What I bought - 29 January 2014

Gentle winced. "That's not religion, it's masochism."

"And masochism isn't a religion?" the other replied. "You surprise me." (Clive Barker, from Imajica)

Black Science #3 by Rick Remender (writer), Matteo Scalera (artist), Dean White (colorist), Rus Wooton (letterer), and Sebastian Griner (editor). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Remender ends this issue very oddly. We already know what happened with the Pillar when it activated and scattered the Dimensionauts (which is what some members of the team call them in this issue, so why not) across realities, so the fact that Remender ends this issue with the Pillar activating and scattering the Dimensionauts across realities and acts as if this is some kind of cliffhanger is very odd. It's perfectly fine that he's going back and showing us what a douchebag Grant is and how his kids end up on the mission with them and how the Pillar malfunctioned in the first place (not why, though - I assume that's a mystery of the book), but to treat it as if we're supposed to believe that something horrible will happen because the Pillar activates is kind of weird - we already know that the group comes through the dimension-hopping in one piece, even though they're having some issues once they reach other dimensions. And where's Grant's wife? We know she hopped across dimensions, but because we haven't seen much of her so far, it didn't seem like she was with the group at the end. Did I miss her, or is that some other mystery that will haunt the group? Meanwhile, things go from bad to worse in the present, but we kind of knew they would.

Scalera and White continue to knock it out of the park, art-wise. I've been critical of White's coloring in the past, but for some reason, he's working really well with Scalera. I've written it before, and I'll wonder again if it's because Scalera's more jagged work resists White's smoothing, so they create a frisson that White doesn't have with other artists. I know I'm in the minority, but this is what I'd like to see on more Marvel books that White colors - a nice, broad palette but an artist whose style remains the same instead of becoming too "realistic." Scalera's art is comic book art, and that's a good thing. I mean, that first page - the impressionistic paints of White combined with the harsh edges of Scalera give us an absolutely gorgeous cityscape, and it only gets better from there.

Anyway, Black Science is still a cool comic. I found it humorous that a lot of people in the letters wrote about Fear Agent - I kept wondering if Remender would write back, "You know, I've written a lot of other stuff, too. Doesn't anyone want to talk about Strange Girl or Sea of Red?" That would have been funny.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Bounce #9 by Gaetano Carlucci (inker), Joe Casey (writer), Sonia Harris (graphic designer/story consultant), David Messina (penciller), Giovanni Niro (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Casey gets informative in this issue, as The Darling takes center stage to explain a good chunk of his plan. We begin, of course, with Jasper and the soldiers and cops by whom he was surrounded at the end of last issue, but we quickly zip over to The Darling having dinner with General Bava and a bunch of army brass. It's very nice to get a scene that explains some of what the plot is all about, as it's been a while and Casey has chucked all this weird stuff at us, so we're ready for an info-dump, but here's the thing: I kind of wish he'd done the scene differently. The instant The Darling started to talk, I began to wonder how he was going to kill everyone at the table. We've seen this scene so many times that there just wasn't a lot of tension - it wasn't a question of if he was going to kill everyone at the table, but when he was going to do it and, of course, how. Casey flipped the script slightly, but not enough to overcome the cliché. Still, I mentioned with the last issue of Sex that Casey seems to be going through a process of writing a comic as much as he's writing a comic (that might not make any sense, but I don't care), so perhaps he thought that he needed this kind of scene because The Darling is trying to be a stereotypical supervillain. It's the whole "you can't criticize a parody because it's a parody" thing that people like to employ when anyone points out that All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder really does suck. It doesn't let Casey off the hook, and I don't even know if that's what he was doing, but I could see him pulling something like that. It's still a well written scene, and Casey manages to get a lot of information out there, but it does feel a bit too familiar.

These two comics - this one and Sex - are really odd. They're getting better, which is nice, but Casey seems to be exploring the artificiality of superheroes more than he's done in the past - and he's done it a lot in the past - and I'm not sure what to make of it. But I'm keeping up with it, because it's an intriguing book.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

East of West #9 ("A Kingdom of Riches") by Nick Dragotta (artist), Jonathan Hickman (writer), Frank Martin (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

One of the cool things about East of West is how dense it feels. Hickman doesn't go crazy with words like some old-school comic book, and Dragotta isn't cramming 20 panels onto each page, but it feels denser than a lot of comics, even at 20 pages. The main plot of the issue is Prince John Freeman, the heir to the throne of the Kingdom, who is challenged by one of his brothers - I assume they're clones because they all have the same name, although it could be a George Foreman situation, I suppose - to fight and then discusses with his father their plans with regard to the other nations in the book. Prince John Freeman has had an offer for an alliance, but he's unsure whether he should accept it or not. So the second half of the book is full of talking heads, but by the time we've gotten there, we've had some action, so it doesn't slow the entire issue down (plus, it's a fascinating discussion ... although I'm a bit weird, so maybe it's just me). Hickman, however, checks in on Death and the Oracle, which moves the plot along nicely and features some icky stuff (see below). East of West has a big, pulpy plot, so it's nice that Hickman is able to move it along so well but still give us some cool moments. He's gotten really good at writing dialogue that sounds really, really important - I know he does it at Marvel, but I like it better when it's his own characters and not some dude wearing spandex. But that's just me.

Dragotta and Martin do their usual cool work with the art - Death's conversation with the Oracle is all shadows and posing, while John Freeman's showdown with his brother is much jazzier, given where it takes place and the tone of the scene. It's quite neat how Dragotta gives each nation its own feel - he designs different kinds of governmental seats and urban areas for the nations, which makes sense but which not everyone might consider. And I love the look the vizier throws John Freeman as she leaves the throne room. Dude, she totally owned you after banging you. Serves you right, man.

East of West continues to be phenomenal. That's cool.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Miracleman #2 by Mick Anglo (writer/artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer), Alan Davis (artist), Steve Dillon (artist), Michael Kelleher (art restorer), Digikore (art restorer), Don Lawrence (artist), Garry Leach (artist), Bushy McAngrypants (writer), Paul Neary (artist), Steve Oliff (colorist), Cory Sedlmeier (editor), and Jeff Youngquist (editor). $4.99, 36 pgs, FC/BW, Marvel.

I claimed I wouldn't buy the next issue of Miracleman, but here I am, with the next issue of Miracleman. Hell, it's my money, ain't it? I noticed that the first trade of this would be a lot more than if I just bought the individual issues, and if Marvel keeps printing stuff that has never been reprinted before, like the Warpsmith diversion in this issue, I'll probably pick them up. It's very much an impulse buy every time it comes out - I haven't made up my mind about issue #3, and will see what's in it when it shows up - but, again, it's my money.

I haven't dragged out my old trades yet to compare, but I think Oliff has done a really superb job with the recoloring. It's a bit more "realistic" than the original coloring ("original," remember, meaning the first time it was "recolored," as the original published material was in black and white), but Oliff doesn't go overboard with over-rendering, so it doesn't have thick changes in hue on faces, for instance. He doesn't try too hard to change what worked in the original recoloring, for instance - the panel below doesn't look too radically different from the version I have in the trades. It's pretty cool and while Oliff is probably going to recolor the later issues that actually were released in color, I hope he continues to change just enough to modernize it but not so much that it clashes with the pencil work.

The Warpsmith story is quite cool - it's actually not the greatest tale, but because I've never read it before, it's fascinating that Moore wrote it in 1982 (it was published in August 1982) and references stuff that he has planned for later in the epic - pretty far into it, too. In the original, linear story, Moore makes references to this story, linking the two together, and it's impressive how much he had planned out for where Miracleman was going. Even this early in his career, Moore knew the value of planning ahead. It's fun seeing early Dillon, Neary, and Davis art, although Neary is not a terribly good penciller.

So, yeah. These comics are excellent. These chapters give us a foretaste of how nasty Moore could be, and prepares us for ... yeah, what's coming. It's not pretty.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Saga #18 by Fonografiks (letterer), Fiona Staples (artist), and Brian K. Vaughan (writer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

You know how a lot of television shows are doing the whole "season-long story" these days, and that the penultimate episode often has a lot of the shocking resolutions and then the finale kind of wraps everything up? It seems like Vaughan is learning the wrong lesson from television and doing that, as a lot of crazy stuff happened in issue #17 and this issue feels far more like he's trying to reset everything (which he does in the end). There's a little bit of action, but it's mostly fallout. I'm not sure if that's the best way to go, but whatever.

I don't like this issue of Saga, because it feels a bit too inert. Usually I can find good things in every issue, which is why I'm so conflicted about it, as the good stuff can be excellent but the lousy stuff is so painful to read. This issue doesn't really have anything too awful, but it's also lacking the brilliant stuff. It's thoroughly mediocre, which is too bad. This is an interesting issue, though, because like every series, there are going to be some issues that just don't work as well. When that happens in comics I like, I try to note it but also point out that I don't care too much because when it's part of the bigger picture, it's fine. But when I'm not totally in the bag for a series, these kinds of issues are a bit more egregious. I like thinking about stuff like this, because the psychology of fandom is fascinating.

I don't know ... this is just a blah issue. Vaughan doesn't want to kill any of his cool characters, so with one obvious exception, nobody gets that hurt, which robs not only this issue but the previous two of much drama. Everything just kind of ... slows down and comes to a lurching halt, and it honestly feels that Vaughan didn't plot this out too well - he knows he only has six issues before he and Staples take another break, so he set all this stuff up and then got to the sixth issue and thought, "Well, I guess I just better end this quickly." Even Staples doesn't turn in her best work - her figure work is as good as ever, but we're back to the indistinct backgrounds that plagued the book very early on. The flames in the beginning, for instance, don't look too threatening because they barely look like they're in the same room as the people. It's a bit disappointing. And Vaughan gets a bit slobbery over Staples in the letters page - yes, it's impressive that she draws and colors the book and has done so for 18 issues, but he wonders when the last time we saw that, and I immediately thought of Chew - 40 issues in 4½ years, and Rob Guillory has drawn and colored every issue (unless you want to disqualify him because he's used another person for color flats and because it's not always 22 pages, but that would be kind of douchey). I mean, Staples is very impressive, but let's rein it in a bit, shall we?

I mentioned that I'm really not sure if I'm continuing with Saga after this. Daniel thinks I should just so I can be part of the conversation about it, which is a better point than you might think, but it's going to be hard. I have a few months to think about it, so we'll see. This issue doesn't fill me with confidence, though.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Saviors #2 by J. Bone (artist) and James Robinson (writer). $2.99, 19 pgs, BW, Image.

I didn't review the first issue of The Saviors - it came out on Christmas Eve and was the only comic I bought that week - but so far, it's a fairly standard "alien invasion" plot. Tomas, a mechanic in a small desert town, discovers that most of the people around him are actually shape-shifting aliens. A dude who shows up in town explains in this issue that the aliens want to "save" the world, but he and some others don't like how they're doing it (which, needless to say, is left unexplained). So Tomas and Nate hit the road, and the aliens figure out where they're going. That can't be good.

I'll probably get this for an arc (I guess Robinson isn't going to focus on the same characters in each arc?), but two issues in, there's not much to recommend it. Bone's art is perfectly fine, but Robinson's story feels so familiar and he adds so little pop to it that there's not much point. The pacing is slow, even with some tense moments at the beginning and the way Tomas and Nate escape at the end, and because the book is so short (19 pages?), it feels like even less happens. It's frustrating, because it's mildly entertaining but so by-the-numbers that I can't help wondering what Robinson's shell game is. I know he's not as good as he was in the 1990s, but The Shade, for instance, was still a pretty fascinating comic, so it's not as if he's completely lost it. The Saviors feels far too safe, and that's too bad. As I noted, I've pre-ordered issues #3-4, so I'll get those, but unless it improves, I'll have to leave it behind.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Über #9 by Digikore Studios (colorist), Kieron Gillen (writer), Kurt Hathaway (letterer), Joseph Silver (inker), and Caanan White (penciller). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Avatar.

I've mentioned this before, but part of the reason I like Gillen is because he writes interesting stuff about writing, as he does in every issue of Über. He's been writing about this short Russian interlude because he wants readers to understand how horribly the Russians suffered in World War II - far, FAR more than any other country - but in this issue, he writes about how he wanted to lay out the big fight between the Russian and German superheroes. It's very interesting because it's neat to see how a writer tries to get a tone across to the reader by using different ways of telling the story. In this case, it's something that Gillen felt got to the enormity of what was happening, and it's kind of neat.

The comic continues to be a lot better than it seems many people know - I don't see much acknowledgement of its existence around, which isn't surprising for an Avatar book that's not written by Alan Moore or Garth Ennis - as Gillen continues to do a good job showing exactly how the war might have played out if both sides had superhumans. It's not simply that they blow shit up, because the process by which they create the superhumans is so difficult they just can't deploy them and move on. Gillen has also done a nice job getting into, say, the psyche of Stalin - as he points out, Crazy Joe would think nothing of killing 500,000 people just to get a few superhumans out of it, because that's kind of how Stalin operated. So the book becomes a much more interesting portrait of the war and how it might have been fought than just Nazi superheroes bashing Russian or British superheroes. I imagine it will continue in this vein, which should be a reason to keep reading.

White's art looks a tiny bit rushed on this issue, although some pages are absolutely stupendous. The comic has been coming out pretty steadily, so maybe he just needs a short break. For the most part, though, this is still a nicely-drawn book on which the digital coloring doesn't overwhelm the pencil art, which is always a concern on Avatar's books.

Über is a neat comic. I'm looking forward to seeing where Gillen goes with it going forward.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fighting American by Jack Kirby (creator), Joe Simon (creator), and Harry Mendryk (art restorer/new colorist). $19.95, 199 pgs, FC, Titan Books.

This came out a few years ago, but it was resolicited recently. Just another small layer in my ever-increasing Kirby library! Only 8 billion pages to go!

Gantz volume 30 by Hiroya Oku (writer/artist). $13.99, 191 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

There's a lot of nudity in this volume of Gantz, from what I could see from a flip-through. I guess the massacring got a bit boring, so we had to get back to the nudity!

Snowpiercer volume 1: Escape by Gabriela Houston (letterer/editor), Jacques Lob (writer), Jean-Marc Rochette (artist), and Virginia Selavy (translator). $19.99, 110 pgs, BW, Titan Comics.

I had no idea this was a movie when it was solicited. Apparently it looks terrible. But that shouldn't reflect poorly on the comic, should it?


I guess there's a football game this weekend. It's been almost a decade since I last watched a Super Bowl, because that was the last time the Eagles were in it. I've gotten used to the fact that people will watch stuff that mystifies me - not certain shows, because that's just a matter of taste, and fair enough - but stuff like the Super Bowl when the teams they root for aren't involved (do they just want to see the commercials?) or, last week, the Grammys. A lot of people I know on Facebook - mostly old friends who I've actually met in person - were updating about stuff that happened at the Grammys, and I kept thinking, "Why are you watching the Grammys?" I mean, first of all, who cares. Second of all, I'm so old and out-of-touch I don't even know who most of the nominees are. I haven't heard a Beyoncé song in years, unless it happened to be on television and I caught a bit in the background. Do people really like to watch these awards shows? Do people really like to watch the Super Bowl if two random teams are playing in it? I get that a lot of people have "Super Bowl parties" (which is why the NFL should move it to about 5 p.m. Eastern time on a Saturday night), but do a lot of people go to those? Is it just because there's nothing else on television? The wife and I DVR quite a bit, so we always have something to watch, but maybe other people don't and they just want to crash in front of the television? It's all very weird. It reminds me that I'm divorced from a lot of pop culture, and that's perfectly fine with me. But I hope you enjoy the Super Bowl, if you watch it. You won't see Anna Kendrick getting naked, but that's just something you'll have to deal with.

Yesterday was Tom Selleck's 69th birthday (say it in your best Bill and Ted voice), so here's a ranking of his mustaches. Bill Reed's head just exploded. You're welcome, Bill.

My pal Roger pointed out that today is the 45th anniversary of the Beatles' rooftop concert. Look at the Beatles, ripping off The Simpsons like that!

Let's check out the Ten Most Recent Songs on My iPod (Which Is Always on Shuffle):

1. "Living on a Thin Line" - Kinks (1985) "Blame the future on the past, always lost in blood and guts"12. "Big Time Operator" - Dead Milkmen (1987) "Look out Charlie Sexton! Look out you cheesy Texas motherfuckers!"23. "Are You Gonna Go My Way" - Lenny Kravitz (1993) "So tell me why we got to die and kill each other one by one"34. "P Control" - Prince (1995) "You can go platinum four times still couldn't make what I make in a week"45. "And She Was" - Talking Heads (1985) "Moving into the universe, drifting this way and that"6. "Touch Me I'm Sick" - Mudhoney (1988) "If you don't come you'll die alone"57. "One Foot" - fun. (2012) "So up off the ground, our forefathers are nothing but dust now"8. "Mama" - Genesis (1983) "You're taking away my last chance; don't take it away"69. "In the Cage" - Genesis (1974) "Stalactites, stalagmites shut me in, lock me tight"10. "FKARND" - Pepper (2013) "I love how you twist that knife; give me sweat and war worth fighting for"7

1 Is it sad that I like a lot of 1980s Kinks more than 1960s Kinks?

2 Remember when Charlie Sexton was semi-big? Good times.

3 I challenge you not to play air guitar along to the bitchin' solo at the end of this song. YOU CAN'T NOT JAM ALONG!!!!

4 Words cannot express how much I love this song. Why some people think Prince stopped recording great music after 1987 is beyond me, because this song kicks ass.

5 This is on the Hype! soundtrack, which is pretty excellent. The wife and I saw Hype! in the theater, back in the good old days when we actually went to movies. Good times.

6 I love this song. I won't apologize! Even though it's creepy, right? I mean, it is creepy, right?

7 I had never heard of Pepper before this past summer, but I love this song. This should have been the song of the summer, not that Robin Thicke thing.

Let's check out some Totally Random Lyrics!

"If you think you need a changeWell, I'm sure we can arrangeFor you to get on your own for a whileBut I don't need to worry'Cause you'll get back in a hurryI know that you like my styleYou play your games but the fact remainsI'm the only one that can hold your reins"

I don't know what's easy and what's not easy about the Totally Random Lyrics, so I'll just say that if you know them, sound off in the comments!

I hope everyone has a nice day. Maybe someday I'll actually buy a DC or Marvel comic and we can all argue over it. They're just not very interesting to me right now!

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