Thursday, October 29, 2020

Justice League International #8 (1987)

Is it weird that I have a newsstand copy of a comic book when I definitely was shopping at my local comic shop in 1987?

This cover has so many jokes to talk about that I probably won't have time to review the entire issue. My stomach is already sore for laughing so hard! Look at how the box marked "fragile" is about to fall onto the floor thanks to the carelessness of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold! Ha ha! And they're carrying the large box upside down! According to the label on the upside down box, it's going to Paris, France so it must contain Crimson Fox who is almost certainly swearing in French because have you ever tried to masturbate while upside down in a box being jiggled by two men?! The incompetence of those guys is hilarious! But the best joke is the one where the only woman on the team doesn't lift a finger to help and also can't make up her mind about the placement of a gigantic box that hasn't been opened yet! See how funny that is? Because who cares where the box is placed?! It's not like they're moving a desk or an end table and Black Canary is coming up with a floor plan! It's just a box that will need to be opened and then broken down and then thrown out! The other funny part is that yellow spray around Beetle's head and the shape of his mouth because I think it suggests he's about to call Black Canary a bitch! Ha ha!

I probably left out the joke about the hernia although that one might just be implied. Also, it'll probably be a blatant joke later in the story.

The issue begins with Jack Ryder on his right-wing radio call-in television "news" program fiasco of a show Hot Seat trying to get the masses to shit blood over the Justice League. It'll work because the masses in comic books (as well as the masses not in comic books because we've all seen how people who listen to and watch right-wing radio call-in television "news" programs easily believe the alternate reality fed to them because it speaks to their inherent biases and selfishness) are idiots. (That might be my favorite interruption by parenthetical reference I've ever written.) I also know that it will work because Glorious Godfrey only recently did the same thing a year or two ago and it worked. But comic books don't recognize time and space in the same way that we more logical and real readers do so the masses won't remember that they were fooled just a year ago by idiotic television pundits who don't mind seeing the world burn as long as they can cash a fat check over it. I doubly also know it will work because Millennium is coming up and I think that might be proof that maybe Jack Ryder was sort of right because aliens have infiltrated Earth and are pretending to be heroes and possibly even right-wing radio call-in television "news" hosts.

I don't really remember much about Millennium except that it was weekly and there were Manhunters in it.

My favorite comic book characters when I was a kid were Blue Falcon and Dynomutt. I bet Jack Ryder was Sean Hannity's favorite. Tucker Carlson's favorite was probably Hitler.

This issue begins the long running joke that Martian Manhunter is addicted to Oreos. I fucking get it, man. Have you ever tried to melt an Oreo into a spoon, fill a needle with the liquid contents, and inject it straight into your bloodstream? Me neither because that's stupid, you dumb idiot. Why would you even suggest it? You need to inject them straight into your taste buds.

J'onn, Mister Miracle, and Captain Atom are setting up the New York Embassy which leads to lots of jokes about shoddy construction and terrible wiring and lazy movers. At one point Captain Atom electrocutes himself and then destroys all of the wiring because he's the guy the United States wanted to represent them on the new international team. I'd say his penchant to escalate a situation straight to violence proves the United States made the right decision.

Batman and Guy Gardner oversee the outfitting of the Russian Embassy with a little help from Rocket Manhunter #7.

Even Rocket Red has heard about Guy's serious brain trauma and yet nobody has even discussed getting him a medical check-up. What a bunch of bastards!

This is also the issue that begins the "Bwa-ha-ha-ha" gag (I think. Did it happen in an issue previously? Maybe?! Anyway, it really gets going here). That's the gag where somebody laughs when something terrible happens to somebody else. It's a great team building exercise, to laugh at a co-worker's pain! Or if it isn't, it, at the very least, helps develop personal morale. Nothing better than laughing at your manager after her credit card was stolen by a prospective new employee while the entire company was in a meeting, especially after learning that said card was pretty much just used at The Honey Baked Ham. Does that make if funnier? Or is this one of those dark humor things like when the same manager was super pissed at an employee I was training for not showing up for work the day before Thanksgiving only to learn later that she had died of carbon monoxide poisoning the previous night which caused her to erupt into crying jags for the rest of the day which I'm positive weren't for my poor co-worker but for her guilty feelings of being so angry at her. That's dark humor, right?

The "Bwa-ha-ha-ha" gag begins when Booster tries to hit on a Parisian woman and gets shot down. Later, she winds up being the League's Paris Bureau Chief. And also maybe Crimson Fox?

This scene is well done in a book that often tries too hard for stupidly silly humor.

I'd say that these three pages (the scanned page being the third of the three) of interaction between Blue Beetle and Booster Gold is ground zero for what would become a great best friend relationship. Any interaction before this was just of the generic Blue Beetle making a stupid class clown comment to the group. But this foundational scene in Paris already feels like these two at their closest which, admittedly, is mostly Blue Beetle laughing at something dumb Booster Gold did. But I like to view this entire relationship through the lens of a Booster Gold mostly driven mad and insane from having to live through so many alternate timelines. Sure, the reader doesn't know about that aspect of Booster Gold yet (and won't for more than a decade). But I can't help but understand Booster Gold through that lens now. And his need for some kind of consistency and whimsy and, almost certainly, a need to be able to laugh at himself must be expressed through this relationship as a kind of therapy. In a universe where not even the timeline lacks consistency, Booster Gold finds solace in getting his balls busted by Blue Beetle.

Maybe I'm a dick who doesn't understand true friendship but this is totally what it looks like, right?

The issue ends with a Keith Giffen drawn story about the end of the Global Guardians, or at least the end of their United Nations backing. I'm sure it's a set-up for a future story but even if it were just a couple page story acknowledging the Global Guardians and how they're affected by a new United Nations backed team, it would remain an interesting moment. I don't need iron clad continuity in my comic book universe but I am entertained when writers acknowledge the waves their stories are making in that continuity. Plus it's drawn by Giffen which always makes it seem like I'm reading a story from the perspective of a madman.

Justice League International #8 Rating: B+. How come when I publish a manifesto, people refer to it as a 'zine?! How do you get the fucking power to have your photo-copied screed with "art" considered a manifesto?! How many people do I have to rant at to get some Goddamned recognition?! "The Truth About Star Trek Transporters" is not a fucking fanzine, people! It's a manifesto of the alternate reality we're being asked to accept! The alternate reality of an alternate reality where people are being sent to their deaths every fucking mission only to be replaced by clones of themselves and nobody fucking cares! Probably because they're all clones of clones of clones and their ability to think rationally has diminished to the point of dogmatic stupidity! Am I the only one witnessing this while others simply think its some kind of retrograde perspective?! Does my antediluvian intellect subquester the means of proliferating the parallax of reality?! Does the inclusion of three hilarious dick jokes deny me the mantle of manifesto writer, oublietting my ego into an infinite mirror trick of endless zineian declarations?! Fuck this shit! And fuck that satellite that's been following me throughout this meandering conclusion!

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Cerebus #19 (1980)

Is this StarRoach or RoachFire?

"A Note from the Publisher" gives me nothing to work with so aside from this sentence, I will not be discussing it. And also this sentence. Or not that sentence but this sentence since I forgot to mention "A Note from the Publisher" in the previous sentence.

Dave's essay from Swords of Cerebus gives me more to work with so I'll be discussing that in the following X number of sentences. I will not counting the sentences and then replacing the X with that number. The X, as we all know, is the king of variables and you should understand the work it's doing.

Dave begins the essay with "This is when the story started getting a little weird." You read that correctly. Weird wasn't when the erdschweine first road into the villaggio on the caballo. Weird wasn't the introduction of the frenetic albino Foghorn Leghorn. Weird wasn't even the amnesiac merchant who became a hissing vigilante every night. Weird wasn't Groucho Marx governing a literal bureaucracy. Weird was this issue when he begins to lay the foundation of the Cirinists and Kevillists. Sim has already introduced a whole bunch of nationalities that I can't keep straight and now he expects me to follow the intricacies and dogma of two embittered sects at constant odds with each other? I've read the first half of Cerebus quite a few times (and the last half or so just the once. Probably everything post Guys) and I'll be damned if I can remember where Kevillists and Cirinists differed on anything. I think Kevillists are okay with abortion but Cirinists think it's the worst thing you can do. Also Kevillists are daughters and Cirinists are mothers, if that helps clear up anything. I promise to try to pay more attention during this read through.

Early on, we discover Cerebus is against sex work. But don't worry! He's not a total prude! He's all for rape (within the confines of marriage, of course! I'm sure Christians and Conservatives would agree).

Dave Sim is also against sex work but I'm not going to simply assume that everything that Cerebus thinks, Dave also thinks. Dave probably doesn't think stabbing an unconscious opponent in the face after you've beaten them in a brawl is acceptable behavior. Probably, of course. I wouldn't want to assume anything of the author's beliefs simply because of the way the characters he writes act! Dave might love stabbing unconscious people in the face! You've got to find some kind of a hobby when you completely stop orgasming.

Lord Gorce is busy trying to raise an army to defend Palnu (under Lord Julius' instructions) by swindling and manipulating other leaders into giving him access to their armies. He seems a bit overly confident in his abilities so I suspect he'll be dead before Cerebus even knows he exists. Cerebus is also continuing to try to raise an army to capture Palnu. And like all good Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, this leads to somebody sending him on a quest for a priceless artifact. Unlike a good Dungeons & Dragons campaign, Cerebus won't wind up slaughtering a whole orc community in their lair while somehow retaining the alignment of Lawful Good.

In his quest for the priceless artifact, Cerebus once again encounters Henrot and Red Sophia. Well sort of Red Sophia. A magical clone of Red Sophia.

Ultimately, Cerebus is drugged and kidnapped by the fortune teller slash sex worker Perce. Kevillists and Cirinists don't show up this issue but this is the first part of a multi-issue story that will introduce the two sects. Or ideologies. Or clubs? I don't know. What I do know is that they're both groups of people who love to tell other groups of people how to live. That's probably why they come into conflict with Cerebus because only Cerebus tells Cerebus how to live. Except when he's feeling particularly guilty and thinks Tarim might be watching. Then maybe Tarim can throw out a little advice. Even Dave tries to warn Cerebus about dying unmourned and unloved and Cerebus is all, "Dave? What the fuck's a Dave? Get the fuck out of here, you non-masturbating freak!" Then Cerebus shoves a sword up his vagina.

I might be remembering some parts of the story out of order. And incorrectly. Most of my brain power is currently tied up in trying to understand Gravity's Rainbow.

Michael Loubert's "the aardvarkian age" continues to be a huge disappointment. I thought I was going to get a bunch of funny extras about Estarcion and Cerebus but instead I've just gotten additional ill-written reading material that I can barely comprehend. The ill-written part is Loubert's fault; the barely comprehending is most likely my own.

Cerebus #19 Rating: B+. I wonder if women are more comfortable and less self-conscious about being naked because their naked form is basically the same as their clothed form (especially if they're wearing a shirt which allows their nipples to poke through). But as a guy, you've got this added dongle dangling there just acting goofy. I'm not trying to suggest that penises aren't sexy; they obviously are! So nice to look at! But it is a bit weird to look at yourself in the mirror while brushing your teeth naked (the way everybody does it, right?) and have to see that thing just sort of hanging there like a wilted bunch of grapes. Erotic grapes, of course! Um, that's all.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Justice League International #7 (1987)

Kevin Maguire not really trying looks an awful lot like John Romita Jr at his best.

Ah! It feels good to be back! Taking a crack at John Romita Jr while he's just sitting there not doing anything particularly wrong. Just going about his business pretending to be a comic book artist! I don't know what John Romita's politics are but I bet he now agrees with Donald Trump on one thing: naming your kid after you is a huge fucking mistake.

Was all that previous nonsense poisonous, vile, and toxic? I suppose one could argue the point. But I'd also guess that somebody arguing that point has never seen John Romita Jr's art. Or perhaps they have seen it and like it because they have a terribly underdeveloped sense of aesthetics. Otherwise nobody would argue with me at all! They'd just read the previous poisonous, vile, toxic nonsense and nod their heads in agreement while pausing for a second to snort a line of Adderall.

Fine, I'm sorry, JRJR! Obviously you're an artist! Drawing squinty people with block heads and weird noses holding geometric guns without a single curve on them absolutely falls under the definition of art! Although I draw the line at accepting that Rob Liefeld is an artist. That's a bridge too far!

What the fuck does that even mean, "a bridge too far"? It must be a term bombers in WWII used, right? "What the fuck do you mean, carpet bomb Dresden?! If we fly past the Geralthauskopfplatz Bridge, we're definitely getting scrawked by anti-aircraft flak, you bingehart!" Did that sound like an authentic American bomber pilot from the 40s? It's not like Catch-22 is my favorite book or something.

Wait. Catch-22 is my favorite book. I guess I'm just no good at written impressions. I assure you it sounds exactly what you'd expect from an American pilot in the Forties if you heard me do the impression live.

Also, this is probably the last month of my life where I'll be able to say, "Catch-22 is my favorite book." Because I'm over 500 pages into Gravity's Rainbow and it's just as fucking amazing as everybody who has pretended to read it says it is.

This issue begins with Guy Gardner regaining consciousness after having been violently assaulted by his employer.

Why was the mouse glowing green?!

In my memory, Guy Gardner's change from dickhole to sweetest guy on the team came after Batman punched his lights out. But apparently that isn't the case. It's possible this new whack on the head is the cause or maybe it's something a bit later. I bet an editorial mandate came down which said they couldn't have Guy suffer serious head trauma from Batman punching him. So they had to add this new scene where Guy basically gives himself the head trauma that results in a catastrophic change in personality.

The Justice League didn't quite finish destroying The Gray Man last issue so that story gets resolved pretty quickly this issue. Doctor Fate transported him to the Realms of Order where a big blob of Order disintegrates him. Which is what he ultimately wanted. It's what we all ultimately want. It's just you don't know that you want it until you've lived long enough for all the wonder to be bled out of life. That's why he's the Gray Man! Some people think life's too short but at 49, I'm beginning to suspect that it's way too fucking long.

This comic book passes the Reverse Bechdel Test: "Any story that has only one woman in it and every scene she's in, she's treated like a sexual object."

With The Gray Man out of the way, it's time to get to the important part of the story: turning the Justice League of America into Justice League International! I wonder how many people this change pissed off in the 80s? Fucking globalist woke elite bubble bullshit!

People talk in derogatory terms about the coastal bubbles but they absolutely shouldn't. I won't disagree that I grew up in a totally different environment in the San Francisco Bay Area than people who grew up in the Midwest. A bubble? Sure. But it was a fucking good thing. I was recently showing the Non-Certified Spouse some of the station breaks from local stations in the late 70s and early 80s out of San Francisco and she was amazed at the representative shorts these stations presented, especially KTVU's "Bits and Pieces." Sure, there were the ones about ethics and morality humorously presented with a horse and bulldog puppet. But there were also the ones that showed different ethnicities and their lives, often ending with "I'm proud to be a Chinese American!" or "I'm proud to be a Black American!" The one about Japanese Americans even mentioned how Japanese families were put in interment camps during World War II. One was about Italian Americans and instead of Italian history, it just showed Italian art and various activities of people in the Italian community. One of the Japanese American shorts just had a Japanese American kid having to explain how he was tired of answering questions about being Japanese in America because he was fourth generation and just American as anybody else. But I guess that kind of commie pinko hogwash is why I'm a big fat America hating socialist!

As I was saying before my politics politely interrupted (my politics interrupting impolitely would look like this: Trump voters should be forced to shit in their own mouths for all eternity), the main thrust of this story is to set up Justice League International. Judging by the cover, that means hiring some guy with a bucket on his head from Russia and Captain Atom, another white American male.

Ah yes! The introduction of the best character of the series: Big Barda!

Big Barda might not be on the team but at least there's another female character. Sure, Doctor Light was sort of on the team for three pages. And pretty soon, Fire and Ice will join. But it's mostly just been poor Black Canary having to put up with Booster and Blue Beetle's jokes about banging her.

Max and J'onn discuss the United Nations possibly backing the Justice League while Superman talks respectfully with President Reagan. What a mistake! The biggest do-gooder on the planet normalizing fucking Ronald Reagan! He should be scolding him with a liberal smattering of Kryptonian tsk-tsks! That's when a Kryptonian gives you a little burst of heat vision every time you deny the AIDS crisis or invoke the spectre of Welfare Queens or destroy the economy by lowering the top marginal tax rates pretending that the money saved will trickle down to everyone instead of fat corporate cats simply keeping all the extra for bonuses and investors. Fuck that guy. I'm so mad now!

Of all the digs they could have taken with Reagan, they poke fun of his dementia?! Christ, Giffen and DeMatteis.

Hal Jordan drops by headquarters to give Guy a good talking-to but Guy doesn't need it because he's suffered a traumatic head injury on top of his brain damage alongside Batman's sucker punch to the face and now he's Mister Sweetbeans. And because he's acting so nice, nobody gives a shit that this is actually a medical emergency.

Backing Maxwell Lord is a computer satellite in space. Is it Brother Eye already?! Are they already working together in 1987?! Or is it just some alien gizmo from the Millennium bullshit coming up? I don't remember! Heck, this Maxwell Lord might even be a Manhunter!

Anyway, the satellite begins destroying shit on Earth with a giant heat beam. The Justice League, having nearly nobody who can do anything about it, doesn't call Superman to fix the problem. Instead, they decide to spend precious hours borrowing a space shuttle from STAR Labs to launch them into space to battle the space station. Also, they leave Guy Gardner back at headquarters on monitor duty. Because who needs the guy with experience battling in space with a ring that can protect every other member of the League while in space? Also the ring is the greatest weapon in the universe. So, you know, sideline that guy, right?

It's possible this was in the era where Superman couldn't survive in space either, really. But then that's even more incentive to get fucking Guy Gardner up there with them!

The Justice League manages to stop the satellite's destruction but mostly only because it was a huge set-up so every nation could see them save the world. Everybody wants them defending the planet now so the United Nations agrees to back them with one condition: two new members, one to pacify the U.S. and one to pacify the U.S.S.R.

I've read a lot of ridiculous things in comic books but Rocket Red's power levels being nearly equal to Captain Atom's might be the most ridiculous.

I love how Captain Atom's power level is 9+ but Rocket Red's power level is 8.43 instead of 8+. I guess the accuracy of whatever system they're using breaks down over 9.

Captain Marvel quits the team and Batman steps down as leader so J'onn can lead. And that's about it, I guess! The issue ends with some kind of flim-flam about how its the 80s and we've become a global world and boundaries just don't work anymore and superheroes are cool as shit. I guess it's inspirational or something. There's still just one woman on the team though.

Justice League International #7 Rating: B. Seven issues in and the Justice League has defeated two villains who weren't actual threats to anybody. They were just scams to get the Justice League some press. They also beat up and killed an old guy who was just frustrated with the boredom that came with the immortality the Lords of Order forced on him. So all in all, they're nearly as terrible as the New Titans who practically only ever battled relatives while putting the residents of New York City in danger every time.