Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Shooting Fish in a Barrel: Youngblood Bloodsport #1

In nature, the true predator never aims for the hard targets. No, a smart lion scouts the herd for the gazelle with a bad limp or a smoking habit - they don't want to have to run any more than they have to, so they pick off the slowest or the sickest or the dumbest. Smart gazelles learn to kick, stupid ones learn to be delicious.

Youngblood: Bloodsport
is a three-legged gazelle puffing a pack a day, and I am the laziest lion on the veldt.

To take the already tired analogy to its natural conclusion, were the comics nerdosphere nothing more than a particularly brutal Discovery Channel nature docudrama, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen would clearly be the slowest, fattest, tastiest, least-aware creature on the whole of the savanna, constantly hunted by a pack of hyenas nipping off chunks of flesh, bit by bit, for months at a clip. But that's neither here nor there.

What is here is the fourth anniversary of the launch of Arcade Comics. As one would expect from a partially-Rob Liefeld-owned company, Arcade hung its hat on Youngblood, with two different minis focusing on the team arriving in 2003 with a third in 2004. The first two, Genesis and Bloodsport, managed three total issues between them and the third, Imperial, only cranked out a number one.

To mark the occasion, Facedown in the Gutters is celebrating the only way it knows how - by pointing and laughing. We're going a few pages at a time, because any more than that and this post would end up being about twelve thousand words long, and none of us needs that. Well, that and the fact that when I went through to scan stuff, virtually every single panel held some sight more ridiculous or offensive or offensively ridiculous than the last. That said --

Johnny DC is serious, folks; Mark Millar isn't known for his restraint, and I'm pretty sure this book was edited by a sixteen-year-old whose only notes were, like, "you said 'blow job,' oh my God, rad!" and a crudely-rendered picture of a stick man killing his teacher.

Things aren't going to get any better than the cover. This here's one of five variants, and unquestionably the best of the lot. It's hard to go wrong with Frank Quitely, honestly, but Liefeld and Quitely on the same book is like some kind of perfect storm of lateness.

Of the five, it's also the only cover that features anything close to the contents of the book - the other four are weird montage team shots or portraits of Suprema. There is, in fact, a scene where Badrock and Shaft get some lunch, but it's no where near as interesting as Quitely makes it seem, but we'll get to that in another post.

The book apparently takes place in a universe overrun with superheroes, to a point where they clog the skies and have virtually wiped out crime - which is at least partially conveyed by Quitely's cover, as he is, you know, a gifted storyteller.

We open on former Youngblood members Seahawk and Battlestone hanging out in a hot tub, with the former lamenting the current state of heroics.Seahawk wears his mask in the hot tub, I suspect, because without it, he'd look exactly like Battlestone, except without a little skull affixed to his noggin. The over/under on blow job references was five panels; I hope you took the under, because we're on panel two. Also worth mentioning - the baffling hyphenation of "blow-job." Get used to that sort of thing, because I'm pretty sure the letterer was under the impression that hyphens can be appended willy-nilly in the middle of any compound word or phrase at his discretion. It happens a lot.

Seahawk continues his tirade, complaining that the new crop of heroes wasn't "rocketed from doomed worlds" or "traumatized by seeing their parents shot-dead" (see what I mean about hyphenation? "Shot-dead"? What the Hell, man?), and they're only in it for "barbie-pink mansions" and "sports-endorsements" (he just keeps. Doing. It.)

Battlestone replies the only way a character drawn by Rob Liefeld can - by staring directly out of the page and into my soul.I don't know much about Battlestone aside from the obvious: Has a stupid name, also white hair. I think, judging by these few panels, that his super power is the ability to animate unblinking Realdolls with seven-foot arms to keep an eye on me and also offer him cocaine.

By the way, superheroes doing coke! We're through the looking glass, here, people. If you're keeping track, we're up to three blow job references in as many pages.

The pair banter about whether or not they should join a new iteration of Youngblood, capped off by Seahawk asking "is it really such a crime to want to help people again instead of all this 24-hour party crap?"Oh my God! Wolverine and Cyclops were totally blowing Seahawk and Battlestone! That's so extreme! Careful, for I have cut my hands on all the edge!

With that, we abruptly cut to... actually, does the location matter? We got a "Los Angeles: Tonight" blurb over the first scene, but the comic can't be bothered to tell me where we're at after that. Let's just check the two-page spread for clues.Oh. I remember now. We're in Jack Kirby's personal Hell.

This, if you don't remember your Youngblood, is Shaft. Shaft was originally going to be Speedy back when Youngblood was a proposed revamp of Team Titans, which has absolutely no bearing on this but, hey, I'm here to educate. He's currently fighting zombie versions of civil rights leaders.

Because that's totally extreme, see. Old Man Marvel won't let you see this kind of totally radical irreverence! This is where the big boys play!Oh, and they're stealing Supreme's pubic hair. Also extreme! Possibly totally off-the-wall!

Other things to note here: "civil-rights" bags us another superfluous hyphen, none of the jetpacked zombies actually appears to have his jetpack on, Shaft is standing on nothing. Seriously, the guy's like a freaking Colorform, just stuck into the middle of the picture.

Somehow, the vial with the pilfered pube ends up in the hands of Martin Luther King, even though it was pretty clearly being held by someone else a mere page prior. Shaft somehow leaps on his back and aims the zombified icon straight down, while the mysterious radio voice expresses confusion that Shaft isn't phased by having to shoot at beloved civil rights leaders.

Shaft then makes a "I rented Malcolm X because I thought it was about mutants" joke and my sides actually split, pouring my blackened insides about the legs of my chair for all to see.I'm at a loss as to who this was aimed at. There's just... it's just so...


It's like this book was banged out in study hall by a kid who was super angry at his fifth period social studies teacher, or something.

Gird yourself, for we are only on page seven.


Patrick said...

I think the only reason Liefeld named him "Shaft" was in anticipation of the toy line.

Rob Liefeld's SHAFT! 7 inches... fully poseable!

Has Liefeld actually contributed anything worthwhile to comic-dom? (No-tice the super-fluous hy-phen)

Jon said...

Deadpool? I mean, Deadpool sucked until Joe Kelly wrote him and, yeah, he's more or less What If Spider-Man and Deathstroke Had a Kid?, but, still, Liefeld technically created him.

Philip said...

How many points of articulation does "Rob Liefeld's SHAFT!" have?


Liefeld did give Alan Moore a place to write Superman stories, so that's one positive thing he did for comics.

Siskoid said...

And yet... this is better than the original Youngblood at Image.

The Mutt said...

Shaft's boots just aren't near big enough. And he needs more pouches. More pouches, damn you!

Shaft and Zombie MLK fight over Supreme's pube.


Chris F. said...

Sooo...I forgot, was there ever a Bloodsport 2?

Jon said...


Genesis got a second issue, but Bloodsport only had some kind've bootleg #2 that I've never actually seen.

And thank God for that.

Gyuss Baaltar said...

I love this. Only Liefeld touched items could have a man wearing a metal helmet sitting in a hottub.