Straight Shooter

Dear DC Comics,

Dear DC Comics,

Martian Manhunter’s head looks like a wiener. I’m sure you put this title through countless board meetings and focus groups — surely somebody’s mentioned this before.

We’re told in this issue that the original, non-phallic Manhunter we know and love (OK, tolerate) has been a liar. Apparently, the Manhunter has been deceptively modifying his appearance to look more appealing to us round-heads. Now he doesn’t care what we think about him and he’s letting it all hang out (so to speak).

As a complete nerd, I have to say I feel kind of betrayed by the unspoken promise of Infinite Crisis. The series was supposed to cleanse the DCU of the post-Watchmen cynicism plaguing modern hero comics and return it to its Golden-Age glory.

Instead, we’ve just been getting the same old cape-noir bullshit. Wonder Woman’s a murderer, Superman’s plagued with self doubt, and now Martian Manhunter’s let himself go. On the plus side, Batman’s no longer the biggest dickhead in the Justice League. (Rimshot.)

If it seems like I’m making pee-pee jokes instead of reviewing this comic, it’s because I am. The story of the Manhunter’s quest to save another Martian is barely interesting enough to justify this sentence, let alone a whole review. The book would have been better if it dealt with his addiction to Oreo cookies. (Seriously.)

The Negative Burn series is, for the most part, the comic world’s version of a college-run literary magazine. With a few exceptions, issue three of the series’ relaunch is a collection of stories too pretentious, dull, or uninspired to be written as full comic books, apparently released in short form in hopes they’ll be more enjoyable, or at least tolerable, as shorter works. Most times, they aren’t.

The book’s few highlights (a World War II-era fable about a man who cuts a deal with a demonic statue, and a six-page joke about a beggar abducted by ninjas) don’t justify the $5.99 cover price.

Unless your kid wrote one of the stories in the book and you need a copy to stick on the refrigerator, I can’t think of a single reason to buy this book. If you’re borderline illiterate and can’t follow a comic for the average 32 pages, grab a $2 copy of Fell and sign up for a continuing-education class. Leave this on the shelf next to those magazines that collect vampire stories.

The narrator of this book is a machine-gun-wielding gorilla, and one of his fellow agents is a hot blonde who can make a larger, topless version of herself appear at will. If you aren’t already on the way to the store to buy this book, you should probably re-evaluate yourself as a comic book nerd.

A Marvel title set far enough in the past to avoid (so far) any Civil War continuity issues, Agents of Atlas makes for a light, but interesting, read. The first issue involves a team of the most obscure, D-List superhero rejects this side of Flaming Carrot on a mission to save President Dwight Eisenhower.

In addition to the aforementioned pistol-packin’ ape and super stripper, this dream team is rounded out by Marvel Boy, an Asian James Bond type, and a “human robot” discovered in the depths of the ocean by Prince Namor’s cousin. Amazingly, these ridiculously pathetic and random characters manage to act like they’re the most badass team ever assembled. And they almost convinced me.

Other than the mind-blowingly awesome panel in which the ape manages to hold four guns at once (two in his hands, two in his feet), which easily makes the book worth $2.99, the best part of Agents is its complete lack of irony.

Agents reads like it was cast by a discarded Mad-Libs book, but Parker is smart enough to keep his tongue out of his cheek. As Stan Lee himself said in a quote I just made up, “What’s the fun in comics if it’s not pretending something ridiculous is totally sweet?” Amen to that. Praise the Lord and pass that ape some ammunition. l


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