Thursday, November 5, 2009

Ambush Bugged

There have been plenty of unusual comics come out over 2009 - from the where-the-fuck-did-that-come-from climax of Asterios Polyps to the ongoing monstrosity that is Teen Titans - but Ambush Bug #7 might just be the oddest comic of the year.

It only slipped out quietly last week after months and months of delays, when the creators apparently ran into the usual problems with DC editorial. Comic companies always like to think they can take a joke, but Ambush Bug always seems to go a bit too far.

This is a company that got scared of The Authority doing bad things to super-villains, and 10 years later bases entire crossovers around once-banned thrills. Or always find something objectionable in Alan Moore’s comics every single time, just enough for the man to singe his beard with rage.

But then editors come and go and everybody thinks they’re so much cooler than their predecessors and we’ll show how much fun we are with more Ambush Bug and then it all goes horribly wrong.

This new series, the first for the character and concept in fuckin’ years was deeply weird. There were tons of lovely one-liners, but it turned out to be a load of sound and fury, signifying in-jokes.

Cheapjack Matrix riffs and Twinkies jokes are to be expected from Ambush Bug, but by the time you get to a character wearing a paper bag on his head that says “Not Dan”, it’s impossible to know what’s been cut out, what had to be shuffled around, or whatever the hell it means.

There is no plot, which is all right, because the comic keeps telling itself about this. It doesn’t help that its saddled with a real cut and paste mentality, but it was always going to be all over the show. That’s what Ambush Bug is about.

It’s all quite chipper about it, right up until a downbeat ending, with the bug wandering off into a white void, essentially telling the entire DC universe to go fuck itself.

“They can massacre each other, for all I care.”

Bye, Ambush Bug! Come back in another 15 years!

And then at the end, there is a preview that consists of five pages of Batman smoking, ordering whiskey and shooting at people with twin pistols, and that makes perfect sense in comparison.

Is that it? After taking this metafictional thing as far as you can go without Keith Giffen coming around to your house and kicking your ass, is there anywhere else to go but off into the void?

Man, this comic got in my head so bad that I had a dream the other night about it, where Giffen had a new art style that made me sick when I looked at it. What is going on here?

For a while therem I couldn’t tell if the framing art in this comic was by Keithy. It’s a much simpler, cartoony style that shares the draftsmanship of Giffen’s regular style, but is a lot looser and faster.A bit of experimentation never does anybody any harm, but it turned out it was Tiny Titans artists, and that’s fine.

If Giffen is gone, it’s not forever. Giffen is a lot more forgiving than someone like Affable Al Moore, who will never, ever write a Spider-Man comic. He has always taken his shit-stirring with a healthy dose of good humour and will find loads of willing publishers who can use his talents.

I don’t know what will happen with Bob Fleming, but I thought he died years ago, so I was just grateful to get anything more out of the old bastard. And it is nice to have Al Milgrom and his inexplicable charms back; his page in Marvel Fanfare seemed so important once, his art was consistently average and he always had an excellent mustache. You can’t hate a man with an excellent mustache.

But this new series didn’t make me laugh like the Nothing Special, which is still my favourite, mainly for the Julie stuff. And it didn’t have the impeccable comic timing and youthful enthusiasm of the first two mini-series.

Still, Pat Brosseau musing that he could take Milgrom in a fight did make me laugh out loud, and so did our most distant ancestor, screwing up the timing for a history lesson, and that might be enough.

But the really strange thing about this comic is the fact that it’s all about itself. It only exists to comment about itself, make the odd wistful monlogue about how comics used to be so much more fun, and move on to the next stupid joke, usually making fun of the creative team, or a DC editor who really should know better. You shouldn’t try and shut up the loudmouth, that just makes people look closer. Even if it’s not worth looking at.

I don't know if Ambush Bug is worth looking at.

I don't know what the fuck is going on.

No comments: