The Webcomic Overlook #120: Marilith
A few weeks ago, the Bad Idea Fairy beckoned to me. “El Santo,” they said, “see what present we have given you on Netflix. Look, it’s that Hudson Hawk movie starring Bruce Willis that everyone hates. But they’re wrong. They’re all wrong. It’s a misunderstood work of genius. Watch the movie… then give me your immortal soul so that you dance for me in Otherworld forever. Muhuhahahaha!”
There’s only so much time you can listen to the seductive voice of the Bad Idea Fairy before you cave in to temptation. Yes, yes, Hudson Hawk is such a notoriously terrible movie that it’s been savaged mercilessly at both the AV Club and Agony Booth. Yet, I know several bad movie cultists who love this odd duck of an action movie that doesn’t take itself seriously. They think it’s misunderstood, perhaps even ahead of its time. Among these people are Bruce Willis, who originally was right there with the critics in agreeing that Hudson Hawk was a mess, but has gone back to declaring the movie a work of hidden genius in the latest commentary track.
These people are wrong.
Hudson Hawk‘s central plot is about a master thief named Hudson Hawk who gets recruited by mobsters, corrupt CIA agents, and evil businessmen to do their bidding. The movie throws several absurd elements to show everyone that it’s all in good fun: Bruce and his partner time their robberies to radio hits from the 40’s, all the CIA agents are named after candy bars, a machine has to be assembled that turns lead into gold, fights are augmented with Looney Tunes sounds, and David Caruso plays a mute who, at one point, dresses up like a statue.
Sounds fun, right? I mean… who doesn’t want to see a young David Caruso caked in powdery white make-up? (And if you look closely in another scene in the movie, the future Horatio Cane does an version of his now world-famous sunglasses move.) One huge problem though: none of the movie makes any sense. Everyone spends so much time trying to convince you how wacky everything is that it gets kinda tiring. None of the motivations are clear, nor are any of the characters convincing, likable, or sympathetic. It’s like being stuck in a room where someone’s telling terrible jokes: you’re itching at the first opportunity to get out of there. And it didn’t have to be that way, either: Stephen Chow’s Kung-Fu Hustle is a gag-a-minute action flick, and I find that movie a million times more watchable than Hudson Hawk.
So what’s the point about talking about Hudson Hawk? Other than to obviously tell you to stay far, far away from this terrible movie? It turns out that today’s comic, Krazy Krow’s Marilith — which was recommended to me by a loyal reader (gee, thanks) —- is very, very similar in tone and content to Hudson Hawk. Both the movie and this webcomic even have an unattainable coffee-related goal that doesn’t get resolved until the final scene. It’s almost like … serendipity. Curse you, Bad Idea Fairy… clearly this is YOUR doing!
Marilith a webcomic that, God bless ‘em, tries to be wacky and fun and action-packed at the same time, but ends up … *puts on sunglasses* … shooting itself in the foot.
Marilith was a manga-style webcomic that ran from 2004 to 2009, running 12 chapters even though the archives stop at six. It’s about a bounty hunter and professional assassin named Marilith Millions, who — like real world female bounty hunter Domino Harvey — is blessed with a very colorful name. So what’s Marilith like? Well, I just told you she was a female bounty hunter/assassin in a manga-style webcomic. Trust me: they’re all the same.
Marilith was created by [REDACTED]* under the name “Krazy Krow.” While Krazy Krow has always had writing duties, the webcomic takes on the roster of what seems like every person on DeviantArt who’s imitated the look of Japanese manga. The first artist is Joe Fouts, who illustrated Marilith between 2004-2005. Fouts’ style is soft and simple and more suited to the look of the old Pioneer Entertainment anime label. His successor, John Staton, takes a more detailed approach that emphasized action and superheroic proportions for Marilith‘s characters. Fernando Heinz steps up to the plate next, drawing in an Adam-Warren-esque style where characters have larger, more expressive faces … which somehow translates to bigger eyes and wider mouths. Thomas Aira closes things out with a style that employs a lighter touch, making everything look hazy and dreamy.
It’s possible I’m missing one or two artists here. However, the Marilith site isn’t too clear on which person worked on which segment, and I’m not inclined to pursue this on a deeper level. If I missed giving credit to any of the artists working on Marilith, my apologies.
Now, print comics have been rotating artists thing since time immemorial. I gotta say, though, it doesn’t quite work for Marilith. Superheroes usually wear iconic outfits that help the reader identify the characters despite the changes in art style. The characters in Marilith, unfortunately, don’t look all that different from each other. Basically, the only thing changing is the hair. So when we jump from one artist to the next, I waste a few minutes trying to figure out who the characters are supposed to be. When we’re introduced to a lady in Chapter 6, I assumed it was an all new character named “Guardian Angel”. It took me a long, long time to realize that this was Valentino, Marilith’s hated nemesis, who appeared way back in Chapter 1. Valentino receives another huge makeover before the end of the comic, by the way, looking more like a hard-nosed business professional than her early incarnations.
Also, the characters are so ill-defined that they accidentally absorb characteristics from whoever assigned to draw them that day. Under Staton, we’re treated to an ennui-filled Marilith who, more often than not, can be found sucking on a cigarette while the cold wind whips around her trench coat. Ah, but some pages later under Heinz, Marilith is a pixiesh prankster who cutely sticks out her tongue at her attackers.
Every turn, Krazy Krow tries to beat us over the head with how cuh-razzzzzyy Marilith‘s world is! Marilith is aggressively wacky. It’s almost as if it doesn’t manufacture an absurdity every ten page, it’ll just DIE! Like, there’s a scene where Marilith pops out of stripper cakes to gun people down! POING!
And the guys hunting her down are these wacky ego-obsessed weirdos! HYUK!
Plus Marilith’s landlord is this dude in a cowboy hat who dresses up all his female assassins in French maid outfits! OH, GOD, SO WACKY!
And I haven’t even gotten to the gun-toting nuns and Marilith’s crew donning hi-LARIOUS disguises where they all look like Colonel Sanders! Man, all we need is Russel Crowe right now in his Gladiator armor bellowing, “Are you not ENTERTAINED?!?!?”
Unfortunately, no. Like Hudson Hawk, the novelty value quickly wears off when you realize that a.) it’s all empty if nothing’s holding it together, and b.) that the surreal asides are neither all that funny nor all that original.
“So you want me to be serious, do you?” the Marilith webcomic angrily demands.
“What? No!” I say. “I just want to see this comic be something more than just a bunch of uninspired nonsequiturs.”
“Oh, I’ll give you something more,” the Marilith webcomic sneers. “How about if I give you … a rape scene?”
Yep, Marilith goes off the deep end and pulls a “CAD Miscarriage” maneuver: it tries to get all serious up in your grill. It turns out feeling terribly gratuitous, by the way, since the rape scene had no bearing on pretty much anything else in the comic. Plus, the artists are filling up every other page with shameless fanservice, like a nurse with oversized knockers and panty shots galore. Perhaps … perhaps this comic is far deeper than I imagined. Maybe, just maybe Krazy Krow and company are saying that we, the readers, are the rapists?
Or maybe including a rape scene in this comic (and later, the brutal murder of that same rape victim) was incredibly tasteless. Your call.
As a result, Marilith is uneven to a fault. Back in 2008, fellow Comixtalk reviewer Dr. Haus described this comic as “schizophrenic,” and i can’t say I disagree.
One of the biggest problems with all this “levity” is that each and every single character in Marilith-land is as dumb as a bag of hammers. Like a scene where Marilith’s incredibly grating ward, Kimiko, passes airline security and explaining away a detail on her fake ID by saying she’s a transgender? Oh, sure, that’s much more plausible than someone trying to sneak in with fake ID!
I can’t emphasize how annoying Kimiko is, by the way. She’s like a Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation — a smartass know-it-all Mary Sue who you just know the author expected us, the readers, to adore. I will give her this though: she did the pen stab fatality before The Dark Knight made it the cool new thing to do…. Oh, wait. That chick was Valentino, too? Son of a….
Some nerdlinger saving a girl from rape, being rewarded by sex, and then claiming that he didn’t lose his virginity (which he plans to save for Marilith, the little sweetie) because “it doesn’t count if [he doesn't] finish”? Incredibly stupid, and kinda repugnant.
No one comes off stupider than the two detectives who are assigned to take down Marilith. There’s a scene where Detective Christi has to wear a disguise so she can get close enough to Marilith’s car to stick on a tracking device. Unfortunately, that means disrobing, and our hardened detective — who doesn’t even consider changing in a nearby restroom or, say, the back seat of her car — blushes like a schoolgirl. So stupid. Later, our two detectives, despite outnumbering our female bounty hunter two-to-one, somehow leave an opening for our little Mary Sue, Kimiko, to get the drop them with a tiny pig-sticker. So, so stupid. Marilith herself is a barely competent bounty hunter, so to have foil so many people doesn’t speak well of the inhabitants of this comic.
The whole center segment of Marilith is peppered with some of the most clunky padding I’ve ever seen in a webcomic — and that’s saying a lot. The whole Mexican Standoff (and is it really a Mexican stand-off when two guys have their guns pointed at a third person, or did Krazy Krow just feel compelled to add what he thought was a cool line?) grinds to a halt when Marilith goes on a ridiculous litany of flashbacks. Earlier, there’s an extended gun training sequence straight out of the NRA’s Basic Pistol Training course. After which Marilith gives her reasoned viewpoint on Second Amendment rights. Nothing says “padding” quite like political asides!
Of course, it could be worse. We could be be following the actual story.
Look. I’m not expecting everything to be an Elmore Leonard novel. Don’t take this comic seriously…. I get it. In the end, though, it’s a big, unsatisfying mess.
The action scenes are completely nullified by how utterly bone-headed everyone behaves. The plot is ultimately not worth untangling, the characters are unlikable and barely even one-dimensional, and the artistic changes are too jarring. By the time you get to the last page, when Marilith and Kimiko finally fulfill their dreams of opening a coffee stand in Argentina (oh yeah, SPOILER ALERT), I felt like I survived Marilith. There’s just not much in this webcomic I can recommend.
One last dig before I get off the Marilith hate train: I never understood how the “Me so hoorny! Me sucky sucky!” Asian prostitute joke ended up becoming comedy gold. Yeah, I saw that episode of South Park, too. It was only marginally funny then… and it was a lot funnier coming out of a morbidly obese kid. Coming from the mouth of a little girl who’s supposed to be a deadly assassin? Not so much.
“Krazy Krow” has since moved on to doing stuff like Spinnerette, which is about a gal who has six arms. Will the Bad Idea Fairy force me into the arms of this cheesecake-y Spider-Man knock-off? Tune in next time, Overlookers: same Overlook time, same Overlook channel.
(Answer: no… not yet. Not until the Bad Idea Fairy gives me a DVD of Superhero Movie, anyway.)
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
* – Article edited. Real name withheld by webcomic creator’s request.
Posted on May 16, 2010, in 1 Star, action webcomic, adventure webcomic, comedy webcomic, fanservice, manga style webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.