What I bought - 12 September 2007

Today: the Internet's least controversial comics reviews!  Plus: why continuity continues to bother me, in both Marvel and DC comics!  Let's read on!

Bad Planet #3 (of 12) by Thomas Jane, Steve Niles, James Daly III, and Tim Bradstreet.  $3.99, Image/Raw Studios.

In the world of junk-food comics, Bad Planet is a King-Sized Snickers bar - so bad for you, yet so very, very good.  What makes it so much fun is that it's like a really high-tech drive-in movie - nice art, ridiculous story, lots of gore, and a willingness to kill any- and everyone just to be entertaining.  And you know what?  It entertains a whole hell of a lot.  Niles and horror can mean some dull stuff when he takes himself too seriously, but in this book, he doesn't, and so the alien death spiders roam the countryside slaughtering all the humans who get in their way while the humans try to figure out a way to fight back.  Plus, just to make the fun complete, this issue features several pages in 3-D, which makes the carnage even more exciting.  I'm not exactly sure how this is going to make it to 12 issues, but so far, it's a roller coaster comic with plenty of excitement.

Casanova #9 by Matt Fraction and Fábio Moon.  $1.99, Image.

Speaking of fun comics, Casanova romps along, getting stronger each issue, which is a good thing.  With some writers, the hurling of all sorts of weird stuff into the mix doesn't cohere into an enjoyable read, but Fraction is one of those who can toss everything into his comic except the kitchen sink and it still makes a modicum of sense and is a blast through and through.  Despite the time travel aspect of this storyline, it's making more sense than the first arc did, and the lack of Casanova Quinn doesn't really hurt too much, because Fraction has done such a nice job with the other characters.  Moon's excellent art certainly helps, as well.  I've spoken of my desire for more casual nudity in comics, and Moon does a fine job with the post-coital scene between Kaito and Ruby, because it's natural that they would be naked but it's not sexualized at all.  The panel on page 8 of Ruby telling Kaito he doesn't have to be Casanova is gorgeous - her head is tilted to the side, hair mussed from the sex, and she just has a wonderful unself-consciousness about her.  If you're not buying this (relatively) cheap comic, I just don't know what to do with you.  It's just kind of sad.

Two more things: I still don't get Zephyr's joke.  And congratulations to Mr. Fraction on the birth of his son.  What fun parenting is!

Cover Girl #5 (of 5) by Andrew Cosby, Kevin Church, Mateus Santolouco, and Andre Coelho.  $3.99, Boom! Studios.

I'm not entirely sure this comic is worth 20 dollars, which is how much it cost for 5 issues, but it's certainly been entertaining, and this final issue wraps things up nicely, with Rachel using her kick-ass skills and Alex actually getting to use his acting skills to stick it to the bad guy, which was a nice and ingenious way to take care of the problem.  The biggest problem with the book throughout has been that the characters talk like they're in a sitcom, and it rears its head a bit in this issue, but not enough to drive one insane.  Santolouco struggles a bit with the action scenes, especially the climax, which doesn't look as dramatic as it should, but he does a fine job with the interaction between the characters.  And (SPOILER!) it's nice to see that Alex and Rachel DON'T become a couple.  That would have been disappointing.

I haven't seen a trade solicited for this yet, but it's certainly worth a look.  It's an action-adventure comic with a nice twist and some very good characterization.  We'll see if the trade is less than 20 dollars.  That would be interesting.

Daredevil #100 by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Marko Djurdjevic, John Romita, Sr., Al Milgrom, Gene Colan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev, and Lee Bermejo.  $3.99, Marvel.

There's really not much to say about the 480th issue of Daredevil.  For some reason it's really big, even though 480th issues don't usually get the anniversary treatment.  Our hero gets dosed with fear gas by the Scarecrow - whoops, I mean Mr. Fear - and has to overcome it.  This simply allows the various guest artists to do their thing, and they all to a fantastic job.  Why doesn't Djurdjevic do more interior work?  Anyway, Daredevil overcomes his fears (I know, shocking) and then finds out that Milla's in trouble.  That's about it.

There's nothing we haven't seen before in this issue, and if it weren't for the very nice art and the reprinting of the first Larry Cranston-as-Mr. Fear issues, it would just be another issue of Daredevil.  It will just fit in with the bigger story that Brubaker is telling, and it would have been nice if Marvel treated the 480th issue of Daredevil like that, instead of making a big deal about it.

Fables #65 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha.  $2.99, DC/Vertigo. 

We return to Ambrose and his undead army after last issue's brief diversion, and things move along as well as you would expect from one of the best books out there.  Willingham reveals more about Frau Totenkinder's plans, the Fables back in our world know about Bluebeard and Shere Khan's treasonous plans but can't warn Ambrose (who knows about them, doesn't he?), and everything moves slowly but interestingly toward confrontations.  It's a pleasure to read every month, and this issue is no exception.

Justice League of America Wedding Special by Dwayne McDuffie, Mike McKone, and Andy McLanning.  $3.99, DC.

It's pretty interesting that just putting Dwayne McDuffie on JLA makes him write like Brad Meltzer.  At least I thought it was pretty interesting.

The Lone Ranger #8 by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello.  $2.99, Dynamite Entertainment.

This comic continues to be an entertaining read, and I like how our hero is smart but knows he has a lot to learn.  I also like Tonto, who respects John's orders without agreeing with them.  With just a few words, Matthews manages to give Tonto a great deal of depth.  There's a nice mystery and the promise of a big ol' gunfight, plus a hint of forbidden (or at least uncomfortable) romance, and it adds up to a brief but intense read (it doesn't take all that long to read this book, after all).  Matthews is trying to evoke those great westerns where the main characters don't speak all that much but glare at each other meaningfully, and he's doing a good job with it.  I imagine it reads better in the trade, so if you've missed out so far, pick that up!  It should be around at finer comics shoppes everywhere!

Moon Knight #12 by Charlie Huston and Mico Suayan.  $2.99, Marvel.

I've been a bit apprehensive about this storyline, because unlike the first one, it seems drawn out for no discernible reason other than to fit into a nice trade paperback.  Plus, I haven't been as enthusiastic about Mico Suayan's art as I was about Finch's (I may be in the minority, but I like Finch's art).  But this issue, the final showdown between Midnight and Moon Knight, justifies my patience, even if it doesn't completely obviate my concerns about the previous ones.  This issue can't really stand on its own for someone who just picks it up, but it's a great issue to wrap up the story.  Huston has been jumping around in time for a lot of the story, and although it has been frustrating a bit, in this issue it works very well, as a somewhat surprising event occurs early on, and then later we go back and find out why it occurred.  Plus, Marc Spector continues his conversation with The Profile, which took place before he went after Midnight but informs the fight he has with his former sidekick.  I'm still loving the fact that Marc is really crazy, but he's trying to work through it.  As usual, it's a brutally violent book, but it doesn't bother me as much as in some mainstream books because of the way Huston has set up the character and because he's trying to explore what that violence does to both its victims and its perpetrators.  Suayan's art, which was okay early but then got muddled in the past few issues, is better here, as he keeps things relatively easy to follow.  I'm a tad confused about the final page, which seems to indicate the story isn't done and doesn't make much sense (how did the clock of flames get there, anyway?), but other than that, this is a very strong finish to what could have been a mess.  I think next issue is Huston's last, and it will be interesting to see who replaces him (I don't think I've seen a solicitation for issue #14 yet).  Let's hope it's someone who can keep up the intense nature of the book.

Parade (with Fireworks) #1 (of 2) by Mike Cavallaro.  $3.50, Image. 

This is an interesting, if somewhat odd book.  Cavallaro writes on the front page that it's based on a story his grandfather (I guess) told him about Italy.  The story's narrator is named Paolo, who lives in Italy early in the 20th century.  Paolo goes off to war, and when he returns, his father sends him to Chicago on business (the family makes olive oil).  He quickly realizes that Chicago is not for him, so he goes back to Italy to take over his farm, but everything, unsurprisingly, has changed.  We pick up the story in 1923, in the town of Maropati.  Paolo waits for his brothers to get back from church, but along the way, something happens.  The brothers and a band draw the attention of some thugs, who walk alongside joking around with the musicians.  When the band starts playing Socialist songs, the thugs, who are Fascists, get angry.  Things escalate, and something tragic happens, as it usually does.  Thus the name of the book - it begins as a parade, but when the fighting starts, there are fireworks.

It's an intriguing folk tale, but like I said, it's a bit odd, because we keep expecting something more to happen.  I'm not saying that things don't happen, but it feels weird that there's not more to it.  I know that's the point - that tragic events occur from innocuous beginnings, but because we don't know the fall-out from the tragedy yet, it feels weirdly incomplete (again, I know that's the point).  I just wonder if this would have worked better as one big issue rather than two.  Cavallaro gives us a nice feel for an Italy that was still relatively primitive but slowly getting dragged into the modern world, and he does a nice job building tension.  I'm not sure how he could have gotten more information about the political situation in Italy in 1923 into the book, because the anger between the Socialists and Fascists might make more sense if we understood that Mussolini had just come to power, but I suppose Cavallaro thinks we ought to know that stuff already.  And we do, don't we?

Cavallaro's art is cartoony and doesn't fit the material perfectly, especially when it gets serious.  He does a nice job showing us the Italian town and the bygone era in which the story occurs, but when the two sides square off his style makes the fight look less serious than it is.    It's a minor complaint, but it's still something that distracts me.

I'd still recommend it.  We don't get enough books that deal with the tensions between Socialists and Fascists in post-World War I Italy, do we?

Potter's Field #1 by Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta.  $3.99, Boom! Studios.

We gang-tackled this issue already, so I'll just direct you there.  Okay?  Okay.

Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #1 (of eight) by John Ostrander, Javier Pina, and Robin Riggs.  $2.99, DC.

For the first of my complaints about continuity in comics, we have Exhibit A: the new mini-series starring the Suicide Squad.  But first!  How was it?

Ostrander returns to the title that he made great years ago, and with a story that grows directly from it: the death of Rick Flag.  The nice thing about Ostrander is that you didn't need to read that series to get what's going on, as he nicely summarizes Flag's death and then throws us into the main story, which involves Amanda Waller, the head honcho of the Squad, getting word that he's still alive.  She brings in four of the Squad's mainstays - Bronze Tiger, Nightshade, Captain Boomerang, and Deadshot - to go retrieve Flag.  Supposedly he's in a Russian prison, but the Squad members think it's a trap.  Well of course it is!  Bad guys await, and the Squad barely escapes with their lives.  Of course, Rick Flag is alive (or at least his body didn't get vaporized in the explosion that was supposed to have killed him), and the last page of the book shows him lying in a jungle with a dinosaur hovering over him.  Yes, Rick Flag ended up in the Savage Land!  It's a fairly typical Ostrander comic - plenty of action, lots of excellent dialogue and characterization, and a tease that makes you want to come back.  I've been thinking about ditching mini-series in single issues altogether because of the inevitable trades, but I couldn't wait on this one.  And it's pretty much what I was expecting, which means I like it a lot.

However ... the continuity problems.  Rick Flag died two years ago.  The events of this book take place six months after that, meaning 18 months ago.  So far, so good - this allows Ostrander to get around the current status of several of his characters, like the fact that one of them is, you know, dead.  But: DC deliberately jumped ahead a year, right?  So Identity Crisis and all the crap leading up to the One Year Later jump occurred in the six months between this story and the One Year Jump, right?  I guess it's not impossible.  But wait a minute ... General Eiling turned into a crazed virtually indestructible super-villain a long time ago.  So where does this story fit in?  As usual with DC (and Marvel) continuity, I don't care all that much, but it seems like someone would have told Ostrander he just can't use all these characters.  I mean, Suicide Squad, as much as I love it, never sold all that well, and DC doesn't think too highly of its sales potential or they would have released some trade paperbacks and not canceled the Showcase volume, so why is Ostrander allowed to do this?  With a huge seller, I can understand why you allow the writer to move around characters with no regard to whether it makes sense, but it's weird that DC would allow this to happen.  (Omar points out that this issue even takes place during the old Suicide Squad run, because he's much smarter than I am, which makes the timeline even more compressed.  Our Dread Lord and Master thinks this is the only issue that takes place in the past, so I guess it doesn't matter all that much, but it's just something that shows, again, that nobody even thinks about this stuff at the DC offices.  All it would have taken is for someone to say, "Uh, Hey, John, how about setting this, I don't know, five years in the past?"  That would have solved some problems.  But no, that's too much trouble.)

I'm thinking too much about this, as usual.  It's a good book and a good introduction to the mini-series.  That's all you need to know!

Welcome to Tranquility #10 by Gail Simone, Neil Googe (with a back-up story by Scott Shaw! and Mike Kazaleh).  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

Simone's excellent comic that nobody buys continues with another fine issue, as the Devil continues to wreak havoc on Tranquility, we learn why the Devil is wreaking havoc on Tranquility, which a neat idea, and, well, the Devil continues to wreak havoc on Tranquility.  That's pretty much it, but it's done with such wit and even whimsy that it works very well, even though horrific events keep happening.  And Simone brings in an interpretation of the Bible that makes such great sense that I'm not sure why it's never been brought up before.  Of course, maybe someone has, and I just missed it.  The interpretation is still excellent.

Buy this comic before it dies, people.  It won't hurt!

The Witness #1 by Brian Augustyn and Jonathan Lau.  $3.50, Markosia.

This is another odd comic, in that it is a "prequel" of sorts to a graphic novel supposedly appearing in 2008.  It's a strange way to advertise for your graphic novel, because we presume the "origin" of this issue will be retold in the longer work, but this does its job, I guess: piques your interest.  The story is about Tom Sherwood, a policeman in Crystal City (not, I think, the one in Orson Scott Card books) who is protecting the daughter of a mobster who is testifying against him.  The father kills her and Tom's partner, but he manages to escape.  Instead of going into the Witness Protection Program, Tom decides to take the fight to the mobster.  It's urban vigilante time!  It could work well, especially because Tom is supposed to be dead, but it's all in the execution, of course.  I can't really recommend this, because if the OGN does show up, it will probably summarize this issue quite well.  It's not a bad comic, but it feels a bit superfluous.

Where have I seen Jonathan Lau's art before?  It's bugging the hell out of me.  Did he do some Chuck Austen Uncanny X-Men issues a few years back?  I think he did.  I suppose I could look it up, but that's why I rely on my far smarter readers to help!

X-Factor #23 by Peter David and Pablo Raimondi.  $2.99, Marvel.

Peter David does his thing, and it's as entertaining as ever.  The Isolationist is exposed as a bad guy (sorry if I spoiled it, but come on! you knew it was coming), but the way in which he's exposed is fascinating.  David is so good at tying things together and making sure he doesn't forget minor plot points, and we understand why Monet and Siryn are off checking out the anti-mutant singing group and why Layla got ambushed.  David is also very good at setting up things for future issues, and Rictor's unusual abilities will probably come back into play soon enough.  It's just an enjoyable comic to read, month after month.

But let's revisit the continuity thing, this time with regard to Hank McCoy.  I get that Astonishing X-Men takes place far before these current events, so I don't care that Hank is in that book and shows up here.  But Hank is the star of the back-up story, which is presumably concurrent with the events in the other X-books, but he shows up in the main story in this issue.  Again, I don't care that much, but if Marvel wants us to bow down to continuity, couldn't they throw some explanation into the back-up story that it takes place after all the stuff occurring in the main books?  Would that be so hard?  Sheesh.  If obsessive fans can keep track of continuity, editors can at least keep track of when things happen in the vaguest way.  Or not.  Whatever.

Lots of good comics this week, people.  You know they're out there!  Don't be dazzled by inferior products!

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