What I bought – 2 December 2010

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 2 December 2010

“I play with life, you say, and that is true, but I play because it pleases me; whereas Christian virtues would bore me in a day, as does the philosophy of Seneca. Because of this, Paul’s eloquence is displayed in vain. He should understand that people like me will never accept his religion. With your temperament you might either hate Christians or become a Christian immediately. I recognize, while yawning, the truth of what they say. We are mad. We are hastening to our doom, something unknown is coming toward us, something is dying around us – agreed! But life exists for itself alone, not for death.” (Henryk Sienkiewicz, from Quo Vadis)

This week I bought FIVE single issues, one of the lowest totals in a while. I didn’t ask for your input because I was busy on Wednesday (root canal, yay!) and I figured the top vote-getter might be Heroes for Hire #1, so I bought that. I toyed with the idea of ignoring reviews and just rambling about other things, but with two series ending and one beginning and another one getting its second issue, there’s stuff to chew on. Believe me, I have a neat plan the next time I want to take a week off! But it won’t be this week!

Bullet to the Head #6 (of 6) by Matz (writer), Colin Wilson (artist/letterer), and Chris Blythe (colorist). $3.99, 25 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

The first of two Matz comics that wrap up this week, Bullet to the Head has the advantage of actually ending, which is nice. Jimmy and Philip wrap things up, with a few twists thrown in for good measure, and all’s well that ends well. The trade will look nice, I’m sure, especially the Colin Wilson art. As pulpy stories go, this one works very well. It fits together decently, and while Matz relies on a bit of an infodump to wrap things up, it feels like we’ve earned it, because the rest of the series has sped along so crazily. So the fact that the book comes to a screeching halt while a character explains it all isn’t too annoying. Matz also structures the issue nicely, so that we know Jimmy and Philip come out of the final showdown early on, and Matz keeps cutting back to what happens on the night in question. It’s a tried-and-true device, and it works well here.

I’m sure a trade has been solicited, but if it hasn’t, it will be soon. It’s a fun, brutal story that has a silly idea at its center (instead of paying blackmail, a character resorts to assassination) but ignores that to zip along merrily. It won’t change your life, but it will entertain you. That’s what it’s all about sometimes!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Generation Hope #2 (“The Future is a Four-Letter Word Part Two”) by Kieron Gillen (writer), Salvador Espin (artist), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), and Dave Sharpe (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I casually mentioned the Akira reference in issue #1 and moved on, but in other corners of the Internet, it created quite the kerfuffle, with people calling for Gillen and/or Espin’s testicles to be dipped in gravy and then the creators thrown to wild hyenas. I wondered about it, because it was so blatant, but figured there was some reason for it. The unfortunate nature of serial storytelling means that all of those people who wanted to grab a pitchfork and organize a good mob had to wait an entire month to see why Gillen did it, if they indeed bothered to pick up issue #2 because their nerd rage hadn’t subsided yet (there’s no rage like nerd rage!). There’s a perfectly good reason for the reference, and Gillen explains it fairly early on, but I wonder if Marvel screwed the pooch a bit with the way they released this. Consider: The first issue was #3.99, which already means a bunch of people probably didn’t get it – we can argue if Marvel knows what they’re doing or not, but I’ve seen enough anecdotal evidence from people here that I think a lot of people automatically didn’t get issue #1 due to the price. Then, we get the tempest in a teapot about Gillen and Espin ripping off a classic. How many people, instead of seeing where Gillen goes with it, simply dropped the book? Books get dropped for dumber reasons, after all (I should know, because I’ve dropped books for dumber reasons). For a second-tier X-book in a world where second-tier X-books don’t sell as well as they used to, is it enough to kill the book? I hope not – unlike the totally superfluous third X-Men ongoing, which stars some of the same characters as the other two ongoing X-Men series, at least Generation Hope has a unique core and a reason for existing. Whether it’s good or not in the long term remains to be seen, of course, but it would be a shame if something so idiotic as the Akira “homage” drives people away from the book. It’s the curse of serial storytelling, I guess – it was a good cliffhanger, and if Gillen had explained it, the beginning of this issue would have been a lot less effective. Oh well.

It’s always good to see Scott being a total douchebag, and Gillen does a nice job in a few panels of showing what a douchebag he is. Through all the changes in the X-books over the past 35 years, we can always count on Scott being a dick. Yay, Scott!

I don’t have much else to say about the issue. It’s significantly less verbose than issue #1, which makes me think that Gillen was simply doing that to get as much information about the characters to the readers as possible. I still don’t think it was necessary, but at least he pulls back on it in this issue. As this is written as a four-issue arc, it ends a bit abruptly, seemingly in the middle of a scene, but that doesn’t bother me too much. And Espin’s art looks a bit worse than it did last issue, especially with some of the characters in motion. It’s odd – he seems to have spent a lot of time making Kenji look awfully impressive, and Kenji is awfully impressive, so maybe he had less time for the rest of the issue. We shall see going forward what his art looks like.

As always with new series, I’m feeling this one out, but it’s been pretty good so far. I hope everyone who had a conniption fit about the first issue can take a deep breath, read issue #2, and see what’s what. Then we can all focus our nerd rage where it belongs – at Bendis for screwing up Noh-Varr so badly!!!!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Heroes for Hire #1 (“Are You For Hire?”) by Dan Abnett (writer), Andy Lanning (writer), Brad Walker (penciler), Andrew Hennessy (inker), Jay David Ramos (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Hey, yet another Heroes for Hire series. Well, I’m totally sure this will sell well, right?

Abnett and Lanning have been off doing cosmic stuff for so long, it’s interesting that they’re on this book, which is a decidedly street-level comic. It’s not that they can’t do it, I just wonder if they’re finally bored with space adventures. Of course, cosmic books and this kind of book are very similar, so it shouldn’t be too much of a leap. I just find it interesting.

So, the set-up: Misty Knight calls random heroes and tells them she has a job for them. She’s coordinating everything, so they don’t necessarily work together and they don’t necessarily know what the other parts of the job are. She has a mysterious benefactor whom she refuses to discuss, and she doesn’t even allow Sam Wilson to call her “Misty” when they’re on the job – she calls herself “Control,” because that’s what she is. If you’re getting a Global Frequency vibe, I’m sure you’re not the only one – I’m sure I saw Warren Ellis’s fedora shoot straight off his head when his brain exploded with rage – but it’s not a terrible concept, and it’s not like Ellis hasn’t lifted a few ideas now and then, is it?

So Misty sends the Falcon and Black Widow to stop a shipment of a drug called Hook, which is a favorite of Atlanteans and is now making its way to the surface. They stop the shipment, and then Misty calls Moon Knight to bust up the warehouse where the shipment was heading. He finds something very nasty about what they’re doing to create a worse version of the drug, and he starts busting heads. Meanwhile, Elektra is called in to take out the drug dealer. It all fits together!

Abnett and Lanning throw some curves at us, including a really nice twist at the end. They also show Paladin hanging around, and considering he’s been a member of the team before (something I learned from the back of the book, where there’s a history lesson of the Heroes for Hire), I’m sure he’s up to no good. It’s a solid first issue, with nice action, a decent through-plot, and solid art. Walker’s work looks a bit slicker than I remember, which is perhaps due to Hennessy’s inks and Ramos’s colors, but it also could be just a natural progression. It’s pretty good, although some of his faces look really weird – Misty’s most noticeably, but Natasha’s as well at one point. It’s solid superhero art, and while the coloring is a bit darker than I like (of course, this issue does take place at night, but still), it works fine for the book.

It’s a fairly intriguing first issue, so I’ll stick with the book for a bit to see where Abnett and Lanning go with it. I do wish Marvel would stop pricing #1 issues at $3.99 – that just seems so very, very stupid. Oh well.

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Killer: Modus Vivendi #6 (of 6) by Matz (writer/translator), Luc Jacamon (artist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Scott Newman (letterer). $3.95, 29 pgs, FC, Archaia.

I’m fairly enraged by this issue, because in no way, shape, or form is this the sixth issue of a six-issue mini-series. It’s really a holding pattern between a five-issue mini-series and however long the next mini-series is. The main plot really wrapped up last issue, and Matz gives us a bit of the fall-out from the killer’s actions, but not too many. Then he simply starts putting the plot for the next mini-series in motion, as we realize that Cuba’s attempts to nationalize their oil reserves will meet with stiff resistance from the United States and that will be what the next series revolves around. All well and good, but why would Archaia publish this as a six-issue mini-series? Did Matz and Jacamon originally plan it that way but changed their minds after Archaia started publishing this? I assume this has already been published in France, but how much lead time does Archaia have? If they had enough, they shouldn’t have promoted this as a six-issue mini-series, is all I’m saying. It’s really annoying reading this issue and realizing as you get closer and closer to the end that Matz and Jacamon have no intention of wrapping anything up. The first series was 10 issues and came to a decent conclusion (presumably because no one was sure if there would be a sequel). It’s fine to do a sequel, but the least they could do is make sure they tell a complete story. Why couldn’t this have been 10-12 issues of a complete story? Beats me.

Anyway, Matz’s politics, which have bugged me throughout this series, are once again on display, but the killer isn’t quite as enraptured with Cuba anymore, and Mariano, his pal, makes the point that people are greedy and despicable everywhere, which the killer should know because he espoused that philosophy in the first series before he started ranting about the United States. (I apologize again for defending my country so vehemently when, as a good godless Commie liberal, I should hate it and everything it stands for. It annoys the hell out of me when anyone – usually Europeans, but not always – bashes on the U.S. but is blind to the abuses of the countries they admire. You can point out the flaws of the United States as much as you want – God knows we have plenty – but you either have to point out the flaws of other countries as well or point out the good things the U.S. has done. That seems fair. Okay, I’m done. I guess I can go back to hating America like I’m supposed to!) I’m sure in the next series, we’re going to get more U.S.A.-bashing, as Matz is setting up a confrontation between the States and Cuba, but as long as the killer realizes that maybe, just maybe, the Cuban Communist Utopia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, I can deal with it. We shall see.

I also love when a character – almost always a man – talks about how monogamy and fidelity are stupid concepts, as the killer does in this issue. He sees no problem with sleeping around, and that’s fine, as long as he understands it goes both ways. I wonder what he would say if the mother of his child took up with some other dude. Would he be as open to her doing what he’s doing? I very much doubt if Matz is going to do anything with that, but it would be a neat subplot as the series moves forward.

I liked the first edition of The Killer a lot. This series was not as good, because it seemed a bit more messy, plot-wise, as if Matz and Jacamon just couldn’t really decide what to do with their lead character. By the end of this series, the plot comes a bit more into focus, and it would have been nice if Matz had tightened everything up a bit, streamlined this series more, and gotten into the plot of the next series sooner, so maybe it could have been a decent, single-volume epic. I’m still going to check out the next series, but that doesn’t change the fact that as a six-issue arc, this doesn’t work all that well.

Cool art, though.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Six #28 (“The Reptile Brain Part Four of Four: The Skull Just Beneath the Flesh”) by Gail Simone (writer), Jim Califiore (artist), Jason Wright (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Shakira realizes early on in this issue that maybe turning Machiste into a giant snake demon isn’t so hot an idea. I always love people in fiction – ideas that 99% of the population would realize are pretty dumb get put into practice all the time, and then, the characters realize what everyone else realized a long time ago. Good times!

This issue wraps up the Skartaris arc nicely, as we learn why Bane is there in the first place and Alice figures out why her power isn’t working. Simone also hearkens back to Ryan Choi’s stint as the Atom, which was kind of neat (I don’t know if Simone is angry at all about Ryan being killed off in such an idiotic manner, but I like to think she was imagining Dan DiDio’s face on Dwarf Star as she wrote that scene). I’m not sure if Simone is going to have a core cast with rotating special guests not unlike the old Suicide Squad (Waller says she only needs six of the group, but does that mean the same six?), but this arc has served to shake everyone up, introduce some possible new characters, and give them a new focus going forward. Given that Simone appears to be a fan of Ostrander’s SS, I don’t have too much of a problem if this is where she wants to go. So now they’re off to have crossovers with Action Comics (the sales of which at my shop are plummeting, according to the proprietor) and the Doom Patrol (which can’t be selling well, can it?). Is Secret Six helping them, or are they supposed to be helping Secret Six? Only the DiDio knows for sure!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Pinocchio Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater by Van Jensen (writer) and Dusty Higgins (artist). $14.95, 163 pgs, BW, SLG.

The first volume of this was surprisingly good, so I’m looking forward to reading this. Higgins’s art looks superb, so there’s that.

Pug Davis by Rebecca Sugar (writer/artist). $15.00, 122 pgs, BW, Albatross Exploding Funny Books.

Eric Powell likes this, so I do hope it’s more than dick and fart jokes, as that seems to be the level of humor that Powell enjoys. Unless, of course, they’re really funny dick and fart jokes. Then it might work.

Trickster: Native American Tales. Matt Dembicki, ed. $22.95, 231 pgs, FC, Fulcrum Books.

This looks pretty keen. Lots o’ stories starring animals!

It’s a bit late, but Leslie Nielsen died on Sunday. It’s stunning to think how he re-invented himself in Airplane and how influential that role was. It would not have worked if people didn’t think of him as a stolid, wooden actor, and although it’s still a funny role today, it had to have been terrific for people who knew the image of himself he was roasting. Plus, it paved the way for “serious” actors to act ridiculous – think of Robert DeNiro skewering his own image in Meet the Parents, where the only reason it’s funny is because we have an image in our heads of what “Robert DeNiro” acts like. And Police Squad is one of the greatest television shows ever conceived. I remember watching it when I was a kid and occasionally losing my breath because I was laughing so hard. I saw it years later and yep, it still holds up. So RIP, Enrico Palazzo. You’ll be missed.

Onward to The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Take the Money and Run”Steve Miller Band (1976) “They headed down south and they’re still running today”1
2. “100 Nights”Marillion (1991) “She spends your money on me”
3. “One of Us”ABBA (1981) “I felt you kept me away from the heat and the action”
4. “Mofo”U2 (1997) “Still looking for the face I had before the world was made”2
5. “The Wrong Man” – Amanda Ghost (2000) “I know the games we play aren’t fooling anyone”
6. “Lady Nina” – Marillion (1985) “‘Cause your beauty is the only thing you’ve ever owned”
7. “Black”Pearl Jam (1991) “I know you’ll be a star in somebody else’s sky”3
8. “House of the Gods”Pogues (1990) “Finally found a place they could never reach”
9. “Never Satisfied”Living Colour (1993) “I sold my soul like a whore”
10. “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” – Robert Palmer (1974) “I said, I can’t find nothing wrong with being friends, ’cause sometimes, she lets me use the car”4

1 You must, of course, do the hand claps whenever you listen to this. No exceptions! Even if you’re on the freeway! YOU MUST!!!!!
2 I always wonder why bands don’t become more experimental as they get older and more successful, because they can take the financial hit if their experiments don’t pan out. I love when bands do this and the fact that so many don’t vexes me. U2 is a case in point. After Achtung Baby, which was a bit different from their 1980s output, they were the biggest rock band on the planet, and then they released Zooropa, which was even weirder. Four years later came Pop, which is a pretty underrated album. It did well but not well enough, and three years later they were back to the “U2 sound” with All That You Can’t Leave Behind. That’s not a bad album, but after the experimentation with the previous three albums (and, of course, the music wasn’t all that experimental, just different from what they had been doing for the first decade), it was disappointing. I guess U2 just couldn’t deal with not being “the best band in the world,” which Bono said they were trying to reclaim in 2000. Did they owe too many people money? Beats me. It’s just too bad that they retreated from the relative strangeness of the 1990s to the security of the 1980s.
3 In 1991 I saw Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Smashing Pumpkins at Penn State. It was quite the good concert. My favorite song on Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten, was “Black.” They performed 10 of the 11 songs on the album. Guess which one they didn’t sing? Damn you, Eddie Vedder!
4 If you only know Palmer from his mid- to late-1980s heyday, you should give his debut album a listen, especially this tremendous song. It’s a jazzy, bluesy, funky groove with hilarious lyrics about a sap trying to explain away his affair to his wife. A great, great song.

Sorry for the lack of reviews this week – there just wasn’t a ton of stuff coming out. I’m sure that the next few weeks will be packed – won’t that be fun? Until then, relax and enjoy the 70-degree temperature. Isn’t it 70 degrees where you live?