What I bought - 29 September 2010

Neither of the two people in the room paid any attention to the way I came in, although only one of them was dead. (Raymond Chandler, from The Big Sleep)

Atlas #5 ("The Return of the Three Dimensional Man Parts 6, 7, and 8") by Jeff Parker (writer; artist, part 7), Ramon Rosanas (artist, part 6), Gabriel Hardman (artist, part 8), Jim Charalampidis (colorist, part 6), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colorist, parts 7 and 8), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $2.99, 25 pgs, FC, Marvel.

The final issue of Atlas feels a bit rushed, making me wonder if Parker had a six-issue arc planned that he jammed into five (he's welcome to come dispute that if it's not true). He wraps everything with the Echo World up, and I get the feeling that two of the prose pages were planned (there are three total) because they describe something that's happening between the worlds, something that might visually be somewhat boring (everyone is, it seems, disembodied). Jimmy's solution to the problem of the Echo Worlders is nice, because it's always good to see a writer understand that maybe all solutions aren't "punch something until it falls down," but again, it feels a bit rushed. Finally, the fact that three artists complete this issue makes me wonder, too. I assume Breitweiser is the artist on the middle section, because the credits are unclear, and I wonder if she was a last-minute addition because Parker had to adjust the script and Hardman had already wandered off to do Hulk. Things like this keep me up at night, I tell you what.

It's still a good arc, and I like how Parker takes some time to allow the characters to express why they like being part of the team. I miss solid scenes of characterization, and as Parker wraps up the series (for now, of course - I'm sure he still has those negatives of Joey Q with the one-armed, one-eyed Albanian midget and her three-legged goat), it's nice to see why these fringe characters stay together. The trade should be available soon! Just in time for the relaunch, I would imagine.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #21 ("The Menace Known as Robert") by Landry Q. Walker (writer), Eric Jones (artist), David Rodriguez (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

I don't wish to alarm you, but this issue might just be the best single issue of the year when it's all said and done. I wish I were a tool like those thieves at scans_daily, because then I would just scan every single page of this issue and let you read it yourself. I will say this - not one page goes by without at least two awesome things happening on it. If you don't believe me, consider: The issue begins with the caption box "Meanwhile ..." Batman's life is so awesome we have to arrive in the middle, because he never gets any down time from it being awesome! He's fighting (well, actually, being beaten up by) the Dinosaur Gang, and he narrates this about them: "The Dinosaur Gang used to be disorganized, easy to predict and easier to outwit. Probably because their brains are the size of walnuts." But then King Rex (who actually wears a crown, plus an ascot, slippers, and a smoking jacket, like some royal reptilian Hugh Hefner) took over and made them tougher. Unfortunately for him, Batman has back-up ... the Lady Blackhawks, who fly in, wearing their jet-packs, and turn the tide. Batman narrates again: "But King Rex and his gang sealed their own fate when they tried to steal a dangerous de-evolution machine. Besides, every time I start to feel guilty I consider the fact that I'm fighting a guy with a dinosaur head ... and that I'm being assisted by a group of highly trained and extremely beautiful female soldiers wearing jet-packs." Which leads to this panel:

And that's just three pages into the comic. THREE PAGES!!!!!!

It's not even the main story, which involves a sentient meteoroid named Robert (yes, Robert) landing on Earth and trying to take over. Bats calls Hal Jordan, who's a bit late (see below), but still ready to help. As Bats points out, Robert tells them how to defeat him, it's just a question of making it happen. Of course, Batman and GL defeat him, but along the way, we get intense action and very, very funny humor, and the final page will make milk shoot out of your nose and probably some other orifices as well. Walker's script is hilarious but also heart-felt, as Batman narrates how lucky he is to have Hal as a friend - he's in a bit of a pickle at the end, but he doesn't worry because Hal, the greatest Green Lantern, has his back. And Jones's art is phenomenal - it's been good the other times I've picked up the series, but two things are different - the better paper the Johnny DC books are now printed on (hence the price hike, I assume) and Rodriguez coloring the art (unless Rodriguez was coloring the art before while working for Hi-Fi Colour Design, which used to do the book). The art is vibrant, dynamic, detailed, and exciting. It's perfect for the book.

I know I've raved about the Johnny DC books before, and some of you who actually read them agree with me. Can we all be wrong, people? This is an amazing issue, and if you're the least bit bummed out by the drudgery of superhero books, this will make that all go away. Walker never takes it too seriously, but he still gives us wild action and actual menacing bad guys, and even though he points out that Batman will win in the end, don't we know that about every superhero book? It just makes it more fun when Batman isn't terribly worried even as Robert drags him into deep space. There's a great line (which I don't want to spoil) when Hal asks Bats why on Earth he had something ridiculously obscure, and Batman answers, "In case I ever needed it." Batman - always thinking ten years ahead of the rest of us! If you liked the Batman from Morrison's JLA Classified #1-3, this is an even more fun version of that. I really don't know how you can resist this issue!

One totally Airwolf panel (out of many, many that I could have picked, and do you like how I managed to sneak two into this post?):

Bullet to the Head #4 (of 6) by Matz (writer), Colin Wilson (artist/letterer), Chris Blythe (colorist), and Chris Caniano (letterer). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

The series continues, as Matz brings two unlikely people together - a hitman and a cop - to solve the puzzle of why all these high-profile targets are being gunned down. It has been interesting to see how Matz does this, as he's taken his time to get here, which makes it more satisfying. In big-budget movies or television shows where we get a mismatch like this, the alliance often feels contrived because it's more about what happens once the two people team up. For Matz, that's just part of the bigger story - both men realize they don't really have any other options, so they're forced into this a bit. The biggest problem with this series, something I recognize as a "me" problem, is that there are a lot of cast members and it's somewhat difficult for me to keep track of them. Someone dies early on in this issue, and while I know who it was, I wonder if the death was more important than it looks - it seems suspicious, and I might be missing something. The two new allies use a lot of names, too, and I'm not sure if I'm following all of them. Some I can figure out because of the context (I didn't know the name of the guy on the boat, for instance, until this issue), but I'm not sure if I'm remembering correctly. Again, that's my problem, and as this is supposed to be read in bigger chunks (I'm not sure how it was released in Europe, but I know it probably wasn't as six issues), I'm sure it fits better when you read it all at once. Other than that, it's a relatively quiet issue, as Matz moves his pieces to different places and sets up an endgame. Still, it's a pretty dense read - it's nice even when the action takes a back seat that we still get so much to chew on.

Oh, and Wilson's art is really good. You already knew that, though.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Casanova #3 (Détournement"/"Coldheart") by Matt Fraction (writer), Gabriel Bá (artist), Cris Peter (colorist), and Dustin K. Harbin (letterer). $3.99, 39 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

It's fun reading these issues four years after I originally read them, because while I remember the general plots, I've forgotten some of the details, and so re-reading them is a series of "Oh, yeah, that happened, and how cool was that?" sort of thing. I remembered the tribe living on the remote island who doesn't want to have any contact with the outside world, but I had forgotten the cool thing they do with space and time and how Bá illustrates it. I remembered the meditating guy but forgot about Casanova and Zephyr's bet about who could steal the ruby. So it's fun getting a second dose of Casanova, because in some ways, it's like reading them for the first time. (Yes, I'm aware that I have the back issues sitting in a long box in the garage and I could easily pull them out and read them whenever I want to. I do have some responsibilities in the real world, you know! I can't sit around in my underwear watching Tosh.0 and flicking through back issues with Cheeto-stained fingers all day, you know! Why, today I had to drive to an office and drop off a piece of paper, and that took me a good twenty minutes. What do you think of that, Judgey McJudgerson? Huh?)

It's also cool re-reading these with a vague knowledge of what's going to happen, because I misremembered the series a bit. I knew "Gula," the second arc, had more heart-wrenching moments in it, but I had forgotten some of those emotionally-charged moments from "Luxuria," as when Casanova discovers a way to keep his mom safe. It's nice re-discovering those because it makes Fraction's writing all the more impressive - he's giving us such awesome action moments but never forgetting that Casanova has some very human problems. It makes reading this a more rewarding experience than just trying to keep up with Fraction's craziness. While issues #8-14 (of the original series) were packed with tense, emotional moments, "Luxuria" has them as well. That had slipped my mind a bit.

What I'm saying is that Casanova is awesome. More awesome than I remember, if that's possible. But now I gotta find me some Cheetos. If you'll excuse me for a minute ...

One totally Airwolf panel:

Chew #14 ("Just Desserts Part 4 of 5") by John Layman (writer/letterer), Rob Guillory (artist/colorist), Steven Struble (color assistant), and Chris Fenoglio (color assistant). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

I may have mentioned this before, but the great thing about Chew is that it never takes itself too seriously. Much of this is due to Guillory's art, which is impossible to take too seriously, but it also comes from Layman's scripts, which recognize the wackiness of comics and embraces it without denigrating it. Chew is a strange comic, no doubt about it, but because Layman makes the characters play it pretty much straight while winking at the audience that the situations are completely insane, it ratchets up the humor but also keeps us honest, so when something truly "real" happens, we're not really ready for it and it hits us harder. Take, for instance, the end of this issue, where Amelia discovers something about Tony. What she discovers is ludicrous to us, but in context of their relationship, it's devastating, and we feel it much more deeply than if Layman had tried to be earnest. Guillory sells it, too - Amelia's horror and Tony's sadness are real emotions, not something that the artist copies from photographs and tries to sell us. So while we're not taking the comic seriously, Layman comes in and makes us realize that not taking it seriously makes the serious parts hit harder.

Guillory, as I mentioned, gets in on the act. His wall decorations are always fun to read, and then, in this issue, he shows Mason Savoy in disguise ... as Hollis Mason, mechanic (as his name tag proclaims). Mainstream superhero books rarely do this - make inside jokes that don't advance the plot any or even distract from the narrative (meaning if someone didn't get the joke, it wouldn't ruin the book for that person) but are fun for those who get them. We used to see this - who can forget Jubilee's wacky "Robin" costume? - but as comics have gotten more "serious," writers have forgotten that they can also be fun. Even something like Atlas, which is a rollicking old-school adventure comic (and is better for it), takes itself very seriously (except for Ken Hale, who's the comic relief). I certainly don't mind comics taking themselves seriously, but the fact that if the Avengers suddenly had a pie fight, readers would complain because it's too silly makes me sad (hey, maybe they wouldn't complain - maybe Bendis could try it!). Layman and Guillory have done some very serious things with Chew, but they also understand that not everything in life is grim. As I exit the soapbox, I will conclude by saying that the next issue of Green Lantern should feature Hal and Guy jello-wrestling. That would allay all my concerns. To paraphrase Candace Flynn, "Burgas is out ... peace!"

One totally Airwolf panel:

Driver for the Dead #2 (of 3) by John Heffernan (writer), Leonardo Manco (artist), Kinsun Loh (painter), Jerry Choo (painter), and Todd Klein (letterer). $4.99, 48 pgs, FC, Radical Comics.

Okay, I'm back. The Cheetos are gone, the soapbox is once again filled with soap, and we're moving on!

I received this from the groovy folk at Radical, which is always nice of them. I didn't get issue #1, which is actually not a bad thing, because I'm always curious to see if I can figure out what's going on without the benefit of the first issue. The recap of this comic helps quite well, as we learn that when someone needs to transport a "dangerous" corpse in Louisiana, they call one man - Alabaster Graves, the Driver for the Dead! (Really? Alabaster Graves? I mean, when your mother gives you that name, can you do anything else but drive a hearse and transport dead bodies? And doesn't "alabaster" sound kind of girly? How often did that dude get beat up in school? Then he joined the army, and I have to believe that his friendly-fire wounds - he has two - were because his platoon mates couldn't deal with his name. Man, that's a terrible name. Alabaster Graves? Sheesh.) Alabaster's latest "client" is Mose Freeman, a very old voodoo priest, and as we learn in this issue, some 200-year-old dude wants to steal Freeman's heart. That's not all he wants - he's been stealing body parts from various occult figures around Louisiana, all to keep himself alive, and Freeman's heart would be the crown jewel of his latest collection. Of course, in this issue he gets Freeman's body, and he kidnaps Freeman's great-granddaughter as well, mainly because of her lineage (I won't reveal it, because it's a big part of the overall plot). So Alabaster needs to find the bad guy, kill him (using a unique weapon, something else I won't get into), and save the girl. Go, Alabaster!

As with most Radical books, this is kind of a mixed bag. Manco, who's a pretty good artist, manages to keep the art from looking too "digital," which is an issue with a lot of Radical's comics. The painting doesn't do him any favors, but he still has a strong line and makes sure that the book flows well from one panel to the next. I'm fairly certain that Mose Freeman was based on Morgan Freeman (if I recall a preview I saw), but as he's dead in this issue, it doesn't matter, although it does make me wonder if the other characters are based on actors (in one panel, Alabaster looks vaguely like David Duchovny, but I don't know how deliberate that was). As you know, I don't like basing characters in comics on actors, but Manco is able to give the characters personality even if they are based on real people. I don't love the art, but it's better than a lot of what you see in Radical's books.

Heffernan's story is entertaining, but kind of annoying. He traffics in every "Louisiana cliché" you can think of, and by the time we get to the werewolf, I was ready to throw up my hands and walk away (but the werewolf isn't mentioned until late in the issue, so I stuck it out). There's nothing wrong with throwing voodoo and zombies and psychics and Marie Laveau into a comic that takes place in Louisiana, it's just that it's not surprising. If you had asked me what a horror comic set in Louisiana would have, I'd say voodoo, zombies, psychics, werewolves, and probably Marie Laveau and references to slaves getting raped by their masters. It's like Heffernan had a "Louisiana checklist" and just went down ticking each thing off - he even puts stock car racing in this book! Yes, it's entertaining to read. But it does get on your nerves after a while. Unless you really like "Louisiana clichés." If so, this is the book for you!

I don't know if I'll get issue #3 (especially after this review!), but it would be nice if Heffernan could pull it all together well. The idea of some guy driving dead people where they need to go is actually a pretty cool idea (of course, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service did it first, but that doesn't mean it can't work in other places, too) and could be interesting without the overwhelming reliance on stock horror tropes. We shall see what happens, shan't we?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Franken-Castle #21 by Rick Remender (writer), Dan Brereton (artist), Andrea Mutti (artist, back-up story), Luce Malisan (artist, back-up story), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, Marvel.

The only reason I bought this issue is because Brereton + Monsters = Awesome. (That's my kind of math!) I don't have anything against Remender (Fear Agent is excellent, for instance), but I have such little interest in the Punisher and even less in the Punisher turning into Frankenstein's Monster that I skipped everything before this. So that story arc has run its course, Remender is taking Frank back to the Marvel U. to take out the trash, and he needs to get Frank back to normal. He does this by sending him to Monster Island and ... ignoring him? Yes, apparently, due to the Bloodstone (Bloodgem?) in Frank's chest, he turns back into a human simply by resting for a few weeks. Well, that was anticlimactic. There's no explanation - the recap page says that the Bloodstone gives its wielder incredible power, but it doesn't say that it can regenerate you. Frank's latest ally, Henry, claims that the Bloodstone will "heal" him, but, I mean, he's made up of stitched-together body parts - it seems very odd that after a few weeks, he's grown a new body and, it appears, a new head. I suppose that Remender really couldn't figure out a better way to turn Frank back into a human being, and as cool as "Franken-Castle" sounded in his head, it wasn't the greatest idea, so he waved his magic wand and turned Frank back into a human. I would have liked this issue a lot more if a giant human hand (representing Remender's) had come from off-panel and just changed him back. It's comics, man!

So the rest of the plot is Elsa Bloodstone and the Legion of Monsters trying to get Frank to give up the stone in his chest voluntarily, because it reacts to the person in which it's embedded and is making Frank crazier and crazier for revenge on everyone, not just bad guys. They succeed. The end. Mainly, this is a showcase for Brereton, who can draw monsters like absolutely nobody else in the business, and does so with some relish. Frank wanders around Monster Island killing big-ass dinosaurs and monkey things, and then the Legion and Elsa show up and he fights them for a while. Look at that cover and imagine 22 pages of that - if you like that cover, you'll love the issue. Brereton has a lot of fun with the book (at one point Frank puts Man-Thing's severed arm on Elsa's face - fun stuff like that!), and it shows. And then, in the back-up story, Frank is back in New York killing bad guys, and my interest in Punisher comics drops off to zero once more. Oh well.

Still, it's always fun to see Brereton cut loose. So this is almost worth it, even though it's four bucks. It's a gorgeous comic, and more fun than it probably should be!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Warriors #20 ("Night Part 1") by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Mirko Colak (artist), Imaginary Friends Studio (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 21 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Why Marvel editors need to work harder, Exhibit A: In this issue, Leviathan, caught up in its war with HYDRA, destroys the Space Needle in Seattle. Fine. Marvel books are often not set in Seattle, but how much do you want to bet that in five years, if another writer sets a scene in that fair city on Puget Sound, we see the Space Needle? With no explanation like "Boy, Damage Control sure did a nice job rebuilding the Space Needle"? I'm just sayin'. Someone needs to keep track of all the damage in the Marvel Universe. Would a database be that difficult to set up?

Nick and his gang attempt to take advantage of the Leviathan-HYDRA war by hitting both of them, hard, but as we know, there's a mole inside Fury's organization, so when they arrive at "Gehenna," a HYDRA base, the bad guys are waiting for them. Shit, as they say, hits the fan. And it sucks to be them.

As we hurtle toward the end of the series, it's nice to see Hickman bringing things together - not a ton happens in this issue, as it's the first of the arc, but so much has already been set up that there's a nice growing sense of doom to the proceedings. I'm not as big a fan of Colak's work as I am of Caselli's or Vitti's, but it's serviceable. His figures are a bit too blocky for my tastes, but it's not bad art by any means. He's not asked to do too much, so we'll see what it's like going forward.

As always, this is an intriguing series. I'm interested to see how Hickman brings it all to a close.

One totally Airwolf panel:

De: Tales by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá (writers/artists). $19.99, 112 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

It's in a nice hardcover edition! Yippee!

So Tony Curtis died today (it's also the 55th anniversary of James Dean's death, so there's that). I know he did a ton of movies, but I'm sure most people of my generation will remember him as Jamie Lee Curtis's dad. I have a distinct memory of Tony Curtis, and it wasn't even about him - the minister who performed my marriage looked like him, and my wife and I were glad he didn't sound like him, too, or we would never have made it through the ceremony without cracking up.

The new television season has its first casualty - Fox's Lone Star, a rather surprising cancellation. It's surprising not because it's a good show or a bad show - as According to Jim proved, quality is no predictor of how long a show lasts - but because Fox promoted it so heavily. I figured with such a push, even if it was tough sell it would have lasted a little longer. I watched the first episode and it was okay. Nothing great, but not terrible, either. At least it wasn't another cop/lawyer/doctor show. Sheesh. It got 4 million viewers the first week and 3.2 million the second. And it got cancelled. And top-selling comics are humbled a bit once again.

As for the rest of the new season - the premiere of House was boring; Running Wilde was terrible (which is a shame, because the actors are fine, but the writing was awful); Hawaii Five-0 was saved by the great locales, Scott Caan, and Grace Park in a bikini (and who is Alex O'Loughlin sleeping with to keep getting work - he's a lousy actor and he's not especially pretty, so it must be his prowess in the bedroom); The Event was an intriguing mess (I haven't watched the second episode yet, but I can't believe it's going to last long); Undercovers wasn't bad but is more notable for having two black leads playing happily-married, upper-middle-class people; and I haven't gotten around to watching some of the other new shows. Oh, and I loved the one episode of Boardwalk Empire that I watched, even though it's a lot like every other HBO show, just in a different location. Still, you have to love Steve Buscemi. And, because of the commenters here a few weeks ago, I watched the season premiere of Community, and you're right - it's pretty funny, much better than the few early episodes I watched last year. I imagine the dude pretending it's a television show would get annoying, and I don't love Betty White as much as everyone else on the planet seems to, but it was still pretty funny. Chevy Chase's brief "Batman and Shaft" routine was almost worth the price of admission, and the Toto mash-up over the end credits was pretty awesome.

Enough of television talk! Let us gaze upon The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "If I Only Had Time" - Godfathers (1988) "Things ain't what they used to be, Cary Grant's on LSD"2. "Past the Mission" - Tori Amos (1994) "Hey they found a body, not sure it was his but they're using his name"3. "Summertime Rolls" - Jane's Addiction (1988) "If you want a friend, feed any animal"4. "Just a Man" - Faith No More (1995) "And every night I shut my eyes so I don't have to see the light"15. "Swordfish" - Dead Milkmen (1985) "Why should we buy postage stamps - we can make our own"6."One of the Three" - James (1993) "It's a shame you got so famous for a sacrifice"7. "P Control" - Prince (1995) "Pussy got bank in her pockets before she got dick in her drawers"28. "Say Something" - James (1993) "Amongst friends, but all alone"9. "Freedom" - George Michael (1990) "I went back home got a brand new face for the boys at MTV"310. "Reckless (Don't Be So)" - Australian Crawl (1983) "Feel like Scott of the Antarctic, base camp too far away"

1 As much as I love this song, it has to be one of the odder ones recorded by a relatively hard rock band, as it seems like more of an Andrew Lloyd Webber-on-meth kind of tune. Like it would be the final song of a musical that Webber wrote after going bankrupt and finding out his wife was sleeping with Uruguay's Olympic fencing team or something.2 This is the best song on the last great Prince album. I know some people think the last great Prince album came out in 1987, but they're wrong. It's very odd that the last great Prince album came out 15 years ago. Well, it is to me, at least.3 Whenever I hear this song, besides turning up the volume and singing along at the top of my lungs (don't you?), I always think about how perfectly it captured the zeitgeist of 1990. I mean, if you sit down and watch the video and listen to the lyrics and the music, it's amazing how the prison-bound Mr. Panayiotou, at 27 years old, was able to sum up the 1980s, the relationship of recording artists to MTV, the coming rejection of said relationship by less image-conscious bands, the ridiculous contradictions of pop musicians rejecting that image, plus a new, less sterile musical aesthetic. Consider the lyrics juxtaposed with gorgeous, air-brushed models: It's a faux rebellion, to be sure, but the fact that George Michael, of all people, highlighted the artificiality of bands rejecting fame makes this a glorious statement about everything wonderful and magical and contradictory about pop music itself. For a brief moment, George Michael got it. Then he decided to have sex in a public toilet. And so it goes.

Shall we delve into Totally Random Lyrics? I think we shall!

"Here I stand, the goddess of Desire,Set men on fire,I have this power;Morning noon and night, it's drink and dancing,Some quick romancing,And then a shower;Stage door johnnies always surround me,They always hound me,With one request ...Who can satisfy their lustful habits,I'm not a rabbit!I need some rest!"

Sing along - come on, you know the tune! And as September turns to October, let's remember - it might be chilly where you are, but here it's still in the high 90s/low 100s. Good times! Is it autumn yet?

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