What I bought - 13 April 2011

"Am I ever going to be told what you really think you're doing?"

"You have been told."

"Lie upon lie."

"Perhaps that's our way of telling the truth." But then, as if she knew she had smiled once too often, she looked down and added quickly, "Maurice once said to me - when I had just asked him a question rather like yours - he said, 'An answer is always a form of death.' " (John Fowles, from The Magus)

Abattoir #4 (of 6) by Michael Peterson (conceiver), Darren Lynn Bousman (creator), Rob Levin (writer), Troy Peteri (writer/letterer), Wayne Nichols (penciller), Rodell Noora (penciller), Andrei Pervukhin (colorist), and Draženka Kimpel (colorist). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Radical Comics.

As always, many thanks to Radical for this comic and the one below. I do appreciate it!

Abattoir continues to be a fair-to-middling horror story, and as we're on the downhill slope, we're getting some more answers. Based on the name of the comic and the fact that we're a step or two ahead of Richard, we've already figured out why Jebediah Crone is buying houses where murders occurred, but we still don't know his purpose. Anyway, Richard and his cop buddy start to figure it out, but in true horror movie fashion, Richard decides he needs to confront Crone alone. He doesn't find Crone yet, but he does encounter some nasty-looking monsters, so there's that.

I don't know - it's competently put together, the art isn't eye-bleedingly bad, and things move along. I'm puzzled why we're shown the birth of Richard's child, but I imagine it will come into play at some point. This is a perfectly readable, pretty much forgettable, horror story with a decent hook - Crone buying properties where murders took place. Other than that, it's just kind of there.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batgirl #20 ("The Lesson: Tunnel Vision Part Two of Two") by Bryan Q. Miller (writer), Ramon Bachs (artist), Guy Major (colorist), and Dave Sharpe (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

This is odd. Ramon Bachs' art on this issue is better than it was in issue #19, which I guess is due to the fact that he inks himself. It's really interesting how different art can look based on the inkers and colorists. Bachs' stuff looks much crisper in this issue, and that works well on a book like this.

The second half of this mini-arc is better than the first, too. Miller tells us a bit more about the villain, which of course was missing, by necessity, from the first issue, but it's just that the dialogue is zippier and smarter than last issue, which felt a bit ponderous. I'm not going to comment on Stephanie's ongoing drama with Proxy and Barbara and even that mysterious dude at the end, mainly because I haven't been reading the comic long enough, but her plan to defeat the bad guy is ingenious, and I liked that the bad guy might be a jerk but he's also not terribly villanous. It's a nice touch to make him a bit more sympathetic than he might be otherwise. All in all, Batgirl seems back on track, except I still really want Dustin Nguyen back on art. Oh well.

Stephanie calls her car the "Compact." As Proxy says, "Is that what we're calling it?" Yes, yes, we really are. Sigh.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman and Robin #22 ("Tree of Blood: Dark Knight vs. White Knight Conclusion") by Peter J. Tomasi (writer), Patrick Gleason (penciller), Mick Gray (inker), Keith Champagne (inker), Tom Nguyen (inker), Alex Sinclair (colorist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer).

I've been much more excited about Gleason's art than Tomasi's writing on this arc, and while the story isn't terrible, it's also kind of generic - the bad guy is trying to kill the relatives of Arkham's inmates because ... well, I won't spoil it, but it's pretty much what you'd expect. What's really keen about the book is Gleason's crisp lines, sense of design, and Sinclair's neon coloring, which might not work on every comic but fits here, as we're dealing with a dude who glows white. Sinclair contrasts Dick and Damian's darkness very well with the bad guy, who lights up Arkham incongruously, forming a very odd mood for the book. Gleason's gorgeous work and Sinclair's marvelous colors help out the fact that there are three inkers, which tends to imply that the artwork was a bit rushed. Considering that Gleason isn't drawing the next arc, perhaps that was it. But Gleason is still super - check out the Joker as he sits underwater, waiting for death. It's hilarious!

I do wonder about the scene where everyone jumps off the buildings and Batman and Robin save them. Really? Talk about suspending your disbelief - there appears to be a wide dispersal of jumpers yet Dick and Damian fire some nets into the air and somehow catch them? Really? I'm glad the rest of the book was pretty decent, because that happens early in the comic and it did not fill me with confidence about the rest of the issue. Tomasi overcomes it even if he can't quite overcome the blandness of the actual story. But yeah, that was a dumb scene.

Anyway, this is the last issue of the comic I'm buying for the foreseeable future. I guess if you've been waiting for the trade, you might want to get this, if only because Gleason's art is so good. Tomasi's story is fine, but the best thing to say about it is that it allows Gleason to have some fun. Good job, Mr. Tomasi!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Booster Gold #43 ("Endgame") by Keith Giffen (writer), J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Chris Batista (penciller), Rich Perrotta (inker), Hi-Fi (colorist), and John J. Hill (letterer).

Here's another comic I can drop with no qualms, as next issue, Dan Jurgens returns, and as I believe Dan Jurgens to be almost aggressively mediocre, I don't feel any compulsion to buy his comics. (I've mentioned this before, and I guess I ought to explain a bit. I don't have anything against Dan Jurgens. He's talented, of course, and I've never hated one of his comics. But his comics are instantly forgettable - even the ones you remember, like a certain death of a certain Kryptonian, you remember because of the event, not because of it being particularly well written or well drawn. The only thing I've ever read by Jurgens that rises above this is his later work on Thor, when he put Thor in charge of the world. Even then, it was more about the actual plot than anything Jurgens did really well. So while I used to read a Jurgens comic and not hate it, I bought them mainly because I was already buying the series - Justice League, for instance - and the comics were cheap enough to give them a look. These days, I know exactly what I'm going to get with a Jurgens comic, and the three dollars I spend on it is not a good value. So, yeah - no hate for Dan Jurgens, just no love.) I kind of wish Giffen and DeMatteis were staying on, but I think the book is going to get cancelled soon anyway, unless "Flashpoint" gives it a huge sales boost, so no big loss. I wonder if Booster is right - according to his meta-commentary, since the comic he licenses switched writers, the sales have gone in the toilet - which would be disappointing, because the Giffen/DeMatteis run, while not classic, was pretty good - humorous, exciting, silly in the right ways, and nostalgic in the right ways. Oh well.

Anyway, in this issue Booster goes to the 30th century and gets Brainiac to cure his chronal leprosy. It's all some big plot by Rip Hunter. I guess Booster is going to play a crucial role in "Flashpoint," so I guess Giffen and DeMatteis, like the good soldiers they are, set him up to be that important cog. Who knows. As with all the issues of this brief run, this was an enjoyable comic. I don't get to enjoy a pleasant superhero comic all that much these days - they're all so serious - so it was always nice to read this. I won't miss it, but I do wish it would have sold better.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Butcher Baker, the Righteous Maker #2 by Joe Casey (writer), Mike Huddleston (artist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

The second issue of Butcher Baker features less nudity, but it does have The Absolutely, who's, well ... something. Casey introduces a bunch of villains who weren't killed in Butcher's pre-emptive strike last issue, which sets up the plot for a bit - the villains know that Butcher Baker is still out there (although they don't know he blew up the prison yet), so they're out for revenge! Meanwhile, The Absolutely and Jihad Jones, that friendly-looking villain on the cover, seem to have other plans, although we're not sure yet what they are. And, of course, Butcher Baker comes across the state trooper he ran off the road when he sits down next to him in a diner, and he quickly realizes that maybe he should get out of there. Which leads to more hot pursuit!

As usual when Casey is doing this kind of thing, there's a wonderful sense of maniacal energy to the writing, matched again by Huddleston's tremendous art. The villains' section is saturated with color, while there's once again a lack of color when Butcher meets Willard in the diner. This helps differentiate the two scenes, of course, while allowing the American flag on Butcher's rig to pop, but it also subtly hints at the otherworldly insanity of the villains as opposed to the more mundane state trooper sitting in a diner. It's a nice contrast.

This is once again a wildly fun comic to read, and the fact that we "only" get 18 pages of comic is mitigated by Casey's manic backmatter, which I hope is a regular feature (and maybe Huddleston will chime in occasionally). It's a groovy package, and I'm having a lot of fun reading it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Casanova: Gula #4 (of 4) ("Hallo Spaceboy"/"Dit Dit Dit Dah Dah Dit Dit") by Matt Fraction (writer), Fábio Moon (artist, "Spaceboy"), Gabriel Bá (artist, "Dit"), Cris Peter (colorist), and Dustin K. Harbin (letterer). $3.99, 40 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

I'm really worried about Casanova: Avaritia, which is coming in September. I worry because Fraction's Marvel work has been less than superb, and I hope he can still bring the genius that he exhibited in Casanova a few years ago to the rest of the series and not slide into the solid-but-slightly-generic superhero mode he shows on a lot of what I've read of his Marvel work. If the back-up story in this issue is any indication (even though it's a bit old), he can still write the kind of craziness that makes Casanova so good, so let's hope he does. Still having Moon and Bá on art should help, of course. The back-up story, which stars Suki Boutique, is a trifle, but it's an interesting trifle that shows Fraction still has his chops even if he's not quite showing them these days.

Of course, this is the final story of "When is Casanova Quinn?", where everything gets explained and later arcs are set up. Reading it with the knowledge of what's going on helped a bit, but the wonderful thing about Casanova is that it invites multiple readings, as it's complex without being opaque, so I look forward to digging through it again and again. As for people who were waiting for the trade way back when and were disappointed when it never got collected ... here's your chance. Do yourself a favor and pick up the trade!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Li'l Depressed Boy #3 ("You're No Rock N' Roll Fun") by S. Steven Struble (writer/colorist/letterer) and Sina Grace (artist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

I still don't understand why this shambling muppet of a comic book (reflecting its main character) works so well, but it keeps working very well. It couldn't just be the Chew T-shirt that LDB wears in the issue (which looks suspiciously like mine), could it? I don't know. I just enjoy the way LDB and Jazmin interact with each other, from the goofiness of their shopping trip to the fact that LDB gives her a birthday present that is silly but extremely sweet. Struble's dialogue feels spot-on, from LDB dropping to his knees melodramatically to Jazmin saying, "There was an incident. Don't ask," which is dismissive but charming all at once. The book always ends weirdly, too - this time a concert by The Like gets interrupted by cops, and the book just ends - which is part of its charm, because it's as if we're intruding on real life and then someone hustles us away, telling us we'll have to wait to see what happens next. It's very hard to explain how weirdly good this comic is. I haven't been able to yet, three issues in, and all I can say is that it's a very nice love story that somehow manages to capture so much about the early stages of romance. How? Beats me. But that's kind of how love works, too, innit?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Next Men #5 by John Byrne (writer/artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

John Byrne's Next Men is a comic book written and drawn by John Byrne™. Therefore, it features "John-Byrne-style dialogue™" and "John-Byrne-style artwork™" along with "John-Byrne-style plot twists™" and "John-Byrne-style cliffhangers™." The "John-Byrne-style face™" is also in evidence, while the "John-Byrne-style haircuts™" are all over this motherfucker. Please do not pick up this comic expecting anything other than a "John-Byrne-style comic™," because you're sure as shit not going to get it. Look at that cover! It's got "John-Byrne-style style™" all over it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Northlanders #39 ("The Siege of Paris: Conclusion") by Brian Wood (writer), Simon Gane (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

As is often the case with an arc of Northlanders, Wood doesn't end things the way we might expect. In some cases, it's because historical events conspire against him, as it is with "The Siege of Paris," which ended when Charles the Fat bribed the Vikings to stop besieging Paris. This doesn't sit well with Mads, the protagonist of the story, and as I enjoy reading into Wood's comics every little thing I can (it's a compliment, really, because I think Wood is such an interesting writer that it feels to me like he personalizes a lot of his stories), I wonder how much of Mads railing against the settlement is Wood himself wondering about the meanness of small men who sit on thrones but don't rule or even govern, preferring instead to let money do all their talking for them? Can we see in the final page a hope by Wood that men will seize something instead of allowing someone else to buy it for them? I hope so, although I doubt it. Mads couldn't help but be angry by the fact that his men died attempting to take a city that the invaders didn't even want, and his quiet rebellion at the end indicates that he will get his wish soon enough. Perhaps Wood is pointing out the irony that men of action get ground under the wheel of progress while someone like Abbo, who hovers on the fringes, gets to put his stamp on history simply because he knows how to write. Again, is Wood implicating himself in this? Wood himself twists history - Joscelin, the bishop of Paris, was probably not killed fighting, but more importantly, Wood neglects to mention that Abbo himself records that Charles did allow the Vikings to plunder the area around Sens, which is further upriver than Paris anyway. So Mads could have slaked his thirst for battle anyway, had he chosen to do so. One of the reasons why Wood's writing is so good is because he layers metaphor on top of and under the text itself, so that a simple resolution to a 1200-year-old siege can mean many other things. Wood constantly undermines our expectations, and that's a good thing. It's no fun to always get what you think you're going to get, right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Ryder on the Storm #3 (of 3) by David Hine (writer), Wayne Nichols (artist), Hugo Petrus (artist), Feigiap Chong (colorist), Sansan Saw (colorist), Richard Starkings (letterer), and Jimmy Betancourt (letterer). $4.99, 50 pgs, FC, Radical Comics.

Speaking of comics that conform to our expectations, the final issue of Ryder on the Storm does just that - Hine has confounded expectations in horror stories before, but he doesn't really do so here. We know that Ryder is going to remain a good guy even though he found out last issue that he's a Daemon, a member of the race that's planning on taking over the world and killing/enslaving humanity, so any tension over his allegiance is gone, and we're left with a fairly standard horror story that moves along briskly but with no surprises. It's not a terrible comic by any means, and there are some nice icky moments, but it's basically a horror story that you've seen many, many times before. If you like horror comics, you might enjoy this, but if you don't, this probably won't change your mind.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Warriors #26 ("Wheels Within Wheels Part Four") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Alessandro Vitti (artist), Imaginary Friends Studio (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

In the grand tradition of Hickman pulling a fast one on the readers of this comic, after a lackluster issue #25 that promised all sorts of revelations and delivered them without really wowing anyone, this issue promises nothing and kicks everyone in the head, as shocking revelation follows shocking revelation until the final page. It's just damned cool, as Hickman is doing a nice job pulling everything together, and even though he's backed off on the fine character work that he was doing just a few issues ago, as a plot-driven comic in a plot-driven comic series, this is pretty cool. Nick Fury and Baron von Strucker sit in a room and talk, and all their secrets come out. It's pretty keen.

There's still a faint whiff of pointlessness about this title, because it's still unclear why Hickman felt the need to tell this story, both as its own entity and within the context of the Marvel Universe. I mean, I dig spy stories as much as the next guy, but even I'm not sure what the ultimate reason for this book is. However, Hickman is wrapping it up nicely, and I do look forward to reading the entire thing to see how it all fits together. Perhaps the joy of the puzzle will be enough. Who knows?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sherlock Holmes: Year One #3 ("The Twelve Caesars: Part Three") by Scott Beatty (writer), Daniel Indro (artist), Tony Aviña (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

I'm a bit curious about Holmes and his reasoning with regard to the number of victims in this comic. I can't recall if anything has given him an idea that Suetonius is providing a guide to the murderer, but he has it in his head that the Roman writer is. We know he is because the name of the story arc is "The Twelve Caesars," of course, which is a deliberate echo of Suetonius's famous work, but does Holmes know that? The reason I ask is because at the end of this issue, when we have six victims, Holmes tells Watson that the murderer is not done, because "There were twelve Caesars in all." Well, no there weren't, unless Holmes is specifically referring to Suetonius, but what within the text would point him that way? So far, all we know is that the victims are dying in the manner of the Roman rulers - Suetonius began with Julius Caesar, as did the murderer, but Julius Caesar was emperor in all but name, so that doesn't necessarily mean Holmes can infer a Suetonius connection. Meanwhile, Nero is the last of the Julio-Claudians, which is the family of Julius Caesar, and Galba, who succeeded Nero, had no connection with the family whatsoever. The only reason there are "twelve Caesars" is because Suetonius was writing during the reign of the "fifteenth," Hadrian, about whom he wasn't about to write, given that he was Hadrian's personal secretary. For some reason Suetonius didn't write about Nerva and Trajan, Hadrian's immediate successors, perhaps because they were both of the same "family" as Hadrian (family ties in the Roman succession included "adoption" by the emperor of his heir, so they needn't be biological father-son relationships), so it would have been bad form. Anyway, the title of "caesar" originated in A.D. 69, when Galba took it to emphasize his legitimacy - thereafter, the heir to the throne was known as "caesar," so there were far, far more than twelve of them. My entire point is that Holmes seems to have figured out a Suetonian connection but Beatty hasn't divulged where he came across such a connection. The fact the murderer leaves Latin inscriptions with each victim can't be the connection, can it? They're awfully generic to be so closely connected to Suetonius.

Yeah, I think about these things. It's what I do!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

S.H.I.E.L.D. by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Pitarra (artist, "Colossus"), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist, "Colossus"), Zachary Baldus (artist, "The Hidden Message"), Kevin Mellon (artist, "Life, the End of the World, and the Key"), Dan Brown (colorist, "Life, the End of the World, and the Key"), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (artist, "The Apple"), and Todd Klein (letterer). $4.99, 32 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Hickman whets our appetite for more S.H.I.E.L.D. with this anthology of stories drawn by artists who, unfortunately, might never get a sniff of a regular Marvel comic. The first story is just an excuse for Hickman to show the Colossus of Rhodes fighting a Kree robot (like this one, but bigger!), which is just about as awesome as it sounds. The second and third stories seem more like a piece of the ongoing that will be important later, because they don't seem to have much impact as separate stories, although they feature nice art by Baldus and Mellon. And the fourth story simply shows the lengths that Isaac Newton will go to in order further S.H.I.E.L.D.'s agenda. It feels like another standalone story that just illuminates the nature of the characters involved. It's nicely drawn by Hernandez, who seems to show up in the anthologies that Marvel puts out quite often - they like his work, I guess, but not enough to give him a book. Oh well. Hickman takes several liberties with the deaths of the various scientists as shown (Liebniz, for instance, didn't die in 1707), but it's the Marvel Universe, so things may have played out differently. I don't expect the Egyptians actually fought off a Brood invasion, for instance.

Anyway, this is a nice little teaser for the second volume of S.H.I.E.L.D. As you know, I'm a bit more inclined to like wacky counterfactual historical fiction more than most, but Hickman is doing a very nice job with this series, and these stories just add more weird layers to what's going on. I'm just along for the ride!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Starborn #5 by Chris Roberson (writer), Khary Randolph (artist), Matteo Scalera (artist), Mitch Gerads (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Part of the reason why I enjoy Starborn is because Khary Randolph's art is so manic that it helps propel Roberson's high-octane script along nicely. Randolph still draws most of this and from what I can tell, Scalera has the same sort of energy, so if Randolph needs a break or is leaving the comic, I suppose Scalera is a good replacement, but I do hope that Boom! keeps an artist who's similar to Randolph on the book, because this weird sci-fi book needs the brash, cartoony art of the Randolph style to work, I think - a more "realistic" style would really drag the fun of the book down. Starborn works pretty much because you don't have to think about it too much, and more "realism" is precisely what it doesn't need.

Anyway, Benday dots are cool. More comics need them.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Superboy #6 ("Reign of Doomsday Part 5: No Fear") by Jeff Lemire (writer), Marco Rudy (artist), Jamie Grant (colorist), Dominic Regan (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

I wish I hadn't bought this issue. I knew it was part of the "Reign of Doomsday" crossover, in which I have no interest, but I was kind of hoping it would be a standalone chapter and maybe Lemire would somehow make it work. Well, it isn't, and he doesn't. Much like Steel in the execrable single issue that began this mess, Conner is whisked away at the end by a Doomsday who is suddenly way more powerful than he ever was before. I mean, this issue is exactly like that one - a hero with a connection to Superman is attacked, fights back, makes pithy comments about different Doomsday is, is beaten, and is taken away. GAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! Did we really need to see that twice? Or however many other times we've seen it in parts 2-4? Blech. Skip this comic, please. It has nothing to do with the ongoing, and next issue Conner will be back to doing Superboy things and will never mention this caesura again. GAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!

Two things: I completely forgot that this Conner is the same punk who used to hang out in Hawaii in the 1990s. That cracked me up for some reason. And Marco Rudy is still pretty good, as he's been for some time. Shouldn't he be getting some higher-profile work?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sweets #5 (of 5) by Kody Chamberlain (writer/artist). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

As with most mini-series that take a while to come out (this final issue was solicited in September and due in November), I can't really get a handle on this until I re-read it. This feels a bit anti-climactic from what has come before, although the way Curt figures out what the killer is trying to do is nifty. It's a tense issue, even if it ends oddly - Chamberlain doesn't quite pull all the threads together, although he does change things up well enough so that this isn't just another cops-and-killers tale. As I've been pointing out throughout the series, what's most impressive about Sweets is the way Chamberlain creates the mood of the book - Hurricane Katrina is bearing down on New Orleans, adding naturalistic tension to Curt's case, and the fact that Curt still doesn't know what's going on is a good, weird touch. Chamberlain continues to shift style and even coloring to add moodiness to the book, and it works well. While the ending might leave you a bit cold - it did me - what makes Sweets a good comic is that Chamberlain has always taken advantage of the strengths of the form to create an interesting work of art. It's not perfect, but it's still an impressive achievement.

The delays in the scheduling means that this will read better in a trade paperback format, and I encourage you to check it out. Chamberlain has done some wacky work in the past, but Sweets should make more people aware of him and his skills. It's a big step forward for him as a creator, and I'm keen to see what he's going to do next.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #6 ("Scared Little Girls") by Nick Spencer (writer), CAFU (penciller), Bit (inker), Santiago Arcas (colorist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

I don't get many things in this world, especially when it comes to comic book publishing. So here's T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, which is a good comic that can't be long for this plane. It just doesn't sell for shit, which is too bad, because it's pretty good. But I don't get it. I mean, DC publishes stuff well below the threshold of cancellation that Marvel has, so maybe it's just working for them. But then Nick Spencer goes off and signs an exclusive with Marvel. Yet, as of issue #9 in July, he's still writing this book. It's not like he created it or anything, so why does he get the Jason Aaron exception? Is issue #9 his final one? Was he just so far ahead in scripts that DC still has them in the can? Beats me. As for that Marvel exclusive, what the hell? Has Nick Spencer ever proven that he can sell comics? I mean, this comic is barely moving units, and I can't imagine Spencer's Jimmy Olsen comic lighting up the charts. Why on earth did Marvel sign him to an exclusive? I mean, good for him, but what's in the water over there at Marvel? I guess they know what they're doing, right?

So this is another good issue. Toby gets some news, Colleen gets some news, some sheikh gets his comeuppance. Do you really come here for reviews? I mean, I'm lousy at them! I'm much better at ranting about things I know nothing about!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Uncanny X-Men #535 ("Breaking Point Part One") by Kieron Gillen (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), Rachel Dodson (inker), Justin Ponsor (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Here's one of the reasons I don't like Terry Dodson even though I like Terry Dodson (parse that, motherfuckers!): All his women are built the same way. Now, it's a pleasing way of build, and I'm certainly glad they aren't giant-boobed and tiny-waisted, but check out that cover. Kitty is built like a brick shithouse, and if there's one way Kitty should not be drawn, it's like a brick shithouse. Even if she's now 23 or 24 years old, I still can't believe she'd be built like a brick shithouse. Emma? Sure. Kitty? Not so much.

Anyway, Dodson also draws pretty much all males faces the same way, but since women's bodies are a bit more ... um ... distinctive? than men, it's more obvious with his women. However, I enjoy Dodson's work, so I'm glad he's drawing my re-introduction to the flagship X-book rather than - sigh - Greg Land. At least I can see if Gillen is bringing his "A" game before I can't tell because the art is so very horrible.

For the most part, this is a pretty good issue. Gillen gets to revisit Abigail Brand, whom he obviously likes, and he gets to write Dr. Nemesis, who must be a hoot to write (his dialogue is by far the best in this issue). It's a solid beginning to the run (even though Gillen has been co-writing and the .1 issue was his first solo issue). Far more than Fraction, Gillen seems to have a handle on the characters, and while he might bring in dozens of characters like Fraction ended up doing, at least in this issue he keeps the cast small. (As I pointed out last week, if I had to choose an X-team, these six, along with Gambit, would be the ones I would least want to use, with the possible exception of Kitty. Well, I like Wolverine, but jeebus has he been overused. Anyway, unlike the X-fans Tim Callahan spoke of in his podcast last week, I don't judge the goodness of Uncanny X-Men by whether the writer is using my favorite characters. I'm perfectly willing to let Gillen write these characters well. Unless he brings in Gambit. Sweet Mother of Christ, I hate Gambit.) I was a bit worried that this first arc would be about the X-Men in Space, which is always a bad idea, but it appears from the ending twist that it might not. (I'm serious - name one great X-Men arc that takes place in space. Maybe - maybe - you could make a case for the first Phoenix story, but that's about it. Even the Dark Phoenix stuff didn't take place too much in space, and then only the moon, which almost doesn't count. The Brood saga was fine but too long, and since then it's been pretty much crap. Why almost every X-writer feels the need to send the X-Men into space is beyond even my powers!!!!) So there's that.

All in all, I'm a bit more hopeful about this transition than I was when Fraction took over from Brubaker. Maybe because I thought Brubaker was finding his mojo on the book and then he left, and even the Brubaker/Fraction co-written issues felt a bit off. Maybe I just like Gillen more than I like Fraction. Whatever it is, I'm on board for at least one Greg Land arc, just to see if my repulsion to his art will ruin my enjoyment of Gillen's writing. That would be a damned shame, wouldn't it?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris #2 (of 5) ("Colossus of Mars Part Two: The Liberation") by Arvid Nelson (writer), Carlos Rafael (artist), Carlos Lopez (colorist), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

At one point in this issue, Dejah Thoris says, "We women of Helium can defend ourselves just as ably as the men!" That's fine and all (as you can see below, Dejah Thoris does some ass-kicking in this issue), but here's what's funny about this series so far: Dejah Thoris is the only woman in it. When the Green Martians attack the city, no women defend it. If they're so competent, where are they? It's not a big deal (the mini-series focuses on Dejah Thoris, after all), but I just found it humorous.

I also wonder about how a writer puts together a script and how an artist interprets it. Dejah Thoris threatens some dude with death, and Rafael draws an entire panel of the dude peeing his pants (well, loincloth) because he's so damned scared. An entire panel! First of all, I wouldn't even conceive of telling an artist to draw an entire panel of some dude pissing himself, if I were writing this comic. Second, when you have a limited amount of space to tell a story, do you really want to waste an entire panel (granted, it's not a huge panel, but it's still a panel) of some dude peeing? Really? I don't know - it just seems weird. The dude is already an obviously a pampered popinjay, so why rub it in?

I also like the fact that Rafael seems to indicate that 400 years ago on Mars, they had breast implants, as in one panel Dejah Thoris's breasts look like they've been ... attached. All in all, though, the art is still solid.

I don't have much to say about this series. Nelson does a nice job moving the plot along, the weird colossus thing is spooky, and there's the panel below in this book yet Dynamite still doesn't allow anyone, male or female, to go around naked. Yay, comics!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

No big collections or graphic novels this week, so I have some room to chat about other things (okay, I always have room to chat, I just like making it sound like Our Dread Lord and Master keeps up on a tight leash). My daughter is still in drawing class, and this week they were doing a series of pictures that showed motion and a humorous situation. Yes, they were drawing comic books! Yee-fucking-ha! Now, she copied these from a template, but as she didn't trace it, I figured she's one up on Greg Land! Here's the sequence:

She only had time to color the first one in class, so she had to do the other two at home. You'll notice in the middle one, she boldly chose to color directly from pencils, and while she did that in the third one too, her use of magic markers rather than crayons meant that Dad had to ink her pencils so that you could see the outlines. You'll notice how well she captures the existential crisis of the bird in the second panel as it tugs futilely at the worm, and check out the sheer terror of the worm in the third panel as it snaps! Oh, the pathos! When I told Norah that I had to ink her pencils, she told me, very authoritatively, that people in the olden days dipped their pens in ink because they didn't have pencils. I explained to her that these days the ink is right inside the pen, which kind of dazzled her. Kids are awesome - mundane knowledge dazzles them!

Moving on ... In my travels around the Internet, I stumble across some odd things. One thing I stumbled across today should have ended the book publishing industry forever, because it is the perfect book. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ...

There is no way any book can come close to matching the sheer awesomeness of Hot Pants Homo. Not Muscle Boy or Queer Daddy, I'll tell you that much. Certainly not Lesbo Lodge! That this book is not available on Amazon is a traveshamockery, I'll tell you that much.

Strange things are afoot in the The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Abigial, Belle of Kilronan" - Magnetic Fields (1999) "An evil wind is blowing through the land and they need every man to drive it away"2. "All My Little Words" - Magnetic Fields (1999) "You said you were in love with me; both of us know that that's impossible"3. "To Be Lonely" - Mucky Pup1 (1991) "Look for reasons why but nothing becomes of it"4. "Oh Virginia" - Blessid Union of Souls (1995) "I can't wait to get there and tell 'em that I miss my second home"5. "Crazy" - Seal2 (1991) "Miracles will happen as we speak"6. "Take Your Whiskey Home" - Van Halen (1980) "It takes me at least halfway to the label before I can even make it through the night"7. "Panama" - Van Halen3 (1984) "Don't you know she's coming home with me, you'll lose her in that turn"8. "St. Teresa" - Joan Osborne (1995) "She bold as the street light dark and sweet as hash"9. "Jerusalem" - Emerson, Lake, and Palmer (1973) "Bring me my arrows of desire!"10. "Doing it Again" - Token Entry (1990)

1 Mucky Pup wrote the Billy and the Boingers song "U-Stink-Buy-I-♥-U" for Berke Breathed and Bloom County. Here's the video. It features that hair-sprayed VJ dude, Adam What's-His-Name. He was awesome.2 I always have to stop and realize that Seal is married to this woman. SEAL! THIS WOMAN!!!!!3 I don't know why the randomness of the iPod occasionally kicks up two songs in a row by the same artist. When it happens this close together with two different artists, it's kind of weird.

Last week no one got the Totally Random Movie Quote. It was from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which remains a great movie even if you discount this. Interestingly enough, Mike guessed Say Anything, which is weird. I guess Cameron Crowe has a "sound" to his dialogue. Anyway, here's this week's quote:

"You are going up to the castle tonight as, well, yes, as a domestic.""How? Naked?""Not a bad idea, but it's a bit obvious."

The best quote from this movie is "hello," but that's a tad vague and out-of-context, isn't it? Anyway, have at it!

Finally, because I can, here's Ellen Page in a superhero costume:

Have a nice day, everyone!

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