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What I bought – 10 September 2009

If your best friend Harry has a brother Larry, who in five days from now is gonna marry, why would Larry hope you can make it there, if you can, ’cause in the ceremony you’ll be the best man? That doesn’t make any sense!

Domino Lady #2 (“The Zeppelin Affair” and “Orange Blossom Murders Part 2″) by Nancy Holder (writer), Reno Maniquis (penciller, “The Zeppelin Affair”), Keith Williams (inker, “The Zeppelin Affair”), Leeahd Goldberg (artist, “Orange Blossom Murders”), Jason Jensen (colorist), Renato Guerra (colorist, “Orange Blossom Murders”), and Josh Aitken (letterer). $3.99, 27 pgs, FC, Moonstone.

The power of ... boobies!

I mentioned when the first issue of this series came out that I had already pre-ordered issue #2, which I probably wouldn’t have bought otherwise. Well, here it is, and I’m glad I didn’t pre-order issue #3. I really want to like this series, because I dig the pulpy character of it, and the idea of a socialite crime-solving vigilante who sleeps around is kind of neat. Holder doesn’t do much with it, though. The dialogue is silly, the cases Domino Lady solves are interesting in the set-up but kind of dull in the execution (she does very little solving of crimes, for instance, as the bad guys generally confess), and the art, like the stories, is fairly standard. There’s nothing that makes this stand out, and when you have the main character that Holder has created, the stories ought to be far more interesting. But they’re not.

It’s too bad. I had high hopes that this would be a fun, sort-of noir series that turns the standard clichés of the genre upside-down, but it doesn’t. Oh well.

Fallen Angel: Reborn #3 (of 5) by Peter David (writer), J. K. Woodward (artist), and Robbie Robbins (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Catari's mouth freaks me out in more than one way.

There’s always a problem with Peter David’s stories after he’s written a series for a long time – we know pretty much what we’re going to get (even if it’s completely unpredictable), and he does it very well, to the point that it’s very difficult to discuss an individual issue. Things happen, the plot moves forward, Illyria and Liandra have a stand-off and David writes very good dialogue between them as they try to find the next plot device – I mean Illyria’s symbols of power – and it leads up to a fight that is, as usual, clever. People who don’t read David’s comics might think it sounds boring, but it’s not. David constructs single issues very well, and even if a single issue might feel a bit pre-fabricated, David adds good touches that make each chapter of each title work both as a snapshot of the characters’ lives and a part of a larger whole. You might think it would make it difficult to pick up a David comic idly, but because he is so good at single issues, a new reader can ease into things pretty well. In this issue, for instance, Illyria and Liandra discuss how Lee fell, and although David doesn’t repeat the whole story (which he’s told before), we get the gist of it in a few pages, and David is able to create a nice emotional moment when we didn’t see it coming. It’s this kind of storytelling that, for me, always trumps David’s unfortunate tendency to pun at the worst possible time, and why I’ll always at least check out a comic that David writes.

I do wish I had gotten the “retailer incentive” cover, which shows Lee and Illyria standing next to four penguins and Lee saying, “Well, this sucks,” a la Madagascar. Funny stuff!

The Incredible Hercules #134 (“W.W.T.D.?”) by Greg Pak (writer), Fred van Lente (writer), Reilly Brown (penciler), Nelson DeCastro (inker), Guillem Mari (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

It's never wise to war with a gutful of goat!

Every so often there’s a slightly weaker issue of The Incredible Hercules (meaning, a 12 on a scale of 10 rather than the usual 15 or 20) and I think, “Maybe Pak and van Lente are finally running out of ideas.” And then they come back with an issue that blows the doors off of anything else on the stands, and I am comforted. This is one such issue. The last issue, with Amadeus Cho out there on his own checking out what happened to his sister, was pretty good, but only a 12 on a scale of 10. In this issue, which focuses back on Hercules pretending to be Thor, Pak and van Lente made me laugh on pretty much every page, and Reilly Brown is back on art, so that gets stepped up a bit as well.

This issue is pure pleasure. The recap page mocks Oliver Coipel’s version of Thor, which is hilarious (“thipples”?), and from there, we just page after page of sheer insane delight. From Hercules believing that sunlight turns trolls to stone because he saw a documentary about The Hobbit to Alflyse’s dramatic entrance, from the Acme anvil that lands on Herc to his knowledge of Star Trek pop culture (and the elf’s rejoinder), and finally the ending, with the Warriors Three playing their ace in the hole, this is a wonderful comic. It’s very funny (and Pak and van Lente manage a sexual double entendre that isn’t too obnoxious) and very exciting. And just when I think that maybe, just maybe, van Lente and Pak are slipping just a tiny bit, I am reassured.

Dang, this is a great comic book. And soon: Agents of Atlas back-up feature! That’ll be worth the extra dollar!

The Life and Times of Savior 28 #5 (of 5) by J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Mike Cavallaro (artist), Andrew Covalt (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 25 pgs, FC, IDW.

There's a lot of flipping the bird in this comic.

The mini-series comes to an end with a solid issue, a bit wordy (not surprisingly, as DeMatteis is often verbose) but summing up the thoughts that DeMatteis wants to get across. This is a thoughtful comic that ends pretty much the only way it could, not breaking any new ground, but telling a story that makes you pause and wonder what kind of people superheroes really are and what kind of people we are. Cavallaro has been doing a strong job on the art, and he continues here, giving us several full-page drawings that bring Savior 28’s life to life, so to speak. He also shines in some of the smaller moments, like when he shows how apprehensive some of the characters are about Savior 28’s lifestyle change. We get a good sense of how earth-shattering his desire to create peace on earth is from the way Cavallaro draws people reacting to him. DeMatteis tells us, of course, but it’s still good that we see it on characters’ faces.

I haven’t seen a trade offered for this (I imagine there either is one or will be one), but you could do a lot worse if you check it out. Yes, it’s a deconstruction of superheroes, something we’ve seen a lot of in the past, but DeMatteis is always interesting, because unlike a lot of deconstructions, he doesn’t think of superheroes as fascists in costumes. DeMatteis is very good at creating real characters who act like real humans, and that’s what makes this comic a nice read.

Secret Six #13 (“Depths Part Four: Fit For a King”) by Gail Simone (writer), Nicola Scott (pencillers), Carlos Rodriguez (penciller/inker), Doug Hazlewood (inker), Rodney Ramos (inker), Jason Wright (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Poor Belinda!

The second of the brilliant comics I read this week is completely different than the first. Where The Incredible Hercules is fun, Secret Six is brutal. Where The Incredible Hercules is joyfully exciting, Secret Six is horrifyingly exciting. They’re both excellent comics, but it’s interesting how polar opposite they are from each other. Except for Ragdoll, who’s very funny. But his humor is really, really disturbing.

I’ve said this before with regard to Simone, and I’ll say it again: I didn’t see this coming. As much praise as was heaped on her Birds of Prey, the issues I’ve read were fairly bland – not awful but nothing great. Same thing with Wonder Woman (although it’s been a while since I’ve read that – maybe it’s better). Welcome to Tranquility was a good comic, but unlike this (although there were flashes of darkness in it). Her previous mini-series with these villains were some of her best work, but they only hinted at the depravity (in a good way) that lurks in Simone’s brain. In this series, she’s given full rein to that depravity, and it’s magnificent. I’ve defended my love of this series with regard to my disgust with some other recent DC superhero work, and I’ll do it again: The characters are despicable, so I can deal with them doing despicable things, and Simone’s level of writing is simply higher than the other gorefests that DC is publishing. This issue, for instance, is packed with beautiful moments: Ragdoll trying on Wonder Woman’s boots, which for some reason is extremely creepy; the interlude with Liana; Scandal’s offer to the guards who are trying to kill her and the way Joseph reacts to it; the peek into Bane’s psyche; Ragdoll (again); Scandal’s gauntlet; Grendel’s proclamations. As the characters spiral into darker and darker depths (hence the name of the arc), it’s fascinating to watch what drives them and what changes them. Except Ragdoll. Don’t ever change, Ragdoll! And it’s gloriously illustrated by Scott, who keep getting better, even if she’s forced to cover a nipple with a bloody axe. Remember, kids: Spikes coming out of a man’s head – fine and dandy; nipples – won’t someone think of the children?!?!?!?

Dang, this is a great comic. Oh, I already wrote that? Well, it’s true about this as well.

The Unwritten #5 (“How the Whale Became”) by Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Well, that was just mean of Locke and Pullman.

I guess this is the way this series is going to go. We get the initial arc, then a single issue that fills in some history. I’m okay with that, even though issue #4 didn’t really end the story arc. This issue is excellent, not only because it teases us with some information about the mysterious forces at work in Tom Taylor’s life, but also because Carey does a fine job integrating Kipling’s life into the story. He gives us a “secret” biography of Kipling, who is recruited by the mysterious forces that are now part of Tom’s life, and begins writing about the glory of the British Empire. It’s a nice tale of his fall from grace and why, for instance, he began writing children’s stories, until he gets his revenge in death. Carey uses the tragedy in Kipling’s life (which might be tactless if he hadn’t died 70 years ago) in his narrative nicely, and he leads us to the cliffhanger very well. Gross is magnificent, as always, giving us a fantastic Victorian-looking comic that integrates fables and Kipling’s children’s stories nicely. Gross is always good, but occasionally he is wonderful, and this is one of those issues.

I can even forgive the typo that lets Oscar Wilde live past 1900. Where’s that fact-checker?!?!?

Wednesday Comics #10 (of 12) by creators who think they’re better than you are. Are you going to stand for that? $3.99, 15 pgs, FC, DC.

Emo Superman triumphs again!

“Give yourself up.”
“Do your worst, monkey! My father and I will die on our feet like the warriors we are!”
“Read this!”
“That was a helluva thing, dollface … a helluva thing.”
“We take what we like. And there is only one of you.”
“Will there be giant vegetables?”
“But do you remember who you really are?”
“There are many strange wonders on Earth, your highness – but talking blue baboons are not among them …!”
“I wonder what it’s like to be a genius.”
“Enough of this mushy stuff. We’ve got a city to save!”
“But the habits of beasts can be studied … and mastered!”
“Take it, kid. Spoils of war.”
“I’m gonna ask you one more time, and then I’m vibrating my fist through your face.”
“Now come, my sweet! This fate is not for thee!”
“Look! Look what I can do!”

It all makes sense when you break it down logically, doesn’t it?

(I should point out that Gaiman gets his Latin wrong. “Ego sum regem mundi” is incorrect, because “regem” shouldn’t be accusative. It should be “Ego sum rex mundi,” because “to be” verbs take the nominative – it’s the appositive, technically. In fact, you probably don’t even need the “ego,” as “sum” means “I am,” so it’s a bit redundant.)

So that’s the week. Not a ton of quantity, but two absolutely brilliant comics, and three others that are pretty good. And that Flash strip was freakin’ excellent. And Java continues to crack me up. And now … totally random lyrics!

“When her robe is unfurled she will show you the world,
If you step up and tell her where.
For a dime you can see Kankakee or Paree,
Or Washington crossing The Delaware.”

Good stuff!

20 Comments

Y’know, I didn’t make it to my LCS Thursday because I (a) felt like crap (from the usual sleeping problems the previous night, I’m sure … in fact, I get to go spend the night at a local sleep clinic all wired & monitored up in 2 1/2 weeks), (b) was even later than usual getting home (sometime after 6) from the office, & (c) had only one comic coming in (as I’ve mentioned before, the majority of my comics now come in the mail from HeavyInk), anyway, along with the new ish of RUE MORGUE …

Your enjoyment of the one comic in question — INCREDIBLE HERCULES — has me about 99.9 sure that I’ll be heading that way tomorrow, though, especially when I ponder the vast amount of pleasure I extracted from the issue before this one.

What I’m saying is, if I get hit by a truck tomorrow driving across town, it’s your fault & yours alone.

I thought this post was going to be about 9/11…

Why, that would be “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady,” covered once by the Capitol Steps, with several groan-inducing puns, as “Libya, The Terrorist Nation.” I can’t believe I ever bought that album.

Well, Dan, I certainly hope your journey is safe! It’s totally worth it! I went to a sleep clinic a few years ago, and it was no fun. Good luck!

Good call, Brian. Gotta love that song. I just saw Kermit sing it on an old episode of The Muppet Show, which is why it was on my mind.

Simone’s Wonder Woman was really lagging with the interminable Genocide storyline, but she sprang back to her standard smart-and-fun form with the recent two-parter co-starring Black Canary. Worth checking out. (Just two parts! Could’ve easily been stretched out to 3 or 4. How are they ever gonna sell a trade of that?!)

I always thought the “has a brother Larry” was parenthetical, and that it’s Harry who’s asking his best friend to be the best man.

You’re also friends with Larry, and his original best man had a last minute emergency. Despite being brothers, Harry and Larry don’t get along all that well. After the best man debacle, Larry was panicking, so he called you up 5 days before the ceremony. Luckily, you said “neato,’ checked your libido, and rolled to the church in your new tuxedo.

I don’t think Herc saw a documentary about The Hobbit. I think he saw The Hobbit, and thought it was a documentary.

Yeah, that’s probably right, Michael. Although I wonder, because he’s been around for long enough to figure it out. But that IS funnier.

You’re awesome, Mike L.

Yeah, that date in The Unwritten should be 1895… the type doesn’t fit into the chronological nature of the story either (beyond being wrong). But, a very good issue. Carey’s writing didn’t impress me as much as it was meant to (if only because the lingering influence of Neil Gaiman is so potent that it robs the issue of some of its power), but the combined visuals by Gross, Chuckry, and Klein more than make up for it. The integration of text into the art here is beautiful and works thematically.

The Last Boy Scout

September 11, 2009 at 11:04 pm

How it thrills me to see a Latin scholar! (Or, at the very least, a former Latin student with some memory of basic grammar. There are many more of those in the world – I count myself among them.) Thanks for the term “appositive” – that’s one that’s slipped between the cracks in my memory, or one that never secured itself in my brain at all. It should make it easier next time to explain my cringing at the very same error you corrected.

“Ego sum” is pretty common; it just emphasizes the “I” for effect. It’s the difference between observing that you’re king of the world and proclaiming that you’re kind of the world.

Andrew: Yeah, I know it’s common enough that it’s not really an issue, but it still is a bit redundant. When I learned Latin, we hardly ever used “ego,” so it just seems weird to see it, even when it’s used often.

No problem, Last Boy Scout – I often get my Latin wrong, because it’s been a while since I’ve done anything with it, but that just leaped out at me.

Slowly but surely this is becoming my favorite column here at CBR.Keep up the great work Greg.

Glad I’m not the only one who gets giddy over Herc & Secret Six.

Thanks, KCViking. I hope I can!

I love, love, love Hercules and Secret Six. Two of the best comics out there today, especially by the big two. The Incredible Hercules makes me laugh out loud every issue and Hercules himself is one of my favorite characters in all of comics now. Secret Six works better for me with the standalones rather than the arcs, but I enjoy everything for the most part.

I’ve read every issue of the Unwritten so far and I’m intrigued as to where it’s going. It’s always good to find a Vertigo book to jump into on the ground floor. I tried that with the House of Mystery but after the first 1 and a half arcs I just couldn’t bring myself to read anymore. Unwritten on the other hand shows a ton of potential.

I stopped reading Wednesday Comics at the fourth week and when I flip through it at the store I don’t regret it. The strips I somewhat enjoyed (Batman, Metamorpho, Adam Strange, Kamandi) aren’t interesting enough to continue buying it and the one I couldn’t stand (Supergirl, Teen Titans, Wonder Woman) still look ehh. The concept is good in theory, but I’d love to read stories by most of the teams in monthlies, not little snippets of stories that don’t go anywhere weekly.

it wasn’t a peek into Bane’s psyche that was as horrifying as the one-panel peek into DEADSHOT’S psyche: basically, where he envisions himself killing EVERYONE.

[…] Greg Burgas liked it, though, as did Rich Johnston. Leave a comment […]

Let me preface this by saying it COULD be entirely incorrect (never smart to assume that just because someone’s an “expert” he’s always right), but:

Someone in my high school Latin class once asked the teacher how the average ancient Roman farmer kept all those declensions and conjugations straight when modern day honor students who’d studied it a whole four years (there may have been some hubris here) still had trouble. Aside from the usual stuff about how it’s easier when you grew up speaking it, he also pointed out that they often didn’t bother, and that, ironically, a modern Latin scholar was more likely to get it “right” than a native speaker, at least in casual conversation, the same way that a native English speaker is far more likely to say something like “Ain’t no nevermind” than someone who learned it as a second language. So while it was probably unintentional, it isn’t inaccurate for an ancient Roman to speak “incorrect” Latin.

Although the fact that Metamorpho’s real name is “Rex” might have made Gaiman more likely to go with “regem” even if he had realized it was technically incorrect, just so that people who don’t know Latin wouldn’t think it was a reference to Rex Mason.

ZZZ: Yeah, I thought of that. I’m going to give Gaiman the benefit of the doubt and believe that he didn’t want to use “Rex” in two different contexts. I also think your theory is probably correct, and that what’s-his-name (ancient Latin element dude) was using incorrect Latin but he didn’t care. Plenty of native English speakers get grammar wrong, after all!

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