Rude Chapbooks 09.05.11 | Everything Old Is New Again

Justice League #1 strains to swing all Peter Allen–Carole Bayer Sager—“Let’s go backwards when forward fails”—but to appropriate the title of a tune from two entirely different writers named Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, the song remains the same, more’s the pity.


Under other circumstances, to be perfectly honest, Angel & Faith #1—the debut of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off—would inspire no interest. The parent publication, after all, has generally fallen far short of Joss Whedon’s TV prodigy, even with Whedon’s direct scriptwriting involvement on “Season 8.” For this new ongoing, however, Dark Horse scored a coup by signing writer Christos Gage, whose work on Avengers Academy has made that series compulsory reading. Partnering with him here is artist Rebekah Isaacs, and Angel & Faith shows great promise. Isaacs, one of the mainstream’s more talented younger ink-slingers, handles with dash the customarily thankless task of visualizing a comic transposed from another medium; additionally, two nonsplash full-pagers herein border, both figuratively and literally, on bloody wonderful. Further, Gage, typically, suggests a nuanced appreciation of his protagonists’ counterbalanced characters: Faith, bless ’er, has perennially resisted embracing her own angelic impulses, and Angel, who’s still reeling from murdering über-Watcher Rupert Giles, has long suffered faith-based issues—a tendency quite significant to a last-page reveal here. Again, promising.
Every now and then, happenstance graces the mainstream with a comic that redeems, in whole or in part, the industry’s quotidian idiocies. Case in point: Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #6. A heuristic hand grenade, it easily ranks as the most rude, crude, and obnoxious new release of 2011—in short, comic book bliss. At some point, in fact, the Department of Homeland Security will probably nail writer Joe Casey and artist Mike Huddleston, the Image series’ co-creators, for some good, old-fashioned C.I.A. “extraordinary rendition,” inasmuch as the two of them are waging asymmetric warfare on a mainstream grown even more complacent and dense than usual. The title character, a swaggering hulk with a libido as large as Alaska, could, on an off day, make Wolverine soil his spandex; he passes this issue bound and tortured by an equally depraved and uncouth adversary, Jihad Jones—but one can’t help suspecting that the worm soon will turn. Meanwhile, the Absolutely (sic—an enigmatic cosmic shemale) continues to weaponize clueless county mountie Arnie B. Willard. Absolutely glorious.
This week, DC premieres a title helmed by writer Geoff Johns, penciller Jim Lee, and inker Scott Williams, and Justice League #1 should more than delight fanboys dedicated to the latest and the greatest…and unburdened by an attention span (let alone a historical perspective) beyond that of a newborn. Like a mobile dangling above the funnybook bassinet, it dances on the cool breezes wafting from the quote-unquote comics press; one can almost hear the Newsarama staff, en masse, cooing, “Aaaw, how adorable!” Pffft. As soulless and soporific as a mainstream comic can be, this retconned, Botoxed Justice League adapts the standard X-shtick (hated and hounded and so forth) to the company’s superteam supreme, with Batman (the “New 52” era having apparently ditched the the) and Green Lantern tracking what appears to be an Apokolipsian para-demon to Metropolis and encountering—oh, but let’s not spoil the surprise! Again, pffft. Only an industry as avaricious, moronic, and lazy as the comics mainstream could mistake occupying a rut for decade after decade as fast-tracking to anything but doom.
Although the concept of the black-ops superteam has, for some time now, seemed unspeakably stale—if it were a slice of Wonder, it long ago would have gone all penicillin—Marvel’s Secret Avengers #16 nevertheless demands attention because of its new creative team. Following stints by Ed Brubaker and Nick Spencer, themselves no slouches, professional mad-dog Englishman Warren Ellis here assumes the scriptwriting duties, and joining him on the art duties is Jamie McKelvie, co-creator of the much-mourned Phonogram. Fun enough. McKelvie obviously delights in delineating the team’s investigation of an entire city that the defunct Secret Empire built a mile beneath Cincinnati, especially in set pieces wherein Moon Knight dispatches a neo-jeep filled with hostiles and the Black Widow outraces more such hostiles at the wheel of a cherry-red vintage atomic Cadillac. Conversely, the Ron Perlmanented Beast continues his tedious tertiary mutation into Tawky Tawny Jr.—cue the clumsy pseudoscientific explanation!—and the title still feels as though it fills no function beyond wet-nursing fanboys eager at all costs to suckle the Avengers-franchise teat.
Once more into the Ultimate Universe breach. Because in both the Marvel Universe and its smarmy, andro-charged shadow, few long-cherished characters have suffered more abuse than a certain Avenging archer, Ultimate Hawkeye #1 likely would have otherwise come and gone, unremarked, had not the company assigned the writing duties on the quadripartite miniseries to Jonathan Hickman, he of FF and S.H.I.E.L.D. fame. With penciller Rafa Sandoval and inker Jordi Tarragona, Hickman arguably acquits himself better herein than in last week’s Ultimates relaunch. The U.U. Hawkeye, of course, resembles less his M.U. inspiration than the villain Bullseye, “the guy who can turn anything into a weapon,” here battling a Bangkok outbreak of supersoldiers (the U.U. equivalent of influenza). That said, some transparent infodumpage mars the script, and portions of the otherwise craftsmanlike visuals scan not at all or, at best, not with grace—see the bottoms of pages 4 and 14, for instance. Moreover, after a time, Hawkeye’s constant smirk grates and reinforces the suspicion that most U.U. material does double duty as U.S. military-recruitment porn. | Bryan A. Hollerbach
Click here for a preview of Angel & Faith #1, courtesy of Dark Horse.
Click here for a preview of Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #6, courtesy of Comic Book Resources.
Click here for a preview of Justice League #1, courtesy of IGN.

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