Posted by: Joe McCulloch on August 27, 2007
The weekends go fast. Lots of reading. Today, I spent a good chunk of time with an old issue of The Comics Journal I picked up for two bucks – it’s #202, from March of 1998, and no less than 62 pages of it are devoted to Gary Groth’s career-spanning interview with Kevin Eastman, with a special emphasis on the life of Tundra, the infamous alternative comics publisher that he founded, and ultimately blew $14 million of his Ninja Turtles fortune on. Detail after absurd detail piles up – you can hardly believe it all really happened, the circumstances are so surreal. Really one of the classic Journal interviews.
Oh, last week.
Batman/Lobo: Deadly Serious #1 (of 2): Remember in the old Sam & Max comics where Sam would get off the phone with the Commissioner and say something like “Bad trouble in ancient Egypt, Max,” and then in the next panel, by god, they’d be in ancient Egypt? That’s kind of how this comic starts, with Batman summoned away to space in panel 1, on page 1. And he’s staring down Lobo by page 4. No scene-setting shilly-shally while writer/artist Sam Kieth is around!
No need for introductions; as far as this issue goes, there isn’t even anything all that Batman or Lobo-specific going on. There’s some typical odd couple clashes — physical and moral — but mostly the title characters run around and react to a strange entity that’s possessing innocent schoolgirls and straight-laced women with space clipboards, and transforming them into shredded-clothing murder machines… and the entity is often passed from body to body by same-sex kissing!! Don’t worry gang, it’s actually all about how women are driven to explode by male subjugation! Can Batman and/or Lobo trample through the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored before Earth is doomed or something?!
It’s sort of fun, very much a loosely-plotted lark that gives Kieth an excuse to draw pretty girls and ugly alien creatures, and Batman’s extra-long cape. He remains as good as ever at that, although I generally prefer seeing his energy channeled through the daffy personal vision of something like My Inner Bimbo (the one extant issue of it); here, Kieth treats the superhero bits almost as an obstacle, which makes for a hint of unease with the antics. OKAY for what it is. I’d have liked it more as a Sam & Max story, but that’s also what I thought about The Three Paradoxes, so maybe it’s me.
Guy Ritchie’s Gamekeeper #4: You know a series is skipping off the rails when one of the variant covers sports a character that’s not only absent from this particular issue, but hasn’t been introduced to the story at all, and the official website contains plot spoilers that have to stretch at least a couple of issues into the future. Maybe the promo stuff got pumped up since Ritchie is going to direct the film adaptation? It doesn’t say much for the pacing if what I’m seeing is supposed to be basic scenario stuff.
It will be a fun movie to watch if Ritchie bases his visual choices off of artist Mukesh Singh’s, in that all the action bits look like murder scenes from Susperia. Sadly, there’s none of that this issue, which devotes itself almost totally to backstory, including that interminable b&w flashback I’d be getting sick of even if I didn’t now know how it pans out at some point in a later issue. It’s not that Andy Diggle’s dialogue is lacking in craft, but straight-up thriller material such as this isn’t going to benefit from dwelling so long on generic plot contours. And almost totally stripping an issue of action only underscores just how generic it is.
There’s still spark in the art – I can’t get enough of Singh’s jutting ink stroke tree branches, and he can compose some nicely sterile metal and glass urban environments. I especially liked how, going over the flashbacks, only the bloodletting done by the hero is in color, so as to emphasize its radiance in his memory. But that’s all this book’s got keeping it at EH level in an issue like this.
SPECIAL BONUS IN-DEPTH ART COMMENTS:
Black Summer #2 (of 7): Juan Jose Ryp sure can draw a man’s face being ripped off.
Wolverine #56: I liked Howard Chaykin’s version of the character better the more he looked like a caveman, the final splash being the apex of my joy. Although, if my co-worker was a drunken, emotionally ruined screw-up to a ‘kick the shit out of him by the dumpster’ extent, I’d probably protest his continued operation of the gigantic weapon that’s the only thing keeping the extremely dangerous mutant at bay down in the metaphor pit. Wait, that wasn’t an art comment.