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The Filth #8
writer: Grant Morrison
artists: Chris Weston and Gary Erskine

At some points while reading this series, my British parapersona takes over and says it's just a load of bollocks. Who's really who and what exactly it is they're trying to accomplish keeps sliding from issue to issue. Sometimes it seems doubtful that Morrison even knows.

Yet something keeps this series, in all its hip incomprehensibility, from completely losing it. Perhaps it's the philosophical questions it raises, such as "what sort of a world is it in which photographs of fully-clothed children wearing ant heads is considered pornography?"

Definitely in The Filth's favor is the gorgeous artwork from Chris Weston and Gary Erskine, a team up to the task of bringing Morrison's phantasmagorical imaginings to life. Though everything about The Hand is meant to disturb on a sexual level, Weston and Erskine make it playful, as if Dr. Seuss and Jack Kirby had a lovechild. (Which kind of explains the message on the tampon on page one - a Freudian twist on Horton Hears a Who.)

Maybe the concepts are just too big. Certainly, the idea of the floating nation and its terrible fate merits more than two short issues of a comic book. Then again, all of The Invisibles never seemed enough time, either.

Curse it. I can't decide if this book is genius or pure wank on Morrison's part, and that dilemma sucks me back month after month.


Flash #194
writer: Geoff Johns
artists: Scott Kolins and Doug Hazlewood

As a byproduct of DC's Silver Age, Gorilla City could be a pretty silly concept. And indeed, the JLApe crossover a few summers back didn't help that image, though events there laid the seeds for something cool by shaking up its status quo.

Geoff Johns found those seeds, took them, and did what he does so well. From his words and Kolins and Hazlewood's art, Gorilla City seems like an alien civilization (which, once upon a pre-Crisis, it actually was), unhuman and ethereal.

There is, perhaps, a too cliched spiritual gentleness about all the apes but Grodd, but it still makes for intriguing imagery. In Gorilla City, even the color suggesting blood is forbidden, an idea turned on its head before the story ends.

Johns poses a larger question of justice, one which has a little weight right now. Horrified and angered by the destruction wrought on Keystone City, Wally wants to punish Grodd for his crimes. Solavar's son Nnamdi, now leader of Gorilla City, insists that their ways require their own punishment be levied upon Grodd.

So who gets satisfaction? Readers who like a little philosophical distraction with their gorilla/superhero slugfests.


JLA #77
writer: Rick Veitch
artists: Darryl Banks and Wayne Faucher

Hey! An adventure that completes in just one issue. And it's satisfying. Imagine that.

Borrowing a little bit from Superman: The Animated Series' version of Brainiac, guest-writer Rick Veitch presents Mnemon, a chillingly dangerous being whose sole purpose is to gather memories. Of course, those memories are all the sweeter when the real things are gone. So Mnemon travels the galaxy destroying civilizations that he might enjoy a rueful reverie.

The secret of his power lies in a contained black hole. Knowing that much combined with superhero history, it's obvious that Mnemon is on a collision course with The Atom.

As artificial beings go, Mnemon suffers from a cocky attitude, and likes to play with his prey's memories before destruction. Upon encountering the JLA, he steals only certain crucial memories, random but dramatically effective. The Atom forgets how to enlarge. Green Lantern forgets what his ring is. Batman forgets how to talk. And so it goes.

Veitch plays with each Leaguer's strengths and weaknesses well, and still takes the time to make Mnemon a full-fledged character and not just a concept. The only characters who get short shrift are those created by regular writer Joe Casey; Faith and Manitou Raven appear, but nobody really knows enough about them to judge their appearance one way or another. (Other than nicely drawn by Banks and Faucher.)

Efforts like this give me continued hope for Aquaman. And such a stand-out fill-in sets the bar for the regular team.


Peter Parker: Spider-Man #52
writer: Zeb Wells
artists: Francisco Herrera and Wayne Faucher

Wayne Faucher has proven himself to be a good stabilizing inking force, on this book and in others. His work on JLA this month continues that tradition. But there's just not a lot he can do over the chaotic pencils of Herrera.

Put my own distaste for Herrera's style aside for a moment. It simply weakens the effect of Spider-Man's unique physicality if every character is capable of being caught any which way at any time. Ditko certainly understood that. Part of what makes Spidey eerie to people is that he doesn't quite look human in the way he holds himself. Sometimes artists miss that, and it still works because doggonit, he's still a superhero, but Herrera takes it to the opposite extreme.

Strangely, it isn't very fluid, either, which makes even Hydro-Man appear awkwardly frozen.

All this could be redeemed by a good story, but that doesn't really happen here. As villains, Hydroman and The Shocker have seen better days, and they know it. But knowing it doesn't really seem to make a difference for them. Wells amps up their power levels to make them into more credible threats, but the story still plays out rather predictably.

We've seen it before and better, ironically enough from Wells himself in a recent issue of Spider-Man's Tangled Web.


Truth: Red, White & Black #3
writer: Robert Morales
artist: Kyle Baker

Our columnist Joshua Elder tore this book to shreds a few weeks back, and though I can understand his point of view, Truth: Red, White & Black works for me. Not perfectly, as it suffers a bit from a too politically correct point of view that reduces things too much into black and white.

However, Morales has begun filling in more than atmosphere. With this issue, the sarge provides some historical context for his animosity, and if readers aren't careful, they might actually learn about something shameful and real in our nation's past.

Knowing about such events helps make the great evil being done upon these men more believable. Still, I'll go with Josh and agree that the whole-scale slaughter of a battalion last issue feels over the top. But I'm willing to admit that that could be wishful thinking on my part.

Kyle Baker's art works, too. The only character that jars is Dr. Reinhardt, who looks like a refugee from a Rankin-Bass holiday special (okay, purists, yes - he looks like a Paul Coker design). Because the original character is early Kirby, and burned into our minds that way, Baker's take on him just doesn't fit, even with his other, looser character designs.

Something spiritual seems to be happening by the end of this issue, making a nice bookend to the tragedy we experienced at the beginning of it. Clearly, Morales is after a bigger picture than we might have been led to believe at first, and it's intriguing. The truth may not be what we think it is at all.


Derek McCaw


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