(That was a Blind Date joke, and I apologise)
Right, Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force comics involved him revamping the dismal and gritty X-Force title, while still keeping the terrible setup (Mutie strike team do murders black ops yawn), okay?
He then made this concept both fun and dramatic, and slurked around in the murky X-universe swamps to make the previously-mostly-badly-used Apocalypse-based stuff actually interesting and compelling. He even took a Morrison X-concept and ran with it, and did it well (Fantomex!). No ‘Magneto was not Xorn’ post-Granto-retcons here (see also Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men for nice Granto integration).
This is important as Morrison’s New X-Men was the greatest X-run there’s ever been, raised the bar for my comics enjoyment, and introduced lots of ace stuff that genuinely added to the X-world, most of which has been completely discarded or shat on.
That was a terrible bunch of nerdo sentences, so I’ll just say this: Remender’s Uncanny X-Force took things I remember liking from the 90s, which with hindsight were mostly dogshit, and made them as excellent as teen-me once believed, while building on actual good stuff without spoiling it.
So! Always being on the lookout for New (to me) Superhero Voices so I don’t just read whatever Morrison’s pumping out and nothing else, I decided to get more ‘into’ this Rick Remender character, who at the very least writes solidly fun action jaunts.
The Punisher: Frankencastle written by Rick Remender and Daniel Way, art by Tony Moore, John Romita Jr, Roland Boschi etc
Read a couple of issues of this when it was coming out, and thought “Oh my god this art is incredible I shall wait for the trade”. The artist was Tony Moore, the trade-waiter was me, but now I OWN IT and I HAVE READ IT and my verdict is:
I am happy I bought it! This collection starts with bloody Daken slicing the Punisher up in the sewers. Like, proper slices, Punisher all in bits, not just slashed up a bit? Though when he is just slightly wounded, Remender gets some good, horrible mileage out of it: “Sewage fills the fresh hole in my calf” etc. Ace classic Marvel art by JRJR!
But then it properly gets going when Tony Moore comes on board, and the Frankencastle story starts properly. Based on an only slightly amusing pun (Frank Castle/Frankencastle), the idea of a jury-rigged Frankenstein Punisher isn’t necessarily a great one, or one that fits the character that well, but as I don’t care AT ALL about preserving The Punisher’s ‘authenticity’ or anything, I wa smore than willing to go ‘along for the ride’.
The issues that follow are just a bunch of great big larks featuring an excellent cast taken from the Marvel monster characters. There’s Morbius (I really enjoy Moore’s balding, scraggly take on him), Manphibian, Man-Thing, some Kirby monsters…
They’re all written well and provide a right good supporting cast. Even the impossible-to-take-seriously Werewolf By Night (his name is Jack Russell, for Grud’s sake) gets some ace scenes. Mainly, though, they all look solid and convincing and appealing due to Tony Moore’s exceptional art.
He’s like the perfect artist for superhero comics? He somehow manages to take the ludicrous detail and action-figure character work of the 90s Image guys, but makes it really work and seem physical, cartoony, weighty and just SO MUCH CHARISMATIC FUN. Though describing him using the comparison of 90s Image stuff might not seem that nice of me, there’s no denying there’s a visceral power to that stuff that people react to, and seeing it done well in a way that transcends that style’s limitations and takes it into the realm of Pure Thrillpower Pop With Chops makes me very happy.
I’m still making it sound shit? Describing art is difficult.
Glaaaargh! I love Tony Moore just now, so I do, and while I’m not quite willing to buy anything with his name on it if I don’t like the writer (he’s no McCarthy or Quitely, to me, and there’s not a chance I’m buying Brian Posehn and his Deadpool), I will certainly give anything he does with Remender a shot.
Anyway, Frankencastle is really entertaining, but my interest waned whenever a non-Moore artist came on, other than the Dan Brereton sections, which were pulpy with a painterly, vibrant approach to colour that made the comic gleeeeam and feel like an excellent cultural artefact.
The collection hits a brick wall when it crosses over with the fucking Daken: Dark Wolverine comic, with Daniel Way’s writing doing nothing to convince me that Daken is in any way interesting. Luckily, the Remender/Moore issues of the crossover are OH GOD SUCH GOOD FIGHT COMICS.
There’s cartoony but SO BRUTAL violence done really well (not darque and serious, but still feeling painful), a well-integrated Akira nod, and more importantly, loads of slagging off of Daken (“bet you wish you could go back to 1995 and tell yourself not to get that idiot tattoo”).
Tony Moore can really draw a fight scene, and Remender can really write one. The pacing is spot-on, the action is clear and easy to follow. This should be the bread-and-butter of superhero stuff, but it is rarely done this well, I reckon.
And Remender ALMOST makes Daken interesting, or at least a fun foil for a fight.
So, yeah, Frankcastle: 4 Remenders out of 5?
Venom: Circle of Four written by Rick Remender, Rob Williams, Jeff Parker, and loads of artists, mainly TONY MOORE
Wasn’t sure I’d buy this, as the Remender/Moore count isn’t as high as I’d like, but the other writers are the better side of reasonable, and I like the idea of a take on the ol’ Fantastic Four Replacement Team, but with the alternate versions: X-23, Red Hulk, Venom, New Ghost Rider.
Fuck, I’ve totally been sucked back into the Marvel Universe. You snooze, you lose, DC (OR: “you make near-universally awful comics, a reader stops reading them”).
Anyway, the setup of Venom these days is that Flash Thomson, now a double-amputee due to being in a war (is it the war in Iraq? I dunno? I’m assuming not as the political landscape in the Marvel Universe would be SO different to our one, right, so the wars would be different?) is doing jobs for the guvment while using the Venom symbiote. He’s also getting blackmailed by some criminals to steal something for them, and that is what this comic is about.
I like the central idea of Flash-as-Venom, but am somewhat dubious about ‘war hero’ stuff. IGNORE THAT, ME, ENJOY THE COMIC. Right, the plot moves along pleasingly, then pure cranks up when Blackheart shows his face and everything gets nice and Midnight Sons-y.
I listened to a Remender interview where he speaks about Jason Aaron’s Ghost Rider and how he’s been trying to follow its example and rehabilitate the Midnight Sons/Marvel Monsters characters and create a properly cool supernatural side to the Marvel Universe. I was so happy to hear that, and it was also good to read this (and Frankencastle), and see that in action, and I really hope it all sticks. Also, I’m PRETTY sure the name “Circle of Four” is a reference to some obscuro 90s comic thing, which is good?
Would have been nice to see the Marvel UK beaky version of Mephisto, but that’s okay!
Oh, incidentally, I like the new Ghost Rider in theory, a Nicaraguan woman called Alejandra who ( I think?) was raised Aztek-style to fight some coming evil or something? I like her character, she’s a headstrong jerk who relentlessly makes things more difficult for everyone as she won’t listen to advice. Yeah!
I cannot stand her actual character design, though.
Though, actually, if I just imagine it’s a K’ homage…
but nah, it reminds me of the 90s superhero new look of the Ketch Ghost Rider, which was actually an okay design, and the sportsbike streamlined non-’dark’ look is a perfectly valid take on Ghost Rider, just not one that particularly interests me?
I just don’t care about sportsbikes, unless it’s Kaneda’s iconically-phallic monstrosity, really. I like gritty old hogs and flimsy things that look like they’re designed to get you away from occupying forces, and little else.
Though looking at that Ghost Rider cover above, I find myself thinking a hyper-neon take on GR is potentially pretty cool? Cybergoth creepiness, written by Granto or Warren Ellis (those old cyberboyz), drawn by the New MacCarthyism in the style of his Johnny Sorrow strip? Nostalgic 90s acid drum n’ bass bullshit, Ghost Rider zooming through Amsterdam exorcising possessed whitey-dreadlocked DJs with some sort of evil glowstick drug doing the rounds, called “GLONE” or “ANACHRONYSTIX” or something?
“Vengeance compells me… TO DANCE”, says GR as he struts his stuff against an analogue of Evila.
Getting a bit off track there, sorry. I’m a bit wary of the intentions behind Alejandra GR having her biking leathers unzipped to expose breast, but I can hope this is just as the original designer of her recognises that showing skeleton breastbone when in Ghost Rider mode is actually mildly creepy, as we are rarely made to think of any of Ghost Rider being made of fleshless skeleton other than the heid?
The comic, though, it’s a mildly diverting adventure – all the writing is solid, and it uses some modern C-grade Marvel stuff to good effect, and gets the guest stars ‘voices’ right while making the characters more interesting than in their own titles. It actually makes me care about the Flash Thomson setup, and perhaps interests me in reading Remender’s earlier stuff from this Venom series.
And, for some reason, it also features a vision of Hell on earth that is eerily similar to a dream I once had.
I’m going to base all my blog posts on dreams from now on.
Oh, there’s not as much Tony Moore as I’d like, which made me a bit sad, but the rest of the art does the job and is never bad?
Circle of Four: 3.5 Remenders out of 5
(here’s a Tony Moore design for a character that crops up in Circle of Four, which is so meaty and pleasing!)
So, let’s carry on with this “Marvel Supernatural” theme that I am currently losing my shit over…
Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural written by Rick Remender, art by Jefte Palo
Didn’t actually buy this, but was pleased to find it in the local library. More of Remender’s exhumation and solidification of a Viable Marvel Supernatural World, so I could not say ‘no’ to this.
I have never read any Dr. Voodoo, so am unaware if this takes any liberties with the character or anything? There’s always a worry with voodoo characters written by white guysthat there’s going to be a racist component, consciously or not, and I certainly did cringe when an evil woman speaking in some sort of patois appeared, but I guess if you’re going to be handling Dr. Voodoo, you’re going to have to include that stuff?
Anyway, Remender sets up a nice status quo for the character: New Sorceror Supreme Doc Voodoo is one Dr. Jericho Drumm, local GP by day, ‘Avenger of the Supernatural’ by night (or whenever he’s needed). The ghost of his brother seems to live in his cauldron, and appears to help him out now and again, by offering pithy comments and possessing people.
As I know fuck-all about voodoo stuff other than what I know from horror films and The Invisibles, this comic appears to me to be a potentially pretty fun distillation of all that stuff down to superheroic adventure, kind of a Doc Strangey “Goin’ Loco, Eye of Agamotto” ‘shouting-of-names while cool visuals happen’ thing, but a bit more sinister, due to the Voodoo nature of the whole thing.
There’s fun to be had by converting any belief system or pantheon or mythology or whatever into a mulch of superheroic tropes, and I can definitely see the appeal of trying that with the Dr. Voodoo character, while doing the whole ‘science vs magic’ thing. I have no idea if this is stepping on any Voodoo-practitioner toes or is offenseive or anything, as I am a white Euroboy who, as I have mentioned, only knows this shit from pop culture? I don’t know! I DON’T KNOW.
My main problem with this comic, however, other than my weakling liberal insecurities regarding offense, is that it’s not very exciting? Lots of things happen, and once again it’s great to see Remender utilising the Marvel Universe’s wealth of concept and characters to provide background fun, but I just never cared or felt like any of it had any consequence? The fast pace descended into incomprehensibility at times, and was more just a tour of the possibilities of the character, than an actual decent story?
Ocht, that’s okay, though. I admire the sentiment of the attempted rehabilitation of Marvel obscurities (as long as it’s not just for some cheap “haha look at his shit character” joke), even if the results aren’t always top-notch.
The non-Moore art by Jefte Palo is pretty good, but didn’t really excite me, though I cannot deny there are some neato images. That’s my problem, though, not the art’s. It is not where I am, visually, just now, that is all!
Oh, and there’s a reprinting of ‘the character’s origin stories from those old purple Marvel horror comics from the 70s, but they’re not great, and are full of needless mentions of the character’s skin tone, “The big black man did this or that” sort of stuff. Hmmmm. Good value for padding the trade, as it basically gives you all the Doc Voodoo you need to ‘get’ the character, but not necesarrily good reading.
DOCTOR VOODOO: 2.5 Remenders out of 5
Let’s leap out of the Marvel Universe, now!
GIGANTIC written by Rick Remender, art by Eric Nguyen and Matthew Wilson
More library fun, here, and oh I like the covers to this series. They may be pastiches, but they are visually striking, and stand out especially in the Western comics market.
Not really got too much to say about this one. Plotwise, it turns out Earth has always basically been a Mojoworld-like entertainment for our secret alien overlords, who all boringly just act and talk like over-zealous, ethically-untroubled humans (not really big on aliens just being like humans). A giant robot is trying to escape from these aliens, and comes to earth, accidentally killing a lot of people in the process. But the robot is actually a human man who was abducted as a child purely to take part in televised robot/monster battles. Oh no! Japes ensue!
This comic was mildly diverting, and there were a couple of decent twists that kept my interest, but it felt pretty slight and forgettable? I’m not overly keen on the art, either, which was serviceable but failed to sell the actual HUUUGENESS of the robot. There were some irritating characters in it, too, but they got crushed, so that was alright – in fact, the big robot-human-fight-man’s panicked distress at accidentally crushing people with his every movement was my favourite part, more so than the zany action thrills, as it felt genuine?
GIGANTIC: 1.5 Remenders out of 5
I miss Tony Moore. But wait!
Fear Agent Volume 1: Re-Ignition written by Rick Remender, art by tony Moore
I had heard nothing but good things about this comic online, and as it apparently features art by both Tony Moore and the great Jerome Opena (eventually), I decided to chance my arm and purchase the first trade. Things looked bleak as I read the quotes on the back, one of which is from Patton Oswalt who says “Rick Remender likes his fanciful space adventures booze-soaked, big-breasted, and be-stubbled”, which quite frankly makes it sound totally fucking balls.
Luckily, the comic itself isn’t a ‘sexy/sexist’ exploration of a cosmic bro having misogynist adventures (in fact I’ve heard Moore say he dislikes drawing conventionally ‘sexy’ women, so there won’t be needless cheesecake, I hope?).
Fear Agent seems to be a a decent grimy decline-of-50s-space-opera-optimism future adventure. Not sure I’m super-keen on the main character, a hard-livin’ cyncial Han Solo, a concept I’m just not that interested in if it’s not Harry Ford (Firefly is just not working for me either, incidentally), and once again, the aliens being like humans is a bit ‘yaaawn’, but the story is well-written wnough to make me at least curious to see how he develops.
The art by Tony Moore doesn’t reach anywhere close to the glories of his Marvel work that I’ve seen, but I reckon he’s just finding his feet here. The storytelling’s strong and the art’s appealing enough, but there’s nothing here that makes me grin with sheer ArtWow.
I honestly don’t feel this volume justifies the glowing internet praise it receives, but it can’t all just be hyperbole, right? I think I’m going to continue with this series at least onto volume 2, becaue the idea of watching Tony Moore’s art grow on-page into what it is today is an undeniably enticing one. Also, Rememnder writes a killer cliffhanger and I want to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Once again, some meat-and-potatoes comics stuff, but something many comics guys do not do well.
Fear Agent: Re-Ignition: 3 Remenders out of 5, with a potential to become 5 out of 5?
Right, what have I learned, then? I have learned I am in thrall to Remender’s stories when drawn by Tony Moore, especially if they take place in the Marvel Universe. Like Jason aaron, he has the ability to dredge up characters I have an irrational ingrained affection for, and do them justice, thus dragging me back into the Comics Continuity Hell I used to thrive on, but have tried so hard to escape from. This is a good thing, if I enjoy it?
I’m not super-pumped for Remender when his stuff’s not drawn by Moore, or not set in the Marvel Universe, and there doesn’t seem to be the depth of, say, a Granto comic to keep me coming back for more? There’s really no denying that he is top-notch at doing that whole pulp comics thing, and writes an enjoyable yarn that makes you want to come back for more.
He also makes you COME BACK FOR MOORE
You going to find another Punisher as neato as this?