What I bought - 23 November 2011

He had built empires of scientific capability to manipulate the phenomena of nature into enormous manifestations of his own dreams of power and wealth - but for this he had exchanged an empire of understanding of equal magnitude: an understanding of what it is to be a part of the world, and not an enemy of it. (Robert M. Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

Dark Horse Presents #6. "Resident Alien: Welcome to Earth! Part Three" by Peter Hogan (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist); "Finder: Third World Part 6" by Carla Speed McNeil (writer/artist), Jenn Manley Lee (colorist), and Bill Mudron (colorist); "The Adventures of Dog Mendonça and Pizzaboy" by Filipe Melo (writer), Juan Cavia (artist), Santiago Villa (colorist), Pedro Semedo (letterer), and João Pombeiro (adapter); "Beasts of Burden: Story Time" by Evan Dorkin (writer), Jill Thompson (artist), and Jason Arthur (letterer); "Change" by Fábio Moon (writer/artist); "Blood Chapter 5" by Neal Adams (writer/artist) and Moose (colorist); "Criminal Macabre: Die, Die, My Darling! Part Three" by Steve Niles (writer), Christopher Mitten (artist), Michelle Madsen (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer); "Number 13 Chapter Five" by Robert Love (writer/artist), David Walker (writer), and Diego Simone (colorist); "Marked Man Part Six" by Howard Chaykin (writer/artist), Jesus Aburto (colorist), and Ken Bruzenak (letterer); "Skeleton Key: Room Service" by Andi Watson (writer/artist). $7.99, 80 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

As usual, there's a lot to like in DHP. Hogan and Parkhouse's "Resident Alien" continues nicely, and we get an explanation of why no one seems to recognize that the doctor doesn't quite look human. McNeil again shows why she's such a good idea person - Finder is occasionally hard to get through because there's so much going on, but when McNeil gives us one idea, she can really nail it. Plus, Jaeger uses an actual prop from Ghostbusters, which is humorous. Dog Mendonça's story comes to an end, and I hope we get more stories, because all we got was his origin story and we didn't get to see him at work solving weird mysteries. Still, it's a fun concept, and the final panel (with a cameo by Mike Richardson) is pretty funny. Dorkin and Thompson do their usual good stuff with the Beasts of Burden story, and Neal Adams' tale continues to spiral into some very weird-ass places (not necessarily bad, just ... weird). Niles's Criminal Macabre story wraps up with a promise for more, as does "Number 13," the ending of which is slightly more ambiguous. I haven't been loving Chaykin's story, but this chapter was quite good and gives me hope going forward. And Andi Watson's ghost story is very cute. "Change" is the new story in this issue, and Moon shows, once again, that he's a sentimental chap (which I don't mind at all). It's a gorgeous story, of course (see below), but it's also done well in a short space. Moon and Bá probably need to be a bit less sentimental or run the risk of becoming maudlin or even mawkish, but for now, they're doing a good job walking that fine line. I really can't fault a writer for writing about the ineffability of humanity, after all.

Dark Horse Presents is always a treat. How can you not love it?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hellblazer #285 ("The Devil's Trenchcoat Part Three: Burning Man") by Peter Milligan (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (layouter), Carli Ihde (finisher), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

It's fascinating seeing what a different finisher does to Camuncoli's breakdowns, as Ihde steps in for Landini, who's been working on this book with Camuncoli since Milligan came on board. Idhe has a stronger presence than Landini - she uses heavier inks and adds more shadows. This helps make Gemma and Epiphany look a bit more haggard - they're under some stress, after all - but makes the opening scene a bit more "solid," to use a poor term, as Landini would have made the burning trenchcoat somewhat more "magical," I suppose. It's always interesting comparing inkers on the same penciller, but I assume in this case, the finisher's hand is even more evident. Idhe paints eyes on Tamsin's weird horns, too, which I thought was a nice touch. It makes her look even spookier.

Milligan manages to tie the Mafia subplot into the main plot, which is fine, but I'm still not sure how or if he will tie Gemma's issues into it. I assume it will be some kind of deal where the two bad guys try to take out Constantine but end up taking each other out instead, but I hope it's not. We've seen that before.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scalped #54 ("Knuckle Up Part Four of Five") by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist) Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Aaron is bringing the series to an end, which means people are going to start dying, and he clears a bit of the deck in this issue, as two characters meet their violent ends. One had it coming, but the other was kind of sad. Oh well. I'm sure we're supposed to recognize the killer of one as he runs away - is it Dino? It could be, I suppose. Anyway, it's another good issue of Scalped, as Aaron doesn't quite do things the way we expect him to - neither death is expected, really, and the way Red Crow resolves things with Shunka is handled well, as is the final page - and things move inexorably toward some kind of apocalyptic ending. Dang, this is a good series.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Avengers #19 ("Aniana") by Warren Ellis (writer), Michael Lark (breakdowner), Stefano Gaudiano (finisher), Brian Thies (finisher), José Villarrubia (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I've always been fascinated by maps, and I wish people would adhere to a canonical DC and Marvel world atlas - it seems like the "Earthquake Era" map of Gotham has become the standard, which is nice - because it's kind of neat to think of Genosha sitting there in the Indian Ocean and Vanity replacing Portland, to use a few examples. Warren Ellis and Michael Lark, for instance, give us the latest iteration of the Balkans/Eastern Europe in the Marvel Universe:

Transia, of course, is where Mt. Wundagore is located, and it's where the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, and Jessica Drew (?) were born. It's also where the Puppet Master gets his "radioactive clay." Symkaria, where this story takes place, is the home of Silver Sable. According to Wikipedia, both Symkaria and Latveria are a lot smaller than they appear on this map. According to this map, it looks like Romania and Hungary are smaller in the Marvel Universe, because Latveria and Symkaria are carved out of their territory. Ellis, as the grumpy middle-aged man of comics (Crazy Frank is the grumpy OLD man of comics, I think that's clear), has a much more jaundiced view of Symkaria ("collapsing economy," "crumbling infrastructure," "emergent narcocracy") than most writers. But I suppose we should expect that from Ellis.

The Ellis run on Secret Avengers continues to be damned good superhero comics (even though Grumpy Warren doesn't like superheroes) mainly because Ellis, as grouchy as he is about them, understands how awesome superheroes are. Yes, these stories are tied together by the "shadow council" that's been doing dastardly things, against which Steve Rogers and his covert group haven't moved yet, but in each issue, Ellis shows the heroes assessing the threat carefully, but when they go into action, they kick motherfucking ass, because that's what superheroes do. They don't lose to inferior opponents, they don't worry about hurting any bad guys' feelings, they don't get scared when they see horrors, because they've seen it all before. So when Steve and his gang confront the big bad guy, they just get the job done. Steve doesn't even need to tell Sharon and Natasha what he's going to do - they just know how to follow his lead. Ellis sets up very creepy situations and makes them impressively evil, but they're evil only as long as the superheroes don't know what's going on. Once the motherfucking Avengers find out, it's pretty much game over, and I have no problem with that. Plus, Lark is good. I know, huh?

And as funny as the Airwolf panel is and as much as Natasha is joking, one would hope that superheroes get regular MRIs and CT scans. I know I would. Bendis could write that issue: "The Avengers Visit the Neurological Clinic of Their Local Hospital!"

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Sixth Gun #17 ("Bound Part Six") by Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 23 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

The latest story arc, "Bound," has been a bit slower than the first year of the book, to its detriment, unfortunately. It's still a fine comic, but what Bunn wants to get across in this arc - Gord goes home and is tempted by the evil dude who owned the plantation where he was enslaved while Becky learns that the Sword of Abraham isn't as benevolent as they seem - could have been done a bit more quickly. The first few issues of the arc were the usual good stuff, but the past few issues seem drawn out, especially because we know what Gord will do at his old home and we know how Becky will react to being told she's essentially a prisoner. The climax of this story is done well, but we saw it coming a few issues ago, and Bunn could have cut to the chase. The details about Gord's life add some nice depth to the character, but we could also have guessed a lot of it. Meanwhile, I know that Becky had to learn that the gun allows her to communicate with people who aren't in her immediate vicinity (her father last issue and now Drake in this one), so there's that, but again, it feels drawn out. As usual with books that I like, I'm not going to hold it against Bunn too much, mainly because he has a big story to tell and when it's all said and done, issues like this will simply fit into the grander narrative, but reading it issue by issue means we have to deal with disappointing issues every so often. Hurtt doesn't even get to draw too many wild things, although he does a good job with what he has. He's always done a really nice job with Becky, but it's impressive how he's making her more of a strong woman as she grows into the role.

So while this arc sputtered a bit at the end, it started well and gives us several clues about the bigger story. I'm sure now that Becky has made up her mind to kick some ass, we'll get back on track next issue. We'll see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

5 Ronin by Peter Milligan (writer), Tomm Coker (artist), Dalibor Talajic (artist), Laurence Campbell (artist), Goran Parlov (artist), Leandro Fernandez (artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), Daniel Freeman (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $16.99, 110 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Marvel is trying to screw people both ways these days, in case you haven't noticed. These issues were $3 when they came out, which means this trade ought to be no more than $15, but it's two dollars more than that. Basically, you're paying the two dollars for a few pages of sketches and variant covers, which isn't, if you ask me, worth it. However, you're still getting the book with no advertisements, so there's that, and it's all collected, which is nice. Still - Marvel and DC are kind of dickish, even if I understand what they're doing. Maybe I'll start skipping single issues AND trades!

His Dream of the Skyland by Anne Opotowsky (writer) and Aya Morton (artist). $32.95, 304 pgs, FC, Gestalt Publishing.

This is a comic about Kowloon in the 1920s, and it looks pretty neat. It's the first part of a trilogy, which is kind of annoying (because who knows how long it will take for the next two books to come out), but I suppose I can live with it. Gestalt has a good track record so far, so I have high hopes for it. I do wish that Gestalt would put prices on their books. I don't think any of their comics have had prices listed on them, and it's a pain. They should give it to the retailers for free, man, and then I could get it for free!

Well, shoot, that was a small week, wasn't it? I suppose that the combination of five weeks in November (meaning the books are often spread out a bit to cover the extra week) and the fact that DC and Marvel are making it far too easy to wait for trades means that each week in this month will be a bit smaller on the haul. Oh well. I've gone through periods before when I haven't bought a lot of single issues, and usually I find more to buy eventually. I doubt that will happen this time, because of the whole trade-waiting thing, but we'll see. I don't really have anything else to write about, either, so let's just get to The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Push" - Prince and the New Power Generation (1991) "Maybe the cartridge you was playin' don't fit in your video game"2. "Hiding Out" - Pete Townshend (1985) "Young and old will sit and judge unfeeling while the empty church's bells are pealing"3. "99 Red Balloons" - 7 Seconds (1985) "This is what we've waited for, this is it, boys, this is war"4. "Original Sin" - INXS (1984) "But did you know of the murder committed in the name of love"15. "Many Too Many" - Genesis (1978) "The part was fun but now it's over, why can't I just leave the stage?"6. "Ring The Bells" - James (1992) "Got to tell the world we've all been dreaming, this is not the end, a new beginning"7. "Blinded By Science"2 - Foreigner (1979) "I wonder 'bout the lies I've been reading, I wonder where this madness is leading"8. "Why Did It Have To Be Me"3 - ABBA (1976) "I only wanted a little love affair, now I can see you are beginning to care" 9. "Cellophane" - Amanda Ghost (2000) "Funny how it feels when there's nothing to say"10. "Circle Line" - Fish (2007) "The CCTV cameras track my movements in the maze"

1 There are a few quintessential 1980s bands, and INXS sure is one of them.

2 That video features footage from Van Helsing. I have no idea why.

3 As always, even if you're a crazy person and don't like ABBA, you should check out the fashion in the video. The Seventies ruled!!!!

Here's another Totally Random Movie Quote! Get guessing!

"You play with your balls a lot." "I do NOT play with my balls." "Larry Bird doesn't do as much ball-handling in one night as you do in an hour!" "Are you trying to start a fight?" "No. I'm simply stating a fact. That's all. You fidget with your nuts a lot." "You know what'd make me happy?" "Another couple of balls, and an extra set of fingers?"

Man, that's too easy, isn't it? I don't care. It's a seriously great movie, so there!

Anyway, I apologize for the weak post this time around. I wouldn't blame you if you ignored it, especially because for a lot of readers, this weekend is a lazy time to lie around and eat too much food. If you're celebrating Thanksgiving, have a nice one. If you're not, have a nice day doing whatever you do!

Future Fight Firsts: Luna Snow #1

More in Comics