What I bought - 22 January 2014

There comes a time in the life cycle of a nation when no decision that can be made is the right one and no action that can be taken is intelligent. (Joseph Heller, from Picture This)

Atomic Robo and the Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #5 (of 5) by Brian Clevinger (writer), Nick Filardi (colorist), Jeff Powell (letterer), Scott Wegener (artist), and Lee Black (editor). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Red 5 Comics.

The latest volume of Atomic Robo comes to an end, but unlike pretty much all the other ones, Clevinger and Wegener have admitted that this is an ongoing, as they end it on two cliffhangers. In the past, they've linked stories to other volumes and continued a plot thread begun in one to another (which didn't follow it directly), but this is the first time the stories haven't resolved completely. Fret not - the Dr. Dinosaur story does come to an end, but it leaves Robo in a strange place that will, I assume, be the focus of the next mini-series, while Clevinger leaves us hanging in the story about the assault on Robo's headquarters - we move forward in that plot, but it's nowhere near close to resolving.

I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, I like ongoing series, and Clevinger and Wegener have done enough of these that events are going to start bumping into each other, and long-running plots are always pretty interesting in serialized fiction. Plus, Hellboy has been pretty successful going this route, and whenever you model yourself after Hellboy, you're doing something right. On the other hand, I always worry when creators try to do this because of the attrition factor. I don't know if people are beating down Wegener's door, but he's a good artist, and if he's not making a ton of money doing Robo (which, of course, I hope he is), then he's going to be tempted by jobs that actually pay dollar, dollar bills, y'all. The nice thing about doing a series of mini-series is that you can take some time between them, and while I'm sure that Robo will continue to be a series of mini-series, I don't know how financially stable that has been and will continue to be. The problem with becoming, ostensibly, an ongoing is that readers might not pick up the latest mini-series because they haven't read earlier mini-series. The way they're going now, a new reader can start with a new mini-series with the reasonable expectation that they'll be able to follow along pretty easily, because Clevinger and Wegener have provided a pseudo-reset with each #1. If that's out the door, will the sales suffer? I don't know the answer to any of these questions, and I could just be pissing into the wind here, but I do think about stuff like this. I think Atomic Robo is such a great book that I want it to continue for as long as Clevinger and Wegener want to do it, so anything that might upset that makes me think. I do like the idea from a creative standpoint, however.

Anyway, one of the cool things about this mini-series is that so many supporting characters get to shine. Clevinger has gotten better and better at that - now that we know some of the people who work for Robo a bit better, we can see them in action, and they're all very capable in different ways, which is nice. It means that the two dudes at Robo's headquarters can't fight their way out because they don't fight very well, but they figure out a way for Jenkins to get free, and Jenkins is smart enough to take advantage of it. Clevinger has done a nice job with all of the characters, so they act accordingly. Wegener, of course, continues to be tremendous, as he gets to draw weird and wacky monsters in this book and he has way too much fun with Dr. Dinosaur's googly eyes. The way Robo and his team defeat Dr. Dinosaur is well done, and the cliffhanger is fun, too, because it proves that maybe Robo was wrong about his nemesis in one aspect, at least.

The trade should be out soon, and as always, you'd do yourself a favor by buying it. Atomic Robo is comics done right, and there's no excuse not to try it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman '66 #7 ("The Fiend Is False!"/"The Joker's Layoff Riot!") by Wes Abbott (letterer), Tony Aviña (colorist), Derec Donovan (artist, "Riot"), Christopher Jones (artist, "Fiend"), Tom Peyer (writer, "Riot"), Jeff Parker (writer, "Fiend"), Aniz Ansair (assistant editor), and Jim Chadwick (senior editor). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC. Batman and Jim Gordon created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Robin and the Joker created by Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, and Bob Kane. Chief O’Hara created by Edmond Hamilton. The Riddler created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang. False Face created by Bill Finger.

Moseying right along is Batman '66, with a False Face story that is fairly charming and a Joker story that is dumb for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately. Parker's main story features False Face pretending to be Bruce Wayne and pawning fake jewelry for real cash, and of course the police try to arrest Mr. Wayne but can't because he's too busy being Batman so they can't find him. It features a trip to Mount Rushmore and a cameo by Lyndon Johnson, and one puzzling plot point - can False Face not only change his face, but his entire body, too? That seems rather odd. Anyway, the fact that Bat-villains are compelled to leave clues becomes a big part of this story, which always undermines Batman stories a bit. But Jones does a very nice job with the artwork, and Parker's script is pretty fun.

Peyer's Joker story is fine, too, except for the pay-off. The Joker doesn't want to pay so many henchmen, so he downsizes. It's pretty funny and seeing the Joker disguised as a hippie is almost worth the price of admission, but the reason Batman arrests him is really dumb. I mean, really dumb. It pretty much ruins the story, unfortunately. Until then, though, it's not bad, and Donovan's artwork - with the exception of his Joker mustache - is nicely done. Man, that last page, though ... blech.

So it's not the greatest issue of Batman '66, but considering that it's probably the best book DC is publishing right now, it can drop a bit in quality and still be pretty good. And Bruce Wayne wearing an ascot is never a bad thing!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman #5 ("Pawns of the Colossus") by Tamra Bonvillain (colorist), Josh S. Henaman (writer), and Andy Taylor (artist). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Brewhouse Comics.

I'm not sure if Henaman, Taylor, and Bonvillain are going to continue this series, as next issue promises to be the "conclusion" - I don't know if that's just for this arc, or if they're putting the comic to bed, but it seems that if the comic is ending, it's ending with a lot left undone. There's just too much storytelling potential for this comic to be confined to a six-issue arc. Either way, something is getting wrapped up next issue!

This is an interesting issue, because for the first half, it seemed like Henaman was coasting a bit. Bigfoot was captured, along with Castor, our unreliable narrator (who tells us he's unreliable in case we haven't figured it out yet), and they begin the long trek back to where they started. It's a bit frustrating to read when Castor actually narrates that - that they're back in the same place, with nothing seemingly resolved. Prior to that, Henaman does some nice stuff, as Castor continues to carry the bulk of the conversation (Bigfoot still doesn't talk) and we get to learn a bit more about him. He's a jerk, but even jerks have feelings, after all. Then the big bad guy, Lord Jeoffa, lets him go. It's an interesting gambit, because Jeoffa is counting on a couple of things: that Castor will not try to save Bigfoot because he's a cynical jerk, and that Castor will do what Jeoffa tells him and tell everyone about his greatness in bringing Bigfoot to heel. For a brief instant, I actually believed that Henaman would simply have Castor ride off and ignore Bigfoot's suffering. But of course he doesn't, as he returns to save him. That's when things get really good, as Henaman manages to take a fairly stereotypical scenario and wring some good drama out of it. The cool thing about the ending of the book is that he stays true to how he's written both characters until that point, so while certain things happen (and I don't want to give them away, of course), they don't feel forced. Even Castor's return isn't too surprising, given how his cynicism throughout the first few issues has always been a bit of protesting too much. But the way things play out, while not too shocking, is still well done, as Henaman has managed to create some interesting characters in only a few issues, so we actually care what happens but also feel like he's not pulling things out of his butt to force a resolution.

Taylor and Bonvillain continue to be a nice team, with the earth tones of Mars dominating the latter half of the book, which makes the intrusion of greens a bit interesting. Taylor has gotten a bit better at subtle things, like hatching for effect - the panel of Bigfoot strapped to a stone wheel is a very nice one, with spot blacks giving Bigfoot's fur a supple look and the thin lines of the rock making it look carved and sharp. As Bigfoot remains silent, Taylor has to pick up the slack, and there are some nice facial expressions as events occur around him that Taylor is quite good at. There's still some stiffness in the figures and some wonkiness with the panel-to-panel storytelling, but in that instance, at least, I don't know if that's Taylor or Henaman's script not being clear enough. Still, the art is quite good, and that's always nice to see.

You can still buy issues of Bigfoot at the Brewhouse store, and I encourage you to check them out. I really appreciate Henaman sending this to me, because it's a solid, pulpy, hero's quest that has good action and good character work. And, you know, Bigfoot. I'm curious to see how much they cram into the 6th issue!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Chew #39 ("Family Recipes Part 4 of 5") by Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), John Layman (writer/letterer), and Taylor Wells (color assistant). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Layman and Guillory continue to up the ante on comics awesomeness with this story, and I really cannot wait to see how they wrap this arc up. Layman has been getting crazier and crazier, but also better and better at labyrinthine plot structures that loop around and back on themselves and finally take us where we need to go - he's always done that on Chew, but it feels like it's becoming more effortless for him (which I know it's not, but it just makes the way he writes this more impressive). In this issue, he links back to the alien writing that appeared in the sky a bunch of issues ago, tying it into both Amelia's novel that she writes while she's eating the fruit of that weird plant that tastes like chicken and Tony's recent forays into cannibalism (about which I don't want to say more because of spoilery stuff). Plus, he still has time to send Amelia and Olive on a mission to the FDA, where they need a secret ingredient to cook up a batch of ... something that will help Tony. And of course there are bad guys there. Why wouldn't there be? So we have a different level of reality, because of course we do, but we also have the regular bizarre reality in which the book already operates, and Layman does a nice job linking the two of them.

The art, naturally, is superb as usual. Guillory gives us the standard excellent characterization, the slow burns over several panels, and the brilliant action sequences, but in this issue, he has to change some of the coloring on the book, and he does that wonderfully as well. The "alternate reality" pages are bright and gaudy, which sets them apart from the "real" world but also gives them a disturbing sheen, as if nothing could be that cotton-candy and not be bad for you. It's always nice to see artists do some new things, and just experimenting a little bit with the way he colors the book makes those pages clash in a very cool way with the rest of the issue.

As Layman and Guillory gear up for the home stretch of the comic, it's nice to see that they're still firing on all cylinders. Chew remains as good as ever!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dark Horse Presents #32. "Hellboy Gets Married Chapter 2" by Mick McMahon (artist), Mike Mignola (writer), Clem Robins (letterer), and Dave Stewart (colorist); "Integer City Chapter 3: Power in the Blood" by Jean-Francois Beaulieu (colorist), Crank! (letterer), Jamie S. Rich (writer), and Brent Schoonover (artist); "The Deleted" by Darrin Grimwood (writer), Brendan McCarthy (writer/artist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); "Crime Does Not Pay Presents City of Roses Chapter 11" by Bill Farmer (colorist), Nate Piekos (letterer), Patric Reynolds (artist), and Phil Stanford (writer); "Nexus: Into the Past Chapter 8: Stolen Away") by Mike Baron (writer), The Dude (artist), and Glenn Whitmore (colorist); "Monstrous: Dirty Work After the Apocalypse Chapter 3" by Ryan Cody (artist/colorist) and Steve Horton (writer/letterer); "Kill Me! Chapter 2" by Chad Lambert (writer), Christine Larsen (artist), and Jaymes Reed (letterer); "Saint George Dragonslayer Chapter 3" by Reilly Brown (artist), Jeremy Colwell (colorist), Dave Lanphear (letterer), and Fred van Lente (writer); "The Many Murders of Miss Cranbourne: The Library in the Body Chapter 1" by Rich Johnston (writer), Jim Reddington (letterer), and Simon Rohrmüller (artist); "Alabaster: Boxcar Tales Chapter 13" by Caitlín R. Kiernan (writer), Steve Lieber (artist), and Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist); Jim Gibbons (associate editor), Scott Allie (contributing editor), Daniel Chabon (contributing editor), Chris Warner (contributing editor), and Brendan Wright (contributing editor). $7.99, 81 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

All the usual cool stuff is in here, from the rather truncated ending to Hellboy's marriage (it seems truncated, at least, although I'm sure it's exactly as long as Mignola wanted it to be) to the final installment of Kiernan's "Alabaster" series, at least for now (possibly, although maybe she's just done with it). There's a very headache-inducing time travel story (with some nice art, to be fair), a new murder mystery for Miss Cranbourne (I love Miss Cranbourne), part 3 of the quite exciting George and the dragon story (with a very funny sequence), and the usual melodrama from Mike Baron.

I'm interested in the new Brendan McCarthy story, though, because McCarthy doesn't do many comics anymore (unless they're just not getting published over here), and it's a bit annoying. However, "The Deleted" isn't one of his better works, and it's too bad. So far, the story is about a dude who wakes up and doesn't know where he is - he appears to be in a destroyed city - and he discovers that there are small groups of humans trying to avoid odd creatures called "weirlocks" who look like animated machines and who can zap you into non-existence if they touch you. Okay. The story isn't the issue, however - McCarthy's art is. McCarthy has always been on the cutting edge of using all sorts of non-traditional tools to create artwork, and it never bothered me too much because he was so good at it. He's become a bit more reliant on it, but again, it never bothered me because he knows what he's doing - see The Zaucer of Zilk for a prime example. So what's wrong with this art? Well, the coloring is terrible. It's really dull and ugly, which might be the point, but because it's so dark, it's hard to see everything, and it almost makes it look as if McCarthy is ashamed of it, which can't be a good tone. He doesn't seem to integrate the computer effects into the art as well, either. The big shot of the narrator looking out of the hotel in which he wakes up at the ruined city is terrible. The hotel is not drawn, but placed in from a photograph and then sloppily colored. The trash on the ground is similarly added into the frame and not drawn. It looks terrible, but what's even worse is that the other parts of the story, where the debris and figures are drawn, the transfer to print is poorly done, with fuzzy lines dominating while the effects are awkwardly shoehorned in. Even some of the more lurid coloring, which has become something of a McCarthy staple as he became more enamored with computerized effects, don't seem to work as well - they look a bit slipshod. It's depressing, actually, because this kind of Day-Glo weirdness is what makes a McCarthy comic so visually interesting, but this opening chapter looks less than professionally produced and reproduced (I don't know how much of the issue is from the transfer to print). I always like to see a new McCarthy comic, and I hope this gets better quickly.

It's still Dark Horse Presents, though, so that's only a small section of the book, and for the most part, the rest is up to the usual high standard of quality of this series. So there's that.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Doc Savage #2 by Bilquis Evely (artist), Daniela Miwa (colorist), Chris Roberson (writer), and Rob Steen (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite. Doc Savage created by Lester Dent, Harry Ralston, and John Nanovic.

From what it seems like after two issues, this can't be an ongoing, right? At the end of this issue, we find out that issue #3 takes place in 1961. I mean, maybe Roberson is planning to bring Doc up to the present world and then slow things down so that we have adventures in the present, like Dynamite has done with the Shadow and the Spider, but that seems weird. I mean, it's fine that Dynamite is doing that, and more power to them, but it seems like it might work better for the Shadow and the Spider, as they're crime-fighters. Doc is more of an adventurer, at least from what I know of him (which isn't much), and the 1930s and 1940s seem much more fitting for an adventurer, because there was still a lot of places in the world that were mysterious, so people like Doc and his crew could make more sense. These days, I fear he'd be just another crime-fighter, which is kind of boring. I mean, he could go into the jungles of South America or the jungles of Africa or the frozen wastes of Siberia or the deserts of Australia, but he'd just find corporations exploiting the locals and the book would get depressing. Can't it just be escapism?

I'm probably overthinking this, as usual, but I do wonder about Roberson speeding through the decades. In the meantime, we have two solid issues of the new book, as in this one, Doc's niece Pat (carrying on the tradition of wearing jodhpurs for absolutely no reason whatsoever) is kicking ass and taking names, but the ass she does kick, Professor Vitas, has a dastardly plan to get inside Doc's Super-Duper Brain-Washing Emporium, where he "rehabilitates" criminals by, presumably, giving them the "Sucker Punch" treatment (Doc, of course, sees it differently, but it's interesting that he doesn't actually refute Vitas's accusations), and when he does, he treats Miss Patricia rather poorly. Vitas is a sideshow, designed so that Doc has to save Pat's life and forward the plot along, which does happen. Oh, such a dark secret Doc is hiding! I wonder if it will come out and cause many problems?

The story is perfectly fine, and I'm really liking Evely's art. She has a really nice sense of design, and she draws the characters very well. She hasn't had too much action to draw yet, but what she does have to do, she does pretty well. This is a fairly text-heavy book (I actually don't love Roberson's narration), so she hasn't had a chance to show off too much so far, but her art is impressive. Miwa's coloring is nice, too, as I mentioned last issue - a lot of Dynamite books have that computerized sheen on the art, which bludgeons the pencils, but Miwa's colors work well with Evely's lines, and the book is very nice to look at.

I wasn't sure if I was going to keep buying this comic or wait for the trade, and I'm still not sure. So far, though, it's a solid adventure book. It's good to see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hawkeye #16 by Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), Matt Fraction (writer), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), Annie Wu (artist), Devin Lewis (assistant editor), Stephen Wacker (editor), and Sana Amanat (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel. Kate Bishop created by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung.

Okay, first of all, ye olde editor points out in the back of the book that this is issue #16, meaning it's coming out before issue #15. I get that this went to print long before they knew about this so they couldn't just renumber this, but man, that's dumb. How long before the ridiculous scheduling of this book makes people look at the cracks in it and it just falls apart? Yeah, probably never, because that's how much the people love the Hawkeye!

Anyway, this is a nice encapsulation of all that is good and bad about Hawkeye. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Wu's art - at times it looks like DD-era Mazzuchelli, but it has a flair all its own. She draws Kate really well - a bit less gritty than Aja does, but more wide-eyed and hopeful (which does get her into trouble, but still). She and Hollingsworth do a nice job getting the sedate, nostalgic look of Los Angeles, which works well on this story. Wu doesn't challenge the way comics look like Aja has been doing on this series, but she's no slouch in putting together a comic book.

Fraction's story is extremely slight, which isn't a bad thing in and of itself. Kate gets finds an old musician who claims his brother is leaking parts of his long-germinating masterpiece, and Kate sets out to make it right. Part of the charm of the book is that Kate is a terrible private investigator, which ties into the vibe Fraction is going for, as the late 1970s/early 1980s P.I. shows that Fraction obviously was weaned on featured guys who weren't great investigators either - they were smart dudes, but they failed or at least didn't solve cases as often as they did. So that's not too big an issue, although the fact that the actual "case" isn't even really a case is problematic. Fraction is going for a laid-back vibe, but the vibe is so laid-back it's almost comatose. Kate's on her own a lot, too, so it's not like there's even a ton of sparkling dialogue - there's a lot of internal narration, and it's not that great. I mean, "self-flagel-kate-tion"? Really?

It's the way Fraction writes Kate that makes this issue a dud, unfortunately. He has been writing Kate very well, but in this issue, she's obnoxious, to the point where I want someone to chuck her in jail like the cop keeps threatening to do. Plus, Fraction still doesn't write people younger than himself very well at all - of course, he's not alone in this, but where Scott Lobdell gets ripped for it, Fraction gets praised. It's most annoying in the pop culture references, something that you might recall I've ranted about before. So let's check this out (keeping in mind that Kate is at least 18 years old but no older than 21 - was she drinking during the Young Avengers party? - and hasn't been living in a hole her entire life):

Kate has never heard of the Bryson Brothers. According to her pal, the Bryson Brothers are essentially the Beach Boys. Will Bryson was working on "Wish," which is basically Brian Wilson's Smile, but his brother, Grey, resented him because he took so damned long recording it. That's the crux of the case. I can deal with Kate never having heard of the Bryson Brothers, because according to her pal, they "never made it out of L.A." So they're the Beach Boys if the Beach Boys never got big.

Kate knows what THX-1138 is. Hmmm.

Kate knows who Nurse Ratchet is.

Kate knows who Metallica's drummer is.

Kate knows who Mike Brady is. She also knows what the Bates Motel is.

Kate knows who Syd Barrett is, for crying out loud (despite being a "cellist" and not being into "pop nonsense" - I guess she's into "prog nonsense," though).

Kate knows who Sharon Tate is.

Kate knows what A.S.C.A.P. is, enough to make a joke about it. She makes a joke about it right after singing Beach Boys lyrics.

Kate knows who Joe Frazier is.

Kate does not know what the Maltese Falcon is.

This is very weird. Kate seems to know quite a lot about popular culture, fairly obscure pop culture at that, but she doesn't know what the Maltese Falcon is? And why would she know who some of those things and people are? Whenever I get into this, I get a bunch of people who go on about how they know what all this stuff is and they're 20 years old, but this kind of thing really bugs me, because it feels false. It makes Kate feel less like an actual character and more like "Matt Fraction" writing the things that pop into his head from when he was young, not what someone like Kate would know about. Maybe it's just me, but the torrent of pop culture references in this issue didn't make me chuckle, it made me scratch my puzzler.

Plus, Kate is kind of a jerk. She's not very nice to the librarian and kind of resents her when she asks for help stealing music off the Internet. I mean, maybe she was joking, but I doubt it. And where does she meet Will Bryson? On the freeway (the 405, specifically). While riding her bicycle. Yes, she's riding her bicycle on the freeway. What the fuck, Kate? Not only is that kind of douchey, it's illegal and really dangerous. Yet it passes without comment. I get, again, that Kate is supposed to be somewhat naïve and that in New York you can ride your bike all over the place, but she's pissed off that people on the freeway aren't happy about a young lady riding a fucking bicycle on the fucking freeway. I mean, come on.

Anyway, this makes it a typical issue of Hawkeye. There's nice art, there's a weird plot that doesn't really go anywhere but that doesn't matter too much, there's some clever writing, and there's some really obnoxious writing, too. The obnoxious writing is a bit more prevalent in this issue than usual, but it's not like it hasn't happened before. It's what's keeping me from loving this comic as much as everyone else. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever #3. "The Search for Glenn" by Tom Neely (writer/artist); "Henry & Glenn Go to the Pharmacy" by MariNaomi (writer/artist); "Going to Gaydes" by Justin Hall (writer/artist). $5.00, 27 pgs, BW, I Will Destroy You Comics.

So in the main story of this comic, Henry accidentally let Glenn's mother out of her tomb, and Glenn ran away from home because she was so cloying. Henry enlists Daryl and John to find him, and Neely takes us on a fun tour through strip clubs and comic book stores and odd metal lairs before they find Glenn at a karoake bar, but before they can leave, Glenn's mother shows up. Neely's script is quite funny, as Daryl and John are a bit too interested in strippers, Henry gets really angry at the comic book store, and Glenn's mother looks like Miss Grundy from Riverdale, which is a nice touch. The art is always nice - Neely really gets the likenesses of Henry, Glenn, Daryl, and John, and I'm sure there are a lot of people on the final double-page spread that I ought to recognize but don't (Prince is there, though - good for him!). As usual, the main story is quite fun.

The back-up stories are okay, but not great. MariNaomi's charming story is fine, although I've never loved her artwork. Justin Hall sends Glenn to Hell to retrieve Henry's soul after he "swallowed his microphone during a spoken word performance," and Daryl and John, being Satanists and all, help him reach it. It's very Oedipal, and Hall's denizens of "Gaydes," complete with the gay icons you expect, are pretty funny. His art is quite good - very detailed - but the fact that he draws everyone a bit close to their "real-life" counterparts is a bit off-putting. Still, there's a nice twist at the end, so that's fun.

Next issue is the final one (for now, I guess), and I'm sure it will be as good as every other issue of this series has been. Henry and Glenn Forever and Ever is quite charming, often funny, and usually well drawn. That's not a bad thing!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Massive #19 ("Bloc Part 1 of 3: Satellite") by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Garry Brown (artist), Jared K. Flethcer (letterer), Brian Wood (writer), Jim Gibbons (associate editor), and Sierra Hahn (editor). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

I considered dropping The Massive, but I decided to stick with it, as Wood seems to be getting on with the big plot and it's not going to last too much longer anyway. I don't have a lot to say about it, though. Brown's John Paul Leon thing on art works quite well for the tone of the book, and Wood continues to do a slow burn on all the various subplots. It's intriguing but not overwhelmingly compelling. I imagine it will read better as a whole, and I have enough faith in Wood to pull it off. I just can't get too worked up about individual issues unless they really have something big happen. This one doesn't, so it's just a good read. I'm not quite sure why the text piece at the beginning of the book basically gives away everything that happens in the comic - was the text piece supposed to run next issue and accidentally got dropped here? Seems strange. Oh, and Callum is a douchebag. But you knew that already.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mind Mgmt #18 ("The Zookeeper") by Matt Kindt (writer/artist), Ian Tucker (assistant editor), and Brendan Wright (editor). $3.99, 25 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Kindt throws a single-issue story at us while still managing to tie it into the bigger story, even though I doubt he'll return to it anytime soon. He tells the tale of Ella, a girl who can talk to animals (and can understand them). Naturally she's recruited by Mind Management, but she doesn't really dig what they're doing with animals. It's a very happy story, even though there are some sad elements, because Ella is so empathetic that she is able to convince others to do the right thing and then, when even that doesn't work, she is able to find an even better solution. It's one of these stories that a full orchestra would do justice to; a few scenes would justify the corniest of John Williams's scores. The nice thing about it is that Kindt can slide a bit into sweet sentimentality, but because Ella is such a charming young girl (and Kindt is really good), he gets away with it, and that helps set up later scenes where she's still charming, but she's been tempered a bit and takes no shit. In only a few pages, Kindt manages to transform this girl so that when Meru meets her, she's the happiest person Meru has ever met. It's neat.

The art is great, too, especially because Kindt does some clever things with perspective, but also because he shows some scenes from Ella's point of view, and she imagines the world a bit differently than everyone else. It's part of her charm, and the page that Kindt draws in a slightly different style is tremendous. As usual, there's so much to enjoy about Kindt's work, and he keeps adding small touches to it that make it even more enjoyable.

So, yeah. Another good issue of Mind Mgmt. I like that he chucks these single-issue stories at us, because they're nice quick stories that expand the world before he focuses on Meru and Lyme and their crew again. It's a nice tactic that many creator-owned books do these days but many mainstream comics don't, and I wish they did. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Pretty Deadly #4 by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer), Emma Ríos (artist), and Sigrid Ellis (editor). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

Here's another comic that I'm on the fence about, but I'm willing to give it a bit of a longer chance. DeConnick has managed, at the end of the third issue, to get to the point, and so this issue is a bit more focused than the first three, which is nice. It's still a bit too lyrical and showy, which is why I still might drop it. Here's the thing about the way DeConnick is writing this. I like when writers try different things, so I'm not going to hold it against her, but you really do have to nail it, and she doesn't all the time, so when she doesn't, it stands out like a sore thumb. And if you're going to write like this for the entire length of the run (however long she plans to write this comic), you better be brilliant at it. As I was reading this, I was thinking about movies that do this. Some Westerns, obviously, have done this kind of thing - a lot of Clint Eastwood's Westerns are remarkably lyrical, for instance. The movie that I kept thinking of was The Thin Red Line, which isn't a Western but uses a lot of the same tropes. The thing about The Thin Red Line, however, is that it's relatively short (it's a long movie, but it's still over in a few hours), which sets it apart from a serialized piece of fiction that could last for years. Movies can get away with this a bit more, too, because of the music. As spare as the scores of some of the movies that resemble Pretty Deadly are, they add a tone to the creation that comics can't hope to match. Comics do almost everything as well as or better than movies (yes, I'm biased, but I stand by it!), but there's two things they can't do: make a script better because an actor makes it better, and use music. The writing in the comic would be better, I think, if it were spoken, because actors could add their own nuances to it (obviously, they'd have to be good actors) and a soundtrack would help with the tone. DeConnick has only Ríos and Bellaire to help her, and while that's not bad, it's not quite enough. Of course, this would also make heavy use of CGI, which is one area that movies are far inferior to comics, so it's a potato-potahto situation, but that's just the way I feel.

Anyway, for a Western, there sure is a lot of swordfighting in this comic, ain't there?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sex #10 ("Impact Season") by Joe Casey (writer), Piotr Kowalski (artist), Brad Simpson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

One of the reasons I like Joe Casey's work is that Casey likes talking about it. That may seem odd, but it's nice to read someone who's willing to talk about process, even if he's not necessarily talking about the process of a comic (which he does often, just not in this issue). In the back of this issue, he writes a lot about the Beatles, and as he writes, it becomes clear that he's writing about Sex, too. Oooh, look at me with my pop psychology! "What happens to people after a big, life-changing event occurs in their lives? How do they carry on? In what ways has their experience - whatever that experience might be - altered them?" Now, obviously he's talking about Simon Cooke and his post-superhero life, but he's also talking about everyone in the book who defined themselves by Simon Cooke - Annabelle, Keenan, even the Old Man and the Alpha Brothers, to a degree. The comic is not only about what Simon Cooke does now, but how they all become actual human beings rather than stereotypes. The book is about the process, and therefore is more interesting than it seems on the surface. Sex is not about sex, after all, but the metaphor of sex is fairly important, as Simon Cooke's sex life is intricately linked to his superhero life. It's just one of the reasons why he is having trouble moving beyond it. Casey brings us back around in this issue, as hints of his old life become more than just hints, as his new life and his old life intersect violently, and it will be interesting to see where Casey goes with it.

Or, you know, it could all be about a guy jerking off in the shower. It certainly has that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Umbral #3 ("Blood from a Stone") by Jordan Boyd (painter), Antony Johnston (writer), Thomas Mauer (letterer), and Christopher Mitten (artist). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

I actually had a problem with the early pages of Umbral. Yes, it's true. I love the book so far, but here's the issue - there are a lot of old, white-haired, bearded dudes running around, and on the first few pages, I got confused as to who was who and what was happening where. I got it sorted out - I might not be very bright, but I do come around after a little bit - but it was weird for the first six pages. Maybe it was just me.

Johnston tells two different stories that converge - he catches us up on that mysterious boat that floated into the caves in issue #2, and then he checks in on Rascal. Some bad things happen down in the caves, and Rascal and Dalone end up with Shayim, a woman whom Rascal knows. Of course, they also end up with Umbral on their tail, so that's not great. Johnston also drops a bombshell on the final page which have a bit more impact if we weren't reading a comic and therefore aren't surprised by bombshells like this and if the book weren't only three issues old, which isn't enough time for the emotional investment we need for the bombshell to work. It's still a nice plot twist, though, so that's nice. Johnston also gives us more information about this world, which is pretty crucial as it's dealing with different rules than we are.

It's no surprise that Mitten's art is spectacular, as he gets to draw some more monsters and makes them, if possible, even scarier than they've already been, but he also gets to draw the Umbral chillin', which is weirdly hilarious. There's a new painter for this issue, and the colors are a bit darker and duller - I don't know if that's because the action takes place in a cave (which might be the case, as Boyd shows that he can do brighter colors) or if Boyd is trying harder to contrast the dark parts with the brighter parts. I suppose we'll see if Boyd stays on and isn't just filling in for one issue. The painting isn't quite as beautiful as the first two issues, but again, I don't know if that's by design.

Umbral has really been excellent so far, and I'm looking forward to more. Pick it up now before it's too late!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Zero #5 ("The Map and the Territory") by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Ales Kot (writer), and Will Tempest (artist). $2.99, 29 pgs, FC, Image.

In case you missed it, I already reviewed this. It's good, and it ends on a pretty fascinating "cliffhanger" that will inform the book going forward, I assume. Get the trade in February if you haven't picked up the single issues!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Amala's Blade: Spirits of Naamaron by Michael Dialynas (artist/colorist), Steve Horton (writer/letterer), Shantel LaRocque (assistant editor), and Chris Warner (editor). $18.99, 110 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

I liked the story in Dark Horse Presents (which is reprinted in this trade), so I hope I will like this. It looks very swashbuckling.

Basil & Victoria: London Guttersnipes by Edith (artist), Yann (writer), Anna Provitola (translator), and Alex Donoghue (U.S. edition editor). $39.95, 238 pgs, FC, Humanoids.

I am, as you might recall, smitten with Victorian-Era stories (not necessarily steampunk, but just stories set in the late 19th century), so this tale of two street urchins getting into all kinds of adventures in 1887 London sounds like it's right up my alley. Let's hope it is!

Wolverine by Larry Hama and Marc Silvestri volume 2 by Pat Brosseau (letterer), Steve Buccellato (colorist), Mark Chiarello (colorist), Peter David (writer), Dan Green (inker), Larry Hama (writer), Andy Kubert (artist), Al Milgrom (inker), Jim Novak (letterer), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Marc Silvestri (penciler), Larry Stroman (penciler), Sherilyn van Valkenburgh (colorist), Alex Starbuck (assistant editor), Nelson Ribeiro (assistant editor), and Mark D. Beazley (collection editor). $29.99, 264 pgs, FC, Marvel.

More awesome 1990s Wolverine stories? Hell yeah!


There's not a lot going on in the world, unless you count certain celebrities getting arrested, which MSNBC thought was so important they interrupted a Congresswoman talking about the NSA. Well, I guess there's always a lot going on in the world, but nothing that's really grabbing my attention more than usual.

Over in the comic blogaxy, Colin Smith is calling it quits, which is a bummer. Colin is an extremely smart dude who always has very clever things to say about comics, and I'll miss him (he's not quite done yet, as he's going out with a flourish in March, but then it's over). I know Colin loves to write positive stuff about comics, but his takedowns of comics are amazing, because he thinks far more about what's on the page than the writer and artist, it seems. So go over to his site and check some stuff out if you've never been there before. It's good stuff.

Let's move on and check out the Ten Most Recent Songs on My iPod (Which Is Always on Shuffle):

1. "Goodbye Kiss" - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (2010) "I'd rather just cut and run than set the blind on yesterday" 2. "Little Guitars" - Van Halen (1982) "You say you're lonesome just getting by but you turn your eyes from me"1 3. "Alexis" - The James Gang (1973) "Sometimes this life we lead is so unfair"4. "I'm Alive" - Electric Light Orchestra (1980) "Suddenly came the dawn (from the night), suddenly I was born (into light)"25. "Supper's Ready" - Genesis (1972) "Wearing feelings on our faces while our faces took a rest, we walked across the fields to see the children of the West"36. "The Scientist" - Coldplay (2002) "Tell me you love me, come back and haunt me"7. "Somewhere Along the Line" - Billy Joel (1973) "Sweet Virginia cigarette burning in my hand, well, you used to be a friend of mine but now I understand"8. "Summer Night City" - ABBA (1978) "My impatience slowly creeping up my spine and growing strong"9. "The Everlasting Gaze" - Smashing Pumpkins (2000) "But underneath the wheels lie the skulls of every cog; the fickle fascination of an everlasting god"410. "On the Frontier" - Renaissance (1973) "So come on leave the dark behind and join the day now"

1 I know Diver Down isn't the most highly-regarded VH album because of the cover songs, but the originals, including this song, are some of my favorite Van Halen songs. This song is awesome.

2 Sing along, everyone! YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!!!

3 You know, for a song lasting over 20 minutes, this sucker just zips along. It's impressive how it doesn't feel like 20 minutes. Genesis was really firing on all cylinders from 1971 to 1974.

4 This is the last Smashing Pumpkins album I own. By the time they got back together, I had moved on. Does anyone have the more recent stuff? Is it any good?

No one guessed the random lyrics last week - they were from Buckner and Garcia's "Hyperspace," one the many video game-based songs on their Pac-Man Fever album. That was one of the first albums I ever bought, and I have fond memories of the songs. But let's move on to new Totally Random Lyrics, shall we?

"Hey, Rainmaker, he got golden plans I tell you You'll make a stranger in your own land Hey, good lady, he's got God on his side he got a double Tongue you never think he would lie"

Well, those are fun, aren't they?

Have a nice weekend, everyone. Stay warm!

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