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What I bought – 2 January 2013

The writer was pacing. “I have never been a violent man. I don’t believe in violence. Violence does not advance the human condition. Ideas do.”

“Ideas don’t perish in prison cells,” Levanter said. “People do.” (Jerzy Kosinski, from Blind Date)

Don't look, Damian - they're about to make out! She looks comfortable Josephine is ... the Hitcher! This is why you should never snuggle with your child Godzilla versus ... New Age Crystals???? I keep hearing the Batman theme when I look at this cover Triangles are always cryptic! Um, Mara - you got some schmutz there ... 'Her boobs were THIS big!' How does armor slouch like that? That dude is limber!

Batman, Incorporated #6 (“Garland of Skulls”) by Grant “I smite all the backlash against my genius with my laser vision!!!!” Morrison (writer), Chris Burnham (artist, mostly), Andres Guinaldo (inexplicable penciler), Bit (inexplicable inker), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Rickey Purdin (assistant editor), and Mike Marts (editor). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

After the brutal ending to last issue, the God of All Comics ratchets up the tension, as Batman has to navigate a maze laid out by Talia, who is trying to force him to choose between Damian and Gotham. She has some evil plan in which the people of Gotham will “commit suicide,” and Batman can only save the city or Damian. It’s not entirely clear how Batman will stop her plan or how Talia will kill Damian – her plan looks too vast and already in motion (but I’m sure there’s some sufficiently Bat-awesome way for Batman to stop it), and Damian is hanging out in the cave surrounded by good guys, but I’m sure I’m just being obtuse. I mean, Damian does say he’s going out to help his dad, so perhaps Talia, in her omnipotence, was counting on that to draw him out. Meanwhile, there’s another revelation about the Future Batman, but I honestly don’t care about the Future Batman, because it’s always been a bit … silly, I guess. Morrison loves writing about how the future is going to be when he knows that he’s writing a serial story that will never end, so as much as you can admire him for trying to move the characters forward, he’s basically banging his head against the wall. It’s kind of fascinating but leaves you with a headache or a concussion or worse. It’s far more interesting to see Batman run the maze as the Batman, Inc. people try to get out of their predicament. There’s a horrific scene in this book, but I’m much more concerned that Looker is “badly injured.” Don’t you fucking touch Looker, G-Mozz!!!!!

I’m not sure what the deal is with the art. Chris Burnham draws all but four pages of this, and it’s not even like Guinaldo draws the first four or the last four or pages that show a different time period or different characters. You just turn the page and there’s Guinaldo’s art for a few pages. Then it shifts right back to Burnham. Anyway, Guinaldo isn’t terrible, but he’s just a slick journeyman, the 2013 equivalent of, I don’t know, Bob Layton. He’s perfectly fine, but it’s interesting how Burnham’s Knight, for instance, looks like someone who is really beaten up, while Guinaldo’s Knight looks like some dude with disheveled hair who has some red paint on him. The page on which the horrific event occurs is amazingly tense and, well, horrific, and I can’t imagine Guinaldo doing half as good a job on it as Burnham does. But I don’t know why it had to feature four pages of substitute art. The book’s schedule is already slipping a bit (not much, but a bit), and as the GoAC is ignoring the DCnU in this book, does it really matter if it slips a bit more? Beats me.

Much like the rest of Batman, Incorporated, this is a fine issue that will read better as part of the larger epic. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Oh, and did all those hostages die? You know the ones I’m talking about? It sure looks like it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

It’s 2013, so I’m shifting to Totally Airwolf PAGES, just because I can!

Perspective!

Look at the view of that first panel. Burnham gives us a perfectly symmetrical stairway, so that it really does create the optical illusion of Batman standing further away from us, and we feel like we’re falling into the panel. The bad guys at the four cardinal points help create the illusion of a whirlpool sucking Batman away. The bottom gunman leads us to the bottom row, and the hail of bullets lead us downward to Batman. Then, all the action pushes us upward. It’s a very nicely designed page, all stemming from the cool effect of the first panel.

Colder #3 (of 5) by Paul Tobin (writer), Juan Ferreyra (artist/colorist), Eduardo Ferreyra (color assistant), Laura Binaghi (color assistant), Nate Piekos (letterer), Shantel Larocque (assistant editor), Scott Allie (editor), and Daniel Chabon (editor). $3.99, 23 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Colder continues to get more intriguing, which is always nice. Considering that it started out intriguing, that’s also a good thing. The problem with a lot of horror stories is that as we get answers, things seem to get a bit boring, and while Tobin might fall into that trap in issues #4 and 5, so far, he’s been answering some questions but managing to keep things intriguing. So in this issue, we find out what we’ve suspected – that Nimble Jack devours minds, especially insane ones, and that for some reason, he let Declan go. Declan suspects it’s because Jack likes to “play with his food,” but presumably there’s a bigger reason. Declan explains this all to Reece, but underestimates the effect it might have on her, leading to an interesting cliffhanger. I hope Tobin doesn’t simply turn this into a rescue mission, but he might be able to make that good. We’ll see.

Ferreyra, meanwhile, continues to dazzle. When Jack chases Declan and Reece, we get some stunning visuals (see below). When Declan tries to escape by entering the land of the insane, Ferreyra goes even more nuts. Back in the real world, he turns his attention both to the beautiful colors – Ferreyra has become one of the best colorists in the business – and showing how Reece slowly falls apart. Tobin hints at it once, but then Ferreyra takes over – while Declan is expositing, we see Reece sitting quietly, but Ferreyra manages to make it look weirdly unnatural even before it becomes clear that something has happened to her. It’s really amazing how well he does it without drawing attention to it. I still don’t know why Ferreyra isn’t a bigger star, but at least he still does stuff like this instead of getting sucked into the DC/Marvel maw, from which there is NO ESCAPE!!!!

I don’t know if Tobin will pull this off, but this is a really keen series 60% of the way in. We’ll see how it plays out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Comin' out!

Ferreyra alters the panel sizes and angles the borders to express the horror of what’s happening as Jack crawls out of an insane person to cut Declan and Reece off. The first panel is balanced perfectly, as Jack’s eye forms a perfect triangle with the man’s eyes, focusing our gaze on the horror of his head inside the man’s mouth. He colors the page wonderfully, too – it’s a nice day out, and we can see in Panel 5 that the sun is out and there are leaves on the trees, but Ferreyra takes those same colors of spring and slams them together in Panels 1-4, creating a nightmarish atmosphere as Jack rips his way out of the insane man. Notice, too, the two people behind the scene in Panel 4 – Tobin and Ferreyra do a nice job showing that not everyone can see Jack, so no one really knows that this terrible event is happening right in front of them.

Fatale #11 by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Dave Stewart (colorist). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

Brubillips begins a series of four single issue stories with this, which takes place in Texas in 1936 and features a sort of an amalgam between Robert E. Howard (who lived in Texas and committed suicide in 1936) and H. P. Lovecraft (who died in 1937). The writer, Alfred Ravenscroft, wrote a story about a strange event that took place in his childhood, and our old friend Josephine found it in a copy of “Ghastly Tales” and tracked down Ravenscroft to find out if it was true. Josephine gains some “peace of mind” from her trip (we can’t really describe it as such, but at least she finds someone else who has seen what she has seen) but doesn’t get what seems like some crucial information out of Ravenscroft. As a single issue, it’s not much of a story – there’s a man who sacrifices everything for Josephine, of course, and Ravenscroft’s recollections don’t mean as much because we already know there are weird things abroad in the world – but it does provide structure to the rest of the Fatale epic. If you simply pick this up because you heard it was a single-issue story, you might be disappointed that it’s not more clear-cut. But Brubaker does a good job placing it within the context of the larger story, so for a regular reader, it’s not bad.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

You should never see your mom do that

Phillips does a nice job giving us people who look “normal” naked – they’re all fit, because they work hard for a living, but they’re not spectacular. His usual heavy inks and Stewart’s lighting of the scene help make it far more disturbing, of course – it implies the darkness they’re summoning without being too obvious. Notice that in Panel 1, the people aren’t lit as well, but in Panel 2, Ravenscroft’s mother passes close to the fire, illuminating her clearly so that her son can see her in all her glory, so to speak. Phillips inks his face heavily in Panel 3 to imply that his innocence has been completely shattered. Placing the two men in front of Ravenscroft is a nice touch, too, as it’s clear they’re enjoying the show in a sexual way, and Phillips contrasts this with the way Ravenscroft has seen his mother until now and is now seeing her in a new way.

Glory #31 (“War Town Part One: The Fall”) by Joe Keatinge (writer), Ross Campbell (artist of 12 pages), Ulises Farinas (artist of 8 pages), Owen Gieni (colorist), Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer), and Eric Stephenson (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Here’s another strange artistic choice. Keatinge and Campbell have only a few issues left, so does it matter that much if the book is a little late? They’re probably not picking up new readers this late in the game, and those who did start getting it are probably patient. Now, that being said, at least Farinas is pretty good, AND the section he draws is a flashback, so perhaps it was always worked in that he would draw it (he’s in the solicits for it, so that’s probably it). Of course, I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, but it’s weird that Glory needs to come out so consistently that we’d get several pages of a guest artist. Note that I use a Farinas page below, so I’m not complaining too much, but it is odd.

Anyway, Glory and Nanaja reach their father, who doesn’t bother to fight them, which puzzles Glory. So he tells them about the battle that destroyed Thule, which is the part of the book that Farinas draws. It’s a shame – Campbell is so good at drawing bizarre monsters, but Farinas gets to do it here! He does a very good job, though, and we find out a bit about what’s going on. Then, in the present, Glory’s mom shows up. Oh dear. That won’t be good. The final page seems like it would be physically impossible, but damn, it looks cool, doesn’t it?

I don’t buy that Keatinge and Campbell are ending this book when they want to, but that’s just because I’m a cynical bastard (even the bright new year can’t fix that!). But it’s nice that they’re getting to tell something like a complete story, and I’m definitely going to miss this comic. Keatinge has another book out this week, and it’s a bit stunning how different in quality the two are. He got sucked into the MAW!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Is that a cloaca?

There’s not much to say about this. It’s awesome. Look at the details at the bottom of the page!

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #4 (of 5) by James Stokoe (writer/artist/colorist/letterer), Heather Breckel (color assistant), and Bobby Curnow (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Speaking of monsters, Stokoe is back with more Godzilla action, running a bit behind schedule, but still reasonable given Stokoe’s attention to detail. So we’re in Bombay in 1987, where Godzilla is, well, destroying shit, and Ota doesn’t know what he’s doing anymore, as his task force’s mission has changed because they can’t destroy Godzilla. Then the government unveils Mecha-Godzilla, and then Space Godzilla is lured to Earth, which seems to be a plot point that might set up another mini-series, because I don’t know how it’s going to be resolved in one more issue. Ota gets to contribute, Godzilla pulls a wrestling move on Space Godzilla (I’m sure Chad Nevett knows what it’s called, but I don’t – it just where the dude jumps sideways off the ropes and lands on the other wrestler, except that Godzilla doesn’t need to jump off ropes like a sucker!), and it’s all beautifully drawn. As I’ve always said with regard to this comic, IT’S JAMES STOKOE DRAWING GODZILLA. I mean, really.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Space Godzilla!

The design is amazing, sure, as is the scale of Space Godzilla – the buildings around him testify to that. Notice that Ota in Panel 2 is looking upward and to the right, drawing our attention back to Panel 1 even though technically he’s not “looking” that way. And Stokoe rotates the “camera” angle nicely in Panel 3 to include Deverich more clearly, and the way the panel flows leads us right to the next page. Panel 1 is the impressive one on the page, but Stokoe doesn’t forego storytelling just to get Space Godzilla on the page.

Hip Flask: The Big Here and the Long Now #2 (of 3) (“Ouroborous”) by Richard Starkings (writer/letterer), Ladrönn (artist), Juan Ulasco (inking assistant), and Tatto Caballero (color assistant). $4.99, 40 pgs, FC, Image.

I don’t have much to say about the latest issue of Hip Flask, because they come out so infrequently that it’s difficult to write anything substantial about it. I can’t even remember the last time one came out, and although the final issue is promised for December 2013, I don’t buy it. We’ll see. It’s worthwhile to remember that Elephantmen is the comic Starkings decided to do while he was waiting for Ladrönn to draw this series, and it takes place a few years before this one, so a pretty important event that is the focus of this issue hasn’t happened yet in Elephantmen. It’s a strange way to do the series, but it will probably be really nice to see in a big hardcover, because it’s kind of worth waiting for Ladrönn’s artwork. It seems to be a bit less … mechanical, maybe? in this comic, as the characters look more real. Starkings’ story is about time travel (sigh), so it makes my head hurt, but it’s still pretty cool to see this comic come out. Let’s hope the schedule doesn’t lie!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Oh, we still love you, Obadiah!

This is just a nice sequence of drawings, as Ladrönn shows how fragile Sahara looks when standing next to Obadiah, but also how broken Obadiah feels himself to be. The juxtaposition of his words in Panel 3 and the focus on his hands is well done, and Starkings ends the page with a good line that is more powerful because of what we know occurs in the future (this page takes place 20 years in the past). Ladrönn doesn’t do anything stunning with the page layout, but it’s still a nice page.

The Manhattan Projects #8 (“They Rule”) by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Pitarra (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

The rulers of the world strike back at the scientists in this issue, as Truman and his cabal tell A.I. FDR to take over the machines in the scientists’ complexes and start killing them, so the entire issue is basically a fight scene. There’s nothing wrong with that – every once in a while you need to cut loose. Pitarra isn’t quite as good with action as he is with other stuff, which is not surprising (I’ve often pointed out that action is probably the hardest thing for comic artists to master), but he does a pretty good job with it. Wernher von Braun is the most prominent guy fighting back, but Einstein and Feynman get in on it, too (if you thought you never needed to see Einstein shooting an M-60 like Rambo, well, you’re wrong). Nobody important gets killed (well, it’s possible, but we don’t actually see it), but a lot of cannon fodder is dispatched, and poor Helmutt Gröttrup continues in the “Herr Starr” role of this comic, as he is treated rather shabbily. It’s just your normal insanity in The Manhattan Projects!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Everyone loves Nehebu!

Pitarra’s layout isn’t that special, but his designs are pretty keen. I don’t know who all these people are, but the fat dude looks like he’s drawn a solar system around his navel, while the Mexican wrestler is holding a funky golden head. Nehebu and Truman compete for the coolest headgear. The nice thing about this entire comic is that Hickman is playing it completely seriously even though it’s ridiculous – the heart in the center of the table, the mysterious finger configuration, the strange outfits. I do like how FDR joins the circle by using ticker tape – that’s pretty clever.

Mara #1 by Brian Wood (writer), Ming Doyle (artist), and Jordie Bellaire (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

This and Hip Flask came out last week, but I didn’t feel like reviewing them separately, so there you have it. This is the highly anticipated tale of a society that raises athletes to the height of celebrity and the biggest star of them all, a 17-year-old volleyball player named Mara. Doyle has been getting better with every project she draws, and while she still has some issues – yes, with the action scenes – she has a beautiful, lush style that fits a story of physical perfection well, because everyone in here is in wonderful shape but they still look real, while she creates a sleek, sterile world in which the people live, which also fits the theme of the issue. Meanwhile, Wood does kind of what he does with The Massive – there’s an intriguing premise here, and the book ends with an odd event that will presumably drive the narrative and explain what’s going on with Mara (see below), but like The Massive, he gives us far too much omniscient narration about the state of the world. It’s really bizarre – there’s very little in the omniscient narration that needs to be there, and while some of the pseudo-omniscient narration (the game announcer’s voice, for instance) is fine, there’s still too much of it. I don’t think anyone will accuse Wood of thinking his readers are stupid (I certainly wouldn’t say that about him), but occasionally, he seems to think he needs to overload us with information. If I’m missing the point, then I guess that’s that, but I honestly don’t see the reason for so much background information that we can infer from the artwork or glean from the dialogue. Very little of what we learn about Mara and her world is so crucial that it needs to be spelled out for us, and it’s odd that Wood does it. He certainly doesn’t always do it, and I don’t know why he does in some of his comics.

Anyway, I did like the set-up for this mini-series, and I look forward to the rest of it. I suspect it will be quite good, if Wood can get out of his own way!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Mara knows what's what!

This is the first indication that there’s something unusual about Mara. She somehow senses the dude with a gun just when he cocks the weapon, which nobody else could even hear. Doyle adds some interesting touches – the security team is for Mara, not the team, although they protect Ingrid, who seems to be Mara’s girlfriend. She puts a nice-looking scarf on Ingrid and a nice jacket on Mara – do they not sweat during their games, or are the uniforms designed to wick away perspiration? The gun looks positively antique, and I don’t know if we’re supposed to read anything into that. Notice Doyle’s issues with action – the final panel looks a bit awkward, as the security dudes push Ingrid and Mara into the car. The entire panel is confusing – is the security dude in the front touching Ingrid? I doubt it. If it’s the back seat of a car, as Panel 5 seems to indicate, then how are we seeing this without the front blocking us? On the next page, it’s clear that it’s a limousine, and notice in Panel 5 that the door is right where the dude in Panel 6 would be. So it’s a bit of a confusing page. Or is it just me?

Morbius, the Living Vampire #1 (“Midnight Son”) by Joe Keatinge (writer), Richard Elson (artist), Antonio Fabela (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), and Sana Amanat (editor). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

The Marvel NOW! initiative continues with Morbius, which seems like a strange choice for an ongoing, but whatever. Editor Sana Amanat tells us in the back that it’s not just another vampire book, but let’s be honest – Marvel is trying to capitalize on the popularity of vampires just like DC is. It doesn’t matter that Dan Slott “had been telling a Morbius story in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN that explored the conflicting sides of the character,” as Amanat writes in the back. Just like Avengers Arena wouldn’t exist without the phenomenal success of The Hunger Games, this wouldn’t exist without the phenomenal success of Twilight and other vampire fiction. To pretend otherwise is why we shouldn’t trust anything that comes out of the editors’ offices at comic book companies – all comic book companies, not just the Big Two. But that’s okay – if Marvel wants to try to capitalize on the success of their own movies, why shouldn’t they try to capitalize on the success of other trends in fiction? They’re a business, after all.

The problem is that Morbius is not very good at all. Everyone knows that when writers head off to the Big Two, it’s very difficult for them to keep the “voice” that got them there in the first place. Even the best writers (Kieron Gillen, for instance) make missteps when they’re writing for the Big Two because they’re hampered by editorial (or, in Gillen’s case, hampered by Greg Land), and Keatinge isn’t quite as good as someone like Gillen yet. I really like his writing on Glory, for instance, and even though I didn’t love the first issue of Hell Yeah!, it definitely showed someone with a solid authorial voice. But Morbius is really assembly-line comics at its best, with Keatinge cranking out a dull script that has some of that faux-cleverness that a lot of Marvel comics feature these days (to be fair, some actually are clever), Richard Elson cranking out dull artwork that wouldn’t look out of place in a shelf-drawer replacement issue from Marvel Two-in-One circa 1977, Fabela cranking out a nice sheen so that it looks more modern, Cowles dropping some red letters in it to make it look kewl, and Amanat pretending it’s something ground-breaking. I mean, it’s mildly entertaining, and it’s not like this made me angry to read it – it took me about five minutes, and I felt the same way I did after I read it as I did before I read it. It had no impact on my life whatsoever, so I guess it’s better than some of the other Marvel NOW! books, which actively pissed me off. Morbius goes to a place called Brownsville for no other reason than some dude tells him it sucks (seriously). I mean, that’s like someone telling me to live in Damascus – “You’ll love the kebabs so much you won’t notice the bombs!” But Morbius, instead of going to another place where the superheroes never go (which is his ostensible reason for leaving New York), like anyplace but New York, heads to Brownsville – yes, I’m sure the name of the town implies poop. There he finds unpleasant people doing unpleasant things and he runs afoul of a local thug. I know, shocking. Keatinge doesn’t do anything interesting at all with this premise – not that there’s a lot of interesting things to do with such a tepid premise. And Elson somehow got to draw witty scripts for Gillen on Journey into Mystery, so that got him a higher profile, but he’s just a standard superhero artist, noteworthy for absolutely no reason. There’s no reason to buy this comic unless you’re absolutely in love with Michael Morbius, in which case, have fun with it.

In short, this comic exists. Yes it does.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

I AM NOT AN ANIMAL!

Dull dialogue? Check. Dull voice-over? Check. Attempt at humor? Check. Bland art? Check. The entire comic is exactly like this page, so if you like this page, buy the comic!

New Avengers #1 (“Memento Mori”) by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Steve Epting (penciler/inker), Rick Magyar (inker), Frank D’Armata (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer), Jake Thomas (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), and Lauren Sankovitch (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

I’m sure it started before this, but the Hickman backlash is going on in earnest these days – maybe whenever someone takes over the Avengers, they automatically start to suck? Anyway, I read someone (I think it was Tucker Stone, but I’m not going to check) making fun of Hickman’s big spreads that show weird designs and the title of the book but don’t add anything, and that’s fine if you want to do that, but that doesn’t change the fact that those don’t count in terms of story – if someone else wrote this, we’d get 20 pages of story without the two-page spread placed seemingly at random in the middle of this issue that reads “New Avengers: Illuminati” against a black background, while with Hickman, we do get it. I mean, that’s about it. It’s kind of dumb, but Hickman likes to THINK BIG!!!!!, so he’s sticking in a big pronouncement that THIS! IS! AWESOME! I don’t see anything wrong with that.

Anyway, like Avengers, Hickman is playing a long game, so we begin this issue with Reed Richards speaking cryptically against a black background, and then we flash back to “26 hours ago” in Wakanda, where three young people find some weird obelisk that’s all tech-y and shit, and then Black Panther shows up to tell them that the obelisk is the Wakanda space program or some such shit. It doesn’t matter, because suddenly a portal between worlds opens up and when they all go through (because of course the kids ignore T’Challa telling them to stay in their world), they see a planet hanging ominously in the sky and some weird-but-sexy (of course) superpeople who promptly start killing the Wakandans. Like you do. So T’Challa gets back to our Earth inexplicably, and he calls the Illuminati to take care of shit. I mean, why not?

This is a dumb comic, but it’s dumb in a fairly entertaining way. I mean, a portal just appears in the jungle? Sure. And T’Challa, unlike a super-enlightened dude who looks down on the other idiot superheroes, acts like an idiot superhero and just goes through it without making sure the kids stay where they are? Okay. And when Sexy Chick says “If I told you I came here to kill a world, would you try to stop me?”, of course T’Challa says something tough-guy like “I would do more than try” without even asking what the context of that is. I mean, maybe she’s justified in killing a world (I mean, of course she’s not, because morality in superhero comics is so black and white, but it’s possible). And he calls in the other douchebags in the Illuminati even though he has no idea what’s going on in that other dimension? Man. Anyway, despite the dumbness, Hickman gives everyone nice arch dialogue, and Epting draws it all nicely. D’Armata, as usual, pummels the quirks out of the artwork, so this looks like a slick, mass-produced piece of visual entertainment, which it is. The difference between this artwork and Elson’s is that Epting is a better artist than Elson, but it’s in the same vein.

Someone pointed out that these Marvel NOW! books aren’t taking place at the same time, as we can see with this comic. Reed Richards is still hanging around, and Captain America is not wearing his new costume. If Marvel wants to get around the fact that Captain America is in another dimension and Reed Richards is in another dimension for a while by placing these books at different times, they better be very careful. The smart play would be to keep Reed and Steve out of other motherfucking books while they’re in other dimensions in their own motherfucking books, but Ishtar fucking forbid that they would do that. But that’s just how I feel, man!

Anyway, like Hickman’s Avengers, this is a slightly better-than-average superhero book helped by Hickman’s utter bombastry, but it’s not quite as good as Avengers #1 because Opeña isn’t drawing it. It’s MATH, people!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Poor little red shirts!

Sexy Chick does the classic “Turn away while giving the kill order” pose here, and notice that Epting moves our eyes counter-intuitively, from right to left. He can do this because of the boring page design – stacked panels are really dull, but it allows artists to do stuff like this. So the gunfire moves us from right to left, and then Epting cleverly extends the panel in Panel 3 – our brains read Panels 2 and 3 almost as one long panel, which is a nice trick. Of course, we get the ubiquitous “special effects” of the kids getting knocked backward by the blast, because that’s what’s cool these days in comics. D’Armata does color the page well – the other world has a weird, reddish light that distinguishes it from the Marvel U. – even though he’s busy smoothing out any rough edges the art might have.

The Red Ten #1 (of 10) by Tyler James (writer), Cesar Feliciano (artist), Guillermo Ucha (colorist), Steven Forbes (editor), and Steve Colle (editor). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, Comix Tribe.

I pre-ordered this because I thought it sounded pretty cool – it’s And Then There Were None with superheroes – even though I always worry about getting these kinds of seriously indie books because they might not be able to stay in business long enough to get 10 issues out. But what the heck, right? I’d rather give my $4 to this than DC or Marvel, after all.

Like a lot of these kinds of books, the art is the weak link. Feliciano isn’t terrible, but he does have a lot of problems that young and/or raw artists have – the people look too much like mannequins, everything is a bit too slick, and he relies on computer effects a bit too much. The best thing about art like this is that it doesn’t get in the way, and there’s really no difficulty in reading this book. Feliciano might not add too much to the story, but he doesn’t hinder it, either, and that’s not a bad thing. I don’t know if he is a newer artist or if this is the way he’s evolved, but I do hope he gets better. Even if he doesn’t, the art doesn’t hold back the story, so what about the story?

Well, James writes in the back of the book that he’s never going to be allowed to kill the Justice League, but when he creates the characters himself (or at least creates thinly-veiled analogs of the DC characters), he can do whatever he wants. So he decides to do a murder mystery. I’m kind of a sucker for a good murder mystery, and I love And Then There Were None, so of course I was curious about this. James gets it off to a good start when he kills “Batman,” which causes her “Robin” to ditch his fiancée (well, not really, but she takes her ring off because she thinks he’s choosing superheroing over her) and come out of retirement to help the rest of the Justice League – I mean The Alliance – find the killer. They think it’s Oxymoron, the Joker analog, but when they enter his hideout, they find that he’s been killed too. And that’s when they find the doggerel written on the ceiling counting down their numbers and alluding to how they’re going to die (“Ten little heroes with reputations divine, one caught a virus, and then there were nine” – that sort of thing). There’s kind of a huge clue in the first issue, but I’m not sure if James would be that obvious about it. Anyway, someone is trying to kill all the superheroes. Because they’re tools?

Obviously, this is a bit silly, and some of James’s dialogue is painful. But you know what? It’s fun. Yes, fun. I mean, sure, James is killing off superheroes, but he’s right – this is something that couldn’t be done in DC and Marvel, or if it is, it’s done in the most cynical way possible, à la Avengers Arena. Because James’s creations are never going to be used again, he can gleefully slaughter them. Now, this makes it less likely that we will be emotionally invested in them, true, but it also means that if he can pull off the “murder mystery” aspect of the book in a satisfying way, it won’t matter. So that’s what I’m hoping for. Well, I’m also hoping all 10 issues come out, but if they do, I’m hoping that James sticks the landing. In murder mysteries, that’s often what trips people up. We shall see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Sucks to be her

The similarities to Batwoman are obvious – the red in the costume, the red hair – but “Red” is clearly a Batman analog, as the mention of the gun and its importance to her attest. James gives us some warped humor on the page, but it’s also a clue – whoever is killing her doesn’t have “much use” for guns. The killer knows her name, too, as we see on the previous page. Feliciano does a decent job bringing home the violence inflicted on Red – Panel 2 is gruesome and pretty well done. Other pages in the book are a bit too slick, but this is pretty good.

**********

It’s 2013, and we’re all still here. I hope your holidays were great – my parents were visiting for three weeks, so we had a nice time. My wife and I were able to go see a movie (Argo, which was pretty damned good), and our normal babysitter, who had a kid in November, was even able to come over so the adults could go out to dinner one night. So all was well in Mesa!

Before I check out my iPod, I suppose I should mention that I joined Twitter. I doubt if it will too exciting – I don’t have a very exciting life, after all, so I won’t be tweeting out nude pictures of myself (I can hear the groans of disappointment!) or making many controversial statements, because I like my controversial statements to last longer than 140 characters! I did tweet about getting vomited on last night, so I’m sure you’ll want to get up-to-the-minute information like that! Anyway, to paraphrase Phil Collins, if you follow me, I will follow you. I’m sure you’re much more interesting, anyway!

Let’s jump into the Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Rio”Duran Duran (1982) “It means so much to me like a birthday or a pretty view”
2. “On The Frontier” – Renaissance (1973) “So come on leave the dark behind and join the day now”
3. “Home”Foo Fighters (2007) “Just lookin’ for shelter from cold and the pain”
4. “Fiesta”Pogues (1988) “All the town has watched this crazy gringo as he pulls off the doll’s head laughing”
5. “Nothing Else Matters”Metallica (1991) “Never cared for what they say, never cared for games they play”
6. “Baba O’Riley”The Who (1971) “Put out the fire and don’t look past my shoulder”
7. “The Day Before You Came”ABBA (1982) “I must have kept on dragging through the business of the day, without really knowing anything, I hid a part of me away”
8. “New Jack Hustler”Ice T (1991) “Every dollar I get, another brother drops – maybe that’s the plan, and I don’t understand”
9. “Doing It Again” – Token Entry (1990) “Other people can be so mean well I wish I had a friend”
10. “Edie (Ciao Baby)”The Cult (1989) “Wind caressed your cheek, stars wrapped in your hair, life without a care”

So that’s the first comics of 2013 under our belts. It’s always good to start a new year and look forward to all the cool stuff that’s coming out, before the reality of it all crushes you!!!! Oh, I kid. There’s always excellent stuff out there! Maybe this year I might even start checking out digital comics. That would end existence as we know it!!!!

Have a nice day, everyone!

30 Comments

Starkings’ Hip Flask/Elephantmen comics are brilliant, but they never fail to make me depressed. Obadiah’s scenes with Sahara especially, since they hint at what good may be inside his bitter, manipulative exterior– but it never goes beyond hinting.

That the mexican wrestler is sitting on a chair made of cash is my favorite part of that.

Also, the Cult is a totally underrated band.

JAMES STOKOE DRAWING GODZILLA – I always yell this when I see his art on that book, too. Pretty pretty.

On Batman, Inc. – Of course, they died, there’s no other possibility. I was quite shocked too, because Morrison’s BatGod doesn’t really fail in this way. And yet here he is completely helpless.
I’m still thinking Damian will die as well.

Just to clarify — Ulises Farinas drew the flashback sequence because we wanted Ulises Farinas to draw the flashback sequence. There’s no conspiracy involving the book running late, because it’s not. It’s the same reason Roman Muradov drew the 1920s Paris sequence in a previous issue and a few artists are doing two-page vignettes in the next issue. We have people we wanted to work with and the proper place in the story for them to work in.

I’m confused why you think we would be anything but straight that we’re ending Glory because we want to end the book, but we’re ending the book because we want to end the book. Image and Rob have told us we could have continued, but we declined since our story is over.

Sorry Morbius wasn’t your thing.

Neil: Yeah, it’s a great series.

Mecha-Shiva: That is pretty cool. I forgot to mention it!

cich: Well, I figured they died, but it seemed like Batman was about to do something (he appears to be throwing his batarangs in some kind of effort to save them) and then Morrison just moves on. I just thought I might have missed something.

Joe: Fair enough. The Muradov section was so short, and it seemed to make more sense – I can’t really explain it – than this did. But as I noted, I did like Farinas’s work, and I know it was solicited with him on art, but I just wasn’t sure why.

I know in the interview you gave to … Comics Alliance, maybe? you mentioned that you were ending the book on your own terms, and I apologize for not giving you the benefit of the doubt, because I’ve heard that before from a lot of creators. I was just stunned because I know you and Campbell had such big plans, and I really want to read your giant 100-issue run on the book. I get that you got to the core of the story and were able to tell the story you want to tell, but it just seemed strange. I will shut up about it, though!

Well, based on Glory (and even Hell Yeah!, which wasn’t really my thing either), I’ll probably check out some of your other work, so the fact that I don’t like Morbius doesn’t bother me too much. I wish I liked it, but that’s life.

Greg Burgas: Wow, you’re right, I missed that. He does throw a couple of batarangs at the ropes, and disappears for a longer time. He might have yet saved them. BatGod prevails.

I kind of like how Hickman does the “cold open” then gives us the title screen. And like you said, it was 20 pages of story. 21 if you count the “previously on” page.

Serialized dramas do this every week on TV.

Which I suppose it what people have a problem with. Don’t mix my media!

The golden age of Ice-T right there, I need to put the OG album back on my iPod.

That has to be either the only Metallica song you own or the only Metallica album you own. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in your playlist before. And the only other old school metal band, besides hair bands, that I can recall seeing before is Judas Priest (I’m not sure where one should classify The Cult since I haven’t heard a lot of their music though I’m pretty sure they’ve toured with Metallica).

Da Fug: It’s the only Metallica album I own, although I also have “Fade to Black” on the iPod. I’ve never been a huge Metallica fan, although I keep meaning to get “And Justice For All,” which I do enjoy. I don’t have a lot of 1970s metal (if that’s what you mean by “old school”) because I just never got into it too much, although I like stuff here and there. AC/DC isn’t on iTunes, so I only have “It’s a Long Way to the Top” because someone else gave me a CD with it on there, and I have “Crazy Train” on the iPod, but not much Sabbath or other Ozzy. I do have some Anthrax, but I don’t know if that counts. It’s just a question of never really getting too deep into that kind of metal. Most of my knowledge/enjoyment of it comes from friends who were into it and played me some of it, but I never went out and bought the albums.

Oz: Yeah, I love that album. I always hope that the songs come up when my kids aren’t in the car, because if they do, I have to pause it until they leave!

ac/dc is actually now on iTunes

Im crestfallen you and Ross are ending Glory. It’s been a must buy for me and i’ll miss Nanaja.

When I reached that page while reading Batman Incorporated 6, I actually thought “That’s one totally airwolf panel”

Great column as always, Mr. Burgas!

Minor suggestions:

Blizzard of Oz is really the best Ozzy album, I have most of his solo, but that’s the one I never get tired of hearing. Honestly I think you could skip everything else the man ever did, but if you have that you have his best work (and the best of Randy Rhoads)

State of Euphoria is my favourite Anthrax album.

80s metal was my thing, I loved it up until I became a somewhat good musician and then got really bored of it when I realised how uncreative most of it was. I can’t even talk about how much I dislike AC/DC, because people often want to beat me for my opinions.

Regarding Mara, I think the omniscient narration (in the form of a newscast) references an antique gun being found at the scene later on, so it seems like it was a specific choice.

I was completely underwhelmed by the book and I won’t be picking up anymore issues. I thought the premise was interesting, and the cover is lovely, but the art is stiff and flat when laid out on panel. The book also reads like an adolescent take on topicality/thinly veiled parable. “In the future, unjust wars and fiscal cliffs have led to destruction, meltdown, and parents losing their jobs, and the only thing people have to cling to is varsity volleyball. Mara is the best volleyball player and she is more famous than Kim Kardashian…”

The flat, stiff drawings makes the art aspect of the book very hard to “read” in terms of action, and the incessant text box narration bogs down the “writing” of the comic. I did not like it at all.

jjc: Ah, good to know. I’m not a huge fan, but I do like some of their songs, so I might have to check it out.

Anonymous: Yeah, it is pretty cool, isn’t it? I’m glad I’ve infiltrated your consciousness!!!! :)

Oz: Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve probably heard a lot of Blizzard of Oz and State of Euphoria just from being around friends who loved them, but now I’ll have to revisit them. And I don’t think it’s strange at all not to like AC/DC. All their songs sound the same! But if you like that sound, that’s cool, but it’s not like they’re blazing any trails.

joe: Dang, you’re right about the “vintage gun.” I forgot about that. Obviously, I don’t think it’s as bad as you say, but I do understand why you feel that way. I thought it was good enough to keep going, and I also have faith in Wood to pull it off, but I get your objections to it.

Marvel Two-In-One was never an A-lister, but Ron Wilson’s pages were a lot more kinetic and interesting to look at than that Morbius page. For something that’s supposed to be an action moment, it’s one of the most static pages you have on display this week.

Greg: Confound it, I figured you would call me on that! But notice I said “shelf-drawer replacement issue,” so just assume that Ron Wilson was sick that month and couldn’t get his pages done!!!! :)

I was probably a little harsh. I guess I had high expectations for Mara and I was very underwhelmed. Something about the solicits made me think “Brian Wood doing Robert Heinlein? Beautiful cover? Sold!”

But it’s not that, and it may not even be trying to do that. I’ll check out issue 2, but I still think the art was pinups level at best.

Greg,

How about a NSFW warning on these columns when you’re going to publish pages with nudity? I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve stumbled across nudity in your column. I’d like a fair warning up front so I can know whether I need to read the column at home. (CBR sometimes, but not always, puts a warning up–it’s so hard to tell what’s coming.)

Adam: Sorry, I forgot. I’ve put some nudity in it before, and I think I always included that, but I forgot this time. I’ll remember next time!

Have you picked up Faust: Love of the Damned Act 15 yet, Greg?

Ben: Did it come out? I ordered it, but my retailer hasn’t gotten it yet. I will be sad if I missed it!

I ordered Faust Act 15 through the http://www.brokenhalos.safewebshop.com website, and it arrived in the mail a few days ago. I found your review of 14 to be quite funny, so I was looking forward to your thoughts on this one.

By the way, just so you know, you’ll have to censor most of the cover once again! And, not surprisingly, you might also have a little trouble finding a “One totally Airwolf page” that is safe for work.

Ben: I’ll have to ask my retailer, because I was looking at the Facebook page and saw that you got your copy, but maybe Diamond is holding it up for some reason. If not, I’ll have to take steps to obtain it! Good to know it’s as obnoxious as ever!

Greg, thanks!

Don’t know if it was just the Epting art but I felt like New Avengers was the start of a Negation incursion. If it was I would be a happy man.

Good reviews as always, and I’m excited that you’ll be showing full pages here for the foreseeable future.

I agree that Glory was a standout this week, and I especially loved the final page. It was the background image of the dad spilling the waffle mix that really got me. Hilarious.

I also thought Fatale and Manhattan Projects remain strong, thought it appears I like Manhattan Projects a little better than you do, as it’s probably my #2 book right now behind Wolverine & the X-Men (with Prophet, Fatale, and Hawkeye likely rounding out the top 5).

I have to disagree with your review on New Avengers though. While I’ll be sticking with the book for a bit because I like Hickman and I want to see what he’s up to, I thought the first issue was legitimately terrible. There were more wasted pages than there were un-wasted pages. Not even counting the title pages (as there are still 20 pages of art without them), I think this was an 8 page comic at best. It should have been one of the vignettes in the Marvel Now Point One special or something, with the first issue of the series picking up with the Illuminati arriving in Wakanda.

It’s so frustrating that every issue of Manhattan Projects is a relatively complete tale (even as they all inform a much much larger whole, reminiscent of Planetary in that way), but Hickman isn’t/can’t do the same with his Avengers stories. Similar to Fraction’s differences between Hawkeye and Fantastic Four, it consistently boggles my mind how some writers can be so good at filling issues with one series, and then have no fucking clue how to write an issue’s worth of content somewhere else. And I also wonder, with Hawkeye being an exception (as the single issue thing is kind of its schtick), if Marvel basically encourages their writers to NOT write full issues, just as I’ve suspected DC does. It’s infuriating.

The first issue of Mara did very little for me, though I’ll judge that when it’s finished. Can’t wait for Wood’s Star Wars, though. Will you be picking that up? And will you be getting the End Times of Bram and Ben this week? I’m considering trying it out just on the strength of the tagline: “Armageddon better watch the fuck out.”

Third Man: I like Manhattan Projects quite a bit, but it feels a bit … I don’t know, like something is missing. I’m not sure what it is, but it keeps me from loving it unequivocally. But it’s still very strong, even if I don’t like it as much as you do.

I guess I didn’t hate New Avengers as much as you do, but it certainly wasn’t great. I do wonder if Marvel and DC encourage their writers to “write for the trade.” That would be annoying.

I doubt if I’ll grab Star Wars in single issues. I know it will be offered in trade, so I figure I can wait. And I haven’t really seen anything about The End Times of Bram and Ben, although if it’s at my store, I’ll probably take a look at it.

Here ya go Burgas, my blog has just been updated with my predictions and analysis for the Oscar nominations, which come out Thursday.

New reviews coming later this week.

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