What I bought - 23 February 2011

Thanks to the mild weather, the trees retained their foliage longer than usual. Red and gold, ocher and amber leaped to the eye. How beautifully the leaves aged on ten thousand twigs! No politics could produce such glory in a forest. Only so natural and simple a thing as death. (Frederic Morton, from A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888/1889)

Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #4 (of 5) by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Red 5 Comics.

Robo's adventure continues, but the first few pages are very cool, because Clevinger gives us quite a lot about Thomas Edison and what drives him, contrasting him just enough with Tesla to show why the two inventors might not get along but are still quite similar. Edison's pretty funny, too. The rest of the issue shows Robo going on a date with Helen and highlighting some awkward knowledge about himself (see below), which Helen knew but hadn't considered. Meanwhile, they're still on the trail of the thieves who have been stealing all sorts of weird stuff, which leads them back to Edison. I mentioned this last issue, but the fact that we already know what happens to Edison (as revealed in the previous mini-series) adds a nice touch of foreboding to this series and makes us a bit more sympathetic to Edison, even though he's the "villain." I know Clevinger and Wegener are basically doing an ongoing here as a series of mini-series (even more so than the early Hellboy stuff, on which this is clearly modeled), so I'm not surprised by the fact that plot points carry over, but I still appreciate how tightly plotted the entire series is. It doesn't hurt that Wegener is, as always, tremendous.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Detective Comics #874 ("Skeleton Cases Part 3") by Scott Snyder (writer), Francesco Francavilla (artist/colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Snyder gets to revisit the back-up story that was unceremoniously dumped when DC decided to hold the line on price (even though 30 pages for $3.99 is a better value than 20 pages for $2.99 - comics fans ought to be better at math, being such nerds, shouldn't they?), and while this is a good issue, it's a reason why I really wish DC had given the writers more of a heads-up or at least allowed some of the books to finish the back-ups, because last issue's Detective felt a bit odd without the back-up, and this one does because it finishes the back-up. The first nine pages are the conclusion of Commissioner Gordon's conversation with his son in the diner, so it would be the perfect length to go at the end of issue #873. But that's only half the issue - the next 11 pages are a completely different story about Dick and Tim (???) going out and busting some heads, with Dick still experiencing the aftereffects of the drug he was dosed with in the previous arc. Given the solicits, it also leads into the next story. But it feels like that should be Jock's story, and as great as Francavilla is on both sections of the story, the way Snyder was breaking up the story and the art chores in the first two issues of his run worked really well and now that's been shot to pieces. I can't believe DC didn't know they were going to do this in October or so, before Snyder's run began, so why did they allow him to structure the stories the way he did in the first two issues if they were just going to pull the rug out from under him? It's shit like this that makes me think DC doesn't quite know what they're doing.

Anyway, the conclusion of the "back-up story" is quite strong, as James finally admits to his father what he is and what he's been doing. Snyder does a good job building the tension throughout the story, as we believe James might have done something awful and Snyder makes us believe that (no, I'm not telling whether he did or not). The second story is more superheroic, but it's still a good read. Francavilla is excellent, of course, getting to cut loose a bit on the second story, where he gets to draw all sorts of weird animals, plus Batman and Red Robin in action, but his colors in the first story really make the issue gripping, as he continues to color James in red while the commish is blue, sliding a bit toward purple and then red as his emotions change toward James (blame the neon in the signs, but we still can tell what Francavilla is doing). Francavilla's pencil work is really good for pulp stuff, but his coloring is as well, and I've written this before but I'll probably write it again - it's nice to see an artist who is so conscientious and smart about coloring his (or her) own work. It's very neat.

I hope Snyder has adjusted to the new page count, because the last two issues of Detective, while still good, felt a bit like he was adjusting on the fly. We shall see, though.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fallen Angel: Return of the Son #2 (of 4) by Peter David (writer), J. K. Woodward (artist/colorist), and Shawn Lee (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

I don't really have a lot to write about this issue. I mean, if you've been reading Fallen Angel for a long time, you're probably getting this, and if you're not, this is probably not the best place to jump on. Woodward's art looks a tad rushed, so as I'm assuming that's not the case, I wonder if he's trying something new. It's not bad, just a bit ... rushed-looking. Meanwhile, we get David's typical world-building and secret-revealing (this time it's part of the secret history of Bete Noire), plus the wry humor we always get with this series. I enjoy the heck out of Fallen Angel even as I know it's not the series for everyone, and I just enjoy that David seems to enjoy writing it. Sorry, not much else to say.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gødland #34 ("The Works") by Joe Casey (writer), Tom Scioli (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

There's only three issues left after this one (although two of them will be GIANT-SIZED, so there's that), and it's obvious that Casey is moving all his pieces into position for the grand finale. On the one hand, that's to be expected, but on the other hand, it's a bit disappointing, because I can't imagine the ending being as good as the build-up. I'm actually kind of hoping for a "Sopranos-style" fade-out just when everyone is about to have a battle royale, because wouldn't that just be like Casey? Or I'm hoping for no battle at all, which more likely - Casey throwing us a curve at the last moment. I'm sure I'll love it, though, because I love everything about this series, so why wouldn't I love the end? Whatever happens, this is another wonderful issue, from the purplest of prose with which Casey describes everything to Scioli's almost vertiginous camera angles to Crabtree's wildly cosmic coloring. I don't know if the next three issues will actually come out in 2011 given the book's schedule, but I relish each issue that shows up and pout that it will be a while before the next one arrives. But I must be patient!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Kill Shakespeare #9 (of 12) ("Is This a Dagger I See Before Me?") by Conor McCreery (writer), Anthony Del Col (writer), Andy Belanger (artist), Ian Herring (colorist), and Shawn Lee (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, IDW.

Hamlet finally reaches Will Shakespeare, who turns out to be slightly disappointing. Shakespeare is a dissolute hermit, drinking wine and taunting Hamlet about the situation back in Denmark, which doesn't make Hamlet too happy. Of course, even his disappointment isn't enough for Lady Macbeth, who really wants one or both of them to die, so she's working some magic behind the scenes. Falstaff, meanwhile, discovers Iago's treachery. One thing I'm puzzled about is that Iago seems to think that Hamlet has been killed when it seems clear he knows it's not true. Is he betraying Lady Macbeth as well as the rebels? That seems likely, and as we still have three issues left, I'm sure we'll learn more about what Iago is doing.

The most interesting part of the book, however, isn't Hamlet's meeting with Shakespeare, but his brief chat with Romeo, who appeared last issue. It's only a couple of pages, but because Hamlet has both been making time with Juliet and knows who Romeo is, his questions and statements are tinged with this knowledge, while Romeo, of course, remains blissfully ignorant. No good can come of this, of course, but it's a well crafted two pages that has a great deal of subtext.

Belanger's art remains a highlight of this book (and I hope the two-month delay since the last issue is just a hiccup and we won't start seeing longer breaks, although I suppose it will be okay if Belanger's art remains strong), as his panel borders remain nicely inventive and his storytelling remains strong. Hamlet's journey across the stream to Shakespeare's cottage, where pages of plays attack him, is marvelously done, and his Shakespeare is an odd mixture of tired genius and piratical rake, which makes him intriguing, visually. Belanger does a very nice job with McCreery and Del Col's script, and it continues to be a great comic to look at.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Morning Glories #7 by Nick Spencer (writer), Joe Eisma (artist), Alex Sollazzo (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $2.99, 26 pgs, FC, Image/Shadowline.

After last issue's rather odd offering, this time we're back to the kids, as Zoe decides that she's had enough of the other cast members and ... joins the cheerleading squad? Well, sort of, but it's really just so Spencer can move the plot forward a bit more, delve into Zoe's background a bit, and build up her character somewhat. It's a pretty good issue, because it zigs at the end when we expect it to zag, giving us even more insight into Zoe's character that we suspected but might not fully appreciate. Spencer obviously has quite a bit of this series plotted out (in case we already didn't know that), and it's kind of fun to read along as he parcels out information. I don't always love that, but if I buy into the premise of the series, I'm more inclined to go along with it.

That doesn't mean I like everything about the issue, however. Three things bug me (one's a minor SPOILER, in case you're wondering). One, I still don't get why every single student at this school is not bothered by the fact that the faculty tries to kill them on a regular basis. When Zoe meets Amanda, the head cheerleader, Amanda even makes jokes about it. I mean, I guess these kids are supposed to be exceptional, so maybe shit like that doesn't faze them, but it seems really ridiculous that the existence of murderous teachers just rolls off their backs. Second, what kind of route does Amanda take back to her room at the end? What kind of weird geography does this school have? Third, I really hate when a teacher shows up in a book and I automatically think he's going to end up banging a student. I don't want to think that, but so many writers just go that easy route that I can't help but think it, and most of the time, I'm right. According to fiction writers, a good 80% of male high school teachers are banging students. I mean, I can believe three-quarters of them, but 80%? That's crazy! I know it does happen, but it's annoying that you can pretty much count on a male teacher being a slobbering sex pervert the minute one shows up. As a former male high school teacher, it's kind of offensive. It's not enough to make me ditch the comic, but I just get bothered by lazy writing, and this feels lazy. Oh well.

Anyway, it seems like this "arc" will focus on each cast member, which is kind of nice, as the first arc zipped along so quickly. With those few reservations, this is off to a good start.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scalped #46 ("You Gotta Sin to Get Saved Part Two of Five: At Her Majesty's Pleasure") by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

It's Scalped. Do you really think it's a bad comic?

Look at what Guéra does in this issue, because this is one of the most impressive looking issues in a while (and considering how good the art is on this series, that's saying something). The sequence with Officer Falls Down and Catcher moving through the cave is astounding, as Guéra uses the obvious shadows that would exist inside the cave and turns them into malignant creatures stalking the two men. Catcher, of course, has a lot of darkness in his soul, so the shadows reflect that well, and as he gets more and more violent, the shadows move from the walls to his face and clothes, and he becomes more and more twisted. When Falls Down sees the glowing fox, Catcher can't believe that it's happening (as he doesn't see it), and Guéra is wonderful showing his disbelief and his terror. He is revealed in that moment as a traitor, not to Gina herself, but to the spirit of the land. When Falls Down gets out of the cave, the sequence is phenomenal, as Guéra pulls back slowly, leaving Catcher devastated in the background while Falls Down gains his freedom (Aaron writes this page wonderfully, too). I imagine he's talking about himself in the final pages, as he has dug himself down into a pit so deep he can't figure out any way to get out. Meanwhile, Lincoln visits Lawrence in prison, and early on, Guéra does a nice job showing how the years have been brutal to Red Crow but Lawrence's time in prison hasn't been as hard on him because his spirit is at rest. Guéra contrasts Falls Down's realization that he has a way out with Lawrence's terror when he thinks he's going to get killed, and although Lawrence survives, Guéra shows his despair at being forgotten in prison very well. Aaron paces the book beautifully, but Guéra is truly amazing in this issue. That's not a surprise, of course, but I was struck how well the art told the story in this particular issue. It's goddamned Scalped. You couldn't have thought it would be bad!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Sixth Gun #9 ("Crossroads Part Three") by Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (artist/letterer), and Bill Crabtree (colorist). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

As you may recall, perhaps my favorite pop culture axiom is "Never trust the woman." It's a depressingly popular trope, but what happens when a woman is one of your main characters, and she falls for a dashing and handsome gunslinger who makes your toes curl (as presumably happened to Becky when she got busy with Mr. Kirby Hale in between issues #8 and 9)? Well, I guess the axiom must be modified somewhat to "Never trust the love interest" (see: Thelma and Louise), but in the great imbalance between male and female protagonists in fiction, my first variation still stands most of the time.

Oh, did I give something away? Not really, as if you trusted Kirby Hale from the moment he showed up two issues ago, well, you're not too bright. I suppose I can forgive Becky - she really needed a roll in the hay, people! - but even she should have known something was up. Oh well. Good thing she appears to have a shambling mud-mountain that was once a man looking out for her, if the cover for next issue is any indication! And, of course, there's that servant wandering around, who unleashes all sorts of nasty beasties on our three heroes (see the cover and the panel below). As usual, this is an exciting and beautifully drawn issue, and that's all I have to say about it. Except that Becky should have known better, man!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Teen Titans #92 ("On the Shoulders of Titans Part II") by J. T. Krul (writer), Georges Jeanty (penciller), Rob Hunter (inker), Jason Wright (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

This is a continuation of the story from this month's Red Robin, so I picked it up. I also wanted to see if I would continue to buy it because Nicola Scott's art is so good. Then, of course, Scott did not draw this, and while I've liked Jeanty's art in the past, he doesn't seem to do too well as a fill-in, so while his art here is solid, it doesn't lift Krul's pedestrian script like Scott did last issue. There's nothing wrong with this issue, but there's not enough to make me come back next month. As we saw in Red Robin, Calculator activated dozens of robots that look like him around the globe, each one a bomb. Tim and the Titans tracked the server to Istanbul, so in this issue they fight their way through a bunch of robots and confront Calculator. And then Damian stabs him (see below). Well, that won't go over very well, will it?

The minor interest in this issue stems from the fact that Calculator is Marvin's dad - of "Wendy and Marvin" fame - who was of course introduced into the DCU not too long ago only to get eaten by a dog. Yes, comics are so very awesome. Calculator blames Cassie, the Titans' leader, for this debacle (instead of blaming Sean McKeever, who wrote the issue, or DC editorial, for allowing it), so he wants his revenge. It seems odd that it took him 30 issues to get his revenge, but I guess he's been busy. Anyway, the other interesting thing about this issue is that Damian quits the Titans. He doesn't like them, they don't like him, and Krul actually ends the issue on an interesting note with Damian back in Gotham with Dick - who's he talking about? I like to think it's Stephanie, but I could be wrong. Anyway, the "Damian Experiment" on Titans hasn't worked, so does that mean Tim will be taking a more active role with the group? That might be where Krul is going, but I don't really care all that much. But that last page is well done.

So my brief experiment with Teen Titans is over. No biggie.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Turf #4 (of 5) ("Once Upon a Time in Harlem!") by Jonathan Ross (writer), Tommy Lee Edwards (artist), and John Workman (letterer). $2.99, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

As the fourth issue in a five-issue mini-series, one that has been coming out torturously slowly, there's not much to say about this iteration of Turf. We'll see how it all shakes out next issue, with aliens and molls fighting vampiric gangsters, with our intrepid reporter caught in the middle. As with the other issues of Turf, this is a bit overwrought, writing-wise, and beautiful to look at. But it's still a fun story, so I'll just see how it all comes together in six months when the final issue ships.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Who is Jake Ellis? #2 (of 5) ("Are You Listening?") by Nathan Edmondson (writer) and Tonci Zonjic (artist). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

When issue #1 of this series shipped, I didn't write much about it because I was in one of my wacky moods, so I'll restate the premise: Jon Moore is, as we learn in this issue, an ex-CIA analyst. He sees a dark figure named Jake Ellis, who has a preternatural ability to tell Moore exactly what's about to happen and how Moore can get out of it. Moore believes Ellis is a figmnent of his imagination, but in this issue, we learn that Moore was in someplace called "the Facility" which may have fucked with his mind, so maybe Jake is something else or maybe Moore's mind is more powerful than he himself suspects. So this is basically a chase comic, but two issues in, it's exciting and fun, so there's nothing wrong with that. We find out that Ellis might have his own agenda, further casting doubt on what exactly he is, but he remains Moore's best ally. Edmondson keeps things fairly simple and brisk, matching Zonjic's unspectacular but very good art. In the first two issues, Zonjic has shown a knack for putting the characters in motion very well, so Edmondson doesn't have to worry that the book will look stilted when it needs to look fluid.

I'm not too sure I want Edmondson to explain Jake even though I'm sure he will. Right now, this is a fun thriller that doesn't need to get too bogged down in exposition. If he does go that route, I sure how Edmondson can pull it off. We shall see.

One totally Airwolf panel:

20th Century Boys volume 13 by Naoki Urasawa. $12.99, 226 pgs, BW, Viz Signature.

I really need to get back to reviewing every manga series I read. I just can't seem to find the time, but I love this series so much and I want to spread the word! I'll get to it, I promise!

We're at the end of the reviews, which means it's time once again for The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Industrial Disease" - Dire Straits (1982) "Two men say they're Jesus; one of them must be wrong"12. "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)" - Van Halen (1982) "Well he used to go out drinkin', lookin' for a fight, now he gotta see that sweet woman every night"23. "I Can't Dance" - Genesis (1991) "All she wants to do is rub my face in the dirt"4. "Everything and Nothing" - Hamell on Trial (2003) "She is the sparks 'cross the rails, a dream awakening to a dream"5. "Misty Mountain Hop" - Led Zeppelin (1971) "Why don't you take a good look at yourself and describe what you see"6. "Hearts" - Yes (1983) "As we flow down life's rivers, I see the stars glow one by one"7. "Next Year" - Foo Fighters (1999) "Catch me if I get too high"8. "Under Cover of Darkness" - Living Colour (1990) "Well the thrill doesn't outweigh the consequences"9. "Renaissance Man" - Midnight Oil (1993) "A new world order has been formed between the cheque book and the dawn"10. "This Time" - INXS (1985) "Girl you know I need you more than any word spoken"3

1 This song was recently banned in Canada because some people were offended by the mention of "Bette Davis' knees." Those shocking lyrics will not stand!2 Clarinet solo, bitches!3 Oh, the hair! Oh, the leather pants!!!!

And here, for your consideration, is a Totally Random Movie Quote:

"How do you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?"

Now, that's a damned good question, man! So that's it for this week. I'm still sad about the loss of tags, as is Bill Reed. We will prevail!!!!

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