by Michael Vance & Dr. Jon Suter
November 18, 1998
Reviews in this issue:
DC's Tangent Universe
25 pgs, $2.95/Writer: James Pruett; Artist, Mike Perkins/sold in comic shops or by mail order.
Madmen with axes, and kittens in stitches;
Candles and matches and wart-covered witches;
Werewolves and monsters and bat-winged things;
These are a few of my favorite things.
If they are also yours, you'll be a bit perturbed with Black Mist, a new horror comic book series from Caliber Comics.
It won't be because it is poorly written or lacking in the icons of that genre. It is well plotted and scripted except that it lacks any sense of urgency or suspense or an original twist.
The only twist to the well-used theme of a group of nasties raising something wicked is that Kali, an Indian death goddess, looks more like a punk-rock babe. "She" traditionally sports bloody fangs and extra sets of grasping hands.
That does not bode well.
The characters are well developed although stereotyped, and the dialog is crisp.
Considering the limited number of available pages in a comic book, stereotyping isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is simply a form of shorthand. Since "cliches" carry a wealth of preconceived baggage, it allows writers to say more with less.
That does not bode ill.
The saving power of Black Mist lies in its high contrast, reality-based and excellent art. Heavily influenced by '50s EC horror artist Graham Ingels, this cartoonist paints the somber, threatening mood and atmosphere so needed for this genre with broad lines and ample blacks. His work is unsettlingly powerful, although derivative, and artist Mike Perkins is worth watching for future comics stardom.
There is brief and restrained nudity and violence, and some readers will find its heavy occultism disturbing.
Black Mist is recommended (with reservations) for adults who love the macabre.
Its second issue should prove if the promise of this series is fully realized.
-- Reviewed by Michael Vance
DC's Tangent Universe
The DC line of comics has had its ups and downs over the decades, but has had the resiliency to reinvigorate itself with new versions of established characters like Flash, Green Lantern or Superman.
To say that DC's new Tangent Line is the most radical version yet of its "universe", or story continuity, is an understatement. I consider it more radical than Marvel's ill-fated New Universe imprint.
The Tangent universe is far different from the current DC cosmos; it is no "Earth One versus Earth Two", or even an "Elseworld" variant of established characters. Only the character's names are the same.
Dan Jurgens is the driving force behind the line. Of the nine titles, I have seen three: Sea Devils, Metal Men and Flash. I look forward to the other six since all titles appear to be closely related.
The Tangent universe is based on a revised history of the 1960s, particularly the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnamese Conflict and the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Jurgens has developed his alternate history as carefully as many sf novelists.
The new Metal Men are humans, not sentient robots. The Sea Devils are humans devolved into crustaceans, not scuba divers. The Flash is neither Jay Garrick, Barry Alien nor Wally West; she has to be seen to be believed.
The tone of Metal Men and Sea Devils is dark, but Flash is a frothy melange of Roadrunner slapstick and super heroics.
Resemblances to the film Clueless are not accidental.
Whether this incarnation can fit successfully into a team remains to be seen, but such a team is promised: The Secret Six.
Each of the comics works well. Whether they or any of the other titles will survive remains to be seen. The price is hefty, $2.95 each, but these first issues could be a good financial investment and good reading.
Can anyone doubt that the Tangent characters will eventually meet their counterparts from the mainstream DC universe?
Fans have a depressing habit of wanting immediate crossovers.
-- Dr. Jon Suter
Every comics publisher has been guilty of mediocre stories, some more so than others. Some have been guilty of stories and concepts so bad as to defy remedy.
Among DC's unredeemable blunders are such titles as Brother Power the Geek, The Green Machine, Ultra the Multi Alien, and Prez.
Ironically, some of these characters actually acquire following, achieving cult status.
The analogy to the wretched films of Ed Wood (Plan Nine from Outer Space) is more disturbing.
In the 1960s, the Archie line offered credible attempts at superheroes such as the Jaguar and Fly, but Mighty Crusaders degenerated into a poor imitation of Marvel.
Archie's parodies of superheroes ("Pureheart the powerful", "Captain Hero", etc.) may have been only slightly sillier.
Dell Comics provided some awful titles such as Frankenstein and Dracula. The art was so bad I still remember them after thirty years. A slightly better attempt was Fabulous Four title.
The ultimate in wasted effort was a bizarre version of the superhero, Captain Marvel - a hero who could split into independently moving parts.
It is useful to remind ourselves of horrible examples in order to recognize genuine mediocrity. My leading current candidate for mediocrity has to be a Marvel three-issue miniseries, Kitty Pryde, Agent of SHIELD.
There is no defense for this hedge-podge and no one should take pride in it.
Larry Hama has done better writing. I don't know of other art by Jesus Redondo, but I hope he can do better. At $2.50 per issue, this is a waste of money.
Why is it poor? The story line is anemic and the character development is non-existent. The third issue almost seems an afterthought, and repeats much of the action of the second issue. Superhero Wolverine's guest appearance is wasted.
Some might say that this type of story could interest younger readers in the Marvel line, but I doubt that anyone would find this an inducement to explore the Marvel universe.
Young readers are more intelligent than is often supposed.
-- Dr. Jon Suter
Controversy over the use of &*#+%O!'s in art raged for years. The argument for the use of foul language included the belief that if writers couldn't use realistic dialog, what was written was phony, somehow less profoundly realistic.
After all, I &"#+%8!, therefore I am.
Art in its broadest definition is much more insightful and profound now, isn't it?
It was a phony argument; the proof is in the &X#+%O ! pudding.
The proof is also in Hypersonic, a new comics series laced with &X#+%~!. It is almost a shame that it is otherwise well written and drawn.
In 2009, a shameless pilot flying an apparently realistic jet and bombing an apparently realistic country is shot down by a flying something. He has become something "other", a secret government operative, when he awakens and is given his own craft built from the technology of downed alien space ships.
It is admittedly a &X#+%O! intriguing plot.
It is admittedly also &X#+~8!ly well illustrated in a pseudo realistic style.
By the way, this style is always pseudo realistic. It is impossible to reproduce total realism in any art form. In a strange sense, even Photography is not completely realistic.
This art is dynamic, full of excitement, and the visual storytelling is flawless.
That is why I almost hate Hypersonic. Because I do hate the use of &*#+~O! in comics, in movies, in literature, in art. I'd hate it in ballet if they could dance &X#+~ O !. And Hypersonic is full of something I hate.
It's also full of stuff I love.
So, should this tight &*#+~oO!-ed, Puritanical, Christian reviewer recommend this science fiction miniseries or not? I'll certainly be &*#+%O! if I do and &X#+%O! if I don't.
To &*#+%~! with it.
Hypersonic contains some nudity and lots of &*#+5~0!, and is reluctantly recommended.
-- Reviewed by Michael Vance
Hypersonic #s 1-3/22 pgs., $2.95 each, Dark Horse Comics/ written by Dan Abnett and Steve White; drawn by Gary Erskine/sold at comics shops and by mail.
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