What I bought - 1 July 2015

The Old One said, "It is not an easy thing to refuse to be worshipped." (Madeleine L'Engle, from A Swiftly Tilting Planet)

The Bunker #12 ("Lock Up, Game On") by Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer), Jason Fischer (color flatter), Joe Infurnari (artist/letterer), James Lucas Jones (editor), and Robin Herrera (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

Fialkov takes his time with this issue, as we focus exclusively on Billy, who's locked in a cell for trying to set off a bomb that he didn't actually try to set off. But because his story of the letters from the future and how that's influencing his actions (as well as the actions of his friends), he can't say anything or everyone will think he's crazy. The federal prosecutor actually figures out that he couldn't have built the bomb because he's an idiot (she actually calls him a "big, dumb shithead"), but Billy won't cooperate with her because of his secrets. He finally makes one demand, and we'll see how that plays out. But this issue feels a bit like Fialkov wanting to get some ducks in a row, as he basically updates us on Billy and the case against him. It's not a bad issue, as with long-running serials, updates aren't the worst thing in the world (yes, I know this series has only been 12 issues, but a lot's happened!), so I appreciate it. It also shows us Billy's emotional state, which is ... unstable, to say the least. This focus on Billy means Infurnari doesn't have a lot to do, as the entire issue takes place in prison, but he does his usual nice work, and Fialkov gives him some dreams/hallucinations of Billy to draw, as he fantasizes about Grady getting shot and about committing suicide. Infurnari mixes things up a little with a few panels that are just penciled and lightly inked but left uncolored, which is pretty neat. His lettering is terrific, too, as his sound effects are very cool and well integrated into the scenes nicely.

I don't mind that The Bunker calms down a little in this issue, as it's good to get a handle on where characters are, emotionally, every once in a while. It seems like things are going to ramp back up next issue, as Billy wants a confrontation that he'll presumably get, so we'll see what happens with that. We're still moving along nicely, so there's that.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Airboy #2 by Greg Hinkle (artist/letterer), James Robinson (writer), and Joel Enos (editor). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image. Airboy created by Charles Biro, Dick Wood, and Al Camy.

The second issue of Airboy isn't quite the blast of pure wild comics awesomeness of issue #1, but that's mainly because the reader is more prepared to deal with what's in here, so when, on the first page, we see James Robinson running down the street in full daylight with his dick swinging wildly, we're kind of ready for it. What this issue does is get into Robinson's head a bit more, as he discusses with Greg Hinkle his thoughts about working for DC (this must have been written before he started working for Marvel, or perhaps he doesn't want to bite the hand that feeds him by slagging on them, or maybe they're just a better place to work) and his own struggle between art and commerce. It's not a terribly unique conversation, but it's interesting in context of him writing a public domain character, as he probably feels that gives him more license to do more creative things (like what he's doing here). Robinson still doesn't come off as terribly sympathetic (which is fine), but when he talks about the struggle he's having internally, it comes across as more tragic than pathetic. When he says that he shouldn't be depressed every day because his job is to write comics, which should be fun, it's an insightful commentary on the way the industry treats its talent.

Then there's the problem of Airboy, who doesn't like being told he's a comic book character and really doesn't like being told that this is the world he and his ilk fought to save from the Nazis. He has a great line when he says that everyone is dressed like "farmers and itinerant Okies" - Airboy really doesn't enjoy the way fashion has evolved, as no one is formal anymore (this bugs me, too, but only in certain situations - I loathe going out to dinner at even a modest restaurant and seeing people wearing flip-flops and/or baseball caps). He also doesn't appreciate the sexual fluidity of current society, although perhaps he shouldn't be soliciting oral sex in a bathroom if he wants to keep out of that tangle. He's most disturbed by the lack of honor and glory in this "world," so he takes Robinson and Hinkle to a place where there is honor and glory - his world, which is where we leave things. The idea of dying honorably and gloriously as opposed to living crudely and sadly is part of what Robinson was trying to explain to Hinkle about the dichotomy between art and commerce, so it will be interesting to see where the book goes from here.

And, of course, Hinkle is still killing it on art. The way he draws Robinson helps make his situation more tragic, as he's very good at making him look like a defeated man, not just a whiner. We also get a nice teaser of the action we can expect next issue on the final page, as our principals are deposited in Paris during the war, and Hinkle gets to draw Nazi robots. That's always fun. It's a nice contrast to the seediness of the bathroom wherein Robinson and Airboy are, you know, getting blown. Hinkle's colors remain amazing, too, and it appears that next issue, he'll get to use his entire palette, as Airboy's world is certainly far more vibrant than "our" world.

This continues to be a terrific comic, and you ought to do yourself a favor and check it out. I have no idea where it's going, but the journey is pretty wild so far!

(Before moving on, I should point out that this comic has sparked a fair amount of controversy due to the transgender people in the bar where Robinson, Hinkle, and Airboy end up. You can read reactions to the issue here, here, and here, while here is a call to pull issue #2 from the shelves, which isn't going to happen. Robinson wrote an apology here, which may satisfy some and not others, as these things go. I didn't love the fact that they were in a bar that caters to transgender people, but it didn't particularly offend me, either, mainly because, as I've pointed out many times, things like this tend not to offend me because I am a member of the least-discriminated-against group in the history of humanity. I certainly understand why people are offended, but I'm unsure about their explanations about it. The writers I read said that Robinson was making fun of transgender people and "punching down" in his humor, which we shouldn't find funny anymore. I agree with that, but I'm not entirely convinced he was making fun of transgender people. At one point, he calls them "trannies," which many people objected to, and again, I agree. Some writers claimed that because the transgender people in the book have no "agency," Robinson is dehumanizing them and giving those who don't like transgender people license to hurt them. That's where it goes a bit too far for me. Robinson in this comic is clearly a despicable human being, and if anyone patterns their behavior after what they find in this comic, they're probably already pretty despicable. As I noted above, I don't find anything funny in either Robinson's or Airboy's behavior in this comic - Robinson drags Airboy down to his level, mainly, it seems, because Airboy was so dismissive of the modern world and Robinson, who has zero self-esteem in this comic, feels like Airboy needs to be taken down a peg. Others are objecting to Airboy's reaction to the "lady with a penis," as he puts it, but wouldn't Airboy have that reaction? Robinson is showing that Airboy's attitudes about honor and nobility don't really stand up when he's confronted with something that disgusts him, because he can't see past his own era and its morality. We're supposed to hate Robinson in this comic, and we're supposed to think his attitude toward transgender people is horrific. As for giving transgender people "agency," there are plenty of great works of fiction where the victims of hatred are not given agency but no one thinks that those doing the victimization are good people. Robinson might be our POV character, but he's still a horrible person in this comic. That's kind of the point. I notice no one has objected to the fact that he's cheating on his wife throughout this story. I guess that doesn't fucking matter.

I get that anger over this issue, even if I think it's a bit misplaced. We shouldn't let people get away with things just because they cry "ART!", although I personally think that's a good excuse. I don't think Robinson is mocking anyone in this comic, and even if he is, I can't imagine anyone reading this comic and thinking that this is behavior we should endorse. Robinson might have made a mistake making himself the main character, because people, it seems, cannot separate fact from fiction very well. It's the problem I get into whenever I read autobiographical comics - they have to be fictionalized to a degree. Even if everything Robinson writes in this comic is something he went through emotionally, does anyone think he actually met Airboy? So obviously, this is fiction. And Robinson is a compelling character, even if he's absolutely a horrid human being.

Anyway, that's my take. But I could be way off-base. It's not uncommon.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Tower Chronicles: Dreadstalker #11 by Simon Bisley (artist), Ryan Brown (colorist), Sean Konot (letterer), Matt Wagner (writer), Greg Tumbarello (associate editor), and Bob Schreck (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Legendary Comics.

It feels like Wagner and Bisley are not going to wrap this entire story up in the final issue, which leads me to believe they are planning another series starring everyone's favorite immortal ex-Templar monster hunter. That's fine with me, but if they do, I hope they go back to the way the original was published, with better paper and more highly rendered art from Bisley, as his pencil work continues to be sloppy and the pages in this series continue to be really dark. Wagner's story is fine, and I like both the main characters, but it just feels like there's no way they can do anything in the final issue except make sure that John gets the knife out of the demon's back, if he actually manages it. I can't imagine how he'd manage to get to anything else.

This isn't my favorite series, but it's not bad - Wagner knows how to write a good, entertaining story, and Bisley's art, while not his best, is still pretty interesting. But I still hope the next series reverts to the old format, because that would be pretty keen.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Punks the Comic: CBLDF Special by Kody Chamberlain (artist) and Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer). $4.99, 28 pgs, BrW, Image.

Fialkov and Chamberlain put the entire 1954 Comics Code at the front of this book and then, through their mouthpiece Abraham Lincoln (one of the four main characters of the comic), explain that they're going to tell a story that violates every single rule in said code. This probably isn't as hard as it sounds - the Code is really conservative - but Fialkov and Chamberlain do it in their wonderfully cheeky way, so it works nicely. They even include handy footnotes to explain which rule they're violating. It's pretty silly, but Punks has always been pretty silly, and that's what's so good about it. Fialkov's surreal sense of humor combined with Chamberlain's wonderful cut-out art makes every issue (and this might be the last one for a while) a treat, and considering that some of the profits from this comic (which can't be very much, but it's the thought that counts) go to the CBLDF, it's something everyone should pick up. Do it to fight censorship!!!!

Rating: It doesn't matter, because it's for a good cause!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Über #26 by Digikore Studios (colorist), Daniel Gete (artist), Kieron Gillen (writer), and Kurt Hathaway (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Avatar Press.

Gillen finishes up the first part of Über (well, with an epilogue next issue, but this is the climax) with a big battle, one that's as brutal and gut-wrenching (both literally and figuratively) as you might expect. As he still has a while to go, things don't go as well as we might want them to, but it's still a gripping read. Gillen uses a lot of narration in this issue (and in the book in general), and while that kind of comics writing has fallen out of fashion a little, it works here because it feels a bit more like a war documentary, as the narration is dispassionate in explaining what's going on while the drawings (the "film," if you will) is showing the horror of the war. It's a strange device, especially these days, but it's a pretty good one. Gillen is telling this story as if from a distance, and while in documentaries we know how things will play out, in this case, we don't. That makes the style not quite as authoritarian as narration in documentaries often is, and it helps more with the sense of foreboding we get from the book.

I still don't love Gete's art, but he gets the job done, for the most part. This comic doesn't really need a flashy stylist or someone who's trying to re-invent the form, and Gete draws everything in a perfectly serviceable manner. I started to enjoy Canaan White's art a bit more on this comic as it went along, so maybe Gete will grow on me. It just bugs me that Avatar's house style is this slick, almost soulless kind of art and coloring. I guess it's cheaper to farm out the coloring like they do?

Even so, Über is a nifty comic. Things aren't looking good, but that means drama!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

8House: Arclight #1 (or is it 8House #1: Arclight?) by Marian Churchland (artist), Brandon Graham (writer), and Ariana Maher (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

I've been curious about Brandon Graham's initiative to take over comics by a) creating a big world and letting different creators play around in it and b) doing whatever that comics-filled magazine is, so I was keen to read Arclight, even though the entire project has already been ridiculously delayed (as has been, I assume, Graham's ending to Prophet, which has not finished yet, as far as I know). The fact that Churchland does the art is a big draw, too, because Churchland is a good artist who I thought would be a big success a few years ago before she dropped off the map, comics-wise. I guess she's been doing other things, and that's cool, but I'm glad she's doing comics again. Because comics are so darned lucrative, don't you know.

Unfortunately, the launch of the "8House" universe is a bit enervating, as Graham gives us a slight story about Sir Arclight and a strange lady wandering the wastelands of the "Blood House Lands" before returning to Cserce-Miasta, the main city of the "Blood House." There Arclight gads about for a while, the lady performs some weird magic, and then Arclight hears about something important. I'll put it another way: Six pages of this comic are devoted to the characters finding a new host for a parasitic creature and transferring it into that new host (a goose, as it turns out). It's that kind of book. As the first chapter of a sprawling epic, it's not bad - it gives us a good idea of the world in which these people live, introduces some conflict between Arclight and somebody else, and teases something about the lady's backstory. That's fine, but it still feels like it's moving really slowly. And Churchland's art is lovely, as usual, but again, there's a lot of open panels with very little background, just the characters walking through brown. There's a wonderful view of the city, but it's also a double-page spread, which seems a bit excessive. The scenes in the city are wonderful, with Churchland's willowy characters wearing gauzy ceremonial clothing that helps delineate their culture from, say, ours. It's a nice-looking comic, but because it's in service to such a thin script, it doesn't feel very meaty.

I'm still going to get these comics, because I love the idea and Graham is a good creator and the artists he has lined up are quite good, but the first issue is a bit of a disappointment. I wonder if Graham knows that the people who buy this are probably people who know him and the artists, so they've already bought in, and he's not that concerned with roping in new readers. That would be a weird way to go, but maybe that's it. I'm curious to see the reaction of someone who's never read Graham's comics before, because I wonder if they'll be back.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Chew #50 ("Blood Puddin' Part 5 of 5") by Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), John Layman (writer/letterer), and Taylor Wells (color assistant). $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

As impressive it is to see Chew reach issue #50 (I always like it when independent series are successful enough to make it through their entire run, and Chew has 11 issues left), it's even more impressive that Layman continues to confound our expectations with regard to the plot. Obviously, issue #50 in any series is a big deal, and that's true here, but for me, at least, years of landmark issues not living up to the hype meant I was surprised by how clear-cut Layman made this one. The confrontation with the "vampire" is a good one, as everything he and Tony have been doing for the past few years has led to it and Layman, not surprisingly pulls no punches. Unlike many other issues of the series, this one is basically all plot, and it's basically all Tony and the vampire - the supporting cast shows up briefly, but they don't get to do a lot. I will have to punch Layman in the nads if what he promises on the last page actually happens, though. Come on, Layman! Although the final page does show another interesting aspect of the book - Layman has never been too afraid of putting "pre-spoilers" in his comic, as he understands that it's less about the destination and more about the journey. Sure, he can do gut punches as well as anyone (issue #30 proved that), but he's as keen on showing how the characters live their lives than trying to fool the readers. That's always neat.

As this is a big fight scene, Guillory has to do a lot of heavy lifting, and he, of course, comes through wonderfully. The first double-page spread in this issue (there are two) is great, as Guillory doesn't have time to show how Tony got through all the bad guys to get to the vampire, so he just shows the aftermath of the battle, and it's amazing. It's a brutal fight, punctuated by a few flashbacks to show how Tony reached this point, and while he too uses some big panels with very little in them (much like Churchland in 8House), it's at the end of the comic, and it feels earned, because we're coming down off an intense high. Then, of course, there's a hilarious epilogue, because it's Chew (this is before the not-very-hilarious final page).

It's keen to see how far Chew has come, and while it only has a little bit more to go, I'm very curious to see where Layman takes it. You know you want to catch up with it, so go find the trades!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Wicked + The Divine #12 by Kate Brown (artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Chrissy Williams (editor). $3.50, 21 pgs, FC, Image.

I pre-order this comic pretty much by rote, so I missed what was happening with the artists, even though I wondered how McKelvie could work on this and the new Phonogram at the same time. It turns out that McKelvie is taking a break from this book, and a rotating cast of artists, beginning with Brown, take over for the next arc (Tula Lotay, Stephanie Hans, Leila del Luca, and Brandon Graham are the artists, which means the book won't suffer very much from McKelvie's absence). Brown's art is a bit more rounded than McKelvie's, so her characters look a bit more cartoonish than his, and she tends to slide toward the manga side of the scale with eyes, so her's are very expressive. It's very nice art, and when Baal fights Morrigan, Brown really opens up nicely, using jagged panels and lots of wonderful details (along with cool special effects) to make the battle look great. Gillen's story follows from last month's shocking ending, but he still opens some other plot avenues, as well. It's a bit of a breather after last month, but it does feature a big fight, so there's that.

I'm still a bit surprised by what happened last issue, but this is a good follow-up. I'm very curious to see what Gillen is going to do with this arc, what with the guest artists and the promise that issue #14 is the "most formally audacious book" he's ever done. I'm looking forward to that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Spire #1 (of eight) by André May (colorist), Simon Spurrier (writer), Jeff Stokely (artist), Steve Wands (letterer), Cameron Chittock (assistant editor), and Eric Harburn (editor). $3.99, 28 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

The Spire is a good comic, as Spurrier and Stokely give us a city in the middle of a wasteland and populate it with all sorts of humans and non-humans who form a fragile peace. Into this environment Spurrier introduces a new ruler when the old baron dies and is replaced by his daughter, a horrific murder scene where two would-be thieves and their wealthy would-be victim are butchered, and our protagonist, Shå, is a cop who looks human but has thin filaments that extend from her back when she needs them, giving her a slight spider-like look. She's investigating the murders, and the new baroness tells her she has to solve the crime quickly, as she had a personal connection to the victim. Meanwhile, messengers are sent out into the wastelands to announce the regime change, and we find someone who seems to have an axe to grind against Shå. It's an intriguing premise, with the simmering tensions between the various species providing a good backdrop to the murder and the transition of power, and Spurrier knows what he's doing, while Stokely is a fine artist who seems comfortable with all the weirdness in the Spire. I was thinking about waiting for the trade for this, but Boom! inexplicably will probably break this up into two trades without an appreciable drop in price (the first trade will probably be $15.99 or $14.99), so I figured it would be fine to get the single issues.

One thing that bugs me is the grawlix. I'm always bugged by grawlix, because in Big Two books, the writers know it's going to appear and they don't think to simply omit it, because it looks idiotic on the page, but here it bugs me for a different reason. I don't know Boom!'s policy with regard to bad language, but I guess they don't approve of it, because one of the messengers taking news of the baron's death to the wasteland swears a lot, but it's always the same grawlix: "£$%&." Does this mean it's the same word, or is that just a catch-all replacement? That doesn't bother me too much, although I naturally read it as "fuck," which makes sense in some places and not in others. However, what bothers me more is that this is a non-human thing in a strange world that may or may not be ours, presumably in the future. Can't Spurrier make up his own damned curse words? The creature could easily say a nonsense word that we would understand is a curse word but wouldn't have to be grawlixed. It wouldn't offend anyone because it's a nonsense word, but it would fit more naturally into the dialogue than symbols would. This wouldn't work in Marvel or DC books, of course, but in a science-fiction story like this, why the hell can't Spurrier do that? Grawlix bugs me, man.

Anyway, this is a nifty comic. Give it a look!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Cluster #5 by Ed Brisson (writer/letterer), Damian Couceiro (artist), Cassie Kelly (colorist), Cameron Chittick (assistant editor), and Eric Harburn (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Brisson takes his own breather with this issue, as I still wonder if Cluster was supposed to be a four-issue mini-series and got expanded when it sold well, so Brisson is kind of gathering players for the next arc. He doesn't recap anything too much, but he adds some of Samara's backstory into the mix, updates us on what her rescuers are planning to do, and expands the universe of Midlothian slightly. It's a good way to start the new arc, because it allows us to check in with the characters and get a sense of where we're going with the story. I assume the break (they skipped June) is so Couceiro could get out in front of things again, and I have no problem with that, as his art is solid as ever. In fact, he changes his style slightly during the flashback to Samara's car accident, which adds a nice bit of weirdness to that page, as she's seeing it in her memory. Couceiro is a big reason why this book works as well as it does, so if he needed a month off, that's fine. I don't know how long this series is going to last (Boom!'s comics, even the ongoings, seem to have a short shelf life), but I hope Couceiro stays for the entire run.

Like the first four issues, this issue isn't the most amazing thing in the world, but Brisson is writing a solid, entertaining, sci-fi story, and it looks great. That's not a bad thing at all.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Zero #18 ("Surrender") by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Ales Kot (writer), and Tula Lotay (artist). $2.99, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

After such a dynamic few first issues, Zero really faltered down the stretch, with William S. Burroughs adding nothing to the narrative and Kot's attempts to explain human evil falling completely flat. This concluding issue is still in that vein, as it simply feels that either Image canceled the series (I still don't know if they do that or not, but I think they do occasionally) or if Kot got bored with it and put it out of its misery. There was so much going on in the first 12 issues or so of the series, and then it all ground to a halt for pages and pages of Kot's quasi-fetishization of Burroughs and his inane view of life. He wasted some good artists for page after page of people staring into the middle distance or getting infected by the fungus, and in the end, it felt empty. I don't know - Kot has some very interesting ideas, and I'm going to get his next series and see what happens with that, but I'm starting to lose patience with him. Zero was great for a few issues, very good for another few issues, and then it fell off a cliff. It's too bad.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Miami Vice: Remix #5 (of 5) by Joe Casey (writer), Steven Chunn (colorist), Jim Mahfood (artist/letterer), Justin Stewart (colorist), and Shannon Eric Denton (editor). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, IDW. Miami Vice created by Anthony Yerkovich.

I'm a bit disappointed in this series because it ends without resolving the main story completely and so obviously sets up a sequel (which probably won't be by Casey and Mahfood, which is a bit downer), but otherwise, it's an insane comic that is fairly typical of Casey's oeuvre these days - put the pedal to the floor and never let up - that is made better by the same attitude of Mahfood's artwork. Casey isn't that interested in giving us a "realistic" look at undercover cops or police dynamics - he wanted to write a story about a drug lord who turns people into zombies, and that's just what he did! It's a wild, intense, fun comic, and I'm glad it exists in this world. I wish that Casey and Mahfood will get together for a five-issue follow-up where they tie up loose ends, but that's just because I like insane comics done well. They can team up on whatever they like, honestly.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

No Mercy #4 by Alex de Campi (writer), Jenn Manley Lee (colorist), and Carla Speed McNeil (artist). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

I'm probably going to drop No Mercy pretty soon (maybe after next issue - we'll see), because I just can't see it going anywhere that interests me. This issue is a classic example of people acting like idiots, in both obvious ways (Travis and Tiffani striking out on their own) and not-so-obvious ways (Kira going full-blown bitch for no reason). I guess de Campi is trying to show how quickly everyone goes "Lord of the Flies" in situations like this, but because the book is so popular, it's easier to just read that or say "Hey, this book is really going 'Lord of the Flies,' isn't it?" and move on. It's not that de Campi couldn't write that kind of comic, it's that she's rushing to it so quickly that I find it hard to care. This is the first long speech that Kira gives in this comic, and she's a complete bitch who, honestly, seemingly yells at the wrong person. And Travis and Tiffani are absolute idiots - I mean, even if we think going off on their own is a good idea (which it's not), why would Tiffani think it was safe to drink the water in the stream? When I was a teenager, even I knew not to drink random running water, and that was in the 1980s, the Golden Age of Things Not Being Polluted At All! As I don't really care about any of the characters, it's hard to care about their fates, and the book becomes just a lame excuse to turn people into savages. If I want to see people turn into savages, I just won't let my daughter watch the Wiggles for a few minutes. THE TERROR!!!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

We Stand On Guard #1 by Fonografiks (letterer), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), Steve Skroce (artist), and Brian K. Vaughan (writer). $2.99, 34 pgs, FC, Image.

I've never been as big a fan of BKV as some people, but he's a good writer, and I'm always curious to at least check his series out. The last time I did that, it took me 18 issues to decide that the story he was writing wasn't any good, but We Stand On Guard, his latest, might not make it that far. It's not terrible, but it feels very rote, as if Vaughan thought his idea of the United States going to war with Canada was so good that he didn't need to do anything else. He begins with a terrorist attack on the White House that the Americans believe, I guess, was perpetrated by Canada (although we have no idea why the Americans think so), so they bomb the shit out of Ottawa (and, presumably, the rest of the country). Twelve years later (in 2124), one of the survivors of the attack is trekking through the Northwest Territories when she is accosted by an American robot attack dog, and she's rescued by freedom fighters who don't quite trust her until she proves herself to them. They take down a giant American robot thing, and we're off!

Despite being 34 pages of story, there's just not a lot here. Vaughan wants to give Skroce, in his return to comics, room to play, and the art on the book is magnificent - Skroce uses big panels to good effect, making the snowy landscape look expansive and giving us some nice double-page and single-page splashes. It brings a majesty to the violence, even as Skroce shows the brutality of it, too, as one of the guerrillas is killed after everyone thinks the danger has passed. Skroce was always a good artist, and it's nice to see him back in comics.

Vaughan's story, however, is just so slight. As it's Vaughan, he wastes a page with dumb trivia, explaining how Superman is a Canadian (Joe Shuster was born in Toronto), which does absolutely nothing for the story and it doesn't reveal anything about the characters except they hate the U.S., which we can probably infer from the fact that, you know, the Americans bombed the shit out of the country. Even the first few pages are unnecessary - we don't find out anything about the conflict and if the Canadians actually did bomb the White House, therefore "justifying" the American response, and by the time we get to the "present," it doesn't really matter anyway, and Vaughan could have easily begun with Amber in 2124 and given us information in later issues through flashbacks, which I'm sure are coming anyway (this story has to involve the antecedents of the war, doesn't it?). The first part is superfluous, and it doesn't give us any information about Amber that makes her more interesting when she's a grown-up.

I'll probably get this book for a while, just to see what's going on with it, but this is not a terribly good first issue. It should be - it features a lot of action and a giant robot, after all - but Vaughan manages to make it boring. I just hope it doesn't continue to be so.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Corto Maltese: Beyond the Windy Isles by Hugo Pratt (writer/artist), Dean Mullaney (translator), and Simone Castaldi (translator). $29.99, 116 pgs, BW, IDW.

After the first volume came out, I wasn't sure if IDW would do another one (I know they promised more, but you just never know), so I'm glad this one came out. Let's hope they all show up!

DMZ: The Deluxe Edition Book Four by Riccardo Burchielli (artist), Jeromy Cox (colorist), Jared K. Fletcher (letterer), Brian Wood (writer), a bunch of other artists, and Jeb Woodard (editor). $29.99, 380 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

The next one is the final edition, so maybe I'll actually sit down and read the series then. That would be fun!

Lone Wolf & Cub Omnibus volume 9 by Kazuo Koike (writer), Goseki Kojima (artist), Digital Chameleon (letterer), and Dana Lewis (translator). $19.99, 668 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

Similarly, one day these will done, too, and then I can read them!

Miss: Better Living Through Crime by Marc Males (colorist), Marc Riou (artist), Scarleyy Smulkowski (colorist), Philippe Thirault (writer), Mark Vigouroux (artist), Justin Kelly (translator), Natacha Ruck (translator), and Alex Donoghue (editor). $29.99, 194 pgs, FC, Humanoids.

A crime story set in 1920s New York with an orphaned young lady teaming up with a pimp? Yeah, that sounds neat. Let's hope it is!

Money spent this week: $147.15. YTD: $3394.29.


I have a few fun non-comics items below, but I wanted to direct you to the latest Amiculus Kickstarter, which you can find here. I really liked volume 1, so I'm hoping volumes 2 and 3 can see the light of day. If you're at all interested, I encourage you to head over and check it out.

Someone Photoshopped Nicolas Cage's face onto a bunch of Game of Thrones characters. That's some nightmare fuel right there, folks.

Joe Buck quit Twitter partly because of Phillies fans. You're welcome, America.

Someone rewrote the descriptions of animals at a pet store. Hilarity ensues.

A woman in Ohio won an appeal of a traffic violation because of ... punctuation! This is why we need grammar rules, you Philistines who think it doesn't matter!

I love this story. An anonymous donor gave $100,000 to a Girl Scout troop in Western Washington with the stipulation that they discriminate against transgender girls, and the Girl Scouts turned it down. They started a crowdfunding campaign to try to make up the money, and they blew well past $100,000 and soared well beyond it, with many days still left. Awesome.

For this week's Top Ten List, I thought I'd move away from music for the time being and talk movies. James Bond movies, specifically. I finally saw Skyfall last week when it showed up on USA, and boy howdy, was that a terrible movie. I have read some rave reviews of the film, and I know it made a chunk of change, but it's pretty terrible. The opening sequence is the only really good part. There's no way Bond survives the fall, and it just goes downhill from there. Q is dismissive of previous Bond movies when he says scornfully "You were expecting an exploding pen?", but here's the thing: Bond isn't Christopher Nolan's Batman. Nolan, I assume, is to blame for this latest Bond, which has absolutely no sense of humor or even lightness. Javier Bardem is terrible in a terrible role, and Bond even fails in his mission. YOU HAD ONE JOB, JAMES!!!! Kudos to Sam Mendes for easing back on the sex, I guess, although the misogyny is still there - at least in earlier Bond movies, his attitude toward women was cheeky, where as the Craig Bonds don't even seem to like women for the sexual pleasures they offer. How has the franchise become even more regressive in the 21st century? Craig is a terrible Bond, too - his three movies have been pretty awful, with only Casino Royale coming anywhere near the best Bond movies, and that's pushing it. But that's why we live in a world where every asshole on the Internet can have an opinion, right? So here are my Top Ten Bond Movies. Note: I have not seen A View to a Kill. Somehow I don't think that would crack the list if I did see it. Everything else is fair game!

10. The World Is Not Enough (1999). I like Pierce Brosnan as Bond a lot more than many people, it seems, and while his last movie is not very good (despite the presence of the sublime Rosamund Pike), his first three are pretty good. Bond movies are often defined by their villains and their love interests, and Robert Carlyle made a good, weird villain, while Sophie Marceau is beautiful and exotic as Elektra, with enough "wounded girl" quality that we can believe she'd turn evil. Yes, this movie brought us Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist, but, come on, it's a Bond movie.

9. Live and Let Die (1973). Roger Moore was the Bond I grew up with, so I have a soft spot for his movies, even Moonraker. Yes, Moore was probably already too old to begin playing Bond (we was 44 when he started playing the role, and 44 was a lot different in 1972 than it is today), but he did a fairly decent job with it, walking a fine line between action and comedy, even as the series tilted too far to the comedic side. This was an occasionally goofy movie, but it does have the great Yaphet Kotto as the villain (he gets perhaps the most memorable death in a Bond movie), the terrific Geoffrey Holder as Baron Samedi, and the sultry Jane Seymour as the principal Bond girl. And never discount a good theme song - McCartney's is one of the best.

8. GoldenEye (1995). Brosnan's first Bond movie is pretty terrific, especially after the dour Licence to Kill. We get Judi Dence kicking ass as M, Sean Bean's excellent villain (as former agent, which Skyfall ripped off), the ridiculous but deadly Famke Janssen, one of the great villainous sidekicks in Bond history (she kills people while having sex!), Alan Cumming stealing every scene he's in, and Mitchell is in it! Brosnan is great in the role, showing why he should have been Bond a decade earlier (he was 41 when he got the role, but he aged much better than Moore did), and even though Izabella Scorupco isn't a terribly memorable Bond girl, she's not bad.

7. Octopussy (1983). This might have been the first Bond movie I saw (I may have seen Moonraker first, but I can't remember), and while it might not be high on anyone's list of great Bond movies, I like it a lot. The scheme is pretty keen, the evil circus dudes are good goofy Bond villains, as they're deadly but also slightly ridiculous, and Moore hadn't quite become decrepit yet (he was an old 55 when the movie was filmed). Louis Jourdain is a nice suave villain, and of course Maud Adams is great as the title character (she's also the only actress to appear as two different Bond girls). She's better as a villain, but of course the power of James's penis brings her over to the side of angels. I still love the way Vijay gets killed, with that circular hand-held saw. Gives me chills!

6. Goldfinger (1964). You may notice a lack of Connery on this list, and that's because the Connery Bonds never really did it for me. I like them, but they seem really outdated, more misogynistic than even the rest of the Bonds, and Connery himself looks weirdly bored a lot. I also didn't grow up with them, so I didn't form an emotional connection that clouds critical faculties, like I have (and acknowledge I have) with stuff like Manimal and The Dukes of Hazzard. Goldfinger, however, is a cool movie - it's just before Connery seemed to tire of the role, but it's not as crude as the first two Bond movies (even though I have one of them higher on this list). Gert Fröbe is a sufficiently weird and dastardly villain with a scheme that's just complicated enough, and while I'm not a huge fan of the movie's implication that Honor Blackman can be "converted" from lesbianism if only she meets the right man (as in, Bond), she does make a nice Bond girl, one who can certainly hold her own in a fight.

5. Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). Brosnan's second Bond movie is his best, as Jonathan Pryce is a wonderfully weird villain, one who is actually one of the more prescient Bond bad guys ever, and there's plenty of fine action. Teri Hatcher will never fool anyone into thinking she's a good actor, but she looks the part, and the fact that she has a history with Bond is a nice twist. Of course, Michelle Yeoh is in this movie, and any movie with Michelle Yeoh in it becomes exponentially more interesting (yes, that includes Babylon A.D.). I like the fact that she and Bond don't actually hook up until the very end of the movie, because prior to that, Wai Lin was too busy kicking ass.

4. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). The opening scene is of course iconic, and Richard Kiel is terrific (before they ruined him in Moonraker), and Barbara Bach and Moore have great chemistry (I'm not a fan of Bach's, because her look in this movie is just so Seventies, but I can't deny that she and Moore made a good pair), and Curd Jürgens is a pretty good villain. It's a bit on the ridiculous side, but the filmmakers were still committed to telling good action stories, so the goofiness doesn't intrude too much. It's a nifty scheme, too - reasonable for a super-villain, but not too outlandish. And it's always nice when the British and Soviets have to work together!

3. On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Is the most controversial pick I could make? Beats me, but I don't care, because I love this movie. George Lazenby, in his only appearance as Bond, looks like he actually wants to be there (as opposed to Connery in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever, which bookend this movie), and while he's not a very good actor, I don't think you really have to be to play Bond. Telly Savalas is weirdly awesome as Blofeld, Ilse Steppat is great as the evil Irma Bunt, the scenes in the Swiss Alps are amazing, and it's amazingly touching at the end. Of course, it works also because the Bond girl is the utterly divine Diana Rigg, who's a goddamned international treasure. It's the most tragic of the Bond movies, and it's largely because Rigg is so fantastic in it. (Plus, she dominates any scene of Game of Thrones that she's in. That scene this season with her and Jonathan Pryce was classic.)

2. From Russia With Love (1963). This was difficult for me, because Daniela Bianchi, the Bond girl in this movie, is neck-and-neck with Rigg as the best Bond girl ever (Rigg gets it, I think, just because of the way she went out), and the movie is terrific, too. It's not as clunky as Dr. No, Connery is still fully invested in the role, and it has a nice sense of humor, too. The scheme is pretty keen, Bond's ally - Pedro Armendáriz (who died before the movie came out) - is wonderful, there's a gypsy girl fight, Lotte Lenya is superb as the creepy villain (more gay panic in this movie, too, but Lenya and Bianchi play that scene so well that I'll forgive it), and Robert Shaw is excellent as the mostly silent assassin. The final chase through the hills and across the water is fantastic, too. Plus: Istanbul! You can't go wrong with setting your movie in Istanbul (as the best part of Skyfall shows us!).

1. For Your Eyes Only (1981). The reason I debated about putting this at #1 is because I just don't like Carole Bouquet as Melina. Sure, she wields a mean crossbow, but she has no chemistry with Moore and she's not a very good actor, so her part is a gaping hole in an otherwise excellent movie. Moore is wonderful, just smirky enough while still being a cold-blooded killer (I love when he pushes that dude in the car off the cliff), and still not looking too old for the part. Julian Glover is a great villain, and Topol is excellent as Bond's ally, Columbo. The set pieces are well done, from the skiing to the chase down the mountain with Bond and Melina in the Citroën to the finale at the Metéora monastery, where we get that hilariously fitting ending. Plus, it has that great opening sequence that is always used to "prove" that every Bond is the same man and not a title passed down from agent to agent. I know this movie doesn't have the best reputation in the Bond series, but I don't care - it's my favorite!

Feel free to chime in with your favorites - I'm sure I'm going to get yelled at for my lack of Sean Connery, but I don't care!

No one got the Totally Random Lyrics last week, and that's just because you guys aren't hip to the glory that is Kelly Clarkson singing "Behind These Hazel Eyes." So sad!

This week, let's go a bit old-school! How old-school? Well, you'll just have to figure that out for yourself!

"Let me get by over your dead bodyHope to see you soon, when will I know?Doors three feet wide with no locks openWalking always backwards in the faces of strangersTime could be my friendBut it's less than nowhere now, it's less than nowhere now"

That's pretty easy, right? Beats me - I never know which of these are going to be difficult and which aren't!

Finally, you might recall that my daughter recently had back surgery. We're still getting her back to full strength, but I thought I'd share the X-rays of her back with you, because it's pretty amazing what they were able to do to correct her posture. Here are the "before" and "after" X-rays:

Modern science, amirite? Wow.

Have a nice day, everyone. I'm just waiting for the annoying firecrackers to begin going off, which always keeps me awake far too long. Get off my lawn!!!!

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