Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Rant-Reviews: Graphic Sex and Extreme Violence AKA Stereotypical "Comics Aren't Just For Kids Anymore" Headline

Can we make a law banning sound effects in headlines?
Every year, multiple times throughout the year we get newspapers, magazines, websites, etc. doing stories about how, "Comic-books aren't just for kids anymore!" Those headlines also will sometimes put a sound-effect that hasn't appeared within a comic for decades in the title too, a, "Zap, Pow!" or such. It is annoying as comic books have never just been for kids, whether in the era of underground titles when the Comic Code was in full effect, or up to today where comics will often deal with adult themes, such as relationships, jobs, and of course graphic sex and super-bloody violence. These titles help to illustrate how comics, sigh, "Aren't just for kids nowadays!"

Grown-Up Matters
Zero #14
This was of course one of my favorite comics of 2014, and it continues to impress. This issue, much like the previous one, is mostly just a long and bloody fight scene. I think the writer, Ales Kot, isn't trying to be grotesque just for the sake of bloodshed, however, but is instead  trying to make a point--after all, our protagonist Edward Zero remarks how neither men, "Are alive," basically pointing out they have lived in nothing but pointless violence all their lives. Also, this issue brings us to the point where it becomes more evident how the horrible fungus-virus we've seen glimpses of escapes into the world, so that's neat too.
4 out of 5 stars.

The Black Hood #1
As many have been eager to point out, this is a very mature-readers type comic coming from the same people who put out the all-ages Archie books (so yeah, lots of swearing). The thing is, it feels like a natural growth for a brand that has over the past years become more relevant in terms of politics and social issues along with the general tone of story-telling ("Afterlife with Archie" is clearly not for the kids). That's why I'm not too shocked that the company behind Archie feels comfortable getting a solid crime-writer such as Duane Swierzynski and a good artist in the form of Michael Gaydos to bring us a gritty super-hero comic.

In terms of if this is actually a good book, it may be too soon to say. This issue really just establishes our main character, his conflicts, and what results in him becoming a new Black Hood, with the issue literally ending right as he finally steps into action for the first time with his new plan. Given a few more issues it will become more apparent if this comic is a keeper or something to pass on. For now though, its a solid first issue.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Southern Bastards #7
Here is a comic that is surely, "adult," but not simply because of its language and violence, as opposed to the complex and mature themes it tackles. From a mixture of pride and pain the South has in its history, to complexities of race (and class) relations, "Southern Bastards," has a title you may giggle at, but contains some quite grown-up attributes. This arc continues showing us just how Coach Boss came to be the powerful man he is (turns out things weren't always that great for him), as always builds tension for when the daughter of Earl Tubbs (killed by the Coach in issue #4) has her inevitable confrontation with our villain--who may be a bad guy but as these latest issues have shown faced his share of problems that resulted in him turning into the kind of person he is now. The great writing of Jason Aaron and moody artwork of Jason Latour result in this just being a fantastic title.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sex #20
My weirdest comic of 2014 continues to both fascinate and frustrate. I really enjoyed this issue as it has a focus on the character I find most fascinating--our former-hero Simon Cooke--and his awkward date with Annabelle, a former foe from his days as the Armored Saint when she was a cat burglar (you probably see some hero-analogues already). I honestly did expect that the comic would go this far without either putting Simon back in costume or giving us a clear view of what the Armored Saint at least looked like, and that is actually kind of cool. Writer Joe Casey has been slowly building up the tensions in this series between all the mobsters and villains, while also putting pressure on Cooke and his former assistants/sidekicks, kind of like--to use a sex metaphor--leading us up to what I hope will be an orgasmic release when Cooke does in fact become the Armored Saint again, or even more interestingly decides to not put the costume on, but attempt to solve all the city's troubles some other way.

As I said, it is all fascinating, but the frustrating part is probably how with such a large cast the pace can feel a bit uneven, with some characters finding their stories advancing dramatically at points and then feeling ignored for months. This is the kind of comic that I almost think might read better when eventually collected in a massive trade that could allow someone to read it all in one sitting of pure mind-bending madness and pleasure. For now though, this is a really amazing comic that keeps me continually eager for the next issue.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Now I Feel Old
As these titles help show through their use of violence, sex, and actual "mature" matters, comics are for grown-ups too, with it actually being the case that the comic-book industry is hoping to draw more kids in as currently readers tend to be older. That fact is lost on much of the "regular" media however, so I shall simply end this article as they do, with something pithy like, "As you've seen, all kinds of ages can enjoy the funny-books coming out now!"

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