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Detox

April 21st, 2010 by | Tags: , ,

Booze, Broads, & Bullets was not going to be a week at first. It wasn’t going to have posts by other people, either. No, I had the great idea of reading Frank Miller’s entire collected body of work and doing a post on every single book over the period of– well, I don’t know how long. I know I own almost all of his trade paperbacks, save for things like Bad Boy and his ’80s charity/one-off stuff, and that’s like 19 or 23 books. At that point, writing that much over a short period of time, essentially doing with Tim Callahan did with Grant Morrison: The Early Years, would leave me dead, depressed, or worse. I think a book on Miller’s work like Tim’s book would be fantastic, but not writing it myself over a short period of time. So, instead, I drafted some friends, turned it into a week, and we went at it. Booze, Broads, & Bullets speaks for itself, I think. What you see is what you get. We had a team-up. You were great.

About three weeks before BB&B, I began the process of rereading every Miller book I owned. I put my already sizable to-read stack on pause, making occasional breaks particularly enticing new purchases, and breathed Frank Miller for a few weeks. At some point during this process, I think during the first week, Tucker Stone emailed me and told me that I absolutely had to read James Ellroy’s American Tabloid trilogy. I quote: “This was made for your brain.” He was right. Tucker is a guy who knows good books. He takes bad ones to task, yes, but when it comes to recommending books, Tucker doesn’t steer you wrong. And he didn’t this time, not even close.

My days were Frank Miller. Lunch breaks at work, that week I had to ride the bus because it was raining too hard to bike, and a bit of the evenings were dedicated to reading about hard men and harder women. That hour I usually spend in bed staring at the ceiling before I fall asleep was given over to James Ellroy, Kemper Boyd, Ward Littell, the Beard, and Jack Kennedy. I knocked out American Tabloid in two weeks, longer than I usually take for real books, and moved on to The Cold Six Thousand. I’m about halfway through it right now.

I’m addicted to Amazon. I’ve got Prime and I make an obscene number of orders a year. I made an order during BB&B, round about halfway through the week. I pick up One Piece 24-27 (four for three? shoot, I’ll take advantage of that all day), the beginning of the Skypiea arc, and Usagi Yojimbo volumes one through three. It wasn’t until I got them and looked at them that I’d realized what I’d done. I’d ordered four violent children’s books and three violent rabbit samurai books, but ones with an all-ages kind of violence.

I needed a break from crime, bastards, and brutality, apparently. And those are pretty much my favorite ingredients in fiction.

The same kind of thing happened last year. I was doing regular reviews of Lone Wolf & Cub from spring to summer. I made it almost exactly two months in, writing up six volumes of Lone Wolf & Cub, one of Path of the Assassin, and then a few miscellaneous posts that weren’t focused on anyone book, before quitting. I own at least nine of these books, and I was burning through a book a week or so, so I know I read several I didn’t write about.

The thing about Lone Wolf & Cub is that it is very… dry. It’s fairly formulaic, you can guess story beats once you make it to volume three or so, and it is just a miserable read. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but absorbing all of that in a short period of time? It’s not very pleasant. By the end, I didn’t even want to think about the series again. Ogami Itto was too perfect, and his setting too horrible. It was a Debbie Downer, is what I’m saying. So, I took a break. I found something else to do. I took a few days off and came back talking about Asterios Polyp.

I was actually talking about detoxing from comics to Esther the other day. She’s frustrated with the direction of DC in general, with a specific focus on the Green Arrow family. DC has several books that have been piling misery upon misery for years at this point. The Teen Titans franchise, whether Teen Titans proper or the grown-up and trashy Titans, has been toxic since long before Geoff Johns left in 2007. The Green Arrow titles have been tripping from tragedy to tragedy ever since Green Arrow and Black Canary got married.

It gets old. At some point, you’ve got to have some kind of a release for all the misery and pain. I’ve read that Ian Sattler and Dan Didio have been saying that Cry For Justice “worked” because people are upset about the book. And well, no, it didn’t work. People are mad at the book and what happened in it, but not because it’s sad. They’re mad because it’s just another body on the pile. Ted Kord’s death was sad. Lian Harper’s death was pointless, cheap theatrics meant to shock you, rather than make you actually feel anything. But hey, yell “BOO!” at someone often enough and they stop caring.


Why did one straw break the camel’s back? Here’s the secret: the several dozen dead or maimed bodies underneath it. Lian’s chilling with Gehenna, the girl who was tortured and killed so that Black Firestorm could live in White Firestorm’s head in a bunch of comics I’m not going to ever read.

Daredevil’s life has sucked for years. Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev’s Daredevil helped draw me into reading monthly comics again, but I quit the series sometimes during Brubaker’s run. I got tired of watching Daredevil’s life spiral into misery, over and over and over again. I’m tired of that story. I’m numb to it. No, that’s not right. I don’t care. Spider-Man’s life sucks. The writers throw him curveballs every couple of months to shake things up. But, there are issues where he hangs out with his friends. There are horribly sad issues. There are happy issues. There are bittersweet issues. There is a mixture of content, which makes sure that each punch to the gut actually feels like a punch to the gut.

I got my first tattoo back in March. I was asking about how much it’d hurt, and the guy told me that after a certain amount of time (or trauma), the body goes into a kind of shock and you barely feel anything. That didn’t happen with the tattoo, but it absolutely happens with comics.


I’m supposed to feel bad for Roy Harper when he’s imagining his daughter screaming and crawling and dying slowly in the rubble of her house. But hey, guess what! I don’t. I don’t care at all. I’m more amazed/offended/appalled at how blatantly emotionally manipulative and inept all of it is, like the comics had been written by and for people who only had superhero comics as a reference point and had never seen a good movie or read an actual book. Hysterical melodrama-infused superhero decadence in the worst way. It’s a sob story, only the person telling it doesn’t know when to pull back and stop layering in unnecessary details.

But hey, wack writers tell wack stories.

Storytelling is essentially lying. It’s making up a new truth and hoping people believe it. The trick to being a good liar is to keep it simple and effective. When Crossed, Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows’s incredibly violent and obscene zombie miniseries, treats the death of a child in a more reasonable and mature way than a DC Comics-branded comic book, you’ve got a problem. Your emperor has no clothes. We don’t believe in you or your stupid stories.

You want to know my review of Cry For Justice and Blackest Night and all these other comics that keep banging that one drum and then go “GOTCHA!” when you go “Ew, what is this?”

“Who cares.”

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19 comments to “Detox”

  1. In the DC universe, they have slabs at the morgue specifically for children ( or little people )


  2. I’m glad that Tucker talked you into the Underworld USA trilogy, it’s great (I think it’s some of Ellroy’s most fully realized work). I’d love to know what you think about Cold Six Thousand after you finish. I’m about halfway through Blood’s a Rover, and it’s quite a ride, even though it’s a little inconsistent.


  3. Spot on. I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t been caring much about DC comics and that’s exactly it. I did not get that sense of hope that I thought I’d get after Blackest Night. Instead, I’ve found myself frustrated and ready to give up. Honestly, I’ve followed Secret Six from the beginning because in the midst of all the violence is the occasional break where we get to see the characters interact with each other, even joke with each other. In a universe of heroes, it is difficult to for me to only be able to empathize with the villains. Like you said, something just isn’t right there. (Oh, I also think it’s why I got tired of DD. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I think you’re exactly right there, too. Too much constant angst, and not enough of those light-hearted character moments in between.)


  4. did that flaming skull guy just level up?


  5. damn hasn’t roy harper had enough shit heaped on him in his life? dealt with drug problems, evil baby mama drama(batman has that now but not as bad) had his arm torn off (he can relate to risk now woo!) and now this?

    nowhere to go but down :frown:

    on the bright side the skypeia/eneru arc is prob one of the best


  6. To be fair, Black Firestorm kind of has being really bad at being Firestorm a character trait, what with burning up people he’s connected with, and accidentally getting his best friend killed in space.

    Also, I really dislike the Teen Titans, so I can derive some sort of joy from the horribleness from these comics. I don’t know if I hate them just because I generally dislike teenage superheroes, or I hate them because they are horribly written, but I just do. Still, the amount of failure and death associated with them just leaves me laughing at the pointlessness of it overall. Like when Kid Devil, who really had no business to be on the team, got himself killed. Or when Marvin got eaten by Wonder Dog. What a terrible, terrible book.


  7. @Eric: That wasn’t a character trait at all. The burning up came from overexertion, and that was done away with by the end of the first year of his series. And on getting his best friend killed– they were both nearly killed. Martin Stein couldn’t save both of them. By the time Jason’s series ended, he was as capable and good as any other hero.


  8. MAN that last panel with Roy is awful because it doesn’t look like he’s in anguish so much as he’s getting ready to chow down on the body of his former daughter, because TEETH.

    I had some hope for Brightest Day but then realized they’re going to go about it as ham-handed as they did Blackest Night, and frankly, I was already sick of ham before they started this whole thing.


  9. I was honestly holding-on to my “Never Say Die” defense of all this nonsense in comics, until I saw that baby bird smash its head open on PAGE ONE of what is meant to be a possible window for new fans into the DCU as a whole. If it happened on, say, page ten? Maybe not such a big deal. But when this output is also coming from the company’s Chief CREATIVE Officer? It starts spelling S-H-I-T a lot more clearly, and literally caused me to throw my arms into the air and declare “That’s it! Done!”

    And the sad tragety about it all? “Blackest Night”, when it first dropped, made me into a bigger DC fan at large; I was hooked by the story and the first issue reveals, and the concept as a whole (I’m a zombie geek). But then it tumbled into this wacky “Earth Numba ONE!!!” bit with White Lantern Not-God and all that, and I felt like I wished I hadn’t even bothered. The dead bird just kinda sealed the deal, and dressing up THAT package with a David “Everyone’s mean face looks exactly the same” Finch cover certainly didn’t do it any favors.

    Not saying I’m done with DC Comics, not by a long shot. But I’m for sure not allowing myself to be fooled so easily again…


  10. You should make more One Piece reviews/articles David.


  11. Did…

    Did he just turn her into salt… and rip out her heart?

    You know, I’m a Marvel guy, but that’s only because I’m a Spider-Man guy, which is only because Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends was my favorite show when I was a kid. If I had been a decade younger, and been a young kid when Batman the Animated Series was on, I’d probably be a DC guy.

    I don’t think I’d like being a DC guy…


  12. did he really violate salt-gehenna?

    cause that’s just nasty. like I get people were ok with meltzer making dr light a rapist (cause that makes him a REAL monster) but having him do that to a salt girl :/


  13. @clay:

    The stupidest part is that her superpower was teleportation.


  14. I’m very much in the same boat.

    I’ve always been a big fan of DC’s characters, having grown up with Young Justice, Hourman, Aztek, Young Heroes in Love, and all that other great stuff. But ever since Identity Crisis, most of my favorite characters have been offed, and the tone of the universe has gone from one of free-wheeling adventure to one where all the victories are Pyrrhic, and the heroes never really, win.

    There was a quote in Swamp Thing about how Jason Blood and Etrigan were meant to balance one another, with Etrigan becoming more like Jason, and vice versa. But Blood revealed that what actually happened was that Jason became more like Etrigan, but Etrigan also became more like Etrigan. I feel like that’s where the heroes of the DCU are at now. The villains are getting worse; deadlier, more vile, more miserable, more dark. But rather than show the heroes as a strong counterpoint to that, they’re just pulled into the same muck and mire, with the added detriment of appearing pitiful and ineffectual when faced with genuinely malevolent villains.

    Add to that all the regression and nostalgia that’s come to define Dan Didio’s tenure as EiC of DC, and the general dearth of talent at the company, and most of DC’s comics just aren’t much fun to read anymore.


  15. Well-said, sir. Totally agreed.

    DC has seemed dead set on making much of their output as angsty, depressing and repulsive as possible for a while now, and I’ll have no part of that. It’s all about what character is raped or murdered or rape-murdered next, and the fact that DC Editorial clearly consider that their “well” is sickening. The only DC book I follow regularly is Morrison’s Batman, and unless the tone/direction of the universe at large changes in a big way, that’s as far as I want to go.


  16. It seems like every other article you write you seem to recap why you don’t like mainstream comics, save yourself the trouble and just put it on the banner :P


  17. Am I the only one who cracks up at the sight of the little kid being crushed by debris? For some reason that just makes me giggle.


  18. […] David Brothers detoxes from his comics: I got my first tattoo back in March. I was asking about how much it’d hurt, and the guy told me […]


  19. I agree 100%!!! There’s nothing more asinine than that fan-boy belief that violence=realism=good stories.

    I’m SICK of this crap, and I’ve lost interest in all DC comics other than Grant Morrison’s superhero stuff, and their Vertigo line.

    Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns are not all they’re cracked up to be.