Not Brand Echh (#14) – Various

3 out of 5

I do wish this was funnier to me – I got, like, half a chuckle out of it – but I guess this is what satire looks like in the modern age, and for Marvel’s general, all-reader-friendly demographics, and so I suppose it’s mission accomplished. At the very least, you have a lot of talented writers and artists collected under one roof.

I haven’t read any of the legacy Brand Echh issues, but I browsed some pages online, and it seems close enough to something I have read quite a bit of – Crazy – to get the gist of its tone. It’s just, like, Marvel-focused instead of pop culture. And though I also didn’t find Crazy ever particularly hilarious, it’s possible I have more tolerance for 70s-style goofball humor, versus the current era “self-aware” meme-heavy approach. I mean, Forbush Man is dabbing on the cover, and although there’re reaction shots indicating that it’s understood that that’s pretty dumb, putting a lampshade on it doesn’t, like, un-dumb it.

Inside, you have people erring way on the side of “safe” jokes, but some of our writers are especially skilled at that – like Christopher Hastings ragging on Gwenpool fandom, and Ryan North having Squirrel Girl explain her supervillain dating service to us. Nick Kocher makes Deadpool funny (I find this to be a rarity, unfortunately), helped along by allowing his strip to actually have a bit of fitting “edginess” to it. Also: Brian Churilla’s best art to date? Weird. On the worser side of things, Jay Fosgitt gets four 1-pagers to feature Forbush trying to work his way into modern Marvel stuff (putting pots on characters heads), and though this is conceptually a funny gag, something about the timing of these really falls flat, and that discrepancy of good idea versus iffy execution makes the lack of a laugh feel worse. And then we lead with the most noxious thing: Nick Spencer doing a 5-page satirical summary of recent Marvel event Secret Empire, a 2017 event. The reason this is problematic is because although it rightfully points out several of the story’s flaws, Echh was published in 2018 – not a lot of time to look back and shrug over a story you asked readers to wholly buy in to. It might be fair game with some balanced tone, but Spencer pokes the bear: he indirectly makes fun of those same readers for shelling out cash to buy the series. I recognize the joke was more meant to be on Marvel, but it doesn’t come across that way, and it gives this strip a very dispiriting, poor-taste vibe. Good thing it takes up more pages than any other bit and starts off the book…

Allowing for this book likely not being targeted at me, I still think it probably hits an average rating with its humor. But there are pretty pictures.