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.

YEAAAHHHHHHHHH……..

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)

NOTES:
* – Article edited. Real name withheld by webcomic creator’s request.

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

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.

  1. 1 star (out of 5)

    *breaks out popcorn*

  2. I read Marilith when you were on the break, and I’m pretty sure I had the same reaction as you. Marilith is gross. Like slimy, goopy gross. I kind of wanted to puke after witnessing the awful fetishistic portrayal of women

    Besides, Who is Marilith aimed at? 12 year old boys in for the hot ladies shooting guns? Creepy older guys for the fetishistic overtones? Girl Power advocates? I mean any of those categories might have worked if the whole rape scene was added to the comic to make it “SMART” and “EDGY” enough to intellectually stimulate me. Uhhhhhhh. This comic feels as if someone is vertically smacking my brain with a 9 iron over and over again.

  3. Brotoflatron

    Why is it that whenever a character is named Kimiko, she’s absolutely guaranteed to get on everyone’s nerves?

  4. I hate to break up the circle-jerk, but I find the harsh criticism of cinema to be entirely unfitting given your own poor knowledge. The “me so horny” line is from Full Metal Jacket, you buffoon.

    Here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12tce-THLUE

  5. I can’t, because it isn’t. Or rather, it was in FMJ, and now it’s used and used again by people who laughed at it when it was in the movie and think it’s funny if they do it, too. Sometimes it is (South Park), sometimes it isn’t (Marilith). I’m just saying I can’t take movie criticism from someone who attributes a classic line from a classic movie to South Park all that seriously. And really, if I were defending Hudson Hawk, how would that make me less right?

    • Wups. Should have clicked reply.

    • No need to get defensive… Just trying to clarify. The review is mostly about a webcomic, so I was trying to figure out how “You have little cinematic credibility” would relate. Don’t get me wrong… I totally agree with you! But a webcomic should be judged on different metrics as it is a different form of media, is it not?

      A stray thought: if the creator himself or herself takes inspiration for a work based on the derivative, is it any more or less valid a statement? For example, if I say a spng is ripped off of Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower,” is that criticism any less valid because Bob Dylan was the originator? Not necessary, since the original work and the derivation take on different qualities based on the recipient and how they interpreted it. Ergo, the same can be applied to parodies and pop culture references. There is a potential that the latter has more power than the original author, hence becoming the baseline source for a majority of people.

      • No matter where the creator got the idea, citing the proper source always matters. It places things in social context for us. Because if something is from a well-known movie or a random episode of South Park explains quite well how it sits in the general mind of pop culture. And honestly, I’m not wild about this comic, but I do think the comedy is to be found in the reaction to the line, rather than the line itself. The character parrots the well-known “Asian hooker line” and is immediately perceived as such. Might have been funny in another comic.

        • Dorian Cornelius Jasper

          To be perfectly fair, I didn’t know the source for the longest time myself. This is partly because it’s only funny in a black comedy kind of way.

          And that’s why it’s almost never funny when referenced.

  6. So I read a comment by someone about one of their favorite webcomic writers starting a new comic called Spinerette. I thought I’d check it out.

    It really didn’t take long before I let out a long, sarcastic, “Ryyyyyyyyght…” And deleted my browser history before going outside.
    If this is the same writer of that horrible stew of fanservice then I don’t need another reason to stay away.

  7. Three days with a negative review and only one crackpot shows up to complain?

    You’re losing your touch, Cruz!

    • To be fair, though, Marilith’s been done for a year, which severely reduces the chance that this piece will circulate around the Marilith forums for Marilith fans to get righteously indignant about.

      And Piet’s alright by me, anyway.

    • Please, do keep in mind that my complaint had very little to do with the comic itself. I would call myself a semi-regular reader of this site, though I tend to disagree with El Santo a fair part of the time. But I’m an avid consumer of comics, and this is a good way to find new ones. Marilith, though, I won’t be inflicting on myself. And given my reading habits, that’s saying something.

  8. For sharing thank you very much good very beautiful work

  9. Man, I remember this comic. I stopped reading it back when the second art shift happened (Staton took over) because it was just boring me out of my skull. Thanks for saving me the trouble of actually finishing it.

  10. This review – while mostly accurate – lacks context. Marilith was a follow-on to Krakow 2.0, which ran from 2001 to 2004 and was illustrated (to use the term loosely) by Krazy Krow himself. Krakow 2.0 was a spinoff of Krakow, which ran from 2000 to 2008.

    The two are almost completely unrelated; Krakow was a somewhat episodic gag comic that followed a similar format to Penny Arcade or any of the gobs of other episodic gag comics out there, but it lapsed into continuous-format as the years wore on.

    Krakow 2.0 introduced us to Marilith and her sidekick, and was essentially identical to Marilith… except the art was like pouring paint thinner in your own eyes, and the writing was just plain mediocre.

    I used to like this series. Forgive me; I was thirteen when I first read Krakow 2.0, and I didn’t know any better. But then, as I grew older, I realized that – strictly speaking – it had no overarching plot. There was nothing going on under the hood at all. It was just a series of random, increasingly implausible events. Plus, the fact that the artists kept changing during Marilith was pissing me off to no end.

    At least Spinnerette has proven to be a serious improvement on the writing side. I think Krazy Krow is in his element when he’s writing stuff that doesn’t even try to be serious. Here’s hoping that it doesn’t get completely derailed like its predecessors, or that the new artist doesn’t just up and quit.

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