What I bought - 23 March 2011

"Fuck what is written," Landsman says. "You know what?" All at once he feels weary of ganefs and prophets, guns and sacrifices and the infinite gangster weight of God. He's tired of hearing about the promised land and the inevitable bloodshed required for its redemption. "I don't care what is written. I don't care what supposedly got promised to some sandal-wearing idiot whose claim to fame is that he was ready to cut his own son's throat for the sake of a hare-brained idea. I don't care about red heifers and patriarchs and locusts. A bunch of old bones in the sand. My homeland is in my hat. It's in my ex-wife's tote bag."

He sits down. He lights another cigarette.

"Fuck you," Landsman concludes. "And fuck Jesus, too, he was a pussy." (Michael Chabon, from The Yiddish Policemen's Union)

Batman, Incorporated #4 ("The Kane Affair") by Grant "You're crawling back for more, ain't ya?" Morrison (writer), Chris Burnham (artist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), and Pat Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Behold! my latest theory about the God of All Comics! Okay, so there's Grant Morrison, okay? DC doesn't dare approach him about his late scripts because of his laser eyes and unerring crotch aim. So he sits there, brooding, wondering if inspiration will strike, while his artists twiddle their thumbs and wonder if working with the GoAC is really worth the bother. The problem is that inspiration, for Morrison, comes only while he's sitting on a mesa, masturbating as the sun rises, while a shaman sprinkles dried buffalo dung in a circle around him and chants. Unfortunately for Morrison, there aren't many mesas or shamans living in the Scottish Highlands, so he can only fly to the American Southwest twice or thrice a year and have a marathon session of several onanistic days, after which he cranks out five or six scripts while eating only dried buffalo dung and drinking Alan Moore's tears. Which is why his output can be fallow for several months and then, suddenly, we can get a bunch of issues in a short time, like this one following closely on the heels of issue #3. It's all science, people!

Speaking of comics, dang, is this a great comic, or what? I mean, I give grief to the Grantster as much as any Whorrison, but when he's on, he can really bring it. No writer in mainstream comics and precious few outside of mainstream comics goes balls-to-the-wall like Morrison can, and the Secret History of Kathy Kane is a wonderful example of that. It not only fits into the ongoing story that Morrison is crafting, but it sheds some interesting light on their pre-Crisis relationship (from what little I know about it). Plus, as I've been reading David Uzumeri's annotations because I often miss stuff, the fact that Morrison is tying this into Seven Soldiers (probably) is pretty cool, too. I don't know what the hell is going on with the old man on the beach with the penguins, but I'm certainly willing to wait for answers about that! This is an exciting, funny (see below), frightening issue, and it really shows all of Morrison's strengths without dwelling on his weaknesses. I suspected Burnham's art on this book would be phenomenal, and it is - his "present" stuff is crisp and clean, while the "past" stuff has just enough of a shift in style to distinguish it, plus I assume Fairbairn colors it differently - with a nice, subtle use of Ben-Day dots - which makes the "past" stuff stand out. This is a wonderful issue, with Kathy Kane's pain as she leaves Batman and the fear in her eyes as she listens to Doctor Dedalus two of the highlights.

So far, Batman, Incorporated has almost - almost - made some of the slog of Morrison's Batman run worth it. He's building on things he introduced years ago, and while I always maintain that Morrison's stuff reads better as a whole, this series proves that he can write really good two-issue stories. Why he doesn't do it more often is beyond me. Perhaps he wasn't masturbating enough a few years ago!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fables #103 ("Super Team Chapter Two: Selection Day") by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Steve Leialoha (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

As is often the case with Fables, it's not really what happens in each individual issue as much as what happens in the series as a whole, so this issue is devoted to some moving of the plot, even though Willingham injects it with some nice humor (after the deadly seriousness of the battle against the Dark Man, it's nice to see, even though there's some gallows humor because they are, after all, going to fight the Dark Man again, and he's pretty danged strong). Pinocchio's attempts to fill out the team are quite funny, even though Ozma shoots them down. Willingham never lets us forget the seriousness of the situation, though, as Beauty wonders what's going on in her nursery (we know, but she doesn't), the North Wind has his problems, and there's always Geppetto. I understand why the Fables allowed Geppetto to live among them, but I find it interesting that he doesn't even hide his contempt for them and his desire to destroy them, yet they don't take him seriously. The dude ruled a vast empire for centuries, and the Fables seem to think he's a crotchety old man (as I plan to be a crotchety old man, Geppetto is kind of my hero). I don't know if Willingham is setting something up where Geppetto makes his move and Ambrose knew what he was doing all along, but it seems odd that they trust him so much. Oh well - it's all part of the master plan, I suppose!

And so we roll along with Fables. It's always a fun ride!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hellblazer #277 ("Phantom Pains Part One: John Thumb") by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Stefano Landini (finisher), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

This issue begins with a panel of John and Epiphany having sex in what looks like one of the more uncomfortable positions in which you can have sex, especially for Epiphany. It's weird, because it appears Epiphany is pushed up against a table, but a few panels later, they're both on the bed. Meanwhile, John, I guess, is kneeling on the floor as he fucks her, which makes the position even less comfortable, if you ask me. I often laugh about "movie sex," where actors get it on in the silliest and most uncomfortable places (e.g., Pierce Brosnan doing Rene Russo on marble stairs - really?), but it's rare that you see it so blatantly in comics, mainly because comics usually don't show sex. Luckily, Epiphany quickly freaks out about John's missing thumb (for some reason), and we can get past the giggle-worthy position they were in.

Anyway, Epiphany does freak out about John's missing thumb, so John goes in search of a replacement. She spends some time alone and contacts ... something, but we don't see what it is. Meanwhile, John tries to track down his original thumb, but some freaky dude at the mental hospital where he spent his time has appropriated it for some odd ritual that can't be a good thing for our favorite bastard. So John goes searching for another thumb, which leads to a funny scene where he scares the pants (so to speak) off of a demon. And then there's Gemma, who's still looking for revenge for what the demon did to her at John's wedding. That won't be fun.

I'm still a bit peeved about Gemma. She obviously had a traumatic experience at the wedding, but no one seemed to notice or care. I get that they had bigger fish to fry at the time, but hasn't anyone wondered what happened to her after everything got sorted out? It's still a thorn in my side, because Milligan is obviously hanging a huge story on her revenge against "John," but it will all ring false, I think, unless I get an explanation. It's just very odd that no one seemed to worry about her, especially with how we last saw her, desperate in an alley somewhere. I do like freaky naked tattooed chicks (I guess they're the Erinyes?), so that should be fun.

I always enjoy comics where the freaky stuff is treated matter-of-factly, as if people sell their souls regularly and nobody but John can see the demons who come to collect. The idea of these universes is that all sorts of weird shit happens all the time, so why wouldn't it happen when the stars of the comic aren't looking, and if they stumble across something weird, why would it necessarily have anything to do with them? As usual, this is a fine issue of Hellblazer, and while I still don't have much hope for the marriage, I like that Milligan is writing John as a married person instead of a jerk with a forgettable girlfriend. There is a difference, after all.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Lorna: Relic Wrangler by Micah S. Harris (writer), Loston Wallace (artist, "One Nation ... Under Chaos!"), Olli Hihnala (artist/colorist, "You Say Tomatoe, I Say Tomata, You Say Stigmatoe, I Say Stigmata"), Michael Youngblood (artist, "Doo-Buddy!"), Steve Downer (colorist, "One Nation ... Under Chaos!"), and Nate Pride (letterer). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, Image.

I didn't exactly have high hopes for this comic, but I did hope it would be a fun, goofy romp with a bit more brains than your average National Treasure-esque movie, and in some respects, it is. Micah Harris, Lorna's creator, gives us only one story really worth reading, the main one, in which Lorna tries to stop a weird tentacled demon from destroying Washington, D.C., all while battling her arch-rival. Harris manages to pack quite a bit into the main story, as we get the history of Lorna's rivalry with Posh Meow (a.k.a. Martha Madison) - in which Lorna always managed to finish second to Martha no matter what the competition - plus the fight to save the capital, which Posh wants to destroy for a rather silly reason. It's a silly story, sure, but Harris keeps it light, Wallace channels Darwyn Cooke quite a bit and makes sure there's plenty of cheesecake (apparently, you can't save the world unless you're wearing tight, cut-off jeans shorts and a tiny tank top), and even the demon has a sense of humor.

The other stories are largely forgettable, mainly because Lorna does no relic-wrangling, which makes them less fun. Harris switches gears to tell stories of "young Lorna" in some hick town, and while one idea is somewhat interesting (trying to get a girl with stigmata a date), the two tales are somewhat dull, easily falling into stereotypes and lacking much spark. Plus, Hihnala and Youngblood don't have the same verve that Wallace does in his art, so their not-quite-ready-for-prime-time work brings the scripts down a little. It's an interesting attempt by Harris to tell different kinds of stories, but they're not successful.

I wouldn't mind seeing some more or Lorna, as long as she's wrangling relics (which can lead to lots of fun adventures) and as long as she's drawn by someone with a sense of humor like Wallace. I don't love this comic, but it has some potential.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Meta 4 #5 (of 5) ("The Perpetual Evolution of Self") by Ted McKeever (writer/artist/letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, BW, Image.

McKeever's mini-series comes to a philosopical end, and while I'm still not sure how good the book is (mainly because I haven't re-read the entire thing and it's been a while since it started), I can say that I'm pretty sure McKeever's art has never looked better, and this issue is simply a continuation of that theme. He keeps his off-beat line work while continuing to soften some of the edges, making the book a bit more dreamlike, which is especially effective and necessary in this issue, where the book becomes much more metaphorical than even the previous issues. One reason why this is a difficult comic to review is because it's very much a meditation on what it means to be human, so plot-wise, you can't really go over it, and while McKeever's writing can be pretentious, it's also a way to reach a conclusion about life, so of course it's going to be a bit florid. Mainly, this entire series has been a beautiful way to show a representational and symbolic world, pointing the characters to new insights and growth. Whether it works for you will depend on how willing you are to indulge McKeever in his flights of fancy. I will say that this is one of those books that you can enjoy simply for the art. If you've never been a McKeever fan (which I understand, as his style takes some getting used to), this is different enough that it may make you one, and if you are a McKeever fan, this will show you a new style that springboards off his old stuff to create a fascinating synthesis. I've often said that McKeever revels in the ugliness of the world, but what's superb about this book is the melding of the "ugly" with the sublime and what comes out of it. Perhaps that's his point. Beats me - I'm certainly not that smart!

I imagine this will be out in trade soon enough. While the story remains odd, I would recommend this series because McKeever challenges himself to do something different and he mostly succeeds. It's always wonderful to see an artist push their own limits, and we should all support that, right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Sixth Gun #10 ("Crossroads Part Four") by Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (artist/letterer), and Bill Crabtree (colorist). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

The Sixth Gun continues to mosey along splendidly, as Bunn keeps piling on the drama and Hurtt draws it all spectacularly. Drake learns that something nasty is coming for him (well, nastier than what came for him last issue, which was only the appetizer), and Becky manages to escape Kirby's spell but then doesn't have the heart to kill him (which is probably a big mistake). I'm not sure why she allowed him to get away with the guns (I can see not killing him, because she's not a killer), but from the group who shows up at the end, I don't suppose that will be a problem.

I look forward to reading this every time it comes out, because Bunn and Hurtt are really working well together. There's nothing flashy about the series, but it just works. Even something as minor as Becky letting Kirby live isn't torturously explained - we have learned a lot about these characters over the course of ten issues, so it's not surprising that she lets him go. There's a really nice familiarity with the characters that's impressive considering how short the series has been in existence. I'm still hoping these guys can work on this book as long as they like. Wouldn't that be swell?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi (writer/artist). $16.99, 63 pgs, BW, Fantagraphics.

Tardi created this sucker in 1974, and it's amazing how modern and even slightly avant-garde it looks today. Man, those Frenchies can do some cool comics, can't they?

The Finder Library, volume 1 by Carla Speed McNeil (writer/artist). $24.99, 664 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

As you can see, this is a good value. As you may remember, I'm still not the biggest fan of Finder, but I really want to give it one more chance. Between this and Voice, which I got a few weeks back but haven't read yet, I think I'll be able to decide!

Pepper Penwell and the Land Creature of Monster Lake by Steph Cherrywell (writer/artist). $14.95, 198 pgs, BW, SLG.

I'm feeding my inner young adult with this book. It looks really neat (or keen, whichever adjective is nerdier).

The Sky Over the Louvre by Jean-Claude Carrière (writer) and Bernar Yslaire (writer/artist). $19.99, 66 pgs, FC, NBM.

You'll note that the covers to this and The Arctic Marauder didn't quite fit on my scanner. The French like their comics BIG!!!! This is a book about the creation of the Louvre as an art museum, during the French Revolution (it was a palace before that), and it too looks very cool. I always worry that Pedro is going to come to the States and beat me up for not reading more European comics, so maybe this will sate him!

So I saw Limitless today, as part of, apparently, a mini-Abbie Cornish film festival (wild horses couldn't drag me away from seeing Sucker Punch, which looks both ridiculous and awesome - ridiculawesome, if you will). It's not bad - lean, swift, energetic, and fairly exciting. Bradley Cooper carries the movie - De Niro is fine but a bit one-note, and Cornish is window dressing - but he's a good presence on the screen - I'm not sure how good of an actor he is, but he certainly could be a MOVIE STAR - and the movie zips along nicely. The cleverest part of the movie is the use of colors to show how people "wake up" when they access every part of their brain - I knew it was coming, but it's well done. It's kind of like a good colorist making a comic better. It's not a great movie, but it's not bad entertainment, and I saw it at 10 o'clock in the morning, so it was only seven bucks.

While I was driving, I listened to music, which means it's time for The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Don't Change" - INXS (1982) "I found a love I had lost, it was gone for too long"2. "Planet Earth" - Prince (2007) "There are only two kinds of folk and the difference that they make - the ones that give and the ones that take"3. "Sure Shot" - Beastie Boys (1994) "I've got more rhymes than I've got gray hairs and that's a lot because I've got my share"4. "Decadence Dance"1 - Extreme (1990) "Just buy a brand new pair of Fred Astaire shoes"5. "Wise Up"2 - Aimee Mann3 (1999) "You think one drink will shrink you 'til you're underground"6. "Hail" - Hamell on Trial (2003) "Down on earth, he held her tight, she held her tight, he held him tight; it was morning and they'd cried all night"7. "Bubbles" - James (2008) "There's a world in his veins that's a whole lot better"8. "I Need a Plastic Bag (To Keep My Brains In)" - Horse Flies (1991)9. "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" - Sinéad O'Connor (1990) "Because I still love you, my love, and you're dead"10. "Communication Breakdown" - Led Zeppelin (1969) "I don't know what it is I like about you, but I like it a lot"

1 Holy crap, that's a video and a half. Man, I miss hair metal sometimes, mainly because of the videos.2 I read a review of Magnolia in which the reviewer did not like this vignette, in which the characters sing along with Aimee Mann. The reviewer thought it was artificial or something. Well, duh. The entire movie is about coincidence and even artifice, so why wouldn't every character - even the one in a coma - be singing the same song at the same time? Plus, it's an amazing moment in an amazing movie. I know I'm occasionally dumb, but it's not my job to review things. People who write stuff like that should be fired.3 Portlandia was hit-or-miss, but the episode with Aimee Mann as a cleaning woman was so bizarre it was brilliant. Especially when Sarah McLachlan showed up. And I love that Carrie Brownstein used to be in Sleater-Kinney. That's just wonderfully wacky. I bet Greg Hatcher knows where the band got their name even without consulting Wikipedia!

Yes, it's time for another Totally Random Movie Quote. Fret not - it's not as recent or as easy as last week's!

"Remember that moment when Marlon Brando sent the Indian woman to accept the Oscar, and everything went haywire? Things just very rarely go haywire now. If you're just operating by habit, then you're not really living."

Well, that sort of dates it. It's after the early 1970s! Get your thinking caps on!

Definitely quality over quantity this week. No Marvel once again. That's very strange. Oh well.

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