What I bought - 27 June 2007

Ah, comics.  Is there anything they can't do?

Blue Beetle #16 by John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque.  $2.99, DC.

You know, I was going to write that if you're going to put that on your cover, you might as well go all the way at put "Total Eclipso of the Heart," but then I noticed that the story inside is actually called "Total Eclipso: The Heart."  Very clever, Mr. Rogers! 

I guess this is supposed to be a crossover with Countdown, but it's also a complete story, so I don't really mind if it is.  DC certainly isn't advertising it as such.  I mean, you have to know that Eclipso is Jean Loring, but other than that, this is just a story of an evil aspect of God trying to kill a baby and Jaime and some hot chick stopping her.  It's nothing fancy, which means it's a good comic book that very few people will buy, even though it has everything you might want in a comic book.  I know, I'm sorry for bringing it up every time there's a decent comic with no audience (and yes, I know I am late to the party with this comic), but still.

For the most part, Rogers hits all the right notes in this issue.  Traci 13 (who I'm going to assume is Dr. Thirteen's daughter, and why is her last name lettered as a number?) enlists Jaime to stop Eclipso from possessing a baby who is not only innocent, but has the potential to be super-powerful.  Paco rescues the baby but is forced to fight the Blue Beetle for some reason (I'll get to it) and what ensues is hilarious and nicely appropriate.  Their brief battle weakens Eclipso to the point where Traci, who was raised by the Dibnys, to blast her into oblivion (but not killing her, as she points out - Eclipso is not easily destroyed).  And then Jaime gets to make out with her.  Isn't that nice?

There are a few strange problems with the issue.  Traci and the baby's parents appear to get the kid out of harm's way, but then Eclipso blows up their apartment building and somehow gets the kid.  We can assume that she gets the kid when she blows up the building, but it's kind of unclear.  In fact, Traci even tells Jaime that they got the kid away from Eclipso, but somehow she grabbed it anyway.  And then, when Paco grabs the kid out of the magic circle (that keeps Traci out, 'cause she's all magic and stuff), somehow Blue Beetle becomes her champion.  Um, why, exactly?  How does Eclipso have influence over Jaime at this moment?  I'm not sure.

Those are relatively minor points, however.  For the most part, this is a fine comic.  Albuquerque's art is very nice, and his Eclipso is both sexy and scary.  It's an adventurous comic where good triumphs over evil and the characters are well developed.  I know - DC does publish comics like that!

Criminal #7 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  $2.99, Marvel/Icon.

There's really not much to say about this issue.  If you liked the first six issues, you'll like this one.  Brubaker and Phillips know what they're doing, after all, and with these kinds of stories, it's all about the resolution and who gets revenge and who gets screwed by whom.  So far, it's shaping up to be far better than the first arc, and that's a good thing.  The only thing that bugs me is the omniscient narrator, because it's a bit strange to read what's happening in the third person, especially when so much of it could be in the first person.  It's a weird choice on Brubaker's part, and if it doesn't mean something, I think it will be a poor one.  We'll see.

Also, Brubaker writes that death didn't "phase" Tracy.  "Phase" means "a distinct stage of development," among other things.  He meant "faze," which means "to disrupt the composure of, bother, disconcert."  If everyone else can nitpick over the fact that "Dreamgirl" should be two words, I can nitpick over the use of homonyms!

Daredevil #98 by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark, and Stefano Gaudiano.  $2.99, Marvel.

It's weird that you can pretty much expect what you're going to get from a lot of comic book writers these days, and Brubaker is no exception.  As this is Part Four of Five, we can expect a lot more to happen than Part Three, which is the "padded" issue for most five- or six-parters (for six-parters, issues 3 and 4 are often the padded ones, which is annoying).  Brubaker, not unlike many writers, has difficulty with endings, so this issue promises to be the best chapter of the story.  And it works very well, from the action to Milla's intervention because she knows Melvin Potter is still a good man, to the final "cliffhanger."  Lark draws the fight scenes excellently, and although I always get a bit bothered when action movie cliches filter into comics by good writers (Milla crashes through a window and isn't bleeding from several hundred cuts), it's just something we all have to accept.  Another solid issue of Daredevil in a story that will probably end slightly off.  Maybe it won't, and I'll be pleasantly surprised next time!

Elephantmen Pilot by Richard Starkings, Moritat, and a bunch of other people.  $2.99, Image.

This came out a few weeks ago (or was it last week?), but I just received it in the mail, and as usual, I'd like to thank Richard Starkings for sending it my way.  This is an issue that collects a bunch of stuff from way back when, when Starkings was just formulating the characters and a bunch of comics creators wrote stories featuring Hip Flask.  There's also a bunch of pinups from the late 1990s, and the barest semblance of a framing story that is really unnecessary if you've been following the series.  In fact, this isn't really a necessary issue, although it's full of interesting stuff.  We get a Busiek/Immonen story before Immonen changed his style (I don't know when he drew it, but it resembles the look he used in Superman: Secret Identity).  We also have a Joe Kelly/Peter Gross/Ryan Kelly story (Gross breaks it down, Kelly finishes) of Hip Flask on another planet, which has a nice unexpected ending.  Finally, there's a Loeb/Churchill story that's exactly what you would expect from a Loeb/Churchill story - you must decide if that's a good thing or not!  There are plenty of pinups, too, some good, some bad.

It's a nice comic, to be sure, but it's something more for completists than anything else.  What we really need is a new issue of the regular series!

Fallen Angel #17 by Peter David, Joe Corroney, and Billy Tucci.  $3.99, IDW.


The weakest issues of Fallen Angel are those that guest-star characters from other comic books, like the Sachs and Violens two-parter from the old DC series, and now this one, with Shi.  I have no experience with Shi at all, except that her face is included with every package of comic bags I buy - what's up with that?  Anyway, David tries to make this work, and he does a decent job, but it's still a pretty dull issue.  It's basically a story about Lee and Shi showing up in a strange, dream-like Japanese city at the same time, and facing each other as the issue ends.  We get half the story from Lee's point of view, and half the story (the part drawn by Tucci) from Shi's point of view.  In both instances, it appears the Christian God is forcing them to that point.  With Shi, Jesus actually shows up and sends her on her mission, which includes slaughtering a bunch of guards (good to know Jesus approves of that sort of thing).  I'm not really sure what the point of the whole thing is, unless David really, really, really wanted to write a Shi story and Tucci thought it was a great idea.  Because it's Fallen Angel and because it's David, I'm sure somehow it will make sense in the end, but this is an uninspired set-up issue.

The Nightly News #1-6 by Jonathan Hickman.  $2.99, Image.





In case you were foolish enough to skip this mini-series, Hickman has a back-up story in Marvel's Legion of Monsters: Satana issue that came out this week.  I didn't read it, but it looks gorgeous.  But you really should get this series.

This is Hickman's first comic work, and let's hope he has a bright future.  The biggest draw of this series is the distinctive look of the art, which Hickman has explained elsewhere so I'm not going into it (and, you know, I'm too stupid).  The art is wonderful to behold, because Hickman does excellent stuff with not only his figures (who are all photo referenced) but with the mix of media in the book, with various charts and graphs, plus all the circles that help with transitions between different sections of the page, as Hickman eschews panels altogether.  It's a fantastic book to just look at and let wash over you, and it's cool to see someone trying to do something different with comic-book art.

The story is perfectly fine, except for the ending, which Hickman botches to a certain degree, although I'm not terribly sure how he could have ended it.  The series is about how the media lies to the common people, and a group of terrorists who go out and start killing reporters to make a point.  This sends the media and the politicians with whom they conspire into a panic, and they try to fight back.  Hickman isn't telling a story as much as grinding an axe about how people in this country have been lied to but they don't really care, as long as they're entertained.  The problem with doing something like this is that ultimately, Hickman himself is part of the machinery, as are we all, and we know that this will end poorly for the "star" of the book, John Guyton (he even narrates at one point: "Exactly how did you think this was going to end for me?"), and that the status quo really won't change all that much.  The book certainly gets us to think, but we should already be aware of the problems of the mass media and how very few companies own everything and how they're in bed with Washington.  The very end, where the mastermind is revealed, is fine, but hollow, as Hickman simply implies that it's a "meet the old boss, same as the old boss" kind of thing, which fails to follow through on the promise of the book's premise.  But, as I said, I'm not sure how you can end something like this, which posits a bleak world and offers nothing to change it except through assassination.

This is a tough series to consider, because we're all complicit in some way in the conglomerates that control what we see on television and hear on the radio.  But then there's something like the Internet, which is largely anarchic.  Unless it isn't!!!!!  Hickman's claims that violent overthrow is the only answer sounds good, but then we replace the power structure we have with a different power structure, because there's something I once heard about a vacuum and something abhorring it.  If I say, well, I'm not being indoctrinated because I get my news from The Daily Show, someone will come along (you know who you are!) and say that Jon Stewart is indoctrinating me just as surely as the networks are.  So Hickman can't end his comic satisfactorily, because no ending will be satisfactory.  And although the narrative of the book is rather compelling, we don't really get a solid discussion of exactly what a viable solution to the problem - and it is a problem - is.  Hickman, presumably, just wants to write a good story and not worry about the implications of what he's writing, but he's the one who brought it up in the first place, so he ought to put some more thought into it.

That's not to say this isn't worth the money.  As I mentioned, it's beautiful, and the story is interesting, even if it lacks the depth that Hickman seems to be aiming at.  I look forward to his work in the future (and he has some adverts in the back of issue #6 of upcoming work, which is neat).

She-Hulk #19 by Dan Slott, Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, and Cliff Rathburn.  $2.99, Marvel.

Yay!  The lawyering is back, and all is right in the world as Slott finishes up his run on the title!  That means, of course, that this issue is pretty damned awesome after the tedious "Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." storyline.

Slott returns Jen to her law firm and gives us a doozy of a case: Mallory Book defends the Leader (I guess you could probably tell that from the cover).  This allows Slott to come to terms with one of the less savory aspects of the book: She-Hulk's skankiness.  Now, he's still a bit flippant about it, but at least he addresses it in a convincing manner.  Add that to finding out that Stu Cicero isn't dead, he's just ... elsewhere (I don't want to ruin it) and that the Leader doesn't escape when he can because he thinks he's going to win his case (after Mallory proves that She-Hulk is a skank while Jen isn't, so her personality is different when she's big and green), and we have a pretty darned decent comic book.  I just figure Slott was bound by the dictates of a big crossover to hand Jen over to S.H.I.E.L.D. for a little while and didn't really care about the book that much, because it wasn't what he wanted to do.  I could be wrong, but then why were those issues so dreary, and this issue is nothing but zip?

One thing bugs me.  In Incredible Hulk #106, which came out before but occurs after Tony Stark injected Jen with the nanobots that suppress her powers, She-Hulk appears.  Slott even references it in this comic, but we still don't know how she showed up and why everyone is acting like now she can't change to She-Hulk.  What the hell?

Also, I know Slott is promising to fix Marvel continuity forever soon, but this issue did make me think about Marvel continuity: how can the law firm use old comics to prove cases when old comics often contradict each other?  That would be a cool case in this book, where one side proves one thing, but the other side uses a different comic to prove another.  Oh, the chaos!!!!

Back on form is She-Hulk.  It should make everyone happy!

Streets of Glory Preview by Garth Ennis and Mike Wolfer.  $1.99, Avatar.

Like they did with Black Summer, Avatar gives us a preview issue of Ennis' new western.  That's awfully nice of them.  The guy at my comic book shoppe said I was one of three people at the store who bought Garth Ennis' "indie press crap," as he put it (I may be paraphrasing, but he was still dismissive).  I laughed it off, but it ticked me off a bit.  I get that Avatar used to only publish soft-core porn, but they have also published some very good comics by Ennis and Warren Ellis.  If you don't like them, that's fine, but why is something like Scars (which is brilliant) worse than something like Desolation Jones?  Just because it's published by Avatar instead of DC?  Ennis' 303 and Chronicles of Wormwood are both excellent and both published by Avatar, and, according to me, far better than, say, The Boys (which, as we all know, was published by DC for a while).  Sure, Wolfskin wasn't that good, but it wasn't absolutely horrible, either, like Jack Cross was.  Even people who should know better seem to think that Avatar is nothing but a place for Brian Pulido to publish twenty Lady Death comics a month.  Well, tarring Avatar with the soft-porn brush is akin to saying all DC comics suck because they publish comics with Michael Turner covers.  Or all Marvel comics suck because they allow tentacle rape on their covers.  Nobody does that (well, some people do, but they're idiots), yet people refuse to check out some really good work by two very good writers because Avatar likes to publish Al Rio comics.  It's just stupid.  If you want to be that way, be my guest.  You're missing out on the Strange Killings books, which are far superior to, I don't know, newuniversal.

As for this comic, well, it's not very good.  Hah!  I mean, it's a western with a lot of people getting shot.  Ennis does westerns and war comics very well, but as even he points out, he's done westerns before, just not a "straight" western - no supernatural stuff.  That's fine, but it just doesn't look all that interesting.  And Wolfer's art, when it's not bloody, is kind of dull and too clean, when a western demands grit.  Oh well.

But see?  I only paid 2 dollars for the preview, and it was at least something a bit different.  Just because I don't like it doesn't mean I'm going to shun the next thing Ennis writes for Avatar.  I'm just saying.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #31 by Tony Bedard, Kevin Sharpe, and Robin Riggs.  $2.99, DC.

I don't really mean to beat a dead horse, but did everyone notice what was on the front page of this issue?  That's right - a roll call!  And did the world end because Bedard and Sharpe let us know who the principals of the issue were?  No, it did not.  How shocking!

This is the comic I picked up based on your comments, and it's not bad.  It's the first solo Bedard issue, and it's also a prologue to a story arc in which the Legion looks for Cosmic Boy, who's gone missing.  Bedard does a decent job keeping the story going from the previous issues, as we get a bit of information about how the Legion defeated the Dominators (with extreme prejudice, it seems) and we lead into the election of Supergirl as the new leader of the Legion, which seems to piss a lot of people off.  But why?  Look at her - she's cute as a button!  Brainiac 5 tells Supergirl he knows three locations where they might find Cosmic Boy, and she splits the Legion into three groups to scope them out.  There is, as you might expect, trouble at all three locations.  Boy, that's surprising.

Bedard does a reasonably good job with setting up the story, and the interplay between the members is well done.  I will point out that in one panel, Lightning Lad and Mekt Ranzz are arguing because the second-place finisher in the election is a sore loser.  I don't identify him because on one page, it's Lightning Lad, but when they're arguing, it appears Mekt is the sore loser.  Lightning Lad even calls him the sore loser, but then he calls Lightning Lad "Mekt."  What the hell is going on, Legion fans?????  Does Tony Bedard even get the characters mixed up?  I know they look alike and have similar powers, so what's the deal?  See how I do research - I ask you good people!

Anyway, like a lot of books out there, this is a perfectly competent superhero comic, but it doesn't really grab me.  I don't know if it's the fact that I really have never been into the Legion, or if the fact that not a lot happens (yes, I know it's a prologue, so I'm forgiving it a bit, but still) or if the fact that the Wolverine knockoff shows up (and yes, I'm saying that just to piss you Legion fans off, so chill).  I'd recommend the book so you can decide for yourself, because it's not a bad comic, it's just not really my thing.  But at least I knew who the characters were!

X-Factor #20 by Peter David, Khoi Pham, and Sandu Florea.  $2.99, Marvel.

Brian made an offhanded remark that Khoi Pham's art really "dragged the book down" for him, and you know what?  He's right.  Pham has done four issues of this comic (right?) and each issue has been worse than the last.  This issue features really scratchy and vague art, poorly drawn figures, a ridiculous shot of Rahne as a wolf (it's not even the head, which is the joke 'round these parts, but the whole thing) and no sense of motion or fluidity.  It's an ugly book.

Of course, it's not helped by the story, which finishes the promising X-Cell storyline on a poor note, as things just happen that feel like David was just tired of writing about it and wrapped things up.  I'm sure it's something that has already been established, because David isn't a sloppy writer, but since when can Quicksilver pull future versions of himself into the present?  That's weird.  Again, I'm sure I missed the issue where this is explained, but it's very weird when it happens.  And the way Elijah Cross is dispatched with was annoying, because he seemed like a character with some potential, but it was never realized and he was just useless.  I also, unfortunately, have a question about Marrow ("unfortunately" because I loathe the character): she has lost her mutant power, right?  Her power was to force bones out of her body and use them as weapons, right?  Don't ask me how that didn't kill her, but I assume it had something to do with her power.  So if she lost her power, wouldn't all those bones on the outside of her body kill her now?  Or should I not ask too many questions because I won't like the answers?

Well, we got that crappy issue out of the way and a bunch of utterly useless mutants gone (Abyss? really?).  Let's just all move on and we'll be much happier.

X-Men #200 by Mike Carey, Humberto Ramos, Chris Bachalo, Carlos Cuevas, and Tim Townsend.  $3.99, Marvel.

The most bizarre comic of the week goes to X-Men #200, which is a fairly straight-forward superhero epic.  So why is it bizarre?  Well, when it's good, it's very good.  But when it's bad, it's horrible.  It's a strange experience reading this comic and lurching from thinking "Wow, how cool" to "Dear Lord, that didn't just happen, did it?" and "Man, more Humberto Ramos art????"  But I'd say it balances out on the good side, and is another example of Mike Carey really "getting" the X-Men.

Let's look at this.  Good: the "prelude," in which a dude in New Orleans calls someone in the guild (which put a sinking feeling in my stomach, because it means someone I hate is showing up later) because something important is happening.  He gets on an elevator and is killed by some freaky-looking dude.  Bachalo's art is nice.  Bad: the X-Men arrive at Rogue's childhood home and Rogue blasts the hell out of it.  Why?  Plus, Ramos art.  Yuck.  More bad: in the middle of this mission, in the middle of Rogue's house, Mystique and Bobby have sex.  What the hell?  Good: something happens to Omega Sentinel when she boots up to a computer to make repairs.  If you notice the final panel of her after the computer explodes, you'll understand what just happened.  Nice touch by Carey and Ramos.  Good and Bad: Cable on Providence is attacked by someone, and Bachalo's art is very nice.  However, he is attacked by ... Gambit.  Oh shit.  I hate Gambit.  Bad: More Ramos art.  Good: Rogue and Sam talk about what has happened to her.  Gambit fights Cable, and Sunfire shows up.  Again, nice art.  Then Ramos is back, but Emma going inside Rogue's head is pretty cool.  Cable blows shit up as Gambit and Sunfire escape.  Sort of bad and good: the climax, as Malice has possessed Omega Sentinel, which is awesome (Malice is a great character) and the Marauders show up and betrayals abound!  Why is it bad?  Well, the Marauders were cool back in the day, but as usual, the way the X-Men took them down was pretty cool too, and it's always a shame when cool stories no longer stick.  I mean, I can go back and re-read them, but I'll always know the stories are irrelevant now.  It's annoying.  Also annoying: why are they at Rogue's house????

Still, it's a pretty good issue, except for Ramos' art.  It's full of action and some nice twists, and it sets up the arc very well.  Carey is really doing well, except for the inexplicable sex.  And the back-up story is more chatter.  Sheesh, can't something happen in this crossover?

Well, that's it for this week.  As always, your scorn is greatly appreciated!  Lay it on me!

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