Comics Catchup: Caballistics, Egypt, Extremist, Johnny Double, Penguin, Strontium Dog, Zenith

Here’s a catchup review for most the comics I’ve read over the past couple of months.  As you can see there’s quite a lot to get through and I’m starting to see the benefit of doing a weekly podcast… once I get the bottle for it…

Caballistics Inc.
This is an 2000AD serial beginning in 2004 by Gordon Rennie and Dom Reardon.  It’s a gritty, bloody, horror strip about a team of supernatural entity busting operatives.  A sort of a UK version of Ghost Busters, if it had been directed by Quentin Tarantino.  It’s stark black and white art seems well suited to this comic.  Good, witty dialogue, great action and paranoid labyrinthine plots wrapped in particularly Brit flavoured greasy chip paper make it a very enjoyable read so I’m awarding this one five out of a possible five chainsaws.

To surmise- modern day Brit waster finds himself reincarnated in the body of an ancient Egyptian.  Unfortunately I’ve been struggling a bit with this one, mainly because I can’t seem to give a fig about the fate of the protagonist Vincent.  Nice artwork and colour, but not up to the usual Peter Milligan of Hellblazer fame.  One chainsaw only.

The Extremist
Another Milligan comic where I have a hard time sympathising with the protagonist, but strangely compelling anyway.  The story is about a woman taking on the mantle of her late husband’s alter-ego.  Ordinarily, this is a fairly common feature of comics, but this time the “hero” is a gimp suited enforcer for a secretive fetish club.  It could have been much better given the odd slant, but originality doesn’t always equal entertainment.  Still, I’m giving it an average two chainsaws and a latex mask.

Johnny Double
Here’s an old DC character given a spruce-up.  Jonny Double is a hep-cat, aging beatnik PI, tangled up in a minor crime caper with a bunch of hipster wannabee crim n00bs.  In best hard-bitten gum shoe fashion, he gets drawn in by a girl.  Not bad, but also not one I’d go back to, even though it’s hard not to like Double; he’s still a bit of a loser.  And he doesn’t even play the bongos.  Again, an average two and a half chainsaws.

Penguin: Pain and Predjudice
Gregg Hurwitz and Szymon Kudranski take on demented crime-lord and brolly aficionado Oswald Cobblepot.  I do like the penguin, he’s short and a bit tubby, but he’s also a vicious gangster.  We see just how nasty he can get with a murderous origin story.  We also see how he deals with the smallest of slights.  His character brings to mind the documentary film about mafia hit man Richard Kuklinski (AKA the Ice Man) .  In the midst of the slaughter, there are little touches of genuine humour.  For instance, where Penguin and his goons keep entering the wrong back-room of his club where a variety of people are in the midst of doing something embarrassing.  Sounds good?  Well, for some reason, the creators seemed to have based the penguin, to some extent, on Danny Devito’s portrayal in the Tim Burton film.  Not only in terms of ridiculous physique either, but also with the mondo-stupido plot of radio control avian missiles programmed to take out children.  Duhhh.  What could have been five well lubricated McCulloch chainsaws, gets reduced to a rusty pair of hedge-trimmers.

Strontium Dog
Zoomed through the whole series largely by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra.  I think I can speak with some authority about Strontium Dog, because I have followed this strip right from the very beginning of it’s pre-2000AD days in brilliant Brit publication Starlord, before it was swallowed up by the millennial mauler.  If you don’t already know, it’s the story of oppressed earth mutants relegated to the dirty work of off-world bounty-hunting by a racist government.  Although the protagonists change throughout the series, the main characters are Johnny Alpha with x-ray vision, Midden-Face McNulty who happens to have no powers, but does have a really knobbly head, a drinking problem and an incredibly diehard dose of Glaswegian hard-man-ness.  There’s also Feral Jackson, a fantastically fast albino shape-changer (much reviled by some fans- though I actually liked him) and Durham Red, a beautiful, vampire-like femme fatale.  The series in a nutshell- after a good, long run Johnny dies, Feral takes over for a while and then dies (horribly), finally Midden-Face sacrifices himself so that Johny could return from the dead.  In the midst of all this, Durham joins the fray, disappears, reappears far in the future and become the empress of the entire universe.  Mutants Victor!  It’s a great and long running series, so no hesitation in awarding it five out of five chainsaws.  BUT.  I liked Feral Jackson and turning his character into a whiny, yellow-belly who ends up burned at the stake displeases me.  It displeaseth me greatly.  Thus, minus one chainsaw, giving us a final total of four chainsaws.

2000AD really is hogging the limelight today as we talk about yet another Brit strip.  This serial, from the nutso mind of Mr. Grant Morrison, is about a terrible universe-ending apocalypse (isn’t it always), from the point of view of lackadaisical and unashamedly shallow Brit pop star Zenith.  Zenith is refreshingly lazy, but good hearted and will pull out all the stops if push come to shove, so he’s not a complete git.  Also the other characters are fairly intersting, like Conservative (yuk) minister Peter St John AKA Mandala (bloody ex-hippies).  What sets the Zenith strip apart from its American superhero brethren, is that none of the heroes are particularly heroic or even nice.  And woe-betide those that do shown real heroism.  We find this out early on when a Welshmen called, a bit obviously, the Red Dragon, is killed with shocking effect after a build-up of his character over preceding issues.  Four out of five chainsaws.  It’s a keeper.

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One Response to Comics Catchup: Caballistics, Egypt, Extremist, Johnny Double, Penguin, Strontium Dog, Zenith

  1. Pingback: Puny God: Avengers Assemble, Raven’s Gate and Horns | Boldly Voyaging the Multiverse!

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