What I bought - 28 May 2009

Comics delayed a day + lots of comics in my order + preparations for a holiday + day-long drive to reach vacation destination = Extremely Late Comics Reviews!

Hey, I'm blogging from chilly Southern California, can you tell? This week I'm going to be far less long-winded than I usually am. How cool is that?

The Amazing Spider-Man: The Short Halloween by Bill Hader (writer), Seth Meyers (writer), Kevin Maguire (artist), Dean White (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $3.99, 33 pgs, FC, Marvel.

This is the first of two books I bought pretty much because of the art (the other at least had a writer I like as opposed to two guys I've never heard of, even though I'm sure I should have), and it's worth it just for Maguire's work. I mean, it's funny and all, but ... MAGUIRE ART!!!!!! It's a case of mistaken identity on Halloween, as a drunk dressed as Spidey ends up in the same alley as a temporarily beaten-up Actual Spider-Man. Three's Company antics ensue!

And yes, there's a super-villain called Badger Teeth. And one called Haymaker, which is quite literal. It's a humorous book, and even the fact that it came out pretty much as far away from Halloween as it's possible to be, it's great to see Maguire doing a Spidey book. He's really born to draw Spidey.

Batman in Barcelona: Dragon's Knight by Mark Waid (writer), Diego Olmos (artist), Marta Martinez (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $3.99, 38 pgs, FC, DC.

Another one-shot starring one of my favorite characters, and unlike the Spidey book, I bought this pretty much because Waid wrote it, although Olmos's art is quite nice. You can detect several influences in it, but he does a good job with Batman's fights with Croc and the setting of Barcelona is realized well. Waid gives us a meat-and-potatoes Batman story that has a very tenuous reason for being set in Spain, but it does allow us to see Bruce meet up with yet another person to whom he's supposedly close but whom we've never seen before and it gives us a look at cops who have no idea who Batman is, as our hero remarks a couple of times. The best parts of the book, story-wise, deal with Bruce and Cristina, as it's always interesting to see Bruce interact with people who think he's more than he seems, but to whom he can't reveal too much.

It's a nice little comic, and although it's not perfect, it's as much in the legacy of the O'Neil/Adams stories from the 1970s as Morrison's run was. Bruce in foreign countries is kind of neat - more writers should do it!

Battlefields: The Tankies #2 (of 3) ("Yeoman of England") by Garth Ennis (writer), Carlos Ezquerra (artist), Hector Ezquerra (inker), Tony Aviña (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

Man, I like that cover. Nice and gruesome.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this story, so far, works a lot less well than "Dear Billy," Ennis's previous arc in this series. That story focused on a few people and their reaction to the horrors of war, while this arc features a ton of characters that are difficult to distinguish from each other and although it shows the horror of war, there's a bit of the warped Ennis humor that keeps it from being truly effective. I mean, as awful as a person getting caught in the tread of a tank is, it's still a bit funny. Unless that's just me.

Ezquerra's art is solid, though.

Gødland #28 ("The Horror") by Joe Casey (writer), Tom Scioli (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Yes, the dude on the cover has a Galactus helmet, fringes on his legs and arms, a skeleton suit, and a cosmic shotgun. And no, he's not the coolest thing in the book. No, the return of Lucky, with his elephant/octopus head with a brain on each tentacle, isn't the coolest thing in this book. Heck, the Almighty Decimator isn't even the coolest thing in this book! No, the coolest thing in this book is the crime with which that dude on the cover is charged. Or what a patron of the restaurant says when Neela accosts him. Or maybe it's Friedrich Nickelhead's Messiah complex. Oh, hell, this book is cool from page one through page twenty. And beyond!!!!!

Hero Squared: Love and Death #3 (of 3) ("The End of the End!") by Kieth Giffen (writer), J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Nathan Watson (artist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer), and Digikore Studios (colorist). $3.99, 23 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Giffen and DeMatteis bring their latest superhero epic to an end, after about 15 issues or so and many, many years. Hero Squared has always been a solid comic, but its horrible schedule can't have helped it gain any traction with an audience. But if you're a fan of what these two creators did on Justice League, you should give this a try, as they really have fun poking holes in the oddness of superheroing and what it takes to be a hero, but they also give us a ripping good yarn about the relationship between a villain and a hero and why things often get out of control. This comic ends in a way you don't necessarily expect, but it once again takes our expectations about superhero comics and subverts them, which is always nice. I'm not quite sure what's going on in the last few pages, as it seems Giffen and DeMatteis originally turn back time, Superman-style, but then there's what appears to be a jump of some years. I don't mind too much, but it's a bit weird.

Now that it's completed, maybe Boom! will bring out a giant collected edition of the entire series, as it's not really that long. It's a fun series that might do a bit better in a book format. Of course, I'm not in marketing, so what the hell do I know?

Ignition City #3 (of 5) by Warren Ellis (writer), Gianluca Pagliarani (illustrator), Chris Dreier (inker), and Digikore Studios (colorist). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Avatar.

Ellis is getting into the meat of this series, and it's getting better as we go along, which is always nice. There's some more history of the space wars that brought us to this point, which is fairly interesting, and we also get more politics of the city and what kind of shady dealings occur there, while Pagliarani keeps doing a fine job with the art, including the shoot-out at the end. As I've mentioned before, Ellis loves doing this kind of story, so I'm glad that he's doing it well. It might not end as well as it's beginning, but so far it's a fine ride.

The Incredible Hercules #129 ("The Descent") by Greg Pak (writer), Fred van Lente (writer), Ryan Stegman (penciler), Terry Pallot (inker), Raúl Treviño (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

The idea that the dead of the Marvel U. are playing games of chance in order to win their way back into the continuity is, frankly, pretty awesome. It allows characters to be a bit meta without breaking any obvious rules of fiction (like when the Wasp says "They let Bucky out. Bucky!") and gives any writer as good as an excuse as any to bring a character back ("He won at roulette - I had to bring him back!"). Otherwise, this is a fairly typical issue of The Incredible Hercules, in that it's very funny, action-packed, moves the story along nicely, and does it all without a hint of ironic detachment. The Incredible Hercules is a large-scale buddy comedy/action movie, but one done pretty much better than anything you can get right now. So every issue is a joy to read. I like joy.

The Literals #2 (of 3) ("The Great Fables Crossover Part 6 of 9: Keep Your Ass In Your Chair") by Bill Willingham (writer), Matthew Sturges (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

See, this is a pretty good chapter of this crossover, with a big gun fight and some interesting character interaction. I still don't think it's necessary for this to be nine issues long, but at least this particular chapter was a nice read.

Madame Xanadu #11 ("Exodus Noir Part One: My Father's Keeper") by Matt Wagner (writer), Michael Wm. Kaluta (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

So Brad Curran called me out about this, did he? Well, sorry, Mr. Curran, but I don't know enough about the character of Madame Xanadu to know if her making out with another woman is anything unusual and is included just for the titillation factor. I will say that anyone who carries on a lesbian affair in 1493 Spain and isn't a tiny bit more careful really isn't very smart. I mean, screw whomever you please, Ms. Xanadu, but might you remember where you are and take some precautions? Sheesh.

This is the second book I bought strictly because of the artist, even though I like Matt Wagner as a writer quite a lot. But come on - it's Mike Kaluta!!!! I don't even know the last time Kaluta drew the interior of a comic book, and he's doing a five-issue arc. Wagner could write a story about Madame Xanadu sitting in a chair discussing the collectivization of Soviet farms in the 1930s and I'd buy it if Kaluta drew it. Man, this book is gorgeous.

The story isn't bad, either. That's not surprising, of course. But Madame Xanadu and her little love toy really ought to be smarter, oughtn't they?

Moon Knight #30 ("Down South: Conclusion") by Mike Benson (writer), Jefte Palo (artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I guess this is the final issue, right? Well, that sucks, as Benson leaves an interesting plot point dangling that would be perfect for a nice six-issue arc. Oh well. Moon Knight has starred in two very good 30-issue+ series in his life, and that's not bad. At least Benson doesn't kill him off!

As always, I blame Bendis for this book's demise. DAMN YOU BENDIS!!!!!!

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #6 (of 6) by David Petersen (writer/artist). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Archaia.

As a final issue, this is a bit anti-climactic, as the big fight of the series came last issue, and although the battle finishes this issue, it's still more of a wrap-up issue. That's not to say it's bad, because as usual, Petersen does a wonderful job with this world he's created, and therefore he can finish a mini-series with a more reflective issue that helps set up the next series. If there is another series, that is. This is still better to read as a single book, and I hope the hardcover sells well and allows Petersen to keep bringing us this marvelous series.

Northlanders #17 ("The Viking Art of Single Combat") by Brian Wood (writer), Vasilis Lolos (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Wood writes a simple story about two Vikings coming together to settle a feud. It's a fine single issue, as Wood not only explains a bit about Viking society, but also delves deep into the weaponry the Norsemen used. Lolos draws it with a fine kinetic style, and it's really a breathtaking battle, as the two men beat on each other with abandon and we're never quite sure who actually will win. Finally, Wood uses this issue, like he's used others, to illuminate the utter foolishness of violence. But he and Lolos do so by showing how brutally beautiful fighting can be. Ah, the paradox of violence!

Unsurprisingly, this is another good issue of a very good series. It's nice to see the quality always remaining high.

Rapture #1 (of 6) by Michael Avon Oeming (writer/artist), Taki Soma (writer/layouts), Val Staples (colorist), and Thomas Mauer (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

I've been anticipating this mini-series since it was solicited, and Oeming and Soma don't disappoint, as this is a visually strong issue and an interesting premise: The world's superpowered humans, who have basically laid waste to the world, suddenly disappear into the heavens, leaving behind a devastated planet that quickly devolves further into chaos. A young girl named Evelyn leaves her boyfriend, Gil, but realizes she's made a mistake but can't get back to him. We also learn that Evelyn is more special than most people think, so there's that.

The hook is intriguing, and Oeming and Soma do a nice job jumping back and forth between "one year ago," when the supers disappeared, and the present, when roving packs of cannibals are spoiling everyone's day. The art is very nice, as well, especially toward the end: Evelyn fantasizes/dreams about Gil, and Staples makes it look like watercolors. It's very neat.

I'm not sure where Oeming and Soma are going with this, but it's a nice set-up for a romantic quest. Plus, you know, there are cannibals. You can't go wrong with cannibals!

Unknown Soldier #8 ("Easy Kill Chapter One") by Joshua Dysart (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist), Oscar Celestini (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

The second story arc begins, and Dysart is really finding his footing on the title. The first arc was good enough to keep me on board, but this issue is quite gripping, as Dysart sets up a nice moral quandary for Moses and also shows how effective he is in his personal war. Dysart has gotten the preliminaries of the series out of the way, and that means he can plot this a bit more tightly without worrying as much about setting it in the political scene of Uganda. We're still getting the context, but it comes out a bit more naturally, as when we see the kid he rescued in a flashback on the battlefield. Ponticelli, of course, does a very nice job bringing it all to life.

I don't have a problem with this being nominated for an Eisner for best new series. It's a very interesting comic, and it seems like Dysart might be changing the tone of the book just a bit. He first claimed it was a kick-ass action book, but when you're writing about Uganda, it's kind of tough to not be a bit more serious. Yes, there's a lot of good action in this book, but it's a bit more challenging than perhaps Dysart meant it to be. And that's a good thing.

Again, I apologize for the brevity of the reviews this week. I'm spending the week in Anaheim, visiting Disneyland with my family and my parents, so blogging is down on the list of things to do. I'm going to try to check out Previews this week, but I won't be reviewing the comics I get this week. I will, however, try to make a pilgrimage to the Internet's favorite comic book store! Which one could it be? Which one?????

And now, some totally random lyrics:

"There's a destination a little up the roadFrom the habitations and the towns we knowA place we saw the lights turn lowThe jig-saw jazz and the get-fresh flowPulling out jives and jamboree handoutsTwo turntables and a microphoneBottles and cans just clap your hands just clap your hands"

Oh, sure, that's an easy one. But that's the nature of the totally random lyrics!

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