Posted by: Abhay Khosla on July 24, 2007
We now continue our review of New Avengers #32, Supergirl & Legion of Superheros #31, and Cold Heat #1, already in “progress”:
This week is about plot; but before we bother…
Some memories never go away, right? And you don’t get to pick which ones those are…? You’re always one neurochemical abra-cadabra away from some awful moment from your life, yes? You’re just one synaptic misfire away from that time you vomited into a baby carriage and had to run away from angry parents and their puke-drenched horror-baby, yes? And which moment you get to relive– that’s out of your hands. The teensy tiny tip of the iceberg that makes up the conscious you is not steering the ship; you’re not the boss of you.
But, but: we all walk around with so much story shrapnel in our head now. You try to watch a TV show, but you fall asleep half-way in. Some movie’s so bad you turn it off before it’s over. Comics: maybe you pick up a “jump-on” point but don’t jump. Or maybe you lose interest. Or maybe a writer gets fired halfway through a story. Or whatever. But it goes in your brain; you remember it.
Fragments, slashed up chunks of nothing, and they’re IN YOUR BRAIN and they NEVER FUCKING GO AWAY? Dude: that is shit-the-bed scary.
What if: what if you get into a car accident that rips off your arms and legs and takes off your face and paralyzes you, but the accident leaves you alive, but you’re a prisoner inside your flesh, and politicians won’t let you die, but your mind still works and you’re trapped with your memories, and you’re trapped with some unfinished story-with-no-ending and holy crap, dude? Or what if: what if after you die, what if in the afterlife, all you have are your memories to relive for the rest of eternity, and you’re trapped with these unfinished stories for the rest of time? Imagine you had to spend eternity with whatever it is you ingest or read or consume. That’s as possible an afterlife as any of the others I’ve ever heard, so maybe you have to be careful right this second, just in case. What if a bad comic carried a risk of eternal damnation? What if there were something at stake here? Or, or what if: what if when you go to sit on a toilet, a werewolf’s head leaps out of a toilet bowl, all fucking growly, and bites you on the taint, and, fucking great– now you’re a stupid werewolf, and the only way to stop hurting the innocent is to shoot a silver bullet up your own asshole? Fuck!
But I’m still not getting the next issue of SLOSH because Whatever. SLOSH #31: The characters all have superpowers, but they never get around to using them. There’s only one fight scene, but it only lasts two small panels and it’s seen from a far off distance– it’s basically little better than stick figures fighting. There’s lots of characters, but none of them like each other. There’s a character called Braniac, but he gets all his ideas from someone else. Characters argue, but there’s nothing at stake. People talk, but nothing is said. Stewardesses smile, but not with their eyes. Etc.
My favorite part: the engine of the issue is the team has to find the missing “Cosmic Boy.” Which I find delightful: a comic as square, as un-psychedelic as SLOSH #31 is about the Cosmic Boy having gone missing. It’s Freudian Slip comic book plotting! When did Excitement Boy or Commercial Success Lass go missing?
And no: I don’t know why a werewolf would be in the toilet… Maybe one of your turds turned into a wolf in the light of the full moon. Get it? The full moon = your pasty butt. I got you! I got you so good I can taste it! (victory, not your butt) What if you end up remembering the-time-I-got-you for all eternity?
NA #32 is even easier to describe: NINE PAGE PLANE CRASH!! The issue has to delay so the crossover it sets up will fit snugly between the glorious World War Hulk and whatever crossover follows it. Can’t dance– fuck it: NINE PAGE PLANE CRASH!!
The scene has positive qualities. It’s at least tactile, and kinetic, scalable from human experience. But: NINE PAGE PLANE CRASH…? In a comic where a plane crash won’t even hurt half the characters? Where we know all the characters on the plane have their own series or movie deals? Some would argue what happens after the crash redeems the crash itself– the crash is misdirection for the issue’s later events. But that’s not how it felt for me as I was reading it. I didn’t get to the end and say “This ending justifies all this wasted page geography spent on empty spectacle. I enjoy codeine and prostitutes.” You probably said that; hey, I didn’t; viva la difference…
(Though there is one moment I did like: the plane’s going down– most of the superheros are doing stoic superhero shit, trying to save the day– except Hawkeye, who in the Bendis Avengers is usually portrayed as a big ol’ pussy, I guess…? Hawkeye sissy-screams: “We’re going to land on people!” I honestly thought that was terrific.)
So the comic where the plot moves forward the most? COLD HEAT #1.
I would expect the opposite– I tend to expect more plot from a mainstream book than a comic that looks like COLD HEAT #1 so the inversion here is striking. SPOILER WARNING: a girl named Castle has a boyfriend who has died; drugs; she goes to a party where another young man dies– Castle is at least partially culpable; she wakes up the next morning and learns the ways of the ninja; somewhere, bombs fall; a dream-penis is compared to a telephone(?); at the end, a cliffhanger; plus a funny bonus essay. COLD HEAT #1, strictly plotwise, is a ninja bad-girl origin story, a Brian Pulido cover band except for an audience that doesn’t like Brian Pulido…? Though those looking for a companion book to Shi or Whore of the Shuriken or whatever might be, uhm, challenged by the presentation, where I think the heart of the book lies moreso than the plot. Or even beyond the distinctive presentation style, a good nonconsecutive chunk of the book finds the main character in bed, asleep– not even dreaming, just napping through her own comic.
Here’s a complete digression: close your eyes and imagine an alternative cartoonist in your head, and the alternative cartoonist has to get to the supermarket in a hurry. Any alternative cartoonist you want. I’ll wait… Okay, one question: Did you imagine the alternative cartoonist on a bus? I realized the other day that I never imagine alternative cartoonists driving a car, hanging out, living, loving. I just imagine them on an endless bus ride. COLD HEAT‘s Frank Santoro? On a bus. Kevin Huizenga? On a bus. Robert Crumb? On a French bus. Is that just me?
Anyway: will we ever find out what happens to the sleeping ninja bad-girl dream-penis telephone drugs? COLD HEAT is cancelled. Presumably the creators work away somewhere on a fully-realized collected edition, but who knows? Frank Santoro could be crossing the street tomorrow and get hit by a bus. Frant Santoro could be running to catch a bus tommorow, and he could trip over a fire hydrant, and crack his head open. Frank Santoro could be on a bus when another bus falls from the sky crushing him and maybe also crushing a turd-wolf. We don’t know the future.
Which returns us to our original point, that we run a profound risk ingesting the incomplete, the half-finished, the “let’s solicit this before it’s done.” Anyways. They’re all linked, plotwise, in at least one way: SLOSH is all about a team mistrusting one another; NA is all about a team mistrusting one another; the characters in COLD HEAT sure have reason to mistrust one another, what with the ninjitsu and all. Always with the drama… I don’t think it’s helpful just to throw our hands in the air and blame the zeitgeist. Isn’t there more than that to consider? Is it healthy to feed yourself that theme so constantly? Shouldn’t we worry that it