What I bought - 19 August 2009

"There's a thousand dollars in there ... or maybe there isn't. Know what I mean?"

Atomic Robo: Shadow From Beyond Time #4 (of 5) ("The Crawling Chaos") by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer). Back-up story "The Getaway" by Brian Clevinger (writer), Rick Woodall (artist), Lawrence Basso (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Red 5 Comics.

Okay, so I applied the patented Burgas Awesome-O-Meter™ to this comic (the Burgas Awesome-O-Meter™: Gauging how awesome your comics are since 1988!) and here's what I came up with:

Page 1: 4 awesome things.*Page 2: 4 awesome things.Page 3: 0 awesome things.Page 4: 2 awesome things.†Page 5: 2 awesome things.Page 6: 4 awesome things.Page 7: 4 awesome things.Page 8: 3 awesome things.Page 9: 0 awesome things.Page 10: 4 awesome things.Page 11: 5 awesome things.Page 12: 4 awesome things.Page 13: 4 awesome things.Page 14: 4 awesome things.Page 15: 2 awesome things.Page 16: 1 awesome thing.Page 17: 4 awesome things.Page 18: 4 awesome things.Page 19: 3 awesome things.Page 20: 1 awesome thing.Page 21: 4 awesome things.Page 22: 1 awesome thing.‡Page 23: 2 awesome things.Page 24: 2 awesome things.Page 25: 2 awesome things.Page 26: 1 awesome thing.

* "Thing" is here defined as a panel, some drawing within a certain panel, or words on the page which may or may not form a conversation. For instance, on page 1, the giant bolt is awesome. The conversation on page 2 counts as one awesome thing, even though several individual sentences within it are, indeed, awesome. Such is the precise measuring capability of the Burgas Awesome-O-Meter™! It's science, people!† One of the awesome things on this page is Robo's hat. Given that he wears it the rest of the issue, I didn't count it again, but it remains awesome.‡ It's only a splash page, so I counted all the awesome things going on in it as one giant awesome thing.

Okay, that's 71 awesome things in a 26-page comic. That's 2.73 awesome things a page. I challenge you to find a more Awesome-Thing-to-Page Ratio in any comic you're currently reading! Go on, check it out! The Burgas Awesome-O-Meter™ does not lie!

So, yeah. Atomic Robo is pretty freakin' awesome. Look, this issue guest-stars Carl Sagan. And the gorilla with the robot head is in this comic just to make a cameo appearance, and yet the book loses none of its awesomeness when it leaves. So there's that.

Come on, "let's do some science!" You know you want to!

Ex Machina #44 ("Ring Out the Old Conclusion") by Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Tony Harris (artist), JD Mettler (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

As Vaughan ratchets up to end this series, we get a seriously good issue that alludes to several things that will, presumably, be explained over the next few issues and rock Mitch's world to the very core. His "mission," I mean, as he learns some things he didn't know and probably didn't want to know, but which it's probably good to know. The feces is about to strike the air-moving device, and however long it takes for the final six issues to come out, I'm looking forward to them.

I do want to comment on the stupidity of some characters. It's a common occurrence in fictional entertainment that people do stupid things which are justified by the fact that their passionate natures overcome them. We usually see this phenomenon when people on television jump into bed with the first thing that crosses their path after they have a tiny (and usually idiotic) spat with their significant other, thereby causing more problems than the original tiff ever would have. But Bradbury does something extremely stupid in this comic, and it just doesn't ring true. It actually annoyed me enough that I'm writing about it rather than the actual plotline of the issue. He does something in the "heat of the moment," but Vaughan doesn't quite sell it enough, because Mitchell told Bradbury how very important what he destroys is, and the thing that prompts his reaction doesn't seem quite enough to make him go a bit nutty. The only explanation I can think of is, based on what happens afterward, that he was somehow being manipulated by an outside agency. Is that the impression everyone else got? Because it's a weak way to release whatever it is that gets released if we don't see Bradbury as being controlled by something else. What are your thoughts?

Anyway, yet another cool issue of Ex Machina. I'm keen to read the conclusion.

Hellblazer #258 ("Hooked Part Three: Epiphany") by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), *Jamie Grant (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Quite a bit happens in this issue, and I don't feel like spoiling it, but I will say that after a few issues in the beginning of the run that were decent but nothing great, Milligan has really done a nice job with this short story arc. Sure, everything that happens in this arc is because of John being an asshole for no good reason, and I would like him to be an asshole while he's actually stopping something horrible from occurring, but that's a minor quibble. Everything that is said about John in this issue feels right (even though I don't buy Chas telling John he's more into Phoebe than he was into Kit), and the conversations between John and the other players in this book are very well done. If I don't like how it ends, it's not because I don't like what Milligan is doing, it's because he's done a good job getting me to care what happens, so the ending is more devastating that way. Milligan has always been good about making his characters bastards realistically, and although there's a lot of magic in this arc, it's John being a dick that drives things. I don't like John very much in this arc, but he's certainly compelling.

I still don't think Camuncoli is a great fit on this book, but his crisp lines help counterbalance the generally murky colors that is a staple of Vertigo books. I think Bisley is doing the interiors next issue, so we'll see how that works. (Speaking of Bisley, I like how on the cover, even with an emotionally devastating moment like that one, John manages to hold onto his cigarette. Good stuff!)

It's taken a little bit for Milligan to get going on Hellblazer, but he seems to have found his voice. Let's hope it continues to get better!

Poe #2 (of 4) by J. Barton Mitchell (writer), Dean Kotz (artist), Digikore Studios (colorist), and James Dashiell (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

As usual with mini-series that have a good first issue so I'm sure I'll keep getting them, I don't have much to say about the second issue unless it's really bad, and this isn't really bad, so I don't have much to say about it. Poe continues to investigate the mysterious deaths linked to the strange coins, our bad guy makes an appearance and explains some things about the coins and Poe susses out what they can do, and the our hero quits the case, not surprisingly when you think about it. Kotz does a good job with the art, Mitchell keeps the plot moving, and it's generally an exciting and interesting read. That's pretty much all I have to say about it.

Power Girl #4 ("Girls' Night Out!") by Justin Gray (writer), Jimmy Palmiotti (writer), Amanda Conner (artist), Paul Mounts (colorist), and John J. Hill (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

I'm not sure if I should write about the thing that really, really bugged me in this otherwise pretty-good issue of Power Girl first to get it out of the way, or last so I can lead up to it? I'll ask the dog.

Okay, he's not answering, so I'll save it until later. I've been ambivalent about PG so far - on the one hand, Amanda Conner rules, and on the other hand, the first story was kind of dull - but I'd like to give it some time to grow on me, and although this issue isn't the one that's going to change my mind, it does go a long way toward it. It's quite a bit of fun, with Kara and Terra (whose real name, I guess, is Atlee, although no one has ever called her by that name in the series so far) going to see a horror movie (which Terra doesn't quite get), briefly fighting a collection of monsters brought to life by someone who looks like a fairy queen but is really just an environmentally-conscious teenager who got hold of a magic book, and then, the next day, Kara hangs out at her work and finds an apartment. As a "slice-of-life" issue, it certainly works, although it was kind of strange to not see the teenager again (Kara gets her a job at her company, so I assume we'll see her again, but I thought she might show up later in the issue) and the fact that people don't realize Kara is Power Girl cracks me up - "Wait, you're blonde and built like a brick shithouse and you know someone who's blonde and built like a brick shithouse? What are the odds?" Gray and Palmiotti do a nice job with the dialogue in this issue, which can make or break a story like this, and Conner, of course, is dynamite. She's still the reason to buy this book, although the writing is certainly better in this issue than it has been.

I'm still not completely sold on the comic, but the aliens from last issue have landed on Earth (conveniently, in Brooklyn), so I'll probably stay on board until that story arc wraps up and then make up my mind.

Of course, there's the little thing that made me upset. What, pray tell, might it be? Well, when the monsters attack, Kara and Terra are leaving the movie theater. Terra is a bit freaked out by the horror movie they just saw, and Kara says she doesn't like the "watered-down" stuff. Terra is incredulous that what she just saw was watered-down, and Kara tells her that she doesn't want to take her to an R-rated movie. Terra is, in other words, under 17 (she can't be 17, because then she could go see an R-rated movie by herself). On the same page, they see the monster attacking New York, and Kara takes off her clothes to reveal her costume underneath. Terra isn't wearing her costume because she didn't know she'd need it. So she takes off her pants. I was a bit bothered by this. I know that her actual costume doesn't leave much to the imagination, but it was still a bit disturbing (to me, that is) to read several pages of a 16-year-old girl fighting monsters in her black panties with a ladybug on the ass. Maybe I'm square, maybe I'm thinking about my daughters too much, but there was no reason for Terra to ditch her pants and go into battle wearing panties. I've mentioned this with regard to the violence in this comic - it has a very weird tone occasionally, as if it wants to be a light-hearted superhero comic but then there are weird moments of horrible violence. Now there's this. It's not the end of the world, of course, but it just seems like a weird choice by the creators. Maybe I have too many memories of my 15- and 16-year-old female students dressing provacatively and winding up pregnant. Who knows. I was just put out by it a bit.

Go ahead, call me a square. I can take it!

Unthinkable #4 (of 5) by Mark Sable (writer), Julian Totino Tedesco (artist), Juan Manuel Tumburús (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Unthinkable is a really odd comic. Last issue, I thought Sable was finally slowing down a bit after the breakneck pace of issues #1 and 2, and I appreciated it. But then we get this issue, which speeds up again and is all over the map, both literally and figuratively. I understand that we have to accept the fact that people in entertainment can blithely move through the world without encountering the problems we lesser mortals have (why can people in movies always find plane tickets at the last minute and never worry about paying gigantic sums for first class?), but the characters in this comic zip everywhere without even breaking a sweat (and yes, they make reference to the fact that it takes some weeks to move around, but I'm talking about the pace of the comic, which, interestingly enough, a caption box reading "three weeks later" seems to make faster even as it's indicating passing time). They seem to do a lot of stuff with ease, as well, and I'm not quite sure what happens occasionally, because it feels like we're rushing past stuff. How do they thwart the mass demonstration in China? Who is the guy who blows up at the end (I thought it was one dude, but he's alive later)? How does Ripley nab his father so easily? Arrrgggghhhh!

I may have to sit down and re-read the series once issue #5 comes out to make more sense of it. I want to like the series, because it's an interesting idea and Tedesco's art is fabulous, but it's a bit of a mess. We'll see how Sable ends it!

Wednesday Comics #7 (of 12). $3.99, 15 pgs, DC.

Which English monarch is this week's strip? Play along!

Batman = Mary I. Teetering on the edge of insanity, willing to go too far for justice, unable to stem the tide!Kamandi = Charles II. Sumptuous, depraved, beautiful, and ornate.Superman = Richard II. Ineffectual, simpering, powerful but unused to using power.Deadman = Henry VIII. Brilliantly staged, excessive, good-natured in youth, gorged in senescence, obscenely powerful.Green Lantern = Richard III. Arrogant and overreaching, brought down by poor planning.Metamorpho = Edward IV. Lustful, fun-loving, disrespectful of tradition.Teen Titans = Henry III. Banal, weak, indecisive.Strange Adventures = Victoria. Formal yet mystical beneath the surface, raging against modernity.Supergirl = John. Officious, cocky, and concerned more with minutiae than the big picture.Metal Men = Richard I. The classic portrait, with darkness lurking beneath.Wonder Woman = Stephen. Wandering, unsure, beset by chaos, losing the way.Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. = Henry VII. Unifying but brutal.Flash/Iris West = William III and Mary II. With, you know, apes.The Demon and Catwoman = Elizabeth I. Quintessentially British, full of legends and misinformation, power-hungry and vain.Hawkman = William I. Neglected, pompous, warlike, triumphant. Also, a little-known fact: Duke William and his retinue rode dinosaurs into battle at Hastings!

This is off the top of my head. Forgive me if it's a bit off. Next week: Which Hollywood star corresponds to each strip?!?*

* Maybe. Or something else. We'll see.

X-Factor #47 by Peter David (writer), Valentine de Landro (penciler), Pat Davidson (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Two different characters in this book tell Jamie to stop whinging. I have only ever heard "whinging" used by Australians, back when I lived among them as one of them!* I have never heard an American use it, yet both the characters who use it (granted, 80 years in the future) are, presumably, American. Why does David use it? I don't know. It does lead to a funny moment with Dr. Doom, but that's it.

Anyway, it's Tim Callahan's favorite comic ever!, so you should check it out. (Tim is too cool to blog anymore, preferring instead to distill his thoughts into 140 characters or less, but when he did blog, he pointed this out, which is quite humorous.) David does something very odd, which is give away a somewhat crucial piece of information in the recap page (mitigating by explaining that we should have figured it out by now, which I didn't, but as we all know, I'm not that bright, so maybe others did), but otherwise continues with this epic (some would say dragged-out) storyline about the Summers rebellion and what's going on in the present that ties into it. It's the usual blend of action and humor, with interesting revelations and character development, with a "shocking" ending (which has already been ruined - at least I think it has been - in the Marvel solicits for upcoming issues). It's yet another solid chapter in this very solid book. I just enjoy reading it to see what David comes up with next.

I should point out that De Landro is back, and the art feels more stable than it's been in a while (even if there was a different artist last issue). Pat Davidson and Jeromy Cox have been on the book for a while, so the pencils have retained the same feel to them even when De Landro isn't drawing it. Longshot looks like he has a porn mustache on one point and Monet looks truly freaky at another point, but other than that, the art looks fine. It would be nice if it could stay consistent.

I'm not really sure what the cover has to do with the issue, but it has the (probably unintentional) phallic action going on, so there's that! Remember: tell your retailer that Tim sent you!

* Meaning I drank lots of beer and shagged wombats. Oh, wait a minute, ignore that last part. We shan't speak of it.

Zorro #15 by Matt Wagner (writer), Francesco Francavilla (artist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

Yay! Francesco Francavilla is back on Zorro! As much as I got into Rezak's art on the previous arc, it remained a tiny bit too polished, while Francavilla's rougher art works better with a book like Zorro, which ought to be a bit dusty and unrefined, because I imagine that life in early nineteenth-century California, despite the attempts of the colonists to make it like Old Spain, probably was a bit shabby. If it wasn't, Francavilla makes us believe it was, and it works.

Wagner gives us a story about the perception of Zorro, as the new military ruler of California has a dinner party and tries to find out what Zorro is all about. This is why we have Skeletor Zorro on the cover - one guest thinks Zorro must be a "phantasm from beyond the grave!" We get four different versions of who Zorro is, with one being the truth, and it leads to an nice twist at the end, when the general decides that something must be done with one of the guests who told a version. It establishes General Mancado as a good foe for Zorro - he's ruthless and cruel, but willing to find out what's what before he rushes in. Then, Wagner continues the subplot of romance that he began last arc, as Lolita gets a call from Diego and rushes off like a lovestruck school girl. Which, I guess, she is.

Zorro continues to impress, and Wagner does a nice job catching us up with what's going on (that is, if you have no idea who or what Zorro is, and that's unlikely, isn't it?). It's a great place to jump on board!

Well, hey, look at that! We're all done. What say we fire up some totally random lyrics!

"Oh, sweetheart, put the bottle downYou've got too much talentI see you through those bloodshot eyesThere's a cure, you've found it

Slow motion sparks, you've caught that chillNow don't deny itBut boys will be boys, oh, yes, they willThey don't wanna define it"

Own those lyrics, fanboys! Sing along with me!

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