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Lumpy Misshapen Capsules: Comic Books Described with Words, Apathy: I Hope You Enjoy the Word *Like* as Much as I Do: I Hope You Enjoy Whiskers on Kittens: When the Pawn Breaks and Hits the Bar the Body Hits the Floor Because Your Hand is a Shim-Sham Something Something You Know You’re Right Ellipses.

Abhay Khosla

Hello.  Here is a description of a bunch of comics books which I purchased in the last few months, and things they made me think about and/or feel.

I guess I have to say at the outset– I have not been in the mood much to read comics lately.  There are a few I’ve dug– Copra or Hellboy in Hell, say. Cyborg 009– that’s actually pretty good stuff, that Cyborg 009. But beyond those few things, whatever it is that gets people super-excited by comics, or at least mentally “engaged” by them?  I haven’t really felt it lately.  When I’ve sat down to read comics, most of them have just been white noise, good ones and bad ones alike.  (One manifestation of that is when I read issue #3 of something, I will usually have forgotten most if not all of issues #1 and #2. Another manifestation are sores I have all along the insides of my lips.  I’m pretty sure those sores were caused by that comic LAZARUS, or as I prefer to call it, “uggggcchh, Lazarus“).

I’m writing from Burnout City.  Honesty compels me to warn you of that at the outset– that seems like an especially unhelpful place to be writing from.  But I’ve just missed sitting down and writing about comics, more than I’ve missed the comics themselves.  Maybe that’s weird.  Let’s get to it, anyways.

BPRD Vampire #5 (of 5) by Mike Mignola, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Dave Stewart, and Clem Robins:  This was a miniseries sequel to an earlier BPRD period-piece by Mignola and co., which I think was itself a sequel to a Mignola / Paul Azaceta joint…?  Four earlier issues featured some blonde guy as the main character.  The reader was following that character’s journey; the blonde guy was irritated by vampires or evil pixies or something, and he was going to do someting about it, by gum.

But then, this issue, the fifth issue, it’s all about some brunette guy and his journey to go to talk to the blonde guy…?  So, the point-of-view of the four earlier issues is just discarded in this final issue of the miniseries, in order to start up an entirely different story at the very last minute, Tale of the Brunette Guy.  As you likely have guessed, that story doesn’t end in this issue.  Nothing is resolved.

One of the last pages are evil pixies saying “I guess we should be worried about that blonde guy, huh?”  When is the story going to pick back up again?  Nobody knows– here’s text from the letter page:  ”What comes next for Simon Anders?” (I think that’s the blonde guy’s name; I think.)  ”It may be a while– he won’t be back until we’re ready to do another one as good as this.”  Oh.  Okay.  Well, nevermind then.

There’s a pleasant stretch where Mignola, Ba, Moon, etc. do what I think is THE signature Mignola move:  cutting away from the present action to some sinister drawing meant to invoke the horror of the moment.  One panel I especially liked: a thin verticle rectangle of a silhouetted lizard-y head, pointing downwards, blood dripping from its fangs, with the word “more” coming from a solid-blue word balloon situated in the darkest parts of the skull-silhouette instead of out of its mouth.  This terrible thing seems to be slicing into our reality, trying to show us something too horrible for us to even be allowed to see all of its details, that our brains have to keep in silhouette for our own sanity, and the words it’s saying to us aren’t coming from its mouth.  Mignola and the other BPRD creators have done shit like that before, but it’s a neat trick anyways; hasn’t gotten old for me, at least.

If the point of comics for you is admiring the craft of them, then this is as lovely a comic as any to do that with, I suppose.  But once craft is set aside, this leaves a number of questions unanswered.  What in the hell was the point of any of this?  Why was the main character corrupted over the course of the story?  What was his fatal character flaw?  Was there some hubris, some fatal mistake that damned him?  Or is it better for you without that, the horror finding someone who’d done nothing wrong rather than some “the teenagers fucked on top of the wrong pentagram in that cabin” gimmick?  Still: why would I suddenly care about this brunette guy in issue 5 of 5, after four issues with the blonde guy?  And okay, say a later miniseries came along and wrapped up this story– would that somehow retroactively make this miniseries “better,” by virtue of it then becoming part of some larger mosaic?

The admirable thing with Mignola is how he has a very specific vision of what is a “good comic” that he’s stuck to and pursued somewhat relentlessly– Monsters! A degree of opacity!  Fight scenes!  Horrors from the past unavoidably tainting the present!  What have you.  Regardless of the sometimes dodgy results (at least rumor has it that the BPRD quality’s taken a dip, of late), there’s something almost heroic about the FOCUS of his enterprise if we step back and survey it all at once, his life’s work.  A Mignola comic, of whatever stripe, seems interesting to me as a ticket to his values more than to his “stories” or “characters,” say.

But perhaps when he’s collaborating with Moon & Ba, cartoonists whose definition of a good comic seems remarkably different, at least considering the work they’ve done when left to their own devices (as compared to, say, Guy Davis whose work as a writer on The Marquis, suggested values not so dissimilar to the work Davis would do with Arcudi-Mignola), maybe with Moon/Ba the “oh wait, shit, my definition of a good comic is different than the Mignola definition, too” of it all gets harder not to notice.

THE WAKE #1-3 by Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy, Matt Hollingsworth, Jared K. Fletcher, Sara Miller and Mark Doyle:  This is another boring monster comic, but this one is set in the Michael Crichton “hey look at me use Google you guys” universe.  None of the characters are interesting, unless you count the first time you saw them, in the hit motion picture Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg; here they are again– weee!

It tries to spice up the affair by including flashbacks and flash-forwards to events zillions of years before/after the boring monster story in the present, but anytime that’s not happening, you’re watching a mid-90′s monster movie like the Relic or Deep Rising, only not as fun, no Treat Williams.  Ten issues of this??  I have to figure it gets weirder, to fill that kind of space, but we haven’t gotten to weird yet.

One nice thing: Alien spits hallucinogens at Ripley instead of acid, so Sean Murphy gets to draw some pleasant fantasy sequences in the middle of the tedium, creating at least a variety to the visuals throughout (not just cornering Murphy’s talents to the flashback/flash-forward scenes where he is allowed to play with scale).  Also, shit, Matt Hollingsworth is probably the best colorist there ever was, so this boring-ass comic looks pretty sweet, at least.

THE FLASH #20, 22 and 23 by Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato, Ian Herring, Carlos M. Mangual, Harvey Richards, Wil Moss, and Brian Cunningham:  Oh, I guess I missed #21.  Anyways, the Flash fights Reverse Flash.  I don’t know– I can’t say the Reverse Flash is my favorite villain.  Spiderman’s greatest villain isn’t Opposite Spiderman– it’s an octopus guy or a goblin guy or some other bullshit.  Batman’s greatest villain isn’t Mr. Not-Batman; it’s King Tut or Egghead.  In the movie Boogie Nights, Mark Wahlberg didn’t have to face off against the diabolical Dr. Micropenis.  ”PT Anderson is saving that for the sequel,” you say.  Untrue– that’s just a vicious rumor.  While I don’t know that THE FLASH is quite as fun as when it first started, it’s still a likable, straightforward comic.  Manapul et al build all their stories around the Flash Solving Mysteries, rather than just being some asshole, which grounds the storylines; that move at least seems to avoid the “now there are 5 million DC superheros on each page, one of them is probably your favorite so now you will buy this comic” hero-cram that every other DC comic on the shelves seem to invariably feature.  I just don’t know about this Reverse Flash asshole.  Reverse Flash isn’t my dude.

POWERS #6 by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming, Nick Filardi, Chris Eliopoulos, and Jennifer Grunwald (with some dots over the U):  As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty ride or die with Powers– I plan to stick this comic out until the bitter end.  And it’s actually coming out now, which is new and a surprising change from the whole “not coming out” thing they’d been doing for the last few years.

The only thing being– and I think I’ve mentioned this before… I have NO IDEA what’s happening in this comic anymore.  I’ve been reading it since issue 1, but it’s just been so many years and …

At one point, the federal government was evil or, at least I remember there being a famous Black superteam who was muttering “The government has secrets!” before getting killed.  Then, the Pope died.  Then, superheros became illegal or something?  Or… Or was there a flood?  Or wait, now they’re all federal agents, including Deena Pilgrim who was an evil junkie at one point, but that’s because there was– I think there was a virus…?  And wait, Walker is an immortal sex-monkey who is/was Green Lantern, except then he was dating a stand-up comedian who…?

Remember when that TV show LOST would have Special Recap Shows where they’d show clips of previous episodes while Serious Man would say things on top of the arbitrary nonsense, and pretend as though that show’s arbitrary nonsense made some kind of sense?  ”On THE ISLAND, some learned to dream, but others explored their mysteriously hairless genitals.”   (ABC did one for that TV show Nashville, too– for people who couldn’t follow a show about Nashville, city of mystery).  I need a Serious Man recap for POWERS (a) because I am completely lost as to what happened before, and (b) I suspect it’d be fucking hilarious.

To Youtube, nerds!  To Youtube!

STATION TO STATION ONE SHOT, by Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, Kat Larson, Shantel Larocque, Scott Allie, and Daniel Chabon: I picked this one up because it looked like a one-shot, and I always wished there were more of those.  In the Ideal Comics that Only Lives in My Head (well, lived), there would have been a lot of one-shots– it just always seemed as though that could be really cool.  Some people tried to make “graphic novella” a thing, but you know, who wants to smell that fart?  Anyways, this turned out to just be a collection of comics that already ran in Dark Horse Presents.

Whoops.

Basically, there’s a guy and he– I don’t even know, something about science gone wrong.  And so there’s these Lovecraft blobs floating around…?  The guy has no discernable characteristics, none at all, none whatsoever, and the Lovecraft blobs don’t really do all that much– just hang out and be blobs.  There are some dinosaurs because I guess those are fun to draw.  Anyways, then it ends.  Text in the back matter mentions this is all a “preview of things to come in the Station to Station universe.”  I don’t know what the fuck a “universe” is, though; I just want to read a story.

Here, there’s no character– the main character is “A Drawing of a Guy”, so I don’t really recognize anything that happens as being a “story.”  I’d just call this a situation.  It doesn’t even really rise to the level of anecdote because it’s all fakey-fake monster stuff.  Which, even there– this all probably would have been too thin even for a 1930′s pulp story;  there’s been 80 years of science fiction since then.  The New Wave happened; the cyberpunks happened; ALF– hey man, he liked to eat cats; that’s one memorable character detail, which is one more than this story tried.

Is this the part where I’m supposed to say “writing schmiting”, drop my pants and just start jerking off to the art?  That’s come up a few times this year, that we’re all supposed to say “writing schmiting”, drop our pants, and then hand-crank our carnival-areas while waxing fucking eloquent about fucking comic book art.  That’s how a “critic should be” or some shit, lately.  ”Comic reviewers don’t get it, man– you can’t treat art and writing in comics separately; that’s the job of comic editors, not comic reviewers,” tweets someone grotesquely overestimating the influence of “comic reviewers” (I’m a big jerk so my kneejerk reaction is always “People are angry they only get 3-and-1/2 stars at CBR instead of 4 stars”).

I don’t know.  I wouldn’t say those people are “wrong,” is the thing.  At least, I agree with the basic idea that there’s something greater than the sum of the parts with comics, with a Bernie Krigstein comic, say, or heck, with whoever.  The problem I hit into though is … Gabriel Hardman draws swell; just swell.  (I don’t know about some of his lettering choices, but…).  He draws in a lush style that I’ve enjoyed for many years now, going back to some comics he’d made with Jeff Parker back when; I’ve only heard good things about his and Bechko’s Planet of the Apes work.  But the fact I enjoy looking at Hardman’s art didn’t make this a “visually successful comic.”  I think for some people, there would seem to be something inherently contradictory about that statement, something off, which means I’m smacking into the problem of… like… of coherently atomizing comic book storytelling.  Or something.

There’s a gorgeous Paul Pope quote, about manga– you’ve heard this one before but let me see if I can find it, anyways.  Here we go: “When I was working for Kodansha, the joke was always, ‘A bad comic is where you have a panel where Superman jumps through a window, and the caption says ”Superman jumps through a window,” and he’s saying, ”I’m jumping through the window,” and there’s a sound effect that says, JUMP. [LAUGH] Or you can imagine three panels: 1.) he’s jumping through the window, 2.) he’s landing on the ground, 3.) he says, ‘I’ve done it’–or something like that. I really have a sense from what I learned from manga, is that, rather than try to tell and directly tell the story where Superman is jumping through the window, that the best manga will try to give you the experience of jumping through the window–the tactile sensations, the speed of it, the rush of it–catch all the different moments in-between the three panels that an American comic might use to tell the story.

So, if I really want to address this, I have to sit here and talk about… about how Gabriel Hardman draws well but nothing in this comic is tactile enough to make this non-character into a character, to make this undramatic premise somehow seem dramatic.  But what the hell does TACTILE mean, let alone Tactile ENOUGH?  What would have made this thing “more” tactile let alone “sufficiently” tactile?  Is “insufficient tactility” a valid complaint about a story told in 8 page installments in some boring-ass Dark Horse Presents comic?  Dude: what the fuck are we even talking about???  The simple phrasing is when stuff happens to Guy with Glasses In Comic– there’s nothing about the storytelling that puts the reader there with him, that makes his concern theirs.  But how do you say that not in vague generalities and poetic meaningless blather, but in actual identifiable specifics?

And here’s the thing– say I manage to answer any of those questions; would you then have learned anything about whether this was a “fun comic” that you wouldn’t have already known when I was just all like, “character sucked; this thing blew“?  At which point, haven’t I just wasted your time with incoherent nonsense…? I don’t know.  I’m not sure.  I just feel bad for the kid writing that 3-and-a-1/2 star review at CBR being held to account for something that’s actually not very straightforward much at all, basically for not sounding like some kind of dork-lunatic. (Especially living in Burnout City, where the City Motto is that most comics deserve fewer reviews, less attention, our utter disregard and callous apathy).

YOUNG AVENGERS #009 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie with Mike Norton, Matthew Wilson, VC’s Clayton Cowles, and Jon … I think that’s Moisan but it could be Mioisan; I don’t know– some wacky font:  Impulse buy, this issue.  I kept hearing that “Tumblr likes this comic“– Tumblr used to be three or four dozen people in Silverlake and Brooklyn and I still think of it in those terms even though it’s not been that for a long time. I’m waiting for an endorsement from any of the Mollys, basically.

Anywho, I guess “Tumblr likes it” turned out to be code language for all the characters being pretty gay or something…?  Is that the secret knock code-language nudge nudge wink wink going on?

It’s nice that there’s a Marvel comic that’s this gay, for people for whom that’s important.  I guess I liked that being the case– on an Everyone Deserves Equal Time level, it’s nice that’s true.  I don’t know that I liked the “now this comic is about boys kissing” parts of this comic for the execution particularly, which was the usual comic book “let’s explicitly state our motivations at great length!” song & dance.  But I suppose I find it nice that this exists, in the abstract.  I mean, maybe it’d be nice if any of the gay characters were at all cool, too…?  Is that not a thing anyone cares about?  One is a gay Hulk, but he seems like Peter David-era talk-a-lot Hulk instead of “out in the desert destroying tanks” Hulk.  There’s Mon El with an earring– I’m going to go naaaaw to that.  And then there’s a bisexual Urkel wearing swim-goggles who gives off a Cypher in the New Mutants vibe…?  I guess.  These are sorta the Twink Avengers.  But maybe that’s just what Tumblr is into…?  Ask your privilege!  Is your privilege in your couch cushions?  Check!  Check your couch cushions for your privilege.

But still– it’s a step in the right direction, I suppose.  The “what else is there to it” question went unanswered on this one, though.  I don’t know anything about any of these characters, or what the hell is going on in this comic– there’s a recap page but the recap page is pretty much incomprehensible, in the Mighty Marvel tradition.  The parts of the comic that aren’t about kissing– it’s a bunch of characters running around in front of an all-white background after talking and talking; they’re running away from a scene of something happening towards a scene of more talking.The villain is a woman wearing Ann Taylor or some shit, i.e. the very worst thing in the Marvel universe continues to be some variety of assertive lady, which… o-kay; very progressive comic, I guess…?  (Something clever I’m missing there that mitigates how gross that is, I’m guessing, Tumblr…?).  Uhm.  I hope all the running and talking was a satisfactory ending to the Story of Whatever the Hell Was Going On…?  I can’t guess.

One of the major scenes ends with a character doing a sad pose in front of a sign that says “Happy Noodle”– I thought that was kinda funny, I guess; hopefully, that was on purpose.

Let’s keep the endless talking, but have them talk about a different set of things” is a curious solve on the whole “Marvel comics are crazy fucking boring” thing.  Probably I impulse-bought the exact wrong issue, though.

***

Anyways, there’s a couple more comic on this pile, but that feels like a nice stopping point for now.  Sorry to go on and on, or if this was really boring– feel out of shape!

28 Responses to “ Lumpy Misshapen Capsules: Comic Books Described with Words, Apathy: I Hope You Enjoy the Word *Like* as Much as I Do: I Hope You Enjoy Whiskers on Kittens: When the Pawn Breaks and Hits the Bar the Body Hits the Floor Because Your Hand is a Shim-Sham Something Something You Know You’re Right Ellipses. ”

  1. Venom is in many ways the Reverse Flash for Spider-Man, and many would say he is Spider-Man’s ultimate villain.

    “These are sorta the Twink Avengers.”

    Classy.

  2. “Twink Avengers” made me shoot my drink out of my nose. AWESOME!

    -B

  3. This is the first time I’ve ever seen “lately” applied to a period of six or seven years.

  4. Coyle for the win.

  5. “many would say he is Spider-Man’s ultimate villain”

    “Many” might say that in 1991, back when we were groovin’ to the sounds of “Ice Ice Baby” and eagerly anticipating the summer’s hit sequel TMNT 2: The Secret of the Ooze.

  6. Abhay, let me fill you in on the hip new Young Avengers, which is hip and for the young people. See, the mean old lady you saw being mean is the villain of the book, Mother, who is an evil person who can magically control old people, and is out to get young people, and thus uses old people to attack young people – probably because she is old and cranky and unhip, and the young people are youthful and hip and she hates young and hip things.

    We can tell that the young hip people are hip and young and youthful because they take “selfies” and use #hashtags and go LOL a lot, and talk about cats and bacon, which are things the young people are into on their tumblrs. Oh look! A recap page in the style of a blog post! That is a thing the kids use! How youthful!

  7. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen lately applied to a period of six or seven years.”

    Well-played.

    “The villain of the book, Mother, who is an evil person who can magically control old people, and is out to get young people, and thus uses old people to attack young people.”

    Oh. Okay. Huh. Weaponized Cocoon sounds like it could be a thing, I guess. Sounds kinda Pinocchio-ish– the bit with the donkeys. Or something like that– I don’t really know my Hans Christian Andersen.

    I can see how the math on that would work for people.

    Are people rooting for them to beat up a woman in her 40′s though? That seems pretty weird. (Is there a cut-off for old? 30? 40? I’ve met 18 year olds who are older than I am now, and 50 year olds who are younger than I am now; maybe that book works better when you don’t live in Los Angeles…?) Do they give her a reason for attacking young people? Did a young person shit on her face or murder her parents or something?

    “they take ‘selfies’”

    Sure.

    (Do they do the thing where they take photos of their legs at the beach or on a couch or whatever? I don’t know what that’s called but I like that. I ship it. Did I use that word right? No? Okay.).

    I don’t know– I read an issue of X-Men where the teenage time-travel X-Men tried to get laid at a street carnival by giving girls, like, Iceman ice cream or something…? So, hashtags and bacon sound a little more hip than that, at least…

    “A recap page in the style of a blog post!”

    The one I saw was supposed to be a tumblr dashboard but it went the wrong direction, and that person needed to follow some better blogs. It was really busy making puns– it made me tired. But I picked up the last issue in an arc, so I got what I got.

    Let me if I can solve this math equation now so I can post this comment…

  8. “Venom is in many ways the Reverse Flash for Spider-Man, and many would say he is Spider-Man’s ultimate villain”

    Venom– that’s right. I don’t know about “ultimate” villain (especially because Marvel’s tried to turn him into an anti-hero a few times now, right?), but I guess there are people who like that character in the world. There’s another one, too, right? Orange-flavored Venom? Yeah, I guess that was a pretty bad example. Damn.

    Wasn’t the story that the movie people forced Raimi to use him, though? I feel like that’s a character that’s always had an anti- contingent with the fans. I think that’s what Reverse Flash needs. Like a Change-dot-org petition.

  9. Glad to see you back, Abhay. Loved this gag – ”PT Anderson is saving that for the sequel,” you say. Untrue– that’s just a vicious rumor.”

  10. Ok… I don’t know. So.

    So.

    The apathetic* hostility toward Young Avengers is… weird. In particular the deliberately(?) (I can’t speak for anybody or their motives, but…) misleading description of this “Mother” villain. They’re not going to beat up a middle aged lady, guys. Relax. I have zero interest in elaborating (sorry!), but come on.

    But I mean, hey, you bought a comic at the end of an arc or whatever. I suppose there’s that old thing where issues of comics should make sense to everybody no matter what the number on the front says, and you were super-confused so it’s well within your rights to kvetch. But I guess to that I’d say, Welcome to the past 20 years of comics maybe? 30 years?

    Anyway, I’m not even defending the comic itself. (I happen to like it a great deal, but nobody cares what I think.) There was just something off about the tone. Are we supposed to be mad because it appears to cater to a specific audience? Does it matter that that audience is tiny and wouldn’t even bump the needle in terms of sales? Are we mad because the boykisses feel contrived? Not contrived enough?

    I mean, I don’t know. I guess?

    Anyway, I didn’t read any of the other comics you talk about, so I’m gonna go ahead and assume you are dead-on about those. For which I commend you and look forward to reading more in the future (for real).

    *Abhay-thetic? Amazing, right?

  11. I don’t know why Abhay does this anymore. Does standing behind Tucker Stone and laughing obnoxiously like some sort of ADD Ed McMahon pay well enough for all the shitty comics he has to read? Or does he just get off on reminding us the thinks this stuff is really dumb, and he’s smarter than the rest of us proles?

  12. Dan the Coyle wrote, “I don’t know why Abhay does this anymore.”

    I’m guessing because a lot of us love his writing?

  13. R the F wrote, “The apathetic* hostility toward Young Avengers is… weird.”

    It’s a hard book to be non-apethetically hostile toward. It doesn’t really do anything well, not even the boy kissing, but it doesn’t do anything offensively awful either. It’s only notable because no other books are currently doing boy kissing.

  14. “I don’t know why Abhay does this anymore.”

    … do what??? The last thing I wrote was, what, 4 months ago? (I don’t know the last time I wrote the kind of essay I really want to be writing. I miss that more than anything.)

    But: how could I be doing anything less?

    “Does standing behind Tucker Stone and laughing obnoxiously like some sort of ADD Ed McMahon pay well enough for all the shitty comics he has to read?”

    There hasn’t been a ton of reading going on…? How much reading does it sound like has been going on? Lowest amount that I can remember though I’m doing well with books lately after a few years where I was too tired from work to read books.

    (Though even not reading a lot, I’m still reading more than the general population, plus some pretty good comics– Copra, Hellboy in Hell, Christoph Blain’s cooking comic, Cyborg 009. I’ve liked all those. I liked the first and second Astro City but not so much the third– a little too nice on that ending for me. (I want to get into those Monkeybrain comics– I hear a bunch of those are good, the crime one or the girl hero one or whatever). Even an unenthusiastic year, it’s a doable thing to find some pretty good comics because we’re in such strong times for reprints. Though I haven’t read a lot of “graphic novels”; and what I have– that Pat Mceown book did nothing for me, Hair Shirts? That was this year, right? I mostly stick to “pamphlets” (did they ever figure out what to call those?) bought on an impulse though, for reasons)…

    “Or does he just get off on reminding us the thinks this stuff is really dumb, and he’s smarter than the rest of us proles?”

    I just think it’s nice being outside of things. I like the perspective of that. Some things are just WEIRD but when you’re an every Wednesday person, you don’t notice.

    Even if it’s been 20-30 years, it’s still weird you can’t pick up a comic and understand it.

    Or even if that’s okay, that a comic will be the last issue of an arc and there won’t be any discernible way to tell anywhere on the cover…? (Or this ugly big red slab thing they’re doing at the bottom of comics now– yikes).

    Or that the opening of Marvel’s big crossover is a flashback but there’s no way to tell it’s a flashback and not foreshadowing.

    Or that there are recap pages that don’t recap anything because they’re busy with puns.

    Or that people take Jonathan Hickman seriously. Because come on.

    Or that every Image comic now comes with a photograph of a comic creator scowling at you…? What the hell is that about? WHAT IS THAT? At least they stopped with the “creativity to me is a turn-on greater than walking on a beach” playboy quotations. At least they cut that out.

    Or a million other things, even before you get to “DC is selling people melting 3d covers” or whatever the story is there. I find a certain amount of ignorance suits me, for the reading bits.

    I don’t think it’s a smart-dumb question. With comics, it’s always the culture around them that have interested me more than anything, certainly more than the soap opera of the books. I’m still as interested in that as ever. It’s interesting. A one-shot that doesn’t have any characters in it because it’s too busy just having drawings of rockets attacking nondescript blobs and trying to skate by on that, or 3 issues of a comic that are a boring retread of a movie genre that died 13+ years ago, or people selling 5 issues of a miniseries to tell a story that doesn’t even end in a remotely satisfying way– I wouldn’t phrase the issues with those comics as being because of deficits of of intelligence or talent, so much as those are products of a culture whose values are obviously very, very different from mine and that I do not understand even after having watched it since forever…

  15. Abhay, you are clearly a terrible person who writing something on the internet that one guy didn’t enjoy.

  16. @Lumpy Dan: I have to disagree. Young Avengers is doing a great job of rehabilitating characters that were being ignored or misused. It’s bringing Marvel Boy back to his Morrison roots, and it’s breathing new life into Hulkling and Wiccan after the awfulness of Children’s Crusade. Not to mention making Prodigy and Miss America kind of interesting.

    I like the way YA is making its characters grow up. It would have been really easy for them to get stuck as 2D teenage wanna-bes, like many of the other young hero books Marvel’s pumped out. Or even worse, they could just become cross-over fodder. I get the sense that the characters in YA are right on the cusp of being adults, which has a lot of story potential. At least I think it’s interesting. It doesn’t hurt that the art is top notch, too.

  17. Hellboy has been great yes. Glad you posted.

  18. I gotta say, the characters in Young Avengers are the absolute worst thing about that book for me. Marvel Boy – a one-note joke character (he’s an alien who likes Earth pop culture! watch him talk about the Beach Boys in a flat, affect-less tone of voice!). Miss America – not even a character, just a collection of vaguely surly tics with a handwavy notion of “mystery” around her to cover up for the fact that she has no clear motivation for doing anything that she does. Prodigy – a total cipher. Kid Loki – annoying as all fuck, a character who talks and acts like a middle-aged Martian’s awkward impersonation of what an American teenager might sound like.* And then there’s Wiccan and Hulkling – two characters who have not progressed at all since the beginning of the series; they’re the same dopey, well-meaning but hopelessly clueless kids they’ve been since their characters were first introduced nearly a decade ago. I feel bad for them – which is the most I feel for any of these characters – because they’re so goddamn hapless, so utterly without agency, but that ultimately means that to the extent I connect to this story or its characters, I connect to it as bathos, rather than as any kind of human drama.

    The failing is most obvious in the character of Kate Bishop, who seems like an actual human being in the pages of Aja and Fraction’s Hawkeye, but in Young Avengers is just “that girl with the arrows who wants to make out with the alien dude.” And that’s the problem with this book in a nutshell: none of these characters are characters, none of them are people. They’re loglines and jokes and trite cliches, or not even that – like, Marvel Boy is a sketch of an idea of a doodle of a cliche; some serious work would have to go into that guy to get him up to the level of a cliche. And in a book where most of the action consists of dialogue, and most of the plot has consisted of running from point A to point B to point C and back to point A again, all driven by villains who are complete ciphers with no stated motivations, you need really strong characters to make this work. Young Avengers does not have characters. It has poses.

    The art is really nice.

    (*And as an aside: it would almost make sense that Loki sounds like a somebody’s desperate and cloying attempt to sound young and cool, given that he’s actually Old Loki attempting to impersonate the now-dead Young Loki – only he sounded exactly like this back in that Journey Into Mystery run, when he was actually supposed to be a young character. So I guess this is supposed to be somebody’s idea of what some teenager somewhere might plausibly sound like? Whatever, it’s irritating, it’s aggressively inauthentic, and it’s grating to read.)

  19. I’m a bit surprised by the turn this comment thread took. Yes, Abhay is a bit…dismissive…of current comics, but it’s not like corporate comics are doing much to appeal to people out of their dedicated fan base. Young Avengers might be a very good book compared to other Marvel books, but it’s still not very appealing to people not inside that bubble. I liked the Morrison Marvel Boy series, but more for the ideas like the living corporation thing or the obsessed collector with the Iron Man suit. I thought those were good ideas that could exist outside the comic. So, I don’t care about Marvel Boy the character or what Wiccan and Hulking are up to.

    I’ve been reading a lot of 70s Marvels comics lately and they’re just so much more fun and easier to understand. I read one recently where Thanos mixed it up with Daredevil and yes, it was very silly, but it had more fresh ideas than whatever Hickman’s up to. I read some Hickman Avengers and the pretentiousness made me tap out. The Black Swan? Really? She couldn’t be part of a group called The Outliers? Will his next character be named Zealot?

    I dunno, I just don’t see the appeal in most comics anymore. It seems like most comics are just playing to an audience that wants a certain thing and nothing else. I just don’t have the stamina to figure out what that is.

  20. Since we’re all piling on Young Avengers…in the original Young Avengers, I was really only interested in the young, black Captain America guy. I *really* enjoyed that Truth book and I loved that series Priest wrote, The Crew. I’m very interested in reading more about the Captain America/Tuskegee Airmen thing, but Marvel seems intent on burying that. Too bad…seems like the sort of thing 60s and 70s Marvel comics would have been all over.

  21. Mr. Squirrel’s comments are appreciated. For one thing, it appears he’s been reading the book, which is a big bonus.

    I don’t have it in me to examine Young Avengers as carefully as he has, so in a weird way I find myself completely agreeing with every single criticism. My smartbrain goes, “Hey, yeah, geez, what’s up with these characters?” Then my dumbheart goes, “Aw, yeah, but the art is awesome and the comic makes me happy in a non-specific way that somebody probably has a name for on Tumblr but I don’t understand all that noise.”

    Which I think is what happens to many of you with all those awful comics from the 70s.

    As usual, I guess I’m gonna follow my dumbheart. (And not for nothing, both my smartbrain and dumbheart enjoy Abhay’s writing and this website in general!)

  22. RF,

    If you love Young Avengers, that’s cool. I’m not trying to shame you and I doubt anyone else is, either. I just went and bought some trades of books written before I was born (due to reading the Sean Howe book) and I liked the 70s Marvel stories more than I liked Young Avengers. Hulking and Wiccan do nothing for me, but I seem to enjoy goofy stories of Daredevil whapping Thanos in the head with his club, so I’m not the arbiter of good stories.

  23. Oh, I was just being silly about ’70s comics. Sorry if it read in any way serious. I actually love lotsa comics from that crazy decade! As well as that crazy book by Sean Howe!

    In these ways and more, I think we’re in the same boat. Like I said, Moose makes some strong points about the characterizations in the Young Avengers — I’m just finding some sort of je ne sais quoi in there despite it all. (And the art is rad.)

    Plus, it should go without saying I’m beyond shame.

  24. I think we’re all in the same boat with a shared love of comics and reading stuff we enjoy. I think Abhay’s broader point – the culture of superhero comics is hard to break through once you’re out – has a lot of merit, too, but I don’t think that means its a bad culture. For me, I read the Boom Cartoon Network books and some odds and ends from Dark Horse, so I’m obviously looking for something Marvel isn’t selling. I do like the Mark Waid books, though, so I’m possibly a hypocrite. I’ll buy anything with Darkhawk or Speedball, though, so I know I’m a flake.

    I guess my point is who cares if Young Avengers doesn’t interest a guy like me? I feel like Homer Simpson when he said, “I’m a white male between the ages of 25 and 35; everyone cares what I want,” and then he finds a can of gum and nuts together. I don’t know what I want, so no one should try selling towards me. If people who regularly buy superhero comics enjoy Young Avengers, great! If people are accurately describing the attempts to appeal to teenagers, that sounds a bit iffy, but it’s possible the book has a ton of other wonderful things not captured in the comments above. I’ll never know unless they stick Darkhawk or Speedball in there!

  25. Young Avengers fails because it’s tone deaf when it comes to teenagers.

    The personalities of teens are MALLEABLE. They have no control over their emotions and rapidly vacillate between joy and pain. They want to please others and are trying to figure out how to please themselves. They want acceptance, and consider conformity, while still attempting to make a unique personality for themselves.

    Young Avengers is more interested in assigning one or two personality traits per character and keeping them stuck that way. Boring.

  26. Finally, we hear from a true, actual teenager what teenagers are like!

  27. Abhay, thank you for speaking up about your Young Avengers (among other comics) apathy. I’ve been feeling it too, but I thought I was alone *choke*

    I want to like it as much as the Interweb says I should: It feels very much like the few big2 superhero comics I like (e.g., Daredevil, Hawkeye, Animal Man, Hawkeye, Wolvie & the X-Men, FF, Superior Spider-Man, and yes even All New X-Men ) in that it has beautiful and innovative art, doesn’t give a shit about whatever event is going on in other books, is more than just “CharacterX times PlotY devided by TwistZ equals comic” and feels as though the creators actually want to create it.

    That’s great. That’s a book I want to read. That’s a flavor my mouth really enjoys.

    But after eating it for almost a year, I think I’m done. Each issue tastes pretty much like the rest, and even though I’m eating I don’t feel satisfied. I’m glad I tried it, but I certainly don’t need a long box of it sitting in my basement for the rest of my life. I’ve got other shit to read. Young Avengers doesn’t progress, it doesn’t build, it doesn’t challenge me, and it doesn’t entertain. Good bye.

    That said, it fascinates me to navel-gaze at my own apathy. Is it truly a result of an un-engaging comic, or is it a result of a un-engaged reader? Maybe I’ve just read too much? Maybe my tastes were formed long ago and I have antiquated expectations for Claremontian plot entanglements and bombastic Kirbyesque opera? Does anything do that?

    Like @ChrisHero I have different demands for characters I love. I’d read the shit out of an ongoing comic about Darkhawk and Speedball working at a 7-11 where nothing ever happened. Likewise, I don’t care that Waid doesn’t seem to be building a long-term plan with Daredevil — it’s pretty; it’s tonally pleasing to me; it’s expertly crafted; and it’s Matt Murdock! The book tickles all my erogenous zones. I love it.

    I need more from Young Avengers. Is that unfair of me?

    Not any less fair than Savage Critics demanding I do arithmetic to post a response.

  28. I stopped reading comics this summer. Started reading Moby Dick during Memorial Day weekend. Finished it in July sometime and then read some nonfiction–that Henrietta Lacks book is as good as they say–and some trash too: Live and Let Die is super racist.

    Went back to my FLCS the Wednesday after Labor Day and bought the stack that had piled up. I just finished catching up last night.

    That break really gave me some perspective, I think. I’ve cleared out my comixology list. I actually threw some of the comics in the garbage they were so bad.

    So, for all of you who haven’t missed a Wednesday in a very long time, I say try it. I found it very refreshing.

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