August 01, 2003


Thumb Wars
Since, I clearly need to invent new and improved ways to generate text.

I love comic books. But, unlike my other great love, film, there aren't NEARLY enough places to read reviews of comics. I suppose I got hooked on comic reviews thanks to the now-defunct Warren Ellis Forum, and I struggled to get my fix on forums for writers Mark Millar & Micah Wright, but, quite frankly, the people on those lists weren't reading enough of the same things I read, so it wasn't really as enjoyable. This week has been particularly frustrating, since Millar's forum seems temporarily dead, and Micah is too busy worrying about how President Bush is taking this country to Hell in a handbasket (see below for more details). And this week's haul was particularly good.

With all of that in mind, I'm going to point my critical pen away from the President for a little bit and towards the four-colored world from time to time. Hopefully, both the fan and nonfan alike will get what I think is cool and not cool about the various titles on my list (althought the not cool doesn't stay there for vary long). So, with out further ado:



Empire, vol 2., No. 1
This comic, from writer Mark Waid & artist Barry Kitson, posits this question: what would happen if a supervillain actually succeeds in conquering the world? In this series, the main character is Golgoth, a paranoid, bloodthirsty tyrant in a suit of high tech armor who, after a decade, has succeeded in placing the entire world under his thumb. There are no superheroes here, unless you could the zombi-fied one Golgoth keeps chained up in his basement, draining his blood and feeding it to his inner circle as a performance enhancement drug. But, as they say, heavy is the head that wears the crown. When you conquer the world by kicking everyone else's ass, you can't help but lose sleep every night worrying about who's sharpening the knives to stab you in the back. Everybody's bad here, which makes for great, wicked fun. Besides which, I've seen two instances of implied oral sex in three printed issues of this title. Definitely a keeper.



Global Frequency #10 (of 12)
The latest from the previously mentioned Mr. Ellis tells the story of a "smart mob" super-emergency response team. All 1,001 people on the Global Frequency are regular human beings with specialized talents, all connected with the highest-tech wireless technology who can draw on the collective knowledge of the entire agency with the push of a button. Some are scientists & technicians, others are ex-spies & soldiers, and all are dedicated to protecting the world from the left-over mistakes of 20th century warfare run amok.
Each issue is self-contained, with a different artist each month, chosen by Warren to suit the given story, although all the exquisite covers are done by Brian Wood.
In this issue, a terrorist/martial artist, trained in biofeedback techniques (i.e. a mental discipline to "re-route" pain sensations in his brain so that he can continue to function at optimal physical levels despite horrific injuries), is sent in to kill everyone at a bioweapons facility. A single agent on the Frequency, a French martial artist also trained in biofeedback, is sent to stop him. This whole issue is just a single fight between these two men, that just escalates in violence and brutality until the final image which is something so grotesque that I really had to laugh. Great stuff.



The Ultimates #11
So, in the regular universe of Marvel Comics, each superhero really represents a part of New York City in the 1960's. Daredevil is the paton saint of Hell's Kitchen. Spider-Man is the stereotypical teenage smart-aleck from Queens, The Fantastic Four are a family of rich Midtown celebrities, etc. Which would make the Avengers, a huge government-sanctioned team of superheroes lead by Captain America and including members like Iron Man, the Russian spy Black Widow, Slavic gypsie siblings Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch, and Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, Marvel's answer to the United Nations. Recently, Marvel decided to re-imagine their whole line as if they were born out of a 21st Century New York instead. With that in mind, Mark Millar took the concept of The Avengers and turned them into The Ultimates. It's still Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and others, but all with a modern slant. Captain America, instead of a speech-ifying Uncle Sam poster, is closer to a suped up version of modern-day American Special Forces. Iron Man is like an American Richard Branson who only straps on his armor when he's good and drunk. Quicksilver & Scarlet Witch are probably into some serious consenual incestuous behavior, and Thor could be a New Age crackpot with a big-ass hammer who just suffered a nervous breakdown and now THINKS he's a god. All of these folks are now in the employ of SHIELD, Marvel's version of the Defense Intelligence Agency, designed to stop superhuman threats against National Security. It was all going good until they, along with 20,000 covert ops troops, all got blown up by a tactical nuke on a little island in Micronesia while staging a raid on a site that may or may not have been a staging area for an extraterrestial invasion by giant shapeshifting lizards. This might be the best comic on the stands right now.

Long winded, I know. But all of these are worth checking out at your local comic shop.

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