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What I bought – 14 May 2008

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 14 May 2008

Today, I will reveal some righteous anger against someone right here on the Internet. Someone who often reads this blog, in fact! You don’t want to be the target of my wrath, let me tell you! So who has earned my ire! Find out below the fold!

Oh, and I review some comics. You know, like I do.

Batman #676 by Grant “Yes, I stopped taking my medication – why do you ask?” Morrison (writer), Tony Daniel (penciller), Sandu Florea (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Randy Gentile (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Boy, that’s a weird cover. Where’s his body?

Anyway, so begins Morrison’s big ol’ “Batman R.I.P.” story. The God of All Comics is one of those writers whom I tend to trust, perhaps more than I should, so I haven’t minded it some of his individual issues on Batman have been less than stellar. I mentioned this with regard to last issue, which was pretty muddled, and although he recovers to a certain extent and gives us an interesting beginning to this crossover, it’s still not as strong as his best work on the title. We still don’t have a clear idea of Jezebel’s character and why Bruce trusts her so much. In this issue, he’s strolling around in the Bat-mansion after a hard night’s work in his costume, stripping it off to get busy with Ms. Jet upstairs. Tim and Alfred have a conversation weighted with meaning, and Jezebel gets an invitation to a creepy party, as we see at the beginning of the issue. And then there’s something weird with the Joker at the end, which I probably should understand, but don’t.

There’s not a lot to say about the book that hasn’t been said. Morrison still doesn’t seem to write Batman and Robin particularly well, as it feels like they”re talking from a script instead of using words that actual people would use. Tim and Alfred’s conversation is a bit better, but Tim’s question about Damian seems to come out of nowhere. It has always felt, with Batman, that Morrison wants to get somewhere – perhaps to this storyline? – and he’s impatient about it, so he zips past things that seem to deserve more attention. There’s a lack of character-building in his run, which makes what he’s doing on the book less effective. The stories are somewhat fascinating, but they’re lacking a deeper power that’s necessary for a tale to be great.

I would like to point out that people have been speculating about who the Black Glove really is. I don’t like reading things like that (even though I like Tim Callahan’s blog), because I really love finding out what the writer is doing on the writer’s own time. That’s not to say I didn’t read what’s at those links, because it’s all speculation (and therefore not a spoiler), but I’ve never been the kind of person who attempts to figure out what’s going on before it’s revealed to me. I’d rather be surprised. Does it really matter who the Black Glove is? Everyone’s been going on about Morrison using pre-Crisis stories to tell his tale, so they’re rummaging through the back issues (probably not, because all this crap is on-line, surely) to find clues to the Black Glove’s identity. If we’re throwing out people as suspects, I want it to be the puppeteer dude from the Moench/Jones run of the mid-1990s. That would be awesome, because everyone just assumes Morrison loves the Silver Age so much that it’s going to be some offshoot of that. But wouldn’t it be just the curveball to throw to people to reference something from the Nineties? Speculation about “secrets” in entertainment is fine, I guess, but it takes some of the joy out of it for me. Those links don’t contain spoilers or anything, because the speculators are wondering about things that haven’t happened yet, but I just don’t get the desire to “figure out” what’s happening before it does. I know a lot of people do, but I don’t.

That didn’t really have anything to do with the issue, did it? Oh well. That’s also not what I’m angry about. You’ll know it when I get there!

Captain Britain and MI 13 #1 by Paul Cornell (writer), Leonard Kirk (penciler), Jesse Delperdang (inker), Brian Reber (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

This is a perfectly fine first issue, in that it introduces the problem, the principals, and ends with a cliffhanger that isn’t particularly stunning (Captain Britain, after all, is not going to die), features a good action story, and fits into both current Marvel continuity and older Captain Britain continuity. I still haven’t gotten around to reading Cornell’s Wisdom (I own it, but I haven’t gotten around to it), but it’s nice that Cornell seems to be interested in recognizing that Brian has an interesting past. I’ll get around to that past soon, but this is a solid first issue that manages to be part of “Secret Invasion” but explain the thrust of the series fairly well.

Let’s go over some specifics:
1. A Skrull disguised as John Lennon? Isn’t Lennon, I don’t know, dead? I get the feeling there’s more behind this, but what the hell? I guess Cornell created this character in Wisdom, but I would think a spy disguised as John Lennon isn’t the best idea.

2. Hey, look, it’s Faiza! I hope she doesn’t want to launch a jihad, like all Muslims do!

3. Captain Midlands? Man, I really have to read Wisdom.

4. I have mentioned stuff like this before, but on one page, Spitfire rips out the throat of a Skrull … with her teeth. The panel is in silhouette, because it’s just so icky, although we do see the head flapping away from the body and the blood shooting out. A few pages later, Captain Britain bashes the head off of a Skrull, not in silhouette, and we see the head in the foreground, flying away, with the headless body in the background, slowly falling, green blood spurting out of its body. I’m not entirely sure why the first panel, which doesn’t actually show Spitfire biting the neck (which might be a good reason to put it in silhouette), is obscured, but the second isn’t. The panel just prior to the silhouette shows Spitfire sinking her teeth into the Skrull’s neck, and the panel just after it shows her wiping the blood away from her mouth. Both panels would show blood spurting out of a neck hole. The blood isn’t red, which I understand is a bit of a concern in the comic book world (hence the blackness of a lot of blood). So what’s the deal? It’s just stupid. Show it all, or show none of it.

5. As I mentioned, I appreciate that Cornell uses Brian’s past, but I have a couple of questions. First, the last time I read anything starring Captain Britain on a regular basis, he ended up King of Otherworld. He mentions that in this book, but when did he stop being the King? I know he’s been back in the Marvel U. for a while, but when and how did it happen? And the Siege Perilous shows up, and the last time I saw that, Donald Pierce was crushing it so that none of the X-Men could ever come back. Now, that was quite some time ago, but when did it show up again, and is it just explained as being “something magical”? If so, I’m cool with that, but I’m just wondering.

Anyway, this is a solid start. I like espionage books, and although this is clearly a superhero book, it still has the potential for some nice espionage plots. Wisdom apparently sold really poorly, so let’s hope this does slightly better.

Archie & Friends #119 by Alex Simmons (writer), Rex Lindsey (penciller), Amash/Nickerson (inkers), Davidson/Owsley (letterers), and Glenn Whitmore (colorist). $2.25, 22 pgs, FC, Archie Comics.

Matt Fraction makes a bold choice to end Casanova‘s second “album” with a crossover with Archie and the gang, but he pulls it off rather well. I did not foresee Zephyr killing Jughead by forcing him to eat hot dogs until he exploded, and I don’t know how it was allowed, but the reveal that Casanova has been hiding out in Riverdale having an orgy with Betty, Veronica, and Ms. Grundy (wow!) really shocked me. That was just wild!

Okay, so I didn’t get Casanova this week. My comics shoppe ordered seven copies, and instead of getting it, they got the latest issue of Archie & Friends. They let me have it for free, because they had no use for it, so it’s in the spot where Casanova would be. I’m quite grumpy about it, too, especially given what I’m going to write about soon. But what about Archie? Is this the kind of issue you should run out and buy? Well, Archie is in Nairobi (in “Africa,” mind you, not Kenya), and he and Jughead get caught up in some kind of bad-guy scheme that has apparently been running through this title for a while. There’s an evil mastermind with a lime green trench coat (ooh, threatening!) and a henchman wearing a Mt. Kilimanjaro jacket. Really? That’s like an American wearing a jacket with the Grand Canyon on it. Plus, the guy is always telling his partner to shut up by shoving an apple in his mouth. And the gang is visiting 5 cities in 10 days, and they seem to be hitting all the big cities in Europe. So what are they doing in Nairobi? It’s just weird. (Their itinerary is London-Madrid-Nairobi-Rome, it seems. That’s a journey!)

Anyway, the fact that this is not Casanova chaps my hide. My anger started on Tuesday, when I saw that Tim Callahan had reviewed the issue before it was released. Tim is far smarter than I am, it’s true, but how does he rate getting a copy before its release date? I only called it the best ongoing of 2007, but I have to sit around like a sucker until my shoppe gets (or, in this case, doesn’t get) its order. So I was already in a bad mood, seething with jealousy. Then, Callahan rubs salt in my wound by writing a longer piece about Casanova that I can’t read because it contains SPOILERS about the final issue. Damn you, Callahan! According to his fine blog, Tim lives in the “United States.” I don’t know where that is, but once I consult an atlas, I’ll hunt him down like the dog he is!

Yes, reading Archie & Freinds instead of Casanova makes me crazy. Can you tell?

ClanDestine #4 (of 5) by Alan Davis (writer/penciler), Mark Farmer (inker), Paul Mounts (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

As the fourth issue of a five-part series, it’s kind of hard to summarize this, because Davis is setting things up for the big finale, and he does it well, as we finally learn why Walter has been acting so strangely. We actually learn quite a lot about the family, including Kay’s “secret origin,” and it’s still a lot to keep track of, but the nice thing about the series is that I’m sure Davis has it all planned out, so I’m not worried. This is old-school comics at its best, with alternate universes (Davis loves him some alternate universes), vampires (who aren’t what they seem!), good guys acting bad, shadowy figures in the shadows, and the gorgeous, gorgeous art. I’m looking forward to the last issue, and hope it won’t be the last we see of the family.

Gamekeeper (series 2) #3 (of 5) by Jeff Parker (writer), Ron Randall (layouts), Ron Chan (penciller), S. Sundarakannan (colorist), and Sudhir B. Pisal (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Virgin.

Parker has become known as a “fun” writer, but it’s worth remembering that he can write spy thrillers very well. Gamekeeper isn’t great, but it’s entertaining. This is basically a big ol’ chase comic, as Brock goes after the dudes who kidnapped his charge and kicks a lot of ass, of course. He doesn’t get the girl back, but he does figure something out about the Raven, the guy who was sent to kill him. It’s an interesting twist, and it will be neat to see where Parker goes with it.

Virgin apparently isn’t selling very well, and I wonder how it’s doing world-wide, as they seem to be trying to reach a larger audience than your average superhero fan. I’m not interested in a lot of what they publish, but the stuff I have read hasn’t been bad, and they’re usually at least as good as your standard crappy superhero book (not a ringing endorsement, of course, but a lot of crappy books sell well). I always feel a bit guilty when I buy Virgin books, because it seems like, more than other comic book companies (except, perhaps, Boom! Studios), they are producing books simply to turn them into movies. I could be wrong about this, of course, but I do get annoyed, as a long-time comics reader, being the “farm team” for movie pitches. If the story is well-written and drawn well, I don’t care that much, but I wonder if Virgin would sell better if they cared more about selling books and not selling movie pitches. Maybe they don’t care. Am I talking out of my ass, or does it feel that way to others who buy Virgin books? Of course, most of you don’t buy Virgin books, so the point might be moot. It’s just something I’m wondering.

Young Liars #3 by David Lapham (writer/artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

After a wonderful first issue and a dreary second issue, Lapham returns to the present (for the most part) and fires things up again. I still have no idea if the second issue was necessary, because it seems like Lapham could have done this as a second issue and maybe done a few pages of flashbacks to fill us in. But that’s water under the bridge!

This feels longer than your average comic, because Lapham really packs it with content. It’s a dizzying tale of violence, with some interesting revelations about what’s going on, revelations that simply lead to more questions, which, if Lapham plans a long run on the book, is perfectly fine with me. The book gets weirder and weirder, as the bad guys show their hand and we find out (possibly) what happened the night Sadie was shot. I still have the same problems with the series that I’ve had – Danny seems to hate the people he hangs out with, although Lapham does bring that up; nobody seems to mind that they destroy a hospital ward – it’s one of those comics that blasts along so wildly that I can forgive it. Young Liars is far from perfect, but it’s a super-charged comic that grabs you by your throat and doesn’t let go. I may extricate myself from it eventually, but right now I’m transfixed.

That cover freaks me out, though. Seriously.

At the back of the book is a preview of Madame Xanadu. I’m not terribly interested in this, even though Matt Wagner is writing it and I like Hadley’s art (she’s a “newcomer” even though she’s produced this comic), but as I mentioned when this was solicited in Previews, why isn’t DC taking advantage of the fact that Hadley has a teenaged girl following instead of throwing her on a Vertigo title? I don’t know how “Vertigo” this book is, because the preview doesn’t look terribly objectionable, but it’s an odd move by DC. Oh well – that’s why I don’t run a comic book company. I’m sure Karen Berger knows what she’s doing.

Zorro #3 by Matt Wagner (writer), Francesco Francavilla (artist), Adriano Lucas (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

I’m not sure why I like Zorro. I suppose it’s because it tells an interesting tale, with some decent action (and more Zorro each issue, which is always nice to see), and Francavilla’s art does a good job evoking the nineteenth century. It’s not something I would say you must buy, because nothing here really takes anyone by surprise – from the way Diego gets fencing lessons to Bernardo falling in with the gypsies to the way Zorro stymies the tax collectors – and that’s part of the problem with the comic. Someone (MarkAndrew? Other Greg?) mentioned that Wagner is following Isabel Allende’s novel fairly closely, and I haven’t dug out issue #1 to check that (it is dedicated to Allende, among others), but if it is, I don’t really want to read the novel. The problem with this story so far has been that Zorro should be a somewhat mysterious figure. I don’t have a problem filling in his back story as the series progresses, but like Batman and especially Wolverine, Zorro works best when we don’t know who he is or how he came to be. Take this issue: Do we really need to know that he learned magic and “chemistry” (how to blow shit up) from a gypsy cook? Do we need to see his sense of justice formed by the Spaniards’ poor treatment of the gypsies in Barcelona? (Man, those gypsies are everywhere!) There’s just so much we can infer from who Zorro is, and although I wouldn’t mind seeing his origin parcelled out over the course of the series, a “Zorro: Year One” story arc doesn’t feel terribly necessary. Not surprisingly, the most thrilling parts of the book so far have been the Big Z fighting the corrupt government. That’s what we need. Taking the mystery out of Zorro reduces him to a degree, and that’s too bad.

I’m still going to buy the comic, because Wagner is a good writer and Francavilla is a good artist and despite my reservations with the way it’s being told, I like the character. I just think this is the wrong way to go with our hero. But then, I’m not writing the book, so what the hell do I know?

It’s another week of comic book goodness! Remember: if you see Tim Callahan, hold him for me! I’ll be there as soon as I can!

Today’s random lyric:

“Movie stars
find the end of the rainbow
with a fortune to win;
it’s so different from the world I’m living in …
Tired of TV
I open the window
and I gaze into the night
but there’s nothing there to see, no one in sight …
There’s not a soul out there;
no one to hear my prayer …”

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