Hot Ink — Obamouse #1, First Wave #1, Buffy Season Eight #33
CRUELTY FROM ANIMALS - Obamouse 1
You would think that a book that stars a mouse version of U.S. President Barack Obama would not be good. You would be correct. You might guess that it would in fact be so bad that it would be, in its own way, amazing in what it does. Again, you would be correct. But I feel confident that unless you were actually to read this book, you would not be prepared for the special kind of stunning terrible that is found in "Obamouse".
"Obamouse" is actually a collection of three short stories. In its first, a Nick Fury-inspired Obamouse fights the forces of Owl Caida. I'm going to repeat that again, slowly, with details. There is a mouse. Who is an anthropomorphic version of Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States. Except that in this story, that character is not a President. He is a super-spy, wearing a jumpsuit with white gloves and boots and covered with pouches, smoking a cigar, and sporting an eye-patch. He fights a group of fundamentalist owls with beards who wear robes with a crescent and star, again, named OWL CAIDA, who chant a variation of the HYDRA anthem. Except that he doesn't actually fight them, he fights their leader, who, for some reason never actually explained, looks exactly like Fat Cat, the bad guy from "Rescue Rangers", complete with mustache and toupee. That villain's name in this book? Fat Cat. I am not kidding. But I wish that I was.
Next I'll jump to the third story, which makes even less sense. It's called "Star Squeak". In it the Barack Obama mouse is, once more, not the President. He is a Captain Kirk analogue, calling himself "Captain Barack Obamouse of the Starship Washington". He wakes up wounded on a planet, being nursed back to health by a cat-girl named "Asrah Naplin". You heard me. She tells him of the fate of her planet, whose people were turned against one another by a race of aliens called "Partisands". Obamouse offers her a chance to leave and later return to fix her world. She says she cannot abandon her people. So he says, and this is an exact quote, "I understand maybe a lesson can be learned here . . ." Then in the next panel the spaceship flies away and the story ends. Nothing is solved. All the six pages consist of is Obamouse waking up injured, hearing a brief history lesson, and then departing.
Which brings me finally back around to the second story, the only one of the three in which Barack Obamouse actually is President. In this one, Obamouse lists the problems his nation faces and laments how difficult it is to do things about them. But mostly the story is serves as a parade of other anthropomorphic political figures. I will now list all of them. Those with a heart condition or low tolerance for wordplay may want to look away now while you still have your health and sanity: Joe Bison. John McCrane. Sarah Penguin. Nancy Peloseal. Stephen Colbear. Keith Doberman. David Lettermane. Rat Limburger. Blue Jay Leno. Hen Beck. Wolf Spitzer. Keep in mind all those characters appear over a span of only eight pages. Also, Hen Beck? A hen is a female chicken. I don't know if that's intended as an insult of some sort, but clearly Glenn Peck is a much, much better (or, to be more accurate, worse) name. And Wolf Spitzer? I don't even know what the point of that is. There's already an animal name in Wolf Blitzer's human name. Why did you need to add a dog breed in there?
I had a set of expectations going into "Obamouse". It defied almost all of them. This book of three stories, in which at most one can be generously considered to contain the basic elements of a plot, goes out of its way to find new depths of awful. Like an out of control driver swerving to hit both sides of a side walk before plowing directly into an oil truck parked on the edge of an active volcano, it is an astounding achievement.
I WANTED MEDIUM PULP BUT GOT LOTS OF PULP - First Wave 1
Ever since DC gave readers an early taste of the "First Wave" universe in the "Batman/Doc Savage" one-shot from a few months ago, this is a book that I've had my eye on. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Rags Morales have created a setting that mixes the golden age with the modern, with the result being a sort of retro-future pulp adventure epic starring such heroes as Doc Savage, the Spirit and a young Batman. Now that first issue is finally here. And my opinion is unchanged. That Batman/Doc Savage one-shot still has me really excited about "First Wave". Somewhat more excited than the series' first issue did, unfortunately.
To begin with, there's no Batman here. Which is not to say that I'm so addicted to Batman that any comic that doesn't include him is therefore less good. But if the cover of your book only has three characters on it, and then one of those characters does not actually make an appearance in the book, then I'm going to go ahead and say that no matter how good the cover looks (and J.G. Jones, it must be said, excellently captures the tone of the world here), I'm going to have an issue with it.
I was in intrigued by the young, still-getting the hang of superheroics Bruce Wayne in the previous introductory issue, and I miss not seeing him here. Second, there was a unique appearance to the Batman/Doc Savage special, with a world that mixed elements of modern technology with fantastic pulp-influenced flying machines and an overall aesthetic of the 1940s and 1950s. "First Wave #1" doesn't seem to have any of those details that made the world so interesting, with a setting that looks no different from ordinary, well-illustrated mid-20th century pulp detective tale.
With those criticisms out of the way, I have to say that there's nothing here that made me lose in the series. The story switches between Doc Savage investigating his father's suspicious death by an unidentified disease and the Spirit following a strange shipment on a tip from an informant. Azzarello establishes both characters well, contrasting Savage's philosophical perfectionism with the Spirit's playful vigilantism. And Morales' artwork, particularly in the Spirit's fight scenes, reinforces those characterizations. I was expecting the series to start off with a bang, but what I ended up with appears to be a slower, more careful build up. I'll still be excited to read issue 2 of "First Wave," but this one wasn't all I was hoping it would be.
EVERYONE REMEMBER TO ACT SURPRISED - Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight 33
All right, I'm getting this out of the way right off the bat. Some time ago Dark Horse released a major spoiler about "Buffy: Season 8." This is the issue where that spoiled reveal finally happens. If you've managed to make it this far without hearing about said spoiler and haven't read the issue yet, I'm going to be talking about it extensively here. Go no further, for beyond this sentence be plot twists large and questionable.
So this is it. This is the issue where the identity of Twilight, the villain terrorizing Buffy and friends throughout most of season eight, is at last revealed to people who don't already have the internet. And Buffy takes the discovery that it was Angel all along about as well as you could expect, which is to say that she gets angry, then violent, then emotionall
I actually think it might have been a wise move for Dark Horse to have spoiled this one so far ahead of time. If I hadn't have known, I think this would have seemed especially preposterous when it happened. Having time to prepare for it allowed me to begin to justify why Angel's been placed in the role of antagonist. I'm still really hoping that this was also some kind of plan to reveal what seems like a big plot twist while keeping another, even bigger twist on this twist hidden, so that one ends up hitting the reader out of nowhere. Because Angel's explanation for his actions, which include leading a military operation that resulted in the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of both Buffy's slayer army and his own troops, sounds pretty iffy. He argues that if he didn't do it someone else would have, and that at least he was able to subvert the forces against Buffy and minimize the damage compared to what others might have done. Which is a reasonable excuse on something like an economic bailout. Not so much in the field of mass slaughter.
Mostly, I still can't help but feel like this makes not as much sense as I would like it to. And what makes it more uncomfortable is Whedon's involvement in the series. He may not be writing these specific issues himself, but he's overseeing the effort and views it as an official continuation of the series. This isn't like George Lucas putting a stamp of approval on something and then sitting back and watching his bank account grow. If you feel that Season 8, while full of enjoyable moments, isn't perfectly in tune with the spirit of the television series, it's slightly harder to justify separating it from the rest of Buffy canon in your head.
All that said, I have to admit that this issue was quite fun at times. It's once more filled with references to comics, films and television shows that favor those of the nerdish persuasion. Xander instantly became my favorite person in this issue by dropping a highly appropriate "Rising Stars" reference. And there's another single panel featuring Andrew saying a mere three words that contains no less than seven different shout-outs. Not to mention the slightly subtler references to another popular vampire-centric franchise. Notice how Buffy and Angel fight in the sunlight, while both glowing? How they have an anguished exchange about how they're destined to love each other and it will be the only way either of them will ever be happy? How Angel's alter-ego was named "Twilight", for heaven's sake? There has to be something bigger that Meltzer, possibly in coordination with Whedon, has been building up to that involved those points, and I'm actually really looking forward to seeing it develop.
And then there's the final page. It's wonderful. Meltzer, in only his second issue, pulls off an incredible one-two punch, deftly jumping from one emotional high to drastically different one, leaving readers' heads spinning and me laughing uproariously. That one moment feels very much like something that would have happened in the series, ending the issue on a high note.