What I bought - 14 July 2010

I have always pitied poor Abraham. Here he had the sword from his sheath, only seconds away from slitting his son's throat, and he had to sacrific a ram in his son's place. What a disappointment it must have been. What a damn tragedy. (Jeremy Leven, from Creator)

Astro City Special: Silver Agent #1 (of 2) ("To Serve and Protect") by Kurt Busiek (writer), Brent Anderson (artist), John Roshell (letterer), Jimmy Betancourt (letterer), and Alex Sinclair (colorist). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

Whenever Busiek concentrates solely on the superheroes of Astro City and its environs, I lose a little bit of interest. Despite the sprawling mess that "The Dark Age" became, it was still focused on two men who took different paths in life because of the murder of their parents, and it was interesting to watch them grow up. Yes, some readers complained. But I didn't, because it was an interesting experiment in storytelling and I think Busiek mostly pulled it off. Now, in preparation of going back to the ongoing, he finally gives us the story of the Silver Agent, and it's ... well, it's not bad, but it's very superheroey, and there's just not a lot that's too interesting about it. When Busiek gives us stories about the superheroes not being so very superheroic, it's neat, but this is the Silver Agent! He's, you know, the paragon. So we get his origin and why he's in the future and what he's fighting and why he feels like he needs to go back to be executed, and I assume next issue will delve into what happens when he goes back and faces the execution, but this felt a tiny bit stale. That sounds a bit harsh, I know. Busiek has set the bar fairly high with this series, so when he does tell a standard superhero story, even though it's a fine superhero story, I find myself wondering, "Is that all?" So I blame Busiek. Yes, I've done that before, I know. I don't care!

The guy at my comic book shoppe made a comment about Brent Anderson. He was looking at Batman: Odyssey last week and he said, "Adams reminds me of Brent Anderson." He is far more familiar with Anderson's work than Adams', which is why he said it. I said that since Adams came first, Anderson's art should have reminded him of Adams', but he said that since he saw Anderson's art first and is more familiar with it, he can say it that way. What say you? If Adams comes first but you, personally, saw Anderson first, is it valid to say Adams' art looks like Anderson's? Or does it not matter which you saw first, because if Adams was around first, Anderson obviously looks like him (if, indeed, you agree with that statement - you may not). Yes, this is what we talk about at the comics shoppe. That's just how we roll, man!

Obviously, I'm looking forward to seeing how Busiek resolves this. But this issue was a tad disappointing. Oh well.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Avengers Academy #2 ("Gifted & Talented") by Christos Gage (writer), Mike McKone (artist), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Gage focuses on "Finesse" in issue #2 of this series, as she narrates much like Veil narrated issue #1. I suppose the first arc will have each new character narrating? Anyway, this remains an intriguing series, more so than Young Allies, because Gage isn't simply throwing the kids into combat situations, he's making them react to things and reveal character that way. Finesse, whose real name is Jeanne Foucault (although with that last name and the way she acts throughout the issue, I'm not sure if we can believe her), is trying to relate to her teammates and teachers, and it's an interesting story as she tries to figure it out. She has an eidetic memory, so learning isn't a problem with her, and she correctly figures a few things out in this issue, both obvious and not-so-obvious, but she can't figure out people. So she awkwardly goes around interacting with characters, including inappropriately flirting with Hank Pym (after believing that Maddy's crush on Vance means that she should create a crush and then take it further) and asking Pietro to teach her "privately." Gage does a nice job showing that she worked for Norman Osborn because she believed she could learn from him, and it had nothing to do with good or evil, just knowledge. Jeanne considers the reasons why she acts the way she does, but she can't come with any answers. It's a neat book, because we're almost as uncomfortable as Jeanne as she struggles to figure out how to act around people.

I suppose Gage does this because the characters are new, so we really need to get to know them before anything really huge happens (there's some action in this, but it's training action, so it doesn't "feel" "real"). He's doing a good job with it so far, so I'm keen to see who gets the spotlight next issue. Oh, wait - it's a crossover with Thunderbolts. Damn it. Oh well. We'll see what's going on with that, I suppose.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman #701 ("R. I. P. The Missing Chapter Part One: The Hole in Things") by Grant "I should have looked at that contract before I signed it!" Morrison (writer), Tony Daniel (artist), Ian Hannin (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Hmmm. This is an odd issue, stemming from Our Dread Lord and Master's contention that it is completely inessential. That's somewhat meaningless; all comics are inessential, of course (and yes, I'm being a dick on purpose, so chillax for a second), and what's more, most comics have several inessential pages. Brian takes exception to this issue because of Morrison's usual complete economy of storytelling - he gives us only what is necessary and lets us fill in the gaps. In Batman #701, he fills in the gaps for us, and that's what vexes the bossman.

But, if you want to argue for comics where plot is not necessarily all there is, this is an interesting experiment by the God of All Comics. Morrison's biggest weakness in comic book writing is so-called "quiet writing," where it's just the characters talking and not advancing the plot at all. That's what he does here, and he doesn't completely succeed, but it's an interesting attempt. His run with Batman has been stuffed to the gills with plot, to the point where nobody cared that Jezebel Jet was evil because Morrison did absolutely nothing with her character. While he's connecting dots (presumably for people who don't understand how he got from the end of "R. I. P." to Final Crisis), he's also trying to delve into Bruce's personality a bit. Consider the strange interaction with Ellie - it's as if he's not himself, and for a second, I thought he might actually be Hurt, as he comes off as a bit creepy in the exchange. His conversations with Alfred also reveal some things, such as his anger that his father's Bat-costume is gone and that Bruce Wayne's reputation has taken a hit. The writing isn't that great, which is a bit shocking considering it's Morrison, but if we consider that this kind of story is not his forte, it makes more sense. RAB wondered if Morrison didn't even write the issue, putting the "blame" instead on Daniel, but instead of saying it doesn't read like one of his stories at all, we should try to recall an issue that Morrison wrote where very little happens and he concentrates on character work. He doesn't do it very often, so it's perhaps not surprising that this is not terribly well written. But that doesn't make it a lousy comic - it's not on Morrison's usual level, but it's not embarrassingly bad. It just "sounds" a bit stilted, except for a few places when he's talking to Alfred. I don't know why Morrison felt the need to write this, but perhaps he felt that during his run on Batman, he's spent too much time pummeling us with crazy ideas, so he wanted to slow down a bit. There's nothing wrong with that.

Daniel remains a weird artist. He's inking himself here, which definitely makes the art better, but his faces are still terrible. Bruce looks like a mannequin when he's pulling his makeshift cowl over his head after he climbs out of the water, and when he tells Alfred he told Hurt to burn in hell, he doesn't look angry, he looks like someone trying to be angry. And Daniel's Superman is absolutely awful, like he's storing nuts for the winter and is nursing two black eyes (that might be Hannin's doing, though). I don't hate this art as much as Daniel's earlier work with Morrison (Bruce's escape from the harbor is nicely done, for instance), but for everything that looks decent we get something that's just terrible. It's annoying.

I don't really have a problem with Morrison bridging the gap between the two storylines. I suppose it could have been completely editorially mandated, but I can't believe Morrison would have kowtowed to the bigwigs if he really didn't want to write this. I think this is just a period in Bruce's life when Morrison was showing all his doubts and issues about the problems he went through. That it's not terribly well written doesn't mean it's a complete failure. I'm curious to see what Morrison does in #702.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Booster Gold #34 ("Déjà Blue [and Gold]") by Keith Giffen (writer/penciller, pgs 2-5, 22), J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Chris Batista (penciller), Rich Perrotta (inker), Sal Cipriano (letterer), and Hi-Fi (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

The first page of this comic shows Booster and Blue Beetle running away from, as the narration tells us, a "crazed horde of mystically powered warriors." The narrator wonders how Beetle could be alive as he was shot in the head by Maxwell Lord, and a footnote at the bottom of the page reads "You have no idea how hard it was for DeMatteis to type those words." I know this is a jokey comic, but it's interesting that, in their own passive-aggressive way, Giffen and DeMatteis are letting us know that they really don't like how DC has treated the JLI roster, even though they keep working for the company. Plus, it was a pretty funny footnote.

Booster is still trying to convince the world that Maxwell Lord exists, so he goes back again to his JLI days, but before he can put that plan into action, Beetle ropes him into a repo job (remember that they had repo jobs for a while?) for the Catholic Church - someone stole an abridged version of the Book of Destiny which gives its owner immense power. B & B enlist Scott Free and Barda to track the technology used in the heist, which takes them to a medieval world on the other side of the universe. There they are discovered by Hieronymous the Underachiever, who's trying to decipher the book (and whose desires for when he gets power are funny, especially the one obscured by the panel border). He doesn't appreciate the Leaguers coming to stop him. Hence the crazed horde of warriors we saw at the beginning. Meanwhile, back in the "present," Booster's sister bonds with the girl he brought back from the future. Stuff is happening there (then?), too.

Like the first two issues of the Giffen/DeMatteis run, it's less about plot (not that the plots don't matter) and more about the characters interacting with each other. Unlike, say, our previous entry's writer, Giffen and DeMatteis have absolutely no problem writing "inconsequential" dialogue, people talking that just sets up a zinger or reveals some insight into the characters. As she often is, Barda is the funniest one in this issue, because Barda suffers no bullshit and Booster and Beetle are all about the bullshit (at least during their JLI days). What's interesting is that DeMatteis is showing how Booster is actually more mature than he used to be, so there's a dissonance between his current mindset and the way Barda sees him. It's not too subtle, but it is well done, and it's funnier because Barda still thinks he's the immature jerk of the JLI days. So there's an underlying tension that makes the book more interesting than it would be otherwise.

As I've written so far about this new writing team, I'm taking it one issue at a time. As this is a two-part story, I'll get the next issue, but I'm still not completely sold on the book. Giffen and DeMatteis are revisiting their old haunts (the Great Darkness Saga, the JLI) so they're good at these stories, but we'll see when they don't go into their comfort zones. But this is still an enjoyable comic!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Chew #12 ("Just Desserts Part Two of Five") by John Layman (writer/letterer), Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), and Steven Struble (color assistant). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

I had an interesting conversation with John Layman on Wednesday night. He told me that the way this issue begins was necessitated by the fact that Image doesn't put advertising in its books. The issue begins with the narration: "The pages got shuffled out of sequence this issue. This is actually page eighteen." On the next page, the narration reads: "This was supposed to be page one. The prologue." Later, we get: "This was page seventeen. Page nineteen comes next." He did this because there are two double-page spreads in this book, and to get the one that now occupies pages 18-19 to face each other, there would have to be an advertisement inserted or, well, Layman could just take the original page 18 and put it out of sequence. The funny thing is that it works perfectly. The new page 1 sets up the confrontation later in the issue perfectly, and while we don't know who the dude on the first page is (if we ignore the cover), it becomes clear later. And we get a good, tense opening where a man with a gun and one bullet needs to make a dire choice, as two men have guns pointed at him and his target is protected by bullet-proof glass. Plus, the narration works because Chew, from the beginning, has been a bit cheeky about the creators interacting with the audience - there's never been a sense of the aloof readers and aloof creators peeking in on the lives of these characters. Layman and Guillory have always poked fun at the comic, so the fact that Layman is breaking the fourth wall to explain his process doesn't break any unspoken covenant with the reader. He could have skipped the narrative boxes and stuck with an explanation on page 2 that simply told us it was sometime in the past, but where's the fun in that?

Layman is a fun guy to talk to, not only for the gossip he dishes (which I'm not about to share). He has an interesting way of writing these books that I'm not sure is common with comic book writers, but it's certainly fun to hear about. He's written issue #18, for instance, but hasn't quite figured out how to get there, so issue #16 is not done yet. He's written the first scene of issue #26, for crying out loud, and is working toward it. It's a fascinating process, and I wonder if others do it that way as well. Either way, it's cool to talk to him because you get the sense of how much fun he's having writing this, something that comes through so well on the page. This issue is typically insane, and the double-page spread for which Layman had to move a page is unbelievably awesome, with Guillory going all out to bring the scene to savage life. The book remains so gleefully nuts, but Layman continues to add interesting layers, as at the end of this issue, when Tony has to make a choice between his personal life and his job. It's the nice mix that makes Chew so very, very good. The giant hardcover should be out soon (collecting issues #1-10), so if you've been waiting on this comic, you really ought to get on board!

(Layman and I were out at a dive bar in Gilbert, Arizona. We were joined by two employees of Atomic Comics, one of whom was entirely too obsessed with Scott Pilgrim. But she was very nice, and she has read the final volume, and she says it's amazing. For what that's worth, Scott Pilgrim fans.)

One totally Airwolf panel:

Codebreakers #4 (of 4) by Carey Malloy (writer), Scott Godlewski (artist), Stephen Downer (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

This mini-series is a solid one, with some good misdirection by Malloy, as befits a story about codes and subterfuge and whatnot, especially in this issue, as it all comes to a head. It's all wrapped up rather nicely, and while I do wish the spy stuff had been a bit more intricate - the codes fade a bit into the background as the series moves along, which was a bit sad - it's still a good action adventure with interesting characters who make the story work. Malloy doesn't do anything fancy, just tells his tale. If you like espionage stuff, you'll probably enjoy this. If you don't, it probably won't change your mind.

Godlewski is the real find on this series, and he's moving on to Kurt Busiek's Dracula book, so he's moving on up a bit. I mentioned this after the first issue, but I'll do it again: he has a nice Rafael Albuquerque vibe going on, although he's not as accomplished as Albuquerque is. He does a very good job showing how the spies see the world - Lindsay can "read" people, so Godlewski shows regular folk how she sees them - with their thoughts written all over their faces. He also shows how Foster is going to get out of his restraints and escape through small panels - it's similar to the device Guy Ritchie used in Sherlock Holmes, but in comic-book form, and it works very well. The book looks very good, and it helps elevate Malloy's script.

I know there's going to be a trade, but I'm not sure when it's out. But it's a nice book to check out, and it's definitely entertaining. That is, if you like to be entertained!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Daytripper #8 (of 10) ("47") by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (writers/artists), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Sean Konot (letterer)*. $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.* There are no credits in this issue, I should point out. I know it's Moon and Bá, but I'm just going to assume Stewart and Konot did the colors and letters, as they've done the other issues.

Unsurprisingly, I don't have much to say about the latest issue of Daytripper. In their podcast, our own Chad Nevett and noted bon vivant Tim Callahan give away the big secret every time they discuss this book, but I shan't! It's not that it's so, soooooo important, but I think those people who are waiting for the trade ought to discover it for themselves, because it seems like it simply wouldn't work, but Moon and Bá are doing such a good job making it work. Our hero, Brás, doesn't even appear in this issue, as our storytellers focus on his wife and son, who miss him when he's on the road promoting his novel. But he sends letters and text messages and e-mails telling Ana how much he loves her, and we get a wonderful portrait of their love even though Brás isn't there. Moon and Bá have gotten better at the writing, too - the scene where Ana visits her mother-in-law and Miguel wanders around while the women discuss Brás' dead father is really well done. It's a good melding of writing and art.

I don't know if Bá and Moon have something in mind for the grand finale of this series or if they're going to keep writing these little slices of life stories, but I don't really care too much. Daytripper is fantastic, and it's getting better as it moves toward the end. That's not a bad thing!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Frenemy of the State #2 ("Operation: Noob Part Two") by Rashida Jones (writer), Christina Weir (writer), Nunzio DeFilippis (writer), Jeff Wamester (artist), Rob Ruffolo (colorist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

I enjoyed the first issue of this series and like this one, but it's still a bit weird and I hope the gaggle of writers can figure it out. Ariana is getting chucked into all sorts of predicaments that seem to be much bigger than she can handle, yet nothing bad happens to her. Last issue she fell out of a helicopter and, at the beginning of this issue, she survives. She also flies off to Saudi Arabia rather easily (yes, I know she's rich) and doesn't do much to conceal the fact that she's spying on people, which gets her into more trouble (and from which I'm sure she will extricate herself next issue). I enjoy the light-hearted tone Weir, DeFilippis, and Jones are bringing to the script, but it feels off because Ariana veers wildly from super-competent to not competent at all, mostly in service of the pacing of the 22-page issue. This is most annoying in Saudi Arabia, where she knows the bad guy is a bad guy yet doesn't take many pains to stalk him efficiently, getting herself into trouble. And don't get me started on how incompetent the CIA appears, letting her get away from them in the first place. On the other hand, the fact that the government explains her behavior by leaking a story about her falling off the wagon is funny because it feels so "tabloid-real" - these are the kinds of things splashed all over the celebrity magazines all the time, so it's believable. The parts of this book that deal with Ariana being a spoiled rich girl work a bit better than the spy stuff right now, and I hope the writers get the balance better.

I mentioned last issue that I didn't love Wamester's use of Bettie Page bangs on the young ladies in this book, and in this issue, he changes their hairstyles, which, oddly enough, makes me like the art more. I know - I'm strange. I deal with it. He doesn't give us a lot of widescreen shots, so whether you like the art is basically dependent on whether you like his figure work, and he does a nice job with that. This book is already a bit late, so I hope Wamester can keep up the pace so whatever momentum it might have doesn't get lost. Indy books like this get lost in the shuffle far too easily, and it's always a shame.

I still like Frenemy of the State, but I also know that DeFilippis and Weir can do better. So I have my fingers crossed!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Girl Comics #3 (of 3). "Introduction" by Colleen Coover; "Things That Never Change" by Marjorie Liu (writer), Sara Pichelli (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), and Kathleen Marinaccio (letterer); Amora pin-up by Stephanie Hans; "The Job" by Louise Simonson (writer), June Brigman (penciler), Rebecca Buchman (inker), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Kathleen Marinaccio (letterer); "A Moving Experience" by Lea Hernandez (writer/artist/letterer); "Blindspot" by Ann Nocenti (writer) and Molly Crabapple (artist); Elektra and Daredevil pin-up by Sho Murase; "Chaos Theory" by Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Adriana Melo (penciler), Mariah Benes (inker), Cris Peter (colorist), and Kathleen Marinaccio (letterer); "Mixology at Terato Gena's" by Carla Speed McNeil (writer/artist) and Ronda Pattison (colorist). $4.99, 44 pgs, FC, Marvel.

This is probably the weakest issue of Girl Comics, which is too bad as it's the last one. That's not to say this is a lousy issue, but it doesn't have a stand-out story like the first two, so it ends being simply an issue where we see what some unusual creators would do if they were unleashed on Marvel characters. There's nothing in this that makes you think "Wow, so-and-so should really write this title!" but there is some interesting stuff.

First of all, the lesser stories. Louise Simonson and June Brigman's Power Pack tale is cute but doesn't have much spark. It's easy enough to understand what's going on even if you never read Power Pack, but it lacks any resonance. Ann Nocenti and Molly Crabapple's Typhoid Mary story is ... well, weird. And not in a good way. The DeConnick/Melo/Benes story is just bad and ugly, so I won't dwell on it. Then there's the three X-Men stories, Liu and Pichelli's about Wolverine and Jubilee; Lea Hernandez about Wolverine and Magneto; and McNeil's about Wolverine taking Kitty out for her 21st birthday.

While these stories might not be the greatest in terms of quality, they show us something that seems to be lacking from many comics these days, and that's the quiet story (I'm having fun with this kind of story today, aren't I?). I haven't read the X-Men recently, but when I was a few years ago, everything was so rushed and the fact that so many of these people had deep connections was ignored. Fraction brought Psylocke and Dazzler back to the team and nobody asked them how they were or where they'd been. I miss the kind of issues where everyone takes a breath, has a beer, and talks about meaningless things. It doesn't even have to be an entire issue - even a few pages would be nice. Part of the problem with big-time superhero comics anymore is that the writers are so focused on the big plot that they don't take any time to show that the characters actually like each other. Maybe this has to do with the price of issues and writers want to make sure we feel like we're getting our money's worth. Maybe it's the writing for the trade mentality, where a quiet issue simply wouldn't fit. One reason why I don't read the X-Men anymore even though I love most of the characters is because it no longer feels like a family. It's just random characters showing up and fighting things. Boring.

So that's why I enjoyed these three stories so much. The fact that Wolverine and Magneto aren't really fighting in Hernandez's story is easy to suss out, but it's still fun (and I love Wolverine's custom-painted car). I find it odd that Marvel would allow McNeil to tell a story about a watershed mark in Kitty's life in the pages of an anthology, and I also don't buy that alcohol has never crossed Kitty's lips until this night, but her birthday party is a fun way to get a bunch of Marvel heroes together and let down their hair. The fact that McNeil probably made more money for six pages of work than she has for all of Finder is something best left unpondered. And as I have a soft spot in my heart for Jubilee, I loved Liu's story about her and Wolverine, especially because it takes place in the present and in current continuity (as far as I know), with Jubilee not having her powers and talking about what that feels like. But it's a good story because Wolverine has to deal with the fact that a girl he once knew is growing up (it's implied that Jubilee is at least 18) and she's, well, sexy. Liu does a nice job hinting around at their complex relationship, and it's the kind of brief scene that we rarely see in superhero comics anymore, because long-time relationships have been sundered (I don't even know where Jubilee is anymore, and Wolverine is in so many comics who knows who the "real" Logan is) and the teams these days have no real connection to each other. Liu's story is a nice reward for long-time readers, and I would love to see more writers build on relationships that people like Claremont created and nurtured over several years. But that's just me being nostalgic, I guess. Still, it's a nifty piece of writing by Liu.

I don't know if Girl Comics "proved" anything any more than Strange Tales proved anything, except that I would love to see more wacky independent creators write mainstream books. I know I'm in the minority on this and that sales would plummet and the Apocalypse would come, but I don't care. In the meantime, we'd get so groovy comics. I'd buy a Faith Erin Hicks ongoing with Boom-Boom and Elsa Bloodstone in a heartbeat, and I still think Matt Kindt would kick all kinds of ass on a Black Widow series. But I'm crazy, you know.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gorilla-Man #1 (of 3) ("The Serpent and the Hawk") by Jeff Parker (writer), Giancarlo Caracuzzo (artist), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs + 6-pg reprint, FC, Marvel.

Well, the news that Atlas is ending is a bummer, but at least we still have Parker digging these characters enough to throw them into mini-series and other places, and when you get to the end of this mini-series and the "ongoing," we'll still have a good, what, 30-35 issues of this team doing their weird things? That ain't too bad. And honestly, if people aren't going to read a comic about an immortal gorilla who fights the scion of the Borgias, a man who is grafted to a machine that looks like a spider and who is stealing art from the Renaissance because his family commissioned them, objets d'art that include the freakin' head of Lucrezia Borgia and who also employs hot women in skintight leather and which is just the first part of a comic that has a bigger plot, I really don't know what we're going to do with you. I guess people just want superheroes destroying things instead of stuff that's, you know, cool.

Caracuzzo is a very good artist for this book, because he's Italian. That means, while he draws buxom women, they also have hips and butts and strong legs. They might be idealized, but at least they don't look like skinny fourteen-year-olds with gigantic breasts stapled to their chests. Yay!

I suppose a lot of people are going to wait for the trade. If Marvel were smart, they'd at least add the Namora one-shot that Parker recently wrote. At least that would make thematic sense. Oh, wait - it's Marvel. I won't hold my breath.

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Killer: Modus Vivendi #4 (of 6) by Matz (writer/translator), Luc Jacamon (artist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Scott Newman (letterer). $3.95, 28 pgs, FC, Archaia.

I ranted quite a bit about the pro-Cuban (and anti-American) propaganda in issue #3 of this series, and it continues a bit in this issue, although I hope the ending portends a bit of disillusionment for our hero in the final two issues. We get back to some action in this issue, and Matz once again makes things a bit murkier in regard to what's actually going on. I like this series much more when the politics become muddled, because that's the way real life is. The killer regains some of his cynicism in this issue, and that's what I like to see.

Issues #3 and 4 are in the middle of the longer series, so it seems like Matz slowed the pace unnecessarily. The first series, at 10 issues, felt more frenetic, and I wonder if Matz simply didn't have as much to say in this series, so it's a bit more decompressed. Either way, the ending of this issue, with a seeming betrayal exposed, makes me feel better about the series than issue #3 did. We'll see where Matz goes with it!

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Light #4 (of 5) ("Reunion") by Nathan Edmondson (writer) and Brett Weldele (artist/letterer). $2.99, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

Coyle and his daughter reach Portland in this issue, and it's not too hard to figure out what they find there. What is kind of neat is that Coyle continues to be a jerk - he's trying to be better, but he's fighting against his darker nature, and so it's going to come out occasionally. In only a few issues, Edmondson has done a fine job making us care about Coyle and Avery that we forget what a lousy person Coyle was when we first met him. So when things get a bit out of his control in this issue, it's a bit shocking to see him revert to form. I doubt if things are going to end well in this series, but Edmondson has done a nice job getting us to this point, and I'm keen to see how he ends it.

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Man With the Getaway Face by Darwyn Cooke (adapter). $2.00, 24 pgs, BrW, IDW.

As much as some people loved the first Parker graphic novel that Darwyn Cooke adapted, I didn't (love it, that is - I did like it). Cooke didn't seem to trust in his visual storytelling skills, often pushing his art aside to give us huge chunks of exposition that dragged the story down and ground it to a halt (and this is after the breathtaking wordless opening sequence, which made it even more disappointing). Cooke can be a good writer, but I wondered if perhaps he was a bit too in love with Westlake's fiction to dare tampering with it. I enjoyed The Hunter, but had some reservations about continuing with Cooke's project of adapting other Parker novels. So when IDW decided to publish this preview for the next graphic novel for only two dollars, I figured I'd give it a look to see if I'd want to get the next in the series. It's also a good way for those who didn't read the first adaptation to see if they'd like it, as it's a pretty good example of what Cooke is doing with these books.

First of all, this thing is massive. It's 8 X 12 inches (your regular funnybook is not quite 7 by a bit over 10), and the paper stock is very thick, making it feel heftier than your usual book. Cooke's art, meanwhile, is stellar as usual. The best part about it is that Cooke pulls back on the narration - it's still there, but it's not as overwhelming as in the first book, which is nice. Cooke lets his art and the dialogue tell the story, and it makes this feel a bit less heavy-handed and more intense than The Hunter - we're not being told what's going on as much as watching it unfold, and that's a good thing. Parker gets a new face and then gets involved in a quick heist for some cash, and Cooke does a nice job laying out how the thieves get away with it. Of course, there's betrayal and a surprise ending, but that's okay, because the story is a good short story that gives you a good idea of what to expect from these adaptations. Check it out, and if you like it, pick up the new graphic novel in the fall!

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Murder of King Tut #2 (of 5) by Alexander Irvine (writer), Christopher Mitten (artist), Ron Randall (artist), Dom Regan (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Howard Carter gets a bit more screen time in this issue, as he slowly comes into his own in Egypt, discovers some things, finds out that tomb robbers are evil, and writes pining letters to his honey back home. In both the Carter portions and the ancient Egyptian sections, Irvine is doing a nice job slowly getting to the point - I worried about that in issue #1, but it's clearer in this issue that he's able to give us plenty of background on the two main plot points - Tutankhamen's reign and Carter's discovery of his tomb - without sacrificing too much. We get political intrigue in the ancient Egyptian plot, while in Carter's time, we see the slow encroachment of civilization on the burial spots, as people like Carter, who still want to explore the tombs, also understand that rules are needed to keep everything intact. It's a subtle point by Irvine, but it's an interesting subplot, especially when we consider that Akhenaten had to deal with some of the same issues as he attempted to remake Egyptian society (and, you know, failed miserably). Although the two main plots are interesting, it's nice to see Irvine has a bit more on his mind than just that. Randall and Mitten continue to do a nice job. That's kind of a given, ain't it?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Officer Downe ("Tough Shit") by Joe Casey (writer), Chris Burnham (artist), Marc Letzmann (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $4.99, 43 pgs, FC, Image.

Casey had a high concept idea - what if a cop could be resurrected endlessly? - and simply wrote the most high-octane, astonishingly violent, goofily groovy comic since Hard Boiled, helped along by Chris Burnham's delightfully Geof Darrowish art. There's very little socially redeeming about Officer Downe, but for five bucks, you get a madcap ultraviolent romp, as Downe is killed, resurrected, killed again, and brought back to life once more. The villains of this story is the Fortune 500, who are humans with animal heads (and remain unexplained, because who cares?). They think they can kill Downe, who always messes with their businesses, and they almost do, as they hire Zen Master Flash to take Downe out. He does, but not completely, and Downe is back on the street at the end, dispensing his unique brand of justice.

I really can't say much about this comic. It's gleefully depraved, with Burnham having way too much fun showing all the various ways Downe pulverizes and gets pulverized. Casey gives us a perfunctory explanation of how Downe can keep coming back to life, but that just takes up a few pages and allows him to turn Downe loose and let Burnham have a grand time. Burnham has always been a good artist, but the addition of Letzmann's eye-popping colors really elevate his work. I don't know if this is worth the five dollars, but I know I enjoyed the hell out of it. Most ridiculously violent mainstream books take themselves so seriously. Casey and Burnham know that that's silly, so they just go nuts. And it's pretty awesome.

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Sixth Gun #2 (of 6) by Cullen Bunn (writer) and Brian Hurtt (artist/letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

I'm sure everyone picked up the free first issue of this comic, because it was, you know, free. If you bitch and complain about spending 4 dollars for shitty Avengers comics and how you can't take a chance on an indy book because you need to buy every single fucking X-book that exists, then this is perfect for you, right? (Yes, I'm bitter. I don't have any problem with people spending their money wherever they want, but the first issue of The Sixth Gun didn't cost a dime. So that argument is shit, if someone would make it.) And now the second issue is out, and Bunn and Hurtt continue with their very cool series.

Bunn has already proven that he can mix the supernatural well with some of the more standard genres in fiction, so a Western with all sorts of weird stuff, while not unique, is certainly within Bunn's comfort zone. And this is a bit more ambitious than The Damned, as Bunn gives us many more characters fighting over this cursed six-shooter, so it feels a bit more sprawling. Almost this entire issue takes place in a saloon, where the principals all gather to try to gain access of the gun even though it's bonded with the preacher's daughter. Everything goes pear-shaped, of course, and Bunn has a lot of fun with it. Hurtt is wonderful, of course - it's been a while since I've seen his stuff in color, and it's magnificent. The action is tremendous, with great detail that highlights the supernaturality of the series, and some excellent choreography, considering there are so many characters running around shooting at each other. Hurtt is equally comfortable with the weird stuff and the more mundane stuff, and the book looks superb.

I have no doubt that Bunn and Hurtt will continue to dazzle on this series. That's just how they roll!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Super Friends #29 (of 29) ("Con Games") by Sholly Fisch (writer), Stewart McKenny (penciller), Dan Davis (inker), John J. Hill (letterer), Heroic Age (colorist). $2.99, 17 pgs, FC, DC.

This is the last issue of Super Friends, and it's a fun place to finish, as all the heroes' imp friends - Mxyzptlk, Bat-Mite, Mopee, Shaggy the Leprechaun, and Quisp - show up at Comic-Con and cause some mayhem. (John Stewart doesn't have an imp, so he gets Dan DiDio). Mxyzptlk promises not to use magic, but he does convince the others to use theirs, and mischief ensues. It's a fun issue, with Fisch taking gentle shots at comic book fans (the fat guy in the Flash suit is a bit clichéd, sure, but the fact that he has different food every time we see him cracked me up) and McKenny throwing all kinds of sight gags into the mix. Yes, it's a slight issue, but I agree with Editor Rachel Gluckstein, who shows up in the book, when she wonders if the imps can show up every year at the con. It would be a ton of fun!

The Johnny DC books have always provided a nice breath of fresh air to the otherwise tortured, overly serious superhero books that DC and Marvel often publish these days. I won't miss the book too much, but it's still a shame it's not going to be around anymore.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sweets #1 (of 5) by Kody Chamberlain (writer/artist/colorist/letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Kody Chamberlain is a hell of a nice guy, so I do hope that Sweets does well for him. It doesn't hurt that it's cool as hell, despite some problems. There's a serial killer in New Orleans, and only cop can stop him! Unfortunately, Curt the cop is a mess - his daughter has died, his wife wants a divorce, and he's drinking too much. His boss, who embodies the Angry Police Captain, doesn't want him on the case. And there's someone high up in the city government who isn't a very nice person and may in fact be the killer himself!

So yes, Chamberlain traffics in some of the regular clichés we see in cop fiction. But I don't care. First of all, there's a reason these things are clichéd - they tend to work. I can overlook the clichés as long as the entire thing works, and as we don't know how this will work when it's completed, I'm more forgiving than if this were a one-shot or graphic novel. Second, Chamberlain is a terrific artist, and this book looks fantastic, with New Orleans really having a nice personality in the book and Chamberlain altering his style (and the coloring) in a flashback to (presumably) Curt's childhood, which sets it off very well. There are some interesting plot points, as well - the praline pecans left at each crime scene, the scientist working on vaccines and testing them on animals - so Chamberlain at least has my attention. That's the cool thing about comics - movies and television shows that use these clichés all look pretty much alike, but comics have an extra element - the art - that can obscure any weaknesses in the writing. Chamberlain is probably better known as an artist, so it's not surprising that's the best part of the comic, but there's definitely an earnestness to the writing that makes me more interested in than if it were a simple paint-by-numbers cop drama. Maybe Chamberlain won't be able to pull it all together. But based on this first issue, I'm certainly willing to see where he's going with it.

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Unwritten #15 ("Dead Man's Knock: Bloodlettings") by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (writer and artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I can't get over the feeling that The Unwritten isn't very good. It really bothers me, because I do think it's gotten much more interesting since the arc in the prison, but I'm still unsure what to make of it. Carey does some very neat things in this series, but there's also a lot that feels forced. It never seems to cohere into a really good story, even though certain scenes throughout an issue work very well. We've been moving toward the appearance of Tom's father, and in this issue he shows up, but the drama of the appearance is leeched out of it because of how Wilson deals with the vampire dude who has been stalking Tom and Savoy. The way Tom tracks Lizzie's message is clever but too quick, it seems. Pullman remains scary and Lizzie's journey into the book are also interesting, but lack something. It's very hard to quantify it - I don't know if this book is good and it just doesn't work for me, or bad and I just want to like it more. There's so much that I like in each issue, but I always feel vaguely unsatisfied when I finish one. I'm sorry that I'm not clearer. I'll see what's going on next issue and as this arc wraps up, but I just don't know what to do with it. Look at how many comics I buy - if I lose one, it's not going to bother me all that much. I just wish this were better.

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Playwright by Daren White (writer) and Eddie Campbell (artist). $14.95, 158 pgs, FC, Top Shelf.

Well, this is drawn by Eddie Campbell, and it looks great. It's about a geeky middle-aged dude who fantasizes about women he sees on the street, so there's a lot of nudity. And it's gotten some good reviews, so I'm looking forward to reading it. Thoughts soon!

Revolver by Matt Kindt (writer/artist) and Steve Wands (letterer). $24.99, 185 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Hot diggity, I love me some Matt Kindt. I've been looking forward to this book since it was announced, and I'm so glad it's out. Whenever Kindt publishes something, it's one of the best graphic novels of the year. So I'm very keen to check this out!

All right, let's see The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle But Which Often Gets Reset, A Vexing Dilemma):

1. "American Horse" - The Cult (1989) "Feather in his mane, showing no fear"2. "Ausländer" - Living Colour (1993) "I don't want your life, I've got my own needs"3. "Down at the Twist and Shout" - Mary Chapin Carpenter (1990) "When they play you a waltz from 1910 you gonna feel a little bit young again"4. "It's a Mistake" - Men at Work (1983) "We wish you'd all throw in the towel"5. "Milk & Honey" - Beck (1999) "In the jungle lands with the cold cola cans you'll get the keys to the city for free"6. "Truth Hits Everybody" - The Police (1978) "I clutch at images like dying breath"7. "We Are Together" - Indigo Girls (1999) "And though I said I did not care it was way before we'd gotten there"8. "Breaking the Law" - Judas Priest (1980) "I've had every promise broken, there's anger in my heart"9. "W. H. Y. B." - Liquid Jesus (1991) "And still I wonder just what I've done"10. "Screaming at the Wailing Wall" - Flogging Molly (2004) "With the bombed out cars come the falling stars from a heaven we'll never know"

Last week's totally random lyrics were from the song "Somebody Give Me a Grade" from Phineas and Ferb, which you can watch on Disney Channel. The kids dig it, and for adults, it's about a billion times better than SpongeBob SquarePants. I don't get the love for SpongeBob, frankly. The show is inane. But let's check out some different totally random lyrics!

"You see you're my heart, you're my soulYou're my stone inspirationBaby oh that's why I'm standin' here singin'And opening my arms to youI wanna say child why don't youTake my hand and we'll live in love foreverYeah take my hand ooh, we'll be alone you and me yeah"

Phew, that was a lot of comics. I thought last week was a big week! Anyway, I know you're usually paralyzed by anticipation until I publish these posts, so I apologize for the delay. I hate taking so long - blame comics for being so awesome. I'm taking next week off because I won't be around on Thursday and Friday - it's convention time! - so you'll have to navigate the comics shoppes by yourself! You can do it!!!!

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