Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tales From the Dollar Bin: U.S. War Machine 2.0 #3

There are comics which are worth incredible sums of money, but so many of the most interesting, tragic, or just downright weird can be found for a simple dollar or less in a  store's "dollar bin". There, comics that never gained much popularity can be found alongside those that sold so much as for a copy to be worthless. "Tales From the Dollar Bin" aims to explore these comics, be they a single issue or an entire run of a series. From the great to the miserable, some of the best treasures and worst nightmares can be found in those infamous boxes. Let's have a "tale" now...

The Worst Possible Thing A Marvel "Max" Comic Could Produce

Chuck Austen is a writer whom many people hate. Not dislike, but hate, with passion. Considered to have ruined almost any comic he touched, I actually have to defend him on one title, "U.S. War Machine". Putting aside how you aren't supposed to put periods in the abbreviation for "U.S.", it wasn't a horrible comic. It was a black-and-white title put out from Marvel under their "Max" line, which allowed them to throw in swearing, extra-gory violence, and a bit of nudity, but also deal with other truly "adult" topics such as racism and the military-industrial complex. It lasted twelve issues (which were collected in a trade) and ended with a bit of a cliff-hanger. It honestly wasn't bad and I really enjoyed it. That makes it all the more sad how the sequel, "U.S. War Machine 2.0" and this third and final issue of it, happens to be one of the worst comics you will ever find from a big-name publisher.

If you gave a high-school student with a weak grasp of story-telling and terrible image-making software the chance to put out a comic this could very well be the result. What's wrong? I'll tell you some ways. The plot makes little-to-no sense with characters randomly showing up. There are swear words thrown in to make everything feel "mature". Wretched dialogue is the order of the day that is supposed to be deep or edgy, but comes off as ham-fisted--"There is no reasoning, Tony. These people have a nuclear weapon in the middle of downtown London for one reason and one reason only, to kill millions of people. And our job is to stop them, by any means necessary." Also, a random bad guy inexplicably gives a hint where a nuclear bomb is in his final words for no apparent reason other than to move the story forward, and the art, oh God the art is just utterly terrible.

Just a Mess
Iron Man shows up with musings that are about as deep as kiddie-pool.
Clearly I could go on forever about the abomination that is this comic. That Marvel even put something like this out and considered it a product of enough quality to slap a $2.99 on the cover is mind-boggling. Honestly, sometimes you will find buried treasures in a dollar bin, but this 3rd and final issue of the 2nd "U.S. War Machine" story is just wretched and one of the worst possible things a Marvel "Max" comic could be--shallow and relying on nothing more than being an immature "mature" comic that can get away with swearing and extreme violence. Then again, the art is so bad you can't even always tell what the violence is. I think a man gets impaled on a spike at some point, and another person gets their head blown off (to list a couple examples), but really, if you can figure out this gruesome computer-generated art you are a smarter person than me.

I didn't scan this improperly, that weird water/steam/oil/whatever is there for no apparent reason.

This 2nd volume of "U.S. War Machine" basically took whatever goodwill the 12 issues in the first series built up and burned it to the ground in the span of a measly three miserable comics. They represent a dark piece of history that folk would maybe rather forget, a time when Chuck Austen was able to get work and put out a steaming pile of awful that masquerades as this excuse for a comic. I am rare in that I actually liked his first "U.S. War Machine", but this "2.0" is just horrific. Then again for every good comic you find in that infamous place where all comics just cost 100 pennies there are plenty of horrors lurking--I just didn't know that I would stumble upon one of the worst nightmares you could ever find. Then again, that's the risk you take every time you embark on a....tale from the dollar bin!


  1. The guy who did the CGI "art" for these comics (Christian Moore) owns a barbershop in Chicago now. He mentions on his website that his artwork has appeared in Marvel comics, which led me to this page (which pretty much confirms what I saw in the cover image).

    I'm very curious who OKed using bad 3D illustration in a Marvel imprint. Even for 2003 standards this is pretty bad.

    1. Most likely the person who OK'd this was Bill Jemas the "mind" behind one of the worst comics ever MARVILLE