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What I bought – 7 November 2007

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 7 November 2007

You know, it’s been a while since I deliberately courted controversy in these posts.  Occasionally it happens accidentally, but this week, I actively seek it!  Maybe I fail, because the comic I take to task isn’t actually that controversial, but I’m sure you’ll let me know.  Go beneath the fold … if you dare!

Annihilation: Conquest #1 (of 6) by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Tom Raney, and Scott Hanna.  $2.99, Marvel.

You know, I can see Marvel editorial and the writers of these various Annihilation series sitting around the big table saying, “You know, lesbians are so 1999.  What we really need in this comic is … bestiality!”  And then Joey Q’s eyes glow with unholy light, and he says, “Shit, that’s genius.  Make it so, minions!”  Isn’t that how Marvel puts its comics together?

Anyway, I’ve been checking in on this sprawling epic every so often, even though I’m probably going to end up buying the trades, and with this, presumably the final stage of the “Phalanx-conquers-the-Kree-and-why-you-should-care” saga, Abnett and Lanning set up all their ducks in a row, and it’s pretty darned entertaining.  The focus of the issue is Quasar and the suddenly literal-minded Moondragon, who go looking for a savior and find Adam Warlock, which would be great, as he’s always been sort of a Christ-like character, except he’s going through a rebirth and doesn’t remember who he is.  They’re attacked by a cadre of Phalanx-corrupted warriors, including Xemnu, who I always remember from the She-Hulk story, “I Have No Mouth and I Am Mean!” which means it’s very difficult for me to take him seriously.  They escape, of course, and meet Adam’s boss (it’s a surprise!) and then we find out the big bad guy behind the scenes (it’s an even bigger surprise!).  It’s a good set-up issue, especially coming on the heels of the other mini-series that preceded it, and Raney’s pencils are very nice.  The biggest problem I had with the art is, I think, the colors.  Frank D’Armata provides the colors, and the art has that sheen of slickness that is cropping up in Marvel books recently.  It’s in this week’s Uncanny X-Men, and that too is colored by D’Armata.  He also did last week’s Messiah Complex, which also had the effect.  The colors themselves are very nice, but I’m not sure what else he’s doing to make the book look so slick.  Am I just hallucinating?

Finally, I thought I’d mention again one of the annoying things about Marvel and DC space epics.  Space is pretty darned huge.  Why do the same characters keep running into each other?  I get that they want to use characters we’re sort of familiar with, but it’s just stretching my suspension of disbelief a bit when the characters always run into other characters from Marvel (or DC) books.  It bugs me when it happens in New York, and space is, last time I checked, a whole lot bigger than New York.  It’s a minor annoyance, but it’s still there.

This is a pretty neat comic.  I’ll probably check in with it again before it ends, but I’ll still wait for the trade.

Astonishing X-Men #23 by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday.  $2.99, Marvel.

Apparenly Joss Whedon is one of the sacred cows of comics (how did that happen?), because when I was less than in love with the last issue of this book (I didn’t even hate it, just wondered why everyone loved it so much), I got ripped.  How dare I question the Master Plan of The Whedon, the Only True Heir of The God of All Comics!  So I picked this book up, because I wanted to see where it went after last issue’s cliffhanger, which showed Cyclops dying.  Oh dear.

Well, Whedon Fans, I must say that this issue is the Greatest Piece of Literature Ever Written.  The Bible?  Speak not to me of religious tracts, for this book is my new Bible!  War and Peace?  What a bunch of whining Russians!  Moby-Dick?  Call me Unimpressed!  More recent classics like Slaughterhouse-5?  On the Road?  Song of Solomon?  The Catcher in the Rye?  White Noise?  Please – what a bunch of navel-gazers!  If Billy Pilgrim popped some claws and killed some Nazis, then it might approach the sheer literary genius that is issue #23 of Astonishing X-Men!  In fact, I’m dictating this post to a guy I hired, one of those homeless people you see standing by the exits of the freeway, because I was struck blind by the Glory that is Astonishing X-Men #23!!!!!!!

Okay, are all the Whedon acolytes satisfied, and have gone off to torment some poor blogger who thought Firefly wasn’t as good as, say, Manimal?  Because if they’re gone, I can write about what I really thought of this issue.

Actually, it’s pretty darned good.  I guess, being the penultimate issue of the Whedon/Cassaday saga, things should, you know, happen, and Whedon doesn’t disappoint.  We find out that – shocking! – Cyclops isn’t really dead, but what’s really neat about the issue is discovering the big plot the X-Men came up with.  It’s pretty ingenious, even if it’s not entirely unexpected.  There’s not really a lot to say about the issue without giving away the fun, but Whedon does a nice job setting everything up for the big throwdown next issue.  And, of course, the art is gorgeous.  I’m still vacillating about whether to buy the inevitable 24-issue Omnibus when it shows up.  I thought the first story arc was blah, and the second story arc boring, but it seems like Whedon is doing a good job with pulling everything together.

I do have a couple of questions.  Kitty and Emma’s conversation early in the book seems to contradict the revelations we get regarding Cyclops’ plan.  Whedon phrases Kitty’s words carefully, but not carefully enough, it seems.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you read the book, doesn’t it seem to be inconsistent?  Another thing that bothers me is the Scott and Emma relationship.  No, I’m not going to rant about how it’s stupid, but I am going to point out that Whedon and even Brubaker, in this week’s Uncanny X-Men, are doing far more with Scott and Emma than any writer ever did with Scott and Jean.  Why is this?  There are no inherently interesting characters (sorry, Squirrel Girl fans), just characters who are interesting because of how they are written.  In very few scenes with Scott and Emma, Whedon and Brubaker have made them a more interesting couple.  So why did no one ever do this with Scott and Jean?  Is it just because back when they were a couple, comics were driven more by plots and events and therefore the writers ignored personalities?  Emma isn’t a better character than Jean – in fact, I have argued that she was more interesting in Generation X than she is now.  But the writers work to make her relationship with Scott work.  Is it because Morrison put them together, and what Morrison put together let no man rend asunder?  There’s absolutely no reason why Scott and Jean couldn’t have worked.  I just find it interesting that writers care so much more about Scott and a blonde Jean.  Whedon, specifically, does a nice job in this issue with their relationship, showing what they can do together.  Brubaker, in far less space, does the same.

Anyway, this is a good issue.  We’ll see if the payoff is worth the interminable wait.

Criminal #10 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  $2.99, Marvel/Icon.

As always, this is one of the hardest books to review, because it’s exactly what you expect, but it’s so damned good.  The only thing you can really ever ask is, “Does Brubaker deliver a good ending?”  You know the set-up is going to be gripping, but can he pull it all together at the end?  The saga of Tracy Lawless comes to a close – for now – in this issue, and Brubaker gives us an ending that makes perfect, organic sense.  Brubaker doesn’t try to fool us with a deus ex machina – his stories follow logically from one place to another, so even if we don’t expect what happens, we understand that it’s really the only way it could happen.  So the heist that has been hinted at since the first issue of this story is nothing shocking, but even though we didn’t see it coming, we nod and say, “Sure – I can see that.”  And Tracy’s resolution of finding his brother’s murderer doesn’t turn into a hail of bullets, but it’s still a nasty confrontation.  And Brubaker doesn’t let us forget that Tracy stole money when he first started his journey – that comes back to haunt him, too.  In the end, what has Tracy learned?  Maybe he’s learned that sometimes, it’s better to leave the past in the past.  Maybe he’s learned that some people don’t deserve avenging.  Or maybe he’s learned that even though he knew things were going to get bad, family means everything.  Brubaker is a good enough writer that he keeps all these possibilites, and more, open.  And although the story ends, we know that it doesn’t for Tracy.  Which is pretty darned cool.

The trade should be out soon; check it out.  I like how they schedule the book – the next issue is out in February so that Phillips can go make some money drawing zombies.  Yes, it’s a wait, but at least the book comes out when it’s solicited!

Estrus Comics #4 and 5 by MariNaomi.  $5.

MariNaomi was nice enough to send me two issues of her self-published comic, and she hoped I would review it.  Well, I review pretty much everything I read, so here we go!  I certainly encourage you to visit her web site and support her in her comic-making ventures.  I love the fact that creating comics is easier than it probably ever has been, and anyone who wants to can do it!

Of course, you might wonder about the quality of the comics.  I can say that five dollars is a little steep for it, but then again, I think five dollars is steep for something like the DC Infinite Halloween Special, and that featured lots of different cool artists!  Your five dollars is better spent on this than that, but even so, I wanted this to be better.

Mari (as she calls herself in the book, and it’s less unwieldy than MariNaomi, so I shall use it too) is a pretty decent artist.  She has a nice style that reminds me a bit (not much, but a bit) of Marjane Satrapi, and although her panel layouts are traditional and somewhat uninspired, she fills them with nice details (even the little ones) and interesting characters.  Occasionally she will shift completely to almost blank panels, as she does in “Bit-R-Honey,” a short story in the issue pictured above.  Her male characters (and there are a lot of them, which I’ll discuss when I talk about the writing) are wonderful, because she gives them a lot of different looks to show their rather bizarre personalities.  It doesn’t make them absurd or unrealistic, but it does seem like the men in the comic are more stylized than the women.  Mari herself is rather bland throughout the comics, and it’s interesting to contrast her with the parade of men, all of whom have wild physical traits like Robert Plant hair or cheesy moustaches or dreadlocks.  Occasionally, her art ventures into the surreal, as in the story “It,” which I confess puzzled me – I can’t say with any confidence what “it” is, but the art, which features faces out of Picasso and panel designs out of Starlin’s Captain Marvel series, is very nifty.

I can’t say the same about the stories, unfortunately.  Mari shows some talent for clever bon mots occasionally, but the best story in the two books wasn’t written by her.  I’ll get to that.  Most of the stories in these two comics are short (one- or two-page) stories about guys she’s either a) had a crush on; b) fooled around with a little; or c) gone all the way with.  As I have mentioned, one of the reasons why I don’t like autobiographical stories is because the events of your life (or mine) are often so universal as to be, frankly, a bit boring.  I didn’t fool around with girls like Mari fools around with boys, because I was (and am) a big nerd, but I can relate to her relationship problems.  That doesn’t make them terribly interesting, though.  She zips through a succession of boys, from when she was in grade school to the present, and although the way she tells the stories veers from oddly detached to funny and nasty, there’s nothing in them that makes them worth reading.  I’m glad she kept them short, because it does allow her to set up some hilarious situations, but those few vignettes aren’t enough.  It’s frustrating reading the stories, because, just like your own life, there’s no overall plan and nobody learns anything.  Mari keeps making the same mistakes with boys that we all make with our prospective romantic partners.  Yes, we can relate and sympathize with her, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we want to read about it.  Issue #4 (not pictured) is especially egregious in this regard, because it’s all about her relationships.  Issue #5 features the back-up stories I mentioned above, plus a story by Shannon O’Leary (read about her here!) about a dog mauling in San Francisco in 2001.  This is a gripping story of the Aryan Brotherhood, possible beastiality, and political opportunism on both sides.  And yes, two dogs maul a woman to death.  Mari’s art captures the horror of the story, as she does a nice job turning the dogs into grotesque creatures (when they need to be) and the lawyers involved into odd caricatures.  It’s a fascinating story.

If you’re interested in buying an issue, I would definitely recommend issue #5.  I didn’t love these comics, but I did enjoy them, and I like the art a lot.  I’m glad she sent them to me, even if I think she needs to ease up on the autobiography a bit.  But this is about as “indy” as you can get, and I think it would be cool to support her efforts.  Don’t we all need more comics in the world?

Fallen Angel #21 by Peter David and J. K. Woodward.  $3.99, IDW.

I’m sure Peter David has had a plan for this book for some time, because he seems like that kind of guy, but it’s interesting that he’s focusing more on Bete Noire the city and less on Lee herself.  Our heroine does show up in this issue, but it’s more about her son, Jude, and how he is starting to understand what being the magistrate of “the City that Shapes the World” actually means.  The magistrate’s power actually fits in well with what Lee does, and we begin to understand why, perhaps, she was at such odds with the previous magistrate, Juris.  Jude realizes that he really can shape the world, and he sets in motion a plan to stop a dictator from launching nuclear weapons.  I imagine David is forging a link between Jude and our president, who also decided to pre-emptively stop a dictator from launching nuclear weapons, even though those weapons didn’t actually exist.  It’s interesting the way David does this, because he’s ardently opposed to Bush (he used to have one of those “countdown clocks” to when Bush leaves office on his blog).  In this issue, we’re kind of conflicted about Jude’s actions.  On the one hand, we’re glad a dictator has been stopped.  On the other hand, what’s to say Jude won’t abuse his power?  Even though there’s no war and “quagmire,” it’s an interesting parallel to Bush’s situation.  On the one hand, most people are glad Hussein is gone.  On the other hand, people will say Bush abused his power by invading without “real” provocation and continues to do so with his saber-rattling over Iran.  David does a good job showing us what can come of this without being annoyingly obvious and also by not breaking context of the comic as he’s set it up.  It’s just another reason why this is such a good book.  Plus, you know, there are tits.  That’s what really makes it fun to read!

Fearless #1 by Mark Sable, David Roth, and PJ Holden.  $2.99, Image.

I wasn’t planning on getting this, but the people who suggested I did seemed really enthusiastic about it, so at the shoppe, I took a look at it.  Holden’s art is pretty damned nifty, so I figured it was worth a try.

I’m glad I did.  This is a very good first issue, and it has at its core one of those ideas that are so brilliant it’s amazing no one’s ever done it before: a man who wants to be a hero but is crippled by fear.  What can such a man do?  Thankfully, he lives in a comic book, so he befriends a bio-chemist who comes up with a formula that, when our hero breathes it in (it’s cleverly hidden in an asthma inhaler), makes him fearless.  Game on, bad guys!

Sable and Roth structure the issue in a completely traditional way, but the strength of the idea carries it along.  Fear, as he’s called when he’s in costume (his real name is Adam), doses himself and takes on a gang of bad guys.  When his supply line is ruptured, he gives himself a back-up dose and is able to finish the job.  Holden does a very good job showing the world through Adam’s eyes when his dose wears off – the bad guys becomes hideous monsters, and the world around him becomes a place of hidden traps and dangers.  When he takes care of the bad guys, we meet his girlfriend, a cute reporter named Becky who knows he’s a superhero but doesn’t know that he’s taking drugs to be so, and we also meet his “pusher” and how they met.  Of course, the ending is a surprise – well, not to us, because it would have to be the way it is – and puts Adam on the hot seat.  How will he manage?????  I’m sure it will all work out (maybe), but it seems that the way Adam gets through it looks like it will be entertaining.  I’m keen to find out.

I mentioned last week how good Image’s crop of superhero books are.  Hey, look! it’s another one.  Give it a try!

Ghosting #3 (of 5) by Fred van Lente and Charles Carvalho.  $2.99, Platinum Studios Comics.

Very often, the middle issues of a mini-series are padding, as the initial rush of the set-up is over but the climax has yet to be reached.  I believe Shakespeare called these kinds of issues “the Dogberry scenes.”  Van Lente, however, avoids that trap, as this issue of Ghosting packs in a lot of plot.  Unfortunately, it’s kind of a mess, as we shift abruptly from scene to scene with very little cueing.  It’s a bit disconcerting, and although we can follow what’s going on, the shifts take us out of the story, and that’s no fun.  The plot is fine, but it seems like it could be a bit more decompressed, because van Lente is mainly concerned with getting through the plot, and we still don’t know the characters well enough to really be involved with them as much as we’d like.  They’re likeable characters and we don’t want to see them come to harm, but the big ending doesn’t pack the punch it should because we don’t know Sarah as much as we should.  Van Lente does continue to pull the rug out from under us, as another horrific event takes place - or does it?  The bitchiness of the sorority sisters, who continue with “ghosting” week even though one of the students has been killed, is nicely done, but they’re minor characters.  We need more with Marggie, Sarah, and Josh, and we don’t get it.

Carvalho’s art continues to be fine for storytelling purposes, but one thing that has been bugging me is even more annoying this time around.  Tom Smith, who colored the book, gives both Maggie and Sarah black hair, which I assume is how it’s supposed to be.  Their styles are different enough that it’s usually not a problem distinguishing them, but then, Smith does something else.  He gives them both blonde highlights occasionally.  I originally thought it was just Maggie with the highlights, and that was a way to tell them apart.  But in this issue, both of them have blonde highlights, and they don’t always have them.  It’s very weird and makes no sense, because it’s not like they’re being “lit” in a particular way.  They seem to show up at random.  Maybe I’m weird, but it bothered me and distracted me, which is never a good thing.

The idea is intriguing enough that I’m going to keep buying this, because I do want to find out if it’s all a big hoax or not.  However, based on the way another van Lente mini-series ended this week, I’m apprehensive.  Look at me – building anticipation for a review further down the page!  That’s entertainment!

Infinity Inc. #3 by Peter Milligan, Max Fiumara, Travel Foreman, Matthew Southworth, and Stefano Gaudiano.  $2.99, DC.

After two solid issues, the third issue of Infinity Inc. is kind of a clunker.  Let’s start with the art, which is far sketchier than the first two issues, and in some places, downright ugly.  I can’t tell which pages are Fiumara and which are Foreman, which is weird because Foreman has a fairly recognizable style.  Perhaps he changed it to match Fiumara’s a bit, but if so, he didn’t succeed, because it looks very rushed no matter who’s drawing it.  I don’t know if Fiumara is a slow artist, but I wonder why he needs back-up so early in the book’s run.  Especially because the main story isn’t the full issue – there’s a back-up story.  Southworth, who inks the first part, provides the pencils for the second, and although I don’t love his pencils, they’re more fleshed out than the main story.  Bizarre.

Milligan seems to be rushing and going too slow, at the same time.  Now that’s a trick!  Kid Empty is a nice villain, but he doesn’t feel, as yet, such a huge threat that it’s taking this long to deal with him.  That’s because Milligan isn’t really having the group go after him, and when Natasha finally convinces the others to do something about him, we zip to a climax that feels somewhat easy, as they don’t really look for him that much.  It’s a strange feeling reading this, because you want them to deal with Kid Empty, but when they confront him, it seems forced.  Luckily, Milligan is as weird as ever, so that chick on the cover comes out of, well, not nowhere, but someplace unexpected.  Plus, luring the gang with underwear is a neat trick (yes, underwear).  The back-up story is interesting and looks like it will dovetail nicely with the main story.  So although this is a weak issue, there’s still enough going on that’s cool to make me come back.  I hope for a comeback, definitely with the writing, but especially the art.  We’ll see.

Iron Fist #10 by Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker, David Aja, and Kano.  $2.99, Marvel.

Yes, that’s the variant cover.  My comics shoppe only got the variants, and as I don’t care about getting the “real” cover or the variant, I just bought it.  It’s a pretty cool Kaare Andrews drawing, but I’m surprised they let him do a “zombie” cover.  Doesn’t Arthur Suydam have exclusive rights to those?

You know how good this book is?  I just rechecked, and yes, Danny Rand does not actually appear in this issue.  But we don’t care, because the other characters carry it so well!  I mean, the very fact that a character unleashes Shaolin Terror Priests into the world should make you run out and buy this, but Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing get a nice scene, the railroad subplot moves along, and then there’s the fight.  If Shaolin Terror Priests don’t do it for you, the Bride of Nine Spiders fights Dog Brother #1.  Man, what a great fight.  Man, what a creepy chick that Bride of Nine Spiders is.  Man, Aja draws a great book, doesn’t he?

I can’t blame you for waiting for the trade on this book, because Brubaker and Fraction (or, you know, Frubaker) are building nice subplots that continue on from the first trade while still telling a good story on top of that, and having read the first trade, I know these read well in that format.  But then you miss out on the Bride on Nine Spiders for another 6-8 months, and I don’t know if you can afford to wait!  That’s how cool she is.

Lucha Libre #2 by various.  $5.99, Image.

Lucha Libre is a bizarre book.  It might be the weirdest book I’ve read in a while.  I’m not convinced it’s worth the price tag, despite coming out every, what, three months?  Or two months?  When did issue #1 come out, anyway?  I read it but didn’t review it.

If you’re in the mood to spend 6 bucks, it is, I must admit, chock full of fun stuff, all revolving around Mexican wrestlers.  I say I’m not entirely convinced it’s worth it because occasionally it feels like the writer – Jerry Frisson – is trying too hard.  In the first issue, as I believe our own MarkAndrew pointed out, we get a good sense of Los Angeles, even though it’s populated by strange characters, including our titular heroes.  In this issue, there’s less of that, and it hurts the book because it’s not grounded enough.  Toward the end of their adventure, we’re reminded that the five wrestlers who make up the Luchadores Five are unemployed and going through some marital issues, which made the first issue more interesting.  It’s a nice reminder of who these people are, and helps temper some of the weirdness from earlier in the story.  I hope Frisson doesn’t forget that aspect of the book, because it’s the best part.  In this issue, we get two stories, one about that fellow on the cover, who’s known as Tequila, and his problems with a neighbor in his trailer park, which leads to … death!  And an appearance of the PomPom Ninjas, who are, to be honest, awesome.  The other story continues from last issue, in which many strange things happened, involving a fire-breathing lizard who may or may not be a guy in a costume; a midget Elvis; several French thugs; werewolves; aliens; and the Luchadores Five.  It’s all very bizarre.  In between we get short strips about Profesor Furia, who teaches hapless nerds how to live (and takes advantage of their stupidity).  For the most part, it’s a funny comic.  I just think it works better when it’s not too fantastic.  When El Gladiator admits that his mom still does his laundry, for instance, it’s far funnier than the really goofy stuff, because it’s pathetic but realistic.

Gobi and Bill, the one-named artists, are excellent.  Gobi draws the Tequila story while Bill handles the main story.  Both artists do a great job with the characters, who are goofy without being unrealistic, and the settings, which fill the stories with great details.  The coolest thing about the art is that the heroes are rather slovenly, but they still try to be heroes.  Bill, especially, is asked to draw a lot of different stuff, including a frumpy-looking giant-sized lizard, and everything looks great.  A great deal of the fun of this comic is checking out the art.

This is the kind of comic I would encourage everyone to check out at least once.  I’m not sure if I want to buy it regularly, but it’s certainly something that’s unlike almost anything you’ve seen.  And, for the most part, it’s done quite well.

The Order #4 by Matt Fraction, Barry Kitson, Mark Morales, and Jon Sibal.  $2.99, Marvel.

I like on that cover, the lights are covering up Avona’s lower regions in the interest of propriety.  But we also can’t handle seeing Calamity’s nether regions either, even though he’s wearing pants!  Oh, the power of his crotch!

The Order continues to roll merrily along, as this time we focus on Veda in the interview process.  It’s pretty interesting, and informs the latest fight with the Zobos.  The fight is fine, but as usual, what makes the book fun is the ancillary stuff, like how Henry wonders how Tony handles the PR crap that goes along with being in a public superhero group.  Whenever a superhero book comes out, there needs to be something else that makes it interesting, and Fraction is doing a nice job.  He gives us a fine adversary, but we’re also wondering what happened to James Wa, who went looking for the guy who crippled him.  Will he exact terrible revenge?????  And, of course, there’s the big bad evil dude, who’s enlisting a team to kill the good guys.  Oh, that big bad evil dude!  Plus, Mulholland sees a ghost!  Oh dear.  How much excellence can we handle?

Lots of cool stuff here, including Kitson’s art.  Fraction is doing a very nice job with with establishing the characters while still keeping things action-filled.  It’s a good balance, and it makes this a very promising comic.

Se7en #7 by Ralph Tedesco, Joe Brusha, Mike Kalvoda, and Brett Weldele.  $3.99, Zenoscope.

Brett Weldele deserves a bigger audience than this book can give him.  I guess no one held a gun to his head to do this, but it’s a shame he doesn’t get a bigger book.  He’s the best thing about the issue, as his rough style fits the tone of this issue, which parallels the final section of the movie.

That’s where the book doesn’t quite work.  It’s the final issue, so I assume we’ve been paralleling the movie the whole time, getting insight into John Doe’s character.  We learn about his failed marriage, his shitty job, his crazy mother, and his twisted relationship with God.  That’s the problem, because none of that is particularly compelling, and the part with his job offended me, but just because I used to work in health insurance and I’m a bit sick of people who work in it being portrayed as unfeeling scumbags.  But that’s minor.  The thing that was brilliant about John Doe in the movie was that we knew nothing about him.  The cops didn’t even know anything about him.  He was human, but somehow superhuman.  Finding out the roots of his evil is fairly dull and adds nothing to the story.  John’s back story is competently told, but nothing memorable.  But at least Weldele’s art is pretty cool.

Super-Villain Team-Up/M.O.D.O.K.’s 11 #5 (of 5) by Fred van Lente, Francis Portela, and Terry Pallot.  $2.99, Marvel.

Oh dear.  Now I have to stir the pot.  This could have been a very good mini-series, but van Lente drops the ball.  Seriously.  I guess I’ve been reading too many feminist blogs.  Damn you, Ragnell!

I’m going to SPOIL this whole thing, so if you haven’t read it yet, avert your eyes.  AVERT YOUR EYES!!!!!!

Okay, so M.O.D.O.K.’s entire plan in this mini-series is to kill a woman he thought dumped him, even though they were never dating.  Fuck the heck?  I know he’s evil and all that, and this series just shows how evil while also showing how brilliant he is, and it’s nice, actually, to see him for a change, but that just left a bad taste in my mouth.  Monica is surely evil, but does she deserve this?  It just didn’t sit well with me, especially because the twists and turns of the plot have made this a fairly entertaining series.  But all that to kill a woman simply because he once thought they were dating, but weren’t?  Why does this bother me?  I guess because it seems like a nerd thing to do, and I can’t help feeling that people reading this will cheer and think, “The bitch deserved it because she should have seen how much of a genius M.O.D.O.K. was (whatever his name was before the experiment) and thrown herself at him!  Go, M.O.D.O.K.!”  All those minions on the last page, hailing M.O.D.O.K. as he says, “Today I destroyed my ex-girlfriend!  Tomorrow … the world!”  They’re us.  Comic book nerds.  Or am I completely off-base?

Even if I am, the ending disappointed me because it was such a small, stupid thing, and the heist aspect of the book was put together so well.  I wanted it to be for something more important, and it wasn’t.  It’s a shame.

Two Guns #3 (of 5) by Steven Grant and Mat Santolouco.  $3.99, Boom! Studios.

There’s not much point to talking about this issue.  The first two came out so long ago, and I presume the final two will take their own sweet time getting here, that it’s probably best to just wait until it’s done to see how Grant resolves everything.  This is a decent issue – some gun play, some exposition, some double-crossing – but it’s all part of the whole.  If you’re not buying it, you’re certainly not jumping on with issue #3.  So, more later on this.

Uncanny X-Men #492 by Ed Brubaker, Billy Tan, Danny Miki, and Allan Martinez.  $2.99, Marvel.

Look at Peter’s arm!  It’s bigger than Storm’s entire body!  Wow, that’s neat.

Remember how people were bothered that the one-shot introducing this entire crossover could have been better handled with a short recap?  Well, guess what Brubaker does in this issue?  That’s right.

This is a pretty good issue to kick off the big thing, as the X-Men fight the Acolytes, who might be able to lead them to the Marauders, and Scott argues with Xavier, which presumably will be a big part of the arc.  Xavier wants to take an active role, but Scott won’t let him because he doesn’t trust him.  So he and Emma are in charge, and Xavier walks around like a petulant child.  I guess the X-Men always need a whiner, and since Scott is strutting around leading things these days, Xavier gets to be that guy.  It’s a pretty cool dynamic, actually, and I’d like to see it go somewhere interesting.  In order to make this a crossover, the X-Men call in Madrox and Rictor, because they need Rictor, who’s no longer a mutant, to infiltrate the Purifiers, while Madrox has to go see Forge.  The fight is interspersed throughout, and it’s pretty good action, as Angel, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and Colossus knock the bad guys around a bit and get some information out of them.  So Brubaker has done a good job establishing some plot lines that will be followed throughout the crossover.  It’s up to him and the other writers to make them pay off.  And, as I mentioned, there’s a nice scene with Emma and Scott.  Again, why was it so difficult to make Scott and Jean a decent couple?

One last thing: did everyone notice that the Acolyte called “Neophyte” showed up?  Yes, that’s his actual code name.  He first showed up in, yes, Uncanny X-Men #300 (man, almost 200 issues ago), and I always thought they called him “neophyte” because he was, in actuality, a neophyte to the Acolyte cause.  I thought it was one of those initiation periods where he didn’t get a name.  But that’s his actual code name, which makes no sense whatsoever.  It has nothing to do with his powers, plus he’s no longer a neophyte, for crying out loud!  I don’t know who decided to make that his code name (probably Scott Lobdell, as he wrote the original story), but it’s not good.  Give the poor kid a better name!

Another fine comic book week in the bank.  What say you about these fine purchases?  Am I crazy … or am I so sane that I just blew your mind?????

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