Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Monthly Dose: June 2015

Monthly Dose is a semi-regular column where I read one issue each month of long-completed series. 

100 Bullets #32: Kind of a slow issue, but it works because of the lovely pulpy tension Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso are infusing into this arc. Milo is such an over-the-top hard-boiled guy that it's fun to watch him work, constantly smoking, being aggressively sexual, threatening to shoot people in the genitals if they don't tell him what he wants to know. He's hilarious, practically a caricature, his internal darkness spilling all over the page even when he's getting laid. There's not a ton of new info, but the little bit we get is super valuable. Milo figures out that Lono, who caught only a glimpse of last issue, is responsible for killing Karl Reynolds. The why of it all is still a total mystery, except that it is in some way connected to a painting Karl was trying to get his hands on. So Milo's got a solid start, a lead that led to another lead that hopefully will help him put all the pieces together. Things are progressing, however slowly, and through it all he's a fantastic character to watch, especially with the bandages all over his face. It gives him a baseline look of intimidation and meanness that helps him in his work and makes him all the more entertaining. It does feel like it's about time for something to break, though, for a major reveal instead of more tiny odds and ends. After two full issues of him as the star and narrator, I have a pretty solid handle on Milo, so now it's time to really put him through the ringer and see if he makes it out. Luckily, his last line is one of intense foreboding, so next month we ought to some some shit connect with some fans. If so, it'll come at just the right time, and might help push this arc officially into my favorite so far in this book.

Automatic Kafka #8: After playing a bit of a back-up role for a few issues in a row, Kafka himself becomes central again here, which was nice. The issue is basically spit into two halves, the first centering on Kafka's new show as well as the suicide of Diesel Quake, his drug dealer/assistant. The second half deals with Kafka confronting the Warning about the latter's various shady dealings, with a splash of the Constitution's adventures in professional pornography thrown in as well. I much prefer the opening, where we see Kafka going through the motions of his continued celebrity while reading in captions the body of Diesel's suicide note. The note provides a nice bit of insight into the psychology of a character who's been two-dimensional at best up to now, and it's a nice reminder that everyone thinks they are the good guys, even the supervillains. Diesel doesn't necessarily try to take the moral high ground or present himself as a misunderstood do-gooder, but he does point out that the $tranger$ operated in less-than-righteous ways, that Kafka in particular seemed to take a weird joy in causing his enemies pain, and that he and all of his former teammates ultimately took fairly significant falls from grace, ending up with lives that reflect their biggest flaws rather than their greatest deeds. All of that is compelling to read, and Joe Casey writes it well. He also takes away Kafka's source of nanotecheroin, meaning we get to see what it looks like when a robot suffers from withdrawal. It's not all that dramatic, but it does lead Kafka to question the Warning, though as with most people who try to challenge the Warning, things don't go very far. In the end, we see Kafka approached by some kind of magical/hallucinatory/who-knows-what caterpillar that turns into a gorgeous bright butterfly and offers to save Kafka from yet another "story arc." So things get crazy meta as we prepare to head into the final issue. The butterfly is probably my favorite single visual from Ash Wood in this series so far. It stands out starkly and fits in perfectly at once, a tough trick to pull off, but Wood does it no sweat.

The Maximortal #2: While less directly tied to Superman's history than the debut issue, this is still a pretty spot-on imagining of how a superpowered child might act and influence the world. After finally killed his adoptive father, little Wesley Winston sets to work on his "farming," meaning pulling people's heads clean off their bodies and dumping them into a silo. While there's no specific reason given for why he chooses human heads as the thing to farm, it works quite well in the context of this gleefully morbid book. Rick Veitch seems to have a lot of fun in making the decapitated bodies as cartoonishly gruesome as he can. They're not excessively gory but they are effectively unnerving. As for Wesley, he's innocently and amusingly content with his labors, even proud of himself for how efficiently he's getting his farming done. Ultimately, his activities lead the citizens of Simpltown to try and attack him, blowing up his silo full of heads while Wesley is inside. The child, of course, survives the blast, and then proceeds to throw a tantrum, as children are wont to do when you ruin their games. Only Wesley's tantrums are intensely destructive and fatal. All of this death and devastation leads to the U.S. military showing up at the very end of the issue to claim Wesley as their own, a terrifying proposition than can't lead anywhere good. Meanwhile, at the beginning and in the background of this issue, we meet El Guano, a mysterious figure who seems to have some magical insight into the world. The narration refers to him as a warrior and also as a man-of-knowledge, and we see him have a startling premonition of Wesley as a full-grown superhero, cape, spandex, and all. Exactly what El Guano's role will be in the narrative is still unclear, but he does show up at the end to fight with the "angel" who we saw give birth to Wesley last time, so it's clear El Guano plays a significant part in these proceedings. Similarly, we're introduced to Sidney Wallace, a young, brash, self-important jerk with dreams of making it big in the movies. These dreams appear to be purely financially motivated, though, as Wallace tries to steal Wesley himself once he realizes the money-making potential such a powerful creature might possess. Everyone wants a piece of Wesley, is the point, from his mother to Wallace to the government to El Guano. Their interests in Wesley and approaches to dealing with him vary, but everybody's invested. What will all of this attention mean for Wesley in the long run? That's the central question, but based on what we've seen so far, there will no doubt be more terrible things in Wesley's future.

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