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CSBG Archive

What I bought – 18 July 2007

This week: quite literally, comics from A to Z!  With something for everyone!

Annihilation: Conquest – Quasar #1 (of 4) by Christos N. Gage, Mike Lilly, and Bob Almond.  $2.99, Marvel.

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This is the book that the most people suggested I buy, and after the first Wraith issue, I’m a bit more inclined toward this big crossover than I was before.  This book shows that a good writer can write a good story no matter which characters he’s using, and although this book isn’t as interesting as the Wraith one was, it’s a pretty decent comic.  Lilly’s pencils are fine but his page layouts are all over the place, making this occasionally a difficult comic to follow.  And Gage does a good job giving us a sense of Phyla’s powers as well as setting the Phalanx and the Super-Adaptoid up as implacable foes.  I mentioned last week that it’s hard for me to take the Phalanx seriously when someone like Blink can defeat them, but this issue shows us how powerful they can be, and it’s nice to see.

The one question I have about Phyla and Moondragon’s relationship: have they kissed yet?  It’s nice to see Marvel sanction a lesbian relationship in a “regular” superhero title, but despite lots of tender words to each other, our two heroines don’t actually kiss each other in this issue, even when they’re falling asleep in each other’s arms.  Obviously I don’t want to see them making out every chance they get, but have they yet?  Can anyone help me out?  It’s very nice to see a relationship in a Marvel book that is just like any other romantic relationship, but between two women.  Now if only Northstar would make out with Wolverine (come on, Wolverine’s totally gay) …

Birds of Prey #108 by Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, and Doug Hazelwood.  $2.99, DC.

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My opinion of Simone’s work on Birds of Prey never really changes.  I bought the first trade she wrote, I bought issue #105, I’ve read a few others, and now this, her last issue, all confirm my first impression: it’s a perfectly competent comic book, but lacks the verve she brings to Welcome to Tranquility (and even her DC-villain stuff).  There’s nothing really wrong with this issue, and Barbara’s fight with Spy Smasher is pretty darned good, and we get a nice little coda with Barbara and some homeless waif, but it feels like Simone is just cashing a paycheck.  I know that sounds harsh, but what I mean is that she writes a good comic that feels strangely dispassionate.  I enjoy reading it, but I don’t get caught up in the emotions of the characters or the action.  Maybe that’s just me.  You can say it’s because I haven’t read her entire run, but like I mentioned, I bought the first trade and I get the same feeling – she’s putting the characters through their paces, and what comes out is a decent story.  It’s hard to explain – I know it’s pretty much a “me” thing, because technically the story works fine – the dialogue is good, the guest stars are unexpected but certainly keeping with Barbara’s role in the DCU, and the art is fine.  It’s just somewhat perfunctory. 

Catwoman #69 by Will Pfeifer, David López, and Alvaro López.  $2.99, DC.

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Man, remember when Adam Hughes did interior art?  Look at that cover and tell me you wouldn’t drool to see him doing interior art again.  And where the hell is All Star Wonder Woman, anyway?

Anyway, I suppose this is a personal feeling, but for me, Catwoman crackles with tension in a way that Birds of Prey does not.  Everything that happens makes sense and feels like it happens for a reason and ups the ante for Selina and her child.  Pfeifer here constructs a story that begins at the end so that we can see the threat – a rogue Amazon with a radioactive bomb standing in the middle of Gotham with the cops all around her, and Selina dashing forward to save the day.  Then, of course, we have to have the flashback to how we reached that point.  Pfeifer ties the story into Amazons Attack! (and really, DC, would it kill you to put a footnote in the book that reads “Confused?  Don’t be – pick up the Amazons Attack! mini-series, on sale now!”? or would that be too smart from, I don’t know, a marketing perspective?) but also continues the stories he’s been working on for a while in this title, as we check in briefly to see Karon in the hospital and Holly leaving to do something drastic, I would say.  Batman recruits Selina to infiltrate the Bana, the Amazon splinter group who’s been blowing things up across the country, and Selina agrees, but things go pear-shaped pretty quickly.  It’s a tense little drama that zips along, ending at the moment we began, when things get even worse.  But it leaves us wanting more, and that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

Oh, and this issue features one of the Top Ten Batman Panels of all time.  It’s awesome.

You want to buy Catwoman, you just haven’t yet.  So why not now?

Checkmate #16 by Greg Rucka, Joe Bennett, Prado, and Jack Jadson.  $2.99, DC.

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After the awfulness of the Outsiders crossover, Rucka gets back to doing what he does best: character-driven drama with just the right amount of intrigue.  Therefore, we get the dude on the cover, who’s the new Black Bishop for a while even though he stood there while Chang Tzu tortured Sasha (and Sasha isn’t too happy about)(and yes, I forget his name - sue me), and we also get a surprise appearance by Mirror Master, which can’t be good.  That keeps the plot going toward the Amanda Waller throwdown, but really, this issue is a chance for us to catch up with Sasha after her torture and a chance to Bea to visit Tora.  Yes, it’s a reunion of Fire and Ice, and it’s as excellent as you might want it to be.  Both stories are nice, actually, as we learn more about Sasha’s condition and why she got together with Mr. Terrific (plus, we get to see him without that ridiculous “T” on his face, which is always nice).  Tora and Bea discuss what’s been going on since Ice’s death (or whatever it was) and we get more characterization of Bea in this issue than, sadly, we ever got in the Giffen/DeMatteis JLI (as much as I love those comics, Beatriz always seemed to be pushed to the side so the writers could focus on Booster and Beetle’s antics or Guy and Tora’s romance).  It’s very cool to see Checkmate back on track (not that it went too far off the rails, but the crossover was kind of a waste).  Let’s hope Rucka doesn’t screw up the Waller story too much.

Cover Girl #3 (of 5) by Andrew Cosby, Kevin Church, Mateus Santolouco, and Andre Coelho.  $3.99, Boom! Studios.

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Cosby and Church nicely avoid the “third-issue” padding I’ve come to expect from 5- or 6-issue mini-series, as they continue to blend some nice quiet moments with plenty of action.  This series is relatively non-serious anyway, so despite the death of Rachel’s partner and the sinister machinations of the bad guy (revealed a little in this issue), it’s still an action/comedy/romance (not that Rachel and Alex hook up, nor should they, necessarily, but there’s sexual tension nevertheless), and so Rachel solves problems with her gun (which is quite funny) and she teaches Alex how to fight while alluding to her divorce.  And our heroes end up in trouble, naturally.

As I mentioned before with regard to this comic, Cosby and Church aren’t re-inventing the wheel here, and as they are ably assisted by Santolouco’s solid if unspectacular pencils, this is just a fun comic.  I may be damning with faint praise, because it’s not a great comic, but it is very entertaining.  That’s all I expect, and that’s what I’m getting.  So I like it.

Dominion #2 (of 5) by Michael Alan Nelson and Tim Hamilton.  $3.99, Boom! Studios.

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I got this in the mail a few days ago, which was nice of Ross Richie and the gang over at Boom! Studios.  They’re giving me a chance to check out a bunch of stuff that I probably wouldn’t have.  This is the better of the two in the lot (I also got Left on Mission #3, which I reviewed last week), as it’s more interesting than the other one (I’ll get to that below).  Something strange is happening in Chicago, see, and monsters are eating cars and flaming people are strolling through downtown.  Only one rogue cop can stop them!  Okay, he’s not a rogue cop, but he is alone, and he kills the monster, figures out how to isolate the flaming person, and generally saves the day.  Meanwhile, a doctor figures out (sort of) what’s going on, and she accidentally broadcasts that they need to seal the city and not let anyone out.  Whoops!  Panic, presumably, will ensue.

This is a pretty good comic.  The art, in typical Boom! fashion, is a bit rough and stilted occasionally, but the flaming woman is rendered spectacularly.  The story is tantalizing in its clues to what’s going on and full of action, so despite some over-writing (the entire part about Mrs. O’Leary’s cow goes on a bit too long), it holds our interest.  There’s a mystery, there’s things out of control, there are strange forces at work in the universe, there’s a hero cop.  All in all, not a bad way to put together a comic book.

I do like how Dick (the hero cop) asks a woman at a hospital if she’s a nurse.  It would have been far cooler if Elaina (the nurse) had said, “No, I’m a doctor, you male chauvenist pig!”  But I guess that would have broken up the flow of the narrative.

Gødland #19 by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli.  $2.99, Image.

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You know what this is?  It’s a disappointing issue of Gødland.  Oh, I hoped I would never see the day!  Maybe it’s the new cover layout.

The first problem is Scioli’s art.  Maybe he’s rushed, but it looks more sketchy than usual.  It’s also not inked as heavily, and I think his stylized art works well with thick lines rather than the thin ones we see here.  Maybe that’s a consequence of being rushed, but it doesn’t feel as cosmic as it has in the previous issues.  Maybe Scioli is trying something different.  I’m not sure.  The book is kind of off on a wacky schedule, so maybe the gang needs a break again, like they took after issue #12.  I’m not sure.

The story is okay, but feels rushed as well.  The Ed, Supra, and Eeg-oh portion of the plot actually kicks into high gear, and it feels a bit as if Casey got bored with the Savage Sting, as Adam dispatches her rather easily once he gets out of his building.  The way he dispatches her is clever, but it isn’t preceded by much of a fight.  The shock in this issue is pretty shocking, I’ll say, but Casey has never shown much sentiment toward his characters, which is refreshing.  The Friedrich Nickelhead interlude is okay, but feels a bit forced.  Usually Nickelhead’s appearances are highlights in the book, but in this one, Casey seems to be trying to hard.  Again, I don’t know if that’s because of hurrying or if he was just off this time.

Adam is back in action next issue, as he travels to Las Vegas, where the Ed, Supra, and Eeg-oh are busy slaughtering people.  We’ll see what happens.  One mediocre issue doesn’t invalidate the previous 18 excellent ones, after all.  I just hope this is a small bump in the road.

World War Hulk #2 (of 5) by Greg Pak, John Romita Jr., and Klaus Janson.  $3.99, Marvel.

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Did they have a pool to see which Marvel artist got to draw this?  If you’re an artist, how do you not service Joey Q orally while giving Dan Buckley a hand job in order to get this assignment?  Joey Q: “Hey, we have a book where you get to draw five issues of the Hulk pounding on EVERYONE.  Do you want it?”  Artist: “Who do I have to sodomize to get that?”  I assume Romita was their first choice, but you know every single artist wanted this.

Romita, of course, smacks the damned thing out of the park.  Every panel is awesome.  Sure, the big double-page spread of Hulk his allies facing off against the Avengers is excellent, but every single panel features someone getting trashed, someone about to get trashed, someone who has just been trashed, or other people reacting to someone getting trashed.  That, my friends, is high-quality comic bookery.

The only thing that bothers me is the state of Jennifer Walters.  The last time we saw her, she couldn’t turn into She-Hulk.  Now, Iron Man restored her powers.  That didn’t happen yet in She-Hulk, right?  I assume it’s going to.  Other than that small scheduling glitch, this is pure awesome.  It’s four bucks, but if ever a book full of fighting was worth four bucks, it’s this one.

The Lone Ranger #7 by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello.  $2.99, Dynamite Entertainment.

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I’m not entirely sure who the dude on the last page is, if we’re supposed to know him at all, but otherwise, this first issue after the initial six-issue arc (which was supposed to be a mini-series) is a good place to jump on, if you’ve been missing the series so far.  There’s some continuation from the first six issues, but Matthews easily introduces John’s sister-in-law and nephew, plus the bad guys, and throws in plenty of action to boot.  I’m not sure why Tonto would want to live in a log cabin (shouldn’t he say something like “We were meant to roam the land, white man”?), but that’s fine.  Matthews obviously has more stories to tell about our favorite masked cowboy and his Native American buddy, and this looks like another good one.  Do yourself a favor and check it out!

The Order #1 by Matt Fraction, Barry Kitson, and Mark Morales.  $2.99, Marvel.

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The one thing I didn’t like about the storytelling in The Order was Fraction’s penchant for jumping around in time.  It’s kind of annoying.  In the beginning, I guess Henry Hellrung is talking to Pepper Potts about leading the group.  Am I right?  Then, at the end, it seems like he’s still in that particular interview, but is it after he’s already taken the job?  And if it isn’t in that interview, when is it?  And is he really talking to Pepper?

Otherwise, this is an intriguing beginning. Brian mentions Milligan’s X-Force in comparison, and I’m not really giving that much away by saying that the some of the original team gets replaced halfway through the book (they don’t die, though).  I mean, the team that is on the cover isn’t the one we meet originally, so we know something is going to happen to them.  Although the whole Civil War fallout kind of sucks, at least some writers are trying to work with it, and Fraction’s idea of having morals clauses written into the heroes’ contracts is a great idea.  If you’re going to have everyone register and form up these “Initiative” groups everywhere, it makes sense to make them sign contracts that say they won’t go out and drink and do stupid things that could lead to trouble.  I know the real reason the women in the first group were replaced, however: their costume weren’t revealing enough!  The two women who were fired had no navel exposure.  They were replaced with three women, all of whom wear costumes showing off their belly buttons!  Sex appeal – that’s the way things work in the post-Civil War Marvel Universe!

It’s an action-packed issue with nice character development, especially with Henry and Pepper.  Kitson’s art looks a lot rougher than it ever has, which is a good thing – I certainly like his clean style, but this looks particularly excellent.  Maybe being inked by Morales, who seems to be a Marvel house inker, is the reason for the shift.

Anyway, it’s a good superhero book with a lot of intriguing possibilities.  We’ll see how it goes.  

The Programme #1 (of 12) by Peter Milligan and C. P. Smith.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

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This feels like a “good” Milligan book, even if it’s not as weird as his true classic books.  It has a Human Target kind of feel to it, which is a very good thing, as that series was excellent.  That’s not to say the subject matter is anything like that book, but the way he writes it is similar.

The story certainly has a lot of potential.  There’s a Middle Eastern country where American forces are deployed fighting insurgents (it’s called Talibstan, by the way).  That dude on the cover causes some major damage and freaks everyone out.  There’s also an American named Max who is having some problems with his marriage and his life in general, and he’s far more important than he knows, as we discover when the CIA shows up at his doorstep.  Through flashbacks, we find out that the Nazis were developing some kind of weapon, and they surrendered it to American soldiers before the Russians took it.  We see on the last page that it’s an embryo of some kind.  Could it be Max?  That’s certainly what we’re being led to think.  But then who is the freaky Russian superdude blowing shit up in Talibstan?  WHO?????

It’s very intriguing, and Milligan never allows his characters to speak too archly, which is a problem he occasionally indulges in.  I have two problems with the book: there are no narrative tags, so the shifts from the end of World War II to the present to the United States to the Middle East are jarring, but not insurmountable.  It’s just a minor thing, and only held me up for a second.  It’s still annoying.  Yes, I’m stupid.  The other thing that bugged me was the art.  Smith’s “pencils” are fine (I suspect a lot of this is scanned stuff, so “pencils” might not be applicable), but the coloring of the book is really poor on too many pages.  Panels are far too murky, faces are obscured, and a lot of backgrounds are sloppy.  One of the problems I have with this kind of art is that so much attention goes into the figures that the backgrounds get left behind.  But that’s just my opinion.

Another neat first issue.  Man, comics are awesome.

Repo #2 (of 5) by Rick Spears and Rob G.  $3.50, Image.

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I wasn’t too impressed with the first issue of this series, but the second is better.  I’m not sure if it will make for a good series in general, but it’s a step in the right direction.  The art is better, and Spears gives us more information about what’s going on.  Plus, lots of things smash, explode, or die in a hail of bullets.  And that’s not a bad thing.

What I didn’t like about the first issue was the way Spears seems to make his characters bad-ass as if that’s the greatest thing in the world.  It’s a tonal problem – I don’t necessarily like his characters nor even admire them, and he seems to.  That’s fine and dandy – it’s just a difference of opinion.  In this issue, however, I noticed a subtle tone shift, as if Spears was taking a step back from lionizing these characters to show us that they’re pretty much unsavory individuals.  As usual, this could just be me, but it feels like we’re not supposed to admire them as much, which, ironically, helps with the story.  I can stop thinking I’m supposed to like these characters, which I don’t, and just follow the story, which is not bad.  I’m intrigued enough to come back, and hopeful that the characters stay interesting but not admirable.  That would be nice.

Samurai: Heaven and Earth Vol. 2 #1-5 by Ron Marz and Luke Ross.  $2.99, Dark Horse.

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A while back, I called Ron Marz a “hack,” and several people got on my case.  That was probably a harsh assessment.  What I meant was that Marz is the kind of writer you never think of when talking about great or even good writers – he just seems to drift around comics, writing stuff, some good, some bad, but never really leaving much of a stamp on it.  I guess if you’re a big fan of Kyle Rayner you have a more favorable view of Marz, but when I wrote “hack,” I wasn’t saying he was bad, I just meant he doesn’t seem to leave much of an impression.  He does his job, keeps things going, and moves on.  No one ever says, “You know who’s my all-time favorite writer?  Ron Marz.  Man, that dude made me love comics!”  So I’m sorry for using such a divisive term.

I bring this up because Marz may not be memorable for much else except stuffing Alex Whatever-Her-Last-Name-Was into a fridge (that was him, wasn’t it?), but through two volumes of Samurai: Heaven and Earth, he has given us a magnificent historical adventure, and it’s a joy to read.  At the end of the last mini-series, Yoshiko had been taken by Don Miguel Aguilar, who left Shiro for dead.  Shiro, however, has the mutant power to heal himself, and this series finds him in hot pursuit!  It’s wonderful how these characters travel from across Europe and northern Africa in what seem like impossible circumstances, but it all feels natural.  As this has been planned as a trilogy, there’s a teaser for the next mini-series, but at least this one ends satisfactorily – Shiro and Yoshiko are reunited, and Shiro has left a lot of corpses in his wake.  Of course, they’re still in Egypt, so presumably the third mini-series will be about their journey home.  And Shiro’s not the only one with a healing factor, as the last panel in the book lets us know that one bad guy ain’t exactly dead yet.

After the first series ended, I thought Dark Horse was pushing its luck promising a return of Ross on art, because I thought he would flee to the Big Two and never return.  Well, he came back for the second series, so let’s hope he’s on board for the third, because a big draw of the book is his art, which is gorgeous.  Yes, some of his models are pretty obvious (I’ve already made the Kelly Hu reference, but I’ll do it again here!), but still – this is a beautiful book.  We get a lot of sex, which is nice (not in a masturbatory way, you sickos, but because it’s nice to see a relationship between two people where they, you know, get it on) and Shiro does a lot of killing, and everything looks fantastic.  Marz’s story is great theater, but Ross elevates it to another level.

If you’ve never been a fan of Marz, check this book out.  It’s a wonderful comic.

The Spirit #8 by Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone.  $2.99, DC.

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The last time we saw Satin, Cooke gave us that great cover with her carrying an unconscious Spirit.  That was excellent because it flipped the traditional roles and linked to the story inside.  So for the return of Satin, we get a cover that reverts to form and again places the female in a submissive role to the smarter man, even though – get this – Satin is the one in the comic who defuses the bomb.  The Spirit stands around being ineffectual.  So why is this cover showing the Spirit defusing the bomb?  I don’t know.  It’s a nice drawing, but if you’re writing a strong female character inside the book, why make her a spectator on the cover?

This has some nice banter in it between our man Colt and Satin, as they try to stop the Octagon from detonating a nuclear bomb in the heart of the city.  We see the mysterious Mr. Octopus in shadow, but he skedaddles pretty quickly, leaving the Spirit and a slightly addled Satin to defuse the bomb.  Yes, Cooke drags out that hoariest of clichés, temporary amnesia, to explain why Satin can’t defuse the bomb right away.  Does Cooke have enough credit in the bank as a writer to throw out the amnesia card?  And I know it’s a comic book, but if Satin had enough of a head injury to cause amnesia, she wouldn’t be up and walking around.  It really wrecked the issue for me, because it’s just.  so.  stupid.  And does anyone bother to call off the jets that are flying in to vaporize the tower in which the bomb is housed?  Things like that bug me.

So.  A pretty issue (of course – it’s Cooke on art), but so very, very stupid.  It’s a shame.

Super-Villain Team-Up/MODOK’s 11 #1 (of 5) by Fred van Lente, Francis Portela, and Terry Pallot.  $2.99, Marvel.

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As a set-up issue, this is a lot of fun.  MODOK collects a bunch of seriously D-list villains (even though I’ve always liked Puma, and Chameleon was in Amazing Spider-Man #1, after all) and maneuvers them all to a warehouse in Brooklyn, where he promises them “the greatest heist in the history of the multiverse.”  What could it be????  Of course, we also know he’s up to something else, too, so we’ll have to keep an eye on old MODOK.  I mean, he can’t be trusted, can he?

Van Lente has some fun with the characters, and that’s what this calls for, but he also shows that they have some potential.  One thing that’s nice about recent comic book history is the desire of writers to actually flesh out some of the more fleeting characters that occasionally show up in comics.  Who ever cared if Rocket Racer had a terminally ill mother (or grandmother? – she looks kind of old to be his mother, although he calls her “Mama”)?  Or that the Armadillo was wrestling in Acapulco?  Stuff like this makes these kinds of books fun.  And I love how MODOK has to remind himself that he’s really designed for Computing, not Killing.  All in all, a pretty satisfactory initial issue.  What I really hope for is that some bad guys actually win at the end of this.  I mean, can’t the bad guys win occasionally?

I’ve never seen Portela’s art before, but it kind of has a McNiven vibe to it.  It’s not quite as good, but it’s very nice.  McNiven always seems to have a bit too much coolness in his art, but perhaps because of the subject matter, Portela gives his characters some nice personalities.

I thought I would mention the movie advertisement on the inside cover.  It appears to be a sequel to Daddy Day Care called Daddy Day Camp.  It stars Cuba Gooding Jr.  Man, what the hell happened to Cuba Gooding Jr.?  He’s a freakin’ Oscar winner!  I know that doesn’t guarantee you a great career, but it ought to be enough to keep you out of shite like this.  The movie is directed by Fred Savage.  Yes, that Fred Savage.  Dear Lord, people think comics are immature, yet people keep making movies like this.

Tag: Cursed #5 (of 5) by Mike Lieb and Chee.  $3.99, Boom! Studios.

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This is the second free thing I received from Boom!, and it’s not quite as good as Dominion (and definitely not as good as Cover Girl or Left on Mission).  It’s a fairly standard horror comic, which may or may not appeal to you.  The main character, Ed, is on a mission – he has to find a person who is carrying the “tag,” which is apparently something that turns a person into some kind of zombie until he or she can touch someone else, at which point the “tag” passes on to that person.  It’s not a bad concept, although not entirely novel, but again, that’s the problem with the entire issue – we’ve seen it before, and so it has to be done really well to make an impression.  But it’s not done particularly well – like I pointed out, it’s fairly standard.  Which means we get two surprise endings (one for Ed, one for his target) that aren’t particularly surprising, especially for anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie.  It’s competent, and it looks fine, but it doesn’t really rise above the conventions of the genre.  Unlike the other genre books from Boom! in this post, Cover Girl and Dominion, which are also fairly standard but executed well, this doesn’t really work as anything more than a horror comic.  Which is too bad.

The Weapon #2 (of 4) by Fred van Lente and Scott Koblish.  $2.99, Platinum Studios Comics.

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Speaking of standard, The Weapon could easily be that kind of book, but van Lente won’t let it be.  This is what I’m talking about with comics like this - so much of it is in the execution, so the story, although it matters, doesn’t matter as much as we might think.  I mean, this is a mystery about some mystical Chinese secret society, and it’s another action/adventure/comedy/romance (although at least Tommy, unlike Alex in Cover Girl, gets a kiss in this issue), but it’s really fun to read.  Koblish’s art is cartoony enough for the subject matter, but he’s also good at the explosions and stuff.  And it’s kind of goofy but fun that wherever Tommy goes, he runs into bad guys of the Lin Kuei, all of whom want to kill him.

Obviously this is all going to work out for our heroes.  The fun is not in worrying about Tommy and Megan, but enjoying the thrill ride.  So far, this has been a nifty little action comic.

Zero Killer #1 by Arvid Nelson and Matt Camp.  $2.99, Dark Horse.

07-18-2007 10;15;16PM.JPG

I was interested in this book because Nelson writes Rex Mundi, which is of course my favorite title being published right now.  This is completely different from that book, and it’s not perfect, but it’s an intriguing start.  The story is simple: in 1973, a nuclear war took place.  JOCOM, a military organization, seized control of the United States, and now, in 2007, New York is partially submerged (as you can see by the cover) and run by gangs.  Yes, it’s like Escape from New York, or, if you prefer, DMZ, but of course, it’s all in how Nelson presents it.  We get an enigmatic bounty hunter, Zero, who rescues a young girl named Stark from three gang members.  He doesn’t care about her, but he does care about the gang members, who have gone rogue from their gang.  Zero takes them to the Chrysler Building (with Stark in tow, naturally, because she wants to go along and because she has to be a main character in the book), where their boss, Black Dahlia, wants to have a word with them.  So we get some action, and we’re also introduced to our two main characters and what will presumably be a major player in the book.  Dahlia is suitably bloodthirsty, Zero is suitably mysterious, and Stark is suitably naïve.  So far they’re fairly stock characters, but that’s okay, because we expect that a bit from a first issue.  It remains to be seen if Nelson makes them more than that, but there’s nothing here that drives me away from the book.  It’s a pretty decent start.

Camp’s art is pretty good, too, with a mix of photo-reference for the background but nice details in the panels, and his figures are fluid and not stiff-looking.  Stewart, who’s a great colorist, does a nice job with both the exteriors and the interiors, contrasting them nicely with some drab browns for the outdoor stuff and darker blues for the inside.  I’m not sure who decided to make Dahlia wear nothing but a thong, but Camp, for the most part, does a good job covering her nipples without making it too forced (yes, God forbid we see nipples).  Only on the last page does it look like her hair is dramatically shorter in one panel than another, because in the first one, the hair is covering her breasts and in the second one, her arm is.  Just a minor thing, but it made me chuckle.

Overall, a pretty good effort.  Another interesting first issue.  It’s always fun to see where they go.

Holy crap, that’s a bunch of comics.  I read a few others, but I’m a bit burned out, so we’ll just leave it at these ones.  These are enough, I reckon.

39 Comments

I’m sorry but there’s no way Catwoman would use Vista.

Greg, you are awesome. I have gained a whole new respect for your reviews. In just your MODOK’s 11 review, there were 3 excellent points you made.

1. This was a great start for the mini with the charcters being fleshed out well and using a good mix of humor and acutally making you care about their situations a little.

2. The comparison of Portella to McNiven is right on. As soon as I saw preview pages for this book, I said “Why is McNiven doing a MODOK mini?” But then I found out it was Portella, who is also the only reason I would pick up Black Panther. His style is a little rougher, but it looks almost exactly like McNiven. I looked to see if Hollowell was the colorist and he surprisingly wasn’t. I love Portella’s art though (even if it is only because he looks so much like McNiven) and I hope he gets on a better book than Black Panther.

3. Outside of comic books, but brilliant observation on Cuba Gooding Jr.’s career. I said the exact same thing to my girlfriend when I saw the DVD “Boat Trip” on sale in Walmart the other day. You basically said the exact thing I did.

Thank you for some great reviews this week. I might check out the new Quasar mini now. I love that costume design and what could be better than “lesbians in space”? Ha ha ha.

Lesbians at home…

Thanks, Dan. It’s much appreciated.

I dunno, Greg, I think you’re off base on your comments re:Gail Simone on Birds of Prey.

I have no problem with the basic “It reads like a standard comic book, there’s just no verve to it,” but throwing around phrases like “it feels like Simone is just cashing a paycheck” is very much the same as your comments regarding Marz before.

“Hack” is a really strong insult to throw around, and likewise, “just cashing a paycheck” is also a really tough thing to say about a writer, especially one who is as invested in the characters as Gail Simone is with the Birds of Prey characters.

Heck, at times, I’ve argued that she’s almost TOO invested in them, as she’s spent past issues explaining away poorly written Black Canary stories by OTHER writers (okay, it was just one writer, Brad Meltzer, in both occasions). That’s not the sort of thing writers do when they’re “just cashing their pay checks.”

What he said. It’s one thing to actually criticize the published work, but conjecture about the conditions under which the work were made is not only bad form, it’s bad thought.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

July 20, 2007 at 12:15 am

I have no problem with the basic “It reads like a standard comic book, there’s just no verve to it,” but throwing around phrases like “it feels like Simone is just cashing a paycheck” is very much the same as your comments regarding Marz before.

Personally, I get what Greg is saying about Ron Marz, although hack isn’t the right term at all.
He writes a good superhero story, he’s just not out to re-invent the wheel.
That said, he’s issue in the ‘All-Star Comics’ crossover from several years back (When JSA first launched), could be used as a text book in how to write a solid and involving one-shot story that’s part of a larger crossover.
It has a solid plot and character development in and of itself, and follows the framework required to serve the larger story.
I’m interested in checking out Samurai (is there a trade?) as I think Marz really came into his own once he went to Crossgen.

As for Gail Simone, who’s probably used the net better than Warren Ellis to build a fan base (and almost as well as John Byrne uses his to destroy one), I’ve only read the first trade as well, and I’d say she seemed to be well invested in the characters.
Unfortunately it just didn’t make me want to come back for more – just not my thing (although it was alright). If there had been a better artist on the book, maybe I would have.

Yeah, I get what Greg was saying re: Marz. I understand what he MEANT, just saying that the term “hack” conveys a much harsher term than he meant to say.

Likewise, with the comments about Simone, I think it sounds harsher than Greg intended.

It annoys me that nobody seems to be able to draw Modok as he was designed, with that squashed, grotesque face and gigantic forehead:

http://www.geocities.com/marvel_terror/modok/modok2.jpg
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v354/ianbrill/modok-1.jpg

Stuart Immonen’s baby Modok is almost the only decent image I’ve found apart for Kirby’s brilliant original:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Babymodok.PNG

Tell me again how Wraith wasn’t just a linear display of an unoriginal character kicking ass and taking names like somebody from a bad anime fanfic.

The Order was cool though.

I think the amount of intimacy on display between Moondragon and Phyla’Vell in Quasar did far more to portray them as a convincing couple than any amount of girl on girl necking ever would. They’re obviously comfortable in themselves and their relationship so why would they bother going round making out like ZOMG! HAWT SPACE LESBIANS!? Besides there are obviously more important things to worry about.

I stopped reading Checkmate awhile ago. It’s not a bad comic, just not the kind that I really enjoy. So when I subsequently found out – after already getting all my comics for the week – that this issue had the reunion of Bea and Tora, I immediately rushed out and grabbed the nearest copy I could find.

And I’m glad I did. The main plot was good, but I mostly skimmed through it (it was all I could do to just skip it entirely and look for the first page that had a green-haired woman on it). The Fire and Ice parts were wonderful, though, and I’m not ashamed to admit I got a bit teary eyed when I read the page where they first saw each other again. It may not have gotten as many pages, but Rucka has perfectly captured their relationship: Bea is impulsive and Tora is the voice of reason. This was definitely worth running back to the comic shop for, and its made me a little ashamed that I stopped reading it in the first place.

Pedro Bouça

July 20, 2007 at 6:43 am

> It annoys me that nobody seems to be able to draw
> Modok as he was designed, with that squashed,
> grotesque face and gigantic forehead:
>

Sal Buscema did it quite well in the Old Times. First time I saw MODOK, he was the artist!

As for Jennifer Walters as She-Hulk, I understand she got back her powers on the Incredible Hulk series. Her own series is already post-WWH.

I faintly remember Quasar and Moondragon kissing in the Prologue, let me see…

Yeah, they do, but it’s not really shown on panel:
http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=72225693&blogID=268642162&Mytoken=15F50B26-48E4-4738-AF643181EE2EC60235118381

The Annihilation books have been quite cool anyway.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

I guess “cashing a paycheck” is kind of harsh, but I’ll never understand why someone doing something to make a living is a bad thing. I’ll bet Simone doesn’t pay the bills with Welcome to Tranquility! I know the criticism has been made before of her being too invested in the characters of Birds of Prey, but maybe I’ve just read the wrong issues. Whenever I’ve read the book (and yes, I haven’t read many issues), it feels like she’s just putting them through paces. I don’t get the emotional attachment to them that everyone else seems to feel she has. Like I’ve said before, I do get that from Welcome to Tranquility, and even the Villains United and Secret Six mini-series. I don’t mind at all if Simone is writing Birds of Prey just to cash a paycheck – it’s a perfectly fine superhero book. Whenever I’ve read it, it seems to lack passion. But that’s just my feeling. You can go ahead and bash me for thinking that, because I probably deserve it, but are you telling me that you’ve never thought about a writer/artist, “He/She’s just doing this because DC/Marvel backed a truckload of money up in front of their door”? Really? Again, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing – I wish someone would back a truckload of money up in front of my door to do something I love.

Well, I liked Wraith. That’s why we have choices!

I’m always confused when people cherry-pick things they want to believe about me and everyone else who writes on-line. It’s implied that I want Quasar to be some lesbian porn comic, when all I wondered is if Phyla and Moondragon had actually kissed each other. You know, like people in love do and like Reed and Sue or Peter and Mary Jane or Clark and Lois do whenever there’s a big threat to their existence. I liked how the two of them were portrayed in this comic, and probably wouldn’t have changed anything. I just wondered if Marvel, while allowing two women to claim they love each other, would actually allow them to be portrayed as kissing each other. That’s all.

Another month, another issue of the Spirit, another bunch of rather silly complaints about a very good comic book. Some things are constant in this world!

I think the panel of Mr. Fantastic unconscious pounded completely flat is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in a comic.

“I guess “cashing a paycheck” is kind of harsh, but I’ll never understand why someone doing something to make a living is a bad thing.”

The implication — right or wrong — is that, with many writers (or artists of any kind), you can tell the difference between the work that they put their heart and soul into and the work that they’re just doing because there’s a good paycheck attached.

That said, it’s can be applied completely arbirtarily. Garth Ennis does “The Punisher” because it pays well enough that he can do whatever else he wants… but a lot of people think it’s the best book he’s doing, and it’s certainly the best The Punisher has ever been.

I guess I’m just in a bad mood this morning …

I’m really sorry I actually read comics and attempt to figure out why I don’t like them instead of simply screaming, “OOOOHHHH, a Darwyn Cooke comic! It must be awesome because everything Cooke writes is awesome!” Please, everyone, send me a list of creators I’m not allowed to dislike because they’re obvious geniuses and my poor stupid brain can’t handle the wonderfulness they’re delivering to us. Whenever I even hint that one of these sacred cows might have slipped up, everyone points out that I am, indeed, mind-bogglingly stupid. So if you send me a list of people I’m not allowed to criticize, I’ll know better in the future to not even read the damned comic and just praise it incessantly.

Come on, the amnesia thing was STUPID. It’s the worst soap opera idiocy, and if Claremont had used it in an X-Men comic, everyone would be dogpiling on him for being a hack (yes, there’s that word again). But I guess Cooke DOES have enough credit in the bank as a writer to get away with it, because people will probably be talking about how delightful the issue is and how the way Denny snaps her back to reality was so deep and meaningful. Well, pardon me, but BULLSHIT. It was a stupid way to build tension in the story, and furthermore, it seems like Satin got amnesia from electrical shock. I’m not sure if you can get amnesia from electrical shock, but I do know that amnesia usually comes about from a head injury. And any head injury that can cause that much of an alteration in Satin’s personality in that brief a time will also incapacitate her and probably leave her with permanent brain damage. It’s a childish solution and, frankly, a little insulting. It’s not a “silly complaint,” it’s a very real complaint about something that I suspect Cooke thought would be cool but which comes off as inane. So I’m sorry I don’t worship at the alter of The Spirit, but to suggest that Satin’s amnesia was a good plot point and a good storytelling device is WRONG.  Just accept it and move on, okay.  We’re all WRONG some of the time.

As for Gail – I know she has read the blog in the past, and if she stops by here and wants to seek me out and beat me within an inch of my life, well, that’s her prerogative. I know she’s a good writer and I know that a lot of people like Birds of Prey, and I really don’t mean to be insulting when I say she was doing it for a paycheck. In the world of DC superhero comics, it’s certainly better than a lot of the crap out there. She seems like a nice person, and I wish her gobs of success on Wonder Woman. I just hope Welcome to Tranquility doesn’t get cancelled.

The problem with saying “she’s only doing it for the paycheck,” Greg, is that it’s a very loaded phrase to use around creative types. It insinuates that she doesn’t care about the story she’s telling. I don’t know what you do for a living, but I expect that if someone came to you and accused you of not caring about your work, you’d be offended.

Writers are just as prideful as anyone else (some would say more so), and to imply that one has no emotional connection to her work, especially when she does (and that is most definitely the case here; if you can’t see the emotional connection Simone feels to the Birds characters, I respectfully submit the fault for that lies with you), is a slap in the face to that pride. So don’t be surprised when people call you on it.

I’m not surprised at all that people are calling me on it, Michael. I’m just wondering why I like certain Simone books (and ones by other creative types too) more than others. Again, I’m sure Simone would tell me I’m completely off-base, but of course I would expect that. And sure, the fault could easily lie with me (and probably does). That’s probably why I haven’t bought the book in the past, even though I’ve enjoyed other stuff she’s written. Anyway, I don’t work, so the point is moot, but when I taught, of course I would have gotten mildly offended if someone said I was doing it for the paycheck (as a teacher, that’s an almost laughable thing to say), but I also recognized that I was doing it because, you know, we needed to eat.

Is Hulk using Doc Samson as a club? That is awesome!

I suspect that the term “adequate” was invented for Ron Marz. Everything I’ve ever read by him was just that…adequate. No more, and no less.

And I don’t “get” Daryn Cooke either. He’s got extraordinary chops as an artist and absolutely brilliant panel-to-panel storytelling sense, but he seems to lack real experimetalism (outside, perhaps, of Batman: Ego) and as a writer he’s…well, there’s that word “adequate” again. He’s managed to spin some moderate writing abilities and an affection for the more charming aspects of the Silver Age of Superheroes into some kind of critical acclaim, and it really makes no sense to me.

Weird. I thought that this week’s issue of G0dland was one of the strongest in a long time. I was laughing the entirely time I was reading it. Oh well.

For whatever my two cents are worth (a dime, thanks to inflation? or just a penny, because who the hell am I?), I think you’re way off on Simone and Birds of Prey. This was hands-down my fave comic of the week (and I love Catwoman too, Greg). In fact, it was my fave comic of the whole month — and Simone’s best of the past several months.

Talk about a pay-off! I can imagine why it wouldn’t have the same impact if you weren’t reading it recently, but still, following that great fight, the issue got even better. I literally cheered out loud when we got to that great four-page reveal. And I don’t do that very much. At all. Superb moment! Excellent characerization. Practically perfect all the way ’round. I wish she were sticking with the title, or writing the upcoming BC/GA ongoing, But I can’t wait to see what she does with Wonder Woman.

And Nicola Scott is the quality penciller this title’s been longing for. (I actually stopped buying for a while, because of Benes.) Highly recommended.

I will say that based on what issues you cited, Greg, you really have gotten the worst parts of BIRDS OF PREY. “Of Like Minds,” the first arc, was before Gail had found her voice for the title; and post #100, she lost direction and had her voice-character taken by Meltzer.

For the quintessential BoPs Gail, I’d recommend the second trade, “Sensei and Student.” You really get the whole shebang there: strong character work, continuity roots, vivid locales, sharp humor, popping action, and a last-minute stumble in the plot. Every subsequent story works on the same principles, but “S&S” is the strongest. IMO, Gail seems to put more of herself into BoPs than anyone outside of Animal Morrison, so if you don’t see it there, you just can’t see it.

I really want to like Birds of Prey, so maybe I will pick up the second trade.

re Cuba Gooding jr. Forget Daddy Day Camp (a role even Eddie Murphy refused…)…he’s doing commercials about him wearing Michael Jordan’s underwear…Jsut when you think his career can’t drop further.

re Checkmate. it’s shallow, I know…but I really wish the artists would draw Fire prettier. Despite Rucka retconning her into an assassin, she was still a Brazilian super model…a Brazilian super model who used to be drawn by Adam Hughes, no less.

Really, I am not saying you should LIKE Birds of Prey. It’s totally fine to dislike Birds of Prey.

Just saying that

A. Simone is really invested in these characters

and

B. Saying she’s not is the sort of thing that I think will piss people off more than you intend to…

that’s all.

Oh, I know. But I DO want to like it …

I’m not really qualified to disagree with your Spirit review, because Darwyn Cooke could illustrate the phone book and I’d pay $2.99 to read it. But, you know, I thought it was a fun comic (although I’m coming to the conclusion that Cooke’s really is a mediocre writer and I am just in total lust over his purty pictures, which I’m okay with; I’ve had that inkling since his Solo issue), and the amnesia thing was like any other cliche; I gloss over it as long as the rest of the book holds together, which I thought this did. That said, I think I may have liked last months fill-in better, since it was more like Eisner’s Spirit stories, except for Baker’s awesome Frank Miller Sin City parody, so… I may or may not be committing more Cooke-heresy here.

Wow. I can’t believe people are reacting so strongly to the “cashing a paycheck” line. It’s not insulting at all, in my opinion, just critical. And hardly that.

All artists have those days when it doesn’t feel right. For whatever reason, it’s lacking the passion. And often, you can let that day pass, and come at it again at another time. But when you’re involved in the creation of something by many people, you sometimes have to just play along and work through it. Even if you’re not rocking, you gotta give them a backbeat.

And I think that’s all that Greg’s implying. And I don’t think that’s harsh, in the slightest.

“Cashing a paycheck” and “hack” have negative connotations..deservedly or not.

(In Marz’s case, I’d think Greg might have meant more along the lines of “Workmanlike”…he goes in, does the job, then leaves….Hack tends to denote more of just tossing whatever out without care.)

“You want to buy Catwoman, you just haven’t yet. So why not now?”

I picked up the first three issues of the “1 Year Later” storyline last month after you reviewed Catwoman and mentioned that nobody buys it, and I asked you for a good jumping on point to sample the series. Boy, I want to like the book, but Pfeifer’s terrible habit of bolding multiple words in every sentence of dialogue (and don’t get me started on the underlining in captions) makes for some of the most excrutiating dialogue to plod through this side of Bendis.

I think the term for writers who do an adequate job (or artists for that matter) might be either workman-like or journeyman.
Both terms imply familiarity and comfort with the skills of their craft and that they are competent and may even surpass the adequate at times, but that they are not the master craftsmen you might say a Marshall Rogers or Gil Kane or Will Eisner were.

Ha! Lot’s of overlap between us this week. Although I finally had some money, so I bought anything that I thought looked cool.

Modok’s 11 was way really good fun. I thought I’d be annoyed that it was an obvious (and refernced) unofficial movie tie-in… But it was breezy and enjoyable and FVL gave at least 7 of the 9 an identifiable personality. (Although Nightshade, who’s one of my favorites, seemed way off. She’s basically this super genius child, driven by pure id, but still filled with this kind of wide-eyed wonder.

Cover Girl was fun, too, but the art was often more’n a little off, and very occasionally (page 18, panel 2) downright terrible. But the dialog was fun and snappy, and at least a solid 80% of the gags worked.

I liked the coloring in the Programme. It’s a book about secret histories, so not everything should be obvious to first glance. And I thought the different color-coding for different eras worked well, giving ‘em all their own unqiue (and uniquely spooky) look.
Had the same problem with you putting the whos, whats, and wheres together, though.

Bryan – that’s fine. To each his own and all that. I’m just glad you tried it. We should always try new things occasionally, because you never know when you’re going to find something great.

Mark – It was less the coloring in The Programme for the various eras, which worked, but that some of the panels were almost black. It just seemed way too murky, although I understand your point.

I certainly don’t mean to jump on Greg; YMMV and all that. But for my money, BOP under Simone has been the most heartfelt and affecting mainstream DCU book for years now, and the Barb-Dinah friendship was one of the best in superhero books. It was a bright spot amidst the stupid grimness of Identity Crisis and the lead-up to Infinite Crisis. And Simone went out of her way to incorporate pieces from character history and from around the DCU without feeling like she was indulging in continuity or nostalgia porn.

paperback writer

July 20, 2007 at 10:29 pm

Regarding Greg’s criticism of Simone and Marz, I think the term we’re grasping for is “workman-like.” It sounds as though he is saying they are supplying a solid, professional effort that lacks any signicantly distinguishing features. This is not a slam. It acknowledges the commendable quality of “showing up to play,” and it maintains a consistency most likely worth the price of admission. The term also suggests a book, that while not entirely “deficient,” still doesn’t command a superlative response.

I tend to agree with this assessment of Simone’s Birds. I have been considering dropping it. Not because it sucks. It clearly doesn’t. But because it didn’t totally captivate my attention (and my pull-list already has more than 30 titles).

I am unfamiliar with Marz.

paperback writer

July 20, 2007 at 10:31 pm

Whoops! Sorry, Lauren . . . just saw your earlier post regarding terminology.

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