What I bought - 14 April 2010

You stay in prison, what your time calls duty, honor, self-respect, and you are comfortably safe. Or you are free and crucified. Your only companions the stones, the thorns, the turning backs; the silence of cities, and their hate. (John Fowles, from The French Lieutenant's Woman)

The Anchor #7 ("Black Lips Part Three: The Fifth Fury") by Phil Hester (writer), Brian Churilla (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

I'm not terribly worried if this book gets cancelled, because even when I love a comic I don't worry too much, and while this is pleasant enough ("pleasant" being a relative term, as it's about a dude who kills monsters and eats their hearts while his soul keeps demons from exiting Hell), it's not like Young Heroes In Love just got cancelled, right? I'm not sure if it is, but when Hester writes in the letter column that issue #8 is a "natural, satisfying conclusion," I wonder. It would be too bad if this got the axe, mainly because it's kind of like a superhero book but more interesting. Churilla draws the best monsters this side of Mike Mignola and Dan Brereton, and Clem's Christianity filtered through Hester's sensibilities makes this a more fascinating read than it might otherwise be. It has felt that Hester is rushing things a bit, but I don't know if that means next issue will be the end. The great thing about Hester is that he always has keen ideas for new comics, almost all of which have nothing to do with DC or Marvel (although if I ask him where The Atheist is one more time, he may shove his pencil through my eye and into my brain), so if this is getting the axe, he'll have something else coming down the pike.

Of course, this might be a moot point. I wouldn't have mentioned it if Hester hadn't implied something in the letter column, and it might be that he always knows the end could come suddenly. So there could be nothing to it. It would still be a shame if a comic that doesn't star another iteration of a Big Two superhero and features a hero who is unabashedly Christian goes away. Plus, no more heart-eating!

So how's the issue, you ask? Come now - here at the "What I bought" column you occasionally don't get reviews, you get whatever is on my mind at the time. Deal with it!

One panel of awesome:

Atomic Robo volume 4 #2 (of 4) ("Big in Japan") by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Red 5 Comics.

I don't speak Japanese. Nor do I know very much about modern Japanese culture. I probably know more about Japanese society a millennium ago than current Japanese society, and I don't know very much about Japanese society from a millennium ago! So I always wonder about the Japanese culture portrayed in comic books written by gaijin. Specifically, something like the group of Japanese heroes from this comic, who are known as "Science Team Super Five." In comics, we often see Japanese nomenclature like this, with un-English syntax, and while I'm not saying it isn't so, is this the way it really would be in Japanese, or is this something the Japanese do in their popular culture that is slightly self-mocking, and American writers have picked up on it? (I'm thinking of the documentary Hype!, which is about Seattle's music scene of the early 1990s. One of the interviewees told of a journalist calling him (her?) up and asking about "grunge" terms and this person making stuff up on the spot, which of course later showed up in a story about how to be a hipster grunge person. I'm not saying the Japanese are deliberately misleading silly Westerners, but perhaps there's a bit of self-aware mockery going on?) I don't feel like digging out my copy of Big in Japan, but I imagine that Seth Fisher, who lived in Japan, would know a bit more about it, but I just don't know. It just strikes me as odd that whenever there are Japanese in a pop culture comic book (as opposed to one that, I don't know, is about those Japanese in World War II or something), they speak perfectly "normally" (that is, using English syntax and word choice, which I know is not really "normal") until they have to name a group or a hero, and then we get stuff like Science Team Super Five. I'm honestly curious about this.

That's not even a criticism, because how could I criticize such a groovy comic as Atomic Robo? I'm not sure how Clevinger manages to write such perfect dialogue - I guess he's had a lot of practice on Robo so far, so it becomes easier and easier, but I laughed on pretty much every page. The story is simple enough - Science Team Super Five goes out to battle a "biomega" monster, and Robo has to help out when it becomes something much more serious than they could have anticipated. Robo's whining is the best part of any issue of Atomic Robo, mainly because it's funny but also because he knows he's going to win and he can't see why the bad guys don't recognize that and save him the hassle. Unlike many superhero books where the writers go out of their way to pretend that the heroes aren't going to win even though we know they will, Clevinger just accepts that principle, knows that the readers accept it too, and has as much fun with the story as he can before reaching that point. So we get Robo complaining, "Why do we even have the square cube law?" (which, honestly, I had to look up), we have Robo being jealous of Dr. Yumeno's hardware, we have Robo getting beaten up just because it's convenient. It's just a joy to read an issue of Atomic Robo, and when one of the less funny things in this story is Robo throwing a copier at a giant monster, then you know it's gold. Gold, Jerry!

That Wegener fellow is pretty good, too.

One panel of awesome:

Black Widow #1 by Marjorie Liu (writer), Daniel Acuña (artist), and Nate Piekos (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Marvel.

There are certain crazy commenters here at the blog (okay, one) who think I don't like women's breasts. That's kind of nutty. I'm a straight man. As much as I think it's odd that breasts are symbols of sexuality and know it's some weird psychological thing about men and their mothers and breast-feeding, I'm as hardwired as the next guy, and I dig a nice rack. What some crazy commenters (okay, one) think is that I hate breasts because I think things like this cover are ridiculous. Listen, Jennifer Lopez can wear this dress to as many awards ceremonies as she wants to, but if she tries to fight terrorists in it, I'm fairly certain we'd see ta-tas and a hoo-ha. Similarly, if Natasha is as brilliant as some writers claim she is, she wouldn't be getting in any fights with that costume unzipped like that, because if she did, she'd be popping out right quick (unless that's her devilish "distraction" strategy - oh, the wimmins, you can never trust them to fight fair!). When I point these things out, it doesn't mean that I don't like the boobies. It means that I'm a bit depressed that Marvel thinks the only way to sell this comic is by promising boobies. Because guess what? Inside, Natasha is dressed almost Puritan compared to how she's often dressed. Not an unzipped top in sight!

Of course, that gets back to that feminist blogger that all the angry nerds love to hate, our own Ms. Thompson. I don't know if Kelly bought this book, because she often writes on her own blog about deciding not to buy a book based on the cover (isn't there a proverb about that, Ms. Thompson?). I hope she does, though, because while this isn't a great book, it's far better than I thought it would be, and while I'm sure it will be cancelled before you start your fantasy football draft, that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a look. It's an intriguing set-up, with Natasha getting attacked and sliced up and having ... something ... taken out of her, but we don't know what. The doctors don't know, either, as all her organs are there. And there's a mystery villain at the end! It's all done with a healthy dose of intrigue, a nice interlude in which Natasha goes out on the town with Bucky (I like how both of them are over 80 years old but are also hot young thangs thanks to "Marvel Universe Science!"), and an appearance by Wolverine that threatens to take over the book but doesn't. It's not perfect - Natasha gets taken down a bit too easily, if you ask me - but it's a solid start. Acuña's art, which I enjoy, looks much less static and blocky than some of his stuff has been in the past, and in the restaurant scene, it looks like he's channeling Stuart Immonen with heavier inks, which isn't a bad thing at all. The page where whoever it is takes whatever it is out of Natasha is downright creepy, as Acuña shows just Natasha's face as whoever it is digs around inside her. It's a horrifying scene, but it's very effective.

I'll be sticking around for a while with this, because I've always dug Natasha and enjoy reading good comics with her in them. I doubt if this will last long, so get it while you can. And, because I'm just a slave to my hormones, at least Marjorie Liu is c-a-t hot, amirite? (High-fives agent_torpor across cyberspace!)*

* Today is National High-Five Day, so this is appropriate. And that's an old high-school joke my friends and I still say. I shan't get into its antecedents, because I'm sure I'd get it wrong. And you don't really care.

One panel of awesome:

Chew #10 ("International Flavor Part 5 of 5") by John Layman (writer/letterer), Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), and Steven Struble (color flatterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Chew reaches the end of its second story arc, and you trade-waiters will only have to wait until next month to get your hands on it - what a concept, making sure the trades are out in a timely manner not long after the individual issues are! Anyway, it's Chew. So it's good. Tony once again gets bodily fluids all over him (he's like a magnet for that stuff!), we find out more about the vampire and, well, some other stuff, and if the various notes scattered throughout the issue are any signpost of reality, Rob Guillory needs to visit a nice quiet place for a while. Poor Guillory! Oh, and Tony's boss is suddenly nice to him. The cool kids who read each issue know why already, but for those of you waiting for the trade, I'll say this: It's a doozy.

I don't know what else to say. I love this comic. Much like Atomic Robo, it's just a hoot to read. I urge you to buy the trades if you haven't already, and in the meantime, go to Layman's blog (link above!) and check out his photographs of Italy. Bastard.

One panel of awesome:

Daytripper #5 (of 10) ("11") by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (writers/artists), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Sean Konot (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I'll keep writing this about the series because it keeps being true: Daytripper is pretentious, but in the best way. Moon and Bá have taken this gimmick (which I still won't give away) and made it completely irrelevant. It makes us pause and appreciate the short stories that the creators are giving us, because we don't worry about how it will end. Bá and Moon have taken away something crucial for most of us - comic readers are often so caught up in "how it ends" that they ignore how we get there. With superhero comics, it's very difficult to get away with this kind of thing - the very nature of the genre demands that the endings "matter" - but in a book like this, it's less important, which is why we often see a writer show us the ending and then work toward it. Moon and Bá don't even do that, really, but they still force us to consider each page and each panel and appreciate how they track Brás through his life. Yes, occasionally it feels a bit clichéd - in this issue, it's Brás feeling all oogy inside about his cute cousin - but there's also very neat moments, like the way Brás is born and the way his father writes. Because this is a different culture (for most of us, of course), we get a strange sense of alienness even as Bá and Moon write about universal feelings and desires. It's very keen, and one of the reasons why I dig this series so much.

One panel of awesome:

Doc Savage #1 ("The Lord of Lightning: Darkness Falls"/"Worst Nightmare Part One: The Wounded") by Paul Malmont (writer, "Lightning"), Jason Starr (writer, "Nightmare"), Howard Porter (penciller, "Lightning"), Scott Hampton (artist, "Nightmare"), Art Thibert (inker, "Lightning"), Rob Leigh (letterer, "Lightning"), Sal Cipriano (letterer, "Nightmare"), Brian Miller (colorist, "Lightning"), and Daniel Vozzo (colorist, "Nightmare"). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

I blame Greg Hatcher.

You see, many years ago, before most of you whippersnappers even knew what the "Internets" is, a younger and less bitter Other Greg wrote a column in which he mentioned Paul Malmont's The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril. It sounded very intriguing, and I bought the book soon after that. I still, um, haven't read it yet. (I'll 'splain, though no one asked me too. I love buying books. I don't read all that fast, plus I read a lot of comics, so I get behind on my books very quickly. The last time I checked, a few years ago, I had close to 300 books in my possession that I had not read yet. At the pace I read books, I figured I probably get through no more than 15 a year, which works out to about 20 years to read them all. Yet, I should point out, this doesn't discourage me from buying more books. I noticed I had this problem probably ten years ago, and not only that, I would tend to get all excited about a new book I bought and read that, leaving some other books behind. So I decided to read them alphabetically by author so I wouldn't miss any. I've gone through the alphabet twice since then and I'm on "C" of the third time through, but I bought Malmont's book after I had passed "M" the last time through, so I have to wait until I get there again. Alles klar? And before you ask, yes, my wife thinks I'm crazy. Get in line, nerdlings!) But the book still sounds really keen, so when I saw that Malmont was writing Doc Savage, I'd figured I'd give it a look, even though I still haven't read anything that Malmont has written. But if Other Greg likes a prose book he wrote, his comics work is sure to dazzle, right? Isn't that like the transitive property or something?

Well, unfortunately, Doc Savage isn't that good. It's not terrible, but it's not that good. Let's jump right to the art, because Howard Porter is absolutely wrong for this book. You may not like Porter, and that's cool, but I do, so him being on the book was an extra draw. However, Porter is a very good superhero artist, and this isn't a superhero book. Porter's linework looks fine, but the fact that nobody is wearing gaudy costumes really stands out, and the tone is just all wrong. The art is far too bright and cheery for the kind of issue it is. I mean, it's not a dark-as-pitch story, but it is pulpy, and Porter is just wrong for it. The biggest problem Porter seems to have is with faces - not really the expressions, just the composition of them, so people wearing masks a lot works for him (it's no coincidence that his Superman and Wonder Woman were often the "ugliest" characters in JLA, because they don't wear masks). Porter isn't the worst artist you could put on this comic, but he's certainly far from the best.

Malmont's story isn't great, either. On the surface it's perfectly fine - lightning strikes all over New York appear to be targeting Doc and his cronies, and Doc doesn't know why!!!! But it lacks any kind of flair - the first page, where Doc defeats an evil scientist and his leonine minions by hoisting a lion over his head (see below) is the funnest one in the book. Malmont flies around, never letting us catch our breath, and while there's nothing wrong with that style of writing, it feels disjointed for no reason. The first page is a prologue, and then, in the first panel of the second page, Doc sits in his blimp, returning to New York, and muses, "Up here I can almost fool myself that the world is a peaceful place." It's supposed to show his, I don't know, gentle soul?, but it comes from nowhere and makes no sense. The two kids Doc saves, Wes and Nathaniel, are trapped in the Empire State Building, and Doc, who's floating far, far away from the mooring, can hear them over the noise of the storm. Really? I wasn't interested in First Wave, so I skipped the first issue and wasn't sure if this takes place in the modern world (it does, in case you're wondering). That makes Doc's question to the kids after he rescues them even weirder: He asks them if they like baseball, which is fine, but then asks them if they like the Yankees or the Dodgers. Why those two teams? I thought for a second that this book took place in 1939, which would make the question a bit more relevant (although given the way the Dodgers sucked back in the 1930s, perhaps the better question would have been about the Yankees or Giants), but if it's modern, why those two teams? If Wes and Nathaniel live in New York, wouldn't it have been better to ask Yankees or Mets? I kind of wish Wes and Nathaniel had said, "Mariners and Diamondbacks, asshole!" or some other two teams. Way to be a frontrunner, Doc.

Boy, I can ramble, can't I? The whole problem with the writing is that it seems Malmont really wants to get to the big ending and can't pause for breath on the way there. This is what I was writing about with regard to Daytripper - the ending doesn't matter, so Moon and Bá can linger on certain things. Malmont MUST get to the big explosion on page 20, so he rushes through everything and makes this rather unsatisfying. Despite the rush, it's kind of dull.

I'm still keen on reading The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, though. So there's that.

One panel of awesome:

Fables #94 ("Rose Red Chapter One: The Barbara Allen Incident") by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Steve Leialoha (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I know I always harp on this, but I just find it hilarious that Willingham simply doesn't care about the restrictions of the 22-page pamphlet. I guess when you're eight years into this series, you know who's reading and who's not, so you're not going to lose readers simply because you end an issue so abruptly. So he ends issues abruptly. It's kind of endearing, actually - Willingham has a story to tell, and he'll be damned if he lets the idiotic vagaries of American comics publishing to get in his way!

This issue picks up the story pretty much exactly where we left it in issue #91 (if I recollect correctly), which is even funnier. Willingham threw a two-part story into the mix, possibly because of Buckingham not being able to keep up but also because it will be important down the road, and then he just moved back to the main story once Buckingham was back on schedule and pretended nothing had come between. He just trusts us to keep up! So we get more political intrigue with Geppetto but also with Ozma and King Cole, while Rose Red appears ready to get out of bed ... maybe. That's what the "arc" is about, anyway - Rose Red getting out of bed. And Frau Totenkinder makes a move, and while I had no problem with her getting younger when she left the Farm (like everyone's favorite feminist blogger did), I will say that I figured it was for a reason like this - how will she be able to seduce anyone if she's an old woman? Everyone knows a recently sexed-up dude will agree to just about anything, after all! Oh, and there's the Dark Man down in New York, making everything bad. That's just not very nice.

It's always fun to read an issue of Fables, and it was fun to read this one. Even if, when I reached the end, I thought, "Again with this? What the crappin' crap!" But that's okay.

One panel of awesome:

Fearless Dawn #3 (of 4) ("The Case of the Monster Frog") by Steve Mannion (writer/artist/colorist) and Frank Forte (colorist). $2.95, 22 pgs, FC, Asylum Press.

That crazy commenter about whom I wrote above never seems to come around when I buy something like Fearless Dawn, which is basically hot girls with large breasts wearing tight clothing and fighting evil. It's total cheesecakery, but it's gloriously silly cheesecakery, and done with so much tongue-in-cheek and balls-to-the-wallsness that I can't stay mad at it. Mannion simply wants to draw young ladies and monsters, so he takes a break from the "regular" story (which involves Nazis) to give us a flashback to when Prissy and Betty were young and fought a giant mutated frog. Said frog was created when the government exploded an atomic bomb near their town. Said explosion was witnessed by the townspeople, who were invited to check it out, because that's what you did in the 1950s, man! You also sat around making piñatas, which is what Prissy and Betty are doing at the beginning of the flashback. So they fight a giant frog and win. The end. Mannion uses "effect" when he means "affect" and totally misuses the word "genuflect," but it doesn't matter, because it's hot girls with large breasts and wearing tight clothing fighting a giant mutated frog! And Betty wears roller skates as she does it! You know you want it, just give in and find it!

One panel of awesome:

Kill Shakespeare #1 ("A Sea of Troubles") by Conor McCreery (writer), Anthony Del Col (writer), Andy Belanger (artist), Ian Herring (colorist), and Robbie Robbins (letterer). $3.99, 32 pgs, FC, IDW.

I was a bit wary about this mini-series, which sets up a situation where Shakespeare's characters try to kill him, because it can go so very, very wrong. I enjoyed this first issue, but it could still go off the rails, because this is mostly set-up. McCreery and Del Col do a good job with it - they start with Hamlet being exiled from Denmark, but then the story goes sideways as Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern* prove to be real friends and then Hamlet gets shipwrecked and rescued by Richard III. Richard convinces Hamlet that he has to kill the wizard, Shakespeare, in order to bring his father back to life. We, of course, know that you shouldn't trust Richard III, especially the Shakespearean character, but Hamlet doesn't, so everything is set up for a betrayal, especially with the appearance of a character on the last page.

It's a rousing adventure, full of darkness and death and portentous portendings, but what really makes the book fantastic is Belanger's art. It's wonderfully detailed and has a truly weird, dreamlike quality to it, as befits the subject matter. Hamlet's Denmark feels "real," but he's soon plunged into a strange world with giant regal statues rising from the ocean and witches shooting meteors out of their chests (see below). Belanger pulls the trick of shrinking the panels when the pirates attack to speed up the action, and Richard's world is a nice blend of solid reality and creepy dungeons where lurk three familiar hags. It's a very nicely drawn comic, and makes McCreery and Del Col's somewhat pedestrian execution (there's nothing wrong with it, but as I wrote, it is mostly set-up) dazzle more than it might with a lesser artist. Belanger is fantastic, and I hope the intriguing premise keeps up with it.

Give Kill Shakespeare a look. It's keen.

* If you ever wonder why Portland is awesome, I'll give you one reason: Once, many years ago, we saw Hamlet at a theater and then, a week later, Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead - and they used the same actors. First of all, Stoppard's play is pretty darned keen, and by using the same actors, the plays were linked far better than they usually are. It was a cool idea that worked really well. Hence, the Rose City's awesomeness. Don't question it!

One panel of awesome:

The Light #1 (of 5) ("Outbreak") by Nathan Edmondson (writer) and Brett Weldele (artist/letterer). $2.99, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

In case you missed the premise of this comic, light starts killing people. Yes, light! In a small Oregon town, a man named Coyle gets fired from yet another job. His mother (with whom he's staying) thinks he's a loser, his daughter thinks he's a loser, and he himself thinks he's a loser. Then people start dying. The guy who fired him comes running out of the dark, telling him that if anyone looks at any light, they die. His ex-boss accidentally looks at a light, and we see what he means - he simply burns up. Ray gets his daughter (his mother isn't so lucky) and they head out - he with welding goggles on, she with a blindfold - to find a way out of town. At the end of the book, she decides that wearing a blindfold is stupid. These kids today - no respect for their elders!

This is a very keen introductory issue, because Edmondson does a nice job setting up the mystery and getting things moving. One thing that's very neat is that Coyle is kind of a scumbag. He gets fired all the time and his wife left him because he hit her. He's definitely not hero material, but he does what he can to get his daughter to safety. It will be interesting to see how Edmondson develops Coyle over the course of the series, because he's so unlikable and survives this issue mostly by luck.

Weldele, as I often point out, is an acquired taste that I certainly have acquired. He does a nice job with this, because he seems very comfortable with creepy stories - he's good at empty spaces (which sounds weird, but if you see his work, you'll know what I mean) and things in the corner of the panel that look just a bit off. He definitely helps set the mood, and as this book requires a lot of darkness, he's a good fit for the series. I always say that Weldele needs more work, so I'm glad he's getting some!

I get that a lot of people will wait for the trade (it's only five issues long, after all), but you should check it out. The only problem I really have with it is that Edmondson explains some of the premise in the back of the book, and I don't think it's necessary. It's something that should come out in the course of the series instead of explaining it to us in an essay. I assume Edmondson will get to a deeper explanation throughout the series, so it feels unnecessary. And if he doesn't get to it, he should. But that's a minor annoyance. This is a cool comic with a neat premise. That's why we're here, isn't it?

One panel of awesome:

The Pilgrim #1 by Mark Ryan (writer), Mike Grell (artist), Jason Millet (colorist), and John Workman (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW/ComicMix.

I don't read those funky on-line comics (well, I do occasionally, but not too often), so although I know this has already shown up on the Internet, I didn't read it. Now that it's been printed, I can sit down, have a glass of Glenfiddich, and read this at my leisure.* The premise is intriguing - something odd happened during World War II that seemed to involve both British people and Nazis calling something evil from beyond the void, and then, in modern times, there's a government facility where they study paranormal activities and such. And one of the participants in the study is haunted by something that happened in the Middle East. How all these threads will pull together isn't clear yet, but Ryan manages to pack a lot of information about the "Psimex Research Institute" into a few pages, which is nice. The World War II stuff is less clear, as it's mostly a riot of images with very little text, and it's also a bit unclear what happens in Afghanistan/Iraq (wherever they are). That's okay - the basic premise is interesting enough, and it's always nice to see Grell's artwork. Grell is a tremendous artist, and he always does a cool job with blending several images together in a grand tableau. The fact that it's difficult to tell exactly what's going on in the first few pages doesn't make the art any less neat. I can see perfectly well what's happening, but the lack of much text makes it a bit more opaque than it should be.

I know some people already know what happens, but as I'm all old-school and shit, I'm perfectly happy to wait for the actual issues to come out. It's a good start, though.

* I don't drink while I'm reading my comics, as it's usually Wednesday afternoon when I'm reading them. But I do love me some Glenfiddich ... neat, of course!

One panel of awesome:

Prodigal: The Egg of First Light #1 (of 2) ("Chapter One: Why Byron Hates Ninjas/Chapter Two: Why Byron Hates Magic") by Geoffrey Thorne (writer) and Todd Harris (artist). $4.95, 48 pgs, FC, Ape Entertainment.

When I read the solicit for this, it sounded pretty good, but you never know, do you, especially when I don't know the creators. Thorne tells the story of Pae Mei Jacinto and Byron Lennox, two retrieval specialists. They're hired by some secretive monks to get an egg back from the weird cult that stole it from their monastery. This "egg of first light" turns out to be a nasty thing - if anyone opens it, it's the end of the world. Pretty standard stuff, right?

Well, sure, but as with anything, it's all in the execution, and this is an amazingly enjoyable comic. Jacinto is a stereotypical hardass, but she's a genius, too, and she gets the job done. Meanwhile, Lennox is a super-tough guy who provides comic relief (note the names of the chapters) - in the first part, he goes on and on about why he hates fighting ninjas (Jacinto points out that they're not ninjas, but that doesn't placate him) and in the second chapter, he chases the cultists to what appears to be another world and gets into a fight with a magical chick. Thorne makes him very funny, and the banter between he and Jacinto is excellent - without getting into it too much, Thorne makes it clear how well these two work together and how much they care about each other. Harris' art is very good, as well - he does very nice work with the action scenes, and you can just tell that both creators are having a ball. They don't stray too far from the action/adventure playbook - there's even a crusty old guy who's a vast font of information! - but it works very well. And next issue, it appears that Jacinto is going all Elektra on someone's ass (she's wearing a red bandanna/cap on her head just like everyone's favorite Greek assassin!), which should be fun.

For five bucks, you get basically two issues of the series, and it's a ton of fun. This might be hard to find, but if you see it, you should pick it up. It's nifty!

One panel of awesome:

Secret Six #20 ("Cats in the Cradle Part Two of Four: Fear of a World to Come") by Gail Simone (writer), Jim Calafiore (artist), Jason Wright (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

A few people expressed their displeasure with the way last issue ended, because it appeared Ms. Simone was going to a well to which she had gone before, and those who were disappointed with it wondered if she was going to keep drawing from said well. I didn't mind - I didn't think Simone was really going where she was going, and in any event ... these are horrible people, as we know, so the fact that they might betray the others at the drop of a hat doesn't strike me as strange. So in this issue, Simone shows us that what people fear would happen didn't, which means someone is going to die, or at least it appears someone is going to die, and although I'm not a terribly bloodthirsty person, I really hope the person dies, because in most popular culture, it won't happen. Boy, I'm trying hard not to give the game away, aren't I? It's a nifty little plot twist, so I don't want to ruin it, but the way Simone has set this up, someone has to die, right?

Anyway, badassery ensues, Rag Doll is hilarious (my favorite line from this issue: "I don't know which horrible thing to watch!"), and Catman gets serious. But I want to point out my favorite nit to pick about idiotic mainstream comic books. In this issue, someone commits suicide (off-panel, true); someone innocent is threatened with death; we see Cheshire lying almost seductively on her sofa after she has been beaten, so she's bloody and swollen yet, creepily, attractive (I have a feeling it's deliberate on the part of Califiore, and I'm fine with it, but I thought I'd point it out); we see the aftermath of a massacre ... at a wedding; we see a woman get three knives right in her chest; and we see a man graphically tortured to death (well, the beginning and the end of it, but it's still graphic). In other words, it's a typical issue of Secret Six! I don't have a problem with any of it - as I've pointed out before, Secret Six is supposed to be unpleasant, so I forgive stuff like this in it when I don't in more superheroic comics. But then, right in the middle of all this, we actually see a couple in the middle of having sex ... yet DC cannot show her nipples!!!!!! I'm serious - apparently, these days in DC comics, you can actually show the act of coitus and even orgasm on the page, but no nipples. Dear sweet Jesus. I hope one day DC does put nipples in an issue like this, so a kid can ask his mother, "What are those, Mom?" and the mother can organize a boycott of DC comics, not because of the orgasm or the torture, but because of the fucking nipples. Because people are so fucking uptight. What the fuck, indeed.

One panel of awesome:

Siege: Loki #1 (of 1) by Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

You know what sucks? McKelvie probably made more money drawing this 22-page issue for Marvel than he did for the entire run of Phonogram. I blame Obama.

I bought this only because it's Gillen and McKelvie, not because I have any interest in Siege or any interest in Loki, really. It's basically Loki plotting, but because Gillen and McKelvie are awesome, it works. There's a page with Loki influencing Norman Osborn (unseen, of course, as he's a god and can do that sort of thing - he actually speaks through Osborn's Green Goblin mask, which is keen) that looks like it could appear in a Phonogram comic - it has the nifty Gillen writing and McKelvie's dynamite facial expressions, and the last panel on the page is priceless. He gains the service of some ancient creatures, leases them out to Mephisto, and gets Hela to give him something he wants. Gillen is sharp as always, and McKelvie's Loki is a nasty piece of work. Interestingly enough, on the final page he looks strangely like McKelvie himself - what's that crazy British bastard trying to say?

I can't say you should run out and buy this - if you're going to get anything by these creators, get Phonogram - but if you've already gotten those, this is a reminder about how damned good they are, both alone and together. You don't even need to be reading Siege - it's just Loki doing his thing, and that's always fun!

One panel of awesome:

The Unwritten #12 ("Eliza Mae Hertford's Willowbank Tales") by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (writer, layouter), Kurt Higgins and Zelda Devon (finisher, colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

These one-off issues of The Unwritten are pretty keen, because they tie into the bigger narrative, but they're also fun to read as short stories. If you haven't been reading The Unwritten, they're good places to start, because you can get feel for the way Carey and Gross do their comics. Even though this looks nothing like Gross' usual art - he lays the thing out, but it's really Higgins' and Devon's show, and it's very good. It's softer than the usual art, and it looks like something that takes place in a children's book, which makes the darker twists even more effective. Carey's story is about a rabbit who lives in a fairy tale land ... except he knows it's fake, and he keeps trying to escape. He manages to get to the cottage of Eliza Mae Hertford (who created the world), where he confronts her and realizes he probably should have been happy with his fate. Mr. Bun, the rabbit, isn't really Mr. Bun, he's someone named Pauly Bruckner, and he's somehow connected to Tom's father. It's a creepy little story, and it's all fun and games while Mr. Bun is calling people bitches and fuckers. Who doesn't love that?

One panel of awesome:

Hey, it's time for The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "I Want It All" - Queen (1989) "Gotta find me a future, get out of my way"12. "Throw Me Out" - Marillion (2008) "I tore apart my oldest friend"3. "Square Go" - Fish (2007) "Raised in jungles, I quickly learned to read the trees"4. "Come Sail Away" - Styx (1977) "But somehow we missed out on the pot of gold"25. "From Out Of Nowhere" - Faith No More (1989) "You splash me with beauty and pull me down"6. "Zoe 25" - Fish (2007) "He couldn't make the phone call to explain it all away"7. "Gimme Stitches" - Foo Fighters (1999) "I'll always be the one who runs from everyone 'cause everyone's just too weird"8. "Nothing Matters When We're Dancing" - Magnetic Fields (1999) "In tat or tatters you're entrancing"39. "In A Bar" - Hamell On Trial (1997) "She's got a baby boy, man, that kid's her pride and joy; but here's a zinger, the kid's a dead ringer for you"10. "Underwater" - Midnight Oil (1996) "There is room for make believe out in the ocean"

1 This might be heretical, but this might be my favorite Queen song. It has the great Brian May guitar part, Freddie's bombastic lyrics and you can even feel him preening as he sings, and it has that fantastic selfish chorus. Suck it, "Bohemian Rhapsody"!2 This is such a perfect 1970s song, to the point where I can't imagine it being a hit in any other decade. It has that mystical bullshit that was so popular in the Seventies, and then there are aliens? Oh man, that's so Seventies!!!! Still, it's an awesome tune, dudes and dudettes!3 If you haven't heard 69 Love Songs yet, I fear for your immortal soul, I really do.

Let's do some totally random lyrics!

"Tip-toe through the tulips and then raise your hands up high;There's a fire down below and you don't want to catch his eye.Hide behind each other and don't even make a sound;You're in trouble now, take the elevator down."

I hope everyone paid their taxes! We're all in this together!

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