Hear Me, O Dudes and Bettys! - June 24, 2007

Hey, long time, no see. Have you ever gone through a phase where you just weren't in the mood to read comics? I just got off of a nearly year-long, uh, non-bender. I can't really explain it. I just wasn't in the mood. I thought I was alone, but Steven Grant mentioned in his Permanent Damage column recently a similar state of mind.

Every so often, I go through periods where I can't stand what I normally love, when it comes to the arts. Back when I was still living in Madison and reviewing six to ten mostly bad films per week for almost a year, I hit the point where when I quit that job I didn't watch another film for six months. Then I went to Brian dePalma's BLOW OUT, and subsequently couldn't bring myself to see a movie for another year. Every so often, music of any kind sounds like nothing but fingernails on the blackboard of my mind, and this will go on anywhere from a couple of days to a few weeks.

Now and then I just can't read comics anymore, unless I force myself to.

No idea why. Nothing seems to trigger it. Doesn't happen more than once a decade or so. But toward the end of last November, something snapped, and for close to six months, though I read a handful here and there, the thought of reading comics filled me with great dread.

Like Steven, I guess I just needed a break. Comics just weren't speaking to me. I wonder if it's not a case of media overload because now I want nothing to do with network television. And it's not just because it's summer and there's nothing but crap on. As my interest in comics waxed, my interest in TV waned - well before May sweeps. I've started reading comics again, but I'm only watching the occasional DVD or Simpsons rerun and not much else.

For my triumphant return (sarcasm), I was going to talk about the first Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. volume, but Luke Foster has done it way better than I would have. Just go read his review over at The Pulse.

One of the perks of being a blogger here at CSBG is that we occasionally get free comics. As is our policy, we review them for better or worse. Those generous souls at BOOM! Studios were nice enough to send me some of their latest offerings. They probably would've preferred a review two or three weeks ago, but I've seen Cover Girl, at least, at my local comic shop, so they should still be available if you're interested in checking them out.

Left on Mission #2:When I think of the various spy tales I've enjoyed recently, they've all been movies - The Good Shepherd, Breach, Casino Royale, even 24. I enjoyed them because they provided insight into why spies do what they do and what can happen when you're willing to sacrifice absolutely everything for your country. In The Good Shepherd, Edward Wilson grows increasingly paranoiac as he's consumed by his duty. In Casino Royale, James Bond, hardened by the death of the woman he loves, loses his capacity for trust. In Breach, Robert Hanssen, a bitter egomaniacal genius, forsakes his moral compass and engages in a secret, even hypocritical, crusade to wake up his nation or end its malaise - whichever comes first. And in 24, circumstances force Jack Bauer to sacrifice his connection to his friends, his family, even his own identity.

I think the best spy stories, ironically, are about loss. They make us consider not so much what we're able to gain for our country, but what we're willing to lose for it because that's the real test of character. And sometimes, they warn us that there are some things we can't give up without losing some of our humanity.

I don't believe I've ever read a true spy comic. In the mass media, I've been exposed to this genre primarily via film and TV and the occasional novel. It seems like a difficult genre to translate into comics. Not impossible, but challenging. Maybe it's because spies are "real life" but comics do a better job of communicating the fantastic. Most true spy stories are just a bunch of people talking (e.g. The Good Shepherd, Breach) with an occasional bit of action (Casino Royale, 24). Talking head comics aren't always fun (although Ex Machina is a good example of one that is fun). It's easier to hear two people talking than to look at a comic of two people talking. I'd rather experience the sound and fury of a fistfight or car chase on screen than see a picture of one. Maybe it's just me, but I like comics because they open up worlds of wonder and realistically told spy comics don't necessarily do that for me.

As for the issue in question, it's a competently produced affair about a spy named Eric. No last name - guess I needed issue one for that. But it's of no consequence really. We follow Eric as he meets a contact and subsequently gets nicked by a former associate with an incriminating recording of the President that she's planning to sell to the Russian mob. So it's fairly standard stuff, but we don't get any heart. At least with this single issue, it's hard to understand Eric's motivation outside of basic patriotism. Maybe that's the way it is in real life. Those CIA guys just love the good ol' US of A blah blah blah. But for a compelling story, there needs to be more. Maybe we'll get it as the story unfolds. But I'd be a little reluctant to pay four bucks for more of the same.

Fall of Cthulhu #3:I don't care for Horror as a genre. (Right about now, the folks at BOOM! Studios are saying, "Crap, we're not sending this guy any more free comics.) I think it's because I believe in the supernatural, that there are realms of existence that we don't - probably can't - comprehend and possibly shouldn't even if we could. I think there are things that are better left alone. I don't care for bizarre, otherworldly dreamscapes filled with malevolent, soulless creatures because they creep me the hell out and I don't like being creeped out. It makes me feel...not good. And I don't really understand the appeal of looking at/reading about scenes of brutal torture, especially when the filmmakers, writers, and/or comics artists seem to almost luxuriate in it. It's not entertaining to me. Call me old-fashioned.

Having said all of this, Fall of Cthulhu #2 wasn't too bad. I know, I know. I'm a big, fat hypocrite. Unlike Left on Mission, it appealed a little to my sense of wonder, made me a little curious. It's set in the town of Arkham , which a character helpfully explains has thrown off its mantle of the macabre for respectability as a center of enlightenment. However, evil isn't so easily deterred and there are things, bad things, happening. One can't help but feel that there's a puppet master at work pulling strings. But for what sinister purpose? This is a Cthulhu story, so human domination probably. Those evil gods. Don't they ever get bored of the same schtick?

Would I read another issue though? Nah. Hellboy and The Goon are as close as I want to get to "horror" comics on a regular basis. I'm rather partial to my skin not crawling.

Cover Girl #2:Remember the TV series V.I.P. about a Hollywood protection service, i.e. bodyguards to the stars? Did you like it? If so, you'd probably find Cover Girl amusing because, well, same idea. In its defense, though, it's not as corny as V.I.P. I mean, the creators aren't covering any new ground, but that doesn't mean it's not entertaining. The protagonists are stereotypical tough-as-nails professionals assigned to a stereotypical spoiled celebrity who someone wants stereotypically injured or dead. They're getting paid the big bucks to save his bacon. There's some gunfire and a car chase along the lines of what you would've seen on, well, V.I.P. Boy, I don't feel like I'm selling this, but it really was kind of fun. I liked the characters well enough to check out what happens to them next issue.

Or maybe I'll just watch V.I.P.

In the promotional pages in the back of these comics were ads for some Warhammer books. I thought to myself, "Self, these seem like your kind of thing. Too bad they didn't send you some of those. Then, lo and behold, a few days later, they did! Haven't read them yet, but I'll give my impressions of those next time.

It's good to be back...

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