February 14th, 2012
SPECIAL “LOVE UND ROMANCE” EDITION
As you’ve probably noticed, it’s Valentines Day, and since we’ve already established that FEELINGS ABOUT COMICS ARE THE ONLY TRUE FEELINGS, I thought that it might be a good time to get a bit soppy about some of the comics I’ve read recently…
It’s been hard to think loving thoughts about comics in the past week or so (because: WA2CHMEN, Gary Friedrich), but I’m a trooper, and I’ve got my good buddy Mister Attack (aka The Boy Fae the Heed, aka The Beast o’the Bar-G) to keep me company, so here it goes!
Winter Solider #1, by Ed Brubker, Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser
Fatale #2, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips
It’s a bit awkward to read these two comics back-to-back, and to find yourself preferring the one that’s built on the soiled dreams of Jack Kirby, but it’s also hard to pretend that clean hands make for good art when you’re not a teenage boy. The first two issues of Brubaker and Phillips’ latest collaboration have proceeded exactly as expected – this is the sort of work (solid, well-crafted, “ugly things in the darkness/worse things in store”) that makes it easy to under-appreciate one of corporate comics’ best partnerships.
It’s perfect pulp, in other words, but at their best these guys can suggest a whole city’s worth of stories in one panel…
…and there’s been nothing in the first couple of issues of Fatale that’s hinted at that sort of imaginative depth. Winter Soldier #1 meanwhile, is absolutely full of potent images. Despite having a truly ugly, gurning cover – despite looking like a superhero book, basically – it’s a sneakily great wee comic, all slick superspy action and unexpected quietness. This panel has caught the attention of a few other commentators…
…and rightly so. Butch Guice’s art here has a softness too it (and not just in the sense that it contains – ugh! – kissing) that couldn’t stand out more in context if it radiated ethical integrity (ooh, burn – take that, comics!). If I was looking to get all thematic on your ass I’d point you in the direction of Clive Barker’s comment that comics aren’t good at making room for love, but I’m not feeling particularly clever today, so instead I’ll just note that while most individual images will yield lots of strange, abstract patterns if you crop them artfully enough, this image gives itself more readily to this treatment than most:
Look, I don’t want to make too much of a prat of myself this early in the post, but there’s something beautiful about the way that the boundaries between the two characters in this panel seem to have been gently and willingly collapsed, isn’t there?
Yeah… there definitely is.
Action Comics #6, by Grant Morrison, Andy Kubert and John Dell
Marc Singer was right when he pointed out that Grant Morrison’s mouth and his talent are running in opposite directions in this comic, which leaves me in the awkward and unusual position of hoping that we don’t spend too much time with the “socialist” Superman of the first few issues.
“Sod off socialism” – you might often find yourself thinking this, The Comics Internet, but I don’t think this way, not even when I’m thinking about Tommy Sheridan, who’s went from representing a socialist party in the Scottish Parliment to publicly arguing about whether the shit on his bedsheets is his or whether it was planted there by Rupert Murdoch during my voting lifetime.* What can I say, I’m not like you, I’ve got all the correct political opinions.** Still, it seems fair to say that this issue – in which Morrison continues to abandon the adventures of the young, blue-collar Superman*** in favour of a story where the Legion of Superheroes get their Innerspace on in an attempt to save our hero – was the best one yet, from premise to the execution.
Speaking of which, if it’s strange to catch this Mindless hoping to read about a less politically active Superman then it’s equally strange to find me cheering for the arrival of a Kubert brother on art duties, but that’s the situation I find myself in here. Kubert’s enjoyably unremarkable art is a perfect match for the comic itself, but it’s hard to look at this comic and not to think back to the climactic image of a much more beautiful comic, namely, Morrison and Quitely’s All Star Superman:
If that sneaky bit of graphic design seemed hopeful at the time, that was probably because it came at the end if a series that worked hard to shape the initial promise of Siegel & Shuster’s creation seem tangible and new. The more unsettling connotations of this image were always there in the background with the legal drama Superman’s creators faced, but right now they’re harder to shake. As Carmen the Salsa noted in our comments section the other day, the idea that Superman is “bigger” than his creators doesn’t have to be a romantic notion – indeed, it has a certain overwhelming, corrosive poetry to it. Like Paul Gravett, I’d rather see the spirit of Siegel and Shuster’s version of the character at work in our world, but the machinery that’s built up around the character is so powerful that hoping for half-decent superhero comics seems like the more reasonable unreasonable thought.
Or, to rephrase all of that with an eye to the romance theme, reading Superman comics right now is like getting off with someone who’s just ate a Kit-Kat Chunky. Is kissing still fun when it tastes like dead babies? Probably. Should you feel good about it? Well, that’s pretty much up to you.
*All of which has very little to do with Socialism and a lot to do with what Tommy’s penis has or hasn’t been up to, but hey.
**Obviously, if you find yourself thinking “But I like socialism too Dave!”, then that’s okay, you’re on the right side, I give you an Honorary Orwell Award, I kiss your face, etc.
***This ≠ a story about an actual socialist hero, of course, but it would still have seemed resonant right now, for various (obvious) reasons.
Red Lanterns #6, by Peter Milligan, Ed Benes and friends
If a trick’s worth doing once, it’s worth doing a million times, right? If there’s any lesson we can learn from the past twenty years worth of superhero comics, it’s surely that, so – time to engage the cut-up engine again, this time using the text of Red Lanterns #6 as the source!* Curdle your pilgrimage:
Call him steaming blood, he’s playing with her – you will obey me woman! – how is this explode English literature? The damned black stuff - proud Bleez, Atrocitus – stay away orphan boy! How can this incredible bullets? Together I am what I’ve become – baBUMbaBUM! – I feel the rage, it all makes perfect sense, the fury inside of me, try to relax, he’s buried here, she has infected them, the blood ocean. I’m sorry man.
Seriously though, this is the best/worst comic I read any week it comes out. Best because it reminds me of Millgan’s classic (#classic) 2000AD strip Bad Company, and partly because of the Blood Ocean; worst because it reeks of Geoff Jeans and looks like a comic by Ed Benes.
DC comics, listen up: if you’re done being total shits for a couple of minutes, how about throwing The Biz some money to draw this bastard?
*I won’t even pretend to talk about love & romance while talking about Red Lanterns, because these things have no place in the comic, no matter how many awkwardly “sexy” poses Ed Benes might fit in there.
Red Lanterns is about Blood Oceans, not Frank Ocean. Unless you feel the need to have more disappointment in your life, it’s probably best that you know this coming in.
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye – Liars A to D Part 1: How to say goodbye and mean it.
Transformers: Robots In Disguise – The Autonomy Lesson
Mister Attack: OK, so, while we all collectively fret about whether the Furman-scribed Regeneration One series is going to rock us gently to sleep or induce unhappy migraines, let’s take a look at the two new IDW series in their Transformers cannon.
Put simply, you should maybe give More Than Meets The Eye a chance, but be more reserved on checking out Robots In Disguise.
RID is the drier affair. The plot of this series is about Bumblebee and Prowl trying to hold together a Cybertron that’s in ruins. The Autobots have effectively won, neutering and booby-trapping the ‘Cons to keep them in line, while the planets indigenous population returns from self-exile, less than impressed that the ‘Bots have ruined the place with their war. For this one, you really have to be quite invested in the Transformers and know that you’re going to enjoy a series that has a fair chunk of moral posturing to it.
MTMTE on the other hand is from the guys that brought you Last Stand Of The Wreckers.
Wreckers was a great little series. A crack unit of Autobots raid their own prison that has fallen into Decepticon hands to regain control of a secret that, if they’re lucky, will only cost them their lives. Produced by two fans of the Marvel UK series, it has all the violence and drama one would expect of the early Furman, but instead of the crazy cosmic elements, it instead has a cheeky sense of humour that makes you want to root for it’s cast as you wait to see who’s not going to be around for the finish.
So, here we have Rodimus, Drift and Ultra Magnus rallying anyone who’ll listen to go on a cruise through space. Why do all the fighting to inherit a wasteland populated by people who hate you? Let’s go on a fresh start and see if we can’t find these legendary guys we’ve heard about and see if there’s a chance at a proper happy ending. Most of this issue sets up the various oddballs who’ve thrown their lot in for this quest and dangling little tidbids to make us want to see where Rodimus and the crew of the Lost Light end up and how bad things are going to get.
If any of the panels on this page amuse you in any way, shape or form, then, seriously give MTMTE a look. Then go back and grab Wreckers!
All thanks to the TFWiki for images, ‘cos I didn’t managed to get anything scanned.
Illogical Volume: I read these too and struggled to engage with them as earnestly as I wanted to, possibly because my childhood enthusiasm for Transformers comics was so strong that a project like this can never hope to live up to that distant ideal.
Guess we’ll find out when the guy responsible for those old comics, Simon “Fucking” Furman, has his go, eh?
Deadpool MAX II #4, by Kyle Baker and David Lapham
The Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #1, by Shaky Kane and David Hine
You might think that the above image is just another example of Kyle Baker’s unworried sense of humour, but it’s actually a really concise summery of what both Deadpool MAX and The Bulletproof Coffin are for. These are superhero comics for people who’ve got used to walking in on their loved ones while they’re voiding their bowels, basically, and thank fuck for that.
After all, love is easy until you have to deal with the fact that your partner likes up to dress up like a Rob Liefeld character just to go to the bathroom, and if you can live with that little secret then congratulations, you’re a grown up!
Kyle Baker and Shaky Kane are the two artists in superhero comics least likely to give a fuck about your fragile sense of romance, so it’s fitting that they’re the ones who’re getting to draw long underwear characters out of their long underwear right now. Sometimes quite literally, in Shaky’s case:
Deadpool MAX has never quite lived up to the wanton cruelty of its first three issues, but it’s still fun to watch Baker and Lapham poke fun at TWAT in the Mighty Marvel Manner once a month. It’s punk as fuck, the Deadpool MAX, and I look forward to seeing it as a choice on the Scottish Independence referendum.
The first issue of Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred, meanwhile, is good enough to make me hope that this second series might surpass the first, if only because the mix of pure pulp thrills and crafty meta-commentary seems better integrated this time. The first issue is a basically a warning about the dangers of using comic books as a Wikipedia for life, and while this might come a little bit too late for me, it’s nice to see Kane and Hine trying to scare other readers off before comics have a chance to break their hearts…