I was going to write about the new Brother Ali, Pearl Jam, Alchemist, Q-Tip (well, a re-issue from 2000-ish “new”), possibly Rain Machine, possibly the new underwhelming Muse release, and possibly the severe lack of Blues albums (generally speaking) so far in 2009. But I’m just one man. Ali’s album though – changed to the title “Us” from the original “Street Preacher” – is lyrically striking; it’s almost his perfect album. Onto why I’m REALLY here…
Along with my regular, monthly, comic reads, I’ve rented some trades from the public library this week. One is the infamous Preacher from the 90s, which – like Ali’s album – doesn’t really “preach”. At all. Garth Ennis is one sick fuck, in fact, not preachy. Clever, witty, entertaining, but sick (and I mean that in the best of ways). Preacher serves up obscure bible references (which only those who’d never lay their fingers on this book could understand; I’ll give that a 9.6 on the irony scale), demonic/satanic coolness, black humor with subtle grace, ultra-violence (if Alex and his droogs got a hold of this book they’d probably try to act it out), and a constant level of weird which might out weird Pyramid Head. For Ennis’ latest blood bath, look to Avatar’s CROSSED.
But don’t tell Warren Ellis that. Over on Rich Johnston’s newest website BleedingCool.com, Rich claims Ellis is trying to “out Ennis Garth Ennis” with the end of No Hero. Speaking of the two, Bleeding Cool’s also featuring the 17th chapter of Ellis’ Do Anything. (I’ve also rented he and John Cassaday‘s Planetary from my local library) Not to be out done in the messed-up-beyond-belief category, Ellis has crafted a book of sheer psychedelic horrors in the pages of No Hero. I’ve yet to get issue 7, which came out yesterday; but I’m going in with a cleansed pallet after the final splash page of #6 featured the horrifying “spine cock” (just a brief description since I can’t find the page online and I’m too lazy to whip out my issue and scan the page: the supposed “good guy” of the book, the main character, to a psychotic turn last issue; he killed almost everyone including a guy named “Ben”; he beat Ben to a pulp, but not quite dead, threw him face down at his feet, dug into his back, ripped out his spine with his bare hands, and corralled it into the front of his pants in a very phallic manner; Lord).
Of course, there’s always good clean super-hero fun SOMEWHERE, right? Right. Even if it is a tiny, tiny, bit messed up [see: Professor Pyg's disco dance from Hell/pedophilia in issue #3], the supposed “flagship” Batman title Batman & Robin offers this. It began as a Morrison/Quietly collaboration (the team who previously took “super-hero fun” to an extreme with All Star Superman, or even New X-Men). It was old-school: chase scenes, flying cars, wack’ed out super-villains, side-kicks, armies of masked followers. And it was fun. The newest artist – for issues 4 through 6 – is Phillip Tan and he’s getting not so much love from reviewers. They’re even claiming he’s dragging Morrison down the tubes with him; they are wrong. Tan’s art is nothing to splurge one’s fan-boy pants over, but it works. And the series is still making cool, fun, wacky Dark Knight action as it was before. Don’t listen to the haters, they’re probably just pissed because they never broke into the industry as an artist, instead filling in as “reviewers” and schlubbing sandwiches at the local deli. I’d love to see Morrison return to X-Men…
The X-Men are one of the most beloved team’s in comics history and for good reason. In those pages, not so much currently, you’ll get that super-hero fun I mentioned, and you’ll get intellectual/philosophical discussion which pisses all over any cable news program of today. That’s why when I saw The Dark Phoenix Saga staring at me at the library, I had to take (also, I’d never read it in its entirety). When Jean Grey, tricked into seeing herself as a 1800s woman living on a Southern plantation, sees her former teammates as three Northern freedom fighters (Cyke, Collossus, Nightcrawler) and one owned slave (creepily in the case of Storm), those intellectual wheels start churning. There’s mixed meanings – weather meant or not – in this. It’s also mentioned in that same issue how Storm’s “the only black X-Man”; could her image as a slave mean more than simple political/sociological overtones? This run, from the legends Claremont and Byrne, also has some the most legendary comic covers of all time [see: here, here, HERE especially, and here].
Not everything has to involve shudder inducing tights, however. Two of my favorite on-goings involve neither tights nor “super-hero fun”: the zombie apocalypse ongoing epic Walking Dead and the Sioux inspired, FBI entangled Scalped. In the first, Robert Kirkman and the underrated Charlie Adlard (probably underrated because he isn’t issued color and/or a colorist) are still working brilliantly together after years. It didn’t even cross my mind the “Hunters” arc was already on the second to last issue until I finished it. What we know now is that cannibalism exists – probably more than we think – in this world, Dale’s been bitten and slowly turning, Michonne’s still a badass, and Carl – along with any child who grows up in this world – will most likely evolve into a psycho-path as an adult. What’s great about Scalped, and Walking Dead too, is that no one’s really that “good” in the book. Sure, there are character’s who are clearly “bad”, but no one’s all “good”. It’s no wonder Jason Aaron was plucked up by Marvel to write for them, currently on Weapon X, he’s a brilliant writer. Not only does he infuse tones and concepts on an adult level (Scalped proves this with its characters, and reservation itself, searching for a lost Native American identity in a modern, post-Indian Wars world), he’s also just a damn fine pacer, laying out pieces of a narrative clearly but never obviously (Scalped jumps back in forth through time marvelously; both to tell the story, and to represent his over-arching themes above).
(I’ve also finished some amazing novels recently, which I should review, don’t think I’m a comics-only schmuck)
More to come.