Tag Archives: Garth Ennis

More capsule reviews

More of those reviews I promised last week…

1. DC Comics Presents #93: Superman and the Elastic Four (DC Comics, 1986. Writer: Paul Kupperberg, Art: Alex Saviuk / Kurt Schaffenburger)

I can’t remember what made me buy this comic. Maybe just the weirdness of the team-up.

Back at the age of eleven, one of the very first comics I owned in the stack of ten or eleven I had at the time was called “Superman and the Atom #51.” There was a kid in my class that year in Grade 7 that was super into comic books, so I brought in the little pile I had to show him. He looked at that one and said, “Oh, yeah. DC Comics Presents number 51.” I had no idea the comic was actually *called* DC Comics Presents — I though that was just a bit of advertising on the cover, ya know. And that was my very first bit of comics education. That kid ended up really getting me into comics, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, back to this thing. The Elastic Four are actually Plastic Man, Elastic Lad (Jimmy Olsen) and Elongated Man, and the mystery villain.

That’s a lot of stretchy characters that are all basically the same thing. It was obvious reading this that DC had (and still has) no idea what to do with the Plastic Man property they had acquired. In DC’s hands, he’s just a bog-standard superhero who occassionally turns into unusual objects. That alone should make for some comedy value, but this comic — while not trying to take itself seriously — doesn’t make any effort to make fun of itself either, or at least if it does then it doesn’t do a very good job of it. It was a lot less fun than I was hoping it would be.

Although, with Jack Cole’s Plastic Man the genius was in the cartooning, not particularly in the character (much like Will Eisner’s The Spirit). To make matters worse, Elastic Lad and Elongated Man only stretch — they don’t turn into things. Kyle Baker had the best run on Plastic Man since Jack Cole and the market refused to support him (as I feel it fails to support many humor books). But at least Baker’s run was funny and he knew to turn Plas into funny things to deal with different situations.

The one thing I did kind of like about this comic is that at the end it is revealed that the villain got his stretch powers by replicating the accident that gave Plas his powers. I’m amazed they don’t do this all the time in superhero comics — like, gimme some o’ those cosmic rays, please!

2. Punisher: Get Castle (Marvel Comics, 2010. Writer: Rob Williams, Art: Laurence Campbell, Color: Lee Loughridge)

From about 1988 to 2008, I suffered from acute Punisher-itis, a rare condition in which one is compelled to buy every appearance of the Punisher in a Marvel comic. I am sure there are variants such as Moon-Knight-itis and Spider-Woman-itis, and I plan on writing more about the subject in the future, but for now to make a long story short, when Garth Ennis left the book, so did I. I tthought I might continue buying the title of Tim Bradstreet continued painting the covers, but he left the book at the same time too, so that was that.

He does, however, occassionally come back for one shots so I picked up this miserable little book. PUNISHER: GET CASTLE is a pointless exercise in human scum-dredging with competent, ugly artwork. Ennis’s PUNISHER had to constantly face the never-ending-chain of consequences of his actions, and the effect that relentless killing had on his psyche and that of everyone else who came into his orbit. After Ennis, it was just violence for kicks — and not “fun” violence, but just human ugliness. The post-Ennis MAX Punisher has no personality — neither the muted passion nor the cold awareness of what he is. He is simply an object who moves through 20 odd pages each month so the reader can witness dimly lit torture scenes. There is no enlightenment, elucidation, or entertainment value at the end of it. Boy, I felt grimy after reading this thing. Same goes for PUNISHER: NAKED KILL. If Marvel didn’t put Bradstreet covers on these things, I would simply not buy them, but that’s Punisher-itis, you know?

3. Punisher: Butterfly (Marvel Comics, 2010. Writer: Valerio D’Orazio, Art: Laurence Campbell / Hubert Boulard)

This on the other hand was pretty interesting. The comic was written by Valerie D’Orazio who has been quite shittily treated by the comics industry and famously kept a blog about all the abuses she suffered at its hands. The comic is about a female assassin (who appears to mostly hit mafia targets) who writes a tell-all book and is then marked for death by the mob. There are some obvious parallels there, and there have been some suggestions around the net that this comic is kind of autobiographical in some ways. And it’s not a bad comic.

But, Marvel Comics, if you are going to put out a comic book with PUNISHER in the title, I fucking expect the Punisher to be in it for more than three panels. Had I known, I would not have bought it, you assholes. “Punisher Presents Butterfly” (like “The Punisher Presents Barracuda”) would have been acceptable.

Yes, the Punisher shows up at the end, tells Butterfly: ‘You’ve killed a lot of people” and then kills her. Actually, I’ve never seen a Punisher comic where he kills a mob assassin. My guess is that he would probably let them keep going because they are helping him do his job for him. So, even his three panels in this comic have obviously been shoe-horned in.

4. Fantastic Four #267 (Marvel Comics, 1984. Story & Art: John Byrne)

This is the issue where Sue loses the baby. Sorry if I spoiled that for you twenty years after the fact.

Anyway, Sue storm is pregnant with her second baby, but it has radiation sickess of some sort. The doctors don’t know what to do, so they recommend that Reed goes to the world’s foremost expert on radiation: Otto Octavius, aka Doctor Octopus.

Otto is in a mental institution where he seems to have made a recovery from his evil ways and only wants to help people. He agrees to help Reed. But while they are flying back to the hospital, they pass a Daily Bugle billboard with Spider-Man on it, and Otto flips out, resummoning his mechanical arms from storage, and he fights Reed. Reed manages to beat him, but by the time he manages to get back to the hospital it is revealed that they are too late — the baby has died.

I have a stack of about 12 or 13 John Byrne FF issues that I got from I-don’t-know-where, and I just loved this issue back in the day. I loved the unpredictable insanity of going to a villain for help, the unpredictable goodness and altruism of Doctor Octopus, and the unpredictable shock ending and its dramatic staging. But when I recently went through my comics this issue was missing (what the hell happened to it?!) so I bought a new copy. I found reading it again that it still held up except for Byrne’s art and his goddamn relentless background cheating.

(p.s. Apparently the baby is currently alive in current Marvel continuity. Don’t know how the hell that happened.)

5. Girl Comics #1 (Marvel Comics 2010, Story & Art: various)

The stories in this 3-issue series are all famously (according to press releases) written, pencilled, inked, lettered, colored, and lettered by women. And yet it’s not called Women Comics.

Anyway, very nice art on most of these from an excellent list of creators, but mostly lame stories. It would have been better if the creators had not been restricted to using Marvel superheroes. In fact, the more hero-focused the stories are in here, the worse. Since it is an anthology series though, I will be picking up the next two issues anyway — there could be some good stuff in there.

Gotta love that Amanda Connor cover too.

6. Xenon #1 (Eclipse, 1987. Story & Art: Masaomi Kanzaki)

I’ve been interested in the cover of this since it first came out decades ago, but I never bought it until recently. The interior art is lame compared to the cover, and features the typical muddy reproduction of Japanese comics of the time. The story is about some kind of government program to create a super-cyborg out of a musclebound teenager or something. After a twenty year wait to read this thing, you can tell I’m pretty disappointed, but you can’t judge a book by the cover they always say and I should have listened.


Capsule Reviews May 31, 2010

Some comics that have gone from my “Read” pile to my “Read” pile in the last couple of weeks (don’t you just love the English language!):

1. Marshal Law: Fear and Loathing (Marvel / Epic, 1990. Writer: Pat Mills, Art: Kevin O’Neill)

This is a collection of the very first Marshal Law miniseries from Marvel / Epic in 1987, depicting a dark, violent, extreme future where mass numbers of humans genetically modified for war return from the battlefield to become a disenfranchised, decadent, violent, criminal class which the hero Marshall Law — also a veteran — hunts down. I’m not sure that I’ve read anything written by Pat Mills before. Artist Kevin O’Neill I know for his collaborations with Alan Moore on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and that notorious Green Lantern story.

As far as superhero deconstructionism goes, this thing should be totally dated, but somehow it’s not. I mean, a lot of the same ground is covered by Watchmen, Miracleman, Astro City, Rick Veitch’s The One, The Boys, Scott McCloud’s Destroy!, Hitman, and dozens of others that I’m sure I’m forgetting. But the art is great, and frankly despite the fact this this is supposed to be an over-the-top parody / satire of superhero comics, it reads like most DC titles do today. It struck me as still kind of relevant in that respect, but at the same time I really don’t know that superheroes are an important enough subject to be worth deconstructing in the first place in every one of the above cases. (Sometimes I feel that Watchmen works despite all of the superhero trappings around it.) Also, the action is at times somewhat hard to follow, but I don’t know that it’s O’Neill’s fault. I had trouble following American Flagg at times too — was it a problem of some indy comics in the 80s trying to cram too much in at times…?

2. Groo the Adventurer (Marvel / Epic, 1990. Story & Art: Sergio Aragones)

This is a collection of the first four issues of the Marvel / Epic series of Groo by Serio Aragone and Mark Evanier. I don’t have much to say about this except that — like Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo — Groo is just completely reliable. It’s always hilarious and fun and remarkably well-drawn (especially the hyper-detailed opening splash pages), and I have yet to read an issue or TPB that was anything less.

3. Marvel Fumetti Book (1984, by: various) / Generic Comic (Marvel Comics, 1984, by: unknown

These comics both came out the same year: 1984. In both cases, I don’t know what the fuck Marvel was thinking. I guess they figured they were such an awesome company that they could put out books parodying themselves, and that they would automatically be funny with minimal effort thanks to their aforementioned awesomeness. Fumetti Book is printed so shittily that you can barely tell what’s going on in most panels — it’s just a muddy pulp of gray most of the time. It’s sadly unfunny, though some of the images might have been neat if they were more legible. Anyway, basically the book takes you on a tour of the Marvel offices and depicts the hijinx that ensue as they try to put out books.

Generic Comic is just weird. There are no credits listed whatsoever — I don’t know if that’s supposed to be part of the gag. The art is amateurish — is that part of the gag too? There are occassional typos — is that part of the gag as well? I have to ask these things because this comic makes no attempt to make any jokes or parody Marvel’s superhero comics. It simply reads like every Marvel comic published in 1984. Except for the cover, it is completely straight-faced (except for one possible joke I think I came across) and boring as hell. Instead of parodying superhero comics, they just put out a superhero comic. Bizarre.

4. Unknown Soldier 1 (DC / Vertigo, 1997. Writer: Garth Ennis, Art: Killian Plunkett)

This comic was written by Garth Ennis. I loved Garth Ennis’s Punisher, most of Preacher, and some of his war stuff, but there is nothing really interesting going on in this comic. Some goody-two-shoes FBI agent starts creeping around on files on The Unknown Soldier — a mystery-man from WWII — and is then targetted for assassination. Neither the Soldier (seen in WWII flashbacks) nor the agent seemed particularly engaging and the cliff-hanger ending had me on the back of my seat thinking about getting a chocolate milk. I will not be looking for issues 2-4.

That said, I hear that the recently-cancelled Unknown Soldier series set in Uganga was excellent, and I will check it out.

5. Jughead 200 (Archie Comics, 2010. Writer: Tom Root, Art: Rex Lindsey)

This is one of the best comics I’ve read so far this year. It’s laugh-out-loud-hilarious at times, the story is compelling (Jughead trades his metabolism to a witch for a mega-burger, and the gang try to get it back for him), and the characters are very well delineated in a minimum amount of space. In fact, I was amazed at what a complete, solid little story the creators had managed to construct in twenty-odd pages, averaging about six panels per page, and with no narration or captions. The presence of a witch seems a bit weird for the Archie universe, but then the story smartly reminds us that there is already a witch of long-standing in Riverdale. Amazing.

The comic was written by Tom Root, who is a writer on Robot chicken, which is a show I have never seen, but after reading this, I will be sure to check it out.

6. Somerset Holmes 2 (Pacific Comics, 1983. Writer: Bruce Jones, Art: Brent Anderson)

I bought this comic because the cover was phenomenal and I loved some of Bruce Jones’s other writing (especially his collaborations with Richard Corben), and when I first read it, I felt like I should try to track down the other five issues. But when I flipped through it again, I couldn’t remember a single thing about it, couldn’t even remember ever having seen the scenes I’d read a week earlier even though I definitely had. Weird. Sorry, Bruce. (Nice art by Brent Anderson of Astro City-fame though.)

More reviews later in the week…


More reviews tomorrow…