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CSBG Archive

What I bought – 26 September 2012

People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it any more.

I’ve finished my war book now. The next one I write is going to be fun.

This one is a failure, and had to be, since it was written by a pillar of salt. (Kurt Vonnegut, from Slaughterhouse-5)

Why does Beryl looked freaked out? So why is Vanity there? He just wants to play with his ball! Those are awfully big feathers for such a small flying horse That's a really awkward running style Who doesn't like to take their giant insect out for a walk now and then? Mirrorshades, bitches! Symbolism! That's what I use my golem for - wolf-fightin'! Clap your hands, everybody; everybody clap your hands! Jim Lee generic hero shot #529! He's fancy! See, they're vampires ... from America!  It writes itself! But what does he call you? Fact: My sister's name is Barbra, but my parents spelled it the cool way, a.k.a. The Streisand Way

Batman, Incorporated #0 (“Brand Building”) by Grant “Why is everyone picking on me for that interview?” Morrison (storier/scripter), Chris Burnham (storier), Frazer Irving (artist/colorist), and Pat Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

I read someone comparing Frazer Irving’s artwork on this book to Salvador Larroca’s on Iron Man (unfavorably, I might add), and while I can certainly see why that comparison can be made, Irving has so much more personality and good design work in this comic than Larroca does on the issues of Iron Man that I own that while I can see the superficial resemblances (a heavy reliance on computer-generated images, especially in the background), Irving’s quirky characters, for one, stand out so much more than Larroca’s Josh Holloway-as-Tony Stark usage. Irving also colors the book in a far more interesting manner than whoever colors Iron Man does. I am not a huge fan of Irving’s use of computer-generated images because his pencil work is so good (on his blog he has some old pages that he penciled completely, and they’re marvelous), but the art is far different (and better) than Larroca’s Iron Man. But that’s just my opinion.

So, yes, this is another zero issue, and it’s better than Batwoman #0, but only because Morrison is a better writer than Blackman and Williams. The conceit is still idiotic – this feels like those two issues of Batman that Morrison wrote that filled in the blanks of what happened between “Batman R.I.P.” and Final Crisis – they were fine, I guess, but really unnecessary. In this issue, Bruce Wayne gathers his team of Batmans from across the world. Did we really need an issue like this? No, but it’s ZERO MONTH, motherfuckers! I guess knowing that the the various Batmen chat a lot is helpful to know, but … I don’t know, I’m just trying to find a reason for this issue to exist. Hey, Veiniac is pretty wacky, isn’t he? I guess the best I can do is that it’s always nice to see Irving’s art. And it is.

I did find the scene where Bruce Wayne introduces Batman, Incorporated to the board interesting. It’s a fleeting thing, but too many comic book writers fall into a trap where if the hero says or does something, that automatically makes it good because, hey, they’re the good guy! So the only board member who seems to think Batman, Inc. is a bad idea is, of course, a criminal – an embezzler, among other things. Then, when Bruce again asks if he can count on the board’s support, Morrison, Burnham, and Irving go out of their way to show a panel of two board members looking at each other as if they’re terrified to say “no” to the Mighty Bruce Wayne. It’s very odd, because it’s so subtle – do these two members actually have an objection to Batman, Inc. and they’re scared to speak up? What are they thinking about in this panel? They’re both clapping in the next panel, but that doesn’t mean anything – they could be cowed by Bruce’s little play of dumping Treadwell right before he can say anything bad about the pet project. It’s a minor point, but as we know with Morrison (more than most writers, although all writers do this), nothing is wasted (nor should it be). So that panel is in there for a reason, and Morrison presumably told Irving to draw it that way. Am I overthinking this? I just find it interesting that the idea of a team of vigilantes operating an international network doesn’t raise an eyebrow among the board. It seems sketchy at best, but no one seems to think it’s a bad idea.

So, anyway. I don’t know if this comic will inspire anyone new to start reading Batman, Incorporated (isn’t that kind of what these zero issues are supposed to do?), and it’s a minor roadblock on the way to the culmination of Morrison’s Batman epic, but whatever. It looks nice.

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I want to party with Cyril!

Elephantmen #43 (“Sleeping Partners Part Two: The Poison Drum”) by Richard Starkings (writer), Axel Medellin (artist/colorist), and Dave Sim (artist). $3.99, 27 pgs, FC, Image.

Brandon Graham’s very cool cover is reproduced almost exactly (with not quite as many details, but that’s because Graham is insane) inside this book by Medellin, and it’s fun to flip back and forth between them like a flipbook. Everyone likes flipbooks!

As usual, this is a very good comic book, as Starkings keeps moving things along nicely. Recently, with the news that Sahara is pregnant, the focus of the book has been a bit more on elephantmen/human relationships and their legality, which Starkings has to be comparing to our preoccupation with homosexual relationships, I have to think. He’s doing it well, though, as he does everything else in this comic – it’s been a long time coming, and when he finally delves into it, we already know the characters very well, so the issue becomes personalized and we can relate to it more intimately. Of course, comic book readers tend to be a bit more liberal (yes, I’m generalizing wildly, so I hope you can forgive me), so the science-fiction idea of human/animal hybrids hooking up with human females doesn’t sound too wacky, but Starkings hasn’t just brought the idea up, he’s tried to explore the ramifications of it on a personal level. This is a science-fiction thriller/adventure, of course, so Starkings isn’t getting too deeply into the social aspects of Hip Flask’s relationship with Miki, but it’s nice that he’s brought up the issues with it.

The story continues apace, which means that Starkings, as usual, is taking his time with it. The book is paced very well – Starkings does occasionally give us issues with a lot of action, but he also knows that there’s other stuff that needs to be addressed, so while there’s some good old-fashioned fighting in this issue, Starkings also catches us up on the various characters so that when things hit the fan again, it will have more impact. I’ve written before that a lot of mainstream comics don’t have “breather” issues anymore, and while this isn’t exactly one, it’s more of one than we usually get from the Big Two. I, for one, appreciate that.

Everyone who reads this blog knows that Medellin is a good artist, and so I’ll point out the fine work he does on this book and move on quickly. I have to mention that he has gotten much better since he started on this comic, which is very nice. If you like his pin-ups here on the blog, perhaps you should give Elephantmen a look!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Not for long it ain't!

Debris #3 (of 4) by Kurtis J. Wiebe (writer), Riley Rossmo (artist), Owen Gieni (colorist), and Ed Brisson (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image/Shadowline.

Our own media watchdog, Rob Schmidt, mentioned last month that “Athabasca,” the idyllic place where Maya and Kessel are heading in this book, is not a word that Wiebe just made up – it’s a group of indigenous Alaskans and the language group to which they belong. At the end of this comic, it becomes obvious that Wiebe knew that, and it appears that he’s at least trying to stick to the definition as it already exists. Of course, I’m wondering how he will wrap everything up next issue, unless somewhere along the way this stopped being a four-issue mini-series. I really hope it’s not – I don’t care how successful something is, if you have a four-issue story in mind, make it a damned four-issue story!

Anyway, this is the “middle” issue, meaning we’re past the exposition but not yet at the climax (this usually applies to five-issue mini-series, but can also be germane to a four-issue one), so we get a bit of a flashback to flesh out Maya’s relationship with Calista, which informs the relationship Calista had with Kessel, we get some action, and then we get Maya discovering what’s beyond the world she grew up in. This is where Gieni’s wonderful coloring on this book comes more to the fore – it’s been brilliant so far (in contrast to most post-apocalyptic worlds, which are often dull), and in this issue, he gets to contrast Maya’s world with the world she finds, and it’s very impressive. Of course, Rossmo’s art is as good as it usually is, but Gieni’s coloring makes the book blaze with beauty.

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I’m not totally in love with this story, but it’s entertaining, certainly. I’m just wondering how Wiebe is going to pull it all together. I imagine he has a plan!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Is that a mouth or a bunghole?

Happy! #1 (of 4) by Grant “If I do this comic, will you stop calling me a corporate shill?” Morrison (writer), Darick Robertson (artist), Richard P. Clark (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

Morrison’s first foray outside the Big Two in decades begins, and I’m certainly glad about it. Morrison’s become such a cheerleader for superhero comics recently that it’s easy to forget that he can do a lot of other stuff, too. (There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a cheerleader for superhero comics, don’t get me wrong, especially when Morrison does such a good job with them. But it’s nice to actually see him doing something that doesn’t quite fit that mold. In the past decade, Morrison has done less of that stuff – Joe the Barbarian, Seaguy, and We3 are the only examples that leap to mind – so I’m glad he’s decided to ditch the Big Two for a time and try other stuff.) With Happy!, he definitely gets out of that genre.

In case you didn’t know, Happy! is about a man named Nick Sax who begins seeing a flying unicorn. Named Happy. That talks. Of course it does. That’s the hook, but the way Morrison leads us to the moment when Nick begins seeing the horse is pretty good, too. For the first 14 pages of this issue, Morrison is channeling Garth Ennis, with tough guys shooting each other, a serial killer getting a blow job from a hooker, and nasty shit happening all over the place. Nick Sax apparently knows the password to a mob account, and the mobsters, obviously, want it (ironically, Nick doesn’t know the password, or at least it doesn’t seem that he does, but the mob doesn’t know this). This is a gritty, awful world full of gangsters and corrupt cops and calm men who specialize in torture. And then Morrison drops the unicorn (who calls itself a horse, but it has a horn) into it. Happy tells Nick that it’s a girl’s imaginary friend and that Nick needs to help her because she’s in trouble. Of course, Nick needs to get past the mobsters who are coming to torture him first. So, yeah.

It’s certainly bizarre, but Morrison does a very good job contrasting the two worlds, so that both Happy’s presence and the grittiness of the world seem strangely heightened, making the weirdness even weirder. Morrison has never been afraid of weirdness, of course, but what makes this a pretty good first issue is that he takes his time creating this bleak wintry city and only then introduces the unicorn. It definitely helps – when Morrison was writing superhero comics, he could be weird because it’s a weird world that superheroes inhabit, but here, he needs to ground Happy in some kind of reality. This is a good start.

Robertson is superb, as he usually is. There’s one panel where we see the world from Happy’s perspective (or at least part of the world), and it’s very nicely done by Robertson. Plus, he’s always had a bit of a cartoony edge to him, even though he usually draws really gritty stuff, so placing the cartoony unicorn in the middle of everything doesn’t faze Robertson one bit. The book is very nice to look at, and it helps make Morrison’s story more interesting. As I’ve often pointed out, Morrison is occasionally let down very much by his artists, but that shouldn’t be a problem on this comic.

There’s a different vibe from this comic than a lot of Morrison’s work, even the non-superhero work. I think it’s because that it’s very grounded, and even something like Joe the Barbarian, which dealt with a very real issue, felt a bit more fanciful. Yes, I did just write that a comic with a flying, talking unicorn is “grounded,” but Happy is just a small part of this issue. I imagine it will become more a part of the comic as we move forward, but it’s nice to see Morrison writing actual people talking to each other, even if he’s following the Ennis Dialogue Pamphlet for much of it. It makes it more humorous for me, frankly.

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(For those of you who are wondering what “interview” I’m referring to in the Batman, Inc. credits, David Brothers breaks it down with his typical panache. It’s a good post, and it also features two different people in the comments referring (sarcastically) to Morrison as the God of All Comics. I’m so proud!)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Nick Sax is kind of a jerk

Higher Earth #5 by Sam Humphries (writer), Joe Eisma (artist), Mirka Andolfo (colorist), Andrea Dotta (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

So you may recall how much I praise Joe Eisma for cranking out page after page of Morning Glories with very few breaks, which is impressive not only for the fact that he gets few breaks but because Morning Glories is usually around 30 pages long. Well, Eisma wasn’t satisfied with that, so he decided to do the guest art on this issue of Higher Earth just to fuck with the prima donna artists working for DC and Marvel who can’t finish three issues in a row without taking a two-month break. You know how Joe Eisma relaxes after drawing another 33-page script from Nick Spencer? He says, “Yeah, fuck it, I’ll draw 22 pages of Higher Earth. It’ll be a nice break.”

This is fairly typical Eisma art, although it’s a bit slicker than his work on Morning Glories, perhaps due to the coloring process. That’s fine, though, because it’s still good. Humphries, after dropping a pseudo-bombshell on us at the end of last issue (I say that because once Humphries dropped the first bombshell, any subsequent ones in the same vein are bound to be a bit less surprising), goes back and shows how the person at the end of issue #4 got to where she is today. He does a pretty good job, because I kept thinking that there was one protagonist and we were seeing this person at two different times, yet Humphries comes to a point where he reveals what’s really been going on, and it’s pretty clever. Much like another comic further down this list, the guest artist is used quite well – this is a flashback, essentially, so the different art style doesn’t matter too much. It’s a handy trick if used well.

I still don’t think Higher Earth is the best thing in the world, but it remains entertaining. Humphries is doing a nice job with the world-building, and while this issue (and the one further down the column, which uses the guest artist in the same way) might seem like a diversion, I very much doubt if Humphries will ignore this issue later. It seems like he introduces too much here to just let it go later. So, yeah – entertaining comic. That ain’t too bad!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Yeah, you should be nervous

Mars Attacks #4 by John Layman (writer/letterer), John McCrea (artist), and Andrew Elder (colorist). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Last week, when I had a beer with Layman, we spoke about several things that I’m not allowed to write about, but now that this issue is out, I can write a bit about this particular issue. Layman said that he had read some reactions to the first few issues, which focused on different characters, seemingly in isolation. The reactions were unkind not because the issues sucked or anything, but because they didn’t seem to have anything to do with each other. I really don’t understand that attitude in serial fiction. Obviously, this is a story arc, and each issue a different chapter in that story arc. I’ve read plenty of books where the first chapters – occasionally half or more of the book – focuses on a different character and you have no idea how they all fit together, but eventually they do. Why is it okay for someone like Charles Dickens to do this but not okay for Layman? If the individual chapters are entertaining (and they have been, so far), what’s the big deal? Of course, Layman does begin to pull everything together in this issue (next issue is the final one of the arc), as we could probably anticipate him doing, so there’s that, but I don’t get the idea of hammering something in serial fiction when the entire arc hasn’t been published. I’ve probably done it in the past and I might do it again, but I try not to. I didn’t like the attempted rape in Sword of Sorcery even if Marx deals with it down the line (which she might, given that this is serial fiction) but because it was ham-fisted and even if she deals with it well, it’s such a clichéd approach to comics writing these days that I don’t really care if she deals with it well in later issues. Layman, however, was telling almost complete stories in the first three issues (set against the backdrop of the invasion, sure, but the characters had a big moment that acted as a climax to their individual stories), so a reader could have even picked up issue #3 and not any other issue and still had a satisfying reading experience. So I don’t get that criticism.

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Anyway, in this issue we meet an Aztec and a Confederate soldier, who have been kept alive on the Martian spaceships and experimented on. They’re the last ones left alive, and the Confederate tells the Aztec it’s time to escape and hopes the Aztec understands (luckily, he does). Only one of them escapes, but when he arrives on Earth, he finds the two main characters from the previous two issues, who are organizing a resistance. So there you go. Layman has fun showing the Martians interacting with various cultures over the centuries, meetings that invariably end in violence, and McCrea draws it all wonderfully. He’s really doing a superb job on this comic.

I imagine this will all end in bloody violence, but Layman still has another arc to write on this title, so maybe someone will survive. I’m looking forward to it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Martians love their guns!

Mind MGMT #5 by Matt Kindt (writer/artist). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

I guess this issue explains the weirdness at the very start of issue #1? Is that what we’re going with? It makes sense, but it’s certainly possible that the strange sequence at the beginning of the series has yet to be explained. Or maybe it was explained and I didn’t catch it. I’m certainly not very bright, so it’s possible!

Anyway, in this issue Henry Lyme continues to narrate his history, and it’s quite cool how Kindt takes his abilities and his mindset to their logical conclusion, even if it’s horrifying. Why wouldn’t you leap to conclusions the way Henry does? It’s tragic but not surprising. We also get the “secret origin” of Meru, which is nice. Kindt has been moving everyone into position for the final issue of the arc, and as I mentioned, the book is getting better with every issue, and that’s always cool. Perhaps the biggest issue with the book is that it’s still hard to really empathize with the characters because they live in such a shadowy world, but with Henry’s wife and kid, Kindt shows that he can do good work with “real” characters – yes, Natasha is a Mind Management agent, but she’s also more rooted in the real world than Henry is – so I imagine that he’ll get around to that as the book moves along.

As always, Kindt’s art is very good, although I still understand that not everyone digs it. I just love the watercolors in the book, which gives it a nice, dusty feel, and the way Kindt occasionally bends the panel borders to telescope the figures in the panel, shifting from an objective to a more subjective reality – Henry feels lost in one of them, for instance, and the curving of the border panels help focus the panel around him and also show that his version of “what’s real” is a bit warped. Kindt does a lot of clever stuff like this in all his books, and he’s using it to good effect here.

The arc wraps up next issue. After that it’s the zero issue, which apparently is a good place to jump on board. I encourage you to do so!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Oh, Henry, you crazy bastard

Mind the Gap #5 (“Intimate Strangers Part 5: Portrait of the Con Artist”) by Jim McCann (writer), Adrian Alphona (artist), Rodin Esquejo (artist), Sonia Oback (colorist), Beny Maulana (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

Last issue, McCann mentioned that Adrian Alphona was going to be the guest artist on issue #5. So this week, issue #5 came out … and Alphona’s name is nowhere to be found on it. Dang, McCann, that’s harsh! If you’ve seen Alphona’s art before, it’s somewhat obvious that it’s his work, but still – someone fucked up somewhere, because the credits still claim Esquejo did the art. And Esquejo did some of the art … page 1-3 and 23-25, specifically. Yes, this issue features a framing device, as Esquejo draws the “present” section and Alphona handles the “past” section, in which we learn more about Dane, Elle’s boyfriend, and why the police maybe shouldn’t trust his father, who showed up unexpectedly at the end of last issue and basically got Dane thrown in jail. McCann gives us a solid backstory for both Dane and his dad, and then reveals something rather big. I mentioned last issue that when I got some time in January, I was going to re-read the series and try very hard to pick up clues, and then McCann goes and reveals something big. I doubt if it’s the BIG secret, unless the book is suddenly getting cancelled, but it’s still a big plot point. I wonder what’s going on …?

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Alphona’s art is interesting – the coloring scheme fits in with the Esquejo/Oback dynamic, so it looks smooth, but Alphona has a sharper line than Esquejo and he’s not as “realistic,” so the flashback looks more like a dream sequence than an actual rendering of events. It’s an interesting way to do it, and as I mentioned above with regard to Eisma on Higher Earth, I don’t mind guest artists is the writers create issues that specifically go outside the flow of the regular narrative. This is a pretty neat blend of the “realistic” artwork of Esquejo and the looser pencils of Alphona, and it works just fine. I assume McCann has planned these kinds of issues throughout so he can give Esquejo a break now and then.

This is a pretty keen comic. I’m curious to see where this latest turn of events takes us!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Maybe that's part of the problem!

The Sixth Gun #25 (“Winter Wolves Part Two”) by Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

The Sixth Gun is really good. I don’t know if you truly understand that, but it is. Cullen Bunn might be toiling away on the middle- to upper-tiers of Marvel these days (has he graduated to upper-tier yet, or is he still middle-tier?), but with the way editorial locks down the talent at the Big Two (seemingly more at DC than Marvel, but it seems pretty tightly controlled at the upstart company, too), there’s no way Bunn could settle in and do a comic anything like The Sixth Gun there. I don’t mean to be all snobby, but this comic is too … I don’t know, professional? for the Big Two. If that sounds both counter-intuitive and insulting, I don’t mean it to be. How can a book from Oni be more professional than a comic from DC or Marvel, who have all that money to throw around? Well, I don’t know, but it is. Perhaps it’s the fact that this book is the vision of two creators working well together. As much as everyone is gushing all over Hawkeye, there have been two issues of that, and there’s absolutely no guarantee that Fraction and Aja and Hollingsworth and Eliopoulos (let’s give some love to the letterers!) will stay together very long. Marvel editorial is just too dickish for that. There’s no guarantee that Marvel won’t force Hawkeye (the comic) to participate in the next big crossover train wreck, which I imagine will suck and drag the book’s quality down with it. In fact, I don’t even know if Hurtt could get work from Marvel or DC, because his pencil work isn’t flashy enough. Maybe if a writer with some juice requested him (I imagine that’s why Aja is drawing Hawkeye, because he’s not very flashy either), but who’s going to do that? I know I hammer on this point quite often, but it bugs me to no end when people go nuts over a decent Big Two comic just because it’s decent and not the usual dreck that comes out from those companies but ignore really good comics like this. I’m not talking about you guys – everyone knows people who read Comics Should Be Good! are truly discerning people (I play to the crowd around here!), but there are people who remain absolutely ignorant about good comics. Like this one.

Oh, by the way, issue #25 is good. WENDIGO!!!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

At least you can get a saddle on an alligator, right?

Steed and Mrs. Peel #1 (“London Falling”) by Mark Waid (storier), Caleb Monroe (scripter), Will Sliney (artist), Ron Riley (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

On the other hand, I don’t know what to make of Steed and Mrs. Peel. I pre-ordered through issue #3, but I’m not even sure if I’ll get them, because I don’t know what the fucking hell is going on with this comic book. Will Sliney takes over on art, and he’s a bit of an upgrade over Steve Bryant. Monroe takes over scripting because Waid is … too busy? Beats me. But none of that matters. What matters is that on pages 4 and 5 of this issue, a nuclear explosion destroys London.

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Yes, it’s true. The rest of the issue is about Steed and Mrs. Peel trying to figure out if they can leave their underground bunker where all the English VIPs are hanging out, and then they’re forced out by a fire, but the world doesn’t seem to be irradiated. And then the Hellfire Club shows up. What the fuck, Waid and Monroe?

Like last issue, which was based on misdirection, I imagine this is too. I imagine that London really wasn’t destroyed in a nuclear explosion, although there seems to be plenty of destruction. I mentioned above that in serial fiction, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about the story before the entire story comes out, and I’m not going to do that here. I want to see what happens, but this first issue is so very odd, I’m not sure how it will be redeemed. Right now, I just don’t get it. But I suppose I’ll stick around for a bit to see what’s going on!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Glenfiddich all around!

The Tower Chroncles: Geisthawk volume 1 by Matt Wagner (writer), Simon Bisley (penciler), Rodney Ramos (inker), Ryan Brown (colorist), and Sean Konot (letterer). $7.99, 68 pgs, FC, Legendary Comics.

Legendary is the company that published Frank Miller’s Holy Terror, and I guess they liked the idea of publishing comics, so they decided to open up their comics division. Legendary, in case you don’t know, is a film production company, and they’ve decided to skip from finding comics that they can turn into screenplays and create comics themselves. It’s a cynical and not terribly original move, but the one thing they have going for them is that they know comics talent, so they got Matt Wagner and Simon Bisley to write and draw The Tower Chronicles. This comic has a generic name and a generic cover, which works against it, but once you open it up, you see Bisley’s oddball art and it gets better. Not great, but better.

The plot is cobbled together from any number of horror/thriller/detective stories – John Tower is a mysterious dude who hunts down supernatural beasties, and a semi-rogue FBI agent is keen to figure out his deal. Tower is a classic “tough guy of few words with a murky past” while FBI agent Alicia Hardwicke (yes, her last name is Hardwicke – Wagner is not being subtle here) is a bad-ass chick who works harder than anyone but still looks totes foxy. The comic is divided into chapters, each one spotlighting a different case of Tower’s, but Wagner is clearly building a longer narrative, as the final few pages show. Tower hunts down a woman who’s not what she seems, tries to figure out if a scientist who worked for the mob (and embezzled money from them) is really dead, and tracks a vampire because Hardwicke asks him to, as she’s stymied. Wagner does enough to put some spin on these tales, so they’re not just dull monster hunting stories, but the book doesn’t break too much new ground. Wagner can be an excellent writer, but I imagine he was tasked to do certain things in this story, so while the story isn’t bad, it’s not too wildly original.

Bisley is a good choice to draw this series, because his weird style fits well with Wagner’s story. Note the Jim Lee cover on this sucker. As good as Lee can be, he’s a superhero artist, and in his hands, this book would have been a pretty but dull superhero book. Bisley is able to bring the strangeness to the fore, whether it’s an owl crawling out of a mouth or a freaky baby vampire. I’m not too big a fan of Ramos inking Bisley, because it seems like the work is far smoother than it is when Bisley inks himself (the nice paper quality might have something to do with that), but that’s a minor complaint. The book looks really nice, and Bisley’s twisted cartooning helps make Wagner’s tales more eerie and creepy.

I understand that some people hate that comics are used as screenplay mills occasionally, and I get that, certainly. I’m not a huge fan of it, because these film companies seem to think that comics and movies are pretty much synonymous, and they’re not. That said, if you’re going to shamelessly create a screenplay in comics form so you can turn it into a movie, you might as well get good talent on the comics. Wagner and Bisley are good talent, so this is a pretty decent book. It’s not great, but it’s pretty good.

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Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Who's going to clean that up?

Westward #1 (“Chapter One: Startup”) by Ken Krekeler (writer/artist). $2.99, 47 pgs, BW, Kinetic Press.

I already reviewed this, so you can check it out there. Bottom line: It’s excellent, and I encourage everyone to find a copy if you can. Issue #2 has already been solicited, so there’s that, and I’m sure your retailer will order it for you, because I doubt if he (or she) grabbed a bunch of copies. But it’s very, very good. Trust me!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

It's funny 'cause it's true!

American Vampire volume 3 by Scott Snyder (writer), Rafael Albuquerque (artist), Danijel Zezelj (artist), Sean Murphy (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), Dave Stewart (colorist), Steve Wands (letterer), and Pat Brosseau (letterer). $16.99, 242 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I pointed this out when it was solicited, but I’ll do it again: This trade collects twelve (12) issues for seventeen (17) dollars. Now, you don’t get it immediately when it’s published, but come on – talk about a good argument for waiting for the trade! I mean, that’s just silly. DC’s (and Marvel’s, to a certain degree) pricing policy is absolutely insane. In this case, it’s a good insane, but still. If you have any interest in reading the DCnU and figuring out what fits with what (not that DC knows), it’s almost impossible to wait for the trades, because DC’s release dates for the hardcovers and trades are idiotic. But for Vertigo books? There’s no reason to read them in single issues. Yes, I know I read Hellblazer in single issues. It’s because I’m stupid!

An Inspector Calls by Jason Cobley (adapter), Will Volley (lineworker), Alejandro Sanchez (colorist), and Jim Campbell (letterer). $16.99, 136 pgs, FC, Classical Comics.

This is a graphic novel adaptation of J. B. Priestly’s 1945 play, and it looks like a play – lots of faces, limited places, that sort of thing. It sounds keen, but who knows, right?

Barbara by Osamu Tezuka (writer/artist), Ben Applegate (translator), and Evan Hayden (letterer). $19.95, 430 pgs, BW, Digital Manga Publishing.

I have never read anything by Tezuka. Yes, I suck. This sounded pretty keen, plus it’s one volume, so it’s not a huge investment in time or money. So I’ll see what’s what with this, okay?


I apologize for this week’s post. I think the reviews aren’t very good, but if you do, then just ignore me. I’ve been reviewing books every week for a long time, and you know how it is – every once in a while, I just don’t have much to write about them. It happens. Plus, this has been a shitty week for me, personally. We’ve had two medical problems in the house this week (nothing life-threatening, and neither involving me), and it’s been frustrating for everyone. I really haven’t been in the mood the past three days to write about comics, so maybe I should have skipped this week. But I thought writing would take my mind off the crap in the real world, but it didn’t too much. Anyway, I don’t think this week’s group of reviews is all that good. Sorry about that. I hope by next week everything will be sorted out and I can write with my usual verve. If you don’t think I have any verve … well, that’s a good point. Maybe next week I can be competent again!

Have a nice weekend, everyone!


Thanks for the support and great review, Greg!

Wolverine and the X-Men 17 was fun. Aaron! Allred! Doop! League of Nazi Bowlers!

Yeah, I think that you should check out Wolverine and the X-Men 17. I had never read it before (mostly because it was $3.99), but I picked up this issue since it had Doop and Mike Allred. It was easily one of the best single-issue superhero stories I’ve read in years. It’s so COMICS! that I think you would appreciate it.

YES to Wolverine and the XMen 17. I didn’t know Allred was on that issue, and didn’t know it’d be Doop-tastic, but it was. Plus, I got to break out my Doop alphabet.

More later, on the books you and I both actually got.

Axel: No problem. It’s a very good comic!

I really don’t like spending four bucks for Marvel and DC comics, especially the 20-page ones (if they have a back-up story, I consider it). It’s just so ridiculous, and so even though Wolverine and the X-Men #17 did look very good (I flipped through it at the store), I just couldn’t do it. Of course, Marvel still hasn’t published a softcover of the series at all, which pisses me off to no end. Why don’t they want me to read their comics????

Thanks for this week’s article. Whether good or not, this is one article I look forward to each week to help take my mind off the shitty stuff too. BTW – It’s never not good.

Greg, Hope it’s not too weird to say (but hey you know for me weird is normal!) but I’m really sorry to hear that you’ve had a hard time this week. It may be a pointless thing to say but I hope everything gets back to a better kind of normal for your family and yourself with those health issues tackled, yeah, I know, call me Mr Obvious! I’m aspergic (surprise), have some health problems (just dumb ones, hard of hearing, eye problems yada yada yada, etc), and suffer from depression (Full House!) but after a crappy week it’s always great to read your column as it always cheers me up and informs, this week was no different; for what it’s worth, I think you’re a good man and I’m impressed that you could write anything this week, but them I’m impressed by your strength and resilience and that of your wife. I may already have exceeded my too much information/too much nutso earnestness quotient but I hope this week’s much kinder to you all. And now back to our (fairly) normal programming…
Your “bunghole or mouth” joke was hilariously disgusting. Good show! Westward looks worth checking out, thanks for the tip, excellent cover too. The Avengers is a difficult series to capture in comics form particularly as as its “englishness” is of a *specific* sort (so specific that you can’t really call it “britishness” or “Britishnrss”). Choosing the Steed and Mrs Peel era is appealling (as it’s the one you our “colonial coudins – ;-) – are most familiar with) but it has its problemd due to the things that can’t be done without making it “Not the Avengers”, this would apply if the writer wss British as well. Still it may work out. Thanks for your work.

Don: Thank you, sir. That’s very kind.

Hal: Thanks. We’ve been dealing with health problems for years, so I know we’ll all get through it, but this week did suck, mainly because we weren’t sure what was going on. I try very hard to make this a good column – I hope everyone enjoys it, I just felt distracted this week!

Yeah, I’ve always enjoyed The Avengers when I’ve seen an episode, but even Morrison had a difficult time capturing what made it great. There are certain things that seem to work only in their original medium, and I wonder if the interaction between Patrick Macnee and his leading lady (whether it was Diana Rigg or not) is something that is simply unique to television.

Your reviews are appreciated, as always, Greg. Skip a week if you have to, I think everybody understands that things happen. But don’t make a habit of it (because I’m greedy).

About America Vampire vol 3, it actually pisses me off. See, I had bought the singles of the main series but was toying with switching over to trades (which I did) so decided not to pick up the Mini figuring it’d be collected in its own trade. Now comes Vol 3 which is half issues I own and half the mini I wanted to pick up. At this point I just dropped the comic all together and eventually I’ll decide if its worth it to pick up the trade.

Still quite annoying.

Damn, Slaughterhouse-5 is good, innit? I need to re-read me some Vonnegut.

Here’s me going alphamabetically too.

Haven’t yet read Batman Inc. 0. Started to re-read from The Return on through the other volume of Inc, but only got through the Return. Then I got sleepy. I’ll get to it later.

Elephantmen sounds neat, and I have a few early issues (based on Dave Sim’s recommendation, actually), but I haven’t yet read them because I am a bad person. Axel joins a select group of people who have colored Dave’s art, tho. There’s Gerhard…and I cannot right now think of who else. There are a few others, but not many. 5-10 years ago, I’d know all that cold.

Hey, wait, Debris shoulda been before Elephantmen! I was vaguely interested in this, and I’ll probably look at your reviews again, as I think the LCS still has copies. What I’ve read of Wiebe, he’s got good ideas and concepts, but the execution leaves me cold.

Happy — yeah, I totally got the vibe that Morrison wanted to take on Ennis here, via Robertson. But this was a pretty good issue. A little confusing at first, but by design. The way I read it, though, that one brother Sax wasn’t expecting for some reason told his family that Sax had the password, but I think that’s the hook here — he doesn’t, so he’s being followed for the wrong reasons. Anyway, it’s good stuff and I hope Robertson’s Space Beaver shows up!!! (Plus, I’ll have to look for that interview. Is it Morrison doing his typical overselling of a book, whereas I think he should just STFU and let his work speak for itself, because it’s usually awesome? Not Action, though, mind you.)

Higher Earth 5 (and Mind the Gap 5) hits issue 5, and just when I think, ah, I don’t need this book, it starts to get interesting, in both cases. Damn it! I love your comment on Eisma, though. Damn, son! Actually, once I get down to MTG, I might have more to say about pseudo-bombshells et al.

Mars Attacks kicks ass, and you can tell Layman I said so. While I understand that the previous issues were going to tie in together, it did seem a bit odd the way it was done, because it didn’t exactly seem like they were connected, somehow. I dunno how to explain. However, they’ve been so damn entertaining that I didn’t care too much. And I’m drawing a blank on who the third person is at the end, but I don’t want to spoil anyone and tell who I do remember. I’ll look it up later.

I may go for Mind MGMT in trade, as I missed it at my local shops. I’ll probably snag the 0 issue if I find it. Damn you DH for also doing 0 issues!!!

Mind the Gap 5 — hey, so that’s where Renee Montoya’s been! Ha! Anyway, it was SOOOOOO obvious at the end of last issue that things couldn’t possibly be that easy (since I am a living breathing human being that has experienced some pop culture and mysteries), that this issue was more just laying out what was really going on.

But with both HE and MTG, the problem the writers have now is that because of the rules of their respective books, there’s not really anything that can REALLY shock, y’know? HE is all about parallel earths, so really, the shocks were obvious even before the actual reveal (he says, now that the reveal has come), and MTG’s tag line is “no one is innocent”. Well. If so, then how are you really going to shock me? The reveal here at the end of 5 wasn’t a big surprise since there was a bit of dialogue in issue 2 or 3 that hinted this person was aware of what’s really going on, and like I said, if everyone’s guilty, well, why is it going to shock me to learn that someone is, y’know, GUILTY?

I like your Sixth Gun rave. Although *ahem ahem* Hurtt drew Hard Time for DC, so even though the book got little support, and it was one of those “Focus” books, that counts. Kinda. Otherwise, hear hear.

Steed and Mrs Peel was decent, but yeah, it’s obvious there’s some sort of misdirection here. Way too convenient that the Hellfire Club shows up when they do. Plus, y’know, London isn’t destroyed IRL…

Westward 1 — thanks again for the good recommendation a while back, and all y’all oughta go out and pick this one up. Great stuff, and look at that price! My retailer was impressed, as he figured it was a 6 or 7 dollar book. And it totally would have been worth that, too. But it’s 3 bucks!!! And it’s great, creepy, atmospheric.

I thought the reviews were deec. Of course, given that I read almost all of the books, I was able to read them this time. We either are simpatico with our reading interests, or you’ve totally brainwashed me.

Shoeshine, master?

Let’s see, what else did I get that was worth talking about…Fury Max 6 was good, that book is getting better as it goes, really. But 2 full months until the next issue? WTF Marvel? We got the first 2 or 3 issues in, like, 8 weeks, and now it was a month plus for this one, then another 2+ months for the next one…Plus, I dunno how long this book is supposed to go for. Grr.

DC zero issues — actually got better by the end of the month. Not great planning there, DC!!! There were a few I didn’t read, but of the ones I did, Teen Titans was surprisingly good, with the new Tim Drake origin. Batman the Dark Knight was good, in that it made clear a bit of lore with the origin, and thankfully didn’t tie it in to something else. Aquaman was ok. Superman was ok. Uhhh….what other ones were out this week? I dunno.

I hope you plan to get the New Deadwardians in trade. Really good stuff. Kelly says so too!!!

Ugh. I can’t think of nuttin’ else. Gotta go vote for my top 10 creator runs now….

I didn’t notice anything off at all with your reviews, so no need to be so harsh on yourself. Hope everything is okay with you and your family now.

Just Mind The Gap in common this week. I was really confused after the credits page not listing Alphona and then seeing the first page was by Esquejo. I thought I was going mad until I realised it was a framing device! I was also happy about the way Alphona was used. It doesn’t interrupt the visual consistency at all (as I believe you and some others were worried it might in a previous column).

It was nice to have a clear answer to whether Dane was guilty, as well as a big reveal and a big change for Elle to get us primed for next issue. I’m really curious about how long the series is intended to be, and so how regularly we can expect revelations to happen. I am guessing 30-40 issues.

My pull list is starting to get a bit big for me so I am not yet following The Sixth Gun, but issues 1-23 were on sale recently and I got them and loved them, so am intending to pick up 24 onwards in January (as I believe Stumptown, current Robo mini and Brubaker’s Winter Soldier are ending in December) and continue monthly from there. One advantage of digital is I get the option to delay without worrying I’ll miss an issue – unlike you print suckers!

On the other hand the disadvantage of digital: I checked Comixology for Westward with the intention of buying, but unfortunately it is not on there.

On Greg’s comment about the Sixth Gun feeling too professional for the big two, I totally understand what you mean. Atomic Robo feels like that to me. Everything in the plot and art feels tighter and less juvenile – no scantily dressed women or swearing, or blanked out swearing for example – and it feels more like it should be the mainstream.

Athabasca, Aztecs, and Wendigo. Plus Man of Bats (I presume) in “Batman, Incorporated.” It’s practically Native American Heritage Week here.

P.S. So I’m a media watchdog? I imagine that applies to a lot of your commentators.

You did the hat trick, Greg! This is the third time you’ve used a Slaughterhouse Five quote, and all of them were from the first chapter. That’s a really amazing piece of writing.

By the way, what is your opinion about that Morrison interview?


I hope your family’s doing better. I also hope you’re recovering from the related stress. If you skip any length of time posting, it’s completely understandable.

Speaking as someone who has been reading your blog posts for a long time, please stop apologizing for your writing. Seriously, we read it, enjoy it, and comment on it because it’s good and we like it. There’s nothing to apologies for! Except for the apologizing, maybe. But don’t apologies for that!

Jim McCann was very remorseful on Twitter about Alphona’s name being left off issue 5. He mentioned it a couple of times.

The Sixth Gun is one of my favorites and one of the best comics published. Bunn and Hurtt are super nice guys too. I love the comment that it is absurd that people get excited about average to decent comics like Hawkeye but have no idea that books like the Sixth Gun exist. Hurtt has only missed maybe one month and had only two fill in issues. Good luck getting that from Marvel or DC.

Dan: I skip weeks every once in a while, but it’s usually because I’m out of town. I don’t like to be lazy if I have access to my computer! :)

Travis: See how out of it I was this week? I messed up the alphabetical order of the books and didn’t even notice. Sheesh!

Morrison isn’t overselling any book in the interview, but he does pick on some fans who, it seems, have legitimate problems with him, especially over the Siegel and Shuster remarks. I don’t think it’s as bad an interview as Brothers does, but there are some strange statements in it.

Regarding Mars Attacks: Next time I see Layman, I’ll tell him. The two other people at the end are the guy from issue #3 and the guy from issue #2. I don’t want to be any more specific than that!

I like your point regarding Higher Earth and Mind the Gap. Why should we be surprised by anything? So far, both books have been good enough in other areas to overcome that, though.

I don’t count Hard Time. Well, sure I do, but since it was a completely walled-off section of DC, I don’t count it too much. Plus, I think Gerber probably had some of the juice I was talking about. The dude was a legend, so I imagine DC was more accommodating to him if he was the one who wanted Hurtt.

I thought Fury Max was 6 issues, but then I saw somewhere that it’s 12. If that helps.

I didn’t think the idea of New Deadwardians was really all that interesting, but people raving about it (including you and Kelly) has made me reconsider. Luckily, I have a while until the trade comes out, so I can think about it!

Rolacka: Yeah, Westward is very, very independent (as in self-published), so I’m not surprised it’s not on ComiXology. You can always contact Krekeler to see how to get a copy, though!

Rob: That’s true. Indians are all hip and trendy, man! I’m sure that makes up for everything. :)

Others may be media watchdogs, but I’m impressed by how relentless you are!

Pedro: Slaughterhouse-5 is, unfortunately, still the only Vonnegut book I’ve read. I need to rectify that at some point. And I use quotes in the same way I do everything – methodically. I wrote them down when I read the book, so of course they’re in order chronologically. I have almost two notebooks full of quotes, and I’ve been going through them slowly, and now I’ve gotten back around to the Vonnegut stuff, so that’s why they’re all from the first chapter. I think the next time I get to Vonnegut (which might be in a year or two), the quote will be from a different chapter!

As I noted, I don’t have as big a problem with Morrison’s interview, mainly because I don’t really believe that creators show all their personality in their work. Some, maybe, but not all. I think some people believed that Morrison really was like the persona he developed to sell books, and while I imagine that’s part of his personality, the fact that he’s spent 25 years working exclusively for DC or Marvel ought to say something about what he wants, right? It wasn’t the best interview, and he did say some weird things, but I didn’t think it was as “gross” – to use Brothers’ term – as he thought it was.

Mike: You know I don’t apologize too often. I just know that while nobody pays for this, my posts tend to take a long time to read, so I didn’t want anyone to think they wasted their time. I usually think my posts are pretty entertaining (not to be too arrogant – I know I’m a pretty good writer), but when I was re-reading this, I just thought it was lacking something. I’ll try to keep my opinions about the writing to myself and let the post speak for itself from now on! :)

Adam: That’s cool of McCann. I just thought it was funny, but I’m sure he was mortified.

Yeah, I love talking to Bunn and Hurtt at cons. They’re very friendly. And I do like Hawkeye, but I just can’t believe that in this day and age, there are still people who buy only Big Two comics and ignore stuff like this. It makes no sense!

@ Travis – we must have been writing our comments at the same time. When I was writing mine I thought it was too long, but then posted it and saw yours!

I think Mind the Gap will be able to surprise me, despite knowing nobody is innocent. Makes me think Jo will turn out to be the Big Bad though!

@ Adam – It must be rubbish for the creators when mistakes like that happen.

@ Greg – Out of alphabetical order? I don’t read your posts for mistakes like that! :-p

And I have looked at the Westward website to see if they do a digital version, and you can fund a Kickstarter project for $15 to get full colour pdfs of the first three issues.


That doesn’t sound too bad a deal at all. I do like my Steampunk.

And I think with the success of The Walking Dead and Saga more and more attention will move to Image (and Independent comics more generally) over the next few years. I hope that more and more people are trying non big-two stuff – I get the impression they are, bu who knows?

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