What I bought - 28 September 2011

"... All idealization makes life poorer. To beautify it is to take away its character of complexity -- it is to destroy it." (Joseph Conrad, from The Secret Agent)

All Nighter #4 (of 5) ("Stealing Lives") by David Hahn (writer/artist) and Aditya Bidikar (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, BW, Image.

Issue #4 of All Nighter came out last week, but Diamond shorted my shop's order, so I didn't get it until this week. Such is life. Hahn's oddball comic continues, as we finally learn the deal with Kit's mother and what happened to her, and then it takes an even more serious turn at the end, but from what we already know (or believe), it might not be that serious after all. This is a strange (but good) book because Hahn doesn't really have a narrative thread - things just kind of happen, and then other things supplant those things in importance even though a few pages earlier the first thing might have seemed paramount, if you catch my drift. Kit thinks the fact that she's wrecking a relationship is the most important thing in the world, but suddenly, it loses all meaning because something of actual importance supersedes it. It's a lurching kind of book, but that's life, innit? Things just arise that we don't expect, and we just don't know how the order of importance will be shuffled in our lives. It's a bit wobbly, but Hahn makes it work. Plus, his art is still wonderful.

I have no idea how issue #5 will play out, which is kind of the point. What will be important to Kit? How will she sort it out? Hahn has kept us on our toes throughout, and it will be neat to see how it all wraps up.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Avengers Academy #19 ("Things Fall Apart")* by Christos Gage (writer), Tom Raney (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I've been loving Creel and Titania's True Romance throughout this arc, and now that they're gone from the book (for the final battle in Fear Itself #7 - lulling you gently to sleep in three short weeks!), I'm going to miss them. I'm totally serious - Marvel could do a lot worse than giving us a Bonnie and Clyde-type series about the adventures of two bad people on the lam who love each other madly and have all sorts of adventures while committing crimes. It would be awesome. Alas, it probably won't ever happen. Dang.

Anyway, last week I said that the Juggernaut's exit from Uncanny X-Men was kind of lame, because the Serpent just yanked him away to fulfill the dictates of an event comic and therefore deprived readers of a serious beat-down. ZZZ pointed out that the Serpent called him away to save him, not because he needed him. That's in the text, and I forgot about it, but I should point out that Creel and Titania are about to destroy the Avengers Academicians and they're still called away. So there's that.

Even though we once again get a lame non-ending to the fight, Gage does a good job making this a character piece in the middle of a big-ass action comic, because he shows how much these kids have grown up, made friendships (and more), and learned what is necessary to be a hero. For a superhero comic, it's rare to get a "Butch and Sundance" kind of moment, but Gage works it nicely. And then he sticks the knife into the teachers because they find out that one member rejects the lifestyle that they've shown the kids. Gage has done such a nice job building up these characters that it's not surprising what happens - it's supposed to be a shock, but when you reach the end, you think, "Yeah, that would happen, wouldn't it?"

So it's another solid issue of this quite good superhero book. Still, I want a Titania and Absorbing Man ongoing. That would rule.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Planet of the Apes #5 ("The Devil's Pawn Part 1") by Daryl Gregory (writer), Carlos Magno (artist), Nolan Woodard (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $1.00, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Not only did Chip Mosher send me the first trade of this series, he also sent me the fifth issue, which will cost you one thin dollar if you choose to pick it up (the sixth issue is out, too, but I haven't read that yet).

After the world-changing events of issue #4, in this issue Gregory deals with the aftermath, as Wyn, a human, gets over the river to the ape part of town in order to sabotage the factories where men work (but they're on strike right now). He gets captured, and at the end of this issue we see that the apes are through treating humans with any sympathy. Meanwhile, Alaya and Nix discuss making new kinds of weapons, while a bunch of humans decide that being martyrs is more important than effecting change. It's all getting messy, isn't it?

Gregory continues to do a nice job getting all kinds of points of view into this book. He not-so-subtly compares humans to illegal immigrants and/or the poor, because the apes don't want to work in the factories as they consider it beneath them. Alaya and Nix on their side and Sully on the human side are still trying to withstand the more radical factions, and Gregory does a pretty good job showing how desperate they are.

Magno continues to do a very nice job with the art. The opening sequence that ends with an explosion is nicely laid out, and he keeps introducing more characters but making sure they're easily discernible. It's a really nice-looking comic, as Magno keeps up with Gregory's sophisticated script.

I told Mosher I won't be buying the single issues, because I want to get the trades, but if you're interested in the single issues, this is, as I pointed out, only a buck. That's not a bad deal! (Plus, the first trade is 10 dollars for four issues, which also isn't a bad deal.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Avengers #17 ("Beast Box") by Warren Ellis (writer), Kev Walker (artist), Frank Martin (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Ellis gives us another excellent single issue, as Steve Rogers, Sharon Carter, War Machine, and Valkyrie investigate a spooky truck that is roaming around the Serbian countryside stealing people right out of their homes via some kind of electromagnetic field. No one wants to investigate, so Steve and his team saddle up! Of course, what they find won't be to anyone's liking, but that's life in the Ellisverse!

What makes Ellis such a good superhero writer (and yes, I know he hates superheroes, but that's not the point) is that unlike his creator-owned work, where characters all tend to gravitate toward the Spider Jerusalem template, in superhero comics he's working with established characters, so he has to find ways to write them so they don't gravitate toward the Spider Jerusalem template, and he's good enough to do it (again, whether he likes it or not is beside the point). So Steve sounds like Steve, but he's a bit more hardened and cynical than we usually see. Valkyrie sounds like Valkyrie, but she's a little more majestic than usual (see below). Sharon sounds like Sharon, but she's a little more competent than usual. James Rhodes doesn't say much throughout the book, so we don't get much of a read on him. Ellis, like some other writers but unlike far too many, thinks about what the characters have been through and what their personalities are like and writes dialogue that sounds unique to them AND sounds different from everyone else. That's a nice trick, and it would be nice if other writers were as good as Ellis. Okay, so that's probably not going to happen, but it would be nice if other writers actually thought about who the characters are and how they would speak instead of just writing down whatever moves the plot along.'Walker continues to get better, and his work here is magnificent. He nails the creepy horror of the undead creatures coming after the Avengers (and Pilot Marko, I should point out, says exactly 37 words in this comic and he's instantly more memorable than 90% of the DCnU characters), but he's also good with the 'splosions and shit. This is a superb-looking comic - Walker's harsh lines are tempered by Martin's stunning colors, forming a beautiful gestalt that emphasizes the horror but doesn't allow it to overwhelm the book. Plus, I don't know whose idea it was to put a "smiley face-angry face" mood-o-meter into one of the zombie's eye sockets, but it's pure genius. GENIUS!!!!

So that's two strong single-issue stories in a row on Secret Avengers for Ellis. I might like this one a bit more than last issue, in fact. I'm looking forward to the next four!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Sixth Gun #15 ("Bound Part Four") by Cullen Bunn (writer), Brian Hurtt (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

Hurtt returns after an issue off, and Bunn takes the time to kind of reset the book a bit - this is a fairly slow issue in which we find out what Gord is up to, as he tracks down books that might help Becky and Drake destroy the guns, while Becky recovers after seemingly losing Drake off the train a few issues ago. Gord's visit to the old plantation where he used to live turns spooky as he finds it populated by ghosts, including a few he didn't really want to see again, while Becky gets a tour of the castle (!) headquarters of the Sword of Abraham (I have to suspend my disbelief with regard to the medieval castle standing in the middle of the United States, I guess). She also gets a ghostly visitor at the end of the book, so next issue, it's ghosts ahoy!

I can't say this is the best issue, but that's because I've been accustomed to Bunn giving us plenty of information while still keeping things zipping along. I suppose he wanted to build up an atmosphere of dread in this issue (what does that slave ghost serve, exactly?) and while Gord's journey through the plantation and into the basement works, Becky's tour of the castle seems a bit info-dumpy and it gets a bit dull. I do like how Hurtt and Bunn slip Muslims into the Sword of Abraham without making a big deal about it - it's a cross-religious order, I guess! But it's still a bit long-winded, and while I'm not sure how they could have changed it, that doesn't mean I can't dislike that section!

Of course, I'm sure next issue will be back to the high standards Bunn and Hurtt have set for themselves, and perhaps this issue will read better in trade. Oh well. Hurtt's art is gorgeous, as usual. So there's that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Wasteland #31 ("For All You Leave Behind") by Antony Johnston (writer), Remington Veteto (artist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.50, 25 pgs, BW, Oni Press.

Johnston hopes that this comic is back on track - the next issue, with Brett Weldele on art, should be out in November, according to his blog, and he has something to announce about the book in 2012 (a new artist, presumably - Veteto isn't bad by any means, but this is his first comic, so maybe he couldn't keep up with it?). I'm very glad - this is such a good comic and I want to see Johnston get through the 60 or so issues he has planned out, because I think it could easily be a masterpiece when it's all said and done. The momentum of the middle issues (let's say the second 12 or so) has been slowed, not only because this arc has been an interesting experiment by Johnston but hasn't been as straightforward as the previous issues, but also because of the delays. But it all comes to a head in this issue, as we find out what was said between Golden Voice and Michael way back when, and the machinations of Golden Voice, Jakob, and Skot come to fruition - but not in the way we might expect. It's a good way to wrap things up for this arc and lead into the next one (the book ends with a naked man standing on a hill watching Newbegin - now that's an image!). I just hope the sales on the trade continue to be strong and that people haven't forgotten about this book. It's still one of the best comics out there, people!

Veteto is still a step down from Mitten, but he's not terrible, and I wonder if there's an artist change in the future or not. What Veteto lacks in Mitten's grittiness he makes up (somewhat) in definition of the main characters - Marcus and Mary look more refined than the rest of the population, for instance, because they're the rulers. I've said it before - I don't like Veteto's art as much as I like Mitten's, but it gets the job done, for the most part. I think the book lost a bit of the raggedness that Mitten brought to the book (I say that in the best way possible; the art on this book needs to be ragged), and I wonder if it will return to that after Weldele's fill-in (given Weldele's style, I have no doubt next issue will look nice and desert-y). We'll see.

Whenever an issue has come out recently, I've hoped that the book is back on track. I'll just have to trust Johnston, won't I?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Captain Britain volume 2: Siege of Camelot by a bunch of dudes who were hanging around Marvel in the late 1970s and couldn't run away when Larry Lieber or Danny Fingeroth or Archie Goodwin tried to tackle them to work on Captain Britain comics. $39.99, 368, BW & FC, Marvel.

The first volume of Captain Britain (even though the volumes of the Moore/Davis/Delano stuff came out years ago, so this should probably be volume 4) probably wasn't anyone's definition of "good comics," but I have a soft spot for ol' Cap, and it was entertaining. I'm sure this will be too. I don't know how close this takes us up to the Moore stuff, but I do hope Marvel releases something that links the two. That would be keen.

The Finder Library volume 2 by Carla Speed McNeil (writer/artist). $24.99, 664 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

I should probably get around to reading the first volume, shouldn't I? I will, one day when I have 6-7 hours to kill. These things are gihugeic, man! And they have the annotations, to boot!

Habibi by Craig Thompson (writer/artist). $35.00, 665 pgs, BW, Pantheon Books.

This looks staggeringly gorgeous, I must say. I hope it's good!

Shakara the Avenger by Robbie Morrison (writer), Henry Flint (artist), and many different letterers. $19.99, 171 pgs, BW (with some color), Rebellion.

If there was any justice in this world, Henry Flint would be drawing one of the new DC books. Maybe he didn't want to, but dang, he's a good artist. This is an amazing-looking book.

Let's do it: The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "You're My Home" - Billy Joel (1973) "Long as I have you by my side there's a roof above and good walls all around"2. "The Same Boy You've Always Known" - White Stripes (2001) "Forgot my name, of course, then you started to remember"3. "All the Voices" - INXS (1984) "We want a new start; is it just too much to ask?"4. "Lordy Lord" - Stress (1991) "I hear the children cry, politicians lie"5. "I Wish I Had an Evil Twin" - Magnetic Fields (2004) "My evil twin would lie and steal and he would stink of sex appeal"6. "People and Places" - Journey (1980) "Every single face there lies a trace of sadness felt before"7. "Murphy It's You" (2003?) "Why can I punch through a wall and not feel it but don't know that I had a son?"18. "Black Boys on Mopeds" - Sinéad O'Connor (1990) "These are dangerous days - to say what you feel is to dig your own grave"9. "The Train" - King's X (1996) "Leave all your bags behind and tighten up your metal belt"10. "Gone Daddy Gone" - Violent Femmes (1982) "Beautiful girl, lovely dress, where she is now I can only guess"2

1 Years ago, the irrepressible Mike Sterling put this on a CD he sent to me (and some other bloggers as well), and I still don't know who's actually singing it. But you can watch it on YouTube, because it's awesome!

2 Play that air xylophone!

So, yeah. I got nothing else. It was a small week, even though all the comics were quite good. Can you imagine if I had gotten All Nighter when I should have and if I hadn't received Planet of the Apes? I'm still working on my monstrous DCnU post (it's a race between finishing it and losing my sanity, and it will be close!), so there's that. Anyone have anything they want to talk about? I've been watching several of the new shows on television, and either I'm getting old or they're just lousy. Let's see - The Playboy Club is junk, Unforgettable is an unintentionally ironic title, Revenge hopes that it's the new Desperate Housewives, Prime Suspect was okay but nothing great, Charlie's Angels can't even get exploitative television right, and it's a sad that some people are calling Pan Am one of the best new shows of the season, because they're right even though it's pretty lousy. I haven't watched Terra Nova yet, but I don't have high hopes for it. So far (and some shows haven't premiered yet, so I can hope, can't I?), Person of Interest is the only show that's kind of interesting. I don't know if it's just me or if the new shows do, indeed, suck.

How about sports? The baseball playoffs are about to begin after a fairly exciting week. I'm rooting for the Phillies, of course, but it really bothers me that the playoffs are essentially a crapshoot (the Phillies scored more runs than the Giants in last year's NLCS but still lost the series), yet if the 102-win Phillies don't win the World Series, people will say the season is a failure. Oh well. I think they'll win, but they have to play the Cardinals in the first round, and I was kind of hoping that Atlanta would get in, because St. Louis scares me a bit. I think the Phillies should beat them and whoever comes out of the other series, but you never know, right? Meanwhile, football is football - the Eagles are 1-2 and everyone is panicking, but the Eagles always start slowly. Get back to me at the beginning of November and we'll see where we are. In worldwide sports, apparently there are still hundreds of tickets left over for the AFL Grand Final at the MCG. Geelong fans might be experiencing "event fatigue" because it's their team's fourth Final in five years. Yeah, it sucks to be that successful. In the States, we call those people "Atlanta Braves fans."

I'm currently reading a book called Rogue Republic, which is about a bunch of American settlers in Spanish West Florida who in 1810 established a short-lived "republic" before President Madison sent troops in to occupy the area in the name of the U.S. It's an interesting topic, but unfortunately, the author isn't a very good writer (always a concern when you're reading a history book), so the actual writing is kind of boring. But I like the subject matter, so I'll keep on with it! Is anyone reading anything fascinating right now (non-comics division, that is)?

Anything else anyone wants to talk about? We're all friends here! Chime in about comics ... and more!

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