What I bought - 20 September 2006

Another week, another bunch o' comics for me to rant about.  Aren't comics excellent?

I have to say, before we get started, that I have successfully corrupted my 15-month-old daughter.  She has been walking around the comics shoppe for a while now, and occasionally she paws through the 50-cent boxes (where Jake gets all his old Superman comics to make fun of).  (And speaking of Jake, he has eviscerated Civil War #4 beautifully.  Check it out!)  Today she pulled out ... Ewoks #10, from 1986!  Yes, the cover of which Brian posted not too long ago - the one from Marvel's 25th anniversary (I'd link to it, but I can't find the damned post).  The proprietor let her stroll right out the door with it - he'll regret it when it's worth $100,000!  Her long descent into comic-book nerdishness has begun!  Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

Okay, now let's get to this week's goodies.  As I occasionally do, I will tell you why you should buy each of the issues below instead of some other, overhyped comic, like ... let's say Civil War #4!  Won't that be fun?  (And it means that I will SPOIL IT, so beware!)

Catwoman #59 by Will Pfeifer, David López, and Alvaro López.  $2.99, DC.

Pfeifer continues the slow burn on this title, and I still enjoy it.  He's not writing for the trade, which is a wonderful thing, although I'm sure DC will cram some issues into a trade.  As we saw, Zatanna's spell on the Film Freak sort of backfired, and instead of making him docile, it made him delusional, and now he's ready to be the star instead of the supporting player.  In this case, it means staging complicated set pieces that lead to death, as when he steals some gum from a convenience store just to drop a building on two cops (and the perfect cartoonish scene of the building missing Edison because he was standing where a window space landed adds just some nice uncomfortable humor to what is a murder, after all).  Although I worry that Edison might soon be overexposed, right now I love him, because he's a great villain - completely crazy, but weirdly fun.

Meanwhile, Selina hears that Holly is in jail and decides to break her out.  Wildcat, who tells her about the arrest, won't call in the Justice Society, and Selina rips him a new one because he cares more about law than justice.  She puts him on babysitting patrol while she goes to find Sam, but Slam is drunk and can't help her.  So she's going it alone!  We also find out that Sam is, most probably, the father of Helena, and isn't it sweet that Selina had a kid from a night of drunken passion?  What a charming bedtime story to tell her!

Pfeifer has been doing these kinds of nice little stories for a year now, and I guess he decided to kick it up a notch into the goofy stratosphere of comics, because the last page brings us ... a giant gorilla.  A GIANT GORILLA!  Is that Monsieur Mallah?  Even if it isn't, it's a GIANT GORILLA!  Is it Gorilla Grodd?  I don't care, because it's a GIANT GORILLA!  I really hope Pfeifer doesn't drop the ball with the GIANT GORILLA (I know some people would say you can never go wrong with a GIANT GORILLA, but you can go wrong with anything, people!), because this is such a nice little title, and it's a nice read every month.  Still ... a GIANT FREAKIN' GORILLA!

Why you should read this instead of wasting your money on Civil War #4: Didn't you just read the last paragraph?????  Okay, how about the one-page lecture by Selina about law vs. justice that's more cogent than anything Millar has written in four issues?  Does that do it for you?  Oh, hell, come on, people, a GIANT GORILLA!

Checkmate #6 by Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilippis, Christine Weir, Cliff Richards, and Dan Green.  $2.99, DC.

Wow - three writers AND a guest art team!  Who knew the Suicide Squad could cause so much trouble?

I don't mind the three writers, because they're all decent, and Richards, while nothing spectacular, is a perfectly competent artist.  And, of course, it's good to see the remnants of the Squad again, although I'm a little puzzled about what's going on, not having picked up the most recent incarnation of the group.  This is a book that could, and should, be rife with footnotes (I'm sorry I keep harping on it, but in this day and age, when there are a lot of books being published and there is, quite frankly, NO WAY one person can purchase every single book - unless they're named Brian Cronin, of course - footnotes are even more important, I reckon, than they used to be)(but that's just my stupid opinion), as we get a lot of information about relatively minor characters that we're just supposed to know.  Why is Rick Flag in a Quraci prison (I love Qurac, by the way, and I'm glad to see it back in the DC news) and why hasn't anyone busted him out?  Waller mentions a mission to Kahndaq, and "the less said about that fiasco, the better."  Um, no way - the more said about that mission (at least in a footnote), the better!  Meanwhile, all the villains talk about all the gripes they have with various members of society, most notable the Wall herself, but I still don't know if any of it has been referenced before.  It's annoying and easily fixed.  But DC and Marvel expect you to buy every single one of their stinkin' books, no matter how shitty, so we're just supposed to know all this crap.  Sigh.

Anyway, as usual with Checkmate, there's a good bit of political maneuvering, some interpersonal stuff, and the bad guys' mission to steal a weird power source in Burma goes all to shit (yes, I know it's Myanmar, but according to some Burmese, that's the name the military junta chose, so I'm calling it Burma in solidarity with the oppressed people of Burma!).  The power source, of course, turns out to be a child, which is horrible but a cool idea all at the same time.  How Checkmate proper will factor into this remains to be seen, because Waller is going off the reservation to stop the villains.  Much mayhem, I'm sure, will ensue.

Another solid issue of this book.  Why you should read this instead of wasting your money on Civil War #4: Punch getting killed is way sadder than Goliath getting killed.  Poor Punch!!!!  How will Jewelee and their psychopathic child go on????  Speaking of which, the joke about what the kid is doing with explosives is way funnier than even Hank Pym, wife-beater, having moral reservations about cloning Thor.

Deadman #2 by Bruce Jones and John Watkiss.  $2.99, DC/Vertigo.

After a decent first issue, Bruce Jones appears ready to revert to being "Bruce Jones," the guy who finished the Hulk run instead of the guy who started with a bang.  This is a Möbius loop of a comic, and while that sounds neat in theory, it's tougher to pull off in practice, and while there are intriguing moments in this issue, it starts to get a bit annoying the third time Brandon wakes up and everything is different.  Jones bringing string theory into it is also an interesting idea, but again, it gets a bit annoying.  As usual, comics have to strike a balance between action and exposition, and although Brandon does get into a fight with cops in this issue, there's a bit too much talking.  The first issue left us disoriented, and it seems like Jones is taking the criticism of his Hulk to heart and trying to explain everything right away instead of leaving us disoriented.  Again, he needs a balance, and he hasn't found it yet with this comic.  Whether I'll buy issue #3 or not will probably come down to seeing it on the table and making up my mind right then.  We'll see.  I might give it a few more issues, but it's just not thrilling me right now.

Why you should read this instead of wasting your money on Civil War #4: Well, you probably shouldn't, but at least you can learn a bit about string theory!  Does Millar educate while he's slaughtering low-rent Marvel knock-offs?  I think not! 

Moon Knight #5 by Charlie Huston, David Finch, and Danny Miki.  $2.99, Marvel

This issue is the first slight misstep in this series, not because it's terrible, but because it's pretty obvious this issue was padded in order to make the trade paperback six ssues long.  I don't mind the "writing for the six-issue trade" mentality (well, I do, but bear with me) as long as I can't tell where the issues have been padded.  Occasionally, a writer is good enough to space out the padding subtly, and I can live with it more.  Huston hasn't done much of it in the first four issues (a little, but again, I can live with a little), but in this issue, he really indulges in it.  It's disappointing, but it's still a very good book, so I can live with it.

Taskmaster is as fun as ever, even in an extremely dark book like this, and he, more than anything, keeps this from dragging even more.  He takes his time with Marc for a reason, engaging in the closest thing to witty banter we're probably going to get in this book, and then later, when he's demanding payment from the Committee even though he technically failed, we see some interesting sides to him: he's a businessman, he's willing to admit mistakes (unusual for a villain), and he's a coward.  Yes, in our wonderful four-color world, villains are always, ultimately, cowards, but Taskmaster is so gloriously cowardly you almost have to respect him (although, to be fair, he does try to stop Moon Knight after our hero crashes into the side of the building).

Meanwhile, it's nice to see that Marlene is still tough, although she makes the villain mistake of announcing herself before she shoots the bad guy, a mistake Samuels does not make.  The padding of the book is when Taskmaster flees and Marc prepares to seek vengeance on the Committee.  We get far too many pages of the gang getting to Grant Mansion, Marc preparing in the "Moon Knight Cave" (which looks far too much like a certain other famous comic-book cave), and flying his weird moon-copter away to crash it into the side of the building in which the Committee is meeting.  The final panel promises "vengeance," and I expect next issue will feature many scenes of bad guys getting beaten into bloody masses, all rendered lovingly by Mr. Finch.

So it's not the greatest issue, but it's still a good book.  And, of course, you know what's coming: Why you should read this instead of wasting your money on Civil War #4: Taskmaster is awesome.  And when was the last time someone in a comic got shot by a blunderbuss?

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #8 by Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger.  $2.99, Marvel.

Nextwave is apparently selling very poorly, which is a shame, because even if it's not the greatest book in the universe, it doesn't take itself seriously, and it recognizes the inherent silliness in superheroes even as Ellis wallows in it.  It might not deserve all the accolades, but it deserves to sell more.  For instance, the first page of this book features the Mindless Ones doing a dance routine down the (presumably) main street of Fuckedupville, Colorado.  WHY?  Because they can!

It's stuff like this that makes Nextwave an enjoyable book.  Yes, Dirk Anger gets on my nerves, and whenever he's in the book too much, it starts to suffer (recently, he's been it only for a page or two, which is nice, but it appears he might be coming back into the limelight, which does not bode well).  Mindless Ones dancing and waiting for the bus.  Tabby spelling her name wrong when she slaughters all the Mindless Ones in the form of said name.  Rorkannu's disturbing attraction to the Suicide Girls.  The Captain giving Rorkannu a swirly.  Plus, Ellis stops for a few pages to give us some insight on Elsa's childhood, and it ain't pretty.  And Immonen's art, although creepy in some places (what's up with Elsa's legs?) is still very fun and fits the book perfectly.  As I've said often about Nextwave, it's a high-calorie snack with no nutrition whatsoever, but there's nothing wrong with that.  Ellis understands what is insane about superhero comics and usually makes it work well.

Why you should read this instead of wasting your money on Civil War #4: Hello!  The Mindless Ones doing a dance routine!

Union Jack #1 (of 4) by Christos Gage, Mike Perkins, and Andrew Hennessy.  $2.99, Marvel.

Espionage, intrigue, religious and gender arguments, a guy named Machete who fights with, get this, machetes, a person made out of electromagnetic energy, and Batroc the Leaper!  How can you not love this book?

This should be a fine comic mini-series, if the first issue is any indication.  We have Joey Chapman, the latest Union Jack, teaming up with everyone's favorite countessa, Allegra Valentina de la Fontaine, Sabra, and some guy called the Arabian Knight, who says fun stuff like "Perhaps you should embrace the sacred role of wife and mother, as God intends" to Sabra.  Yeah, that's smart.  These four are recruited by MI5 to stop a terrorist organization from launching coordinated attacks throughout London.  The organization?  I'm glad you asked!  It's called R.A.I.D. - Radically Advanced Ideas in Destruction.  They are, of course, a splinter cell of A.I.M.  The name, and the fact that the guy who gives Union Jack his mission says it with a straight face, is why this series should be awesome.  Everyone takes all this goofiness at face value, much like Sean Connery did when battling S.P.E.C.T.R.E.  Gage even plays Batroc the Leaper relatively straight, which is kind of cool.  This sort of thing might not work over the long haul (it's been years since A.I.M. or even HYDRA could be taken seriously), but it's kind of neat to see it in a short series.

There's a lot to like about this, from the aforementioned religious and gender arguments between Sabra and the Arabian Knight, to the steely resolve of Union Jack when he's fighting Zaran, to the interesting use that a magic carpet can be put to.  The ending is a nice surprise, as Union Jack makes a decision that he thinks will help a lot of people ... but doesn't, backfiring on him rather nastily.  It's a spy book that manages to bring in some serious issues without feeling too downbeat.  And it should make a cool mini-series.

Why you should read this instead of wasting your money on Civil War #4: Batroc the Leaper!  Getting shot down by the ladies!

Wetworks #1 by Mike Carey, Whilce Portacio, and Trevor Scott.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

There seems to be a lot o' hatred for Whilce Portacio across this great comics blogaxy of ours, possibly because of his association with the early Image guys and their mantra of style over substance.  Well, I've never been the biggest Portacio fan, but I do like him, generally, and I thought I'd give the bring-back-the-early-1990s relaunch of some of Wildstorm's books a try, beginning with Wetworks.  Carey has done a decent job so far on X-Men, and he's done some good work in the past, so what's the harm?

If you don't like Portacio, nothing here will change your mind.  Everyone still has the horrible hair cuts (style does change, Mr. Portacio!) and extraneous ... stuff on their faces and clothing (what's up with that crap on Colonel Dane's face?).  The layouts of the pages are still somewhat confusing.  But that's the way Portacio does things, and you just have to deal with it.

The story is kind of there.  Dane brings what I assume is the original team back together (I never read Wetworks when it first came out, so I'm flying blind) because, you know, there's some threat from another dimension stealing "extinction level armaments" from the military.  Stupid threat from another dimension!  Dane thinks it's a rogue vampire, but at the end, we find out it's a werewolf detective.  Which, I must admit, is kind of neat.

It's part one of three, which means I will decide whether to keep buying the book after three issues.  So far it's not looking good - it's not terribly offensive, just another superhero book with flashy art.  We'll see.

Why you should read this instead of wasting money on Civil War #4: Yo, cuz the early Nineties were kewl, maaaaaannnnn!  Check out the hook while the DJ revolves it!

X-Factor #11 by Peter David, Renato Arlem, and Roy Allen Martinez.  $2.99, Marvel.

Is that a big wolf head I see?  It is, it is!!!!

(That was for Cronin.  Rahne's head is actually somewhat proportionate on the cover.  Well done, Ryan Sook!)

Another fine, fine example of not writing for the trade, as David is seemingly resolving at least part of the Singularity mystery in this three-issue arc, but I'm sure he will leave plenty of plot threads dangling to pick up on later.  We get the mystery of the many Damian Tryps, why Guido has been acting so strangely (well, a theory, but it's plausible), and what happens when Pietro uses his new power on an already powered mutant.  I'm a little confused about what he meant by Rictor being under his protection, but that's a story for another day!  See what I mean about not writing for the trade?

I do like how David is trying to address some inconsistencies in the Marvel U., like how Jamie manifested his mutant powers the instant he was born.  That always bugged me.  David is one of those writers who, whether you like him or not, is adept at knowing the vast history of the Marvel (or DC) U. and trying to use it to write good stories.  Yes, he upsets the status quo a lot, but he always does it in a way that flows from what others have written before, rather than just saying, "Screw everyone else - I'm doing it my way!"  It's refreshing to see, even if you don't like his writing.  X-Factor has taken two bloated, obnoxious, ridiculously overrated stories (House of M and Civil War) and tried to fit them both into the stories, and David has succeeded admirably.

I really don't like art that uses the backgrounds cobbled together from photographs.  It's weird.  I know it saves time, and I know Maleev used it on Daredevil and I liked the art in that book, but it always bugs me.  Arlem's foreground art is fine, but because of the bad backgrounds, it looks like the characters are standing in front of a movie blue screen and the backgrounds were inserted later (or probably first, and then the characters drawn in).  It's the worst when X-Factor is in their headquarters after securing Guido and then when they break into Singularity at the end.  I guess it's too much to ask artists to draw backgrounds as well as foregrounds these days.  It's not like they're getting paid or anything.

Why you should read this instead of wasting your money on Civil War #4: David doesn't do it in this issue, but he has been able to articulate the anti-Registration side very eloquently and succinctly in previous issues.  Plus, Siryn says that Layla "doesn't deserve to get killed by a tossed Monet."  That's weirdly surreal, and a great line. 


The Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M #3 (of 4) by Frank Beddor, Liz Cavalier, and Ben Templesmith.  $3.99, Image/Desperado.

Why you should buy this instead of wasting your money on Civil War #4: I haven't read it, but I can pretty much guarantee that Mark Millar doesn't turn anyone into a dick in it.

Wasn't that fun?  As usual, there's lot of goodness out there if you don't get blinded by the hype!  As Chuck D. might say, don't believe it!

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