What I bought - 24 August 2011

"Nevetheless, you'll have to reconcile yourself to the fact that I am," retorted Woland with a twisted smile. "No sooner do you appear on the roof than you blab nonsense, and I'll tell you what it is - it's in your intonation. You pronounced your words as if you refuse to acknowledge the existence of either shadows or evil. But would you kindly ponder this question: What would your good do if evil didn't exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared? After all, shadows are cast by things and people. Here is the shadow of my sword. But shadows also come from trees and from living things. Do you want to strip the earth of all trees and living things just because of your fantasy of enjoying naked light? You're stupid." (Mikhail Bulgakov, from The Master and Margarita)

Batman, Incorporated #8 ("Nightmares in Numberland") by Grant "I'm so powerful, the reboot means nothing to me!" Morrison (writer), Scott Clark (artist), Dave Beatty (or Beaty - the cover and interior credits are different) (artist), and Dave Sharpe (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Remember Batman: Digital Justice? That Pepe Moreno graphic novel from 1989 that featured all computer-created art? Remember how terrible it looked, even though it was somewhat groundbreaking? Well, over 20 years later, computer-created art still sucks. Witness Scott Clark and Dave Beat(t)y (I don't know who does what - is Beat(t)y the colorist?), whose art on Batman, Incorporated is painful to behold. Seriously. It's cluttered, ugly, almost incomprehensible, amateurish, and laughable. I mean, when we see videos with stiff and goofy figures created by computer, it's usually because the creators are making fun of something and the stiffness of the characters heightens the silliness. I very much doubt that Clark is going for that, but that's the effect he achieves. Now, the entire story takes place inside Bruce's "Internet 3.0," so I know why Clark is doing this, but that doesn't make it any good. There has to be a way to do this without making it look godawful. Consider Jon Totleben's art on Swamp Thing #60, "Loving the Alien," which came out before Digital Justice and which still looks ahead of its time today (of course, it wasn't computer-generated, but it looked like it was). If Bruce's idea of Internet 3.0 has worse graphics than you average Madden video game (although I've never played Madden, so I can only speculate based on what I've seen on television), it's in trouble. Seriously - this looks like a bad SyFy movie starring Ian Ziering (like that one where he plays Cortés - Ian Ziering as Cortés, people!!!!). Jesus. I know the God of All Comics gets stuck with lousy art more, it seems, than a lot of superstar writers, and I imagine that he wanted something like this because of the fact that it takes place inside a computer, but come on. Dang, this is horrible. Although seeing Barbara Gordon kicking ass is always fun. And what the hell is up with that resurrection? So, yeah. It's not even Morrison's best script, which makes the artwork even more glaring.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Chew #20 ("Flambé Part 5 of 5") by John Layman (writer/letterer), Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), and Taylor Wells (color assistant). $2.99, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

Layman showed me this issue a few weeks ago and the panel he's very proud of, and I'll have to admit - the panel is very funny and clever, and I'm not sure it's ever been done before (although I'm not giving it away). I've written this before and I'll write it again - one of the things that makes Chew so good is the feeling that Layman and Guillory are having so much fun and challenging themselves to do whatever they can with the medium. Early on in this issue, Guillory does four double-page spreads, and while they aren't ridiculously detailed (he manages to re-use quite a bit), the way he tells what happens without words and without changing too much is wonderful, and the fact that the creators were confident that they could get away with eight straight wordless pages is amazing. Layman and Guillory are simply trusting their audience to keep up with them (Layman told me something about his recent work for Marvel that shocked me, and I'll have to get his permission to tell it because it's so different from how these guys work on Chew), and it's really breathtaking. The main story, about a woman who has created a cult of egg worshippers, is funny and nasty, but as usual, the way Layman ties it into other stort arcs and Tony's relationship with his boss and how it relates to the sky writing is wonderful. The story arc has meandered around a bit, but through it all, we've been focused on the sky writing, Tony's problems at work, and Mason's investigation into the mystery of it all, and those plot threads all come to a head nicely. Layman upends the status quo once again, and I'm sure it will be fun going forward.

This book contains a curious camel! How many other comics can say that, huh? Answer: NONE!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Critical Millennium: The Dark Frontier #4 (of 4) by Andrew E. C. Gaska (writer), Daniel Dussault (artist), and Nina L. Kester (letterer). $3.95, 44 pgs, FC, Archaia.

This sci-fi book has taken its sweet time to come out, and while I usually don't mind, Gaska told me at the convention that he has a very long epic planned out, and I just can't see it coming anywhere near fruition based on the rate at which chapters appear. It's too bad, because these four issues are very good, with Gaska beginning with a nice, creepy, and tragic opening and then going back to begin to show how we got there, and in issue #4, he tells two stories simultaneously - one of the launch of the craft that Thomm and his crew take to the stars, while the other is of the attempted launch a few weeks earlier that ended in tragedy. Gaska shifts easily back and forth between these two events, and even though we know that the ship is going to launch, he manages to create quite a lot of tension in both stories. Plus, as the book has been tinged throughout with a kind of religious reckoning, Thomm's behavior in this issue, even more than in the previous issues, shows that maybe he's going to get what he deserves and isn't quite the hero he thinks he is or even the hero Gaska has hinted at. The characters in this are far more complex than we often get in big, action-ey science fiction stories, which makes the big set pieces more interesting, because we don't know exactly how they're going to react.

The main plot of the issue deals with the "ghosts," the Caucasians left on earth, who have been relegated to minority status and have been treated poorly throughout the series, driving many of them to terrorism. They perform a wildly successful act of terrorism in this issue, but Gaska does a good job showing how riven they are with internal problems and how that leads to their downfall. Thomm's battle with the legitimate Earth government is here, too, even though it doesn't take center stage until late in the book. Gaska has done a really nice job throughout the book creating this world of the future, and even though I find it a little difficult to believe that they wouldn't have reconstructed the Internet yet but are sending people to the far side of the universe, he's mostly done well in giving the reader reasons why things have happened and how the world has evolved to this state.

Dussault has been good throughout this series, and this issue might be his best work yet (with the possible exception of the early scenes in issue #1, mainly because they were so harrowing). He gets to draw a lot of explosions and killing, and while the book remains packed with details and is even a bit busy, Dussault is very good at hitting us with sensory overload yet remaining clear within the panel. The slick, digitally painted look of many comics today is often to their detriment, but Dussault makes it work, mainly because he uses a lot of different colors so the book doesn't get bogged down in darkness and also because his characters are distinctive rather than looking photo-referenced. It's a blast to look at the comic, because there's so much going on.

I hope that Gaska and Dussault can continue this story, because while these four issues tell a decent story (how Thomm and Eryc left the planet), there's still a lot of the story left. I don't know if Gaska will ever tell the giant-sized epic he plans, but I'd settle for a truncated version if it means we get it all. We'll see, won't we?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dark Horse Presents #3. "Treatment" by Dave Gibbons (writer/artist) and Angus McKie (colorist); "Number 13 Chapter 2" by Robert Love (writer/artist), David Walker (writer), Michelle Davies (colorist), Diego Simone (colorist), and Thomas Mauer (letterer); "Finder: Third World Chapter 3" by Carla Speed McNeil (writer/artist), Jenn Manley Lee (colorist), and Bill Mudron (colorist); "Concrete: Everything Looks Like a Nail" by Paul Chadwick (writer/artist); "Marked Man Chapter 3" by Howard Chaykin (writer/artist), Jesus Aburto (colorist), Ken Bruzenak (letterer); "Red Tide Chapter 1" by Steranko (writer/artist); "Indecisive Man" by Patrick Alexander (writer/artist); "Murky World: The Sleepers" by Richard Corben (writer/artist) and Clem Robins (letterer); "Rotten Apple Chapter 2" by Chuck Brown (writer), Sanford Greene (artist/colorist), Tyson Hesse (colorist), and Steve Dutro (letterer); "Snow Angel Chapter 3" by David Chelsea (writer/artist); "Blood Chapter 3" by Neal Adams (writer/artist) and Moose (colorist); "Mr. Monster vs. Oooak! Chapter 3" by Michael T. Gilbert (writer/artist). $7.99, 102 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Boy, Steranko seems like a conceited guy, doesn't he? In this issue, he's interviewed about Red Tide, and here's some of what he had to say:

RED TIDE was a revolutionary experiment in visual suspence.

There are three aspects which give RED TIDE a unique appearance. The first is an artistic style based on photography. To accomplish that extra gray range, I aborted the standard inking process - the art is rendered completely in pencil, so that I could create a hard and a soft edge, similar to cinematic tonality.

Pop culture expert James Romberger might agree: he claims to have found 150 narrative innovations in my work that had never been done before in the history of the form.

However, the work's individuality is predicated on its format as an authentic graphic novel, not a fat comicbook. Novels have specific requirements, and RED TIDE qualifies because it utilizes text units, not balloons and captions - which are comicbook conventions. A novel is a prose narrative of considerable length and complexity; RED TIDE is more than one hundred pages of narrative twists, with characters densely defined by both words and pictures. And the book has chapters, another aspect which conforms to the definition of the term "novel." However, the page design is groundbreaking: precisely in 2:1 image-to-text proportions, very satisfying for the aesthetic mind to accept - and with no text carryover from page to page. Additionally, the same-size panels throughout the book deliver a sense of the inevitable, of time ticking down to an electrifying, climactic moment - hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second.

[Cinematic Coloring is] a concept that allowed me to actually compose images of light and shadow, exactly like the great noir cinematographers - and it also provided a vast palette of subtle, dark, expressive values. I've never seen this technique used in the four-color form previously, even in hand-painted work. I actually created light sources for every image and the result was shockingly transcendent; it elevated the drama and tension to levels even I didn't realize were possible. It's a major advance in narrative progress.

Elbow smash to the nose, well done, can sometimes be better than sex.

Okay, I just threw that last one in because it was fun, but how about that? I'm not even commenting on those answers - I'll just leave them out there. Have fun with them!

I really like Dark Horse Presents, by the way, even if the Concrete story was preachy and the Dave Gibbons story was a bit obvious and the Richard Corben story ended weirdly and it gives a platform to Neal Adams, who now has "proof" of his Growing Earth theory (read his blog!). "Number 13" is a weird little story, "Finder" continues to be very good, Chaykin's story is entertaining, and Sanford Greene is killing it. And I would buy the hell out of a William Henry Harrison snowglobe, even though there's some debate whether the cold weather at his inauguration actually killed him. It's still a great idea.

Man, that Steranko. Feisty as ever at 72!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Kill Shakespeare #12 (of 12) ("To Thine Own Self Be True") by Conor McCreery (writer), Anthony Del Col (writer), Andy Belanger (artist), Ian Herring (colorist), and Chris Mowry (letterer). $3.99, 32 pgs, FC, IDW.

Belanger's art looks a tiny bit rushed in this final issue, and considering it's been three months since issue #11, that's a shame. The book came out of the gate really well, and while it's slowed a bit this year, it's still an excellent mini-series, and Belanger's work has a lot to do with that. His amazing details and innovative panel designs aren't really in evidence for this final issue, but that might be because it's a much more straight-forward action issue, as all the forces come together and fight it out, with some characters getting their comeuppance, others surviving to menace our heroes another day, and Hamlet, to the end, remaining indecisive. The way McCreery and Del Col refuse to let their hero change into an action star is one of the best things about this series - Hamlet, along with everyone else, is a construct, so just when we think he might change, he doesn't. That doesn't mean he's not an interesting character, but it does make it fascinating that he's still limited by his creator - Richard III makes this explicit, but it applies to many other characters in the book, as well (that Juliet is one who does not appear to be constrained by her creator is interesting). This is a far more complex series than it might appear on first blush, and I encourage everyone to get the trade paperbacks ... unless IDW has plans for a complete omnibus kind of thing, because that would be cool. Even with Belanger's work looking a bit less tight than it has been, it's still a wonderful-looking comic, and the writers have done a nice job resisting turning this into a parody and, while it is still chock full of action, making sure that the characters remain at the forefront. They've claimed for a while that they have more stories to tell in this universe, and that's fine, but I am glad that this series tells a complete and interesting story. Check it out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Loose Ends #2 (of 4) by Jason Latour (writer), Chris Brunner (artist), and Rico Renzi (colorist). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, 12-Gauge Comics.

Loose Ends fills in some background on certain characters, so while it's not quite as much a punch-in-the-gut as issue #1, it's a solid book that will help us down the line, and Latour and Brunner are good enough visual storytellers that even an issue like this, where the action and tension is ratcheted down a little, remains a page-turner. The first few pages show a cop going bad even though he thinks it's awful, and in the present we see how corrupt his soul has become. Meanwhile, Sonny, our protagonist, has a flashback to his college days as he drives to Miami, and we see how he knows the passenger in his car. It's an oddly-structured issue, because it seems to lack the narrative flow that the first issue did, but it also works in discrete chunks of story - the first scene is a gripping stand-off, the college flashback almost belongs in a different comic because the tone is so different and even a bit innocent, and the final scene speaks of long-lost passion that, presumably, will erupt and cause problems (because passion in stories like this always causes problems). I suppose that's why the book is called "Loose Ends," because everything is out there, and Latour is filling in blanks that we didn't know existed, weaving things together into a (let's hope) coherent whole. Brunner and Renzi are fantastic, as they were on issue #1 - the first flashback is stark sepia, mirroring the horrific events occurring during the scene, while the college days seem filtered through a marijuana haze. The double-page spread of Miami at night wrenches us from Sonny's (or Cheri's) memories and back into the neon present, almost shocking us with its glitziness. It's a marvelous shift, showing two artists who are working well to steer us through Latour's story.

I honestly have no idea where Latour is going with this, but it's a cool little story so far. I can't wait to read the next two issues!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Next Men #9 by John Byrne (writer/artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 23 pgs, FC, IDW.

Byrne's Next Men limps to the finish line (even as he promises more issues in 2012), as our heroes try to stop Sathanas once and for all, and succeed rather easily and with very little fuss. It's kind of weird - for these nine issues, it felt as if Byrne was laying the groundwork for a very complicated time travel story, when suddenly ... did he lose interest? I don't know, but for the past few issues, he's been speeding toward the ending and slicing away the excess, and now it's over. For now, of course. Maybe Byrne just needed to recharge his Next Men batteries and didn't want to stop in the middle of a story, so he zipped through it. I don't know. After years of reading Byrne's intricate and long-running plots, this just seems truncated. And it's not like it's someone else's baby, so he stormed off because Marvel or DC didn't let him do what he wanted to do. Strange.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Northlanders #43 ("The Icelandic Trilogy Part 2: Security 880") by Brian Wood (writer), Paul Azaceta (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Wood moves the story forward in time, and we get to see Ulf as a psychotic man rather than a psychotic teenager. Well, his father did want him to be tough, and Wood does a very nice job showing the role reversals that have occurred now that his father is older and Ulf is young and strong. Maybe you shouldn't have turned your kid into a monster, hey? Ulf even says so, and his dad completely misses the point. Yes, Ulf is a horrid man, but he didn't have to be, did he?

Anyway, Ulf does some conquering, some organizing of his people, some screwing, and some banishing. It's all very intense. Azaceta draws it well, and issue #43 of Northlanders is in the books! Good stuff, as usual!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Project Superman #3 (of 3) ("Battle's Eve") by Scott Snyder (plotter), Lowell Francis (plotter/scripter), Gene Ha (artist), Art Lyon (colorist), and Rob Leigh (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Our little lost lamb, Chad Nevett, reads this as a comedy, and after this issue, I'm inclined to agree with him ... even with the ending (and I will discuss SPOILERS, in case you're wondering). It's sooooo overwrought, and Subject Zero is sooooo maniacal and such a parody of the superhero who wants to save the earth by killing everyone, but what clinched it is that Subject Zero and Kal fight in London, of all places, and it feels like a pastiche of Miracleman #15, and then we get to the end, where Lois dies for absolutely no reason whatsoever, and as she freaking dies she comments on how stupid her death is. I mean, look at the Airwolf panel - how can this not be a comedy? And then Subject Zero tells Kal, "I'm going to peel you off." How can the writers not mean that as a euphemism for masturbation (yes, it's "peel one off," but still)? This entire fight leads up to one giant orgasm, and while Kal and Subject Zero are separate entities, they're close enough genetically that we can see the entire fight as masturbation.

Man, this is a silly issue. I really like Gene Ha's artwork in this series, but the series has descended into self-parody and honestly, the only way I can redeem it is to see it as deliberately funny by the writers. Let's hope it was!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Spontaneous #3 (of 5) ("Smolder") by Joe Harris (writer), Brett Weldele (artist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

I don't have much to write about this, as it's issue #3 of a 5-issue mini-series, and you know what that means (and if you don't, you haven't been reading comics very long). We do learn some crucial information about Melvin, and we learn a little bit more about the company that all these victims worked for (and Emily remains the comic relief, as she readily accepts a conspiracy because, you know, that's what big companies do), and the book ends with a shocker, but that's about it. I like this series, but there's not a lot to write about issue #3. Except that Brett Weldele is awesome. And I don't know why a character is named "Horace Greely" (as opposed to Horace Greeley, but it's the same thing, essentially). I mean, Horace isn't that common a name, so Harris has to be referencing the great newspaper guy in some way, right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Ultimate 7 #1 (of 12) ("Playing God") by Robert Wawrzyniak (writer), Shawn Surface (penciller), Scott Shoemaker (inker/colorist), Frank Diaz (colorist), and Anna Wawrzyniak (letterer). $3.99, 23 pgs, FC, Zyo Comics.

I pre-ordered this because it sounded interesting, and it's not bad. It's not great, certainly, but it ain't bad. Wawrzyniak's story is about some alien dude named the Overlord (who may or may not be Brian Cronin) who leads an army to Earth millions of years ago, harvests what he can from the dinosaurs living here (which, we learn, he created and "seeded" on the Earth), destroys them all with an asteroid, and "seeds" the planet again with what his chief bad dude, General Reen, calls "homosapiens" - a cross between the stereotypical "little green men" aliens from popular culture and some ape-like creatures (called "abesapiens" in a nice homage to Mignola's creation). Obviously, the bulk of the series will be about the Overlord trying to harvest humanity and humanity fighting back, so this issue is mostly backstory, but it's entertaining enough. Wawrzyniak has a lot of fun peopling the issue with truly despicable creatures - they're all bad guys, after all - from the Overlord himself to General Reen to Doctor Zyo, who has a giant pink brain contained within a glass bubble on top of his head and a spidery undercarriage. It's all very wacky. I doubt if this will be an amazing series, but I'll probably get at least the second issue just to see what's going on with the main story. Surface's pencils are solid, and I actually appreciate that he draws the entire thing, as opposed to photo-referencing the hell out of it like a lot of artists working on extremely independent books. I actually like the artwork Surface has on display on his web site a bit more, but he has fun with the character designs and the weirdness going on all around them. He does end the book with a somewhat impressive double-page spread, so there's that.

The Ultimate 7 isn't a wonderfully unique comic, but issue #1 is a nice, fun issue full of evil dudes doing evil things. There's nothing wrong with that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Xombi #6 ("The Ninth Stronghold Part Six: Resurrection") by John Rozum (writer), Frazer Irving (artist/colorist), and Dave Sharpe (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

These six issues of Xombi form a fairly good story, so you should seek out the trade, if only for Irving's wonderful art. I mean, Rozum writes a pretty cool story, but Irving's art is really tremendous. Yes, the Sisterhood of Blood Mummies is fine, but I also felt that Rozum, because he had to know almost immediately that the book was being killed, didn't quite give us as much character development as the book needed to offset the weirdness, because when Rozum was able to do that, the book soared quite nicely. The way David and his allies defeat the bad guy is fairly clever, and it's unfortunate that the book had, well, no chance whatsoever. So DC kills it to make way for a bunch of other books that have no chance. Oh well. At least we got six nice issues out of it. And maybe Irving will, you know, finish Gutsville now. Bwah-ha-ha-ha! Yes, I just typed that sentence in all seriousness.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

20th Century Boys volume 16 by Naoki Urasawa (writer/artist). $12.99, 206 pgs, BW, Viz Signature.

I always like these volumes, even if I'm not quite as blown away by it as I was earlier in the series. I'm just interested in what's going to happen.

B.P.R.D.: Plague of Frogs volume 2 by Mike Mignola (writer), Guy Davis (artist), and a bunch of other dudes. $34.99, 478 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Hardcover! Whoo-hoo!

Infinite Kung Fu by Kagan McLeod (writer/artist). $24.95, 463 pgs, BW, Top Shelf.

Yes, I bought this in San Diego because I didn't remember that I pre-ordered it. So now I have two copies. Man, I really have to have another contest.

Male Call: The Complete Newspaper Strips 1942-1946 (Starring Miss Lace) by Milton Caniff (writer/artist). $39.99, 144 pgs, BW, Hermes Press.

I have recently gotten three books collecting newspaper strips from the 1940s that primarily star women. I sense a joint review of all three coming up!!!!

Of course, I can't ignore the rest of the Internet (although I don't always link to stuff), and this past week I saw something fun. There's an Etsy store where you can buy metal bras. Yes, metal bras. Just in case you want to be a barbarian sex slave, because who doesn't? I'm sure your wife or girlfriend would just love to get one from you for her birthday or Christmas. Get on that, gentlemen!

I'm sure by now you've heard about the implosion of Atomic Comics here in Phoenix. The owner, Mike Malve, sent some shockwaves through the industry by abruptly filing for bankruptcy and closing his stores as of Monday morning (thanks to my awesome insider knowledge, I knew about it five days before it happened, but it shocked a lot of other people). Read all about it on Robot 6! (Because those dudes are on top of things, man.) I've written a little about Atomic before, and while I'm a bit surprised that they went under, I'm not too surprised, especially after the car accident in 2006 that wiped out a good deal of their inventory. I liked Atomic, but I had some problems with the way Malve ran his business. First of all, when I first arrived in Phoenix and was looking for a comic book store, they didn't give any discounts for subscribers. Now, I wouldn't have cared too much about that, because Excalibur Comics in Portland didn't do that, either, but there's no sales tax in Oregon (or at least there wasn't in the late Nineties), and paying sales tax here bugs me. I was willing to forgive that, but then I found the store I still shop at, and the owner gives 20% off every subscriber on pretty much every purchase (he may do that for walk-ins, too, but I'm not sure). As I've learned more about what retailers pay for their books, I realized that 20% off still nets them a tidy profit, so why not do it? Later, I know Atomic started doing discounts, but by that time I was happy with my shop. Malve also charged exorbitant prices for back issues, as I don't think he ever scaled back the prices after the crash of the 1990s. Sure, back then you could charge 5 bucks for a random issue of Blue Devil, but you can't really do that anymore. After the car accident, Atomic had far fewer back issues, but they still kept the prices high. So the only time I really shopped for back issues was when they had sales. The customer service was fine, although I used to laugh to myself when some of the workers tried to sell me on certain comics. The staff tended to be a bit younger, so they were discovering a lot of comics that I, as an old fogey, had read years ago - I don't think they would do this, but I wouldn't have been surprised if, a couple of years ago, one of them had said to me, "Hey, have you read Watchmen? It's not just a movie, you know?" It was that kind of extreme thing, where I probably knew more about comics than they did, but they were just so earnest. I mean, that's great if you have walk-ins who don't know much about comics, but I don't think I give off that vibe.

It's a shame that Atomic went under, because I do have some nice memories of the store. After my first visit to San Diego for the convention, I stopped at Atomic on the Monday night because Warren Ellis and Jacen Burrows were doing a signing (Ellis was on his way back to England and Malve hijacked him!). And, of course, a few years ago on Free Comic Book Day, Malve managed to get the seven Image founders together for the first time in 15 years for a signing, and I had a fun time there. That was also when I met Jonah for the first time, which was cool. Malve did a lot to get comics pros to come to Phoenix and sign books. I discovered that John Layman lived in Gilbert when he was signing at Atomic, which was cool because we get together for beers every so often. I'm not sure what exactly happened with Malve, but it's a shame that the stores are closed.

In case you live in Phoenix, I'd be remiss if I didn't plug the store I shop at, which is Greg's Comics on Guadalupe and Alma School (here's the map). Howard is a fine owner who's always willing to help you find what you need and, as I wrote, he'll give a nice discount when you sign up (if not before). I've written about Greg's before, and everything I wrote still holds true (except that Robert's not working there anymore). So check it out if you live on the East side of the Basin!

Moving on, let's see what's what with The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Eye for Eye" - Think Tree (1991) "She's mad just to be pondering how the catch is simply wondering when he time will come, when she's forced to crave the honor of his pounding flesh upon her and she's numb with cum"2. "The Musical Box" - Genesis (1971) "And the nurse will tell you lies of a kingdom beyond the skies"13. "Cross Eyed Mary" - Jethro Tull (1971) "She's a poor man's rich girl and she'll do it for a song"4. "St. Teresa" - Joan Osborne (1995) "That's where I'll hold you, sleeping like a child"5. "Tilted Cross" - Fish (1999) "I left my love in a grave and I marked it"6. "Big Ten Inch Record" - Aerosmith (1975) "Last night I tried to tease her, I gave my love a little pinch"7. "World on a Wire" - Janet Speaks French (1994) "By ninth grade she knew more about sex than her biology teacher"28. "Wake Up Time for Freedom" - The Cult (1989) "A flock of vultures spinning 'round my head, left me on the roadside for dead" 9. "Throwing it All Away" - Genesis (1986) "Now who'll light up the darkness, who will hold your hand"310. "When Destiny Calls" - Hamell on Trial (2003) "I was paying the check when the TV caught my eye; I said 'Turn up the sound, I know that guy!" It was the owner of the strip club where Annie had been employed; she was wanted for murder, he was null and void."

1 I love Genesis, so it's hard to pick a favorite song, but this one is up there. Nursery Cryme might be my favorite album, too. Once Gabriel left, they were still a great band, but the quartet of Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway over the years 1971-1974 is really quite the achievement. Remember when bands actually released sprawling, ambitious albums every single year? These days you're lucky if a band can release an album full of 3-minute pop songs every five years.

2 Trish Mulvihill colored the drawing on the cover of this album. I just find that interesting.

3 On the other hand, I don't think there's any doubt that Invisible Touch is by far the worst Genesis album - it's a lousy album by any standard, not just as a Genesis album. Even the songs I like - this one, "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight," In Too Deep," "Domino" - are not that good, and as Genesis songs, they're almost embarrassing. I'm certainly not going to defend this album or this song to anyone!

Last week, no one guessed River's Edge for the movie quote. Dang, that's a brilliant movie. Keanu, Ione Skye, Crispin Glover, Dennis Hopper - it's just a superb movie that really gets under your skin. But let's move on to another Totally Random Movie Quote!

"I was just admiring your bike.""Oh, do you like motorcycles?""No, I just like big things between my legs."

Oh, so wacky!

Well, that's all for this week. Next week, of course, the entire comics universe shifts on its axis. Will you be able to handle it????? Oh, the drama! Make sure your affairs are in order, people!

Red Sonja: Birth of the She-Devil #4

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