What I bought – 11 August 2010

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 11 August 2010

“Keep away, keep away,” Hungry Joe screamed. “I said keep away, keep away, you goddam stinking lousy son of a bitch.”

“At least we found out what he dreams about,” Dunbar observed wryly. “He dreams about goddam stinking lousy sons of bitches.” (Joseph Heller, from Catch-22)

Booster Gold #35 (“Destiny! Destiny! No Escaping That for Me!”) by Keith Giffen (writer), J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Chris Batista (penciller), Pat Oliffe (artist), Rich Perrotta (inker), Sal Cipriano (letterer), and Hi-Fi (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Barda calls something “pusillanimous” in this issue, then later swears by “Darkseid’s draperies” (nice use of the correct term there; remember, kids, “drapes” is a verb, not a noun) and “Highfather’s hemorrhoids,” because she’s awesome. And there are Darkstars in this issue! And Ted knows that Booster is from the future, which makes his guesses about where the future Blue Beetle is all the more poignant. Oh, and everyone talks about their Barda fantasies. I mean, why wouldn’t you?

There’s a lot to like about the new Booster Gold, even though I’m still not totally sold on it yet. Giffen and DeMatteis aren’t trying to make us take these characters seriously by having them confront their deepest, darkest fears about bedwetting and then ripping someone’s spine out to prove that, indeed, they can sleep through the night without rubber sheets. Instead, Giffen and DeMatteis do what they always do – show us that these characters might be silly, but they’re also competent, and even though they’re the butt of jokes, they always get the job done. Back in the JLI days, Booster and Beetle failed a little bit more because the book was more about the characters, whereas so far in this book, it’s about Booster’s mission and the focus is more on the action, so they have to be a bit more competent. The point Giffen and DeMatteis are trying to make, however, is that these wacky characters trust each other implicitly, so even when Barda picks Ted up to throw him at a bad guy, the implication is not that he’s just a “projectile” as she puts it, but that he’ll know what to do when he hits the bad guy, as indeed he does.

The addition of Barda and Scott to this arc is inspired, mainly because we don’t see them enough anymore (please don’t tell me they’re dead) and because Giffen and DeMatteis understand something far too many writers have forgotten: it’s okay if heroes bicker because deep down, they really do like each other. So many group books these days feature characters who don’t seem to like each other (a point I’ve made before, but I’m making it again), so their bickering takes on a nasty edge. Even without Barda confirming it, we know that these characters really do like each other, so their antics become the antics of a family, one that does enjoy each other’s company even as they’re sharpening the verbal knives. It’s refreshing reading this arc not because it’s funny (although it is) but because we can enjoy the banter without feeling like the people loathe each other. And the fact that Giffen and DeMatteis do a nice job with the story itself, making Hieronymus the Underachiever so underachieving he actually poses a threat, is a nice bonus.

The reason I still don’t know if I’m sold on this comic is because so far, it’s been tied up with Booster’s attempts to prove Maxwell Lord’s existence. I don’t really care about that overall plot, and what will they do when it’s resolved? So I’ll keep reserving judgment for now. But this pseudo-JLI arc is pretty cool, so I’m looking forward to see how the gang saves the day next issue.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Daytripper #9 (of 10) (“Dream”) by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (writers/artists), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Sean Konot (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Man oh man, I love this series. I have NO idea what’s going to happen in issue #10, which is kind of thrilling. Usually you can at least figure out that the good guy will win, but there’s no good guy in this series, so I just can’t hazard a guess. In this issue, Moon and Bá break out of their usual pattern of this series to show us Brás having dreams, dreams from which he can’t wake up but seem to be trying to tell him something. I hate to keep bringing up Inception on this blog, but I’ll do it again. Inception didn’t feel like a dream because, as I understand it, the characters were “lucid dreaming,” but Moon and Bá show that Brás can be “lucid dreaming” but things still happen that are beyond his control or understanding. He susses out that he’s dreaming, but the world retains its ethereal and mutable quality, and that makes it far more interesting than Nolan’s solid dream world. And Bá and Moon have gotten so much better at writing that the portentous nature of the end of this issue doesn’t feel labored, it feels organic. This would actually be a perfect ending to the series, which is why I can’t imagine where they’re going next. But I’m really jazzed to see what happens!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Morning Glories #1 by Nick Spencer (writer), Joe Eisma (artist), Alex Sollazzo (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $3.99, 44 pgs, FC, Image/Shadowline.

So I wasn’t too impressed by Spencer’s other new comic, Shuddertown, which has reached its fourth issue, but I’m certainly willing to check out his other work, and so Morning Glories arrives at the shops to give me that chance! The set-up is simple: Morning Glory Academy is a prestigious prep school, and the main characters are six new students. But (wait for it) there’s a secret to uncover about the school!!!!!! We see at the beginning that the staff and students have an … odd relationship, and during orientation for the new students, we see other strange things. Then the smart one – the blonde on the cover – discovers that everyone shares the same birthday (the very day they arrive) and that, well, things are a bit more dangerous at the academy than they thought (we, of course, already knew that, because of those first few pages). It’s a clever set-up with an oddly revealing ending (it seems like this is a revelation better left for later in the series, but I assume Spencer has a plan!), and at double the length of your usual Big Two comic (for the same price!), it’s a good chunk of comics. The kids are somewhat stereotypical, but that’s okay, and Spencer even plays with the “meet-cute” idea, which is kind of neat.

Eisma has been kicking around for a bit, but I’ve never seen his work on a longer project, and he acquits himself well. We can easily tell everyone apart, and the creepy beginning is done well. There’s a pretty cool big splash page in the middle of the book where one kid (Jade, “the emo one”) slowly realizes that something just ain’t right about the sitch, and Eisma and Sollazzo do a really cool job showing her growing fear. It’s a cool moment.

I’d definitely recommend checking Morning Glories out. It’s good value and it’s an interesting premise. Now we’ll see if Spencer can keep it up!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Northlanders #31 (“Metal Part Two: The Greening”) by Brian Wood (writer), Riccardo Burchielli (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Wood puts an interesting speech about Christians into Ulf’s mouth in this issue. Erik, of course, went a bit berserker on the Christians last issue, and now he’s living out in the woods with the ex-nun Ingrid. Ulf comes to see him and explain to him why he’s an idiot for killing so many of them (being a good Viking, he debates Erik with an axe). Erik doesn’t take kindly to this, and violence ensues. And then Erik starts hallucinating about his goddess again. That can’t be good.

But Ulf is far more perceptive than Erik is. He tells Erik how stupid it was to antagonize the Christians (even though, as we saw last issue, they treat Ulf as little more than a hick, which in 8th-century Europe, he kind of is), and Erik responds by calling them a joke. He asks why is Ulf so afraid of them, and Ulf responds:

They believe, Erik, that’s why. They believe with fervor that we’ve never had. When men believe like that, they’ll stop at nothing. They will kill us all … our entrails strung from tree to tree. They’ve left us, Erik. The gods have left us.

Later, he says to Erik: “You think Christianity’s a religion of old women and weakling men, but they have armies, fleets, even, holding our port cities. Whatever the reason, the old gods have fled this land.” Ulf doesn’t completely understand the Christians – he claims they have what it takes to live in Norway long-term, but this little speech is why Northlanders continues to be such a great comic. I took Wood to task a bit last issue for being anti-Christian in this book, but he also gets to the heart of religion quite well. As Northlanders is as much about modern society as it is about medieval society, this is a fascinating way to consider the conflict between fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Muslims, who are often closer to each other than to moderate members of their own religions. In AD 700, Islam was just sweeping over the Byzantine Empire and Muslims were about to conquer Spain. Many Christians at the time thought that Muslims were winning because they believed more fervently in their religion than the Christians did in theirs, and this led to a wave of Catholic fundamentalism, usually manifested in monasteries. In the north, of course, Islam hadn’t penetrated, so the Christians in this story represent the fresher faith, while the Norse are the older, more stolid culture, worshipping a pantheon that has become so entrenched that it no longer feels real. The Christians believe, which is a powerful motivator. Ulf no longer believes, and so he is doomed in a world where people do believe. Erik also believes, but he ignores the fact that the Christians are not only fervent in their beliefs, but they are far more organized than the Norse. Christianity, with its monotheism and sexism, was perfectly suited to step in when the Romans lost their empire because it already had a strong hierarchical system. So when the political entities caught up a bit with the religious entities, Christians were able to dominate the far less hierarchical societies they found on the edges of Europe – in Ireland, in Scandanavia, in the Baltic. Ulf senses this, even if he believes their fervor will cool and they will leave the northern lands. Whether Wood means to or not, he makes this modern because right now, in the U. S., there is a conflict between fundamentalist Christians and, really, everyone else. There are people who believe we are engaged in a holy war with Islam itself, not just tiny splinter groups of crazy Muslims. They would look upon the Christians of the Middle Ages and envy them for their faith, if not their dogma (fundamentalist Christians dislike Catholics as much as they dislike Muslims, it seems). Are they going to “win” because they are more faithful, while more moderate Christians are doomed to lose? Wood doesn’t give us easy answers, because what makes this a fascinating comic book is that Erik, despite being “noble” and wanting to repulse the Christians, may be only so fervent in his beliefs because of the hallucinogenic drugs coursing through his body. Is that true faith? What is it, if not true faith?

I never mean to go on about Northlanders as much as I occasionally do, but it’s such a thoughtful comic even as two men are bashing each other, so I get caught up in it. Ulf’s analysis of the Christians is interesting because it’s so insightful and wrong-headed at the same time. Isn’t that too often the case?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Thor: The Mighty Avenger #3 (“Here Be Giants”) by Roger Langridge (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.

It’s kind of a shame that Hank Pym is so well known for hitting his wife, Janet van Dyne, because in a charming comic like this, where Hank and Janet are portrayed as nothing but heroes and good people, I still think Langridge is foreshadowing dark things ahead or at least referencing the “real” Marvel Universe (as this obviously doesn’t take place there) when Janet forlornly hopes that Hank doesn’t “lose control.” She’s not even talking about him giving into rage as much as wanting vengeance instead of justice, but it still makes me think that Hank will never escape the wife-beating thing, even in another universe. Oh well.

Hank is looking for the murderer of his old mentor, who was killed last issue, so he follows an energy signal from the professor’s house and tracks it, eventually finding Thor instead of Mr. Hyde (I assume he got the wrong bio-energy, although Langridge does a nice job being coy about it). Thor, meanwhile, is hallucinating because of something Loki did, and this leads to a good ol’-fashioned hero v. hero fight (see below)! All’s well that ends well, of course, and everyone goes on their merry way.

The real joy of this issue is watching Samnee have fun with Thor and Jane (now there’s a sitcom!), as she takes him shopping and then tries to get through to him when he’s under the influence (and Thor hits her, which is disturbing symmetry and I wish wasn’t in this comic, as it feels out of place) and then flirts outrageously with him once his mind has been restored. It’s a ton of fun to look at the way Samnee draws Jane, who is having a ball hanging out with a superhero (and a god, to boot), and Thor, who’s totally clueless that she’s flirting with him. Even Jane’s reaction when she’s suspended from her job (which Janet quickly rectifies) is charming. And of course, when Thor saves the day, we get a wonderful panel of everyone cheering.

This continues to be a very fun superhero book. That it’s coming out from one of the Big Two (granted, the slightly less rapey-stabby-disembowely one) is a wonder. Yay, Langridge and Samnee and Wilson and Wooton!

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Unwritten #16 (“Dead Man’s Knock: Conversations”) by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (writer and artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I’m pretty sure this is the last issue of The Unwritten that I’m going to buy. I was waiting until the end of the latest arc to make a decision, and I’m not sure if next issue is part of this arc, because this kind of feels final. It’s not that I hate the book, it’s just not doing much for me. Carey gets around to a master plan in this issue, and while it’s all very important, I don’t know if Tom as Messiah is really that interesting. There’s a nice bait-and-switch about Wilson Taylor’s book, and quite a bit happens in this issue (which makes me wonder if the book is long for the world), but the most interesting stuff is the fate of Lizzie Hexam (which is why I might buy the next issue, as she’s apparently the focus) and that’s also a reason why I’m not that keen on the book. Lizzie’s weird fate inside a book is what drew me to the title in the first place – I hate to be a snob, but I thought the idea of Tom interacting with works of literature was really cool, and the best parts of this comic are exactly that. The grand scheme is, frankly, dull. There’s not enough weird literary crap in this comic and too much “evil organization wants to rule the world” stuff. Oh well.

Like I said, I’ll see about next issue. I’ll probably flip through it, but I very much doubt that I’ll get it. There’s too many other comics out there that wow me. This isn’t one of them, unfortunately.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Welcome to Tranquility: One Foot in the Grave #2 (of 6) (“Homecoming Part Two: Of Cabbages and Kings”) by Gail Simone (writer), Horacio Domingues (artist), Jonny Rench (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

Well, Tommy isn’t dead, although I very much doubt anyone really thought she was. Things keep happening, as Fury fights the dude who abducted him (and whose identity comes as no surprise, not unlike Agent “!”) and the events from last issue continue to affect the party at the diner. (And no, I’m not going into it any further than that.) Simone, naturally, does a fine job juggling a bunch of different characters, although this is definitely not the place to start reading about these characters (even though we do get quite a bit of information about them). When she’s on, Simone can write this kind of book in her sleep, as she gives us a bunch of characters with interesting and fairly unique voices, a few weird mysteries, and some humor. When she’s not on … well, let’s not worry about that. Welcome to Tranquility is a fine superhero book. That’s all we need to say.

Oh, and Mr. Domingues? A rat tail? On a grown-up? In 2010? Really? Sigh.

One totally Airwolf panel:

20th Century Boys vol. 10 by Naoki Urasawa. $12.99, 212 pgs, BW, Viz Signature.

I should probably read volume 9. I’ll get around to it eventually!

Ooku: The Inner Chamber vol. 4 by Fumi Yoshinaga. $12.99, 207 pgs, BW, Viz Signature.

Yay! More fun in feudal Japan!

It’s onward to The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Baba O’Riley” – The Who (1971) “I don’t need to be forgiven”
2. “Under Cover of Darkness” – Living Colour (1990) “I like to touch your skin even if it is a sin”
3. “Now” – Prince (1995) “The ride up front is better when you’ve been in the back”
4. “Tiki 4” – Fish (2001) “One eye is all that is needed to be kind of all he surveys”
5. “Your Time is Gonna Come” – Led Zeppelin (1969) “One of these days, and it won’t be long you’ll look for me, but, baby, I’ll be gone”
6. “If I Was Your Girlfriend” – Prince (1987) “We don’t have to make love to have an orgasm”
7. “Quartz” – Marillion (2001) “And it’s so easy for me to break down”
8. “Rock of Ages” – Def Leppard (1983) “No serenade, no fire brigade, just pyromania”
9. “Bad Seamstress Blues/Fallin’ Apart at the Seams” – Cinderella (1988) “Old friends seem much closer now, they stand the test of time somehow”
10. “Father’s Advice” – Hamell on Trial (2006) “Your grandpa and grandma drank and drank and drank; now that I’m a parent, I know why”

And you know you love the totally random lyrics!!!!!

“High in the air between here and there
Somewhere anywhere (anywhere but here)
I feel that I’m always home and never alone
(Never in love with fun)”

Here’s a hint: This song was used in a movie that starred Anthony Hopkins! Chew on that for a while, folk!

So anyway, next week I’m flying to Pennsylvania for a pseudo-reunion a friend of mine has every year. I’m leaving on Thursday, so I won’t have much time to post reviews. I have a fun idea about what to do, though. It will probably be posted a bit later than usual (Saturday, most likely), but definitely look for it.

One more thing: This Wednesday was the first day of school, as I wrote last week. Norah started kindergarten, which was neat. Would you think she’d be upset about being left alone with strangers by her loving father? Hell no! Here she is after summarily dismissing me:

She’s only five, and already she doesn’t want to be seen with me. Oh, the shame!!!!!