What I bought - 11 April 2012

"An empire that can provide a prince, one who might end up succeeding to the throne, a life of childish foolishness and happiness until the age of twenty-nine is necessarily doomed to collapse, dissolution, and annihilation." (Orhan Pamuk, from The Black Book)

Batwoman #8 ("To Drown the World Part 3") by J. H. Williams III (writer), W. Haden Blackman (writer), Amy Reeder (penciller), Rob Hunter (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

I haven't tried to keep up with the way the various time periods in this book hook up with each other (although I admit it might be kind of fun), but in this issue, Batwoman accidentally shoves a syringe into Maggie Sawyer "six nights ago," but a few pages later, in "Chase's Story," which takes place "one week ago," Chase tells Batwoman that the drug won't affect Maggie too much. Is this a mistake? I think it is, but I don't want to proclaim it so, because I'm not terribly bright. Anyway, the story continues apace, and I'm liking it. Williams and Blackman are doing a good job juggling everything so far (despite that possible mistake), we get some good information about the characters, Chase turns the screws on Kate, and things are moving along well. I don't love the story, but I do like it.

This is the final Reeder issue, and I can't say I'll miss it. The art has gotten worse with each issue, not helped at all by the absolutely terrible inking job. Reeder does some nice work with the layouts, and some of her faces remain very nice and expressive, but overall, the art started off just okay on issue #7 and has deteriorated a bit over the next two. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Reeder would benefit greatly from heavier inks, because her lines themselves are fine but lack much power. The art on this book has looked more like the Tony Daniel/Ryan Benjamin days of Morrison's Batman, and that's not a good sign. Just look at the panel below: Kate's face is terrible, but Cameron's is superb. That's kind of what the entire book is like - really nice work side-by-side with weaker stuff. Hunter does nothing to add definition to Reeder's pencils, and I imagine the "tracer" insult might apply here - I'm sure I'm wrong, but it does look like he just goes over Reeder's pencils with a thin magic marker. I don't have Reeder's work from Madame Xanadu in front of me, but a quick check indicates that she inked herself on at least a few issues, which probably helped. Guy Major colored both books, so I don't think that's the problem, although the glossy paper of the mainstream DC is worse for her work than the rougher paper of Vertigo books - her work on Madame Xanadu, although still in the same vein as this, looks weightier, and I imagine the heavier paper stock helped hide the thin lines and Major's use of the "Vertigo brown" palette (the comic is brighter than some Vertigo books, but still) also contributed. The way Major colors Batwoman (I assume that's his trick and not Reeder's) remains the best part of the artwork, and it's too bad they're using it as a stylistic choice to set Kate apart.

Trevor McCarthy comes on board next issue, and I'm interesting to see what that art looks like. I like Reeder's art quite a bit, but her work on Batwoman has not been exemplary, which is too bad.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Bodysnatchers #4 (of 6) by Pasquale Pako Massimo (writer/artist), Peppe bBox Boccia (colorist), Andrea Plazzi (translator), Adam McGovern (translator), and Studio Blue (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, GG Studio.

Issue #3 of this series came out in August, so it's kind of difficult to review the book as a whole when it takes so long between installments (I imagine money issues have to be the problem, as the actual Italian comic came out in 2005, so it's not like they're waiting on Massimo to finish). It's especially true because I imagine that, as a European comic, this was NOT released serially, so Massimo isn't terribly interested in getting anyone up to speed - he actually does give us quite a bit of new information about Utopolis, the city in which the series is set, but there's also a lot of allusions to earlier events that one really can't be expected to remember unless one reads this all at once. It's a weird cyberpunkish kind of book, and I like it, but it's really hard to appreciate it issue-by-issue. I'm still uncertain exactly what the main character and her band of misfits wants to achieve, or if I did know it, I've forgotten it. It's frustrating. Massimo's art remains very good, with a nice, hard sci-fi/post-apocalyptic vibe to it, and the characters are weird but not too insanely bizarre. I'm still not sure why the female character is wearing a bikini bottom when it seems that the city is a bit cold, but I guess sex sells, even in a sci-fi book with no overt sexual themes. I hate to say it, but I really do need to read this all at once. In a vacuum, it's an interesting issue, but there's so much going on that I feel like I'm a bit lost.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Glory #25 ("Once and Future Part Three: The Way It Will Be") by Joe Keatinge (writer), Ross Campbell (artist), Ms, Shatia Hamilton (colorist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Keatinge wraps up his re-introduction of Glory and his introduction of Riley by having Riley dream of a future 500 years from now, where she's still alive and has found Glory living on Mars. I don't want to spoil anything, but this dream, apparently, helps clarify why she found Glory in the present, which presumably will drive the run for a while. There are some tremendously cool visuals (of course, with Campbell drawing it), but you'd be forgiven if you wonder when things are going to start, you know, happening. At least Keatinge got all his ducks in a row fairly quickly - three issues feels like a whirlwind compared to some Bendis comics - and he did provide a lot of background for those of us who were unfamiliar with the character. I appreciated it, but these first three issues have been more about Campbell's amazing artwork than Keatinge's scripts. Now that it's clear what's going on in the book and now that a lot of the background has been established, I hope that will change.

As I mentioned, right now Campbell is the star of the book. His Mars is a weird, wild place (Dr. Doom apparently hangs out there, and I half expected Campbell's Shadoweyes to show up), and Campbell makes the conversation between Future Riley and Future Glory, which occupies 8 crucial pages, visually interesting, moving between the future and the characters' past, showing how they came to that place. Hamilton does a nice job contrasting the conversation with Riley's flashbacks, lending drama to the way life has gone over the 500 years. Campbell's "new" design of Glory is wonderful, too - it shows how far she's gone and implies she's never coming back. It's really a nice-looking comic, and it helps make Keatinge's place-setting feel less formulaic, which is nice.

I've liked the return of Glory, and I'm keen to see where Keatinge is going with it now that he's shown us the direction. I'm sure it will look pretty!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Northlanders #50 (of 50) ("The Icelandic Trilogy Part Nine: Waygone 1260") by Brian Wood (writer), Danijel Zezelj (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I don't have a lot to say about the end of Northlanders. It's always been a very good book, with some stories rising to greatness and only one ("Metal") falling short. "The Icelandic Trilogy" had an air of inevitability about it, not only because it was the final arc but because if you care, you could easily find out what happened in Iceland in 1263, shortly after this story takes place. This final three-issue story of the bigger nine-issue tale is slightly underwhelming, simply because it feels like Wood might have bitten off more than he could chew with only 60 pages - the destruction of a family and, by extension, a way of life. Oskar's delusions come home to roost far too quickly, it seems, and Freya Macbeth kind of turns into Lori Grimes a bit, doesn't she? Anyway, it's a nice-looking comic, and I hope DC releases a giant trade of all nine issues (I mean, why wouldn't they?) and I hope that people appreciate that Wood wrote a motherfucking Viking comic for 50 issues, because that's damned impressive. It wouldn't kill you to get The Massive instead of his X-Men comic, you know. Or Mara. Because Ming Doyle is fucking awesome.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Saga #2 by Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Fiona Staples (artist), and Fonografiks (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

After Saga #1 got every Internet reviewer into a lather (well, except this one), I wonder what the reaction to issue #2 will be? Probably more of the same, but this issue earns it a bit more. Vaughan, perhaps, didn't feel the need to jam a lot into 40-odd pages this time, and much like Glory, with the world-building out of the way a bit, he can concentrate on the story. He also spends most of the issue with Alana and Marko, so we get a better sense of who they are and why they're together, which is crucial if you're asking us to care about them. They argue less than they did in the first issue and actually seem to act like a team, and when something bad happens to Marko (see below), Alana's reaction feels extremely genuine (as does the subsequent showdown between Alana and The Stalk). I'm not totally in love with the characters yet, and I still think Marko is more interesting than Alana, but they're better in this issue than they were in issue #1. I still don't like Vaughan's attempts to make this universe "like ours," and the bit with the person talking about trashy romances that housewives buy at the supermarket was a terrible bit of dialogue, completely awkward and out of place. If Vaughan makes Marko, Alana, and their predicament with Hazel better, he doesn't need the clunky stuff that is supposed to make all these weird characters more like us but when the words are being spoken by robots with televisions for heads comes off as really bad, because we'll care about the comic. Concentrate on that, Mr. Vaughan!

Staples has gotten rid of the worst of the backgrounds from last issue - it probably helps that a lot of the issue takes place in a rain forest, so she just has to do a lot of green murk - and her Marko and Alana are as good as ever. Plus, we get a new character, The Stalk (Alana knows she's an assassin by her name, so maybe having an article as your first name means you're an assassin?), and she's pretty damned cool-looking. The final page, which has already been ruined if you've seen the cover of issue #3, is pretty cool, too. I still don't like the fact that the characters don't look integrated into the background - my post about The Question shows that Tommy Lee Edwards was able to blend these elements years ago, so it can be done - and I wish Staples would somehow fix that. I honestly don't know how hard it is, because I'm not an artist, but perhaps it's just very time-consuming. Still, there's nothing extremely egregious about the art this time around, and Staples does show her strengths nicely, so that's cool.

Saga is still a book more about potential than delivery, but issue #2 is more enjoyable than the first one, so I guess that's something. There's no reason it can't keep getting better!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret #1 ("Teeth With Which to Eat") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Ryan Bodenheim (artist), Michael Garland (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Hickman's return to Image continues with Secret, which is a typically intriguing Hickman book that bristles with interesting ideas that may or may not pay off (that's the chance you take!). In this case, a man wakes up to find an intruder in his house, who ties him up, rips a tooth out of his mouth, and gains access to his computer. The victim happens to be the CEO of a giant accounting firm, so this is bad news. When he tells his lawyer, the lawyer puts him in touch with a private security company that handles stuff for them, and the plot moves into action. A member of the security group, which is called Steadfast, tells the lawyers that their security is shit, and in true movie thriller style, proves it because his associate has already hacked into it. This guy, Grant, is at the meeting because their usual representative, Thomas Moore, is otherwise occupied (see below). So we have the deal with the law firm, which may or may not be important, the deal with Moore getting threatened by some unseen assailant, and the deal with the guy breaking into the dude's house. Are any of these connected? Who the hell knows - it's a Jonathan Hickman comic! (I say that in the nicest way possible, because I like Hickman's comics for the most part and respect the fact that he's ambitious as hell). Unfortunately, when I can see the ending coming a mile away, it's probably pretty obvious to anyone with a brain (the debate rages on as to whether I possess one!), but that doesn't change the fact that the set-up is pretty keen.

Bodenheim is a decent enough artist, and it's too bad that he doesn't get to cut loose all that much. When Hickman writes his talky scripts and illustrates them himself, he does dazzling things with page layouts to distract from all the talking. Whether he doesn't ask that of his other artists or the artists just aren't capable of it I don't know, but it means that Bodenheim has to draw a lot of talking, so while the actual work is fine, the art is kind of boring. Where the art shines is in Garland's coloring - you can see below that the guy with the gun is in red while the rest of the panel is gray. Garland does this repeatedly, switching colors seemingly randomly and coloring entire panels in shades of one tone, either green or yellow or blue or red. It's actually fairly effective - not only does it help highlight flashbacks and shifts in location, but it helps set apart the young, hip Steadfast employees and the dull, dry lawyers they're trying to help. It makes the book far more visually interesting than it has any right to be, and I for one appreciate it quite a lot.

I guess Secret is supposed to be a kind of techno-thriller, and that's cool as long as there's, you know, some punching. This is an intriguing first issue that sets everything up nicely and gives us a lot to chew on. That's always fun!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Wasteland #36 ("Devil's Dance") by Antony Johnston (writer), Justin Greenwood (artist), Matthew Razzano (toner), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 23 pgs, BW, Oni Press.

I have a feeling that Johnston stretched this story arc one issue too long. Once we got the revelation about the big naked dude, this could have wrapped up more quickly, but there's still one issue to go in the arc. It's not that any issue is bad, it's just that for the past two issues, we've seen the characters running around a lot and yelling at each other. Yes, yes, Michael is a demon and Abi is probably a whore, according to the close-minded people in town. Oh, Templar Rickerd, you're such a Philistine! The major plot points of the arc - the giant naked dude, Michael discovering what Gerr is doing, Abi showing off her abilities again - have been covered, and I'm not sure how Johnston will end things just because it seems like our heroes have totally overstayed their welcome in the town. Abi does threaten them at the very end, but it seems like we could have reached this point a bit sooner. The arcs on Wasteland have occasionally felt longer because of the delays in the scheduling, but when you consider what Johnston was doing, it doesn't feel like they could have been cut in any way. This arc, however, feels a bit padded, and that's too bad.

Still, I imagine that anything that feels extraneous will become important in later issues, and I am willing to cut Johnston some slack. Just knowing that Johnston has the entire sage pretty much plotted out is comforting, because it does seem that he knows what he's doing. One arc that feels an issue too long isn't a deal-breaker, after all. But it still feels a bit long!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Courtney Crumrin volume 1: The Night Things by Ted Naifeh (writer/artist) and Warren Wucinich (colorist). $19.99, 125 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

Fact: Ted Naifeh is awesome. Fact: The new coloring on this book is really, really good. Fact: Courtney Crumrin is adorable even though she totally lacks a nose. What the hell's up with that?

Daredevil: Season One by Antony Johnston (writer), Wellington Alves (penciler), Nelson Pereira (inker), Bruno Hang (colorist), and Clayton Cowles (letterer). $24.99, 100 pgs (plus a reprint of Daredevil #1), FC, Marvel.

Considering that a five-issue mini-series from Marvel these days would cost $19.95 (5 x $3.99) or even (if we're lucky) $14.95 (5 x $2.99), paying 25 bucks for the same amount of pages (no, I don't count the reprint) seems excessive. I don't care. I'm just chuffed that Marvel is doing graphic novels again, even if they're retelling origins that have been retold many, many, MANY times. I figure if these do well, maybe they'll start doing "real" OGNs again. Wouldn't that be keen?

Kitchen Sink Press: The First 25 Years by Dave Schreiner and others. $15.00, 128 pgs, Kitchen Sink Press.

This originally came out in 1994, but it's been re-released. It's not a comic, but a book about comics, so it may be hard for me to read. So many words!!!!!

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo volume 1 by Bob Haney (writer) and Jim Aparo (artist). $49.99, 510 pgs, FC, DC.

This came out last week, but my retailer forgot to give it to me and I forgot to get it from him. It collects 23 stories from The Brave and the Bold in the early 1970s that I could probably find in the quarter boxes, especially as they're all one-and-done stories, but I'm not Greg Hatcher, for crying out loud, and I can't find hidden gems in tiny bookstores located all over the Northwest! I am weak and like my cheap comics in an expensive, fancy format. Don't judge me with your judging eyes!!!!!

The Strange Talent of Luther Strode by Justin Jordan (writer), Tradd Moore (artist), Felipe Sobreiro (colorist), and Fonografiks (letterer). $14.99, 145 pgs, FC, Image.

Damn, the art in this book is cool. And damn, there's a hella lot of blood in this book. Damn.


In the continuing saga of Arizona's descent into madness, the House approved Bill 2036 this week, sending it off to the governor to sign. Good times! Our legislature, meanwhile, has cut a lot of services for, say, special needs children under the age of three in recent years. Oh, and school programs that help elementary-school special needs kids instead of waiting until they're teenagers and might benefit less because their brains are less elastic? Yeah, they're getting cut, too. The good news is, this new bill won't cost any money, it will just extend government intrusion into private affairs. So yeah, fuck women and children. God obviously hates them. Sorry, I'm just really pissed off at certain segments of our society right now.

This week I watched Green Lantern, finally, and I didn't get what all the fuss was about. It wasn't any good, of course, but it wasn't any worse than, say, Thor, yet people seemed to like Thor a LOT more than poor GL. Thor definitely had better actors, but I'm not sure it had better acting (Idris Elba should have totally played Heimdall as DCI Luther, because that would have rocked so hard). Green Lantern was fairly stupid, but again, most superhero movies are fairly stupid. Mark Strong was good, unsurprisingly; Tim Robbins as Peter Sarsgaard's father was dumb (Robbins is not even 13 years older than Sarsgaard, and Sarsgaard looked older in the movie); I was surprised to see Amanda Waller show up (I may have heard she was in the movie, but forgot); I did enjoy how no one batted an eye when Hector Hammond starts physically transforming - they're all just like, "Hey, don't fret, dude"; it's always nice that Temuera Morrison gets work, even though he was hardly in the movie; Ryan Reynolds is really well put together; and I don't get Blake Lively. I mean, she's purty and all, but she's not a good actress, yet she keeps getting high-profile gigs. I love this phenomenon - an actor somehow gets hot (luck probably has a lot to do with it) and suddenly they're in all sorts of things in which they're punching far above their class. Lively somehow ended up in The Town, and now she's in Oliver Stone's new movie, and that's great for her, but I hope she's socking away some money for when it all comes crashing down. She's not even 25 yet, and when you're not a good actress but you are an attractive woman, your shelf life in Hollywood is limited. I don't mean to pick on Lively - good for her if she's getting parts - and this is not a unique phenomenon or even a specifically female one (Sam Worthington, really?), but I do find it utterly fascinating, especially because actors (especially women) often find a second life after their initial phase of "hotness" is over. Anyone who has seen Elisha Cuthbert killing it as a comic actress on Happy Endings knows what I'm talking about. Anyway, Green Lantern: Crap, but not deserving of so much derision. Of course, I didn't pay 10 bucks to see it, so maybe that factors into things.

Speaking of things I watched, I hope everyone caught the finale of Justified this week, because it was pretty awesome. I won't give anything away in case you haven't seen it yet, but as usual, the show rocks. The writers not only nail the endings of seasons, they even give us killer last lines of seasons, and this one was no exception. I watch a lot of television, but there are very few shows that I would really miss if someone took my television away. Justified is one of them. Mad Men and Game of Thrones are two others. Community might be one, but after that, I really start grasping. Some of the BBC stuff - Luther, Whitechapel, Sherlock - would probably be next on my list.

Speaking of television, I watched Don't Trust the B_____ in Apartment 23, which replaced Happy Endings (let's hope not for good), last night. It was pretty lousy, but James van der Beek playing himself was pretty awesome. I love it when celebrities play themselves for comic effect, a trend which I first noticed (whether it began there or not I don't know, but I doubt it) when Jennifer Grey played herself on It's Like, You Know ... THIS IS JUST ANOTHER REASON WHY THAT IS A SADLY UNDERRATED CLASSIC!!!!!! Anyway, van der Beek is very funny. The rest of the show ... not so much.

Speaking of old-school television, here's a mash-up of a bunch of famous people who called into Frasier. They're cut way too short, but it's still pretty funny. I liked Frasier (although I gave up in the later years), but occasionally I found myself watching it because I had a serious crush on Peri Gilpin. Poor Peri Gilpin. She totally never became the superstar she deserved to be!

Speaking of random goofy stuff on the Internet, here's a Danny Trejo meme. Who doesn't love Danny Trejo? Commies, that's who. For some reason, there's also a a Party Spock picture. I love the Intertubes!

Speaking of Community, this photograph of Alison Brie cracks me up. Any one of us could be the dude in the picture! You know it's true!

Speaking of creepy dudes, an acquaintance of mine has become a meme. Corwin is a very cool dude, by the way. But he totally deserves this!

Okay, let's move on to The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "And We Danced" - Hooters1 (1985) "There was no use talking, there was nothing to say when the band began to play and play"22. "Nothin' But a Good Time" - Poison (1988) "I'm really sorry about the shape I'm in, I just like my fun every now and then"33. "I'm With Stupid" - Chumbawamba (2000) "Another white boy band, they're happy on demand"4. "I Want You So Hard (Boy's Bad News)"4 - Eagles of Death Metal (2006) "Trust your instincts and let me in"5. "Free Your Mind" - En Vogue (1992) "I wear tight clothing, high heeled shoes, that really doesn't mean that I'm a prostitute"6. "Nervous Breakthrough" - Luscious Jackson (1999) "All the best things make you nervous and all the best things come in disguise"7. "My Philosophy" - Boogie Down Productions (1988) "It ain't about money 'cause we all make dollars"58. "Pretty Noose" - Soundgarden (1996) "I don't care what you got, I don't care what you need, I don't want anything"9. "DVB" - Mary's Danish (1989) "I saw it in the window of Woolworth's yesterday"10. "Alaskan Pipeline" - James (2001) "With all my words I can't find one to help you understand"

1 No, not this. The Eric Bazilian/Rob Hyman ones!

2 Yes, I am lame for having this song on my iPod, why do you ask? I can't help it - I love songs about dancing (even though I'm not a very good dancer - well, I'm a fair ballroom dancer, but not freestylin'!). I don't know why. It's one of the reasons I love "Pull Shapes."

3 I think this is the only Poison song on my iPod, and I like when it comes up because I can remind Travis Pelkie about "Unskinny Bop" and get it stuck in his head. Suck it, Pelkie! "Unskinny bop-bop-bop-bop!"

4 This video is pretty awesome. When the dude starts blowing everyone's clothes off with the power of his sexyguitar, you know you've gone to a whole new level!

5 Is this the most sampled song ever? I can think of four different songs that use samples from it without even trying. I'm just wondering.

It's tax time, so I hope every red-blooded American got theirs done. You have until Tuesday, remember! Take the weekend to go see Lockout (you totally want to, even if Kurt Russell and Adrienne Barbeau aren't in it!) and get them done on Monday! It's a win-win! Have a great weekend, everyone!

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