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What I bought – 16 April 2008

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 16 April 2008

Hot diggity! This was an excellent week for comics. I hope you enjoyed your purchases as much as I liked mine!

Bad Planet #5 (of 6) by Thomas Jane (writer), Steve Niles (writer), James Daly III (artist), Tim Bradstreet (artist), Dave Kendall (artist), Grant Goleash (colorist), and Jason Hanley (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image/Raw Studios.

I’ve mentioned this with regard to Bad Planet before, but this is just the perfect junk-food comic. Yes, it’s been plagued by an absolutely awful publishing schedule which robs it of much on its momentum, but in this issue, we finally learn what the hell is going on with the deathspiders (and who doesn’t love deathspiders?) and what that escaped convict’s connection to it. In a flashback wonderfully painted by Kendall, we discover that he’s the sole survivor of a planet that was also devastated by the spiders, and he wants to make them pay. There’s also a reference to comics’ favorite scientist, Nicola Tesla, and a promise for a final issue full of utter mayhem. This is a very good issue, partially because Jane and Niles slow down enough to fill in some blanks. Up until now, it’s been a ridiculously fun roller coaster ride, but we’ve been in the dark with regard to any backstory. Now there’s a bit more information, and that’s cool. It makes things clearer, but also allows everyone to gear up for the (probable) bloody conclusion. If you’re a fan of 1950s sci-fi movies with a nice modern edge, this is a quality comic. It’s not great, but it’s a blast.

And damn, that’s a gorgeous cover by Michael Kaluta. Can’t that dude do more work?

The Boy Who Made Silence #2 (of 12) by Joshua Hagler (writer/artist/letterer) and Thomas Mauer (letterer). $3.50, 21 pgs, FC, Markosia.

The first issue of this came out only a few weeks ago. I hope the scheduling keeps up, even if it’s not every two weeks. I guess Hagler has a good deal of it finished (it’s originally from 2006, after all), so it would be nice if it kept up. These small presses often get behind schedule very quickly, and that’s kind of annoying.

Anyway, two issues in, this is a pretty cool book. Our titular hero, Nestor, takes a bit of a back seat for most of the issue, as Hagler focuses on several characters in the town leading up to Nestor’s strange meltdown at the parade (which we saw last issue). He manages to give each character some interesting personalities while not falling into cliché easily. Yes, they’re small-town types, but Hagler is able, through their dialogue, to make them real, mainly through their quirks, such as the woman who often calls her husband the wrong name (the name of her first husband) because she has Alzheimer’s and the woman who considers her husband a decent guy because he only hits her as much as she deserves it. These characters become people, so when Nestor does … something, we feel it. Then, Hagler focuses back on his main character, and something very odd happens to him. But the explanation for that must wait for next issue!

This is a weird comic, but it’s quite good. It’s creepier than you might expect, it looks great, and so far, Hagler has done a nice job getting us involved in this world. If you can find it (always a tough thing, I know), I encourage you to give it a shot.

Captain Action #0 by Fabian Nicieza (writer), Mark Sparacio (artist), James Brown (colorist), and Dave Rothe (letterer), with a text piece by Michael Eury. $1.99, 15 pgs, FC, Moonstone.

I got this because it was only 2 bucks, so I wanted to check it out. Apparently Captain Action is an old action figure from the Sixties, man, and has been published in comic book form before (Eury’s text piece explains it all). Now Nicieza, who has always been a bit of a workmanlike but unspectacular writer, takes up the reins for what is apparently going to be a series of “novellas” beginning in June. This is just a taste!

It’s not bad, actually. I doubt if it’s enough to get me to buy the actual comic, but it’s an intriguing idea. The original Captain Action narrates, explaining that in 1951, there was an alien invasion of parasites that get into their victim’s bloodstream and controls them. Humanity won the war (they thought), but in the meantime, they had bio-engineered superheroes to help with the fight. Years later, it turned out that the superheroes were part of the alien plan, and they start taking over. The only one who can help? Captain Action’s son! We first see him sleeping off a wild night of sex with two women, but he quickly realizes he has to take up his father’s mantle. But, as he points out, how do you fight foes that the entire world thinks are superheroes?

Sure, it’s a bit familiar, but it’s still kind of neat. Nicieza can plot with the best of them (it’s always his scripting that bothers me), and he might be able to make this work. Captain Action has a nice, old-school feel to him, with that goofy hat and serrated sword and bizarre logo, and Nicieza looks like he’s setting up a heroic contrast between him and the new-style heroes. This is something to check out to see if you’re interested in learning more. And it’s only 2 dollars, which is never a bad thing. Plus, I like that Gulacy cover. Is that wrong?

Catwoman #78 by Will Pfeifer (writer), David López (penciller), Álvaro López (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Well, here’s another book I can stop convincing you to buy, because it’s dead in the water. I will say that Selina’s fight with Cheetah (depicted on that awful cover) kicks ass, and Slam Bradley is awesome in this issue, and the fact that he’s in big trouble at the end of the book means he can kick lots of ass next time! Oh well. I will compose a better paean to this book in a few months, when it goes the way of the dodo and the fiscally conservative politician.

The Damned: Prodigal Sons #1 (of 3) by Cullen Bunn (plotter/writer) and Brian Hurtt (plotter/artist). $3.50, 32 pgs, BW, Oni Press.

The first mini-series about mobsters allied with demons and Eddie, the unusual man who comes back from the dead if anyone touches his flesh, was a keen comic, and it’s nice to see a follow-up. I don’t know if Bunn and Hurtt are planning a bunch of these, but as Hurtt doesn’t seem to get work from the big boys (which is a crying shame, if you ask me), it’s likely he’ll be able to do these. So that’s cool.

In this issue, we don’t get much beyond a brief recap to get us into things, but Bunn’s world is easy enough to get into: it’s a Prohibition-era gangster story, except with demons, who live among us, make deals with humans, and generally fit into society. What’s solid about this issue is that Bunn introduces Eddie’s brother, Morgan, so he goes back and shows their childhood, which helps new readers get into the spirit of the book. Eddie wants Morgan to help him bring his mother back from the dead, which is a holdover from the previous series, but it’s not that important, because it’s explained well here.

Eddie has a foolproof plan for getting their mother back – he kills himself so he can search for her. This leaves Morgan, who originally wants nothing to do with the plan but eventually relents, with the unenviable task of keeping his brother’s body safe until he can find someone to touch Eddie’s skin (which kills that person, but that’s the way it is, right?). Unfortunately for Eddie and Morgan, a gang of demons is after Eddie, with orders to burn his body to ashes. Oh dear.

Bunn does a nice job setting up the whole story and making sure there’s some action so we don’t get bored. Hurtt, whose attention to detail is very good, has an excellent grasp on both the supernatural (an early drawing of a demon is truly scary) and the rather rococco trappings of the gangland world. Hurtt shifts easily between stylistic scenes of lounge singers to a horrific drawing of Eddie with slashed wrists. He’s a very good artist, and it’s nice to see his stuff.

Here’s to a long life for this series! Why shouldn’t this be popular? It’s gangsters and demons, people!

Ghost Rider #22 by Jason Aaron (writer), Roland Boschi (artist), Dan Brown (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

When this was solicited, I wrote: “You know, I don’t have any interest in reading Ghost Rider #22 (page 28) even though Jason Aaron is writing it, but I do like the text: ‘It’s Ghost Rider versus a haunted stretch of highway …’ Any time someone battles a piece of pavement, that’s good stuff.” Well, it’s still a fun solicitation, but because I did happen to read the first two issues of this story arc (for free), I did decide to buy this issue. And man, I’m glad I did. This was all kinds of kick-ass fun.

As we’ve seen, GR is trying to rescue a young lad who knows a lot about Zadkiel’s plot to attack Heaven. He rescued them from a cadre of hot nurses (led by their leader, a non-hot nurse) who live to serve Zadkiel, but as he drove away, he happened onto a part of a highway that is, well, haunted. If this makes no sense, that’s what the recap page is for (Zadkiel?), but don’t let it bother you: basically, the entire issue is Ghost Rider plowing his way along a road chopping ghosts to pieces. And when he does break away from that, Aaron reminds us that, oh yeah, at least one inhabitant of the town is a cannibal (with a wicked sense of humor). This all leads to four different groups – Ghost Rider, the nurses, the cannibal, and a bus carrying a nurse who fled the main group – heading straight for a crossroads in the middle of town, and the promise of next issue: “Bad Day at New Beulah or Mondo Mayhem in the Mighty Marvel Manner!”

This is a ridiculously fun comic, drawn roughly but feverishly by Boschi (his initial splash page, as Ghost Rider barrels into the midst of the spooks, is wondrous to behold). It reminds me a lot of Ennis before he got really bitter – it wouldn’t be out of place in Hitman or The Demon. I don’t know how long Aaron plans to be on this title, but I must see how this arc ends, at least. It’s wildly fun to read. Here’s but a sample of the wackiness:

Evil ghost: You may look like a demon, but you’ve the stench of angel on you, no doubt. Why not piss-off back to your cloud and diddle your harp like a good little heavenly whore?
Ghost Rider: See now … that was the wrong thing to say.

And much ass-kicking ensues. With a sickle, mind you.

Grendel: Behold the Devil #6 (of eight) by Matt Wagner (writer/artist) and Tom Orzechowski (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, BWR, Dark Horse.

Oh, the balletic violence. Sure, Wagner indulges in a horror/action movie cliché – the head with deep slices in it slowing sliding off the neck – but the man can still draw the hell out of a bloody fight scene. Basically, this issue finds our “hero” taking his revenge against the Koreans who screwed with him, which provides him with a handy way to call up the demon who’s been tormenting him. Except it’s not exactly what he expects. Oh, and Liz Sparks suspects that Lucas Ottoman is up to something, but he’s not telling. Oh, Lucas, I fear for your safety.

As this is mostly an action issue, there’s not much to say. It flies along, like the rest of the series, and it’s beautiful to look at. As usual, Wagner does a nice job leading us to a point and then, at the end, making us consider what exactly is going on. I guess we’ll find out next issue!

The Incredible Hercules #116 by Greg Pak (writer) Fred van Lente (writer), Rafa Sandoval (penciler), Roger Bonet (inker), Martegod Gracia (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.

You know, the recap pages of this comic are more entertaining than a lot of actual comics. I’m just saying.

Herc, Amadeus, and Athena end up in San Francisco, where Athena has a meeting. Meanwhile, the Eternals decide that Hercules is one of those Eternals who can’t remember he’s an Eternal, and this leads to much punching as they try to convince him. They make some interesting points about Herc’s memory, and it gets a tad confusing as Hercules starts to believe them, but it’s all a big mistake. Hercules is no Eternal! But it’s all just an excuse to have some punching before Athena meets with a big old pantheon of gods to forge an alliance to fight the Skrulls. Yeah, it’s a “Secret Invasion” crossover, and I’m not too happy about it. I hope that the idea – that the gods of humans need to fight the gods of the Skrulls – won’t have much to do with the main story, because that could be fun. I would hate to see this book, which for the past few months has been great, derailed because it has to tie into a big event. It was spawned by a big event, true, but how many big events can one reader take? HOW MANY, I ASK YOU?!?!?!?

Ahem. So this isn’t the best issue, because a lot happens that is simply sound and fury, but it looks great – Sandoval does an excellent job with the art. Plus, there are footnotes! Oh, the glory of footnotes! Is that so hard, Marvel (and DC)? Just a tiny footnote? I haven’t even read Thor #300, but who cares? Just to know that these characters have a history is nice. Footnotes: they will save the world someday, mark my words.

So although this isn’t the best issue (and, to be fair, the previous four have been really good, so there’s bound to be a letdown), it’s still an extremely entertaining comic. I’m a bit worried, though: with the Loeb/McGuinness Hulk book already a month behind schedule, and this book not actually starring the Jade Giant for now, what will Marvel do when the movie opens this summer? Will they force Pak and van Lente to ditch Herc and Amadeus just so there’s a Hulk book starring, you know, the Hulk? That would suck.

The Infinite Horizon #3 (of 6) by Gerry Duggan (writer), Phil Noto (artist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $2.99, 28 pgs, FC, Image.

I’m sure this has dropped off the radar of anyone on whose radar it was originally, because it’s plagued by delays, but you know me: I refuse to let tardiness bother me! Duggan’s re-imagining of “The Odyssey” is intriguing, because Duggan makes some interesting observations about contemporary American life without being too obnoxious about it (beyond the very first page of the first issue, which was heavy-handed). The Captain and his crew, who were marooned on an island at the end of last issue, find themselves battling a Cyclops, and it’s quite clever how the Captain defeats him and what he was doing on the island. Plus, the Captain has to make some hard decisions when he leaves, which makes this a more interesting moral conundrum than we might expect. Back in New York, his tough-chick wife continues to hold down the fort. Although the disasters besetting the country are extreme, we can see similarities to them in some of the disasters that have occurred in our time, and it adds some realism to the book.

Noto skimps on the backgrounds to a distracting degree, but his action scenes work well, and he shows the emotions of Penelope and her friends well. I don’t know if he or Duggan is the cause of the delays with the book, but it’s a shame. It certainly can’t help sales.

Oh well. I still dig the comic, and I’m sure it will read well in the trade. And that’s what it’s all about these days, right?

The Lone Ranger #11 by Brett Matthews (writer), Sergio Cariello (artist), Paul Pope (artist), Marcelo Pinto (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

Another book that is perpetually late is The Lone Ranger, and that’s also too bad. In between issue #10 and this one, we had the Lone Ranger and Tonto special, but it’s been so long since this arc began I honestly have no idea why they’re fixin’ to hang that kid. I really can’t remember. Now, I’m not ragging on the individual issues, because Matthews continues to do a very nice job, especially with the two main characters (Tonto gets the spotlight in this issue), but I wish the books would come out more frequently. Maybe they need a short break in order to get ahead? I haven’t seen issue #12 solicited yet, so I hope it’s not cancelled, just on a short hiatus while everyone gets caught up.

The fact that they’re fixin’ to hang that boy is pertinent to the story, but it’s more of an epilogue than anything, as Tonto shows up the night before his hangin’ and tells him a story of a wolf. The wolf discovers that humans have moved into his territory and are destroying the ecosystem. Damned humans! What’s fascinating is that Tonto’s story is weirdly ambiguous, allowing us to attempt to puzzle out the meaning. In one panel, it’s implied that Tonto himself is the wolf (oooh – metaphors!). It’s a brutal story to match the brutality of what will happen to Rafael (who, let’s face it, has it coming), and it powerfully sums up the ambiguity of life itself. It actually makes me want to go back and re-read the rest of the arc to see how it ties into it.

Cariello’s art is fine, but the true star of the book is Pope, who illustrates the story of the wolf. I have never been a fan of Pope’s art (yes, it’s true!), but in this issue, it shines. He seems to pull back on the odd faces and warped bodies that I don’t like and apply himself to solid storytelling. Maybe it’s because he’s not drawing humans much (in only a couple of panels) that makes me like it more. His art, which is very moody even when I don’t like it, has a nice, bleak feel to it. And his wolf is more expressive than a lot of humans under the pen of lesser artists. It’s a very cool comic to look at.

I want The Lone Ranger to continue, and I hope it comes back strong. Delays like this can’t be good for it. There’s a trade coming out of these issues, and I encourage you to check it out. It’s a fine Western in the grand tradition of fine Westerns.

Noble Causes #32 by Jay Faerber (writer), Yildiray Cinar (artist), Ron Riley (colorist), and Charles Pritchett (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

I already reviewed this, and I encourage you to buy it if you’ve never bought Noble Causes before. It’s a good place to jump on.

The Programme #10 (of 12) by Peter Milligan (writer), C. P. Smith (artist), and Pat Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/WildStorm.

I mentioned last time that #9 was a weird issue, and that was the entirety of my review. Someone took exception to that, saying it was very good. Ah, but I didn’t write that it wasn’t any good! It just seems pointless, at this point, to review the individual issues until #12 comes out, when I can write about how Milligan pulls it all together and if the trade is worth it. It’s still weird, though!

I’m not sure if this will all work out, but this issue was very good. Milligan kicks up the action a bit, as Max and Senator Joe fight a bit when Max tries to convince Joe to fight the Russians and Joe is having none of it. But Milligan manages to make what are fairly predictable plot devices (the president not being as noble as a character thinks, the way Max is captured) and twist them nicely so that they’re compelling (especially the way Max is captured – wild!). It’s really a nice issue, and after a mid-series lull, it’s really picking up as we hurtle toward the ending. Gotta love good Milligan!

Rex Mundi #11 by Arvid Nelson (writer/letterer) and Juan Ferreyra (artist/colorist). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Rex Mundi, which was pretty darned good to begin with, keeps getting better and better, and although I think it’s ending soon, I could be wrong. I’ll certainly miss it! In this issue, we get political intrigue, a marriage proposal, a fight between Julien and the Grand Inquisitor, a discussion of pomegranates and the wine that comes from it and why it’s important (believe me, it’s pretty fascinating). What’s that? You don’t care about wine? Well, maybe you will if you read this!

I’d like to muse about Nelson as letterer and Ferreyra as colorist. Does this keep the price of the book down because Dark Horse doesn’t need to pay a separate letterer and colorist? If so, I’m happy about that. But does that mean that DC and Marvel could lower their prices if they forced their writers and artists to letter and color their books themselves? I’m certainly not calling for DC and Marvel to fire all their letterers and colorists, but I wonder about things like this. Are the creative people unionized? One would think that the skinflints at DC and Marvel would try to find any cost-cutting methods, but maybe they can’t in this case. Ferreyra is an excellent colorist, actually, and Nelson’s letters are easily read, which is all most of us care about. I’m just curious about this. As usual, I have no idea about the economics of comic-book publishing, but this makes me wonder. If Dark Horse hired a letterer and colorist for this book, would it cost $3.50? I think too much, don’t I? What say you, good readers? Any letterers or colorists out there who can clear this up for me?

Suicide Squad #8 (of eight) by John Ostrander (writer), Javi Pina (penciller), Robin Riggs (penciller/inker), Rob Leigh (letterer), and Jason Wright (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Ostrander’s latest visit to the Squad wraps up pretty much as you might expect, which doesn’t make it bad at all. Ostrander has tossed everything into the blender and spat out a wild ride, full of double-crossing and death. Ostrander has never been shy about a body count, and we get it here, but unlike some DC and Marvel books where it feels gratuitous, Ostrander always sets up stories so that the death feels deeper, more respectful, and more permanent. And, of course, Deadshot is frickin’ excellent. It would be nice if Floyd could give Batman more of a fight, because except for the Big Bad Bat, he’s one bad-ass motherfucker. Yes, I know there are reasons why he’s ineffectual around Brucie, but it never rings true.

I will say that Eiling looks a bit ridiculous with those teeth. Howard Porter, who designed that look (as far as I know), has been the only one who can make Eiling look both monstrous and intelligent. Other artists make him look goofy. But Eiling is a keen villain.

Let’s hope this sold well enough that DC gives Ostrander a crack at another Squad ongoing. Who wouldn’t love that?

X-Factor #30 by Peter David (writer), Valentine de Landro (penciler), Andrew Hennessy (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Arcade is wildly goofy, even though I’ve always liked him, but David does a decent job with making him a bit more menacing than he usually is. The best thing about the book is the “failsafe” option, which ends the book on a cliffhanger. It’s not an original plot device, but David does a good job with Taylor, the Purifier who allowed Rictor to get into the organization and was drummed out because of his foolishness. Taylor hired Arcade because he’s peeved about getting kicked out of the Purifiers, and his speech at the end does what David does best: gives minor characters some humanity. We still don’t like Taylor, but we understand him more, and that’s a nice part of the comic.

I’m very confused about some of the early scenes, and I hope y’all can help me out. Monet busts in to rescue Rictor, which doesn’t bug me that much. Did we find out last issue how she knows where he is? I could go and look, but the issue is in the garage, and I’m really lazy. Anyway, later on some woman fires a gun at Madrox. In one panel he’s diving to the ground, and in the next panel there are three of him. Does the impact of him hitting the ground create the duplicates? I’m going to assume so, but I just want confirmation. That brings up the question of how he ever takes a step, but I’m not going there. On the next page, Rictor is about to be carved up by the pendulum, but then Theresa and a Madrox duplicate show up. Um, where did they come from? There’s a hole in the wall behind them (presumably through which Monet crashed), but how did they find it? Did Monet somehow let them know about it? It’s a weird little sequence, and I’m confused by it. Did it confuse anyone else, or am I too stupid to live?

As usual, it’s a good issue. David keeps moving us along, and it’s a fascinating title.

Wow, some great comics came out this week. Offer your thoughts! On a slightly more serious note, I have to link to my daughters’ blog, because today is the five-year anniversary of my older daughter’s accident. If you’re a new reader or an old reader who likes a heart-warming story (if this is heart-warming enough), check it out. Then you can come back and tell me how bad my comics choices are!

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