SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
What we are reluctant to touch often seems the very fabric of our salvation. (Don DeLillo, from White Noise)
Matz and Jacamon, having turned Doug Pistoia into a hero, now begin the process of tearing him down, as they must – it’s the heroic journey, after all, as Doug must be a faux hero before he can be a real one. I was disappointed that they began with the most annoying of clichés – the director of programming for the network on which Doug appears seduces him, or at least appears to. As this comes not long after Doug’s wife doesn’t want to have sex with him because she’s torn about his role in the war and the fact that he’s not around, it’s even more annoying. As I get older, I get more and more annoyed with lazy writing, and having Doug fall into the arms of the first woman he sees after his wife – quite logically – is not in the mood is just lazy. I see this all the time on television, and I just wish that it weren’t so prevalent. I get that Doug must be revealed to be less than heroic so that his true heroic journey can begin, and that’s perfectly fine. I honestly don’t even mind that he can’t keep it in his pants for a few days – adultery is a part of life. It’s just that it seems so easy – Doug doesn’t get laid at home, the comely blonde flashes her dark eyes at him, tells him not to be such a child because he won’t have a drink with her, and that’s all it takes! Again, maybe I’m misreading the scene – maybe they don’t actually have sex – but it seems pretty clear that they do. Oh well.
It’s a shame because the rest of the book is unfolding nicely if a bit predictably. Doug rescues a woman and her child from a war zone and immediately wonders if the victims were planted there just to make him look good. It’s an interesting conundrum because they are, after all, in a war zone. There’s a new conflict brewing between Argentina and Chile, which is where Doug is headed next, but perhaps this war is manufactured just a tiny bit. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but except for those few panels where Doug apparently thinks with his dick, it’s well done and intriguing. Jacamon is great, as usual, and Matz does a nice job making the characters just as cynical as the readers are – Doug and his wife know they’re being used, but Doug thinks he can play hardball as well as his bosses can. I don’t think he can, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
I still like Cyclops and will continue to buy it, but I do wish writers wouldn’t be so lazy. It’s vexing.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Days Missing: Kestus #3 (“One Giant Leap”/”The First Fold Part Three”) by Phil Hester (writer, “Leap”), Trevor Roth (writer, “First Fold”), David Marquez (artist), Digikore Studios (colorist), and Troy Peteri (letterer). $3.95, 24 pgs, FC, Archaia/Roddenberry.
I have written about the past two issues of this mini-series that I wasn’t sure how the Steward was “folding days” to change history, but in this issue, Hester makes it clear: He wiped out the day Apollo 11 was launched because on the “original” day, the rocket exploded and killed everyone. The Steward’s nemesis, Kestus, has decided that man needs to stay on their own planet because if they start heading toward the stars, they’ll screw things up there as much as they’ve screwed things up on Earth. The Steward has a different interpretation – he believes humanity is constantly getting better, and this is an example of that. So they’re at odds, and Hester does a good job giving us a nice little tale that shows how much they respect each other even though they disagree on a fundamental level. I can’t remember if this is a four- or five-issue mini-series, but the Steward and Kestus come to an understanding at the end of this issue that should be interesting to see play out.
Marquez is getting better, which is always nice to see. He does a very good job with the time period – I hate period pieces that combine every single thing that was present in that time, as if it all existed at the same spot. Marquez doesn’t do that – the nods to 1969 are fairly subtle, from the slightly tight Oxford shirts the men wear to the slightly old-fashioned (but cutting-edge then, I’m sure) hair styles on the women. It looks like a comic that could take place today, but the nice touches Marquez puts into the art make it clear it’s 40 years ago.
I don’t know why you would buy Wonder Woman when Hester is writing something much better like this, but hey, what do I know? You should still check this out!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Driver for the Dead #3 (of 3) (“Voodoo Child”) by John Heffernan (writer), Leonardo Manco (artist), Kinsun Loh (painter), Jerry Choo (painter), and Todd Klein (letterer). $4.99, 52 pgs, FC, Radical Comics.
The fine folk at Radical, undeterred by my shredding of Earp: Saints for Sinners, continue to send me their stuff, which is awfully nice of them. This is the latest one, and as I wrote about the second issue, it’s an intriguing idea overwhelmed by the need to drive the plot forward (no pun intended) and by the drenching of the story in “Louisiana clichés.” It’s kind of frustrating – in this issue we learn Alabaster Graves’s “secret origin,” and while the title of the book kind of gives it away, it’s still the kind of thing that could work as a pretty keen horror comic, except this isn’t exactly it. Heffernan wrote Snakes on a Plane, so it’s perhaps not surprising that he favors spectacle instead of mood, but while there’s nothing wrong with turning this into an action/adventure with a horror tinge to it, that robs it of some of its uniqueness, too. Alabaster has to be well armed to deal with all the creatures he comes across in the Louisiana swamps, but it’s very odd to see him as Stallone or Willis or Statham, mainly because it doesn’t seem to fit the tone of the book. This felt like a comic that would be creepy, and in the end, it’s much more goofy, with Alabaster simply coming up with strange weapons that kill supernatural beings and cutting loose. It didn’t work with Hugh Jackman and it doesn’t work here. I mean, we keep hearing about the nigh-unkillable werewolf in the swamps, yet Graves takes it out in a couple of pages, because the Loup Garoux isn’t the main bad guy. So this monster that’s terrorized the swamps for over a century is simply a minor plot point for Alabaster to get through. I mentioned the clichés, and they pile up again in this issue – not only the werewolf, but Fallow’s origin is silly, too: Young slave owner fascinated by the voodoo of the slaves, buried alive … you know, it’s just not that important.
So is there anything interesting about this at all? Well, Manco’s art isn’t bad. As a silly action comic, it certainly delivers – there’s plenty of blood and wacky violence. And the idea behind the book still works even if Heffernan doesn’t do a very good job with it. Like a lot of Radical books, the potential is more interesting than the execution. But it’s certainly different from your usual superhero comic!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Feeding Ground continues to be either a frustrating or fascinating comic, depending on your point of view. On the one hand, Lang continues to keep things relatively veiled – we get a few answers in this issue, but as we’ve been waiting for something to happen to Flaca, the little girl who appeared to be bitten in issue #1, the end of the issue isn’t as dramatic as it could have been. It’s becoming clear that the big evil corporation is using illegal immigrants as experimental test subjects, and it’s not going too well. What their plan is remains shadowy, unless I missed it somewhere (which is perfectly possible). The frustrating/fascinating part is if you like the way Lang is telling the story, with allusions and half-finished thoughts and dialogue that contains a lot of words but doesn’t really tell us all that much. Personally, I don’t mind that – of course I want explanations by the time we reach the end of issue #6, but I don’t mind that we’re not getting them in the middle of the story. Lang is doing a fairly good job of giving us information as it becomes necessary to do so, which is neat. Some things are still mysterious – Flaca’s visions are interesting and I’m not sure if they’re unique to her or if the other test subjects have them as well – but that’s okay.
I’ve been writing about how interesting Lapinski’s art is, and it continues to be in this issue. It’s still not great, because Lapinski relies on photo references a bit too much, but he’s getting better – there’s a bit less stiffness when the characters are moving, it seems, and he does a nice job with the monstrous parts of the book. Lapinski’s use of color continues to be impressive – the small town where the family tries to find assistance in crossing the border is full of bright yellows and pinks and oranges, giving a good impression of oppressive heat, while the night in the desert actually looks cool, as the palette shifts to blues and purples. Lapinski might have some work to do with his figure work, but he makes up for it by setting a very good mood in each scene – unlike far too many comics, the colors on this book help give us a solid sense of location, which is important for the overall story.
Archaia keeps sending me this series, so my reviews are always a bit late – I think this came out two weeks ago, but I’m sure you can find a copy somewhere. It’s an interesting horror story that, unlike Driver for the Dead, seems more concerned with creepiness than becoming an action movie. Which is fine with me!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Archaia keeps sending this series to me, even though I don’t like it all that much. I guess any publicity is good publicity!
As we reach issue #3, I’m starting to get that feeling. You know the one – as Jerry Seinfeld pointed out years ago, at some point during a television show you start to realize that they’re just not going to wrap everything up and it’s going to be a “to be continued.” Well, that’s how I’m starting to feel about this series. McMillian could certainly wrap things up next issue, but it just has a vibe of “Look for the next mini-series!” about it, which is always annoying, especially when you don’t know it’s coming. I could be completely wrong, of course – I guess we’ll see!
As always, this series is a bit of a mess – there appears to be a main plot, but one of the reasons why I think it’s going to be continued is that it seems the main plot keeps getting shoved aside so other plots can horn in. In this case, it’s someone discovering a book of John Dee’s from the late 16th century that will allow its user to call up all sorts of demons. Dee asked William Cecil to hide the book, but now, someone is actually using it, and so Matthew Dee, our hero, has to head to London, team up with an agent of the British government, and fight a demon. It appears that McMillian is going to tie it into the main plot somehow, but the main plot is kind of formless anyway, so who knows.
I’ve written this before, but it’s still true – the main impediment to me enjoying this is the art, which remains a weird blend of manga-influenced art and photo referencing, a blend that can work but doesn’t here. Wieszczyk is still having problems with backgrounds, as they’re often far too fuzzy (a product of much of it being photo-referenced, perhaps, but that doesn’t excuse it), and her demon creature, while not bad, is also a product of too-few heavy lines and a lot of computer graphics. McMillian’s story is pretty dull, but it’s not helped by Wieszczyk’s art, which is too bad, because she does have a different style than what you usually see in mainstream books.
I have no idea if Archaia will send me the final issue of this mini-series – I kind of hope they do, just so I can find out if McMillian manages to pull it all together in a coherent way. Who knows?
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Secret Six #30 (“Suicide Roulette Part One of Two: Like a Star on the Horizon”) by Gail Simone (writer), Jim Calafiore (artist), Jason Wright (colorist), John Kalisz (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.
For the second month in a row, Secret Six is crossing over with another DC book, this time Doom Patrol. They’re hired to take out the Doom Patrol, and of course, things go sideways and presumably the two teams will have to fight a greater evil in the second part. So that’s that.
I’m a bit torn about this issue for a few reasons. First, it features some really great writing by Simone – the early scene where Scandal tries to set Bane up on a date is abso-freakin’-hilarious (see one of the panels below). It really captures everything we’ve come to know and love about Bane – his awkwardness in any situation that doesn’t involve crippling someone and his ridiculous yet somehow noble code of ethics. Simone does a very nice job with the Doom Patrol, too – much better than Giffen did, in my humble opinion, even though it’s his book – and when the two teams meet, it’s also very funny and witty (it’s always nice to be reminded that Rita is an actress – it kind of makes the insular superhero world of the DCU less so).
However, the bad guy is a bit silly. It’s a slacker kid named Eric whose stepfather tells him he has to move out (he’s 21) but who then inherits three billion dollars from his grandfather, who turned out to be a crime boss in the 1960s. While I don’t mind that Eric and his slacker friends want to become a new Rat Pack (except they’re criminals), it seems like Eric becomes, well, competent rather quickly. He also decides that he wants a secret base inside a volcano – again, nothing wrong with that – but he picks Oolong Island (and hires our heroes to roust the Doom Patrol) when it seems there might be, I don’t know, better places to pick (and possibly less inhabited places). It seems unnecessarily silly to pick a place that, from what little I know about it, seems to be full of bad cats. Unless it already has a base so Eric and his pals won’t have to build one?
Finally, Eric’s criminal organization seems to have two different names. What’s up with that?
I’m perfectly willing to overlook the ridiculousness of Eric and his cronies (it’s comics, after all), and I’m curious to see how this shakes out, but after two straight issues of crossing over with other titles, I’m really glad Simone can get back to her book and move things forward. Isn’t the next arc about the card from the first arc of the title? Yeah, I’m keen to read that!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
I always get a bit grumpy when characters in superhero comics act like they’re not characters in superhero comics. I mean, in this issue, Psionic Lad, who showed up in Conner’s high school from a hundred years in the future, tells Conner and Simon about how terrible his future is and how he needs to learn from Superboy and return to the future and stop the big bad guy from taking over (to be honest, I thought Big Bad Guy was going to be Conner in a Maestro kind of role, and I guess it still could be). Everyone’s all happy, but as Conner and Simon live in a superhero comic, shouldn’t they be aware that … nothing is as it seems!!!!! I mean, Psionic Lad is from the future. Maybe he’s manipulating you just a bit? I don’t want to spoil it too much, but Psionic Lad does have some secrets, and I’m really hoping that Conner isn’t as dumb as he acts in this issue.
I was also glad that Lori Luthor took him to task a bit for leaving her in high school after Superboy and Simon helped ward off Psionic Lad’s attackers (there’s a clue right there, by the way). Superboy just walks off to discuss what they’re going to do about Psionic Lad, and this is right after Psionic Lad tells Lori she has a lot of latent psychic ability. He just drops that like a week-old turd in her lap and takes off. I guess the point is that Conner thinks that Lori doesn’t know he’s Superboy, but wouldn’t she wonder why he’s strolling off with Simon? Who the hell is he that he doesn’t get left behind? Lori rightfully tells Superboy he’s a bit of a shit (well, not in those exact words), which made me happy. I like how she’s smoking, though. We all know smokers in comics are EEEEEEEVILLLLLLLL!!!!!!! Run, Conner, run!!!!!
Gallo does a few interesting things with his art – when Psionic Lad enters the old comatose farmer’s mind (the guy from the second issue), the farmer’s face looks much rougher while his jumbled memories are more finely-lined. He does it again in the final panel of the book, which is interesting. I do like Gallo’s art, but I also wish it were a bit rougher – this is Kansas farmland, after all, so everything shouldn’t be so crisp. We’ll see if he adjusts a bit more as the book goes along.
I haven’t completely made up my mind to keep getting this, but it’s not bad. We shall see.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Cursed Pirate Girl volume 1 by Jeremy Bastian (writer/artist). $20.00, 112 pgs, BW, Olympian Publishing.
This looks tremendous, and I’ve been keen to read it for quite some time now. I’m glad it managed to come out, as I guess Bastian has had some problems with it.
I have no idea if this will be any good or not. I’ve heard a bit about Oleksyk and would like to support her, so I hope this is good!
Manara is listed first, because it’s obvious he’s the big draw for this book. It looks great – Manara gets a lot of attention for his erotic art, but he’s a very fine draughtsman. Cerami wrote Life is Beautiful, which may or may not be a bonus!
I wouldn’t have thought of Tomine as funny, but I’ve read a few pages of this, and it is. How about that!
Vietnamerica by Gia Bao Tran (writer/artist). $30.00, 277 pgs, FC, Villard Books.
Tran’s tale of his family leaving Vietnam as the war was ending and adjusting to life in the U.S. looks phenomenal. Tran’s a talented creator, so I’m sure it will be an interesting read, as well.
So I actually bought only four (4) comics this week – the other three came in the mail. I can’t remember the last time I bought that few. It’s very weird. It’s also the first time since early December 2009 that I didn’t buy any Marvel books (yes, I checked). I don’t know what’s going on. Am I getting more selective, or are mainstream comics sucking more? U-Decide!!!!! On the other hand, I got a bunch of collections and graphic novels, so more reading for me!
Letter columns returned to the DC comics this week, in case you didn’t notice. Superboy did not have one, while Secret Six did. I can’t say I was impressed, mainly because the letters were about DC comics in general and not about Secret Six. I hope they just haven’t gotten a lot concerning that particular title, or if this is how the letter columns will work. If only there was a place I could send a letter to ask … Anyway, the letter that cracked me up was the one from a retailer in Illinois who wrote:
I … think that the new letters columns are almost as good a news item as the $2.99 rollback. My customers who buy tons of fine DC Comics [sic] every year are not the typical message board, twitter or chat people since they are too busy working to buy AND read all of their favorite comics. They and I will appreciate this forum and I will personally push them to actively use it!
Did you catch the condescension dripping from this missive? This guy’s customers are far too busy working at real jobs to go on-line, unlike all of you slackers out there reading this blog. Get out of your mom’s basement, assholes! Second, if these good people are so busy working and reading their comics that they can’t go on-line to bitch about their comics, how the hell do they have time to write a damned letter? Beats me. That letter cracked me up, though.
My retailer (who hangs out on the Tim Sale forum – what a fucking slacker!) noticed something about DC’s January books that I didn’t – the advertisements. Were there fewer adverts breaking up the pages in January? I can’t believe it was intentional, or DC would have been crowing about it just like they’re crowing about holding the line at fewer pages per month. But let’s check out the two DC books I bought this month:
Secret Six: 5 story pages; 2 pages of ads (a double-page spread); 8 story pages; 2 pages of ads (a double-page spread); 6 story pages; 1 ad page (a house ad for the first Flash trade); 1 story page. Then there’s the preview pages for this “Flashpoint” thing. Only 3 ads on 5 pages in the book. Not bad.
Superboy: 7 story pages; 1 ad page (a house ad for DC Universe Online Legends – is that really the name of the comic?); 1 story page; 1 ad page (a house ad for Tomasi and Gleason’s Batman and Robin); 3 story pages; 1 ad page (a house ad for the first Flash trade); 3 story pages; 1 ad page (a house ad for Batwoman); 7 story pages; 1 ad page (a house ad for the “Rise of Eclipso” story); 1 story page. So that’s 5 ad pages as well, yet none for anything except other DC comics, in the whole thing. More ads but the same number of advertising pages. Hmmmm.
I don’t know if this is fewer ads or not than usual, but I think I’ll have to track this throughout the month. I find these kinds of things fascinating, in case you haven’t figured it out yet.
Finally, if you’re interested in looking at videos of other people’s children, I just posted a bunch of videos of my daughters on my other blog. My younger daughter is singing in her school’s holiday concert and dancing at her Little Gym recital, while my older daughter is … walking (with assistance, of course). Believe me, it’s pretty cool if you know anything about Mia. If you’re interested in checking them out, head on over.
Now, of course, it’s time for The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):
1. “Take Me Home” – Phil Collins (1985) “I can’t come out to find you, I don’t like to go outside”
2. “The Roof is Leaking” – Phil Collins (1981) “I woke this morning found my hands were frozen”1
3. “Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” – Billy Joel (1976)2 “They said the Queens could stay, they blew the Bronx away, and sank Manhattan out at sea”
4. “Hey Ma” – James (2008) “Please don’t preach me forgiveness, you’re hardwired for revenge”
5. “Firecracker” – Ryan Adams (2001) “Kiss me slow and softly, make me dream of you”
6. “Ring Ring”3 – ABBA (1973) “I just can’t believe that I could be so badly mistaken”
7. “The Beautiful Ones” – Prince (1984) “Don’t my kisses please you right?”4
8. “The Golden Age” – Beck (2002) “You gotta drive all night just to feel like you’re okay”
9. “Waltz #2 (XO)” – Elliott Smith (1998) “She shows no emotion at all – stares into space like a dead china doll”
10. “Garden” – Pearl Jam (1991) “I don’t need what you have to give”
1 I have two (2) Phil Collins songs on my iPod. These two. Weird.
2 This album was released on my fifth birthday. I like coincidences.
3 Even if you don’t like ABBA (for shame!), you ought to check out the outfits in this video. They’re awesomely Seventies!
4 Go ahead, scream along – “Do you want him, or do you want me, ’cause I want you!” Best part of the movie, hands down.
All righty-o, let’s see about that Totally Random Movie Quote:
“Say, that reminds me, how’d you get that kid so darn fast? Me and Dot went in to adopt on account a’ somethin’ went wrong with my semen, and they said we had to wait five years for a healthy white baby. I said, ‘Healthy white baby? Five years? What else you got?’ Said they got two Koreans and a negra born with his heart on the outside. It’s a crazy world.”
“Someone oughta sell tickets.”
“Sure, I’d buy one.”
Man, I love this movie. So frickin’ funny. (Before you jump all over me for using offensive language, that’s kind of the point – the speaker is an ignorant shitheel.)
Sorry for the lack of comics this week. Who knows what next week will bring?
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