Editorial : Thoughtless Bubble – On Zainab Akhtar, Frank Miller, Scapegoats, And Sacrificial Lambs

Normally, this is the sort of thing that I’d “save” for my Patreon, which is sort of where I just free-wheel it and write about whatever I want, but as I think this subject concerns a larger audience than my base of subscribers, and speaks to both the rapidly-changing nature of the comics “scene” and the potential pitfalls that can come a person’s way when they take a stand on “third rail” issues, I thought I’d share it here instead and let the chips fall where they may — which, I’m not fooling myself, could very well be be all over the place. If you find it of interest, then you’ll likely find more of interest on said Patreon, but I’ll link to that when all is said and done rather than at the outset given that, believe it or not, shilling for my own wares is not of primary concern here today.

What is of primary concern is the recent decision by long-running UK comics festival Thought Bubble to cancel the appearance of legendary creator Frank Miller at the show this year, as well as the chain of events leading up to this decision and the repercussions stemming from it. Simply stated : Zainab Akhtar, best known in the comics community as proprietor and publisher of critically-acclaimed small press Short Box, took exception to Thought Bubble extending an invitation to Miller based on his visceral and bigoted 2011 graphic novel Holy Terror, and announced via Twitter on July 27th, 2021 that, due to his appearance, she would not be appearing (and presumably tabling) at the festival herself. Miller was always a curious invite for a convention that prides itself on being a showcase for small-press and otherwise independent creators, given that his most celebrated work has been done for the “Big Two” comics publishers, but my best guess is that from a calculated business perspective, the show’s organizers figured he’d be a “big name” draw, and so the idea of fitting a square peg into a round hole made a kind of fiscal sense. That being said —

Does the phrase “know your audience” come to mind here? Because it sure should. Non-corporate comics festivals and shows have been putting forth an effort (with varying degrees of success) to be more inclusive to women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, and other historically-marginalized groups for some time now, and Thought Bubble itself has expressed its own desires/goals to be welcoming in nature; to be a place where, if you’ll forgive the cliche, comics really are for everyone. It shouldn’t come as any great surprise that rolling out the red carpet for a guy who made a book about a bloodthirsty vigilante killing every Muslim he laid eyes on would be met with fairly vigorous pushback from some of the very same people the organizers of the show say they want to provide a (sorry to use the term, but) “safe space” for. Sometimes, sadly, actions really do speak louder than words.

On the subject of Holy Terror itself, I certainly can’t in any way take exception to the idea that any person with a functioning conscience would find it repulsive, particularly a Muslim woman such as Akhtar. Having read it shortly after its initial release, I can confirm that it both is and isn’t the book many of its critics characterize it as being (for instance, there are none-too-subtle critiques of American foreign policy in there as well as gut-wrenching violence aimed entirely at Muslims, offensive racial and cultural stereotypes galore, and heaping helpings of Miller’s trademark misogyny), but at the end of the day it’s precisely the sort of incendiary propaganda piece Miller openly stated he wanted it to be seen as.

Here’s the thing, though — if “all” it was “guilty” of is causing offense, I’d say people should simply buck up and deal with it. Speaking purely anecdotally here, I spent my formative years reading a ton of comics that ran entirely contrary to the values I was raised with, but guess what? Being stared down by humanity’s ugly side, its disturbing side, its sick side serves a purpose and challenges a person. Insomuch as art can be said to have “rights,” it has the right be confrontational — readers who only opt for work that reaffirms their worldview, or worse yet work that makes them feel comfortable, tend to be dull folks, in my view. Give me your S. Clay Wilsons, your Mike Dianas, your Joe Colemans, your Jim Osbornes, your Dori Sedas, your Johnny Ryans, your Phoebe Gloeckners, your Rory Hayeses, your R. Crumbs any day of the week. If I wanted stuff that was squarely in my “comfort zone,” I’d be one of those readers who faithfully forked over their pocket change every week to Marvel and DC in a pathetic attempt to make sure my extended adolescence continued forever.

I should be absolutely clear here, however : Holy Terror is something above, beyond, and far worse than merely offensive, sensationalist, or prurient work. In the wrong hands and absorbed by the wrong minds, shit like this can be flat-out dangerous. It not only says “Islamophobia is cool,” it celebrates it on almost every page. It not only says “Muslims are bad people,” it revels in their slaughter. It not only depicts the Muslim world as antithetical to Western Enlightenment values, it posits that wiping it out is the only way for said Western Enlightenment values to survive. If you were to metaphorically boil down its messaging to its most essential and equally-metaphorical kernel, if you were to strip away all pretense and obfuscation, what you would find is something that is, insane as this may sound, pro-genocide propaganda — and not even visually appealing pro-genocide propaganda, at that. This is Miller’s most poorly-drawn work any way you slice it, and the chances of it one day being praised for its aesthetic values while abhorred for its content, a la the films of Leni Riefenstahl, are slim to none.

Viewed in that context, then, the question really shouldn’t be why Miller isn’t welcomed at Thought Bubble, but why he’s welcomed anywhere at all. I mean, let’s face it : if he made a comic about a Batman stand-in character indiscriminately killing every Catholic, Jew, Hindu, or Buddhist around, he’d never get a convention invite again in his life, regardless of one’s belief in the power of the human heart to change for the better (which, believe it or not, we’ll get to later) — and he’d more than likely never get published again in his life unless he was fronting the cost himself.

Which is not, for the record, me saying that Holy Terror shouldn’t be allowed to exist. I’m a free speech absolutist by nature, and believe that Miller has every right to either find a publishing home for this risible garbage (which he did, with the now-defunct Legendary Comics, after DC took a pass on it), or to publish it himself if he can’t. But once that work is published, the consequences of putting it out there are his to bear. The term “cancel culture” is over-used to the point of tedium these days, but in point of fact just because you can say something doesn’t mean you’re entitled to a platform to say it on/at, and so if Thought Bubble wants to “cancel” Miller, as long as they’re not breaching the terms of any sort of contract with him, they’re perfectly free to do so — and while that statement, along with much of what I’ve just said, may rub some people the wrong way, as a purely legal matter, it’s not even up for debate. So hold your fire, you may want it handy to scorch me for opinions still to come —

Later in the same day that Akhtar tweeted about her decision not to attend Thought Bubble, she let it be known — also via Twitter — that she had first contacted the festival’s organizers a whopping eight weeks prior to discuss her concerns about Miller being in attendance and, at least according to her telling, was assured that “action would be taken.” What action that was supposedly going to be is something we aren’t privy to, nor do we know whether or not the commonly-held inference that she issued a sort of “either he goes or I go” ultimatum is at all an accurate one. It’s important to note, for the record, that while Akhtar stated that she “cannot in good conscience attend a festival that deems it appropriate to invite and platform Frank Miller,” she did not say “I would never attend a festival that deems it appropriate to invite and platform Frank Miller.” That may seem like a small distinction, admittedly, but I assure you — it’s a crucial one.

For all we know, in her private communications with the Thought Bubble organizers, she may have requested some sort of dialogue with Miller or his representatives in order to address, and possibly even assuage, her concerns. After all, in an interview with UK newspaper The Guardian published on April 27th, 2018, Miller said of Holy Terror that he’s “not capable of that book again,” that there “are places where it’s bloodthirsty beyond belief.” Admittedly, he also stated that he doesn’t want to “go back and start erasing books (he) did” or “wipe out chapters of (his) own biography,” but that certainly doesn’t mean he’s proud of this particular book.

I dunno, perhaps I’m being overly-generous toward Miller here, but it sounds very much to me that, like any artist, he considers the work he’s made to be a reflection of where he was at a given point in his life mentally and emotionally, for good or ill, and when pressed in that same interview about comments he made contemporaneously with the release of Holy Terror that saw (or should that be heard?) him refer to Occupy Wall Street as “louts, thieves, and rapists,” he flat-out admitted he “wasn’t thinking clearly at the time.”

Granted, none of this rises to the level of being an actual apology (and while, as stated earlier, I don’t think an artist ever needs to apologize for offending anyone, I do think an apology from Miller for contributing to a political and cultural atmosphere that literally put the lives of Muslim people in danger would absolutely be in order), and I’m not especially sympathetic toward the argument some have advanced that a rumored drinking problem and a supposedly acrimonious divorce in some way at least partially excuse the anger and bitterness that ooze off Holy Terror‘s pages — I mean, sure, those things might partially explain his anger and bitterness, but even if we assume both alcoholism and divorce to be contributing factors to his mindset at the time, neither of them is the fault of Muslims.

However, it may also be worth noting that in the two-plus years since the Guardian interview, Miller allowed Holy Terror to go out of print, and he also wrote the decidedly anti-Trump satirical comic Dark Knight Returns : The Golden Child. From all appearances, it would seem that his worldview has at least partially evolved away from the hardened right-wing militarism of a decade or more ago, and that where he is today might be more in line with the “old” Frank Miller who lampooned Reagan so memorably in The Dark Knight Returns, and the Bush administration even more pointedly in The Dark Knight Strikes Again!

Whether or not Akhtar is aware of this potential change of heart and mind on Miller’s part I have no idea, nor do I know whether or not hearing words to this effect directly from him would have made a difference. What I do know is that, for whatever reason, Thought Bubble’s organizers didn’t address her concerns until she went public with them, and while this was certainly a massive fuck-up on their part (I mean, let’s face it, now Miller won’t be there and neither will she), it bears all the hallmarks of a deliberate one. After all, if they’d dropped Miller earlier, they’d have been the ones targeted by the right-wing hate mobs, the anti-“cancel culture” online hordes — but by parting company with Miller on July 28th, after Akhtar spoke out, it makes it look like they gave in to “pressure” from an “SJW” and that it’s ultimately Akhtar’s “fault” that Miller won’t be in attendance. I can’t say for certain, mind you, but the entire situation reeks of scapegoating. We’ll never know whether or not Akhtar flat-out demanded that Thought Bubble drop Miller, but we definitely know that from a PR perspective it was to the advantage of organizers to make it look like she did precisely that, even though the one action she definitively did take was the exact opposite — she disinvited herself.

Predictably — and depressingly — Akhtar’s Twitter feed has been bogged down with a veritable deluge of racist, sexist, Islamophobic, and just plain ugly replies to her statements, in particular from those affiliated with the reactionary “comicsgate” sect of fandom, and even her late-innings decision to run a block chain on these asshats hasn’t managed to completely dam the sheer onslaught of hatred. “Comicsgate” de facto head honcho Ethan Van Sciver even got in on the act himself, bizarrely telling Akhtar “go fuck yourself” even though he was the one inserting himself into her replies feed. I’ve long since stopped trying to figure out whether or not these retrograde nitwits operate according to any sort of coherent logical principles (after all, the very same “culture warriors” ostensibly sticking up for Miller right now were all over his case a little while back for his aforementioned Trump-savaging DKRTGC comic), though, so I guess such frankly weird, abusive bullshit is par for the course — as is the fact that the Richard Meyers and Ethan Van Scivers of the world are busily monetizing this controversy (one which, self-evidently, neither involves nor affects them personally in any way, shape, or form) for every “wingnut welfare” dollar they can scrounge up on YouTube. The “quality” of the books these guys put out, after all, has never been their main selling point — it’s all about stoking the anger of a perpetually-aggrieved subset of fans and riding that anger all the way to the bank. Like it not, a situation such as this plays right into the hands of grifters whose sales pitch is “toss money at me to own the libs.”

Which is why I think, at least on a purely strategic level, “cancelling” Miller from Thought Bubble is a mistake — you never want to give these right-wing “digital soldiers” an easy layup (not that many of them can actually jump) or a slow pitch over the middle of the culture war plate. More significantly, though, I think it might also prove to be a mistake ethically and morally. I mean, I absolutely want the comics community — in particular the small press and self-publishing community that I’ve spent so much time both advocating on behalf of, and personally being a part of, these past several years — to be a place where marginalized people not only feel, but literally are safe and welcome. But I also think change, growth, evolution, and (at the risk of sounding grandiose) redemption are possible, and I think Miller gives off welcome indications of at least being in the process of going through some of those things. If you don’t want assholes at your con, that’s all well and good, but what’s wrong with giving former assholes — or, if you prefer, assholes in recovery — a chance? With encouragement, Miller could actually go on to become a positive force on behalf of the very same people he’s hurt in the past — but with ostracization, that becomes a lot less likely.

Unfortunately, as things stand today, we’ll never know what could have happened with regard to this specific situation thanks to the actions and inactions — whether accidental or, more likely, deliberate — of the Thought Bubble festival organizers.

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Oh, and if you’re still here and still interested, my Patreon can be found at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Bloodletting Go : “Crusher Loves Bleeder Bleeder Loves Crusher” #2

Some may call the events in the second (and final) issue of writer Thomas Stemrich and artist Patrick Keck’s Crusher Loves Bleeder Bleeder Loves Crusher a kind of “waking nightmare,” but trust me when I say underneath it all there’s a morality play on nature vs. nurture, learning vs. instinct, and maybe even friendship vs. tribal loyalty. You’ve just gotta wade though a whole lot of the red stuff to get there.

As with the first installment of this story, that red stuff is depicted in black and white, but honestly — Keck’s solid, thick-lined, “crunchy” art is best experienced with the full impact of his rich detail unobstructed by color. This is visceral work, to be sure, but cartoonishly so, which is to say that it hits home precisely due to the force of its aesthetic outlandishness. I could spend all day looking at this art if I didn’t have a clock to punch, but who are we kidding? I’m not above goldbricking on the job and reading comics when I’m supposed to be working. The fact that this particular comic (presented once again in a magazine-sized format with awesomely striking covers screen-printed by master of the medium Chris Cajero Cilla at Sardine Can Press) hasn’t made it out of my desk drawer goes to show that I’m paying a lot of attention to it on the city’s dime — and, for the sake of my continued employment, I’d probably do well to drop that subject now.

I don’t want to sell the story short in all this, though : after all, it’s Stemrich who provides Keck with all that killer (a term I invoke quite literally) stuff to sink his artistic teeth into, and this concluding chapter is a breakneck-paced affair indeed. Bleeder’s got a good thing going with his blood-bank-on-two-legs buddy, but when the other members of his de facto “family” or “clan” get wind, they want in on the action, too, which forces a climax whereby Bleeder must choose between his pal Thum and the needs/wants of his species, which is quite the existential dilemma for a bug — and who knows might even be a real pickle for a person. Then there’s the added consideration of whether or not, should he decide in Thum’s favor, it’s purely out of self-interest or some sense of genuine concern, but hey : let’s just grapple with one “heavy” idea at a time and go with the gushing red flow, shall we?

So yeah, things move at a brisk clip here and come to a conclusion best described as “logically and emotionally satisfying, with a hint of ambiguity to spice things up,” but it’s the journey that matters here even more than the destination, and I’m not entirely sure I was ready for that journey to end, even though I knew it would be going in. Fortunately, there’s some very cool pin-up art by Josh Simmons, Daria Tessler, Kara Daving, Will Iversen, and Mr. Stemrich himself to ease us out the door, but surely I can’t be the only one wishing that this might have gone on for one more issue — can I?

Absent that, though, I’ve gotta say that I hope these two are either planning another collaboration as we speak, or will give it some serious thought in the near future. Sure, Keck’s proven he can “fly solo” with the best of them, but between this and his work with the aforementioned Mr. Simmons, he’s demonstrated that he’s one of those cartoonists who doesn’t lose a step at all when somebody else is doing the scripts. That’s a rare thing indeed in today’s comics scene, and I hope he’ll continue to hone his “chops” both as a singular creator and a collaborator, because the latter is one of those skills that not too many cartoonists seem interested in developing.
Still, if this turns out to be a “one-and-done” meeting of the minds, at least Stemrich and Keck can rest assured that it was a memorable one indeed. I can say without hesitation that this is a comic I’ll keep on returning to over and over again — and one of these, days I may even do so from home.

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Crusher Loves Bleeder Bleeder Loves Crusher #2 is available for $10.00 from Patrick Keck’s Storenvy site at https://patrickkeck.storenvy.com/products/32339560-crusher-loves-bleeder-bleeder-loves-crusher-no-2

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Exploring Tana Oshima’s “Unbound” Imagination

Set in the creatively-fertile netherworld where dreams, myths, and reality converge — and proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that whatever “barriers” exist between them are fragile and transitory at best — Tana Oshima’s new “all-ages” comic, Unbound, takes readers on a journey unlike any other and solidifies her reputation as one of the most unique cartooning auteurs of our time. Here’s the thing, though : it’s not like she’s setting out to necessarily do any of that — and that’s part of what makes this work so special.

On the surface, the narrative that unfolds in this gorgeous self-published squarebound book is deceptively simple : two people strike up a friendship and decide to transform into a bird and a flower in order to spend their lives together seeing all that there is to see. But there are layers upon layers of meaning and import to unpack over, above, and beyond what’s happening on a liminal level, and to that end we find ourselves grappling with questions of identity, displacement, emotional bonding, the meaning of community and belonging, and even power dynamics and inequality — as with all things Oshima, the real journey is within, no matter how far afield events may take us.

Rendered in a heartfelt minimalist style on cream-colored paper and laid out in her traditional four-panel grids, Oshima is re-orienting her narrative thrust toward younger readers with this comic, true, but she does so in a way that feels expansive, rather than confining. Existential queries have always been her forte, but here she’s challenged herself to present them in such a way that anyone can understand their precepts and limn their boundaries without feeling challenged so much as invited to give them thorough-going consideration. On paper it may sound like much of this would “go above a child’s head,” or words to that effect, but in truth it probably takes a child’s more open and free mind to really “get” what she’s going for with much of this material, and it’s us old-timers who need to check our cynicism at the door if we want to understand and experience this in all its rich, understated fullness.

Which brings me back to what I was saying at the outset — this is a comic that has no particular ambitions to be anything other than a classic folkloric tale with a kind of timeless sensibility to it, but by adhering to that vision in a manner best described as entirely unforced yet equally unwavering, Oshima creates something as simply honest as it is indelible; a permanent memory that arrives like a gentle breeze and subsequently carries you with it. There is power in these pages — aesthetically, narratively, conceptually — but it is a power that draws you in as opposed to knocking you over.

In a pinch, then, I’d say the greatest quality of this work rests in its inherently seductive nature, which I’ll be the first to admit is a weird thing to say about a so-called “kids’ comic.” And yet as a descriptive, it absolute applies, as Oshima is clearly aiming to plant the seed or kernel of an idea in your mind here and to let you take it from there. Her story has a beginning, a middle, and an end — all clearly delineated and traditionally structured — but in the final analysis is all about providing an open-ended framework for readers, be they eight years old or 80, to not only draw their own conclusions from, but to follow in whatever directions ring true to them personally.

So — what do we have here, when we boil it down to its essentials? One of the finest comics of the year, absolutely — more importantly than that, though, a thing of beauty.

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Unbound is available for $8.00 from Tana Oshima’s website at https://dostoievskiswife.bigcartel.com/product/unbound

Review wrist check – Raven “Trekker 39” yellow dial/black ceramic bezel model on bracelet.

“The Future Is An Open Mouth” — Or Should That Be An Open Question?

The best thing about this gig is that I get exposed to a lot of really personal, unusual, idiosyncratic work — comics and ‘zines that play by no rules other than those laid down by their creators, and even those can be arbitrarily broken if said creators feel like it. I’m talking about stuff that eschews codification, classification, sometimes even rationalization. But absolutely nothing I’ve encountered before could have prepared me for what was waiting in an oversized envelope that arrived in the mail from Denver-based cartoonist Dustin Holland the other day.

To call his self-published, magazine format comic The Future Is An Open Mouth “one of a kind” is to sell it short, because in truth it’s several things at once, none of them exactly new, but all of them coalescing into a singular visual and literary experience that propels the reader into frames of mind previously unknown and the artist immediately into the ranks of legit comics auteurs such as Samuel Benson, Alex Graham, Tana Oshima, Nathan Ward and others who, love ’em or hate ’em, produce work that that could in no way conceivably be said to fit into any category other than their own. Holland has apparently been slowly developing his futuristic (the year is 2695, to be precise) “Gorchverse” for some time, but as this was my first exposure to it, the experience for me was akin to being guided through genuinely alien territory by someone who’s been there before but still hasn’t necessarily limned out all of its highways, byways, contours, and contortions all that thoroughly. In other words, Holland’s the guy making this stuff up, sure, but the material seems to be leading him wherever it wants or needs to go.

Holland pays tribute to his various and sundry literary influences — Ballard, Dick, Delany — on his ‘zine’s inside back cover, and certainly there are any number of tributaries in his inventive take on the “heist perpetrated by fuck-ups” narrative that could conceivably lead back to them, but the torrential onslaught of concepts he’s tossing out page after page seem more to stem from the artist’s own id than anything or anywhere else, and that strikes me as being an excitingly disorganized place indeed. The characterization of our three principals Harmo, Eggs, and Sheena is broad-stroke but undeniably effective, and ditto for the plot, which has a definite dreamlike quality in that it makes perfect sense on the one hand, and absolutely none on the other, so to call it “confusing” wouldn’t exactly be true — at least up until the end, when all is absorbed into dadaist frenzy, but honestly that plays out as more a natural culmination that everything has been leading up to/into, and so I find myself loathe to apply the term even in that situation. Think of the narrative thrust here, then, as being one that could branch off in any number of directions, and ultimately settles on all of them. At once.

Discussing the art offers the jobbing critic another chance to begin with “where to begin?,” as Holland doesn’t so much juxtapose thick-lined, deliberately “sloppy” figure drawing with washed inks with minimalist backgrounds with collage as he stands back and allows them all to crash into each other before arranging them in nominally “coherent” ways. It’s some heady, mind-blowing cartooning, to be sure, but it works in the way that the most effective and sincere self-created visual languages do — which is to say, this world, this “Gorchverse,” can only look the way it does because, well, that’s the way it looks.

What prevents this comic from being a full-on sensory overload — at least until that’s what it does, in fact, become — is Holland’s wonderfully deadpan sense of humor and keen self-awareness. He’s making comics like nobody else makes comics, sure, but he knows it, and therefore isn’t going to kick the training wheels out from under you until it’s not so much safe as it is entirely appropriate to do so. For all its kaleidoscopic qualities, then, the book doesn’t completely shake things up until you’ve found some sort of semi-firm footing, at which point Holland takes what I can only describe as some kind of unmitigated joy in demonstrating that, nah, there really are no “safe spaces” to be had here. Entropy reigns supreme, as it is wont to do, but hey — pretending otherwise is a nice enough delusion to cling to for awhile.
I suppose that I could, at this point, drown you fine readers in superlatives aimed in Holland’s direction as I close this review out, but I think I’ve done plenty of that already, and besides — if any comic has “your mileage may vary” written all over it, then it’s surely this one. One thing, however, is absolutely certain — however far it takes you, at whatever speed, the ride will be one that you won’t soon forget.

*****************************************************************************************************************************The Future Is An Open Mouth is available for $8.00 from Dustin Holland’s Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/listing/1036347718/the-future-is-an-open-mouth?ref=shop_home_active_1&crt=1

Review wrist check – Farer Universal “Stanhope” riding a Hirsch “Arne” sailcloth effect strap in green.

Rainbow Bridge To The Hyperverse : William Cardini’s “Reluctant Oracle” #1

Coming headfirst and headstrong at readers in full, blazing, at times even explosive color, WIlliam Cardini’s latest self-published foray into the extra-dimensional ideascape that is his Hyperverse, Reluctant Oracle #1, not only appears to be the opening salvo in what could very well be a “proper” series, it may also portend the next developmental stage of the concept itself — one where, for lack of a better term, the ‘verse and its denizens might just be on the verge of growing up.

Which is a weird thing to say when we’re talking about a realm populated by ancient wizards, immortal monsters, and giant robots — the latter of which is our protagonist in this latest adventure — but nevertheless, it’s true. When a person thinks of Cardini’s work, phrases like “mind-blowing,” “highly imaginative,” and “far fucking out” come to mind, of course, but “emotionally resonant” and “thematically complex,” maybe not so much — until now. Prepare, then, for a hyper-space jump — into the realm of unbridled emotional longing?

Reduced to being a severed metallic head dishing out prophecies for ungrateful locals, our “guy” Mim yearns to both find his lost love and to traverse the interstitial and interstellar rainbow highway that is the Bifrost, but that’s pretty tough to do without, ya know, a body. When potential help arrives in the form of an unscrupulous transactional would-be “ally” he’s really got no choice but to accept the offer, but a bargain made with The Floating Crystal Witch tends to be a one-way transaction, and it’s going to take all the cunning and guile Mim has programmed into his circuits to make sure that one way cuts his way. It’s a skeletal enough plot, sure, but one with a kind of universality at its core, especially for anybody stuck with pesky things like responsibilities in their life.

Which isn’t to say that Cardini is turning into a square on us or anything — his vibrant art is as high-octane as ever, his self-aware exploitation of “trippy” sci-fi tropes taken to logical and illogical extremes as keenly on-target as we’re accustomed to. But there’s an added dimension of, dare I say, realism — at least on a thematic level — at play here that might could very well make this his most satisfying work to date, and that’s no small feat.

In a manner not at all dissimilar to Kirby, an artist to whom I’ve compared Cardini in the past, this is one of those comics that is equally at home in the stars as it is in the human heart, and speaks to the wonder and mystery of both. That, again, is certainly no small feat, but that it manages to do without once coming off as heavy-handed, morose, or even anything less or other than a bad-ass exploration of cosmic forces is a wonderful bit of artistic sleight-of-hand that is as viscerally impressive as it is conceptually clever. At the end of the day Cardini is still out to “wow” you, but he’s not content to merely do so by dint of bombast alone.
Still, it wouldn’t be a Cardini comic if its metaphorical decibel levels weren’t cranked up good and high, it’s just that he manages to blast the volume without resorting to a battle for all the stakes this time around. Indeed, there’s no real cosmos-shattering duel of magical powers to be found in these pages — but there is a hell of a lot of comic book magic all the same. I’m definitely following this rainbow road wherever it leads.

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Reluctant Oracle #1 is available for $12.00 from William Cardini at https://hypercastle.bigcartel.com/product/reluctant-oracle-1

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d take a moment to give a look directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

The Elwich Horror : Jay Stephens’ “Dwellings”

At first glance, there’s something inherently “been there, done that” about Jay Stephens’ new ongoing series Dwellings — after all, we’re talking about what would appear to be a send-up/pastiche of old-school Harvey Comics printed on pre-yellowed newsprint complete with fake ads and the like — but no one in their right mind would argue that something having been done before necessarily precludes it from being done well and Stephens, to my knowledge, has never half-assed a project. I go back to the early ’90s with both this cartoonist and his publisher, Black Eye Books, so it’s certainly no stretch to say that there’s a bit of “rooting for the home team” happening here on my part, but even still — two issues into this entirely unexpected return for both, all I can say is that, initial impressions aside, this comic is so far surpassing not just my expectations for it, but even my hopes.

Admittedly, it took me a few pages to “buy in” to the idea of yet another “mature” comic done in an overtly “kids’ cartoon” style, but there’s more than a simple “piss-take,” as the Brits would say, happening here : indeed, once you come to grips with what Stephens is doing both in theory and practice with this comic, you really can’t see it being presented in any other way. The far-flung coincidences, high-flying absurdities, and frankly borderline-depraved levels of ultraviolence that are necessary to propel this horror/black comedy narrative forward simply wouldn’t work if Stephens “played it straight,” and his particular cartooning skill set is so well-suited to this kind of Bizarro-world incongruity between form and function, tone and temperament, that any other approach would feel as false as it would force.

Anyway, high-fallutin’ analysis of artistic imperatives aside, what you need to know is that there’s bad shit afoot in the fictitious (I’m assuming, at any rate) small town of Elwich, Ontario. The crows are out for blood, a local kid is happy to supply it for them, a newly-reinstated cop with a checkered past and a potentially itchy trigger finger is the only one wise to what’s happening, and a newly-arrived Harvard grad student seeking to study first-hand something called “foreign accent syndrome” (a genuine phenomenon whereby patients who’ve suffered head trauma of one form or another wake up with an accent they didn’t have previously) is about to bite off way more than she can chew in the “ancient evil” department. The elements of many a classic horror yarn are, then, present and accounted for, with a special emphasis on the age-old struggle between modern, rational thought and folkloric superstition.

The story is also loaded with the requisite twists, turns, and comeuppances that come part and parcel with this sort of thing, but Stephens’ choice to go with classic “funnybook” aesthetics has the net effect of rendering most of them surprising at the least, downright disarming at best, because let’s face it : having a bunch of bad stuff happen within the context of a stylistic environment where we’re used to nothing bad ever happening is one of the more fertile grounds for head-fuckery that there is — and this comic will fuck with your head.

It’ll also make you laugh — more often than not in spite of yourself — and will even impress you on occasion with its sheer ingenuity. I lost count of how many times I thought to myself “I really should’ve seen that coming” over the course of reading issues one and two, but the fact that I never did see those things I should have coming is testament to just how skillfully Stephens is playing his hand here. The old saying about the Devil’s greatest trick being convincing the world that he doesn’t exist comes to mind, because the only devil that ever existed in the sorts of comics Stephens is patterning the look of his book after was Hot Stuff, and he was one of the good guys — just like everybody else.
It’s fair to say that this, then, is a pretty damn disturbing comic, but not in a way that’s at all gratuitous or ill-considered — if all it were setting out to be was a spoof for its own sake, then that would be another matter, but Stephens is building a complex and immersive fictional world here that references many of the darker aspects of our own, while at the same time overtly wishing that the pre-packaged saccharine innocence so many of us grew up bombarded with could be true. I guess dreams really do die hard, after all — but nightmares? They go on forever.

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Issues one and two of Dwellings are available at the very appropriate price of $6.66 each from the Black Eye website at https://www.blackeye.ca/shop

Review wrist check – Cincinnati Watch Company “Cincinnatus Field” green dial model on bracelet.

Kirby Week : “Black Panther” #1

I have to admit that when I first started to haphazardly plan my week-long tribute to The King Of Comics, reviewing Black Panther #1 (cover-dated January, 1977) wasn’t on my radar screen. It’s not that it’s a bad book, mind you — anything but — just that the schedule was already looking a little full, and while I left a few makeshift “slots” open to be filled by whatever struck my fancy, I was thinking those would most likely be a good fit for more obscure entries in the Jack Kirby canon like Dingbats Of  Danger Street or Manhunter.

And yet, it has to be said — while not too many people look back at Jack’s brief run chronicling T’Challa’s exploits in the late ’70s as one of the highlights of his career, in retrospect this was exactly the right direction for Marvel to take the character in at the time. The Panther had last been giving a starring turn in the pages of Jungle Action a few years prior, where writer Don McGregor had fashioned a lengthy political thriller heavy with spiritual and psychological undertones entitled “Panther’s Rage,” and he then immediately followed that up by having T’Challa take leave from his kingdom of Wakanda in order to to confront — and be confronted by — numerous societal ills, most notably racism, right here in the good old U.S. of A. The influence of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ “Hard-Travelling Heroes” storyline from the pages of Green Lantern/Green Arrow was fairly obvious, but McGregor’s prose was far more dense and purple, and his star character’s conflicts far more internalized — and paired with the sleek and stylish artwork of Billy Graham, a truly memorable run was concocted, the reverberations of which are still being felt today in titles like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ (somewhat) recently-concluded Black Panther series. Still, for all that, when it was over, a more “back-to-basics” approach was definitely in order. The Panther had been to hell and back — why not let him have some honest-to-goodness fun again?

And if there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear from the first page of this story, entitled “King Solomon’s Frog!,” onward, it’s that rip-roaring action and adventure were going to be the order of the day. Right off the bat, T’Challa and his new (and very temporary) sidekick —a guy named Mr. Little who’s a collector of rare antiquities and, well, little —- are plunged headfirst into the thick of it : on the trail of a mysterious and powerful artifact that’s said to have the power to warp and bend time itself (our titular frog) they discover the freshly-deceased body of a man named Queely, another collector and the last person unlucky enough to have the wondrous-but-apparently-cursed object in his possession. He’s been run through with a sword and his museum-like residence has been thoroughly ransacked, but the assailant —  an armored warrior hailing from time and place unknown — hasn’t gone far. And by that, I mean that he hasn’t even made it out he front door yet.

A dramatic battle (did Kirby ever do them any other way?) ensues that ends in something of a stalemate, with the torn-from-the-pages-of-the-pulps villain fleeing into the night, but no matter : T’Challa and Little, in a moment that some call curious but I would argue demonstrates both combat- veteran insight as well as a degree of compassion, allow their opponent to make good his escape, confident in the knowledge that he won’t get far looking like he does and that he’s probably every bit as scared as a cornered animal, anyway.  Besides, they’ve got the frog — for now, at any rate.

Our constantly-on-the-move duo — now ensconced aboard a futuristic techno-marvel aircraft upon which a customary bit of historical “info-dumping” takes place — are soon set upon by a wave of jetpack-wearing henchmen (hey, you know henchmen when you see them), which gives Kirby a chance to flex his artistic muscles with a spot of truly breathtaking aerial combat, but when the action returns to the ground, we learn that this particular “goon squad” is operating in  service of the regally cold-blooded Princess Zanda, who has her own plans for the frog once it falls into her grasp — which it does after Little is shot and (apparently) killed, and T’Challa’s own grip on it is loosened thanks to another burst of gunfire.

Still, things aren’t anywhere near as cut-and-dried as they seem here — not only is death in comics never a permanent state of affairs, but Zanda does T’Challa the courtesy of informing him that Little was planning on killing him once he no longer had need of his services, and even though the frog was once the property of our hero’s grandfather, odds are better than good that it would never be making its way back to Wakanda. There’s talk of an “activation code” to get the time-travel functions of the device working, but apparently a good, hard, jolt will do the job just fine, for as this issue ends, we find that a  doorway into the future has been ripped open, and a curious little being with the phrase “Hatch 22” inscribed and/or tattooed on its oddly-shaped forehead has emerged into our time, ready to raise all kinds of hell.

Black Panther#1, then, is clearly not a book that delves into any of the deeper moral and philosophical questions which Kirby explores with such insight, vigor, and humanity in many of his other works, but it is mile-a-minute thrill ride from start to finish, loaded to the gills with all the best trappings of pulp sci-fi storytelling : mysterious hidden agendas, competing interests, conflicted situational ethics, advanced-bordering-on-magical technology, even a gorgeous-but-deadly femme fatale. Kirby and inker extraordinaire Mike Royer delineate the breakneck proceedings with unmistakable energy and a heavy emphasis on the dramatic, and the end result is a feast for the eyes that won’t leave the mind feeling hungry, either. This comic is a textbook example of smartly-constructed and flawlessly-executed genre storytelling of the “high-octane” variety.

But then, who in their right mind would expect anything less? If there’s one thing Kirby never did, it was run short on creative fuel.

Kirby Week : “Devil Dinosaur” #3

Sometimes, nothing beats a short, sweet, simple, self-contained comic book adventure story — and the next time you find yourself in the mood for exactly that, you could do a hell of a lot worse than issue number three of Jack Kirby’s last original Marvel Comics series, Devil Dinosaur.

Cover-dated June, 1978 and bearing the story title of “Giant,” about all you need to know about the basic premise going in is that Devil is an unusually large, unusually strong, and unusually smart prehistoric beast who took on a sort of bight, “fire-engine red” color due to — well, we won’t go there, since I’m not sure that particular part of his origin story  necessarily stands up to even casual, much less anything approaching rigorous, logical scrutiny. It was painful as all hell for the poor creature, though, no doubt about that. His constant friend and companion is one Moon-Boy, billed on the cover of issue one as “The First Human,” but if we’re striving for accuracy, “Fist Human,” or “One Of The First Humans” might be closer to the mark. The two share a symbiotic — perhaps even a kind of rudimentary psychic — bond, and they inhabit a typically dangerous-for-its-time region known as The Valley Of Flame, yet another ingenious Kirby locale rife with possibilities for danger, trouble, all that good stuff.

This one starts (as well as proceeds and finishes) in elegantly concise fashion, as our two protagonists are awoken one night by ear-splitting screaming, the source of which, upon investigation, turns out to be creatures fleeing from an unlikely bipedal figure with what’s described as a “Thunder-Horn Head” (which turns out to be a mask) known only as our titular Giant. He hurls rocks with enough force to knock Devil off-balance — a not-inconsiderable feat — and even takes out a fearsome foe known as Bone-Back before a mysterious smaller figure manages to set about and capture Moon-Boy, who has been separated from his ferocious friend.

Upon discovering the disappearance of his sidekick, Devil is incensed, but uses his keen intelligence to track him down by following a trail of dinosaur bones and corpses to Giant’s non-existent front door. An epic confrontation ensues that actually sees both adversaries so equally-matched that it ends in stalemate, and so Devil turns on that mighty mind of his again and attempts a bit of on-the-fly battle strategizing : he’s gonna lure Giant into a bog.

Meanwhile Moon-Boy, for his part, after engineering a basic-but-clever escape, surreptitiously steers his former captor — now revealed to be a smaller “Giant” figure himself —to the very same bog at the exact moment his significantly more sizable counterpart (spoiler, it’s his daddy) falls in. Never fear, though — our heroes would never split up a family, happy or otherwise, and duly rescue Giant from his murky would-be grave in order to reunite him with his cub/son, thereby effecting a truce whereby the newly-complacent Giant silently “agrees” to leave the valley alone and in peace as a sign of what passes for gratitude in a primitive and deadly world.

Clearly, then, Devil Dinosaur #3 offers considerably less by way of the philosophical and thematic depth that most of the other Kirby comics we’ve been exploring this month do, but it’s wonderfully and dynamically illustrated by The King (with typically superb and intelligently-applied inks by the great Mike Royer), and the action in particular — of which there is plenty — is downright breathtaking and worth spending a good, long time feasting your eyes on. This one may not rise to the level of a “classic” by any means, but by juxtaposing its violent savagery against the bonds of family and (cross-species) friendship, it’s both exhilarating and endearing in equal measure — and as an example in microcosm of what makes Kirby’s storytelling so special, even stripped down to its barest elements, it’s very nearly perfect.

Kirby Week : “Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen” #133

One could argue that I should have started this “Kirby Week” theme I’ve got going with with this, as it marks the beginning of what many of The King’s fans consider to be the best and most important phase of his career, but in truth the October, 1970 cover-dated Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #133 is such a flat-out transformational comic (not just for the series itself, but for the medium in a more general sense) that even on an umpteenth read-through, it offers a hell of a lot to unpack and analyze.

Oh, sure, there are more important entries in The King’s lengthy C.V. than this one, but I think a person would be hard-pressed to find a single issue that attempts to do more than this story does — after all, this was the very first comic that Kirby produced under his then-new contract with DC, and given the shockwaves that his departure from Marvel sent through the nascent fan circles just bubbling to the surface at the time, it’s fair to say that readers were expecting something more unbelievable, more exciting, more imaginative, more awesome than they’d ever seen before.

There was no need to worry, though, as Kirby always delivered the goods — in fact, giving his all was the only way he knew how to work. There’s been a long-circulating rumor/urban legend that Jack insisted-by-default on being given thJimmy Olsen gig since he firmly believed that he could turn DC’s lowest-selling title into one of its biggest, and while I have no idea whether that’s true or not, he certainly arrived on the title with a bang, eager to revamp everything in sight in order to lay the groundwork for his Fourth World saga. Certainly if Kirby had been paying attention to what had been going on in this book’s pages before assuming its reigns it doesn’t show — he wiped the slate clean, immediately making his inherited “cub reporter” protagonist actually competent for the first time ever, and even putting him at odds, albeit briefly, with his super-powered best bud, as the cover plainly (if exaggeratedly) proclaims. Things were gonna be different from here on out, and this issue is a thunderous overture hinting at the scope of the grand cosmic symphony to come.

I still wonder how Kirby managed to pack so much into this slim comic — hot on the trail of a whispered-about “miracle car” that’s been seen around Metropolis, Jimmy meets the “new,” Guardian-free iteration of the famed Newsboy Legion, who may not have their costumed leader with them anymore (at least for now), but do have a new member in their ranks named Flippa Dippa, as well as the amazing “Whiz Wagon,” the staggeringly advanced land-air-sea vehicle that our ostensible hero has been searching for. Just one question — why are all the Newsboy kids the same age as they were back in their 1940s heyday? They claim to be direct blood descendants of the originals, but is that the whole story? In any case, when Jimmy tells them that he’d like the help of them and their “super car” to make the trek into a foreboding district just outside Metropolis known as the “Wild Area” the kids are all-in, hence this issue’s title, “Jimmy Olsen Superman’s Pal Brings Back The Newsboy Legion!”

Forget all that for a moment, though, as next we meet the scheming Morgan Edge, president of Galaxy Broadcasting and new owner of the Daily Planet, who oozes sleazy menace as he confers with Clark Kent for the first time. Edge is essentially Rupert Murdoch a good couple of decades before anyone outside of Australia knew that execrated name, and therefore stands as yet another example of Kirby’s amazing precognitive ability. It’s Edge who has assigned Jimmy with task of entering the Wild Area to make contact with its hippie-ish residents known only as the “Hairies,” and while Clark would like to go along to ensure his young friend’s safety, Edge will hear nothing of it since he has it on good authority that the “Hairies” don’t trust anyone over 25 years old. It’s when Clark leaves the office of his newly-ensconced “superior,” though, that things really start to get interesting —

Okay, fair enough, we all know that a “no” from Morgan Edge isn’t going to stop Superman from going where he wants to go and doing what he needs to do, but Kirby’s portrayal of Clark/Supes (re-drawn faces aside) is entirely different to anything we’ve seen before — this is a moody, introspective, and thoughtful Man of Steel, fundamentally lonely and with the weight of the world on his shoulders, a super-being well aware of his ability to do almost anything and openly and actively questioning the perhaps-outdated moral code that holds him back from making the world a better place on anything other than a “micro” scale. Kirby’s Superman saw a world in distress, fraying at the seams, further slipping into the insidious grasp of big business — and, like his author, he saw the surest signs of hope for the future in the emerging “peace and love” youth culture of the time. No one had written Superman like this before, and all of these various themes — and more — would be expounded upon by The King not only in the pages of this series, but in The Forever People, as well.

For his part, Edge’s interior monologue also reveals more about him than the “poker face” he kept while meeting Kent did — he has his own surreptitious reasons for wanting Jimmy to penetrate the “Wild Area,” and it all has something to do with the dictates of a shadowy underworld organization that he’s a part of known as Intergang, but it’s abundantly clear that even this group of malefactors is only a means to an end, and that they are pawns for another, larger power that’s positioning them on a grand, three-dimensional chessboard.

A series of confrontations with a biker gang on the outskirts of the “Wild Area” known as the “Outsiders” ensues — first Jimmy and the Newsboys take them on, and then when they win that skirmish and Jimmy is made their de facto “leader,” they take on Superman, who’s been tailing his protege — and while falling back on a chunk of Green Kryptonite to bring the second fight to a conclusion stands out for its utter predictability in comparison to the rest of the events taking place in this otherwise-breathtaking story, it’s a situation that Kirby reverses quickly enough, and when Superman wakes up, he, Jimmy, and the Newsboys quickly arrive at a surprisingly tentative truce, and we get out first look at the sprawling forest kingdom known as “Habitat,” a kind of “super-commune” at the very heart of the “Wild Area.” The visuals, in true Kirby fashion, are absolutely spectacular — so spectacular that not even Vince Colletta’s lazy, sloppy inks can fuck them up —and if you need any further evidence that the so-called “Boy From Kansas” ain’t in Kansas anymore, well, look no further than page page 20 :

I would argue that this splash image represents the first significant distillation of the artistic through-line that would inform the entire Fourth World opus : Kirby grand-scale epic visual storytelling wedded to the ideals and ethos of the so-called “flower power” generation. The cliffhanger to this issue — which sees Jimmy enlist his once-and-future best friend in his sure-to-be-perilous journey to something called the “Mountain Of Judgment,” which can only be accessed by means of a hidden drag-strip known as the “Zoomway” — hints that further wonders are to come, of course, but the tone of the epic-to-be has already been set : Jack Kirby, WWII veteran, keen and learned observer of humanity who still hadn’t lost his fundamental sense of optimism, was putting his faith in a better future future, and in the youth — the same shaggy, hairy, “drop-out,” “hippie” youth that so much of popular culture, including the comics, was openly demonizing every chance it could get — who were going to make that better future happen.

It didn’t all work out the way that Kirby hoped, of course — nor did the Fourth World itself, for reasons entirely beyond his control — but Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #133 reflected the exuberance, idealism, and promise of its times. There have been better stories told in the funnybooks than this one (although not that many), but very few have been this significant, this heartfelt, this revolutionary. And Jack Kirby was only just getting started.

Kirby Week : “The Eternals” #1

You’ve gotta hand it to Jack Kirby — if you or I had been toiling away in the comic-book industry for approximately four decades, only to have our major life’s work strangled in the proverbial crib, we would probably give up on the whole notion of the “sprawling cosmic epic” altogether and just stick with simple stand-alone stories, punctuated by the occasional two-or-three-parter, until it came time to hang up our pencils and call it a career. Who needs the disappointment of early cancellation all over again?

And yet, after the editorially-mandated quick demise of his Fourth World opus, The King’s non-stop imagination kept chugging away at the only speed it knew how to operate : full throttle. And while he kept creating new and innovative concepts and characters during the remainder of his tenure at DC (KamandiThe DemonOMAC), these were all essentially self-contained narratives that didn’t attempt to replicate the scope of his then-recently-scuttled saga. And yet, the siren call of the cosmos never fully let go —

When Kirby returned to Marvel at the tail end of 1975, he was ready to reach for the stars again, and while he would (apparently somewhat reluctantly) return to famous characters he’d created like Captain America and the Black Panther, the project that he was most excited about was his next “high-concept” science fiction masterpiece-in-the-making, originally entitled “The Celestials” and then “Return Of The Gods” before making its July, 1976 cover-dated debut as The Eternals.

Right off the bat in this first story, titled “The Day Of The Gods,” it’s clear that Kirby is playing a “long game” here : incorporating then-popular elements of the cultural zeitgeist such as the purported “sunken kingdoms” of Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, and the like; mysterious “vanishing zones” such as the Bermuda Triangle; and, most especially, the “ancient astronauts” theories popularized by the dubious-at-best Erich Von Daniken, this debut issue is all about setting a vast and ambitious stage for itself encompassing not only all of human history, but the histories of two purported “sibling races,” as well — the genetically-and-morally-challenged Deviants, and the titular and quasi-godlike Eternals. Most of the principal characters we’d come to know over the course of the book’s run aren’t even introduced in these pages, so dense and complex is the task of “world-building” that Kirby has set for himself, but it almost doesn’t even matter in the scheme of things — this isn’t so much the “ground floor” of something big as it is its foundation. Sure, we get to meet Ikaris (albeit in his thinly-disguised “civilian identity” of Ike Harris) as well as archaeologist Doctor Damian and his fetching daughter/assistant, Margo, who would go on to become semi-important supporting players, but on the whole this is one big old info-dump.

Why, then, is it so endlessly fascinating and eminently readable, even after all these years?

A lot of it is down to Kirby’s genius pacing — despite its heavy reliance on Ikaris’ lengthy “here’s all you need to know before we begin” monologue, there is a clear and present danger hanging, Sword- of- Damocles-style, over the proceedings here, and before we even see a single Celestial (which doesn’t happen in this issue, in case you were wondering), the senses-shaking prospect of their imminent return is established as something larger and more profound than our mere mortal minds can process —and Kirby communicates it all with such vital urgency that there’s no mistaking the import of what’s about to happen, even if it doesn’t happen here. Seriously, though, I defy you not to be absolutely hooked on this comic by, oh, page four or five.

The art (masterfully aided and abetted by the heavy-but-faithful brush of John Verpoorten, for my money one of Kirby’s most underappreciated inkers) is absolutely killer, too — a heady stylistic mix of any number of various ancient cultures, particularly the Incas (who, along with the Aztecs, had long been a major influence on The King’s visual ethos), it nevertheless looks like something from several centuries into the future given its incorporation not only of all kinds of typically-awesome “Kirby Tech,” but of truly alien designs courtesy of the undersea realm of the Deviants. This may be a Marvel comic, sure, but it looks like something from a universe all its own — and indeed, such was Jack’s original intention, to the point that even when the company’s bean-counters handed down dictates to include guest appearances from The Thing and The Hulk, Kirby cleverly (and probably to the chagrin of said “superiors”) made certain they were only lame dopplegangers and not the “real” thing.  After all, when you’re pouring this money concepts onto the page at once, tying yourself down to a pre-existing, inter-connected corporate “world” is only going to slow you down.

And if there’s one thing that this comic doesn’t do, even in this first issue that skirts the edges of “information overload,” it’s slow down — not even for a single second. If you haven’t yet had the chance to read it, then what are you waiting for? Do it before the much-hyped movie comes out and see where Marvel Studios’ latest billion-dollar idea came from. Hint : from the same place most of ’em did, one man’s limitless imagination.