Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Will I do anything BIG for number fifty? Well, let’s get the suspense out of the way: No. I mean, this isn’t like Brian’s Legends Revealed, which is a fairly big deal around the comics blogaxy. I’m small potatoes compared to that (I’m weeping as I type this because of my awareness of my place in universe), so I’m just soldiering on with this and having no hoopla. And let’s be honest, when you’re randomly picking books out of a long box and reading them, you’re usually going to get junk. I guess I should have made sure that this installment was particularly awful, but I didn’t. It’s still pretty lousy, though. But at least it features creators you’ve heard of! And here, for your reading pleasure, the ground rules for these posts!
Lady Death: Love Bites #1 is our latest installment. Yes, a Lady Death comic. But with no Brian Pulido involvement! Hmmm. It’s written by Len Kaminski, drawn by Luke Ross, inked by Fabio Laguna, colored by Jason Jensen and John Merifield, and lettered by Oscar Gongora. It was published by Chaos! Comics and has a cover date of March 2001.
Oh, yes, it’s Lady Death. This has to be terrible, right? Well, it’s not terrible. Kaminski knows what he’s doing, after all, even if you don’t love his stuff, and Ross has talent, even though this was early in his career and he hadn’t gotten really good yet. This is fairly typical Nineties-Image stuff, with no difference between it and what you might have found in a regular Marvel comic around this time … well, except for Lady Death herself, who digs the butt-floss a little too much. But otherwise, it’s simply a mediocre comic. If you’re a first-time comic book reader, you might not decide comics are ridiculously cheesy and immature and silly (then again, you might), but you might wonder what all the fuss is about. You see, in this comic, very little actually happens. It’s kind of boring. Yes, a comic starring Lady Death and her love affair with the archangel Michael is boring. How’d that happen?
It’s also, oddly, a bit hard to follow in the first few pages. I get that this is a spin-off from the main title, and therefore Kaminski references some things that might be beyond the knowledge of a first-time reader, but it’s also a one-shot, and while the stuff that we know nothing about doesn’t interfere too much, it’s kind of off-putting. Kaminski refers to the Judgment War, by which I think he means the Rapture, and then we find out that Las Vegas is Lucifer’s “capitol” on Earth, so in the regular title, has the Rapture occurred and the world is ruled by Satan? I guess. It’s unclear, though. And we really have no idea what Michael is doing in the framing sequence. He tells the story to his legions of angels as they’re preparing for battle, and at the end, he leads his troops into the fight, but we have no idea what’s going on. Maybe it’s unimportant, but it’s still kind of strange.
Anyway, we begin in “the realm of the fallen,” where the angels who survived the destruction of Heaven hang out. Sauriel comes to tell Michael that their forces are ready and they’re just awaiting his command to join Lady Death, which sets Michael off. It’s actually an odd panel, in that Michael looks a lot angrier than his words indicate:
Then, in the next panel, he’s calm again. Weird. Anyway, he says, “I have told no one this tale … but perhaps it is time.” Really, Michael? On the verge of battle, it’s time to tell love stories? Did Napoleon tell love stories before Austerlitz? Did von Moltke tell love stories before Sedan? Did … okay, I’ll stop. You get my point. But Michael will not be deterred! He explains that there was a time that Lady Death became human, and his love for her turned him mortal for a time. Then, right before the Rapture, he was summoned before the Holy Trinity. They tell him he’s going on a secret mission … of L-U-V! They want him to return to Lady Death, seduce her, and win her to their cause. Michael questions them briefly, but gets shouted down. Chastened, he goes his way to Las Vegas, where LD herself is cleaning up from some kind of battle with something called Leviatha. She’s chopping the heads of various demons, which Ross draws thusly:
This is really the only truly awful drawing in the book, which is why it needs to be highlighted. I mean, how is she swinging that sword? Doesn’t it hurt to contort herself like that? I guess she’s LADY DEATH, motherfuckers, so just deal with it! Then the actual walls attack her, but she kicks ass as only Lady Death can:
Michael appears and tells her he’s still jonesing for her, then he lays one on her. Despite the fact that she arches her back and thrusts her rock-hard nipples into his chest (it must be chilly in Las Vegas!), she then slaps him for his effrontery. He apologizes, declares his love for her, and asks only for a chance to prove it. So, in a two-page spread, he hangs out with her even though her thuggish sidekick tells Michael he’ll be keeping an eye on him. But they fly around like two schoolkids … who can fly … and Michael lays on the charm and then, one night, LD decides, well, I’ll let her explain:
But as she enters his bedchamber, she sees the Trinity talking to Michael about THE PLAN (it’s in bold in their word balloons, so you know it’s important). Couldn’t they arrange a time when LD might not interrupt them? Why do they even need to contact him? Can’t they just wait until he gets her on their side? I guess immortal beings are impatient! LD, naturally, freaks out, even though Michael tries the old “It started as a ruse, but now I really love you” explanation. She zaps the Trinity (who appear to be only present through some sort of hologram) and prepares to kill Michael, who says he will offer no resistance. This somehow touches our heroine, who allows him to leave. But, she says, she’ll slay him next time they meet in battle. Of course, the last panel we see of her shows her crying. Aw, she really loves that hunk of angel-stud!
Michael then returns to the present, telling his audience that when they met in the Judgment War, she did slay him – she “clove” out his heart, leaving his body alive but killing his soul. Sauriel says that his sorrow must be “incalculable,” but Michael responds, “To the contrary. I can feel nothing. Nothing at all.” Then he snaps out of it and leads his troops into battle. Sauriel gets the last word of the issue: “I will grieve for you, Michael. As you cannot do for yourself,” as he cries manly tears. Oh, the pathos!
I looked around and discovered that, despite the fact that it’s labeled “#1,” which implies a #2, this is not a mini-series, but a one-shot. I imagine it somehow ties into regular Lady Death continuity, but I don’t know how (nor do I particularly want to). So Kaminski at least makes it easy for first-time readers to determine if they want to buy more without making them feel like they have to. And the story is straightforward, so we understand who Lady Death is and even get an indication of the tragedy she’s gone through in her life. It’s not a very good comic book, you understand, but a first-timer wouldn’t be completely lost. Of course, a first-timer might wonder why the woman in this comic is wearing a bikini all the time and is apparently fairly chilly throughout. It’s ridiculous cheesecake, and it might make a first-timer who’s not, you know, a fifteen-year-old boy blanch a bit. That might just be me, though. For the most part, Lady Death: Love Bites is remarkable mainly by its mediocrity. But at least it’s mediocrity that’s over in one issue!
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