Archive for the ‘comics’ Category

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I have no idea how many words have been spent — digitally or in print — praising and/or occasionally lambasting, to say nothing of parsing the rich minutiae of,  Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, but it’s surely gotta run into the billions by now, and I confess to being one who has contributed to the ever-growing landfill of opinion on this most seminal of works, but please give me some credit — I at least never stooped so low as to regurgitate the depressingly common line that it represents “the last word on superheroes.”

Oh, sure, at one point during its gestation its creators may have harbored illusions that it could be viewed as such — and for a long time it stood as both of their final words on the genre/phenomenon — but eventually both of them (Moore in particular) decided that they each had more to say on the subject, much of it a direct response not so much to Watchmen itself, but to the industry-wide excesses that sprang up in its wake. By now it’s painfully obvious to all of us that DC editorial never really knew what to do next after it was done and, lacking the vision to understand that its runaway success meant that audiences were ready for more good comics, instead they chose the easier path of just giving us more dark comics. Those, after all, can be cranked out without much effort, or even thought.  And so here we all are, three decades later, still wondering why a work that its creators sincerely hoped would be eclipsed in terms of quality in fairly short order never has been.  And here we are still talking about it.

Not that it isn’t worth talking about, of course — Watchmen is such a dense, multi-faceted, complex, and sophisticated narrative that it can literally take dozens of re-reads to unpack all it has to offer. It’s just more than a bit depressing that neither of the “Big Two” have produced a work of even greater quality in all the years since, and that the superhero genre has never had the guts to look at itself in the mirror this honestly again, despite being under a larger and more all-pervasive microscope than ever.

So, yeah — the final word on superheroes? It’ll probably never be written. But what of the final word on Watchmen?

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In all honesty, that’s probably decades — perhaps even centuries — away from happening, as well, but it’s certainly high time for somebody to at least have something new to say about it. Enter cartoonists Dave Baker, Nicole Goux, Rachel Dukes, Malachi Ward, Nick Diaz, Emilie Vo, Sam Ancona, Chuck Kerr, Colby Bluth, Robert Negrete and Sabrina Deigert, and their “mondo” self-published collaborative “jam” effort, Shitty Watchmen.  Baker, who’s selling the book via his website at http://www.heydavebaker.com , has stepped forward as the nearest thing to an unofficial spokesperson for the project in recent weeks, and while his standard line is that the book was designed to highlight Dave Gibbons’ often-overlooked contributions to the original work by proving  it’s so damn visually powerful that it even flows and makes sense when re-drawn in the “shittiest” manner possible, in truth he’s selling he and his compatriots’ perhaps-accidental (and perhaps not) achievements here almost criminally short — this, you see, is actually a nuts-and-bolts deconstruction of a comic that is, after all, a brilliant piece of deconstruction itself, and when you sit down and really think about that, it’s kind of like Russian dolls, isn’t it? You open one, and there’s another hiding inside it. At the risk of making Alan Moore cringe by even invoking the name, maybe Grant Morrison was exactly right when he said those things were a model of the universe.

Double-negatives being the equivalent of a positive, then, it would stand to reason that deconstructing a deconstruction would ultimately add up to being a reconstruction, and damn if that’s not the case here. In fact, I’m downright stoked to read Watchmen (yet) again now that I’ve seen its beauty besmirched so thoroughly. I’ve always loved it, of course, and always will, but as familiar as I am with every page, every panel, every sentence of it, I admit — it’s been awhile since I felt in awe of it. That deficiency in my viewpoint has already been corrected.

To get the obvious out of the way, then, yes — the art in Shitty Watchmen (formatted in such a way that each artist tackles a single chapter, except for Baker, who takes on two of ’em) is absolutely atrocious. That’s rather the point. Odds are better than good that each of the contributors involved can actually draw pretty well, but damn, they sure don’t do it here. To which I can only say — so what? The likes of Gary Panter and Art Spiegelman, among others, certainly don’t or can’t “draw well” on a purely technical level, but does that in any way detract from the power or immediacy of their work? Heck, in Panter’s case his decided lack of anything like “finesse” only adds to its visual impact, and the same can be said of much that’s on display here. Yeah, it’s uniformly crude. It’s ugly. It’s barely above kindergarten scribbling. It’s as “shitty” as it bills itself as being. And it also proves, without question, its over-arching thesis — that Watchmen as a whole, and Gibbons’ art in particular, is, if anything, under-rated.

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That’s probably a decidedly “uncool” thing to say in this day and age, where trashing Watchmen has become something of a fast-track to gaining instant “street cred” with the self-appointed “hip” and reflexively contrarian members of the comic book critics’ “community,” but I’ll let you in on a secret — a lot of that, perhaps even all of it, is a fucking pose. Divorce Watchmen from its context — whether asked for (“the first major deconstruction of the superhero genre”) or unasked for (“the book that started the ‘dark age’ in comics”) — and guess what? You’ve still got a soaring, ambitious, expertly-executed, revolutionary work. And if it takes reducing it to to a beyond-bare-bones shadow of itself in order to to either prove or remind people of that, so be it. Shitty Watchmen isn’t just throwing the genius of its “source material” into sharp relief, but people’s reactions to it, as well. A veritable “cottage industry” of opinion has sprung up around this comic over the years, much of it illuminating and some of it infuriating, but for my money I can’t think of any other interpretation of it that’s been this unflinchingly honest and utterly free of pretense. “We love Watchmen — let us prove it to you by wrecking it” may seem a contradictory assertion on its face, but often the most essential truths are hidden in some surprising places.

But it’s not just Gibbons’ art that is atomized on these pages — Moore’s script is presented verbatim only in chapter nine, while others either decimate it with as much gusto as they do to the illustrations or leave it out altogether (which is also the case with John Higgins’ color, this book being a strictly black and white affair). That’s a move certain to offend purists, and perhaps even a fair number of more casual fans, but are members of either camp all that likely to be interested in a project such as this in the first place?  Exactly.

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Admittedly, then, Shitty Watchmen is a book with a decidedly narrow focus that will appeal to a perhaps-even-more-narrow readership. For what it’s trying to do, though — and for those interested in what it’s doing — it’s a borderline revelatory experience. If you’ve ever wondered “could Watchmen still be good — even if it wasn’t?,” then here’s your answer, and it’s a resounding yes. Turning the most celebrated work in the history of the graphic story medium into a sorry, sloppy mess may be a “shitty” thing to do, but it’s also a brilliant one.

 

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Hollywood probably wore the term “re-imagining” to death even before comics did, but if we want to be brutally honest, it’s a word that’s become flat-out cringeworthy across all media by this point, and not without good reason. To “re-imagine” something, after all, means that time and effort that could go into actually imagining something new is going into updating an existing idea, and there’s also an implication, at the very least, that affixes itself to the notion that the original (often beloved) idea itself is in need of some touch-up work. The track record of “re-imaginings” is a pretty lousy one in the funnybook medium, of course — many a promising, or even established, creative career has been sidetracked by attempting pointless re-vamps of characters and concepts that originated in the minds of Kirby, Eisner, Ditko, Kurtzman and the like that had literally no chance to come anywhere near equaling (to say nothing of surpassing) their progenitors because said progenitors were still ahead of their time. So why even bother?

Here’s the damn thing, though — some concepts could desperately do with a revamp/re-launch/”re-imagining.” Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, and Rick Veitch re-built Swamp Thing from the muck up and I don’t hear anyone complaining about that. Ditto for Neil Gaiman’s completely different take on the idea of the Sandman. And there’s probably nothing that came out of the ’90s mainstream comic scene that wouldn’t benefit from a completely fresh take. Enter WildStorm comics, then — and, more crucially, Warren Ellis.

DC’s had pretty good luck with the notion of the “pop-up imprint” (whatever that even means) in recent months courtesy of Gerard Way and his Young Animal line, and so the idea of bringing back Jim Lee’s WildStorm label suddenly sounds a lot less ludicrous than it would have not so long ago, especially with Ellis at the helm. Planetary still stands out as the best thing to ever come out under WS auspices (Alan Moore’s America’s Best Comics line notwithstanding), so why not give its creator the keys to the whole (admittedly dilapidated) mansion and see what he can come up with? I’m game if you are —

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The first book to come out from the “new” WildStorm is the 24-part eponymously-titled The Wild Storm #1, scripted by Ellis with art from 2000 A.D. and Clean Room alumnus Jon Davis-Hunt, and as far as exercises in so-called “world-building” go, they don’t come much more fully-realized than this. The Other Bearded One posits the universe newly-minted as his own to be one rife with uber-secret high tech, a small handful of spectacular “haves” and multitudes of “have-nots,” nefarious corporate espionage, and “deep state” conspiracies the likes of which numbskulls like Alex Jones couldn’t come up with in their most fevered imaginings. In other words, it’s probably not too terribly different from our own, barring the super powers.

“Classic” characters from across the spectrum of former WS books are either given cursory (Voodoo, Zealot) or somewhat detailed (Jacob Marlowe, Deathblow) introductions here, with more to follow, and sooner or later (probably later) we’ll be seeing WildC.A.T.S.StormWatch, and others spun off into their own mags, but if the pattern of this first issue holds, it’ll all be done in a manner most deliberate and planned, so a “title flood” seems like something we’ll be able, blissfully, to avoid here. Ellis moves just a few of his who-knows-many chess pieces here, and the overall flavor of the proceedings is far more Transmetropolitan than it is, say, The Authority, but in a way that makes perfect sense — the world of Spider Jerusalem was, after all, a “built-from-the-ground-up” affair, and that’s the wise approach to take when resuscitating a veritable boatload of properties that by and large haven’t even been kept on life support for over a decade. Why dust things off when it’s so much more fun to blow ’em up?

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I can’t fairly comment on too many differences  between “WildStorm Then” and “WildStorm Now” simply because so much of the “Now” has yet to reveal itself, but the six-page (!) “house ad” that DC included in most of its titles last week offers some intriguing clues — suffice to say it sounds like this is going to be a very tightly-controlled imprint with all individual parts playing into a mind-bogglingly comprehensive whole, and setting this well apart from and outside of standard DCU continuity is reason enough to breathe a heavy sigh of relief. After all, no matter how well things are chugging along with this line in a year or so, an ill-timed guest appearance from the likes of Aquaman or Robin (not to pick on those characters specifically, but you get my point) would still have the power to scuttle things up to no end. Walling this world off in a manner that would make Donald Trump proud? Hate the idea in reality, but in fiction, shit — I’ll take it.

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All the bold imagining in the world at the developmental stage doesn’t mean a damn thing, though, if the final product’s visuals aren’t up to scratch, but on that score, again, there appears to be nothing to worry about. Davis-Hunt’s art is a little less —- errrmmm — clean than it was on Clean Room,  where intricate detail and crisp, fine lines ruled the day, but it’s no less effective for that fact : this world looks and feels “lived in,” quietly oppressive, and maybe even just a touch grimy. I really can’t envision it being any other way, myself, and thanks to Davis-Hunt and colorist Ivan Plascencia (master of a palette that we’ll call, for lack of a better term, “modern muted”) I don’t even want to. I’m abso-friggin’-lutely in love with the art on this book, and after you check out, guess what? My money’s on the same being true for you.

Getting in on a sprawling, many-tentacled epic bursting at the seams with ambition and overseen by talent visionary enough to pull off everything they’re setting out to do is an opportunity that comes along once only every-so-often. You’d be a fool to miss out on it here. The Wild Storm is certain to be a twisting and perilous road, and we’re only able to see as much of the map as we need to in order to keep following it, but there’s absolutely no doubt about where it’s ultimately headed — straight up.

 

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After giving Bullseye #1 a richly-deserved rough time of it in my review last week, I was leaning pretty heavily towards giving the rest of Marvel’s “Running With The Devil” titles a pass, but some nagging little voice in my head told me that Kingpin would probably be worth at least an initial $3.99 investment. Okay, fair enough, Matthew Rosenberg’s earlier Civil War II : Kingpin series was generally savaged by critics (to the point where I stayed away), but I chalk that up to the fact that all “event” tie-ins are garbage weighed down by a shit-ton of editorial mandates — surely free of these constraints, the writer behind 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank and We Can Never Go Home can give us a decent crime story, don’tcha think?

Jeff Dekal’s cover doesn’t necessarily inspire a ton of confidence — he’s been absolutely killing it over on Hulk, but his composition on this one seems a bit curious, to say the least, especially considering that Daredevil, Elektra, and Bullseye don’t feature in this book at all (apart from a cameo by Matt Murdock in his civilian guise), and it seems to me that if you’re gonna include superfluous characters in order to drive up sales, it might be best if one of them doesn’t look like he’s hopped-up on cheap bathtub crank. But who knows? Maybe I’m just old-fashioned — and besides, as with prospective romantic partners, it’s what’s inside that counts, right?

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Fortunately for us all, Kingpin #1 grabs you immediately on page one and doesn’t let go. Rosenberg’s characterization of Wilson Fisk is definitely “in line” with Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of him on the Daredevil Netflix series — frightening, physically and psychologically imposing, ultimately unknowable — but with a crucial twist : his motives this time out appear to be far more personal and therefore more potentially dangerous. Yes, he seems determined to save “his” city and to employ his customary morally-ambiguous (to put it kindly) methods while doing so, but he knows that he’s got some serious image rehab to do first, and to that end he’s selected down-on-her-luck journalist Sarah Dewey to ghost-write his (auto?)biography. Dewey  is a fascinating and fully-fleshed out character who functions as both an eminently relatable audience stand-in and an immersive figure in her own right at the same time : her trepidation at “getting close” to such a dangerous figure mirrors ours, but her personal problems (divorce and custody issues, 12-stepping) are very much her own, and this comic ends up being every bit as much hers at it is the title-holder’s. She’s our “eyes and ears,” sure (and perhaps our conscience?) — but that doesn’t mean she can’t pull “double duty” and be very much herself while she’s acting in that capacity. I don’t know how many issues this series is slated to run, but I’m already hoping that Marvel finds a worthy spot for her once it’s over.

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But let’s hope this doesn’t end too darn soon — because not only does this book read well, it looks absolutely gorgeous. Artist Ben Torres borrows a bit from Frank Miller and Tim Sale here and there, it’s true, but he’s got a distinctive “medium-heavy” line all his own and, together with colorist extraordinaire Jordan Boyd, navigates the borderlands between noir and everyday urban not-quite-grime with a fluid ease that’s enough to make lesser talents downright jealous. A truly successful Kingpin book can probably only look one way, and guess what? This is it.

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Have I convinced you yet? If not, then I guess I’m just not doing my (voluntary, I admit) job well enough. Or maybe spot-on characterization, sparkling dialogue, superb illustration, and pitch-perfect colors all working in concert to accentuate a slowly-encroaching sense of dread and unease just isn’t your particular cup of tea. That’s entirely possible — but even if that’s the (unlikely) case, I’m still willing bet you just about anything that this issue’s simple-but-jaw-dropping cliffhanger will leave you wanting more.

So, yeah — I was all kind of impressed by Kingpin #1. Give it a chance I’m confident you will be, as well.

 

 

 

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I really don’t know how well Daredevil is selling these days, but it must be doing alright since Marvel is launching no fewer than three spin-off titles under their new “Running With The Devil” umbrella label this month. Kingpin hits next week with Elektra following the week after, but first out of the gate is Bullseye #1, the opening salvo of a five-part miniseries from writer Ed Brisson, artist Guillermo Sanna, and colorist Miroslav Mrva. The premise of sending the world’s deadliest assassin into the middle of the Colombian drug war in order to rescue a dying mob boss’s kid sounded reasonably interesting, and Brisson impressed the heck out of me with his gritty, “street-level” Image series The Violent, so I figured what the heck? Nothing to lose — except five bucks, I suppose — in giving this debut installment a go.

Allow me to bitch for just a second about that five dollar thing for a minute before we go any further, though. Marvel’s been pulling this hustle for the last couple of years, and frankly it’s getting pretty old — they’ll take a standard-length comic, tack on a generally-useless eight-page back-up feature (this one by Marv Wolfman, Alec Morgan, and Frank Martin), and add a buck to the cover price, claiming they’re giving you a “extra-sized first issue.” So I sure hope you like that back-up strip (this one wasn’t bad, but it was hardly anything special), because it’s literally costing you a dollar. Okay, rant over, let’s talk about the main feature.

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I’ll get right to it and say this book has no consistent visual style whatsoever — Sanna seems like a decent enough artist for this sort of crime comic, but he bobs and weaves between drawing in a style that’s mostly his own on some pages and doing a kind of poor man’s approximation of Eduardo Risso on others. Mrva’s colors give things a little bit more of an air of consistency than they might otherwise have, but the actual line art? Man, it can’t decide what it even wants to be, let alone do. Hopefully subsequent issues will give us a more confident and less derivative Sanna unafraid to show us what he’s got, but this debut installment looks more than a bit — I dunno, schizophrenic, I guess.

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Unfortunately, Brisson’s script isn’t a whole hell of a lot better. Inconsistency is again at the forefront of the problems here, with Bullseye showing a distinct and, to be honest, highly unprofessional flair for the dramatic that isn’t gonna get you too far in the assassin-for-hire racket, where you’d assume that keeping a low profile would be of paramount importance. Bullseye’s showmanship gives rise to a pretty damn cool sequence where he creates absolute havoc on the streets with nothing more than a couple of well-aimed paperclips while he’s meeting with his agent in an office upstairs and well away from the mayhem, but between nearly fucking up the assignment he’s on at the start of the comic by being more than a bit too enthusiastic and announcing his arrival in Colombia in a manner that’s the absolute opposite of the old adage “you won’t see that coming” at the end, this iteration of Bullseye seems uncharacteristically flashy and, well, sloppy. The end result? A character that’s both decidedly less dangerous and, crucially, less interesting.

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So, yeah, I’m really not sure where things are headed over the next four issues, but this much I can say with absolute certainty — I won’t be hanging around to find out. If I hear that Brisson, Sanna, and company have turned things around, I suppose that I could be tempted to probably give the trade collection ago once it’s all over, but there’s no reason offered here to keep plunking down $3.99 a month for single issues of this series. Bullseye’s calm, cool, sociopathic sense of confidence and control has always been his defining trait, and to see that tossed out the window right off the bat is a risky gamble to take with the character, and one that just doesn’t pay off. I had reasonably high hopes for this comic based on Brisson’s pedigree alone, but I’m sorry to report this was just a lousy comic.

At the risk of sounding hopelessly cliched, Bullseye #1 misses the mark by a country mile.

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Near as I can tell, 2017 looks like it’s gonna be a pretty rough year — what with an insane, mouth-foaming lunatic in the White House and everything — but on the plus side, it’s also the 100th anniversary of the birth of the greatest genius to ever grace the comic book medium with the fruits of his imagination, the one and only Jack Kirby. From all appearances, Marvel appears to be doing fuck-all to honor the man who created 90-plus% of the characters they’ve built a multi-billion-dollar empire off, but at least DC seems to be willing, perhaps even downright eager, to give “The King” his due, so kudos to them for that. First item up in the year-long celebration? Kamandi Challenge, a 12-part “round-robin”-style series that revives the old DC Challenge conceit of having a different creative team solve the “pickle” left for them by the previous one.

Truth be told, though, the rules of the DC Challenge were considerably more difficult — back then, writers and artists would lay down subplots and cliffhangers that the next folks had to solve using entirely different characters, while this time out, it’s strictly a cliffhanger-only affair and, of course, The Last Boy On Earth is the star of each and every issue. So, I mean, yeah — as far as “challenges” go, this one’s pretty easy. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t still be a hell of a lot of fun.

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DC co-head honcho Dan DiDio and veteran artist Keith Giffen get the ball rolling in this extra-sized first issue with a “prelude”-type story that sets the ground rules and provides a reasonably decent introduction of sorts to the characters, but before you all head for the hills, let’s remember that, for all his numerous and obvious flaws, DiDio is a massive Kirby fan and he and Giffen teamed up for an OMAC series in the early days of the “New 52” that was one of the best offerings that now-concluded (I guess?) revamp had to offer. DiDio also has at least a decent surface-level grasp of Kirby’s writing style and can turn in a respectable approximation of his absolutely unique dialogue, and Giffen, for his part, knows how to impart his illustrations with a certain amount of Kirby-esque dynamism and flair without being slavishly beholden to the idea of aping his style outright. All in all, then, the two of ’em do a more than adequate job of laying out the particulars here and then getting out of the way and letting post-catastrophe Earth take center stage.

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Enter scribe Dan Abnett, artist Dale Eaglesham, and colorist Hi-Fi, who bring us a brightly-hued, dare-I-say-magnificently flowing action spectacle that pits all the characters fans of the series love — Kamandi, Prince Tuftan, Doctor Canus, King Caesar, etc. — against all that the future world of intelligent animals and danger lurking around every corner has to offer, beginning with a fight to the finish against the giant ape, Tiny, and racing at breakneck pace from there to a less-than-imaginative, but staggeringly appropriate in its simplicity, “countdown clock” cliffhanger. Abnett’s dialogue is more than a  bit overly-expository by contemporary standards, but that’s all part of the fun as far as I’m concerned, and “fun” is definitely the operative word of the day here — a point driven home nearly relentlessly by Eaglesham’s gorgeously fluid art, which Abnett wisely allows to do the bulk of the storytelling. Does it “look like Kirby”? Hell no, but it fits Kirby’s world nicely, and besides, if straight-up homage is your bag, there’s always Bruce Timm’s splendid cover to make you (probably more than) happy. In short, I think that if “The King” himself took a look at this book, he’d be downright pleased to see what these guys have done with his characters and concepts.

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What if you’re a “Kamandi Virgin,” though? Hmmm — good question. I’ll be perfectly honest — longtime fans are probably bound to get much more enjoyment from this comic than newbies, but my best guess is that anyone and everyone, regardless of “experience level,” will find more than enough here to make the five bucks they plunked down for it seem like a fair trade. If “high adventure in a world gone mad” is a premise still capable of entertaining you, then Kamandi Challenge #1 is more or less stone-cold certain to be up your alley. It’s got highly likable characters in far-out and far-flung situations, cool monsters, and amazingly illustrated action, so I don’t care who you are — this is a comic that damn near forces a smile onto your face, and then dares you not to keep it there. Whether it can continue doing so is up to the creators that will be stepping up to the plate to handle future installments, but given that Peter J. Tomasi and Neal Adams are up next, something tells me it’s safe to assume that we’ll be in very good hands indeed.

So — how much did I love Kamandi Challenge #1? I’ll put it to you this way : Jack Kirby’s original Kamandi is quite possibly my favorite series of all time, and while this has absolutely no hope of supplanting of superseding that, it feels like a very worthy successor. Strap in for the duration, then — this promises to be an exhilarating ride.

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Oh, yeah — it’s party time!

Charles Soule and Ryan Browne’s new Image Comics (ongoing, I presume) series Curse Words has looked like all kinds of batshit-crazy fun since it was first solicited some months ago, and now that the extra-sized first issue is here, I’m pleased to say the preview pages that have been non-Wiki leaking out didn’t lie : this is a high-energy, full-throttle, goofy-ass, balls-out book that doesn’t care half as much about making sense as it does about just giving its readers a good, old-fashioned good time.

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Not that Soule’s script doesn’t make sense, mind you — in fact, it’re pretty simple, straightforward stuff :an other-dimensional evil wizard named, get this, Wizord finds himself thrust into our world (New York, to be specific), and rather than destroy the place as was his original intent, he decides to hang around, make some money, and live the good life first. But in order to do that, he’s gotta establish himself as a “good guy” before he can pimp out his services as a magician-for-hire. And so, with “funny Koala” sidekick Margaret in tow, it’s time to become the first genuine wizard of the celebrity age.

It all works like a charm until it doesn’t, and if the premise here sounds more than a bit similar to that of Image stablemate Birthright, rest assured that those “happy coincidences” continue right through to the cliffhanger, which sees another practitioner of the so-called “dark arts” rip the sky open and come after Wizord in order to force him to stick to the plan for global destruction — or die. Whichever comes first. But whereas Birthright adds family drama and personal redemption into the sword-n’-sorcery mix, Curse Words spices things up with with subtexts perhaps more appropriate to the Trump age, chiefly : personal greed, lust for power, and moral and ethical decadence. All delivered with the most knowing wink and nod you can possibly imagine, naturally.

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Browne, fresh off blowing minds with God Hates Astronauts, is all about the dynamism with his visuals here, as well, and if there’s an artist better-suited to the sort of “leave it all on the page” craziness the subject matter here lends itself (with considerable interest) to, I’d be hard-pressed to name them. Inventive panel layouts add a further eye-glueing aspect to the proceedings, as do the vibrant, explosive colors supplied by Browne, Jordan Boyd, and Michael Parkinson (don’t feel too bad — this book has three letterers, as well, Browne himself also being one of them), so all in all you’ve gotta say these are pages that almost dare you not to examine them for several minutes at a time. So why not do yourself a favor and do just that?

 

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If you need a legit “good guy” to root for in order to enjoy a story, then fair enough — Curse Words doesn’t really have one on offer and you might be better off dropping your $3.99 elsewhere. But if watching reprobate magicians hurling lightning bolts from enchanted spears at each other in the middle of Yankee Stadium sounds like a good time to you — and trust me when I say that it is — then congratulations! You’ve just found the comic you probably didn’t even know that you were waiting for.

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I have a feeling that Donald Trump supporters — at least those still capable of being honest with themselves — harbor at least one of the same worries that those of us who oppose him do, namely : that one day his big, fat, stupid, disgusting mouth with write a check that his big, fat, stupid, disgusting ass can’t can’t cash.

Okay, yeah, they might quibble with the colorful (but, I would submit, accurate) adjectives I just used in describing the various anatomical “attributes” of their chosen God Emperor, but still, come on — everybody knows this guy is liable to say something irrevocably stupid at any given time. And while he’s had nothing but praise for the likes of Putin, Assad, Dutarte, and other cheap, pathetic despots, the fact that he’s singled out Congressman John Lewis — a genuine icon of the Civil Rights era and inarguably one of the greatest living Americans — for criticism merely for saying what a good half or more of the country feels about this petulant, inarticulate, brain-dead man-child’s beyond-shady rise to power should give all people of conscience, regardless of their political affiliation, at least some pause. Hell, if anything, Lewis hedged his statements and didn’t go as far as many would. He didn’t, for instance, call Trump a Russian stooge, or a potential spy, even though he looks to be either one, the other, or both. He didn’t call him a racist, even though he clearly is. He didn’t call him a dangerously incompetent buffoon, even though he’s obviously that, as well. All he said was he didn’t consider Trump’s election “victory” to  be legitimate — and considering that the final certified national vote total showed the guy getting over 2.8 million votes less than his opponent, is that such a far-fetched claim?

It was too much for Mr. Big, Orange, and Stupid to handle, though, and so he went on yet another of his juvenile Twitter tirades, saying that Lewis was “all talk and no action,” that his Georgia congressional district was a “disaster,” and that instead of criticizing him, Lewis should “help” him with his still-mythical “urban renewal” projects that will no doubt line the pockets of both himself and his real estate-developer buddies. Imagine the nerve, if you will : while Lewis was being beaten half to death for marching for the equal rights our Constitution already supposedly guaranteed him, Trump was kicking black people out of his rental properties and getting the first tinkling — sorry, inkling — that he got off on watching girls pee, yet he’s got the gall to claim that Lewis is “all talk, no action.” Fuck that — and while we’re at it, Trump, fuck you, too.

And ya know what? That’s not “all talk” on my part, because I think it’s high time that people took some action, too. Fortunately for us all, there’s a simple and stress-free way for people to register their disgust with Trump’s attacks on a towering and heroic figure of American history — all you’ve gotta do is head down to your nearest book or comic store and buy March, the superb three-volume autobiographical graphic novel series from Top Shelf Productions/IDW Publishing chronicling Lewis’ life and struggles that he produced in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin  and artist Nate Powell. These books are available individually in both hardback and softcover, or in a handsome slipcase set that collects all three. An over-sized deluxe hardcover of volume one was released last year, and similar editions of volumes two and three will be out later in 2017, but whatever format you choose know this : you’re in for a read that will move you in a very fundamental, perhaps even life-altering, way. And if we can get this thing to number one on the New York Times graphic novel list or the Diamond sales charts? Well, that might just send Trump a message. Not that I expect him to listen.

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To say that this is one of the most ambitious and ground-breaking endeavors in the history of the graphic story medium is probably to sell it too short, even if it’s true — it’s also a National Book Award winner, a previous #1 best-seller on both the NYT and WaPo lists, a staple in many high school and college classrooms, and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Among other things. It’s also a living historical document. Volume one chronicles Lewis’ formative years in rural Alabama, his crucial early-life meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, the rise of the non-violent lunch-counter sit-ins that would become a staple of the era, and culminates in a stunning climax on the steps of Nashville City Hall that will leave you breathless. Volume two sees Lewis and his fellow Freedom Riders venture into the deep south and raises the stakes as the “powers that be” committed to enforcing Jim Crow resort to violence, arson, imprisonment, and even murder to keep systemic racism the law of the land in the buckle of the so-called “Bible Belt.”Allies from Dr. King to then-attorney general Robert F. Kennedy emerge, as well, but will they be enough to help Lewis as he rises, at age 23, to head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and finds himself one of the “Big Six” leaders of the movement itself as they plan the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom? As volume three chronicles, however, other events such as the Freedom Vote and Mississippi Freedom Summer helped to pave the way for the titular “March” that would change the world forever — and fundamentally alter the trajectory of both American society and Lewis’ own life. You may have heard about this one. It happened in a town called Selma.

Rest assured, March is no hagiography or wistful reminiscence of days gone by : divisions within the movement often come to the fore, points of disagreement are laid out in a “warts and all” manner, and not all the people and personalities involved come up smelling like roses. Talk about an invaluable “insider’s look” that almost no one else who is still alive can provide — and as you see how truly hard-fought all the gains Lewis and his compatriots and colleagues made were, you’ll walk away with an even deeper understanding of why any and all attempts to roll them back must be met with the utmost resistance. We owe Lewis and everyone who marched alongside him no less. The rights that people died for are literally under assault in the new Trump era, with racist attorney-general-to-be Jeff Sessions leading the roll-back efforts — is it any wonder, then, that Lewis would consider this pathetic, morally and intellectually bankrupt, fundamentally flawed and compromised president-elect to be less than “legitimate”? Is there one “legitimate” reason he should be expected to attend the disgusting spectacle of his inauguration?

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Powell’s expressive and deeply human art does a great job driving home the emotion in every panel of Lewis and Aydin’s magnificently authentic script, and the overall reading experience provided by March is by turns informative, moving, personal, enraging, and hopeful — often all on the same page. These books are the closest most of us will ever come to “being there,” and, as such, deserve to be celebrated as the triumph of autobiographical narrative that they are. Comics, as a medium, is lucky that one of the most important living historical figures chose this form to tell his life’s story, and now — more than ever — comics readers should show our thanks and support by picking these up. If you have ’em already, buy extra copies and give ’em to a friend. Buy ’em digitally so you can read ’em on the go. Do whatever — just stand with John Lewis while he’s still with us and while you still can. It’s never been easier to do the right thing, so — do it!

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Congressman Lewis deserves so much better from his later years than to see our first African-American president — a man who awarded him the Medal of Freedom, no less — replaced with the most openly racist son-of-a-bitch to hold the office in decades, if not a century. But you know what? He’s been through worse, and come out a stronger and more indomitable man for it, and I have a feeling the same will be true here. When the epic and transformative life of John Lewis comes to an end, flags will fly at half-mast and solemn, sincere, and heartfelt memorials will flood in from across the globe.  By contrast, when Trump finally does us all a favor and shuffles off this mortal coil, I’ll personally start a gofundme to hire a couple of Russian hookers to go and piss on his grave.