Stealing a page from a few other bloggers I know, from now on I’ll report each week on the comics that I have read, and any other interesting reading recommendations. So here we go, and thank the gods that I get a lot of this stuff for free, or else I would go broke!
ALIAS OMNIBUS EDITION
Having nothing whatsoever to do with the TV series of the same name, this volume collects the complete twenty-eight-issue run of the inaugural title in Marvel’s adult-oriented MAX line. The series follows the daily goings-on in the life of private investigator Jessica Jones, a former super-hero who got out of the heroics-in-tights biz because she realized she didn’t have the right stuff to make in the Marvel Universe. Occasional displays of her rather meager super-powers (flight, super strength) aside, this detective series is really about getting into the head of the protagonist, and Jessica is the most realistically written neurotic female character that I have had the pleasure to read in quite some time. As the series unfolds, the reader sees the world through Jessica’s eyes, and she is one sad critter indeed; the chick is a borderline alcoholic, saltily profane, indiscriminately promiscuous — the series practically opens with a shocking scene of a very drunk Jessica getting boned up the ass by none other than Luke Cage, Hero For Hire — and harbors a deep-seated guilt that forms the core of her self-destructiveness. Yet what could be an utterly unappealing character becomes an individual that the reader gets quite involved with, and I enjoyed this book so much that I went out and picked up the first two collected volumes of the non-adult followup series, THE PULSE, in which Jessica joins the staff of the Daily Bugle. The one drawback to the whole thing is that a lot of what makes this book fun depends on a pretty thorough working knowledge of the Marvel Universe from roughly 1961 through the present; there’s a great scene involving Daredevil in his civilian identity using his hyper-senses, and if the reader doesn’t know who he is the gag is totally lost. That one caveat aside — and the fact that the book is a pricey seventy bucks — , I strongly urge you to check it out.
CRYING FREEMAN Vols. 1 & 2- Thundering back into print and aggressively showing up much of contemporary manga for the pedestrian horseshit that it is, this ultra-violent and semi-pornographic classic from the nineteen-eighties has lost none if its edge twenty years on. This over-the-top crime thriller from co-creator of the landmark LONE WOLF AND CUB, Kazuo Koike, and illustrator Ryuichi Ikegami details the adventures of Yo Hinomura, a potter mind-controlled by the 108 Dragons, the all-powerful Chinese mafia, into becoming the world’s deadliest assassin. When his conditioning is activated by a code phrase, Yo executes his targets in a spectacle of martial arts and gunplay mayhem, finally shedding tears for the victims he is forced to kill. But Yo’s world turns upside down when beautiful painter/heiress Emu Hino witnesses one of his assassinations, leaving him no choice but to silence her for good. Upon meeting her again with murder intended, unforeseen romance blossoms as vengeance-bent Yakuza killers close in. The series then follows their love story, with corrupt cops, Yakuza thugs, and a surfeit of very graphic sex and violence, actually upping the ante with each subsequent volume. The whole thing is screamingly ridiculous, with villains whose images are occasionally dead-on likenesses of well-known film stars and a four-hundred pound, totally nude comic-relief woman who frequently masturbates after she kills people… This comic is pretty much a textbook of every sordid manga cliché imaginable — minus phallic tentacle/rapist monsters and giant robots — and as such is a total hoot.
GREEN LANTERN: RECHARGE and GREEN LANTERN CORPS
I have been a huge Green Lantern fan since childhood, but I never gave a shit about Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Earth. I mean, how could I care about such a bland, white-bread hero when the Green Lanterns of myriad worlds were his colleagues, a conglomeration of BEM’s of all descriptions and then some? Well, DC Comics has finally twigged to the fact that there are a lot of readers who feel the way I do on this subject, and they wisely tapped Dave “WATCHMEN” Gibbons to scribe an ongoing series about the Green Lantern Corps, largely relegating Hal Jordan to the sidelines. The whole thing is kick-started in the five-issue RECHARGE mini-series, which shows the reformation of the intergalactic police force and focuses on several new recruits. The ongoing GREEN LANTERN CORPS just started, and it is every bit as fun as its predecessor, so check ‘em out. Oh, and RECHARGE will be available in a collected edition at the end of the month.
DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON
Reviving cult characters from the 1970’s can be a real crapshoot (see the MAX version of CAGE for a very sad case-in-point, Richard Corben's art notwithstanding), but this six-issue treat succeeds for me because the love that went into it is dripping from every panel. Misty Knight and Colleen Wing were frequent guest stars in several Marvel books back in the days — most notably IRON FIST and a spectacular two-parter in DEADLY HANDS OF KUNG FU by Chris Claremont and Marshall Rogers — , and both were direct fallout from the kung fu/blaxploitation zeitgeist of the time; Misty was an obvious nod to Pam Grier, only accessorized with a bionic arm (a gimmick that I have always hated since Misty is so badassed that a cyborg arm comes off as pointless overkill; I mean, the sistah nearly fucks Iron Fist to death, fer fuck’s sake!), but Colleen is a bit harder to pin down since at first glance she’s every contemporary sword-slinger chick of the type prevalent in many Japanese martial arts/gangster pieces, but her extremely confusing family tree kind of fudges her identity. From what I recall, she thinks of herself as Japanese, but she has a Chinese surname, red hair from what I think was an Irish ancestor, and she claims to have been raised in a family that adhered strictly to the ways of her samurai heritage… Hunh?!? Well, anyway, the girls are back in a fun story that shows off their strengths to great advantage, deftly combining gobs of old school action with a subtle and very funny sense of humor. Written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti, the series is a brisk read, and over all too soon by the end of each installment, but the real revelation here is Khari Evans handling the art chores; as far as I know, he’s a newcomer, and if this is what he’s capable of coming out of the gate I can hardly wait to see what he does next. Colleen and Misty have never before been depicted with as much personality and unique visual interpretation as witnessed here, particular points going to Colleen’s lithe, rather gymnastic physicality and quizzical “little girl” face, and Misty’s perpetual scowl and out-of-control mushroom cloud afro. This may not be for all tastes, but I am certainly enjoying it.
CIVIL WAR- I’m guessing that this series was green-lighted in response to DC’s waste of trees, INFINITE CRISIS, and as badly as that outright clusterfuck sucked a leper’s dick, this Marvel “event” could go either way. From the beginnings of what came to be known as the Marvel Universe, there has been ambivalence in the general public as to the merits/legitimacy of super-heroes and whether or not they pose a grave threat to society, an opinion most frequently given voice by J. Jonah Jameson’s rabid screeds against Spider-Man. As far back as Avengers # 181 nearly thirty years ago, the US government has attempted to exercise some control over certain heroes, and the X-Men constantly face persecution and attacks from assorted shady government powers-that-be, so this storyline that has to do with the government finally cracking down on the heroes and demanding them be registered and regulated was a loooooooong time coming and not unexpected. After horribly botching the apprehension of a bunch of criminals — on live television, no less — the New Warriors are killed (no great loss), along with several hundred children and innocent bystanders, an incident that sours public opinion on super-heroes in general and prompts the idea of superhero registration (read: “public unmasking”) to finally be taken seriously. Various “supers” think the registration act would be a good way of engendering faith and trust from the public, but others balk at the idea, citing the ancient rationale for maintaining a secret identity, namely staying masked so that the heroes’ friends and loved ones could not be targeted by the bad guys. So Captain America goes rogue, Spider-Man agonizes over what unmasking could mean for his family, and Iron Man publicly reveals that he is Tony Stark and always has been, despite the eleventy-jillion times that he’s been unmasked and figured out a variety of idiotic ways of covering it all up again. Also, Spider-Man has ended up with one of the most godawful new costumes that I have ever seen, right up there with that retina-melting, armored redesign for Daredevil during the mid-1990’s. The whole shebang runs through many of Marvel’s titles, as well as its own series that contains the real “meat” of the tale, and I can tell you right now that I will only pick up the main book and the one or two regular Marvel titles that I read, because if there’s one standard policy for crossover books that I absolutely fucking hate it’s the tactic of forcing readers to pick up every single possible connecting comic, most of which the average consumer probably has zero interest in unless they are a total Marvel Junkie. This one bears watching, and I will keep you posted.