What I bought - 29 April 2015

Genesis is a great lie; but it is also a great poem; and a six-thousand-year-old womb is much warmer than one that stretches for two thousand million. (John Fowles, from The French Lieutenant's Woman)

Plunder #3 (of 4) ("Against the Current") by Deron Bennett (letterer), Swifty Lang (writer), Skuds McKinley (artist), Jason Wordie (colorist), Chris Rosa (assistant editor), and Ian Brill (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios/Archaia.

One reason I don't like horror is the inherent stupidity of the people involved in horror. I've mentioned this before with regard to this series, when in issue #1 I wondered why the damned Somali pirates didn't turn around and leave the submarine when it became obvious something wasn't quite right on board, and it's even more annoying in issue #3, when the scientist explains what the creature is. She mentions that it's alien and fairly nasty, but her fellow scientists just keep fucking around with it, and we know that's not a wise idea. We must suspend disbelief to accept superheroes, of course, but in horror comics, we're supposed to believe that the people in them are part of the "real world" and that the horror comes from outside that world. Things that make no sense in our universe are the real horror, and that's why we sympathize with people in horror stories, because they're not equipped to deal with things that exist outside our physical laws. So this alien presence is terrifying and unstoppable (well, for now), but it's always hard to feel bad for people who poke the fucking bear. Lang doesn't spend enough time with explanations, which makes the idiocy of the characters more apparent. This is where movies work better than comics for horror. Horror movies often feature idiots, but if the director is smart, he or she zooms past that and gets to the horrible killing, so we might not notice the idiocy unless we go back over the movie more carefully. Lang might hope that readers don't go back over the comic very carefully, but in a static medium like comics, you can easily linger over pages, and the stupidity of the characters is much harder to handwave away. Presumably Lang wants us to get to the creepy parts of the issue where the pirates all turn on each other, but for me, at least, it's tougher to do that when I'm considering this comic than when I'm considering a movie. But that's just me.

Of course, as with the other two issues, that doesn't mean this comic is a failure. Lang can write creepy scenes well, and the idea that the creature can make people hallucinate means that he and McKinley get to give us some horrifying scenes without it looking too CGI, like it would in a movie. Lang doesn't quite succeed in making the book too terrifying, but he does a decent job with it, and just the idea of people being bent to an alien intelligence's will is disturbing, and it makes those scenes work pretty well. Lang sets up the big showdown with the alien pretty well, and I'll be interested to see if he has any tricks up his sleeve in the last issue. So far, the book has been fairly paint-by-numbers, but that doesn't mean it's devoid of entertainment value. McKinley's art doesn't rise to the occasion of more action and less moodiness in this issue, unfortunately. The visions two of the pirates see are horrific and pretty well done, but McKinley doesn't choreograph the fights as well as he should, so some scenes are confusing just from a "where is everyone" point of view. His use of perspective is a bit wonky, too, so occasionally the characters look too unusual because we're seeing them at odd angles. Still, he does a decent job tapping into the horror that Lang wants to get at, that of the alien causing people to see things that they have to kill and thereby turning on their comrades, and that's a key part of the comic, after all. McKinley needs to work on action, but that's something a lot of artists struggle with. His horror designs are pretty neat.

We'll see how Lang wraps this one up, but I have only moderate hopes for it. I like the idea of the characters more than I like the characters themselves, and I'm curious to see if anyone gets a measure of redemption. Who knows?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Tower Chronicles: Dreadstalker #9 (of 12) by Simon Bisley (artist), Ryan Brown (colorist), Sean Konot (letterer), Matt Wagner (writer), Greg Tumbarello (associate editor), and Bob Schreck (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Legendary Comics.

This comic continues to confound me, and while I'm in for the duration, I do wish it was better than it is. The first series, which came out in four, longer editions with glossier pages, was batshit insane in just the right way, and Bisley's art - which I assume he had more time to work on - was brilliant. This second series, which is coming out in shorter issues with cheaper paper, is too meandering, as the batshit insane parts - and there are still plenty of them - getting sidetracked by John Tower's somewhat dull backstory and quest to revive his dead wife, and Bisley's art is much sloppier, which, when combined with the cheaper paper, is not a good thing. Late model Bisley's stock-in-trade is crisp line work that reveals every grotesquerie his feverish mind can come up with, and while we still get trolls and desiccated old women and harpies and a person wrapped in thorns in this issue, the sloppiness of the art works against Bisley in a way that it doesn't work against other artists. The Bisley of two decades ago, when comics were brighter, might have been able to get away with this, but the murky coloring prevalent in so many comics these days works against it. Bisley's fill-in work on Hellblazer a few years ago could be messy, but even that was brighter than this and because it was only one issue every so often, the messiness often seemed to have a purpose. Here, it just seems like a rushed job, and that's too bad. Bisley's oddball style is still fun to look at, but the format of this series as opposed to the first one is working against it.

In the same way, the format is working against Wagner's story, too. There really hasn't been a big enough plot to fill twelve issues, as Tower's origin has been spread out too much and his quest to restore his wife's soul would be far more interesting if she weren't a complete cipher who's been dead for 800 years. Agent Hardwicke (yeah, I still can't get past that name) is a much better romantic match for Tower, if Wagner chooses to go that way - usually I root for a male and female teamed up together to resist any romantic urges, but Wagner has done a fairly good job establishing Alicia as a formidable presence on her own, so if she ends up doing the horizontal tango with Tower, I don't think it feel like she was created just for that (although it might read that way, depending on how Wagner writes it). So Tower's quest doesn't have any resonance, no matter how much time Wagner devotes to it. Wagner seems to know that his plot is somewhat thin, as he throws in random monster-hunting in several issues - like the harpies in this one - to give Tower an excuse to destroy some things and, presumably, to give Bisley cool things to draw. The craziness of the harpy-killing and even the weirdness of the Château Group is interesting, but any momentum from those pages screeches to a halt when Tower's quest comes back to the fore. There's nothing wrong with Tower's origin as a Templar who falls in love with a Muslim woman and spends lifetimes trying to bring her back from the dead, but because we don't know much about her and there's a perfectly good romantic companion for Tower already in the comic, the quest feels empty. Oh well.

I keep holding out hope for the rest of the series. Wagner and Bisley are two excellent creators, so I can hope, right? All I can say is: MORE HARPY- (AND OTHER MONSTER-) KILLING!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Jem and the Holograms #2 ("Showtime Part 2") by Sophie Campbell (artist), Shawn Lee (letterer), María Victoria Robado (colorist), Kelly Thompson (writer), and John Barber (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, IDW.

So yes, I already reviewed this. It's quite enjoyable. The artwork is stunning, Kelly's dialogue is crisp, and things are moving along.

Kelly's response to my review made me think. First of all, she noted that I was reading far too much into it, and I did write my speculation about where the plot was going badly, so that's on me. When the woman told Jerrica that the community center might have to close, the first thing I thought was that the plot would end up with the Holograms saving the community center, which isn't a terrible plot but would feel a bit too familiar. Kelly assured me that the Battle of the Bands has nothing to do with the community center, so that's that. I'm actually glad about that, because even if it was written well, we've seen that kind of plot a lot.

She also noted that I shouldn't be looking for a bigger plot than the Battle of the Bands, at least for this first arc. That's fine, too. I wrote that she is establishing the characters more than diving into the plot, which I guess she thought meant I was looking for a bigger plot than what's already been established. But I'm not - I've mentioned plenty of times that plot isn't all that important to me, because I've seen them all. But it did make me consider how I write, because of course I write in my "reviewer" voice rather than my fanboy voice. I left my fanboy voice behind a long time ago, and I've noted before that I simply can't turn off my critical faculties when it comes to comics anymore. I just can't. I like Jem and the Holograms. The reasons I bought it in the first place are not terribly complex, but they are numerous. I like Campbell's art a lot and look forward to any new projects she draws. Kelly is more of an unknown quantity because she simply hasn't had too much published, but what I've read of hers I've liked. I want to support her because I think she's a very interesting person with a strong voice in comics, and even though I've never met her in person, I consider her a friend. My reasons for buying Jem encompass all of that, but I also have to approach the book as objectively as possible. As you know, I rarely gush about comics, even ones I like a lot. Jem hasn't quite reached the point where I will gush about it unequivocally, and it might never reach that point, even if I consistently enjoy it. I think the emotional stakes in the comic are, so far, much more interesting than the main plot, but I like that, because, as I mentioned, I don't care about plot all that much. The flirting in this issue is much more interesting to me than the Holograms battling the Misfits or even Jerrica's stage fright. That's just the way it is.

Basically, I'm saying that I'm going to keep buying the book. And if I don't love it, I'll write about that. Kelly will just have to deal with me giving her money. I know, it totally sucks. (And I noted to her on Twitter that my retailer, whose clientele is generally superhero-heavy, sold quickly through the first issue and had a big stack of #2s on his table this week. The many variant covers might help, but that's still pretty cool.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Multiversity #2 ("Superjudge") by Blond (colorist), Dan Brown (colorist), Eber Ferreira (inker), Todd Klein (letterer), Jason Mendoza (inker), Grant "Yeah, I was channeling Geoff Johns in that one panel - you know which one!" Morrison (writer), Joe Prado (inker), Ivan Reis (penciller), Jason Wright (colorist), Andrew Marino (assistant editor), and Rickey Purdin (editor). $5.99, 52 (!) pgs, FC, DC. I'd list the character creators, but come on, really?

The God of All Comics has been noodling around the DCU for not quite 27 years, since the publication of Animal Man #1 in May 1988, and this kind of feels like a farewell to the DCU he grew up in and helped create in the aftermath of Crisis on Infinite Earths. I don't know how much of this was retrofitted to conform more to the DCnU, but it still feels like a pre-2011 DC comic, and that makes it a bit fitting, I suppose, as Morrison (at age 55) seems finally ready to leave behind the DCU of his formative years. His Action Comics never felt like a good fit, as he was trying to shoehorn in stuff from before the reboot even as he was trying to redefine Superman, and it's probably good that he hasn't worked on anything else in the DCnU. I wouldn't mind if he continued to work for DC, because he's Grant Motherfucking Morrison and I will buy almost everything he does, but I'm still keen to see him hang out at Image or some other non-Big Two publisher for a while. We shall see.

This issue is a mess, but it's a wildly entertaining mess, and Morrison crams as many characters as he possibly can into the story. It's very self-aware (I know, shocking), as the GoAC makes reference to the rest of the series, Final Crisis, and Crisis on Infinite Earths, among other things. The reference to "gentrification" and the Gentry as "new landlords" of the characters can be read, if you're feeling uncharitable, as shots at DC's upper management, who want their characters to fit into a narrow spectrum of respectability and want to suck all the whimsy out of superhero stories. Maybe Morrison didn't mean that, and the Brave New World DC coming after "Convergence" seems to have learned some lessons from the blandness of the reboot, but this is already out of date, so perhaps Morrison did mean it. What I find humorous is that the villain behind it all could be seen as Morrison himself, but that might be a bit too much of a leap for me and too arrogant of Morrison. I wouldn't put it past him, though. (It could be Bendis, too, another thing I wouldn't put past Morrison. He's a clever dude!)

I've never been the biggest fan of Reis, but when he has time to draw, he can really do some nice things, can't he? This issue is worthy of comparison to Pérez's work on CoIE, as Reis packs this issue with wonderful characters and interesting layouts that help create a sense of madness as Nix Uotan goes on his Rubik's Cube-turning rampage. Unlike someone like Geoff Johns, Morrison knows the value of a double-page and single-page splash, so Reis's on this book are far more interesting than when he's done some in the past. Yes, he has three inkers and three colorists (!!!), but they manage to present a unified look to the pencil work, so it's not distracting. Reis doesn't have to be too subtle in this comic, and he isn't - this is all about bombast, and he nails it.

If this is the final word on the DCU by the God of All Comics, it's a good one. Multiversity has been a terrific series, and it just shows that Morrison might make missteps every so often, but when he brings his "A" game, he's probably the best superhero writer of all time. So that's something.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Rumble #5 by John Arcudi (writer), Chris Eliopoulos (letterer), James Harren (artist), and Dave Stewart (colorist). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

Rumble finishes up his first arc, and as I've noted before, I have to make a decision whether to keep getting it or not. It's gotten better, and Harren's art is just a joy to look at, but I'm still not feeling it. This arc never felt as if it was about anything - I guess Bobby grows up a little, but Arcudi hasn't really done enough with the character to make me care about his growth. This comic, weirdly enough, gets back to Jem a little - so far in Jem, the stakes are fairly low, but even after two issues, I'm more invested in the characters, so I actually care more about the low stakes of the plot. In this comic, Arcudi seems to think his plot can carry the book, but Rathraq fighting against monsters who pose no threat to humanity just isn't it, especially because Rathraq is kind of an enigma, as well. Del is funny, but when your comic relief is the most well-developed character, that's a problem.

It's too bad, because Arcudi can be a really good writer, and Harren is absolutely crushing it on this comic. When Angel Del and Devil Bobby appear on Bobby's shoulder, he draws Actual Bobby with such a hangdog expression that I want to give him a treat. His monsters are horrific yet a bit goofy, and when Rathraq starts kicking ass, we get the wonderful long, fluid lines that show him moving too quickly for the eye to follow. Nusku's appearance is terrific, as he's a monster, sure, but he's also been rejected by his peers, and his sadness at that is palpable, mostly because of the way Harren draws him. It leads to the first truly emotional moment in the book, but I think it's too little, too late. It's too bad.

Rumble returns in August, if you're interested. I, more than likely, won't be returning to it. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

G.I Joe #8 ("The Fall of G.I Joe Part 8") by Steve Kurth (artist), Karen Traviss (writer), Neil Uyetake (letterer), Kito Young (colorist), and John Barber (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, IDW. G.I. Joe created by Donald Levine.

At the end of this issue, Karen Traviss writes that she drafted a 12-issue story, as that's the default when you're not sure how long something will run. However, I guess sales sucked, so this issue is the final one. She writes that she had to change things a bit to make sure there was some closure in 8 issues, even though she certainly didn't wrap everything up. As always, when something gets cut short, I wonder when it was made known to the creators. This is only 8 issues, so I imagine that IDW knew pretty early that she wouldn't be able to finish this in the space she wanted. But is that true? Did they not give her enough time to change the ending so it wrapped up a bit? The ending of this book is very abrupt and doesn't come close to wrapping even a decent percentage of the plot up, so it's clear that Traviss was cut off at the knees. But is that on IDW or her? I certainly get poor sales, but if Traviss pitched this as a 12-issue story, IDW should have been willing to nut up and give her 12 issues. They have licenses with a lot of properties that I imagine do pretty well for them, so would it have bankrupted them to let her do 12 issues or even 10, which might have given her enough time to wrap things up? Maybe it would have. I get that books get cancelled, and often with far less closure than even this one got, but it doesn't mean that it doesn't suck.

I guess too many things were working against Traviss in this series. No costumes, for one. No big shootouts. No Destro. It was as "real-life" a take on G.I. Joe as I've ever seen, and I'm sure all the things I liked about it were things that the vast majority of people didn't like about it. Such is life. I thought it was cool.

Rating: Incomplete

One totally Airwolf panel:

Morning Glories #45 by Joe Eisma (artist), Paul Little (colorist), Johnny Lowe (letterer), and Nick Spencer (writer). $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Image.

I'm buying Morning Glories almost by habit by now, as I wait for issue #50, which I assume will finish this "season." Things happen, people die, people come back to life, people talk to each other, and I don't really care all that much. Man, that's depressing. I don't remember events that happened, so when Spencer returns to them, I don't care all that much. Eisma doesn't do the greatest job on this issue, either, as Jade looks too much like a cartoon character in the present-day scenes, and it's weird. I don't know if they're trying to get back on a decent schedule (no issue came out in January, but this is the third issue in three months, which is nice), but it feels rushed, both in the art and even in the writing. Spencer set so many plates spinning and he's trying to keep them all up, but that means I don't care about an individual plate, just the spectacle of it all, and even that's getting dull. You can only keep plates spinning so long before it loses its wonder. It makes me sad that Morning Glories has become that for me. As I mentioned, I'll get it through issue #50, just to see what Spencer plans to do to wrap this "season" up, but I don't have high hopes for it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Brides of Helheim #5 (of 6) by Cullen Bunn (writer), Crank! (letterer), Nick Filardi (colorist), Joëlle Jones (artist), and Charlie Chu (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

Brides of Helheim has taken a bit longer than I would have liked to come out, as Jones is working on it and Lady Killer at the same time, or at least they're coming out at the same time, so maybe they've been held up a bit by that? I don't know how fast Jones works, but I certainly don't mind getting two comics with her art in them at roughly the same time. This issue sets up the final showdown, as Rikard and Sigurd do some post-coital chatting early in the issue, and then we check in with Raevil and the other witches, who are gathering their forces. There's often an issue like this in any mini-series, where not a lot happens but the writer gets his ducks in a row, and Bunn is doing that here. Jones still gets to draw some nekkid ladies and dudes, a dude shoving his sword through another one, a decapitation, and a giant bear, but she doesn't really get to cut loose too much. Bunn writes a lot about loyalty and honor, which has always been a motif in this series, so it fits nicely into the bigger scheme of the plot, but it's still a gathering-of-forces kind of issue. There's nothing wrong with that, and as I noted, it's always nice to see Jones's art, but it means I don't have a lot to write about. I'm looking forward to the apocalyptic finale, though.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scarlett Couture #1 ("Project Stardust Part 1") by Des Taylor (writer/artist). $3.99, 23 pgs, FC, Titan Comics.

I reviewed this a while back, so you can go read it if you like. It's better for Taylor's gorgeous art than for the somewhat cliché-stuffed story, but it moves along nicely and is perfectly exciting, and that's not a bad thing. I do hope it gets a bit deeper, though, but if it doesn't, it will probably still be entertaining!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Rocket Salvage #5 (of 5) by Bachan (artist), Deron Bennett (letterer), Jeremy Lawson (colorist), Yehudi Mercado (writer), Alex Galer (assistant editor), Rebecca Taylor (editor), and Ian Brill (editor). $5.99, 44 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios/Archaia.

This is an odd issue, because it's obviously extra-sized, yet it's priced less than two issues would be, so did the creators always plan on five issues with the final one being longer than the others, or did Boom! and Archaia just decide to publish the entire thing because it was more cost-effective than doing two issues? These things really do make me wonder, because we rarely get straight answers from comics executives (not that I asked anyone at Boom!, but I'm just speaking from general experience). I don't care too much, but I do wonder.

Like a lot of series, Rocket Salvage succeeds despite its plot, which is fine, I guess, but nothing special. Primo is trying to keep his family together, bad guys want to acquire Zeta because she has such destructive capacity encoded into her genes, and we get the requisite back-stabbing and plot twists that such a story entails. It's entertaining, certainly, but nothing we haven't seen before. However, Mercado does some nice work that raises this above more standard sci-fi fare. First, the fact that Beta and Zeta are clones of Primo adds a weird subtext to Primo's concern for them, because he's actually worrying about himself. Mercado doesn't go into it too much, but the tension between the fact that Primo created Beta and Zeta for spare parts and the fact that he actually does want them to be independent is a nifty part of the story. The sibling rivalry between Beta and Zeta is handled well, too, with some nice moments between the two before Beta has to face down a dude holding a shotgun. So while it's not the deepest story in the world, Mercado does some nice things with it.

Bachan's art has always been a big draw, and that continues in this issue, as he gets to cut loose for a giant space battle. Zeta uses her powers a lot in this issue, so there's plenty of destruction, and he's always done a good job with Rio Rojo and both its splendor and squalor. His page layouts are chaotic to a certain degree, which reflects the energy and dynamism of the drawings within them, and they're never hard to read. Each panel is packed with information, so this is a good book to study carefully, because Bachan makes sure a lot is happening on the page and it's fun to see everything he puts there. His designs of the various aliens is neat, and he does a really nice job with a double-page spread in the middle of the comic. Many sci-fi epics feature fairly amorphous surroundings which dulls the impact of whatever is happening, because they almost look like they're taking place in front of a green screen. Bachan makes sure this series is grounded in a "real" place, even if it's a strange satellite out in space.

The trade should be out at some point, and it's worth a look. It's a pretty neat series.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Vertigo Quarterly SFX #1. "Ekoh" by Nathan Fox (writer/artist) and Lee Loughridge (colorist); "Little Medals" by Matt Rockefeller (artist), Clem Robins (letterer), and Jim Zub (writer); "Pop Goes the World" by Sara Richard (artist) and Erica Schultz (writer); "Earwig Out!" by Clay McLeod Chapman (writer), Szymon Kudranski (artist), and Steve Wands (letterer); "Pop-Up" by David Hahn (artist), Tom Napolitano (letterer), and David Winnick (writer); "Something in the Water" by Todd Klein (letterer), Brett Parson (artist), and Laurie Penny (writer); "Momma Had a Baby and Her Head Popped Off" by Eva de la Cruz (colorist), Robin Furth (writer), Tom Napolitano (letterer), Rosemary Valero-O'Connell (penciller), and Voxeler (inker); "Ray's Bachelor Party" by Hope Larson (writer/artist); "Pop Psychology" by Celia Calle (artist), Carlos Mangual (letterer), and Peter Milligan (writer); Shelly Bond (editor), Greg Lockard (editor), Ellie Pyle (editor), Rowena Yow (editor), Sara Miller (editor), and Will Dennis (editor). $7.99, 73 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

As you know, I'm a sucker for these Vertigo anthologies, because they have neat creators in them, so even if the stories aren't great, the art usually is. That's the case with the first issue of the latest curious "themed" anthology, this one based on sound effects. In this first issue, that's "pop." Yep.

Nathan Fox's story, which begins the issue, is a perfect example of what I mean when I buy these things. I love Fox's art, so it's neat to see it here. But I have no idea what's going on in the story. I mean, really. There's a "blackmass" that destroys - I think? - a nightclub, and the main character, Didi, had something to do with it? It seems like she and a dude, Mel, "summoned" it, but who the hell knows? The art is frenetic and awesome, so there's that. Jim Zub's bleak story about people playing life as if it's a game is kind of twisted, and Rockefeller's charming art belies the depressing nature of the tale. Schultz's and Richard's story of two strange female creatures fighting over a man is my favorite story, not so much for the twist at the end (which isn't bad) but because Richard's excellent art is so charming, and it sits oddly against Schultz's angry tale, and the tension makes the story fun. Kudranski's art on "Earwig Out!" is quite nice, but Chapman's tale is a bit too horror-story standard to make much of an impact. "Pop-Up" is a clever take on a fairy tale, as a sickly child discovers that his book is far more than it seems. Hahn's clean and crisp line helps make the "unreal" elements of the story work quite well. "Something in the Water" is about a generational and class struggle that happens to star mermaids. It's a nice little story, and I like that Parson draws the "good" mermaid with hair covering her breasts throughout the story, while the "bad" mermaids don't care about covering up at all. Furth's story about a marriage between two people from different cultures is a bit reactionary - there's a whiff of "people should stick with their own kind" vibe about it, mitigated by the fact that the groom is a total scumbag, but like "Earwig Out!", it's fairly horror-story standard. Unlike that story, O'Connell's straightforward linework doesn't add too much to the story, although her creature is pretty neat. Larson's story of a blow-up sex doll is about as poignant a story in which the star is, you know, a blow-up sex doll can be, which is saying something. I'm sure smarter people than I can figure out what Milligan is doing in "Pop Psychology," but I don't care because Calle's art is so excellent. Celia Calle needs more work, damn it!!!!

See? It's a hodgepodge, as these anthologies inevitably are. That's cool, though, because it's neat to see these creators in one place, doing things that are a bit oddball, even for them. There's something to be said for that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Fuse #12 ("Gridlock Part 6") by Shari Chankhamma (colorist), Ryan Ferrier (letterer), Justin Greenwood (artist), and Antony Johnston (writer); "Tabloid" by Mack Chater (artist), Ryan Ferrier (letterer), Ian Mayor (writer), and Abby Ryder (colorist). $3.50, 23 pgs, FC, Image.

There's that moment in detective stories where the detective cleverly explains everything he knows and we all ooh and aah at his acumen. We all know it's coming, and we all know it's like kohlrabi - probably good for us, but not terribly pleasant.* It's not that I don't appreciate it, because, as is often established in this very column, I'm kind of a dimwit, so I never figure out the murderer in a well-crafted murder mystery** before the detective reveals it all. In the hands of, say, Agatha Christie, this can be a very entertaining part of the book, but one thing it's not is very visual, so when it shows up in a comic, it can be a bit deadly. Johnston alleviates that a bit by using panels from earlier comics to good effect, while the actual confrontation with the killer takes place outside the Fuse, so there's the added bonus of the characters being in the void, with death by asphyxiation seconds away if something really bad happens. Johnston, like movies and television but unlike books, can use images from earlier in the story, but it still is a delicate process. I think Johnston pulls it off, but it's definitely not the most exciting part of the comic. He has Ralph foolishly turn away from the killer (I mean, come on, man, that's Cop 101!), so there's a bit of a chase, and that's where Johnston takes full advantage of the fact that they're not in a gravity-rich environment. So that's neat.

Like a lot of detective stories, I don't remember all the clues (even with the help of the flashbacks) and this will be more fun to read when I know who the killer is when I start, because then I can pick through the narrative a bit. At the end of the issue, Johnston seems to indicate that he'll start getting to why Ralph is on the Fuse in the first place, which he's been teasing since the series began. That should be nice.

I know I'm probably going to be in the bag for The Fuse because I like Johnston and I like hard-boiled detective stories, but it really is a neat comic. It's not filled with action, but there's enough of it, and the cases work well in the setting while still conforming to classic murder mysteries. So there!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

* For years I told my wife, who had never eaten kohlrabi, about my mother's infliction of it on me and my sister. It's not my least favorite vegetable (that would be Brussels sprouts), but it's close, especially as my mom made it with some creamy white sauce that, if I were more precocious, I would have called Satan's Semen. So of course, when my wife finally got around to eating it, she actually liked it. OH, THE BETRAYAL!!!!!

** When I say "well-crafted," I don't mean those shitty television detective stories that I consume like crack (#Caskett 4EVA!!!!), because if you stick to the principle of "The First Person Any Detective Talks To Probably Did It," you'll be right a good 90% of the time). I mean well-crafted, damn it, like Michael Slade's motherfucking Headhunter, one of the most well-crafted and terrifying books I've ever read.

Red One: Welcome to America #2 by Clayton Cowles (letterer), Rachel Dodson (inker), Terry Dodson (penciler/colorist), and *Xavier Dorison (writer). $2.99, 27 pgs, FC, Image.

At the end of this issue, which ends the first "arc" of Red One, "Team Red One" (which is probably Dorison) writes that this is European-style comic, where you get a big slab of comics once a year - there's a hardcover of these two issues coming in June - and then we do it all again in 2016 - he notes that Dodson will start drawing it soon, as soon as he finishes the Princess Leia book. I have no problem with this. What I really would have liked is an actual European-style volume, with the entire story already collected in a nice hardcover, but I guess Image balked at going that far off-model. I would also have appreciated the tiniest bit of closure, as this volume ends almost in the middle of a fight between Vera and the Carpenter. But that's not too big a deal - I do like that Dorison and Dodson are trying this, although I do fear that as far as the American audience has come in the past 15 years with accepting other forms of comics delivery, this still might be beyond them. We shall see!

Dodson does some nice work with Vera kicking a lot of ass in this issue, although I do laugh that she carries around a hammer and sickle - the Carpenter finally calls her on the Commie-ness of her weapons, but no one else has yet. There's a lot of silliness in this issue, from the people at the brothel that she rescues asking her if she'd like to join them to her attempts to be a good employee to Lew even though she doesn't know how to do anything. Dorison shows the differences between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. in funny ways instead of more serious ones, and Vera's fish-out-of-water routine is charming. Dorison leaves another plot thread hanging, as Vera needs to leave one problem to confront the Carpenter, but we'll have to wait a year until we find out what he's doing with that.

This is still an interesting comic mainly because of the high concept - a Soviet agent who enjoys all kinds of sex posing as an American superhero to weaken the country - as Dorison isn't doing too much in terms of character development, as they remain about as deep as a Three's Company episode (to use an analogous series both in time period and sexual connotations). But it's a fun series (yes, even with the violence), and Dodson draws it wonderfully - his action scenes are, naturally, quite fluid, and Vera's battle with the Carpenter is terrific mainly because they're evenly matched. Dodson doesn't overdo the late Seventies aesthetic, but it's there, and it's nice that he doesn't turn this into a parody. It's light-hearted enough without Dodson making fun of the fashion of the time, because making fun of fashion of any particular era is almost the lowest of low-hanging fruit.

I'm slightly disappointed that Dorison chooses to end this the way he does given the format, but that's close enough to being a "me" problem that it doesn't really affect my enjoyment of what's there. Yes, a better resolution probably would have made the wait for next year a bit better, but when that does show up, I can always just re-read these issues, can't I? In the meantime, the collection is in this month's Previews, and it's kind of a nifty comic.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Elektra volume 2: Révérence by W. Haden Blackman (writer), Clayton Cowles (letterer), Marco D'Alfonso (colorist), Michael del Mundo (artist/colorist/letterer), Alex Sanchez (artist), Esther Sanz (colorist), Devin Lewis (assistant editor), and Sana Amanat (editor). $17.99, 120 pgs, FC, Marvel.

The first volume of this was okay, and this second concludes the series. I wish Del Mundo had drawn the entire thing, but such is life, I guess.

Gantz volume 35 by Hiroya Oku (writer/artist). $13.99, 209 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

I'm a few volumes behind on Gantz, so I need to take about ten minutes and read them, because that's really all the time it takes.

The Last West volume 2 by Liezl Buenaventura (colorist), Lou Iovino (creator), Novo Malgapo (artist), Kel Nuttall (letterer), Dinei Ribeiro (colorist), and Evan Young (creator). $14.99, 111 pgs, FC, Alterna Comics.

I mentioned when this was offered in Previews that the first volume was surprisingly strong, so I'm hoping the conclusion will be as well. This is an alternate history tale in which technological advancement ground to a halt in 1945, and it's pretty neat.

Operation Nemesis: A Story of Genocide and Revenge by Josh Blaylock (writer), Greg & Fake Studio (colorist), Nic J. Shaw (letterer), and Hoyt Silva (artist). $18.99, 109 pgs, FC, Devil's Due.

This is a story about one of the men who implemented the Armenian genocide and was killed a few years later as revenge for it. More on this below!

Sunstone volume 2 by Stjepan Sejic (writer/artist) and Betsy Gonia (editor). $14.99, 105 pgs, FC, Image/Top Cow.

I haven't gotten volume 1 yet, so I probably won't read this until I pick that up, but everyone loves a BDSM comedy, right?

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki (writer/artist). $22.95, 274 pgs, BW, Drawn and Quarterly.

I liked the art in This One Summer more than the story, so I figured I'd check out more from Jillian Tamaki. We'll see what's up with this.

Money spent this week: $184.64. YTD: $2147.58.


I wrote very briefly about Operation Nemesis above, and its release was presumably timed to coincide with the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Armenian genocide, which was last Friday, the 24th. The genocide of the Armenians was, for years, overshadowed by the Holocaust and by the fact that the instant the Ottoman Empire crumbled, Turkey embarked on a path that led it to ally itself with many Western states, so it became politically sensitive to mention it, especially because the Turks who took out the Ottoman Empire cooperated with the Allies after World War I, so there was never a wholesale occupation of Turkish territory and therefore the Turkish authorities were able to cover it up a bit better. The Turks' destruction of Smyrna in 1922, for instance, has gotten a lot more press because it was so spectacular and the victims were "Westerners," i.e. the Greeks, while Hitler's famous jibe about the Armenians was all to true for decades. These days, it's more prominent, and it's a shame that Turkey doesn't admit it, when even Turkish historians recognize it as genocide. I get the idea that your ancestors might have done shameful things, but that doesn't mean you yourself did shameful things. I saw recently that Ben Affleck asked PBS to leave out of one of their shows the fact that one of his distant relatives owned slaves. I don't fault Affleck completely, but I wonder who in their right mind would change their view of Affleck depending on whether his ancestors owned slaves or not. I guess the fact that I don't know too much about my family history (nor do I particularly care to find out) means that I'm not influenced by what my great-great-great-grandfather might have done back in Lithuania, but this obsession with a past that has nothing to do with you is strange. The Turkish government today is not anything like the Turkish government of 1915-1917. Why they won't admit that the murder of the Armenians was a genocide when everyone knows that it was is annoying and a bit childish.

Speaking of anniversaries, 30 April was the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, ending the Vietnam War. I read a book about the fall of the city years ago, in the late 1980s, and it really resonated with me. I've been interested in the war ever since (I was not interested in it after seeing First Blood, although reading that book did make me see Apocalypse Now, which is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I guess that's something), especially the Vietnam side of it. I'm not as interested in the American servicemen except in how they interacted with the Vietnamese. It's a strange and depressing war, and I just hope our imperial adventure in the Middle East gets as much treatment in the years to come as Vietnam has. I still don't get how it could damage our national psyche so much that we've spent four decades looking for easy wars to win. But that's just me, I guess.

I actually wrote something mildly political on Facebook the other day, which I rarely do because the Internet is generally not a great place for political discourse. I didn't get a lot of blowback, which was nice. I mentioned that I generally don't like violence to make political points, but that violence doesn't exist in a vacuum, and the riots in Baltimore are not just people looking to loot, but a response to something that happens far too often. I mentioned that the men who carried out the Boston Tea Party were rioters who destroyed other people's property and the only reason we don't condemn them is hindsight. A few of my friends from high school took some issue with that, but we had a decent discussion about it in the comments, and it never got nasty, which was nice. The one point that I can't believe people who are more likely to condemn the protestors because they're supportive of police is that it's clear there's corruption in police forces, yet trying to reform it is met with anger, denial, and stonewalling. If you are very supportive of the police, wouldn't you want them to be above reproach? I mean, I'm not even a teacher anymore, but I get very depressed when I read about teachers abusing their positions (usually sexually) and I want them gone and better safeguards put in place to stop this from happening, because you have to be able to trust teachers. Shouldn't you be able to trust cops? Yet when "reasonable" people "reasonably" talk about police reform, a lot of people put their fingers in their ears and say "La-la-la-la," and that leads to "unreasonable" people using violence. A person I'm fairly close to is married to a cop, and she's very pro-police. Does she want her husband tarred with the same brush because some cops are corrupt? Shouldn't she be angrier about police abuse than I am? I guess it's just that pro-police people don't believe in the corruption, even though it's very clear that it's happening. That's just too bad.

If you're at all interested in how my daughter's doing since her back surgery ... well, she's doing okay. This week has been a pain because she's had a fever since Monday (it has gone down into the normal range occasionally, but she can't quite kick it), and so we're fretting about it a lot. We finally took her to the ER on Thursday night, but they couldn't find anything in her blood, urine, or on X-ray that would point to a cause of the fever. Underneath her incision there's quite a bit of fluid build-up, but the ER doctors weren't specialized enough to know if that was bad or good. I called the orthopedic surgery clinic on Friday, and the medical assistant told me that all the surgeons were out of town, but she didn't think it was too abnormal to have fluid there - although she didn't say it was normal, either, as everyone responds to surgery differently. Mia already has an appointment next week to get her stitches out, so she'll see the surgeon who operated on her and he can enlighten us, but the medical assistant told me that if anything changes for the worse, we can take her back to the ER and the on-call orthopedic doctor can take a look at her. She's not coughing or vomiting or having diarrhea, so I'm not freaking out, but I do wish her fever would go down. This put the kibosh on sending her back to school on Monday, because she's still not sitting for as long as we'd want her to and, of course, if she still has a fever, she can't go to school anyway. We'll just have to wait and see and hope we can bring her fever down with Tylenol and Motrin.

I'm not planning on seeing the new Avengers movie any time soon - that doesn't mean I won't, just that I haven't planned on it. The more I read about it, frankly, the less I want to see it. Much as I've gotten burned out on superhero comics, I'm a bit burned out on straight superhero movies - I liked the second Captain America movie, but that was more of a spy thriller, and I liked Guardians of the Galaxy, even though the "superheroic" parts of that were the least interesting ones. This new movie just sounds noisy and bloated and more of the same, and like with superhero comics, do I need to plunk down all that money to sit through millions of computer-generated images punching each other? I mean, the "Can you lift Thor's hammer" drinking game sounds like fun, but I've seen quite a bit of it already, and while I'm perversely fascinated to see the HGTV version of Hawkeye and his wife, Velma Dinkley, it's not enough to get me to plunk down ducats for it. We'll see. I'm still much more jazzed about Mad Max: Fury Road.

That's it for this week, I guess. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope everyone had a grand Free Comic Book Day. It's always a neat thing!

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