The Immortal Iron Fist #25

Duane Swierczynski's Iron Fist has been a problematic book. Unlike the writer's almost flawless run on Cable, the former series has been consistent only in its inconsistency. The almost perfect stand-alone issue #21, assisted by Timothy Green, came only after near-total disappointment of the "Mortal Iron Fist" arc. The current narrative, "Escape from the Eighth City," had, until the current issue, been shaping up to be a more or less satisfying, if not particularly exciting story. With issue #25, however, Swierczynksi opens a new level of meaning for the story and indeed for superhero comics as a whole, largely thanks to the three pages of the comic illustrated by Juan Doe.

Swierczynski has a periodic tendency to emphasize shifts in narrative point-of-view within a story by switching up illustrators. His employment of this technique is particularly effective because aside from the obvious cue that a switch in focus has occurred, he chooses illustrators in such a way that the stylistic changes in the illustrations also bring into focus other aspects of the story that may not have been previously apparent. The Jamie McKelvie illustrated sections of issues 11 and 12 of Cable introduced the notion of Hope's maturation into a pubescent girl, interspersing ideas of innocence and experience and soon-to-be budding sexuality into that already thematically complex series.

In the case of the current issue of Iron Fist, Doe's illustrations pick up the story of Quan Yaozu, the first Iron Fist and now chieftain of the Eighth City. Of particular interest is the image of Quan Yaozu that spans the entire left side of the second page of this section. The illustration depicts the first Iron Fist hanging from his wrists, presumably to be tortured by the beasts he himself had condemned to this inescapable hell. The image is reminiscent of a sort of neon El Greco Jesus and opens up an allegorical reading of the story as being about Iron Fists, or superheros in general, as saviors and the nature of messiah-ship.

This is not the first time that Swierczynski has linked the idea of a superhero to that of a messiah or savior. The story of Wah Sing-Rand relayed in Iron Fist #21 is precisely that of a late-arriving savior. Moreover, the entire occasion of the writer's run on Cable was the need to protect the infant mutant-messiah. What is particularly effective the employment of Christian imagery in this book is that it highlights the very problematic nature of messiahs and particularly how people deal with them. Were one to take the words of Christian preachers at face value, when Jesus returns to earth for the second and final time, everyone will recognize him for who he is and we will all certainly welcome him.

Historically this hasn't been the case, however, and I think this relates to the fact that on the one hand, messiahs are something you wait for, rather than something that actually comes. Every time there has been a suggestion of the arrival of the Jewish messiah--from Jesus in the first century, to Sabbatai Zvi in the 17th and even the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the 20th--the reaction ranges from skepticism to outright violent disbelief.

Jesus is a particularly instructive example in relation to this comic and not just because he is the savior we are all generally most familiar with. I think it is easy for Christians--hell, for everyone--to forget that Jesus' intention was to be a leader of Jews, not Gentiles. But as history tells us, he was most immediately shunned by his own community, forcing his few Jewish followers to turn outside their community to build their new religion. There are parallels to this in the story that Quan Yaozu relates to Danny Rand. The first Iron Fist eventually became lord over the beasts he had condemned precisely because his own people had abandoned him and he hopes to save Danny from the same fate.

This reading of superheros as something of a deconstruction of the very notion of a savior or messiah doesn't begin and end with Swierczynski's books; he has just helped to bring that reading to the fore. With few exceptions, the iconic superheros basically have to give up something significant--like any semblance of a normal life--in order to make the choice to devote themselves to doing good. Superman is the most obvious example of this, but Batman/Bruce Wayne fits as well. The story of Jesus in the New Testament is filled with these notions of doubt and ambivalence--precisely the ideas that the Christian faith as it is known today asks its adherents to dispense with.


MF Doctor Doom

Internets Celebrity Dallas Penn did the unthinkable, putting Doctor Doom and MF Doom together for this music video, something so simple and obvious that no one has thought to do it before. Upon your first viewing you expect stop-motion animation with Doom walking through the city, but you quickly realize what you're watching is The Doctor just rapping in different locations.

You look right into his face, instead of the background where the "action" is taking place, Doom's clutching hand the only emotion you get from the Latverian dictator. Subtleties make the video more than what it seems, talk of the recession illustrated by Dr. Doom's hand clutching the Time's Square Virgin Megastore logo.

The slight changes in Doom's pose look like they really convey different parts of the song. He isn't just a toy placed on a street, he is MF Doom rapping in the middle of traffic, cars not hitting him because they are only stuntmen who have been hired, no one looks at the camera because they are extras paid to just walk around minding their own business.

Similar to AMVs, I can see toy music videos catching on, nerds breaking out their oldest and rarest super hero and G.I. Joe figures to make Souljaboy videos. The new wave of "digging" will be dusty hands sorting through dirty boxes at yard sales, hoping to discover that impossible to find legendary Rouge with "accidental" pubic hair.


Elephantmen #18 - "Bad Girl"

The decision to hand over Elephantmen's art to Marian Churchland for the next three issues keeps in-line with the series' constant curveballs but it also just makes sense. Starkings was wise to see that the very-good but fairly typical comic art of the rest of the series just wouldn't fly for "Bad Girl"--an emotionally raw focus on Miki, friend of Hipflask.

There'd just be something kinda off about the thick line and dark-darks of the series employed to illustrate Miki finding out she's pregnant and wrestling around with all the anger and shame she feels towards her traditionalist mom and her like, inner transgressive feelings about sex and species and self. If this played-out through the the meaty, puffed-up art of the rest of previous issues, it would've felt a little seedy and even condescending .

Churchland's art, all relatively rough lines, filled-in with markers and employing a color-scheme that looks a Moebius trade left out in the sun for week, goes for a purposefully less confident--or less cocky might be a better way of putting it--style that adds a dose of realism that the series has never really demanded from its art before. Not that there aren't plenty of moments of realism or naturalism in Elephantmen, just that for the first time in the series, the story requires something kinder and less over-the-top.

When Miki's caught by her mom painting these erotic images of humans with Elephantmen and retreats to the bathroom, we cut between her in the shower (half-angry at Mom, half self-loathing) and a flashback, chance hook-up with a guy--presumably someone she met while driving her Skycab--and although it's overtly sexual and desperate, it never feels gritty and's entirely absent of that nearly impossible to shake sense of Cinemax sexuality that even rape scenes in comics can't escape.

The cross-cutting builds to a full-page image of Miki sitting on toilet, legs realistically turned inwards, staring at a "positive" pregnancy test. Some magazines sit on the floor, along with a history of Egypt book, her clothes, and the Nernie icon on a shampoo bottle, as a non-lacey, just regular old bra hangs halfway off the sink. These minor details add a realism and even a disorganized pathos that rushes through the story of the troubled Miki character. This is what David was talking about when he invoked the absence of female artists in comics...not some "equal opportunity" type thing but that a whole wealth of talent and experience is kinda sorta pushed out of comics because big-titty bitches and unnecessary sexuality's still the name of the game. The joke of course, is that there's something way more attractive and exciting about Churchland and Starkings' devotion to naturalism that over-the-top fantasist images of females cannot approach.

But this isn't the big dumb comic book hiring some oh-so-sensitive "comix" artist to do the story either, because Churchland's work is just as in-love with comics as Ladronn or Moritat or Bo Cook's work. Probably the best example is the two, full-page, panel-less pages Churchland employs to illustrate Miki's history of the Hippo to Hipflask as she's getting whatever form of abortion/baby removal that goes on in the year 2259.

These pages are straight out of old X-Men or Savage Sword of Conan books, with blocks of text and world bubbles floating around some art that you can tell just by looking at it, was a huge thrill for the artist to draw. And there's tiny details too, like the way Churchland illustrates the holographic, future technology as these weird icy squiggles around the clocks, talking TV screens, and the mechanized voice of the robot that delivers Flask's present from Miki at the end of the story, like she's really sat back and tried to inhabit the future world of the Elephantmen with her pencils and markers not just performed "future sci-fi" like an art-school robot.

See, the art of a lot of non-conventional comics artists or "comix" artists doesn't really seem like it wants anything to do with the history of their medium and it's frustrating. Churchland doesn't have that problem and each pages reads like a person that, as it says in her bio "was raised on a strict diet of fine literature and epic fantasy video games", which is just about perfect for Elephantmen.


DMZ #41 - "Zee, DMZ"

The one-shot is Brian Wood's forté. If you wanted to make a case for Wood being one of the best contemporary writers of comics, you would be hard pressed to find a single issue which better illustrates his particular strengths without the baggage of his occasional weaknesses than the current issue of DMZ.

"Zee, DMZ" is a wisp of a comic, which you can read in about five minutes, but there is more actual human stuff going on in its 20-odd pages than in your average issue of Final Crisis. Part of what makes Wood a particularly skilled architect of comics narrative is that he tends to give his illustrators the freedom to allow the images to convey as much of the actual story movement as Wood's words. This is something I have mentioned before, specifically with reference to Wood, but it strikes me as something that is fundamentally important to comics that a lot of writers are missing. Comics are a visual narrative form and as such, the images, as much as the words, should be part of the narrative's motive force.

What text there is in "Zee, DMZ" is masterfully used. As is common in this series, the opening pages feature text of news reports concerning events happening in the DMZ. This news-ticker narrative not only very efficiently provides the necessary set-up for the story told in the issue, but it also gives a sense of how this sort of constant news reporting would have become ubiquitous to the citizens of the DMZ and thus so much background noise.

"Zee, DMZ" feels a lot like the six one-shots that make up the recently released DMZ: The Hidden War trade paperback. Stories like these are the best of what DMZ has to offer because the politics are there simply to provide the occasion and the real focus is on the people who are just trying to somehow continue to live their lives despite the daunting obstacles they face. Zee has been with the series since the very beginning and is one of the few characters in the city that one senses has not been at all tainted by the war. The same certainly cannot be said for Matty Roth and this is why as the narrative opens Zee is seen leaving the area of the DMZ controlled by the recently elected Delgado administration for the relative wilds of the north.

As we follow Zee on her lonely, disappointed quest, we are filled in with the details of Delgado administration's decision to cancel all city contracts with the shady Trustwell organization--a stand-in for the heavily maligned Blackwater Inc. Just when you think Wood is going to use the issue to make some kind of morally absolute statement about the use of mercenary armies in conflicts, the focus shifts and instead you are presented with a scenario which drives home the point that even these mercenary armies are made of people, most of whom are probably not monsters and are simply doing a job they took because the pay was great without really considering the muddy moral territory into which they would be wading.

The panel in which her mercenary buddies lay the gruesomely wounded Martel on the bed as she balls her fists like a baby, convinced she is dying, pretty much sums up what's great about this issue. Not the least part of which are the illustrations done by guest artist Nikki Cook.

Even if her name wasn't plastered on the cover, it would be pretty clear that this illustration was done by a woman. This is no doubt at least in part because female illustrators and writers are still basically an anomaly in mainstream comics. Cook draws women who look a lot like women you probably know, except that they bear some signs of wear and tear from living in a conflict zone. They are attractive, but flawed--not idealized or unduly sexualized in any way. The illustration of Martel lying on the bed embodies this perfectly. Granted she does have a gaping wound in her leg, but she has been stripped to her panties and it is not too unreasonable to assume that many male illustrators would have been unable to resist sexualizing the character even in these circumstances. Cook's choices, on the other hand--from Martel's basic white panties to her baby fat and balled up fists--emphasize the character's childlike vulnerability. You can more imagine her as the next door neighbor girl who was involved in an unfortunate accident than a member of an armed private mercenary cadre.

As Zee hears Martel's screams coming from the apartment above, she is recounting in her head the tally of damage that Trustwell has done to her city and thus the temptation is to allow these corporate soldiers to fend for themselves. Zee is also a doctor and ultimately her professional instincts get the better of her and the blackened panel which portrays the moment she enters the upstairs apartment and takes over the care of the girl perfectly evokes the sort of blind confusion one would expect from such a scene. The sequences which follow in which Zee assumes control of Martel's care and an uncomfortable truce is established between this uninvited outsider and the Trustwell operatives convey a perfect sense of the crisis of trust created by war. Cook's compositions in these panels artfully convey a sense of the uneasy balance of power established between Zee and the Trustwell people.

Zee is the sort of high moralist that can often come off as more irritating than anything. Compared with her rigid incorruptibility, Matty Roth's squishy compromises seem more familiar and comfortable. Wood's decision, however, to have Zee assume responsibility for Martel, despite the fact that she is a Trustwell operative, saving her from a certain death at the hands of the local militia who are out for Trustwell blood shows that he has a firm grasp of the real moral complexity inherent in war. Comics are essentially a conservative medium in which the good guys are generally easily distinguishable from the bad. Wood's DMZ, on the other hand, accurately reflects the lack of such a Manichean delineation between good and evil in the real world and this has helped to keep the book relevant despite changes in the American political climate.

A friend who recently read the Body of a Journalist trade just pointed out an interesting sequence to me. Matty is having a conversation with Kelly Connolly, a journalist from a rival cable news channel, in a makeshift restaurant situated in a bombed-out building. Matty, after reflecting on how when he first arrived in the DMZ he thought the city was full of lunatics, says to Connolly that "from here . . . everyone's just normal. That's what I want to show people. This is a war of extremes pushing against each other. But the stories lie in the middle. Here, in the city. That's the interesting stuff." Well said.


What Ever Happened To That Old Man Logan?

Remember when you picked up Wolverine #66 and Logan was this sad farmer who didn't fight anymore and it was great? It seems so long ago that "Old Man Logan" was a slow-paced buddy-road comic. With the latest issue, the story has morphed into something closer to a movie blockbuster than a comic book. A quick summary proves this point. This issue contains: Black Bolt stopping a Venom T-Rex, Emma Frost, Pym Falls, Dr. Doom, and the contents of Hawkeye's secret box.

The series has become more about plot twists and throwaway fan-boy moments than character development. When we get to the double page spread of Pym Falls it's cool and all but that’s about it. There’s no substance to it and it doesn’t really mean anything to the characters when they pass by. It’s just a landmark like passing the world’s largest ball of string.

The first issues in the series were exciting because the events of this villain run future were going on in the background of strong characterization of Logan and his supporting cast. The Hulk Gang was a cool idea but also functioned as part of Wolverine's character. He refuses to fight them and is subservient to them as landlords. The world surrounding Logan has become bland because the world is getting all the attention while Logan and Hawkeye remain in the background. Initially it was Old Man Logan featuring an insane apocalyptic future world but now it’s the complete reverse.

When Emma mentions Logan’s family life, Logan barely reacts. She validates through her mental powers that, yes, Logan is happy but he hasn’t shown it in any way. Millar has been so busy throwing events atop Logan, so he'll have his eventual claw-popping freak-out, that he’s forgotten what made the series so exciting in the first place: Logan's interiority, not the exterior Marvel Universe.

The inventive panel layouts of the first three parts have become stale. One of the best panels from an earlier issue was in #68 when the Spider-Buggy drives through a wall and inside a building. That same layout is reused in issue #71 for a less dynamic effect as the Spider-Buggy's chased by the Venom T-Rex. This sums up what has happened to the series. Its lost its momentum and seems to be just treading the same thematic waters. Logan doesn’t take time to stare at an X-Men button and remember his past. The issues have become too packed with plot and action to be able pause and examine the character closely.

The series took a probably permanent wrong turn last issue when Wolverine’s motivations were revealed. There’s really no reason why we needed to know what specifically broke his spirit. It doesn’t add anything to the story and feels like a cheap revelation.

With any previous knowledge of Wolverine, our mind instantly thinks of some of the most disturbing scenarios possible that led to his not using the claws. Millar certainly picked a really messed-up reason for him but the impact of it is completely taken away by its place in the story. This is something we should find out in last issue, if at all. Imagine Wolverine pops his claws for the first time in years and simultaneously remembers killing the X-Men. I know it’s stupid to play the ‘What If’ game but this series has so much wasted potential you can't help but rewrite it in your head.

Going back and re-reading the first issue it’s crafted really well. This is something that happens in a lot of series. They start to lose their main thesis and momentum. Whether it is the deadlines of producing issue after issue, meddling editors, or just a problem with the creators, it’s kind of something that needs to be figured out in comics...too many series' just fall apart.


Marvel Zombies 4 #1

With the fourth installment of the Marvel Zombies series, comics nerds who aren't reading it are either saying "Another? Wasn't one enough?" or "Alright, now I've got to see what this is about." As a huge zombie and Marvel Comics fan, I've been reading since the first Kirkman written series, and have picked up the Ultimate Fantastic Four issues as well. There's a lot of history already for the MZ heroes and villains, and now's the time to start reading, with Marvel Zombies 1-3 (as well as the terrible Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness) collected in trade and hardcover.

It's hard being a zombie fan, I don't participate in "Zombies vs. Pirates" conversations, and I don't have glow-in-the-dark zombies lining my window sill. For me, it's not another ironic thing to talk about, it's a serious horror sub-genre; survival of the fittest or at least, survival of the ones with the most guns and food. I often think about how I would fortify my home, or which one of my friends has a better home to hole up at.

Throwing super-powers into the mix and characters you're familiar with only makes it scarier, or for the readers, more entertaining. The first two books relied heavily on the heroes we're all familiar with and see on billboards and rides at Universal Studios: Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America and the Avengers, etc.

MZ 3 and 4 however, have taken a completely different turn, written by Fred Van Lente (Incredible Hercules, Action Philosophers) the characters aren't major players, and in some cases aren't even players anymore, Hellstorm, Son of Satan, for instance, is someone you see in a Marvel Encyclopedia and have to actually look at the origin for.

A continuation of MZ3, the zombies have made it into the main Marvel U, or the 616. The new Midnight Sons consisting of Morbius the Living Vampire, Werewolf By Night (which is how he's referred to), Hellstorm and the only survivor from MZ3, Jennifer Kale are working together to keep the zombies at bay, and investigating where they're coming from.

Less of a horror comic, Marvel Zombies is becoming another "nerd jerk-off" book for long time fans, similar to Old Man Logan, but with more of an actual payoff. Instead of a What If? style story, MZ is giving you actual continuity, this book being a sly Dark Reign tie-in without having to actually care about what's going on with Dark Reign. This, of course, is something Van Lente is becoming used to, during Secret Invasion he took Hercules to the Heavens to fight the Skrull God, keeping within Universe continuity without placing the character somewhere he shouldn't be.

Readers of old Marvel horror books will be happy with the amount of monsters thrown in, even outside of the Midnight Sons' return. The Man-Fish people from Namor comics, Black Talon the Voo Doo Doctor, and even Simon Garth: Zombie make appearances, and make a difference in the outcome of the story, and aren't just drawn into the background of a double page spread. They are characters again, personalities.

Resembling something from Avatar Press, the art in MZ4 is filled with lots of purples and bright colors surrounded by darkness. Just like everything else about the book, it doesn't feel like a Marvel comic, but more like something awesome you'd find in a quarter box at a basement store in some sad small town you're passing through. With so many super hero comics going for one look, it's good to see something doing everything so different and succeeding. Now if only they could get Marvel Apes right.....


Cable #13 or Would That Be Messiah War #2?: The Curse of Continuity

When Marvel first announced the Messiah War cross-over that would incorporate the X-Force series into the events that have been slowly unfolding in Duane Swierczynski's masterful run on Cable, I was genuinely enthused. Swierczynski's book has been so consistently satisfying over the year or so it has been running that adding another title with its attendant infusion of character and narrative development must simply mean more of a good thing. At least that was how my thinking went at the time. Upon reflection, it occurs to me that I should have realized that such thinking was naïve. Rather than raising the quality of the supplemental series, the result of wrapping another X-book into the narrative of Cable has instead subjected Swierczynski's great series to the ultimate killer of good comics: continuity.

I've said before and I am still willing to hold to the assertion that Cable is the strongest mainstream superhero series going. One of the paradoxically great things about wrapping the book into a continuity-based, multi-series event narrative is that the faults of the current issue help to crystallize precisely why the series up to now has been so good. The most obvious example of this is evidenced by the unusually high proportion of pages of the current issue devoted to exposition, which is something the series had largely avoided up to now. The problem with including large amounts of exposition in a comic--aside from the obvious exclusionary factor that comes with back-story heavy books--is that very few writers are skilled enough to seamlessly incorporate the necessary background information into the action of the book and instead you end up with page after page of relatively static panels featuring one character recounting information to another and a whole lot of text.

Consider as an example the difference between Mike Mignola's first several Hellboy story arcs, in which the first several pages often featured little more than panel after panel of Hellboy and Professor Bruttenholm sitting in an office with huge text-filled speech bubbles laying out a tome's worth of mythological minutiae and more recent Hellboy stories, such as the great one-shot In the Chapel of Moloch, in which the attendant mythological background is skillfully woven into the narrative. In the case of Cable #13, Olivetti's brilliant illustrations--ironically perhaps the best yet for this series--mitigate this problem somewhat, but in the end it's still a book in which nothing happens.

Another glaring problem becomes apparent as Bishop is giving us his internal monologue explaining how he recruited Stryfe into his Messiah-killing enterprise. It suddenly dawned on me at this point that the entire story hinges on Bishop's going to extraordinary lengths to retroactively nullify his existence. Even considering his harrowing life in the mutant concentration camps, this is a wildly problematic premise and it undermines the structure of the story. One great irony in this is that the concomitantly running The Life and Times of Lucas Bishop comes off as something of a power-of-the-human-spirit-in-the-face-of-great-adversity story, something which is belied by Bishop's apparent raison d'être in Cable.

Of course this has been the case throughout the entire run of the series, but somehow it never occurred to me or never mattered before this point. The truly ridiculous part is that Bishop lets on that he is aware that Stryfe plans to kill him as soon as he's destroyed Cable and that for this reason he plans on taking out Stryfe first. In the subsequent panel, he admits that once Cable and Hope are dead, "all of this will go away." What, then, is the point of preëmptively killing Stryfe?

I made reference above to the fact that issue #13 is a comic in which nothing happens. The strange thing about that is that Cable has pretty much always been a book in which nothing, or anyway, very little happens. But there is a difference between a comic with strange and wonderful illustrations in which little happens outside of the peregrinations of a weird, old, granite-jawed, quasi-robotic soldier and a little red-haired girl and a comic in which little happens outside of the arguments between annoying, wise-cracking mutant heroes who are ostensibly allies. As I mentioned above, Olivetti's illustrations are perhaps better than they have ever been on this series and this is almost enough to convince me to continue with the Messiah War enterprise . . . almost. One can only hope that there will be enough of the series's wonderful weirdness remaining at the conclusion of this event for it to regain something of its former glory.


Umbrella Academy: Dallas #5

Something we've all been sort of obsessed with lately here, is the always problematic issue of continuity and those few comics that aren't stand-alone, but can be read stand-alone. David's experiment with Elephantmen #17 being a good example. While issues #3 and #4 of the "Dallas" storyline sort of got like Final Crisis-crazy with plotting and jumping around, this latest issue totally moves the story along but is also just sort of awesome, if you just picked it up, out of context.

Way basically threw a total curveball here and it allows him to do some weird, crazy, stuff that the comic didn't exactly call for, but works at a tangent, and (in a way) most importantly, fits with the feeling and thematics of the story. Issue #4 ended with a time-traveling POP! and we expected the series' final events to really kick-off, but instead, we see the results of the time-traveling by just being dropped in the middle of it--as a reader you're as displaced as the Umbrella Academy. The comics readers equivalent of like Scott Bakula leaping and being like, "Woah, I'm in a dress? Okay, gotta figure this out..."

In the meantime, as you begin to connect the dots--in short, the Academy ended-up in the wrong year and location--you're treated to a really nuts Vietnam, battle sequence that's part every American 70s 'Nam movie stuck on atop of each other--really reminded of the very comic book-y Dead Presidents by the Hughes Brothers--and part, something else altogether, Vietnam through the looking-glass Apocalypse Now-style (maybe the amount of surreal I wanted Apocalypse Now to be) with Vampire Vietnamese and a Mummy and stuff.

Much of this issue's taken-up by a Vietnam fighting sequence that ostensibly, "means" very little to the plot. But that's great. It's great because it captures the sense of messed-up, disorganized, ennui of "Dallas" in a sequence. As I've said a lot, Apocalypse Suite was Wes Anderson-like in the reuniting of a family after years apart, and now "Dallas" is the team just sort of not getting along and trying to do their best to complete a very-important, superhero task without the joy hangover you get when you temporarily forgive people of all the messed-up shit you've been not forgiving them for, which is what fueled the Academy through Apocalypse Suite.

The group being in the wrong time, in the wrong location just generally confused is perfect. Additionally, the "extraneous" Vietnam sequence is great because it indulges in this very, like 90s, Liefeld/Jim Lee sense of comic book fun that a whole bunch of Umbrella Academy readers think they're too cool for--notice the way Spaceboy basically looks (and sorta acts) like Cable or you know, how a bunch of people fighting for no apparent reason invokes 90s X-Force (and really, X-Force in 2009 too, but that's another post. In short, envision something as Jack Kirby crazy and Rob Liefeld indulgent--Kirby and Liefeld are sorta the same person, but that's another post too--but filtered through the energy and mannered simplicity of Ba.

So yeah, this is great single issue and it pushes along the odd, unkempt feeling of discomfort and disorganization of the series even if it's mostly a tangent that doesn't move the plot along quite as swimmingly. But that's okay or like, you should be okay with that. The fight sequence is great, and the way that the members of the Academy that've been stuck in Vietnam have spent their time is really hilarious and poignant. I'm both nervous and excited for how "Dallas" is gonna wrap up in one more issue. Could be a boner-kill anti-ending, could be too much stuffed into a single, or it could just be bat-shit crazy and awesome.


Children Don't Care About Race

I read this article over at Black Voices, and haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. Most white folk would start this off by writing "I'm not racist but....", instantly tipping you off to the bullshit that will follow. It was strange to me reading this article, having seen screen shots of the film while looking at my little sister's Disney Princess Magazine with her, because I just saw another Disney movie, not even realizing that she was the first Black Disney Princess.

This isn't true about all children, some kids' parents raise hatred in their children in an endless cycle, but most children in '09 don't recognize race as something that matters. They understand that skin comes in different colors, but the same way hair and eyes do, they take it as just something else that makes everyone different. The only people who will be and are upset about Princess Tiana are adults, of all races, and the movie isn't made for them.

There have been non-white female leads in Disney animated movies before, Pocahontas, Mulan and the only princess amongst the few minority leads, Jasmine. In Aladdin, the racist stereotypes are plentiful and were accepted, the main characters held American accents while the supporting cast were full of "arabian sounding" short fat men in turbans, elephants and belly dancers. This, of course, is ignored because it doesn't take place in America, so it isn't offensive to us. We accept them as just characters, and the dummies out there just think that that's how them A-rabs talk.

As if racist White people weren't upset enough over an African-American not only in the White House, but in Cinderella's Castle, the prince in this movie isn't exactly Black, having light skin, brown wavy hair and the voice of a Brazillian actor.

The royal interracial couple is causing an uproar not for being two different skin tones, but because Prince Naveen isn't Black. The general feeling is that having two Black characters would be too much, so they settled on the princess, but it's also entirely possible that it's just a statement on interracial relationships, or a weird safe maneuver to "kill two birds with one stone". It's unfortunate that a couple with two different skin tones is a negative thing, some triumphs are ignored for other's selfish motives.

Taking place in New Orleans, Tiana is not only the first Black princess, she's also the first American. Certain Southern stereotypes come into play, such as the extremely racist firefly in the above trailer, Disney basically ignoring the retaliation of using such an offensive "dialect" for comedy. Rarely do I read into things this much, and although there are White "bayou" dudes out there, this is extremely offensive, the Uncle Tom reference will be lost on children, but if the movie is popular enough there will be toys of this guy, and little kids repeating "massa".

The main issue with the characters race isn't their race, it's adults forcing their fucked up, over-intellectualization of their childhood into the children of today, like people who want to have these smart-guy conversations about Bert and Ernie being gay, or even the actually true Disney movie "disgruntled employee" implanted boners and sexy words. Kids don't notice these things, it's in there for the parents to have a quick laugh. The alternative to this has become Shrek, which has nothing actually redeeming about it, you completely lose what makes a kid movie great, which is the innocence. As long as kids are watching something they enjoy and no one is hurt, than who cares?