Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
“There were little white puffs of clouds all across it, like a cat stepped in milk and then walked across the blue. I thought it was so beautiful I told Dmetro about it. He just stared at me. ‘I ain’t looked at the sky in ten years,’ he said.” (W. P. Kinsella, from The Iowa Baseball Confederacy)
So this is only two weeks late arriving in Arizona, which makes me think Bill Reed was serious when he said he would keep me from getting it. Who knew he was so powerful?
As far as endings of mini-series go, volume 6 doesn’t have the best one (Volume 5’s is better, for instance), but it’s still a grand and exciting and fun comic. Even the almost five (5) pages of massive exposition in the middle of the issue isn’t too bad, because it’s fairly interesting. Robo finally confronts the “ghost” who has been manipulating him and his team, and it’s a clever idea by Clevinger/Wegener – what happens when Robo is faced with something very much like him? We know what he’s going to do, but it’s interesting how Clevinger presents the case the bad guy is making and why Robo chooses the “good” path. Wegener gets to have some fun trashing Robo, which doesn’t happen that often, so I’m sure he had fun with it. This isn’t the most ass-kicking issue of Atomic Robo, but as this volume was more of a mystery, it’s nice that Clevinger had a nifty ending to it.
I have to rant a bit, however. On the recap page, we see this sentence – the first one we read, mind you: “Atomic Robo was lead into orbit on the false pretense of rescuing stranded astronauts.” I’ve seen this quite a lot recently, and it’s starting to bug me almost as much as the “lie/lay” problem* far too many people seem to have. The past tense of “lead” (pronounced “leeeeeed” – yes, I’m stretching it out for effect) is “led.” Yes, the metal “lead” (Pb, atomic number 82) is pronounced the same way as the past tense of “leeeeeed,” but that doesn’t mean you should use the spelling “lead” to indicate the past tense of “leeeeeed.” I’ve given up worrying about shitty grammar when comic book characters talk to each other, because apparently “that’s how people talk,” but this is annoying because it’s not two characters talking to each other, it’s the official recap written by someone who should know better. I know, I’m just being all “square” and “nerdy,” but if you’re not going to bother to learn how to speak and write English, the language of your birth (obviously, this only applies to those for whom English is their native language), then you deserve to be criticized. I’m sorry that our rich, rich language has homophones, but that’s the way it is. Sorry for the rant. This kind of stuff just bugs me.
* “Lie” should be used almost all the time when you say “lay.” “I’m laying down,” meaning you are prone on the bed, is incorrect. This is ridiculously easy – any time you’re about to say “lay,” just change it to “lie.” Ninety percent of the time you’ll be correct.**
** Okay, I made up the percentage. But probably.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
I know that covers are done several months in advance, but this one is silly. This issue has nothing to do with Jocasta getting killed at all, because last issue revealed the answer to that mystery. This is the first time David Yardin has done a cover for this book, so it’s not like they needed to keep a consistent look on the covers, so couldn’t they have gotten someone to throw a cover together once they realized that this one is completely misleading? Oh well – don’t buy this thinking it’s all about the mystery of who “killed” Jocasta!
This issue is very talky, with some random idiotic fisticuffs thrown in to give Grummett something to do, but mainly it’s just the Avenger teachers and their students standing around debating with Jeremy Briggs (the rich dude who poached Veil away from the team) about whether the Academy should continue. It’s a way for Gage to clear some of the cast from a few issues back, because it had too much potential to be cluttery. He pares the tree, so to speak, and then reveals who was behind the whole “Reptil from the future” thing on the final page. It’s not the most exciting issue, but it gives Gage a chance to continue with his unusual tack with this series, that is, trying to figure out a way to write a superhero comic without having everyone fight all the time. It’s an admirable sentiment, and it’s nice that he seems to be succeeding, for the most part.
A few things, however, annoy me. Gage goes to great lengths to show the Academy and Briggs’s group as working toward the same goal with perhaps some different methods, and they decide to part as friends and possible allies. Then, in one panel, Gage implies that Briggs is the villain the Avengers think he is, and if that’s true, I will be sorely disappointed. That would turn this into another simplistic “hero-vs.-villain” fight, with Veil needing to make a choice about her true alignment, and that’s a story all of us have read before, and it’s kind of boring. I know I’m extrapolating from one panel, but it’s such an obvious panel that I don’t believe it isn’t implying what I think it is. Then there’s the final page. I’m not going to reveal what it is, but I always love when comic book writers show scenes from the future, because, of course, comic book characters never age. The person they show looks far older than 20 years older than today, and it will never come to pass, anyway. I know it’s supposed to be portentous and shit, but it’s kind of silly, because comic book readers are cynical bastards who know this crap will never happen. Remember, the dystopian future of “Days of Future Past” happened … last year, in 2011. Yes, I know it has now happened on an alternate Earth, but that’s not what Claremont and Byrne intended. Twenty years from now, the world will not look anything like the way Gage and Grummett portray it. I know, it’s nitpicking, but it’s my column, dang it, and I can nitpick if I want to!
Finally, there’s the letters page, which contains one letter from someone who is dropping the book because Gage made Striker gay. The writer claims it’s not because Striker is actually gay, but because Gage put his own politics into the book. How someone being gay is “political” is symptomatic of what’s wrong with this country these days, but whatever. If the dude wants to drop the book because a drawing had a word balloon next to it with some writing in it, that’s fine. What cracked me up about the letter is this passage: “If you really want to address a minority in comics, how about featuring a conservative, Christian or businessman? Oh, I’m sorry, a conservative, Christian or businessman that isn’t a villain/racist/homophobe/monster?” Now, if that dude is saying that those groups are underrepresented in comics, he might – but probably doesn’t – have a point. If he’s saying those groups are actual minorities, he’s a complete idiot. Because I choose to believe he’s not a complete idiot, I can only assume he means that they are minorities in comics, but are they? I’ve asked the question about the lack of Christians in comics before, but mainly because religion – of any kind – seems to have no effect on any characters in comics. But I think it’s more a lack of religion rather than anyone actively trying to keep Christians out of their comics. I’ve also argued that superhero comics are inherently conservative, so just because there’s no heroic Rick Santorum character in a comic book doesn’t mean it’s not conservative. But, whatever. Gage answers the dude’s complaints a lot better than I can. I just thought the letter was almost as entertaining as the actual issue. You should buy it just for the letter and Gage’s response!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
So I already reviewed this. Just go read that!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Dark Horse Presents #9. “Tony Masso’s Finest Hour” by Mike Mignola (writer), Joe Querio (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer); “The Massive: Bay of Bengal – 1984″ by Brian Wood (writer), Kristian Donaldson (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer); “1969” by Paul Pope (writer/artist); “Concrete Park Book 1, Chapter 3: You Send Me” by Tony Puryear (writer/artist/colorist); “Edgar Allan Poe’s The City in the Sea” by Richard Corben (adapter/artist) and Nate Piekos (letterer); “The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne Part Two: The Vicar Slash’d from Side to Side” by Rich Johnston (writer), Simon Rohrmüller (artist), and Jim Reddington (letterer); “The Once and Future Tarzan, Part Two” by Alan Gordon (writer), Tom Yeates (conceiver/artist/colorist), albabe (layouter), Lori Almeida (colorist), and John Workman (letterer); “Amala’s Blade: Skull and Crossbows, Part 1″ by Steve Horton (writer/letterer) and Michael Dialynas (artist/colorist); “Alabaster: Wolves” by Caitlín R. Kiernan (writer), Steve Lieber (artist/letterer), and Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist); “Skultar Chapter 3: The Possible” by M. J. Butler (writer) and Mark Wheatley (artist/letterer). $7.99, 80 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.
Now that Chaykin’s story is finished and Neal Adams is taking a break, DHP #9 might be the best issue yet of this series, and that’s saying something, as they’ve all been pretty good. Consider:
1. Mike Mignola’s Lobster Johnson story has a clever twist and is beautifully and moodily illustrated by Joe Querio;
2. Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson’s “The Massive” is looking better, weirder, and more epic with every short chapter – this time we get a kid in Sri Lanka who has an odd experience underwater and becomes a rebel as a result;
3. A Paul Pope story about a moon mission that ISN’T the best story in the book;
4. Tony Puryear’s continuing odd story, part of which is apparently set on another planet (I’m not sure if that had been clear from the first two chapters);
5. Corben’s creepy adaptation of a Poe story that lets us know that, yes, slavery is bad;
6. The second chapter in Johnston and Rohrmüller’s quaint English murder mystery, which is as fun as the first one;
7. Tarzan in the future!;
8. A new story about a girl infiltrating a pirate ship and running into trouble, wonderfully drawn by Dialynas;
9. Kiernan’s werewolf story, which is coming to comics soon and which is the “worst” story in the book, in that it’s a lot of talking about things we know nothing about (are we supposed to?), but which features cool art by Lieber, so that’s all right;
10. The increasingly hilarious adventures of the fake Skultar, who has blackouts at inconvenient times and which made me laugh out loud 11 times (!) in 8 pages, which is a pretty good laugh-to-page ratio.
Honestly, you’re just cheating yourself if you don’t buy Dark Horse Presents. It’s great value, and of 10 stories in an issue (which is about average, if I’m remembering correctly), usually 7-9 are really good, and the other one (usually Neal Adams’s) is at least wacky enough to be curiously interesting. Ask yourself: Do you really want that issue of Teen Titans or that non-Ivan Reis-drawn issue of Aquaman or that soon-to-be-cancelled Blackhawks (each 20 pages for 3 dollars), or do you want to read good comics? It’s entirely up to you!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
I keep wanting LDB to return to the charming comic it was for the first four issues or so, and it seems to be lurching that way, although I’m not sure if I want to wait that long. In this issue, our hero tries to find a job. That’s it. Now, that might seem wildly dull, but while the actual job search isn’t all that interesting, Struble makes sure to adopt a somewhat detached and bemused tone about LDB’s search, so that it doesn’t drag us down into depression (looking for work sucks, after all) but allows us to see our hero as more of a curiosity rather than a pitiable creature. Yes, it sucks that he can’t find a job (he does eventually find one, to be fair), but it’s more interesting to watch him attempt to find one than it would to be right there beside him. As Struble has resisted delving too far into LDB’s psyche too much, little glimpses of it are far more effective, like when he says he doesn’t like seeing his friend, Drew, bleed (he does that extreme circus stuff occasionally). It’s a nice little moment.
I’m not sure it’s enough, though. Just like the first few issues, when it didn’t seem like LDB should work but did, it’s hard to say what I want out of the book now that it’s not working as well. There’s something missing, and I don’t think it’s just the spark LDB had with Jazmin. Maybe it is. I’m going to get a few more issues while I ponder what to do about it. It’s bugging me.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Mondo #1 (of 3) (“Meekaholic”) by Ted McKeever (writer/artist). $4.99, 33 pgs, BW, Image/Shadowline.
I talked to McKeever about this book last year in San Diego, and he seemed really excited about it, mainly because it’s a 180-degree turn from Meta 4, which was less action-oriented and more thoughtful. Mondo is simply a crazy blast of comics wackiness, even though, as McKeever put it, there are environmental themes running through it. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s pretty frickin’ awesome.
The main character of Mondo is Catfish Mandu, a mostly silent worker at a chicken processing plant in southern California. He’s an old, meek dude who is constantly insulted by his co-workers, and all he says is “B’Gok.” Yes, like a chicken. He’s haunted by a chicken, too, that one day leaves an egg for him outside his apartment. Then, the chicken knocks him into the machine at work that apparently makes the chickens bigger by radiation, because the newscaster later makes the point that the company’s chicken is controversially large. Mandu is encased in chicken meat, but a freak accident releases him, and he discovers that he’s been turned into that dude on the cover. And he then goes on a rampage like the Hulk. Oh, and there’s a roller-skating girl who’s kind of violent (see below). And then Mandu eats the egg and things really get weird.
Yes, it’s insane. But it’s awesome. McKeever has been doing this kind of surreal superhero stuff for decades, and it’s always interesting to see how he can twist our expectations and subvert the way these stories are told. Plus, he knows that it’s helpful to have something more, so I imagine we can expect more of the environmental themes in the next two issues, even as he keeps the insanity level high.
McKeever’s art is, as always, an acquired taste. Some people just don’t like it. However, just like in Meta 4, he’s softened it a bit. There are still the jagged edges that McKeever is famous for, but he’s been using brushes more instead of hard inks, and so the book in general is a bit less harsh than some of his older work. This allows him to do some very interesting stuff with the art – there’s a full-page drawing of what happens to Mandu when he eats the egg, and while it would look very good in McKeever’s old style, it’s superb because the brush strokes make it even more surreal and disturbing, blurring the reality of what’s happening to Mandu so that the picture is a wonderful blend of stark reality and freaky imagination. McKeever has gotten more detailed over the years, and his character designs are wonderful (Mandu’s landlady is a bizarre caricature, while Kitten is all sexpot, but a McKeever sexpot is, of course, a bit more odd than your garden-variety sexpot).
Even though this is 5 bucks, it’s longer than your usual comic, plus it’s Golden-Age sized and it’s printed on very nice paper stock, so it’s totally worth it. If you skipped Meta 4 because it sounded too outré, well, that’s fine, but don’t miss Mondo. It’s a total blast to read.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
I knew Spencer would get back to the time travel soon enough, and sure enough, he does so here, as we catch up with Casey to find out what happened when she was in cave and something weird happened and she apparently went back in time to when her parents were still alive. She is, in fact, in a time when she herself was only three years old, so she’s having problems convincing anyone, including her father, who she is. Hence the handcuffs and “torture light bulb” on the cover. Spencer, however, shows that Hodge has some weird suggestion power, and once she leaves, Casey has it too, so they’re able to escape the army base where they’re being held and get going. It’s not a bad issue, because Spencer does what he’s been doing well recently – answering questions while still making sure the main mystery remains mysterious. So we find out where (or when) Casey escaped to, but there’s still the matter of her changing the way her life turned out and what that will mean for the rest of the group (this is why time travel stories make my head hurt). Meanwhile, we get an interesting scene that is an exact replica of something we saw earlier in the series, except now we have some context. It’s still puzzling, but not as much. It’s clever how Spencer is able to change our perspective, and it probably gave Eisma a break, as he could just re-use art (I wonder if he did – the scene does look exactly the same, but I didn’t go back and check the issue to see if it was laid out exactly the same way).
So yes, it’s a frustrating issue mainly because it’s a textbook example of why I don’t like time travel stories. But because Spencer has built up a lot of goodwill and provided a good foundation, I’m willing to see where he goes with it, even though I fear it won’t make any sense. It’s still a good series, after all!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
I’m now convinced that the weakness of the last story arc (relatively, of course, as it wasn’t all that bad) was the absence of Drake for most of it. He and Becky still haven’t gotten back together, but the past two issues have restored the interesting dynamic that the first 12 issues or so had, where they’re not really attracted to each other (well, not to the point where they want to bump uglies), but they like each other and respect each other and want to look out for each other. So Drake is willing to be a bad guy again as long as the bad guys don’t hurt Becky while Becky is willing to go to a weird-ass town like Penance to find him. Penance, where there are a lot of deformed and diseased people for some reason (which we learn in this issue). Becky also discovers that there’s another town in the mountains, where things are even weirder. Of course, everything goes FUBAR because Becky is toting around the sixth gun, but that’s to be expected. Things are always going to shit around that thing!
Bunn does some really nice work with Becky in this issue, as she tries to stay out of the way of the feud between the two towns, telling everyone who will listen that she just wants Drake back. Becky is a nice character because she cares about certain things and doesn’t allow anything to distract her from that. It’s also nice that Bunn makes her a capable person but not a superhero. She can handle herself but can’t stop that big dude on the cover there from knocking the gun from her hand, because he is, after all, twice as big as she is. She’s a decent person in a world full of shit, and she never succumbs. It’s very cool.
And Hurtt is awesome. Just check out that panel below! You know it’s true!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
20th Century Boys volume 19 by Naoki Urasawa (writer/artist). $12.99, 204 pgs, BW, Viz Signature.
It can’t get any weirder, can it? What, you say it can? Oh, goody.
I’m looking forward to this, not only because it might placate Pedro (you can’t get more European than Belgium!) but because it looks superb. I’m surprised by the price point, because it might drive people away, but that doesn’t bother me, because I’m made of money! Bwah-ha-ha-ha! Food for the kids? Fuck that noise!
So before Kelly broke the Comics Internet, something else almost broke it. If you haven’t read Chris Sims’s take-down of Comic Book Men over on Comics Alliance, perhaps you should. I only watched the first episode (the one being reviewed), and I totally agree with Sims: it sucked. Even better is a cast member responding to the review. It’s pure awesome, not because he makes any good points, but because it’s one of the douchebaggiest things you’ll have read in a while. Awesome.
Here’s another fun thing: Every face punch in Road House. Road House is, of course, a classic, although the only place they show it these days is on AMC, where they cut the line “I used to fuck guys like you in prison,” which is probably in the top ten movie lines of all time. Come on, AMC, nut up!
War of the Farts scroll. That should be enough (right?), but consider that it’s at least 150 years old. Man, the Japanese are awesome.
Okay, it’s time for The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):
1. “Right in Time” – Lucinda Williams (1998) “You left your mark on me, it’s permanent, a tattoo”
2. “White Limo” – Foo Fighters (2011) “Go on with your bad self, what do you see in yourself?”1
3. “The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore” – PJ Harvey (2000) “This isn’t the first time I’ve asked for money or love”2
4. “Rebels of the Sacred Heart” – Flogging Molly (2002) “‘Cause in God’s name they built a barbed wire fence”
5. “Feeding Frenzy” – Midnight Oil (1993) “I don’t want to run and hide, I’ve seen it all from either side”
6. “Excursions” – A Tribe Called Quest (1991) “If it moves your booty then shake, shake it baby”
7. “We Are Young” – fun. (2012) “I’m trying hard to take it back”3
8. “Learning to Fly” – Pink Floyd (1987) “There’s no sensation to compare with this”
9. “Vigil” – Fish (1990) “And you sit there and talk revolution, but can you tell me just who’s in command?”
10. “Greenville” – Lucinda Williams (1998) “When you open your mouth you never say what you mean”
1 I like this song because of the music. I can’t understand one word of the lyrics. Seriously.
2 I really should get Let England Shake, shouldn’t I? On to Amazon!
3 Yes, I learned of this song by watching Glee. Mock if you must!
I hope everyone has a nice day. I’m just here, trying to put the Internet back together. Someone has to!
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