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What I bought – 20 and 27 July 2011

by  in Comic News Comment

Later, over cigarettes and coffee, Perry returned to the subject of thievery. “My friend Willie-Jay used to talk about it. He used to say that all crimes were only varieties of theft. Murder included. When you kill a man you steal his life. I guess that makes me a pretty big thief. See, Don – I did kill them. Down there in court, old Dewey made it sound like I was prevaricating – on account of Dick’s mother. Well, I wasn’t. Dick helped me, he held the flashlight and picked up the shells. And it was his idea, too. But Dick didn’t shoot them, he never could’ve – though he’s damn quick when it comes to running down an old dog. I wonder why I did it.” He scowled, as though the problem was new to him, a newly unearthed stone of surprising, unclassified color. “I don’t know why,” he said, as if holding it to the light, and angling it now here, now there. “I was sore at Dick. The tough brass boy. But it wasn’t Dick. Or the fear of being identified. I was willing to take that gamble. And it wasn’t because of anything the Clutters did. They never hurt me. Like other people. Like people have all my life. Maybe it’s just that the Clutters were the ones who had to pay for it.” (Truman Capote, from In Cold Blood)



















































































Oh, comics. After San Diego, I always go through a refractory period, if you want to call it that, and unfortunately it coincides with the two lousiest weeks of the year – when the summer really gets hot and the kids aren’t back to school yet. So I’m really not in the mood to actually write about comics this week (or next week, to be honest), especially after listening to Kelly’s podcast and getting really angry about the way the DC people treated a fan asking honest questions. Jesus, DC, get a fucking grip. Anyway, I do want to review some of the single issues I got in San Diego (people were nice enough to give them to me, after all), but I apologize in advance if these aren’t up to my usual standards. Considering how poor my usual standards are, LOOK OUT!!!!



Abattoir #6 (of 6) by Darren Lynn Bousman (creator), Michael Peterson (conceiver), Rob Levin (writer), Troy Peteri (writer/letterer), Wayne Nichols (penciler), and Andrei Pervukin (colorist). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Radical Comics.

I commend Levin and Peteri for making this not a standard horror story, but more of a psychological one, but I still didn’t love it. Maybe I have to go back and re-read it, but it still feels kind of vague. I don’t care if I get all the answers, but it’s not like this is some kind of surreal experimental comic – it’s a horror story, and I felt too much was left unanswered. But, as I pointed out, maybe I missed something that will become clearer when I re-read it. I also felt that Richard kind of wimped out at the end, and it bothered me. I suppose it could be part of the vague-ness I feel about the book, and I get that he had gone through a trauma, but I also feel like the ending could have been a bit stronger. So many writers go for the “shock” at the end, and more often than not, it doesn’t really work. I do appreciate that the writers left Crone somewhat mysterious, because he’s a creepy enough character and doesn’t really need explanation. I can’t really recommend Abattoir, but it’s not a bad attempt at a psychological horror story.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




All Nighter #2 (of 5) (“Stealing Glances”) by David Hahn (writer/artist) and Aditya Bidikar (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, BW, Image.

The center pages of my issue came loose. I hate when that happens.

Anyway, All Nighter takes an odd and even fantastical turn. I’m certainly willing to see where Hahn goes with it, but I really wonder about it. It seems very weird. But Hahn is doing a spot-on job with the characters so far, so I’m with him for the duration!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Avengers Academy #16 (“Fear Itself, Chapter 2: A God-Awful Small Affair”) by Christos Gage (writer), Tom Raney (penciler), Andrew Hennessy (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs*, FC, Marvel.

SPOILERS, I guess?

I’ve liked Avengers Academy, and this is a perfectly fine issue, but a few things bothered me. In principle, I don’t have a problem with the “save somebody only to see something terrible happen to them after you save them” theme, especially because this is more about Veil and what she does after the person she saves is killed, but it did seem a bit sadistic of Gage, especially when we’re supposed to feel worse about the mother and her daughter than we do about the first part of the book, in which Hank Pym simply tells us that the Absorbing Man just killed thousands of people. I know, I know – one death is tragic, a thousand deaths is a statistic – but it still feels weird. Both Marvel and DC have ramped up the “extraneous deaths” in their comics over the past decade or so, and most of the time, it’s handled about as poorly as this – one of the characters mentions that hundreds or thousands were killed, but we never see any corpses (or, if we do, they’ve been turned to stone) and no one ever mentions it again. Juxtaposing that with the death of a character who has no personality trait except “mother” and “buried alive” seems weird, especially because it’s clear Gage means for us to care more about random lady than random Emiratis.

Anyway, Creel and Titania’s love story made me go awww. Even if they are bad guys. Can’t those two just find a nice place to make evil babies?

* Hey, you notice that Marvel has started doing 20-page $2.99 issues without much fanfare? There’s no bad press about it, as far as I’ve heard. That’s how you do it, DC – subtly, without trumpeting the fact that you’re charging less than your rival but not pointing out that you’re cutting story pages. Of course, what does DC know about subtlety?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #5 by Joe Casey (writer), Mike Huddleston (artist/colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

Huddleston really is astonishing on this comic. We get a fully-painted look during the battle in Times Square, which transitions to scratchy pencils as Butcher flees the scene and hides out, a glorious Day-Glo freakout as Willard and Butcher have kind of a mind-meld, and the switch from nighttime greens to the violent pink of Jihad’s ambush. It’s breathtaking, really.

And I like that Willard isn’t a total tool. Nice move by Casey there.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #2 by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Val Staples (colorist). $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

I know checking in on the Archie gang and seeing how seedy their lives have become isn’t terribly original, but this book is a hell of a lot of fun to read. Each iteration of Criminal has been excellent, but there’s something about Brubaker really getting the personalities of the characters without being too, too obnoxious about it that makes me smile. And Phillips’s “1960s” are style is so much fun. As usual, Criminal is a fine comics publication. And yet any book with Wolverine in it automatically outsells it. That makes me gnash my teeth in amazement. (“Gnash” is a word you only ever see with “teeth.” Why is that, I wonder? It’s a perfectly fine word for other usages. Poor “gnash.”)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Cyclops #5 (of eight) (“The Rebel”) by Matz (writer/translator), Luc JacamonSomebody whose last name appears to be De Meyere but who is otherwise not credited (artist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Marshal Dillon (letterer). $3.95, 22 pgs, FC, Archaia.

Well, that’s disappointing. Luc Jacamon doesn’t draw this issue of Cyclops, and I wonder if that’s why there’s been a delay, even though I thought this was actually finished years ago. If it was finished years ago, why claim the entire thing is by Jacamon? “De Meyere” is okay, but he (she?) lacks the roughness of Jacamon, which makes the book a bit too cartoonish for me. Matz’s story continues to be a bit disappointing after a strong beginning, as it’s looking like a simple “multinational corporations are eeeeeeevil” thing that we’ve seen hundreds of times before, but Jacamon brought a nice look to the book, at least. De Meyere is aping Jacamon’s linework fairly well, but she (he?) lacks the attention to detail of Jacamon. Too bad. I wonder what happened.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Detective #880 (“My Dark Architect”) by Scott Snyder (writer), Jock (artist), Dave Baron (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Holy crappity-crap, that’s a great cover. Man, Jock can knock those out, can’t he?

Anyway, SPOILERS ahoy! Beware! Be aware!

So while I was listening to the latest 3 Chicks podcast (where else will I get my righteous rage?), Maddy brought up that she was a bit skeevish about the way mental illness is portrayed in the Bat-books. She has a point, but if I really want realistic portrayals of mental illness, I probably shouldn’t be reading a comic where more than one man dresses up as a bat and beats people up. I’m just sayin’. However, with regard to James Gordon, I agree with her: Snyder hasn’t shown us what he wants, and if he doesn’t, this will be a bit disappointing. It can’t just be “He’s crazy and evil,” because the Joker is that guy in Gotham (and the DCU in general). As good as Snyder has been at building this story, I fear he will not have a satisfying ending next issue (well, not satisfying to me, at least), and that will be upsetting, because this run has been so magnificent. I can only hope.

And I love how Barbara Gordon (we’re calling her “senior” now? and isn’t she Barbara’s mother, so why is the younger calling her by her name?), having just been told that a mass murderer is coming for her, opens the door so cavalierly. Maybe you could use the peephole, Mrs. Gordon? And I would love it if next issue Dick just straight up shoots the Joker in the head and tells Bruce, “Yeah, I quit. Find a jury who would convict me.” That would make Detective #881 the greatest comic book ever written.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:








Elephantmen #31-33 (“Man and Elephantman Part Two: A Ship to Cross a Sea of Suffering”; “Man and Elephantman Part Three: The Power of the Elephant!”; “The Lovely Bones”) by Richard Starkings (writer), Axel Medellin (artist, issues #31-32), Shaky Kane (artist, issue #33), and Gregory Wright (colorist). $3.99 each, 22, 27, and 25 pgs, FC, Image.

Starkings gave me these three issues in San Diego, as his mailing system has broken down a bit recently, and it was fun to read them all at once. The main plot deals with the murders of the various hybrids and who’s behind it and why, which is what issue #33, with Kane’s oddball art, is all about. Starkings does has some fun with it, though – in issue #32, Ebony Hide hallucinates while under the influence of a drug that he’s a Conan-esque barbarian, fighting dragon-riding sorcerors and beautiful women who turn into monsters. Starkings continues to show how confident he is with regard to this series and his writing – he takes weird detours that seem to be simply him amusing himself, but it all points toward the main plot, and when he focuses on one thing (like the reasons behind the murders), he can write a gripping (if a bit obvious) horror story. Medellin continues to grow artistically, as his Conan-inspired work on issue #32 is a delight, while Kane is a perfect choice for the weirdness of Sebastian Bone and his wife. Kane (or Starkings) isn’t afraid to have some fun (a famous elephant gets killed in issue #33), but while the revelation about the murders isn’t as terrifying as it might be (mainly because Starkings has done a fairly skillful job leading us to the point), it still makes an impression and shows us, once again, that monsters come in all shapes and sizes. These three issues show why Elephantmen continues to be one of the best series out there – it’s tense, interesting, clever, humanistic, creepy, and backed with strong artwork. And Starkings even provides a primer on lettering comics in issue #32, to boot!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ (issue #32 is my favorite, but all three are pretty much equal in quality)

One totally Airwolf panel:




Fables #107 (“Waking Beauty”) by Bill Willingham (writer), Terry Moore (artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Willingham checks in on Sleeping Beauty, who’s still sleeping, covering Gepetto’s city with a forest, and attracting the attention of emperor-pretenders. One such, Jubilee Mirant, has come up with a plan – enlist men, make them princes, and let them kiss Beauty in the hopes that she’ll wake up. No, it’s not the greatest plan, but his right-hand man comes up with a better one … all for naught when the princess’s body is stolen in the night by a rival faction. So it’s a nice little standalone story (much like Eric Shanower’s Oz story a few issues ago) that clearly will be important in the future. Moore does a solid job with the pencils, especially the violence, and the way he shows “Emperor” Lindworm at the end is rather nice. All in all, another good issue of Fables. After the disappointing end to the Dark Man saga, it’s appreciated.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Generation Hope #9 (“Better”) by Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), and Dave Sharpe (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

More SPOILERS ahead, people!

Okay, I don’t want people to think I don’t like this issue, because I do. It’s a wonderful single-issue story that reminds us what the world is like for mutants outside the X-aegis who don’t know how to handle it when their power manifests itself. Gillen does a very nice job bringing three completely new characters to life in a very few pages (which is probably his biggest strength as a writer, to be honest) and McKelvie is fantastic, as usual. Gillen and McKelvie have a nice rapport, which is why the fact that so much of this book is told through McKelvie’s art isn’t surprising – Gillen knows that McKelvie can handle it. It’s a very good issue, all-around.

However … some things bug me about it, mostly tangential things that come with the baggage of years of comic book reading rather than from the issue itself. First, I don’t know if the idea of a mutant unable to handle his powers and killing himself is done any better here than it’s been done before, most notably in that famous New Mutants issue. That was powerful not only because it was well told, but because it was almost revolutionary in terms of mainstream superhero comics. This is certainly a “me” problem because Gillen can’t help that this story has been told before, as plots are constantly recycled. But it leads into something else, which I’ll get to.

Second, I didn’t buy that Luke would be such a complete dick. It felt forced, and while Gillen does a nice job both with Zee and why his transformation would be horrible and even with Luke right before he whips out his cell phone, from then on, it’s odd, because Luke seems far more horrible than we expect. I can certainly see someone doing that to Zee, but not someone with whom he appears to be friends. I don’t know – it just felt off, slightly, and made Zee’s decision to kill himself a bit less organic. Going back to that New Mutants story (issue #45, by the way), Claremont, in his overblown way, made the kid’s problem seem much more unfortunate, and even though he didn’t have the same problems Zee does, the reader still feels like the persecution could actually drive him to kill himself. Zee’s predicament is bad enough, and Luke’s response to it feels a bit forced.

Finally, there’s Wolverine. I’m a bit sick of Wolverine’s overuse, as I’ve written before, and I wish someone else had spoken to Kenji. Every X-person has some kind of trauma in their past, and I’m a bit annoyed that Wolverine has somehow become the conscience of the team. To dredge up history again, when Psylocke became a ninja and Wolverine comforted her, it was interesting because we’d rarely seen that side of Logan before and we could understand that he would open up in that situation. Now, he’s like goddamned Dr. Phil, and it’s kind of annoying. Gillen did this just recently in Uncanny X-Men, but at least that was with Logan and Hope, and I guess it’s been established that they have some kind of weird relationship because she reminds him of Jean (which, you know, ew). But it’s annoying when Wolverine shows up all over the place to talk people down. Again, it might be just me. But who else is here?

So. Overall, a very good issue. The problems I had with it shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Gillen is writing the kind of book I want to read – some action, sure, but a more character-driven series that examines what it means to be a mutant (and, in the real-world analogy, a minority) and how it affects not only those who are mutants but those around them. That’s impressive in today’s mainstream comics climate, where it’s ACTION! all the time!!!!! We don’t need that in every issue, do we?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Hellblazer #281 (“Phantom Pains Part Five: Choke”) by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I like how John isn’t good enough to defeat the demon and needs help from Epiphany. Milligan has done a nice job making John’s wife an equal partner in the relationship, so it’s nice to see it here. And I also like that John is becoming a bit more introspective. I’m still very keen to see where Milligan takes him, and I hope he keeps taking him there for quite a while, because I love this series right now.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Herc #5 (“Lost City”) by Greg Pak (writer), Fred van Lente (writer), Neil Edwards (penciller), Cory Hamscher (inker), Jesus Aburtov (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Pak and van Lente are beginning to make this feel more like The Incredible Hercules, which is a good thing. There’s a bit more humor, some good adventure, and the good dialogue that made the previous iteration such a fun comic to read. I’m still not completely in love with Edwards’s pencils, but I’m not sure why. I don’t mind that he’s Bryan Hitch-lite, because artists do that all the time, but he seems to have Hitch’s linework without his utter commitment to each panel (say what you will about Hitch, but one reason why he takes so long is because of the details, I’m sure), and while that allows him to draw, say, five consecutive monthly issues, which is nice, I’m not sure that he’s the right artist for the book, which requires an artist with a bit more of a sense of humor, which Edwards hasn’t shown yet (Hitch hasn’t in years, either). So while the art is pleasant enough to look at, something is missing from it. It’s weird.

But I’m liking the writing more and more each issue, so there’s that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Kirby: Genesis #2 (“The Unknown Lands”) by Kurt Busiek (writer), Jack Herbert (artist), Alex Ross (artist), Vinicius Andrade (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

Busiek is still world-building with this, although he’s very good at doing that on the fly and still giving us plenty of action, so we get a sasquatch, an alien abduction, two characters who are totally NOT Thor and Hercules from Marvel, a firefight, and two villains. Oh, and a nice ass shot. You just can’t have a comic without a nice ass shot, can you? So, yeah – a lot happens in this comic, but Busiek is still laying the groundwork. That’s why he’s, you know, good at superhero comics. Herbert continues to impress with the art, and Andrade’s colors are superb – very Kirby-esque, which is kind of the point. So far with this series, so good.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


DC Comics Presents: Metal Men 100-Page Spectacular. $7.99, DC.

I didn’t read this, because it’s kind of like a trade and I had so many other comics to read before posting this, but I wanted to point out that after the first chapter, the rest of the book looks like this:


Jesus, DC. Really? Are you motherfuckers professional or not? I mean, this would be bad enough with any artist, but you pull this shit with Maguire’s crisp pencils? I hope someone from DC is reading this (probably not) and apologizes and reprints this fucker and gives it to anyone who bought for free. FOR FREE, I SAY!!!!!! This is a joke. Stupid motherfucking DC. (Yes, yes, caveat emptor and all, but shouldn’t I expect a small degree of professionalism from a comic book company? I mean, really. Didn’t anyone look at this before they shipped it?)



Malignant Man #4 (of 4) by James Wan (creator/story), Michael Alan Nelson (writer), Piotr Kowalski (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

At the con, I stopped by Peter Nguyen’s booth in Artists’ Alley. I knew I recognized the name but I couldn’t remember from where. Well, he’s done the covers to this series, so that’s where I’ve heard of him. Norah wanted a print of his showing Batgirl, and it’s weird – you can tell the print and these covers are by the same artist, but the print is much nicer than these covers. Strange, that.

Anyway, this series has been pretty good, although it doesn’t contain too many surprises – Alan and Sarah head into the stronghold of the bad guy, mayhem ensues, and it ends ambiguously only because it’s setting up a sequel. The way Alan wins is rather clever, I must admit, but it’s basically an action movie with a bit of a sci-fi twist, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not sure if it’s worth 16 dollars, but it’s a fun read, and Kowalski does a nice job with the rough art. If you’re interested in the trade, I’ll just warn you – it’s bloody. Really bloody. But who doesn’t love some blood?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Marksmen #1 (of 6) by David Baxter (writer), Dave Elliot (writer), Javier Aranda (penciler), Garry Leach (finisher), and Jessica Kholinne (colorist). $1.00, 32 pgs, FC, Image.

This is the first of the few titles that Gianluca Glazer gave to me at the con and which the company he works for, Benaroya Publishing, is putting out in conjunction with Image. I’d like to thank him for the bounty! I’d also like to point out that this is a #1 issue, it’s one thin dollar, and it’s 32 pages long. This is from a small publishing company, yet Marvel not only doesn’t give us extra pages in its #1 issues, it jacks up the price. Now that’s marketing!

Anyway, this comic relies on a nice high concept and plays out as an action movie – I don’t have any problems with action movies, so I enjoyed this, even though I didn’t love it. In the future, the United States has been riven by civil war and the infrastructure has been destroyed. Scientists rebuilt San Diego, which is a bastion of civilization protected by “Marksmen” – descendants of Navy Seals. Of course, there are barbarian hordes out in the world, and the Marksmen need to go around shooting them!

One of the Marksmen, named Drake (code-named Ulysses), is wandering around Apache Junction, AZ (well, what’s left of it) looking for technology. The New San Diegans are enamoured with technology, and the Marksmen ride around looking for it. Drake is spotted by two groups – one that wants to kill him, the other that is fleeing someone and wants his help. The second group is running away from Texas, where a charismatic preacher and an enigmatic outlaw have created a theocracy. Of course, the Lone Star people want New San Diego’s tech, and they’re riding west at that moment! So Drake and the people he met also head west, and when they reach New San Diego, they prepare for battle!

So, yeah, it’s your standard post-apocalyptic battle story, with liberal amounts of The Road Warrior and The Book of Eli thrown in, but there’s nothing really wrong with that. The writers do a good job keeping everything hopping, breezily zipping over the clichés and giving us some nice scenes. The art is interesting, because Leach is such a pro that his finishes look very strong, and there’s a definite Chris Weston vibe to it, and I swear that one panel could have been lifted from John McCrea’s work on The Monarchy. Kholinne slicks the lines a bit too much, especially as we’re supposed to be in the middle of a desert in a post-apocalyptic world, but the art’s not bad. It’s just interesting how much influence Leach has.

As this is a six-issue mini-series, I’m sure there’s far more going on here than an invasion by crazy Texans. This isn’t a bad start, although I do hope it gets a bit deeper as we go along.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Next Men #8 by John Byrne (writer/artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

So, at the end of this issue, there’s a box that reads “To be concluded!” I checked and issue #10 hasn’t been solicited, so I wonder if Byrne is done with Next Men for good. It seems very weird to bring it back for nine issues after so many years. And if he had only nine issues left, why did Dark Horse kill it in the first place? Or did he have more to write but the sales on this just aren’t very good? Oh well. I’ll see what’s what next issue, but it’s very odd.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




The Outsider #2 (of 3) (“Once Upon a Time in the East”) by James Robinson (writer), Javi Fernandez (artist), The Hories (colorists), and John J. Hill (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

James Robinson apparently isn’t good with straight superhero comics, as his recent DC work proves. It’s mostly because he’s kind of nasty, and he does it well. This is a good series because the Outsider is so evil yet so charismatic that he’s compelling, and Robinson is really good at that sort of thing. DC gave away the ending to this issue already, but that doesn’t mean Michael’s mission to find out who’s trying to kill him isn’t fascinating. Some people just can’t do bright, shiny superhero books. DC shouldn’t try to force Robinson to do that. Because he’s better at this kind of comic. So let him write them!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Project Superman #2 (of 3) (“In These Small Hands”) by Scott Snyder (plotter), Lowell Francis (plotter/scripter), Gene Ha (artist), Art Lyon (colorist), and Rob Leigh (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Here’s another “Flashpoint” mini-series I’m really enjoying. I’ve always like Ha’s art, of course, but recently it seemed to be getting a bit stiffer, but in this, he’s cutting loose, and it’s very nice. I don’t know if he’s rushed, so it’s looser, but I like it! Plus, Snyder and Francis throw us a bit of a curve ball with regard to “Subject Zero’s” (whose real name escapes me) relationship with Kal and his role in the story. That was pretty neat. So, yeah – I’m not sure if we’re going to jump ahead many years to see what happens after Kal is set free, because we already know he stays right there until Cyborg, Batman, and Flash set him free, but I’m enjoying this series too. Letting creators go nuts – who could have believed it would work?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:








Red Spike #1-3 by Jeff Cahn (writer), Salvador Navarro (artist), Mark Texeira (artist, issues #2-3), Ifansyah Noor (colorist), and Josh Aitken (letterer). $1.00 (issue #1) and $2.99 (#2-3), 30, 28, and 28 pgs, FC, Image.

This the second Benaroya title in this post, and it’s a bit easier to judge it, because three issues have come out as opposed to one of Marksmen. However, the high concept of Marksmen – post-apocalyptic warfare – is, to me, a bit more interesting than that of Red Spike – super-soldiers – but your opinion may vary.

Cahn does a fairly good job taking what could easily be a cliché-ridden script and injecting some interesting things into it. The basic set-up is that the government has somehow figured out how to produce large amounts of adrenaline in soldiers, giving them all sorts of standard superpowers. But, of course, there are risks, as we learn over the course of the first three issues. The two stars of the book – Greg and Matt – have distinct personalities, which is always nice. Greg is a bit of a rascal, but he’s also soft-hearted enough to woo one of the doctors at the base where the Red Spike soldiers are trained. We would expect Matt to be his natural rival, but he and Matt are friends, and while Matt is a bit more of a good soldier – following orders and such – he’s not a dick about it. Cahn does a nice job making sure that these guys don’t fall into stereotypes – Matt thinks the doctor, Margaret, is hot, but he also doesn’t try to get her out from under Greg. He may yet, but he hasn’t so far!

The overall plot is fairly predictable – the government is up to something, Greg finds out, goes on the lam, and Matt is ordered to stop him – but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. Cahn structures the book well, with the flashbacks (Texeira provides the art for those) only beginning in the second issue, so we’ve already gotten an idea of the men before we learn more about them. I imagine that Matt will come to his senses and realize that he needs to be on Greg’s side, but we’ll see.

I’m not a huge fan of Navarro’s art, not only because of the presence of actors in key roles – Ed Harris, Patrick Stewart, and I think Rod Steiger (even though he’s been dead for years) show up in this comic. More than that, however, there’s a stiffness to his work that puts me in mind of Paul Gulacy but without Gulacy’s command of figures, layouts, and storytelling. I don’t hate the art, but it’s kind of average. Texeira’s brief appearances make this more obvious – whatever you think of Texeira, at least he has a distinct style.

This is another decent-but-not-great offering from Benaroya. Let’s move on!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




The Rocketeer Adventures #3 (of 4) by Ryan Sook (writer/artist/colorist/letterer, “A Rocketeer Story”), Joe R. Lansdale (writer, “Heaven’s Devils”), Bruce Timm (plotter/artist, “Heaven’s Devils”), Jonathan Ross (writer, “Junior Rocketeers”), Tommy Lee Edwards (artist/colorist, “Junior Rocketeers”), and John Workman (letterer, “Junior Rocketeers”). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, IDW.

I know that Ryan Sook is kind-of implying that Betty is being irrational when she wishes that Cliff would give up being the Rocketeer and devote his life to her, but did she really want him to leave her to be robbed and probably raped by thugs instead of saving her? I mean, really.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Rombies #1 by Tom Taylor (writer), Skye Ogden (artist), and Mikiko Ponziek (colorist). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Gestalt Comics.

I read the preview copy of this book after last year’s Comic-Con and wasn’t too impressed – it was zombies in ancient Rome, which isn’t a bad idea in itself, but Taylor didn’t do much in that short preview to really hook me. This issue, which the nice people at Gestalt also gave me, is a lot better. It’s in color, which shouldn’t make that much of a difference if the artist is good (and Ogden is pretty good), but Ponziek’s colors do add a lushness to the comic that wasn’t there before, making the poignant scene at the end more so. So there’s that. Taylor’s story, which seemed to be about zombies, turns out to be about a Jewish man trying to bring his daughter back to life by transforming her into a golem, which, naturally, doesn’t go very well. Taylor begins the story in A.D. 80, when the populace is fleeing a burning Rome. Then we’re in 66, and a man is met in the market by stranger, and he gradually unburdens his heart to him – nine years earlier, in an attempt to bring his daughter back to life, he dabbled in the dark arts, with predictably horrible results. Of course, the stranger is sinister as well, and he has plans of his own.

It’s a pretty good introduction to the series – we know bad things are coming, so Taylor gets that out of the way quickly, and the story is far more emotionally resonant than the preview issue. He also does a good job with the characters, and gives us a good sense of where the story is going. From the preview issue, it seemed like this would be a rather pedestrian zombie story. From this issue, it’s obvious that Taylor is going for more of a political thriller vibe with some horror elements thrown in. The stranger in the market has his own plans for the golem, and while Taylor doesn’t get into the political history of Rome too much in this issue, Nero was still around in 66 and he was still, well, insane, so it’s not hard to realize that plenty of people had their own agenda.

As I wrote when I read the preview issue, Ogden’s art is cartoony but not obnoxiously so, and he does a good job with the ancient setting. He really nails the horror scene in the daughter’s crypt, and I imagine part of that is due to Ponziek, whose colors work very well in this scene.

You can get Rombies at Gestalt’s web site, although I’m sure you can probably find it at a good comics store in a large city. Frequent commenter Kris Bather likes it, too! So there’s that.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:






Samurai’s Blood #1-2 by Owen Wiseman (writer), Nam Kim (penciler), Matthew Dalton (inker), Sakti Yuwono (colorist), and Josh Aitken (letterer). $2.99, 32 and 28 pgs, FC, Image.

I like this comic slightly more than the previous two Benaroya books, mainly because it doesn’t rest on a high concept, it simply relies on old-fashioned storytelling, and I appreciate that. Basically, in the 17th century, an evil samurai kills his master, takes over, and starts killing every member of his family. Naturally, one escapes, with his sister and his own samurai in tow, and they vow revenge!!!! Yes, it’s not the most original story, but what is, really? This can work, and Wiseman does a decent job making the three main characters interesting and not as stereotypical as might expect. The master, Jun, bears a heavy burden as the last of his clan, and he’s also learning how to be a master. The samurai, Kayashi, is hot-headed, of course, but also a great fighter and lover (he’s in love with Mayuko, the sister). She herself appears, by the end of the second issue, to be far more than she seems. The relationship between Jun and Kayashi is interesting because, as the narration reminds us, the samurai must obey his master above all else, yet Kayashi is torn between his desire to fight everyone, right now, and Jun’s desire to proceed with caution, even after Mayuko gets kidnapped. So this is not quite a simple “kill everyone now” story, because Jun has far more on his mind than just revenge, even though Kayashi is obviously the hero of the story.

I’m not a huge fan of Kim’s art, although it’s not terrible. It’s a bit slick and overcolored (although I suppose that’s not his fault), but it gets the job done. Wiseman relies a bit too much on heavy-handed narration boxes, too, which tends to slow the story down when it doesn’t really need slowing down. It’s frustrating and doesn’t appear to be going away. Sigh.

So far, this seems to have a bit more on its mind than the other Benaroya comics. I guess that’s a reason to like it more!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Secret Warriors #28 (“Wheels Within Wheels: Finale”) by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Alessandro Vitti (artist), Imaginary Friends Studio (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.

There are two ways to end a series, I suppose. You can have a climax earlier than the very end and then spend a bit wrapping things up, or you can lead up to a big blowout and simply cut it off right there. Hickman goes with the former route, as this issue is really a wrap-up issue that sets up whatever someone else wants to do with the characters. So there’s not a lot to say about it – we see what the Contessa was really up to, how Nick was able to do some things he did, and what’s going on with the caterpillars now – but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad issue, just that all the big surprises are already out of the way. Like much of Hickman’s work, I suspect this will read better in one sitting, but I could be wrong. The biggest problem I have with this is that because it takes place in the Marvel Universe, there’s a vague feeling of impermanence to everything. I do hope that if a writer wants to use HYDRA in the future, some editor at Marvel at least has the stones to ask them to explain how HYDRA is there. I fear in a few years, though, HYDRA will simply be a villainous group again, with no explanation. We’ll see. That’s not Hickman’s problem, I guess.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




The Sixth Gun #13 (“Bound Part Two”) by Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

Bunn and Hurtt continue to fire on all cylinders, as the mummy wreaks havoc on the train, deciding that getting revenge on Drake is more important than its mission (luckily for our heroes, as its mission is to retrieve the body of the evil general). So there’s a lot of general mayhem in this issue, and Hurtt draws it beautifully, of course. There’s a bit of a cliffhanger, as Becky is led to believe that Drake is dead, but if he is, I’ll eat my hat. I don’t have much else to say about this issue, because it’s just a typically very good issue of The Sixth Gun.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Spontaneous #2 (of 5) (“Kelvin Melvin”) by Joe Harris (writer), Brett Weldele (artist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

I didn’t review the first issue of this series, which came out on Free Comic Book Day, but the basic premise is this: In the town of Bayville, people are spontaneously combusting. A young man named Melvin is able to figure out who’s about to do so, and a freelance reporter named Emily is investigating the events and knows that Melvin isn’t telling her something. In this issue, we find out a few clues to what’s going on, and while I’m not a big fan of corporate conspiracies in comics, I’m digging the book so far – it’s weird and mysterious and features Brett Weldele on art. As always, I must point out that Weldele is somewhat of an acquired taste, but I dig him, and Harris’s weird story complements his sparse artwork very well. I’m sure everyone got the first issue (because it was free!!!!!), but it’s worth checking out the second issue, too.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #9 (“Yours Always”) by Nick Spencer (writer), Dan Panosian (artist), Brad Anderson (colorist), Mike Grell (artist), Val Staples (colorist), Nick Dragotta (artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Hey, remember how I argued that mainstream comics need more experimentation in their artwork and frequent commenter Louis took me to task because he’s friends with, apparently, every artist DC employs? Good times, right? Well, I hope Louis isn’t friends with Dan Panosian, because I have him in my sights this time around!

So issue #10 is the final issue of this series, at least for a while (it’s coming back as a mini-series in November). And CAFU is not coming back for issue #10, because he’s busy in the DCnU. So DC hired Dan Panosian to fill in. Now, I don’t have anything against Dan Panosian – his new style is miles better than what he was doing back in the Nineties, and his work on this book is pleasant enough to look at. But here’s what I was talking about: DC knows this book is going away with the reboot, and they already have plans to bring it back, so what’s the harm in hiring someone nuts to do fill-in issues after CAFU took off? The book wasn’t selling very well even with a nice, safe artist like CAFU and guest artists out the wazoo, so DC can’t blame its failure on anyone they hired. They’re so committed to it that they’re bringing it back, for crying out loud. DC claims they hire women, but when they needed someone to fill in, they called a man. Again, I don’t have anything at all against Dan Panosian, and good for him for getting the work. But this was a perfect opportunity for DC to show that they’re progressive, both in hiring women and/or pushing the medium forward, and they blew it. It’s not like Panosian is drawing the new mini-series, so they don’t even care about maintaining a consistent look. Oh well. It’s a nice-looking issue, I guess. Panosian draws a nice fight scene!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Uncanny X-Men #541 by Kieron Gillen (writer), Greg Land (penciler), Jay Leisten (inker), Justin Ponsor (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Why I hate Greg Land, Exhibit A:


Okay, so Emma drags the mayor of San Francisco (whom her assistant calls “Mayor Sadie,” which seems awfully disrespectful) into her mind to discuss the situation with the Juggernaut. This is how Land draws the way Sadie shows up inside Emma’s mind. Not only do the figures seem to have no relation to each other or the background (this is a major feature of Land’s art, the “colorform” technique), but why on earth is Sadie standing like that? I guess she’s surprised that she’s suddenly in Emma’s mind, but her actions don’t seem to have any relation to what just happened. If she thinks she’s falling (based on the background), would she really do that? She’s not standing over a vent, after all. Sheesh.

Why I hate Greg Land, Exhibit B:

This is Hope:



Hope, as far as I know, is a teenager. Greg Land portrays her as a mid-20s model. Oh, wait – that’s how he portrays everyone. Go back and look at McKelvie’s drawing of Hope above. Go ahead. Hey, doesn’t she look like a teenager? Jesus.

Despite this, Gillen’s script is (so far) enough to keep me reading, and even Land does some nice stuff with the evil disciple of the Juggernaut and the way Marko smashes through the X-Men. But man, far too much of his stuff looks like this. I know it’s fun to rag on Rob Liefeld, but at least that dude draws shit. Yes, it sucks, but you can picture him sitting down at a drawing table, picking up an actual pencil, and turning the blank page into a grotesquerie with pointy feet. When I think about Greg Land, I imagine a dude Googling “models” and then cutting and pasting. MODERN TECHNOLOGY IS TEH SUX!!!!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




The Vault #1 (of 3) by Sam Sarkar (writer), Garrie Gastonny (artist), and Sakti Yuwono. $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

The last comic that Gianluca Glazer was nice enough to give me is also the best one, but don’t blame me for that – it’s all about the alphabet, man! The Vault is an interesting horror comic that, yes, sticks to some clichés (whenever a fictional tale is set at sea, you know a storm will arrive at some point), but also keeps things moving enough and hooks us well enough that I, at least, didn’t care. Maybe I’m a sucker for underwater thrillers. Who knows?

The book takes place off the coast of Nova Scotia, where Drs. Gabrielle Parker and Michael Page have gathered a team to dive into a “pit” known as the Graveyard of the North Atlantic, where they hope to find treasures undreamed-of! Of course, there’s a mysterious wealthy benefactor, and of course they find treasure but not enough to make them rich, so of course they delve deeper and find something odd. Still, Sarkar does a nice job building the tension, so when they X-ray what they’ve found, it’s a genuinely disturbing moment. Of course, as we’ve seen horror movies before, when they see the X-rays, they should drop the thing back in the water and get the hell out of Dodge, but we know they’re not going to do that, are they? So, yeah, things should get nasty soon enough.

Gastonny is a decent artist, and he’s strong enough to make sure the over-rendered coloring doesn’t affect his work too much. He and Yuwono are quite good on the underwater scenes, which is fairly crucial, and even the presence of (I think) Odette Annable as Dr. Parker isn’t too distracting. The double-page spread at the beginning of the book is also quite nifty, especially as foreshadowing. I do wish one of the crew members hadn’t been named “Jesus,” because before we’re introduced to him, a few other people say “Jesus” and I thought they were just swearing and not actually talking to him. I guess that’s a me problem, right?

So if you’re interested in these comics but can only get one, I’d get The Vault. It’s pretty neat.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Warlord of Mars #8 by Arvid Nelson (writer), Lui Antonio (artist), Adriano Lucas (colorist), and Troy Peteri (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

There is a comic starring Edgar Rice Burroughs’ creation, John Carter, and this is certainly it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Witch Doctor #2 (of 4) by Brandon Seifert (writer/letterer), Lukas Kettner (artist), and Sunny Gho (colorist). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

I’m really enjoying Witch Doctor, because it’s just so deranged that how can you not? I mean, in this issue, Dr. Morrow has to investigate a weird baby, because there’s nothing freakier than weird babies! So of course the baby is not a baby at all but a faerie who was placed there by the mother. So they take care of the baby (hilariously), and then they track down the mother, which turns out to be a bit more difficult. Meanwhile, someone from the doctor’s past shows up. That’s never good!

Seifert is gleefully wacky in this series, throwing everything up there and making sure it sticks. It’s not exactly a gross series, nor is it terribly gory, but it’s just disturbing enough to be fun, and Kettner is really doing a nice job on the art – the faeries are creepy, sure, but they’re creepy because they’re just far enough away from human to be. Once they reveal their true shapes, they become more horrific but not more creepy. This is really a neat comic – darkly funny, slightly freaky, demented, and nice to look at. I can understand if you’re waiting for a trade, but each issue, so far, has been nicely standalone, so there’s that.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




X-Factor #222 by Peter David (writer), Emanuela Lupacchino (penciler), Guillermo Ortega (inker), Matt Milla (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

It’s always fun when a writer goes “Assault on Precinct 13” on us, and David does it nicely here, as our heroes are trapped in their headquarters by various mystical beasties who want Rahne’s baby. It’s a typical issue of X-Factor, in that it’s well written and features wonderful Lupacchino art (which is more usual than not these days, which is okay with me). David’s love of subplots continues to rear its head, and the end of the book features a surprise guest star! (good to see him getting work), but otherwise, there’s nothing more to say. It’s good.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:




Xombi #5 (“The Ninth Stronghold Part Five: Pilot Fish”) by John Rozum (writer), Frazer Irving (artist/colorist), and Wes Abbott (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Well, I guess it’s kind of pointless writing about this, right? I mean, it’s finishing up next issue, so we’ll see what Rozum is doing with it, and Irving’s art is staggering as usual, and it would probably have been cancelled anyway without the reboot, which is a shame because it’s such an unusual and interesting comic, but what the hell, right? 6 issues > 0 issues!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


Man, that was a lot of comics, wasn’t it? I’m tinkering with my iPod this week, adding some stuff and ditching some other stuff – in addition to that Art Brut CD, I also recently got a CD by People in Planes, two by Chumbawamba, one by Hamell on Trial, Adele’s “21,” “Lungs” by Florence + The Machine, and the Grace Potter and the Nocturnals album, so I have some stuff to add. Yes, I still buy CDs. So I’m listening to those and deciding what to put on my iPod and what to take off, so no list this week. Sorry!

Here’s a Totally Random Movie Quote, though!

“Why can’t aliens be friendly?”
“There’s no glowing fingers on these bastards, we’ve got a bunch of Extra-Terrestrial psychopaths on our hands, like a visit from a planet full of Charlie Mansons, they’ve started on something small, it’s my guess they’ll go onto something bigger next time, Christchurch, Wellington …”
“Auckland?”
“Yeah, well, that wouldn’t be so bad.”

Sure, I might have given it away with too much information, but I just love that line. The movie is ridiculous, too, and I’m sure some of you have seen it!

Sorry for the delay with this post – as you can see, I had a lot of comics. Today’s my anniversary, so I’ll just say Have a nice day and leave it at that!