What I bought – 4 November 2009

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 4 November 2009

You know, your menstruating heart just isn’t bleeding enough for two.

You know, it’s been a while since we focused on boobs in comics. Let’s see what the cleavage factor is in this week’s haul, shall we? I apologize in advance to the women who are reading. Sometimes it just seems like the comics have extra exploitative drawings of the ladies! But it’s all in fun, so I hope no one gets too offended.

Assault on New Olympus (Prologue) by Greg Pak (writer), Fred van Lente (writer), Rodney Buchemi (artist), Guillem Mari (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). “Godmarked Part One: The Oldest One” by Jeff Parker (writer), Gabriel Hardman (artist), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist), and Tom Orzechowski (letterer). $3.99, 38 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I got the idea for this week’s theme mainly from being obsessed with the bikini Aphrodite is wearing. I guess it’s her goddessy powers that are actually keeping those things covered!

This is a fine “prologue” to the story that is coming up in the regular Incredible Hercules book, as it gets all the players into place, advances the story a little, but doesn’t have anything too, too crucial that can’t be covered quickly if you happen to skip this but read the regular title (but really, why would you do that?). If you haven’t been reading the regular title (and really, what’s up with that?) and just grabbed this because of that wallcrawler on the cover, Pak and van Lente do a fine job getting you up to speed. There’s a nice fight between Hercules and Spider-Man (with more good sound effects), a funny reference to that Amazing Spider-Man issue where our hero was trapped under all that wreckage and the water was pouring in (you know the one!), another funny reference to when Spidey fought the Juggernaut, and some nice character moments, from Herc’s reconciliation with Hebe to his reunion with Amadeus. Plus, we get an Agents of Atlas back-up (which is called “Godmarked,” which is also what the second story in the X-Men/Agents of Atlas book is called), in which the Atlas gang fights a giant octopus god. You goddamn read that right – a motherfucking giant octopus god!!!!!

Damn, I love comics. I didn’t even mention how frickin’ terrifying Amatsu-Mikaboshi is.

Boobs? Of course!

There’s also Jocasta, who’s metallic but, well, naked (as young Zeus points out), a naked but demurely covered Gaea, Athena wearing battle armor that inexplicably doesn’t cover her shoulders or upper torso, and Spider-Woman wearing her thing.

Atomika #11 (of 12) (“Relentless”) by Andrew Dabb (writer), Sal Abbinanti (artist), Buzz (inker), Simone Peruzzi (colorist), and Dave Sharpe (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Mercury Comics.

Speaking of reasons to love comics, Atomika is still out there, speeding toward its conclusion, and I’m still loving it. There have been certain issues where Dabb takes a bit of a back seat, and this is one of them, but it’s still stunning. Basically, Arohnir tells all his minions that Atomika is coming to kill them all and they need to fight, and then we get, I kid you not, eight (8) double-page spreads showing the forces arrayed against our “hero.” Abbinanti draws the hell out of the armies, from the huge spiked one-wheeled dreadnaughts to the flying Harpies of the KGB, from the ornate bombers to the horrific demi-gods. Abbinanti even gives us a single double-page spread showing the war between Atomika and all his enemies, as if it’s so horrible it can only be represented symbolically. Of course, it leads to his final confrontation with Arohnir (and a special guest!), but that’s for next issue.

I’ve written this whenever an issue has come out, but gazing on Abbinanti’s stunning art is really fun. With Dabb simply along for the ride on this issue (Dabb is a fairly good writer, but this issue simply isn’t focused on the writing too much), Abbinanti can go more nuts than he usually does, and the sense of oppression and terrible magnificence that he’s brought to the comic all along threatens almost to overwhelm the pages themselves. Atomika continues to be unlike almost every other comic, not because of the story (it’s a good story, but it’s basically a superhero battle), but because of the way Dabb has made it feel like a Soviet comic (if that makes sense) and the way Abbinanti has truly created a weird and unique world. I have a feeling a lot of people have missed this, but I greatly encourage you to get the trade of the first six issues and, of course, get the trade of the second six when it shows up. It’s a dynamite comic.

Boobs? Of course!

For some reason, the female demi-god, who has that big fur on because she lives in Russia and understands how cold it is, feels the need to wear a low-cut outfit and expose her midriff. How’s that going to help her fight Atomika?

Batman: Unseen #3 (of 5) (“Ghost-Killer”) by Doug Moench (writer), Kelley Jones (artist), Michelle Madsen (colorist), and Pat Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

All right, so I skipped reviewing issue #2, because it came out two weeks ago, when I was really, really sick, so I missed that it came out and didn’t get it until a few days ago. But I’m back with issue #3, and it’s not like you don’t know what you’re getting from a Moench/Jones Batman comic, right? I mean, on the first page we see Batman working on some wacky, pseudo-scientific-but-also-slightly-Gothic machine in the cave, trying to figure out what’s going on with the invisibility serum. Throughout the book, we see more and more weird contraptions, because that’s the way Kelley Jones likes it, damn it!

Of course, Batman goes out and does stuff, beating up an invisible man (because he’s the Goddamned Batman, man, so he doesn’t need to actually see the bad guys like mere mortals!), making an appearance as Bruce Wayne (I always liked how Jones’s Bruce Wayne was almost as scary as his Batman), and doing his Batman thing. Meanwhile, the invisible man kills again, Moench’s favorite character Roman Sionis recounts his origin yet again, and it’s another Moench/Jones instant classic. Don’t listen to T.! Moench and Jones on Batman is always a blast of pure awesomeness! Come on – for one of the chapter breaks, Jones turns Batman’s head into a candle! Who else would come up with something so wacky????

Boobs? Of course!

The invisible man tries to kill that dude, and of course his wife is sleeping in lingerie instead of sensible pajamas!

Black Widow: Deadly Origin #1 by Paul Cornell (writer), Tom Raney (penciler), John Paul Leon (artist/colorist), Scott Hanna (inker), Matt Milla (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $3.99, 21 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I don’t get this book at all. It’s 4 dollars for 21 pages of story, which is a bad return. I know I said I wasn’t going to fall for this from Marvel again, but it’s Paul Cornell, and I really want to support his work, so there’s that. But that’s not what I don’t get. The end of the book gives us a “Next,” but which issue is “next”? Marvel’s December solicits include Black Widow and the Marvel Girls #1 (God, what an awful title), which is a mini-series by a completely different creative team than this one (Paul Tobin and Salvador Espin, in case you’re interested). Marvel then has issue #3 of this series up on their site for January, but I can’t find where issue #2 is. Hmmm … Then, issue #3 is still $3.99, presumably for the same amount of pages (21 or 22), so I think I will skip the rest of the series, even though I want to support Cornell. I’m sorry, Marvel, I’ll pay 4 dollars for an indy book, but when you can slap a 4-dollar price tag on a 38-page book (see above) and on a 30-page comic (see below) but aren’t able to sell a book featuring, let’s face it, a middle-tier character in your stable for 3 dollars, why should I pay it? It will just come out in trade in a few months anyway.

It’s kind of shame, because this is a decent comic. It’s not quite as good as Rucka’s work with the character at the beginning of the decade, but it’s pretty good. Cornell does a good job jiving it with long-established “continuity” with regard to Logan and Natasha in World War II (Natasha seems a bit old during this section, based on what we discovered back in that great Uncanny X-Men issue, but I’ll forgive it), and Leon, who is apparently the go-to artist when you need someone to draw something in Russia, does his usual fantastic job depicting the action. Raney’s art is always good, even though I assume Milla “Marvelized” it by smoothing out the rough edges. There’s plenty of action, a mystery to be solved, and Bucky Barnes! I didn’t love this part too much, because Cornell falls back on simply listing who he is and what he means to Natasha instead of working it better into the story, but that’s okay. It always seemed less intrusive when narrative boxes were more common. When they just show up occasionally and read “James Barnes, now a free man. And upgraded. Enough of a boyfriend to use her nickname,” it’s kind of jarring. Oh well.

I’d really like to get this mini-series, but I’m not gonna. I’d rather spend my four dollars on something like GrimJack. Come on, Marvel, you’re flush with Mouse Cash – keep the prices on your regular-sized books at $2.99!!!!!

Boobs? Shockingly (in a book starring a character who often wears black latex), not really. On the credits page we get Natasha in her black latex, but it’s surprisingly chaste. I guess that’s a win for Cornell, Raney, and Leon!

Elephantmen #22 (“Dangerous Liaisons Part Seven of Eight: 7 Days of Smog Part One: Truth”) by Richard Starkings (writer), Andre Szymanowicz (artist), and Gregory Wright (colorist). $3.50, 23 pgs, FC, Image.

As always, I have to thank Richard Starkings for sending this to me, and I hope it’s not too late for you to still find it on the shelves if you’re interested (it came out two weeks ago). Should you buy it? Of course you should! It’s, what’s the word … oh yeah, excellent. I know I sound like a broken record and I really do tell Starkings that I would buy his comic if he didn’t always send it to me for free, because it’s so damned good! After last issue, when Ebony went a bit nutty thanks to the thing in his head (which allows humans to control the elephantmen), Hip and Miki show up at his place to find out what’s going on, and of course he doesn’t remember anything. His red eyes freak Hip out a bit, but he doesn’t get a chance to explore that. Meanwhile, Vanity meets a man named Simm, who showed up a few issues ago and is a bit mysterious, and he tells her that Obadiah Horn is selling Elephantmen paraphenalia, which piques her curiosity. Of course, she shouldn’t trust him, but he’s so darned cute! What’s a poor girl to do? (Remember the Golden Rule of Comics, kids: Never trust anyone who’s attractive!)

Szymanowicz is another good choice for the art chores – his women are slightly different than we usually see, but Miki and Vanity are still, you know, smokin’. Szymanowicz has a nice indy style that seems to fit with the “Blade Runner” kind of world that Starkings has created – he throws in all sorts of nice touches in the street scenes that make Los Angeles two hundred years in the future feel like a foreign place even as Hip visits a normal neighborhood in Santa Monica. It’s a really nice-looking comic, and the final page is gorgeous. It’s nice to see Szymanowicz getting some higher profile work. Next for him: Selling out to Marvel!!!!

Elephantmen just keeps trucking along, with good issue after good issue. If Starkings didn’t get new artists every few issues, I’d never have anything new to talk about with regard to it! I’d just write, “Ho hum, another brilliant issue. What else is new?” Thanks, Richard, for helping your poor reviewer out!

Boobs? Well, I guess, as Vanity and Miki are in the book, but they’re wearing fairly normal clothing, so there’s nothing too obnoxious about it.

The God Machine (preview book) by Chandra Free (writer/artist). $3.95, 36 pgs, FC, Archaia.

This is the first of three (3) Archaia books on the agenda this week, only one of which I bought on my own (this isn’t it). It’s always nice to get stuff in the mail, and I’d like to thank the fine folk at Archaia for sending these on to me. I’m also glad they’re getting their books out a bit more regularly, and are doing new stuff (like this) as well as cleaning up their back catalog.

Of course, the problem with getting stuff in the mail is that sometimes you just don’t like it. I can’t really recommend The God Machine, not because it’s a preview and doesn’t tell a complete story, but because it’s not really my thing. The art is very Johnny the Homicidal Maniac kind of stuff, which I’m not too keen on, although I appreciate the work Free put into it – this is very much a labor of love, and there’s a lot of energy on the page, even though I don’t really like the style. The story isn’t my thing, either – seventeen-year-old Guy Salvatore is pining away for his (presumably) dead girlfriend, bitching about how his school sucks, and seeing things. He ends up in a cemetary, where two gods – the Good God and the Evil God – show up digging out a grave. Guy seems to know the Good God (she’s a hot redhead, whereas the Evil God is a dude, natch), but before they can speak to each other, they disappear and Satan shows up. He tells Guy that his girlfriend is still alive in another dimension and only he can save her. And, of course, she’s trapped because of the gods’ messing around with reality. Guy, naturally, doesn’t believe him. And thus the preview ends.

It’s not a terribly bad plot, but Free sprinkles too much weird shit into it that drags it down, even though it’s supposed to make things more manic. For instance, the book begins with Guy watching television late at night, and a show comes on starring “Everybody’s favorite suicidal sock puppet, Mr. Insane Sock Puppet,” who naturally tells kids to commit suicide. It’s supposed to be funny (I guess), but I don’t find it funny, and it sets the tone for the book, with Guy being kind of jerk to everyone (yes, I know his girlfriend just died, but it seems like he’d be a jerk even if she was alive) and everyone yelling a lot. Guy has a very keen creepy dream at one point, but that’s about the only thing I really liked in the book. Maybe I’m just too old to enjoy something like this. I am pretty old, you know. It just never feels like Free does much to create interesting characters – she spins the clichés of Goth kids fairly well, but just because you twist those a bit doesn’t mean you’re creating an interesting character. I assume Guy’s quest to find his girlfriend (whose nickname is “Sith”) will be the crux of the book, and will intersect with the gods and what they’re up to, but based on this preview, I don’t really care if Guy succeeds or not.

I hate not liking this. Free writes in the beginning of the book that it’s taken her ten years to get the book to publication, and you can certainly tell that she’s put a lot of herself into it. You can check out her web site, her DeviantArt page, or The God Machine page to see more of her artwork, in case it’s up your alley. It’s just not up mine.

Boobs? Hmmm, the one book drawn by a woman features several attractive women, but none flashing a lot of cleavage. I’m stunned!

Greek Street #5 (“Book One: Blood Calls For Blood Part Five: The Anger of the Gods”) by Peter Milligan (writer), Davide Gianfelice (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I’m 90% certain I’m done with Greek Street, because this is the end of the first story arc, and it’s just not doing it for me. The reason it’s still only 90% is because in this issue, Milligan hints that the characters are actually the mythic characters themselves, not just people who happen to be living out lives that resemble characters from Greek myths. I’m not sure if he’s hinted this before, but it’s kind of interesting. Other than that, though, this is still a bit of a mess, and it’s not really doing much for me. Milligan doesn’t seem to have a clear idea about what he wants to do, even though I’m sure he has a long-term plan. The book just seems so all over the map, and it makes it very hard to get into it. Milligan has tightened the focus a bit as he’s gone along, but not enough for me. I just find myself not caring very much about what happens next, which doesn’t bode well.

I do like that Milligan seems to have a balls-to-the-wall kind of attitude about this book with regard to who lives and who dies, as it seems like nobody is safe in this book. That’s always fun, because I get annoyed when a writer has a favorite character and obviously has no interest in harming that character. Suck it up, writers! Milligan doesn’t seem to have that problem, and it makes reading this a bit jarring, which is actually kind of neat. But I don’t think it’s enough! We shall see, but I doubt if I will pick up the next issue. So sad!

Boobs? Of course!

This is the first panel in the book, and it’s a boob. Greek Street features plenty of nudity, significantly none of it male frontal.

GrimJack: The Manx Cat #4 (of 6) by John Ostrander (writer), Timothy Truman (artist), Lovern Kindzierski (colorist), and John Workman (letterer). $3.99, 25 pgs, FC, IDW.

Speaking of why comics are great, Ostrander sends Gaunt back in time to discover the secret of the Manx Cat, and Gaunt inhabits the body of a vigilante monk who fights demons, is in love with a fellow monk (who doesn’t know about it), visits the ruler of Cynosure’s churches and has to get by three belligerent heads, and then fights … battle cherubs. The fact that I can write that sentence and not have fellow blog readers think I’m snorting angel dust is why comics are goddamned awesome. It’s not even that weird an issue! It is, however, brilliant as usual. Oh, and Gaunt/St. John of Knives ends up in a different dimension facing a mummified (but still sexy) cat goddess. Of fucking course.

Damn, I love comics. Yes, I already wrote that, but I don’t care! It’s still true!

Boobs? Of course!

You can’t have a sexy mummified cat goddess without some boobs!

The Secret History #6 (of 7) (“The Eagle and the Sphinx”) by Jean-Pierre Pécau (writer), Igor Kordey (artist), Carole Beau (colorist), Marshall Dillon (letterer), and Edward Gauvin (translator). $5.95, 46 pgs, FC, Archaia.

It’s been quite some time since The Secret History saw the light of day, and while it might not be for everyone, I’m still loving it, mainly because (as I’ve written before) I’m a total sucker for history and alternate history, which we get in large doses in this book. Each issue moves the grand plot along (a plot, I’m sorry to say, that I’m extremely fuzzy on, mainly because it’s been so long since I’ve read the previous issues, but it involves immortals manipulating humanity, to be as basic as possible), but each issue, because they’re separated by hundreds of years, also tells a compelling story in its own right, which is a keen trick. In this issue, Napoleon goes to Egypt, but not for the reasons you might think. This gives Pécau the opportunity to give us some nice battle scenes, some nice creepy scenes in which sand creatures attack the French, and gives Kordey the opportunity to draw the mysterious Orient, and as usual, he draws the heck out of it. Whenever I read anything drawn by Kordey, I need to remind people who only know him from X-Men that he’s very good and that his work on X-Men was compromised by the fact that he was churning out an issue a day (which may be exaggerated, but not by much). He does a wonderful job with a large cast of characters, a sprawling canvas of locations, from Toulon to Egypt to Syria, and some horrific violence. The book feels a bit crowded, with a lot of panels and a lot of narration and dialogue, but it flows very nicely due to Kordey’s art.

I do hope the final issue isn’t too late. I’m looking forward to the grand finale!

Boobs! Of course! It’s European! Which means that the only boobs are naked ones, pretty much in the service of the story. There’s nothing terribly gratuitous about it, which is nice. It’s just there.

Secret Six #15 (“Control”) by John Ostrander (writer), Jim Calafiore (artist), Jason Wright (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

One of the things that’s nice about the minor characters in the DC (and Marvel, of course) canon is that it’s fairly easy to keep track of what’s going on with them if you’re so inclined. As they pop up not too often, they don’t have years and years of backstory to incorporate. Of course, that’s not always the case – I’m not sure what the hell is going on with Looker – but it does apply quite often, and if you happen to have read about the character a lot, you won’t be too lost when someone like Ostrander writes about someone like Deadshot. Despite being in Suicide Squad for its entire run and being a fairly popular villain for 30 years, it’s not too difficult for Ostrander to recount the major points in Floyd’s life, and he even manages to update his origin for the hell of it. It’s your typical excellent Ostrander tale, with Floyd feeling out of control (as he seems to be in Secret Six recently) and seeking the advice of John Ostrander himself, in the form of Reverend Richard Craemer, Ostrander’s stand-in the DCU (and who, frankly, I’m surprised is still alive – why hasn’t Geoff Johns slaughtered him yet?). He walks around with Craemer, explaining how he came to be and getting sound advice from the good reverend. Although there’s not a lot of action and we are positive Floyd isn’t going to kill Craemer like he claims he will, it’s a gripping tale, because Ostrander gets Floyd better than anyone who’s ever written him (including Steve Englehart, who brought him out of mothballs back in the Seventies), and Ostrander is also quite good at writing Richard Craemer. Calafiore, Bill Reed’s favoritest artist EVAH, does his typical yeomanlike work on the book – if you hate Calafiore, you won’t change your mind seeing this, but if you don’t mind him (I kind of like him), this is more of the same.

As much as I dig this book, I really hate when Ostrander shows up in the DCU and starts writing stuff like this. It makes me miss Suicide Squad and The Spectre even more. Goddamn.

Boobs! Of course!

Bruce Wayne in his “Bruce Wayne” role? You know he’ll have scantily-clad women near him!

Strange Tales #3 (of 3). “Cool Hand Uatu” by Nick Bertozzi (writer/artist) and Chris Sinderson (colorist); “Oni” by Stan Sakai (writer/artist) and Tom Luth (colorist); “The Fortune Full X-Man” by Corey Lewis (writer/artist) and Dylan McCrae (colorist); “Fantastic Fool’s Day” by Jeffrey Brown (writer/artist) and Bill Crabtree (colorist); “La Querelle des Monstres” by Jay Stephens (writer/artist); “Cup Cake!” by Chris Chua (writer/artist); “The Abominable Peter Pepper!” by Max Cannon (writer/artist); “The Punisher” by Jonathan Jay Lee (writer/artist); “The Incorrigible Hulk” by Peter Bagge (writer/artist); “Let’s Fight” by Michael Kupperman (writer/artist); “Nightcrawler Meets Molecule Man” by Paul Hornschemeier (writer/artist); “Look Out, Sub-Mariner! … Here Comes the King Crab” by Becky Cloonan (writer/artist). $4.99, 48 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Ah, yes, Strange Tales. Has anyone – Joey Q, some other bigwig at Marvel – ever explained exactly why Peter Bagge’s Hulk story was shelved? I kept waiting for Hulk to eat a kitten and rape General Ross – or, you know, the other way around – so that I could say, “Oh, so THAT’S why,” but it never happened. It was a silly Hulk tale, but nothing terribly objectionable. Does anyone know what the backstory is?

Other than that, this remains a mixed bag. I still think the first issue was the best, and the second issue the worst, with this falling somewhere in between. I didn’t get the feeling of mockery of Marvel’s characters that I did from the stories in the second issue, but I also didn’t get the feeling of revelry in the glorious goofiness of Marvel’s characters that I did from the stories in the first issue. Sakai’s Hulk story is fine, nicely drawn (not surprisingly), but kind of dull. Corey Lewis’s Longshot story is dazzling to look at, but like The God Machine, it makes me feel old. Jeffrey Brown’s Fantastic Four story cracked me the fuck up, I’ll tell you that much. The Beast versus Morbius story was fun solely because of the odd juxtaposition of the two characters beating on each other while engaging in a philosophical debate. I don’t know what the fuck is going on in Chris Chua’s story, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Max Cannon’s contribution was better than the one in the second issue, but still not too funny. Jonathan Jay Lee’s Punisher story might actually get me to read a Punisher issue, if only for how different it looks. Michael Kupperman’s Avengers story is funny until we get the worn-out Hostess Fruit Pies ending. Paul Hornschemeier’s weird story also features philosophical musings, sans the punching. And while Becky Cloonan’s story is … strange, to say the least (fitting for the anthology, I guess), I can’t not love her art, and Marvel should give her a Sub-Mariner mini-series, stat!

I’m probably always going to support this kind of thing from Marvel and DC, unless the quality is really, really bad. Unlike Brad Curran, I actually occasionally support these creators’ independent stuff, and it’s very neat to see them unleashed on iconic comic book characters. I mean, Uatu’s comment about Kraven on the first page is almost worth the price of admission!

Boobs? There aren’t a lot of women in this book, but the ones that are there are dressed normally and aren’t showing anything.

Stumptown #1 (“The Case of the Girl Who Took Her Shampoo but Left her Mini Part One”) by Greg Rucka (writer), Matthew Southworth (artist), and Lee Loughridge (colorist). $3.99, 35 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

There were two main reasons I purchased this comic:

1. Greg Rucka is writing it. I pick on Rucka when he’s writing Detective because I just don’t think the writing is that strong, but for the past decade, he’s been one of the good writers in comics when he’s able to do this kind of crime book, from Whiteout to Queen & Country to Gotham Central to Checkmate. So when I saw he was writing a private eye book, I was jazzed.

2. I fucking love Portland, where this book is set (“Stumptown” is a nickname for Portland). That may seem like a lame reason to buy a comic, and of course if the book sucks it won’t matter where it’s set, but I really would like to get across how much I fucking love Portland and wish I still lived there. There’s absolutely nothing I don’t fucking love about Portland, and that includes the crappy winter weather. Whenever goddamned Jeff Parker posts on his blog that he’ll be signing his latest goddamned excellent comic at Clackamas Town Center or somewhere else in the greater Portland area, I leave a comment on his blog damning him for living in Portland. Damn you, Jeff Parker!!!!! So, needless to say, I was jazzed about Rucka writing a crime comic set in Portland. If someone told me I could move back to Portland and have a nice house in Alameda or by Mt. Tabor or down in Westmoreland or Oak Grove or up by the University or out in the Northwest or even a little further out in Lake Oswego or West Linn or even Tigard and all I had to do was kill Apodaca, I’m afraid he wouldn’t be long for this world (sorry, Dan). Yes, I’d risk life imprisonment to live in Portland! (Although, let’s be honest, who’d miss him? Oh, I kid, Dan, I kid!!!!!!)

Of course, now I have another reason to purchase Stumptown, and that’s because Southworth’s art, which I’ve never seen before, is very good, even when he’s not drawing Portland landmarks. And, of course, Rucka’s story is nice and twisty, as we’re introduced to the unfortunately-named Dexedrine Callisto Parios (we learn that on the final page, and also that everyone – thankfully – calls her “Dex”), a private investigator with a big gambling problem. To get out of debt, she agrees to find the granddaughter of the casino owner (manager?). The girl disappeared, and it seems several people are looking for her. Of course, Dex is approached by someone else who’s looking for, someone who scares the girl, apparently, because she calls Dex and says “he” wants to kill her. Dex arranges a meeting, it all goes pear-shaped, and she ends up in police custody. Just another day in the life of a seedy private eye!

Rucka keeps things moving along nicely, and he gives Dex a brother who has special needs (I’ll guess Down syndrome, but it’s not clear), which humanizes her a bit. There’s also an implication about her relationship with Sue-Lynne, the casino owner (or manager), but we’ll see where that goes. It’s a solid first issue, with a dynamite beginning and a nifty little mystery.

And it makes me miss Portland even more. Damn you, Greg Rucka and Matthew Southworth. And I wouldn’t kill you, Dan. You’re too neat a guy. Maybe I’d just have to maim you. We cool with that?

Boobs? There’s one panel where a woman wearing a bikini steps from a pool, but it’s not obnoxious at all.

Sweet Tooth #3 (“Out of the Deep Woods Part Three”) by Jeff Lemire (writer/artist), José Villarrubia (colorist), and Pat Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Sweet Tooth remains an odd comic, one like Greek Street, in that I’m not sure if I’m really loving it or not (in pretty much every other way, it’s unlike Greek Street). I dig Lemire’s art, and he brings a true feel of the rural world to the book that you don’t see too much in comics. It’s a bleak world he’s created, and when terrifying things happen, like Gus’s dream, it’s even more terrifying because of the setting, and when Gus and Mr. Jepperd show up in a town, we feel the tremendous emptiness, due mainly to Lemire’s art. However, I’m not terribly sure if the story is all that compelling. I mean, there’s nothing terribly original about a plague wiping out most of humanity, and Lemire hasn’t done a lot yet with the fact that Gus is a human-animal hybrid (although the end of this issue might change that next time). I stuck with Wasteland, another post-apocalyptic story, as I waited to figure out what Antony Johnston was doing with it, and I was rewarded for my patience. From what I’ve read of Lemire so far, I think he knows what he’s doing and will make this worthwhile, so I’m going to be patient for this too. But right now, I’m just not loving it. It hasn’t grabbed me yet. I hope it will.

Boobs? There’s only one panel with a female in this book, and she’s wearing a simple dress. Does the Cinderella preview count?

Titanium Rain #1 and 2 by Josh Finney (writer/artist) and Kat Rocha (artist). $4.99, 48 pgs, FC, Archaia.

This is the third Archaia book I received in the mail, and like the first one, I’m not going to recommend it. I read about Titanium Rain when it was first solicited, but it didn’t sound like something I’d like. In 2032, a civil war in China has brought in an international peacekeeping force. As there is a lack of good fighter pilot candidates, some of the wannabes have been injected with various nanomachines to make them better. So the story is about whether these people are still human. In the first two issues (which are combined here), it’s a lot of fighting and not a lot of philosophical discussion, but Finney still brings it up nicely, all the while making sure the situation in China is fairly realistic. It’s not a great story, but it’s not a bad one, either.

However, I can’t stand the art. It’s done in that digital “realistic” style where the artists (both Finney and Rocha are credited) actually use models and somehow scan their faces into the computer. It’s really, really creepy, because we get what looks like movie stills but in sequence, which makes this look like a movie that’s not moving. Comics are a static medium, and trying to do this kind of thing never works. Using models is perfectly fine, but making the book look like it’s a series of photographs robs it of any dynamism, and everything looks extremely plastic in this book. It takes me right out of the story, as I find myself staring at each face, wondering if the doctor in the book is the Bettie Page chick from NCIS, looking at the weirdly dead eyes of the characters, and it just doesn’t work. With good art, this might be an interesting comic. With this, it’s really unpleasant.

Of course, at the web site, you can check out some of the art and read some of the praise of the book. Don’t let me stop you from buying it!

Boobs? It’s a war comic! Everyone’s in uniform! Although NCIS chick does have a tiny bit of cleavage going on, but not enough to be remotely egregious.

The Unknown: The Devil Made Flesh #2 (of 4) by Mark Waid (writer), Minck Oosterveer (artist), Andres Lozano (colorist), Javier Suppa (colorist), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Waid’s weird detective saga continues, as Catherine and Adriana head to Alabama to investigate some murders that an amateur detective told her about. It turns out the “amateur detective” is a kid who suddenly got really smart, which is strange enough. But someone really doesn’t want Catherine to be in Alabama, and things get violent at the end, as one bad guy is revealed and the other … well, he has an axe. The mystery continues, and as usual, I have to wonder what’s important and what’s not. Are the gloves important? ARE THEY????? Oh, the drama!!!!! Plus, Waid delves a bit deeper into Catherine’s brain problem and why she doesn’t get it operated on. It’s a nice character moment in the middle of a weird story.

Oosterveer, of course, continues to dazzle, especially now that he has two hot women to draw instead of one. But he also does a really good job with the creepiness of Mountain Oak, Alabama, and he gives the climax a nice tense feel to it. He’s the kind of artist whose earlier work I want to track down, because he’s so talented.

I honestly have no idea where Waid is going with this, but it’s a very cool read. What about James, Mr. Waid? Is there more to his story?!?!?!?!???!?

Boobs? Of course! Check out that cover!

Two well-endowed women solving crimes? Where’s the FOX television show????

X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #2 (of 2) (“The X-Heist Part Two” and “Godmarked”) by Jeff Parker (writer), Carlo Pagulayan (penciler), Gabriel Hardman (artist), Chris Samnee (artist), Carlos Rodriguez (penciler), Jason Paz (inker), Terry Pallot (inker), Wilfredo Quintana (colorist), Veronica Gandini (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Parker wraps up his nifty little crossover with more fighting, eventual reconciliation, and Namor not acting like a dick for once. Way to go, Namor! What’s keen is that Parker does a nice job explaining just what the hell was going on with the Chris Samnee-drawn section of issue #1, which was, you know, kind of confusing. And although I’m not sure why Aphrodite gives Venus a tramp stamp, the endgame, drawn by Hardman, is pretty cool. Aphrodite even gets a joke in as the Agents of Atlas battle her!

This would have worked a lot better as part of the Agents of Atlas ongoing, because it’s so obvious that the X-Men are here just to goose sales, but it won’t help the ongoing now, will it? Unlike most crossovers, this is basically an Agents of Atlas story with the X-Men being there just because they’re famous. I mean, it’s commendable that Parker tries to make them important, but they’re not, really. This is all part of the Agents getting involved in the Hercules world, and Parker does his usual fine job putting all the pieces in place and entertaining the hell out of us, but it doesn’t feel like an important crossover, you know? I mean, like one where it’s a story about both teams? Even though Parker tries to do this, it still feels like an Agents of Atlas story. That’s not a complaint, by the way, because Parker’s Agents of Atlas was better than pretty much every X-book, but it’s a shame that Parker needed to bring in the X-Men to tell this story.

But it gets us to where we need to go, which is Assault on New Olympus, which directly follows this issue. See? This is the Möbius strip of comics reviewing! How’s about that!

Boobs? Of course!

But not too much. I mean, Venus doesn’t wear a lot in general, so of course there’s going to be some. But there’s nothing terribly gratuitous.

I don’t really have a point with all the cleavage, but it’s worthwhile pointing this stuff out occasionally. The last time I did this, it seemed a lot more gratuitous. That was a few years ago. Maybe we’re making progress!

And hey, it’s time for totally random lyrics!

“Once you take a hit of this
You won’t ever wanna quit
You’ll be so addicted
Said I’ll have you spinning round and round
Crazy, making freaky sounds
You won’t want to come down
And I’ll have you seeing things and hallucinating
Even walking funny ’cause your legs are shaking
All night we’ll be blazin’
I’ll take you for a walk to the other side
We can get high and enjoy the ride
Hold tight we’ll be all right”

We’re still friends, Dan, right? Right?