesome fighting style go? That karate chop was approaching Chuck Norris-levels of awesome and now he just punches robots or pulls them apart! I liked the new story enough to stay with it, though, and the amount of pages (and glossy paper, to boot) for that price is pretty reasonable. You go, Dark Horse.

Diabolu Frank said...

I'd pick up that Magnus trade, but as a student, it'll have to wait. Dark Horse needs to rock some B&W phone books already!


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