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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

LOBO: HIGHWAY TO HELL collected edition

I've read countless comics during my time on this earth and there are a small number of them that made their way onto my short list of "worst ever." When I say worst ever, I mean a comic that contains little or no entertainment value and more often than not displays a level of craftsmanship that is well below my very flexible standards. A truly bad comic also must stand out from the mere run-of-the-mill product that gluts comics shop shelves nationwide, the generic avalanche of monthly fodder that keeps the wheels of the companies churning and satisfies the undemanding comics-zombies who will buy anything. With that explanation out of the way, allow me to add LOBO: HIGHWAY TO HELL to that short list.

Lobo has never done much for me as a character,
being basically a one-note super-tough guy who's more than a little bit of a parody of the archetype most readily embodied by Wolverine, and I've always felt that a little of him goes a very long way, wearing out his welcome and becoming tiresome after a few pages. There have been exceptions to the rule, specifically the Lobo/Hitman crossover, "Lobo's Paramilitary Christmas Special" "Un-American Gladiators" and "Lobo's Guide to Chicks," but mostly any story featuring him can be summed up as a blending of a few now-rote elements:
  • references to heavy metal music
  • silly pseudo-profanity
  • much macho bluster
  • over-the-top and utterly ridiculous fight scenes, often featuring gore that would have been wholly unacceptable if not employed within a comedic context
  • Lobo's bitchin' space-bike
  • Lobo's warm and squishy love of dolphins, be they of the terrestrial or extra-terrestrial varieties
So what we have here is a character who appeals to adolescent males and arrested adolescents like few others can since he's tailor-made to appeal to their interests. Maybe I would have liked him if I fit that demographic, but then again maybe not. And this particular Lobo story seems especially aimed at a sophomoric taste base.

For whatever reason, DC Comics approached well-known heavy metal guitarist Scott Ian — of Stormtroopers of Death (whose first album is the seminal thrash metal album and one of my all-time favorites) and Anthrax— to write a two-issue Lobo story and the results display his utter lack of qualifications for the gig (I feel bad about stating that, because I met Scott years ago at Marvel and he's a really nice guy). Coupled with this amateurishness is the artwork of Sam Keith, a onetime "hot" artist who, if you ask me, has done little or nothing of note since his work on EPICURUS THE SAGE (1989-1991). This time around, Keith's work is incredibly slapdash and inconsistent, varying from page after page of full-page illustrations in lieu of panels to conventionally-paneled pages that frequently look unfinished or rushed, like he knocked the whole project out over a long weekend.

The "story," such as it is involves Lobo going to Hell to kick the Devil's ass for supposedly killing a space-dolphin. That's basically all there is to it, only that flimsy setup is stretched out over 144 virtually humor-free pages. God knows the creators tried to craft a humor piece, but what resulted simply is not amusing at all and is painfully forced.

A semi-obscure antecedent to LOBO: HIGHWAY TO HELL.

The overall aesthetic feel of the piece is reminiscent of late-1960's/early-1970's underground comics, and by that I mean the lesser examples of that genre. In fact, it specifically reminds me of a story from YELLOW DOG COMICS #24 (1973) called "Mickey Rat-On Visits the Disneelund," an occasionally funny re-imagining of Mickey, Donald and Goofy as horny, drugged-out hippies who go to Disneyland and wreak havoc. That story was very obviously the unedited creation of someone completely out of his mind on any number of questionable pharmaceuticals. I found that story's cursing, sleazy sex and general anarchy to be hilarious when I first read it at age fourteen, but looking at it now I'm amazed by its incoherent and seemingly endless rambling narrative. I have not read that story since at least 1983, yet I was strongly reminded of it while I read this Lobo book and found the Lobo story to be of far less entertainment value.

Bottom line: this is a complete and utter waste of trees that I'm amazed was let out of the DC offices without some serious retooling, and I can't believe they have the nerve to ask $19.99 for this.

1 comment:

Satyrblade said...

Speaking of Disney-oriented batshit, have you seen this article?

Hardest I had laughed in weeks.