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What I bought – 23 December 2009

Ah, villains, hath that Mortimer escap’d?
With him is Edmund gone associate?
And will Sir John of Hainault lead the round?
Welcome, o’ God’s name, madam, and your son!
England shall welcome you and all your rout.
Gallop apace, bright Phoebus, through the sky;
And, dusky Night, in rusty iron car,
Between you both shorten the time, I pray,
That I may see that most desired day,
When we may meet these traitors in the field!
Ah, nothing grieves me, but my little boy
Is thus misled to countenance their ills!
Come, friends, to Bristow, there to make us strong:
And, winds, as equal be to bring them in,
As you injurious were to bear them forth!

Pugs is kind of a dick, isn't he? The Black Coat is quite the propagandist! All rats should wear monocles - it really classes them up! Well, now I'm going to have to track down some Korean noir, confound it! I wish Helena was always this cool. I'm really not sure how Sahara's breasts stay covered up ... Alan Davis: Best illustrator of smiles EVER! How will Amadeus resist Delphyne now???? I love the zombie fish on that cover This cover format really screws with some nice Cheung covers So instead, she makes new mistakes! Another cool cover by Johnson! Who's going to turn down tequila? I already own every issue, but this has new material, dang it! This is the first Sacco book I've ever bought - I hope it's good! Sterankoriffic! Pure.  Concentrated.  Awesome. Dixon and Zaffino wrote one of the few Punisher stories I like, so I'm keen to read this!

BeastsofBurden4Beasts of Burden #4 (of 4) (“Grave Happenings”) by Evan Dorkin (writer), Jill Thompson (artist), and Jason Arthur (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Dorkin has done a pretty good job keeping these issues one-and-done stories while slowly building a big plot that comes to the the forefront in this comic, just in time for the mini-series to end! Oh, shazbot. The pets discover some dude who comes back from the dead and drops cryptic hints about something much bigger going on – as in, who brought him back to life, exactly? So there’s a big fight, and our furry friends realize at the end that they have a lot of work to do. Let’s hope sales of this series justify another one!

There might not be much to say about the story (Dorkin does a nice job with it, but it’s basically a big fight), but there’s plenty to say about Thompson’s art, which is, not surprisingly, excellent. For a series with a lot of horror, this might be the horror-est one, as we get the dog dragging an arm by its leash early on and then, later, Thompson really has fun. The flashback to how the dude lost his arm is extremely tense, and the final showdown between the resurrected dude and the pets is beautiful and terrifying, as Thompson shows us just how fragile domestic animals are. It’s an amazing-looking comic, because Thompson does such a nice job blending the horror with the cuteness of the animals. It’s an odd mix, but an effective one.

There’s a trade coming out soon, one that collects this and all the on-line shorts, which kind of pisses me off because I might have to get it even though I’ve already bought this. But if you’ve been waiting for the trade, I recommend you pick it up, because this is a very good comic book.

One panel of awesome:

I just love the dog dragging the arm!

I just love the dog dragging the arm!

BlackCoatorgivemedeath4The Black Coat: “… Or Give Me Death” #4 (of 4) by Ben Lichius (story/writer/colorist), Adam Cogan (story), Dean Kotz (artist), Chris Studabaker (letterer), and Diego Rodriguez (color assistant). $3.50, 29 pgs, FC, Ape Entertainment.

The second Black Coat mini-series comes to a close, and while it’s not quite as good as the first one (mostly due to the fact that Kotz, who does nice work, isn’t as good as Francesco Francavilla), it’s still a very entertaining read. Lichius seems to wrap it up a bit quickly, though – he spent a lot of time setting up a pretty good yarn, and it seems like he needed it done in four issues and had to speed it up a bit. The Black Coat comes face-to-face with the Big Bad Guy, and must fight to make sure that the American Revolution remains a local war between grumpy cousins rather than turn into a global conflagration that will hand power to the League. Kotz does a good job with the big fight, and Lichius does wrap everything up satisfactorily, but the idea of a big conspiracy manipulating world events has been done so many times that I kind of wish Lichius had gone a different way and kept the Black Coat as a spy for the Americans, simply fitting into events as they happened. Conspiracies are all well and good, but it seems like every writer has to make one up these days to make the story feel “more important.” It’s as if a mysterious masked hero fighting bad guys in pre-Revolutionary America just isn’t interesting enough, even though the story, taken without the context of the conspiracy, is perfectly entertaining. There must be something lurking behind the scenes! Lichius does a good enough job with it, and it doesn’t ruin the comic, but it feels a bit stale. I wouldn’t have even minded if the League wanted a war because of a mundane reason, like they were selling weapons to both sides. I know that would be more “boring,” but it would also make more sense than what happens in this series. But that’s just me.

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I still think this is a worthwhile book to get. Lichius does a very good job evoking 1770s New York and Boston, and it’s fun to read. According to the web site, there will definitely be a trade, and much like Beasts of Burden, I definitely think it’s worth your time.

One panel of awesome:

In honor of Chris Sims, it's a kick to the face!

In honor of Chris Sims, it's a kick to the face!

Chew7Chew #7 (“International Flavor Part 2 of 5″) by John Layman (writer/letterer), Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), and Lisa Gonzalez (color flatterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

One of the cool things about Chew is that Layman isn’t strictly bound by the confines of the story arc. Yes, this arc is “about” the weird fruit from the South Pacific that tastes like chicken, and that’s the main story in this issue. But it begins with a corpse in the Arctic and includes a reference to something that happened in the previous arc, so Layman is really piling up plot threads, and it’s very cool to see.

We get quite a bit in this issue – we meet Tony’s brother, who has a new job as a chef at a resort on the same Pacific island where the fruit grows, and Tony tags along to find out more about said fruit. Then there’s the woman on the cover, Lin Sae Woo, who’s a “covert operative for the United States Department of Agriculture” – I love that in the near future, boring departments of the government employ highly trained and deadly agents. Lin has trained her rat to surveil, and she discovers that Tony is on the island and has a bit of a tête-à-tête with him … which includes kicking. They come to a détente and agree to share information … but then Layman throws a spanner into those works, with the introduction of a character who’s been hinted at since the first issue. Well, I think it’s that character. I could be wrong. It’s a typically gleeful issue of Chew, with crisp writing and sudden (and fairly shocking) violence.

Guillory, naturally, is fantastic. His fight scenes (one relatively short, the other a bit longer) are marvelously choreographed, and the second one is brutal and extremely effective, especially as Layman sits back and lets Guillory do his thing – the entire fight is silent, which adds to its brutality. Guillory’s sense of humor adds nicely to Layman’s script, too, as when Lin gets on the elevator and, in two panels, we get Tony trying desperately not to stare at her enormous breasts and the old lady on her other side looking jealously on and then smiling in appreciation of the magnificent rack. Each panel is extremely funny, and no words are necessary. There’s a lot of little touches like that in this book, and it’s really nice to see that both Layman and Guillory are having so much fun creating this. It helps that they’re talented, but it’s also cool to see creators enjoying themselves so much. (Guillory is apparently drawing these very quickly, so maybe he’s not having too much fun, but it seems like he is!)

If you missed the first few issues of Chew, the trade is out now! This is one of those books, however, that is quite fun to read in single issues, so hop on board now!

One panel of awesome:

Man, it's a Chris Sims bonanza!

Man, it's a Chris Sims bonanza!

CriminalTheSinners3Criminal: The Sinners #3 by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Val Staples (colorist). $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

Another issue of Criminal hits stands, and I have another difficult time writing about it. Unlike the brouhaha over the extra issue of Captain America: Reborn and the screwed-up pacing the book apparently has (I read my Brubaker Captain America in GIANT OMNIBUS FORM, so I’m always a year or two behind the discussion, so I have no idea what the pacing is like), Brubaker on Criminal doesn’t have to worry about tying anything into Siege, so the pacing works well within the context of the issue, as Brubaker moves his pieces relentlessly into position. It’s always a pleasure reading something in which the writer has complete control over his work, meaning not that characters come to life in the middle of the night and write themselves otherwise, but that Brubaker knows exactly what he’s doing and he continues to drive inexorably toward the conclusion. I’ve written before that Brubaker isn’t reinventing the wheel with Criminal, but the way he simply takes his time and allows all the plot threads to come together is refreshing. Tracy continues to try to solve the big mystery, but Brubaker makes sure that everything is moving forward, including the unfortunate ride home Tracy gave to Sebastian’s daughter last issue. Reading Criminal is a visceral experience, because every page ratchets up the tension just a bit, and by the time we get to the end, we keep expecting to turn a page and see something truly dire. If we don’t get it in this particular issue, we know it’s coming, and it’s a fun reading experience (despite the tension). We know things are going to hit the fan, and it’s excruciating to watch the characters slowly move toward that point.

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Oh, and if you’re wondering if the art is good, you should stop asking silly questions.

One panel of awesome:

Yeah, I'd say he really is.

Yeah, I'd say he really is.

Detective860Detective Comics #860 (“Go Part 3/Pipeline Chapter Two Part Two”) by Greg Rucka (writer), J. H. Williams III (artist, “Go”), Cully Hamner (artist, “Pipeline”), Dave Stewart (colorist, “Go”), Dave McCaig (colorist, “Pipeline”), Todd Klein (letterer, “Go”), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer, “Pipeline”). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

I hate to think this about anything Rucka writes, but did anyone else think that Renee and Helena were going to start making out?

I’m sure people reading this noticed, but isn’t it cool to watch Williams alter his style as the story moves toward the present? He’s still channeling Mazzuchelli for the first part of the book, as Kate begins her crime-fighting career. Then, as she trains, we get a finer line, more “Williams-esque” page layouts, but still pencil work with what looks like “normal” colors. Then, when we finally get to the present, we get the full-on Williams, with lush colors, wildly fun page layouts, and beautiful designs. Most artists won’t even try something different, but Williams not only tries it, he integrates it into the book as a whole. That’s why he’s one of the best in the business.

Rucka continues to spin his yarn, and while it’s not his best work, it’s a good enough origin tale. He “explains” Batwoman’s boots, which simply calls attention to the fact that she’s wearing heels to fight crime, which is dumb. I certainly don’t mind Kate wondering why on earth she has heels, but wouldn’t the better thing to do is redesign her costume so she wears flats? Anyway, that’s just a minor annoyance (and Rucka doesn’t go nuts and accuse women of not liking the costume, like Power Girl did) in an otherwise solid story of how Kate ended up in the costume. From a purely story angle, the Question back-up is actually a bit more interesting, and Hamner’s art, though not as exquisite as Williams’, looks better than it did in the early chapters of this story.

I’m still impressed that Williams has been able to crank out so many issues in a row on a monthly basis, and I’m not sure if next issue we finally get a fill-in (Jock is taking over art, so it’s not like there’s a a big – if any – dropoff) or if it’s the issue after that. But I’ve warmed up to Rucka’s writing on this book enough to stick with it. This is one comic, at least, that I don’t feel cheated from spending four dollars on it.

One panel of awesome:

In the previous panel, he was looking out the dark window and seeing his reflection, and then the lightning comes in!

In the previous panel, he was looking out the dark window and seeing his reflection, and then the lightning comes in!

Elephantmen23Elephantmen #23 (“Dangerous Liaisons Part Eight of Eight: 7 Days of Smog Part Two: Consequences”) by Richard Starkings (writer), Moritat (artist), Chris Burnham (artist, epilogue), and Gregory Wright (colorist). $3.50, 30 pgs, FC, Image.

Starkings, as usual, sent this to me through the post, for which I’d like to thank him. It’s always nifty to receive it!

I’m not sure why I always think that Elephantmen is going to dip in quality, even if just a little. Whenever I get an issue, I think, “There’s no way it can be as good as what came before.” And then, of course, it is. It beats me why I think that about this book and no other ones. Do I still think of Starkings as a letterer and can’t believe he continually does such a great job writing this? It’s very weird. Shouldn’t I trust Starkings more? He’s a swell guy, after all!

Because, of course, this is another fine issue of Elephantmen. It’s the final part of the amorphous storyline “Dangerous Liaisons” and is itself the second part of a story from last issue, in which Vanity and the dude who was flirting with her last issue infiltrate Obadiah Horn’s tower. We also get the continuing plot of the hybrids somehow being activated to be weapons again – in fact, this story arc ends on a cliffhanger, which kind of wrecks the entire concept of a story arc, but I don’t really care. There are some nice surprises in the issue and an interesting epilogue that leads back to an earlier issue (I’d tell you which issue, but I can’t remember) and reminds us, once again, that Starkings has really plotted this sucker out tightly. Moritat does his usual nice job, beginning with the first few pages that look cartoonish (because they’re, well, a cartoon) to the creepy final page. Moritat does a nice job making each lady in the book (all three appear) look different because they’re different ethnicities. Too many artists make all their attractive women look the same (they have two settings: hot and ugly), but Moritat does a nice job making Sahara look African, Miki look Asian, and Vanity look Caucasian. Plus, everything else looks superb, too.

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I will try not to be surprised when the next issue of Elephantmen is excellent. I shouldn’t be, after all!

One panel of awesome:

Don't worry, it's just a cartoon!

Don't worry, it's just a cartoon!

FantasticFour574Fantastic Four #574 (“Days of Future Franklin!”) by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Neil Edwards (penciler), Andrew Currie (inker), Paul Mounts (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Should I be offended by this issue? Valeria calls Franklin a “retard” in it, and I really, really hate the use of the word “retard” when it’s used as an insult, even when it’s used lovingly, as Val uses it. One might say that it’s a child using it, but Val is, according to Hickman himself, smarter than Reed, which leads me to think she ought to be more mature than a child her age would be. I know why Hickman uses it – it kind of pays off later in the issue – but I really don’t like it. I know someone like Brad Curran doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with it, but would Val call Franklin the n-word? And would everyone be okay with that? Again, I know it’s kids using it, and if someone like Franklin used it, I’d be better with it because he’s a kid. But Val, I thought, was almost like an adult trapped in a child’s body. Shouldn’t she know better?

I’m also a bit bummed by the very end. I don’t really want to give it away, but if you read the issue, didn’t you have flashbacks of a certain event in Marvel history that we’d all like to forget? Come on, you can think it! Do we really want to revisit it? I’m not saying that’s where Hickman is going, but didn’t you have a little flash on that and think, “Oh dear God, NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”

So I hated this issue, right? Well, of course not! Remember the good old days when a comic book could actually take an issue off and show the characters just relaxing? Hickman manages to set up future story arcs, but for most of the issue, this is simply a celebration of Franklin’s birthday. That means we get Artie and Leech, the Powers, that Dragon Man dude, and Spider-Man, all having fun. Plus there’s a clone of the Wizard. It’s the kind of issue we used to get when comics weren’t so obsessed with the Big Event and could take some time to show superheroes acting like real people. I wonder if this kind of book went by the boards because of the price increase – do fans want more bang for their buck because these no longer cost a dollar or less? “If I’m spending three dollars, someone better get raped, lose an arm, or kick someone in the gonads!” Is that it? I don’t know, but I love issues like this, where everyone gets to chillax. Even though Hickman ends the issue with premonitions of disaster (and I assume a reference to this “Doomwar” thing that’s coming up), it’s still refreshing to read an issue where everyone can just chat. How nice.

Unless I should be offended. But I don’t get too bent out of shape when someone uses that, I just flinch a bit. But that’s just me.

(Oh, and I know it’s the writer’s and editor’s fault and it sounds exactly the same, but I liked how the smartest guy in the world said “who’s” instead of “whose.” I’m just a tool like that.)

One panel of awesome:

Spider-Man: Nothing but awesome!

Spider-Man: Nothing but awesome!

Herc139The Incredible Hercules #139 (“Assault on New Olympus, Act II: Faithbomb/Godmarked Part 3: Jimmy and the Atlasnauts”) by Greg Pak (writer, “Faithbomb”), Fred van Lente (writer, “Faithbomb”), Jeff Parker (writer, “Godmarked”), Rodney Buchemi (artist, “Faithbomb”), Reilly Brown (artist, “Faithbomb”), Gabriel Hardman (artist, “Godmarked”), Guillem Mari (colorist, “Faithbomb”), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist, “Godmarked”), Simon Bowland (letterer, “Faithbomb”), and Tom Orzechowski (letterer, “Godmarked”). $3.99, 29 pgs, FC, Marvel.

This issue would be worth it based solely on the advertisement for Continuum® which appears on the third page. Mary Jane Watson, the spokesmodel for Continuum®, tells the readers that she’s just a regular woman. She struggles all day to make ends meet, and “when [she] get[s] home at night, too tired even to relax properly, [she feels] as though something is … missing.” Bwah-ha-ha-ha! The rest of the ad is funny, too, but that line is gold. GOLD!

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Oh, and there’s a big fight. Van Lente and Pak do a nice job with it, but it’s still just a big fight. The only opportunity for laugh-out-loud stuff is in the sound effects, which are great as usual. The writers get some nice moments in (Zeus and Quicksilver taking a natural liking to each other is pretty keen), and Amadeus realizes that he figured something out incorrectly, and Hera explains more about Continuum®, but it’s definitely more just an entertaining superhero comic this issue than a brilliant one, which is usually is. I don’t mind, though – it’s still a fun read. It’s just difficult to really fire up the fun when people are just punching each other. Oh, and I like how tough guy Wolverine retracts his claws just as he’s talking about killing someone. Yeah, Logan, you’re a stone cold killer. Why doesn’t he just replace those claws with rubber? They’d be as effective!

And the Agents of Atlas, slowly moving to join up with the main group, also get in a scrap. It’s scrappin’ time in The Incredible Hercules! And the issue ends with a naked woman. There’s nothing wrong with that!

One panel of awesome:

See?  He's awesome in books that aren't even his!

See? He's awesome in books that aren't even his!

Northlanders23Northlanders #23 (“The Plague Widows 3 of 8: The Death Ships”) by Brian Wood (writer), Leandro Fernandez (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Wood continues to write these little slices of beautiful comic book moments, either in this book or in other ones he works on (and yes, I do try to keep up with DMZ, through a program of purchasing collections of the single issues bound in one volume and numbered on the spine – it’s a pretty handy system!), and finding great artists to draw them. I’ve been raving about this storyline so far, and it’s interesting how Wood makes it a zombie story as much as anything else – the ravagers in this issue are infected with the plague, so they’re basically walking dead men. There’s also room to interpret this as a Western, with the fort besieged by crazy Indians (aren’t native Americans all crazy?) except in this case, the town is besieged by snow and plague. Wood does a nice job not making these things explicit, because he doesn’t need to. He has set up this entire story very well, and when the plague-ravaged Vikings leap out of their boats and charge the settlement, we see “zombies” immediately even though they’re not. The entire issue has this feeling of creeping death, from the exploding trees (seriously) to the appearance of the ships, to the way Odda treks across the frozen landscape toward the ships, to the final bloody confrontation. And it’s brought to astonishing life by Fernandez, who’s really killing on this arc.

This is such an amazing series. Wood is telling universal stories very well, always keeping in mind the times in which the stories are set. That’s a nice trick.

One panel of awesome:

Feel the frenzied fury!  Or is that furious frenzy?

Feel the frenzied fury! Or is that furious frenzy?

SecretWarriors11Secret Warriors #11 by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Stefano Caselli (artist), Sunny Gho (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Unlike Fantastic Four, I don’t think Hickman is making this book work too well. I get what he’s trying to do, with a lot of different plot threads all swirling around Nick Fury’s war against Norman Osborn and Hydra, but after the first arc, he seemed to spin his wheels a lot in the second arc, and now we get a new arc, and there’s more wheel-spinning. It’s one thing to relax for an issue and build the characters, but it’s another thing to give us a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing. I mean, there are four pages in this issue dedicated to Gorgon turning someone to stone (yes, I read two Marvel comics this week in which someone was turned to stone – what are the odds?). Really? Four pages? This comic just feels extreeeeeeeeemely decompressed (not surprising, as Bendis was on board to help launch it), and although Hickman gets back to Fury and his army, it’s starting to feel a bit of an afterthought. I just have a feeling this is a book built much better for the trade, because Hickman is taking a very long view of the main plot, and if that’s the case, why should I buy the monthly installments? I know I could say that about almost every Marvel and DC title, but a lot of the books I do buy in monthly installments offer some kind of payoff each time out. This doesn’t seem to. So why shouldn’t I wait, if I really want to read it? So many questions …

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One panel of awesome:

Uh, yeah, Silver Samurai is in trouble.

Uh, yeah, Silver Samurai is in trouble.

SpiderWoman4Spider-Woman #4 by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alex Maleev (artist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Speaking of Bendis, man! Spider-Woman moves glacially, doesn’t it? I mean, even the relative speed of glaciers in these climate-controlled days is still slow, and that’s what it feels like when you’re reading Spider-Woman. It’s another book I’d like to like, because I love me some espionage in my comics, and a Bendis-written character named Jessica digging around in the dark corners of the Marvel Universe worked hella good a decade ago, so I want it to work now. It’s not that this is a terrible comic, it’s just that it’s so danged slow. And why is Jessica so dumb? Madame Hydra says to her, “A space alien from the planet Gleep-Gloop that believes in God,” mocking the captured Skrull. Jessica narrates, “She’s right. Stop being right, you psycho!” I guess the implication is that murdering conquerors who look different than we do can’t possibly believe in God, and Jessica buys that. Hey, Jessica, let me introduce you to all the murdering conquerors who look just like you do who believe in God. I mean, why wouldn’t the Skrulls believe in God? Hey, Jessica – Madame Hydra is a bad guy! Just because she’s offering you a chance to kill a Skrull doesn’t mean she’s not a bad guy. Jessica knows this, yet she plays the tune that Madame Hydra calls. Way to go, dummy.

I mentioned last time out that Maleev is having some problems with the big cityscapes, possibly because the foreground action looks like it’s against a blue screen background, and guess what? this issue, which takes place mostly in a small room, looks a lot better, because Maleev can concentrate on the figures and not worry about the larger world. We’ll see if my theory holds water next issue, which seems like it’s going to take place in the outside world. But will I be around for it?

Well, I’d like to give this an arc, and I don’t know if next issue is the final issue of the first arc or if issue #6 will be. I don’t think I’ve seen any new issues solicited, so who knows if the book will even continue. I mean, I imagine it will – Bendis currrently has the option on Joey Q’s soul, so I doubt if Quesada will do anything to piss him off – but who knows if I’ll be there. I want to like this book, but I’m not sure I do yet.

One panel of awesome:

Even with the crease, that's a pretty cool double-page spread!

Even with the crease, that's a pretty cool double-page spread!

UnknownSoldier15Unknown Soldier #15 (“The Dry Season Chapter One”) by Joshua Dysart (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist), Oscar Celestini (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Ponticelli returns, and the art is different from before he left. I’m so inept at using art terms, but the lines are much softer and I assume there was some kind of washing done on the original pencils, either by Ponticelli or by Celestini. You know how Salvador Larocca’s art has changed recently from his early style? That’s kind of what this looks like, although I think it works much better here than when Larocca did it (I like Larocca’s earlier style a bit more). I’m not sure if Ponticelli is doing it just for the hell of it or if he’s doing it because of the story arc, which takes place in a IDP (Internally Displaced People) camp in northern Uganda when the hot winds are blowing off the Sahara, blurring the lines between everything with dust. If so, that’s pretty keen. And if he’s sticking with this style, that’s cool too. It allows him to do some very nice panels, like one of Moses alone in the camp as darkness falls, and Ponticelli gives us a close-up of his head slowly fading into the night. It’s creepy and beautiful and probably wouldn’t be possible with stronger lines.

Dysart decides to get all pulp noiry with us, as by the end of this issue, there’s a murder, corrupt cops (in the form of government soldiers), a (sort-of) femme fatale, and wild accusations throughout the camp. He handles it well, too, because he keeps everything focused on the plight of the Acholi, who have been displaced due to the civil war. Even as the story turns pulpy, it’s still about the horror that the people of Uganda are faced with and about Moses himself, trying to make his way through his life and resist what he’s become, especially after his ceremony last issue. I’ve always said the best issues of this comic are the ones in which Dysart tells “normal” stories because that means he’s less polemical and the terrible conditions in Uganda hit us harder because we understand how a part of life they are, and this looks like it will be one of those stories. Plus, there’s a murderer to find! Murder mysteries are always keen!

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One panel of awesome:

What a jerk Jesus is!

What a jerk Jesus is!

Zorro18Zorro #18 by Matt Wagner (writer), Francesco Francavilla (artist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

Hey, it’s a John K. Snyder III cover! I got this variant just because it’s nice to see Snyder’s work. It’s not the greatest cover, but it’s John K. Snyder III!

Wagner continues with his Rashomon version of Zorro, as several laborers tell their tales of who our hero is. It’s mainly an excuse for the governor to listen in as he plots Zorro’s destruction, and while there’s nothing terribly amazing about the way Wagner tells the story, it’s still a good read. This is mainly due to Francavilla, who has been dynamite on the book since he came back, and he was good in the first arc, so that’s saying something. He gets to draw Zorro riding a tornado and wielding a snake as a whip and a lightning sword, Zorro as a hideous were-fox, and Zorro as a licentious dandy. Oh, and Zorro as his regular heroic self, too. And he kicks ass on every page. We shouldn’t dismiss his coloring, either, as he contrasts the muted campfire of the peasants with their wild tales by making the stories full of bright red, from the lurid sky to the skimpy outfits of the women who flock to Zorro the lustful and bored nobleman. Francavilla is tremendous on this book, and he’s getting better. Wagner, as an artist, knows when to get out of his way and let him shine, and although the story remains interesting but kind of standard (at least once the template for this arc was established), Francavilla is doing a wonderful job bringing it to life. I’d love for him to get more attention, but then DC or Marvel would steal him away from this book! We can’t have that, can we?

One panel of awesome:

I dare you not to love Francavilla's art!

I dare you not to love Francavilla's art!

Well, it’s the last week of the year that comics ship (unless you desperately want Blackest Night #6). It’s been a fine year in comics, and I hope you still enjoy them! I know I do! Let’s hope the next decade is just as good and that DC and Marvel get their heads out of their asses. Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen. Oh well.

Let’s jack up some totally random lyrics!

“‘Cause although you’re gone
I keep holdin’ on
To the happy times
Ooh, when you were mine

As I peer through the window
Of lost time
Looking over my yesterdays
And all the love I gave all in vain

(All the love) All the love that I’ve wasted
(All those tears) All the tears that I’ve tasted
All in vain”

Yeah, that’s easy. But after last week, when no one guessed “Feeding Frenzy” by Midnight Oil (from probably their best album, 1993’s Earth and Sun and Moon), I figured I’d give you an easy one. It’s Christmas!

With that in mind, I hope you guys have a good one. Thanks for making this gig fun and for making this the best damned comics blog on the block! Merry Christmas!

Ah, kids.  Can't sell them into slavery, can't leave them by the side of the road ... what are you gonna do?

Ah, kids. Can't sell them into slavery, can't leave them by the side of the road ... what are you gonna do?


Spider-Woman has been solicited all the way through #7 in the new Previews that just came out this week…

Zorro riding a tornado is, in fact, the epitome of awesome. So, that’s another book I’ll have to start reading.

I haven’t read the newest Spider-Woman, but your criticisms sound about right for the first three. I’ve been reading New Avengers, which is also Bendis, but it always feels like something is happening there. With Spider-Woman, it’s like I’m still waiting for the story to begin.

Two books with Spider-Man? His own series is three times a month, plus he has a second one now, although he hasn’t been in it much, and he’s in the Avengers, and he was just in Ms Marvel…… Where does he find the time? I’m wondering how many other books he’s in that I don’t even know about. The new Web has some strange anti-Semitic comment (at least that’s what it sounds like) from Aunt May about a date he had with some ‘Hebe’ girl from ‘the center’– that’s what she says– but I can’t find anything in any recent issues that she might be referring to.

I love those old stories where they just hang around and do normal-life things. You’re right, they really need to do that more often.

Aaurgghh! I forgot to ask— Where’s the reviews for the bottom four books on your list?

I meant five.

Mary, Greg doesn’t review the trades that he picks up in these posts. He just posts their covers to let you know he got them and to tease possible future reviews.

I appreciate the review of the Beasts series, really I do. But why are you pissed off about the announced trade? Is it really that out of line that we’d also collect the old material from four semi-obscure anthologies dating back to 2003? Everyone knows a trade is forthcoming these days when a series is put out, here you’ll be getting an additional 50 + pages of comics, and I don’t think anyone can get pissed about the price point being discussed for the book. And the book will probably be larger than comic-sized, to boot.

You don’t have to buy the trade, honest you don’t — the first 3 anthology short stories are online for free at the DHC website and the only one not available for free is on some pirate site, probably on a few of them. We’re not trying to force anyone to buy anything, this isn’t some massive crossover with various carrots on sticks.

So don’t be pissed. Be happy. For my sake. Honestly, cheer up — think of the puppies.

And thanks for the kind words about the stapled comics. Really.

“orro riding a tornado is, in fact, the epitome of awesome.”

I thought he rode on Toronado.

Evan: I’m joking, really I am! I was just having some fun, mainly because I’ll probably buy the trade anyway – that’s how much I like the book, and if it has so much extra material, I’ll happily pony up the dough. I apologize for the tone, mainly because sarcasm really doesn’t come through on the Internet. I’m just glad that there’s enough interest for a trade!

Mary: What Ian wrote. I decided to post the covers so that people wouldn’t ask me, “Why didn’t you get so-and-so?” Well, I did. It’s hard enough reviewing individual issues – I need some time to read and chew on the longer stuff!

Re: Batwoman’s boots. They DID redesign her boots to be flats, but they still had to explain why her original costume from 52 had heels in the first place (as opposed to just ignoring it, which probably would’ve been a viable option).

@Mary Warner – that wasn’t an anti-semetic comment. Hebe is Hercules wife from Greek folklore. And in the recent Incredible Herc episodes she has been working at the soup kitchen or whatever it is that May works at, and May set Peter and her up on a date. So it’s not a slang term for Hebrew, it’s actually a woman’s name.

Unrelated, but not really sure where I should post this, but everytime I’ve visited the site in the last day or two my computer has given me a warning that this site might be harmful to my computer. It’s never done that before. Anyone else having this happen? Any ideas what the cause might be?

episodes = issues in that last post. Not sure why I was thinking it was a TV show.

Actually, doesn’t it seem more appropriate that Val would still have the maturity level of her age, despite her hyper-intelligence?

Jazzbo– Thank you. That bit about Hebe has been bothering me for a week. It just seemed so strange for a slur like that to be used in that context. I mentioned it over on another comics blog, but nobody there gave me an explanation. I actually have heard of the Greek Hebe (and I do know it’s pronounced differently), but I don’t associate May with mythological characters, so it never occured to me that it was someone’s name. (I didn’t realise Hebe was Hercules’s wife, though. The only wife I could ever remember was Megaera, but I knew he had more than one.) I guess my problem is that I don’t read Hercules. (I did finally read one issue a few weeks ago, when I found one really cheap, but it was from the Secret Invasion period.) I had no idea Spider-Man or May had even been appearing in Hercules lately. I often buy other books when he shows up in one, like with Ms Marvel recently.
Anyway, this is why they need to bring back editorial footnotes. If it had just said ‘see Hercules #-whatever’, it might’ve occured to me that it was the mythological Hebe. (Actually, Wacker does do footnotes sometimes in Spider-Man, but he doesn’t do them often enough, at least not for alerting us to what happens in other books. He mostly seems to use the footnotes for jokes.)

If the FEAST centre has appeared in recent issues of Hercules, has Mister Negative been appearing, too?

I’ve been getting a warning about this site, too. However, I’ve been getting the same warning about every website I’ve been to in the last two days, and it’s all been sites I’ve been to lots of times without problems. I also keep getting pop-ups warning me about a virus that’s infecting my system. But all these warnings have been coming along with an ad to subscribe to some security service, so I’m wondering if the only virus is the one delivering these warnings.
Also, I can’t seem to use Yahoo search any more. It always takes me to something called ‘Gala’ which just lists a bunch of commercial sites I have no interest in. Sometimes the site I’m looking for is down in the list somewhere, but often it’s not. Google search still works normally.
I don’t know if any of this is related to the warnings you’re getting or not.

@Greg Burgas

Don’t compare the r-word to the the n-word. It’s hyperbolic and devalues your argument. A word that can be considered comparable to “retard” is “bitch” in my view. Also, I hope you realize the irony of your commenting on the use of “retard” while using the word “rape” to prove a point in the same review.

Conor’s right about Batwoman’s boots. I thought it was amusing that, when Kate first sees her costume, her initial reaction is to frown at the heels. Designed and built by men, of course. But in the present day, you see her boots as they now appear — with thick soles, like combat boots.

“Also, I hope you realize the irony of your commenting on the use of “retard” while using the word “rape” to prove a point in the same review.”

How exactly is it ironic?

I forgot that Catwoman has combat boots now. Thanks.

Dan: I certainly think it’s appropriate for Val to act like a kid, but I wasn’t sure how she had been portrayed. I don’t often read FF. The only recent exposure I’ve had to Val is in Hickman’s brief run, and she’s been acting like a grown-up. If it’s well established that she’s super-duper intelligent but still acts like a child, that’s cool. That’s why I wasn’t too offended by it, just wondering!

Wow, Matt. I didn’t want to get into this too much, but how is is hyperbolic and devaluing my argument? It’s an insult and degrades the person using it and implies that someone who is actually retarded is somehow of less value than anyone else. That seems extremely comparable to the n-word. “Bitch,” as unpleasant as it is, suggests a behavior of someone that they can control – “You’re acting like a bitch.” “Retard” suggests that someone is just too dumb to live, and that’s why I’m annoyed by its usage. It’s very personal to me, of course, as my daughter is what you would call “retarded,” as her development has been slowed due to a brain injury. She’s “retarded,” but calling her a “retard” would be, to me, akin to calling someone the n-word – it would imply that she has less value as a human because she probably won’t contribute anything to society (she may, of course, but it will be a tough road for her). That’s why I don’t like it as an insult. I’m certainly not perfect and use words as insults that I probably shouldn’t, but I’m working on it!

As for using “rape” … I’m not sure what you mean. Rape is a definable action, and I’m not using it hyperbolically, like “George Lucas raped my childhood!” I think that’s a stupid way to use it, mainly because it devalues actual rape. I’m pointing out the disturbing trend toward more violence against women in comics and how it seems to happen in very popular titles. I hope more people read this issue of Fantastic Four and realize that you can have a dramatic comic that doesn’t feature rape or dismemberment. That’s what I meant.

Mary: I agree with you about footnotes, especially when a character appears or is talked about who hasn’t been seen before. The editor of Incredible Hercules uses footnotes too, mostly to refer to much, much older comics or recent issues of this run. It’s a start, I suppose! And no, May and Negative Man haven’t shown up much in Hercules. A few issues ago we got a brief scene with May at the kitchen (no Negative Man, though), and then Spidey went off with Hercules. Sorry!

re: retard. This to me is the only thing that makes Val believable. Nobody is super perfect in EVERY area, especially not young children.

Geez, you guys need to get better virus scans, and download Adblock. I mean, seriously. (You are using Firefox, right? Right?)

@Evan –

I’m all over that trade like a fat kid on cake. And I even have all of the Dark Horse Book of… editions, so I’m not even in it for the extra material. Love the series, and am hoping that the powers that be will continue to support it.

Merry Christmas!

Greg –

Failed my saving throw against sarcasm, sorry. Honestly thought you meant it, I ‘ve been doing this 20 yrs and worked in a comic shop for 6, on and off. Heard a lot of weird arguments and snark. Some said by my own mouth, so…hey, thanks for the review, did I say that yet?

Anyway, the book should be, from what we’re discussing, pretty damned alright. Solid, solid price point for a HC with a good # of pages, probably covers and extras, every page painted so far and you can kill bugs and small animals with it if you try hard enough. Jill’s art is worth it alone, imho, she killed these pages.

And thanks, Manglr. If that is your real name. Appreciate the long-term support there. The HC edition should present those first 4 stories very nicely as they were first run really small in the anthologies, and Jill’s art does benefit from the additional page size. I think it’s going to be a good book worth the dough, fingers crossed folks will respond.

Fingers crossed we’ll also have more news re: the potential for more material sometime sooner than later.

Evan that just made my Christmas man…I know a couple of folks who’d love to get the book as a HC…. You and Jill did a great job…

Evan: Usually I’m far more obvious about joking! Sorry for the confusion.

I guess I’m not 100% sure off the top of my head that Hebe was Herc’s wife in mythology, but they’re presenting her as that in the comics and it seemed right to me at the time. It does seem like a footnote would have been a good idea in this instance just so people didn’t think it was a racial slur. Although I’m all for footnotes comics back in general, so I’ll pretty much always think they’re a good idea.

I haven’t had any virus warning problems with any other sites, just this one. Although nothing tonight so far. Maybe my anti-virus was acting up or something.

I’m all for footnotes COMING back in general. Not comics. I need to proof these before I hit publish.

Mary, I had a piece of rogue spyware called Antivirus Live attack my computer on this site Wednesday when I tried to read Permanent Damage. It holds you captive while trying to sell you protection, and has imitation Windows bubbles constantly popping up warning you of infected files. I tried an anti-malware program to clean it out; seemed successful, but the damn thing came back the next day. Sounds like you may be getting the same thing, but it so far hasn’t had the same impact on you. It is a pernicious and resourceful bug, so be careful.

Bill Reed: wasn’t using Firefox before, but I sure am now. It was the only way I could get back online. An allegedly computer-savvy friend said IE was fine if you had a good antivirus program; looks like he was wrong. I’m never using it again.

And just to stay on topic: Love Hickman’s FF in general, but felt last issue was a bit disappointing. Nu-Earth going down the tubes, and Reed’s old girlfriend getting killed, seemed like a waste to me, even if I wasn’t all that wild about Millar’s run. The new issue sounds like a return to form; I’m looking forward to it.

Is that a Winter World paperback? Is there no limit to what schlock will be reprinted in the name of nostalgia? Post-apocalyptic/disaster frozen world of the indeterminate future where evil tribes enslave people to grow plants inside the Houston Astrodome? No. Hell no.
I’ve just been going through a box of indie comics from the late 80’s, and found this. I read issue 1 and half of issue 2…I threw them in the garbage pile when I got to this line :

Eddie: Yes, that’s a WinterWorld trade. I haven’t read it yet, so I guess I’ll see if I agree with you or not!

Just once I’d love for you to review Criminal without saying it’s “not reinventing the wheel” Greg. You review countless superhero books without managing to say the same, and besides, the wheel is like 10,000 years old at least, and it still works just fine.

Ed: You know I love the book, right? I don’t ALWAYS write that, either! :) Actually, you’re right – but I’ve been pretty good about it recently, I think. Sorry for the slip-up – but can’t you focus on all the positive things I write about the issue?

I know this comment is way late, but I just wanted to point out that you bought every single collection that I bought this week: Winterworld, Mini Marvels, and Action Philosophers! Congratulations on your good taste, sir. ;)

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