Milestone 2008: Rebirth of Cool?

December 16th, 2008 by | Tags: , , ,

I love love songs. No joke– I think that they’re one of the best uses for music. I even like different kinds of love songs. If put to the test, my favorite kinds would be, in order from most to slightly less most, heartbreak songs, cheating songs, and then straight up love songs. I don’t know why that is, but it is what it is.

I’m inclined to like songs about heartbreak. I don’t know why, maybe an inner romantic or mope or something. I tend to like them, though, which is why I was looking forward to Kanye’s 808’s and Heartbreak. While I’m sort of ehhh on the autotune, the concept for the album was solid. It sounded like an album that was at least partially built for me. Love Lockdown came out and I kind of both love the drums and the video. I feel what he’s talking about in the song, too, so there’s that. Scandalous comments about how he doesn’t listen to hip-hop in his place because it’s “too nice” aside, I was looking forward to it.

In the end, I was almost completely disappointed. The beats were tight, but Kanye’s autotuned vocals don’t stand up to the concept or the music. It comes off feeling heartless, which I guess was part of the point, but he seriously needed some heart for this album to be a success for me. I dig Welcome to Heartbreak (with Kid Cudi) immensely (“Chased the good life my whole life long/ Look back on my life and my life gone/ Where did I go wrong?” is incredible), and I think that Amazing with Jeezy is probably my favorite cut off the album, but the other two-thirds of the record left me flat or irritated. I can’t think of a single reason to listen to Robocop, for example, nor the song with Wayne. Heartless is mediocre. Say You Will is Kanye doing his best “That’s the way love goes”-era Sade impression (including the song itself), which is a lot like my well-tested “That’s the way love goes”-era Sade impression– not very good at all and the last thing you want to hear. Paranoid isn’t awful, but it’s a bit too ’80s keytar rock for me. It sounds like it should be on the Scarface soundtrack right next to “Rush Rush Get the Yeyo.”

808s and Heartbreak got me thinking about complete packages. No matter how inclined you are to like something, it still needs to be quality in order for you to actually like it. I’m inclined to like 808s and Heartbreak, but the end product didn’t measure up. I’m inclined to like Jubilee and the New Warriors, but the book that featured them was lacking.

I’m inclined to like Justice League of America #27, because I like Milestone, I love Dwayne McDuffie’s writing, and the JLA is okay I guess. I didn’t like it because Ed Benes’s art kills the book for me.

It’s going to come as a surprise to no one who has ever read more than three posts on 4l!, or spent more than three minutes around me in person, that I care about Milestone (one, two, three). I love those comics, and I’ve got fond memories of the ones I managed to grab as a kid. I count them as being important to my development as a person, even. It was a right place, right time sort of thing.

I was at Isotope last week and a friend and I both ended up looking at JLA 27. Keith’s also a Milestone fan, and both of us were on the fence. “Do we get it?”

We’ve both had the same experience with McDuffie’s JLA. It’s got quality writing, but the art sandbags it. Ed Benes and Joe Benitez are not what McDuffie needs. Every single issue with a different artist, Carlos Pacheco and Ethan van Sciver among them, has been the bomb. The issues with Benes on art have been lacking. This is because Ed Benes cannot tell a story, but more on that later.

Both of us asked the other if we should get JLA 27. It’s the official return of Milestone, save for a Static cameo in Terror Titans week before last. Icon, Hardware, Donner, Blitzen, they’re all back and integrated into the DCU. While I’m skeptical as to exactly whether or not that was a good idea, I trust McDuffie. He isn’t the type of guy to just throw stories or characters into the DCU for no reason, so I’m willing to ride it out.

In the end, Keith decided not to get it. I decided the same, but kept thinking it over. I finally told him that I’d been asking for the return of Milestone for so long that if I didn’t get it, I’d be cheating myself. I bought it, took it home, read it, and was left more conflicted about a comic than I’d ever been before.

The story was good. Black Canary finally calls Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman out on being holier-than-thou jerks without it being a MESSAGE! moment. The banter between the heroes is solid and witty, as usual. The Milestone brigade gets a reintroduction that shows off a bit of their powers and a lot of their personality. The Milestone squiggle comes back. All in all? Good start for a story arc.

Nina at TFO took a swing at it for her Virgin Read series, and she makes some good points, but there’s a flipside– this is pretty much insider baseball. It’s the return of comics characters who haven’t regularly appeared in comics since 2002, at best, and a company that ceased production in 1996 or so. This is a comic for people who were reading Milestone in the ’90s and have been awaiting its return. I suppose it’s also a comic for DC continuity fetishists, but whatever. I’m in the other group. You know, the cool kids.

Where she’s absolutely right is when she speaks about the art.

I don’t know who Kendra is. Who Roy is. Who Carter is. Although Roy let’s us know he’s a super-hero…I still don’t follow this part of the story. I’m not sure if I see him again later. I flipped through trying to find his costume. But they all look so similar. That’s another thing–everybody in here–they all look the same. Faces, bodies, it’s just the color of the costume. Why go through this?

After the whining, after the sex, there’s this whole other passage with Buddy and the ass girls. Seriously. Someone really likes drawing women’s asses. Side by side ass-shots on the bottom of page nine. Is that a course in drawing school? Female Superhero Ass Drawing 101. Speaking of bodies and costumes and stuff, someone tell “Donner” that Britney called and wants her “oops I did it again” red catsuit back.

Ed Benes killed this book for me. Scenes that should have had some real emotion behind them (fear, anger, “Welp, we stepped in it now”ness) have square heads that just look a little stern and squinty. Powerful poses look stiff and unnatural. Conversations are held through clenched teeth or awkward smiles. I’m not even going to mention the ugly and awkward sex scene in the book, complete with cloud-covered nudity and wings and impossible shadows.

Hey, do you want to see Blitzen running at superspeed? Yeah? Okay, here’s a drawing of her in three different places at once. What? Facial expressions? Okay, fine, her mouth will be open in one drawing.

What about a drawing of heroes who just realized that their target just called down the Justice League? How shoud they look? Worried? Yeah? Okay, well, here’s them looking dead and lifeless.

I did these lovingly rendered shots of boobs and booty butt, booty butt, booty buttcheeks, though! Here, let me place them in prominent positions on almost every page.

You want a big exciting last page splash? I got you, check this out… dead eyes. How that sound?

The fact that the book is still so shiny that it looks washed out is a further problem, too. You know why Vixen looks lighter than ever? It’s because there’s a giant halogen light bulb placed just off-camera, washing out the colors in every scene in the book. That poor girl has to get her perm redone every two days because those lights make her sweat it out.

So, I’m left in a position where I’m conflicted. I should like this book. McDuffie did a great job with the script, it’s got characters I enjoy, and it’s the return of Milestone. But, Ed Benes? I can’t do it. I’m trying and trying, but his stiff and lifeless art is killing the story for me.

Something that’s kind of funny is that my mom used to bug me about comic art like this. Her word for it was “provocative.” “You shouldn’t read those books where the girls are standing all provocative and everything.” “Why does she have to look so provocative.” I didn’t get it at the time, but I do now. Ed Benes is pretty much the definition of “provocative.”

What makes it even worse is that Milestone debuted or employed so many hot artists. Here’s a sampling from Milestone’s wikipedia: John Paul Leon, Christopher Sotomayor, Christopher Williams (aka ChrisCross), Shawn Martinborough, Tommy Lee Edwards, Prentis Rollins, J.H. Williams III, Humberto Ramos, Eric Battle, Jamal Igle, and Chris Batista.

This company debuted books with those guys and we get Ed Benes for the return of the universe? We couldn’t get an art jam with those dudes? That’s like going to a Wu-Tang concert, only to find that Ghost and Rae have been replaced with Soulja Boy and Yung Berg and Method Man is now Yung Joc. Somebody likes them, and Ed Benes, I’m sure, but it ain’t me.

It’s like going to a Busta Rhymes show and getting 60 minutes of Arab Money, instead of I Got U All In Check or Scenario or Break Ya Neck or anything but Arab Money.

Now, I’m torn. Do I keep buying and supporting a concept that I like, if the execution is only half there? I’m going to buy the re-released trades. Is that support enough? Or do I need to do more? I love Milestone and all it stands for. It was so far ahead of its game on so many points that Marvel and DC still haven’t caught up.

But… this is the reception it gets? This is DC’s push for the return? What part of the game is this?

When the trades come, buy the trades. I just recently re-read the entire run of Blood Syndicate and the stories hold up pretty well. Some more than others, obviously, but as a whole, they’re really strong. I’m hoping DC does the smart thing and bangs these out like the Jack Kirby’s Fourth World hardcovers. A fat stack of 8-12 issues at a time, once a quarter per book. The Question has taken two years for three books, which is stupid.

I’m torn enough on JLA that I don’t know whether I should tell you to pick it up or not. It depends on whether or not the art is more important than the story, or vice versa, I think. I’m going to have to decide in the store when the next issue comes out. I don’t want this to be my next 808s and Heartbreak, emphasis on the Heartbreak, but it kind of feels like it will be as long as Benes is on art.

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15 comments to “Milestone 2008: Rebirth of Cool?”

  1. Despite my love for McDuffie from Milestone and animated DCU the art is one of two things (the other being constant cross-overs). But if they’d brough ChrisCross back for this re-debut? I would totally have been onboard…

    I’m betting that IF DC does Milestone trades (and man do I want them to) Static will likely be first out. Not that I mind that. I only bought a few non-Blood Syndicate issues and wouldn’t mind a chance to get the books I originally mostly skimmed over in the shop back then…

  2. Here, maybe this’ll help:


  3. My problem with it was the writing, not the art. I think whomever is inking Benes is a poor match, but otherwise I’m mostly ok with his work. There are flaws, for sure, but they didn’t stand out to me enough to make me, say, wish they brought back ChrisCross. And I didn’t notice the booty buttcheeks.

    I’m surprised to hear about the “return” of characters like Blitzen. She was new to me. Hm.

    But yeah, I got it because (I thought) it was the Milestone re-debut – regardless of quality. Now I wanna find that ish of TT with Static.

  4. But yeah, I got it because (I thought) it was the Milestone re-debut – regardless of quality. Now I wanna find that ish of TT with Static.

    Don’t don’t don’t seriously don’t. Here. This is the only page with Static in it. It’s a shitty comic and don’t read it, I swear to god.


  5. David, this is admittedly only slightly related… but did you like Xero by Christopher Priest and Chris Cross? I thought that book was tight and also ahead of its time.

  6. It’s always been on my list of things to read! I missed out on it the first time through and don’t think that there was a trade. I’ll put it on my list for the top of ’09.

  7. Speaking of love songs, http://www.vimeo.com/2519605

  8. Good things about Ed Benes:

    1. the opportunity to mispronounce his surname as “beans”. I can’t not do it.

  9. y’know, i was feeling the same way about JLA and benes on art, but since he kept coming back after the fill-ins, thought i was the only one

    i would have loved to have seen some of the old school milestone artists do these issues too

    but i’ll keep reading cause i love milestone and can’t not support them now that DC has finally started wising up about using these great characters

    (i actually do dig 808s and Heartbreak though) 😉

  10. I like the comparison between the Milestone guys in JLA to Kanye–it’s like somebody said “Hey, do you like this thing that these guys used to do?”

    And I say yeah.

    And then they say “Look what we did to it! It’s got all this color and gloss put on top of it, and all the heart is gone! Doesn’t that make it so much better? Now that the soul of it is completely dead? Don’t you like it more?”

  11. The worst part is, I have to wonder how much of the feeling of ‘soullessness’ was just McDuffie wrestling with introducing too many characters in one issue (which is a basic and common problem that I wouldn’t hold against an overall story, and hard to get around) or the fact that it looks like it was drawn by Kevin Federline and inked on cocaine to a boombox incessantly, on repeat, playing “PopoZao.”

  12. Oh, just to play Mr. Positive, this was a much better introduction of characters a lot of people hadn’t heard of when compared against the one they did for those Tangent characters. Hopefully they’ll have everything in place when they do it for the goddamn Shield and the fucking Comet. By the time they resurrect Tim Hunter, we could be talking some Deathmate level shit.

  13. Iota is dressed in a padded armor suit that sensibly doesn’t restrict movement.

    It’s hot pink.

    So speaking as someone seeing this character for the first time: Is she secretly a member of GI JOE, America’s daring highly trained special mission force?

    I thought the writing did a great job of introducing new to me characters, just enough basics to get by until they can be explored in depth later. I will admit to only knowing it was a classic fight-then-work together set-up, not feeling it. To a new reader, these guys are a pretty brazen group of thieves (especially Iota, now that I think about it). I didn’t notice the art, maybe subconsciously

  14. For those who missed out on Milestone a “Misterswarm” over on Scans_Daily has been posting a history lesson

  15. That’s actually pretty cool. I missed out on the non-Static stuff as a kid and this is a nice recap.