What I bought - 18 January 2012

"I've always believed, Josef, that we are more in love with desire than with the desired!" (Irvin D. Yalom, from When Nietzsche Wept)

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #15 ("No Exit") by Sholly Fisch (writer), Stewart McKenny (penciller), Dan Davis (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Dezi Sienty (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

This came out last week, but I didn't pick it up until this week. So sue me. As you might recall, I've been picking up the odd issue of this series here and there, and usually they're quite good. This is about on the second tier of goodness - it's not as good as the very best, but it's still pretty good. Fisch puts Batman and Mister Miracle into a strange, seamless corridor and then throws a bunch of "traps" at them, from spears and blades to rockets. Yes, rockets. Bats and Miracle need to figure out what's going on (hint: Darkseid is involved), and they do. Of course!

The reason this isn't as awesome as it could be is because the pacing feels off. There's a lot early on as Batman and Scott figure out that they're in a trap-filled corridor, and then Fisch has some fun devising various traps for them (see below). But that leaves less time for the payoff, which seems to arrive very suddenly and easily. I realize this is technically a "kids' comic," but there is some psychological trauma happening here, and unlike in other issues, Fisch seems to gloss over it fairly quickly. I don't know if it's the page count or some other reason, but the entire issue feels slightly off. It's entertaining (even if an older reader, like yours truly, can see the ending coming a mile away) but a bit more slight than some of the issues in the past. Oh well!

McKenny's art is good, though, but his nose-less Mister Miracle kind of freaks me out.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Chew #23 ("Major League Chew Part 3 of 5") by John Layman (writer/letterer), Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), and Taylor Wells (color assistant). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

So, in this issue, which is 20 thin pages, Tony's ex-partner Colby manages to solve a counterfeiting case; Tony manages to get tortured, escape, and get re-captured; Layman fits in plenty of humor about Colby working at the USDA, which is populated by very busty female agents; and we get a flashback explaining why Tony was kidnapped in the first place. Layman knows how to pack a book, in other words, and it's still ridiculously entertaining. Layman bounces back and forth from Colby trying to work with his new partner (an actual lion), which is humorous, to Tony's situation, which is bizarre and still humorous but a bit scary, as Dan Franks is, after all, beating the shit out of Tony. Chew always does this well, but this issue shows this balance very well.

I'd rave about Guillory as usual, but that would get wearisome (Guillory doesn't need to be more egotistical, after all). I'll just point out that not only do we have the usual assortment of hand-drawn goofy stuff in the background, now we're getting stuff like movie stills in frames, such as the ones we see on the wall at the copy place. Guillory has done this a bit during the series, but the placement of these two was really funny.

Of course I love Chew. It's a great comic. And Layman does a really nice job doing callbacks to earlier in the series, as he does on the last page. Good stuff!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fables #113 by Bill Willingham (writer) and Todd Klein (letterer). "In Those Days" by Rick Leonardi (penciller), Ron Randall (inker), and Lee Loughridge (colorist); "A Delicate Balance" by P. Craig Russell (artist) and Lovern Kindzierski (colorist); "A Magic Life" by Zander Cannon (layouter), Jim Fern (finisher), and Lee Loughridge (colorist); "The Way of the World" by Ramon Bachs (penciller), Ron Randall (inker), and Lee Loughridge (colorist); "Porky Pining" by Adam Hughes (artist/colorist). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Willingham gives Buckingham the month off and throws another "jam comic" at us, with several short stories and vignettes about some random characters. Russell draws a beautiful story of an unfaithful queen who is punished by the king, a situation that comes around in a later story. Cannon and Fern draw the epic of Karrant, the sorceror, which is a tragic story of a minor character in the Fables-verse (who, it turns out, wasn't too minor). Hughes, who has managed to do less interior work in the past 15 years than Brian Bolland, somehow gets out three pages, which is a fun joke starring a porcupine.

I enjoy these issues of Fables, mainly because it lets Willingham have some fun with characters who hardly ever show up or are completely new. And, of course, he usually gets really good artists whose work we might not get to see too often. These fit into the grand tapestry of Fables, but they aren't the most important threads. They're just showcases, and those are cool to see every so often.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gødland #35 ("The Maximum Secret") by Joe Casey (writer), Tom Scioli (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

I'm not sure when this came out; I think it was in the final week of December, but through a sequence of events too annoying to get into now, I didn't get it until this week. That really burns my britches, because I love Gødland so much, and I knew an issue had come out and I couldn't read the damned thing!!!!!

Anyway, with two issues left, it's kind of pointless to review Gødland, and at this point, it's probably pretty futile, too. Casey is slowly going more and more metafictional, the machinations are becoming more cosmic (yes, it's true!) and insane, and Scioli is turning out page after page of magic. There's just so much weird stuff going on, and it's all glorious. I mean, Friedrich Nickelhead dances with the Almighty Decimators. Because that's what happens in Gødland!!!!!

There are some people who don't like Gødland. Those people probably watched ¡Rob! Don't be one of those people!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hellblazer #287 ("Another Season in Hell Part One: The Devil's Wager") by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), Brian Buccellato (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

You know, I've read this issue, and I cannot find any sort of wager in it, never mind one made by the devil or even someone slightly devilish. There's a bargain, but that's not the same thing, is it? Weird.

Milligan sends John back to Hell because he's wracked with guilt about leaving Gemma's mother there. Epiphany tries to point out that Gemma should STFU (see below), but John's not really doing this because Gemma is rutting with his father-in-law, although that's certainly skeevy. Whatever the reason, he ends up in Hell. As this is basically a set-up, we have to wait until the end for the big bad dude to show up (if you know your Hellblazer history, you can guess who it is), but in the meantime, Milligan hits us with a cameo by Ric the vic, which surprised the hell out of me, I'll tell you that much. I'm not sure if Milligan has made any references to other runs besides the Ennis one, but I like that he does at least that (I mean, I assume the whole "leaving his sister in Hell" references another run, but I'm talking about off-hand references).

The biggest issue I have with this issue is John crying in the beginning. I don't have a problem with John crying per se, but it seems that when he's recounting the story about leaving his sister in Hell, he'd try to man up and hold it all in, because he's acting all tough. Plus, he looks like he's bawling, which is slightly bizarre. Milligan has done a very nice job making John more of a fuck-up, but this was still odd. Oh well.

So John is back in Hell, Camuncoli makes it look very messy and sticky and generally unpleasant, and I'm looking forward, as I always am, to the next issue. Bring it on!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Morning Glories #15 (P. E. Part Three") by Nick Spencer (writer), Joe Eisma (artist), Alex Sollazzo (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $2.99, 30 pgs, FC, Image.

I've been enjoying Morning Glories more and more as Spencer begins to reveal more and more, and this issue ... man, he really raises the stakes in this one, doesn't he? We focus on Zoe and Hunter, who are still doing this Woodrun thing. Hunter meets a girl who's crushing on him, Jun is "captured" so he has to leave, and so Zoe and Hunter need to go on alone. They have a bit of excitement, but the main part of the issue is when Zoe tells Hunter that Casey is not the girl for her (and she does so rather convincingly) and when we flash back to Zoe's high school trauma. It's kind of a horror story, as Spencer slowly reveals some frightening things about Zoe, who was scary enough in the first place. It's a well-paced issue, too, and shows why DC and Marvel's hidebound clinging to 20-22 pages for an issue is silly - even though this is 30 pages and has a LOT of text, it's paced very well, so it doesn't feel like Spencer is slogging through an "infodumb." The final few pages are nicely handled - Eisma jumps back and forth between the present and the past with thin horizontal panels, creating a feeling of speed in both time periods as we rush toward the twin reveals of the issue. It's a nice way to structure the pages.

Eisma is working on another project, according to his web page, and I assume he's going to keep working on this book too. I hope Spencer doesn't kill him with these 30-page issues! That would be sad.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Near Death #5 by Jay Faerber (writer), Simone Guglielmini (artist), Ron Riley (colorist), and Charles Pritchett (letterer). $2.99, 21 pgs, FC, Image.

Last time an issue of Near Death came out, I hijacked my own review, so I promise not to do that here! It's all about this comic!!!!

So I wonder if Jay Faerber is really Markham and he's writing an autobiographical comic. Consider: Markham lives in Seattle and, in this issue, decides to move to Los Angeles. Faerber lived in Seattle (well, near it - I think he was in Gig Harbor, if I recall correctly ... and no, I never stalked Mr. Faerber, but "Gig Harbor" is just the kind of name that sticks in your mind) and then he moved to Los Angeles. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!!!!

Okay, that's all I have. But still. It's pretty eerie. I mean, it's not like Faerber would want to write a character living in his new town because he knows about that and can't go back to Seattle to check references, is it? I mean, that would be too easy, right?

So. Yes, Markham moves to Los Angeles in this issue, because Seattle has gotten a bit too hot for him. As we saw last issue, the hit man with whom he interfered in issue #1 was out for revenge, so Markham has to turn the tables on him. He calls on some people from his recent past to help and does something rather mean-spirited to get Brewster where he wants him (see below), and Faerber does a nice job in a short space making us think that perhaps Markham's new schtick won't stick. How does he resolve things? Well, you'll just have to read the issue, won't you?

Faerber has done a nice job introducing characters other than Markham in this book, and I wonder if he's going to just drop them from the book or if Markham will still have connections in the Northwest. I don't have a problem with the sudden shift - people do move, after all - but I am curious. I assume that Markham knows fewer people in Los Angeles, so he might be able to work under the radar for a while. I'm sure his past won't catch up to him in any way.

I'm also curious about Guglielmini and Riley, who have done a very nice job evoking Seattle, and how they will portray Los Angeles, which is, after all, much brighter. The tonal shift in the book - if it happens - will be interesting to track.

So the first arc of Near Death is complete, and it's a pretty solid comic. Faerber's strengths - creating good characters quickly - is evident, but the premise remains intriguing. I invite you to check out the trade!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #3 (of 6) ("A Godawful Small Affair") by Nick Spencer (writer), Wes Craig (artist), Hi-Fi (colorist), Walter Simonson (penciller), Bob Wiacek (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Simonson has two comics out this week, although this one doesn't count too much, as he only draws 5 pages. This work is fine - we do get a double-page spread of Simonson drawing a giant gun firing, which is fun - but his work on Legion of Super-Heroes is oddly sterile, unfortunately. Weird. But this isn't about LSH, it's just something that struck me!

The Simonson pages are, presumably, revealing NoMan's "dark secret," as promised on the cover, but it's kind of a stillborn secret, if you ask me. I mean, what happened sucks and all, but I'm not sure if it's that shocking a secret. The end of the book is far more shocking, I guess, as it opens up a whole new dynamic in this war. The entire book is basically NoMan reminiscing about the first time he was under the earth and, in the present, getting into the citadel of Subterranea and finding what he came for - and a whole lot more, of course. Meanwhile, the rest of the team gets in, does some damage, and then disappears for the rest of the issue.

Craig does some nice work with the art - his double-page spread is as cool as Simonson's, which is saying a lot - including some very good reaction shots, like Colleen's when Toby wonders what happened to Dynamo or NoMan's when he's remembering what happened in Subterranea the first time around. Spencer spends a bit too much time with internal narration in the latter half of the book, when Craig does a good job showing NoMan moving through the city, but I suppose I can forgive that. Craig is still doing a wonderful job on the book, and this is the latest example of it.

Basically, this is just like the first two issues. Exciting, intriguing, nice to look at. It works for me!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Thunderbolts #169 ("Medieval Crimes") by Jeff Parker (writer), Kev Walker (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Frank Martin, Jr. (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Okay, before I write about how awesome this issue of Thunderbolts was - 'cause it was - I'm going to point out the almost painful historical aspects of it. I know some people really can't stand when I do this, but it's my post, and I'm going to do it! As I have already pointed out, it diminishes the awesomeness of this issue not one whit.

So, the Thunderbolts have fallen back through time even more, to A. D. 537. This is so Parker can write a King Arthur story, and if Arthur existed, he existed sometime in the early sixth century. So Arthur and his knights show up ... in full, High Middle Ages-style armor. It's wildly anachronistic, but whatever, right? I mean, Lancelot says "Mon Dieu" even though French as a language more than likely didn't exist in 537 (Lancelot would probably speak Late Classical Latin, and Arthur would, I guess, speak some form of Celtic like Cornish or Welsh). It's utterly ridiculous, but as we know, we shouldn't let history get in the way of our enjoyment of a story. And then Grendel's sister shows up. Oh yes. Not Hunter Rose, mind you, but the monster that Beowulf killed. I didn't know he had a sister, but there she is!

There's also the matter of continuity. I'm far from the Continuity Cop that many comic book readers are, but I wonder if the Merlin who appears in this comic is the same one who gave Captain Britain his powers. Given that Captain Britain is a fairly prominent figure in Marvel history AND his origin and stories are tied so closely to Merlin (or at least they used to be), I wonder about this. This Merlin certainly could be that Merlin, centuries younger, but I don't know if Parker is specifically writing him as such. He does have a close connection to the Black Knight, which seems to imply that he's the Merlin who has survived into modern times in the Marvel Universe.

All of this silliness doesn't change the fact that this is a pretty excellent issue. Troll happens to confront the Black Knight, and when Boomerang "rescues" her (she didn't really need rescuing, after all), he takes the knight's sword. This gets Merlin into a tizzy, so he and Arthur and the Round Table knights show up to get it back. The Thunderbolts are all for that, but Hyde wants to fight, so the fight is on! One would think that the Thunderbolts would win easily, what with their fancy technology and Satana and whatnot, but they don't. Oh dear. Something much more eeeeevil is going on around Camelot!

Walker is excellent, as usual. In a couple of panels, Merlin looks almost as if Ariel Olivetti "drew" him, which isn't a good thing, but Walker redeems himself with, well, the rest of the book. Oh, except there's one odd panel where Moonstone is obviously looking down at Boomerang, Satana, and Hyde from the tower's control room, but Walker simply shows Moonstone staring off into space and the three others doing their thing, with no relation between Moonstone and the panel in which they are placed. It's very odd. We know what's happening, but it doesn't flow very well. Also, this isn't really a criticism, but I love that when the team gets into "era-appropriate" clothing, Troll looks like this:

Yes, that's what all the ladies were wearing in 537. I'm totally sure.

I'm having some fun with this, but it really is a wonderfully entertaining comic, as per usual. The ending, in particular, implies a "everything you knew is WRONG!" kind of vibe that's always fun to see. We'll see what happens next issue!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Wasteland #33 ("Houses of the Holy") by Antony Johnston (writer), Justin Greenwood (artist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $1.00, 23 pgs, BW, Oni Press.

Wasteland is back on a regular schedule, it seems, and that's very good to know, because it's lost its momentum in the past two or so years and that's a shame. New artist Justin Greenwood (whose work resembles Phil Hester's, if that's a recommendation) gets things going as Johnston checks in on Abi and Michael, who are wandering through the wilderness. They come across a town of Christians who test any "pilgrim" that shows up by making them cross a rotten bridge to the town. Michael falls through, so of course they think he's evil. One priest, Zakk, has lost his faith (see below), and of course he wants to help them. Meanwhile, there's a weird naked apparition roaming around, and this, apparently, will be a central point of the arc.

Johnston is setting things up, as it's been a long arc and even longer in time since we checked in with Abi and Michael, but his writing is good enough that we get the gist of what's going on (the recap page helps, of course, but we get more stuff in the actual script) and can easily move forward. I'm always wary of stories that appear to bash Christianity for no reason, as everyone but Zakk seems to be slightly loopy and perfectly willing to believe the worst in people just because they fall through an old, decrepit bridge. I'm curious to see where Johnston goes with it, but when the only sympathetic person in town is the one who rejects the religion of the town (Zakk has faith, but not in the priest or his religion, it seems), then I get nervous. Johnston has done a pretty good job showing different facets of religious faith and practice in this book, so I think he'll do a good job with this, but we'll see.

This isn't as good an issue as we often get with Wasteland, mainly because Johnston seems to be taking his time to re-introduce his protagonists and introduce the new characters. The best issues of Wasteland are when he can zip along and show all the characters doing things, which I'm sure is coming. However, I'm just happy it's moving along after stalling for so long (Greenwood mentions on his blog that he's done with this arc already, which is nice) that I'm not going to be too harsh with it. It's a place-setting issue, but every once in a while, we need that in a series.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems by James Sturm (writer/artist). $24.95, 186 pgs, BW, Drawn & Quarterly.

This came out in 2007, but D & Q decided to re-release it. The first Sturm book I read (Market Day) convinced me to give this a look. Don't make me regret it, Sturm!!!!

On the Odd Hours by Eric Liberge (writer/artist), Joe Johnson (translator), and Ortho (letterer). $14.95, 68 pgs, FC, NBM.

NBM continues to translate and publish these comics done in conjunction with the Louvre, and I keep buying them, because they've been pretty darned good so far. This is about a deaf night watchman at the museum who interacts with the art after everyone has gone, mainly because it comes alive. Wait, that can't be right, can it? Damned magical realism! Anyway, the art on this book is really cool, and I'm looking forward to reading this.


It's time for LINKS!!!!!

I mentioned last week that my adorable older daughter had to have surgery this past weekend, and all went well. If you want to know more, read about it here. There are pictures that are just a tiny bit icky (she had a g-tube placed in her stomach, so I took pictures of the area after the surgery), just to warn you. No blood or anything, just something that is weird because it just ain't normal.

I've seen this illustrated review of War Horse linked to in a couple of places, and it's pretty funny. I haven't even seen the movie, nor do I have any wish to. "Spielberg" and "horse as symbol" sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, or at least another E.T.-type movie, which I do not care to see. Am I the only person on the planet who not only did not cry when he saw E.T., but actively hated that little turd? Man, I loathe that movie.

Now that Tim Tebow and his shitty quarterbacking have been dispatched from the NFL playoffs, we might not see the "Tebowing" phenomenon again until next September, when in their home opener the Broncos flood the field and have Tim walk on top of it to reach the middle for the coin flip, but until then, here are several Playboy Playmates "Tebowing." It's totally safe for work, by the way. I wouldn't steer you wrong!

Speaking of safe for work and not safe for work, I'd say this link is, but the video (should you choose to watch it) is not: It's a trailer for a documentary short about a guy who has spent years trying to make a robot porn movie. Damn straight you read that correctly.

Here are some anti-SOPA Photoshops. Man, I hope that thing doesn't pass. That would suck. One day of Wikipedia being blacked out really bugged me.

Moving on, let's get to The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Just Like Fred Astaire" - James "Just met a girl who believes we can fly"2. "Year Zero" - King Swamp (1989) "Well hand me that shovel, gonna make my stand"13. "Pretty Buildings" - People in Planes (2008) "Fueled by the LSD, he looks into his future"4. "Let it Rock" - Bon Jovi (1986) "It's all right if you have a good time"5. "What Colour Is God?" - Fish (1997) "No matter what I say or do, it never looks like making any difference"6. "Atomic" - Blondie (1979) "Tonight make it magnificent"7. "Waltz #2 (XO)" - Elliott Smith (1998) "She shows no emotion at all, stares into space like a dead china doll"8. "Celebration, Florida" - Chumbawamba (2000) "They're buying up nostalgia for a time they can't remember"9. "Ooh" - Scissor Sisters (2006) "When you talk sweet things in my ear I get so hot inside I'm burning my clothes"10. "Angeleyes" - ABBA (1979) "Does it have to be the same, every time when I see him will it bring back all the pain"2

1 Remember King Swamp? Their first album is pretty darned good rock 'n' roll. The video doesn't feature the entire song, but most of it ... over a Miami Vice car chase, which is awesome.

2 If Dan ever reads the blog anymore, I'm sure he'll stop by to tell us that he has this album on a continuous loop at his home, because he loves disco ABBA (and ABBA in general so very much). Come back, Dan, we miss you!

I know I posted this fairly early, but I was trying to get it done because I have a busy day and I have a monster post I'd like to get up tonight (my hint about it: it's January), so I worked longer than usual on Wednesday to type this up. Plus, I'm taking next week off - the wife and I are going on a brief vacation, and considering the last time we managed to get away together without children was over five years ago, I think that warrants a skip week in comic book reviews. I'm sure you won't miss me!

Have a nice day, everyone!

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