What I bought - 20 June 2012

For them it might stave off what he could not help but see with clarity: that the world was silent and cold and bare and that in this lay its terrible beauty. (David Guterson, from Snow Falling on Cedars)

As you can see, it was a HUGE week, and happily, most of the comics I bought were not only good but GREAT, so I'm going to curse a lot in this post to express HOW MOTHERFUCKING AWESOME COMICS ARE! So, in honor of Dave's Long Box, from where I stole the use of "Airwolf" as an adjective, today we'll be counting FUCK YEAH! moments in this week's comics. Obviously, my FUCK YEAH! moments might be different from yours, but either way, there are a lot of them. Let's go!

Avengers Academy #32 ("What the Heart Wants Part 1") by Christos Gage (writer), Timothy Green II (penciler), Jeff Huet (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I'm sure I'm far beneath Christos Gage's notice, but I like to think the first few pages of this comic, in which Gage addresses why Juston can't stop his Sentinel from being a mutant-killing machine, were directed at me. I think Gage should have had Juston look directly at the reader and explain it, and then have a word balloon in which Juston says, "Are you happy now, Greg? Fine. Fuck off" while Laura looks on perplexed. Why, yes, Mr. Gage, I am happy. Thank you very much for explaining.

And then Emma Frost the Phoenix shows up. Dear Sweet Jeebus, tell me someone with a brain and eyes didn't design that costume (I have my own thoughts about who designed it; see below). Anyway, Emma Phoenix is busy destroying all Sentinels, and she decides to destroy Juston's. Juston, of course, doesn't think this is too swell, and eventually everyone else comes over to his side. And so the stage is set for a big Kid Avengers versus Phoenix Frost next issue! Fuck yeah!

So is that really what AvX is about? The Phoenix Five (singing all their hits like "Don't Shoot Me in the Back With Your Laser of Love" and "Being All-Powerful Means Losing All Fashion Sense") are "fixing" the world by destroying anything that might be used for warfare? Someone in the Marvel House of Architects came up with that and everyone at the giant, round table (it's supported by a bunch of Marvel artists, don't you know, which is why none of them can draw two books in a row - they're too busy bearing the crushing weight of a large oak slab and hoping Bendis or Fraction or Hickman or Aaron drops a Graham cracker or an Oreo) said, "Fuck yeah!" Well, I'm sorry, Architects, but you misunderstand the idea of Fuck Yeah! Gage gets it - who didn't say "Fuck yeah!" when Laura sacked up and slashed (bloodlessly, weirdly enough) at Emma Phoenix? Damn straight, X-23! You protect that puppy! Meanwhile, if that's the direction AvX has taken, I suggest the Architects (Bendis wanted to call them the Marvel Illuminati, but even they thought that was a bit too weird) read ... oh, I don't know, any comic in which a group of superpowered beings try to stop war by force. See how that works out.

Anyway, Green is a good artist, but as usual with this comic, he has a tough time with the teenaged girls, as they look a bit too ... enhanced, I guess, for their ages. I mean, they're supposed to be teenagers, right, or at least 20 or 21? Look at that page where White Tiger is talking to X-23 and tell me you're not just a tad creeped out by Ava's breasts. Go ahead, tell me! You'd be a liar, man! Green does a nice job overall - when his characters get angry, they seem to have too many teeth, but that's okay - and he does a particularly good job with Laura, but man, those boobs!

Gage continues to work around the idiotic event with some good stories, and this is another one. Good job, Mr. Gage!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 6

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? Unfortunately, no. Unless you want to count the Sentinel. Or Phoenix Frost. I don't think we can, though.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batwoman #10 ("To Drown the World Part Five") by J. H. Williams III (writer), W. Haden Blackman (writer), Trevor McCarthy (artist), Guy Major (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

As I figured it would be, this has turned into a bit of a mess, not because it's not good, but because Williams and Blackman are trying to keep six story threads going, and it's hard to do. I'm sure they have it all up on a board somewhere, laid out so it all makes sense, but after five issues of it, it's kind of hard to keep up. I mean, the "main" one - Batwoman's - moves toward a resolution, as we get to see a brutal stabbing and an even more bizarre transformation (McCarthy nails that panel, even though it's gruesome), giving us a revelation about a character, but the story of Kate's dad sitting by Bette's hospital bed remains just that - he's just sitting there whining, and it's kind of annoying. Wait, you loved one of your daughters more than the other? Get over it, dude. Croc's transformation from humanoid crocodile to mutated crocodile monster thing is pretty neat, although I'm not a huge fan of making Croc some kind of crocodile avatar - Jeebus, don't we have enough of that in DC comics, what with the Animal Man and Swamp Thing crap? Can't Croc just be a weird-ass mutation like he always was? I imagine Williams and Blackman will pull it together in the next issue, and then it will crystallize beautifully into a wonderful whole. Or not. We'll see!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 3, but they're almost cancelled out by the two pages of Jacob whining.

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? 1, because I'm counting Croc, and he's pretty awesome.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Casanova: Avaritia #4 (of 4) ("Relaxed in Person") by Matt Fraction (writer), Gabriel Bá (artist), Cris Peter (colorist), and Dustin K. Harbin (letterer). $4.99, 36 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

Casanova is apparently on a bimonthly schedule these days (I think?), which, with a book as dense as this, is going to make it hard to review single issues, because honestly, I don't remember much of what happened in issue #3. I mean, I have a vague idea - Kaito is pissed at Casanova and Cornelius, so he's killing a lot of people, for instance - but not the specifics. So I just sit back and let the comic wash over me, which is a fine way to read it, if you ask me. I appreciate the little things, like the cameo by Charles Dickens (seriously!), Sasa quoting T.S. Eliot, one character actually getting a happy ending that s/he deserves, a very cool "death" scene, and Fraction reversing the bloodbath of the first few issues with a different one at the end of this issue. And, of course, Bá, drawing the shit out of every page. This is a brutal, gloriously violent comic, and it looks stunning ... and then Bá and Peter get to do 9 wordless pages in the middle of it that feels so intense and kinetic you wonder if you're not watching a movie. I honestly have no idea what's going to happen in the next arc, and I'm not quite sure if I know exactly what happened in this arc (is that Kaito in Hollywood at the end?), but reading single issues of Casanova is much more like drowning in images, and only when you sit back and read the issues together will you see the whole picture. I can do that. And so I will.

Bring on "Acedia," I say! Who knows when it will show up, but I'm looking forward to it!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 9

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? Nope. I mean, some of the cast members are a bit odd-looking, but no actual monsters appear!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Chew #27 ("Space Cakes Part 2 of 5") by John Layman (writer/letterer), Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), and Taylor Wells (color assistant). $2.99, 29 pgs, FC, Image.

Here's something interesting (well, to me): I never actually reviewed this issue when it came out last year. It arrived in stores while I was in Pennsylvania for those 7 weeks, so when I got back to Arizona and did my monster review post about all the comics I had bought, I kind of skipped over it. That's okay, though, because that means I get to write about it now!

We're still waiting for Tony to come out of his coma, so his sister, Toni, is still the star of the book. This issue is structured very much like issue #1 (I haven't gone back and checked how closely it mirrors it, but I remember enough to know that it is), which is kind of neat. We find out that Toni was licking psychedelic frogs and her group was busted by Savoy and Caesar, who sees Toni in the hospital with Tony but can't place her (Layman told me recently that this is a running gag in the book). Meanwhile, Toni meets up with a fellow scientist from those glorious frog-licking days and finds out he was breeding psychedelic ... chogs. You remember chogs, right? The frog-chicken hybrid that was designed to skirt the chicken laws in the "Chew Universe"? Of course you do. Layman continues to bring back old characters and reference long-ago story arcs, which is pretty awesome, as it really gives us a sense of - dare I say it? - continuity - there are no throwaway pages in Chew, which is nice. Finally, at the end of the issue, Tony wakes up and there's someone in his room. WHO COULD IT BE?????

Guillory, as usual, gets to have some fun, especially when Toni starts licking psychedelic frogs (see below). It's really hard to keep coming up with superlatives to describe his work. Toni is adorably clueless about Paneer's love for her, but that doesn't mean she can't break out the doe eyes (hilariously, I might add) when she wants something from him. Guillory also continues to put a lot of fun stuff in each issue (like the tagline of the moving van) that makes reading the book so rewarding. And, as this is the second time around for this issue, Layman and Guillory put the Hero Comics story from last year at the end of the issue, complete with all the art styles Guillory drew in on that one page - you know the one! It's very neat, even though I've already read the story.

Honestly, Chew is so routinely excellent I'm surprised those people who aren't reading yet haven't collapsed in pain from the lack of it. It's your choice, man!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 4, which is a bit low. It was a (relatively) mellow issue of Chew.

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? Zero, but the hallucinations are purty.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dark Horse Presents #13. "Ghost: Resurrection Mary Chapter 1" by Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Phil Noto (artist), and Richard Starkings and Comicraft (letterer); "The Creep Chapter 3" by John Arcudi (writer), Jonathan Case (artist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); "Finder: Third World Chapter 11" by Carla Speed McNeil (writer/artist/letterer), Jenn Manley Lee (colorist), and Bill Mudron (colorist); "Criminal Macabre: They Fight by Night Chapter 4" by Steve Niles (writer), Christopher Mitten (artist), Michelle Madsen (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); "Aliens: Inhuman Condition Chapter 2" by John Layman (writer/letterer), Sam Kieth (artist/colorist), and John Kalisz (colorist); "The Occultist: Damned Can Dance Chapter 3" by Tim Seeley (writer), Victor Drujiniu (artist), Andrew Dalhouse (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); "The Black Beetle: Night Shift Chapter 3" by Francesco Francavilla (writer/artist); "Profile: A Cross Story" by Andrew Vachss (writer), Geof Darrow (illustrator), and Peter Doherty (colorist); "Nexus: Bad Moon Rising" by Mike Baron (writer), The Dude (artist), and Glenn Whitmore (colorist); "Mister X: Hard Candy" by Dean Motter (writer/artist). $7.99, 80 pgs, DC, Dark Horse.

I still like DHP a lot and think it's a superb value, but I'm a bit concerned with the way they're running things down there in Milwaukie. Before this even came out, DeConnick and Noto got a Ghost mini-series, so I assume Dark Horse will package this as a "zero" issue and then launch into the mini. They've already done that with a few other stories that appear here and I guess will continue to do so. I'm not really all that happy with it, not because I don't want to read a DeConnick and Noto Ghost mini-series or a Hogan and Parkhouse Resident Alien mini-series or anything else, but because I think the stories ought to end where they begin. Arcudi and Case's Creep story, for instance, seems to end very oddly in this issue, and I know The Creep #0 has already been solicited, and based on the way this ends, I can't believe Arcudi is done telling this story. So will it continue in The Creep #1? That would be annoying. The Occultist and The Black Beetle do the same thing in this very issue, although, to be fair, I don't know if those serials will be continuing in DHP or on their own, as I haven't seen any "regular" issues solicited. Resident Alien did this, too, and it's annoying. Wood and Donaldson had some stories about The Massive in DHP that don't seem to be too relevant to the main series, but maybe they will be. I get that this is a way to prime the pump, so to speak, but couldn't these creators tell a complete story in the pages of DHP and then, if the interest is there, tell a completely different story in a separate mini-series? Dorkin and Thompson did it, Chaykin did it, others have done it - you may argue about the quality of the stories, but it was nice that they were contained in the pages of one comic. It's kind of frustrating.

This is, naturally, a very solid issue. The Ghost story is a bit perplexing because it just started, but Noto's art is lovely. There's another very fun Finder story, and Cal McDonald shoots up some werewolves. Layman and Kieth's Alien story is starting to make sense, which is nice. Both Nexus and Mister X are into their second chapters, so it's hard to get a good bead on them - they both look wonderful, but who knows where Baron and Motter are going with them? As usual, it's a fine read, mitigated a bit by the fact that some of the stories don't end very well, because they're presumably moving on to a longer format. But that might just be something that bugs me.

FUCK YEAH! moments: 4

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? Werewolves, an Alien (I think we can count it), two different demons from Hell, and a foxy undead chick. So, at least 8 (there are several werewolves), I guess?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Elephantmen #40. "One in the Eye" by Richard Starkings (writer/letterer), Tony Parker (artist), and Blond (colorist); "Patient Zero Parts 4 and 5 of 5" by Rob Steen (writer/artist) and Richard Starkings (letterer); "Charley Loves Robots" by J. G. Roshell (writer) and Gabriel Bautista (artist). $3.99, 38 pgs, FC, Image.

Ah, yes, after years of claiming I would pay money for Elephantmen even though I got every issue for free, Richard Starkings called my bluff at the Phoenix Comic Convention and told me he was unable to send them to me anymore. Damn you, Starkings!!!! But, as I have always said, I would buy this if I weren't getting it for free, so this week, issue #40 came out, and I - gulp - paid American dollars for it. And you know what? It was FUCKING AWESOME! I mean, I figured it would be - this comic has been good from Day 1 and one of the best comics out there for a few years (it took a little bit to get there, but it's been there for some time), so it's not like I was expecting it to suck, but Starkings decides to give us a single-issue story and he kills it. He checks in on Panya, the young lady who has been posing as Sahara occasionally (she looks like Sahara) but is currently hanging out at the Eye of the Needle, the floating restaurant high above Los Angeles. A dude in mecha armor shows up demanding the man who killed his daughters - the Silencer, who is also in the restaurant, hiding. The armored dude takes the patrons hostage, and then the Silencer shows up, wreaking havoc. Panya also gets into the game, taking advantage of the fact that she looks like Sahara and the hybrids love Sahara. It's on then, motherfuckers!

Starkings does a nice job showing us why the dude wants the Silencer dead (it involves sex, because of course it does!) in flashbacks while keeping things moving and showing what a bad-ass the Silencer is. He writes a wonderful Panya, too, as she needs no one to help her kick ass (she yells at the Silencer when he tells her to get behind him, especially as she's done more to stop the dude by that time than he has). Starkings does a good job putting a nice twist in the story, which presumably will have some dire consequences down the line. It fits well into the rest of the series, but it works very well as a self-contained story. We also get the final two installments of Rob Steen's creepy "Patient Zero" story, which doesn't end well for anyone, unsurprisingly.

Parker has been raising his profile recently, to the point where I'm sure I won't be able to chat with him at cons anymore because he'll have so many fans flocking around him. I've often said to him that I'm not sure why some of his earlier artwork isn't great even though it showed potential. I thought it might be the colorist, but Blond colored his stuff on Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? as well as this, and this looks much stronger. Maybe Parker is just getting better! The best comparison I can make in this issue is to Igor Kordey, and as Kordey is a good artist, I hope Parker takes that as a compliment. There are a few smaller panels where it's difficult to see what's happening, which is frustrating, but overall, this is a beautiful comic, and I'm glad that Parker (who's a really nice guy) is moving up in the world.

So yeah. Even though I had to pay for it, I still love this comic. You should too!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 8 (7 in the main story, and 1 in "Patient Zero")

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? I won't count the elephantmen as monsters, because they're not, so there's only one - Betsy, who shows up in "Patient Zero."

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fables #118. "Cubs in Toyland Chapter 5: Broken Kite" by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Steve Leialoha (inker), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer); "A Revolution in Oz Chapter Four: Bounty on the Mutiny" by Bill Willingham (writer), Shawn McManus (artist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

This issue of Fables is actually pretty good, because shit, you know, happens. I guess it's true - the comic just works better in trades. Willingham gets around to explaining the mystery behind Discardia, and while it's not too surprising, it works very effectively. It's always nice to see Bigby go bad-ass, as well. Willingham could have gotten to this point a bit sooner - it feels like a year since Therese got on that toy boat - but I must admit that he can write a comic that both advances the plot, has some nice characterization, and features some action when he feels like it.

I still haven't made up my mind what I'm going to do when this arc is over (it appears issue #120 might be the seventh chapter of the story, which is entirely too long), but at least this issue is a lot better than the previous two, at least. Plus, I love the bounty in the second story, because it's awesome.

FUCK YEAH! moments: 3

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? I suppose not, although the giant bear has always been a bit creepy ... but he is just a toy!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Glory #27 ("Destroyer Part Two: Savage") by Joe Keatinge (writer), Ross Campbell (artist), Joseph Bergin III (colorist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

This is the first of two very monster-heavy comics, and while I think Brian Churilla is the current Monster-Drawing King in comics, Campbell is pretty fucking good at them, too (Jason Copland, whose art we see in Near Death, is pretty good, too). Let's see ... I think Churilla, Campbell, Copland, and James Stokoe should have some kind of Monster-Off. Can anyone think of other artists who should join in?

Last issue, a bunch of aliens showed up at Mont-St.-Michel and things looked grim for Glory and her pals. Keatinge gives us a prologue which sets up the main story, as Glory shows what's lurking underneath her surface and how it can come out. Riley and the others try to flee, which leads to a bit of slaughter, and Glory goes a bit apeshit (see below), and Campbell draws the hell out of it all. It's amazing how ferociously beautiful this comic is, even when horrible things are happening. Keatinge has foreshadowed the ending pretty well, but it still feels like a punch in the gut when it comes. For an issue with a ton of action, Keatinge manages to work in some really nice moments with the characters, which I appreciate. It's not that hard to get a lot into 20 pages, DC and Marvel writers!

Glory has been good since its relaunch, but this might be the best issue yet. It's phenomenal and gorgeous and tragic. I already want the next issue, damn it!!!!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 9

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? Too many to count, really, and it depends whether you think all the creatures fighting Glory are monsters. I can say that there are 3 pages WITHOUT any monsters on them, and 2 more where the monsters are mostly in the background. That's a good monster quotient!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hellblazer #292 ("The House of Wolves") by Peter Milligan (writer), Simon Bisley (artist), Brian Buccellato (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Simon Bisley steps in for a one-off issue in which John and Epiphany see a werewolf movie and both get a bit shivery about it, which leads into a flashback where we find out they encountered each other once before, back when Epiphany was 14 (don't fret - John's not quite that skeevy to put the moves on a young teenager). It's a nice little horror story, as some lords are werewolves but are getting old, so they don't feel quite as eager as they used to, and Terry Greaves asks Epiphany to cook something up. She thinks she's giving them Viagra - or the alchemical equivalent - but she's really helping them transform, which gets messy. She makes an antidote, and Terry knows a guy who can deliver it - our own Mr. Constantine. Things don't go as planned, of course, and soon John is sporting a bit more hair than usual and salivating when he sees Epiphany. As it's a flashback, we can tell that nothing happens, but Milligan does a nice job adding a bit more history to their relationship. I was a bit confused, though - does Terry know that John turned into a werewolf? If so, why hasn't he brought that up before? The easy answer is because Milligan didn't know it yet, but I wonder if Milligan had a story like this in mind a while ago or if this was a rush job. This is why I don't really like filling in characters' history with heretofore unknown interactions with other characters, something Marvel and DC writers do with frightening frequency, because one would think Terry would have brought this up before. Oh well. It's a neat little story, and I guess that's all that matters.

FUCK YEAH! moments: 5

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? 3 ... all of them werewolves.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Higher Earth #2 by Sam Humphries (writer), Francesco Biagini (artist), Manuel Bracchi (artist), Andrew Crossley (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

The second issue of this series is about as good as the first, which isn't a bad thing, because issue #1 was pretty good. As we saw, there are several different Earths in the multiverse, and the hero dude - whose name escapes me - found a girl named Heidi on one world and took her to Sunshine Earth 9, which appears to be a paradise but has some issues, mostly with refugees from other Earths trying to stay there. Hero Dude is trying to find a doctor who can help them, but Heidi, having lived her life in a vast wasteland, freaks out because of all the people and runs for it. Hero Dude sees the doctor (who is, naturally, not happy to see him - Hero Dude had something to do with the doctor's wife disappearing) and figures out where Heidi has gone, and when he gets there, she's about to be taken into custody. So of course Hero Dude takes out his all-purpose sword once again and starts chopping. They escape to another Earth, one which might not be all that hospitable.

Humphries is keeping things moving quickly, and he's done a good job so far establishing the basic plot and some basic personality traits of his two main characters. Biagini remains the draw so far for the book, because he's doing some nice work. When Heidi is walking through the city, Biagini shows how her perception of the place becomes warped so that it seems natural for her to flee - if I were seeing what she is, I'd run too! He continues to do some nice things with page layouts, and he really does seem to enjoy drawing sword-related violence, which is good when that's Hero Dude's principal weapon. Humphries' scripts are fine, but right now, Biagini is probably the better reason to buy this book. Of course, that may change! And no, I don't know what Bracchi does on this comic. All the art looks consistent, so perhaps he draws some backgrounds or something.

FUCK YEAH! moments: 5

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? The city is bizarre, but I can only think of 1, and I'm not sure it counts (it's the creature on the last page, in case you read the book).

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mars Attacks #1 ("First Contact! First Carnage!") by John Layman (writer/letterer), John McCrea (artist), and Andrew Elder (colorist). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, IDW.

I was on the fence about buying this in single issues, and I still might wait for the trade, but I did pick this up for a few reasons. One: Layman showed me the uncolored pencil art a few months ago, and it looked freakin' awesome; Two: I really wanted one of those covers, man! My retailer scooped up a few of the best covers, but I love how terrified the pilot looks in this one as he burns to death. Yes, I'm a sick freak. It's okay, I can deal with it.

One reason why I might not wait for the trade is because this is a really cool issue. It's not at all deep - some Martians crash land on Earth in 1962, humans shoot them, one survivor swears revenge and gets it 50 years later (the final page implies that the rest of the book will be set in the present) - but Layman knows how to write a good script, so the pedestrian plot zips along nicely, and the human characters are stereotypical but fun. Two hicks find the Martian saucer and take one of them - Zar - to a circus, where they sell him to a dude with a freak show. One of them decides to free the Martian because he doesn't like the idea of selling him, but the entrepreneur interrupts him, there's a struggle, and the good Samaritan is killed. So the circus dude blames it on the Martian, and mayhem ensues. Martians and humans are killed, but Zar manages to escape and begin plotting revenge. Man, you don't want to piss off the Martians!

While Layman's script is fun but nothing special, McCrea's artwork is superb. McCrea has always been good at cartoonish creatures, and the Topps Martians are certainly wacky looking. The first page is a splash of Zar leading his armies into battle, and it's an amazingly detailed rendering of the might of the Martians, colored wonderfully by Elder, with fiery orange at the bottom bleeding into the deep blue of the night sky at the top. McCrea and Elder work really well together, and considering that you read a Mars Attacks book to see Martians and humans die in gruesome ways, it's nice that they deliver the goods in perfect fashion. Layman breaks the book into chapters, with each title a separate panel that looks like one of the Topps cards, which is a clever way to do it. The book looks fantastic, and as I really like McCrea's work, I'm always happy to see him working on something that I want to read.

As you know this will come out in trade, I don't blame anyone for waiting on it. It is pretty danged awesome, though - if you can wait for the awesome, have fun with that!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 4

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? Do the Martians count? If so, 4

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Near Death #9 by Jay Faerber (writer), Simone Guglielmini (artist), Ron Riley (colorist), and Charles Pritchett (letterer); "The Car-Jackers" by Ed Brisson (writer/letterer), Jason Copland (artist), and Paul Little (colorist). $2.99, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

I'm freaking out a bit about this issue of Near Death. Is it me, or did Faerber already use the opening vignette, about Markham delivering a witness to the courthouse? I don't feel like digging out my back issues, but it's really giving me a severe case of déjà vu about the whole thing. It's really weird. Will Mr. Faerber come by and tell me I'm an idiot? Does anyone else get that feeling when they read those first few pages? AM I GOING INSANE?!?!?!? (Speaking of which, why has "déjà vu" become a commonplace expression while poor "jamais vu" (when something familiar is not recognized by the viewer) and "presque vu" ("It's on the tip of my tongue") remain relatively unknown? It's quite odd. Use the other two in your daily life and impress your friends!)

The main story deals with Markham getting asked to help a policeman who's been targeted by a bad guy. It sounds easy enough, but then he finds out it's the cop who shot him and almost killed him, which led to his "near death" experience and turned his life around, and the guy targeting the cop is Markham's old boss. Oh dear. Plus, the cop still hates Markham even though he's heard that he's working on the side of angels these days. So many complications! Of course, feces strikes the rotating cooling device, and Markham has a difficult situation to get out of at the end, and I'm glad that Faerber decided to stretch this out to a two-part (at least) story, because of all the angles involved. I'm sure things will remain stressful for a while.

Meanwhile, we get another nice "Murder Book" story from Brisson and Copland. Unlike the amazingly bleak ones I've already read, Brisson gives us a darkly humorous one this time, as two punks steal a guy's car ... but maybe they shouldn't have. It's only 5 pages long and on the second page, we can figure out what's going to happen, but it's still pretty funny.

Anyway, someone needs to tell me that I'm not insane. Will it be you? Help me, readers, you're my only hope!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 1

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? It's a crime comic, so the possibility of actual monsters is pretty slim, and they don't show up in this issue.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Next Men #44 by John Byrne (writer/artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 23 pgs, FC, IDW.

For the second issue in a row, Byrne gives us an almost all-black cover. Man, he's really phoning it in, isn't he?

Byrne cleans up a lot of the loose ends in this comic, and I guess it all makes sense. The biggest problem with these latter issues of Next Men is that there's no real villain, and Byrne isn't really writing a character drama, so the lack of an antagonist hurts the comic. Yes, the main characters have been wandering around time and space and it's all very weird, but just when you think there's going to be a villain, Byrne head-fakes and gives us yet another layer of the onion. Now, we find out it's pretty much all onion. Man, I don't like onions. Why don't vegetables taste better?

I guess this is the end of the series, because issue #45 hasn't been solicited and it does end on a note that could be a "final" ending, but it feels a bit anticlimactic. I guess that's what happens when you don't have a villain - there's nobody to defeat, really. Next Men could have been a masterpiece, but I wonder if Byrne just isn't that good anymore. Oh well.

FUCK YEAH! moments: 1, if I'm feeling generous.

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? I don't think that alien "dog" counts, so zero.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Saga #4 by Brian K. Vaughan (writer), Fiona Staples (artist), and Fonografiks (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

You know that feeling you get when you're really on the opposite side of the fence from the prevailing opinion? It's kind of weird, isn't it? I don't mean it feels superior, like you're so smart because you don't like the stuff everyone else does or you like the stuff that nobody else does, but I mean like ... confusion. It's easy to hate The Bachelorette even though it gets good ratings - that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about something you really, really love yet no one else knows about - I doubt if anyone who watches The Bachelorette would really defend it all that much - and you can't understand it. I felt this way about Vietnamerica last year - why didn't more people read it and love it? Am I an idiot, or did people just not read it? The opposite of this is my feelings about, say, The Avengers. It's perfectly fine, but I can't understand why so many people are calling it the greatest superhero movie ever. Really? I just don't get it. Saga is the same way - among people who write about comics, it's almost universally loved; I don't think I've read a bad review yet. I go into every issue with the same attitude I had going into the underwhelming issue #1 - the creative team is very good and I think, "This issue I will love! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!! Then I will know what everyone has seen all along!!!!" And yet ... each issue has left me with more disappointment than enthusiasm. Vaughan does make me think, though, and this is better than something utterly boring, so I guess that's something. I can deal with being underwhelmed as long as I'm not bored. Not for too long, you understand, but for longer than some other things.

So what's my problem with this issue? Well, first of all, I will say that I enjoyed the way Marko and Alana talked about Marko's fiancée - that was a nice conversation. It was funny and felt true, right down to Marko not understanding how to compliment Alana even though he's trying. I still do not like the "earthly" slang, but I guess that's the way it is, right? Unfortunately, the Alana and Marko scenes (with Izabel providing some comic relief) take up only 10 of the 22 pages. The other 12 are devoted to The Will visiting a sex planet. Oh, the sex planet scenes. Oh dear.

First of all, nowhere on the front cover does this say it's for "mature readers." The rating, such as it is, is on the back cover and it's very tiny. At least it's there, because this is, frankly, a pornographic comic. The Will visits "Sextillion," a sex planet, and Fiona Staples very clearly draws a penis entering a vagina on page 8. Now, I wouldn't let my kids read this anyway, but I'm a bit surprised it's not more clearly labeled as "not for kids." If you take your kid to the comic book store, they're not going to notice the tiny "M" on the back, and I doubt if parents will, either. If you have no idea what Saga is about, why wouldn't you let your kids pick it up? Why is this any different than a porn comic that retailers won't place out on their shelves? Because it's "classy"? I really don't care all that much, because I don't go shopping for comics with my kids and I know pretty much which comics are too mature for them, but I find this a bit odd. There's always the big debate about violence versus sex and why it's okay that Geoff Johns can decapitate people with impunity and the book can be sold to children, but now that I've been a father for a while, I can understand it a bit more: my daughter isn't really bothered by violence, because it's easy to tell her that it's make-believe and that nobody gets hurt. We don't let her watch really bad violence, obviously, but characters die in Disney movies, after all, so we've had to explain it to her. Most people have never seen and will never see someone die violently, so it really is easy to explain away. Sex is different, because sex is far more complicated than violence, kids aren't ready to handle it yet and won't understand it, and it's something they will presumably engage in at some point in their lives. So the violence The Will performs in this book, while gruesome, is actually easier to explain to a kid - "That guy was bad, and that's what happens to bad guys" - than the sex is. At least that's my experience. Your experience with your kids may be different.

Anyway, the sex aside, let's consider what else happens in this issue (I guess I'm going to SPOIL it, so be aware!). The Will goes to Sextillion to get laid, and he walks past various sex things and appears bored. Some dude shows up and promises a "slave girl" who will do anything he wants, so they head to a chamber where the pimp dude brings out ... a six-year-old girl. The Will then kills the pimp dude by pulping his head between his (The Will's) hands, which seems really hard to do unless the pimp dude's skull was made of tapioca, not bone. Anyway, this is the big scene in the book, and it sucks. I mean, really. Why does it suck? Let's consider what Vaughan is trying to do with this scene. I really don't know. The Will shows up on a sex planet and wants sex, but even though, as the pimp dude says just before he dies, The Will kills children (whether that's true or not, I don't know), he won't have sex with one. Hazel narrates right after the pimp dude dies that The Will is a "fucking MONSTER." But, she also narrates, "some monsters are worse than others ..." So is Vaughan trying to make The Will a sympathetic character? Why? He took a job to kill two parents and turn a baby over to authorities who will presumably do horrible things to said baby. He is called a "fucking MONSTER" - there's very little equivocation there. So why would he draw the line at having sex with a six-year-old? Plus, I don't mean to be extremely gross, but I didn't bring it up, Vaughan did - if The Will wants something less "safe," why would he want something to put his dick in anyway? Ultimately, putting your dick in anything and having an orgasm is pretty much the same thing no matter what the hole is, so a six-year-old girl is no different than a grown woman or a grown man or, I don't know, an apple pie. If Vaughan wanted to be perverse (and it's pretty clear he did), why didn't the pimp dude take The Will somewhere where he (The Will, that is) could be the one being penetrated? That would be interesting, but it wouldn't allow The Will to be a hero. So Vaughan simply wanted to show The Will as being less of a monster than ... what? I don't get this scene at all, because obviously, Vaughan is simply setting up a situation where we're supposed to be horrified and then cheer when The Will does the "right thing." But it's such a simplistic scenario, and we know so little about the character so far (why wouldn't he screw a six-year-old; what ethics has he shown?), and we're told immediately after the fact that he's a horrible person, so what's the point? Has he just acquired a six-year-old sidekick who he's going to mentor and turn into a killing machine? Really? I suppose if we see this girl again and The Will becomes a father figure, then I understand the scene (although that would be a really lame sub-plot), but I have a feeling we'll never see that girl again. Even if we do, the scene makes no sense. Why would The Will care about the girl?

Oh, Saga. Why do you do this to me? I will say that Staples' backgrounds are a bit better, and she obviously had a lot of fun drawing a lot of nekkid people. Good times!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 2, although 1 of them is The Will killing the pimp dude, and I really don't want to count that.

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? Everyone's an alien, so no one's a monster, right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Secret History of D. B. Cooper #4 by Brian Churilla (writer/artist) and Ed Brisson (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

I'm a little worried about this title, because issue #6 wasn't solicited in last month's Previews, and I'm hoping it's just a case of Churilla getting the trade out and taking a month off before he launches into another story arc, because I can't believe he can wrap everything up next issue. It would be a shame if the book doesn't come back, because in addition to Churilla's glorious monster designs, the story is really picking up, with a few genuine surprises among Cooper's quest to find his daughter. I can certainly imagine this arc ending with him going out of the plane (which is where the "real" D. B. Cooper disappeared from history) and the next arc picking up after that event, and I imagine that's where Churilla is going ... if he gets the chance. I suppose I'll find out next week, when Previews shows up, if the series is continuing. Any comic that has panels like the one below deserves to keep going!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 5

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? 3

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Shadow #3 by Garth Ennis (writer), Aaron Campbell (artist), Carlos Lopez (colorist), and Rob Steen (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

There's not much to say about this issue except that it's solid. Ennis continues to move his pieces around the board, as Kondo and the Shadow move closer to a confrontation with each other. There's a giant Chinese warlord, there's whiny Russians and whiny Americans, there's people getting burned alive while upside down and tied to crosses, there's a classic "behind a painting" moment right out of Scooby-Doo, there's Kondo getting the Shadow to do some of his dirty work (with the Shadow finding out too late), and there's Lamont Cranston saying things like "This time we fight with the fate of millions hanging in the balance, and the killing will not end with a single Abwehr slut." Oh, Lamont, no wonder you get all the wimmins!

I enjoy this comic. It's not great (yet), but it's a nice read. Ain't nothing wrong with that!

FUCK YEAH! moments: 4

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? Sorry, no.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

"Tumma Avengers" #176 ("Whatever Happened to the Thunderbolts?") by Jeff Parker (writer), Kev Walker (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Frank Martin Jr. (colorist), Antonio Fabela (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

So there's Jeff Parker. He's a good writer and has been for some time, and he always seems to bring a nice sense of joy to his more superheroic comics, whether they're serious or not. He's been writing Thunderbolts for, what, 30+ issues, and I've read 25 of them, and they're very enjoyable. I don't know how well they'll hold up as "seriously good" comics, but Parker has gotten really good at writing 20-page slices of awesome. Then Marvel decided to change the name of his comic, and Parker wrote one issue featuring the Dunkel Avengers. Then he got back together with Kev Walker and unleashed this comic on the world. The last time Walker drew a Thunderbolts comic, it featured a toad-like creature licking a woman's foot. That was not awesome enough, apparently, so Parker decided to check in on the (still) time-lost T-Bolts and see what's going on with them. The result: A COMIC ON WHICH SOMETHING FUCKING AWESOME HAPPENS ON EVERY SINGLE FUCKING PAGE!!!!! You think I jest? Let's review (with some SPOILERS, but not enough to ruin things), with one awesome thing from each page (and occasionally, there is more than one awesome thing on a page, but I'm only listing one!):

Page 1: T-Bolts Tower arrives in the Pleistocene Era. Walker draws it like 2001: A Space Odyssey and the monolith.Page 2: Continuing that motif, a cave man throws a bone at the tower ... which Troll catches in her teeth.Page 3: Troll is about the fight the cave men, but unfortunately, she is stopped. Still, a cool image.Page 4: "Sex imps."Page 5: "I think you're all simpletons."Page 6: SEE BELOW!Page 7: Moonstone references Bat-Shark-Repellent. Parker refuses to pay Cronin royalties!Page 8: Potential catfight between two large-breasted women. Boomerang approves!Page 9: The Watcher and the Celestials!Page 10: Okay, so the tower goes further back into the past. It's not a particularly exciting page, but the idea of them going back to the dawn of Earth is pretty awesome.Page 11: "I am registering thousands of proteins in the water that do not exist in our day."Page 12: The time-traveler's "master."Page 13: The Vogurnus Koth!Page 14: Man-Thing speaks!Page 15: "Y'all tha snitches that got me my riches."Page 16: "Him talk Troll good!"Page 17: Betrayal!Page 18: The time-traveler's identity revealed!Page 19: More betrayal!Page 20: 'SPLODE! (Honestly, every single superhero comic should end with something exploding. So it shall be done!!!!)

I know I was vague, but I think the specifics were specific enough to let you know how motherfucking awesome this comic is. I can't remember a comic not called Atomic Robo that had so much awesome packed into it in a long time. More than that, though, Parker isn't just throwing stuff in to try to be awesome, he's actually telling a story, and the awesome just comes along with it. He's reached a point with these characters that writing them seems natural to him, so when they interact, awesome shit happens. Plus, Walker draws some cool-ass sharks.

If you've been looking for a reason to start buying Thunderbolts, this issue should be it. Yes, the name change is stupid. But damn, the comic is pretty fucking awesome.

FUCK YEAH! moments: 12

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? Can you not see the giant motherfucking sharks?!?!?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

X-Factor #238 by Peter David (writer), Paul Davidson (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I don't know if this cover tops the psychedelic one that Yardin gave us earlier in the year, but it's pretty cool, plus it gives us clues as to what's happening inside, which is keen. Well done, Mr. Yardin!

David fires up another story arc (I guess last issue could be the beginning of one, but although he builds on that issue, I think this counts more as the beginning of one) with some mysterious murders that seem to be perpetrated by ... Theresa (well, that can't be good) and Rahne hitting the road to find her child, where she's joined by Rictor and Shatterstar. Meanwhile, because it's David, we get a lot of banter, as Guido and Jamie discuss coming back from the dead and Jamie's relationship with Layla, Havok appears to be having some problems with Lorna, and Jamie is still concerned about the dead "real-life superheroes" from a few issues ago. Plus, there's a funny scene involving Longshot. As usual, there's a lot in the hopper, and David has a good handle on it all. Davidson is the latest in a parade of artists (is Lupacchino ever coming back?????), but he's a pretty good artist, so I have no problem with it. David writes in the letter column that Assistant Editor Jordan White and Editor Daniel Ketchum pick the artists once they get the script, which I find a bit fascinating. We know that editors don't appear to correct spelling mistakes in scripts, so perhaps if Marvel weren't double-shipping every title they can and one artist could stay on the book for a while, maybe the editors could, you know, edit. White and Ketchum have managed to do a fairly good job with the artists on this title, but that's a little sad that they need to do it because of Marvel's policy. X-Factor is a very good comic, but I don't know how great it is because it lacks the definitive clarity of a great team. This seems to be hurting a lot of Marvel's comics, but I guess they don't care about posterity, just squeezing every last penny they can out of, to use >Colin Smith's term, the Rump. I love reading tidbits about how comics get made, and that nugget was a good one. I imagine it's not too frustrating for David, as he's an old pro, but that would be weird writing scripts and not having any idea who's going to draw them. At least I think it would.

Anyway, it's a good issue of X-Factor. Who'da thunk it?

FUCK YEAH! moments: 4

Are there monsters in it, and if so, how many? I'm going to say 1, although it's unclear whether it's really a monster or not.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Lost Dogs by Jeff Lemire (writer/artist). $9.95, 102 pgs, BWR, Top Shelf.

This is early Lemire back in print. It's very rough, art-wise, but that's to be expected. I'm curious to read this and see how good or not good it is.

Marathon by Boaz Yakin (writer) and Joe Infurnari (artist). $16.99, 187, BW, First Second Books.

Boaz Yakin directed Remember the Titans and has written some other crappy movies (the Jake Gyllenhaal Prince of Persia movie, for one) but his first movie, Fresh, is superb. I'm always curious about directors who make one absolutely brilliant movie and never seem to come close to it again (I haven't seen all of Yakin's movies, but they don't get the love that Fresh does). Is it a fluke, or do they have one great story to tell, or are they let down by other factors? Things like this really fascinate me.

Oh, this book is about the dude who ran the distance that became the marathon. Infurnari is a good artist, and the book looks very cool.

New York Mon Amour by Jacques Tardi (writer/artist), Benjamin Legrand (writer), and Dominique Grange (writer). $19.99, 82 pgs, BW, Fantagraphics.

More Tardi! Yay!

Rio by Doug Wildey (writer/artist). $49.99, 288 pgs, FC, IDW.

When this showed up in Previews, those people who had read it couldn't stop raving about it, so of course I had to get it. I haven't read it yet, but the art is stunning, and it's a giant book (it didn't quite fit on my scanner), so the art looks even more sumptuous. Just from the art, it looks like it's worth every penny.

X-Club by Simon Spurrier (writer), Paul Davidson (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $16.99, 100 pgs, FC, Marvel.

This looks like something I will really dig. I hope I do!


I don't often read McSweeney's, because I could easily spend my entire day on the site, but I did like this. Oh, you unappreciated font, you!

Roger links to GayProf's lament about the death of cursive. I think it's a shame, too, but I'm not too hung up on it. I think it's more depressing that a lot of kids don't know how to tie shoelaces because everything is Velcro these days. I have wonderful handwriting, by the way. When I got back from Germany in May 1979, the second grade class I was in had already learned it, but I hadn't yet. So my teacher made me sit in class and copy the "official" cursive letters off the wall, so I never developed any idiosyncrasies in my cursive, and to this day it still looks like something you'd find on a classroom wall. I don't mean to sound proud, but as I can't do many things right, I like to talk about my excellent handwriting!

Today is my younger daughter's 7th birthday, by the way. To give you an idea of how long I've been annoying you with my thoughts here, I've been writing for this blog longer than she's been alive. Yee-ha!!!! Wish Norah a Happy Birthday by following her on Twitter!

Well, I've added some more stuff to my iPod, and I plugged it back into my automobile, so let's check out the Ten Most Recent Songs it Played, shall we?

1. "Thriller" - Michael Jackson (1982) "You close your eyes and hope that this is just imagination"12. "Wonderous Stories" - Yes (1977) "It is no lie I see deeply into the future"3. "Tobacco Island" - Flogging Molly (2004) "This rotten cage of Bridgetown is where I now belong"24. "Vervaceous" - James (1999) "Falling in between the lines, never fitting in" 5. "She's Crafty" - Beastie Boys "I said, 'I don't know her just met her tonight' and Adrock started hiding everything in sight"6. "N. F. B. (Dallabnikufesin)" - Anthrax (1991) "I never meant to hurt you or sleep with all your friends"7. "Silent Lucidity" - Queensrÿche (1990) "Your dream's alive, you can be the guide"38. "The Roof Is Leaking" - Phil Collins (1981) "I woke this morning found my hands were frozen"9. "The Sun And The Moon" - Pogues (1995) "And everybody will soon be asking you for more and everybody will be telling lies"10. "Black" - Pearl Jam (1991) "And now my bitter hands cradle broken glass of what was everything"4

1 Today's discussion: Should Michael Jackson retired after Thriller and gone to live in seclusion in Irkutsk or Tierra del Fuego or the Orkneys or some out of the way place? Would he have been happier? I mean, did he really think he could outsell Thriller? Remember George Costanza's advice: Always go out on a high note!2 I've been to Bridgetown. It's very charming.3 You'd think that for such a nice song, drummer Scott Rockenfield could have lost the chains on his kit in this video. I guess he's too hardcore, man!4 I've mentioned this before, but I saw Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers at Penn State in 1991. It was a pretty cool show, although Billy Corgan was an asshole. "Black" is still one of my favorite Pearl Jam songs, and on that day, Eddie and the boys played every single song on Ten ... except for one. Go ahead, guess which one they skipped. Motherfuckers.

It's also time for the return of Totally Random Lyrics! Fire up your thinking caps, ladies and gentlemen!

"Schemin' on house, money, and the whole showThe low pro ho she'll be cut like an afroSee what you're sayin', huh, she's a winner to youBut I know she's a loser (How do you know?)Me and the crew used to do her"

My goal with this is, of course, to get this song stuck in Travis Pelkie's head. Bwah-ha-ha-ha!!!!!

Have a nice weekend, everyone. Remember this week's lesson: COMIX R AWWWWWWSUMMMMMMM!

Joker Is All Stars, Stripes & MAGA in DC's Golden Child Teaser

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