Saturday, 1 August 2015

Alan Moore Obscurities: Deathblow - Byblows (#1-3) and Spotlight On Majestic (#1)

"There is a thing I cannot face and retain my sanity" - Majestic

Well it's time to dip in for the last time to the cornucopia of crap known as Alan Moore: Wild Worlds, a collection of his work for Wildstorm, one of the Image studios he worked at during the 90's.  A book which has given us such wonders as Voodoo and the Spawn/Wildcats crossover, two of the worst comics I have looked at.  Deathblow: Byblows isn't quite as bad, it's not ghastly and offensive like Voodoo and doesn't suffer from the atrocious art of Spawn/Wildcats, but it is the epitome of him not given a shit in a "shut up and give me the money I need to eat while I finish From Hell" type of way. Admittedly Deathblow - a Jim Lee creation -  isn't great material to work with, but this was a side story that could have seen a much more interesting story be told, instead it's leaden, perfunctory and grotesquely padded .  Even artist Jim Baikie seems to be putting less that 100% into this mini and he's one of my favourite UK artists.  However not everything in the collection is totally worthless as I shall also be taking the opportunity to look at Spotlight On Majestic which is but one issue, but so much better than everything else collected in Wild Worlds.

DEATHBLOW: BYBLOWS - Who is Deathblow? Deathblow is a a man. A man who wore shoes and had a face. A man whose parents were killed by terrorists so he joined the Navy SEALs.  His real name is Michael Cray and he was a member of something called Team 7 and yadda yadda yadda superpowered regenerative abilities.  He was killed in a crossover that literally no one cared about although he has reappeared in The New 52 Universe now DC own the rights to all the Wildstorm characters.  But this mini-series in not in fact about this boring character, it's about some newly created boring characters one of whom I think went on to appear elsewhere in the Wildstorm-verse, I dunno, Wikipedia isn't being very helpful here.

Jim Baikie does both the pencilling and inking on this mini.  Now when he's drawing UK comics I can't praise his art enough, check out the images from his work on The New Statesmen for example.  But here it feels like he's tried to tailor his style to the guns, muscles and T&A-tastic Image look.  It's still pretty decent to look at, but not his best by any manner of means. Mind you Moore hasn't given him much to work with either.
Techno Egg births Geneveive McBaldy
Anyway, the story begins with a woman who looks like Hufty from The Word (and if you get that reference, hey weren't the 90's cool?) being born from an egg on a mountaintop.  Her name is Geneveive Cray which she finds out from the dog-tags round her neck.  She is immediately attacked by a wildcat which she kills and skins to fashion a stylish dress and hat.  Then she sets out to explore the weird landscape.

Geneveive finds another egg and is attacked by a cyborg called Klaus Cray, who punches her in the face.  They both grapple and end up falling in a river.  They then plunge over a waterfall, Geneveive manages to grab a branch and Klaus's gun which he has lost hold of.  She pulls herself onto the shore while he is swept away.
Geneveive takes the first of several blows to the head.
She accidentally fires the gun and this brings a young man out of the bushes, he introduces himself as John-Joe Cray.  He says there is a town nearby where he got his clothes from and he'll take her there.  They walk for a while, then night falls and John-Joe builds a tent out of large leaves.  Genevieve has a strange dream where she sees a man laughing at another man who is passed out drunk, and she wakes with a start.

They walk past another egg, but the person inside has been decapitated.  Geneveive builds a pyre round the egg and sets it alight.  Then they walk on to the town.  As they walk John-Joe asks if she is curious at all about their situation.  Why they are all called Cray?  Why they can all speak English?  Who is decapitating them?  Geneveive just says "clothes", wow what a forthright, dynamic and interesting character she is.
That's a lot of blood...
They reach the town which John-Joe says he named "Providence".   As they venture forth someone on a roof fires at them.  The man is called Damon Cray, and he rants and raves at them accusing John-Joe of changing his hair colour and them trying to trap him.  Klaus then bursts onto the scene and smacks Geneveive round the head again.  Then he uses a chainsaw to attack the building Damon is on to bring him down.  Damon manages to flee and Geneveive knocks Klaus out cold with his gun.

They bind Klaus and hang him upside down.  Then Geneveive finds a clothes shop and puts on a fancy dress and hat, and arms herself with two pistols.  She and John-Joe bed down again and she has another confusing dream.  She is woken by John-Joe yelling that he is being attacked.  A baboonlike humanoid is looming over him, Geneveive leaps up and punches him.  The baboon says he is trying to save her life, and that John-Joe killed Klaus, who has indeed been decapitated.
Klaus is tied up while Geneveive dresses all fancy like.
John-Joe flees and Geneveive chases after him.  He says he doesn't want to hurt her, but then she is bashed round the head, again, by John-Joe's identical twin (apart from his blonde hair), Joe-John.  They leave her unconcious in the street and when she wakes up the baboon introduces himself as Caleb Cray.  They both set off walking  (man there is a lot of walking in this comic) and come across Damon's decapitated head on a stick.  But it is not the work of the twins, it is the work of a man wielding a huge axe, who calls himself Judgement Cray.

He tells them both about his six severed heads on sticks, which now includes the twins who he also killed off-panel.  He plans to make Caleb and Geneveive the seventh and eighth.  Geneveive tries to shoot him but gets punched in the head again (no wonder she can't speak).  Caleb leaps to her defence and gets slashed for his trouble.  She tries to shoot him with her pistols but the silly woman forgot to load them.  She throws a pistol at Judgement's head and temporarily stuns him so she and Caleb can get away.
Mr. Head Choppy.
They reach a fallen tree over a ravine and Geneveive crosses it.  But Caleb stays on the other side and kicks the tree away to prevent Judgement coming after her.  Judgement attacks Caleb and chops his head off.  Geneveive runs away and we get three pages with no text at all, which oddly is boring and annoying to trudge through.  About this time in a negative review I would post a lolcat:
Not helping Clippy!
Oh even lolkitty is ennervated by the lack of plot in this comic. Back to Geneveive. She opens a hatch in the ground and we get another three pages of no text as she finds a laboratory and goes for a look around.  She finds some information that states that she and the others were "varient clones" of Michael Cray, deceased.  They were placed in a holodeck style enviroment and set up so they would fight and only one would survive.

Suddenly she is surrounded by scientists and security guards.  The guards fire on her, but she uses a scientist as a human shield.  Then Judgement appears and starts chopping heads off.  When everyone but Geneveive is dead he goes after her saying:

Judgement: "I'm the real Cray.  When I shoot you this world will probably disappear and I'll wake up in what ever psychiatric home I am really in.
The real world.
Geneveive pulls a pipe out of one of the egg-pods and fires the high pressure liquid at Judgement.  The force of it breaks his back and kills him.  Then she uses the handy "hyper laser" to blow a hole in the ceiling and makes her escape.  She mugs a pimp for his bitchin' fur coat and disappears into the crowds outside a theatre.  The End.  Well, she may have run around in skimpy clothes but she made it to the conclusion without getting raped, herp derp derp.

SPOTLIGHT ON MAJESTIC - Ugh, that was unpleasant.  But time to park my snark and actually say something nice about something Moore did in this collection, a single issue focusing on Mister Majestic, Wildstorm's Superman analogue.  As well as the mini's collected in Wild Worlds, Moore did a two year stint on the superteam WildC.A.Ts.  I talked a little about them when covering the Spawn/WildC.A.Ts crossover earlier this year.  The C.A.Ts stands for "Covert Action Teams" and several of them were humanoid aliens who were fighting a galactic war with another set aliens and Earth was one of the battle grounds (Alan Moore's run was pretty good, and I will be covering it sometime next year). 
Mister Majestic.
Majestic was one of the aliens, but unlike the others he could fly, had superstrength, eye-lasers and was, as we find out here, immortal.  This issue has him as one of the only nine immortal beings left alive as the heat death of the Universe has killed everything else and how he faces the coming end with dignity and grace.  Alan Moore gets to wax poetic and the artists Carlos De Anda and Richard Friend do an excellent job with the cosmic aspect of the story.  Probably the best art of anything Moore did during his Image career and I don't mean that as backhanded a compliment as it sounds, I really think they do some good stuff here.

The story starts with Majestic standing over the last mortal life in the universe, "The Bush Robots of Vandor" as they die.  Now all that is left is Majestic and eight other immortals.  Majestic returns to where they all live, a space ship called "The Place."  There he meets Aptimatter who keeps a hyper-itelligent strain of syphilis in his blood stream called The Simberleen, "all life is sacred now."
The last of life is gathered in "The Place".
The others are Gemeth the Enlightened, The Red God Jujimoto, Lord Math, the Daemonic Duke Dantalion, Eucrastia (a female vampire), and Manny Weiss - the Wandering Jew.  Manny, Eucrastia, The Simberleen and Majestic want to keep moving while the others are content to stay in The Place and wait for entropy to claim them.  Aptimatter spends the night with Eucrastia and she takes the Simberleen into her bloodstream.  The next day they leave, Majestic carrying Manny and Eucrastia as they fly through space.

They come across something called a Dyson Sphere, which fellow nerds will know is a huge shell constructed round a sun and would have people living on the inside.  There is no one alive now.  While Manny and Eucrastia explore, Majestic constructs a spaceship for them to travel in.  Majestic uses his blood to keep Eucrastia alive and takes in the Simberleen as well.

Time passes. They come across a field of glittering, blue crystals.  Manny decides this is where his journey will end.  Majestic cuts him a fuel rod to keep him warm for a while before the cold claims him, and they leave him "sitting content amongst the eerie sparkle."
Manny leaves Majestic and Eucrastia to journey on.
They fly onwards and come across a planetary graveyard.  Majestic become thoughtful as they explore.  He was a warlord, his causes seemed noble at the time but now he realises even if he never fought the wars "this last darkness would not be remotely changed".  Eucrastia asks "what about love?" He muses that he never had time for it, too caught up in his conflicts.

Eucrastia: "Love is not war.  Love is not struggling towards a goal, towards a point.  Love is the point."

They keep on flying until there is nothing but blackness.  Majestic cannot replenish his blood fast enough to keep Eucrastia alive, so she just asks that she hold him while she finally dies.  Before she can, energy tentacles wrap themselves round the ship.  Majestic tries to fly them away, but they grab Eucrastia as well and pull her in.  Majestic follows her into what can only be described as a giant space vagina.
A meta "God" perhaps?
Inside is a huge, bearded head (Alan Moore?!).  He turns out to be Colt, a fellow member of the WildC.A.Ts many aeons ago, an artificial being.  He has a lot to say, but basically he's turned himself into a giant, galactic sized super-conductor which he believes can be used to reignite the universe.

Colt: "A single thought reamplified and echoed could set the whole universe ablaze!".

So Majestic thinks a thought:

Majestic: "Everything is so empty, so dark.  Involuntarily a thought occurs.  It is the right thought. 'There really should be light'.  And lo there is.  And the evening and the morning are the first day."

And the story ends with Majestic, Colt and Eucrastia bathed in bright, white light.
The End and The Beginning...
So, two very different sides of Alan Moore's writing here.  Deathblow: Bibelots is tedious, dreary, half-arsed and lazy.  It is full of empty, useless pages, gives no challenge to the artist and reading it can't help make you think you wasted a quarter of an hour of your time.  Spotlight On Majestic is much, much better.  It's bold, imaginative, paints marvellous pictures with the words as well as giving the artists some real meaty and cool stuff to draw.  It has an elegaic quality about facing death head on and without regret and reiterates a theme of Moore's writing that love and sex are the most powerful forces in the universe and they would survive to the end of it, not war and conflict.  Now if you want to read these two stories, plus the excerable Voodoo mini, they are all also collected in The DC Universe of Alan Moore, which is well worth picking up because it collects all the odds and ends he did for DC before his falling out with them including his two seminal Superman stories and his Green Lantern short stories that have been so influential on the modern day Green Lantern series.  With those balancing out the sheer raw fail of Deathblow: Blowjobs and Voodoo that should be your preferred method of reading them, unless you really must read the Spawn/WildC.A.Ts crossover, in which case, Wild Worlds it has to be. Are you mad? Yuck.


  1. the two extremes of alan moore? i like that first picture of majestic, very cool.

  2. Well it's not super bad versus super good, but I thought they still made a good comparison. And that is a cool picture of Majestic, I'd have that framed on my wall if I was rich.

  3. Surely 'Deathblow' is a rip-off of Deathstroke? Only a matter of time before we have a supervillain called Coup de Grâce. She could be a French Muslim in a hijab with twin swords who goes around putting racists out of their misery.

    Wow, Jim Baikie is slumming it. How hath the might co-creator of Skizz fallen. Must've had a mortgage to pay.

    LOL, "A man who wore shoes and had a face" :-D

    "She is immediately attacked by a wildcat which she kills and skins to fashion a stylish dress and hat." Seriously???

    Still, the one about the heat death of the universe was good. I hope the pure white light resurrected the Wandering Jew. The universe needs Jews!

  4. Deathblow, Deathstroke, Deadpool, they all blur into one. I like your idea for a supervillain though, comics need more diversity like that.

    It's not great work by Baikie and it did pain me to say so. Ms. Baldyhead did indeed make said dress and hat, it's one of those moments you wonder if Alan Moore was having a little joke with himself as to how many daft bits he could cram into one script.

    I hope the Big Giant Head resurrected everyone, I don't think Mister Majestic who is an alien and Eucrastia who is a vampire could repopulate the universe theselves. It's a shame the comic was only one issue long, I'd like to have seen more of the others resident in The Place, they sounded cool as well.