What I bought - 29 February 2012

In short, Roberto privately concluded, if you would avoid wars, never make treaties of peace. (Umberto Eco, from The Island of the Day Before)

If you're wondering if there's something a little ... off about today's Airwolf panels, blame Mike Sterling. That's always the best course of action anyway!

Green Wake #10 by Kurtis Wiebe (writer), Riley Rossmo (artist), and Kelly Tindall (colorist/letterer). $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Image/Shadowline.

Green Wake comes to an end, as Jim Valentino lets us know at the end of the issue, which is too bad. It's been a nifty little horror comic that has a lot of interesting parts to it, but I guess it just never caught on enough to justify more stories. I wonder if it was a mistake for Wiebe and Rossmo to bring Morley back after his arc seemed to be complete, but it's too tempting for a creator to get more issues than what he (or she) expected, so I guess that's the way it is. They do manage to wrap things up fairly well, and the identity of that weird frog-like being is interesting, and Rossmo's art is a wonderful as ever, so there's that to look forward to if you plan to get the trade. Wiebe and Rossmo are beginning another series in July, and I'll be looking forward to that. We'll see if it does any better!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Orc Stain #7 ("Through Mondo Pass") by James Stokoe (writer/artist/colorist/letterer). $2.99, 31 pgs, FC, Image.

Well, it's been a long wait for issue #7 of Orc Stain (issue #6 came out in April, if I remember right), but dang, it's totally worth it. I would love even just two issues a year of this book if Stokoe could handle it, because it's so motherfucking awesome. He puts in two double-page spreads which put the cheap ones that DC is padding its books with to shame - I imagine those four pages took him six months by themselves, which might be why the book is so late. Stokoe does a nice job with the recap page bringing us up to speed, and when the issue itself is 31 pages long, it's packed with content in its own right, making this very much worth the wait.

When last we left One-Eye and Bowie, our favorite orc had confronted an old enemy, Beard, while Bowie had woken up the weird mountain monster, which then wreaked major havoc in the orc town (Bowie hates orcs, so she's happy to help slaughter them). To begin this issue, we get a flashback to when One-Eye (with two eyes at this point) was still working for/currying favor with Beard, and then Stokoe transitions beautifully back to the present, showing us their battle. Bowie decides she's intrigued by One-Eye, so she sends her pet/slave/scarf Zuzu to help him, and it turns out that Zuzu can kick some major ass. Once they've escaped, One-Eye agrees to let Bowie study him (his remaining eye has some unusual properties), and they head into the mountains to cross the Mondo Pass, where lives a feared creature that litters the entrance to the pass with the skulls of its slain. Of course, One-Eye and Bowie (and the orcs that are chasing them) come face to face with the creature ... but what happens next will have to wait another year until issue #8 comes out!

One would think that Stokoe's art is the sole reason to get this book, and it's a big reason (check out his blog up there for more examples of his art, including a few devastatingly awesome Spider-Man pages) - as usual, his details are incredible, and his attention to the points of this world are amazing: In the Orc Stain world, everything is alive, so it's fun to look at the weapons the orcs are holding. The scenes in which Zuzu is "bonded" to One-Eye are superb, flowing wonderfully from panel to panel while remaining stunning pieces of art on their own. The two double-page spreads are earned, one because it's a great transition from the flashback to the present, showing how One-Eye remains a warrior even without one eye, the second because it shows the immensity of the orc army arriving in the area. Stokoe doesn't waste any space whatsoever, and it's a joy to page through one of his comics.

His writing is pretty good, too. He sets things up very well, keeping everything moving but still managing to get a lot of information to us, and the banter between Bowie and Zuzu and later Bowie and One-Eye (with Zuzu making disparaging remarks) is excellent. With many comics that take a long time to come out, I tend to forget what's going on, but Stokoe's recap page and the way he writes this issue brings it all back, and that's a good thing. Considering that gaps like these might be common on this book, I'd say that's a good thing.

Plus, the book smells good. Never underestimate the power of smell!

I can't fault anyone for waiting for the trade on this, because it's frustrating not getting the complete story in a relatively short period of time, but I would also point out that so far, the two actual issues of Orc Stain I've bought (I got the trade of the first five issues) have been bursting with great pages that make it less important to get the whole story because the journey is so cool. I can wait for the story to resolve because each issue is so damned excellent!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

One totally Airwolf panel:

Pigs #6 ("Fred") by Nate Cosby (writer), Ben McCool (writer), Breno Tamura (artist), Will Sliney (artist), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

So there's the cover that was too controversial to show in Previews. In case you were wondering.

I wrote last time that Pigs wasn't clicking for me, and it still isn't. I'm getting the next two issues because I pre-ordered them, but I don't think I'll be continuing after that. It just doesn't seem like Cosby and McCool have a good handle on how to pace this book. Every issue has been focused on the mission so far, with a tiny bit of character development, but so little happens in far too many issues, and then there are issues that feel overstuffed with action, and the herky-jerky pace never feels right. In this issue, for instance, we don't really get a lot about the characters (we get a little about the two women on the team - Havana and Ekatarina - but not much), but nothing actually happens. Havana, somehow, knows that the guy they sent into San Quentin to murder the dude they're supposed to murder was found out and butchered by that Nazi dude on the cover (his name's Fred), so the team figures they have to go in themselves. But they don't go in, at least not in this issue. We don't know how Havana knew that their first plan didn't work. Basically, the entire issue shows the team sitting around (there are two pages where Viktor and Aleksandr kill some dudes, but even that's kind of dull) waiting to break into a prison. We find out that Havana and Ekatarina had a rivalry over Felix when they were young, and I assume Ekatarina still carries a torch for Felix even though he's married, but to stretch that out over the course of an entire issue is pushing it a little. Unlike Orc Stain, which takes a really long time to read because it's both ridiculously detailed and contains a lot of development, you can fly through Pigs in a minute or two and feel like you've gotten everything you need out of it. We still don't know who the target is (at least we get a scene with him, but we don't know why he's been targeted) and we don't care enough about Felix and Ekatarina yet for their scene together to have an impact. If you're going to do an issue where everyone is sitting around and waiting for the prison break-in, you better make the dialogue really good. It's not, though.

I'm disappointed by Pigs, because the first issue was pretty cool and the idea of a Communist sleeper cell causing problems in the U.S. remains a good one. The execution just isn't there, however. I hope that the next two issues pick up, but I doubt they will.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scalped #56 ("Trail's End Part One") by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

On page 3 of this issue, the caption reads "Eight months later." I'm kind of surprised Aaron did that, but it works - after last issue, the resolution of this series needs to come when Red Crow is going to go on trial, and the wheels of justice move slowly in these here United States of North America! This also allows Aaron to reset the status quo just a little, as we catch up with the principals and discover how Red Crow might, just might, get away with murder. I don't want to write too much about this issue (have I already written too much?), but I will say a couple of things: I love that a plus-size woman is totally enjoying some sex in this issue, and Red Crow continues to be one of the most fascinating characters in comics. Dang, this is a cool comic book series.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #4 (of 6) ("The Long Con") by Nick Spencer (writer), Wes Craig (artist), Sam Kieth (artist), Hi-Fi (colorist), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Sam Kieth continues to be a strange artist. Some of his work is superb, and some just looks so sloppy that I wonder why he even got out of bed to draw it. Presumably, he's getting paid some decent money by DC to draw five (5) pages of issue #4 of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, so why does it look so sloppy? If you go back and look at some of the best Kieth art (recently, that would be on My Inner Bimbo, but there are other examples), it's wonderful, and while it might take a bit longer, he only had to do five (5) pages of this issue, so why phone it in? I pick on writers for getting neutered when they go to work for the Big Two because they can't upset the apple cart too much, but why that should extend to artists, especially ones who are only drawing five (5) pages, makes no sense. It's not completely awful art, but when I know Kieth can do a lot better, it really bothers me.

Kieth's part of the book flashes back to Professor Jennings faking his own death and going to Subterranea, where he eventually began working for Demo, the big bad villain of the series. However, in the present, we learn that he's not really working for him, but he isn't working for the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents anymore, either. He's trying to stop the two sides from killing the innocent populace of Subterranea, but of course, NoMan doesn't want to hear it. Meanwhile, an Agent dies (as they do) saving another, and Toby acts kind of like a douchebag. Because that's when he's most awesome! Of course there's a big twist at the end, but it makes sense when we consider the entire history of this short series. Once again, it's clear that this is not a mini-series for those people who didn't read the earlier ongoing, but if that's the way it has to be, that's the way it has to be!

Overall, this is an entertaining and exciting mini-series even though it's not really breaking any new ground in the medium of serial storytelling. That's okay, though. I just wish Kieth's art was better. Is that too much to ask?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gantz vol. 21 by Hiroya Oku (writer/artist). $12.99, 200 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

So, in this volume of Gantz, the team meets another team, who act very blasé about the threats they are confronted with and are kind of the "regular" team's evil doppelgängers: they smoke weed, they stand around while the monsters kill innocent bystanders, they rape one of the aliens who looks like a hot chick ... but then they run into a monster that pretty much slaughters them all, so that's all right. Most of the volume concerns Kaze and his search for the little boy, Takeshi, who went into the war zone before the rest of them, and it's fun to see Takeshi finally figure out how to use his suit. Generally, though, it's Gantz. This is what every issue pretty much looks like:


So Davy Jones died yesterday at 66. Jones, of course, is most famous for playing "Nigel" of Tiny Cowboy on Phineas and Ferb, where he sang about meatloaf. Wait, you mean he did something else before that?

In less terminal news, the Oscars were this past weekend. I watched absolutely none of the broadcast. I'm not sure what the appeal is, either, and I like movies. I didn't watch any of the Super Bowl either, and some people do even if their teams aren't playing or they don't like football. It makes no sense. Anyway, I guess the big deal was Angelina Jolie was showing some leg, and people went nuts. Here are some of the best ways people have paid tribute to it, and here's an actual news story about it. Here are some other photo bombs. This might be my favorite one:

Here is a comic strip about an Oregon Trail family road trip. Yes, from back in the pioneer days.

I'm sure you've always wondered why we poor Yanks don't get to see celebrity commercials, because the famous people all go overseas (Japan, quite often) to make them, but thanks to the Internet, you can check a bunch of them out. Some are from when the actors were already famous, but a few (Yvonne Strahovski and Naomi Watts, for instance) are from when they were just getting started, so of course we might have missed them! Speaking of commercials, Carl's Jr. continues to be really, really good at them.

My kooky daughter, conspiring with my lovely wife, got her ears pierced this past weekend. I was trying to get her to hold off until she turned 13, but in that area, I suppose I had no say whatsoever. Oh well. Here she is, looking adorable as usual:

We've had a bit of a kerfuffle here in Arizona recently, as the Superintendent of Schools shut down a controversial ethnic studies program in Tucson's school district even though it's not technically a violation of state law. Opponents of the program claim it promotes hatred of the United States because it teaches kids about their heritage as Mexicans or Native Americans, but instead of simply teaching pride in that heritage, it casts the U.S. as villains. I don't know about that - both sides claim their interpretation of the class is correct, of course, and I've certainly never sat in on a class - but what's interesting is that supporters of the program were gathering in Phoenix on Wednesday (actually, all over the country, I guess) to read passages from the books used in the curriculum, which they claim have been "banned." Interestingly enough, an Arizona State teacher wrote an op-ed piece in Tuesday's paper supporting the "read-in day" even though she admitted the books have not been banned. Wrote Karen Leong:

[T]he Arizona Ethnic Studies Network [hey, it's their web site!] has designated Feb. 29 a National Read-In Day to protest the Tucson Unified School District's decision to ban particular books from being taught in the classroom, even as we celebrate the knowledge and historical experiences contained in these books.

For years, the books were taught by teachers in TUSD's Mexican American Studies Department. No more. While a handful of copies remain available in the district's school libraries, teaching Mexican American studies at TUSD was outlawed in January -- resulting in a de facto ban of these texts -- all because the books' authors dared to challenge readers' assumptions about what they think they know when it comes to our country's history and culture.

Did you like that? Ms. Leong herself admits that the books have not been banned. The books are available in libraries, but because the classes are no longer being taught, the books are "banned." I wonder how two sides in this country can even find common ground when one side - the supporters of the program - call the Superintendent "Orwellian" - which they have - and fail to see the irony in that statement when they speak of these books being banned. Absolutely no one is stopping students from going to the library and checking the books out for themselves. Personally, I don't think high school is the place for such specialized studies - primary education is for laying down the foundation of knowledge, whether it's learning 2+2 or the fact that the Declaration of Independence was a pretty good thing, and college is for tearing all that crap down (imaginary numbers? Alien and Sedition Acts?) (and, okay, I learned about those things in high school, but only after I learned the basics!). If you'll allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment, part of the problem with education in this country is that we're teaching far too many esoteric subjects when kids aren't ready for them (some, I'm sure, were, but the majority ... maybe not). I have no doubt that this program was not as bad as the opponents claimed it was. But I wonder if the kids were not ready for such critical thinking about the institutions of our country, because, let's face it, a lot of people who run our country aren't ready for critical thinking about the institutions of our country. I hope to teach Norah critical thinking, but she needs to know her multiplication tables and the amendments of the Constitution first. Okay, I'm off my soapbox now!

And when I get off the soapbox, it's time to find out The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Them Toad Suckers" - Mason Williams (1964) "Suckin' them bog frogs sure makes 'em happy!"2. "Ring the Bells" - James (1992) "Got to tell the world we've all been dreaming"3. "Keep Your Lamps" - 1989 All-Eastern Choir (traditional slave spiritual) "Children don't get weary, the time is drawing nigh"4. "Love" - The Cult (1985) "Gonna drive away won't get too far"5. "Hey Boss" - Hamell on Trial (2006) "And I hung him by his organs out the window in the breeze"6. "Deconstruction" - Indigo Girls (2002) "And as for the truth, it seems like we just pick a theory"7. "Far Away Boys" - Flogging Molly (2000) "Lyin' in your place was my hammer and my gear"8. "Independence Day" - Elliott Smith (1998) "You only live a day, but it's brilliant anyway"9. "The Roof Is Leaking" - Phil Collins (1981) "But spring'll soon be here ... Oh God, I hope it's not late"10. "Semaphore" - James (2008) "He'd tell you he was sorry, if that made good the hurt"

Well, that was fun, wasn't it? Let's do it again next week, when I'm sure there will be more comics to review! It is, after all, a fifth week. Hmmm. I wonder when February last had five Wednesdays in it? It's an odd set of circumstances for that to happen! Have a nice day celebrating the first day of March, everyone!

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