What I bought - 19 December 2012

"And the good thing about feeling really happy, you know, Valentin? ... It's that you think it's forever, that one's never ever going to feel unhappy again." (Manuel Puig, from Kiss of the Spider Woman)

Some people might not think I'm a discerning reviewer because I like too much stuff. If we believe Sturgeon's Law (I don't, necessarily, but it's handy at times), then I'm really a sucker for some bad comics. But even with comics I like, I occasionally don't enjoy an issue or a story arc - it's not enough to get me to drop the book, but it's enough for me to write a bad review. And, of course, recently, I've been acquiring the Marvel NOW! #1 issues, and there have been some opportunities for me to read bad comics, and I've had some fun ripping them. If you like reviews that rip a comic, however, I should warn you - I bought 13 single issues this week, and every single fucking one of them was, if not awesome, then better than average. I'm serious. It was a good fucking week for comics, and I'm going to write pretty good things about each of them. Some are better than others, of course, but they're all at least solid reads. I don't mean to be all cheery just because of the season, but these were just really good individual issues of the series. So not a lot of cynicism this week ... well, until after the reviews. We'll see what happens then!

Batwoman #15 ("Interlude II") by J. H. Williams III (writer/artist), W. Haden Blackman (writer), Trevor McCarthy (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), Guy Major (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

I didn't know that Trevor McCarthy was drawing most of this issue, so that's a bit disappointing, but I happen to like McCarthy, so it wasn't that disappointing. Williams and Blackman are trying to wrap this massive story up (two more issues, I think?), and I imagine that Williams wants to draw the big showdown, so if he got behind, he shoehorned in a story for McCarthy to draw. There's nothing wrong with that, and this issue, which focuses on Maggie Sawyer and what she's been doing since Batwoman and Wonder Woman went looking for Medusa, is one of the better-written ones of the series (granted, the bar isn't that high, but still). It's still a bit too ham-fisted, but Blackman and Williams give us a nice story about Maggie trying to stop the onslaught of bad guys even as the parents of the missing kids think about forming a vigilante group and going after the bad guys themselves. Maggie understands what the parents are going through, but she still has to talk them down, and when that doesn't completely work, she has to watch Felipe, one of the parents, face the bad guys himself. It's a nice, relatively quiet issue (there's some shooting and such, but not as much as usual) that shows how good people can deal with tragedy, and Williams and Blackman do a nice job showing different responses to those tragedies, not simply shoehorning everyone into one camp. As always, the book's quality is lower when Williams isn't drawing it, but McCarthy does a good job, especially as it's a grittier-looking story (but not necessarily in tone), so McCarthy's heavier inks give it a more "street-level" vibe than Williams' more superheroic look. McCarthy has done some interesting things with page layouts in the past, but he keeps it simple here, as the story is more straightforward than most of the rest of the series. While I don't love the somewhat boring page layouts, unlike something like Cable and X-Force from last week (which had similar layouts), McCarthy's attention to detail and Guy Major's more vibrant colors overcome the dull layouts where Larroca's and D'Armata's bland work couldn't.

As always with this comic, I admire the ambition of the writers in telling this sprawling story and managing to do issues like this, which focus on an ancillary character who's still important to the story. I'm glad we're finishing things, though, and I'm looking forward to the final two issues of the epic. It should be groovy.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dark Horse Presents #19. "X Chapter 1: The Pigs Part One: Straw Men" by Duane Swierczynski (writer), Eric Nguyen (artist), Michelle Madsen (colorist), and Comicraft (letterer); "Alabaster: Boxcar Tales Chapter 2" by Caitlín R. Kiernan (writer), Steve Lieber (artist/letterer), and Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist); "Deep Sea Chapter 3" by Jimmy Palmiotti (writer), Justin Gray (writer), Tony Akins (artist), Paul Mounts (colorist), and Bill Tortolini (letterer); "Gamma Chapter 2" by Ulises Farinas (writer/artist/letterer) and Erick Freitas (writer); "Captain Midnight Chapter 2" by Joshua Williamson (writer), Victor Ibañez (artist), Ego (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); "Mind Mgmt: What's the Magic Word?" by Matt Kindt (writer/artist); "Crime Does Not Pay Presents City of Roses Chapter 4" by Phil Stanford (writer), Patric Reynolds (artist), Bill Farmer (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); "Resident Alien: The Suicide Blond Chapter 2" by Peter Hogan (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist); "Station to Station Chapter 1" by Corinna Bechko (writer) and Gabriel Hardman (writer/artist/letterer); "The White Suits Chapter 2" by Frank J. Barbiere (writer) and Giovanni Valletta (artist). $7.99, 80 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Dark Horse is slowly re-introducing their ill-fated 1990s superheroes, so we've already seen Ghost show up, and now X is back in the pages of DHP. I haven't read too much of those superhero books, and what I have wasn't too impressive, but good for Dark Horse for bringing them back. Swierczynski is not a bad choice to write the X reboot, as he's a decent crime writer, and his first chapter is darkly humorous and gruesome, as many X stories are. Palmiotti, Gray, and Akins are back with their weird monster tale, and even though Akins draws one of the characters with oddly disproportionate breasts (odd because it feels out of place with the rest of the story, not because other artists don't draw women with disproportionate breasts), it's still an interesting story ... except that this installment ends with "End (for now)," which bugs me because either it's going to continue in an ongoing/mini-series or it's going to be gone for months until it shows back up in DHP. I want it now!!!!

"Gamma" flashes back in time and begins to make some more sense, and Farinas uses the famed evacuation of Saigon in 1975 to good visual use (Farinas knows how to use Wikipedia/Google Image search, as that's the first image to show up!) - the entire chapter looks great, in fact, as Farinas gets to show off some cool designs. Kindt's "Mind Mgmt" story is a nice supplement to the main book, and I suppose it's in here to get people interested in the main book, so maybe it will work. It's a cool comic, after all. Bechko and Hardman begin a science fiction story in which something weird happens on Treasure Island in San Francisco bay, and it's clear that scientists did something screwy and now monsters are loose on Earth. Hardman's art is always good to see, and the story, while clichéd, has some potential.

Dark Horse Presents just keeps trucking along, with good-to-great creators doing their thing. It's just a good comic book!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Happy! #3 (of 4) by Grant "It's creator-owned, so I can be even more tardy with it!" Morrison (writer), Darick Robertson (artist), Tony Avina (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

Happy! is still not nearly as good as Morrison can be, and that's too bad. I guess his Action Comics hasn't been getting much love, but I dropped it mainly because it was ... boring, which was very weird when we consider it's Morrison writing Superman. Happy! is boring in the same way - yes, it's nothing like Superman, and Morrison gets to use grown-up words like "fuck" a lot, but it's boring because Morrison doesn't do anything unexpected. In the issues of Action I read, everything seemed slotted into place too easily (it might have changed, but it still doesn't seem like it's a critical darling), and the same holds true for Happy! Nick's life - as revealed in this issue - is a cheap, crappy novel, and it's like Morrison doesn't even care to try to subvert it - "Oh, sure, of course he has an affair and becomes an alcoholic! Nope, nothing unusual to see here!" It's bizarre.

But I wrote above that I don't have anything bad to say about the issues this week, right? So that must mean I liked this? Well, maybe I'm a shameless Whorrison, but I did like this more than it probably deserves to be liked. The God of All Comics can still write with some wit, and while the people on the train who get angry at their loved ones and then suddenly feel good about them again is a bit contrived, it's still effective. Plus, Morrison writes Happy well, and I'm genuinely curious to see if this turns into one of those godawful endings where the hero simply kills everyone in his way or if Morrison has something weird up his sleeve. Robertson draws this well, naturally, although Nick's partner looks too much like that chick from Transmetropolitan and, if I recall correctly, that other chick from The Boys. Robertson likes that look, doesn't he?

So yeah. I don't love Happy!, but it's just good enough that I want to see what happens in the final issue. I guess I suck. Don't look at me like that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hawkguy #6 ("Six Days in the Life of") by Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I'm weirdly proud of the fact that I made such an impression on Stephen Wacker and the "Hawkeye Brain Trust" that they make a joke about it in the latest issue of their fine periodical. You all caught it, right?

Anyway, following the lead of J. Caleb Mozzocco, who believes they should just rename the book, I'm going to call it "Hawkguy" from now on, especially because Fraction calls it that on Twitter and, in this issue, devotes an entire page to some dude telling Clint that his name is, in fact, "Hawkguy." Come on, Marvel - if you want to go completely bro-tastic with this book, it's time to rename it!

This issue is a reason why I try not to slobber all over books when they first show up. If you thought Hawkeye #1 or #2 was the greatest issue ever when it had some obvious flaws, what happens when an issue like this comes along? Because this issue is phenomenal, one of the best single issues of the year, and it's largely because Fraction doesn't try to jam this nice dialogue into a dull action-movie plot. The plot of the issue is still the book's biggest weakness - the Track Suit Mafia just aren't that interesting, no matter how hard Fraction tries - but at least there are two good things about it: Fraction gives us a peek behind the curtain and shows us a bit more about the bad guys, which makes them marginally more interesting, and he also doesn't show the big fight between Clint and the bad guys, which is pretty awesome. We know Clint is going to win in the end, so why show it? Just that decision raises the bar of this comic.

The rest of it is superb, too, probably the closest Fraction has come to matching the storytelling skills he's displayed on Casanova (he's come close in other comics, too, and the trick for him is replicating it long-term). Fraction tells the story about a week in the life of Hawkguy, but he skips back and forth through time so that we see some of the consequences of what's been going on before we see the events that caused them. This isn't a new or even particularly clever way of telling a story, but when it does work, it's pretty effective, especially because the climax of the book, chronologically, comes in the middle of said week, but Fraction puts it on the penultimate page, which is probably where it belongs. It's all about pacing, and the issue is paced very well. The opening pages are obviously a misdirection joke, but it works pretty well, and the A.I.M. fight on pages 3 and 4 is very funny (Spidey makes the correct joke about Wolverine's Mel Hein reference, but it's only funny if Spidey could be the butt of the joke as well). I always love when characters make reference to the pop culture of their worlds (Seinfeld's movies were always good to see), so the idea that a lot of people in the Marvel Universe watch a show called Dog Cops is awesome. Plus, Kate is excellent, as usual.

Aja's return means that Fraction's writing is even better. As I mentioned with the last two issues, Pulido is perfectly fine, but this book seems to have a different sensibility when Aja is drawing it, and I hope and pray that Marvel resists double-shipping this so he can do as many issues as possible (I know he's not going to be able to do every single issue, because that would be crazy, but if Marvel double-ships this, he'll do even fewer as a percentage of the whole). He breaks down the page into many, many small panels to accommodate Fraction's wordy script, but because he uses so many panels, there's still plenty of room for wordless ones, where Aja's drawings tell as much of the story as Fraction's words do. The preponderance of panels never gets confusing - the book is very easy to read - and Aja keeps everything moving nicely. He and Hollingsworth do some amazing work with the shadows and light when Clint is kidnapped by the bad guys - the White Track Suit Honcho stands out brilliantly among his minions, and it's all negative space and coloring worked to perfection. Aja also gives Kate an outfit that is both stylish and bad-ass. It's impressive. The big splash page at the end, where Clint decides to man up, is amazing both for how Aja draws Clint and for what he doesn't show - it's all anticipation on our part, and Fraction and Aja let us fill in the blanks. That's great comic booking - these guys don't think their audience is stupid, which is always nice.

I was hoping that Hawkguy would get this good, and I'm glad it has. This is a brilliant issue, and I really hope the creative team will continue in this vein. This comic doesn't need great plots, it just needs for the characters to be in situations where the plots come to them. I'm still not in love with the bad guys in this book, but that's not too big an annoyance. If you haven't been buying Hawkguy or if you didn't like the first five issues, you should really check this one out. It's everything that the first five issues hinted at but couldn't quite deliver.

(I'm dying to see what Kelly thought of this comic, as she's been in the tank with Hawkguy since issue #1. I fear that this issue may have caused her head to explode with sheer awesomeness!)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hellblazer #298 ("Death and Cigarettes Part One: The Fates") by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), Brian Buccellato (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Peter Milligan begins the final arc of Hellblazer by, well, killing John Constantine. No, I didn't give you a SPOILER warning, because this is the first part of the arc, so you knew something unfortunate had to happen early and then John would have to figure it out. In this issue he has figured out that he's going to die, and we see the three Fates talking about how they're going to make sure Constantine doesn't escape. John is pretty fatalistic about the whole thing, which pisses Epiphany off to no end. Meanwhile, Terry Greaves is feeling a bit off his game, and he wonders if John's presence in his life is causing it. It's all very gripping!

Much like all of Milligan's stories, there's the Constantinian underpinning of nastiness throughout the book, but also like Milligan's stories, the presence of Epiphany makes John more human and his fate more tragic. I don't know if Milligan will actually be allowed to kill John off - I suspect he won't - but it's a pretty good way to begin the arc.

As it has been for the past four years, Hellblazer is a very good comic. I wish Milligan could write another 50 or so issues.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Journey into Mystery #647 ("Stronger than Monsters Part 2 of 5") by Kathryn Immonen (writer), Valerio Schiti (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), and Clayton Cowles (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

The second issue of Immonen's Journey into Mystery is as good as the first, as Sif becomes a bit more unstable and first Fandral and then Heimdall try to reason with her. When Heimdall can't, he sends her ... somewhere, where presumably she'll be able to be a berserker without killing anyone in Asgard or in Oklahoma. Considering that she throws a sword point-first ... at a young girl in this issue, that's probably a good idea (the girl is okay, although she does get wounded). Immonen writes this quite well, as Sif has no time for the idiot in the Broxton bar who tries to pick her up and then gets a bit pissed when she insults him, nor does she have time for Fandrall, nor does she have time for Heimdall, but he's able to teleport her away before she can cause him any problems. It's pretty interesting, because Sif doesn't actually go too crazy, but it's obvious there's something very off with her, and I'm curious to see if Immonen has any bigger point than "Sif wants to be really powerful because she's bored." I hope she does.

Schiti gives us a second gorgeous issue in a row, as he does well with the facial expressions in the bar, when Sif is trying to goad the slob into attacking her and enjoying every second of it while the bartender knows that would not be good for business and tries to calm the guy down and get Sif out of there. I used three panels for the "Airwolf panel" because the way Schiti draws the action is wonderful - not many artists can make a fight look so smooth. Schiti's monster at the end is pretty cool, too. Bellaire's colors are superb again, especially on the page where Sif lights the lantern to find out where she is. It's very neat.

This is a really good comic so far. I wouldn't have thunk it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mars Attacks #6 by John Layman (writer/letterer), John McCrea (artist), and Andrew Elder (colorist). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Layman and McCrea (and Elder) return with a new arc, one in which a scientist figures out a way to kill Martians, and the Martians don't think that's such a great thing, so they take an extreme step to neutralize the weapon. Meanwhile, a kid in a small town in New Mexico figured out that the Martians were coming, but no one believed him. His town happens to be built over the secret government testing lab where the scientist developed the weapon, so presumably the kid - Tommy Bailey - will be somehow important to the bigger plot, although given the way Layman writes stories, it might all be a fake-out.

It's a pretty good set-up issue, as Layman puts all the pieces on the board and introduces the plot pretty well. McCrea and Elder are as good as they've been on the book so far, with McCrea having a grand old time drawing all sorts of destruction and Elder softening his pencils a little and adding some not-too-intrusive computer effects. There's not much else to say about it!

Layman was originally only going to write the first five-issue arc. I'm glad he decided to do another one!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Saga #8 by Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Fiona Staples (artist), and Fonografiks (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

As you might recall, I've been warming up to Saga - I figured I would, so I was willing to wait until Vaughan caught up to my expectations of him, and the past two issues have been quite good. Vaughan flashes back to when Alana met Marko, which isn't quite as clever as it's supposed to be but is still pretty good, and then we find out what Marko's dad wanted to do when he knocked Alana out at the end of last issue, and that is as clever as it's supposed to be. Meanwhile, Marko and his mom confront ... that giant, who tells them something they really didn't want to hear. I still think Marko is a more interesting character than Alana right now, because his pacifism makes him think about better solutions to problems, and they wouldn't have found out the distressing information if he wanted to kill everything he sees. Vaughan, like a lot of good writers, knows he can write sparkling dialogue, and that's both a boon and a trap - early on in this series, it seemed like he was trying too hard, and in the past few issues, he's reined it in a bit, and the book has gotten a lot better. I don't know why this is - perhaps Vaughan wants to hook the reader so hard that he tries to dazzle us, but once he's hooked us, he can get to work, and that's when the book gets good. I don't know - it's just a theory.

Staples is also getting better at integrating the backgrounds into the foreground figure work - there are a couple of panels where it's not that great, but overall, it's strong work. She gives a short tutorial in the letters page about how she creates the art, and it's pretty interesting. I'm glad she's gotten better at the look of the book, because it does help the book if it actually looks like the characters are standing in their actual environments rather than standing in front of a green screen.

I'm still not in love with Saga, but I'm glad I stuck with it. I hope it keeps getting better, but if it doesn't, it's gotten interesting enough for me to see where Vaughan is going with it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Sixth Gun #27 ("Winter Wolves Part Four") by Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

We see a bit of Gord, Kirby, and Asher the mummy in this issue, as they try (and fail) to elude the Sword of Abraham in this issue, but it's mostly about Drake's confrontation with the Wendigo. As we saw last issue, the Wendigo has manifested with some interesting hosts, and Drake tries to get the Wendigo to release them, but the Wendigo has some demands. It's an interesting debate, because Drake doesn't want to do what the Wendigo wants, but at the same time, he wants to do something noble. In the end, he makes a fateful choice, and Hurtt ends the issue on a chilling image that we've never seen in the book so far and makes us reconsider exactly what's going on with Becky. It's a harrowing image, and it really sets the stage for the next issue, because while we know that Drake is a "bad guy," maybe he's justified in going after Becky?

I don't remember if Bunn ever told me how long The Sixth Gun is going to run, but I'm glad that it seems to be going well. It's a really cool book.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Wasteland #42 ("This Woman's Work") by Antony Johnston (writer), Russel Roehling (artist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, BW, Oni Press.

This is a quiet issue of Wasteland, as Johnston follows Abi after she leaves Michael to the town of Sunspot, which is where Golden Voice hailed from. There she finds a dying town, full of people stricken by a mysterious plague that kills everyone it infects. A few people seem to be immune, but the rest are almost dead. Abi, being a healer, starts healing, but things don't go as well as she would wish. This leads to some interesting backstory about the world of Wasteland - we learn a bit more about the kind of people Abi and Michael are (or at least the legends about them), and we also find out that some people have plans for those like Abi. Obviously, Johnston has always had some kind of plan for this book, and occasionally we'd get glimpses of it, but he's been able to reveal more of that plan as we get further and further into the book, and it feels a bit accelerated. I think Johnston said the book would run about 60 issues, which means he doesn't have too long to go, but I could be wrong. Whatever the reason, it's nice that he's bringing a bit more out even though it doesn't feel like he's rushing things. The pacing on the book has always been good, and that's still true after 42 issues.

I keep hoping that Roehling is staying on the book long-term, because he continues to do a swell job on it. He does a really nice job showing the strain in Abi's face and body as she tries to heal everyone in the town, and Johnston lets him show how the townspeople, especially Ralla, respond emotionally to Abi's presence. It's very well done.

I know I'm writing this a lot this week, but this issue of Wasteland is just another example of a fine comic book. Who knew there were so many out there?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Where Is Jake Ellis? #2 (of 5) by Nathan Edmondson (writer), Tonci Zonjic (artist/letterer), and Joseph Frazzetta (color assistant). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Edmondson's spy thriller keeps moving along nicely. He hits some of the clichés of the spy thriller, but the odd link between Jake and Jon and now the link between the dude chasing Jon and Jon is enough to keep the book intriguing even among the clichés. The fact that Mollie seems to mess up the link between Jake and Jon is interesting, too. Edmondson is wise enough to let Zonjic do a lot of the heavy lifting, and the book looks great. The action scenes are exciting and frenetic, while Zonjic and Frazzetta's colors are beautiful. I just can't write too much about this comic - if you liked the first mini-series, this is more of the same, and if you don't like spy comics, this might not be your cup of tea. But it's a nice, exciting book. What more do you need?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Witch Doctor: Mal Practice #2 (of 6) by Brandon Seifert (writer/letterer), Lukas Ketner (artist), and Andy Troy (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image/Skybound.

Dr. Morrow got cursed last issue, and in this issue we find out that a Mysterious Stranger™ infected him so he could get Morrow to turn over his fancy spellbook in exchange for the cure. Morrow communicates briefly with said Mysterious Stranger™ and then goes looking for a cure. The Mysterious Stranger™ can see him, but Morrow is smart enough to get around that ... somewhat. It's a cat and mouse game!

Seifert is having a grand time building this world, so we get references to Mystics Without Borders*, while Morrow visits the Red Market, an underground magic trade show, sees his "future ex-wife," Catrina, and gets an enigmatic clue from some old dude (are there any other kinds of clues?). He still thinks he needs help, so he calls in ... The Surgeons (see below), who are straight out of a Clive Barker nightmare (Seifert has been writing Hellraiser, so maybe he was inspired by that). They're still pretty cool, especially when Morrow explains to Gast about what they do. Plus, the girl who infected Morrow doesn't know that she herself is possessed. There's so much going on you almost forget that Penny isn't in this issue at all! And why the bad guys seem to have some strange Academy Award thing going on is beyond me. (Yes, I know what they're supposed to be, but let me have some fun.)

Ketner continues to add a lot to this story - it wouldn't look quite as good without his hard, etched lines and rough inks. He does a terrific job with the one page on which Charlotte appears, as she looks completely normal until the final, freaky panel, and the entire scene with The Surgeons is tremendous. This book is far creepier than you would think, mainly because Seifert comes up with interesting but not necessarily creepy ideas and then Ketner makes them horrifying. It's a good combination - Seifert just isn't going for creepy, so the book is more than just a straight horror comic, while Ketner's work makes sure that it gets under your skin like a good horror comic should.

It appears that the creators haven't lost a step from the last mini-series, which is nice. Do yourself a favor and check this comic out!

* My wife and I always refer to "Doctors Without Medicine" because of its French name (in which the "doctors" is replaced with "Médecins") because we're juvenile. It keeps us young, man!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

X-Factor #249 ("Inner Depths") by Peter David (writer), Leonard Kirk (penciler), Jay Leisten (inker), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

It's funny how I don't buy books based on their covers, but when a really good cover artist doesn't do a few, I really notice it. David Yardin has been doing covers on X-Factor for so long that the last two, without Yardin, are really noticeable as not as good. They're not terrible, but they're not as good as Yardin's. Very weird.

Anyway, David finishes the prologue to his big "Hell on Earth War" story arc, as the team fights off the beasties that are pouring out of the volcano in the New York Botanical Gardens but that really only stems the tide briefly. David can't be bothered to do a proper (read: separate) story arc, so of course he has to lead into it with four issues of prologue that still serve as separate issues. David, of course, has been doing this forever - as he points out, next issue will be his 100th on this series (if we don't count the Madrox mini-series) - and he does it very well, so readers of X-Factor should just expect it. So everyone kicks ass, Monet gets her body back, Pip gets his body back, and we're all set for the big event. Whoo-hoo! It appears that Leonard Kirk is drawing the whole thing, too, which is nice. Artistic consistency, yay!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dames in the Atomic Age by Christopher Ryder (writer), Marc Sandroni (penciler), Mike Vosburg (inker), Paul Little (colorist), and Tony Fleecs (letterer). $8.95, 64 pgs, FC, Art of Fiction.

Come on! It's dames! In the Atomic Age!!!!!

Okay, it's about a private investigator who finds the wife of a Defense Department scientist in bed with his best friend, and things get weird from there. Sounds cool!

Iron: Or the War After by S. M. Vidaurri (writer/artist). $24.95, 152 pgs, FC, Archaia.

So this is a spy thriller with animals set in a world where it's always winter. That sounds neat, right?

Judge Dredd: The Complete Brian Bolland by Brian Bolland (artist) and a bunch of other people. $49.99, 313 pgs, BW, IDW.

Damn, Brian Bolland is awesome. I'm not even that big a fan of Judge Dredd, but I had to have this!

Sharaz-De: Tales from the Arabian Nights by Sergio Toppi (writer/artist). $29.95, 223 pgs, (mostly) BW, Archaia.

Walt Simonson writes the forward for this, which is fitting, because it's obvious he was influenced by Toppi. This is brilliant-looking book, and I'm surprised I haven't seen anything by Toppi before. Yes, I suck. Toppi died in August, so we'll never see more work from him, but now I have to find more of the stuff he did produce!

Spacehawk by Basil Wolverton (writer/artist). $39.99, 264 pgs, FC, Fantagraphics.

My pal Tim Callahan has been raving about this book on the Mothership recently, and it's very neat-looking. Lots of kooky space adventures!


Obviously, the big news this week is the Connecticut school shooting, which has led to all sorts of bloviating on the television and on the Internets. I've long been a proponent for tougher gun laws, so the fact that this might spur politicians into action is fine with me, but I worry about overreactions, because we can never do anything in politics without overreacting, it seems. The death of 20 kids at once is terrible, but since last Friday, how many kids and adults have died from gun violence? There's a ridiculous number of people dying every minute in this country from gunshots, yet it takes a massacre for anyone to care. Massacres like the one in Connecticut are extremely rare - yes, every other country in the world is so much more enlightened than the States that it's even rarer in those places, but even in a gun-crazy place like this, massacres like this are extremely rare. Where's the outrage when one kid picks up a gun and shoots himself in the head because his parents don't know how to lock their guns up or keep them unloaded? Where's the outrage when some guy doesn't like the dinner his wife made him and he decides to express his disapproval by shooting her? If we're going to be outraged by the massacre, we should be outraged every day.

I'm also pissed off by the notion that "criminals will be the only ones with guns" if we have tougher gun laws. What a bunch of bullshit. Criminals will always find guns. Guess what? The people who commit these massacres usually aren't criminals. Well, they aren't until they start shooting. They get their guns legally and aren't people who are on anyone's radar. What would happen if the shooter in Connecticut didn't have easy access to guns? Would he have gone on a rampage? Possibly, but what weapon would he have used? There will always be gun-related deaths in the United States, because we love our guns too much. But some of the worst violence can be stopped if the NRA and other gun nuts can just admit that there's absolutely no reason to own the heaviest ordnance except to kill people. Keep your hunting rifles - I don't even care if you ever hunt. Your automatic rifles, though, have to go.

I would really like a pro-gun politician to hold a press conference and say something like "We Americans believe in unlimited freedom, and twenty dead kids is a small price to pay for that freedom." You know that's what they think, but they wouldn't dare say it. I mean, we do that all the time - balance the price of something with the necessity for it. We make choices like that in our individual lives, and politicians do it every day. What the pro-gun people are saying is that some freedoms are worth dying for ... as long as they don't have to die. That's been axiomatic for a long time - who was the last president to see combat? - and it's true in this case. Pro-gun people don't have a problem with random massacres, because they're like lightning strikes - they happen, and it's sad, but it's a random tragedy, man! So they come up with every single reason under the sun why these things happen - Mike Huckabee loses any shred of credibility by saying it's because God isn't in schools anymore (he totally backed off that statement, of course, but that's only because he's not only a jerk but a coward); anyone with Asperger's needs to be locked up (I can't find the link, but a bunch of people were ranting about this last weekend); if only we armed more people, these kinds of things wouldn't happen (which is so laughable I can't believe sane people are actually refuting it); the shooter was freaked out about the Mayan apocalypse (Rush Limbaugh floated this theory, which is probably one of the less stupid things Rush has said recently - who knows what was going on in the dude's head?). The bottom line is: More guns = more gun violence. It's not fucking rocket science.

I watched on Facebook as several of my friends - either actual friends or people I haven't spoken to in years but knew in high school - posted about wanting to go to school and get their kids. Parents called both my kids' schools to ask about their safety procedures. I assume that at some point in parents' lives, you are suddenly reminded that you can't keep your kids safe, no matter what you do. I learned this in April 2003, so the shooting at the school didn't make me call schools or run over there and drag my kids home - I figured they were as safe as they were before the shooting as after it, so what would be the point? I can certainly understand the impulse, but one of the hardest lessons to learn as a parent is that the world is full of dangers, and your kid or your wife or your husband or anyone you know or you yourself could die at any time. My roof could collapse as I'm typing this! Do those parents think twice about putting their kids in cars every day? Far more kids die in car accidents than school shootings each year, but no one keeps their kids out of cars.

Finally, as an atheist, shootings like this just prove to me that God doesn't exist. Huckabee, in trying to walk back his insanely stupid speech, spoke about only invoking God in a tragedy, which is far too facile, but it's true that people turn to God for answers in a case like this. Well, guess what? To me, either God's answer is "You people suck and I don't care about your children" or he doesn't exist. But that's just what I think. I'm not shy about being an atheist, and it's stuff like this that make me wonder how anyone can believe in God. You turn to God for comfort but never question why God allowed this to happen? That seems strange. I don't know if God exists any more than the most hard-core believer does, so I shouldn't be such a jerk about it, but I have never understood the whole argument about God not being there to prevent things but being there for comfort. I can find comfort with a lot of different people in my life. Believers don't need God for comfort, they need God to prevent shit like this from happening. He doesn't, so I choose to believe he doesn't exist rather than believe in a douchebag God.

Sorry for the rant, but real life bothers me occasionally. It's astonishing to hear some of the anti-gun control arguments and how stupid they are. Nobody is coming to collect your fucking guns, you idiots. Maybe you don't need to own 100 assault rifles, though?

I told you I might be angry after the comics reviews were done! Luckily for us, comics had a good week right? So let's check out the Ten Most Recent Songs on My iPod (Which Is Always on Shuffle):

1. "Red Hill Mining Town" - U2 (1987) "Our love runs cold in the caverns of the night"2. "It's Only Time" - Magnetic Fields (2004) "What could stop this beating heart once it's made a vow?"3. "Rumour Has It" - Adele (2011) "You and I have history, or don't you remember?"14. "What If" - Coldplay (2005) "Every step that you take could be your biggest mistake"5. "Feeling That Way" - Journey (1978) "A new road's waiting, you touched my life"6. "She's the One" - Bruce Springsteen (1975) "But there's this angel in her eyes that tells such desperate lies and all you want to do is believe her"27. "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"8. "Camel Walk" - Southern Culture on the Skids (1995) "The way you eat that oatmeal pie makes me just wanna die"39. "Love Beats Me Up" - Australian Crawl (1983) "I think she wishes I was richer, well it ain't too bad, I'm fair to middling, oh, so-so"10. "Give the People What they Want" - Kinks (1981) "We all sit glued while the killer takes aim, 'Hey Mom, there goes a piece of the president's brain!'"

1 Yes, I like Adele. So sue me.

2 Hey, look, it's the only Springsteen song I like! Well, I will say that I haven't heard many Springsteen songs recently, but it's still the only one I like.

3 Yee-ha!!!!!

Last week's Totally Random Lyrics was "Secrets" by Van Halen - Greg Geren knew what is was, but he didn't actually identify the song. So let's check some more out!

Lay down your gun, lay down your packIt's time to recognize the factThat all the best things make you nervousAnd all the best things come in disguiseSo much so fast feels like you can't take the painBut remember there's no going back"

I LOVE this song. Sing it with me!

I apologize again for the rant. Feel free to yell at me in the comments! I hope your comics-buying experience was as fun as mine was this week! Next week, remember, there's only one comic coming out - the "final" issue of Amazing Spider-Man (and yes, people who threaten Dan Slott with death because of his story arc are absolute assholes who should be shunned and mocked) - and I'm taking said week off because I don't want to buy that issue. But I'll be trying to catch up on my other reviews, and my weekly rants will be back in 2013. I'm sure you're all excited! Have a wonderful day, and if you're celebrating, have a great Christmas!

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