Comics bought and read on Saturday the 21st of June 2008.

Our theme this week is fan service. I thank you.

wolverine 66 coverWolverine #66
Written by Mark Millar
Drawn by Steve McNiven
Published by Marvel Comics

Mark Millar continues to stretch his tentacles over the MU with this, the self-professed “all time greatest adventure” of Wolverine’s terribly exciting, super adventurous fictional life. Like much that is super exciting in the world of comics, Millar and Marvel editorial have decided to step outside continuity for a The Endesque tale set thirty years post the final victory of all supervillains everywhere over the superheroes. In true Marvel fashion, the world is now ruled over by Marvel’s top-tier baddies, who have carved up the globe into evil fiefdoms. Wolverine, one of the last heroes still standing, makes a timid living as a homesteader who refuses to rock the boat in an effort to keep his family safe, and, it’s hinted, not to compound some terrible failure from his dark past. Then Hawkeye turns up with a proposition.

You feeling where we are yet?

This is Post-Apocalypse as Western, with Wolverine as the hard luck character who can’t escape his sins no matter how long or how hard he fights for redemption. Logan is, of course, well-suited to this kind of story, in fact it might be said by critics less generous than I that this kind of shit has been done to death, after all isn’t that the job description of Wolverine Origins? Me, well, in theory I’m prepared to give Millar the benefit of the doubt on that score. By throwing off continuity he’s clearly gunning for something a little more pure, less sullied by convoluted nonsense, and I can appreciate that. I’m also squarely of the opinion that a good writer (and Millar is capable of good writing) should be capable of buffing up this hoary old plot and making it work for Jimbo.

But, ya see, I said “in theory”, because for some worrying reason, Millar has failed to inoculate himself against the plague of continuity inspired references that work to transform a disproportionately large number of these alternative continuity stories into weird nostaglia-fests. You know the kind of thing: where you’re constantly presented with not-so-intriguing updates on old friends, foes, concepts and plot points. Here we get the Hulk’s hillbilly grandchildren, a blind (DO YOU SEE!) Hawkeye, Logan’s son “Scott”, and a graffitied and reappropriated fantasticar. Perhaps the worst offense, the one which threw this entire complaint into light, was the utterly arbitrary inclusion of the fucking Spidermobile. I mean, for why? What the Christ is that doing in this “all-time greatest” Wolverine story? Answer: it’s got nothing to do with Mr Slice and Dice, it’s just wank-fodder for trainspotters.

Had Millar managed to keep a lid on that particular bout of hardcore geekery I probably wouldn’t have taken my moaning much further than a harumph, as it is he set me off on a hunt for every weak-ass instance of conceptual jiggery pokery I could find. Suddenly the idea that America is divided into Kingpin Land, and Principality of Doom, or whatever, starts to fuck me off no end. It’s just arse, isn’t it? Complete, hackneyed, no-brained, short-cut to thinking, self-referential arse. It makes no sense, it has no justification other than that’s the kind of thing we expect from this kind of thing. I dunno, are fans really more concerned with all this superfluous rubbish than they are with fully exploiting what could have been a pretty decent set-up? Doesn’t Millar see that the inclusion of the Spidermobile works against the virtues of the alternative continuity setting? It’s just all so… so parochial: the Marvel Universe as a sequence of bloody easter eggs, rather than an expansive space in which all kinds of stories can be told.

I blame George Lucas. Seriously.

the cover to dc vs wildstorm dreamwar 3DC-WildStorm Dreamwar #3
Written by Keith Giffen
Drawn by Lee Garbett & Trevor Scott
Published by DC Comics & WildStorm

DC vs Wildstorm? This is dirty, filthy comics, and it knows it.

If trainspotting is a popular fan pastime, then poring over comics’ very own answer to slash-fiction – brawling superheroes – must be the zenith of fan entertainment. Marvel has devoted not one but three mega-crossovers to the activity, for gawd’s sake. DC’s never gone in for it in quite such an ostentatious way, but this ain’t the first time the DC and the WU have butted heads and it probably won’t be the last. What’s different here, however, is scale. This is, quite literally, every bloody hero both universes can muster beating the living shit out of each other.


Now, okay, I’ve been bitching about the anal preoccupations of comicdom, but in the interest of clarity I feel full disclosure is in order: it’s not that I’m immune to the peculiar charms of the comics I’m criticising, it’s that I hate it when those charms disappear uparsewards, as they did in Wolverine this month. What Giffen and co are up to here is all about those special little details that tickle the fannybone – how those all too familiar powers and personalities interact – but it has a kineticism and accessibility that forces it out of the fan-dominated cul-de-sac.

It’s one fuck-off fight, basically, and I’m deffo man enough to admit to enjoying some cape on cape action, especially when it’s of the naughty, transgressive no holds barred to-the-death variety. I want to see Hawksmoor pound on Superman, and Batman and Zealot make out with the sharp objects and fists. This is as close as we get to seeing our icons fuck each other, woman on man, man on woman, man on man, woman on woman on man on man, it’s all here and it’s all good. That said, rocket science this ain’t, all Giffen really has to do is not screw up horribly and he’s got a book with sex appeal (anything more would be a bonus, but unnecessary) and on that score he mainly succeeds. Sure, the art ain’t great, but as long as it’s consistent, undistracting and reasonably articulate, which, a few dodgy panels aside, it is, then it’s thumbs up all round.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t exactly good comics. There’s no artistic flair, no startling new ideas, very little in the way of characterisation, next to no plot. It’s at best hackery, but it’s hackery in the service of superhero comics’ most frequently forgotten, but perhaps most appealing component: the fight sequence. And I can get with that, I really can, I just don’t want too much too often – and make no mistake, DC vs WildStorm is most definitely too much. It’s 100% proof silliness, but seeing as it’s a miniseries and there’s nothing else like it on the shelves, I can’t see an overdose in my near future.

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