What I bought - 14 September 2011

To know you do not know is to know a great deal.

Wisdom consists in knowing there is no such thing. (Joseph Heller, from Picture This)

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent #4 (of 4) by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Dave Stewart (colorist). $3.50, 27 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

This might be my favorite iteration of Criminal yet, mainly because the other series often focus on someone who doesn't quite have it together and falls into and out of problems, and while that's fine, Brubaker did a very nice job showing us a guy - Riley - who's an utter douchebag but is still competent and compelling. We don't want him to succeed in getting away with murder, but we can't help but admire how he goes about trying to do so. He seems to have everything covered, and while I'm not telling if he in fact does get away with killing his wife, I will say that he never loses his cool, which is appreciated (I was thinking of a movie while I read this, but I can't tell you which one without giving the game away). At the beginning of this mini-series, it appeared that Brubaker was going to make Riley another hapless criminal who stumbles through the plot, and it's a nice piece of writing because Riley has really grown into his role of murderer. I certainly wouldn't want to know Riley, but I dig reading about him.

Plus, Phillips has been doing such a wonderful job with the mix of flashbacks to the Sixties and the way each flashback seemed to get a bit darker until we get Freakout's flashback, which exposes the lie of Brookview nicely. The final page of this issue is tremendous, too. There's not a ton of action in this issue, so Phillips needs to be good interpreting the faces of the various characters, and he does a wonderful job with it. Teddy's face when he realizes things are not going well is great, and when Freakout is talking to Riley for the second time in the issue, Phillips does a great job showing how Riley makes up his mind. It's a beautiful book, which is always true about Criminal, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't mention it.

So yet another mini-series in the books for these two gentlemen. They have plans for more, which is nice, because when they get together, you can pretty much guarantee good comics.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fear Itself #6 (of 7) ("Blood-Tied and Doomed") by Matt Fraction (writer), Stuart Immonen (penciler), Wade von Grawbadger (inker), Laura Martin (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I kind of wish Casanova: Avaritia and this comic had been released in the same week, because then the difference between the Matt Fraction who wrote that comic and this one would be even starker than they are right now. I get that in today's climate and because of the rise of independent comics, writers might be tempted to "save" their best ideas for their own babies, which is why Casanova is full of interesting ones and Fear Itself ... isn't, but I didn't go into this expecting wacky ideas and beautiful moments between characters. I came into this expecting a big ol' company crossover, but with the wit and weirdness that Fraction does possess. I'm not sure how Fear Itself seems to be getting more boring as it reaches its climax, but it is, and that's just sad. (Before someone snarkily asks why I buy books I don't like, I'll point out again that it's my money, so I can spend it on anything I like, but as I mentioned, I decided before these two events came out that I was going to buy them, come hell or high water, so I'm committed to this. I'm planning a post in October or November comparing and contrasting the big DC and Marvel summer events, so I feel like I should probably see this through. Plus, buying Fear Itself doesn't keep me from buying great independent stuff like Atomic Robo, which I think it might for some, so that's also something.)

I mean, nothing terribly interesting happens in this issue, and it's the penultimate issue of the event. Steve Rogers and the Avengers drag Thor back to Asgard, Steve yells at Odin to fix him, Odin kicks the Avengers back to Earth, May Parker tells Spider-Man he needs to help people rather than worrying about little old her, Odin gives Thor a little time to stop the Serpent, Tony Stark has made weapons for the Avengers, and the Avengers stand up on the line between the Serpent and the World Tree, which is his ultimate objective. Yes, we get a lot of information and after last issue's pyrotechnics, we might need a bit of a break, but man - this is a boring issue. Again, that's not necessarily the point - a good writer can take all those events and make them interesting. But Fraction's actual writing is dull, too, making the dull events drag out even more. And Fraction's dialogue, which can sparkle, is excruciating. When the Avengers arrive in Asgard, Steve says to Odin: "That monster my world is killing itself to fight on your behalf just sent two of his thugs to break your boy in two." Sweet fancy Moses, that's a mouthful, and while I get that we need expositon occasionally (even though we saw the event happen), no one would ever say that. Plus, why is Earth fighting on Odin's "behalf"? Odin wants to torch the world and move on. I think they're probably fighting for their own survival. Later, we get another example of "prophesy" when Sin means "prophecy." I wouldn't dare criticize Marvel editorial for failing at something that I criticized in issue #1 and which I know at least one Marvel editor saw because he commented on this blog about it, so I guess I have to criticize ... I don't know, printing gremlins? Then we get the two pages with Spider-Man and May. God, what an awful scene. Does Peter really need May to remind him that with great power comes great responsibility when he thinks it to himself every goddamned day, usually more than once? Grow a pair, Peter. Doesn't your deal with Satan mean May's safe for all eternity? The nadir of the issue is when Odin talks to Tony Stark. We haven't seen much of Tony in this series because in Marvel's infinite wisdom, they've shunted his tale over to his own book, so the whole "drinking in front of Odin" thing that occurred in this comic has been unexplored in this comic, but now he's back and he's made a bunch of weapons for the Avengers. Great. But then we get these lines of dialogue:

Odin: What weapon would the man who would insult a god choose to bring to the day of his death?"Tony: Well ... I rather came having had.

Tony says this as his armor appears on his body. I have read that sentence dozens of times, and I have no idea what it means. What does "I rather came having had" mean? I cannot interpret it, and I know what every word in that particular sentence means. Help me, blog readers, you're my only hope!

One last thing: how does Steve know that the Serpent is going to attack the World Tree? He just seems to know it. Did I miss something?

Man, the only reason this comic isn't the worst thing out there is because, well, let's be honest, some of DC's new books are setting the bar fairly low, and because Stuart Immonen is drawing the shit out of this. I'm so glad that this Matt Fraction isn't writing Casanova. That would be sad.

Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Li'l Depressed Boy #6 ("Jail Guitar Doors") by S. Steven Struble (writer/colorist/letterer), Sina Grace (artist), Thiago Ribeiro (color flatter), and Chris Fenoglio (tag-team colorist). $2.99, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

I liked this issue of The Li'l Depressed Boy more than issue #5, even though it had the same vibe - LDB and Drew Blood are heading out on a road trip to get LDB's mind off of the fact that he thought he was dating Jazmin but she thought they were just friends (you know, you should try to clear that up as soon as possible in a relationship, I think). Both issues #5 and 6 are meandering kind of affairs, but this issue has a bit more of the weird humor that we got in the first four issues. There's a warrant out for Drew's arrest, so the cop who showed up at the end of issue #5 has to figure out a way to take him in without leaving LDB, who doesn't know how to drive, out in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, Drew is arrested because he bounced a check, and I find it unbelievable that he seems not to know much about bouncing checks. He says

Apparently when you write a check -- and there isn't enough money in your account to pay for the groceries that you needed that week -- then the check bounces. If you pay the bank extra for "overdraft protection," you just get charged an outrageous fee and you're done.

First of all, doesn't everyone over the age of 18 know what a bounced check is? That's weird. Second, you pay for "overdraft protection" (and most banks don't charge for it) so that money can be taken out of your savings account and transferred to your checking account. The bank isn't simply going to not allow your checks to bounce. I have a feeling someone told Drew that when he opened his account. Yes, I'm being pedantic, but that was a weird statement in the middle of this comic.

However, it remains a charming story. Drew's certainly not a bad guy, and we see him charm the people at the police station while LDB waits outside, angsting over what he's going to do if Drew has to go to jail. It builds on what we've seen before, but it doesn't seem like LDB has as much chemistry with Drew as he does with Jazmin, which might be why the last two issues are a bit weaker than the first four. But I still like the series and I like how Struble writes it. It feels real, and that's nice.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Morning Glories #12 by Nick Spencer (writer), Joe Eisma (artist), Alex Sollazzo (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $2.99, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

Morning Glories came out last week, but I didn't get it until this week. C'est la vie, I guess.

This title doesn't seem to be separated too cleanly into "story arcs," which is fine with me, but I guess this is the end of a story arc, mainly because it ends with a meaningful question about Casey and her family. But Spencer also introduces a new character, Lara Hodge, whose entrance to the academy exposes some very interesting secrets and who is apparently the dominatrix teacher's sister. Spencer does a nice job bringing us up to speed on the students and kind of setting the status quo going forward for the next arc, so there's that. He does a nice job getting a lot of exposition into solid dialogue, all while adding another layer of intrigue into the title. Some people have complained that Spencer is moving too slowly and giving us too many mysteries, which is fair, but I don't mind at all. As long as he knows where he's going with it, I'm cool with him taking his time. As we see in this issue, he obviously has some bigger ideas in mind with regard to the students and the faculty, and this is a nice issue to take stock of where we are and where we're going.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Pigs #1 ("Hello, Cruel World") by Nate Cosby (writer), Ben McCool (writer), Breno Tamura (artist), Christopher Sotomayor (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Must ... resist ... making ... comment ... about ... the two ... late ... mini-series ... by Ben McCool ... MUST!!!!!

Okay, I can't resist. It's a sickness. Of course, it would be nice if Memoir and Choker, McCool's two nifty mini-series, would actually finish, but that's the way it is. But hey! it's a new series that will, I'm sure, ship on time. Oh yes.

Pigs is a very cool debut from Cosby and McCool, with nice rough art by Tamura. The premise is that a Soviet sleeper cell in Cuba has been activated and the four members have made it into the United States, where their mission is apparently to fuck shit up. Cosby and McCool structure the book quite cleverly - we begin with an interrogation by two cops of an elderly woman (who seems Russian from her syntax) who apparently knows something about this sleeper cell, all while we're getting flashbacks to the activation of the cell. In Cuba, an old man dies and after his funeral, a woman tells the four members of the cell that they must follow protocol with regard to finding out if he had been compromised. Then a mysterious man tells one of the cell that it's time. So they sneak into the States. Cosby and McCool do a nice job building to the final page, where we discover just how much shit can get fucked up. It's a strong debut, and whets my appetite nicely for the rest of the series.

I don't have much to say about Tamura's art. It's rough, which works in the context of the comic, and everything is easily read. The characters are easy to distinguish, and Sotomayor does a few tricks with the coloring to spice things up. It's not perfect art, but it gets the job done.

So, yeah. Pigs is a good comic. Apparently Cosby and McCool have quite a lot plotted out, so that should be nice. Maybe issue #2 will come out in October, too! That would be fun!

(I liked this a bit more than Bill Reed did, it seems. That's cool. I'm just twisted with envy that he got to read an advance review. Consarnit!)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scalped #52 ("Knuckle Up Part Two of Five") by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Scalped is ending with issue #60, so it's not surprising that it feels that Aaron is moving things along, but one thing Aaron has never been afraid to do on this book is upset the status quo, so even if we didn't know the book was ending, events in this comic wouldn't be too shocking. As we've seen, Lincoln is cleaning up the meth houses he himself set up (and by cleaning up I mean burning down), presumably because he's finally realized that it's not a good way to live. Of course, this doesn't sit well with the other criminals on the rez, so that's something. Meanwhile, Dash and Officer Falls Down are looking for Catcher. That's not going well. I do like that Dash can't speak because of his injuries. It makes him a bit scarier as he stalks around, trying to get clues on Catcher's whereabouts. Of course, it all leads to a searing final page, and we'll have to wait to see how that plays out. Dang it! I want to know right now!

I'm a bit confused who the dudes in the convenience store are. I'm sure they're people I should know, but I've forgotten who they are. Can anyone help? I'll figure it out when I re-read the series, but that won't be for a while, will it?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Severed #2 (of 7) ("New Skin") by Scott Snyder (writer), Scott Tuft (writer), Attila Futaki (artist), and Fonografiks (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

A woman named Sharlene writes a letter to the Scotts and Mr. Futaki about issue #1 of Severed. Here is what she wrote:

"I'm loving the book so far but am a little queasy about child molestation. I'm not sure what Mr. Porter is up to but sure hope its [sic] nothing sexual. Can you set my mind at ease?"

The creators are very nice to Sharlene. They write:

"Hi, Sharlene, thanks for reading. We don't want to ruin anything for you but we can assure you that there is nothing sexual to come from the Salesman. We have no interest in making him a pederast. We don't want our Salesman to be sick, just evil ... a true demon of the road."

I really wonder what Sharlene thought of this issue. "Well, Mr. Porter did [redacted], but at least he didn't molest that kid!" I mean, really. The response from Snyder, Tuft, and Futaki is silly enough, because why wouldn't an evil dude do all sorts of evil (frankly, I'm glad there's no sexual element to the book, but to say that what he does makes him evil while buggering the kid would just be "sick" is a bit silly), but the letter cracks me up. This is, of course, fiction, and if Sharlene was queasy about the first issue, what will she think of the second (even without a sexual element)? Sigh. People crack me up.

The second issue of this series continues in the strong vein of issue #1, with a bit more information about "Mr. Porter" but with the bulk of the issue focusing on Jack and his adventures in trying to get to Chicago and what he discovers there. He makes a friend (who has secrets, naturally) and doesn't find his father, which isn't surprising. I'm a bit worried about the direction of the book, because Snyder and Tuft are laying on the "I belong on the road because it's in my blood" rhetoric so thick that it seems obvious Jack will return home to his adopted mom suitably chastized, but we'll see. That's a horribly Spielbergian idea, but Spielbergian ideas have infected popular culture so much that it wouldn't surprise me if that's the way this comic went. We'll see.

Severed is a solid comic so far, and my speculations notwithstanding, I'm enjoying it. I just keep picturing Sharlene fainting as she reads this. Poor Sharlene!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sherlock Holmes: Year One #6 (of 6) ("London's Burning, London's Burning") by Scott Beatty (writer), Daniel Indro (artist), Tony Aviña (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

This was a disappointing series, which is a shame. I have no idea why writers are obsessed with Moriarty - in the original canon, he's just not that compelling a figure. I get that "the Napoleon of Crime" is almost irresistible, but if you're going to use Moriarty, you really have to use him carefully, but too many writers simply turn him into Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom, and that's boring. His plot in this comic is dull and fairly unworthy of a mastermind, while his motivation for it is laughable (it's the same reason why he based his murders on the Twelve Caesars, so I won't spoil it). People who do Sherlock Holmes pastiches really need to consider whether using Moriarty is the best idea. Guy Ritchie hasn't considered it, I see, but still.

Meanwhile, Holmes doesn't do much detecting in this series, does he? He figures out the connection of the Twelve Caesars, but only after he's been captured and Moriarty lays some of it out for him. Beatty turns him into a superhero (another Ritchie tic, even if you can glean some of it from the canon) who simply beats people up. Early on in this series, Holmes showed some cleverness and wit, and I do wish that Beatty had simply done a series of smaller crimes showing off Holmes's intellect and gradually bringing he and Watson together, ending at "A Study in Scarlet" (which is where this series does end, actually). We never really get a sense that Holmes is a sociopathic genius from this series. That's awfully hard to pull off, so I'm not blaming Beatty too much, but he doesn't even try, which is a shame. Superhero Holmes is d-u-l-l.

Oh well. I wish this had been better, but it wasn't. You might like it, though!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I didn't get any collected editions or graphic novels this week, but I did get Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide, which features essays by our own wacky Canuck, Chad Nevett, Tim Callahan, and A. David Lewis, among others. It's published by Sequart, which is also supposedly publishing a book on Transmetropolitan. I wonder when that's coming out. If only someone knew!!!!!

Hey - here's The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Head Over Heels" - ABBA (1982) "Each time when he speaks his mind, she pats his head and says, 'That's all very fine' "2. "Is it Too Late?" - World Party (1990) "You gotta grow the beard, find the doubt"3. "I Want to Touch You" - Catherine Wheel (1992) "But you're always out of reach, and I can't control my speech"4. "This Time" - INXS (1985) "Girl you know I need you more than any word spoken"5. "Rearviewmirror" - Pearl Jam (1993) "Tried to endure what I could not forgive"6. "Thru These Walls" - Phil Collins (1982) "Life is so lonely, I don't get high off just being me"7. "Give it Up, Turn it Loose" - En Vogue (1992) "Fact of life (so sad but true) - love can often hurt you, leaving scars most of your life"8. "One" - U2 (1991) "You gave me nothing now it's all I got"9. "A Hundred Camels" - Horse Flies (2008) "You didn't ask for all the things that stupid people say"110. "Running Out of Time" - Joan Osborne (2000) "I'll say something nice about you when you're dead"

1 MarkAndrew might be the only person who reads this blog that cares about this, but hey, Mark - yes, the Horse Flies have a relatively new album out! I didn't know if he knew, but if he didn't, he does now!

What's that? A Totally Random Movie Quote? Sure!

"Sometimes, for your own sake, Red, I think you should've stuck to me longer.""I thought it was for life, but the nice judge gave me a full pardon.""Aaah, that's the old redhead. No bitterness, no recrimination, just a good swift left to the jaw."

It's a classic! But which classic is it????

So there's another fine week of comic bookery. I'm slogging my way through the second week of DC's offerings, and if you think you've read everything there is to read about DC's new comics ... well, you probably have, but are you going to hurt my feelings by skipping mine when it shows up? I THINK NOT! Have a nice day!

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