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CSBG Archive

What I bought – 14 November 2012

“You can’t be a pure nation anymore, like the French and Germans used to be. At the stage of technology we have reached, nations work only if they float in the larger world. And what you have in this part of the world are fossilized nations, dead societies that have yet to revive. There are a group of young reformers in our parliament, educated in the West. But Georgians only want heroes. These reformers have never killed, they don’t drink two liters of wine every evening, they don’t fight, they have no mustaches or daggers, so they can’t be heroes!” (Robert Kaplan, from Eastward to Tartary)

Something bad is a-coming! Is this a Spider-Man homage? Reed is going in for a surreptitious booty grab! Probably not smart to swim so close to the propeller like that Split screen!!! Run, Lola, runnnnnn!!!! Um, what? Stanley Kubrick saw this cover and said, 'Pffft.  It's been done.' Thor is heading off to the gun show! Brood, damn you! Really? It's glammatronic! MONSTERS!!!! Yay!  Over a year late! Old-school stuff! Pulpy! The final chapter!

Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific #4 (of 5) by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Red 5 Comics.

This latest Atomic Robo mini-series started off well but has floundered just a little in the last two issues, and I think it’s because Clevinger has chosen to turn it into an action movie, and while there’s nothing wrong with action movies, the charm of Atomic Robo has always been the banter between Robo and his co-stars, and while Clevinger gives him and the other characters some banter, it’s not quite as good as in other series. Last issue, Robo got captured by the Japanese, and in this issue he tries to convince them to give up their villainous ways, but they’re not having any of it. He tries to convince Takeshi, the main Japanese bad guy, that attacking the United States is suicidal, but because Takeshi isn’t really a funny character, Robo’s tone comes off a bit whining and desperate, and Takeshi resists any attempts to draw him in. The sequence when Robo gets rescued by the She-Devils is handled well, but I, personally, don’t feel that Clevinger has done a good enough job developing them as characters – there are a lot of them, and they each get some screen time, but I just don’t have as much of a connection to them as to other ancillary characters in other mini-series. Maybe that’s just my problem, but I’m the one reviewing, aren’t I? The issue is typically wonderful to look at – I’m still not completely used to Nick Filardi’s coloring, which is softer than Ronda Pattison’s – and the Japanese plan is diabolical and makes sense in a Bondian kind of way, but there’s something off about this series, especially issues #3 and 4, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s because the tone of the book – a light-hearted adventure with a wisecracking main character – clashes a bit with the situation that the Japanese are in, as this takes place only 6 years after two of their cities were wiped from the face of the earth and they might be a bit testy about that, which gets into the whole idea of the Japanese themselves committing atrocities during the war and during their invasion of China, and such thoughts don’t belong in Atomic Robo. I think that’s part of it, but there’s also the fact that this feels somehow too … I don’t know, action-movie-ish. No, I don’t have to make sense. It’s my review, man!

That’s not to say that it’s a bad comic, because it’s perfectly fine. There are a lot better Atomic Robo comics, but when the bar is set so high, even something like this, that doesn’t quite reach it, is still very pleasant to read. Robo’s attempt to distract the guard is pretty funny, and Wegener draws some very nice action scenes. Something ain’t right, though. I’ll see how Clevinger wraps this whole thing up and then I’ll ponder it some more. Won’t that be fun?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Yeah, smart guy, what about that?

Elephantmen #44 (“Sleeping Partners Part Three: The Three Kinds of Treasure”) by Richard Starkings (writer), Axel Medellin (artist/colorist), and Dave Sim (artist). $3.99, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

Starkings is using this story arc to examine the relationships between the various characters, as it’s been announced that Sahara – a human – is pregnant with Obadiah Horn’s – an elephantman – baby, and although they’ve been together for years, now that she’s having a child, the anti-elephantmen people are out in force. Starkings isn’t being too subtle about this – he even names an angry reverend “Perry Falwell” – but it’s still an interesting arc. As always, it reflects on our own society, and Starkings does show that two hundred years from now, the mainstream isn’t too put out by this, but there will always be extremists, and they will always drive the social agenda to a degree. The other relationships in the book – Hip and Miki, Vanity and Ebony – get a bit of time, too, as Hip falls into the same trap male characters always seem to fall into – they don’t spend enough time with their women! So we get three relationships at different stages playing out, which makes this, as always, an impressive book.

Starkings also writes a bit about the greater plot, as Trench has a dream about bad things happening in New York, and Starkings ties it back into this idea that someone is activating the hybrids when they want to. Starkings never forgets his larger plots and he never forgets to focus on the characters, which is why Elephantmen is such a dense read every time out. Medellin, meanwhile, continues to get better. When Trench talks about the war and we get a flashback, Medellin’s lines are much rougher than usual, giving us both a sense of a different time but also a horrific circumstance, and the scene between Alto and Miki at the end of the issue is really good, with Miki’s face on the final page a beautiful mix of anticipation, regret, and nervousness. I’m not sure how the two of them didn’t see Hip standing not far off – he’s a giant hippopotamus man, for crying out loud! – but it’s still a wonderfully drawn scene.

Much like a lot of books I really like, it’s hard to write about this. It’s Elephantmen, and it’s really good. What more do you need to know?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

He's like your perverted uncle!

Fantastic Four #1 (“Unstable”) by Matt Fraction (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Paul Mounts (colorist), and Clayton Cowles (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley take over Fantastic Four in the Marvel NOW! Universe, and the results are … a Fantastic Four comic. I mean, there’s nothing really new going on here, it’s simply a new creative team giving us a comic in which old characters do some stuff. It’s not horrible, but it’s not terribly memorable, either. Fraction does begin the book with a full-page splash showing the team going through Ye Olde Kosmick Rayes with the caption “One year from now:”, but then he has to get to that point, doesn’t he? It turns out that Reed has figured out that his powers are failing and that he’s “breaking apart, at a molecular level.” So, he presumes, are the others in his little band. That’s the hook of this story.

Now, because this is a 2012 comic full of stupid people, does Reed:

A) Tell his family everything and tell them they need to be tested and then they can figure something out because he, you know, trusts them;

B) Hide this fact from his family and decide to take his entire family – children included – on an extra-dimensional journey for a year, hoping he can find the cure himself without anyone knowing?

Well, if you’ve ever read a comic or watched a television show or seen a movie before, you know the answer is B. I mean, Reed couldn’t just tell the people with whom he’s shared much of his adult life and who have had far worse things happen to them and one of whom is the mother of his children the motherfucking truth, could he? I mean, that would be crazy! It’s not like hiding facts from his family has ever gone horribly, horribly, HORRIBLY wrong for Reed, has it? Jeebus.

So Terrible Parents Reed and Sue, who designed terrifying “mombots” to “comfort” Franklin while they were off fighting dinosaurs (what kind of an idiot thinks robots with female faces clanking along on treads will comfort a child under 10 who’s woken up from a nightmare?), think that taking the kids on a cross-dimensional jaunt is a smart idea. I mean, it might be if Reed didn’t have plenty of life experience telling him that flying around in other dimensions is almost as stupid as living in New York in the Marvel Universe, but he does, so it’s not. Oh, and Franklin telling his mom that he doesn’t want to go into space and looking really worried about it? Yeah, if only our kid was super-powerful and was always saying weird, cryptic shit that turned out to be prophetic and really, really, bad for all concerned. Oh wait. Does Sue say anything to Reed? Let’s play multiple choice again! Does she:

A) Discuss this with her life partner, the father of her children, because they’re both adults and they always, ALWAYS want what’s best for their children, like, you know, responsible parents;

B) Bite her lip furtively, remembering Franklin’s words clearly, unwilling to challenge Reed’s unquestioned dominance of the pack because Reed is an abusive husband and Sue, for all her toughness, is terrified of him and just wants to keep him calm and happy?

Of course it’s B! Sue and Reed NEVER think of their children first. That’s just laughable. Even Reed’s statement about Franklin being upset that they weren’t around and that he doesn’t want to be gone anymore is just bullshit, as we already know. So, yeah.

Plus, a LOT of this book is filler. We get the opening splash page – okay, it’s fine, but it’s still a splash page that doesn’t give us too much information. Reed spends two pages figuring out his condition, the final one of which is … another goddamned splash page, this one of REED STANDING IN FRONT OF COMPUTER SCREENS LOOKING SAD. Yes, really. Johnny spends two pages telling some purple-haired chippie how wonderful she is, and I imagine the whole point of that is so when he’s off in another dimension, she’ll call him and he won’t be able to see her. DRAMA! Ben spends three pages getting filmed in an embarrassing situation by the Yancy Street Gang, who posts his embarrassment on YouTube (well, NewToob, but you get the drift). I guess every new writer of the book needs to show how vapid Johnny is, how Ben is victimized by the Yancy Street Gang (I thought that had been Johnny all those years?) and how Reed is focused on work. We already know all that shit, though, so Fraction could have gotten to the point just a little sooner. I’m just sayin’.

You know what, I take it back. This is a terrible comic. Blech. I will say that Mark Farmer inking Mark Bagley is a fine idea. Bagley’s pencils have gotten looser and looser over the years, presumably so he can keep up his impressive schedule, and Farmer adds some needed heft to his lines. There’s actual definition in faces, unlike the blankness that Bagley can often put in his characters, and it appears that Farmer adds enough to give Bagley’s characters more emotions than happiness and sadness, which Bagley usually shows by making them smile or by pointing their lips downward. You may think I hate Bagley’s art, but I don’t – I’ve just noticed that in recent years, he seems to be getting a bit sloppy, and the inking (and, I assume, Mounts’ coloring, which is pretty strong) help make Bagley a bit more like Alan Davis (Farmer and Mounts often work with Davis). Anything that makes art look more like Alan Davis’ is all right with me, I say!

So, yeah. This is a lousy comic book. It’s ridiculous if you think about it for more than a minute (which, obviously, Marvel hopes you don’t), and even if you buy the stupidity of the Richards clan, it’s still very paint-by-numbers. Oh well. There are other, better Marvel NOW! books to get to below!

(As pointed out here, Fraction even gets the whole “unstable molecules” thing wrong. Plus, of course, dinosaurs had died out long before 2.66 million years ago. So Fraction got two pretty major things wrong, and then the famed Marvel “editors” got their hands on the issue and missed both of them – look, I hate – honestly, HATE – picking on editors who toil on comics and don’t even get to go to conventions and get adored by the fanbase for their labor, but the unstable molecules seems to be a fundamental part of the Fantastic Four, and the other mistake is just sloppy, so perhaps you shouldn’t miss them. I mean, really.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dinner in a war zone? I'm there!

The Massive #6 (“Black Pacific Part Three of Three: Micronesia”) by Brian Wood (writer), Garry Brown (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $3.50, 25 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

The Massive #6 is pretty good, mainly because it focuses on Mag, who’s pretty interesting, and he gets to go be bad-ass while pirating another ship. Wood is good at this kind of thing – a morally ambiguous story in which people are forced to make hard choices and none of them are really correct. Mag is supposed to go onto a seemingly abandoned ship and find food, and Cal tells him if he encounters anyone, he’s to leave without conflict. So of course he encounters someone, and of course there’s conflict. But it’s not the encounter we think it will be, and doesn’t Mag get what Cal and his crew need?

The issue is also about how Mag grows as a person over the years. Wood flashes back to various points in his life, both before he met Cal and when he worked with Cal, and while we know where it’s going, it’s still a nice progression. As I’ve mentioned before, whenever Wood doesn’t write about the “Crash,” the book is pretty good. When he does, it goes off the rails a bit. This issue is about Mag and a crew member on a mission and about how Mag decided not to be a killer anymore, so it’s a good issue. Simple!

I should point out that although Wood keeps the rhetoric confined to Cal’s notes in the back of the book, he does write that “The United States was disproportionately the biggest polluter in the world” before the Crash. Once again, I don’t want to defend my country too much because it has a lot of problems, but I don’t understand that statement. A quick Google search tells me that China recently overtook the U.S. has the worst polluter in terms of carbon emissions, with Russia and India far behind but India, at least, coming up fast. Weirdly, Australia was the worst polluter in terms of per capita carbon emissions. Like I’ve said before, I don’t want to let the U.S. off the hook, but there are a lot of countries in the world polluting the shit out of the world, and why Cal (or Wood) keeps picking on one of them is beyond me. Maybe we should know better? Sure, but these days, everyone should know better.

Anyway, The Massive has finished six issues, which is usually when I decide if I’m going to keep buying something or not. I haven’t made up my mind, unfortunately. Just when I think the title has turned a corner and we can get post-Crash stories instead of rehashing the Crash, we get another issue that reminds me of the silliness of the Crash, and that’s not good. So I’m still on board for now, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we’re ready to move forward now!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, that has to suck

Mind MGMT #0 by Matt Kindt (writer/artist). $2.99, 26 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Kindt gives us a zero issue, which makes me wonder if these stories appeared on-line somewhere first, but I don’t care, because it’s another fine issue of this oddball series. Kindt fills in the world of Mind Management just a bit, as Meru, our heroine, talks to some people who are connected to the organization. The first one is about an enemy agent code-named “Bear” who is supposed to kill Harry Lyme but fails spectacularly. Still, it’s a nice little story with a certain compelling inevitability to it. The second one is about Meru’s first book, the one that put her on the map, which turns out to be related to Mind Management too. What this story does is show how well Kindt plots, because he hasn’t written very much about Meru’s first book and lazy readers (like me) could have thought mentioning her first book was just a way to show that she is actually a published author, so her quixotic quest for the second book doesn’t seem too crazy. But now it’s tied into organization, so there you have it. Finally, there’s a story about how widespread and influential Mind Management is, something we already knew but which is nice to see. We’ve seen so many stories about a long-running organization influencing world affairs for centuries or millennia, so what Kindt is doing isn’t original, but as usual, it’s all about how you tell the story, and Kindt knows how to tell a story. The nice thing about this comic is that it’s not just a secret organization directing events from behind the scenes, it’s an organization that changes reality, which makes it more interesting. It’s nice to get a bit more information about this world before we jump into the second story arc.

As with some other comics that have launched this year (two of which appear in this very column!), I’m not totally in love with Mind MGMT yet, but it’s still a pretty keen book. Get the trade or find the single issues – I don’t think you’ll be sorry!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

She should just pinch the bridge of her nose

Point of Impact #2 (of 4) by Jay Faerber (writer), Koray Kuranel (artist), and Charles Pritchett (letterer). $2.99, 21 pgs, BW, Image.

Either you’ve committed to this series or you’re waiting for the trade, and if the first issue was intriguing enough for you, I imagine you’re on board for all four issues. The series isn’t long enough even to make it worthwhile to drop if you’re not happy with a single issue (unless it’s the first one, of course), because why wouldn’t you stick with it? Basically, I’m saying that after issue #1, there’s no point in really “reviewing” issues 2 and 3 – they’ll move the story along, giving us some more information, and then, in issue #4, everything will (we hope) come together. I’ll summarize: The cops track down Nicole’s lover, but he runs for it and eludes them. Mitch tells his boss he’s working on the story even though his boss thinks it’s a bad idea. Mitch finds out that Nicole was having an affair (her sister tells him). Nicole’s lover sees the men who are following Mitch and decides to follow them, and he finds out where they work. All done! It’s kind of review-proof at this point – we’ve seen the inciting event, we have a good idea of all the players, and now it’s a case of hoping Faerber pulls it all together by the end. I think he will, because I’ve been reading Faerber’s Image books for over a decade, but he might not!

Oh, and Kuranel’s black and white art is still pretty keen. Good choice to do this without colors!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Action!

Saga #7 by Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Fiona Staples (artist), and Fonografiks (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Saga is back after a short (scheduled) break, and this is probably the best issue yet. There are still issues with the writing, but Vaughan seems to be finding his footing with regard to the characters, which is nice. I still don’t buy some of the things our characters do, and Vaughan falls into the trap of giving us a totally false cliffhanger – we know nothing is going to happen to Hazel, so why even imply she’s in jeopardy? – but the story is taking shape, slowly, and that’s nice. This might be the first issue where I didn’t keep thinking that Vaughan was writing regular humans talking and then Staples was drawing horns or wings on them – the dialogue actually sounded like it was these people saying things based on what we know about them rather than Vaughan just trying to write clever dialogue. If that makes sense. If it doesn’t … well, too bad. I’ve noticed this a lot in Vaughan’s writing – he writes dialogue that sounds like it’s in the book because it’s “clever,” not because it’s something the characters would actually say. In this issue, anything remotely clever (like the panel below) actually comes from the situation the characters are in, not because Vaughan thought it was bon mot that he just couldn’t lose. Editing sucks, people, but it needs to be done! Anyway, Marko goes off to find Izabel, and his mom tags along, while Alana gets acquainted with her father-in-law. No good can come of either situation, and it doesn’t. Vaughan also gives us some of Marko’s background, and it’s clichéd but effective – a real “those bastards killed everyone we love and if you don’t hate them as much as we do, you’re dead to us” kind of thing that you see in movies with Irish characters in them. So there’s that.

I mentioned in issue #6 that Staples was, weirdly enough, getting better with the backgrounds even though she needed time to catch up, and that continues here. The backgrounds, which were pretty weak when this book began, are much better, so either Staples is getting a lot better at them or she’s a bit rushed and doesn’t have time to tinker with them (occasionally tinkering with things makes them worse, not better). Either way, her figure work is still very good, and the characters seem much more integrated into the backgrounds, which aren’t as ethereal as they were in the first few issues. I’m not sure what the deal is with the giant, and maybe I’m just getting old, but really? I guess we’re supposed to chuckle, and I guess I did, but really? Whatever. Staples is very good with body language and expressions, so when Alana talks to Marko’s dad, Staples does a very good job making Vaughan’s dialogue even more powerful.

I’m glad that Saga is getting some good press and hype, because it’s always nice when non-superhero stuff gets some press. It’s also nice that it’s beginning to live up to the hype a bit, as Vaughan and Staples settle in and start doing some nice work. Let’s hope they keep it up!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That's why you should always stay in the shower!

Think Tank #4 by Matt Hawkins (writer), Rahsan Ekedal (artist), and Troy Peteri (letterer). $3.99, 21 pgs, BW, Image/Top Cow.

SPOILERS!!!!! SPOILERS!!!!! I’m not kidding here!!!!! But I’ll write about the art a bit before I get to the SPOILERS, so you can turn away if you want.

Ekedal continues to do a very nice job with this book, as this is a long chase scene (not a terribly fast one, as David and Mirra are escaping in a golf cart) during which Ekedal needs to keep track of a lot of moving parts, and he does a fine job. He has to draw convincing technology, and his effects – like when David puts on a “chameleon” suit – are quite nice. He draws David as a impish, immature “frat boy” (as Mirra calls him), but still oozing with charm, which he needs so we don’t think he’s a complete douchebag. For the past few years, Ekedal has been doing wonderful work in black and white, and I hope his art has improved enough that coloring won’t hurt it, like I think it did when I last saw his artwork colored. It seemed to be overwhelmed a bit by the coloring, but I think he’s improved enough now that it wouldn’t. I have a feeling he’ll be moving up in the world.

And then there’s the story. I still like this comic, but (SPOILERS) at the end (SPOILERS), Hawkins does something stupid … he adheres to Pop Culture Rule #1. I thought for so long that he would resist it, to the point where I hadn’t even considered it after the first issue, but then, on the last page … dang. If you don’t know what my Pop Culture Rule #1 is, you haven’t read my posts before, but that’s good because you won’t get spoiled by this, but those of you who do know … well, sorry. I was really hoping Hawkins wouldn’t succumb, but because he did, the second arc’s … arc kind of opens up, because you can see the signposts. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but we’ve seen the movie before, when a man and a woman are on the lam from the Feds, and because of the last page, we can kind of figure out what’s going to happen. I really hope Hawkins resolves things differently (and without killing anyone), but I fear. I fear, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m still getting issue #5 and subsequent issues, because I like how Hawkins is writing this with regard to David and his genius outsmarting everyone. This was a well plotted arc, and I imagine the next one will be more of the same. Still … I’m worried.

Man, Pop Culture Rule #1 sucks. I wish it weren’t a rule!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, he's only known you for a day or so!

Thor: God of Thunder #1 (“The God Butcher Part One of Five: A World Without Gods”) by Jason Aaron (writer), Esad Ribic (artist), Dean White (colorist), and Joe Sabino (letterer). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

Based on the title of this comic and the title of the actual arc and the title of the story in this issue, I wonder if this comic is about gods? I’m really struggling with this.

Aaron, from what little I know about him, seems like a perfect writer for Thor. He has the giant beard, he loves soldiers, and he seems aggressively masculine – not in any negative way, but in an awesome way, like he can kick my ass just by looking at me and he makes any woman within a 50-foot radius get weak in the knees. So now he’s on Thor, and he writes us a comic in which Thor gets all sorts of women weak in the knees, answers prayers, and faces down a horde of monsters all by his lonesome. BECAUSE HE’S MOTHERFUCKING THOR! Aaron is telling stories in three different time periods – we begin in A.D. 893, move to the present (but on a far-off planet), and then end up in the far future, when Thor is king but he’s alone because everyone else is dead. Aaron, I guess plans to write the entire arc this way, which is pretty neat. In each time period, he’s fighting something called the “god butcher,” who is not an immortal being who sells meat at reasonable prices but something that actually carves up gods. In the first part, Thor and his cronies find a god who has been, well, butchered. In the present, Thor discovers that a planet has no gods, and he finds out that it’s because they’ve all been killed. In the future, the God Butcher has come for him. It’s all very exciting! Thor commits a cardinal sin of horror movies – never unlock anything! – but I guess he doesn’t know yet that he’s in a horror movie, or maybe, being Asgardian, he’s never seen a horror movie, but it’s still an exciting issue.

The real coup for this comic, however, is that Marvel slotted Dean White into the colorist’s position. Is White still working on Uncanny X-Force, and is he double-dipping? I don’t know – I read UX-F in trades, so I haven’t reached the “Otherworld” arc yet. But White is on this book, so I imagine that in three issues, when Ribic simply can’t draw any more without soaking his hand in ice for two months, whoever fills in will get the “Dean White” treatment and the art won’t look too different. Have you people realized yet that Frank D’Armata might be the most significant person in comics in this century? Without D’Armata bludgeoning the quirks out of several artists’ work on Captain America so they all looked alike, Marvel might never have realized that they could get artists to pencil stuff without inking it and then turn it over to a colorist who can keep artistic consistency no matter who was drawing it! It’s a revelation! Look, Dean White is a good colorist, and while this book is a bit dark, it’s still beautiful. But with Marvel books, I no longer know if that’s because the artist is good or because the colorist is. Ribic is a fine artist, but when he has to take a nap after three issues because drawing is so hard, will Marvel call Mark Brooks and will Dean White make him look like Ribic? And if he does, should we credit Ribic’s nice work or should we simply appreciate Dean White and bow down in the Temple of D’Armata, the Great Trailblazer? After years of this, I don’t even know if it matters who’s drawing the book, as long as the colorist is good. I don’t know how I feel about that.

Still, Thor is good. Check it out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Yeah, that's smart

Where Is Jake Ellis? #1 (of 5) by Nathan Edmondson (writer) and Tonci Zonjic (artist). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

Edmondson and Zonjic return with their spy series, as it changes titles (since we found out who Jake Ellis was last time) and we get more “man on the run” grooviness! I thought the book should have ended on Page 1, Panel 1, because after reading the title of the book, we open it and the first panel reads “Bangkok” (well, after a few recap pages), and I thought that would be funny to end right there. It turns out that Jake Ellis is not in Bangkok, but Jon Moore, the dude who kept seeing Jake in the previous series, is hanging out in Thailand. Jake, meanwhile, is sedated in a hospital in Maryland. Someone wants them both dead, so once that happens, the entire issue is both of them trying to escape. It’s on!

Edmondson does a nice job keeping everything moving, and Zonjic’s solid and relatively simple line work helps him out nicely, as there’s just not a lot of clutter in this issue (or series). It zips along at a good clip, and it’s exciting and fun. Edmondson gives Jon a female to protect – an embassy worker who happened to get caught in the middle – while Jake is bummed because his wife has remarried. So sad! I imagine Female Embassy Worker will, at some point, have to stitch Jon up from a wound, and she’ll look into his soulful eyes as she’s tenderly sewing him back together, and then there will be a tasteful fade to black … but I hope I’m wrong. Come on, Edmondson, resist!

I liked the first series, and this is a fun first issue of the sequel. So there’s that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That can't be good

X-Men Legacy #1 (“Prodigal”) by Simon Spurrier (writer), Tan Eng Huat (penciler), Craig Yeung (inker), José Villarrubia (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

Our third Marvel NOW! comic this week is the new X-book focusing solely on Legion, which sounds like an utter clusterfuck but, it turns out, is pretty cool. I assume it’s been established long ago that David Haller now has more than three personalities banging around his head, but if it hasn’t been, Spurrier does it – Legion is truly Legion, with all sorts of weird personalities, including aliens, in his mind. On the one hand, I assume this is to make Spurrier’s plot – that the personalities manage to get out of the “prison” that David is keeping them in – more interesting, but I’m not sure how I feel about it otherwise. I mean, David had three personalities originally, and they each had a different superpower. But they were human personalities. This idea of a bunch of different weird beasties inside David’s head makes me think of Crazy Jane and Rogue, two characters who are far more interesting than Legion. There have been stories about Rogue in which everyone she’s touched have taken over her mind, and since she touches a lot of weird creatures, it made sense that there would be aliens and other strange things in there. But why would David’s mind create Tyrranix the Abominoid? Is it just so Spurrier can come up names like “Tyrranix the Abominoid” and so Huat can draw weird shit? Again, I don’t know if this is new or if Spurrier is just going off of what others have already done with Legion. It seems odd, though.

I’m not going to worry too much about it, though. I mean, it’s a comic book. Spurrier begins the book inside David’s mind and even though anyone with a passing knowledge of the character can probably figure it out, he does keep us in suspense for a while, until David loses control of his mind prison and his personalities break out. That can’t be good. Meanwhile, in the “real” world, David is spending time in the Himalayas, trying to control his insanity. Bad things happen, something creepy occurs at the Jean Grey school, and David, apparently, is going to be visited by some X-People soon enough. So there’s that.

I’ve liked Huat’s art for years, but this might be the best it’s ever been. I think I first saw it when he worked on Doom Patrol, and it was pretty good but a bit too stiff. His work on Ghost Rider was good, too, but I think he was being colored directly from pencils, and it smoothed out some of his quirks. Here, he’s inked well by Yeung, who keeps his work grounded, while Huat’s been able, over the years, to keep his quirky style but soften it a bit. They, in turn, are assisted by Villarrubia’s beautiful coloring, which is toned down in the “real” world – except when David uses his powers – and much brighter – almost lurid – inside David’s mind. It’s a very nice-looking book, which goes well with Spurrier’s slighty askew script.

I don’t have any idea what kind of plot Spurrier is going for – there’s a lot going on in this issue – but it’s a pretty good first issue. I’m as surprised as anyone!

(I will say that I’m still seriously annoyed by Legion’s hair and the metatextual aspect that has been attached to it. David, in introducing himself, even mentions that his hair “resists all attempts at restyling” – it’s become a joke in the Marvel Universe, and it’s silly. The reason Legion’s hair was even goofy in the first place is because Bill Sienkiewicz drew him that way, and it fit in well with Sienkiewicz’s hyper-stylized artwork. When artists who don’t draw everything as insane as Sienkiewicz draws things, the hair just looks stupid. I wish some artist would shave his head or something, because it’s distracting.)

(I’m sure some people can not only identify all the characters on the cover, but which comics the drawings come from. The characters are fairly easy – Wolverine, Cable, Xavier – I assume, although that’s the hardest one – and Magneto. The Wolverine face comes from the Claremont/Miller mini-series, and Magneto is from X-Men #1. Does anyone know where the other two are from? Cable doesn’t appear to be from New Mutants #87 or X-Force #1, which are probably his two most famous covers. But I can’t figure it out.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Poor Lizard Man!

The Zaucer of Zilk #2 (of 2) by Al Ewing (story/scripter), Brendan McCarthy (story/artist/colorist), Len O’Grady (colorist), and Ellie De Ville (letterer). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, IDW.

McCarthy and Ewing’s oddball epic comes to a close, and it has to be one of the best comics of the year based solely on how gorgeous the artwork is and how weird the concept is. The story is perfectly fine – the Zaucer has to rescue the girl who got trapped in a world of despair, but he can’t, so he comes up with a different solution – and the moral of the story is fine, too, but it’s McCarthy’s hallucinogenic artwork that pushes this into genius category. His design work, his imagination, and his (and Len O’Grady’s) coloring all make this book a pleasure to gaze upon. It’s certainly fun to read, because Ewing is also quite good, but it wouldn’t work as well without McCarthy on art. Do yourself a favor and check it out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Too awesome for words!

City in the Desert volume 1: The Monster Problem by Moro Rogers (writer/artist) and Deron Bennett (letterer). $24.95, 141 pgs, BrW, Archaia.

This is a first volume, which is always annoying (I don’t know how many volumes Rogers has planned), but it looks pretty keen. It’s also Rogers’ first comic. Good for her!

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland by Bill Willingham (writer), Jim Fern (layouter/penciller/inker), Craig Hamilton (penciller/inker), Ray Snyder (inker), Mark Farmer (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $22.99, 139 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

This is thirteen months late. Well, I guess it’s good it finally came out! It looks very purty.

Inferno: A Sleep and a Forgetting by Mike Carey (writer), Michael Gaydos (artist), and Nathan Pride (letterer). $14.99, 133 pgs, BW, Transfuzion Publishing.

This is a Caliber comic from 1996, with both Carey and Gaydos honing their craft. I’ve read a few of these old Caliber comics that Gary Reed is reprinting over the past few years, and they’re usually pretty good. I have my fingers crossed for this one!

Lobster Johnson volume 2: The Burning Hand by Mike Mignola (story), John Arcudi (story), Tonci Zonjic (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $17.99, 110 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

You know, just when you think you can’t get any more Tonci Zonjic art, along comes a new issue and a collection featuring Tonci Zonjic art! How about that?

Opus: The Complete Library by Berkeley Breathed (writer/artist). $39.99, 268 pgs, FC, IDW/Library of American Comics.

These hardcover volumes that IDW puts out are really nice. I should get more titles from this collection.

By the way, I didn’t get the Bendis/Immonen All New X-Men. My retailer didn’t get it. Either Diamond screwed up or UPS screwed up, but he’s not getting them until next week. So yeah, everyone in the world will have read it by then. I don’t care – my mission to read every new Marvel NOW! book will continue!!!

**********

I don’t have much to pontificate about this week, but I do find the “secession” movement among some states rather humorous. Does Alabama really want to become its own country? Really, Alabama? As Dana Milbank points out, a lot of the states who have the most signatures on these secession petitions take in far more federal money than they put in with taxes. Maybe they want to rethink that tactic.

Anyway, next week is American Thanksgiving (Canadians already had theirs), and so let’s celebrate with Joey Tribbiani’s best food-related lines. I know Friends gets a lot of flack, but damn, it had some funny stuff in it. Yes, Ross and Rachel should have fallen into a bottomless pit at some point, but it was really funny more often than not.

Sonia can post her own pictures of cosplayers, while I simply link to hot girls in costumes. Such is life.

I don’t know if anyone out there knows who Danger Guerrero is, but he’s one of the funniest writers on the Internet that I’ve read in a long time. He’s a Philly guy, so he writes for Zoo With Roy, (where he writes the brilliant “Phillies High School” posts), he also writes for the television blog I link to quite often. Now he has broken down Journey’s “Separate Ways” video, and if you don’t almost pee yourself laughing, I fear you might not have a soul.

I guess the big news in finance is that Hostess is going out of business. I mean, it’s big news to me! First of all, post-apocalyptic movies from now on will have to have their characters find different unaffected foodstuffs, because Twinkies will slowly dwindle until they won’t survive a nuclear war/environmental disaster/zombie plague anymore. We’ll have eaten them all! Second, if Marvel and DC had even the smallest shred of a sense of humor, they would have a “Hostess Month” coming up in 2013 where they would homage the old Fruit Pies advertisements in some way in every single one of their books. They don’t, so they won’t, but that would be awesome. Come on, Danny D. and Joey Q. – you love/hate everything else from the 1970s (Danny D. loved the Super Friends so much he allowed Sean McKeever to use them in DC continuity … and then McKeever quickly slaughtered Marvin), so why not the Hostess Fruit Pies adverts?

Occasionally in the past, I have written about how awesome my lovely bride is and what a good couple we are, and one reason is because we make each other laugh. So this week we were watching The Mentalist (yes, we really were) and Ted McGinley was a guest star. McGinley is, of course, famous for “killing shows” – he tends to show up when ratings are spiraling down the toilet anyway, but because he’s been on a number of shows that have died soon after he arrived, a famed “curse of Ted McGinley” trope has sprung up (apparently McGinley even jokes about it). He was only a guest star last week, but of course I said something about the “show killer” guest-starring. My lovely wife wondered if the cast avoids eye contact with McGinley when he’s on set, and I said that I’d embrace it – I’d have baseball caps and T-shirts made with “SHOW KILLER” written on them. That last line made my wife almost spit up her soda. Then, we were watching Once Upon a Time (yes, we really were), and the kid – Henry – was dreaming about being in a room that was on fire. The camera panned up and you could see that he was standing on a white floor that was broken into a grid pattern. It looked strangely like this except it was all white. I was about to make a joke when Krys said, “Hey, he’s just in a disco inferno,” and I laughed and said, “I was just going to say that he was just burning that disco out.” We’re totally on the same wave length, and that’s one reason why we’ve been happy for so long. You know you’ve found the right person when you can have conversations like this (about, let’s say, an actress):

She: Hey, isn’t that –?
Me: Yeah, from that show.
She: Oh, yeah, that one.

It’s like we’re telepathic!!!!

That’s all I have for this week, so let’s move on the Ten Most Recent Songs on my iPod (Which Is Always on Shuffle):

1. “Cable TV”“Weird” Al Yankovic (1985) “They’re just jealous ’cause I’ve seen Porky’s twenty-seven times this week”
2. “Love”The Cult (1985) “Spent a long time in the wrong road”
3. “Cover My Eyes”Marillion (1991) “She’s like the girl with the smile in the hospital ward, like the girl in the novel in the wind on the moors”
4. “Christmas Wrapping” – Waitresses (1981) “Couldn’t agree when we were both free, we tried, we said we’d keep in touch”
5. “Fields of Joy”Lenny Kravitz (1991) “All cities, mountains disappear from view, all truth and beauty near to me and you”
6. “Ooh La La”Faces (1973) “You’ll have to learn, just like me, and that’s the hardest way”1
7. “Seeing Other People”Belle and Sebastian (1996) “You’re kissing your elbow, you’re kissing your reflection – and you can’t understand why all the other boys are going for the new, tall, elegant rich kids”
8. “I Am the City”ABBA (1982) “They’re grabbing pieces of the fatted calf, and in the wind if you listen hard, you’ll hear me laugh”
9. “Two Suns in the Sunset”Pink Floyd (1982) “And you’ll never hear their voices, and you’ll never see their faces, you have no recourse to the law anymore”2
10. “Sally MacLennane”Pogues (1985) “I’m sad to say I must be on my way, so buy me beer and whiskey ’cause I’m going far away”3

1 This is on the Rushmore soundtrack, from which I put it on my iPod. Rushmore is a great movie, and the ending scene, over which this song plays, is one of those perfect movie scenes. It’s really wonderful.

2 The Final Cut: Best Pink Floyd album ever? Discuss.

3 Odd group of songs. Three from 1985, none from more recent than 1996. I mean, I know I’m old, but I do have some modern music on my iPod!

And yes, I won’t forget the Totally Random Lyrics!

“Backwards and home bound
The pigeon the dove
Gone with the wind and the rain on an airplane
Owning a home with no silver spoon
I’m drinking champagne like a big tycoon
Sooner than wait for a break in the weather
I’ll gather my far flung thoughts together
Speeding away on a wind to a new day
If you’re alone I’ll come home”

Another week, another fun bunch of comics. I hope it’s groovy where you are – we’re finally into our nice weather, which means the windows are open and the breezes feel grand! Have a nice weekend, everyone!

73 Comments

You try to act tough, Greg, but after that last paragraph about you and your wife, it turns out you’re just a big softie! :-)

If you hadn’t set out to buy all of Marvel NOW’s comics, would you have bought Fantastic Four? I loved Hickman’s run but I’m really burned out on Fraction and can’t bring myself to read anything he writes (still not sure about Casanova).

Zaucer of Zilk really was amazing. Its only flaw was that I felt the story should have been longer.

Regarding Saga, I don’t think Vaughn intended a cliffhanger. I assume you are talking about the grandfather taking Hazel in his arms? I never got the idea that the grandfather was even a remote danger to the mother or child.

This book is just fantastic. Also, this book had one of the most disgusting pages I’ve seen in a comic. No real comment. Just sayin.

Not being interested in Fantastic Four, I almost skipped your review. So glad I didn’t. That was delicious.

Pedro: I don’t think I’ve ever tried to act tough. I don’t think I’d know how!!!!

No, I probably would have skipped FF if I weren’t buying them all. Fraction’s Marvel work has been hit or miss, and with Bagley, with characters I’ve never really loved, I don’t think I would have bought it.

joe: Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. I think we’re supposed to think that Hazel is in jeopardy, but if we’re not, okay. We know she’ll be fine, so if Vaughan wasn’t implying that she might not be, I guess that’s okay. And you’ll notice I obliquely mention that page you’re talking about. Yes, it was disgusting.

Seth: Thanks, sir. I don’t like bashing comics, because I want them all to be awesome, but when I do, I try to have some fun!

I’m with you on the Atomic Robo stuff. It’s not the strongest mini-series this time round. It’s still leagues ahead of multitudes of other rubbish, but there’s something about it that’s completely non-engaging.

It could be that, even with the most serious danger faced in a Robo story, we know nothing will happen to Robo, ‘cos this story is set in the past. So therefore, we have to care what happens to any of the other characters, of which such a thing is unlikely to happen. The She-Devils have been shoved down our throats as “Kewl!” since their introduction, but nothing so far has shown that to be true. The She-Devils, to me, are like being in a conversation where you get none of the in-jokes.

When the outcome is a given (of course the Earthquake bomb won’t ever hit the US) all the focus rests on the journey instead, and so far, it’s hard to get invested. UNLESS the final issue gives us a really, REALLY clever way of stopping the Japanese rebels, it will remain non-engaging to the end. Yes, even if all the She-Devils cark it.

I also find a lot of the action confusing, but that could just be my lack of comprehension.

No pontification!!!???!!! BUT we love Burgas’ pontificating about this, about that, and about everything!!!

Sometimes, you’ve got to bash a comic. How ELSE are they gonna learn to do comics the BURGAS way?!?

You should have a seminar course on that. You’d make a fortune, eh?

That bit with Thor answering the prayer was neat. I don’t know if it’s been done before or not but it’s so simple that it should have been. By simple I suppose I mean elegant in an engineering sense.

I forget which book it was this week or last but the artist drew Aaron into the comic wearing an Auburn hat as a little dig/easter egg.

You know, after my well-documented initial misgivings I liked Hickman’s Fantastic Four run. But I can’t believe he got to bring “the world’s greatest comics magazine” to an end twice in just a couple of years.

Is it me or is the second week of the month the strongest for comics?

Ted Mcginley saved Married with Children. A saint, he is.

haha those girls don’t read comics hahaha

Dean White coloured The Ultimates when Esad Ribic drew it, so… go seek out those comics. And he did not colour the title otherwise. So, I imagine the same thing will happen here. And it’s not like White coloured Uncanny X-Force continuously. If I recall, he didn’t colour the arc where Ribic provided art (which still surprises me).

Caanan: Good point about Atomic Robo.

Tom: Oh, yes, a fortune – because that’s what everyone wants to hear! :)

jjc: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s been done, either. It was pretty neat.

I missed Aaron in a comic. It sounds like a Deadpool thing, but was it even a Marvel book?

buttler: I’ll probably get Hickman’s FF run when the inevitable giant Omnibus comes out. I imagine it will read pretty well in that format.

Trey: Some people even hold him responsible for killing Married With Children!

Chad: I remember you loving The Ultimates when Hickman and Ribic were on it. I’ll have to find those. And I had forgotten that he didn’t color Ribic’s pencils on X-Force. I just took a look at it, and Wilson doesn’t soften his pencils quite as much – you can definitely see some inked lines. But White is responsible, I think, for keeping the look on that book pretty consistent over several artists, and I don’t know if Marvel has announced a fill-in for this book yet, but I wonder who they’ll get.

Greg: It was in Wolverine and the X-men #20 this week drawn by Steve Sanders. The script called for a close minded redneck from Alabama.

Yeah, when you DO get to the Otherwolrd arc, you’ll notice Dean White can’t make EVERYONE’s art look good. I tried to give Tocchini the benefit of the doubt, and I figured if anyone could save his art it would be White… but it was a hard read to get through. And I LOVE Capt Brit lore!

Greg: Honestly, Hickman was writing for the omnibus the way other people write for the trade, so that’s definitely the best way to do it.

it would be a tough arguement to make imho (ummagumma, wish you were here, piper at the gates, or even this weeks lyrics, meddle) but i do fucking love the final cut. hell i’m going to listen right now, before fringe starts, thanks for the suggestion.

Dave Robinson (@dcrwrites)

November 16, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I liked the insights, but I was really hoping for your take on some of the current Batman stuff.

Hadn’t you guys heard that Dean White is already off Thor? He only did the first issue. So we will see Ribic without White but not White over someone other that Ribic. So, Greg, your coloring question will not be answered, on this title at least.

Yours is one of the few reviews of Thor I’ve seen that mentions the colors are too dark. I’m guessing this is because you read a physical copy. To me the online previews looked gorgeous, but when I flipped through a copy at the store I was dismayed at how dark and even splotchy the color looked in many places.

I’d been planning to pick the book up, and White’s colors were a big part of the appeal (Aaron and Ribic are also a draw–a lot of stuff has to align to convince me to pay four bucks for a twenty-page Marvel comic). But given the way it printed, I reluctantly put that book back on the shelf.

I think that if comics are going to be priced and distributed like a luxury good, it’s only fair to hold the publisher to a higher standard of publishing. Otherwise, we may as well just give up on printing and go all digital (which, let’s face it, is quickly becoming or has already become the native medium of every aspect of these comics).

jjc: I’ll have to flip through that sucker!

BitBiteOuch: Yeah, I know that Tocchini got ripped for the artwork on that arc. It’s too bad – I do like Tocchini’s art, but the little bit I saw on that arc does not look good. I guess I’ll see when I get it!

ksebek: No problem! I’m not into Floyd as much as some, but I do love The Final Cut. It’s too bad it gets brushed aside a bit as “the stuff that didn’t make it onto The Wall.”

Dave: Sorry, but I’m really not reading too much in singles from the Big Two these days. I just started getting Detective because I like John Layman, but I’m waiting for the trade on Batman. DC just isn’t bringing out the confounded softcovers, so I can’t even start on Batman! Grrrrrr!

Carl: Wow, that’s interesting. I wonder why White only did the first issue. That’s strange.

The darkness of the physical copy is something that I’ve noticed occasionally over the past few years. I think your last point is right – everything is digital before it gets to the page, so nobody notices it. Then, when it’s printed, it’s too late. You’d think someone would think about this before printing it. Of course, I’m on board with no single issues getting printed and then, if people want a physical copy, that a trade gets printed, but that’s not happening too soon. But you’re right – the publisher really ought to realize these things before the book gets printed.

I’m so sad that Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four/FF ended. He was writing like he had a billion issues plotted out. Then again, that’s how he ALWAYS writes. I might pass Thanksgiving weekend by re-reading Secret Warriors and the whole Fantastic Four/FF stuff… but it might make all other comics pale in comparison and then I’d have to re-think my hobby.

“Fields of Joy” FUCKING GREAT SONG!!!

You didn’t pick up All-New X-Men #1?

Also, regarding Hostess, while it is very sad for their employees (by the way, the union-blaming shit in the news is annoying as hell), the products will still be out there. Someone will buy their brands. There will still be Twinkies (and whatever else they make. Sno-Balls? Ho-Hos?) going forward. Heck, I bet the Hostess name even continues.

azjohnson5: Yes sir, it is!

Brian: My store didn’t get X-Men. The retailer thought it would come in on Thursday, but UPS didn’t deliver his box. He’s getting it next week, and I will be there for it!

I’m sure you’re right that someone will buy the brands. I know their breads are probably a bigger deal, so I KNOW someone will buy those, but I can’t imagine Twinkies going away. Still, there’s always the possiblity! Marvel and DC should STILL do a homage!!!!

Man, I said just last week or something somewhere here on the blog that all them old Hostess ads should be collected into a trade and sold to try to keep Hostess out of debt. Guess I put the idea out there too late.

I’ll refrain from commenting yet on All New XMen 1. Your retailer sure gets screwed over some times!

More comments later.

Just goes to show you the weak state of labor these days. Hostess can bitch and moan about not being able to put their employees through the wringer and somehow the employees who don’t like being wrung are blamed? How has it come to this?

Everyone will say Twinkies from the original company were best…

Always liked the Waitresses. And I did catch that ep of The Mentalist. Ted McGinley was a good part of why I decided to watch it. He still has a career, I guess.

Just goes to show you the weak state of labor these days. Hostess can bitch and moan about not being able to put their employees through the wringer and somehow the employees who don’t like being wrung are blamed? How has it come to this?

And the Union they did settle with (the Teamsters) also gave the union shit, which especially baffled me. “We got our deal, so how dare you not take whatever they offer?”

What’s even dumber about the Fantastic Four “2.66 million years ago” is that the captions on the first page or two were CHANGED from that NOW! preview book from a month ago or whenever. Instead of the “One year from now” bit, it was “Day Zero”, and a couple other changes. So someone changed them and STILL got them wrong.

It was definitely a bland book. I’m hoping FF is better, but I’m not holding my breath.

I cannot resist spoilers, and I read Think Tank’s review. Dang, that’s too bad. I’ll still pick up the book, but dang!

Thor is pretty cool. I’ll probably stick with it a bit.

Zaucer of Zilk was SOOOOOOO good! Might be my fave comic this year. Psychedelic candy pop, I think I called it last time. Great stuff.

I don’t even remember what else I bought, but I did buy other stuff. It was ok.

To be fair, dinosaurs on Marvel Earth (or DC Earth for that matter) never went extinct. They’re just geographically contained.

I poked through X-Men: Legacy. Personally, I’d tone down David’s personalities and powers, and emphasize on him trying to stay sane and follow in his father’s footsteps . . . to the point where he would rename himself “Legacy.” Also, he’d shave his head . . . not out of memory of his dad, but because it’s the only way to grow his hair in a normal fashion.

…I don’t see how Reed telling his family that they’re probably dying from an illness he (and thus nobody else) can’t yet cure would do any good. If Reed couldn’t fix it, nobody else could, so why burden them with knowledge of an illness they can’t possibly fight when they aren’t even showing symptoms?

Because every time Reed keeps a secret, it comes back to bite him in the ass?

World’s whatever smartest man my ass.

Plus, it negates the self-awareness shown in Waid and ‘Ringo’s first issue, where Reed is telling baby Val the story of the spaceship flight, and reveals that it was his own arrogance that did them in, so he had to make them into adventurers in an attempt to atone for his sins. Not telling the family that is one thing, as it’s the stark motivations for his behavior, but this thing here is just dumb. And it’s dumb because if you’re so damn smart…

STOP DOING STUPID THINGS LIKE LYING TO YOUR LOVED ONES!!!

Y’know, if this didn’t happen with EVERY Marvel team head, it wouldn’t seem so dumb, but jeez, they’re all a bunch of arrogant pricks that don’t learn!

Number of volumes planned–three.

Wow, big week for Jason Aaron. The final trade of Scalped, the new issue of Wolverine & the X-Men, & the first issue of Thor.

I just finished reading Scalped, and it was great. And I worry that it will be the last great Vertigo series. I get the sense with the ending of Scalped, the forced ending of Hellblazer, and the diminishing returns of Fables that DC will end Vertigo for good. For the last 20 years, each time one classic series has reached its conclusion, another one has come roaring ahead to seize the torch. But it doesn’t look like that’s happening this time around. While I admit that I don’t read any current ongoings from Vertigo, the reviews and blogs would seem to indicate that none of them quite have “imprint flagship” potential, and when you don’t have something leading the charge, well… I mean, don’t let Didio get his hands on it.

But while Vertigo might not replace Scalped, I hope Jason Aaron’s torch passes onto Thor. I love Wolverine & the X-Men, and I think it’s been the best book of 2012, but I also think aaron is mostly just having a blast with it, as opposed to really pouring himself into it and using the title to explore the themes he wants to write about. From the first issue, it looks like Thor might be his next passion project of sorts, and I hope that impression isn’t misguided.

But while I thought it was a very good first issue, I have to disagree about the coloring, which I wasn’t a fan of. Having read it directly after finishing Scalped, the difference between Dean White and Giulia Brusco was startling. While Brusco truly understands variety, contrast, and mood, Dean White looks like a pitcher with only one pitch. All he seems to know is dark. 50 shades of dark. There was no contrast at all. Now that I’m reading in the comments he’s already off the book, I’ll be curious to see what issue two looks like in relationship to this one.

As for Fantastic Four, I agree that it wasn’t a strong first issue, it wasted a lot of space, and some of its premises seemed shockingly unrealistic for an alleged family. However, I also feel like it establishes a strong concept, even if it does so in a weak manner. I’m at least intrigued to see if the first issue or two of the team actually exploring space does a better job of succeeding as an issue and not wasting story space/idea capital. And I’m looking forward to FF with Allred on art and the seemingly wacky team. But, if the first issue of FF is as weak as this first issue, I might just give up on both right away. And one thing that really bothered me about this issue, which you didn’t mention, was on the last page when Reed decides they need a replacement team, and says “we mustn’t leave the Earth unprotected!” As though, you know, the Marvel Universe is unprotected as it is. I mean, who would stand up to protect the Earth in times of danger? What’s that you say? The Marvel universe has hundreds and hundreds of redundant super-heroes? Oh.

And two (not totally) random recommendations-

For anyone that enjoyed Scalped and hasn’t seen The Wire, it’s essential viewing. In the afterward of the final Scalped trade, Aaron mentions that it was a major influence, and it shows. I say this completely without hyperbole: The Wire is the greatest cultural achievement of the 21st century thus far. It is one of the deepest, smartest, most meaningful, and most entertaining works of fiction ever produced in any medium, and its influence will be felt all over the next several decades.

And Greg- you say that you got “Ooh La La” from the Rushmore soundtrack (a great movie and a great soundtrack), but am I to take this to mean you don’t own any Faces albums/compilations? While The Faces aren’t my absolute favorite band (they probably rank somewhere between 15-20 in my personal hierarchy), I do think they are among the most underrated bands in rock history, and maybe number one. They just seem to be sort of forgotten, and they bear virtually no name recognition. And that’s sad, because they are a wonderful, important band. They are probably the most direct musical antecedent to The Replacements, and The Replacements were one of the 5 or 6 most important bands of the 1980s. If you take The Stones of the classic ’69-’72 period, take away about 20% of the artistry and songwriting quality, take away the drug problems, the controversies, and virtually all ambition for fame and norotiety, then amp up the fun and soak it in booze, that’s The Faces. Aside from the classic “Stay With Me,” check out the following songs: Pool Hall Richard, Cindy Incidentally, Too Bad, Borstal Boys, and their classic cover of Maybe I’m Amazed. They have a great single disc compilation called Good Boys… When They’re Asleep, and a really fantastic box set called Five Guys Walk Into a Bar.

Here’s Maybe I’m Amazed:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLhoLkTyNkM

Too Bad:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3zWqoe6s-E

Cindy Incidentally:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs-eL6QYha0

I dunno how underrated the Faces were. I mean, Rod Stewart was their lead singer right when he first exploded in popularity, so they were pretty darn popular. In addition, they were just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

That said, going more particular, Ronnie Lane is probably one of the more unheralded rock and roll musicians of the 1960s and 1970s. “Ooh La La,” for instance, was written by Lane (and just to show you how unheralded he was, Rod Stewart didn’t want to sing lead on the song because he didn’t think it was good enough!! He and Lane had a bit of a power struggle when it came to the creative direction of the Faces).

As to the greatness of Vertigo — I’m reading Saucer Country, and it’s good, but not great. Certainly not flagship. Of the other 2012 Vertigo titles, the Dominique whatever all it was called is cancelled, New Deadwardians was just a mini (but a really good one), and Fairest is another Fables spinoff. There are a few books coming early next year, but nothing right now, I’d say, that’s carrying the torch and/or continuing.

In other words, the great Vertigo books are coming out from Image et al. :)

Brusco’s colors really started to pop about the last 20 or so issues of Scalped. There was some issue in there where I really noticed it, but after that it was quite obvious. (Although one could argue that noticing it that much isn’t a good sign.) My problem in reading Scalped was that I got SOOO far behind, and kept intending to catch up, but it ended up that I didn’t do a big read/reread until the weekend before 60 came out. So I read the whole series in about 5 days, with everything from about…33 on new to me. It colored my perception of the book, I think, but there were also things I appreciated a lot by reading it all in one chunk like that.

I’m trying to get so that I’m not so far behind on everything, but I’m not totally successful. I’m behind on Prophet and Glory, and Dan the Unharmable. I need to catch up by the end of the year so that I can update my pull list.

Oh, Greg, that Miranda Mercury book on pg 239 of the latest Previews — is that the original volume, the one you liked a lot? I “flipped” through the catalog at my local shop to pick out some things, and noticed that but wasn’t sure which one it was, the original book or a new one.

Also, don’t forget to pick up the trade of the Spider from Dynamite, dammit! If our pal Funky was around, I would have convinced you already!

I agree that The Faces were definitely popular in their day, and they were an immensely successful touring band. But I think they’ve become underrated historically. Subsequent generations don’t seem to be discovering them, for reasons that I really don’t understand. And I think it’s pretty rare for someone under 30-35 to have even heard of the band, which is unfortunate. And yes, they were inducted into the Rock Hall this year, but that was after several people on the nominating board, like Dave Marsh, had been pushing for them for over a decade. They’d been eligible for induction for 17 years when they got in, and it definitely shouldn’t have taken that long.

And I agree about Ronnie Lane. Great bassist, great songwriter. He and Rod’s harmony vocals on Maybe I’m Amazed are really quite lovely.

Well, right now, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is combing through and getting anyone they’ve missed, since the ’80s pretty much sucked (and they aren’t gonna start putting in Black Flag or Husker Du or the Replacements), so until Nirvana and Pearl Jam in the next few years, the missed bands of the ’60s and ’70s have a chance!!! Go RUSH!!!!

Yeah, I’ve certainly heard of the Faces, but don’t know enough of their stuff. And my favorite Rod Stewart appearance was in Scurvy Dogs. ;)

Hey Third Man, I just made with the clicky on your name to your blog, and see you wrote about Argo. Does the movie mention anything about the role Kirby played in that incident?

Um, Brian, that’s your cue for a link to that CBLR. I don’t know which one it is, but I read it not too long before the movie came out.

@Travis

It’s true, Image (and Dark horse) seem to have taken over from Vertigo as the best place for intelligent auteur series to go. Fatale, Manhattan Projects, Saga, The Massive, and Mind MGMT all might have been Vertigo books as recently as a few years ago, but DC just seems to be such an unwelcoming place now for creator autonomy. It’s a sad changing of the guard, but if DC won’t run Vertigo the way it deserves to be, then you can’t blame creators for taking their best stuff elsewhere.

@Travis

There is an actor credited with playing Kirby in the end credits, and he’s onscreen briefly, but is never referred to as Jack Kirby in the film. The end credits are the only proof that it was intended to be him. But yes, there is a brief scene in the film of an artist showing storyboards to Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), and Mendez asks him to make the settings more exotic and middle eastern. And the storyboards do have a sort of Kirby look to them (though truthfully, they reminded me of Steve Rude).

And btw, Argo is a phenomenal film, and it will win Best Picture in February. I’m polishing a piece that explains why in a very detailed argument, but I promise you, it will. Check my blog sometime next week and it should be up there.

Here’s the aforementioned CBLR piece on the incident Argo was based on (and Kirby’s role in the operation): http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2008/06/05/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-158/

It’s in my book, as well.

@Brian

I remember you wrote the big piece about Kirby’s involvement with the Argo operation. Assuming you’ve seen the film, what did you think of the portrayal? Obviously they didn’t spend much time with Kirby or the creation of the storyboards, but did the film seem factually accurate to what you’ve learned about the events?

The broad strokes were all very accurate. Obviously, there are going to be composite characters and things are going to be exaggerated for dramatic effect, but I think overall they captured the truth of the story very well. The only thing that I really didn’t like was the whole silliness of Mendez being played by a white guy.

The stories in Mind MGMT #0 were released, one per week, for free on Dark Horse’s Digital comics site, just before #1 came out. As of a few days ago, they still were up there for free, so I didn’t pick up the issue, but I did read them all online.

I hadn’t read any of Mind MGMT before (I wasn’t sure if the art was entirely to my taste), but I loved it, and will definitely be picking up the trades of this series. A great taster for the series.

Tom you should consider following Mind MGMT on a monthly basis, as there is little extra stories that you won’t get with the trades. They aren’t hugely important but I feel they really add to the world building and brings more character to the titular organization.

buttler: Yeah, that’s true about dinosaurs in the Marvel Universe. Just using the time period of a few million years ago, however, makes it sound like they wanted us to believe that the FF were at a point where, on “our” Earth, dinosaurs still existed. If Fraction had used the caption “300 years ago” or something like that, it would have been more obvious that he was aware of the Marvel U’s policy of dinosaurs never going extinct. This feels more like a mistake. I suppose it might not be, but it feels like one, you know?

Neil: I think Travis answered that question better than I could. I certainly see your point, but this is fiction, and we all know they’re going to find out at some point and get all pissy with Reed. It’s going to happen!!!!!

Moro: Thanks very much! I should say my annoyance with multiple volumes is because I’m impatient to read more, not because I don’t want more. So I’m glad you have a certain number picked out, and I look forward to reading the first one!

Third Man: As Travis pointed out, Brusco’s colors got a lot better late in Scalped. Early on, I think it was a Vertigo problem – a lot of their books were mud-colored – and I think they either switched paper or told their colorists they could go a little nuts, and Brusco’s colors got brighter. I don’t completely share your opinion of White, but I do agree that some of his work is too dark. Again, I don’t know if it’s a digital-to-print problem, as discussed above.

I was going to mention the idiocy of thinking the Earth would be undefended when the FF left, but Reed sort-of addresses that on the last page, so while it’s a lame reason, at least Fraction didn’t completely overlook that.

No, I don’t own any Faces albums. For years I knew very little about them, and what I did know was that Rod Stewart was their lead singer, and I hated Rod Stewart’s voice. So I avoided them. I don’t hate Rod Stewart’s voice as much as I used to, but I haven’t gotten around to delving into the early 1970s in music, so I have remained woefully ignorant of Faces. Yes, I suck. Thanks for the knowledge and the links, though – because I need more to spend money on!!!!!!

I haven’t seen Argo (I really want to – maybe this week I will!), nor have I seen a lot of the Oscar bait, but I can already tell you that it won’t win Best Picture. Lincoln probably will. The Academy likes “historical” pictures (yes, I know Argo is historical), and Argo looks like too much of a thriller. Look at me – judging things without having seen them!!!!

Travis: The Miranda Mercury in Previews is just a new printing of the one I liked a lot. And I’m planning on getting The Spider trade. I think I mentioned it in my Previews post, but if I didn’t, I certainly saw it!

Tom: Thanks for the information. I thought I remember reading in Previews that these were available on-line, but I’m an old, cantankerous man, so I don’t read my comics on-line! And I agree with Ian – if you can find the single issues, they do have quite a bit that apparently isn’t going in the trade. I’m sure the trade will be a very good read, but the singles do have some nifty stuff in there.

What I bought is one of my favourite columns, but also particularly image heavy. Something about Robot6 and CSBG wreak havoc with my computer. To get all the images to load is pretty much like pulling teeth. Only these two sites give me such headaches. Anybody else have this problem? I have to reload the page five or six times to get all the images to load.

matthew: Sorry about that. You’re the first one who’s ever mentioned a problem, so I’m not sure why that is. I’m happy that you enjoy the column, but that does suck. I’m largely ignorant when it comes to computers, so maybe someone else can suggest a solution!

Just adding my two cents on footnote 2:
This thought has stuck in my brain for quite awhile as well. Mostly because I find myself singing Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert and Fletcher Memorial Home in the shower more than any other songs, Floyd or otherwise.

That’s the first time I can remember that your random playlist has pulled an entire blank compared to my MP3 collection, and on top of it the only one I’ve even heard before was “Cable TV”.

Note:
“As Dana Milbank points out, a lot of the states who have the most signatures on these secession petitions take in far more federal money than they put in with taxes. Maybe they want to rethink that tactic.”

Dana Milbank is as big an idiot as the Secessionists.

The reason that there’s an imbalance is because most of the big corporations and rich people that pay the majority of the taxes in the US, are headquartered in the high-population, blue, states. The whole premise behind his argument is based on a obviously false assumption that all states have corporate/rich presences for tax bases ratio-equivalent to their population. Whether it’s just ignorance or deliberately skewing is up to you (I’m prone to think the latter).

As for Hostess, I wonder if the Teamsters and other employee unions who DID come to agreements with Hostess to try to save the company will send their enforcers over to the bakers’ union and rough them up from their greed (their position was that agreeing to cuts in a bankruptcy hearing to save Hostess would make other, NON-Chapter-11, Hostess competitors to start demanding pay cuts, which is ludicrous) costing all of them jobs – or at least send their kids over to the Bakers’ local with signs saying “(union name) stole my Twinkies and my daddy’s job!” to picket…

Regarding, MIND MGMT #0, there is a note on the inside cover the that issues were first presented online.

Legion’s return and power change was the opening arc of the recently ended New Mutants series. After his death in X-Men Omega he was catapulted through time and space and while he fell through dimensions he absorbed other, primarily super powered, individuals before eventually landing back in the 616.

Basara: I think that’s kind of Milbank’s point. In this country, highly-taxed areas get their money shifted to bases that aren’t taxed as much. If those states secede, where will they create revenue?

Dalarsco: Thanks for the information!

” Because every time Reed keeps a secret, it comes back to bite him in the ass? ”

But this time, he has a good reason to keep the secret. He’s not involved in Illuminati conspiracy nonsense, and he’s not working on some elaborate social engineering project doomed to failure by hubris. He’s just found out that he’s going to die, and all of his family– including the kids– are likely to follow suit. He’s the only one with the skill to actually solve the problem, and if the others knew, there’d be nothing they could do but panic and make clouded decisions.

Reed’s actions aren’t ideal, but they’re sympathetic given the burden he just received.

If you’re going to die, but can’t help with a solution, you shouldn’t be told.

That’s right, fuck you caner patients, you’ll only stress out and make things worse.

Obviously that should say “cancer”, damn.

I think “Fuck You, Cancer Patients” will be the title of the trade collection.

What, no Shinku Volume 1 or Spaceman Deluxe Edition? That’s what I bought this week.
Coincidentally, Shinku kinda has that problem where the coloring appears to be a bit darker in print than it was when I first read it in digital form.

I have zero interest in that new Fantastic Four, but the review is hilarious. Might check out FF for Allred out of X-Statix nostalgia and because it’s such a WTH lineup but I don’t expect much.

“It turns out that Reed has figured out that his powers are failing and that he’s “breaking apart, at a molecular level.”

That reminds me of when he lost his powers in the 70s and was only able to regain them by re-creating the flight in cosmic rays incident, and Dr Doom was the one behind it because he didn’t want to defeat a powerless Reed.
But this new series probably is nowhere near as good as that was.

Adam: Whoops, yeah, you’re right. I missed that!

IAM FeAR: I bought Shinku in single issues and I got the Spaceman trade last week. I didn’t notice any problems with the coloring on Shinku in single issues – it seemed pretty good to me, but I admit I didn’t read them in digital form. Maybe the trade’s coloring is worse than the single issues. I didn’t see a copy in my store, so I can’t flip through it and compare.

I’m glad I entertained you with the FF review. I haven’t read the issues you’re talking about from the 1970s, but it’s not surprising it’s been done before. That’s just the nature of superhero comics!

Because no one else in the Marvel U would step in to try to help Reed Richards and his family save themselves from dying….

“Fuck You, Cancer Patients”. So damn funny.

@Third Man — I looked up Argo on the imdb that the kids all like, and I see that Kirby was played by Michael Parks, who’s a Tarantino/Rodriguez fave (he’s sheriff Earl McGraw in movies like From Dusk til Dawn and Kill Bill). cool. And Tom Lenk (Buffy’s Andrew) is in the movie too! I guess I’ve gotta see it!

Couldn’t figure out from the credits who might have done the “Kirby” art. I was wondering if maybe they’d get a Kirby kollaborator (or kopykat).

Did they call Tony Mendez “Inky” in the movie? (a little Letterman ref for y’all)

And thanks for the link, Brian.

@matthew — I tend to have a problem with CBR loading on certain computers I use (so much so that I think it might have killed the one *whistles innocently at the notion of looking at CBR at work*). CSBG is fine, though, and I usually come in via a link in one of the followup comment emails.

And just a note to Neil, because it does probably sound like I’m hatin’ on him. I do understand what you mean, and taken in a vacuum, the notion of wanting to protect his loved ones from finding out they’re going to die is an understandable action, but Reed has done too many stupid things with keeping secrets and such that come back to bite him that you’d think he’d learn that “hey, maybe I should be open with my family on this”. Plus, it’s sheer hubris for him to assume he’s the ONLY person that can fix this.

World’s most intellectual man, maybe, but he sure ain’t the smartest.

Again, that Waid/’Ringo bit comes to mind — he admits to his baby daughter that he screwed up. He thought he had things with the cosmic rays under control, but he screwed up, so now he tries to make up for it by turning the family into celebrities, so maybe their changes won’t be as horrible.

Which, thinking about it, is full of hubris and secrecy as well. “Their lives will be better if they’re famous. I won’t ask first if they wanna be famous, though.”

And just a note to Neil, because it does probably sound like I’m hatin’ on him. I do understand what you mean, and taken in a vacuum, the notion of wanting to protect his loved ones from finding out they’re going to die is an understandable action, but Reed has done too many stupid things with keeping secrets and such that come back to bite him that you’d think he’d learn that “hey, maybe I should be open with my family on this”. Plus, it’s sheer hubris for him to assume he’s the ONLY person that can fix this.

World’s most intellectual man, maybe, but he sure ain’t the smartest.

Again, that Waid/’Ringo bit comes to mind — he admits to his baby daughter that he screwed up. He thought he had things with the cosmic rays under control, but he screwed up, so now he tries to make up for it by turning the family into celebrities, so maybe their changes won’t be as horrible.

Which, thinking about it, is full of hubris and secrecy as well. “Their lives will be better if they’re famous. I won’t ask first if they wanna be famous, though.”

But in that sense, isn’t Fraction just following the established characterization for Reed?

Don’t confuse the issue with facts, Brian ;)

I will grant you that that is probably what Fraction is doing. But that points out how superheroes are never really allowed to change.

I haven’t read more than that 605.1 of the Hickman F4/FF stuff. I don’t know if he’s had Reed learn. But from the Civil War stuff, the Illuminati stuff, and the idea that almost all of these heroes are hiding secrets (which my contract demands that I blame on Identity Crisis. Damn you Meltzer!!!), and shit keeps going bad for them, for Reed to NOT learn, especially when he’s considered one of the world’s smartest men, seems like it makes things dumb. It goes into the unbelievable realm, and it reads as if it’s done solely to set up the new “dramatic tension” — “when will the rest of the team find out Reed’s lying to them? when will it be revealed about Franklin’s dreams, and Sue’s knowledge of them?”

Actually, this is fodder for a piece I’ve been thinking about for the blog. If I get some time to shape what I’m thinking of, I’ll drop you a line.

@Greg

RE: The Faces… well, if you don’t like Rod Stewart’s voice I dunno what to tell you. Just as you said you cannot understand someone who like’s Greg Land’s art, I cannot understand someone who doesn’t like Rod’s voice. Purely as a voice, and independent of output and everything else, I think Rod has THE perfect rock and roll voice. Of course, I’ll be the first to admit that Rod’s solo career has been the epitome of embarrassing. I don’t own a single thing he’s released since 1977 and I wouldn’t want to. The last 35 years of his career have been absolute rubbish, and even the 5 years before that were mildly disappointing (though there are some legitimate highlights in the mid-70s). But from about ’68-’73 I think he was enjoying one of the best hot streaks in rock history, and between The Faces, the Jeff Beck Group, and his early solo collaborations with Ronnie Wood, Rod released 11 albums worth of high quality material in that span. Here’s a song that illustrates the voice at its peak, a cover of Man of Constant Sorrow from Rod’s first solo album, in ’69:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4y3GzgWsy1A

And @ Travis
As you’re a big Wilco fan (I am too, they’re in a tossup with The White Stripes for my favorite band of the 2000’s), you should know that Jeff Tweedy is a big Faces fan, and he wrote about them in the liner notes to The Faces box set. Tweedy’s words: “The Faces’ importance as punk prototypes cannot be questioned. I love ‘em and doubt seriously if we could have had a Sex Pistols much less a Replacements without them.” Those liner notes also have similar testimonials from Slash, Paul Westerberg, and others.

And back @ Greg

RE: Argo for Best Picture… Look, I can’t sit here and tell you what will happen beyond the shadow of a doubt, but I can tell you that Lincoln is an extreme long shot based on everything we know about Oscar history. If there’s one thing the Oscars have proven again and again, it’s that voter fatigue has an immense impact on what happens. Only four living directors have two Oscars, and Spielberg is one of them, so any conversation about who will win Best Director this year begins with crossing his name off the list. I would go so far as to say that Affleck has Director in the bag, as the other major contending director’s have all won before except for Paul Thomas Anderson. And while I liked The Master and think he’s deserving, it’s too divisive a movie in the eyes of voters. And also in Affleck’s favor is the academy’s history of honoring actor/directors. Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Robert Redford, and Warren Beatty were all beloved Hollywood leading men who had never won an acting Oscar when they were given Best Director, and almost all of them were arguably less deserving than their competition that year (Redford and Costner both beat far superior Scorsese films). Affleck has this precedent going for him, as well as the fact that he’s perceived as a major comeback, which EVERYONE loves voting for.

And for Best Picture, voters will still be looking at Lincoln as the Spielberg/Daniel Day Lewis movie, and voter fatigue will likely play a huge role there as well. Bear in mind, Meryl Streep, arguably the greatest actress ever, endured a 30 year/114 nomination losing streak before she finally picked up a third Oscar. While there is some precedent for Picture/Director to go to two different movies, when that happens, it’s always that the prestige art film wins director and the crowd pleaser wins Picture. That’s what happened in ’98, ’00, ’02, and ’05. Because we can already pencil in Affleck for Best Director, we know that art vs. commerce split ain’t happening this year.

Other things in Argo’s favor: The movie is a major crowd pleaser, a box office success, and it received an extremely rare A+ grade from cinemascore. But here’s the big secret weapon: For anyone that watches the Oscar telecast, you’ll surely recall all of the montages in recent history about the magic of movies and the power of movies, and going to the movies, etc. It’s Hollywood trying to sell us on a pastime that is in serious decline. Well, you haven’t seen Argo yet, but when you do, you’l notice that the film is partially about the Magic of Hollywood. It’s a film that relates the true story of Hollywood literally saving six American lives. Awarding this film Best Picture would double as the greatest marketing campaign Hollywood could ever create for itself. It’s way too big an opportunity to turn down, and don’t think voters don’t realize that. And as an added bonus, Argo is a Hollywood movie, which is a major bonus at a time when 3 of the last 4 Best Picture winners went to films financed and filmed abroad, and the 4th was an Indie film that virtually no one saw (The Hurt Locker). And Argo was also partially filmed on the Warner’s back lot in Burbank.

Then there’s the fact that Argo is a great film and it’s deserving, although like Clint said in Unforgiven, “deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” But it sure as hell doesn’t hurt to be one of the best films of the year in the eyes of both critics and audiences.

Like I said, I’m finishing a piece right now that goes through all of this in a more careful and organized manner, over 7 pages instead of 3 paragraphs, and there are several other arguments and elements of the conversation that I don’t bring up here. I’ll post the link here when I’m done with it. And again, while I know that I can’t say what will win with absolute certainty, I think Argo is just about as much of a sure thing as it gets.

Third Man: Yeah, as I pointed out, I don’t hate Stewart’s voice as much as I used to – especially early Stewart – so I might have to check out some of his work. I recall reading somewhere once that someone thought his first four solo albums – what, 1971-75? – were pure genius. So there’s that. I’ll probably get around to picking some of the music up eventually. I’m still trying to get caught up on 1970s comics, man!

Those are excellent points about Argo and Lincoln, and you obviously know more about it than I do, so I will bow to your knowledge. I hadn’t considered the whole “movies about how awesome Hollywood is” trope, which you’re right – the Academy digs that. The one thing I will say is that we shouldn’t ignore the “out of nowhere” film. I know there have always been movies that no one even considered until late in the game – even into the next year – that have won. I’m curious to see if that happens this year!

Greg-

It really depends on how you define an “out of nowhere” film.

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of award contending films. First are the ones that as soon as the film officially goes into production and gets a proposed release date, award prognosticators put them on their calendar purely because of talent pedigree/subject matter/source material. Movies like Lincoln (“Spielberg directing Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln? ZOMG!!”), The Master, next summer’s Great Gatsby, December’s Les Miserables, etc. These are the movies that go on Oscar radars sight unseen, purely because of what they are.

Then second are the films that play the major festivals and get buzz and word of mouth, get critics hyping them up, get bloggers in a frenzy, etc. These are the movies that no one knew much about until they were actually seen, and then their quality pushes them into awards consideration or they fly out of the fall festival circuit with huge momentum. This is what happened last year with The Artist, the year before that with The King’s Speech, and in 2008 with Slumdog Millionaire. Those are film’s that weren’t on anyone’s awards radar until they were seen by audiences and critics, and then word of mouth, box office success, and critical adoration did the rest. These are the “out of nowhere” films you’re talking about.

But those out of nowhere films are still known commodities by the time October rolls around, because the major fall festivals (Venice, Telluride, and Toronto, which is the one I go to every year) are all in September. So we’re past the out of nowhere point and we’re already in the home stretch as far as the awards season is concerned. Everything that has any chance of competing for a major Oscar has been seen by now with the exception of six films that haven’t screened for critics yet and skipped all of the festivals. Those are: The Hobbit, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty, and Hitchcock.

No one knows whether any of these films are any good or not, we only know their pedigree. For each of them, high quality could well lead to Oscar nominations, and maybe a few wins here or there. But I don’t think any of them can seriously contend for Best Picture regardless of how good they are, and here’s why…

For The Hobbit, the Academy’s perception will be that they’ve been there and done that. The third Lord of the Rings film won a dozen Oscars, Tolkien’s stories and Jackson’s handling of them have been honored, and there’s no need to do so again. For Zero Dark Thirty and Les Mis, the issue is that their directors (Kathryn Bigelow and Tom Hooper) have been decorated far too recently. They won Best Director and led their previous film to Best Picture in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and it’s just far too soon for voters to reward them again. (Though it wouldn’t be a surprise for both films to compete int he acting races.) For Life of Pi, it’s the simple matter that the film is about a boy and his CGI tiger stranded on a boat. Sorry, but that’s not a film that’s winning Best Picture regardless of how good it is. And Django Unchained is going to be a dark, comical, revenge western. Again, not a film that’s winning Best Picture. Hitchcock is the only real unknown here. If it’s a truly great film, maybe it has a chance. But many voters will also view it as an insult to give a film about Hitchcock an Oscar when Hitch himself never won one.

Then, of course, there are a handful of films still to open which did play the festival circuit. Hyde Park on Hudson was initially thought to be a major player based on pedigree, but it received tepid festival response, so it’s done except for a possible Bill Murray nomination. Anna Karenina received more favorable festival reviews, but nothing glowing. The Sessions, in theaters now (and great) was beloved, but its best chances are in the acting races. The Impossible is in the same boat–probably an acting contender, but not Best Picture.

And that leaves the best possibility to derail Argo’s chances, Silver Linings Playbook. I saw it in Toronto, and it’s very good. In a different year, it could have been the feel good movie that slays the art film, but that’s the thing about Argo- It’s also a feel good movie, and just a better one. Now having said that, Silver Linings Playbook did win the Toronto People’s Choice Award, which The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire also recently won on their way to Best Picture. But if you look closer, it makes sense why it beat Argo for the Toronto People’s Choice. It’s because many Canadian viewers are a bit bitter about Argo, because the CIA operation depicted in the film was long thought to be a Canadian Intelligence operation until Clinton declassified the files in ’97. So it’s easy to understand why a Canadian body of voters might have chosen something else. And even that didn’t stop Argo from getting a standing ovation at its Toronto premiere.

Again, I can’t tell you for sure what will happen. But given everything we know and every precedent we’ve seen, Argo is the clear front-runner, and I’d be legitimately shocked if anything beats it. And while I think many of the other films I mentioned–Les Mis, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty–have great shots at being nominated for Best Picture (especially in the expanded field these days), I don’t think any of them have much chance at all of winning.

We’ll see in a little over three months.

And just for posterity’s sake (and so I can say I told ya so), I feel good about John Hawkes winning Best Actor for The Sessions, and Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook.

I haven’t decided yet on the supporting races, and those are usually the most difficult ones to call until you’ve really seen everything, because they tend to be most dependent on the actual quality of the performance, and not on other mitigating factors. In these cases, deserve usually has something to do with it.

But I like the odds of Javier Bardem being nominated for Skyfall.

Ah, man, if Tweedy likes ‘em I should check ‘em out.

Third Man remembered something about me *blush*

I actually finally just got Kicking Television, the 2 disc live Wilco album. 4 bucks, mofo! Great stuff.

I heard one time that out of the 250 or so videos that MTV had when they started, about a third of them were Rod Stewart videos. That’s just weird.

Thanks for the continued support to Elephantmen, Greg! It’s always greatly appreciated!

For Fantastic Four, I assume the “purple-haired chippie” is the woman that puts on a Thing outfit to become She-Thing.

As for The Mentalist, I still think it should have ended with the season finale back in 2011. That was the high point for the series to go out with. (Is it spoilers to reveal what happened one and a half seasons ago in a series that is probably considered fairly mediocre?)

As for P. Boz and Brian Cronin’s comments on the weak state of labor, and how it has come to this, the answer is unemployment. North Carolina still has an unemployment rate near 10%. The Merita Bread factory being shut down just cost 286 people their jobs. That factory is in Rocky Mount, which is in Nash and Edgecombe counties. Unemployment in Nash county is 11.1%. Unemployment in Edgecombe county is 13.6%.

Around 75 of the Merita employees apparently joined in the strike, but that means over 200 didn’t, but now everyone has lost their jobs. Then you’ve got people who have been out of work for a year, people who have been *trying* to find work, people who would have been happy to take Hostess’ terms if it meant they could have a job, hearing what happened. I’m not sure how there is any surprise that , at least in some parts of the country, “the employees who don’t like being wrung are blamed”.

I like The Mentalist, however I’m getting kinda bored with the Red John storyline. That should have ended quite some time ago.

To the producers, it’s time to end it and give Patrick Jane a different direction.

@Tom

That’s why the season finale of 2011 was the high point of Mentalist to me. It ended the Red John story in the perfect way for how that storyline had been going. Which was completely undone in the first episode of the next season in an almost comic book retcon style.

As for a different direction, I figured that’s what recent episodes were doing when they introduced the evil rich guy who got away with murder, brought in Homeland security to to lean on the cops, and then ended the episode with evil rich guy having a witness killed. The show is still running Red John, but it looks like they are trying to add another possible “big villain” who isn’t necessarily connected to Red John.

@matthew, Greg Burgas

Missed that post earlier, but matthew mentioned the page not loading all the images until it was refreshed repeatedly. I used to have that happen a lot on sites, but that was when I was running a 56K dial-up connection (well after DSL/cable had become standard) and running XP on a machine with 512MB. When added another 1GB of RAM and switched to DSL, that issue stopped. So could it be either a memory or connection issue? (Although these days it seems embedded images aren’t even the most intensive parts of web pages, now that pages are so heavily buried with script and the like.)

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