Foolkiller (1990)

Foolkiller #1 (1990)

The last time I read Foolkiller, almost fifteen years ago, I really liked it. I wish I knew what I’d liked about it because it’s really not good. Even back then I know I thought the art—Joe Brozowski on pencils, Tony DeZuniga then Vince Giarrano on the inks—was bad. And the art’s bad. It appears DeZuniga had been handling the facial features and without him, the people start looking real bad, but then Giarrano adjusts or something. Very rocky, art-wise. Never good, sometimes less bad than other times.

But the art’s not the problem. The problem’s the script, which is from Steve Gerber, who’s not just good, but also not the guy you expect to do a comic all about how the “super predators” are real. At one point they even do a Central Park Five reference. In Foolkiller, it’s a string of Central Park attacks on cyclists where the gang beats the victims to death, enraged the victims can… afford bicycles. Even the killers’ parents are okay with their sons brutally murdering those better off bicycle owners.

Of course, one of the other bad guys is a right-wing TV host. The first few issues of Foolkiller have a different feel than the rest of the comic and not just because the noses go bad at some point. The comic’s about a new Foolkiller, inspired by the original, who’s actually the second one, and is currently in a mental institution in Indiana. The protagonist, Kurt, has just lost his father, his job, his house, his wife, and finds Foolkiller—on the right-wing TV host’s show—aspirational. Pretty soon Kurt’s going around killing bad guys, romancing his shift manager at the burger joint—the only job he could get because savings and loans—and working out in garbage. On one hand, Foolkiller feels like Gerber amping up the absurdity over this kind of character but Gerber’s also grounding it as he goes along. It’s like Gerber’s too dedicated to the actual narrative to subvert it with jabs at the protagonist’s philosophy. Taxi Driver: The Comic.

And outside a mention of The Avengers and Spider-Man swinging through an issue to sell at least one to the Spidey collectors, Foolkiller doesn’t feel very Marvel comic. Outside the art, which—even bad—looks like Marvel and the lettering, which is perfunctory and somehow inappropriate. Foolkiller’s journals are all supposedly written on the computer but they appear in handwriting. It’s also unclear how the journals are supposed to be read—contemporary to events, past tense. It’d be nice if it mattered. Something in Foolkiller should matter.

Yeah, Gerber created Foolkiller, didn’t he. At least the most famous one—and he was in Man-Thing. I just can’t figure out what happened to the joke in Foolkiller. The comic takes a shift when it starts dealing with the Iraq War in the last few issues; that news is pushing Foolkiller’s killing spree out of the headlines. The other headlines are about crack babies and something else kind of iffy, even for the early nineties. The first half of Foolkiller is Randian objectivism with some sprinkles of libertarianism, the second half of it is the lead dispassionately offing examples of those philosophies. Maybe if there were a connection there’d be some impact but Gerber introduces the relevant supporting characters—outside the TV host—when he needs them, not before. And the TV host doesn’t really provide much texture. Foolkiller confuses hyperbolic with effective.

Nothing in the comic stands out. None of the characters, none of the moments Gerber tries out with the supporting cast. He’s got a lack of empathy for everyone involved, which matches the protagonist I suppose but… it’s a little long—ten issues—to go just to prove you can do something. Though Foolkiller is from the old days, back when publishers never would’ve dreamed off cutting issues off a limited series. Or at least it seemed like they wouldn’t. What do I know? I used to be a big Foolkiller (1990) fan. And not when I had any excuse to be.

Maybe the most disappointing aspect—other than Gerber’s exaggerated, almost defensive classism—is the pointlessness of the narrative. It doesn’t add up to anything for anyone involved, not Foolkiller III, not Foolkiller II, not Foolkiller II’s too liberal psychiatrist, not the girl who falls for Foolkiller III, not the stupid villain who can’t seem to die… no one. One of the villains is even a New York City real estate developer who is way too competent to be confused for any real figure.

Either something went very wrong with Foolkiller or it was always a terrible idea.

I’m not sure I wrote about Foolkiller the last time I read it, but if I did, the posts are long gone. I don’t know if I want to know what I thought but I’m frankly embarrassed about it.

Foolkiller (1990) is most decidedly not good. From the start. I kept thinking maybe it turned around in the last few issues and Gerber finally acknowledged the nonsense.

But no.

It’s just bad all the way through.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 49 (July 1986)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #49

It’s sort of a goofy issue, with Firestorm’s lawsuit ending in the first scene, then the rest of the issue is the Moonbow story. Conway continues the Marvel vibe–maybe it’s because Moonbow (a female college student who moonlights as a vigilante) looks like a Marvel character, but also because there’s no other vibe to the comic.

Conway doesn’t give his protagonists anything to do. Martin has a date, which Ronnie interrupts for a Firestorm outing, and Conway uses the interruption so as not to make any decisions for Martin. It’s more treading water.

There are art problems too–Pablo Marcos and Rodin Rodriguez join Machlan on inks and the issue never has a consistent look to it. Brozowski again does all right with his page composition and the comic moves at a good pace.

Even the ending, with Firestorm and Moonbow finally crossing paths, moves well.

It’s passable enough.

B- 

CREDITS

Justice: Lost and Found; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inkers, Mike Machlan, Pablo Marcos and Rodin Rodriguez; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 48 (June 1986)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #48

Firestorm hasn’t cratered or anything so severe, but Conway does seem to have found a new level for the book. It’s a little low, sure, but he’s hitting it consistently.

And even though Brozowski and Machlan leave a lot to be desired in the art–creativity–the book does look okay. It doesn’t look much like a DC comic this issue, however; it looks a lot like an eighties Spider-Man, which is fine.

Conway doesn’t do anything fresh or inventive. Firestorm is getting sued by Ronnie’s stepmother-to-be and she’s real impressed with his speech in court. Of course she’s impressed, otherwise the story might do something unexpected. Ditto the introduction of another girl in Ronnie’s life. Could she be the bow-wielding vigilante plaguing Pittsburgh’s mob?

Conway doesn’t even make that one a surprise.

It reads okay in parts, not okay in others. It’s bland superhero stuff.

B- 

CREDITS

Moonbow; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 47 (May 1986)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #47

It’s not a bad special guest star issue, just another pointless one. Blue Devil and Firestorm are now teamed up–after a couple issues of mistaken fighting–against all of Firestorm’s villains.

Brozowski continues to do a very clean, obvious approach with the composition; he and inker Mike Machlan don’t have a single outstanding panel in the comic, but there also aren’t any lemons. It’s straightforward superhero stuff and, given there’s a hallucination sequence with demons, the art works out okay. Never anything more… but okay isn’t terrible.

As for Conway’s script… he tries a little character development (Ronnie’s dad and stepmother-to-be are hostages of all his villains, along with a mention of one of the villain’s failed rehabilitations), but it’s mostly action. It’s not great action; the giant-size computer showroom is goofy.

Like I said, it’s not too bad. It’s a guest star issue, big whoop.

B- 

CREDITS

Dead Devils Don’t Wear Blue!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inker, Mike Machlan; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 46 (April 1986)

The Fury of Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #46

Joe Brozowski appears to be taking over as regular penciller. He does okay; he tries real hard with expressions, which don’t tend to work out with the regular people but it’s fine with the action scenes. He’s stuck with plotting out an action scene in an arena–a bunch of giant computers on loan from the Batcave.

Conway plots some really odd action scenes in this series, really odd locations. It might be a natural side effect of having a flying superhero in stories more in the web-slinging superhero level.

For instance, this issue has lots of character development for Ronnie and his father. They finally hash it out about a number of things, like Ronnie’s problems with his bully and the father’s fiancée. Though Conway still hasn’t made her likable and he does reduce Ronnie’s girlfriend to a non-speaking prop.

It’s simultaneously too late while still ambitious.

B- 

CREDITS

Deadly Prelude; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inker, Mike Gustovich; colorist, Nansi Hoolahan; letterer, Carrie Spiegle; editor, Janice Race; publisher, DC Comics.

Star Trek 13 (April 1981)

Star Trek #13

It's another high concept issue from Pasko. He's got McCoy meeting his estranged daughter for the first time in years–she's marrying a Vulcan (a much, much older one), he's got the Enterprise landing on The Planet of the Apes and how it plays out when the Klingons get there. Pasko plays a lot with the Apes thing, working in all sorts of genre stuff from outside. For a few pages, it all feels like a mystery, and for the last few pages, Pasko goes for difficult character work.

In the meantime, there are also Klingons around causing trouble. These are post-The Motion Picture Klingons having a very television series encounter with the Enterprise crew. Pasko hits all the right notes.

Unfortunately, Joe Brozowski, Tom Palmer and Marie Severin don't exactly knock it out of the park on the art. There's some detail, but it's more consistently messy than anything else.

B+ 

CREDITS

All the Infinite Ways; writer, Martin Pasko; pencillers, Joe Brozowski, Tom Palmer and Diverse Hands; inkers, Palmer and Marie Severin; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterer, Joe Rosen; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Star Trek 11 (February 1981)

Star Trek #11

This issue’s art, from Joe Brozowski and Tom Palmer, is better than the usual for the comic. A lot of emphasis on the faces, lots of photo reference, but also a decent level of general competency. If a little static.

Pasko’s script regurgitates some of the old “Star Trek” episodes without offering anything new. He relies on bringing in a guest star from a character’s past, which hurries along the setup because Pasko can use expository conversation. It’s just not very useful in terms of furthering the characters. Everyone is stuck; it’s unfortunate the series doesn’t take the time to develop any character subplots. Maybe the license forbids it.

It’s a perfectly fine licensed property comic. Pasko’s clearly a “Trek” enthusiast and he does fine remixing a bunch of old episodes into this story. It’s a shame Marvel isn’t doing anything more with the comic, but it’s to be expected.

C 

CREDITS

“…Like a Woman Scorned!”; writer, Martin Pasko; pencillers, Joe Brozowski and Tom Palmer; inker, Palmer; colorist, Carl Gafford; letterers, Joe Rosen and Rick Parker; editor, Louise Jones; publisher, Marvel Comics.

The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones 22 (October 1984)

22354

The art, from Joe Brozowski and Mel Candido, isn’t great or even good (occasional weird background details break the perspective), but it’s generally competent. And generally competent for this issue isn’t bad.

Priest continues to play fast and loose with the characters. Indy’s sentiments towards Marion are this odd annoyance thing. I think Priest is trying to show he likes her so he has to pester her, which suggests Priest hadn’t been reading the comic until this point. Or maybe the LucasFilms contact told them to tone down the romantic stuff.

This issue’s adventure wraps up Priest’s tedious first arc on the series, involving Marcus Brody, action hero, trying to save his career. Priest can’t write Indy as having a villain.

Wait, I can’t believe I ignored the weirdest part. Priest writes this stoic, virtuous Nazi secret agent out to assassinate Jones. It’s really weird stuff. Not good, definitely interesting.

Priest is also really bad with the setting. He writes too modern.

CREDITS

End Run; writers, David Michelinie and Christopher Priest; penciller, Joe Brozowski; inker, Mel Candido; colorist, Robbie Carosella; letterer, Diana Albers; editor, Ralph Macchio; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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