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What I bought – 2 December 2015

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 2 December 2015

We lay very still. I could feel the air around us changing, blooming and shimmering like the air over a scorching road. My heart was speeding, or hers was banging against my chest, I’m not sure. I turned Cassie in my arms and kissed her, and after a moment she kissed me back.

I know I said that I always choose the anticlimactic over the irrevocable, and yes of course what I meant was that I have always been a coward, but I lied: not always, there was that night, there was that one time. (Tana French, from In the Woods)

The Fuse #16 (“Perihelion Part Four”) by Shari Chankhamma (colorist), Ryan Ferrier (letterer), Justin Greenwood (artist), and Antony Johnston (writer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

“Perihelion,” of course, means when an object in orbit is closest to the sun, and Johnston has built this arc around the idea that it makes people a bit wonky. He’s building on a tradition here, as the myth of Icarus has entered the vernacular so much that my 10-year-old daughter knows it and what it represents. Johnston makes the craziness overt, because it’s the nature of the story arc – the cops are overworked because of the event, and everyone acting wonky means that crime has the potential to skyrocket, but Icarus really isn’t part of the obvious story. The actual Fuse is a metaphor for it, though, as humanity has slipped the surly bonds of earth and built a home in the sky, but throughout the series, Johnston has been implying that there are those who want to bring it down. Icarus was punished because he flew too high, and Greek myths, like a lot of myths, illuminate the tension between men and gods, and Icarus died because he tried to become too much like a god. The Fuse, in toto, acts as a metaphor for this, as humanity is reaching toward something they were not evolved to do, and by using their brains, they have broken through barriers that nature put in front of them. The sun gives us life, after all, so it’s as good a god as anything else, and in this story arc, humanity is as close to the sun as they ever have been (and possibly will be), so why wouldn’t the religiosity of people come to the fore? The naked religious fanatic who shows up in one panel in this issue is a subject of mockery, sure, but there’s nothing humorous about a serial killer or a hostage-taker at the hospital, both of whom are playing god in their own way. To switch myths, Ristovych and Dietrich are literally in some places bringing light to the darkness, and Prometheus was also punished for defying the gods. The Fuse, hanging unnaturally in space, may or may not be punished for humanity’s insolence, and just the fact that it’s there, in the background, makes this comic more fascinating than a regular police procedural. Plus, the cases are very interesting.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

This Damned Band #5 (of 6) by Paul Cornell (writer), Michael Heisler (letterer), Lovern Kindzierski (colorist), Tony Parker (artist), Rachel Roberts (assistant editor), and Dave Marshall (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Speaking of religiosity, the worship of Satan has always been the driving force of this series, obviously, and it comes to a bit of a head in the penultimate issue. Cornell asks what, indeed, we would sacrifice to be great. It’s an age-old question, but it’s always interesting, and so he asks it here. The usual misogynistic bullshit is in full effect in this issue, as the wives and groupies continue to disappear, but Cornell doesn’t allow them to become simple objects, as they decide to fight back. However, it becomes clear that the men in the band are as disposable as the women, and that’s where the book becomes more interesting. The idea of disposable pop stars has almost always been confined to women – yes, Justin Bieber, to use one current example, can be seen as “disposable,” but his career, such as it is, is commented upon differently than, say, Ariana Grande’s. There’s a vague feeling that young, female pop icons are somehow interchangeable where young, male pop icons are not. It’s the insistence on beauty as a component of popularity, I guess, but there’s also the sense that women are somehow manipulated by Svengalis where men are not. The idea of older men controlling and/or bedding nubile young women is ingrained in our culture to the degree that the old Greek mentorship ideal of older men controlling and/or bedding attractive young men is not, so Bieber might be seen as a puppet, but he’s not necessarily a sexualized puppet, while the bevy of female pop stars are. Cornell knows this and uses it, taking us back to when Led Zeppelin might have been the apex of misogyny, but by showing us that they themselves are disposable, partly because of their sex appeal, he toys with this notion of women being objects and posits that all musicians are puppets of something greater than themselves. Of all the iconoclastic rock bands, Zeppelin is perfect for this thesis, as they seemed to be the apotheosis of debauchery at a time when debauchery was lauded more than it ever was in modern Western thought and more than it has been since. This debauchery made them seem like they were far beyond the Pale, but ultimately, they were simple a reflection of the times, not an engine of the zeitgeist. And so they become disposable, as they are sacrificed to one person’s dream of even greater glory. Worship of a benign god is about rejecting things, while in this book, worship of an aggressive god means giving in to temptation. The members of Motherfather believed that they were giving in to the biggest temptations in the world, but they were simply indulging in childish fantasies. The women in the comic aren’t any more enlightened than the men, but they aren’t as delusional, either, so while the band continues to splinter, Kev’s wife (whose name escapes me!) continues to try to figure out what’s going on. There’s a clever brief scene in which Kev implies that she is just as disposable as any of them, and while she reacts violently to that, it’s certainly true, although Kev doesn’t realize that he’s talking about himself as much as the groupies. But that’s the nature of worship – God (or a god) can be fickle, and one never knows how it will react when you call upon it. The members of Motherfather discover that, to their chagrin, in this issue.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

East of West #22 (“A Moment of Silence”) by Nick Dragotta (artist), Jonathan Hickman (writer), Frank Martin (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

There are eleven words in this comic, and they all come on the final page. This is Nick Dragotta’s show through and through.

In my continuing effort to declare comics The Greatest Art Form In The World, we have something like issue #22 of East of West. On the very first page, we get an example of why this is far superior to prose or movies. Prose could not completely encapsulate the scale of the stacks of shipping containers, while a movie would CGI them and call it a day, making them look cartoonish (watch the end of The A-Team if you don’t believe me). This is not difficult for Dragotta (all he really needs for the containers is a pencil and a straight-edge), but the sheer immensity of the stacks is impressive, and as he focuses in on one of them and what’s inside, the scale of it all overwhelms us, as it’s supposed to do. He goes straight down to human-sized perspective in two pages, giving us vertigo as he scales downward. Then the assassins are unleashed on Xiaolian, and the book become a ballet of beautiful violence. Once again, prose wouldn’t capture as well the precision of the assassins, the terrible beauty of Xiaolian’s attendants floating in the bath, or the reptilian grace with which Xiaolian fights back. Movies would, once again, CGI it, and it would look phony. Dragotta and Martin, however, are superb. Dragotta’s designs for the assassins’ armor makes them look like insects scuttling up the side of the building on page 5, and their masks make them faceless, ruthless killers to contrast them with Xiaolian. Dragotta reserves a splash page for the bodies floating in the tub, and it’s a masterpiece of design. The three attendants form a triangle of faces, all with their eyes horribly open and blood streaming from their wounds (“painted” beautifully by Martin, I assume, as it mixes with the water). In the center of the triangle is one of the assassins, seen from beneath the surface as a blue silhouette, reminding us who did this terrible act. On the bottom, Xiaolian floats, naked, her black hair streaming around her, with a surprised look on her face. We’re supposed to believe, for a second, that the assassins have successfully completed their task, as on the next page, they (and we) are violently disabused of that notion.

Xiaolian’s nakedness is another thing that comics do better than other popular art forms. Prose, again, would fail to give us the visceral thrill of seeing a weaponless (if we don’t count her bionic arms) and naked woman fighting back against heavily-armored killers. A movie would do it well, but because of actors’ objections, we often don’t get nudity in movies, and when we do, the directors and cinematographers go out of their way to obscure the naughty bits, often to the extent of silliness. Dragotta does that, too – he makes sure that we never see Xiaolian’s vagina – but it feels more natural because of the static images – we can believe there would be a moment when a sword would block our view of her crotch. In a movie, of course, we get the flow of people as they dispatch their enemies, which can be beautiful, but a good artist can do that with static images, with the added benefit of the reader being able to see each image clearly and understand what’s going on in each panel, which occasionally isn’t evident in movies. Dragotta draws a wonderful Xiaolian – she’s always been the most interesting character in East of West, and Dragotta clearly loves drawing her – as she rises from the bath and begins destroying her enemies. She throws one aside with her legs and Dragotta draws her, lizard-like, ready to strike at the next one up, and it’s a terrifying image. She tears through the assassins gracefully, and we see every bloody panel as she takes them apart. Dragotta uses a nine-panel grid on one page, and everything is black and red, as Xiaolian’s body and those of her victims, the weapons, and the blood are all silhouetted in black, and the background is deep crimson, and the effect is magnificent. Dragotta earns the splash page of Xiaolian standing, bloody, naked, and triumphant, over her attackers. It’s a terrific juxtaposition of a beautiful woman and all her nudity implies with the linkage of sex to violence and her terrific strength, as she’s all muscle and sinew. Martin again uses vermilion liberally, so the violence of the scene is almost overwhelming. It’s the climax of the issue, and the assassins’ flight and the news of their failure is just denouement. It’s a breathtaking issue.

There is nothing in this comic that prose or movies could do better. It’s a superb example of why comics are The Best Art Form. Preach it, my brothers and sisters!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Maxx: Maxximized #26 by Michael Heisler (letterer), Sam Kieth (writer/artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), Jim Sinclair (finisher), Michael Benedetto (assistant editor), and Scott Dunbier (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, IDW.

“On Death,” by John Keats.

Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream,
And scenes of bliss pass as a phantom by?
The transient pleasures as a vision seem,
And yet we think the greatest pain’s to die.

How strange it is that man on earth should roam,
And lead a life of woe, but not forsake
His rugged path; nor dare he view alone
His future doom which is but to awake.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dark Corridor #5 (“The Red Circle Part Five: Killer’s Trail”/”Seven Deadly Daughters Part Five”/”KIller in My Sleep Chapter One”) by Rich Tommaso (writer/artist). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

In my continuing effort to declare comics The Greatest Art Form In The World, we have something like Dark Corridor. Unlike East of West, Tommaso’s comic takes place in a place that could be easily replicated on film – it’s a fictional city, but it has a tropical vibe, so Miami or Los Angeles could easily sub in for Red Circle. It’s a crime story, and people have been making crime films for as long as there have been films (The Great Train Robbery came out in 1903, for crying out loud!). So there’s nothing, really, that should make this a perfect example of why comics are The Greatest Art From In The World, except for one thing:

Ugliness.

The people in Dark Corridor are not terribly attractive. Part of that is Tommaso’s blocky line work, which doesn’t really fit with attractive people, but part of it is that Tommaso wants to make them ugly, because they’re in an ugly world doing ugly things. His men are particularly ugly, as they have crooked, broken noses and jagged cheekbones, but his women aren’t stereotypically attractive either, but they look more real because of it. Many of his women are built like brick shithouses, reminiscent of the greatest Kirby women, so that we can believe they would be as tough as the men. Even Mia, who’s a bit smaller, still looks a bit beaten up by the world so she fits nicely into this noir story. Why, you might ask, is this better than movies? Well, as much as actors try, most of them are pretty attractive. The uglier ones – Paul Giamatti comes to mind – aren’t stars who carry movies, and so the characters who are front and center tend to be more attractive than “normal” people, which just makes the movies feel a bit more artificial. This is most obvious in movies where the female character is supposed to be “ugly” but only has her hair up and glasses on – this is, of course, the Rachael Leigh Cook Syndrome. But it’s all over movies – in gangster movies, we get the debonair Robert De Niro or the brooding Al Pacino (who hasn’t aged well, but he was never ugly), while action movie stars ooze sex appeal (I don’t quite get Statham’s attractiveness, but apparently a lot of women do). I’m not even going to get into the women, as they are, of course, always stunning. The verisimilitude of movies always, for me, takes a hit when gorgeous women are on the screen, especially when it’s supposed to be a “gritty” movie. I mean, last week I saw the last Hunger Games movie (don’t judge me; my wife liked the books and it gives us a chance to see friends of ours), and despite trekking through a burned-out capital and icky sewers and getting chased by inhuman monsters, J-Law and N-Dor never looked anything other than drop-dead sexy. They were in the sewers getting chased by inhuman monster things, for crying out loud!

Anyway, Tommaso doesn’t fall into that trap. His artwork is boxy and even clunky, but it’s perfect for this comic, and it makes the crime aspect of it feel more real. Yes, you could easily make a movie with this plot. But you’d have pretty people playing the characters, and it just wouldn’t have the same vibe. Dark Corridor is not exactly gritty – the coloring is too bright, for one – but it is brutal, and it wouldn’t be quite as much if Leonardo DiCaprio and Gal Gadot were starring in it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Where Is Jake Ellis? #5 (of 5) by Nathan Edmondson (writer), Jordan Gibson (undefined), and Tonci Zonjic (artist/letterer). $3.50, 33 pgs, FC, Image.

This is two years, eight months, and nineteen days late. It doesn’t deserve anything from me.

I’ll repeat:

2 YEARS, 8 MONTHS, and 19 DAYS LATE.

Rating: Fuck you.

One totally Airwolf panel: A .gif of Debra Paget dancing:

Graduate #1 (“Humble Beginnings”) by Celia Calle (artist) and Jon Hughes (writer). $3.99, 19 pgs, FC, Overground Comics.

I have never, I don’t think, written about how someone looks when I discuss their work, mainly because it doesn’t matter. I mean, I don’t know what they all look like, of course, but for the ones I know, it doesn’t matter that, say, Kieron Gillen* and Jamie McKelvie are sexy, sexy dudes for me to like their comics. However, I’m going to write about it now. I met Celia Calle four years ago in San Diego and took her picture, as I am wont to do, and I hope, if she happens to stumble upon this, that she won’t mind me saying that she’s damned sexy. What does this have to do with her art? Well, probably nothing – she’d be a very good artist no matter what she looked like – but I find it fascinating that her art is so damned sexy, too. She uses long, languid lines that flow and ooze across the page, distending and contorting in such an uncomfortably yet thrilling sexy way that it can’t help but grab your attention. The beginning of this comic, in which our hero, Natalie, sits in a plane, is about as boring a situation as you can imagine in a story – she is literally just sitting in a seat looking out the window and talking to a dude in front of her for five pages. But Calle draws Natalie with heavily-lidded eyes and lush lips, so she smolders just looking out the window. On Page 3, she sees a strange being seemingly made out of lightning land on the wing of the plane, but the creature might as well be a Sex Panther, it’s so black and lithe and crackling with electricity. When it attacks (after Natalie can’t convince her fellow travelers that there’s anything outside, not unlike William Shatner), it’s more vicious, but Calle still bends and twists it around the cabin, and her abstract art shows it killing everyone on board in the slinkiest way possible. She slashes lines across the page to speed up the action, making it far more frenetic, until it confronts Natalie, and that’s when we learn she’s invincible. The creature doesn’t try to kill her, even acknowledging that she’ll survive when the plane crashes, and zaps off. Obviously, there’s nothing sexy about a plane crash (or a skeleton creature killing a bunch of people), but it’s not the subject matter that’s sexy, just the way Calle uses those long lines to create a crazed climax of violence. Is Calle’s art perfect? No, it’s not – she goes a bit too abstract in places, so when the creature kills the last person before getting to Natalie, it’s almost too many jumbled lines – but it’s still striking and powerful and … well, sexy. That’s just the way it is.

Oh, yeah, this is a story about Natalie, a teenage juvenile delinquent, getting shipped to a superhero school. She, um, doesn’t make it there. And she’s a bit pissed about almost getting killed. It’s a fairly standard story elevated by Calle’s art, but let’s hope the story gets better, because Calle certainly deserves it. Don’t resist the sexy art!

* When you search images for “Kieron Gillen,” these links hilariously come up as well. I’m not complaining, mind you, I just thought it was very funny.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire #4 (of 5) by Anthony Clark (colorist), Brian Clevinger (writer), Jeff Powell (letterer), Scott Wegener (artist), and Lee Black (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

One thing visual media do well is externalize existential fears, and Clevinger and Wegener have always been good at that sort of thing, beginning with their title character. Robo is the epitome of humanity’s fears of robotics gone wild – he’s completely self-aware, smarter than all of us, functionally immortal, and why couldn’t he just take over and enslave us? By making him “cuddly” – for lack of a better term – Clevinger and Wegener have drained the terror from Robo, but that doesn’t mean they do it for every threat in the book. The biomega is a way to tap into our fears about extinction and whether we’re destroying ourselves and linking it to Wegener’s terrific ability to draw monsters. The internal conflict we all have about the possibly imminent end of life on earth due to our own foolishness is not what adventure comics are for, so we get an external extinction-level threat that we can punch in the face, which is far more satisfying than trying to rein in our darkest impulses toward self-destruction. The reality of a biomega also allows us to pretend that the threat can be punched in the face, so it becomes a distraction from those dark impulses rather than a way to confront them directly. We know that this monster could end life on earth as we know it, but we also are comforted with the fact that no matter how big it gets, we can find weaponry (in this case, an old Nazi satellite) to destroy it. This means, ultimately, that it’s not our fault. Adventure fiction does this well – pats us on the head and assures us that we’re not to blame – and while I know that Clevinger and Wegener would argue (correctly, I would guess) that it’s just a story and they have no intent beyond that, it’s fascinating to consider extinction-level threats in today’s fiction when we’re staring down extinction-level threats of our own making. Where, I ask, is our very own Atomic Robo? I don’t think we will find his head in a box somewhere.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Tet #4 (of 4) by Paul Allor (artist), Paul Tucker (writer/letterer), Andy Schmidt (consulting editor), and Bobby Curnow (consulting editor). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, IDW/Comics Experience.

By not writing about the Vietnam War all that much, Tucker has crafted a fantastic war comic, which sounds counter-intuitive but really isn’t. The least interesting aspects of any war story are the sexiest parts – as many people have pointed out (I don’t know who did originally), battle scenes are thrilling even if they’re horrific, so they usually undercut the creators’ tone, especially if that tone is “war sucks” – so Tucker simply skips those. There are very few “war scenes” in this series, and when they do show up, they’re quick and don’t involve combatants as much as innocent victims, like the one we get in this issue (the main character, Eugene Smith, is a soldier, but not really a combatant, so his injury can also be classified as “non-combatant”). Tucker instead concentrates fully on the consequences of war – not just the physical impact, but how it changes lives, which is what the comic is really about. We learned last issue about the murder in issue #1 and what happened, and while it could conceivably be seen as a red herring, it wasn’t, as what happened to Chip could have happened anywhere but was heightened because he was in a war zone. It also ties into Eugene’s problem, that he was in love with Hà but couldn’t protect her and lost his chance to be with her. Tet is a complicated love story, because Tucker brings up so many issues – cultural pressure, the heightened tension of wartime, prejudice, presence – and nobody gets away clean. Hà might have needed someone, and that someone could have been Eugene, but it could have just as easily been Báo, whom she ended up with – it’s not that she doesn’t love Báo, but it’s also true that he was there when Eugene wasn’t. The differences between Eugene and Chip exist, but the gap between them isn’t as wide as Eugene might think, and that makes the murder – while not a great mystery – an interesting counterpoint to what Eugene is going through. By setting most of the story in 1984 and resorting to flashbacks, Tucker can skip the “exciting” parts of the war and instead focus on how the years have created so much emptiness in Eugene’s life that the downbeat ending feels like the only way it could end.

For a four-issue mini-series, Tet delved into quite a bit, and that’s pretty cool. It’s a very good series, and if you have a chance to pick up the trade, I suggest you do. Would I steer you wrong?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gotham by Midnight #11 (“Memories of Gotham”) by Ray Fawkes (writer), Juan Ferreyra (artist), Saida Temofonte (letterer), Rebecca Taylor (associate editor), and Mark Doyle (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC. The Spectre created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily. Jim Gordon created by Bill Finger. Maggie Sawyer created by John Byrne. Kate Spencer created by Marc Andreyko and Jesus Saiz.

Looping back around to humanity’s need (desire?) to worship (blame?), we get an even darker side of worship than that espoused by Paul Cornell in This Damned Band, and that’s the uncomfortable idea that the god we call upon to save us might not like us all that much. We invent gods that reflect ourselves, and there’s a current of self-loathing running through humanity’s veins, so of course the god who loves us (as we are, after all, fairly narcissistic) would also hate us (we might be narcissistic, but we don’t really think we deserve the love). The Spectre has always been that hatred, in one way or another, but Fawkes has done something interesting in this series that may or may not have been done before (I haven’t read every Spectre comic in existence) – he’s made Jim Corrigan a more active participant in his destruction. John Ostrander toyed with this a lot during his seminal run with the character, but Fawkes is making the Spectre less of an aspect of God’s wrath and more of an aspect of Corrigan’s wrath … which, of course, is ultimately the same thing, as God doesn’t actually exist. However, this is the DCU, so “God” does exist, and that sets up Fawkes’s finale, where we may discover whether or not Corrigan is just a very powerful schizophrenic or something supernatural. Fawkes will, I fear, take the cop-out, because this is, after all, a comic set in a superhero world, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that he has created this puzzle and forces us to consider it. The self-loathing Corrigan represents humanity’s efforts to ignore the worst aspects of ourselves, aspects we can’t completely destroy but hate, so we create a “Wrath of God” to punish ourselves because that’s easier than confronting what’s wrong with us and destroying it ourselves. The Spectre comes from a long line of flagellants, and the fact that Corrigan externalizes it (much like we get in Atomic Robo, of course) doesn’t change the fact that he’s the Spectre and therefore responsible for it. Fawkes even brings up zombies – those “unjustly killed” in Gotham – to make the metaphor a bit juicier; humanity can’t abide injustice unless justice is too difficult to employ, and then we take the path of least resistance, but those ghosts haunt our collective unconscious. The clever fact that the representatives of law and government – Jim Gordon, Maggie Sawyer, and Kate Spencer – are almost enthusiastic about shooting the zombies is telling, even as Gordon chides Sawyer for disturbing Precinct 13 – Gordon knows that humanity’s worst sins need to be put in a neat box and kept far away, with the obvious monsters babysitting them. Again, as this is a visual medium, Fawkes can’t do this alone, and Ferreyra’s drawing of Ikkondrid the Betrayed (with the significant first two syllables of its name) is another excellent metaphor – a monster literally created by the corpses of the unjustly killed. What has to be done when humanity is confronted with its sins? Humanity must destroy its memory, which is what the representatives of order are doing. The final page seems to hint at a different outcome, but Fawkes can only do so much in a comic that stars Batman. We shall see.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

All Star Section Eight #6 (of 6) (“He’s Gotta Be Strong and He’s Gotta Be Fast and He’s Gotta Be Fresh from the Fight”) by Pat Brosseau (letterer), Garth Ennis (writer), John Kalisz (colorist), John McCrea (artist), Brittany Holzherr (assistant editor), and Marie Javins (editor). Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Superhero comics, by their nature, have to be difficult to write, because you can’t inject too much realism into them, but if you don’t inject any, they become ridiculous. That fine line is tough to straddle, and it’s perhaps why the fact that superhero comics have been the dominant paradigm in American comics for over 50 years is why it’s still hard to explain to people why it is you read comics. Garth Ennis understands that, and he doesn’t resolve it in this final issue, but he explores it in gut-wrenching fashion, and not only with Six Pack. There’s typical Ennisian black humor – Powertool learns that being in an Ennis comic means watching out for yourself – but there’s also just blackness, given what happens to Dogwelder (and his family) and the Grapplah. It’s Six Pack’s show, for the most part, as Ennis cleverly twists his most famous (and one of the best ever) Superman stories (in Hitman #34) so that Superman is giving the pep talk to Six Pack, and it’s nothing like you expect. Nothing is resolved, but that’s not the point – Ennis might hold superheroes in contempt (as some of his writing might imply), but he understands the allure of them. The theme of this post is escapism, to a degree – taking our internal fears and externalizing them so that we can punch them instead of dealing with them – and Ennis gets to that very well, as he offers two possible outcomes for Six Pack, and it’s unfair to us, the readers, to choose, as one is so clearly better than the other. But in order for us to get that “good” ending, we have to be willing to admit that “reality” can’t compare and is far less preferable, even though we don’t have a choice and must pick reality due to the lack of alternatives. In “real” life, seeking alternatives leads to madness, sadness, false euphoria, and death. In the many-colored world of Superman, it leads to redemption. That’s why Ennis is such a good writer – he takes our dreams, makes them real, but shows us the cost in brutal ways, and still makes them seem worth it, even though we can’t achieve them and therefore remain ourselves. It’s why this comic is so depressing yet so very, very excellent.

Of course, Hacken seems happy. So what do I know?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Carver: A Paris Story #1 (“Who Are You?”) by Chris Hunt (writer/artist) and Paul Pope (writer/artist, back-up story). $3.99, 25 pgs, BW, Z2 Comics.

In my continuing effort to declare comics The Greatest Art Form In The World, we have something like Carver. There’s very little in this comic that couldn’t be done well in other media – a man in 1920s Paris (or possibly 1930s Paris? – the back-up story takes place in 1923, but it’s unclear how much later the main story occurs) talks with a prostitute, gets accosted by some thugs whom he dispatches with relative ease, leaving one alive to take a message back to his boss, and the boss himself in a dungeon-like place with a prisoner who, I assume, is important to Carver. It’s a first issue, so there’s a lot of set-up (and the three-page Pope back-up story might be more set-up, although we won’t know for a while, I assume), but there are no aliens that would necessitate bad CGI or lots of internal conflict that prose would be better at expressing. So why use this as an example of comics as the Greatest Art Form In The World? Well, once again, like in Dark Corridor, it has to do with the way a person is drawn.

Hunt gives us a “bad guy” (we’re fairly confident he’s the bad guy, but it’s not completely clear yet) named Stacker Lee, who dresses to impress. He wears a white suit and black tie (I mean, the book is in black and white, so it could be a lavender suit, for all I know, but let’s just go with white) and is totes stylish, which makes his menacing speeches land even harder (although I’m not quite sure how he snaps his fingers with leather gloves on – it wouldn’t make a sound, would it?). However, he’s wearing what can charitably called a large napkin on his head to conceal his identity, and Hunt somehow manages to make it work. It doesn’t look as scary as a good mask might, but it still doesn’t look completely ridiculous, and it would if this were a movie. In fact, if they make a movie of this comic (stranger things have happened!), I will bet that the first thing a director will change is the serviette on Stacker Lee’s head. It’s weird, because even though it doesn’t look great in the comic, it still works, especially as Lee isn’t quite as terrifying as he wants to seem. He coughs a bit, which probably signifies something is seriously wrong with him but still lessens his impact (deliberately, I’m sure) and he responds to Carver killing his messengers humorously, as he did really just want them to deliver a message, not beat Carver up. He’s still the bad guy, however, and his look is a big part of that. It’s just another reason why comics are awesome – Stacker Lee can look a bit silly in this comic, but because it’s a static medium, Hunt can get away with it. Huzzah!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Abaddon by Koren Shadmi (writer/artist). $24.99, 227 pgs, FC, Z2 Comics.

Koren Shadmi creates weird comics, and this looks like yet another one!

DMZ: The Deluxe Edition Book Five by Riccardo Burchielli (artist), Jeromy Cox (colorist), Jared K. Fletcher (letterer), Shawn Martinbrough (artist), Brian Wood (writer), and Jeb Woodard (editor). $29.99, 303 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Hey, I can finally finish reading this!

Daredevil volume 4: The Autobiography of Matt Murdock by Joe Caramagna (letterer), Marc Guggenheim (writer), Peter Krause (artist), Chris Samnee (artist/writer), Mark Waid (writer), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Charles Beacham (assistant editor), Sana Amanat (editor), and Ellie Pyle (editor). $15.99, 90 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Man, these Marvel trades just get thinner and thinner.

Department of Monsterology volume 2: Sabbaticals by Jim Campbell (letterer), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Steve Denton (colorist), PJ Holden (artist), Lovern Kindzierski (colorist), Ruth Redmond (colorist), Gordon Rennie (writer), Matt Soffe (colorist), and Alexander Finbow (editor). $19.99, 119 pgs, FC, Renegade Arts Entertainment.

I dug the first volume of this series, so why wouldn’t I dig the second?

New Lone Wolf and Cub volume 7 by Kazuo Koike (writer), Hideki Mori (artist), Studio Cuti (letterer), Dana Lewis (translator), and Chris Warner (editor). $13.99, 248 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

Some day I will read these. That day is not today!

The Private Eye by Marcos Martin (artist), Brian K. Vaughan (writer), and Muntsa Vicente (colorist). $49.99, 276 pgs, FC, Image.

Man, this looks excellent. I’m so glad it never got published except digitally!

Space Riders by Ryan Ferrier (letterer), Fabian Rangel Jr. (writer), and Alexis Ziritt (artist). $12.99, 90 pgs, FC, Black Mask Comics.

Holy shit, this looks insane. I hope it’s as good as it looks!

Spider-Gwen volume 1: Most Wanted? by Clayton Cowles (letterer), Jason Latour (writer), Rico Renzi (colorist), Robbi Rodriguez (artist), Sarah Brunstad (assistant editor), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $16.99, 120 pgs, FC, Marvel.

So she’s in a band? Is the next DC/Marvel crossover a Battle of the Bands with her and Black Canary?

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl volume 2: Squirrel You Know it’s True by Clayton Cowles (letterer), Erica Henderson (artist/colorist), Eloise Narrington (trading card artist), Ryan North (writer), Rico Renzi (colorist), Sarah Brunstad (assistant editor), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $14.99, 96 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Yes, it has some padding (old stories) to fill out the trade, but I’m not listing all those creators, sorry!

Tortured Life by Jim Campbell (letterer), Neil Gibson (writer/editor), Eric Irving (layouter), Dan Watters (writer), Caspar Wijngaard (artist), and Jan Wijngaard (colorist). $17.99, 134 pgs, FC, TPub.

This is about a dude who can see how everyone is going to die. In other words, it’s cheery!

Widow Archives volume 1: Flesh and Blood by Mike Wolfer (writer/artist). $9.99, 79 pgs, BW, Mike Wolfer Entertainment.

This looks great (Wolfer is a good artist), but it has to be terrible, right? I mean, it can’t be any good, right?

Continuing with the long, loooooong tradition of checking out when the books actually shipped as opposed to their announced shipping dates, let’s take a look at the list!

The Abaddon: 28 October: Six weeks late.
Atomic Robo: 9 December. One week early?!?!?
Carver: 11 November. Three weeks late. Oh well.
DMZ: 2 December. Right on time. I mean, it’s an old book getting a reprint (see below), so this shouldn’t be a surprise.
Daredevil: 25 November. One week late. I wonder why.
Dark Corridor: 2 December. Right on time!
East of West: 16 September. Almost 3 months late!
The Fuse: 18 November. This shipped last week, so it was only one week late. My store only got one copy, and they gave it to the only other subscriber, so I had to wait a week like a sucker.
Gotham by Midnight: 25 November. I think it came out on time, but there was a screw-up at my shop, as Diamond didn’t ship them any last week and didn’t ship them any Gotham Academy this week. It’s so confusing!!!!
Graduate: 9 December. One week early?!?!?
The Maxx: 2 December. Right on time (which isn’t that great an accomplishment, as this book is 20 years old or so).
Monsterology: 25 November. One week late.
New Lone Wolf and Cub: 2 December. On time!
Private Eye: 2 December. Right on time!
Section Eight: 11 November. Three weeks late. Strange. DC has been on top of shipping since the reboot, but I guess they figured this didn’t tie in with anything, so no harm, no foul.
Space Riders: 25 November. One week late.
Spider-Gwen: 25 November. One week late.
Squirrel Girl: 25 November. One week late. Did Thanksgiving screw up all these Marvel trades somehow?
Tet: 9 December. One week early?!?!?
This Damned Band: 2 December. Right on time!
Tortured Life: 9 September. So almost three months late. Better late than never!
Where Is Jake Ellis?: 2 December. Technically it’s right on time, when you consider it was resolicited … or we could say it’s over two years late, as it was originally supposed to come out in March 2013.
Widow Archives: 28 October. Six weeks late. So sad!

Money spent this week: $237.83. YTD: $6775.55.

**********

Not a lot of links this time around, and it’s already Sunday so I don’t want to spend too much time finding them, but I will say that even if Navy wasn’t a much, much better football team than Army, they would still destroy them because holy shit look at the helmets they’re going to wear in the game!!!!!!!!! Some people call this “tacky.” Those people are Commies who should be dropped into a Black Friday sale with low, low price tags affixed to them because they hate ‘Murica so much. I mean, those helmets might be America’s greatest contribution to world history ever.

But now it’s time for the Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Tear in Your Hand” – Tori Amos (1992) “You don’t know the power that you have”
2. “Here’s to the Meantime” – Grace Potter1 and the Nocturnals (2007) “If the devil made a fire you’d be the wood”
3. “Let it Die” – Foo Fighters (2007) “Hearts gone cold and hands were tied”
4. “Believe” – King’s X (2001) “If you’re past the point of turning back and your innocence is gone”
5. “Charlie Boy” – Lumineers (2012) “Sons rebelled, while fathers yelled, and mothers clutched the cross”
6. “Turn it on Again” – Genesis (1980) “You’re just another face that I know from the TV show”
7. “I Do Not Hook Up” – Kelly Clarkson (2009) “This may not last but this is now”2
8. “Fuck Around (All Night)”3 – Pepper (2013) “Now you’re doing it right, I love how you twist that knife”
9. “The Lamb” – Dessa (2013) “‘Cause they could sew your hands together but they can’t make you pray”
10. “Valerie”4 – Steve Winwood (1987) “So cool, she was like jazz on a summer’s day”

1 Grace Potter’s solo album that came out this year is awesome. I thought you should know.

2 Yeah, I know. I still love her music!

3 That is the very NSFW work official video. I actually like the “audition video” a bit more.

4 You want to watch that video just for the hair, don’t you? DON’T YOU?!?!?!?

Hey, it’s time for some Totally Random Lyrics!

“Burberry Beamer Beakheads
Leaving Adidas sleek mystique reversed
Without a dream or scream between ’em
Believing time does reimburse”

Hey, have a good week. Oh, and Penn State’s Women’s Soccer just won the National Championship today, so my alma mater has one at least one National Championship every year since 2007. That’s pretty danged cool.

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