What I bought - 25 April 2012

And Savinkov remembered that Kaliayev had once said to him, "Everything is beautiful. The stars and clouds and flowers and people and -- death is beautiful, too." (Otto Friedrich, from The End of the World)

The Activity #5 ("The Weather Inside") by Nathan Edmondson (writer), Mitch Gerads (artist/colorist), Joseph Frazzetta (color assistant), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

This is the final issue of The Activity that I am buying, and I'm not going to miss it, although I still wish it had been better. This is a fairly typical issue - one of the things I like about the book is that Edmondson isn't writing about a group that just goes in and blows shit up, as in this issue the team allows themselves to be captured by the Thais in order to ... well, they have a mission, but it's not a "blow-shit-up" kind of mission. We get some background on one of the team members, but as usual with this comic, it's very vague and oblique, and we don't really get to know the character at all. Meanwhile, the larger plot of whether the government is going to shut the program down continues, but it only gets one page, so who knows how long Edmondson will let it play out (someone spells "Colombia" wrong, too, which is one reason why everyone hates Americans). Gerads' art is a bit rougher than the previous issues, and I don't know if it's deliberate because the team is in a Thai interrogation room or because Gerads is rushed a bit.

I like the idea of The Activity, but Edmondson just hasn't found a good balance in the book - the single issue stories are a good idea, but the lack of space seem to make the missions easier than they actually are, Edmondson still hasn't given us too much with regard to the personalities of the team members, and the pace is too glacial. Maybe it will read better in trade, but as single issues, it just doesn't work. Oh well - there's always new comics to check out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fables #116 ("Cubs in Toyland Chapter 3: Clockwork Tiger"/"A Revolution in Oz Chapter 3: At the End of His Rope") by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciler, "Tiger"), Shawn McManus (artist/colorist, "Oz"), Steve Leialoha (inker, "Tiger"), Andrew Pepoy (inker, "Tiger"), Dan Green (inker, "Tiger"), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Issue #116 came out last week, but Diamond didn't ship it to my store for some reason. I blame Rick Santorum!

Anyway, the possible final story arc of this series that I will read continues to move along, much like pretty much every other issue of Fables. We stick with the kids and the efforts to find Therese this time around, while Therese realizes that things in her new kingdom might not be as rosy as she thought. As usual, it's a nice-looking comic, although I always worry when three inkers work on a book. Leialoha, Pepoy, and Green are all good, but I wonder if Buckingham is getting a bit behind. The back-up story is crunched by DC's page count, but it still looks nice.

I haven't quite made up my mind to drop Fables, but I losing enthusiasm for it. As I've mentioned recently, there's absolutely nothing really bad about it, it just doesn't excite me very much. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Kirby: Genesis #7 ("New York Throwdown") by Kurt Busiek (writer), Jack Herbert (artist), Alex Ross (artist), Vinicius Andrade (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

It's somewhat humorous that, in the midst of this giant Marvel crossover that, apparently, features almost nothing but fighting, over in Kirby: Genesis, Busiek and Herbert give us an issue that features almost nothing but fighting, and it's really good, even though the characters in the Marvel book are much more familiar. The stakes feel a bit higher in K:G, perhaps because we know that in AvX, nothing will change all that much, but when a character gets stabbed in this one, it feels more dangerous even though we suspect that the character will not die. Busiek structures this exactly like a big ol' superhero fight comic, because it is one - there's the big battles, and then the smaller ones that help "humanize" the big fight - but he also makes sure that Kirby's romance moves on and that the bad guys aren't exactly monolithic in their evil. One thing that is wearisome about far too many of Marvel's recent crossovers is that it's just heroes fighting heroes, and while that means that more fans of characters are invested and we get to hear absolutely stupid conversations about who would defeat whom, it also means that the central tenet of superhero comics - that good powerful people fight against bad powerful people to save non-powered people - isn't being observed. Busiek gives us bad guys, but bad guys that are actually interesting and whose motives shift depending on the circumstances. Busiek has his detractors, but he's been a very good superhero writer for a few decades now, and this is just the latest example of it.

Herbert (and Ross, who doesn't do as much in this comic as he has in some of the others) is still wonderful, giving us scores of characters fighting each other but never making it too busy. It's a frenetic comic, to be sure, but it never feels out of control. While I still don't know every character that Busiek is using, at least he and Herbert make sure that a lot of characters have moments in this issue, which is nice. I imagine Herbert is tired, but the artwork is very nice, so he should just drink some coffee and man up!

If we consider the moral and ethical ramifications of this issue, I wonder if Busiek will stop by and answer some musings for me. David Brothers' decision to drop DC and Marvel comics has made the rounds, and it got me thinking. Brothers has been very vocal about his disdain for Before Watchmen, and in that CA piece, he targets the Avengers movie as well. Both are fine targets, but Brothers' decision - and anyone's decision to boycott something for moral and ethical reasons - always makes me wonder, Where does it end? I would guess that a vast majority of businesses engage in shady practices, and will Brothers boycott those? I will bet that some part in the computer on which he blogs came from a factory where people are working 20 hours a day for a dollar a day and they never get to take bathroom breaks. I know I'm being extreme, and this certainly doesn't mean that we shouldn't call out DC and Marvel for being shitty companies, but where does it end? I applaud Brothers for making a stand, but I don't share his conviction, I guess. I have dropped a lot of DC and Marvel comics for the sole reason that the comics are shitty, but I'm aware that Brothers actually likes some of their comics, so this boycott probably annoys him. I also don't really care if the creators involved take the gigs, because comics creators don't make any fucking money. Brothers has written about his love of Darwyn Cooke and how he feels a bit different about Cooke now that he's doing a BW comic. Well, if Brothers wants another Parker novel (as I do) and doesn't want Cooke to fuck off into the dark bowels of animation, Cooke needs to take gigs like this every once in a while. Again, that doesn't make it right. But it does make it a reality. Part of the reason Alan Moore comes across as holding the moral high ground in this debate is because he's already made his money (I suppose he "renounced" some movie money, most notably for Watchmen, but did he for LoEG or From Hell, because it doesn't seem like he did). If this came out right after he wrote Violator vs. Badrock, I doubt if he would have as many supporters as he does now. Again, that doesn't mean he's wrong, just that it's fairly easy to make moral pronouncements when you don't have to worry about a paycheck. I don't work, so it's easy for me to say that every household should have a stay-at-home parent. What's wrong with you two-parent households where both parents work? Don't you know that you're ruining your children?!?!?!?

My point is, if you're going to boycott things for moral and ethical reasons, shouldn't you support things for the same reasons? This is where Busiek might be able to help me, if he's reading (he does read the blog occasionally, so I hope he stops by). Kirby: Genesis, unlike many (all?) Marvel books, specifically lists Kirby as the creator of the characters in the comic. Busiek seems like a stand-up guy and I know he appreciates the old-school creators. So do Kirby's heirs get any money from this comic? It seems right, doesn't it? And if they do, shouldn't Brothers be buying this comic and talking it up at every opportunity? You might see where this is going - what if Brothers thinks this is a shitty comic? Does his moral and ethical fiber that makes him want to support Kirby and his heirs override his taste? If he's serious about supporting Kirby, doesn't he have an obligation to at least buy this comic and at most blog about it so others buy it too? This is all moot if Dynamite isn't paying Kirby's heirs anything, but this is the conundrum, isn't it? If I say look in a mirror and say Busiek's name five times, will he appear and answer my question (after, of course, gutting me from stem to stern because I invoked him)?

Me like comix. Look at purty pitchers!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Li'l Depressed Boy #10 ("Worried Shoes") by S. Steven Struble (writer/colorist/letterer) and Sina Grace (artist). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

You might recall that I've been a bit disappointed with recent issues of LDB, and I'm still deciding if I want to keep getting it. This is a better issue - LDB gets a job as a movie usher, and although I've never worked at a movie theater, the way the head usher describes the job to the newbies - "you're about to see the most disgusting things man has ever seen" - rings true from what friends of mine in high school talked about. LDB also sees Jazmin on a date (see below), and as he's, you know, depressed, it sends him into a bit of a spiral. But unlike a few issues ago, it feels more real this time, and the fact that Struble introduces a new possible love interest for him also makes this a more enjoyable issue. I still don't know why LDB passed out in the bathroom (he passes out in the bathroom at the movie theater, by the way), but it does get him an introduction to the cute redhead who presumably will be the new object of his affections. After the rather tedious road trip that marked issues #5-8, some of the charm of issues #1-4 is back. I'll be interested to see if it continues.

Like The Activity, I really want to keep buying this book. Unlike The Activity, it has a shot. We shall see, shan't we?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Next Men #41 ("Jigsaw") by John Byrne (writer/artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

So last week, I got issue #42 of this series and realized that I had never picked up issue #41. My retailer helpfully ordered it for me, and so this week I'm going back in time and reading issue #41. The entire comic is about moving around in time, so I feel right at home!

As always with Next Men, Byrne has such a long-term goal in mind that it's difficult to keep track of what's going on issue-to-issue. They're enjoyable, but they add just another brick to the giant edifice of Next Men, so it's hard to perceive the whole. He continues one thread from this book in issue #42, but leaves so many others hanging that, presumably, he'll get back to, including the big image at the end of the book. Bethany is running through a wasteland and getting chased by weird aliens and later Civil War-era soldiers who don't have nice things in mind for her, while the other Bethany and Nathan find a car and some World War II-era soldiers. Jasmine, meanwhile, catches us up on some of the Next Men history, so that's nice. There's a lot going on and Byrne has a lot of balls in the air, but I probably have to wait until he's all done with it before really coming to any conclusions about it. It's mostly a goofy, exciting, quasi-superhero comic. Byrne does those quite well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Secret History #18 ("The End of Camelot") and #19 ("The Age of Aquarius") by Jean-Pierre Pécau (writer), Igor Kordey (artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist, issue #18), Leonard O'Grady (colorist, issue #19), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $5.95, 54 pgs each, FC, Archaia.

Archaia has been in a weird place ever since they re-organized a few years ago. They have made a commitment to publishing only graphic novels, but they do make some exceptions - Mouse Guard is the most high-profile one, but The Secret History is another. They recently scrapped plans to release the spin-off to this series as single issues, offering it as a complete whole, but it still hasn't arrived, and it's frustrating only because someone references it in issue #18 of the main series. Meanwhile, The Secret History continues to come out erratically, as this week's two issues at the same time shows. I'm not sure when Pécau and Kordey finished this or if it's being published in Europe so close to the publication date in the States that it gets held up in translation (it's a whole lot to translate, after all). It's frustrating like any comic that is published erratically is frustrating, because it's an interesting book and I can't imagine its schedule is helping it in any way.

The most interesting thing about the entire series is how Pécau has managed to weave almost every conspiracy that ever existed and make it one conspiracy, and how he has managed to take so many disparate historical events and people and link them. So in issue #18, Howard Hughes takes center stage, plotting the assassination of JFK with his mob buddies and Alan Foster Dulles. Meanwhile, Curtis is still trying to kill Kim Philby because Philby killed his (Curtis') wife, but he has to get around Philby's father, St. John Philby (I always get a kick out of the fact that that's pronounced "Sin-Jin"), who's a powerful magus. It all leads to Philby killing Lee Harvey Oswald in a parking lot moments before Kennedy is shot. Oh dear. Meanwhile, issue #19 has Curtis still trying to kill Philby, one of the archons, Reka, using LSD to enter the mythical city of Kor (she stages Woodstock so she can channel all the energy of the LSD users), and the Soviets doing Soviet-ey things. Erlin, meanwhile, finds out that the world is going to end in 2012, thanks to those confounded Mayans. Damn you, Mayans!

It's all very wacky, but Pécau has always made it work, and Kordey continues to pack a lot of good work into the book. I was disappointed that he used actual photographs of Woodstock and manipulated them using a computer, because it's one of the few places the book looks shoddy. He's used actual photographs before (he does in this issue when the bad guys are planning to pin Martin Luther King Jr.'s murder on James Earl Ray), but it's been small-scale and unobtrusive. When he does it for Woodstock, it looks kind of crappy. But it's only for a few pages, so I guess I can deal with it!

Only three issues of the main series remain. I hope they come out in a timely fashion (especially considering the world is going to end in 8 months), because The Secret History is a pretty cool comic. Can I be blamed for wanting it more often????

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Pterodactyl Hunters in the Gilded City by Brendan Leach (writer/artist). $9.95, 39 pgs, BW, Top Shelf.

This book might have usurped Wednesday Comics as the oddest format in which you can present a book. It's gigantic (you'll notice that I couldn't fit the entire cover on my scanner) and the pages are newsprint, because the conceit is that this is a story in a newspaper. No, it's not very long, but it looks way cool. Here's the entire cover, by the way:


I will say that although AvX Vs. has one of the dumbest titles and is one of the dumbest conceits I've heard in years, I was extremely tempted to buy issue #1 just for the "fun facts." "Magneto is the master of magnetic counting" might be my favorite, but they were all awesome. Well played, Marvel. You almost got me to plunk down 4 bucks just because someone remembered that comics can feature lots of fighting but still have a sense of humor.

So what's going on in the world? Well, in one of the union's craziest states, we had a moment of sanity when Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would allow people to carry guns in public buildings, which passed our legislature even though a bevy of cops and other public servants - you know, the people law-and-order conservatives lionize (not that they don't deserve it) - said it was a horrible, horrible idea. Brewer does this occasionally - vetoes a bill that seems tailor-made for her conservative brain, and it actually makes me respect her a bit more. Of course, she's still a terrible governor, but I don't think she's an evil one, and that's a big difference!

I guess they're holding (held?) hearings on Capitol Hill about SB 1070, our controversial "everyone with a tan is obviously an illegal immigrant!" law. Apparently, it was sparsely attended and allowed smarmy Charles Schumer to claim the moral high ground. I've written this before, that as much as I absolutely hate SB 1070 with a passion, it's almost as annoying that the federal government for years wrote laws about illegal immigration and then did nothing to enforce them. As boneheaded as the Arizona law is, it's in response to the feds sitting around with their dicks in their hands. Of course we screwed it up - we're Arizonans! We want to take guns to swimming pools and senior centers, for crying out loud! But that doesn't mean that snotty New York senators get to talk shit when they've never brought anything to the table, even a general amnesty proposal (because they know that would get them crucified by the public). Politicians are generally weasels, so they really should avoid claiming the moral high ground as much as they can. Man, I hate having to defend Arizona. Why does Charles Schumer make me?!?!?!?

I like feminist Cthulhu.

So Mike Sterling pointed out this review of Avengers, which caused its Rotten Tomatoes score to fall from 100% to 96% (not being an aficionado of Rotten Tomatoes, I only have a vague idea of what this means and I have no idea why I should care, but apparently it's very important!!!!!!). The reviewer is a woman, which is really all you need to know about how the comments play out. In other words, it's not just Kelly and Sonia who are targets (they've both told me about the comments they need to delete, and I just have to say that I'm not only ashamed of comics fans sometimes, but of humanity in general), but any woman who dares to express an opinion about anything that guys think is "theirs." You see this misogynistic bullshit spewed at women in sports, from Violet Palmer (the NBA's only female referee, who I understand, through some of the bullshit, isn't that good, but I think a lot of male refs suck and they don't get the hatred spewed at them like she does) to women calling college football games, and it's awful in comics, as well. It's disgusting, and it makes me sad. Kelly and Sonia have both tweeted about this, wondering if it's even worth writing about comics, and I really, really hope they don't stop what they're doing, because I love both their columns and I think they really bring interesting perspectives to this stupid little world of four-color entertainment. I don't always agree with what Kelly says and I'm not always 100% on her side in arguments that she has (she doesn't always agree with me, naturally, because we're thinking human beings), but I like to think that we have enough respect for each other that we can discuss it rationally. Even if I don't agree with her, I have in the back of my mind that she (and Sonia, and a lot of other women on-line) have to deal with such a vile reaction from so many people that I'm on her side. You might not know of some of the shit they (and Brian) have to delete, but it's just sad. I wouldn't blame them one bit if they stopped writing for our blog ... and I know that this blog is one of the more rational places on the comic book Internet. But I really hope they don't, because I would miss them. Anyway, sorry for the rant, and I apologize to Kelly and Sonia for feeling protective of them when they could both probably kick my ass (I know Sonia could, and I suspect Kelly could). It just makes me so angry that so many men are such dicks.

Okay, I'm done ranting, so let's move on. I'm still not bringing back the ten most recent songs on my iPod yet, but I decided to do Top Ten lists for a while, if that's all right with you. Some of these I've blogged about before (on my now-defunct personal blog), including this one: My Top Ten Celebrity Crushes (not current ones, but throughout the years)!

1. Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach), 1979-1980. Duh:

2. Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers), c. 1980. Way hotter than Loni Anderson.

3. Sarah Purcell, early 1980s. This might be a little weird, considering that Ms. Purcell is not a typical sexy chick, but I loved Real People back when it was on the air (Fred Willard represent!) and, I don't know, I had a crush on Sarah Purcell. What are you gonna do, I was 10.

4. Phoebe Cates, 1982. Again, duh:

5. Jennifer Jason Leigh, 1982-1994. Jennifer Jason Leigh is gorgeous, but her acting abilities are part of my crush on her. Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, she put together quite a résumé: Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Flesh + Blood, The Hitcher, Miami Blues, Backdraft, Rush, Short Cuts, The Hudsucker Proxy, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. I think it's a travesty that she hasn't won an Oscar yet.

6. Keanu Reeves, 1989-1999. I still think he's wildly underrated as an actor. Sure, he's clunky a lot, but he's absolutely great in River's Edge and My Own Private Idaho.

7. Sherilyn Fenn, 1990-1993. For a few years, Sherilyn Fenn was the hottest woman on the planet. I remain convinced that she was born in the wrong time - if she had been an actress in the 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s, we'd remember her as an all-time great glamour girl. Instead, she's largely forgotten today. So sad!

8. Emma Thompson, 1991-1994. I still love Ms. Thompson's acting, but in the early Nineties she was a great actress and drop-dead gorgeous. She's amazing in In the Name of the Father, and absolutely stunning in Much Ado About Nothing (granted, everyone was).

9. Michelle Yeoh, 1993-2000. I first saw Michelle Yeoh in Jackie Chan's Supercop, which is a tremendously fun movie and also stars Maggie Cheung, another actress I've had a crush on in the past. This crush reached its apogee when she did Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, of course, and then faded. I still like seeing Yeoh show up in movies, though.

10. Brad Pitt, 1995-2001. I saw Pitt in stuff before 1995, but he didn't do it for me. Seven and 12 Monkeys really made him crush-worthy in my eyes. Fight Club is still one of my favorite movies (all three leads kick ass in it), and then he did Ocean's Eleven. I would love to pull off his wardrobe in either of those latter movies, but I'm nowhere near cool enough. Since 2001, he's still been in good movies, but my crush has cooled. Oh well.

I've had other crushes, of course, but those are my favorite ones. Do you have any? Don't be shy!

Anyway, I hope those who hated my post last week come back and read this one, because it's written in straight-forward English! And I hope those who did like my post last week know that I never know when I'm going to get all weird again, so stay tuned! Have a nice day, everyone!

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