What I bought - 18 October 2006

Another huge week in the comic book world.  Luckily, my children have told me they don't want to go to college as they plan to run away and join the circus when they're 14, so I have no need to save money!  Yippee!  Lots of good stuff came out, so let's check it out!  Our theme today: nothing spectacular, just good solid entertainment.  Who needs masterpieces when you can get 22 pages of fun?

The Authority #1 by Grant "Peyote?  Me?" Morrison and Gene Ha.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

I'm about to say something I never thought I'd say about a Grant Morrison book.  No, not that I didn't like it, because I haven't liked some of his stuff in the past.  This is worse.  This book is boring.

I know.  Even when I don't like Morrison's work, he's always interesting.  Not here, though.  We get pages and pages of Ken, who works for the British government in some capacity, and his domestic problems, and then the exciting scenes of his team's submarine descending into the Norwegian Sea to investigate a geological anomaly.  A Norwegian navy submarine reported the anomaly, but then something happened, the submarine sank, and when the team gets there, the crew has been killed.  Is it terrorists (or "terrrorists," as the text reads at one point)?  Is it Orca?  Morrison is going for a slow buildup of tension, but he doesn't really bring it off, because there's so much dull stuff that happens prior to the team actually getting to the submarine.  Ken is having problems with his wife, Joan, and while Morrison captures the ennui of their relationship well, I can't see how it has any bearing on a group of super-people who beat up bad guys.  And if it does (and it probably does, or else why mention it?), did we have to start the book with it?  Meanwhile, the anomaly is the Authority's ship, which is at the bottom of the ocean.  What could have happened?  We're supposed to be all jazzed by the revelation, but I guess I'm jaded, because it meant very little to me.  I mean, the Midnighter and the Engineer are right there on the cover, so I assume they're going to show up eventually.  I'm a bit confused as to why a government employee doesn't know about the Authority's ship, but I'll get into the "World Storm" when we get to Wildcats, down below.

Even, unfortunately, Gene Ha's art can't save this.  Apparently he's only doing four issues, but that's okay, because if this is any indication, he's not really cutting loose here.  The colors in the book are awful - everything is washed in gray, and it ruins Ha's fine lines, but even when we can see his work, it's rather uninspired.  There are some beautiful pages - Joan leaving the house with her suitcase is gorgeous - but overall, it's dull.  And there is far too much of that cinematic "out-of-focus" crap, when part of the panel is in focus and another part isn't.  This isn't a movie, so we don't have to worry about cameras that can't do "deep focus."  It's annoying.

This is a hugely disappointing book.  I realize the concept of the Authority is kind of played out, but that doesn't mean a good writer couldn't revive it.  Surprisingly enough, it does not look like Morrison is that writer.  I will have to ponder long and hard whether to give the second issue a chance, but I doubt I will, because I have no interest in finding out why the ship is on the bottom of the ocean.  And that's a shocking development, when I have no interest in where Morrison is going with a story.

Casanova #5 by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá.  $1.99, Image.

Speaking of books in which I have no interest, that does not describe Casanova at all.  I mentioned this last month, why it is good to sell books for cheaper prices (I know it's not feasible, but still): I like every issue of Casanova a bit more, and I'm still not sure if I would have stuck with it this long if it had been 3 dollars.  Just that one dollar difference means I kept giving it a shot as it grew on me, while something that sells for $2.99 (like The Creeper) is no longer in my hot little hands, because I just don't want to wait for it to get good, if it ever does.  So although I know the price of comics will never drop, I'm glad that Image is at least trying something, because then I can buy this a little longer than usual and see if it gets good.

And it is getting better with each issue.  It's possible that I like it more because I am finally figuring out the characters, but I'm not entirely sure that's it, because I'm still not sure what the deal is with Casanova and his double-agent life.  I'm sure there are smarter readers out there who could enlighten me, but don't bother - at some point I'll go back and re-read these issues and puzzle things out (possibly after issue #7, which is the end of "volume one").  This issue is fun on its own, without us worrying too much about the overall story.  Casanova is sent to Coldheart Island, home of the last tribe of pre-neolithic people on earth.  They are cut off from the outside world for most of the year, but now Casanova has to go in, because there's a guy living on the island who is terribly important in Seychelle's criminal empire.  The natives are not very nice, protecting their lifestyle with a vengeance, so we get to see some fun slaughter on United Nations observers, but when Casanova manages to get onto the island, he discovers that the natives aren't as pre-neolithic as everyone thought.  They're actually far more advanced than any other culture in the world, thanks to Seychelle's experimentations, and Cole, the guy who Casanova is supposed to grab, has turned the island into a technological paradise.  Casanova thinks it's great, so he goes native - for a time.  It's a nice little story that brings us back to his mother and his problems with protecting her.  The madness of the book is fine, but as usual, it's the humanity that makes it tick.

Fraction, in the text piece in the back, talks about Peter Jackson's King Kong and how, in an effort to be faithful to the original, he portrayed the natives in as racist a manner as it did, and how disappointing it was.  He plays on that stereotype for the first part of the issue, as the natives are in full "African" regalia and shouting unintelligible things at the visitors.  Of course, they speak perfect English later and mock the outside world, but it's interesting that Fraction falls a bit into the same stereotypes that Jackson and hundreds like him have in the past.  Cole, who brings all this technology to the natives, is white, and he has a paternalistic attitude toward the islanders.  They go along with it because he has made their lives better, presumably, but how is Cole any different from the various British and other European missionaries who brought "civilization" to Africa in the nineteenth century?  I wonder if Fraction considered that while he was writing the story.

Casanova continues to improve, however, and it's something I'm beginning to look forward to more and more.  I hope they can get back on track after the end of "volume one" - I assume it's to keep a monthly schedule while the book comes out, and I appreciate their efforts.  It's a neat comic book.

Catwoman #60 by Will Pfeifer, David López, and Alvaro López. $2.99, DC.

Adam Hughes, dissatisfied with drawing one Catwoman hanging out of her costume, goes for two this month!  Still, that's a nice cover.  I just find it humorous.

Next month's issue is "to be concluded," and I hope Pfeifer sends the Film Freak somewhere and doesn't use him for a while, because even though I think he's nifty, I fear overuse of the character.  This issue is quite good, as the GIANT GORILLA from last issue rampages through Gotham, but I have a feeling the filmic nods will get annoying after too long.  The first page of the book is a clever homage to Kane's death scene in Citizen Kane, and at the end, Edison has decided to skip from the 1930s to the 1960s and redo a scene from Dr. Strangelove (he's crazy, so I'll let you decide which one), but this schtick, like any other, can only last so long.  Know when to fold 'em, Mr. Pfeifer!

In the meantime, Selina breaks Holly out of police headquarters.  It's a fine rescue, as Selina thinks to herself what a fine time for a distraction this is, just as Edison unleashes the GIANT GORILLA on the cops.  As they try to escape, Selina goes all "protector of the innocent" and decides she has to stop the GIANT GORILLA's rampage before the cops kill it.  The scene allows Pfeifer to get in some wonderful comic booky dialogue: Holly says, "What the hell is it?" and Selina calmly answers, "It's a GIANT GORILLA, Holly.  What does it look like?"  Holly wonders where it came from, and Selina has a retort: "We live in a strange world, Holly.  There are a lot of GIANT GORILLAs out there."  You know, despite the fact that the chances of you getting killed probably rise exponentially, I want to live in a comic book world!  Selina saves the day, naturally, and heads for home, where her babysitter figures out that these events are all related to movies.

The subplot of the baby daddy continues a bit, as Slam shows up very drunk and Edison points out how cliched he is, which is kind of funny.  The baby thing is weirding me out, as several people have jumped Pfeifer's shit because "Helena" (Selina's kid) should have been Helena Wayne, who later became the Huntress.  Jesus, people, get a grip.  I think it's neat that Pfeifer named the kid Helena as a nod to those long-ago, not-only-did-they-never-happen-but-back-then-they-weren't-even-"real" stories.  This kid has nothing to do with the old Earth-Whatever stories, and if it did, I would be seriously disappointed in Pfeifer.  As for Sam (possibly) being the kid's father, so what?  Selina got busy with a friend one time and got pregnant.  Isn't that probable?  The reaction has been weird, I think.

Anyway, another solid issue from Pfeifer and López.  It's a pleasure to read a nicely put together comic book like this.

Checkmate #7 by Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, Cliff Richards, Bob Wiacek, and Dan Green.  $2.99, DC.

Reviewing this month's Checkmate is like reviewing, I don't know, The Dirty Dozen.  It's an action movie - a better than average action movie, but still.  The bad guys from last issue, who were ambushed when they tried to steal the source of power in Burma - said source of power being a young boy - fight their way through a bunch of soldiers, find out who betrayed them, take sufficiently villainous revenge, and just when things look bad, Flag and the Bronze Tiger come in and save their bacon.  Checkmate can claim plausible deniability, Amanda Waller is cooking up some scheme, and the Burmese get embarrassed.  All is well.

It's a perfectly good way to get this mission done, with guns blazing and people griping at each other and double-dealings getting dealt.  It will be interesting to see how Waller continues to work within Checkmate and still run operations, which I presume it partly why this two-parter existed.  This is not a great issue, but it gets the job done efficiently, and with a lot of property damage.

I do wonder, however, why it took three writers to write this.  Strange.

The Damned #1 (of 5) by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt.  $3.50, Oni Press.

The conceit of The Damned is interesting - demons living on earth as gangsters in the 1920s.  Our main character, Eddie, is a man who has apparently made some deal with one of these demons, because it's very difficult to kill him.  In fact, he's dead at the beginning of the book, but he quickly comes back to life because Alfonse Aligheri (a nice tip of the hat to Dante) needs him for a job.  It seems Big Al was negotiating a truce with another mob boss, and the demon sent to make the arrangements has vanished.  Al wants Eddie to find him, and in return, he won't bring him back to life the next time Eddie gets killed.  So Eddie goes hunting!

It's a story that comes off as just a bit goofy, but Bunn does a nice job making sure that the demons aren't too ridiculous, and Hurtt's art helps set the mood very nicely.  The demons certainly aren't human, but they're not too outlandish, either.  The black and white gives it a good old-school feel to it, and Hurtt, working with a good-sized cast, does a good job giving everyone distinctive looks.  Eddie, of course, finds the guy who was supposed to be watching the negotiator, and then the shit hits the fan.  As you knew it would.

This is just a good pulpy piece of comic book fiction.  Bunn adds just enough to Eddie's character - he really doesn't like coming back to life and would just rather stay dead - to give us a connection to him, and then turns him loose.  It's certainly worth a look.

Deadman #3 by Bruce Jones and John Watkiss.  $2.99, DC/Vertigo.

I think I'm done with Deadman.  I wondered if I was after last issue, and this issue does nothing to change my mind.  Jones seems to have the same problems here that he did on Incredible Hulk - he has a very nice set up, but he spends far too much time trying to confuse the reader that by the time we get to the big reveal, we just don't care.  With the Hulk, we at least got a few very good stories, but Deadman, after a fine first issue, has spent the last two spinning its wheels on endless permutations of string theory and parallel universes.  That can work if it were a bit more lighthearted as the serious topics were brought up - a novel like Finity by John Barnes works because of that - but Jones is a "serious" writer, so it's just a lot of angst while shadowy bad guys try to kill Brandon and Sarah.  I'm not even sure if they're married in this reality or not, and while I suspect Jones wants that, I doubt if he wants me not to care, which I don't.  It's a shame, too, because the book has possibilities.  I just won't be around to see if they reach fruition.  Fool me once, Mr. Jones ...

The Lone Ranger #2 (of 6) by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello.  $2.99, Dynamite Entertainment.

I'm not sure why I read this, as I have already ordered at least the next issue, so I'm kind of locked in whether I like it or not.  The first issue was only about how John Reid's family was killed, which wasn't that surprising.  I wanted to see how the story progressed.

It's certainly looking good, as Tonto saves John's life (and has a funny line on the first two pages that plays on the old Indian stereotype) and we meet Black Bart, who is, rather unfortunately, black.  That was kind of weird.  There's a creepy dude in Utah who is presumably the mastermind behind the ambush (and whom we never see, but his dialogue lets us know he's creepy), and Bart is riding to find out if everyone in the party was killed.  I have a feeling there will be lots of bloodshed soon.  But it's just a feeling!

This is, like many of the books this week, nothing spectacular, but simply good storytelling.  It's entertaining.  Isn't that enough?

Noble Causes #24 by Jay Faerber, Jon Bosco, and Ron Riley.  $3.50, Image.

I'm not going to rant about the art, which I've been doing ever since Bosco came on board.  It's bad, it's not getting any better, it's not growing on me, and that's that.  It doesn't ruin the fun of the book, however, so I live with it.  I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'm a story person, so bad art has to be so atrocious I can't look at the book before the art will ruin the book for me.  Bosco's art is lousy, but it's not painful to look at.

The past few issues of one of my favorite books, however, have been weaker than usual, and I can't quite put my finger on why.  Perhaps because it seemed, after the wild ride of the first 12 issues, the second 12 issues have been perhaps too focused on certain smaller stories, and those stories haven't been as good.  Race losing his powers is certainly not a bad way to go, but the way he's tried to get them back has been rather dull.  In this issue, he finally finds the doctor who gave Celeste her powers and convinces him (Dr. Wiseman) to experiment on him (Race), but that's not the nice part of the book.  The nice part is when Liz confronts him about it, and the conversation they have.  Race is a bit of a dick about it just because Liz has concerns about the shady nature of Dr. Wiseman, but Liz is also being a bit stubborn, unwilling to understand why it matters so much to Race.  The way they reach an accord is handled nicely by Faerber, and shows why Liz and Race are such an interesting couple.  Of course, the experiment goes horribly wrong, and we're left wondering exactly what is going to happen with Liz.

Meanwhile, we learn more about Cosmic Rae, and it's something I've been saying for a while.  Even though it took longer than I thought it should, the way Faerber gets to the big reveal about Rae is handled well, and sets up future stories and how Rusty will handle it.  I'm sure it will involve more secrets, which will seem to work but really cause more problems.  Oh, you crazy Nobles, will you never learn?

And, since it's been a few issues, Celeste and Dawn take each other's clothes off.  Faerber knows what sells!

It's a good recovery for the book, which had faltered slightly for a few months.  Just because it wasn't as good as it had been, however, doesn't mean it's not still one of the better books on the market.  It's always an interesting read, and this month, it's better than it has been for a while.

Omega Men #1 (of 6) by Andersen Gabrych and Henry Flint.  $2.99, DC.

I'm not quite sure why I've been so into the DC space sagas recently, but Mystery in Space is kind of a hoot, and now we have this mini-series, with spectacular art by Flint (looking very Bisley-esque, even though others suggested other comparisons) and a nice little story by Gabrych, whose work I've never read even though he's been around for a while.  I'd like to summarize the story, but it's a bit convoluted.  Something about "heartstones" and the Spider Guild (which is very creepy) and some Tamaranean prince (Ryand'r) and Vril Dox is involved because the Church of the Vegan Religion (whatever it is) calls him in because the Omega Men destroyed one of their churches, presumably looking for this "heartstone."  No, I don't know what the heartstone does.  It's not explained.  No, I don't know why the Spider Emperor wants the heartstones so badly.  It's not explained.  Sheesh, chill out, people!  Superman, Cyborg, Jon Stewart, and that Wonder chick (like I can keep track - Cassie?) have been recruited by Vril Dox to kick Omega Men ass!  But that's all next issue.

There's a lot to like about this issue, as we have weird religious goings-on, creepy space things, cigar-chomping loudmouths, uptight policemen, and lots and lots of spiders.  When in doubt, add spiders.  Or, you know, gorillas.

Rex Mundi #2 by Arvid Nelson and Juan Ferreyra.  $2.99, Dark Horse.

Rex Mundi continues to move along nicely, as Julien and Genevieve disguise themselves for their trip south to Rennes-le-Chateau, which would be a good idea if Genevieve wasn't a spy for the Duke of Lorraine, who knows where they're going, and if the Inquisition hadn't tortured the information out of Father Calvet, who helped Julien escape.  So I guess it's a pretty lousy plan, as the State and the Church have serious interest in figuring out the whole mystery thing.  We also learn that Julien is Jewish, which will probably come up at some point.  Meanwhile, World War I has broken out in earnest, and Lorraine has been elected First Consul (Napoleon's title before he declared himself Emperor) and is close to taking out the Cordovan Emirate even as the Prussians plunder his own lands to the northeast.  It's all very familiar!

As usual, I can't say much about this book, because it's one of the best titles out there, and praising it endlessly gets boring.  In each issue, a few small things are brought up (like how did Julien break the bonds of Lorraine's chapel a few issues back?) while the main stories move forward, and it's all very satisfying even if there isn't a lot of action.  It's taking its time, and I have no doubts it will continue to move forward and be a wonderful book.  But each issue is difficult to discuss, because it's so tied in with the previous issues.  A few things bug me, though.  The French are allied with the British and Russians, which is fine, but they're called the Axis.  The French also adopt a new flag, which is a black Cross of Lorraine (a long vertical axis with the standard horizontal axis with a shorter one above - in the Ukrainian Church they use a similar cross) in a white circle on a red background.  With these two things, Nelson and Ferreyra are obviously evoking the Nazis, but that bugs me - not because I don't think fascism could arise in France, but because it's just a tad obvious.  Wow, Lorraine is a Fascist?  Really?  It's a minor thing, but it bothers me.  We can figure these things out by ourselves, after all.

Just another fine issue.  What more can I say?

John Woo's 7 Brothers by Garth Ennis and Jeevan Kang.  $2.99, Virgin Comics.

I hoped that Ennis would not feel the need to do his usual thing in this comic, the thing that has made me like him less and less.  From the description, it did not seem like he was doing his usual thing, and that's why I bought it.  And, for the most part, he doesn't do his usual thing.  Sure, a pimp gets beaten up, and a mysterious woman does some interesting things with the power of suggestion, but it's mild compared to what Ennis is doing in other books these days.  This is, not surprisingly, a set-up issue, and it's handled pretty well.  Well enough for me to get issue #2, at least.  We'll see how it goes from there.

Ennis begins the story with a quick recap of the great Chinese treasure fleets of the early fifteenth century.  The great Chinese treasure fleets of the early fifteenth century have been popular in historical circles for a while, probably because prior to the last, say, fifteen years, very few people knew about them, so they're a part of history that can be written about without it feeling like something we've all heard about before.  The book I read about them, a decade ago, is When China Ruled the Seas by Louise Levathes, and it's a fine place to start if you're interested.  Ennis and Kang do a nice job with the preamble, and return to it at the end of the book, when strange forces thwart an expedition deep beneath China.  Something strange going on for sure!

The main story involves a strange woman, Rachel Kai, gathering seven men from around the globe for some mysterious reason.  The pimp who gets beaten up is the last one she has to get, and we see him getting the snot kicked out of him while we cut back to the other six, who are waiting for the seventh to arrive.  In short fashion, Ennis does a good job setting up the personalities of the men, including the Australian, who is spot on (from my experience, Australians really do shorten everyone's names).  When Rachel does show up, she explains that each of them has a strange ability that they have hidden from the rest of the world - one of them is super-fast, one has super-hearing, you get the gist - and that they are gathered for a reason.  Ronald, the pimp, is the only weird one, in that Rachel is unsure why he is there.  But that will have to wait for another issue!

This is obviously a retelling (sort of) of the old folktale about the Seven Chinese Brothers (which will, of course, tie into the treasure fleet somehow, one hopes), and it is an interesting start to the book.  Each man is a different nationality/ethnicity - there's the white Australian, the black American, the American Indian, the Indian, the African, the Arab, and the Hispanic guy.  It will be interesting to see if Ennis tries to show the differences between each man, because what's the point otherwise?

Kang's painted art is very nice - it's moody when it has to be, and the early pages of the Chinese fleet are somewhat ethereal.  It's vaguely reminiscent of John K. Snyder's art (or at least I think so), which is fine with me.  Keeping with Virgin Comics' business plan, I'm sure Kang is a veteran of Indian comics, but I've never seen his stuff before.  It's good.

Ennis remains the draw, because I still like his writing, despite his recent missteps.  We shall see if he can keep it reined in, because that would make this a book with a lot of potential.

Union Jack #2 (of 4) by Christos Gage, Mike Perkins, and Andrew Hennessy.  $2.99, Marvel.

I wasn't going to read this after I had read and liked issue #1, just put it aside until the mini-series was finished, like I usually do.  For some mini-series I need two issues to decide, but I enjoyed the first issue of this, so I was confident I would like the entire series.  But then a lot of people had some problems with issue #1.  So I thought to myself, "Am I missing something?  Did it suck?"  So I sat down to read this one before making up my mind about it.

Unfortunately, any problems people had with the first issue aren't evident in this one.  I say it's unfortunate because there's no chance for Gage to address the problems that people had with it, if he's even going to eventually.  The problem people had with the first issue, it seems, is with the fact that the British government told the rich people to leave town without alerting the poor people, and the Arabian Knight's inclusion on the team of good guys who are sent out to battle the bad guys.  The first problem is just a dumb little conceit of Gage's that, I hope, will never be mentioned again, but I didn't have as much as a problem with it as some because, although it's ineptly handled in the book, I don't believe for a second that governments give a rat's ass about the poor and/or people who don't fill their coffers.  So although the way it was handled was stupid, the idea behind it isn't too far-fetched to me.  Ask the people on the Gulf Coast if the government cares about poor people.  The second problem, that the Arabian Knight is involved, didn't bother me in the least.  To imply that because Arabs are behind acts of terrorism in the world means that there are no good Arabs who can fight evil is ignorant at best, and although Gage probably put the Knight on the team just so he could engage in some rather ham-fisted political discussions involving the Knight and Sabra, that's no reason to say he shouldn't be there.  After all, why the hell is Sabra there?

These two problems with the first issue mean nothing in the second issue, because the shit has already hit the fan, so it's all about Jack and his team rescuing people, and the Arabian Knight is hardly in the issue and when he is, he's fighting alongside the contessa, not Sabra, so his political and cultural beliefs aren't really relevant.  This is a slam-bang action issue, with Jack and Sabra fighting their way through the Thames Tunnel, which the bad guys are flooding, and taking out the bad guys on the Tower Bridge.  When he and Sabra rejoin the contessa and Arabian Knight at Heathrow, the issue is about to end, which is does on a kind of lame cliff-hanger.  There's a lot of ass-kicking and gun-shooting and bomb-throwing, so cut the chatter, Arabian Knight and Sabra!  There are bad guys to pummel!

One last thing: Jack O' Lantern finds out that it's not Captain Britain coming to stop them, but Union Jack.  He says, "Oh, good.  For a second there I was worried."  I know he's a villain so he's naturally bombastic, but should Jack O' Lantern really be taking anyone lightly?  Jack O' Freakin' Lantern?  Union Jack, of course, dispatches him relatively easily.  Freakin' Shockwave puts up more of a fight.

So I'm not sure if Gage will address the two problems people had with the book, but I'll get back to you when the mini-series is finished, because this is a solid issue that makes me want to read the rest.  That's all it has to do, right?

Wasteland #4 by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten.  $2.99, Oni Press.

As you know, I'm much more likely to give something either independent or creator-owned a longer leash than the usual drivel, and although Wasteland isn't the greatest book in the world, I'd rather spend my 3 dollars on it than, say, the latest issue of The Flash.  It has certainly not let me down yet, even if it's not getting me super-jazzed either.  The biggest problem with it is keeping track of the characters.  Since they're all wearing the same clothes (robes, essentially), it sometimes takes me a minute to figure out what relation they are to each other, especially in Newbegin, the city to which our heroes are travelling - Johnston has, as yet, not done as good a job with those folk as he has with Abi and her gang.  But I'm willing to be patient for a while, because the story is interesting and each issue adds a bit to the overall tapestry of this world, which makes it a bit more fascinating.  In this issue, Abi discovers that the people in the caravan are not terribly nice and that they offer a gift to "dwellers" when they pass through ruined cities.  That's a dweller there on the cover.  These malformed humans apparently enjoy - you guessed it - young nubile women (although I suppose "nubile" is not the correct word, as everyone - see above - is dressed in long robes), and who knows what they do with them.  Eat them, I suppose.  I still kept flashing on Dragonslayer, when they tie up the girls for the dragon babies to eat.  Yes, I tied Dragonslayer into a 2006 comic.  Bow down before me!

The nice thing about this book is how Johnston manages to make it unfamiliar yet familiar.  There's a danger when writing post-apocalyptic stuff to make it so bizarre that the audience has a disconnect.  That's not in evidence here, even though the surroundings are a bit strange.  These are still people grappling with problems, and there's still persecution because of religion, and there are still strange menaces to be faced.  Unlike some other books out there that slowly annoy me to the point where I have to stop buying it (I'm looking at you, The Boys), this book is slowly growing on me.  It's not perfect, but it's a good read.

WildCats #1 by Grant "Ladies Love the Bald" Morrison, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

With all apologies to Will Pfeifer, I didn't read his mini-series about Captain Atom in the Wildstorm world.  Therefore, I'm not entirely sure if his presence has anything to do with this "World Storm" the books are advertising and which Morrison specifically references in this issue.  I have a feeling it does, but I'm not sure.  What the hell is going on in the Wildstorm Universe, people?  Don't make me look it up on Wikipedia!

This is certainly better than The Authority, but it's still problematic for anyone who read Joe Casey's take on the WildCats.  Apparently not enough people liked Joe Casey's take on the WildCats, but that doesn't mean the issues don't exist, and Morrison does make reference to them as he brings the WildCats back to what they used to be.  The problem is that this incarnation is far less interesting than what Casey was doing, even though Morrison has attempted to take it to its logical extreme.  Spartan has changed the world, allowing every person on the planet who can afford it to own their own superperson, but he has decided that it's time for a covert action team again.  His reasoning, while not exactly sound, gives Morrison the opportunity to dress his characters in spandex and beat people up, but it still feels like a step backward from what Spartan was doing on Casey's watch.  And then Morrison revives Kaizen Gamorra, which is annoying.  Then Grifter, who has drunk himself halfway to death, decides to kick some ass.  It's all well done, but terribly familiar.

It does have an energy that The Authority is lacking, which is why I might keep buying it for a bit.  Lee's art is, well, Lee's art.  I'm a bit annoyed by the weirdly-colored sex scene between Spartan and Voodoo - if you're going to have a sex scene, either slap a mature readers label on the book and show some nipple or put Priscilla in a bra.  The colors mean something, I'm sure, but I can't be bothered to figure out what.  And what's up with the German narration on the second-to-last page?  Is that Cole, referring to himself in the third person ("Grifter is chaos" - I suppose that's what Morrison is going for when he uses the word "verwirrung" - "Grifter is dead")?  Or is it someone else?  Arrrrggggghhhh!

Anyway, it's pretty and not an awful read.  I expect a lot more from Morrison, but at least it didn't bore me, like The Authority did.  We'll see in a few issues how I feel.

X-Factor #12 by Peter David, Renato Arlem, and Roy Allen Martinez.  $2.99, Marvel.

The Tryp saga ends its first arc (those are the last three issues, with the Sook triptych - notice how the colors don't match and the middle one is off a bit, which might be my scanner, but which is kind of weird if it's not), as the old Damien Tryp who showed up last issue explains that he is kind of unstuck in time, and that in his future, X-Factor's meddling in helping the mutants to get their powers back means that the mutants eventually kill all the humans before turning on each other and reducing the earth to a half-destroyed battleground.  Jamie, Rahne, and Monet don't take kindly to this, and they try to attack him until he shows them that he's telling the truth.  They don't want to leave, but he tells them he has Professor Buchanan's wife as a hostage (even though Layla Miller managed to rescue her, unbeknownst to the team), so they take off.  David, however, is never one to allow things to resolve that easily, and the two other Tryps discover that one of Jamie's dupes has gone and done something naughty.  And, of course, the old Tryp visits Layla Miller at the very end of the issue and lets on that he knows quite a bit more than we do about her.  And so the stage is set, even though it appears that there is a resolution, really it's just another plot opening up, which is something that David does very well.

It's another book that's difficult to discuss without giving too much away, as well as the fact that it's just so well done.  On each page, something happens that makes you appreciate all that's come before, and as we move forward, there's enough here to keep things cooking.  One weakness David does have is that he occasionally lets things simmer too long, and I hope he doesn't fall into that here - we still don't know what Jamie and his bunch are going to do about the Decimation, and there's always the Civil War mess to worry about.  And it would be nice if they could get Martinez to do the art for the full issue, because he's much better than Arlem.  Oh well.  We'll see.

Good stuff, as usual.  Another fine title that just goes about its business to entertain, and does it well.


Batman and the Mad Monk #3 (of 6) by Matt Wagner.  $3.50, DC.

Don't listen to T.!  This is cooler than hell.  When will Wagner do a story about Julie Madison's burgeoning acting career?

Once again, a lot of books, but only a few were not so good, and those will not make the cut next month.  Ah, it's good to live in the Golden Age of Comics!

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