What I bought - 16 December 2015

When we were driving out of the town I said, "I hate the corpses of empires, they stink as nothing else. They stink so badly that I cannot believe that even in life they were healthy." "I do not think you can convince mankind," said my husband, "that there is not a certain magnificence about a great empire in being." "Of course there is," I admitted, "but the hideousness outweighs the beauty. You are not, I hope, going to tell me that they impose laws on lawless people. Empires live by the violation of law." (Rebecca West, from Black Lamb and Grey Falcon)

[The management regrets that the scanner used to scan covers and so-called "Airwolf" panels is acting up and will not scan. This happens occasionally because the management's scanner enjoys pissing management off. So this post will be old-school style, with all text. I know, it's like it's 2005 or something!]

The Autumnlands #8 ("What Walks These Hills") by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Jimmy Betancourt (letterer), Kurt Busiek (writer), Benjamin Dewey (artist), and John Roshell (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Busiek, as you might expect, is a fun dude to talk to. If you ever see him at a convention, you don't even need to talk to him, you can just linger by his table and inevitably he will tell fun stories about people he's known or situations he's been in. Obviously, it helps to say hello, but if you're just really shy, you can just stand around looking important and someone else will invariably ask him a question that sends him off. It's still one of the coolest things about conventions - comics creators are rarely so famous that they are walled off from the common folk, so even a guy like Busiek, who is one of the best superhero writers of all time, I would argue, sits at his table and is easily accessible to all. Sure, the "hot" creators have lines out the door, but that percentage is so small that it almost doesn't matter. I've never spoken to the super-duper-stars of comics like Scott Snyder or Geoff Johns or Neal Adams or Chris Claremont, but so many others that I consider great creators are willing to chat with anyone who comes up to them. (I would put Jim Lee in that category above, but I did get a chance to speak to Lee once, when Atomic Comics got the Image founders together for a special event some years ago. That was a fun day.) Busiek, obviously, likes talking about his own creations a bit more, but he certainly doesn't mind rambling on about the Avengers, either. Comics creators, I've always found, love talking comics. It's just another cool aspect of this little hobby of ours.

Oh, did this issue come out? Yeah, I guess it did. It's still a fine comic. The story adds an interesting dimension in this issue, and Dewey's art is beautiful, as always. You don't need me to tell you this is a good comic!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

The Tithe #7 by Jeremy Colwell (colorist), Rahsan Ekedal (layouter), Matt Hawkins (writer), Troy Peteri (letterer), Philip Sevy (artist), and Ryan Cady (editor). $3.99, 21 pgs, FC, Image/Top Cow.

Um, SPOILERS, I guess? I can't remember if I've already spoiled this arc, but I'm going to do it below!

Here's why I'm so disappointed by the latest arc of The Tithe: There are bad people in every religion. In the first arc, the Christians were depicted badly even though they were being robbed, because it was clearly a Robin Hood thing with Samaritan and her cronies. It wasn't the most nuanced look at corruption, but it worked pretty well. Hawkins doesn't profess a faith, so there's absolutely no reason why he should favor one religion over another. In all religions, there are good people and bad people, just like in life. I know, shocking, right? So while he didn't make Christians the true bad guys in the first arc, the fact that they were victims but also being exposed as hypocrites was interesting. Now, three issues into the second arc, we have lost even that nuance in the story. Hawkins pretended to go after Muslim extremists in the first pages of the new arc, but then it turned out it was just a false flag operation carried out by a "Christian" senator who is trying to increase his poll numbers. In this issue, he and his group continue their terrorism, and Agents Campbell and Miller just begin to figure out that he's kind of a bad dude. It's, unfortunately, a stupid story, because, like with most conspiracy theories, the leaks would be too numerous and there would be too many moving parts. I mean, it's nice that Campbell and Miller aren't stupid and the first time they get a decent lead they begin to puzzle it out, but it's still a ham-fisted way for the senator to make himself more viable as a presidential candidate. Yes, I get that in real life we're seeing first-hand what happens when a blowhard decides to blame everything on the sinister liberal media and never, ever back down, no matter how insane he sounds, but as far as we know, D. J. Trump has not resorted to active terrorism. Does the senator really think he can keep a lid on all of this? Conspiracy stories annoy me simply because of their sheer scope and the fact that you just can't trust everyone to keep their mouths shut, and Hawkins doesn't do anything in this to make it plausible.

More than that, of course, is the propaganda aspect of the book. In the first arc, the Christians were portrayed as hypocrites. Now, they're terrorists. The Muslims who actually carry the bombs into churches are complete patsies, and it's annoying. Hawkins is not holding religion's feet to the fire, he's holding Christianity's feet to the fire, and while the senator's conspiracy might make a better arc than crazy Muslims blowing up churches (although that's debatable), it still seems that Hawkins is going out of his way to avoid offending Muslims and paint Christians with a broad brush. As you know, I'm an atheist, so I think the world would be far better off if everyone gave up on the superstitions masquerading as God, and so if Hawkins wants to pile on Christians, that's fine with me, but after the first two arcs, it just seems like he's a bit timid about going after anyone but Christians. I hope I'm wrong, but we'll see. As I noted, the first arc was not terribly subtle, but it was more than this, as it was clear that the churches were doing bad things, but they were still the victims of crimes, and the people who donated money to the churches could argue that they were doing good works with that money as well as funding junkets to tropical islands with bikini-clad bimbos. It might be a ridiculous argument, but it could be made!

It's disappointing that Hawkins is taking the easy way out on this arc. I have enjoyed his writing recently, so I'll probably give the next arc a try (if a next arc is forthcoming, that is), and he still might save this one in the final issue of the arc. It's just disappointing, because I feel like I've seen the story of the politician who commits crimes and blames them on others to promote his own career far too many times. I didn't need to see it again.

But hey, it was keen seeing David Loren, star of Hawkins's other book, Think Tank, show up here! Of course, it reminded me that Think Tank was supposed to have returned by now. Where is it, I wonder?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Beauty #5 by Fonografiks (letterer), Jeremy Haun (writer/artist), Jason Hurley (writer), and John Rauch (colorist). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

The idea of this comic, that there's a sexually transmitted disease that makes you physically attractive but can suddenly kill you (after people believing for a time that it had no side effects) is so good, but the actual comic is just ... not great. It's not bad, but the pacing is really bad, as five issues in, so little has happened that Daniel Holden throws each issue down in disgust and drawls, "Oh, come on!"* Haun's art is, naturally, terrific, and we'll get to another comic below where the end of the arc almost - almost - made up for the drudgery of the first five issues, but this has just been frustrating so far. It's so inert that nothing sticks in my brain, and while I know what's going on because the plot is pretty easy to figure out - some people are looking for a cure, but Big Pharma doesn't want them to, so people are getting killed to prevent them from developing the cure. It's just kind of there, even with all the societal implications of this disease and the idea that this might be what some people want, which Haun and Hurley have toyed with but largely ignored. The least interesting aspect of almost every work of fiction is the plot, so I'm constantly amazed when writers focus so much on it. Such is life, I guess.

The first arc ends next issue, I believe, and it's certainly possible that Hurley and Haun can pull something together, as the final page of this issue at least promises that they have another interesting idea about what the disease and the cure can do. We'll see, I suppose.

* Nobody got that joke because almost nobody watches Rectify. If you're ever having trouble falling asleep, check it out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Batgirl #46 ("Gang War") by Brenden Fletcher (writer), Rob Haynes (breakdowner), Serge LaPointe (colorist), Cameron Stewart (writer), Babs Tarr (artist), Steve Wands (letterer), Dave Wielgosz (assistant editor), and Chris Conroy (editor). Barbara Gordon created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. Stephanie Brown created by Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle. Luke Fox created by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Eduardo Pansica.

You know who gets a creator credit in this comic? Kane and Finger, of course, as they need to be credited even if their actual creation - you know, the gun-toting, purple-gloved "Bat-Man" - is nowhere near this comic book, because DC has to give them a creator credit for anything bat-related in their comics, even if Cave Carson goes spelunking and comes across, you know, actual bats (and more power to them, I say!). But who else? If you said Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle, congratulations! Yes, DC credits the creators of Stephanie Brown in this issue, even though they continue to ignore Fox and Infantino, the people who, you know, created the title character. Again, that's great for Dixon and Lyle, as creators of all characters should be credited (I have tried to do that, but I stop short of crediting the people who are still working on the book, so therefore, Stewart, Fletcher, and Tarr don't get credit for Frankie), but what a weird legal knot DC must be in when it comes to creator credits. Will they owe Fox and Infantino's heirs something if they list them as creators? I assume that by 1992, Dixon and Lyle were able to wrangle some sort of deal, although I don't recall ever seeing their names on credits before, although I wasn't paying too much attention when I was reading pre-reboot Batgirl (I'll have to go back and look at some point). Still, that's great for them, but DC's creator-credit policy continues to confound us normal humans.

I've been recently mentioning tics in fiction that bug me, and in this issue, we get another one: The person who blames the hero just so the hero can feel bad about herself. Why do writers do this? I get that they want heroes to be plagued by self-doubt so that they can overcome it, but they force it far too often. In this issue, Barbara and Nadimah try to get people in the neighborhood to talk about the gang problem, and some old woman doesn't want to because she doesn't want her son to get in trouble, as he's been hanging out with one. They say they'll keep everything confidential, but at the end of the issue, the woman's son has been arrested thanks to an "anonymous source" providing information to the cops. On television (with Barbara watching, of course), the woman blames "the red-haired girl" for telling the cops that Dylan is in a gang. The final panel of the comic is Barbara looking aghast. Now, it sucks that gang member Dylan got rousted by the cops (it's not like he's NOT in a gang - even his mother admits it), but I really, really, really, REALLY hope that Stewart and Fletcher don't spend any time having her wallow in guilt (like her aghast face seems to be implying) because it's not her fucking fault. As I noted, writers do this all the time - why Supergirl spent an entire hour thinking Red Tornado's rampage was her fault instead of shouting at Dickhead General Lane, "It's your fucking fault, you racist dickhead!!!" is beyond me - and I really hope we don't get that next issue. Barbara knows she didn't leak the information, and she shouldn't give a shit that Old Whiny Woman (hey, maybe keep your own damned kid out of a gang, huh, lady?) blames her. Fuck you, Old Whiny Woman.

Anyway, this is another good issue. Dang, Babs Tarr can draw a comic book, can't she?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Dark Horse Presents #17 by a bunch of talented people. $4.99, 54 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

You know the drill - DHP is full of interesting stories by interesting creators, and you're doing yourself a disservice by not buying it. It's not always great, but it's always fascinating. I mean, it's neat-o. So instead of breaking it all down, here's a poem by Anne Sexton:

"The Assassin"

The correct death is written in.I will fill the need.My bow is stiff.My bow is in readiness.I am the bullet and the hook.I am cocked and held ready.In my sights I carve himlike a sculptor. I mold outhis last look at everyone.I carry his eyes and hisbrain bone at every position.I know his male sex and I domarch over him with my index finger.His mouth and his anus are one.I am at the center of feeling.

A subway train istraveling across my crossbow.I have a blood boltand I have made it mine.With this man I take in handhis destiny and with this gunI take in hand the newspapers andwith my heat I will take him.he will bend down toward meand his veins will tumble outlike children ... Give mehis flag and his eye.Give me his hard shell and his lip.He is my evil and my apple andI will see him home.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Batman '66 #30 ("Main Title") by Wes Abbott (letterer), Laura Allred (colorist), Lee Allred (writer), Mike Allred (artist), David Piña (assistant editor), and Jim Chadwick (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC. Too many characters to list creators, but let's think about creators' rights for a brief moment before reading further!

It's a shame that Batman '66 is ending, but it's amazing that we got 30 issues out of it. It's also too bad that Jeff Parker didn't write the final issue, but the all-Allred affair is a good one - it's a simple concept that is basically "Hush" in one issue, as the Joker, the Penguin, and Catwoman hold a villains' convention and Allred gets to draw so many frickin' villains it's downright crazy. As it's Allred and Allred, the book looks great, and Lee Allred simply writes the story in a way that lets Mike cram every villain he can think of into the book. It's a fine way to end the comic.

I still maintain that Batman '66 could have easily been the "real" Batman comic in the DCU over the past three years or so, with only a few tweaks that would take it out of the realm of the television show and into the realm of the DCnU. Parker et al. just wrote such a better Batman than Snyder or whoever was writing Detective at the time (and remember, I kind of enjoyed John Layman's run), and the fact that this Batman solves crimes using his brain and is unequivocally good and doesn't suffer angst all the fucking time and the adventures are always exciting is really refreshing. Yes, the comic is a bit goofy (the climbing-up-the-building gag in this one features Perry White, Lois Lane, and Jimmy Olsen - not sexy Jimmy, unfortunately) and it features a fantastic cameo page that might not work in the DCnU Proper, as I don't know if all those characters actually exist in the "real" DCnU (although it would be awesome if they did), but it's just a terrific comic featuring a heroic Batman and Robin. It's not the first time one of us old-timers at the blog whined about the fact that the "real" Batman is a joyless asshole, and it probably won't be the last! I just hope the mini-series that DC is still doing with this iteration of the character sell well, because then DC will keep publishing him!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

The Wicked + The Divine #17 ("The Lost Cat"/"The Inevitable Cliffhanger") by Brandon Graham (artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Chrissy Williams (editor). $3.50, 21 pgs, FC, Image.

A few months ago, I reviewed one of Brandon Graham's 8House comics and mentioned that he seems a bit insufferable on social media, with the caveat that I've never met him, so he could be an excellent fellow. I didn't love the issue, but I did mention that Graham is a good idea man, and his ideas for 8House seem to be pretty neat, even if the execution might be lacking. Graham spotted that and took a bit of umbrage with it on Twitter, which, fair enough - it was close enough to a cheap shot that I feel a bit bad about it - but what cracks me up is that in the backmatter of this comic, Gillen writes, and I quote, "When Brandon Graham isn't starting fights on the Internet, he likes to create comics." So even people who, I suppose, are friends with Graham make it clear that he likes to start fights on the Internet. I'm not sure if what I wrote is that egregious when apparently I'm not the only one who thinks it.

Of course, there's also the point that while I don't love everything that Graham has written (although King City is genius), he's a superb artist, and given that he's only drawing this issue, it's really neat. As much as I love McKelvie and know he can draw dead-sexy women (and men, as this week's Phonogram re-affirms), he doesn't draw sensuality wonderfully, and an issue focusing on Sakhmet and her feline sexiness is tailor-made for Graham's languid, curving line work - his post-orgy scene early in the issue is something that McKelvie could draw, but I don't think it would be quite as naughty as what we get here. Graham's armored people don't look quite as convincing as McKelvie's, and I wonder if that's partly because Wilson's colors tend to be a bit more luminescent than Graham's, which are flatter and "older-school," but Graham's panel of Sakhmet licking her hand after doing something horrible is absolutely wonderful. Graham's art has always had a slinky feel, so the fact that Sakhmet has always been associated with cats makes him a great choice to draw this issue. Despite only brief nudity in this book, the entire reading experience is vaguely pornographic, which is largely due to Graham's art.

This arc, with all its guest artists, has now ended, and it's been a bit weird, but it's still kept the book moving forward nicely. It didn't have as much of an emotional punch as the end of the previous arc, but it's still been fascinating. I'm certainly curious where Gillen will go with it, but unfortunately, I have to wait until April to find out!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #5 (of 6) by Ted Brandt (layouter/inker/letterer, "Shiny Black Taxi Cab"), Clayton Cowles (letterer, "Losing My Edge"), Kieron Gillen (writer), Rosy Higgins (penciler/colorist, "Shiny Black Taxi Cab"), Jamie McKelvie (artist, "Losing My Edge"), Matthew Wilson (colorist, "Losing My Edge"), and Chrissy Williams (editor). $3.99, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

After an astonishing issue #4, the fifth issue of Phonogram is merely great, and as usual with things I love almost unequivocally, it's very hard for me to really express much about it. In this issue, David Kohl decides to save Emily after he finally finds out that the Emily walking around isn't really her, and unlike a standard superhero book, this doesn't go as expected. David is doing this for the right reasons, probably, but the right reasons get all mixed up with other weird reasons, and Gillen, as usual, doesn't pull any punches. David might not be a complete bastard, but he still needs Seth Bingo and then Kid-With-Knife to set him straight in different ways, and like so much of Gillen's writing (especially on this series), it's just true stuff. Kohl does an unselfish thing in this issue and tries to do another unselfish thing, but he finds out that some unselfish things just aren't good enough. So it comes down to Emily, stuck in her videos, and I imagine that's where the bulk of the action in issue #6 will occur. I can't wait.

And McKelvie and Wilson are, as usual, fucking rock stars on this issue. But you already knew that.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Sex #26 ("... And How He Came to Be") by Joe Casey (writer), Piotr Kowalski (artist), Brad Simpson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 18 pgs, FC, Image.

Casey has never been terribly subtle about linking sex and death in this comic, and he leans into it pretty heavily in this issue, as someone dies right after we get a page of post-coital talking, and then later, we witness a birth. Not very subtle at all. But Casey doesn't have to be subtle all the time, and he's painting in some broad strokes in this issue, as one player leaves the stage, another learns a bit more about his role in the grand scheme, and another decides it might be time to trust someone with a secret. All comics occasionally need an issue where things are set up, and Casey does it well here, as it feels like the comic is moving into a different phase, especially with the death in this issue.

Kowalski never gets to show off too much in this series - sure, he gets to draw a lot of naked people doing sex stuff, but he doesn't get to go too crazy. He and Simpson do here, though, as he draws a few pages of the life flashing in front of the dying person's eyes, and Kowalski turns it into an epic journey through a blood-soaked past, haunted by Simon Cooke and full of violence and sex. Kowalski uses the entire pages nicely to give us a sense of what might go through a person's mind as they die, and it ain't terribly pleasant. It's nice to see Kowalski get to break out a bit, as his line work on this book has been terrific but he's often just drawing cold cityscapes, people talking, or, you know, dongs. That's too limiting, people!

Sex just keeps chugging along. It's an odd book in that it's never bright on my radar, but it's always enjoyable and it seems like Casey is telling a good epic that will read better in toto than as single issues, even though the single issues are usually entertaining. And that's cool.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Lumberjanes #21 ("All For Knot") by Aubrey Aiese (letterer), Maarta Laiho (colorist), Kat Leyh (writer), Carey Pietsch (artist), Shannon Watters (writer), Whitney Leopard (associate editor), and Dafna Pleban (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

One thing the writers of Lumberjanes (I think Watters has been here the whole time, but she's had a few co-writers) have done well is make the mystical mundane, as that gives them the opportunity to add skewed humor to the book. In the last arc, it was the punk-rock mermaids, although they weren't quite as humorous as some others, and in this issue, it's the cranky selkies, who are trapped as humans because someone stole their pelts, but they simply anchor off-shore and hurl insults at the latest camp counsellor, Seafarin' Karen (as Jo points out, the rhyming aspect of her name is important). It's really nice, because while the selkies have a point, Watters and Leyh do an excellent job making them unpleasant in a way that readers can relate to - they're not exactly evil, just Mean Girls. But even Mean Girls have souls, and Leyh and Watters do a good job humanizing the selkies in a later scene, even though they're still kind of jerky. Karen herself is big and tough, but the 'janes see through her, too, although they don't see everything, which leads to the SHOCK ENDING!!!!

Lumberjanes has reached that point where every issue is good, and unless something really bizarre happens, it's tough to write about it. It remains hilarious and exciting and interesting, and I just dig reading it when it comes out. So there.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Southern Cross #6 by Andy Belanger (artist), Becky Cloonan (writer), Serge LaPointe (letterer), and Lee Loughridge (colorist). $2.99, 28 pgs, FC, Image.

It's always annoying when the end of an arc is the only time a story gets good, and that's what happens with the final issue in this first arc of Southern Cross. The set-up was intriguing in the first issue but got less so as Cloonan dragged things out over the course of the next four issues, so when she finally gets things going in this issue, it's tough to care. Cloonan isn't a very experienced writer, especially when she's not drawing the book, and I wonder if that made her pacing a bit wonky, as she seemed to think she needed to fill six issues and she was going to do it, even if she had maybe three issues of actual plot. The mystery about what happened on board the ship and what's going on in the aftermath isn't bad, and we get some good answers in this issue and an even more intriguing set-up for future issues, but the book has just lurched along, and it never seemed to really take flight. It's so written for the trade that I'm going to stop getting the single issues and ponder getting the trade, because if it's going to take this long for the issues to come out (the first issue came out in March), then I might as well wait. I certainly don't mind waiting for a comic I really love, but one I'm just mildly interested in doesn't get the benefit of the doubt. If Cloonan is going to write stories like this - like a suspension bridge, with a tower at both ends and a lot of sagging in the middle - then I can wait for trades. That's just the way it is.

Belanger is still the main reason to get the book, as he gets to go all "2001" on us a bit when things get weird, and he and Loughridge do a wonderful job contrasting the scruffiness of the ship and its crew with the wondrous shit happening in space. Belanger is a terrific artist, and it would be nice to see him get more accolades for his work. But that's just my opinion!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

The Spire #5 (of eight) by André May (colorist), Simon Spurrier (writer), Jeff Stokely (artist), Steve Wands (letterer), Cameron Chittick (assistant editor), and Eric Harburn (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Obviously, five issues in (of eight), nobody is reading this issue who hasn't already picked up the first four, so what's the point, really? I mean, when it finishes, I'll re-read it and review the entire thing so you can decide whether or not to get the trade (or trades, as Boom! has an annoying habit of doing four-issue trades, even if the story is, you know, longer than that), but right now, it's a pretty cool book. Not great (yet), but Spurrier is examining a lot of interesting aspects of society, and Stokely does a nice job illustrating it. I'll get back to you on it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Anne Bonnie volume 1: The Journey Begins ... by Lelan Estes (writer), Tony Vassalo (layouter), Tim Yates (writer/artist), and Thomas Mumme (editor). $14.99, 152 pgs, FC, Blue Juice Comics.

This looks fun. It also looks like something my daughter would enjoy, so that's neat, too.

Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham by Dennis Janke (inker), Mike Mignola (writer), Troy Nixey (penciller), Bill Oakley (letterer), Richard Pace (writer), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Jeb Woodard (collection editor). $16.99, 144 pgs, FC, DC.

I never knew why Troy Nixey isn't a bigger star in comics. I know he still works, but he never got huge, and he's a really good artist. Oh well. This looks neat, of course.

Catwoman volume 4: The One You Love by Brad Anderson (colorist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), Rick Burchett (penciller), Matteo Casali (writer), Jared K. Fletcher (letterer), Anderson Gabrych (writer), Paul Gulacy (penciller), Laurie Kronenberg (colorist), Rob Leigh (letterer), Alvaro Lopez (inker), Ken Lopez (letterer), Scott Morse (writer), Diego Olmos (penciller), Jimmy Palmiotti (inker), Will Pfeifer (writer), Clem Robins (letterer), Brad Walker (penciller), Pete Woods (penciller), and Jeb Woodard (collection editor). $19.99, 263 pgs, FC, DC.

I got this because of the first few issues, which I don't own. DC weirdly collected those with the first few issues of Will Pfeifer's run, which seems strange because Pfeifer's run (which I do own; it's very good) seems like a natural place to begin a new trade. Such is life, I guess.

A Hero's Death by Jaymes Reed (letterer), Ricardo Sanchez (writer), Mark Texeira (artist), K. Stoddard Hayes (editor), and Ken Hosey (editor). $17.99, 104 pgs, FC, IDW.

Part of this is prose, which annoys me, but the Texeira art is very nice, so we'll see if I can give the prose section a pass.

Knight Rider: Knightstrikes by lots and lots of cool people. $17.99, 150 pgs, FC, IDW/Lion Forge.

So sue me, I dig Knight Rider.

Long Distance by Thom Zahler (writer/artist) and David Hedgecock (editor). $19.99, 176, FC, IDW.

Zahler writes very good romances, so of course I was going to get this! Even though I still chuckle when the distance between Chicago and Columbus is described as "long." I mean, yeah, it's not close, but our lovers can spend every weekend together with no problems!

M.O.D.O.K. Assassin by Travis Lanham (letterer), Terry Pallot (inker), Amilcar Pinna (penciler/inker), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), Ed Tadeo (inker), Christopher Yost (writer), and Alex Starbuck (collection editor). $16.99, 100 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I was worried about getting any "Secret Wars"-related trades, but both this and the one below drew me in because of the cool art. I'm weak!

Silver volume 2 by Stephan Franck (writer/artist) and Jeff Marsick (editor). $12.99, 100 pgs, BW, Dark Planet Comics.

The first volume of this comic was quite good, so I'm looking forward to reading more!

Weirdworld: Warzones by Jason Aaron (writer), Marco D'Alfonso (colorist), Mike del Mundo (artist/colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), Sarah Brunstad (assistant editor), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $16.99, 101 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Yep, I bought this because del Mundo's art is just that good. I hope Marvel gives him the time to draw every issue of the new series and not worry about it coming out like clockwork. They probably won't, but I can hope!

Money spent this week: $184.20. YTD: $7174.97.


It's Christmastime, so there's just not a lot of time for me to wander around the Internet, as I've been trying to clean up the house for the visit by the 'rents and my sister and her daughter. My parents are driving in today, and my sister will get here late Christmas night (don't even get me started with that). It's so hectic!

I did find some fun links, though, both concerning the NFL. Here are NFL helmets with Star Wars-inspired designs on them, and if the NFL had any sense of humor, they would have used these designs on the helmets this very weekend. But they suck, so they didn't. Meanwhile, here are Donald Trump-inspired helmets, which crack me right up. Trump will destroy the Republican party before he's done, but Trump memes are fun for everyone! Here are the Eagles helmets for both of these themes:

For today's Top Ten list, I'm listing my ten favorite James songs. James is one of my favorite bands, and I'm glad they reformed in 2007 after taking some years off because they've been making some great music ever since, even though they had made great music prior to their brief dissolution. They have a new album coming out in March, and it doesn't appear they're touring the States yet, which is too bad. I've seen them once in concert, but I could always see them again! None of my favorite James songs are from their first two albums - they're all right, I guess, but the band takes a huge creative leap on their third album - but that's just the way it is. So let's check them out!

10. "Porcupine" (2010). A really nice bass line leads into this tune, with Tim Booth singing about letting go of your fears and letting others in, sentiments he always expresses well. The chorus - "At the edge of the world / leave my things by the door / I surrender control / diving into the fall" - is beautifully sung and twists the verses very nicely, something else Booth does well. Take a look at the lyrics here.

9. "Out To Get You" (1993). The opening track of Laid features a lot of what you expect from early-era James - twangy guitars by Larry Gott, a lumbering, thudding bass line by Jim Glennie, and Booth's languid vocals leading inexorably to a powerful cri de couer of "Called you up, answering machine, when the human touch is what I need." The cymbals leading toward the second refrain of that vocal is very nice, driving Booth toward urgency as he repeats "What I need" several times at the end of the song. Booth is very good at remaining in control and then building toward letting go, and he does it well here. The lyrics are here.

8. "Just Like Fred Astaire" (1999). James can do some particularly nasty songs (see #2 on this list), but every once in a while, they do a wonderful love song, and this tune is one of them. Booth sings about feeling terrible because he's so in love. Isn't that just the way? The band just zips along, not getting dark, allowing Booth to enjoy being in love. It feels inconsequential, but is any love-affirming song really inconsequential? Here are the lyrics.

7. "Waterfall" (2008). Hey Ma is probably James's best album (although they've only released a few weak ones, so it's tough to choose), which is handy because it was their first after 7 years off, and you kind of want your comeback to be pretty good. "Waterfall" is one of the excellent songs on the album - it begins with a nice David Baynton-Power drum beat, leads into a fine Andy Diagram trumpet (or possibly flugelhorn) riff (James uses a lot of trumpets/flugelhorns in their songs, but not too much, which is nice), and sets up Booth's lyrics about trying to minimize the amount of junk we accumulate in our lives. He begins with a nice acknowledgement of mortality ("My mirror's laughing at me, says, Boy, are you getting old") - Booth was 48 when the album came out - and goes from there, with not only the idea that we have too much crap, but the fact that we're programmed that way. It's not a unique idea, but it's a good one, and it's something that feels more earned coming from a veteran band than a newer one. Read all the lyrics here!

6. "One Of The Three" (1993). As this is also from Laid, we get some twangy guitars and what sounds like spooky xylophone in the intro, leading to Booth's excellent lyrics. Booth has a complicated relationship with religion, and this song about Jesus and his complicity in his own death explores that ("You just knew they'd come for you so it was suicide") as he tries to figure out why Christianity has gone so wrong. It's not too deep, but it is powerfully sung, and the band keeps the music relatively low-key and minor, adding to the eeriness of the lyrics. Take a look at the lyrics.

5. "Born Of Frustration" (1992). Seven is another terrific album, and "Born Of Frustration," the first track, is a great song - another one in which Booth explores his relationship with God. He expresses frustration with a world that sees too much good and evil and nothing in between and is full of people who like to point fingers but don't want to fix things, and he wonders where God is in all this. This album and the one before it (Gold Mother) might be James's "Manchesteriest," with a fluttering trumpet and jangly guitars, but the music never lets Booth's philosophical ramblings get too heavy, which is nice. Dig the crazy lyrics, man!

4. "Don't Wait That Long" (1992). This song opens with a nice syncopated drum beat and trembling guitars that make the song ethereal even before Booth comes in with his vocals. It's a beautiful love song, as Booth sings about his own flaws and hopes that the object of his desire can love him even with those. Booth never makes things easy, though, and the second verse is a terrific subversion of the romance, as he understands that their flaws lead to trouble in the relationship but still, he implores for patience. Diagram's trumpet soars above it all, leading to a nice, crunchy guitar solo (unusual in James's oeuvre), but which fits the conflicting emotions of the songs. Sing along with the lyrics!

3. "Sit Down" (1989/1991). This is the quintessential James song, and there's a reason - it's just a great pop song. There are a few different versions, with the original coming out in 1989. It features an extra verse and goes on for 7 minutes, but it didn't do very well on the charts, so James reworked it and put it on Gold Mother, and I think that version (which I linked to above) is far superior, but others, obviously, think differently. The music is very Manchesterian, with a nice backbeat and jangly guitars, with Booth's terrific lyrics about inclusion really carrying the song. I've mentioned before how much I love the bridge - "Those who feel the breath of sadness, sit down next to me / Those who find they're touched by madness, sit down next to me / Those who find themselves ridiculous, sit down next to me / In love, in fear, in hate, in tears" - and the song live is a brilliant experience, as the band usually leaves the stage and lets the crowd sing the chorus for several minutes before they return and start playing again. It's tremendous. Here are those lyrics!

2. "Five-O" (1993). Booth's most devastating lyrics are a big part of why I love this song so much, although the tremulous music that backs him, with its sinister connotations and pulsating violin, is a big part of it. Booth begins almost off-handedly, singing obliquely, until he gets to the main section of the song, and his vocals drip with venom: "Will we grow together, will it be a lie; if it lasts forever, hope I'm the first to die," which is one of the most chilling lyrics I've heard in a song. Booth is relentless in this song, and it just keeps hitting you in the gut. Gott's guitar solo drives us to the end of the song, and it fits the powerful lyrics well. It's really an amazing tune. Peruse the lyric here!

1. Of Monsters & Heroes & Men (2008). Hey Ma leads to this climax (it's not the last song on the album, but the penultimate one, with the final song serving as a bit of a coda), and Booth has never been more poetic, bleak, yet oddly hopeful than he is on this song. It begins with almost screeching guitars that turn into Saul Davies's rhythm guitar as Booth begins singing about a world gone mad and bad, with "feral kids" fighting over rats and "rotten fruit sellers," a world where a man had a "vision which broke the receiver" and he doesn't end well: "Laughing and crying, his song fell upon us / We buried his treasure along with his bones." It's a world where "the hungry still gather to fill up on stories of monsters and heroes and men." Booth rails against the powerful - "Here on the ground, we're reckless and hopeless, damned by the slip of a pen" - and lauds yet acknowledges the tragedy of the insane - "Rambling poets, manic with vision / We are the drivers, yet we feel driven," all while Diagram's trumpet and Mark Hunter's piano become increasingly insistent, especially as Booth repeats the last refrain several times before fading until the final couplet. "Either way," Booth sings, "I'm in awe of you, either way, we'll survive." It's a superb song, complex but not complicated, haunting and beautiful, and I still can't get enough of it! Check out the lyrics here!

Let's do some Totally Random Lyrics!

"You're a strain on my eyeses and you're full of surprisesLove materializes soon as you come nearThere's a sensation you create,Robs me of my sleep and I've forgotten the dateMy head started spinning soon as you started singingAnd like a fish I just rose to the bait."

We're all old-timers here, so that one should be easy, right?

I hope everyone has a great Christmas if you celebrate it, and I groovy day off if you don't. I'm going to see that movie - you know the one! - tomorrow night, so maybe I'll discuss it next week. I can't believe I read that spoiler about the orgy. I mean, who knew that would ever happen in a family-friendly movie?

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