Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hoopla! Episode 2: What kind of sex is your comic-book?

Hello and welcome once again to Hoopla!, the online comics review column that freshens your breath while you sleep! I'm your host, Paul Weissburg, and today we're going to review three different comics that have kind of similar covers. Well, at least they look kind of similar after I've drawn them. The originals don't actually look all that similar.

Oh, well.

First of all, we're going to take a look at Superman/Batman #30. Well, that's only 1/3 true. We're actually going to look at Superman/Batman #28-30, written by Mark Verheiden and with very pretty pictures by Ethan Van Sciver. As a matter of fact, let's do this properly, shall we?

Superman/Batman #28-30
Written by Mark Verheiden
Art by Ethan Van Sciver
Published by DC Comics

I bought these three comics, the first three chapters of "The Enemies Among Us," because of the art. The art is pretty. I used to enjoy the writing of Mark Verheiden, back when he was doing a little-known but much-beloved series called "The American" for Dark Horse Comics, back when they were publishing things that weren't tied into movies.

Yes, that was a very long time ago.

Anyway, I liked his stuff back then, but that was about twenty years ago and it's been a long while since anything Verheiden's written has really impressed me. I seem to vaguely recall a recent run in one of the Superman titles which seemed to center around the idea of Superman having a Fortress of Solitude in a jungle or something. There was lots of heat vision, too. I'm not sure if that was the artist or the writer, but there was lots and lots of heat vision-y stuff going on.

At any rate...

This particular story begins with Batman at a party. He sees a man and a woman and something about them seems suspicious, although he isn't quite able to place what's wrong. Later, looking at video footage of them, he realizes that when he puts their faces into his Bat-Computer, "The biometric software sets a baseline... average height, weight, facial features. The man and woman in these surveillance photos fit the statistical norms EXACTLY. Which is impossible." And he could sort of tell that just by looking at them.

Cool, huh?

That is, 'cool' in the sense of being completely stupid.

Anyway, J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, shows up at the Bat Cave and kicks Batman's butt and then leaves for no apparent reason. Batman calls in Superman for help, a giant space-ape named Titano (with Green Kryptonite vision) suddenly appears and... and..

You know what? It really doesn't matter what happened. Honestly, it doesn't. It makes no real sense, but it looks great. And the cover to issue #30 is one of the coolest covers I have ever seen and is what really made me buy the damn things.

But here's my problem... I don't mind that the story is non-sensical. I mean, yes, I prefer a good story to a dopey one, but regardless of the circumstances, I'm plenty happy to see a humongous giant space ape, drawn by Van Sciver, blasting Superman out of the sky with Green Kryptonite vision. I mean, that's just cool. So, really, you don't need Alan Moore to come in and explain to me why this is happening. It doesn't really matter. Titano the Space Monkey is there. That's all I need to know. But, what I do object to is this... On the ninth page (not counting advertisements) of issue #29 is the single most bizarre drawing of Lois Lane ever. For some reason, in panel 3, her breasts are suddenly humongous. I'm not talking about normal comic-book female giant breasts. I'm talking about something that is so anatomically bizarre that I honestly thought that they were indicating she was really J'onn J'onzz doing his shape-shifting thing. But then, in the next panel, her breasts are totally gone. But she isn't a shape-shifting Martian. And, just as I was trying to process that, two panels later a different Lois Lane, who WAS a shape-shifter (but not J'onn J'onnz) turned into a really, really hairy caveman from Krypton.And I thought, "Huh."

So, this is neither a recommendation nor a warning of comic-book stinkiness. It is simply this. It is simply me saying, Ethan Van Sciver makes some really nice pictures and I think they're worth the price of admission. But do not expect a coherent story and please, gentle readers, prepare yourself for some truly humongous Lois Lane breasts. It's not secretly J'onn J'onzz, as much as we might all like to pretend that's what is going on. It's not a shape-shifting alien. It's just Lois Lane. It's just her breasts. Being extra breast-y.

So, take a deep breath and, in just one panel, everything will be back to normal. I promise.

The Authority #1
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Gene Ha
Published by Wildstorm

Before reading this, I read a lot of really negative reviews complaining that the Authority never actually shows up in this comic, that the art is murky, and that nothing much happens at all.

These things are all true.


While I can understand that some might have felt cheated by this comic, expecting mega-wide-screen action-plus explode-y stuff, I thought it was a pretty brilliant move on Morrison's part to play against expectations. I mean, really, he's not going to out-do Ellis and Millar's runs on this series in terms of having bigger-than-life action stuff. It's simply not possible. Heck, the last story that Ellis did had the Authority going up against God. It's pretty hard to top that.

So, Morrison takes it in a completely different direction. Rather than start with the very, very large, he starts with the small. The tiny, in fact. The mundane. After a brief prelude, to set up that there will be some explodey stuff later on, we begin our story with a lengthy sequence of some guy in his boxers and wife-beater getting out of bed. He and his wife have a small argument that they've clearly had a million times before as she makes his breakfast and he lights up a cigarette and drinks his coffee.

Small stuff.

The art is murky and gray, and deliberately so. Everything is focused on the mundane, the normal, the not-at-all-spectacular. Even when our lead character gets called in to investigate something unusual, the opening dialogue between him and his co-workers is about TV.

As a result, when these very normal people finally do encounter the bizarre, it feels much bigger than if we'd started off with the Authority. And much more threatening. The stakes are high because our lead character is just a normal guy. He's not super-powered, he's not brilliant, he hasn't fought God and won.

Good on you, Morrison. As far as I'm concerned, he could leave the Authority out of their own comic-book for at least the first year's worth of stories and I'd be fine with it.

Iron Man: Hypervelocity #1
Written by Adam Warren
Art by Brian Denham
Published by Marvel

If you blinked you might miss it.

Seriously, this comic seems to end just a couple of pages after it started, despite the pseudo-techno narration throughout the book. And it's not because the story is so wonderful that the time just flies by.

Not at all.

The reason this comic seems to take place in a nano-second is because nothing happens. Nothing at all. We open with Iron Man flying around, being shot at. We don't really know who's shooting at him or why. We just know that they're shooting a lot of stuff. And then they shoot another, bigger thing at him. And then his head gets blown off and we see that actually the armor is empty.

And that's about it.

As for the woman standing behind him on the cover, she's someone he's never met who keeps showing up in his daydreams that he has while he's being shot at. It's not clear how he has the time for all these elaborate memories/daydreams while directing his armor in battle, but who really cares anyway? Certainly not me. So, I guess she's going to end up being some kind of psychic person with black-green hair and tattoos and pouty lips. Oh, and she speaks French and wears black lingerie. Of course.

The art is fine, as far as that goes. Nothing particularly memorable, but then there's not much for the artist to work with except jet planes, air missles, explosions, and Iron Man's armor. And black lingerie. It actually looks like one of those early Image books, except without all the anatomical errors. Sort of a slightly-less-interesting Jim Lee kind of look.

So, yeah. Kind of a crappy comic. Kind of a big waste of money.


This comic got me thinking...

Because my first thought after reading this book was "premature ejaculation."

Which probably tells you more about me than you ever wanted to know.

But that's what this felt like. Like this comic shot its load before I even got my shirt off. Or had untied my shoes. Or closed the door.

And that got me thinking about other comics, and what kind of sex they might be like...

So, here's a list I've started. Please send me any that you, gentle reader, might think of...

Ed Brubaker comics are like really good sex that, at the end, leaves you feeling cheap and mildly depressed.

Geof Johns comics are like sex that starts off really great but then goes on for much too long and keeps dragging on and dragging on until finally, when it's over, it's almost a relief.

Alan Moore comics are like some kind of crazy tantric sex, orgasms layered upon orgasms, peaks building upon peaks, leaving you exhausted and completely euphoric.

Garth Ennis comics like to talk dirty to you while you're doing it.

Warren Ellis comics want to talk dirty too, but usually end up digressing into some self-righteous blather about how stupid everyone else is and how meaningless sex and life really are.

Sean McKeever comics are like sex that's nice enough, but you might fall asleep while it's going on.

Brian Azzarello comics hurt during and after. And they're never as good as you thought they'd be. And they leave you feeling dirty inside.

Gail Simone comics are like fun, silly sex. With lots of tickling. It's not the best you'll ever have, but it's a nice change of pace after the overly grim Ellis and Azzarello.

Brian Michael Bendis comics are like this:


"Yeah? You... yeah?"

"Oy. Yeah."

"Cause I wasn't sure if you...?"

"No. I mean, yes. I did. Twice."

"No way. You... twice?"

"Twice. And a half."

"Wow. That's... that's really..."


"Do you... do you mind if I smoke a cigarette? I mean, because, I..."

"Uh, actually, I..."

"Oh, god. I'm so stupid. I've ruined it, haven't I? I've ruined it with my... with this stupid habit."

"No, you..."

"So stupid. Who smokes these days, with the cancer and the... god. I'm really sorry."

"No, wait, you..."


"But, if you..."

"What? If I...?"

"I just wondered if you had a..."

"Look. Let's just... let's just pretend this never..."

"But, I... if you had another cigarette...?"

"Let's just pretend this... it didn't happen. Okay? This never happened."

"But, all I wanted to say was..."

"I'm so sorry. I'm... I'm gonna just leave now, okay? And let's just pretend..."

"It didn't?"

"It never did."

"Oh. Shit. I feel like... now I feel like Hawkeye just died. Twice."

Rob Liefeld comics are really, really bad sex with someone who looked totally hot when you first met them in a bar, earlier that night, after a ridiculous amount of drinking.

Grant Morrison comics are sometimes super-excellent sex and sometimes not-so-good sex, but always with crazy props and sex toys that you never even knew existed.

And, finally...

Joss Whedon comics (and TV!) are like sex with someone you really love. Sometimes outstanding and sometimes simply okay, but always leaving you with a warm, happy feeling inside.

So, there you go.


Next week (give or take a few days) we'll look at the following mystery comics:

Can you guess what they are???


M said...

Jack Kirby comics are like sex with Elvira on her 60th birthday, and afterwards you just keep telling her, "you've still got it babe."

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