Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Extremist #4

Extremist is an anagram of Mister Tex.

When a cover doesn't speak to me, I do an anagram! Or if my only caption would have been "There's a high probability the character on the cover is currently having an orgasm." I guess what I'm saying is that most issues of Team Titans had a character on the cover that was in ecstasy.

Too bad DC didn't revive The Extremist for The New 52. Imagine if they'd saved a few slots for barely remembered Vertigo series! I bet a large part of The New 52 was just publishing titles that DC was about to lose to public domain laws. No way they would have reintroduced titles where the writer and artist probably had some kind of creator's royalties. Instead, it was just more economical to reprint comics nobody gave a fuck about anymore, like Men of War and Star Spangled Whatever.

This issue is called "January, Nineteen Ninety-Four." So we're back to the future! Did Judy die? Did Pierre die? Did Pierre turn Judy into a vampire like himself?! Will we, the reader, ever learn the truth?! Probably not because this issue begins by following Tony. And what the fuck does Tony know?! He's just a guy who sat on the stoop and spoke niceties to Jack while ignoring Judy's horrible scowls. The plus side of not learning what happened any time soon is that I probably don't have to describe all of the boring Tony living his life pages!

Part four begins with Tony speaking into a tape recorder in a motel with The Extremist suit lying next to him. I don't think he's jerked off in it yet. He's just recording the story of how he got to this point which is totally what the reader wants to know so they'll probably keep reading.

Tony's life mostly wends its mundane way between working at the bakery and taking care of his daughter and telling his wife everything is okay. But things aren't okay. Tony has begun to obsess over The Extremist because he listened to one of Jack's tapes. Then he broke into the apartment when he stopped seeing Judy and listened to Judy's tapes. Then he found the suit and wondered, "How did it get back? Did Judy die? Did Patrick?" And so now the story is one of growing obsession. Almost exactly like a movie I could probably name if I were better at knowing movies about obsession! Was Blue Velvet one? What about Boxing Helena? Maybe Maid to Order? Or Star Wars! Luke was pretty obsessed with that droid he bought and its magic mystery messages.

If C-3PO were a diplomatic droid, what was R2-D2? I bet he was a sex droid and he just happened to also be able to help pilot starships.

Learning that people exist in the world who don't follow any rules and do whatever they desire causes Tony to think about his mundane life which seems like a dead end. At some point during the previous issues, Patrick told Judy she should either kill or seduce the black guy on the stairs. She mentions this in one of her tapes and so it's all Tony can think about. If Judy is out there, she can still either kill him or seduce him. Either one would free him from the life he views as a prison. Fucking an another woman would break the rule he's always lived by to not cheat on his wife, and free him to begin breaking other rules. And, of course, if she were to kill him, so be it. Contentment and freedom from constant drama are just a dead end and a prison to some people. Maybe it was only learning of this other world that made Tony see his life that way. But whatever the case, he couldn't go back. He was dead the moment he listened to Jack's tape.

And, yes, he does die. He's killed by Judy who accepts Pierre's offer to join him and be completely free from societal constraints. To do whatever she pleases, to whomever she wants. And she wants her costume and tapes back, and she knows Tony wants to die, so she slits his throat and goes back to being The Extremist.

I don't know if there's a moral to this story. Does growing older come with a moral? When we're young, our entire world stretches out before us in a seeming infinite amount of choices. As we get older, we cut ourselves off from many paths, concentrating on fewer and fewer until we're trundling down the last path we're ever going to trundle. It's not a fault of the way you live that you narrow your focus and your possibilities. It's just part of making choices as you get older. Sure, you can refuse to make any choices and just keep all paths open forever. But refusing to make choices is just a different kind of prison. I suppose what Tony learned was that he made a lot of choices that he regretted but lacked the courage to make new choices which would free him (because those new choices would cause a lot of pain to his wife, Janet, and his daughter. But, I mean, his death is going to kind of do that to so...?). And so, once again, the question of a moral: is there one? Is Milligan saying we need to be as brave as Judy in making all of the hard decisions in order to free ourselves of civilization's shackles? Or did Judy just fall into another trap that Jack and Tony both avoided, even at the cost of death?

At one point, Tony asks about Jack and Judy, "What if they'd known how each other really felt? The things they really wanted. Maybe neither of them would have needed The Extremist. And what about Janet and me? What huge, massive gulf full of...of ignorance lay between us?" Which leads us back to the question Judy pondered in the first issue and I pondered after Jim Starlin wrote some terrible Stormwatch comic books. Can we ever truly know each other? And what are the costs we're willing to pay to both hide and ignore the things hidden from and by our most intimate acquaintances? Is Judy happy at the end because she thinks she knows Pierre? She doesn't even know he's a vampire!

The Extremist #4 Rating: A-. The Tony story was a pretty good way to end this thing. It was both boring and intense. It felt like a lot of movies that I can't name right now which is why I named a bunch that maybe it felt like earlier. The kind of story where a character is pulled out of their regular life by some weird obsession that they feel somehow holds the key to happiness or excitement or just some fucking thing that isn't the same thing they experience day after day. I, for one, don't understand the kind of people who need constant drama. My guess is that that kind of life is for people who are easily bored. And I also think people who are easily bored are mostly lost outside themselves. A lot of people need structure and daily routine or they simply don't know what to do with themselves. But structure and daily routine are the direct route to a seeming mundane life. That's probably where cheating on spouses and gambling and drinking and dog fighting come in. Maybe these bored jerks should try blogging! I keep myself entertained just by typing stupid shit into the ether all day long!

Oh yeah, sorry about not scanning any pictures. I just couldn't tear myself away from Tony's story once I started reading it! And he was too pathetic to make stupid jokes about!

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