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CSBG Archive

What I bought – 16 August 2006

It was another fine week of comic book purchasing here in the desert, and although I enjoyed everything I bought, I have a few issues with a few issues.  So we’ll forego the poetry for this week (to paraphrase the Moody Blues in that classic Simpsons episode: “Can the poetry, let’s review some comics!”).  I’m going to have to get all feminist on your asses, y’all!  I hope you can forgive me!  Our themes this week are: Sex played for laughs, the success and failure of non-linear narratives, and when writers might be a bit to clever for their own good.  Also, I point out the greatest injustice the world has ever seen.  It’s true!

Let’s get the party started!

The Boys #1 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

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Ennis and Robertson and a book about normal folk killing superheroes?  Can I resist?  Well, sure I can – it’s only a comic book, but I wanted to give this a test drive, because I really like Ennis and Robertson can be very good and Ennis does this sort of thing very well.  And I’m not quite sure why the first page has to be an image of (I guess) Butcher stomping on the head of a superhero, especially because the second page shows Butcher sitting placidly on a park bench and we never see the superhero again, but okay.  I was okay with the book until page 6.  If you haven’t read the book yet, I’m going to spoil it for you a little.

If you’ve read the book, you know that on page 6 Hugh Campbell’s girlfriend Robin, who has just told him she loves her, gets killed in a particularly brutal fashion.  Now, Ennis is a particularly brutal writer, and he often treats his male characters much worse than his female characters, and I know he has to make Hughie hate superhero types with a burning passion, but the scene bothered me, as did the later panel showing Robin smushed into the wall.  I think the real reason Hughie gets so angry is the callous attitude shown by A-Train, the superhero who apparently threw the bad guy uncaringly into a wall and in the process killed Robin, so there’s no reason to show how horribly awful her death was.  And although it’s done seriously, I can’t help but think Ennis had himself a little chuckle when he wrote it.  I don’t want to think that, but it’s there.

Then there’s Susan Rayner, the director of the CIA.  Obviously, because she’s a woman, she likes getting fucked violently by a real he-man, Butcher, because her husband just doesn’t do it for her.  Ennis is capable of writing decent women, but this bugs me.  Yes, she’s a bitch and Butcher is an asshole.  I get it.  We don’t really need the ass-fucking scene, do we?  And it seems to me that in comic books, when sex is allowed, it’s far too often close to rape, but it’s “okay” because the women like it that way.  It’s a way to show rape without it being rape.  Sex is played for laughs in a lot of comics, and it’s getting on my nerves.

What does this mean for the rest of the book?  Well, Robin had to die so that Hughie could be bitter and get on the team that Butcher is putting together.  I will give Ennis a pass on that (despite my reservations) because it has to be a one-time deal.  The sex scene is a bit more problematic because Rayner is, after all, still alive, and she’s probably going to reappear.  I want to like this book because, as I said, it’s the kind of thing Ennis does well, and it’s not a war comic or the Punisher.  It’s on a short leash, though.  I’ll give it a few issues and see where Ennis goes with it.  If he lays off the pseudo-rape and gives us superhero stomping, I can get behind it.

Casanova #3 by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá.  $1.99, Image.

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I have not been as enamored with Casanova as the rest of the comics blogaxy, because my brain is weak and I just can’t figure out what the hell is going on.  The fact that the issue recap in issue #2 didn’t help me figure out issue #1 was a bad omen, and this issue’s recap of issue #2 cleared the confusion just a bit.  I remained on the fence.

This issue, however, was pretty good, and made me give Casanova a bit more leeway.  In this issue, Fraction tempered the annoying bits of the first two issues – which dealt largely with the statement implicit in the whole thing – “Look how clever I am!” – and got down to more “conventional” storytelling.  I don’t want Casanova to be just another spy comic, but on the other hand, there’s a reason surrealist literature doesn’t burn up the bestseller lists.  Fraction reins in the wackiness just enough to give us a coherent story with a lot of weird elements, and the balance makes this a much more interesting book than the first two issues were.  If Fraction can maintain that balance, this book has a lot of potential.  If he slides back into showing us how cool he is, I won’t be around for it.

What Fraction does in the book is tell three “sides” to the same story, really.  After the failure (or success, depending on which side you look at) of last issue’s mission, Casanova is disciplined by his two employers.  E.M.P.I.R.E. suspends him, but his father has a milk run mission for him that involves digging up the corpse of an agent.  Newman Xeno, leader of W.A.S.T.E. takes him to task for almost getting his sister killed, and then tortures him.  His sister comes in an tortures him a bit, but does tell him where his mother is.  In the present, he digs the agent up with the help of two E.M.P.I.R.E. agents, but then kills them for Xeno.  Being a double agent is a bit tough on Casanova.  On the final page, Casanova talks to his mother, who appears to be comatose, and plots to change the world.  It’s quick, it’s simple, and it doesn’t make your head hurt.

Part of the reason why this works is because of the format.  It’s a 16-page comic, after all, but Fraction is telling three different stories, so he devotes five pages to each.  That way he has to use an even more pared-down style, and that keeps him from going too wacky like he has been doing.  The insane style remains, but the narrative must come through more, and the blend is achieved.  It will be interesting to see if Fraction can keep that up.

A good issue of Casanova means that I’m on board at least a little longer.  I’m still on the fence with it, but it certainly improved.

Catwoman #58 by Will Pfeifer, David López, and Alvaro Lopez.  $2.99, DC.

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Pfeifer likes this cover. Well, it seems like he does. I do not.  It’s one of the weaker Hughes covers we’ve seen on this book.  What’s up with Zatanna’s pelvis and breasts?  It creeps me out.

Anyway, as usual with this book, it deliver solid, meat-and-potatoes storytelling with good art.  It’s amazing that it’s just a story, with no fancy bells and whistles, and López’ art is nothing spectacular, but it’s a consistently entertaining book, and Pfeifer continues to make something decent out of the Identity Crisis mess.  We get two stories in this one, as Zatanna mind-wipes Angle Man and the Film Freak, while two of Black Mask’s thugs go to kill Sam Bradley a year ago, after Selina killed their boss.  This second story seems to imply that Bradley is Helena’s father, but we’ll have to wait for that.  In the present, Zatanna tells Selina that mind-wiping isn’t as easy as everyone thinks, something that Meltzer never bothered with, and although we’re not quite sure what Zatanna does to the two men, she manages to make them forget about Irena Dubrovna.  She gets Angle Man to go to the cops and confess his crimes, but Edison, interestingly enough, feels he has committed “crimes against cinema,” and he decides to hack his station manager to death, in a very beatifully rendered, “cinematic” page.  Wow -  a mind-wipe that goes awry – what are the chances?

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This continues to be the kind of book that is difficult to hate, yet is difficult to truly love.  It doesn’t blow you away, but it offers a story that is completely organic, uses continuity from other parts of the DCU without being a geeky wet dream, and gives us good, quality characters who make choices that might be poor, but are certainly consistent.  Pfeifer is simply telling a story, and in the attempts to make comics kewl, some writers forget that that’s what it’s all about. 

Checkmate #5 by Greg Rucka, Jesus Saiz, and Fernando Blanco.  $2.99, DC.

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In a “catch-our-breath” issue of Checkmate, we get to see the fallout from the first story arc and a little of where Rucka plans to go with the story.  This issue is weaker than the first four, because even though I understand the need to stop and assess occasionally, that doesn’t mean I have to like it!  Actually, it’s a perfectly fine issue and is a good place for those people who missed the first story to jump on.  It’s just a tad bit dull.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot going on, however.  Four candidates are looking to become Sasha “Black Queen” Bordeaux’s Knight, since the previous one (whose name escapes me) was killed back in issue #1.  This is weird – there are two male and two female candidates.  What does it say about me and society in general that I knew one of the two women would be the winner?  The competition between the four is the standard “survive-and-move-on” kind of thing, with a climb up a mountain to retrieve a chess piece while Count Vertigo does his vertiginous thing, plus a fake capture by Kobra and some good torturing (Rucka must have been watching The Recruit while typing the script), and finally a hand-to-hand DeathMatchâ„¢ to determine the winner.  I knew it would be a woman.  Why is that?

The other fallout is Alan Scott’s ouster as White King.  Mister Terrific – his Bishop – wants to resign because he’s all bent out of shape that they would dare can Green Lantern, but Scott tells him he wants Terrific to take over as White King, and that the U.S. wouldn’t be able to stop it.  This would put a strain on his relationship with Sasha, because there will be a perceived conflict of interest.  So they have to decide what to do, because Sasha says she can’t leave Checkmate – she has to atone for allowing Maxwell Lord to kill Ted.  This will play out in future issues, as will what’s going on with Beatriz, who has a confrontation with Amanda Waller about her role in Checkmate.  Waller is blackmailing Beatriz over something in her past – presumably a horrible deed she did for the all-powerful Brazilian spy service, and she doesn’t want to talk about it.  Oh, Beatriz – don’t you know that you’re in a comic book, and covering things up will only make them worse?  You crazy Latina!

Like I said, a lot going on.  The reason it doesn’t really work too well is because the selection process takes up a large part of the book, and that’s the most boring part.  However, it does, like I said, allow us to catch our breath and set things up for the future, with the Suicide Squad (!!!!) showing up next issue.  That.  Will.  Be.  Awesome.  Despite the relative weakness of this issue, it’s still a very good book.  And Blanco needs to “finish” Saiz more often, because the art is less harsh than in the first story arc, when Saiz was inking himself.  It’s a nice change.

Deadman #1 by Bruce Jones and John Watkiss.  $2.99, DC/Vertigo.

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Brian has already reviewed this and liked it, calling it “neat.”  Well, I didn’t like it quite as much as he did, but I liked it enough to be on board with it for a few issues, to see where Jones is going.  How’s that for a recommendation?

The problem with it is the way Jones structures the story.  Casanova does the whole non-linear narrative as well, and in the latest issue, Fraction does it well.  Jones does it too, and it doesn’t work quite as well.  It’s not that it’s confusing – we know pretty much what’s going on at all times – it’s that it’s not confusing enough.  Now that I have thoroughly confused you, lemme ‘splain.

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In the first two issues of Casanova, Fraction seemed too clever for his own good.  Jones doesn’t do that, which is nice, but it becomes clear very quickly that he wants to establish Brandon Cayce’s personality, and to do that, he comes up with the device of having Brandon’s life flash before his eyes while his brother, Scott, is inexplicably crashing a plane deliberately into London.  Brandon does not survive the crash, but his soul decides to go back into his body and reanimate it.  Why he does this is not exactly clear (he says it’s to figure out why his brother crashed the plane, but he’s dead – who cares?), but I assume Jones will get to it before fifty issues have passed and it won’t have anything to do with a gamma-irradiated dude with a big brain.  The life flashing before his eyes motif is clichéd, but that’s okay.  What bothers me is that it’s too coherent – we get a lot of information about Brandon’s life fed to us, not through big blocks of text, which would have been annoying, but through the scenes and dialogue, which is a decent way to do it.  I would have liked the scenes to be shorter and more staccato – as if, you know, his life really was flashing before his eyes.  Part of the mystery of the book should be why his brother crashed the plane, something he hints at, and why Brandon is so intrigued by it that he comes back to life.  But another part of the mystery should be what happened between the two brothers and Sarah, or what happened to their father.  Thanks to the flashbacks, we know all that.  I hope Jones will return to it and get into it a bit more, but the mystery is gone.

I realize that I criticized Casanova for being too oblique and this for not being oblique enough, but there is a fine line between the two, and I wish both had approached it, albeit from different directions.  This is certainly an intriguing first issue, and Jones does a nice job setting up the story, but it was just a bit frustrating.  Watkiss’ art is beautiful as usual.  What else is there to say?

This is another book, like The Boys, that I will pick up for a bit and see.  It’s a better first issue than the Ennis book, though, so it might last a bit longer. 

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #7 by Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger.  $2.99, Marvel.

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I have expressed my reservations about whether I should still buy Nextwave, and you see that I still am.  I’d like to point out again that I have liked every issue, but I just wonder where it’s going and what the point is.  I’m still wondering, but this was a much better issue than the previous two, for one good reason: less Dirk Anger.

Anger was a fun character for about 1.5 issues.  Then he wore real thin real quick.  In this issue he shows up only for two pages, and even that is about one page too many.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Ellis killed him off in a hilariously gruesome manner?  I doubt he will, because I get the feeling Ellis really, really likes him.

But the rest of the issue is solid and, remarkably, very funny.  Yes, this is supposed to be a funny book, but the last two issues have been strangely devoid of real funny moments.  This issue gives us the Dread Rorkannu, who trades a legion of Mindless Ones to the Beyond Corporation for “a hundred of the Earth dollars” and a gaggle of Suicide Girls (“no blondes,” says the Dread Rorkannu), then we get two pages of the Captain explaining to Aaron Stack how he went through every derivation of “Captain _____” he could think of, but someone else always had the name, which goes on a bit long but is still funny, and then Monica tells Elsa about all the guys on the Avengers who hit on her, which is very funny.  Thor and his “magic hammer” – oh, that wacky Ellis!  And another great line – “X-Men come back more than Jesus.”  Fine, fine stuff.  The fight with the Mindless Ones is sufficiently explosive, although Ellis rips off Grant Morrison when the Captain wishes he could think of something funny to say, and the censors amazingly allowed Ellis a cum joke, which I thought was funny.  Of course, there are more Mindless Ones, meaning there will be more punching next issue.  All in all, a fun read.

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I do have one question: Monica mentions the “Marketing Plan,” which is why they’re headed to Colorado to confront the Mindless Ones in the first place.  I’m sure I missed it, but what the heck is that?  Remember, my mind is weak, so I’m sure Ellis mentioned it before.  Help me, Nextwave acolytes!

Phonogram #1 (of 6) by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.  $3.50, Image.

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Okay, so I know you could find some pages of this on-line, but I don’t read my comics on-line, so I didn’t check it out.  And then Kieron Gillen goes and sends a review copy to Cronin, leaving me to buy it like a sucker.  I wept all day yesterday, Mr. Gillen.  Do you see what you’ve done????

Phonogram is a good book, though, so I may have to forgive Mr. Gillen.  Note the use of the word may.  It’s a book about a magician named David Kohl, who is a complete dick, and a task he’s given by a weird goddess-type chick because he owes her one.  He meets this goddess-type chick in the bathroom of a club that’s hosting a musical festival for women.  So, you know, there are a lot of lesbians there.  The entire issue takes place in the club, and that’s basically the plot.

However, the plot doesn’t really matter yet, because Gillen is, as he writes in the liner notes, trying to put together a book that links pop music to magic, so the mood of the book is just as important as the plot.  With first issues, plot often doesn’t matter too much (The Boys and Deadman don’t have much of one, after all), because we know it’s a set up.  You can use plot to set things up, but you don’t really have to.  So Gillen wants to evoke a mood, and he does a very good job of it.  Of course, the mood he sets up will make or break the book for you, because like the first issue of Casanova (there I go again), this book tries very hard to be clever.

It’s not as aggressively clever as Fraction’s first issue.  It doesn’t proclaim its cleverness as the greatest thing in the world.  As Gillen even mentions, he wanted to write a book where you could enjoy it without getting all the references, and he has succeeded, for the most part.  But the book is still packed with references to various pop music, and Gillen helpfully provides a glossary in the back.  Glossaries in the back of books are tricky, because on the one hand, the fact that one exists might mean the writing is a bit too reference-laden to be viable, but on the other hand, they’re interesting to read.  Gillen is walking a tightrope here, and with a six-issue mini-series, I think he might be able to pull it off.

David Kohl is a dick, as I said, but he’s somewhat of a charming dick, and that’s why this issue works for me.  He takes advantage of a girl’s love for an obscure pop band, but people are always doing that.  He insults the lesbian chic thing going on at the club, but it’s so ridiculously over-the-top that it becomes weirdly charming (and I kind of like Le Tigre, by the way).  He gets his comeuppance but remains insouciant.  He’s an interesting dude.

Finally, we have another sex scene played for laughs.  Whereas in The Boys, the “comedy” is off-base and disturbing, here it’s actually funny.  The idea that a woman could be as clueless about pleasuring a woman as men are portrayed is clever without being cruel.  It’s perhaps an unnecessary scene that pushes the book into NC-17 territory, but the point is that sex can be funny without being ugly.

It’s $3.50, which is a chunk of change, I know, but it’s an interesting little comic book that walks a fine line between informative and condescending.  I am looking forward to the next issue (which I will read) because I want to see what happens when the book acquires a plot.  A nice debut, though.

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Rex Mundi #1 by Arvid Nelson and Juan Ferreyra.  $2.99, Dark Horse.

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Whenever I start to think that I’m burned out on comics, one of two titles shows up and reminds we how cool they are.  One of those books is Planetary, and the other is Rex Mundi.  The Dark Horse era for the book begins with a new #1 issue, which is actually #19, which is actually the twentieth issue (the series began with a zero issue).  So if you’re expecting a nice origin story for a new #1, don’t hold your breath – we dive right into the continuing saga of 1930s France!

This is a typically strong issue, as the Duke of Lorraine bombards Versailles and eventually captures the king while the Mayor of the Court shoots himself in the head.  Meanwhile, Julien is being held by the Inquisition, but he escapes before they can do any real damage.  Genevieve shows up to drive him out of there, not before exhibiting a bit of her magical powers, and presumably our heroes will head south to the Languedoc to continue to unravel the mystery of the Grail while France teeters on the brink of civil war and the Germans mass their armies on the border!  It’s World War I time in the alternate universe of Rex Mundi!

As usual, it’s difficult for me to offer much in the way of criticism or praise for the book, because it’s one of my favorites.  Nelson is doing such a nice job of telling both stories – I know it’s slow, but the little things about each tale add to the grand tapestry of the epic, and I for one appreciate the pace.  The parallels between Bush and Lorraine are there, and Nelson even admits to them, but they aren’t forced and they don’t take away from the narrative at all.  Everything that has happened with regard to the Spanish Marches and the Cordovan Emirate in Spain is perfectly logical from a historical viewpoint.  And the Grail story, while part of a bigger trend in literature these days, is unusual and interesting enough to stand on its own.

Ferreyra’s artwork is stunning, as well.  Not only are the drawings beautiful, but Ferreyra is coloring the book too, and he does a magnificent job with that.  Lorraine’s face when he discovers Martel’s body is truly frightening.  He smiles because one of his rivals is gone, and the drawing is creepy enough, but he’s backlit, which shrouds his face in shadows, and his eyes open wide with almost post-orgasmic pleasure.  It’s a small panel, but shows off all Ferreyra’s strengths.

Another fine issue of a great comic book.  My continued hope is that with Dark Horse behind it and a movie deal in the works (at least I think there is – I seem to recall reading the news about it), Nelson can keep up the every-other-month schedule, because its erratic publishing frequency has kept it, I think, from getting a bigger audience.

Read Rex Mundi!  The trades should still be out there, and Dark Horse is re-releasing them soon!

Well, that’s all for this week.  I still can’t understand how Cronin, who, let’s face it, is all hype, gets free copies of comics (even from the big boys like DC) and I, who’s all about the content and not at all about gimmicks like sonnet reviews, get nothing (except, you know, when I do).  Oh, the injustice!  I have managed to wipe the tears away and submit these reviews to you.  Do you see how I care about the people?


RE: the Marketing Plan
They mention Tabitha stealing the Beyond Corporation’s marketing plan in the first issue of the series.

Shit, forgot to explain it. Anyway, I believe it basically details how the Beyond Corporation is going around America looking for bizarre weapons of mass destruction that have been discovered all over the place and unleashing them upon the American public.

I don’t have the issue in front of me, but I can check later tonight and correct myself if I missed anything.

moose n squirrel

August 17, 2006 at 11:13 am

Ennis is capable of writing decent women

I have seen precious little evidence of this. Perhaps a more accurate description would be, “Ennis is capable of writing decent women, but only if they act as a medium for embarrasingly transparent sex and power fantasies.”

As I’ve said before, I’ve read enough of Ennis to know his one trick, and I’m kind of tired of it. Real Men are thugs and bastards but that’s good because they’re Brothers In Thugdom and Real Women get all wet when they see a man kill somebody. I saw it with Preacher and Hitman; do I have to see it with this, too?

I’ve never understood Ennis’s hatred of superheroes, either. You’d think that a genre historically derided as adolescent wish-fulfillment with fascist vigilante overtones would have a primal appeal to the man.

So, is mind-wiping Zatannna’s main power now?

Oh, c’mon, Nextwave is Marvel’s best title. Well, probably only title, as far as I’m concerned.

And yeah, I wish people would send me free comics, too. Of course, to do that they’d need my address and I’d probably have to write actual reviews or something. Pffh. Screw that, then.

No unread mini-series this week?

You know what I love about Nextwave? The thought of some Marvel writer, 10 years down the line, taking these crazy things and using them in some dead serious plotline. Like bringing Dirk Anger back as some sort of serious villain in a Punisher story arc, or having lizard sticks be this new street drug that all the crazy thugs are on. Or really, just any type of “rehabilitation” for the characters in Nextwave that actually ACKNOWLEDGES the Nextwave series as existing. That’s going to be fun, in a very twisted way.

Same with the X-Statix, actually. I live in the hope that Mr. Sensitive is going to be resurrected and made into a regular in X-Men. For some reason I like that sort of thing, when some sort of goofball zany idea is twisted around much later into something serious. Treated as though it were real, in some way. Now, I don’t mean retconning things, that I cannot get behind. But just… saying, yeah, the X-Men comics where millions of people died in Genosha takes place in the same world as Howard the Duck fighting Doctor Bong.

Nope, Bill, no mini-series this week.

Mr. Moose, I would argue that Kit Ryan in Hellblazer, Tulip in Preacher, and Tiegel and Wendy in Hitman are are decent characters. Tulip is probably the weakest one, as she’s just a man in female disguise, but Kit is a great character and Tiegel and even Wendy act logically in a wildly illogical series. Ennis does know what he’s doing, but if he’s going to do this with women, I’d rather he not do it at all. The story wouldn’t lose anything if women weren’t involved in any way.

As for the thuggery, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it that, but he does like tough guys. Fair enough, and I can deal with it to a point. If they’re stomping superheroes, fine. Like I said, I’m waiting to see how the next few issues play out to see what he does with the characters.

Be careful what you wish for, Jordan. I mentioned this with The Next from DC – the characters all belong to DC or Marvel, so they’ll probably be cannon fodder in the next big crossover because DC and Marvel don’t know what to do with them.

As a woman, I’d like to say right here and now that Tulip O’Hare is one of my favorite characters ever. I’m not saying I was actually all that thrilled by the first issue of Boys and particularly the Robin-killing scene wasn’t that awesome, but Tulip was a great character and always will be proof that if Ennis wants to write a woman well, he can.

That said, why is it disappointing to read what Ennis did and then disappointing that a woman won the Black Knight’s trial in Checkmate? They shouldn’t be written as victims, bitches on wheels, or the most competant? So what does that leave them with for roles to fill? If society in general was creating the expectation that a woman has to win being Black Knight, then presumably there’d be less gratuitous “kill the girlfriend spectacularly” or “punish the bitch” moments, yes? I suppose there are those who think Rucka’s penchant for writing women is overcompensation for the misuse of women elsewhere, but I’ll take a little overcompensation for a change, thank you.

Anun – ah, you misread me. I didn’t say I was disappointed at all by the new Knight. I didn’t care either way – Checkmate has a nice mixing of characters, both female and male, and Rucka has done a good job establishing their personalities. What I meant was I knew she would win. I think the contest was fine and each contestant written competently, but I just had a feeling that the woman would win. Maybe it is overcompensation and that’s fine. So I wasn’t disappointed at all, just not surprised. That’s all I’m saying.

Tulip was a good character. Occasionally, I think Ennis wanted her to be a “man,” though (his idealized version of a man, that is), which is why I like Kit better.

I’ve heard good things about Kit but I’ve actually yet to read his Hellblazer run. I guess I should do that.

Still, there’s something that has always bugged me about saying certain female characters are just being written as men with breasts. Maybe someone like Lady Death is, but Tulip I found fully realized and human (but a bad-ass too, since it was Preacher). Not manly or girly, just a human with a really good shot. Not to get all Simone De Beauvoir here, but keeping in mind her quote “Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male” seems quite relevant in these discussions.

Just sayin’!

moose n squirrel

August 17, 2006 at 3:02 pm

I didn’t find Tulip all that fuly realized. I found her too often to be an accessory to Jesse Custer, and as such the sort of dreaded “fantasy girlfriend” figure that crops up way too often in comics. She’s not nearly as bad as Ennis’s persistent “I’m a woman and I want the big bad monster to rape me” characters, but we’re not talking about a feminist icon here.

I’ve elsewhere argued extensively about the way in which all Ennis stories seem to be about “good masculinity” vs. “bad masculinity,” and it always winds up going in circles precisely because the mere act of ascribing “good masculinity” traits to an ostensibly female character is taken as feminist cred in many circles.

I suppose “feminist icon” is subjective then because I am definitely a feminist and find her a great character. Considering Jesse is the protagonist of Preacher, I found myself surprised just how much development and screen time Tulip garnered. In fact, I remember people complaining about how she got two issues to herself for her backstory, this being after Cassidy having two issues to himself that no one seemed to mind.

I’m not saying everyone has to have the same tastes as I, but when Tulip’s flashback revealed that whole out-of-place world she occupied as a child where the boys didn’t want to play with a girl, even one who had the same tastes as they, and the girls didn’t have any of the same interests Tulip had, man, I felt that. And that’s what a good character does — relates to the reader in a very personal and true way. A character doesn’t have to be iconic to be excellent.

I honestly found Tulip to be a rather grating and unlikeable character in Preacher. She was inconsistent in her actions (was she a smoker or not? A meat-eater or not? It depended on the issue), seemed unwilling to believe anything that happened in the story, which I think was supposed to make her look smart, but made her came across as more stupid, and was quite weak when it came down to it. She was easily as much to blame for the affair with Cassidy as the man himself was, but refused to take even a bit of responsibility. People seem to love her, but aside from being a great shot, I never found anything remarkable about her. As far as female characters in Preacher, I thought Christina Custer and Sarah Featherstone were far better characters than Tulip.

That would be a really fine Catwoman cover if Zatanna had been drawn as a real woman instead of as some kind of weird inflatable doll.

I started writing out various reasons why none of that bothers me about Tulip and that in fact, I find some of the inconsistant behavior to be further proof of just basic human behavior, but there ain’t much point. I dig her a heck of a lot and that’s not going to change, and someone else doesn’t dig her and that’s not going to change either, and big deal. I got nothing to prove really.

However, Featherstone is about the weakest woman in the whole book considering the abuse she willingly puts herself through for Herr Starr and dismissing it as “just his funny way”. I liked her despite all that, but I didn’t like her blindly sucking it all up until he has to spit in her face to drive it home that he really doesn’t care one bit about her. Oh, and then he kills her. Strong female character? I’ll stick with the one who comes out of it alive, thanks. And who has all limbs accounted for as well.

Featherstone is a lot like Harley Quinn in certain regards, and darned if I don’t absolutely loathe Harley Quinn and find her fandom a bit creepy at times.

moose n squirrel

August 18, 2006 at 5:58 am

“She was easily as much to blame for the affair with Cassidy as the man himself was, but refused to take even a bit of responsibility.”

This is what drove me nuts. The affair is isn’t portrayed as Cassidy taking advantage of Tulip so much as it is Cassidy taking something from Jesse, which reduces Tulip to a piece of property with no agency whatsoever. And even Tulip tacitly accepts this status because she’s being written by a dysfunctional misogynist.

I can’t wait to write a post that’s actually ABOUT Preacher. That will be a hoot!

moose n squirrel

August 18, 2006 at 7:15 am

See, Greg, then I can tell you what I really think of Ennis…

I think having the affair with Cassidy and Cassidy’s actions in return are two very different things. From the point of view of Tulip and Jesse, here’s what happened on Tulip’s side:

Cassidy made passes at Tulip, she rebuffed them and then Jesse apparently died. She turned to the closest substitute for comfort.

That’s pretty understandable to Jesse even once he thinks about it. No property at all in that thinking. If Tulip was Jesse’s property, then Cassidy wouldn’t even have had to have anything squalid in his past to make Jesse so completely angry at him. “Messing with his woman” would’ve been enough.

Cassidy’s problem was he was an enabler and deliberately kept Tulip doped up far longer than her grieving period might have needed just so she wouldn’t leave him. And then he tried to stop her physically from leaving him. What was Tulip’s responsibility was taking the pills or not, but a real concerned person would eventually not give her the pills. Cassidy deliberately kept her in supply just to keep on to her. That’s where both Tulip and Jesse get their anger at Cassidy from. Tulip was just lashing out and lonely. Cassidy’s actions had intent behind them, and then as Jesse discovered, Cassidy had a pattern of doing this. Being afraid that someone you love had been in real danger and being angry at the threat is not “property of” behavior at all. It’s normal.

It’s also true Jesse has anger towwards Cassidy for having become such a good friend and then having this wholly unlikeable side to him that he never talked about and I think that’s the betrayal Jesse really feels. That theme is repeated throughout the book — is there a crime so bad that it overshadows everything else about a person. It was pretty blatant when Jesse met the ex-Nazi and I guess he felt guilty afterwards for making the guy hang himself. Heck, I mean his mom was finally finding some happiness again and he takes that away from her. Pretty crappy really.

Anyway, there are people out there who are so charming and you adore them and then they let you down somehow and you’re angry at them for doing that to you and you’re angry at yourself for falling for their act and so on. Jesse’s anger at finding out Cassidy’s unpleasant past was absolutely understandable and nothing to do with “he did my woman”. It had everything to do with “being a woman-abuser is the worst kind of man there is and that kind became my best friend. WTF?” It’s not that Cassidy slept with Tulip, it’s what he was willing to do to keep Tulip in bed with him. There’s a real difference there.

And more than that, Tulip does get herself out and doesn’t get magically swept away by Jesse. Man, that would’ve pissed me off. But instead she shoots Cassidy through a door out into the sun and runs over his toes with a truck. Worked for me.

Yeah, the Jesse Custer/Tulip O’Hare relationship was very possessive, she was his girl and he was her guy – but it went both ways. Remember how Tulip beat the crap out of that chick in the bathroom shortly after she and Jesse met?

I’ve never really gotten the whole “Writes good [insert gender here]” thing. In my opinion, there are writers who are capable of creating and sustaining good characters period, regardless of sex, race, t-shirt size, etc., and ones who can barely write a grocery list. If the female characters are weak the male ones will be as well. Like most of the problems in comics it comes down to bad writing vs. good writing, but for whatever reason, folks prefer to pick at the edges of the issue and not see the crappy forest for the spindly trees.

Ennis is a great character writer(Check out his Hellblazer run if you haven’t, as well as the Kit Ryan-starring Heartland special, one of the best things he’s ever written), capable of creating living, breathing people on the page… but with that said, The Boys left me cold; at times it felt like I was reading Hitman(Whose popularity I still don’t get*), as done by Mark Millar(Whose popularity I will never get). And the Simon Pegg likeness thing was distracting.

*Hitman felt too much like a dumbed-down Preacher or a bowdlerized Dicks to me.

A lot of Boys talk here, so I guess that’s what’s getting folks really excited this week. Not me. I’m excited about Catwoman.

I have to disagree with one thing our esteemed Greg wrote: that it’s difficult to truly love Catwoman. You know what? This underrated book is one of DC’s best. Certainly the best One Year Later storyline I’ve read — and I tried almost all of those books. This is the only one I’ve stuck with.

Every month I pick it up and the story draws me further in. And as I read the current ish, I thought, “This might be DC’s best damn book!” It certainly hasn’t yet disappointed me, which is more than I can say for Heinberg’s Wonder Woman, Levitz’s JSA, Dini’s Detective, and Morrison’s Batman (yes, even after only one issue). Simone even bummed me out with her BOP arc One Year Later. (Canary takes down an entire army? Come! on!) And whoever the hell those TV guys are ruining the Flash? Yikes. (I’m looking forward to JLA, but oh so very guardedly. Meltzer is the King of Disappointment thanks to that unbelievably, maddeningly botched Identity Crisis #7.)

But I looovz me some Catwoman. Along with Manhunter, it’s probably my favorite monthly.

Rebis: I get what you’re saying, and I continue to enjoy Catwoman, and I won’t disagree if you want to call it DC’s best title. What I meant was it hasn’t really had any of those grand moments that make me, at least, simply love a comic book. It may still yet have one or more, but so far it’s been just good, solid storytelling. I make that sound like an insult, but it’s not at all. I wish more comics would be like Catwoman, but although I like it and keep reading it, I don’t absolutely love it and have to have it. But Pfeifer is doing his job – he keeps me coming back!

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