What I bought - 13 May 2009

There are a bunch o' books below the jump, and for some reason, the beginning of the alphabet gets the shaft this time around. Plus, a treat for all of those people (probably everyone reading this) who think I have horrible musical taste. Dare you read on? DARE YOU?!?!?!?!???!?!?! There's a hint below!

Yeah, that's right, monkey boys. Bwah-ha-ha-ha!!!!!!

Captain Britain and MI 13 #13 ("Vampire State Part Three") by Paul Cornell (writer), Ardian Syaf (penciler), Leonard Kirk (penciler), Craig Yeung (inker), Jay Leisten (inker), Brian Reber (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Cornell continues to blow the doors off most of the Big Two titles, as he shows how a vampire invasion ought to be done, as the vampires have centuries to plan, so why wouldn't they plan for every single contigency? We saw last issue that they solved the problem of not being able to get into Britain, and now they strike, quickly and mercilessly. Obviously, I don't believe for a second that the people who get killed in this issue are actually dead, but Cornell has done such a good job with this that it's still shocking when it happens (and, as none of them are "big" characters, I suppose some of them could actually be dead). As it's in the middle of the story arc, this is when things look the bleakest, and next issue, "We fight back!", and even though that's the standard form for this sort of story, the cleverness with which Cornell has written it so far is appreciated. Dracula didn't come in with brute force, and it makes his victory all the more interesting. There are several ways Cornell could go with this, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he gets our heroes out of the pickle.

And here's a question for people who read more Marvel books than I do: Who are the "real Avengers" that include Wanda and are led by Henry Pym. We have the Dark Avengers and the New Avengers - is this the current Mighty Avengers team? So many Avengers ... makes Greg's head ... hurt!


Elephantmen #19 ("Dangerous Liaisons Four of Eight: Sahara") by Richard Starkings (writer) and Marian Churchland (artist). $3.50, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

The always-awesome Richard Starkings sent this on to me, and I always appreciate it. This is, of course, one of my favorite series, and I always feel like I'm stealing from him because I never pay for it!

The series-within-a-series-within-a-series continues, as Starkings looks at the three significant women in the Elephantmen book as part of the eight-part "Dangerous Liaisons" arc, this time focusing on Sahara, Obadiah Horn's consort. When last we saw Sahara, she had been confronted by her father, Serengheti, at the hospital where Tusk was being held. Somehow Sahara escaped, and in this issue, we find out how. Starkings zips back and forth between the showdown in the hospital and Sahara's early life, as we learn more about her and the forces that shaped her. In some ways, it's a bit clichéd (she's whored out by her father to his soldiers) and even a tiny bit anachronistic (I suppose tribes might still be practicing female circumcision 200 years in the future, but it's a very contemporary event in the book), but it's still a nice "origin" story, in that Sahara learns a valuable lesson that serves her well and that she passes on to her father. It's also interesting in that Sahara is not just Obadiah's lover because he's, you know, well endowed, as she shows the empathy she has for all the transgenics, and Starkings shows us why. As has been the case with the last few issues of the comic, it's a quieter issue, but it's still a powerful chapter in the ongoing saga.

As I wrote last issue, Churchland is a good choice for these kinds of stories, as her almost ethereal art fits well with the flashbacks to the savanna and the sterile atmosphere of the hospital. It's a nice contrast to the oppressive atmosphere we've seen in the noir-ish art the title usually features.

And so another fine issue of Elephantmen comes out. I like how the "real" cover (above is the flip-cover) is a drawing Ian Churchill did of Sahara in 2005. Starkings never throws anything away!

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? Sahara standing up to her father after the abuse she's been through is reminiscent of "Eagle." She doesn't let him drag her down!

Fables #84 ("The Great Fables Crossover Part 4 of 9: Jack's Back") by Bill Willingham (writer), Matthew Sturges (writer), Tony Akins (penciller), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Dan Green (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

It's nice to be reminded why I stopped reading Jack of Fables: I absolutely hate Jack. I'm not sure if Willingham and Sturges love writing him and therefore allow him to dominate any book he's in, but I hate him. I guess it's a testament to how well he's been conceived, but that also means I have no desire to read a book in which he is the star. He's the star in this book, and he's typically dickish. I get that some people would be fooled by him, but why doesn't the Beast, for instance, arrest him like he says he's going to? Is he that flabbergasted by Jack taking over (which it seems) that he's stunned into silence? The best parts of the book are when Beauty, Beast, and King Cole visit Frau Totenkinder, and when Rose Red yells at Jack, as she reveals some interesting truths and some nice depth to her character. Otherwise, it's just Jack being a dick. I can deal with it for a few issues, but it's good to see that there's no reason for me to pick up his own title after the crossover is over.

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? Jack gets the ladies even though he's a tool. "Angeleyes" it is!

Secret Six #9 ("A Debt of Significant Blood") by Gail Simone (writer), Nicola Scott (penciller), Doug Hazlewood (inker), Jason Wright (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Boy, thank God this isn't really a "Battle for the Cowl" tie-in and is just slapped on here to, presumably, goose sales a bit. I mean, it takes place in Gotham, and Catman, Bane, and Ragdoll debate the merits of being heroes and of taking over for Batman, but it's not really a tie-in. And that's perfectly fine.

Simone knocks another issue out of the park, mainly because Ragdoll is freakin' hilarious. Oh, sure, Catman and Bane rescuing kids from being kidnapped because Bane has an issue with kids being hurt is a fine story that allows our "heroes" to be heroic without really being heroic, and the fact that Bane snaps people's spines is nicely parodied by Simone, as one of the bad guys actually begs Bane not to do it, and there's that great visual that hearkens back to Adam West and Burt Ward climbing a building (had I been drinking when I saw the panel, the liquid would have come out of my nose), but Ragdoll steals the issue cleanly, from the moment he shows up ... dressed as Robin ... saying, "Never fear, old chum! The He/She Wonder is on the case! Holy Capital Punishment or some such!" It becomes a riotous comedy routine, but then Simone manages to make a couple of excellent points, one about the Bat-people (notably Nightwing, who shows up at the end) and their sanctimony, the other about Catman's relationship to said Bat-people. Simone is getting better on this title, mainly because she is delving nicely into the characters, and even though the first arc was brilliant for the MacGuffin, what will sustain this book (I hope, although sales are poor) is the nice characterization and interaction between them.

Plus, there's a beefcake shot of Nightwing that I really, really hope is a parody of all the inexplicable ass-shots of women we see in comics. I can't imagine it's not. But hey! ladies (and guys, I suppose, if that's your way) - check out Dick's butt!

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? Those "Super Trouper" lights are going to find the bad guys!

Secret Warriors #4 by Brian Michael Bendis (storier), Jonathan Hickman (storier/scripter), Stefano Caselli (artist), Danielle Rudoni (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Keen observers of the blog might recall that I haven't actually reviewed issues #1-3 of Secret Warriors, yet here I am reviewing issue #4. "What's up with that, Burgas?" they might ask. "Are you some kind of punk?" Well, I very well may be, but not because of this. Secret Warriors #1 sold out rather quickly, and while I wasn't terribly interested in it when it came out, reviews convinced me I might want to check it out. So I had to wait until the second (or possibly third) printing showed up, and for my store to get re-orders on the other two issues, so I just read the first three issues about a week ago. But now issue #4 is out, and I can write about that! Won't that be fun?

Hickman has done a nice job so far with shocking revelations about S.H.I.E.L.D. that seem to fit easily into Marvel history, and he's done a fairly good job with the relatively unknown characters that make up Nick Fury's team. They're still ciphers to a degree, but we're getting to know them, and it's interesting to see what Hickman is doing with them. In this issue, Nick gathers ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to join his cause, which leads to uncomfortable discussions about killing their old comrades who have taken jobs with H.A.M.M.E.R. Hickman writes a good hard-ass Fury, somewhat reminiscent of Ennis's Fury - a war-weary vet who's nevertheless ready to get the job done because wusses have taken over. It's a good version of Fury, and it's nice to see Hickman writing him well. Plus, he has a good handle on the weird mysteries going on, doling out a little at a time (this issue shows us something a bit disturbing about Fury) and whetting our appetite for more.

I do have a few questions about Eden Fesi, the aborigine who Sebastian and Daisy are looking for. I know very little about aborigines, but whenever I've seen them in "real life" and not in Hollywood movies, they dress, well, normally. Is there a reason Eden Fesi is almost naked and has paint all over his body? It doesn't appear, when they reach his camp, that he's in the middle of a ceremony or anything that would require it, so does he just hang out like that? Second, when he's talking about his life, he says, "There's a six letter word keeping me from being what I want to be. You know what that word is? Diaper." And he holds his shorts. Then he launches into a rant about wanting to play guitar. What the hell? Why does he say "Diaper"? Does he mean Gateway still thinks he's a baby and won't let him live life like he wants? That's what I got from it, but I could be wrong. He simply moves on without explaining it, so does that seem the most likely reason for saying it? Anyone have any other reasons?

Anyway, I'm glad I picked this book up. Although, like noted wit Chad Nevett, I also wish the book was called Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing. I suppose it's not just Nick's book, and it's kind of dealing with Secret Invasion, but Agent of Nothing is such a cooler title I can't believe Marvel didn't call it that. If Secret Warriors helps it sell more, I guess it's okay, but still.

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? Nick Fury disavowed? How about "The King Has Lost His Crown"?

Soul Kiss #4 (of 5) ("Come Alive") by Steven T. Seagle (writer) and Marco Cinello (artist). $3.50, 23 pgs, FC, Image.

Lili continues to slaughter her way through the story, but at least the cops are a bit interested in her (she's a serial killer, after all), until the Devil makes that go away as well (a freebie, he tells her). Of course, one of her kisses lands on someone she didn't intend to kill, but that's the way it is, right? Seagle ends the issue with a twist that we could see coming (a bit), but it's still a nice way to set up the final chapter. It's hard to say much else about this series, except that the hints Seagle has been dropping about Lili's relationship were kind of evident from the beginning, not because of anything that was written, but just because that seems to be the way these things go. I know I'm being very oblique, but I kind of have to be. Anyway, we'll see next time how it all ends. Cinello, as usual, does a fine job with the art.

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? You would think "Kisses of Fire" fits, but it fits better for a comic below! Let's go with irony: "Lovers (Live a Little Longer)."

Storming Paradise #5 (of 6) by Chuck Dixon (writer), Rick Burchett (penciler), Jackson Guice (inker), Darlene Royer (colorist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

It's been many months since the previous issue of this series came out, and in the meantime, Guice bailed on the pencilling duties, although Burchett is a fine replacement (and Guice inks him, so the art style doesn't change too much). But at this point, this series has lost any momentum it might have had, and although I'm still mildly interested in it, I think I'll hold off writing about it until it finishes. I will say that it seems like Dixon had a pretty good four-issue mini-series here, and it feels a bit padded to fill out six issues. Oh well.

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? It's a war comic. How about "Soldiers"?

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #6 (of 6) ("The World is Big Enough Without You") by Gerard Way (writer), Gabriel Bá (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), Nate Piekos (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

The way Dark Horse lists this comic is strange. On the cover, the number 6 appears, and there's nothing on it that indicates it's the second mini-series, as the subtitle ("Dallas") does not appear. On the inside cover, the indicia claims it's "NUMBER 12 IN A SERIES," which is true to a certain degree, but that's kind of misleading. I don't really care, I just happened to notice the small print. It's what I do, man!

Way has, once again, done a fine job getting all the plot points into line so that the ending of issue #4 makes sense and the way the mission is accomplished is quite brilliant. If you've read this blog before, you know that time travel stories, as a rule, make my head hurt (even if I like them), so the fact that Way manages it with only a modicum of head-hurtiness is appreciated. What's great about this comic, as with many very good books, is the ancillary stuff. Sure, the mission is interesting, but the way the "siblings" react to each other and some of the more low-key revelations are what make the book. Well, that and Bá's excellent art. Number Five's crazed look is particularly well done - it's angry, but tragic as well. Way has done a good job with the stories, but Bá adds a lot of depth to them. Would Spaceboy be as tragic a figure if Bá didn't make him so grotesque? I doubt it.

Both writer and artist are particularly busy these days, as the letter column tells us, so although they've promised "Series Three," I have a feeling this might go the way of Casanova - you know, on "permanent hiatus." Way, at least, doesn't seem interested in writing for the Big Two (he does have the musical career, after all), so maybe that means we will actually see another mini-series. That would be nice.

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? I'm not sure why "Cassandra" fits, but it does.

The Unknown #1 (of 4) by Mark Waid (writer), Minck Oosterveer (artist), Fellipe Martins (colorist), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

I already reviewed this (and the comic beneath this), so I'll just leave it at that. I will say that I was speaking to Mark Waid on Wednesday (look at me, dropping names all over the place!), and he did confirm that Minck Oosterveer is, indeed, an "international superstar." Check out his web site if you don't believe me!

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? Our Swedish friends don't sing about private investigators, but "I Am the City" is about omniscience, so there you have it!

Unthinkable #1 (of 5) by Mark Sable (writer), Julian Totino Tedesco (artist), Juan Manuel Tumburús (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

s1rude wondered if these two books were 4 dollars. Yes, it's too bad that they are. Still, I'd rather read either one of these before I read, say, Dark Avengers. I know I'm in the minority, but still.

Oh, and Kristian Donaldson needs more work. That's a cool cover.

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? "On and On and On" isn't a perfect fit, but it has a good paranoid vibe.

The Unwritten #1 ("Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity") by Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $1.00, 33 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Vertigo's new policy of offering the first issues of their series for a buck and giving the reader extra pages is a no-brainer, I would think. I don't know if it will lead to more people trying the series and therefore sticking around, thereby saving it the fate of, say, Young Liars, but why wouldn't the Big Two do this more often? What do you have to lose, except one thin dollar? But that's just me.

Of course, it would help if the books are good. The Unwritten has a ton of potential, so that's nice. If you've read any Vertigo books over the past few months, you know the premise - Tom Taylor's father wrote a series of books starring Tommy Taylor, a Harry Potter-esque wizard, and the theory is that he based the character roughly on his son. His father disappeared, and now Tom spends his time signing autographs at conventions. At one such event, a young lady questions his very existence, as things don't seem to add up in his past, and Tom is swept into a world where his business manager is working against him, the fictional nemesis from the books kidnaps him, and people worldwide believe that he's actually "Tommy," not Tom. It's a nicely constructed first issue, giving us plenty of information but leaving enough out and setting up the longer story. Gross is great, as usual, and Carey once again proves that when's not trying to reconcile every single aspect of X-Men continuity, he can tell a nice rip-roaring tale. There's a lot going on in this issue, and what's keen about it is that we can anticipate that some things will turn out to be red herrings, but we can't figure out what. It adds a nice mystery to the proceedings even if it seems that Carey is showing all his cards.

I honestly have no idea why you wouldn't pick this up, just to check it out. Is it really that important to buy the latest issue of Booster Gold?

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? It's a first issue for a buck! That screams "Take a Chance on Me"!

X-Factor #43 ("Timely Events") by Peter David (writer), Marco Santucci (artist), Valentine de Landro (penciler), Pat Davidson (inker), Patrick Piazzalunga (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

This comic totally freaked me out. Nothing about the actual issue (which is, unsurprisingly, another solid one of this eminently solid series) freaked me out, though. No, it was the recap page that did it. Last month, I wrote that it seemed David was a bit grumpy when he wrote the fake "what-happens-next" blurb in the recap. In this issue, that's specifically addressed, as David (presumably it's him, although it's in the third person) writes that he wasn't in a bad mood at all. I know David reads the blog occasionally (he commented on my last post about The Incredible Hulk, after all), so I presume this was directed, at least partially, at me. I suppose some other people might have made that observation as well, but does any reviewer nitpick as much as I do? I THINK NOT! Even if it wasn't addressing me, it still freaked me out.

"But what of the issue?" you scream. "Why are two people mackin' on the cover? What happened with Longshot and his client?" Well, as usual, David keeps several plates spinning, with Madrox's story arc in the future still feeling like the main plate. That's him on the cover, by the way (in case the tattoo didn't give it away), making out with ... well, I won't tell you, but it's easy to guess, as David has hinted about it for a while now. He's in the future because, apparently, he's the only detective in the space-time continuum who can solve a case for Cyclops (Hercule Poirot wasn't available?), so that should be fun. Meanwhile, the client whom Longshot was protecting and who was shot by her mother last issue is rescued, but then the gang has to figure out why her mother was shooting at her. Finally, Rictor and Guido visit Reverend Maddox, who begins to tell them what happened to Jamie when they're attacked. I won't give away by whom they're attacked, except to say ... really, Mr. David? Really? If this had happened in X-Force and it was Kyle and Yost writing it, I'd laugh and ditch the book. But I trust David just a bit more. Still. Really?

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? This is easy: "Kisses of Fire." Sing along with me - "Kisses of fire, burning, burning, I'm at the point of no returning ..."

Young Liars #15 ("Imposter! Imposter!") by David Lapham (writer/artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I always get this way when I comic I read is cancelled but the issues are still coming out. Who cares, right? You had your chance. Oh well.

Still, Lapham continues to dazzle with the book. I mean, just when you think the gang's back together again and things are back on track, two horrible things happen and everything is back to shit. Then, there's a HOLY SHIT! moment that doesn't even end the book. No, Lapham has to leave someone bleeding to death in the desert just to hit us with one more twist, an ending that makes no sense ... unless it occurs in Young Liars, in which case it makes perfect sense. Damn, I'm going to miss this comic.

When Mr. Nevett announced that this was cancelled, a lot of people wondered about Stray Bullets and whether Lapham will go back to that ("probably not" was the feeling, as he makes no money doing it). Here's my question: Can't Vertigo publish Stray Bullets? I mean, Lapham owns it, and it couldn't do any worse than Young Liars did, could it? This would allow them to reprint the trades, make some coin, and give Lapham space to finish. Especially now that they're doing these "crime graphic novels" - why not let him wrap the story up with one or two of those? I don't know how much else he has planned for it (and I haven't even caught up on the trades), but why wouldn't that work? I'm sure there's a reason (DC doesn't want to pick up a series 40 issues or so in?), but it seems like, if they like Lapham, that's a solution. Oh well. Sometimes life sucks and Deadpool gets an ongoing and a bunch of mini-series. C'est la vie.

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? A few come to mind, but as the book is cancelled, let's go with "When All Is Said and Done," shall we?

Zorro #13 by Matt Wagner (writer), Cezar Razek (artist), Salvatore Aiala (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

As old-fashioned adventures go, this is humming right along. The major's plan to use a fake Zorro to menace Lolita is put in play, while the real Zorro pays a visit to the major and the two fight it out, Errol Flynn-and-John Barrymore style! Zorro can't stick around, however, because he has a señorita to save! Oh, there's a showdown a-coming!

The quality of book notwithstanding, there's a nit I always have to pick (didn't you read what I wrote in the X-Factor review?). I've mentioned it before, but it always bothers me that every single female in historical fiction is an independent-minded feminist decades before feminism. It's not really that I want to see women in historical fiction be all subservient, because that's kind of boring, but it's frustrating because it's so very untrue and it makes the character simply less believable. Even great female authors writing contemporary fiction didn't make their heroines all that independent. Yes, the women of Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters are probably more independent than real women were at the time, but even they conform to social customs and are more deferential than is comfortable to a modern audience. When writers don't even try to look at the customs of the day and simply make their female characters "spirited" simply because their fathers wanted a boy and raised them as such (as is the case in this comic), it feels off. I certainly don't want Lolita to be a shrinking violet who does whatever the man in her life tells her to, but I want to at least believe she's living in the early- to mid-1800s. When she says something like "I want to love the man that I marry," it goes against almost everything we know about a staunchly conservative, devoutly Catholic, practically still-feudal society like Spain's (and, by extension, California's). Even her father, who raised her like a boy, wouldn't have instilled that notion in her mind. The concept probably wouldn't have ever entered Lolita's head. Again, I get that it's fiction, but it's kind of frustrating. Of course, that could be just me. Heap your scorn upon me!

WHICH ABBA SONG IS THIS COMIC? Spaniards in the New World and a military presence? It could only be ... "Fernando"!

In an effort to show how cool I am after last week's totally random lyrics (so sue me; I like Billy Joel) and this week's linking of comics to a Swedish supergroup, let's check out totally random lyrics from, I hope, a band that meets with your approval!

"When you're shipwrecked on your mattress I'll come in and show you howTo hijack the past and wind up in the right now Grab some clothes, three chords and a video camera Maybe a mic, some handwipes, a typewriter, and a hammer'X' out all self-supervisionGet your keys out now start the ignition"

How's that?

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