Punisher 16. I am going to expose myself as a Philistine, in the hopes of getting an education. Because the only alternative is nodding my head and feeling like an idiot. I love Matt Fraction's stuff, and really trust him. So when he says Howard Chaykin, one of his big heroes, is a great artist, I believe him. Other comic book creators I trust tell me that Chaykin is great and I believe them too. I have faith. But I do not SEE. Can someone here explain the charms of Howard Chaykin to me? With examples, possibly images online? I have other Chaykin books in storage -- some American Flaggs, an Elseworld JLA story, some oversized thing with Wolverine, I cannot remember what else, and have not seen them in a while. My memory there is hazy, but I remember not getting it at the time. In the house I have Punisher 16 and the Iron Fist Annual. I have heard talk of his sexy women, but to me they all look too deranged to be properly sexy. I asked Sara, and she balked when she saw the art in Punisher 16 -- specifically at the hooker's left leg on page 8, panel 2, the wife's right leg on page 10 panel one, and the wife's fingers on page 15 panel 1. I BELIEVE and can also SEE that Chaykin is a better artist than Rob Liefeld, but I cannot help but notice that those three examples from Punisher 16 are similar to the kinds of anatomical mistakes Liefeld does with legs and fingers that we were all laughing at a few weeks ago here (compare the Punisher examples I mentioned to numbers 24 and 17 on that site). I have a hunch the difference is that Chaykin CAN draw, and is being mannered (like Frank Miller, who I love), while Liefeld is simply making errors. But still, I need help to appreciate this. I am open to learning. I do not hate the guy. I just do not get all the fuss.
Fantastic Four 554. Oh, did Ultimates vol 1 screw Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. If they deliver more of the same big action they are repeating themselves, as they did in the second half of Ultimates volume 2. Try and go the other direction, and you leave yourself with no real conflict, as in Fantastic Four 554. The cover is supposed to look like a magazine, but it does so in the dullest way posisble. The collar on Johnny Storm, and to a lesser extent Reed, make him look like a priest in a book where Millar wants to establish him as the Paris Hilton of the superhero set. The colors are washed out, a quality emphasized by the white gutters, which is an odd choice when doing BIG DUMB FUN. In the first panel they are being chased by indians; in the second, and again on that page, and again on the next, Sue is shielding them from a HAIL of bullets in spite of the fact that only three of the 25 or so indians have guns, and you have to assume they are, you know, muskets and not semi-automatics. And here is some subtle exposition:
SUE: I've got the girls coming over to talk about this new team I'm putting together.
REED: New Team?
SUE: Oh, I told you all about it Reed, BUT I AM GOING TO TELL YOU AGAIN BECAUSE READERS ARE ONLY JUST NOW TUNING IN!
(I have no patience for bad exposition; and no, I do not care that it is supposed to show us that Reed is so in his head he is forgetful -- we have a whole sequence devoted to that later this issue, so it is redundant anyway).
"How did she ever walk away from that?" says a teacher getting sexy to impress Reed: the page turn is supposed to reveal sexy, but Reed just looks dull, and haggard. We get a cliched joke about Reed being so in his head he talks to the kids like they are adults, and the Thing does his friendly Monster thing I have seen him do a thousand times. We set up a romantic conflict with Sue and this other woman, but it is all pretty dull. "Anyone we should know" Janet says when she shows up, to which Sue replies "SURE LET ME TELL OUR READERS ALL ABOUT HER." Sue's sexy rival by the way looks simply AWFUL, like a mutant white trash ELF in the panel where she hugs Reed and Sue looks back at the two of them jealously. The Thing says that "She's about ten time hotter than I remembered." I never met her before but I KNOW that cannot be true.
To end where I begun. I know why Millar does not want to end with something as crass as the murder that ends Ultimates 3 issue one. I see how that is a cheap ploy he wants to avoid. But in going the other direction we get something completely bloodless. The hook at the end of the issue is the plan to save everyone. WHO MAKES THE HOOK AT THE END OF A FIRST ISSUE THE SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM THAT HAS NOT BEEN INTRODUCED?!
"Oh, Buffy, you are the Vampire Slayer, gifted with special powers. That will be important if any vampires ever show up, or, you know, EXIST. SEE YOU NEXT TIME! [roll credits]."
In Comics News Newsarama has an interview with Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones about Final Crisis, but nothing really substantial is in it. It is more of an advertisement than anything else. X-Force came out, and I had it in my hand, but could not take the art, and so put it back.