What I bought - 13 March 2013

We must harness the revolutionary Poles in the fight against Russia, we must promise the separation of this land from Russia even if it means sacrificing Galicia, so that this giant may be weakened and driven back on Asia, unless the whole earth is not to be sooner or later divided between two powers: the North Americans and the Russians. (Field-Marshal Franz Kuhn von Kuhnenfeld of Austria, 1870)

Change #4 (of 4) ("This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)") by Ales Kot (writer), Morgan Jeske (artist), Sloane Leong (colorist), and Ed Brisson (letterer). $3.50, 38 pgs, FC, Image.

Change wraps up, and it's definitely one of those series that I'm going to have to re-read to process it better. Issue #3 was excellent, but this issue didn't quite reach those heights, although it's still impressive how much Kot's ambition is able to sync up with his ability. As I've noted before, I love when creators are ambitious, and Kot is certainly that. The biggest problem I had with this issue is that Kot goes weirdly low-brow at the climax, and I got kind of lost. Not that he went low-brow, but why what happened helped the situation. This is why I want to re-read this, because it seems like a strange way to end the series. It's as if Kot felt that he was becoming too esoteric and he needed to add some potty humor. I'm not exactly sure the story needs it. I don't mind if writers deflate their own pretentions, but it can be too silly, as well, and the delicate beauty of a good deal of Kot's writing (and there's nothing wrong with the way he strings words together, as it can be absolutely wonderful) doesn't seem served by that. It was strange reading this, because it really did feel like Kot felt like he couldn't get away with his flights of fancy and he needed to bring it down a notch. I don't think the series needed it. Ultimately, this is a fascinating story about love and loss, and how we move through the world even though we have lost love, and Kot does a superb job with that aspect of the series. He needs some of the trappings of the plot to reach his conclusions, but those are the things that don't play out as well. Oh well.

If nothing else, Change gives us a creator who has a ton of talent and ambition and shows that he can write comics that don't simply rely on being clever, like I felt Wild Children did. Kot proves that he is someone to watch, as do Jeske and Leong, both of whom have done superb work on this book (so has Brisson, for that matter, but he was a bit more prominent before this book). The three creators put together a beautiful-looking book, one that is extremely effective in giving us some perfect moments, and while I'm not sure if the plot holds together as well as it could, it's still a gripping read. As I mentioned, I'll definitely have to re-read and that might change my mind, but right now, this is one of the better comics of the young year. Will it still be that way when 2013 is over? We shall see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Jeske and Leong do stellar work on this page, as the ourobouros paint smear anchors the entire page, and the mirror images of the character kissing is a powerful image. Kot's simple chant on the page lulls us into their world, as we're almost hypnotized by this strange dance the character and his doppelgänger engage in. This is a beautiful comic, and this is just one example of that.

The Manhattan Projects #10 ("Finite Oppenheimers") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Ryan Browne (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Ryan Browne (of God Hates Astronauts fame) steps in for a one-off that delves further into Robert Oppenheimer and the odd way he's been experiencing the events of this series. If you recall, Oppenheimer had some problems with his brother, Joseph, earlier in the series, and he's been existing in kind of a phase-shift way throughout the comic. In this issue, we delve into Joseph Oppenheimer's mind and find ... Robert, who's on almost a Grail Quest inside his brother's mind. Essentially, this is an excuse for Browne to draw freaky shit and to let Hickman write Robert punching a horse (see below). Oh, I kid - obviously Hickman is in this for the long haul (as he often is), so while this is a single issue story, he definitely sets up a rather thunderous conflict that will have repercussions for the "outside world" of the book. But, yeah - horse punching.

I'm actually not too big a fan of God Hates Astronauts, but Browne does a pretty good job filling in for Pitarra on this issue. Part of that, of course, is Bellaire's blue-and-red color scheme that has been part of the book from the beginning, but Browne does some nice work with the way Joseph's mind opens up to Robert, from the giant rock formation in the shape of Oppenheimer's head to the battle between Robert and the assassin. Browne has a smoother line than Pitarra does, but he still has a kind of herky-jerky style that fits with the idea of everyone inside Joseph's mind being a marionette. It is, as it has been with Pitarra on art, one of the more unique-looking comics on the stands, and that's a testament to Browne's interesting style and Bellaire's superb colors. The book doesn't miss a beat, visually.

I suppose that next issue starts a new arc (the second trade ends here), so we'll see where Hickman goes with this. The Manhattan Projects continues to be a weird and cool comic. I hope Hickman keeps it going!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Honestly, what else is there to say? It's Oppenheimer punching a horse, kicking a horse, and then biting the ear off of a horse. If Hickman didn't write this page just so Chris Sims could have a joyful, nerdy orgasm, then I'll eat my hat.

Mars Attacks #8 by John Layman (writer/letterer), John McCrea (artist), Andrew Elder (colorist), and Denton J. Tipton (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW. Mars Attacks created by Len Brown, Woody Gelman, Wally Wood, Bob Powell, and Norman Saunders.

The cover pretty much says it all, doesn't it? If you recall, last issue a mob snitch named Ray Delvechio fled to Tortilla Flats (which is in New Mexico in the book, but I'm sure you know there's an actual place in lovely AZ called Tortilla Flat, right?) to hide out and ended up stealing the Martian translator that the kid had cobbled together. So in this issue, he decides to sell out humanity by working with the Martians, telling them how to find the dude who built the weapon that can wipe them out in exchange for protection. Things go really well ... until they don't. Layman tells the story from the point of view of Blyx, a Martian who's not sure that humans are as bad as the Martian leaders say they are, and when he meets Ray (Raydlvyko according to the Martians), he's even more convinced. The joke of the issue is that Ray is not a very nice dude, but the translator isn't quite finished and Ray uses a lot of slang, so the Martians don't know that he's kind of a dick. Of course, that can't last. Can it?

As always, Layman has a lot of fun with the war, and McCrea goes nuts with the violence - the hitmen from last issue show up, but this time Ray has Martian weaponry at his disposal, so things go a lot differently than they did last issue. Meanwhile, Layman advances the overall plot a bit, too, which is nice. He's gotten quite good at doing that sort of thing - writing good single issues while filling in a greater plot.

Anyway, as the first seven issues have been, this is a lot of fun. There's really nothing more to say about it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

McCrea has some fun here, with the fist bump a highlight. You see how Layman works this issue - the narration gives us Blyx's thoughts, while Ray's dialogue constantly subverts it. It's done well.

Mind the Gap #8 ("Wish You Were Here Part 3: The Walk-In") by Jim McCann (writer), Rodin Esquejo (artist), Arif Prianto (colorist), Dave Lanphear (letterer), and Rob Levin (editor). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Image.

It's kind of tough to write about Mind the Gap. I mean, I find it interesting, and I think McCann has paced things pretty well, and there are enough revelations in each issue to keep things intriguing, but I also get if it's not your bag. Despite what I think is pretty good pacing, McCann does have a long game in mind, so he definitely keeps things close to the vest and doles out revelations like papal dispensations to the non-rich. There's also not a whole hell of a lot of action in any random issue of Mind the Gap, so Esquejo gets to draw a lot of people talking, which can be deadly. It's not that McCann doesn't realize he's working in a visual medium - in some of his comics, he lets the artist do a lot - it's just that a lot of Mind the Gap is about characters talking to each other. But it works for me.

So in this issue, we learn a tiny bit more about what Elle's parents are up to, we learn a tiny bit more about the nurse who's been lurking around, we learn a tiny bit more about Miles, and Katie dies. Yeah, sorry about that - it's really not that big a surprise, as several characters told us she was going to. Apparently a characters dies next issue, too. I promise I won't spoil that, because it seems like it will be a shock. Oh, and Elle returns to the "Garden," where other spirits have learned of her ability. That doesn't seem like a good thing.

So stuff happens, and I keep enjoying it, even though I imagine it might frustrate some people. It has to be frustrating to McCann, who actually takes time out to have Elle explain the title of the comic - come on, people, it's not rocket science! But I still like the book, and after issue #10, I'm going to re-read it to see how well McCann plants clues throughout. That should be fun!

I do want to question something in the book, though, because I don't know if McCann gets something wrong. Now, this is an unusual circumstance, as Dr. Geller points out, but when Elle's mother asks her how she has access to Elle's medical records (as Elle is not her patient), she says that Elle's doctor authorized it, because they "agree it best to cross-reference as quickly as possible." I'm sure there's nothing on record that says that when one patient is possessed by the spirit of another patient, all rules go out the window, but HIPAA is a bitch, let me tell you, and I doubt if Dr. Hammond - Elle's doctor - would so blithely allow Dr. Geller to see Elle's medical records. They're both opening themselves up for a doozy of a lawsuit, I'll tell you that much. Just a thought that occurred to me when I read that, due mainly to real-life concerns that I have. Yes, I'm nitpicking. That's what I do!

But Mind the Gap continues to be a pretty good comic. Strange things are afoot at the Circle K!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

You know, for a spirit who can go places other people can't, Elle's not very helpful!

The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror #2 (of 4) by Roger Langridge (writer), J. Bone (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Tom B. Long (letterer), and Scott Dunbier (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW. The Rocketeer created by Dave Stevens.

If you get Langridge and Bone to write and draw a Rocketeer comic, you can be reasonably certain it's going to be pretty good, and this is. I mean, it's a Rocketeer adventure - Betty is going to be strong-willed and do something that makes Cliff crazy; at some point she'll probably wear something that leaves very little to the imagination (which she does in this issue); Cliff will get into a situation that seems hopeless because he's not very bright and allows his emotions to rule his actions; and the bad guys will do dastardly things. Langridge has a lot on his plate here, with the weird religious leader who's wearing what looks like a Nehru jacket almost a decade before Nehru himself began wearing them and 30 years before they became hip in the West, the two punks who want the rocket in the "ROCKETeer" back, and there's still that monster thing. So yeah - there's a lot going on. But it's all very fun. Oh, and Nick and Nora Charles are definitely in this comic, as Betty meets their dog, Asta. That's kind of odd, but whatever.

See, this continues to be a weird week. A bunch of solid comics by good creators, and I don't have much to say about any of them. They're good. What do you want?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

J. Bone's body language and facial expressions here are well done. Reverend Rune speaks of a threat to the Hollywood dam, and even though Cliff knows he's a fake, it doesn't really dawn on him that Rune might have some kind of plot going. So he waves to Betty in Panel 4 (he didn't know she was going to be up on stage with Rune, so it's a surprise to see her), and she gives him a "What are you going to do?" look. Then he points out that Rune is probably a bit off, and she gives him a "fruit loop" hand gesture (although I can't find anything that would indicate that this was in common usage in 1939 - I suppose it could have been, but I don't know). He figures out that Rune just might have something going on, and hustles out of there. It's pretty well done by Bone.

Where Is Jake Ellis? #3 (of 5) by Nathan Edmondson (writer), Tonci Zonjic (artist/letterer), and Joseph Frazzetta (color assistant). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

I had hoped that this book wouldn't be as delayed as the first mini-series, but issue #2 came out in December, so I guess that ship has sailed. I imagine this book doesn't pay its creators anything, which is why they have to take other work, but it's too bad - it remains a fun little spy thriller, and I think it would work better in quicker bursts, even though I also think it works well in single issues. So in this issue, we learn just a bit more about Jon's connection to Jake, and we also learn that, not surprisingly, the guv'mint has replicated their interesting relationship, so they know how to counter it a bit. Jake is able to help Jon a little, but the bad guys don't let him help him completely, and as Jon's not quite as good at field work as Jake, things get a bit dicey. Meanwhile, Mollie, the young lady who helped Jon and is caught up in his schemes, decides he's crazy and walks away. Do you think she'll be gone long?

This is just another good issue, wonderfully drawn by Zonjic, but as usual, I take issue with the coloring. I don't know if Zonjic does his work digitally these days, but like some other recent comics, this looks very dark in places when it's printed, and I don't know if it's a function of it being colored digitally with no regard for how it looks on the printed page or the glossy paper comics use these days or a combination of the two (probably the combo). It's very frustrating, because there are times when it's hard to see what's going on. I honestly don't know if anyone in the offices of any comics company has noticed this. That would be weird if they hadn't.

I do hope the final two issues come out in a relatively timely manner. In a perfect world, Edmondson and Zonjic could make some coin off of this!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

This is a pretty standard cliché in spy thrillers, especially one where the creators do have a slight sense of humor. The MacGyver contraption that doesn't work for a beat before it does, allowing the hero to think he's totally screwed for a second, usually works, especially in comics, where we actually have to turn the page to see if Jon's homemade bomb does, in fact, explode (it does). This kind of pacing is why comics are awesome - this works in movies, but it works better in comics!

21st Century Boys volume 2 by Naoki Urasawa (writer/artist). $12.99, 196 pgs, BW, Viz Media.

The final volume! Phew! Will I ever have time to sit down and read them all at once? No man can say!

Hair Shirt by Patrick McEown (writer/artist) and Liz Artinan (colorist). $24.95, 119 pgs, FC, SelfMadeHero.

Pat McEown drew the Grendel arc that everyone hated - the one with the Grendel-Prime. Then I lost track of him. But here he is, with a (relatively) new comic - this was published in French in 2010 and in English in 2011, but I've never seen it for sale in the States. Maybe it has been and I've just missed it. I can't read everything, you know! I'm looking forward to it - it looks keen.


I haven't had a chance to surf the Internet very much this week, (it's Spring Break with the kids!), so no links again this Sunday, but I did want to point out Colin Smith's excellent interview with Kieron Gillen about Journey into Mystery (mostly) - Part One and Part Two. It's quite an interesting read - Colin is a clever fellow, so he asks good questions, and KG is also a clever fellow, so he gives good answers (which is why it's fun speaking to him, because he goes off on interesting tangents). He doesn't talk about sex scenes like he did when I interviewed him almost seven (!) years ago, but Colin's questions are far more interesting than anything I could come up with. Go check it out!

[Edit: Hey, I forgot it was Pi Day! Go out and celebrate by memorizing pi to 50 digits, stat! Or simply chant the end of the unofficial Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute fight song: "Cosine, secant, tangent, sine/three point one four one five nine/square root, cube root, log of pi/dis-integrate them, RPI!"]

Remember, you can still follow me on Twitter. I'm very exciting.

Let's check out the Ten Most Recent Songs on My iPod (Which Is Always on Shuffle):

1. "Mofo" - U2 (1997) "Still lookin' for the face I had before the world was made"2. "Light Up" - Styx (1975) "You are here, and so am I, the weather's quite divine, so pass me round your wine, lovely one"3. "Give the People What They Want"1 - Kinks (1981) "Give 'em lots of sex, perversion and rape, give 'em lots of violence, and plenty to hate"4. "Everything Is Equal" - Think Tree2 (1991) "He don't like my native tongue, here, let me cut it out"5. "The Worst Day Since Yesterday" - Flogging Molly (2000) "Hell says hello, well it's time to I should go to pastures green, that I've yet to see"6. "Fear City Slide" - Queensrÿche (2006) "When they find me face down in the river will they just leave me there?"7. "Politics of the Sneaker Pimps" - Public Enemy (1998) "They'll make me do things on the court to amaze ya; I heard they make em for a buck 8 in Asia"8. "Put Down that Weapon" - Midnight Oil (1987) "I must know something to know it's so wrong"9. "Smashing of the Van" - Chumbawamba (1988/2003) "So now kind friends I will conclude I think it would be right that all true-hearted Irish men together should unite"310. "Bad Attitude Shuffle" - Cinderella (1994) "When nobody worries for you, you got to worry for yourself"

1 Oh, early 1980s videos. Did we realize how wonderful we had it back then?

2 This isn't a web site, but a brief documentary about the making of Like the Idea, the band's last album. It's a superb album, and I'm sure it's long out of print, which is too bad. I think I've mentioned before that I found this CD in a record store in Auckland, New Zealand, which I still think is pretty cool, given that they're a fairly obscure American band.

3 This song is from 1867, but Chumbawamba recorded it for English Rebel Songs 1381-1984, which is an excellent album if you ever want to listen to, well, English rebel songs.

Lastly, always remember: Keanu Is Immortal. It's uncanny!

Have a nice weekend, everyone! I hope it's a good one!

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