What I bought - 2 January 2013

The writer was pacing. "I have never been a violent man. I don't believe in violence. Violence does not advance the human condition. Ideas do."

"Ideas don't perish in prison cells," Levanter said. "People do." (Jerzy Kosinski, from Blind Date)

Batman, Incorporated #6 ("Garland of Skulls") by Grant "I smite all the backlash against my genius with my laser vision!!!!" Morrison (writer), Chris Burnham (artist, mostly), Andres Guinaldo (inexplicable penciler), Bit (inexplicable inker), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Rickey Purdin (assistant editor), and Mike Marts (editor). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

After the brutal ending to last issue, the God of All Comics ratchets up the tension, as Batman has to navigate a maze laid out by Talia, who is trying to force him to choose between Damian and Gotham. She has some evil plan in which the people of Gotham will "commit suicide," and Batman can only save the city or Damian. It's not entirely clear how Batman will stop her plan or how Talia will kill Damian - her plan looks too vast and already in motion (but I'm sure there's some sufficiently Bat-awesome way for Batman to stop it), and Damian is hanging out in the cave surrounded by good guys, but I'm sure I'm just being obtuse. I mean, Damian does say he's going out to help his dad, so perhaps Talia, in her omnipotence, was counting on that to draw him out. Meanwhile, there's another revelation about the Future Batman, but I honestly don't care about the Future Batman, because it's always been a bit ... silly, I guess. Morrison loves writing about how the future is going to be when he knows that he's writing a serial story that will never end, so as much as you can admire him for trying to move the characters forward, he's basically banging his head against the wall. It's kind of fascinating but leaves you with a headache or a concussion or worse. It's far more interesting to see Batman run the maze as the Batman, Inc. people try to get out of their predicament. There's a horrific scene in this book, but I'm much more concerned that Looker is "badly injured." Don't you fucking touch Looker, G-Mozz!!!!!

I'm not sure what the deal is with the art. Chris Burnham draws all but four pages of this, and it's not even like Guinaldo draws the first four or the last four or pages that show a different time period or different characters. You just turn the page and there's Guinaldo's art for a few pages. Then it shifts right back to Burnham. Anyway, Guinaldo isn't terrible, but he's just a slick journeyman, the 2013 equivalent of, I don't know, Bob Layton. He's perfectly fine, but it's interesting how Burnham's Knight, for instance, looks like someone who is really beaten up, while Guinaldo's Knight looks like some dude with disheveled hair who has some red paint on him. The page on which the horrific event occurs is amazingly tense and, well, horrific, and I can't imagine Guinaldo doing half as good a job on it as Burnham does. But I don't know why it had to feature four pages of substitute art. The book's schedule is already slipping a bit (not much, but a bit), and as the GoAC is ignoring the DCnU in this book, does it really matter if it slips a bit more? Beats me.

Much like the rest of Batman, Incorporated, this is a fine issue that will read better as part of the larger epic. There's nothing wrong with that!

Oh, and did all those hostages die? You know the ones I'm talking about? It sure looks like it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

It's 2013, so I'm shifting to Totally Airwolf PAGES, just because I can!

Look at the view of that first panel. Burnham gives us a perfectly symmetrical stairway, so that it really does create the optical illusion of Batman standing further away from us, and we feel like we're falling into the panel. The bad guys at the four cardinal points help create the illusion of a whirlpool sucking Batman away. The bottom gunman leads us to the bottom row, and the hail of bullets lead us downward to Batman. Then, all the action pushes us upward. It's a very nicely designed page, all stemming from the cool effect of the first panel.

Colder #3 (of 5) by Paul Tobin (writer), Juan Ferreyra (artist/colorist), Eduardo Ferreyra (color assistant), Laura Binaghi (color assistant), Nate Piekos (letterer), Shantel Larocque (assistant editor), Scott Allie (editor), and Daniel Chabon (editor). $3.99, 23 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Colder continues to get more intriguing, which is always nice. Considering that it started out intriguing, that's also a good thing. The problem with a lot of horror stories is that as we get answers, things seem to get a bit boring, and while Tobin might fall into that trap in issues #4 and 5, so far, he's been answering some questions but managing to keep things intriguing. So in this issue, we find out what we've suspected - that Nimble Jack devours minds, especially insane ones, and that for some reason, he let Declan go. Declan suspects it's because Jack likes to "play with his food," but presumably there's a bigger reason. Declan explains this all to Reece, but underestimates the effect it might have on her, leading to an interesting cliffhanger. I hope Tobin doesn't simply turn this into a rescue mission, but he might be able to make that good. We'll see.

Ferreyra, meanwhile, continues to dazzle. When Jack chases Declan and Reece, we get some stunning visuals (see below). When Declan tries to escape by entering the land of the insane, Ferreyra goes even more nuts. Back in the real world, he turns his attention both to the beautiful colors - Ferreyra has become one of the best colorists in the business - and showing how Reece slowly falls apart. Tobin hints at it once, but then Ferreyra takes over - while Declan is expositing, we see Reece sitting quietly, but Ferreyra manages to make it look weirdly unnatural even before it becomes clear that something has happened to her. It's really amazing how well he does it without drawing attention to it. I still don't know why Ferreyra isn't a bigger star, but at least he still does stuff like this instead of getting sucked into the DC/Marvel maw, from which there is NO ESCAPE!!!!

I don't know if Tobin will pull this off, but this is a really keen series 60% of the way in. We'll see how it plays out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Ferreyra alters the panel sizes and angles the borders to express the horror of what's happening as Jack crawls out of an insane person to cut Declan and Reece off. The first panel is balanced perfectly, as Jack's eye forms a perfect triangle with the man's eyes, focusing our gaze on the horror of his head inside the man's mouth. He colors the page wonderfully, too - it's a nice day out, and we can see in Panel 5 that the sun is out and there are leaves on the trees, but Ferreyra takes those same colors of spring and slams them together in Panels 1-4, creating a nightmarish atmosphere as Jack rips his way out of the insane man. Notice, too, the two people behind the scene in Panel 4 - Tobin and Ferreyra do a nice job showing that not everyone can see Jack, so no one really knows that this terrible event is happening right in front of them.

Fatale #11 by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Dave Stewart (colorist). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

Brubillips begins a series of four single issue stories with this, which takes place in Texas in 1936 and features a sort of an amalgam between Robert E. Howard (who lived in Texas and committed suicide in 1936) and H. P. Lovecraft (who died in 1937). The writer, Alfred Ravenscroft, wrote a story about a strange event that took place in his childhood, and our old friend Josephine found it in a copy of "Ghastly Tales" and tracked down Ravenscroft to find out if it was true. Josephine gains some "peace of mind" from her trip (we can't really describe it as such, but at least she finds someone else who has seen what she has seen) but doesn't get what seems like some crucial information out of Ravenscroft. As a single issue, it's not much of a story - there's a man who sacrifices everything for Josephine, of course, and Ravenscroft's recollections don't mean as much because we already know there are weird things abroad in the world - but it does provide structure to the rest of the Fatale epic. If you simply pick this up because you heard it was a single-issue story, you might be disappointed that it's not more clear-cut. But Brubaker does a good job placing it within the context of the larger story, so for a regular reader, it's not bad.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Phillips does a nice job giving us people who look "normal" naked - they're all fit, because they work hard for a living, but they're not spectacular. His usual heavy inks and Stewart's lighting of the scene help make it far more disturbing, of course - it implies the darkness they're summoning without being too obvious. Notice that in Panel 1, the people aren't lit as well, but in Panel 2, Ravenscroft's mother passes close to the fire, illuminating her clearly so that her son can see her in all her glory, so to speak. Phillips inks his face heavily in Panel 3 to imply that his innocence has been completely shattered. Placing the two men in front of Ravenscroft is a nice touch, too, as it's clear they're enjoying the show in a sexual way, and Phillips contrasts this with the way Ravenscroft has seen his mother until now and is now seeing her in a new way.

Glory #31 ("War Town Part One: The Fall") by Joe Keatinge (writer), Ross Campbell (artist of 12 pages), Ulises Farinas (artist of 8 pages), Owen Gieni (colorist), Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer), and Eric Stephenson (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Here's another strange artistic choice. Keatinge and Campbell have only a few issues left, so does it matter that much if the book is a little late? They're probably not picking up new readers this late in the game, and those who did start getting it are probably patient. Now, that being said, at least Farinas is pretty good, AND the section he draws is a flashback, so perhaps it was always worked in that he would draw it (he's in the solicits for it, so that's probably it). Of course, I don't know what's going on behind the scenes, but it's weird that Glory needs to come out so consistently that we'd get several pages of a guest artist. Note that I use a Farinas page below, so I'm not complaining too much, but it is odd.

Anyway, Glory and Nanaja reach their father, who doesn't bother to fight them, which puzzles Glory. So he tells them about the battle that destroyed Thule, which is the part of the book that Farinas draws. It's a shame - Campbell is so good at drawing bizarre monsters, but Farinas gets to do it here! He does a very good job, though, and we find out a bit about what's going on. Then, in the present, Glory's mom shows up. Oh dear. That won't be good. The final page seems like it would be physically impossible, but damn, it looks cool, doesn't it?

I don't buy that Keatinge and Campbell are ending this book when they want to, but that's just because I'm a cynical bastard (even the bright new year can't fix that!). But it's nice that they're getting to tell something like a complete story, and I'm definitely going to miss this comic. Keatinge has another book out this week, and it's a bit stunning how different in quality the two are. He got sucked into the MAW!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

There's not much to say about this. It's awesome. Look at the details at the bottom of the page!

Godzilla: The Half-Century War #4 (of 5) by James Stokoe (writer/artist/colorist/letterer), Heather Breckel (color assistant), and Bobby Curnow (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Speaking of monsters, Stokoe is back with more Godzilla action, running a bit behind schedule, but still reasonable given Stokoe's attention to detail. So we're in Bombay in 1987, where Godzilla is, well, destroying shit, and Ota doesn't know what he's doing anymore, as his task force's mission has changed because they can't destroy Godzilla. Then the government unveils Mecha-Godzilla, and then Space Godzilla is lured to Earth, which seems to be a plot point that might set up another mini-series, because I don't know how it's going to be resolved in one more issue. Ota gets to contribute, Godzilla pulls a wrestling move on Space Godzilla (I'm sure Chad Nevett knows what it's called, but I don't - it just where the dude jumps sideways off the ropes and lands on the other wrestler, except that Godzilla doesn't need to jump off ropes like a sucker!), and it's all beautifully drawn. As I've always said with regard to this comic, IT'S JAMES STOKOE DRAWING GODZILLA. I mean, really.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

The design is amazing, sure, as is the scale of Space Godzilla - the buildings around him testify to that. Notice that Ota in Panel 2 is looking upward and to the right, drawing our attention back to Panel 1 even though technically he's not "looking" that way. And Stokoe rotates the "camera" angle nicely in Panel 3 to include Deverich more clearly, and the way the panel flows leads us right to the next page. Panel 1 is the impressive one on the page, but Stokoe doesn't forego storytelling just to get Space Godzilla on the page.

Hip Flask: The Big Here and the Long Now #2 (of 3) ("Ouroborous") by Richard Starkings (writer/letterer), Ladrönn (artist), Juan Ulasco (inking assistant), and Tatto Caballero (color assistant). $4.99, 40 pgs, FC, Image.

I don't have much to say about the latest issue of Hip Flask, because they come out so infrequently that it's difficult to write anything substantial about it. I can't even remember the last time one came out, and although the final issue is promised for December 2013, I don't buy it. We'll see. It's worthwhile to remember that Elephantmen is the comic Starkings decided to do while he was waiting for Ladrönn to draw this series, and it takes place a few years before this one, so a pretty important event that is the focus of this issue hasn't happened yet in Elephantmen. It's a strange way to do the series, but it will probably be really nice to see in a big hardcover, because it's kind of worth waiting for Ladrönn's artwork. It seems to be a bit less ... mechanical, maybe? in this comic, as the characters look more real. Starkings' story is about time travel (sigh), so it makes my head hurt, but it's still pretty cool to see this comic come out. Let's hope the schedule doesn't lie!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

This is just a nice sequence of drawings, as Ladrönn shows how fragile Sahara looks when standing next to Obadiah, but also how broken Obadiah feels himself to be. The juxtaposition of his words in Panel 3 and the focus on his hands is well done, and Starkings ends the page with a good line that is more powerful because of what we know occurs in the future (this page takes place 20 years in the past). Ladrönn doesn't do anything stunning with the page layout, but it's still a nice page.

The Manhattan Projects #8 ("They Rule") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Nick Pitarra (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

The rulers of the world strike back at the scientists in this issue, as Truman and his cabal tell A.I. FDR to take over the machines in the scientists' complexes and start killing them, so the entire issue is basically a fight scene. There's nothing wrong with that - every once in a while you need to cut loose. Pitarra isn't quite as good with action as he is with other stuff, which is not surprising (I've often pointed out that action is probably the hardest thing for comic artists to master), but he does a pretty good job with it. Wernher von Braun is the most prominent guy fighting back, but Einstein and Feynman get in on it, too (if you thought you never needed to see Einstein shooting an M-60 like Rambo, well, you're wrong). Nobody important gets killed (well, it's possible, but we don't actually see it), but a lot of cannon fodder is dispatched, and poor Helmutt Gröttrup continues in the "Herr Starr" role of this comic, as he is treated rather shabbily. It's just your normal insanity in The Manhattan Projects!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Pitarra's layout isn't that special, but his designs are pretty keen. I don't know who all these people are, but the fat dude looks like he's drawn a solar system around his navel, while the Mexican wrestler is holding a funky golden head. Nehebu and Truman compete for the coolest headgear. The nice thing about this entire comic is that Hickman is playing it completely seriously even though it's ridiculous - the heart in the center of the table, the mysterious finger configuration, the strange outfits. I do like how FDR joins the circle by using ticker tape - that's pretty clever.

Mara #1 by Brian Wood (writer), Ming Doyle (artist), and Jordie Bellaire (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

This and Hip Flask came out last week, but I didn't feel like reviewing them separately, so there you have it. This is the highly anticipated tale of a society that raises athletes to the height of celebrity and the biggest star of them all, a 17-year-old volleyball player named Mara. Doyle has been getting better with every project she draws, and while she still has some issues - yes, with the action scenes - she has a beautiful, lush style that fits a story of physical perfection well, because everyone in here is in wonderful shape but they still look real, while she creates a sleek, sterile world in which the people live, which also fits the theme of the issue. Meanwhile, Wood does kind of what he does with The Massive - there's an intriguing premise here, and the book ends with an odd event that will presumably drive the narrative and explain what's going on with Mara (see below), but like The Massive, he gives us far too much omniscient narration about the state of the world. It's really bizarre - there's very little in the omniscient narration that needs to be there, and while some of the pseudo-omniscient narration (the game announcer's voice, for instance) is fine, there's still too much of it. I don't think anyone will accuse Wood of thinking his readers are stupid (I certainly wouldn't say that about him), but occasionally, he seems to think he needs to overload us with information. If I'm missing the point, then I guess that's that, but I honestly don't see the reason for so much background information that we can infer from the artwork or glean from the dialogue. Very little of what we learn about Mara and her world is so crucial that it needs to be spelled out for us, and it's odd that Wood does it. He certainly doesn't always do it, and I don't know why he does in some of his comics.

Anyway, I did like the set-up for this mini-series, and I look forward to the rest of it. I suspect it will be quite good, if Wood can get out of his own way!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

This is the first indication that there's something unusual about Mara. She somehow senses the dude with a gun just when he cocks the weapon, which nobody else could even hear. Doyle adds some interesting touches - the security team is for Mara, not the team, although they protect Ingrid, who seems to be Mara's girlfriend. She puts a nice-looking scarf on Ingrid and a nice jacket on Mara - do they not sweat during their games, or are the uniforms designed to wick away perspiration? The gun looks positively antique, and I don't know if we're supposed to read anything into that. Notice Doyle's issues with action - the final panel looks a bit awkward, as the security dudes push Ingrid and Mara into the car. The entire panel is confusing - is the security dude in the front touching Ingrid? I doubt it. If it's the back seat of a car, as Panel 5 seems to indicate, then how are we seeing this without the front blocking us? On the next page, it's clear that it's a limousine, and notice in Panel 5 that the door is right where the dude in Panel 6 would be. So it's a bit of a confusing page. Or is it just me?

Morbius, the Living Vampire #1 ("Midnight Son") by Joe Keatinge (writer), Richard Elson (artist), Antonio Fabela (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), and Sana Amanat (editor). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

The Marvel NOW! initiative continues with Morbius, which seems like a strange choice for an ongoing, but whatever. Editor Sana Amanat tells us in the back that it's not just another vampire book, but let's be honest - Marvel is trying to capitalize on the popularity of vampires just like DC is. It doesn't matter that Dan Slott "had been telling a Morbius story in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN that explored the conflicting sides of the character," as Amanat writes in the back. Just like Avengers Arena wouldn't exist without the phenomenal success of The Hunger Games, this wouldn't exist without the phenomenal success of Twilight and other vampire fiction. To pretend otherwise is why we shouldn't trust anything that comes out of the editors' offices at comic book companies - all comic book companies, not just the Big Two. But that's okay - if Marvel wants to try to capitalize on the success of their own movies, why shouldn't they try to capitalize on the success of other trends in fiction? They're a business, after all.

The problem is that Morbius is not very good at all. Everyone knows that when writers head off to the Big Two, it's very difficult for them to keep the "voice" that got them there in the first place. Even the best writers (Kieron Gillen, for instance) make missteps when they're writing for the Big Two because they're hampered by editorial (or, in Gillen's case, hampered by Greg Land), and Keatinge isn't quite as good as someone like Gillen yet. I really like his writing on Glory, for instance, and even though I didn't love the first issue of Hell Yeah!, it definitely showed someone with a solid authorial voice. But Morbius is really assembly-line comics at its best, with Keatinge cranking out a dull script that has some of that faux-cleverness that a lot of Marvel comics feature these days (to be fair, some actually are clever), Richard Elson cranking out dull artwork that wouldn't look out of place in a shelf-drawer replacement issue from Marvel Two-in-One circa 1977, Fabela cranking out a nice sheen so that it looks more modern, Cowles dropping some red letters in it to make it look kewl, and Amanat pretending it's something ground-breaking. I mean, it's mildly entertaining, and it's not like this made me angry to read it - it took me about five minutes, and I felt the same way I did after I read it as I did before I read it. It had no impact on my life whatsoever, so I guess it's better than some of the other Marvel NOW! books, which actively pissed me off. Morbius goes to a place called Brownsville for no other reason than some dude tells him it sucks (seriously). I mean, that's like someone telling me to live in Damascus - "You'll love the kebabs so much you won't notice the bombs!" But Morbius, instead of going to another place where the superheroes never go (which is his ostensible reason for leaving New York), like anyplace but New York, heads to Brownsville - yes, I'm sure the name of the town implies poop. There he finds unpleasant people doing unpleasant things and he runs afoul of a local thug. I know, shocking. Keatinge doesn't do anything interesting at all with this premise - not that there's a lot of interesting things to do with such a tepid premise. And Elson somehow got to draw witty scripts for Gillen on Journey into Mystery, so that got him a higher profile, but he's just a standard superhero artist, noteworthy for absolutely no reason. There's no reason to buy this comic unless you're absolutely in love with Michael Morbius, in which case, have fun with it.

In short, this comic exists. Yes it does.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Dull dialogue? Check. Dull voice-over? Check. Attempt at humor? Check. Bland art? Check. The entire comic is exactly like this page, so if you like this page, buy the comic!

New Avengers #1 ("Memento Mori") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Steve Epting (penciler/inker), Rick Magyar (inker), Frank D'Armata (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer), Jake Thomas (assistant editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), and Lauren Sankovitch (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

I'm sure it started before this, but the Hickman backlash is going on in earnest these days - maybe whenever someone takes over the Avengers, they automatically start to suck? Anyway, I read someone (I think it was Tucker Stone, but I'm not going to check) making fun of Hickman's big spreads that show weird designs and the title of the book but don't add anything, and that's fine if you want to do that, but that doesn't change the fact that those don't count in terms of story - if someone else wrote this, we'd get 20 pages of story without the two-page spread placed seemingly at random in the middle of this issue that reads "New Avengers: Illuminati" against a black background, while with Hickman, we do get it. I mean, that's about it. It's kind of dumb, but Hickman likes to THINK BIG!!!!!, so he's sticking in a big pronouncement that THIS! IS! AWESOME! I don't see anything wrong with that.

Anyway, like Avengers, Hickman is playing a long game, so we begin this issue with Reed Richards speaking cryptically against a black background, and then we flash back to "26 hours ago" in Wakanda, where three young people find some weird obelisk that's all tech-y and shit, and then Black Panther shows up to tell them that the obelisk is the Wakanda space program or some such shit. It doesn't matter, because suddenly a portal between worlds opens up and when they all go through (because of course the kids ignore T'Challa telling them to stay in their world), they see a planet hanging ominously in the sky and some weird-but-sexy (of course) superpeople who promptly start killing the Wakandans. Like you do. So T'Challa gets back to our Earth inexplicably, and he calls the Illuminati to take care of shit. I mean, why not?

This is a dumb comic, but it's dumb in a fairly entertaining way. I mean, a portal just appears in the jungle? Sure. And T'Challa, unlike a super-enlightened dude who looks down on the other idiot superheroes, acts like an idiot superhero and just goes through it without making sure the kids stay where they are? Okay. And when Sexy Chick says "If I told you I came here to kill a world, would you try to stop me?", of course T'Challa says something tough-guy like "I would do more than try" without even asking what the context of that is. I mean, maybe she's justified in killing a world (I mean, of course she's not, because morality in superhero comics is so black and white, but it's possible). And he calls in the other douchebags in the Illuminati even though he has no idea what's going on in that other dimension? Man. Anyway, despite the dumbness, Hickman gives everyone nice arch dialogue, and Epting draws it all nicely. D'Armata, as usual, pummels the quirks out of the artwork, so this looks like a slick, mass-produced piece of visual entertainment, which it is. The difference between this artwork and Elson's is that Epting is a better artist than Elson, but it's in the same vein.

Someone pointed out that these Marvel NOW! books aren't taking place at the same time, as we can see with this comic. Reed Richards is still hanging around, and Captain America is not wearing his new costume. If Marvel wants to get around the fact that Captain America is in another dimension and Reed Richards is in another dimension for a while by placing these books at different times, they better be very careful. The smart play would be to keep Reed and Steve out of other motherfucking books while they're in other dimensions in their own motherfucking books, but Ishtar fucking forbid that they would do that. But that's just how I feel, man!

Anyway, like Hickman's Avengers, this is a slightly better-than-average superhero book helped by Hickman's utter bombastry, but it's not quite as good as Avengers #1 because Opeña isn't drawing it. It's MATH, people!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

Sexy Chick does the classic "Turn away while giving the kill order" pose here, and notice that Epting moves our eyes counter-intuitively, from right to left. He can do this because of the boring page design - stacked panels are really dull, but it allows artists to do stuff like this. So the gunfire moves us from right to left, and then Epting cleverly extends the panel in Panel 3 - our brains read Panels 2 and 3 almost as one long panel, which is a nice trick. Of course, we get the ubiquitous "special effects" of the kids getting knocked backward by the blast, because that's what's cool these days in comics. D'Armata does color the page well - the other world has a weird, reddish light that distinguishes it from the Marvel U. - even though he's busy smoothing out any rough edges the art might have.

The Red Ten #1 (of 10) by Tyler James (writer), Cesar Feliciano (artist), Guillermo Ucha (colorist), Steven Forbes (editor), and Steve Colle (editor). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, Comix Tribe.

I pre-ordered this because I thought it sounded pretty cool - it's And Then There Were None with superheroes - even though I always worry about getting these kinds of seriously indie books because they might not be able to stay in business long enough to get 10 issues out. But what the heck, right? I'd rather give my $4 to this than DC or Marvel, after all.

Like a lot of these kinds of books, the art is the weak link. Feliciano isn't terrible, but he does have a lot of problems that young and/or raw artists have - the people look too much like mannequins, everything is a bit too slick, and he relies on computer effects a bit too much. The best thing about art like this is that it doesn't get in the way, and there's really no difficulty in reading this book. Feliciano might not add too much to the story, but he doesn't hinder it, either, and that's not a bad thing. I don't know if he is a newer artist or if this is the way he's evolved, but I do hope he gets better. Even if he doesn't, the art doesn't hold back the story, so what about the story?

Well, James writes in the back of the book that he's never going to be allowed to kill the Justice League, but when he creates the characters himself (or at least creates thinly-veiled analogs of the DC characters), he can do whatever he wants. So he decides to do a murder mystery. I'm kind of a sucker for a good murder mystery, and I love And Then There Were None, so of course I was curious about this. James gets it off to a good start when he kills "Batman," which causes her "Robin" to ditch his fiancée (well, not really, but she takes her ring off because she thinks he's choosing superheroing over her) and come out of retirement to help the rest of the Justice League - I mean The Alliance - find the killer. They think it's Oxymoron, the Joker analog, but when they enter his hideout, they find that he's been killed too. And that's when they find the doggerel written on the ceiling counting down their numbers and alluding to how they're going to die ("Ten little heroes with reputations divine, one caught a virus, and then there were nine" - that sort of thing). There's kind of a huge clue in the first issue, but I'm not sure if James would be that obvious about it. Anyway, someone is trying to kill all the superheroes. Because they're tools?

Obviously, this is a bit silly, and some of James's dialogue is painful. But you know what? It's fun. Yes, fun. I mean, sure, James is killing off superheroes, but he's right - this is something that couldn't be done in DC and Marvel, or if it is, it's done in the most cynical way possible, à la Avengers Arena. Because James's creations are never going to be used again, he can gleefully slaughter them. Now, this makes it less likely that we will be emotionally invested in them, true, but it also means that if he can pull off the "murder mystery" aspect of the book in a satisfying way, it won't matter. So that's what I'm hoping for. Well, I'm also hoping all 10 issues come out, but if they do, I'm hoping that James sticks the landing. In murder mysteries, that's often what trips people up. We shall see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf page:

The similarities to Batwoman are obvious - the red in the costume, the red hair - but "Red" is clearly a Batman analog, as the mention of the gun and its importance to her attest. James gives us some warped humor on the page, but it's also a clue - whoever is killing her doesn't have "much use" for guns. The killer knows her name, too, as we see on the previous page. Feliciano does a decent job bringing home the violence inflicted on Red - Panel 2 is gruesome and pretty well done. Other pages in the book are a bit too slick, but this is pretty good.


It's 2013, and we're all still here. I hope your holidays were great - my parents were visiting for three weeks, so we had a nice time. My wife and I were able to go see a movie (Argo, which was pretty damned good), and our normal babysitter, who had a kid in November, was even able to come over so the adults could go out to dinner one night. So all was well in Mesa!

Before I check out my iPod, I suppose I should mention that I joined Twitter. I doubt if it will too exciting - I don't have a very exciting life, after all, so I won't be tweeting out nude pictures of myself (I can hear the groans of disappointment!) or making many controversial statements, because I like my controversial statements to last longer than 140 characters! I did tweet about getting vomited on last night, so I'm sure you'll want to get up-to-the-minute information like that! Anyway, to paraphrase Phil Collins, if you follow me, I will follow you. I'm sure you're much more interesting, anyway!

Let's jump into the Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Rio" - Duran Duran (1982) "It means so much to me like a birthday or a pretty view"2. "On The Frontier" - Renaissance (1973) "So come on leave the dark behind and join the day now"3. "Home" - Foo Fighters (2007) "Just lookin' for shelter from cold and the pain"4. "Fiesta" - Pogues (1988) "All the town has watched this crazy gringo as he pulls off the doll's head laughing"5. "Nothing Else Matters" - Metallica (1991) "Never cared for what they say, never cared for games they play"6. "Baba O'Riley" - The Who (1971) "Put out the fire and don't look past my shoulder"7. "The Day Before You Came" - ABBA (1982) "I must have kept on dragging through the business of the day, without really knowing anything, I hid a part of me away" 8. "New Jack Hustler" - Ice T (1991) "Every dollar I get, another brother drops - maybe that's the plan, and I don't understand"9. "Doing It Again" - Token Entry (1990) "Other people can be so mean well I wish I had a friend"10. "Edie (Ciao Baby)" - The Cult (1989) "Wind caressed your cheek, stars wrapped in your hair, life without a care"

So that's the first comics of 2013 under our belts. It's always good to start a new year and look forward to all the cool stuff that's coming out, before the reality of it all crushes you!!!! Oh, I kid. There's always excellent stuff out there! Maybe this year I might even start checking out digital comics. That would end existence as we know it!!!!

Have a nice day, everyone!

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