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CSBG Archive

What I bought – 16 January 2013

If so, that impression was in his mind on that last day of 1807 when he was forty and played Surrey to Burr’s Wolsey, exclaiming to the ravening crowd that Burr had “no religious principles, and little, if any sense of reverence to a moral Governor of the Universe.” How could even an Adams purport to know such a thing? John Quincy Adams’s theologically trained father would have been aware that one makes a statement about the state of another person’s soul at great peril to one’s own. (Roger Kennedy, from Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson)

So retro it's mod! 'You can't force me to get a better haircut!' 'My, what big ... tusks you have!' I don't know about you, but there's nothing I like more than a spider woman reaching for my junk! Wolverine does ballet! Cross those claws, Shatterstar! Everyone likes a parody! Old-time Paul Pope?  Sign me up!

The Black Beetle: No Way Out #1 (of 4) by Francesco Francavilla (writer/artist/colorist), Nate Piekos (letterer), and Jim Gibbons (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Francavilla’s pulp hero leaves the pages of Dark Horse Presents and gets his own mini-series, and it’s pretty cool. Francavilla doesn’t give us too astonishing of a story, but it’s pretty solid. The Black Beetle is about to bust two mob bosses who happen to be meeting each other, but the bar in which they’re meeting explodes, killing everyone inside. The Beetle tracks down one cousin who wasn’t there, but that dude turned himself into the cops and is sitting in prison because he’s apparently scared out of his mind of whoever did it. The Beetle finds him, but things don’t go well, and the issue ends with an interesting-looking villain and the Beetle trapped by the cops. Because a hero must always find himself trapped by the cops at some point!

The story does zip along quite nicely, but it’s Francavilla’s artwork that is the big selling point. It’s superb, of course. Francavilla has been good for years, but he’s done two things in the past few years that has improved his art a lot. First, he started coloring his own work, and he’s a brilliant colorist. Second, he’s been using thicker lines and heavier inks, giving his artwork a bit more weight. Both of these things assist him with the pulpy comics that he obviously loves. And he pulls out all the stops on this one. On pages 2 and 3, we get a double-page spread packed with information about the two crime bosses and their operations. Then we get a big page seen through the eyes of the Beetle, which is also very cool. Later he uses a prison wall as a panel border, which is pretty clever. As usual with Francavilla’s colors, there are lots of reds, oranges, yellows, and blues, creating a lurid, steamy, pulpy vibe. The book is absolutely beautiful, and it’s a pleasure to linger on the pages.

Sure, The Black Beetle is a solid superhero pulp story. And I love the mysterious super-villain’s costume. But damn, that art is excellent. You know it’s true!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Bono? Is that you?

This page looks simple, but let’s consider it. Francavilla moves our eye effortlessly over the panels, from the circular one in the upper left, around the long, slanted ones, down to the larger one on the bottom. Notice, too, how two different things on this page are reminiscent of beetles. The obvious allusion is the Beetle’s costume, the cape of which flares out like wings, but the panel layout, too, gives an impression of beetle’s wings extending from a small body – the circular panel in the corner. It’s a marvelously designed page, and Francavilla does this more often than not, which is nice.

Crawling Sky #1 (of 5) by Joe R. Lansdale (writer), Keith Lansdale (writer), and Brian Denham (artist). $3.99, 26 pgs, BW, Antarctic Press.

I first saw Brian Denham’s artwork in 2005, maybe? and thought he deserved to be a bigger star, but he never really has made the leap. Either he’s happy doing his own thing or the right people don’t share my opinion, but I do try to keep an eye out for his artwork, and when he works with someone who can write a horror Western like Joe R. Lansdale (although this is based on a Lansdale story, so maybe his son wrote the actual script for this comic), I take some notice. Lansdale’s comics are hit-or-miss for me, but I like to check them out, at least, because hope springs eternal! So I bought a comic from Antarctic Press. Don’t look at me like that! Next I’ll be buying trades of Gold Digger, and then all hope is lost!

As it’s a first chapter, the Lansdales keep things mysterious. There’s a dude and chick in a cabin who think something is out in the woods, but before we can find out anything, we shift to later, as a reverend rides into the town of Wood Tick. Charming name, that. He sees the same guy from the beginning – who’s named Norville – in stocks, and the sheriff tells the reverend it’s because Norville was telling stories about a “haint” that ran off with his wife. A “haint” is a ghost, in case you’re wondering. The reverend frees Norville, which the sheriff allows as long as the reverend takes Norville with him. Then Norville tells the story of how he ended up in the woods, how he “married” Sissy – they’re not married official-like, but they decided to live as a married couple – and that something terrible has happened to Sissy and now she’s gone. The reverend, of course, believes him and decides to help him find Sissy’s body. He also says that he has “business at the cabin,” which implies he knows more about Norville than Norville knows (Norville ain’t too bright), so I’m sure that will come up again. It’s a solid horror story beginning, in other words.

Denham’s art is quite good, as I figured it would be. The heads of his characters seem just a tiny bit large for their bodies, but that’s a small complaint. He does a nice job giving Wood Tick and its surroundings plenty of good details, and his shading of the book is tremendous. The pages where Norville is telling his story flow nicely, as Denham uses fewer solid border panels and just lets one scene move into another, kind of like memory. The few pages where Norville finds Sissy and the haint are well done, too, as Denham doesn’t show anything too awful, leaving that up to our imaginations, and he gives the pages a fierce, kinetic energy. Most people, perhaps, know Denham from Iron Man: Hypervelocity, the mini-series he did six years ago, and his art has matured nicely, as it’s not as slick as that was (possibly because it’s not in color) and it feels more organic. It’s nice work.

Crawling Sky is an interesting beginning, and Joe Lansdale always makes his comics interesting, even if they’re not always totally successful. If you see this lying around, you might want to give it a look. Don’t give all your money to Marvel and DC!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Well, that can't be good

The shading in the first panel is nice, as it shows both the darkness of pre-electrical days and the shadow that is falling across Norville and Sissy’s life. Denham uses traditional panels here, but he makes the gutters black so that it feels like the page flows a bit better. We get a fairly stereotypical shot in Panel 3, as it implies that something in the woods is watching Norville, and then the payoff of the dead raccoon is a good, horrific drawing. It’s a good build of tension by Denham.

Elephantmen #45 (“Sleeping Partners Part Four: Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment”) by Richard Starkings (writer), Axel Medellin (artist), and Tula Lotay (artist). $3.99, 28 pgs, FC, Image.

Starkings, as he does, wraps some things up but keeps a bunch of other balls in the air, and so while technically this is the final issue of an arc, there’s still plenty going on that provides fodder for more issues. Ebony gives us a bit of a recap of some earlier events, which allows Starkings to retell the story of Buddha’s birth, which is very nicely illustrated by Lotay (who’s a pretty good artist; hopefully she’ll be doing more work in the near future). Then we check back in with Hip, who last issue saw his girlfriend, Miki, kissing some dude. Hip freaks out, and then has a good conversation with Miki – well, it’s not good because they hash everything out, but it’s good because Starkings writes it very well, as if two people who care about each other but who have some issues are actually speaking. Hip says horrible things to Miki, but Miki has biting comebacks for them, and although it’s only two pages long, it’s very well done. Finally, Ebony says the wrong thing to Vanity. Oh dear. That can’t be good.

Despite some of the action early on, it’s a slower issue, as Starkings finishes (for now) examining some of the relationships in the book. I imagine he’ll always be checking in on them, but this arc was more about the way the hybrids react to the women in their lives and how society reacts to that, and it’s been a solid arc. The final page promises some action in the future, but who knows what’s coming next issue – Shaky Kane is back to draw it, so I’m sure it will be quite bizarre.

The art, naturally, is good. Lotay has a dreamlike quality to her pencils, so the gauzy story of Siddhartha’s mother having a vision of a white elephant feels more mystical, and the abundance of pink in the coloring helps with the soothing tone of the story. Medellin, meanwhile, continues to do a really nice job with both the line work and the coloring. He adds a nice sheen of soft neon-like coloring to some of the scenes, making them glow well and stand in contrast to the brutal fighting earlier in the issue, and at one point we get this full-page panel:

In case you’re wondering, that is a cartoon representation of famed commented BeccaBlast, who let me know this was coming a few weeks ago. I will leave it to her or Medellin to say how true-to-life that drawing is, but it’s pretty cool that she got to show up in a comic!

Anyway, this continues to be a fascinating and heartfelt comic book. Starkings continues to surprise with the routes the story goes, and Medellin always does a fine job with the artwork (and the guest artists are always good, too). Just another fine issue of Elephantmen!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

He's not in his happy place

Hip goes crazy on this page because he thinks Miki has cheated on him (she didn’t), and Medellin goes all out. In the first panel, he’s punching an advertisement with Sahara on it that has been vandalized by people who don’t like that she’s having sex with Obadiah. He smashes that, but it’s not enough, so he picks up a dumpster and chucks it against the wall. Panel 4 gives us a nice look at how strong his grip is, and Panel 5 smashes up through the line of panels above it, giving the page a much more chaotic look to it. The biggest problem is the last panel, as the sound effect over it and the thinness of the actual panel make it more difficult to see what Hip is doing. We know, because what else is he going to do with the dumpster, but it feels like the throwing of the dumpster should be more dramatic.

Saga #9 by Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Fiona Staples (artist), and Fonografiks (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

I’m really having problems with Saga, because I don’t want to drop it, but it’s still not clicking with me. I’m kind of bummed out about this – I like Vaughan, I really like Staples, and the book keeps feeling like it should be better than it is. Why isn’t it?

Take this issue. I’ll SPOIL a bit for you – The Stalk isn’t back from the dead. Vaughan spends the first five pages on … a dream sequence. Why did that rub me the wrong way? Beats me, but it just feels like a waste of time. I don’t mind dreams in my fiction, certainly, but this just felt … off. It’s tough to explain, but in genre fiction, everything means something. Character development is often done in the service of the story, and nothing should be wasted. You have Ms. Staples on art, and you have to give her months off so that she can draw every page of this series (a good choice, I think), and you waste five pages. What is the reason for the dream? It doesn’t forward the story at all. It doesn’t tell us anything new about the characters. It doesn’t tell us that The Will wants to get revenge for her death, which we already knew anyway. It’s there, I think, so readers can say, “Oh, hell yeah, The Stalk is motherfucking awesome!” Yes, but she’s dead. Let’s move on.

The rest of the issue is decent, although it’s still somewhat vexing. The Will gets “Slave Girl” (are we really calling her that?) away from her owners, and it turns out she’s pretty handy as a tracker. Meanwhile, The Will and Gwendolyn bicker a lot, and … well, it’s typical of the dialogue that Vaughan writes occasionally – he can write superb dialogue, but he can also write stuff that wants to be clever but isn’t, and that’s what we get a lot of in this issue. Then we get aliens wearing suits, which remains a bee in my bonnet regarding this book – the familiar elements are kind of dumb. It’s like Vaughan and Staples put a TON of thought into about half the book, and for the other half they said “Fuck it, let’s just chuck stuff in there” and left it at that. Some of Saga is so freakin’ good that the bad stuff really stands out. I mean, if this were a mediocre superhero comic written by … let’s say Fabian Nicieza and drawn by … let’s say Tom Raney, then the really bad stuff wouldn’t stand out too much because the good parts wouldn’t really be that good. But when I’m reading Saga, some pages or scenes or even panels make me think this is a work of staggering genius, and then I read stuff like the wasted first five pages or the star-nosed moles wearing cheap suits and I think, “What the hell are those guys thinking?” It’s a ridiculously weird experience reading Saga, because the quality veers so quickly all over the place. This is one of those issues that, in the grand scheme of things, works okay, because it moves the plot along and gives us some insight into the characters, but discrete parts of it are just lousy. It’s really bizarre.

So … yeah. This is one of the reasons why Saga didn’t make my “Best Comics” list. You might wonder why I’m still buying it, and that’s fair enough. Its leash is getting shorter, because more and more, I’m convinced that it’s not going to change – some issues or parts of issues will be brilliant, and some will be really wrong-headed. I’m sure there will be another break coming up, and maybe I’ll have to reassess at the point. But I’ll keep buying it for now because, despite everything, there is some very interesting stuff going on in the book, and I still have hope. I HAVE HOPE!!!!! But it’s getting low, I’ll admit.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Ba-zaaaaammmmm!

Really nice work from Staples here. Gwendolyn’s shift from Panel 2 to 3 is impressive, as we can see her thinking if she wants to cross a line and then decides to go for it. The lightning bolt is well done, with Staples adding a nice red glow to it, which adds to its power, and the final panel is a good reaction shot, as both Slave Girl (really?) and Lying Cat are impressed with Gwendolyn’s power. I might not like the fact that the bad guy is wearing a suit, but Staples still nails the page.

Savage Wolverine #1 (“Savage Part 1″) by Frank Cho (writer/artist), Jason Keith (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), Jennifer M. Smith (assistant editor), Jeanine Schaefer (editor), and Nick Lowe (group editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

Good old Rich Johnston reported that Frank Cho’s cover for Savage Wolverine was “censored” because the original showed ass crack on Shanna. I mean, really. Why the fucking fuck does Cho do this? He knows Marvel isn’t going to let him show anything even remotely close to nudity on their covers, yet he keeps drawing them and Marvel keeps covering them up. I mean, given what goes on inside this comic (see below), perhaps Cho is just having fun with Marvel – “Hey, I decapitate a person inside, can I show some ass crack on the cover?” – but to think that this is surprising is just dumb. I mean, if Frank Cho wants to do Naked Jungle Girls, he can presumably do it on his own. Or is it just that important for the nekkid chick to be Shanna?

Anyway, Savage Wolverine. Yep, it’s a comic written and drawn by Frank Cho, all right. What that means is that it takes place in the Savage Land, and Shanna has to be in it, and Wolverine slices and dices some natives. It’s entertaining enough, but like some of the Marvel NOW! books, it doesn’t really have legs, does it? I mean, so many of these books seem to be six-issue mini-series masquerading as ongoing series, but Marvel doesn’t want to nut up and call them that. I mean, how long is Cho even going to be on the book? And what happens at the end of this arc? Does the new writer come up with another convoluted reason for Logan to show up in the Savage Land? This time it’s just a bright light that seems to transport him there, and he, being a fine superhero-type person, doesn’t question it at all. The mystery is fine – Shanna and a S.H.I.E.L.D. team were mapping out a section of the Savage Land (answering the burning question of whether S.H.I.E.L.D. employs geological surveyors, because of course they fucking do!) when their ship crashed thanks to some weird “dampening field” around a big, creepy mountain. That was eight months ago, and now Shanna is the only person left alive (hilariously, in a flashback we see that, yes, the black guy dies first). The natives aren’t too happy with her, and they’re trying to kill her, and of course, the dinosaurs are trying to kill her too. Wolverine kills a dinosaur, kills some natives, and weirdly saves Shanna from a pterosaur even though he knows that she’s a really capable killer and he’s been a superhero for centuries, and superheroes should trust each other, shouldn’t they? It’s perfectly entertaining for pulpy jungle action fiction, and Shanna’s teeny-tiny fur bikini somehow manages to stay on her giant breasts, but Cho does draw large women well, and that’s really the only reason anyone is going to buy Savage Wolverine, right? I mean, there’s no reason to read yet another Wolverine comic, and Wolverine in the Savage Land has even been done to death, so really, we’re all here to check out Shanna in a tiny bikini. So yeah, Cho delivers that. It’s awfully nice of him!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

That got messy in a hurry

Despite the lack of ass crack, it’s nice that Marvel allowed Cho to draw a beheading AND use red for the blood rather than black, which they have often thought makes it far less icky. Cho does some interesting things with the page designs in this book, not necessarily sticking to standard grids, and he uses the white areas well so that the panels don’t get cluttered with words. Wolverine might go a bit overboard with the internal narration, but it’s nice that Cho doesn’t give him a lot of dialogue, even when he meets the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent on the page following this one. It’s also pretty cool that Keith colors the background red – it makes Wolverine’s “berserker” rage feel more visceral.

X-Factor #250 (“Hell on Earth War Part One”) by Peter David (writer), Leonard Kirk (penciler), Jay Leisten (inker), Matt Milla (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), Jennifer M. Smith (assistant editor), Daniel Ketchum (editor), and Nick Lowe (group editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Does Marvel even do wrap-around covers any more? Here’s David Yardin’s cover for the first two issues of this arc, which should be a wrap-around cover but which Marvel is doing as “interlocking” covers for X-Factor #250 and #251. Wrap-around covers for big event comics are frickin’ cool. Thank Yahweh that Marvel puts that cool-ass Brooklyn Nets advert on the back of this issue. I mean, I know that the only important people in the U.S. live east of the Hudson River, so that advertisement is really, REALLY important, but Jeez-o-Pete, Marvel, spring for a fucking wrap-around cover every once in a while!

Anyway, let’s return to those marvelous days of 1994, when Peter David was still firmly ensconced at The Incredible Hulk writing desk and had been for some time and would be for some time still. He married off Rick and Marlo, and in issue #418, we got the wedding. Mephisto claims that he needs “soldiers for the coming storm,” and he’s particularly interested in Mr. Banner. Then he disappears. A few years later, David was finally forced off the book (he didn’t want to write the stories that Marvel editorial wanted him to write), and in his final issue, #467, Rick Jones mentions the “Hell on Earth War.” But that was ten-years-in-the-future Rick, and Marvel and DC are notorious about showing things in the future and then summarily ignoring them. David went off and wrote other books. Then he returned to X-Factor and decided to write 100 issues of that – issue #250 is the 100th – and in this issue, he shows us what this “Hell on Earth War” is all about. Mephisto is there, as are several other Marvel “devils,” and they’re going to have a war. All clear? I can’t believe that David had this all planned out in 1998, when he wrote Incredible Hulk #467, because the story revolves around Rahne’s kid, and he’s only been alive for a few years, but still – it’s nice that David is able to revisit a throwaway line in his last issue of Incredible Hulk. According to Rick, “Thunderbolt” died in the Hell on Earth War. This Thunderbolt was in the Pantheon, and we’ve already seen in X-Factor that the Pantheon is still around, so maybe they’ll show up in this arc. Why not, right?

This is a set-up issue, as Tier, Rahne’s son, is still running from Darwin, so Rahne takes him to X-Factor, but then Jezebel, Mephisto’s daughter, arrives and destroys their headquarters. She’s using Guido as muscle, so he’s back. She and all the other evil dudes want to kill Tier. David has explained why no one likes the kid, but it’s really not clear yet – sure, he’s a powerful demi-god who might bring on the apocalypse, but we’ve seen a lot of those kinds of characters in comics before, and I hope there’s something else about Tier that makes him so special. We’ll see.

As usual, David adds a lot of nice humor to the story, and Kirk is a solid superhero artist, so the book looks fine. There is, not surprisingly, a lot going on in X-Factor, and it’s always fun to read. Who knows what will happen now that David finally gets to write this sucker?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Darwin takes a licking but keeps on ticking!

Special effects – the bane of modern comics? Kirk does a nice job with the page, showing the headlights of the taxi in Panel 2 as it approaches Darwin (Rahne is driving, so this isn’t an accident) and giving Darwin some gruesome injuries in Panel 3. But of course, we can’t have a panel where something is going fast without blurring the car to make it look “faster” – that would be crazy! Still, this is the world we live in, so there you go.

Agent Gates and the Secret Adventures of Devonton Abbey by Camaren Subhiyah (writer) and Kyle Hilton (artist). $14.99, 126 pgs, BW, Andrews McMeel Publishing.

I have never watched Downton Abbey, but this is a parody of it, as the household staff at Devonton Abbey are really secret agents, and as this takes place in 1914, they’re preparing for war! I imagine it will work fine if you’ve never seen the show … or at least I hope so!

The One Trick Rip-Off + Deep Cuts by Paul Pope (writer/artist), Jamie Grant (colorist), Dominic Regan (colorist), Michael Neno (letterer), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $29.99, 286 pgs, FC, Image.

Mid- to late-Nineties Paul Pope stuff in a gorgeous hardcover? Yeah, I’ll take that!

**********

I don’t have much else to say this week, especially because I’m doing a link post on Sundays these days (or I’m trying to; last week was my first one, and I certainly hope to do one every week), but I will say that I too watched the episode of The Big Bang Theory last week, a show which I haven’t watched since the pilot, I think. But I saw that people were getting their panties in a twist about it, so I figured I’d check it out. I tend not to like “traditional” sitcoms too much anymore – you know, three-camera shows with laugh tracks – and I’m not even too big a fan of single-camera comedies, although they’re usually better than the traditional kind. If last week’s episode was indicative of the show, then I’m better off not watching – it certainly wasn’t offensive, but it was only mildly amusing in places and, honestly, why would I watch something where I can see 95% of the jokes from a mile off? I was confused about why people were getting all bent out of shape about it – the comic shop proprietor seemed like a “good” stereotype, in that he didn’t treat the women with disrespect and tried to find something that they might like (before, of course, they opted for Thor because “he’s hot”), and even the other customers, who were more stereotypical, were just kind of goofy – I mean, it’s not like they had any lines. As for the argument about Thor’s hammer, I think that’s perfectly plausible, and I think it does a good job of showing why “smart” people like the four male characters would read comics – it really is fun to argue minutiae, and comics are, at their best, addictive. The guys’ story arc was dumber, but not terribly offensive either. Basically, The Big Bang Theory is a fairly typical sitcom – not really funny, not really good, but kind of like comfort food. I agree with Sonia even though I don’t watch that show specifically – there’s nothing wrong with watching stuff you know is “bad” – we all do it, but some people really can’t accept that something they like is “bad,” so they get really angry when people pick on it. Who cares, really? It’s your life. I don’t watch The Big Bang Theory, but I watch plenty of other stuff that I know is “bad.” This particular show is just not for me, no matter how cute Kaley Cuoco is.

Man, I do go on, don’t I? Let’s dig into the Ten Most Recent Songs on My iPod (Which Is Always on Shuffle):

1. “Take it Off”Donnas (2002) “Need your love 1,2,3 – stop starin’ at my D cup”
2. “The Musical Box”Genesis (1971) “All your hearts now seem so far from me … It hardly seems to matter now”
3. “You’re Not Drinking Enough”Don Henley (1984) “Well, the perfume she wore you can buy down at the Five & Dime, but on some other woman it don’t smell the same in your mind”
4. “Obvious”Jane’s Addiction (1990) “I worked my fingers to the bone and I won’t let you stop me going up”
5. “Big as Life”Hamell on Trial (1996) “I’m all alone but I got my guitar … let’s think about some stuff we can smash”
6. “Mountains of Burma”Midnight Oil (1990) “Pack your bags full of guns and ammunition, bills fall due for the industrial revolution”
7. “Evermore”Neil Diamond (2005) “Where’s the truth we took for granted? walking out’s not how we planned it”
8. “One Country” – Midnight Oil (1990) “Who hands out equal rights? Who starts and ends that fight?”
9. “Incubus”Marillion (1984) “You who I let bathe in the spotlight’s glare, you who wiped me from your memory like a greasepaint mask”
10. “Sacrifice” – Liquid Jesus (1991) “I get pinned down, I don’t know how to choose”

No beard update this week. I’ll check in on it periodically, but not this week. It’s going well, although it’s still itchy. I really have to start taking care of it!

Have a nice day, everyone. I hope life is treating you well. After some cold weather here in Hell (for a few days, it barely got above 50 F, which for Arizona is astonishing), today we were back in the 70s. So maybe the chill is gone, which means that the news won’t be able to misspell things for another eleven months or so:

AMERICAN EDUCATION AT WORK, BITCHES!!!!

32 Comments

Re: the Hell on Earth War–I’m pretty sure Incredible Hulk #467 was referring to “Thunderbolt” Ross, not some other character. Given that he’s one of Marvel’s premiere Hulks now, I doubt we’ll see him appear, much less die.

The Hell on Earth War’s seeds may go back as far as the #350s on Incredible Hulk, where the demon Satannish was also trying to corrupt the Hulk. Mephisto made mention of this at Rick and Marlo’s wedding. Whether PAD had the HoE War in mind as far back as the Sattanish story, or whether he just decided to reference an old concept, I don’t know.

Finally, HoE got a mention in HULK: THE END. Granted, that’s an alternate “it’ll never happen” future, but it has a vague reference to “all the heroes who died” during the war. Take that for what you will.

On a personal note, I’m surprised that Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente’s CHAOS WAR wasn’t just called the “Hell on Earth” war. The concepts seem kind-of/sort-of similar (dead rising, demons everywhere, yadda yadda). The Hulk was a player in that, too.

Adam: That’s certainly a possibility, but while I was looking at it today, it seems that Rick isn’t talking about Ross. It seems like he would say “Ross” or “General Ross” instead of calling him by his nickname, just by the context. Plus, Thunderbolt was a member of the Pantheon, which David created, and he did make it a point to re-introduce a member of the Pantheon when the kid was born. I suppose we’ll either find out that it IS Thunderbolt, or Rick was referring to Ross and he won’t appear!

I forgot about the issue with Satannish, but you’re right about that. That would be cool if David was already thinking of it back then.

Yeah, the Chaos War seems similar. When it comes to apocalyptic showdowns between gods, it’s probably best to just ignore earlier events that are similar, given that they happen so frequently!

Why do you hate the hitman aliens in Saga?

Greg–

OK, now you’ve actually got me pulling out my copy of #467 and looking on the Marvel Wiki. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

– You’re right, Rick does say “Thunderbolt” on that page. What’s weird is that throughout the issue, Rick does refer to Betty’s dad as “Ross,” so the reference to “Thunderbolt” is inconsistent at best.

– There was a guy named “Thunderbolt” who appeared in a Pantheon short story in Incredible Hulk Annual #17. I don’t remember this story and no longer own the issue. Apparently someone named Gary Barnum wrote the story, which explains why it’s not in my Visionaries: Peter David volumes with the main story from #17. I suspect that PAD never heard of the guy.

– I’m pretty sure that PAD was done with the Pantheon by the time of Betty’s death. The Pantheon saga effectively wrapped up in #425 when much of the team was killed. Oh, he briefly revisited them in the #440s, but by #448, the Hulk flat out told them that he didn’t want to rejoin. That was the last we saw them (other than in Incredible Hulk Annual ’97, which I’m pretty sure PAD didn’t write).

– Having said that, this is the 3rd-to-last page that would forever end Peter David’s Hulk run (until 2005, anyway). The full quote is: “Thunderbolt died a few years after that…killed in the Hell on Earth war. Janis (Rick’s future descendant) was killed a few months before when she confronted the Abomination, who had his own revenge planned for the Hulk.” In context, I take this as PAD wrapping up his unfinished plotlines with the other characters in the series in the span of a few seconds: Betty’s dad died (remember, the issue is set on the anniversary of Betty’s death) and so did Janis (PAD had last her in #458 and, well, apparently forgot about her). So Rick could be talking about the Pantheon guy, but in context, Ross makes more sense.

Of course, this is all moot, since much of PAD’s Rick-in-the-wheelchair, Future-Imperfect-pending future hasn’t and won’t come to pass. Rick’s now a big blue lizard, and he broke up with Marlo and was last showing an attraction to the Hulk’s daughter. (Comics everyone!) Ross is his own Hulk, has a major push from Marvel, and is getting a significant role on a TV show. The Abomination is dead (until he’s brought back), and Janis…is probably still stuck in Egypt. So I guess I’ll wrap by saying that whatever the HoE War will be, it won’t nearly match whatever PAD laid out by 1998.

is that Pope book all color?

Jeremy: It’s not that I hate them, it’s just that Vaughan and Staples seem to be trying too hard to make them “familiar,” with the suits and all. I like the idea of them being giant star-nosed moles, but the efforts they put into the book to make it seem like the comic is taking place in a mall in Denver (or any other city in the U.S.) kind of bothers me.

Adam: Yeah, you’re probably right. I wonder who David was really referring to. But you’re right – it probably doesn’t matter, because so much has changed since 1998.

Trey: Most of it is – there are a few stories in black and white, but just flipping through it, it looks like it’s about 20 or 30 pages that are not in color.

I just wanted to say that I have the exact same Nerf gun that Darwin is using. And I spray-painted mine black and gray too.

I have been reading Saga and I too have felt a strange disconnect when reading it—I cannot explain why, which is why I continue to buy the series. I have not read the reviewed issue–with that in mind, I wonder if the dream sequence might have some future relevance?

That’s cool. I find myself in the odd place of liking Saga a good bit more than you, but also not adoring as the greatest-comic-of-all-time-holy-shit-BKV-have-my-babies the rest of the comic blogsphere seems to have with it.

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 17, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Here’s my thought about why SAGA’s not clicking with you, but why one still buys it:

You expect too much from BKV and Staples (after all, BKV gave us three great series: Y the Last Man, Runaways, and Ex Machina).

As why we, the poor peons, still buy it – Subliminal messages hidden deep inside each page of SAGA that compels us to buy and buy and buy … (we don’t have a choice – resistance is futile).

That Jill Monier looks good. Wouldn’t mind warming her up if she’s cold. ;-)

Greg, I firmly disagree with the first paragraph of the Saga review. Here’s why.

You say that the dream doesn’t forward (can I go with “expand” here instead? I prefer that word in this context) the story at all, but it does. I don’t have the issue near me right now, but I remember it pretty well. It shows you at least three things:

1) Will and Stalk were very close. It wasn’t a fling – he knew details about her past that directly connected with the young girl’s problem. This also adds more layers to his earlier decision to save the girl. Did he see the Stalk when he saw the girl? Was he thinking of her, did it help him empathize with the girl? It’s very likely.

2) He’s plagued by nightmares. Are they pushing him to go back and save the girl? Again, it’s likely. Another way to show that his subconscious won’t leave him alone. Useful to file away, probably.

3) I doubt Vaughan put the “god” sentence in there just for laffs.

That song by the Donnas is so cool. Did you, by chance, learn of the Donnas from Little Steven’s Underground Garage?

Marc: I imagine Vaughan is seeding something for the future, or at least I hope he is!

Tom: Well, I think Y is overrated, and Runaways is pretty good, but I think you’re right – I do expect it to be excellent. I’ve mentioned before that I give non-DC and Marvel books many more chances to grab me, so I’m sticking (for now) with Saga. Although that subliminal thing might have something to do with it …

Ales: As with all serial fiction, I know I shouldn’t be too rough on things that might play out in later issues, and I certainly think the “God” thing is important. The other two points – maybe? I just felt the pages were … excessive, maybe? My difficulty in articulating why exactly it is that Saga bugs me is another reason why I keep buying it. I really don’t hate it, and I can sense that Vaughan has some things to say, but it’s just bugging me that it’s not connecting with me!

Roman: I honestly don’t know when I first heard about the Donnas, because I knew they were a band before I heard any of their music. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’m pretty sure the first time I heard their music was when “Fall Behind Me” was used in the Nissan commercial. Man, I’m square!

Thanks for the continuing support, Greg! And I worked from a face photo, so I’ll leave to Becca the answer of how accurate the portrait is.

I want to thank Axel Medellin for making me feel so good the same week I turned 39 — I bought my first copy of Elephantmen tonight after work — if this is a downtime issue, strap me in and let’s go warp speed; very impressed!

I also want to remind everyone that if you haven’t read it yet — go get Hoax Hunters #6 — this is known as the crazy cool book of Axel’s that he hasn’t drawn me in yet.

And why aren’t you picking that one up, Burgas? Murder alone is as wild a character concept as anything in X-Factor.

And I would like to say that he de-emphasized my figure…

I would also like to say that I have a dozen palaces, a bunch of brain-dead children and all the money an Empire can bestow, but I ain’t Queen Elizabeth either. The man turns straw into gold pretty well…

Greg: Have you tried reading it as a trade? It might work much better for you that way.

Greg-

Unusually, I disagree with you quite a bit this week.

Re: Saga, I agree that the dream sequence really didn’t work, and I would go so far as to say the first five pages of the issue were terrible. And I didn’t even think they were bad from a “why is this here” standpoint, I just thought they were poorly written, and another example of the book going for Preacher-like shock that it just can’t seem to pull off. However, after the dream sequence, I thought this was one of the strongest issues yet, and I really loved everything else here. I particularly loved the way Lying Cat was used in the issue, the way Slave Girl ( I agree, the name needs to go) seemed to assert herself as a real cast member at the end, and the way The Will figured out the girl had a past relationship with Marko. While I’m still firmly in your camp of people that don’t think Saga is anything close to an excellent book, I do think it’s good and still getting better, and I look forward to new issues.

Re: Savage Wolverine, I really liked this book. First off, regarding the title/concept, I’m not under the impression the book will stay in the Savage Land. I think Chu (as was kind of explicated in the not-yet-a-letters-page) wanted to do a Wolverine pulp-style book, came up with the title first, and then basically figured that with that title, the first arc ought to be in the Savage Land. I could be wrong about all that though. As for why I liked the book, I just liked it’s style a lot. I think Cho has a great layout and storytelling style, I love the way his panels progress and his use of negative space on the page, I think he has a good handle on Wolverine’s voice with the internal monologue, and the book seems like it will be a good dose of old school super-hero fun with pulpy conventions and great art. Considering how ambitious most of Marvel’s books are trying to be, I enjoy that this one seems to have simple goals and succeeds at them.

In other news this week, I’m happy to report that after what I thought was a completely awful first issue, New Avengers #2 was outstanding, and definitely the best second issue yet of any of the Marvel Now series.

I’m looking forward to your Paul Pope review in your next trades column.

1. Agree about Francavilla’s coloring. I hate that Dark Horse keeps starting awesome stuff in DHP and then pulling it out to its own series. Let DHP stay awesome! I didn’t buy The Massive, Ghost, or this.

2. Saga: I think the dream sequence was there to emphasize that the Will really loved the Stalk. The Will plays things pretty close to the vest, so this dream sequence shows how important the Stalk was to him. He considered her his partner. I thought it was cool, and I thought it was very sad. (I actually forget where we left off last issue, so I didn’t realize it was a dream sequence. Basically experienced it like I suppose the Will did… Actually thought the Stalk got better for a minute. I wonder if Vaughn intended that.

And then finally, wait… You didn’t like the star moles in gangster suits? I don’t understand. What? Did you see that they were giant star moles in gangster suits? And lying cat ate one? It was the best.

Axel: No problem, sir!

Becca: I don’t know – Hoax Hunters just didn’t sound like my kind of thing. I know Brian wrote about it here on the blog, and it didn’t seem like something that would really grab me. Maybe I’ll check it out in trade.

Ales: That might work better, true. I do like supporting single issues of independent books, though!

Third Man: Well, I didn’t love how it was written, but I didn’t hate it, either. And I agree with the points you made about the rest of the issue, but then there was the dialogue, which I didn’t like. I’m so conflicted!!!

You liked Savage Wolverine more than I did, but I did enjoy it. Cho’s designs were nice, but I guess I’m not the biggest fan of his actual pencil work, and I did like the story, but it felt a bit … I don’t know, expected? I guess the lack of ambition on Cho’s part meant that I thought it was fine, but nothing more than that.

joe: I’ve written about series jumping out of DHP and getting their own series before, and I agree to a degree, although I don’t mind too much. What I don’t like is that Resident Alien story, which got a mini-series, then returned to DHP. I want to get the trade, which isn’t out yet, and there’s already a new chapter in DHP. That’s kind of annoying.

I get that the dream sequence was (partly) supposed to show that The Will loved The Stalk, but I didn’t doubt that, so I didn’t need to be shown that. But that’s just me. As for the gangsters … I just don’t like the dichotomy in the book where they put something outlandish in “normal” clothing or situations. It feels like a cheap joke to me. Making star-nosed moles the gangsters is funny, but putting them in suits … just didn’t work for me.

Awww, no love for Keith Giffen’s Threshold? :(

No, see, they’re MOLES, and they’re wearing SUITS.

I dunno. I love the scenery of the book. I love the weird robot people, and i love the sentry jars of goop and I love the snarky teenager and the no bullshit grandmother. I love Lying cat. I love that gangsters dress like gangsters and lonely people read trashy romance books, and I love that there are rocketship trees and disgusting giants.

Cognitive dissonance hasn’t been an issue for me. The weird and the familiar just slosh around in a gorgeous book with a story I’m really enjoying.

And yeah, resident alien was bad for me too. I haven’t read any of the second story either. It was perfect for serialization. I expect more than a few characters will return to the “small screen” once their own titles disappoint.

And magic spells from secrets alongside laser guns. The whole thing is a Melting pot.

Minuteman: I’m pretty much staying away from most of DC’s books these days, unless I get them in trade. So no Threshold, unless I pick up a trade down the line!

joe: I think that’s where the divide is between people who love the book and people like me, who like it but can’t commit fully. I just can’t get over some of the weird “cognitive dissonance” – good choice – in the book, and it’s holding me back!

” 2. Saga: I think the dream sequence was there to emphasize that the Will really loved the Stalk. The Will plays things pretty close to the vest, so this dream sequence shows how important the Stalk was to him. He considered her his partner. I thought it was cool, and I thought it was very sad. (I actually forget where we left off last issue, so I didn’t realize it was a dream sequence. Basically experienced it like I suppose the Will did… Actually thought the Stalk got better for a minute. I wonder if Vaughn intended that. ”

It also helps establish the walking mess of contradictions that is The Will. One one hand, he’s a brutal bounty hunter who’ll kill anyone for money (note that he would’ve agreed to kill the infant Hazel had that been his mission). On the other hand, he gets hung up on issues of justice (like saving the child sex slave), forms deep attachments to others, and has a strong romantic side. We’re supposed to have a similar reaction to Gwendolyn upon seeing his happy dream, where he saves the child and reunites with his dead lover– THIS is an assassin?

re: Elephantmen:

Drillrod (sense) … tingling!

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Man, Becca’s just gonna hate me more now, right?

Black Beetle #0 blew me away. That’s not hard since I like my pulp when/wherever I can get it. But, you’re right: The art is great.

I get my Saga in TPB, so I’ll have to wait. You originally got me to look at Saga. No other reviews worked for me. It just didn’t look like my cuppa’. But I really enjoyed the 1st trade, so I’ll get v2.

I’ve been reading you for a couple of years now. You need to know that, though I’ve been reading comics for 26 years now, you have taught me how to read comics with a more critical eye. I can look at a page, like the Black Beetle you show above, and recognize the way the page guides my eye so fluidly and how much that seemingly simple idea magnifies my appreciation for both the art and the story.

Your analyses over the years has prompted me to buy such books as Will Eisner’s and Scott McCloud’s various “comics tutorials,” as well as others. As a result my love for this great story-telling medium is so much richer.

I don’t always agree with you, especially about politics, but you’re my 1st go-to-guy on all things comics related. Well, you and Other Greg. He’s pretty awesome too.

Don’t let it go to your heads. Remember, you’re not right all the time.

DonW: I’m glad you liked the Saga trade. As I mentioned, I’ll keep buying it for now, but it’s really frustrating, because I keep thinking it should be better than it is!

Thanks so much for the nice words. I’ve tried really hard to get better at writing about comics, and don’t worry – I know I still have a lot to learn, especially when I read others whose work I really admire. But I know I’ve gotten better, and I’m glad that I’ve helped you out. It really is fun to read comics when you recognize more of the tricks of the trade!

Aw, Travis, Travis, Travis….

That wouldn’t be POSSIBLE, dear; in fact, your sheer indefatigability (shut up, spell check — if that isn’t a word, it should be!) is damn close to endearing.

Really, doesn’t that sound like a Marvel title from the Seventies? “Stan Lee Presents: Travis Pelkie, The Indefatigable Drillrod!” I’ll pitch the book, but no WAY am I designing the logo, though!

And I give full credit to Axel for setting off your Drilly Sense — the man is GOOD!

The Indefatigable Drillrod was in one of the Giant Size Man-Thing issues.

Thank you, thank you very much!

While I disagree with you on Saga in general (it is the best on-going comic on the market…), this issue just… wasn’t that good.

It is the first disappointing issue of the run, but it was just… lacklustre.

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