I'm a bit grumpy about comics this week, and I'm not sure why.Â I did like some of the books I read, butÂ I'm going to be a bit angry, too.Â You've been warned!
Of course, I find it very difficult to be angry with Elephantmen.Â Oh, Starkings and Moritat.Â Your schedule may be screwed up, but otherwise, there's just nothing else to dislike about this comic.Â Yes, it's true that I have never paid for an issue (in the interest of full disclosure!), so therefore you might think I am just buttering up Mr. Starkings in order to get free comics, but I really hope that I'm a decent enough human being to be honest about the books I get for free.Â And damn, but Elephantmen is a fine comic book.
This is the second issue of the three-issue mini-series-within-a-series that shows the war in which our heroes fought so many years ago, but it could easily stand alone as a single issue.Â If you haven't picked up an issue yet, this is a fine place to start, because you get extremely nice art by Moritat (the black-and-white makes it a bit grittier, which fits the war theater very well) and a cat-and-mouse game between the soldiers and a French resistance fighter, Yvette.Â It's a very exciting story, as Yvette, who has been foraging for food, finds herself behind enemy lines and alone after her partner is killed.Â Starkings shows the horror of all wars but also the peculiar aspects of this war, as we see the elephantmen in their element and how horrible the circumstances in which they're placed are, the indomitable will of the people, and the strangeness of the Chinese, who are supplying the French with weapons and who swoop out of the sky in their flying machines bringing death to the genetic mutations.Â Even with all the continuing political implications of the war and what Mappo did to create these animals, Starkings makes this an exciting read, as Yvette finds a way to escape the animals even if she is hopelessly outgunned.Â Starkings even ends with a pointed comment about the similarities between the elephantmen and the humans.Â It's an understated moment that could have been obnoxious, but isn't.
This series just keeps moving along beautifully.Â See?Â I can be nice.Â But now we have to get tough.Â That's the way it is!
I wasn't blown away by Millar's first Fantastic Four issue, but I did want to see where it went.Â Well, it's gotten worse.Â Enough that I doubt if I will even read the third issue.
First, Hitch's art.Â It's perfectly fine, and I'm not going to bash it, but I am a bit puzzled why we get a full-page image of Reed staring into space.Â I know it sets up the big two-page spread of Reed flying over "Nu-World," and I also think it's in the script, so Hitch just drew what Millar told him to, but too often in the Millar/Hitch comics, we get weird pages like this.Â There's nothing dramatic about it, or even the two-page spread that follows it, so it's an odd choice to make for the Team Supreme.
As for the story ... well, Nu-World is a fairly typical Millar idea, in that it gets dumber the more you think about it.Â So many things go to make our world livable, and the scientists would have to recreate that perfectly.Â Where's the sun, for one thing?Â How is everyone breathing on Nu-World?Â How will they rotate the planet, make sure its revolution around the sun is the same as ours, and make sure the moon revolves around Nu-World in the same fashion?Â Then we get to the idiocy of building New York.Â The scientists argued about replicating graffiti?Â Really?Â Then we get to the social engineering aspect of the big plan.Â Alyssa's husband, Ted, says, "But it would surely be immoral to replicate our deserts or depleted rainforests.Â Likewise, we're all agreed that weapons won't be welcome here."Â What the hell is wrong with deserts?Â Deserts form naturally, after all.Â They're so busy remaking New York - what about Phoenix?Â It's right in the middle of the desert - are they going to rebuild it, just in the middle of some lush jungle?Â For that matter, a lot of cities are inefficiently planned - why rebuild New York, when you can simply create cities that are environmentally friendly andÂ a bit more spread out to reduce overcrowding?Â And didn't Ted and Alyssa ever see 2001: A Space Odyssey?Â Humans will turn any-freakin'-thing into weapons - that's what we do, man!Â Finally, we get to "CAP" - the fascist robot policeman who will watch six billion people to make sure they're behaving themselves.Â Yeah, getting rid of the cops sounds like a great idea, Alyssa.Â Because if we get rid of weapons, nobody will commit any crimes!Â And CAP, of course, will be able to be everywhere at once.Â AT ONCE!Â Of course, like HAL (another 2001 reference, whoo-hoo!), CAP kind of goes a bit nuts at the end.Â Yeah, nobody saw that coming.
Finally, there's Johnny and the villain getting it on.Â Jesus, not another example of two people fighting each other and then suddenly making out.Â I have a proposition for all of you: go out and get in a fight with a random stranger of the gender you prefer sexually.Â See if you suddenly start making out with them after you each get a few hits in.Â Yeah, I didn't think so.
Well, best of luck to the Millar/Hitch run on FF.Â I'm sure in about a year Millar will give an interview where he claims it's the best-selling series in comics in the past 15 years, surpassing even Civil War (which is, according to him, currently the best-selling comic in the past 15 years).Â But that won't make the comics any, you know,Â good.
I skipped the last issue of this series, because I decided I was just going to wait until it was collected as a trade to buy the whole thing, but I figured I'd check in on it, because when it comes to event comics, Powers and his artistic collaborators seem to know how to do it.Â This isn't the greatest issue (for reasons I'll get to soon), but overall, this has been a very good story arc, showing how Cobra Commander has been able to impose his will on the entire world.
The biggest problem with this arc, it seems, is that it's 12 issues, and it might be a bit too long.Â Cobra Commander's plan has come to fruition, and we know G. I. Joe is going to take him down, but for now, this issue felt a bit like wheel-spinning.Â Sure, there's a bunch of action, but it feels a bit padded, as if it could easily be condensed.Â There's an important event in the life of Cobra Commander's son (who knew he had a son?), and we get to see New Yorkers acting all heroically, and there's several threads that will pan out in future issues, but it never coalesces into a really good issue.Â As a chapter inÂ a bigger arc, it might work when read all at once, but it's strangely unexciting as a single issue.Â Plus, Storm Shadow gets from Prague to Tokyo really quickly.Â What's up with that?Â And, unfortunately, the biggest problem I had with the cartoon back in the day seems to have affected this title as well - nobody actually dies, even when many weapons are being fired!Â A reference is made to the death of a character, but I don't know if this occurred last issue or not.Â Even so, one fatality in the entire war seems a bit odd.Â Otherwise, this is still a pretty entertaining story, and I hope it resolves well.Â The trade should be pretty good reading, whenever it shows up.
That would be a pretty cool cover if it didn't have so much written over it.Â Less is more, Virgin!
I enjoyed the first series about the gamekeeper, and the fact that Parker took over the writing chores (from Andy Diggle) made this easier to keep up with (unlike Ben Raab taking over for Garth Ennis on 7 Brothers).Â Randall's art isn't quite as good as Mukesh Singh's, but it's still decent.Â So I was looking forward to it.
Unfortunately, it's a bit of a strange issue.Â Not particularly bad, mind you, but strange.Â We get reintroduced to Brock, the titular character, and to Krista Morgan, the daughter of Brock's former employer.Â Morgan is going to go public with the formula for cold fusion, and there are, of course, people who want to stop her (it's just like Chain Reaction, which is of course Keanu's greatest movie).Â She wants him to stay until she can go public, he wants to leave because everyone close to him dies, and they don't know what to do about it.Â The scene between Morgan and Brock lasts three pages.Â So what's going on in the rest of the book?
Well, that's why this is strange.Â Parker spends the rest of the book showing us the team that is contracted to kidnap Morgan and her mother and kill Brock.Â The Russians ask a Brit to handle it, and they send an assassin called the Raven to do the job.Â The Raven has a whole crew who help him out.Â I get that we want to see the gang that is coming for Brock, but Parker takes us through an entire job with them, including the way they bring in a new member of the group.Â Yes, we get to see that the Raven is a bad-ass.Â But it's a strange way to set up the series, especially because it's supposed to be about Brock.Â It feels like Parker might not have had enough story to fill four issues, so we have this diversion.Â As I wrote, it's a fairly well-written if predictable part of the story, but it feels out of place.Â I guess that's a me problem, though.
I've read enough by Parker to trust him, so I'm going to stick with this, and I assume it will pick up once the Raven and his cronies focus on Brock.Â It just feels like we could have gotten there a bit more quickly.
Gotham Underground #6 (of eight) by Frank Tieri (writer), Jim Calafiore (penciller), Jack Purcell (inker), Mark McKenna (inker), Brian Reber (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer).Â $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.
I don't really have much to say about this comic.Â I was curious about it, so I picked it up, knowing full well that it was the sixth issue of a nine-issue mini-series, and therefore there would be some things I wouldn't get, like who the Spoiler is, since the original one is dead.Â The appearance of the Suicide Squad at the beginning seems incongruous, because they are apparently working for the Penguin.Â Why are they working for the Penguin, exactly?Â And then the Penguin gathers his minions, who have arrayed themselves as other villains - basically ripping them off.Â I know the Penguin listing the various clusters of villains is supposed to be menacing, but it reminded me of the scene in Mystery Men when Casanova Frankenstein goes around the table naming all the groups, and I chuckled.Â There's some sort of gang war starting between Cobblepot and the Whale, but it's not terribly interesting.
I wasn't expecting much out of this, and I didn't get much.Â It's a pretty dull Batman story, with fairly dull Calafiore art (I don't hate Calafiore as much as some people, but I also don't like him all that much), leading to a fairly dull cliffhanger.Â All in all, it's, you know, fairly dull.
Another issue of Gutsville shows up, and the biggest problem with it is the huge gap between the last issue's appearance and this one's.Â Waiting for the trade makes a lot of sense with this, but even that might take a while!
I still like this book, because Irving's art is stunning, the NoSunMan, who shows up to menace Albert and Mary Nazarene, is truly terrifying, and Spurrier's details about life inside the big leviathan are fascinating (such as when Mary finds a modern pistol but doesn't realize it fires more than one shot at a time - that's pretty neat).Â It seems to be tacking toward a standard "revolution against the oppressive religious rulers" story, which would be disappointing, but we'll see what happens next.Â I will say that Emelia Grange seems a lot more strong-willed than I remember her.Â I will, of course, have to go back and re-read the entire series when it finally shows up, but that struck me as odd.
And how about full frontal male nudity in an Image book!Â Go, Spurrier and Irving!Â There just aren't enough penises in comics these days, I say!
When will we see another issue?Â Beats me.Â Will it be before the end of the year?Â Let's hope for that.
The Last Defenders #1 (of 6) by Joe Casey (writer), Keith Giffen (co-plotter/breakdowns), Jim Muniz (penciller), Cam Smith (inker), Antonio Fabela (colorist), and Albert Deschesne (letterer).Â $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.
As with most DC and Marvel mini-series these days, I'm going to wait for the trade on this, because there's absolutely no reason not to.Â With smaller presses, buying the singles probably helps the actual mini-series get completed, depending on how the money is doled out, but Marvel isn't going to cancel this four issues in due to poor sales, and I imagine they'll bring out a trade soon after it's done.Â That's how they work these days, right?
But I thought I'd at least read one issue, just to get a flavor for it.Â Because it's Casey and Giffen, it's quite entertaining, and Muniz does a decent job with the art - it's basically Superhero Art 101, but that's cool.Â Unlike many recent Marvel mini-series, it does reference several of the events happening in the Marvel Universe these days - the Defenders are an Initiative group, She-Hulk is a bounty hunter - but it's not that crucial to read the other titles to get what's going on.Â It is, however, all over the map.Â We begin with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents getting assaulted by the Sons of the Serpent, and then we head to Grand Coulee Dam, where Nighthawk and Gargoyle are beating on the Brothers Grimm.Â Kyle ends up on the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, where Tony Stark offers him the leadership of the Defenders, even though he, Stark, gets to pick the team.Â Colossus and that guy on the cover - who's not Ghost Rider, by the way, but an Initiative recruit called the Blazing Skull - are already on board, but he has to go to Manhattan to convince She-Hulk to join.Â Then, they head to their headquarters ... in Hoboken.Â Yes, it's the New Jersey Defenders!Â Meanwhile, we get a flashback to the Himalayas and the appearance of Son of Satan (more on him below), and there's a scene on Wundagore Mountain, the Defenders end up battling the Sons of the Serpent in Atlantic City, and the issue ends in the Gevliscwarz System, an alien world where things don't look good for the Defenders.Â Oh dear.
There's a lot of GÃ¸dland in this book (which is cool), including a nifty sense of humor - when the Defenders crash the Sons of the Serpent party, the Blazing Skull yells "Defenders Defenestrate!" - and it's always good to see thought balloons.Â It's a bit strange that Casey and Giffen would make sure they acknowledge She-Hulk's current status quo but ignore the fact that Colossus is in Russia right now.Â Casey and Giffen obviously know how to structure a book, so everything hums along, but I do wonder if this is a story that has one arc and all these disparate elements will tie together, or if it's going to be a few different arcs along the way.Â It will be interesting to see where they're going with it.
I do have a question about Son of Satan.Â Marvel doesn't acknowledge that there is a Satan, right?Â Isn't he too, you know, scary?Â That's why they have Mephisto, isn't it?Â So who is this "Son of Satan" anyway?Â What's the deal, Marvel Zombies?Â I'm just wondering.
Anyway, this is an entertaining comic, but I'll wait for the trade.Â Why wouldn't I?
The Lone Ranger & Tonto #1 by Brett Matthews (writer), John Abrams (writer), Mario Guevara (artist), Marcelo Pinto (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer).Â $4.99, 32 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.
As much as I enjoy the regular series of The Lone Ranger, this is a disappointing special.Â First of all, the art is odd.Â Very often it's out of proportion, as in one panel when John's head is too small for his body.Â It's certainly not horrible, but it's a bit sloppy.
The story, however, lets me down.Â It's 5 dollars, which means it ought to be really good, or at least entice you to buy the regular series, which is starting up a third storyline sometime soon.Â But it's not all that good, and I wonder why Matthews and Abrams needed the extra pages to tell a story that could have been told as an issue of the regular series with very little lost with the fewer pages.Â It's not a bad story, but it's nothing special.Â Our heroes find a wagon out on the trail with three bodies - but one of the bodies isn't dead!Â The fact that the murderer isn't dead leads to tragedy all around, a tragedy that could have been averted if Mr. L. Ranger had simply delivered the murderer to justice.Â Because he doesn't, bad things happen.Â Why, oh why did he not turn the murderer over to the proper authorities?Â WHY?!?!?!?Â That's partly where the story bogs down, because it's a silly thing -Â it's clearÂ why Reid doesn't do the right thing, but it still doesn't make much sense.Â It's not even a question of the murderer's guilt - we know who did it!Â The final showdown is quite gripping, but it still doesn't warrant the length of the issue.Â If this were an issue of the regular series, it would be a nice little tale.Â For two dollars more, we expect more.Â And we don't get it.
It's too bad, because you should be buying the regular series.Â It's very good.Â This is disappointing, though.Â Oh well.
Marvel Comics Presents #7.Â "Vanguard" by Marc Guggenheim (writer), Francis Tsai (artist), Tony Washington (colorist), and Dave Sharpe (letterer).Â "Savage Land" by Christos N. Gage (writer), Joyce Chin (artist), June Chung (colorist), and Sharpe.Â "Paying Respects" by Mandy McMurray (writer), Roy Allen Martinez (artist), Jose Villarrubia (colorist), and Sharpe.Â "Weapon Omega" by Rich Koslowski (writer), Andrea Di Vito (artist), Laura Villari (colorist), and Sharpe.Â $3.99, 32 pgs, FC, Marvel.
There's not really a lot to say about this, as I'm reading it basically because I dig "Vanguard," and anything else that happens to be decent is gravy, but I do find it interesting that a fairly significant event occurs in the course of a three-part Savage Land story.Â It's not something that requires me to warn you of SPOILERS (you like how I did that?), but it is interesting: Ka-Zar declares that he has signed an alliance with T'Challa, whereby any attempt to seize the Savage Land's vibranium will be considered an act of aggression against Wakanda, the only other place in the world where it is found.Â Now, this will probably be ignored in the future, but I enjoy little things like this in the Marvel Universe, and would love it if it was picked up on by other writers.Â It shows an attempt to make the fictional countries in the Marvel U. act like actual countries, and as Black Panther plays a more prominent role in the Marvel U. than the Savage Land, I would be interested in seeing what Wakanda gets out of this alliance.Â It would be neat.Â But it will probably be forgotten soon enough.Â It's not like Marvel employs editors to keep the goings-on in their world straight or anything, right?
You know, I read this because I was sure that Steve the Pirate and Adam Baldwin (who was in D. C. Cab, apparently!) were going to end up in bed together.Â It's the "natural progression of the characters," after all - the sexual tension between those two was soÂ hot in Firefly I was surprised theÂ air between them didn't catch fire!Â But, alas, there's no sex between them in this issue - I guess the fact that Steve the Pirate is married means he's figured out his place in the "sexuality spectrum."Â Too bad.
Ah, I'm just kidding.Â I picked this up just to see if it was any good - I really didn't have any hidden agenda.Â Well, my hidden agenda is to read another Joss Whedon comic to find out why people love Joss Whedon a bit irrationally.Â Seriously - I don't get anyone who loves someone that they don't even know.Â I mean, my favorite modern author, by a pretty wide margin, is Don DeLillo.Â But I don't Google Don DeLillo to find Don DeLillo-haters and then angrily insult their intelligence because they don't love Don DeLillo.Â That would be, well, odd.Â But Whedon has quite the fan club, and I keep trying to figure out why, exactly.
So this issue is perfectly fine - our heroes rip off a museum, some dude is testing a machine that hunts down thieves (just like RoboCop!), which finds our heroes and chases them around for a while.Â They manage to hijack the machine and try to sell it, and the dude who wants to buy it tells them about an even bigger prize in a temple.Â When they get the prize, it turns out to be a lot more money than they thought it was.Â Â They're rich!Â Hey, it's "Better Days," right?
It's an exciting if kind of paint-by-numbers issue, and nothing to get too jazzed about.Â Maybe the entire mini-series will work far better, but if we compare to, say, The Last Defenders, it's kind of dull.Â That's a six-issue series, yet it brings in a ton of elements that presumably could have been doled out in slower fashion.Â Meanwhile, there's a ton of action in this issue, but it's weirdly dispassionate.Â I guess because Whedon has written these characters a lot he doesn't feel the need to really do much characterization, and that's fine, but there's just not much to recommend it.
Part of the problem is that Whedon, as it seems he often does, writes dialogue as if it's a television show.Â I will admit, he writes good dialogue ... when it's spoken.Â There's a difference between writing dialogue to be heard and writing dialogue to be read.Â When it's heard, you rely on the actors to make it work, and they can take good dialogue and make it great.Â With dialogue in a book, all you have are the words on the page, and Whedon doesn't seem to recognize this difference.Â It's occasionally difficult to get the meaning, and it's often trying to be too smart,Â because you're reading the words, and there's no inflection or emotionÂ in the "actor's voice," so we can't always follow and it's not as clever as it could be when it's spoken.Â Not to compare Whedon to Shakespeare, but if you're unfamiliar with Shakespearean argot, it's difficult to follow along when you read Shakespeare.Â But when you see a Shakespeare play, you can easily follow along because the actors make it easier to do so.Â The dialogue in this book doesn't crackle, and occasionally it actually bogs down.Â But that's just me.
I guess if you think Firefly/Serenity is the greatest thing in the history of entertainment, this will be enjoyable.Â I don't hate it, but I just can't figure out the Whedon-love.Â I'm sorry!
Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #7 (of eight) by John Ostrander (writer), Javier Pina (penciller), Jesus Saiz (penciller), Robin Riggs (inker), Rob Leigh (letterer), and Jason Wright (colorist).Â $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.
It's the seventh of an eight-issue mini-series, so next issue I can figure out if it's a good story overall.Â Each issue, however, has been enjoyable, simply because Ostrander, like Casey and Giffen, knows what he's doing.Â He's been building the tension throughout, and at the end of last issue, it appeared General Eiling's dastardly plan might work.Â Of course, the Squad recovers pretty quickly, leading to a battle royale next issue, where the body count will apparently be higher than in this one.Â Yes, people die in this issue.Â Oh, the humanity!
There are a lot of clever bits in here, including what Waller says when she finds out one of the traitors is dead.Â It's stuff like this that should please our Dread Lord and Master, who absolutely loves Ostrander's Waller (I do too, mind you, but he has some kind of unholy attraction to her).Â And Deadshot, of course, is totally hardcore, as he always is when Ostrander gets his hands on him.
The thing that bugs me about this and other mainstream superhero comics is the use of silhouette.Â As DC and Marvel allow their writers to get more bloodthirsty, they also seem to be more squeamish about it.Â Eiling rips the head off of someone, and the scene is shown as a silhouette with a red background.Â It's not like the decapitation is implied - Eiling is holding the body while, on his other side, a head flies along trailing blood.Â It's a long shot, so it's not like Pina is going to draw a spine flopping out of a neck stump spurting blood.Â And it's not like DC (or Marvel) has a policy against showing red blood - later, someone gets shot - in the head, mind you - and blood of theÂ crimson varietyÂ pops out of their forehead.Â So why the use of silhouette?Â It's another of these ridiculous weird editorial decisions that say we can show every part of a woman except nipples and can show Ted Kord's brain matter, but only after he has already been shot (remember - the actual shooting is in - you guessed it - silhouette, but then his corpse is shown with the brain seeping out ... GOOD TIMES!).Â Here's an idea, DC and Marvel - show us everything or don't allow characters to treat other characters so horribly.Â Come on - we're all "mature" here!
I like ranting.Â Don't you?
Here's a question: If you're Glenn Fabry, and you're doing the covers for X-Factor, and you draw something like this, where Rictor is about to be smashed by a wrecking ball, why don't you simply draw Rictor about toÂ be slicedÂ open by a razor blade, which is actually what happens in this comic?Â I mean, I've given up on covers that have anything to do with what'sÂ on the inside, but when you do a cover that's this close to what's happening, why not go all the way?Â Did he do this before David had specifically decided on a giant razor blade?Â OrÂ does a blade imply things are about to get messier than if you just smash Rictor into a paste?Â TheÂ giant razor blade is, in fact, about to slice through Rictor's ... um, family jewels.Â Â DidÂ Joey Q not even want to imply that's what's going to happen to Rictor on the cover, because there's nothing more un-American than depriving a man of the ability to pleasure himself, and Wal-Mart won't carry Marvel comic books if they're un-American!!!!
Okay, I got a little carried away with the speculation there, but the cover image is a bit puzzling.Â But let's move on.Â Everyone is still dealing with the fact that the group seems to be falling apart, and for the most part, it's a decent issue, with weird things happening that seem to have something to do with the big villain at the endÂ (okay, so it's Arcade, which we know from an upcoming cover).Â I always liked Arcade (and yes, this goes against my screed about RoguesÂ Galleries, but my point in that post was not necessarily that writers shouldn't use Rogues, but that they should be careful not to overuse them),Â and he seems like a fairly versatile villain, in thatÂ he's aÂ hired assassin.Â Why wouldn't someone hire him to kill, I don't know, IronÂ Man?Â I guess his pitiful track record is the reason, but you get my point.Â So it's interesting to see him show up here, especially because he seems to have some weird thing going on with changing reality.Â It will be kind of interesting to see what's going on.
Unlike most people, David's rather wry sense of humor is often appealing to me, but he drops the ball in this issue a bit.Â Â Theresa tries to tell Jamie thatÂ she's pregnant, but Jamie thinks she's telling him she's leavingÂ the team, and the two argue without ever actually coming out and saying what they're arguing about.Â Monet, who did NOT grow up in the United States and is something like 20 years old, recalls that it's exactly like an episode of Three's Company,Â a sitcom I would have difficulty believing she's everÂ heard of, muchÂ less seen (and yes, I know she's a savant, but still), and tells TheresaÂ that JamieÂ obviously didn't know what she was talking about.Â This leads to a very nice exchange about Theresa's feelings for Jamie.Â But I still didn't like the scene, and not because of Monet's weird knowledge of American pop culture.Â What I didn't like about itÂ is that it's far too meta.Â Â I hate when a "Three's Company" scene occurs in comics or television, because it's so very stupid.Â But in this case, David writes the scene just so he can point out that it's a "Three's Company" scene, which is, if possible, even moreÂ annoying.Â How about you don't write the scene at all?Â That would keep the conversation between Theresa and Jamie from being stupid and keep Monet's deconstruction of it from being stupid as well.Â Instead, it's a waste ofÂ 2+ pages.Â Too bad.
I like nitpicking.Â Don't you?
Well, that's another week in the books.Â I didn't say anything too controversial, did I?Â I wouldn't want to anger anyone!!!!!