As I read Animal Man #5, I couldn’t stop thinking about David Cronenberg. Cronenberg’s older films often dealt with the way repression and science could meet to do horrible, horrible things to the human body, and the disgusting, visceral thrills of films like The Fly or Crash (the one about car crash fetishists, not the crappy one) are not that far removed from, say, the frankly terrifying transformation Buddy’s face undertakes as the Rot briefly captures him. Lemire and Foreman are taking a look at nature and parenthood the same way Cronenberg often looked at sexuality and repression: by making physical all the fears and perversions people have about these issues. And it works very well here, as Lemire continues his strong run on DC’s coolest new title.
I know I’m probably in the minority for this, but for my personal taste, CGI is doing a lot to strangle horror more than any genre except (maybe) sci-fi action. There’s something fundamentally unreal about CGI that always brings me out of a movie when I realize that Nameless Teenage Girl #5 is screaming at… nothing, really. No, give me something like Rob Bottin’s frankly terrifying effects in Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece The Thing, or H.R. Giger’s chilling, memorable design for Alien. They occupy the same world the actors do, and for whatever reason, that ups the ante considerably for me. Comics have a distinct advantage there: anything the artist draws should look like it occupies the same world as the rest of the cast. Get a talented creators and let him play around with some designs, and you’ll get something horrifying. All this leads up to this: the first few pages of Animal Man #3 offer up some of the most inspired, horrific creature design I’ve ever seen in a comic book – and the rest of the issue manages to match it beat-for-beat in intensity.
I haven’t been keeping up with Immortal Iron Fist, post-Brubaker/Fraction/Aja. I loved their run – it introduced me to Matt Fraction, who’s done impressive work all over the place now, and David Aja, who I still consider to be among the best artists working today when it comes to dynamic, exciting, downright cool-looking action scenes – but the high-cost of Marvel’s trades and the low-pay of minimum wage work meant that I have to stop reading some things, and when Fraction, Brubaker and Aja left, so did I.
Still, at the store on Wednesday, I noticed the absolutely gorgeous cover for Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra on the shelf, saw that Jason Aaron was the writer, and was intrigued enough to pick it up. And I have to say, I’m glad I did. Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra continues the Immortal Iron Fist tradition of having rock-solid spin-off minis and one-shots to flesh out the retro-pop pulp aesthetic of the setting and characters.
Fat Cobra, one of the Immortal Weapons we met in the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja arc “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven,” is a massive, surprisingly quick warrior and hedonist who has lived for over a hundred years, and his lifestyle has taken its toll: he remembers little of his past, if anything at all. To that end, he hired a researcher to discover his glorious past and compile it all into a book. And thus do we get to know Fat Cobra.
It’s hardly an original device, but as Aaron delves into the character, he shows us why it works well here – Fat Cobra is a proud, powerful man, but his origins are far from either. Seeing the effect these discoveries have on him is almost as tragic as the story itself. Despite all the inconsistencies in the quality of the art (there are 7 artists in the Fat Cobra portion alone), the story is simple and potent.
On top of that, Immortal Weapons: Fat Cobra has an Immortal Iron Fist back-up by Duane Swierczynski, dealing with an errant pupil of Danny and Misty. The back-up is brief and to-the-point, though clearly incomplete – it seems as though the back-ups of the Immortal Weapon stories will be the thread that ties the issues together.
Overall, this is an excellent first issue. As an origin story of Fat Cobra, it is both effective and interesting, with a great deal of potential to lure in new readers. Immortal Iron Fist has always been a book that combined larger-than-life stories with a pulp kung-fu sensibility, and Fat Cobra definitely continues that trend. With 37 pages of excellent content, it’s worth a read.
– Cal Cleary