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What I bought – 23 May 2012

“That’s one of the Devil’s main tricks, of course. Fill a man with faith. What evils, what absolute horrors the noble sword of faith sends pouring into the world!” (John Gardner, from Freddy’s Book)



Batman Incorporated #1 (“Demon Star”) by Grant “Matt Seneca can kiss my ass!” Morrison (writer), Chris Burnham (artist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Morrison has had a weird run with Batman, veering between godawful and transcendent, and I wonder if this final 12-issue push is really his last work with the character. Morrison always reads better in toto, so I’d really like to sit down with his entire Batman run over the several titles and read it all at once. He can write very good individual issues, but he also has a penchant for writing with the grand scheme in mind, so they do work once it’s all done. I’ve been enjoying his run on Batman, Incorporated, so I was looking forward to cracking this one open and getting to it. Unfortunately, while it’s not his worst work, it’s certainly not his best.

Occasionally the worst thing you can say about Morrison is that his formalism hides emptiness, so while the work might be dazzling to read, it really doesn’t say anything. Even that Morrison is interesting, which is why I was so depressed about the three issues of Action Comics I read, because they didn’t even have the Morrison style to hide the void inside. This issue is much more stylistic and fun, but it feels very padded once you get right down to it. Leviathan is, yes, taking over everything, but Morrison goes to a lot of effort to tell us something we already know – namely, who’s behind Leviathan. Now, new readers might need this, and I get that, but Morrison has rarely been concerned about getting people up to speed, and there had to be a better way to do it than with the branding on the cows, which, the very first time we and Batman sees it, should have been enough to clue us in. Morrison isn’t working with some brand-new villain, after all. The drama in the book falls flat, not only because we know it’s a trick, but because there’s no reason to stretch out the fact that Damian has a price on his head for the entire book. The comic begins with Bruce getting arrested and then flashes back one month, but we could easily have begun the book with the final few pages and gone from there, which would have cut the fat, so to speak, off of this thing. I’m sure there’s a reason why the bad guy was slaughtering the cows even as Batman and Robin were chasing him, but I’ll be damned if I can figure it out. I don’t know – while reading the words of this comic, I found myself enjoying it even as I wondered why Morrison didn’t get to the point. It’s a weird feeling.

Perhaps G-Mozz just wanted to let Burnham show off, because if Burnham’s work on this comic (both the pre-reboot one and this one) doesn’t make him a superstar, nothing will. He’s precise with his lines, clever with his page layouts (Morrison gives him some leeway with that) and his sound effects, and amazing with his points of view. It’s wildly fun looking at this book without reading it, because Burnham is such a good visual storyteller. The page where the panels are the sides of buildings is a bit gimmicky, sure, but you don’t see many other people doing stuff like it, do you? Burnham has a good ability to make the insane characters in Morrison’s scripts look like they belong in Gotham – not because he makes them look “realistic,” but because he makes everything in Gotham insane.

As always with the less-than-great-but-still-interesting Morrison, I’m willing to see where he’s going with this. This is more lively than those issues of Action, for instance. I’m just not sure if the God of All Comics has anything left to say about the character.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, of course it is

Chew #26 (“Space Cakes Part 1 of 5″) by John Layman (writer/letterer), Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), and Taylor Wells (color assistant). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Layman and Guillory catch up to last year’s issue #27 (which they’ll re-release next month) with this new arc, in which Tony is in hospital after the events of the last arc and his sister, Toni, takes center stage. This is a fairly self-contained story, as Chow Chu (the brother) asks Toni to help him with what he claims is a case – a rival is bidding on artwork that you can taste (remember, every power in this world is connected to food, and the painter can create art that tastes like the food it depicts) and, according to Chow, is planning a big forgery scheme with them. He needs Toni to lick the artwork because she is able to read the future of things she eats – but whatever she takes a bit out of has to be alive, so she’s a bit confused about why Chow needs her. Oh, it’s a scheme, all right!

It’s a bit of a trifling “case” (it turns out it’s not much of one at all), but Layman uses it to bring the Chu family back into the book, remind us who everyone is, and advance the plot a bit at the end (when we finally meet the painter). He also continues the idea of people jumping into bed with each other the slightest opportunity, a running joke in Chew that continues to elicit a chuckle. Without being too obvious about it, he also points out that Toni sabotages her own relationships even as she’s trying to find out if guys are “the one.” Even without our main character, Layman continues to do a fine job with the overall plot and the various people who show up in the book. Consider how well a Batman book would go over if Batman was tied up for five issues getting pummeled and is now in a hospital bed, comatose. Layman doesn’t care – he forges on!

Obviously, the art is amazing. I like how Guillory puts what looks like a Rob Liefeld print in the art auction next to the Mona Lisa. That’s where Liefeld belongs!!!!! I have nothing else to say about Guillory. He’s superb. And he wears natty hats.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Nothing more really needs to be said

Dark Horse Presents #12. “Aliens: Inhuman Condition Chapter 1″ by John Layman (writer/letterer), Sam Kieth (artist/colorist), and John Kalisz (colorist); “The Creep Chapter 2″ by John Arcudi (writer), Jonathan Case (artist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); “Finder: Third World Chapter 10″ by Carla Speed McNeil (writer/artist/letterer), Jenn Manley Lee (colorist), and Bill Mudron (colorist); “Criminal Macabre: They Fight by Night Chapter 3″ by Steve Niles (writer), Christopher Mitten (artist), Michelle Madsen (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); “House of Fun” by Evan Dorkin (writer/artist/letterer) and Sarah Dyer (colorist); “The Occultist: Damned Can Dance Chapter 2″ by Tim Seeley (writer), Victor Drujiniu (artist), Andrew Dalhouse (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); “The Black Beetle: Night Shift” by Francesco Francavilla (writer/artist); “Mister X: Hard Candy Chapter 1″ by Dean Motter (writer/artist); “Nexus: Bad Moon Rising Chapter 1″ by Mike Baron (writer), Steve Rude (artist/letterer), and Glenn Whitmore (colorist); “Sensible City” by Harlan Ellison (writer) and Richard Corben (illustrations); “Sabertooth Vampire” by Mike Russell (writer/artist/letterer) and Bill Mudron (colorist). $7.99, 80 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Sam Kieth puzzles me. Sometimes, his art is breathtaking. Yet too often recently, his art is sloppy and even amateurish. His lines look fuzzy, his poses are terrible, and his details are non-existent. Sometimes, he veers between greatness and awfulness in the space of a couple of pages, as he does in the “Aliens” story in DHP #12. The first few pages, with a girl named Jean walking along a bleak landscape with a talking teddy bear, are beautiful – Kieth’s details are wonderful, and when Jean says she’s going to kill … something (aliens, presumably), her face doesn’t look angry, just sad at what she’s been driven to do. A few pages later, we get a group of what are, I guess, clones fighting aliens, and it’s terrible. The poses look terrible, the aliens look silly, and the way Kieth draws the clones holding guns is ridiculous. I honestly don’t know what to think about Sam Kieth anymore. It’s weird.

Oh, there are other stories in this issue, too. We find out why the Creep is called thus, but the case he’s working on moves along only slowly. McNeil’s “Finder” stories continue to be the charming centers of the issues in which they appear – I don’t know where she’s going with them, if anywhere, but they’re pleasant slices of life of this world. Niles’ Cal McDonald story kicks into another gear, which is nice. Dorkin’s story of the Eltingville Club is goofy, but has a nice twist at the end. Francavilla gives us the back story about the lizard statue the bad guys were looking for in part one of his story, and of course we get his fantastic art to go with it. I’ve always been on the fence about Motter’s Mister X, but it works well in small doses, and this is an intriguing beginning to the mystery. Of course, Baron and the Dude are back with Nexus, and it’s as gorgeous as you expect it to be. I’ve never been able to get around Baron’s detached writing style on Nexus, and that’s the case here – the characters seem like cartoon characters too much, so I don’t care about the story that much. The art is very nice, though. Russell’s Sabertooth Vampire is hilarious.

This is a typically solid issue of DHP, although there have been better ones. Most of the serials running right now have started very recently, either in this issue or the last one, so it’s hard to get a bead on them. It’s not surprising that McNeil’s and Niles’ are the most entertaining in this issue, because they’ve had longer to get going. It’s still a fine comic, though, and I’m glad it’s made it to a year – I guess it’s doing well for Dark Horse!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Surprisingly, this does not inhibit his ability to shoot

Fables #117 (“Cubs in Toyland Chapter 4: Action Figures”/”A Revolution in Oz Chapter 4: General Orders”) by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciler, “Cubs”), Steve Leialoha (inker, “Cubs”), Andrew Pepoy (inker, “Cubs”), Shawn McManus (artist, “Oz”), Lee Loughridge (colorist, “Cubs”), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

On the question of whether I’m going to keep reading Fables after this story arc, the chances are lessening with every issue. I don’t know if it’s my lethargy and unconsciously, I’ve already decided, which is reflecting itself in my emotional responses to each issue, but this arc has been pretty boring, hasn’t it? I mean, four issues in, and finally something happens? And even then, it’s not all that interesting and ends pretty quickly. In this arc, we’ve seen Therese whine about her family, and now she’s whining about being a queen. Darien finds her, enlists some toy soldiers (they’re the best characters in the issue), and … quickly gets defeated (seemingly). I get that the main story is only 17 pages long, but Willingham’s penchant for writing for the trade is catching up with him, due partly to DC’s decision to cut two pages from the comics and, I guess, Buckingham’s inability to produce 20 pages a month, necessitating the back-up story. (Yes, I know I used “penchant” twice in this post. Deal with it). When you only get 17 pages to tell your main story, you have to trim the fat – in this case, 5 pages of Therese whining so that Willingham can introduce two plot points – “the other thing” and the fact that Therese can’t fly … unless those are the same thing, which doesn’t seem likely. Maybe they are, in which case it’s even more annoying. I get that Willingham has never done that with regard to Fables, preferring instead to take his own sweet time, but when the results are as enervating as this, perhaps he should reconsider. The battle is somewhat fun, but because it gets cut off so quickly, it never builds nicely to the crucial moment, making it less impressive than it could have been. Sigh.

I’m still sticking with the book until the end of the arc, and if that’s issue #119, I might pick up #120 just to make it a nice 10-year run with the comic, but my confidence that I’ll continue with it after that keeps sinking. Maybe this just proves that you shouldn’t write stories about whiny kids. They’re not that interesting!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Impotence joke in 3 ... 2 ...

Mind Mgmt #1 by Matt Kindt (writer/artist). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

I’ve been looking forward to Mind Mgmt for a while (I think Kindt said something about it last summer, so at least that long), and it doesn’t disappoint. The basic story, so far, is that two years ago something happened to almost every person on a particular airplane – they lost their memory. Only a seven-year-old boy retained his. Now a true-crime writer named Meru decides she’s going to investigate the flight to find out what happened. She hasn’t written anything in a while, and she’s out of money, and her agent says he’s not going to send her any more, but if she wants to investigate it, go ahead. Then he calls her with a different story and sends her to Mexico, where people in a small village started making pots and doing nothing else – they wouldn’t eat and they eventually starved. Again, the kids were unaffected. Meru doesn’t know it, but CIA agents are following her, and one of them gets killed, the other one, Bill, decides he needs to contact her directly. And so the hunt is on!

One thing we might know if we read the preview a few weeks ago is that Meru has already started investigating the flight before, but she always forgets about it. So her agent’s attitude toward her “new” idea makes more sense. I may have given the game away, but that’s the way it is. The issue itself doesn’t have too much to do with the flight, because it’s more about establishing this very weird world the characters inhabit. The inside front and back covers have a strip explaining the origins of Mind Mgmt, back in World War I (it has to do with an umbrella), while the first few pages simply show various people killing other people and being killed in turn. Why? Who knows! Kindt even throws in a two-page story about a character being recruited unsuccessfully by Mind Mgmt. Of course, he never gets around to telling us what Mind Mgmt is, which might annoy you or make it more intriguing, depending on your mindset (it’s the latter for me). The edges of the panels indicate that this entire issue is a “Mind Mgmt Field Guide,” with pointers in text that reflect what’s happening on the page. Finally, Kindt himself points out that there are a lot of secrets packed into each issue, including on the back cover (which looks like an advert for chewing gum but was created by Kindt). It makes this a wildly fun book to read, even if you, like me, hate puzzles (and I do so very much).

Kindt’s art is probably an acquired taste, but I love it, because he toys with perspective and layout so much. He doesn’t do too much with the latter in this issue, but he does have some fun with perspective, and unlike many of the DC books these days, he knows the value of a good splash page, so he saves one up for late in the issue, when it has more impact. The coloring on the book is nice, too – it looks painted with watercolors, and it works well on the thin, newspaper-like paper on which it’s printed.

This is an unusual but enjoyable package of a comic, from the writing to the art to the presentation, and it’s kind of fun to see Kindt tackle a monthly comic. He seems to work fairly fast, so I hope he can keep it up!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

It's a mystery!

Near Death #8 by Jay Faerber (writer), Ed Brisson (writer/letterer, “Our Home”), Simone Guglielmini (artist), Jason Copland (artist, “Our Home”), Ron Riley (colorist), Paul Little (colorist, “Our Home”), and Charles Pritchett (letterer). $2.99, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

Faerber writes a nifty little story about three generations of grandfather-father-sons engaged in a blood feud, and the wife of one of the third generation wants Markham to stop it. Markham discovers that it’s not that easy to stop a feud when both participants completely understand what’s at stake and don’t care. The victim has no girlfriend and no kids, so the man planning to kill him thinks it will end if he kills him, but Markham’s client is pregnant and doesn’t want her husband going to jail for murder. What’s a poor ex-hitman to do? I’m not exactly sure how the solution works out (if you’ve read it, does he tell Justin what he’s going to do before he does it?), but it’s not a bad one.

The most important thing in the book is that Naseer shows up again, and it appears that Markham has made a friend. Isn’t that adorable? I’m glad that Faerber kept Naseer around, because in a book like this, the lead needs someone to play off of, and in Seattle, Markham had Detective Cahill (who shows up briefly in this issue), but now he needs someone else. Naseer is an interesting character, and the brief conversation he has with Markham at the end of this issue is illuminating.

There’s a bleak “Murder Book” story in this issue, too. Brisson’s black-as-pitch outlook on life gives us another horribly depressing but gripping story, and Jason Copland draws it nicely. Both Riley (on the main story) and Little (in the back-up) enjoy their blues, so both stories share a nice visual quality.

Near Death continues to be a solid comic book. I don’t know if it will ever rise above that, but I do like reading it, and that’s all that matters!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Everyone loves assassin humor!

Thunderbolts #174 (“Like Lightning Part 3 of 3″) by Jeff Parker (writer), Declan Shalvey (artist), Frank Martin Jr. (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC Marvel.

This came out last week, but last week was a weird one at my comic book store (for the retailer, pulling the comics, at least) and this one didn’t make it into my box. Oh well.

This is the final issue before the book changes its name, and Parker wraps up the whole “Thunderbolts traveling through time” plot rather ingeniously, I think. Even though I’m predisposed to hate time travel stories because of conundrums like this – Fixer screwed up the time line and now the two groups have to figure out how to repair it, which they do. Parker writes some nice jokes, everything gets worked out, and we move on. Yay!

I’ve been reading this comic since issue #150, and it’s really enjoyable. Parker writes these characters well, and he casually reminds us that they’re bad guys when they talk about the people who died when the tower landed – they don’t care about the dead in any way, but they do need them. A superhero team would have to agonize about the people who died, but the Thunderbolts just think, “Hey, what about all those corpses down there?” This book is full of fun little incidents like that, from nice jokes to all the back-stabbing. I’m not sure if it’s a great comic book, but it is a good one, and as Parker told me he’s keeping the book the same even though the title is changing, I’ll stick with it even though the name change is absolutely idiotic. We’ll see what happens!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Best panel of the year so far

The Incredible Adventures of Dog Mendonça and Pizzaboy by Filipe Melo (writer), Juan Cavia (artist), Santiago Villa (colorist), Raylene Lowe (translator), and Pedro Semedo (letterer). $12.99, 116 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

I enjoyed the story in Dark Horse Presents starring these characters, so I hope I’ll like this sucker! And hey – it’s Portuguese!

Interiorae by Gabriella Giandelli (writer/artist), Kim Thompson (translator), and Ben Horak (letterer). $19.99, 144 pgs, FC, Fantagraphics.

This looks odd. Good, but odd. It takes place inside an apartment building in Milan, where strange things are afoot. There’s a giant talking rabbit, for instance. Oh, those wacky Europeans!

Mysterious Traveler: The Steve Ditko Archives volume 3. $39.99, 237 pgs, FC, Fantagraphics.

Ditko = GOOD.

Uncouth Sleuth by Charles Fulp (writer), Craig Rousseau (penciler), Norman Lee (inker), Liquid! (colorist), and Comicraft (letterer). $12.99, 76 pgs, FC, Fulp Fiction.

I hope this is a good comic, but who knows. It’s a parody of an Indiana Jones adventure, with lots of scantily clad women running around and jokes like “I’m looking for a Harry Johnson.” “Shouldn’t be hard to find one in a dress like that.” Yes, I groaned too. But I hope the terrible jokes are part of the fun.

**********

Arizonan politicians occasionally look around the country and think, “You know, other states are acting a bit crazier than we are recently, so we need to step up our game!” I have to think that’s what they do, because how do you explain the AZ Secretary of State, Ken Bennett, asking for information from Hawaii about President Obama’s birth records so he can put the president on the ballot in November? Yes, that really happened. He claims he hasn’t had any requests for Mitt Romney’s birth records, but I expect him to be flooded with requests soon enough. I imagine that the Hawaiians just sigh, roll their eyes, and humor the crazy haoles. Bennett got his proof, in case you’re wondering. I love the way people who don’t like Obama go about saying they’re “birthers” without coming right out and saying it. They say something like “I believe that Obama was born in Hawaii.” Guess what, you idiots, it doesn’t matter whether you “believe” it or not. That’s the thing about facts – they don’t rely on your belief. Saying that is like saying “I believe that monkeys might fly out of your butt at any time” – yes, of course it could happen, but the person saying doesn’t really believe it. But I’m glad that Ken Bennett (who has, coincidentally, endorsed Romney) got his proof. Although Arizona would have seized the Kooky Krown forever (from one of the Carolinas, probably) if Obama wasn’t on the ballot this November. That would have been stupefying.

In case you hadn’t heard, Stephen Colbert managed to make it to #69 on the Maxim 100 Hottest Women of the Year list, thanks to a write-in campaign. Here are pictures of some of the women who finished further down on the list.

Is this the best lawyer commercial ever? I say yes. And yes, that dude is actually a lawyer.

Last Saturday I saw The Avengers. No, I didn’t donate any money to the Hero Initiative afterward, because I have a cold, black heart. Anyway, it was … okay? It was a superhero movie, meaning there was nothing I hadn’t seen before, but I guess it was slightly better than average. I would give it 3 out of 5 stars, which is decent. I didn’t think it was the greatest superhero movie ever made, because it was so similar to every other superhero movie ever made … except the best one, which is still Unbreakable (yes, it is). I mean, if you walk into a comic book store every single Wednesday, you can read at least 5, if not 10 comics that have the exact same stuff as what was in The Avengers, yet nobody is calling them the greatest comics ever written. This movie even featured two fights between heroes, something that a lot of very smart people who read comics regularly (and even some dim ones, like your humble reviewer) scathingly mock, yet I don’t hear how stupid those fights were in this movie. I thought Johansson and Ruffalo did pretty good jobs (someone was wondering why everyone thinks Ruffalo is a good actor, which makes me think that person has never seen a movie before), but I don’t think the screenplay was really up to snuff. Downey’s stupid nicknames do not make the screenplay clever, and if Johansson said that there’s “red in [her] ledger” one more time I would have reached through the screen and punched Joss Whedon right in the brain (why would Loki even know what that means, anyway – is he Asgard’s accountant?). The ease with which they defeated the Chitauri makes the final battle more hollow than I thought it would be – seriously, Hulk can defeat those worm things with one punch? It was entertaining and fun, but it was pretty slight.

For my Top Ten list this week, I thought I’d do my ten favorite situation comedies. Good times!

1. Cheers (1982-1993). This is one of my favorite television shows ever, period, so of course it’s #1 on this list! Cheers still holds up pretty well today, which is nice. The writing was always sharp, the characters were really well done, the acting was very good, and I’m still impressed that it got better when Shelley Long left and after Kirstie Alley started being less of a femme fatale and more of a screwball comedic actress, which she did very well. Unlike a lot of shows, Cheers never really fell into mediocrity – I know in the final season, they were wrapping things up so the writers could take some more chances, but I really think it could have gone a few more seasons if they had wanted to, and the quality probably wouldn’t have dropped. It’s a wonderful show.

2. Seinfeld (1990-1998). Unlike Cheers, Seinfeld did fall off quite a bit in its later years, but it was still pretty funny, and in its heyday, it was superb.

3. The Simpsons (1989-) Here’s my problem with The Simpsons: I don’t watch it anymore. I finally gave up about five years ago, after about five years of only enjoying one episode out of every three or four. It’s still wheezing along, and from what I read, it still drags out a really good episode every once in a while, but the ratio of those to bad episodes is even worse than it was five years ago. But in the 1990s, it was brilliant, and that’s why it’s my third-favorite sitcom.

4. Friends (1994-2004). Mock all you want, but I loved Friends. Maybe it’s my age – I was 23 when it first aired – but it was just a nice, sharply-written comedy with fun characters. Sure, the Ross/Rachel thing was interminable, but the show seemed to pick up some creative steam when Chandler and Monica got together, and in the later years, their marriage was pretty interesting. I often wanted to scream at the characters (especially Ross and Rachel) to grow the fuck up, but then they would come up with some hilarious scenes and all was forgiven.

5. WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982). I missed the early years of this and only caught up with them in reruns, but that was fine because I got to get them all in a short period of time. As with a lot of sitcoms pre-Seinfeld (even Cheers fell into this trap occasionally), WKRP could be too maudlin occasionally, which for a 10-year-old was death, but when it concentrated on the funny, it was freakin’ awesome.

6. Taxi (1978-1983). This show is almost like WKRP – something I came to a bit late, a great cast, very good writing, a bit maudlin occasionally, but still very funny. Plus, Marilu Henner was a total hottie.

7. Newhart (1982-1990). I remember watching early episodes of this show and not really liking it all that much, but I guess there was nothing else on television during its time slot, because I kept watching and it just kept getting better. This is a good example of a show getting a revamp during its run and becoming much, much better, as the creators ditched Kirk, brought in Peter Scolari and Larry, Darryl, and Darryl, and amped up the silliness, which worked perfectly against Bob’s super-deadpan demeanor. Plus, of course, this has the single greatest final episode of all time, so there’s that.

8. Arrested Development (2003-2006). Shortly after Arrested Development disappeared, I mentioned to my lovely wife that shows like it have to die because they’re ahead of their time, but they also have far more influence than their numbers indicate. Lo and behold, six years later, single-camera shows with no laugh tracks filmed “on location” are all the rage, and three-camera, laugh-track set-ups are seen as dinosaurs (it’s fitting that most of them air on CBS, the network for old people). It helped that Arrested Development was hilariously brilliant, but it’s funny to think that groundbreaking shows usually die quickly and are only appreciated later.

9. Night Court (1984-1992). Night Court, like Newhart, benefited from a revamp – it was pretty good in its early years, but when they added Markie Post and turned John Larroquette loose a bit more, it got really good.

10. Frasier (1993-2004). This was another show I lost interest in for its final few seasons, but early on, it was excellent. Kelsey Grammer’s new family (on Cheers he claimed to be an only child whose father was dead) was hilarious, Jane Leeves was superb, and Peri Gilpin was brilliant. The show probably should have ended once Niles and Daphne hooked up, and I always hated Frederick, but for the most part, it was a worthy spin-off of Cheers.

Some honorable mentions: E/R (1984-1985) (I have a weird soft spot for this comedy, which starred Elliott Gould, Jason Alexander, Mary McDonnell, and George Clooney); Double Rush (1995) (I really can’t defend this, but I loved each and every one of the 13 episodes); It’s Like, You Know … (1999-2000) (another show ahead of its time); Futurama (1999-2003, 2009-) (loved it when it was on Fox, but haven’t gotten back into it since it came back); Better Off Ted (2009-2010) (criminally overlooked comedy that got yanked around the schedule and never found its footing); Community (2009-) (I don’t love it as much as some, but I love how fearless the recently-fired Dan Harmon is with regard to the format, and I hope the new showrunners are as ballsy).

So there’s my list. Feel free to take your shots and list your own! We’re all friends here, right? Have a good holiday weekend if you’re American, and if you’re not, have a good weekend writhing with envy that you’re not! U! S! A!!!!!

63 Comments

As for the FABLES problem: just stick to the trades like I do, it reads better trade-wise than issue-wise.

As for the NEAR DEATH panel: what was the assassin joke?

I’ve watched CHEERS, NEWHART, and NIGHT COURT in the latter years. Never seen FRIENDS (except for the pilot), TAXI, WKRP, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, and THE SIMPSONS. Seen some of SIENFELD and FRASIER, but stopped at some point.

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Anonymous was me.

Markham doesn’t know how to solve the problem except by killing everyone involved. It’s funny because he totally would do it!

That will probably be my solution to my Fables problem, because Willingham always seems to finish the arcs pretty well.

So much stuff happens in an episode of Seinfeld it’s crazy. I don’t watch the reruns often but the man hands/bizarro Jerry episode was on the other day and that had 4 full story lines. Along with those two there were Kramer faking his way through a job after using the office restroom because George said it was one of the best in the city and also George using a picture of man hands to get sympathy from models. Really tight scripting.

NewsRadio is my fave sitcom. Community fave current.

I disagree about Cheers’ later seasons. I think there was a significant drop-off in quality once they wrapped up the excellent Robin Colcord story arc with Sam getting the bar back. That was really, really well done (and it was part of Cheers’ sudden return to relevance out of nowhere – I mean, how many shows get red hot in their EIGHTH SEASON!?!?). Once that arc was done, though, the last three seasons, while certainly not bad, were quite aimless.

It reminds me of a comic theory I had once about avoiding the big arc, because just like in comics, once the big arc is complete, the story feels like it is, in fact, completed. Sammy got the bar back/Sam and Rebecca finally slept together!! So…uhmmm…now what?

So they kept trying to introduce new big arcs (Sam and Rebecca are going to have a baby! Rebecca buys the back room! Rebecca burns the bar down! Sam gets treatment for sex addiction!) that just seemed increasingly desperate.

The show was still funny, to be sure, and I agree that they could have hacked out two, three, heck, probably four more seasons if they wanted to, but it was going nowhere. It was just familiar fun with a cast of characters that we all love because they were so well formed (and well acted). But I think there was a definite drop-off in Seasons 9-11 (of course there were plenty of great one-off episodes still). They nailed the finale, though.

I hear Mitt Romney’s father was Governor of Michigan, next to Ontario, Canada. The Romney’s even vacationed in Ontario. Mitt Romney is a Canadian. There, I started the Romney Birther Controversy.

Mark Flanagan

May 24, 2012 at 6:44 pm

“Saying that is like saying “I believe that monkeys might fly out of your butt at any time” – yes, of course it could happen…”

It could? What have you been having for lunch lately?

Brian: I could overlook the bigger arcs because I think the characters had become so sharply and clearly defined that the weirdness of the stories (because I agree, they were not as good after Sam got the bar back) didn’t interfere too much. In the later years, I think the secondary characters came much more to the fore, and I really liked the way Woody, for instance, started to grow up. In the last season, especially, the secondary characters were much more important, and I think that helped with the oddities of the longer arcs that the writers came up with. I like your theory about avoiding the big arc, though – unless, of course, you’re actually going to end the book or the writer is leaving. Then it’s okay!

jjc: Yeah, they packed a lot into episodes, didn’t they?

JGLJR: For some reason, I never got into NewsRadio. I liked the few episodes I watched, but I never kept up with it. I don’t remember why.

Marc: Excellent!

Mark: Apparently I’ve been eating some strange stuff! I mean, monkeys do exist, and so do butts, and monkeys fly … okay, maybe they don’t, but that’s not the point!!!! :)

I could overlook the bigger arcs because I think the characters had become so sharply and clearly defined that the weirdness of the stories (because I agree, they were not as good after Sam got the bar back) didn’t interfere too much. In the later years, I think the secondary characters came much more to the fore, and I really liked the way Woody, for instance, started to grow up. In the last season, especially, the secondary characters were much more important, and I think that helped with the oddities of the longer arcs that the writers came up with.

Woody’s arcs were good, but the rest of the secondary characters got more and more cartoonish in the last few seasons (a standard event for sitcoms. Friends, for instance, oh my good god) that I think it got almost distracting. Rebecca’s devolution was the worst of them all. Man, they RUINED her.

I like your theory about avoiding the big arc, though – unless, of course, you’re actually going to end the book or the writer is leaving. Then it’s okay!

Oh yeah, of course.

Really liked a lot of the shows on your list and was going to mention Newsradio too. Probably second only to Cheers in my book. And of course The Dick Van Dyke Show because I’m old-school that way…

I hope you consider M*A*S*H to be so good it transcends such terms as “sitcom” because otherwise we are going to have words.

I give Batman Inc #1 a 12 out of 10 for sheer ballsiness.

“if you walk into a comic book store every single Wednesday, you can read at least 5, if not 10 comics that have the exact same stuff as what was in The Avengers.” I disagree, unless you count comics from the 60s sitting in the back issue bins. I have never read an issue of the Avengers as good as that movie except maybe the original #1. All the movie was missing was Hulk as a robot clown.

I’m surprised you chose Newhart over The Bob Newhart Show, but you’re right, it got real good after the revamp. Unfortunatley I can only find the first season on DVD, and it kind of stinks. And whats up with only being able to find the first season of WKRP as well? Is it cause I’m Canadian or something?

And I enjoyed Batman Inc way more than you did, but I’ll give you this– that extra row of cow slaughtering panels didn’t make a lick of sense.

Why do Asgardians speak English in the first place? I know, I know… it’s just a movie.

I agree with you about The Avengers. It’s a good movie, very entertaining, and I loved the portrayal of the Hulk. But personally, I would rank this film below Iron Man, Spiderman 2, and Nolan’s Batman flicks. And I’m a Joss Whedon fan. (I’m still not sure where I stand on Unbreakable. It’s a pretty good film, but I find the ending… just goofy.)

No love for Futurama?

Bill: I don’t know – maybe I wasn’t the right age for MASH, because it went off the air when I was, what, 12? I also never saw the early stuff until years after the fact, and while I liked those years, once what’s-his-name died – the first camp colonel – it became so deadly serious that I’m not sure it qualifies as a sitcom. I enjoy it, certainly, but it never struck a chord with me.

Regarding the Avengers: Heroes fighting heroes? There’s an entire summer event devoted to that! Alien invasions? We see that all the time! Wise-cracking superheroes? Check out the panel from Batman, Inc.!

BitBiteOuch: I have seen very little of The Bob Newhart Show, because it rarely was in reruns in the 1980s, during my formative television years. I have liked a lot of what I’ve seen, but I haven’t seen enough of it. I’ve never looked for Newhart on DVD, but I know that only the first season of WKRP is out on DVD, for some unknown reason. It’s frustrating.

Oz: Futurama is in my honorable mentions!

I miss the alt text on the covers!

I definitely second Better Off Ted (criminally unloved by the network) and third NewsRadio. While it doesn’t get a lot of love in lists like this, How I Met Your Mother is my favorite current show. It’s all Barney, of course, but the other main characters are good. I was swearing at my TV after they got to May 2012 and probably aren’t going to actually reveal the mother until at least the latter half of next season. When you put May 2012 as the date of the reveal and then put it off for another season, that’s just maddening. I also love how the story he’s telling his kids devolves into “let me tell you about all these girls I was banging before I met your mom.” It’s not the point of it, but it’s a fun bonus when you look at it that way.

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is my #1. they don’t get enough credit for what they do on that show. Party Down and Peep Show are also at the top of my list. Delocated and Children’s Hospital are easily two of the funniest shows on tv. The League is also becoming great. Archer too. I still think South Park is consistently excellent. Workaholics is underrated. Curb Your Enthusiasm, still awesome. also Summer Heights High is probably the best single season of tv i’ve ever seen. and probably can’t forget the British Office. probably.

i like your list though. lot of good stuff. i watched a lot of Night Court reruns when i was little. and i’ve heard a lot about WKRP, Taxi and Newart. I’d track them down and watch them but there are like a billion episodes and i watch way too much tv as it is. however i will never watch an episode of Friends on purpose. that policy probably won’t be changing any time soon.

just wanted to say i love the blog and look forward to it every week. Between the comics, books, and tv show suggestions ive got a hefty plate of entertainment to dive into. thanks

and Mind MGMT is awesome! loved that comic. Ive already read it 5 times and cant wait for more. I love all the small details and the weird mystery of it.

The interesting thing about Greg’s list is that outside of Seinfeld and Arrested Development, he appears to be looking at things from the traditional format of “situation comedy,” where the shows are not necessarily being judged by how funny they are but by how well made the overall show is. Seinfeld introduced a new approach to TV comedy where you did not have to like the main characters. Liking the cast was a major aspect of pretty much every single sitcom previously. Now many, many TV comedies eschew character development in favor of just balls to the wall laughs (Arrested Development showed that you could occasionally do both).

Thus, shows like Taxi and Cheers seem to lag a bit when compared to modern “laughs only” shows (like Curb Your Enthusiasm) since very often they weren’t going for laughs, particularly Taxi. It was “here’s a compelling group of people, let’s find some humorous situation to put these people into as they grow over X seasons.” Friends did that, Simpsons did it, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family. A few current shows do that, Modern Family being most notable.

Friends holds up very poorly in terms of actual comedy (it definitely had its moments, don’t get me wrong) but in terms of a group of compelling characters who grew as the show went along (until becoming caricatures of themselves in the late seasons, as is the case for pretty much all sitcoms), it was top notch. Heck, I believe that is why shows like Full House and Saved by the Bell are well-remembered by the young fans who watched them – they were terrible shows but they had good casts that made you want to see what would happen with them next. Once you’ve got people hooked on the characters, they’ll stick around to see what happens next. And Taxi, Frasier, WKRP, Night Court, Cheers – those are great characters.

I would add Barney Miller to your list, because it was the rare sitcom that could work in serious material without making it seemed forced, but rarely did so. Jack Soo, Steve Landesberg and Abe Vigoda (one of whom is still alive — sorry, couldn’t resist) were pitch-perfect in their delivery, and when I finally got around to watching Firefly, it was such a pleasure to see Ron Glass again — yes, that WAS Harris as Preacher, When Wojo’s current girlfriend made ganja brownies that were fed to the entire squad by mistake… well, there is only one episode that made me laugh more of any series — and it involved throwing turkeys out of a helicopter!

And, although it was on only one season, there was a glorious show called Frank’s Place — Tim Reid as the ultimate fish out of water — a New England college professor who wound up inheriting the oddest restaurant in New Orleans — and that IS something.

Do the latter seasons of the Muppet Show count? Towards the end, it became a sitcom about making a second-rate variety show as much as it was the first-rate second rate variety show it started out as…

Oh, and I see you bought some comics — cool!

I miss the alt text, too! I thought maybe you just didn’t feel like it last week.

And I don’t understand why you would continue to read Fables when you’re sick of it and there’s no end to the series in sight and then not read The Walking Dead just because it’s stated outright that it’s intended to continue until people are sick of it. If both series are good, why read one and not the other? Just take a break from Fables already. All the later back issues will be available and all the trades will still be there if you decide to read again.

Travis Pelkie

May 25, 2012 at 12:26 am

I’m having a shit week (piece-a junk car! sucky work!) and though I’ve gotten to the comic store every Wed. for weeks now, this week with me waiting for Batman INC 1, I can’t get in! ARGH!

Bah.

Hey, I see the 5 years logo got replaced here at the side!

But anyway, my LCS guy is good and should get the stuff I missed. Although I’ll have to get that HERO Comics 2012 special, cuz it’s got Dave Sim Elephantmen art. Woo hoo!

Uncouth Sleuth sounded neat when I heard about it. Hope it’s good.

Is it sunstroke that does stuff to your state’s politicians? Oy.

Sitcoms — hm, off the top of my head, can’t think of many. Odd Couple is pretty good, from what I’ve seen. Two Guys and a Girl is a favorite (why is it not on legit DVD release? It’s got Ryan Reynolds AND Nathan Fillion!). Cybill was good, because Alicia Witt is lovely and snarky in it. Aqua Teen and Venture Bros, if they count. I’ve been watching Simpsons on DVD (up through season 10 so far), and I dig that a lot. Everybody Loves Raymond, when it originally aired. Rewatching it irks me though. Can’t think of others now.

Week’s a little better cuz of the blog. Thanks, guys.

I’m glad you mentioned where Dog Mendonça is from, I wouldn’t have forgiven you otherwise! :-)

That’s a very good list. I agree with most of it, except for Friends and I don’t agree that Seinfeld fell off in later seasons, it just got different when Larry David left the show.

One series I’d mention that I’ve seen recently is The IT Crowd. It’s a British show sort of like The Big Bang Theory, but good.

BeccaBlast

I swear with God as my witness I thought turkeys could fly. Yup, AWESOME moment.

And I agree on Barney Miller, a great series. Loved the episode with the man who thought he was a werewolf, too :)

Thanks for bringing back some great memories!

Take it and run,

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 25, 2012 at 3:43 am

Speaking of comedies, what about dramedies? There were a bunch.

If I remember right, one with the late John Ritter, Markie Post, and Billy Bob Thorton (HEARTS AFIRE);
and one with Burt Reynolds and Marilyn Henner (EVENING SHADE);
and DESIGNING WOMEN.

Seinfeld introduced a new approach to TV comedy where you did not have to like the main characters. Liking the cast was a major aspect of pretty much every single sitcom previously. Now many, many TV comedies eschew character development in favor of just balls to the wall laughs (Arrested Development showed that you could occasionally do both).

That’s something that interests me a lot, since Seinfeld was a tremendous influence on comedies for years and years, but now the ones that are ambitious and different are moving away from the Seinfeld concept entirely. For all the zanyness of Community, there’s a very traditional sitcom at heart (the study group cares about each other, and many of the plots involve resolving a problem someone has or a dispute between them, and many episodes have some version of a “moment of aww”). Louie can go 15 minutes without a single joke. Wilfred has morals/lessons in just about every episode.

(this is my first time attempting to blockquote here, i think, so apologies if it is not done via regular ol’ html and this comes out looking like garbage)

WKRP only has one season because of the music rights. It costs too much money to either a.) use the original music, or b.) put new music in. Because they did the latter with the first season, it didn’t sell as well as it needed to in order to make other seasons.

Newhart didn’t sell well (because that season is not good), so again, TPTB aren’t sure if they can turn a profit…

DVD releases of shows that developed as they went on reminds me of comic creators doing early X-Men stories. They tend not to do as well because it is not the early X-Men that people really care about it, it is the Wolverine era X-Men. But if you’re going back to the beginning, you “have” to go to the Original 5, even if it does not make sense from a marketing standpoint. Similar to DVD releases of series whose first seasons were not as good as their later ones. People want the later seasons, but that’s not the beginning so that doesn’t get offered up on DVD at first. But because the bad seasons are offered up first, you never GET the good seasons.

Pete Woodhouse

May 25, 2012 at 5:43 am

The Dude: Yeah, The IT Crowd has 1 or 2 guys behind Father Ted involved (Linehan/Matthews, maybe both). It’s also one of the few watchable ITV comedies.
For those not in the know, the licence-paying BBC for some reason has created 90% of classic British comedy: Steptoe & Son, Monty Python/Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, The Office, Only Fools & Horses, Porridge, Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin; whereas the commercial ITV network has failed miserably by comparison.
Rising Damp (with Perrin’s the late, lamented Leonard Rossiter) is one old-school ITV gem.

The Big Bang Theory always seems to get slated on the Net – yet of the latest US sitcoms that get shown over here in the UK it seems to be among the better-crafted.

I’ve never heard the word “slated” to mean “slammed/insulted.” Interesting.

Aw c’mon, there was Pathos in Thunderbolts too.

And I don’t mind the name change if it helps the book stay afloat.

Man, I go to sleep and there’s a whole bunch of comments …

I didn’t realize anyone would miss the alt text! It doesn’t appear in Google Chrome, which is the browser I’m using right now, so I stopped doing it the past couple of weeks. I will start it up again, though!

Norm! Flash: Thanks, sir. I have fun writing it, so I’m glad you enjoy it.

Da Fug: Well, I’ve always liked Fables far more than The Walking Dead – I gave TWD twelve issues to grab me, and it just didn’t – so there’s that. Plus, unless it’s really bad, I don’t like to abandon series in the middle of a story arc, so I will finish this out. This arc isn’t terrible, it just isn’t as good as most of the others.

Travis: We’re always ready to help!

Chuck: I forgot about the music rights on WKRP. I would like the original music, but I found on the first season DVD, it didn’t matter TOO much that they replaced it. It’s frustrating.

Matt D: Sure, if the name change helps it sell, go for it. The annoying thing to me is that it will probably work!

Lots of interesting shows, everyone. Some of them I’ve never seen, and some of the ones I have seen I haven’t seen enough of. I’m just one man!!!!!

It’s before my time but I really like Soap. I had never heard of it til Comedy Central started playing it in the late 90s while I was in college. Now it’s on a station called Antenna TV that plays that as well as WKRP on Sunday nights.

Also a big fan of Married With Children.

I have to disagree on a few things. First and foremost, IMO, Cheers took a big dip in quality after Shelley Long left, although it started down that road in S5, when they were getting ready for Long to leave and shifting the focus to the supporting cast. The previously smart humor became broad and slapstick, and the show ditched its heart for hijinks. In many ways, it was a totally different show after she left. It was still a strong, funny show for a time, but it was something else. In the very last seasons it really went downhill, and I just can’t watch those shows. Ratings wise, the show may have been #1 in later seasons, but actual viewership peaked in the Shelley Long years and dropped off once she left. S5 was at #3, but with 23.77 mil. viewers, S9 was #1 but with 19.83 mil.

Arrested was awesome just about always, but that Wee Britain arc toward the end went on too long and is nearly unwatchable. Dave Thomas and Charlize Theron still irritate me as a result of it. Apart from Michael’s unfortunate entanglement, the rest of the characters maintained their awesomeness, though.

I do agree about Frasier– the Niles/Daphne hookup should have ended it. It was indeed a worthy successor to Cheers though.

I think it is definitely fair to say that Cheers got a lot broader, comedy-wise, when Long left. And yes, the early Kirstie Alley years are a drop-off from the Long years. However, I don’t think the drop-off from Season 5 to Season 6 was as severe as the drop-off from Season 8 to Season 9, especially because, as you note, Season 5 had already made the shift to a broader style of humor.

I’ll have to take your word on the S8-9 drop-off because as I said, the later years (esp. 9- on) don’t have a lot of re-watchability for me. And when I suggest that there was a shift taking place, I mean that it was really just beginning, mostly as a function of distancing the audience from Diane starting about mid-season. Episodes like Never Love a Goalie, Dog Bites Cliff, The Godfather and Norm’s First Hurrah are early indicators of what’s to come. Despite such episodes, the S5 shows still had a lot of the drama of earlier seasons among the comedy. Knights of the Scimitar is particularly fraught, and there are more in the latter half of the season, culminating in the ultimate angst of I Do and Adieu. Once Diane left, there was no longer the anchor to the “heart moments” or drama that marked the early seasons, so to me the shift between 5 and 6 is huge. You may be right about the 8-9 drop though– maybe I’ll go back and have a look sometime.

It’s true that the show never tried anything close to as dramatic as the stories they occasionally told with Long once Long left. Heck, if they HAD tried one it would have stood out like a sore thumb (I suppose you could argue the final scene in the final episode is as close as they got to the early season style). That is a great differentiation between the first half of the series and the second half.

Yes, in a nutshell, that is the biggest overall shift that I notice. The comedy definitely changes too, but the absence of the heavy emotional stuff (both highs and lows) is the most obvious difference to me.

A lot of that is just true for all shows, though, in the sense of the softening of the characters. Things Sam does in the first few seasons would have seen dramatically out of place if Sam did them in Season 10. Early Sam had a real edge to him which drove a lot of the drama. Later Sam was basically a giant teddy bear. Again, though, that happens with all long-running sitcoms. Look at Fonzie, Potsie and Ralph on Happy Days. They all (amazingly enough) had certain edges to them when the show began.

The biggest problem I had with Sam and Diane is that they could really never resolve it. The tension between them was fine, but once they started their romance, the show fell into a very predictable and boring pattern, because they couldn’t have them be happy but they couldn’t break them up irrevocably without getting rid of one of them. I guess Long wanted to leave, but I doubt if they could have done much more with Diane and Sam anyway. Once that was taken off the table, I think that while the comedy got broader, it also got more humorous and more inclusive, as the other characters became bigger parts of the ensemble.

Funny that you mention Happy Days. I’ve caught a few of the first season episodes on TV recently, and wow, it’s like watching American Graffiti. The production values are incredible. The characters (aside from Richie) did go through big changes over the years, some more than others. That show is another case where I just cannot watch later seasons (Joanie/Chachi era), like the middle years alright, but really enjoy its original recipe.

Yeah, the first season of Happy Days holds up very well, especially for the production values that you noted. I mean, it literally was filmed! And no studio audience made a huge difference (as the addition of the studio audience led to the dumbing down of the show and the increased presence of Fonzie).

Greg– I think Sam and Diane could have sustained nicely had they kept to the S4 relationship, which was quite interesting, but not 100% of the show. You’re right though, they couldn’t have completely ended things between them as long as they were both on the show. They could have kept them on simmer though, with occasional hookups while both dated others. There wasn’t the sense of urgency for commitment as there was after S1′s clinch ’cause they’d BTDT. Whether the comedy became more humorous in later seasons is up for debate– different tastes.

Brian – Happy Days was gorgeous back then, with a nice tone/pace to match. It’s sad they had to ditch all that so quickly.

Pete Woodhouse

May 25, 2012 at 8:29 am

@Brian: the word “slated” to mean “slammed/insulted.” One of my backgrounds is sports journalism & that’s where I have first or mainly heard it being used, in regards to fans “slating” players’ or teams’ performances.

Fascinating, Pete. I wonder how it tied in with sports. Football, I presume. But how is slate connected to football?

Pete Woodhouse

May 25, 2012 at 8:38 am

Yep, football (soccer) really. No idea, but the language has somehow evolved that way to mean it in this case!

Ed (A Different One)

May 25, 2012 at 10:45 am

A couple of folks beat me to the punch with their comments on MASH. The best sitcom ever IMHO. And I’m surprised it wasn’t one you watched growing up Greg. From what I can figure, you’re 2-3 years older than I am and while it’s prime time glory was over by the time I was of age, it was all over the place in syndication. I can remember watching MASH almost every evening through a good portion of my childhood.

And your “Matt Seneca can kiss my ass!” reference up top in your Batman, Inc, review almost had me thinking you were showing your PA roots again – until I realized which Matt Seneca you were talking about ;-)

Then again, I was wondering why GM would want an uber-obscure ex-PSU Quarterback to kiss his posterior . ? . ? . ?.

Ed: I have watched almost all of MASH, to be sure, but I think it helps much better to come at television shows when they’re fresh – at least it does for me. I didn’t see MASH in order, for instance, and while that doesn’t matter too much for sitcoms, it does a little, so just dipping in and out never worked for me. As I wrote, I do like MASH, I remember it more for the latter, far more serious years than the early, more madcap years.

Morrison probably does think PSU’s Seneca can kiss his ass! But yes, I was talking about the blogger, who’s been busy excoriating G-Mozz over at his blog recently (in a very entertaining manner, I think).

I’m about the same age as you, Ed, and I couldn’t frickin’ stand MASH as a kid (and didn’t much care for the Groovie Ghoulies MUSH, either). It was just drab, olive green and surgery to me. MASH being on meant change the channel or go outside.

The Avengers is a good superhero movie. A very good superhero movie which has fun with the tropes of the genre (Thor vs. Iron Man vs. Captain America, for instance). For me, however, the best superhero EVER has to be <i<The Incredibles.

I’m surprised nobody has brought up Fawlty Towers (except to bury it in a list of other BBC shows). It may very well be the best TV comedy ever.

Other great shows nobody has mentioned yet include Coupling, by Steven Moffat. It was brilliant. There was also a short-lived American version which used the exact same scripts, with a few minor changes, but it was awful. I blame the casting, but the direction was probably a bit weak, too.

And I really loved Grand. It did go downhill when NBC started messing with it, but towards the end it started getting good again.

Anyway, my list of favorite/preferred half-hour comedy shows, in mostly no particular order except the order they pop into my head as I type:

M*A*S*H, Spaced, Community, Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place, Night Court, Barney Miller, Cheers (only just started watching it last year), Frasier (good, but I never really followed it), How I Met Your Mother (this is what I watch on my lunch breaks at work), 30 Rock, The Simpsons (I pretend the last… what, 10 years didn’t happen), Spin City, Scrubs uh… I’ll quit now.

I had to reread Batman Inc. after reading the things that turned you off about it. I was initially surprised you weren’t more enthusiastic about it.

I agree that the issue works best as a showcase for Burnham. It almost looked like he was aping Quitely’s figure style in some of the panels. I’m not sure I like Damian’s fight against the DKR mutants, but it might just be that I can’t figure out where it’s supposed to start. It is a great idea in theory, though, and pretty even if I can’t figure out the specific choreography.

I had absolutely no issues with the progress of the story stretching out the assassination of Damian since Morrison also wove in Leviathan’s movements and introduced the Dead Heroes Club with a cute callout to the very start of his run on JLA. Nothing in the writing bothered me specifically that I can remember. I think the guy in the slaughterhouse was just trying to maintain his cover until Damian was past him. I know, he already had his mask on, but I’m feeling generous.

I would have rated it at least a star higher. It’s certainly not flawless, but I thought it was a decent first issue for the next chapter in Morrison’s Batman. I could change my mind next issue.

Travis Pelkie

May 25, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I was born in ’79, so my favorite episode of Happy Days is that one where Weezer played at Al’s.

I 2nd Barney Miller– a show that never ever jumped the shark. It was just characters, a bunch of guys in a room interacting with each other, and it was hilarious. No gags, just funny. If you chase it down, you can pretty much skip the first season, though, where it was still finding its feet.

I also have a soft spot for My Name is Earl, which was always surprising and quite clever, and managed to have a heart.

“I do like reading it, and that’s all that matters!”

Sums up my attitude to comics perfectly! I enjoy Near Death a lot, and it’s nice to read a review of a Morrison book that isn’t “OMG 5 stars!!!1!1111!!!! Can I give it 6?!?!?!”

Travis Pelkie

May 27, 2012 at 2:06 am

Oh yeah!

It’s not often I can correct you on your “grammar”, but the actor in Frasier is Kelsey GrammEr. Yet he speaks impeccably.

Travis: Thanks, sir. Figures I would get that wrong!

Finally read the first issue of Mind MGMT… What a phenomenal first issue! Greg, I’m kind of surprised you only gave it 7.5 stars. I realize, of course, that 7.5 is a very good grade in your rating scale, but I suppose I’m curious how/why you found there to be 2.5 “missing” levels of quality. As far as first issues go (which operate on a different playing field than non-first issues), I don’t see how the comic could have been better. Art, pace, concept, design, dialogue, non-decompression… it all felt as top-notch as possible to me.

If the ultimate goal of a first issue is to create anticipation not just for the second issue, but for the series as a whole, then Mind MGMT succeeded more than anything I can remember reading in quite a while.

“Matt Seneca can kiss my ass.” Bwa-ha-ha!!!! Man, that Grant Morrison is one funny guy.

Third Man: Maybe I expected it to be good, so when it was good but didn’t blow me out of my chair, I was … disappointed, somehow? It’s kind of hard to explain. I liked it a lot, and I agree that as a first issue, it works very well, but I thought it was the tiniest bit scattershot, as if Kindt threw a bit too much in the blender. It’s certainly intriguing, and I’m really looking forward to the series. I don’t know – maybe I don’t want to grade it too high because then I’ll think he has nowhere to go but down! You’re right, though – I should probably bump it up a bit, because when I think about it, 7.5 stars does seem a trifle low.

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Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

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