What I bought – 13 January 2010

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What I bought – 13 January 2010

As a rightist professor pontificated, “When democracy gets democratic, it doesn’t work at all.” (Isabel Allende, from My Invented Country)

The Anchor #4 (“Five Furies Part Four: Body and Blood”) by Phil Hester (writer), Brian Churilla (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Hester might seem formulaic on this title, because Clem always fights a big monster, kills it, and eats its heart (trust me, there’s a reason), but a few things make it worthwhile: First, Churilla is really good at designing really creepy monsters, so it’s fun to see what horrific thing he’s come up with in this issue; second, Hester is slowly filling in Clem’s back story, as we get a few pages at the beginning of this issue that shows us what kind of warrior he was when he was alive; third, the creepy bad guy in this issue is obviously part of the bigger plans the hordes of Hell have for Clem, so at least we get a glimpse of the larger plot; fourth, it’s a pretty cool ending. While I’m still not positive that I’m going to keep buying it (the first arc ends next issue, and I’ll decide then), I do enjoy the way Hester and Churilla are going about things. So there’s that.

I liked the first few pages quite a bit, because Hester does a very nice job establishing Clem as both an unbeatable berserker but also as someone who scares his own allies. It’s well done, and Hester lays on the purple prose, which doesn’t seem too ornate given the circumstances. Here’s the writing on the first page: “He was a demon. Many among our crew claim to have shared the battlefield with berserkers of legend. Some even claimed that charmed blood flowed through their veins. But they all trembled when the silent giant took the field. And though he smote our enemies alone, we could feel naught but pity for the wretches fed to his blade. For the fiery furnaces of Hell stoked his heart. And its terrible engines drove his limbs.” If that doesn’t kickstart the issue, I don’t know what could!

And then we get a tiny bit more about Hofi, who’s more than she appears. And a big monster. And more blood. All in all, good stuff. I hope Hester can pull of the ending to the arc. I’m fairly confident he will, but we’ll see next time!

One panel of awesome:

Daytripper #2 (of 10) (“21”) by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (writers and artists), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Sean Konot (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Moon and Bá make no bones about this comic: It’s pretentious. The characters speak portentously, all the events that occur have deeper meanings than what’s on the surface, and the resolutions to the story remain shrouded. We’re still not sure what happened at the end of issue #1 (we can certainly guess with a high degree of certainty, but that’s not the same thing) and I’m not terribly sure if what happens at the end of this is what I think happens. Or maybe it’s more mystical than the mundane explanation I came up with. Either way, the twins are being pretentious. Let me say, I find nothing wrong with that at all. Reach for the stars, damn it!

So we check in on Brás when he’s 21, trekking around Brazil with his pal Jorge and hanging out, in this issue, in Salvador. The issue begins with a dream (see?) and then Brás meets a terribly foxy chick in a somewhat contrived fashion who speaks like some kind of oracle. They chat about spirits and whatnot, screw, and Brás never sees her again. But why? Ah, that’s for the reader to figure out.

It may sound like I’m mocking this, but it’s really well done. Olinda (the girl) walks a fine line between fascinating and annoying, but her conversations with Brás sound like the kind of conversations young people have with each other (not to pick on young people; what I mean is that the conversations are full of idealism and a little naïveté and a desire for life to mean something grand, which may or may not work out, based on where they go in life). She is, of course, devastatingly sexy, which makes her seem even more mysterious. Moon and Bá are obviously creating these slices of life that make up the man, “Brás,” and this is one of them. Olinda becomes more oracular when the dream returns to vex our hero, because he’s not sure what it means. Neither, I should point out, do we. But that’s okay.

Plus, each issue is a joy to look at. From Bá’s beautiful cover to Moon’s first page, where Brás’ dream is vividly portrayed, to the relatively demure sex scene to the wonderful crush of bodies on Iemanjá’s Day to the final haunting images on the sea, this is a spectacular comic to gaze at. Moon is really at the top of his game here, and I can’t wait to see more. Bring on the pretension!

One panel of awesome:

Ed Hannigan: Covered by, well, Ed Hannigan. $5.99, 45 pgs, FC, Hero Initiative.

Anytime something interesting comes out from the Hero Initiative, I usually pick it up, because it’s usually for a worthy cause. This time, it’s a benefit for Ed Hannigan, who has multiple sclerosis. I don’t know what Ed’s financial or medical insurance situation is, but I do know that dealing with a long-term disability is extremely draining financially, although that’s not what we usually think of because it’s a bit uncouth to speak about it. But believe me, it’s a very real concern. So while I can’t do a lot, I can buy a comic that helps Hannigan, and so can you! You can afford six bucks, can’t you? What you get are a bunch of cover sketches that Hannigan did for Marvel in the 1970s and ’80s, some of which he finished and some of which other artists used. Hannigan explains that many artists didn’t have a ton of time to compose covers, so that became his specialty, and some of the very famous covers from this period were designed by Hannigan. It’s quite interesting to see how his sketches became the final product, and what changed and what worked well. You also get a bunch of layouts that Hannigan did for Cloak and Dagger, which Rick Leonardi ended up drawing. This is really a fascinating slice of comics history. And there’s a Dazzler cover in it! How can you resist??????

I really encourage you to buy this. It’s very neat, and it’s for a good cause. We all like good causes, don’t we? (Of course, if you want “real” comics, you could buy Hannigan’s Skull & Bones, which Moonstone is selling in a trade, and which also helps him out. Plus, it’s pretty danged good.)

One panel of awesome (well, it’s not a panel, but it’s my favorite cover in the book):

Secret Six #17 (“Danse Macabre Part 2”) by Gail Simone (writer), John Ostrander (writer), Jim Calafiore (artist), Travis Lanham (letterer), and Jason Wright (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

If I might step into the fray here, I’d like to address the whole “boobs on Yasemin” thing that our own Ms. Thompson brought up and about which Gail Simone slightly chided (chid?) her in the comments. Kelly wrote, and I quote:

But kind of out of nowhere I’m blinded by some character named Yasemin and her boobs falling out of her insanely low cut, high-heeled crime fighting (or rather assassinating) costume. Why? The story was otherwise good, but I end up feeling like I can’t fully get on board in supporting a book (or issue) without caveats because of this kind of stuff, and that sucks.

Simone, perhaps responding to s1rude’s comment that Yasemin’s boobs “seemed to come out of nowhere” (they didn’t, because Calafiore draws her consistently throughout), shows up after a while. The commenters who follow s1rude’s lead (and I don’t mean to single anyone out; s1rude was just the first to comment about that particular point that Kelly made) tend to agree with Kelly, and for the most part, I’m with them – complaining about sexism in comics never gets old, because it keeps freakin’ happening. s1rude, at least, read the issue, but I’m not sure if other commenters did. They don’t say. Then Simone shows up. She writes:

Yasemin dresses like that because her character dresses like that. It’s pretty simple. The superhero/superpy world that is the DCU is fetishistic and hyper-sexualized, and the goal (for me, anyway) is not to have no characters who dress like bimbos or himbos, the goal is to have a wide range, to have that kind of diversity that male characters have always enjoyed. … Yasemin is, in all ways, quite deliberately not likable. She makes poor wank bait under any circumstances. And the same book has quite possibly the broadest (no pun intended) range of female characters in any superhero comic, everything from the very gay Brazilian woman Scandal, to the amazing (but not particularly Penthouse Pet-like Amanda Waller to the Indian and slightly waif-ish Virtuosa and on and on.

After Tuomas points out that there are reasons no one gets bent out of shape because Catman is often naked, Simone returns:

The answer is not ever going to be to have zero female characters who objectify themselves. That solves nothing. The answer is a broad range of female characters, some of whom will make very poor life choices (and horrendous fashion decisions as well, hopefully).

Yasemin dresses that way not to get teenagers going, she dresses that way for, I think, reasons of self-loathing, something we reinforced over and over in her few brief appearances.

The blanket rule that female characters can’t reflect a very real portion of the female population (those who are obsessed with their looks and overtly sexual in appearance) is just silly nonsense. It helps no one.

And so, a week later, we get the second part of the story, one in which Yasemin become a Black Lantern (yes, she dies; sorry to spoil anything). I’ve looked at Calafiore’s rendering of her for two straight weeks, and it’s remarkably consistent. So it didn’t come out of nowhere, but that’s a minor point. Simone explains the way Yasemin has always been portrayed, but that’s not a terribly good point, as she’s a minor character who, as far as I can tell, first appeared when Simone wrote Birds of Prey and not much since. I certainly believe Simone, because she would know, but for the issue that Kelly writes about, it’s not all that relevant because in this issue, she doesn’t seem to have too many self-esteem issues. We get a hint of it, but it’s not like a reader who doesn’t know Yasemin will make the instant connection between her self-loathing and her choice of clothing. But I get where Simone is coming from.

Let’s instead look at what Yasemin is wearing and what other women in the comic are wearing. Yasemin appears to be wearing some kind of latex or leather, not necessarily cloth. In the world of comics, fashion doesn’t really get the respect it deserves, so it’s usually very difficult to tell if the artist wants us to believe it’s latex or a more natural fiber. But it looks more like something that would mold to Yasemin’s body rather than something that would hang loose. So I didn’t get the sense Yasemin was about to “fall out” of her outfit, as Kelly did. But that’s just a difference of opinion. Her high heels are a bit ridiculous, I’ll agree. But should we condemn Calafiore? Look at the other women in the book. Waller is, as always, a large woman, and she doesn’t dress revealingly. s1rude made the point about Liana dressing sensibly, because she’s wearing a full-body leather motorcycle outfit. Scandal, Black Alice, and Jeannette dress appropriately and accordingly. Virtuosa and Nightshade dress downright modestly (especially Nightshade). Do we give Calafiore credit for those women?

I don’t want to tell Kelly to stop talking about this, because it’s important, but I have to be on Simone’s side on this one. It’s all about context, and in the context of this issue, Yasemin’s outfit is less egregious because it’s obvious that it’s anomalous. You can argue about the quality of Calafiore’s art all you want, but when you consider the women in this issue, he draws them with a wide range of clothing, which makes me wonder about why he drew Yasemin that way. Then it gets back to the way Simone writes Yasemin. If you look at a book drawn by someone like Ed Benes (who, ironically, is going to be working with Simone on the new Birds of Prey), all the women have the same face and same body, and usually the same trampy fashion sense. I don’t like Benes, but even if you do, you have to admit that his women all look pretty much the same (and, to be honest, most of his men look the same too). You can’t make that claim about these two issues that Calafiore drew.

But that’s just my two cents. I agree with Kelly about that cover of Black Widow, for instance, because why would someone who’s about to kick ass unzip her front zipper down to her navel? At least Yasemin’s dress seems to bind her boobs a bit.

Oh, this was an issue of a comic book? Oh. Well, Scandal shows that the House of Secrets is not without its defenses, the Six and the Squad fight pretty much to a standstill (Catman and Bronze Tiger’s fight is especially well done), and both groups slowly realize that maybe they should be fighting together against the Black Lanterns. Yeah, that’s smart. The dialogue is as crisp as ever (Bane says after Nightshade tells him she can hit him whenever she wants, “I see. Hitting me. Was that what that was supposed to be?”), the action is excellent, and Rag Doll is awesome as usual. Good stuff!

Sorry, Kelly. We’re still friends, right? Right?????

One panel of awesome:

Super Friends #23 (“Mystery in Space”) by Sholly Fisch (writer), Stewart McKenny (penciller), Dan Davis (inker), Randolph Gentile (letterer), and Heroic Age (colorist). $2.50, 17 pgs, FC, DC.

Every so often I must pick up an issue of Super Friends, largely because the cover is awesome. So yes, Chad, sometimes cover artists matter! I mean, how can you resist the Super Friends in space? Answer: You can’t, unless your heart is dark and cold. DARK AND COLD!!!!!!

And, like most of the Super Friends issues I buy, this is a charming superhero story. I still marvel that writers for the “grown-up” Justice League can’t write good superhero stories like this, maybe “matured” a bit, but essentially the same. The Justice League is fixing their security system when the alarm goes off. In their trophy room is Despero, stealing some magical jar. But the jar only works when combined with the Bell of Uthool and the Wheel of Nyorlath, which the League hid on different planets in different solar systems (which we learn was in Super Friends #3, because Johnny DC isn’t too grown-up to eschew footnotes!). Despero tells them that two other villains are trying to get the bell and wheel, so the SF split up and head off to stop them! They deal with Mongul and the Queen Bee and drag them back to the satellite, but Despero isn’t quite done with them yet! And, just like the issue with Pirate Starro, Aquaman saves the day again! Take that, Aquaman haters!

This is just a tremendously charming issue. The League uses their powers, but they just don’t go around beating people up. It’s kind of an anti-bully issue, so they use their brains a lot – hey, what a concept! It’s the kind of issue that makes us realize why these people are heroes, not just big strong people – too often in “adult” superhero books, it’s simply about the good guys ultimately being brawnier than the bad guys. The League beats all three villains without throwing a punch. How about that! And McKenny gets to have fun with the Queen Bee segment, which features a lot of weird aliens. Who doesn’t love weird aliens?

One panel of awesome:

S.W.O.R.D. #3 by Kieron Gillen (writer), Steven Sanders (penciler), Craig Yeung (inker), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

So, this comic is getting better and better, isn’t it? Wow, I loved this issue. I mentioned it last issue and I’ll bring it up again just to get it out of the way, but Gyrich’s plot to deport all aliens seems to have been done really quickly, even for a comic book, but that’s just a minor complaint, because once we accept that Gyrich can do it, we just move on. I’ve been trying to think of a Marvel equivalent of Superman – i. e., an extremely high-profile alien – but I just can’t, which might be why I can believe this is happening in a Marvel book more than I would in a DC book. “Yeah, government folk, why don’t you head on over to Metropolis and pick up the Big Blue Boy Scout? That will go over well with the public!” Gillen gives us a few neat “round-up-the-aliens” moments, including how they got Warlock, but most of this issue is concerned with Beast trying to figure out a way to bust Abigail out of prison. He asks Unit for advice and gets everyone’s favorite robot’s “origin story” (beautifully drawn by Sanders, by the way), conspires with Lockheed (who kicks some ass; I like how the S.W.O.R.D. agents are amazed because he’s just a little dragon, because wouldn’t a little dragon still be something that kicks ass?), and comes up with a great plan that’s ruined when Abigail tells him they need to go back because Norman Osborn is about to get involved. It’s really a crackling issue, with excellent dialogue. Hank is typically clever, Gyrich is typically assholey, and the final few pages are a tour-de-force of information, as each we jump to a different scene almost with each panel and pick up what’s going on from Gyrich and Abigail in a wonderful patter. It’s actually kind of breathtaking to read, because it seems so effortless.

And while I’m still getting used to Sanders’ Beast, the rest of the book is great. I mean, who doesn’t love the metroliths? They’re pretty keen.

Man, Gillen is making it hard for me to resist his Thor. Damn you, KG!!!!!

One panel of awesome:

The Unwritten #9 (“Inside Man: Conclusion”) by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (writer and artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

This is the end of the second arc, and it certainly ends “better” than the first, as at least we get an actual ending, even though it still leads into the next arc a bit. And furthermore, this is a pretty excellent issue, one that makes me happier about the book than any issue I’ve read (with the possible exception of issue #5, the standalone one about Kipling). Yes, bad things happen. Perhaps this is a bit of a cruel issue that is just so for the sake of being cruel. I don’t think so. Carey is cleverly showing a difference between “real” magic and parlor tricks, between those who believe and those who don’t, and without giving too much away (because I don’t want to spoil it), it’s a neat way to continue the story of Tom, because Tom is both the focus of those who believe and someone who has difficulty believing himself. One of the great sequences in the book is when he uses the doorknob from his father’s house and hopes it won’t open a magical door, because that would mean there’s no magic, just that he’s insane. For Tom, that’s not a great choice. It’s interesting that he’d rather be nuts than believe in magic.

I don’t want to say much more, but this is a very good issue and gives me hope for the future. Carey, it seems, always has to find his footing on a book before it really takes off, and while I’ve enjoyed this title from the beginning, it’s getting better, which is always nice to see. Oh, and Gross is excellent as usual. No surprise there!

One panel of awesome:

Okay, let’s check out The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Apparitions” – Knots and Crosses (1999)
2. “Sacrifice” – Liquid Jesus (1991)
3. “Love Beats Me Up” – Australian Crawl* (1983)
4. “All Come Down” – Cinderella (1994)
5. “Give it Up, Turn it Loose” – En Vogue (1992)
6. “Fiesta” – Pogues (1987)
7. “Scapegoat” – Chumbawamba** (1997)
8. “U Got the Look” – Prince (1987)
9. “Sally Ann” – Horse Flies (1991)
10. “Everybody Wants the Same Thing” – Scissor Sisters (2006)
* I have about five Australian Crawl songs on my iPod. It’s just coincidence that one showed up last week and one this week. Strange.
** I have more Chumbawamba songs on the iPod, but this is the first one that played since last week. Stranger!

Last week, for the third time in a row, nobody guessed the totally random lyrics, which were from the song “Oh, Virginia” by Blessid Union of Souls. It’s the only song I’ve ever heard by them that I really like. Oh well. Once more into the fray!

“She said, babe, you know
I miss Jill and Joe
And all my funky friends
But my street understanding
Was just enough to know what she really meant
And I got to thinking while she was talking
That I know she told the story
Of those special places that she goes
When she rides with the others in the subway”

Get thinking! Finally, I should point out that this morning my daughter beat me twice at Wii bowling. My four-year-old daughter, mind you. She bowled a 164 and a 175. If you need me, I’ll be in the Hole of Shame in my backyard. Have a nice day!