I've got to admit, I was a little surprised when a review copy of "CLiNT
," Mark Millar
's new comics magazine, showed up in my mailbox. After all, I while I'm enjoying "Nemesis," I didn't exactly make a secret of the fact that I don't care for "Kick Ass,"
and the last time I got something to review from Titan Comics, it didn't end well
for any of us.
Even so, I was more than a little curious to see how it was going to turn out. If nothing else, I figured it'd be interesting to see how it was all put together, but after reading the everything in the first issue, from Millar's typically half-serious, over-the-top hucksterism in the intro ("Grandpa had 'The Eagle,' Dad had '2000AD' and now you've got 'CLiNT,' you lucky people") to the last page's anonymously-written "secret diary of a celebrity pot-head," I could really only come away with one thought: It certainly is a magazine put out by Mark Millar.
Which isn't to say that there's not a whole lot to like about it. A big name creator with wide appeal to mainstream audiences putting comics into a mass-market format really is
a big deal, especially considering that it leads off with the first eight pages of "Kick Ass 2." It's a shrewd way to draw fans of the movie to the magazine, as well as advertise the full comic that will run at the same time.
And sure, the cover looks like somebody dropped a shot of Frankie Boyle onto a couple of "Kick Ass" publicity photos and then digitally added a few completely inexplicable bullet holes to the background, but I am legitimately shocked that they didn't just go all out with the joke of the title and move Boyle's head a half-inch to the left to make the L and I look more like a U. That's more than you can say for "SFX," a British sci-fi magazine that invariably had a sexy Cylon or a fetching Starfleet nurse or Buffy the Vampire Slayer covering up the bottom of the F on literally every issue I've seen. Seriously, it's a level of restraint I wasn't expecting.
Also, I legitimately like the "Warning! Contains Comics!" blurb in the corner. It plays into the whole attempt at characterizing what they're doing as a faux-dangerous bit of counterculture along the lines of "2000AD's" heyday, and while that idea is defeated pretty thoroughly by having a photo cover depicting characters from a major motion picture that starred Nicolas Cage, it does put the emphasis squarely on comics. And that's exactly where it belongs, because that's where "CLiNT" is at its best.
I already mentioned the eight pages of "Kick Ass," but it's also got the full first issue of Millar and Steve McNiven's "Nemesis" and Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards' "Turf," as well as "Rex Royd," an 11-page story by Frankie Boyle, Jim Muir and Michael Dowling and "Space Oddities," a three-page strip by Manuel Bracchi that's "presented" by BBC newscaster Huw Edwards in what is in all likelihood a joke that I just don't get. At an American retail price of $6.99, the sheer volume of comics that you're getting -- which are printed magazine size, an increase that really shows off Romita, McNiven and Edwards' art very well -- makes it a pretty solid deal.
But it is
still problematic, with the biggest problem being that the two biggest comics excerpts are reprints. That might not matter if "CLiNT" manages to get distribution to the British newsstand market and gets into the hands of people who only
know Millar's work from the "Kick Ass" and "Wanted" movies. If, however, someone's planning on picking it up at a comic shop, "Turf" #1's been on sale since May, and "Nemesis" has been out since March. Admittedly, "Turf
" could probably use another shot, as it was a pretty quirky high concept book by a British celebrity without a lot of Transatlantic name recognition, but "Nemesis?" That book was published by Marvel and has gone through at least three printings. I've got to think that anyone who wants to read that comic in this type of format has probably
done so by now.
And in the process, they got a cover telling them that the story "CLiNT" leads with "looks like $#!t" by comparison.
As for the other comics, they're just sort of there
. At only three pages, "Space Oddity" doesn't have room to do much (and doesn't), and while it's featured prominently on the cover, "Rex Royd" -- a Lex Luthor pastiche -- is not very good
. I know virtually nothing about Frankie Boyle's previous work other than that he's a Scottish comedian, but while he and his co-writer have hit on some interesting ideas, the whole thing reads like they're writing bad Garth Ennis fan-fiction. It accomplishes nothing other than filling up eleven pages with poorly plotted shots of guys punching Justice League analogues to death, and it makes "The Boys" look like the height of subtlety and nuance.
The worst bits, though, are the articles.
This was actually the thing I was most curious about when "CLiNT" was announced, as blending comics with more traditional magazine content seemed like it'd be a pretty neat hook if they could pull it off, which it turns out they can't. To be fair, there actually are a few solid pieces. The interview with comedian Jimmy Carr and a shot of a pin-up girl posing in a parka and jeans called "Deeply Moral Babes: Overdressed Porn for the Religious Right" were standouts, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a laugh out of the Hit Girl Wordsearch:
I'm the one who added the censor bars and mosaic, by the way. In the magazine, it's printed in all its lowbrow (and fully playable) "glory."
Beyond that, though, the articles read like the dregs of a pile of articles rejected by CRACKED
: There's a
Top Ten Hot TV Mums" that includes the all-but-mandatory "Family Guy" reference (also namechecked in the "Top Five Most Messed Up TV Villains" sidebar), "The Top Five Princesses With Balls," and a questionnaire interview with Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Star of "Kick Ass," now available on DVD!).
There are a couple of longer pieces, too, and I've got to say, I'm impressed by the fact that Millar let them stand on their own merits without tarting them up with his trademark sensationalism.
Oh, wait, no. I meant the opposite of that.
But even here, the content isn't the problem -- there's no denying that a cult leader targeting celebrities for increasingly ludicrous murders is
interesting reading, and if we're honest, it's exactly the sort of real-life inspiration someone might use to build a comic book plot around. The problem is that the article is terrible. It's poorly written from both an informational and technical standpoint, and despite the fact that it's padded out with a splash page and a sidebar, it's about a page and a half, with the remaining half-page taken up by the Top 5 Awkward Things Real People Have Said During Sex.
The sidebar, incidentally, is a list of celebrities who have
been murdered, and it's worthless on every level.
The issue's other main feature has the same problem. It's got a great, interesting premise -- it's about the voiceover actors who dub movie stars in foreign countries, focusing on the guy who does Tom Cruise's voice in China -- but there's absolutely no content to it. This is a feature that Millar talked up in interviews about "CLiNT,"
It is a quarter of a page.
"Here is a thing that exists. The end." Cool story, bro.
Not to denigrate my own medium, but these are things that would barely work as blog posts. They're less like magazine features and more like the mandatory text pieces comics used to have so that they could meet the requirements of second-class mail, and it ends up making something that's billed as a revolutionary showcase for new artists look shoddy and pandering.
But that all begs the question: What was I expecting from a magazine put out by comics' most notorious big-game-talker where even the title was a dirty joke that stops being funny the second time you see it? And as it turns out, I was actually expecting something a little better.