Monday, August 31, 2015

Monthly Dose: August 2015

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

So wow...it's been a whole month since I've posted anything on here. There are lots of reasons for this, most of which center on the fact that m'lady and I are having a baby in November, and this means several other things are happening in our lives between now and then, like having half of our house redone, me getting a new job, etc. The result is that I have way less time for comics. I've already stepped away from writing for PopMatters (much love to them and to Shathley Q in particular for giving me the opportunity) and my 1987 And All That posts on CSBG have also slowed a bit recently (for instance, there should be a new one this Thursday, but it's going to be delayed until next week for sure). So my output has dwindled in all the spaces where I write, and this blog, with its tiny readership and with me as the sole content generator, is no exception. Blah blah blah, the point of this paragraph is mostly to say that, normally, I'd be starting to read a new third series for Monthly Dose, having finished Automatic Kafka last month, but my current living situation doesn't grant me much access to my comics collection, so it's just going to be the 2 titles for now. Hopefully next month, there'll be 3 again, and in an ideal world I will also get back on my Action Comics Weekly reviews then, too.

100 Bullets #34: Brian Azzarello's writing can be extremely clever, but sometimes it's too clever for its own good. This issue is a prime example of that, for two reasons: 1. There are way too many tortured puns in a row, and 2. There is the illusion of narrative progress when really, mostly, we get spinning wheels. The very beginning tells us that Monroe Tannenbaum is dead, which leads Megan Dietrich to provide Milo with a few more details about his current case. From there, we get a lot of Milo making plans that fall through, and then at the end he sees the word "Croatoa" on the painting that this entire arc is based on, and it seems to trigger him as we've seen it do with other Minutemen in the past. So we know that Milo is a Minuteman, though we still don't fully understand the significance of that fact. Point being, the first few pages and final page of this issue actually do push things forward, but the rest is a bunch of idly stewing in Milo's hard-boiled personality. I love him as a character, but I'd much rather follow him while he was doing something important, instead of, for example, staring down Lono for 4 pages before Lono gets up and leaves, making the entire scene feel mostly pointless. It was, at least, very dynamic visually, because Eduardo Risso is in his element doing this sort of gritty noir, and because Milo and Lono are each extremely interesting to look at in their own ways. Not a bad chapter altogether, and Milo being activated as a Minuteman by seeing the painting definitely works as a cliffhanger and makes him an even more compelling character than he already was, but I feel like some fat could definitely have been trimmed here, and Azzarello 100% needs to reign in the wordplay.

The Maximortal #4: In this issue, we learn that, in the reality of The Maximortal, the titular character was used by the U.S. government in WWII to destroy Hiroshima, not an actual atomic bomb. It's an interesting idea, placing a Superman imitation character in that role, because Superman himself certainly has a history of fighting for America, it's just that he's never done anything so extreme as this. Also, of course, in this comic, Wesley isn't in control of himself but is, instead, the captive of the military, their tool as opposed to their ally. Rick Veitch structures the scene of Hiroshima's devastation efficiently, showing us images of the plane moving in, the Japanese citizens living their everyday lives, and then, in the end, Wesley being used t blow everything up. While these are the visuals, though, we get text in the margins showing a transcript of a meeting between President Truman, two members of his team, and Dr. Uppenheimer (an Oppenheimer stand-in, duh). Uppenheimer explains to everyone else that they are not attacking Hiroshima with a bomb as believed, but with the alien child, and he also proposes further studying the child to use him in other ways down the line. Veitch adds a bit of darkness to what is already an extremely dark event in the history of the world, making the bombing of Hiroshima even more morally questionable that it already was by introducing the notion that a living thing, captured by America, was used to destroy the city. Before and after that sequence, the issue focuses on Jerry Spiegal and Joe Schumacher, creators of True-Man, the in-comic comicbook series that features a character very similar to Wesley. Spiegal and Schumacher discover that, contrary to what their publisher Sidney Wallace has told them, their comic is a tremendous success, and that they've been completely screwed out of the resulting profits. This, along with a request from the FBI to use True-Man as a tool of propaganda, moves Spiegal to quit, which in turn lands him in the army since the only thing stopping him from being drafted was Wallace wanting him to keep churning out True-Man scripts. Schumacher decides to stay on as an artist, committing himself to being Wallace's whipping boy if it means he can draw professionally. It's a tragic state of affairs all around, with Wallace as the hyper-greedy villain getting everything he wants and suffering zero consequences. Indeed, this issue may be the most depressing in the series, and certainly up to this point. It's a fairly relentless storm of horrible shit happening to innocent people at the hands of wicked men who seek only to advance their own power.

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