What I bought - 24 June 2015

She even learnt the language of a strange country which, Signor Tosetti had been told, some people believed still existed, although no one in the world could say where it was. (The name of this country was Wales.) (Susanna Clarke, from Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell)

Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out #6 (of eight) ("Lady Danger: Agent of B.O.O.T.I. Part Two") by Alex de Campi (writer/letterer), Mulele Jarvis (artist), Marissa Louise (colorist), Ian Tucker (assistant editor), and Brendan Wright (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

The second half of this story is kind of a mess, but it's an entertaining mess, so there's that. De Campi simply throws everything she can onto the page, and while some of it doesn't work (as usual, I hate having to defend the police, but their depiction here is ridiculously reductive, even though I get that this is supposed to be somewhat satirical), a lot of it does. De Campi just goes to town with the various neighborhood groups coming together to defend their turf, and she does a nice job showing disparate people working together. Lady Danger is hardly in this, though, which is a slight weakness, but it's generally a very fun issue of punching. It's not the best "Grindhouse" story - it might be the worst, in fact. De Campi has shown that she can make "exploitation" comics that are usually fun, very often creepy, and feature interesting characters. "Lady Danger" feels like the shallowest one yet, but any comic that includes a group called "#NotAllAsians," presumably to say that not all Asians are martial arts masters, yet features ... martial arts masters can't be too bad.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman '66 #24 ("Diamond Disaster") by Wes Abbott (letterer), Jon Bogdanove (artist), Omar Estevez (colorist), Ray Fawkes (writer), Roberto Flores (colorist), and Jim Chadwick (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC. Batman and Jim Gordon created by Bill Finger and some backstabbing douchebag. Robin and Alfred Pennyworth created by Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson, plus the aforementioned backstabbing douchebag. Marsha, Queen of Diamonds created (probably) by Stanford Sherman.

For the second consecutive month, we get a story that mentions Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. Last month it was only a reference, but this month, she's the villain, and she hypnotizes Commissioner Gordon and Robin (along with a bunch of others) who then give her their valuables. Not Batman, though! He's smart enough to look away from her hypnotizing diamond before it affects him, and so he saves the day. Of course. He's Batman!

The real revelation is Bogdanove's art, which is excellent. I was never a Bogdanove fan in the 1990s - his style just didn't really work for me - but I guess he's been out of comics for a time, and the changes to his style are quite nice. He's rounded out his harsh edges a bit, and his figure work is much more fluid than it used to be, probably because those edges aren't as sharp. He's eased back a bit on the Kirby tics, and he's able to mimic the actors on the show without being too slavish about it (when he draws Robin punching his fist into his other hand with a look of grim determination on his face, it looks exactly like Burt Ward). He gives us terrific details throughout, and he uses some cool computer effects to make the book far more psychedelic than you might think it would be, but which makes sense when you consider that Marsha is hypnotizing people. This is a beautiful comic, and if Bogdanove wants to keep drawing like this, I'd be happy for him to do it on a comic I want to read!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Annihilator #6 (of 6) ("Womanoid") by Jared K. Fletcher (letterer), Frazer Irving (artist), Grant "I'm not saying I'm Ray Spass, but ..." Morrison (writer), Greg Tumbarello (associate editor), and Bob Schreck (editor). $3.99, 40 pgs, FC, Legendary Comics.

Morrison has gone to the metafictional well so often, it's occasionally easy to forget how good he is at it, as this entire series has shown. This is a great series, as Morrison once again examines the boundary between the real and the fictional and what falling too far into the world of fiction does to people, and while he did it well in parts of Multiversity, here it's a bit more distilled, as he's able to use far fewer characters and therefore get deeper into their psyches. It's also a nice love story - a sad one, to be sure, but still - as Morrison gets into what men will do for women even if they don't really understand them at all. Morrison has written one great love story, and it's convenient to think that he's not that great at them, but it's usually because his focus isn't on person-to-person romantic relationships. In this comic, Morrison is focused more on the idea that humans create messiness, but that's the beauty of them, and Ray's messy love for Luna is just another facet of that, but Morrison still does a nice job with it.

Irving is Irving - you might not like his work, but you can't deny he knows what he's doing. I happen to love his work, so this comic has been nice to see, and he goes above and beyond on this final issue. He uses shadows wonderfully when Max brings Olympia to life, and his aliens are supremely weird, which is very neat. Irving always has a bit of cartoonishness to his faces, and in this issue it works very well to highlight the strangeness of what's going on. His use of perspective is superb, as it creates some wonderfully vertiginous panels, highlighting Morrison's theme of the fictional world smashing into the "real." Irving is a great artist who doesn't work on too many high-profile books (I don't know if he's just too weird for regular superhero stuff or if he's too slow for it), but it's nice to see his work whenever it shows up.

I mentioned that 2014 was a bounce-back year for the God of All Comics after a weak 2013, and so far, 2015 is shaping up to be another stellar year for my favorite comic writer. This should make a nice trade, so I encourage you to pick it up!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gotham by Midnight #6 ("Return on Investment") by Ray Fawkes (writer), Juan Ferreyra (artist), Saida Temofonte (letterer), Rebecca Taylor (associate editor), and Mark Doyle (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC. Jim Corrigan created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey. Kate Spencer created by Marc Andreyko and Jesus Saiz.

Ben Templesmith has not returned to Gotham by Midnight, and while I like Templesmith and think he's a good fit for a comic about weird things in Gotham, I LOVE Juan Ferreyra, so the fact that he's taking over on the comic made me gleeful. He certainly doesn't disappoint, either, as he gives us a skeletal ghost haunting Apple, basically, and he draws it beautifully, using white gouache and/or (possibly) computer effects to make the skeleton more ghostly and ethereal, while the red dripping from it makes it scarier. He builds the tension well, as Jim Corrigan is trying to keep the Spectre from coming out but he and Drake need to solve the case before he loses control. Ferreyra doesn't get to change up perspective too much, but there's a great panel early in the book where he shows Corrigan and Drake reflected in a puddle, and it's the kind of clever thing Ferreyra does well - it's inventive without being intrusive. I don't know how long Ferreyra will draw this comic, but I'm really glad he's getting to draw a Big Two comic, because he deserves the attention and the money.

Fawkes's story is a one-and-done, with some subplots continuing from the first arc. The mystery is fairly easily solved, as Corrigan and Drake don't have to do too much, but we also get a subplot about the weird plant from the first arc, and I'm sure that's not going to be good for anyone. But we'll have to wait and see! Plus, Kate Spencer shows up. Hi, Kate Spencer! How cool it is to see Kate Spencer?

Gotham by Midnight seems to be the red-headed stepchild of the Bat-books these days, especially the recent relaunched ones, as Batgirl and Gotham Academy are getting most of the love. That's too bad, because this has been as good as those, and let's face it - Gotham cops see a lot of weird shit. Of course they should have a comic devoted to that weird shit! So, if you haven't checked out Ferreyra's art yet because you only buy Big Two comics, give this a look. You won't be disappointed!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scarlett Couture #3 (of 4) ("Project Stardust Part 3 of 4") by Des Taylor (writer/artist). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, Titan Comics.

Scarlett Couture continues to mosey along, with the blending of espionage with the modeling world still its best part, as Taylor actually uses some models to provide a distraction so that Scarlett can sneak in and grab some vital intel, which leads her to discovering something Nazi-ish with a biohazard warning on it, which is never a good thing. This remains a fairly fun romp, which isn't a bad thing, although it does make it a bit less "important" than some other comes. Taylor isn't really delving into the human condition here, he's just giving us an entertaining comic about models who happen to be spies, so he gets to draw attractive women in tight clothing who also kick ass. I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. His art remains the highlight, as he's so good at drawing attractive people doing their thing, and it's nice to see how well he gives Scarlett a somewhat jaundiced view of the world even as she's trying to make it better. Taylor isn't the world's best writer, and some of the writing is poor, but for the most part, he's concerned about giving us information through the dialogue and giving us some small insights into the characters. It's not great, but it's good enough.

I hate to damn with faint praise, because the book is more entertaining than a lot of the superhero books from the Big Two, but it's also very slight. There's a lot of eye candy, and there's plenty of excitement, but it's empty calories. Still, there's usually nothing wrong with some of those, so I'm not too down on the book. I'm interested to see how it all wraps up, because I imagine there will be plenty of good old-fashioned action, and that's never a bad thing.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Tithe #3 by Rahsan Ekedal (artist), Matt Hawkins (writer), Troy Peteri (letterer), Mike Spicer (colorist), and Betsy Gonia (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image/Top Cow.

The Tithe was supposed to be a mini-series, but now it's been extended, which is nice, although I worry about the Hawkins/Ekedal team. I've liked their comics, but they don't sell well, and now Think Tank is back in Previews, which is very cool, that also means there will be two Hawkins/Ekedal comics that people will ignore. So sad. It doesn't affect the quality of them at all, because this comic is quite good, but it's a shame that they don't do better.

Anyway, the problem I have with this issue is the one I usually have with "Robin Hood" stories - at some point, the Robin Hood characters do something that clearly puts them on the wrong side of the law, making it easier for the police to take them down without anyone feeling bad about it. In this case, someone gets murdered. The fact that he wasn't a good guy doesn't mean anything, because "Samaritan" has gone beyond the pale* and must be hunted down. I don't know if Hawkins will fall into that trap, because he seems like a smarter writer than that, but it's always a step along the way. We can sympathize with Robin Hood, but not enough to challenge the existing social structure.

Still, it's an exciting comic, with a Heat-style shoot-out in a parking lot and a "Lumumba moment" when Sam decides to go ahead with her scheme even though she doesn't trust two of her three conspirators (a "Lumumba moment," in case you're wondering, is that point where a reader or viewer thinks "No good can come of this," and none usually does), and feces hits the rotating cooling device really quickly. Ekedal draws it well, of course, and it sets up a nice, exciting final issue to the arc. Who will live? Who will die? Who will renounce Christianity? You won't know if you don't buy!

Man, Heat is a good movie. Can you believe it's been 20 years since it came out? Shit, I'm old.

* "Beyond the pale" comes from the 15th century, when the "Pale" was the area around Dublin directly under English authority. If you went beyond it, you were beyond English law and under crazy Irish law, where you had to drink Guinness to prove your innocence and if you were found guilty of a crime you had to marry your cousin and produce 25 babies. It was madness! "Pale" comes from Latin, palus, meaning "stake," as in something that supports a fence. Look how smart you can get if you read comic book reviews!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sex #22 ("Stripped") by Joe Casey (writer), Piotr Kowalski (artist), Brad Simpson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 18 pgs, FC, Image.

A letter writer in the back of this issue asks Casey when Simon is going to "suit up" again because "that's what we're all waiting for." Sigh. If I wanted to read a standard superhero comic, I'd read any number of comics from DC, Marvel, and even Image and Dark Horse and even smaller publishers who publish superhero comics. I READ SEX TO SEE DONGS GOING IN!!!!! I mean, come on, that's what it's all about, right?

Oh, and Annabelle can get it when she's wearing those glasses (see below). Amirite or amirite, right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Southern Cross #4 by Andy Belanger (artist), Becky Cloonan (writer), Serge LaPointe (letterer), and Lee Loughridge (colorist). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

I'm still not entirely sure how Cloonan plans on making this series last (if indeed she does), because it really does have a limited shelf life (I mean, I can't take too long to get to Titan, can it?), but it's getting better, which is nice. I still don't like the main character, but the mystery on board the ship continues to evolve nicely, and Alex is trying her best to figure out what's going on. I like mysteries where the reader knows as much as the protagonist, because it doesn't feel like the writer is cheating us. We should be right in step with the protagonist so that if she figures out what's going on, so do we. Cloonan might violate that soon enough (the classic reveal where the protagonist finds the main clue but the reader doesn't see it annoys me), but so far, we have as much information as Alex. That's neat.

Belanger continues to do stunning work on the comic, as he's still doing well with the cramped nature of the spaceship, but he goes psychedelic a few times really nicely, as Alex's consciousness seems to expand beyond space and time. I don't love the murkiness of the coloring, but it does help the weird parts of the book, which are colored more vividly, pop well when we reach them. So that's always nice.

This feels like something that would read better in trade, because Cloonan has been taking her time getting into the story, and it's been a bit frustrating. But it's definitely getting more interesting, so I'm hopeful that she'll pull it off.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Fade Out #7 by Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist), Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Sebastian Griner (editorial consultant). $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

It's kind of weird, because this is a good issue of The Fade Out, at least from an art and even the dialogue between Charlie and some of the other character, but it feels like this issue puts the book in a holding pattern. I mean, I don't mind it, because it lays groundwork for the series moving forward, but it's still odd. Charlie and Maya head to a secluded resort on the coast and bang a lot, and when they return to Los Angeles, Charlie gets in a fight with some dude who thinks he sold out his friends. And there's a mysterious stranger. But while I don't mind the foundation-building work being done here, it's even odder because we really don't learn anything about the characters. Charlie can fight a little, and Maya shaved her pubic hair because her agent thought it would be a good idea (which strains credulity a bit given the time period, but then again, I don't know much about pubic hair fashion in the 1940s), but we don't learn much more. It's a lot of Charlie mooning over Maya even though he'd rather be banging Valeria, and some oblique talk that presumably will pay off later. It's just a weird issue.

Phillips and Breitweiser continue to do wonderful work on the art, of course, but even in that area, they don't really have much to do. Charlie and Maya are drawn well, naturally, but Phillips doesn't get to use too much subtlety with them because all they're doing is fucking. When Charlie gets in his fight, it's well done, but again, it's a fight. Phillips does use an unsubtle image when the mysterious stranger approaches Charlie, but it's the only one in the book. Breitweiser is still using interesting blotches of lighter tones mottled over the characters, which is nifty, but again, the palette she uses is fairly straight forward. Very nice, but straight forward.

The Fade Out isn't a metaphysical journey through different dimensions, of course, so it's bound to be somewhat straight forward, but so far, Brubillips have pushed the plot along well, too. Here, they take a little time out, and while it's a pleasant read, it feels a bit meandering. Or maybe that's just me.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Jem and the Holograms #4 by Sophie Campbell (artist), Shawn Lee (letterer), María Victoria Robado (colorist), Kelly Thompson (writer), and John Barber (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, IDW.

I already reviewed this, and you really should check it out, unless you're waiting for the trade. I think it's neat when a book starts pretty well (which this did) but gets better with each issue - it shows that the characters are actually evolving and their relationships are becoming more meaningful, and if the book is plot-heavy (which this really isn't), that the plot is getting more interesting. Kelly had a good handle on the characters in issue #1, but the fact that their interactions are getting more interesting every issue is pretty neat. At least I think it is.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Shadow #100. "The Laughing Corpse" by Francesco Francavilla (writer/artist); Story #2 by Victor Gischler (writer), Salvatore Aiala Studios (colorist), Stephen B. Scott (artist), and Rob Steen (letterer); "Black and White and Red All Over" by Jesus Aburto (colorist), Ken Bruzenak (letterer), and Howard Chaykin (writer/artist); Story #4 by Marco Lesko (colorist), Rob Steen (letterer), Giovanni Timpano (artist), and Michael Uslan (writer); Story #5 by Chris Roberson (writer) and Ivan Rodriguez (artist); "The Curse of Blackbeard's Skull" by Rob Steen (letterer), Brennan Wagner (colorist), and Matt Wagner (writer/artist). $7.99, 48 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment. The Shadow created by Walter B. Gibson.

I've never been a huge fan of the Shadow, but he does attract some interesting creators, so I figured I'd give this comic a look. Dynamite tends to price their books a bit high, but I guess when you're getting Chaykin and Wagner (I assume those are the two most expensive dudes in this line-up), you have to jack up the price a bit! I do think it's pretty terrible that they don't have Roberson's and Rodriguez's story on the inside front cover where the rest of the credits are. I had to look it up on their web site. Shoddy work, Dynamite!

I'm not quite sure that the comic is worth 8 bucks, but Dynamite does try to make it worth that. The exterior is that sturdy stock that DC used to use for their prestige format specials (man, I miss those), and they do corral some good talent. Francavilla's story is the most stylish, which isn't surprising, as he loves the pulp era so much (I'm STILL waiting for DC to let him to "Batman '72," damn it!!!!), and his story is simplistic but nice and moody. Gischler's story is nicely done, as it shows the relationship between the police and the Shadow quite well, and it's drawn well by Scott. Chaykin makes fun of comics in his story, as the Shadow puts the kibosh on hoods trying to muscle into a nascent comics publisher's business, a man who happens to be a pal of Lamont Cranston (who, naturally, disdains the funnybooks). Chaykin's art is as late-era Chaykin as ever, but it's nice to see him doing the Shadow again. Lesko gives us a story in which the Shadow both stops a bad guy from killing two people in an alley, thereby preventing their child from growing up a rich orphan (there's something familiar about the story, but I can't put my finger on it) AND gives Orson Welles an idea for a movie about the power of the press. Man, busy night for the Shadow! Roberson has a nice tale about a low-level crook who keeps hearing about the Shadow taking out his peers, and while it's a bit heavy-handed, it's still nice to see how the Shadow deals with him. Finally, Wagner's prose story with pictures is one of those fun mysteries where there are absolutely no clues for the reader but the Shadow still solves it. What the hell, right - it's Matt Wagner drawing the Shadow!

It's a fun comic, and it's good to see all this fine talent working on it. If you have 8 bucks to drop on it, it's not a bad way to spend some time. The Shadow, for me, works best in short bursts, so I'll probably be satisfied with this for a while. It's neat that Dynamite did something like this.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batgirl #41 ("Interference") by Brenden Fletcher (writer), Joel Gomez (background assist artist), Serge LaPointe (colorist), Cameron Stewart (writer), Babs Tarr (artist), Steve Wands (letterer), Dave Wielgosz (assistant editor), and Chris Conroy (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC. Barbara Gordon created by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino. Jim Gordon created by Bill Finger and Bob "Sue 'em all!" Kane.

Since the Great Reboot, DC has been obsessed with their characters being young. Not just their main characters, but all of them. I don't quite get it; I know that Batman and Superman are perpetually 29, and that's fine, but it's strange to "de-age" some characters, especially ones that are their ages for a reason. I don't love that Barbara is now some flighty 21-year-old, but I get why DC did it (although Fletcher and Stewart remind us in this issue that Barbara used to be confined to a wheelchair, which they probably shouldn't, because it still doesn't make any sense that she's able to jump around like she does after that trauma). Then, in this issue, Jim Gordon shows up. He has shaved his mustache, which makes people look younger, but he doesn't look that significantly older than Barbara - maybe 10 years or so. Babs Tarr tends to draw people looking young anyway, but she really goes too far with Gordon. He has to be at least 45, right? I mean, I don't know when in the DCnU he became a dad, but isn't it still established that he had been a policeman for a while, and a fairly high-ranking one at that? He looks like he could be dating Barbara, not parenting her. Yes, little things like this bug me. You know they do!

Still, it's a nice issue, as we get a neat villain (Livewire) and Gordon admitting to Barbara that he's Batman, which makes Barbara feel all kinds of guilty inside because she's never told her dad about Batgirl (although that's kind of on him, because he's just that stupid). Gordon is out to arrest costumed vigilantes, and of course, Batgirl falls into his sights, which could get awkward. It's a conundrum, and it's nice that the writers are bringing it up.

I do have one question about this issue, and it involves exploitation. Over the years, we've had our consciousness raised about what and what isn't exploitative and how we can combat the idea that women are objects and that context is important, and I'm all for that. So imagine my surprise when I came across this page in this issue:

How is this not gratuitous and exploitative? There is no reason to show Barbara's butt in this situation. There's no reason to show any of this - we could do with her running to the bathroom, then the small panel of her pushing the door, then a cut to her running out with her costume on. We know how costumed vigilantes put their costumes on. So the entire sequence is superfluous. But what about the butt shot? I haven't seen anyone up in arms about it. Is it because Fletcher and Stewart and Tarr are the "right" kind of people? We like them, they're good liberals, yay them? Is it Tarr's style? It's more cartoony, so it doesn't look as "real" as some of the more egregious examples of this kind of thing? Is it not exploitative at all and I don't know what I'm talking about? When male superheroes get changed, you rarely see a butt shot, but there it is. As I've often said, I don't really care about this sort of thing, because it has no effect on me as a straight white male (we need MORE female booty in comics, damn it!). But I thought this was a particularly obvious example of sexing up a female character for no other reason than to make her look sexy. It's weird. I mean, a few pages earlier, Frankie is wearing a painted-on tiny skirt, but she's out on the town, so of course she wants to look her best. But this is strange, and I wonder if anyone is having a problem with it.

Anyway, I'm glad the book is back. It's pretty keen.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Old Wounds #3 (of 4) ("Ghosts") by John Bivens (artist), Russell Lissau (writer), John Southall (letterer), and Pj Perez (editor). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Pop! Goes the Icon.

Pj Perez sent this to me in the mail, but due to my Internet being down, I couldn't review it before Wednesday, so I just put it in with my stack. Sorry, Pj! On the plus side, my retailer actually got this issue, which was nice. When Diamond actually does their job, everyone wins!

I feared that four issues wouldn't be long enough for Lissau to really tell the story in the best way, because he had a mystery on his hands - who's killing people connected to a retired vigilante - but not a lot of space in which to establish all the characters and the evilness of the threat. So in this issue, Michael and Hess (Alyssa is her first name, we learn) visit his arch-nemesis, who's been in prison for years, and they spend a lot of time coming to the conclusion that he probably didn't do it. By the end of the issue, we find out who's really behind the murders, but it doesn't have as much impact as it should, not because we've never seen the character before (we have), but because we don't know the characters that well, with the possible exception of Michael and Hess. But their investigation has gone nowhere, and the killer shows up simply because they want to reveal who they are. I know that this is less a mystery and more a reflection of the mistakes people make and how they come back to haunt us, but it was still set up as a mystery, and it's frustrating that Lissau didn't do more with it. Even a five-issue series would have allowed him to plant more clues and still get into the psychological issues that Michael has.

It's not a bad comic - the story is still compelling despite the fact that it feels too truncated, and Bivens's art is still very good - but while the set-up of the mystery was done well, the fact that Lissau needs to reveal it so soon makes it feel too rushed. I guess I just want to spend more time with Michael and Hess. Is that so wrong?!?!?!?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mythic #2 ("Giants in the Earth") by Phil Hester (writer), John McCrea (artist), Willie Schubert (letterer), Michael Spicer (colorist), and Rob Levin (editor). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

I liked the first issue of Mythic, which gave us a government agency that deals with magical threats (as magic, not science, is really what holds the world together). Hester set things up pretty well, with a newbie joining the team so that we have a POV character, and the threat (a drought caused because the sky was in a lovers' quarrel with the ground) an interesting one. But this issue is really good, as we get a new team fighting a giant in Ireland, where bad things happen before Hester introduces the über-threat, a little girl with a flashlight. Oh, it makes perfect sense in context! Then we rejoin the "main team," as they're still trying to figure out how to make it rain. It's very funny, as their scheme is odd, to say the least, but Hester walks a fine line between the humor and taking it very seriously, as they do have a serious purpose. He also reminds us that this is a job, so the team's reaction when they realize what day it is is clever. McCrea, meanwhile, is phenomenal - he's always done monsters well, and his cartoony style works very well for the inherent silliness of, say, the Killer of Enemies, but he can still draw scary stuff too. Meanwhile, he's become much better at "normal" stuff over the years, so his people are a bit softer than they have been in the past, and it helps humanize them enough to make them relatable. McCrea is an excellent artist, and he's doing really nice work on this comic.

I figured I would like this comic - I like the creative team, and the hook is pretty cool - and I'm glad it's been gangbusters out of the gate. It's the right mixture of humor and horror, which is always a fun combination!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Penny Dora and the Wishing Box #5 (of 5) by Tamra Bonvillain (colorist), Sina Grace (artist), Hope Larson (letterer), and Michael Stock (writer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

I had a bad feeling that the arc of Penny Dora would end this way, and I was right, and it's too bad. Stock wants there to be another arc, and I guess it's TBD based on sales of the trade paperback, but that doesn't mean this isn't disappointing. The problem with a wishing box is that there's really only one way to end it, and that's what we get with this issue. There's no sense of drama because we know exactly what's going to happen, and while Penny might have some problems to deal with in the theoretical next arc, it doesn't change the fact that this arc ended poorly. I mean, if you think about how a story when a girl abuses the power of the wishing box and its original owner gets it back would end, you know what happens here. The fact that Penny got a wishing box and Elizabeth abused its power is the least interesting thing about the scenario, yet Stock bases the entire story on it. He never gets into how Penny ended up with the box in the first place, or what would happen if a person actually had something to wish for instead of just wanting to be selfish. We've often told Norah that we have one wish in this life, and if you know anything about me, you know what it is. This is a kid-friendly comic, but Stock could easily get into some more mature themes - kids can handle death in Disney movies, so why not more mature themes in their comics? Penny has to reverse what Elizabeth does, sure, but Elizabeth doesn't wish for anything that dark, so what happens in this comic is all on the surface. Stock hints at darker things in the epilogue, but that's for an arc that may or may not exist, and if he's willing to do it in an unwritten arc, why not in this one? It's just frustrating. A wishing box can be a dangerous thing, and even if it's in a kid-friendly comic, the implications of it ought to be explored more thoroughly than it was in this story.

Grace is still evolving, and while at least one commenter recently really hates his art, I don't - it's not my favorite, but it's good enough and you can see where he's gotten better. He's pretty good at faces, so when Penny and Elizabeth are talking to each other, we get the pain of betrayal from Penny and the childish evil of Elizabeth quite well. Grace doesn't have a great handle on action and wider scale stuff, so Elizabeth's "kingdom" never feels epic enough, although he draws a nice castle. Grace's best work overall is still Not My Bag, where he was drawing from his own life and using black and white, which seems to suit his art better. But he's still evolving, and I like to see where he's going.

I'm going to let my daughter read this (I figured it would be easier giving the entire thing to her instead of piece-by-piece), and I'll see what she says. For me, it was disappointing and a bit facile. Maybe I expected too much from it. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Surface Tension #2 (of 5?) ("Family") by Jimmy Betancourt (letterer), Albert Deschesne (letterer), Jay Gunn (writer/artist), Kirsten Murray (assistant editor), and Andrew James (editor). $3.99, 28 pgs, FC, Titan Comics.

Issue #1 of this series was pretty great, so it's nice to see the quality continue in this issue, as Gunn keeps plenty of the mysteries going and also fills in some backstory about the characters. A lot of this issue is about Ryan, one of the two blue-skinned people who came out of the surf in issue #1, and how he went into the water in the first place. Gunn is doing a good job with the community, showing how they're tied together and how different people are dealing with the weird plague that has "infected" the earth. He makes the point that the other blue-skinned person, Megumi, isn't quite sure if she's supposed to save humanity or destroy it, and that's definitely an overriding theme here - is the earth trying to eradicate humanity or raise its consciousness? Gunn does a good job with both ideas, and it's part of the tension of the book.

His artwork remains crisp and clean, which fits in with the idea of a cleaner world - the beauty of the island and the ocean is breathtaking, but Gunn is skilled enough to make the monsters roaming the land terrifying. Gunn doesn't take any panel off, as he gives the monsters as much personality as the people. His crisp line work helps blend the fantastical and the real well, as even the most horrifying things seem to belong in this new world. His details are terrific, too, so that we get a very good sense of the natural world of the island and the clothing that everyone wears and the violence done to the religious zealots on one page - Gunn draws every piece of the guy's shattered mask, which makes the violence more visceral. It's a creepy book, sure, but the artwork adds an element of hope, which helps with the textual dichotomy of what Megumi and Ryan are doing back. It's pretty neat.

This is a cool comic - part horror, naturally, but not completely, which makes it interesting. I'm looking forward to reading more!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Five Ghosts Deluxe Edition volume one by Lauren Affe (colorist), Frank J. Barbiere (writer), Garry Brown (artist), Chris Mooneyham (artist/colorist), and S. M. Vidaurri (colorist). $34.99, 290 pgs, FC, Image.

On the back of this comic, one of the pull quotes claims that the character "feels like he belongs in a classic novel or on the big screen." I'm sure that was meant as a compliment, and it's from a guy writing for a comics web site, but doesn't that sound a bit condescending? Why does he belong in a classic novel or on the big screen? Is it because being in a comic is like living in a ghetto somewhere and he deserves much better? There's nothing wrong with being a character in a comic. It's kind of annoying.

Gødland Celestial Edition volume three by Joe Casey (writer), Bill Crabtree (colorist), Sonia Harris (letterer), Tom Scioli (artist), Brad Simpson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $34.99, 358 pgs, FC, Image.

Looking at this all at once (or at least the final third of it) really reminds me of how freaking cool this comic was. Damn, it looks more neat-o even then the single issues.

Howard the Duck the Complete Collection volume 1 by Terry Austin (inker), Frank Brunner (writer/artist/colorist), John Buscema (artist), Sal Buscema (penciler), Dave Cockrum (artist), Jan Cohen (colorist), Gene Colan (penciler), John Costanza (letterer), Steve Gerber (writer), Dick Giordano (artist), Stan Goldberg (colorist), Ed Hannigan (artist), Dave Hunt (colorist), Klaus Janson (inker/colorist), Annette Kawicki (letterer), Steve Leialoha (inker), Val Mayerik (artist), Al Milgrom (artist), Mike Nasser (penciler), Jim Novak (letterer), Tom Orzechowski (letterer), Tom Palmer (artist), Joe Rosen (letterer), Marie Severin (colorist), Art Simek (letterer), Mary Skrenes (writer), Sal Trapani (inker), Irene Vartanoff (colorist), Irv Watanabe (letterer), Glynis Wein (colorist), Alan Weiss (artist), Michele Wolfman (colorist), and Mark D. Beazley (collection editor). $34.99, 423 pgs, FC, Marvel.

This looks neat. Huzzah for Marvel and DC bringing out big collections of old stuff!

Infinitum by G. M. B. Chomichuk (writer/artist). $18.99, 124 pgs, BW, ChiGraphic.

It's a black-and-white time travel noir story. You know it will be good!

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service volume 14 by Eiji Otsuka (writer), Housui Yamazaki (artist), Toshifumi Yoshida (translator), and Carl Gustav Horn (editor). $12.99, 191 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

Just in time for them to stop publishing small volumes of this, the latest small volume comes out! Sheesh. It seems like they're going to collecting three volumes into one, too, so instead of getting volume 15 out and then stopping it, they'll make me buy a bigger collection of volumes 13-15, two of which I already own. Sounds about right.

Odd Schnozz and the Odd Squad by Jeffrey Burandt (writer), Dennis Culver (artist), Crank! (letterer), Richard Villalobos (colorist), Robin Herrera (editor), and Jill Beaton (editor). $19.99, 160 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

A band helps a chimp fight an evil organization, but the chimp, it turns out, is really a scientist who had his mind transferred into the chimp. COMICS!!!!!

Rexodus by Dustin Evans (colorist), James Farr (writer), Anna Film (letterer), Camila Fortuna (colorist), Serge LaPointe (inker), Sean Parsons (inker), Kevin Patag (inker), John Rauch (colorist), Jon Sommariva (penciler), and Jason Yang (letterer). $12.99, 96 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Intelligent dinosaurs working with humans to save the planet? COMICS!!!!!

Russian Olive to Red King by Kathryn Immonen (writer) and Stuart Immonen (artist). $24.95, 151 pgs, FC, AdHouse Books.

Holy crap, this looks amazing.

Money spent this week: $230.33 (!!!). YTD: $3247.14.


It's been a fairly momentous few weeks in the country, as we had a church shooting by a racist (that somehow turned into a church shooting by someone who hates Christianity), which led to people caring more about taking down Confederate flags than discussing guns in the U.S., probably because taking a flag down is much easier than discussing guns. Look, I think the Confederate flag is awful, and the fact that we don't call everyone who wants to fly one traitors is mystifying (I mean, that's what the Confederates were), but it seems that trying to curtail guns would be a smarter things to do. If I were a politician ... well, I wouldn't be a politician, because I'm not crazy, but if I were, I'd tell gun nuts that if they want to stick strictly to the Founders' ideas about the Second Amendment, they can stick to the height of gun technology from 1776, and I wouldn't regulate their muskets. Anything invented since then ... yeah, suck it, gun nuts. Anyway, at least we're talking about an obvious symbol of racism and rebellion and how it might not be wise to put it on flags. It's certainly not enough, but it's something.

Meanwhile, after that tough part of the weeks, the Supreme Court went a bit crazy this week, as they saved the Affordable Care Act and the Fair Housing Act and decided that the gays are people, too. Hey, welcome to the 21st century, Supreme Court! It's too bad so many people on the conservative end of the political spectrum can't join you there. A lot of conservatives have compared this to Roe v. Wade, in that the Court took away the decision from the states, which might lead to the opposition becoming recalcitrant instead of willing to listen. Fair enough, and honestly, I have more respect for people who don't like abortion than those who don't like same-sex marriage. I disagree with them, but at least with abortion, you can make the case that a living thing has no choice. Conservatives, of course, have no good answers for what to do with the millions of unwanted children except trying to shame people into abstinence (which, as we've seen this week from Bristol Palin, doesn't work that well - oh, delicious irony!), but at least they express sympathy for something that has no power. I still have no idea how same-sex marriage will affect their lives in any way. The only defense I've seen from conservative pundits and the few conservatives I'm friends with on Facebook (I don't believe in unfriending people just because I might disagree with them) is that God says it's wrong. That's an utterly bullshit defense, and if that's your only defense, you've lost. Some people have pointed out that it was judicial overreach, but this kind of issue is why the Supreme Court exists. Was Bush v. Gore judicial overreach? A lot of liberals would say yes, while conservatives think it's great. Was Citizens United v. FEC judicial overreach? Was Loving v. Virginia? Was Brown v. Board of Education? I actually read a conservative pundit a few days ago claiming those last two were judicial overreach and that it should have been decided by state legislatures. If that were the case, I would bet there would still be states were segregated education was legal and interracial marriage was illegal. So fuck that. I'm just glad we're slowly moving in the direction of treating other humans like, you know, humans. Fancy that.

Here's a fun look at what happened when other countries legalized same-sex marriage. I don't think correlation is causation in these cases, but it's still fun.

In case conservative whining hasn't made you ill this week, perhaps you might like to try the deep-fried Big Mac? Sweet fancy Moses, that thing looks terrible. I mean, Big Macs are already terrible, and then they make them worse? 'MURICA! (I found it here.)

I have nothing else weird this week, but I do have ... another Top Ten List! This week, I thought I'd take a look at my favorite Genesis songs of the Phil Collins Era. I already listed my favorite Peter Gabriel Genesis songs, and when Phil Collins took over as lead singer, the band changed enough, especially in the 1980s, that it's almost a different group. So we're talking about 1976-1991 here, and just remember: GENESIS RELEASED NO ALBUMS AFTER 1991. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME BELIEVE THEY DID!!!!!

This is difficult for me, because I love Phil Collins Genesis. The first tape I ever bought with my own money was their self-titled 1983 album, and it just snowballed from there. I saw them during the Invisible Touch tour, which was both great and annoying, great because they were at the height of their powers as far as playing live was concerned, and the show was phenomenal, and annoying because even at the tender age of 15, I knew Invisible Touch wasn't a very good album. It remains Genesis's crowning moment in terms of album sales and nadir in terms of artistic achievement - it's by far their worst album (disclaimer: I have no idea if any albums that may theoretically exist after 1991 are worse, because of course those albums don't exist so I haven't heard them) since their debut, which I even think is a little better mainly because it's a band that clearly doesn't know what the hell it's doing, which makes it fairly charming. So this is hard, because between 1983 and 1986, I devoured Genesis albums, and while I like the Peter Gabriel Era, Phil Collins/Tony Banks/Mike Rutherford was MY Genesis, even though their albums with Steve Hackett are quite good. Choosing ten songs is hard, man. My Number One is easy (and probably not what you think), but the rest ... sheesh. But let's do this thing!

10. "Blood On The Rooftops" (1976). Genesis released two (2) albums in 1976, and while the first, A Trick of the Tail, seems to be more well known, I prefer Wind & Wuthering, on which we find this song. It's a typical early Collins Genesis song, in that he's trying a bit too hard to mimic Gabriel, but while the worst of those efforts sound a bit too precious, "Blood on the Rooftops" has a bit more bite to it - it's a weird political song, and Collins's more sentimental voice helps make it a bit sadder than Gabriel probably would have made it (even Gabriel's sad political songs come off as strident). It also showed that Collins could write interesting, oblique lyrics when he wanted to. When he decided to become a pop star, he left that behind, but it's not like he can't do it. Here are the lyrics.

9. "Misunderstanding" (1980). You all know this song, right? It's a move toward peppiness, which is fine if not necessarily my thing, but because Duke is the best Collins Genesis album, it straddles the line between the more esoteric stuff they put out in the 1970s and the pop stuff in the 1980s. "Misunderstanding" sounds like a typical pop song, but it has a nice edge that elevates it a bit. The lyrics are here.

8. "Undertow" (1978). After Steve Hackett left the group, Genesis released the unusual ... And Then There Were Three, which featured a bonafide hit ("Follow You Follow Me") but also some of their most personal, tortured music. It wasn't as oddball as their first two albums, but it wasn't as commercial as their 1980s work, either. "Undertow" is a good example of the songs on the album, as it meanders a bit in the opening before Phil opens up to an emotional chorus which crescendos nicely. It's a beautiful love song, sung with charming sentimentality and deep feeling. You can check out the lyrics here.

7. "Many Too Many" (1978). Another tune from ... And Then There Were Three, this song is an opposite to "Undertow," in that it's a sad expression of someone who doesn't love anymore but can't get free of the other lover. It's not a complicated song, but Phil comes up with some great lyrics: "You set me on a firmly laid and simple course, then removed the road". As usual with Collins Genesis, the song builds nicely to a climax before receding into a quiet musical outro, but the gang does it so well, it's forgivable when they repeat the pattern. Here are the rest of the lyrics.

6. "Man On The Corner" (1981). I've never liked the drum machine on this song, but Tony Banks's keyboard does really add nice atmosphere to the proceedings, and Phil's early-1980s creepy vibe (see: "Thru These Walls") was in full effect here, even though he wasn't actually being creepy. Despite the simple lyrics, it's a fairly obtuse song, but it's all about mood, and as usual, when Phil gets to the bridge - "But like a monkey on your back, you need it, but do you love enough to leave it?" - we get the wonderful crescendo and the powerful ending, where Phil gives us a primal scream. Abacab is a decent album, and this song is the highlight. The weird lyrics are right here!

5. "Afterglow" (1976). The final song on Wind & Wuthering is, to me, the best album ender in history - it's about endings, after all, and the hope for the future, and it keeps building and building to a powerful climax, where Phil blends that pain of loss and joy of hope so well, before it slowly fades into nothingness. Every album should end with a song this good! Check out the lyrics here.

4. "Behind The Lines/Duchess/Guide Vocal" (1980). I guess technically this is three songs, but they're linked via a motif and they don't even end, just bleed into the next one, so I'm counting them as one! This suite kicks off Duke, and it gets the album going with a great start - the musical intro to "Behind the Lines" is pure genius Genesis, with wonderful Collins drums backing vibrant Banks keyboards and that sweeping guitar that Mike Rutherford loved. Phil's lyrics, about a person losing another who's moving beyond him, are very nice, and they're echoed well in "Duchess," which begins with that annoying drum machine that slowly picks up steam once Phil actually starts playing the drums, and then lands with a crash, with Phil singing about a star who sacrificed so much for fame but finds that it's far too fleeting. We then come to a halt with "Guide Vocal," as bitter a song as Genesis ever recorded, with Banks's lyrics shredding the object of desire in 64 words. It's a great way to start the album, and when Genesis returns to the theme to end the album, it feels like they've earned every bit of it. Lyrics, lyrics, lyrics - each one gets its own page!

3. "Mama" (1983). "Mama" was one of the first Genesis songs I ever heard (I think it was third, after "That's All" and - ugh - "Illegal Alien"), and I still love it, even though it's super-creepy thanks to Collins calling a prostitute "mama." It has that great (somehow not annoying) drum machine beginning, overlaid with the eerie keyboards and Phil's terrifically creepy voice, achieved through some reverb magic. As I noted above, early-1980s Phil could do creepy really well, and this is his crowning achievement, I think. The disturbing lyrics are here.

2. "Entangled" (1976). I love "Entangled," obviously, and I love that it's basically about an insane person who might get thrown out of an asylum because he can't pay the bill. The music features 12-string guitars (I like Rutherford, but dang, Hackett was a great guitarist) and ends with a fantastically eerie synthesizer and Mellotron part, which turns it into a song that feels like it's from deep space or another dimension. I know, it was the 1970s, so everyone was being weird, but I love that Banks's lyrics are so grounded even as the music is tinkling behind them. It's a great song. Get entangled in the lyrics right here!

1. "Heathaze" (1980). I've loved "Heathaze" ever since I bought Duke 30 years ago, so it has nothing to do with living in Arizona, as I do now. Banks is writing about alienation and the effect it has on people, but also how it's hard to leave your past behind. The beautiful imagery helps, of course, as does the idea of the heat pressing everything down and keeping everyone languid and unchanging. Phil sings it so convincingly - one thing Phil could always do is sell whatever he was singing - that you can feel the pain in his voice, and the final words - "I feel like an alien; a stranger in an alien place" - linger as the music slowly fades. It's my favorite Genesis song, even if we count the Gabriel era. Here are the lyrics.

That was fun, wasn't it? Let me know your favorite Genesis songs. I know you have them! I had a few from We Can't Dance that just missed the cut, in case you're wondering. That album is a nice return to form after Invisible Touch, and then Genesis broke up and never released another album. So it is written!

Let's take a look at some Totally Random Lyrics!

"Seems like just yesterdayYou were a part of meI used to stand so tallI used to be so strongYour arms around me tightEverything, it felt so rightUnbreakable, like nothin' could go wrongNow I can't breatheNo, I can't sleepI'm barely hanging on"

Have a nice day, everyone. As always, I apologize for posting these so late in the week - life never gets any less busy, does it?!?!?!?

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