What I bought - 27 February 2008

Well, it's another huge week around these parts.  I'm convinced that Archaia Studios Press holds all the books I buy and then releases them all in the same week - it's a dastardly plan!  Plus, in this post, you will find:

1. An examination of the final pages of comics, where applicable.  So, there will probably be some SPOILERS, although I'm going to try to avoid that;

2. My revelation regarding a secret competition I'm having with our Dread Lord and Master, a competition so secret even he doesn't know about it!;

3. Greg's Grammar Guide!  Won't that be fun?

You will not find any comics that are named after the action of putting a lower extremity into someone's posterior region.  I had no interest in that.

Batman #674 by Grant Morrison (writer), Tony Daniel (penciller), Sandu Florea (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer).  $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

As I noted last time, smarter people than I can discuss Morrison's weird take on Batman, and when Tim Callahan took up the challenge, he pointed out that Morrison is tying this in to Batman #156, "Robin Dies at Dawn," originally published in 1963 and helpfully reprinted in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told.  I missed the connection last issue, because I'm not very bright, but this issue is more explicit, as it's actually called "Batman Dies at Dawn" and our hero tells us more about the experiment done in the original story.  Morrison even has a flashback to two panels from the original story, when Bruce decides to quit being Batman (he quotes the 1960s story verbatim).  Unfortunately, in this modern version, Robin gets angry, when in the original story, he cries like my two-year-old when it's time to get out of the bath.

Anyway, because it's Morrison, the doctor who performed the tests on Batman decided to create other "Bat-men" for the inevitable death of Batman, and that's what's been going on.  I love the fact that the God of All Comics has decided to go back to the early 1960s for the "inspiration" for this story - yes, it's still vexing that Morrison has this inordinate love of the Silver Age, but that story is actually kind of freaky, and fits in well with the more modern Batman we're used to seeing.  I have no problem with writers going deep into the past for ideas and characters - that's how we got the modern incarnation of Deadshot, after all - as long as it doesn't just become a homage.  It appears Morrison is doing a nice job writing a new story that's grounded in the past rather than just writing a pastiche of the Silver Age, and that's refreshing.

It's also nice to see that the Black Glove is the big villain behind all of this, unless Morrison is just throwing us off the track.  As I read this, when Batman starts thinking about the master villain behind everything, I had a fleeting hope that Morrison would use another mastermind who never got a chance to shine - the marionette-dude from the mid-Nineties Moench and Jones run.  We never did see what happened to him!  But it seems pretty obvious it's the Black Glove ... we'll just have to wait and see.

I was kind of hoping Batman kneeling on the ground holding the glove would be the final page (whose glove is it, by the way - the fake Batman's?), but we get an odd coda, in which Bruce sets up a story for the media to explain why he's all beaten up.  It's not very dramatic, and I wonder why it's necessary - we've all seen Bruce in this kind of situation before, and we also just assume he makes up some story for the press.  I'm curious to see if Morrison follows up on it, because it's kind of a weak ending.

But it's still a very good issue.  And that's what matters, isn't it?

Greg's Grammar Guide!  This always bothers me, but "damn" is not an adjective, it's either a verb or a simple ejaculation.  A cop says "Damn!" which is correct, but then follows it up with "Every damn time!" which is not.  It should be "Every damned time!"  "Damned" is not in common usage, with most people writing it as "damn," so I'm not sure it counts.  But it should (and at least one dictionary on-line says "damn" is fine, but I'm old-school, man!).  Then, Bruce says "Make sure the press are here ..."  "Press" is a singular noun, so the correct verb is "is."

Black Panther Annual #1 by Reginald Hudlin (writer), Larry Stroman (penciller), Ken Lashley (penciller), Roland Paris (inker), Carlos Cuevas (inker), Jon Sibal (inker), Matt Milla (colorist), Val Staples (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer).  $3.99, 34 pgs, FC, Marvel.

This is a largely forgettable book, made tolerable by Stroman's gorgeous art.  It's really magnificent, and I do hope he is back on a comic that is worthy of his skills soon enough.  Unfortunately, he doesn't even draw the entire book, as Lashley handles the flashback scenes while Stroman does the present-day work.  Still, Lashley isn't horrible either, and there's a decent contrast in between the scenes.  I just wish Stroman had done the whole thing.  Oh well.

The story is fairly uninteresting, as it takes place a few decades from now, at the marriage of one of T'Challa and Storm's kids to one of Luke Cage's.  Storm has to fetch a brother who is in a snit, and she tells him why Wakanda is so wonderful.  It's a very "love is all you need" vibe, which isn't a bad thing, but it's such a simplistic story, one in which Wakanda is always ruled by wise leaders who refuse to engage in realpolitik and instead lead the world to a new Golden Age simply by being wonderful and allowing the rest of the world to see how wonderful they are.  Meanwhile, there's a bit of anti-American bashing, which is also presented simplistically.  I'm all for bashing my country (as I've often been reminded around here), because it often deserves it, but this is one panel that simply assumes the United States government is the dumbest one ever put on this planet (which isn't true - we all know it's the government of Suriname, man!).  But whatever.  It's just a dull story that isn't horrible, but isn't much good either.

Greg's Grammar Guide!  It's a well-written book, certainly, in that Hudlin doesn't make any mistakes.  The closest thing I can see that might be wrong is when Storm narrates "Wakanda had spies in the corporate boardrooms and the halls of parliament, so we knew trouble was coming."  The pronoun "we" doesn't agree in number with its antecedent, "Wakanda," which is a singular noun.  Plus, Storm isn't Wakandan.  But that's probably nit-picking.  But if I don't pick the nits, who will?  I pick with love!

Blue Beetle #24 by John Rogers (writer), Rafael Albuquerque (artist), Guy Major (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer).  $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

This comic is just getting better and better, and I hope its sales are at least justifying its publication for a while.  When last we left, Jaime had been captured by the Reach and separated from the Scarab, while his family may or may not have been blown up.  Well, of course they weren't, as Traci 13 (looking far older than a teenager the first time we see her) rescues them.  So there's a battle on the ground between Peacemaker, Traci, and a bunch of hero-types, while Jaime tries to sabotage the Reach vessel.  It's a wildly fun issue, as Jaime shows resources we didn't know he had but which make sense, the humans on the ground fight valiantly, and there's a cliffhanger ending (I'll get to that).  Rogers gets in some very nice character moments, such as Brenda being the only one Jaime's mom trusts to save her daughter, and there's some nice humor, and Albuquerque's dynamic art is, as usual, excellent.  Sure, it's part of an arc, but it wouldn't kill you to check it out, you know!

The final page puzzles me.  Jaime says two words that are supposed to impress us, but he's speaking in an alien language.  We can interpret it well enough, I guess, but I'm wondering if we've seen those two words before and Jaime's using them in some kind of ironic way.  If so, I guess it works, but it's kind of an odd way to end the issue.  We're expecting something valiant and dramatic, and we get two words that are essentially meaningless.  It still works in a dramatic sense, but not as well as it could have, because we take a minute to stop and think, "Huh?"  But it sets up the finale of the story arc well, and that's what counts, after all.

Greg's Grammar Guide!  Another one of my pet peeves, as the Negotiator gives the Scarab to an underling and says, "Bring this ... dead thing to the research pod."  Arrrrggggghhhhh!!!!!  It's "TAKE this ... dead thing to the research pod."  The underling is standing right there.  He TAKES something with him to another location.  If the thing is somewhere else, the Negotiator would say "BRING the ... dead thing here" or something like that.  The use of "bring" for "take" drives me insane.  There.  I am insane now.*

* Dieter is awesome, by the way.

The Circle #4 by Brian Reed (writer), Ian Hosfeld (artist), and Len O'Grady (colorist).  $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

This is another comic that keeps getting better, as Reed continues to keep the action going while still delving into the relationship between Agent Y and the Circle, as we flashback to when the Circle "rescued" Agent Y and took her in, which may have been a big mistake.  Meanwhile, in the present, Wallace Christopher chases down the train with his new friend, the motorcycle-riding farmer, who drives like a maniac.  Ulee and Ilona, on board the train, decide to take matters into their own hands, and effect a somewhat brutal escape.  Unfortunately for all concerned, the British have called in an air strike to obliterate the train before it can reach its destination (it's just like The Rock!), and the book ends with the bombs falling as Wallace looks on helplessly.  Oh dear.

The story has remained strong throughout, but Hosfeld's art, which was good to begin with, has gotten much better.  The action scenes seem more confident, and the layout of the book is more interesting, which allows Reed to give Hosfeld a bit more freedom (at least that's what it looks like).  It's a very nice-looking comic, and that helps add to its appeal.

Next issue is the big conclusion, and I'm looking forward to it a lot.  The comeback of espionage comics is welcome, and this is a fine example of the genre.

Greg's Grammar Guide!  This is a spelling thing, but "Greg's Grammar and Spelling Guide" doesn't have the same ring to it.  "Alright" is two words, "all" and "right."  This is a common mistake, but annoying nevertheless.  And it's a minor thing, but Ulee seems to have a good command of English, yet at one point he says "I will try for doing this right the first time."  I'm not bothered by it because he's not a native speaker, but I don't recall him doing that in other issues, and he doesn't do it any other time in this one.  When I re-read the series I'll have to check for it. 

Criminal volume 2 #1 by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Val Staples (colorist).  $3.50, 33 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

Criminal returns with a second volume, more pages, a slightly higher price (but more pages!), and a commitment to, you know, telling brutal noir tales about morally questionable people.  It's somewhat review-proof, because you know exactly what you're going to get, as Brubaker and Phillips don't deviate from the formula very much, but they do it so very well.  This particular issue, which takes place (mostly) in 1972 and concerns Jake "Gnarly" Brown, the boxer on the cover, and his relationship with Sebastian Hyde, the son of a gangster who is trying to make his own way in the crime world.  Of course, there's a woman, and of course, she's shady, and of course, both men have a history with her, and of course, things go from bad to worse in a hurry.  As noted, there's a formula to this kind of thing, and although Brubaker adds a nice touch of black/white dynamic in the 1960s and '70s (Sebastian is white), he doesn't stray far from the formula.  But, also as noted, he brings these characters to life very well, especially Jake, so while the ending is suitably bitter, we also feel a great deal of respect for the boxer.  The reason why I don't love the book unequivocally (as many people do) is because of this constraint of the formula, but I also admit that each issue is a very intense read.  Plus, you know, all the extra stuff in each issue that doesn't make it into the trade.  That's always nice.

I am a bit puzzled by the fact that in 1954, which is when the issue begins, there's a 1920s-style car on the street on page 3.  What's up with that?

Greg's Grammar Guide!  "Damn" used as an adjective again.  I know that might not count, and otherwise, the grammar is spotless.

Daredevil #105 by Ed Brubaker (writer), Michael Lark (artist), Paul Azaceta (artist), Stefano Gaudiano (artist), Matt Hollingsworth (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer).  $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

The "Mr. Fear" story comes to a close, and I'm torn about it.  I like the fact that Brubaker is writing this as a long-form kind of thing, in that Matt wraps up Mr. Fear but nothing else really gets resolved, but he's still writing for the trade, in that this felt stretched out and not necessarily a six-issue story.  It's six issues because that's a good trade length, in other words, but it felt like it took quite a long way to get to its point.  The fact that Matt doesn't win is fine, because of the fact that of all the superheroes, he seems to "win" the least, but the grand idea behind Mr. Fear's campaign is disappointing.  And, without SPOILING too much, Milla's exit from the book is depressing.  She was never used as well as she could have been, and it seems like the entire point of this story was to get rid of her.  At least the way Brubaker gets rid of her is logical, unlike a certain other high-profile separation of recent months.

I'm really torn about Daredevil.  I recognize that the book looks great and is well-written.  Brubaker's ideas have been intriguing, and the way he manipulutes the characters is neat.  But I don't like much of execution of the ideas, and this book often leaves me frustrated because I want to like it more.  I don't know if that means I should drop it or not.  It's something I'm going to have to mull.

Greg's Grammar Guide!  I'm not sure if this counts, but it's something that bugs me.  Matt narrates "He's got no fear" at one point.  The contraction is short for "He has," which makes the "got" redundant, as "He has no fear" is perfectly acceptable.  Is "He's got no fear" okay?  It bothers me, and I try not to use that construction, but I honestly don't know if it's grammatically incorrect.   

The Engineer #2 (of 3) by Brian Churilla (writer/artist), Jeremy Shepherd (writer/colorist), and Sean Glumace (letterer).  $3.95, 32 pgs, FC, Archaia Studios Press.

The first of the many Archaia books this week is The Engineer, which is now a three-issue mini-series instead of four.  Given its schedule, that might be a good thing, but it's unfortunate when something like this happens.  I wish nothing but success for books like this that struggle to find an audience even though they're pretty darned interesting.  This isn't a great comic, but it's pretty good, and I hope it lives on in trade paperback format.

The Engineer himself battles giant simian bat things for much of this issue, causing a great deal of damage to his citadel and the town below.  This leads the townspeople to demand revenge of their priest, who counsels against it but is overwhelmed by public opinion.  The final page does a good job of whetting our appetite for the next issue, as the townspeople, having appealed to what looks like a lobster god, find themselves transformed into monsters, ready to exact their revenge.  Meanwhile, the Engineer is off on another mission, oblivious to the threat at his doorstep.

Churilla and Shepherd do a good job building tension throughout the book - the battle between the Engineer and the bat-thing is staged well, and then the debate at the church is quick but gives us good contrasting viewpoints (the priest's and the townsfolk's).  One problem with the art is a matter of perspective: when the bat-thing grows larger, we can't really tell that it's bigger, and even when the Engineer appears on the top of its head, it takes us a second to decide if he's smaller or if the thing is larger.  It quickly becomes apparent that it has grown, but it takes a few panels to decipher that.

As the now-middle chapter in a three-issue series, it's kind of difficult to judge this.  But it's a fun sci-fi comic with some serious undertones to it, and Churilla handles the weirdness of the setting well.  As with all Archaia books, it's tough to decide if it's really worth the extra price.  Probably not completely, but it's still a good book.

Greg's Grammar Guide!  "Alright" is used again, four times.  The priest says "Given the unfortunate, and quite tragic occurrences that took place earlier in the evening ..."  The comma after "unfortunate" is unnecessary.  There should probably be a comma after "the Engineer" in the sentence "For years, there has been an uneasy truce between our town, the Engineer and the strange company he is inclined to keep."  Lists have commas after each item, but I've also seen that the penultimate item and the final item on a list don't have to be separated by commas, which would make this fine.  Thoughts?  Also, "teraforming" should be spelled "terraforming."

Fables #70 by Bill Willingham (writer), Niko Henrichon (artist/colorist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer).  $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Willingham takes a breath after the last big storyline and before the next, which promises that the war begins and that it's "not a dream, not an imaginary story."  So in this issue, Boy Blue lets the Farm animals know that they can return to the Homelands and hang out in Haven, he spills his guts to Rose Red, and the major players in Fabletown hold a council of war.  I mentioned recently that Willingham's scripting isn't always up to par, but this is a very well-written issue.  Blue's conversation with Stinky the badger is note-perfect, as is his response to Rose after he tells her how he feels.  The way the animals respond to his declaration about Haven is nice, too, and somewhat unexpected.  Willingham occasionally sacrifices scripting for plotting, but that's not to say he can't write well, and in this issue, he shows that.  Henrichon's art, which is quite different from Buckingham's, still manages to capture that "fairy-tale" vibe that makes this book such a delight to look at - it always has a kind of magical feel to it, even when the stories are very "gritty," and Henrichon continues that.  Plus, the faces of the animals as the debate whether or not go to Haven, plus Blue and Rose's expressions as they converse, are very well done.

This issue sets up the next big plot, but it still stands pretty much alone, and that's good to see.  Of course, as is often true with this series, the final page is somewhat odd, as the issue just ends without much fanfare.  I don't mind, but it's kind of weird.

Greg's Grammar Guide!  Clean, although Stinky says "every damn time" once.  Weirdly enough, a few pages later Blue says "every damned day."  Interesting ...

Fallen Angel #24 by Peter David (writer), J. K. Woodward (artist/colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer).  $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Man, this is an intense comic.  David started his big war for Bete Noire last issue, and this time he just ramps it up even more.  One of the nice things about a comic written by David is that no one is safe, not even when he's writing a mainstream superhero book.  When it's his own creator-owned title, it's even more unpredictable, and someone in this issue meets a rather abrupt end, and its brutality is matched only by the unexpected source of his death.  Gilles de Rais, meanwhile, continues his assault on the city, with shocking results.  It's a fine, action-filled book that has built on everything that's come before.  David's payoffs are usually blockbusters, which is why it pays to be patient with his comics.  Here, it's paying off very well.

David, of course, does a good job with the final page.  Jubal shows up, and Gilles de Rais has plans for Jude.  It ties back into the beginning of the issue, bringing it full circle, and also leaves us with a sinister foreboding about the future, keeping with the tone of the arc.  It's not a big, bombastic ending, but it still gives us a mild cliffhanger and leaves us curious about what De Rais is talking about.

Fearless #4 (of 4) by Mark Sable (writer), David Roth (writer), PJ Holden (artist), Nick Filardi (colorist), and Kristyn Ferretti (letterer).  $2.99, 32 pgs, FC, Image.

I'm not sure if I would buy a second mini-series about this character, because there are several problems to it, but it's still quite interesting.  It's a tough call!  I'm so torn!  Throughout the course of this comic, it has suffered from some odd jumps in the way the story is told, confusing the reader (well, me - you may differ in your opinion).  I don't know if this is from the way the script is put together or the way Holden constructs the panels, but it had been very frustrating following the action.  In this issue, that changes slightly, as the jumps are still present, but we're able to follow them more easily (for the most part; there's one page that is somewhat confusing).  But it's kind of a strange issue, because things seem to happen extremely quickly.  Victor takes control of the drug and decides ... to distribute it for free to anyone.  That's actually a very good idea, but the way Victor achieves it seems far too quick, especially when he gets the cops on his side.  It's part of the problem with the pacing of the book, as this issue feels rushed, which it shouldn't.  That's been the problem throughout, unfortunately.

There are several good things about the series.  Holden's art is nice, despite the occasional odd layouts (and, as I pointed out, I don't know if the confusion stems from the script or the layouts) - in this issue, he does a good job with the mob scenes and the showdown between Victor and Adam.  Sable and Roth, meanwhile, give Adam a nice scene with his girlfriend, Becky, and the way they explore Adam's past and why he fears is done well, too (and Adam reaching for The Man in the Iron Mask is a nice touch).  They have no problem making the characters real, just with the way the story unfolds.  I like the idea of a superhero using drugs to overcome his fear, and for a lot of this series, it's fascinating.  The problems with it, however, get in the way of complete enjoyment.

I really am torn about buying another mini-series by this team.  We'll see what happens when they put out another issue!

Greg's Grammar Guide!  Becky says "You'd know better than me."  It should be "You'd know better than I."  When in doubt, add a verb: "You'd know better than I would" is obviously correct, while "You'd know better than me would" is obviously wrong.  Also, a character says "This isn't how you're father would have - "  Arrrrrggghhhh!  I hope that "you're" is just a typo!  It is, of course, "your."

Lazarus #3 (of 3) by Diego Cortes (writer), Juan Ferreyra (writer/artist), and Jason Hanley (letterer).  $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image/Shadowline.

Image publishes a lot of these three-issue mini-series, and I'm ultimately disappointed with them, because they always feel rushed.  It seems like they could easily be four issues with very little effort.  Take this series.  Ferreyra's art is absolutely stunning, as it always is, especially when James confronts Mr. Abyssal and things go very shitty very quickly.  James learns too much about his dead lover and isn't too happy with the knowledge, and he and the two cops find out exactly what Abyssal is doing, and it's not terribly pleasant.  The problem is that the implications of what Abyssal is doing, especially where it concerns his racist ideas, merit some more story, but Cortes and Ferreyra don't have the space to explore them.  It's a very intriguing comic that ends with the possibility of another series, but I don't know if another one is forthcoming.  If it's not, this is a missed opportunity, because despite the fact that this is a nice, exciting, and interesting series, it could have been much more.

I would recommend the series, mainly because of the art, but also because the story goes in unexpected ways and doesn't totally let us down.  Despite the fact that I felt there could have been more, it's a fascinating tale about genetic engineering and what it could mean for humanity.  And that's not a bad story at all.

The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury #295 by Brandon Thomas (writer), Lee Ferguson (penciller), Marc Deering (inker), Felix Serrano (colorist), and Matty Ryan (letterer).  $3.95, 27 pgs, FC, Archaia Studios Press. 

Before I get to this, I have something to address.  First, Brandon Thomas sent me a .pdf file of the entire first issue, and I feel bad that I didn't review it before it came out to give you a heads up that it was actually hitting the stores.  However, my comic book store didn't actually get this on Wednesday, but Atomic Comics, where I can read things for free, did.  My comic book store is getting it next week, even though they should have gotten it this week.  Anyway, I feel bad.  So I apologize to Mr. Thomas.

Of course, the question ultimately is, should you buy it?  Well, as usual with Archaia books, it's a bit expensive at 4 dollars, but it is slightly longer than your regular comic book, so that might be a wash.  Also as usual with Archaia books, it's quite good.  The conceit is excellent - a six-issue mini-series that claims to pick up the series 295 issues in, leading up to the big-time 300th issue.  So we're kind of dropped into the middle of a story, but we easily pick up what's going on.  Miranda Mercury, the galaxy's greatest adventurer, has claimed the Ronin's Riddle, which is ... well, it's a Rubik's Cube, but that's okay!  The cube imprisons the spirit of the Rebel Ronin, who, if freed, will grant his liberator one wish.  So an evil dude is trying to get the cube and crack the riddle, but Miranda can't allow that.  She gets the cube away, hooks back up with her Gal Friday, Jack Friday, the Boy with the Golden Brain, and they try to figure out how to open it.  I don't think it's that big a reveal to say that Miranda solves the riddle, but that's not the crux of the issue.  Why the riddle is so difficult, how she and Jack crack the cube, what the wish is, and why it's wished for, is what makes the issue interesting.  Miranda, we learn in the course of the book, is dying.  That adds a nice twist to the whole wish thing, one that Thomas exploits.  It sets up the run-up to issue #300 very well.

I should also mention Ferguson's excellent art.  It's shiny and angular, perfect, really, for the sci-fi world that Miranda inhabits.  The book is labeled for ages 10 and up, so even the bad guy isn't terribly scary, but that's fine.  Ferguson does a good job with the early action scenes, but he really shines when the Rebel Ronin shows up, as the dude is majestic and awesome.  Even the pages on which Miranda and Jack solve the cube works well, as Ferguson manages to build the tension through a series of panels of what are, essentially, pictures of two people manipulating a Rubik's Cube.  Now that's impressive!  The final page, although understated, brings a good sense of menace to the book and adds depth to Jack's character, promising future complications.  It's not a slam-bang cliffhanger, but it is intriguing and should draw people back.

This is a fine idea for a comic, executed very well.  Go spend some hard-earned ducats on it!

Greg's Grammar Guide!  Miranda says "That's not for you or I to decide."  "I" is used as a subject, and the subject of this sentence is "That."  Therefore, it should be "That's not for you or me to decide."  Just like above, when you add a verb so you know it's "I," in this you just drop the "you" and realize you wouldn't say "That's not for I to decide."  It becomes clear then!

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #3 (of 6) by David Petersen (writer/artist).  $3.50, 23 pgs, FC, Archaia Studios Press.

The freshness of the first Mouse Guard series has given way to a darker comic book, which in its own way is refreshing as well.  The first series, of course, had plenty of darkness, but it was more adventurous than anything.  This time, keeping with the wintry setting, Petersen has made his mice a bit more introspective, and the dangers they face seem a bit more dire, and the series, which isn't as trendy as it was a couple of years ago, continues to be a dazzling read.  Petersen's art goes a long way toward this, of course, as the scenes with Celanawe and Lieam, who are waiting out a ferocious ice storm in a little burrow, are beautiful to behold, even though the two mice simply chat.  Saxon, Kenzie, and Sadie confront the bats they came across last issue, and it's a harrowing, if a bit dark, battle.  Petersen takes his time with these books, which is perfectly fine, because the details make it a wonderful comic to look at, and he has gotten better at implying many things without being explicit about it.  As with every issue, it's a quick read, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to take in.  Petersen has done a nice job ending each issue on a cliffhanger, and that's no exception here, as more danger threatens Lieam and Celanawe.  Again, it's a threat that makes sense, and hews more to the "realistic" tone of this series as opposed to the previous one.  This might not turn out as adventurous as the first series, but it just might be a bit more frightening.  There's nothing wrong with that!

Greg's Grammar Guide!  The first appearance of an "its/it's" problem!  Celanawe says "He is the only mouse who is not the Black Axe to have wielded this weapon and not feel the bite of it's blade."  It should, of course, read "its blade."  This is fairly easy to tell, if you're not sure - "it's" is a contraction for "it is," so if you say "the bite of it is blade," that obviously makes no sense. 

The Nearly Infamous Zango #1 by Rob Osborne (writer/artist).  $3.50, 22 pgs, BW, Absolute Tyrant.

Rob Osborne, creator of the surreal and funny 1000 Steps to World Domination and the quite-good-until-it-goes-off-the-rails-in-the-end Sunset City: For Active Senior Living, returns with The Nearly Infamous Zango, a story of a super-villain who spends most of his time on his couch.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.  On the one hand, Osborne's quirky art style and obvious talent and sense of humor make this a fun, breezy read.  On the other hand, it's a bit derivative, which in itself isn't a huge problem - most things are derivative these days, and it's all in how the creator makes it work.  Zango sees a super-villain on the news who is declaring himself to be the greatest bad guy around, which inspires him to get off the couch and show this guy, who happens to be his old adversary, just who really is the baddest man in the whole damned town.  His mad scientist friend, Deacon Dread, shows him his latest creation, a cyborg gorilla that happens to have a large shear attached to its right arm ("ideal for head removal," says Deacon Dredd).  Z Gore, as the gorilla is called, breaks free, but happens across another of Deacon Dread's creations, Van Freako, who doesn't want Z Gore to mess with a rabbit Van Freako found on the grounds of the estate (Van Freako has a soft spot for bunnies, apparently).  Things go poorly, but Zango has already lost interest and has moved on.

It's a humorous comic, made better by the fact that Osborne, deliberately or not (and I hope it's deliberate), is parodying some common DC characters - some New Gods in particular.  Zango is a weird but compelling character, as well.  He has attention-deficit disorder, from what we can tell, and a grown-up daughter, which is somewhat interesting.  He's oddball enough that the fact that a lot of the comic is cribbed from other places doesn't bother us as much.  Osborne's humor is typically bizarre and doesn't always hit the mark, but the book is just surreal enough that it's a mild success.  Enough that I'm willing to give it a chance, at least.

This is the first candidate in my super-secret competition with Our Dread Lord and Master.  We all know that Herr Cronin made a deal with Mephisto to have every single comic in history downloaded directly to his brain, and this accounts for his vast knowledge of all things comicky.  However, I have to believe that Mephisto is a bit behind, especially as he's been busy deleting marriages from the consciousness of every person in the Marvel Universe.  So, I am competing with Brian to see if I actually read a book this week that he didn't.  Most of them, I'm sure he's already downloaded and processed, but this one may - MAY - have fallen through the cracks.  Could it be that I read a comic before Our Dread Lord and Master got to it?  This is the first option!

Rasl #1 by Jeff Smith (writer/artist).  $3.50, 32 pgs, BW, Cartoon Books. 

This comic book has no price on it.  Anywhere.  I point this out only because it's $3.50, but you wouldn't know it.  It has a bar code, but it might be smart to actually list the price on it.  But that's not for me to decide!

It's a Jeff Smith book, which means it looks very neat, as Smith somehow combines a loose, cartoony look with a meticulous attention to detail with stellar results.  The story is vague, but as it's the first issue, that's not too big a deal.  A man stands in a desert, bleeding and sweating.  Suddenly he's in a city stealing art from an apartment.  He uses some strange machine to teleport away from the cops, but he ends up in a different dimension.  And a strange lizard-man is trying to kill him.  It all makes sense, doesn't it?

It's a pretty keen book, despite the fact that, as a single chapter of an obviously longer story, it's confusing.  I have confidence in Smith that he knows what he's doing, so I'll keep reading.  You know things will make sense at some point!

Rex Libris #10 by James Turner (writer/artist).  $3.50, 32 pgs, BW, SLG Publishing.

Rex faces an existential crisis in this issue, as it becomes apparent that his biographical comic book, which we are reading, is coming out far too slowly to encompass his entire life, and he and the publisher, B. Barry Horst, aren't sure what to do about it.  Barry wants to cut some of Rex's life, but Rex insists that the readers want it all!  This gives us some funny flashbacks to Rex's older adventures, including my favorite, where he stands over General Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham and tries to get the good general to share the location of an overdue book before he expires (in the Benjamin West painting, Rex is holding onto Wolfe's right arm).  Simon, Rex's little bird friend, chimes in with a story of his own, about the time he saved the world from those overgrown animals on the cover, even if he's embellishing his contribution a bit.  As usual with this book, it's very funny, pretty darned exciting, and is densely packed with plot and hilarious asides, including why your copy of Atlas Shrugged might be a bit unusual or what aliens tried to kill President Lincoln in 1863.  Turner does a humorous job at the resolution of the giant animal section of the book, challenging the readers to, gosh, use our imaginations a bit.  There's just so much to enjoy on each page of this comic, and the fact that it's longer than your usual book is nice, too.  It's another issue where you don't need to have read the previous issues (it helps, but it's not necessary).  So give it a look - tough-guy immortal librarians might be right up your alley!

Greg's Grammar Guide!  As with every other book, I ignore the mannerisms in which the characters talk, so Rex's faux-mobster speech doesn't count.  But "cliche" is spelled with the acute accent over the "e," which seems silly, as it's easy to add an accent to the script.  Lincoln uses "damn" as an adjective instead of "damned," but I'm still not sure if that's wrong or not.  And Turner has Wolfe dying outside of Montreal when the battle took place outside of Quebec City.  I guess that's not a grammar problem, though!

Rogue Angel: Teller of Tall Tales #1 by Barbara Randall Kesel (writer), Renae De Liz (artist), Ray Dillon (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer).  $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

This is the second candidate for the book I read before Cronin could access it from the database that is his brain!  It might have been beneath his notice!

I wasn't sure at all what this was about, but it looked okay, so I picked it up.  I'm not sure it's worth $3.99, but it is an entertaining comic that has a lot of potential.  I do wish IDW wouldn't charge so much for their comics, though.

The premise might sound familiar: a hot archaeologist wearing a tank top gets into all kinds of trouble.  Okay, so it's not all that original.  Kesel does a nice job with the actual story, though - Annja Creed, the hot archaeologist who also hosts a cable-TV show, shows up in Virginia City to meet an old friend, an Indian woman named Rashmi.  Rashmi is a Mark Twain aficianado, and she's investigating a claim of a black man named James Ikeba, who said Twain based Jim, the character from Huckleberry Finn, on him.  Ikeba's proof, along with Ikeba himself, vanished in a fire in 1875, but the diggers may have uncovered the ground from before the fire.  This leads to sinister people trying to kill Rashmi and Annja, who fights them off with a magic sword.

Yeah, that last part is a bit odd.  This is the first issue of the series, but there's already quite a bit that's mysterious about Annja.  We learn enough about Annja's magic sword so that we're not completely taken off-guard, and the circumstances of how she acquired it can remain a mystery, at least for now (and it appears they might be explained next issue, so there's that).  Meanwhile, the main story, mixing as it does literary history, race relations, and buried treasure, is pretty interesting, although I'm a bit puzzled why people in the modern world would care as much as it's stated.  Rashmi says she posted her theories on-line and was met with a hostile reaction, because nobody wanted to hear that Twain may have "stolen" his greatest creation.  Yet writers use real-life characters for inspiration all the time, and nobody seems to care.  Huck Finn may be the greatest work of American literature (even though I believe that the works of Bret Easton Ellis far outshine Twain's!), but that doesn't mean Twain didn't use stuff from his own life to write it.  And even if he did base the character on a man he met in Nevada, so what?  Did James Ikeba write Huck Finn?  No one is saying that.  I can understand people being a bit put out by it, but I'm curious to see what about this dig justifies sending assassins after the people involved.  The very first page of the comic, and something Rashmi says about the legend of Ikeba, seems to imply there's something far more important going on.

For a first issue, this has a lot to recommend it.  The plot is intriguing, the characters are interesting, and there's some nice action.  The last page (and a next-issue ad) promises a tale of Annja's magic sword, which might not be the best idea considering it may halt the bigger plot in its tracks, but we'll see how Kesel handles it.  The art is quite good, as De Liz has a good grasp of facial expressions and the action scene, and even if Annja is a bit too sexy, that's fine, because we expect that.  The art is slightly cartoony, but not too much, and it fits the story well.

This book might have been off your radar.  If you see it, give it a look.  It's pleasantly surprising.

Greg's Grammar Guide!  "Alright" is used once.  There's also a "We've got something over here," bringing up the question of whether "We have got" is correct English.  I still say it isn't.  I could be wrong.   

The Secret History #5 (of 7) by Jean-Pierre Pecau (writer), Leo Pilipovic (artist), Carole Beau (colorist), Fabrys (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), Marshall Dillon (letterer), and Joyce El Hayek (letterer).  $5.95, 46 pgs, FC, Archaia Studios Press.

I don't like the schedule this book in on, but like a lot of comics that come out sporadically, I'm willing to forgive it if the product is good, and I've been loving this comic (and I know that as a history buff I'm probably pre-disposed to like it, but it's still a very good book).

This issue is set against the backdrop of Restoration England, so we get a reason for the Great Fire of London, Sir Isaac Newton, the Hellfire Club, and the Roanoke mystery.  The four factions that have been battling for centuries in this book continue to fight, and it's somewhat difficult to judge this because of the fact that it's part of a whole, but the way Pecau has blended history with this fantastical story is very interesting, and no matter who's doing the art, it's been stunning.  Pilipovic shows the decadence of Charles II's London and the horror lurking around every corner, whether it's the regular horrors of the age or the more disturbing things associated with the runes and the magic at play in this series.  The oculus, for instance, a dead creature brought back to life, is creepier than your regular zombie thanks to the fact that every orifice on its body is sewn shut.  This gives it a particularly terrifying appearance.

I realize these books are 6 dollars, but they're longer than most comics, and they're really packed with great art and nice plots.  I'm sure they'll form a grand narrative that will be quite dazzling.  I hope the final two come out this year, because it would be nice to read them soon!

She-Hulk #26 by Peter David (writer), Shawn Moll (penciler), Val Semeiks (penciler), Victor Olazaba (inker), Rob Ro (colorist), and Dave Sharpe (letterer).  $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

David's examination of whether She-Hulk is a hero or not comes to an end, with predictable results (she is).  However, the book still contains enough twists and turns so that it's not boring (someone throws a bear at Jen, someone gets strapped to the front of a space ship like a hood ornament, someone kills someone else unexpectedly).  I've been somewhat unimpressed with the few issues that David has written, however, mainly because it lacks the humor that Slott brought to the book.  It's still somewhat funny, but it's the wry humor that David often employs.  In this book, however, it feels off somehow, like it doesn't quite fit.  The idea that Jen needs to learn if she's a hero isn't a bad one, but we never believe that she's going to turn out to be anything but.  Therefore, the exercise is somewhat pointless.  I know we're going to find out more about her relationship with Jazinda as we go on, but it doesn't have much zing to it right now, and I'm not sure if I'm willing to wait.  Yes, I know that with David, patience is a virtue, as we have seen with Fallen Angel, which has been building to this war for the city for a while.  But that book has been extremely compelling since the first issue, and although it has occasionally been frustrating, we've still been treated to a lot of good stuff.  I'm sure David has big plans for this title, but I don't know if I'll be around for it.  We'll see if I'm in the mood for it next month.

Some New Kind of Slaughter #2 (of 4) by mpMann (writer/artist) and A. David Lewis (writer).  $3.95, 32 pgs, FC, Archaia Studios Press.

I have a feeling this would read better as a complete graphic novel.  In fact, I think Lewis and Mann might have planned it that way, as the pages are numbered 033-064, as if the first and second issues were one package.  The reason I think this might read better is because the creators have thrown a bunch of irons in the fire, and I don't expect any of them to be resolved, or even come close to resolving, until the final issue.  Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make it difficult to review the book.  In addition to the main stories, we get even more flood narratives from various cultures, which are nice to see.  Noah gets a lot of focus in this issue, as he wonders what God wants from him now that he's preached about the impending doom, and then he meets a giant carrying a gift for him.  I was a bit disappointed that the modern story, with the hurricanes bearing down on the coast, isn't featured more often, but that's another reason why it might work better as a complete novel - I wouldn't have to wait to see more of that!  Still, Lewis and Mann are doing a very good job retelling these flood stories, with quite a lot of humor, some very nice tension, and even some deep philosophical sayings - yes, it's true!  Mann, meanwhile, doesn't shift his styles, but he does a nice job giving each culture a slightly different look.

It would be nice if more people bought this in serial form, but I can't blame them for waiting for the collection.  If you aren't planning on buying this, I would encourage you to think about it.  It's a fascinating comic.

X-Men #208 by Mike Carey (writer), John Romita Jr. (penciler), Scot Eaton (penciler), Klaus Janson (inker), John Dell (inker), Christina Strain (colorist), and Frank D'Armata (colorist).  $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

In the aftermath of "Messiah Complex," this book changes its focus, and I'm not too happy with it.  There is no team in this book, just a bunch of Acolytes who stole Xavier's body at the end of the crossover and are now trying to fix him.  Meanwhile, Romita draws the flashbacks to Xavier putting together his first team, which means this is yet another rendition of "Who the X-Men are and how they came to be!"  It's not terribly interesting, unfortunately, and doesn't really tell us anything new.  I wanted to see where Carey took the book now that the big crossover is over, and this is not a particularly fascinating direction.

A couple of things annoy me.  One speaks to Marvel's insistence that some things remain "in canon" while others do not.  Xavier's service in Korea is mentioned in this book, service which has become anachronistic.  The war ended 55 years ago, so Xavier is getting up there in age if he fought in it, and even though he's on his second (at least) body, it's still a bit ridiculous to bring it up.  Why is that still part of continuity when I bet no one at Marvel will admit that Ororo was born in 1951?  Let it go, Marvel - Xavier never fought in Korea.  That's a relic from an age when you were trying to be "relevant" and allow characters to age.  You don't care about that anymore.

Meanwhile, the final page is a bit annoying.  Again, this speaks to the fact that Marvel and DC really don't care about new readers picking up their books.  There's no reason for us to be impressed by the person who shows up unless we know a lot about X-Men history.  Now, I don't have a problem with it for the sake of the story - it's actually fairly logical that this person would appear to see Xavier.  But it's supposed to be a big reveal, with appropriate dramatic music in the background (if this were a movie), but it's not an inherently dramatic moment.  I'm thankful that it's not someone from a completely different comic book and is actually an X-Men character, but it's still a bit odd to make it such a focal point.  It's a weird way to end the book.

Just like She-Hulk, I'll see what kind of mood I'm in next month.  Maybe I'll get the next issue, maybe I won't.  In case you're losing track of the number of books I read, it's too many.  I must cut somewhere!

Well, that's another big week.  What say you, good readers, if indeed you got this far: did I read any books before Our Dread Lord and Master.  Probably not, but it would be nice to think so.  And I don't mean to point out grammar mistakes to be snooty.  I understand that language is mutable and therefore we can't really be so rigid in our enforcement of "errors."  Of course, if that's the case, we should write everything like text messages!  My point is not that these writers screwed up, because everyone makes mistakes (and if you find any in this long post, let me have it!).  But then there's a letterer, and presumably an editor takes a look at these, and perhaps even the artist.  To let these mistakes go means several people don't know the rules or simply don't care.  It's a bit frustrating, because most of these things are so easy to catch.  I really do think that grammar and spelling are important, and it upsets me when people don't care enough to know what they're doing wrong.  So I apologize if I come off as a snothead by correcting the grammar in these books.  I don't mean to!

Anyway, it's late Sunday, and real-life stuff has really conspired against me this week, keeping me from typing this post up any more quickly!  We'll see what next week holds!

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