Alix Harrower - Bulleteer
Grant Morrison's Bulleteer
Art by Yanick Paquette
Grant Morrison authored a 4-issue update of the classic 1940 Fawcett characters Bulletman and Bulletgirl in 2005-2006 as part of the Seven Soldiers of Victory inter-locking multi-series. (For Bulletman, go here.)
Morrison's Bulleteer is inspired directly by those original superheroes by way of the character of scientist Lance Harrower who specifically states to his wife Alix (who becomes Bulleteer) that his experiments with "smart skin" is to ensure that the pair can preserve their youth indefinitely and literally become superheroes just like the classic Bulletman and Bulletgirl (Lance calls them 'The Human Bullet').
(An inside joke is made by Morrison in issue #3 when Alix visits a fandom convention and meets Susan Parr, the aging original female member of the Human Bullet team. This is an obvious allusion to Susan Barr who was Bulletgirl in the Fawcett series. Parr/Barr takes a look at Alix's Bulleteer costume and says "Your husband turned you out as a hooker and then he died? Was it shame?")
But Morrison has more on his mind that just a simple character update. He uses a general metaphor in his story about the obsession with superhero bodies as related to porn production, and from that he touches on how fandom, Hollywood, and comic books are all related to each other and used as weapons against the awareness of mortality.
Or that is, I think that's what he's getting at. The story itself across the four issues of Bulleteer is messy and whatever Morrison is getting at besides basic plot mechanics is too vague beyond making the connections between theses aspects of American pop culture.
The art by Yanick Paquette seems like the perfect example of what Morrison (might) be pointing his finger at, since Paquette's art is all about the display of the breasts in Bulleteer's costume and this dominates the storytelling so much that much else is neglected, with other visuals self-contradicting and confused. It's as if no editor took a look at these pages, for example when the the original "smart skin" experimental rat in one panel breaks through a barrier of some kind but in the next panel is still contained within its cage. What was it breaking through?
Or is Morrison and Paquette simply trying to have their cake and eat it too? Morrison makes the aspersions about porn - comics - Hollywood - superheroes and then Paquette uses his art to present the very thing Morrison (might) be chiding.
Original 2006 review
Smartskin & Porn
Rather than use botox, Lance Harrower invents a metal "smartskin" that "bonds with collagen," so that (among other things) he can preserve his wife Alix in a permanent state of youthful comic-book voluptuousness (more or less in the shiny, reflective style of The Silver Surfer). When Lance is not working on making his wife a real trophy wife then he is online surfing superhero-themed pornography.
Alix is negative about her husband's demented dream of superheroic importance and immortality of appearances, and she is ignorant of what he is doing online. Lance claims he wants to use his invention so that the duo can become an updated version of the "Human Bullet" super team from WW2 era comics, telling his wife of his dream of inviting The Green Lantern to dinner, and generally being youthful and indestructible forever. (That the "smartskin" imparts immortality is something unexplained. Or perhaps Lance thinks looking young externally is the equivalent of being young eternally?)
Appearances are forever
Yanick Paquette draws Alix as possessing large breasts and this is the detail that overpowers anything Grant Morrison has written to actually make this character exist versus being a platform for mere mammary mobility.
Alix also sits, stands and walks in a constant posture of modeling womens underwear, or walking on a model's 'catwalk.' She also seems to be unable to be in any outfit for very long except her underwear.
The home in which
Alix and Lance live in i sconfusingly presented. Sometimes it's an apartment in an apartment building, other times it is a house with "inventor equipment" down in the basement. No editor apparently reviewed this series for visual consistency.
Morrison manipulates the mechanics of forward-and-flashback storytelling expertly, though the tale in itself is thin in this first of four parts. A great deal is unexplained, and the character motivations beyond Lance's superhero-themed porn-obession are also unexplained.
If Morrison is making a criticism about the industry of supergirls in skimpy clothing? The self-destructiveness of the character Lance is brief as he dies within the first few pages, and it's Alix who seems insterested in learning what happened to them, but gets sidetracked into simply making a living (as a full-time superhero) and into acting as innocence on a tour of the world that Lance has left.
Lance dies as a result of using his invention (he suffocates from the effect of the metal skin) and accidentally passes on the quickly spreading "smartskin" to his wife, who likewise becomes encased (and does not suffocate. I Don't know why).
In a later state of depression caused by her husbands death and her discovering his "secret life" of online porn and an apparent e-mail affair with someone named "Sexy Sally Sonic," Alix attempts suicide by crashing through the apartment wall, and consequently lands unhurt on the street below (because of the smartskin?). She then runs crazily through a subway tunnel (is this another suicide attempt? To get hit by a train?) but she comes across a subway wreck, and a little boy pleading for help.
Alix saves the trapped passengers inside (and somehow loses her shirt in the process), and dutifully later dons the superhero costume her dead husband designed, saying "You got what you wanted, Lance." Why would she do this?
Unreal (and kind of stupid)
There are certainly less plausible origin stories, but this one probably is one of the more surreal in the realm of actual human emotion. Without Lance around to enforce the ridiculous porn-obsessed image consciousness upon his wife, why does she inevitably embrace it so fully?
Morrison is certainly a first-rate comic book writer (as shown in other titles), but this 4-issue series of Bulleteer is a mess and appears to be at best a first draft of an idea that simply isn't worked out. It's too bad since the number of mainstream comics that are self-aware about the ideas of what superhero comics contain is a very select group. Bulleteer belongs in that list but not on account of quality.
Original Page November 2005 | Updated Oct 2014
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