Straight Shooter

The scenario the title suggests (a Hitman version of Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe) doesn’t materialize, but the story – Batman hauls Tommy Monaghan (Hitman) to the Justice League’s moon base to run some tests to determine the origin of Monaghan’s super powers; controversy ensues – is pretty solid. Green Lantern and Superman both, it seems, are pretty fond of Monaghan, while Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash think he’s complete scum. As a nice change on the general formula, we get to see Superman as the conflicted one, while Batman preaches an unflinching, uncompromising gospel of pure good.

Of course this is an Ennis comic book we’re talking about, not a Dostoyevsky novel, so the morality debate only lasts so long before everything goes to hell and the heroes actually have to put their theories into practice. Unfortunately this is about the point where the first issue ends, meaning part two will probably be chock-full of action, but also meaning this comic is better suited for a slim collected graphic novel than two separate issues, but that’s the comic industry these days.

Considering this is an A-list (and usually youth-oriented) set of characters Ennis is working on, he’s given a surprising amount of leeway. As usual, four-letter words, gory deaths, and freakish sex acts are absent, but this may be the first and last time you’ll see a Justice League comic with a reference to breast-milk cheese, and that alone is reason to buy the book.

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I’m brave enough to admit it: I don’t know what the hell is going on in Gutsville. Sure, I get the general idea of the plot: A cruise ship was swallowed by some sort of sea monster 157 years ago, but not digested. So of course they found a town in the stomach of the monster and adopt puritanical beliefs, hoping God will free them from this “Jonahtime” via the “Great Regurgitation.” Simple enough. But most of the dialogue is written in a near-incomprehensible dialect, and at the same time as elaborate customs and laws of this intestinal society are being explained, new characters and plotlines are being introduced at an estimated rate of three per panel.

There’s some kind of voodoo, a Salem-Witch Trial-thing, an Australian Aboriginal-type racial conflict, a serial killer, a love interest, and more crammed into these two books, and I can hardly keep track of all of it. Either Gutsville is really poorly written, or it’s some type of Finnegan’s Wake–level work of brilliance that I’m just too dumb to comprehend. Either way, this is not an enjoyable read. Of all the wonderful things comic books can do, causing me to have a confidence crisis about my intellectual level isn’t one of them, as far as I’m concerned. But there are a lot of pretty sweet pictures to look at. Maybe I am stupid after all. If somebody understands what’s going on here, let me know.

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I can’t remember the last time I wanted to hate a comic book so much. Gerard Way, the eyelined douche from My Chemical Romance writing his own comic book should be a complete disaster. But it isn’t. Umbrella Academy is thankfully not the story of a Goth-poser rock singer and his wacky backstage middle-school-statutory-riffic shenanigans. Instead, it’s the story of a school/home for gifted youngsters and the alumni that return upon the death of their father/schoolmaster. The book, much like the music of Way’s band, is better than it has any right to be, and more enjoyable than you want it to be. The quality of Gabriel Ba’s art doesn’t hurt things, of course, but the main star is (sigh) Way’s writing. Drawing apparent inspiration from everything from Jhonen Vasquez to the Madeline children’s books, Way crafts a weird but entertaining story that never strays too far into weepy emo territory. It’s worth a read, but you might want to go somewhere other than your regular comic shop to pick it up. Or at least claim it’s for your little sister.


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