Forbush Man: Forbush Kills!
by Jason Aaron (writer), Mirco Pierfederici (art)

This story by Aaron functions as a framing structure for the issue and it’s the strongest of what’s on offer.

Probably what’s most impressive is Aaron’s ability to not only make fun of himself, but to caricature his own style.  His gritty internal monologue by Forbush Man is a clear pisstake on his usual writing style and the fact that he applies this formula, applied in past to badasses like Wolverine and the Punisher, to Forbush Man is pretty hilarious.  When a brutal beating via bucket is narrated in noir fashion, it’s hard not to laugh.

Then there’s how Jason Aaron portrays himself, which is a definite highpoint.  Aaron makes himself into a completely pathetic weasel of a man with a strange fixation for Wolverine related violence.  It’s self-deprecation at its finest and clear evidence that Aaron is having a ball writing this.

Other Marvel writers and editors encounter Forbush Man on his path for revenge, and most of them are a lot of fun as well.  Joe Quesada hanging out, poolside at his palatial manor and Ed Brubaker’s continual concern for his Eisners and his later channeling of his Criminal characters are golden.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to erase the image of Brubaker firing a gun while screaming profanities.

Forbush Man himself is also well-done.  Aaron basically turns the character into a mouthpiece for bitter, veteran comic book fans.  He attacks the Marvel offices for their making everything “dark and gritty,” as he embodies and voices the “why can’t comics just be fun” crowd.  Eventually, things get metatextual, and even more fun, as Forbush Man realizes that he too, is in a comic and that, in going on a murderous rampage, he too has been made “dark and gritty.”

On the downside, the art isn’t quite right for this story, particularly where the coloring is concerned.  Pierfederici goes for a pseudo-painted style that really wouldn’t be my first pick for a wacky comedy tale like this.  Also, the story’s ending is a bit lame, relying on a flat Marvel Zombies joke.

Grade: B+

Doctor America: Occult Operative of Liberty
by Matt Fraction (writer), Brendan McCarthy & Howard Hallis (art)

This was….completely insane.  If you miss the wacky Fraction that wrote Casanova, well, there are flashes of that here.  The sheer insanity brings some enjoyment.  Better still is how self-aware the story is of its own haphazard nature.  Characters openly reference how slapped together and non-existent the “narrative” is.

The narration is also great, with the textboxes being so grossly and intentionally overwritten.

That being said, the art on this story is what really sells it.  The whole thing feels like a 1970s tie-dye acid trip.  The work is totally surreal and, well, mind boggling.

The story is, overall, just a giant “WTF,” but mostly, oddly, in a good way.  That said, there’s only so high I can rate a story that’s impossible to fully piece together or make sense of.

Grade: B

The Golden Age Deadpool
by Stuart Moore (writer), Joe Quinones (art), Javier Rodriguez (colors)

Unfortunately, this is the weakest of the bunch.  A lot of this is because, well, it’s just not crazy enough. This is just a standard Deadpool comic in a WWII setting.  It’s just disappointingly normal by comparison.

Worse still, Moore’s take on Deadpool’s voice is horribly off and desperately unfunny.  Moore tries for a kind of modern hip-hop tone that’s only painful because Moore is trying so hard and clearly believes it to be humorous, when it really isn’t.  Rather, it’s just off.

On the plus side, the artwork is solid, fully capturing that old school vibe.  I also did really enjoy the portrayal of Deadpool’s perspective, as he basically sees the world as a Golden Age Disney cartoon.  Then there’s the fact that he only lost his mind by watching too many of said cartoons.

Grade: C+

Conclusion:  I can’t believe I’m recommending it, but if you don’t demand your comics to take themselves at all seriously, this is actually pretty good.

Overall Grade: B

-Alex Evans