What I bought – 26 May 2010

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 26 May 2010

“That’s why opera is important, Baron. Because it’s realer than any play! A dramatic poet would have to put all those thoughts down one after another to represent this second of time. The composer can put them all down at once – and still make us hear each one of them. Astonishing device: a Vocal Quartet! … I tell you I want to write a finale lasting half an hour! A quartet becoming a quintet becoming a sextet. On and on, wider and wider – all sounds multiplying and rising together – and the together making a sound entirely new! … I bet you that’s how God hears the world. Millions of sounds ascending at once and mixing in His ear to become an unending music, unimaginable to us! That’s our job! That’s our job, we composers: to combine the inner minds of him and him and him, and her and her – the thoughts of chambermaids and Court Composers – and turn the audience into God.” (Peter Shaffer, from “Amadeus”)

The Anchor #8 (“Black Lips Part Four: The Anchor”) by Phil Hester (writer), Brian Churilla (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

This came out last week, but the guy at my comic shoppe plumb forgot to give it to me – he had it, but it got lost in the shuffle for a week. Oh well. It’s the last issue anyway, so it doesn’t really matter, does it? Hester continues to get books cancelled out from under him, but the nice thing is he always manages to tell a fairly complete story. In this case, he wraps up things well, but the way he ended this made me think, which is never a bad thing. It’s not that I thought it was bad, because it was entertaining, but it made me think, of all things, Lost. I’m probably going to SPOIL things here, so if you haven’t been watching Lost because you’re “trade-waiting” (i. e., getting it in DVD/Blu-Ray format) or you haven’t yet read The Anchor, you might want to skip down part the totally Airwolf panel, where things are safer.

Okay? Okay. In this issue, Clem finally confronts Satan. Yay, Clem! He’s in Hell trying to recover the soul of his granddaughter, Hofi, who’s dead. Mayhem ensues, drawn beautifully by Mr. Churilla (who has moved on to Marvel, so people who never buy indy books can finally check him out, if they so choose). Now, thoughout this series, Clem has been God’s brawler, so I don’t expect him to change, but Hester has shown that he’s much more thoughtful about faith and what it can do for people than many comic book writers, so it bugged me that Clem keeps brawling. I was hoping for forgiveness of his enemies, and I didn’t get that. Hester instead assigns that “womanly” virtue to Hofi – to a degree. Clem is a remnant of a much more aggressive Christianity, I get that, from a time when men were much more personally war-like and so had to twist their faith into something that would allow them to kill a lot of people, but it seems like he would have learned something over the centuries about forgiveness. This turns into two guys beating on each other, and while the element of Clem’s faith sustaining him makes it a bit more interesting, it’s still two guys beating on each other, and I’ve seen that before. Clem can’t escape his past and he remains a brute, which is a tragedy. How does this link to Lost? Well, a few weeks ago, when Jack became the island’s protector, he asked Jacob what he had to do about Locke. Jacob told him he had to kill Locke. (Or maybe Jack decided that he had to kill Locke and Jacob agreed; it doesn’t really matter – the point is that they were in agreement.) In a show that was about the conflict between faith and science, this seems far too easy a way out. Especially when you consider that Jacob’s “brother” wasn’t completely at fault for being evil – Jacob had a lot to do with it. If the Lost writers were trying to examine faith and what it can do for people, why would Jack simply kill Locke? Why wouldn’t they try to redeem him? To forgive is divine and all that. This becomes a more glaring problem because they never really explained what would happen if Locke got off the island. In the end, the writers took the easy way out. Now, it’s network television, so I don’t expect it to be too deep, but Lost set itself up as a quest for meaning in a world that has lost faith, and it seems that Jack trying to talk Locke down would have been much more interesting than the fight on the cliff was. But that might just be me. I may be a wuss. (And yes, I know it wasn’t Jacob’s brother or Locke anymore, but it was still subject to the passions of man, as far as I could see. Work with that, Lost writers!)

Interestingly, a comic below toys with this idea of forgiveness instead of fighting. It doesn’t get too in depth in this issue (perhaps in the future), but it’s there. I kind of wish Hester had done something more with the idea of Clem becoming something more than a brawler. Still, I would recommend the trades of this short series. Like much of what Hester writes, it makes you think. And it has big gruesome monsters! Whoo-hoo!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #2 (of 6) (“Until the End of Time”) by Grant “Arrgghhh! Witch!” Morrison (writer), Frazer Irving (artist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $3.99, 32 pgs, FC, DC.

This is another solid issue of a fairly solid mini-series – there’s nothing spectacular here (writing-wise; the art is a different story), but it’s a good read. I like how Mordecai – Bruce Wayne – can’t keep from solving crimes in the 17th century, and it’s nice to see a bit more of the backstory – Darkseid striking back from beyond the grave and all. The story itself, like issue #1, is pretty boilerplate stuff – Bruce is saved from the Lovecraftian monster by a comely lass, with whom he falls in lust but who is suspected of being a witch, meaning Bruce has to save her from his own ancestor, Nathaniel Wayne the Witchhunter. Meanwhile, Bruce solves a crime that the superstitious people of Gotham believe was perpetrated by a witch. And, well, the comely lass has a secret. It’s entertaining, but there’s nothing really staggering about its brilliance. I was confused by how quickly the witchhunters get their victim hanged. I mean, I haven’t studied the witch crazes of the 17th century a lot, but didn’t they have trials? Not in this case, I guess!

Irving’s art is the best part of the book, as it’s always a treat to see it (speaking of which, tonight I shall weep for the absence of more Gutsville in my life). As with Klarion in Morrison’s Seven Soldiers epic, his severe and unadorned character designs fit a Puritan style very well, and his people, while not exactly “realistic,” are varied and not traditionally “beautiful,” giving them a more lived-in look. His superheroes aren’t as good, but the biorganic archivist at Vanishing Point is creepy keen. Irving isn’t perfect for every book, but he’s very good here.

I may not love this series, but as usual with Morrison, the destination is usually worth the journey. And if I get to look at some great art along the way, that’s a bonus! We shall see what happens with Pirate Batman.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Choker #3 (of 6) (“Down These Mean Streets a Bastard Must Go”) by Ben McCool (writer), Ben Templesmith (artist), and Tom B. Long (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

It’s been a while since issue #2 came out, which Ben Templesmith admits was his fault, but I don’t mind too much. The scheduling on Image books is always a bit dicey (see: Gutsville), so the fact that this is a month late is actually not too horrible. I do have to say, there’s not much to write about this issue. I liked the premise of Jackson getting back on the police force and finding the dude who escaped, and while I’m not the biggest fan of the vampire things, I have a feeling McCool will do something interesting with them. So I’m on board for the entire series, and each individual chapter simply moves the story along, which is nice. We learn about Jackson’s experience with the enhancements each officer gets to make them super-soldiers (I was under the impression he refused to get them, but McCool doesn’t go that way) and why it got him kicked off the force. We also see his new partner, Flynn Walker, in action, giving us a nice look at how the enhancements allow the cops to kick so much ass. McCool is doing a good job blending small doses of characterization in with the action, and as a fan of Templesmith’s (not everyone is, I know), I’m digging the art. I can’t say this is a great comic (it might be by the end, but not yet), but it’s nasty and brutish and entertaining. Who can argue with that?

(If you want to see one of the places I buy comics, you can check out the back of this issue, as there are photos of the Atomic Comics in Mesa, where McCool and Templesmith did a signing recently. I’m kind of bummed I didn’t know about it, but such is, as they say, life. They decided to get tattoos right there in the store, so you can see it in the background of a bunch of pictures.)

One totally Airwolf panel:

Garrison #2 (of 6) by Jeff Mariotte (writer), Francesco Francavilla (artist), Wes Hartman (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

Some strange things from Garrison #2:

1. On the very last page of this issue, a caption box calls the main character “Lester.” And it’s not as if the omniscient narrator suddenly decided to say, “His name is Lester.” No, it’s just used as a matter of course, as if we’d already known it, which we hadn’t. It’s a bit odd.

2. One of the government agents is named “Clarke,” and she’s a woman. I suppose I’m an old curmudgeon about names, and I’ve given up on some names that used to be boys’ names but are now unisex, but “Clarke.” In what universe can “Clarke” be a girl’s name? Oh, I guess the Wildstorm universe. Still … yuck.

3. The caption boxes don’t work very well. Mariotte has been around for a while, so he’s not some neophyte writer who thinks he needs to explain everything, yet that’s what he’s doing here. It’s weird, because he doesn’t use them very often, but when he does, they’re a bit heavy-handed. Toward the end of the issue, Garrison is tracking the agent from last issue, Bracewell, and the new one, Sullivan (I refuse to call her Clarke!), and Mariotte really lays on the omniscient narrator, telling us what Garrison is thinking about everything without letting us come to the conclusions he wants us to. And it’s a weird mix of third-person narrative and things a first-person account would have, like “Oops” when he’s spotted. It doesn’t help that Bracewell’s narration is in first person, and it alternates with Garrison’s, not to the point of confusion (we know exactly when the caption boxes are “hers”), but to the point of annoyance, at least. And then there’s that last page, with “Lester” on it, telling us something about the bad guys that is perfectly clear from the art. Mariotte trusts Francavilla to make the fights look good; he needs to trust his artist a bit more in the quieter moments. He can still have some caption boxes, but they become excessive. It’s vexing because, as I pointed out, they don’t show up even on the majority of pages, but when they do, they grind the book to a halt.

Still, when Mariotte is just letting Francavilla tell the story or when he’s using dialogue, the book remains intriguing. We get a bit more backstory about our hero, and a bit more about why Garrison told Bracewell her fellow agent was going to kill her in issue #1. This is a neat little story. But Mariotte needs to back off a bit!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Northlanders #28 (“The Plague Widow Part 8 of 8: Of Mothers and Daughters”) by Brian Wood (writer), Leandro Fernandez (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Wood’s latest Viking saga comes to an end, and as we knew from last issue, it would be a bit unlike what we expected. It’s ultimately Hilda and Karin’s story (hence the name of this chapter) and we get to see how they survive the winter and what it takes to do so. What will they have to do? Where will they find shelter? And can they find some humanity in the frozen wasteland? Well, I’m not going to answer those questions, as you’ll just have to read the issue!

Wood continues to write these wonderful stories that can be seen as simple Viking stories but are also universally relevant. It’s been a while since I’ve caught up on my trades of DMZ, but while I enjoy that series, it’s very much of its time and place (well, what I’ve read so far). One would think Northlanders would be even more hampered by its time and place, but it’s not. Wood has been telling stories about universal human conditions, from returning home after years away to a single mother struggling to raise her child. Sure, there are sword fights and brutal deaths, but it feels more like a “modern” story. It’s remarkable.

Throughout this arc, Leandro Fernandez has been dynamite, and that’s no different in this issue. Hilda and Karin trek across a horrifically bleak wintry landscape, and Fernandez gives us wide-open panels of white and gray with menacing skeletal trees in the background, and then closes in on the pair to show their desperation when they come across warriors or when they’re trying to stay warm. Wood gets out of Fernandez’s way during much of the issue, and we feel the chill coming off the pages. Fernandez does a nice job dwarfing the characters with this oppressive landscape. It’s amazing how well Fernandez makes this world looks given the limitations of the season (winter) – just check out the first few pages, when he draws some summer scenes. McCaig deserves plenty of credit, as well – he does a good job making the world bleak and forbidding, with the aforementioned whites and grays and cool blues throughout the comic. It’s really a gorgeous comic, almost worth it for the art alone.

Yeah, I still love Northlanders. Can you tell?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Power Girl #12 (“The Little Things!”) by Jimmy Palmiotti (writer), Justin Gray (writer), Amanda Conner (artist), Paul Mounts (colorist), and John J. Hill (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

And so it ends. I doubt very much if I’m going to be picking up issue #13, so this will be a tidy little 12-issue arc. I never loved it, but it looked great and was certainly entertaining, for the most part. But let’s talk about Power Girl #12, and the series as a whole.

I mentioned a while ago how skeevy it was to see Terra taking off her pants in the street, just because she’s a teenager and it was, well, weird. But I’m not sure if I’ve ever written about how gleefully sexy this book is, and how 99% of the time, I’m fine with that. I imagine it has something to do with Conner and her cheesecakey art, but this might be the sexiest book from the Big Two, which is saying something. Let’s consider:

There are 132 panels in this comic book (yes, I counted, and yes, that seems high – this is a fairly dense issue). Of those, 34 of them (just over a quarter) either show Kara or Atlee or Satanna or those three alien ladies from earlier in the series in various states of undress (and no, I’m not counting the panels when Kara is in her costume, even though you could argue that I should) or a particularly sexy shot of Kara in uniform (more than just her standing there; I’m thinking of the butt shot on page 17) or features two characters talking hormonally (either Fisher crowing because the cute girl asked him out or Vartox and Galaxorg talking about how hot Kara is). I would go out on a limb and say that this percentage is far higher than your usual comic book, especially because other comics often use their panel space to show people being ripped apart. To pick a random superhero book from my stack, let’s check out Secret Avengers (see below): 128 panels (in 6 more pages, I might add), and 12 of them are even remotely sexy. Eleven of those are in the first few pages, when Black Widow and Valkyrie are posing as escorts. I know that’s a more “serious” superhero book, but that’s 9% of the book. I’m not suggesting that Secret Avengers needs to “sex it up” at all, because it’s a different kind of comic than Power Girl, but throughout these 12 issues, PG has been almost gleefully sexy, and it’s somewhat refreshing. As I pointed out, occasionally it was a bit icky, but for the most part, it’s been joyful cheesecake and sexy talk. Vartox, for instance, is such a male chauvinistic pig that you almost can’t help liking him. The fact that Kara constantly makes fun of the cheesecakiness is nice, too.

I never loved Power Girl, but I did enjoy it. I know what Palmiotti and Gray are doing next – a book for Radical (plus their ongoing work on Jonah Hex) – but I don’t know what Conner is doing. I hope it’s something I can buy. She’s really good.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scalped #38 (“Family Tradition”) by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Aaron brings us the story of Wade, Dashiell’s father (he is Dash’s father, isn’t he?), who served in Vietnam and became a “lucky charm” – all his platoon mates kept getting killed, but he kept surviving. It’s a fine short story that shows how far down he’s gone and why he claws his way back up, eventually returning to South Dakota and, well, that’s the surprise, innit? Aaron does a nice job not beating us over the head with Wade’s rejection of his heritage and why he comes back to it … but not completely, as we see at the end.

Guéra is back on art, and as much as I enjoy the guest artists, Guéra is phenomenal on this book. His characters are a bit caricatured – he exaggerates their most prominent features occasionally, such as the extremely rotund drug dealer Wade works with – but that’s part of what makes the book work, as the characters fit well into this slightly off-kilter world. Guéra keeps everything very noir-ish but also grounded, so when Wade has a vision, it’s more powerful. As with the best artists, it’s not just the character work but the misc-en-scene, as Guéra shows he’s as good at portraying Saigon right before the North Vietnamese took over as he is with the reservation. The characters in Scalped live in a messy world, no matter where they are, and Guéra does a great job with that. I’m always happy to see Guéra back on the book.

Anyway, despite the single-issue nature of this story, it’s sure to have some repercussions. Right? That’s why it’s so much fun reading Scalped. Everything matters.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Avengers #1 (“Secret Histories Part One”) by Ed Brubaker (writer), Mike Deodato (artist), Rain Beredo (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $3.99, 28 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to get this, because it’s yet another Avengers book, but I like Brubaker, and his work on Captain America often goes all espionage-y on us (even though it always seems to revert to superheroics), which is pretty cool, and I’ve always liked the idea of a superhero espionage book (hence my enjoyment of Rucka’s Checkmate). Plus, it features Moon Knight and Black Widow, two characters I really like. So I figured I’d give it a chance.

And it’s a good issue. It follows the standard set-up formula, as we begin with action to acquire something, get some backstory, and then end with a couple of cliffhangers. It’s a bit heavy on the Marvel continuity – I honestly have no idea what the Serpent Crown is – but when you have a good writer, they can use continuity without making it too hard to follow. For instance, if you’re not up on your Marvel history (and I’m not as much as some people, although I am more than others), you might not have any idea that Roxxon existed before this comic. But knowing about Roxxon isn’t necessary – they’re a corporation and they’re engaged in some shenanigans. That’s all you need to know. There’s the Shadow Council, which might pose a problem, but if you don’t know what the Shadow Council is (and I don’t), you can guess they’re, you know, bad guys. Brubaker does a good job introducing the team and the rudimentary powers they have, which is all that’s necessary. You don’t even need the relatively uninformative narrative tags that introduce the team members (for instance, “Ant-Man: Former Thunderbolt” tells us exactly nothing) because Brubaker does a good job through dialogue and action in showing us what they can do. When we’re in the dark, we don’t really need to know too much – as when Cap tells Ant-Man he’s looking for redemption. We don’t need to know why Ant-Man needs redemption, and for this book, it doesn’t matter. The actual story involves a faux-Serpent Crown and something on Mars that is somewhat nasty – probably the real Serpent Crown, but I’m not sure about that. But it’s pretty neat.

Deodato is Deodato. He’s softened his style since those days on Wonder Woman, so many years ago, and while his inks aren’t as severe and it makes his females not quite as anatomically impossible as they used to be, you can still see it here and there (see below). I’ve grown more used to this style since he started going with it, and it’s not bad. I’m kind of ambivalent about his art – it gets the job done, and I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. But I like how dark he and Beredo make the book – it ought to be, after all.

I’ll see what’s going on for the first story arc. I like the idea and the execution, so that’s a good start!

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Secret History #9 (“The Thule Society”) by Jean-Pierre Pécau (writer), Igor Kordey (artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Scott Newman (letterer). $5.95, 46 pgs, FC, Archaia.

I mentioned that the biggest issue I had with the first volume of this title (issues #1-7) was that it was hard to care about the characters because of the huge gaps in time between each issue. I don’t know if Pécau had planned it out this way, but now that he’s focusing more on the 20th century, we get characters showing up in more than one issue, and it makes the book work a bit better, because while Pécau is still focusing on the grand schemes of immortal beings, we also get linger with certain characters longer, getting to know them better. Curtis, the English pilot who’s working for the three allied archons (Erlin, Reka, and Aker) is the most obvious, but the Russian rabbi and his student, Itzak, from last issue are back in this one, as is one of the bad guys. It raises the stakes a bit because we see more of the machinations, and all the weird mystical stuff is easier to deal with because we actually have some stake in the characters. When Curtis gets tortured, we care a bit more, because we’ve come to know him a bit over the past three issues.

I mentioned my problems with The Anchor above, and in this issue, Pécau shows someone with great power not using it and getting killed as a result. It’s an interesting juxtaposition with Clem as the Anchor – a character later points out the folly of abusing power and how it does no good to anyone. Pécau, obviously, shows plenty of people using power to kick ass, both “good” guys and “bad” guys, but it’s a neat look at what happens when you can do something and choose to follow the teachings of your faith – are you weak, or wise? If you strike the character down, will it only make him more powerful than you can possibly imagine? Man, that sounds like something that should be in a movie or something.

And so we move on. More good stuff as usual!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Warriors #16 (“Wake the Beast Part ∞”) by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Gianluca Gugliotta (artist), Sunny Gho (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

And so we come to the third “Secret” book of the week. I’m really vexed that Secret Six didn’t come out this week. I think my head would have exploded.

I’m a bit bummed that Caselli couldn’t finish this arc for whatever reason. Gugliotta’s art, while not terrible, isn’t as good as the two “regular” artists on this book – mostly because his faces are more distended and downright ugly than Caselli’s or Vitti’s. Gho’s coloring keeps the look of the comic relatively consistent, but when you get a good look at some of the faces, it’s clear this isn’t quite as good as the book usually looks. I don’t know if the plan was to alternate artists for each story arc and “Wake the Beast” just went long (as it felt) or if there’s another reason Caselli couldn’t finish (like a new assignment), but I hope Marvel gets a better artist going forward or Gugliotta gets better. It wouldn’t take much.

I’ve always said that this will read better in long-term format, which is why I’m buying it in trade paperback … oh, wait, I’m not, am I? Well, I should be. The simmering plot points from earlier in the arc come to a minor head in this issue, but it’s really just more of a signpost along the way, as there’s no real reason why this particular issue should end the arc. The actual issue ends on a fairly standard cliffhanger, and if we’re “waking” the “beast,” well, that beast was woken a few issues ago. This arc was about the two evil sides, Hydra and Leviathan, deciding they don’t like each other. Well, thanks for that. I might sound perturbed at the pace, but I’m not, really – Hickman has made this intriguing enough (unlike his Fantastic Four, which you’ll notice I dropped) that I can deal with the glacial pacing. I notice that the recap pages are beginning to give us a bit more actual information about the groups, which is nice, and I do like the way everything just simmers for issues and issues until we get the blow-up, even if the blow-up is somewhat subdued itself. Even as we get a blow-up, Hickman continues to layer on the intrigue, from the Kraken dude to the ending, which leads further into the series. This series definitely resists the 4-, 5-, or 6-issue arc that fits neatly into a trade, because Hickman is really going for the long con here. And I really appreciate the idea of history in this title, even though it makes no sense in the context of the larger Marvel Universe, which constantly moves further away from World War II and the 1960s. Hickman doesn’t care – he’s having too much fun with this stuff. I’m still digging it, even though it occasionally frustrates me.

I still wish Caselli had finished this arc, though.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Seven Psychopaths #1 (of 3) by Fabien Vehlmann (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), Hubert (colorist), Troy Peteri (letterer), and Dan Heching (translator). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Chip Mosher, one of the grand poobahs of Boom! Studios, occasionally reads this blog, so he may read this. I have a bit of a bone to pick with him. I’ve often written that I have no problem paying four bucks for his comics, because I would rather spend $3.99 for something good from Boom! than even some good superhero book from the Big Two. And I like this comic, and I like Sean Phillips’ art, and I’m willing to pay $3.99 for three issues of it. So what do I see in this month’s Previews? A trade of this book for ten dollars. Now, that’s only two dollars less than what I’ll spend for buying them in single issue format, but it bugs me. Boom! has done this before, with something like Irredeemable, but that’s an ongoing series and subsequent trades have been priced accordingly – the first cheap trade was like the crack, luring you in. This is specifically a three-issue mini-series, so there’s no more trades. This also bugs me because this is not a new series – it’s an old European one (presumably in French) – so it’s not like it’s not already finished and can be released as a trade in the first place. (I know, everything could be released that way, but let’s not get into that now.) I’m a bit miffed at Mr. Mosher right now, even though I’m sure he’s a swell guy (I’ve never met him; whenever I stop by the Boom! booth in San Diego, he’s never there). And hey, I won’t let it stop me from recommending this book!

Because it’s a good comic. In late 1941, an English spy thinks killing Hitler would be a swell idea. His superiors laugh at him, because they’ve tried it many, many times and it never works. So he finds the guy who suggested it to him (he received a letter in the mail), who’s confined to a mental institution. Professor Goldschmidt, the dude in the asylum, tells Colonel Thompson that they need to recruit “psychopaths” because those people will be so unpredictable that the Nazis won’t know what hit them. So they get a high-ranking German officer who defected to the Allies in 1937 and believes that Hitler talks to him telepathically; a crook who impersonated a soldier and happens to be a master of disguise; and a British officer who blacked out and killed his mistress and her husband. Thompson also brings in a woman he knows who happens to be a terrific sniper, but she needs some convincing. By the end, they need two more recruits and all is looking well! But of course, trouble lurks on the horizon. Isn’t that always the way?

Vehlmann and Heching basically give us all the information we need – it’s a very text-heavy issue, and it’s mostly exposition. Your enjoyment of the issue will depend, probably, on two things: How much you enjoy the hook (and I do) and how much you like Phillips’ art (my answer: A lot). Phillips is less confined by the noir elements of his recent work – Criminal and Incognito – and is able to open up a bit. (I should point out that Phillips’ work on those two books is fantastic, but they’re definitely restricted by the tone of the books.) This book gives him a bit more room to breathe, and the colors by “Hubert” are very nice. Phillips gets to draw big explosions and some shooting and lots of rubble. Good stuff!

Based on the first issue, this looks like it will be a good mini-series. But I will also suggest you wait for the trade. And that makes me grumpy. Do you really want to fight, Mr. Mosher? DO YOU?!?!?!? I’ll have you know that I can take my four-year-old daughter with one hand tied behind my back, man!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Unknown Soldier #20 (“A Battle of Little Note Conclusion”) by Joshua Dysart (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist), Oscar Celestini (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I’ve been writing this for a while, but I’ll keep writing it: Unknown Soldier, which started pretty well, has been getting better and better. This brief two-issue arc about cattle rustlers concludes with a fantastic issue, in which Moses defends a family against those very rustlers. They’ve taken refuge on a bluff, and Moses has to help them. There’s a mother, a daughter, and a son with a horrible physical deformity. Moses figures out a way to defend them against a much larger force, and it’s a wonderful bit of cat-and-mouse gaming. He reaches a bit of a crossroads, and it will be interesting to see where Dysart takes the book now.

I was interested in Dysart’s text piece in the book, where he explains that he was wary about writing this because he hadn’t spent any time with the Karamojong, the people in the arc. It gets back to an interesting point about the book – Dysart has claimed he wants to write a kick-ass action book and if some social commentary gets in there, so be it. But he’s writing more commentary about the war in Uganda than maybe he realizes. I still like the book much more when he’s not so heavy-handed about the problems in Uganda, but as always with the comic, it’s when he doesn’t focus on it that he gives us interesting stuff about the war. Even if, as he puts it, the Karajomong don’t think the way he writes them in the book, it feels real, and that’s often good enough. And we get a bit more about Moses and what he’s going through, too, which is nifty.

Next issue is a one-and-done which sounds pretty keen, but I’m excited to get back to Moses and his problems. Dysart has turned this book into a gripping read, and it would be nice if DC got a second trade out so people can catch up with it a bit.

One totally Airwolf panel:

20th Century Boys volume 8 by Naoki Urasawa. $12.99, 207 pgs, BW, Viz Media.

If anyone cares, I haven’t forgotten about reviewing every manga series I read. I just have a ton of other stuff to get to, so once I have that down to a manageable stack, I’ll dive into the next manga series I want to review. They’re coming, I promise!

Invincible: Still Standing (volume 12) by Robert Kirkman (writer), Ryan Ottley (penciler), Cliff Rathburn (inker), Fco Plascencia (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $16.99, 165 pgs, FC, Image.

I don’t know if Kirkman is keeping up with his promise to get his Image books out every month, but it seems like forever since a trade of Invincible came out. This only goes through issue #65. What are they up to in the single issues, good readers? And have they been coming out consistently?

The Search for Smilin’ Ed! by Kim Deitch. $16.99, 162 pgs, BW, Fantagraphics.

The first and so far only Deitch book I’ve read is Alias the Cat. I didn’t love it, but it was keen enough to lure me into buying this. We shall see what I think of it. I’m sure MarkAndrew has already read this and made sweet, sweet love to it as well. He’s just weird that way.

Okay, let’s move on to The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle But Which Often Gets Reset, A Vexing Dilemma*):

* Seriously, I went over a small rise in the road today – it wasn’t even really a bump, and the damned thing reset. Consarnit!

1. “Human Chain” – Christmas (1989) “Sleep with me your life will change”
2. “Wish You Were Here” – Incubus (2001) “I’m counting UFOs, I signal them with my lighter”
3. “Transmetropolitan” – Pogues (1984) “We’ll spew and lurch, get nicked and fixed, on the way we’ll kill and maim”1
4. “The Unforgiven” – Metallica (1991) “The old man then prepares to die regretfully”2
5. “Crack Hitler” – Faith No More (1992) “Bodies float up from the bottom of the river like bubbles in fine champagne”
6. “The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore” – PJ Harvey (2000) “This isn’t the first time I’ve asked for money or love”
7. “S. T. B.”3Godfathers (1988) “And Georgia wants to screw George, she’ll have to use her finger tonight”
8. “Wake Up Time for Freedom” – The Cult (1989) “A flock of vultures spinning ’round my head left me on the roadside for dead”
9. “Least Complicated” – Indigo Girls (1994) “So I just sit up in the house and resist and not be seen until I cease to exist”
10. “Apparitions” – Knots and Crosses (1999) “You made an art of driving stakes right through my heart”

1 I’ve written this before but I’ll write it again: I can see 16-year-old Warren Ellis listening to this album and slowly turning into the Warren Ellis we all know and love. I wonder if I’m right.
2 Remember the controversy over this album? How it wasn’t “hard” enough? Man, people get worked up over some silly things.
3 I don’t know what these letters mean.

No one got the totally random lyrics last week – they were from “Under the God” by Tin Machine, David Bowie’s weird late 1980s side project. Side projects are always weird, or at least I think they are. I mean, why didn’t Bowie just release these songs with his name on them? Beats me. Anyway, Tin Machine wasn’t very good, but “Under the God” was kind of fun. But let’s check out some more totally random lyrics!

“Stood on a bridge, tied to the noose
Sick to the stomach
You can say what you mean
But it won’t change a thing
I’m sick of the secrets
Stood on the edge, tied to the noose
She came along and she cut me loose”

Just remember, good readers – I just can’t stand to see you happy, but more than that, I hate to see you sad!