What I bought - 12 February 2014

"I wish life was like banking," I said. "I don't mean it's straightforward. Some of it's incredibly complicated. But you can understand it in the end, if you try hard enough. Or there's someone, somewhere, who understands it, even if only afterward, after it's too late. The trouble with life, it seems to me, is that it can turn out to be too late and you still haven't understood it." (Julian Barnes, from Talking It Over)

Astro City #9 ("The View from the Heart") by Brent Eric Anderson (artist), Jimmy Betancourt (letterer), Kurt Busiek (writer), John G. Roshell (letterer), Alex Sinclair (colorist), Jessica Chen (assistant editor), and Kristy Quinn (editor). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Hey, did you hear that Astro City is going to have its first guest artist in 20 years? Yep. That should be fun. It's Graham Nolan, by the way.

A couple things are interesting about this issue of Astro City. First, there's something odd about some of the art. In some of the longer shots, it looks as if Anderson is copying his own work to fill in some space. Early in the book, when Winged Victory is fighting the bad guys wearing jet packs, it appears as if some of them are simply copied-and-pasted into the background. I certainly don't care if Anderson does that, because he obviously drew them originally and they're faceless minions anyway, but I wonder if he did. The art on the rebooted AC has been very good, but there have been some instances where it seems Anderson is taking short cuts. Again, I don't care, as he's good at it, but it's interesting to study the art a bit and see where it looks that way. If he's not doing it, it's still interesting to note where he's inking a bit more roughly and where his lines are thin and precise.

Of much more fascination, to me at least, is the way he draws Winged Victory when she becomes her "human" self. Busiek writes the story of Winged Victory as "female empowerment," and that's fine, but notice that Winged Victory is a beautiful woman while her other self is not. She has a terrible haircut, she has a diastema, her face is thin and severe, and it appears she has smaller breasts than Winged Victory. The story is less about what Winged Victory encourages other women to do and more about someone trying to tear that apart, but the implication has always been that the women who attend Winged Victory's schools are encouraged to accept themselves as they are and not change for the approval of men. The fact that Busiek and Anderson make the human form of Winged Victory so much less attractive than the superhero form is fascinating - she herself can't help becoming someone glamorous when she changes. She even gets angry because the bad guys want her "weak, helpless, hiding" - that's how she sees her human self. Does Busiek mean anything by this? Is he going to explore the fact that Winged Victory herself is still trapped in a patriarchal society or a society that sees attractiveness as a trait that somehow is linked to strength and intelligence? (One of my friends used to say, jokingly, about every hot woman he ever saw: "She seems smart.") I doubt it, but it's still either an interesting comment on how Winged Victory is still playing the rigged game or a comment on the fact that Busiek and Anderson can't break free of the paradigm. I'm not sure which it is.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Bunker #1 by Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer), Joe Infurnari (artist/colorist/letterer), James Lucas Jones (editor(, and Robin Herrera (editor). $3.99, 39 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

The Bunker has been running for a while on-line, but I don't go for that weird digital crap, so I read it in good old-fashioned print. Fialkov is a good writer, Infurnari is a good artist, so if you put them together, you should get a good comic, right?

Well, sure. The Bunker is a cool sci-fi comic with the potential to be a great one, if the creators can explain some things well. We get a group of five college kids who have just graduated and decide to create a time capsule which they will dig up in 20 or so years. When they start to dig, however, they immediately find an underground bunker with their names painted on it (well, 4 of the 5 names - the fifth is a bit disappointed his name's not on it). Inside they find letters written to them, supposedly from their older selves. Apparently these kids are destined to destroy the world. Well, that sucks, doesn't it?

It's a neat hook, and while this issue is very wordy, Fialkov manages to keep things zipping along. Grady, the guy who thinks the time capsule is a good idea, is kind of the "star" of the book - in the future, it turns out that he's the president of a ruined nation, and he gets a letter that is very interesting. I don't want to give it away, but Grady's letter tells him more, it seems, than what the others know, setting up a situation where he will be working on his own thing while they're working on something else. Meanwhile, the others get their letters and learn secrets that begin to fracture the group, and we see this play out both in the present and the future. Fialkov and Infurnari's plot about how the world falls apart is pretty clever, and while it seems to happen a bit fast, it's perfectly plausible. There's also a cool twist at the end, which is always welcome.

Infurnari does a really nice job with the art, switching back and forth from the present to the future very well, and really doing a nice job with the characters. He shows how the sudden strain changes them, as they try and fail to process what's going on with their lives. Fialkov does a good job establishing their personalities, and Infurnari is good at translating those into facial expressions and body language. One of the characters, Natasha, thinks the whole thing is bullshit, and Infurnari does a really nice job with her dismissive attitude. Grady is just schlumpy enough that we can believe he'd be the one to believe it all, but we can also believe he'd work hard to become the president. Infurnari's future is just different enough that we can tell there have been some technological developments, but it's not too far-fetched (even though there's a lot of devastation, obviously). In fact, the only thing that's annoying about the artwork is the lettering. Each letter has the same font - an elegant cursive - even though different people are writing them. It seems like it would have been a good idea to use different fonts on each individual letter so that we would be able to figure out more quickly who's writing them, as we often shift back and forth between them. Infurnari usually puts the writing from the letters by the characters identified with them, but not always, and it does get a bit confusing. Or maybe I'm just d-u-m. It happens.

The Bunker is a cool comic, and it's a nice, over-sized first issue. Check it out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Deadpool #23 ("Deadpool vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. Part 3") by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne (artist), Brian Posehn (writer), Joe Sabino (letterer), and Jordan D. White (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel. Deadpool created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld. Crossbones created by Mark Gruenwald and Kieron Dwyer. Agent Coulson created by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway.

I usually don't mind Mark Brooks's covers, but dear sweet Lord that's ugly. I can't even begin to unpack it, because I'd go mad. Let's move on!

Deadpool goes after Agent Gorman and the stolen helicarrier, and the results are ridiculously funny and violent. Wade is a bit pissed, and he's just decided to kill everyone, even though Agent Preston, in his head, pleads with him to use some restraint. The only problem with the issue is that he doesn't actually kill Gorman - while it's obvious that was done to stretch the story out over a few more issues, at least he does escape somewhat legitimately. Deadpool does shoot him, but Gorman manages to escape by the skin of his teeth, so it doesn't feel too forced. Otherwise, this is just Deadpool killing everyone on board while Posehn and Duggan write hilarious dialogue for everyone. Duggan and Posehn give us ULTIMATUM henchmen who say very funny things before dying horribly, and I don't want to give any of it away because it's too much fun. It makes me want them to write an ongoing about being a henchman (one who survives, of course), because they write them so well. I mean, why wouldn't ULTIMATUM scientists get in a slap fight, or talk about the annoyance of getting an eyelash in your eye when you're wearing a mask and goggles and can't get at it, or get disappointed when they can't kick ass (as the S.H.I.E.L.D. dudes are)? Plus, there's a brilliant Watchmen parody on the final page that I'm still laughing about. And as much as the North Korea arc was bleak, the way Posehn and Duggan have moved forward with what Deadpool learned there is pretty cool.

Hawthorne does a nice job showing how awful the violence is while still selling the humor. The panel below is part of a nice sequence that is funny both for the words and the way Hawthorne draws the scientists reacting to each other. When you're dealing with minions who are wearing masks and goggles so you can't see their faces, it's crucial to get the body language right, and Hawthorne does it really well - you get the sense that these guys are just regular dudes trying to make a buck, and Deadpool is slaughtering them gleefully. There's a really nice panel that shows how cool Coulson is and how not cool Adsit is - there's a big explosion and Coulson is just drinking from his flask while Adsit is stunned, and Hawthorne makes it work really well. He's not the flashiest artist, but he's doing nice work on the book.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fatale #20 ("Curse the Demon") by Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist), Ed Brubaker (writer), and Sean Phillips (artist). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

The final arc of Fatale begins with Josephine finally deciding to kick ass and take names. Brubaker has gotten us to this point pretty well, and Jo realizes that she's going to have to be more aggressive if she wants to save Nick, so she does. It's been neat watching this transformation over the course of the series, and I imagine it will be even more interesting reading it all at once. For now, though, the crucial scene is the one where she finds what's in the back seat of the car she steals, because it really shows how much she's changed ... or maybe she hasn't changed at all, but she's just now embracing her true self. At the end, Brubaker throws us another curve that will, I imagine drive the final few issues as Jo and Nick make a run for it.

As always, there's really not a whole lot to say about Phillips's art, because it's so good. The panel where Jo drives away while looking in the rear view mirror is tremendous - she's almost a monster in that one, and it shows how far she's gone. Phillips also nails the panel of her lighting her cigarette in the basement - she's alluring, naturally, but she also looks coiled and dangerous, as she's finally in charge of things. It's really well done, and just another reminder about how well Phillips and Brubaker work together.

So Fatale speeds toward its conclusion. I'm looking forward to seeing where it will end up!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Fuse #1 ("The Russia Shift Part 1") by Ed Brisson (letterer), Shari Chankhamma (colorist), Justin Greenwood (artist), and Antony Johnston (writer). $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

Antony Johnston is having a good old time these days, with two new series from Image, one (Umbral) that is already excellent, and this one, which takes place on an orbital city. I guess it's going to be a police procedural set in a place where you're basically trapped and weapons are very much regulated (I'd say they're prohibited, as an announcement claims early in the book, but one of the cops gets to carry one, so I'll say they're just very strictly regulated). It's not a bad idea at all - I like police procedurals, so there is that, but the idea of confining it to a strange space works well. Johnston has already begun introducing the quirks of Midway City - the homeless live inside giant cables, for instance - and the location of the book means a lot when you're doing a good police procedural, because the personality of the place becomes part of the story. Johnston works the clichés of the police procedural - the tough older cop who gets a new partner and neither of them are happy about it - but he puts his own twists on them. The older cop has just lost her partner, and she's a bit bitter about it. The younger cop volunteered for the duty, which no one ever does (another cliché - the gung-ho cop volunteering for the toughest job). Klem, the older cop, is interesting because she's female, while Dietrich, the younger cop, is interesting because he's black and German. Johnston introduces the international flavor of the city this way, and it's pretty well done. While we don't know very much about either character yet, it's not a bad start. Of course there's a murder to solve - two, actually - and of course it's a lot weirder than just a dead homeless person. But that will have to wait!

Johnston is teamed up with Greenwood, and while Greenwood has gotten better since he worked on Wasteland, I'm still not completely in love with his work yet. His figures still look awkward - they don't seem to "move" like people do, although it's not as noticeable here. He's also not consistent - both Klem and Dietrich look very different in some panels, almost as if they're not the same people. However, Greenwood's inks have gotten stronger, and his work does look better in color than in black and white, so there is some nice work in the book. He does a pretty good job with the scenery, making Midway an interesting place in which to set the book, and his art is clear, which can only help a book where clues, presumably, will be important. I still don't love his artwork, but I can live with it.

The Fuse isn't quite as kick-ass out of the gate as Umbral is, but it has a lot of potential. Johnston is a good writer, so I'm interested to see where he goes with this comic. Johnston writes about some numbers about Umbral here, and I'm not going to say he "deserves" a wider audience - lots of writers deserve a wider audience - but I do root for him, because he writes good stuff and he's a nice fellow. So give The Fuse a look!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Letter 44 #4 by Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque (artist), Shawn DePasquale (letterer), Dan Jackson (colorist), Charles Soule (writer), and Jill Beaton (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

Soule makes the first misstep in this series early in this issue, in the scene with President Blades and the First Lady, Isobel. I'm not sure when it became stereotypical for political women to be conniving bitches, but it's somewhat condescending, and I wish Soule hadn't fallen for it. I think it's one of these things where women were portrayed as powerless for so long that when someone portrayed a woman as wielding the power behind the throne, writers decided this would be a great way to write women without, you know, actually writing them in positions of power. So President Blades can be seen as something of a noble warrior after the dark years of President Carroll, but Isobel tells him to forget his chief of staff, who was felled by a "stroke" in issue #3, because the president needs a new tool. Blades even tells her that she's "terrifying." I guess it's great that women get to be featured in such positions of power, but this kind of woman is somewhat boring, especially because it's pretty much the only kind of woman we get in politics. Couldn't Isobel be just as sort-of noble as her husband? Sigh.

Anyway, the nice thing about the book is it's moving along nicely. The mystery of Elijah's "stroke" isn't dragged on too long, and we get more knowledge about it in this very issue. I'm not sure if Soule is implying that something bad happened to the doctor, but if it did, why isn't Elijah dead? So the political machinations are moving right along, as is the pregnancy on the spaceship and the expedition to the asteroid (in a smaller ship called the Bowman, which is a nice touch; I don't know if I mentioned that the main spaceship is called the Clarke). The expedition leads to more weird things, and while it's not the most original alien encounter in the world, it's still pretty keen. The fact that Soule is jumping back and forth between space and what's going on in D.C. makes the alien stuff a bit easier to take, because Soule keeps it grounded with the hard-edged political machinations down on Earth.

I had to check the colorist on the previous issues, and I was right - the book gets a new colorist this issue, and the results are quite nice. I don't have anything against Guy Major, the colorist on the first few issues, but Jackson does a really nice job with the asteroid and the strangeness of the alien lights and installation. The final page is superb, with eye-popping colors that really make the page work well. Alburquerque's art has been nice on the book, but Jackson's colors make the art even better.

Letter 44 continues to be a nifty comic. Yeah, I said nifty. Deal with it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Li'l Gotham #11 ("All Saints' Day"/"Time Flies") by Derek Fridolfs (writer), Dustin Nguyen (writer/artist), Saida Temofonte (letterer), Jessica Chen (assistant editor), and Kristy Quinn (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC. Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Alfred Pennyworth created by Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, and Bob Kane. Damian Wayne created by Mike Barr, Grant Morrison, and Andy Kubert. Azrael created by Denny O'Neil and Joe Quesada. Ra's al Ghul created by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams. Talia al Ghul created by Denny O'Neil, Bob Brown, and Dick Giordano. Man-Bat created by Frank Robbins and Neal Adams. The Phantom Stranger created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino. The Spectre created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily. Deadman created by Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino.

Speaking of funny stories (and I was, above with Deadpool), "All Saints' Day" in the latest issue of Li'l Gotham is hilarious, as well. The second story, in which the Clock King freezes time and the old, Frank Miller Batman brings in Batmen (Batmans?) from other dimensions to figure out a way to help the "real" Batman defeat him, is a good one, especially because Nguyen and Fridolfs pick some funny Batmans (Batmen?) to use, including the Moench/Jones vampire Batman, whose cape keeps getting in the way of everything. But it's the first story, in which Bruce and Damian head to Ra's al Ghul's pad for a family get-together (because Bruce and Talia share custody of Damian) that's really hilarious, beginning with the Airwolf panel. Really, I could have picked any number of funny panels, from the way they parachute out of a crashing Bat-plane to Damian hallucinating about the awful, awful Jim Lee costumes of the DCnU. The creators take time to pick on the Jason Todd death vote and the Phantom Stranger makes a joke. It's kind of awesome.

It's actually part of the problem with Li'l Gotham. Occasionally there will be a story so brilliant that it justifies the rest of them. It's always been a solid book, but just when I think I'll stop getting it, I read a story that knocks my socks off. It's a moot point not because the next issue is the last one, but it was frustrating reading it. Not to the point where I didn't like it, but I often thought that I wish more of the stories could be like the best ones. Oh well. The question is moot!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Manifest Destiny #4 by Pat Brosseau (letterer), Chris Dingess (writer), Owen Gieni (colorist), Matthew Roberts (artist), and Sean Mackiewicz (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

A few things are pretty cool about this issue of Manifest Destiny. Dingess fudges with Toussaint Charbonneau a bit - he moves the time he met the expedition up, it seems, and it also seems that Charbonneau could not speak English, but I absolutely love the fact that he's an utter douchebag. Sacagawea doesn't speak, either, which makes sense and makes her much cooler, but also helps highlight Charbonneau's douchebaggery. So that's pretty neat. The book remains sneakily funny, too, which is always a plus when you're dealing with some monster horror stuff.

I'd like to say more, but I'm not going to. This is a very cool comic, and you should track it down or get the inevitable trade. I'm looking forward to the resolution of this part of the story!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Maxx: Maxximized #4 by Michael Heisler (letterer), Sam Kieth (story/artist), William Messner-Loebs (scripter), Ronda Pattison (colorist), Jim Sinclair (additional inker), and Scott Dunbier (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, IDW.

Okay, so at one point, Julie is talking to Sarah, the teenaged daughter of a "friend" of hers (Sarah narrates the book and claims that they're always arguing, so she doesn't know why they're friends). The word balloon tag is clearly leading to Sarah, even though Julie is talking. That's weird. Later, Sarah threatens to kill herself (she doesn't). It seems that Julie should be talking to her in one panel, but the drawing shows that she's talking to the Maxx. Is it an awkward transition or just the absolutely wrong picture? Wanting to learn more, I consulted my trade paperback, which came out in 2003. In the first example in the trade, the word balloon has a double tail - it's clear that it was originally pointing at Sarah even though Julie is talking, but the editor of the collection - Alex Sinclair, who I guess is the colorist - made the tail point off-panel, and that's the part that's white, so it's obvious the "correct" way the tail should point. In the second example, it's even more interesting. I'd describe it, but it will be easier to show you (the image from the trade is on the left, obviously):

That's really annoying. I don't know what Scott Dunbier, the editor, was thinking, but there's no reason to change the image. It's correct the way it was, and more than that, it makes perfect sense. So why did it happen? Beats me. Let's hope they fix these things for their inevitable trade!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Mercenary Sea #1 ("Nice Work if You Can Get It") by Pat Brosseau (letterer), Mathew Reynolds (artist/colorist), Kel Symons (writer), and Sebastian Girner (editor). $2.99, 28 pgs, FC, Image.

This is another Image #1 that I thought I'd pick up just to check out. I don't do it with every Image book, obviously, but this one looked okay. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

The story takes us to the Pacific in 1938, where a group of people arrive at a strange island and meet up with some natives. Symons sets it up as a scary, dangerous expedition and immediately subverts that, as the natives are perfectly friendly and the group visiting them are just bringing movies for them to watch. Back in civilization, we find out more about the group, who hire themselves out for jobs to anyone who has the cash. Of course, at the end, a "milk run" turns nasty. I'd be disappointed if it didn't!

I read a lot of books that feature stereotypical characters (some appear in this very post!), and I like many of them, too. I don't have a problem with stocking your comic with stereotypes, especially in a first issue where you want to grab the readers' attention. However, you should do something interesting with those stereotypes, and Symons, unfortunately, doesn't. The only time the book is in the least bit surprising is when the natives are revealed as lovers of cinema, but even the "spooky natives that turn out to be as Western as the Westerners" bit is stereotypical, so it doesn't really have too big an impact. Our cast features a bunch of people straight from central casting: the hunky white male leader with the troubled-but-not-too-horrible past (he was a bootlegger during Prohibition, one of the "safe" choices if you want to burden your main character with a criminal past but want to make it clear he's not too bad a guy) - let's call him "Errol Flynn"; a black boxer (because there were no other kinds of black men in the 1930s) who refused to throw a fight so gangsters killed his trainer and he's been on the run ever since - let's call him "Robert Earl Jones"; an older British surgeon called "Doc" (the fact that he hangs a lampshade on it doesn't exonerate it completely) who killed a patient while drunk during the war - let's call him "Walter Brennan"; and a 20-year-old woman who's the daughter of another bootlegger and is of course the crew's mechanic - let's call her "Olivia de Havilland." There's also some other cast members - a geeky dude named Toby (Mickey Rooney); Jarreau, a snooty French dude (Basil Rathbone); a crusty old German U-boat commander (Lionel Barrymore) - and an Asian dragon lady (Anna May Wong). The crew travels to the mysterious island, where Errol is trying to find a lost island of treasure and the chief tries to warn him off. Back in port, he gets in a tiff with a bunch of tough guys whose boat he sunk. A mysterious American with an eye patch (of course) tries to hire him for a job, but Errol tells him they don't work for spies. And, of course, there's a bounty on Errol's head. What kind of self-respecting rogue would he be if a Japanese admiral didn't want to kill him?

It's all very dull and by-the-numbers, and Symons does absolutely nothing to make it stand out. I mean, the bad guys are even ugly, long after I thought we'd gotten past the "attractive people are good, ugly people are evil" trope that was a standard in stories for so long. None of the characters are all that interesting, which, as I've noted, isn't too big a deal in a first issue, but the plot is dull, too - nothing really happens, as Symons does a lot of set-up to get to the final reveal, which we can see coming from the moment someone calls their job a "milk run" - milk runs, as we know, don't exist in fiction. It's too bad - adventure stories like this can be wonderful, but after one issue, this is already mired in cliché.

Reynolds's art isn't very good, either. He uses a lot of computer tricks for the backgrounds, which adds some atmosphere to the book but also makes the characters, who are drawn, look more like Colorforms placed on a background. He uses a lot of silhouettes, which on the one hand is effective but seems vaguely like he's trying to cover up some deficiencies - some things are obviously Photoshopped in, and the darkness of some scenes helps hide that. The characters are designed perfectly well, but they don't "move" naturally, as their poses when they're supposed to be moving are often awkward, so they pose far more than they should, and Reynolds doesn't do enough with facial expressions - they often seem like they're not hearing the words coming out of other people's mouths, because their expressions don't change at all. Occasionally he'll do a decent job with facial expressions, but those examples are few and far between.

I've enjoyed some of the #1 issues I've picked up on a lark, but this is not one of them. Oh well - I guess I didn't need another series to buy!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Protocol: Orphans #4 (of 4) by Deron Bennett (letterer), Gabriel Cassata (colorist), Mariano Navarro (artist), Michael Alan Nelson (writer), Alex Galer (assistant editor), and Eric Harburn (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios. Protocol: Orphans created by Peter Facinelli and Rob DeFranco.

Protocol: Orphans ends pretty much as we expect it to end, which doesn't necessarily make it bad. Nelson doesn't do too much with the characters, as he puts them through their paces, but he does a decent job showing how bad-ass the Orphans can be and how they stick together to protect their "family." If this is going to be a movie vehicle for Facinelli, it could be decent, as long as the cast is strong. As with most kinds of these things, a cast can make all the difference (for instance, if they cast The Mercenary Sea with the people I suggested, that might be a damned fine flick). In the case of a comic, the art can often make a difference in a story that isn't the greatest, and Navarro has been a fine renderer for the series. His cartoony style works for an action-oriented story, but it's not too "unrealistic" that everything looks too removed from "reality." He keeps the book moving nicely along, and knows when to mix up panel designs to change the way we view the action. He's also good at facial expressions and body language, so Nelson's script doesn't have to be over-wordy.

This isn't the best mini-series, but it's entertaining. I wish Boom! didn't charge 4 bucks for their comics, but perhaps the trade will be a nice 10-dollar book, which would be a good price for it. I haven't seen the trade offered, but I'm curious to see how much it costs.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

She-Hulk #1 ("Motion") by Clayton Cowles (letterer), Javier Pulido (artist), Charles Soule (writer), Muntsa Vicente (colorist), Frankie Johnson (assistant editor), Jeanine Schaefer (editor), and Tom Brennan (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel. She-Hulk created by Stan Lee and John Buscema. Tony Stark created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, and Jack Kirby.

Marvel launches yet another She-Hulk title, and as it's by creators I like, I figured I'd check it out. It's quite good, plus it's only 3 dollars. Wow! Imagine that!

Pulido, I guess, is the slightly bigger name, as Soule has been writing a ton of stuff in the past year or so but Pulido has been around far longer. I don't have high hopes that Pulido will be on the book for very long - even if Marvel does the smart thing and keeps this monthly, he doesn't seem to be able to keep up with that kind of schedule, but if they do the smart thing and keep this monthly, at least he might be around a bit longer. Pulido does fine work on this, too. He's not ever my first idea for a straight superhero comic, because his angular style seems to work against the fluidity needed for great superhero work, but for an issue like this, with its limited action, he's really good. His style works well with fashion, strangely enough (or maybe not so strangely - I don't know), so a well dressed Jennifer and a cadre of lawyers suit him nicely. Pulido's line work is so precise that it looks like you could cut yourself on Jen's eyebrows, which gives the book an odd, hyper-real sheen, that, when added to Vicente's bright colors, make this comic feel more "comic-book" than almost everything DC or Marvel is publishing. Pulido also has a habit of making the bottom of his panels the floor of whatever room the action is occurring in, so the characters walk on the border panels, which is oddly disconcerting and makes it seem like they're trying-without-trying to break out of the cages of the panels. Pulido also has a good knack for changing the panel shapes and the page layouts to good effect. In what will probably be the most-talked-about pages in the book, a double-page spread in the center, Jen has to visit Tony Stark's legal department, and Pulido not only puts the bow-tied, desiccated "legal" entity (who reminds me, after having recently read The Spectre, of Shadrach, the agent of the National Interest) at the end of a long hallway, he tilts the panel precipitously upward so Jen almost has to scale a mountain to reach the man. Soule's dialogue is abundant on this page, but because of the way Pulido lays the page out, the wordless panels balance the wordy ones, and the dialogue doesn't feel as oppressive. It's very well done.

Soule gives us a single-issue story that sets up the rest of the series, as Jen manages to open her own law firm based on the case she wins in this issue. This is, honestly, the best case scenario for someone like me as a start of a series. We don't need another superhero comic, and the parts of Dan Slott's run where Jen was actually practicing law were the best parts, which Soule seems to understand. Jen loses a job not because she's a lousy lawyer, but because she isn't bringing in work from her superhero contacts. Soule makes that a very interesting scene - Jen thinks she's a great lawyer, and she might be, but Soule makes the point, rather subtly, that she's just another lawyer, and the only way she can stand out is to mine her superhero contacts, which she's unwilling to do. Jen's always been rather full of herself, and Soule doesn't undermine that too obviously, but he does make the case that she might think she's a better lawyer than everyone else because she's She-Hulk. Being a superhero certainly helps her with the case she wins in this book, and while the "lawyering" part of the case seems like something any hack could have done, only She-Hulk can resolve it. This dichotomy will be interesting to see, if Soule chooses to explore it. I fear that even though superhero books glut the market, the only way this book will succeed is if She-Hulk beats people up, but I really hope Soule resists that temptation.

Marvel is really doing a nice job with these launches recently, aren't they? She-Hulk #1 is a very good comic, and I look forward to more.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Sixth Gun #38 ("Not the Bullet, But the Fall") by Cullen Bunn (writer), Bill Crabtree (colorist), Crank! (letterer), Brian Hurtt (artist), and Charlie Chu (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

On the one hand, I don't mind that the character who dies in this issue dies, because it's a fictional character, after all, and I don't mind when creator-owned characters die, because it means a lot more than when Spider-Man or Superman dies for the 34th time. On the other hand, Bunn has done a good job with all these characters, so it's kind of sad when one of them dies, and in fiction, it always seems like the character's arc needs to be resolved before he or she can die. This character's arc doesn't quite feel resolved, which might make it even more ballsy that Bunn killed them off - that's what happens, and real life can be awfully disappointing when things are left unresolved.

Anyway, things don't look good for our heroes. They've become separated, some of them are dead, some of them are captured, and some things have been destroyed. Drake does something we all expected, but it's still really well done, because Bunn always has to remind us that he's not really a nice person. And gosh, Hurtt and Crabtree's art is really nice. But of course, it always is!

Bunn and Hurtt are moving slowly toward an end game - the series should wrap up early next year, depending on how fast Hurtt can draw - and it's fun watching things come together. I'll still miss that character, though ... unless Bunn has other plans for said character, in which case I'm looking forward to what's coming.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Think Tank #12 by Rahsan Ekedal (artist), Matt Hawkins (writer), Troy Peteri (letterer), and Betsy Gonia (editor). $3.99, 27 pgs, BW, Image/Top Cow.

Think Tank comes to the end of its run - for now - as Hawkins wraps up the virus story line by avoiding World War III (good call, that) and keeping things open for the second "season" (blech) that he hopes to put together. None of that matters, though, because I happened to read "The Buy Pile" before I reviewed this, and every once in a while, I like to comment on how other people see the comics that I read, especially if their opinions are divergent.

So Hannibal didn't like the ending of this arc very much, and that's fine. Hannibal occasionally doesn't go into enough details, so I'm not sure what he objected to. He claims the ending makes "no sense," and I agree with him in one place - the panel below is part of a sequence that makes, as he claims, no sense. It's very weird. But he claims the "conclusion" made no sense, and I guess this is part of that conclusion. However, the rest does make sense, and I think it's very clever the way Hawkins wrote this. This comic is not about David Loren, secret-agent super-dragon, it's about David Loren, obnoxious smart guy who gets in over his head. The anti-climactic non-ending of this arc fits really well with that conceit, because David has almost nothing to do with solving the problem that he had a lot to do with creating. This entire issue is an anti-climax, in fact, but that's what makes the book interesting. Much like She-Hulk and superhero comics, there are plenty of action/adventure/spy thrillers out there where the main character has all the agency and saves the love interest while killing the bad guys with one hand tied behind his or her back, but Think Tank has never been that kind of book. If you want a superhero book, don't read She-Hulk #1, read the 849,928 other superhero books that come out each month. If you want a comic with a secret agent kicking ass, buy Black Widow or Velvet or Secret or Zero or some of the others that are out there. That's what's great about comics these days - the vast selection of genres. While I get that Hannibal was disappointed by the ending of this arc - it's certainly not the strongest way to end it - it does fit in very well with the way Hawkins is writing the book. It seems that Hannibal has been reading the book, so I'm curious about his reaction - none of the arcs have ended in a traditional way, and while this was even more anti-climactic than the others, it's not the first time Hawkins has done this. I find it fascinating, because it makes David and his world more real - he doesn't save the day, because he's not a superhero; he's a guy who thinks he can outthink everyone and often gets in over his head because the people he can outthink are more action-oriented, and they're more likely to cut through the bullshit by putting bullets in the heads of the people who think too much. It's a cool balance.

There's a special coming out next month, and then the book will go on hiatus. "Hiatus" often means "We'll never see it again," but I do hope Hawkins and Ekedal can come back with more, because this is an interesting comic. We shall see.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Bojeffries Saga by Alan Moore (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist). $14.95, 95 pgs, BW, Top Shelf/Knockabout.

My quest to complete my Alan Moore Library continues!

Lobster Johnson volume 3: Satan Smells a Rat by John Arcudi (writer), Sebastián Fiumara (artist), Mike Mignola (writer), Kevin Nowlan (artist/colorist/letterer), Joe Querio (artist), Clem Robins (letterer), Dave Stewart (colorist), Wilfredo Torres (artist), Tonci Zonjic (artist), Daniel Chabon (associate editor), and Scott Allie (editor). $18.99, 118 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

I buy Mignola-verse comics in trade because they show up in the weirdest places. This is a collection of a bunch of one-shots and two-issue series with a story from Dark Horse Presents thrown in. Why wouldn't I wait for a nice trade?

Mask of the Red Panda by Dean Kotz (artist/colorist/letterer), Gregg Taylor (writer), Justin Eisinger (editor), and Alonzo Simon (editor). $17.99, 96 pgs, FC, IDW/Monkeybrain Comics.

Poor Greg Hatcher. Comic companies are making it so easy for him to spend all his hard-earned money these days!

Prophet volume 3: Empire by Joseph Bergin III (colorist), Ed Brisson (letterer), Brandon Graham (writer), Simon Roy (writer/artist/colorist), Giannis Milogiannis (writer/artist/colorist), Jessica Pollard (color flatterer), Matt Sheean (artist), Malachi Ward (artist), and Eric Stephenson (editor). $14.99, 131 pgs, FC, Image. Prophet created by Rob Liefeld.

When is Prophet ending? The next trade will be the last one, right? I can't wait to sit down and re-read all of these together. What a weird-ass comic.

Wally Wood: Eerie Tales of Crime and Horror by Wally Wood (duh!) and J. David Spurlock (editor). $24.95, 207 pgs, FC, Vanguard Publishing.

I'm woefully behind on Wood, so when this was re-offered in Previews, I figured I'd pick it up!


I haven't been watching the Olympics, so I don't know what's going on in Russia. I guess Shaun White didn't win, and other Americans did win, and there's curling? Beats me. I haven't cared about the Olympics since 1984 - I kid you not. When I was 13, my two male cousins and I watched the women's gymnastic religiously. I don't even think it was all that sexual - that was part of it, possibly, but we just really liked watching the gymnastics that year. Maybe the relentless media blitz of Mary Lou Retton made us mindless drones, but we loved the entire team. That was the last time I watched the Olympics with any fervor - I'll check in occasionally, but this year, I'm doing even less of that. I just can't get worked up for it.

Out in the comics blogaxy, Multiversity has another one of those "artists aren't appreciated" articles that crops up every once in a while. It's not a bad article at all, and I agree with some of the points. They also have a follow-up that explains how to write about art, which is a bit annoying. I'll make the same point I made back when I wrote my own article about this - I'm not sure if it's as awful as everyone says it is. Yes, there are some terrible reviewers out there who barely even write about what the writer does, focusing instead on a "then this happens" style that's completely obnoxious. But if you look at the better reviewers out there, writing about artwork is fine. It might not be as good as it could be, but again, the writing about writing isn't always great, either. Instead of giving us an article about how art is unappreciated, perhaps you could, I don't know, devote an entire year to writing about art exclusively (no, I'm not sad and bitter that I didn't get name-checked in the article, why do you ask?). Multiversity does toot their own horn a bit, and that's fine, plus they link to some nice features on art. So I'm not really sure what the problem is. Yes, there needs to be better writing about art. I would argue there needs to be better writing about writing, as well. I don't always write about the art, but then again, I do a lot of different things in my reviews. Sometimes, as with this week's issue of The Maxx, all I want to write about is the editing! The reason I started listing creators in alphabetical order is because I didn't even want to slight the letterers and colorists, as comics is such a collaborative effort. So no one gets precedent when I list credits! But I think I do a decent job, and I see a lot of reviewers doing a decent job. Still, those articles - especially the first one - are pretty good to read. I always find it fascinating to read things discussing the state of comics, even if it's the state of writing about comics.

I don't have too much to say about Michael Sam coming out before the NFL draft. I think it's great, and I don't think it will affect his draft status too much. Apparently most people thought he was a 3rd-to-5th-round draft choice, and I doubt that will change too much. I don't even know if we'd know it, unless he goes completely undrafted. If he were a surefire first-rounder and he fell to the 5th round, there would be cause to think his orientation would have something to do with it, but if he goes in the 5th round as opposed to the 3rd? There's not that big a difference between those rounds. Sam seems to be the kind of player who can thrive in the right system but won't change a defense significantly, so a mid-rounder sounds about right. I really don't think he will be that big a distraction - the story broke long before the draft, and by the time training camp starts, it won't be a big deal. I'm hoping, actually, for a football player to make a stupid statement kind of like the one Jonathan Vilma made before Sam came out (Vilma wasn't talking about himself, just the general tone he thinks exists in locker rooms, although he has said some dumb anti-gay stuff in the past) and for a reporter to make the obvious point that football players touch each other's asses all the freaking time. That reporter might get punched, but it would be awesome. (I never got touching asses, and I'm not bothered by emotional displays among men in any way. What's wrong with slapping a guy on the back or shoulders? Why asses? I'm honestly interested. I wonder when it started and what it means.)

Michael Sam's announcement came a few days before Derek Jeter announced that this season would be his final one. I bring this up because I think Jeter should now show the courage to come out of the closet himself, as he's really not fooling anyone. Come on, Derek, man up! Jeter, of course, will go into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, even though I think he's quite possibly the most overrated player of his generation, if not the past 50 years, if not baseball history itself. His entire career is hyped solely because he plays in New York, and living in New York has given him the opportunity to date hot models as beards (and fulfill Matthew McConaughey's guide to life: "I get older, they stay the same age"). For a few years there, he wasn't even the best shortstop on his own team. Good riddance, Jeter. You parleyed a few good years and some World Championships into a long career of reporters fellating you. Well done. All right, I'll stop being bitter now.

I hope everyone has a nice weekend and a good made-up holiday. If you're living somewhere where it refuses to stop snowing, I feel very bad for you. It's in the 80s here and might hit 90 over the weekend, which sounds good until you remember that soon it will be too hot to go outside. I don't love the weather here, but this might be the first winter I'm glad we live in the desert and not in the Northeast. Dang, it sounds so sucky. So stay safe and warm, and watch a lot of curling!

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