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What I bought – 17 February 2010

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 17 February 2010

“Beware of faking: people will believe you. People believe those who sell lotions that make lost hair grow back. They sense instinctively that the salesman is putting together truths that don’t go together, that he’s not being logical, that he’s not speaking in good faith. But they’ve been told that God is mysterious, unfathomable, so to them incoherence is the closest thing to God. The farfetched is the closest thing to a miracle.” (Umberto Eco, from Foucault’s Pendulum)

Atomic Robo: Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #1 (of 4) (“Bernard’s First Day”) by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Red 5 Comics.

Yay! A new Atomic Robo series! Good times!

This is a strange first issue. It’s certainly as good as any other random Atomic Robo issue, from the humorous way Bernard gets his job (for which he is, it appears, not very well qualified) to Rex Cannon’s qualifications for the job to the efficiency of Jenkins to Robo’s explanation about where the “vampires” (they’re not really vampires) come from to the somewhat ominous ending after Bernard, seemingly, saves everyone’s behinds. But for a mini-series called “Revenge of the Vampire Dimension,” it seems like the vampire dimension gets closed off fairly quickly. Now, I’m sure Clevinger is going somewhere with this, but this definitely reads like a single issue story. Hey, which means if you foolishly have avoided picking up Atomic Robo so far, you can read this and figure out if you like the book without committing to too much! So get on it!

This comic just makes me so happy. It’s hilarious, it looks great, and presumably it does well enough that our creators can continue with it for at least three more issues. Life is good!

One panel of awesome:

Avengers vs. Atlas #2 (of 4) (“Earth’s Mightiest Super Heroes Part 2″/”S(take)out!”) by Jeff Parker (writer, “Super Heroes”), Scott Kurtz (writer, “S(take)out!”), Gabriel Hardman (artist, “Super Heroes”), Zach Howard (artist, “S(take)out!”), Mark Irwin (inker, “S(take)out!”), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist, “Super Heroes”), Brad Anderson (colorist, “S(take)out!”), Tom Orzechowski (letterer, “Super Heroes”), and Joe Sabino (letterer, “S(take)out!”). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, Marvel.

The agents of Atlas fight the 1960s Avengers, then realize they’re both good guy groups. The end.

Okay, it’s more fun than that. Parker gives us nice twists on things, from Ken Hale suddenly growing very large to fight Hank Pym (and calling him “Mr. Name-Everything-After-Myself”) to M-11 suddenly looking like Bucky to put Captain America off his game. I’m still a bit curious why Venus’ power doesn’t seem to work on women … or, should I say, work somewhat randomly on women, because it occasionally seems to work on women. But that’s neither here nor there, as the purpose of this issue is to get the two groups to realize they have a common enemy and figure out how to fight it. Mission accomplished! Parker does a really nice job pointing out how the early Avengers didn’t know anything about each other – they don’t know who the blond man carrying a long stick is, for instance – and how surprised they are that the modern-day Atlasers know who they are. It’s a nifty moment. Basically, however, it’s a way to show off Hardman’s action art, get the two groups together, and set up the big green threat for next issue (in which is promised “more fighting”). It’s perfectly fine.

Unlike last issue’s bland back-up story, “S(take)out!” is flingin’-flangin’ hilarious. Jimmy Woo has to infiltrate a hibachi restaurant to retrieve a mysterious artifact for Mr. Lao. Woo thinks it’s not really an Atlas splinter cell until the chef attacks him. Then we get knives and kicks and a giant motherfucking octopus before Kurtz delivers the punch line … and it’s really funny. I love well crafted jokes, and this one works perfectly. It’s almost worth the price of the comic by itself, and when you add on the entertaining main story, we get a good comic. See? It’s not that hard!

One panel of awesome:

Hellblazer #264 (“India Part Four: Kali Yuga: The Night of the Demon”)* by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

* Yes, the title has two colons. I didn’t put any extra ones in, I swear!

Okay, so I’m going to write about things that demand a SPOILER warning. I’ve been avoiding it for a while, because I didn’t want to ruin anything for trade-waiters, but it seems like Milligan has reached the end of one aspect of his run, so I want to rant.

In this issue John realizes that Phoebe isn’t coming back from the dead. That’s not really a shock; I certainly didn’t think she was either. But therein lies my pissed-offness. Milligan introduced Phoebe, and all was well. She was an interesting character in John’s world, and had a lot of potential. But then Milligan killed her off. It wasn’t even as if I was that bent out of shape about it, because she hadn’t really been fully developed as a character, so it didn’t affect me too much. But the fact that Milligan introduced this interesting character and killed her before doing much with her makes me grumpy. Usually, Hellblazer writers introduce characters simply to kill them off, but because we know that’s why they’re there, it’s not that big a deal. Milligan screwed up with Phoebe, because he told the readers how important she was to John without actually making her all that important. So John’s quest to bring her back to life becomes yet another utterly selfish pursuit by our favorite self-involved mage, which again, isn’t that annoying, but doesn’t really tell us anything new. John probably needs someone like Phoebe in his life, and maybe Milligan didn’t want to develop her so much that he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t – if he killed her off, readers like me would bitch that he took a great character and killed her, while if he left her alive but not in a relationship with John, readers like me would bitch that she was just another Kit Ryan (yes, I’m culpable – I admit it!). So he went a different way, but that didn’t work either. All Phoebe did was show us a little potential and then serve as another nail for John to drive into his self-imposed cross. Oh well. If John were smart, he’d hook up with Epiphany, even though she’s too young for him and, frankly, too cool for a pathetic fart like him.

So why oh why am I still reading Hellblazer? Well, because Milligan is doing a good job. No, not with Phoebe, which has been a big part of his run, but with John himself and the stories. John is more “magiciany” than I’ve often seen him (I haven’t read Hellblazer regularly in a long time, so maybe other writers have made him even more so), but not too the point where he’s just flouncing about casting spells. It feels like a nice blend of magical workings and cynicism, as in the way he defeats the demon in this issue (yes, he defeats the demon; did you think he wouldn’t?). I’m still interested in what Milligan is doing with the character, so I’m going to stick with it. I just think he blew it with Phoebe. So sad!

One panel of awesome:

The Incredible Hercules #141 (“Assault on New Olympus, Finale: Everybody Dies”/”Godmarked Part 5: To Battle a God!”) by Greg Pak (writer, “Assault”), Fred van Lente (writer, “Assault”), Jeff Parker (writer, “Godmarked”), Rodney Buchemi (artist, “Assault”), Gabriel Hardman (artist, “Godmarked”), Guillem Mari (colorist, “Assault”), Wil Quintana (colorist, “Godmarked”), Simon Bowland (letterer, “Assault”), and Tom Orzechowski (letterer, “Godmarked”). $3.99, 29 pgs, FC, Marvel.

If you’re surprised that Hercules dies in this issue, you haven’t been paying attention to the Marvel solicits. If you haven’t been paying attention to the Marvel solicits, well, I apologize for ruining it for you, but it’s not like Pak and van Lente haven’t been telegraphing it, right? I mean, it’s been fairly obvious, and in this issue, we learn why Herc “has” to die. It’s a clever enough reason, and sets up a new vista of storylines, including how exactly he’s coming back. It’s a nice ending to the various things our writers have been doing throughout the past few years of this comic. I didn’t quite get how Hercules was able to affect Typhon after he wasn’t able to a few pages earlier (I know something happens in between those two events, but I don’t want to give too much away, and what Herc does shouldn’t matter, should it?), but it was still a good climax. I’m interested to see if van Lente and Pak revisit Delphyne now that she’s been humbled a bit – she’s still a keen character. And, of course, Pak and van Lente manage to get some humor into the book, even if it’s a bit of a downer – at one point, Typhon cuts Hercules with his axe and the sound effect is “Slaassh.” So of course, in the next panel, as Hercules grabs for Typhon’s neck, the effect is “Aaaxl.” It doesn’t make sense, but it’s still funny! And in the back-up story, Venus and Aphrodite sing at each other for dominance. This is the third comic in the past year in which singing is the way a battle is resolved. Just what the heck is going on around here?

I don’t know how many issues the Hercules: Fall of an Avenger is (next month’s issue is “#1,” but Marvel often lists one-shots as “#1,” so maybe it’s a one-shot?), but I do hope the regular book comes back soon. I’m fairly certain that the rumors of its cancellation are just that, so I’m looking forward to more goodness from this writing team. That’ll be fun, right?

One panel of awesome:

Joe the Barbarian #2 (of acht) (“Cloud Quay to Feather Forest Falls”) by Grant “Look! Words!” Morrison (writer), Sean Murphy (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Man, this is a nice-looking comic. Murphy is really doing a fantastic job here, from the tremendous double-page spread where Joe finds Jack, his rat (or “Chakk,” if we believe the rat) to the way the panels flow across the page. The breakdowns of this series so far have been wonderful – Murphy gives us a real sense of motion, of Joe moving through the house in the first issue and coming back down from the attic in this issue. He shifts from a horizontal line to a vertical line easily, and it makes reading the comic a nice experience – we feel almost as if we’re moving with Joe and Jack. Plus, the details are excellent. Murphy has broken down issue #1 at his blog, and it’s kind of neat that for once, the artwork and not the story in a Morrison comic deserves annotations.

Story-wise, this is denser than the first issue (what wouldn’t be?) and walks a nice line between overbearing fantasy prose and cheeky, wise-guy puncturing of that same prose. When Lord Arc shows up, it seems like Morrison will slide into pomposity, but then Arc says, “The journey — arduous, companions on the way, et cetera! Traditional rules apply!” It allows the God of All Comics to still turn this into a Grail Quest, but it also allows him to skewer the conventions a bit. This isn’t terribly revolutionary, but it’s still not a bad idea, especially when your protagonist is a somewhat nerdy yet smart-ass kid. And I thought I’d be annoyed by the way Morrison shows us where Joe is in the house at certain times (which I kind of figured was coming before I saw it), but it works fairly well. Joe doesn’t buy into this fantasy at all, so showing him “snapping out of it” at crucial moments works. Will these signposts along the way down diminish as he becomes more immersed? Beats me. In this issue, however, they worked well.

This continues to be un-Morrison-esque, so the Morrison haters out these (non-Whorrisons?) might enjoy it. And it’s odd to think that with all the good artists the GoAC has been paired with over the years, Murphy might be a bigger attraction than Morrison here. I can’t think of another case like that.

One panel of awesome:

Power Girl #9 (“This City is a Zoo”) by Justin Gray (writer), Jimmy Palmiotti (writer), Amanda Conner (artist), Paul Mounts (colorist), and John J. Hill (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Yes, I’m going to rant again. Just a little!

This issue is a mess, especially the beginning. The fight with Satanna is handled fairly well, and it, naturally, looks great (well, except for Satanna’s armor, because this isn’t 1995). I found it humorous that whatever Satanna sticks on PG to weaken her is the exact size of her boob window – I wonder if she designed it that way – which might make Kara want to reconsider having a giant target on her chest, but probably not. The fight, as silly as it is (Satanna is peeved at PG for hurting the Ultra-Humanite back in the first arc), is perfectly fine.

But let’s consider the first part of the issue, which deals with the pictures that someone took of Kara changing from her civilian identity to Power Girl a few issues ago. On the first page, she’s sitting on the toilet (we see only her head), staring directly at her cat’s bunghole. This is important, trust me. Then she gets an envelope slid under her door, which she sees (thanks to X-ray vision) contains pictures of her taking her shirt off with her costume underneath it. As she has just gotten out of the shower (I dig that she shaves her legs with her heat vision), she grabs a (tiny) towel and runs out her door and after the (presumed) blackmailed. You know where this is going – she grabs the kid (he’s fourteen, as it turns out) and drops the towel. Of course there’s a neighbor walking up the steps at that point, not only for the humor of someone seeing her naked but because he has to be conveniently carrying groceries which obscure her nudity. You know my policy on the squeamishness of DC and Marvel and their nudity issues, and I don’t really care that they obscure it – it actually makes it funnier, as the green tops of Mr. Paul’s carrots branch from the bag across her breasts. It’s a funny image. But I’ll get back to it. Then, in our panel of awesome (because of Mr. Paul’s reaction), she grabs a pie pan to obscure her lower naughty bits (if it’s intentional by the creators, that’s actually somewhat funny) and a baguette to cover her breasts. Why does she do this? She turns around and runs back upstairs, presumably giving Mr. Paul a full view of her ass. He’s already seen her in the altogether. The moment she gets into her apartment she pulls on pants and a shirt. So the only reason she stole Mr. Paul’s groceries is to hide her naughty bits … from the readers. It makes, to say the least, no sense. And, of course, a cat’s asshole is fine to show in a comic, but not a woman’s breasts. (And before you jump my shit, no, I’m not that bothered by it, I just find it interesting.)

Moving on (I told you this was a mess), she gets in front of the kid who dropped off the photos and gets the story out of him – he just dropped them off for someone who gave him money to do it – the kid describes the Joker, as Kara realizes, but who knows who it is. Kara tells him to get lost, climbs back in through her window, and gets a phone call. It’s from someone in the JSA (Dr. Mid-Nite, I think, although this guy appears to be able to see, which I’m sure is a recent development as I don’t keep up with the JSA) who tells her that there were two sets of prints on the pictures, one of which was the kid’s (who told her he didn’t look at them) and the other had traces of various things including licorice. Okay. If we ignore the information about the blackmailer, which is fine and dandy, let’s consider the timeline. When, exactly, did Kara give Mid-Nite the photos and the envelope? They were slid under her door, she immediately chased the kid down the street, she stopped him and got him to talk, she came back to her apartment after letting him go, and the phone rings as she’s climbing back through the window. At no point did she have any time to send stuff to Mid-Nite. It’s just a narrative screw-up, sure, but it’s sloppy. And annoying. [Editor’s note: It’s been pointed out in the comments by a few people, including Mr. Palmiotti himself (who’s a swell guy, I should add) that Kara received photos before and mentioned she was sending them off to the JSA to have analyzed. I went back and checked, and she sure did! So I guess it was just a coincidence that Dr. Mid-Nite was calling her at that moment. I’m going to use the old “it happened back in October and I’m old, so I just plumb forgot” excuse. Sorry, Misters Gray and Palmiotti!]

Then, a few pages later, Satanna calls PG a “bitch.” Kara does chide her for the language, but it’s worth pointing out, once again, that DC has no problem selling a book to kids (DC no longer uses any kind of rating system) in which characters can use the word “bitch” but a naked body would cause the Apocalypse. It gets back to the biggest problem I’ve had with this comic since it began – the question of tone. Gray and Palmiotti veer wildly between slapstick and violence, and while that can work, in this book it’s weirdly jarring. There’s been something good in every issue, but there’s also been something bad, and it’s why I can’t make up my mind about this comic. If it were consistently crappy, not even Conner’s amazing art could keep me around. But every issue, there’s something that’s pretty keen, and I want to see more. We even get a page of Kara at work (which I’d like to see more), and it’s an interesting page. This book is generally driving me batty, and every time it comes out, I really do debate in my head whether I’m going to pick it up. It’s kind of vexing.

One panel of awesome:

Spider-Woman #6 by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alex Maleev (artist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

It’s time for yet more ranting! I know y’all hate it when I channel Kelly Thompson, and believe me, I’m with you, because she’s, you know, a cootie-ridden girl, but that’s just what happens sometimes! So at the end of last issue, Jessica Drew was confronted by the Thunderbolts, led by Johnny Bacardi’s favorite Russian superspy, Yelena Belova. Ms. Belova, fetching as always, was attired thusly:

Fine and dandy, right? So, at the beginning of this issue, which takes place, as far as I can tell, no more than three seconds late, Yelena has somehow found the time to, um, air out a bit:

I know only crazy feminists care about shit like this, but really? Maleev did the art both times, and he thought, “Hey, she’d look better unzipped here, even though I originally had her zipped up, at least more than this!” I mean, it’s bad enough some artists do this consistently throughout a character’s appearance, but at least it’s consistent. In this comic, Maleev is saying to us, “Well, she’s about to fight Spider-Woman, and in the time few seconds between last issue and this one, the only thing on her mind was that she just wasn’t slutty enough!” I know, given Maleev’s way of putting art together, that it probably didn’t cross his mind, but given that a schmuck like me, who isn’t paid to, you know, edit comics, can figure this out (the panel in which she first appears in issue #5 is on the recap page in this issue, for crying out loud), why couldn’t Editor Lauren Sankovitch? No wonder Marvel allowed teabaggers into their comic – what exactly do editors on comics do anyway?

Anyway, this book continues to move like molasses, which is BMB’s stock in trade, of course. Next issue finishes the arc, and I have no idea what’s going to happen after that, but I seriously doubt I’ll be there. So little is going on, and even the overall plot itself seems dull. Jessica’s fight against the Thunderbolts contains some clever moments (she’s a lot smarter than they are, even if they’re more powerful, so it’s fun to see how she beats up on them even if she doesn’t quite defeat them), but it feels pointless. Bendis is good at bringing in wildly disparate elements that end up mattering, but when the issue-by-issue stuff is so dull, it becomes harder to care where this is all going.

It’s too bad. Bendis and Maleev on Daredevil gave us a classic run. This doesn’t even feel like a good run, much less a classic. Oh well.

One panel of awesome:

In random political news, Prince Frédéric von Anhalt plans to run for governor of California. Von Anhalt is, of course, Zsa Zsa Gabor’s ninth husband. He’s 65. Gabor turned 93 this year. She’s the ur-cougar! Von Anhalt sounds loopy. Let’s hope he wins!

Once again, it’s time to check out The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Concrete and Barbed Wire” – Lucinda Williams (1998) “Somewhere in Louisiana, my sugar’s doing time”
2. “Sheela-Na-Gig” – PJ Harvey (1992) “Look at these, my child-bearing hips”
3. “The Globe” – Big Audio Dynamite (1991) “What’s the health department got to say?”
4. “Zombie Eaters” – Faith No More (1989) “Then wipe my butt and piss me”
5. “Next Year” – Foo Fighters (1999) “Lighting the way we glide by”
6. “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” – Primus (1991) “One too many Camparis one night wrapped himself around a telephone pole”
7. “‘Til I Whisper U Something” – Sinéad O’Connor (2000) “It’s a long walk toward a good time”
8. “Don’t Wait That Long” – James (1992) “I don’t understand how our fights start”
9. “Starkville” – Indigo Girls (2002) “I spent a reckless night inside the wonder of your everlasting charm”
10. “Waiting For The Punchline” – Extreme (1995) “You might say, hey, I lost my sense of humor”

Mike Loughlin was good enough to offer me an excuse about why I might have “lame” songs on my iPod – my wife put them there. Sorry, people, these are all mine. My wife is far cooler than I am and wouldn’t be caught dead with some of the tunes I have on my iPod (others she quite likes). Of course, she digs The English Beat, so how cool can she be, really?

Let’s move on to totally random lyrics:

“Don’t you agree
The little two-tima resembles Aunt Jemima?
With jeans and a dirty white hoodie
Seems like he wouldn’t be a snake or would he?
Disguises come in all sizes and shapes
Notice the facade of the snakes
They all catch the vapes
Even though last year they was GQ”

Have a nice day, everyone!

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