My wish: DC should charge one thin dollar for every issue of Justice League: Gay for Justice. It's so not worth four dollars, but man! for one dollar, I would be all over that just for the sheer entertainment value. Didn't everyone love that panel of Prometheus slicing that woman's head off? GOLD!
And always remember: If you're going to hire Machete to kill the bad guy, you'd better be damn sure the bad guy isn't you!
Agents of Atlas #10 ("Terror of the Jade Claw Part II") by Jeff Parker (writer), Gabriel Hardman (artist), Paul Rivoche (artist), Elizabeth Dismang (colorist), and Tom Orzechowski (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.
Parker gives us a relatively quiet issue, as Jimmy Woo and his bunch strategize about what they're going to do with the Jade Claw while we get subplots for future stories (whether they're going to be in this title or not). It's nicely handled, especially because everyone gets some face time (except for the awesome Derek Khanata, who's only in one panel), which is hard when the cast is relatively big and relatively unknown (still). There's a lot of cool stuff, of course, from the mad scientist in the basement to Mr. Lao's exposition about the Dragon Clan Wars to Ken Hale's trenchant observation about Atlas's cargo ships, and the ending, with M-11 getting a chance to try out its upgrade, is very cool. I'm not sure how the art chores are split up, but I've always said that Hardman on this book is a good fit, and the art doesn't change that much throughout, so it looks good throughout. Dismang has to get some of the credit - whenever she colors the book, the art looks like a better fit.
I didn't love the "Night Radio" portions, mainly because it's hard to believe that some paranoid dude on the radio is freaking out about Atlas in a Marvel Universe where gods literally walk the earth. I know that the normal people of the MU don't often see superheroes strolling around, but they know they exist, and that's why it's difficult to create these kinds of mood in a shared universe title. It's a nifty idea, but the fact that the AoA are going to interact with the X-Men and Hercules soon makes it less compelling. But that's just me.
I still have no idea what's going on with this title. Parker isn't making any announcements on his blog, and according to the back of the book, there's a next issue and the X-Men crossover coming up. Then, according to the latest Previews, it moves to a back-up feature in The Incredible Hercules after Jimmy Woo's group crosses over with everyone's favorite Greek demi-god. I assume that's the end of the regular book. So is next issue the last one? Beats me. We'll see, I guess. It's just annoying. At least DC has the decency to list "final issue" in their solicitations.
Layman showed me a few pages of this issue at San Diego, and he wasn't kidding when he said that, as twisted as those pages were, this issue would get even more twisted. It's gleefully twisted, and getting more laugh-out-loud funny with each issue, so it seems that Layman's scripts are catching up nicely with Guillory's glorious art, which means this book is getting even better. That's good to see.
There's a lot to like in this issue, from the actual plot, which is creepy and somewhat plausible (with one exception, which I'll get to), to the interaction between Tony and Savoy, which isn't really friendship but is still fun. Layman drops a clue about our rotund F.D.A. agent friend, Tony's brother advances a subplot, and we get a rather odd ending. Guillory, of course, is fantastic, from the way the coroner's face goes from smug to horrified anger in an instant to the way Chu reads what happened to the senator to the scene in the observatory, which is choreographed wonderfully. It's fun to check out the splash page, which is where the issue essentially ends, and then watch how Guillory and Layman make it to that point, because it's so very twisted.
I'm a bit confused by the end, which seems to indicate that the Russians and the Americans destroyed a planet. Why? What was written in the sky of that planet? What does this add to the book, if anything? Was it just a two-page throwaway gag? Beats me. Seems awfully mean-spirited of the Russians and Americans, I must say. Oh well.
There's also a three-page letter column, which is quite neat, although one writer is all about the "collectibility" of the series and actually berates Layman and Guillory for making issue #1 more available, thus destroying its "collectibility." Layman is very diplomatic to the dude, but I wonder if he wanted to tell that letter-writer to shut up.
Anyway, we'll see how the first arc wraps up next time. I have a feeling it will be even more evil. And that's good stuff!
Greek Street #3 ("Book One: Blood Calls for Blood Part Three: House of Ghosts") by Peter Milligan (writer), Davide Gianfelice (artist), Patricia Mulvihill (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.
I'm still feeling this sucker out, but I did like this issue more than the previous two. The presence of a Greek chorus is nice, because there is a ton going on in this book, and Milligan hasn't really given each plot enough yet to make them memorable, and the Greek chorus lets us back into the story. I did like the reveal of the monster, though. Pretty keen.
But I'd like to talk about the art. Gianfelice draws this and the latest issue of Northlanders, which also came out this week. I loved (and love) Gianfelice on the Viking book, and not as much on this book (although it's still pretty good). I looked at this issue and Northlanders this week, and I don't know why they look different. He inks his own work, so it's not that. His line is bolder on Northlanders, giving the art a stronger feel, whereas on Greek Street, it's definitely looser and more malleable. If Gianfelice is doing this deliberately, as the story in Northlanders demands a harder edge because of its subject matter, than that's pretty keen. I wonder if the coloring has anything to do with it. Both Mulvihill and McCaig make these comics "look" like a Vertigo book, in that the colors are a bit muted and we get a lot of earth tones, but McCaig's brighter colors (the red of blood, for instance), are a bit more crimson than Mulvihill's. Again, I have no idea how much the colorist influences the pencil art, and Gianfelice's pencils look bolder in Northlanders, but I wonder how much influence the colorist has in this instance. It's interesting (to me, at least) that it's only taken me 20 years to start noticing the color art, but now that I am, I'm starting to have favorite colorists as well as writers and artists. It probably won't be enough to drive me away from books, but it's something to consider.
One of the great things about Ostrander is that he has never bought into the idea of "decompression" (at least the books I've read that he's written), so these 27 pages can feel twice as long, and it's nice to read a comic with so much packed into its pages. I mean, Gaunt is still looking for the eponymous cat, but his trek takes him all around Cynosure, and Ostrander brings a bunch of new characters into the mix and even manages two fight scenes (in which Gaunt, perhaps not surprisingly, kicks ass). It's been a while since I've read the original series, and I've only read it once (and not even all of it), so I don't know where this "fits" into the chronology, but I do know that Ostrander is indeed fitting it in, and it's very cool for long-time readers. And if you've never read GrimJack, you can easily follow along. That's just how good Ostrander is!
Truman is brilliant, too, of course. There's more subtlety to the art nowadays as opposed to 25 years ago (not surprisingly), and it deepens Truman's excellent pencils and makes Cynosure more of a real location. I'm not too jazzed by the photographs dropped into the book, but they only show up on two pages, so I can live with it. John's look is dated, of course, with that big-ass shoulder pad thing, but it's also something of a classic, so even though this book occasionally feels like a relic, it also manages to feel fresh, and that's a neat trick. Of course, if we get back to the colorist, Kindzierski has a lot to do with the art looking great, as the metallic hues on the robots late in the book, for instance, make them more "realistic," for lack of a better word. Kindzierski also makes Gaunt look his age (whatever that age may be), even more than Truman does. It gives the main character a good "beaten-down" look, appropriate for Gaunt.
I do question something Mike Gold writes in the letters column. He claims all of the "original GrimJack stories" have been collected in trade paperback. That's not true. IDW got to issue #54 and then discontinued the trades. Now, issue #54 marks a major shift in the original series, but the series did continue (with Ostrander writing it) until issue #81, so IDW has a way to go before all of the "original" stories are collected. Gold does tease a GrimJack Omnibus, but we'll see what's up with that. If it's just reprinting the series from the beginning, I'll be less excited about it than if IDW got around to collecting the rest of the series. They have claimed a lack of interest in the trades (which sucks, as this is a great series), so I don't know how well an omnibus would do, but we'll see.
As much as I liked Incognito, I am happy that Criminal will be returning soon. It's just such a shame that the superhero mentality has such a grip on most comics readers that this book, by the same exact creative team, sells much better than Criminal, which is a superior title. There's nothing terribly wrong with Incognito, as Brubaker, Phillips, and Staples really go nuts on this final issue, wrapping things up, leaving some things open, and wallowing in all the tropes that make superhero comics great (the death traps, the crazy scientists, the intractable problems with the supervillains and the extreme solutions to said problems). It's basically Criminal if everyone in that book had superpowers, which is why it's annoying that people abandon Brubillips in droves when they churn out another issue of their noir comic. Sheesh.
Anyway, after I praised Staples on Rapture a few weeks ago, I should point out that his work here is pretty glorious, too. I have to go back and check out the rest of this series, but it seems like it's been getting more day-glo as Zack gets more and more into his "supervillain" mode, as it went from a noir book to a more superheroic comic. It's still pretty dark in tone, obviously, but the weird green hues in the doctor's lab and the crackly energy of Zoe's flying car make it a kind of "through-the-looking-glass" superhero book, which is I'm sure what Brubaker and Phillips were going for. Once again, we must hail the colorist!
The trade will be out soon. A new issue of Criminal will be out soon. Do yourself a favor and get them!
The splash page of this comic shows a burning airplane in the background, with at least three burning people running from it. Plus, there's a torso in the foreground, looking sadly at the audience. Then the plane explodes again, and some of the wreckage decapitates at least three people and skewers a few more. That's just the kind of comic this is!
In other words, awesome. I don't mean to keep comparing this to Power Girl, the other comic by this writing team that I'm currently reading, but I do, and DC's offering comes up way short. I know that that's a corporate comic and therefore has standards of decency (I mean, it's not like DC would publish a comic in which heroes torture people and the undead bodies of heroes are skullfucking those they've just killed, right?) while IDW made its bones with a bloody vampire comic and lets creators go a bit bonkers, but again, it's about the level of energy, and while PG has been a bit enervating so far (writing-wise, not art-wise, of course), with flashes of goodness, this series, two issues in, has just hit the ground running and hasn't let up on the throttle. Of course, it's a goofy comic, a melding of horror and disaster movies, but that's a nice mix, and Gray and Palmiotti are just having a great time. They're dispatching characters left and right with aplomb, introducing new characters who will have a major impact on things, and doing a good job showing how crisis doesn't really change someone's character, just enhances it (whatever that may be). Jerks are still jerks in a crisis situation, people! Caracuzzo gets to draw nekkid chicks and lots of horrible violence, and he also looks like he's having a blast.
I know this is 4 bucks a pop, but it's shaping up to be a fantastic series. I guess the trade will be cheaper than buying the individual issues, but reading this in installments is a lot of fun.
Wood returns to Sven, his character from the first arc, and gives us a single issue story in which Sven gets to kick all kinds of ass. That's basically it; this acts as a coda to Sven's life, showing us that as much as he's softened in the years since "Sven the Returned," he's still a warrior, and he knows a few tricks that help him fight men decades younger than he is. It's beautifully drawn (see above for my musings on Gianfelice's art here), and Wood basically lets Sven go nuts. It's a well-written comic, of course, but it is basically Sven killing a bunch of dudes, and that's perfectly fine.
I hate to nitpick about this comic because I'm afraid that Brian Wood will come to my house and kick my ass, but I wonder about Sven's family. He hooked up with the girl at the end of the first arc, and I could have sworn they were closer in age. It's been 29 years since the events of "Sven the Returned." So why aren't his kids older? His kids are younger than ten, I'd wager, and it's strange that he didn't have any others. Did they die? How old is Enna? I suppose she could have been in her mid-thirties when the kids were born, but any older and I doubt she would be bearing children, which is iffy these days for women older than 35 and would be very dangerous for women living in the Faroe Islands at the turn of the millennium. Anyway, I just wonder about these things. Yes, I should be looking for grand themes in Wood's writing, and this is what I focus on. So sue me.
Still. Great comic. Really.
Strange Tales #1 (of 3) by Nick Bertozzi (writer/artist, "Lo, a Watcher!" and "And Call My Lover MODOK!"), Chris Sinderson (colorist, "Lo, a Watcher!"), Paul Pope (writer/artist, "Inhumans"), José Villarrubia (colorist, "Inhumans"), John Leavitt (writer, "She-Hulk"), Molly Crabapple (artist, "She-Hulk"), Star St. Germain (colorist/letterer, "She-Hulk"), Junko Mizuno (writer/artist, "Welcome to the Spider Town"), Aki Yanagi (translator, "Welcome to the Spider Town"), C. B. Cebulski (adapter, "Welcome to the Spider Town"), Dash Shaw (writer/artist, "Dr. Strange vs. Nightmare"), James Kochalka (writer/artist, "Hulk Squad Smash"), Johnny Ryan (writer/artist, "Marvel's Most Embarrassing Moments" and "Scared Smart"), Michael Kupperman (writer/artist, "Fed Up With Man"), Peter Bagge (writer/artist, "The Incorrigible Hulk"), Nicholas Gurewitch (writer/artist, "The Green Menace" and "The Blue Hair"), and Jason (writer/artist, untitled Spider-Man story - "Spidey Gets in a Bar Fight"?). $4.99, 47 pgs, FC, Marvel.
I'm not sure if I can even express the sheer awesome found in these pages. You won't spend a better five dollars this week, I can tell you that much. From the Watcher peeping on She-Hulk in the shower to Doctor Strange conquering a yawn and feeling damned proud of it to the Punisher disciplining a wayward child to Namor's secret weakness that only "air breathers" can deliver to a warped and strangely poignant tale of MODOK to Logan's jealous reaction while he's getting busy, there's nothing that's not excellent in this comic. Okay, there is, and it's Kochalka's Hulk story. Why can't I enjoy Kochalka's work????* Other than that, every page of this book is a delight. Paul Pope gives us a tale of Lockjaw just wanting some damned food, Spider-Man can't figure out how to win the affections of a bunch of actual spiders, Johnny Ryan shows us what really happens behind the scenes in Marvel history, and Peter Bagge's Incorrigible Hulk manages to live up to the hype (so far; two installments left!). "Slutty girl not afraid of Hulk?" Good stuff! And why, oh why does Dr. Strange not think something is weird about his soup?!?!?!?!?
You know you love this comic already, even if you haven't read it. Now all you have to do is buy it!
* I will say that if you've never read anything by Kochalka, the Hulk story is a perfect way to decide if you like him. If you like it, you'll like everything he does, because it's all the same. If you don't like it, he never does anything different to make you change your mind. So there's that.
Sweet Tooth #1 ("Out of the Deep Woods Part One") by Jeff Lemire (writer/artist), José Villarrubia (colorist), and Pat Brosseau (letterer). $1.00, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.
As Marvel continues to scoop up independent creators by the bucketful, DC manages to snag Jeff Lemire, and after his graphic novel The Nobody (my review is here!), he fires up an ongoing that is, well, weird. It's pretty well done, and Lemire gives us a really nice double-page spread in the middle of the book that looks gorgeous, but it's hard to judge this. Unlike the other recent Vertigo books, it's not longer than your standard comic book, although it is cheaper (which means you should give it a try!), and it feels like Lemire is just getting his feet wet with the monthly format, so it's a lot of set-up. Sure, someone gets shot in the head, but otherwise, it's a lot of exposition. The basic premise: some pandemic has wiped out a good chunk of humanity, and the only kids being born are strange hybrids, including Gus there, who has antlers. His father dies in this issue, and Gus is rescued from some hunters by a mean-looking old dude. Yeah, like I said: a bit thin on plot, but that's okay. Lemire is very good at mood, both with his sparse writing and his bleak art, and that's what he's doing here. He gets the sense of Gus's isolation down very well, and as his father fades away (almost literally), Lemire does a good job showing Gus's despair. If you've never seen Lemire's art, it's a bit of an acquired taste, but it's very haunting and stays with you long after you close the book.
Lemire claims in the "On the Ledge" section that this will be unlike any post-apocalyptic or Vertigo monthly you've ever read, and while that's not in evidence here, it's still a well done issue that promises quite a bit. And, as I pointed out, it's a freaking dollar. And you won't feel dirty after reading it, like you do after checking out a teenager's rack in a different comic from this week!
Wednesday Comics #9 (of 12) by all sorts of people. $3.99, 15 pgs, FC, DC.
Batman: The red shards of glass / Fall like leaves through the battle / "Don't go easy, Bats"
Kamandi: New York to Vicksburg / Back to Washington, D. C. / We don't need no maps!
Superman: Supes becomes a wuss / By mind meld; what does he blame / All the other times?
Deadman: Oh, Boston Brand, you've / Been dead so long, you forgot / Never trust the woman!
Green Lantern: Invasion force? / But what about Dill and Hal's / Hot forbidden love?
Metamorpho: Happy Java sings / If you don't like this strip then / "Fellita eum"
Teen Titans: Jeez, I don't even feel like thinking about making a haiku for this. Yuck.
Strange Adventures: Those damn dirty apes / Are far too sloppy; Korgo / Dates the Zeta-Beam!
Supergirl: Doctor Mid-Nite is / A bit too creepy with owls / I miss Aquaman
Metal Men: Chemo's casing cracks / He sits sadly in the street / He just needs a hug
Wonder Woman: "More guns and ... bullies" / Says Wonder Woman as she / Punches the bad guys
Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.: Yay! Rock kills a guy / But gets bopped by a Ratzi / Rock must be too old
The Flash: Coolest strip this week / Barry as Dagwood is neat / Is that the Mole Man?*
The Demon and Catwoman: Morgaine le Fay is / Just like a James Bond bad guy / She talks way too much
Hawkman: I'm the goddamned Hawk? / What gives Katar the right? He's ... / A superhero!
* Note: I know it's not the Mole Man, but it sure looks like him!
I don't really know what to say about this. It's very metafictional, and although I've loved the series, if we believe that Lapham is writing this as a cri de couer for the death of his creation, he comes off kind of petulant. But then I think A) He has a right to be petulant; and B) It's probably not really him in this story. It goes around and around the main arc, and Sadie/Loreli does something awesome with butcher knives, and there's a weirdly tragic page near the end that gets back to whether this is Danny's story or David Lapham's story (not that I'm saying that David Lapham is some kind of Spider God from Mars, of course), and it's just a lot to digest. This has always been a series that makes you think and makes you consider how to tell a story and what it means to tell a story, and for that, it should be appreciated as one of the best series of the past few years. It's the kind of thing that, on the surface, can be read and appreciated for its sheer audacity, but when you start thinking about what Lapham is doing, it makes you dig deeper and deeper until you face the insanity of fiction, and then it really gets interesting. I haven't done that enough yet with the series; we all saw what it did to poor Chad Nevett, who now sits in a rocking chair playing canasta with three invisible friends he named Manny, Moe, and Jack while regaling anyone who will listen about how he cracked the secret Young Liars code and discovered the key to the universe is currently in the possession of a young Belgian girl. So I'm not sure I want to go there.
But you go ahead and live your lives. I didn't cry when Automatic Kafka bit the big one, and I won't cry now. I didn't get all suicidal when the masses decided Major Bummer was too cool to live, and I won't cry now. But when the radness of Zombie Ch'p isn't enough to fill that gaping hole in your soul, don't come crying to me!
I was a bit surprised that no one got last week's totally random lyrics, as they were from Pete Townshend's awesome tune "Crashing By Design." I'm getting a bit worried about you guys - turn off the Lady Gaga, people, and put on some classic rock! Let's crank up some more totally random lyrics!
"Under the dog star sailOver the reefs of moonshineUnder the skies of fallNorth, north west, the stones of Faroe
Under the Arctic fireOver the seas of silenceHauling on frozen ropesFor all my days remainingBut would north be true?"
By the way: FOOTBALL IS BACK!!!!!!!! That's real football, mind you, not that other game played largely with ... the foot. Whatever. U! S! A!