I’m sure there was some worthwhile comic book news over the last week. None I read, though, so all I have to say is Marvel Studios at least knows its audience is happy being sold increasingly formulaic, uninteresting action movies, just so long as they’re strung along with empty promises of future stories which will actually embrace all the thematic and imaginative possibilities their previous seven movies (plus TV show) keep saying they’re gonna get around to…eventually…after you’ve paid for a few more tickets to 3D screenings and an official T-shirt or two.
Art by Mike and Laura Allred
Writing by Matt Fraction, Mike Allred, and Lee Allred
Published by Marvel
Even on his way out of this title, Matt Fraction divides himself between the great and the banal. It helps to have the married duo of Mike and Laura Allred on art duties, who give even a comic’s lamest sitcom moments a sincere level of craft. When ditzy pop star Darla interrupts her own attempt at kissing Ant-Man by spilling hot coffee on him, she gets angry and calls him a jerk, which is meant to conjure up thoughts of crazy hijinks, but is disconnected from any action displayed. It’s a typically incongruent scene, like what has dragged down Fraction’s FF before (as it has his Hawkeye run), undercutting any emotional resonance (Ant-Man’s grief over his deceased daughter) by going a cutesy-poo route instead. Art-wise, the sequence is a wonderfully drawn/colored moment-to-moment progression, the Allreds gradually zoom in as Ant-Man and Darla get closer, then pull back when Darla storms off. It doesn’t offset how badly written and contrived the scene is, but they do no wrong. The more successful of these comedy vignettes, FF‘s attempt at Wes Anderson movies or Acme Novelty Library, are the nine-panel scenes involving the various children–this issue being two of them (Adolf Impossible and Luna) bonding as they watch shojo anime of various Marvel superheroes, eventually holding hands. Here, Fraction and the Allreds (including Mike’s brother Lee, who scripted the issue) suggest a universal bridge between boy/girl, East/West, and action/romance, which can break down the walls of genres and social awkwardness (Fraction’s love of dysfunctional, atypical families in his current Marvel output helped mark a welcome, if slight, progressive turn for this Marvel regime, shared by the Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie volume of Young Avengers). Admirable, but too wrapped up in being cute and clever to live up to its own expectations.
X-O Manowar #18
Art by Lee Garbett
Writing by Robert Venditti
Published by Valiant
Clayton Crain’s cover for this reminds me a bit of Gillem March’s infamous original cover for DC’s New 52 comic Catwoman #0. Both show dubious anatomy, spines bending backwards at impossible angles, while the titular characters are leaping and/or flying at the reader. In the hands of more self-aware artists, this would’ve been a great (if belated and obvious) parody of sexism in superhero comics. But Crain isn’t using the pose to reduce Manowar to blown-out-of-proportion secondary sexual characteristics (what Gillem did to Catwoman, and other creators do in the whole of the comics industry *cough*Zenescope*cough*), objectified into a distended, nightmarish mirror of humanity; just another strong, masculine pose with rippling muscles and stoic determination (if rendered incompetently). Which is a shame, because Crain is much more capable depicting distended, nightmarish mirrors of humanity (such as his mini-series about alien Spider-Man villains Venom or Carnage) than he is with the real thing.
The comic itself? Just another power fantasy. Somewhat aware of itself, throwing in one character having a mini-Socialist opposition to X-O Manowar’s self-proclaimed kingship (he rules over a portion of Romania) as a way to address its own power fantasy nature, but a power fantasy nonetheless. Given the direction Robert Venditti ultimately took the post-Cornell Demon Knights, it’s more than likely he’ll end up siding with the character who adheres to traditional social structures and fantasy narratives (and also is more likely to be marketed in video games). It also shows the aftermath of a gruesome torture/murder session on one of Manowar’s followers. Also, it’s drawn like this: