What I bought - 18 December 2013

I did not betray Mr. Kurtz - it was ordered I should never betray him - it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice. (Joseph Conrad, from Heart of Darkness)

(Lots of Not Safe For Work stuff in this post. You've been warned!!!!)

Zero #4 ("Vision Impairment") by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Morgan Jeske (artist), and Ales Kot (writer). $2.99, 27 pgs, FC, Image.

Kot's experiment with Zero - telling different small stories at different times in the life of a secret agent with different artists - is always going to be a hit-or-miss proposition, depending on the kind of story he's telling or the artist who draws the issue. Jeske is a decent artist, and he's not a bad choice to draw a story set in a squalid part of Rio de Janiero with rough-looking people, but he's not quite as good at action as some other artists, so the brutality of the final section of the book is lessened a bit because the action doesn't flow as well as we would see with other artists. Jeske excels at the crumbling infrastructure of the favelas, as he shows us a Rio that seems nicer in movies (Fast Five springs to mind; despite the squalor, the slums of Rio were shot lovingly) but which looks far seedier in this comic. Jeske is Paul Pope-Lite at this point in his career, which means that we'll feel every hard-earned line etched into the characters' faces and feel the blood seeping from Zero and Carlyle as they beat on each other, but he doesn't do the ballet of violence as well as he (presumably) will as he matures. He and Bellaire do a nice job turning the lushness of southern Brazil into a stark, harsh place that fits the neighborhood in which Carlyle and Zero have their chat, and it's a nice transition to the cooler colors of the tunnel leading, presumably, to the richer sections of the city - the symbolism is done well.

Kot's story is okay - it's not as good as issues #2 and 3, but as a piece of Zero's life, it's good enough. What I'd really like to see from Kot is a straight romance - in both issue #3 and this issue, he writes some amazing stuff when he's getting into the relationship between two people who love each other. In issue #2, it was a bit more tragic, but it's certainly not all happiness and gum drops in this issue, either. When Carlyle describes the arc of his relationship, it's gripping, especially at the end when you think he'll get a chance for redemption. Maybe Kot wouldn't be able to do this over the course of an entire mini-series, but in his brief comics career, he's shown that he can get to the heart of a relationship quickly and incisively and with great emotional resonance. He adds a bit more to Zero's life here, but it's Carlyle who's the more interesting character, mainly because of his love affair and how he narrates it.

Overall, Zero #4 is another good comic. So far, Kot's experiment is working out pretty well. That's always fun!

Is there nudity in this comic book? No. That will change as we go along, I assure you. (0/1)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? Yes. Get used to it! (1/1)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Young Avengers #14 ("Resolution Part 1") by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Kieron Gillen (writer), Lee Loughridge (colorist), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Emma Vieceli (artist), Christian Ward (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Annie Wu (artist), Jon Moison (assistant editor), and Lauren Sankovitch (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel. Kate Bishop, Billy Kaplan, Teddy Altman, and Tommy Shepherd created by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung. Noh-Varr created by Grant Morrison and J. G. Jones. America Chavez created by Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta. David Alleyne created by Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, and Keron Grant.

I'd really like to know what the sales figures are on Young Avengers. You know how television stations - networks included - are finally starting to figure out that Nielsen ratings might not be the best way to judge how many people watch a show? These days, people are actually trying to figure out how many people DVR/TiVO their shows and watch them later or how many people watch stuff on-line or any of the other ways you can watch a program, to the extent that Brooklyn Nine-Nine (the best new comedy on network television this year?) can get the post-Super Bowl spot even though its "traditional" ratings are not great. I wonder if Marvel and DC are starting to figure out that sales figured are more complex than just "whatever the retailer orders." I don't do digital comic (because I'm ooooollllddddd), but I assume one can purchase a copy of Young Avengers (and any other Marvel comic) on the same day it's released in print (don't answer that; I know one can). So has Marvel begun tracking those numbers? I only ask this because I still find it difficult to believe that Marvel essentially told Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie that they could do pretty much whatever the hell they wanted on Young Avengers, to the point of having a plot so thin that I'm amazed they got three issues out of it, much less 13, and then said it was perfectly fine for them to wrap up the series with two issues about a New Year's Eve party. I mean, I haven't seen the "traditional" sales numbers for YA, but they can't be that good, can they? So is Marvel looking at digital sales and realizing that it does pretty well there? Have they finally come to the realization that they can print a nice giant trade of these 15 issues that will work really well and possibly remain evergreen? Given that they're rebooting every title whenever a new writer comes on board or even when the same writer and artist are still doing the book, just moving the protagonist to San Francisco (seriously, Marvel, what the hell?), maybe they're looking at sales in a new way. That would be awesome, because it might mean we'll get more comics like Young Avengers, which despite the threadbare plot has been one of the best comics of the year.

There's not much to say about this issue - Gillen continues to write almost perfect dialogue, and the artists he got fit the subject matter quite well - Vieceli's slightly more swirly line works well for a denouement of the Billy/Teddy romance and the David semi-subplot, while Ward is a great choice for the other-dimensional tale of America Chavez. America gets a tiny bit more character development than she's gotten throughout the series, but she still remains the weak link in the otherwise excellent work Gillen has done with the group. I guess that Gillen has passed Loki on to Al Ewing, as he doesn't appear in this issue and presumably will get rehabilitated (to a degree) in his new comic, and who knows what's going to happen with Patriot, but there's still one more issue to go, so we'll see what's what. I look forward to it.

If this is the new model of Marvel comics - not the constant rebooting, because that's kind of dumb no matter what Tom Brevoort says (I really don't have a problem with renumbering, even though I'm ooooollllddddd, but I think Marvel needs to figure out a way to label their trades better, if nothing else) - but the way they track sales, then I'm all for it. Gillen and McKelvie aren't traditional superhero creators - McKelvie has gotten much better at action, but he's still better at body language, while Gillen is still brilliant at characterization and, even though he's better at plotting, his plots often involve quieter things than "Punch the bad guy hard" stuff - and the fact that Marvel let them do this book is encouraging. Let's hope more is coming!

Is there nudity in this comic book? No. It's a Marvel comic rated "T+," for crying out loud! (0/2)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? Yes. Well, she colored five pages. That's close enough, right? (2*/2)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Westward #6 ("Scarlet Fingertips") by Ken Krekeler (writer/artist). $3.50, 28 pgs, BW, Kinetic Press.

Westward #6 came out a few weeks ago, but I only received it this week. After my retailer inexplicably didn't get me issue #5, I swallowed my pride and decided to get this issue from ... an on-line retailer! Oh, the shame! Will my local retailer ever forgive me?!?!? (I think so. I still spend far too much money at his place.)

Anyway, I've been beating the drum for Westward since issue #1 came out, and if I haven't convinced you to check it out yet, I just don't know if I can. I'm always worried that Krekeler won't be able to finish it because of economic vagaries, but I hold out hope, because the more issues of this that exist (it's still, as far as I know, supposed to run 10 issues), the more chances people will have to get it and find out how freakin' awesome it is. Issue #6 is no exception, as Krekeler raises the stakes even more - last issue, "Victor" (the automaton) learned that someone in his company has been selling weapons to a terrorist organization, and in this issue, he confronts the person about it, but doesn't like what he finds. Krekeler structures the issue quite well, so that he's jumping around in time a bit but always with an eye toward narrative function, leading us to what we think is the final, harrowing scene ... before the actual final, harrowing scene. Victor is still trying to figure out who he is, which is part of the grand theme of the book, and Krekeler does a superb job linking that to the bigger plot, because he realizes that people hold him in contempt (see below) but also that he might be a better "person" than the human Victor. If that's so, what can he do about it? This is an intense comic not only because of the horrific events that occur in it, but because of how Victor is processing those events.

Krekeler's art, which is always good, is brilliant in this issue. The scenes where things go horribly wrong (and no, I don't want to spoil it) are unsettling and vicious, as Krekeler uses the clockwork universe he's created to good effect, showing the awful dark side of the wondrous steampunk reality of Westward. He's also smart enough to not show some things, leaving them to our imaginations, which is far worse. The clanking and ticking of machinery in those scenes is also terrifying, because we're just not sure what's going to happen, but both the readers and the characters know something awful is coming. Krekeler uses both the intense writing and the art to create a scene of true terror, and it's a highlight of the book so far.

Westward keeps getting better, and I really hope people discover it and support it, because I'm selfish and want to read the entire thing. I don't know if you can order issues from the web site, but I encourage you to check it out and see what you can find. It really is a superb comic.

Is there nudity in this comic book? Yes. I'm not going to show it, though, because it would reveal a bit too much about what's going on. I don't think it's gratuitous, though. (1/3)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? No. It's in black and white! (2*/3)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Umbral #2 ("Falling into Dark") by Antony Johnston (writer), Thomas Mauer (letterer), Christopher Mitten (artist), and John Rauch (painter). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

As I've noted, second issues often aren't quite as good as first issues because the writer usually slows things down a bit, especially if the first issue was a "grab you by the throat" kind of affair. That certainly qualifies for Umbral, which contained a large amount of murder and mayhem in issue #1. Rascal, our heroine, isn't out of the woods quite yet, so while there's not quite as much death in this issue, there's still a lot of excitement, as Rascal teams up (sort of) with an old man who seems to know more about the situation than she does, and the two of them try to get out of town. That doesn't go too well, especially when he takes them to what he believes is a safe haven. I don't think you need to have read the issue to realize that it doesn't go well. Johnston also introduces some characters in the beginning of the issue who, I suppose, will play a larger role in the book. I thought Rascal and Dalone might meet them at the end of this issue, as they appeared to be going to the same place, but maybe that will have to wait until issue #3. Johnston does a nice job introducing Dalone and continuing to show us stuff about Rascal while still keeping the pace up, which is always nice.

The art is, not surprisingly, still spectacular. Mitten's thick lines and heavy use of blacks works well for a dark tale, especially in a fantasy where a lot of people wear robes or cloaks. The thickness of his lines makes everything seem more tactile, turning this world into a more solid and rough place, one we can imagine is thick with magic and odd creatures. Rauch's paints are stunning, too, as the book takes place in twilight, so he goes heavy on the purple, blue, and green, making the random lights stand out even more and giving the entire book a mystical feel to it. The book is utterly gorgeous, and it's nice to see the creators working so well together.

It's still early, but everyone seems to be working at the top of their games on Umbral, and I'm already looking forward to the next issue. There are too many good comics!!!!

Is there nudity in this comic book? No. It's for "mature" readers, but not that mature, apparently! (1/4)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? No. It eluded her grasp! (2*/4)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Think Tank #11 ("Outbreak Part Three") by Rahsan Ekedal (artist), Matt Hawkins (writer), Troy Peteri (letterer), and Betsy Gonia (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image/Top Cow.

This is another comic that came out a few weeks ago, and it's even more inexplicable that my retailer didn't get it. Actually, it was on their list for delivery, but it never showed up. The guy at the store said he would track it down for me, but I've had some experience with Diamond and trying to track something down through them, so once again, I turned to the on-line world. I got this with the same order in which I got Westward (along with a bunch of back issues, because I'm weak!), so life is good!

In the back of the book, Matt Hawkins addresses the title's future, and I always worry about that. He says that there's going to be a special in the spring and then, presumably, a "season two" will show up in the summer. That's great, and I will be there to buy it because I like this comic, but I still worry about "hiatuses" and whether creators will ever come back from them. But that's in the future. What bums me out about the announcement is that Hawkins mentions that they're "trying to overcome the objection by many people who won't try this book just because it's in black and white." Seriously? Is that really a thing? I mean, do people really care that much? I read the comments at Bleeding Cool (which is where Hawkins announced the plan), and two things stood out: First, I'm not the only person who had a problem getting an issue of this comic. Apparently, Diamond has not shipped other issues, which really sucks. If it meets their threshold and retailers order it, they should ship it. I understand that some of the books I've ordered in the past don't make their sales threshold, and that's too bad, but I don't think Think Tank falls into this category. The other point someone made is that this is a Top Cow book. In case you've forgotten, three years ago I reviewed a Top Cow book and Ron Marz didn't take kindly to me calling one of the stories in it a stereotypical Top Cow comic even though I liked the other five stories in the trade. This time, I didn't even make the reference! Whether Ron Marz then or Matt Hawkins now (Hawkins is the president and COO of Top Cow) want to admit it, "Top Cow" brings up certain beliefs in comics readers' minds, for good or for ill, and Think Tank doesn't really fit. As I noted three years ago, Top Cow has done quite a bit to change that perception with the comics they publish, but if that perception doesn't change in readers' minds, it doesn't matter. If you think of Top Cow as the place that publishes T & A comics and you don't like T & A comics, it doesn't matter that Think Tank is nothing like that. I get that it's frustrating for Top Cow, but that's the way it is. It's not just me who thinks this way!

It's a shame, because Think Tank is a cool comic. Hawkins continually brings in stuff from the "real world," which makes his plots frighteningly plausible. In this issue he casually begins World War III, and what's disturbing is how easily it could happen. I'm sure our hero, David Loren, will figure something out, but he has problems of his own, doesn't he? Ekedal does his usual excellent job (as I've mentioned before, his black and white art is tremendous, and I hope the book doesn't lose anything by going to color), and things look dire for all concerned. Isn't that just the way?

So buy Think Tank. Show those crazy people that black and white doesn't matter! Show those crazy people that branding doesn't matter! Or, you know, don't. It's entirely up to you!

Is there nudity in this comic book? No. There's violence, though. Yay, violence! (1/5)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? No. It's in black and white, remember? (2*/5)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sex #9 ("Supercool") by Joe Casey (writer), Morgan Jeske (artist), Piotr Kowalski (artist), Brad Simpson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 18 pgs, FC, Image.

Kowalski, who's drawing that Marvel Knights Hulk series and therefore makes me worry if he'll continue on this book, gives us a few pages at the beginning at the end of the issue, but it's Jeske who provides most of the art. It's a flashback, so that's always a good time to bring in a guest artist if you're going to have a guest artist, because it provides an interesting contrast to the "regular" flow of time. Casey decides to show us a scene from when Simon Cooke was the Armored Saint, as we discover that Keenan was his "sidekick" for at least a little bit, even though it appears the relationship was a bit rocky. It's an exciting issue, paced pretty well, as Simon and Keenan try to stop the Prank Addict from getting away with a heist, and of course Annabelle shows up. Casey doesn't get too much into the weird psychosexual stuff that he's been toying with for the first eight issues, but as this is the first issue of a new "arc," so to speak (Casey doesn't do arcs in the same way most writers do), it will be interesting to see if and how Casey connects the superheroing to the current incarnation of Simon. At the end of the book, Casey leads us to the next issue, but as of right now, it's not clear how it connects. Or maybe he just wanted to show Simon doing some ass-kicking.

This is probably the first time in the history of the world that the sentence "I bought two comics in the same week drawn by Morgan Jeske" can be uttered, and he does a pretty decent job with it. Like Zero above, his action scenes aren't perfect, which is a problem when he's drawing a superhero book, but because Sex has been set up as a strange, somewhat off-kilter superhero universe, it's not quite as much of a problem as it would be in a less satirical milieu. Simpson's neon color job goes a long way to helping make the book a sensory overload, too. It was probably Casey's idea to never show the Armored Saint in full, but Jeske does a nice job laying the pages out so that he's still very much a presence in the comic without us ever getting a good look at him. It makes me wonder if perhaps Simon isn't actually the Armored Saint, but I think Casey does it just because the book is not about Simon the superhero but about Simon the ex-superhero, and the idea of never quite showing him in his full superhero glory goes along with that. It's neat.

As usual, Sex is a bizarre comic. I still don't know what to make of it, but it's entertaining enough that I don't worry about it. Am I giving it more of a pass than some comics because I like Casey more than I like the other writers? Probably. But that's my prerogative!

Is there nudity in this comic book? It's called Sex, for crying out loud! I think there's been one issue with no nudity, but that issue is not this one! First, Kowalski gets into the act:

Not to be outdone, Jeske gets a scene:

There's also a fairly funny penis gag, but it's better if you see it for yourself! (2/6)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? Nope. (2*/6)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Saga #17 by Fonografiks (letterer), Fiona Staples (artist), and Brian K. Vaughan (writer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

As usual, just when I think it's safe to drop Saga, Vaughan decides to show us all that he can be a pretty good writer. There's still a lot wrong with this issue, but because Vaughan gets on with things, this feels a bit more like the work of the dude who, you know, can write a good comic. Let's break it down!

First of all, there's a nice scene at the beginning. The reporter and photographer who are tracking the story of Marko and Alana (and are, of course, lovers) are told on no uncertain terms that they can't pursue the story or they'll be killed. Yes, the weird magician dude who puts the spell on them so they can't tell the story could be called Sir Obvious Exposition, but still - it's a decent scene.

Then, we move to our main plot, and we've finally caught up to issue #12 (it was issue #12, right?), when Robot IV ended up interrogating Oswald about Marko and Alana with our young lovers cowering upstairs, hoping they didn't get caught. Meanwhile, Gwendolyn is outside, trying to get to Marko because he's the only one who can save The Will and wondering if she should enter the lighthouse. If you think this has the potential to go completely sideways, well, you've consumed fiction before. It does go sideways, but here's the thing: it goes sideways in the absolutely most predictable way possible. That's what bugs me about this comic: for all the weirdness, Vaughan takes very few chances, so we can see what's coming a mile away. Yes, this is true about many comics and other forms of fiction, but that doesn't make it good here. If we think back to the biggest shocker in comics last year, the end of Chew #30, despite Layman telegraphing the ending a little bit (and very effectively), it was still a gut punch, because it did come out of nowhere and the character was so much better developed than the ones in Saga. Seventeen issues in, and these characters haven't risen far enough above one-note characters to make anything that happens to them more than just a curiosity. It's too bad.

Vaughan does get around to explaining the scene in issue #12 that caused so much consternation, and while it's not quite what we expect, it's typical of this comic, in that it seems clever but really isn't - the "opposite of war" discussion comes out of nowhere, and if Robot IV expects to be a decent soldier, he probably shouldn't be so easily distractible. I assume this idea will continue to permeate the book, especially given what Sir Obvious Exposition says, and while it's a good idea to explore, the problem with Saga is that Vaughan doesn't want to explore it as much as trumpet it from the highest rooftop.

So why is this issue a bit better than the past few? Well, as I mentioned, Vaughan finally gets on with it, so things actually happen. Despite the predictability of what happens, Vaughan does get to it well. Plus, he does some of the small things well - Alana finally realizes something important, which, you know, well done, and Klara is pretty awesome. Marko does something boneheaded (or at least plans to do something boneheaded), but Vaughan begins to hint around at the true divide between Marko and Alana, something which I hope will be addressed (not that I want them to split up, but at least they could address the fact that their two races are fighting a war). So that's neat. Plus, you know, Fiona Staples.

Anyway, the next issue is the final one of the arc. I'll get that and decide whether I'm going to keep getting this or not. All signs point to "no" right now, but I'll think about it. We shall see.

Is there nudity in this comic book? You bet there is! I thought the nudity last issue was a bit gratutious, but here, I think it's necessary. Look at Robot IV's body language as he thinks. Even without a face, Staples nails his pose. Damn, she's a good artist. (3/7)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? Nope. She was busy dominating the rest of the industry! (2*/7)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Pretty Deadly #3 by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Emma Ríos (artist), and Sigrid Ellis (editor). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

Pretty Deadly still makes no sense, but it's making no sense in a better way, if that makes any sense. I don't like the bunny and the butterfly, but DeConnick is committed to them, so there's that. She's pulling some strands together, so that narratively, the book is starting to make more sense, but she's still trying too hard to make it "weird," so we get the ridiculous flood in the second half of the book. The dialogue is either deliberately stilted and formal or DeConnick just isn't great at writing dialogue yet (dialogue is hard to write, but the tone of the book makes me think it's a little from column A and a little from column B). Still, there's more to like about this issue than about the first two, which is a good progression.

Ríos, like DeConnick, still seems to be trying too hard, and so we once again get a triumph of style over storytelling, although like the script, it's not as egregious as it was in the second issue. It only becomes a slight issue when the mason goes to Hell and meets Death, but the stylistic presentation of the art is probably to be expected, as the surreality of the scene takes over the rational part of the comic. There's not as much action in this issue, so Ríos doesn't have to cram a lot of it into this, which helps. Her linework continues to amaze, and it seems like she's getting more confident with fewer of them. Bellaire relies a bit too heavily on yellow and blue, but that's not surprising, as they complement each other so well.

As we reach the end of the year, I have to cull my pull list a bit, and Pretty Deadly was on the block after two issues. After this issue, the axe has eased a bit, but I'll still have to think about it. We shall see!

Is there nudity in this comic book? Hells yeah! Johnny is still hanging out in the brothel, so there's probably going to be some nekkidness. I thought it was fairly gratuitous in issue #2, and it's still a bit so in this issue. But, you know, dongs. (4/8)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? You're damn right she did! (3*/8)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mind the Gap #16 ("Dead. And Gone") by Rodin Esquejo (artist), Jessica Kholinne (colorist), Dave Lanphear (letterer), Jim McCann (writer), and Rob Levin (editor). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Image.

McCann begins "Act II" of Mind the Gap, and I wonder if there's going to be an Act III. Not that I don't want there to be, I just wonder how long he's planning on doing the series. If he wants to follow a traditional structure, then we'll get three acts, right? I mean, "three-act structure" is totally a thing. So maybe we have two more acts to go?

Anyway, we kick off the second act with a round-up of stuff, as Elle has shuffled off this mortal coil but her body has disappeared. Well, that sucks. So the two sides of the battle over Elle are trying to find her. McCann does a decent job getting us up to speed, and he focuses on Detective Wallace, which is not a bad choice as she's, you know, a cop. So the mystery of Elle's disappearing body might interest her.

There's not much else going on, but it's probably necessary for McCann to get us all back up to speed. Mind the Gap is an interesting mystery, especially because while the whole Jairus thing isn't the greatest plot, McCann likes throwing us some curve balls to keep us on our toes. We'll just see where he goes from here.

Is there nudity in this comic book? Not even a little. It's all class around here, people! (4/9)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? What? She didn't? I'm shocked! (3*/9)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Massive #18 ("Longship Part Three of Three: Deadlock") by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Garry Brown (artist), Jared K. Fletcher (letterer), Brian Wood (writer), Jim Gibbons (assistant editor), and Sierra Hahn (editor). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

One of the more interesting things about Wood's writing is that he resists easy explanations for things, and that helps make his characters more interesting. In this arc, there's really no reason for Cal to go after Bors, but he does anyway, and in this issue, we learn a bit about why he did. Cal isn't the most admirable fellow, but he's always had good reasons for things he did, and to see him in this arc, relatively broken, is fascinating, because he can't separate his mission from his personal feelings, and that makes his decisions suspect. Wood has been setting up a power struggle for control of the Kapital for some time, and in this issue, Mag takes another small step toward deposing Cal. Whether it will happen or not is part of the reason to read this book.

It's not all perfect, though. Bors's action is a bit strange - not necessarily inexplicable, but somewhat so in the context of what he's been doing in Norway - and there seems to be a plot point that Wood completely forgot to address. I mean, Bors tells Cal something fairly important about the Kapital, and nothing happens. I can't believe Wood forgot about it, but maybe he did. Or maybe he'll address it in a future issue. Still, it's odd.

Emotionally, this is a strong issue and one that seems to end a part of the comic. Obviously, Cal and the crew will move forward, and Wood will probably address some things that are still unresolved, but this feels like an ending, and Wood, for the most part, does a good job with it. As usual, I still have some problems with this book, but it's usually pretty good, and this issue is a good example of the strengths of the comic.

Is there nudity in this comic book? It's a bit chilly for nudity, I reckon. (4/10)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? Hey, look, she did! What do you know about that? (4*/10)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Kiss Me, Satan! #4 (of 5) by Eduardo Ferreyra (color assistant), Juan Ferreyra (artist/colorist), Victor Gischler (writer), Nate Piekos (letterer), Shantel LaRocque (assistant editor), and Daniel Chabon (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Gischler's story is rounding into form, and while I still doubt if it will offer too many surprises, it's not bad. If you remember that old episode of Seinfeld where Jerry's routine was about "to be continued" episodes and how you suddenly realize, about 90% of the way in, that there's no way they can finish things in time and you're looking at a continuation, well, that's the way I feel about this. It just has a feeling of "to be continued" at the end of issue #5, because there's still the wolf baby to deal with, plus the nattily-dressed demons from issue #1 are back, plus Jules - the mouthy cherub from issue #1 - tells Barnabus that there's a "next phase" with regard to the witches, so it just seems like there's too much going on to resolve it in one issue. Maybe Gischler will pull it all together, but I don't have high hopes. It's still a fairly standard horror story, but there are some nice moments - Malcolm's casual cruelty and his confrontation with Cassian, Cassian trying to figure out what to do with his baby. Like a lot of horror stories, it's perfectly fine without being wildly memorable.

Ferreyra is amazing as usual, so there's not much need to get into that. When Cassian stands in the nursery with his son, Ferreyra makes the scene much more emotional even than Gischler's script, and the script is pretty good. Malcolm's evil is wonderfully rendered, and I love the look on Barnabus's face when he realizes he's going to get lucky with Zell. It's those little things that make any book better, and it's nice that Ferreyra is so good at them.

So I'm anticipating that there will be an inconclusive fifth issue, but that's okay. Maybe I'll be wrong!

Is there nudity in this comic book? Holy crap, is there ever! This is why I go back to the latest issue of Grindhouse, which went out of the way to hide nipples. Dark Horse obviously doesn't have a problem with them! (5/11)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? Ferreyra colors his own stuff, so Bellaire is out of luck! (4*/11)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

East of West #8 ("The Street Is Burning") by Nick Dragotta (artist), Jonathan Hickman (writer), Frank Martin (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

One of the nice things about East of West is that despite using a large cast, Hickman has managed to keep the focus in individual issues on certain characters, so we get to know them a little more. He does this but never loses sight of the bigger plot, so in this issue, we get a brief scene with Death consulting an oracle, but the bulk of the issue is about the president in the White Tower, who I'm sure has been named in an earlier issue but which escapes me right now. It's not important in this issue. Hickman, as he's done with other characters, shows how the Horsemen gave her power and, in this issue, we see how she uses it. It's a very gripping look at how power is used, not only in this future, but obliquely in our present. Hickman's political thoughts in this issue are far too simplistic for a true political satire, but because Madame President is willing to get "right to the bone," as she puts it, Hickman reveals a sinister subtext to political dealings that isn't terribly original but is worth pointing out occasionally. Perhaps the most honest sequence in the book is the eight panels of the president's feckless cabinet, which is a fine portrait of current politicians and their inability to govern.

Dragotta and Martin are their usual stellar selves, as their portrayal of a city in chaos is well done, especially when the riot is juxtaposed against the hologram of the president addressing the crowds. The most breathtaking sequence is when Death and his companions enter the prison, as Dragotta slowly reveals the oracle, with a wonderful page turn that shows her in her full glory. Dragotta's use of shadows in this book is marvelous, and that's partly what makes Death's stroll into the prison so brilliant. Martin's over-reliance on blue and orange works because of where he chooses to put them - the crowd is orange because they're heated, while the president coolly remains blue. It's a somewhat obvious choice, but it works very well in the context of the crowd and the riot.

This comic continues to dazzle, and Hickman seems to have worked out all the logistical problems that plague his Marvel comics, because East of West hums along with nary a bump to dislodge the reader. Just another reason to appreciate creator-owned comics!

Is there nudity in this comic book? You bet! It's actually logical that the oracle would be naked - she's in prison, after all, and this world doesn't seem like it would be too nice to prisoners. (6/12)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? She skipped this one. So sad! (4*/12)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Deadpool #21 ("Deadpool vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.") by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Gerry Duggan (writer), Mike Hawthorne (artist), Brian Posehn (writer), Joe Sabino (letterer), and Jordan D. White (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel. Deadpool created by Fabian Nicieza and Rob Liefeld. Dr. Strange created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Paladin created by Jim Shooter and Carmine Infantino. Batroc the Leaper created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Sabretooth created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Crossbones created by Mark Gruenwald and Kieron Dwyer. Agent Coulson created by Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway.

After the big ol' downer of the previous arc, Posehn and Duggan begin the new one with a bit more levity, which is nice. As I mentioned when the last arc ended, the grinding of gears from the writers as they switched from a relatively light-hearted story to the North Korean story was somewhat inelegant - even though I certainly don't mind it when writers try to blend humor with more serious fare, I didn't think Duggan and Posehn managed it very well. We're still dealing with some of the repercussions from that arc, but it appears that in this story, Deadpool is going to help Agent Preston get a new body, which can still be a serious topic (Preston has a family, after all, and they think she's dead) but will probably feature a bit more humor, if this issue is any indication. Just the image of an LMD Agent Preston raking leaves is more humor than the previous arc contained. There are a lot of nice side jokes in this comic, both in the writing and the art (I don't know if Hawthorne had any input, but if he did, he does well), and it helps keep the tone balanced, as the situation - Preston is kind of bummed out - is enough to add gravitas to the issue. So even though we get a fun riff on the old barber shop entrance to S.H.I.E.L.D. or Preston and Deadpool making fun of Tyler Perry or Deadpool in a Bosch painting, the conundrum and pathos of the issue remains. It's a nice return after the ultra-depressing Korean arc.

This book also features the first of two Guns n' Roses lyric references in this week's comics. They're both the exact same one, too. I guess if you're quoting Guns n' Roses, you could go plenty of ways but you usually go with the obvious one. Oh well.

Is there nudity in this comic book? No. If any Marvel book would contain nudity, you'd think it would be this one (it's "Parental Advisory"), but Marvel's not quite prepared to go that far. In Marvel comics, the closest we get are little Hawkeye symbols and strategically placed word balloons. (6/13)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? Well, it's a Marvel book, so the chances are good. And there she is! (5*/13)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dark Horse Presents #31. "Hellboy Gets Married Part One" By Mick McMahon (artist), Mike Mignola (writer), Clem Robins (letterer), and Dave Stewart (colorist); "Integer City Part Two: Power in the Blood" by Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), Crank! (letterer), Jamie S. Rich (writer), and Brent Schoonover (artist); "Mind Mgmt" by Matt Kindt (writer/artist/letterer) and Sharlene Kindt (colorist); "Alabaster: Boxcar Tales Part 12" by Caitlín R. Kiernan (writer), Steve Lieber (artist/letterer), and Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist); "Nexus: Into the Past Part 7" by Mike Baron (writer), The Dude (artist/letterer), and Glenn Whitmore (colorist); "Monstrous: Dirty Work after the Apocalypse Part 2" by Ryan Cody (artist/colorist) and Steve Horton (writer/letterer); "Crime Does Not Pay Presents Phil Stanford's City of Roses Chapter Ten" by Bill Farmer (colorist), Nate Piekos (letterer), Patric Reynolds (artist), and Phil Stanford (writer); "Saint George: Dragonslayer Part 2" by Reilly Brown (artist), Jeremy Colwell (colorist), Dave Lanphear (letterer), and Fred van Lente (writer); "Furious: Role Model" by Bryan J. L. Glass (writer), Nate Piekos (letterer), and Victor Santos (artist); "Kill Me! Part One: by Chad Lambert (writer), Christine Larsen (artist), and Jaymes Reed (letterer); Scott Allie (contributing editor), Daniel Chabon (contributing editor), Brendan Wright (contributing editor), Chris Warner (contributing editor), Jim Gibbons (associate editor), and Mike Richardson (editor). $7.99, 80 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Let's bullet point this bad bear!

* Hellboy really ought to know better, right? I mean, he just kind of wanders off and gets married? Who does that?* I'm still not sure why it's called "Integer City," but it's a pretty keen detective story so far.* Holy crap, even an eight-page "Mind Mgmt" story is genius. Damn you, Matt Kindt!* I've never been a big fan of the "Alabaster" stories in DHP, but Kiernan just keeps cranking them out!* Mike Baron doesn't get enough credit for his surrealist writing. "Nexus" is just weird, man.* "Monstrous" has been somewhat predictable so far, but I do like that the dude has killed a bunch of humans. I don't know why, but I do.* I honestly have no idea what's going on in "City of Roses." Each chapter is interesting, though, but overall, it's hard to follow.* Reilly Brown is killing it on "Saint George: Dragonslayer." The story does remind me of the movie, though, even though I guess the movie ripped off the legend. Still, anytime you can reference the movie Dragonslayer, it's a good thing. (Although it means you find out that the girl who played Valerian died at 52. Well, that sucks.)* I'm not really sure we need another angry superhero, but if Glass and Santos make "Furious" a more interesting commentary on it, it might be something to read.* "Kill Me!" has an obvious twist at the end, but it's still a decent beginning. We shall see.

Yet another fascinating issue of Dark Horse Presents! Not everything works, but it's always interesting to read!

Is there nudity in this comic book? No. It's kid-friendly! (6/14)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? All those creators, but Ms. Bellaire is not among them! (5*/14)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Bounce #8 by Gaetano Carlucci (inker), Joe Casey (writer), David Messina (penciller), Giovanni Niro (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

I know Rus Wooton letters both this and Sex, but I wonder if Casey is subtly linking the two comics, as he has done with some other of his comics in the past. The Bounce, of course, deals with another dimension, so it wouldn't be too far beyond the realm of possibility. The reason I think so is because Wooton uses the exact same kind of lettering when The Darling is activating the funky machine that he uses when Simon accesses his computer. Now, maybe it's just Wooton's go-to "digital" lettering, which is one reason why I'm not in love with digital lettering that uses a standard font, but because choices in comics are often not random, I just wonder about the connection between these two titles. Who knows.

Like Sex, The Bounce has settled in a little, and it's becoming more difficult to review it beyond a simple summary. There are still mysteries about what Darling and the military are doing, there are still issues between Jasper and his brother, there's still something weird going on with the other dimension. Casey reveals things slowly, but what's been interesting about the book is the way Jasper is slowly changing, mainly because he has to. He reaches out to his brother, and their scene together is well done. Casey might have jumped the gun a bit early on turning the tables of these two characters, but it's interesting how he's doing it. Casey comes at relationships in his comics in an interesting way, which is why I'm willing to give him some rope with his titles. Here, he's building a nice contrast between Jasper and Jeremiah, and it's working well.

The second Guns n' Roses reference is in this issue, by the way. Casey couldn't resist!

As with Sex, I'm not completely sold on The Bounce, but I have more trust in Casey than I do some other writers, and you can see glimmers of something completely wild in this comic, so I'm willing to wait. It's not a great comic, but it is interesting. That's fine for now.

Is there nudity in this comic book? No. Casey and Messina tease us, though! (6/15)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? Ms. Bellaire is taking a break for the rest of the week. She's tired! (5*/15)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Black Science #2 by Rick Remender (writer), Matteo Scalera (artist), Dean White (colorist), Rus Wooton (letterer), and Sebastian Girner (editor). $3.50, 23 pgs, FC, Image.

As I noted last time, Remender is really good at launching titles, so it wasn't surprising that issue #1 of Black Science was pretty darned good. As issue #2 is very close to the beginning, it stands to reason that it, too, should be good, and it is. That's just (black) SCIENCE, people! Remender, like so many others, slows things down just enough to give us some backstory about Grant and the others who are trapped zipping between dimensions (who knew Jerry O'Connell's Sliders would be so influential?). Of course, there's still a lot of action, but it's not quite as breakneck as issue #1, and this time, the team has a purpose - Grant is injured and they need to find a doctor. Unfortunately, they've stumbled into a war between the European Rebellion Coalition and a bunch of American Indians. Fortunately, a war means medics! Unfortunately, the only medics are on the Indians' side, and it will be difficult to get to them. So, yeah.

Remender introduces more of the cast, even though they're fairly stereotypical. Hey, it's the scumbag boss! Hey, it's his snooty (and sexy) assistant! Hey, it's the tough-as-nails head of security! Stereotypes are fine if you're sketching characters on the run, and this book, so far, has been more about action than characters, but I hope Remender has some ideas up his sleeve about making sure the characters don't stay in their stereotypical roles. I imagine some of them won't survive long, which makes the analog to a horror movie all the more vexing. As I've noted before, I'm not sure Remender is a great writer, but he has done some good work with his own characters in the past (he's also, unfortunately, slotted some into standard "horror movie roles," too), so we'll see what's what. The one question I have is whether Grant was screwing around on his wife. It seems that he was, based on the first few pages, but it's unclear. I really don't like that, especially with what happened in issue #1 and his reaction to it. I suppose we'll find out more as we go along.

Meanwhile, Scalera is knocking this right out of the park. As opposed to issue #1, he has less action in this to draw, but he still does a fine job, especially with Kadir's douchiness (Kadir's feet are really weird, though). When he does get to draw the big scene at the end, he does a really nice job. White is doing some interesting things, too, like the smoke on the first page. It seems like Scalera is a good fit for White, because his jagged lines are more resistant to White's coloring, and the tension works well.

Is there nudity in this comic book? No. In this case, I think nudity might have made it clearer that Grant is having an affair. Obviously, this scene makes it look like he and Rebecca are screwing, but if that's the case, why'd they put their underwear on? Maybe there's another reason they have their clothes off? It becomes confusing because of the lack of nudity. MOAR NEKKIDNESS, PLZ!!!! (6/16)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? Negative. (5*/16)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman '66 #6 ("The Conqueror Bookworm"/"Queen of Cossacks") by Wes Abbott (letterer), Tony Avina (colorist), Ted Naifeh (artist, "Queen"), Jeff Parker (writer, "Queen"), Tom Peyer (writer, "Bookworm"), Ty Templeton (artist, "Bookworm"), Aniz Ansari (assistant editor), and Jim Chadwick (editor). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC. Batman and Jim Gordon created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Robin and Alfred Pennyworth created by Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, and Bob Kane. Harriet Cooper created by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff. Chief O’Hara created by Edmond Hamilton. Barbara Gordon created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino.

Hey, look, it's a Tom Peyer sighting! What do you know about that?

Peyer shows that Parker isn't the only one who can write a dandy Batman '66 script (Peyer has always had a pretty good sense of humor, so it's not surprising that he can), as he turns the Bookworm loose on our heroes. It's a clever story, as first Robin and then Batman manage to thwart the bad guy rather cleverly. As much as the television series was campy, at least Batman and Robin were often confronted by mysteries that they had to solve and they often used their own mental legerdemain to fool the bad guys. Unlike the "real" Batman, who fools bad guys by punching them with the hand they're not looking at, Adam West's Batman figures out ways to hoist the bad guys on their own petards. Yes, pretending to have an accent is silly, but it's still trying to fool the bad guys instead of just pounding on them. And I realized just this week (I may be thick about this) that this Gotham City is so interesting because it's a lot like the Heckler's Delta City - just a bunch of wacky businesses that you can't believe can stay functional. But that's life in the big city! Meanwhile, Templeton's always-welcome art is very good - it looks a bit rougher than older Templeton art, but it never loses its charm, so it works to humanize the characters a bit while always remembering the inherent silliness of the concept.

In the second story, Parker and Naifeh draw a panel of Batman and Robin riding bears. NUFF SAID!!!! Oh, except Barbara Gordon is wearing a really short skirt. And there's a panel with cossacks dancing. OKAY, NOW THAT'S NUFF SAID!!!!

Is there nudity in this comic book? Really? (6/17)

Did Jordie Bellaire color this comic book? Ms. Bellaire does not deign to work for DC Comics! (5*/17)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

What have we learned? Well, there's a lot of nudity in comics these days (35% of the books I bought featured nudity - "nudity" being defined as female nipples or female/male groin naughty bits - and two others could have easily have done so). We also learned that Jordie Bellaire gets a lot of work. I read 441 pages of comics this week. Bellaire colored 98 of them, which is 22% of the pages I read. That's a lot. I'm not sure if this is a good thing. Whenever you have writers doing a ton of books a month, they inevitably suffer. No one can pump out that much work in such a short time and really make it all work, even if they're Matt Kindt (to be fair, I don't read Kindt's work-for-hire stuff, but it can't be as good as Mind Mgmt). Pencilers usually don't have the luxury of drawing so much, because it takes longer. But apparently colorists aren't as bound by time constraints as pencilers are. I think Bellaire is a good colorist, and I have no problem with her taking so many gigs because everyone needs to get paid. But it seems like she's defaulting to complementary colors a bit too much recently, as if she's just looking at her color wheel instead of thinking about the choices. That's too bad, because colorists have become so important in the industry. Anyway, good for Ms. Bellaire. I like her work quite a bit, and I hope that she doesn't turn into Brian Michael Bendis.

A Boy and a Girl by Ed Brisson (letterer), Natalie Nourigat (artist), Jamie S. Rich (writer), and Jill Beaton (editor). $19.99, 164 pgs, BlW, Oni Press.

I've been looking forward to this since Emerald City Con, when I spoke to Nourigat about it. It's been available on-line for a while, but the printed version looks really neat.


It's that time of year, when people are cranking out Top Ten Lists faster than you can read them (this started at least a month ago, which seems rather rude, but I guess those people know so much better than the rest of us!). I actually saw on Comics Alliance that they included Sharaz-De in their rankings because it came out in 2012, but after they had done their rankings for 2012. Come on, people! There's no prize for doing them first, you know! Today is the deadline for the fun CBR list, which is a compilation of all of ours added up. I submitted a list two years ago but not last year, and I should do one again even though I doubt it will match the one I do for this blog. Top Ten Lists are fun, of course, and I was very happy to see one today that didn't have bloody Saga on it. Spoiler alert - mine won't either.

I don't have much else to rant about. Sorry. This is the last weekly review post of the year for me, because next week very little comes out and I'm getting even less. (Saviors #1 comes out, which is really odd. Why release it on Christmas or, as the case may be, December 24th? If a James Robinson/J. Bone book ships on Christmas, does anyone notice it? Bizarre. I mean, I guess it's because of the title, but that seems kind of weak sauce.) Then comes next year, and next year ... well, let's just say if I can do what I'm trying to do, it should be a fun year. It might kill me, but I hope you'll enjoy it.

I hope everyone has a good Christmas if that's your thing, and a good Wednesday if it's not. If you're still looking for presents, you could always pick up a handsome edition of Shot in the Face: A Savage Journey to the Heart of Transmetropolitan, which was edited by some punk named Chad Nevett and includes a fine essay by someone named Greg Burgas. It's a Festivus miracle!

You can get it on Amazon and for your Kindle. You're not going to find a better collection of essays about Transmetropolitan this year, you can be sure of that!

Finally, be sure to watch ESPN2 on Saturday night at 9.30 (Eastern time), as the Penn State Women's Volleyball team tries to win another National Championship. They're not as dominant as the team that won four straight from 2007-2010 is, but I watched the semi-final against Washington and at the end, they were just toying with the Huskies, that's how outmatched the Pac-12 champs were. Who doesn't love Women's Volleyball? Commies, that's who!

With that admonition, let's check the Ten Most Recent Songs on My iPod (Which Is Always on Shuffle):

1. "Extreme Ways" - Moby (2012) "I broke everything new again, everything that I'd owned"12. "I've Loved These Days" - Billy Joel (1976) "Now as we indulge in things refined we hide our hearts from harder times"23. "Nothing Else Matters" - Metallica (1991) "Never cared for what they say, never cared for games they play"4. "Jack the Ripper" - LL Cool J (1989) "And you've never seen anybody rock the party; all you funky beat-aholics, this beat's Bacardi"35. "Watcher of the Skies" - Genesis (1972) "Judge not this race by empty remains - do you judge God by his creatures when they are dead?"6. "Next Year" - Foo Fighters (1999) "Into the sun we climb; climbing our wings will burn white"7. "Keep Your Shoes On" - Scissor Sisters (2012) "Just like a beauty queen, poppin' loads of Benzedrine"8. "Andante, Andante" - ABBA (1980) "There's a shimmer in your eyes, like the feeling of a thousand butterflies"49. "Reckless (Don't Be So ...)" - Australian Crawl (1983) "Hear the Captain blow his whistle, so long she's been away"10. "Drunken Boat" - Pogues (1993) "I spent the next two years or more just staring at the wall; we went to sea to see the world and what d'you think we saw?"5

1 This is the remix from the end of The Bourne Legacy, yet another remix of this song at the end of a Bourne movie. It's not a very good movie, but the remix is keen!

2 Billy Joel was 26 when he recorded this song. I'm just pointing it out because he does "world-weary" really well for a dude who's only 26.

3 I still can't wrap my head around the fact that LL Cool J, Ice Cube, and Ice T are now respectable actors. That's just weird.

4 Yeah, that's a weird image. They're Swedes, whatyagonnado?

5 I know this is sacrilegious because it's not a Shane MacGowan tune, but damn if this isn't in the conversation for best Pogues song. It's freakin' awesome.

Last week's lyrics were from "To Be Lonely" by Mucky Pup. Everyone loves Mucky Pup, right? This week, let's go with:

"Last fall I had a night to myselfSame guy called, Halloween partyWaited all night for him to showThis time his car wouldn't go"

Have a fine weekend, everyone. Don't forget to be awesome!

LOOK: Previews for Every Marvel Comic Arriving Wednesday, Oct. 23

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