What I bought - 22 August 2007

A guy at the comic book store yesterday was saying that the best we can hope for these days when we buy comics is that they don't suck.  Why would you buy comics if that's your attitude?  He claimed it had been a while since he had read a comic that truly dazzled him.  He didn't seem impressed by Batman, but sheesh - yesterday Mouse Guard and Iron Fist came out.  Plus a bunch of other fun comics!  In fact, when the worst comic I bought yesterday managed to feature a Mexican standoff/slaughter and a woman getting rescued by pink elephants and later failing to pass through spaceport security because she had three explosive darts in her chest, that's not a bad day.  People who think comics are mediocre aren't trying.  But enough!  Let's see if my computer holds up enough for me to have coherent thoughts about a bunch of books!

Astonishing X-Men #22 by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday.  $2.99, Marvel.

Back in the old days when we first arrived here at our new digs, I savaged the first trade paperback of Astonishing X-Men and set the fine standard of "just not getting it," according to the many people who didn't like what I had to say.  I haven't read an issue since, but I figured I would read this because, you know, I don't have to pay for it!  It's not bad, but I'm just not sure why this is such a big seller.  I mean, the art is absolutely stunning (except for Logan's thighs on that cover), but there's a bunch of stuff that is setting up something huge, and it leads to an ending that is, as usual, striving for awesome but has no power because we know nothing is going to happen to the character in question.  It's not a bad book by any means, but it's not the Second Coming of the Great X-Men.  Whedon is far too impressed with his bon mots, which is a reason I never got into Buffy the Vampire Slayer - whenever I watched it (my wife used to catch it), I felt the characters were just a bit too clever.  But that's just me.  The whole "X-Men in Space" thing was silly when Brubaker did it in Uncanny, and here it might be worse, because at least "The Rise and Fall ..." etc. featured characters we know and might care about it.  Maybe Whedon has made us care about these characters, but in this issue, at least, everyone's just going through the motions, throwing out pithy remarks (Peter David doesn't have a patent on pop culture references) and posing.  People like to say this reminds them of "old-school" X-Men, before Claremont lost his mind.  Well, the stuff Carey has been doing on X-Men (see below), although hampered by the art, is so much more old-school and better than this that it's ... astonishing!

Oh, and Kitty just lost her virginity?  Fuck the heck?  She hasn't made the beast with two backs prior to this?  Or is this just the first time she did the nasty with Colossus?

Batman #668 by Grant "All I wanted as a child was Timothy Leary's DIY LSD kit" Morrison and J. H. Williams III.  $2.99, DC.

Good God, this is a fantastic issue.  Where do I start?

First, the first three pages.  I like how "eight years ago" in DC's world means the comics look like something from the Sixties, when comics from eight years ago look pretty darned similar to today's comics.  Oh well - such are the vagaries of trying to deal with time in the DCU or MU.  And Cyril is kind of young, isn't he?  I always got the impression he was in his late 20s/early 30s.  He looks like he's 12, which would make him 20 in the present day.  Oh well.  It's still a very cool scene that adds a nice layer of mystery to the present-day proceedings.

Williams, of course, continues with the stunning artwork.  It's just amazing.  The panel layouts are wonderful, and Williams does a great job with full-page panels overlaid with smaller squares moving the story along.  The fight with the automated armor, taking place inside a bat-wing outline, is gorgeous.  The drawings themselves are cool enough, but why can't more artists come up with panel layouts like this?  It's not revolutionary, after all, and one would think artists have, you know, art talent.  Is Williams such a dominating presence that he's the only one who can get away with it?  I wish more artists would try stuff like this.

Oh, gosh, and there's Morrison's script.  It's not as clever as a lot of his work, but it's a great freakin' Batman comic.  The mystery deepens, Batman shows that he actually has a heart, Robin uses some detecting skillz (yay, Tim!), and just for fun, the killer forces one of the heroes to swallow a bomb.  Oh, that wacky killer!  And so on.  I've said this before, but when Morrison wants to write a damned good story, there are few better than he is.

I'm digging this comic.  Even if you don't like Morrison, you should check this three-issue arc out, because it's really cool.

Black Summer #2 (of 7) by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp.  $2.99, Avatar.

I got the preview issue and wasn't terribly impressed, but apparently the first issue was some damned fine comic bookery, so I snagged this (for free!) and paged through it.  Well, it's pretty darned good.  Ryp's art, which I've read as being too busy, is reminiscent of Geof Darrow, so if you like Darrow, you should like Ryp!  Easy as that!  Meanwhile, the writing is full of Ellis' techno-babble, but it zips along at a good clip, with lots of explosions and people blowing up, and the by-now-typical squabbling among the superpeople.  There's pretty much nothing here that is new, but that doesn't mean it's bad.  The superpeople tell everyone they don't want to fight American soldiers, but that doesn't work out.  They end up deciding that maybe John Horus has a good idea, slaughtering the president and all that.  Of course, they decide this just as the Army is about to bust down their door and kill them all, so I'm sure there will be quite the bloodbath next issue.  It's Ellis doing his thing.  You know how it is.

I will say one thing about comparing Bush to Hitler, as Ellis sort of does in this issue.  I think Bush is one of the worst presidents of all time, but here's the difference, which Ellis fails to make: I know that in January 2009, we will have a new president, no matter how dictatorial Bush/Cheney wants to be.  It might be another shitty president, but it will be a new one.  That's the difference.  That's why we're not Germany in the 1930s or, you know, Venezuela or Zimbabwe or North Korea or any number of other oppressive governments.  So there, Warren Ellis.

Blue Beetle #18 by John Rogers, Rafael Albuquerque, David Baldeon, and Dan Davis.  $2.99, DC.

The same guy who whined about not having anything more than mediocre comics to read threatened to take me outside the store and fight me if I claimed Blue Beetle is a good comic.  He claimed the only reason I escaped was because I had my two-year-old daughter with me.  He was joking, of course, but I forgot to ask him if he had read it recently.  I know everyone says that the first 6-10 issues of this comic were awful, but I have been reading since issue #14 and haven't read a bad one yet.  This issue is totally old-school, setting up a problem and then having the heroes fix it.  What's wrong with something like that?  Jaime's alien friends want to stop the launch of a rocket from "America's first private commercial spaceport," and they hire Lobo to keep it on the ground.  Jaime teams up with the Teen Titans to make sure the rocket launches.  Simple, right?

There's a lot of very funny banter, including pointing out that fighting in a belly shirt might not be the wisest choice, and Lobo fails in his mission, as we knew he would.  The only problem I have with the issue is the choice of Lobo, because it's been made clear that Lobo is pretty much unstoppable, yet a bunch of kids manage to stop him.  I know they barely stop him and don't really defeat him, but it stretches credulity just a tad.  It's not that big a deal, however, just a small point.

It's a very fun comic.  Why not check it out?  It's one-and-done!!!!

Bonds #1 (of 3) by Durwin S. Talon.  $3.99, Image.

This is the last comic I picked up for free, because it looked intriguing, but I wasn't sure it was worth 4 dollars.  Well, it's not, but it is kind of neat.

Talon (Talon?) tells the story of Faith Warner, a concert cellist who's engaged to her conductor.  No, it's not the Maestro from Seinfeld or 50 Cent, but that's okay.  Meanwhile, her father, who works for a huge pharmaceutical company, discovers that the company is developing an "airborne contagion" that kills people but leaves the infrastructure intact.  Because, as we know, all pharmaceutical companies in entertainment are totally evil.  Anyway, Faith's father cannot be allowed to live with his knowledge!!!!!  Faith comes upon her father before he dies, and he tells her about the evil plot.  So of course the company comes after her, and when they knock her unconscious, she goes to some idyllic place where she meets her spirit guide, who she calls "the princess of the forest."  The princess tells Faith that her mother had some kind of power that allowed her to "bind" things together, and Faith is the heir to that power.  She can use it to maintain balance in nature or use it to stop the wicked, or use it for revenge.  Faith chooses ... REVENGE!  When she wakes up, the bad guys are gone and she has a spider tattoo on her hand.  What could this portend?????

It's a nice set-up story, with some potential.  We'll have to see where it goes.  Talon's art is in the computer-enhanced style of Matt Silady's The Homeless Channel and Jon Proctor's The Black Diamond, and although that kind of art can be a bit disconcerting, Talon's coloring and his use of effects makes it work pretty well.  It's a nice-looking comic.

Again, it's not really worth 4 dollars.  I might have to see how much the inevitable trade is.

The Immortal Iron Fist #8 by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja, and Roy Allan Martinez.  $2.99, Marvel.

Danny Rand heads for K'un-Lun for the big tournament in which he fights as his city's champion, and it's as cool as the first story arc was, while continuing the whole subplot of Hydra and the Steel Serpent treating Danny's partner poorly.  The mystery of Danny's father deepens, of course, and the Steel Serpent is his city's champion, of course.  Brubaker and Fraction have done a nice job in a short time of giving us plenty of history of Iron Fist, which means that everything has a menacing undercurrent.  The participants in the tournament are suitably interesting, too - there's Fat Cobra, who's huge yet quick; the Bride of Nine Spiders, who's creepy; Dog Brother #1, who's just a tough guy; and Tiger's Beautiful Daughter, your typical sexy assassin.  The mysterious Prince of Orphans gets a first-round bye - how does he rate?  Anyway, it looks great, as Aja continues to do a fine job, with Martinez, who doesn't get enough work, providing the flashback stuff, and the story cruises along.  It's a very neat comic book.

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #1 (of 6) by David Petersen.  $3.50, Archaia Studios Press.

If you missed Mouse Guard the first time around, here's your chance to make amends!  Let's hope this is a bit easier to find after the surprising success of the first series.  Petersen gives us a bit of a recap, both on the first page (where we learn he's not much of a poet) and throughout the book.  The main action of the book involves a mouse patrol trying to get through the rough winter to gather some supplies for Lockhaven, the main mouse city.  Meanwhile, back in Lockhaven, there's some general plot outlining, which presumably will come into play later.  The scenes out in the snow are dynamic, with the mice thwarting an owl attack and dealing with some problems that come from lots of snow.  It leads to a nice cliffhanger ending that fits in with the idea that these are, in fact, mice.  Petersen's art is the highlight, as usual, but the story is also gripping and nicely set up.  After the autumnal beauty of the previous mini-series, the snow scenes are wonderful and stark, while the interiors show the ways mice adapt to their surroundings.  It's a very nice start to what should be another excellent mini-series.

Don't delay!  Buy it today!

The Order #2 by Matt Fraction, Barry Kitson, and Mark Morales.  $2.99, Marvel.

I liked this issue of The Order, as Fraction gives us a nice weird threat that makes sense in a comic-book way and plenty of action.  He does some nice things with the characters, as one team member simply can't do what needs to be done and needs someone else to come in and do some killing.  Becky's abilities to shapeshift come in rather handy, and Kitson does a great job with it.  As I mentioned last issue, his art is always good, but his DC work is a bit cleaner, and I'm not sure if it Morales' inking that gives it a nice rough look to it.

The only real problem I have with the book is Becky's little arc, which shows us her life as a celebrity.  She goes from beauty pageants to recording artist and actress, and it's supposed to be a comment on all the teen singers who dress like sluts, I guess.  It's just kind of dull, because we read about people like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears and Paris Hilton every day (our local newspaper has a separate section of the "Living" pages devoted to those three).  So the ending, while interesting in how it will fit into the story, considering Becky just saved the world, isn't as shocking as it's supposed to be.  It's certainly not enough to ruin the book, but it's just kind of uninspiring.

Still, it's a cool comic.  That's all we can ask for!

Repo #3 (of 5) by Rick Spears and Rob G.  $3.50, Image.

The worst comic I bought this week is still pretty good, although I worry about the strange nature of the book.  I mentioned that Spears has a problem with being a bit too snotty in an attempt to be edgy, which battles with his rather neat ideas and usually good dialogue.  In issue #1, the bad side was ascendant.  In issue #2, he reined it in a bit.  In issue #3, it's back a bit, although we're enough into the story that it doesn't overwhelm the main plot.  I mean, someone getting a clone's finger in the mouth sounds a lot cooler than it turns out to be.  And although the carnage is quite nice, I really don't buy the fact that six people can take out an entire squad of soldiers/police who are armed with automatic rifles.  I mean, I can barely buy it when an unarmed gang can't overwhelm one or two good guys, but when they're actually armed, it stretches our suspension of disbelief just a tad.  I'm three issues in, so I'm pretty much locked in for the next two, but I'm a bit worried about how it's going to play out.  Oh well.

Rob G's art is, as usual, quite good.  I'm not exactly sure what the deal is with the pink elephants, but why the hell not?  And he gets to draw a lot of heads exploding, so there's that!

The Weapon #3 (of 4) by Fred van Lente and Scott Koblish.  $2.99, Platinum Studios Comics.

You know, this comic is like a Devil Dog - it doesn't take a long time to get through, but it puts a smile on your face.  It's a very fun comic with lots of neat action, some drama (oh, will Tommy save his partner?), and a good bunch of historical mumbo-jumbo that sounds just credible enough to get us through.  We're ready for the big showdown next issue, and I'll be there for all the martial arts goodness!  Everyone needs a Drake's chocolate cake occasionally!

X-Men #202 by Mike Carey, Humberto Ramos, and Carlos Cuevas.  $2.99, Marvel.

I hate to keep harping on Ramos' art, but look at that cover.  Yuck.  Out of the many egregious panels, the one where Kitty hugs the New X-Man dude who figures out Blindfold isn't dead is the one that sticks in my head.  It's a slight panel in the grand scheme of the issue, but Kitty just looks so ... weird.  It's bizarre.

Anyway, I don't want to dwell on the art, because Carey is doing such a masterful job with this title that it's strange that people are still calling Astonishing X-Men the best "old-school" X-title.  Carey has been building such a great long-term story, and even though it's a tiny bit annoying that he's dredging up stuff like Destiny's Diaries that were dull the first time around, I like what he's doing with them this time.  As is becoming typical with his run, in this issue we get some answers which lead into bigger questions, misdirection that keeps us guessing, some great action, some nice character moments, and a bold ending that does a good job setting up the next issue.  Carey is fully invested in using a lot of the X-Men's history, even the parts we'd like to forget (he brings up Vargas in this issue, for crying out loud!), and it's cool to see.  What I like about this more than Astonishing is that Whedon, from the little I've read of that comic, seems to think the history of the X-Men stopped around 1986.  Carey knows that a lot of the X-stories over the past twenty years haven't been the greatest, but they're still part of the canon, so why not use them?  What the hell, right?

Each issue of Carey's run gets better, which is a very good way to write a book.  Heck, I may even start to like Ramos' art one day!  But don't count on it.

Hmmm.  My computer seems to be working pretty well since I brought it back from the repair place, even though they didn't actually do any work on it.  That's odd.  Anyway, if it stays in one piece, maybe I'll be able to post longer stuff like I enjoy doing.  Bwah-ha-ha-ha!  That's right, people - the long-winded one MAY be back!  Suffer!

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