What I bought - 15 September 2010

"I'd like to change the world, but I end up as entertainment. Whereas all you lovers" -- he spoke the word contemptuously -- "who couldn't give a fuck about the world as long as you're feeling passionate, you're the ones who make the cities burn and the nations tumble. You're the engines in the tragedy, and most of the time you don't even know it." (Clive Barker, from Imajica)

Hellblazer #271 ("Bloody Carnations Part One: Oh Lucky Man") by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), Simon Bisley (artist, pgs 20-22), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), Brian Buccellato (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Milligan continues to write very good John Constantine stories, as this arc follows almost directly from the last one, in which Shade helped John with Epiphany's ... problems. I don't want to write too much because of spoilering and such, but I suppose I have to, so if you're buying this in trade, look away! And just realize that last arc was very good and this arc looks like it will be as well.

So, anyway - as we saw last issue, Shade took Epiphany back to Meta to fix her face, which she probably should have known, given Shade's obsession with Kathy (WHO ISN'T DEAD!!!!!) and his claim that Epiphany resembles her, wasn't a good idea. John, meanwhile, is also obsessed with Epiphany (Milligan does a nice, subtle job of showing how the two men are obsessed in different yet similar ways), and he tries to get Shade to come back ... until he realizes he just might not be insane enough, which is a pretty cool idea. Milligan has a nice shout-out to earlier Hellblazer runs (Nergal the demon shows up, and Ellie's name is mentioned), which I always like - it's always nice to see some continuity within the series, even if it's rare and often unnecessary - and he sets up the rest of the arc well in the final few pages, where Epiphany ends up in 1979 (which is in the solicits, so it's not that big a spoiler). I'm still not sure if I buy John's seemingly out-of-nowhere undying love for Epiphany, but Milligan does make the reasoning behind it compelling - it makes Nergal's presence interesting and also brings back the entire idea of John's self-destruction and how much he really enjoys self-destructing.

I don't know if Bisley is doing the "1979" arc, but he's always fun to see. And young, punk John should be a treat.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Joe the Barbarian #7 (of kahdeksan) ("Labyrinth of the Lost") by Grant "How many late books can I throw at you this month?" Morrison (writer), Sean Murphy (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Issue #7 is only two months late, so I guess that's something. I never know why Morrison's books are late - does he not turn in scripts in time, or does he keep tweaking them because they're just ... not ... quite ... perfect ... Did he agonize for a month over "Get me out of this" on page 13, convinced initially that "Get me out of here" was just so much better, but "this" is a more resonant word? I usually blame the artists for late books, and with someone like Murphy, I could easily believe that, but it's happened so many times with Morrison books that I have to think it's him. Anyway ...

Despite its tardiness, Joe the Barbarian continues to be a wonderful comic, one of the best of the year. Murphy's art has a lot to do with that, of course, as he seems to top himself every issue, and this time around gives us some magnificent battle scenes as Joe leads the good guys toward King Death's keep. But Morrison's story, which at first glance seems to be just an epic quest, continues to evolve, as Joe must make a crucial decision in this issue ... and makes the wrong one. Well, it will probably turn out to be the right one, but it doesn't seem like it right now. And even if it turns out to be the right one, he made it for the wrong reasons. The book has been leading to a particular confrontation, and we knew it was coming, but it's impressive how Morrison makes the inevitability of it all feel like a bad choice that Joe could have made differently. The moral ambiguity of the final pages is amazing when you consider that we've been expecting this ever since the first issue. But I guess that's why Morrison is, you know, the God of All Comics.

Commenters have been wondering why I call Morrison my favorite comic book writer when I often bash his work on the Caped Crusader. This comic is one reason. Joe the Barbarian is so much better than his Batman stuff (which is often quite good, remember), and after a middle-of-the-road issue like Batman and Robin #14 (which, again, isn't bad, but could be a lot better), I love reading something like this, which is an amazing comic book experience. So that's why he's my favorite. Because he can still do stuff like this. And thank your favorite deity for it, say I!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Morning Glories #2 by Nick Spencer (writer), Joe Eisma (artist), Alex Sollazzo (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Image/Shadowline.

One thing you can say about Spencer, he doesn't waste any time. Last issue, the new kids at Morning Glory Academy found out right quick that things were a bit wonky at the school, and in this issue, the administrator decides ... to stick them all in detention and flood the room. Why? Well, let's just say it involves ... MATH!!!!! I made a joke last week about proofs, and in this issue, we get theorems as a major plot point! Whoo-hoo!!!!!*

Spencer is doing a good job establishing the characters and introducing plenty of mystery into the book. Yes, he's revealing a lot, but he's also making sure we don't quite know what's going on. The teachers are obviously looking for kids who are somehow special, but we don't know much more than that. The teachers and even other students act in evil ways, but we don't know why. It's kind of fun, because usually with stories like this we're so in the dark it's occasionally difficult to be patient. Spencer cares not about making us wait - we're already in the thick of it! Plus, there's an odd cliffhanger! Who doesn't love odd cliffhangers?!?!?

I'm not sure if this is a good comic yet, but after two issues, it's certainly entertaining. Which is always nice to see!

The Latin, by the way, is: "The end lies only just before ... the man is afraid but his fate is certain ..." Or something like that. It's close enough, confound it!

* I have always been an English and History nerd, but I enjoyed science and math in high school. I love doing proofs and had a blast in Calculus. Of course, when I went to college I took the bare minimum of math/science requirements, but these days I wish I was independently wealthy so I can take random science and math classes. Well, I wish I was independently wealthy for a lot of reasons, but that's one thing I'd do. Math is awesome. As is Physics. I wish I knew more!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Northlanders #32 ("Metal Part Three: Holy War") by Brian Wood (writer), Riccardo Burchielli (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Brian Wood teaches us how to make charcoal! In case you were wondering. Good stuff. I don't plan on making any in the near future, but it's nice to know I can consult comics if I want to.

Wood also adds an extra element into this story, as Ingrid, the young lady Erik rescued from the nuns, is revealed as perhaps having some odd things going on in her life, just as Erik has some odd things going on in his. She tells him she just wants to leave with him and start a family, but as Erik is a manly man, he must have revenge!!!! Of course, the Christians have hired a man to find Erik, which he does, and this leads to more bloodshed. But Wood does something clever here, as Erik leaves Black Karl alive, only to have new elements enter the story that lend it a more supernatural bent than we've seen (and this is a story in which Erik speaks to a goddess whose face turns into a skull). It's a neat way to end this issue, because it highlights once again the theme of the arc, which is the conflict not only between two religions but two different cultures. There's also a nice panel by Burchielli that seems to foreshadow Erik's death - I didn't think Erik would make it out of this arc alive, and maybe Wood will let him live, but it's a neat drawing by Burchielli in that it shows how much death is hovering around our "hero."

Anyway, good stuff as usual from Northlanders. It's a miracle!!!!

(Whilst I was hanging out at my comics shoppe yesterday, some dude came in to peruse the racks. He was a large dude both height-wise and width-wise, and he was shaven-headed and red-bearded. He dressed all in black with some kind of metal band T-shirt with Gothic lettering, making it impossible to read with a casual glance. He bought the two new Thor books that came out yesterday, a back issue of The Mighty Thor from the 1960s, and Northlanders. When he left, I said to the only employee of the store - it's a two-man operation, and the owner wasn't there - that the "Viking" had just become my favorite customer of all time. He said that's all he buys - Viking comics. Including the Image book from last year. The man knows what he likes!)

One totally Airwolf panel:

Time Bomb #2 (of 3) by Jimmy Palmiotti (writer), Justin Gray (writer), Paul Gulacy (artist), Rain Beredo (colorist), and John J. Hill (colorist). $4.99, 50 pgs, FC, Radical Comics.

The friendly folk at Radical were nice enough to send me this comic, and it even got here before the shipping date, so this review can be timely!!!!

I love the fact that our heroes, having been dumped into World War II rather than a few years before their starting time as planned, agonized over killing Nazis, freeing concentration camp prisoners, and possibly disrupting the time line, as they did last issue (very briefly, but still). Why do I love this fact? After they carve up the Nazis and free the prisoners, they head off to Berlin, gleefully killing any Nazi who says "boo" to them. I suppose they got any qualms about screwing up the future out of their system rather quickly! (To be fair, one of the men dismisses their concerns - "Whattaya gonna do?" he basically asks - so there's that.) And do they ever kill Nazis! Yay!

The other thing I like about this book is that absolutely nothing goes right. I know in fiction like this, where people are infiltrating enemy territory, not a lot usually goes right until, at the end, everything does, but I enjoyed that Palmiotti and Gray don't even give us the possibility of things going right. Every time the team thinks they have a lead, within a page or two it all goes pear-shaped. It's kind of humorous in a twisted way (and if anyone in comics right now knows about twisted humor, it's Gray and Palmiotti), and it makes this a bit more interesting than a standard "infiltrate the Nazi stronghold" story. Of course, as I like "infiltrate the Nazi stronghold" stories (if you've never seen Where Eagles Dare, then you must stop reading right now and go watch it - do it!!!!), so I already like this, but the utter pointlessness of every move the team makes just adds that weird touch.

I do find it interesting that Radical has no rating system whatsoever - presumably their comics are no holds barred, whatever the creators want to do. There's a scene with Peggy, the female member of the team, in which she has to get nekkid with a Nazi worker bee. Gulacy makes sure we don't see anything too horrifying, like a nipple. I wonder if the modesty is because Gulacy is an old-school kind of dude and doesn't think it's appropriate? I have no problem with the lack of nipples, mainly because Gulacy doesn't go out of his way to contort Peggy so that she's always hidden - the poses look natural and it's just the "camera angle" that keeps her nipples hidden - but I wonder if it was up to Gulacy and he chose to keep it PG-13. These details fascinate me, as I'm sure you're aware by now.

As I wrote last issue, this is one of Radical's better comics. It's not as good as Hotwire, but it's about as good as The Last Days of American Crime. If you're scared of Radical's murky coloring and computer-generated art, be comforted by Gulacy's archaic pencil work and Beredo's relatively bright tones!

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Unwritten #17 ("The Many Lives of Lizzie Hexam") by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (writer and layouter), Ryan Kelly (finisher), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Jeanne McGee (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $3.99, 32 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I was going to jump ship on The Unwritten after last issue, but Chad and Bill reminded me that this issue was the "Choose Your Own Adventure" issue, so of course I had to pick it up! And although I list it as having 32 pages, that's 32 pages of text/art. It's done in landscape mode, so there are two separate "pages" next to each other on each piece of paper. According to the page numbers at the bottom, we get 60 "pages," plus the first page (which is in portrait style) and the introductory page, which tells you how to read this. Clear? Clear.

I'm still not sure if I'm going to keep buying this, although I admire the heck out of what Carey and Gross do in this issue. Everyone should buy this just to marvel at the ambitious attempt, because we don't see enough wild experimentation in comics, a place that seems so suited to wild experimentation (as I ranted about a few weeks back). Lizzie Hexam is in a coma after last issue, so this issue is both her "secret origin" and the attempt by Tom to wake her up. She's reliving her past, presumably, in the coma, and that's why it's a bit dodgy. Tom finally figures out how to get through to her, and when she revives, she and Tom and Savoy are ready to kick ass. Whose ass they're going to kick remains to be seen!

Gross lays out the issue and the excellent and dashing Ryan Kelly finishes it. That's probably for the best, as Gross also helped plot it and he was probably a bit sleepy after trying to figure this whole thing out. Plus, Kelly has a similar style, so except for a few minor stylistic touches (Kelly's lines look a bit more solid than Gross's), the art is consistent with the rest of the book. We get more of Wilson Taylor's fantasy world than we have in the other issues, and Gross and Kelly really do well with it. Chuckry and McGee's coloring is nice on those pages, too - it's definitely an unreal world, so it ought to be slightly out-of-sync.

As for the storytelling ... well, as much as I admire it, I think the time constraints of publishing a monthly book make it less successful than it could have been. There's a reason why most comics remain conventional despite the storytelling possibilities - conventional sells and it's easier to get out in a timely fashion. This is a fun book to read, but there are a few problems. The "many lives" of Lizzie really only come down to two, and despite some small differences in the way the "successful" one plays out, there aren't a ton of options. Once you get on the track of Tom and Savoy trying to revive Lizzie, the "Choose Your Own Adventure" story goes away and, while we jump around a bit, it stays pretty much on a chronological track. It's an entertaining story, to be sure, and I love that Carey and Gross tried it, but the choices remain limited. I understand that that's the way it has to be, but I do wish, maybe, that we had spent a little less time with Tom and Savoy waking her up and a little more time exploring the possible pasts of Lizzie. That would have been neat.

Still, go check this out. The cover is fantastic, the art is good, the writing is solid, and this is a wonderful experiment. That it doesn't completely succeed doesn't mean we should admire the hell out of it. Don't you want to see more weirdness in your comics? Don't you, punks?!?!?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Whispers in the Walls #2 (of 6) by David Muñoz (writer), Tirso (artist), Javi Montes (colorist), Silvia Villamisar (coloring assistant), and Alex Donoghue (translator). $3.50, 27 pgs, FC, Humanoids.

I didn't write much about the first issue because it was in one of those posts where I didn't feel like writing about comics, but the set-up is that in post-WWII Czechoslovakia, there's an orphanage where four kids decided to find out what kind of weird things are going on inside the walls. One of the kids, Sarah, discovers that the bad stuff going on can't be pinned on the Nazis (what? you can always pin shit on the Nazis!) and she wants to dig deeper, but the other girl - Marketa - gets jealous because the two boys listen to Sarah, so she takes revenge by depriving Sarah of her "medicine." That ain't good. There's something going on with Sarah, and depriving her of her medicine is not a smart idea, as we find out later in the issue. Meanwhile, someone in Paris is very interested in what's going on in the orphanage. Good thing that someone can communicate with Sarah telepathically!

As I wrote about issue #1, this is a pretty good creepy horror comic. Tirso's art is moody and atmospheric and "European," for lack of a better word, and Muñoz does a good job revealing things while mostly keeping things mysterious. I'm looking forward to see where the story is going.

One totally Airwolf panel:

X-Factor #209 ("Strip Search") by Peter David (writer), Emanuela Lupacchino (penciler), Pat Davidson (inker), Matt Milla (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I don't know if this is sacrilegious, but Lupacchino has a bit of Chris Sprouse in her art, and for me, at least, that's a good thing. Her chins aren't quite as square as Sprouse's, but they're in the neighborhood. Everyone is built well, with Lupacchino's women a bit bigger-busted than Sprouse's (as I pointed out last issue, she's Italian, so that's how she rolls), but neither artist is afraid to show people who have realistic body types that are proportioned relatively normally. I don't know if Lupacchino is going to be the regular artist on this comic, but I vote sì!

David's story is fun, as most of X-Factor travels to Las Vegas to find out what happened to Pip, who was dragged there by Hela last issue. Most of the issue is spent trying to find Longshot, who has decided to gamble ("Keep gaming," as "God" once told Ned Flanders) because he's, you know, lucky (and ostensibly he's using his luck for Layla's benefit, which is why it works). Jamie decides that the best way to find Hela is for Longshot to indeed keep gaming, as that will draw attention to them. It works, probably too well. But that's next issue's story! Meanwhile, we learn more about Rahne and her baby in a flashback, during which Jamie asks Rictor the crucial question - did she actually admit it was his? That is, of course, going to be a continuing subplot for a while, I presume. I do like how David actually thinks about the consequences of what happens in these superhero books - Rahne was on a black ops team, for crying out loud, and it's nice to see that that might have messed with her head just a bit. Little touches like that are why David is such a good writer. But you already knew that!

I also like the fact that, in the Marvel Universe, not only can X-Factor, which happens to be hunting Hela, come across Dr. Jane Foster, who can actually tell them about Hela (and alert a certain thunder god), but Dr. Foster, in town for a medical conference, dresses like a high-end call girl. Now, she's not at the conference at the time, she's out for a night on the town, but I always appreciate that in the Marvel and DC universes, not only are the hard-working and presumably fit superheroes beautiful people, everyone who comes remotely in contact with them is too. Awesome.

X-Factor continues to be an enjoyable comic. I just hope they've found an artist who can make David's fun scripts even funner. Lupacchino should stay on! Make it so, Marvel!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fingerprints by Will Dinski (writer/artist). $14.95, 87 pgs, FC, Top Shelf.

Dinski was nice enough to send me a mini-comic a while back, and while I didn't absolutely love it, it was pretty interesting, so I figured the best thing to do would be to buy his graphic novel debut! It looks pretty keen, too.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 11 by Eiji Otsuka (writer) and Housai Yamazaki (artist). $11.99, 231 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

If our own Ms. Thompson wants to read a comic with a good female character, she should read this, because Ao Sasaki is freakin' awesome.

Here we go, with The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "New Way Home" - Foo Fighters (1997) "I love this leash that holds me when I try to run away"2. "Meaningless" - Magnetic Fields (1999) "And if some dim bulb should say we were in love in some way, kick all his teeth in for me and if you feel like keeping on kicking, feel free"13. "Bitchin' Camaro" - Dead Milkmen (1985) "I ran over some old lady one night at the county fair; and I didn't get arrested, because my dad's the mayor"24. "Paper Tiger" - Beck (2002) "All the laws of creation tell a dead man how to die"5. "Moving Targets" - Fish (2003) "There's no room for pity, no space for guilt, in this murderous city it's kill or be killed"6. "Gone Again" - Indigo Girls (1999) "Then she swindled my last twenty for a kiss and some poetry"7. "Welcome Back Victoria" - Jesus Jones (1991) "I am a child of the Sixties and for that I must pay"8. "Working For Vacation" - Cibo Matto (1999) "Watching television for as long as I like"9. "Where It's At" - Beck (1996) "Pick yourself up off the side of the road with your elevator bones and your whip-flash tones"10. "I'd Die Without You" - P. M. Dawn (1992) "Is it my turn to hold you by the hands, tell you I love you and you not hear me"3

1 I have to mention this whenever a Magnetic Fields song comes up on my iPod, but you really should get 69 Love Songs. It's awesome.2 When I was in Pennsylvania a month ago, my friend was going down to the Jersey shore, and I asked him if he was going to buy some Def Leppard T-shirts. He didn't get the reference. I know he knows the song, so now I'm depressed that he didn't get it.3 Manly men stand up proudly and proclaim their love for wimpy P. M. Dawn songs!!!!!

Do I hear a call for totally random lyrics? I think I do!!!!

"Do what you like,Doing it naturallyBut if it's too easyThey're gonna disagree

It's your lifeAnd isn't it a mysteryIf it's nobody's businessIt's everybody's game"

I don't mean to make them that easy, it's just the way it goes! Have a nice day, and remember to cheer for Penn State and the Eagles this weekend! It's your duty as good Americans!!!!

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