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

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 12/08/2019 – 12/14/2019

Looks like we’re back on the first issue train in a big way this week — even if one of them’s a one-shot. And since that one-shot is the comic that everyone is talking about right this very moment, that’s where we’ll start things off —

Frank Miller goes back to the well (that’s been rather unwell) with Dark Knight Returns : The Golden Child #1, presented in the old school “Dark Knight Format” that it pioneered (this time under DC’s Black Label imprint), with sumptuous art from the criminally under-utilized-in-recent-years Rafael Grampa, who’s infused his sleek, cinematic style with a little bit more Dave Cooper-esque physical “ripple” than we’ve seen from him in the past while maintaining the overall aesthetic of his Geoff Darrow-by-way-of- Moebius roots. The result is a book that looks absolutely gorgeous and earns a “buy” recommendation for the art alone, with the generally fun and lighthearted story just being a nice plus. The Joker and Darkseid are both pulling the strings of an obvious Donald Trump analogue in the so-called “Dark Knight Universe,” and it’s up to a new generation of heroes — Carrie Kelly, Superman and Wonder Woman’s daughter Lara, and their son, Jon —to stop him (and, by extension, them)? I’m all in for that, and nobody has drawn Darkseid this well since Kirby, so — yeah. This thing is all kinds of entertainingly batshit-crazy eye candy.

Also worth a buy just for the illustration is Boom! Studios’ The Red Mother #1, written by The Beauty‘s Jeremy Haun, who this time hands off art chores to Danny Luckert of Regression renown. The script is a nice mix mix of solid-if-uninspired body horror and demonic entity stuff, centered as it is on a protagonist who loses an eye in a mugging and begins to see an evil figure out of her new prosthetic, but Luckert’s hyper-detailed art almost reminds me of a street-level take on Monstress, and to call the whole thing gorgeous is probably to sell it a little bit shorter than it deserves. Not sure how many issues this one is slated to run, but I’ll be there for all of them.

Moving over to Dark Horse, Steve Niles returns to his long-shelved Cal McDonald character for Criminal Macabre : The Big Bleed Out #1, with gritty “horror noir” art courtesy of Gyula Nemeth. This one’s a pretty breezy read that does a nice job of re-introducing our ostensible “hero” — or of introducing him in the first place if you’re new to the franchise — and successfully transposes standard pulp tropes, particularly the femme fatale, into a horror context. Nothing earth-shattering happening here by any stretch, but as it’s only four issues I have no problem with following it through to the finish. I do kinda wish Niles would challenge himself with some more long-form storytelling, though.

Finally, the best-written book of the week is Dying Is Easy #1, which comes our way courtesy of IDW and the creative team of Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds. A disgraced former cop who drove a woman to suicide is trying to make it in the stand-up world, only to fall under immediate suspicion when a rival who stole some of his jokes for a routine he performed on the Jay Leno show turns up murdered in this debut issue, and Hill does a flat-out magnificent job of immersing us in his particularly sardonic view of comedy club “culture,”while Simmonds, who impressed with his work on Punks Not Dead, channels his inner Sienkiewicz with plenty of stylish aplomb. This comic was just plan great, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

And that’ll about do it for this Round-Up, my last obligation being to remind you all that this column is brought to you each and every week 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 damn appreciative if you’d give it a look by heading on over to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 10/13/2019 – 10/19/2019

We have three first issues and one last issue to go over this week and so, in the spirit of taking last things first —

A mercy killing that arrives three issues too late, Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.’s Superman : Year One #3 exits the world the same way it came in — with no clear idea of its reason for being and no coherent plan to at least fool us into thinking it has one. Miller’s script changes narrators frequently but tone never, Romita’s art is up and down and seriously down when it’s down (a splash near the end of this one features arguably the worst Wonder Woman illustration I’ve ever seen in my life), and precisely why this non-canonical revisionist take on Superman’s origin even exists is, at this point, anyone’s guess. It doesn’t count for anything, it only plays around with surface-level details of the story as already known, and just before it ends it shoehorns in a Cliffs Notes version of Zack Snyder’s Batman V. Superman and some creepy narration about Lex Luthor wanting to tame and break Wonder Woman, and Wonder Woman wanting Superman to tame and break her. It also doesn’t “end” so much as simply stop, with Supes headed off to take on Brainiac — which means we’re probably, and depressingly, looking at the strong possibility of a sequel to this mess somewhere down the line. Remember when DC was marketing this new Black Label line as some sort of “prestige” imprint? News flash : that was a lie. And so is the title of this comic, because it covers roughly the first 20+ years of Superman’s life. Who at DC editorial thought that any of this sounded like a good idea?

Maybe it was Dan DiDio, because revisionism for no reason seems to be his stock in trade, as evidenced by Metal Men #1, the first of a 12-part series that would probably, and justifiably, have been laughed out the room when it was “pitched” if the “pitcher” weren’t, ya know, the boss. Yeah, okay, I’ll grant you that Shane Davis’ art is the most lifeless and generic New 52-era holdover stuff imaginable, but the script is the real villain when it comes to offending your sensibilities here : Will Magnus is a fraud, his Metal Men have all been killed dozens of times and he’s got a bunch of spares handy, they’re not actually sentient and are rather derived from templates based on his own personality — and we get a double-cringe out of that already-cringeworthy premise because, hey, Magnus is romantically involved with Platinum, the “female” member of the group. Go fuck yourself, indeed.

Shifting gears over to Marvel, this week saw the release of the highly-anticipated X-Men #1, following on from the revolutionary (no exaggeration) events of House Of X and Powers Of X, the highly-regarded interconnected miniseries that propelled Charles Xavier’s team back to the top of the sales charts for the first time in a couple of decades. My big question coming out of those comics was : with all mutants now on the same side and living in a paradise of their own making, who were the villains gonna be? But fear not, mastermind author Johnathan Hickman begins to answer that question here while continuing to flesh out the society of Krakoa, which he’s obviously thought through right down the smallest detail. There’s a lot of talk about “world-building” in comics these days, and Hickman’s putting on a veritable fucking clinic on how to do it here, while Leinil Francis Yu provides more distinctive and eye-catching art than we got in either of the lead-in titles to this. About the only thing that could kill the X-momentum at this point would be for Marvel to overplay their hand — and so, in customary fashion, that’s exactly what they’re doing, cranking out something like six or seven interconnected books every month, each most likely bearing a $4.99 cover price for their first issues. I’m really digging what Hickman and co. are doing, but can I even afford to stick around to follow it all?

Last but not least (because we started with the last and the least right outta the gate), we’ve got Charles Forsman’s Revenger Halloween Special #1 from Floating World Comics. This comic is in no way necessary in the larger scheme of all things Revenger-related, but it is a fun, brutal little one-shot that sees our heroine start off by rescuing a kid and end up by killing off a vampire, so if what you thought this de facto franchise had been missing up until now was a dose of the supernatural, this book should make you really happy. For my own part, I had a good time with it even if it’s obviously disposable stuff, but I think I enjoyed Matt Harrison’s snappy little backup strip even more. Forsman gets a lot more credit for being an innovator than he deserves, but when he’s just cutting loose and having fun following established genre tropes, the results can be pretty damn entertaining, as they are here.

And that’ll do it, apart from reminding you all that this column is “brought to you” every week 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. Do a jobbing freelancer a solid and check it out at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 04/01/2018 – 04/07/2018

This past week’s reading ranged in quality from the sublime to the dire, so let’s take it all in order, from best to worst:

Yellow Negroes And Other Imaginary Creatures presents a triptych of thematically inter-related stories by Parisian (by way of West Africa) cartoonist Yvan Alagbe focused on issues of race, class, the socio-economic divisions rising from/attendant with each, and the risks inherent in attempting to bridge said divides. Deeply rooted in the immigrant experience and illustrated in a breathtaking mix of styles from the intricately hyper-detailed to the amorphous and abstract, Alagbe is a master of utilizing space and shapes to confound expectation and personalize the political — truth be told, I can’t for the life of me recall ever seeing an artist imbue their drawings with so much charged, even combustible, visual information in such an expressive manner, each line a statement in and of itself yet also a component of something much larger. These works, originally published in Europe between 1996 and 2011 and here presented in English for the first time by New York Review Comics, ultimately explore the paradoxical yet co-dependent relationship that black racial identity and white racial identity have with each other, and what happens when the limits of each are breached and confronted in ways subtle and profound at the same time. What it means to be black is presented as largely a reaction to the expectations and strictures of white society, while what it means to be white is also inextricably linked with how blackness is viewed from the other side of the racial gulf, as well as how it views itself. There’s a longing to express a need for understanding here, a desire to teach and inform without resorting to lecturing, a kind of understated plea not to see the world as another sees it, but to feel it as they feel it. White readers especially should be prepared to be shifted well outside their comfort zones and to confront the realities of lives and voices too often marginalized, if not ignored entirely. This is striking, transformative work that will probably rank among the best releases of the year when all is said and done. The book retails for $22.95 and is worth every penny and then some.

I’ve sung the praises of Ed Piskor’s monumental re-telling of Marvel Mutant history in this column already, but to see the first two issues of his opus presented in glorious oversized format in X-Men : Grand Design Volume One really is downright breathtaking — and there’s a bit of irony here, as well, given that the packaging for this book mimics that of Piskor’s giant Hip Hop Family Tree tomes — which were, in turn, based on the “Marvel Treasury Edition” comics of the 1970s. In any case, I’ve learned one valuable lesson from all this — I’m not going to be buying the four remaining issues of this series in “singles,” and will instead wait for the two subsequent “treasury” collections, as this is undoubtedly the way this work was meant to be seen. Absolutely fucking glorious. Yeah, the $29.99 price tag is steep, but come on — five minutes on the internet and you know you can find it for a good deal less than that .

Back in the land of $3.99 “floppies” we’ve got Isola #1, co-written by Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl, illustrated by Kerschl, and published by Image Comics. High-concept fantasy isn’t usually my bag, I’ll be the first to admit it, but this one grabbed me right out of the gate with its breathtaking art, fluid action, and absolutely lavish coloring courtesy of Msassyk, a name I admit is new to me. The story seems relatively straightforward — a female soldier named Captain Rook, apparently suffering from the effects of some spell, potion, or drug, is escorting a tiger queen named Olwyn to parts unknown for reasons unknown. There’s a lot of what’s generally termed “world-building” to be done here, but Fletcher and Kerschl are wisely choosing to let the stunning visuals do that — dialogue is sparse, caption boxes non-existent. They throw you in at the deep end and trust in the strength of their storytelling ability to entice, rather than overwhelm, readers. The result? Supremely confident comic-booking that is cinematic, thrilling, and captivating from first page to last. This one has “unfolding epic” written all over it.

Goddamn — three books, three winners! But didn’t I say that this week’s offerings “ranged in quality from the sublime to the dire” ? Time for the “dire” part —

Xerxes : The Fall Of The House Of Darius And The Rise Of Alexander #1 is an absolute mess in every respect, and Dark Horse editorial should have done the merciful thing and simply rejected this 300 sequel/tie-in upon delivery. Seriously, you’re better off just burning a five dollar bill than spending it on this garbage. It’s tempting to have no sympathy for Frank Miller given his extreme asshole-ism, but I take no pleasure at all in slagging off his efforts simply because he’s clearly in very poor health and has been for some time —and trust me when I say it shows here. Miller’s figure drawing is sloppy to the point of farce, his compositions make no sense, backgrounds are virtually non-existent, and his use of space haphazard and ill-considered. I was hardly a fan of 300 for any number of reasons, among them its extreme homophobia (which also rears its ugly head here) and romanticized bloodshed, but damn : at least it was exciting to look at. This comic, by contrast, is dull and lifeless at its best moments, downright embarrassing at its worst. The absence of Lynn Varley is felt on every page, it’s true, but let’s not kid ourselves : even she couldn’t save this thing. A flat and uninvolving script doesn’t help matters any, either, it must be said, but that’s the least of the book’s problems — this is just atrocious, ugly, even cringe-worthy stuff to look at. And the saddest part? Given his current physical condition, it’s not hard to imagine that Miller probably worked a lot harder at this than he has on other projects.

Seriously, publishing this is an inherently un-dignified act, and out of respect for what Miller used to mean to comics, the next four issues should just be cancelled. I may not care for the man’s retrograde politics and malignant prejudices, but he certainly doesn’t deserve to go out this way, suffering and straining to produce work that literally has no chance of even being marginally passable. If anyone from Mike Richardson’s company is reading this, I implore you to do the right thing and nip this in the bud.

And on that note — let’s call this column a wrap. I haven’t even looked at next week’s solicits yet, let alone my digital preview “copies” from various publishers, so I have no idea what’s coming out — but chances are we won’t have anything like the yin/yang polarities of this week. Join me back here and seven days and we’ll see how right, or wrong, that prediction turns out to be.