The Luna Brothers, The Sword (Image, 2007- ). monthly, $2.99.
By Jared Gardner
I have enjoyed the Luna Brothers work since their first mini-series for Image, Ultra, with precisely the same guilty pleasure I reserve for others of this earth’s guilty pleasures. I close the door, consume heartily, take a couple of advil, and get on with my life. The fact that many have attempted to turn them into auteurs in order to justify their own enjoyment of this work has not surprised me. We have seen it with so many others. In fact, it is one such critics’ darling, Quentin Tarrantino, who mosts comes to mind when I read their work. Most Luna Brothers fans would assume this to be the highest compliment, and I am happy to have them think so. Like Tarantino, the Brothers have made something of an art out of adolescent appetites for sexy ladies and ultra-violence. Like the director, they have some keen narrative and visual instincts and precious few ambitions to translate those instincts to loftier material. Fortunately for us, unlike Tarantino, the Luna Brothers seem not to have let the auteurist hype go to their heads too much, seemingly quite content to keep doing what they do well. Unfortunately for us, most of us will grow bored by what they do quite well long before The Sword has completed its run. For me, that moment came about two issues ago, and I for one feel little reason to hang around to find out how our heroine will ultimately succeed in killing Bill and co.
The Sword tells the story of a mysterious hammer that converts a crippled young doctor into a mighty Thunder God. Just kidding! It actually tells the story of a mysterious sword that transforms a crippled young woman into a mighty sword-wielding super-killer. And lest you think there is not much substance in this difference, let me assure you that hammers don’t make nearly the same cool “shnk” and “shlkt” sounds that swords do, and they don’t dice bodies into bite-sized nuggets nearly as neatly. So we are grateful for the progress the generations have wrought, as The Sword offers much slicing and dicing to break up the otherwise stolid wordiness of the long mythical flashbacks and seemingly endless three-way phone conversations between the vengeful fallen gods who have these past four thousand years been seeking out their lost blade. Turns out, vengeful gods are fairly dull when you get to listen in on their private telecommunications. Sadly, it also turns out that watching bodies come apart at the seems gets pretty tiresome, too, especially when the bodies have all the humanity of SecondLife avatars.
The Luna Brothers’ previous series for Image were both fine examples of genre stories. Ultra (2004) told the by-now all-too familiar tale of commercialized superheroes and the agents who love them, focusing on one lonely heart in the group who is just looking for a man she can trust—a kind of Sex-in-the-Supercity. The book had little narrative payoff, but it was witty (at times quite biting) and its characterizations were sweet. They followed up their freshman success with a longer series, Girls (2005-07), a small-town horror flic about invading monster ladies (all of them conveniently nude and identical), a book which ambitiously strove to translate an adolescent male mysoginy into a twenty-something half-baked feminism. The Sword in many ways promises to be their most ambitious narrative to date, although I am not at all certain they are up for the task. I find myself missing the unpretentious smallness of Ultra and wishing the Brothers would recover some of the social satire that made that book, despite having no clear tale to tell, the best of the three.
But I am lying if I suggest that I haven’t enjoyed this series for most of the first nine issues. And I may sneak a peek at the issues to come, because frankly I kinda actually do want to see how she dismembers the bad gods, saves her friends (especially the guy from her father’s writing classes who heard all the mythical stories about the good old days, a conceit so lame it is totally delicious). But I want to see it in the same way that I want to eat a bag of chips—not because I am hoping for some serious nourishment but because I am desperately craving some fried saltiness with my evening mead. Nothing wrong with it, as long as we don’t get all full of ourselves and pretend it is something that it ain’t. Of course, the Luna Brothers could think about heading off in different directions with their significant talents and seeing what they could do in the way of working with other artists and writers. That would be a series I would want to follow through to the end, guilt-free.