Punching Through Reality #3

The LCS, Floppies, Cloning Jesus, and a Big-Ass Missing Boat

By Ryan Miller

     I'll be honest: I haven't been following single issue comics, henceforth referred to as floppies, in a very long time. As a kid I regularly read them, starting with Marvel's The Infinity Gauntlet and continued reading/purchasing through much of my adolescence. Of course, like most children, I didn't have the proper dough to pony-up for regular readership, but I often enjoyed books here and there. The X-Ecutioner's Song, X-Men, various Spider-man books, and a couple of Batman books are of the ones I remember. It was a time of discovery and wonder though, more often than not, I never got the whole story.

   That didn't matter to me. It was a joyous thing to be able to see super-heroes performing heroics, regardless of missing huge chunks of narratives. Special thanks go out to Batman: the Animated Series, X-Men, and Spiderman cartoons for filling my desire for these characters without having to go to a local comic shop a shell out the allowance I didn't have. The local comic book shops in my town disappeared and reappeared more often than I changed my underwear, and I often wondered if even I was able to afford my favorite books, would I be able to find them? They disappeared until I finally found one around 1997 when I came across a Comic Shop cleverly disguised as a Sports Card Dealer called Waynes Dugout.

   By the time I was 12, I did receive a regular allowance for various chores, extra yardwork, or whatever else I could do to afford the books I loved. In the end, I got about $10-$15 dollars a month, and that was just enough for me to get my superhero fix. Wayne's Dugout was a great store for me at the time. I'd walk inside, say hello to the owner, admire his framed copy of Action Comics number 1, and finally begin debating which stories I had to have that month. It was the first time I was able to read titles regularly. Lucky for me, Heroes Return had just started, and I'd missed the entirety of Heroes Reborn. I was lucky enough to have been reading Kurt Busiek's Iron Man and Avengers, Mark Waid's Captain America, Scott Lobdell's Fantastic Four, and Thor by Dan Jurgens. These books were pretty great.

   It was also about that time I found that more than just super-heroes comics existed. I wasn't reading Vertigo quite yet, but I did see an issue of Bone here and there. Naturally, Bone appealed to the cartoon lover in me. Jeff Smith wrote and drew this amazing story, even if I did have to wait several months between issues. When those issues came out, I had to carefully select which book to drop in favor of it. Difficult choice, obviously.

   Sadly, Wayne's Dugout eventually closed down and sometimes I wonder if I was his only customer. It was the time that followed that I stopped reading comics for a bit. I'm not sure if it was because I had nowhere to buy them or if it's because I discovered girls, but I'll blame it on the former to save face. In High School I was informed that things called trade paperbacks existed. My local Booksamillion had a small, but good selection at the time. That's when I got into Vertigo.

   My last experience in buying floppies was with Secret Invasion from Marvel. You can imagine why I didn't buy any more after that disappointment.

   Recently I've been thinking about Wayne's Dugout and how important it was to me growing up. It is because of that, with a little help this column, that I regained my interest in floppies. My local comic shop is 45 minutes away, depending on traffic, and I went there to play a few board games with friends and peruse the selection of new titles. I'm normally a trade waiter, but there's something to be said about experiencing first hand a book as it unfolds, as opposed to months after release.

   My local shop, The Darkside, has a great selection. On a ridiculous budget, I had a hard time picking merely two titles to read. Funny enough, despite my recent rant about how awesome the creative teams flocking to Image were and my lack of interest for Vertigo's recent crop, I opted to give Vertigo the chance to redeem itself, along with picking up a Dark Horse book. No Image for me this month.

   So what did I get? I picked up first issues from both Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy and Brian Wood's book The Massive.

   I have very little knowledge of Sean Murphy, save that from he and Grant Morrison's Joe the Barbarian, but this title has given me a little bit of interest in his career despite its entirely stupid title. While he worked with Grant Morrison illustrating JtB, with Punk Rock Jesus he's taken both writing and illustrating duties in what amounts for something surprising. Grant Morrison was the reason I checked out JtB, but Sean Murphy's pencils made that book work. So: How is his writing?

   With the exception of the title of the book itself, most of his writing in this first chapter is enjoyable. The story, if you haven't heard of book, is about a plan to clone Jesus Christ in the year 2019 for a reality show. Though both the title and cover may lead you to believe otherwise, Punk Rock Jesus is not about a punk rock band or anything similar. Well, I suppose in the five issues ahead there is room for such idea, but we'll see how this progresses. The story follows a scientist who will receive funding to save the world if, and only if, she clones Jesus for a reality show to the specifications of those behind the show. Other notable characters include the reality show's producer, an affable teenage virgin host to the second coming, and the terrorist, with his assistant, charged with protecting them. The show's producer is exactly the kind of bastard you'd expect him to be, without being all too conspicuous on that front. The virgin girl is overly pleasant and worrisome for her messiah-to-be. And finally our terrorist, or ex-terrorist if you'd prefer, is a rather menacing individual who seems to take the lone-badass archetype too seriously. His technical assistant is a man who just wants the respect of his peers.

   While I claim to know very little about Sean Murphy or his plans for this book, I can say I'm interested, at least a little, to see where it goes. The surprise at the end of the book warrants that much alone. It's a book that surprised me in several places.

   The art, if you're more into the art end of funny-books, is fantastic. The series is in black and white and while a color version may be available later on, it totally serves the book. I'm sure this in no small part contributed to the paltry $2.99 cover price I paid for the issue. Murphy has a style that works well for the title, and while I'm not art critic, I'd say if the industry doesn't start utilizing him more it's entirely their loss.

   If you don't have a weak heart, pick it up. It's a brutal satire that hooks you in and delivers.

   Next up we have Brian Wood's The Massive #1, which thus far I assure you is not any form of innuendo. The Massive is a story about a ship of people surviving during the aftermath of the end of the world. We watch as the crew of the Kapitol search for their missing sister ship, The Massive, while attempting to stay alive. Is that a cool enough premise for you? Ever since DMZ, Northlanders, and Demo, where ever Brian Wood goes, I'm happy to follow. With the exception of determining our main characters and describing the horrific events leading up to The Massive's present day, the actual story of The Massive is light on details as to where the story is going. It's the kind of mystery that's keeping me intrigued, I suppose, but I wish I knew more. Maybe next month, I will.

   The art for The Massive is pretty nice, delivering us anything from intimate moments of emotion between the crew and a detailed explanation of what went wrong in our world. Kristian Donaldson isn't an artist I've ever heard of before, but I'm definitely going to watch where her career goes from here.

   In a world obsessed with Zombies, it's nice to see a new take on the end of the world.

   Two books this week and both of them were fantastic. I might start buying floppies more often.