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Into the back issue box #22

by  in Comic News Comment

I will direct you to the rules for these posts, even though you should know them by now!

Today: Is it really that difficult to write a decent comic book? Really?

Demonslayer vol.2 #2 (“Into Hell”) by Marat Mychaels, Robert Lugibihl, Pierre Ander Dery, Serge LaPointe, and Jaime Mendoza. Published by Image, May 2000.

                    


Mychaels is the “creative” “force” behind Demonslayer, as he’s credited with the pencils and the story. Special opprobrium must also be reserved for Lugibihl, however, for scripting this thing. Ironically, in the script is plenty for a first-time comic book reader to understand what’s going on. That is its only triumph. Every other thing in this book would drive any sane person away from comics … forever!

When I picked this out of the back issue box a few weeks ago (at the Big Atomic Comics Sale!), I was tempted to put it back.  I knew it would suck.  But I couldn’t destroy the integrity of the experiment, so I kept it.  Now that I’ve read it, I don’t even want to ever think about it again.  But I must!  So let’s get it over with!

      


A woman climbs a wall in Hell.  Yes, H-E-double hockey sticks.  She is, she narrates, on “a quest to save my soulmate, Michael … who is being held by the demon overlord Asmodeus within the virtually impenetrable castle Dis.”  Okay, it’s awkward, but it gets the raison d’etre of the issue out of the way.  As she climbs, she is assaulted by fire birds, who knock her loose.  She falls, but manages to shove a huge sword (which appears from nowhere, because we don’t see it on the first page) into the cliffside and halt her fall.  We learn her name is Jaclyn, because she thinks it to herself.  She flips like a gymnast so that she’s facing up, and somehow manages to propel herself up the cliff face to the top!  Holy crap, Mary Lou Retton couldn’t even have done that!¹  For some reason, the birds keep flying toward the sky, ignoring her.  They couldn’t be that stupid, could they?  She sees what looks like a lock in the side of the cliff, so she climbs down, retrieves her sword, and shoves it into the “lock.”  I’m really trying to ignore the symbolism there.  The sword activates the lock, which creates a glowing blue bridge straight over an abyss to the castle.  Good job, Jaclyn!

         


She walks out onto the bridge and is quickly attacked by a big ol’ dragon, and since her sword is still jammed in the lock, she has no weapon.  As she fights it, she happens to notice that the castle “appears to be organic … and the massive pores in its roof are opening and closing rythmically [sic].”  Okay, first: Ewwww.  Second: How in the hell did she notice that?  That’s just pretty damned impressive to be able to see that while you’re fighting a big ol’ dragon.  She leaps away from her foe and … jumps straight into one of the “pores” in the roof, entering the castle.  Again, I’m not touching that symbolism.  So what does she find inside????

                


Well, that must wait for two pages while we head to Earth for a subplot!  A demon is in a limo, talking on the phone.  His name is Zathos, and we’re not exactly sure who he’s talking to, although he’s not happy with them.  He does call the person on the phone and his cronies “bubling old fools,” which makes me think he’s employing some demonic language that I’m unfamiliar with – does anyone know what “bubling” means?  He says he’s going to “tie up some of the loose ends” that Jaclyn (whom he thinks is dead; and I assume he’s talking about her, even though he doesn’t mention her name) left behind.  He transforms into a human-looking person and enters the New York Museum of Natural History.  He enters the office of Mr. Johnson, who is the Director of Archives at the museum.  He tells Mr. Johnson that several ancient artifacts have gone missing from museums throughout the world, and the trail leads right to him.  Mr. Johnson looks peeved.  I assume this is some elaborate frame by Zathos, because he’s, you know, an evil demon.  But that’s not all that’s going on in this scene.  Mr. Johnson, you’ll recall (from five sentences ago), is the Director of Archives at the New York Museum of Natural History.  Why is this relevant?  Look what’s hanging behind his desk:

   


Forgive my crudity, but what … the … fuck?  Why does the Director of Archives at the New York Museum of Natural History have a relatively pornographic painting (or photograph, more likely) hanging behind his desk?  Things like this make me wonder why anyone reads comics.

            


But let’s get back to our pneumatic heroine, who has discovered that the castle Dis is bigger on the inside than on the outside, and it appears she has entered a whole different world.  But she’s still in Hell.  She finds herself by a river of blood (she calls it the Styx, so I guess we have to accept that, even though there are other rivers in Hell) as a ferryman pulls up.  Luckily for her, she doesn’t even have to pay the ferryman, even after he takes her to the other side!²  As she stands in the boat, she recaps for us: her last name is Hayes, she was a “simple New York girl with aspirations of becoming a world-renowned archaeologist … and Mrs. Michael Taylor.”  Something (we’re not sure what, and no one ever tells us) went wrong, and now she’s a “demonslayer,” while Michael “is a demon.”  Yeah, that can get in the way of true romance, I guess.  Her last thought is a doozy: “I don’t think my life will ever be the same again.”  Really, Jaclyn?  What tipped you off?

                 


As her chest size noticeably increases over the course of the pages, Jaclyn realizes that the river is filled with blood and people trying to get to the surface.  She then realizes that the boat has stopped and the only way she can get to the other side is if she swims for it.  There’s not any good reason for this, except it gives Mychaels to draw this when she climbs out of the river:

       


As she tries to figure out where to go next, Asmodeus (who’s expecting her) plans an attack on her.  Tentacles snatch her off the ground and drag her back into the river.  It’s not as bad as tentacle porn (and boy howdy, that link isn’t safe for work, although there’s only one picture), but it’s close enough!  Before she blacks out, though, she is released, and she sees the lost, damned souls holding back the tentacles and allowing her to escape.  She manages to get back out of the river and enter the chambers where Asmodeus sits.  He’s been waiting for her, and she demands to see Michael.  Michael is chained to a wall, looking very demonic.  Jaclyn runs toward him, but Asmodeus stops her and blasts her with some sort of green magic.  In typical stupid bad guy fashion, he says, “I could snuff you out like a match in a hurricane but I’ve waited a long time for this moment … and I’d like to enjoy a little sport before I kill you.”  At this point in a movie, I’d be shouting “Just kill her!” at the screen (I only do this at home, not in the theater – I’m not one of those people), but I can’t muster up the anger at Asmodeus’ stupidity.  Jaclyn rolls out of his way and leaps at him, telling him she didn’t come there to die.  Or at least I think she says that.  Check out the panel:

                


Who’s talking?  Beats me.  It’s not Asmodeus, because he has black speech balloons with red letters, like this:

                


Wait a minute.  Who’s saying that?  (It reads: “I beg to differ, my dear.”  The reproduction isn’t very good.)  Oh, my head hurts.  Asmodeus takes her kick and then does the whole squeezing his fist together from far away and causing our heroine to writhe in agony as if she’s being crushed – man, I wish I could do that!  Jaclyn calls out to Michael, who’s still chained to the wall.  He breaks free and crouches, ready to fight, and says, “Asmodeus … get your hands off her!”  Wait – she’s the Demonslayer and she needs a man (well, a demon, but he’s still male) to rescue her?  Isn’t this book all about female empowerment?

         


This book would horrify a first-time comic book reader.  I’m a long-time comic book reader with plenty of experience with the objectification of women and I’m horrified by this book!  The script, as I mentioned, does a halfway decent job of explaining who Jaclyn is and why she’s in this predicament, but we have no idea how she became a “Demonslayer” or what she’s supposed to do about that.  This story is just a rescue mission.  Beyond that, this is complete crap.  The story is lame, the dialogue is lame, the dangers are lame, and there’s zero dramatic tension.  The art, of course, is where it really fails, as Mychaels seems so concerned with drawing Jaclyn with big breasts that he ignores everything else.  It’s big breasts, big muscles, and sneering.  Blech.  This comic really showcases all the reasons why people who don’t read comics say they don’t read comics.  Yes, it’s easy to point to this and say that comics suck, but we don’t point at Pauly Shore movies and say the entire art form sucks, do we?  Unfortunately, a lot of comics are Pauly Shore movies, and that’s a shame.

There’s just nothing good about this comic.  It’s not even that much fun to make fun of it, because consider: someone (Jim Valentino, presumably) thought enough of this or thought it would make enough money to actually publish it.  That’s the most depressing thing about this comic.  My brain is mad at me for reading it and thinking about it.  If you can convince your retailer to give this to you free, you could make a nice bonfire out of it.  This is pretty much an affront to literature.  Even if you only handle it for a few moments and don’t even open it up, it will make you stupider.  I know it made me stupider!

Maybe next week I’ll actually read a comic worth reading.  We’ll see.

¹ Am I dating myself with that reference? Oh well.

² How about that reference? Too dated? Come on, a Chris DeBurgh reference! How cool am I?