Conservative Comic Book Pundit

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Weekly Review - Wah Huh?

I have nothing good to say about this utter travesty of a comic.

Honestly. I could launch into a full on, caustic review, but it would serve no purpose. This was unfunny and too full of in-jokes.

Perhaps I'll post a more positive review of another comic sometime later, but after reading this comic I am too depressed and despair of ever enjoying a comic book again.

(okay - that last phrase was a bit over the top, but really - this was an awful comic).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Weekly Review - MK 4 #21

A very interesting stand alone issue. This amounts to a "girls night out" among the super heroine set. The Invisible Woman (Sue Storm-Richards), upset that Reed seems to have forgotten their anniversary AGAIN, heads out to a night on the town with She-Thing, She-Hulk, Alicia Masters (one time girlfriend of the Thing and daughter of the Puppet Master) and (?) Emma Frost, the White Queen (Sue expresses surprise Emma comes, and even Emma isn't sure why she came along).

Anyway, that's all just an excuse to tell an amusingly retro tale (complete with retro 60s era Kirbyesque art and campy Stan Lee-ish dialogue) where Sue relates the time she almost had an affair with the Black Panther.

that's it. In the end, Reed Richards has a perfectly valid excuse for missing their anniversary and makes up for it with some touching and endearing gestures.

If I were one of my fellow graduate students, I might write a seminar paper on how this comic deals with Sue's dissatisfaction with her hegemonic suburban/urban upper class lifestyle, and the almost-affair with the Black Panther comes from our culture's deep distrust of black male sexuality (not to mention other trademarked terms like "fascination with the Other"). Let's see:

"In deference to the inaccessible unity with her hegemonically induced spousal unit, the Invisible Woman momentarily transgresses acceptable cultural/normative boundaries in an ultimately futile attempt to achieve union with alien otherness presented in the figure of the savage and countercultural imagisitic icon of the Black Panther. However, cultural pre-conditioning asserts its supremacy, and Sue Storm finds herself unable to breach the boundaries of race and marital supremacy, leaving her subject, once again, to a patriarchal overlord represented by the intricately phallic machines her husband Reed Richards . . . . "

Forget it. I'm scaring myself.

Well, I had a hard time figuring out if the Lee/Kirby riffs that make up about half the issue mock or revere their source material. In the end, I decided, much like the movie A Mighty Wind, in this case the line between mockery and devotion all but vanishes. Overall, a fun read.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Heads Up!

This is not a recommendation, it's just a simple heads up.

Recall that Liberality For All comic I posted on a while ago? Well, it IS real, and the official website can be found here.

A preview can be found here.

Initial impressions? The preview doesn't give me enough to go on, really. I can say that what I see is okay, but that's about it. I think I'll reserve judgment until it actually comes out. It might be refreshing to see a left-wing totalitarian state, rather than the tired old cliche of a right wing fascist state most comics give us, but it depends on how well the idea is executed.

So, yes I will buy a copy when it comes out in October. But I can promise it won't get a free pass merely because it claims to be conservative. As for now, all I can say is: I'll wait and see.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Weekly Review - Combat Zone

Well, this comic finally came out. Originally solicited as several single issues by Marvel, it eventually came out, many months after it was supposed to, in trade paperback/graphic novel form.

This comic set off a firestorm - Rich Johnston over at Lying in the Gutters declared that this was the beginning of a neocon take over of comics (or something like that). In any case, his rabid hatred of conservatives came out in his reviews and message board posting over this comic. See - its okay for liberal world views to appear in comics by Mark Millar or whoever is writing Captain America at the time - but have a somewhat conservative journalist attempt to write a comic about the actual Iraqi conflict, and suddenly that's out of bounds.

Well, let's get past all the controversy and stuff and see whether this comic is any good. I may disagree with the politics of Alan Moore or Frank Miller, but I can agree their work in comic books has been (mostly) brilliant - even their overtly political works. For example, Moore's V for Vendetta is a sharply written and engaging piece of comics art. The politics are rather simplistic and unnuanced (i.e. - conservatives are evil and will take over the country so they can rape women without restraint), but I still like the comic because it’s so well done. Moore is a master of the comics form, and can tell engaging stories. On the other hand, Rich Johnston seems to like V for Vendetta because its simplistic politics fits in with his rather simplistic liberal world view.

As for Combat Zone? It's actually quite good. Dan Jurgens art is outstanding - gorgeous, detailed and sharply executed. In fact, the only complaint I might have is that at times the art is too "clean" - I would have liked more of a sense of the dirt and grime the soldiers had too deal with.

The story, at first seems slow (something this reviewer criticized it for, though that reviewer was, as seems usual, mostly upset that a conservative actually got a comic published). However, this represents the reality of war, especially in the early stages. Generally, most wars are lots of waiting around, planning, moving and scanning, interrupted by brief periods of conflict. Extended periods of fighting generally don't occur until later in the game - as with this comic. Most of the fighting occurs in the last chapter. This comic takes its time getting there, but there's a rhyme and a reason behind it all. This comic represents what the soldiers really did, rather than just showing the "exciting parts."

Combat Zone does what many war comics have never done before - it humanizes the war. The soldiers come across as real people, not just brainless shock troops doing the evil will of the warmongering leaders.

This comic will likely anger those who opposed the war, as it portrays the soldiers as attempting to avoid civilian casualties, and in some cases dying to avoid endangering defenseless women and children (that the Iraqi soldiers use as human shields). This is the version of the war that most liberals don't want you to see.

Over at the Wall Street Journal's website, James S. Robbins said that "Combat Zone is closer to the somewhat propagandistic comics produced during World War II that also depicted actual battles." There is some truth to that statement. This comic does feel like propaganda in how it portrays nearly every soldier as noble, nearly every action as justified, and the entire war as worthwhile. But compared to what I read in the headlines every morning, this is a refreshing new view on the war that we just don't get anywhere else. If that's "propaganda" than we need more of it. However, this comic is NOT propaganda. It may share some features with the old propaganda comics of WWII, but it transcends that genre distinction.

This comic is highly recommended. Just don't expect non-stop action - instead expect a well done character study of soldiers in combat. The action just spices things up a bit.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Weekly Review - Spider-Man/Human Torch "I'm With Stupid"

This is from last week. A review of some releases from this week will go up in the next couple of days.

After the Joss Whedon love fest of earlier reviews, I start the next trend: A Dan Slott love fest.

This series flew under the radar for me. I didn't even know it existed until last week. But, since it was written by Dan Slott (writer of the current She-Hulk and GLA comics), I decided to give it a chance.

This man just gets it. He really gets it. He understands the comic form, but he also gets the comics universe as well. This digest collects five independent yet interdependent tales, all with Slott's quick humor and touching relationships.

These tales borrow from and enrich previous Marvel Universe continuity, yet a complete newbie to comics could understand them, as all the necessary exposition is given - yet given in ways that feel natural. None of the backstory's intrusion on the main narrative feel forced in any way - yet it manages to make stories steeped in previous continuity accessible and fresh. Slott, all by himself, has shown that gifted comics writers can tell tales that use previous continuity without alienating new readers.

And, as usual, Slott engages in metanarrative criticism of comics in a way that also seems to naturally flow from the comics. In GLA, Slott used the device of Squirrel Girl and Monkey Joe as narrators, but here he does it with off hand comments. (Re: When the Human Torch mentions previous adventures he had with Spidey's Clone during the ill-begotten "Clone Saga" of the 90s, Spidey says "why don't we just skip over that whole period?" - something most fans of Spider-Man want to do).

However, the best reason to read this digest collection is because these tales are fun. Sheer, goofy, down home fun. Moments of endearment and heartfelt sentiment occasionally intrude on the narrative, reminding us that these characters have hopes, dreams, etc. - but the tales are fun. While Slott's GLA engaged in very dark humor, and his She-Hulk series indulges in metanarrative humor, this series gets its humor from the situations the characters find themselves in. I haven't had this much fun reading a comic in a long time.

Slott has shown himself to have mastery over many forms of humor, and of the superhero comics form in general. Long may he write!