Too many comics this week to worry about introductions! Let's just get to it! Plus: Sales figures, because it's been a while!
Captain Britain and MI 13 #7 by Paul Cornell (writer), Leonard Kirk (penciler), Michael Bair (inker), Jay Leisten (inker), Craig Yeung (inker), Brian Reber (colorist), John Rauch (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.
Cornell and Kirk deliver another fantastic issue, as the team wends its way through the Birmingham building where Plokta, the maker of the Mindless Ones, is granting everyone their heart's desire. So Brian gets Meggan back (I suppose I could find out what happened to Meggan, but I'm sure it wasn't fun), even though he thinks he's thwarting Plotka but he's really not. Blade and Jacqueline make temporary peace, but then Blade reveals something that upsets Spitfire (and clears up something that had been bugging me for a while). The other members of the team are also tested, and Wisdom tells Dane something at the end that will, presumably, have serious consequences. I'd like to write more, but every page is a treat to read, so to spoil it would be mean. Cornell has done a superb job of keeping everything moving along quickly but still delving into what makes these characters tick. Even the obvious "shocks" (like who shows up whenever Brian has a vision of a perfect life) are handled well, although the page on which that particular shock occurs is laid out poorly, ruining the surprise by the way the panels are arranged on the page. The only real problem I have with this issue is that the three different inkers occasionally don't do Kirk any favors. I don't know who inked the pages with Brian dreaming about being with Meggan, but while it doesn't alter the pencilling too much, it's a lighter line and much less distinctive than the rest of the issue. It's always fun to look at how inkers affect the pencil art!
But other than that minor quibble, this continues to be a truly wonderful comic. It's weird superhero stuff, and if a writer can pull that off, usually the result is very fun to read.
Latest sales figures (issue #5, September): 32,999 (rank: #69). That seems pretty solid, doesn't it? Good to see.
You know what I don't like about shows like CSI (which I don't watch, but my mother loves it, so I catch it whenever she visits) or House (which I do watch)? Not that they get stuff wrong (which House does, very often, as Scott helpfully explains on a weekly basis), but that everyone speaks so quickly that it's really hard to keep up. I have no interest in rewinding and trying to hear every single thing the characters say (I usually DVR shows), so I often miss crucial stuff. Maybe I'm dim. But it makes The Cleaners something I can get behind, because it's right there in print. I don't need to rewind, because I can just linger over each word at my leisure! Whoo-hoo!
Of course, that's not enough to recommend it, right? Well, no. But it's definitely a plus. There are a couple of double-page spreads in this comic that simply show a tableau with narrative tags explaining what things are. It's an odd way to convey information, but it works well, as long as it's not overdone. It heightens the unreality of the book, but we have to suspend disbelief anyway in popular entertainment, so if we can deal with the SFX on House and CSI, we can deal with this. Wheaton and Fialkov are working in the same vein as CSI, after all, telling the story of a private business that cleans up after something horrible has happened. In this issue, it means a lot of blood, but it could be anything really messy, I suppose. We're introduced to Robert Bellarmine at a posh hotel in Los Angeles, where he's cleaning up a suite that is drenched in blood. Then, he heads to the suburbs, where something strange happened with a dog and a white picket fence that also left a lot of blood (the dog's fine, by the way, for those of you who don't like fictional animals being harmed). Finally, something awful is going on that obviously ties into one or both of these events. It's a mystery!
Wheaton and Fialkov do a fine job taking this horrible job (well, I guess it pays well, and I suppose the people who do it enjoy it, but it still seems horrible), making it mundane, and then building a sense of horror back into it. Bellarmine and his team of co-workers make the jobs as scientific as possible, and the writers throw a lot of technical information at us that distances us from the fact that they're cleaning up splattered blood. Then they introduce the mystery, and it's rather terrifying. As a single issue, it's well-constructed, giving us nice character sketches and a lot of information without being too overwhelming. Ekedal's art, while not spectacular, is solid, especially when he has to convey the banality of suburbia juxtaposed against the presence of a lot of blood staining that banality.
I've always enjoyed police procedurals (Bellarmine isn't police, of course, but the concept works the same way), especially when they come with a dash of horror (some of my favorite trash novels are the works of Michael Slade, for instance). So this works quite well. It's an intriguing set-up with an intriguing mystery. Works for me!
Latest sales figures: N/A.
Fables #78 by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). Back-up story by Bill Willingham (writer), Peter Gross (artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs (17 for the main story, 5 for the back-up), FC, DC/Vertigo.
I'm not sure what Patti Smith is doing on the cover of the latest issue of Fables, but I'm sure James Jean has his reasons!
So last issue, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser unwittingly released something from what they thought was a treasure chest. I'm sure it's completely a coincidence that the thing they released looks and acts a lot like Neil Gaiman's Morpheus, although Mr. Dark, as the thing wants to be called, is a lot more evil and insane than our pal the Dream Lord. Still, I wonder if Willingham is having a bit of fun with Mr. Gaiman.
Like your typical issue of Fables, things happen, there are portents of doom, there's some humor (Mr. Dark himself, although nuts, is quite funny), and there's plenty of foreshadowing. And something surprising and terrible happens on the last page, although, as usual, it feels like the issue just ends on a random page. That's an odd thing about Fables, in that it often feels like Willingham just runs out of pages for an issue and says, "Well, that's it." This ending is a bit more dramatic than most, but it's still a weird feeling. And, of course, it all looks great.
As always, there's not a lot to say that really jumps out at you, but also as always, Willingham has done such a nice job simply setting everything up that when Mr. Dark explains some stuff, you simply think, "Well, of course." And as always, I'm already looking forward to the next issue.
Latest sales figures (issues #75 & 76, September): 25,266 (#75; rank: #96) and 23,627 (#76; rank: #102). Why such a discrepancy between the two? Just because #75 was the end of the war? That's weird.
I'm not exactly sure what that cover is supposed to mean. Lee and Jude encounter traps on their journey, but they're a bit more esoteric than spikes in the walls. Maybe the cover is an allegory!
Anyway, last issue everyone fell into a volcano. Yeah, that sucks. But wait! that's only a passage to the City of Life, which is where they wanted to get to anyway. They meet Nimrod, the ruler of the city, who tells them they need a fancy sword to defeat Moloch. Said sword happens to be at the top of the Tower of Babel. Well of course it is! Nimrod warns them that getting the sword won't be easy, and it turns out that he's right. Well, Lee does get the sword, but not in a good way, and next issue, it appears she will pay a price for it. Stupid consequences!
As we reach the end of this series, David is getting more and more mystical and religious. That's cool, because it's getting more and more about the fundamental emotions and desires of humanity, and that makes for some interesting fiction. Back in Bete Noire, we get the serpent in the garden, while the City of Life is the domain of Nimrod the Hunter, who is mentioned in Genesis. It's heavy stuff, and David does a good job with it, as well as keeping it light with Lee, who is naturally cynical about this stuff. It's a good balance.
I do have to wonder why Jude didn't know who Nimrod was. He was a priest, wasn't he? Shouldn't he have the Bible pretty much memorized? I knew who Nimrod was when he first said his name, and I'm far from religious. He only recognizes Nimrod after he sees the Tower of Babel. That's kind of weird. But not that big a deal.
I'm curious to read the final two issues of this, because David isn't definitely leaving these characters behind, so who knows who will survive. I never know what to expect from David's comics, which is partly why this is such a good book.
Latest sales figures (issue #29, August): 4,765 (rank: #236). I imagine this is fairly consistent. IDW has plenty of books that do better, but that's licensed stuff like the Transformers comics. I wonder if this is good for them or not.
Galveston #1 (of 4) by (wait for it!) Johanna Stokes (creator/writer), Ross Richie (creator), Tom Peyer (plotter), Mark Rahner (plotter), Greg Scott (artist), Todd Herman (artist), Digikore Studios (colorist), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.
I was interested in this book because of two things: the pairing of Jean Lafitte and Jim Bowie, who were good friends according to this comic, and Tom Peyer's involvement, because I like Peyer's work and don't think he gets enough work. Peyer is only here as a plotter, though, which is annoying, and I was a bit disappointed by the comic as a whole. As I have to pre-order my more independent comics, I'm getting the rest of the mini-series, but I'm not terribly sure if I'm going to like it too much.
It's not that it's awful, just mediocre. It's 1817, and Bowie is a prisoner on Lafitte's ship. Before we know it, there's a mutiny, and Lafitte and Bowie are sent off in a dinghy. The crew thinks they've secured Lafitte's gold, but in the treasure chest are only iron bars. Meanwhile, Lafitte and Bowie come ashore in - you guessed it - Galveston, where Lafitte promises Bowie they'll be safe. Good thing, too, as the disloyal crew is a bit peeved at their former captain, what with the lack of gold and all.
The story largely rests on the interplay between Lafitte and Bowie, and while Stokes's dialogue between them is occasionally witty, it's dull in other places. We're also dropped into the middle of a scene, so while we might find out later what's going on at the beginning of this issue, it's disconcerting the way it kicks off. Scott does the art for the first 8 pages, and while his static and awkwardly posed figures aren't great, the art is better than Herman's, which is too cartoony and disproportionate. It also doesn't get any less static, even though it appears Herman is drawing more freehand than Scott does. I don't know; the way artists work often baffles me. That's just what it looks like.
It's unfortunate that this isn't better, because it has a cool hook - that Lafitte and Bowie were friends - and I enjoyed Stokes's most recent comic, Station. But this just isn't all that good. Too bad.
Latest sales figures: N/A.
Someone must have gotten their panties in a bunch over the original title, which was I Hate Galaxy Girl, because it was changed relatively recently. That's okay - it doesn't really matter what the main superhero is called, I suppose. Like The Boys, this is a look behind the curtain of superheroing and what they're really concerned about. And yes, I just compared this cartoony, charming book to The Boys. That's just how I roll.
The story is simple: Renée is the black-haired young lady on the cover, and she's just competed in a nation-wide pageant for the new "Gallant Girl." She is by far the most talented one, but she didn't get the gig. I'll give you three guesses why, and the first two don't count. As she's waiting to go home to Maine, a giant robot attacks the airport, and Renée takes it out. She does have to go to the hospital, and while she's there, the Commander, who runs the Fellowship of Freedom (the heroes' group), visits and tells her that she can be Gallant Girl's super-powered stand-in - as long as she wears a blonde wig. He tells her she has "everything but the looks" they could want in Gallant Girl. One of the heroes, Thunder, decides to mentor her, because he's convinced she could be a great hero. And therefore, we have a set-up for a mini-series!
As I wrote above, this is a charming comic. Renée is a good protagonist, and Valentino and Cahill get everything in line nicely. There's no padding in here, as we zip quickly from scene to scene. And Damoose's art is good for the slightly light take on superheroes that we have here. That the comic deals with a slightly deeper subject matter - the fact that Gallant Girl must be "physically flawless" as well as talented, and therefore Renée can't be Gallant Girl - is nice but not revolutionary (and, as we've seen from a recent comments thread here, isn't even considered controversial by some), especially because of Damoose's art. It comes back to people in comics (or in popular entertainment) calling someone "ugly" or "fat" when they obviously are not. Renée might not be stunning like the actual pageant winner, but as Damoose draws her, she's reasonably attractive and fit. There's no reason for the Commander to make cracks about her looks and weight (he calls her a "troll" at one point). I know that traditionally, all you have to do to be considered ugly is not have blonde hair, but it's kind of weird to see this all play out in a comic where the "ugly" girl is as cute as the "pretty" girl. Damoose could have made Renée uglier if he wanted to, and perhaps the critique of the superhero set, with its emphasis on looks as well as talent, would have been more pointed.
But it's a breezy superhero comic, so I'm probably asking too much from it. We should just enjoy it for its entertainment value!
Latest sales figures: N/A.
Kelly continues to impress with this series, as we learn what Barbara is so scared of at her house, and just when we think that's where the series is going, the figurative turns back into the literal and upsets everything again. The ability of Kelly to do this in this series is part of its power - five issues in, and he keeps surprising us with new revelations about Barbara's life that seem to point one way, then another. Yet it never feels forced. We knew something horrific was going on in her life, and the revelation isn't all that stunning, but it's still powerful. Then, as Barbara still tries to escape her real life, her career of giant-killing is tested once more. It's another issue that blends the mundane with the fantastic, and Kelly is really on the top of his game with it.
Niimura continues to amaze, too, as the world around Barbara becomes more alive as her life crashes down. A storm is building, and Niimura does a marvelous job taking the elements and making them more and more sentient as the principal characters find themselves occupying a smaller and smaller part of the world. The final few pages, where the landscape itself seems to explode, is frightening and fantastic all at once, and helps Kelly's script be even more powerful.
As always, the only small problem I have with the book is Kelly's propensity to stereotype. In prior issues, it was authority figures at school. In this book, it's comic book and RPG fans. It's a minor thing, but it's a tad annoying. Obviously, it doesn't ruin the comic, but I wish it wasn't in here, because it strikes me as peevish on Kelly's part. Oh well. I can skip over it, because the rest of the book is so danged good. Seek this mini-series out, people!
Latest sales figures (issues #2 & 3, September): 3,251 (#2; rank: 285) and 3,074 (#3; rank: 290). That would be a shame if people are bailing on this, because it's gotten better and better.
I'm of two minds about this comic. On the one hand, it's not worth 4 dollars for a 23-page story. The "bonus material" is not that interesting, because in it Ross tells us how he creates a comic, and anyone who has ever read a comic in the past 15 years probably knows how Ross creates a comic by now. Plus, "bonus" means we shouldn't have to pay for it, right? So this becomes just another experiment by DC and Marvel to see if people will pay 4 dollars for a regular-sized comic book before they inevitably raise the price of all their books to $3.99 (again, why not $3.25 or $3.50 - do we really need a whole dollar leap?). They've only been doing this on "special" events, but you'll notice that the "specials" used to mean 32 pages of story, then 22-page stories with hard-to-find reprints, and now 22-page stories with almost completely superfluous "bonus material." Oh, they're tricky, those bigwigs at DC and Marvel!
On the other hand, Alex Ross pencils this. Some of it is painted, but most of it is pencilled. There are many people out there who don't like Alex Ross's artwork, but I'm not one of them. Now, that's not to say I enjoy all his cover work, which is often rather dull. But the dude knows how to draw, even if he overuses photo references. At least, unlike some other of that ilk, he doesn't simply trace celebrities. This is a beautiful comic to look at, and what's unusual is that the pencilled art looks nicer than the painted art. It looks more substantial and grounded, and less obviously photo-referenced. It's not ridiculously over-detailed, either, which is nice. I guess Ross makes a nice living with his dull covers, but seeing this interior work, it's depressing that he doesn't do more of it. Oh well.
As for the story ... well, it's a bit weak. I haven't been reading JSA, but it seems like that Kingdom Come sequel has been running for at least two decades - yes, it started before the actual Kingdom Come was published! - and Ross gets in on the action by telling a tale about the Kingdom Come Superman and why he doesn't fit in to this new world. It fleshes out what we know about him, but it's not all that surprising what we find out. It's a moderately interesting story, but nothing more.
I got this on a lark, because I was curious to see Ross's pencils. The book looks great, but ultimately, it's another money grab. That I fell for it doesn't mean you should, either!
Latest sales figures (JSA #18, August): 73,485 (rank: 15). I imagine this well sell about the same if not more.
John figures out who the killer is, and things go from there. This has been a quick little arc, which is nice, and although the main villain, Cavendish, is still lurking around, but what this story does is allow Matthews to explore a bit of the mythology of the Lone Ranger and why the characters in Ye Olde West respond to him. At one point, the killer confronts the townspeople and says, "You believe him? A man too afraid to even show his own face ...?" and one of them steps forward and says, "Reckon he has his reasons to wear the mask. Reckon you could never give us a good enough one for what you did." The myth of the honest, hard-working Westerner endures in Americana, but Matthews uses it well here - these people have no reason to trust the Lone Ranger, except that he speaks simply and does what he promises. That's good enough for them. Obviously, the reality was (and is) much messier, but this is mythology, after all, and Matthews continues to build a powerful one. As always with this comic, we want to speed through it because nobody speaks a lot, but Matthews and Cariello have crafted a book that forces you to stop and consider all the wordless panels and how each person deals with the loneliness of the landscape. It's another riveting issue, but that's to be expected with this title.
Latest sales figures (issue #13, September): 12,896 (rank: 156). That's a bit pleasantly surprising, actually.
Two things stand out about this issue of Manhunter, one that I'm probably obsessing too much over, and the other that can only be done in a cancelled comic, because then everyone can ignore it even though it's supposed to be important. Those things bug me. But let's get to the first point first!
Cam, as we know, is pregnant with Dylan's baby (I love writing sentences like that, as it reeks of soap opera). She and Mark are discussing that and Dylan's disappearance, and then Cam asks for cigarettes. Mark tells her it's bad for the baby, and Cam says, "Who said I'm keeping it?" This leads into what will apparently be a final story arc (unless it gets resolved in one issue), as the end of the book portends bad things for doctors who perform abortions. Andreyko dealt with illegal immigration (a little) in this story arc, and now he's tackling abortion. Good job! However ... did anyone else get a strange vibe from Cam and her decision? Here's my point: In popular entertainment, people rarely get abortions. In more popular entertainment than comics (like television), it's barely even an option for women, because it's such a contentious topic that television execs, like Michael Jordan, don't want to make any kind of political stand because they'll piss off half or more of their audience (and there's nothing wrong with that, as they're in the business to make money, not to make political statements). In comics, where the audience is smaller and (probably, although not necessarily) a bit more liberal, hot-button topics like abortion seem to be a bit more acceptable, because presumably the people reading comics aren't going to start ranting about it too much because most comics readers believe it ought to be the woman's choice (that's purely anecdotal speculation, by the way, so feel free to savage me in the comments). So Cam deciding to get an abortion doesn't strike me as all that daring, because Andreyko probably knows most people reading this comic won't bat an eye. However, even he can't escape the stereotypes of a woman getting an abortion, it seems. To my inexpert brain, it seems like Cam made her decision very quickly and selfishly. Just the way she says "Who said I'm keeping it?" implies that getting pregnant is all so very inconvenient for her, and she just needs to get rid of it so she can go back to shagging Dylan without worrying about anything. The paradigm of abortion in popular entertainment, which appears liberal on many things (and is) but is conservative on plenty of things (despite what our friend T. says), is that "good" women don't even think about abortion, while those who even consider it are somewhat callous. There's no middle ground, no agonizing over whether to do it or not and then making a decision, no regrets about the decision later on (whichever option women choose), nothing that implies it's a difficult and often heart-breaking choice. The "good" women never think that maybe it would have been better to terminate a pregnancy, and if the "bad" women go through with it, they never look back. Often, if it's offered as a choice, the woman considering it has a massive change of heart and becomes the perfect mother once confronted with the fact that she's going to have an abortion. I fear that's what's going to happen with Cam. She'll go to have an abortion, and then have an epiphany and want to keep it. If Andreyko doesn't go that way, there's still this callous attitude that Cam exhibits in this issue. We're supposed to see Cam as toughened by life, true, but she never seemed like a heartless bitch. That's why I fear that she won't go through with it, because this will be a transformative moment for her. And that's just a stereotype. Obviously, I have no idea what's going to happen in the next two issues, but this portrayal of Cam worries me. I hope Andreyko has something more interesting planned than a story that falls into the same old clichés about abortion.
The second point about the issue is Kate's press conference. It's a masterful stroke by Andreyko, because the only thing that stops evil corporations is bad publicity, so even if Vesetech is able to fight Kate's charges in court, she has aired their dirty laundry and struck a blow for the dispossessed, and how long will it take Vesetech to get their good name back? Andreyko goes further and shows how Vesetech has tentacles in every corner of the DCU, and this is where I get grumpy. This is a major blow to the DCU heroes, but I will bet it never gets mentioned again. Sure, we see various heroes or those close to heroes being shocked by the news, but that's probably as far as it will go. Andreyko has obviously thought this out, but as the book is getting cancelled, the editors at DC - such as they are - can happily ignore it. This is one of the limitations of a shared universe - minor things can be overlooked, but major events have ripples throughout the shared universe, so when they're ignored, it looks as if continuity only "matters" for the important comics. DC chose to publish Manhunter and chose to allow Andreyko to tie Vesetech into their better-selling comics. If they didn't want him to do this, they could have said something. I'm glad Andreyko did something like this, because it's a pretty cool idea, but I have a feeling it will be swept under the rug just as quickly. That's too bad.
You may not like Manhunter, but Andreyko certainly keeps things interesting, doesn't he?
Latest sales figures (issue #34, September): 12,234 (rank: 163). This isn't enough to save it? Odd.
The first mini-series starring Pistolfist comes to an end, and although it's fairly entertaining, it was also a bit of a missed opportunity. It turns into a big-time action adventure book, and there's nothing wrong with that, especially when Ben Franklin uses his inventor skills to help Ethan Allen's Green Mountain Boys take Fort Ticonderoga from the British, which is a fairly thrilling scene. But Earls and Flanary threw a lot into this series that felt deeper, and in the end, a lot gets sacrificed for the sake of explosions. The fact that Pistolfist is Crispus Attucks' brother is a crucial part of the story, but it never feels like it gets the development it deserves (it's developed, certainly, but not to the extent it probably needs). The idea of the Revolution tearing families apart is also present in this book, but Franklin's son William is too much of a cardboard villain to make that an interesting theme. And the steampunk element is interesting as well, but also sacrificed for the more straightforward plot. It's not that this isn't an exciting comic, it's just that it hints at much more but eventually falls into action movie cliché. The final confrontation with William Franklin plays out exactly as you would expect, and that's disappointing.
I doubt if I'll get the next mini-series, not because this character doesn't have potential, but because the next mini-series takes the character out of the Revolution and into the modern day (according to the final page, although it might even be in the future), which is far less interesting. Maybe I'll change my mind when the new series comes out, but right now, I think I'll give it a pass.
Latest sales figures: Unsurprisingly, I can't find this on the Top 300.
And so issue #7 is explained. That was nice. Even as Lapham explains what in the hell was going on with the Spiders From Mars, he continues to hurtle forward, as we get more ultra-violence, drug use, perversion, and murder. Just another ridiculously fun issue from the twisted mind of David Lapham! Even as we lurch from one horrific scene to another, Lapham manages to make this emotionally gripping, as Danny is so wrapped up in his jealousy that he continually fails to realize how much Sadie loves him. The fool! And without giving the ending away, the final narration by Danny is brilliant: "One of us was insane. And one of us wasn't dealing in reality. And I wasn't sure that both of those people weren't me." I don't know about you, but I think those are pretty freakin' cool lines.
By the way, to those people who told me I needed to get Stray Bullets, I went out and got the first volume. I've read the first four issues, and damn - that's good stuff. I have a feeling a rush of volume-buying is in my future!
Latest sales figures (issue #7, September): 7,520 (rank: 208). I wish this were higher. I don't know what the cancellation cut-off number for Vertigo titles, but apparently it's a lot less than regular DCU titles, as we see with Manhunter.
As always, the sales figures are from ICv2. Argue with them, not with me!
Another week in the books! You know what time it is - totally random lyrics!
"Now ... the mist across the window hides the linesBut nothing hides the colour of the lights that shineElectricity so fineLook and dry your eyes
We ... so tired of all the darkness in our livesWith no more angry words to say can come aliveGet into a car and driveTo the other side"
Dang, I love that song.