Gonna read some comics, ooh!
(fun fun, comics on the can!)
While I’m sitting in the loo!
(fun fun comics on the can!)
I read them and I try to poo!
(fun fun comics on the can!)
Then I give a review!
* To the tune of any Ramones song
PREVIOUSLY ON COMICS ON THE CAN…
(A montage of scenes from the last episode cut to Cradle of Filth covering Carry On My Wayward Son.)
A wood spirit prances through the trees, his Ed Hardy muscle shirt flapping in the breeze.
A man with a cane brandishes a pair of pliers and moves toward someone’s teeth.
The Punisher opens fire on Archie’s “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance with a Tec-9. Jughead geysers blood.
A barbarian girl stabs a giant demon cat!
Baby seal jerky!
An iron cooking pot lies at the foot of a tree. Rain runs down the side like tears.
George R.R. Martin, R. Scott Bakker, and Joe Abercrombie all compare beards while topless wenches dance seductively in the background.
Smash cut to a floating graphic rushing towards the viewer…
North of Hadrian’s wall,
Third Century A.D.”
In “Beyond the Wall” a bunch of Roman soldiers get ass-whupped by some demon thing straight outta the most recent reboot of “Doom”. Who cares? The set-up is meant to both establish the bad-assedness of the Romans and/or illustrate the more-bad-assedness of the Doom kill-gore thing. The scene only half succeeds and that’s only on a visual level with a monster that is clearly designed to say “EVIL” with curved horns, red skin, muscles rippling like the models on a West Hollywood underwear billboard, and armor with a demon skull on it (nothing says “Evil” like a well-tailored demon skull etching on your breastplate… “Evil” or Spinal Tap cosplay). In fact the bad-assedness of the soldiers is only mentioned in the narration. There is little to prove the soldiers’ battle prowess because on page two they are kill-gore demon thing brunch. It reads like the teaser opening to a basic cable police procedural with pikes and shiny bracers; NCIS: Roman Britain.
The main character, Marcus something or other, but I’ll refer to him as Averagus Protagonus (AP for short), only has TWO weeks till he retires. The first law of TV cop narrative clearly states that this means that something is going to go horribly wrong. It does as the traitorous son of the emperor (I’d name him Blandous Badguyicus but that sounds like something you’d see under the coyote in a roadrunner cartoon so I’ll call him Russell) kills his brother (in a roman sauna no less) and blames it on AP’s men. Russell stops short of growing a mustache to twirl. Every shot of him has a telling deceitful smirk, like Paul Ryan in the green room of Fox News. As punishment the legion has to decimate its ranks, meaning killing every tenth soldier. This makes perfect sense to the command structure of an army perched on the edge of a forest full of cannibals, barbarians, and Doom kill-gore monsters with only a wall separating them. Sure, a lesson needed to be taught, but how ’bout no dessert for a week? Decimation is a little severe and lacks even the most basic definition of “foresight” especially when little Paul Ryan… oops, I’m sorry, Russell is smirking like he’s made an alliance with the barbarian tribes to seize control of Roman Britain (whatever the hell that is BTW).
When AP is faced with killing a young boy he just brought into the legion he follows in the proud tradition of Protagonus’ job; move the story ahead regardless of internal logic or character motivation. He chucks twenty five years of service, kills a few of his men, and flees with the kid “beyond the wall”. There AP endures the boasting of the elite guard hunting him, which is at the level of the more forgettable cannon fodder from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Commando”, and meets with a cute barbarian chick. The group makes for the sea across what is (what we’re told) treacherous land filled with terrifying monsters, vicious barbarians, and ruthless perfume counter salespeople. I might be lying about one of those dangers I listed but you couldn’t tell because, apart from a single Gorgon, which AP puts in a headlock and goes into “Godmode”, there is all build-up and no delivery.
There is a lot of that in “Beyond the Wall”; too much telling and not enough showing, which is bad enough. But when you tell and tell and tell and then go “Meh, whatever” why even bother? You can’t expect your audience to have any kind of an investment when you can’t be bothered yourself.
What clinches the lazy writing motif is when AP and his ad-hoc family get to an abandoned barbarian village and find a stack of gold coins newly minted with Ryan, I mean Russell’s, face on them. Scooby Doo had to work harder to find clues and that was always some Dick Cheney-esque codger in a rubber suit. AP does the math and figures that he has to, once again lacking any internal logic and/or real character motivation, go back and warn the people that are trying to kill him that they are in danger. “Because I’m a Roman, and we didn’t conquer half the world by acting sensible after all.” This is the type of grim, “to hell with it, if I can’t do the smart thing I’ll do the right thing” type of hollow heroics that Bruce Willis has made a fortune selling to us for decades. Problem is… AP is no Bruce Willis, and Venne is not even Rowdy Harrington writing and directing “Striking Distance” (IMDB it).
In fact “Beyond the Wall” feels like a lazy comic-book-as-movie-pitch made solely to snag Bruce WiIlis back in that ten month period when sword and sandal epics were hot. Perfunctory plot, little or no character, tepid execution, and amateur writing made “Beyond the Wall” forgettable at best.
“Grimwood’s Daughter” at least has the distinction of having a voice. Even if the voice is that of a fifteen year old bad poetry writing Goth girl who’s read too much of Gaiman’s “Sandman” and absorbed too little. The book has a euro-alt comics vibe but, sadly, not the “delivery man meets three teens and sexy time happens” kind. Kevin Nowlan’s art has a lot of expression and atmosphere to it considering everybody frowns. The style is not my taste (even with the amazing mustache work found here) but I won’t fault “Grimwood’s Daughter” for that. No, I got plenty of other things to fault this book with.
To sum up the story; elves are jerks. Men (who are also jerks) are wiping them out. The last of the elves have their backs against the wall of a sentient terminally pissed off forest (it remains to be seen if the ripped, brotastic tree spirits from “The First Law” reside here. If they did it’d probably liven things up a bit.) The leader of the Elves, let’s call him Clifford, mopes to his wood spirit girlfriend. Somehow she finds this sexy. Men wipe out elves except Clifford who feels dejected about genocide but hey, poop happens. Clifford then takes off “to the great white north” with his pale hippy girlfriend and presumably opens the first “Hot Topic” in Gondor.
Like I said, compared to “Beyond the Wall”, “Grimwood’s Daughter” has something going on apart from bald-faced market-niche filling… but only by comparison. Filling a slight forty seven pages this story doesn’t go anywhere except to its room to sulk and listen to The Cure’s “Disintegration” on its headphones. The weight of inevitability drags the story down; the elves bicker over fighting or running. Clifford knows they’re doomed but when he meets opposition to his plan of running away he just sighs, shakes his head, goes out to the forest and boinks his girlfriend. It’s learned later that running away wouldn’t have worked either because men (those other doomed jerks) are burning the forest anyway (“Shit, maybe some elves ran into the forest. What do you think Berkazard?” “Good point, Marvin, we got dragons, everything else is burning, why the hell not?”)
The doomed lovers’ thing has a romantic appeal, I understand, so I can see this book having some traction with folks who wear black lipstick and are upset that A.F.I. had a gold album, but the moping just doesn’t resonate with me. There is little or nothing redeemable or for that matter, interesting, about the elves or the men so it’s hard to care. Clifford’s apathy makes it even harder. Once again; if the writer or the characters don’t care why should I? The thing that distinguishes “Grimwood’s Daughter” from “Beyond the Wall” is that not caring is kinda the point.
Random thoughts somewhat pertaining to the book but I couldn’t work organically into the main review…
That opening montage scene slightly sends up “Supernatural’s” season finale recap.
I’m convinced Francis Buxton from “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” grew up to be Paul Ryan.
I don’t understand? Why Romans? It’s not historical accuracy; to the best of my knowledge there were no Doom Kill-gore demons in Britain in third century AD or any other century for that matter. The story could’ve just as easily taken place in a fantasy world and possibly gained a smidgen of verisimilitude.
I, of course, realize that last statement is pretty much a paradox.
I did a Japanese car commercial with Bruce Willis a few years ago. The story was Bruce Willis goes to japan to do a car commercial. So we faked Japan in Hollywood. To the point that we had Japanese extras carrying cable and lights on camera. It was like a snake that eats its own tail. My head hurt.
An IMDB search reveals that Rowdy Harrington was a set electrician and Gaffer (my boss) before he directed. Kudos to Rowdy not only for that but for having the first name Rowdy and directing the American classic “Roadhouse”.
For “Roadhouse” alone Rowdy gets my vote for canonization if I somehow inexplicably become pope.
Of course IMDB is wildly inaccurate at best. Some of the more glaring errors on my IMDB page (which I had nothing to do with) lists me as a production coordinator on “The Wizard of Oz on Ice”, a driver on a movie called “Constellation”, and Key Grip on “A Date with an Angel”.
I did, though, work on “Poison Ivy – The New Seduction” Starring Jamie Pressly whom I also worked with on “My Name is Earl” for four seasons.
“My Name is Earl” is not listed on my IMDB page.
“Beyond the Wall” was published in 2010 which means that it wasn’t a cash in on the “Gladiator”/”Troy” craze of the early ‘oughts but anticipated the frenzy created by “Game of Thrones” on HBO.
Don’t be fooled by my snark; “Disintegration” is one of the best fucking albums ever!
After checking I discovered that Faramir opened the first Hot Topic in Gondor. Clifford and Wood spirit chick opened the first Jamba Juice. Sorry for the mix-up.
NEXT – The Torch (As usual, maybe)
LATER – Big Trouble in Little China. Sometime, I promise.