What I bought - 29 December 2010

"We met long ago," said Galip. "When we first met, your legs looked so thin and so delicate that I was afraid they would break. Your skin was rough when you were a kid, but as you got older, after we graduated from middle school, your complexion became rosy and incredibly fine. If they took us to the beach on hot summer days when we went crazy from playing indoors, coming back with ice-cream cones we bought at Tarabya, we would scratch letters with our long nails into the salt on each other's arms. I loved the fuzz on your skinny arms. I loved the peachy color of your suntanned legs. I loved the way your hair spilled over your face when you reached for something on the shelf above my head."

"We should have met long ago."

"I used to love the strap marks left on your shoulders by the bathing suit you borrowed from your mother, the way you absentmindedly tugged at your at your hair when you were nervous, the way you caught between your middle finger and thumb a speck of tobacco left by your filterless cigarette on the tip of your tongue, the way your mouth fell open watching a movie, the way you unwittingly scarfed up the roasted garbanzos and nuts in the dish under your hand while you read a book, the way you kept losing your keys, the way you screwed up your eyes to see because you refused to accept you were nearsighted. When you narrowed your eyes on a distant point and absconded for parts unknown, I understood that you were thinking of something else, and I loved you apprehensively. Oh my God! I loved with fear and trepidation what I couldn't know of your mind as much as I loved what I did know." (Orhan Pamuk, from The Black Book)

Abattoir #2 (of 6) by Darren Lynn Bousman (creator), Michael Peterson (conceiver), Rob Levin (writer), Troy Peteri (writer/letterer), Bing Cansino (artist), Rodell Noora (artist), Andrei Pervukhin (colorist), and Draženka Kimpel (colorist). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Radical.

Our hero, Richard Ashwalt, gets pulled further into the weirdness surrounding the murder house he's been told to sell to creepy old dude Jeremiah Crone, who, at the end of last issue, showed up at Richard's house for dinner, freaking him out. He gives Crone the bum's rush, but his boss ends up selling the house to Crone anyway, and Richard's cop friend tells him that they found his fingerprints on a murder weapon (of a murder so far unrelated to the massacre in the house). Richard doesn't know what's going on, but he knows it's connected to the house and Crone, so he goes to the house before he skips town, where he finds something disturbing. There's nothing original about Abattoir, but Levin and Peteri do a decent job building the tension to the final page, which is a bit surprising. As is fairly standard with Radical books, Cansino's and Noora's art is digitally airbrushed by the colorists, giving it a somewhat soft focus and sheen that doesn't really fit too well with the horrific subject matter. Radical has released some good comics, but this isn't one of them. It's possible that it could get better, but so far it's pretty standard-issue unpleasant horror.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Action Comics #896 ("The Black Ring Part Seven"/"Jimmy Olsen's Big Week Day Four") by Paul Cornell (writer, "The Black Ring"), Nick Spencer (writer, "Jimmy Olsen"), Pete Woods (artist, "The Black Ring"), RB Silva (artist, "Jimmy Olsen"), Dym (inker, "Jimmy Olsen"), Brad Anderson (colorist, "The Black Ring"), Dave McCaig (colorist, "Jimmy Olsen"), and Rob Leigh (letterer). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

I'm always curious about the business decisions behind crossovers and which titles they're supposed to help. As many of you know, I've been waiting to see if I'm interested in the trade of Lex Luthor's adventures in Action Comics, because the first issue didn't make me jump up and demand the rest right now!, so I figure I can wait. But I got this because it's a crossover with Secret Six, and I like that book. What's interesting about the next two issues of Secret Six is that they're the final chapters of two separate crossovers - Secret Six #29 will conclude this story, and Secret Six #30 will conclude a crossover with Doom Patrol. So which titles are in trouble? If they're all in trouble, having them cross over with each other makes no sense. I doubt if Action is in any danger - it's one of those books that DC will publish even in the face of the apocalypse, but I wonder. Maybe it's trying to boost Secret Six, which is in turn trying to boost Doom Patrol? I know I could find numbers on The Beat, but I'm lazy and don't feel like it. I just find it interesting that Secret Six is crossing over with two entirely separate titles two months in a row.

I don't really like this issue too much, mainly because it's very much part of Cornell's longer story arc and therefore the presence of the Six seems less like a crossover and more like a guest appearance. I don't mind the Lois the robot and Amanda the possessed person too much, because Cornell does a fairly nice job recapping what's come before, but Lex and Vandal Savage's talking of "happiness" is annoyingly repetitive and obviously has something to do with the rest of the arc. If the Six are there only to guard Lex and the final part of the story is going to focus on Vandal Savage and his antipathy toward Lex, there's no reason for this not to be a "guest-starring" turn and I could safely ignore it. We shall see.

Everyone's been gushing about the Jimmy Olsen back-up, and I guess it's fine - it's goofy fun, and Silva's art - hair styles aside - is nice and clean. Even though Spencer admits that it's very sitcommish, that doesn't change the fact that it's a bit sitcommish and therefore kind of dumb. The few panels where Jimmy gives Maggie a tour of the places where he's been turned into other things is clever, though. It's a perfectly okay story, but nothing too special.

This is one of the reasons why I'm waiting for the trade on the Lex Luthor adventure in Action. Very little moves the plot forward in this book, and it feels very much part of a greater whole. So, once again, I'm skipping the single issues. What's the point of buying them?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #4 (of 6) ("Another Fine Mess Part Four") by Jason Aaron (writer), Adam Kubert (penciler), Mark Roslan (digital inker), Justin Ponsor (colorist), and Rob Steen (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Action Comics actually got the most votes from the readers for the book I should buy this week, but as I forgot it was a "crossover," I was going to get it anyway, and this book got one fewer vote, so I picked this up. I decided when this was first solicited that I was going to buy the trade of this, because I have a feeling it will be priced in the $18-20 range (for six issues, or about $3 an issue) rather than the $24-25 range (for $4 an issue), especially the softcover version. Plus, the schedule was already bi-monthly, so it was going to be slow anyway, so why shouldn't I wait until it's all done? Finally, it seems really convoluted, with the time travel and all, so I knew if I got it in single issue format, I'd forget a lot of what happens. That's just the way I am.

But I also heard really good things about it, because Aaron and Kubert are just going absolutely nuts with it - Dr. Doom transplanting his consciousness into Ego, the Living Planet, for instance. But it's also very well suited for the trade - the bad guys in this are very much unexplained, and I assume we already know who they are or will find out in another issue. They live at the end of time, run into other versions of themselves, and are very capable of taking out our heroes. Meanwhile, Wolverine and Spider-Man have been placed into each other's histories, meaning Wolverine wrestles Peter Parker before he becomes Spider-Man and Spider-Man is hunted down in a snowstorm when Logan was still in his wild animal phase. They end up tied to a stake in some Renaissance town, where the real villain (maybe?) is revealed (and I'm not going to give it away, but I always thought this bad guy could be such a great villain and he's only been used well infrequently). It's all very wacky, but Aaron and Kubert don't compromise one iota, so it works wonderfully well. I would still recommend getting the trade because it's obviously a six-chapter story and it will be just as crazy in a collected edition, but if Marvel is going to allow their creators to go balls-out like this, I really want to encourage them. Aaron seems to have this kind of streak in him, a love of pure insane superhero weirdness, that he enjoys indulging. It's quite different than, say, Scalped, but it's neat that Marvel is letting him do this. So, yeah. This is kind of what I figured it would be. And I'm looking forward to the trade!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Detective Comics #872 ("The Black Mirror Part Two of Three"/"Skeleton Cases Part 2 of 3") by Scott Snyder (writer), Jock (artist, "Black Mirror"), Francesco Francavilla (artist/colorist, "Skeleton Cases"), David Baron (colorist, "Black Mirror"), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

Snyder is presenting a very interesting mystery, as Dick tries to figure out who's selling villain-related items and gets into an auction for a very crucial Bat-related weapon, where he finds more than he bargained for. It's a nifty story, as Dick is still feeling out being the Batman of Gotham City and trying to connect with everyone, including Tim Drake and Harvey Bullock. The use of gas masks is an ingenious touch. Snyder seems to make it clear that the surprise guest star in the second story is NOT the bad guy in the first, but who knows, really - I don't care too much. I am wondering if what Barbara says about the surprise guest star is part of Bat-lore or if Snyder is making it up. It seems fairly important, so I wonder where it came from. Does anyone know?

Jock and Francavilla are, of course, wonderful artists to have on this book. Jock's odd panel layouts and jagged art works well for the prickly lead story, while Francavilla is always nice to see on a pulpy kind of tale, which the second one is. As I always mention when Francavilla does art, he colors his art exceptionally well, so after last issue's deep blues we get reds and purples, and the final image of the issue is a wonderful contrast of tone. I love seeing very deliberate and unusual color choices, and Francavilla does it very well.

I know special people like Tim Callahan have some knowledge of what Snyder is planning with Detective, because he's such a cool guy, but I like taking these one issue at a time, and Snyder has done a very good job with his first two issues. I'm eager to see how this story plays out, because it's a fairly creepy one, and who doesn't like creepy stories?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Elephantmen #29 ("Questionable Things Part Six of Seven: Worse Things") by Richard Starkings (writer), Axel Medellin (artist), Marian Churchland (artist), and Gregory Wright (colorist). $3.50, 28 pgs, FC, Image.

Starkings slows down just a bit (there's still violence, of course, but less than the previous few issues) to focus once again on the ladies of Elephantmen, as he reveals more of the history between Sahara and the woman who looks like her and occasionally pretends to be her so Sahara can wander the city, plus checks in on Miki and Vanity as they deal with their encounters with the androids that have left them a bit scarred. Vanity is far worse off than Miki - she feels like she's going crazy, and then the simm shows up at her door and causes some problems before Sahara, serendipitously, shows up. Meanwhile, Miki goes to the hybrid bar we've seen before and learns a bit about the divisions within elephantmen society. It's always impressive that Starkings can keep all these plot threads going until he focuses on them, and this issue is no exception. These plots have been taking a back seat to the problems Hip and Ebony are having with Mappo, but he's still checked in on them, so when he does focus back in on them, we know still what's going on. It's why each issue of Elephantmen feels so packed - Starkings has a lot going on, but because he takes his time and doesn't rush it, we are always up to date on what's happening. The erratic schedule for the book probably makes reading the trades easier, but I've never been lost when I get an issue, which is nice.

Medellin continues to do a nice job with the art - the first few pages are very well done, as he shows Vanity slowly realizing that she might not be right in the head. Later in the book, strangely enough, his style changes, or at least becomes lusher and warmer, which might be Wright's influence. It's weird - it's four pages of the different style, and I thought it might be because it's a flashback, but the last two pages take place "in the present," so I'm not sure why the style changes. It's not a bad style at all, but it might be more time-intensive, which is why Medellin doesn't do it all the time. Given that Churchland draws 10 of the 26 pages of the main story, maybe Medellin isn't that fast. Beats me. It's an interesting shift, but I can't explain it.

As always, many thanks to Starkings for sending this to me. And as always, it remains a strong series that keeps unfolding with more and more avenues of story for Starkings to pursue. After 29 issues, in many ways it feels like he's just warming up!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Feeding Ground #2 (of 6) ("Part Two: What Still Remains") by Chris Mangun (writer/layouter/letterer), Swifty Lang (writer), and Michael Lapinski (artist/layouter). $3.95, 27 pgs, FC, Archaia.

There's a lot to like about Feeding Ground - as Lang puts it in an essay in the back of the book, the landscape is as much a part of horror as the characters, and the Arizona/Sonora desert is a good location, because of its unforgiving nature and its place as a flashpoint for so much of U.S. politics these days. There's a lot going on in this issue and this series so far, and most of it remains unexplained - the presence of werewolves (possibly), the experimentation on humans that may turn them into werewolves, the lord of the manor back in Mexico, the coyote (not the animal) who seems to know quite a bit about what's going on, the border agent who also seems to know quite a bit about what's going on. It hasn't cohered into a strong narrative yet, but Lang and Mangun (however they split the writing chores) are building an interesting mood, one that might not carry the book through its run but is rather fascinating. Lapinski, meanwhile, has some issue with action, which is something all artists who rely on photo-referencing struggle with, but he has done a very good job setting the scenes where the action plays out and colors the book very well - it feels oppressive and hot, and believe someone who lives near this area, getting that tone is very difficult to do.

I don't know how the writers will pull this all together, but while some people might want things to, you know, hurry up a bit, they give us enough interesting plot threads (a gun goes off and someone dies! a man in bondage! a corpse that ... well, see below!) that I'm perfectly willing to be patient. I hear it's a virtue!

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto #4 ("The Man Behind the Mask") by Brett Matthews (writer), Neil Turitz (writer), Esteve Polls (artist), Sergio Cariello (artist), Marcelo Pinto (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $4.99, 32 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

Before Matthews wraps up his Western opus, we get one more Lone Ranger and Tonto special, as a reporter wanders Texas to find people who have encounted Mr. Reid and what they think of him. That's it. You might think that's a pretty lame excuse to add some pages and charge more, but you're probably not enjoying the regular series anyway, as it often eschews words for many, many silent panels that simply build the mood. So this issue is a nice breather before the final issue, as Lowell Weiss rides the rails, talks to several people, and comes up with a contradictory but strangely complete portrait of the masked man. We can tell instantly what the story will be like, and it's fun seeing the way different people describe the hero (the prostitute's vision of John Reid is probably the most fun, but the kid's is pretty fun too). The art duties are divided well - Polls takes the reporter's travels, while Cariello draws the stories the people tell about Reid, which gives him a chance to have some fun with their versions. This kind of story is as old as the hills, but that doesn't mean it's not effective. All of these specials fit nicely into the regular series, and this one is a nice companion to the final issue. Well, I assume it will be, as the final issue hasn't come out yet. But that doesn't faze me!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scalped #44 ("The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down") by Jason Aaron (writer), Davide Furnò (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Aaron checks back in on Agent Nitz, who's having a really bad day. He gets fired because all his agents are either dead, missing, or compromised, and when he confronts Red Crow, he finds out his target already knows he's been fired and therefore isn't worried about him. The story begins with Nitz staggering around in the snow with a gun, but he's too cowardly to pull the trigger. This leads to ... well, redemption. Sort of.

The reason I don't like this issue of Scalped as much as the usual, random issue of Scalped is because the deus ex machina seems a bit silly. I mean, I didn't think Nitz would actually kill himself, because he's too crucial to the series, but the way he drags himself up from the gutter seems a bit far-fetched. I know far-fetched weirdness happens all the time in real life, but Aaron is pushing it a little here. I would have liked Nitz to regain his zest for life in a more realistic fashion, because this way seems awfully random. But that's just me.

The other reason I don't like the way Nitz gets his groove back is because Aaron needed him to re-focus on Red Crow and, more importantly, get the FBI to re-focus on him after the wreck his investigation has become, but this seems like a strange direction to take, given what we know about Red Crow and his predilections. I know, I'm not making much sense, because I don't want to give it away even though I don't like it. That's just my thing. But let's move on. One misstep in a great series doesn't screw things up, after all!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Warriors #23 ("Rebirth Part One") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Alessandro Vitti (artist), Imaginary Friends Studio (colorist), Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I'm a bit puzzled why Secret Warriors has switched cover artists. Paul Renaud has a similar style to Jim Cheung, but the fact that Cheung was only drawing half a cover and it's not like he's drawing eight different monthly books means that time shouldn't be an issue. It's just weird. Especially when the series has very few issues left.

Anyway, Hickman checks in on Sebastian Druid, who was unceremoniously fired a while back but discovers, as John Garrett tells him, that there's no real way to retire from Fury's gig (see below). He was dumped because he was portly, and it's Garrett's job to get him into shape. Which he does. This leads to a convergence with the end of the "Night" storyline, as Sebastian helps the trapped agents get the hell out of Dodge, impressing them with his new-found skillz. It's a pretty cool issue - we see a lot of "behind-the-scenes" stuff that fits into the grand narrative, and it ends with a nice gut punch after Fury tells Daisy what he knows about the mission. And who doesn't love the special bullet Sebastian makes for Garrett?

I'm glad this series has gotten better as Hickman has built this world, and I'm looking forward to the final issues to see where he goes with it. I'm still not totally in love with Hickman's Marvel work, but he's definitely doing some keen stuff with their toys.

One totally Airwolf panel:

S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 ("The Forgotten Machines of Nikola Tesla") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Dustin Weaver (artist), Christina Strain (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Sigh. I have mentioned this before, and I'll mention it again: Why are comic book writers obsessed with Nikola Tesla? He shows up in this issue (hence the name of the story), and I'm just plain sick of him. Wouldn't it be fun to see Philo Farnsworth show up in a few comics as the tragically underappreciated scientist? Tesla seems to be the comic book writer's go-to scientist simply because he's not Thomas Edison. Are there no other late 19th/early 20th-century scientists who were screwed over by Edison? Sigh.

I'm certainly not going to let my vexation with Tesla showing up everywhere to stop me from reading this, because this continues to be such a wildly entertaining series. Hickman catches us up with Howard Stark and Nathaniel Richards, who disappeared with Leonid's father a few issues ago - it turns out they were thrown far into the future and are now stuck there. We also find out why Tony Stark is such a dick - his father (grandfather?) was one, too! In the meantime, Weaver throws in four consecutive double-paged spreads tracking a few years in the battle of wills between Leonardo and Newton, and it's tremendous. Weaver still has a few problems with angular faces and a lack of detail in some places (which wouldn't bug me if the rest of the book weren't so incredibly detailed), but for the most part, he continues to dazzle on this book, especially with the settings in which the characters move. The future where Richards and Stark find themselves is amazing and alien, throwing them off their games but also stimulating them, because they're explorers, after all, and Hickman and Weaver do a nice job with both their disorientation and excitement with this new world.

I still have no idea what to make of S.H.I.E.L.D., because it's so wacky. You can have your conventional Fantastic Four, as long as you buy it enough to allow Hickman to go off and play in this bizarre sandbox. This is where it's at, man!!!!

One totally Airwolf panel:

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas if that's your bag. I got an iPad, which I wasn't expecting at all, so that was nice. I haven't started playing with it too much, but I'm looking forward to it. As I am an old person, I won't be doing anything on New Year's Eve (actually, I've never done much on that night, but now, at least, I can blame it on being old), but I will be watching the Penn State game on Saturday. Remember to cheer for the good guys in college football!

I'll have a Top Ten list soon enough - I still haven't read everything I need to, so I always lag behind on these things. I thought I got my list in for the CBR countdown in time, but either I didn't or my little blurbs just weren't terribly interesting, because while Kiel has been quoting other bloggers here left and right, I'm out in the cold. I sent it to him on Saturday, and he said it needed to be in by the end of the weekend, but maybe he ignored it (the original deadline was last Wednesday, and I didn't have it in by then, obviously). I choose to believe that my list was so awesome he would have had to ignore everyone else's to include mine!!!! Don't disabuse me of that notion, please - it's all I have left to cling to!

It's another installment of The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Whirling Dervish" - Thin White Rope (1990) "At last I see the ghosts which have been with me all along, spinning on an axis pointed straight up at the sun"2. "One More Minute" - "Weird Al" Yankovic (1985) "And I burned down the malt shop where we used to go just because it reminds me of you"3. "Abigail, Belle of Kilronan" - Magnetic Fields (1999) "An evil wind is blowing through the land and they need every man to drive it away"4. "Jackson" - Lucinda Williams (1998) "Once I get to Baton Rouge I won't cry a tear for you"5. "The Entertainer" - Billy Joel (1974) "I've played all kinds of palaces and laid all kinds of girls"16. "Baby Can I Hold You" - Tracy Chapman (1988) "Years gone by and still words don't come easily"7. "Purple Haze" - The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967) "Am I happy or in misery?"8. "Romeo Delight" - Van Halen (1980) "Wanna see my ID? try to clip my wings; don't have to show you proof o' anything ... I know the law, son"29. "The Difference (In the Garden of St. Anne's-on-the-Hill)" - King's X (1989) "No words were spoken, just a feeling, and I cannot explain"10. "Truth Hits Everybody" - The Police (1978) "And I don't want to make a fuss about it; the only certain thing in life is death"

1 Check out Billy's 'fro!2 Dave obviously doesn't live in Sheriff Joe's Arizona!

It's the final totally random lyrics of the year! But will it be ... the last ever?!?!?!?!? I've been doing these for almost two-and-a-half years, and I've only repeated one band, I think - I screwed up and did "You Got Another Thing Coming" by Judas Priest twice. I've tried very hard not to repeat bands, and while I know there are thousands of singing acts I haven't featured, it's getting harder all the time. I might change things up a bit, but we'll see. Right now, check these out!

"Black eyes was wrong, I say 'OK'I’m in love with my girl, she is awayMan, got to move on, man, you got to move on, manI need your help, I need your love todayOnce I was blind, now I can seeNow that you’re in love with meYou made a believer out of me, babe"

These might be really difficult, but they're also the only real lyrics in this song, and they get repeated a lot, so who knows - they might lurk somewhere deep in your consciousness!

Next month I might do my weekly reviews or I might take the month off, like I did a few years ago. I'm definitely considering something rather crazy, but I have some credit at my store, so it might be the perfect time. We shall see. Thanks for another fun year of reviewing - I really do love the feedback, even the angry, sarcastic feedback! We're all friends here, right? Feel free to let loose about my horrible, horrible taste whenever you want - I can handle it!

Crisis: Why Did The Flash Have to Die to Save Infinite Earths?

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