Monday, January 21, 2008


Fermented Media with Permission from Plan 9 Presents

Booze ‘n’ Comics
I got 99 zombies but a lich ain’t one.

FREE! Like Christmas presents. From your mom.

Volume 1, Issue 3
Pre-Christmas Go-For-Broke Edition
(Anyone else miss getting X-Men action figures for Christmas?)

This issue is dedicated to Ms. Natasha Wayne, for her thoughtful donation of a half-empty bottle of Skyy Berry Vodka. Vodka: It’s like the Battle of Stalingrad, in your mouth!

World War Hulk #1 – 5 (of 5)
Written by Greg Pak
Drawn by John Romita Jr.

I should start off by saying that I’m not some huge Hulk fan.

Now, don’t think that that’s going to stop me from finding things to bitch about, but I wanted to get that out there in the open.
It’s not that it’s a bad story—the way I see it, it’s not. It’s just a bad ending. Quite a bad ending. And yet all in all, a very, very Marvel ending. Let me back up and explain things as best I can (keeping in mind I’ve got six shots in me and I’m just getting started).
Everyone knows the Hulk. Scrawny human guy gets pissed off, grows ten feet taller, a hundred times stronger, complexion becomes somewhat greener. He destroys half a town, beats up a gang or a villain or an army, comes to his senses, continues hitchhiking through the neverending American Southwest.
(How does he do that, by the way? I mean I could see that in the Eighties, when the Hulk TV show was on, but nowadays? Who the hell picks up hitchhikers anymore, especially hitchhikers who give really vague answers to what they do and where they’re from like “you should see the other guy” and “there’s only so much work in town for someone like me” and “I guess I wore out my welcome”? If Bruce Banner was a real person he’d be sitting on his ass on the side of Route 66 day in, day out until a Highway Patrolman picked him up for being a vagrant. Or if he’d just man up and walk from town to town, by now he’d be tough enough that no one would mess with him enough for him to get stressed out enough to turn into the Hulk in the first place.)
Anyway. After years of dodging the subject, Marvel finally admitted that yeah, the ridiculously destructive actions of the Hulk over the years have probably caused a sizable number of (arguably) accidental deaths. After the Hulk up and kills almost a whole town, a secret meeting of superhuman authority figures—specifically, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Iron Man and Black Bolt—decides that the best thing for everyone is to shoot the Hulk out into deep space, to some other planet where he can’t smash anything that anyone on Earth gives a crap about. In theory, a good idea. Hell, I’d vote for a tax increase if it meant NASA could load Dick Cheney onto a deep-space probe with a year’s supply of Spam and bottled water and just have done with it.
In practice, however, Earth’s heroes learn what my generation learned on a very special episode of Bobby’s World: the truth never stays buried for long.
It turns out the Hulk landed on this savage world called Sakaar, home to millions of thousands of hundreds of dozens of crazy super-monsters like the Hulk, ruled by a tyrannical emperor who enjoys watching gladiator matches between said monsters. Enter the plot to Gladiator in reverse: Hulk becomes famous as a gladiator, gathers an army and overthrows the emperor. He rules the planet in relative peace, happy with a new wife and a child on the way. Then, simply put, it all blows up in his face. Or Reed Richards’s face, depending on how you look at it. The ship that brought the Hulk to Sakaar explodes, killing most of the planet’s population, including his wife and child. Hulk leaves Sakaar with his remaining friends, the Warbound, seeking revenge on Earth. (He sure gets there pretty quick. Writers are not usually on very good terms with the laws of physics, I’ve noticed.)
Now to the meat of it. The first three issues aren’t bad—in a five-issue miniseries starring the Hulk, none of the back story about space, or aliens, or conspiracies really matters in the least, because here’s what the first three issues are going to be about:
‘Oh no! The Hulk is here and he’s messing up all our stuff! Let’s try to beat up the strongest living thing on the planet! What? That didn’t work? Let’s throw some more super-heroes at the problem! Still no end in sight? Time to throw the U.S. Military at him! That bought us some time, now let’s try to beat him up again! Crap! Why isn’t this strategy working?” And so on. It’s a bunch of appetizer slugfests to warm us up for whatever the real story is this time, beyond the numerous ass-kickings and various shades of green previously undiscovered by civilized colorists. So if it’s the Hulk, and he’s kicking someone’s ass, it can’t really be considered bad. And once the minimum ass-kicking requirements have been met, we can move on to the real plot.
By issue four, New York has been evacuated except for the heroes, the Warbound and a handful of completely insane humans who worship the Hulk for some reason (I guess the Hulk isn’t the weirdest thing I’ve heard of people worshipping…). He manages to corral the four who are directly responsible for his recent run of luck (Richards, Strange, Bolt and Stark), and from there he slaps them with “obedience disks” that keep them from getting away(kind of like the restrictor plates that Luke puts on Artoo and Threepio in A New Hope… crap, did I really just write that? Where people can read it? Oh God). In an arena made from Madison Square Garden, Hulk and the Warbound force the four heroes to fight each other to the death as penance for unwittingly having done the same thing to the Hulk. It’s pretty much the typical “oh God, I can’t bear to do violence to mine most dear bosom comrade-in-arms” stuff you hear from the three of them (remember, Black Bolt can’t talk or he’d, y’know, actually advance the plot by killing someone), and just when Richards is about to kill Tony, Hulk decides not to let anyone else die, saying “we came here for justice, not vengeance” and so on. He apparently also came to Earth to never let anyone else finish a goddamned sentence, or Reed Richards may have gotten the chance to say “wait a minute, Bruce! We didn’t put any damn bomb on your ship! We were only going to exile you, not kill you!” But in typical Hulk fashion he’s not really a big listener.
Anyway, just as the Hulk wusses out and decides to leave before anyone gets killed—ironically spouting the same “I want people to know what monsters you are, and I want you to have to live with it” kind of speech that Reed and Stark usually save for guys like Doctor Doom—the Sentry, having spent the last four issues of the miniseries being unsuccessfully goaded into action, is finally successfully goaded into action. The Sentry, for those of you who don’t know (and I commend you for having lives), is kind of like Marvel’s answer to Superman, except he’s so afraid of misusing his awesome power that he created a whole separate “evil” personality to justify not using it, and he’s agoraphobic (afraid of going outside, kind of like me, only with an Avengers membership instead of a part-time grocery store job).
So in the last issue, the Sentry, who was once the Hulk’s closest friend according to retroactive continuity changes, attacks Hulk with everything he’s got. And, I hate to use an offensive word, but it’s retarded. An absolutely, unabashedly retarded super-brawl occurs and at the end all we’re left with is an unconscious Bruce Banner and the revelation that—duh—Richards and the other Illuminati didn’t plant that bomb on the Hulk’s ship; some of the emperor of Sakaar’s loyalists did it, and Miek, one of the Warbound, let them because, well—he delights in death and bloodshed. Hello? Does “Warbound” sound like the name of a crocheting club to you? Yeah, that betrayal by a sinister-looking alien really came out of left field, didn’t it, Bruce? Miek (whose only accomplishment, as far as I can tell, is being distinguished as the “bad boy” among a group of monstrous killers) stabs Rick Jones and then gets the (weird alien equivalent of an) ass beaten off him while he explains why Sakaar really pulled a Krypton. The Hulk begins emitting so much kinetic energy that he threatens to disintegrate the Eastern seaboard if he isn’t stopped; then, of course, he is stopped, by a bunch of orbital lasers. Or something. Seriously, if I’d taken this script and traveled back in time to 1965 and showed it to Stan Lee, he’d have laughed in my face and called me a moron. To top it off, apparently there’s going to be a new “Red Hulk” next year, as well as “Skaar, son of Hulk,” who emerges full-grown and armored, like Athena, from the soil of the remains of the planet Sakaar at the end of issue five. Jeez.
So, aside from all of the above about the last issue, there are two things about World War Hulk that bugged me. First of which was the constant use of the word “smash” and the phrase “puny humans.” The Hulk would not stop calling everyone “puny humans” every time he wasn’t addressing an individual person—his fight with the Illuminati, his fight with the US Armed Forces, when he demanded the whole of NYC to be evacuated—always with the “puny humans,” like it’s a new insult that he totally didn’t first think up in 1962. And then there’s the smashing. If memory serves, even Storm at one point says “he’s already smashed the Avengers and the X-Men!” Reed Richards fears that the Hulk will smash everything and everyone who stands in the way of his judgment of the Illuminati. Iron Man admits he may well be smashed to death in one-on-one combat with the Hulk. It was at this point that, for me, Greg Pak’s completion of the fifth grade was thrown into serious doubt.
Secondly—the Hulk won’t let Reed Richards finish one single solitary goddamn sentence, AND YET, he sits in his big fancy spaceship (question: where’d he get that from if his planet was all but blown up?) and waits for all eight million people in New York City to evacuate. I’m usually the last guy to argue for more “realism” in comics(that being a code word to sneak in more mainstream-pandering Ultimates-type stuff into our precious subculture), but what about consistency in characterization, huh? Too much to ask? The Hulk can’t kill anybody else, right? That’s why the city was evacuated? Because if the Hulk accidentally killed anyone, that would make him an unsympathetic character. A villain. And yet, somewhere out there in the same universe, the Punisher and Wolverine are running amok and everyone loves them for it. Guh? This is beside the fact that DC Comics annihilates entire cities about once a year. Just for kicks, to add a little drama. Montevideo? Kansas City? Gone, not to mention all the places they made up just so they could be blown up. And all of a sudden, Marvel gets paranoid about a few hypothetical bystanders getting pureed by Hulk-debris? (I’m going to copyright that compound word, so don’t you dare go and use it without my permission.) I’m sensing a slight lapse in prioritization. Priorities. Whatever. I’m drunk.
To sum things up, I guess I’d be more pissed off about the way this story ended if I’d bought the issues as opposed to borrowed them, and I’d be more willing to forgive it if I’d read any other Hulk stuff in the past five years instead of just jumping into this because it was a publisher’s centerpiece event of the year. Issues one through four entertained me. Issue five made me want to go find more alcohol, and alas, it’s all gone now.

Rating: (#1-4) Three Vodka Collins /(#5) One Shot Bacardi 151

Nazis! I HATE those guys. Psychiatrists? I REALLY hate those guys!

Captain America #26-31
Written by Ed Brubaker
Drawn by Steve Epting

Man, the Red Skull is an asshole.
Seriously, if Fascism boiled down to giving out free ice cream and playing fetch with puppies, he’d still be a monomaniacal jerk who only hangs out with other jerks. In the issues I read, the Red Skull:
-berates his chief scientist Arnim Zola for saying a new time-travel device will soon be usable for their purposes instead of his (the Skull’s) purposes. Touchy! There’s no “I” in “world domina…” I mean, there’s no “me” in “kill Captain Ameri…” Crap. You know what I mean.
-Tells a soldier that his broadcast “had better be secure” right after the guy tells him that it is. Jeez, Dad, I told you I did it! You wanna re-secure the line to make sure I did it right, go ahead!
-Speaking of “Dad,” he lets his own daughter get the crap kicked out of her by the Winter Soldier (the sidekick formerly known as Bucky) because “I needed to see if he’d be willing to kill you… or if he’s going to be completely useless.” Someone get this man a World’s Greatest Dad coffee mug!
-Oh yeah, and he sets Captain America up to get killed. But! Not only does he have his own guy, Crossbones, shoot Cap with a rifle from across the street. No, he has this creepy bearded guy, Dr. Faustus, mess with Sharon Carter’s head so that she shoots Cap three more times, in the gut no less, after Crossbones nails him in the shoulder. (Sharon Carter= Cap’s Agent-of-SHIELD lady-friend.)

But yeah, in the aftermath of Cap’s assassination, it’s harder to just hate the Skull because he’s a former Nazi—former, because, as he says, “I’m bigger than Fascism now.” I hate him because he’s a cold, calculating jerk and a selfish poophead. And now Microsoft Word is informing me that “poophead” isn’t a real word. Whatever. It’s what he is. That, and a creepy ghost in a Russian guy’s head. No, really! Because of some crazy hoodoo having to do with the Cosmic Cube (another one of those “bend reality however you want, until a superhero kicks you in the bollocks and takes it away” devices that villains love so much), the Skull is dead, but he’s possessing the body of former Soviet general Aleksander Lukin, who’s now an obscenely rich oil magnate. And between Lukin’s private army and the Skull’s dedicated (re: ape$#!t-crazy) followers, they’ve got enough manpower (and with scientist Zola and creepy brainwasher Faustus) enough brainpower to overthrow America as an encore for killing the Captain.
And while I’m ranting about villains… while Faustus is worth a bit of scorn—he’s so creepy, not only for brainwashing countless SHIELD agents and eventually Bucky, but for having that huge, luxuriant red beard that goes down to his waist—even with a suit and a monocle on, he looks like he should be carrying around a bottle of Jack and an eightball of coke with an entourage of groupie skanks. He should be touring with Skynyrd, not the Skull! Anyway, there’s Arnim Zola, who’s ten times creepier than Faustus—for God’s sake, he’s a brain in a robot body, to start with—but then, because he’s so damn practical, he didn’t put the actual physical brain in the head region of the humanoid robot body. He put it in the torso, the better to protect it from injury. Fair enough. But then he has a TV screen on his torso that shows an image of his face that moves its mouth and makes expressions as he talks. Why would anyone bother to do that. And even that little aesthetic choice isn’t the real problem. Okay, we’ve got a guy who put his brain into a robot and then didn’t give the robot a proper head. Okay. Instead his talking-TV death-mask is mounted on his tummy. Okay. The robot is wearing a jacket.
Okay, sorry, there are other things about the comic besides Steve Epting’s lack of logic vis a vis proper attire for cyborgs. There are still heroes, even though the titular character is dead. There’s the Falcon, who kicks much ass despite having the most unfortunate costume ever for espionage purposes. I can’t avoid it so I’m going to get it out of the way: Falcon is the Nightwing to Cap’s Batman. Intensely loyal. The best friend Cap could have. But he’s got his own thing. He’s not going to put on the stars and stripes (even though I’ve often thought he should, and just incorporate his wings into the outfit. I dunno. Just a thought). He signed up with Stark’s Initiative, told them “give me Harlem and leave me the hell alone,” and went back out there to find the Skull and make him pay.
Speaking of making people pay, there’s the Winter Soldier. He still absolutely blows my mind. For years—decades—since the return of Jean Grey after the Dark Phoenix saga, it’s been the rule: “Only Bucky stays dead.” And now he’s alive, and somehow Ed Brubaker got us all to swallow that fact without wanting to put his head on a pike! I’m still in awe, a bit. Condensed down to one sentence: Bucky’s body got found in the Arctic Ocean by Soviets who took him in and brainwashed him and trained him and put him in stasis and used him as an assassin and he only aged ten years through the whole Cold War and then he got out when Lukin tried to buy him and Cap used the Cosmic Cube to make him remember he was Bucky! Whew.
Since Cap’s death, the Soldier has been waiting for the right moment to kill two men: the Skull, and Tony Stark, both of whom he feels are responsible for what happened to his old mentor. He managed to take the True Shield (sorry, Steven Colbert—yours is plastic) from Black Widow, and tracked down Lukin, whom he thought would lead him to the Skull. He was a little too right, and when Sin (the Skull’s hot daughter) and Crossbones couldn’t kill him, the Skull turns him “off” with an old hypnotic suggestion code from Bucky’s Soviet days. But back to Sin—the Skull’s smoking hot daughter. She’s why I really, really hate the Skull. Not only is he just on the world’s biggest revenge kick—he only wants to crush America because Cap stopped him so many times back in the old days, and now it’s the only idea he’s got—but he turned his (totally smoking hot) daughter into a crappy villain. Okay, she’s a remorseless killing machine. And? Look, there are a lot of lonely comic book readers out there. And on their behalf, I’d like to say that, we get enough of this in the real world. Not all the hot girls in comics have to be good! We love evil hot chicks! But can’t they be interesting evil hot chicks, not just more screwed-in-the-head Daddy’s girls? Can’t we have her be a seductive Nazi interrogator? Or, I don’t know, a mistress of disguise? No. She’s got an Uzi and some knives and a corset. And as sexy as two of those things—uh, I mean, one of those things! Shut up! You can’t judge me!—might be, she’s as two-dimensional as Arnim Zola’s face. It’s depressing. But if we’re talking about depressing, Cap getting shot still wins out over evil redheads. Close, though. So close.
After issues 30 and 31, I’m definitely interested in what happens next in this series. Is someone else going to wind up dead? Will Sharon beat Faustus’s mind control? For that matter, will Bucky? Will Lukin try to resist the Skull? It’s a dark time for fans of Cap, but if you’ve been online at all, you’ve probably seen the Alex Ross drawings of the “New Cap” coming next year. We all know it’s going to be Bucky. But will he really be the Captain? Or will he be another pawn in the Skull’s poopheaded “nyah nyah look at me I’m bigger than Fascism, thhpppt” plan? I’m interested in finding out. Seriously, when I wasn’t being creeped out by the villains, I enjoyed this book. Killing Cap was a ballsy move on Brubaker’s and Marvel’s part. Will “only Cap stays dead” be the rule of the future? I kind of hope so, for integrity’s sake… but for the world’s sake, I kind of hope not, sometimes. The world’s a grimmer, grittier place without Cap to rally us ‘round the flag.

Rating: Three Vodka Collins.

What We Need More Of: Drunk Superheroes.

Booster Gold #1-4
Written by Geoff Johns and Jeff Katz
Drawn by Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund

This should be a buddy comedy starring Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell, and I mean that as a compliment. Billy West would still be the voice of Skeets the robot, because that was too good of a choice not to duplicate (see the Justice League Unlimited episode “The Greatest Story Never Told” to hear Billy West, a.k.a. Fry from Futurama and Stimpy from Ren and Stimpy [why do I keep almost writing “Stimply?”] as Skeets).
I never knew Geoff Johns could be so funny—not just a couple instances of clever word-play during a fight scene, but actually laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe it’s this Jeff Katz guy, whom I’ve never heard of before, punching up the script, but still… bravo, Mr. Johns.
Here’s the premise: back in the pages of 52, Booster Gold, an egotistical, glory-seeking hero from the 25th century who’s been a B-List superguy in our era since the ‘80s, tried to make a comeback while Superman was absent from Metropolis for a year. Through a series of boneheaded moves, he failed to take Big Blue’s place in the pantheon and appeared to die while saving the city from a nuclear accident. In truth, he was taken out of “our” timeline by a guy called Rip Hunter, the Time Master. It’s Rip’s job to keep the timeline from being messed with, and when the Universe split into 52 alternate timelines after Infinite Crisis, his job got a lot harder. There’s a lot more to the story than that, but a drunk guy is not the best candidate to explain fifty-two issues of plot concerning extensive time travel. Here’s what you need to know for this series: There’s someone out there trying to wipe out the greatest heroes of the DC Universe: Superman, Flash, Green Lantern and Batgirl are at the top of the hit list, and things are only going to get worse from there. Rip Hunter, a guy with a time-traveling giant goldfish bowl called the Time Sphere and a lot of fancy four-dimensional equipment, has tapped Booster Gold and his 25th century robot buddy (and portable external source of common sense) Skeets to help him keep the world’s heroes from getting bumped off before their time.
Why Booster? Well… because he’s kind of a jackass. In the 1980s League, he and his best friend Blue Beetle (imagine Hank Pym without the benefits of size-changing powers or the detriments of being a pill-head wifebeater; or better yet! Picture Nite Owl from Watchmen, seeing as how he was based on Blue Beetle) pulled a lot of stupid stunts trying to get rich quick and build names as big as Batman or Superman. Since that League split up, Booster’s been the kind of loser who only shows up during major battles because the artist was instructed to draw in everyone he could think of, and after Ted Kord, the old Blue Beetle, was killed, Booster didn’t have a friend in the world, or at least, in this century. After Superman got his powers back, Booster certainly didn’t have a chance at getting the spotlight back in Metropolis.
At the outset of the new series, Booster is attempting to join the new Justice League. Just as they decide to award him probationary status, Booster is convinced by Rip Hunter to turn down the League’s offer, thus once again making him look like a jerk in front of the first string heroes. That’s perfect, though—exactly what Rip has in mind. Booster can pass unmolested through the halls of history specifically because of his reputation as a total jerkoff loser, which makes him the best possible guy to bounce around the timestream fixing things without anyone taking notice.
Unfortunately, someone takes notice (duh). A moron called Rex Hunter (neither Rex nor Rip can let anyone know their real names or they can be tracked to the time when they were born or they could be killed by other time-travelers, so they use horrible fake names like Rex and Rip Hunter) thinks he’s going to become the world’s greatest hero by wiping every other hero from the timeline and saving everyone himself. To aid him, he’s got someone using the Supernova costume that Booster and Rip used during 52 to protect the Multiverse from (this is going to sound so dumb) the giant time-eating worm that evolved from the crappy old Captain Marvel villain Mister Mind.
First, they try to keep Hal Jordan from ever becoming Green Lantern, thus making Guy Gardner the greatest GL ever—which would be a terrible enough fate, except that without Hal Jordan as ring insurance, Guy would die young, leaving Earth vulnerable to an invasion from Sinestro. Booster and Skeets realize early on that they can’t fight the formidable Sinestro, who’s come to Earth to meet Guy Gardner in the past—instead of fighting him, Booster appeals to Sinestro’s horribly inflated ego. “I’ve been sent from the future,” he says, “to remind you that no one can replace the mighty Sinestro.” “A yellow ring? What Corps do you belong to in the future?” Sinestro asks. “Uh… the Sinestro Corps,” says Booster.
Oops. Looks like he maybe gave Sinestro the idea.
Oh well.
Next, Booster has to go back to the Wild West to save the doctor destined to save Jonathan Kent’s (Superman’s adopted father) great-grandfather from dying at birth. Doing that somehow has to involve Booster getting drunk with the famous disfigured gunslinger Jonah Hex. I don’t really care how, because it means the latter half of issue 3 consists of Booster telling Skeets “I’m not drunk!” and fighting Supernova off long enough to convince Doctor Westfield to move back to Smallville. Then, in an attempt to track Supernova to his next target, Booster takes control of the Time Sphere. Yes, that’s right—a superhero driving drunk. Through time! I love it. “C’mon!” says Booster. “What’re we going to hit out here?”
Crash! Oops again. Looks like they hit the Silver Age Flash. (Though I love the Flash, it would’ve been hilarious if he’d crippled the Flash in a drunk driving accident.)
In issue 4, Rip Hunter fights Rex Hunter, Booster fights Supernova, and Skeets fights Supernova’s own robot buddy, Maximillion, who’s basically the Xbox 360 to Skeets’s Pong(Not even the full Atari. Just Pong), all while the existence of the Flash hangs in the balance.
Rip beats the crap out of Rex, and Booster finds out who Supernova is, only to see his super-suit fritz out thanks to the same lightning storm that made Barry Allen the Flash. Supernova and Maximillion vanish as their time-circuitry picks a poor time to reboot. Rip brings up the good point that someone must have been pulling Rex’s strings, since no one with a haircut as bad as Rex’s could come up with such an ingenious plan by themselves. And so, our three tepid heroes move on to their next assignment—save Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, from being crippled by the Joker.
I doubt they’ll succeed. Alan “better than Grant Morrison” Moore wrote The Killing Joke, where Babs Gordon is shot in the spine. Are they really going to rewrite twenty-odd years of history? I highly doubt that even Johns could do that.
What he does is write a really compelling story. Will Booster ever get the recognition he deserves? Is he going to cause the Final Crisis, or save us from it? Will we find out when Rip is really from? Who’s pulling Rex Hunter’s strings? For a comic that most people probably write off as a joke, there’s a lot at stake for any DC fan here. Whatever the outcome of Booster’s quest to save the timeline, and to maybe even bring Blue Beetle back to life, not to mention the upcoming Crisis, this comic will be remembered as more entertaining than a lot of the stuff the headliners were doing at the—well, actually, Johns is writing Action Comics, too—and Gail Simone just took over Wonder Woman—and Johns is also writing Green Lantern—and Grant is on Batman—okay. So, Booster Gold will be remembered five years from now as better than the Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow and Black Canary.
Good enough, right?

Rating: Three Vodka Collins.

Silver Surfer No Match for Angry Driver

Silver Surfer: Requiem #1-4
Written by J. Michael Stra… you know, that guy.
Drawn by Essad Ribic

In all seriousness, you can’t do much better than this without just rewriting All-Star Superman.
In less—or more, depending on your viewpoint or my mood—seriousness, I GOT A $145 TICKET FOR EXPIRED TAGS ON MY WAY HOME TO WRITE THIS GOD-DAMNED REVIEW. I WILL RUIN THIS ZINE WITH MY ANGER.
Okay. I think I’m done. So yeah, in this absolutely breathtaking miniseries, the Silver Surfer discovers that he is dying, and that there is no one in the Universe, not even Galactus, who can stop the Surfer from succumbing to his mysterious disease.
Anyway. Reed Richards and Doctor Strange both find their abilities taxed to the limit, and neither can find a cure for the dark, sunspot-like blemishes all over the Surfer’s form… speaking of taxes, that’s all that traffic tickets are, a form of random taxation! If you can take a class or fill out a form and then shell out some cash, and get the charge removed, it’s taxation, not a crime! You can’t take an assault class or pay a homicide ticket! SILVER SURFER? HAH! THE STATE SHOULD BUILD A GODDAMNED LIFE-SIZE SILVER STATUE OF ME TO PAY ME BACK FOR THE TAXES I PAY AND THE TICKETS I GET STUCK WITH!
(At this point the author degenerates into complete incoherent alcoholic madness and it’d be wise to just end the review here. Simply put, when Requiem comes out in trade you should buy it, because it’s a really good story.)

Rating: Four Whiskey Sours.

Coming to DC in 2009: All-Star Gandhi, All-Star Joan of Arc

All-Star Superman #1-9
Written by Grant Morrison
Drawn by Frank Quitely

I don’t mean to be crass or anything, but if the American standard of trade suddenly shifted from dollars to blowjobs, I’d still pay twice as much as the cover price for All-Star Superman, and I’d still pray for it to come out more than once every three months. This is not my roundabout way of sexually propositioning any of the fine folks at Plan 9 Comics; I’d say the same thing if the store was co-owned by Chris Claremont, P. Diddy and Anna Nicole Smith’s corpse (too soon?). All-Star Superman is that good. It doesn’t have to be blowjobs. Our currency could suddenly be read on the Wall Street ticker as “$1=Five fights picked with Chuck Norris” and I’d still beg for the privilege of paying $2.99 for each issue.
I’m going to try and get the objective facts about plot and art out of the way now so that I might then continue singing the praises of Morrison and Quitely unhindered.
I don’t know if this is Frank Quitely’s best work ever; I must shamefully admit to not having seen everything he’s ever drawn, and his work on New X-Men was pretty breathtaking. That said, just about every panel in all nine issues published in the past two years has been nothing short of beautiful. He took a bit of time to find his footing in the first issue, but by issue two, the hesitant shading and the age lines on Superman’s face were gone. I think Max Fleischer would have fallen in love with this story based on Quitely’s cartoony, yet very human, style alone.
Another thing. It pains me to say this as a holder of a Bachelor of Arts in English, but too often, today’s comics are—well—too full of words. Cough cough Bendis cough cough Loeb cough cough. Exposition and dialogue go on for days and the art suffers for having to crowd in underneath all the word balloons, and trust me, I’m self-aware enough to know just from looking at what you’re reading this very moment that if I were lucky enough to write comics for a living, I’d be making the same mistake.
Grant Morrison, as a semi-divine entity, is not encumbered by this same mortal propensity. The economy of his words and Quitely’s pictures is simply perfect. Who’s your favorite film director? It doesn’t matter. They couldn’t do a better job of cutting individual moments together into a cohesive, spectacular story than the All-Star Scots (Morrison and Quitely both hail from Glasgow).
As for the story, it’s very similar to the art—simple, iconic, unforgettable. Due to Lex Luthor’s machinations, Superman has absorbed too much solar energy. He’s going to die. In the meantime, he has to use his newly-enhanced powers to set things right (while he can) on his adopted home planet, and with his own personal life, which has for so long come second to him after safeguarding the planet.
He reveals his true feelings for Lois Lane, and invents a serum that lets her duplicate his powers for a day. He travels back in time to defeat a four-dimensional monster, and gets the chance to make peace with his dead father. When a piece of “dark kryptonite” turns him into an Evil Superman, Jimmy Olsen has to save the day—one last great adventure with “Superman’s Pal.” As Clark Kent, he interviews Lex Luthor, who I’m happy to say has never been written as more of an arrogant madman than in this comic. Luthor brags of his own greatness and superiority to “The Alien,” sitting on Death Row for his plan to tamper with the Sun that has (or will, anyway) cost Superman his life. In the middle of a deadly prison riot, Clark saves Lex’s life, twice, and he doesn’t even notice. That’s one of my favorite Easter eggs in the whole series—the half-dozen times that his bumbling, oafish Clark Kent persona saves a person’s life without the other person noticing.
The only misstep—if you can call it that—so far has been making the Planet Bizarro story two issues long, where everything else was pretty much a one-shot, all in a definite order, but leaving no minor conflict unresolved for more than thirty pages at a time.
Morrison and Quitely have called All-Star Superman their “love letter to America,” and honestly, I don’t know if we deserve such a beautiful tribute. It’s slated to end with issue #12, as a sort of “Twelve Labors of Superman” epic. And for those of you who are worried and confused, no, Superman isn’t “really” going to die again—not in continuity. The point of the All-Star line is to tell iconic stories that transcend continuity and attract new readers based on characterization and storytelling, not interconnected plot points and alternate realities and dystopian futures.
Speaking of futures, though, I wouldn’t fear for Clark’s health too much. For one thing, in issue #6 he travels back in time with the “Superman Squad,” a team of time-traveling Supermen from the future, so he at least has to have an heir before he dies, right? And for those of you who remember Morrison’s story DC One Million, the return of Solaris, the Tyrant Sun, has been hinted at twice now… somehow, I think Superman will pull through. Am I any less anxious to see issues 10, 11 and 12 hit the stands, though? Not at all. I’m as psyched as I was when issue #2 was a week away. Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, I am proud to present you with Fermented Media’s first Single Malt Scotch Rating for a comic book series.

Rating: Single Malt Scotch.