What I bought - 21 April 2010

"It is something so monstrous it is past sin and becomes necessity," he said. (Greg Bear, from "Petra")

Avengers vs. Atlas #4 (of 4) ("Earth's Mightiest Super Heroes Part Four"/"My Dinner With Gorilla Man") by Jeff Parker (writer, "Super Heroes"), Jason Aaron (writer, "Gorilla Man"), Gabriel Hardman (artist, "Super Heroes"), Giancarlo Caracuzzo (artist, "Gorilla Man"), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist, "Super Heroes"), Brad Anderson (colorist, "Gorilla Man"), Tom Orzechowski (letterer, "Super Heroes"), and Joe Sabino (letterer, "Gorilla Man"). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I kind of figured this series, which can't upset the apple cart all too much, would come down to the olde-tyme Avengers and the Agents of Atlas combining to beat on the weird many-faced thing. And so it came to pass. It took a while, but basically it comes down to punching the bad guy. I'm not a terribly smart guy about many things, but Parker's meandering through space-time and his theory of multiple timelines simply makes no sense to me. Maybe I was just distracted while I was reading this, but this just seems like a really egregious example of comic book science, and it does it set up the big punch-out. What's nice about this mini-series is the nice way Parker writes all the characters and Hardman's art. I knew going in that nothing much was going to happen, because it really couldn't. But that's cool. It was enjoyable. And the back-up stories have been pretty good, too. This time around we focus on Ken Hale, who always has to deal with people trying to kill him because then they become immortal. He's been fending them off for so long that he knows they're coming and he tries to convince them that immortality might not be so great if you're trapped in gorilla form, but do they listen? Hells no! But will this latest quester be different? It's a nice little tale that gives us some background on Ken, much like the other back-up stories have given us insight into the other agents of Atlas, building up to the brand-new series that won't last (I'll buy it, but I don't know why Marvel thinks this will survive when the others didn't - Parker must have some dandy negatives of Joey Q and Dan Buckley doin' something nasty!).

When the trade comes out, I'd check to see if the back-up stories are collected. Without them, this is a decent but inessential read. With them, it's not a must-buy, but it's a bit more interesting.

One panel of awesome:

Demo #3 (of 6) ("Volume One Love Story") by Brian Wood (writer), Becky Cloonan (artist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, BW, DC/Vertigo.

This issue came out last week, but my shoppe didn't get it until this week. So sad! But that's just the way it is sometimes!

Without being too much of a jerk, I'll say it's kind of hard to review these, because they're more like poems than anything, and poetry, for me, is very hard to discuss rationally. I mean, you can talk about whether the meter works or whether the rhymes (if there are rhymes) work or whether the imagery is boring, but ultimately, more than fiction, poetry is about hitting you on a emotional level, and if it doesn't hit you at an emotional level, it doesn't matter, does it? (Feel free to disagree with this sentiment.) For instance, one of my favoritest poems EVAH is Pablo Neruda's "Enigmas". I first heard part of it in the movie Mindwalk, when John Heard quotes it. I found it, read it, and it really gets me on a primal level. But I haven't read it in the original Spanish, nor do I know if it scans correctly, nor do I know if it's "good" the way people who study poetry mean (I have to imagine it is - it's Pablo frickin' Neruda, for crying out loud!). Demo is like that. On one level, this issue makes no sense. Marlo is an OCD-sufferer in Los Angeles who lives her life through Post-It Notes that remind her to do everything. They're all over the place in her house and workplace, and she carries them with her where she goes. Then, one day, they change. Well, not all of them, but some of them. And Marlo's world comes crashing down, but Wood asks us to consider whether or not this is a bad or good thing. It's called a love story, so perhaps you can figure it out for yourselves, but if we just think about how Marlo's world turns, it makes no sense.

But who cares? Wood is going for a mood, and he does it very well. Post-It Notes are a nice way of showing Marlo's state of mind, and the way they change her life is well done, too. This is all about emotion, and Wood has shown that, even though he writes hard-edged stuff for Vertigo, he's a bit of a sap (I mean that in the nicest way possible; I'm often a sap, too). He gets to the emotional core of characters, whether the emotions are horrific or tender, and that's why it's interesting reading his work. "Volume One Love Story" makes no sense. And that's why it's so good.

Oh, and Cloonan kicks ass. She matches the layouts of the book to Marlo's emotional states, because that's just how awesome she is!

One panel of awesome:

Firestar #1 ("My New Life") by Sean McKeever (writer), Emma Rios (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Kristyn Ferretti (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I wasn't planning on getting this, but then I saw that McKeever is writing Young Allies, and that Angelica would be in Young Allies, so I figured that, instead of a one-shot, I would treat this as a prologue to that series, which I'm planning on getting (at least for a few issues, to see how it's going) (and McKeever treats this as kind of a prologue, too, so there's that). And it's McKeever and Rios, which is a pretty good combination. I've liked Rios' art on things I have no interest in reading (the Doctor Strange mini-series, for instance) and I've read enough of McKeever to know that his (reputedly, as I didn't read it) bad work on the Titans books was probably due to DC's idiotic editorial meddling rather than McKeever's inability to write. So why not read this?

Well, it's not bad. McKeever is going for a character study, as we get Angelica meeting up with her old tormentor from high school, Cassie Sandusky (as seen here!), who's now an unhappy adult (Angelica's dad is dating Cassie's mom, which leads to the reunion). Cassie wants nothing to do with Angelica, whom she still thinks is a freak, but then circumstances intervene and the two have a heart-to-heart. The end. McKeever delves into Angelica's cancer and how she got through it, which is fine and dandy, and it helps with her chat with Cassie, and we get a nice-if-obvious revelation about Angelica which isn't quite as emotional as McKeever wants it to be, but isn't bad.

Here's the problem: It feels like a Lifetime Movie of the Week. Okay, I don't watch very many Lifetime Movies of the Week, but they usually star people like Tori Spelling and are called "Love Will Save Your Life" or something. You know, the kind of thing Kelly Thompson just loves! McKeever skims the surface and breaks through Cassie's resistance very easily, and it feels false. The reason McKeever can't make this better is because it's a one-shot and it's for Marvel, so there has to be some superheroing and not as much deep conversation. This would be a much better comic if McKeever could have done a four-issue mini-series about the way Angelica reaches out to Cassie, but that would sell even worse than this is going to and Marvel wouldn't want that. We get flashes of good stuff here, but it only hints at how good McKeever can be. Last year I read McKeever's independent comic The Waiting Place (review here), which is a very good look at angsty young adults. Obviously McKeever doesn't have the space for something like that, but that means this is a bit too facile. But hey, if it means Rios gets a higher profile there's nothing wrong with it!

(Oh, and I should point out that you don't face a baby that young frontward in a car seat! Sheesh!)

One panel of awesome:

Hellblazer #266 ("No Future Part Two: Where There Is Discord") by Peter Milligan (writer), Simon Bisley (artist), Brian Buccellato (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

That would be John Constantine, undercover, on this cover. Yes, he's all punked out. He's almost 60 and he can still kick your sorry ass!

As usual with Milligan's Hellblazer, this is a weird issue. Milligan's plots still don't wow me, as he figures out what's going on with the "new conservatives" and the statue of Sid Vicious that his punk friend worships. All ends well in the most ambiguous way possible - this is Hellblazer, after all, so does John ever really chalk one up in the win column unequivocally? But Milligan continues to be quite good with John and the people he comes in contact with - he destroys one of the young punks in this issue with a few choice words, impressing the hell out of the reader until he reveals it really wasn't that impressive. He does this because the dude is hanging out with Epiphany and John doesn't like it. He doesn't want Epiphany himself, but he's damned if she's going with some punk! The way Milligan writes John as having no redeeming qualities whatsoever is pretty fascinating - other writers go this way, but John always has a kernal of goodness in him. For over a year, Milligan has been writing John as a complete asshole, and it's disturbingly fascinating, mainly because John is self-aware about his jerkiness but can't seem to stop himself. He does what he can to stop the bad guys, but his life continues to circle the drain. And what's interesting is that unlike some other writers, Milligan isn't turning John into a pathetic loser - he's still doing his thing and seems to be in control of himself. He's just being a scumbag.

This isn't a great comic, but Milligan is really doing some very keen stuff with John and his cast. I still don't know if he has a grand scheme in mind for the book, but each issue shows a new and dark facet to John's personality. I hope that Milligan is doing this because John is getting older - that would be neat if he's acknowledging his age and how it might change a person.

One panel of awesome:

Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #2 (of 2) ("Fall of an Avenger"/"Greek Tragedy, Part II") by Greg Pak (writer, "Fall"), Fred van Lente (writer, "Fall"), Paul Tobin (writer, "Tragedy"), Ariel Olivetti (artist, "Fall"), Reilly Brown (penciler, "Tragedy"), Jason Paz (inker, "Tragedy"), Terry Pallot (inker, "Tragedy"), Wil Quintana (colorist, "Tragedy"), Simon Bowland (letterer, "Fall"), and Joe Sabino (letterer, "Tragedy"). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I mentioned last issue that I haven't always minded Olivetti's art, which is true, but these two issues have been brutal. This one is more egregious than the last, mainly because his fumetti backgrounds are more obvious and he blends more images - water, fire, the Parthenon - into the art. It looks so, so off and takes me even more out of the story than last issue did. The writing is as crisp as ever, with some fun stuff thrown in and Amadeus figuring out how to avoid a fight with Phobos, who's brought in as Apollo's champion to battle Athena's champ. This brief two-issue caesura between the end of the regular title and Amadeus' quest for Hercules probably wasn't necessary (the important bits could have easily been covered in a page or two), but it was fun for the Pak/Van Lente dynamic, which is always good to read. I really hate blasting a creator, but Olivetti's art is just terrible. I can't imagine anyone buying a series long-term with him on art - it was a struggle for me to get this, and I love the Van Lente/Pak Hercules/Amadeus series. He's a professional, long-standing artist on high-profile books, yet this issue looks like something someone slapped together stealing images off the Internet and using Photoshop to blend them together. I know of some artists who do this if they haven't been around for a while, but usually they have the courtesy to do it in a black-and-white comic where the photographs don't stand out quite so much. The fact that Olivetti does this in a Marvel comic is offensive to anyone who actually bothers to, you know, draw things. I don't know if I'm more angry at this than I am at your standard Greg Land comic - Land swipes images of people, and as far as I can tell, Olivetti doesn't do that. But the stiffness of the figures, the poor choreography, and the terrible clash between background and foreground is just as bad as what Land does. I just can't believe Marvel allows these "artists" to get away with this. I dropped Uncanny X-Men because Land just was too much to overcome, especially when Fraction just wasn't writing it terribly well. Luckily, Reilly Brown is drawing the Prince of Power mini-series that follows this, because even though I want to read it, I wouldn't if Olivetti was drawing it. If you didn't buy this, go into a comics store and look at it. It will make you sad.

One panel of awesome (only for the words, not the art):

(There's an odd panel in this comic. Amadeus tells Athena off, and in the background, Phobos is standing behind Pluto, who's lying on the ground. Skaar stands over Pluto, about to beat on him. Phobos asks Amadeus, "Hit it?" and Amadeus answers, "Hit it." Then Phobos messes with Pluto's brain on the next page. What do they mean in that panel? Van Lente and Pak have to know what "hit it" means, and why would Phobos refer to Pluto as an "it"? It's just a weird scene. Double-U Tee Eff?)

Joe the Barbarian #4 (of huit) ("Inventoria") by Grant "I come up with undead Raggedy Men while I'm screwing your moms, fanboys!" Morrison (writer), Sean Murphy (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Speaking of artists who actually draw stuff, Holy Mother of All That's Good and Holy, Murphy's art on this series is phenomenal. I know everyone is gushing about it, but it's so worth gushing about. We get a couple of pages of Joe's house, which seems to grow bigger inside each issue, as Joe finds it more and more difficult to make it downstairs (to the cellar, of course, as was implied in issue #1), and it's very cool. But the real impressive stuff is when Joe goes to the stronghold of the weird scientist dudes who were watching him last issue (who aren't bad guys, just cowards - they take a vow of cowardice, in fact!). It's an amazing place, and the double-page spread when Joe and Jack approach it took my breath away. It's just stunning, and the fact that it has fingerprints on it makes it even more impressive - Joe's prints, of course, as this is one of his toys. And when the Deathcoats (killer robots) arrive, it's a very cool action scene that ends the issue and introduces a new cast member, Zyxy, who doesn't want to remain a coward and has built a groovy glider. Every issue ratchets up the visual magnificence even more, and I love it when an issue comes out so I can drool over Murphy's art.

Morrison's story isn't bad, either. As always with him, when the weirdness is tempered with solid characterization and a decent plot, Morrison blows pretty much every other writer out of the water. And although we get stuff like the square root of eye of newt, we also get funny stuff like what the dwarves are doing in the absence of the big guy who went with Joe (whatever his name is). There's some weirdness in this issue, but Morrison is telling a nice tale, too, which means the weirdness doesn't overwhelm anything.

I'm always excited for a Morrison comic, but this is so much better than his work on Batman and Robin (which is quite good) that it's kind of sad it won't sell anywhere near what that does. Oh well. If only a few people who buy every single Bat-related book gravitate toward this because of Morrison, it's a good thing.

One panel of awesome:

The Plaid Avenger #2 ("Battle for Burma") by John Boyer (writer) and Klaus Shmidheiser (artist). $4.00, 32 pgs, FC, Walton Press.

John Boyer, professor of geography at Virginia Tech, has created this character to help teach the world about the magic of ... geography! Okay, it's a little more than that, but bear with me. He sent the first issue to me (and some others here at the blog; someone reviewed a while ago) and now the second issue has shown up, so I figured I'd give it a whirl. Boyer wants to use his hero to illuminate some of the geopolitical issues facing the world these days - the first issue was about the scramble to exploit the Arctic, and this one, as you might be able to figure out from the cover, is about Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese dissident who has been under house arrest by that country's military junta (I love the word "junta" - when I rule the world, I will be the leader of a junta, damn it!) for most of the past 20 years (she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991). The Plaid Avenger, who in his civilian identity is a college professor, flies to Burma in order to attempt to break her out of prison. He doesn't, of course, because Dr. Suu Kyi chooses to stay in the country and fight for freedom there, but in the meantime, Boyer explains all about the situation in Burma going back to the days of the British in the nineteenth century. That is, of course, the real point of the book.

This is more entertaining than your standard lecture about Burma, but it's still a lecture, and your enjoyment of any particular issue of The Plaid Avenger (well, of the two I've read) is directly related to how interested you are in the topic. Boyer has some very weird things in here, as in the sexist (and possibly illegal) way the professor talks to his assistant and the fact that while he's in the Burmese jungle, he wants a drink for some "liquid courage," but his effort in bringing stuff like this to our attention is appreciated. If you're trying to teach no-good short-attention span kids with their iPhones and their Xboxes and their fancy wristwatches something, you might as well do it in comic-book form, and this gets the pertinent information out. Shmidheiser isn't a great artist, but he's decent, and he tells the story well. And, of course, he has some fun with the fact that the hero wears plaid all the time. As in, there's a plaid jet. Keen!

This is the kind of comic I can't imagine you wanting to read for entertainment, but I think it would work in a classroom to get kids to at least learn that there's a country called Burma where there's a sucky dictator who rules by thuggery. Why should you care about Burma? Why shouldn't you, punks? Huh?

One panel of awesome:

Power Girl #11 ("Terra Alert!") by Justin Gray (writer), Jimmy Palmiotti (writer), Amanda Conner (artist), Paul Mounts (colorist), and John J. Hill (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Gray and Palmiotti were really milking the "Terra/Terror" puns, I'll tell you that much.

At this point, there's not much to say about this. Even though it's not getting cancelled, next issue is the last one I'm buying, so I'm going to have more to say about it after issue #12. I'm glad that Kara tried to reach out to Ultra-Humanite, both before the fight and after the fight, because I always like it when heroes try to resolve things without fighting. Of course, there's still plenty of ass-kicking in the issue, but it's not through lack of trying on Kara's part.

Conner's art is wonderful as usual, and as always, the book wouldn't work without her. There's nothing wrong with Palmiotti and Gray's scripts, but with a few nice exceptions (the aforementioned attempts by Kara to work things out peacefully), it's standard superhero fare. Not bad, but nothing great, either. Still, this will form a nice year-long story when it's all said and done. There's nothing wrong with that.

One panel of awesome:

Prodigal: Egg of First Light #2 (of 2) ("Chapter Three: Why Byron Don't Dance"/"Chapter Four: Why Byron Hates Contracts") by Geoffrey Thorne (writer) and Todd Harris (artist). $4.95, 48 pgs, FC, Ape Entertainment.

I don't get the release schedule of this comic. The first issue, which contained two regular issues, came out last week. The conclusion came out this week. Huh? There's no doubt this was finished quite a while ago, so why not release it in a different format? Either release it as four issues monthly, the standard way, or put together a complete package, charge ten bucks for it, and you're gold! I assume it's because releasing things in two formats means two sources of income, but that seems awfully silly, as this book isn't going to sell very well anyway. It makes no sense. I don't really care, because the entire series is quite good and I'm glad I didn't have to wait too long after the first part to get the conclusion, but it doesn't seem like an efficient way of releasing this series. I'm sure Ape Comics has its reasons!

Either way, this is a really entertaining series. I mentioned last week that the set-up is thus: Pae Mei Jacinto and Byron Lennox, retrieval specialists who get anything you want - and in this case, they're hired to retrieve an egg that, if opened, will end the world. Byron got sucked into another world chasing the crooks, and in this issue, he finds that things are not as they seem - unsurprising, of course, but Thorne has some fun with it. Lennox fights dragons, Jacinto deals with the problems with the original contract, and it's a rousing adventure with some nice humor. Lennox is far more important than he realizes, and this becomes an important plot point. All's well that ends well, of course, and Harris does a nice job drawing it all up.

As I wrote last week, this is fairly paint-by-numbers, but what makes it so good is the fact that Thorne and Harris are having a blast doing it and that they pull of the execution very well, which is where these kinds of things usually fall apart. I would love to read an ongoing with Jacinto and Lennox retrieving shit from all over the world - the way Thorne writers them, they have a very nice relationship, playing off each other for the humor and relying on each other's strengths to get them through the problems. This is just an enjoyable comic - nothing more, nothing less. I doubt if we'll see more of Jacinto and Lennox, but I do encourage you to find these issues or the trade (if it appears) and give it a read. It won't change your life, but it will make you smile. And that's a good thing.

One panel of awesome:

X-Factor #204 by Peter David (writer), Valentine de Landro (penciler), Pat Davidson (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I haven't been reading (or caring much at all about) "Second Coming," because it's just a big ol' mess of crossoveritis, which might have been fun back when comics cost one thin ducat but aren't so much when Marvel is gouging away. But ... um ... Bastion? Really? Bastion? All the people writing comics these days were reading Marvel X-books back in the Nineties, and they couldn't have through Bastion was a good character, could they? I mean, Joey Q was still drawing merrily away back then, and he couldn't have thought Bastion was good character, could he? He's not any kind of "classic" character that they're honor-bound to drag back every so often, is he? I mean, Magneto has become boring as all hell, but I understand why they feel the need to bring him back all the goddamned time. I just don't get the appeal of Bastion. Jesus.

The nice thing about X-Factor is that presumably Peter David has enough clout to keep his pet team largely out of it. I mean, Bastion tries to kill them, but it's not continued from anything and continues in this issue next month. Plus, David continues the South American subplot, and even that's Bastion-related. As usual, it's a fine issue, with an obvious fake-out at the end, but one that's still set up nicely. I'm just happy to keep reading David's fun little niche title. As long as they keep Hope and the larger storyline out of it!

One panel of awesome:

100% TPB by Paul Pope (writer/artist/toner), Lee Loughridge (toner), and John Workman (colorist). $29.99, 253 pgs, BW, DC/Vertigo.

As you might recall, I've never been a huge fan of Paul Pope, but I'm willing to be convinced. I figure if this can't convince me, nothing can! I'll tell you what, it looks freakin' awesome. I'm sure I'll have a review up fairly soon. I can't read everything the day it comes out!

Bloom County: The Complete Library volume two, 1982-1984 by Berkeley Breathed. $39.99, 297 pgs, BW/FC, IDW/Library of American Comics.

Just buy this. It will make you happy.

Hotwire: Requiem for the Dead TPB by Steve Pugh (writer/artist/letterer) and Warren Ellis (crazy idea man). $14.95, 114 pgs, FC, Radical Comics.

I read the first three issues of this, but never saw the fourth around (and Gianluca Glazer of Radical didn't send it to me). This is the first comic from Radical that I've actually bought, because the first three issues were excellently bizarre. I've said it before and I'll say it again - if Pugh had to stop doing Shark-Man, I'm glad he did something almost (but not quite!) as insane.

Ooku: The Inner Chambers vol. 3 by Fumi Yoshinaga. $12.99, 227 pgs, BW, Viz Signature.

It's not too late to start reading this! I reviewed the first two volumes here, in case you're interested. Our own Danielle Leigh reviewed them as well - volume one and volume two. I'm sure she'll review the third volume soon, too. I'll read it when I read it.

I should point out that Bill Reed's interesting solicit information fails to take into account page counts, as a few commenters pointed out. That's why I give you page counts, because I care about you! See how much I care! Marvel and DC might be gouging you, but you can always check out the page counts to see how badly they do it!

And now it's time to check out The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "(Thinking and Wondering) What I'm Gonna Do" - King's X (1996) "I am so easily deceived"2. "Woman in Black" - Foreigner (1981) "I was hypnotized by the sudden temptation"3. "Rock Rock (Till You Drop)" - Def Leppard (1983) "'Cause your mama don't mind what your mama don't see"4. "Captain of a Shipwreck" - Neil Diamond (2005) "Was tempest tossed, now I sleep soundly"5. "Love Beats Me Up" - Australian Crawl (1983) "She's no disguise and it's no surprise she's all I know"6. "Sexx Laws" - Beck (1999) "Running buck wild like a concubine whose mother never held her hand"7. "The Desperate Kingdom of Love" - PJ Harvey (2004) "And I'll follow you, into Heaven or Hell"8. "Policy of Truth" - Depeche Mode (1990) "Hide what you have to hide, and tell what you have to tell"9. "The Kilburn High Road" - Flogging Molly (2002) "As the North Wind blew with its head of thunder, beating its breast with a war drenched song"10. "It's a Mistake" - Men At Work (1983) "Is it on then, are we on the brink?"

Last week, nobody got the totally random lyrics. I'm disappointed in you 1980s nerds, as the lyrics were from "Do the Donkey Kong" by Buckner & Garcia of "Pac-Man Fever" fame. Come on, people! Sheesh. How about we check some other totally random lyrics?

"Imagine yourself as a cloud in the sky – you pass me by and I blow you a kissA thinking cloud, so you're wondering why, only to find out it doesn't existLife surrounds what's presumed as wise - it wouldn't be wise until the fist uncurlsNo one I don't know ever stares in my eyes, because of the quote unquote real world"

Come on, that's easy!

Every once in a while I direct your attention to the blog I write about my daughters, and I'm doing it again now. Here's the link if you want to go check it out. The reason I'm pointing it out is because this past Sunday was the seventh anniversary of the car accident that caused her injury, so every year I recap what's been going on over the previous twelve months. It might be a gloomy day, but I don't want to be depressing - she's making too much progress for that! I hope you give it a read, although I understand why you might not want to.

Have a nice day, everyone!

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