What I bought - 21 November 2012

Ah! but it was something to have at least a choice of nightmares. (Joseph Conrad, from Heart of Darkness)

All-New X-Men #1 by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Stuart Immonen (penciler), Wade von Grawbadger (inker), Marte Garcia (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

I went into All-New X-Men with low expectations, and except for the artwork, this comic doesn't even rise to meet those. If you didn't get it last week, when it came out, here's the gist: Cyclops, Emma, and Magneto are going around recruiting mutants for a revolutionary army, and the people at the Jean Grey School aren't happy about this. Meanwhile, Hank McCoy can tell that he's going through yet another mutation and he might not survive it, and he decides to go back in time and bring the original five X-Men into their future, his present, to convince present-day Cyclops that he needs to stop what he's doing. The original X-Men only show up at the very end, so we're not sure how it's going to work yet - it's Bendis, so Sol Invictus forbid that he, you know, gets to the fucking point.

There are many, many problems with this comic, beginning with the concept. Like a lot of comics, this sounds like something that came out of a group hanging out at a bar at 1 a.m. after they have done too many shots of Jägermeister - Bendis looked at Editor Nick Lowe and said, "You know what would be kewl? If the original X-Men existed in the present and had to deal with all the shit that has happened to the X-Men!" And Lowe, instead of smacking him on the head (it wouldn't hurt, due to the aforementioned Jägermeister in Bendis' system), said "Sheeeeeeeeeeeeittttttttt, BMB! You've done it again! Get me Alonso on the phone!" And Axel Alonso, addled from being woken up at 1 a.m., doesn't think to yell at Lowe and instead mumbles, "Sure, whatever," before rolling back over and trying to finish his dream about Barbara Palvin feeding him grapes. So Lowe tells Bendis, "It's on!" I imagine quite a lot of comics get green-lit that way.

Anyway, the book begins with a minor annoyance. The last time I saw Cyclops, which was about a month ago, he was incarcerated in Uncanny Avengers. I assume that at some point, he escaped, but you wouldn't know where from this comic. Why does Marvel like footnotes for some comics but not others? It seems like the comics that use footnotes in the Marvel U. are those that are slightly less "serious," but that's just silly. This is a superhero comic in which a character goes back in time to convince another character's younger self to come to his future to debate the older version of himself. I think "serious" has left the platform a long time ago. So why can't I know when Cyclops escaped his prison? Especially if Marvel is trying to do a soft reboot, so new readers might only be picking up the #1 issues and might have missed whatever "Consequences" issue that showed Cyclops getting away. But whatever - Cyclops is on the loose!

After a couple of silly pages about Hank possibly dying (yeah, okay), Bendis takes the action to Gold Coast, Australia. Why Bendis chose to put the action in Gold Coast is beyond me, because exactly zero of the characters sound even remotely Australian. Look, I'm glad (and I'm sure Aussie readers are glad) that Bendis doesn't have everyone calling everyone else a "sheila" and saying "strewth," but would it have killed Bendis to ask an Australian for some actual slang? Aussies do call each other "mate" occasionally, after all. These Aussies sound like American teenagers. Bendis, for all the acclaim heaped on him about his dialogue, doesn't write different characters very well. Everyone pretty much sounds alike. Later, in Ann Arbor, we get another scene phoned in by BMB - a police officer actually tells someone that "bad guys" run from the police, even though I imagine a lot of people would run if people started chasing them. The cop even tells the guy in custody - who's a mutant - that there are laws against being a mutant in this country, which is strange. With all the ridiculous shit that's been going on in the Marvel U. over the past decade, are there still laws against mutants and/or superpowers? That would be interesting, but it's just a random comment by the cop and, of course, never gets brought up again.

So Cyclops' group also includes Magik, and Cyclops gives a tough-guy speech about standing up to the humans, and Hank, Ororo, Kitty, and Bobby all get grumpy. Kitty whines that Scott's actions are going to get the school shut down, and Hank decides to go back in time, where young Hank recognizes him pretty quickly. Then he gives them his pitch - come into their future to talk Scott down. TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!

Okay, I know that most superhero comics are light as gossamer, and you shouldn't poke at them too much or they'll fall apart, but this one really strains credulity. I assume this book relies on our vast knowledge of the Marvel U., because of those "laws" the cop talks about, but there are several ways for the X-Men to handle this. One of them could go on television, condemn the actions of the mutant terrorists, and explain that just like you can't condemn all Christians when one of them kills a homosexual, maybe you shouldn't condemn all mutants when one of them goes around the bend. Sure, it might not work, but if these people are committed to mainstreaming, maybe they should give it a try. However, if they really want to go hardcore, they could mention to their headmaster - you know, the one who runs a black ops team tasked with killing threats that get out of hand - for help, and he could gather his black ops team tasked with killing threats that get out of hand to hunt down Mr. Summers, which would add a nice level of irony to everything, seeing as how Cyclops put the team together in the first place. Or they could just fucking ignore Scott. If the "federal government" comes to the school, as Kitty says they will, they could point out that none of them have anything to do with Cyclops and that they condemn his actions. But that wouldn't be any fun, would it? So Hank thinks the absolute best thing to do is go back in time and drag five teenagers into this world to convince Scott to knock it off. How is this a good idea? Let's say Young Scott gets to sit down with Present Scott. Here's the conversation:

Young Scott: Dude, you have to stop this. Mutants and humans should live together in harmony, man.Present Scott: Yeah, you know your hot little sex-kitten girlfriend, Jean? She's dead because humans hate mutants. Yeah, you know your wonderful mentor who believes we can get along? He's dead because humans hate mutants. You know [insert the innumerable mutants killed because humans hate mutants]? He/She is dead because humans hate mutants.Young Scott: Dude, what took you so long to start doing what you're doing? Sign me the fuck up!

Bendis probably won't remember this, but the original X-Men are teenagers, and wouldn't it be nice if they acted like teenagers? I was saying last week that the only way this would be interesting is if Bendis pretended the original X-Men were arriving in our time from 1997 or so, which would make this a weird culture clash. I mean, who doesn't want to see Young Bobby ask about Smash Mouth or, I don't know, 311? That won't happen, because the Marvel U. now exists in some strange, timeless bubble (much like the DCnU), but it would be neat. Even if Bendis doesn't do anything with the pop culture, just from the few pages of them, they don't sound much like teenagers, either.

Hank, meanwhile, is probably insane. Much like Fantastic Four, this comic makes sense only if you have never read a comic starring these characters before. Hank knows what happens when you go messing with the space-time continuum, yet he does it casually, without any regard for the consequences. The original X-Men in the present is a stupid idea for a series, but it might have worked if they were somehow thrown into this time period and had to deal with what they saw instead of Hank going back and getting them. His idea is mind-bogglingly stupid in the first place, but when you consider what kind of fucked-up world he could create, it's even worse. Man, Hank. Really?

I guess Bendis and/or Lowe and/or Alonso wanted to do this partially to bring Jean Grey back without resurrecting her, because the fans love Jean Grey (I read that in an interview somewhere, but I have no idea where). Listen, Marvel: Fans like adult Jean Grey/Phoenix. Teenaged Jean Grey is as dull as dishwater. So if you're not going to nut up and resurrect the adult Jean Grey (which, given how far Scott has gone by now, would probably be more interesting than the teenaged version), don't pull this half-assed shit. It's weak. WEAK!

The only reason this book isn't worse is because Stuart Immonen is freakin' fantastic. You already knew that, though, so I'll just point out that I found it interesting that he and colorist Garcia dress Eva like Phoenix. What's up with that?

Anyway, this book is a dumb idea that doesn't overcome it in the execution. Too bad!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batwoman #14 ("World's Finest Part Three: Heart of Stone") by W. Haden Blackman (writer), J. H. Williams III (writer/artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Okay, yes, it's a stunningly beautiful comic. I mean, Williams is really pulling out all the stops on this, as he even gives us almost four pages of Batwoman "reading" Pegasus' wounds to determine how he was injured, which should be really boring but isn't, thanks to the inventive way Williams draws it. And when Medusa's forces attack the city, it's wonderfully drawn and viscerally powerful. That doesn't excuse the dumb plot point in this story - all of the evil things Medusa has been gathering for her assault are in Gotham, and Kate doesn't think that maybe Medusa is there too? I mean, she even comments about how stupid she's been. I don't mind hanging a lampshade now and then, but usually it's done most effectively in comedies (as in this week's Happy Endings, where Alex mentioned how strange it was that they all met on MTV's The Real World but they never talk about it), because when it's done in more serious stuff, it comes off as if the writer even knows how dumb it is, and that's what happens here. I guess we get to see some really cool Williams art, but is that enough?

Anyway, this is still worth a look for the art, and while I didn't love this issue, the entire epic is still pretty neat. So there's that.

(Oh, and Happy Endings is awesome. You should really be watching it. Eliza Coupe as Gwen Stefani was brilliant.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Captain America #1 ("Castaway in Dimension Z Chapter One") by Rick Remender (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciler), Klaus Janson (inker), Dean White (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

Captain America gets a relaunch, courtesy of Rick Remender, who announces up front that this is comic is going to have a real cheesy 1950s (or is that 1970s?) sci-fi aesthetic. So we get a "Bond beginning" - the action-packed before-the-credits vignette that establishes what a bad-ass Cap is - in which he fights the Green Skull, a maniac environmentalist, and the fact that the entire battle is absolutely ridiculous doesn't even matter. Then, before he can have any kind of meaningful discussion about marrying Sharon Carter (all superheroes are just arrested adolescents, so actually talking about doing grown-up stuff almost makes them shout "cooties!"), Cap is kidnapped by a ghost train. Sort of. It turns out that Arnim Zola, who of course would fit right into a 1950s science fiction movie that Joel or Mike and the bots would mock, lured Cap to "Dimension Z" so he could use Cap's super soldier serum to fix his kids (why? DON'T QUESTION, NERDS!!!!). Cap escapes, of course, and manages to kidnap the boy kid (who's only a baby; his sister is a bit older) and presumably they will both have to make their way through a post-apocalyptic landscape. You know, like you do. If you think this sounds like Damnation Alley crossed with the Mad Max movies crossed with Escape from New York crossed with The Warriors crossed with any other kind of cult classic you can think of from the 1970s/1980s ... well, I imagine Remender is about my age or a bit younger, so like every other goddamned comic book writer for the Big Two these days, he mines his childhood for ideas and comes up with ... a post-apocalyptic wasteland that borrows liberally from the movies he watched as a kid. I'm sorry, but it vexes me. I mean, it's certainly not a bad idea at all to get Cap out of his comfort zone and throw him into a WORLD GONE MAD!!!!!, but when the WORLD GONE MAD!!!!! looks like every other one, it lessens the impact a bit. But that's okay. After Brubaker's long run with the character that attempted to reconcile a dude wearing an American flag with the dark world of espionage, it's nice to see Remender go in the complete opposite direction and chuck Cap into a world where Arnim Zola looks normal. The biggest problem with this is that he begins the book with a three-page flashback to Steve's childhood, where his abusive father is beating up his mother but then, after she faces him down, he leaves. Then Mama America tells Steve that he should always stand up to bullies, no matter what. It's heavy-handed and facile and vaguely insulting, which means it's a fairly typical mainstream superhero comic, but more than that, it's unnecessary. Obviously, Remender is going to draw parallels to Steve's father and Steve now that Steve has to care for a child, and this will also tie into Sharon asking Steve to marry her and Steve not knowing if he's ready for it, but we don't need it spoonfed to us. Well, considering some of the crap that passes for entertainment these days, maybe we do need it spoonfed to us. But Remender doesn't have to give it to us!!!! Overall, however, this is a pretty decent first issue as long as you're willing to embrace the goofiness.

However, Romita's art knocks it down a bit. I've always been a fan of Romita, but he does have his moments of crappiness, and this art is atrocious. It starts on the first page, where Joseph, Steve's father, is so ridiculously disproportionate that he looks like a cartoon character - yes, it's a comic book, but he's not supposed to look so cartoonish, I would imagine. The book doesn't get any better - this is amazingly sloppy art, with comically goofy figure work, from Romita's giant heads (which seems to have gotten worse over the years) to the simplistic facial expressions, and terrible special effects. Janson is usually a heavier inker, so I'm not sure why he's not able to add any heft whatsoever to Romita's lines. White, as usual, softens everything, and it just makes the looseness of Romita's pencils even looser, and that's not what he needs. Romita is not an artist who can use very lines to suggest a lot of meaning - he needs to be as concrete as possible, and I would have thought Janson could have helped with that. White, however, goes against Romita's strengths, and the result is a really ugly muddle. A couple of panels look horribly amateurish, and that's really too bad. I know Romita is better than this, and it bums me out that this is so awful.

With a better art job, Captain America #1 is a solid if ridiculous superhero comic. The artwork drags it way down, though, and that's a shame. Much like some of the other Marvel NOW! comics, this will probably sell based on the character and the names working on it. That doesn't make it good, though!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dark Horse Presents #18. "Captain Midnight in Midnight at 10,000 Feet Part One" by Joshua Williamson (writer), Victor Ibañez (artist), Ego (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); "Finder: Third World Chapter 16" by Carla Speed McNeil (writer/artist/letterer), Jenn Manley Lee (colorist), and Bill Mudron (colorist); "Gamma Chapter 1" by Ulises Farinas (writer/artist/letterer) and Erick Freitas (writer); "Edgar Allan Poe's Shadow" by Richard Corben (adapter/artist) and Nate Piekos (letterer); "Memories of the Caspian" by Dara Naraghi (writer) and Victor Santos (artist/letterer); "Crime Does Not Pay Presents City of Roses Chapter 3" by Phil Stanford (writer), Patric Reynolds (artist), Bill Farmer (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); "Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde Chapter 1" by Peter Hogan (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist); "Alabaster: Boxcar Tales Chapter 1" by Caitlín R. Kiernan (writer), Steve Lieber (artist/letterer), and Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist); "UXB Chapter 3" by Colin Lorimer (writer/artist); "The Secret Order of the Teddy Bears Chapter 1" by Mike Richardson (writer), Ron Chan (artist), and Nate Piekos (letterer). $7.99, 80 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

I don't know what to say about DHP. I mean, Dark Horse gets superb creators, turns them loose, puts together 80-page books every month, and charges 8 bucks for them. They've been doing this for a year and a half, and if you're not on board yet, I don't know what to do with you! I guess the big news in this issue is that Williamson and Ibañez are doing a new Captain Midnight story, but I don't care too much about Captain Midnight, so that's not going to move my dial (which sounds dirtier than it really is, doesn't it?). The actual story is intriguing - Midnight has been stuck inside the Bermuda Triangle since World War II, and now he's out. If only there was another World War II icon with "Captain" in his name who spent years from World War II until recently outside of time somehow. I can't think of anyone like that!

"Gamma" is an odd story about a dude who hires himself out to get beat up, but when he's challenged by another dude, we get ... monsters? They're cool monsters (see below), but I'm not sure what the deal is yet. Dara Naraghi, who wrote a story about growing up in Iran back in issue #4, returns with a poignant story about his beach house on the Caspian Sea. Hogan and Parkhouse begin another "Resident Alien" serial, which is fine with me, because it's an interesting story ... but I don't like how they're doing this, with some of it showing up in DHP and then the two of them doing a mini-series before returning to DHP. I wouldn't mind buying the trade paperbacks, but I don't think the trade of the first story is out and here they are moving on. (I checked briefly and didn't see the trade; maybe I'm wrong, though.) The same thing applies to Kiernan and Lieber's story, which is interesting and beautifully drawn, but again - I didn't get the first trade, and I'm not sure if it's out yet. (If it is, obviously this doesn't apply.) But generally, this is just another solid issue of anthologized comic book stories. That's all I have to say!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panels:

Deadpool #2 ("We Fought a Zoo") by Brian Posehn (writer), Gerry Duggan (writer), Tony Moore (artist), Val Staples (colorist), and Joe Sabino (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

You'll notice that this is issue #2 of Deadpool, meaning I've bought two consecutive issues of Deadpool, something I thought I would never do. Well, technically, I didn't buy issue #1, but it's still significant that I liked it enough to actually purchase issue #2 - Marvel NOW! is working for one new title, I guess! I just can't not love a comic in which a psychopathic superhero kills undead presidents. I CAN'T NOT LOVE IT!!!!

I mean, there's more than one funny thing on pretty much every page of this comic (well, except for the big splash page, but that's because it's only one image). At the end of last issue, Deadpool got shot in the head, so the first two pages are him daydreaming while several Marvel women compete for his affection. Then he meets the ghost of Ben Franklin, who wants to help him stop all the undead presidents. Then the S.H.I.E.L.D. necromancer pulls his giant magic book ... from underneath his kilt. Where was it hiding? No man can say!!!! (This gag is a bit reminiscent of an old one in Hitman, but I'll allow it.) And John F. Kennedy and George Washington menace old people! And Teddy Roosevelt goes hunting at the Los Angeles Zoo! And ... oh, the elephant. Oh dear. And it's Skeevy Doctor Strange! Everyone loves Skeevy Doctor Strange! (Well, maybe PTOR doesn't, but I sure do!)

I certainly don't want to give any of the humor away, because humor needs to be experienced, but I will say that Duggan and Posehn actually have Wade say "Hey! I was about to show her my disco balls!" and nobody stopped them. Well done, Marvel censors! (That's not the only sex pun in this week's Marvel haul, as I'll point out below. What are they putting in the water at 135 West 50th Street, anyway?) And Tony Moore is kicking ass, as he usually does. As I mentioned last time, I don't know how long the writers can pull this off and I don't know how long Moore can last, but this is a wildly fun comic. It's almost worth it for Skeevy Doctor Strange!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Frankenstein Alive, Alive! #2 by Steve Niles (writer), Bernie Wrightson (artist), Robbie Robbins (letterer). $3.99, 16 pgs (+7 pgs of Shelley's Frankenstein), BW, IDW.

I'm not entirely sure how many issues this series is supposed to be, but it's going to take a looooooooong time to come out, I imagine. I don't really care, because while Niles has barely begun the story - the monster has awoken, a kindly scientist has educated him, the monster realizes that people will always consider him a monster - Wrightson's artwork is staggering. His brush strokes make the book look old, which is good considering this takes place in the 19th century, and his astonishing attention to detail gives us a wonderful sense of Dr. Ingles' home, which is full of animal specimens and Egyptian art and Greek busts and beakers full of bubbling liquids. The book unfolds, so far, at a somewhat languid pace, which is somewhat frustrating given the length of each issue but which I don't mind too much because each page is so gorgeous. Wrightson takes his time because he needs to, but also because he wants to make sure that this world is completely convincing, and he succeeds admirably. There's not much to say about this comic - it's Niles doing horror, which he's good at, and it's Wrightson doing simply amazing artwork. If you like a slow burn just to get a chance to see Wrightson's art, then you might want to check it out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Glory #30 ("Bloodshadow Part Two: Relentless") by Joe Keatinge (writer), Ross Campbell (artist), Roman Muradov (artist), Owen Gieni (colorist), Charis Solis (colorist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

There's an odd little comic at the beginning of this comic book, illustrated by Muradov, in which Glory hangs out in 1920s Paris and fights Fantômas with the help of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Pablo Picasso. Sure, it's very League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-esque (well, except the characters aren't fictional), but I would read the shit out of a comic with those artists as a kind of "Justice League of the Lost Generation." Plus, Muradov is a good artist, so there's that.

Then we get to the main event, in which Glory tracks down Nanaja and, well, brutality ensues. I used a different panel than I wanted to, because the one I wanted to show gives away the end of the fight, which is frickin' awesome (you know which panel I mean!). Campbell is really excellent at drawing these totally brutal fights, and Keatinge continues to expand the story well, giving us another plot twist at the end of the issue. He has a good handle on the characters, too, as none of them get too much screen time because of the large cast but Keatinge does well with the time they do get. This continues to be a phenomenal comic, and I can't wait to see where the heck it's going.

Although, I have to say: Poor Pierre. Just standing there, hanging out, and that happens? Man, sucks to be him.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hawkeye #4 ("The Tape 1 of 2") by Matt Fraction (writer), Javier Pulido (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

This is the first issue of Hawkeye that I haven't really liked (even though I haven't loved the others, they've been pretty good), for a number of reasons. It's not a terrible issue, but when Aja isn't dazzling us with the art, the silliness of Fraction's plots really come more into focus. Pulido is certainly not a bad artist by any means, but he has his limitations, and cape comics seem to be part of that. His quirky style of cartooning doesn't really mesh with the slightly scruffy, "spy-in-a-superhero-comic-by-way-of-Rockford Files" vibe that Fraction is going for in this series, and this comic just feels off. Not everyone can do superheroes, even a subdued superhero book like this, and Pulido isn't the best choice.

But the fact that Pulido doesn't try interesting stuff with page layouts and such is what really dooms the comic, because it makes us focus more on Fraction's plot, which just isn't very good. Okay, so SPOILERS ahoy, I guess. You ready?

I just wanted to make sure you were ready for the SPOILERS!!!!

Okay, so the "tape," which is an old videotape not for the reason that Captain America gives (which isn't a bad reason, actually) but because Fraction is writing this as a 1970s/1980s detective show, and videotapes were the shit in 1983, man!, is of an old Avengers mission where Clint kills "the world's most wanted criminal terrorist" (that's how he's described in the text itself, and it's important). So Maria Hill sends Clint to Madripoor (I love Madripoor) so he can buy it back, as the person who has it is auctioning it off. It's all very simple and believable, right? Except for one thing:

Nobody would give a shit.

Honestly, can you think of a dumber reason to freak out if you're Maria Hill? The entire Marvel Universe knows that their heroes have been tarnished over the past decade, and I very much doubt if Hawkeye killing a dude will cause any kind of a stir. Does anyone even know how the Avengers are viewed in the Marvel Universe these days? The Marvel Universe these days seems strangely bereft of "normal" folk, but they've seen a lot of shit in the past few years, and Clint killing someone wouldn't cause much of a ripple, would it? I mean, we already know that Clint has no compunction about slaughtering his enemies (as we've seen in this series, he likes shooting arrows into bad guys' eyes, which according to the text doesn't kill them but which according to anyone with a brain would pretty much do the trick), and I just don't buy that the normal Marvel Universe denizen doesn't think, "Hey, they're doing some avenging - I bet every once in a while they kill people, and that's cool." Plus, it's clearly stated that the person Clint killed is "the world's most wanted criminal terrorist." Can you imagine if the United States government wanted to cover up the fact that Osama bin Laden was killed by Seal Team Six? Why isn't Maria Hill pinning a medal on Clint, for crying out loud? If word gets out that Clint accidentally killed a nun, sure, I can see it being a public relations disaster. But if word gets out that Clint killed Osama bin Laden, the people in the Marvel U. might say, "Yeah, well, good for him!" Now, unless what's on the tape isn't really what's on the tape and Fraction is fucking with us, I don't see what the big deal is. I really don't.

So, yeah. Disappointing. Maybe it gets better in Part 2? That would be nice. Kate is still awesome, though.

(Oh, and maybe this is possible, but where Clint hides the credit card? Really? How exactly would that work?)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hellblazer #297 ("The Curse of the Constantines Part Five: The Two Deaths of Eva Brady") by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), Brian Buccellato (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

As Hellblazer careens toward its conclusion, it's time for me to start worrying about Epiphany again. I'm almost sure that Milligan won't kill her off and either kill John or let the two of them ride off into the sunset, there to shag like bunnies, but there's a part of me that worries. Nothing I can do about it, though!

Issues like this are why Milligan's run on Hellblazer is so good. John is a good talker, so he pretty much talks his way out of a huge jam, and this is a bit nicer than issues of Hellblazer that we've gotten in the past, so some nice people actually survive! I certainly don't want to say too much about it, but it's a fairly typical issue of Milligan's run - well written, nicely drawn, and it feels like John is moving forward in his life. I haven't been a devoted reader of Hellblazer for its entire run, but I'm still going to miss it. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Indestructible Hulk #1 ("Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.") by Mark Waid (writer), Leinil Francis Yu (artist), Sunny Gho (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

What is that thing on the cover, floating next to the Hulk? I really don't know.

Anyway, Waid knowingly or unknowingly picks up a plot thread that Peter David introduced 15 years ago, right before the end of his run on Incredible Hulk, as Bruce Banner/Hulk becomes an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. It's a pretty good hook, as Bruce points out to Maria Hill that being the Hulk is like having a disease, and he just needs to manage it better. So he offers his services to S.H.I.E.L.D. because he's darned smart, and she can use the Hulk to smash shit when she needs him. As an example, he smashes the Thinker and some of his robots. It's a clever idea, and Waid does a nice job with it. The first part of the issue does a good job establishing tension, as Bruce and Maria talk inside a diner and everyone - Bruce and the readers - knows something is going on. Then Waid gives the Hulk stuff to smash. So that's good.

Yu is typically good, although he's not the greatest storyteller in the world - some of his layouts are too cramped, and the big fight between the Hulk and the Thinker is beautifully drawn but still has some of the layout problems. When the Thinker is bragging about dealing with the "fractions," Yu puts Maria on the page, and she's completely outside the panel and doesn't seem to have any relation to the actual panel. She's not even looking at the Thinker as she's shooting at him, which is weird. Yu is a good artist who occasionally goes a bit nuts with his lines, and I wish he would ease back a bit. It would make his art better. Finally, Sunny Gho gives the Hulk brown hair. I don't know why this freaks me out.

This is a solid first issue, although for four bucks, I won't be continuing with it until a trade comes out and I can think about it. If you're willing to spend four dollars on a Marvel comic, this is a pretty good one. Even if I have no idea what the thing on the cover is.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Journey into Mystery #646 ("Stronger than Monsters, Part 1 of 5") by Kathryn Immonen (writer), Valerio Schiti (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), and Clayton Cowles (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel NOW!

I've been reading Kieron Gillen's Journey into Mystery in trade, but this is a whole new creative team and a whole new central character, and even though it's not a new #1 (which makes no sense), it's still part of Marvel NOW!, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I might have anyway - I like Kathryn Immonen, and although I've never heard of Schiti, this is a beautiful comic.

As it turns out, this is not only a beautiful comic, it's pretty damned keen, too. Schiti has a slightly cartoonish style that makes the domestic scenes early in the book more homey than they might be otherwise and belies the ferocity of the corpse-eating dragon, which looks somewhat silly even though it's surrounded by bones, so we know it's pretty scary. But Schiti is also able to give us a tremendous confrontation between Sif and that chick (see below), which is neat. Bellaire, continuing her ascent in the coloring world, does a superb job with this - Sif's brilliant red outfit is stunning, and it offsets the blue of the "teacher," which makes their confrontation even more visceral. It's a wonderful-looking comic.

Immonen's story is a bit all over the map, but when it's the first chapter of five, I imagine she's setting up quite a bit, and what she does set up is interesting, so I'm willing to forgive it. Early on there's a burning library, there's poor advice to kids, and there's Asgardian kids talking about Marvel comics, which is pretty fun. Then Sif, for some reason (it's kind of vague), decides that she wants to be a better warrior by learning the "berserker incantation." She visits the corpse-eating dragon to find out where the teacher of said incantation can be found, and then she confronts the teacher. Immonen does a lot with Sif in this single issue - what kind of person is she, really? We see a lot of different facets of her personality, and at the end, we're not even sure if Sif is a "good" guy or not - she does some pretty nasty things in this comic. Whatever's going on with her, Immonen manages to make her compelling in 20 pages, so I'm in ... for the first arc, at least. We'll see where we go from there (or if the book will even survive).

So, yeah. I'm not completely surprised that I like this book, but I was a bit surprised by how much I liked it. It might get lost in the wave of new number #1s, but it shouldn't. Give it a look!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mind the Gap #6 ("Wish You Were Here Part 1: Sleep Furiously") by Jim McCann (writer), Rodin Esquejo (artist), Arif Prianto (colorist), Beny Maulana (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Image.

After last issue's revelation about a certain character, McCann reveals a bit more about Elle's predicament and what's going on, even though it's not much. It's early on in the revelation stage, but I'm not sure how I feel about it. The little information we get about the plot seems pretty standard science fiction stuff, and that's too bad. Obviously, McCann has been making this book a bit strange, as Elle is able to possess bodies and such, but the implications about the larger plot doesn't fill me with confidence. I don't want to get into it too much, because I don't want to give it away, but as vague as McCann is in this particular issue, it still doesn't seem like this is going in a good direction. But we'll see, won't we? The rest of the issue is intriguing, as Elle goes into the body of a ten-year-old girl who's brain dead and strange things start happening. The fact that Elle believes she can only name 15 American states and maybe one or two capitals depresses the living shit out of me. Is McCann saying she's that stupid, or is this a comment on Americans' knowledge about their own country in general? Man, that's sad.

Anyway, while I don't love the hints about the book's overall plot, I'm certainly willing to stick with it for a while, because the mystery is still pretty intriguing. And the hints are just that, so perhaps McCann will go in a completely different direction than the way I'm thinking! That would be nice!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #4 (of 4) by Mark Waid (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), and Shawn Lee (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Waid and Samnee's Rocketeer story ends pretty much the way we expect it to, with Cliff saving the day and reconciling with Betty, but it's the one thing Waid does that isn't expected that's unusual - he ends it with a SHOCKING! revelation, and considering that the next Rocketeer mini-series will be by a different creative team, I wonder what's going on. Is Waid planning another Rocketeer story, but it won't be done for a while? Is IDW telling Roger Langridge that if he wants to pick up that particular plot thread, he's welcome to? I don't know, but it's strange. I don't mind it, but it's strange.

The book is a solid adventure comic, though - Waid knows what he's doing with that, and Samnee and Bellaire continue to do a stellar job on the art. Samnee's pencil work is wonderfully expressive, and Bellaire's rich tones are the right amount of nostalgic. Waid answers any questions I had about Sally's age, so I guess it's just that Samnee draws her looking young, but that's okay. Overall, this is a good, fun, purty comic book. What more do you want?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Steed and Mrs. Peel #3 by Mark Waid (story), Caleb Monroe (scripter), Will Sliney (artist), Ron Riley (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

The first story of the series comes to an end, and while it's not a surprise that the post-apocalyptic wasteland we saw in the first two issues isn't real, Waid and Monroe come up with a decent explanation for it and how Steed and Emma figure it out. But they do, and the good guys win. Yay!

Sliney is the artist on Marvel's Fearless Defenders, which was just announced, and that's a bit surprising. Sliney isn't a bad artist, but you know how some artists don't seem "ready for prime time" just yet? Sliney strikes me as one of those artists. He could certainly become one, but his figure work is pretty stiff, and in the action-filled world of superhero comics, that's a huge detriment. It's also entirely possible that no one has asked him to draw backgrounds, but he doesn't, really, and that seems like a skill to have. Now, I will say that he's put up a couple of images from Fearless Defenders on his blog, and Misty Knight looks pretty cool, but I'm still surprised that Marvel hired him. Good for him, I say, but if you had asked me the next artist to make the leap from independent comics to the Big Two, he wouldn't have even entered my mind. Maybe in a few years, I would have thought more highly of him, but not right now. I certainly don't wish anyone ill, and I hope his work on the new book is fantastic. We'll see, won't we? It's part of Marvel NOW!, so I'll be picking up issue #1!

As for this book ... this first arc didn't really do anything for me. It just wasn't that interesting, and nothing about it made me want to pick up the next issue. The plot was a bit dull, and the banter between the two leads didn't work terribly well. Oh well - I can't like them all!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Will I Ever Call This Comic "Dark Avengers"? #183 ("The End Is the Beginning") by Jeff Parker (writer), Neil Edwards (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Sotocolor (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Speaking of books I'm dropping, we come to the final issue of Thunderbolts as we know it, before the actual Dark Avengers take over next issue and some other Thunderbolts get their own book. I won't be buying either one of them (I suppose I'll get the first issue of Thunderbolts, but probably not Dark Avengers), but that's okay - to every season and all that. This issue simply wraps up some loose ends and introduces a plot point for the new book, and Parker sends off the main characters nicely. I'm not sure where they're going to end up - they're not starring in either new book - but I'm sure they'll be around at some point. Parker's final story wasn't as good as the rest of his run (which was often awesome), but it's a nice wrap-up. I still don't like Edwards' art on this comic - I think Edwards is getting worse as his career moves along, which is kind of upsetting - but that's the way it is.

You could do a lot worse than read Parker's run on Thunderbolts. It's a blast of pure comics goodness, and I'm glad I started reading it. I really don't like the Faux Avengers, though, so unless I hear really good things about it, I'll be staying away from it. Sorry, Parker!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

X-Factor #247 ("Rising Again") by Peter David (writer), Leonard Kirk (penciler), Jay Leisten (inker), Ed Tadeo (inker), Matt Milla (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

As usual, Peter David drops a bit of a bombshell on us in one issue, then completely ignores said bombshell in the next issue, although I'm sure he'll get back around to it soon enough. There's a major storyline in the offing for 2013 on this comic, after all, so I'm sure last issue's events have something to do with that. In the meantime, we head to Las Vegas to check in on the newlyweds!

Yes, Jamie and Layla got married. And then the cops show up and tell them that the man who officiated has been killed. He was dressed like Abraham Lincoln (because it's Vegas), and it turns out that three Lincolns have been murdered in the past two weeks. It turns out that undead Robert E. Lee is killing them for mocking the Civil War. Yes, he really is. And then he picks on mutants for always coming back from the dead. Madrox points out the irony, but there's just no arguing with Undead Robert E. Lee! David refuses to explain how Undead Robert E. Lee showed up, but the arc is "to be continued," so I guess we'll find out soon enough, won't we? As usual, David does a nice job setting things up. He's good at that.

Now, you'll notice the title of the story. Yes, it's another sex pun in a Marvel comic. The phrase refers to the South, of course, which will "rise again," but given that Jamie and Layla are on their honeymoon, it has a second meaning, too. I know people grind their teeth when they think of David's puns, but as I've often said, his commitment to them is admirable, even if they make you grind your teeth. He just doesn't give a shit what you think, man!

So, it's a good start to the next story. X-Factor just keeps doing its thing. How surprising!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

A Man Named Hawken by Benjamin Truman (writer) and Timothy Truman (artist). $19.99, 157 pgs, BW, IDW.

Very nice black and white artwork full of people doing horrible things to each in the Old West. Can you resist?!?!?!?

Nexus Omnibus volume 1 by Mike Baron (writer), The Dude (artist), and several other folk. $24.99, 418 pgs, FC/BW, Dark Horse.

I've never been able to really get into Nexus, but I'd certainly like to. Dark Horse is releasing these nice Omnibus editions, which are a bit smaller than the original comics but are still a good value. So I can finally read Nexus the way God intended, from the beginning!

Saucer Country volume 1: Run by Paul Cornell (writer), Ryan Kelly (artist), Jimmy Broxton (artist), Goran Sudžuka (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), Cris Peter (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $14.99, 143 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I read the first issue of this and thought it was okay, so I figured I'd check out the trade. I've heard it gets better, which is always nice. We'll see!

Tune book 1: Vanishing Point by Derek Kirk Kim (writer/artist). $16.99, 155 pgs, BW, First Second Books.

Kim has done two volumes of this on-line, but he's not sure if it's going to continue. First Second needs to see how much this book sells before committing to more volumes, so it's on hold for a bit. I like Kim's work, even though I haven't read this yet, so I encourage you to check this out somehow to see if you like Kim's work too. It won't kill you!

Uncanny X-Force volume 5: Otherworld by Rick Remender (writer), Greg Tocchini (artist/colorist), Phil Noto (artist), Billy Tan (artist), Dean White (colorist), José Villarrubia (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $19.99, 121 pgs, FC, Marvel.

According to everyone, this arc features really terrible art. It's too bad, because Tocchini is pretty good, but for some reason, his art on this arc looks pretty lousy. I'll see if Remender's story can overcome it!


There's not much I have to say about the news of the world this week. I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I know I did - we live 2000 miles away from any family, so our holidays are always quiet, which is fine with me. I ate way too much, but that's not really news. My parents were hanging out with my sister, her kids, my mom's cousin and his extended family, so they had dinner with 16 people. I doubt if we could fit 16 people in our house, much less our dining room. No thank you. A big family dinner would be fine if we weren't hosting it. Then, I have no problem with it. But organizing the whole thing and cleaning up afterward? No thanks.

The big news this week is the violence in Gaza, which has gotten everyone in an uproar. They're in truce-mode right now, but who knows how long that will last. For years, the default opinion has been that conservatives like Israel while liberals like Palestinians, although that's certainly in flux when it comes to Jewish liberals. I think they're all a bunch of maniacs, fighting over a blasted wasteland that can barely support plant life, much less human life, but then I'm an atheist and don't really care about the "holiness" of the land in any way. I will say that I'd be a lot more supportive of the Palestinians but for two reasons: in 1947/48, the United Nations had a nice two-state plan in place, and while the Jews were ready to accept it, the Palestinians told the UN to go pound sand. Then they lost the war and they've been whining about it ever since. Since then, the entire point of the Palestinian leadership has not been to make life better for their own people, but to eliminate Israel. If you don't admit that your enemy even has a right to exist, you're not going to get much sympathy from me. It's terrible that Palestinian children are being killed (what about Israeli children?) and that Gaza is the most blasted of the wasteland in the entire blasted wasteland, but when your entire raison d'etre is to kill all the Jews in Israel, I can't feel too badly for you. Yes, the entire situation sucks and innocent people on both sides are getting killed. But let's not place all the blame on Israel, shall we? There's enough blame to go around! One fun thing to come out of the conflict is that Anderson Cooper has been taking time out to bash morons on Twitter who are trying to pick on him. Go, Anderson Cooper!

I did discover one interesting piece of trivia recently. We own a DVD of various Christmas classics, and my older daughter LOVES the two Frosty the Snowman television specials. In the second one, from 1992, we have Jonathan Winters as the narrator (hey, Jonathan Winters is still alive - good for him!), John Goodman as Frosty, Brian Doyle-Murray as the evil dude, and in the role of the little girl ... Elisabeth Moss, or Peggy Olson on Mad Men. Moss was ten at the time, and it's not like she was a stranger to acting - she started on Picket Fences that same year - but I just thought that was odd. I happened to be looking at the credits and thought, "Is that Peggy?" And lo, 'twas indeed. Mainly, I just mentioned that so I can link to this, which means I can write "Dollar, dollar bill, y'all" before Travis can!

Okay, let's move on to The Ten Most Recent Songs on My iPod (Which Is Always on Shuffle):

1. "Demagogue" - Urban Dance Squad (1994) "Attract a million ears, make 'em all insane"12. "The Last Day of Our Acquaintance" - Sinéad O'Connor (1990) "Two years ago the seed was planted and since then you have taken me for granted"2 3. "Spoonman" - Soundgarden (1994) "All my friends are skeletons"34. "W.H.Y.B." - Liquid Jesus (1991) "And still I wonder just what I've done; I'll see you tomorrow after how many setting suns"5. "Under Cover of Darkness" - Living Colour (1990) "I want to make you hot, touch that spot and send you on a trip"46. "Three Boats Down from the Candy" - Marillion (1982) "Don't think crying wolf will give you the answer" 7. "Bitchin' Camaro" - Dead Milkmen (1985) "I ran over some old lady one night at the county fair; and I didn't get arrested, because my dad's the mayor."8. "Lil' Devil" - The Cult (1987) "Trying to get to heaven 'fore the sun goes down"9. "Parachutes" - Pearl Jam (2006) "You're always wishing and never here at home"510. "Don't Pay the Ferryman" - Chris de Burgh (1982) "In the rolling mist, then he gets on board, now there'll be no turning back"6

1 UDS was a cool band. You know it's true!

2 One sappy thing my wife and I always do is hold hands when the plane we're on takes off. It's directly linked to this song. Yes, I'm sappy. So sue me. I've been happily married for 18 years, so we're doing something right.

3 Hey, Soundgarden has a new album out! Some of my friends are hella excited about this. Anyone heard it yet?

4 Whenever I hear this song, I automatically think of this song. Dang, Latifah is awesome.

5 I really ought to get me that Eddie Vedder ukulele album. That has to be excellent, right?

6 I dare you to not sing along to this song. "You must pay me now (DON'T DO IT!)" SING, DAMN YOU!!!!

Last week's Totally Random Lyrics were from Pink Floyd's "San Tropez," which is a really good song that doesn't really sound like later Floyd at all. Commenter ksebek knew the song, but only mentioned the album on which it appears, so I figured I'd clear it up. Let's check out more Totally Random Lyrics, 'k?

"It's late in the day and I ain't been on the court yetHustle to the mall to get me a short setYeah I got on sneaks but I need a new pairCause basketball courts in the summer got girls thereThe temperature's about 88Hop in the water plug just for old times sakeBreak to ya crib change your clothes once moreCause you're invited to a barbeque that's starting at four"

That's probably too easy, but you never know! Once again, I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving (if you celebrate Thanksgiving - all of you non-Yankees had to go to work like suckers!), and I hope everyone has a nice weekend. Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, so if you're disgusted by Black Friday (as I have since I was old enough to know what it is), check out some local stuff tomorrow!

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