Behold, the dismal reign of Mark Millar Brand Comics!

Do take the time not to confuse Mark Millar Brand Comics with the long-departed and much-celebrated Mark Millar of the Nineties and early Aughts. That halcyon Millar, that best bud of Grant Morrison and writer of the wonderfully polemical The Ultimates , the bright-eyed Superman Adventures, and the oasis-in-the-desert-of-bankruptcy-era-Spidey-comics Marvel Knights: Spider-Man, combined the British Invasion cynicism of the Modern Age with enough gee-whiz gusto to pull off a good old heroic story on a reliable basis. In his collaborations with Morrison, Millar brought his novel concepts to fruition and crafted some of the most notable comics of the post-EXTREME NINETIES resurgence.

Mark Millar was then summarily bludgeoned to death with a shovel by Mark Millar Brand Comics, a brash new scripter from the mean streets of Coatbridge who didn’t need no Glaswegian chaos magician to help him sell his comics to them moving picture companies! By gum, no interesting concept or intellectual property of his would ever again go without franchise, even if the actual execution will suffer from contempt for the reader, facile twists, and inept plotting! Mark Millar Brand Comics only needs one issue, or the merest whisper of a threat of one, to craft one of his MARK MILLAR BRAND COMIC-MOVIE SYNERGY EXTRAVAGANZAS! Gasp in delight and hand over your wallet to MORE WANTED: FUCK YOU, in theaters July 2014! Ignore the insulting characterization and sell your real estate holdings to be there for the first screening of KICK-ASS 2: THIS TIME NIC CAGE’S GHOST DAD HEAD IS ON FIRE, YO!

What I’m getting at in an egregiously roundabout manner is that CLiNT Magazine Issue 2.1 is a self-aggrandizing fever dream of an unfortunately-named rag that masks its contempt for the reader, comics, babies, small animals, and delicious steak in a turgid stew of “bad-ass” sobriquets, rampantly uninspired juvenilia, and undeservedly awesome art.

I’ll be the first to compliment Mark Millar Brand Comics’ ability to rustle up some of the most vibrant artists of the day into participating in this farce, demonstrating some sort of eldritch ur-power unseen outside of Jeph Loeb’s circle of hell: Leinil Yu, Dave Gibbons, and Mike Dowling all put in some high-caliber work in their respective stories. I’ll also admit a grudging, business-minded respect of MMBC’s cornering of what must be an enormously overlooked (or, perhaps, buried in the Dark Age Nineties) market of misanthropic comic geeks who must consider Garth Ennis’ tight storytelling a huge turn-off.

Those are the sole bones I can toss to this apotheosis of auto-fellatio. Let’s look at the featured comics themselves, in BAD-ASS capsule form:

Supercrooks – Millar pairs here with Leinil Yu to tell the story of some “super” “crooks” who really, truly seem to enjoy committing crimes in media res, if the superfluous opening splash is to be believed. Indeed, we follow blue-collar supervillain Johnny Bolt for most of the narrative; Johnny’s just a regular sort of friendly guy trying to live his life, don’t ya know, and those mean ol’ square-jawed superheroes that overpopulate New York City are keeping him from maiming and thieving his way to marrying his ill-defined sounding board/cheesecake girlfriend. A real hardcase archetype threatens Johnny’s elderly mentor (in a scene robbed of any tension by the fact that the protagonist-villains are boldly named Bachalo and Walt Flanagan, after the amazing artist and Kevin Smith’s meek pal, in an attempt to make you, the reader, weep at the harm visited by that bad man upon your geek chums), Johnny has the idea to get the old gang of rapscallions together for an international heist, and…it just sort-of ends on a wet fart of a final page of said barely-introduced villains staring at us with creepy Leinil Yu eyes.

Not a lot happens in this first part: Johnny is clever and well-liked for no reason beyond the plot needing a foil to the identical muscled superhero hunks whom are “UGH JUST SO LAME, RIGHT (please please oh please buy my comic instead of The Boys or trades of Planetary).” Yu saves what can be scavenged from the bare-bones, overly-chatty plot with some of the best art I’ve ever seen from him – a loaded punch leaps from one panel to connect in the next, the big bad exudes a sinister and well-manicured air, and Sunny Gho’s colors expertly cast shadow and bloom over the characters. It’s a good thing, too; Millar’s heap of nothing story is generic enough to need it.

Rex Royd: Kid Detective is a huge dollop of shit. Holy Toledo. I could spend pages decrying its po’-faced attempt to be the bastard child of Watchmen and The Filth, its struggle to justify said bastardy by being winkingly self-referential at all times, its lifting of Morrisonian meta-comic tropes in general, its “David Lynch’s Dune” pre-title explanation guide for the characters, or its lamely homophobic and gendering language, but I think and hope and wish that this sentence alone will give an idea of how piss-poor Rex Royd: Kid Detective is.

I would rather watch Zooey Deschanel prance out of her adorably-cluttered rumpus room to “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” on loop for days while mescaline was administered to my scrotum than see another panel of that dreck.

20 Years of Lenore, content-wise, belongs nowhere near its hyper-violent and, lest I forget, BAD-ASS CLiNT contemporaries, but its Hot Topic-ready, Tim Burton-aesthetic pastiche of groanworthy puns hits enough of my danger buttons that I’m prepared to say it lays precisely where it belongs, much like how Judah Ben-Hur’s family was quarantined with the other lepers by the Romans.

I shan’t pick on poor old Lenore much more, though; it must be frustrating for Roman Dirge to know that his beloved character will forever be connected to the Edward Scissorhands/Beetlejuice/aw-hell-basically-everything-except-Big Fish suite instead of its roots in Poe’s macabre.

Then I remember that it’s a big unfunny monkey-cheese joke festival, and don’t feel so bad.

The Secret Service pits Dave Gibbons up against the Mark Millar Brand Comics machine for a yarn concerning a British master-spy and his renewed interest in his ne’er-do-well, petty criminal of nephew. As far as the concepts in CLiNT 2.1 go, this has the most gas: a working-class James Bond finds a protégé in the unlikely protagonist, a rude, browbeaten lad who is shortly (and perhaps unwisely) to be given great powers and training by a league of spies and assa… assassins…

Shit. He’s just re-making Wanted, isn’t he?

The issue suffers from enough of Millar’s more egregious tropes that they overwhelm the story if you know where to look for them: we’ve got awkward pop culture references that will date the book within a year, a brazen contempt for the lower classes, a whole mess of bootstraps rhetoric, and the inclusion of one and only one ancillary black character as a voiceless gang member (check that last one out, it’s in tons of his stuff!), not to mention Kevin Smith-level nadirs like giving pot to a baby and killing Star Wars cast members.

Gibbons tries to save the show with what looks like the world’s most accurate Steve Dillon impersonation, but the art is perfunctory and plain at best. The opening action sequence is rather staid for what I imagine Millar intended to be a Bond homage, and the rest of the issue sticks to talking-head medium-shots that don’t allow Gibbons room to spread his creative wings.

Death Sentence rounds out our cavalcade with some down-home misogyny and nun-sex jokes as writer Montynero realizes he needs to rack up some points on the repulse-o-meter if he wants something to brag about to the quivering legions at this year’s Millarworld convention. The story follows several characters infected with the “G+ Virus,” which eschews the predictable symptom of “being an unsuccessful social media platform” by giving its normal victims six months to live with a random superpower. What follows is a great whopping basket of insults directed at women, what I suspect are TWO Russell Brand analogues, and a bunch of wish-fulfillment “Oh I’m so clever, watch me as I tell off this person” monologues. That this issue is probably the best of CLiNT 2.1 is primarily due to the coherent juggling of the main characters’ plot threads, and that the one-eyed man truly is king in the land of the blind.

Oh, and the art don’t hurt it much either. Mike Dowling is suitably impressive not only for the fact that he channels Alex Maleev, but that he can shift stylistic gears from his “every character unintentionally looks like Clint Howard” penciling of the aforementioned crime-against-nature Rex Royd to the degree that I forgot that it was him who drew it! Nice covering of your tracks, Mikey!

The back-matter and interviews in CLiNT are so predictably self-promoting and toothlessly cred-baiting that one could grab a copy of “Mad Libs: Family Trip,” fill in every blank with the words “fuck,” “hardcore,” and “BAD-ASS,” and find something suitable for publication in its hallowed annals. The presence of a Mark Millar Brand Comics Movie Update as the first feature, before any comics, only serves to affirm the magazine’s theme: that Millar is selling you, to quote Wanted, himself “fucking you [THE READER] in the ass.”

Don’t let Mark Millar fuck you in the ass.

ART: 2/5


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About Ed Harley

Ed Harley is a writing enthusiast and NYC expat currently living in Bryn Mawr, PA. He currently plays in a Baja Men tribute band, "Who Let The Songz Out." Follow him on Twitter at @aseriouscrunk.

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