What I bought - 19 August 2015

"I knew it," Landsman says. "The minute I walked into the room and saw Lasker lying there, I said to myself, Landsman, this whole case is going to turn on a question of pie." (Michael Chabon, from The Yiddish Policemen's Union)

Wolf #2 by Clayton Cowles (letterer), Ales Kot (writer), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Matt Taylor (artist). $3.50, 23 pgs, FC, Image.

I'm about at the end of my rope with Kot, and this issue, while it doesn't do anything to hang me, doesn't do anything to save me, either. I was hoping when Kot turned to something that was a bit more plot-driven, he might rebound from the weird-for-weirdness-sake double-shot of The Surface (which isn't bad) and Material (which I couldn't even justify buying a second issue). With Wolf, we get a "paranormal" detective in Los Angeles investigating weird shit, which sounds like it has potential, but two issues in, it's just kind of ... there. Antoine Wolfe (for some reason, the spelling change from the title to the name of the protagonist bothers me) has his hands full, but after two issues, nothing is really all that interesting. I mean, there's a teenager who might be the Anti-Christ (wait, I thought all teens were anti-Christs?), a pissed-off vampire (the reason she's pissed off is actually really inspired), and something weird going on at a private prison. But it's a "conventional" weird, and that means it's boring. Kot has plenty of ideas, sure, but he seems to be spreading himself very thin, so that his ideas are just presented with such scattershot imprecision that they read like the diary of a 14-year-old who just discovered Siouxsie and the Banshees and Camus. Sure, some of the noodlings in there will be rilly, rilly deeeeep, maaaaaan, but overall, it's kind of painful to read. Wolf feels like someone who is too cool to write a detective story trying to write a detective story for all the cool people. That probably doesn't make sense, but whatevs.

I hate feeling like this. I want to like Ales Kot, not because I know him or think he's brilliant (I've mentioned his weird, off-putting presence on social media before, which kind of actually turns me against him), but because when he does write good comics, they approach the kind of wonderful blend of weirdness and story that comics are perfect for and which very few writers can achieve. But when he doesn't hit a home run, he strikes out, which might be okay for building a baseball team using sabermetrics but doesn't really make for a good reading experience, especially when you're "reading" (????) the strikeouts? Okay, I've gone too far with this metaphor. But the fact remains that I root for Kot (not in an Australian sense, you understand), and it bugs me when he fails (in my eyes). Because eventually I won't even give him a chance.

It doesn't help that he has Taylor drawing this, because it's kind of uninspired. Kot has worked with some very good artists, but Taylor isn't one of them, as his style doesn't convey much emotion in the characters and his figure work is stiff, so while there's not a lot of action in this book so far, it hasn't looked great when it occurs. It's a bland book when it comes to the writing, and that's matched by the art. There's nothing terribly wrong with it (unless you count the weird Photoshop work Taylor does in a few panels), but it's just dull. The full-page spread where the Santa Ana winds begin is very neat, but that's a "set piece," so there's not a lot going on. The art is instantly forgettable, much like the writing. Sigh.

I'm not going to give Kot many more chances - The Surface hasn't finished yet, so I'll get that, and I'm getting the final trade of Bucky Barnes, but that might be it. It's kind of a bummer.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Disciples #3 by Jay Fotos (colorist), Thomas Mauer (letterer), Christopher Mitten (artist), and Steve Niles (writer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Black Mask Comics.

Steve Niles is a good writer, even though I don't love everything he does, because he knows how to set up a great horror story, although he doesn't always quite pull it off. I have no idea how long The Disciples is going to run (it feels like a mini-series, but I can't find out if that's true), but so far, it's a pretty terrific story. A religious fanatic has established a colony on Ganymede, and the daughter of a rich senator is with him, and said senator hires a retrieval team to fetch her (Niles seems to screw up the last names in this issue, so it's a bit confusing). Terror ensues. In this issue, the team arrives on Ganymede after a harrowing trip across space and finds more horrible things. Niles is always good at creating these situations (his problem occasionally comes from resolving them, which is tough in all stories but seems harder in horror, which is why I don't often love horror stories), and this is a really creepy story - he throws a nice twist in at the end of this issue that skews the way we view the religious fanatic just a bit, which might change how we view him going forward. Niles splits the team up, and even though it's a cliché, he does it pretty well - he establishes that Dagmar is already feeling a tad bit guilty about how things have transpired so far, so the fact that she's a bit impulsive makes some sense, and she realizes how dumb it was very quickly. It's still a cliché, but it's not a bad way to use the cliché.

Mitten, meanwhile, gets better every time I see his artwork, and while his style means he's never going to be a superstar because he'll never work on a DC or Marvel book (unless they change their business model a lot), he's so good at so many different things. On the late and lamented Umbral, he was being colored differently, in a lusher way, which fit the fantasy theme of that book, but Fotos uses a flatter and duller palette in this book, which also fits the subject matter. Mitten was an odd choice for Umbral, but it worked, because he's just that good. He's a more logical choice for this comic, and he nails the horror parts so well - he does what look like zombies really well, and his jagged lines and thick blacks are always great at creating a tense atmosphere no matter what the genre is. His design work is very nice, so that the colony on Ganymede looks like something that unskilled people would make - it seems to be functional, but it's just a bit clunky, so that it's futuristic but still human. His people have gotten more expressive over the years - Dagmar's response when she finds the girl at the end of the book is quite funny - and while he's often drawing stuff that doesn't rise or fall on facial expressions, it's still nice to see, because it just makes his art more interesting. Mitten makes every book he works on better, which is pretty neat.

As I noted, I don't know how many issues this is, but Niles and Wes Craven are already developing it for television, so maybe you'll get to see it on screen in the future. It won't look as cool as it does with Mitten's art, though, so you might want to check this out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Manifest Destiny #16 by Tony Akins (inker), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Chris Dingess (writer), Stefano Gaudiano (inker), Owen Gieni (colorist), Matthew Roberts (penciller), and Sean Mackiewicz (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image/Skybound.

The schedule of Manifest Destiny has slipped a bit, and maybe that's why we have two inkers this time, as they might help the art move along a bit faster, but with a comic this good, I don't mind waiting. I do hope the schedule doesn't mean the book will lose readers - that's always a fear when it comes to creator-owned books in general and Image books specifically, as readers are fickle. Not you guys, though - you're totally steadfast!

The art doesn't suffer at all from Roberts not inking his own work - Gaudiano and Akins are fine artists in their own right, of course, so it's not surprising they ink Roberts's pencils well, and Gieni's colors are always very good. There's a section in the middle where Roberts creates cave drawings, and the simpler, rougher style is neat, as it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the book. Roberts does a great job with the fezron, the blue bird-like creatures in this arc, as they're obviously messing with our human heroes and we get a lot of side-eyes and other facial expressions from them that show they're holding things back. Gieni does a wonderful job muting the colors just slightly in the flashback, and Brosseau's font for the fezron's speech is neat, too - it's just foreign enough that we "hear" it differently in our heads. Meanwhile, Dingess explains what was going on with the giant bird a few issues back and he also seems to provide a partial explanation for the arches, although it's Lewis interpreting things, and he could easily be wrong. It's a good issue for being in the middle of the arc, when the inciting incidents have come and gone but it's not time for the climax. The art tends to carry it a bit, because Dingess needs to explain some things, and that can be boring if the art isn't up to snuff. As usual with this series, that's not a problem.

I hope that the book is back on a better schedule, because it's so neat. I would hate for its sales to slip because the creative team can't stay on a schedule. Don't tempt the fickle readers!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dark Horse Presents #13. "Semiautomagic: Throne of Blood Chapter 1" by Alex de Campi (writer), Marissa Louise (colorist), and Jerry Ordway (artist); "Grimm Arcane Chapter 2" by Oscar Capristo (artist/letterer) and Anthony Zicari (writer); "Kill All Monsters: The Ministry of Robots Chapter 2" by Ed Brisson (letterer), Jason Copland (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Michael May (writer); "Black Past Chapter 3" by Pablo Clark (artist), Evelyn Rangel (letterer), and Fabian Rangel Jr. (writer); "Kyrra: Alien Jungle Girl Chapter 3" by Lawrence Basso (colorist), Craig Rousseau (artist), and Rich Woodall (writer/letterer); "Colonus Chapter 4" by Arturo Lauria (artist), Magnus (letterer), and Ken Pisani (writer); Brendan Wright (contributing editor), Chris Warner (contributing editor), Dave Marshall (contributing editor), Daniel Chabon (contributing editor), and Jim Gibbons (editor). $4.99, 48 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

It's kind of weird reading any random issue of DHP, because while it's usually solid to very good, it's pretty clear when writers aren't used to writing in such small chunks of text. They don't have the rhythm down, and while the story will (probably) read fine if and when it's collected, reading it this way is pretty weird. De Campi seems to have a good sense of it, as "Semiautomagic" always hits beats that feel natural in a restricted space. "Grimm Arcane" and "Kill All Monsters" have their high points, but they both end at weird places, and I imagine they'll read better as a whole. "Black Past" never did much for me, even though Clark's art is really nice, and it ends weirdly, too. "Kyrra" shifts gears really strangely on the last few pages, and again, while it's fine for an entire story, as an individual chapter, it's a bit bizarre. Pisani does a good job bringing "Colonus" home before it takes a brief break and then returns for the second half. I'm very sympathetic to writers who struggle with this, because I tend to go on quite a bit in my writing (cue the shocked expressions) and writing such short, punchy story parts would be really hard, and as it seems comic book editing is a mystical endeavor that remains beyond what we mortals can understand, I imagine it's all on the writers to get this done. But it's still weird, because while the story might be good - and I already have experience with "Kill All Monsters," for instance, so I'm invested in the story - the individual chapters might be kind of blah. Which makes reading any random issue of DHP kind of weird.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #7 "Lil' B (In the Great Big Universe God Made for You and Mostly Me)" by David Lapham (writer/artist) and Maria Lapham (editor). $3.50, 28 pgs, BW, Image.

One of the reasons why I get so bummed out about Ales Kot is because someone like David Lapham, who of course has been working in comics far longer and knows something about writing, is so much better at being bonkers than Kot is, and it always feels almost by accident when he is. Any Amy Racecar issue of Stray Bullets is bound to be wacky, but this issue might be the wackiest one yet, as Lapham really makes it clear that Amy's world mirrors the "real" one of the comic, with appearances by Spanish Scott, for instance, and others from the "real" world (the Monster, Orson - you know the ones!). It's typically insane, but Lapham takes all the weirdness and makes some very interesting points about the traps his characters call their lives - most of them have gotten into them of their own accord, but it's not like they couldn't get out of them if they really wanted to. "Holden" is the tiniest bit more competent than Orson is, but he's still a screw-up, and "Lil' B" is a terrific sociopath who thinks she's hot shit until Amy actually shows up, when she learns what real sociopathy is. She is, however, an excellent student. As with a great deal of Stray Bullets (especially the Amy Racecar issues), this comic is hilarious, but that doesn't mean there's not an undercurrent of real menace in it, especially when you consider the "real-world" analogs. Lapham's art is always great, but on the Amy Racecar issues, he gets to go truly nuts, so we get all sorts of weird shit in the backgrounds, a superb mustache, beard bacon, and your standard ultra-violence. Just another day in the Stray Bullets-verse.

Damn, this is a good comic book.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Astro City #26 ("In Dreams 2015") by Brent Anderson (artist), Jimmy Betancourt (letterer), Kurt Busiek (writer), John Roshell (letterer), Alex Sinclair (colorist), Molly Mahan (editor), and Kristy Quinn (editor). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

This is the 20th anniversary of Astro City, and I've been buying it almost since the beginning. In 1995 I was a bit less adventurous than I am today, plus it was harder for me to find slightly-outside-the-mainstream comics, so I missed the first six issues, although I quickly got the trade and have been buying the single issues ever since. It's a great comic book, and everyone should be buying it, and this issue is a good example of why. Busiek revisits Samaritan and the first issue, in which he finds relief from the pressures of the day only by dreaming of flying, because flying when he's awake means he's going somewhere to help someone. In this issue, however, Samaritan is dreaming but things go bad, so that even his brief dreams aren't restful. This is basically an excuse for Busiek to check out some of the early heroes of the book, as we visit the First Family, some of the few heroes who actually age in this book (it takes place in "real time," of course, but so many of the heroes don't actually age, so we rarely get to see them differently from 20 years ago) and Samaritan (who doesn't age, even though he's made it look like his civilian identity has) comments on their aging. It's a clever superhero story, it sets up a story that Busiek can revisit at a later date, and it ties in with this incarnation of AC, in which Busiek is more concerned with time passing than he's ever been. Samaritan even explicitly talks about it in this issue, and it's clear that Busiek is still keen on writing about it. It is, not surprisingly, a very good and entertaining comic. It's a good single issue story to read if you've never actually read Astro City. But you really should have checked it out before this, right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Fuse #13 ("Perihelion Part One") by Shari Chankhamma (colorist), Ryan Ferrier (letterer), Justin Greenwood (artist), and Antony Johnston (writer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

This issue of The Fuse came out last week, but I didn't get it until this week, so you're just going to have to deal with it!

Anyway, this is the beginning of a new story arc, so once again we get a weird crime, some other things that seem connected to the crime in ways we don't know about yet, and another interesting scenario that could only happen in space. In this case, it's perihelion, which apparently brings out the crazies on the Fuse even though, as Dietrich points out (and Klem tells him he's not the first to do so), that's ridiculous, as the change in distance to the sun is negligible, cosmically. But people still go a bit nuts.

I don't know how well this book is selling, but it's a very solid crime comic. I reckon that people might not be buying it because it's not terribly flashy, which is certainly a possibility, but I love crime stories, and the fact that it takes place in space means that Johnston can tweak it just enough so that it's not a standard crime comic. I mean, the idea that perihelion makes people crazy is the same as a full moon on Earth weirding people out, but the small tweak makes it more interesting, just as last arc's sports-related crime did. The idea of the Fuse means that the book reads a bit more like a Casablanca-style crime comic, as the Fuse is partly a place where people come to hide, as Dietrich almost certainly is. So while it bears the hallmarks of a lot of crime stories, the cleverness of the setting means that Johnston can do a bit more with it.

Greenwood, unfortunately, never gets to show off too much on this book, but his line does seem to be stronger than it was a few years ago, and he's using blacks better, while his sense of place has always been good on this comic. He does a nice job contrasting the seedier parts of the Fuse with the upscale parts, and his characters are an interesting mix of types. Interestingly enough, this comic came out last week, when Greenwood's other series, Stumptown, also came out. The dude is also working on a mini-series that comes out pretty soon. He's working hard for his money!

It's tough to write too much about The Fuse, because it is what it is and there's nothing much more to say. It's a nifty crime comic. If you like those, you'll like this one.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Trees #12 by Warren Ellis (writer), Fonografiks (letterer), and Jason Howard (artist). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Of Ellis's new Image comics, I think I like Injection more, even though I continue to have no idea what's going on in any one issue. It's partly because of the artwork - Howard's is fine on this series, but Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire are crushing it on Injection - and it's partly because it seems just a bit more in Ellis's wheelhouse. He gets into politics a bit too much in Trees, especially in this arc, and his political writing, much like a lot of comics writers, is fairly simplistic (which it kind of has to be, as it needs to be, you know, interesting). The parts of this arc with the next mayor of New York aren't dull, but they do drag a bit, so when we check in with Dr. Creasy in wherever the hell she is (Scandinavia somewhere?), it's greatly appreciated, especially because that's where, right now, the main plot seems to be. The New York stuff isn't terrible, but it does feel a bit more clichéd than the other parts of the book.

Trees is a weird comic. It's fascinating, but man, is Ellis decompressing the shit out of it. It's one reason he's an interesting writer, because he can write single issues that are as good as anything in comics, yet he can also do these ridiculously slow-burn things that are almost impossible to review because they're like a three-page chapter in a 600-page book. I mean, almost nothing happens in this issue. It's well-written and looks nice, and the ending is a nice way to tie some things together, but it's still really slow. But I still dig it. I guess I'm just weird.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gunnerkrigg Court volume 5: Refine by Thomas Siddell (writer/artist) and Dafna Pleban (editor). $26.99, 293 pgs, FC, Archaia.

I love Gunnerkrigg Court, and even though I can read it on-line, these hardcover volumes are awesome.

The Names by Leandro Fernandez (artist), Carlos M. Manguel (letterer), Peter Milligan (writer), Cris Peter (colorist), and Scott Nybakken (editor). $16.99, 184 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

As much as I like Fernandez's work here (and it's quite good), I think we can all agree that cover artist Celia Calle needs more work, damn it!!!!

Nanjing: The Burning City by Ethan Young (writer/artist) and Jim Gibbons (editor). $24.99, 193 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

This is about the Japanese invasion of China in 1937 and the destruction of Nanjing, which is of course why it's full of wacky hijinks! I do like how the back of the book says it's about one of World War II's most overlooked tragedies, even though several books have been written about the destruction of Nanjing and it didn't occur during World War II. Unless we're counting any regional conflict that involved Japan and Germany in the decade before 1939 as "World War II." Still, this looks pretty neat.

Resurrectionists volume 1 by Moreno Dinisio (inker/colorist), Nate Piekos (letterer), Maurizio Rosenzweig (penciller), Fred van Lente (writer), Spencer Cushing (assistant editor), and Jim Gibbons (editor). $19.99, 134 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

This was the comic that shipped four single issues before Dark Horse moved it to digital and solicited a trade. It really irked me, because they couldn't even finish the arc, so I have four superfluous issues. It's too bad, because it's a terrific comic with a cool hook - people who can remember their past lives and use the skills the acquired in them - and van Lente is a good writer and the art is excellent. I hope for more volumes, but with the way this played out, I'm not feeling great about its chances.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl volume 1: Squirrel Power by Clayton Cowles (letterer), Erica Henderson (artist), Ryan North (writer), Rico Renzi (colorist), Jon Moison (assistant editor), Jake Thomas (assistant editor), and Will Moss (editor). $15.99, 104 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Marvel is really making it tough for me to read their comics. This, at least, costs the same as the single issues, plus it includes the first appearance of Squirrel Girl from 1990, but I don't like paying 4 dollars for single issues of Marvel comics, and if the trades are going to be the same price, what's the point? Not all of their trades are this way, but they're inching closer to making it even difficult to justify buying the trades. The Names, I should point out, is 9 issues long and costs 17 dollars. Fuck the heck, Marvel?

They're Not Like Us volume 1: Black Holes for the Young by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Fonografiks (letterer), Simon Gane (artist), and Eric Stephenson (writer). $9.99, 135 pgs, FC, Image.

Travis kept bugging me to get this comic, even though I doubt he's even read it, so I did. We'll see. Looks neat, though.

Money spent this week: $133.70. YTD: $4524.69.


Some stuff from the world: Here's a story about a new pool some dude wants to build between two apartment buildings. As in, across the span between them. With a clear glass bottom. I would swim in that every day. But alas, I am not a millionaire and can't afford an apartment in the buildings.

College and pro football is right around the corner, so I've been reading about Penn State and the Eagles, as I am an fan of both teams, and I found this. It's a takedown of the "Big 10" teams (all 14 of them!), but I only link to it because they make fun of the University of Maryland's hideous uniforms by claiming that Under Armor is coming up with "Art of Winning" uniforms for the team, with a new art masterpiece featured each week. Frankly, that sounds like the best idea EVER. Here's their poor mock-up of a helmet:

That would be tremendous. The comments section of that post also introduced me to this .gif, which I'm now obsessed with. I don't even know why:

I don't know if you've seen the latest Samsung Edge commercial, but it stars Chrissy Teigen, who always seems like a pretty cool chick on social media. However, this commercial is so awful it makes me hate Teigen, Samsung, and anyone who buys a Samsung product, even retroactively (which means I now have to hate my own daughter, who has a Samsung tablet). If you haven't seen the commercial, check it out below. If you don't feel the same way, we can't be friends anymore.

As I mentioned, Teigen seems like a pretty cool chick. Here's a story about her hilarious battle with Instagram over her nipple (NSFW, obvs). But that commercial ... man, it's bad.

The big news in nerddom this week is Yvonne Craig's death. Mark Evanier has a few great stories about Craig which shows how savvy she was around fanboys. Batgirl episodes and Julie Newmar episodes were always my favorite Batman episodes. I'm not exactly sure why!

Rest in Peace, Ms. Craig.

I've had to take some weeks off from these posts recently, and it always bums me out. One kid was home for a few weeks in July, and I was pretty busy with her, and then school started on the 12th and I've been busy with that (I'm the president of our Parent Organization this year, so if I seem drunk with power, that's probably it). I still like doing weekly reviews, and it bugs me whenever I just don't have the time, and I have no idea week by week if I'm going to. I do worry about doing this, though. I haven't really been a steady DC and Marvel reader for years now, and the comics I do read seem to resist single issue reviews of this sort more and more. I don't want to write these if they're not edifying for the readers. I have never thought that I'm going to sway people to read something just because I like it, but I do read a lot of comics from the back of the Previews catalog and my idea has always been that I have a pretty powerful forum here so I might as well let people know that there are comics out there you might like, even if I end up not liking them. I don't know how many readers heard about The Disciples, for instance, because Black Mask Comics isn't a big publisher, but Niles and Mitten are proven commodities, so if you like their stuff, you might like this comic but you might not have heard of it. But if people aren't interested in that, I won't write these. I'm not really looking for validation, but I do want to know if you guys think doing this is a good idea, because I can easily focus more on the many trades I buy (and I'm still trying to get completely away from single issues anyway, so this might be moot sooner rather than later). I like reviewing things and I'll keep doing it, but if most readers are moving away from single issues anyway, I can too. What do you say?

No Top Ten List this week, and no songs from my iPod, so let's check out some Totally Random Lyrics! Last time I did this, no one figured out that the lyrics were from "Words" by Missing Persons:

Holy cow, look at that video. Anyway, here are this week's lyrics!

"Now the light is fading fast,Chances slip away, a time will come to passWhen there'll be none,Then addicted to a perfumed poison,Betrayed by its aftertaste,Oh we shall lose the wonder and find nothing in return.Many are the substitutes but they're powerless on their own"

Have a great day and weekend, everyone. We're in the middle of an unusual heat wave (I know, in August in Arizona, which means it's even more like Hell than usual), so I'm trying to ride that out. I can't wait until November, when it might be comfortable here again!

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