Mark Millar has made much noise (as he is wont to do) about this new magazine which he runs (or at least lends his name to), which functions as sort of a "lad mag" combined with a comics anthology, containing pictures of sexy girls and supposedly provocative articles alongside serialized chapters of creator-owned comics. The interesting thing about it is, it's like a Western equivalent to a Japanese manga anthology, containing serialized chapters of comics for a low price (£3.99, or $6.30 American as of this writing). This might not be out of the ordinary in the UK, the land of 2000 AD and such magazines, but it's pretty novel on this side of the Atlantic. And it's not a bad package, either, although it will most likely turn off anybody not in its target demographic with its obnoxious tone, locker room humor, and supposedly provocative articles about topics like Charles Manson's plans to murder half of Hollywood (along with ones that are kind of boring, like one about the guy who dubs Tom Cruise's voice into Chinese), but for fans of Millar's comics, this is probably a better way to experience them than in their comics pamphlet form. The issue contains eight pages of the first issue of Millar and John Romita, Jr.'s Kick-Ass 2, the entire first issues of Millar and Steve McNiven's Nemesis and Jonathan Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards' Turf, and two new series, the full-length Rex Royd, by Frankie Boyle, Jim Muir, and Michael Dowling, and a three-pager called Huw Edwards' Space Oddities, by Manuel Bracchi. One's opinion of them will probably vary depending you how well one's sensibilities match up with Millar's, but it can't be argued that it's not a good value and a stylistically cohesive package.
As for the comics themselves, they're mostly rather well-done, and since Nemesis and Turf are already available, and Kick-Ass 2 is a sequel, they're not really anything new. Turf is the most compelling of the bunch, featuring a story about a family of vampires trying to take over Prohibition-era New York, organized-crime-style, with a POV character who is a cute girl reporter, and promised complications from aliens stranded on Earth. It features Tommy Lee Edwards' always-excellent art, and while there is some inconsistency in the narrative captions, which are sometimes from the reporter's point of view and sometimes delivered by an omniscient narrator, it seems put together really well, and looks like something to follow into further issues of either this magazine or the regular comics series, or the inevitable collection.
Millar's comics are not so interesting, but fans of his might differ; as always they certainly deliver exactly what one would expect. Kick-Ass 2 is more of the same kinda-enjoyable stupidity of the first series, with Hit Girl training Kick-Ass by beating him up; I'm sure there will be more swearing and pummelings to come. Nemesis is another of Millar's high concepts, a "what if Batman was evil?" bit of nonsense in which lots of ridiculous action, pop-culture references, and posturing comes together in a dumb plot that is nonetheless kind of enjoyable in its excess. Steve McNiven is doing something different in his art here (or at least his colorist/inker is), going with a less-polished, sort of gritty style rather than the slick sheen he has covered everything in in his previous works. It's interesting, if not necessarily great. As with anything Millar does, this is fairly stupid, but put together in a way that will still, more likely than not, be pretty fun.
The new comics don't fare quite so well, seeming somewhat amateurish compared to the slick, professional product of their peers. Huw Edwards' Space Oddities (named after a BBC news personality, although I had to look him up on Wikipidia to find that out) is a short, inconsequential couple of pages about a trucker fighting a zombie, over before it even seems to start. Rex Royd is about a security guard who works for a supervillain (standing in for a well-known character with similar initials) that discovers that he is actually his boss in disguise. It's not a bad idea, although it seems to be trying a bit hard to push the envelope in terms of language, sex, violence, and drug use, when said envelope has already been pushed hard enough that if one was to replace the naughty words with $%!#, it could be a regular Marvel or DC comic. That is, they wouldn't complain content-wise, but you might hear about the ugly art, which looks like the angular, shadowy work of somebody like Nick Stakal, who is more associated with horror, and is not the typical smooth, colorful spandex style. It's not very appealing at all, and what action there is is nearly incomprehensible, making for a wallow in dim, imperceptible grossness. Not very enjoyable at all. With better art, it could possibly be kind of interesting, but it's more likely that this will be an afterthought alongside its more recognizable neighbors.
It's not a perfect magazine, obviously, but it's got its own personality, and people who like that sort of thing will probably like it (surprise, surprise). Still, it's a good example for the kind of good-value comics anthology that would be nice to have in the American market, and for that reason alone, it deserves to succeed. Let's hope there are enough Millar fans out there that it manages to make some money and spins off a version centered around the sensibilities of somebody with better taste. May I suggest Matt Fraction, or Brian Azzarello? Yeah, that's the ticket. Make it happen, somebody!