What I bought – 25 August 2010

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 25 August 2010

While we wait for chocolate malteds I notice a high-schooler sitting at the counter exchanging looks with the girl next to him. She’s gorgeous, and I’m not the only other one who notices it. The girl behind the counter waiting on them is also watching with an anger she thinks no one else sees. Some kind of triangle. We keep passing unseen through little moments of other people’s lives. (Robert M. Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

Batman #702 (“R. I. P. The Missing Chapter Part Two: Batman’s Last Case”) by Grant “I can write a puking Batman because I can do ANYTHING!!!!!” Morrison (writer), Tony Daniel (artist), Ian Hannin (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

As unnecessary as this two-parter is, I don’t have too much of a problem with this second part. The first part felt far more superfluous than this one, at least. While this issue pretty much confirms much of what we can infer from Final Crisis and the Gaiman issues, it’s kind of neat getting them from Bruce’s perspective, because it’s somewhat shocking how little internal narration Bruce does, and not just during Morrison’s run. Morrison’s prose, meanwhile, while a bit overwrought, is still thrilling – as Morrison becomes more of a pop commentator on other comics, an ouroboros if you will, we often forget that when he wants to be, he can still thunder portentously from the ramparts, and that’s what he does in this issue. There’s nothing in this issue that’s new, but to read the way Morrison “explains” it all makes it worthwhile. Yes, many people think this kind of writing is silly, especially in a superhero comic and especially accompanied by Daniel’s art. But the incongruity of it all is why it works – Morrison, at his best, understands that the world of superheroes is fundamentally different than ours, so the idea of a bullet fired backward through time that happens to be the “essence of bullet,” while sounding ridiculous to our prosaic ears, is part of what makes superhero comics the insane genre we all love. Batman, the Ur-Hero, fires the Ur-Bullet at the Ur-Villain. It’s all very Platonic and mythic and downright silly occasionally, but it’s also joyful, in a perverse way. Batman speaks for a humanity which is often confronted by Ultimate Evil, so of course he would speak thusly. That we never get to confront the Pure Evil of Darkseid isn’t Morrison’s fault, after all.

Daniel’s improving art is still ill-suited for this kind of story. His Superman remains terribly drawn – too thick and Earth-bound – but Daniel tries to get the vibe of the far better artists who worked on Final Crisis, at least. Morrison’s odd track record with artists means that his mythic story is drawn in a decidedly bland style, unfortunately. Daniel is channeling Jim Lee channeling Frank Miller, and while Miller would have been a perfect artist for this story, a twice-watered-down version of Miller is not. DC would have been wise to go as abstract as possible, making this strange and unreal story even more strange and unreal (and violating Tim Callahan’s diktat about matching writers with artists, but if disagreeing with Tim Callahan is wrong, then I don’t want to be right!), but I suppose letting Morrison write something like this in their flagship character’s flagship book is as big a chance as DC is willing to take. That’s okay, though. Life goes on.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Black Widow #5 (“The Name of the Rose Part 5”) by Marjorie Liu (writer), Daniel Acuña (artist), and Nate Piekos (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Marvel.

As I am so very interested in the ways and means of comic book production, I still can’t wrap my head around Marjorie Liu leaving this book, which features a mid-level Avengers character, to work on a book starring a mid-level X-character. She’s worked on the character before, but it’s not like she created X-23, as meaningless as “creating” a character in the Marvel Universe is. Did she have just the one Natasha Romanov story to tell? I find that hard to believe – Natasha is a spy, after all, and I could probably come up with two years of stories about her without breaking a sweat. If Marvel fired her for poor sales, why give her a different book? I know that’s the way it works in the shadowy world of the Big Two, where you must first towel dry Joey Q or Danny D after they have a sauna while preparing them delicious tiramisu and getting their cars detailed and writing comics to keep copyrights alive before you’re powerful enough to work on something that might not get cancelled before the first issue ships, but why would a book starring X-23 survive this time any more than the other times, when at least the character’s shelf life hadn’t expired? Liu and Acuña working on a comic starring Natasha is a tough sell; Liu and Will Conrad working on a comic starring a second-rate Wolverine knock-off is an even tougher sell, I’d wager. But what the hell do I know, right? The vicissitudes of the market being what they are, by next year X-23 will be the highest-selling book in history and someone will be towel drying Liu off after a sauna (I just threw that in there to make Tom Fitzpatrick’s head explode)!

Of course, the question is, Should you get this trade? Sure. Acuña’s slick art works well, and Liu’s tale of revenge is well done, as she has a sly sense of humor about the story and, of course, shows what a bad-ass Natasha is. The fight at the end between Natasha and Imus Champion (Imus Champion? Really?) is a ballet of violence that takes its toll on both participants, and Liu manages to even make the ending a bit sappy (I don’t have any problem with sappy per se, if you must know), so that’s nice. It’s entertaining. I don’t know how much the trade will cost, but give it a look.

Swierczynski takes over next issue, and the last time he took over something I was reading, it was Immortal Iron Fist and I don’t think he did a good job. But that book was much better than this book, and I do like Manuel Garcia, the incoming artist, so I may have to give it a look. We shall see, shan’t we?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dracula: The Company of Monsters #1 by Kurt Busiek (storier), Daryl Gregory (writer), Scott Godlewski (artist), Stephen Downer (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

The idea behind this series is that a resurrected Dracula is unleashed on America’s corporate culture, which sounds perfectly fine. The first arc is four issues long, so I may have to assess after that. This first issue simply introduces the characters and ends with the revelation that a businessman, Conrad Barrington, has a skeleton that he claims is Dracula. His protégé, Evan, has been researching, unwittingly, how to resurrect him. Busiek (who wrote the story bible) and Gregory also throw in some history about Vlad the Impaler, as he’s who they say became Dracula.

It’s a fun issue. It’s a bit creepy, and there’s some nice cloak-and-dagger stuff, and the historical stuff is done well. I bought it because I like Godlewski quite a bit and want to see more of his work, and he does a nice job, especially on the first few pages where the Ottomans try to conquer Wallachia and fail spectacularly. Godlewski has a solid style that doesn’t have a lot of flash to it, but he does a good job with the storytelling. When I first saw his work, I mentioned it had some Rafael Albuquerque in it. In this book, you can see some Charlie Adlard too. It works quite well.

As you know, if you want me to read vampire stuff, you should probably put a good spin on it. The idea of this series is pretty keen, so I’ll give it a chance. We’ll see what happens!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dynamo 5: Sins of the Fathers #3 (of 5) by Jay Faerber (writer), Júlio Brilha (artist), Joe Eisma (artist, “Notorious” back-up story), Ron Riley (colorist), Paul Little (colorist, “Notorious” back-up stoyr), and Charles Pritchett (letterer). $3.99, 20 pgs + 5-pg back-up story, FC, Image.

Faerber simply turns his heroes loose on the alien bad guys in this issue, and mayhem ensues. There’s a nice double-page shot of Tower City, decimated by the battle, that shows how devastating this kind of violence would be in the real world. The fact that the bad guys aren’t even tired is a nice touch, too. Of course, this being Faerber, one of the more old-school-style superhero writers around (I say that with a great deal of affection), we also get some interesting side notes in the bigger battle, such as hints about Spencer’s true nature and the shocking revelation at the end (which, in true old-school fashion, isn’t all that shocking). Brilha is still finding his way, which is unfortunate, although the art is certainly not bad. He gives us some really amazing panels and even another very nice two-page spread with many panels showing the stages of the battle, but he also gives us some bad posing and oddly askew faces (I’m thinking of War Chest on the final page, for instance). He is getting better, which is a good thing, I reckon.

As always, Dynamo 5 is one of the best superhero books out there. Faerber does such a swell job with the characters and the action, and it’s just too bad his section of the Image U. doesn’t get more love. Would it kill you to buy Dynamo 5, people? I don’t think it would!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Garrison #5 (of 6) by Jeff Mariotte (writer), Francesco Francavilla (artist), Wes Hartman (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

I’ve been harping on Mariotte’s over-reliance on narration in this series, and it’s no surprise that the issue in which he pulls back on it a bit is the best one. The problem is that the omniscient narrator returns just when the book doesn’t need it – actually, the book hasn’t needed it very much, but at least occasionally it’s not too intrusive. At the very end, when Garrison and Bracewell finally have some time alone, the omniscient narrator returns, telling us stuff that Francavilla shows perfectly and Mariotte even tells us through the dialogue. It’s very frustrating.

The issue itself is mostly a nice chase scene, as Garrison and Bracewell make a run for it and fall right off the grid … or do they? Okay, of course they don’t, not completely, because there needs to be a final showdown, right? But it’s still a fun chase, and Bracewell even manages to get Garrison up to date on who and what he is – it’s not surprising, but at least it’s expository! It’s also nice to see Garrison loosening up a bit, as he’s learning how to be social, making jokes at inappropriate times and figuring out that Bracewell is, you know, kind of hot.

I’m looking forward to seeing the bloody finale (well, I assume it’s going to be bloody, but who knows). Garrison isn’t a great comic, but when Mariotte gets out of his own way, it’s an entertaining one!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Ghost Projekt #4 (of 5) (“Red Snow”) by Joe Harris (writer), Steve Rolston (artist), Dean Trippe (colorist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

Harris throws a twist at us, as we learn that Dr. Konstantin, the architect of the weird project that has led to Genghis Khan rampaging through downtown Moscow, has more on his mind than we thought. Will and Anya continue to dig into the mystery and learn why Konstantin is acting the way he is. Harris does a very good job with the atmosphere, building tension throughout the issue as Will and Anya separately find more pieces to the puzzle. Rolston, of course, is wonderful, as he gives us a bloody massacre in Red Square and easily moves to creepy, atmospheric horror as Will starts having visions and Anya finds a crucial photograph.

I’m enjoying the heck out of Ghost Projekt. You should too!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scalped #40 (“Unwanted Part Two”) by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Every once in a while we need to step back and appreciate the excellence of Scalped on a purely character level. Recently Aaron has given great depth to Red Crow so that we can’t even loathe him as much as we want to, and now, with Wade’s return to the series, Aaron does something clever again. The only time we’ve seen Wade, he’s been kind of a fuck-up. He may still be, but in this issue, he seems like he has everything together, and he enjoys baiting Red Crow with his failures, even though he himself has plenty of his own. The conversation between Wade and Red Crow is the crux of the book, around which revolves Dash’s and Carol’s attempts to get clean in very different ways. Dash is trapped in a private hell that leads him to his mother and more rejection, while Carol, whose rehabilitation appears to be going more smoothly, is confronted with her fears about seeing her pregnancy to term. The foundation of this series is family and how it can destroy people, so the fact that Dash’s family keeps haunting him – both as actual ghosts and as specters from the past – and that Carol realizes that starting a family will give her a whole new set of problems is handled nicely by Aaron. I know it’s kind of silly to say that this is another excellent issue of Scalped, but it’s another excellent issue of Scalped. Sorry. I must speak the truth!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Warriors #19 (“The Last Ride of the Howling Commandos Part Three”) by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Alessandro Vitti (artist), Imaginary Friends Studio (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Hickman really has done a nice job building the tension throughout this brief story arc, considering that we know it’s all going to shit in the end. Well, guess what – it does. Some of the Howling Commandos die, and Dugan and Sitwell remain in captivity, but the arc is less about what happens than it is a eulogy to the Howling Commandos and what they meant to the country. While I still think Marvel needs to move on from World War II, Hickman manages to make the speeches about the commandos and what they gave to their country effective and moving. He telegraphs the fate of one character, of course (in fiction, whenever someone gives a stirring speech about the sacrifice of others, he should probably watch his back), but it’s still well done.

Secret Warriors has quietly become an excellent comic book. Hickman’s early conceit, that S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra are run by the same group, provided a decent entry point, but it’s gone beyond that rather well. It’s not even that great an espionage book, which ought to disappoint me (as I love espionage books), because it’s much more about internecine warfare than anything actually affecting the public in a wider scope, but that’s okay. So far, this is a comic about letting go of the past and moving toward the future, as Nick realizes that he needs to stop living like it’s the Sixties and move on. I’m curious to see if Hickman continues in this vein, because it could become a sly commentary on Marvel in particular and comics in general. Wouldn’t that be something?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Unknown Soldier #23 (“Beautiful World Chapter Two”) by Joshua Dysart (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist), Oscar Celestini (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Dysart continues to show why this book is so very good, as he veers wildly between hard-ass action, as Moses breaks free from his CIA handlers in classic fashion, and heart-felt longing, as Moses finally talks to Sera again. None of it goes like we expect, because it seems that Moses himself is unsure about what’s going on in his head, and his mission – to kill Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (the fact that Kony is alive indicates that Moses does not, in fact, succeed) – is the only thing keeping him going. He simply doesn’t know anything else anymore. Dysart also appears ready to tie the entire series into the original series, which will be kind of neat.

I’m certainly going to miss this series. It appears that, as truncated as it will be, at least it won’t get cut off to abruptly, so there’s that. But I do wish it had managed to sell a bit better, because while this feels like – possibly – the ending Dysart had in mind, it also feels like an ending that was moved up once the book got the axe. Sigh.

One totally Airwolf panel:

X-Factor #208 by Peter David (writer), Emanuela Lupacchino (penciler), Pat Davidson (inker), Chris Chuckry (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I was happy to see Fiumara’s art last issue, but I also knew he wasn’t coming back. So I was happy to see Lupacchino’s art on this issue, because it continues in the vein of Fiumara’s from last issue, in that the rough edges are not smoothed out (I attribute that to Chuckry’s colors, because Davidson’s inks don’t seem strong enough to make much difference, and Chuckry seems to let the lines stand out more than Jeromy Cox, the regular colorist on this book, does – and once again, I think I’ve been reading too many comics when I can tell differences between inkers and colorists or at least speculate about them) and the art feels more, I don’t know, grounded. There’s a realness to the artwork that is often lacking in this title. Lupacchino (whose work I’ve never seen before) does a good job with the characters interacting with each other, and unlike Valentine de Landro, who often pencils this book, she has a deft touch with facial expressions (a must in most David books) and a good sense of scene – the backgrounds in this comic are filled in well, unlike what we sometimes get when de Landro draws this. Monet’s breasts are far too big and hanging way out of her costume, but Lupacchino’s Italian – that’s how she rolls! Plus, despite Chuckry’s light touch with the pencil/ink work, the book is still too dark. But it generally looks great, from Rahne’s indignation over Rictor’s team-switching to Teresa’s freckles to Longshot-as-Fred Jones (see below).

David continues to spin multiple tales, as Rahne, who caught Rictor about to get it on with Shatterstar, lets him know that the bun in her oven is his (David appears to be a bit obsessed with pregnancy in this book, doesn’t he?). She’s a bit put out that the father of her child is about to listen to a lot of Elton John and read fashion magazines, hence the scene on the cover. Monet doesn’t trust Layla, and in the main story, Pip gets spirited away by Hela, and Jamie feels honor-bound to go rescue him. It’s a typical David comic, so there’s some nice humor, some nice action that grows organically from the situations the characters are in, and a lot of subplots. This book has always been hit-or-miss with the art, and in this issue, it’s definitely a hit. It will be interesting to see next issue – Lupacchino draws, Fiumara returns for inks, and Cox is back as colorist. Stay tuned!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Existence 2.0/3.0 by Nick Spencer (writer), Ron Salas (artist), Joe Eisma (artist), Frank Bravo (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $14.99, 161 pgs, FC, Image.

I still haven’t loved anything Spencer has written, but this sounds interesting. It’s not a bad deal, either – seven issues for fifteen bucks.

Syndrome by Daniel Quantz (writer), R. J. Ryan (writer), David Marquez (artist), Bill Farmer (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $19.95, 109 pgs, FC, Archaia.

This is a pretty nifty package – the book is bigger than your regular comic, and it’s an OGN, so that’s nice too. It’s all mad scientisty and shit, which is always fun!

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

2. “U Got the Look” – Prince (1987) “I never seen such a pretty girl look so tough”
3. “Under Cover of Darkness” – Living Colour (1990) “The safest sex is when it’s not skin to skin”
4. “Cuckoo Cocoon” – Genesis (1974) “Don’t tell me this is dying, ’cause I ain’t changed that much”
5. “If I Ever Leave this World Alive” – Flogging Molly (2002) “So when in doubt just call my name just before you go insane”
6. “Mixed Bizness” – Beck (1999) “Freaks flock together and make all the lesbians scream”
7. “S. T. B.” – Godfathers (1988) “I had to hear your sweet voice, honey, breathing down the line”
8. “Walk On” – U2 (2000) “You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been”
9. “The End of Everything” – Charlatans (1992) “There’s no soldier in me, I want my guts where they are”
10. “I Remember You” – Steve Earle (with Emmylou Harris) (2002) “I don’t miss you tonight, I’m just curious that’s all”

You know it’s time for … totally random lyrics!

“Lookin’ at you, lookin’ at me
The way you move, you know it’s easy to see
The neon light’s on me tonight
I’ve got a way, we’re gonna prove it tonight
Like Romeo to Juliet
Time and time, I’m gonna make you mine”

Look at me – posting in a timely manner and actually doing some real writing! It’s uncanny!!!!!