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What I bought – 11 January 2012

‘Once giants walked the earth,’ she repeated, emphatically. ‘Yes, titans absolutely, it’s a fact.’

Three mothers creaked and swung with expressions of fascinated absorption upon their smiling faces; but Raza Hyder took no notice, closed his eyes, grunted from time to time. ‘Now the pygmies have taken over, however,’ Bilquis confided. ‘Tiny personages. Ants. Once he was a giant,’ she jerked a thumb in the direction of her somnolent husband, ‘you would not believe to look, but he was. Streets where he walked shook with fear and respect, even here, in this very town. But, you see, even a giant can be pygmified, and he has shrunk now, he is smaller than a bug. Pygmies pygmies everywhere, also insects and ants – shame on the giants, isn’t it? Shame on them for shrinking. That’s my opinion.’ (Salman Rushdie, from Shame)

It's certainly an interesting trade dress Holy crapola He's totally going to pass out This looks like half of a complete picture, doesn't it? It's a not-cover cover! The tone of this cover is odd, given the subject matter MAKE OUTTTTT! Oh dear Would you like to see my ... helmet???? Oh, yes - the torn cover thing again Look at those thighs! Yay!  Serial killers! Yep.. A cyber-bear

Sigh. I’m kind of in the doldrums this week. I just want to sit my ass in a chair and read whatever happens to be within reach, whether that’s comics, books, magazines, or newspapers. I’ve been like this for a few days, but in the middle of that, new comics came out. So I have to write about them. (I know, I know, I don’t really have to write about them, but I kind of do, right? It’s a conundrum.) It didn’t help that I just didn’t get some of the comics I bought this week. So let’s go! I hope this will be okay. If not, I apologize for the waste of time!

The Activity #2 (“Silent Night”) by Nathan Edmondson (writer), Mitch Gerads (artist/colorist), Kyle Latino (color assistant), Jordan Gibson (color assistant), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

I wanted to like the first issue of The Activity, but found it boring. The second issue is better, because more shit happens, but it also confused me. I’ll ‘splain:

Our heroes are called in to rescue a master sergeant, who has apparently been captured by a Muslim terror cell in Amsterdam. They picked up a cell phone call that spoke of the murdered “spy,” but they think he’s still alive. They also think he’s going to be used in a trade for some missiles. So the team is sent in to “deal with it.” This is where it gets confusing, but I don’t want to spoil things. All I know is that they do something weird, and I’m not sure why. Why do they solve the problem the way they do? I do like that the leader, Weatherman, mentions that they leave loose ends because they’re only there to solve a specific problem, but I don’t understand why they solve the problem this way. I know I’m not being very clear, but I really don’t want to spoil anything. I could understand what’s going on if Edmondson gave us a reason, but as far as I can tell, he doesn’t. The two rescuers say something very weird during the rescue, too, and I don’t know if it will be a plot point in the future. Oh well.

Gerads shows the problems with computer-assisted art, too. One terrorist is fleeing, and Gerads places a drawing of him running into a Photoshopped background, and it appears he’s getting off a scooter. Maybe he is, but it looks very awkward, plus that’s the first time we ever see the scooter, and the dialogue implies that he ran. Even the panel looks like he’s running but was just superimposed at the wrong point. Other than that, the art is still quite nice even with the blend of actual drawing and stock photographs. It’s colored well, too, which is keen.

So two issues in, and one was boring and the other was confusing. As I need to pre-order these issues, I’m already on the hook for the next two issues, and I hope they reward my faith. I want to dig this comic, and so far, I’m not.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That's a powerful bullet!

Batwoman #5 (“Hydrology Part 5: Evapotranspiration”) by J. H. Williams III (writer/artist), W. Haden Blackman (writer), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

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I’m never grumpy about Batwoman, though. Well, I haven’t been yet, and this issue won’t change that. I guess if I’m at all grumpy, it’s for the people who are waiting for the trade, because this arc only tells part of the story of the kidnapped children, as Kate figures out how to stop the spooky ghost woman but doesn’t actually find the kids, which will be the focus of the second arc. I don’t mind long, drawn-out stories, but I wonder if trade-waiters will be upset that they don’t get a sense of closure. Who knows. Fuck ‘em, right?

Anyway, some of the focus of this arc was Cameron Chase and her pursuit of Kate, which comes to a head in this issue. It sets up a rather interesting backstory, as Kate needs to keep the DEO off her back while Batman is still lurking around. Williams and Blackman do a decent job making Chase seem like less of the total bitch she was in issue #4, which is neat. And they get some good mileage out of Kate’s relationship with her sister, which is also neat. But mainly, this book reminds me of the DC reboot, which makes me grumpy. This comic is rooted in the old DCU, and of course, you really do need to read Rucka’s work with the character to understand it. That doesn’t bother me any, but it makes me remember the half-assed reboot, and that makes me grumpy. But that’s not Batwoman‘s fault!

I’m really interested to see Amy Reeder’s work. Williams is brilliant, of course, but I’m intrigued to see a different take on the book. I wonder how influenced Reeder will be by Williams. That would be interesting to see.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That's a really reflective drop of water

Moriarty #8 (“The Lazarus Tree Part Four”) by Daniel Corey (writer), Anthony Diecidue (artist), Perry Freeze (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Corey drops a lot of information on us in this issue, and given that there’s another issue in this arc, I’m not sure it was the best use of his page space. Next issue we get a showdown between Moriarty and … someone (I’m not going to spoil it!), so in this issue Corey clears up some of the mysteries of what’s going on. I honestly can’t remember some of the stuff he recaps, but it holds together fairly well. I’m keen to re-read it to see how much of what Moriarty susses out was in front of our faces when we first saw the events to which he refers, but I’m not going to do it right now. It does seem a bit excessive, mainly because it feels convoluted, and given that Corey wrote an entire issue about Moriarty in Jamaica last issue which felt superfluous, I wonder if the arc could have been paced better. The information in this issue seems to come at a rush, and ironically, only when Moriarty springs into action at the end does the issue feel a bit more measured and enjoyable. Moriarty’s hallucinogenic journey toward the “Lazarus Tree” is well done, leading to the SHOCK ending, and it’s better than the pages that precede it. Odd, that.

Despite the way the last two issues have seemed a bit wonky, I’m looking forward to seeing how Corey finishes the arc. He seems to have a grand story in mind, and even if single issues go sideways a bit, so far, the comic is pretty keen. We’ll see what happens next time around!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

He has a heart of gold, that Moriarty

Northlanders #47 (“The Icelandic Trilogy Part 6: Commerce 1000″) by Brian Wood (writer), Declan Shalvey (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Both Northlanders and Scalped are coming to an end, and both are slowing down, as if the writers just can’t let go. Let go, writers! They’ll both still be great! I’m just peeved that I have to wait a little bit longer between installments, because both of the books are so darned good. But that’s just me being selfish.

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“The Icelandic Trilogy” is fascinating because Wood is tracing the rise of Christianity in Europe, using Iceland as a test case. So Brida is fighting against the Christians, but isn’t ready for her brother to return and announce that he’s converted. This pisses her off, especially when it’s clear that part of the reason he converted is to score a hot young blonde wife, but she chokes down her rage for a moment and decides to re-dedicate herself and her family to the destruction of her enemies, including the Christians. The fascinating thing about this story is that we know who won, yet Wood manages to make us think Brida might pull it off even though her hopes are pretty much doomed. This is the last time we see her, as the final arc jumps ahead two centuries, but it will be very neat to see what Wood does with her legacy going forward.

Only three issues left in this excellent series. Don’t cry! Start reading Conan instead!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Chuck E. Cheese birthday parties are kind of like this

Operation: Broken Wings, 1936 #3 (of 3) by Herik Hanna (writer), Trevor Hairsine (artist), Sébastien Lamirand (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Deron Bennett (letterer). $3.99, 16 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Yes, 16 pages. For 4 dollars. Yikes. I hope you’re waiting for the trade, because Operation: Broken Wings is a nice little comic, but man! that’s a chunk of change for the page count.

Anyway, this comic takes an interesting turn in its last chapter, as prior to this, we weren’t really sure what the Major’s plan was but we didn’t really expect what it turns out to be. How’s that for evasive? It is a fascinating story, mainly because it seems like it could take place anywhere and at any time, but because it’s in Nazi Germany, Hanna can add layers of paranoia and suspicion to the entire thing. This helps make the Major’s scheme more bold but also more dangerous.

The biggest problem I have with this book is the ending is a bit abrupt. We don’t get a sense of what the Major is doing until pages 9/10, and then, suddenly, the book is over. As this is a relatively short comic overall, we haven’t gotten a good sense of the Major as a character, so his scheme is all we have. It’s an ingenious scheme, but, as I wrote, it’s revealed so late that we don’t really get to know why he’s doing this before the book ends. Hanna spends so much time showing us how he plots out what he’s doing that he himself gets a bit lost. I don’t even know if an extra issue was needed – maybe only a few more pages would have been enough.

Still, it’s a keen story. It appears that Boom! will offer this in a trade for 10 bucks, which makes a bit more sense. It’s totally worth a look.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Who doesn't love a whistled rendition of 'O, Tannenbaum'?

Pigs #5 (“San Quentin Blues”) by Nate Cosby (writer), Ben McCool (writer), Breno Tamura (artist), Kevin Colden (colorist), Jordan Bellaire (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Here’s another comic that I should like more than I do. It had that great first issue ending, it has a cool hook, it has some good action … but it’s just not clicking for me. I like it, but I don’t love it, and it’s starting to bug me. It just seems like Cosby and McCool have a lot of cool shit that they’re holding back, for some reason, and while I appreciate taking your time to tell a story, sometimes it’s better to simply chuck everything against the wall and see what sticks, right? Just when Cosby and McCool hit us with something awesome, they seem to pull back and slow everything down. This is motherfucking comics, after all, not a novel that conceivably be read in one sitting, so to hold stuff back in a serial storytelling system doesn’t seem very nice. I could be wrong, of course, and Cosby and McCool don’t have a lot of cool shit that they’re withholding from us, but it’s how this feels, and that kind of pisses me off. I mean, I’m still waiting to find out what happened with the great ending of that first issue – don’t drop that shit on us and then barely mention it again! Sigh.

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Anyway, this issue is confusing for a different reason than The Activity. The team needs to kill someone in San Quentin. We don’t know who and we don’t know why. So they decide to hire a felon to do the job for them because they think trying to break into prison is suicide. I think – although I’m not sure – that the dude they’re trying to kill figures it out, turns the table on the guy they hire, and begins torturing him. Is that what happens? I hope so, because that’s what I’m seeing. But unless I’m forgetting something, we don’t know why they’re trying to kill this dude, so his bad-assery has no context, and while he’s certainly bad-ass, he also seems crazy, and it seems like it’s just crazy for crazy’s sake. I mean, I know we’ll find out what’s going on in future issues, but when you come at him cold, he just seems goofy rather than scary. It’s that problem with the book that I mentioned above – Cosby and McCool seem to have a lot of interesting stuff up their sleeves, but they’re getting to it in a really roundabout way. That’s fine if it’s really, really intriguing, but overall, Pigs isn’t. The cool parts don’t compensate for the annoying parts.

Again, I’ve pre-ordered the next few issues, and I keep hoping this will grab me in some way, but it’s not right now. We’ll see.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

There's not enough cursing in this panel

Scalped #55 (“Knuckle Up: Conclusion”) by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

On his blog, Jason Aaron, a good Southern gentleman, is proud of the Alabama Crimson Tide for their victory on Monday which gave them the Mythical National Championship. Even though they lost to LSU earlier in the year (I hate LSU AND Alabama, so Monday night was a lose-lose for me). Even though the NCAA insists that the college football regular season is meaningful when, apparently, it’s not. Even though Alabama didn’t win its conference. Even though Nick Saban, one of the slimiest men in college football, routinely skirts the rules by oversigning, something SEC teams do with FAR greater frequency than other conferences (and which Les Miles does too). Even though the media creates this myth about SEC teams being so much better than every other team even though they rarely play road non-conference games and never play teams in adverse conditions and play bowl games in Florida and Louisiana so they’re like home games. Even though the myth becomes self-fulfilling when media members rank SEC teams really high and then never vote other teams over them even if, like Alabama, they don’t win their conference or even the division of the conference in which they play. Even though the three-lowest ratings for BCS championship games have been when teams that don’t win their conference play in them, which shows that the public in general doesn’t buy this bullshit. But hey, good for the Tide.

But then Aaron says that Wolverine is an Alabama fan. Well, I have to call bullshit. Just because Aaron happens to be writing Wolverine’s adventures these days doesn’t mean he gets to decide which sports teams Wolverine likes. Wolverine, a Canadian, probably doesn’t give a shit about American college football, and if he did, why would he root for a team run by the slimiest man in the sport? I don’t know which college team Wolverine would root for (Michigan, maybe?), but it wouldn’t be the Tide. Why would it be? As a mutant, Wolverine stands up for the underdog. For decades, Alabama hasn’t been an underdog. No great football factory school has been. Wolverine would be a fan of some Division III school that never gets a shot at the big boys. Or a Division I-A school (I refuse to use FBS to designate them) that doesn’t play in one of the power conferences so never gets a chance to win the MNC. He’d be a fan of Boise State or TCU or Utah.

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Not that I’m bitter or anything about college football this year. I mean, why would I be?

Anyway, that doesn’t change the fact that Scalped is zooming toward its conclusion, and Aaron is doing a phenomenal job getting everything in order for the big finish. In this issue, we get two huge developments and, I guess, another one which isn’t quite as huge but is still important. I can’t really write too much about it, but I will say that the issue begins with a big fight between Shunka and Dashiell, and it’s awesome. You know how in superhero comics, as cool as the fights might be (and some artists are really good at drawing fights), you don’t often get the sense that anyone is getting hurt, mainly because no one ever does? I mean, even Wolverine might have his guts hanging out, but you don’t really get the sense that it hurts him, because he’s not going to die. Well, when Dash and Shunka start going at each other, you really get the sense that it hurts them both. It’s a painful fight to watch, and it’s wonderfully choreographed by Guéra and Aaron. There’s a real sense of tension when Shunka is holding his knife over Dash’s face, because you really don’t know if Dash will be able to hold him off or if he’s about to be horribly wounded. Both men suffer in the fight, and we can feel every wound they inflict on each other. It’s quite excellent.

And then two or maybe three important developments develop. Hoo boy, this is a good series. You’re going to miss it, aren’t you?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Or this one, honestly

Secret Avengers #21 (“Final Level”) by Warren Ellis (writer), Stuart Immonen (penciler), Wade von Grawbadger (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Ellis’s marvelous run on Secret Avengers doesn’t wrap up with a big showdown with the Shadow Council, which is pretty keen, actually. It does end with what appears to be one of their grand plans, but Ellis doesn’t wipe them out, which makes them a bit more scary and interesting – too often in superhero comics, the big organization falls apart easily and then reforms easily, and Ellis isn’t interested in that route. Basically, for all the good they’ve done in these six issues, Steve Rogers and his Misfit Toy Avengers don’t solve the problem, but that doesn’t mean this is a bleak comic. They stop a fairly big evil thing, after all, and do it quite niftily. It’s just interesting to note the difference between a great writer and a decent one – Edmondson, in The Activity, has Weatherman state that they’re just doing one small job and there will always be loose ends, while Ellis doesn’t feel the need to point that out. Edmondson is a pretty good writer, but he does have some things to learn.

Anyway, Immonen draws the shit out of this, and all the Secret Avengers are in play this time, and it’s yet another impressive single-issue story. The one problem I always have with Ellis is that his characters often sound the same, and when it’s someone like Valkyrie who has rarely had a strong personality, it’s fine, but when it’s Steve Rogers, it sounds weirdly out of character sometimes. Maybe I’ve been missing something, but this Steve Rogers who’s okay with torture as long as he doesn’t personally administer it sounds off. He’s not bluffing, either, so it’s not that. It sounds more like an Ellisian thing for the character to say than a Rogersian thing, if you know what I mean. But that’s a minor complaint. (Well, it was for me. David Brothers had more of a problem with it.) Your standard Ellis character is far more interesting than probably 90% of the comics characters out there, so I can deal with it.

Dang, this was a nice run. I encourage everyone to pick up the trade, because you won’t be sorry. I won’t get the Rick Remender run in single issues, but I might get it in trade. He’s going to have a hard act to follow!

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Ellis writes a good Valkyrie

Seven Warriors #3 (of 3) by Michaël Le Galli (writer), Francis Manapul (artist), Christelle Moulart (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Deron Bennett (letterer). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Unlike Operation: Broken Wings, Seven Warriors isn’t all that good in the final analysis, and that’s too bad. First of all, Manapul’s art looks far sloppier in this part than in the first part, and given that I’m sure this was probably released in one album in France, that’s kind of odd. To be sure, there are some gorgeous panels, but overall, it’s sloppy.

Like Operation: Broken Wings, the story just isn’t long enough to accommodate the ambition of Le Galli’s story. That comic benefited from having only one real character and a nifty scheme, while Seven Warriors has a larger cast and a slightly more complex narrative. So we really don’t know the characters all that well, so we don’t care when they start getting killed, and the narrative comes back around to the weird “drugged and statutory rape” scene from the first issue, which is supposed to provide the climax of the book but instead simply seems to bring it to a halt. Once the survivors realize what has happened, they simply … stop. The book ends a few pages later, and there seems to be no point whatsoever. It’s not like this is some existential tract – it’s genre fiction, so the plot is kinda important. Le Galli gets that, until he doesn’t. Maybe the French just can’t resist going all existential on us!

So this is a disappointing comic book. I imagine it could have easily been longer and Le Galli could have done a lot more with the characters to make us care about them, but as it stands, we don’t. They’re just vehicles for the plot, which falls apart at the end. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Ah, the calm before the storm, metaphorically

Severed #6 (of 7) (“Permanent Teeth”) by Scott Snyder (writer), Scott Tuft (writer), Attila Futaki (artist), Greg Guilhaumond (colorist), and Fonografiks (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

As you may recall, I’ve been waiting for the kid characters in Severed to stop being so stupid, and in this issue, Jack finally stops being so stupid. Of course, he’s still a dumb kid, so he does something dumb at the end, but he’s trying. He gets away from the crazy old man rather cleverly, and he doesn’t accept any lame explanation the old man gives him, but he still misses something fairly important at the end that might have tipped him off. Yes, I’m not being specific. No, I’m not going to be.

Anyway, as a horror story goes, this is better now than it was a few issues ago. I have appreciated the way Snyder and Tuft give us a nice slow burn throughout, but I was starting to worry that Jack was too stupid to care about. I’m still not sure if I care about him, but at least he’s getting a bit smarter. I’m very curious to see how this ends.

Oh, and I’m not quite willing to admit I was wrong about Sam’s fate, but I might be. We’ll see.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

At least he's not COMPLETELY stupid

X-Factor #230 (“They Keep Killing Madrox Part Two”) by Peter David (writer), Emanuela Lupacchino (penciler), Guillermo Ortego (inker), Matt Milla (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

David gives us just a little of Madrox and his dimension-hopping this time around and focuses on the rest of the team as they try to figure out what to do. He also brings in Havok and Polaris, but that’s on the last page so I won’t get into it right now. Basically, it’s a typical Davidian downtime issue, even if the downtime isn’t when nothing’s happening but when things are happening that the team can’t do anything about. And when I write “typical,” I mean pretty darned good, because David is pretty darned good at these sorts of issues. He deals with Wolverine’s ubiquity well and the fact that his presence in the book is somewhat editorially dictated (David doesn’t go all meta on us, but at least Wolverine himself comments that he’s not close with Layla, which is nice). It’s also a humorous issue (see below), as David blends in the jokes well with the serious discussion going on. He also highlights the fact that these characters still communicate with each other outside of the confines of the comic book itself, something I’ve long been in favor of and wish more writers did. The main focus of the issue, however, is the team’s argument over what to do about Guido, given his lack of a soul and all. It’s not badly written, but it is odd whenever comic book characters, who seem to live by their own personal moralities, start talking about religion and Catholicism and Islam as if it’s important in their lives. I mean, we know that Theresa is Catholic and Monet is Muslim, but they never really get into what that means to them, so when they begin discussing Guido’s lack of a soul, it feels off. It’s not that it’s a bad discussion, but it’s just off. Guido makes several good points, and my favorite panel is probably the one where Longshot ignores all the yelling and actually asks Guido how he feels (David does make a joke about it, which is fine, but basically I just like the fact that nobody seems to want to talk to Guido except for the dude who may or may not have a soul himself, based on what we know about his back story). It’s fairly subtle, and David pulls it off pretty well.

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Plus, Lupacchino does the art. Hot diggity, I dig her artwork. Everybody looks awesome.

David does this kind of thing every once in a while, and while it does feel a bit strange, I have to admit that he pays more attention to the “normal” lives of his characters far more than most writers, so I appreciate him even bringing it up. I don’t know how much more we’re going to get about the “Guido has no soul” discussion, but I hope for more. That will make this issue better in context, I think, and it’s pretty good as it is.

Oh, and hey – Shatterstar’s real name is Gaveedra Seven. Who knew?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Peter David must read Kelly's Drunk Cover Solicits!

Burke & Hare by Martin Conaghan (writer), Will Pickering (artist), and Paul McLaren (letterer). $12.99, 71 pgs, BW, Transfuzion Publishing.

This is apparently a bit old – Alan Grant’s introduction is from July 2009 – but it’s new to me! You know those Scots – they just can’t get their comics to these shores in a timely fashion, what with all the haggis-eating and sheep-shagging. I know there was a movie about Burke and Hare recently, but apparently it wasn’t very good. Let’s hope this is!

The Intrepids by Kurtis Wiebe (writer), Scott Kowalchuk (artist), Donna Gregory (colorist), Justin Scott (colorist), Ariana Maher (letterer), and Frank Zigarelli (letterer). $16.99, 129 pgs, FC, Image.

Some bird named Kelly Thompson is quoted on the back of this collection. “It’s vibrant and fun, smart and enthusiastic” says Ms. Thompson. I don’t know this Thompson character, but I’m not sure I want to read anything that she endorses so readily. I mean, chicks reading comics? The outrage!!!!!

Your time-wasting web site of the week: Preshrunk. Just fun T-shirts to peruse!

As (almost) always, we check out The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “No Man’s Land”Billy Joel (1993) “Thanks to the Condo Kings there’s cable now in Zombietown”
2. “Long-Forgotten Fairytale”Magnetic Fields (1999) “There’s an old enchanted castle and the princess there is me”
3. “Zombie Eaters”Faith No More (1989) “I hope you never leave ’cause who would hear me scream”
4. “Tokyo Road”Bon Jovi (1985) “It was a time when no one would die and there wasn’t a care”
5. “Innocent Party”Fish (2003) “You forgot all the rules, lost sight of the ground, didn’t think that you ever could fall”
6. “Zeroes and Ones”Jesus Jones (1993) “There’s more to this than anything that you or I can see”
7. “Rio”Duran Duran (1982) “You know you’re something special and you look like you’re the best”
8. “Silent Night” – Bon Jovi (1985) “It was all so simple when you were to be queen and I’d be your king”
9. “Bushfire” – Midnight Oil (1993) “There is so much to astound me as the whirlpool spins around me”
10. “Come On Home”Indigo Girls (2004) “What if everything we have adds up to nothing”

While I was noodling around on YouTube looking for these videos, I noticed that Van Halen has a new single, “Tattoo.” Man, they look old. The song isn’t great but it’s not terrible, and Eddie still can play a guitar solo like nobody else. Wolfgang plays the bass, which is odd. Anyway, the years have not been kind to the lads. Oh well.

So there’s surgery for the daughter in the offing, so my weekend will be busy, but we hope getting a g-tube will help her out. Perhaps I’ll have pictures next week! Won’t that be fun? I hope everyone has a great weekend!


Tom Fitzpatrick

January 12, 2012 at 3:13 pm

You shouldn’t be afraid of being grumpy for grumpiness’ sake! Find your inner grump and be true to thyself!

Us grumps ought to stick together!

It’s FUN to be grumpy, and to snarl and snap at people! ;-)

For sports where a Canadian team isn’t an option (and even when it is), most Canadians tend to go for geographic closeness (most people in Windsor where I live cheer for Detroit teams, even over Toronto teams). But, don’t discount the random factor. I cheer for the San Francisco 49ers because I randomly decided I liked them when I was a kid — and before the Toronto Raptors existed, I did the same with the San Antonio Spurs because I had a David Robinson basketball card. So, yeah, Wolverine could cheer for Alabama… though he seems like the sort of character who would watch sports but not care about teams. More watch them for the sake of it.

As a longtime Avengers fan – and man this is going to sound so fanboy-ish – I kind of have a problem with the whole concept behind Secret Avengers.
First, I loooooove the characters involved – the mainstay Cap, classic members Black Widow and Beast, former West Coasters-Jim Rhodes and Moon Knight, and ex-Defender Valkyrie.
And the idea of a pro-active group of Avengers seeking out threats while the major teams guard the Earth is an okay concept.
But I’m a bit uncomfortable with Cap as a character endorsing a “black ops group” approach which – at least as it’s been presented by both Brubaker and Ellis – is okay using lethal force when necessary.
It’s one thing to say these are the “secret, pro-active Avengers” and another to basically portray them as kind of the CIA assassination squad. I know the stories haven’t been that extreme, but in the past certain types of violence in the Avengers have been treated as momentous and in this case they’re not given much discussion in the plots.
There was a time when Avengers writers bent over backwards to avoid the implication villains were dying and may even have team members save the bad guy or at least try to. And they even went so far as to have members debate the matter of when it’s appropriate to kill during the Operation: Galactic Storm story and during Englehart’s West Coast Avengers run. How did we get from there to Cap endorsing torture?

Um, and also…
Wouldn’t Captain America be worried about having a “secret” group of anything? Again, nothing wrong with a pro-active Avengers group. But the whole “Captain America assembles a secret team of superheros to globetrot around the world, going where the regular Avengers can’t” just seems like such an out-of-character move. If Tony Stark suggested it, Cap would be the first one to complain about undermining the public’s and government’s and world’s confidence in its heros and in The Avengers brand in particular.

No matter how good a book is, I just can’t see how they justify 20 pages for $3.99 …. I just don’t get it….How will comics survive in the long run like that ?

Brian – Maybe…. you’ve got a point. Also, keep in mind this is the same Cap that went along with hiding the infinity gems. I’m willing to argue that now that Cap is in charge he’s finding it harder to be in control than he originally thought and is forced to make some compromises.

Either way, it’s a killer friggin’ title! Ellis’ scripts have been awesome and I love the rotating artists. We need more books like this. I’m looking forward to the new team (both creators and characters!) though. Even the new Venom is joining!

Um, and also…
Wouldn’t Captain America be worried about having a “secret” group of anything? Again, nothing wrong with a pro-active Avengers group. But the whole “Captain America assembles a secret team of superheros to globetrot around the world, going where the regular Avengers can’t” just seems like such an out-of-character move. If Tony Stark suggested it, Cap would be the first one to complain about undermining the public’s and government’s and world’s confidence in its heros and in The Avengers brand in particular.

Well after Civil War, who knows what Cap’s proper characterization is any more? This is a guy who was a true soldier, who was very into respecting authority, even when he didn’t agree with it. He followed orders when they were given, and if he couldn’t agree with the orders he was given, he quit the job altogether and took on a new identity. When the government fired him, he complied and gave up his Captain America identity.

Meanwhile, Tony Stark thumbed his nose at authority multiple times with his Armor Wars and even faked his death. He had a very questionable relationship to authority.

With Civil War, Captain America goes rogue, disobeys government orders and wages guerilla warfare while Tony Stark toes the government line and kowtows to authority. The reason why they did this was obvious, they wanted to give moral legitimacy to the anti-registration side, and any side Captain America joins is the one that automatically gets the moral legitimacy, but the sides they chose really made no sense to me.

Anyway, my point is that after Cap’s behavior in that event, I could see him running a covert team also, even though I agree with you that traditionally its out of character for him.

Good points guys. Cap’s portrayal in Civil War didn’t bother me too much, just as I’m sure some fans will rationalize his Secret Avengers appearances. But at least Marvel published that one shot meeting between Cap and Iron Man to explain their differences. If we saw a story about Cap’s wrestling with compromises he has to make as head of SHIELD that would be great. Or a mini story arc through the Cap and Avengers books. But right now all were left doing is speculating over changes in character that, at this point, seem based on the whims of certain writers rather than some grand character arc.

Hope this isn’t obvious to everyone but me — but is there a reason Batwoman gets reviewed and not The Shade? It’s not like either book is really part of the “unboot” — and it would seem to be a book you would enjoy; maybe enough to overcome your draining ennui.

Just have your best interests at heart, and all.

I’ve never been too bothered by characters acting “out of character” – maybe it’s because I have only followed a few characters fairly religiously throughout my comics-reading career, so I often don’t know what’s “in character” or not for almost every superhero. I understand the arguments you guys are making, but for me, it’s more about whether I like the story or not, because so many characters have been written so differently. It would be different, I think, if editors came up with a “character bible” for every character and, if a writer wanted to deviate too far from that, they put their foot down and told them no, but that cat is waaaaay out of the bag, so at this point, I don’t care. If the editors and writers are going to change the characters so radically, then all the fans can hope for are good stories.

Becca: I’m very keen to read The Shade, but I’m waiting for the trade. I’ve been doing that more and more with Big Two mini-series, and after the reboot, I decided to do it for almost everything DC publishes. The only exceptions are things that aren’t technically part of the reboot (despite the new #1s), and since Batwoman is basically a continuation of the story that Rucka and Williams were doing a couple of years ago, I’m buying it in single issues. The same holds true for the new T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents mini-series (which is basically the pre-reboot ongoing continued) and Batman, Incorporated. But yes, I’m looking forward to reading The Shade, and the latest issue, with the Darwyn Cooke art, looked pretty nifty.

Ed (A Different One)

January 13, 2012 at 6:57 am

I can understand some folks taking pause with Cap’s characterization in Secret Avengers, but damn they’re such good little single issues that I just try not to think about it and enjoy the sweet Ellisey goodness of it all. It’s kind of like skating on thin ice – if you slow down and think about it, you fall through to the cold, wet unpleasantess. But if you just keep speeding along the surface, it’s one hell of a ride!

And, yes, Remender has quite a hard act to follow, but if there’s any writer at Marvel I’m fascinated with right now, it’s Remender. He’s been able to work some really effective mojo recently with some titles which are, lets face it, very suspect on the surface, and turn them into something unique and good and entertaining (I never in my life thought that I would ever have an X-Force title or a Venom title on my pull list and now, thanks to Remender, I have both at the same time). As such, as much as I hated discovering the Ellis was only doing 6 issues of Secret Avengers, I don’t think they could have picked a better writer to come on board in his wake. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we have another situation like Aaron succeeding Ennis on PunisherMax – just when you thought that no one could come along and walk in the prior guy’s shoes, some guy comes along and walks the living shit out of them.

And speaking of “living shit”, Immonem “draws the living shit” out of just about anything and everything he lifts his pencil to these days. The guy has to be Marvel’s premiere artist at this point.

I will miss Scalped. Watching these final issues come out is like being a smack addict and watching my stash slowly dwindle, knowing my supplier has retired to the Cayman Islands (OK, I have no idea what being a smack addict is like, but if someone held a gun to my head and told me to try, I would imagine it to be like reading the final issues of Scalped).

Good luck to you and the little one with the surgery Greg. I get the impression that it’s not something terribly invasive, and that it may actually help things in the long run, but I will nonetheless keep you guys in what passes for “prayers” in my life. We’ll all be rooting for her . . .

The Ellis run on Secret Avegners is, for the most part*, really bad. When you take a bunch of characters and ignore everything about them that makes them who they are just so you can write the story you want to write… well, that is just bad writing.

Never, ever let Ellis write Steve Rogers. Let him write Bucky or something instead.

(* The BLack Widow isseu being a very notable exception.)

Thanks, Ed. Getting a g-tube is fairly minor surgery, but it’s still surgery, with all the anxiety that goes with that, so we’re hoping for the best!


January 13, 2012 at 10:26 am

not to nitpick, but i’m pretty sure you say Northlanders and Scalped are both moving slowly in your NL review and then in the Scalped one, you say Jason Aaron’s zooming along

Ellis’ Secret Avengers run has been outstanding. And let’s face it, Steve Rogers’ so-called characterization has never been especially deep or well-defined EXACTLY because too many people get bent out of shape whenever they disagree with something Captain America said or did, so he has to be played fast & loose to make sure he never takes a stand on anything beyond “nazis are bad mm’kay?”. So it comes as no surprise to see such a hostile response to a top writer daring to write Steve Rogers doing something controversial. If anything, Ellis’ mistake was to have Rogers turn his back and let his team do the torturin’, instead of doing it himself; but let’s be honest, if he had done THAT the resulting howls of outrage would make werewolves jealous.

Considering that the US military and government themselves don’t exactly rule out torturing terrorist suspects, and Steve Rogers’ traditional role as a metatextual reflection of the American experience, in a way Rogers is just mirroring that controversial official position, and forcing the reader to consider its implications. It’s GOOD when comics make us think a bit, it’s good to see these characters’ familiar symbolism being used as a lens for real issues. Not everything in superhero comics has to be pudding, we can have a little meat sometimes too.

It isn’t about whether torture is okay or not. It is about whether a VERY well-established character would think it was okay or not. (Rogers’ characterization not well-defined? There are very few characters that are nearly as well defined as he is.)

Honestly, I think that anyone who thinks it is in character for him to act like that doesnt’ udnerstand the way the character has been portrayed at all.

As I said… go ahead and tell that story. Just do it with someone else. The bad characterization ruins the story.

Got to agree with Rusty.
Forget having a Captain America character Bible ’cause I can pretty much sum up the broad brush strokes for any writer…
Cap tries to do what he believes is best for the people and America. Sometimes that means working with his government, sometimes that means not working with the government. Sometimes that means agreeing with the public, sometimes that means going against the grain.
But when he faces a controversial decision – whether to work for a corrupt government, whether to oppose the government, whether to kill, whether to torture – he agonizes over it.
And there is no writer who doesn’t recognize that the idea of torture is a controversial decision. So if you’re going to have Cap endorse it, you’d better prepare to make it a story arc – ala some of the better “Cap controversy” stories written by Steve Englehart and Mark Gruenwald – rather than a quick caption in one panel of a story.

Hey Greg,

I understand your not being bothered by characters being written “out of character.”
And despite my concerns above about Cap in Secret Avengers, I can let some things go.
Again, as a longtime Avengers fan, I’ve read stories where Hawkeye was so anti-murder he broke up with his wife over it in West Coast Avengers, only to see Bendis write him as more of a bloodthirsty fighter willing to put an arrow through Norman Osborn and a Skrull.
Cap’s different, though. More iconic. He’s been at the center of several “issues oriented” stories about politics and government and freedom. And frankly any writer who uses Cap in a story has to recognize – just like any writer who employs say Superman or Batman or Wonder Woman – that there are certain things you can do and can’t do with the character.

Good luck with the surgery.

Mark Gruenwald’s ridiculous depiction of a Captain America who freaked out at the idea of killing armed opponents was LAUGHABLE. Are we really expected to buy that this superSOLDIER went throuh WW2 without any enemy blood on his hands? Seriously? So Cap’s platoon passed by enemy forces on the battlefield and what, they just knocked out the armed nazis and moved on, leaving themselves open for a second attack from the enemies they left alive? If that’s the case, did their guns shoot rainbows too? Come on now, the idea that Captain America would be shy about killing opposing forces is ridiculous any way you look at it, and it stands as one of the silliest things Gruenwald ever wrote. And don’t get me started on Cap’s infantile angst after he did what he had to do, far more out-of-character than this little Ellis scene.

And I really can’t agree with the notion that Captain America, when faced with a controversial choice, should “agonize over it.” I really think it’s preferable to handle it the way Ellis did: no angst or hand-wringing or dramatic monologues because this isn’t a young hero who’s unsure about what’s the right thing to do, this is an experienced soldier who doesn’t stop to “agonize” over his decisions during an emergency (if he did, Cap would be a shitty commanding officer). Captain America shouldn’t stop in the middle of a crisis to bite his fist and weep about how the choices he has to make are so hard.

Farbeyondhalford: Good point! I meant the story in Scalped is zooming along, but both it and Northlanders have had breaks in their schedules recently.

Mary: Thanks! Everything went well – I’m sitting next to her in the hospital as I type this!

Pretty good points, Hammerheart.
But …
Ellis has written cap for five minutes. Gruenwald for several years.
You might not have liked the latter’s portrayal, but it helped to establish who Cap is as a character.
And while your “decisive military man” makes sense, one could also argue Cap has grown far beyond that to encompass and represent far more than America’s military might.
So just as this country can be torn over issues like war and torture, so can Cap.
I don’t look at Cap as a “soldier”. Those are his roots, sure. But if he were a just a soldier then since his revival in the 1960s he’d have been advocating for the use of lethal force to bring down the enemy, since there’s clearly a “war” going on with Marvel’s supervillains.

I told you Seven Warriors was iffy.

As for Operation: Whatever’s page count, it was Boom!’s choice to split it on three issues. In France it was published as a single books (as was Seven Warriors). I’m sure it reads better as a single book.

Pedro: Yeah, I don’t know why they split into issues in the first place. I understand doing it for American comics, which are created for the format, but if they had simply offered the two books at 10 bucks each for a trade, that might have been better. Oh well!

I think you nailed Wolverine’s college football preferences (if any). You know the man better than Jason Aaron does.

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