What I bought - 19 May 2010

They hated Thomas for his courage, his brief moment as a bird. Everybody has dreams about flying. Thomas flew.

One of his dreams came true for just a second, just enough to make it real. (Sherman Alexie, from "This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona")

Atlas #1 ("The Return of the Three Dimensional Man"/"Department Zero") by Jeff Parker (writer), Gabriel Hardman (artist, "3-D Man"), Ramon Rosanas (artist, "Department Zero"), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist, "3-D Man"), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Marvel.

And so Marvel launches another Agents of Atlas book, and this time, they've renamed it! That means it's sure to sell well!

I suppose Jeff Parker has photo negatives of Joey Q shagging a squid or (gasp!) reading a DC comic, because Marvel keeps firing up his fave team, and I say, Hold onto those negatives, Mr. Parker! I liked the first Atlas mini-series a few years ago, but didn't love it. But Parker is a good writer, so I kept buying, and it's gotten better and better. In the last series, I didn't think Carlo Pagulayan was the best fit (especially when paired with colorist Jana Schirmer), but late in the run, Gabriel Hardman came on board and really worked with the book. Pagulayan is much more of a superhero artist, and while the Agents feature superhero types, the book itself is much grittier, which is why Hardman's style works better (and Elizabeth Breitweiser has quietly become one of the better colorists around, which doesn't hurt). Atlas exists on the fringes of the Marvel Universe, and Hardman's more down-to-earth art helps place them more in tune with their surroundings rather than above them, like many superhero art does. All the characters look more like they're wearing clothing rather than painted-on costumes. I've been a fan of Hardman's since he did the Black Coat special a few years ago, and was hoping he could get on a mainstream book like that, with some espionage undertones, as he seemed to fit that well. I'm glad he's on this book.

Meanwhile, Parker is doing his thing. Atlas hasn't really been out of the spotlight since the first series ended, as they backed up in The Incredible Hercules for a while and then had that mini-series with the original Avengers, so Parker doesn't do much to introduce the team. For a new reader, this might seem annoying, but this is much more the 3-D Man's story so far, which is a neat choice. It allows Parker to show the team from Delroy Garrett's point of view, as he's tracking the team because something is trying to kill him and has already dispatched one of the two men who were originally 3-D Man. We get some tidbits about the team, but not a lot. As it's Garrett's story, we accept that we'll be in the dark more than we might be about the team, so if you're a new reader, Parker gives you an excuse to not know what's going on.

It's a good first issue. Delroy Garrett, who, yes, was once called Triathlon (really, Kurt Busiek, really?) is tracking the team and thinking about how he reached that point. He was at a Hollywood party with his girlfriend when he was attacked by men who have strange energy around their bodies. (Parker gives us some history about the 1950s 3-D Man as well as Garrett's work in the Skrull Kill Krew during Secret Invasion, which is kind of a downer, as he killed a Skrull who had switched sides but he didn't know it.) He's also having dreams about Atlas. His girlfriend is also possessed by some strange energy and tries to kill him. Then he's framed for murder. Well, that just stinks, doesn't it? He also has visions about the back-up story, which deals with corpses being reanimated by some strange electrical device in 1958. It's all a big tapestry! Parker does a good job dropping clues, giving us information, but not allowing the pace to drag. That's because he's, you know, good.

The biggest problem with this issue is the price. I haven't checked to see if subsequent issues are $2.99, but this is $3.99 for a comic that, like some of the other books in Marvel's catalog, doesn't have a huge audience. I just don't get it. S.W.O.R.D. #1, for instance, was $3.99, but it had more pages. This has two stories, but the main one is 17 pages long. I'm counting the final two pages of text, which is part of a radio interview with the original members of the 3-D Man (there were two of them - don't ask), because it's new stuff and ties into the rest of the book, to get 24. I'm not counting the two-page Marvel encyclopedia entry on Delroy Garrett, though. My point, as always, is that I just don't get why this has to be $3.99. Avengers #1 is going to sell like gangbusters, so I'm sure it's $3.99 and people won't have any problem dropping their ducats on it. But one would think that Marvel, which is launching this series for the third time in the past few years, would really want people to buy it. The least they could do is make it $2.99 if they're not going to give us extra pages (the two extra pages don't have art, so there's only the standard 22 pages of art in this). I don't mind the back-up story at all. If Hardman can't crank out a full issue every month, that's cool, especially as Parker packs the 17 pages of main story with enough stuff to make it feel longer. But I can't imagine many people who don't know much about this group plunking down four dollars for this book. I will, because I like it, and I encourage you to buy it because it's quite good, but I certainly understand why you wouldn't, especially when there's like four Avengers books coming out this week! I mean, you wouldn't want to miss those, would you? Marvel continues to shoot itself in the foot with these lesser-known comics. It's, not to be too melodramatic, fucking insane.

At least Parker has those negatives. I hope they're in a safe place, sir!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Atomic Robo volume 4 #3 ("Why Dr. Dinosaur Hates Atomic Robo") by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Red 5 Comics.

I'm not going to go so far and say that this issue of Atomic Robo was bad, but it was a bit disappointing. Perhaps Dr. Dinosaur is too much of a one-note joke. I'm not sure. He first showed up in the Atomic Robo FCBD book last year (was it only last year?) and was funny there, and now he returns. He captures our hero, and the first 13 pages are basically Doc Dino and Rob arguing with each other. Now, it's funny banter, but it feels like it goes on a bit too long - we know Doc Dino is a moron, so continually telling us seems redundant. The action kicks in after that and the book takes off a bit, but it feels a bit padded, as if Clevinger couldn't really get a good 22-page story out of this. That's too bad, because individually, the jokes are pretty funny, but as you read through the pages, you get the sense that the pace needs to be picked up a bit. Most of Atomic Robo has walked a nice line between humor and action, with the humor keeping it from being just another dull action/adventure book and the action making sure the humor doesn't turn into a stand-up routine. In this issue, the humor tilts a bit too far to its side. And it's too bad, because Wegener doesn't get a lot to do, so visually, the book is a bit boring. A lot of it is just Robo and Doc Dino arguing. Now, it still looks good and Wegener does an excellent job with both Robo's body language and Doc's contemptuous expressions as he rants, but there are fewer neat-o touches that Wegener usually brings to the art. He cuts loose a bit when the action ramps up, but it's a long wait.

I don't want to imply that I hated this issue. As I wrote, if you pick random panels out of the book (see below!) and read them, they're funny. I liked reading it, certainly, but I just kept thinking that Robo was a lot more competent than he was showing. He even points out how embarrassed he is that Doc Dino captured him. As he should be! It's frustrating, because I love this comic so much, and if I open to a random page, it's funny, but when you sit down and read it straight through, it drags a bit. Usually, Robo is confronted with a significant threat that he fights while he makes jokes. I guess even Clevinger couldn't make Dr. Dinosaur a terrible enough threat for that. Oh well. I'm still looking forward to next issue!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #17 ("A Batman's Work is Never Done") by Sholly Fisch (writer), Robert W. Pope (penciller), Scott McRae (inker), Heroic Age (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.50, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

I've written this before and I'll write it again: the Johnny DC books are pretty much a perfect antidote to so much of the crap that DC (and Marvel, of course) is producing these days. Angry that Ryan Choi was chopped up and chucked in a shoe box? Depressed that most of Rogue's history has been rendered moot by revelations about her trysts with a adulterous, drug-using, insane superhero? Well, pick up an issue of Batman: The Brave and the Bold or Super Friends and I can almost guarantee that you'll smile at the sheer awesomeness of it. And for a brief time, you'll forget that to Danny D and Joey Q, "mature" means the supervillains kill junior high schoolers instead of elementary school kids!

In this issue, Batman teams up with a different hero on a different day of the week. That's right, instead of teaming up with just one hero like other losers, Batman joins forces with Metamorpho on Sunday, the entire Green Lantern Corps (including Mogo, mind you) on Monday, Merry, the Girl of 1000 Gimmicks on Tuesday, Jonah Hex and Bat Lash on Wednesday (yes, he flies to space on Monday and visits the Old West on Wednesday, because he's MOTHERFUCKING BATMAN!!!!), Hawkman on Thursday, the Inferior Five on Friday, and the Creeper on Saturday. The next Sunday he defeats Doomsday (with Superman's help, of course, but we know who did the heavy lifting). Do you hear that? That's the sound of your brain exploding from pleasure. And I didn't even tell you which villains he defeats! That's part of the fun!

The coolest thing about this issue (wait, there's more coolness than all the team-ups?) is the way Fisch writes Batman. He's not the grim bastard of the regular books, but he's still Batman, and he just knows he's cooler than everyone. He suffers no bullshit (as we see when he deals with the villain on Sunday), knows when the villain is in big trouble (as on Thursday), and doesn't indiscriminately smash bad guys until he knows what's going on (as on Saturday). In a world where heroes turn to villainy and villains reform, he dismisses the fact that Hawkman might be a bad guy - he says when they find a Thanagarian feather at the scene of a crime, "Obviously, you didn't steal the cup." No angst, no nothing. It reminded me of when the God of All Comics wrote the short story about Electric Blue Superman joining the JLA: Batman tells them of course he's in, he's Superman, and they should leave him alone. Batman doesn't even consider Hawkman as a suspect. He's a freakin' hero! And the final panel of the book shows that Fisch, even when writing a kinder, gentler Batman, still has our hero knowing that he kicks ass. It's a tremendous portrayal of Mr. D. Knight.

I honestly don't know how you can resist this comic. More than that, I don't know why you would want to! Isn't the world dark enough? Don't you need some fun?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Ex Machina #49 ("Pro-Life: Conclusion") by Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Tony Harris (artist), JD Mettler (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

I've always liked Tony Harris, and even though he's become more photo-referency on this series, he still retains enough of what makes him good to mitigate that. Every so often, though, he gives us an issue that simply looks sloppy. I don't know why, given the bi-monthly schedule of this book and the fact that it is, after all, ending next issue, he can't take his time (loyal readers will wait, and it's not picking up any new readers for the single issues, I would bet). I think this is a very good series (better than Y: The Last Man on the Vaughan-O-Meter), and I certainly don't care how long Harris takes getting it done. Because this particular issue, while better than a few in the past, has some very ugly pages. The character work is perfectly fine, but it looks as if Harris drew them on a blank page and then arranged them on a background. When Mitchell leaves the bathroom where he's bawling after he found out about his mom, he and Nolita (the woman who finds him) do not look as if they're actually in a bathroom - they look like they're in front of a green screen and the bathroom was added later. When Suzanne is fighting Mitch, one panel shows her taking his backpack off. January Moore is off to the side, looking for all the world like someone on a comic book blog Photoshopped her in. When we look through the portal, it's obvious Harris drew everything on the page, but did he do it at different times and then assemble the layout? It's very distracting. I mentioned with regard to Maleev's art on Spider-Woman that art in a static medium like comics should not appear as if a green screen was used. It's bad enough in movies, but in movies, things move so quickly it's easy to overlook it (and even then, it's getting harder and harder). In a comic, we can stare at a panel for as long as we want, thinking to ourselves, "That shit don't look right." Unlike some artists who scan photos into their computer and then "alter" them and call it their art, it seems like Harris is actually drawing most of the book. But the way he assembles the pages is distracting. It's very frustrating. If he's pressed for time, take some more! What's Jim Lee going to do, cancel the book? If this is the way he does art these days, he needs to rethink it. I know people will say it's looked like this throughout the run, and they're right, but back when it was more or less monthly, I could deal with it. Since the book went bi-monthly and it started winding down, Harris seemed to pull back on those tricks a bit. In this issue, they're back. Too bad.

Oh, there was a story? Yeah, I guess so. Things happen. It's the penultimate issue. What do you want me to say?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Girl Comics #2 (of 3). "Dogged Pursuit" by Jill Thompson (writer/artist) and Kathleen Marinaccio (letterer); "Good to be Lucky" by Kathryn Immonen (writer), Colleen Coover (artist), and Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist); "Valkyrie" pin-up by Colleen Doran; "Doom Hearts Sue!" by Stephanie Buscema (writer/artist), Kathleen Marinaccio (letterer); "Do You Ever?" by Faith Erin Hicks (writer/artist/letterer) and Cris Peter (colorist); "Ad Vice" by Abby Denson (writer), Emma Vieceli (artist), Emily Warren (colorist), and Kristyn Ferretti (letterer); "Miss America" pin-up by Ramona Fradon (penciler), Rebecca Buchman (inker), and June Chung (colorist); "Rondeau" by Christine Boylan (writer), Cynthia Martin (artist), June Chung (colorist), and Kathleen Marinaccio (letterer). $4.99, 38 pgs, FC, Marvel.

The second issue of Girl Comics is decidedly better than the first, which had only one (very) short story of note, despite some nice art. This one has a few more, and the text pieces about women who worked in Marvel over the years are much more interesting, I thought. Jill Thompson kicks things off with a story about the Inhumans, and it has two things going for it: It's fun, and JILL THOMPSON DRAWS IT!!!!! That means it looks great, plus there's a disturbingly erotic drawing of Crystal in it (disturbing because she's not doing anything erotic yet still is to this creepy old man - sorry, but that's the way it is sometime!). Then Colleen Coover actually draws a story instead of just that "grrl power" introduction, and it looks as good as you'd expect a Colleen Coover story would look. Patsy Walker's comment about wishing it were "Fleet Week" kind of creeped me out (yes, this is after I saw the disturbingly erotic drawing of Crystal - I'm just a mass o' contradictions) and the story feels somehow off to me. I can't really explain it. Molly Fitzgerald, who apparently hasn't been around the Marvel U. for a while, only works on superhumans because they have, ahem, "super hair"? First of all, really? Second of all, how does she stay in business? I mean, there can't be that many superhumans in the world, and they can't all go to Molly's shop! It feels like a lame way to point out that Felicia's niece is "ordinary." I get the idea of the story - that girls rule and even ones with no powers can feel good about themselves! - but it feels a bit forced. I don't know - I was never a teenaged girl (I mean, I used to dress up like a woman - come on, who hasn't? - but I was never an actual teenaged girl), so I don't know if the story feels right or not. It seems a little lame to me, though. Looks great, though.

Next we get a very funny two-page gag about Doctor Doom by Stephanie Buscema. I love shit like this - showing what Doom does on his downtime. You just know he wants to keep up on the gossip about Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and that chesty guy. (Every so often, Panic Room is on television, and I'm just stunned that Jodie Foster's kid is Kristen Stewart. I know kids change a lot from the time they're 12 to when they're 20, but it's still odd. Okay, back to it!) Faith Erin Hicks' tale of Elsa Bloodstone and Tabitha Smith is pretty funny, because she wonders why the heroes choose to be heroes. Boom-Boom has been portrayed as utterly dim, but she has a point - they would make amazing super-villains. The two-page story of Mary Jane thinking of superheroes' personal ads is wrong on so many levels, but I do like Ghost Rider flying through the air carrying a box of chocolates and flowers. And "Rondeau," in which Stephen Strange faces an old (female) adversary isn't great, but Martin's art is pretty cool.

Overall, this is much better than issue #1, even though it remains a mixed bag. Anthologies are like albums, where you might like some songs and not the others. Unfortunately for us, you can't just pick out the songs you like and put them on your iPod, consigning the rest to the back of your CD cabinet, never to be heard again. You take the good with the bad in anthologies! This definitely has more of the good than the bad, but I'm not sure it's worth 5 dollars. It's still cool to see so many creators you don't usually see working on these books, though.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hellblazer #267 ("Sanctioned Part One: The Catatonic Ward") by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Early on in Milligan's run on Hellblazer, I was just buying it because I had faith in Milligan to get better. It's not that the early issues were bad, they were just lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. However, Milligan has really been bringing his "A" game recently, and it's all been thanks to the big plot point that I still won't spoil and still don't completely agree with. It's been turning John more and more into a bastard, and as I pointed out recently, it's not like other Hellblazer writers haven't made him a jerk, but Milligan is really showing us what an utter scumbag he is. In this issue he does something almost irredeemable, and it (probably) drives him completely over the edge. He ends up in a mental ward that is, well, not the greatest place to get care, and Chas doesn't know what's going on and Epiphany doesn't really care. John has it together enough to summon, well, Shade the Changing Man. It's the "cliffhanger" of the issue, but as the solicits have been trumpeting it for a while, I suppose I can give it away. It's a crossover, Vertigo-style! Milligan, of course, wrote Shade lo those many years ago, and our mad Metan has met John before, so it works. And who's the weird dude who doesn't help John out in the street? And why, when I see that the doctor (is he a doctor?) in the mental ward is named Giles, do I think of this dude?

Anyway, I love this issue. Milligan has been turning the screws on John for a while, and this issue really brings all those things to a head. Everyone's favorite Canadian, Chad Nevett, has been saying that Milligan's Greek Street has been getting better, too. I thought this run started out better, but maybe these days, Milligan just needs to warm up a bit before he gets to the good stuff. I'm glad I stuck with this, because it's really freaky good these days.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Joe the Barbarian #5 (of VIII) ("From Never to Always") by Grant "You want realism? You got it!" Morrison (writer), Sean Murphy (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Morrison decides that Joe's magical world needs to intersect with the real world a bit more often, and while the "revelations" about Joe's father are obvious, the way Jack confronts the demon puppy and the way Joe gets in touch with his mom are quite touching. There's a real sense of terror when Joe realizes that leaving the front door open might invite in all sorts of nasty beasties, and the way he switches back and forth between the dog in the real world and the demon dog in the fantasy world is nicely done. Joe's conversation with his mother is handled well, too - she can't hear Joe too well because of the storm, so it's just a bit more frustrating than if he'd never gotten the phone. It's a cool way to show that Joe is still moving through the house and that events are still going on in the real world, even though he keeps flashing back to Jack's world.

I don't know how much lead time Murphy had to get this done, because the art still, five issues in, is as intricate and gorgeous as ever, and it doesn't look rushed at all. Could DC had most of this in the can before soliciting it? Could they have been that foresightful? Or is Murphy one of those rare artists who works fast and can still do such a wonderful job? I don't know, but I hope the quality keeps up, because I've run out of ways to describe how stunning the art is.

I got in an argument with my comic shoppe proprietor this past weekend about the God of All Comics. He doesn't like Morrison, and he gets frustrated because he feels he's the only dissenting voice in an on-line shrine to the G-Mozzer. He thinks Morrison's penchant for weirdness overwhelms his other skills too often, and while I agree with him to a degree, when Morrison does blend the weirdness with good characterization and dialogue, there's no one better. So far on Joe the Barbarian, he's been able to do that. The plot is simple to follow, Morrison gives us some of the epic stuff that he's so good at, but then he gives us the scene where Joe is sitting on his steps, scared out of his mind, and his mom can't hear him clearly. You might think his description of the Iron Knight is "weird," but it's easy to understand and, again, somewhat obvious. Morrison certainly falls into his own traps every once in a while, but something like Joe the Barbarian is why I think he's so good and why I give pretty much everything he writes a chance. One of these days I'll have to expound upon the Great Grant Divide more, but that's what was on my mind as I read this. And my comic shoppe proprietor reads a lot of good comics and is a smart dude, too. It's interesting to be so diametrically opposed to him about one writer.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Kill Shakespeare #2 (of 6) ("Something Wicked this Way Comes") by Conor McCreery (writer), Anthony Del Col (writer), Andy Belanger (artist), Ian Herring (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, IDW.

I was somewhat surprised about the reaction to the first issue of this series. I read a few reviews of it, and more than a few people were really angry about it because it wasn't "Shakespearean" enough; as in, the characters didn't speak in iambic pentameter or act like the characters in Shakespeare's plays. That struck me as not seeing the forest for the trees, because of a few things. First, it's a story about Shakespeare's characters trying to kill him, so strict adherence to the plays is probably out the window from the get-go. I mean, some knowledge about the plays is probably necessary to understand what's going on, but the writers don't even push that too far - I knew Richard III was a bad guy before he started acting badly, but McCreery and Del Col don't exactly keep us on tenterhooks until they reveal his villainy. Second, Shakespeare himself didn't write in iambic pentameter all the time, so who cares if the characters in this series do? Third, Shakespeare tended to rip off any- and everything he could find, so if McCreery and Del Col want to bastardize (not, you'll note, bowdlerize, which is a great word for an odious practice; I'm hoping my last name becomes a verb at some point, although I'm not sure what "You've been burgased!" would really mean) the characters in Shakespeare's plays, I say have at it, gentlemen! All that matters is if the final product is entertaining, not whether it "feels" like a Shakespeare play.

And this has been entertaining, so far. Hamlet continues his quest to find Shakespeare so he can get his (dead) father back, and he's joined by Iago, who (unsurprisingly) is not terribly loyal to anyone. Richard goes out of his way to prove to Hamlet that he's not a bloodthirsty tyrant when he, in fact, is, and Hamlet gets kidnapped by, I assume, Falstaff (he's featured next issue, so I'm thinking it's him, but I could be wrong). Meanwhile, Macbeth is massing troops to fight against Richard. It's all very - dare I say it? - Shakespearean!

I'm a bit puzzled by something near the end of the book. On one page, Richard tells Iago that he must get Hamlet back, but on the very next page, Iago says they're supposed to deal with Macbeth. We know he's lying, but why? I can't figure it out. I may just not be very bright. That's certainly possible.

I mentioned Belanger's art last time, and I'll do it again, because I really like it. Hamlet and Iago look a bit too much like hipster baristas, but the other characters are very well done, and Belanger does a good job with the action. Every panel is chock full of detail (an Australian friend of mine just told me that she often uses the word "chockers" to describe herself as "full," and I find it interesting that Americans don't say that but they say "chock full"; you may find this less interesting because you're not as much of a word nerd as I am), giving us a very good sense of place (even if the place doesn't really exist, which this may or may not). Belanger doesn't quite go as nuts as he did in the first issue, mainly because this issue is much less hallucinogenic than that was, but it still looks very good. The story is fun, but I'm more impressed with the art.

Everyone who thinks this sucks only because it doesn't work like a Shakespeare play needs to chillax. You can think it sucks for other reasons, of course, but not that one. That one is just silly.

One totally Airwolf panel:

X-Factor #205 by Peter David (writer), Valentine de Landro (penciler), Pat Davidson (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

On his blog, Peter David mentions that he just got back from Montevideo. I've always wanted to go to Montevideo. I have no reason other than that it sounds like it's not real. I mean, really, Montevideo? "I see the hill"? Who names a city that? (Before you contact the Uruguayan embassy and have them protest this blog, I really would like to go to Montevideo. It sounds like a keen city. I'd like to go to many places, but for some reason, I've always been fascinated by Uruguay in general and Montevideo in particular. Have you ever been fascinated by some location but can't explain it? Yeah, it's like that.)

Oh, there's an issue. You know, usually I don't care too much if David sprawls a bit in his storytelling, because usually his single issues within a sprawling story arc are good as single issues so it doesn't matter too much. This issue was a bit of a disappointment, though, because it really felt padded. The scene in Dublin's airport felt interminable to me, especially because we get a huge two-page spread of several panels in which ... Theresa gets shot with darts. Two pages? Really? The rest of the airport adventure, where Theresa is hunted down but Shatterstar and Layla rescue her, should be more exciting than it is. It just feels really drawn out. The rest of the issue isn't bad, with a few exceptions (I'll get to them). Of course the X-Factorers weren't gunned down outside the cabin, like we thought last issue (well, stupid people thought that - the rest of us were just wondering what the explanation was that they're alive), but it's nice to see how David pulled the trick. And Guido's adventure in South America (Uruguay, perhaps?) is moving along nicely. But that airport rescue ... man, it's dull.

Okay, the two things that bug me. One is Darwin. I have decided that I hate Darwin. Not the way David writes him, but the very fact that he exists. I try to suspend my disbelief, I really do, but the idea that his mutant power suddenly allows him to teleport bugs me to no end. I mean, teleportation as a mutant power bugs me anyway, but the fact that Darwin is basically Super-Mutant has finally pushed me over the edge into hatred. You see, I don't mind mutant powers that seem more "realistic." Wolverine's healing factor, for instance. Rogue's tactile abilities. Banshee's screaming powers. Quicksilver's speed. Stuff that seems like it's more tied to normal abilities, just amped up a bit. The light-based powers (Cyclops', Dazzler's, Jubilee's) or the fact that Peter actually turns into metal are a bit harder to deal with, but I can do it. Teleportation is kind of at the other end of the spectrum for me. That a gene in your body would allow you to heal at an incredible rate, I can buy. That a gene in your body would allow you to create light or change the elemental structure of your skin, that's a bit more difficult to wrap my brain around. That a gene in your body would allow you to cross vast distances in the blink of an eye really strains my suspension of disbelief. And the fact that the gene inside Darwin's body adapts to give him whatever power is convenient at that time ... well, that's just dumb. Yes, I'm classifying weird superpowers along a line of "realistic" to "not realistic." I'm a nerd, deal with it! It just makes Darwin kind of a crappy character, because there's no reason to get wrapped up in any drama with him. Whatever happens to him, he's in no danger. Even with Wolverine, you can "overload" his healing factor. But that doesn't apply to Darwin, and that makes him an inherently crappy character. David can do what he wants with him and maybe write some good stuff for him, but that doesn't mean he's a better character.

The second thing that bugs me is all the sex Longshot and Dazzler were having. Longshot mentions it to Jamie when they're talking about their meeting with Cyclops in Utopia before this whole clusterfuck began. Now, I don't really care if Longshot and Alison (it's spelled wrong in the issue) were rutting like bunnies, because they were "married" in Longshot's world for years, and I'm sure they knocked it out quite often while they were there. But it bugged me because I always thought they were a good couple, and the fact that they weren't together was a bit of a tragedy. So many things were keeping them apart, but now they're both on this world and nothing is really keeping them apart except different writers want to use them. If they're still into each other, why don't they go back to being all domestic? I have no idea if this has been addressed in Uncanny X-Men (isn't Dazzler still there?), but one of the problems I had with Fraction's work back when I was reading it was that he kept bringing back these old characters but not doing any actual work with them. Alison showed up and occasionally did something. Fraction had so many characters in the book that only a few got any significant "screen time," and those were the mainstays. So if Alison and Longshot are still digging each other, this off-handed remark is the first I've heard of it. And it seems to cheapen their relationship a bit - they just like jumping each other but have no interest in anything more? Good for them for taking care of their urges, but as someone who liked the old relationship they had with each other, why aren't they still together? If you're still reading the bigger X-books, has either Fraction or Carey done ANYTHING with Alison that would keep her from ditching them and running away with Longshot? Let me know!

Don't you love my tangents?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Zatanna #1 by Paul Dini (writer), Stéphane Roux (penciller), Karl Story (inker), Pat Brosseau (letterer), and John Kalisz (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

I wasn't sure if I was going to pick this issue up, but I flipped through it in the store and just loved the art, and Dini is usually a decent writer, so I picked it up. My initial reaction? It's pretty good, and I'll have to stick with it for a bit.

I don't think I've ever seen Roux's interior work, but based on his covers, I often thought of him as a low-rent Adam Hughes. (I don't mean "low-rent" as an insult, if you must know. I mean someone who might not be as well known or expensive as the person to whom I'm comparing them, and I doubt if Roux is either. This is the kind of book Hughes might draw if he weren't so expensive or took longer than a year to draw one page.) He has a clean style and good linework, coupled with solid storytelling skills and nice facial expressions. Zatanna, for instance, can occasionally look skanky in her fishnets, but Roux gives her a classic look (I still don't like the fishnets, but they're less annoying here than other places I've seen Zatanna). I feared she might be a bit too busty based on some of the stuff I saw, but Roux manages to restrain himself (well, except for one panel where she's undressing, but as Ray Davies knew, occasionally you have to give the people what they want) and balance her out a bit. His magickey scenes are pretty neat, ending with a journey into hellish dimension. This is a really nice-looking comic, at the very least.

Dini did a good job a while back with Zatanna guest-starring with Batman, so it's not surprising he's writing this. Dini will always be a hero of mine for giving us Edward Nigma, consulting detective, and while I wasn't interested in his recent Batman work, I figured he's starting this from scratch, so it will probably be good. He does a nice job with this - Zatanna is brought in on a murder case that is a lot weirder than the cops like, and she realizes that a creep called Brother Night is trying to take over the San Francisco gang underworld like he controls the magical underworld. I have no idea if Brother Night is a new character, but Dini gives us enough information about him and establishes him as enough of a threat that we don't need to know about him (if he is indeed an old character). It's also pretty keen that Zatanna goes straight to the source and tells Brother Night to knock it off, establishing herself as pretty bad-ass in the process. It's a cool way to kick-start the story arc, and it gives Brother Night an excuse to find some more bad-asser allies to help him. It's a solid first issue that gets off to a rousing start and highlights why Zatanna is the person to call on this one. And Dini gives us some nice insights into her personality when she's matching wits with Brother Night.

I have a couple of questions. Stiletto heels? Really? I know it's a comic book, but I always laugh when I see women in comics or even on television wearing stiletto heels and, you know, doing anything except standing still. Zatanna doesn't do anything active in this issue that would preclude her from wearing stilettos, but it still cracks me up. More seriously, can any woman out there tell me why, when a woman in popular entertainment wants to relax, she talks about bubble baths and red wine? Zatanna mentions it, and it was the only time in the issue when I was conscious that this was a man writing a woman, because it sounded like something a man would hear a woman say on television but never in real life, so of course woman talk like that! I know it might sound like nitpicking, but it just seems like such a stereotypical thing for a woman to say, and I wonder how many women really do that. My wife doesn't drink wine and doesn't really like baths, so she relaxes in other ways. But she might be odd. She married me, after all. Explain this to me!

All in all, a good start. Damn it. Because that's what I need, another title to buy. And note the price. DC doesn't feel the need to gouge the consumer on a book starring a minor character with good creators but ones who might not be able to sell something just on the strength of their names. Well done, DC! Now go kill another minority character before you get too many!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Changing Ways Book 1 by Justin Randall (writer/artist) and Nathan Martella (letterer). $17.95, 116 pgs, FC, Gestalt Publishing.

I hope that Randall doesn't get sidetracked from telling this story. I always get wary seeing a "book 1" on a graphic novel from a tiny, tiny publisher, because it doesn't fill me with confidence that it will ever finish. It seems like Randall is hard at work on book 2, though, so that's cool. He's pals with Ben Templesmith, apparently, and his art shows it. It's very good, but Templesmith's influence is clear. It's actually a bit cleaner than Templesmith's. I'm sure I'll review this at some point.

The Executor by Jon Evans (writer), Andrea Mutti (artist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $19.99, 196 pgs, BW, DC/Vertigo.

Another Vertigo crime book that looks pretty keen. A guy's old girlfriend dies and it turns out he's the executor of her will, so he has to return to his home town. Mayhem, I'm sure, ensues.

Gantz volume 10 by Hiroya Oku (writer/artist). $12.99, 221 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

I wonder if this has a lot of gory violence? (Flips to a random page) Yeah, that's a good bet.

I wanted to briefly address something a commenter wrote last week. Drew R. mentioned that I should enjoy my comics more and stop worrying about them so much. I have a feeling that the smiley face after that comment meant he was kidding, and Drew seems like a good guy, so I don't want to pick on him, but I started thinking about that comment. I almost always enjoy the comics I read, and part of my enjoyment of them is thinking about the nitty-gritty of the narrative and the art. Last week, I was curious about Maxwell Lord's status in the DCU, so I wrote about it. It's not that I didn't enjoy JL: GL, because I did. But I love thinking about this stuff. Part of the fun of reading comics is writing about them here, because then people have a conversation about them. I always wonder about it when people (again, I'm not picking on Drew, because he didn't do this) say that they just read to enjoy comics and they don't want to think about them so much. Wha-huh? You're spending your hard-earned cash on these, and you just want to sit back, take five minutes to read them (if you're lucky) and forget them? That's crazy talk! I do that with television, because I pay a lump sum every month and then can watch as much as I like. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I watch Castle and Bones, and someone (sorry, I can't remember who) said those shows weren't very good. Well, yeah, and occasionally I cringe at the dialogue, but they're fun ways to kill 45 minutes or so (the DVR rules!). I can just sit back and enjoy those shows without nitpicking them to death. If I paid a lump sum to Marvel each year and could read every Marvel comic I could get my hands on, I'd probably sit back and enjoy some of the more brainless offerings a bit more. But I have to pay for each comic separately, so I like thinking about them more because I feel my money deserves it. If I had to pay a per-show fee for television, I probably would watch a lot less, because yes, there's quite a bit on television that's stupid. But I love reviewing comics here because it gets the word out and people can rant about them if they choose. I never know what's going to inspire people to comment, but it's a ton o' fun. I don't need to do these reviews, because it's not like I'm a professional (the quality of these reviews should be enough to convince anyone of that!). I just love doing them. I don't know too many "real-life" people who read comics, and I see them very rarely, so this is the community where we can all discuss shit we love. If that means thinking way too much about Zatanna's desire for red wine and what it means, so be it. Let your freak flag fly! Sorry, Drew, for using you as a jumping-off point for a mini-rant, but I was thinking about your comment all week. Yes, I have too much time on my hands.

In other news, Megan Fox won't be in the third Transformers movie. But was it her choice? Oh, the drama! Poor Brad Curran - his Megan Fox obsession just took a bit of a hit. If only the Internet had photos of her to look at! I'm sure he'll survive, but it might be rough on him for a bit.

Hey, lets take a peek at The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle But Which Often Gets Reset, A Vexing Dilemma):

1. "Time is Burning" - Horse Flies (1991) "Big gray bird is staring down at the half of his brain lying on the ground"2. "Little Earthquakes" - Tori Amos (1992) "And I hate elevator music"3. "Creatures of Habit" - Knots and Crosses (1992) "When I close my eyes you're all that I see"4. "Siva" - Smashing Pumpkins (1991) "Sprinkle all my kisses on your head"5. "La Cienega Just Smiled" - Ryan Adams (2001) "One breaks my body and the other breaks my soul"16. "Juke Box Hero" - Foreigner (1981) "Thought he passed his own shadow by the backstage door"7. "1979" - Smashing Pumpkins (1995) "We were sure we'd never see an end to it all"8. "A Message" - Coldplay (2005) "But I'm nothing on my own"9. "The Worst Day Since Yesterday" - Flogging Molly (2000) "Hurry back to me, my wild colleen"210. "Won't Get Fooled Again" - The Who (1971) "But the world looks just the same and history ain't changed"3

1 Gold is the only Ryan Adams album I own. I really ought to rectify that.2 When I was but a hormonally-challenged teenager, I knew a girl named Colleen. She was quite the hottie, and for some reason, I always associate the name "Colleen" with a hot woman. I think the same of girls named Bridget for the same reason. Does anyone else have strange things like this floating around in their heads? On second thought, don't answer that. Ironically, Colleen's sister, Michelle, was hotter than she was (plus she cut my hair once - she was practicing for her license - and as I was probably 15 or 16 and she was 19, maybe, and a hottie, that was a difficult haircut to get through, I'll tell you that much), but I don't associate "Michelle" with hot women, maybe because it's a more common name. Aren't you glad you read these posts and learn such disturbing things about me?3 I saw on a politically conservative blog once that this is the most conservative rock song ever. Now, it seems to me that even though the lyrics are a bit ambiguous and you can take one or two of them and say they're anti-liberal, the entire song seems to be more cynical about politics in general than anything. The fact that the new boss is the same as the old boss - presumably a more liberal "boss" turns into a jerk when he gets into power - doesn't mean Roger and Pete wanted to old boss back. It means they both sucked. Conservatives, I guess, like to pretend they don't like any "bosses," but that's just not true. But hey, if you want to believe this is conservative, be my guest.

And here are some totally random lyrics for you!

"Washington heads in the toilet bowlDon't see supremacist hateRight wing dicks in their boiler suitsPicking out who to annihilate

Toxic jungle of Uzi trailsTribesmen just wouldn't live hereFascist flare is fashion coolWell, you're dead, you just ain't buried (yet)"

One last thing: Using Courteney Cox's appearance in Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" video as part of her character's backstory on Cougar Town - awesome or cheesy? I say awesome!

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