ATC Week : “All-Time Comics : Blind Justice” #1

I’m just gonna call it : Victor Martinez’s cover for All-Time Comics : Blind Justice #1 (the fourth release in this Josh and Samuel Bayer-helmed project) is the coolest thing to date about this entire enterprise. Rendered in a style highly reminiscent of old-school airbrushing (hell, it may even be a piece of old-school airbrushing for all I know), it’s atmospheric, evocative, and just plain bad-ass.

Too bad the interior contents can’t live up to the dramatic standard it sets.

Not that it’s a bad comic, mind you — more just another very mixed bag from a series that excels at creating them. The premise is agreeably absurd : a patient at an Optic City psychiatric facility who appears to be more or less comatose is actually the bandaged, club-wielding vigilante known as Blind Justice (or maybe it’s simply “Justice,” since that’s what most folks seem to call him, and there’s no indication that he’s actually, ya know, blind), a kind of unstoppable, and probably un-killable, force of righteous vengeance who has a habit of leaping into action whenever the fetching female assistant director of the hospital’s life is in danger. Which it is, this time, when she and her boss head off for some isolated island to help the poor and downtrodden locals only to find themselves set upon by a cult-like band of modern-day pirates with a vaguely martial and militaristic bent.

The script’s up and down in the extreme, with plot holes large enough to drive a truck through (not the least of which being how our “hero” manages to stow away aboard his lady-love’s ship), but that’s in line with the overall aesthetic here since the art’s all over the place, as well — inconsistent creative teams and “fill-in issues” were a mainstay of the “Bronze Age” these comics are meant to invoke, of course, but this book takes that notion to absurd heights by having scion of comics sub-royalty Rick Buckler Jr. doing most of the pencils, with late-game contributions from Bayer himself and Jason T. Miles, while Al Milgrom handles the bulk of the inks with Sabin Cauldron chipping in here and there in “deadline-crunch” fashion.

And if deliberately channeling the “deadline crunch” ethos is what the goal here was (hell, even the coloring chores are split between Alessandro Echevarria and Matt Rota — you can tell who did what due to Rota’s facility with Ben Day dots), then congratulations on a job well done are certainly due, but not being privy to such “inside baseball” knowledge, all I can say is — it looks and feels rushed and slopped-together at the last minute regardless of intent. There’s a cool double-page splash fight scene, it’s true, but some the figure drawings throughout are wildly inconsistent, and the same is true of a lot of the composition work and the comic’s overall sense, and use, of perspective — the only absolute “stand-by” from start to finish, in fact, is Rick Parker’s definition-of-solid lettering.

And ya know what? Even there we’ve got a wrinkle in the form of the “A. Machine” Charlton-style credits, which certainly give off the look of having been thrown in there right before the whole thing went to press. Which probably lends some weight to the idea that the “rush job” vibe here was intentional. If you choose to buy into that, then this comic’s a successful invocation of a very particular sort of dated industry mainstay and pretty fun, to boot. If you don’t, then the whole thing will likely just come off as a total mess.

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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. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics — but there’s a new piece up on there that further explores the ATC themes on the blog here this week that folks who are enjoying these reviews will probably dig, as well. You can join up for as little as a buck a month, so seriously — what have you got to lose? Needless to say, I’ve be very gratified to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

ATC Week : “All-Time Comics : Crime Destroyer” #1

With the recent release of All-Time Comics : Zerosis Deathscape #0, the opening salvo of the second “season” of this ongoing, idiosyncratic project — as well as the All-Time Comics trade paperback collection of “season” one (both published under the auspices of new “home” Floating World Comics) — now seems like a good time to look back to 2014/2015 and examine where the brothers Bayer have been in order to possibly limn out the parameters of where they’re going. A few general observations here, and then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of each issue as the week progresses —

First up, it’s gotta be said that this whole thing reads much better in trade than it did in single issues, even if I miss the cheap newsprint. The aims of creators Josh and Samuel Bayer with this concept are multi-faceted — and yeah, maybe even more than a bit muddled — but what they’re “going for” becomes much more clear when absorbed in its totality than it did over the course of six sporadically-released installments. As to what those aims are

Simply put, I think the two major artistic goals are the exact inverse of each other : on the one hand, ATC is about transposing the aesthetic and storytelling ethos of “Bronze Age” comics into present-day comics; on the other, it’s using the sensibilities of said present-day comics to re-examine the past. There’s an inherent tension between those two metaphorical tributaries that causes them to run independently and without merging at times, to diverge entirely at others, but when they do flow together, or at least parallel to each other, the results can be quite interesting indeed — which is all my long-winded way of saying to expect almost as many “misses” as “hits” here. We’ll get into those with more specificity as we go along —

The de facto “line” made its debut with All-Time Comics : Crime Destroyer #1, sporting a cartoony ultra-violent cover by Jim Rugg (each issue also featured a variant or two, but for purposes of time we’re just not even gonna go there) that, along with the participation of Benjamin Marra (on board for this one as inker), probably led readers to believe this was an exercise in pastiche at best, spoof at worst, but in truth the script here by the younger Bayer brother (that would be Josh) plays it pretty straight — yeah, it’s absurd, but not to the point of being what the Brits would call a “piss-take.” In point of fact, most “Bronze Age” comics were absurd, and cleaving to their temperament necessitates channeling a fair degree of that absurdity, for good or ill.

Hence the “purple fist” shoulder-pads of our protagonist, a Vietnam-vet-turned-vigilante (but otherwise a fairly obvious Batman stand-in) bound and determined to fulfill a promise to a fellow soldier who’s landed behind bars by checking on the well-being of the man’s daughter, a task which takes him from his “home turf” of Swan City to the mean streets of Optic City, generally considered to be under the protection of Atlas, purportedly the mightiest hero of the ATC “universe.”

Not that he appears to be doing a very good job of it — the place looks like a shithole, and that comes across pretty damn well thanks to the pencils of the now-late Herb Trimpe, who turns in solid work throughout and may just be the unsung “star” of the book. His art gets you to “buy into” the idea of a sewer-dwelling cult that wears pilgrim costumes and worships some kind of snake-god (for reasons that become apparent later), and lends just the right air of near-plausibility to Bayer’s admittedly scatter-shot script, which goes from stage-setting at the penitentiary to obligatory Crime Destroyer/Atlas team-up to sewer battle to a typical serialized non-resolution “ending.” It’s a bumpy ride smoothed out by solid, workmanlike illustration that manages to retain a nice bit of personality even under a thick layer of Marra inks.

I was less sold on Alessandro Echevarria’s colors, which were a bit too self-consciously saturated and syrupy for my tastes, but the decidedly un-self-conscious lettering of the great Rick Parker balances out the efforts of the book’s “rhythm section” nicely. “Tonally uneven” is a constant theme in these comics, but insofar as this debut installment goes, it’s not a “deal-breaker.”

It would be a reach to say this comic marked an auspicious beginning to the line, it’s true, but it provides enough — even if just barely — to keep folks marginally “hooked.” Whether or not that there’s an ultimate pay-off for readers who remain interested is a question that is, frankly, still being answered, but we’re going to do our best to puzzle out what those answers might be as our “theme week”  continues.

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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. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics — but there’s a piece up this week that directly ties into, and fleshes out, our ongoing ATC theme here. You can join up for as little as a buck a month, so seriously — what have you got to lose? Needless to say, I’d certainly be very grateful to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse