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“Mr. Dazzleby Has Promised To Be Kind And True.” COMICS! Sometimes It’s Four Divided By Zero Plus One!

John Kane

I’ve heard some people only read Marvel comics! Also, some people only read DC Comics! That’s okay, 99% of all psychiatrists agree – compartmentalisation is really healthy! It’s also okay because I only wrote about some DC Comics! Marvel people will have to wait a bit. I know, I know but I’m sure you’ll find the wherewithal to cope. Next: words…

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WONDER WOMAN #0
Art By Cliff Chiang
Written by Brian Azzarello
Colours by Matt Wilson
Lettering by Jared Fletcher
DC Comics, £2.99 (2012)
Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston
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Throughout this comic Cliff Chiang provides outrageously gorgeous artwork, I just want to make that clear. Because as lovely as his work is it can in no way distract from the petty failures of Azzarello’s script. This reads like an attempt to channel the scripts of old complete with their overwrought narration and abundance of redundant information.  In the hands of a respectful and talented writer this would be a cute homage, a neat tip of the hat, a cheeky wink, a clever and enjoyable comic. But not here. Azzarello‘s bitterness and contempt for the work of all those who came before him is evident on every chippy little page. The first narrative caption contains not only this creepily layered insult to both readers and women, “the monthly monster strikes again!”  but goes on tell us the tale originally appeared in “All-Girl Adventure Tales For Men“.

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I imagine the intention was to be humorous but I don’t have to imagine that the reality is so soured with loathing for the audience, the self and even the genre that  it’s a relief when the curdled homage ends a few pages later. Yes, because as primitive and rubbish as we are implicitly assured the writing was in comics of yore, it’s actually beyond Brian Azzarello‘s sophisticated and modern talents to replicate at even a satirically joshing level for a full issue. As base as they were he can’t do it. Which is the best joke of all. It’s thanks only to Chiang, Wilson and Fletcher that the book hovers around GOOD!

ACTION COMICS #0
Art by Ben Oliver, Cafu
Written by Grant Morrison, Sholly Fisch
Colours by Brian Reber, Jay David Ramos
Lettered by Steve Wands, Dezi Sienty
DC Comics, £3.99 (2012)
Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
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Unlike the assured work in his BATMAN books (work so assured that it it kind of glosses over how bad some of it is) I’ve not found Grant Morrison’s run on ACTION COMICS to be terribly convincing. It’s had the air of him having been asked if it’s still his dream job to write a regular Superman comic, to which he’s replied, “Hoots! Aye tha ken right, maboab! When am ah starting?” And then he’s been told “Er, we need twenty two pages in the next five minutes.” “Crivvens!” indeed! The results have been a bit patchy to say the least. Although maybe it’s just that he was writing in a burning temple. That would put anyone off.

(I guess I should apologise for that outrageous descent into Jockface but I’m sure you understand that I am an artist and, even though I’m very far removed from Scots culture, I really love it. I don’t even eat a lot of shortbread, I eat a lot of fish and chips but the fascination with the Scots remains part of our everyday British culture. It would be wrong of me not to rip the piss. Also, Grant Morrison is really acting like a bowffing staigie these days.)

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It’s just a bad comic all over but you can see how it could have been a good comic had some time been spent whipping it into proper shape. Children being saved from awfulness by the sheer Goodness of Superman should be a slam dunker but this thing is under-worked at both words and art level. Underworked to the extent that the art isn’t even art at times, it just flat out descends into silhouettes like a cack handed Han Dynasty Chinese shadow play rather than a Twenty First Century American comic-book. As it is the whole thing is a lost cause anyway; totally scuppered by its failure to decide where it stands on quiffs. Initially the quiff is seen as a force for good, embodied in the choice of basing Superman on Film Critic and All Round Good Egg Mark Kermode.  Yet later a drunk child abuser (boo!) is introduced sporting the self same pompadour. Mixed messages are one thing but if a comic can’t even decide where it stands on the morality of a haircut it’s pretty much bound to be EH!

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ALL STAR WESTERN#0
Art by Moritat (and Pia Guerra)
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Coloured by Mike Atiyeh
Lettered by Rob Leigh
DC Comics, £3.99 (2012)
Jonah Hex created by John Albano and Tony DeZuniga
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Fortuitously for the writers Jonah Hex has had an eventful life because then they can just fill the pages offhandedly routinely recounting his doings in a manner that would make the personification of Perfunctory raise her fan to her face and blush. This happened, then this happened and later this happened? that’s not actually a story. It’s things happening. There’s no attempt to add anything to Jonah’s story it’s just: Jonah’s Dad was violent but not a drunk, now Jonah’s Dad is violent and a drunk, etc. It’s just there. Moritat is clearly overworked here but he does manage the odd panel that it’s worth lingering over amongst all those that you’d rather rush past in embarrassment. Despite the rote plodding of the writing thanks to Moritat’s occasionally interesting art and a travelling salesman called “Mr. Dazzleby” the comic manages to be OKAY!

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Sometimes people point out that they don’t like that rasher of skin connecting Jonah’s upper and lower jaw. Somehow this weakens the whole character for them. Luckily I ignore my family and think about things like that, important things. Yes I’m here to help. Place your forefinger at the point at which your lips meet, now place your thumb at the point where your teeth stop and your jawbone begins (you will have to press against the flesh until you feel the difference), now move your forefinger in a rough circle between its starting point and where your thumb has paused. Imagine that that flesh has been cut away. Hi ho! There you go! The mystery of Jonah’s strange face solved. Next!

BATMAN INCORPORATED#0
Art by Frazer Irving
Written by Grant Morrison (story by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham)
Coloured by Frazer irving
Lettered by Pat Brosseau
DC Comics, £2.99 (2012)
Batman created by Bob Kane
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Even though Frazer Irving’s art is obviously rushed, veering wildly from the astonishing to the embarrassing, and he badly fluffs the final “beat” with the boomerang his work here is still fascinating in a really pleasing way. I like the way the colours are presented as just shapes and your eye has to skitter about the image, like a spider seeking shelter when you suddenly switch the light on, until it gleans enough information to figure out what the Holy Mother of Pearl it’s looking at. Your eye that is, not the spider.

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Maybe that’s why the story here works so well. Because it isn’t really a story it’s more a of a sleight of hand in which a jumble of moments manages to create enough mental connections in the mind of the reader to make it seem as though a coherent narrative has occurred. It’s a neat trick. A good enough trick in fact for the comic to be GOOD!

SUPERMAN FAMILY ADVENTURES #5
Art by Art Baltazar
Written by Art Baltazar and Franco
DC Comics, £2.99 (2012)
Superman created by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster
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I buy this comic for Johnk(UK) V.2.0 in the hope that he will also wish to waste large amounts of his life on blathering on witlessly about the artform known as comics. Yes, he enjoys this but then so do I. I enjoy it for lots of reasons beyond the fact that I am a child-like simpleton. I enjoy the fact it is quite sophisticated in its treatment of the Olsen-Lane-Kent dynamic. Lois knows Clark’s secret she just pretends she doesn’t and Clark knows she knows and that she is pretending she doesn’t while Jimmy is just comically plain vanilla oblivious.

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Also, I like the Super-pets and this comic is the only place you can see them unless the main DCU finally matured enough to stop being embarassed of its heritage in exactly the same way that a teenager is embarassed by their parents. Look, the book’s neat stuff. A lot of the time I have no idea what is going on, but that’s okay. Even when it is just brightly coloured gibberish the kids seem to understand. And since that’s who it’s for this is VERY GOOD!

I hope you all had a nice weekend and enjoyed some COMICS!!!

17 Responses to “ “Mr. Dazzleby Has Promised To Be Kind And True.” COMICS! Sometimes It’s Four Divided By Zero Plus One! ”

  1. Wonder Woman #0 was actually my favorite issue of the Azzarello issue so far – it was the first one where the title character seemed to be a character, not a cipher chasing a plot device, and the first one that actually seemed to be about her, rather than about a particularly dickish version of the Greek pantheon standing around dressed for a club they never go to and swapping lame puns. I’m assuming next month we’ll get back to Wonder Woman standing off to the side while various deities lounge around shirtlessly and call each other things like “Moon” and “War” because they’re now Brian Azzarello characters and thus too cool to have names.

  2. “Yes, because as primitive and rubbish as we are implicitly assured the writing was in comics of yore, it’s actually beyond Brian Azzarello‘s sophisticated and modern talents to replicate at even a satirically joshing level for a full issue.”

    I often think this is one of the core issues with today’s comic writing. Despite being regularly slobbered over by critics of all stripes, many of today’s writers strike me as guys with some talent but who haven’t developed the skill that comes from getting an editor kicking the crap out of your stories over and over until you get it right. That’s compared to previous era’s comic scribes who might not have had the raw talent or distinctive creative voices, but had the writing chops that came from cranking out issues month after month and year after year.

    Mike

  3. @moose n squirrel: Oh, it was a decent issue, at least the bit where he just started telling the story properly and dropped his pissy little cock measuring contest with a load of dead men he clearly holds in contempt. Your description of the series is hard to refute but I kinda like it anyway. Except for “Hell low” anyway. Not even Cliff Chiang can save that drivel.

    @MBunge: Truth in there! It’s weird that back when they were treated like shit “worse” writers created better comics (enormous generalisation there). Something happened to editors somewhere along the way. They don’t edit anymore, not in the snese that I (and I think you) understand it. Writers need editors, I know they think they don’t but they do.

    Cheers me dears!

  4. I’m definitely on board the writers-need-editors train. I think the worst possible thing is to work in virtual isolation and have carte blanche. Everyone’s work can benefit from someone looking over it and saying, “This is good, but it seems like if you do x, it will be better.” In my tragically uniformed opinion, it seems like superhero comic writers try too hard to make their stories cool as opposed to a good-ol-superhero yarn.

    Anyway – John K – I was recently looking at some older Cliff Chiang work and yee cats, has he ever grown! The old stuff wasn’t bad, but the newer stuff just shows such mastery with his inks and composition.

    As for the Superman Family Adventures – no harm in enjoying those! I greatly prefer all-ages stuff. When it’s done well, it’s magical. I’m really encouraged by what I’ve heard about this book. I thought Baltazar really, really missed the mark with that incomprehensible Tiny Titans book. Jokes based on more universal stuff like the Clark Kent/Superman dichotomy will play much, much better.

    But yeah…howz-about that awesome Dave Sim thread on tcj.com? I saw your comment on the sidebar on there today!

  5. That TCJ column is epic. Incidentally, I seem to be one of the few comic readers willing to just say “fuck Cerebus.” I don’t care if the shit goes out of print, or dwindles and disappears in general. It’s not that great, it’s not that groundbreaking, the parts that aren’t hateful and insane are overly convoluted and obscurantist, and if it’s lost and forgotten, not nearly as many will miss it as people on that thread seem to be supposing. The pitch for Dave Sim, for the last couple decades, has essentially been, “Here is a man who would like for a little over half the human race to be treated like property, for gay people to disappear one way or another, and for much of the world to retreat to the social norms of the twelfth century. But look at what he does with lettering!” There is not nearly as broad an audience for that as the Journal’s readership seems to presume.

    That said, it’s been interesting to see Kim Thompson essentially try to negotiate with a wall in public. He wasn’t kidding about Sim’s martyr complex – one day the man says he’s so broke he might have to work in the tar sands, a few weeks later he’s sniffing at an offer to repackage and reprint all of his comics because something something New York Times Jeet Heer. The man is a bigot and probably a paranoid schizophrenic, but it’s funny to see him so carefully and repeatedly shoot himself in the foot just to complain about his limp.

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  7. Mike: er, did you not forget the fact that the entire thing was predicated on Mysterio destroying Daredevil’s life just to destroy it? And in the end, DD felt all that misery and destruction was his fault?

    That’s straight out of today’s King Geoffrey the Mad playbook.

    “Guardian Devil” is one of the worst DD stories ever written. “I’ve won! Now kill me!” “No!” “Well, that screws my ENTIRE PLAN, so I guess I’ll kill myself!” “And I’ll let you do it instead of bringing you to justice, because you choosing a quick death is more just than you answering for your crimes and dying in prison.”

  8. @Chris Hero: Well, there’s this dumb culture of venerating the writer as some kind of Golden God-King/Queen with a direct line to The Immateria on the behalf of all us poor dishwater souled drones that’s in currency, and that means editors probably aren’t even able to edit even if they could. I kno I cud du wif an etidor.

    Yeah, large swathes of TINY TITANS was just impenetrable to me. But Dinner Lady Darkseid makes everything okay! Yes, Cliff Chiang is dreamy mcdreamy dreams isn’t he? I don’t think my comment really helped on TCJ (must show more self restraint!) but it’s been amazing reading! Kim Thompson is The Big Dog!

    @moose n squirrel: It’s some good lettering though! I wish I didn’t admire CEREBUS then I could rest easy. As it is I think it’s important to recognise Sim’s artistic achievment (particularly as we are now throwing ticker tape parades for people who have written cape comics badly for longer than is really healthy for anyone). But then I have to wrangle with all Sim’s odious statements. Now, I grew up in the UK in the’70s when misogyny was just a bit of cheeky fun so I’m used to ignoring men spouting vile tosh about women, but it doesn’t mean I like it. I dunno, I’m sure Jeff and Graeme will broach the subject in their usual beguiling way. Should be fun. By which I mean BEDLAM UNLEASHED!!!

    @Dan Coyle: Christ, thanks for reminding of its full awfulness.

    Cheers!

  9. “Hoots! Aye Tha ken right, maboab.”. Ahahaha! It’s like you were in the same room as him, either that or you received tutelege from Russ Abbott’s Jimmy McJimmy. I’m glad that no one’s made the mistake of calling that sort of thing racist, although I don’t know, perhaps you have taken to burning haggises outside Scots’ homes ye rascally sassenach ye (scottish dialect courtesy Chris Claremont c. 1978). Beware! When ye least expect it, ye might find a wee teapot burnin’ in effigy outside yer dwelling. Er, och.
    Your comments on Azzerello seem justified, there’s a kind of mean-spiritedness and smugness that seems to infect some modern writers in their attitude to the past perhaps not unconnected to the coldness and self-regard that seems to be the curse of more than a few successful creatives er “nowadays” (including Doctor Who/Sherlock showrunner Steven Moffat and unfortunately Morrison), which leads to a rather petulant response to criticism despite the awe with which they are held by most. Ah, frgive and forget that digression into arguable irrelevance! I think you were spot-on with your identification of Azzerello’s deficiencies, needless to say.
    I laughed at the Kermode reference, if only you’d worked in a gratuitous Exorcist reference too :-).
    Thanks to Chris Hero for the cbj heads-up, I waded through that stuff because I was interested in what you (John K) said – which was expectedly sane and reasonable – the rest of it was fascinating but mostly dispiriting and finally depressing. Obvious as it may seem, I sincerely doubt that a thread was the best place to negotiate but it *could* have worked I suppose yet Sim hardly seemed committed and worse quickly detoured into irrelevant gibberish egged on by a particularly deluded and lunatic acolyte (Miichael) who offensively keen on missing the point. Not to mention that Sim appeared to be taking the piss more than anything, what with his cloudcuckooland ifeas on what would be a viable route to take plus his predictable descent into adumbrating his illogical and dim view of reality. No one can gainsay the quality of at least half of Cerebus but it’s pathetic how he allows his persecution complex to scupper even simple business (which could prevent him from working in the “tar sands” or whatever) while he does not (seem) to take account of his own behaviour. Sad. Uhm, well, thar’s enough of *that*. Brilliant work with the reviews, John. Hilarious and “righteous” too!

  10. hey so is this where everyone is going to continue the Cerebus thread? ‘Cause I have some thoughts…

    BTW did you read my mind JUK? Hell low caused me to quit Azzarello all together (not hard, barely read the man anyway). Closed the book and realized I could not read those comics NO more.

    Not even writing the Comedian (for years a character of great pleasure for me) undoes that kind of stuff. I honestly wonder what he thinks that does for people, the word play stuff. It isn’t clever or funny.

    But I wish him well, or whatever.

  11. @Hal: I don’t know, the SCOTCH thing felt kind of racist but anymore so than the common perception of Englishmen as being all bowler hats, folded newspapers and dressing as ladies in private? Wait, everyone knew that about us right? I shall think about this “coldness” of which you speak. Yeah, Dave Sim – doing himself no favours there really, until the thread was closed and — suddenly he’s all business?!?

    @Mateor: Oh no you don’t! I think the Sim thread’s a bit too rich for my palate, son. I’m sure Jeff’n’Graeme will pick up the slack though. Sharpen your rhetoric!
    I like the way you make it sound like on Earth-Mateor there has been a Comedian ongoing series you’ve been enjoying for years. I like wordplay but not when it’s just farting about to no end.

    Are you still after some Farm Crime? Because I just remembered The Siege of Trencher’s Farm by Gordon Williams. It’s better known as STRAW DOGS; which I just found out, by actually going in the video store for once, has been re-made. Jesus, they can’t leave anything alone can they?

    Thanks all!

    Anyway, drifting off point there. There’ll be no post this week (Everyone: WOO-HOO!) as there is a family “do” today and I feel like my head is full of bees anyway. Next Week: COMICS!!!

  12. John, I don’t know that that common perception of the English can be said to be wrong, obviously it describes me to a tee or a “tea”! Boy, do these heels pinch… As for Sim… I couldn’t agree more. Through the looking glass indeed. After your foray into “Scotchness” maybe you can make the impersonation of various nationalities in the most hilariously clicched way into a regular feature?! That is until you piss someone off, um I think I have watched to many Carry On films!

  13. The more I read about the Nu 52, the more I wonder why everybody who isn’t still madly in love with the Green Lantern titles doesn’t just give up on DC completely.

    As someone who grew up in the Eighties and considers good writing a higher priority than good art, I don’t see a whole lot of reasons to give DC any of my money any more.

    Grant Morrison doing a bad impression of Siegel and Shuster sounds great in theory (I love the 1938 Superman), but the reality seems kind of “meh.”

    The same goes for Jonah Hex. I know a lot people love (loved?) that book, but it seems like Jonah Hex doing the same things all the time would get old after a while.

    I’d rather have mediocre art with writers who know what they’re doing (Roger Stern and Marv Wolfman could have come up with a much better reboot if they had to use so many former Marvel people) than comics that aren’t good for much other than reusing the cool panels on websites.

  14. @Hal: That’s certainly a tempting thought but I think I’d rather be thought of as that guy who’s regard for HVC makes Michael’n’Dave Sim look like a passing fancy. Y’know, instead of JohnK(UK): The Massive Racist. Although you’ll notice I’m not totally discounting the option! Coming in 2013: A Bold New Direction For The Savage Critics: Race Hate! (I’m just joking, I suppose I better stress that.)

    @BrianT: Well, someone’s buying this stuff. People keep saying the Nu52 is a success and I guess that’s what counts. I’m kind of kneecapped in that I’m 42 years old with a pitiful disposable income so I’m hardly the audience they should be courting. But, yes, there doeseem to be a basic lack of just plain good writers.

    Thanks to all!

  15. “John K (UK) The Massive Racist!”, you coupd appear on thar Exposure programme and then people will turn in their “John’ll Fix It” medallions… Oh wait, that’s something else! Man, reading my eearpier attempt at a joke (and this one may be even worse!) you might have thought I was a reap *Jim Davidson*. Which would not be good, obviouspy. Having said that I found your comment about a “Bold New Direction” for Savage Critics hilarious, says sometging about my sense of humour! Actually, if Marvel Now! doesn’t work for them that may be an avenue that Marvel may explore, yes, cultural insensitivity Excelsior. (um, Red Dwarf had a terrble joke about an outrageously accented vending machine named “Taiwan Tony” that made me cringe and I have a weakness for silly fake accents&.. That was too Mind Your Language. Yes, I watch Red Dwarf, what of it?!)

  16. Agh! Typos evillest of things! But I was writing gibberish anyway. Fer shame.

  17. @Hal: I know, I don’t understand it! Jimmy Saville of all people! He seemed so normal! I would never tar you with the Jim Davidson brush, sir. Never. I don’t partake of Red Dwarf myself but you fill your boots, sir!

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