What I bought – 6 July 2011

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 6 July 2011

Revolution is the universal rule of evolution. Revolution is a universal principle of the world. Revolution is the essence of the struggle for survival or destruction in a time of transition. Revolution submits to heaven and responds to men’s needs. Revolution rejects what is corrupt and keeps the good. Revolution is the advance from barbarism to civilization. Revolution turns slaves into masters. (Zou Rong, from The Revolutionary Army)

Batman: Knight of Vengeance #2 (of 3) by Brian Azzarello (writer), Eduardo Risso (artist), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Well, holy crap, that’s a good issue. I mean, it’s the kind of thing that would never fly in the “real” DCU, because Azzarello takes familiar things and totally twists them, but uses the foundations of the characters we know to do so, and it works really well. I mean, we can see Jim Gordon doing what he does, even though we know it’s a bad idea (a “Lumumba moment,” as it were), and even though the big reveal will probably take some ‘splainin, I can see it making sense (based on the crime). I really can’t say much more about this, because it’s so frickin’ cool. But it is. Truly.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Blue Estate #4 (“Bad Business”) by Viktor Kalvachev (story/artist/colorist), Kosta Yanev (story), Andrew Osborne (scripter), Toby Cypress (artist), Nathan Fox (artist), and Paul Maybury (artist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Things are coming together a bit in this comic, as we return to Rachel Maddox and her problems with her husband in this issue, as Kalvachev and Osborne show how everything ties together. Rachel gets in further over her head, Bruce has some issues with her, and Devine the P.I. re-enters the picture. It’s still very convoluted, but the first page of every issue is a nice little recap, and as we begin to perceive the connections between all the characters, things become clearer. It’s still a nifty little noir tale, which is nice. The art still manages to hold together despite different people working on it – Cypress seems to be the dominant artist on this issue, but I’m still not sure – if I see Kalvachev at San Diego, I’ll ask him. I’m really enjoying Blue Estate – it’s wacky, violent, messy, crazy, and all over the map. But Kalvachev and Yanev obviously have a plan, so I’m having fun watching them get to the point!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Chew #19 (“Flambé Part 4 of 5”) by John Layman (writer/letterer), Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), and Taylor Wells (color assistant). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

The first page of this comic shows the president, the queen of England, and the pope getting killed in particularly bloody fashion. It’s just that kind of comic! Of course, it’s also the kind of comic where Layman can show this and then tell us, Yeah, that didn’t really happen, because Tony and his sister Toni managed to stop it before the assassins could carry out their plan. Layman does this all the time with this book – upend our expectations so cleverly – that it’s just a joy to read. He gives us the way it would have happened, but then shows how Tony and Toni stop the bad guys. Along the way, he continues to drop little fun stuff in like the zero-gravity children (see below). Toni also has fun with Tony’s ability, implying that her brother is going to eat a diaper full of poop so she can clear a room (it totally works). Then, of course, Layman shows that Toni herself has an eating-based power, but she wants to keep it quiet. Another layer of mystery! The book continues to be so tightly plotted that I just love picking up on stuff Layman drops in. I’m sure I’m missing a lot, though. Some dude in the letters column is a far better reader than I am, as he figured out at least one thing about the book before this issue came out.

As for Guillory … he continues to astound. I mean, his artwork is great enough, but he keeps dropping all the goofy crap into the background, like Tony’s beet juice (“now less horrible!”), the motto of the FDA (“We choke the chicken”), and (I think) a screencap of Will Smith in Independence Day. It’s a ton of fun looking at each issue of Chew as well as reading it, and you can’t say that about too many comics, as nice as the art might be.

Yes, I’m a broken record with regard to Chew. But you’d like it, I’m sure. Would I steer you wrong?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fear Itself #4 (of 7) (“Worlds on Fire”) by Matt Fraction (writer), Stuart Immonen (penciler), Wade von Grawbadger (inker), Laura Martin (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Sigh. Man, this just isn’t that good, is it? I mean, it’s pretty much a mess. Fraction hasn’t really done too much with the whole “fear” thing, as generic people just talk about how the hate furriners (like Thor) and we see some small panels of rioting. The storytelling is kind of unclear – when the Serpent raises his palace, it looks very much like he’s standing in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, because that’s where we see Attuma doing his horrible things. And I guess that’s Tony’s thing now, quoting things inappropriately? And then he shows up at Odin’s place and drinks wine? I mean, I know it’s a sacrifice and all, but really? And it’s “Demon in a Bottle” merlot and it has an Iron Man mask on it? This entire story seems to be setting up all the other mini-series and whatnot – I guess the “fear” part is dealt with in that “home front” mini-series, and Tony’s meeting with Odin is in his own book, which makes this entire series feel completely superfluous. When it’s the goddamned main mini-series, that’s not good. None of this feels at all exciting, even when things blow up real good. I mean, when Captain America asks what’s going on, Luke Cage says, “End of the world. Samo-samo” (which is a weird way to spell that). I mean, we as readers know all this is sound and fury, because we’re used to it, but when the characters themselves are kind of bored with the whole thing (and this is after a huuuuge death last issue), that’s a problem. And for someone who writes Iron Man, Fraction seems to really go out of his way to make Stark a dick. Not only with the weird drinking, but the whole “throwing up inside his suit” line. I mean, what happened to Paris was, I guess, horrible, but I very much doubt everyone turning to stone would even make me throw up, and I have a delicate constitution. What would Tony have thought of Kid Miracleman’s London, one wonders.

I’m going to keep buying both this and Flashpoint (see the next review), because I’m curious about the whole event comics thing and I haven’t participated in them for so long, but this isn’t turning out very well. Too bad.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ (Mainly because of Immonen’s art)

One totally Airwolf panel:

Flashpoint #3 (of 5) by Geoff Johns (writer), Andy Kubert (penciller), Sandra Hope (inker), Alex Sinclair (colorist), and Nick J. Napolitano (letterer). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, DC.

No one has ever accused Johns of not knowing how to plot a comic (at least I’ve never seen anyone do it), and this mini-series is certainly tighter than Fear Itself, as Johns stays pretty much on point throughout, and it seems like the other mini-series are simply telling their own stories set in this world, which is fine with me. I mean, we do get a couple of pages of Lois Lane meeting Grifter, Etrigan, that Canterbury Cricket thing, and two other characters that I guess Kubert created (at least designed), one of whom is Lady Godiva, which seems odd because the only power the legendary Godiva had was not wearing any clothes, but other than that, this is very straightforward – Barry insists on getting struck by lightning again, he gets his power back, he and Thomas Wayne enlist Cyborg to rescue Superman, the end. No fuss, no muss. I get that “event comics” should be ambitious, but they also need to be clear. Fear Itself seems a bit more ambitious than Flashpoint, but Flashpoint is telling a better story in a better fashion.

I don’t have much else to say about this, but I will have more to say once this sucker is all finished. So wait until then, people!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Moon Knight #3 by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alex Maleev (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Boy, here’s another lousy comic. As I’ve often written, I love Moon Knight and want his series to be good and succeed, and Bendis does get some rope from me, but he’s pretty much at the end of it. This is everything bad about Bendis (the hesitant dialogue that takes forever to reach a point) but none of the good (I’ve always enjoyed his characterization, and he’s had interesting takes on villains in the past). I mean, let’s ignore the point that Echo is once again in her underwear – does she own clothes? That’s a minor annoyance. The rest of the book is just Marc Spector acting insane, everyone knowing he acts insane, and no one really caring about it. The conversation with Echo takes four pages and could easily be one; the conversation with Amy takes two pages and could easily take two panels; the conversation with Buck takes two pages and could easily take four panels; the conversation with Amy from three months ago takes two pages and could easily take one; the conversation with Buck from three months ago takes three pages and could easily take one – maybe even two if I’m feeling generous; Marc pretending to be Bullseye (he’s crazy, remember) takes five pages and could easily take three; the conversation with Buck in the present takes two pages and could easily take one; and then there’s the double-page spread of Snapdragon talking to a bunch of dumb-looking villains and telling us some of what she told us last issue. You notice a couple of things about this issue? There’s about a page-and-a-half where things actually happen, the rest is conversations. Plus, they’re not even terribly interesting conversations, and Bendis could easily cut half of this book and the information he wants to get across would get across. Gah. Some readers accuse me of not appreciating a slow build, but I love talky comics … as long as the conversation is interesting. Hell, some Bendis comics feature more conversation than this, and I love them. This … not so much. Blech, Moon Knight. Blech, I say. This is the earliest I’ve ever bailed on a Moon Knight series. That makes me sad.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Moriarty #3 (of 4) by Daniel Corey (writer), Anthony Diecidue (artist), Perry Freeze (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

As this is the third issue of a four-issue mini-series, it’s kind of hard to discuss it. Stuff happens, James Moriarty and Jade find some more answers, and we lead into a big ol’ confrontation in a steampunky room on a boat. Of course. Moriarty is feeling blue about losing his nemesis, and Lestrade is lurking around, so I imagine the Holmesian characters from the previous issues will show up in the final issue. I’m still having a bit of trouble with Moriarty acting like an action hero given how old he’s supposed to be, but I can live with it. This is a solid issue in a solid mini-series, and I’ll write more about it next time, I reckon.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Secret History #15 (“The Amber Room”) by Jean-Pierre Pécau (writer), Igor Kordey (artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $5.95, 54 pgs, FC, Archaia.

I was surprised that issue #15 came out, because I thought issue #14 was going to be it for a while and we’d get the spin-off in the interim. I don’t even question Archaia’s publishing schedule anymore, as it’s quite odd. Anyway, this is another good issue of this series, although like the others since the initial seven issues, it will read much better when read with the others, because Pécau packs so much into each issue that relates to events from several issues before that it’s hopeless for a codger like me to keep track of everything. It’s entertaining while I read it, but I know I’m forgetting things that will make it more interesting.

As always, I enjoy how Pécau incorporates real-life events into his grand game of archons. In this case, it’s Patton’s death, which didn’t happen precisely how Pécau says, but close enough. It’s fun to see. And I enjoy that on one page, a character asks another if he’s read any Koestler. The footnote says “Probably an allusion to Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon.” I imagine that footnote isn’t in the original French, because why would Pécau put it in there and speculate about what he himself meant? And if it was added, why didn’t someone just ask Pécau if that’s what he meant? As far as I can discover, he’s not dead. So that cracked me up.*

* Koestler wrote The Thirteenth Tribe, the historiography of which is suspect but which introduced me to Khazars, who are pretty keen. So there’s that.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Seven #2 (of 3) (“Call of the Wild”) by Peter Milligan (writer), Fernando Blanco (layouter), Scott Koblish (finisher), Brian Buccellato (colorist), and Rob Leigh (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

I’m not angry about the lack of George Pérez on this issue, you understand, but I do wonder why on earth DC would have him pencil the first 20 pages of this mini-series but not the rest. That seems very peculiar, if you ask me.

I’m a little disappointed with this, mainly because unlike Azzarello, Milligan doesn’t seem to be writing a standalone story in this Flashpoint universe – he’s tying it into the main series, which isn’t a bad thing, but when the point of the series seems to be, “Gather the Secret Seven,” that’s kind of a weak plot, and this issue, while full of interesting Milligan writing, is basically just Shade calling together the gang, which gets a bit boring. The way he calls them together and the final, shocking!!!! image is nice, but it’s basically Shade standing around whispering their names and hoping that brings them to him. I guess this might serve as a prelude to his Justice League book that’s coming in the Brave New DCU, but that’s kind of annoying.

Blanco is perfectly fine – he’s not as crisp as Pérez (not many are, to be fair), but he’s fine. He does well with Shade’s madness, which is kind of key. I’m just not sure if Milligan will be able to make this an interesting story or if it’s subservient to the main series all the way. I guess I’ll find out in August, right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Six #35 (“Caution to the Wind Part One of Two”) by Gail Simone (writer), Jim Califiore (artist), John Kalisz (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Simone’s final story for Secret Six feels a bit rushed, as if she was casting about for a good way to end things and settled on Bane’s eternal obsession with Batman. It’s not a bad issue, but it does seem odd that Bane suddenly decides that he needs to destroy Batman all over again and that everyone on the team simply goes along with him – cui bono and all that. I get the feeling that several characters (Jeannette, Scandal, Knockout, Rag Doll, maybe Bane?) are going to die next issue, and while I don’t really care unless it’s handled poorly, the rush to finish this comic makes me think it might be handled poorly. I hope it won’t be, but I fear it will be.

And why does the Penguin have a stone boat? That makes no sense whatsoever.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Superboy #9 (“Rise of the Hollow Men Part Two: In the Underworld”) by Jeff Lemire (writer), Pier Gallo (artist), Jamie Grant (colorist), Dom Regan (colorist), and Carlos M. Mangual (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

I do hope no one was fooled by the two revelations in this issue, because if I figured them out (I still don’t know what Rosebud was, for crying out loud!*), then you should have too. I mean, the one that’s been percolating for some time was a bit tougher to figure out, but it never felt right the way Lemire was leading us, so it’s nice to see that he didn’t lead us that way. The second revelation was so obvious I don’t even know if it’s a revelation. Superboy is kind of dim. Like me!

Anyway, this is a nifty, creepy issue that continues to pull together everything from the rest of the series and lead to the final two issues. I dig the whole “underground city” thing, and Lemire and Gallo do a good job with it. I am curious to re-read this and find out how many days have passed, because Lori is wearing the same clothes she’s been wearing the entire run! Come on, Gallo – she’s a rich (I assume), teenaged girl – you don’t think she’d have a bigger wardrobe? Sheesh. Yes, I can suspend my disbelief for underground cities run by zombies, but not when a girl doesn’t have different outfits. That’s just crazy talk!

I want to say something about the Subway advertisement in the middle of this story. Caleb has a hilarious write-up of the one starring the Justice League and football players, and I’d just like to point out that it appears that Batman in that one is very concerned about Aquaman’s health, while in this one, he’s teamed up with Hal Jordan, even though DC has gone out of its way to show that Batman and Hal hate each other’s guts. I dig that DC itself shows the wider world a Batman who’s far less grim than his comic book counterpart, but God forbid they have the guy in the actual comics ease up a bit and unclench. Well, I guess Bruce has eased up a bit recently, but he’s still way grimmer than this guy running around in the Subway comics. Oh, and Nastia Liukin is far more attractive in real life than she is in the comic. That’s kind of weird.

* Okay, I’m kidding. But I never figure out the twists in movies unless they’re really, really obvious, and sometimes not even then. I’m dim that way.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Thunderbolts #160 by Jeff Parker (writer), Declan Shalvey (artist), Frank Martin, Jr. (colorist), and Albert Deschesne (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

In this issue, Juggernaut goes nuts with his new power. The Thunderbolts try to stop him. But that’s not important right now! What’s important is that Satana manages to get the team into Juggernaut’s mind to try to convince him to stop his rampage, and Shalvey draws it beautifully – he shifts to an almost aboriginal style, with rudimentary shapes and symbols that tap into the mythological foundation of both Cain Marko’s power and the Norse-esque power he has inherited. Shalvey turns the Thunderbolts into symbolic representations of themselves, and Marko and his powers into archetypal versions of their real-life counterparts, and it’s absolutely stunning. It’s a highpoint of a somewhat boilerplate issue – it’s not that Parker’s writing is bad, it’s just that he is very much getting from Point A to Point B, so he loses some of the nuances his writing often has – and is another reason why artists ought to try different things every once in a while. It’s not the best place to jump onto Thunderbolts, which has been good for a while, but if you’re interested in artists doing some new and interesting things, it’s a cool example.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Uncanny X-Men #540 by Kieron Gillen (writer), Greg Land (penciler), Jay Leisten (inker), Justin Ponsor (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $3.99, 21 pgs, FC, Marvel.

And so it begins anew. Back a few years ago, when I was trying to figure out if I wanted to read Fraction’s Uncanny X-Men, his writing simply wasn’t good enough to overcome Greg Land’s art. It was okay when the Dodsons were drawing the book, but it wasn’t good enough to make me ignore the egregiousness of Land. So then Gillen came aboard, and his first arc was drawn by the Dodsons again, and I liked it, but I still feared the advent of Land. And now Land’s first issue with Gillen has arrived. Will it drive me from the book once again?

Well, not so far. Gillen seems to be doing better on this book than Fraction did – he seems to have a better grasp of the characters and hasn’t yet tried to add every single mutant in the world to the comic. And even though Land’s art is typically Landian, there’s nothing that made me cringe, so there’s that. Let’s look at some of the lousy stuff before we consider the good stuff, shall we?

First of all, remember that part in the back of the .1 issue where we saw “things to come” and everyone thought the blonde in the straightjacket was Emma? Yeah, it’s Illyana. Why did people think it was Emma? Because Greg Land draws almost every woman to look exactly the same. It’s like he used the same model for Kitty, Illyana, and Emma and just stuck different wigs on them. And whoever he’s using as a model for Scott needs to change, because Scott looks ridiculous. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about him – is it the stupid haircut? the stubble? I don’t know, but it’s a really weird look. And because I know that Land is “assembling” the pages – cutting and pasting different photo-referenced things from different sources – the panel of Scott holding the coffee cup looks silly because the model was obviously holding something thinner and Land just dropped a coffee cup in there. I don’t often nitpick such small stuff like that, but then again, Land makes it easy.

However. The Juggernaut stuff is okay, which is nice. It looks a bit more fluid than whenever Land has people talking to each other, which makes me think he should just work on scripts where people in masks (so you can’t see their faces!) blow shit up. Maybe we’ll get that next issue!

Gillen’s script is pretty good, alleviating some of the annoyances with the art. I ignored the fact that Illyana looks like a hooker and concentrated on the dialogue between her and Peter, and even though I have no idea what she’s talking about (it must have been before Gillen took over as sole writer, unless it occurred in the pages of New Mutants), it was enough to get a general idea. Gillen’s dialogue is as crisp as ever, even when he’s writing an overwrought scene like the one between Emma and Namor (man, the romance between Emma and Scott never gets less stupid), which is nice to see. I guess this is the last story arc before the relaunch, so we’ll see how things play out.

So, yeah. Land isn’t a deal-breaker so far. Unfortunately, he’s part of the relaunch, which chaps my hide. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

As it’s been a couple of months since I did this, I know you’ve all been missing The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle), because who can you mock for their musical taste if not me? So here they are:

1. “Communication Breakdown”Led Zeppelin (1969) “I don’t know what it is I like about you, but I like it a lot”
2. “Land of Sunshine”Faith No More (1992) “Life to you is a dashing, bold adventure”
3. “Love You ‘Till the End”Pogues (1996) “I know you want to hear me catch my breath”1
4. “No Sign of Yesterday” – Men at Work (1983) “Fill all the big holes, leave no trace”2
5. “All for Leyna”Billy Joel (1980) “She gave me a night, that’s all it was”
6. “Why Should I Cry for You?”Sting (1991) “Drifting in empty seas for all my days remaining”
7. “Changes”Yes (1983) “Who could believe when love has gone how we move on like everyone”
8. “May the Living Be Dead (In our Wake)”Flogging Molly (2002) “Was she sent down to me from the heavens above; her breath pure as whiskey, my heart fell in love”
9. “Falling Down”James (2001) “If you stroke her long enough, baby turns to cream”
10. “Exit”U2 (1987) “So hands that build can also pull down”

1 As I have often mentioned, I’m horribly sentimental, so good love songs really have an impact on me, and I absolutely love this tune. It’s a beautiful mix of good lyrics and wonderful music. Yes, I’m a sap. Tell your friends! (Yes, that video is Gerard Butler and Hilary Swank. What are you going to do?)
2 Yes, I have a favorite Men at Work song, and this is it.

Nothing particularly mockable this week? Fret not, there’s always next week!

And yes, it’s time for a Totally Random Movie Quote! No one ever got Bill Reed’s. I wonder which movie it was from?

“You’re still a bloody attractive woman, you know.”
“What? After you take after me with your fists? Make me sick.”

That’s a great movie, by the way. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

All right, that’s enough for this week. Have a nice day, everyone!