What I bought - 23 August 2006

It was a big week in comics only because two mini-series I've been holding off on reading ended, so I had extra books to read!  Man, reading comics is hard!  So let's get to it!

I should mention, before we begin, that the UPS guy who delivers comics to my store dropped one of the boxes with its booty inside, so several comics were bent in ungainly ways.  Although I don't really care if my comics are "mint" or not, I do like them to not have big folds in the covers and crumpled edges where the staples are, so I did not get Daredevil or Fell this week.  Next week I shall purchase them and provide you with very late reviews of them both!  Now that's service!

Action Philosophers! #6: The People's Choice by Fred van Lente and Ryan Dunleavy.  $2.95, Evil Twin Comics.


Action Philosophers! has been one of the best books out there since its inception, despite some grumpy nay-sayers right here on this very blog!  (I can't be bothered to go back and check who it was - chime in if it was you!)  Therefore, it's ironic that the book devoted to the three philosophers the fans wanted is the weakest of the bunch so far.  However, that doesn't mean it's a bad book - not unlike a Prince album, the weakest is still better than 75% of what's out there - but for fans who have come to expect absolute wonderfulness from this book, it's a bit of a letdown.  If you haven't read Action Philosophers! yet, I would actually not recommend this issue as your starting point.  Issue #2 remains my favorite, but any of the previous five would be a good place to begin.

The problem seems to be that Van Lente and Dunleavy don't actually like two of the three philosophers in this book.  They think Kierkegaard is mind-numbingly boring, and they don't appear to enjoy Wittgenstein, either (going so far as to spell his name wrong on the cover).  Aquinas gets off a little more easily (even though they spelled his name wrong on the cover, too), but that's probably because the book has always skewed a little more toward the older philosophers - the modern ones rarely seem to spark the same goofy creativity we get from the creators that the pre-Enlightenment ones do.  It's possible that the modern philosophers are far too full of themselves to sufficiently mock beyond pointing out how full of themselves they are, or perhaps their philosophy is just too deadly dull.  I would guess both.  Aquinas, as with the other older philosophers in the other issues, was much less interested in idiotic arguments about the representations of language, like Wittgenstein, and more interested in man's relationship to God, which makes their philosophies a bit less abstract and easier to get across in comic book form.  At least that's my theory.

There are funny parts in both the Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard sections, but nothing beats Aquinas lifting up his robe to reveal that his naughty bits are gone.  That's good stuff.

I would recommend finding the other issues if you haven't already.  This one's okay, but not on par with the others.  Next issue is ancient Greek dudes, and I expect a return to form for one of the best titles on the market today.

Batman # 656 by Baldy McBalderson, Andy Kubert, and Jesse Delperdang.  $2.99, DC.


Because I'm anal, I went back and checked my Batman: Son of the Demon graphic novel, written by Mike W. Barr and illustrated by Jerry Bingham, for reference.  You know this book - it's the one that DC pretended didn't exist until The God of All Comics wanted to use it in his story!  Well, I'm certainly glad someone is using it, because it always bugged me that DC had swept it under the carpet, but, um, Grant?  Can I point something out?  Batman says, and I quote, "I remember being drugged senseless and refusing to cooperate in some depraved eugenics experiment" when Talia brings up the night their son was conceived.  Well, unless Mike W. Barr has a weird idea of what "drugged senseless" means, Bats was getting it on pretty readily in the graphic novel.  Now, is this the case of Morrison not wanting to admit that Bruce willingly boinked Talia and had a kid, or is this denial by Batman because he doesn't want to admit to it?  I would guess the latter, because of Morrison's Cronin-esque knowledge of comic book history, but I wish that sentence wasn't in this book.  Little things like that bother me.

The issue itself is fine.  Batman fights ninja man-bats.  Whoopee!  The thing that makes it interesting is, of course, the pop art behind the fight that shows various emotions the participants are having while the fight lasts.  When Batman punches a man-bat in the face, the painting behind him shows a woman saying "ouch!"  Clever, but nothing spectacular.  I wonder if that was a Morrison idea or if Kubert came up with it.

Oh, and people in the DC Universe are stupider than I thought.  I have never gotten the idea of Clark Kent taking off his glasses and suddenly no one recognizes him (Byrne tried to explain it in Man of Steel and failed, although good job trying!), but the fact that nobody guesses that Bruce Wayne is Batman is just ludicrous.  Oh no, man-bats are attacking!  Everyone runs for it!  Bruce Wayne is among the missing!  Suddenly, Batman, who only ever works in Gotham City, shows up in London at the same time as Bruce Wayne, another Gothamite!  At least in the very excellent Detective issue from years ago (#590), Bruce realizes it wouldn't do for Bruce Wayne and Batman to be seen in London at the same time.

One last thing: Jezebel Jet?  Really?

Batman and the Mad Monk #1 by Matt Wagner.  $3.50, DC.


Oh, Matt Wagner.  Such very beautiful art work.  Such a good grasp on the character of Batman and even the character of Julie Madison.  Such a creepy story with the draining of the blood and the kidnapping of the innocents.  Such a great cover homage to Detective Comics #31.  And then you go and do that.

You know what I'm talking about, Matt Wagner!  It's on the first page!  A reference to Frank Miller's "Year One."  Oh, Matt Wagner!

Why am I bent out of shape about this?  Well, I'm not really.  I just wish that if Wagner is going to write stories from way back in the past of Batman, we'd see the purple dress with the green cape again.  That's all.  C'est la vie.

I probably shouldn't have even read this issue, because I know I'm going to buy the mini-series anyway.  It's creepy.  Just like the last one.  And pretty to look at.  And weird.  No excuse, really, for not buying this.  The trade of the first one just came out.  Fetch!

The Black Coat: A Call to Arms #1-4 by Ben Lichius, Adam Cogan, and Francesco Francavilla.  $2.99, Ape Comics.

I finally got the third issue, which came out a while ago, so I could sit down and read the whole thing.  Aren't you happy?

The Black Coat is the kind of comic book I wish we had more of.  It's not the greatest thing in the world, but it is ... well, "fun" wouldn't be the word I'd use, because it's somewhat dark, but "entertaining" it certainly is.  In 1775, the Black Coat fights evil, along with his legion of do-gooder pals, the Knights of Liberty.  They are primarily concerned with fighting British injustice, but the Black Coat isn't above mixing it up with a monster who kills people and steals their limbs!  In this series, the Black Coat gets involved in a case that not only features the crazed, unkillable madman, but also political machinations as the Colonies draw closer and closer to war, a sinister League that is plotting against the colonists and their rebellious tendencies, and a scheme to raise the dead.  Not too shabby.

There are several things to recommend about this series.  Francavilla's art is very nice.  The interiors are in black and white, which help greatly with the rough mood of colonial New York and its dark alleys, not to mention our hero himself, who blends into the scenery very nicely.  Francavilla also does well with the actual landscape - this looks like a colonial city, and although I don't know how accurate it is at depicting New York itself, I have no trouble believing it's 1775, despite the presence of several outlandish inventions of the Knights of Liberty, like submarines and bazookas (primitive, sure, but still far ahead of their time).  The feeling that this is a continuing story is a slight bit off-putting at first (I want to read about the adventure among the Penobscot!), but on further reflection, is a nice touch.  The Black Coat is not a newcomer to the scene, and therefore the book can dive right into the action without worrying about establishing the character.  Although this might work against us identifying with the characters, Cogan (Lichius is co-creator but is only credited with writing the first issue) does a good job giving us the relationships between the people in the book without letting up on the plot.

The final thing that makes this an interesting book is also something that frustrates me.  I'm torn about whether it makes the book better or not.  The story doesn't end.  The fourth issue, in fact, ends with a cliffhanger, as the Black Coat and the seemingly immortal Butcher crash into the harbor and don't come back up.  On the one hand, the Knights of Liberty stop the main plot, but on the other hand, the League and the spooky bandaged man who can disappear at will (he's the main villain, it seems) are still at large, ready to do more mischief.  As I said, I'm torn.  I would have liked this to at least wrap up the Butcher part of the story - he's the focal point of the series, as he is killing innocent people and the Black Coat has to stop him.  The idea of a nasty British group conspiring to defeat the colonists before they even rebel is neat and will drive the series forward, I imagine.  The creators promise more from this world, which is certainly nice, but in this world of publishers going under and indie books dying with no word, I would have appreciated some resolution.

If the creators come back for another round, I'm on board.  It's a neat, "The Shadow in the eighteenth century" kind of thing that The Black Coat has going on, and it's a fine read if you like historical drama.

Elephantmen #2 by Richard Starkings, Moritat (Ian Churchill), and Henry Flint.  $2.99, Image.

So I suppose "Moritat" is Ian Churchill, but why wouldn't he use his real name?

Anyway, I guess Richard Starkings sent this to me, because it was from "Comicraft," which isn't Image, so that's my supposition.  He sent me the first issue, too, and while I liked it, I wasn't planning on getting the second issue.  I would have reviewed this before Wednesday - I got it on Tuesday - but I had a wicked headache on Tuesday night and went to bed early.  So I feel bad.

I could just repeat my review from the first issue.  It's an interesting conceit for a comic book - genetically engineered animal/human hybrids bred for war, now turned loose on a futuristic world - and the stories are well written and nicely illustrated.  I still don't know why it doesn't pop for me like other books.  It might be the fact that the stories are too short - we have gotten four stories in two issues, and there's not a lot of time to connect with the characters.  These two stories are cases in point.  The first one, illustrated by Henry Flint (whose art I only saw for the first time in Previews for the Omega Men, but who does a very nice job here), is a fight between Hip Flask, the hippo/man who started this whole thing four years ago, and an alligator/man.  I assume they are fighting over the idol that Hip Flask clutches in his hands throughout the story, but I'm not sure, because the only words in the story are from the Book of Job.  Yes, that one.  It's the section of Job that talks about the Behemoth and the Leviathan (chapters 40-41), and Starkings does a nice job of fitting the verses into the action of the story.  But that's all it is.  At the end, Hip Flask sits by a reservoir, clutching the idol and bleeding.  Apparently this story will actually be continued next issue, which would be nice.  Meanwhile, the second story brings in a Howard Stern shock-jock type - he's called Herman Strumm - with his guest, who is a crocodile/man (who can tell me the difference between alligators and crocodiles????).  It's a funny little story that mainly serves to set up the final page, on which the crocodile gets to tell a joke.  The art is decent although not as good as the first story, and it's another slice of life in the 23rd century.  Nicely done, but nothing that makes me want to get the next issue.

I'm very glad Starkings sent me the two issues, and I would recommend them to you if you like science fiction and some mild critiques of our society and genetic engineering.  It's not a bad book nor series, but I just don't get excited about it.  Maybe it's me.

Heroes for Hire #1 by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Billy Tucci, and Tom Palmer.  $2.99, Marvel.

How the hell old is Tom Palmer?  Dude's been around, like, forever.

After the atrocity that was Daughters of the Dragon issue #1 (which I had a grand old time eviscerating here, in case you're wondering), I heard that the rest of the series was pretty good.  So why the first issue was so horrific, I don't know.  Anyway, I'm not going to go back and get that series, but I figured I'd give ol' Misty and her krewe another chance, with the brand spankin'-new Heroes for Hire!

Well, harumph.  It ain't awful, it didn't anger me like Daughters of the Dragon did, but it didn't knock my socks off, either.  It's a perfectly serviceable book, but if you don't read it, there will be nothing to mark its passing.  HfH take down a bunch of Mandarin knock-offs, Misty and Colleen get in an argument with Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Reed Richards about the Registration Act (I'll get back to that), and then beat up a bunch of Z-list baddies who are trying to flee the country.  Paladin shows up.  I've always liked Paladin, and I don't know why.

A few things: I have commented on Misty's breasts before, and in this issue, she actually has arrows pointing at her nipples.  That's just weird.  I was astonished to see "normal" bodies on Colleen and Tarantula - they are drawn like actual women!  Holy Bleepin' Bleep!  (Yes, I know lots of women have breasts like Misty.  But they don't have tiny waists like Misty, nor do they jump around beating people up like Misty.  That's the biggest problem I have with ridiculously-breasted women in comics - they would have serious issues with jumping around.)  And I don't like the throwdown at the end of the book.  Again, correct me if I'm wrong, but the Registration Act applies to heroes and villains who live in the United States, right?  So why the hell would anyone care if all these villains want to leave the country?  Let them go!  It makes it easier on everyone.  Let them end up in a country where the police shoot first and ask questions later.  Maybe then they'll appreciate the U.S. of A.!

Okay, I'll back off the patriotism.  The argument Misty and Colleen get into with the big three of the pro-Registration side is the best part of the book, and I have to wonder - is the main title doing as good a job as the ancillary books are in examining both sides of the issue?  From what I've seen, it doesn't look like it is.  X-Factor, then She-Hulk, and now Heroes for Hire have done a very nice job trying to thrash through the very real concerns on both sides of the issue.  Misty, as a black woman, is understandably concerned about the ramifications of the act, even though she is on board with it, and Colleen makes a nice point when she asks, "Did I wake up in China this morning?" when Reed ignores her reasonable concerns.  Both women also know this is going to end badly, something the heroes don't want to hear about it.  It's a nice three pages, and makes me wonder, again, if Millar is handling things with this much subtlety.

And I have another question: do non-superpowered capes have to register?  Does Moon Knight, for instance (I assume Marvel has completely retconned the brief time when he got stronger with the full moon)?  I know he's a vigilante anyway, so he's already outside the law, but does he have to sign up?  I'm just wondering, since Misty and Colleen bring it up.

I may be back for another issue.  Like I said, it's not awful, it's somewhat entertaining, but it's nothing special.  We'll see.

Jack of Fables #2 by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Tony Akins, and Andrew Pepoy.  $2.99, DC/Vertigo.

Another book that falls into that category is issue the second of Jack of Fables.  After a solid start, this issue disappoints because of Mr. Revise.  His name is explained in this issue, and it's dull.  Guess what?  He wants to clean up fairy tales because they're all so violent and sexual.  YAWN.  I'm not sure why he's doing it beyond the "they're icky" factor, which would be even more boring.  At least he could have a better reason for neutering the Fables.  I can barely write about the rest of the issue because Jack's meeting with Revise is so anti-climactic.  I like the fact that Gary (the Pathetic Fallacy) and Jack cross the bridge with the man who was not going to St. Ives, and I like that Mary Mary disagrees with Sam toward the end, and I'm not quite sure why Babe isn't blue, and I don't think that there were any Cathars left in the fourteenth century because the Church did a pretty good job of slaughtering all of them in the thirteenth century, but that's just stuff.  Mainly, this issue is not good because the main plot point is so stupid.  Jack remains a fun character, which means I might - might - buy the next issue, but it would be nice if we could get away from the prison camp as quickly as possible.

Supermarket #4 (of 4) by Brian Wood and Kristian.  $3.99, IDW.

Supermarket finally finishes, and it has the same problem as all IDW books have: price.  It is, unfortunately, far too flimsy a story, in the end, to justify 16 dollars.  I'm sorry, but that's the way it is.  When I buy books, especially when they cost four bucks a pop, they have to have more meat on their bones.  This is a perfectly nice book, and it's enjoyable, but it's skimpy.  More, please!  Despite the price, if this had been five issues so Wood could add some more stuff, I think it would have worked better.  It feels far too rushed, and added to the price, we get a comic book that should cost about 8-10 dollars but is double that.

See, when I first read this book, I hated Pella.  By the end of the first issue, I thought she was more interesting, because the death of her parents gave her a purpose, but I still never really warmed up to her.  I don't mind her, and I was interested in seeing what happened to her, but she's still a punk.  However, her predicament is interesting, and the way she succeeds in defeating both the Yakuza and the Swedish porn cabal - yes, there's a Swedish porn cabal - is ingenious.  But what is lacking, after the first issue and a half or so, is the evil critique of our mass consumerism that the book could sink into much more.  The plot takes over, and while I don't want the plot to go away, I wanted Pella to stop and make pithy comments about the state of the society in which she lives while unironically indulging in that very mass consumerism.  That's why I hated Pella, but that's what also made her compelling.  By the end of the book, she's kind of a Charlie's Angel, and it weakens her a bit.  I don't really buy her weeping for her parents at the end, because she was never really established as giving a rat's ass about them in the first place.  That's why this could probably have used another issue.  The plot overwhelms all, and it's not enough.

The artwork is very keen, though.  Kristian has a nice futuristic vibe going on with the city and even the characters, and there's a nice mania to it.  This is a frustrating book, because like a lot of the IDW output, I like it, but can't recommend spending so much money on it.  It does not appear that they are going to lower their prices, though, so I guess we're stuck with it.

Wasteland #2 by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten.  $2.99, Oni Press.


This came out last week, but for some reason I missed it until this past weekend, so I didn't review it.  It's still out there, though, so go get it if you want to!

Ah, but should you?  Should you?????  Well, like the first issue, it's pretty good.  Johnston is still feeling around this world, so it still, unfortunately, has too much of a Road Warrior/Beyond Thunderdome thing going on, which I hope will lessen as we learn more about the characters and what's going on.  The centerpiece of this issue is the story of how the world got the way it did, and while I always enjoy legends that explain how the people today are horrible and will be punished (and Mitten's art for the storytelling, which looks like a collage, is very nice), it again adheres too closely to post-Apocalyptic stuff we've already seen before.  Does that mean it's not worth it?  Well, I'm still waiting to give a final opinion on it.  It is not horrible, the characters are slowly becoming interesting, the art is neat, and I'm intrigued by the religious aspect of the book.  The Sunners, who are seen as "heathens" by the people in the city, are persecuted by the government, and I hope that we will see more of this divide in the future (I'm sure we will, because why would Johnston include it?).  Like I said, this is an intriguing book, and I'm giving it a few issues to really cohere.  I hope it does, because it has a lot of potential.


Eternals #3 (of 6) by Neil Gaiman, John Romita Jr., and Danny Miki with Tom Palmer.  $3.99, Marvel.

Issue #2 was good, so I decided to stick with the series.  I'll get around to reading it, I swear!

Rex Libris #5 by James Turner.  $2.95, SLG Publishing.

This says "end of Book One" at the end of the issue, so I assume it will be awhile before this shows up again.  Considering it took a year for five issues to come out, I imagine Turner needs a lot of time to finish even one issue.  I promise to read these eventually.  It may take me a year to read all five issues, because they're so dense.  I will get to it this weekend, probably, although I doubt I will finish them.  Some day!

So that's another week in the books.  Oh, and Justice League sucked.  Ha!  Okay, I didn't read it.  My komik kung-fu is so strong I can review books without having read them!  Bow down before my komik kung-fu!

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