The Boys #1

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Garth Ennis is back with a comic called The Boys. The premise is the CIA has put together a team to essentially keep the superheroes of the world in check. In the story superheroes are more oblivious to the damage they cause, are vain, and love the spotlight. The purpose of the team is to be a check just in case the superheroes decide one day that they don’t want to protect people anymore, they want to rule the world.

The premise is fine. You would think any government worth their salt would have something in place. I mean, in the DC Universe, wouldn’t they want to have something in place just in case Superman decided to say fuck it, the world needs to bow down to lil’ ol’ Kal El? The problem I have with this first issue has more to do with the characters that are set up as the main cast we’re meant to care for.

The leader of the group is Billy Butcher and he is just not someone I like. Maybe that’s the point but I think it’s a bit counterproductive for the story when as the reader I think the leader of the group the story about is an asshole. He looks like a smug prick who’s intent on being manipulative than with any sort of passion to protect the public. Maybe he wants the fame and glory the superheroes have? Maybe he has a vendetta against superheroes for something they did to him?

The only character we come across with any sort of sympathy, someone who has any real motivation to keep superheroes in check, is a Scottish man named Wee Hughie. We see that during a day where he shares his first kiss with the woman he loves, a superhero battle kills his girlfriend, so suddenly of course that Wee is left holding his now dead lover’s arms. That is motivation. That is a reason why someone would want to protect people from the group of folks who want to protect the world. Billy though, I just don’t trust his intentions. Maybe that ends up being the point and the further I read into the story I will understand my initial distrust. For now, you don’t get why he’s doing what he’s doing. You just think he has some ulterior motive.

One other bit in the comic that kind of threw me off was when Billy Butcher and his contact Ms. Rayner end up having sex in her office. I am no prude (just check my browsing history). The suddenness of the seen, it’s blunt and in your face but lasts for one panel and is not mentioned again, just doesn’t really fit this issue. Maybe if they alluded to some sort of relationship before they commenced to attack each other’s genitals like pitbulls in a dogfight you would understand what the hell was going on. As it stands, Billy enters the office, they look at each other, they fuck for one panel of the comic, then they’re back to being fully clothed. No mention of animosity between the two that dissolves enough for them to enjoy each other carnally, nothing. Maybe future issues will explain it, I just wish there was more explanation about the relationship between the two.

The artwork is pretty solid but I don’t know, it just comes across as too silly for me to get into the story. It’s like the animation team that made Beavis and Butt-Head were making a superhero movie. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, not all art has to resemble Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko to be good. There was just something about the art in this issue that created a further disconnect for me that kept me from enjoying the story further.

Bottom Line:

This is an interesting start. I don’t think it’s a smooth start by any means, the fact that I don’t really care for the people we’re introduced to and are expected to care about is a big issue so far. Sure, that may be addressed in further issues but I think there should have been more effort to explain the relationships of everyone before they got to the point of getting together as a team.

And believe me, I like the idea of exploring the dynamics of a team put in place to monitor the actions of superheros. It goes without saying that especially in today’s world climate, if a superhero or a group of them were to emerge the government would not be as accepting as they are perceived in the comics. No matter the good that someone like Superman would do in the world, the United States government would still view him as a threat and put a team into place to keep him in check or even take him down. Governments are paranoid beasts. They want to be the ultimate power. If someone or something comes around that has the slightest chance of eroding that power, the government will do whatever they can do in their power to put that something down before it has a chance of affecting the status quo. When after the first issue we as the reader are not only having doubts as to the integrity of the superheroes in the story but the intentions of the people who keep them in check, who are we supposed to be behind? Why should we care about any of them? I’m not getting any real sense so far of where Garth Ennis wants to bring the story. Maybe future issues will smooth out some of the concerns I have. As a first issue though, I have to say it’s pretty weak. I have to give it a 5.

The artwork is just not good. Granted, there is far worse out there. I just don’t think the art as drawn really helped the story at all. It seemed too goofy more than anything. Garth Ennis stories do walk a tightrope between gritty and silly. For as much as he gets right for the grittiness of his stories, he does have the tendency to make the silly parts too silly which can take you out of the game. (I know he didn’t draw the piece but obviously he has say in how things are drawn. Darick Robertson is the artist of the piece and co-creator as well.) I think of the Jennifer Blood comics. Fun stuff mind you but once it gets too ridiculous in a story it goes from having a suspension of disbelief to laughing at how silly everything is.

I think of the Machete movies. The first movie was silly as hell but Robert Rodriguez was able to walk the tightrope of grittiness and silliness without falling off. You were able to suspend your disbelief long enough to enjoy the story at hand. Machete Kills however is a different beast altogether. Like the Grayson family in Batman fame, Robert Rodriguez fell to his death with the first step he took. That doesn’t mean the end result was a bad film. I rather enjoyed it. But I enjoyed it for its silliness more than anything. It was a 21st Century version of a Charles Bronson Cannon film from the 80’s. (If you don’t know what I mean, watch Death Wish 3. Not only do you see Marina Sirtis, Counselor Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation gratuitously show her boobs during an unneeded sex scene, you get one of the most silly, stupid, and entertaining films you will ever see. It’s a crime they made it but the end result is still entertaining.)

This comic at least out of the gate took the proverbial fall off the tightrope. They have a chance to land on the net and try again but there is just too much going on that takes you out of the story for you to really get into the work. The art is a big detractor in this. Plus, the artist must think all Scottish men look like Simon Pegg. Come on. Do better than that. I give the art a 4.

Jennifer Blood #23

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Thanks to a deal on Comixology I was able to pick up the first 36 issues of the Jennifer Blood series from Dynamite Comics. The series was created by the legendary Garth Ennis who is most famous for the Welcome Back, Frank story involving The Punisher.

For the most part the series has been a pretty fun read. It’s similar in vein to the movie Machete. The reality of the story is there to give you interest in the characters while they go off and do bizarre crazy things. But this issue has shown some of the weakness of the story so far.

Jennifer Blood had been established from the start as someone who was meticulous in her planning in her crusade against her evil uncles. Every possible scenario she had planned outcomes for so she could do her job and get out alive with no one suspecting her. Yet almost from the start she starts making mistakes that are so fucking stupid that even I know they are wrong. For example, if she were keeping her weapon stash in her home with her unsuspecting husband and children why the hell would she let it slip that the damn door to the weapon stash was open? Why would she not only be dumb enough to write in excruciating detail every crime she committed but also keep it out in the open where her family could come across it and read her crimes? In the comic she’d tried passing it off as a therapy method but come on, the details she wrote were in such detail that only a complete imbecile would believe her excuse.

She’d also been discovered by her son to be a murderer. At one point she even thought about killing her kids as well despite the fact that one of her goals in doing everything she did was for her family. It is hard to feel sympathy for someone who really doesn’t show any real concern or love for her family. She certainly likes the THOUGHT of a family but not the fact that she has real members of her family.

This issue would have to be considered a flashback issue. It tells the duel story of how she was caught and imprisoned for her crimes while also detailing everything she’d done to get to this point. It is hard to feel sympathy for someone who takes such glee in committing the crimes she did. Now you may argue that The Punisher is the same. That Frank Castle is just the same as Jennifer Blood, someone who had the right intentions but is doing something horrible to achieve his goal. But Frank Castle has been established as being someone who is more of a planner. He wants the bad guys to pay the ultimate price but he also wants to make sure that innocents are never involved. And I have yet to come across a Punisher story that involved Frank doing something like taking the intestines of one of his victims and using it to spell out his initials. That’s the action of someone who is deranged and is a sociopath. Hell, she even suggests that she may have stabbed her dog when she was a kid. Frank Castle snapped and wanted bad guys to pay. No matter how wrong he is, there is something noble about his mission. Jennifer Blood is just a deranged lunatic. (I hope she didn’t hear me.) While the story is still quite entertaining to read, I find it more and more annoying that we’re being somehow forced to try and care about the actions of someone that clearly doesn’t deserve to be cared about.

The art work from issue one is a big plus. It walks the fine line between realistic action showcasing the absurdity of the story we are witnessing. She’s deranged and crazy. The artist does a great job of illustrating the insanity that floods her mind. We see the brutality she dishes out as well as her insane version of what a perfect life would be. He also does a great job in showing the reality that shows its face in her life on occasion, such as her son finally calling her on her shit. The emotion on the kids face is real and well done.

Bottom Line:

This story is not a realistic story in any sense. If you’re expecting anything resembling reality, avoid this comic. This is the type of comic for people who enjoy Jason Statham movies (such as myself). If you sit back and think too hard about what is going on, you will realize how silly and stupid everything that is happening to these characters. But if you want a simple premise with lots and lots of gratuitous action, this is the story for you. It has real glaring weak points which is why I have to give the story a 4.

The art is well done. Not classic by any means like Frank Miller’s work on The Dark Knight Returns or anything like that but it does a great job in giving us a glimpse into the mind of a nutso. The little bits of reality that do shine through ground the story and give it more depth. I give the art an 8.

Jennifer Blood #1

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I thought I would change things up a bit and explore a comic I was introduced to thanks to a Groupees sale. (Groupees is similar to Humble Bundle but the offering I was introduced to this comic from were a little on the slim side compared to Humble Bundle. At least the money went to a good cause.) It’s written by Garth Ennis so even if the comic is bad, it’s still going to be better than pretty much any other comic out there today.

The Good:

The setup is great. The story is told via diary entries from the main character. She starts off talking about stuff you would imagine a housewife talking about in regards to her day dealing with kids, a husband, and running a house. Little by little she tosses in little clues as to where the story is going by mentioning stuff like reading Guns and Ammo magazine while getting her nails done a the salon and mentioning that a .38 or a .45 would be a better gun that would get the job done faster compared to the .09 mm guns the magazines were crowing about.

The main action of the story occurs near the end and it is pure Ennis. Ennis is famous for his work on The Punisher, most famously the story Welcome Back, Frank. If anyone knows how to write action along with compelling characters and story it’s Garth Ennis and here he does not disappoint. Explosions, blood, violence. But he does a great job in terms of building up to it. It isn’t action for the sake of action. When people are just fighting and we don’t know why there’s no tension there. It may look cool but it’s easily forgettable. When you have someone build up a character and their life for you, once you get to the point of caring for them everything they do has you on the edge of your seat.

The buildup, while slow, is also believable. Now how believable can be debated because after all we are talking about an action story. An action story like this does expect you to have some suspension of disbelief in order to fully appreciate what is going on. Without that, would we have three Expendables movies? (Two too many of those but that’s feedback for another blog.) You get that Jennifer really loves her husband and her family. While you don’t know the reason WHY she is doing what she is doing yet, you get the sense that it must be important, otherwise why would a woman who has so much go through such efforts to do something like this.

The art comes across like the old romance comics that were prevalent in the 1950’s when the balls were temporarily removed from the comic industry. The diary you see on the first page is frilly. The pictures are all bright and optimistic. I love thought that the further we get into the story the colors get darker, reflecting the fact that the story is taking a dark turn. It’s the kind of subliminal thing you need to mentally prepare you for the action you experience.

And the violence. The violence is great! Bodies flying everywhere. Lots of blood. It’s what you expect from modern action stories and it’s great.

The Bad:

As I mentioned the story starts off slow. Real slow. There is a point to it of course. Garth is preparing the stage for when Jennifer finally dons her costume and takes out the criminals that are stealing cars from a ship yard and selling them for profit. It just took a real LONG time to get there and it almost lost my interest. I got it back quickly and thanks to the revelation that one of the men she killed was an Uncle of her’s, I want to know more about why she’s going on a bloody, Punisher like rampage. I just wish there could have been a way to transition her from typical housewife to kick ass assassin a little faster.

The art work near the end did get a little sloppy. The last couple pages of the story involved her cleaning up after her little adventure and while in bed with her husband being coaxed into a quick love making session. Everything at this point felt a little rushed and the characters came off as ugly. Maybe I will change my mind on this the further I read into the story. Maybe we WANT to see that she ultimately views the suburbanite lifestyle as drab and ugly at which point I will revise my opinion. As it stands it was presented that she loves her family and the life they have so to have the story visually end on an ugly note was a bit jarring. And to have one of the last frames end up being her husband look like he’s going to pop an eye out as he finishes his duty was just silly. Who needs to see that? Show more Jennifer!!!

Bottom Line:

This is a good start. I hope to see things pick up the further I get into this series and I don’t doubt that it will. What holds back this particular issue from being amazing is the pace. It is slow. You will feel yourself age as you read the first dozen or so pages. Granted, your patience WILL pay off so don’t take this as too much of a complaint. The problem is though that others may not like the pacing and decide to put the book down before they get to the good part. For that I have to give the story a 5.

The art starts off good. It fits the image that you expect from the syrupy writing you’re reading by being romantic and bright. The further it gets along, the closer it gets to the violent action scenes you’re waiting to see, the darker the piece gets which is great. Again though, the only thing that throws me off are the last few pages which are depicted ugly. There may be a point to that which I will understand later on but for now, being that this is the first issue I have read I have to give it a 5 as well.

I have been harsh with this issue but I have to be clear. I highly recommend it. While flawed, it does grab you by the throat at the end and make you dive for the next issue, if only to see the amazing covers!