What I bought - 18 March 2015

"You know that this is an authoritarian government," he told the cardinal. "And I know you do not like authoritarian governments."

"That is so, General," the cardinal replied. "I do not like them."

"But authority comes from God, Cardinal," Pinochet said.

"Authority, yes. Authoritarianism comes from men," Silva Henriquez said. (Mary Helen Spooner, from Soldiers in a Narrow Land)

Lumberjanes #12 ("Oldie but Goodie") by Aubrey Aiese (letterer), Maarta Laiho (colorist), Carolyn Nowak (artist), Noelle Stevenson (writer), Shannon Watters (writer), Whitney Leopard (associate editor), and Dafna Pleban (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

There's really not much to say about this issue of Lumberjanes, mainly because it's as good as any other issue of Lumberjanes, so if you've been enjoying the series, you'll like this issue, and you've not been enjoying the series, you should probably visit a spiritual healer because I'm pretty sure you don't have a soul. I mean, the awesomely awesome competitive scrapbooking is awesome enough, but then we get dinosaurs fighting each other, yet another clever interjection ("So let's get the Dorothy Dietrich out of here!"), and more great character development. I mean, what else do you need? Oh, yes, April and Jo as babies. Yes, they're adorable.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Little Nemo in Slumberland #4 (of 4) by Nelson Dániel (colorist), Robbie Robbins (letterer), Gabriel Rodriguez (artist), Eric Shanower (writer), Chris Ryall (editor), and Scott Dunbier (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, IDW. Little Nemo in Slumberland created by Winsor McCay.

This iteration of Little Nemo comes to an end, and while the story remains a bit weak, it's still a worthwhile comic mainly because the art is so stunning. Shanower has basically spent four issues having Jimmy - the kid the princess wants as a new playmate, even to the point that she calls him Nemo - wander around Slumberland resisting playing with the princess because he thinks she's too girly. It's the very slightest of plots, but it really doesn't matter when Rodriguez is dazzling on every page. This issue isn't quite as amazing as issue #3, which was basically mirror images of panels on almost every page, and it worked beautifully, but it's still gorgeous, and Shanower at least resolves things so that the princess, Jimmy, and Flip - the rogue whom Jimmy befriended instead of hanging out with the princess - can go have adventures. So while it will probably be a wait until the next series - I can't imagine Rodriguez can do these very quickly - at least there will be one.

The interesting thing about this series, and I very much doubt if Shanower had this in mind, is how closely it hews to the "Grease" model of boy-girl relationships. Jimmy is young, of course, so naturally he wouldn't be very interested in playing with icky girls, but it's strange that the princess would be so interested in playing with Jimmy. However, the only reason Jimmy decides that being friends with the princess would be worthwhile is because she proves that she's "as brave as anyone." Jimmy only likes the princess when she has a boys' adventure. This is fairly very true to life - my 9-year-old still doesn't play with boys too much, but when she does, it's because she's playing tag or a form of basketball they like to play - but it's interesting that Jimmy doesn't come to the realization that "playing with dolls" can be fun, but that the princess can keep up with him while he's having a boys' own adventure. Unlike the reductive attitudes of Grease, Shanower doesn't show the princess actively trying to be tougher to lure Jimmy in (and, of course, the sexual element is completely absent), but because she accidentally gets caught up in the boys' adventure, she's able to "prove" that she's a worthy playmate for Jimmy. Jimmy doesn't really have to prove that he's worthy of the princess. Even a smart guy like Shanower gets caught up in gender roles and the idea that girls can easily function in boys' stories but it's unthinkable to have boys function in girls' stories.

Or maybe I'm thinking too much about this. It's a fun comic with stunning artwork. The trade is offered in this month's Previews, if you're interested. IDW really ought to put out a slightly bigger (dimensionally) trade, because Rodriguez's art deserves it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Punks: the Comic #5 by Kody Chamberlain (artist) and Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer). $3.99, 29 pgs, BW, Image.

I'm not sure why I first picked up Punks lo those many years ago, but it probably had something to do with the utter oddity of the design, as every cover of Punks looks very much like this cover of Punks, which looks like the interior art. It probably had something to do with my enjoyment of Elk's Run, which is where I first read Fialkov's work, but who knows? Anyway, Punks disappeared, and life went on. But then Fialkov and Chamberlain brought it back, and it's as insane as it ever was. Good times!

There's very little point in reviewing any given issue of Punks, because it's highly subjective humor. We get four people living together, just like The Young Ones, except in this case it's Abraham Lincoln, Dog, Skull, and Fist. Dog has a dog head, Skull has a skull head, and Fist has a fist head (and "speaks" by holding up handy signs with words written on them). They have surreal adventures. In this issue, Lincoln turns into a pony because he has a bucket dumped comically on his head (he's cursed, don't you know). The only way he can become Abe again is by farting on someone, and Fist - who has been turned into a tree (cursed!) - can only become Fist again by being farted on. And there's an Akira homage. And origami. And Chamberlain uses photographed cut-outs to assemble the art, and it's brilliant. I think it's hilarious, but you might not. If you don't, you won't like Punks, because it's pretty much plotless, or at least whatever plots it has are just so Fialkov and Chamberlain can engage in their twisted humor. But you should check out one issue, because if you do like it, you'll kick yourself for not getting it sooner. And it's not as if you'll join it in the middle of an epic adventure anyway!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dark Horse Presents #8. "Weird Detective: The Stars Are Wrong Part One" by Josan Gonzalez (colorist), Nate Piekos (letterer), Fred van Lente (writer), and Guiu Vilanova (artist); "Tarzan and the Gods of Opar Chapter 1" by Jeremy Colwell (colorist), Mike Grell (writer/artist), and Tom Orzechowski (letterer); "Groo the Wanderer: The Kids Who Would be Kings Chapter 2" by Sergio Aragonés (artist), Mark Evanier (writer), Tom Luth (colorist), and Stan Sakai (letterer); "Semiautomagic Chapter 5" by Alex de Campi (writer/letterer), Marissa Louise (colorist), and Jerry Ordway (artist); "Dream Gang Act 2 Chapter 2" by Brendan McCarthy (writer/artist) and Nate Piekos (letterer); "Murder Book: Night Fare" by Ed Brisson (writer/letterer) and JD Faith (artist); Patrick Thorpe (contributing editor), Brendan Wright (contributing editor), Jim Gibbons (associate editor), and Mike Richardson (editor). $4.99, 48 pgs, FC, Dark Horse. Tarzan created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Grell's Tarzan story is gorgeous, no doubt, and it's always nice to see him working in comics. As I note below, the cover is distressingly predictive, as Tarzan rescues a damsel in distress even though said damsel looks perfectly capable of taking care of leopards on her own, but whatever - it's beautifully drawn, and it's a nice Tarzan adventure. Meanwhile, van Lente and Vilanova have a nice beginning to their story, which concerns a detective who somehow gained supernatural powers and the new partner who's been assigned to him so she can dig into whatever happened to him. Oh, and there's a weird crime to solve. The Groo story is Groo-like - I've never been a huge fan of the actual character, even though Aragonés's art is, unsurprisingly, terrific. McCarthy's story continues to be weird, and Brisson's "Murder Book" tales continue to be brutal. It's good to see Faith's art; I hope he gets more work.

The indicia cracks me up a little, though. "Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan" (he's not just Tarzan!) is copyright Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., while the trademark TARZAN is owned by EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS, INC. and is used with permission. This is due to the kerfuffle a few years ago when ERB, Inc. tried to keep Dynamite from using Tarzan by circumventing the public domain and trademarking "Tarzan." I guess it worked, but I thought the copyright had expired, so the first part of the indicia is unnecessary, isn't it? Can you tweak the origin or name of Tarzan just enough so that he's no longer "Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan" and you can go nuts? I would assume that Dark Horse doesn't need to state that Tarzan is copyrighted to ERB, Inc., because he's in the public domain. Copyright protects the original stories, right, and this isn't one, right? I don't know. Copyright and trademark laws make my head hurt. I just could have sworn Tarzan is in the public domain, even if ERB, Inc. trademarked the name. Whatever.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #2 by David Lapham (writer/artist) and Maria Lapham (editor). $3.50, 28 pgs, BW, Image.

Those people who don't read Stray Bullets (and really, you should all be reading Stray Bullets) might not realize how goddamned funny it is, but it is. Lapham gives us plenty of drama, of course, and people get killed fairly regularly, but the characters are often bitingly funny. It's rare to get an issue completely devoted to hijinks, though, which makes this issue so strange yet great. This is basically about Orson trying to figure out how he got crabs. Yep, that's it. He wakes up on a June morning in 1981 and realizes he has crabs, but because he got so drunk the night before, he doesn't remember how he got them. He thinks he had sex with Beth, but he doesn't know. He also thinks he robbed a liquor store, but again, he can't remember. So this issue is about him trying to find out if he had sex with Beth and if he got crabs from her. Lapham manages to give us a nice scene where Orson tries to broker a rapprochement between Beth and Nina, which doesn't go well, but that's another cool thing about the comic - it encompasses so much of everyday life, so it can be fairly slapstick but still slow down for a heartbreaking scene between the two friends where neither is willing to admit that they could have handled things better. I can't remember in which issue the scene played out, but Lapham deftly reminds us what happened so that we understand the background of their anger. And then things get kooky again.

As usual, this issue of Stray Bullets works pretty well on its own, even though it's helpful to know the back story a bit. Lapham has always been a fairly funny writer (even though he doesn't show it very often), but it's nice when he goes full-on with it every so often. It's not surprising this is a good issue, but it is a bit surprising that it's so funny.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Plunder #2 (of 4) ("Rising Tide") by Deron Bennett (letterer), Swifty Lang (writer), Skuds McKinley (artist), Jason Wordie (colorist), Chris Rosa (assistant editor), and Rebecca Taylor (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios/Archaia.

Last issue, I wrote about the idiocy of the pirates staying on board this submarine when they suspect something ain't right, even though the idiocy of characters is the one constant horror stories have going for them and Lang tried to make it plausible that they would stay on board. In this issue, they get some proof that things are pretty fucked up, but of course, it's too late to go back the way they came, even though the reason is left unexplained. That's always a crucial component of any horror story - why the hell can't they just leave where they are? - but Lang doesn't get into it. It's too bad, because otherwise, this is a perfectly good first/second act of a horror story - in Act 1, weird things happen but no one is too scared to leave, and in Act 2, everyone realizes things are really bad but now they can't leave. The translator, who early in the book is the only one who knows what's lurking, finds himself once more fighting against his own crew members, but later in the book, the rest of the pirates find out he's telling the truth. Of course they find someone who can explain what's going on, and of course things look bleak, but that's the way it is in horror stories, isn't it? Lang is using John Carpenter's playbook from The Thing pretty well, right down to the fairly unpleasant characters who nevertheless have to save the world (I assume - it hasn't come to that yet, but it feels like it's building to it). Just because it's familiar doesn't mean it's bad, though, and this is a perfectly passable horror story. McKinley does good work with the twisting of flesh, which is all that really matters, and the fact that the pirates themselves are a motley bunch of misshapen people isn't lost on me, at least.

Plunder is a decent enough comic. It would be nice if Lang doesn't follow the template too much in the final two issues, but even if he does, I imagine it will be entertaining. We'll see.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Strange Space Stories #1 (of 4). "Martian Trade" by Pat Brosseau (letterer), Gilbert Hernandez (writer/artist), and Trish Mulvihill (colorist); "Dodgeball Kill" by Giulia Brusco (colorist), Amy Chu (writer), Sal Cipriano (letterer), and Tana Ford (artist); "Chum" by Lauren Beukes (writer), Eva de la Cruz (colorist), Dale Halvorsen (writer), Christopher Mitten (artist), and Dezi Sienty (letterer); "Refugees" by Ivan Brandon (writer), Clem Robins (letterer), and Amei Zhao (artist/colorist); Greg Lockard (associate editor), Will Dennis (editor), and Rowena Yow (editor). $4.99, 32 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

The latest Vertigo anthology series is, well, a lot like all the other Vertigo anthology series. It's fun to see creators doing goofy little stories, and if we get cool art by people we don't usually see in a DC book, that's cool too. Why three of these "sports stories" are science-fiction-ey and the fourth is apocalyptic-ey is beyond me, but still. So we get a Gilbert Hernandez story about kids playing with a ball that seems to have really dark undertones that Hernandez only brushes against. It's my least favorite story because Hernandez really does seem to be phoning it in a little - the actual story is a bit underdone, and I've never been a huge fan of the Bros. Hernandez's art, but here it's even a bit worse than it usually is. The dodgeball story isn't bad - Chu's story has a decent twist, and Ford's art is terrific. I love Mitten's work, so "Chum" is fun to look at, even though I'm not quite sure what the deal is with the story. I mean, I get what happens, but Beukes and Halvorsen seem to have a lot more plot than they can fit into an 8-page story, which is too bad. It ends up being a bit convoluted. Finally, Brandon's twist on the apocalypse is not bad, even though the sports aspect seems a bit shoehorned in.

As with most of these Vertigo anthologies, none of the stories will really resonate too much, but I love seeing these little slices of weirdness, especially when I see artists I'm unfamiliar with or ones I like doing some unusual things. So while it's not the greatest comic, it's definitely worth a look.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Tüki #3 by Tom Gaadt (colorist) and Jeff Smith (writer/artist). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Cartoon Books.

Jeff Smith's new comic comes out agonizingly slowly, as this is the first issue this year, so I'm just going to buy it and barely comment on it, because even when it does come out, it makes Brian Michael Bendis throw up his hands and yell, "Get to the fucking point already!" That doesn't mean I don't like it - Smith's art is always a delight to see, and the idea of "the first man to leave Africa" is compelling. I don't quite get the fact that Smith seems to throw magical creatures into the mix almost randomly - I mean, in this issue there's a monkey whose mother, I guess, was a piranha, given the way it acts - but it's a pretty cool story so far. The biggest problem is one of tone - Smith's art is cartoonish, which automatically implies a certain tone, and his characters aren't exactly goofy, but even when something horribly violent happens, it's presented in almost a comical way, but then we get Tüki getting introduced to a young girl and leering at her (she's pubescent, at least, but still far younger than he is), which probably makes sense in the context of pre-history but is pretty danged creepy based on modern sensibilities and the tone of the book. It will be interesting to see how Smith balances this out.

Anyway, it's a slow book, but it's a Jeff Smith book. That means it's probably pretty good!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Identities #2 by Ed Dukeshire (letterer), Jay Faerber (writer), Brian Joines (writer), Charlie Kirchoff (colorist), Ilias Kyriazis (artist), and Ron Riley (colorist). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

I enjoyed the first issue of Secret Identities, as Faerber knows how to craft an issue that sets things up very well, but I really liked this issue, as we're into the story a bit more and Joines and Faerber can start putting all the wheels in motion even more. We get a bit of back story about Crosswind (Faerber, as he does whenever he writes a superhero comic for Image, reminds us that they all exist in the same universe, which is fun) before we rejoin the rest of the gang in the present. Crosswind is a member of the Front Line now, but that doesn't mean everyone is pals with him, and Recluse - the creepy spider dude - has some suspicions about him. Meanwhile, like Peak Claremont (that's a compliment, by the way), Faerber and Joines keep reminding us about stuff they introduced in the first issue - Gaijin's familial problems take center stage in this issue, as she rousts a gang that works for her gangster brother, but the writers remind us about the other plot elements too, and even imply that there's about to be a new superpowered being getting an origin soon. Faerber has worked like Peak Claremont for years, and it's clear that Joines is full on board, too. I don't know how the writers split the writing duties, but I love comics like this, where there's a main plot but we still get plenty of subplots to keep the book cooking. There are at least, what, five subplots in this very comic, and at no time do any of them feel forced into the narrative. I've been saying this for years, but if you miss Peak Claremont comics, you should read Faerber's superhero comics, because the dude knows what he's doing.

If you want the full effect of Peak Claremont, however, you have to have a good artist, and Kyriazis is killing it so far on this comic. There are two double-page spreads in this comic that are absolutely astonishing - when we get our first look at the team in action in this issue, they're at Niagara Falls fighting the Five Stages (a supervillain group that apparently makes you feel the five stages of grief - Faerber and Joines can do wacky, too). Kyriazis has a wide spread of the falls, but then he circles places on the page and uses long, thin panels above them (it looks like exclamation points revolving around the central focus of the page) showing the action happening in the circles in more details. It's a fantastic way to show the people in action while still giving the scope of the battle. Later, when Recluse and Gaijin fight the gangsters, Kyriazis goes a bit more traditional, but he still tilts the page up to the right to make it appear our heroes are battling uphill, making it look more difficult, and he uses a grid of smaller panels to focus on the small moment of violence within the bigger fight. It's really amazing. The rest of the book is laid out more traditionally, but Kyriazis's line work is fantastic, whether he's drawing a down-on-his-luck Crosswind at the beginning of the comic or showing an alien world and giant robots (yeah, that's right). Kirchoff and then Riley are very good colorists, and the book is vibrant when it has to be and even when it's darker, Riley doesn't overwhelm us with blacks. Unlike a lot of comics that appear to look fine digitally but aren't very bright when printed, the darker parts of this comic do look like someone realized the printed version needed to be a bit brighter. That's always refreshing.

I knew I'd probably like Secret Identities, but it's better than I thought it would be. Put down that listless issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws and get this instead! You won't be sorry!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batgirl #40 ("Ghost in the Cowl") by Brendan Fletcher (writer), Jared K. Fletcher (letterer), Cameron Stewart (writer/breakdowner), Babs Tarr (artist), Maris Wicks (colorist), Dave Wielgosz (assistant editor), and Chris Conroy (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC. Barbara Gordon created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. Black Canary created by Denny O’Neil and Dick Dillin.

So I guess there was a kerfuffle about the variant cover of issue #41? I'll get to that below. For now, let's talk issue #40!

The first arc of the reimagined Batgirl comes to an end, and it's a nice way for the creators to wrap it up. I always like superhero comics where the superhero doesn't necessarily fight the bad guy, so while Babs actually does fight someone in the issue, it's kind of hard to punch a computer, and despite Hugh Jackman trying to make it look sexy, programming one isn't that exciting either. So Babs has to talk the computer Babs (let's give her a good name, like, I don't know, "Oracle") down, and I appreciate that. Especially because there is some good ol' fashioned ultra-violence for those who like that kind of thing. So everything is reconciled, I assume the cop Babs is sort-of dating has figured out who she is (see below), and Dinah turned into Dazzler so gradually nobody noticed. Tarr, as usual, is phenomenal on this issue, as she's really the perfect artist for the tone that the writers have set down - her work is fluid so that she can do fight scenes really well, but at the same time she can handle the "civilian" scenes very well, which is where the book gets its heart. This has been a really good arc, and I hope everyone is ready for another one after the silly "Convergence" stuff is done. And no, I'm not buying the "Endgame" stuff, either. So there.

I do have to mention something about the credits, though. Under all the creators and editors, we get "Batman created by Bob Kane." Double-U Tee Eff? The Caped One does not actually show up in this comic, so what the crap is that doing here? I mean, FSM forbid that DC actually credit the creators of the characters who do show up, but do they have to put Bob Kane in every book that's even tangentially related to Batman? That seems insane. I mean, actually insane. Is Bob Kane's ghost haunting Danny D and ordering him to put a credit on books that have the barest connection to Batman? "OoooOOOOooooh, Danny D, if you don't put a 'created by' credit on Green Arrow because he's so obviously a rip-off of my totally original character, I'll tell everyone where your signed deal with Satan is!!!!" I just don't get it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mind Mgmt #31 ("The Immortals Chapter 1") by Matt Kindt (writer/artist), Ian Tucker (assistant editor), and Brendan Wright (editor). $3.99, 25 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

The final arc of Mind Mgmt is here, and while it's too bad that it will soon be out of our lives, the good news is that we can always re-read it! Yay, comics!

Kindt does his thing in this issue, as Meru and Henry Lyme are reunited, the Eraser is making moves, and Salvador Dali gets to make a movie with a giant animatronic flamingo. Yeah, you read that right. Salvador Motherfucking Dali. He's in this issue. Making a movie. With a giant animatronic flamingo. You got a problem with that?

I love Mind Mgmt, so of course I like this issue, but of course it's not the best place to jump on. However, if you're interested in jumping on, Kindt cleverly provides a recap, which is incorporated nicely into the narrative. It's just one reason why Kindt is such a good comics creator - he figures out ways to make his comics accessible without slowing us down too much. The recap is Meru explaining, in book form, what has happened to her, and it's nifty to see. Kindt just knows what he's doing, man!

(Speaking of Dali, if you haven't seen Jodorowsky's Dune yet, you really should check it out. Jodorowsky wanted Dali to play the emperor of the galaxy, who happens to be insane. Man, I wish that movie had gotten made, even though it sounds like it would have been a total clusterfuck.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Zero #15 ("Where Flesh Circulates") by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Ian Bertram (artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), and Ales Kot (writer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

I have never read anything by William S. Burroughs, nor do I have any inclination to do so. Burroughs seems like an asshole, and whatever short stuff I've seen from him make his writings seem like crap, as if he's masquerading as someone clever even though it's all artifice. Now, that's just an impression, and it's pretty meaningless because I've never read him in any depth, but nothing I've read about Burroughs makes me want to read his work (and I actually like the movie Naked Lunch, even though I have no idea if it's anything like his written work). Many comics writers, perhaps not surprisingly, tend to be obsessed with Burroughs, and so he shows up in this issue of Zero, which makes somewhat good use of him. He's in Tangier, typing away (presumably working on Naked Lunch), and he appears to presage the coming of Edward Zero. As a prophet, Burroughs works pretty well, so the fact that he's writing about Zero is a clever device, and Kot ties it into the weird shit happening to Edward in the future. After a few issues of fighting, it's nice that Kot has gotten back to the weird crap that made Zero a neat comic in the first place, and he advances the plot even as he writes page after page of turgid Burroughs-esque prose (or maybe some of it is actual Burroughs prose - who the hell knows?). Bertram (his name is misspelled on the back of the issue, which is weird) does marvelous work on this issue, as his thick lines and busy inking style give the book a real "Crumb-like" feel, which fits in with the Burroughs sections and the parts with Zero and the fungus that is attacking his body. Part of the fun of Zero is seeing what the artist brings to the table, and Bertram does a good job with this weird, dreamlike issue.

Has anyone read Burroughs? Is he crap or a genius? Not that I'm actually going to read his work, but I wonder what people think of him.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Red One #1 ("Welcome to America Part 1") by Clayton Cowles (letterer), Rachel Dodson (inker), Terry Dodson (penciler), and Xavier Dorison (writer). $2.99, 32 pgs, FC, Image.

Back in December, when Red One was solicited, one of our commenters, P.C. Bernard, noted that the solicits failed to mention that when Vera Yelnikov is sent to the United States and told to become a superhero, she gets a job in porn. Actual Horrible Person Travis Pelkie claimed that made the book sound even better, but look at this - I actually bought it, so what does that make me? One reason I bought it was just to check it out - I've always liked Dodson's art, but he's usually drawing comics for Marvel that I have no interest in (this week, his Princess Leia comic came out, too, and I have no interest in that), so I wanted to see what he was doing here. I've also liked Dorison's work in the past, even though I haven't read a lot of it. The idea of a Soviet bombshell becoming an American superhero is a pretty neat idea, and despite the porn, I thought that Dodson, who likes drawing cheesecake but has never, as far as I know, gone too far beyond "relatively innocent sexpot," wouldn't make this too tawdry. So there you have it! But is this issue any good?

It's not bad, actually. Dodson does really good work on the art, as the attack on Bobby and Lyn early in the comic is great, as the "Carpenter" - a vigilante - takes their car out and kills them pretty horrifically, and Dodson's line work and layouts are superb. Then he introduces Vera, and of course she's a typical Dodson woman, as in curvaceous and corn-fed yet still coy and innocent, even when she enjoys an orgy in the middle of the issue (not that Dodson and Dorison show it, but we see the participants all sleeping, naked, in the same bed, so you do the math). Of course, she doesn't fit into her "superhero costume" because her boobs are too big, but like so many Dodson drawings, it's not totally skeevy but somehow charming. As this is a European comic, it's packed with panels, and Dodson does a great job with the storytelling, and Vera's acting is great throughout. She plays the role of innocent sexpot well, as she obviously is far more capable than she wants people to know, and we're in on the joke. The book is set in 1977, so Dodson gets to draw some nice fashion, too.

Dorison's story does involve the porn industry, but it's not like we see any dongs going in or anything. Lyn is a porn actress who gets killed by the Carpenter after a run-in with a very judgmental Christian group and its matronly leader, Jacky Core, who I'm just going to assume is a lot more evil than she's letting on. Dorison comes up with a fairly weak excuse for Vera to head to the States and become a superhero - if the Carpenter continues to gain popularity, Jacky Core, who thinks he's awesome, will gain popularity, and when she runs for office in a few months, she will block the SALT treaty and the Cold War will get hot. Why the Russians think that an unknown woman who hasn't even run for office yet will have any effect on international diplomacy is not explored, but we'll just have to chalk this up to COMICS! and move on. Dorison does a good job establishing that Vera enjoys sex without, again, being too skeevy about it (it's gotten better in recent years, but the idea of a woman enjoying sex is still a salacious subject because men think they're sluts), and he does a good job showing how life in the U.S.S.R. in the late 1970s might have worked (presumably Dorison does not have first-hand knowledge of it, as he was 5 years old in 1977). He does a pretty good job with all the characters, too, introducing quite a few of them and setting up Vera's jobs - her cover and her clandestine one. Dorison even has a good sense of humor about it all, although I do wonder if naming Vera "Alabama Jane" on her passport when her cover says that she is from Alabama is a joke or not. I thought it was funny.

All in all, this is more innocent than "Soviet spy gets a job in the porn industry" sounds, but it's still sexy only because Dodson could draw Ruth Bader Ginsburg and it would be sexy. The wonkiness of the premise aside, it's not a bad way to introduce a Soviet spy to the United States, so I guess I'll get issue #2 to see where it goes from here. That's a ringing endorsement, isn't it?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Ei8ht #2 (of 5) by Rafael Albuquerque (story/artist/colorist), Mike Johnson (story/writer), Nate Piekos (letterer), Spencer Cushing (assistant editor), and Sierra Hahn (editor). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

In issue #2, we get a bit more information about what's going on in the various time periods. A scientist in the present trying to get to the Meld is zapped by lightning and is instead thrown millennia back in time. Joshua is stuck in the Meld, still trying to figure out what's going on, and he discovers something significant about Nila, the woman who rescued him and who he thinks was the voice on the radio back in issue #1. The ruling council of the village where Nila lives, meanwhile, wants to appease the Tyrant by giving Joshua to him, even though Nila thinks he can be useful in a fight against the Tyrant. Given that the Tyrant's right-hand man, the Spear, is an SS officer, the parallels to appeasing Nazis can't be coincidental. We also learn about a deadly virus that killed a bunch of people in the Meld when the Spear first arrived. So there's that.

It's certainly intriguing, which is nice. Albuquerque and Johnson have chucked a lot of balls in the air, and of course they're all going to intersect as the story moves forward. We still don't get much in the way of character development - we know that Joshua volunteered for the mission because of his sick wife, but that's about it - but obviously, the writers are going for pulpy plot instead of worrying about characterization. I don't care too much, as long as the plot holds up. So far, as I noted, it's fine.

Albuquerque, of course, remains stellar on art. Specifically, we get our first look at the Tyrant in this issue, and he looks like he stepped off the set of a Vin Diesel science-fiction movie. He's awesome - he wears a many-plated helmet with short rams' horns on it, and he paints tears onto his cheeks, which makes him look insane but awesome. Albuquerque's colors are phenomenal (I still don't like that he provided a handy guide to distinguishing the time periods, but whatever) and his designs are terrific. If you're not a fan of Albuquerque's art, I actually feel bad for you. It's very sad.

I'm sure this will make a nice trade, but so far, the single issues have been pretty good. That's all I can ask!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Courtney Crumrin volume 7: Tales of a Warlock by Ted Naifeh (writer/artist), Warren Wucinich (colorist), Jill Beaton (series editor), and Robin Herrera (collection editor). $24.99, 114 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

So these are stories about Aloysius, right? Sounds neat.

Giant Robot Warrior Maintenance Crew by Dawnson Chen (colorist), Nate Hill (writer), and Mervyn McKoy (artist). $9.99, 68 pgs, FC, Cosmic Times.

I got the first and third issues of this three-issue series, but my store got shorted on the second issue, and given that it's from a tiny publisher, he was never able to get it. So I got the trade. That kind of bugs me. I didn't read the third issue, of course, but the first was pretty decent. We shall see how the entire thing shakes out.

Madame Frankenstein by Crank! (letterer), Nick Filardi (toner), Megan Levens (artist), and Jamie S. Rich (writer). $16.99, 156 pgs, BW, Image.

Everyone likes Frankenstein stories, right?

Master Keaton volume 2 by Steve Dutro (letterer), Hokusei Katsushika (writer), Takashi Nagasaki (writer), Naoki Urasawa (artist), John Werry (adapter/translator), and Amy Yu (editor). $19.99, 312 pgs, BW, Viz Signature.

I missed volume 1 of this series when it was offered, but I'm looking forward to getting it and reading both of these volumes. I don't buy very much manga, but I do like what I get, so I'm hoping this is good.

Tex: The Lonesome Rider by Pete Carlsson (adapter/letterer), Joe Kubert (artist), Claudio Nizzi (writer), and Philip R. Simon (adapter/editor). $49.99, 230 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.


The Usagi Yojimbo Saga book 2 by Sergio Aragonés (inker, "Return to Adachi Plain"), Tom Luth (colorist, "Green Persimmon"), Stan Sakai (writer/artist), Jamie S. Rich (series editor), Diana Schutz (series editor), Ian Tucker (assistant editor), and Brendan Wright (collection editor). $24.99, 639 pgs, (mostly) BW, Dark Horse.

I haven't read the first volume yet, but I probably won't for a while anyway. I've always wanted to get into Usagi Yojimbo, so this is a good way to do it!

Money spent this week: $174.65. YTD: $1274.34. (I appreciate Melissa's trouble with culling her pull list, but I chuckled a bit when she wrote that she would probably get 8-10 books a month. This was a bit of a big week, but I got fourteen single issues and six collections. Do I need help? Should I get Melissa over here to cull my comics?!?!?!?)


Okay, so this has been a fun week to be a comics fan, hasn't it? Speaking of Batgirl and Rafael Albuquerque, his Joker variant caused quite a stir. I enjoy reading the thinkpieces about it, because thinkpieces are always fun. People do seem to think it's censorship and that we shouldn't bow down to pressure from a "vocal minority," but they fail to realize that Albuquerque and Cameron Stewart wanted the cover pulled. Albuquerque drew it, sure, but when Stewart saw it, he asked DC if they could maybe not put it on a comic that, tonally, is completely different from what the cover showed. Albuquerque, respecting Stewart's wishes, agreed. Done and done, right? The Mothership, among others, has the story, but they had to add an update later because DC's milquetoast press release failed to mention that the threats of violence were made not against Albuquerque, but against people who objected to the cover. Yes, welcome to the Internet, here's a typical exchange: "Man, I don't like that cover because it reminds me that Barbara was sexually assaulted by the Joker." "DIE IN A FUCKING FIRE, YOU FUCKING FASCIST. I HOPE YOU GET GANG-RAPED!!!!!"

Anyway, I don't give a shit. I agree with Stewart that, for the tone he and Fletcher and Tarr have created for the book, it's probably not the best cover. But it's a fucking variant. Usually those are just given to people who order them, and those people don't care about tone, they just want the variant. Most collectors are somewhat tone-deaf anyway, so if they got a variant of the Joker broom-raping Jason Todd, they'd think it was perfectly fine and just slab it and move on with their lives. One thing I do wonder is why this even went public. DC included it in the solicits that went out this week (as of 4 p.m. on Friday, 20 March, the variant is still listed), but why wouldn't they run it by Stewart before it went public? Isn't that common courtesy? Then none of this would have been even the tempest in a teapot it became. It just seems weird that the first time Cameron Stewart saw this is when DC announced it. That's kind of a douchey move by DC. Oh, wait, that's not surprising.

Stewart was fighting a war on two fronts, too, as he took on Erik Larsen, too. Larsen was a bit upset by female superhero costume redesigns that don't show enough skin, so Stewart shot back. Larsen actually quit Twitter briefly before returning with this:

Meanwhile, we got some nice redesigns for Savage Dragon. Let's face it, his costume isn't sexy enough!

And speaking of "vocal minorities," Greg Hatcher linked to this excellent piece about that phenomenon. Old men are getting left behind, and they don't like it!

As with the Joker variant, I don't really give a shit. As many people have pointed out, if you can't find superheroines dressed in skimpy clothing, you're really not trying that hard. It's clear that the creators of Captain Marvel and Batgirl are trying to appeal to a female teen audience, and maybe they don't want to show teen girls that they can only be taken seriously if they wear skin-tight clothing with lots of holes in it. I just like Twitter battles. The 140 character limit makes them like boxing matches where the rounds last 10 seconds. I'd watch that!

The other big thing in comics rage, one that's more serious than the Joker variant, was Chris Sims being announced as the writer on X-Men '92, a new series debuting in June. This drew the ire of Valerie D'Orazio, who called him out for being a cyberbully. She tweeted about it - the tweets are collected here, and here is a nice summary of everything. This is an interesting story. I read Sims's work a lot more back in 2007-2010, when the bullying took place, than I do now (he doesn't write as much, and I don't have as much time), and I remember his disdain for D'Orazio's work. I don't think I ever saw the post where he asked if she was going to cry and called her a little girl, but maybe I did. Sims always has had a bit of an edge to him, but it always seemed to me that when he criticized someone, he criticized their work and not them. But again, I didn't read everything he wrote. The timing of his apology is a bit suspect, of course, as his highest-profile work is about to drop, but that doesn't mean it's insincere. Like a lot of people, I'm a bit skeptical about D'Orazio's statement that she got PTSD from Sims's bullying, but as with pretty much everything, I can't really speak for her, can I? If she says she's traumatized, we should believe her. Here's the thing, though - if you check out the summary link up there, you can follow it back to blog posts from 2008, when this thing was in full swing. D'Orazio does not acquit herself well, and plenty of women were criticizing her for her behavior back then. That throws a bit of a spanner into the works - of course Sims was bullying her, but was she bullying others? And were the women bloggers writing about her bullies as well? I don't know. I've never had any interaction with D'Orazio, and while I've met Sims, it was for a few minutes in San Diego years ago and, naturally, he seemed like a perfectly nice fellow. But, again, I don't know him. I do wonder what D'Orazio wants from this. I don't think she's going to get him fired. It seems like she hasn't accepted his apology, which is her right, but does she want something else? The only consequences Sims will suffer is that Marvel might fire him, but again, I don't think that's going to happen. I saw a tweet that someone hopes his Marvel work is scrutinized as much as D'Orazio's, which is fair enough. I didn't buy D'Orazio's Punisher comic, and I'm not planning on buying X-Men '92. I just wonder what consequences people think Sims should suffer. Has he changed? Beats me. Does anyone care if he's changed? Beats me. Stay tuned, I suppose.

In weirder comics news, Colleen Doran was banned from Facebook for posting a picture of a naked woman. Here is said picture:

Oh, the horror! The horror! So, yeah. Facebook is weird.

In the real world, there was a shooting in Mesa, near where I live, on Wednesday. It happened about four miles almost directly north of where I live, but the suspect didn't wander far from that area, so nothing happened down here (I went to the comics shoppe while the suspect was roaming around, but I hadn't heard about it yet so didn't think anything of it). I will point out that the shooter is a white male supremacist. I know, shocking. I have yet to see him referred to as a terrorist. I wonder why. Oh, yes, terrorists are all swarthy. Got it.

I found this story interesting. East Portland wants to secede from the city. That's always an unusual thing. We'll see how it works out for them.

In lighter news, here's a brief history of the merkin in Hollywood. Yes, indeed.

And it appears that Mr. T is the latest celebrity to get a home improvement show. And yes, it will be called I Pity the Tool. Oh, television. How I love you.

It's anniversary time - as I noted on Facebook, the 19th of March was the 25th anniversary of Andrew Wood's death. Wood, of course, was the lead singer of Mother Love Bone, which released their only album, Apple, a few months after his death. I love Apple - it's one of my favorite albums, and I'm bummed that MLB didn't last longer. Of course, Wood might be more of a footnote if two of his band mates hadn't gone on to start Pearl Jam. As much as I like Pearl Jam, I would rather that Crazy Eddie had remained a surf bum if we got more Mother Love Bone. Anyway, the fact that it's been 25 years makes me feel really old. Dang.

Speaking of anniversaries, my 10th anniversary of writing for this blog is in a couple of days. I was, along with Chad (remember Chad?), the first "outsider" that Brian invited to join the blog after a bunch of the founders quit (some came back), and, if you believe Joe Rice, my first post was the moment when the blog officially went straight to hell (I kid, I kid ... but not completely). It has been great blogging here for 10 years, and I'm always appreciative that Brian asked me to join and still a bit mystified that he did. I've met a lot of cool people because of this blog, plus I really love the community we have here, both the great writers and the great commenters. The blog has gone through a lot of changes - the latest one is this annoying "large print" text of the posts! - and I still think this is one of the best comics blogs out there. So thanks, Brian, and thanks to everyone who has commented on my posts over the years, even if you were picking on me (I cried every single time I was insulted, I'll tell you that much). I have no intention of going anywhere, believe you me!

I've gone on too long for a Top Ten list, so I'll go right to the Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Around the Dial" - Kinks (1981) "Did you lose control? Did you step out of line?"2. "Overfloater" - Soundgarden (1996) "Hold the potion up, tear your shadow down"3. "Gone Daddy Gone" - Violent Femmes (1983) "Beautiful girl, lovely dress, where she is now I can only guess"4. "My Name Is Prince" - Prince (1992) "Big cars and women and fancy clothes will save your face but it won't save your soul"5. "Ode to a Life" - Mary's Danish (1992) "I'm so afraid and I just can't fake it"16. "Rock of Ages" - Def Leppard (1983) "No serenade, no fire brigade, just pyromania"27. "Dirty Paws" - Of Monsters and Men (2011) "The forest that once was green was colored black by those killing machines"8. "Howl" - Florence + the Machine (2009) "I hunt for you with bloody feet across the hallowed ground"9. "I Don't Believe You" - Magnetic Fields (2004) "You may set your charm on stun and say I'm delightful and fun, but you say that to everyone"10. "She's the One" - World Party (1997) "We were young, we were wrong, we were fun all along"3

1 Man, I miss Mary's Danish. They were a great band.

2 In a roundabout way, this song takes us to Bad Boys, where we see Clancy Brown's glorious hair (in his very first role!):

3 This is one of my favorite songs (I know, I have a lot of favorites). World Party is another band I miss. It's such a shame that Wallinger had such health problems, although it's certainly great that he's not dead.

Man, this got heavy after the reviews, didn't it? Instead of Totally Random Lyrics, here's Sophie Turner dancing to make your day a bit brighter:

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

The Marvel Universe Has a New - and Even Deadlier - Kingpin

More in Comics