Rude Chapbooks 08.22.11 | Blood and Feathers

Several fine funnybooks (Daredevil #2, baaaby!) shipped from Diamond last Wednesday. This fox-in-the-henhouse column focuses on none of them and, sub rosa, cautions that every comic book can represent not only a given reader’s first, but also concurrently his or her last.

Although as a writer/artist he deserves far more regard for the Eisneresque frontier picaresque Journey, serialized from 1983 to 1986 and nobly compiled by IDW Publishing a few years ago, Bill Messner-Loebs also scripted (pun intended) a run on a certain Scarlet Speedster during that decade, revisited just two weeks past in DC Retroactive: The Flash—The ’80s #1—about which, the less said, the better. This week, Messner-Loebs repeats the performance on a character whose exploits he scripted during the next decade, with DC Retroactive: Wonder Woman—The ’90s #1. Joining him on this nostalgic nod, in a lackluster fashion, are penciller Lee Moder and inker Dan Green. A royal groaner. Had this tale actually appeared in its titular decade, cannier readers might have suspected it of being a misfiled “inventory story” from the ’70s. It involves everyone’s favorite Amazon in an uplifting, character-building adventure with an ethnically and morphologically diverse quintet of young ladies of the teenage persuasion. It lacks only one felicity: a terminal caption helpfully headlined THE MORAL OF THE STORY.
Roughly midway through East Meets West #1, two of its protagonists dive, naked, into a wagon full of horse dung from one second-story window of a whorehouse in “Tuscon [sic], Arizona, August 1883.” To borrow a phrase popularized by T.S. Eliot, taking such a dive would more than adequately function as an objective correlative for reading this offering from Paul Power Publication. Although its art credit, which lists fully a dozen names, includes such professionals as Steve Leialoha and John Romita Jr., it reads like some goofy leftover from a ’70s fanzine—an undistinguished ’70s fanzine, at that. Featuring the indomitable and enigmatic Professor Om, a stray samurai, UFOs, an enclave of Deviants (from Jack Kirby’s Eternals) concealed in a butte, and (no, really) the Three Stooges, this…this thing likewise credits its “script” to Dave de Vries/DeVries (the publication itself waffles), Paul Power, and probably John Snowden (again, the publication scarcely encourages certainty). In that respect, Power’s participation seems telling. Masturbatory and moronic, East Meets West may well epitomize the comic book at its worst.
Despite the fact that the Flash customarily lands the credit for launching the Silver Age in Showcase #4 late in 1956, those in the know give the nod to the debut, a year earlier, of the hero variously known as the Martian Manhunter, the Manhunter From Mars, simply John Jones, and J’onn J’onzz. Almost the instant that Detective Comics #225 hit spinner racks, of course, the fortunes of the big green guy began to decline. (Over half a century, for example, J.J.’s invariably ranked as the “anonymous Star Trek ensign beamed to the hostile planet with Kirk and Spock” in Justice League terms, except during the infamous Detroit era.) Flashpoint: The Outsider #3, the vile finale of a vile miniseries from writer James Robinson and artist Javi Fernandez, recasts the Martian Manhunter as a psychotic stock antagonist for the even-more-psychotic title character (with the term character, in context, being laughably inapt) and eventually leaves the DC icon dimensionally severed at the waist and both wrists on the pavers of a faux Mideast stronghold. Utterly repugnant.
Ka-Zar #3, the latest issue of a quinary Marvel miniseries, hints why Edgar Rice Burroughs, after the first two (defining) Tarzan novels, kept zotzing his guy with amnesia and congruent complications. A jungle lord with a wife and child, even one romping around the Savage Land (nowadays d.b.a. “Pangea,” by the way) with a saber-toothed cat, might as well be prepping to attend P.T.A. meetings and join a bowling league. In that respect, for this mini, Paul Jenkins ranks as precisely the right and the wrong writer—he puts the ulp in pulp. That is, this narrative, hilariously, involves United Nations machinations (“humanitarian aid”) that actually carry weight, an electrically powered straw man (not a contradiction in terms, alas), and a displaced Wall Street wonder wandering the landscape seeking to beguile inhabitants with a laptop PowerPoint presentation (Scout’s honor). It exhibits not an iota of brio. Moreover, artists Pascal Alixe and Jesus Aburtov make most of the characters look as if they strayed into the tale from an especially déclassé and doltish season of Survivor.
At the midpoint of what Marvel shilled as “an X-tale that will reverberate for years to come,” X-Men: Schism #3 succeeds solely in prompting a yawn and a guffaw. Artistically, to be sure, the miniseries constitutes a mainstream honeypot, with Carlos Pacheco and Frank Cho illustrating the first and second issues and Alan Davis and Adam Kubert scheduled for the fourth and fifth. Daniel Acuña visualizes the issue at hand with customary panache, but having someone of his nonpareil skill support this drivel approximates plating Spam on Meissen—an aesthetic affront. The same criticism holds true for this miniseries’ script, from Jason Aaron—who writes Scalped, perhaps the finest mainstream title now being published. By way of example, the fifth page of this travesty showcases a character-based dialogic infodump that would’ve been used as toilet tissue by any self-respecting instructor of Comics Scriptwriting 101. Otherwise, this deplorable little exercise in gouging flatlining fanboys continues to accord a cheesy spandex adaptation to the Elijah Muhammad–Malcolm X Nation of Islam rift. Genuinely offensive on manifold levels. | Bryan A. Hollerbach

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