What I bought - 14 December 2011

"Truth, Vinicius, dwells somewhere so high that the gods themselves cannot see it from the top of Olympus. To you, carissime, your Olympus seems higher still, and, standing there, you call to me, 'Come, you will see such sights as you have not seen yet!' I might. But I answer, 'I do not have feet for the journey.' And if you read this letter to the end, you will acknowledge, I think, that I am right." (Henryk Sienkiewicz, from Quo Vadis)

Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X #4 (of 5) by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Red 5 Comics.

This is a strange issue of Atomic Robo, because there's always one like it in each mini-series - an issue that isn't quite as good as the others, but it's hard to discern exactly why. Wegener's art looks a little bit sketchier than it usually does, but not all the time, so that's not it. It's a fairly dense issue, so maybe it gets bogged down in the dialogue, but Clevinger's dialogue is better than most, so I'm not sure that's it, either. I wonder if, because much of the action takes place out on the highways of this fair land (Nebraska, to be specific), Wegener's lack of background details hurts the book - he doesn't want to photoshop stuff into the backgrounds, which is nice, but it also means a lot of the book looks like it's being filmed in front of a blue screen. Maybe I'm just a dimwit and the fact that Clevinger explains both the weird wiring in the missing house in England AND how the bad guys were able to find Robo AND how Robo gets away from the bad guys was too much for my poor brain.

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the issue, of course. I showed more than one panel below because I love the way Clevinger manages to get good comic timing into something that you can't actually hear, and comics are quite good at showing the kind of humor he does below. Yes, it's an old joke, but a good one. Wegener does keep the action flowing, and he gets to blow shit up, too, which is nice. As usual with Atomic Robo, the science at least sounds sound, whether it is or not. And it's nice to get the explanations, even if they made me think, which is never a good idea.

Still ... something's off. It's weird. This is why you read my reviews - for trenchant insight like that! I'm all about the specifics, people! Oh well - I'm sure the climax will be awesome. It's Atomic Robo, after all!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Avengers Academy #23 ("Second Chances") by Christos Gage (writer), Tom Raney (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Here's yet another minor problem with having advertisements in your single issue comics, or at least putting ads in the middle of the story. So I'm reading this fine periodical, in which adult Reptil (who has somehow gotten into teenaged Reptil's body) realizes he has to steer the course of events in a certain way even if that way gets people hurt (which he implies many, many times that it will). That means bringing a seemingly innocuous mutant back to the Academy and allowing him to prey on various heroes (because the innocuous mutant is, of course, not innocuous at all and might not even be a mutant). So I get to a page in which the young boy shows who he really is, and I honestly thought the issue was over because facing the page was an advertisement for Secret Avengers #21.1 (drawn by - we're really calling him this? - "Patch" Zircher). Imagine my surprise when I turned the page and the story still had two more pages to go! I know, it's a pleasant surprise, but it was a bit odd. Basically, I'm saying that ads suck. But I guess you knew that.

Gage reaches deep into the Marvel archives for his villain, and it's cool enough. And I mean, I'm not too bright, but I always love how Marvel heroes simply start punching bad guys instead of finding out what's going on. I guess it's comics' fault for making everyone so one-dimensional, so that even when the Purifiers are doing something good the Avengers think they're doing something wrong and stop them, thereby ensuring (according to Reptil) their deaths, but it's still annoying. It's one of those plot points that, when you think about it, is infuriating, but as it's just there to get the bad guy into the henhouse (so to speak), it's more forgivable. I can't remember if the solicits give this away, but Reptil is working for Kang, isn't he? I mean, he has to be, right?

Gage also gives us a nice conversation between Julie Powers and Striker about sexuality, even though it does come off a bit too much like one of those NBC "The More You Know" PSAs from back in the day. The actual writing is heavy-handed, but what makes it nice is that we haven't seen this very much in mainstream comics - gay characters are becoming more plentiful, but Gage takes it even further and acknowledges how fluid sexuality is when Julie mentions that even her gay friends want her to "pick a side." While I could have lived without Striker's admission that he was sexually abused as a child, at least Gage is clever enough to pull that trite backstory with a male character rather than a female, which is more usual. So it's not the greatest piece of writing ever, but it's good to get it out there. Remember, kids - homosexuals are people too!

Plus, I love the fact that X-23 has blades built into her shoes. She's like a Fred Hembeck caricature, except that we're supposed to take her seriously!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #14 ("Small Miracles") by Sholly Fisch (writer), Rick Burchett (penciller), Dan Davis (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Dezi Sienty (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Speaking of PSAs, I often forget that, for all its awesomeness, B: TBATB is supposed to be a kids' comic, so occasionally you get clunkers like this. That's not to say this is a bad comic, because it's not, it's just far more geared toward teaching kids a lesson than being awesome, and when that happens, you get something that doesn't quite leap off the page as many of these comics do. I'm sorry, but I'd much rather read about Crazy Quilt, Doctor Spectro, and the Rainbow Raider's maniacal plan to ruin Christmas (see below) than re-learn the story of Chanukah. (I'm an atheist, so it has more to do with not wanting to re-learn any story that relies on mysticism and superstition rather than one than Chanukah specifically. I mean, yay Israelites and all, beating up on them Greeks!, but I'm not interested in the miracle of having enough oil to keep lights burning all the time. Sorry.) Rabbi Samuels does give us not a bad explanation of why God didn't simply didn't provide more oil instead of only as much to burn for eight days, but like most justifications of religious miracles, it sounds like, well, crap. Okay, I need to move on before I really piss some people off.

The point of the story is that Rory Regan doesn't believe in miracles but then, as Ragman, he witnesses some everyday miracles for himself. He also shames Batman into paying attention to the slums of Gotham for a change, so that's nice. But while Fisch does a decent job with the story, it's difficult to get in all the complex social problems that exist in a big city in 20 pages, so it comes off as so very earnest, which comes off as a bit sappy. There's certainly nothing wrong with writing a story that shows regular folk coming together to help a neighborhood, but it's definitely not as much fun as Crazy Quilt, Doctor Spectro, and the Rainbow Raider trying to ruin Christmas. I'm just saying.

Burchett's art is cool as usual, though. He draws a nifty Ragman.

Remember, kids: Corporations are evil and will always hire thugs to drive people out of their homes instead of using something legal like eminent domain!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batwoman #4 ("Hydrology Part 4: Estuary") by J. H. Williams III (writer/artist), W. Haden Blackman (writer), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.





Okay, let's move on.

Yes, yes, the two reviews I've read of this book gush about it. Gush gush gush. Look at how Williams puts the panels into Batwoman's cape when she visits that dude in his apartment! Look at the way he incorporates the name of the story into the smoke drifting around Flamebird! Look at how incredibly bad-ass Cameron Chase is! Well, sure. But am I the only one who didn't love this issue? Consider:

Is Flamebird a Refrigerated Woman? According to Gail Simone (who originally came up with the term), a WiR is simply a female superhero who has been killed, raped, or depowered in an unsettling way. When she clarified herself, she mentioned that while male superheroes tend to die nobly, female superheroes tend to die for "shock value" - usually to shock the male character, who finds her. I guess later iterations of the concept have gone with this - a WiR is a female character whose only purpose is to die so that the male character can avenge her. That's not what Simone originally came up with, but because superheroes tend to die a lot, there had to be a refinement of the concept along the lines of her second thought. So: Is Flamebird a WiR?

Bette isn't dead, of course, although she still could die. So far in this series, she doesn't seem to have much point. In fact, several people (me included) have wondered when exactly she is going to be dispatched, because we have come to recognize extraneous characters in comics whose only purpose is to die. It seems as if her brutal beating in this issue is simply for "shock value." While Williams and Blackman show Chase exploiting her fragile state, it also seems as if the beating is only to cause Kate, who has treated Bette shabbily in some ways, to feel guilty and go medieval on someone. Plus, the fact that the beating was administered at the exact moment that Kate was getting freaky (I'll get to that) will fuel her guilt, surely. So do we let Williams off the hook because the character who will seek revenge is female? Do we let him off the hook because he has some very strong female characters in the book, so if he kills one off, he has a few to spare? I know that everything is all about context, but does context override this concern? I'm not offering answers, by the way. I didn't like Bette's treatment because it was so very obvious, not because I think it's falling into a trope. At least with the original WiR, Alex DeWitt, it was somewhat of a shock (whether that has "value" is a judgment call). With Bette, Williams might as well have stamped a big "DOA" on her forehead.

Then there's the sex scene. While Bette is getting beaten, Kate and Maggie Sawyer are getting all Sapphic on us. Williams, naturally, draws this wonderfully - Bette's scenes are in radiant color with stronger lines, while interspersed throughout the page are panels of Kate and Maggie, in total soft focus, black and white, looking like Jon J. Muth drew them. Williams and Blackman lay on the double entredres thickly - Bette says "Now, here we go! This is more like it!" just as Maggie moves off-panel toward Kate's nether regions, and the dialogue balloon actually overlaps the panel where it happens. This continues: The bad guy says "I'll show ya what happens to cocky little bitches" as Maggie goes to work, and we see Kate lying back, holding Maggie's hand on her own abdomen while Maggie's face is nowhere to be seen; Bette says "I'm the real deal" as Kate grabs the headboard and arches her back, presumably because Maggie found a handy place down there; the bad guy says "Yer a tasty piece of sweets. An' I'm gonna have a SLICE!" as Kate writhes; the bad guy says "An' aren't you a juicy one ..." as Kate writhes some more and Bette's blood actually arcs across the panel in which Kate is enjoying herself; Kate has an orgasm at the precise moment that Bette crashes to the ground, shedding copious amounts of blood. Okay, it's about as subtle as a Skinemax soft core movie, but what's fascinating is that DC allowed it. Batwoman is rated "T+," meaning it's appropriate for people 16 years or older, and I think that's fair. But it's very rare that we see actual sex in mainstream superhero books. We see occasional foreplay, we see post-fucking lounging around in bed, but we rarely see actual in media coitu. I have no problem with it - I think mainstream superhero comics would be better served by being a bit more sex-filled, but I wonder if DC allowed this because it's two women. Are we still titillated by lesbians but think male sexuality is a bit too ugly for mainstream comics? Will we ever see a scene like this in a mainstream superhero book between two men? I wonder.

Anyway, it's a pretty good issue after we get past the silly first few pages. Williams, it appears from the scene where Kate leaps out the apartment window, is the last person who still thinks Anton Furst designed Gotham's buildings (I loved that storyline, as unbelievably ridiculous as it was), which is nice to see. And Chase is pretty bad-ass. But I'm all about the controversy here, people! And remember: lesbians are awesome because they're willing to get freaky with each other but we all know they're just looking for a real man!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Blue Estate #8 ("State of Shock") by Victor Kalvachev (story/artist/colorist), Kosta Yanev (story), Andrew Osborne (scripter), Nathan Fox (artist), Toby Cypress (artist), Andrew Robinson (artist), and Peter Nguyen (artist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

At this point, when Kalvachev and Osborne have brought all the pieces together and, last issue, blew things up a bit, the creators are just having a blast. Yes, certain characters have died, but now the survivors are trying to figure out just what the hell happened. Did the Italians order a hit and accidentally piss of the Russians? is Tony going to nut up and off his old man? What's going on with the money? And hey - we're back to the scene in issue #1 that started this whole crazy thing off in the first place! Yay! It is, as usual, a crazy blast of noir goodness, although I don't love the art - I think it's Nguyen's - on the pages where Rachel calls Billy. Kalvachev does what he can with the coloring, which keeps everything consistent, but the art on these pages looks a bit too soft and computerized - the other artists have harder lines and stronger inks, and these few pages don't look as good. Oh well - Blue Estate continues to be a wacky, fun, violent comic (I mean, there are three Russians with giant pistols stuck in their Speedos, and that's all they're wearing), and that's something we can all enjoy, right? No PSAs needed!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Cyclops #7 (of eight) ("The Warrior Part One") by Matz (writer/translator), Gaël De Mayere (artist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.95, 20 pgs, FC, Archaia.

I've been disappointed by some comics recently, and Cyclops is really high on that list, possibly even higher than Morrison's Action Comics (mainly because Morrison and mainstream superhero comics have been hit-or-miss for some time). Matz and Jacamon were really good on The Killer, after all, so the idea of them doing corporate soldiers in a dystopian future seemed like a slam-dunk. Even before Jacamon stopped doing the art, the story had become far too conventional - the corporation is evil, it creates conflicts just so it can send its soldiers there and make some money, the hero they created grows a conscience - and after he left, De Mayere has never really captured the look of the series as well as Jacamon did. De Mayere isn't terrible, but his more cartoony look doesn't really fit the tone of the series. Now, of course, Doug is trying to fight back against the corporation, and we'll see how that goes. What made The Killer interesting is that Matz and Jacamon took a fairly standard idea - an assassin trying to get out of the game - and made it far more philosophical than you might expect. With Cyclops, the idea of all this conflict being televised and what that does to the viewing public is far more interesting than the battle between Doug and the evil corporation, but Matz hasn't gone far enough into that (to be fair, most entertainment that sets this premise up - think The Running Man or Death Race 2000 (the "good" one) or its execrable "re-imagining" - doesn't do enough with it, either), and it makes the actual comic rather boring.

I'm still going to get the last issue - I pre-ordered it, after all, and I don't want to hang my retailer out to dry - but I don't have high hopes for it. After the first two issues, I thought Cyclops would be something really cool. It turns out it's just something that Tony Scott would direct and probably chuck a bunch of money at Matt Damon to star in. Entertaining, sure, but not something you'd go out of your way to experience.

(You'll notice the hardest-working man in comics this week shows up for the first time in this review. We'll see him again, quite a lot!)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Memoir #5 (of 6) by Ben McCool (writer), Nikki Cook (artist), and Tom B. Long (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, BW, Image.

Hey, it's an issue of Memoir! Honestly, who the hell knows what's going on anymore? I mean, once issue #6 comes out, I suppose I'll have to give these a quick re-read to see how it all fits together, but the gaps between issues mean that I only vaguely remember the connections. We do learn some things in this issue, and some of the sinister cabal behind the events in Lowesville are revealed, but for a single issue, this is just a chance to see Cook's oddball artwork and hope McCool can pull it all together.

But, hey - at least it's coming out. I wonder how Choker is doing?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Operation: Broken Wings, 1936 #2 (of 3) by Herik Hanna (writer), Trevor Hairsine (artist), Sébastien Lamirand (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Deron Bennett (letterer). $3.99, 19 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

The major completes his latest mission in England, but when he returns to Germany, the Gestapo wants to ask him some questions about the murder in the first issue. So, naturally, he starts killing them. He escapes in a Volkswagen (a prototype, as this comic takes place a year before the VW officially began production), gets on a plane, and jumps out over the Black Forest, but not before beating up an American boxer and an old lady (it all makes perfect sense in context, trust me). It's a exciting if quick read, and Hairsine does his usual solid job with the art. As usual with these foreign albums that Boom! is reprinting as three-issue mini-series, it seems like there's no way Hanna can wrap up the story in one issue, but considering this is already completed and someone out there (I'm looking at you, Pedro!) knows how it ends, I guess it's a moot point, right? Anyway, I'll get into the reproduction of European artwork below, when we see the second foreign mini-series that Boom! is reprinting!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Pigs #4 ("Sixteen") by Nate Cosby (writer), Ben McCool (writer), Breno Tamura (artist), Will Sliney (artist), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Donna Gregory (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

As I wrote last time out, I'm still not sold on Pigs, but this issue is as good as the first one, which has been the best of the series so far, so that's good. It's good mainly because Cosby and McCool return to the bombshell-dropping that they did in the first issue. I also like the fact that Felix calls out the rest of his team, who have been acting all bad-ass when they don't really have any idea what they're doing (well, except for Viktor, who might, but he's a loose cannon anyway). So this is a tense issue that ends with another nice bombshell (not as impressive as the first issue's, but not bad). It also features Sliney doing art on the flashbacks, which, while I'm sure it's to give Tamura a break, is a good idea because of the subtle shift in the way the book looks. I like this idea for artists, and as long as it's consistently done (meaning, Tamura does the "present day" and a different artist does the flashbacks), I think it's cool. Sliney is a bit less messy than Tamura, so his art helps evoke a more clear-cut time period, when Felix was a kid and things seemed to make more sense (they didn't, of course, but they seemed to). In the "present," of course, nothing makes sense.

I'm still cautiously optimistic about Pigs. Cosby and McCool appear to balance the action with the slower moments, and I like that they're not afraid to give away the entire game at the end of this issue but trust that getting to that point will be interesting. I'm at least curious to see where they go from here!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Secret History #17 ("Operation Kadesh") by Jean-Pierre Pécau (writer), Igor Kordey (artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $5.95, 54 pgs, FC, Archaia.

The Secret History continues to come out rather sporadically, and while I don't really mind, the fact that Pécau is now referencing things that occur in the spin-off mini-series, Games of Chance, is a bit vexing, because who knows when that will come out? I enjoy the series, but its wonky schedule means that these are much better when read all at once. That's why the nice hardcovers that Archaia puts out are nifty, and why their decision to do that with Games of Chance rather than doing single issues is a good one. Now they just have to release it!

Anyway, we're in the 1950s now, and Hungary is rebelling, and the Egyptians are nationalizing the Suez Canal, and of course, everything is being manipulated. It's an entertaining book, Kordey's art is good, and I honestly don't know when the remaining five issues will come out (not to mention the "Arcanes" section in the beginning of the issue, which appears to be an entire separate series). I do hope Archaia will release this entire epic, because it's certainly worth reading. It's just hard to keep up when so many months fall in between single issues.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Seven Warriors #2 (of 3) by Michaël Galli (writer), Francis Manapul (artist), Christelle Moulart (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Deron Bennett (letterer). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Much like Operation: Broken Wings above, I don't love the reproduction of European comics as single issues that are the same size as American comics. Both Hairsine and Manapul's artwork really deserves a larger stage, and I assume in France they got it, while here it's reduced and therefore somewhat lessened. Plus, I've noticed that European comics (and this is a broad generalization, so feel free to tell me to shut my ignorant pie hole) don't go for big ol' splash pages as much as American superhero comics, and while that's not a bad thing at all (it actually forces creators to work a little harder), sometimes, it would be nice to see a big ol' splash page. Consider the Airwolf panel below: Yevan (the redheaded warrior) sets the Byzantine dromon on fire and leaps off, and the panel is crammed onto the page and partially obscured by panels above it showing Yevan diving off and setting the fire as she leaps. If anything deserved a big ol' splash page, it's a galley exploding in flames as a chick warrior leaps to safety. Manapul's art, as I mentioned last time, isn't as good as his current work on DC's books, but it's still pretty kinetic, and the way the book is laid out and the way the pages are reproduced help lessen the impact of some rather dynamic line work. It really is too bad.

Anyway, the warriors are joined by Izza, the girl Aksamon was forced to leave behind last issue but who figured out a way to leave the palace (and who was apparently the one getting nekkid with Aksamon at the beginning of issue #1, although it's unclear why this is so important beyond the fact that they like doing the nasty with each other), more warriors die, and the queen's weird "drug the warriors so Aksamon can get one of them pregnant" ploy from the first issue isn't mentioned. We'll see what happens with that next issue. As I wrote above, it seems like there's far too much going on to wrap things up next issue, but we'll see, won't we? This just hums along, a nice sand-and-sword epic, and I'm sure I'll have more to say after it's all completed.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Severed #5 (of 7) ("The Road Beckons") by Scott Snyder (writer), Scott Tuft (writer), Attila Futaki (artist), Greg Guilhaumond (colorist), and Fonografiks (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Severed is kind of pissing me off. I wrote about Jack's seeming idiocy and that I could forgive it because the book is set in 1916 and times were different and kids were a bit more naïve and the dangers of traveling around with strangers wasn't as well known. In this issue, however, he discovers that the "Salesman" is not only a monster, he probably had something to do with Sam's disappearance (which I'm still not calling a "death" until I get proof). Now, maybe next issue he'll try to get away, but the fact that Jack is either as monstrous as the Salesman or just too stupid to live is pissing me off.

Then, I get to the letters page, which contains no letters but a text piece by the creators. They write that they got a letter from someone who, when he was a kid, was lured into a building by a stranger, blindfolded, spun around while the stranger laughed at him, then released. The creators then point out that while Severed is fictitious, it's "grounded in reality." They write that the "horrors in this book happen daily on our city streets and our country roads" and that they're "sensitive to the real horrors in this world." I don't know why this pisses me off. I feel bad for the letter writer who was psychologically tortured the way he wrote, but I'm not sure why the creators wrote this piece. Severed doesn't have anything to do with the real world, as much as they'd like to think so. It takes place almost 100 years ago, when the world was very different than it is now. The Salesman is much more of a creature out of a horror film than we see when predators are revealed today. (Without opening too big a can of worms, one thing that's come out about the Jerry Sandusky case is how "normal" child predators appear - they're not freaky like the Salesman, they're people who can be very charming and loving around children - and adults - in order to gain their trust. Sure, crazy people like the Salesman exist, but they're not as common as the Jerry Sandusky type - keeping in mind, as always, that Sandusky hasn't actually been convicted of a crime yet.) The text piece seems, to me, unnecessarily scary, because while there are scary people in the world, the idea that child-killers are lurking around every corner seems awfully sensationalistic to me. It's like the pro-gun folk saying that everyone needs to own a gun because you can shoot all the people who are constantly breaking into your house to rape your womenfolk. I've lived for 40 years on this planet and have never once needed a gun. That's not to say I think people shouldn't own guns, but where do these pro-gun people live that slavering knuckle-draggers (probably Democrats, to boot!) are always breaking in to their houses? And if we're talking about child predators, perhaps a comic book geared toward entertaining people with crazy horror isn't the best place to deal with it?

Your opinion may vary, of course, but that's my take from this issue. At this point, I'm kind of hoping that Snyder and Tuft go all 1950s EC Comics on us and Jack does get killed and eaten, and then the Salesman addresses the audience and tells them that's what fucking happens when you trust crazy old gentlemen. I mean, really, Jack. He probably should have watched more NBC television!


One totally Airwolf panel:

S.H.I.E.L.D. #4 ("All Together Now") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Dustin Weaver (artist), Sonia Oback (colorist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), Christina Strain (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Some people (you know who you are!) might think that this comic is lazy because Hickman and Weaver give us three different three-page scenarios in which the exact same thing happens with slightly different dialogue and different backgrounds (because our heroes go to three different futures, don't you know). I am not one of them, because I think it's awesome. I mean, sure, it might give Weaver a tiny break, but the dude still had to draw the backgrounds, and I just dig the way Hickman's mind works sometimes. The fact that the same thing is happening across three different timelines is pretty danged cool, and the fact that the battle overlaps the different timelines is neat-o, too (despite those pages being Weaver's sloppiest). Hickman finally (sort-of) ties this more into mainstream Marvel continuity with two glorious pages of our heroes moving into the future and passing through the Marvel Age of Heroes, and Weaver does a nice job with that, too. While this series is turning into another "Punch out the bad guy" kind of thing, which isn't all that fun, Hickman and Weaver continue to understand that spectacle goes a long way, and this issue is chockers with spectacle. It's certainly not as deep as some of Hickman's work, but it's a blast to read. That goes a long way sometimes!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Zorro Rides Again #6 (of 12) by Matt Wagner (writer), Esteve Polls (artist), Alejandro Sanchez (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

Zorro, not surprisingly, gets his revenge on the man who killed his father, and guess what? "There is nothing dignified about revenge," Diego tells his father's tombstone. Heavy, man! However, Wagner brings this section of the mini-series to a close with Diego's revenge, his parting from his honey, Lolita, who returns to Spain with her father, and a new nemesis for our hero, whose "origin" seems silly but works within the context of the story (as most hero/villain beginnings do). It's nice to see Wagner pushing things forward - most stories of heroes, of course, remain static because they need to, but while Dynamite could easily reset this entire thing, we get the sense with this Zorro that it's moving toward something big, and I hope Wagner does that. Of course, it might just turn out to be an entertaining story of Diego battling his (new) arch-nemesis, and that would be fine, too. I hope not, but as long as it's well done, I can't complain.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

20th Century Boys volume 18 by Naoki Urasawa (writer/artist). $12.99, 206 pgs, BW, Viz Media.

Does anyone know how many volumes this is supposed to be? I'm impressed it's managed to remain so interesting for so long.

Killing Pickman by Jason E. Becker (writer), Jon Rea (artist), and Matt Talbot (additional lettering and coloring). $24.95, 140 pgs, FC, Archaia.

At last, Archaia gets this sucker out. It was one of the series they launched before their implosion, and while some of the others from those days are out in hardcover, this one remained non-existent even after it was solicited. So Archaia resolicited it, and now here it is! I enjoyed the first two issues quite a lot, so I'm looking forward to reading the entire thing!

Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim (writer/artist). $16.99, 90 pgs, BW, First Second Books.

This is a reprinted comic from a decade ago, before anyone knew who Derek Kirk Kim was. Now that he's an international superstar, First Second is re-releasing this. Yay!

The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi (writer/artist). $10.95, 56 pgs, FC, Archaia.

Satrapi gives us a children's book with mostly text and some pictures. I'll be interested to read this. Back in the day, I called Persepolis 2 "asparagus" - good for you but not terribly pleasant - but I'd really like to like Satrapi's work!

Wolverine and Jubilee: Curse of the Mutants by Kathyn Immonen (writer), Phil Noto (artist/colorist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), John Rauch (colorist), and Clayton Cowles (letterer). $14.99, 111 pgs, FC, Marvel.

When I write the X-Men and use Jubilee (because she's awesome!), I will retcon her vampire days, Bobby Ewing-style. Just see if I don't! Also, this book contains Jubilee's first appearance from issue #244 in 1989. Issues #244 and 245 of Uncanny X-Men were humorous comics, and the debate at the store on Wednesday was if that was the last time the main X-books didn't take themselves so goldanged seriously. We decided there was an issue of X-Men around, what, #7 or so where the X-babies showed up, and that was probably the last time. Considering that issue came out in 1992 or thereabouts, that's kind of sad. Can you think of any since then in the main books where there was just wacky shit going on?

People are always dying, but here are some that might be notable to you: Joe Simon has died at 98. This isn't so much a tragedy - the dude was 98! - as it is interesting, mainly because Simon is so very important in comics history, and coming so soon after Jerry Robinson's death, it's a reminder that there are so few creators left from the "Golden Age," especially such high-profile ones as Simon (and yes, you're forgiven for thinking "I didn't even know he was still alive!"). Simon, of course, co-created Captain America, but he's important for a lot of other reasons, too (which I'm not going into here - ask Mark Evanier about Simon and I'm sure he'll talk - or write - for hours). More shocking is Eduardo Barreto's death at 57, only because he was pretty young. Barreto was a consummate professional - his work wasn't flashy, but he was a masterful storyteller and a very good draftsman. My two favorite Barreto comics are Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography, a phenomenal one-shot from 1989, and Union Station, the 2009 graphic novel he did with Ande Parks. Many people cite his work on Batman #520, the one-shot about Harvey Bullock's date with Charlotte the nurse, and while the artwork is fantastic, it's a bit too maudlin for me. Barreto was someone who never quite became a superstar in the States (he could have be swarmed whenever he stepped outside in Uruguay, for all I know), but who deserved a bigger audience.

On the not-comics front, Christopher Hitchens has died of pneumonia (as a complication of esophageal cancer at 62). Hitchens is, of course, a notable atheist, and I wonder if he's right now being chucked into hell while shaking his fist and shouting "I regret nothing!!!!" as God and St. Peter laugh at him. I imagine that's what would happen if he found out he was wrong - Hitchens seemed like an acerbic kind of guy who would never admit that he was wrong, even in the face of God Herself.

My daughter had her winter concert this week, and as I'm sure you never get tired of seeing how cute my kids are, here she is moments before we left the house to go to the concert:

While we were at the concert, Mia got to sit on Mommy's lap, and it made her very happy:

It was a nice time, and all the kids did really well. As usual, I was more peeved at the audience than anyone else. Audiences today are shitty, and while I get annoyed with it at the movies (THEY CAN'T HEAR YOU WHEN YOU CHEER, MOUTH-BREATHERS!!!!), I get downright angry about it at live events. The kids not shutting up were bad enough, although it would be nice if their parents exercised some control over them ... if they could exercise some control over themselves, which they couldn't. Jeebus, people, shut the fuck up occasionally. The kids are all on stage, ready to sing, and all these people in the audience are buzzing and not letting them start (the kids sing in grades, so they had to move off the stage while others came onto the stage). On more than one occasion, the teacher just started playing the piano to get things going, or the audience never would have shut the fuck up. Audiences have been getting worse for years - I remember going to see the opera - the opera! - in Portland 15 years ago on opening night and people walked out the moment it was finished without applauding - but when you're ignoring kids who go to the school your kid attends who are trying to sing, you suck. SHUT THE FUCK UP, PEOPLE!!!!!

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

1. "We Care A Lot" - Faith No More (1986) "About the wars you're fighting, gee that looks like fun"2. "Ausländer" - Living Colour (1993)1 "Everything that I want, isn't it everything that you've got?"3. "Anytime" - Journey (1978) "Give me all of your sunshine, a spark is all I need"4. "Arc Of The Curve" - Fish (2007) "It takes everything I have not to call you on the phone"5. "Behind The Lines" - Genesis (1980) "I'm looking right through you and your heart is empty"6. "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" - Arcade Fire (2004) "Growing up in some strange storm, nobody's cold, nobody's warm"7. "Golden Age" - Midnight Oil (2002) "See freedom's silhouette increase, it's time to claim that sweet release"8. "Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground" - White Stripes (2001) "Every breath that is in your lungs is a tiny little gift to me"9. "Sparkle That Shines" - Straitjacket Fits (1989) "What will we feel when everyone feels no pain?"10. "The First Time" - U2 (1993) "I spend my whole time running; he spends his running after me"

1 Stain is out of print? What nonsense is this? Dang, it's an awesome album.

No one got the Totally Random Movie Quote last week - it was from Earth Girls are Easy, the very weird but very funny 1988 movie starring Geena Davis, Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey, Damon Wayans, Julie Brown, Michael McKean, Charles Rocket, and Larry Linville. Holy crap, with an all-star cast like that, how did this not become a classic? Let's check out another TRMQ:

"I suppose a smaller-caliber pistol would have to fire baby teeth."

Ooooh, that's a tough one, ain't it? Well, maybe not. You scalawags might enjoy the weird stuff!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone. Sorry I'm so late with this sucker - I've been busy with real-world stuff. You remember the real world, don't you, Internetters? Yeah, it's been busy. But it's here, so enjoy it!

Is Powers & House of X a Good Starting Point For New X-Men Readers?

More in Comics