Boy, you call something torture porn, and some people take that negatively. I mean, who doesn't love torture porn? But none of that lurks below! Just good, quality, wholesome entertainment featuring a women hanging upside down on a cross, something horrible happening in a bedroom, a hero punching someone until blood shoots out of that person's nose, a horribly violated corpse, Jews being rounded up and sent to camps, a good old-fashioned iron pipe to the groin, and Young Liars, which exists in a separate universe of the violently bizarre. Just another fine week in the four-color world!
If you're wondering what's happening on that cover, well, it's just Jude and Lee jumping into a volcano. Doesn't that always happen in real life?
It says something about the strength of this title that David and Woodward can put basically the final image of this comic on the cover and not worry about "spoilers." Why Jude and Lee end up jumping into a volcano is far more important that they do; given that the book is called Fallen Angel, it's always been about faith, and with the fact that demonic forces have taken over Bete Noire, you might expect Jude's faith to be tested a bit. In this issue, he and Lee argue about the nature of God and what it means to have faith. In case you think it's all a meditation on whether God exists or not, there's a shark, too. Good stuff!
We also find out a bit more about Benny, the weird old man who has eaten his fair share of tourists to Bete Noire in the past. As usual, part of what makes a Peter David comic interesting is the fact that he always has a long-term plan, and that's been obvious recently, as he's tying things up for the last issue of the series, which is coming up in a few months. So characters who haven't been seen for a while turn up and are far more important than we might have surmised, and it also doesn't necessarily have to turn out for the best (nor might everyone survive). It's been interesting seeing what happens when Lee is exiled from her city, and I'm extremely curious to see where the story goes from here.
After the powder keg of issue #3, Kelly deals with the ramifications of it, as Barbara gets another chance with her psychologist, gets yelled at by her sister, and gets to find out what happens when you piss off your only friend. It ain't good. We get a good clue about what's really going on at Barbara's house, although it appears so horrible that I can't believe it's really happening. I wonder how much is being filtered through Barbara's overactive imagination, but I guess that's why we have next issue! It's hard to write about this issue, because after last issue, which really kick-started the series, the revelations are flying fast and furious and I don't want to ruin anything. Kelly has done a marvelous job with the characters in the first few issues, though, so when Barbara's sister (who has had a minor role so far) freaks out, we initially think she's overreacting a bit, but we quickly understand why she's acting this way, and that she just might be justified. Niimura has continued his fantastic work, too, so when Barbara finally takes out her war hammer, it's a stunning scene, both in terms of writing and art. That scene, interestingly enough (given with the way the issue ends) is the fulcrum of the issue (and possibly the series), as Barbara is suddenly forced to understand that she's perhaps read things incorrectly. Perhaps. We'll see as the series moves forward.
This is turning out to be a masterful comic. I hope that it keeps coming out on this schedule (the first issue came out a while ago, but the past three have come out in, I think, the past six weeks) because I'm anxious to find out what happens.
And so endeth Fraction's first story arc on the high-profile launch of another Iron Man book, and with it, my involvement in it. I wanted to like this book, but I don't. I wish it the best of luck, because maybe then Fraction will get enough money from it to continue Casanova. But otherwise, I have no interest in it.
So what went wrong? Well, it's strange, because it's not really what is wrong with this comic, it's what's not right with it. Larroca's art is fine, although I'm not in love with his new style, and Fraction knows how to write, after all. It's just that nothing sets this apart, to the point where I'm not exactly sure why it exists. It's the second comic starring Iron Man, after all, and did we really need another one? Fraction introduced what could be an interesting villain in Zeke Stane but hasn't done much with him. In the end, this is a story that introduces a villain and makes Tony think that maybe the villains are going to be like Zeke from now on. Wow.
I mean, this is six issues long, and it doesn't need to be, because nothing much happens that is all that revolutionary. The first issue led me to believe it would be something different, but it's not. The first issue seemed like it would be something more about Tony and who he is, while bringing in a threat that he couldn't just punch. So what does he do? First, he might as well have pressed a giant Deus Ex Machina button, then punches it. It rises slightly above the average superhero comic because of Fraction's wit, but that's it. Zeke is just a punk, ultimately, and Tony has some issues, but this comes down to a good guy and a bad guy beating on each other. Yes, it has some bells and whistles, but so what? I just don't have any idea why Marvel needs two Iron Man comic books. If this somehow distinguished itself from the other Iron Man comic, I might see it. But it doesn't.
One last question (SPOILERS, maybe, but probably not): Tony essentially admits he can't be Iron Man anymore because of what he did. So where does the book go from here? Are we just going to forget about this? I won't be around to find out, but I wonder about that.
I dig the fact that this book is now coming out a bit more regularly, because, as I've mentioned before, it's such a good example of a classic Western, meaning there are a lot of wordless panels with people looking at each other meaningfully. While the way the comic is constructed is fascinating and builds tension by just having things move slowly, the fact that things move slowly means that long gaps between issues hurt the comic. So in this issue, John investigates a horrific murder, but the book is more about how the townspeople don't trust him (or Tonto, perhaps even more so) and how the sheriff resents having to call him in. Another nice thing about this comic is that the murder is horrible, and because of when it's set, it hits us harder. In, say, the latest issue of Nightwing (sorry!), the depiction of the murdered woman wouldn't register, but because this is set in a time when this kind of thing was shocking, it affects us more. It's nicely done.
Boy, I hope this continues to come out regularly. That would be nice.
Damn, I love this comic. I just have to write that, because I love it so much. I like the fill-in issues with different artists, but then Ferreyra comes back and Nelson gets back to the main story, and I just sit there, staring at each page, amazed at the artwork, the coloring, and the way the story just unfolds naturally so that even the obvious plot points (Julien and Isabelle lip-locking) feel right, and with plenty of twists that keep us on our toes. I don't even mind the Nazi parallel, which is back in this issue when Lorraine starts rounding up "Zionists" because they will "destroy" the empire. Lorraine makes a fascinating, if dubious, point about empires always fall because of subversive elements within it. Given what's going on with his wife and Julien, he's probably looking to the wrong people, but it's interesting that he seems aware of what's going on, and it makes him a slightly more sympathetic figure.
This probably reads slightly better in trades, even though you don't get the newspaper excerpts at the end of each issue, but that also means you have to wait months until you get to gaze at Ferreyra's art. Seriously, here's a page from this issue that he posted on his blog. Behold its wonderfulness!
The second issue of this series continues the strong start, as Simone manages to make sure Batman isn't a loser but still allows Catman to "beat" him. All Catman wants to do, after all, is distract our hero so that he doesn't, um, fly across the country and stop the rest of the team from breaking into Alcatraz? I know that Batman is supposed to be Super Cop (just like Jackie Chan!), but doesn't it seem like he hasn't left Gotham in 20 years? I know that Tarantula is part of the vast Bat-Universe, but it's unclear why Batman would be heading to San Francisco to stop the break-out. Did I miss something?
Either way, it's enough to know that Catman fights Batman, and it's a nice part of the story. The way Blake has been written for most of his existence (ignoring the fat Blake), he ought to be a good foe for Batman, and it's nice to see Simone making him a guy who respects Batman but can stand up to him. Meanwhile, the prison break goes about as well as you might expect, and Simone continues doing good things with the characters, even new ones to the team like Bane. There's a nice verve to this comic, and it comes mostly from the way the characters talk to each other - they're all witty, but not in a cookie-cutter sitcom way. Their wittiness stems from their personalities, which is nice. The bad guy comes out of his trunk and offers up his bounty for Tarantula and those who rescue her, so I'm sure we'll see some good carnage coming up, and we all know how much I love that, right?
I mentioned last issue that Scott's art isn't as good as Eaglesham's or Walker's, but I might have to revise my assessment. The only problem I have with it is the final splash page, where we see all the villains ready to take up the bounty. I get that it's meant to be dramatic and scary and not all that realistic, but why is Cheetah crouching on the ground (not in a sexual way, you understand) with her back to the bad guy, looking over her shoulder? Why doesn't she just face him? And why is Cheshire standing with her right leg bent? Have you ever in your life seen anyone stand that way unless they're posing for a magazine shoot? It's not that big a deal, because the rest of the issue looks great, but it bugged me. Yes, things bug me occasionally. Sorry.
Anyway, another good issue. Keep it up, Ms. Simone!
The pull quote on this issue is more like it: "You'll hate it so much you'll love it." Now that's quality! I have never hated this comic, but I have been wondering if I should keep buying it. But every issue gives me a reason to come back, and after last issue's total mindfuck, I knew I was on board for at least a few more! Surprisingly, this is the most normal issue yet. If you define "normal" as an issue in which the incestuous arrangements of a family are worked out, bad guys wearing wigs and those fake moustache/glasses mask show up, there's odd cruelty to animals (and I know I'm evil, but that page made me laugh out loud), and the narrator expresses a desire to "probe the orifices of whomever we choose." So yeah - pretty normal.
What makes this so fascinating with regard to last issue's spider invasion of the Earth is that when it begins, we think that last issue occurred because Sadie is in a coma and that was a fantasy. But it quickly becomes clear that Lapham is messing with us, and perhaps it wasn't a fantasy after all. Or maybe, just maybe, it was someone else's fantasy! Whatever - this book continues to get its fingers inside my head and squeeze, and that's a good thing. This issue isn't as completely insane as the first seven, but it deepens the craziness of those issues a bit and sets us up for the continuation of the story. And what's great about this is I have no idea what the hell Lapham is doing, but I don't care. Each page of this comic tries to outdo the audacity of the previous ones, and it usually succeeds. You think, "Nothing can top the glimpse into the circus orgy!" but then the incest discussion takes place. You think, "Nothing can top the incest discussion!" but then we get the aforementioned odd cruelty to animals. You think, "All right, now I know nothing can top that!" but then Danny kills someone in a relatively straight forward but gruesome manner. Finally, you think, "Nothing can top that!" but then what a cast member has been doing and the identity of the disturbing narrator is revealed (we think the cast member is doing something different, because Lapham legerdemains us cleverly), and the book ends. And again, we're a bit breathless.
Man, I have to buy Stray Bullets, don't I? If it's anywhere near as maniacal as this, that's one fun read.
Last week's totally random lyrics were kind of obscure, to the point where I can't even find them on-line. They were from "Johnny Q," which is a great song by the Crazy 8's, a Portland band (well, okay, Corvallis, as they got their start at Oregon State) from the 1980s and early 1990s. Seek them out! If you don't trust me, trust Mike Sterling, who has had the benefit of seeing them live. This week's totally random lyrics are below!
"Well it's true, just take a lookThe cover sometimes makes the bookAnd the judges, do they ever askTo read between your lines
In your cage at the human zooThey all stop to look at youNext year, what will you doWhen you have been forgotten?"
Thanks for reading, everyone!