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Tucker Manages To Read Some Comics

Tucker Stone

Been away from the Savage longer than I expected to be, and that’s how it goes when you can’t see your keyboard through a veil of tears. I’m not the political type, so don’t expect any side-taking in the whole Communist America controversy, but I will remind you of this one fact, learnt from my pappy’s knee: any sort of testicular manipulation (including “teabagging”) is a 100% fantastic way to spend one’s time, and a little summer fun with the Lord’s satchel never hurt a soul. Stealing the term for usage in the latest re-re-remix of party over here/party over there may not be an actual crime, but no matter which side you take on the Bookscan debate, we’ve all lost a bit of our innocence.

Let’s ask the mainstream to bring it back to the center, and let the groaning commence. (These came out last week.)

Hit-Monkey # 1: Let’s Make This Perfunctory

The “monkey with guns” idea works best when you’re Mike Mignola and the beast only gets a couple of panels, but it’s obvious from Marvel’s “Heroic Age” banner that some people won’t let the sun go down on an idea until that idea’s corpse is ejaculating maggots with last names. Hell, this comic isn’t even about that Agents of Atlas gorilla with the wisecracks, it’s about some other monkey, who has other guns. So what is Hit Monkey? Some kind of weird bet amongst creative types? A convention sketch come to life? On the plus side, there’s one joke in here that hits the mark (that one being where the assassin chooses to wear his suit throughout months of recuperation, including all the time he spends pruning up in a hot springs), but this is otherwise AWFUL fare. That’s not really a shocker. At least it’s only a one-shot, and all the people involved can get back to whatever it is they do with the rest of their time. Deadpool? Being legitimized by Giuseppe Camuncoli?

Batman & Robin # 8: Let’s Make This Personal

I gather I’m just not the audience for this. I came to the idea of Grant Morrison-doing-Batman with a level of anticipation that no actual comic could have ever met unless it magically teleported into my bathroom and started bench-pressing victory. Honestly, the last few years have been a lesson in how little I really do want to read super-hero comics that “take post-modern chances” or whatever histrionically worded expectation I’ve placed on this writer’s output. The things that I loved about his “mainstream” work on Doom Patrol, Animal Man, JLA Earth 2, New X-Men–they weren’t the Invisibles style idea exercises, the “at play in the fields of symbolism” Seaguy-ish bits, they were how well that Morrison handled the perfunctory moments of kitchen sink standards. I liked when the Beast would get to jump around and hit shit in X-Men, the long-form friendship drama between Cliff Steele and Crazy Jane, the desperate sadness when Batman got to team up with the father he still keenly missed. I’m a sucker for it when it works, and all that Buddy Baker crying and wanting his wife back kind of stuff, all those moments of simple, easy drama worked so goddamned well whenever Morrison felt like throwing it in.

These Batman stories haven’t had a lot of that. There’s been a good bit of Morrison’s Justice League kind of lines, where Batman says threatening stuff, scenes where he’s presented as the be-all, end-all of the Being One’s Best bootstraps fantasy, but there’s so little sweetness in between. Damian is the main exception–under Morrison, he’s a genuinely funny character–and the art has had some considerable moments of grace and beauty. (Cameron Stewart’s bleeding headlights in issue 7, or the way this issue presented Damian as a sweatervest-wearing Bruce in miniature, complete with pomade slicked hair.) Domesticity and Batman can go well together–there’s still a lot of pleasure in the moments that force Bruce out on dates–but everything here is set at the Final Crisis interpretations of super-heroism, frenetic depictions of guy-fights-evil that never take a second to look around. It’s still a GOOD comic, and I can imagine a genuine appreciation for its style that would push it higher, but it would be a lie to say I shared it.

Adventure Comics # 7: Let’s Make This Punditry

This is a Valentine’s Day Special in everything but name, throwing a heart on the cover just to make it clear. Expanding on the portion of Blackest Night where resurrected super-heroes became short-term Black Lanterns, it’s up to writer Tony Bedard (and a five man art squad?) to get Superboy from point A (is Black Lantern) to point B (is not Black Lantern). It’s a job, not a story. Page limitations lock the guy into treatment writing, the ensuing battle between Superboy and his sorta girlfriend Wonder Girl is as paint-by-numbers as it gets, which means it’s easiest just to focus on a piece of spiky dialog to test the comic’s pulse. That piece of dialog is where the mind-controlled Superboy tries to scare/humiliate/upset his sorta girlfriend by strongly implying that he masturbates to fantasies involving his cousin Supergirl. That–yup–makes sense within the story, as the Black Lanterns have been consistently shown to be interested in arousing a lot of emotion in their super-powered victims, and telling your girlfriend you’d rather jerk off to thoughts of incest than have sex with her is probably something that would result in a bit of a tiff. (Wonder Girl is occasionally portrayed as having a self-esteem problem, so it’s also wholly possible that she considers herself less attractive than Supergirl. Which might be true? It would seem impossible to tell the difference between the two characters if they were wearing street clothes.)

It’s besides the point whether this is “gross” or “decadent” or not. Again: this isn’t really a story, it’s a task. Adventure Comics was going to be handled by Paul Levitz by this point, that changed because DC’s going to move to the West Coast and everybody’s going to get fired so the companies intellectual properties can become digital avatars that are transmitted for free through radio waves, all so that You Too Can Write Blue Beetle At Home, or whatever the latest explanation via Mad Libs is. This is a filler story, something that could’ve gone anywhere, that could’ve been handled in a couple of panels in the Blackest Night series, or it could’ve just never been told at all. Point B–Superboy not being a Black Lantern–was all that “had” to be reached, Adventure # 7 exists because the 22 page solution was the one picked out of the editorial hat. Is it an AWFUL comic because a bunch of random good soldiers collected a paycheck to get the pencils inked and its writer delivered the geriatric plot that editorial selected? Is it an EH book from a “is this product worth your time or money” standpoint? Is it CRAP because some people find its dialog offensive? Or is it VERY GOOD, maybe even EXCELLENT, all because it doesn’t resort to the cliche of having the mind-controlled person hammer their friend’s face into the pavement over and over again, until their friend’s face is a bloody pulp, and then, right before the final killing blow is thrown, the mind-control wears off and the pummled meat of the friend’s face mumbles “it wasn’t your fault” through broken teeth shards?

God only knows. There’s a bunch of new stuff waiting already, but if you can find it, you can make the call on this one yourself. Last time I checked, report cards already had plenty of grades. And if Adventure Comics # 7 is anything, it’s that: a memo with notes in the margin, passed on down from one hand to another. 

 

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