Buddy Cops: The Greatest Comic to Ever Quote A U-God Lyric

I don’t listen to a lot of rap. But I love–LOVE–Enter the Wu-Tang Clan: 36 Chambers. It’s one of the best, most well-constructed, lean albums I’ve ever heard in any genre. It’s raw, and angry, and yet doesn’t take itself all that seriously (listen to the “Torture Intro” of M.E.T.H.O.D. Man, you can hear Raekwon cracking up in the background). When I bought 36 Chambers, I must’ve listened to it about a dozen times, much to the annoyance of my roommates (I am perpetually 18 to 20 years late on all of my pop-culture purchases).

So when I opened Buddy Cops by Nate Cosby and Evan Shaner and saw this…

I knew I was in for a treat.

I picked up a copy of Buddy Cops because…well, for a number of reasons. The team was a draw–I’ve been loving “Doc” Shaner’s art ever since he started getting featured on Comics Alliance. Nate Cosby has been a favorite since the short-lived Thor: The Mighty Avenger got pulled from shelves, and I’ve followed him to Pigs and Cowboy. Then, the solicitation text, which promised an alcoholic space cop and a straight laced robot that–wait for it–TEAM UP TO FIGHT CRIME, pushed me into dropping the $2.99. And I’m thrilled I did.

I don’t really want to do a full review of this book. I can only talk about how funny it is so much. What I will mention is the fact that this is one of those rare titles–up there with Doctor McNinja–that has figured out how to make legitimately interesting action sequences funny. BC is a hilarious book, but if you took every joke out, the set pieces would still work. I mean, sure, it’s hard to screw up a gorilla with a nuclear slingshot–but after this long reading comics, I know that there’re writer’s who’d step up to the challenge. Cosby, Shaner, and letterist Rus Wooton should be congratulated for creating a comic that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Atomic Robo and Ian Brill’s sadly-cancelled Darkwing Duck.

As for that U-God line…

I can die, if not happy, a little happier knowing that this panel exists.

That’s all the time I have for today Sleepwalkers, but a note for later: Ghostface Killah has a comic book coming out. Will I be reviewing it? Well, let me put it this way–is the Wu-Tang Clan anything to fuck with?

Support good comics. Buy Buddy Cops.

BROTHER POWER THE GEEK

Every now and then, you stumble across a comic that doesn’t just impress you, it impresses itself–that is, it leaves an imprint on your brain, making you lean back and say “whoah.” It happened to me with some of the early Superman books. Alan Moore can do it with pretty much anything he writes (looking at you, Miracleman), and Morrison did it with Seven Soldiers and Kill Your Boyfriend. There are others, but I want to be brief, because every word I say takes away from my new favorite comic hero:

BROTHER POWER THE GEEK.

Read that name again. And again. Now read it out loud. Has a weird sound, right? It’s like it’s on a different vibrational frequency as the rest of us. I doesn’t sound quite right, like it’s a bad transliteration. But it’s not–it’s the name of a two-issue series published by DC in 1968. Written by Joe Simon (of Captain America fame), it’s a bizarre mash-up of Frankenstein and the hippie subculture. But you don’t want to hear the Wikipedia article (it’s right here, though. You know, if you want to read it). No, you want to read the first issue. And that’s to ugh!, you can.

Click here for the entire first issue of Brother Power the Geek! Don’t ask, just read indeed.

Did you read it? Holy crap, right? Makes your brain buzz with the sheer vitality of it. I wish half the comics DC put out were half as good as this. Dial H is the only thing on the shelf trying for this level of weird, and China Mieville’s too busy tripping over himself trying to make Canada a believable threat to really deliver what we need.

This is what I want to write.

Sorry, Pulp Fans–Masks Is Not the Crossover Event You Need

I don't like to write about bad comics. My well-publicized and ongoing feud with Jeff Lemire notwithstanding, I would rather focus on the positives of the industry. There's already enough wrong with comics without me making fun of people—writing and drawing and inking and editing a monthly book is really hard work, and the last thing I want to do is diminish the effort of some tremendously talented people. And really, there's the fact that the internet is already saturated by hyenas trying to be Chris Sims or Yahtzee. I don't want to add my voice to the din.

That said, Dynamite's massive pulp hero crossover Masks is terrible.

I was going to say that things started out well enough, but to be honest, the only time anything was going right with this book was when I read the solicits. At the time, it seemed like a sure winner. I loved Ennis' run on The Shadow and still enjoy David Liss' take on The Spider, so seeing those two characters team up with Green Hornet and Zorro seemed like a good idea, or at least an entertaining one. And Alex Ross was going to be providing fully painted interiors, so it would be pretty to look at. Dynamite released some preview art, and all seemed well.

I was going to make a "the mobster's sternum is down" joke, but then I figured somebody'd sign a petition to kick me off of my blog.

I first got a twinge of doubt when I read some of the overly-stilted dialogue in the first issue. Panels like this…

"Oh, sure Britt-san. What, I don't get a name anymore?"

Made me stop and scratch my head. It's just a nitpicky thing, saying "law" twice in the same sentence. That's a minor thing that's bothered me since…well, always I guess, but definitely college. This is more troubling:

"...then lawyers must be RICH!"

I tell you, I still haven't figured that one out. I mean, I think Roberson is trying to set up a philosophical debate? Maybe? But I think everyone would agree that if the law is unjust, you don't stay on that side of the law. Unless you're unjust. Then you're fine, I guess.

More minor problems like that bogged down the second issue. For example, the New York Bureau of Investigation (the Stormtroopers in this little Star War) have bulletproof armor. That's fine.

It was at this point I decided that Dynamite had decided to screw with people who used nice, neat panels for their blog posts.

But apparently bulletproof doesn't mean kickproof?

Gah! Watch where you're pointing that face, Cranston!

Look, I've never been shot. Never want to be. But I've heard that getting shot, even in body armor, sucks. Body armor dissipates the force of the bullet over a wider area so it doesn't cause as much trauma—this means that you're going to get massive bruises, even broken ribs (obviously better than a bullet to the liver, but still, you're on your ass for a second). That's not science fiction, that's how bulletproof vests work. Now, I read comics. I accept Iron Man. I know that super body armor is a thing in these books. I accept that you can wear a vest that will just deflect the round without dissipating the energy. That's fine. What I don't accept is that that same vest will not stand up to a good pistol whipping.

"Ugh, here, let me do it. See, it's in the wrist. That's how you get the good 'KTHUNK' out of it."

You'll note that those last two pictures were not painted by Alex Ross. This isn't meant to be a crack on Dynamite or Calero—schedules change, you've got to find somebody who can do the job. It's just a good metaphor for the quality of the book, I think.

There are plenty of other things I could address, like why Tony Quinn attacks armed men with a car battery (the answer is, of course, so battery acid could be splashed into his face. I guess there would've been less clumsy ways to do write a guy getting blinded, but I'd have to think about it)…

Guess those helmets aren't car-battery-proof either.

Or why he has to remind the reader that, don't forget, he's blind, three times in three pages (twice on one page):

"Will you get the door for me, Rafael? I'm blind, you kn--" "Oh, shut up, I get it."

Or how some of these faces makes Rags Morales look like a da Vinci…

Gah.

GAH!

Or seriously, how bad some of this dialogue is…

"Just like you 'allowed' yourself to 'lose' your wallet on our last date?"

But what I want to talk about most is the evil scheme. So bear with me on this, Sleepwalkers. The big, overarching plot of Masks is that crooked politicians have hooked up with gangsters to create the Justice Party, which is a big Fascist/Orwellian/Nazi/It Can't Happen Here-kinda bunch. Lots of jackbooted thugs, lots of fat cats smoking cigars, pretty standard. They've outlawed vigilantes (seems like that sort of thing might have been a holdover from the previous administration, but there you go), they're rounding up vagrants, it's a bad time. You can probably get the vibe. Now, I ask you Sleepwalkers: if you were in charge of this new Justice Party, and you totally controlled New York City, and you had an army of armed enforcers out, well, enforcing, what would you do?

Would you A) slowly tighten your grip on the population using a series of increasingly strict taxes and regulations while at the same time weeding out opposition by maintaining political support through propaganda and psychological warfare or B) openly steal money from every strata of the population in broad daylight and ship them to concentration camps if they don't have enough cash on them?

If you answered A, you're smarter than the Justice Party. Seriously, these are the most short-sighted bad guys I've seen since Batman fought Nearsighted Man (that fight didn't last long). The only thing the JP does "right" is the propaganda—but who the hell is listening to it? They've created dissidents among everybody in the city. They're robbing everyone. That's not an effective business model.

I'll be real—I don't have any sort of political science degree. I was an English major. But, like most people my age, I've thought about how I would take over the world. Let me rap atcha for a few minutes.

Justice Party, you may be made up entirely of criminals, but even criminals know that if you have a goose that lays golden eggs, you don't kill the goose. You've got an entire city at your disposal. That's millions of dollars (at least in pulp-hero days). Now, how does a city get its income? Through taxes, right. This…

"First person to say 'Occupy' gets a billy club to the septum."

…is not a tax. This is a protection racket. And the only thing you're doing is ensuring that these very wealthy people—the people who would pay taxes for years—are not paying those taxes. And on top of that, by openly targeting the people who most likely voted for you, you're creating dissidents among your core of loyal followers.

And by tightening up "vagrancy" statutes, all they've done is ensure that there isn't a scapegoat on the streets. I'm a barista, guys. I'm the bottom of the ladder. You need the bottom of the ladder to get to the top. Without the janitors, and the cab drivers, and the fruit stand operators, and the guys who throw fish at the fish market, the rest of the city grinds to a halt (you might recall this being a plot point in The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy), and with it, the jobs that let those rich people pay taxes.

You could come back with, "Well, once they're in jail, the Justice Party can just seize their assets all at once," but that comes back to killing the goose. If you seize everybody's property and money, they're out of the game, which means they can't keep paying you. Remember, they voted for you. They would pay their taxes. But if you chuck them in the hoosegow and confiscate everything they own, that's one less check you're going to get in April. You could keep this going indefinitely, but instead you go for the short term.

Which makes me ask—who's this for? I mean, in the Justice Party. Who benefits? The fat cats and the mobsters, sure. But what about the jackbooted thugs? I mean, it's not like there's some sort of ideology the Justice Party's promoting (aside from the boilerplate "Get tough on crime" line that you get at Fascists-R-Us). How are they recruiting their jackbooted thugs? Did they get them in the mail?

Of course, it turns out in issue three that there is something going on, and that something is concentration camps. Which, of course, does nothing to address any of the concerns about the most short-term planners in the history of pulp comics.

Masks is not very good, which is a shame, because it's at the crest of the pulp renaissance. Spider, Shadow, and soon Green Hornet and Miss Fury at Dynamite, and Black Beetle over at Dark Horse all show that there is no time better than right now to be publishing pulp heroes. Unfortunately, Masks is not the way to do it.

Requim for I, Vampire/Wish List: Joshua Hale Fialkov Edition

Hey, Sleepwalkers. Been a while, etc. Hope you’ve been enjoying my articles on Man Cave Daily. If you haven’t been reading them, you can go ahead. It shouldn’t take you too long.

Instead of another installment of “DC’s [MONTH] Solicits: Decoded!”, I thought it might be better to shine a spotlight on one of the two titles we’re losing in April: Joshua Hale Fialkov’s I, Vampire.

To be fair, we’re losing another title, DC Universe: Presents, but as much as I hate to say it, aside from the opening story by Paul Jenkins, it hasn’t really been worth it. That Deadman story was pretty great, though.

Anyway, I, Vampire is out, and that’s a shame. It was often surprisingly funny, always unsurprisingly brutal, and full of little twists, turns, and character moments that made reading it a treat month in and month out. I can even point to the exact moment I went from “This is pretty good” to “This is a must-read.” It was right here:

I, Vampire 002

It was something as simple as those little identifying captions, something as irreverent as “Vampiric Horde: Murdery Jerks,” that made me realize this wasn’t something as simple as a horror comic. It was a horror comic that was bothering to take the time to build characters, establish a certain tone, and that tone was this:

I, Vampire 003

It’s that kind of casual acceptance of the existence of vampires that I like. Fialkov isn’t wasting a single panel trying to justify that vampires are real. Everybody takes it as a given, and we can move on to great little moments like the one above.

I guess that was the problem with I, Vampire: you can have Batman guest-star, you can have Apollo and Midnighter guest-star, you can have big vampire vs. zombie mummy fights–but what makes the book isn’t the big moments, it’s the small ones. And I guess small moments don’t carry a book, even a book as beautiful as I, Vampire. Seriously, Andrea Sorrentino and Marcelo Maiolo knocked it out of the park each and every month. Just look at pages like this:

I, Vampire 004

Seriously. Dude can make a Super Soaker look intimidating.

But, the numbers simply weren’t there. I mean, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. got canned, and it was selling higher than I, Vampire. The only books selling lower were Blue Beetle (cancelled with Frankenstein), DC Universe Presents (cancelled with I, Vampire), and Grifter (cancelled with Frankenstein). It’s all money, guys, and DC has a responsibility to their bottom line. I don’t blame them for culling titles that aren’t performing, even if they were this good.

So, Rest In Peace, I, Vampire. Hope the crew gets to go on to bigger and better things. Sorrentino’s already pegged to move to Green Arrow, which sounds intriguing. As for Fialkov, he got 19 issues to play around with, which is more than a lot of guys can say. As to what he should do next…

Wish List: Joshua Hale Fialkov Edition

There are only a handful of books I want to see Fialkov on (on which I want to see Fialkov?). They all play to his affinity for the shadowy corners of the DC Universe, his ability to merge the mundane with the fantastic, and his wry humor. In no particular order:

1. The Question

Okay, so the Question got turned into a crazy mouthless magic dude by the Circle of Eternity. I don’t care. You hear me? I don’t care. I don’t care if he’s magic. I don’t care if he’s immortal. I don’t care if he’s actually a lesbian cop, or if he’s the zen warrior from the O’Neil days, or if he’s the crazy tripped out shaman from the Vietch mini.

Superman Question

This one.

Because whatever Question it is, Fialkov would nail it, no question (pun not intended). He’s demonstrated an ability to weave magic, ritual, and history into his stories, which would come in handy for the DCNü version or the Veitch version of the Question. Even when he was dealing with superpowered vampire sorcerers, his fights had a grittiness and groundedness to them. Some of that was doubtless helped by Sorrentino (and guys, can you imagine Sorrentino on the Question?), but I think Fialkov could apply it to both Renee Montoya and Denny O’Neil’s Vic Sage. Most importantly, he has the kind of tongue-in-cheek charm that always set Denny O’Neil’s Question apart from, say Batman. So, yeah. Fialkov on The Question definitely makes the Wish List.

2. Justice League Dark

As I’ve stated previously, I really want to like JLD. I don’t need to go into too much detail here, save to say that Fialkov would be perfect for this title for the same reasons mentioned above. Plus, he’d be a temporary countermeasure while we find a way to stop Jeff Lemire from getting his tentacles all over the “Dark” family.

3. Spoiler

Okay Sleepwalkers, I’ll level with you: this post was primarily an excuse for me to talk about how much I want Joshua Hale Fialkov to write The Question and Spoiler. He’d knock it out of the park, guys, come on! If he could make Tig such a great character in the pages of I, Vampire, imagine what he could do to a young woman if she was the focus of the book! Imagine what he could do if he got to be more lighthearted, what he could do with his sense of humor without any fetters!

Guys:

Stephanie_Brown_as_Batgirl

If we can’t get Bryan Q. Miller on her, let’s get another triple-A triple name! Who’s with me? Anyone?

Sigh.

Until next time, Sleepwalkers.

Elsewhere on the Web: 1/10/13

Hey Sleepwalkers. Got something else for you. It’s an article I wrote for Man Cave Daily about all of the survival items I carry on a day-to-day basis.

Read it right here!

Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair: Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt is Way Better Than I Thought

Let's go ahead and get this out of the way. I know all of you are very busy, so I don't want to waste any of your time. So here goes: Dynamite's Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt has exceeded all of my expectations.

There. You can go now.

For the rest of you, I'll give a little background. I picked up the first issue of PCT based pretty much exclusively on two factors: the beautiful Jae Lee cover and the legacy of the character as Ozymandias in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen. I thought it'd be interesting, and worth reading, but I didn't expect much. In fact, I was pretty confident I would read the first few issues then drop it, never to think about it again. The creative team didn't help; I had never heard of writer Steve Darnall or illustrator Jonathan Lau, and I didn't have a lot of confidence in co-writer Alex Ross' ability to do anything other than provide gorgeous painted covers.

But here's the thing. I read the first issue, and it was pretty good. I mean, it didn't blow me away or anything, but it hooked me. In a lot of ways, it was more like Watchmen than DC's recent prequel attempts. The parallels between Peter Cannon and Ozymandias are both obvious and inevitable—Peter Cannon is a massive celebrity, with a line of self-help books and dojos, but he also seeks to save the world, whether they want it or not—but more interesting is the connection between Cannon and Watchmen's Dr. Manhattan.

In the same way that Dr. Manhattan's limitless power fundamentally changed the political landscape of the world, the appearance of Peter Cannon's dragon (dude can summon a dragon, it's super cool. Also, he uses it to stop nuclear testing) throws the military-industrial complex in disarray. Peter Cannon is now a power over the militaries and governments of the world, only they don't know it.

So yeah, I thought it was a pretty unique look at the effect superheroes would have on "the real world." I mean, people have been trying to write that story for years, with varying degrees of success. While books like Ex Machina and Miracleman (or Marvelman, whatever) are standing in the middle of the party, surrounded by admirers, Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt has quietly entered the room from a side door and is eating Bagel Bites in a corner by himself.

That metaphor sort of got away from me there, sorry.

The point is, PTC is dealing with some pretty intriguing elements, but that's not all. It actually holds together pretty well. The art isn't spectacular, but it's serviceable, with Lau's sketchy lines suggesting momentum and speed during the well-choreographed fight scenes. Darnall and Ross have brought their A-games as well, weaving overarching plots in and out of smaller ones. Right now, they've achieved what so many other writers have failed to do, and that's made me curious. I really want to know what's up with Tabu. I want to know what kind of super-soldiers General Petrel has up his sleeves. And most importantly, I want to know if Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt can keep impressing me now that I've come to expect greatness.

That’s all the time we have for today, Sleepwalkers. Keep tuning in–maybe someday I’ll write something else!

The Complete History of the All-Seeing Eye: The Journal of Kellan Harvester, Entry Five

Earl' Summer, Se'enday, 1341 (Later)

I am finding it harder and harder to believe that Arkan and Wynellia are musicians like they claim.

The way they moved today…I guess I hadn't really thought about how real those guns and blades on their belts were, or how well Arkan and Wynellia knew how to use them. And Kent, that sword of his, but that's hardly a surprise to find out that a soldier for the Dragon knows how to fight. Not surprising like Torrent. I still can't believe what she could do. I've seen mancers before, of course. The sisters didn't like it, but we would teach each other cantrips and pretend we knew how to hex each other. I've never seen someone who really knows what they're doing, aside from street performers, and what they do isn't real anyway.

I'm sorry, I'm all over the place again. It's just that it's like the first night all over again. I can't breathe, I can't sleep, and I feel like any second the Regesians are going to come bursting out of the woods to kill us all.

I've been bombed, shot at, forced out of my home, and been made a refugee. I've watched men, women, and children butchered in the streets. But this is first time I really felt like I'm in over my head.

Let me back up.

When I last left off, I had just left the tavern with Wynellia, Sir Kent, Torrent, Brother Xiao, and Arkan. Torrent had her documents, Kent had his sword, Arkan had his guitar, Wynellia had her axe, and Xiao had his prayer beads. I had nothing.

It won't do me a whole lot of good to describe how we got from the tavern to the south side of the city, where the big gates are. By then, most of the fighting had moved to the north side of the city, so it was actually kind of quiet. The airships were still overhead, so we had to stay under cover, and every few minutes a firebomb would go off a few blocks away, but other than that, you almost wouldn't know our home had been invaded.

I mean, you'd have to ignore the rubble and carnage, but still.

I wasn't sure where we were going—I mean, I knew we were trying to get to the gates, I had overheard that much—and every time I tried to ask, somebody would shut me up. Xiao and Wynellia were nice about it, but the rest just hissed at me.
We were almost to the gates, maybe about a block away, when we ran into the rider.

The thing was even bigger on the ground, black and bat-winged and drooling, sitting in the middle of the ruins of a bombed-out house. It was still in its bridle, and there was a Regesian tying down an anchor cord. Arkan was in the lead, and when he turned the corner and saw the rider, he put up a hand for us to stop, but it was too late. The thing had our scent, and it turned towards us, snuffling with its dripping dog snout. We all froze, us and the Regesian, as we waited to see what the creature would do.

It screamed.

Everything happened at once. The Regesian started to pull his short blade from its sheath. Arkan drew his pistols. Wynellia and Sir Kent charged, covering the fifty feet in less than six seconds. Xiao turned and grabbed my arm, pulling me down behind a piece of fallen masonry. Torrent didn’t move.

At least, it didn’t look like she was moving. I looked closer, and I could see that she was quivering, her hands clenched into fists, her nails digging so hard into her palms that blood was dripping from her hands. Her lips were moving, like she was praying, but of course I couldn’t hear what she was saying.

The beast leaped forward, but it was still tied, so it came up short, struggling against its bridle. Bullworth and Wynellia were on it then, hacking and slashing at its legs, its wings, anything. Bullworth was like a man made of iron, shrugging the thing’s bites off of his armor. Wynellia dodged under and around, slicing at its underbelly.

Arkan aimed carefully with his pistols, and fired two shots. There were two sharp cracks that were loud enough to cause my ears to ring, even with the damage that shell had done the day before. I saw blood blossom on the Regesian’s tunic, and he stumbled forward, the sword tumbling from his hands. He hit the ground, face first, and didn’t move.

Wynellia and Bullworth had gotten the black thing back up into the only standing corner of the house. Things looked good, so of course that’s when everything went wrong. A pair of Regesians appeared from behind the house, jumping at Wynellia and Bullworth and forcing them backwards. They were the rest of the thing’s crew, of course, but we had no way of knowing that then. We might have been more careful if we knew those creatures could carry three.

Arkan aimed and fired again, but he missed. One of the Regesians threw a handful of soot at Bullworth’s face, catching him in the eyes. The big knight stumbled and tripped over the charred remains of a stool. He was barely able to get his sword up in time to catch the Regesian’s thrust, and he shouted, desperately, “Torrent!”

That’s when everything exploded.

I heard a rumbling, and at first I thought there were more shells incoming, but then I realized it was coming from under our feet. We all froze, even the Regesians and the monster, as tremors shook the ruins on the street. Then a geyser of water erupted from under the floor of the house, tearing a hole in the floor and ripping through what remained of the ceiling. The Regesians were caught in the deluge, thrown backwards by its force. Wynellia grabbed Bullworth and helped him to his feet, and the two of them started to run.

I could see the Regesians gathering themselves through the mist. Then there was a creak, and the house, already weakened by the firebombs of the night before, collapsed onto its ruined foundations. Their screams were silenced quickly–not even the most savage Northman can survive good Gate’s Pass architecture.

We all sat there for a few moments, stunned. I think we were all looking at Torrent. I know I was.

The rest of it is still a blur: making it to the gate, Torrent showing the guard something from the document case, the gate opening, all of us tumbling onto the path towards the Stone Forest, towards the coast, and away from my home.

 

 

 

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