What I bought - 25 July 2007

Some of the reviews this week are kind of sloppy and quick because I'm trying to get this done before my weekend begins and, as the man once said, I have no time for love, Dr. Jones.  Forgive me.  We can still be friends, right?

Batman #666 by Grant "Where's my mescaline?" Morrison, Andy Kubert, and Jesse Delperdang.  $2.99, DC.

I don't consider myself a stupid person.  I've done some stupid things, sure, but who hasn't?  Generally, however, I'm pretty smart.  So why do I feel stupid when I read this comic?  Is Morrison that much smarter than I am (it's possible)?  Or maybe he's so far ahead of us all in the stage of human evolution that no one can keep up with him.  Or is it possible that The God Of All Comics isn't as smart as we think he is?  Yes, gasp along with me.  I will say that Associate Editor Jeanine Schaefer and Editor Mike Marts couldn't have actually read this comic before they allowed it to be published, could they?  I wish I could sit down with them, like Elaine Benes did with the editor of The New Yorker when she got him to admit that the cartoon wasn't funny, and get them to admit they have no idea what's going on with this issue.

You may say, "Listen, Stupid Burgas Man.  What's not to get?  It's Damian Wayne as Future Batman fighting a strange other Future Batman who believes he's the true heir of the true Batman, and it's all full of Satanic and Christian images.  Why are you so stupid, Stupid Burgas Man?  Don't you know TGOAC does not suffer fools who don't understand his comics?"  Well, I'm not really talking about the actual issue.  It's straight-forward enough.  Damian Wayne is carrying on his father's legacy, except he's willing to kill, and there's a weird Batman-garbed dude killing a lot of people.  We get the usual Morrison flair, the decent Kubert art, the fairly typical Morrison iconography, yet another reference to Yeats' "The Second Coming," which is apparently the only poem any comic book writer has ever heard of (seriously - I absolutely love the poem, but can we put a moratorium on it? Yeats wrote other poems, you know, and other poets have written weird "apocalyptic"-type poems too).  As a single issue, it's a perfectly decent Elseworlds comic.

But that's my point.  What relation does this have to anything Morrison has written in this title previous to this?  It seems to exist completely outside whatever Morrison has been doing, and I wonder how much of this story was motivated by the numbering of the title.  Did I miss something?  Has TGOAC been setting this up, and I'm too stupid to realize?  It doesn't even seem to follow the previous two issues, in which Batman battled that Bane/Batman psychopath.  It seems to exist in its own little universe, which is fine, except for the fact that DC doesn't allow that in their mainstream superhero books.  If DC wanted to turn Morrison loose on his little pet character, Damian, fine: create an Elseworlds title and let him go nuts.  I just don't get what this has to do with anything that has been done in Batman.  Please, good comics readers, I beg you: explain it to me.  I don't want to be stupid!

All Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder #6 by Frank Miller, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams.  $2.99, DC.

I hadn't bought an issue of this since the first one, which was so awful I couldn't bring myself to buy another, but that's why it's cool to get free books - I can read this one without wondering why on earth I spent 3 bucks on it!

I don't really know what the big deal is with this comic.  I sort of understand the massive negative reaction to it, but it's not godawful in the way that a lot of other comics are.  It's certainly not good, but it's extremely energetic and pretty, and that goes a long way.  Of course, it has absolutely ridiculous narration and dialogue, to the point where I can actually believe it's satire, but at the same time, I really wonder if Miller wants it to be.  Even if it's satire, it's trash.  You kind of have to admire Miller's balls, though, because it's so idiotic that I'm sure part of Miller did it just to piss Batman fans off.

My favorite parts: Dinah's HORRIBLE Irish-tinged dialogue.  To use my favorite new profane catchphrase, Fuck the Heck?  Vicki Vale, "slithering" out of her hospital gown.  Fine choice of words.  "Eat glass, lawman!" - Batman is awesome.  Jim Gordon repeatedly saying "goddamn Batman."  Dinah herself ending the issue with "It's the goddamn Batman!"  You have to think Miller reads the various blogs and thought, "Well, if that's what they want, that's what they're going to get!"  This comic is like watching that Flavor-Flav-gets-a-girlfriend show: You fear to watch, yet you can't look away.

Of course, even though I think the negative reaction to it is kind of weird, I certainly don't understand why people like Kevin and Mike love it so much.  It's like claiming that Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is a good movie.  I love it as much as anyone (seriously - I was once able to pretty much quote the entire thing), but it's crap.  That's what this comic is: Crap.  And the only reason DC is publishing it is because of the names attached.  I just wonder what Brandon Montclare and Bob Schreck, the editors on this book, do when they get the finished product.  Do they chuckle about how gullible we all are, or do they quake in fear that Miller might come down and eat their brains if they suggest it's not brilliant?  Oh, to be a fly on the wall ... 

The Black Diamond #3 (of 6) by Larry Young and Jon Proctor.  $2.95, AiT/Planet Lar.

In the note Larry Young wrote to me that came with this comic in the mail, he said it had the action I was craving.  He's not kidding.  Car crashes, explosions, soldiers going to town on protestors - this issue has the goods!  And, just for good measure, the crackling dialogue from the first two issues remains, with all the fat trimmed - meaning the characters are talking like people again and not like their lines have been written for them.  Dr. Don picks up Cammie the waitress (of course), and so now he's trying to rescue his wife while these dudes chase him because Cammie stole her ex-employer's mysterious "bag."  Oh, the problems!  It's a nice full-throttle issue, so to speak.  Good to see.

Proctor's art is up to it, too, which I was worried about.  I wasn't sure how his style would fit with the action, and for the most part, it looks fine, especially when a motorcycle crashes after being hit by a Molotov cocktail.  The first page, which is a view of the highway from below, is a gorgeous piece of work, and the coloring throughout remains excellent.  I have a lot more faith in Proctor after seeing this issue.

We're just zipping along, which is fine with me.  I'm all about the adrenalin, man!

Blue Beetle #17 by John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque.  $2.99, DC.

I don't mean to pick on poor Jaime, but in this issue, he rescues a few people from an unnatural storm (thanks to that dude on the cover - I know, shocking) and his costume tells him that there are still over 400 people in peril.  So what does he do?  Fights Typhoon.  Yeah, I know Typhoon kind of picked the fight, but even I, who am not that bright (see above) knew that some of those people were going to die because Jaime didn't save them.  I wish it had been handled better in the story, is all I'm saying.

Similarly, I get tired of new superheroes who have already experienced aliens and Superman and, you know, their own wacky powers chuckling when a kid says, "Are you going to fight the giant naked bad man now?"  You're a superhero!  Of course there's wacky stuff in the world, ya dummy!

Finally, in the news report on the second page, the announcer says something about how the storm is endangering thousands of tourists in the resort town.  I knew it was just a set-up for later in the issue, when the mean old hotel guy turns away the natives because they can't pay for their shelter, but it sounds a bit crass.  The entire scene with hotel guy seems off, because I very much doubt it would go down like that.  Maybe I haven't been caught in enough tropical storms.  I know it's just there so that Jaime can solve the problem, but it's still kind of stereotypical.

So did I not like the issue?  No, I liked it quite a bit.  It's nice to see Jaime acting heroically, learning on the job, using his brain, and figuring out solutions without beating people up.  The Bruce Wayne cameo is brilliant, although I didn't think Bruce would be the kind of person to own oil rigs.  Maybe that's just the bleeding-heart liberal in me.  It's a fine comic with nice art, and just shows once again that there are really good superhero comics out there if you know where to look.

It's just that some things bugged me.  Is that a crime?

Cable & Deadpool #43 by Fabian Nicieza, Ron Lim, and Jeremy Freeman.  $2.99, Marvel.

See, all you people who wanted me to buy this comic, you should have waited until this issue, because this is a damned funny comic.  Plus, it has a big body count!  What more can you ask for?  We start with funny testimonials about how wonderful Cable was (he's "dead," you know), which don't have anything to do with the actual issue, but are still pretty keen.  Then we get into the actual story, which features Wolverine going after Hydra for some reason, but Deadpool wanting to get to a Hydra base before Logan does so he can rescue his friend Weasel before Wolverine eviscerates him.  You know, like Logan tends to do.

This gives Nicieza a nice place to put Bob, the former Hydra agent, and Deadpool, so they can make jokes.  It also gives Weasel a chance to talk about his new invention - the Penetrator (which isn't suggestive at all!).  Hijinks ensue.  It's very funny, but it leads to a completely shocking ending that's far more shocking than Elektra as a Skrull.  It will change the Marvel Universe forever!

I don't know if I want to start buying this book, but this issue is definitely worth a look.  It's wacky, but it works very well.

Doktor Sleepless #1 by Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez.  $3.99, Avatar.

Ellis does the weird futuristic thing.  You know the drill.  If you like Ellis doing the weird futuristic thing, you'll probably like this.  I do, and this isn't bad.  I like my bleak Ellis with a dash of hopefulness, and this is that, so I'm willing to check it out for a few issues.

Ellis and Jacen Burrows will be in Mesa on Monday night for a signing at Atomic Comics.  I'm kind of scared of Ellis.  He seems like he might go apeshit if you look at him sideways.  Has anyone ever met him?  Should I approach with head bowed and never look directly at him?  I'm just wondering.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Fallen Angel #18 by Peter David and J. K. Woodward.  $3.99, IDW.

This is a strange issue, in that it basically consists of Lee mocking Shi for most of it.  Considering Shi is not Peter David's creation, I wonder why Tucci allowed him to use her if all she's going to do is get mocked.  Presumably she'll do something excellent in the next issue and Lee will be forced to respect her, even if she'll still mock her (that's Lee's thing, after all).  This is what I think I'm going to have to call an "elipsis issue" (can I get an entry in the Comic Book Dictionary?) in that it moves the plot forward marginally but doesn't really do much.  It's better than calling it "padding," because it's not exactly padding - we do learn some stuff here, so it's better than some padding issues, but it feels like we could have skipped it and gotten to the resolution.  David is in annoying form here, giving ammunition to those who think he's just an unfunny writer who thinks he's clever.  Case in point: the statues of soldiers lining the hallway that Lee says are going to come alive and attack them at some point.  It's funny 'cause it's true, but it's still kind of snarky on David's part.  So I laughed, but I still felt like David was indulging in cliches just so he could make the joke.

I'm still buying the next issue, obviously, but this one was disappointing.

Grendel: Behold the Devil #0 by Matt Wagner.  $.50, Dark Horse.

There may be people out there who haven't read a Grendel comic book.  Sad but true, I know.  Well, here's your chance!  It's 50 cents, people.  Half a dollar!  It has only six pages of story, true, but it's Matt Wagner art with that amazing black, white, and red color scheme he used on the previous two mini-series, and it sets up the mini-series that's coming out nicely.  Plus, it has an interesting interview with Wagner.  If you've never read Grendel, well, you're a sadder comic book reader for it, but there's no excuse any more!  At least check this out - it's better than Countdown to Infinite Crisis, and you bought that!

The Incredible Hulk #108 by Greg Pak, Leonard Kirk, and Scott Hanna.  $2.99, Marvel.

Of all the tie-ins to this crossover, I'm only getting the main Hulk title.  I figure everything else is pretty extraneous, right?  Well, now I'm beginning to wonder if the main Hulk title is extraneous as well.  I mean, did we really need this story?

Basically, this is how Rick Jones and Miek the Unhived became and stayed friends with the Hulk.  It's not bad, just kind of there.  I mean, most people who read this know most of Rick's story already, and Miek's isn't all that unique or interesting, so it's just something to let us know that, yes, the Hulk's done some crappy things, but he still needs his buddies.  Rick and Miek meet as antagonists and leave the issue as allies, and it's continued in the next issue of this book, World War Hulk, and Punisher War Journal, the last of which I'm not going to buy, so maybe I'll miss something important.  But I wouldn't count on it.

Kirk's art is its usual professional job.  Some of the splash pages are nice.  I miss Gary Frank already, and he only did two issues.  Was he supposed to do more, or couldn't he finish another because he's an artiste and can't be rushed?  I don't know.  Does anyone?

The Immortal Iron Fist #7 by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Travel Foreman, Derek Fridolfs, Leandro Fernandez, Francisco Paronzini, Khari Evans, and Victor Olazaba.  $2.99, Marvel.

In an otherwise highly entertaining and fun issue of Iron Fist, I have two problems.  One is with the writing, and the other is with the art.

First, the writing.  Like I said, it's entertaining, tells a good story, and does it in one solid issue.  It deepens the legend of the Iron Fist, it's a love story that isn't too sappy and shows people acting like normal people instead of insanely jealous crazy people, and it features sage advice like: "Never awaken a sleeping pirate and his boudoir army of fallen women."  That's something I'll remember, I'll tell you that much!  But something about it is off.  We learn at the end that the person writing this tale is doing so in a book, presumably the official history of the Iron Fists.  So we expect it to be, if not scholarly in tone, at least less goofy than it sometimes is.  Just one example: "Figuring that they were in love and, as such, she would never lie to him, when Wu made the promise, he believed her."  Beat.  "This lasted about fifteen minutes."  Little stuff like this peppers the book, and it's a strange tone shift that doesn't sit well.  Again, I'm not sure who the dude is at the end writing all this down, but he doesn't appear to be a wry amusing commentator but a somewhat serious chronicler.  As entertaining as the story is, it's a bit off.

Then there's the art.  Foreman, Fernandez, and Evans do very good work, and they blend their styles well so there's not a big shock when the pencils switch.  However, I assume Brubaker and Fraction are planning on doing these kinds of issues in between big storylines with Danny Rand in order to give Aja a chance to catch up.  If so, great - I liked the "Times Past" issues in Starman, and that's what this issue's vibe is like.  However, couldn't they have found an artist who could actually draw a complete issue?  It's not like the comic is split into three distinct chapters - the artists change in the middle of scenes, actually - so the only reason I can think of to have three artists is because one of them couldn't finish the book.  It's strange, and annoying.  It's one issue, for crying out loud!

Speak of the Devil #1 (of 6) by Gilbert Hernandez.  $3.50, Dark Horse.

I know I should like this more than I do.  I know that I ought to dig Hernandez' art more than I do, but to me, it's always looked flat and dull.  I'm sure some arty person can tell me why I'm completely off-base, but that doesn't stop my visceral reaction being, "It's boring."  So the art cuts into my enjoyment a bit, but the story, while intriguing in spots, doesn't do enough to make up for it.  I'll probably get the second issue to see if it improves, because we do get enough set-up for me to come back.  So I guess there's that.

The story is fairly simple: a Peeping Tom in a suburban neighborhood is scaring people.  The Peeper wears that mask on the cover and checks out Linda, a foxy chick married to a man with a teenage daughter, Val (Linda is the stepmom).  It's not that big a shock to find out that Val is actually the Peeping Tom, but we have no idea why she's peeping.  She's a gymnast who's friends with a lesbian and hangs out with weirdos and has a fairly typical teenage life.  Later in the book she peeps at her father having sex with Linda, who, naturally, likes it a bit.  The book ends with Val in a spot of trouble, but we'll just have to wait and see what kind it turns into.

The action in the story is interesting, because voyeurism in a suburban setting is always ripe with storytelling possibilities.  What's really going on behind those nice curtains and manicured lawns?  That's why it's enough to bring me back, even though Val is kind of dull.  I mean, she's a teenager, she doesn't like her stepmom all that much (shocking!) and she hangs out in a graveyard with her weirdo friends (double shocking!).  Just because one of the characters mentions what a cliche it is doesn't mean it's not still a cliche.  Val's mother is (presumably) dead (Linda mentions to her husband that she "misses" her, something you probably wouldn't say if she were still alive), so I guess her in a cemetery isn't too silly, but the scene comes off that way.

So it's not a perfect way to start, but it's an interesting one.  That's enough to get me back.  We'll see what happens next time.

Wolverine #55 by Jeph Loeb, Simone Bianchi, and Andrea Silvestri.  $2.99, Marvel.

This is the final issue of the Loeb-Bianchi extravaganza, and I figured I would read it just for fun.  Well, it's a Loeb issue, so it seems like it's important but it's not really, and it's a Bianchi issue, so it's pretty.  That's about all I can say.  I mean, the huge event in the book won't last, because things like this never do, so there's not much of a point to it, is there?  I don't mean to be cynical about these things, but why do writers and publishers even put out stuff like this?  We know it won't last, and if all the story does is change the status quo so dramatically, it becomes a pointless story.  I realize that it's the telling of the story that matters, but this is kind of a dull story without the big development, and anyway, Marvel and DC have forced their comics to be all about the big development these days, so I have to consider it.  And therefore, this is a lousy comic.

And Wolverine entrusted a weapon that can kill him to Cyclops?  Gosh, where have we heard something like that before?

X-Men #201 by Mike Carey, Humberto Ramos, and Carlos Cuevas.  $2.99, Marvel.

You know, even with Ramos' grotesque art (check out the splash on pages 2-3, where every face is distorted horribly and I can't even tell what's going on in the bottom section right above Cyclops; or Peter's ridiculously oversized body and complete lack of neck on page 13; or the fact that Bobby looks twelve years old most of the time), I honestly don't think I've enjoyed reading an X-Men comic this much since the heyday of Claremont, when he was throwing everything he could think of at the wall and hoping some of it stuck.  Of course, Morrison's run was better than this (and most of Claremont's, too), but it didn't feel this frenetic and crazed and just plain enjoyable.  Carey hasn't let our heroes take any kind of break, yet he still throws in some nice character moments and exposition.  This issue is no different, as the Marauders take apart the X-Men with ruthless efficiency, even though they foolishly leave them alive and allow Cannonball and Iceman to escape.  Foolish Marauders - when will they learn?  Meanwhile, the mansion gets attacked and only Kitty and Peter and a bunch of newbies are there to hold the line.  Whoo-hoo!  More ass-kicking next issue!

As far as junk-food comics go, this is a lot of fun.  I have no idea who the kids are (Carey helpfully identifies them, but that doesn't tell us much), but even then, we get more exposition about them that we got in the last issue of New X-Men, which was awful (sorry, fans of the book - it was).  I recognize a few of the bad guys on the last page (that chick with the golden costume and weird helmet was created by Liefeld, wasn't she?), but it doesn't matter.  All that matters is that Carey is having a blast bashing heads, and that's a good thing.  And Ramos, for all the distortion, does bring a crapload of energy to the book.  So there's that.

Oh, and Henry meets the Dark Beast.  The Dark Beast is one of those characters who are great for a specific story arc but should never be used again.  He's just stupid now.  Oh well.  Will the real Beast sell his soul to solve the mutant extinction problem?????  Oh, the tension!!!!!

That's it for this week.  I'll be in San Diego on Friday and in Sedona and points north (Jerome, Prescott) over the weekend, so have a good one, people.  Wish me luck as I find Tom Beland and shake his hand (no, I'm not joking - he told me to stop by and say hello!).  I'll have pictures and such from my day, even though CSBG has an "official" correspondent.  I'm unofficial, and that's the way I like it!

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