Comics on the Can
Writer – Mark Millar Artists – Wilfredo Torres, Davide Gianfelice, Rick Burchett
Colors – ive Svorcina Letters – Peter Doherty
SEQUENTIAL NARRATIVE ART WHILST ON THE PRIVE
(A prequel to Comics on the can)
Good evening kind sirs my name is Samuel and I have launched an undertaking where I, having learned to read thanks to the free schooling system of this great republic, take a gander at current flights of fancy set in an illustrated form. Now there are few rules: one is that my reading is solely focused on the unsavory and certainly ungodly, sequential art “plup” stories as they are referred to aimed at the destructive impulses of young rapscallion boys. Second rule is that I will partake in reading these salacious periodicals whilst relieving myself in the water closet! I have heard the audible gasps from the more refined readers of this venture but let me assure you that claiming to read these novelty items while in my private time is merely an affectation. Namely I am keeping with the theme of consuming these unsavory (yet curiously appealing) adventures by thematically tying them to an unsavory act. Finally I shall report my thoughts on the story in a somewhat humorous fashion. Satire is achieved. Indeed these ridiculous tales of wonton unchristian adventure are wholly unsuited for perusal by the more refined upper classes or weaker sex. Fear not kind reader for I am committed to this concept regardless of the peril to my immortal soul! I have consulted with my local priest and he has assured me that the recitation of seven hail marys shall cleanse my soul of any lingering malevolence these stories might have stained me with.
I bid you good day.
Year of our Lord 1927
I used to be a big fan of Mark Millar.
It started when I came across an issue of “The Authority” on a set I was working on. It was in the middle of his run. A story about the previous Shaman of the world, who had slipped into binge drinking and mass scale homicide during his stint. Out of necessity he was being given back his powers for a limited time and the Authority had the difficult task of trying to rein him in.
I was in a downward interest of comic books at that point of my life; having grown tired of the male power fantasy trip of people being punched through walls long before. Also the books that had brought me back into the life: The Invisibles, Preacher and Transmetropolitian had all ended (or were about to). I wasn’t seeing any really good ideas in comics, mind expanding shit ya’know? This issue of the Authority changed that. The story had sharp action, funny dialogue was brimming with ideas and had vivid characters. I thought “This is really coo!” finished the issue went to work and forgot about it for about a year.
Eventually I checked out Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch which led me into The Authority. I caught up on all of Ellis’ demented savage run then slid into Millar’s take. When Mark Millar took over he somehow made it even more fun, brutal and outside of the box weird. This is when the team got more media savvy in universe; magazine covers, endorsement deals, wild celebrity parties on the carrier. The humor shifted from Ellis’ viceral yet blunt dialogue to broad satire; one example had the team in a throwdown with an obvious outlandish send up of The Avengers. But the ideas came in from a unique angle example: the Authority defeated this group by confronting the mad scientist creator and offering him a job. In fact everything that marks Millar’s stellar Marvel work is workshopped in his run on The Authority then sharpened to a killing edge in his “Ultimate X-Men” and “The Ultimates” run. For awhile there I was a die hard fan; Millar had the insane imagination of his friend and mentor Grant Morrison but with a more finely tuned commercial sensibility and a widescreen cinematic execution. It comes as no surprise that a lot of “The Ultimates” served as the blueprint for the MCU.
“Wolverine: Enemy of the state/Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D” was the peak for me; a crazy story of the world’s most dangerous good guy brainwashed into becoming a bad guy. The story had breathless pacing, intricate plot and was sick with ideas, thrills, action set pieces and suspense.
Things began to go downhill for me after that; I was turned off by the bleakness of “Old Man Logan” and “Civil War” was a disappointment even though it ended in the only rational way it could’ve. Millar’s work started getting darker. Not in a clever way but in a “let’s see how far I can push this regardless of if I should or not” way. It seemed the more successful Millar got the more nihilistic he got. It reached the point where I wasn’t even interested in his “MillarWorld” era stuff. It seemed the imprint was an IP puppy mill; tossing ideas at the publishing wall, see what snags option money and move onto the next litter of ideas. Granted this is overly harsh and reductive. Millar’s looming presence and unprecedented success was also fertile ground for Scrooge McDuck and call back jokes in my own columns. Sure I saw “Kick-ass” and “The Kingsmen” and I’m interested in the Netflix deal but, short of it is… I just wasn’t paying attention to the books.
So I essentially came to “Jupiter’s Circle” with a blank slate. Also being the first thing I’d read of my former golden boy since “Wanted” and a passing gander at “Nemesis”… a cleansed pallet. There was extra intrigue since this was the second issue of a series that served as a prequel to a different series “Jupiter’s Legacy” of which I know absolutely nothing about. Would “Jupiter’s circle” stand on its own or would it fall prey to the common narrative problems that most “Prequels” have?
Jupiter’s Circle (at least this issue) takes place in the tumultuous social upheaval of the 60’s. It’s Berkeley ‘65 and retired hero “Skyfox” recounts what seems to be an alien abduction to Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. As a result Skyfox did what Superman did at one point; introspection. He just walked across America to meet the people he was defending and get a sense of what the world is like on a ground level. His conclusion is that he had been a dick and his former brand of superheroing, namely propping up a rotten status quo, wasn’t going to cut it anymore. At the moment of his talk he is unsure of what to do about it. Well, more specifically, unwilling to do what he knows he needs to do about it.
Meanwhile the Watts riots are raging in Los Angeles.
Skyfox’s former teammates are having a press conference to welcome back a recovered member when the question is asked if the super team is going to quell the violence in LA. They insist that they aren’t but the reporters keep badgering them to take a side. Millar has always been good at using press conferences as a dramatic device (Think in the Civil War comic series where Peter Parker reveals he’s Spider Man) and this one shows that he’s further refined his technique. A wealth of character beats, dramatic tension, stage setting and exposition is expertly executed in this scene. The answer to the Watts riots question is “No” but you get the sense that could flip if certain circumstances came into play.
Presumably those circumstances are activated when Skyfox sees the police brutality during the riots and finally decides to pull the trigger on what he’s been turning around in his head since the walkabout. He flies to Watts and intervenes on the side of the rioters.
As I said I have no predetermined ideas going into this story; I don’t know what kind of character Skyfox is in Jupiter’s Legacy (or if he is even in the series for that matter). The story as it is has to stand on its own. I think it does quite capably. Essentially I don’t feel like I’m missing out on vital information needed to “get” what’s going on here. I was able to engage with the story and ideas presented with only the basic concept of superteam (or just really group) dynamics needed. It adds flavor to know that Skyfox’s walkabout is a direct lift of Superman’s arc “Grounded” blended with the “Hard traveling heroes” era of Green Lantern and Green Arrow but not necessary to grokking what’s going on. I wouldn’t say I’m going to rush back into the Millar fold but this issue goes a long way towards seriously liking MIllar again.
Anybody who reads this column regularly knows that I have a habit of saying I’m going to cover a comic “next” and then keep saying that for at least a year. I had intended to do that with Jupiter’s Circle but then real life intervened. The news had hit about the deplorable conditions of the detainment centers holding immigrant children and I immediately started cycling through my head what heroes such as Batman, Captain America and The Authority would do if they existed. (I explore that concept in greater detail in my sister column “Cultural Junkdrawer” out later this week).
Then I thought about the last few pages of Jupiter’s Circle volume 2 issue 2 and how, even being written four and a half years ago and set in 1965 Millar was soundly, smartly, expertly striking a nerve.
A return to an earlier form, a natural evolution of his writing style or a hiccup in his nihilism? I don’t know but I was excited to see what I loved in his work again.
Thoughts that kinda are tangential to the main column but I couldn’t fit in organically
This photo was taken in my wife’s bathroom. Felt the need to change it up a bit.
What, did you think I could do all this reading in a shared bathroom?
Samuel was actually my Grandfather’s name. Pittsfield, Ma is where i grew up Everything else about the opening is pure fiction.
I’m pretty sure the show I was working on when I read the comic was “V.I.P.” the goofy Pam Anderson show from the late 90s/early aughts.
I never talked with Pam but I was friends with her dog “Foo”.
Friends meaning I did belly rubs and ear scratching while Pam acted.
The Venomized T-Rex idea in Old Man Logan was one of the few moments that really kicked ass! That would make a hell of a funko pop!
The idea of Nemesis was pretty dope; “What if Batman was an evil asshole and did elaborate bastard things because he was bored?” but the execution felt like an obnoxious 13 year old taking the piss outta the whole superhero genre.
If you haven’t read “Wolverine: Enemy of the state” by all means comixology that shit now!!
This might be the first Prequel ever where I had no idea what was in the future for the characters and the world created. IE: I don’t know the original material being prequelized. This also made for an interesting angle in reviewing it.
A big chunk of what I started writing for this review was going on about The Authority (more than I left in). It was a sensible idea to modify it for a Cultural Junkdrawer. It was also serendipity that Ellis’ “The Wildstorm” just ended its 24 issue run with The Authority set up for a new era.
Check that tomorrow (wednesday)
Thursday is another Fantoy Comics with zero mention of The Authority but a lot of John Wick ending deatheaters and possibly the Dark Lord taking a bath.
I’ve been desperate for set dec and props for the cast of Fantoy Comics to interact with last week had Voldemort with a scale BBQ grill and tongs. This week I found a clawfoot bathtub that works for pops. It’ll be cute.
Next Time: A henti comic called “LA Blue Girl” ?
Later: Deeper into the box or something else that strikes my fancy.