What I bought - 24 October 2007

As always, there are lots of good comics out there if you know where to look.  I also checked in on the latest "big event" in the DCU, was disappointed that a book I got wasn't as bad as I thought it would be (I would have been mad if I paid for it, though), and, in honor of Rogue somehow showing us both her firm butt and perky breasts in the same picture, thought I would take a look at covers this time around.  How do these covers entice us?????  Do they entice us?????

Blue Beetle #20 by John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque.  $2.99, DC.

This is a tie-in to the big Green Lantern event, "The Sinestro Corps War" (more on that below), and the cover, obviously, reflects that.  Sinestro doesn't actually show up in this issue, but whoever did the cover text cleverly wrote "Sinestro's Reach," so the Big Bad Guy doesn't have to be in this, and it will still catch the eye of anyone following the larger story (and I'm not sure if it was advertised, as it's not really a separate chapter, just an ancillary story) and, DC hopes, induce them to buy it.  Jaime's situation is captured rather well - somehow, he runs afoul of the Yellow Lanterns and gets his ass whipped.  This cover works both as advertising and summary.  Not bad.

The issue itself has less to do with the bigger war than with the Reach's connection to it and how it affects Jaime and his posse.  We begin at Mount Rushmore, where the Green Lanterns and Yellow Lanterns are having a big throwdown.  One of the YLs is killed, and his ring goes looking for a replacement (in a nice continuity moment, this scene takes place both in this issue and Green Lantern Corps #17).  One would think the ring would have to go off into another galaxy, but luckily for it, it finds Christopher Smith, a.k.a. Peacemaker, who we've seen training Jaime in the past.  Apparently, Smith has the "ability to instill great fear," and the ring digs that.  But we learn quickly that it's not really Smith the ring is looking for, but the scarab implanted on his spine.  The Reach - the aliens Jaime is fighting - show up and explain that the scarabs are a hive mind from Sector 2 - the ring's home sector - and the fear they've caused registered with the ring.  The ring can't interface with the scarab while it's inert, so the Reach activate it, turning Smith into a big bad dude with the scarab armor and a power ring.  That has to suck.  For Jaime, that is.  It's pretty cool for Smith, I guess.

Jaime is alerted to the situation by his scarab, and he fights Smith, who pretty much kicks his ass.  A Green Lantern - Brik - shows up, briefly thinks Jaime is a bad guy (she calls him "Reach filth"), but then realizes he's fighting the new YL.  So they team up, and Jaime and his armor come up with a solution.  And it's a good one (and allows him to make a Matrix reference, which is pretty funny).  Just when we think everything is kosher, Smith decides to do something drastic, leaving us with a bit of a cliffhanger.

The great thing about this comic, whether you like it or not (and you should) is that it gives us plenty of action, but Jaime tries to solve problems with his brains, usually by thinking of something he learned from Ted Kord.  It's refreshing to read a superhero comic where the hero tries to avoid violence.  He doesn't always succeed, of course, because we need the fisticuffs occasionally, but Jaime is always thinking instead of just punching, and Rogers has done a good job coming up with solutions that don't involve pounding someone into submission.  That's what makes this better than just your average superhero comic.  This is another instance of it, as Jaime realizes his foe is stronger than he is (and even stronger than he and Brik together) and he is forced to figure something out.  Compare this to the issue it ties into, GLC #17 (see below!), which is, quite literally, all bashing.  I understand that's in the middle of a "war" and therefore the fighting is part and parcel of the whole story arc, but it's still far less interesting than Blue Beetle.  So, of course, it will outsell it.  Sigh.

Casanova #10 by Matt Fraction and Fábio Moon.  $1.99, Image.

Moon points out in the backmatter at the end of the comic that this issue has a lot of sex in it, and he theorizes that Fraction wasn't getting a lot because his son was about to be born when he wrote this.  I suppose.  There sure is a lot of sex in this issue.

There's not a lot to say about this issue, because it's pretty much straightforward, except for the brief aside during which we learn that time is seriously screwed up.  More on that later, I guess.  Otherwise, it's Zephyr and Kubark Benday, the son of Zephyr's new boss, going out to assassinate Dr. Toppogrosso, a therapist whose thing is that he brings in an entire crew of people to mess with a patient's head and then films it, humiliating the woman in the process.  Zephyr poses as an innocent patient, seduces Toppogrosso, and kills him.  That's the whole issue.

This issue, unlike the others, felt rushed.  I like the short format to these comics, but for once, I think it works against Fraction.  Zephyr seems far too worldly, even posing as a naive patient, and then she turns into seductress right quick.  Shouldn't Toppogrosso suspect something?  Or is he that stupid (or blinded by her sexy bod)?  And I have a question about the ending: when did Zephyr and Kubark collect all of Toppogrosso's posse?  I mean, they're all there at the end.  Like I wrote, it's a bit rushed.  Oh well.  It's still an interesting issue, and there's a recipe for lamb.  So you get good value for your two dollars!

That cover, by the way, is a lot more disturbing than it looks at first glance.  Of course we have the hand-held old-school camera and the domino mask over a field with bloodstains on it, but note the film on either side of the space.  It's a woman about to commit suicide by sticking a pistol in her mouth, and presumably it's the young woman at the beginning, whom Toppogrosso humiliates.  But look more closely.  First, the pistol in the mouth is inherently sexual, and the woman looks far more like someone performing oral sex than someone trying to kill herself.  And there's also another person involved - the finger on the trigger belongs to someone else.  It's a creepy image, implying far more than we think, and sets up the issue, with Zephyr having sex among the dead (who have been killed with a pistol), more than we think.  That Gabrial Bá is a twisted dude, man.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Daredevil #101 by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, and Stefano Gaudiano.  $2.99, Marvel.

Now, Djurdjevic's cover, while a nice painting, doesn't really do much to draw in new readers (despite Matt "reaching" for the reader, an effect Deodato accomplishes a bit better with She-Hulk), because it's kind of unpleasant.  Daredevil usually isn't pleasant, but what's odd about this cover is that Double-D spends most of the time while he's in costume in this issue kicking ass, not getting his ass kicked, as this cover clearly implies.  I often wonder about these kinds of covers and the people who are hired to create them.  Do they have any idea what is going to happen in the issue?  Or do they just a directive: Draw Daredevil!  Probably the latter, which is why the covers don't really have any connection to what goes on in the issue.  But then you get someone like Simone Bianchi on Detective, where he clearly knows, at least, who the villains are.  The behind-the-scenes stuff in comics fascinates me, in case you can't tell.  One thing I dislike about this cover is Matt's right bicep.  It's freakishly bulging and doesn't appear to be part of his arm - it's like he taped a water balloon to his arm or something.

Anyway, this issue is pretty good, until the last page (which wasn't bad, but led me to question some things).  Matt fights to save Milla, both as a lawyer and a vigilante, as he goes looking for Mr. Fear, who has the antidote to whatever he dosed Milla with.  Meanwhile, Matt the lawyer tries to get her released on bail, but the courts are having none of it.  The nicest part of the issue is when Matt sneaks into the hospital and spends the night with his wife, because despite Milla being around for a while now, we haven't gotten much of a sense of their relationship.  Bendis, and now Brubaker, have done a pretty good job with Milla the character, but not too much with Matt and Milla the couple.  I guess it's because married couples are inherently boring.  Let's hope Joey Q steps in soon!  Brubaker does a good job with Dakota North telling Matt to spend time with his wife, and Matt following her advice.  In an issue with lots of nice moments, these two stand out.

Okay, the last page.  I guess I'm going to SPOIL it, but it's not like it's that much of a shock.  Turk, it turns out, is really working for the Hood, not Mr. Fear.  So the Hood shows up on the last page, plotting against both Mr. Fear and Daredevil.  So I have a question.  When did Brubaker write this?  Was it after the Hood became a menace in New Avengers?  If so, that's one thing, but why would he use him if Bendis is doing so?  Is it going to be connected (not a crossover, mind you, but a mention by the Hood in this comic that he's busy vexing the other group or something)?  And if Brubaker wrote this before the Hood showed up in New Avengers (again, I'm not sure about the lag time between writing this and publishing it), that's odd - a minor mini-series from several years ago is suddenly really important.  I imagine Brubaker knew that Bendis was using the character, and it's just weird that he decided to use him, too, unless there's some connection.  That's all I'd like to know.  Things like this, you may have heard, fascinate me.

Doktor Sleepless #3 by Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez.  $3.99, Avatar.

Oh, I'll get to that cover, you can bet.

I'm sure that many of the people who hated the first issue of this series haven't come back, but it's definitely improving.  I'm still not sure if I'm going to keep up with it, but like the connected girls of last issue, Ellis gives us enough to be intriguing, even if he's mining a familiar vein.  We learn how John Reinhardt can be out in the world and also in jail, as we saw at the end of last issue, and it makes perfect sense - well, in a comic book way, of course.  We also get a creepy scene in the bookstore, when we learn something crucial about John's childhood.  It's this scene that makes me want to keep reading, even though the rest of the book is just decent.  Ellis introduces a new character, John's guardian from his younger days, and he's not terribly pleasant.  I like how the death of John's parents is somehow tied to a tentacled monster (as we see in individual flashback panels), and at the end, the guardian kills someone and spills his guts out so they look like tentacles.  Am I reading too much into that, or is Ellis giving us a clue?  Finally, we get the "secret origin" of Doktor Sleepless's nurse.  It's pretty neat.  The funny thing is, the less Ellis focuses on the actual title character, the more interesting the book is.  Granted, the first part is narrated by John Reinhardt (or is it?), but he's not really the "title character."  Perhaps Ellis will work on giving the good Doktor a better personality soon, but for now, the other characters are interesting enough to keep me coming back.  We'll see how long that lasts.

Okay, let's get back to that cover.  So much sex, it's almost scary!  Doktor Sleepless kneels naked on a roof, worshipping a lightning rod as a storm rages around him.  First, he's naked.  Second, the tiles on the roof are broken off right around his hips, giving the impression of legs wrapped around him.  I actually had to look at this closely to make sure there wasn't a person underneath him.  So he's fucking the roof.  Sort of.  Then, the lightning "rod."  We can look at this two ways.  Either he's fucking the roof, with the lightning rod serving as the "penis" of the roof, in which case this is a nice case of guy-on-guy action.  Or, the rod is a substitute for his own penis, and the lightning "spurting" from it is, you guessed it, Doktor Sleepless having an orgasm.  Fucking the storm, literally.  I'm not sure what the cover means, but I do know it's almost viscerally sexual.  It's weirdly effective, too.

Dominatrix #3 by Sean Taylor and Esteve Polls.  $3.99, IDW.

I was terribly disappointed by this comic book.  It wasn't as horribly bad as I hoped, and when I'm looking for awfulness, I expect it, damn it!  Of course, it's not a good comic, but it's more of a mediocre superhero/vigilante comic book.  Except, you know, with tits.

Alex Garner's cover sets the stage.  It's the first of our T&A covers today, and how nice to combine porn and the United States - it's a natural pairing!  Dominique Stern, our heroine, hearkens back to the old Uncle Sam recruiting poster, pursing her lips, tipping her hat, and twisting her body slightly so that we can see both of her breasts.  Of course, the latex shine of her costume adds that hint of kinkiness.  The tag, the twist on "I Want You," is bold in its certainty.  It certainly gets our attention.

I have no idea what I was expecting with this comic.  We learn that she just had her first battle as a "fetish superhero," but now she has been drugged and kidnapped by a crazy mercenary called Rottweiler.  That's where we start, with Dominique, in full gear, chained to a tractor with a bunch of mercenaries surrounding her.  Rottweiler gives her a pill (what does it do? we have no idea, but it seems to give her strength), releases her, and she fights every guy there.  Somewhat unsurprisingly, on page 4 she pulls her top down, distracting the bad guys, which lets her defeat them all!  When she does this, she has a funny line: "I'll try not to jiggle too much."  Oh please, Dominique, like those aren't totally fake!  Rottweiler is unimpressed with her bouncing allies, so she puts her top on to fight him.  Even though she defeats him, his goons grab her and he shoots her up with something.  I did like how he puts the needle through her heavy latex glove even though her upper arm is exposed.  Wouldn't the needle break?

Dominique wakes up naked in her own apartment, finds out that Rottweiler raped her (although no one ever mentions the word), and takes a shower.  I like how in a comic in which we see the heroine's breasts or she's naked in 18 panels, plus we get to see a scene where she's "at work" as a dominatrix, they can't utter the word "rape."  They have some standards in this book, people!  Dominique meets up with a friend, but gets a call from "Doug," who wants to meet for a session.  Apparently he has answers about her kidnapping, so she straps him to a wooden X (just like Wolverine!) and beats him, just like he wants it!  He tells her that he needs a favor, and we cut to a friend of hers getting shot with a poisoned dart, which Doug uses as leverage - only he can get the antidote.  Oh, the horror!  What will Dominique do?  Surprisingly, the book ends with an interesting quote by Doug, as Dominique's friend lies in a parking garage.  He says, "Everybody knows the subs are the ones running the show, baby.  That's the beauty of illusion."  It comes nowhere near to saving the book, but it's a nice line.

I really don't know where to start, so I won't.  Suffice it to say that if Dominique kept her clothes on and if Doug wasn't quite so naked (he wears a thong, because God forbid we have male nudity - tits, sure, but penises scare the customers!) and if they cleaned up the language, there's no reason DC or Marvel couldn't publish this, even without slapping a Vertigo or MAX label on it.  That's how dumb and non-controversial it is.  Dominique is just a superhero who makes the connection between sado-masochism and superheroics more obvious than we usually see in your regular Big Two offering (unless you're Robbie Baldwin, of course).  It's a lousy comic book, but it wasn't terribly offensive or shockingly awful.  It felt tamer than Banzai Girls, for crying out loud!

Let's just move on, if I haven't driven you away yet. 

Foolkiller #1 (of 5) by Gregg Hurwitz and Lan Medina.  $3.99, Marvel/MAX.

Medina does a decent job with this cover, especially adding the bloody hand reaching up from the floor.  I'm not sure I like the overly-muscled Foolkiller, but his eyes, which match the logo, are well done.  The use of triangles in the composition should mean something, but I'm not sure what that is.

The comic itself is wildly unpleasant, in a far more annoying way than Dominatrix is.  That book is stupid; this is trying hard to be "serious," and that, perhaps, makes its unpleasantness more egregious.  I didn't like reading this, and that probably colors my view of whether it's "good" or not.  Hurwitz, it seems, achieves what he wants to do, but I just don't like what he wants to do.  So it may be my problem.

As seems to be the trend these days, the "hero" of the book - at least the title character - must remain aloof and mysterious, so, in lieu of resorting back to third person narration, the writer needs to introduce a different character to be the reader's guide.  Unfortunately, the narrator, whom we know only as "Nate," is a horrible person.  We're not supposed to care about him at all, I realize, but there's a difference between not liking a character and being interested in what's going to happen to them.  I just want Nate to get eaten by the Foolkiller's rottweiler and never be heard from again.  He's that horrible a person.  Plus, he's not an interesting horrible person, he's just horrible.  We're introduced to him as he's being worked over by some thugs because, in his function as enforcer for a sports gambling house, he skimmed some money and they want it back.  We find out he was a defensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers (which is unlikely, as he's kind of small), but he got caught gambling on the team and was thrown out of the league.  We also find out he has an ex-wife and two daughters, and when he can't produce some of the money he stole, the thugs kill his ex-wife and one of the daughters.  This is after they force his hand down a garbage disposal, by the way.  So, in the first few pages, we have a stump of a hand and two dead females.  And then the book gets really unpleasant!

While in the hospital, Nate starts hearing about the Foolkiller, whose name is his job.  It seems that a lacrosse team raped a girl (and yes, it wouldn't be a complete comic if we didn't see her draped on a pool table, although I guess we should be thankful she's wearing a shirt and is partially blocked by one of the rapists) and the Foolkiller took them down.  They all end up in the same hospital, and they all end up dying.  Nate hears about their killer, who's spoken of in hushed tones, as if he's an urban legend.  Then he sees evidence of the Foolkiller all around town, and then he's at the scene when the Foolkiller claims another victim.  He follows the Foolkiller's dog and comes face to face with the man himself.  Presumably at the beginning of next issue, he's going to ask the Foolkiller to feed him to the dog, because Nate is such a scumbag.

It's an unpleasant issue because there's nothing, really, to like.  We don't like Nate.  We don't know the Foolkiller, but we don't like his methods.  I know that Hurwitz is engaging in some fantasy retribution when he brings up the Duke lacrosse case (don't tell me he's not!), but the only other person who gets killed because of something we hear about (Nate sees other victims, but they're just random bad guys) is a CEO whose company has been accused of polluting.  Now, I'm sure the guy was guilty, because all businesses in comic books are evil, but my point is that the Foolkiller is obviously insane, so we can't really relate to him, either.  What's the point of reading this when all we get are people getting killed?  I'd say this is obviously misogynist, but it's misanthropic than anything.  I didn't like it and didn't see the point.

One last thing: Nate visits his other daughter in the hospital, where she's waiting for a heart transplant.  She justly tells him to get the hell out of there, but that's not what I want to mention.  She looks as old as Nate does, and acts like an adult.  Nate played two years in the league and probably wasn't an enforcer for too long.  He doesn't look much older than 30.  Yet he has an adult daughter who doesn't, apparently, need a guardian.  It was a bizarre scene.

Anyway, unlike, say, Terror Inc., the other MAX series out right now, this has no sick sense of humor that keeps that book interesting.  It's just depressing.  So why should I care? 

Green Lantern Corps #17 by Dave Gibbons, Pascal Alixe, Angel Unzueta, Dustin Nguyen, Patrick Gleason, Vicente Cifuentes, Rodney Ramos, Rob Hunter, Marlo Alquiza, and Prentiss Rollins (sheesh!).  $2.99, DC.

Patrick Gleason's frenetic cover might be the best thing about this comic, as Guy Gardner leads the Green Lanterns right at the reader, looking far too gleeful that, as the text announces with gusto, "Lethal Force" has been "Approved!"  Except why does Kilowog have cold, dead eyes?  That's strange.  Also, I know I'm flogging a dead horse here, but DC gives us a mainstream superhero book that will show up on spinner racks in bookstores where small kids can get it, and there's blood all over the cover.  I get that they're not marketing this for children, but I bet if you asked Dan DiDio, he would say it's fine for the kiddies.  At least a parent can judge without opening the book whether they'd want their kids reading it.  "Well, junior, apparently our heroes beat several bad guys to within an inch of their lives.  Looks good for you!"

This comic, interestingly enough, has one point to make.  The Guardians miscalculated and believed the Sinestro Corps were going to attack the center of the universe - Oa.  However, they're attacking the center of the multiverse, which happens to be Earth (Galileo is spinning in his grave).  They don't think the GLs will have enough power to defeat the Yellow Lanterns, so they "must reassign the Ion Power far earlier than [they] are prepared to."  This takes, really, four panels, yet we have to go through the Battle of Earth before it can be "reassigned."  It's a fairly dull superhero fight - the GLs go to strategic points on Earth, fight the YLs, and then everyone gets called to New York.  This is just an excuse to have people fight each other - the YLs also get called to New York, so they don't achieve any of their objectives anyway (and it's not even clear what those objectives are - they destroy mankind's weapons in San Diego, but why are they massing at Mount Rushmore for the "final assault" if they're just going to leave for New York?).  In New York, the Anti-Monitor shows up, kills a bunch of GLs, but one tough guy survives, and he's the new Ion.  Lucky they gave him the power, because the issue ends with Super-thing (Boy? Man? Prime?) flying toward him spoiling for a fight.  Wow, another fight.  How lucky are we?

I read a few of the early issues of "The Sinestro Corps War" and was unimpressed.  Everyone keeps talking about how cool it is, though, so I thought I'd give it a chance.  Well, I'm still unimpressed.  There's just a bunch of generic characters beating on each other.  Kilowog's fight with some guy named Arkillo is marginally interesting, but it lasts three pages.  The art, by four different pencillers and five inkers, is muddled, even though the styles stay similar, so it's not as jarring as you might think.  However, the panels are cramped trying to incorporate so many characters, so it feels claustrophobic even though these are supposed to be big fights.  Again, when Kilowog fights Arkillo, the art opens up a bit, because it's only two characters.  The fight at the end, when Anti-Monitor is killing GLs, we're supposed to feel inspired by the new Ion's resolve, but we don't really care all that much.

I'm glad a lot of people are enjoying this story.  I'm just not one of them. 

Hack/Slash #5 by Tim Seeley and Emily Stone.  $3.50, Devil's Due Publishing.

A few people suggested I get this, so I figured I'd give it a shot.  It's not a bad comic, and fairly easy to pick up on.  What's strange is that there are three stories going on in this issue, with only a marginal connection between them.  It's kind of weird, because we keep expecting the stories to converge, but they never do.  I assume they're going to, right?

In the first story, a scientist named David, who works at the "Crane Institute," is studying something from "the Minnesota ceutotech incident."  No, I don't know what that is.  It's a live woman, who comes to the Institute in a crate.  She's strapped down and looks like a zombie.  I wonder why!  David knows her - she posed in a nudie magazine when he was a kid (tits show up on page 2 in this comic, beating Dominatrix by two!) - and is somewhat obsessed with her.  Apparently the Institute is studying "revenants," which is a fancy way of saying "zombie."  Oh dear, zombies.  A doctor discovers a way to help her, but David has already done some ... disturbing things with her.  Oh, he pays for it, you bet.  Meanwhile, Chris and Lisa, two friends, start bumping uglies, and this leads to problems with her ex-boyfriend.  They've been in the book before, which is good, because their story doesn't go very far - Chris confronts the ex-boyfriend, gets a punch in the gut, and then they're back in the sack.  Finally, our heroine, Cassie Hack, is trying to pawn things so she can afford a motel room, because her partner, Vlad, has some kind of respiratory infection and can't sleep in a van.  The only connection between each story is that the doctor at the Institute mentions something about Dr. Hack, who is related somehow to Cassie (I guess).  The writing is interesting and the art is decent, but the comic is somewhat dull.  The revenant part, which is the most interesting, features the least likeable character, and although the other characters are interesting, they don't have a lot to do.  The ending is kind of neat, certainly, and it makes it easy to come back for more.  I'm willing to deal with the "down time" of the other characters, because Seeley at least makes them people we can easily care about.  So we'll see.  Maybe I'll pick the next issue up to see what happens.

The cover, which is one of two, is fantastic.  It's in the mode of a fashion magazine, and works well to advertise what happens in the book and catch your eye.  The line above the title, about Vlad, is funny once you read the issue and discover that Vlad is not sexy at all and he has a respiratory infection that makes him snore (no, respiratory infections aren't funny, but it's a funny line).  The question on the side: "Is beauty really just skin deep?" with tips from Emily Cristy (the nude model) is also humorous, considering how she winds up.  The model, Sandra Kammerer, is cute in a totally scary way, and the bloody knife makes the cover a bit more creepy than we would expect.  Well done, say I.

Into the Dust #2 (of 12) by Jesse Rubenfeld.  $2.99.

Jesse Rubenfeld's simple cover evokes the dusty deserts of Arizona, which is where the story takes place, and also the idea of loneliness that the road brings.  It also shows the springboard for the issue, in which Judy - our "Dorothy" - who is driving home along Route 66, picks up a hitchhiker named Frank Bolger, who is, of course, the Scarecrow, who was played by Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz.  In a fairly close parallel with the movie (and book, I guess, but it's been years since I read it), the two find a poppy field (or what looks like poppies), and Judy finds a house where people are smoking opium.  Frank knows the woman at the house and isn't happy about it, but Judy smokes some and has herself an old-fashioned freak-out, just like Homer Simpson!  Frank gets her out of there before the cops bust the place, and the issue ends with the two coming upon a man hogtied to a motorcycle.  Well, that's weird.

This issue doesn't have the same verve that the first one did, perhaps because that one began in the Dust Bowl and went all Technicolor on us when Judy ended up 30 years in the future, and it made the book fascinating.  The biggest problem I have with this issue is that Judy seems remarkably well-adjusted to her situation.  I guess Judy Garland was remarkably well-adjusted in the movie, but that was back in the Thirties, man, and it doesn't really translate well to this era.  I wish Judy were a bit more freaked out by the way she has gone from 1934 to 1964.  I would be, man!

I still like this comic, and look forward to it continuing.  It's not great, but it is a nice read.

The Killer #5 and #6 by Matz and Luc Jacamon.  $3.95 each, Archaia Studios Press.


I'm not sure what's going on with The Killer.  Okay, I know what's going on in the book, and I like it a lot, but I have no idea what's going on with the way it's being released.  Why did Archaia release these on the same day?  I guess that the people who are already buying this don't care about the schedule, but for 4 dollars, it's a bit daunting if you're attracted by the first cover and want to continue getting it, as two issues come out on the same day.  The really weird thing is that this comic was originally published between 1998 and 2003.  It's already done!  I understand that it needs to be translated, and the writer, Matz, is the one doing the translating, but why is it taking so long?  It's weird.  The same thing applies to The Secret History, another very good older book that needs to be translated.  Where the heck is it?  Archaia publishes very good books, but I fear about their scheduling recently.  Come on, Archaia!  Get those books out!

The second cover is nothing special, but the first does a nice job with the story inside.  Our killer dominates the page, filling up slightly more than half of it from top to bottom, and even taking up some of the bottom right.  His eye leads us back to the smiling man behind him, and it's a nice mood setter: is the man an enemy, is the killer in trouble, or is the man a friend (or at least ally) but the killer doesn't quite trust him?  With no weapons or blood, Jacamon creates a page full of tension and potential danger.

I'm actually glad two issues came out, because each two-issue bloc of this ten-issue series is a somewhat discrete story, so we get the entire story in one reading.  It does hearken back to the earlier issues, so we know that each issue pushes the overall story along, but in this story, the Killer is brought in by a drug lord, who claims that our hero owes him because the guy he killed back in issue #2 was important for his business.  So the Killer agrees to work for the drug lord (he does get paid, however), and he actually forms an interesting relationship with the drug lord's son (is he the son?), Mariano.  He also gives away the secret of his profession to his girlfriend, who claims not to care.  I can't imagine her knowing this piece of information won't come back to haunt him.  He pays off the debt, but not in the way we might expect, and we move on.  It's a nifty little two-part story that moves things along nicely, features some good violence, and keeps the main mystery - what happened on his "final" hit - going.  But why is the schedule so screwed up?

Kong: King of Skull Island #0 by Chuck Satterlee and Dan O'Connor.  $1.99, Markosia.

Dan O'Connor's cover is the best thing about this comic, unfortunately.  Kong rises behind Skull Island, his eyes looking down at his domain, which looks strangely like Never-Never Land, but is still a nice drawing.  The pteranodon carrying the man comes directly from the comic and is actually a bit out of place on the cover.  But it's still a fine cover.

The issue itself is just a teaser for a new series, in which Carl Denham's son, Vince, tries to unravel the mystery of Kong, whose body disappeared after he fell off the Empire State Building.  In the first part of the book, Denham is on a steamer heading back to Skull Island, and it's he who is swept up by a flying dinosaur and then dropped in the water right off the shore.  This brief story ends with Denham sinking fast while sea monsters swim around him.  The preview of the first issue is in black-and-white and takes place 25 years later, as Vince wonders if Kong was real, despite the photographic evidence.  Where's the body????

I'm not sure about buying the mini-series when it shows up, but I might.  The art is somewhat stiff and occasionally the figures are disproportionate.  It's an intriguing conceit for a "sequel," and might work, but nothing in the actual writing makes me think it's going to rise above the actual idea.  A good idea will only take you so far, after all.  So we'll see.

The Lone Ranger #9 by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello.  $2.99, Dynamite Entertainment.

As usual with this comic, it's a quick read, as Matthews continues to write a Western like it should be - with the heroes doin' shit instead of sayin' shit.  The Lone Ranger and Tonto make short work of the bad guys, and the young man, Rafael, shows that he's kind of a jerk, leading to a powerful final page.  Matthews does a nice job contrasting the gun fight and the simple, straightforward brutality of our heroes with the bad guy, Cavendish, who has become too refined for his taste and decides to revert to his old self, which means he goes back to being an obvious scumbag rather than a subtle one.  In a quick comic, it's nice to see this kind of plotting, so that we see men who are civilized but can act like brutes and a brute who tries to act civilized but can't.  It's just another nice issue of a good comic.

John Cassaday, who provides the cover, always does nice work.  Everything on the cover focuses, not on John Reid, but on Silver himself.  The dirt Silver kicks up is perfectly balanced, as he is.  The offsetting of John Reid serves to highlight him, drawing our eyes away from the composition and onto the hero.  It's a nice effect.  The sun and the dirt give the sense that John is riding Silver out of a tunnel, which helps us focus in on him as well.  Very neat.

Moon Knight #13 by Charlie Huston and Tomm Coker.  $3.99, Marvel.

Despite my enjoyment of this issue, Coker's cover doesn't really work for me.  It's the blood obscuring the logo, which I think goes overboard.  You can barely read it, and although I doubt that people are going to be picking this up on a whim, shouldn't Marvel at least try to advertise it better?  It's shedding readers, apparently, and may not be long for the world, so covering up the name of the book might not be the best idea.  But what the hell do I know, right?

People have been telling me to stop buying this, but I refuse!  Like the band on the deck of the Titanic, I will keep playing, even as the water drags me under!  I was a bit disappointed by the middle issues of the "Midnight" story arc, but I thought it finished rather well, and now, in Huston's "final" issue (he's co-plotting the next arc), we get a super-sized issue drawn moodily by Coker, who does a much better job than Suayan, and telling a one-and-done story about Marc Spector heading off to get his superhero registration card.  And it's flippin' fantastic.

Yes, this is an excellent issue.  It's as brutal as the first twelve issues of the series, so don't expect that to change, but Huston does a great job showing how devious Marc really is and how far he'll go to achieve his ends.  It's a marvelously tense book, too, as Marc interviews with a S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor who is obviously not going to give him his registration card.  So Marc has to change the odds.

We also get some glimpses of the other people in Moon Knight's life.  Lieutenant Flint shows up, interviewing a suspect who was beaten up by our hero.  Moon Knight carved a crescent in his forehead, and the dude is upset.  Flint lets him go, because there's no evidence, but he takes his picture first, then shows him the other suspects Moon Knight visited.  Some of them have more than one crescent, and Flint says it takes some of them longer to learn their lesson.  Without showing our hero, we get a sense of the terror he's spreading throughout the criminal underworld.  We also check in on Jean-Paul, who goes to visit Ray in the "Moon Cave" and talks to him about Marc's inability to move on with his life.  And Marlene, whose boyfriend is bland, goes a little nuts on some would-be muggers, showing exactly what she has learned from Marc Spector.  It's a disturbing comic, but it's done better than, say, Foolkiller, because the characters are better developed, and therefore, we care more about them.  We're horrified by what Marlene does, but we understand where it's coming from.  And even though Marc has tried to be unlikeable in this series, the way he's unlikeable is fairly interesting.

Coming back to his interview, the brilliant thing that Huston does, and has been doing, is contrast his actual craziness with a faux insanity that he puts on to throw people off-balance.  In the very beginning, his personal demon, the ghost of Bushman (or whatever that thing is), tells him he needs to register with S.H.I.E.L.D. so they can continue their mission, which is beating the hell out of everyone.  Then, Marc and that Profiler guy spy on the S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor and psychoanalyze him, so Marc has some information going in.  While in the interview, the doctor draws out Marc's other personalities - Jake Lockley and Steven Grant - even though Marc told him they were only aliases.  It's a freaky couple of pages, and the doctor appears to have the upper hand.  Then it all changes, and Marc suddenly has the upper hand, and the way he goes about it is creepy, because we're never sure if he's really playacting or not.  We think he is, but we also know that he is disturbed, so we're not sure.  It's a really nice ploy that Huston has been exploring throughout the series, and I hope Mike Benson keeps going with it as the book continues.

This is a fantastic issue.  Yes, I wrote "fantastic."  You gotta problem with that?

Potter's Field #2 (of 3) by Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta.  $3.99, Boom! Studios.

Azaceta's cover for the second issue of this mini-series is fine, although I have a question about the prominence given to the dude in the winter coat, Halpert.  He's the engine that sort of drives the plot, sure, but the cover makes it seem like he's very important, and he's not, really.  Unless, and I have to wait for next issue because it's not exactly clear, he's on the last page with the girl.  Then it becomes clearer.  But I don't want to give too much away.

Waid follows a solid first issue with a solid second issue.  John is approached by that girl on the cover, who tells him her twin sister has disappeared and she might be one of his unnamed dead.  John is angry that someone is talking about him and giving people the impression that he's a private detective, but he decides to investigate.  What he finds doesn't exactly fill him with confidence, and he ends up in an untenable position at the end of the book.  Why is someone gunning for John Doe?  He's just a swell guy!  And we also discover that one of his informants isn't being as discreet as John wants, which is probably why bad people are taking an interest in what he does.

Waid does a good job setting up the situation and leading John to where he needs to be at the end of the comic, and Azaceta's art is solid and unspectacular, but it gets the job done.  It's a neat little tale that will rely on the payoff next issue, so we'll see what Waid has in store for us then.

She-Hulk #22 by Peter David, Shawn Moll, and Victor Olazaba.  $2.99, Marvel.

I find it odd that Deodato, who actually does interior pencils, doesn't do the covers of his own comic (Thunderbolts) but draws the cover for a book which has a different artist.  I can see why Marvel would rather have Deodato do the covers for She-Hulk, as he's a bigger name than Shawn Moll, but why can't he do the covers for Thunderbolts?

Somewhat surprisingly, this is only the second of four cheesecake covers this week, and that's only counting "cheesecake" as female characters in tight clothing, not necessarily posing like a pin-up.  This is a very neat cover for a number of reasons.  First, of course, is the reader wondering if Deodato used a famous model for She-Hulk, but I can't tell off the top of my head and don't feel like looking.  Second, of course, is the fact that Jennifer is breaking the fourth wall and grabbing the reader (presumably) and dragging him into the book.  I don't know if Deodato came up with the concept or if David asked him to do this, but it's a nice ploy because of the fact that it's a new writer and fans of Dan Slott might be dropping the comic.  She-Hulk is, quite literally, not allowing you to drop the book!  However, it's more cheesecake-y than it looks originally.  Our eyes go naturally to Shulkie's intense gaze, angry yet almost hypnotic.  We follow the line of her head and shoulder down her right arm, which breaks through the paper and grabs the left hand of the consumer.  So now our eyes are in the bottom left-corner, and where does that lead us?  The left index finger of the consumer is pointing ... right at Jen's breast.  Meanwhile, the right thumb of the customer is pointing at her other breast.  The breasts, in fact, are central to the drawing - everything revolves around them.  Because of the strength of Jen's face, the black-and-white bursting into color at the edges, and the "trick" of Jen coming off the page, it takes us a while to notice that her rack, like the sun, is the center of this particular system.  That Mike Deodato - he's quite clever!

So, what about David's first issue?  Well, the last words of the issue are "Pardon the pun," which made me laugh out loud, because I'm sure it's in response to people complaining that David uses too many of them.  I can't imagine he hasn't heard that criticism.  It's a solid comic, as David pulls the rug out from under our feet with the revelation that Jen is now a bounty hunter (still working for the law firm, but not as a lawyer).  It's a nice occupation for a comic book hero, because it gives the writer a lot of plot possibilities.  In this case, Jen is after a loser named "Hi-Lite" (well, his real name is Rockwell Davis, but that's what he calls himself), and things, of course, don't go as planned.  I'm certainly not going to give away what happens, but it's actually somewhat shocking, even though David clues us in before it happens that it's not all that it seems.  It leads into next issue quite well, as we have many questions.  But in a good way.

Moll's art isn't bad, but it's nothing great.  It gets the job done.  His fight scene is fine, but why do some artists feel the need to put all those veins and arteries popping out of bad guy's arms and legs?  I've never seen a steroid freak, but even body builders don't have blood vessels popping out of their arms.  It's annoying when I see it in comics.

I'm somewhat glad that David decided to go in a completely different direction (with a promise to fill in the details later).  It gives new readers a fresh start, but as he reveals what happened to make Jen get a new job, it will give old readers a sense of continuity.  And David is good at that sort of thing, of course, so I'm keen to see what he has in mind. 

Thunderbolts #117 by Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato, Jr.  $2.99, Marvel.

The second Marko Djurdjevic cover this week is fascinating because it's so similar to the Daredevil one.  Both are horribly depressing.  Both feature costumed heroes with ripped clothes and slashes on their exposed skin.  Robbie Baldwin is a bit more brooding than Matt Murdock, but both men are obviously in some pain.  I don't know where Djurdjevic lives, but I don't want to move there.

I read an issue of Thunderbolts not long ago, and I really ought to read the other recent ones, because Ellis is making them interesting, even though I don't necessarily love the book.  It's certainly something different, and Ellis does a nice job making this a nasty little comic.  This is a cool issue because of how nutty Leonard Samson is.  He fantasizes about beating Norman Osborn and Robbie Baldwin, and then has a breakthrough with Robbie about his powers.  Yes, I believe that the breakthrough is real, because it's something that is happening to him, rather than the earlier fantasies, in which he took charge.  Ellis is good at subverting our expectations, because after the main plot of Samson meeting with Robbie, we find out that there's a plot afoot among the imprisoned super-villains, including those that can manipulate people's perceptions.  So maybe the breakthrough was fake, but not a fantasy at all.  And maybe Samson isn't having these fantasies because he's slightly wacky, but because the villains messed with his head.  And the ending is perhaps predictable, but still fun.

This is still not a comic I love, because Ellis does tend to make all his characters sound kind of the same, and when it's his own characters, I can forgive it more than when it's established ones.  Deodato's art is fine, and he does a pretty good job with the action sequences, which seems to give him trouble sometimes (in his new style, that is, and not with his old style).  But it is a neat comic, and I may have to check it out more often.  Because that's just what I need - more comics to read.

Velocity: Pilot Season #1 by Joe Casey and Kevin Maguire.  $2.99, Top Cow Productions.

The only exposure I have to Velocity is in that really awful issue of Cyberforce that I read as part of my ongoing experiment of reading books at random, so there's no reason I should have any interest in this.  Except it's freakin' Joe Casey writing and freakin' Kevin Maguire drawing!  How can I not read it?

Okay, here's my question about something like this, which features a character who has been around for a while but has never been particularly famous.  Did Joe Casey have to go back and read all of the comics in which Velocity appears to "get" her personality?  I mean, maybe he actually owns an entire run of Cyberforce, so he could just consult his long boxes, but did he need to read up on her?  That's why I wouldn't want to write most characters (except the X-Men; give me a call, Joey Q!), because I don't know enough about them.  I'd probably make a reference to Tony Stark's third nipple, when everyone knows he got it lasered off in Iron Man #300: The Double-Sized Surgery Issue!  I only say this because Carin has a pretty specific personality in this issue, and I wonder if it's how she's been portrayed in earlier comics.  That would be a shame if Casey had to sit through reading old Cyberforce comics just to get that Carin's a fun-loving flirt.

Anyway, this is a fantastic comic book, and I'd love to read an ongoing from these gentlemen (that is the point of this "Pilot Season" thing, right - the winner gets a regular series by the creators who worked on the one-shot?).  Even if that doesn't happen, this is an entertaining comic, both in the story and the art.  Carin meets a cute doctor, goes on a date with him, but gets "kidnapped" by a mad scientist who taps into her cybernetic implant.  The scientist has figured out a way to control her implant, which allows him to control her.  He uses her to do dastardly things (including a surprisingly graphic killing), but she figures out to stop him.  All is well!  And she gets a second "date" with the doctor, too.  The script crackles along, and Maguire gets to draw Velocity in a slinky black dress, a well-stacked sexy nurse flying a jet pack (and suggestively sucking on a cigar), and some very cool action.  Maguire, of course, is so good at facial expressions, and Carin's flirtiness with the doctor, terror at what's happening to her, and exhaustion when she finally beats the bad guy is wonderful.  The best panel might be when the mad scientist licks his lips, because we get a close-up of his tongue in the corner of his mouth, and bright spittle flying from it.  It's icky, but effective.  This is a very good comic book.

Let's take a look at that cover, which is another cheesecake one.  Maguire makes sure the breasts aren't too wacky, but notice how Carin's arms form a V directing our eyes right at them.  From there we slide down to her hips, and this is where the image gets a bit weird, because her rump looks a bit out of proportion.  I know she's sliding to a stop, so her hips are going to be turned and her ass slightly higher, but it just looks bigger than it should.  Baby, indeed, got back.  I don't mind it too much, but it's still a bit odd.  And, of course, it doesn't change the fact that this is a fine read.  Check it out!

X-Men #204 by Mike Carey and Mike Choi.  $2.99, Marvel.

Finally, we get Rogue's weird pose.  That just can't be comfortable, can it?  Why exactly is it necessary for her to be showing us her ass and tits, beside the obvious?  It's not like it's even that provocative a pose or even situation, as she and Gambit are about to kill each other.  It shows, in a figurative sense, a scene in the comic, but it's weird that Choi felt the need to sexualize Rogue so much.  Okay, I guess not weird, as that's what comic book artists do, but it's weird that he chose to sexualize her in such an uncomfortable way.  Plus, did anyone notice that Rogue is actually touching Remy, which should kill him instantly, based on recent developments in Rogue's life and what Mystique says in the book.  Shouldn't the cover show her about to touch him, but not actually doing so?

It's a shame, because Choi's interior art, while not wonderful, is good for what this issue requires, which is a lot of close-ups of various people talking about serious things.  When he pulls back and shows entire figures, like Emma Frost on one page, it's not as effective, as Emma is standing like a prostitute.  But for the most part, his faces look fine.  And his two-page spread, looking at the inside of Rogue's mind, is quite neat.  (I would like to point out Our Dread Lord and Master's eerie ka-nowledge of old X-Men comics.  I recognized the one scene from Uncanny X-Men #350 - I think - but I'm positive The Great and Mighty Cronin could identify the other ones, because of that pact with Mephisto that he has.  I will just have to trust him that they come from old comics.  He knows his stuff, doesn't he?)  What I really like about the look inside Rogue's mind is the other alien minds in there with her, which is kind of spooky.

Anyway, this is just a talking-head issue, but that's fine, because it's been a lot of action recently, and Carey needs to set up the big crossover coming up.  So the X-Men recap what's happened, make some plans, and Gambit whines about how he won't get to apologize to her.  Even Carey can't make me like Gambit.  God, I hate Gambit.  When I write the X-Men (you can find my e-mail address on the site, Joey Q - drop me a line!), I will have some villain feed Gambit to hungry feral pigs.  Bank on it!  So we get caught up on everything, and the New X-Man called Blindfold says portentous things while bleeding from the nose.  Oh dear.  I wonder if this will begin some kind of big-time crossover?  Oh, and Hank McCoy's search for a cure comes to an end, with nothing actually happening.  Marvel is actually audaciously releasing these back-up stories, in which Hank whines about the problem with mutants for 17 short installments, as a trade paperback.  Man, that Joey Q has some cajones!  (That's totally a compliment, Joey Q!  Come on, let me write the comic!)

It's not a great issue, but it's not bad.  It does what it's supposed to do, and gets everything in line for the big event.  I just wonder why Mr. Sinister looks like a girl.  What's up with that?  And also - how come some heroes get new costumes every once in a while, but Sinister still has that ultra-lame thing with what looks like a fern coming out of his back?  Get some new clothes, Essex!

Man, that's a bunch of comics.  Sorry for wasting your time with all of this.  It's just what I do!  It's late on Friday night, my wife left me (she just went to Pennsylvania for a few days and will be back on Monday, fret not!) and I've been dealing with the child alone for a few days, and I've been nursing some Glenfiddich for a few hours.  (That's Glenfiddich neat, by the way - speak not of watering it down!  I would call Glenfiddich the Cadillac of Scotch, but I prefer to call Cadillac the Glenfiddich of cars.  Try some today!  It will make reading Dominatrix #3 much more pleasant!)  I'm sleepy.  Tell me how wrong I am to love Moon Knight and dislike "The Sinestro Corps War."  Go ahead, I dare you!

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