Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
You know, I’ve been experimenting with putting some covers above the break, just to entice you to keep reading, but this entrant into our series is so godawful, so terrible, so horrifyingly eye-gouging, that I must keep you in suspense as long as I can. If you thought writing 2000 words about Firestar was excessive, I’d think twice about reading this, as I’ll probably double that writing about how bad this comic is. But hey! that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? So don’t click that “Continue Reading” link unless you’ve prepared yourself mentally and physically. I suggest re-reading V for Vendetta really quickly before you read further. That should help.
Gaze upon the unholy terror!!!!!! Okay, let’s break down this cover – I posted it large so you can soak in the awesomeness. We have the Tenth in the background (I know that’s who it is because I’ve read the comic, don’t you know), with a tiny, tiny head and a seemingly featureless face, gargatuan shoulders and pecs, and a tiny yet rock-hard abdominal area. His hands, note, are bigger than his entire head! That chain appears to act as suspenders, and he appears to be wearing MC Hammer parachute pants because they seem to stretch from one thigh to another without going anywhere near his crotch. Given the state of the ladies, the lack of definition in the Tenth’s nether regions is somewhat chortleable. Then we have Espy, the dark-haired young lady. She’s wearing a strategically torn Nine Inch Nails T-shirt and a bikini bottom. I’m not entirely sure what she’s doing with her hands – either she’s striking a dramatic martial arts pose or stretching after a good nap. Then we have Zorina, nestled in some kind of machinery sprinkled with blood. She’s naked, but note how the tiny wisps of fabric covering her manage to obscure where her nipples would be … if she actually had nipples, which doesn’t appear to be evident from this drawing. I mean, the fabric isn’t even in the right place, so I’m not sure why it’s there. Lose the fabric and don’t draw any nipples! She’s sleeping, which seems to confirm my theory that Espy is waking up from a good nap. It can’t bode well when your main characters find the action in the book that boring. And then there’s the cat. We’ll get back to the cat.
Before we get to the boilerplate, I’ll link to the ground rules for these posts. That remains the question as we pore over the horror that is the fourth issue of The Tenth: Does this do enough to make a first-time comic book reader want to come back to our favorite pastime? Or does the sheer suckiness make people want to visit Dr. Destiny’s diner and shove knitting needles into their ocular sockets?
The Tenth #4 (of 4) is created and drawn by Tony Daniel, “developed” and written by Beau Smith, inked by Mario Alquiza, colored by Paul Mounts, and lettered by Steve Outro. To their eternal shame, it was published by Image, and is cover dated June of 1997. If you thought Tony Daniel’s art on Batman was bad, consider this: Tony Daniel drawing Batman is like your favorite artist in existence compared to Tony Daniel on The Tenth. I’m tempted to scan ever single page and leave it at that so you get a full measure of the horror of this book, but as this isn’t scans_daily and I’m not a complete douchebag, I’ll be selective in what I show you. Your sanity will thank me.
Let’s delve into this, shall we? On the first page, we get all the recap we’re going to. I’d like to quote the prose, if you don’t mind (all of this, mind you, is [sic]):
It’s all been set in motion. When the bombs go off everything will change … Transformation in others have already been made. Ones that you wouldn’t believe. Once the bombs have gone off, the ultimate metamorphous will begin. One that is global. One that will bring on — Darkk Earth. From that a new race will be born. One built in his twisted image. The image of the madman — Rhazes Darkk! The outside world believes him to be a great benefactor. The truth is he is the very core of evil. A core that lies in the supposed utopia called Springdale. In reality Springdale is the new gates of Hell. Gates that will open acorss the world and lead everything to a global genetic holocaust.
Well, Smith used the correct form of “lie.” That’s something, right?
After that, I just don’t know what else to say. But there are still 23 pages left! Oh dear. So we reluctantly turn the page. We see a comely young lass who we learn fairly quickly is named Espy – yes, she’s named after the annual awards that ESPN bestows upon athletes (to be fair, this came out before those awards existed … maybe they named them after her?) and she’s on the radio to the Pentagon, trying to convince them to send a “task force.” The person on the other end of the radio demands proof. Espy tells him “This is a very serious thing here!” which, shockingly, fails to move him. He does tell her that “Ms. Bahareh” is on her way, but unless the woman at the end of the issue is Ms. Bahareh (and I think she must be), that’s all we hear of that. I do enjoy that the guy on the line – we learn later that he’s General Greer – has part of an American flag on the lens of his glasses. I assume it’s supposed to be a reflection of the one in his office, but it looks like it’s just painted onto the lens. That would make Greer a hell of a lot cooler, I reckon. In the middle of this call, Espy gets interrupted by Zorina, who tells her where she is. Espy apparently thought Zorina was dead. Espy tells Zorina she’s coming to get her, and she and her cat, Arusa, spring into action. This is Daniel’s drawing of the cat:
Excuse me? Now, to be fair, in the rest of the book the cat looks like a cat, but that one drawing is simply hideous. If I were a cat, I’d sue.
So Espy reaches Corridor 12, Room 17, where Zorina is holed up, and she “unlocks” the door by destroying it. Apparently, she’s telekinetic, as Daniel helpfully explains in the letters column (oh, we’ll get to the letters column). Unfortunately, inside she finds … the bad guys! Yes, Zorina was forced to call her and lure her to the room! You know I have to show the entire giant spread:
There’s poor nipple-less Zorina, somehow attached to the cloak of … is that Slash? Sure looks that way. Although that thing has better hair than everyone’s favorite Gun or Rose. His name, apparently, is Blackspell. Then there’s the chick in the middle. Now that’s an outfit! The chick on the right is, surprisingly, not terribly well-endowed. I’m sure that’s Daniel’s nod toward the feminists reading the book! And I enjoy Espy’s strategically ripped clothing – is that due to all the action, or is it a fashion statement? In 1997, one could never be sure. The guy in the chair, who’s apparently Rhazes Darkk, explains to Espy (who is Miss Del Torro occasionally and Miss Del Toro at other times) that her powers are “god-given” but not the god she thinks … he is that god! Well, that blows. We turn the page and suddenly we’re in a dungeon, with more fairly awesome narration: “The vines. They carry the strength, the Earth’s blood … that will be used to release my own … and in turn release … the POWER … the monster.” We get a picture of a dude hanging by chains and vines talking to himself: “Dark [sic] must be stopped. I’m the only one left. The Tenth. There can be no more.” Well, at least that explains who he is, if not why he’s called the Tenth (I assume Smith and Daniel had already covered it). The blood, apparently, turns him into a monster, and he easily snaps his bonds:
Then he tears into “the servants of the Darkk” with this awesome turn of phrase: “Too many to go around. But just enough to go through.” Let the mayhem begin! Meanwhile, back in Room 17, Daniel decides to give us a full-page drawing of Espy:
I hate to point this out, but man, her breasts are doing some serious gravity-defying there. It’s not like she’s wearing a push-up bra or anything. Anyway, Darkk tells her that she’ll join his ranks and now that he has the Tenth, he can take over the planet blah blah blah. She, of course, is defiant, but on the next page, Blackspell tells her that she “will slut [her] powers out to his every command!” I’m not sure you can use “slut” in that way, but whatever. The rips in her T-shirt, notice, have magically woven themselves back together:
I mean, seriously: If you’re going to tear her shirt, at least make the tears consistent! Darkk calls her a “shapely little morsel,” which is apparently the last straw. She uses her powers to force Blackspell to release Zorina. This, apparently, causes her shirt to rip more. Of course. Darkk, of course, loves her “anger, rage” and “will to punish.” Because he’s, you know, evil. He zaps her with lightning from his hand and says, “Now I must tame you. Like a wild beast … you must be harnessed.” That Darkk – he knows what the ladies like to hear! Meanwhile, under the complex, the Tenth is coming for Espy. Back in the room, Darkk is still torturing Espy when her cat leaps toward him … and pees on him. Would I lie to you?
Suddenly, he has no control over those three hotties who were ringed around him earlier. They tell him they’re not his slaves anymore, just like that. Cat pee – it stops evil in its tracks! Then some armored dude who we haven’t yet seen in this issue thrusts two big spears through Darkk’s back (yes, I am using “thrust” deliberately, loading that sentence up with all the connotations the verb has – believe me, if Daniel isn’t subtle, why should I be?) and tells him that he’s strayed from the original goal and that “Gozza” has remained pure. Who’s Gozza? Oh, we’ll find out, my good readers. WE WILL FIND OUT! Darkk goes down and the three girls check him out, getting grossed out by his blue blood. He calls them “bitches,” which is important in a page or two. But he’s not dead yet! We can tell he’s about to power up for some big finale, and Espy and Zorina think it’s a good time to skedaddle. Before they can get out of there, Blackspell grabs Zorina, and we get this charming image:
Luckily for our heroines (and the fine reputations of Ms. McCarthy and Ms. Electra), the Tenth finally reaches the room, and Daniel really goes all out showing us his entrance:
You’ll continue to notice that Zorina is still naked, but what I assume are blood spatters are covering up her naughty bits. That’s what we like to call “classy.” The Tenth rips Slash apart until his “inner vortex” is disrupted, and Blackspell (I guess) teleports out. The guy who stabbed Darkk is still there, ranting about how he’s going to blow the whole place up. The three hotties happen to have two motorcycles, so they also make a break for it. Then Gozza shows up (well, as a holo-projection). He’s a little boy with huge dragon feet. I kid you not:
He tells Darkk that Darkk created him to succeed him, and now he, Gozza, is fulfilling that destiny. He disappears and then, on the next page, the Tenth separates the head of the dude who stabbed Darkk from the rest of his body. This does nothing to stop the countdown, mind you. Darkk claims that he can destroy the Tenth because he created him, which sounds reasonable. We switch to the motorcycles, on which the three hotties are about to run down our heroines. Espy stops the bikes with her mind, which causes the riders to fly through the air and renders them unconscious when they hit the ground. Zorina, who is, I’ll remind you, naked but also, I’ll remind you, trying to get out of there before a frickin’ bomb goes off, notices that the redhead has a nice outfit on. Because Daniel knows that the women just can’t keep their minds off of fashion! When next we see Zorina, she is actually wearing Redhead’s outfit. So she stopped, took a tight-fitting spandex outfit with no visible zippers or snaps off an unconscious girl and put it on … all while trying to escape before a bomb goes off. Comics are, indeed, awesome.
The Tenth, meanwhile, is strangling Darkk. He says, “It’s this simple, Grandpa Munster … I’m gonna #%@¢ you up!” So it’s okay to call women “bitches” in your comic, but you can’t say “fuck”? Man up, Image! Before our “hero” can indeed #%@¢ Darkk up, Darkk apparently uses his lightning powers on him (it’s a bit unclear) and the Tenth throws him away, seemingly into a portal of electricity (unclear, remember?). As the bomb comes closer to the end of its countdown (the severed head is still ticking away), Blackspell returns from wherever he is and takes Darkk and the three hotties (one now naked, if you’ll cast your mind back to the previous paragraph) away, telling the hotties, “You’re due for some heavy spank time!” If you never sleep again after this, blame me for bringing this comic to your attention. I’m sorry.
The bad guys whoosh out of there (somehow; it appears they go down into the ground, but then we see a streak of red light coming from the top of the building) and then we’re back to our heroines, who are trying to convince the Tenth to come with them. He wants to stay for some reason, but Espy, it seems (it’s, shockingly, unclear), uses her powers on him. I guess he says he “can’t” leave because he looks like a monster, but Espy uses her powers to turn him back into a human? That seems to be the way it’s going, because the next time we see him he’s human. I’m going to run with that.
So the building explodes and we switch immediately to the Pentagon, where General Greer is taking to a Mr. Cardon about Gozza. Wait, in this comic the government can’t be trusted and is working with a demon? How novel! They believe no one survived, but then a purple-haired lady with scratches on her cheeks (is this Ms. Bahareh?) shows up and tells them that three made it out. She tells them not to worry, though, because everything they need is in a briefcase she brought them, and that they now have “their Oswald.” I assume she means Lee Harvey. I sincerely hope she’s leaving the office, because why would she talk to them in this pose?
You don’t suppose it’s so we could see both her booty and some of her boobs, do you? And look at that waist!
Our final image of the book is of our three principals, heading out of town. They hear on the radio that a “terrorist act” wiped out Springdale and that a “nation-wide hunt” is on to find the suspects, i. e. them. Zorina sets up the next issue (the first of the ongoing!) by telling us that Blackspell still has her mother, and Espy says they’re going to find her. The issue ends with this tag: “The Beginning.” Say it ain’t so!
But we can’t leave without looking at the letters! They’re all extremely laudatory, of course, because this comic is so FUCKING KEWL. But Daniel gives us some interesting feedback, including this nugget about Espy:
Espy doesn’t really have super powers. She has the ability of telekinesis, which basically means she has the power to move objects without using physical force. This is a very real, however rare, condition that has been known to exist in people. Who knows, maybe YOU are a telekinesis and don’t know it!
Emphasis mine, by the way. I guess Daniel watched one too many episodes of That’s Incredible when he was but a lad. We also find out that The Tenth is going to be an ongoing due to the runaway popularity of the mini-series. Well, thank God for that. I bet that series was awesome.
This is a truly terrible comic. It’s extremely ugly, poorly written, offensive to women (and probably dragons), insulting to the intelligence of anything smarter than a potato, and, frankly, dull. I mean, the Tenth barely fights anyone – he dispatches Blackspell in two pages, beheads the armored bomb thing off-panel, and holds Darkk up by his neck. The big explosion that takes out Springdale ought to be a full-page KA-FUCKING-BOOM, but it’s half a page and is obscured by a couple of panels laid on top of it. For the final issue of a mini-series, there’s very little drama. I mean, when I pulled it out of the long box, I knew it would be terrible, but I didn’t realize it would be so very, very boring. I remember when The Tenth first showed up, and even though I was still reading the X-Men at their Roger Cruziest, I still couldn’t bring myself to buy this. And I’m certainly happy about that.
But what about the first-time comic reader, picking up issue #4 of a four-issue mini-series? Do the creators do enough to bring back the first-timer? Well, Daniel’s art is enough to drive a reader into a monastery, where they would shudder in a corner and take a vow of silence, and Smith doesn’t do a great job either. We get a bare bones outline of the story so far, which is fine, and we know who each of the characters are, but we don’t know, for instance, what Espy is able to do. She obviously can do something, but Smith assumes we already know she’s telekinetic. Similarly, the deal with the Tenth is skimmed – again, I assume Smith gave us the lowdown earlier in the series, but it would be nice to get some idea about who he is and what he’s doing and why he’s called the “Tenth.” And then there’s the armored dude whose head is apparently a bomb. The first time we see him he’s stabbing Darkk in the back. We never learn his name, but he’s apparently fairly important. I don’t ask for great literature in a comic like this, but a rundown of the characters and where they’ve been would be nice. Is that so wrong?
And so we reach the end of another horrible comic book. Not only is this lousy, it doesn’t even offer a new reader any reason to pick up comics as a hobby. Some of the bad comics in this series have at least done that. No, this joins our honor roll of eye-bleedingly bad books: Untamed #1, Cyberforce #1, Demonslayer #2, and Objective Five #3. This is less laugh-out-loud hilarious than some of those other ones, but it does have its merits. Sheesh. Note that four out of the five (including this one) were published by Image. It’s hard to believe they publish excellent, brilliant comics these days.
Who wants to admit to owning this? Come on, we’re all friends here!
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