Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Wyrd the Reluctant Warrior #3

Wyrd the Reluctant Warrior #3, September 1999, Slave Labor Graphics
writer/artist: Jim Starlin

Comicdom has always had its superstars. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane – pseudo celebrities that have generated exposure for the industry through their talent and dynamic personalities. Students of pop culture know these names even if they don’t actually read comics, and diehard collectors pursue their careers as if the very medium hinged on their works and reputation. As often as I’ve seen his name in print, I would not count Jim Starlin among these ranks.

I’m not trying to be mean. I’ve just never heard a fanboy go nuts over a Jim Starlin comic book. I wonder if his name, almost as bold on this issue’s cover as the title itself, actually boosted sales for Wyrd the Reluctant Collector. If not . . . what’s the point? If Wyrd needs the credibility of his creator to sell his stories, maybe his stories are best left untold.

For your consideration: Wyrd (I presume pronounced “wired”) is the sixty-ninth hero in the Wyrd legacy and, with the help of an imaginary gremlin, is dedicated to saving the world from the inter-dimensional Nexus Combine corporation. Unhindered by his predecessor’s gay lifestyle and his father’s association with the enemy, Wyrd 69 uncovers the Combine’s telemarketing scheme and defeats his demonic pursuers’ leader. It’s actually less harrowing than it sounds. Starlin’s thin allegory of the office cubical lifestyle is as insightful as a Dilbert strip, and his attempts at controversial humor – this parallel dimension’s answer to Superman is the former Wyrd’s lover – are too divisive to be effective. Do I need to be specific?

WYRD: We must thwart this nefarious plot!
D’GINN (the imaginary gremlin): Nefarious plot? By any chance, did you read a lot of comics when you were a kid?

Please. Why must writers with weak concepts insist on including some inane commentary on the inherent “campiness” of comics to boost the supposed cleverness of their story? Just a few pages later, that same scoffing specter identifies himself by explaining, “I’m a mentor-class construct not a demon warrior. I observe and advise.” Which sounds more hokey?

Artistically, Wyrd is a combination of hand-drawn characters, by Starlin himself, on a computer-generated background, which, in a digitally printed black and white comic, makes for some obscured visuals. The “camera” was often pulled back too much to show off this use of multimedia, clipping the action’s already low-flying wings. I was impressed with how unimpressed I was.

Can you tell that this issue left a bad taste in my mouth? Perhaps I was just frustrated by the gratuitous use of the creator’s name on the cover, as if who he is in the industry is enough to sell what he’s doing. Even if I knew who Starlin was (a former Marvel EIC, right?), it doesn’t matter whose name is on it: crap is crap.

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