What I bought - 26 August 2009

"Now, let her out and give her your coat.""Why me?""Because you're perfect.""You have a point there."

Batman and Robin #3 ("Batman Reborn Part Three: Mommy Made of Nails") by Grant "Man, Quitely draws a big domino mask on Robin, doesn't he?" Morrison (writer), Frank Quitely (artist), Alex Sinclair (colorist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC.

There's a lot to like about this three-issue arc of the bigger Grant Morrison story in Batman and Robin, and it's interesting that the God of All Comics is treating this like a longer series, setting up the next arc at the end of this tale and linking it to Professor Pyg's reign of terror. It makes the main story here feel a bit rushed, as Pyg ends up not being a very tough villain at all (of course, he's only locked up at the end, so I'm sure G-Mozz has plans for him), but it also helps make this feel more like an ongoing and not a collection of short arcs. He's helped, of course, by Quitely, who designs dazzling fight scenes and, no matter what you say about his figures, does a wonderful job with making each panel a snapshot of the action. He does a nice job making the characters move, even if his art isn't slick and suggestive of movement and he doesn't use motion lines and other tricks a lot of artists use. I'm interested to see how much of a drop-off we'll get with Tan taking over next arc. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's not too much of one.

Morrison, as usual, has some interesting ideas that he doesn't do enough with. It's nice that we get little about Pyg and who he is, but at the same time, it's frustrating that he's so underdeveloped. Plus, if we're not going to get much about the villain, his scheme should be a bit more menacing, and although the idea of his scheme is neat, the GoAC doesn't really do enough with it. Again, Pyg is not dead at the end of the story, and he seems ready for a comeback, but that means that this three-issue arc is just set-up, and in a world where writers are slowly moving away from decompression (with, ironically, Morrison at the forefront), this smacks of padding.

I'm certainly excited about the series, even with a lesser artist taking over, but Morrison occasionally has difficulties balancing the reality of a single-issue story with his vision of a grander arc. That's in evidence here. But Morrison, as always, is more interesting even when he's not perfect than most writers, so this series continues to be a fine read.

Buck Rogers #3 ("Future Shock Part Three: Ghosts of Mars") by Scott Beatty (writer), Carlos Rafael (artist), Carlos Lopez (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

There's nothing crazily awesome in this issue of Buck Rogers, but Beatty continues to tell a good, solid science fiction story with a nice modern edge but plenty of 1930s vibe to it, like the suits Buck and Wilma are wearing while they're floating in space and the saucer they use to escape the big space ship. There's even some ray gun usage, which is nice. It's cool that Beatty is tying Buck's arrival in the future in with those he left behind in the past, and the ending is a nice little cliffhanger, and the series is a fine read, but there's nothing in this particular issue that makes you shout "Fuck Yeah!" That's okay, though - it's turning into a nifty series, and there's no reason for you to skip it!

Detective Comics #856 ("Elegy Part 3: Affettuoso"/"Pipeline Chapter One Part Three") by Greg Rucka (writer), J. H. Williams III (artist, "Elegy"), Cully Hamner (artist, "Pipeline"), Dave Stewart (colorist, "Elegy"), Laura Martin (colorist, "Pipeline"), Todd Klein (letterer, "Elegy"), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer, "Pipeline"). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

You know, I keep waiting for Rucka's story to get better, and it's just not. It's really frustrating, because Williams is so good, and I love the attention to detail, like how Maggie doesn't have her hand on Kate's ass but the placement of the musical note makes it look like she does, but the story is just dull. "Alice" finally does something evil, which is nice, I guess, but the supernatural elements of the book don't work terribly well. It turns this into too much of a superhero book, but it's obvious that Rucka doesn't really want to write a superhero book, and he can't reconcile this. I hate to compare it to that other Batman book above, but consider Professor Pyg, a creepy villain who does horrible things. Morrison keeps everything in the realm of possibility, so although Pyg and his minions are bizarre, they're not supernatural, and it helps, ironically, make the story more believable. Alice is in the same vein, but then Rucka brings in the werewolves and stuff, and it makes it strangely unbelievable. I know, complaining about unbelievability in a comic starring Batwoman is a silly thing to say, but that's the way it is. Rucka has balanced costumed heroes with his natural inclination toward crime fiction in the past, but in this story so far, it's tilting the wrong way, and the crime fiction aspect is getting overwhelmed. And he's not doing anything different with The Question story, either. At least there aren't any werewolves, but it's just Renee punching people. Yawn.

This arc has one more issue, I think, even though Williams is supposed to be on 'Tec for a while after that. I honestly don't know if I'm going to continue after the resolution of this story, even if Williams makes it purty. I really liked Rucka's work on Detective back in the day, but this just isn't working too well. It's a shame.

Dynamo 5 #24 by Jay Faerber (writer), Mahmud A. Asrar (artist), Ron Riley (colorist), and Charles Pritchett (letterer). $3.50, 21 pgs, FC, Image.

So next issue is Asrar's last issue on Dynamo 5. That's depressing but not terribly surprising, as he's getting more and more work for companies that actually pay money to artists. Plus, the book is going on hiatus after next issue, which is more depressing news. I'm sure Faerber will bring it back, but it's still vexing. This is one of the best superhero comics out there right now, and I hope that it can come back strong. But will a new artist be as interested in drawing pin-ups of Bridget? That's all that matters!!!!!

By the way, this issue rocks. Duh. Synergy takes out the team, we learn more about Father Gideon and his revelation from last issue, and Gage and Spencer have an uncomfortable (at least to Gage) conversation. Faerber does his usual excellent job moving everything along, giving us plenty of action, some nice character development (not only with Gage and Spencer, but Bridget as well), and Asrar draws the hell out of it. I don't know which Marvel book he's going off to work on, but I hope it's something I want to buy!

Check out the trades of this series if you haven't yet. Then you can be caught up when it returns!

Fantastic Four #570 ("Solve Everything Part One") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Dale Eaglesham (artist), Paul Mounts (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I have not bought an issue of Fantastic Four since 1990, when I bought issues #347-349, the famous Simonson/Adams Spider-Man/Wolverine/Hulk/Ghost Rider FF, and I only bought those because I was a sucker for Art Adams's art. Those remain the only Fantastic Four single issues I've ever bought, even though I went back and got some of the Lee/Kirby Essential volumes (and I really ought to get more of those) and the John Byrne trades. Even Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo starting on FF didn't make me go get an issue, even though I later bought those in trade, as well. I didn't even buy it when Sue went all slutty! And yet, here I am, buying an issue of Fantastic Four. That's just how damned good The Nightly News was.

Yes, Hickman's run begins here, and based on his non-Marvel work, I'm giving it a try. It doesn't hurt that Eaglesham is finally working with a writer I want to read (okay, so I like Simone, but when he worked with her, it was in the middle of that Infinite Crisis mess, and did I really want to dive into that?), and he does strong work here. Of all the superhero books out there, Fantastic Four seems to demand a "classic" feel to it, and Eaglesham does that here, even keeping the look consistent with Hitch's recent work (at least from what I saw of Hitch's work on the book; I'm assuming it's because of Mounts, because didn't he color Hitch's work?). It's just strong, solid superhero storytelling, and it's good to see.

Hickman resists beginning his run with "Everything you ever knew is wrong!" histrionics, which is fine with me. I might not love Nu-World (in fact, from what I read of it, it's one of the most bone-headed ideas in a long time), but at least Hickman acknowledges it (and, if solicitations are to be believed, he's using it quite a bit). I'm not entirely sold on how Valeria speaks (even if she's a genius at three years old, it would be nice if she didn't speak exactly like a smart adult, but like a genius three-year-old), but it's apparently not something that Hickman came up with. And the central idea, that of the Bridge that allows Reed to view alternate timelines to witness outcomes when he made different decisions, is also not Hickman's (at least I assume so). So that's kind of neat. Hickman, of course, uses this as a springboard to his own story, in which Reed decides to, well, solve everything. The idea of a cross-dimensional society of Reeds is pretty neat, especially because, I'm sorry, Reed always strikes me as so arrogant that the only company he'd want to keep is his own (I'm very aware that that's not how many, many writers have written him, but it always seems to me an essential part of his character; he and Doom are so similar, and only a few circumstances have prevented Reed from becoming a despot like Doom is). And it's neat that the Wizard's appearance is obviously not a throwaway battle just to get us into the story but will (most likely) have serious consequences down the road. That's pretty keen.

I will say that Marvel does something annoying in this comic, and it's easily fixable. There's a recap page, then two pages of flashback to Reed's childhood. Then we arrive in the present, with the FF fighting one of the Wizard's machines. It's very weird, because you turn the page from the flashback (the two pages of which face each other) and then we get the left side of the book showing the entire team attacking the robot while the right side of the page has an advertisement for what I can only assume are Marvel jammies. Because one side of the page shows the actual comic and it's a big old messy fight scene and the other side of the page shows a bunch of Marvel heroes and villains glaring at the reader (even the heroes are glaring, because Marvel jammies are deadly freakin' serious!), it feels almost like the advert is part of the book. If ever a scene screamed "double-page spread," it's the first time we see the team in action in a comic with a new writer and artist, and long-time comic book readers who read the recap and then the first two flashback pages would expect to turn the page and see a big ol' double-page spread (well, I expected it, and I'm a long-time comic book reader, but your mileage may vary). So the fact that the fight is crammed onto one page (granted, it spills over onto the next few pages, but still) is jarring, especially because you don't immediately recognize the next page as an ad. The advertisement could easily appear elsewhere in the book (I wouldn't dare suggest Marvel give us one more page of story and one less advertisement, because that would be insane!), so I'm not sure why it appears here. It doesn't ruin the book, of course, but it certainly messes up the grandeur of the opening battle of the book, which is supposed to set the tone for the issue. I'll shut up now.

Hickman/Eaglesham on Fantastic Four = good stuff. It's not quite as subversive as Hickman's Image work, but that's okay. It's still a cool issue that promises some cool issues to come!

Gotham City Sirens #3 ("Riddle Me This!") by Scott Lobdell (writer), Guillem March (artist/colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

I wasn't going to get this, because I haven't been getting the series, despite March's nice cheesecakey art and my general enjoyment of Dini's writing, but I did get this one. Why? Well, Scott Lobdell wrote it (which is odd given that it's only the third issue and there's already a guest writer), and I have a soft spot in my heart for Lobdell because of his early Uncanny X-Men work (even though it's really not that good, but I dug it back in the day), and I read over on Caleb's blog that it was a weird, standalone issue starring the Riddler, and that the "Sirens" appear in a grand total of four panels in this comic (on page 4) and the rest of the issue is devoted to a murder mystery in which Edward Nigma jousts with Dick Grayson to find the killer. As Dini's shift of the Riddler from bad guy to consulting detective is one of the best ideas to come out of DC this decade and when I write for DC - give me a call, Danny D! - I'm going to write a mini-series starring Mr. Nigma pursuing a murderer, I knew I had to get it. So I did.

It's quite a good issue. Lobdell certainly doesn't "play fair" with the mystery, but I didn't really expect him to. It's a nice look at how Nigma feels about his new life and whether he can make it work and how he can't escape his past. We also get to see him match wits with Dick, who he knows isn't Batman, and even get out ahead of the new hero a bit. Dick even admits that he's not as smart as Edward, which is kind of keen. A lot of the exposition doesn't make a whole lot of sense, unless I'm just that stupid (I've gone over it more than once and still can't figure it out), but it's less about the mystery (which, don't get me wrong, is kind of clever, but the clues just don't fit together completely) and more about the Riddler and how he wants to make his change of career work. I really, really hope DC never makes him a villain again. He's infinitely more interesting as a detective.

Oh, and March can draw really well. I mean, the women are hot, of course, but he has a nice bold style that grabs you and pulls you into the book. He also does a good job laying the book out (speaking of "laying," Nigma uses it when he means "lying," which bugged me) that packs a lot into the panels but never confuses the reader. I'm sure March will quickly reach a status where he only does covers, so it's nice to see his interior work before that happens.

This is a pretty good standalone issue. If you've been avoiding the book, give it a look. You have no obligation to get the next one if you don't want to!

I Am Legion #5 (of 6) ("The Three Monkeys") by Fabien Nury (writer), John Cassaday (artist), Laura Martin (colorist), Justin Kelly (translator), and Crank! (letterer). $3.50, 30 pgs, FC, Devil's Due/Humanoids.

You know, I honestly have no idea what's going on anymore in this series. I'm buying it for the Cassaday art, of course, and the concept remains cool, but what with all the body-switching and possessing and Nazis changing sides and Nazis fighting amongst themselves and commandos going undercover as Nazis, I'm completely lost. I'm still going to get the sixth issue, of course, and maybe when I sit down and read it in a more leisurely fashion (and with a notepad handy), I'll be able to figure it out. I might not be very bright, or Nury might not be a very good writer, or the translation might stink. As usual, I'll go with option A.

But damn, this book sure looks beautiful.

The Incredible Hercules #133 ("Road of Trials") by Fred van Lente (writer), Greg Pak (writer), Rodney Buchemi (artist), Emily Warren (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Okay, first of all, I love that cover design. It looks old-school without actually being old-school. Well done!

Second, van Lente and Pak do a nice job recapping their run so far on the book, incorporating it into Amadeus's journey to find his sister without beating us over the head with it. Considering that this title's recap pages are often more entertaining than your average DC superhero book, that's not surprising.

Finally, of course, we get the usual excellent story about these characters, even if Hercules doesn't appear (except in flashback and in one typically hilarious fantasy panel). Amadeus goes to Excello, where he won the quiz that led to his family's death, and Agent Sexton shows up to exposit that something is creepy about the town and the company that built the town. Amadeus spouts some pseudo-science in the Mighty Marvel Manner (using, naturally, a real-life physicist as his inspiration) and it all leads to a nifty cliffhanger ending. There's plenty of humor, there's some good action, there's a little bit of creepiness ... as usual, it all adds up to a fantastic comic book! Plus, soon it will have an Agents of Atlas back-up feature (and yes, I'm extremely grumpy that that book is being cancelled, but if it must be a back-up, at least it's a back-up in this book), so there will be even more concentrated awesome in this title!

Buchemi is a decent artist, and the flashbacks in this book are very nice. His "present" work is a bit slicker and less impressive, but he gets the job done. He gets a bit stronger as the issue goes along, finishing with a nice flourish in the brief action scene and then giving us a very nice final splash page. I still wish cover artist Rafael Albuquerque would do the interiors (has Albuquerque already become so exclusive that he's joined the ranks of those artists who no longer need to do interiors?), but that's the way it is. That's a keen cover, though, isn't it?

And hey! even that soulless husk Chad Nevett thought this was a pretty good issue! He's buying his soul back one issue of The Incredible Hercules at a time! His girlfriend will be so happy.

Madame Xanadu #14 ("Exodus Noir Part Four: Sins of the Fathers") by Matt Wagner (writer), Michael Wm. Kaluta (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

One thing I never get used to in popular entertainment is how writers write their characters as they believe the world should be, and not the way the world is. Even good writers, like Matt Wagner, fall into this trap, and it's kind of annoying. I've been harping on this with regard to Madame Xanadu and her idiocy of openly living with and screwing another woman in 1493 Spain, perhaps the most intolerant regime ever to grace God's green Earth, and yet whining that those mean old Inquisitors just can't see how lovely their love is! Really, Madame Xanadu? You've been alive for a thousand years and you don't realize that maybe, just maybe, you need to be careful about doing stuff that narrow-minded people in power don't like? It's annoying because these characters are filtered through a modern sensibility, and so we're supposed to be on Madame Xanadu's side (why can't those jerky priests just let them live in love?), and there's no drama if Madame Xanadu uses her brain and tries to keep her relationship with Marisol a secret, like she would do (and, interestingly enough, like the other characters who hide their religion if not their sexual orientation do in this very issue). Actually, it might be more dramatic if they had tried to hide their relationship and the Inquisition still found out, because then the reader (well, this reader) wouldn't think stuff like, "Well, of COURSE they found out, ya ignoramus! You might as well have sashayed into the church french-kissing! Sheesh!" Instead of caring about Marisol at the end of this issue, when the Inquisition catches up to her, I keep thinking, "Marisol, sweetie, you should have ditched that crazy immortal chick when you had the chance!" But that's just me.

Oh, and Wesley Dodds shows up in this issue. Wagner writes him pretty well. I think DC should give him a series starring the Golden Age Sandman. I bet that would sell like gangbusters!

Rex Mundi #19 ("Exodus/Daughters of the Grail") by Arvid Nelson (writer/letterer) and Juan Ferreyra (artist/colorist). $2.99, 28 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

One of the finest comic series this decade comes to an end (did I just write that? yes I fucking did!), and it's bittersweet, of course. I'll miss it, but it's so cool that Nelson was able to tell his entire epic and complete it. I'll also miss Ferreyra's art - I don't know what he's doing next, but I'll be checking it out.

Of course, it couldn't possibly match my expectations, could it? Nelson has been building to this issue the entire time, of course, but really for about two years, so there's no way it could be as awesome as what I've built up in my mind, right? Well, it comes close. It's a better ending than 100 Bullets, for instance. It's the final showdown between Julien and Lorraine, and it ends about as you would expect, but Ferreyra is absolutely dynamite on this issue - the fight is really enthralling, and the secondary action, in which the Muslims slaves rescue their women from Lorraine's castle, is very cool and adds another nifty layer of the supernatural to the story, one which works in the context of what has come before. It's a breathtaking issue, and Nelson is wise enough to give us just enough narration without going too far. Throughout the series, his biggest strength has been making sure he doesn't overwrite, which sounds like an insult but really isn't. In comics, a good writer knows how to blend the prose with the art, and Nelson has always done that well, and he does so here.

The only weird thing about the issue is that it ends oddly, as if Nelson had maybe another page or two but didn't include it. We get a wrap-up, true, and it ends in an interesting way, but the reason it's weird is because there's not a sense of complete closure. This is the end of a 38-issue epic, and it's as if a giant epic movie ended in the middle of a conversation. There aren't really any loose ends (well, there are, but they're deliberately left hanging just for fun), so I don't have a problem with the fact of the ending, just the way in which Nelson writes the final two pages. It's very weird.

Despite that, this is still a wonderful ending to a wonderful series. It started as a creepy murder mystery that quickly turned into a historical epic about fascism, religious freedom, and what it means to have faith. As much as I liked EricJ on art, Ferreyra really took it to a new level, and if you have a chance to look at any of his work on this title, you should, because it will blow you away. Like Asrar, I really hope Ferreyra does a high-profile gig and knocks it out of the park, because then others will see how astonishing his work is. Of course, if he just keeps doing smaller stuff, that's cool too, because then I won't have to deal with him doing some crappy Titans book!

Let's hope the Rex Mundi movie does huge box office and Dark Horse releases a GIANT-SIZED OMNIBUS. I would snap that up in a heartbeat! In the meantime, if you haven't been following this series, get the trades! You don't hate good comics, do you? DO YOU?????

Scalped #31 ("The Gnawing Part Two of Five") by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

After the symphony of swearing last issue, Aaron dials it down just a tad, but there's still plenty of blue language, if you like that sort of thing. As usual with arcs, the first issue gets things off to a bang, and in this second issue, everyone is reacting to what just happened, i.e., Red Crow killing someone in front of a bunch of witnesses, which is what Agent Nitz wants, of course. Dashiell wants it too, but that doesn't mean figuring out how to prosecute Red Crow is going to be easy, especially as Bad Horse's heroin habit is an open secret. And, of course, there's still Catcher running around, and Diesel is getting out of prison, and he figures it's time to pay a visit to Carol, who appears incapable of putting on clothes. Just the usual insanity on the rez!

This is a less compelling single issue of Scalped, but Aaron has to ease up on the throttle occasionally, and we get a lot of angles that will, of course, lead to a gigantic clusterfuck down the road. By now, Aaron has figured out how to twist the screws on these characters, and he's doing it with relish. Who will live? Who will die? Will Carol ever put on clothes? We don't know, but it's certainly fun finding out!

By the way, I love Bearded Dude Who Cleans Up Blood. He's just doing his thing, cleaning up blood. Nitz shouldn't yell at him, man! I have a feeling BDWCUB will be very important down the line. Or maybe not. He's still awesome.

Secret Warriors #7 by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Alessandro Vitti (artist), Sunny Gho (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Just when I was ready to embrace Hickman's Nick Fury series with annoying new superheroes who only detract a bit from the awesomeness that is Nick Fury, he (Hickman, that is, not Nick Fury, because Nick Fury is, you know, fictional) does something that might be unbelievably stupid or might be unbelievably awesome. When I first beheld it, I almost yelled "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!" (and when a comic book makes me want to yell, it's doing something right, because at least that means I'm emotionally invested), but then, when I thought about it, might work in a "so-idiotic-it-might-fuckin'-rock" kind of way. You know, like Geoff Johns's comics!*

Anyway, the rest of the issue is pretty decent, even if it stars too much of the "Secret Warriors" of the title and not enough of the "Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing" part of the title (which is gone on this cover; I guess each arc will get its name on the cover, although I have a feeling Marvel took "Agent of Nothing" off the cover because they knew it was a much awesomer title than "Secret Warriors" and didn't want readers to keep being reminded that a much better title was sharing the cover with a weaker title ... but that's just me) - Nick sends his little minions to get supplies for Dum Dum and all the agents he recruited last issue, and Natasha Romanov and Songbird "accidentally" (or not?) lure Nick into a trap. Baron von Strucker asks Norman Osborn for help with killing Fury, which leads to a nice exchange between the two evil, evil men (I will point out that I'm sad that Fenris is dead; when I write Uncanny X-Men - give me a call, Joey Q! - I'll have to resurrect them). Vitti does a pretty good job on the art - it's the Marvel house style, but I kind of like Marvel house style, so I don't mind - although, ironically, his Natasha most certainly does not look "too hot not to help," as Slade puts it. She kind of looks like the lead singer of a boy band. Maybe that's what Slade is into?

I only made up my mind to keep reading this after last issue, and this issue rewards that a bit. It's a nice way to jump off from the first six issues, but it also stands on its own as the beginning of a new arc. Still, that scene under the auto shop ... Discuss the pros and cons below! Without spoiling it at all! You can do that, right?

* Sorry. That was low.

Sherlock Holmes #4 ("The Trial of Sherlock Holmes Part Four: Brought to Justice") by Leah Moore and John Reppion (writers), Aaron Campbell (artist), Tony Aviña (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

This series is coming together nicely, with Holmes apparently several steps ahead of everyone else, like he always is, and the rest of us wondering what he's up to. Everything is pointing toward a Moriarty appearance (I can't recall if we've already had a Moriarty reference in the series), which would be a bit disappointing, as everyone who writes their own Holmes fanfiction seems to use Moriarty when Conan Doyle didn't use him all that much (in much the same way he didn't use Irene Adler all that much, but that didn't stop Guy Ritchie from casting Rachel McAdams to play her). But I can live with it, I guess. As usual, there's not much to say about this - it's moving along, it looks pretty good, and Moore and Reppion are doing a good job giving us plenty of clues without giving too much away. We'll see how they pull it together in the final issue!

(I will say that the pull quotes on the back of this issue make me sad. The first one is by a "former CBS and CNN correspondent and investigative reporter" who is also a writer, yet it features "it's" instead of "its" and "hardcore" is spelled wrong. That means either a reporter and writer got it wrong, or Dynamite's editors got it wrong. I fear for written English. I really do.)

The Unknown #4 (of 4) by Mark Waid (writer), Minck Oosterveer (artist), Fellipe Martins (colorist), Renato Faccini (colorist), Andres Lozano (colorist), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Things I really like about The Unknown:1. Oosterveer's art is fantastic. His women are cheesecakey without being too obnoxiously slutty, and he has a nice sense of the creepy.2. Waid's characterization. Catherine and James have nice chemistry together.3. The idea of Catherine being the world's greatest detective. As with this story, it opens up a lot of interesting plots, mainly because it's not surprising she'd be bored with regular cases.

Things that are kind of off about The Unknown:1. Man, that's a weird way to end the arc. I'll 'splain.

This series is "continuing" next month with a new case in a new mini-series, even though there's no reason for it to be classified as a completely separate mini-series. That doesn't bother me. Waid, however, seemed to lose interest in this case midway through last issue, and this issue just wraps it up almost off-panel. This issue is much more concerned with Catherine's state of mind regarding her attitude toward the afterlife, which gets shaken a bit here, and Waid doing a nice job to get her back on her game. It's as if the case was an afterthought to Catherine's brain tumor, which needs to be dealt with, and the relationship between Catherine and James, which deepens in this issue but leaves room for more growth. It's nice to see Waid developing the characters, but it feels like he completely abandons the case (oh, sure, the bad guy gets his comeuppance, but it still feels a bit tacked on), which was kind of neat. He sets up the next case in this issue (which, without checking, I believe starts in the same place as The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service did), and I'm looking forward to it, but I hope he balances the nice character work with, you know, some mysteries that get solved. And I hope Oosterveer is in this for the long haul!

Unknown Soldier #11 ("Easy Kill Chapter Four") by Joshua Dysart (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist), Oscar Celestini (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Dysart is getting some global press about Unknown Soldier, which is kind of neat. There's also at least one Ugandan blogger who digs the book, which is neat as well. I'm not saying that just because the people about whom the book is written like it, so should you, but it's kind of cool that Dysart has put so much effort into getting at least the misc-en-scene correct.

This continues to be a gripping read, as Moses heads to Kampala to save Margaret Wells, the actress he was going to kill until he changed his mind but who's still in danger from the people who wanted Moses to kill her in the first place. So that's the plot. However, this issue focuses on Sera, Moses's wife, who's putting together the benefit dinner which Margaret Wells will attend. She learns that Moses had a white fiancée who is coming to Uganda for the benefit, and she doesn't quite know how to process that. It's very interesting that as Moses begins to know more about himself, he becomes more "unknown" to his wife, and not in the way we expect (the fact that he hears voices telling him how to kill, for instance, which might surprise Sera). Dysart does some very nice writing in this, showing again that as he continues to ease off on the obvious politics of the first arc, the book gets stronger because the political reality of the country comes more into focus. Dysart, for instance, introduces a character who may or may not show up again. He's an older white man who obviously does business in Uganda, and in just a few panels, and without doing anything about the character's politics, we get a sense of this man and his relationship to the country. We have met Moses's ex-fiancée before, and we know she's posing a bit in this book, but even without knowing that, we get a sense of it from the way Dysart presents her (which is, to be fair, largely positive). It's more subtle than it was earlier in the book, but it makes the experience of reading the comic much better.

As usual, Ponticelli does a nice job with the art. There's one absolutely terrifying panel, but it's not what you expect: it's of Jack Howl, post-vomiting, and he looks like he could kill everyone in the world, and it's freaky. There's also a wonderful sad panel of Moses, in pain and lost, not knowing if he can atone for his sins. Ponticelli continues to create this world with Dysart, and it's nice to see that they have good synergy together.

Unknown Soldier keeps getting better. Maybe its higher profile will mean better sales. That would be nice!

Wednesday Comics #8 (of 12) by people more talented than you are! $3.99, 15 pgs, DC.

Hey, Hal Jordan! Can you suggest an unusual spice that one wouldn't necessarily think of to garnish this giant lobster creature I just caught off the coast of Maine?

Thanks, Hal!

So many questions about issue #8 ...

Why is Gotham Today being sold in the Gotham Examiner box?Does Gotham City have littering laws, and does Commissioner Gordon feel he is above them? (Maybe this explains why Gotham is such a hole - if the commissioner doesn't follow the laws, why should the Joker?)Didn't Kamandi live in New York, and if so, what's he doing in Mississippi?Why is Superman still whining even while he's thinking?Who knew ghosts wore panties?Why doesn't Deadman see that those women are totally evil, as it's fairly obvious?So Dillon didn't turn into that thing, but was encased by it? Icky.How cool is Gaiman for referencing Strontium Dog?Is Java too awesome to be contained within the confines of the strip?I'm sorry, I just can't stand the Titans strip. I'm sure Berganza and Galloway are wonderful people, but it's just no good at all.How neat is Pope's use of narration to obscure what Alanna says to Zotar?Don't you just want to hug Zotar and tell him it will be all right?How cool is the inside of Doctor Mid-Nite's refrigerator?Did you notice that Gray and Palmiotti make a reference to The Last Resort, their IDW mini-series?Why do metas need their own cookbook?Can I have Amanda Conner's babies?How many times has Chemo been cracked? Shouldn't someone come up with a better containment unit for him?Why does Fenris the wolf look like a giant rat?Did you think, when you started reading this post, that I would reference two different beings named Fenris?Why hasn't Rock fucking killed anyone yet??????Flash: What the hell?Are those Morgaine's natural eyebrows, or does she spend hours in front of the mirror penciling them on?Doesn't striking with the spellsword of lust usually get teenaged boys and girls into hot water?Why doesn't Aquaman do something with the water inside the bodies of the Justice Leaguers to fuck them up? Doesn't he get tired of getting dissed?

I have no answers for you, fellow travelers. I have no answers!!!!!!!

Zero Killer #4 (of 6) ("L'il Rascals") by Arvid Nelson (writer), Matt Camp (artist), and Dave Stewart (colorist). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

I sort of already reviewed this, even though it wasn't specifically for the third issue, but the mini-series as a whole. I will say that, according to the backmatter, Matt Camp is the bald dude on the cover with the word "tested" written on his severed head. That's pretty awesome.

Okay, that's all for this week. My mother, who is visiting this week (my daughter's seventh birthday is Sunday, so my mom came for the party), was surprised by the sheer number of comics I bought. I didn't have the heart to tell her that this is a fairly normal week for me.

I bought a certain trade paperback this week, one that features what might be the greatest pull quote in the history of pull quotes:

You don't get anything if you know what trade this is, but I will be fairly impressed.

I was a bit proud that no one got last week's totally random lyrics, although I suspect everyone knew that they were from Kelly Clarkson's tune "I Do Not Hook Up" but were too ashamed to admit they knew. Come on, people, rock out with Ms. Clarkson! You know you want to! Let's check out some new totally random lyrics. Fret not, manly men can admit to knowing these!

"In your single-roomed flat in a courtyard buildingYou sit alone just like a broken toyWhere's your mother, where's your loverand where are the childrenAre you a man or still a boy?Who left you behind, or did you runFrom the crush of so many options?Now you know the special despair of the manDiscussed, debated and offered for adoption"

Finally, Cronin should totally buy this house. I'm sure he has the money lying around somewhere!

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