What I bought - 21 June 2006

It's always a fun week when I reach double digits in books that I purchase, because usually there are quite a number of good books out of which I can discern a theme.  I'm going to do that this week, as once again, for scientific purposes only, I look at gratuitous breasts in comic books!  I did this some time ago, and people pointed out to me that breasts have always been gratuitous in comics, but it doesn't hurt to remind us that it's just a little silly.  So, as I tell you about this week's books, I will also examine breasts!  It's all very sociological - trust me!

Casanova #1 by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá.  $1.99, Image.

So Casanova came out today.  About time!  I've been looking forward to this for a while, because not only is it 2 dollars, it just sounded way cool.  And the art is very nice, although it seems that Bá appears to be Fabio Moon's evil twin (or maybe he's the good one).  Their art is very similar to each other.  That's okay, because the art is the best thing in the book - Bá handles the insanity of the script with considerable aplomb and makes Casanova Quinn's wacky world come to life.  Unfortunately, the world Casanova inhabits, as described by Fraction, is a bit off, and it weakens the book.

Here's the problem with Casanova: it comes after Nextwave, and doesn't do it as well as Ellis does.  Considering that Nextwave is a fun book but isn't nearly as clever as its fans and Ellis seems to think, plus it's parodying something (S.H.I.E.L.D.) that is itself pretty ridiculous, Casanova comes off as a second-rate parody of something that has already been done.  It's disappointing.  (Fraction himself makes reference to this, albeit inadvertently, when he refers to clones in the book as "bad bootlegs - copies of copies or copies.  You lose quality and fidelity with each generation".  Surprisingly prescient!)  There are several nice panels and ideas and some good bits of dialogue and Casanova is an interesting character, but it simply doesn't hold together terribly well.  This is, to put it mildly, a mess.  Casanova, at one point, tells a character that he talks like a comic book, and he makes it sound like a bad thing.  The problem is that everyone in this talks like a comic book, and if Fraction thinks that's a bad thing, we have a problem.

Casanova is $1.99, which is certainly not a good enough reason to keep buying it, but it's a reason to try a few more issues.  I'm sticking with it for a time, but I really hope it coheres.  Because, like a lot of Morrison comics, crazy ideas only go so far before they become boring.  And that is death to a comic that wants to be groundbreaking. Cronin liked it a lot more than I did, by the way.  But we all know he's a bit wacky.

One thing it does have, however, is the first example of out-of-control breasts!  Casanova hooks up with a hot nurse. Hot nurses, of course, are a staple in entertainment (as I pointed out in the first issue of Team Zero), so I don't have a problem with it (see another example of it below!), but her breasts are a little wild.  Here's a more subdued drawing of them: 

Check out the Red Cross crosses on the bra!  Now that's cool.  This is just the first little bit of breastage in this week's comics.  I figured I'd ease you in slowly!

Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink #3 by John Kovalic and Christopher Jones.  $3.49, Dork Storm Press.

Dr. Blink is certainly not the greatest comic book in the world, and for $3.49, it's probably not worth your coin.  It's certainly humorous, and I like the fact that Kovalic packs it with short jokes that take up only one or two pages.  He never stretches things out, which is nice.  The relentless mockery of various more famous heroes (that's "Spank" on the cover, by the way) is pretty funny, especially when Dr. Blink thwarts the planet-eating "Ginormous" and has to see a shrink himself after listening to "Amazing Arachno-Lad" bitch and moan about his horrid life.  It's clever and meaningless and goofy, but it's a stretch for that amount of money.

Eternals #1 (of 6) by Neil Gaiman, John Romita, Jr., and Danny Miki.  $3.99, Marvel.

No article in the title for Gaiman!  "Hey, Neil, we're going to call it 'The' Eternals."  "Screw you, man - I'm Neil Gaiman, and I don't need no articles!"

For a set-up issue, this is fine.  Gaiman introduces the main characters, gives us a brief overview of the Celestials and the Eternals, brings us a mystery (why does no one remember the Eternals?) and gives us a villain.  Romita's art is Romita's art.  I dig it, but you may not.  If you don't like it, this won't change your mind.

I hope the mystery works out well, because Mark Curry, who apparently is actually an Eternal but doesn't remember, seems more clueless than he should be in the Marvel Universe.  For a while I thought this didn't take place in the Marvel U., which would make his ignorance and disbelief when told that aliens came down to earth and helped create humanity a bit more believable, but Tony Stark shows up at one point and Mark mentions Spider-Man at one point, so why is it so hard for him to buy the story Ikaris tells him?  I trust Gaiman to have a handy answer, so I'm on board.  Unlike some people in the comic-buying world, Gaiman has actually never disappointed me (I enjoyed 1602, for instance), so I'll just keep on buying.  Of course, I'm not go to read them until the series is done, but this is a good start to what promises to be a nice big sci-fi-kind-of-series. 

Ex Machina #21 by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

Yes, it's still one of my favorite books out there.  Yes, the art is wonderful.  Yes, the political angle is very nice.  But.  I have to pick on this book this month, because I don't want it to fall into a rut.

Yes, a rut.  Let's see: each issue, it seems (I'd have to go back and check) begins with a flashback to Mitch's superhero days.  He fights bad guys, but something during the fight will have some sort of connection to the story in the present day.  In the "present" day, which is some time in 2003, Mitch has an issue to confront.  He is often at odds with Wylie, his deputy mayor, and most of the time it is because he holds pre-conceived notions about how Wylie will react to an issue.  Meanwhile, something horrible is happening in New York that will eventually tie in with the major political issue being discussed.  And Mitch is a maverick, because he's not a Republican or a Democrat.

Sounds about right, right?  Luckily, Vaughan is always able to keep us on our toes, like with Journal's sister, January, who shows up and wants to carry on her sister's work (or does she?).  And his cliffhangers, which Cronin wrote about a while ago (and no, I'm not looking for the link, because I can't remember even a little bit during what month it was), are at least interesting - a woman protests on the steps of City Hall in this one, and what a protest it is!  But I fear that he won't be able to keep doing this without falling into, yes, a rut.  In creator-owned comics like this, the creative team simply can't leave when they fall into a rut (well, they could, but it doesn't usually happen).  And in creator-owned comics like this, the creators often can't be terribly objective.  So Vaughan might fall into a rut and not even know it.  Please don't, Brian!  This is too good a title for that to happen.

Of course, even with the formula in place, there is a lot to like in this comic.  And it's better than most things you can find out there.

Fallen Angel #6 by Peter David and J. K. Woodward.  $3.99, IDW.

This cover isn't really an example of out-of-control breasts, but it is curiously cheesecakey.  Lee fell from the sky naked, after all (according to the people in the book), and then for the entire book she is clothed entirely in a kind of robe, with only her shoulders showing in a few panels.  So the skin on the cover is kind of askew.  I'm not complaining, because it's not obnoxious, but it's strange.

Anyway, after the cataclysmic events of last issue, Lee finds herself in a desert country after falling from the sky, naked.  The tribespeople believe that she is their long-dead leader, returned to take them to glory.  They tell her of the tale of Tin Hinan, the queen, whose remains and jewelry they were charged with guarding.  Then evil archaeologists came and took the remains to a museum somewhere, and the tribespeople were shunned by the greater community of united tribes.  Lee offers to retrieve the jewelry, and does, but when she returns, the tribespeople have been slaughtered by the leader of the united tribes, who did not believe them when they told him Tin Hinan had returned.  Ayr, a young girl who befriended Lee, managed to escape, and she tells Lee that the leader has taken the women back to his stronghold.  So Lee has to go in and kick some ass.  Dum-dum-DUM!

It's a nice little story, and after the first five issues of the series, it's not exactly light, but it is an interesting change of pace.  Lee is out of Bete Noire for the first time in a while, and Ayr is obviously standing in for the the girl whose guardian angel Lee was (sorry, I can't remember her name).  Does this offer Lee a chance to make good?  We'll see, although I am sorry to say that I fear for Ayr's survival.  I don't think David would be that evil, but he's been that evil before, so we'll see.  This story is a chance for Lee to do some good without being tied down with all her responsibilities, and it will be nice to see it play out.

Another very good book that needs more readership.  Give it a chance.  Yes, it's 4 dollars, but you're shelling out 3 dollars for a goofy story in which Power Girl and Huntress switch minds with Superman and Batman, so why not shell out 4 dollars for something with a little more meat on its bones?

Noble Causes #21 by Jay Faerber and Jon Bosco.  $3.50, Image.

Ah, Noble Causes.  Whenever breasts are an issue, you come through for me!  Some fine breasts on the cover, but inside is where the good stuff is!

First, the story.  The Blackthornes continue their campaign to blacken the good Noble name while elevating their own, but Dusk jeopardizes that by stealing some diamonds.  Detective O'Mega sees her, so Hunter Blackthorne sends Dusk and Slate to beat him up a bit - well, Dusk is there to kill him, but Slate saves him by throwing him out the window and into the public eye.  Slate, as we know, has been secretly working for - well, himself, I guess, but he's not completely evil - and he intervenes to save O'Mega.  Meanwhile, Hunter gets very angry about Dusk's exploits, because he says they need to keep up the façade that they're really good guys.  Dusk thinks her father might be actually changing into a good guy, which is an intriguing notion.  Oh, and we get to see what happens to Kitty Blackthorne when her cat powers kick in - and it ain't pretty.  Oh, and Rusty shows Zephyr the videotape of Frost and Rae knocking her out.  Sheesh, as usual a lot happens in an issue of Noble Causes.  Yes, it's a soap opera, but it continues to hum along, and remains the best superhero book out there.

Meanwhile, it's the third issue with Bosco on art, and although I'm still not enjoying it, I am getting used to it.  His faces are too round, but it's not awful.  He does something interesting when the Blackthornes pose for a photo shoot.  First, Dusk's breasts defy gravity (that's her on the far left): 

But more weirdly, what the heck is going on with Dawn?  Do you notice where your eye is drawn?  If you don't, I'll make it clearer:

I know it's a shadow, but it's just a bit obvious, isn't it?  Very strange.

Another very good book.  See how many good comics are out there?

All Star Superman #4 by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant.  $2.99, DC.

When this series was announced, I knew I would buy it, because Morrison is as good a writer in comics as there ever has been.  I was disappointed with issue #2, but thought #3 was back on track, and now the best issue of the series has come out.  Why, say you?  Well, this issue does what I think Morrison wants to do with this series almost perfectly.  Morrison, it seems, wants to blend that wacky 1950s-era Superman stuff with a very postmodern sensibility, and he's been moderately successful so far.  With this fun issue, he gets it as right as he can.  Jimmy Olsen becomes P.R.O.J.E.C.T. director for a day as part of his series of "I was _____ for a day!" for The Daily Planet.  Morrison throws in all the weird shit he loves, but doesn't allow it to take over the story, as he sometimes does, and then gives us Black Kryptonite, which turns Superman into Bizarro Superman.  He fights Jimmy, who must somehow use the ultimate secret weapon at P.R.O.J.E.C.T. - something called "Doomsday" to stop his friend without killing him (or, you know, dying).  It's a wild one-issue ride that fits into the grand story and also offers us lots of neat things on the periphery without detracting from the main story.  We know that Superman won't stay evil, but the way Jimmy stops him is what makes comic books joyous and fun.  This series is, ultimately, a celebration of the comics form, and what Morrison is doing with it should make ant fan smile.  Maybe he hits a snag here and there (I still think issue #2 is boring), but he is doing a wonderful job making Superman something he rarely is - interesting to read.  And that's cool.

A few things that are strange: how does Jimmy change back after he defeats Superman?  I thought there was going to be a problem with that.  And why can't he write about it?  Is it because he learns about the "Doomsday" project?  Or some other reason?

And, because it's Morrison and Quitely, they turn the problem of cleavage in comics on its ear.  Oh, they give us cheesecake, but it's not what you might expect:

For that panel alone, this comic is worth every penny.

X Isle #1 by Andrew Cosby, Michael A. Nelson, and Greg Scott.  $2.99, Boom! Studios.

I've been waiting patiently for this comic, and was happy to see it appear today.  It's a beautiful book to look at, and the mystery is certainly mysterious, but I wonder about the pitch:

Cosby and Nelson (the co-writers): Hey, Ross, we have a great idea for a comic.

Ross Ritchie, publisher and apparently all-around good egg: Hit me!

C & N: We have a mysterious form of life that washes up on shore, with fungus for teeth and really weird crap in its stomach.  Our hero, Dr. Alex Keller, is on a ship with several colleagues and his daughter, with whom he has a contentious relationship.  They're trying to figure out what the heck this thing is.

Ritchie: I'm intrigued ...

C & N: So they run into a bizarre electrical storm that destroys the ship, but they all manage to get on a life boat.  They float until ...

Ritchie: Yes, yes!  Wow!  This sounds even cooler than what Giffen and DeMatteis are doing for me, and I didn't even have to blackmail you guys!

C & N: So, they float until they land upon an uncharted island, with strange stars overhead, weird fauna, and suddenly creatures come out of the surf at them - the same kind as the carcass they were examining!  An uncharted island!  Weird things happening!  Demonic creatures!  How cool is that?

Richie: Um, you guys don't watch a lot of television, do you?

Okay, yes, it's a lot like a certain television show on a certain Disney-owned network.  But you know what?  It's all about how you tell a story, and this is an intriguing first issue, with interesting characters, and some good dramatic tension.  I am perfectly willing to give it a few issues, because Cosby, Nelson, and Scott are obviously talented, and talent can take an idea that seems familiar and make it something great.  I mean, most of the comic book titles you can buy are superheroes.  Aren't they just ripping off each other a lot?

A neat first issue.  I look forward to more.


Free Fall #3 (of 5) by Gianluca Piredda and Eric J.  $3.99, Narwain Publishing.

I'm a little ticked off, because I never got the second issue.  It's a mini-series, so I won't be reading it until it's complete anyway and can therefore track down the second issue, but still.  I saw this issue and was reminded of something.  Where does the eye go when you look at this issue.  Oh, yes:

Now, that's a bit strange.  That young lady is disguised as a police officer and is robbing a bank.  Not the best way to keep a low profile.  I reviewed the first issue in the first link of this post, when breasts were also an issue, and it's strange - like a theme or something.  Here's the cover to issue #1.  Notice anything?  I did manage to catch a glimpse of issue #2, and the composition is different, but still somewhat gratuitous.  And since we have hot police officer with an unbuttoned shirt on the cover of issue #3 ("I'm sure I've broken some law, Officer - don't you want to handcuff me and punish me?"), what do we get in issue #4?  If you said a hot nurse with an unbuttoned shirt, you've been paying attention!

It's a shame, because this is an interesting mini-series.  The bank robbers hire a suicidal guy to jump off a building as they pull their heist to distract everyone.  That's him on the cover of issue #4.  This series should have been finished already, but it's ridiculously late.  I look forward to reading the whole thing!

The Stardust Kid #4 (of 5) by J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog.  $3.50, Boom! Studios.

The series shifts from Image to Boom!, and maybe this will mean it will actually come out on time.  I checked: the last issue came out in October.  This is why I don't read mini-series until they are finished.  It bothers me, because this and Free Fall are certainly good enough to check out, but their awful schedule means that some people will simply forget about them.  How are we supposed to read new and interesting comics if they come out every six months?  Prima donna Bryan Hitch can get away with it, but these small comics can't.  It's frustrating, because I know a lot of these guys don't have the wherewithal to work on comics all the time, but at least a more regular schedule would keep us happier.  One more issue to go on this book, so I'll let you know what I think when it shows up.

Another big and chunky week.  But weeks like this remind me why comics are so much fun, because there is such a wide spectrum of books.  Something for everyone!

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