What I bought - 22 September 2010

"Girls are like slugs - they probably serve some purpose, but it's hard to imagine what." (Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes fame)

Avengers Academy #4 ("Scared Straight Part 2: Fix You") by Christos Gage (writer), Mike McKone (penciler), Rick Ketchum (inker), Cam Smith (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Mettle gets the spotlight this issue, as we learn he was a groovy Hawaiian surfer dude who, after getting hit in the face by a board, transformed into the big freaky-looking dude we've come to know and love. Norman Osborn just helped the transformation along, which is why Mettle doesn't like him too much. So he joins Hazmat and Veil in their attempt to murder Osborn, but if you really think they'll succeed, well, you haven't been reading comics very long. That's not the point, of course - Gage wants to stir the pot within the group, and Osborn is certainly good at that. The problem is that I'm always a bit confused by people being swayed by a comic-book villain's logic - I mean, shouldn't these kids know that Osborn is evil? I mean, it's like someone in the real world being swayed by Dick Cheney's arguments (oh, I kid, I kid). Okay, it's like someone in the real world being swayed by Hitler's arguments - people are still swayed by his arguments, but don't we consider those people, I don't know, stupid? Even if they're kids? So why are these characters in any way listening to Osborn? I know it's for building tension within the group, and Gage does a nice job with that, but I just keep thinking that one of them should be smarter than this. If only because they're teenagers and teenagers hate everything and everyone in authority. Where's the attitude, young (but not Young) Avengers?

I do like the big prison riot, especially when Hazmat threatens to give one of the inmates cancer and his response. And I'm sure it's been explained somewhere else, but can someone please tell me why poor Man-Thing is in freakin' prison? That seems mean. Just stay the hell away from the damned swamps, Marvel Universe inhabitants, and Ted will leave y'all alone! Jeebus.

I don't want to pick on McKone here, but he managed to pencil four issues and now he needs a break. The art is worse this issue than it's been, presumably because of the dreaded deadline crunch, but it looks rushed (and we get two inkers, neither of whom have been on the book before). I don't want to pick on McKone because this happens with every single artist, but four issues? And he needs a break? So guys can't even finish an arc anymore? (I assume the introduction of the six characters constitutes an arc, even though this was a two-issue story within the arc.) I hate to go all old-school sportswriter here and say something like "In my day Iron Joe McGinnity started and completed both games of a double-header, worked at the forge all night, drank a bottle of bourbon, and then pitched another double-header, all while wearing an onion on his belt, because he was a tough guy, damn it!", because I understand that comics art (and the business, and the economy) has evolved to a point where it's hard to do a monthly book, but McKone, while a good artist, isn't really pushing the boundaries too much here, so I don't know why he would get behind so quickly. I've heard from my occasional drinking buddy John Layman how much Rob Guillory is killing himself to draw Chew, and Guillory is working on a relatively tiny book, Layman has built in skip months between arcs to help him, and he's (mostly) coloring the book by himself. All McKone does is pencil. Someone else inks and someone else colors. I can't imagine how much and how hard artists work (he says as he sits on his ass writing on a blog while not working), so I don't want to pick on McKone too much, but I'm very curious about stuff like this. We rarely get an explanation, unless I'm not looking in the right places (does McKone have a Twitter account where he explains stuff like this?). I mean, I was stunned when someone (Simone, I think) actually said that Ed Benes was ill, which is why he barely got started on Birds of Prey. I don't know what the deal is with McKone, and it's just frustrating. Whenever Marvel and DC announce a new creative team on a book and make a big deal about it, my first thought is always "When do we get the first fill-in artist?" I mean, how many issues in a row do you honestly believe Pascual Ferry will do on Thor? The over/under is five.

Okay, rant over. And yes, I did drop an Iron Joe McGinnity reference on your ass. Screw Bob Gibson - I'm even more old-school than that!!!!!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Black Widow #6 ("Kiss or Kill 1 of 3") by Duane Swierczynski (writer), Manuel Garcia (penciler), Lorenzo Ruggiero (inker), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Swierczynski takes over another title that I've enjoyed, and while I didn't like Liu/Acuña's Black Widow as much as The Immortal Iron Fist, I'll be interested to see if Swierczynski drives me from this title as well. That's kind of mean - he didn't do a terrible job on Iron Fist, but it just wasn't as good as what Fraction and Brubaker and their raft of artists were doing. He doesn't have quite as high a standard to live up to (although the first arc of this series was quite good), so maybe I'll stick with it. He's off to a good start, as we meet Nick Crane, the son of a vice-presidential candidate who's convinced that Natasha drove his father to suicide, so he's searching for her. He finds both her and Fatale, who's the real culprit (and who, as it's written, is someone Natasha knows, but I have no idea if she's a new character or not). Fatale convinces him that Natasha is the villain, so our heroine needs to rescue Nick. He still thinks she's responsible, so the issue ends with him pulling a gun on her and it going off (in an appropriate wide shot, so we don't see what actually happened). It's a nice, exciting, intriguing, and fairly fun issue (well, as fun as a story about a man trying to find the woman who drove his father to suicide can be).

Garcia's art isn't as terrible as I feared it would be from the few preview pages, but it's still off a bit. I noticed this when he was drawing Checkmate (the only time I've seen a lot of his art at one time), but he doesn't do faces very well. His action scenes are fine, and he does a nice job with the scenery, but his faces are very weird. Occasionally (and when he does close-ups), they're very good. Too often, though, they look distended or otherwise grotesque, and Fatale's, for instance, seems to mutate throughout the book. It's very off-putting, and I hope it gets fixed, even though I don't have much hope for it. It's interesting that some good artists have such glaring weaknesses. I noticed another artist recently (whose name escapes me, as does the comic he was working on) who needed to do superhero books where people wear masks, because his faces were so bad but everything else worked well. Unfortunately for Garcia, he's not working on a "mask" book. Other than his faces, the book looks pretty good. And, because I desperately want to piss someone off as much as Kelly does, I should point out that when Natasha gets out of a rather bulky disguise early in the book, her costume is unzipped almost to her navel, and her ample bosom is almost falling out. I guess it was a bit hot in there, although maybe she should have worn something cotton under the disguise rather than leather. Cotton breathes, Natasha! I do like that she's sensible enough to zip up before she starts chasing Fatale and Nick. You wouldn't want the girls popping out during a chase, would you?

It's only a three-issue arc, so it will be easy to judge if I want to continue after that. Of course, the book might not last past issue #8, so there's that.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dracula: The Company of Monsters #2 by Kurt Busiek (plotter), Daryl Gregory (writer), Scott Godlewski (artist), Stephen Downer (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Okay, so we know that people in comics (and, to be honest, most popular entertainment) are often far dumber than actual people, right? I mean, we should know that, shouldn't we? As interesting as the second issue of this series is (and it's quite a bit better than issue #1, which wasn't bad), when someone thinks it would be a rather grand idea to resurrect Dracula, the person working for them might want to run as fast as they can in the other direction. I mean, who thinks this is a good idea? I get that Conrad, the CEO of Barrington Industries, is a raving egomaniac, but I just love reading stuff where people have ideas that are so phenomenonally stupid you wonder how they manage to feed themselves. Oh well. Dracula will surely rip Conrad's head off soon, so there's that.

Conrad and his assistant, Evan (the nominal protagonist), manage to bring back Dracula, not without some corpses, however. Conrad not only wants to partner up with Dracula, he wants Evan to let him learn as much as he can about 21st-century society. You know, for someone who was a bit of a war-mongering fanatic, that might not be a good idea. I guess if you've already made the monumentally stupid decision to resurrect Dracula, allowing him to see a world that has Muslims and Christians living together in relative harmony and the Turks (his mortal enemies) joining the EU, not to mention all those black people and gay people and women polluting the pure minds of powerful and pristine men isn't much worse. Plus, there's something in the Carpathians that's killing people. It couldn't have anything to do with our favorite vampire, could it?

I might sound like I hated this book, but I didn't. Like I wrote, this issue is better than issue #1, which felt a bit listless. Maybe it's the killing, but this issue takes it up a notch, and I'm totally rooting for Dracula to do some damage, which I think is Gregory's mission, so good job! Godlewski is getting better with every issue he draws - this is the sixth issue in six months I've seen him draw, and he's getting more and more confident. It's pretty keen.

So while the premise of the book is ridiculous, Gregory is doing a decent job with it. I know the first arc is four issues, and I'm still not sure if I'm going to keep going after that, but it's so wacky I might just do so!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dynamo 5: Sins of the Father #4 (of 5) by Jay Faerber (writer), Júlio Brilha (artist), Joe Eisma (artist, "Notorious" back-up story), Ron Riley (colorist), Paul Little (colorist, "Notorious" back-up story), and Charles Pritchett (letterer). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

More fighting. After our heroes almost quit last issue, F.L.A.G. sends in their supergroup, and more pounding ensues. I was kind of hoping that Flagstone would get pummeled, since he was such a dick when he showed up, but no such luck. Faerber, of course, tantalizes us with little nuggets of information, such as the fact that it's not Captain Dynamo who shows up, but it is something very odd. And he brutally injures a hero, leading another hero to take some drastic measures (as we'll see next issue). It's all just moving along at a nice clip. There's plenty of action, some humor, and then the nice, dark turn at the end. It's a superhero comic! And, of course, it's better than almost any other one you'd care to read.

Faerber has been selling some of his comics very cheap at his blog, if you're interested. Noble Causes trades, that sort of thing. Click the link and find out if he still has some lying around!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fables #98 ("Rose Red Chapter Five: Red Dawn") by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Steve Leialoha (inker), Dan Green (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

I actually love harping on the fact that Willingham writes terrible single issues, and this issue is no exception. This issue actually ends with Snow White saying, "Uh ...?" as if she's about to respond to something, and then the issue ends. It's awesome. Willingham gives no shits about your 22-page format!!!!!

Rose Red gets out of bed and puts things in order on the Farm. She kicks ass (metaphorically) and takes names (also metaphorically, as she knows everyone's name already). Meanwhile, Frau Totenkinder and Dunster the boxer come up with a plan for Mister Dark and return to the Farm to tell everyone. It doesn't sound like much, but it's actually quite a good issue, mainly because Red gets everything in order, puts Geppetto in his place (actually, she puts Geppetto's bodyguards in their places, which is more fun), and shows why she's in charge in the first place. I mean, what can I say? We've moved past her "origin" story, and now it's time to lead up to the big 100th issue. It's a good comic with excellent art. That's just the way it is!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Garrison #6 (of 6) by Jeff Mariotte (writer), Francesco Francavilla (artist), Wes Hartman (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

I get annoyed with mini-series that end ambiguously. I mean, there's no way we're going to see a sequel to this, and that's fine, but Mariotte doesn't really conclude this very well either. We get a bit more about Garrison's background and why Clarke Sullivan (I can't get over a woman is named "Clarke" in this series) is so committed to bringing him in, but basically, nothing happens in this issue that couldn't have been accomplished much earlier if some people weren't so concerned about blowing shit up. That bugs me, because there doesn't seem to be any real point to what Garrison was doing. What was he trying to accomplish? If it's what he says it is, then there's no reason for six issues of a lot of killing to take place. What was Sullivan really trying to do? If she had an agenda, she abandons it in this issue. It's annoying, because at the beginning of this series, it seemed like it would be a lot more about the power of the government and what they do to eavesdrop on the lives of the citizens (Mariotte is a left-leaning rancher in the wilds of Arizona, and I know he doesn't like Republicans but I don't know how he feels about Democrats), but it quickly got away from that and became much more personal, which doesn't work as well. Garrison is an entertaining comic, but it feels slight and it also feels like it could have dealt with weightier issues and still had lots of shit blowing up.

Francavilla is the reason to get the trade, if you're interested. He continues to do a fine job, and I'm glad he's getting work from Marvel now and will have a higher profile. He draws shit blowing up rather well!

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Broadcast by Eric Hobbs (writer) and Noel Tuazon (artist). $13.99, BW, 186 pgs, NBM.

This book is about a town that believes Orson Welles' broadcast about a Martian invasion. I hope it's good, because the art is terrible. It looks like thumbnails that weren't filled in. I like Tuazon's art a lot, but it's not very good here at all. So I hope the story makes up for it!

Cages by Dave McKean (writer/artist). $29.99, BW (mostly), 496 pgs, Dark Horse.

This was re-solicited in April after being offered originally in March 2009. As it was completed a decade ago, I wonder what the hold-up was. Anyway, it looks flippin' awesome.

Rob Hanes Adventures volume 0 by Randy Reynaldo (writer/artist) and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $15.99, BW, 139 pgs, WCG Comics.

I bought a few other Rob Hanes comics from Reynaldo in San Diego this summer, so it's going to be a Hanesapalooza when I get around to reading them all!

The Sister's Luck by Shari Chankhamma (writer/artist). $12.95, BW, 143 pgs, SLG.

I don't know much about Chankhamma, but her art looks like Becky Cloonan's. This is not a bad thing.

Well, that wasn't a very big week, was it? I'm always trying to cut my pull list, and this week I skipped Secret Avengers, because I just couldn't spend four dollars on it. It's not really the money - I have enough to buy whatever comics I want because I don't spend money on much else - it's more the principle of it all. I enjoyed the first arc of Secret Avengers, but it didn't wow me, so for Marvel to gouge away just pisses me off. Secret Avengers #5 looked pretty keen - David Aja on art - but I just couldn't bring myself to buy it. I felt the same way about Hulk #25 - Parker and Hardman are a good team, and there's even a back-up story, but I just got so mad (not unlike the Hulk!) when I thought about spending $3.99 (minus 20%) on it. I know it's beating a dead horse, but what happened to $3.15? Or $3.25? Or $3.50? Grrr. "But Greg," you may say, if you care at all and are even still reading, "you spent three ninety-nine on two other comics this week!" Well, yes. As I've said before, if the Big Two are going to charge that much, the comics better be transcendant. If indy books charge that much, I'm willing to cut them a bit more slack. Dracula might not make the cut eventually anyway, and I would argue that Dynamo 5 is probably better than almost all the superhero stuff Marvel and DC put out. In fact, I did argue that, above. So there.

Speaking of sports (and I was, above), yesterday on Deadspin was the annual day when the writers of Fire Joe Morgan take over and make us miss FJM all the more (although they didn't use "fuck the heck" yesterday, which disappointed me). Go dig through the archives and read all their articles and laugh and laugh and laugh (unless you don't like baseball, which might make you a Commie). Here's an example, which includes the immortal line: "We either figure out why Joe Morgan was walking around the Reds clubhouse naked together ... or we die alone."

Furthermore, I don't know if you caught Around the Horn on ESPN yesterday, but often-incoherent, frequently tongue-tied, and always-entertaining Woody Paige dropped an Omega Red reference. Now, he called him a Soviet "superhero," but still - that's impressive. Go, Woody!

Finally, remember to cheer for the Phillies as they barrel their way toward the best record in baseball. And if you can't support the Phillies, the least you can do is root against the Yankees and their overrated shortstop. Remember: Phillies - represent a city where liberty and freedom was born; Yankees - represent a city of Wall Street fat cats. It's your American duty to support the Phillies!!!!!

Let's fire up The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Dead Man's Road" - Cinderella (1990) "Don't go messin' with your life 'cause it ain't no toy"2. "The Way Old Friends Do" - ABBA (1980) "And after fights and words of violence we make up with each other"3. "Caught a Lite Sneeze" - Tori Amos (1996) "Dreamed a little dream, made my own pretty hate machine"4. "Tell Me Something I Don't Know" - Extreme (1995) "Can only one fate befall them both?"15. "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" - Michael Jackson (1979) "So let love take us through the hours, I won't be complaining"26. "No More" - Streetwalkin' Cheetahs "Never gonna be the boy next door"7. "Roadkill" - Horse Flies (1991) "To get Christmas dinner we didn't have to look far, one of Santa's reindeer had gotten hit by a car"8. "Seven Nation Army" - White Stripes (2003) "And I'm bleeding, and I'm bleeding, and I'm bleeding right before the Lord"9. "The Revolution Starts Now" - Steve Earle (2004) "Last night I had a dream that the world had turned around"10. "Rockin' the Paradise" - Styx (1981) "I ain't lookin' to fight, but I know with determination we can challenge the schemers who cheat all the rules"3

1 If you only know Extreme from the brain-destroying ballad "More Than Words,"4 their 1995 album Waiting for the Punchline is a surprisingly mature and raw work, by far the best album they've ever released. So of course their lead singer left to destroy Van Halen not long afterward. Isn't that always the way?2 Say what you want about how goofy Jacko got later in life, but Off the Wall is the shit.3 If Bill Reed doesn't have this song as his ring tone, I'll ... well, I won't actually do anything, because I doubt if he does, but you know he wants to have it as his ring tone!4 Seriously, did chicks like that song? It's a song about a guy saying that a girl shouldn't say "I love you," she should have sex with him, because that would "prove" that she loves him. Ick. Just because Gary Cherone sings it in that crappy falsetto and Nuno Bettencourt plays a simpering acoustic guitar behind him doesn't change the fact that it's a creepy tune.

No one got last week's totally random lyrics, which surprised me, as they were from "I'm Alright" by Kenny Loggins (yes, "all right" is two words, but that's the name of the song, so what am I going to do?). Haven't you people seen Caddyshack? Sheesh. Okay, let's fire up some more:

"The soldier-blues were trapped on a hillsideThe battle raging all aroundThe sergeant cried 'We've got to hang on, boysWe got to hold this piece of groundI need a volunteer to ride upAnd bring us back some extra men' "

Fine stuff! Have at it!

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