Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What I bought - 12 April 2006

Oh dear. Not a lot of books this week, but one made me want to take something long and sharp and drive it straight into my eye and out the back of my head. Guess which one!

Desolation Jones #6 by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

My God. Oh my God. Exactly how horrible was this issue, and by extension, the first six issues of this ballyhooed title? Let us count the ways!

First, the laziness of Ellis or the editor. In issue #2, Angela very clearly calls the youngest Nigh daughter "Judy." For the rest of the book, she's "Jessica." Yes, it's just a slip. But Warren Ellis created these characters from scratch - he should bloody well know what their names are! And if he just slipped up (I suppose I can forgive that, but I expect a lot more from someone who acts like the smartest person in comics), then shouldn't the editors (Kristy Quinn and Scott Dunbier) catch it? Isn't that what an editor is paid to do?

Okay, that's minor. Minor minor minor. I have spoken about my disappointment with issue #3, the "porn issue." Looking back after re-reading the whole thing, that's freakin' Shakespeare compared to what we now have as a complete story. In the nihilistic and thoroughly awful issue #6, Jones figures everything out. Yay, Jones! He kills five people (after killing one in issue #1 and another in issue #5), all of whom deserved to die - I suppose. But, you know, who fucking cares? There's nothing redeemable about the Nigh clan, there's nothing redeemable about the three ex-Army guys who stole from Colonel Nigh - fuck 'em. There's absolutely nothing redeemable about Jones, either - sure, he's the only one who is nice to Emily, but that's not really by choice, is it? It's because physiologically he's the only one who can stand to be around her. So his manner with her isn't because he wants to be nice, it's because he's the only one who can be nice. I know Ellis writes him as a complete bastard, but once again, why the fuck should we care about him?

The only redeemable character in the book is Robina. What happens to her? She gets shot in the head after the case is over, just so Filthy Sanchez (and Ellis) can make a point. Well, guess what point you just made, Warren? The world sucks, and so does this comic. Thanks for wasting my time.

I have nothing against nihilism. I think Seven is an utterly brilliant movie, and that's a lot more depressing than this. However, that movie was put together with great care, and we were as destroyed by what happened as Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman were. We don't care about how Jones will react to Robina's death, because we hate him so much. Hate hate hate. He's a horrible person, so why should we care how Robina's death will affect him?

This title has a great deal of potential. The idea of Los Angeles being a safe zone for ex-intelligence agents is a great one, and the idea of Jones working as a private investigator and having to deal with the trauma of the Desolation test is another good one. The execution of the book, however, is absolutely horrible. Ellis gives us ultra-violence with no point, something he seems to be falling into far too often these days. It started, I guess, with Down, which was written some years ago, and now has continued with Jack Cross and Desolation Jones. And part of the disgusting thing about it is Williams' part in all of this - don't think he's getting off lightly! Williams' art is magnificent throughout the book. However, look at pages 14 and 15, when Jones kills Angela and "Jessica." It's almost pornographic how lovingly the killings are rendered. The same thing with pages 20 and 21, when Robina gets a bullet through the brain. It's beautiful. If we're supposed to recoil from the idea of Hitler porn, if we're supposed to get the heebie-jeebies from the way Jones sees the porn actress in issue #3 while she describes in great detail all the degradation they suffer, then we damned well better be disgusted by the way this bloody death is drawn. It's beautiful, and that's another reason why this is so horrible. I very much doubt if Ellis wants us comparing his book to porn, but that's what it is - snuff comics.

God, this is shit. I know some people thought this was one of the best new titles of last year. Please defend it now. I beg you - give me any reason why this isn't just as bad as raping and killing Sue Dibny or blowing Blue Beetle's head off or any of the other awful, awful things that we've seen in comics recently. And you can't use "it's suggested for mature readers." Mature readers don't want shitty comics. Do they?

Fables #48 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha
$2.75, DC/Vertigo

This is also suggested for mature readers, but Willingham doesn't feel the need to have a scene in it where Mowgli skull-fucks the dead wolf leader, does he?

Sorry, that was a cheap shot (and a nasty image, to boot). Mowgli is looking for Bigby, and we see what he's been up to. Meanwhile, the wolf-kids on the farm are practicing staying in human form so they can re-enter regular society. Doesn't sound like much, does it?

Well, to be truthful, it's not. The centerpiece of the book, however, is Mowgli's battle with the wolves, as he needs to learn from them about Bigby, and the only way he can is to defeat their leader in single combat. It's a beautifully staged fight, brutal and messy yet sublime, and Willingham indulges himself a bit by critiquing human society while he shows us lupine society. Yes, we get it, Bill - humans suck. We're sorry.

There's not a lot of action, but it's interesting to contrast the starkness and honesty of the wolves in Russia with the attempts by Bigby's kids to be more duplicitous. I assume (and hope) that the children trying to suppress their wolvish behavior will be a major plot point next issue, as this brief arc comes to a close. We'll see. An interesting book, as usual.

Noble Causes #19 by Jay Faerber and Jon Bosco
$3.50, Image

I'm not too sure I like the new artist on Noble Causes, but it's not horrible, so I'll let it grow on me (it's kind of low-rent Jim Califiore, in case you're wondering). The story continues to intrigue, as the Blackthornes make their move to win the hearts and minds of the public by acting the heroes while the Nobles struggle to stay on the public's good side. Ah, the public - so very fickle! The interesting part of the issue comes from the fact that Race hasn't gotten his powers back after the Widowmaker's assault last issue. Everyone assumes he'll get them back eventually, because when he lost his powers before, he regained them. However, he tells Liz that he never lost his power before - he faked it to get out of a mission. This is a very neat idea, because we're so used to our heroes having failings other than cowardice, but that's what Race admits to here. Liz is having trouble wondering what the big deal is - she tells him she'll still love him no matter what, blah blah blah - and Faerber does a nice job not only setting up a conflict between the super-powered family and its non-powered in-law, but also the fact that Liz might start to question whether Race is worthy of her. Very neat.

Such a good book. Read to cleanse your mind of Desolation Jones!

MINI-SERIES I BOUGHT BUT DID NOT READ.
Ultimate Extinction #4 (of 6) by Ellis and Brandon Peterson
$2.99, Marvel

I'm scared to read this now. Does Misty Knight do some felching? Is Captain America castrated and made to eat his own genitals under a nice cream sauce? What horrors does Ellis have in store for us????

Sorry for the rage. I think this makes me even angrier because it's Ellis, and I know he's capable of great work. What the fuck is wrong with him these days?

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22 Comments:

Blogger Bill Reed said...

I skipped your review of Jones for fear of spoilers, but I caught the "this is shit" bits. Yeah, Ellis said it would piss a few people off... but the first five were so good I can't see it sucking. I guess we'll find out at the end of the month.

4/12/2006 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I generally read my books later tonight, but I made an exception here because I wanted to see why you hated Desolation Jones so much.

As for the issue, I'll be honest, I didn't have as much of a problem with it.

I have no problem with your basic criticism of the issue (too nihilistic, perhaps treating the violence with too much love), but I just don't see the criticisms as being big enough to label the issue as "shit."

First off, just because Jones CAN touch Emily, doesn't mean that it isn't nice of him to actually DO it.

As for the death of Robina, I've always held different standards for creator's own characters - killing off those characters isn't nearly as cheap as killing off established characters.

When you kill off your own characters, any "shock" or "anger" or emotion from the death is a result of YOUR work.

When you kill off an established character, any "shock" or "anger" or emotion from the death is as a result of OTHER people's work (with the notable exception of writers who write a character for years - I don't think anyone has ever ripped James Robinson for killing off Ted Knight - the Justice League Europe, yes, Ted Knight, no).

So that takes Robina out of the Blue Beetle category.

Still, you can argue for "Women in Refrigerators," which is a fine criticism, and probably accurate (Robina dies just to get a reaction from Jones), especially as I doubt the scene would have occured if Robina was a man, which IS a good critique of the issue.

But I don't think it goes as far as to be a piece of shit.

Nice artwork and a story that DID end up making sense, and a twist at the end that sets up some interesting future stories (this IS an ongoing title, right?), I think Jones has a lot more going for it than Jack Cross or Down.

4/12/2006 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I completely agree with you, Oh Lord and Master, as far as killing off your own characters, and that's why it IS different from the other crap that DC is foisting upon an unsuspecting audience.

Part of the problem I have with it is the same basic problem I have with the Punisher. Why go through all the motions if you're just going to kill everyone? Did we need to go through six issues of it? I don't read the Punisher because we know he's going to kill everyone.

I agree with you that if Robina were a man, she wouldn't have died, which bugged me. And although it's true that Jones doesn't HAVE to be nice to Emily, I think part of the reason why he does is because he knows she'll be putty in his hand. If Ellis wants to make him a complete bastard, that's fine - I won't like him, but that's fine. But to make him a complete bastard to everyone BUT Emily makes me think he's just being nice to her because he can, not because he wants to. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

I can certainly understand why people would like this - as I mentioned, and you mentioned, the art is gorgeous, and Ellis can still create good characters. All of the characters in the book, even the minor ones, are at least interesting, which is more than I can say for Down or Jack Cross. I just felt it was utterly mean-spirited and very much beneath both creators, because I did feel the fetishization of the violence is a bigger deal than you do.

4/12/2006 10:42:00 PM  
Anonymous FunkyGreenJerusalem said...

I'd say Ellis took a downslide into using over the top violence as a sloution for everything shortly after his hiatus a few years ago - just before or after he went exclusive with DC - around the time he started getting a LOT of hype, and seemingly, started to believe it. He also went from making great comics to making Good one's, at best.

Orbiter was alright, but took a long time to say very little.
Then came those four mini's - Mek, Red, Reload and Tokyo Storm Warning - none of which were particuarly good - and all of which suffered from what Greg describes here - they all decended into non-stop violence, and we only knew who were supposed to care for because we had been told that's who to care for.
Red was the worst by far - 3 issues of a man killing people.

I'm not sure what came after that - somwhere along the way Ocean was released - and that was a really bad book - and suffers from some similar problems as mentioned in the review, there's mistakes within it's own internal logic (not to mention the logic of the real world).

If it hadn't been for the Apparart Line, in particular Angel Stomp Future and Frank Ironwire I might have given up on his work - and that I only brought from my memories of when everything he wrote was gold.
I'm almost thankful (almost) that he's doing a lot of Marvel work these days, as due to their low quality output, and their homophobic stance, I'm not getting any of their books.
I can pretend I'm missing out rather than being a fanboy and buying stuff due to nostalgia of times past.

-Ben.

4/13/2006 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous muldertp said...

How has no one mentioned that a new issue of Action Philosophers! came out this week? I thought that was a rule around here or something.

4/13/2006 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I forgot to bug the guy at my comic book shoppe about the new issue of Action Philosophers! They didn't get it in, and neither did my back-up store (Atomic Comics in Mesa), so I wondered if it was delayed. I'll have to go back today and ask, because I know I ordered it.

And it's not a rule around here, but when it's such an excellent comic, it gets mentioned!

4/13/2006 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"And it's not a rule around here, but when it's such an excellent comic, it gets mentioned!"

You're just saying that because you forgot the rule!!

4/13/2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Is Jack Cross still even being published? I mean, I'm an Ellis homer as much as the next guy, but man, that was shite.

And I've waited till issue 6 to go get all of Desolation Jones...and dammit, Burgas, now I'm conflicted! Can't you guys get together and do a DJ roundtable or something to hash all this out? I need to know whether it's worth getting!

(Plus I totally love reading blog roundtables.)

4/13/2006 01:18:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

"Part of the problem I have with it is the same basic problem I have with the Punisher. Why go through all the motions if you're just going to kill everyone? Did we need to go through six issues of it? I don't read the Punisher because we know he's going to kill everyone."

As a bit of a Punisher fanboy, I gotta take issue with this. Correct me if I'm wrong but how does this not apply to pretty every superhero comic ever published? Lets throw an obvious example: All Star Superman. Only someone who has never read a superhero comic in their life could possibly believe that Superman is really going to die by the end. Does the fact that Superman won't actually die ruins the comic? Hell no, it's interesting to see what Superman does with the knowlege, even if we know he's worried about a death that isn't happening. Same thing with the Punisher, of course he's going to kill everyone at the end, but it's the twists and turns in getting to that point that makes it compelling. Of course that assumes the writer is worth a damn and I'll readily admit that there have been mountains of terrible Punisher comics, but in the right hands (i.e Garth Ennis), the "Punisher kills everyone" formula can be pretty compelling reading.

Especially "Punisher kills the Marvel universe" that comic ruled.

4/13/2006 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

David, of course you're right, and someone mentioned that same thing a while ago when I bashed the Punisher the same way. I'm just not a Punisher fan, so sue me. I think the difference is, when you sit down to read a Punisher book, you know, with absolute certainty, that he is going to kill everyone by the end. There is no way around it. On the other hand, when you read other superhero comics, there are different outcomes. Batman isn't going to kill anyone and will solve the crime, but the bad guy might still die. Or he might be thwarted in his crime but still escape. The X-Men might actually lose a battle now and then. That's the big difference, to me.

Like I said, I'm just not a fan of Mr. Castle and his big guns. But you're right - in the hands of a good writer, any character can be redeemable.

4/13/2006 02:17:00 PM  
Anonymous muldertp said...

AP! wasn't delayed as I got it yesterday and I live in AZ too, albeit Tucson, so I doubt it's a regional thing. Diamond probably just screwed your LCBS, as is their typical practice of messing up orders.

4/13/2006 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Greg- You make a good point. I think the strength of Ennis's work with the character is that while at the end of every story arc Castle is alway alive and the bad guys always aren't, is that Ennis introduces enough compelling characters whose fates are much less predictable. So while the mob boss will inevitably end up dead, the same cannot be said about the MI-6 agent or the police officer or whoever. So while the "Punisher kills all the badguys" formula is very much still in effect in these stories there are enough characters whose fates aren't as formulaic, and this helps make the book more that just a rehash of the same tired cliches.

4/13/2006 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Yeah, Greg, MAX Punisher kicks much ass.

4/13/2006 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Matt Brady said...

If you thought Desolation Jones was bad, you should have read Blackgas, Warren Ellis's other book that came out this week. It had a character who [SPOILER] was beheaded, then had his genitalia cut off and stuffed in his mouth. [END SPOILER] Pretty nasty. Of course, it is a zombie comic, so you should expect some gore. As for DJ, I thought it was really good. I disagree with some of the points that have been raised. I don't think it compares with the Punisher, since we didn't know he was going to kill everybody at the end. That made it more surprising. It turned him into a much less likable character, so it will be interesting to see what Ellis does with him. Also, I don't necessarily think Williams' depiction of the murders was "beautiful" per se. Maybe beautifully rendered (i.e. very well drawn), but it was still quite horrific. I especially found the look in Robina's eyes as her head rested on the steering wheel very haunting. So yeah, I liked it. But hey, everybody's entitled to their own opinion. I would say this is leagues above Down and Jack Cross though. Neither one of those was very good at all.

4/14/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said...

"The interesting part of the issue comes from the fact that Race hasn't gotten his powers back after the Widowmaker's assault last issue."

Was I the only one who thought the opening scene in the last issue was taking directly out of Powers?
And I absolutely LOATHED the art. It was like Liefield, only without the talent. I couldn't even tell the characters apart.

4/15/2006 06:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill Robinson said...

I too, found Desolation Jones #6 a big dissapointment. What was the point? Didn't like it. I was also dissapointed by the last issue's summing up of the entire series to that point as well. Seemd a pointless excercise.

4/24/2006 12:58:00 PM  
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