What I bought - 25 October 2006

Another pretty good week finishing up a pretty good month.  This week I will have a theme: why this issue of [insert name of comic] is the greatest issue ever!!!!  You'll have to decide whether or not I'm being serious.  Let's delve behind the fold!

Action Figure #1 by Richard Marcej.  $3.50, Baboon Books.


I got this in the mail last week, which was a bit surprising, considering it was supposed to be out in January.  (Marcej has had some personal issues, so I'm not bashing the lateness of the book, just commenting on the fact that it's a long time to wait, so much so that I had forgotten about it.)  I'm not sure when it arrives in stores, but it's something to look out for.  Or you could just order it at the web site above.

The issue itself is pretty good, with a nice conceit - a guy works at a big toy company designing various things, has issues at his job, but it also dreaming of striking out on his own.  It's certainly not the most original idea, but Marcej does a good job with a few things - his character, Richard Marzelak, daydreams a lot, and the black-and-white of the book gets red highlights, which is a nice touch.  The daydreams themselves are nice - they're relatively mundane things, like when he wishes a hot woman would actually talk to him - but the way Marcej sets them off from the rest of the actual mundane world is well done.  Marzelak himself is a good character - he whines and he's pathetic at spots, but he also does his job even though his boss keeps putting him on crappy assignments and he loves to work deep into the night on his own comic strip.  It's a subject matter - the lousy office - that could easily devolve into either cruel parody (like Office Space, which I love, by the way) or pathos, but Marcej keeps it whimsical enough so that even though it's not as savagely funny as Office Space, it's still wryly amusing.

Marcej does a nice job on the art, too.  The framing story is that a couple finds Marzelak's journal at an estate sale in 2053, and we're reading the journals with them.  The art from the future is a bit hazy and muted, which gives it an unreal quality to it, while the art describing what's going on in the journals is much sharper and well-defined.  Marcej isn't going to set the world on fire with the art, but he does a fine job making sure the large cast is distinguishable from each other and he manages to keep things lively in a pretty static environment, even when Marzelak isn't daydreaming.

The biggest problem I had with the book is the exposition.  Marcej does almost too good a job trying to introduce everyone and allowing us to get into Marzelak's head.  It's clunky at some points, which is the mark of a neophyte comics writer, at least from what I've read.  As they're working in a visual medium, not everything needs to be written out.  We can infer a lot from drawings and from simply understanding the characters.

Other than that, this is a fun little book.  It gives us a nice look at what goes on behind the scenes at a big toy company (Marcej worked at Hasbro, so it's based on that) and all the politics involved, which are similar but subtly different from other companies.  It's a chaming comic, and it will be interesting to see if Marcej simply gets Marzelak to quit his job and draw his comic strip full-time, which would be uplifting but possibly dull, or if there will be something more meaty down the line.

Why this issue of Action Figure is the greatest issue ever!!!!  Two words: Samurai Pandas.  You read that correctly!

The Boys #4 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

Someone last time asked me why I am subjecting myself to The Boys when it's so unpleasant.  It's all about hope, people!  I want to see how the storyline with the Teenage Kix plays out (I hope in two issues, because I doubt if it can be sustained longer) in order to make a final decision.  Yes, it's an unpleasant book, and yes, I'm often angry while reading it, but if Ennis can pull something out of this, it might actually turn into a good comic.

Take this issue.  There are glimpses of what Ennis can do and why this could be a good book.  After a horrible beginning, in which Hughie spies on the Teenage Kix engaged in a bizarre gang-bang (as unpleasant as you might suspect) and the Homelander asks Starlight to speak at her first official meeting of the Seven and A-Train reminds her graphically about her blowjobs last issue, we get a funny scene in which the Deep, who is the Aquaman analog in this book, gets into an argument about why the Homelander, Black Noir, and Queen Maeve get a bigger percentage of the profits from the merchandising, which leads into a discussion about how they're the Big Three, and if the Deep (Aquaman) doesn't like it, he should have taken it up with his lawyers.  Suck it, Aquaman!  But then it's back to the orgy, and then Butcher is fucking the CIA chick again (which is as unpleasant as issue #1 and the orgy in this issue), and then Ennis gives us another glimpse, as Butcher injects Hughie with a substance - Compound V - that will allow him to take a punch from one of the supers and not, you know, die.  Hughie gets indignant about being shot up with something that alters his DNA (who wouldn't be?) and storms off, threatening to quit the team.  These two brief scenes make me think that the book could be interesting.  All the ugly sex makes me think Ennis is just masturbating, or, as those crazy Brits call it, wanking.

So that's why I read The Boys.  I want it to be good.  If it doesn't shape up, it's gone, but I want to like it.  Fear not - there shall come a reckoning.  Probably pretty soon.

Why this issue of The Boys is the greatest issue ever!!!!  The page when they discuss the "informal concept" of the Big Three is well done, and the J'onn analog says, "Looks to me like Maeve's got the Big Two going on all on her lonesome here" while he stares at her breasts.  Yes, it's juvenile, but it's pretty funny.

Daredevil #90 by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, and Stefano Gaudiano.  $2.99, Marvel.

Brubaker apparently reads the blog occasionally, so I have to say that this is the GREATEST Daredevil HAS EVER BEEN!  Okay, I don't have to say that, but it's still pretty good.  I'm enjoying the European feel to the whole thing, and it's very nice to look at.  I have two problems with it, though, one minor and one major.

The first is the appearance of Tombstone.  It's not that I don't like Tombstone - he's perfectly fine, and writers in Daredevil have used him pretty well.  I just would have liked to see someone different, because we're in Europe.  Doesn't Europe have any freaky genetically-altered kind of villains?  They had to import one from the States?  The problem I have with superheroes going outside of the U. S. is that the writers and artists often simply transplant the U. S. to wherever they are.  Lark and Gaudiano have not done this - as I mentioned, the European feel to this is very nice - and Brubaker didn't do it last issue, but it feels weird when Tombstone shows up.  It makes me wonder why the story is set in Europe at all.

The second problem is the ending.  I'm not going to spoil it, but it's obvious early on what's going on (it was kind of obvious last issue, too).  It's not as if Brubaker gives it away in the dialogue, it just has that kind of feel to it.  Yes, it's noir, and therefore people are never what they seem, but anyone who has ever read more than a few issues of Daredevil could have seen it coming.  It's frustrating, because as I pointed out last issue, Matt is the only one in creation who can't figure these things out.  Shouldn't someone have smacked him upside the head a long time ago?

It is, however, a pretty good mystery, and it's intriguing.  I reserve judgment, of course, for when the arc is done, but so far, despite the few pitfalls, it's a good story.

Why this issue of Daredevil is the greatest issue ever!!!!  Dakota North doesn't even show up and gets mentioned only once and she's the coolest character in the book.  How does that happen?

Gødland #13 by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli.  $2.99, Image.

Gødland returns, and it's as good as you remember.  What a fun book.  If you recall, in the last issue Adam and the Never disappeared when Adam set off that bomb that would have destroyed New York.  Well, they both were thrown into a pocket dimension, where they are imprisoned by the indigenous life forms.  Adam's powers are useless (for a while), but he still plots with the other prisoners to escape, after making peace with the Never (in a scene straight out of the Stan-Lee-comics-writing school, with each fragment of a sentence punctuated by an exclamation mark).  He manages to contact Maxim, who tells him how to get back to his dimension, but before he can get to the portal that will allow him to escape, he is grabbed by the mind-controlled inmates.  The Never, who has a chance to get out, returns and frees Adam, but is then overwhelmed himself.  It's all very "This Man, This Monster!"

It's a top quality story, as usual, full of wild scenes, impossible physics, thought balloons, action, and general mayhem.  Some of the books I read I understand why people don't like them.  There are a few books that, if someone doesn't like them, I just can't understand it.  This is one of those books.  What the hell's not to like????

Why this issue of Gødland is the greatest issue ever!!!!  One of the inmates always finishes speaking by naming a geometric shape ("Trapezoid!"  "Rhombus!").  Why?  Who bleepin' cares!

Jack of Fables #4 by Matthew Sturges, Bill Willingham, Tony Akins, and Andrew Pepoy.  $2.99, DC/Vertigo.

This book is still trucking along, and while it's certainly not as good as Fables, it's entertaining, and that's why I keep buying it.  It's one of those books that I wouldn't list in my Top Ten, but it's enjoyable, and that means there's no reason why I shouldn't buy it.

Take this issue, in which Jack begins his prison break.  Jack has a good plan, and for the most part, it works.  We switch back and forth between the various escapees, which is simply a way for Willingham and Sturges to show us various fictional characters that are confined, and the Page sisters' efforts to stop them.  It's just like every other prison break movie you've ever seen, but the weirdness of the escapees makes it interesting.  Plus, of course, they're being chased by the Bagmen, who are, well, empty bags.  But they're scary.  We end the issue with Jack facing down a Bagman because he doesn't know that they're scary.  Of course, we're not sure what they do either, but I trust we'll find out next issue.

Jack's wonderful arrogance keeps the book going.  When he's not narrating, the book loses some of its verve, and I hope we get back to more snottiness from the main character.  While he's escaping, he's narrating about how disappointed he is that he's not going to be able to nail all three Page sisters.  Now that's a man with his priorities in order!

I was also a bit confused by something Revise says about the Bagmen killing two Fables.  I looked through the book and couldn't find where that happened.  Don't mention it unless you show it, or at least tell us who died!  Other than that, this was another enjoyable issue.  I'm glad they're getting out of the prison, though - there's only so much you can do with it before it becomes a bit dull.  Jack needs his space!

Why this issue of Jack of Fables is the greatest issue ever!!!!  A tiger eats Toto.  No, not that Toto (although how cool would that have been?).  The other Toto.  Isn't he the most annoying thing in the movie?  Don't you wish the Cowardly Lion had eaten him at some point? 

Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. #9 by Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger.  $2.99, Marvel.

When the history of the twenty-first century is written, a special section (one of those brightly-colored boxes you find in textbooks highlighting trivia) should be devoted to this issue, which might - just might - be the greatest comic book ever written.  Dare you disagree?!?!?!?  And yes, like other pure geniuses - Vincent Van Gogh, remember, was also cancelled before his time - this comic will only be appreciated when it's gone.  I apologize humbly to Nextwave for ever doubting it.

The nice thing about this book is that Ellis is, like some other writers working for the Big Two right now, to use the history of the Universes to his advantage.  What did happen ten minutes after Steve Rogers became Captain America, and why wouldn't he have to take a leak?  Why wouldn't Hank Pym and his crazy antics screw things up for other scientists?  It makes perfect (well, perfect in a crazy, comic-booky universe place) sense.

The highlight of the book, of course, is when the terrorist cell S.I.L.E.N.T. shows up, even if Ellis blatantly rips off Number None (the name, at least) from Morrison's Doom Patrol.  Once Number None begins introducing his superteams, the book goes from funny and interesting to the greatest thing since ABBA broke up.  On two pages, Ellis gives us 14 - yes, FOURTEEN - new heroes, each more awesome than the last.  (You think I'm kidding?  The second-to-last one is "Slightly Creepy Policewoman."  The last one is "The Homosexuality.")  Then, of course, Number None introduces his own version of the Ultimates (including the "frankly inedible Bulk").  Which, of course, sets up the fight, and Elsa gets the last line, which is very, very funny.  (Yes, I'm aware that Cronin has already spoken of it in less than sparkling terms, - the last line, not the issue as a whole - but just ignore him like you usually do, and we'll all be fine.)  Ellis himself knows how awesome the issue is (the great ones are always a bit arrogant) as the credits read, "You have been getting insulted by Nextwave, a sequential art like the Bayeux Tapestry committed by:" and then the creators involved.  Even the credits on a book like this are better than almost anything out there.

So it's gone in a few issues, and despite rumblings about future projects, I fear after issue #12, we will never see this group again.  Buy it while you can!

Why this issue of Nextwave is the greatest issue ever!!!!  Didn't you read what I just wrote?  Okay, how about how Ellis manages to insult President Roosevelt's handicap on the first page and it's still freakin' funny.  That's tough to do, but he does it!

Planetary #26 by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

There are no credits anywhere on this book.  Weird.

Anyway, is this the last issue of Planetary?  Ellis doesn't mention it on his site, Cassaday doesn't mention it on his site, the book does not end with a "The End" tag, nor does the last page offer any conclusive evidence, but it seems like it should end, doesn't it?  If it is the end, it's definitely a "whimper, not a bang" kind of finish, even though it's satisfactory enough.  With this issue, I get the feeling that Ellis has lost interest in the book, even though it's one of the best things he's ever written.  It would be a shame if this was the end.  Elijah mentions that there is "one loose thread to take care of."  Please, Mr. Ellis, one more issue!

As it's been for a while, it's kind of pointless to review one issue of Planetary, because they come out so infrequently and are tied in to every other issue so closely.  Suffice it to say that Ellis could easily write this for another 20 issues or so - there is quite a bit left unresolved, to my satisfaction, at least.  So what's the deal?  Did Ellis get bored?  Did Cassaday?  We'll always wonder, I suppose.  Or I could try to find out, but I can't be bothered.

Someday soon I will sit down with each and every issue of this marvelous book and read through them carefully.  God, it's been brilliant.  Which makes this resolution all the more disappointing.  Oh well.

Why this issue of Planetary is the greatest issue ever!!!!  "Earth Toilet-on-Fire."  The Drummer rules.

Wetworks #2 by Mike Carey, Whilce Portacio, and Richard Friend.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

According to some of the comments from issue #1, this team always fights vampires.  Really?  Shit.  That would get boring, fast.

Well, I made a three-issue commitment to this, and unless Carey has something that will blow me away, I doubt if I will continue with it.  There's nothing terribly wrong with Wetworks, but there's nothing that you can point at and say, "That's the reason I buy this and will keep buying it."  The vampires kill a bunch of people, Mother One wakes up and stalks around naked, the team heads to San Francisco to track the vampires, and something wicked and nasty comes out of a dead rabbit with its eyes and mouth sewn shut.  It's all very gruesome, but pretty forgettable.  I hardly care about any of these characters (except for the three vampire victims, because they were just minding their own business when they were suddenly killed - I always wonder about the random victims in entertainment like comics and movies, and wish someone would write a story about them), and as much as I like Portacio's art, it's not that good, and he's not on the book very long anyway (if Andy Diggle is to be believed).  So we'll see.  I'll pick up the conclusion to the first arc and see what happens.  I don't have high hopes.

Why this issue of Wetworks in the greatest issue ever!!!!  The splash page of the sky glider getting butchered is pretty neat-o.  Gross, but neat-o.

X-Men #192 by Mike Carey, Chris Bachalo, and the starting offensive line of the 1983 Memphis Showboats as inkers. 

I love buying two books by the same writer on the same day, because it's fun to compare their styles on each one.  Ellis, of course, has noticeable style changes depending on what book he's writing, but I haven't read enough by Carey to notice too much how he changes things unless I read two different books on the same day.  Well, Wetworks and X-Men are similar, but it's interesting that on this book, which is set in the Marvel U. and therefore is presumably accessible to children on some level, Carey is much more subdued than on Wetworks.  He throws in some bombastic phrases, sure (Rogue tells the X-Men to "ENGAGE!" in big red block letters, which is kind of dumb), but he also allows our knowledge of the X-Men to guide our emotions with regard to Henry McCoy and Rogue and Scott and Mystique.  It's nicely done, and shows why a shared universe can be such a boon.  Anyone unfamiliar with the X-world wouldn't necessarily understand everything that is going on here, but that's okay, because these characters obviously have a long history together, and Carey's writing brings that out.  It's interesting to read it with all that backstory in mind.

The problem I have had for a while with the X-books is the lack of the feeling of familiarity among the groups.  Whedon, obviously, got to cherry-pick his team, but the other two groups don't feel like they have any affection for each other or even know each other.  And it's not going to change, unless a writer stays there for a long time.  I'm enjoying Carey and Brubaker on the X-books, but the characters feel arbitrarily chosen, and that feeling of a family going through things together has been lost.  It's been a long time since they had that, and I miss it.  Yes, you may weep for me!

Anyway, it's the penultimate issue of Carey's first arc, and things blow up.  These vault kids are pretty cool.  And wouldn't it be nice if Iceman is dead?  Not that I'm bloodthirsty and want Bobby dead, but it's such a minor part of the issue, so it would be nice.  When I write the X-Men (it's coming, trust me!) I too will kill off a character in a wildly minor fashion.  Ah, but who will it be?  That's the question.

Why this issue of X-Men is the greatest issue ever!!!!  Well, you know I love Rogue, but she's even more bad-ass than usual in this issue.  Every word out of her mouth I love.  Plus, Bachalo with scads of inkers means good art.


Common Foe #4 (of 5?) by Keith Giffen, Shannon Denton, and Federico Dallocchio.  $3.99, Image.

It has been a year since the third issue came out.  Wow.  Do you see why I don't read mini-series until they finish?

Seven Soldiers #1 by Grant "Rasputin, Reincarnated" Morrison and J. H. Williams III.  $3.99, DC.


I almost fainted when I saw this.  It's six months late.  It's Morrison's fault, too, apparently.  You know WildCats from last week?  The next issue isn't due until March.  WTF?  But getting back to this, you know that this means I can sit down and read all 30 issues now.  I'll get back to you on that!

That's all she wrote for this week.  Have fun telling me why I'm foolish!

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