So the new year’s been a long one thus far here on the nerd farm. Too much to tend to, not enough time to write. That’s less true now, though it may be another week yet before we’re back up to the rate of posting we were at last year. But a window of opportunity has opened, and I thought it might be nice to get caught up on all the funnybooks that have come out the last couple-three weeks.
Or at least the more interesting ones.
Or whatever I’ve got energy for.
Which is to say…
Action Comics #16, by Grant Morrison, Brad Walker, and Rags Morales
Kind of a bland cover. I mean, sure. There’s a big hulking skull-faced dude bursting through a brick wall with what appears to be Superman’s corpse held high above his head. Pretty whiz-bang imagery. But rendered without much verve or enthusiasm. Professional, surely, but not very excitingly-drawn. Ah well, I thought. Hardly the first uninspiring cover this book’s had, and (even though there’s only two issues left in Morrison’s run) I’m betting not the last.
Then I saw it without all the trade dress:
Well. That’s… a lot better. Same drawing, of course. But once you take all the bar codes and logos and text off, it really comes to life. I think that what makes it, interestingly, is the brick wall. I mean, look at that thing! Rags Morales drew the teetotal shit out of that wall! The sonnuvabitch rendered every brick separately. Some of them even stick out a little bit further than the others! There’s also a nice perspective trick going on with the bricks that gives the picture as a whole a vertiginous effect. The upper part of the wall is curving down toward us just a hair, at a slightly different angle than the lower half, just enough to make it feel like the whole thing might come tumbling down on our heads at any moment. Possibly because there’s a big hulking skull-faced dude bursting through it with Superman held high over his head.
So. With logos: the kind of “villain pummels hero” shot we’ve seen a million times. Without logos: a subtly-effective piece of artwork with a nice eye for detail.
All of which becomes really funny when you consider who the bad guy is: The Doomsday Superman. This is the other-dimensional Superman introduced in issue 9, the one who was taken over and test-marketed by evil corporate masters until everything good about the character was covered over with a cheap veneer of lowest-common-denominator kewl. Skull-face! Bandoliers! Grey and more grey! And a big red X instead that stupid S! Superman as designed by a hyperactive 13-year-old.
Not that I’m saying DC’s trade dress is that infantile. It’s the Action Comics logo itself that obscures most of Morales’ brickwork, after all, and that’s a pretty classy design. Even if all the other logos look like crap (and they frankly kinda do), that one’s a keeper. Still. It’s good art that’s had the things that make it good obscured by corporate trade dress. So the point still stands.
What’s that? What’s behind the cover? Oh, more of the same, I guess. Morrison’s Action Comics continues to rocket toward its end, and I can’t help but think it would have all been better if he’d had the time to properly introduce all of these villains who are closing in to kill the Man of Steel. As it is, they all feel sandwiched in. I have no idea who they are, and so there’s no emotional attachment to their hate. But I guess that’s what happens when you jump to the climax of what was originally planned as several years’ worth of stories.
There’s also a slight sense of deja vu to the story, but that I think is entirely intentional. Morrison’s big finale is the Death of Superman, and he’s using elements from all the other deaths of Superman in the telling. The Doomsday story is the most obvious, what with all the references in the script to… you know… Doomsday. And there’s also the golden statue of Our Hero from Morrison’s own All-Star Superman.
But the story I’m reminded of most strongly is (color me surprised!) Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” There’s the element of all of Superman’s greatest foes coming back to kill him under the orchestration of a 5th Dimensional Imp (which is pretty much that story to the letter), but Morrison really drives the point home this issue when the Legion of Superheroes shows up. So by the time Krypto comes back to protect his master…
…I’m getting a strong whiff of the Eau de Moore up in here.
Smells like… Beard!
At any rate. All fan-service aside, this issue also delivers a nice shot of Vyndktvz in full-on Devil form:
I like the multiple arms thing, and Morales handles the triple-face really well. But somehow, it’s the double set of legs that most disturbs me. Hrm.
But, hey! There’s also a great picture of Vyndktvx as Alfred E. Neuman!
I have no idea if the likeness was intentional, of course, but this scene does take place at the exact moment he brings forth the Doomsday Superman. So, intentional or not… HEH. Who better to unleash a force of such absolute funnybook awfulness than the face of comics’ greatest idiot?
Maybe I’m reading too much in. Or maybe Morrison and Morales are, on their way out the door, taking some potshots at DC editorial and their corporate masters at Warner Brothers. An idiot man-child in service to the Devil Himself? Hmm. I suppose, much like Morales’ obscured brickwork, it’s all a matter of perspective.