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What I bought – 12 January 2011

“I was in the Resistance,” he went on. “There were thirty Germans for every one of us, and they came here like beasts, not soldiers – shooting children, hanging women, cutting off people’s hands – but we never surrendered.” He put a cigarette between his lips and turned back to the sea. “There is nothing good about war, even if you survive.” (Nicholas Christopher, from The Bestiary)

As good as it's always been! The cover might be the best thing about this book, unfortunately Hey, both characters on the cover appear in this comic! Not for the puritan! Half of a Humberto Ramos cover is too much! So sad! Ahoy, penis substitute!

Casanova: Gula #1 (of 4) (“In Media Res”/”When the Wolf Comes Home”) by Matt Fraction (writer), Fábio Moon (artist), Cris Peter (colorist), and Dustin K. Harbin (letterer). $3.99, 38 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

The fascinating thing about the latest issue of Casanova, now into its second arc, is that as weird as it is, it’s fairly accessible to a new reader. Fraction provides a recap at the beginning of the issue and even within the issue, there are plenty of clues to help you figure out what’s going on. It’s impressive that for something that moves as fast as it does and is packed with content, it’s pretty easy to figure everything out, as long as you’re willing to dive headfirst into Casanova Quinn’s world. This is, of course, the wonderfully wacky second arc, “When is Casanova Quinn?”, which offers up a mystery and does it beautifully. Reading it now, with the knowledge of what’s going to happen, it’s keen to spot the clues, because they really do exist (I may have missed some, but I saw two obvious ones). It’s also neat to see how Fraction sets up the emotional powder kegs of the later issues, because I know it’s coming. And, of course, Moon is wonderful. The recoloring is interesting, too – Peter keeps a lot of the blue palette of the original, softening it a bit but still keeping it, which makes the new colors pop even more. It’s really cool to see.

If you skipped this when it was at Image, I strongly encourage you to get it now. There’s a reason I bought a year’s worth of Uncanny X-Men with a lot of Greg Land art – with Casanova, Fraction shows how good he can be, and I wanted so much for his X-work to come anywhere close to this. Maybe the new Casanova stuff will renew my faith in him!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ (I can’t give it ten out of ten, even though it’s so wonderful. That would imply it’s perfect, and I don’t know if I’ve read the perfect comic yet.)

One totally Airwolf panel:

Honestly, I could have chosen a panel at random!

Earp: Saints for Sinners #1 (of 5) by (take a deep breath!) Matt Cirulnick (creator/writer), David Manpearl (creator), M. Zachary Sherman (writer), Mack Chater (artist), Martin Montiel (artist), Colin Lorimer (artist), Kyushik Shin (colorist), Joe Benitez (layouts), Rod Pereira (layouts), J. K. Woodward (layouts), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $5.99, 61 pgs, FC, Radical Comics.

As always, Radical sends me pretty much everything they publish, so I’d like to thank them for this and the other one further down the line. I really do appreciate it, even if I don’t like everything they put out.

Speaking of not liking everything they put out, this might be the biggest drop in quality of a comic from one review (Casanova) to the next (Earp) in the history of this column. This is a terrible comic book, one of the worst I’ve read in a long, long time … and I’ve read an issue of Tarot in the past few years, remember. The only reason I’m not giving it zero stars is because the high concept – Wyatt Earp and some other Olde West dudes updated in a chaotic near-future – has some potential. Other than that, there’s absolutely nothing good about this comic at all. The story is one cliché after another – it’s about thirty years in the future, and the world has gone even more to shit. Dueling is legal because it’s one of the few things that keeps people in line. Celebrity bank robbers are once again in vogue, so a task force is formed to deal with them, and Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are the top cops on the force. Holliday quits and Earp joins up with his brothers, Virgil and Morgan. Jesse James is the biggest celebrity bank robber, playing Robin Hood by giving stolen money to the poor. Wyatt and his brothers get caught in a firefight on a train carrying billions, and Virgil is killed. Wyatt quits and goes into business with Doc Holliday, building a casino in Las Vegas, the only city in the States that’s doing well. Of course, the mayor is corrupt, and his security force – the Pinkertons – is running his protection racket. Morgan joins with Jesse James to steal from the rich to give to the poor and gets captured and beaten up. When he escapes, he ends up in Wyatt’s casino, and the issue ends with the mayor and the Pinkertons attacking the casino and blowing shit up.

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Beyond the idea of putting these western archetypes in the near future, there’s nothing original about this comic whatsoever. The characters speak in clichés, the action is straight from the dumbest action movie you can find, and the big reveal at the end is painfully obvious (which it’s probably meant to be, but still). I recently saw Avatar for the first (and only) time,* and at one point late in the movie, Sam Worthington tells Evil Stereotype Soldier Guy that he hoped he was going to say something (right before they face off for the final time). I yelled, “Of course you did, because you’ve seen every action movie ever made, and that’s the kind of thing the bad guy always says!!!!!” It’s the same thing with this. As I kept turning pages, I kept expecting one line of dialogue to surprise me, but it didn’t – everyone says exactly what we expect them to say, right on cue. I’d love to give you an example, but whenever I open this book, I’m overwhelmed by the awfulness. Okay, here’s one: After Virgil is killed, Wyatt quits. Morgan doesn’t want him to leave, and here’s their exchange:

M: You can’t, Wyatt! People need us!
W: And I were your age, I’d be saying the same thing. I’ve given all I can. And truth is, nothing’s changed except Virgil’s kid has no father. Whatever years I have left – some of my life’s gotta be for me, Morgan.
M: And what about me?! You leave me in the wind?! Who do I go through doors with?
W: There’s room for you in the car.
M: And what about those bastards who killed Virgil? They just get a pass?!
D (entering the room): … Oh shit …
W: Say we find them and they go to trial. Say we kill ‘em. Then what?! The next day there’s ten more. Then one day one kills you. Then I go after him. Where does it end, Morgan?! What does it do to us?
M: It’s what we signed up for. So you’re quitting, like Doc did back in New York.
D: Watch it there, youngblood.
W: I’m not quitting. It’s trusting the example I set. If no one picks up where I was, it wasn’t worth it anyway. Virgil’s dead. I could run after him and join him, or I can live. I crossed every name off my list a hundred times. The people and the punks got enough of me. Come with us. Keep what’s left of the family together.
M: … I’ll ride down. Take my two weeks, but that’s it. Maybe by then you’ll have come to your senses.

See? That’s exactly the kind of dialogue on every single page of this book. It’s painful to read, and it depresses me to no end that somebody actually liked this writing.

Of course, I’m not letting the art off the hook, either. It’s also terrible, from the actual linework to the effects. The characters look vaguely like they’re supposed to be based on actors, but who the hell knows – they look like wax dummies most of the time, so even when they’re supposed to be conveying deep emotions their faces remain expressionless. There’s a few different artists on this book, too – I have no idea why they needed three people to do layouts or what that even means with regard to the finished art – I imagine a lot of this is done on computers, so maybe the artists were finishing drawn layouts on a PC? – but it doesn’t matter, because the art shifts styles seemingly at random. The first few pages of the book, when Morgan escapes from his captors, is actually the best part, artistically, of the book, and it goes downhill rapidly. There’s far too much bad photo-referencing, and the coloring is awful, too – a lot of brown and dull gold and black makes this a really unpleasant-looking comic, and the lines of the drawings are often blurred, making a lot of the art look smeared across the page. There are dumb effects, too – at one point a bad guy’s outfit is on fire, and someone photoshopped in a picture of actual flame, which looks completely out of place. And because I can, I don’t even like Rus Wooton’s letters, which are angled peculiarly so they’re harder to read. I looked at Wooton’s letters on this and Thor: The Mighty Avenger (see below) and he uses a different and more legible font on the latter book. Why he did it differently for this comic is beyond me – maybe he was trying to save us from the crappy writing by making it hard to read.

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The sad thing is that Radical, which exists mainly to sell comics as movie pitches, has put out some pretty darned good comics, and with this book getting some movie interest, I wonder if the good comics that come from Radical are almost accidental. That would be a shame, because the good stuff they publish won’t get as much notice as something absolutely atrocious like this, for the simple reason that the good stuff isn’t attractive to Hollywood. I’m not a huge fan of the slick art style that Radical uses on a lot of there books, but at least with many of them, the writer is putting together a decent story (including Sherman, who’s written some other Radical books that, while I didn’t love them, at least had some decent writing) and even if I don’t like the art, it’s the work of one person who at least gives the book a consistent look. Earp is an example of way too many cooks poisoning the broth, and it is, without question, one of the worst comics I’ve read in a long, long time.

Rating: ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ (It only gets that because the idea is decent, plus the fact that at least the writers tell the story out of chronological sequence, which is the only clever thing about it.)

One totally Airwolf panel:

The pickin's were slim, I tells ya

* Avatar is a terrible, terrible movie. I can understand being impressed by the special effects, but after you watch it for thirty minutes or so, you’ve seen all the effects and then you have to deal with the absolute clusterfuck of writing and acting, both of which are awful. I honestly cannot understand how this is the highest-grossing film ever. I know 3-D ticket prices had something to do with it, but when it makes that much money, that means people are going to see it more than once, and I can’t imagine that. I actually like Titanic more than I liked Avatar, and I hated Titanic. If you liked it, why? I honestly don’t know why anyone would. And didn’t James Cameron make good movies once? What the hell happened to him?

Heroes for Hire #2 (“Damnunition”) by Dan Abnett (writer), Andy Lanning (writer), Brad Walker (penciler), Andrew Hennessy (inker), Jay David Ramos (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Issue #2 of this series is a bit better than issue #1, mainly because it doesn’t zip all over the place quite as much and sticks to fewer characters. Plus, Abnett and Lanning have gotten the big surprise out of the way (certain podcasters at this blog totally gave away the ending, but I still won’t), so they can focus on solid storytelling instead. I wasn’t aware that the first issue’s big problem was completely solved, but it was, and so in this issue Misty sends Silver Sable (have we always known her “real” last name, or did Abnett and Lanning totally make it up for this issue?) to track down an arms dealer who’s flooding the streets with a superweapon. It turns out the weapon is a gun that fires “demon bullets” that rip out the souls of the targets (hence the clever name of the issue, which Ghost Rider coins) and when it runs out of ammunition, it eats the soul of its owner. This becomes a problem when Silver picks one of them up. She and Ghost Rider have it under control, though – of course they do! The more interesting plot is that Paladin digs up the information on the gun (with Satana’s help) and decides to visit Misty … which is more ominous than you might think!!!!!

It’s keen that Abnett and Lanning are doing basically standalone issues with a nice through-plot, because that might help the book survive (it’s no guarantee, but it might). If you missed issue #1 but picked this one up, you get a done-in-one adventure but also the story from issue #1 summarized nicely and continued at the end of the issue. And you don’t need to know too much about Silver Sable or Ghost Rider, either – we get that Silver is a mercenary who wants to return to her native land but doesn’t have the money for it, and that Ghost Rider is spooky. That’s enough. Plus, Paladin is cool. You know it’s true!

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Walker continues to do a nice job with the art, even though Satana’s costume is utterly ridiculous. He has some really nice details and Ghost Rider’s arrival on the scene is handled really well. And Misty’s lips are still awesome. I can’t imagine Walker will be able to do more than … let’s say four issues in a row, but at least his work is pretty darned keen.

I always give new books that I’m interested in a few issues to make an impression, and so far I’m digging Heroes for Hire. I don’t know how long the central mystery of the book will continue, but I’m going to give it a few more issues to see what’s going on. It’s a pretty neat comic.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, I'd be scared

Ryder on the Storm #2 (of 3) by David Hine (writer), Wayne Nichols (artist), Feigiap Chop (colorist), Sansan Saw (colorist), Richard Starkings (letterer), and Jimmy Betancourt (letterer). $4.99, 48 pgs, FC, Radical Comics.

See, now here’s a Radical book that I don’t love, but it’s like Maus had a baby with Watchmen compared to Earp: Saints for Sinners. We get a nice recap of the first issue (which came out a while ago), and then Hine continues to plow ahead, as he expands the story of the Daemons and their attempts to reclaim their place as rulers of this world. As this is a pulp comic, Ryder – our pulp hero who last issue learned he’s at least part Daemon – screws anything female he can find, but Hine does pull a few twists out of his bag, including the fairly shocking one that ends the issue. Hine has always been able to get under the skin of horror, so Ryder’s tryst with Katrina becomes something much darker than simple sex and the revelation that ends the issue isn’t telegraphed too much (well, others may have seen it coming, but I’m not too bright, so I didn’t). Hine just lets the story unfold, and while he’s firmly entrenched in the pulp clichés we all know and love, the reason this works a lot better than Earp is because Hine actually tries to play with those clichés a bit – he’s not entirely successful, but just the fact that he’s a better writer than those on the other book make this a more successful comic. I still don’t love it, mainly because Nichols’s art falls squarely into that Radical house style and I just don’t like that, but it’s entertaining enough. What would make the final issue a success is if Hine does something interesting with the bombshell he drops at the end of this issue instead of just making Ryder angry about it. We know he’s going to be angry; Hine needs to do something more. We shall see, I suppose.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That's what happens when you have eight shots of Jäger in an hour, amirite?

Starborn #2 by Chris Roberson (writer), Khary Randolph (artist), Mitch Gerads (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

You know, I blame Kelly Thompson. Before Kelly began writing here, I was a perfectly happy comic book reader, enjoying the ridiculous costumes that women wore and believing that, sure, chicks’ boobs wouldn’t come flying out of that costume if they moved and sure, doesn’t everyone like standing with their pelvis thrust out? Ms. Thompson began writing here a little over a year ago, and she’s effectively ruined comics for me. I mean, did I ask to have my consciousness raised? I did not. Do I seem like I enjoy reading comics anymore? I do not. The insidious Ms. Thompson, with her womanly wiles, has made me think about how women are treated in comics, and that’s just not cricket. Think? About comics? What the crappin’ hell, Kelly? Sheesh. I was at the Safeway the other day and saw a woman dressed exactly like Star Sapphire. See? It’s totally practical!!!!!

I only mention the Great and Terrible Evil of Ms. Thompson, Man-Destroyer, because of this cover. Now, I’m not a big fan of Humberto Ramos at the best of times, and I’m sure even Ms. Thompson would find nothing objectionable about the way Tara Takamoto is drawn. I know this was probably simply a commissioned piece by Mr. Ramos and that he wasn’t told anything about the actual contents of this comic, but I just want to point out that our hero, Ben, is much more prominently placed on this cover, even though, through the first two issues, Tara has been the total ass-kicker and Ben has been kind of a whiny bitch. I mean, man the fuck up, Ben! At the end of last issue, Tara and Ben had jumped off a building to escape some bad dudes. All the way down Ben is peeing his pants while Tara calmly saves them both. She saves his ass twice in the first few pages of this issue, and the one time he saves her, he has no idea how he did it. Again, I get that he’s going to be the hero and that Ramos didn’t have anything to do with aligning the cover with the interior, but Tara’s pretty kick-ass, and this cover implies that she’s just gazing at Ben longingly while he does all the work.

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Maybe I’m overreacting. It’s still a very good issue, as Roberson continues to drop hints about why these things might be after Ben and who he really is (it ain’t hard to put together), while Randolph is really a perfect fit for the tone of the book – wildly energetic and able to draw wacky aliens. Roberson manages to get a lot of information into this issue while still making sure lots of things blow up, which is always difficult to do. The issue zips along at a nice pace, and Roberson seems to have a nice grand plan for the book, so I’ll be interested to see how fast he gets to it.

So I’m on board for a bit. So far, this is definitely the best “Stan Lee” comic that Boom! has. Based on the names involved in the others, it’s also probably the worst-selling. That would suck.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That's a fair question

Thor: The Mighty Avenger #8 (“The Man in the Iron Mask”) by Roger Langridge (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Do you like what Marvel has done on this cover? They put, down in the corner, an indication that this is a “limited series,” of which this is part 8 of 8. Yeah, sure, Marvel. Screw you – you can’t even admit you canceled an ongoing, now you have to claim it was planned all along? Go to fuck, you bastards.

Okay, I’m not that angry about it – books get canceled all the time, and apparently Marvel might let Langridge and Samnee finish the four issues of the big 12-issue arc Langridge (foolishly) had planned for the comic if the sales on the trades are brisk. So buy the trades, people! Plus, there’s a Free Comic Book Day comic showing up, too, which is nice. Perhaps later this year we’ll get four more issues. Who knows?

As usual, this is a wonderfully executed comic book, pretty much everything everyone claims to want from their comics but which never actually sells well when it shows up. (That’s the Internet for you – the percentage of comics fans who write on the Internet is apparently tiny, because even though everyone on the Internet loves this comic, most comics fans are perfectly happy with the Sentry tearing people in half.) After last issue, in which everyone thought Thor rampaged across the country when he was just trying to stop the real culprits and then got captured by a secret bad guy (who shows up, still secretive, in this issue – I assume it’s part of Langridge’s long-term plan that he probably won’t get to write), Jane calls the Avengers for help, and they tell Iron Man, who ends up finding Thor, briefly fighting him, then teaming up with him to save the day. Yay, Thor and Iron Man! It’s a light adventure, handled well by Langridge and Samnee (Iron Man’s armor is pretty awesome). For a book that began as more of a kids’ book (as Thor: The Mighty Avenger did, although it quickly moved away from that), the fact that Tony Stark delays helping the Avengers so he can bang two chicks at once is both funny and slightly inappropriate. This book is rated “A,” which in Marvel parlance means it’s for people 9 years old and up. I thought the joke was hilarious, but I’m not sure if I want to explain to a 9-year-old why heroic Mr. Stark decides to wait to save Thor just because two bikini-clad ladies give him the eye. Why this kind of dumb-assery from Marvel (or DC) surprises me I’m not sure, but every once in a while it’d be nice if their editors (in this case, Michael Horwitz, Sana Amanat, and Nathan Crosby) would say either “As funny as that is, maybe it’s not something we want to put in this book” or at least “Maybe we should put a ‘T+’ on this book.” But that’s just me.

So Thor: The Mighty Avenger goes the way of Xero and The Brotherhood. So sad! I encourage everyone to get the two trades (the second one is coming out soon, I think). I didn’t love this as much as some people (it didn’t make my top ten for the year, for instance, and yes, I will post those soon, as I’m sure you’re just waiting for them with baited breath!), but it was a very good comic book. Isn’t that all we really want?

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Oh, Thor - you lovable doofus!

The Unwritten #21 (“Leviathan Part Three”) by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (writer and artist), Vince Locke (finisher, pgs 1-2, 5-9, 12, 15-16, 19-22), Chris Chuckry (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this with regard to The Unwritten, but I like it a lot better when it deals with literature directly, and as this arc takes place inside the book Moby-Dick, I’m liking it. Yes, Tom’s father is still around in the form of Captain Ahab, but that seems secondary to Tom discovering how he can manipulate literature and the layers of reality that Carey is dealing with, which takes the book in some interesting directions. Of course, it all goes a bit pear-shaped for Tom when he starts trying to get out of the book, and in the “real” world, Lizzie and Richie are … well, the villain who is searching for Tom is damned creepy, is all I’m saying. While I remain on the fence about this title, this issue is one of the better ones, certainly the most interesting since they were inside the Nazi movie, so I’ll stick around. I know Carey is going to go back to the Boring Secret Society and Tom’s father soon, which doesn’t make me happy, but maybe this time around he’ll do something more interesting with them. We shall see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

We know how it feels, Tom

If I might address the shooting in Tucson last week without everyone having an apoplectic fit, here are some of my thoughts:

1. I was extremely annoyed that everyone immediately started talking about political rhetoric. Yes, it’s often vile. Yes, Giffords’ opponent inviting people to shoot loaded M-16s as part of his campaign was idiotic (he didn’t tell them to point them at her, of course, but still). Political rhetoric has always been horrible, it’s just that in today’s world, it reaches far more people much faster. According to everything I’ve read, Jared Loughner ignored much of the real world, so blaming conservative talk radio or Sarah Palin’s map is stupid. The sheriff of Pima County, who started this almost immediately after the shooting, is an idiot. There are severely mentally ill people in this world who want to do violence to others. That’s the way it is. No more explanation is necessary.

2. Of course, the righteous indignation coming from the right cracks me right the hell up. If conservatives can claim that radical Islam is to blame for Nidal Hasan without a shred of proof, they should realize the tables can be turned. You can bet that if a Republican had been shot (Giffords is still a Democrat, even though she was very much a centrist – she’s a big gun advocate, for instance), conservative talk radio people would be connecting every dot they could to blame some liberal agenda or officials’ words. They do it already – whenever someone gets killed in Arizona by a Latino drug smuggler, immediately everyone goes into a lather about illegal immigration and mass deportations, yet no one ever talks about the Americans’ demand for such drugs or possible legalization. It’s just easier to deport any Hispanics they can find. The conservative indignation reminds me of Claude Rains being shocked about the gambling at Rick’s café.

3. I was pretty impressed with Obama’s speech in Tucson. I was horrified to hear that members of the Democratic Party urged him to denounce conservatives in his speech, and I was glad he wasn’t quite that stupid. I was bothered, however, by the response of the crowd. One of the reasons I don’t listen to presidential speeches in front of audiences is because of the constant clapping which makes them last twice as long as they should, and last night’s audience was terrible. It was like a pep rally, and while I understand the desire to recognize the people who helped others during the shooting or cheer the news that Giffords opened her eyes, the audience response still felt wildly inappropriate. You could tell Obama thought so, too, which was nice to see. I enjoyed watching Fox News after the speech – it was like someone was force-feeding them Brussels sprouts, because they couldn’t find anything bad to say about Obama’s speech. Charles Krauthammer, who looks like a fossil at the best of times, was particularly pleasant to watch.

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4. Obama’s call for more civility in politics will fall on deaf ears, of course, as Chris Matthews pointed out on Fox, and there’s nothing really wrong with that. What depresses me is the fact that people can’t seem to counter ideas without resorting to name-calling. It’s a problem across society and even on places like comic book blogs (I know, shocking). I have tried very hard in my life to rise above that kind of shit, and it depresses me that so many people seem to enjoy it. Maybe Loughner was completely apolitical, but it wouldn’t surprise me if someone started shooting people based on what some politician or pundit said about someone they didn’t like. I hated that liberals compared George Bush to Hitler or a chimp, because it made them look like idiots. I think Bush is one of the worst presidents in American history, but that’s just an opinion. You might think Obama is one of the worst presidents in history – I don’t know how you can judge after two years, but whatever – and that’s fine too. But the fact that so many people are so enraged about Obama or Bush is silly. I always wrote that I’m not too bent out of shape about Bush because, thanks to the excellent American political system, I knew exactly when he would no longer be president. Same thing with Obama – if you don’t like him, wait a few more years and vote him out. If that doesn’t work, you know exactly when he’ll no longer be president. The fact that so many people can’t deal with that is annoying. If you think this kind of vitriol is confined to the lunatic fringe, I’ll point out that down the street from me, someone drives a truck with a bumper sticker that read “2012: Don’t re-nig”. Idiot racists are everywhere. I’m not sure why everyone is so angry.

5. Despite the fact that we can’t blame political rhetoric for what happened, we can blame some people for the circumstances that put Jared Loughner at that spot with that weapon. The Arizona legislature – which is dominated by so-called “fiscal conservatives” – has slashed funding for the mentally ill (God forbid we raise taxes or want to pay more taxes, of course – it’s not completely the legislature’s fault). If you have a serious mental illness, it’s very difficult to commit you and it’s difficult to keep you in the hospital because there’s no money. Loughner was barred from Pima Community College because he was so obviously disturbed. Beginning in February (almost a year ago), he came onto the campus police’s radar, and in October he was told not to return until he had a mental evaluation. Of course, nobody could force him to get that evaluation, and no one knows if he ever got it. Even if a judge had ordered it, there’s no money for it. Then, on 30 November, after he was told to get a mental health evaluation, he walked into a Tucson gun store and legally bought a 9mm Glock semi-automatic handgun and ammunition. Arizona not only doesn’t have the money for the mentally ill, they have ridiculously loose gun laws. It’s one of only three states that allows anyone 21 or older to carry a concealed weapon without any training or a background check. When the new legislature convened this week, two days after the shooting, one of the first bills introduced was one allowing faculty to carry concealed weapons on campus. Apparently the Safeway where Giffords was shot would have been a lot safer if everyone had been carrying concealed weapons. Yeah, I’m sure the death toll would have been a lot less. I understand that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” but perhaps if Loughner hadn’t been on streets or hadn’t been able to carry a gun, he would have just kept ranting on the Internet. We’ll never know, of course, but I’m certainly glad the Arizona legislature is taking the lead to make me safer!

Sorry for the ranting. The shooting was bad enough, but the aftermath makes me even angrier. I thought Obama made the best point of all when he talked about the people who helped out. Most people in this country are just living their lives trying to do the right thing. Politicians and pundits who demonize the opposition should just, you know, shut the fuck up. Leave us the fuck alone.

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On a funner topic, here are The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Bizarre Love Triangle”New Order (1986) “Why can’t we be ourselves like we were yesterday”1
2. “Watershed”2Indigo Girls (1990) “Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh”
3. “Square Go”Fish (2007) “I don’t exist, I never have”
4. “Spoonman”Soundgarden (1994) “All my friends are skeletons”
5. “Check the Rhime” – A Tribe Called Quest (1991) “Got the scrawny legs but I move just like Lou Brock: with speed; I’m agile plus I’m worth your while – one hundred percent intelligent black child”
6. “Powderworks”Midnight Oil (1978) “I’ve been had by the balls all my life”
7. “Wonderland”The Cult (1991) “Wipe the sweat from my furrowed brow”
8. “Clocks”Coldplay (2002) “Am I part of the cure or am I part of the disease?”3
9. “Be My Girl – Sally”The Police (1978) “She’s cuddly and she’s bouncy, she’s like a rubber ball; I bounce her in the kitchen and I bounce her in the hall”
10. “Way I’ve Been” – Australian Crawl (1980) “Well there’s no need to justify sitting back and wasting time”

1 I like New Order quite a bit, yet I can’t stand Joy Division. I think it’s because Ian Curtis had a godawful voice. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
2 Leno looks wacky in that clip (it’s from 1991). Did he ever look normal?
3 Peter King once called this the best song he’d ever heard. This is why Peter King should stick to writing about football. I mean, it’s a decent enough song, but really, Peter King?

I don’t know if this Totally Random Movie Quote will be harder than last week’s, but I doubt if it could be any easier!

“Haggis? What is haggis?”
“Sheep’s stomach stuffed with meat and barley.”
“And what do you do with it?”
“You eat it!”
“How revolting!”

Remember, DC fans: Top-secret project a-brewing! I’ll get to them soon enough!!!!


Great stuff with your thoughts about the shooting. I actually was on CBR when the news broke and I got the opportunity to read some of the tweets of several comics creators regarding the tragedy. Joe Harris’ (which I believe wrote “Ghost Projekt”) just made me want to throw up. Just a few hours after the incident, he was already tweeting about how this would ruin Palin’s political career. The tragedy almost seemed secondary in his mind.

Anyway, comics: if you got annoyed because a character wasn’t featured as prominently in the cover as you would like, I would simply repeat the first paragraph of your Starborn review, without the sarcasm.

And I think you’re exaggerating regarding Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Everybody knows that the ongoing got canceled, it was very widely reported, I don’t think Marvel really put much effort in trying to hide it.Also, it’s perfectly possible for someone to like Thor: The Mighty Avenger and enjoy The Sentry ripping people in half.

I will never understand the left’s Pavlovian response to Palin. The seem incapable of simply ignoring her. She holds no office. She probably will never hold another office.

Well, you might not have enjoyed it, but I thought Earp was a blast! It was jam-packed with character development, plot background, and current-time action.

The dialogue might’ve been a bit hokey, but overall it worked, I think. I at least never had that moment where I thought, “Man, that sounds odd.” Cliche, maybe, but it’s a comic book and is designed like an action movie. That’s a double whammy of “it’ll have cliche elements”.

I find it hard to understand why you went so far as to quote the Radical book as a model of bad dialogue in comics. I mean, it’s not stellar by a long sight, but I’m sure I can find you 20 other books from this week alone with worse dialogue. Seriously, pick up any book by Fraction or Bendis (even some of Morrison’s output), and you’re sure to find clunkier exchanges than the one you posted, especially in an emotional moment such as the death of a supporting character, where you can feel the writer’s pen beginning to wobble under the gravity of the scene.

Normally, I wouldn’t say anything, but I feel like I’ve had a lot of these moments reading your column recently – the last one I can remember came in your review of Cornell’s Batman and Robin – where I’m just left wondering if we’re reading comics in the same universe. The things you single out for vitriol just seem completely run-of-the-mill to me. Different strokes for different folks, I know, but your harshness seems so unwarranted in these cases that I can’t help thinking you’re letting your opinion of the work as a whole color your critique of its specific features.

Morrison writes some of the best dialogue in comics, though I can see why others would think otherwise; meanwhile, I’ve grown tired of Bendis’ dialogue, but I can see why others like it so much. I wouldn’t say either is necessarily clunky, at least, not to the direct-to-VHS-in-1990 level of clunky that Earp dialogue is.

I guess if by “Godawful Voice” you mean “I Will See You Destroyed Greg Burgas” than yes, Ian Curtis did have a godawful voice.

Seriously, though, I can see not liking Joy Division-“Closer” is ridiculously inconsistent and even “Unknown Pleasures” has some serious weak points.

That movie had great quotes throughout but I think that one is my fave.

Man, that Brad Walker Airwolf panel from Heroes for Hire is really kickass.

Is the movie ‘so I married an axe murderer’ or is that too obvious?
Much prefer New Order to Joy Division, but as I get older I appreciate Joy Division more and more…

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Ohhhh, dear ……., I really don’t know how to tell you this, but …..

The Great and Terrible, Man-Destroyer–Ms. Thompson, is simply just applying her secret evil plan to take over the CBR website and condition all of us to become Feminists. (shudder)

Best stay away from her. You’d never know where you’d been, or whom you’d be.

That’s how dangerous she is. ;-)

Dude: Man, I’m glad I didn’t see that tweet. That would have annoyed me. The Thor thing is even weirder BECAUSE everyone knows it was an ongoing that got canceled. Why would Marvel pretend otherwise? Strange.

Cass (and R., but Cass had a more specific issue): That single page might not have been bad, but every single line of dialogue was like that, which is why, over the course of 60 pages, it started to get to me. You’re right – you can find clunky dialogue in almost every comic, but my point was that usually there’s also something sparkling or clever to offset it, so I can deal with some of the dumber stuff. There wasn’t anything like that in this comic, so it just kept going with the mediocre dialogue, which kept piling up. If we add that onto the art and the coloring, there’s nothing to counter the mediocre writing. I assume that’s what you meant when you said my opinion of the whole is coloring my critique of the specific elements, but I thought I addressed that when I said it’s hard to pick out a truly terrible example of the dialogue – there’s no “haunted vagina” in this book, but at least that was incredibly memorable. This is just pure mediocrity through and through, and when it’s linked up to the lousy art, we get a terrrible comic! Voila!

I haven’t read the latest Batman and Robin yet, so I’m curious to see if Cornell has managed to redeem that story. I know you disagreed with me on it, but at least McDaniel’s art and the overall oddness of Una Nemo is something to intrigue me. So there’s that.

Stephen: No, it’s not “So I Married an Axe Murderer.” That might have been too obvious!

You know what all the rhetoric following the shooting really reminded me of? The Newsradio where Bill McNeal tellseveryone to beat up diplomats. Then diplomats are beaten as riots roam the streets and Bill goes on the air to tell them that the diplomats are not the enemy, a certain sector of the public, known as Joe Q. Vigilante is the problem. Then the riots descend on the home of a man named Joe Vigilante and he is killed. So Bill tell people not to listed to their radios, but to listen to their hearts. Then we find out that a mental patient has recently torn his heart out of his chest so that he could listen to it better.

I don’t know when Silver Sable was officially got her real name, but it’s been out there awhile.

And is there any particular reason for the link in the middle of the HfH review?

I just skimmed the books reviewed, but is there any reason no Secret Six thoughts?

I liked the B&R 19, had a noirish ending. It wasn’t the greatest thing Cornell has written, but definitely better than 18.


January 13, 2011 at 8:57 pm

See Greg, no mention of the Sydney weather from you, and it’s a hot sunny day!

In Sydney anyway… other parts of the country, not so much.

Remember, DC fans: Top-secret project a-brewing! I’ll get to them soon enough!!!!

You’re going to count sex and murders again, aren’t you?

The only reason I’m not giving it zero stars is because the high concept – Wyatt Earp and some other Olde West dudes updated in a chaotic near-future – has some potential.

There was a meeting once where people said there was potential in doing the same with Jonah Hex.

(To be fair, it works in Batman: The Brave And The Bold, but everything kicks ten times more ass when it’s in that show)

Now, I’m not a big fan of Humberto Ramos at the best of times, and I’m sure even Ms. Thompson would find nothing objectionable about the way Tara Takamoto is drawn

I’ve quite enjoyed Ramos’ Amazing Spider-Man issues of late.

A much better showing than when I last saw his work on X-Men (at start of Mike Carey’s run).

So Thor: The Mighty Adventure goes the way of Xero and The Brotherhood.

Of all the canceled comics we’ve seen in our lives, why those two?

FGJ: I was going to mention the flooding, but it slipped my mind. That has to suck. I saw the pictures of Brisbane and wondered how much of the places I went to were under water. It’s a weird sensation.

No, I’m not going to count the sex and murders in my DC books. I’ll give you one hint: Credit at my store.

I was trying to think of as random a canceled series as I could, and one from both Marvel and DC. They were the first ones I thought of!

And you highlighting it made me realize I actually did type “The Mighty Adventure.” I’ll have to change that, although that’s not a bad title!

Yeah, what’s up with that totally random link?

I agree with you about Avatar but I actually enjoyed it anyway. I guess I was just impressed with all the different critters and always wanted to see what else was living in that world. It sucked more than I thought it would with the cringe-worthy acting and groan-worthy writing. But I was sort of prepared for it to suck in light of the popularity of The Dark Knight. Avatar was just fun for me despite all of its problems though I probably won’t ever see it again. And as a person with some connection to nature in the real world, it’s nice to see bad guy exploiters get kicked off the planet. In real life, that doesn’t even happen when you vote in a Democrat. I saw Avatar in 2D in a second run theater, after most people had already seen it, for $3. So the fact that it sucked just didn’t bother me much.

Her name has been Silver Sablinova at least since the early 1990s, so Abnett and Lanning deserve none of the blame.


January 13, 2011 at 10:04 pm

No, I’m not going to count the sex and murders in my DC books.

Fair play – who can count that high?

I’ll give you one hint: Credit at my store.

You’re running a Punch Drunk Love style scam to get you caught up on your Paul Cornell, Teen Titans, Flash, and Superman/Batman?

I was trying to think of as random a canceled series as I could, and one from both Marvel and DC. They were the first ones I thought of!

You’ve got to be the first person ever to use both of them in a sentence!

And you highlighting it made me realize I actually did type “The Mighty Adventure.” I’ll have to change that, although that’s not a bad title!

Sounds like a great mid-80’s kids action film.

“I will never understand the left’s Pavlovian response to Palin. The seem incapable of simply ignoring her. She holds no office. She probably will never hold another office.”

It’s pretty obvious to me (and most of us that hold her in such contempt) that holding office is no longer necessary for a person to wield power. She holds influence over a large amount of people:


Beyond that, though, is her bullshit, pandering, “folksy” routine and that’s what gets people the angriest, I think. It’s immensely frustrating to feel like the ones who see that the emperor is naked.

“I understand that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” but perhaps if Loughner hadn’t been on streets or hadn’t been able to carry a gun, he would have just kept ranting on the Internet.”

Or even if he had attacked with a non-firearm weapon, it’s unlikely there would be 6 people dead. That’s the thing that annoys me about the “don’t blame the guns” argument (which I know you’re not making, just referencing). Obviously, inanimate objects don’t take lives of their own volition, but firearms make it much, much easier for one person to kill others.

And those that think higher rates of gun ownership would reduce violence… I have to question their assertion that more guns would equal less shooting. I think the assumption of a balance struck by the concept of mutually assured destruction is being overly generous in assessing the degree of reason used by an armed criminal.

Robert and DjeD: I’ve been linking to pictures of random attractive women in these posts for about six months, so that’s why there’s a link in the middle of the review. I put them wherever I feel like it!

yeah, Greg, that Fraction dialogue in that panel is just fucken gold, right there. Eisner my ass.


January 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I get the feeling that #8 in an 8 part limited series will sell more than #8 from a cancelled ongoing series. Maybe its just me but that’s my thought on it.

I agree with your caption beneath the “Airwolf” panel for Casanova – that comic was chock full of good candidates – but I was betting that you would pick the one you did. Man, how badass would it be to have your own giant robot to start shit for you? Pretty damn BAD. ASS., that’s for sure.

I had actually thought that this arc of Casanova signaled the “new material” that I assumed was coming from Fraction on this title – but you made a few intimations that this is a re-print as well. No biggie though – it’s all new to me since I was on hiatus from comics when this stuff first came out under Image. Casanova is rapidly overtaking Next Wave in my estimation as being the “comic most completely made out of Awesome”.

Ed: Yeah, this is still reprints of Casanova. After the next three issues, they’ll be all caught up. I hope we won’t have to wait too long for new stuff after that!

I started to just let it go but I guess the point is dialogue and feedback and not just you floating your opinions out into the great electronic beyond.

This review column was so bad for me that I’m considering never reading this column again. That’s not constructive criticism but I wanted to give you a sense of just how much I disagree.

Now everybody’s entitled to their opinion but when a rating system is so out of kilter that’s a different matter altogether. That’s at the heart of my complaint.

You hated Earp and gave it a rating of 1 1/2. You thought it was cliched, the art style isn’t to your taste and there were assorted other complaints. I enjoyed it. It was the best thing I bought last week. While the idea that a hero is the cause of the villains he is fighting isn’t completely original, it hasn’t been done to death and I thought the exchange of dialogue between Morgan and Wyatt was an interesting contrast. Wyatt is world weary in a way that really heroic figures almost never reach. All of these character’s personalities are clearly defined and I don’t think they are nearly as unoriginal as you do.The dialogue that you find cliched I found spot on for expressing who these characters are which is important since this is our first encounter with this version of them. I thought several of the ways that the classic Earp story was updated were more than a little clever. Surely, the OK casino is a nice touch. A rating of 1-1/2 was so out of line for me.

Would I swear off this column because of one review I didn’t agree with? Don’t be ridiculous. That would be just dumb.

I kept reading though and got to a 8-1/2 star review of Thor: The Mighty Avenger. I didn’t read the comic but can’t imagine from your review that I would have enjoyed it in the slightest. Outside of a generic “this is what everybody says they want in a comic” comment, I can’t figure what it is that you liked so well about it.
Thor is too dumb to tell Tony that the enemy is rigged to explode? Tony takes time out for a three way before rescuing his ally? Could the treatment of these characters make them seem any more stupid? The art is pleasant enough but surely nothing to get excited about. It doesn’t seem to suit the comic-it is either too cartoony or not cartoony enough depending on how much of a joke this is intended to be – as well as the art in Earp conveys its grainy, dirty, corrupt USA . Thor gets blamed for carnage caused by the bad guys. Iron Man and Thor fight before they team up. It certainly sounds like this is loaded to the gills with comic book cliches.

So how the hell does this piece of nonesense rate an 8-1/2 and Earp gets a 1-1/2?

I’m okay with disagreeing with you and still reading what you write. I’ve done it before and do it on a regular basis with The Buy Pile but this was so completely skewed for me that I’m not sure it’s worth my time to come back again. From where I sit Earp is a clever attempt that maybe felt short of its mark and Thor: The Mighty Avenger sounds like it is completely unclear about what it wants to be – a fault you acknowledge – and altogether unimaginative and disrespectful of its own heroes. Your credibility with me as a reviewer is just about shot.

I think “Avatar’s” visuals made the movie moderately enjoyable. But yes, the story was cliched and derivative. I wouldn’t pay to see it twice, so I can’t imagine all the people who worship it as if they’ve never seen intelligent science fiction.

My reaction to “Avatar” at the time:

It’s entertaining in an extremely superficial way. People who have compared it to “Ferngully” aren’t kidding. It’s a $300-million version of a Saturday matinee for 12-year-olds…a super-CGI potboiler a la “The Land That Time Forgot.” Outsider finds lost world of prehistoric men and beasts…learns their primitive ways…and joins them against the villainous [fill-in-the-blank] people.

If you’re familiar with Westerns, science fiction and fantasy, and comic books, you’ve seen this story dozens of times. Good little cave people (even if they don’t live in caves) vs. big bad monsters. “Avatar” is just about that black and white. It’s visually impressive but about as deep as a children’s book.

Rob’s rating: A generous 7.5 of 10.

P.S. Why are your Friday reviews coming on Thursdays now?

I’m mad at Bush for his illegal and immoral wars, tens of thousands of dead civilians, legalized torture, Guantanamo Bay, warrantless wiretapping, suspension of habeas corpus for US citizens, and other high crimes and misdemeanors against the Constitution. Many of them have continued under Obama, which shows the folly of a “just wait till he’s gone” attitude. Why are you NOT mad at Bush for these things?

P.S. I’m waiting for the THOR trade with bated breath, since that’s the correct phrase, not “baited” breath.

Bob: Thanks for the response, even though I don’t agree with you. I don’t think Thor doesn’t know what it wants to be, I wrote that Marvel doesn’t seem to know what to do with it – originally it was supposed to be a Marvel Adventures book, but it’s obviously not that, but Marvel has never figured out what to do with it. And if you don’t think Samnee’s art is infinitely better than whoever is doing the stuff on Earp … well, that’s the way it is.

The reason I didn’t write too much about Thor is because it’s been canceled, so there’s not much point, and also because I’ve been writing about it for eight issues, so people who read this every week – it seems that you do – should know what I think works and doesn’t work in it. Yes, Langridge does some things with superhero clichés, but he’s having fun tweaking them. Thor is supposed to be a bit dim because he’s had his memories screwed with and in many ways he’s like a child. This has all been established already, so I didn’t feel like going over it again.

Earp was a first issue, so I spent a little time with it. I simply don’t get how you could think this kind of story isn’t tired and worn and unoriginal, but that’s fine too. I don’t have a problem with stories like it, because almost every story has been done before, but as I wrote above, not one page of Earp had any pleasant surprises. If you don’t like Thor, that’s cool, but at least Langridge tried to do some different things with superhero tropes. The writers on Earp simply followed the formula to a tee. I pointed out that Ryder on the Storm, another book that uses a stock situation, does some different things with the formula, and that makes it a far more interesting book than Earp. That’s my opinion. That’s all it is.

I honestly don’t know how much credibility I have as a reviewer anyway. The only credibility I have is that I read a lot of comics. So I hope you keep reading, but if you think I’m completely off-base, that’s the way it is.

Rob: I don’t have an official day to post reviews. I post them when I finish them. The past few weeks I’ve either had a lot fewer books to review (which of course takes less time) or I’ve been lazy about it, so I’ve posted them on Thursdays. I don’t know how many books are coming out next week, but maybe I won’t get done until Friday! I have no idea!

And while I wrote that I’m not “enraged” about Bush, my point was that people seemed to think he’d be around forever. I think calling him one of the worst presidents in history shows that I’m a bit miffed at him, don’t you? I don’t have much of an opinion about Obama yet, but even though he’s continued many of Bush’s practices, he also changed a lot. I certainly think that we should speak out against the stifling of civil liberties under Bush that have continued under Obama and that if conservatives don’t like Obamacare, for instance, they should speak out against it, but to scream absurdly about how Obama is a socialist dictator is as dumb as saying Bush was a fascist dictator. That’s what I meant. People can be vehemently opposed to the president without resorting to name-calling.

Dang, I bought that issue of Casanova four comic shops, three and a half years, and half the price ago. I can’t wait for the new stuff!

Also, I may be wasting my life. We’ll see at my funeral!

“The writers on Earp simply followed the formula to a tee.”

Spoiler Alert !

In Earp, Earp brothers are hired to guard a high speed modern train. A group of train robbers led by Jesse James try to rob said train (using magnetic mines!). Well, that does sound like standard formula but then the train is derailed (in a pretty nice art sequence) by missiles fired from helicopters. And the helicopters belong to a third group unconnected to either the heroes or the train robbers.

The third group kills one of the Earp brothers. Does Wyatt swear to move heaven and earth to catch his brother’s killers? No, he quits the business altogether. And then the younger brother goes to work for Jesse James who had been Wyatt’s arch nemesis.

Can you tell me exactly what formula this follows? Where has that series of plot twists ever been executed previously? I really don’t think you are giving the writers enough credit and a charge of following formula to a tee just doesn’t stick.

Regarding Thor, Marvel not knowing how to market it (as kid friendly Marvel Adventure or as something) and the creative team not knowing what they want it to be is a subtle difference but a difference nonetheless I will grant you. As I said before I don’t read it so it is hard for me to argue in detail with your assessment but a rating of 8-1/2 still seems oddly high for an individual issue with what seems like glaring problems and multiple cliches solely based on what you said about it this time.

I appreciate your response but it still seems to me that any rating scale that puts these two that far apart and specifically that trashes Earp that badly has something wrong with it. It sounded like you started the stars rating system with some reluctance when you announced it and based on this column, I would strongly urge you to drop it.

We want more star ratings, not fewer!

Just another point of view: I’m with Penny Arcade on this one, quantified ratings are useless and people tend to focus too much attention on them. I read the reviews here–partially because Greg and I have different taste in comics–and ignore the ratings. The fact that they’re not a useful metric isn’t Greg’s fault, it’s a fault of this sort of system. There is no way to perfectly translate a subjective viewpoint into a number.

Bob: I understand what you’re saying with regard to the ratings I gave – I can admit that giving Thor a high rating is partially for the entire series; there have been better issues, but I still thought this one was strong. Earp has the problem of being a #1 issue and needing to establish a LOT, and I didn’t think it succeeded. If Radical deigns to send me issue #2 (they might not, based on this review), it might work better because we’re a bit into the story. We shall see.

The fact that Wyatt’s retirement is in the past and in the present he’s getting dragged back into the business is reminiscent of Eastwood in Unforgiven, off the top of my head, but that’s a pretty common theme – the old gunslinger has to take up his guns one more time. The fact that the writers managed to do it in a bit of a different way doesn’t change that fact. And the noble bank robber giving back to the poor is as old as the hills – they even reference Robin Hood – and it squares with a lot of the myths about Jesse James, who was, from all contemporary accounts, kind of a scumbag, and who acquired the patina of mythic sainthood only after his death. So those two themes didn’t seem terribly original to me.

I just started doing ratings, mainly because it does provide a handy shorthand to what I thought, so maybe there are some kinks in it. I’ll keep working on it!

Daniel: You’re right, which is why I resisted doing ratings for so long – some people have brought it up before, and I didn’t do it. I just figured I’d give it a try, but I still hope people read the reviews, too, because I think that gives a much better reasoning for why I feel the way I do. We’ll see how I feel going forward. I do enjoy it, though, even if it’s not perfect.


January 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm

As I said before I don’t read it so it is hard for me to argue in detail with your assessment but a rating of 8-1/2 still seems oddly high for an individual issue with what seems like glaring problems and multiple cliches solely based on what you said about it this time.

I’ve not read it, but that book is getting high rated reviewers across the board – it’s not just here that reviewers are raving about it.

I can’t wait for the trade.

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