Making You Look Like A Winner Since 1937

Hello, all, and welcome to New Comics Day.

It’s going to be a short one this week, folks. Apologies. Next week’s column, already in the hopper, should be interesting and should also feature a lot more reviews.

But until then…

Ghosts, Goblins and… Camel Toe?

Halloween is drawing near, and in the spirit of Halloween I’ve decided to…

Ah, fuck it. I’ve got a bone to pick.

Every Monday morning I teach a class on Chicago’s Writers, and every day after class I wander down to one of the school’s crowded computer labs to check out the latest news, comics-based and otherwise. My first stop every Monday morning is to Comic Book Resources, a generally fine site, to read Rich Johnston’s almost always amusing column, “Lying In the Gutters.” I realize it’s the comics equivalent of the National Enquirer (another dubious publication that is right more often than not), that it’s not exactly political essays by Joan Didion — but do I have to look like a condescending, misogynistic pervert while I do it?

If anyone from Comic Book Resources is reading this, could you do me the favor of removing that fucking Emma Frost skyscraper ad front the right side of the screen? You know the one, taken from the cover of Emma Frost #1, featuring (to the untrained eye) some big-titted blond wearing impossibly skimpy clothes that include a zipper running all the way down the crotch, the seam of which gives her that classic and not-so-subtle camel toe look. To the trained eye, of course, it looks like Emma Frost, a big-titted blond wearing skimpy clothes with aforementioned camel toe zipper.

And if it wasn’t bad enough that I appear to everyone in the computer lab like a guy staring at porno pinup art, but Frost has animated words balloons coming out of her mouth that say “Hi! So like…what’s up?” Fantastic. So now I’m either a guy who gets off on jerking off to drawings of women (big titted, camel toe zipper seam women) who are stupid or, worse, am simultaneously horny and misogynistic and get off on laughing at depictions of women as blathering idiots. But with the camel toe zipper seam tit thing going on. Even better.

Can you blame women for not reading comics in droves? As if it wasn’t bad enough suffering through crotch shots and boob fetishes manifested on funnybook covers everywhere from Adam Hughes, Frank Cho and others, now some poor gal can’t even log onto a respectable site and check out the weekly comics news without being assaulted by this juvenile crap. Seeing something like this makes me feel like a dope for all the hours spent in bars and at parties defending comics to people who have written them off as immature and who suggest that the fanbase and industry as a whole consists of little more than a bunch of oversexed, socially awkward morons. The Comics Journal isn’t writing hard hitting stories about Lady Death, which is a start, but one would also expect that a prominent mainstream site like CBR would have a little more tact. “Lying In the Gutters” is probably the most widely read feature on that site every week. This is, relatively speaking, big stuff, not the message board section of some Green Lantern fansite where every ten lines of text has to be broken up by a fragment of divine wisdom from Star Wars or WWE’s The Rock. (“Do you smell what this basement-dwelling compulsive masturbator is cookin?!”)

Blame some site called Comics Unlimited for the ad (don’t know what they sell — I refuse to check it out on principle). Blame CBR for running it. Thanks to them, you either look like a pervert or have to get your comics news alone in a dark closet with a flashlight as though it were in fact pervert friendly pud-pulling product.

Thanks, CBR. Thanks, Comics.

Comics: Making You Look Like A Winner Since 1937.

Batman #620

Now that’s more like it.

The highly anticipated Lee / Loeb storyline “Hush” opened with a mediocre (but pretty) Killer Croc story. The arc took an interesting turn in the middle as Batman and Catwoman began a relationship, a crazed Superman jumped into the mix and it appeared momentarily than Jason Todd had been resurrected. Mostly it wasn’t a groundbreaking storyline, but it was fun.

And then… well, two hundred thousand or so people read the last issue of the book, so I’m guessing you know what happened.

Beginning in this issue, Eduardo Risso and Brian Azzarello, the team behind the confounding smash hit (by Vertigo standards, anyway, which is a bit like saying most successful Jennifer Lopez marriage) 100 Bullets. Their first issue also begins with a mystery sparked by a confrontation with Killer Croc. The main difference between the Azzarello issue and the Loeb issue is that the Azzarello issue is actually interesting.

The art is still pretty as all hell. Lee’s artwork is slick, ’90s-style exaggerated realism. Risso’s artwork is extremely stylized, far more cartoony and abstract. This makes it all the more impressive that Risso’s art looks a thousand times more realistic than Lee’s, presents a Gotham with a much stronger feeling and a Batman who doesn’t need dialogue to have character. In one page (five, to be specific) Risso manages to recall such disparate artists as Frank Miller and Edward Gorey, pulling out all the stops to draw one of the prettiest books of the year.

Azzarello is a highly acclaimed writer with a legion of critics drooling over his every book, a legion that seems not to mind the fact that he can’t end a story and often gets so mired in his own vagaries that nothing every happens, or at least nothing discernable. Most of his Hellblazer stories literally went nowhere, culminating in the final story wherein John Constantine apparently burned to death except that he didn’t, only Azz never says how, and the next issue he’s alive again in the end. What? Meanwhile, 100 Bullets sometimes comes off like an episode of X-Files with scenes missing.

So far his Batman is far more comprehensible. Ol’ Bats (take that, John Byrne!) beats the hell out of Croc to find the whereabouts of a murder suspect. His search leads him into a dark bedroom with a sultry woman who seems to be lying. When Batman follows her home, the real mystery begins.

This is dark, dark stuff — which is perfect. Batman works best as a dark, brooding character, and Risso jumps on that, turning his detective work into a Chandler-esque journey through gritty streets complete with long underwear.

Azzarello might still run the story off the rails, but he’s certainly started one in style. Even if “Broken City” turns out to be harder to read than Thomas Pynchon translated into Japanese, the Risso art would probably still make it worthwhile.

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