What I bought - 21 February 2007

Lots of good comics this week, overshadowed by that bloated monstrosity that Marvel finally got around to finishing.  I hope everyone took a stand by reading the damned thing in the store, like I did, and then putting it back, also like I did!  Take a stand, people!  If you didn't read it, watch out, because I'm going to personally SPOIL CIVIL WAR #7 IN THIS VERY POST!  Right beneath the fold, in fact!  Beware!  I mean it!  Do you really want to find out what happens?  Because I'm going to do it!  Don't tempt me any further!

Okay, I sort of lied.  I'm not going to spoil it because there's nothing really to spoil.  It is, perhaps without a doubt, the most anti-climactic "BIG ENDING" to a "BIG COMIC BOOK" ever.  Seriously.  It's not that it's bad.  It's just really, really, really dull.  That's it?  Really?  Did Millar take Percodan before writing this?  I know it's leading into other stuff, much like Infinite Crisis, but at least that horrible piece of excrement ended with two Supermans beating the living shit out of each other.  It sucked, but it sucked it a grand, idiotic way.  This is just ... dull.

Oh, and Millar actually has Hercules make a Lloyd Bentsen reference.  Way to go, Mark!  You're only 19 years behind in pop culture references!

So that's that.  Let's check out some, you know, comics where things actually happened.

Catwoman #64 by Will Pfeifer, David López, and Alvaro López.  $2.99, DC.

Last issue was a bit disappointing because Pfeifer spent too long setting the whole caper up, which is basically that the Calculator wants Selina to steal Lex Luthor's snow globe in return for getting Holly's name off the Gotham City Police computer.  It's an intriguing idea for a story, but let's face it - Pfeifer could have even skipped the issue, because that's all that really happened.  Thankfully, he's back on track in this issue, as Selina shows up in Metropolis and breaks into Lexcorp HQ.  Well, she doesn't exactly break in: she takes a tour and just happens to leave it along the way.  She manages to get into the vault underneath the building where all of Lex's stuff is stored, and then weird things start happening.  She meets herself, for instance.  She gets her hand on the snow globe, but then someone shows up to stop her.  If you can't figure out who might be inside Lex Luthor's private vault who wouldn't want Selina stealing Lex Luthor's snow globe, you might be too stupid to live and should check to make sure you're breathing.

It's a fun issue.  Selina is on a caper, which is always a good place for her (not that I don't want the serious stuff that Pfeifer has been putting her through, but she's a thief, after all, and it's nice to see sometimes), and there's another story about Holly putting the costume back on.  Yeah, that won't get her in trouble.  And Hammer and Sickle decide to take their revenge on Catwoman.  I wonder who they might find instead of Selina?  So the serious is there, but the main story is goofy (Luthor's snow globe?) but still gives us plenty of action and some nice tense moments.

Catwoman continues to be an excellent comic book.  So of course it doesn't sell.  Oh well.

Checkmate #11 by Greg Rucka, Nunzio DeFilippis, Christina Weir, Steve Scott, and Nathan Massengill.  $2.99, DC.

Speaking of books that sell poorly ...

I have a bit of an issue with this cover.  Not the fact that Bea is "burning" through it and revealing the first page, as cliched as that is.  I take issue with the line "Rogue Knight" on the cover underneath Bea.  You see, throughout the issue our three writers go out of their way to convince us that a different knight is going to go rogue, when if you just look at the cover, we can figure out who it is.  It's a bit vexing.

But enough of cover issues!  Checkmate hums along toward its inevitable cancellation, even though it's a very good comic.  In this issue we get politics in Santa Prisca, where Bane rules supreme, as Colonel Computron, who is a floating head (I wish I were joking) claims that he rigged elections on the island and he wants Checkmate to get him out before Bane finds out and, well, rips him (what there is of him, that is) into tiny pieces.  Very quickly, we get the situation on the ground in Santa Prisca, and then the double-dealing begins!  Checkmate decides that Computron is working for someone, and they need to know who!  So they send Bea and Tommy Jagger, whose father (Judomaster) Bane killed, to the island to retrieve him.  Mr. Terrific doesn't want to send Jagger because of his father's death, but he's forced to.  Throughout the book we're led to believe that Jagger might go rogue, but the cover has already given it away - Bea, for some reason, has issues with Computron.  We'll find out what they are next issue, I'm sure.

And then there's what's going on inside Checkmate.  Something is rotten in the ranks, and it's going to blow up.  I won't say more about it because it's kind of neat, but it involves Checkmate's rather contentious relationship with the United States.  It will be interesting to see it play out.

Rucka (and his partners in crime, DeFilippis and Weir, when they co-write the book) keeps doing the espionage thing well, and keeps it firmly in the DC Universe.  It's good to see.  It would be nice if more people read it, though.  Oh well.

Rex Mundi #4 by Arvid Nelson and Juan Ferreyra.  $2.99, Dark Horse.

Despite the fact that I don't think making the French Nazis is all that good of an idea (I don't mind the fascism, I just don't like making it so obvious), it's a minor annoyance.  It's still a great book!  In this issue, we get more action than we're used to, as the Man in White catches up to our heroes and there's a beat-down.  Aleron, the old woman who is helping Julien and Genevieve, turns out to be more formidable than anyone thought, and things get ugly.  Prior to the fight, the three searchers figure out where the tomb of Clovis II is, which news gets back to the Duke of Lorraine quickly because Gen is, after all, working for him.  And Gen shows Julien how to use magic based on the Kabbala, which adds a nice mystical element to the book.

As usual, I can't say much about the book.  Things are certainly moving along, but at the relatively glacial pace we've become accustomed to with this book.  Gen does give away the fact that she's working for the Duke, which should make her next conversation with Julien uncomfortable, to say the least, and might spur the plot on, but Nelson has a plan, I've bought into the plan, and that's just the way it's going to be.  Another solid issue from a solid creative team.  But still hard to get into if you haven't been following along (despite the two pages of summary at the beginning of each issue).  And no newspaper at the back, which is disappointing.  I like the newspaper at the end of the issue.

Sorry.  Can't say much more.

She-Hulk #16 by Dan Slott, Rick Burchett, and Cliff Rathburn.  $2.99, Marvel.

Holy crap - a Greg Horn cover with movement that actually looks drawn freehand and not traced!  I may faint.

I have often mentioned that She-Hulk is a "fun" comic, not a "funny" one, but this issue is downright funny in many places.  It's a rebound from last issue's somewhat lackluster effort simply because of the interaction between Jen and Logan, which is often funny and somewhat risque.  Slott does a nice job making sure that the Wendigo is threatening without being really all that scary.  This allows him to write some crackling dialogue between Jen and Logan, although Jen's joke about a part of Logan's anatomy doesn't really work, mainly because there wouldn't be any adamantium there, Jen!  Yes, I think too much.

Jennifer Walters shows up as a ghost after She-Hulk nearly gets eviscerated and gives her alter ego a good talking-to.  Dan Slott must have gotten my hate mail, because Jen rants about how they had a good thing going at the law firm and now She-Hulk is just out there fighting mindless superhero fights.  Amen, brother!  We get some scenes back at the law firm, and it's good to see that Jen will go back there once her stint in S.H.I.E.L.D. is over.  Slott is at his best when Jen is dealing with the personal conflicts and interactions within a relatively realistic framework, because it highlights his skills at making the absurd somehow normal.  When Jen and Logan fight the Wendigo, there's nothing to ground it, and although it's a pleasant book, it still feels too standard superheroey.  The scene in which Mallory and Matt Hawk go to see A Midsummer Night's Dream has more emotional resonance than anything that She-Hulk has done in the past two issues.  So although this time as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is entertaining, I won't be sorry to see it go.

And then there's Elizabeth Twoyoungmen, who magically puts her costume on.  Sheesh, doesn't she get cold?  You'd think as a Sarcee Indian living in the area, she'd wear something that covers her up a bit more.  But then she wouldn't be foxy!

But that's a minor point.  For the most part, this issue does a nice job with She-Hulk in a somewhat uninspired story arc.  And since Civil War #7 came out today, the "mystery" of the S.H.I.E.L.D. director on the last page isn't really a mystery, now is it?

The Spirit #3 by Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone.  $2.99, DC.

I actually liked the first issue of The Spirit (it's true!) but it didn't make me want to buy subsequent issues.  It was a breezy superhero romp with a bit more gross stuff than I would have imagined (not a lot, but more than I thought there would be) and it was perfectly enjoyable, but instantly forgettable.  So when issue #2 came out, I skipped it, even though I earned the scorn of certain readers, including that clever guy who renamed the blog "Comics Should Be Shitty" - I'm still bleeding from that rapier-like wit, let me tell you!  So I thought I'd pick up issue #3.  What the hell, right?  I know it won't suck, at least.

Well, my original assessment stands.  This book doesn't suck, it looks nice, it features a standard-yet-decent story about a terrorist poisoning the water supply, it even gives us The Secret Origin Of The Spirit - and it's instantly forgettable.  It doesn't resonate at all.  I mean, the Spirit fights a bad guy.  Yay!  Cooke does a nice job shifting from the present to the past, giving the past a mod 1960s-vibe, but it's not like he's re-inventing art as we know it.  The story zips along without bogging us down but doesn't really offer us much even in the way of character development.  We don't really get to know Denny Colt, who becomes the Spirit, nor do we get much from the ancillary characters.  It's just a short story that is pretty much by-the-numbers.

Again, that's not to say I didn't enjoy it for what it is.  It's a perfectly good five-minute read. It's nice to look at.  If someone asked me if they should buy this comic, I'd probably say yes after I explained my own reservations.  For a first-time comic book reader, this might be a perfect comic.  It just feels somewhat hollow, like there's nothing really at stake.  Fell consists of single-issue stories, but they feel somehow more important.  It's tough to explain.  If, in fact, Eisner used his Spirit stories to experiment with the way you could tell a story, that's fine.  Cooke isn't doing that yet.  Maybe he will, but he hasn't yet.

What am I missing?  Am I just cold and dead inside, like some readers think?  Maybe I am.  My wife and kids will be sad about it, but that's just the way it is!

Wasteland #7 by Antony Johnston and Carla Speed McNeil.  $2.99, Oni Press.

As "jumping-on" points go, this single-issue story after the first six-issue story arc doesn't work all that well.  Even though it's one-and-done (for the most part), it continues the story that has already begun, makes reference to events that happened in previous issues, and sets up a future storyline (I hope).  However, if you haven't been reading Wasteland (and shame on you!), it's not a bad place to start, because it is a single-issue story, and although it is very much within the world of the Big Wet, Johnston does a nice job filling in the blanks you might experience as a new reader.

The story is about a young member of the Council in Newbegin who hides a dark secret!  Johnston does a nice job fooling us for a few pages as to the secret, but once Skot (the main character) finds out that the Founder has outlawed Sunners, he begins to understand that his secret will eventually come to light and he has to make a stand.  It's a fairly standard story, and we can see most of it coming, but unlike The Spirit, it feels more important and meaningful.  Johnston has done a very nice job taking this relatively alien culture and making it relevant to ours, which is what the best science fiction does.  Even though this is all post-apocalyptic and strange, there is still tribalism, prejudice, and persecution of those who are different.  The names and situations change, but we can all recognize the sorts of oppression that is going on.  Skot does make a stand, and his life changes.  It appears to change for the worse, but of course, even if his circumstances might be worse, is he better off?  Probably.  It's an interesting set-up for future issues as the persecution of the Sunners heats up (so to speak).

McNeil's art, which has never been a favorite of mine, works well for this kind of stark landscape and story.  We get a nice sense of the bleakness of the desert, even though the story takes place in the city.  Mitten's art, despite being stronger, actually makes the desert less stark than McNeil does, so we don't always get a sense of the desolation.  It's a good choice for fill-in art.

There's no reason not to give this a look if you've been missing it.  You can base your opinion on one issue!  How cool is that?  No more commitment is necessary if it doesn't do it for you!


Local #8 (of 12) by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.  $2.99, Oni Press.

I have given up reading these in single format, even though they're usually self-contained stories.  I just have a feeling they'll read much better in one sitting.  Megan gets lucky, though.  Good job, Megan!

The Nightly News #4 (of 6) by Jonathan Hickman.  $2.99, Image.

Just another mini-series that I'm really looking forward to reading.

Omega Men #5 (of 6) by Andersen Gabrych and Henry Flint.  $2.99, DC.

I'm pretty sure I'll like this (I could be wrong, but it still looks cool), but I'm still wary about hearing that it's going to lead into a crossover space epic.  That would suck.

Rush City #5 (of 6) by Chuck Dixon, Timothy Green II, and Rick Magyar.  $2.99, DC.

I wonder if this advertisement comic for Pontiac is helping them move units.  These are the things I wonder about.  Oh, and why Rick Magyar is the inker in the credits but it says "Hope" (presumably Sandra) on the cover.  These are the things I wonder about.  Oh, and a Beastie Boys reference from 1986?  Did Mark Millar come up with that reference? 

Another fine week in the world of graphic literature.  Let the ranting begin!

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