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Comics Digest #2

And we're back, with another week's worth of comicsy goodness courtesy of sister blog Comics Daily. This week, our main reviews are Mark Millar and John Romita Jr's ultra-violent and hilarious take on "realistic" superheroism Kick Ass, and an issue of Grant Morrison's Batman run in which things finally start to make sense. We also look at Ex Machina and Ultimate Human and James dusts off a 1996 Venom miniseries. And in the Sunday Pages, we look at what the end of J. Michael Stracynski's exclusive Marvel deal might mean for DC fans...

The Thursday Headline : Kick Ass #1

kickass01.jpgKick-Ass is one of those comics that paints itself as a realistic depiction of superheroes. It's a trend that many will argue began, and should've ended, with Watchmen. Still, even Watchmen's premise was fairly forgiving - it was a realistic take on a superhero universe as much as superhero characters. Kick-Ass goes one step further, asking what happens when someone in OUR universe - the real world - tries to be a superhero.

As you can imagine, the answers are fairly simple, and they involve some poorly thought-out violence, a lot of swearing, and a teenager with too much time on his hands. It's gloriously, painfully bleak stuff. The main character cuts a familiar figure - a comic-obsessed teenager who spends his time jacking off to internet porn and praising Joss Whedon to his friends. I feel lampooned already.

Issue #1 is, naturally, an origin story: David Lizewski is a nobody. After his mother dies of a brain aneurysm, he lives alone with his father, playing video games and reading comics. There's nothing special about him, no unreasonable trauma in his upbringing, he just can't understand (and if you ask me, quite reasonably so) why people want to be Paris Hilton and not Spider-Man. The thing that separates him from all of us is that he's got exactly the right combination of time, boredom and stupidity to take it to the next level. Putting on a wetsuit with a facemask, he goes out looking for crime. For a while, he's enjoying it, even if he finds nothing. When he eventually tackles a gang of grafitti artists, things go south pretty as fast as you'd expect - he's beaten up, shivved and left for dead.

And let me tell you this: it's all hilarious. Seeing Romita really go to town on the violence levels is, in itself, worth the price of entry. He's been drawing castrated super-hero books for so long that you can practically feel the glee dripping off the page like the blood he's drawing when David smacks a gang member in the face with his bat. Millar has his flaws as a writer, but he's definitely managed to rein in his wilder tendencies - in David, he's created a character who, far more than someone like Peter Parker, represents the everyman. I'm sympathetic with his directionless, entertainment-obsessed plight. The script, though, is where Millar really shines, and the last line of the book is what sells me on the next issue. I hesitate to spoil, but if you're undecided it sums up the tone of the book perfectly: "Two broken legs, my spine crushed, and dressed like a fucking pervert. My dad was going to kill me."
(James Hunt) Original post

Dusting Off : Venom : The Hunger #1 (August 1996)

venomthehunger01.jpgEvery Wednesday we take turns to delve into our trusty longboxes, pluck out a dusty back issue at random, and give you our thoughts. We’ll also try and place it in the context of the time it was originally published.

Oh, now this is a good one. Back in the mid-90s, when comics were comics and Marvel were financially (and, some might say, creatively) bankrupt, this was the sort of diamond in the rough that reminded people why they gave comics a chance at all. Good characterisation, consistant premise, fairly high quality work from all involved.

Of course, at age 14, all I knew was that this was the comic where Venom finally makes good on his promise to eat people's brains, and was therefore definitely worth a look.

Between 1993 and 1997, Venom essentially had his own regular series, though it was told in back-to-back minis. They were largely set during the period where Brock had become a Punisher-esque anti-hero, calling himself the "lethal protector" and pledged not to harm innocents. In return, he and Spidey negotiated a truce. It was admittedly a fairly dodgy take on a character who works best as an outright villain, but luckily this series largely ignores it. Not that it contradicts it, of course, but the story isn't so much about Venom taking down a villain as it is about Brock attempting to recapture the symbiote... Continue reading...

The Sunday Pages is our weekly roundup of comics-related news that's caught our attention, complete with pithy comment and wild speculation...

This week, we’re thinking about JMS canning his exclusive deal with Marvel and what he might do at DC, the new Secret Invasion teaser images, the Foo Fighters’ fight with Marvel and the news released regarding a few of the various comics movies. Continue reading...

Also this week...

batman674.jpgBatman #674
Remember how Grant Morrison’s X-Men run initially seemed like a rambling set of unconnected stories, with moments of brilliance but just as many apparent non-sequiturs, only to turn out shortly before the end, as the layers of plot were peeled away, to have been an intricately-constructed masterpiece where every single little detail mattered to the overall structure?

Well, encore... Full review

Ex Machina #34
...Marketed by Wildstorm as an “ideal jumping-on point” (which strikes me as strange – Ex Machina is a beginning, middle and end story which is well into its second half, and the only real jumping on point is the first issue), it’s a nice change of pace, at least – largely inconsequential, but with a very neat last couple of pages that redraw the lines of Angiotti and Hundred’s relationship, with an excellent bit of comics pop culture referencing to boot.... Full review

Ultimate Human #2
... There is absolutely no doubt that this is the true sequel to The Ultimates - it’s the only place where the characters and themes are preserved. More importantly, it’s a story that you can only really tell in the Ultimate universe, which is still young enough that Banner and Stark can realistically be attempting this for the first time, and we genuinely can’t be sure of their success or failure... Full review

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