What I bought - 15 July 2009

This week: I'm still having fun with the new format! I added something I've been wanting to do for a while, but could never figure out. Other Greg does it all the time, though. Can you suss out what it is?

Plus: Nudity and Swearing! And the return of a long-absent publisher! Whoo-hoo! (Seriously, lots of swearing. You've been warned. And no, this is not a judgment about these comics at all. I just bought a lot of comics, and a lot featured swearing and nudity, so I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast.)

First of all, nothing (not even Darwyn Cooke's hardcover adaptation) that came out this week can compare to this:

100 dollars of sheer beautiful awesome. I even have most of these in trade already, but I don't freakin' care. Of course, now I have two trades that I need no longer. I smell a contest!

But let's check out the gigantic heap of comics I got this week. Phew!

Agents of Atlas #8 ("Monster Makers") by Jeff Parker (writer), Carlo Pagulayan (penciler), Jason Paz (inker), Noah Salonga (inker), Jana Schirmer (colorist), Elizabeth Dismang (colorist), and Tom Orzechowski (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

There I am, enjoying an abduction of Bruce Banner by sinister scientists, Norman Osborn getting pissy because Atlas doesn't seem to be on his side anymore, Derek Khanata getting a taste of what it's like to be an Agent of Atlas, hot-tub style, a hilarious Brady Bunch-inspired recap page (all in the first five pages of the comic, mind you), and then Jimmy Woo breaks out this sentence:

But you need a molted dragon scale on you to reflect the radiation inside, and Mr. Lao is stingy with those.

As I commented over on Jeff Parker's blog, it's at that moment that this went from one of Marvel's top five comics to utter lunatic genius. Woo just delivers it so dead-pan, so nonchalantly, like everyone has a sub-dimensional corridor through which they can travel all over the world and which he's about to explore in a floating 1950s car (I'm sure someone knows what brand it is) and why would it be surprising that you need molted dragon scales to get through it? That sentence just sums up not only why this particular comic is brilliant, but why we love comics and will never give up on them. Well played, Mr. Parker, well played!

And that's before the four-armed, three-eyed, backward-footed, genetically-engineered Frankenstein creature shows up with a scientist clamped between his jaws. HELL YEAH!!!!!

Bruce Banner, who was tranked by the sinister scientists on the first page, doesn't take kindly to being a guinea pig, and he turns into some big green monster who seems awfully angry. I'm not entirely sure what's going on with Banner these days - I don't read Loeb's Michael Bay Hulk comic, so is Bruce out of prison or what? I don't really care, because I'm not that caught up with the whole continuity thing, and it's a fun issue seeing how the Agents try to calm him down (Venus doesn't have much of an effect when she tries). Plus, Jimmy Woo ends up facing an old enemy. Oh dear. It's just more of the awesome from Mr. Parker. Man, I hope this book sells well.

I'm continually puzzled by Pagulayan's art. This issue looks fantastic, and both Schirmer and Dismang color it, but the look is consistent throughout. The Hulk is wonderfully monstrous, and the monsters the scientists have created are horrifying and tragic. It appears the lines are stronger and the inking is heavier, not allowing the color to push this into soft focus. I hope the various artists have found a good balance, because the book looks very nice.

This book has been getting better and better, which is nice to see. You really should try it!

Swearing in the comic? It's a Marvel book, so of course not. There aren't even any "Marvelfied" curse words, like "####!"

Nudity in the comic? It's a Marvel book, so of course there is! Oh, wait a minute. Okay, Venus and Namora are in the hot tub at the beginning, nekkid, but some well-placed hair and steam ensures that none of the many kids reading this will be scarred. Well, until the page where the creature gnaws on the scientist's neck. But that's wholesome American violence, not creepy European nekkidness!

All Select Comics #1 ("Murder on Another Planet" and "Marvex the Super Robot") by Marc Guggenheim (writer, "Murder"), Javier Pulido (artist, "Murder"), Javier Rodriguez (artist, "Murder"), and Dave Lanphear (letterer, "Murder"), and Michael Kupperman (writer/artist, "Marvex"). $3.99, 37 pgs (15 reprint pages), FC, Marvel.

I got this because of Kupperman, but I had forgotten that Pulido was drawing the main story, so that was just an added bonus. Oh, and Guggenheim isn't horrible. I can live with him. Pulido does his typical great job on the art, and Guggenheim's murder mystery isn't bad, although the cynic in me guessed the killer, one of the first time I've ever done that (usually I don't try). Still, as a "return" of the Blonde Phantom, it's a solid story. I'm not quite sure about the set-up of the story, which features large white blocks in which Louise narrates the story. It cramps Pulido's art and much of it seems a bit unnecessary. This is most obvious at the end, when he cuts back on it a bit and the story gets better. Still, Guggenheim makes some eerily true observations about the crime and how the survivors feel about it, and the unraveling of the mystery works, although it's not a "fair-play" mystery, unfortunately. It's not a great story, but it's a decent one (and I guess the "secret" to why the Blonde Phantom looks so good for being, what, 90 years old is established enough in Marvel's canon that Guggenheim never addresses it), and with the extras, it makes the price tag worth it.

As for the extra stories ... if you've never read Tales Designed to Thrizzle, you really owe it to yourself to check out Kupperman's work. He gives us a story of Marvex, a super-robot from the fifth dimension. It's fascinating to read the two reprints from 1940 of Hal Sharp's Marvex stories, because Sharp's tales are typically Golden Age wacky, and Kupperman channels that magnificently, making his story hilarious without, it feels, indulging in any ironic detachment from the originals. Marvex really does keep taking off his clothes, so why wouldn't he do it when Kupperman writes/draws him? People in the original do give him money, so why wouldn't people in Kupperman's story? Plus, we get the menace of ... Ingrediento! Fear him! Like his indy work, Kupperman has a beautifully twisted sense of humor, and although this story isn't quite as surreal as Tales is (it's far more surreal than almost everything else Marvel publishes these days, but that's not saying much), it's still nice and wacky. And Sharp's original stories are flingin'-flangin' awesome. I'm stunned Kurt Busiek didn't add Marvex to the Avengers!

Swearing in the comic? A bit of "Marvelfied" cursing, because that's what we love!

Nudity in the comic? It doesn't count, of course, but if you like naked robot torso, this is the book for you!

Buck Rogers #2 ("Future Shock Part Two: Animal Husbandry") by Scott Beatty (writer), Carlos Rafael (artist), Carlos Lopez (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

I'm still feeling out this book, but Beatty is doing a good job with it so far. This issue gives us much more backstory about Buck and how he actually got to the future, which we knew already, sort of, but which Beatty makes more plausible than you might expect. We also get the introduction of Princess Ardala, which is fun. Most of the issue takes place in the "past," until the very end of the issue, when Buck and Wilma escape from a bit of a horror-show factory and its fusion worms. Charming things, those. It's a solid issue, but it's a bit early to decide about it. Decent story, good art, and the potential for Buck to hook up with two Deerings half a millennium apart. Ewwww.

Swearing in the comic? Does "ass" count? I'm going to count it.

Nudity in the comic? None. Come on, Beatty and Rafael, step up! Do you think a good story and good art is going to sell the book????

Domino Lady #1 ("Blooded" and "Orange Blossom Murders Part One") by Nancy Holder (writer), Danny Sempere (artist, "Blooded"), Leeahd Goldberg (artist, "Orange Blossom Murders"), Jason Jensen (colorist), Renato Guerra (colorist), and Josh Aitken (letterer). $3.99, 27 pgs, FC, Moonstone.

I believe I ordered issue #2 of this series, and unless it gets better, I won't be continuing with it (unless it's only two issues, of course). It's not the worst thing you'll ever read, but it features almost every pulp cliché you can pile onto a story, and while it's kind of fun, it's definitely not worth four dollars every issue. The fact that Holder fails some of the basics of storytelling doesn't help. For instance, everything in the book points to it being set during the 1930s, which is fine. Then, in one panel, it looks like someone is using a digital camera. Now, maybe he's not, but it definitely looks like one. Sherlock Holmes also shows up in the first story, and we're supposed to take his presence for granted - Domino Lady (whose real name is Ellen) simply narrates that he knows about her secret identity. Plus, when he shows up, he's "disguised" as a Chinese man, and she doesn't know who he is, but then immediately recognizes him. It's weird. It's kind of exemplary of the first story as a whole - things happen at lightning speed, and although it's a fairly simplistic mystery, it's tough to follow in places. The second story slows down a bit (it's also "to be continued," so that's probably why), and it seems a bit more complex, but it still feels like a riff on Chinatown.

It's not a complete waste of time. It's refreshing to read Holder's take on the main character, as she's completely amoral in her pursuit of the bad guys and, as a woman, knows how to use sex to her advantage and, you know, seems to enjoy it. It's kind of a nice twist, especially when you consider someone like the Blonde Phantom from the comic above this one, who's kind of the same character but simply beats people up instead of screwing them. And the art from Sempere and Goldberg does a decent job setting the scene and giving a pulp vibe to everything. Both artists enjoy their cheesecake (I'm not terribly sure if Ellen and her female lover - presumably they're lovers - need to be lounging around in barely-hanging-on lingerie, but what the hell), but there's nothing wrong with that, is there? There is? Dang.

Like I wrote, I think I ordered issue #2, and I hope the writing improves. I'd like to like this series, but we'll have to see if it gets better.

Swearing in the comic? Not even a little bit.

Nudity in the comic? The fear of nipples continues, but there's a topless hooker, Ellen changes clothes in an alley, because why not?, Ellen gets two different men in bed, and once she's al fresco, and she changes clothes later and surprisingly is not wearing a bra, which would seem to not work with the flimsy clothing she's wearing. Good times!

Fables #86 by Bill Willingham (writer), Jim Fern (penciller), Craig Hamilton (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Now that the interminable Great Fables Crossover is over, Willingham has turned back into a good writer and gives us a nice tale about the Dark Man and how he came to be trapped in a box. He was trapped by Boxers, of course! Seriously. No, not those Boxers. There's nothing really to say about it, because it doesn't move the regular plot along too much but does give us a lot of information about the history of the Empire and the way horrible Fables were dealt with, and the Dark Man has been a really creepy dude since he first showed up, so it's nice to see him getting a bit of the spotlight here. Fern, who drew the two-part story about those wooden people who went to spy on Fabletown (whatever their names are), does a good job filling in, giving us two very nice double-page spreads of the Boxers fighting Baba Yaga and then the Dark Man. It's just a fine return to form for the comic after Jack highjacked it into crappiness for three issues.

And I'd love to see the boxing of the Janky Man. He's so janky!

Swearing in the comic? Sorry, no.

Nudity in the comic? For a Vertigo book, there's a distressing lack of cussin' and nekkidness in this title. Sheesh. Doesn't Willingham know that swearing and nudity, plus having one of your characters lick the skull of Batman and having another eat another character's heart, makes your book "mature"?*

* Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Fallen Angel: Reborn #1 by Peter David (writer), J. K. Woodward (artist/colorist), and Chris Mowry (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Fallen Angel, for over 50 issues, was a fantastic comic, so I was happy to see that David hadn't given up on it yet and has brought it back for at least five issues (I think this is a five-issue mini-series). That being said, this first issue is entirely devoted to the guest star, Illyria, and as I didn't watch Angel (despite the presence of hunky David Boreanaz), I wasn't that invested in it. Luckily, David gives us plenty of information about her, and it's fairly easy to follow along with what's going on. She doesn't like being a hot chick and wants to be a helmet-wearing tentacle demon again (who wouldn't?). So Mr. Good of the Hierarchy gives her one task: Kill Liandra. She ends up in Bete Noire, attacks that snake guy who eats unsuspecting tourists (his name escapes me) because she knows him from old, and as the issue ends, she runs afoul of Liandra for claiming that Bete Noire is her city. It's all very dramatic!

Woodward's art, which I've always liked, looks even better than it did when last we visited Bete Noire. I'm not sure what the difference is. It's a bit softer in places, but the painting looks better, and the introduction of Illyria in Hell is beautifully horrifying. There's still a bit of stiffness occasionally in the poses, but other than that, it looks very nice. I just can't quite put my finger on why it's better. Forgive me!

Anyway, it's nice to see Fallen Angel back. I can't imagine David's done with the characters, so it will be interesting to see where he goes with them in this series and beyond.

Swearing in the comic? There's an "asshole." And I'm sorry, but "puissance" just sounds naughty.

Nudity in the comic? None. Well, the demons don't seem to wearing any clothes, but do we really need to see naked demons?

Incognito #5 (of 6) by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Val Staples (colorist). $3.50, 25 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

"Penultimate issues are always the quickest, right?" asks Mr. Brubaker in the backmatter of this comic (right before yet another excellent essay by Jess Nevins - sheesh, what doesn't he know about pop culture of the past 150 years?), and while I don't know about that, I do know that penultimate issues often contain the most answers (except for the BIG ANSWER, which always comes at the very end, of course), and this issue is no exception. We learn a great deal about Ava Destruction and her relationship with Zack's brother and why that really, really creeped Zack out (yeah, it would make me uncomfortable, too), plus her big problem with life and, well, its end. We also learn more about Zack himself, what Dr. Lester is doing, and why the heck there are superpowered beings in this comic in the first place! Phew! Man, that's a lot to take in. But, perhaps not surprisingly, it's excellent. Oh, like I'm going to say anything else. There are a lot of Internet people writing stuff like, "You know, as much as I like Incognito, I'll be happy when Criminal comes back." You know what, Internet people? You don't deserve to read Incognito. Put it down now! Quit yer whining. It's a Brubaker/Phillips comic. What the hell else do you need to know? It could be an entire Brubaker/Phillips issue devoted to the debate over an obscure bill on the House floor and it would be more compelling than 90% of the stuff out there. So shut up already and enjoy it.

Swearing in the comic? Duh. Let's break it down! Fuck (or a variation thereof): 18. Shit: 11 (8 in one word balloon). Damn: 3. Bitch: 2. Ass: 1. The C-word: 1.* Plus a couple of Jesuses, if you want to count those. That's 36 (or 38) in this issue. Will it win the prize???? (Here's a hint: Not even close.)

Nudity in the comic? Mai oui! Two panels of naked groupies, and three panels of naked Ava, but always in silhouette, because nude scenes aren't in her contract, man!

* I refuse to use it or even type it. That's just how I roll.

The Killer #9 (of 10) by Matz (writer/translator), Luc Jacamon (artist), Edward Gauvin (translator). $3.95, 27 pgs, FC, Archaia.

With the exception of Mouse Guard, which I assume is their best-seller, it's been a long, loooooong time since we've seen a comic from Archaia. Now it looks like they have their shit together, which is excellent, as they generally put out really high-quality stuff for not much more than regular comics. I mean, this is 27 pages of story for less than a few Marvel books, and it's intense, powerful, and looks great. At this point, you might think it would be difficult to get into the story, but Matz does a fine job at least making sure we get the general idea behind the series, and we get a bunch of answers about what's been going on (that penultimate issue syndrome again). It sets up what I can only assume will be a bloody finale, with our unnamed assassin having more at stake than he knows, if the final panel is any indication (although, to be honest, I wasn't sure where his lady friend was in that panel). Jacamon's art is typically beautiful, with the cool blue of the nightclub contrasting nicely with the hot red of the bedroom. The first panel is a marvelous evocation of both the killer's home environment and the kind of person he is.

I'm very keen on reading how this all shakes out in the final issue, but I'm more jazzed by the fact that Archaia is publishing comics again. Yay!

Swearing in the comic? Some. A "bitch" and "son of a bitch," three uses of "fuck," two uses of "shit," and one each of "asshole" and "bastard." I know "bitch" and "bastard" are perfectly acceptable terms in some contexts, but not in these!

Nudity in the comic? Well, it's a European comic, and if there's one thing those socialists like, it's nudity, right??? There's sex in this book, so we get nine panels of female nudity. Stay away if you think seeing female pubic hair might lead you to commit depraved crimes!

The Last Resort #1 ("Two Goats") by Jimmy Palmiotti (writer), Justin Gray (writer), Giancarlo Caracuzzo (artist), and Chris Mowry (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Those of you who actually read these reviews (I know, what are the chances of that?) might recall that I've been a bit disappointed with Power Girl, to the point where Amanda Conner's art might not even keep me reading. It's more frustrating because I know Palmiotti and Gray can do good comics work, and why PG seems to be lacking a spark makes no sense to me (I know, it's only two issues in, so I'm not giving up quite yet, but it doesn't look good). Now, you might say I need to give it more than two issues, but here's the thing: This is the first issue of The Last Resort, Palmiotti and Gray's latest less mainstream offering, and I'm totally sold. In the first few pages, we get a dude coming out of the surf onto a Caribbean island and eating a lifeguard, and while I don't necessarily want to see that in a mainstream superhero book, it's a nice jolt of horror here. Then Palmiotti and Gray show us a bunch of people getting on a plane to go to Aruba, but we all know they're going to end up on the island with the lifeguard-eating dude, and of course they do. Palmiotti and Gray then end on an unusual note that seems to negate a lot of what they've done, characterization-wise, throughout the issue. But they begin with a compelling creepy event and end with a bang. It's certainly not a great comic, but it's a blast to read, and the script crackles with energy, as opposed to the first two issues of Power Girl, which felt oddly enervating (despite the presence of a giant super-intelligent ape). Conner is better than Caracuzzo, but the art in this book is nothing to sneeze at, as it fits the horror feel Palmiotti and Gray are going for. Caracuzzo does a nice job with a very large cast, which is good to see.

As this is a homage (of sorts) to disaster movies of the 1970s, Palmiotti and Gray introduce a large group of people who are flying to Aruba, many of whom will be (presumably) killed off in horrible ways. With limited space to work, they manage to give us a bunch of thumbnail sketches of our principals, and even though a lot of them are the kind of people we'd root for to get killed (oh, please, like you don't do that when you watch these kinds of movies), Palmiotti and Gray still do a good job establishing their characters. Sure, they skirt the edges of stereotype, but not as much as you might expect.

I'm not entirely sure how many issues this is (IDW has an annoying habit of not telling us in Previews or putting it on their covers), but if you're a fan of epic disaster movies and nice gory horror, you might want to give this a try. It can't hurt!

Swearing in the comic? Oh yeah. Breakin' it down again: Fuck and its permutations: 10. Shit: 3. Bitch: 2. Hell: 2. Cock: 1 (I don't know if that counts, but it always sounds really dirty to me). Dickhead: 1. C-word: 1. Jesus: 1 (as in taking the Lord's name in vain; someone else thanks Jesus, so I don't think that counts).

Nudity in the comic? You bet. There are at most five topless women in the first few pages, as the Caribbean island on which the lifeguard eater appears on is, apparently, one of the more relaxed ones. A character on the plane likes having sex in unusual places, so she's flashing her breasts in four different panels. Both times she has sex, it's kind of humorous - nicely played by Palmiotti and Gray.

Poe #1 (of 4) by J. Barton Mitchell (writer), Dean Kotz (artist), Digikore Studios (colorist), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

The last time Boom! had a comic that featured historical figures doing things they never did in real life, I didn't like it very much (Galveston). But based on this first issue, Poe will be different. It helps that Kotz is a good artist (he's not as good as Guy Davis, but he has a Davis vibe going on), bringing the mid-nineteenth century to life quite well, and Mitchell does a nice job setting up both E. A. Poe's state of mind following the death of his wife as well as the murder mystery, parts of which Poe deduces in true Holmesian manner (considering Poe wrote what is regarded as the first detective story, it's not too much of a stretch). It's a good solid hard-boiled murder mystery, and the addition of some supernatural elements don't make it too outlandish. So far, this is a good start to the mini-series.

(Does anyone want to debate what the Latin means? It's "Afficio Fortis Abiga," if you must know. "Afficio" is first person present singular, so "I use" or "handle" or "affect" or even "attack." "Fortis" means "brave" or "strong," and I can't figure out "abiga." It must be a form of "abigo," but I'm not sure what form it is. Any guesses? Man, it's been too long since I deciphered Latin.)

Swearing in the comic? Of course not - they were very proper back in 1847.

Nudity in the comic? I don't think anyone ever got naked prior to the 1920s. I'm not sure how they made babies, but I think I'm right.

Robotika: For a Few Rubles More #1 & 2 by Alex Sheikman (story/artist/letterer), David Moran (story/scripter), and Joel Chua (colorist). $4.99, 56 pgs, FC, Archaia.

The other Archaia book out this week is the double-sized Robotika, which collects the first issue (which actually came out) and the second issue (which never saw the light of day). That means you get two full comics for 5 dollars. What a bargain for you!

Robotika, as you know, is the brainchild of Alex Sheikman, who gave us the first mini-series unassisted and then brought on Moran to help with the writing aspect, as it was fairly obvious Sheikman was much better on the art side (not that he's a bad writer, but you can tell he's a novice). The writing has improved on this series, but the draw of this series remains Sheikman's art, which is absolutely spectacular. I thought issue #2 was done quite some time ago, but the art on it looks even better than it does in issue #1, so maybe Sheikman went back and added something to it. Beats me.

What we basically get in these two issues is a futuristic Western with samurai overtones, much like the first series, all of which leads to revelations about some characters and stand-offs between others and a beautifully choreographed fight scene that leaves some people we wouldn't have expected dead. There's a drug dealer who didn't get paid and wants to be, a drug buyer who has no interest in paying, and out intrepid trio of cowboys/samurai/mercenaries caught in the middle. There is shit, and it hits the fan.

I really can't gush enough about Sheikman's art. The book is exciting, yes, but it's also gorgeous, and Sheikman has a wonderful sense of design, both of characters and background but even in composing a page. He builds tension wonderfully, incorporates sound effects into the panels nicely, and even adds some nice touches of humor. I'm really excited to see the conclusion of this story, and I hope someone gives Sheikman some work. I'd do it, but I think he's out of my league, man!

Swearing in the comic? Ten "damns" and seven "hells" (heh). Most of them come from the mouth of Beppe, the drug dealer. He's kind of angry.

Nudity in the comic? None.

Scalped #30 ("The Gnawing Part One of Five") by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Scalped inspired me to do my theme for this week, because I don't think I've seen this much cursing since your average episode of Deadwood, so I decided to see how it matched up against the other comics I bought this week. Of course, it's utterly brilliant, but that goes without saying, doesn't it?

I mean, here we are, with all the threads coming together. I don't know how long Aaron plans to write this book, but it feels like big things are brewing, and I'm not sure how our hero, Dash Bad Horse, can navigate the dangerous waters he's in. He goes to pick up Diesel from jail down south in Nebraska (that's where he's stashed, isn't it?) and ends up with Catcher, who has many interesting things to say to Bad Horse as they head back to the reservation. Catcher escapes, but that's not important right now. What's important is that Red Crow wants Bad Horse to find the FBI agent who's infiltrated his organization. This, understandably, freaks Bad Horse out a bit, as he's the FBI agent. Both Red Crow and Agent Nitz, Bad Horse's boss, want to squeeze him to see if he breaks. Plus, there's that nasty old Asian gentleman in Red Crow's jail - the one that could lead Johnny Tongue showing up and killing everyone. Just another fun issue of Scalped, right?

This is really a great read. Yes, it's hard to follow if you haven't been reading the book (not surprising), but even if you pick it up at random, you get the sense of Aaron's excellent writing and how he builds tension and makes all the characters squirm. When Red Crow gets Johnny Tongue on the phone, you sincerely have no idea where Aaron is going with the conversation, and when you find out, it's an amazing and horrifying moment. And even if you know nothing about Dash Bad Horse, Aaron makes his situation real and fairly untenable, and when he's on the phone with Nitz, we can feel his panic. Guéra, of course, adds to the entire feel of the book very well, from the sinister presence of Catcher in the back seat of Bad Horse's squad car to the violence later in the issue. The fill-in artists have always been quite good on this book, but Guéra is amazing.

Aaron really hasn't had a weak moment on this book, and with this issue, he ups the ante a bit more. That means even better comics!

Swearing in the comic? Shit yeah! It's time for a breakdown! Fuck and/or its many glorious variations: 49. Shit: 12. Damn: 7. Ass: 6. Bastard: 3. Bitch: 3. N-word: 2.* Hell: 1. Dick: 1. Cocksucker: 1. That's 85 swear words in one comic. It's almost a symphony of swearing. There are 119 panels in this comic, so Aaron doesn't quite get in a swear word per panel, but on the first two pages, neither character curses (8 panels) and there are 24 panels in which no words are spoken. Therefore, if we ignore the calm conversation on the first two pages and the silent panels, there are 89 panels in which someone speaks. That means you almost have a 100% chance of finding a curse word when someone opens their mouth in the final 20 pages of this comic. That's goddamn motherfucking awesome. Seriously - I'm not kidding. It's breathtaking how much people curse in this comic. If it were Ian McShane doing the talking, it would sound like profane Shakespeare.

Nudity in the comic? Surprisingly, there's only one panel where we see a topless woman. This isn't the issue for nakedness, apparently - there's too much cursing!

* Another one I won't use.

Sherlock Holmes #3 (of 5) ("The Trial of Sherlock Holmes Part Three: A Killer on the Loose") by Leah Moore and John Reppion (writers), Aaron Campbell (artist), Tony Aviña (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

As I wrote last time this came out, it's very difficult, after the initial mystery has been established, to review this, as it's very much a chapter-by-chapter kind of thing, so, for instance, this ends with a conversation between Holmes and his brother Mycroft. Not very exciting, that. However, Moore and Reppion continue to build their story slowly but surely, with a nosy reporter trying to find out what happened to Holmes, someone trying to take Holmes out (and we're not even sure if they know he's Holmes, as he's disguised), and an assassination attempt on Baron Lothair. Despite not revealing how all of this ties together (and why would they?), Moore and Reppion are doing a good job keeping all their balls in the air, so why wouldn't I stick with it? Unlike something where the payoff is years down the line, this is a five-issue mini-series, so they have to wrap things up soon, don't they? I can enjoy the mystery until then, I reckon.

Swearing in the comic? Someone says "damned," and someone else says "What the devil?" Shocking!

Nudity in the comic? Remember Poe up there? No one got naked in the Victorian Age!

Super Friends #17 ("Just in Time") by Sholly Fisch (writer), Stewart McKenny (penciller), Dan Davis (inker), Travis Lanham (letterer), and Heroic Age (colorist). $2.50, 18 pgs, FC, DC.

I'd like to buy "adult" comics more (ones that feature panels like this for instance), but when the kids' ones are this awesome, I just can't!

So the Justice League fights Chronos, who changed history so that he rules the United States. Apparently, he went back to 2 July 1776 and didn't allow the Declaration of Independence to be signed and defeated George Washington, so the Super Friends go back in time to stop him. Yeah, that's it, but Fisch adds so much keen stuff that the script just sings. I mean, Flash investigates what's going on and still manages to fit in a Nationals game? Awesome. Well, except for the fact that he's a Nationals fan. What's up with that? Then there's the quiz about famous patriots' quotes, with Wonder Woman's old skull hair style. Then there's Aquaman riding a flying Superman saying "Yippee!" Then there's Chronos wearing a powdered wig and his super-villain costume. Fisch deftly skirts over the whole slave issue (especially considering that noted slave-owner Thomas Jefferson shows up in this book), and it's just another great issue of Super Friends.

And someone should tell Chronos that super-villains don't freakin' cry! What's wrong with him????

Swearing in the comic? Um, no.

Nudity in the comic? Surprisingly, Wonder Woman engages in some graphic hard-core sex with Ben Franklin and John Adams. Oh, come on - I'm not serious, people!

The Unknown #3 (of 4) by Mark Waid (writer), Minck Oosterveer (artist), Fellipe Martins (colorist), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

As cool as this comic is - and it is - this is a somewhat curious issue. I don't think I should give it away, so I won't. We meet the bad guy, Catherine and Doyle discover the big scheme, and Oosterveer draws the heck out it, but it's odd, as the big scheme doesn't seem all that horrible. I mean, the bad guy commits murder, sure, but I'm not sure he has to in the context of the book, and I'm not sure the other stuff he's doing is really illegal. It seems like what a lot of parents wish they could do. Catherine gets grumpy about it, but not necessarily because it's really evil - she gets grumpy because it offends her sensibilities. I'm certainly not saying that the bad guy isn't bad, but I wonder if he'd be better off forming a PAC and doing things through the proper channels.

Still, I love the art, and Waid's writing is solid. Plus, the creepy dude does something creepy. We'll see what happens next issue.

Swearing in the comic? There's an "ass."

Nudity in the comic? No, but Catherine still has that shirt wider open than might be necessary.

Unthinkable #3 (of 5) by Mark Sable (writer), Julian Totino Tedesco (artist), Juan Manuel Tumburús (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Here's another book that seems to be getting better as Sable slows down a bit. The first issue flew by, the second barely caught its breath, and this one slows down even more, and it's nice. Ripley and his krewe stop something awful from happening in Israel, then head someplace else to stop something else. Sable does something interesting with the script, as the president's State of the Union seems to indicate that all is not as bad as we've been led to believe. Of course, the State of the Union is propaganda, but it's an intriguing possibility that Sable floats here. Tedesco's art has been solid throughout, and when Ripley escapes from confinement, the violence is horrifying and all too real. As Sable calms down a bit and lets the story unfold in its own manner instead of rushing it, Tedesco remains the solid foundation of the series. It seems like the story is catching up to the art, which is good to see. As with far too many mini-series, this will probably read much better in trade, but this issue, at least, is a fine slice of comic bookery.

Swearing in the comic? None at all.

Nudity in the comic? Not really, although "the editor" is topless, and fat guys shouldn't be topless. Believe me, I know.

Wednesday Comics #2 (of 12). $3.99, 15 pgs, FC, DC.

I'm sure this will become easier to write about as the stories really take shape, because right now it's just about which writers are comfortable with the format and which aren't. Dave Gibbons ("Kamandi"), Dave Bullock ("Deadman"), Neil Gaiman ("Metamorpho"), Paul Pope ("Adam Strange"), Dan DiDio ("Metal Men"), Karl Kerschl ("Flash/Iris West"), Walt Simonson ("Demon/Catwoman") and Kyle Baker ("Hawkman") seem to be able to milk the single-page format for maximum tension and effect, with each of their stories ending with a nice kicker, while Brian Azzarello ("Batman"), John Arcudi ("Superman"), Kurt Busiek ("Green Lantern"), Eddie Berganza ("Teen Titans"), Jimmy Palmiotti ("Supergirl"), Ben Caldwell ("Wonder Woman"), and Adam Kubert ("Sgt. Rock") just ... don't. The latter stories seem to be longer tales that just happen to be divided by the page break. That's not to say they won't be good as a complete whole, but with this format, the former stories leave you on a high note, desperate for the next week to find out what will happen next, while the latter stories ... well, you can wait and read the entire thing. It's actually quite fascinating to see the two kinds of stories side by side. Between the Azzarello story and the Arcudi story, both of which end extremely awkwardly, we get Gibbons and Sook dazzling us with a battle against giant rats that feels more meaty than the other two. I'm curious to see where all three are going, but I wasn't as jazzed by the Batman and Superman stories, while the Kamandi one was oodles of fun.

And, of course, the "issue" ends with these words: "Next week: Mile-high clubbing!" Any comic that ends with that is worth it, in my book.

Swearing in the comic? Boston Brand says "The hell it ain't!" and "What the hell?" But that's just like him, isn't it?

Nudity in the comic? Not so much.

X-Factor #46 ("X-it Strategy") by Peter David (writer), Marco Santucci (penciler), Pat Davidson (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

In the post-Rob Liefeld Is A Crazy Homophobe world, David throws in a Rictor/Shatterstar kiss that I would believe is just a gratuitous shot at Liefeld if the script hadn't been finished long before Ol' Rob had his meltdown. But I like to imagine David sitting there at his typewriter thinking, "Well, I was going to spend this entire issue on the future and what happened to Monet, but I think I'll write in a make-out panel just to make Rob's head explode!" My world is so much more interesting than the real one.

Anyway, the bulk of this issue is Monet fighting Darwin and the future peeps confronting Doom. It's a typical very good issue of X-Factor, made more awesome by the surprise guest star at the end. I may be the only person in creation beside his creators who thought that dude was way cool. I'm just concerned that David has a bump on the head that makes him think it's 1991 and not 2009. Someone should get him a CT scan, stat!

Tim Callahan's crazy negative opinions about this book notwithstanding, it continues to roll merrily along, and I'm perfectly happy to let David write as long as he wants to. If only to make Mr. Liefeld twist himself in knots trying to defend his weird objections to Shatterstar mackin' on another dude.

Swearing in the comic? Nope.

Nudity in the comic? Well, Monet is naked the entire book, but she also has what looks like a purple transmode virus covering her entire body, so don't get your fanboy hormones all ratcheted up!

Young Liars #17 ("A Woman Scorned") by David Lapham (writer/artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

And then there's Young Liars. After last issue's decent but weirdly boring issue that not even an authority as respected as Chad Nevett could convince me was brilliant (although he made a valiant effort), we get back to, well, clowns raping people with what appears to be a feather duster. I could be wrong, though. Oh, and a head in a freezer. You know, the normal madness. And I can't even fathom what's happening on the bottom of page 12, where it appears a giant clown is rampaging through town. It doesn't matter, of course, as next issue is the final one (isn't it?), but dang, I'm going to miss this fucked-up love story. It's exactly like Wuthering Heights!

Swearing in the comic? Lapham knows how to use the Vertigo label, motherfuckers! It's breakdown time! Fuck: 11 (three of those are "fook" from that foreign dude). Shit: 6 (4 in a row from Danny at one point). Damn: 4. Ass: 2. Jesus: 2. Hell: 2. Dick: 1. Not quite the beautiful profanity in Scalped, but not bad, either.

Nudity in the comic? None whatsoever.

So that's the week. Dear Lord, that's a lot of comics. I bought 19 individual issues, and in 7 of them, there's some female nudity, although only in 4 does anyone dare show nipples (nipples rot the mind, don't you know). But the swearing, oh the swearing! Check this out!

Fuck: 91.Shit: 34.Damn: 25.Hell: 14.Ass: 13.Bitch: 9.Jesus (as an oath): 5.Bastard: 4.Dick: 3.Cock: 2 (1 is "cocksucker").The C-word: 2.The N-word: 2.

I know this is skewed by the masterpiece that is Scalped, but that's still impressive. I don't have a problem with any of them, even the two words I won't use. The only problem I have is when Marvel uses a grawlix in All Select Comics. Come on, Marvel - curse it loud, curse it proud!

Man, I'm glad I'm taking next week off (oh, by the way, I'm taking next week off, at least from reviewing comics, as I'll be ... elsewhere). Reviewing this many comics and paying such close attention to the swearing almost drove me insane. And for some of the time while I was writing these reviews, I was listening to Ice-T's "O. G. Original Gangster." Let the cursing fly! I haven't even been able to speak to the kids for two days for fear I might drop a "cocksucker" into the conversation! That's no good. But let's get to the totally random lyrics!

"There's a club, if you'd like to goYou could meet somebody who really loves youSo you go, and you stand on your ownAnd you leave on your ownAnd you go home, and you cryAnd you want to die"

Uplifting! If it helps (and it probably won't), this is the only song by this band that I like. See? It's all clear now!

I'm sleepy now. I need a nap.

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