What I bought - 10 January 2007

Any week in which Gødland comes out is a good one.  So this is a good one!  Let's dive right in!

Agents of Atlas #1-6 by Jeff Parker, Leonard Kirk, and Kris Justice.  $2.99 each, Marvel.





You know what?  This was mildly disappointing as a mini-series.  I know it sounds cool, and for the most part, it is, but it's still a bit of a disappointment.  It's definitely a case of each issue being greater than the sum of its parts.  Each issue, read on its own, is a hoot.  Parker does a nice job with the origins of each team member, (presumably) re-writing or at least re-working some Marvel history into the mix (this is one book that would benefit greatly from footnotes, but I guess everyone in the world should know every single thing that has ever happened in Marvel history) and bringing us some good characters for the new millennium.  There is a lot of excitement in the book, too, to go along with the character development, and we get a good sense of danger from the Yellow (or Golden) Claw, as well as some nice team interaction.  Having Derek Khanata narrate the book (after issue #1, which Gorilla Man mainly narrated) is a good idea, as it puts the audience into the book, with Derek playing the role of the "outsider" and seeing the dynamics of the book.  And any book with gorillas shooting guns has to have a lot of merit, right?

The problem with the book is that it doesn't really deliver on the goods.  I'm trying not to spoil it, but the "threat" in the book turns out to be something completely different than we expected, and it robs the previous issues of some of the excitement when you go back and think about what happened in them.  It's not that it's a bad resolution, because it flows somewhat logically from the story, it's just not a particularly interesting one.  This ends up reading like a test case for an ongoing, as if Marvel is seeing how it sells before committing to an open-ended series with these characters.  If it does sell, there's no reason why a series starring Jimmy Woo and his mystery men wouldn't be a very interesting title, and I'd probably buy it, because Parker knows what he's doing and is able to create some nice moments and set up interesting situations.  But I don't think we needed six issues to arrive at this point.  Marvel throws ongoing series into the pool all the time and lets them sink or swim - why not this one?  Because people reading this might feel like they've wasted their money for a disappointing payoff and shun a regular series.  I'm just speculating.  I liked the mini-series, but was still disappointed.  It could have been so much more pulpy and fun.

I also have a problem with Venus.  Not the character, but her state of dress.  First, in issue #3, when they're in the diner, she's wearing a shirt in one panel, but in every other panel of them in the diner, she's still topless.  That's a bit strange.  Second, I do wish that Joey Q or someone in power would have the balls to actually show nipples (so to speak).  It's not like Venus is doing anything alluring at all, and when she does something alluring, Kirk usually draws her in some kind of ethereal form, so the point is moot anyway.  Are we really supposed to believe that children can look at something like this and not have their minds warped, but Venus naked in a comic book would cause their brains to explode?  DC published a comic book in the last year in which Black Adam shoved his fingers through Psycho Pirate's head, causing it to explode, and showed in great detail, including an eyeball flying toward the audience, and that was okay for children to see!  I know I'm tilting at windmills here, but our country's attitude toward nudity is one of the more annoying things out there.  I would have loved it if this book had shipped with Venus smply standing around without a top on, but with no warning label or anything.  I would have liked to see how many people complained.

Oh, and issues #2 and 6 are physically longer than the others from top to bottom.  What's up with that?

So, it's a disappointing mini-series, but not by much.  It's still a pretty fun read, and if they are auditioning for an ongoing, I hope they get the nod, because this kind of book in the Marvel Universe could be a lot of fun.  We'll see.

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #4 by Robert Kirkman, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks.  $2.99, Marvel.

Here's another book that would benefit from at least one footnote, for those of us who didn't read Mark Millar's epic storyline in which Wolverine kills everyone in S.H.I.E.L.D.  It wouldn't be that difficult to put one in there, because Kirkman is really using it in a good way to fit this story into continuity.  It is, in other words, somewhat germane to the story, and like I wrote above, I find it very silly that Marvel and DC expect us to read every single thing they publish and automatically add it to our long-term memories so that we can access it like some sort of database.  I'm not CRONIN!  Similarly, this is the kind of information I could easily hunt down online or ask about in these posts, which is where I was reminded in the first place of Millar's story, but the point is - Marvel is making it MORE difficult to read escapist fare.  I mean, is "Enemy of the State" or this book going up on the Mount Rushmore of Western Literature?  I think not.

Anyway, Kirkman is still doing a nice job moving between the past and the present.  Eric STILL hasn't done much that makes me hate him as a human being - he stole the Ant-Man suit, sure, but that isn't morally reprehensible, just kind of stupid.  His dealings with Veronica are kind of smarmy, but except for lying to her about Chris cheating on her - which she finds out in this issue is a lie, even though she still believes it - he hasn't forced her to do anything.  She still sleeps with him even after she tells him that the girl Chris was supposedly cheating with denied it, so she obviously enjoys his company enough to believe him and not the girl.  Eric is just kind of a jerk, which makes this title more fun than it probably would be otherwise.  He's like a football fan (me, for instance) who suddenly finds himself coaching his favorite team in the Super Bowl (go, Eagles!).  Yes, he's kind of a jerk, but he's having too much fun to care.

Or maybe Eric really is a scumbag and I'm too much of a scumbag to notice.  That would be unfortunate (for me, that is).

The neat thing about moving back and forth through time is next issue, it appears we're set up for two fights between Mitch and Eric, one in the past, and one in the present.  That should be fun.

Oh, and no one's buying this, apparently.  So it probably won't matter soon.  But it's a neat book, and there's a lot more that's crap on the stands this week (like, say, Outsiders - what is up with Winick and the Red Hood?  He's not all that interesting a character, but Winick thinks he's re-invented sliced bread, for crying out loud!).  So why not check it out?

Batman #662 by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake.  $2.99, DC.

Another disappointing issue, as Ostrander and Mandrake wrap up their fill-in stint so The God of All Comics could, presumably, smuggle absinthe into the country (that just seems like something he would do).  I've been saying that this is simply good, old-fashioned Batman stuff, and it's certainly an entertaining story, but I've also been saying that I hope the bad guy isn't who we've been led to believe it is, but he is.  We have been told over and over who Grotesk is, and if Ostrander wasn't going to throw us a curve ball with regard to his identity, he shouldn't have introduced the possibility that he was anyone else.  That's all I'm saying.

So Batman saves the day, and another woman dies.  Yes, a man dies too, and on the balance, more men than women die in this story, but as usual, the woman's is the most pointless.  There's just no justification for Amina to die.  It's pure shock value, and I always hope that writers I like are above it, but I guess Ostrander isn't.  It's disappointing because Batman has so few supporting characters these days, and now that Leslie Tompkins is out of the picture, it would have been nice to see him have a connection to her clinic.  Yes, stuff like this bothers me.

At least Ostrander came up with a new villain.  The idea of Grotesk is actually kind of interesting, and even though his name is stupid, his presence made this a better story than if it had just involved one of the old Batman bad guys.  And Mandrake's art is always stellar.  It's just that I expected more from Ostrander.  That's my problem, I guess.

Next issue, Morrison returns.  I wonder if I will.  We shall see.

Gødland #15 by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli.  $2.99, Image.

The madness that is Gødland continues, as Casey and Scioli juggle four different storylines and each one is, predictably, awesome.  The main story (maybe) is what's happening to Neela Archer, which is more like Dave Bowman's experience in 2001: A Space Odyssey than not, but still manages to be unique and creepy.  Adam is convinced she's not dead, and he appears to get confirmation of this.  Meanwhile, the Triad - Ed, Egoh, and Supra - are still doing mean things, and this issue they kill a bunch of soldiers who try to stop them.  This leads the Army to consult with Lucky, who is ... well, he's something that lives in the basement of the Pentagon, and although Casey is ripping off Morrison's Doom Patrol with the idea of something in the basement of the Pentagon, Lucky is just so weird (and in this book, that's saying something) that I forgive him.  Oh, and the Tormentor frees some sort of insect woman.  Nice.

It is, as usual, a difficult book to assess, because if you haven't been reading it, you'll be lost.  Casey continues to crank up the weirdness, but it's weirdness with a purpose, and he always manages to add some basic humanity to the proceedings so that we're not too far gone.  Scioli's art, spectacular as usual, keeps us gaping in amazement.  It's a great comic book.  What else can I say?

Meltdown #2 (of 2) by David B. Schwartz and Sean Wang.  $5.99, Image.

David Schwartz contacted me via e-mail about my perception that the first issue of this was promoting a political agenda that I didn't agree with.  We had a nice exchange;  he seems like a cool guy, and I certainly hope he does more work, because Meltdown is a nice little comic book.  It's a bit much to spend on two issues, but they have both been packed with content, so we don't feel cheated.  The biggest problem I had with the first issue (beside my perception of the political agenda, which doesn't really exist) was the propensity of Schwartz to exposit (is that a verb?).  He had to give us a lot of information, but there could have been a more elegant way of doing it.  Luckily, in this issue, he backs off on the exposition, and Cal's story can unfold with less authorial interference.  That doesn't mean the narration is perfect, but Schwartz does more of allowing Wang's very nice art to tell the story, rather than telling us everything.

Cal, as you might recall, is the superhero Flare, who can burn things.  Unfortunately, this means he's burning himself, and he will die in a few days.  When we left him, he was locked in a "final battle" with his arch-enemy, Maelstrom, and that's where we pick up with him (well, after a brief prologue in which a train wrecks, which is important later on).  We think that the battle with Maelstrom, which took up a lot of the first issue, will also dominate the second, but it doesn't, and this allows Cal to make - sort of - his peace with Amara, the girl he married and dumped in the first issue.  This was the biggest problem I had with the first issue - that Cal would leave Amara simply because they couldn't have children - and Schwartz does a nice job with the conversation between the two, because although not everything gets resolved, it feels like the kind of conversation two people who care about each other would have.  It's the best part of the issue.

Cal has to leave, however, to save the people who were in the train when it wrecked.  He comes upon a teenager who is trapped in the wreckage, but he can't get her out.  So he stays with her and keeps her safe until the other superheroes can get to them.  This is the person to whom he's narrating the entire story (while she's unconscious) and when she wakes up, the book takes a decidedly overly sentimental turn, as she - her name's Sandra - tells him how she's always looked up to him because he was a hero and because he's Hispanic, as is she.  Schwartz saves himself a little by having her tell Cal that this is what she rehearsed if she ever met him, which is a nice little trick, but it still comes off as a bit cheesy.  It does lead to a nice inspirational ending, however, which is more understated and therefore more effective.

This is a pretty good superhero comic.  Schwartz does a nice job in limited space (the issues are bigger than your usual comic, but still not as long as they could be) of establishing the characters and allowing them to be human.  Wang's art, which switched back and forth in styles in the first issue depending on the time period, stays in the "rough" present for the most part in this one, but when he does shift, it's interesting, especially at the end, when the "rough" look gives way to a more innocent and hopeful look, even though we're still in the present.  It's a neat conceit, and works well.

And no political commentary, imagined or otherwise!  This book doesn't really need it.  It's worth a look.

Welcome to Tranquility #2 by Gail Simone and Neil Googe.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

I really didn't want to see a treading water issue in the second issue of a series, but that's what we get here.  Okay, not completely, but it feels like this could be moving much faster than it is.  There's a murder to be solved, people!  Sheriff Lindo does exactly two pages of police work in this issue, and that's interviewing her prime suspect, Emoticon (the early leader for best new character of the year).  When she realizes that Emoticon's mask won't let him lie, she has to cut him loose.  The rest of the issue is funeral preparations and the mayor getting into a bar fight.  Sigh.

The whole thing is charming and gives us nice insight into the various characters, and I know Simone is trying to show the entire scene, with the tabloid reporters buzzing around and the tensions within the community, but couldn't we see that AND get some crime-solving?  I don't have high hopes for the actual revelation of the murderer - as I've pointed out far too many times before, murder mysteries in comics are often lousy even though they're a perfect medium for them - but I'd like to know that the sheriff is working on it.  The other stuff might be important to the killer's identity in the long run (was it the pot-smoking doctor?????), but it's vexing reading something so well done yet so ... not exactly boring, because it's not, but slow-moving.  Mr. Articulate solves a murder in three pages in the beginning, after all!!!!!

I'm still with the title through the first story arc.  It's a nice book.  But please, Ms. Simone (can I call her Gail?), more detecting next issue!!!!


Rush City #4 (of 6) by Chuck Dixon, Timothy Green II, and Rick Magyar.  $2.99, DC.

I'm going to hell for buying this six-issue advertisement, aren't I?

That's it for this week!

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