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June 30th, 2012

So whatcha readin', Uve?

Owing to my frustration with the current novel I'm reading (one of L. Sprague de Camp's five historical novels, The Arrows of Hercules [1965]; let me hasten to add, however, that my frustration isn't with the text but rather with the copy of the mass market paperback edition [from 1970] that I have: the binding is disintegrating, the pages are in danger of fluttering away on the wind, and the missus has glued it four -- or is it five? -- times now, the last of which resulted in some of the pages being glued together, which in turn resulted in some of the text -- and my notes! -- being obliterated when I prized them apart), I've been going batshit with checking out collections of comic books from the library.

My frustration in not being able to check out more than two trade paperbacks collecting Gail Simone's run on Secret Six -- a series that I found absurdly touching in spots, funny in others, and a most agreeable time-killer overall, despite my being more of a Marvel Zombie than a DCUnatik (trademark pending) -- caused me to check out Simone's run on Wonder Woman; this would be the several issues just before the still-avoided-by-me company-wide reboot of last September called "The New 52."

Simone's WW is OK -- I'm not a big fan of Aaron Lopresti's art, as I discovered in reading the Ms. Marvel TPs that he drew (I could swear that he also wrote and drew a lame-o Sunday newspaper strip in the late 1980s) -- but I've been more pleasantly surprised by J. Michael Straczynski's run on The Amazing Spider-Man, which started just a few months before 9/11, and ended with the Spidey reboot of One More Day, which segued into Brand New Day. Given how much I think that the whole "I'll wish away my happy marriage to a supermodel/actress just to save my Aunt May's life 'cause I feel so effin' rotten that she got kacked in the wake of the stupid Civil War crossover event and 'cause the suits at Marvel want to keep me young and evergreen" was a terrible idea, I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the arcs prior to it -- even the Spidey-as-champion-of-Anansi-the-West-African-trickster-spider-god stuff that was published, I suspect, in an attempt to align the Spider-Man of the comics closer to the Tobey McGuire/Sam Raimi Spider-Man of the movies, who had biological webbing instead of Peter Parker-manufactured webbing. (In all fairness, there have been some mighty fine Spider-Man story arcs after the One More Day / Brand New Day reboot; I just get fed up with superhero comics continually being futzed with reimagined/reinvented for (hopefully) new audiences.)

I've also recently checked out and read, via inter-library loan, Volumes 3 through 6 of The Boys, the ultraviolent, sometimes softcore porn ("softcore" here meaning "you don't actually see erect phalli or spread vaginas or anuses, but you do see pretty much everything else") superhero / conspiracy theory satire whose first two TPs I enjoyed late last year. While I mostly liked these latest collections/arcs (Vol. 4, We Gotta Go Now -- a filthy, feelthy mash-up of Marvel's X-Men franchise with Animal House and a soupçon of the East Coast/West Coast animosity among rappers -- and about half of Vol. 5, collecting the spin-off, six-issue mini-series Herogasm [which takes place between issues #30 and #31 of The Boys] were rather tiresome, however), the initial morbid fun of the first two TPs is wearing off, what with writer Garth Ennis's world-building that is proving as dark, over-the-top, convoluted and, ultimately, ridiculous as the superhero comics he's satirizing.

That said, Herogasm (the title refers to an annual secret retreat of various super-powered folk in Ennis's "Boys Universe," wherein they gather to drink, drug, fornicate, gossip, bitch, whine, and occasionally murder -- or, at minimum, inadvertently cause someone's death through misadventure) #4 really made me sit up and take notice, as it was in the pages of this issue that Ennis clapped on his tinfoil hat and really let his Zeitgeist flag fly.

Ennis shows that, in the "Boys Universe," 9/11 unfolded rather differently than it did in our reality: the president, a man nicknamed "Dakota Bob," is a callous, calculating, cruel and über-competent creature in bed with the "Boys U" versions of companies like Haliburton, Blackwater, etc., who takes the chatter that the various intelligence agencies have picked up prior to 9/11 very seriously: seriously enough that he has two of the four planes stopped on the ground (at what cost to the innocent passengers' lives is not made explicit, but one can infer much) and the third one shot down in midair long before it enters the airspace of NYC. Unfortunately, the vice-president, a man nicknamed "Vic the Veep," is a dolt -- literally, a barely functional "retard" who can parrot short memorized speeches after a great deal of coaching, but who otherwise seems incapable of dressing himself (certainly incapable of tying his own tie or shoes); Vic is the hand-picked man of the main Evil Corporation in the "Boys U," Vought-American; V-A is the main cause for superpowered beings to even exist, and their incompetence in other, more conventional matters, such as the manufacture of combat airplanes, is exceeded only by their corruption and cupidity. Vic the Veep apparently konks Dakota Bob with a fire extinguisher just before he can order the fourth and final plane to be shot down; Vic then orders the fighter planes to return to their base, much to the fury and anguish of the pilots.

This is all just so that Ennis's version of DC's Justice League of America, The Seven -- led by Ennis's version of Superman, The Homelander -- can intercept the plane and stop the terrorists aboard. Unfortunately, none of The Seven have had much actual experience in performing superheroic activities; this, coupled with their indifference to / disdain of human life leads to disaster, and the crippled plane ends up crashing into the Brooklyn Bridge, severing it and killing upwards of 1,500 people, but hey! at least the World Trade Center is still standing in this reality.

But all of this isn't terribly interesting; it's basically a gloss on Alan Moore's Miracleman and a footnote next to Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris's take on 9/11 in Ex Machina.

No, what made my conspiracy theory antennae twitch was the fact that Dakota Bob was supposed to be in Florida on 11 September 2001 -- just as "Bush 43" actually was -- but he cancelled the trip "after fresh warnings from the intel people. When the first plane quits answering A.T.C., and he gets word? He's ready."

In Ennis-land, Dakota Bob = Dick Cheney and Vic the Veep = "Dubya." That's blindingly obvious. But the prospect that George W. Bush was sent to an elementary school in Florida on 9/11 to get him out of the way of a shill for a giant military contractor -- and, incidentally, out of the way of a really socko casus belli -- is, frankly, chilling.

That's a bit too pat of an explanation -- one shouldn't forget "Bush 43" telling the agent who briefed him on the threat of Al Qaeda at his ranch in Crawford, TX in August 2001, "All right, you've covered your ass now" -- but it does raise several disturbing questions.


*EDITED on Mon., 9 July 2012 at 12:50 a.m. EDT: because I conflated "Anansi" with "Anasazi". *BLUSH*



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