What I bought - 14 March 2007

Comics, comics, comics ... let's see what showed up in my pull box.  Plus: which comic did the readers choose for me?

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #6 by Robert Kirkman, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks.  $2.99, Marvel.

The first arc of Ant-Man comes to a somewhat unsatisfactory end, as Eric finally manages to escape from Mitch and we finally find out what happened to Mitch's face (it was Eric's fault) and how everything has led up to the present day.  It's kind of a letdown after the first five issues, not because they promised anything great, but because in this world of "writing for the trade," this feels like Kirkman simply wanted to get everything wrapped up in six issues before embarking on his next arc, in which Eric hitches a ride with Carol Danvers.  Veronica is still pregnant, Eric still doesn't know about it, and Mitch is still pissed off, so there will be story opportunities, I guess, but I wish Kirkman had resisted the urge to write six issues to just get Eric on the run.  This could easily have been a three-issue story, and it would have been much tighter.  Spread out like this, it doesn't have enough heft to fill a six-issue story.

I like the premise of this book, but Eric, for me, isn't unlikable enough - he's only really been a huge dick in issue #5.  He's not a hero, of course, but it looks like Kirkman is going to really play the "peeping Tom" angle to the hilt, and that's dull.  Too bad.  It could have been a neat book.  But why should I wait for it?

Chronicles of Wormwood #2 (of 6) by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows.  $3.99, Avatar.

I know I usually don't read mini-series past the first issue until they're all done, but I figured it was time to change that policy ... at least for a while.  We'll see.

Anyway, the second issue of Chronicles of Wormwood gives us more of the same from the first issue - the very first page shows the actual pope getting sexually serviced by three nuns (or women dressed as nuns) and then ranting about Danny Wormwood for a while.  This pope (who follows the current one, I guess) is Australian, which allows Ennis to write him saying things like "bollocks."  Pope Jacko doesn't want the Church to go after Wormwood, even though his cardinals are encouraging him to, because he knows that Wormwood wants nothing to do with the End of the World.  This subplot will obviously come back again, as the Catholic Church presumably wants to do something irregular with the Anti-Christ.  We'll see.

Meanwhile, Danny tells his father (the Devil) to go jump in a lake, because he doesn't want to participate in any Armageddon - he'd rather let humanity sort itself out.  This allows Ennis to rant about the state of the world, which is mildly interesting even though it's nothing we haven't heard before.  Then the book gets interesting.

Wormwood is interviewed by a female reporter with a chip on her shoulder, and Danny simply looks into her mind to discover why she's so angry.  This makes him realize what a bastard he's been, and he calls Joan of Arc and breaks it off with her.  She, in turn, visits his girlfriend and tells her about their affair, which leads to Maggie throwing him out of the apartment.  He ends up at his favorite bar with Jesus, drowning his sorrows.  Jesus suggests an "afterlife road trip," which sounds pretty good to Danny.  So that's where we're heading next!

The interview with the reporter is very nice, because Ennis does a good job, in only a few pages, of establishing the reporter's character and showing how both she and Danny are playing a role.  Danny, however, is far more than just a television executive, and he cheats.  The memory he dredges up will stay with the reporter for a while, even if she has buried it deep, and Danny realizes right away that he's done a terrible thing.  Ennis is very good at writing bastards with a modicum of humanity, and Danny, in two issues, has become a nice character who acts like a jerk very often (he cheats on his girlfriend, for instance) but tries to do the right thing a lot, too.  He has a revelation about his relationship after he messes up the reporter, but he screws that up, too, because his dumping Joan of Arc backfires on him.  Even Pope Jacko has a bit of humanity in him, as he chastizes one of his cardinals for having sex with young boys.  When Ennis wants to write something a little deeper and with more characterization, he can.  I'm sure the disgusting ways to kill people are going to be in this book, but so far, it's just disgusting ways to fuck people, so Ennis can do a bit more with other stuff, and he shows that he's a talented writer.  It's a nice change from his recent work.

I should probably say something about Burrows, but what?  His lines are typically gorgeous and strong, his people are attractive without looking fake, his facial expressions are fantastic - the reporter's look when Danny brings up her most humiliating memory is priceless and tragic - and his Devil is creepy-looking.  Nice work, as usual.

And there's a talking rabbit.  What's not to like?

The Damned #1-5 by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt.  $3.50, Oni Press.




The moral of The Damned?  When rival demon gangsters fight, nobody wins ... except the reading public!

This is a very good comic, and if you haven't been buying it, I strongly encourage you to pick up the trades.  Bunn takes the cliches of the gangster drama and uses them with such good effect and with such unusual twists that although the story is not fun, it's a fun book to read.  It's like Miller's Crossing with demons (I loved Miller's Crossing, by the way).  Eddie, our "hero," who can come back from the dead when someone touches him (he's cursed), navigates his way through a gangland peace treaty gone bad.  We get double-crosses, surprises, unlikely alliances, spooky haunted houses, an interesting bad guy and motivation for him being bad, and lots of fighting.  Bunn has a good, hard-boiled style that allows characters to reveal themselves through their actions and interactions with others, and it's interesting that the demons and humans in this drama aren't really that different.  The story is complemented very well by Hurtt's black-and-white art, which brings a 1920s feel to the proceedings but also evokes a feeling of Hell-on-Earth.  The combination of gangsters and demons is a brilliant move, and Hurtt does a wonderful job of grounding the demons in this reality but also keeping a slightly fantastical feel.

The only problem I have is with the final page, because I'm not sure what's going on.  There's another mini-series coming out "soon," according to the back of the book, so maybe it will get explained there, but I'm just a bit puzzled.  I have my theories, but I don't want to say too much because I don't want to give it away.  Other than that, though, this is a very good comic.  Buy the trade!

Fables #58 by Bill Willingham and Michael Allred.  $2.99, DC/Vertigo.

Do I have to say anything about an issue of Fables?  I shouldn't, because it's always good.  Allred does his thing, which includes an epic battle between Bigby and the monsters who threatened his son last issue, and it's really a magnificant fight that stretches beyond the boundaries of the forest and affects the entire world (cracks in the earth, two-headed calves born, that sort of thing).  We learn who the monsters are and what Bigby does with them (of course he wins - he's the Big Bad Wolf!), and we get a bit more family drama between Bigby and the North Wind, including a bit in which Bigby tells his father that he WILL help the Fables in their war against Gepetto.  But basically, it's a big fight issue.  And it's beautifully drawn and fun to read.  It's a good comic book.  I know, shocking.

Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius: March Madness by Chris Eliopoulos and Marc Sumerak.  $2.99, Marvel.

I bought this comic based on readers' recommendations, and I'll tell you why.  Nobody really gave me a good enough reason to buy Buffy beyond Jeanty's art is nice (and it is).  I would have bought B.P.R.D., but I am committed to buying those in trade paperback format, and I will buy this one eventually when it's collected.  More people recommended this than any other (even Buffy) and although the reasons for it weren't great, it's true that I can always pass this on to younger readers.  I did like how it was implied that because I'm a comics nerd, I couldn't possibly have children of my own - aren't we all neutered so we can't procreate? - but I'll let that slide.  My kids can read this in a few years, and they'll probably enjoy it.

I liked it, but didn't think it was worth 3 dollars.  Marvel has put some of these strips in the backs of other books, and I think that's where they belong.  They're amusing sidebars, but not worth an entire book.  Each short story is humorous enough, but basically follows the pattern of: Franklin Richards raids his father's lab, finds something he's not supposed to touch, hilarity ensues, he needs to fix things before the adults find out what he's done.  There are five stories in this book, and they all follow that template.  So when they're in the back of a book as an added bonus, we can overlook the repetitive nature, but when they're all together, it makes it more difficult to ignore.

I hope Marvel continues to put these in other books, because they add some nice light-heartedness to their comics.  But there's no reason to pay 3 dollars for the entire package.  Well, Norbert Q. Sniffles, Hamster of Destruction is almost reason enough.  But not quite.

Hard-Bullied Comics #3 (of 4) by Steve Earnhardt and Rudolf Montemayor.  $2.95, Goodbum Studios.

Earnhardt explains in the letter column that the title of the comic has been changed from "Hard-Boiled" to "Hard-Bullied" because of legal reasons, but obviously doesn't get into much detail.  I don't like the name change, because it's kind of a dumb new name, but this might be the best issue yet of this ridiculously fun series.  Like Fables, it's a fight book, with two big fights for the price of one!  Billy Blackburn, who last issue was captured by the clown killer (he looks like a clown, he doesn't kill clowns), gets free in a fun way and beats the crap out of the clown, but doesn't manage to hold on to him, leading to a chase.  Meanwhile, his associate Knux is beating on Hammerhead, the shark-headed killer, and having a grand old time.  In between these fights, we get a little bit of plot development, as all our players are scheming against each other as they use Blackburn and the others to do their dirty work.  Blackburn figures it out right at the end of the issue, and one presumes he will kick some ass and take some names next time.

Although it's mostly fighting, it's a fine comic because Earnhardt pulls back the cliched language more than in the previous two issues.  He's slowly finding a decent voice for Billy and the other characters, and it gives the issue a less stereotypical feel.  Montemayor's pencils make the issue, however, as he gets into unbelievably nice detail in each panel yet keeping it easily readable and understandable.  He does a good job choreographing the fights, yet it all looks natural and flowing from one punch to the next.  The violence is wildly over-the-top, like the rest of the book, but it looks great.

This is just a fun, obnoxious comic that's a blast to read, and it's interesting to actually see a writer get better with each issue.  We'll see if the finale is as much fun as the first three issues have been.

(I should point out that Earnhardt sent this to me.  Thank you, sir.  I try to remain objective, and although this certainly isn't the greatest comic book around, it's very fun.  And that's a good thing.) 

Moon Knight #8 by Charlie Huston, David Finch, and Danny Miki.  $2.99, Marvel.

Ah, yes, the worst comic book in America!  That's okay - I still love it!  This is Finch's last issue, by the way, so if you've been avoiding it because of that, maybe you can jump on next month!  We'll see.

Moon Knight's investigation of the weird murders gets more involved in this issue, as he and Detective Flint (from the old series) talk about the crime at the latest crime scene.  It moves the story along, and then there's another murder, and the murderer is obviously trying to get Spector's attention.  There's an odd three-page spread in the middle of the book in which it looks like Moon Knight saves Lorna Dane (or maybe Aphrodite IX, Finch's Top Cow creation) from an assault by the Riddler, but I'm not sure.  It's weird.

But the issue is about Moon Knight's meeting with Captain America, which takes up about six pages.  This issue takes place before Civil War #6-7, according to the text page at the beginning, and Cap is there to tell Spector that Moon Knight is crazy and he should stay out of the way.  Well, Moon Knight is crazy (the ghost of Bushman that's haunting him keeps begging him to kill Cap, which is a tad bit ironic), but he still has enough sense to tell him that what he and Tony Stark are doing is unbelievably stupid.  He tells him, "People being murdered while you and Stark and your pals play Capture the fucking Flag.  You self-righteous son of a bitch.  Coming in here.  Acting like this is anything but your regularly scheduled grudge match to work out all your differences.  All of you.  Trying to prove who has the biggest super power."  A page later he says, "Why don't you and Stark just get a room.  And leave the rest of us out of it."  I smiled so much when I read that, even though Cap comes back and tells him that he's crazy.  It won't change a thing, but it's nice to see that the ancillary titles in the Marvel Universe - She-Hulk, X-Factor, and now Moon Knight - can call bullshit on this crap and get away with it.  Like I said, it won't change a thing, but still.

We'll see how the new artist works out.  I hope the murder mystery continues to be intriguing. 

Sam Noir: Ronin Holiday #2 (of 3) by Eric A. Anderson and Manny Trembley.  $2.99, Image.

A few things you should know about Sam Noir: Ronin Holiday:

That title never ceases to crack me up.  I could be juvenile.

The previous issue is summarized in three haiku, the last of which ends: "Holy crap! Rhino!"¹

Sam fights said rhino and kills it by getting to charge off a cliff onto pointy rocks.

There's a short pirate tale in the middle of the book, making this a noir samurai detective book with pirates.  And an angry rhino.  That sound you hear is your brain exploding from so much joy.

Sam gets buried alive at the end.

Toward the end of the book, Sam's internal monologue says: "That's when the talking mime showed up."  So this becomes a noir samurai detective book with pirates (and an angry rhino) with a voodoo priest (he's no mime!).  That sound you hear is the rest of your body exploding from so much joy.

Have a nice day.

¹Which is more pertinent, but not as much fun, as Bill Reed's way to end all haiku: Oh shit! bazooka!


The Lone Ranger #5 (of 6) by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello.  $2.99, Dynamite Entertainment.

Since I haven't been reading it so far, I will continue my old practice of not reading it until it's finished.

Mystery in Space #7 (of eight) by Jim Starlin, Shane Davis, Ron Lim, Matt Banning, Rob Hunter, and Al Milgrom.  $3.99, DC.


It's always a fine week in comicdom, because there's so much that's interesting!  Share with the group! 

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