Max Landis' New Comic, "Green Valley," Presents a Fantasy-Free Tale of Knights and Redemption
“Usually girls dance together because the boys are too shy to ask. But this boy – I didn’t know him – he asked me to dance, and so we had the first dance and then the next, and by that time we were talking … And you know what it is when you like someone, you know it at once; well, I liked him such a lot. And we kept on talking and then there was a birthday cake. And he took a bit of marzipan and he just gently put it in my mouth – I remember trying to smile, and blushing, and feeling so foolish – and I fell in love with him just for that, for the gentle way he touched my lips with the marzipan.” (Philip Pullman, from The Amber Spyglass)
The Activity #3 (“The Long Ride Home”) by Nathan Edmondson (writer), Mitch Gerads (artist), Joseph Frazzetta (color assistant), Jordan Gibson (color assistant), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image.
I just pre-ordered issue #5 of The Activity, but that might be the last one I get. After the first issue, which was boring, issue #2 showed some improvement, but this issue is back to being boring again. This should be right up my alley – it’s espionage, man! – and the creative team ought to be fine, but three issues in, and it’s just not clicking. In this issue, for instance, the team is flying home after a mission goes horribly wrong and someone is killed (not one of their team, one of the people they were supposed to get out of Afghanistan). Edmondson wisely doesn’t flash back to the actual mission, as he and Gerads simply show some quick panels of it – ultimately, the mission doesn’t matter too much, because what’s important is that it got screwed up. The focus of the issue is on the rifts within the team, as they argue over the intelligence they received and whether it was smart to go in or not. It’s a clever idea, but the execution is really dull. Edmondson hasn’t given us a good enough idea of the members’ personalities, so their dialogue doesn’t come across as individualized – we don’t know if this person is objecting because that’s what they really think or if Edmondson wants to have someone object to make his points. It’s cliché-ridden dialogue, too, which is annoying, but it would have been less annoying if we could understand each character’s motivation for speaking in clichés. Right now, we don’t, so the entire issue is just the characters spouting stuff that you can hear in any low-rent war movie, where it doesn’t sound convincing either. This leads to a teaser at the end where other groups in the government are using the team just until they crack up, which at least sounds interesting.
It’s frustrating, because the premise of this book is pretty keen, but three issues in, it’s just not working too well. I’ll probably give it two more issues (my retailer tends not to order too many of these kinds of books, so if I don’t pre-order #6, it might not be in the shop), but we’ll see. Dang.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Fables #114 (“Cubs in Toyland Chapter 1: Toy Boat”/”A Revolution in Oz Chapter One: The Treasure House”) by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller, “Cubs”), Shawn McManus (artist/colorist, “Oz”), Steve Leialoha (inker, “Cubs”), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.
Fables is another one of those books that I’ve been thinking about dropping. It’s not that it’s bad, because each issue is usually quite good. But Willingham seems to be committed to writing it indefinitely, and unlike superhero comics, where a new writer can come on and spin the characters a different way, this is Willingham’s baby, so no new writer is coming on … ever. I enjoy reading it, but while I thought he had regained some swagger with the Dark Man story, it ended so weakly that I began to worry, and now, we’re going off in directions that just aren’t that interesting. The best part of this issue was the return to Fabletown and the discovery in the dungeon, where I assume the Fables find Ms. Spratt or whatever she’s calling herself these days (see below) and she will now be a mole inside their organization. The stuff with the North Wind and now the weirdness with Therese’s boat (she’s holding it on the cover there, and I know she lives with magic all the time, but man, you just don’t trust the talking boat, Therese!) just isn’t all that interesting. I know many people think Fables should have ended with the Geppetto’s defeat, but I think Willingham has written some very interesting stories since then, but since issue #100, things seem to be drifting off course. I’m going to read this story arc and see what happens. Meanwhile, stuff happens. Therese follows the directions of her talking boat and leaves home (unwittingly, but she’s gone), Winter is scared that she’s going to grow up to be an Evil North Wind and the other Winds dig that she’s timid, there’s still stuff going on in Oz. You know, like other issues of Fables. Sigh. Maybe I’m just old.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Image’s relaunch of the Extreme properties has gotten a lot of Internet press, and with regard to Glory, it’s totally warranted, because this is a pretty excellent comic book. Keatinge has an unenviable task of summarizing Glory’s history for those people (like me) who never bought an issue of the “old” series, but he does a very nice job. He also has a nice two-page conversation between Glory and Supreme that sums up their ideologies nicely, and he introduces a new character, Riley, who will presumably stand in for the reader and ask the questions we want answered. Riley goes on a quest to find Glory, and ends up in Mont-St.-Michel (I’m not sure why, except that Mont-St.-Michel is awesome – trust me, even though I was a snotty 14-year-old punk when I visited, I still thought it was awesome), where she learns a lot about Glory’s back story. So while a lot of the issue is recap, Keatinge manages to make it an interesting mystery, too.
Campbell’s a wonderful artist, so it’s no surprise that the art on Glory is excellent. He switches from weird alien scenes, superhero physique, and regular folk easily, and like many of the best artists working today, he understands that not everyone in a comic has to be built like a porn star or bodybuilder. His flashback scenes recapping Glory’s history are wonderful, as he eschews panels to blend all the experiences together in one big memory. The only real complaint I have about the art is that Campbell’s odd tick of giving people baby faces, which doesn’t bother me when it comes to Glory but makes Riley, who’s supposed to be in college, look like a 10-year-old. It’s disconcerting. But if that’s the only thing that bugs me about Campbell’s art, I can live with it.
Campbell mentioned to our podcasting ladies in the interview he did with them that he was trying to keep a schedule and was already thinking about when he would need a fill-in artist. I’m puzzled by that, because Image, as far as I know, doesn’t care all that much about schedules, and why wouldn’t they let Campbell slide for a month or so every once in a while? Are these “Extreme” comics trying to emulate DC and Marvel with 12 issues a year, artists be damned? Prophet is already being solicited with a guest artist (it’s Farel Dalrymple, so the quality won’t lessen in any way, but still), but do they really need to keep a monthly schedule? If they want to do guest artists, that’s cool, but it’s an odd tack to take.
Anyway, Glory is very good. It’s pretty much everything you could want in an issue that re-introduces a character and sets up a big story arc. Give it a look! It won’t hurt!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Hellblazer #288 (“Another Season in Hell Part Two: The Lower Depths”) by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), Brian Buccellato (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.
As you know, I like Milligan’s Hellblazer a lot. Milligan has given us a John Constantine who has realized that he’s a dick and is trying, slowly, to be better. Plus, his wife is awesome (see below). And this story arc has started pretty well, as in this issue, he makes a deal with the Devil (that always goes well) and convinces Cheryl to leave Hell, but he makes a promise to her in order for her to leave. So far, so good – John gets a nice taste of what Hell is, we learn some interesting things about John’s past, the screws are being turned. We know everything’s going to go sideways, because it’s Hellblazer, but we don’t know how. John thinks Epiphany is the target of the Devil if he (John, that is) fails to convince Cheryl to leave, but I always thought it might be Gemma. The way Milligan gets around to Gemma, however, is nifty.
You know there’s a “but” coming, right? Of course there is! So, in order to get out of his promise to Cheryl, John … crosses his fingers. Really? And the Devil calls him on it. Motherfucking really? I almost choked on my Brazil nuts when I read that. What are we, 9 years old? I know that in Hell, every gesture is significant and every deal means something and that’s what Milligan is going for here, but when the Devil said “I also saw that you had you fingers crossed,” I chuckled, and I don’t think that’s what I was supposed to do. But it was just so silly. John lies all the time, so he actually thought to cross his fingers before he made a promise to his sister? Wouldn’t he just tell her anything she wanted to hear and not care that he was lying? Again, I get that he was talking to his sister, so maybe he takes that more seriously, but still. Plus, there’s the fact that what he promised her to do doesn’t sound too hard – well, it might be hard, but it doesn’t sound impossible, and honestly, what the hell else does John have to do? It’s not like he has a job or anything.
So I liked most of this issue, but that was really laughable. I don’t think it was supposed to be. Oh well. A weird misstep every now and then in Milligan’s run is fine. But that was bizarre.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
“The Lazarus Tree” arc comes to an end, as Moriarty and George Orwell head into the jungle (this entire arc has a very “Heart of Darkness” vibe to it) and find the tree, and it’s as weird as promised. Moriarty speaks of dark matter and quantum mechanics, and in the end, it appears he resets reality to a degree, but it’s not clear (well, maybe it’s clear to some people, but not to me – I’m a bit dim, if you recall). The entire nine issues, despite being separated into two arcs, form one long story, and Corey and Deicidue end it pretty well. Moriarty is an interesting protagonist – he’s clearly not a nice guy, but he’s not necessarily villainous, either. He seems much more in sync with the original version of Moriarty, who’s really not much of a presence in the Holmes canon but was always defined by Sherlock Holmes rather than by his actions and never seemed all that evil to me, at least. I mean, Holmes is a sociopath, but nobody is calling him a villain, right? So Moriarty, the comic book series, shows that Moriarty, the character, does some bad things, but he’s not all that more evil than others around him, he just happens to be far more intelligent than they are and doesn’t suffer fools.
In the backmatter, the creators don’t mention that this is the final issue of the series, but it’s worth noting that it hasn’t been solicited in the past two Previews, so who knows what’s going on with it. Perhaps they needed a break. I’d miss this series – it’s not the greatest comic book in the world, but it’s a neat read, so I hope Corey and Diecidue have more Moriarty stories to tell. That’d be nice.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Jeff Parker is having way too much fun writing comics these days. I haven’t been reading his Hulk recently (I got the first trade and liked it well enough, but not enough to run out and get the single issues), but over in the cyber-world, he recently wrapped up Bucko (with the delightful Erika Moen on art, if you recall), which featured a Juggalo queen (Juggalette?), among other wacky characters, and a policewoman’s ass cheeks on a window (totally Parker’s idea, according to Moen), plus he’s going a bit nuts on Thunderbolts, which this time around features a dragon (see below) and Grendel’s brother and his fellow monsters busting out of prison (Boomerang released them, but they still come busting out) and Moonstone getting all moralistic on Lancelot and Guinevere (and using the word “cuckolded,” which really doesn’t get used often enough these days) and that ending. Man, that ending is awesome. Parker just doesn’t care about logic – he’s writing comics, dang it, and he’s going to have fun doing it. Luckily, he’s talented enough that Thunderbolts continues to be a blast-and-a-half to read. It’s quite refreshing!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Two issues of Wasteland have come out in 2012 and it’s only February. You know something is up with that!
You’ll also notice that many, many comic book artists homage other comic book art in their covers, but Christopher Mitten is too snooty for that – he homages 16th-century Renaissance paintings! Suck on it, Steranko homages!
Johnston continues the latest story arc, with “I’m not Jesus” there on the cover (ironically, he really means that his name is Steve, not “Hay-zoos”) telling everyone who he is but nobody really understanding what that means (because they don’t have Google, but they do have the Bible, where it’s spelled out pretty explicitly). (On a side note, the Bible is a pretty cool book in general, but the Pentateuch is really neat. There’s a lot in there that’s not explored but seems to indicate that the world was a lot weirder back in the day, and it’s no wonder that authors have found fertile ground for fiction in the first few books of the Bible, because it’s like whoever put it together had all this cool knowledge but was really trying to stay on point.) Of course, the townspeople are still suspicious of Abi, Michael, and Gerr, and that comes to a bit of a head in this issue. Johnston has always put religion in the forefront of this series, and it’s always been interesting how he handles it, so the fact that he’s making it a focus of this arc isn’t surprising, nor is the fact that it’s pretty darned keen. Yes, the townspeople are scared, but considering what has happened, it’s not surprising that they’re scared. People react strangely when they’re scared, so even if we don’t like how the townspeople treat our heroes, we can certainly understand why they’re acting the way they are.
Johnston also manages to tie this into Abi’s past and the events back in Newbegin. As always with this comic, he’s not afraid to drop hints and connections, trusting that either we’ll get them all or go back and want to read each issue again. I like books like Wasteland because it’s not only a singular vision, but it’s a story with an ending, so when it’s all done, I can re-read it like a book and see the whole picture. That makes the issues intriguing because we know there’s going to be a pay-off to it all, even if I don’t quite get it right now. I’m patient!
Greenwood is doing a good job so far – his art isn’t as idiosyncratic as Mitten’s and therefore the book doesn’t feel as … dusty, I guess, for lack of a better word, as it used to, but he interprets the scripts nicely, and the one page with the flashback to Biblical days is shaded and inked differently, giving it a nice, distinctive look, which is pretty neat. I don’t love Greenwood’s art (not yet, anyway), but it gets the job done. That’s the first job of the artist, isn’t it?
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
X-Factor #232 (“They Keep Killing Madrox: Conclusion”) by Peter David (writer), Emanuela Lupacchino (penciler), Guillermo Ortego (inker), Matt Milla (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.
Comics are a visual medium. I don’t think that’s all that revolutionary, yet often, some of the visual aspects of comics are shortchanged, and covers are often in that category. Obviously, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of wonderful covers each year, and David Yardin is one of the better cover artists right now, but there are probably more dull covers than not, and that’s too bad. Even great covers sometimes don’t take advantage of the idea of cover art and what it can do for a book. And then we get this cover, which, even if you’ve never read an issue of X-Factor, has to tempt you, doesn’t it? First of all, the colors just draw you in. So psychedelic, but so amazing and bright, and this comic really stood out on the table this week (even if I wasn’t already buying it). But then you notice the fact that the dude is dressed like Dr. Strange but has a flaming blue head, so it’s Dormammu, which is intriguing, and the way Yardin draws the flames around Madrox is pretty cool, too. The cover is well designed, too – everything swirls around Madrox, and the spiral ends up right in the center of his face, highlighting his anguish. This is a gorgeous piece of work, and it’s always nice to see when a cover artist comes up with something different. If we just had the figures with no flames and no funky colors, this is a dull cover showing a bad guy defeating a good guy. But Yardin goes beyond that, and that’s why it’s a great cover.
David ends the dimension-jumping arc by putting Madrox in a place where Dr. Strange can help him get home, but as usual with David’s comics, it doesn’t end neatly. It is, as usual, wildly entertaining, full of plot twists and bad humor, and while I knew it was coming eventually, seeing Jamie finally hook up with Layla is as oogy as I thought it would be. But that’s just me. Lupacchino and Milla, especially, are in fine form, as this comic looks positively Day-Glo in some places – there’s a lot of magic flying around, and magic in comics means COLORS!!!! It’s a beautiful comic to look at, naturally, and it’s always bittersweet when Lupacchino finishes an arc, because I fear someone will see how good she is and poach her away to some book I don’t want to read.
I never want to say too much about David’s scripts, because there are usually a lot of surprises, and there are a few here. Like Thunderbolts, the single issues of X-Factor are very fun to read, because both writers know how to pack a lot into the limited space. David seems to have more subplots in the hopper, but his monthly installments are full of cool stuff, and I appreciate it!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Uncanny X-Force vol. 2: Deathlok Nation by Rick Remender (writer), Esad Ribic (penciler), John Lucas (inker), Rafael Albuquerque (artist, issue #5.1), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Dean White (colorist, issue #5.1), and Cory Petit (letterer). $15.99, 94 pgs, FC, Marvel.
I believe issue #21 of Uncanny X-Force just came out, right? So this is only a little over a year behind the book, which I guess isn’t that bad. I mean, it’s annoying, but what are you going to do, right? It’s not like Marvel could easily have it out sooner, right? That would be CRAZY!!!!!
Whispers in the Walls by David Muñoz (writer), Tirso (artist), Javi Montes (colorist), Alex Donoghue (translator), and Quentin Donoghue (translator). $19.95, 166 pgs, FC, Humanoids.
I’m annoyed by this for a different reason. Humanoids published three issues of this and then bailed on it, instead offering it as a single collection. Why they couldn’t do that in the first place is beyond me. Tirso’s art, which is quite good, was cramped in the smaller format, and it looks much better now, in a book with larger dimensions. Grrrrr, Humanoids. Buying multiple copies when I don’t want to makes me grumpy.
So Disney is releasing John Carter, which looks like a big dumb action movie riddled with clichés (Carter actually says, in the commercial, that they didn’t start the war but they’ll finish it, so I shudder to think what the rest of the dialogue sounds like if that old chestnut is one of their selling points). I really, really hope that there’s some obscure legal reason that they can’t call it Warlord of Mars, because John Carter is a dull-as-dishwater title, while I might be tempted to go see a movie called Warlord of Mars. Try it with someone you know! “Hey, do want to go see John Carter?” “Meh.” “Do you want to go see Warlord of Mars?” “Hell, yeah!” (According to Wikipedia, Andrew Stanton – director of Finding Nemo and the overrated WALL-E – yeah, I went there – called it John Carter for no good reason, just that they apparently wanted to drive people away from the theaters. Of course, the people at Pixar also said they changed the look of Mars because Frank Frazetta’s illustrations for an earlier attempt at the movie looked “dated,” so can we really trust their judgment?) Anyway, John Carter looks stupid, but it would look a lot less stupid if it had a better title.
I linked to Lisa Hanawalt’s illustrated review of War Horse not too long ago, and now here’s her illustrated review of The Vow. I love reading funny reviews of movies I have no intention of ever seeing.
Speaking of the funny, Greg Hatcher pointed out this blog post on Facebook (you’re all friends with Greg on Facebook, aren’t you?). It’s hilarious. In fact, the entire blog is hilarious, and I wasted some good hours earlier this week reading it.
Just to be goofy, here’s a Nicolas Cage .gif. I’d tell you which one it is, but that would spoil the fun, wouldn’t it?
Speaking of .gifs, if you’re the type of person who likes to look at Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue cover models, I encourage you to check this out. If you’re the type of person who likes to look at Sport Illustrated swimsuit issue cover models and you have a heart condition, I strongly encourage you NOT to check it out. Seriously, people, think of your health!
Speaking of SI‘s swimsuit issue, it came out this week. I can take it or leave it (believe me, I like looking at it, but I probably wouldn’t notice if they didn’t publish it, as I went about 15 years between subscribing to the magazine and didn’t miss it), but it did have this cool-ass picture in it (it’s cropped a bit because it didn’t fit on my scanner, but you get the idea:
That’s model Genevieve Morton standing on the edge of Victoria Falls in Zambia. Now that’s a cool photograph, and it would be if some fat slob (like me, for instance) was standing where Ms. Morton is (sure, it wouldn’t be as attractive, but you get the idea).
This week is the 100th anniversary of Arizona becoming a state (14 February 1912, to be exact, and they were only behind New Mexico and the last of the 48 contiguous states because their state constitution pissed President Taft off and they had to rewrite it), and the newspaper has been full of stuff about our fair land. As you know, I’m not the biggest fan of AZ, although I have gotten more used to it over the decade that I’ve lived here. Its few pros – it’s relatively cheap to live here and my wife’s well-paying job isn’t transferable – outweigh its many cons, unfortunately. But that’s okay, because I have my health! Anyway, the newspaper was packed with trivia about Arizona, but two things stood out. Experts still can’t decide where the name “Arizona” came from. Most people agree that it’s derived from a Tohono O’odham word, but there’s a debate about which etymology is correct. At least one person thinks it’s from a Basque word, which isn’t that crazy because of the Spanish presence, but is still a little weak. The other bit of trivia that I always find fascinating (I’ve known it for some time) is that we have a Broadway Road in Phoenix, but unlike other places where it’s usually taken from the famous street in New York (which was so named because at Wall Street it was once really wide), our Broadway is named after Noah Broadway, who was the sheriff of Maricopa County in the 1890s. Isn’t that keen?
Finally, remember to follow my daughter on Twitter. My wife added a photo of the precocious one, and it’s awesome. As I wrote last week, she doesn’t tweet that often, but it’s all about quality, not quantity!
How about we get our grooves on with The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):
1. “Smart Bomb” – Chumbawamba (2000) “Shine on me oh benign virus”
2. “Hoof” – Mary’s Danish (1991) “I wasn’t going to tell you, but since I got no one to tell”
3. “Downs” – Hamell on Trial (2003) “I thanked God for what I had, and what they did prescribe”
4. “Dreamer” – Supertramp (1974) “I said ‘Far out – What a day, a year, a laugh it is!'”
5. “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” – Prince (1982) “Don’t you want to be my fantasy?”1
6. “Push” – Prince (1991) “Did you ever stop to wonder why you put another down?”
7. “Genie in a Bottle” – Christina Aguilera (1999) “You’re licking your lips and blowing kisses my way, but that don’t mean I’m gonna give it away”
8. “Here I Go Again”2 – Whitesnake (1987) “Like a drifter I was born to walk alone”
9. “I’m On to You” – Neil Diamond (2005) “Tell me now how I was wrong and I’ll tell you how right you are”
10. “Alone Again in the Lap of Luxury” – Marillion (1994) “Mum always was a fool for money and charm”3
1 “I’m not saying this just to be nasty, I sincerely want to fuck the taste out of your mouth.” Bwah-ha-ha. Prince has probably gotten more tail than most of us can even dream about, and I’m clueless as to why. He’s ugly, short, and crude. Just what the chicks like, I guess! He must be really good in the sack, and all the wimmins must have talked about that, because that’s the only way I can understand him getting laid so much back in the day (and probably even today). Chicks, man. Who can fathom them, amirite?
2 Nobody smolders like David Coverdale!!!!
3 I’m going to see Marillion in concert on 15 June. I’m very excited. I saw them in 1990, but it’s been years since they toured North America, so even though I have to fly to Philadelphia to see them, I’m doing it! Yee-ha!
I hope everyone has a nice day. It’s good to have nice days, isn’t it?
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