Archive for Evil Empire

Take the Plunge


Manifest Destiny #11

Lewis has a plan to harpoon the giant frog monster in the river to get the boat towed free from the arch it’s beached on. The problem is that when they throw it bait, its leaps into the air to catch it aren’t predictable enough for harpooners to hit. So a different solution is hit upon — dangle bait from a tree, then harpoon the monster when it leaps up to take the bait. And they’re going to use the rapist Hardy as the bait. The operation is mostly successful — the beast is harpooned, and Hardy only loses a leg — but now that it’s been struck, the monster is diving and pulling the boat underwater. Is there any way to save the boat and crew?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Outstanding, tense story, with great character work, beautiful artwork (yes, even of the monsters), and unexpectedly great action.


Evil Empire #6

We learn how President Sam Duggins got so messed up, and how he goes about consolidating his power — mainly by killing his Congressional opponents, rewriting the Constitution to make sociopathy the law of the land, and lots and lots of marketing. The new resistance, led by Reese and Theo, start making plans to overthrow Duggins, and their first act is to use some sort of hypertech CD to hack the DJ’s setup at a presidential drugs-and-sex party by the Washington Monument to make fun of Duggins. The Duggins administration reacts by shooting a few lowlifes, turning Disneyland into a pornographic park, revealing his incestuous relationship with his sister, and making her his vice president. Right now, the only benefit the resistance has is a mole on the inside of the administration.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I’m done with this book. It was sold as a semi-realistic vision of how the U.S. could end up going fascist, but it’s turned into a cartoon. The ease that Duggins flips most of the country into quasi-nazis is just beyond my ability to even kinda believe. In reality, pretty much everyone in Congress would be in Duggins’ opposition — the Republicans wouldn’t trust him because he’d run as a Democrat, and the Democrats would hate him for lying about everything in his campaign. Yes, Duggins would probably be able to get a lot of America’s cops to do his dirty work — but not near all of them. Maybe half, if he was lucky. And the military wouldn’t go for him, either — a guy banging his sister and running cocaine orgies on the National Mall just doesn’t have any kind of respectable discipline.

And again, there’s the fascism thing. There’s the incest-with-his-sister thing. There’s the let’s-make-America-legally-psychopathic thing. I don’t care how good your PR is — you’re not going to get enough people to go along with that. You might be able to get the fringe-of-the-fringe of either political party to go along with mass assassinations and turning Disneyland into an orgy camp, but 90% of the country would want your head on a stick.

And how stupid is the resistance? They’re somehow able to sneak into a presidential hedonism party, with one of the most famous pop stars in the country — and a known opponent of the crazy evil president — looming in the shadows just inside the treeline — nice work, Secret Service — and they go with sneaking a magic-tech CD that lets them use the DJ’s equipment to make fun of Duggins? Instead of taking advantage of the lax security and coked-up partygoers to put a bullet in Duggins’ head?

This is a crappy comic book, with badly thought-out ideas. I ain’t reading this no more.

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You Are Likely to Be Beaten by a Groo


Groo vs. Conan #3

Poor Sergio Aragones is still over-medicated and completely out of his mind, running amuck in a Renaissance faire. He’s arrested and taken to jail — but then there’s a jailbreak, and the prisoners drag him away with them. Meanwhile, in our mix-and-match fantasy world, Conan has realized that Groo is not a gigantic monster — just a complete idiot. But he’s still a dangerous combatant. Is he too much for Conan to handle?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great cartooning, humor, and action. It’s still fun to see these two wildly-different characters interacting together, partly humorously, partly seriously.


Clive Barker’s Nightbreed #5

Our origin stories in this issue focus on devil-faced Lude and two-faced Annastasjia. Lude’s story starts back in Germany in the 1600s, when his mother is attacked by a demonic satyr and later gives birth to an adorable, obsidian-skinned, fanged, horned baby. Annastasjia’s is more recent — the 1920s — when she was a vain, shallow movie star, scarred in a bar fight. Her efforts to regain her beauty lead her into methods very far from medical science.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s still kinda hard for me to believe I’m enjoying this as much as I am. The stories are still fun — and monstery and gross and often funny — and there are a lot more of the Nightbreed the creators can mine for stories…


Evil Empire #5

We get a break from the main storyline as we meet up with Ace, a serial killer, and Talia, his chosen victim. Ace’s gimmick is that he prefers to tie his victim up and make her watch him torture and murder people for days before finally killing her. He’s moderately well-adjusted, socially and mentally — he just likes to kill people and mentally torture women who remind him of his mother. But as the country starts to go to hell during the presidential campaign, Ace starts discovering that life is a lot more dangerous — people are murdering each other left and right, and no one’s getting in trouble for it. And when everything is permitted, Ace really doesn’t get the same charge he used to get from serial murder. Is there hope for his redemption?

Verdict: Thumbs down. I liked parts of this — the humor is really quite well done. Ace complaining about his new doubts about serial killing comes while he’s eating a body, for example, and his murderous impulses are largely played for laughs. The thing is, I’m buying the premise of the story less and less, and I especially couldn’t believe that a serial killer would give it all up just because everyone else is a serial killer, too.

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The Last of the West


All Star Western #34

I’d stopped reading this one a long time back, but that was less about disliking the character or the creators and more about my usual general malaise. But this is the last issue — and Darwyn Cooke is doing the art. And I’ll always buy a comic that’s got Darwyn Cooke doing Jonah Hex art.

There’s a lot of this that I missed out on, but at some point, Jonah Hex traveled to the present day, met some superheroes, and got plastic surgery to fix his face. But he’s back in the Old West where he belongs now, and he’s just met up with his fellow bounty hunter and sometime lover Tallulah Black. They’ve heard that there’s an outlaw impersonating him holed up in the next town over, and Jonah wants to see what this is all about. At the same time, traveling to the future meant that he also learned how he’d die, and he’s been dreading how it’s going to happen. Is there a future for Jonah Hex beyond getting murdered and sold to a taxidermist?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A big chunk of the appeal is Darwyn Cooke’s art — but it’s also great to watch Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti bid farewell to some characters they obviously care deeply about. I do love the fact that Jonah Hex is still very definitely Jonah Hex, even without his famous scars — and even more than that, I love the fact that Jonah’s all purty now, and he still loves the terribly scarred Tallulah. And most of all, I love the fact that we get a gloriously violent and crude Jonah Hex adventure mixed in with the perfect hope-for-the-future ending that you’d never expect Jonah Hex to actually get. And it all works perfectly.


Evil Empire #4

I’m gonna spoil the heck out of this comic, ’cause otherwise, I can’t tell you why I thought it was not good.

Rebellious pop star Reese Greenwood and her bodyguard Theo have just watched Kenneth Laramy, jailed presidential candidate and unofficial leader of the pro-fascism movement, admit he’d just been along for the ride, desperate to get away from all the crazy nuts proclaiming him their new messiah — and then he got shot dead by his own supporters. Luckily, the feds tear in and save Reese and Theo. This leaves single liberal Sam Duggins as the only real candidate for the presidency. And then, after the election results are announced, and Sam is about to make his acceptance speech, Reese learns that Sam’s sister Julia was sleeping with and manipulating Laramy. And then Reese and Theo both learn that Sam and Julia are having an incestuous relationship. And then Sam gives an acceptance speech claiming that he agreed with Laramy and believes that it’s time the country abandons all pretense of morality to become a nation fully dedicated to evil.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I was enjoying the heck out of this until the ending of this issue, because it makes no freakin’ sense. In the real world, if a Democrat was elected president and then gave a speech just after the results were announced saying that, nope, he was actually in full agreement with his Republican opponent about everything, he’d be lucky to get anything done in office at all. The Democrats would be furious and would refuse to support him at all. The Republicans might be glad to have a surprise Republican in the White House, but they also wouldn’t trust the guy who’d spent years telling everyone he was a liberal. (And, by the way, the same would hold true if a Republican had suddenly switched parties after the election.)

You know what you definitely wouldn’t get? You definitely wouldn’t get everyone in the country to just go “Oh, hey, the president wants us to be evil now, come on, everyone!” I could sorta believe it when Laramy was pushing the whole thing as letting angry people push back as hard as they want when people irritate or offend them. I mean, we’ve all seen what the NRA looks like nowadays, right? But you know who wakes up and decides to embrace cartoon-evil just because the president says so? Ain’t nobody.

This series just faceplanted hard, and they are really going to have to work to make me keep reading.

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President Evil


Evil Empire #2

So how did the future fascist America come about? We rewind 25 years to the present day, where presidential candidate Kenneth Laramy has just used his eulogy at his wife’s funeral to confess to her murder and to declare that it should be legal to kill anyone who you think really deserves it. While controversial and rebellious rapper Reese Greenwood starts a romance with Sam Duggins, the other presidential candidate, Laramy is quickly convicted and jailed, but he uses his trial to preach his psychotic gospel of absolute, unrestrained freedom and if-it-feels-good-do-it bloodshed — and as a result, a wave of violence sweeps the nation. And even worse, the police and prison guards are largely on Laramy’s side, and they allow him to leave prison so he can continue to encourage people to embrace violence and anarchy.

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was plenty doubtful last issue that the creators would be able to build a believable history that brought about a serious fascist dictatorship. But everything about Laramy’s pro-violence platform feels somewhat ripped from the headlines. We do actually have pro-sedition militia loons who want to kill lots of people, and they’re being egged on by big media pundits, partly for the ratings, partly because they know they’ll never get punished for inciting riots, murders and terrorist attacks. We got Florida, which basically legalized murder. We got Georgia, which wants people to carry guns in bars, schools, churches, and airports. We got legislators and billionaires waging illogical wars on homeless people, on the poor, on women and minorities, on solar energy, of all things, on the very concepts of human empathy and compassion.

We can turn on the TV and see sociopaths hosting news shows and appearing as honored guests, doing everything they can to encourage more sociopathy, more violence, more racism. About the only thing keeping the comic book from looking too much like real life is the spectacular lack of charisma or forethought going on among the political and media leaders on the rightward side of the aisle. In the real world, thank goodness, the percentage of psychotics in the population is much, much lower.


Ghosted #9

Jackson Winters is in huge trouble. He’s successfully rescued Nina Blood Crow from the Brotherhood of the Closed Book, but now they’re both trapped in a jungle haunted by hundreds of dead, angry animals. And the only people who can rescue them are, unfortunately, the Brotherhood of the Closed Book. And even worse, the Brotherhood is working with Nina’s mother, Wenona Blood Crow, an organized crime kingpin who helped get Nina possessed by the vengeful spirit of the Skadegamutc. Plus we also get a flashback of Jackson’s last big casino heist and why it went so disastrously, terrifyingly wrong.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a gloriously creepy, bloody story, and it was spectacular fun to read. If y’all love good horror comics, you should be reading this series.

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The Empire Diaries


Evil Empire #1

Okay, the premise of this sci-fi comic is a look back at a world in which America has become a hardline fascist dictatorship to discover how it changed from a normal 21st-century media-driven democracy into a society where brownshirts murder you for helping homeless people.

After a brief look at the fascist future, we drop back a quarter-century to meet Reese Greenwood, a rebellious, status quo-hating pop star who raps about tearing down the system and how much she hates both political parties. After a concert in Washington, D.C., she meets one of the presidential candidates, Sam Duggins, a young, single liberal running against Kenneth Laramy, a married family-values conservative. After Duggins tells Reese he’s a fan of her music, both of them learn that Laramy’s wife has been savagely murdered, stabbed in the neck by an unknown assailant. Reese ends up getting serious criticism — one of her best-known songs refers to stabbing a politician in the neck — and Sam Duggins takes some heat off her when he interrupts her MTV interview. Reese and Duggins end up attending the funeral together, where everyone discovers something absolutely shocking…

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m probably hooked on this series for a while. The characters are interesting and the art is pretty nice. The cliffhanger is a pretty big shocker. I’m still dubious on how this is all going to lead to a fascist dictatorship in 25 years, but I wouldn’t expect them to tell the whole story in the first issue…


Coffin Hill #7

A done-in-one issue starring Eleanor Coffin, who, if I remember correctly, is Eve’s mother. The year is 1958, and Ellie is roaming the Coffin Hill woods trying to find the infamous Coffin Witch to beg for her help. She’s being stalked by her father — but her father was murdered by her mother just days ago. As he chases her through the forest, she finds brief respite with a girl named Evelyn, but she can’t escape from her undead father — but does he actually want what’s best for her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nicely spooky short story full of ghosts and evil and temptation. Not sure the story is quite as good as you might expect from that title — but on the other hand, it’d be hard for anything to live up to an awesome title like “The Sole Unquiet Thing,” which should probably have been attached to a few of my more epic nightmares…

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