Monday, October 19, 2009


Although I am fairly vocal about my disinterest in most Marvel comics, I hate the idea that a bias would prevent me from enjoying the rare, awesome Marvel title. So I've been keeping my eye out for something on Marvel getting good reviews. I am happy to say that I add this review to a growing pile of glowing words surrounding Doctor Voodoo #1. Hopefully the quality will keep up with it and I'll have a Marvel publication to keep up with.
The weakness with so many Marvel comics comes from relying on cool characters that just fight and fight and fight and then one wins for some random, meaningless reason. Case in point, I picked up the Dark Avengers teaser Marvel published for Free Comic Book day this past May. A long winded story relying on the idea that it is "crazy" for the Avengers to have evil twins. The Avengers team up with their evil twins to fight a giant monster, but it goes nowhere and nothing is resolved, just a God In The Machine ending where someone remembers, "Oh yeah, I have a weapon that automatically kills this monster." Boring. My fights need some meaning and the resolution of the fights needs to extend from that meaning.
That said, Doctor Voodoo doesn't rely on this meaning-centered narrative and is still great. In fact, it sort of does just present a world of cool stuff and not too much more. What really makes it shine though is how masterfully the narrative plows through tons of playful ideas while keeping a smooth and easily read pace. Even for me, with almost no background in the Marvel Universe, let alone its mystical characters, this first issue creates a very rich and unified world that exists in a limbo between compassion and dark magic, both embodied by Doctor Voodoo. The dense background of the character is also addressed eloquently and in natural flow with the story. As Doctor Voodoo is tossed through dimensions where his sense of time is stretched from minutes to years and back again, and into realms built upon a void that is so difficult for his senses to comprehend that his mind nearly shatters, the concept of this character is made vivid remarkably quick through an eloquent series of simple statements and frames. Not dissimilar to a good Grant Morrison comic. While being much more a roller coaster than a beautiful and sweeping epic in the making, it is a ride crafted so well that I can't help but be excited to experience again. If someone is going to tell a story that just relies on cool shit, it is going to require a perfection of delivery. Even the DC comics I love often lack in the delivery department but are still great because of how insightful they are. Doctor Voodoo could go there. Maybe even has to for me to read this for very long? But for the moment, the first issue has the delivery it takes to make me happy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Jim Starlin has kept me anxious for each new issue in this 8 part series. After reading #7, I was so sad to think that the next issue would be the last of the run. I didn't even mind that the ongoing tease that Bizarro would party with Adam Strange and co. still hadn't happened 7/8th of the way in. That said, issue 8 had a lot riding on it for me and needed to be insanely good. I honestly could not image what could happen in issue 8 that could pay off. So, did it pay off? Well, in one important sense, yes. But in a very backhanded way and in the company of a lot disappointment.
This series was so great because it is, simply, pulp. While someone like Geoff Johns masterfully navigates both the worlds of complex psychological comics circa now and the world of golden age moral comics, this series is almost just plain golden age. Enough story and character though to keep it interesting and ultimately very fun. It would be hard for me to recommend this series to a non-comic book fan. But if you love comics, this series is a must even with what I have to say about it's conclusion.
Some stories rely on a big shocking ending. Stange Adventures is hardly a shocking tale though. So why its climax center's around Eye committing suicide/ultimate self-sacrifice I can only chock up to desperation. Of course, as the name of this blog suggests, death in comics is hardly eternal anyway, so it makes this move even more of a yawn to me. Issue 7's climax, centered around some incredible writing where a ton of completely disparate characters are made to agree with each other in a cosmic argument was far more amazing. Which I know sounds horribly dull, but the whole point of this blog is that story comes first in good comics. So argue away heros! Save the fighting for someone more boring!
Anyway, one of the big payoffs I was hoping for was what goes down between Bizarro and the other characters when they finally meet. A really enticing move is that Bizarro is given intelligence at the beginning of issue 8. Similar tactics have proven really compelling with Solomon Grundy, so I was hoping for a lot. But ultimately, there was almost no interaction still. Bizarro was left intelligent though, so hopefully future appearances in other comics will be amazing?
The one thing that I am stoked about is that this story actually has no resolve. It is essentially a big "to be continued" and since most of these characters now move on to being in the R.E.B.E.L.S. series (which I know little about), my wish for this story not to end has been granted. There is also a direct reference to what is going on in the Blackest Night story line. A sort of awkward reference, but one that puts dreams of these very sunshine sci-fi heroes entering a very modern horror story into my head. I like those dreams.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


The sensationalism of this, at least for a certain audience that I'm included in, is to the max. An official Simpsons comicbook, endorsed by Matt Groening himself, with stories and art by folks from Paper Rad, C.F. aka noise artist Kites, and old-school mindbending indie comic artist Tim Hensley? It didn't even matter if the content was quality. This is historical. Monumental for all us punk-nerds. So the question is then, is it more than an artifact?
Tim Hensley opens this collection with a post-modern (in the very literal, self-reflective sense of the term) take on the ever-repeating open title sequence of the Simpsons cartoons. It is great to feel Hensley's classic 50's-tarded humor applied to the Simpsons, but it is hard to not wish for more. Somehow it feel more like an homage or even critique of the Simpsons than fully committed to being an official Simpsons story. Then again, that the insane and impossible line being walked here. Some complete fucked artists/writers have been commissioned. We want to see them break the mold right? But somehow I also want these to be more proper than a fan-fic. It is unfair to imply that Hensley is just taking the opportunity to smash the mold and laugh at the pieces. Far from it. But with only 1 page to work with, he isn't quite able to reinvent the Simpsons entirely. Again, take a huge grain of salt with what I am saying, because this is MY fantasy, not some M.O. printed in the beginning of the comic.
Subsequent stories, of greater length, have varying success as far as satisfying this desire of mine. The two that make me the most happy are "The Call of Vegulu" which feels just like a Simpsons story, but presents all the characters in an alternate/bizarro world sort of way. What alternate world? The alternate world of bike-punks, vegans, and DIY culture. But my favorite is "Boo-tleg" by Ben Jones of Paper Rad fame. It, of course, looks just like Paper Rad art, with the whole MS Paint style done masterfully. The story is more edgy than your usual Simpsons story. Sometimes this edginess resonates in just a more Family-guy crass sort of way, but at its best, it touches on issues of racism and capitalism in very contemporary ways that are far too forward thinking for television. All the while, with the characters being very, um, in character. Bootleg-Krusty saying "Excuse me, the factory didn't make my soul right," shivers me at the core. Amazing.
The issue is closed with C.F. then actualy smashing the mold. Shitting on the remains, and putting a bloody middle finger in the air. Definitly a memorable and appropriate way to end this insane comic and pop-culture event, although it does make me sad that such a good-bye seems to admit that this probably will never happen again. Oh well, fight the power.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Written by Geoff Johns; Art and cover by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy; variant cover by Andy Kubert
(DC Comics; sept 30, 2009)

The best comics, or anything really, nail it both on a grand scale and in the details. Geoff Johns' epic Green Lantern run tends to do just that, although it is most easily seen in the collections, when the arc is together all at once. Living issue to issue though, some still stand out above the rest and this one has not escaped my thoughts for the past week. Ultimately, this issue rests on the strength of 6 panels.
As a fan of pro-wrestling, there is one thing that will make or break the excitement of a fight: Does every blow, every hold, every possible moment of defeat actually represent some higher meaning; some aspect of the characters and story? What is mind-blowing about the final 6 panels of Sinestro and Mongul's battle to control the yellow-energy fear corps aka the Sinestro corps aka the Mongul corps is how unified the concept of character and physicality of the fight are. As Hal Jordon points out, Mongul has the strength to rival Superman. Combined with the force of the yellow rings on his hand, he is beyond advantaged and Sinestro takes the appropriate wooping to show that. But it isn't just that Sinestro ends up winning the fight by virtue of having an ace up his sleeve that makes these some of the most memorable 6 panels in Green Lantern this year. It is the dialogue between these to dictators that escalates the energy of the fight. Sinestro doesn't win by having a secret weapon. The secret weapon is a result of Sinestro essentially winning a debate with Mongul. Mongul mocks Sinestro for just being a man of words, but not of action. Naratively, the fight climaxes when Sinestro concludes "You are a creature of action, but those actions are unmotivated and, therefore, empty." We know that Sinestro has won before we turn the page and are given the visual payoff of this debate, and incredible two page spread of Mongul being torn to pieces from within by the very yellow-light/fear weapon that Sinestro gave him.
Simple but eloquent moments like this, when Geoff Johns shows how philosophically interesting the interactions between fairly simple, symbolic characters, is a real testament to why so many love DC Comics in particular. The shades of grey come from the way the simply defined characters interact, rather than through the depiction of complex characters as Marvel is more known for. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is why I love DC.