Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Fantagraphics: Bayer & Marra's Crime Destroyer #2

Josh Bayer's All-Time Comics line published by Fantagraphics has had its ups and downs. It's walked the narrow line between satire of hyper-violent, sexist comics and a celebration of same. Crime Destroyer #2 is mostly a Benjamin Marra production, with co-scripting by Bayer. It has the usual Marra beats, only some of the inherent ridiculousness of the character (like two Black Power fists acting as epaulets on his uniform) pulls away from Marra's usual deadpan delivery. It eventually answers the question: what if Ben Marra wrote Batman?

The issue begins with the titular character barging in on a villain named P.S.Y.C.H.O., a crazy nihilist type not unlike the Joker. The story explores the way vigilantism might actually play out, as he prevents the execution of judges by shooting the villain. They are outraged that he took the law into his own hands, before he reassured them that he used rubber bullets to stun him. When Crime Destroyer takes the villain to police headquarters, the by-the-book commissioner orders the villain to be freed and CD to be arrested, saying, "The law demands not justice--but order..." Marra hits on a sensitive political topic in a blunt manner, as the "Blue Lives Matter" mantra and the unwillingness of good cops to hold bad cops accountable for their actions is precisely about order over justice. It's also the polar opposite of what usually happens to super-heroes in these kinds of stories, as they become sort of unofficial members of the police department.

Marra and Bayer go straight for the throat again and again. The P.S.Y.C.H.O. kidnaps the commissioner's adult daughter after he's freed, prompting Crime Destroyer's only ally left to call him to help rescue her. He finds the villain, dispatches his muscle and then shoots him in the back with a real bullet as he runs away. CD then finishes the job by throwing him over a ledge--or does he? There's a villainous intervention by the Big Bad of the ATC line, Raingod, leading to an ending out of an old Steranko issue of Captain America. The comic's satirical elements are in many ways in conflict with its campier aspects, a frequent problem with superhero comics in general. Marra's stiff, 80s-emulating art really does make it look like a relic from another era, especially since veteran letterer Rick Parker contributed to this issue. The overall effect is somewhere betwixt and between. It doesn't work as light entertainment, but the characters are too thin to really work on a more sophisticated satirical level. There's a lot that's interesting about this comic, but its dissonant tone makes it disposable.

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