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CSBG Archive

What I bought – 11 December 2013

GodlandFinale (2)

It was not the sufferings of the maimed and the dead that pained him, but the very absence of that pain; he could not forget those terrible scenes, the blood and mud, the bundles of squirming flesh, but, remembering, he felt nothing, nothing, and this emptiness horrified him. (John Banville, from Doctor Copernicus)

I know this is a standard pose, but it always kind of creeps me out Hannibal Savoy? It's an Alex Ross-a-palooza in this row! Oh, Steve Mannion, don't ever change ... well, maybe just a little Is that the Hallelujah Chorus I hear? No fun allowed! This cover is freaking me out! Bats likes to loom! I couldn't resist! That's a mighty big tomahawk Well, this is freaky They should have cleaned up that blood smear before shipping this issue At no time does this scene occur in this comic I feel dirty just posting this cover Sepia tones!!!! I like the cartoony flying glasses Look out, it's Flock of Seagulls! Are they vogueing? Uber8aThey really like those glowing blue eyeballs, don't they? Supes ANGRY! Good stuff! Get it?

AstroCity7Astro City #7 (“The View from Above”) by Brent Eric Anderson (artist), Jimmy Betancourt (letterer), Kurt Busiek (writer), John G. Roshell (letterer), Alex Sinclair (colorist), Jessica Chen (assistant editor), Kristy Quinn (editor), and Shelly Bond (executive editor). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I wonder how long Busiek has some of these stories in his back pocket, ready to break them out whenever he feels it’s time. The idea of Winged Victory indoctrinating women to her man-hating agenda and using her schools to do so is, if I recall correctly, a fairly old one in Astro City, perhaps even back to the initial mini-series (I’d go check, but then I’d have to go into the garage, and the car’s in there, and a lot of stuff is blocking my bookshelves, and it’s just not worth it), but only now, almost 20 years later, does Busiek delve into it, and I have to think it’s just a question of Busiek knowing he was going to tell this story eventually and feeling the time is right. Busiek occasionally stops by Robot 6 because they’re so much more highbrow than we are here (why, I don’t recall ever seeing the word “fuck” over there because one of their monocles might pop out, but here we use it liberally – fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckFUCK!!!!!), but he rarely comments here, but if he’s reading this and hasn’t given up because of all the vulgarity, maybe he can tell us when this story began germinating. Or he could tell me to fuck off.

I wonder if the story has taken so long to tell because it’s more cynical than those older Astro City stories (even though the series has always had a slightly dark edge to them), and Busiek wanted to soften us up a bit before he dragged WV’s name through the mud. Early on in the series, we knew something bad had happened prior to the beginning of the printed comics, but Busiek was mainly telling stories about how cool it was to live in a city like Astro City, even if bad things occasionally occurred. Since then, we’ve gone through the “Dark Ages” and come out the other side, and the fact that the characters age along with the years of publication (I assume Busiek is still doing that, although plenty of his characters don’t seem to age like normal folk) means that doing the story now instead of a decade or so ago makes it feel more likely, because we know that Astro City isn’t as shiny as it was originally presented. We can believe that people would still marvel at the superheroes but also be willing to believe the worst in them, especially from a feminist commie lesbian like Winged Victory (that she’s banging Samaritan in this issue doesn’t matter; as we’ve seen just this week, reality is often just something else to ignore for many people), and Busiek plays with that quite well – the actual plot of the comic isn’t too different from plots stretching back to the first “Secret Invasion” of the Skrulls in the early 1970s and probably even further back than that, but Busiek has laid the groundwork for this quite well, so it feels pretty organic. Meanwhile, we get the introduction of a young boy who asks WV for sanctuary even though her acolytes don’t want to grant it because he’s, you know, an icky boy. Joey doesn’t seem sinister (and before you think otherwise, it really does seem like he’s a boy and not secretly a girl), but he’s still an interesting spanner in the works. So there’s more going on than just WV having problems with her critics.

The interesting thing about the plot is that is seems plausible. I mean, Busiek implies that WV is completely innocent, and we’ve been led to believe that she’s a good’un, so we don’t have any reason to believe that she’s really paying supervillains to fight her so that she can lure people into her schools, but it’s still plausible. WV does have acolytes, after all (I love the word “acolyte”), and we know that charismatic leaders throughout history have done very much like what WV does, but with a more devious agenda. While we can also point to many leaders who do stuff like this completely benignly, we tend to view such groups somewhat askance, unless, of course, they’re really old (Christian churches, for instance). Winged Victory is not evil, so we believe, but the nice thing about the plot is that she could be.

Anyway, Astro City is almost always a good read. This issue is no exception!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Chick fight!!!!

Chick fight!!!!

Chew38Chew #38 (“Family Recipes Part 3 of 5″) by Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), John Layman (writer/letterer), and Taylor Wells (color assistant). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Despite Tim Callahan’s disapproval, Chew continues to be one of the best, if not the best, series you can buy, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I just don’t have much to say about it. It’s just that good. The writing is excellent, the plotting is extremely tight, the characters are funny, the emotion is earned, the art is brilliant, the action is dynamic, the designs are tremendous, the coloring is vibrant, the pacing is precise, and the imagination of the two creators is amazing. This issue even lacks a Poyo cameo and it’s still excellent. Maybe I’m insane, but I’m stunned when I see Top Ten lists coming out and Chew is nowhere to be found. All of those critics suck, man. Oh well.

Instead of writing a review of this issue of Chew, therefore, I’ll bring you down by telling you a bit about what’s been going on in my life. In late August, my wife got laid off. Bank of America laid off 20% of their work force, and she got caught in the scythe. Presumably, they needed to save money so their CEO could buy another yacht, because three just isn’t enough, amirite? She’s been looking for work since then, but it’s tough going. She was making good money, which is an issue because she can’t find a job anywhere near her salary. Even if she found something that was a bit of a pay cut, you don’t want to take too much of one because then you’re stuck there. Most places want to know her salary, and then they think she won’t take any pay cut (and she will, just not to half of what her salary was at her old job!). The end of the year in the mortgage business is a bad time, too, as companies aren’t hiring very much. Luckily, she got a severance package which paid her until last week, but that’s over now, and we’re getting a bit stressed out. There are a lot of people looking for not many jobs, so it’s extremely tough to find anything. We’re resigned to her not getting a job before the end of the year, and we should be fine for a few months, but we obviously don’t want it to go that long. So we’re bummed out a bit. Obviously, I’m still buying comics because I’m a big jerk, but as I’ve mentioned before, comics are really the only thing I spend money on, so while I’m thinking of dropping some books, I won’t completely stop. I haven’t applied for any jobs because I’m fairly unemployable (my last job was eight years ago), but I’ll probably start looking for something on-line that will at least give us some spending money. I still probably can’t get a job where I have to leave the house because I have to deal with my daughter too often, but if I can find something on-line, I’ll be happy doing that even if it’s not a lot of money.

The biggest problem, of course, is health insurance. We desperately need health insurance, so this month we’re doing COBRA and then hope we get Obamacare (I hear that some people might not get it on the first of the year, because why would they plan better for something like this?). It’s frustrating because there’s no recourse for people who get laid off in our brave new anti-union country, but when they get laid off through very little fault of their own (my wife was a supervisor, and she tended to get poor workers because over the years, she proved she was able to get them up to standards, but because of that, her numbers were always a bit lower than her two co-supervisors, both of whom survived the purge, and if you think that makes no sense, welcome to corporate America), they have no health insurance. I have no problem with the Affordable Care Act and, as a good liberal, wish it more comprehensive. I worked in health insurance for a few years in the 1990s and became disgusted with the fact that it was run like a business when people were getting sick and dying. I understood why it was, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. So I’m glad that the ACA exists, even in a bastardized form, and I might punch anyone who ever tells me to my face that it’s going to ruin the country (and I know some of my oldest friends think this way, but they haven’t said it to my face, so they’re safe for now!). Obviously, we hope we’re not on it long, but I’m glad it exists.

Sorry to bring everyone down, but I’ve bummed you out before with stories of my daughter (the latest? scoliosis!!!), so I figured it wouldn’t be too bad to share. It’s been nice having my wife home with me for a few months, but we can’t do much because we were saving money! Dang it!!!!

Still, I can’t complain too much. I’m still surrounded by awesome ladies, like my beautiful wife and my super-duper kids:

DSC02107

DSC02117

So, yeah, Chew. It’s awesome. You know it’s true, Tim Callahan!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Oh dear

Oh dear

DocSavage1Doc Savage #1 by Bilquis Evely (artist), Daniel Miwa (colorist), Chris Roberson (writer), and Rob Steen (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

So there’s Greg Hatcher. He’s camped outside his favorite comics shoppe on Tuesday night, because he knows that Doc Savage #1 is coming out on Wednesday and he wants to be the first to scoop it up! He braves the Seattle winter (well, late autumn, as it’s technically not winter yet) because he knows that the demand for Doc Savage #1 will be so great that he may have to punch out some old woman to get his copy (that Other Greg – he’s a puncher!). Luckily, he has his venison jerky, his Vitamin Water, and his huge stack of remaindered Marvel Essentials to tide him over, and he’s ready! He leaps inside the shoppe when it opens and snags his copy of Doc Savage #1 before the retailer can even put it out on the shelf, and he’s out the door before the retailer can even open the register to put away the four dollars Greg has left in his wake. All in a day’s work for the Mighty Greg Hatcher!!!!

Okay, that’s probably not how it happened (I’m only prepared to go with “probably”). I’ll concede that Greg doesn’t actually punch women, but that’s about the only hyperbole I can see in that description. I know that he wants to read this, because Dynamite has somehow tapped directly into his brain and is just publishing everything that goes on up there, and Doc Savage is just the latest of those. And you know what? It’s pretty good.

Roberson gives us a fairly straight-forward adventure, with a bit of a mystery and even a “secret origin” of Doc’s helmet thing (which I always thought was just his perfectly coiffed hair, and I guess it is sometimes, but sometimes it’s not?). It’s sort of a single issue story, in that there’s a problem – people are suddenly acting like enraged animals in random areas of New York for several minutes at a time before just as suddenly stopping – and Doc and his team figure it out, but it also apparently is going to lead into something bigger. So if you’re just interested in checking this out, you get a complete story, but there’s also hints about a bigger story. It’s almost as if Roberson knows what he’s doing to entice readers. Fancy that!

Doc is interesting, too. I’ve read very little Doc Savage stuff, so I don’t know if this is the standard characterization, but I dig that he’s very concerned about helping people, even the bad guy, rather than just punching stuff. He and his team (who, at least in this issue, are fairly bland) use their brains to figure stuff out and then, when Doc confronts the bad guy, he doesn’t just knock him out. It’s nicely done – he’s a scientist (on the first page of the book, he’s giving a talk to a bunch of people at Princeton, and the audience includes Einstein), so he’s not only an adventurer, and he’s more interested in solving a problem than punching it. That’s pretty neat.

I’ve never seen Evely’s art before, but it’s quite good. In a lot of Dynamite books, the digital coloring overwhelms the individuality of the illustrator and occasionally smooths out the rough edges too much, but that doesn’t happen here. Evely and colorist Miwa work well together – Miwa doesn’t smooth out Evely’s lines, and while she uses a digital palette, it appears she’s much more careful to match the techniques to the roughness of the art. Evely, whose black and white stuff is phenomenal, is able to make the story look like a book set in the 1930s, for the most part. The sheen of modernity doesn’t cover this book, so that the characters’ clothes look more like heavy cotton and the tools look a bit clunkier. Evely uses just enough hatching on the faces to express their emotions rather well, and she does a nice job with the scenery of New York. She’s quite young, so she has plenty of room for improvement – the book feels crowded, and I imagine that’s partly because Roberson’s script seems verbose and partly because Evely doesn’t lay the pages out as well as she could; and, matching Roberson’s writing, the other members of Doc’s team are a bit bland, visually – but the art on the issue is pretty keen.

I honestly don’t know if I’m going to keep buying this in single issue format. I like supporting independent companies, but Dynamite is so good about getting things out in trade that I might just go that route. This first issue is decent, though, and I encourage you to give it a look.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Doc didn't know that he was just witnessing the first Black Friday sale!

Doc didn’t know that he was just witnessing the first Black Friday sale!

FearlessDawn1Fearless Dawn: Jurassic Jungle Boogie Nights by Steve Mannion (writer/artist). $3.99, 24 pgs, BW, Asylum Press.

Hey, there’s another Fearless Dawn comic out, and if you think it doesn’t contain scantily-clad women and Nazis, well, you just don’t know much about Steve Mannion’s Universe. If you don’t know much about Steve Mannion’s Universe, you ought to at least read one Fearless Dawn comic, because Mannion’s commitment to scantily-clad women and Nazis is really impressive. Plus, in this issue, he adds dinosaurs. Of course he does!

The biggest problem with any Steve Mannion comic is that Mannion just isn’t the best writer, so his comics are often even more ridiculous than you’d expect from comics based on scantily-clad women and Nazis. Mannion isn’t terribly interested in a great story, because he’s far too interested in drawing scantily-clad women and Nazis, but it really would be nice to see him teamed with a really good writer, because that comic might be too awesome for mere mortals to handle. But Mannion does try – in this issue, something tragic happens, and Dawn doesn’t deal with it all that well. Of course, by the end of the issue she’s ready to kick ass, but Mannion does try something interesting things with the character’s arc. Really, though, it’s all about the pin-up style artwork. Mannion is so good at cheesecake, but he’s also excellent at action and humor and that madcap Mad magazine-style detail that any comic he draws is going to be a visual feast. He even manages to make the clichés hilarious – when Dawn gets ready to kick ass, Mannion gives us the sequence where she stocks up on weapons. She’s so scantily-clad, though, that it’s tough for her to get all her weapons into her clothing. It’s a funny bit, and Mannion does a nice job with it.

Jurassic Jungle Boogie Nights is pretty much what you expect from a Steve Mannion comic. I do wish the writing were better, but that’s the way it is. It’s still a fun comic to look at!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Nazis deserve to be shot in the back!

Nazis deserve to be shot in the back!

GodlandFinaleGødland #37 by Joe Casey (writer), Sonia Harris (letterer), Tom Scioli (artist), Brad Simpson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $6.99, 69 pgs, FC, Image.

I’m not sure if the arrival of the “Gødland Finale” is a more momentous occasion than the arrival of Planetary #27, but here it is, 16 months after issue #36, and it sure is something. It’s tough to process it – the actual plot is fairly simple, but Casey and Scioli are more interested in the visual spectacle of it all, and it’s just something that resists rational thought. Casey, as he often does, wants to push his characters as far as they can go, and he’s able to do that here, so he just reaches a logical conclusion to what Adam Archer originally set in motion in the “main” series (this issue is set 100 years after the events in issue #36). Casey has always been interested in raising consciousness, and this issue is just the apotheosis of that train of thought. Casey wrote this, I would imagine, long before he began work on Catalyst Comix, and you can see the way he has pulled back in that series, as this is his final word on the subject. The characters in Catalyst Comix share similarities to Adam Archer and the writing shares some themes to Gødland, but it feels a bit more shallow in Catalyst, as if Casey doesn’t want to delve too deeply back into it because this took so much out of him. I don’t know Casey well, but he doesn’t seem like someone who would agonize too much over a completed project, so I doubt if it’s a case of the abyss staring back at him, but it does seem like Gødland was a lot of work, and that Catalyst is his way to cleanse his palate a bit while still remaining in the same ballpark.

Meanwhile, Scioli kills this issue, and I can’t even begin to discuss the range he displays in these pages. Scioli has been experimenting with more abstract stuff recently, and you can see that evolution in some of the pages, while his still-evident Kirby influences are dominant on other pages. He uses mixed media to good effect in this issue – in one sequence, Atom Archer (no longer “Adam”) enters “our world,” and Scioli doesn’t do anything more than superimpose his drawing of Atom over photographs, but the way he and Casey set up the scene makes it work very well. The entire book is stunning, and I do wish that Image had been able somehow to make Scioi’s 10-page spread fold out (I doubt if it would have worked; maybe they tried it and it was a disaster). In Sonia’s latest post, she shows a scan of the entire thing, and it’s amazing, especially full-sized. Simpson’s colors, for the most part, are superb (there are a few places where he uses computer-generated art for landscapes, which I do not like), and together, they make this issue a tremendous work of art. Heck, even the lettering (I don’t know what Wooton did and what Sonia did) is impressive!

This is one of those comics that is hard to review because it’s become more than just another issue. It’s the end of Casey’s masterpiece (I think we can safely call Gødland that), it’s as much about the evolution of an artist as the art itself, and it’s been so long since the previous issues have come out that it’s going to be easier to write about it when I write about the series as a whole (which I will do sometime in the future, you can be sure about that). But I do know it’s pretty brilliant. So there’s that.

I’ve already mentioned Tim Callahan once in this post, but I’ll mention him again: You can read his interview with Casey about this issue here; it’s pretty interesting. Tim is quitting at the end of the year, so you’re not going to have much more to read from him!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

One totally Airwolf panel:

Can one panel sum up a series so well?

Can one panel sum up a series so well?

JusticeLeague30001Justice League 3000 #1 (“Yesterday Lives!”) by Sal Cipriano (letterer), J. M. DeMatteis (scripter), Keith Giffen (plotter), Hi-Fi (colorist), Howard Porter (artist), Kyle Andrukiewicz (assistant editor), and Joey Cavalieri (editor). Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Marston. Flash (Barry Allen) created by Robert Kanigher, John Broome, and Carmine Infantino. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) created by John Broome and Gil Kane.

Yes, I picked it up. So sue me. I like checking out #1 issues, especially if they’re by creators I like, and while Porter’s work makes Tim Callahan’s eyes bleed, I actually like his art (and yes, I expect Tim to show up in the comments, now that I’ve invoked him thrice), and I was really curious to see what kind of weird clusterfuck this comic actually was.

But you know what? It’s not bad. I’ve read a couple of people who bemoan the lack of Kevin Maguire, and while that’s not a bad criticism, I wonder if Giffen and DeMatteis changed too much of the script after they found out that Maguire wouldn’t be working on the book, because I actually think the script as written would not be a good fit for Maguire, and that Porter is a better artist for this particular script. While you might think I’m crazy, I’m looking at this from the perspective of what’s on the page, not what a theoretical Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire book would look like. That comic, I imagine, would be light-hearted, a necessary tonic to the doom-‘n’-gloom that is so prevalent in the DCnU, and I imagine it would be as good as any other Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire collaboration – that is, if you like those, you’d probably like this one, and if you didn’t like those, you probably wouldn’t like it. Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire is a known quantity, in other words, and as much as I like their comics, they aren’t really that different from each other. I expect that a Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire JL3000 book would have been a nice change of pace in the DCnU. But that ship has sailed, hasn’t it?

This comic, however, is a different animal. As I noted, if Giffen didn’t change the plot and DeMatteis didn’t change the script when they got a different artist, I honestly don’t think Maguire would have been the best choice for this comic. That’s because unlike previous Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire comics, the humor in this book is not as broad and obvious as it has been. This comic is much more of a vicious satire of what DC is currently publishing, and therefore Porter’s more “DC house style” helps sell that better. Giffen gives us a Justice League of clones, as two twins from the 31st century – Teri and Terry, because why not – have cloned the originals in order to fight a mysterious group of villains called the Five, but they didn’t do it perfectly, so we get nasty versions of the original heroes. Batman and Superman hate each other, Wonder Woman is ridiculously violent, Flash isn’t as cheery as he used to be, and Green Lantern is kind of wishy-washy. When DeMatteis has each hero show up, talking-head style, in two pages of nine-page grids that seems like it was specifically designed for Maguire, the contrasts between the clones and the ideals becomes even more marked – Superman is a bit of a fascist, Batman is designing weapons, Wonder Woman is disgusted by Flash’s weakness. It’s far nastier than we think a Maguire-drawn comic would be, and it’s much more subversive than I expected the comic to be. Porter’s art is more “superhero-friendly” than Maguire’s can be, and his newer style is rougher than Maguire’s clean lines, and I wonder if that’s deliberate. While Maguire’s facial expressions are what makes him famous, Porter’s weakness in this area becomes a strength, I think, because it makes the heroes look less heroic. Even the fact that the only discernible difference between Batman and Superman (I don’t think we can call any of these clones by their civilian identities) is that Superman has a tiny spit curl is hilarious, because it’s subtly suggesting that the two characters are far closer to each other than they want to admit. Porter’s faces have a strange grotesque quality to them, which heightens the satirical aspects of the book. Porter’s biggest weakness has always been that all his characters look fairly similar, but he uses that well in this issue. I don’t know how deliberate it is, but I think it works.

Obviously, Porter’s style works less when Terry and Teri are speaking to each other, because they’re not supposed to be part of the satire (although they’re twins, so the fact that they look like each other isn’t that big a deal). But for the rest, Porter’s always-impressive attention to detail makes this future come to life quite well, and he’s always been good at action. The digital coloring softens his line work a bit, but it’s not as big a deal as in some less action-oriented comics. I don’t know how long Porter can keep up this pace, but for this first issue, the art is quite good.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this. I have a feeling that DC’s ham-fisted dealing with Maguire will turn a lot of people off this book (of course, given what I know about some comics fans, the switch might make them more interested in reading this), but for one issue, I think it was the right choice. I’m more impressed that Giffen and DeMatteis are basically mocking the DCnU and nobody seemed to notice. They’ve done it before, of course, but in this Brave New World of the No-Fun DC, it’s pretty neat that this got through. Can they keep it up? Beats me. But this is a pretty good beginning.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Get a room, you two

Get a room, you two

Lazarus5Lazarus #5 (“Lift Part One”) by Santi Arcas (colorist), Michael Lark (artist/letterer), Brian Level (artist?/letterer?), Greg Rucka (writer), and David Brothers (editor). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

I kind of feel bad about Lazarus. I got a letter published in issue #4 – I didn’t mean it to be a letter, as I was just letting Rucka know he used “parlay” when he meant “parley” and didn’t mean for it to be published, but he did anyway – and Rucka and Lark were nice enough to send me a cool Carlyle family patch:

You know you're consumed with envy!!!!

You know you’re consumed with envy!!!!

So that was nice of them. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure if I’m going to keep buying the comic or not. Lazarus is a decent enough read, but it feels like the creative team is kind of phoning it in, which is a weird thing to think, as it’s a creator-owned project that Rucka and Lark have been discussing for years. So why doesn’t it feel more inspired? I may not love Saga, but I don’t think that Vaughan and Staples aren’t putting everything they have into it. With Lazarus, I just feel like I’ve read this story from Rucka before, and it’s been done better. I know people pick on Rucka for using Strong Female Characters™ in everything he writes, but I don’t mind that at all – in a world dominated by male characters, it’s nice that someone uses female main characters almost exclusively. But Forever isn’t one of his better creations, and her personality is a giant black hole in the center of the comic, especially because she’s the main character. Rucka seems to be hitting all the beats that we expect from her – in this issue, she disappoints her “father” when she’s a young girl, and the dialogue is painfully clichéd, both from Forever and her father. Yes, Daddy is a hard-ass (see below), but this dialogue sounds better if you imagine a good actor saying it rather than if you’re reading it. Lazarus often feels cinematic, but one thing movies can do that comics can’t is elevate mediocre dialogue because the actor can do different things with words that make them sound better. Daddy Carlyle and Forever can’t do that in this book. Rucka has worked hard to create this dystopian future, but it’s just not interesting right now. It’s frustrating, because I usually really like Rucka’s work, especially his creator-owned stuff, but Lazarus is kind of enervating, and that’s sad.

Lark and Arcas don’t exactly cover themselves in glory, either. Lark’s pencils have gotten smudgier over the years, which always seems to be a consequence of artists who work with Ed Brubaker too long (sorry, I couldn’t resist), and while there’s nothing terribly wrong with the art, there’s nothing terribly right with it, either. There’s a lot of posturing and meaningful looks, but like the writing, it feels like Lark is doing this in his sleep. It doesn’t help that the entire book is colored poorly – this is an ugly comic, full of dull browns and dark greens and half-light, which might be the point but doesn’t make it any more interesting to read. This shouldn’t feel like such a slog to read, but it does. This just feels like a comic that the creative team has done before, and better. So why read this?

As I noted, I’m depressed about this. I want to like Lazarus, and unlike some other comics I’m thinking of dropping (like one below!), I can’t really point to a specific thing that I really don’t like about the comic. It just feels too familiar. I’ll have to get that Lady Sabre book to renew my faith in Rucka, I guess!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Now that's good parenting!

Now that’s good parenting!

LegendsoftheDarkKnight14Legends of the Dark Knight 100-Page Super Spectacular (“Without Sin”/”Dr. Quinn’s Diagnosis”) by Wendy Broome (colorist, “Sin”), Neil Googe (artist, “Diagnosis”), Kathryn Layno (colorist, “Diagnosis”), Tom Mandrake (artist, “Sin”), Dan Mishkin (writer, “Sin”), Saida Temofonte (letterer), Jim Zubkavich (writer, “Diagnosis”), Hank Kanalz (editor), and Kristy Quinn (editor). $9.99, 86 pgs, FC, DC. Batman, Harvey Dent, and Jim Gordon created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Harley Quinn created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm.

I know that comics companies aren’t always completely forthcoming, but I do love when “100-Page Spectacular” is on the front of your comic and you don’t think someone anal will actually count said pages. Even with the adverts in this comic, it comes out to 96 pages. I know that because of the way comics are put together, actually doing 100 pages might be impossible, but why do they have to put it on the cover? Can’t they just call it a “Giant-Sized Spectacular”? Or even a “96-Page Spectacular” (which doesn’t sound as impressive as 100 pages, but considering comics readers are getting jobbed by spending 4 dollars on 20 pages these days, it’s a bit exciting). Sigh.

Anyway, this isn’t a bad comic. I assume it’s the final Legends of the Dark Knight digital-first issue, as DC announced they would only release those as trades from now on, but I don’t even know if that’s still in the pipeline. I guess it’s good to go out with a big story like this, but it’s still sad, because these Batman stories were probably the best coming out in the DCnU (unless you’re partial to Batman ’66, but those are the only two candidates), mainly because they used the old continuity but also because they let the creators tell whatever kind of story they wanted. So in this issue we get a fairly convoluted murder mystery in which Harvey Dent is the prime suspect but, not surprisingly, he didn’t do it (Mishkin actually does something clever with him to prove he didn’t do it). It’s a bit bloated with Christian allusions, as the murder is of a priest and the Catholic Church is a big part of the plot, but Mandrake is a good artist to draw a pretentious, heavily-religious story, and he always draws a cool Batman. In the second story, Jim Zub writes a fairly clever story in which Harley Quinn attempts to psychoanalyze Batman, but he turns the tables on her, not surprisingly. The most terrifying panel in that story is Googe’s drawing of Batman smiling. Brrr …

I don’t know – I liked this issue like I liked the other LotDK, and while I think Mishkin probably could have pared the main story down a bit so that it wasn’t quite so long, it’s not bad at all. I don’t know if DC still plans to continue this series, but I’m always going to be interested in it. I guess I’ll check Previews for a trade down the line.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sometimes you just need to see Batman posing like a boss

Sometimes you just need to see Batman posing like a boss

LilGotham9Li’l Gotham #9 by Derek Fridolfs (writer), Dustin Nguyen (writer/artist), Saida Temofonte (letterer), Jessica Chen (assistant editor), and Kristy Quinn (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC. Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Damian Wayne created by Mike W. Barr, Grant Morrison, and Andy Kubert.

Last time an issue came out, I said I probably wouldn’t get another, because as charming as each issue is, they’re very similar to each other. So this week, I made the mistake of paging through this, and saw … Damian riding a robot dinosaur. So, yeah, I was totally in.

I think, honestly, that this might be the best issue of Li’l Gotham yet, because both stories are so much more clever than the usual ones in this series. Again, all the stories have been good, but their charm rests more on the way Nguyen draws them than with the cleverness of the writing. In this issue, Batman and Damian chase Clayface into a comic book convention, which allows Nguyen and Fridolfs to have way too much fun with not only people who attend conventions (including themselves) but the process by which conventions are run (Alfred can’t get Bats and Robin tickets because the web site keeps crashing). Plus, everyone thinks they’re just cosplayers, of course, which leads to some nice laughs. In the second story, they introduce the Criminal Carpenter, who makes all kinds of things for Gotham’s bad guys. It’s Labor Day, so she’s trying to get a day off, but of course every single bad guy you can think of calls her, which leads to a bunch of sight gags. It’s a cool story, and I’m a sucker for tales about the people behind the scenes – henchmen, inventors, that sort of thing – so I appreciate Ms. Duffy and her no-nonsense attitude toward her clients. In a perfect world, she’d show up in regular continuity ever so often to humanize the entire Bat-verse, but in the DCnU, she’d probably get raped and killed. Let’s hope Dan DiDio and his minions don’t read Li’l Gotham so they don’t get ideas.

I’m still trying to resist this comic, but it’s a month-by-month battle. We’ll see what happens next month. In the meantime, this is a quality issue. So there!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That's probably pervier than the writers meant it to be

That’s probably pervier than the writers meant it to be

ManifestDestiny2Manifest Destiny #2 by Pat Brosseau (letterer), Chris Dingess (writer), Owen Gieni (colorist), Matthew Roberts (artist), and Sean Mackiewicz (editor). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

After issue #1, I was on board with Manifest Destiny, and I’m glad that issue #2 keeps up the quality. Now that the initial shock of the first issue’s monster is out of the way, Lewis and Clark and the rest of the expedition can get down to the “What the FUCK is going on?” stage of the comic, and Dingess writes it with appropriate “whatthefuckness” and even a sly sense of humor. He does a nice job making sure that the initial personalities of Lewis and Clark are reinforced – Lewis is trying to quantify the creature, while Clark continues to rule the expedition with an iron fist, which is even more necessary now that the crew knows something freaky is going on with it. Meanwhile, we don’t get much with Jensen and the fact that he’s plotting mutiny, but I’m sure that’s coming around again. Dingess deepens the mystery of the West a bit, as a strange woman shows up and appears to jump to her death off a high cliff, but they can’t find her body. And the group tries to make it to La Charette, but they’re attacked again by the creatures, and then they find the fort deserted. Well, sort of. It’s a horror comic, so of course it can’t be that simple!

Dingess is doing a very good job building the tension in this book, and showing some things while hinting at others. It helps to make the horror more visceral, because while there’s some terrible violence in the book, some of it Dingess leaves to our imagination, which is pretty smart. He hasn’t done too much with the characters yet beyond some basic sketching, but that’s okay, because it’s clear that the situations in which they find themselves will reveal a great deal about them, so we just have to be patient. When he’s doing such a good job with the actual plot, that’s easier to do.

I mentioned how impressive Roberts’s art was in the first issue, and it continues to be so here. He makes the river and the banks a strange otherworld, full of beautiful nature but also full of hidden dangers. The page on which the woman jumps to her death is stunning, and when the buffalo monsters attack, Roberts makes great use of the forest to set a scary scene. Then, when the expedition is inside the fort, Roberts does a great job slowly turning the screws as Dingess reveals another danger, leading to a terrifying final page. Gieni is excellent once again, too, using the colors of the sky at different times of the day to brilliant effect, helping make that page with the woman falling even more powerful, and judiciously using “unrealistic” colors – red to signify violence, mostly – to heighten the effect of the horror. It’s really an amazing-looking comic.

First issues are often better than second issues because the writer wants to hook the reader and then eases back in the second issue, but this issue ramps up the tension from the first issue a bit more, which is keen. I’m really excited about this series!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Testify, brother!

Testify, brother!

Maxx2The Maxx: Maxximized #2 by Michael Heisler (letterer), Sam Kieth (story/artist), William Messner-Loebs (scripter), Ronda Pattison (colorist), Jim Sinclair (additional inker), and Scott Dunbier (editor). $3.99, 21 pgs, FC, IDW.

One thing that might get lost in the weirdness of the story in The Maxx is how well Kieth commands the page. The early Image guys were about flash, and while I haven’t read a lot of them, storytelling tended to get lost in the shuffle. Even some of the later early Image stuff – the Alan Moore WildC.A.T.s, for instance – suffered from incoherence to a degree. I’m sure some of the more accomplished artists weren’t subject to this, but the main guys – Liefeld, Lee, and McFarlane – would often sacrifice storytelling for pizzazz. They could do the more meat-and-potatoes stuff in artwork, but if they had a chance for something flashy, they’d take it. Kieth was different, and it shows in The Maxx. Despite somewhat busy and even complicated layouts, his pages are never difficult to read, and he leads us around the page quite well. It makes reading this series a more interesting experience than you might expect.

How often will IDW release these issues? The first one came out on 27 November. Is IDW going to release them every two weeks, or once a month? They could release them as often as they want, of course, but I wonder what their plan is. They’re only soliciting one issue per Previews, after all.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dude has issues

Dude has issues

ProtocolOrphans2Protocol: Orphans #2 (of 4) by Deron Bennett (letterer), Gabriel Cassata (colorist), Mariano Navarro (artist), Michael Alan Nelson (writer), Alex Galer (assistant editor), and Eric Harburn (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios. Protocol: Orphans created by Peter Facinelli and Rob DeFranco.

Oddly enough, Nelson doesn’t really address the big murder at the end of issue #1 – he mentions it on the second page, but then launches into a new mission that has nothing to do with the previous issue’s events. That’s okay, though – I imagine the point of the mini-series is to have the “orphans” go on missions while the bigger plot plays out in the background, but when you only have four issues to work with, I hope it’s not going to be too rushed. The mission itself isn’t bad – Nelson’s fake-out is not bad, and it leads into what could be an interesting next issue, what with the commercial aspects of the plot (I don’t want to be too spoilery, so I’m keeping things vague). As with the first issue, this is a fun action/adventure series. Nelson hits all the right beats, Navarro’s art continues to be solid without being too flashy, and there’s some decent humor and characterization that doesn’t get in the way of the action. You can practically see the movie that Facinelli wants to make out of it, but that’s okay – I don’t mind screenplays pretending to be comics when the person writing it can actually write comics and the person drawing it isn’t “casting” actors in the roles, and that’s the case here. This is just a fun little adventure, and that’s fine with me.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

You never want to ask that question in any circumstance

You never want to ask that question in any circumstance

RocketeerSpirit4The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction #4 (of 4) by J Bone (artist), Rom Fajardo (colorist), Tom B. Long (letterer), Mark Waid (writer), and Scott Dunbier (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, IDW/DC. The Rocketeer created by Dave Stevens. The Spirit created by Will Eisner.

As I mentioned last time, I think Waid needs to stop writing Rocketeer stories, because I think he’s running out of ideas. With the Spirit, there’s always a chance for some odder-than-real stuff, but the big scheme in this series is so ridiculous that no amount of Betty wandering around in an evening gown and Cliff and Denny fighting like an old married couple (which is kind of funny, to be honest) can save it. The biggest problem with the entire thing is the Roosevelt joke. It’s not an original joke to show Roosevelt not being able to walk (at least, it seemed familiar), and you might think I’m offended because Waid seems to mock Roosevelt’s disability. However, I’m not. If Cliff didn’t know about Roosevelt, it would be perfectly plausible to do what he does and it would be funny when Roosevelt couldn’t stand (I think that’s not mocking Roosevelt’s disability as much as showing that Cliff is a big idiot). Waid is certainly implying that Cliff had no idea that Roosevelt couldn’t walk, but I don’t buy that. It took me literally less than 30 seconds to type “franklin delano roosevelt hiding disability” into Google and get a bunch of stories about how the press often reported on the fact that he was in a wheelchair, well before the time when this story is set. FDR was stricken with polio in 1921, remember, long before he became president, so it’s not like anyone had any reason prior to his presidency to “hide” his disability. Cliff would have had to be a complete moron to not know that Roosevelt couldn’t walk, and while Cliff isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, it would be like someone today not knowing that the president is black. No one is that stupid. So that’s why the joke falls flat for me.

Man, I can go on, can’t I? Anyway, Bone’s art is excellent as usual, and Waid’s actual writing isn’t bad, but the big bad idea at the center of the story is too dumb for me to overcome. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I like the cut of his jib!

I like the cut of his jib!

SatelliteSam5Satellite Sam #5 by Ken Bruzenak (letterer), Howard Chaykin (artist), Matt Fraction (writer), and Thomas K (editor). $3.50, 21 pgs, BW, Image.

The other Matt Fraction Image book is also pretty close to the chopping block, and that’s after I was pretty intrigued by the first issue and even subsequent issues. Fraction took a decent conceit – the death of a famous television actor in the early days of the medium – and has really done so little interesting with it that I wonder exactly what he’s doing. This reads, honestly, like a Howard Chaykin comic, and I don’t think Chaykin is really all that good a writer. Fraction drop three different blow jobs into this comic (in 21 pages, that’s pretty impressive), for seemingly no reason other than men like getting blow jobs? The characters are all awful people, which makes it hard to care about what any of them are doing, and the two things that might save it – the mystery and the power politics of early television – don’t seem to interest Fraction as much as the people doing stupid and awful things do. When all you’re interested in is showing people doing stupid and awful things AND the characters aren’t very well developed, the whole thing becomes pointless and inane. This issue particularly is just a dull mess, and the book has been sliding since a pretty fascinating first issue. It’s disappointing.

In a strange way, this book is the opposite of Sex Criminals, and the fact that they’re both pretty lousy while being opposites is strange. This book is chock full of swirling plots, but everyone in it is horrible and dumb, which makes the plots far less interesting. Sex Criminals has been almost plotless so far, but at least the two main characters are better developed. It’s strange that Fraction has misfired on two very different books, but here he is, being lousy in two completely different ways. Man, that’s too bad.

I do like the fact that Chaykin’s doing this in black and white. His art looks better than it’s looked in years. It’s still not as good as his 1980s work, but that ship has sailed. It’s a shame he’s doing pretty good work on this nihilistic junk, but such is life.

So, yeah, Satellite Sam isn’t working for me, and I’m a bit more upset about it than I am about Sex Criminals, because it did start out okay. The past two issues or so are going downhill fast. I’m not sure if I’m going to get the next issue, but I’ll probably give it one more chance. Maybe it will turn around!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Such a charmer!

Such a charmer!

SixthGun36The Sixth Gun #36 (“Not the Bullet, But the Fall Part One”) by Cullen Bunn (writer), Bill Crabtree (colorist), Crank! (letterer), Brian Hurtt (artist), and Charlie Chu (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

The first issue of any new arc of The Sixth Gun is always one of gathering storms, and that’s no exception with this one. Bunn slows things down and kind of catches us up on what’s going on with the characters, and it’s always appreciated. The mean old witch sends her evil things after our heroes, Asher is tempted, Nidawi and Nahuel – the two Indians – are discussing their new roles in the group, Becky takes Kirby Hale down a peg, and something bad arrives in town. It’s a quiet but ominous issue, and Hurtt draws the crap out of it, like he always does. The Sixth Gun remains excellent, and much like Chew, I don’t really have a lot to write about. I won’t vex you with tragic stories about my life, however, instead of a proper write-up. Fret not!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

They make great pets!

They make great pets!

Super!3 (2)Super! #3 by Zachary Dolan (writer/penciler), Laurie Foster (inker), Tara Kappel (art assistant), Ludwig Olimba (color assistant), Everardo Orozco (colorist), and Justin Piatt (writer/letterer). $2.99, 26 pgs, FC, Unlikely Heroes Studios.

This came out a few weeks ago, and I had a digital copy, but for some weird reason it wouldn’t load on my computer. I have Adobe, and usually .pdf files aren’t that big a deal, but this would get about 10 pages in and then just stick, and I couldn’t figure it out. It didn’t work on my iPad, either, so I couldn’t read the whole darned thing. For some reason, a few days ago it finally worked, so I was able to read it. Yay, technology!

Super! keeps getting better and better, although I still have some issues with it. One thing that Dolan and Piatt have done so far is balanced the silliness of the humor with a pretty good threat – the monster of the past two issues is pretty much equal parts terrifying and ridiculous, and the writers milk both of those aspects for all they’re worth. They have a clever solution for the problem, too, and there’s a good amount of tension about the safety of the characters. Obviously, Blitz is kind of our point-of-view character (she doesn’t narrate this issue, like she didn’t narrate issue #2, but she’s still the character we know the most about), so it’s doubtful that Piatt and Dolan would kill her off in this issue, but so far, they’ve done a good enough job with her so that her phone call to Adam when she thinks she might not survive the battle is well done, as is their reunion, especially because of what we know about Adam and his whereabouts during the fight (which is pretty funny, actually). Dolan and Piatt continue to do nice work with the characters, both the major ones and the bit players (I love the Viking god of bowling), so that even though there are dozens of people in this issue, we have a pretty good grasp on the characters and the degrees of crassness the male characters exhibit (it’s impressive that all the male characters exhibit some crassness, but it’s different kinds of crassness!). The book is still getting funnier, as I noted in issue #2, because the humor seems to flow better from the situation than it did in issue #1. The one problem I still have is the cursing – not the presence of it, but the frequency and even some of the placement. Sometimes it just seems like Dolan and Piatt want to put “fuck” or “shit” into the book, and by all that’s holy, that’s what they’re going to do!!!! It’s kind of weird, because I think it would be more effective if they used it better. More Al Swearengen than Reservoir Dogs, so to speak. It’s a minor complaint, I know, but it’s still something that I wish the writers would think about. They do a good job with the comic timing of the book, so I know they’re thinking about every word, so I wish they would use the cursing more efficiently.

The nice thing about Dolan’s art is even though I don’t love the style, I can appreciate the fact that he’s knocking it out of the park. This is an extremely busy comic, but Dolan’s layouts are clear and precise – he doesn’t do too much beyond quadrilateral panels, but he has a lot to put in those panels, and his storytelling is strong. His designs are fantastic – the shit monster that menaces our heroes is drawn beautifully, and he draws a bunch of new heroes in this issue, so he has to come up with several new costumes, and he does a great job. Every issue has been colored wonderfully, too, as Orozco continues to use bright hues to make the pages pop nicely. As I’ve noted, the few issues I have with the art are generally personal choices – I think that the work is a bit overrendered, as some of the colors and inked lines are too deep and saturated, but Dolan seems to be getting better with facial expressions, which helps sell the humanity of the characters more, and I’m getting won over by the art style. It helps that the book just feels like a joyous superhero book, a feeling that is often missing from Big Two books.

I feel bad that I didn’t get to review this a few weeks ago, when it came out. If you can’t find a copy at your local shoppe, you can always check out the Unlikely Heroes web site to get one. If you’re interested, that is. Are you interested?!?!?!?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That's not a bad question

That’s not a bad question

Three3Three #3 by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Kieron Gillen (writer), and Ryan Kelly (artist). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

In the latest issue of Previews, it’s kind of implied that Three is a five- or maybe a six-issue mini-series. I wouldn’t be too surprised with that; it seems to have a limited shelf life, but I also thought it was an ongoing. Where’s Kieron Gillen to answer the tough questions in life?!?!? [The answer, of course, is on Twitter. KG confirmed to me that it’s five issues long. Twitter is the place to be, man!]

Three is getting better each issue, which is a good thing, no doubt. I thought the first issue was okay, but since then, Gillen has fleshed out the world of 364 BCE a bit better, and the characters are far more interesting. The dynamic among the three helots is pretty cool, as the tension is palpable and you get the feeling that Klaros is just waiting to go really nuts (he’s gone a bit nuts in the first three issues, but that’s mostly because he’s been forced to use violence). Meanwhile, Gillen’s work with Arimnestos, the Spartan who fled the massacre and brought the news back to Sparta, is really interesting, because he’s shamed by the army and rejected by everyone in town (including his mother), but he has a good point about Spartan honor. So more than just the helots running for it, Gillen is showing how the society from which they fled thinks of itself and of others. For someone who digs history as much as I do, Gillen’s attention to these details (including in our next comic) is nicely done. It reminds me of Wood’s Northlanders, another comic that tried to get inside the way people of the past actually thought. Gillen’s helots are somewhat comprehensible – people struggling to escape oppression are, unfortunately, easy to figure out because there’s been so many of them over the millennia. But Sparta remains a mystery (even though Gillen is using good sources and consulting with historians who presumably know what they’re talking about, there’s still a lot we don’t know about Sparta), and Gillen’s attempts to make sense of it are fascinating. He gets in enough violence to make it exciting, but the way Arimnestos is treated is the best part of the book.

I wish I could write more about Ryan Kelly. The dude is awesome. Look at the way he draws Alopex on Page 2, when Kleomenes asks him if he has children. It’s a perfect “Oh shit” face, as Alopex knows that Kleomenes is about to lay some serious threats on him and he better please the king if he doesn’t want bad things to happen to his family. Kelly nails it. He’s also excellent at the haughtiness of Gyrtias, Arimnestos’s mother, as she dismisses her son because he’s a coward. Arimnestos’s impotent rage in that scene is brilliant, too. Kelly excels at the carnage, of course, but he’s really good at showing the roiling emotions in every face.

So Three is improving every time out. Very cool!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Come on, Klaros, chillax, dude!

Come on, Klaros, chillax, dude!

Uber8Über #8 by Digikore Studios (colorist), Kieron Gillen (writer), Kurt Hathaway (letterer), Caanan White (penciler), and Keith Williams (inker). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Avatar Press.

Hey, it’s another Gillen historical comic! It’s almost as if I really like Gillen’s writing or something!

Über switches back to Europe, but this time we head to the Eastern front, where the Nazis are doing horrible things to the Russians. Gillen lets White draw some carnage, but the issue is really a set-up for Stalin creating his own superpeople and how he performed the experiments. It also brings the Russian girl from the first arc, Kat (or should we call her Maria?), back into the series, as she’s swept up into Stalin’s net of test subjects. I suppose it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that she turns out to be one of the people who can actually be transformed.

Gillen’s back matter stuff is always interesting to read, because the dude thinks A LOT about the comics he writes (I really ought to keep up with all his notes about the various issues he writes, but I do have things to do here!!!). I’m particularly interested in his back matter on Über because of the World War II subject matter. I didn’t buy the huge hardcover of the first arc, because I already had the issues and I didn’t feel like dropping so much money on it, but I wonder if he goes into it more in that book, because he seems a bit terrified about writing about WWII. I wonder if it’s a British thing or if it’s a Gillen thing, because his essays about writing about the war are the first time I’ve read about someone being so nervous about it. The Brits were actually attacked by the Nazis, so there’s probably more anxiety about the whole experience, but I wonder if many Russians will be offended because Stalin is a monster in this comic. Gillen writes about the Russian reaction to a video game – Company of Heroes 2 – in which the Russian soldiers were portrayed negatively, and his attempts to address that in his drafts. I’m not sure what was in the original drafts, and I’m not sure if Gillen changed his portrayal of Stalin or just the Russian soldiers in general, but it’s interesting that he frets about this. I doubt if an American writer, whose life has been untouched by the war (even if someone in his or her family was killed in the war, that’s different than having a family member killed because Nazi planes were raining bombs on your head), would think about it as much. Maybe they would. I do appreciate that Gillen not only thinks about this, but writes about the process as well.

Über is a fascinating book. It’s not great yet, but you can tell that Gillen and White are working well together and that they have a clear vision for the book. We’ll see where it goes!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Don't take the brown acid!!!

Don’t take the brown acid!!!

WatsonandHolmes6Watson and Holmes #6 by Brandon Easton (writer), N. Steven Harris (artist), Jay David Ramos (colorist), Wilson Ramos Jr. (letterer), Zack Rosenberg (assistant editor), and Justin F. Gabrie (senior editor). $3.99, 23 pgs, FC, New Paradigm Studios. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson created by Arthur Conan Doyle.

In the back of this book, Brandon Easton writes about human sex trafficking and how it inspired him to tackle it in this issue. What’s interesting is that the comic doesn’t really have much to do with sex trafficking – it’s in there, but it feels almost added on, as if Easton came up with a murder mystery that would work perfectly well without it but wanted to shoehorn it in somehow. There’s nothing wrong with that – a character needs a back story, and if Easton wants to bring attention to sex trafficking, good for him – but it does feel like it detracts from the more murky sexual politics he’s dealing with in the main story. The plot is pretty interesting, actually, because he feints quite often and raises questions about love, sex, and intimacy, and I’m not sure if tying it to a larger problem was the best idea, even though, as I pointed out, it’s a good thing to raise awareness of. Easton makes some interesting points about the gentrification of Harlem, the fickleness of the voting public, the fear that public people live with, and the way we relate to others that we’re close to, and the issue, as a whole, is pretty good. I just wonder if it would have had more impact if the story had been more connected with sex trafficking. The danger there is that it would come across as moralizing, so I suppose that was why Easton didn’t do too much with it, but I think the way he writes it into this story blunts the horror of it a bit.

It’s still a good story, and if you’ve wondered where N. Steven Harris has been, he does a solid job on the art. I’d have to go back and look, but it seems like he gives us a better idea of the way Harlem actually appears than the other artists, but maybe I just happened to notice it in this issue. It seems like a lot of the book takes place outdoors, so Harris has to show us the city more, and he does a nice job. None of these stories really give the artists a chance to stretch their creative muscles too much – this series has been pretty wordy – but Harris does a good job with what he has to do. One thing that’s very nice about Watson and Holmes is that not only are the two main characters black, but many other characters are black, too, and nobody comments on it. One thing that people rant about when they rant about diversity is that because the representation of minorities is so small in popular culture, writers feel that those minorities have to represent the entire race. In this comic, we get a wide variety of black people, but they’re just people who happen to have darker skin. It’s the kind of thing we should see more of – just people with many different hues, but nobody acting as a “representative” of a “race” because everyone is unique. It’s cool that the writers and artists on this book handle this well.

Watson and Holmes is still a pretty good comic. It’s not great, but it’s pretty good. And this is a single issue story, so you can check it out without worrying about what has come before!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Oh, Holmes - don't ever change!

Oh, Holmes – don’t ever change!

Action Comics volume 2: Bulletproof by Holy crap, that’s a lot of people. You know who did this! $16.99, 184 pgs, FC, DC.

I was really tempted not to get this, because the first trade just didn’t do it for me, but unlike a lot of other writers, I will give Morrison a shitload of rope, so I decided I was all in for his run on Action. Several people told me it got better after the first arc, so I trusted them. Even if it doesn’t, it’s only money, right?

Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection volume 1 by Holy crap, that’s a lot of people. You know who did this! $39.99, lots of pages, FC, Marvel.

Speaking of which, I probably wouldn’t have pre-ordered this if I had known then what I know now about my personal situation (see above). I’m trying to pick up the Comics I Think You Should Own in the best format, such as one collection of every single Fraction/Brubaker Iron Fist issue, but I do already own these issues, so I probably should have waited. Nevertheless, if you haven’t read this yet, it’s definitely “good” Fraction. I do like how it’s “volume 1″ of the “complete collection.” Marvel does this quite often, and it never fails to crack me up.

Parker: Slayground by Darwyn Cooke (adapter/artist). $17.99, 96 pgs, FC, IDW. Parker created by Richard Stark.

Man, this is a nice-looking book. Matthew Southworth wasn’t able to get it from his retailer. I should taunt him, but I’m too nice of a guy.

**********

In the world of comics, Marvel has released some of the newly colored pages from Miracleman. More ranting about it commences here. I know they had to recolor it, and that’s fine, but one thing that bugs me about modern recoloring is the desire to make things “realistic.” If you look at that Robot 6 link, you’ll see some of the original coloring, and in the first panel, Mike Moran’s face is purple. Unless he’s really, really angry or constipated, that’s a huge mistake and needs to be corrected (it was corrected in my trade paperback, which is from 1990, I think). (Here’s a link showing four different versions of the pages. I own the third version.) Digital coloring allows the colorist (it’s odd that the story doesn’t say who it is) to add some more rendering to Mike’s face, making him a bit more expressive, and of course we drop the purple Earth and orange moon. From what we see at the link, however, I know that some of the more impressionistic color choices – when Mike and Johnny are fighting for the first time, the pages are saturated with oranges and yellows, to the point that the two men look like they’re fighting the heart of a star – are going to be obliterated in order to make the actual pencil work crisper and more “realistic.” I get that the original coloring wasn’t “canon” because the first time this was published it was in black and white (and wouldn’t that be nice if it was published that way?), but for all the cool things you can do with modern coloring, very few colorists – I can think of exceptions, naturally – think about the choices they’re making. They just let it rip and try to turn superhero comics into “real world people wearing costumes.” Yes, Miracleman is one of the first to posit what would happen if superheroes existed in the “real world,” but it’s still a superhero comic. I’m really hoping that the later issues – the ones that were published originally in color – aren’t touched, but I think we know that’s not going to happen.

Moving on to sports, I’ve been enjoying the Eagles playing football again – the past few years have been brutal, and I’m glad they seem to have hired a coach who does the few things I thought Andy Reid was terrible at: Running the ball consistently (I love passing, but Reid was nuts about his commitment to the run, especially when he had such good running backs over the years) and, more importantly, making adjustments. Reid coached as if his way would always work, and when it didn’t, he kept running the same plays in the hopes that it would eventually work. The best coaches – Bill Belichick comes to mind, even though I hate the Patriots – adjust to fit the game conditions and even the other team. So far, Chip Kelly seems to be that kind of coach. If you try to stop the run, he’ll kill you with the pass. If you try to stop the pass, he’ll kill you with the run. It’s more than that, but he makes adjustments, including ones on the fly, and it makes the Eagles dangerous. I don’t know if they’ll make the playoffs or how far they’ll go if they do, but they’re very fun to watch right now. If you happened to miss it, they played their game last week in a blizzard, and it was really fun to see. Here are some pictures from the game.

Speaking of football, college football is into the postseason, and I’m done paying attention to it. Florida State, a team I loathe, is probably going to win the National Championship, and if they don’t, an SEC team will win it for the eighth consecutive year. I don’t hate Auburn as much as I hate some SEC teams, but I’m sick of the SEC because I think it’s overrated. I certainly didn’t want Ohio State to win the MNC (Mythical National Championship), because I loathe Urban Meyer and Ohio State, but if they had made it, at least an SEC team wouldn’t have won it. What cracks me up about the whole thing is that people on ESPN were actively rooting against Ohio State because they thought the Big Ten sucked so much that a one-loss Auburn or Missouri or Alabama team deserved to play for the MNC instead of an undefeated Ohio State team. So when the Buckeyes lost, they could rejoice. My question is: why does Florida State deserve to play for the MNC? If the Big Ten is bad, then the ACC absolutely sucks. The ACC has sucked for years, and even though Florida State was more impressive than Ohio State this year, they still play in a much worse conference. Many people have rated the conferences this year, and the numbers tell us that the SEC and Pac-12 are the best, with the Big Ten and Big 12 a bit behind, and the ACC even farther down the list. So why shouldn’t a one-loss Michigan State team, which lost to Notre Dame thanks to some very questionable pass interference calls, or a one-loss Baylor team get consideration? They both played in more difficult conferences than Florida State, but no one mentions them like they drool over Auburn or Alabama, even though Auburn beat Georgia thanks to a fluke and beat Alabama thanks to another fluke. The whole thing is ridiculous, which is why I have a radical proposal: Division 1-A football should not have a National Champion. If we’re not going to have a comprehensive playoff system (not the one they’re doing next year, because four teams still doesn’t solve anything), we should get rid of it. It’s too hard to compare teams across conferences. Is Stanford a better team than Alabama? No one knows, because they play such radically different schedules. It’s ridiculous to throw all these teams into an imperfect system and expect one to come out on top. In other sports, the best team might not always win, but the best teams have the chance to prove it on the field. No one thinks some of the Super Bowl winners or World Series winners of the past were the best teams that season, but they played the format and won when they had to. In college football, that’s just not possible. So who cares, really? We should go back to the old bowl system – Pac-12 and Big Ten bowl winners in the Rose Bowl, SEC winner in the Sugar Bowl, Big 12 winner in the Orange Bowl, whatever else anyone wants to do – and get rid of polls altogether. That way, if Michigan State wins the Rose Bowl this year, they can just be happy instead of ranting about how they should get a piece of the National Championship. That way, if something like 1994 happens again (when Penn State was robbed of a National Championship), I can just enjoy the season without getting mad that my team was robbed (and they totally were!!!!). It would take out the anger and jockeying in college football, and we can just enjoy the sport. There will still be anxiety, because you would still have to fight for your conference title, but if the people who run college football aren’t going to have a 16-team playoff (which might be about where it starts to get fair), then they should get rid of the Mythical National Championship once and for all. That’s just my modest proposal.

Let’s check out the Ten Most Recent Songs on My iPod (Which Is Always on Shuffle):

1. “Evermore” – Neil Diamond (2005) “The words unsaid we should have spoken; both misled and left us broken”1
2. “Lay Your Hands on Me” – Bon Jovi (1989) “I can show you how to fly and never ever come back down”2
3. “The Fly” – U2 (1991) “Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief”3
4. “Nights of Mystery” – Georgia Satellites (1986) “There’s some people, they grow up crazy; and there’s some people that never bother to grow up at all”4
5. “Empire” – Queensrÿche (1990) “What happened to the dream sublime?”5
6. “Bankrobber” – Chumbawamba (2005) “But I don’t believe in lying back and sayin’ how bad your luck is”6
7. “So This Is Love?” – Van Halen (1981) “A man needs love to live, I’m the living proof”7
8. “The Fifth Day” – The Airborne Toxic Event (2013) “I wish I could scream myself awake”
9. “Barlights” – fun. (2009) “One of us sings, and one of us drinks, and one of us has nothing at all”
10. “The Story So Far” – Flogging Molly (2008) “I don’t care what I lost, I just thank God I’m alive”

1 I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 12 Songs is a really good album.

2 This is an awesome song, and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise! Okay, maybe not, but it’s still awesome. The lyrics are still goofy, but they’re not as bad as Jon’s “I’ll Be There For You,” which inspired my friends and I to come up with the “Jon Bon Jovi School of Rhyming” – head on over and Jon will teach you how many rhymes for “there” exist!!!!

3 This was the first U2 album I ever bought, because I just wasn’t super-impressed with their 1980s stuff. It was all right, but I thought every Edge guitar part sounded exactly the same (listen to most of their music from the 1980s and see if I’m wrong!). I liked “The Fly,” but late one night, I heard “So Cruel” on the radio (which is odd, as it wasn’t a single) and loved it, and I went out and bought the album the nexy day. Despite my later appreciation for The Joshua Tree and Pop, Achtung Baby remains my favorite U2 album by a wide margin.

4 I’ve mentioned this before, but my wife loathes The Georgia Satellites, and I find it very humorous because it drives her insane to even hear the name of the band (presumably because then she gets “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” stuck in her head). My wife’s version of Hell would be forced to watch, A Clockwork Orange-style, Steven Seagal movies while The Georgia Satellites played in the background.

5 Recently on Facebook I randomly quoted “Sorry, I’m just … It’s starting to hit me like a … ummmm … a two ton heavy thing.” I was so happy that a bunch of people recognized it. This is how I spend my days.

6 I guess this is a cover of a Clash song. They do it a capella, and it’s pretty keen.

7 More proof that Fair Warning is the best Van Halen album!

Last week’s Totally Random Lyrics were from “Rough …” by Queen Latifah (and KRS-One, Treach, and Heavy D). Excellent tune – go listen to it now! This week, let’s check out some other Totally Random Lyrics!

“Ouch, the pain I’m tired of it
But who am I to take up all the blame
Look for reasons why, but nothing becomes of it
Ouch, the pain won’t go away”

That’s a bit obscure, but I have faith in you guys to figure it out!

I hope everyone is having a good weekend. Sorry about the delay – lots o’ comics this week, and for some reason, I seem to be doing these more slowly than I used to. I’m getting old, I guess. Oh well – I still have my hair!

31 Comments

I’ve sworn off DCnU books… but a Mishkin/ Mandrake story is awfully tempting.

Greg,

Pardon the intrusion, but what health challenges does your daughter face?

Regarding the comics you bought..

I LOVE “Super!” Really. It’s the most fun and funny book I’ve read in a long time.

As you know, we went through that whole wife-laid-off-no-insurance thing a couple of years ago and it’s awful. Know that we are wishing you guys the very best. We have four years of horror stories just about trying to get Julie’s insulin; a vial good for ten days costs around $300 a la carte, with no insurance– and she HAS to have it or she dies. It burned through our savings like wildfire. Anything beyond that, forget it; we just prayed neither one of us would get sick or injured and tried to soldier on. Every place we applied for any kind of low-income help told us that we weren’t poor enough because we still could live indoors, and that we should have lied on the forms. DOCTORS told us to falsify our applications or maybe go to Canada. I can tell you that if Obamacare had existed for us then it would have been life-changing; it IS changing the lives of many of our friends who signed up on day one and were seeing a doctor for the first time in years the following week. As it was, watching the arguments play out on the news while they were trying to pass it, and hearing asshat pundits carrying on about how there’s no need for reform because we have the best care available in the world and pity the poor insurance companies and so on while I was trying everything I could think of to get the medication my wife needs to stay alive, well… nobody better go there with me, either, that’s all. Because I WILL punch people in the face over that.

We still are playing catch-up with bills and things from that time, so comics have to go to the end of the line– having to wait for payday to see the new Doc Savage was killing me. I actually had to wait until yesterday to go clean out my pull-list box, so I didn’t get to see it until last night. But I adored it. Best Doc in comics since the Moench/DeZuniga version and this one bettered that in many ways. I’ve been reading the interviews about the map Chris Roberson has planned out for this and I really approve. We know Chris and his wife Allison a little from seeing them at shows and consider them friends, so I was on the fence about reviewing it. I’m glad you did so I could chime in. It’s really good.

Jacob: Technically, it’s not a DCnU book, so check it out! :)

David: My older daughter has a traumatic brain injury from a car accident, so she has lots of health issues.

Super! is a good comic, and I hope it’s doing well for the creators.

Greg: Obviously, we’re not in the same boat you are yet (and hopefully, because of Obamacare, we won’t be), but I have thought of your plight occasionally over the past few months. I can’t believe some of the crap you’ve gone through over the past few years.

I’m glad you picked up the Doc Savage issue. It is pretty keen, isn’t it?

You’re the Leonard Maltin of comics!

Also, I’d say you should finish Morrison’s run on Action. It was brilliant, if a little British Adventure Show -like, by the end, but showed that Morrison dealt with the same bullshit that DC has become notorious for lately.

Also, sorry to read about your troubles.

I’m surprised it took us this long to get a story featuring the “trinity” of Astro City.

Great column as usual.

Wishing your family a speedy recovery from your financial woes.

Greg: I’m very familiar with TBIs. My best zen healing thoughts go out to your daughter.

Mudassir: Yeah, I probably will finish the run. I didn’t love the first trade, but like I said, I give Morrison a lot of rope, and everyone says it gets a lot better. I just had some trepidation about it! Thanks for the nice words, too.

Robert: That’s why I wonder if Busiek had planned this a long time ago but hasn’t gotten around to it. I know he had some health problems, so maybe that caused him to rework the way he told the stories, but I too am surprised it took this long.

sgt pepper: Thanks!

David: Thank you, sir. She’s a wonderful kid, which does make it easier.

Best of luck with your financial challenges.

Greg, quick challenge question…

Your all time favorite 4 issue or less Mini Series? Just felt the need to ask.

Mine: The Falcon 4 parter written by Priest (Owsley).

Dean: Thanks!

David: Man, that’s a tough one. The first one that springs to mind is The Dark Knight Returns. After that, maybe the Wolverine mini-series by Claremont and Miller? So, yeah, Frank Miller stuff. But questions like that always make me think too much, so that’s just off the top of my head.

Greg: first and most importantly, I’m sorry to hear about your (lovely) family’s troubles, and I sincerely hope for the best.
Second, the new Doc Savage series certainly looks cool, but I’ll probably not read any of it until a trade collection is published.
Third, I see Godland has finally petered to an end – I’m surprised they didn’t stretch it out a bit more so the series could span an entire decade. Given the recent publishing schedule, that would have meant, say, one more issue. Sorry to be so harsh, but I lost interest in this a long time ago: I bought the first trade used in about 2007, liked it well enough and bought the next three, but found myself frankly bored with the whole thing somewhere in the third trade (when the series was in its teens). I struggled through the fourth book, which ends with issue #24 I think, and have never went back to read them again, nor had any desire to. I really don’t understand the almost universal acclaim this series gets across the comics blogosphere.
Fourth, just an update: my copy of the Joe Kubert Presents trade arrived in the mail about a week ago. Haven’t yet started reading it yet, but I have flipped through it and I couldn’t be happier. It’s indeed a lovely book, and I just love that non-glossy paper stock. All trade collections should look like this.

Edo: Thank you, sir.

I’ll probably do the trade on Doc Savage, too. I just wanted to check out the first issue.

As for Godland – I’m always of the opinion that it’s different strokes for different folks, and if you hate something I love, it doesn’t bother me. I think the series is great, but that’s just my opinion. Be as harsh as you want! :)

Yeah, that Joe Kubert Presents package is really nice, isn’t it?

I couldn’t agree more about the BCS and college football. In the olden days, if you had a winning season, you were a winner. If you won your conference, you were a winner. If you got invited to a bowl game, you were a winner. If you won your bowl game, you were a winner. Winners everywhere! Happiness across the nation!

Now, we get one winner and a nation of losers. I don’t mind that mindset in professional sports. That’s what they are all about. But college sports are supposed to be about teaching and learning. Teamwork. Dedication. Hard work. Things like that. And fun. It’s supposed to be fun!

If I recall correctly, 100 page giants have always counted the covers as four of the pages.

You recall correctly. It’s still weird that they’ve always done that, though.

Wow, that’s phenomenally stupid. I mean, does anyone think that the covers are “pages”? I mean, in comics it’s more “logical” than with books, but that’s still dumb. Sheesh.

It’s weird, true, but you obviously know WHY they do it, because of the way comics are produced, 100 pages of content would be highly unfeasible so they “have” to go with 96 pages and then it’s just a matter of choosing to use the cooler-sounding “100 page spectacular” than the accurate “96 page spectacular.”

Greg, sorry, I just re-read my comment – I could have summarized my disappointment with Godland in a single sentence without the treatise.
As for those 100-page giants, well, the advertisements in the actual book (which to my mind were never ‘real’ pages, either) were also counted toward the 100 total, so why not the covers as well?

Sorry to hear about your wife’s employment blues, Greg, and I hope it all works out soon!
Happy Christmas and here’s to a great 2014. Reading your personal blog, you and your family are an inspiration.

Pete: Thanks. It helps to have awesome kids, like we do! :)

I don’t care about the page count, I just wish DC would do the 100 Page Giants the way they used to: one regular story and a bunch of Golden Age reprints. Stories where the heroes were honorable and moral and kind and selfless and… yeah, that ain’t gonna happen.

Wow, sympathies to you and your family over the unemployment situation. Back in 2010, I found out THREE DAYS BEFORE MY WEDDING that I was losing my job. They at least gave me a month’s notice and a nice severance package, but yeah, kind of soured the honeymoon a little bit. The engineering company I worked for had sent my job to Mexico and I spent a few months looking for work before swallowing my pride and applying for unemployment. That got us by while I figured out what I wanted to do. Which, in my case, was go back to school. My wife, who is wonderful and supportive in so many ways, became the breadwinner (on a teacher’s salary) while I trained for 2 years to be an x-ray tech, which is what I do for a living now, having graduated this past July. I can say now that while it was a tough road, I am sooo happy to be out of the corporate feeding pit that is the business world in the country and doing a job where I feel like I’m helping people…

On some more comic related notes…

– This was a GREAT issue of Chew, and I loved the cosplay proposal story related in the letters column…
– Doc Savage was quite good too. I felt like its ending was a little anti-climactic, but it helped to wash out the bad taste that DC had left in my mouth with their version of the character from “First Wave”
– I’m in the same boat as you regarding both Sex Criminals and Satellite Sam. I want to like them so much more than I actually do, and 5 issues in with Satellite Sam, I feel like it hasn’t gone anywhere. It doesn’t help that I keep losing track of who the characters all are and Hey!- blowjobs! Future covers promise girl on girl action too, so essentially this is turning into the R-rated version of Black Kiss? Which would be fine if Chaykin wasn’t already back to drawing Black Kiss in all its x-rated glory again…

Andrew: Thanks for the nice words. Your situation is a kick in the teeth. Man. It’s good that you were able to come back.

The proposal story in Chew was pretty keen, wasn’t it?

I have no children. That’s by choice, and a choice I’m glad I made. I can barely take care of myself, never mind a sweet, innocent new life. If worst came to worst, I could walk the earth like Reacher or Caine from Kung Fu. I could live with that. I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.

Greg, when I hear stories like yours, and the ones mentioned here in the comments, I realize who are the real superheroes we’re reading about here.

Welcome, and thanks to you too. Good luck to your wife on the job hunt. It sounds like her job experience will work in her favor, even with the blowbacks about anticipated salary demands.

I also wanted to add that you won’t have to worry too much longer about Batman: Lil Gotham as it looks like it’s ending with issue #12, which makes me incredibly sad. I’ve been loving that title. It’s been a nice return to the Pre-New 52 Bat-Family, which I was actually enjoying quite a bit. Now? Not so much…

Mutt: Thanks, sir. I will say, it is easier when your kids are so awesome. My younger daughter helps us a lot, and she’s very well behaved, which makes it easier to take care of our older daughter.

Andrew: I saw that about Li’l Gotham. I guess I will stick it out for a few more issues!

Fuck off.

No, seriously, this story took so long to get to because I have approximately 603 stories I want to get to next at any given time, and I write fast as a tortoise.

kdb

Kurt: Thanks, sir. I figured, with a book like Astro City, where there’s so much going on, that you had a ton of stories to tell. I’m just glad we’re getting them! :)

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