What I bought – 3 December 2009

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 3 December 2009

They tax our policy, and call it cowardice,
Count wisdom as no member of the war.
Forestall prescience, and esteem no act
But that of hand. The still and mental parts,
That do contrive how many hands shall strike
When fitness calls them on, and know by measure
Of their observant toil the enemies’ weight —
Why, this hath not a finger’s dignity.

Batman: Unseen #5 (of 5) (“Vanished”) by Doug Moench (writer), Kelley Jones (artist), Michelle Madsen (colorist), and Pat Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

If you’re not sure how insane a Doug Moench/Kelley Jones Batman comic is, consider this:

1. That cover. The excellent and very funny tag line above the title, Alfred freaking out (he says, “Master Bruce — NO! Don’t drink the serum!”), Batman slowly turning invisible, the fun Batcave stuff in the background … and although this exact scene doesn’t appear in the comic, it’s very representative of what happens.

2. On the first page, Batman stands on the Bat-Signal, lecturing Gordon and Bullock, while the light shines from between his legs like, yes, a giant penis. Batman swings his mighty cock!

3. Batman sets an old-school trap for Nigel Glass, the invisible man, luring him to Bruce Wayne’s ski lodge so that he, Batman, can see his footprints in the snow. Because Batman thinks of everything.

4. Bruce invents a way to see an invisible man. In his spare fucking time, mind you.

5. Alfred snootily tells Bruce that he’s already put the invisible-man-seeing lenses in the bat cowl, because Bruce dares question whether he’s done it yet. It’s surprising Alfred doesn’t say, “Stuff it, Master Bruce.”

6. Instead of undoing the buttons on his winter coat before he begins his killing spree, Nigel Glass cuts them off with a butcher’s knife. Because he’s goddamned hard core!

7. As he takes his clothes off, Nigel narrates: “Time they watched their own carcasses get picked clean … by a savage beast stripped to the see-through skin for some seriously bloody fun and — Gyah — friggin’ freezin’ out here! But all the greedy vultures are inside now, no doubt sipping fancy firewater around a blazing hearth, and that can only mean one thing, sports fans … It’s about to heat up big time — all the way to sweltering red hell.” Because that’s how people talk in a Doug Moench/Kelley Jones Batman comic.

8. In order to regain his edge in scaring the bejesus out of criminals (which he felt he lost at the beginning of the series), Batman takes the invisibility serum and fights Nigel wearing the bat cowl, his cape, his gloves … and nothing else. Yes, it’s NAKED BATMAN THROWDOWN!!!!!

9. Batman knocks Nigel Glass into a fireplace, setting his hair on fire.

10. When the translux formula begins to wear off, we get a skeleton wearing Batman’s cape and cowl.

I don’t know how you can resist Batman: Unseen. I really don’t.

One panel of awesome:

GrimJack: The Manx Cat #5 (of 6) by John Ostrander (writer), Timothy Truman (artist), Lovern Kindzierski (colorist), and John Workman (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Speaking of insane, in this issue, John Gaunt, whose ethereal form was sent backward in time and took up residence in a vigilante fighting against the authority in Cynosure centuries before and who may or may not be a previous incarnation of Gaunt himself, fights alongside said vigilante and hundreds of his other incarnations against a giant mummy cat goddess who manages to break out into the real world where the very authority against whom St. John of Knives (the vigilante) manages to transform her into a feline statue, thereby explaining what the situation is in the present, to which Gaunt then returns where he realizes he left the statue in the care of his best friend and the giant mummy cat goddess is about to get out and wreak havoc. Plus, he drives a flying vintage car that looks like something out of the 1950s.

Goddamn, is it any wonder why I love comics?

One panel of awesome:

Scalped #33 (“The Gnawing Part Four of Five”) by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I really love the way Aaron constructs a story, even if I’m not a fan of everything he writes. He takes his time, keeping a lot of balls in the air until they’re all ready to line up, and then he lines them up beautifully (to mix a metaphor). I have a feeling I know how Dash is going to pull his fat out of the fire with regard to his cover almost being blown, and even if I’m right, it will be a cool way for Aaron to work it. Of course, he could pull the rug out from under us once again next issue – I wouldn’t be shocked.

Red Crow continues to be the most fascinating character in this comic, mostly because we really can’t get a read on him. He’s a monster, obviously, but his confrontation at the end of the book with the Hmongs who have come for revenge against him is interesting because of what it says about his commitment to the rez. We’ve seen this commitment before, of course, but it’s nice that Aaron reminds us of it occasionally. All the characters are well written, but Red Crow is exceptional. Guéra does a great job with the scene in the hospital when he tries to see his daughter, who specifically requested he not come in. When the nurse tells him, Red Crow’s face is beautifully drawn, as we see he’s considering killing the nurse right there and is wrestling with it. When he walks away, Guéra does a great job showing him utterly defeated, just by the fact that his daughter no longer wants to see him. It’s marvelous. This, of course, leads directly to his decision with regarding the Hmongs, and Aaron is excellent at this sort of thing – emotions from life driving the characters’ actions. Red Crow obviously has other reasons for his actions (as he briefly explains), but the loss of his daughter from his life is part of it, too.

Scalped continues to turn the screws, and it’s wonderful to read. I’m very curious to see next issue, where the shit (once again) hits the fan. Should be keen!

One panel of awesome:

The Secret History #7 (of 7) (“Our Lady of the Shadows”) by Jean-Pierre Pécau (writer), Igor Kordey (artist), Carole Beau (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Scott Newman (letterer). $5.95, 46 pgs, FC, Archaia.

Well, this was a disappointment.

I’ve been a fan of this series since it began, because it had a clever hook (four immortals influencing human history) and nice individual issues checking out flashpoints in human history when the immortals took a more active role. The art (especially when Kordey draws) has been top-notch, and it’s been fun watching Pécau dropping plenty of historical figures – both very famous and not-so-famous – into the action and even just referencing other actual people (Tolkein gets a mention in this issue). The series has a big, epic feel, sprawling over centuries and bringing in hundreds of characters, and Pécau has done a nice job with even minor characters. In this issue, Curtis Hawk, a World War I pilot, turns out to be the hero, and Pécau brings him to life well even though this is the first issue he’s appeared in. And Kordey does a nice job with the brutality of the trenches and the supernatural aspects of the book (dragons, for instance). As a single issue, this works fairly well.

So why is it a disappointment? Well, the story doesn’t end. It’s been seven issues and over 300 pages, and by the end, it appears we’re just getting started. Now, if Pécau has written another series and Archaia is going to publish those in this country, I suppose I can forgive that, but it seems a bit disingenuous to claim this is a seven-issue series when the final issue offers absolutely no closure. I mean, really none. The Allies win World War I, of course, which thwarts the latest plans of the evil immortals, but it’s but a temporary setback, and if you know anything about history, you know a bigger war comes fairly quickly after World War I. I was wondering why Pécau wasn’t doing anything with that one, and now I know: It’s the next story! Again, I have no idea if Pécau has written another series, but it’s kind of annoying that we didn’t know it going in. The series itself is a big chunk of very good comics, but the ending was a letdown. Oh well.

One panel of awesome:

Starstruck #4 (of 13) by Elaine Lee (writer), Michael Wm. Kaluta (artist), Lee Moyer (painter), Todd Klein (letterer), and John Workman (letterer). $3.99, 28 pgs, FC, IDW.

Starstruck continues to awe, as Lee keeps us on our toes with the story, switching back to the Medea family and focuses on Molly, the younger daughter, who we see grow up and rebel against her mother and step-father. There’s nothing terribly revolutionary about Lee’s treatment of Molly’s gradual estrangement from her family and her rivalry with her (favored) step-sister, who seems fairly evil, but she (Lee, that is) still does a good job showing how it all happened, and we get some nice bits of character building along the way, from the rift developing between Molly’s parents, her practice with a bow and (suction-cup) arrows, and how Maggie (her step-sister) became so evil. The Galactic Girl Guide in the second half of the book focuses on a rivalry between the Girls and their male counterparts, and it’s a goofy story that allows Kaluta to show off a bit. Both stories are pretty good, if not as crazy as the previous three issues, and as usual with this series, it’s nice to see Lee slowly building this world.

Kaluta, of course, is fantastic. I very much doubt that a baby’s rattle with no sharp points on it would give Molly a scar that would last the rest of her life, but it’s still a pretty good scene, as we see Molly talking to her little step-sister and trying, even when Maggie is a baby, to poison the well, so to speak, as she tells Maggie stories about “bad daddy” – who is, of course, Maggie’s natural father. Kaluta does a very good job showing that Molly might be just as culpable as Maggie in this sibling rivalry – we get the sense from her wonderful expressions that she’s not the sweet innocent kid we might want to believe she is. And the second story allows Kaluta to go a bit nuts, as there’s a flying contraption and a rocket and lots of crashing into things.

It is, as usual, tough to really get into reviewing this series. Each issue is such a small part of a whole, and although I’m committed to the series, I don’t know where it’s going at all. But it’s a fun ride!

One panel of awesome:

Sweet Tooth #4 (“Out of the Deep Woods Part 4”) by Jeff Lemire (writer/artist), José Villarrubia (colorist), and Pat Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Sweet Tooth isn’t really setting my world on fire, and that makes me sad, because I want to like it. So far, it’s just not unique enough to make me sit up and take notice, and when your main character is an animal-human hybrid, that’s kind of strange. This issue is a perfect example. Gus and Jepperd, who last issue stumbled into a house where they found a young girl with rabbit ears, discover that she’s a fake – the people who own the house are running a brothel and pretending that the girls are hybrids, because that’s what’s in demand these days. Their confrontation with our heroes plays out exactly as you’d expect, and that’s kind of upsetting. I’m serious – I saw everything coming in this issue from the moment we learn the girl’s a fake (which happens in the first panel), and there’s nothing terribly interesting about it, because it’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in fiction far too many times before – I don’t want to give any of it away, but it’s obvious what’s coming. Lemire has shown that he can write very good characters, and when he does that, what they do becomes less important and therefore if it’s predictable, it doesn’t matter as much. In this series, he hasn’t established Gus and Jepperd enough to overcome that, so when Jepperd goes through his paces in this issue, it doesn’t feel like something he would do, it feels like something a stereotype would do, because so far, that’s all Jepperd is. I hate being this mean to a creator who has done very good work before and is trying something unusual, but I just wonder if Lemire feels pressure to get some action into this comic before he gets to the characterization so that it sells enough to continue. If so, it’s not working for me. I know, I’m weird, but I’d rather see him give us a reason to care about Gus and Jepperd before he starts putting them in these situations. If we knew Jepperd more, we’d give Lemire the benefit of the doubt when he puts him in a clichéd situation like this and we’d understand his motivations more. Right now, we don’t, and therefore this entire issue has no tension, because we know exactly what’s going to happen but not why, which makes Jepperd a boring anti-hero. But that’s just me.

The first arc ends next issue, and I’ll get it, but I’ll have to think long and hard about whether I’m going to continue from then on. Lemire might knock it out of the park, of course. We’ll see!

One panel of awesome:

By the way, that sound you heard emanating out of (I think) Iowa today was our own MarkAndrew, who squealed like a tween at a Jonas Brothers concert when this hit the stores:

So calm down. All is well!

I should point out that I’m writing this before 10 p.m. Eastern time, so MTV’s Jersey Shore hasn’t premiered yet, but I have my DVR set! I saw some of the promos for this, and it looks like the greatest clusterfuck reality show ever, and that’s saying something. Our Dread Lord and Master (probably) and Bill Reed (probably) can tell you that people at the Jersey shore are actually like the people on this show, and that’s frickin’ hilarious. I’m sure I’ll only watch the first episode and I might not make it through that, but I can’t wait to check it out.

And now let’s get to some totally random lyrics!

“This guy turns me around and he’s pointing up the stairs
I found myself in her doorway but there wasn’t anybody there
She walked in the room with nothing on but a red light
And with a smile she got so close to me
She whispered something ’bout midnight
You know I didn’t understand a word she said
But it felt so good
She knew that I didn’t have any money
But baby I knew she would …”

Sing it proud!