What I bought - 3 June 2010

"To break up the superstition and worship of legality should be our aim. Nothing would please me more than to see Inspector Heat and his likes take to shooting us down in broad daylight with the approval of the public. Half our battle would be won then; the disintegration of the old morality would have set in in its very temple." (Joseph Conrad, from The Secret Agent)

Codebreakers #3 (of 4) by Carey Malloy (writer), Scott Godlewski (artist), Stephen Downer (colorist), and Johnny Lowe (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Codebreakers continues on, doing a fine job. We learn quite a bit of backstory about the bad guy and Foster, the mentor of the little team of crytographers, as they search for Stan, who has learned some interesting things about the code he's trying to break. It's a clever story, relying on our knowledge of espionage clichés and fooling with them a bit - not too much, but enough to keep things lively. I'm sure I'll be able to discuss it better after next issue's big finale. I will say that Godlewski continues to do a very good job with the art. It's cool to see him getting more work, because he deserves it. Other than that, I'll have to wait until next time to assess this better.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Demo #5 (of 6) ("Stranded") by Brian Wood (writer), Becky Cloonan (artist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, BW, DC/Vertigo.

So, I guess SPOILERS? Sorry, but that's how I roll.

I absolutely hate making any bad comments about Cloonan's art in this book, because Cloonan is awesome and Brian Wood might punch me in the brain if I do so. As always, I love Cloonan's art. One thing about it puzzles me, and it speaks to a bigger problem in comics art in general. According to Wood, the main character, Elisabeth, can travel through time. She has had a fairly shitty life (actually, her life isn't that shitty, she's just lonely because she doesn't know how to have a relationship), so she goes back in time to try to "fix" her younger self. It's a pretty good use of time travel, which often bugs me. I'm not entirely sure how a character seeingly manages to die twice - I was willing to assume the first death was just an injury, but Cloonan specifically refers to it as a "death scene," and I guess she'd know - but that's a minor point. What bugs me is that Elisabeth goes back in time to 1979. She specifically lists one of the character's ages as 14, and it seems like she was about that age too. Yet, in the present, neither character looks like they're in their mid-40s. You may crush me for my nitpicking, but it still bugs me. I suppose they both could look young for their age (my wife is 42 and people claim she looks young for her age - I don't know, she looks like my wife, so it's possible I'm too close to the situation), but they look at least 15 years younger than they "should." Again, you might argue that I'm nitpicking, but because they look so young, I don't feel the impact of Wood's writing as much. We're supposed to believe that they've weathered years of a relationship, but because they look a little like flirtatious girls rather than mature women, I don't get the sense from the art of what Wood is saying in the book - that young Elisabeth took older Elisabeth's advice and did what she had to do to learn how to trust and love someone. The characters, in fact, look a little like Cloonan herself ... and Cloonan is about to turn 30, if Wikipedia can be trusted. This is a problem with comics in general - it seems like comic artists have some difficulty portraying people in their "middle years" - say, 35-60. Comic artists are fine at young people, and they're fine at old people, because young people and old people all have stock characteristics that mark them as "young" or "old" - throw some gray hair on a person and he's "old"! When you hit 30-35, you can look young or you can look old, but it's harder to delineate what makes someone "look" 40 as opposed to 50. You may say that I'm contradicting my point - Elisabeth and Evey could simply look young, but it's more than that - Cloonan is very good at body language, and the few pages we get of Elisabeth and Evey in the "present" make them look less mature than they're supposed to be. It's hard to describe, but they look far more like kids in the first flush of romance. Now, someone might point out that for Elisabeth, that's what it is, but this is why time travel stories make my head hurt - if, in fact, Elisabeth changed her past so that she was always with Evey, would she still act this way? Or is it all new to her because she's still her old self, just with Evey now? See, now I'm getting a headache.

I don't want to say that the art isn't gorgeous, because it is. But I challenge you to look at that last page and tell me those are two middle-aged women. And that, as stupid as it might sounds to you, takes me out of the story a bit. Now I have to go hide before Brian Wood punches me in the brain.

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Killer: Modus Vivendi #2 (of 6) by Matz (writer/translator), Luc Jacamon (artist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Scott Newman (letterer). $3.95, 27 pgs, FC, Archaia.

Continuing with my utter stupidity, in this issue it appears that the killer is still with his wife/girlfriend/lover. He hides out at a house with her and his son, and it does not seem like she thinks anything weird is going on. In the previous issue, our killer specifically narrated that he was no longer with her. So is this interlude just because he's hiding out and no one would think to look for him there? If so, why isn't that narrated? Is it a problem with the translation? Gauvin, who has translated plenty of stuff for Archaia and doesn't seem to have any problems with it, occasionally reads the blog, so maybe he can tell us if there was anything hinky in the original French. It's not that big a deal, but it is a bit strange.

Anyway, the cool thing about this series as opposed to the previous one (which was, after all, very good) is that Matz puts it a bit more into the real world. Apparently someone is trying to destabilize Venezuela, and the killer is only a small part of that. He gets over his brief crisis of conscience from last issue and does his job, but he's still not sure if his client will kill him or use him for more jobs. As it turns out, he's hired for another job, one that will take him further down the rabbit hole - specifically, Cuba. So the plot continues to thicken, and it's neat that Matz is not only incorporating real-world stuff into the book but also telling a story about a part of the world that is often ignored in comics. And hey! you get to learn what happens to the mouth of the Orinoco during flood season!

Jacamon is excellent, as usual. That's unsurprising. He does different people and different settings so very well. You just feel like you're right there with the killer, either in the city or the jungle. It's impressive.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #1 (of 4). "The Battle of the Hawk's Mouse and the Fox's Mouse" by Jeremy Bastian (writer/artist); "A Bargain in the Dark" by Ted Naifeh (writer/artist); "Oleg the Wise" by Alex Sheikman (writer/artist) and Scott Keating (colorist); framing story by David Petersen. $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Archaia.

Oh, Mouse Guard. The world is a happier place when an issue of Mouse Guard comes out, even when it's not the main story and instead an anthology, such as this one. Petersen gives over the reins to some very talented people, and we get three pretty cool stories about the Guard from times past. Petersen sets up the stories - in a pub far away from the center of Mouse power, the owner offers to wipe clean the tab of any mouse who can tell the best story. And they're off! Bastian's magnificently illustrated story is the best, mainly because it's the longest and feels the most consequential - it's about how mice threw off their predatory overlords and established themselves in an independent kingdom. Naifeh's nifty little story about a mouse helping a bat is fun and nice-looking (and makes me wonder why he's not drawing the next volume of Polly and the Pirates, which is apparently due this year). Sheikman's story is a Greek-tragedy kind of thing, with a prophecy that we know will be fulfilled in the most ironic way possible. The art is less distinctive than Sheikman's usually is, but it's still gorgeous.

The stories do a nice job showing the larger universe in which the Mouse Guard operates, and it's cool that Petersen was able to put this series together while we wait for his next installment (due this autumn, apparently). This is a fine addition to what is really a tremendous comics series. The hardcover of this book will look nice next to your first two series!

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Pilgrim #2 (of 6) by Mark Ryan (writer), Mike Grell (artist), Jason Millet (colorist), and John Workman (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW/ComicMix.

I'm going to assume that Ryan pulls this all together further on down the line (don't spoil it for me how he does it!), because it's a bit mysterious right now. I mean, we have a ton of plot threads, and the ones from last issue come a bit more into focus, but we still have a lot of seemingly disparate weird things going on that are sufficiently unexplained. I don't mind, though - I like a good mystery as much as anyone, and as long as Ryan knows what he's doing, I'm happy to look at Grell's fantastic artwork and enjoy the ride. Grell gives us a few double-page spreads that are simply amazing, and his storytelling skills are so good Ryan often steps back and lets him go nuts, and he still advances the story well. It's very impressive.

So, yeah. Not a lot to say about this. There's demon stuff, parallel dimensional stuff, and other bizarre stuff. Fun times all around! But for now, it's worth it just to look at. Who doesn't love Grell's art?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Yeah, Sparta U. S. A. would be here, if my comics shoppe hadn't been shorted on their order. They'll get it next week, as will I. Too bad that stinkin' Canadian Chad Nevett already spoiled it for me. Damn you, eh!

Starstruck #10 (of 13) ("I Ate a Whole Funnel Cake ...") by Elaine Lee (writer), Michael Wm. Kaluta (artist), Lee Moyer (painter), and Todd Klein (letterer). $3.99, 27 pgs, FC, IDW.

Hey, speaking of absolutely stunning artwork, how about Michael Kaluta on Starstruck? Every issue, I think it can't possibly look any better, and every issue, Kaluta throws something else at us to dazzle the eye (see below for just one example). Lee continues to bring all the threads together, as in this issue, Brucilla meets Galatia 9 in a bar and decides to join up with her. Meanwhile, the various characters we've seen over the first nine issues of the series have cameos toward the end, as they are informed about the status quo and what they can do about it. As usual, I'm not even going to try to describe the story in more detail, because it's so dense. However, Kaluta has a lot to do in this issue, even though a great deal of it is two women sitting in a bar drinking. He does a wonderful job with the meeting of the two women and their subsequent conversation, and of course, once they get outside and start actually doing things, he's even better. Unlike some of the other issues, this is a very packed issue, with a lot of tiny panels, but Kaluta makes them all amazing. And the back-up story is done in an old-school style, with benday dots and yellowed paper and a goofy charm. It's definitely Kaluta, but he's flexible enough to make it sillier than the main story. It is, after all, a science lesson on how to make your own non-Newtonian fluid (it's not difficult). I mean, you're not going to find science experiments in your random issue of Avengers, are you, fanboys? I think not!

We're in the home stretch with this issue, and I can't wait to see what happens next. It's sad that a 30-year-old reprint is one of the best comics being published right now, but it's true! I bet you can't wait for the trade, can you?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #9 ("Collision") by Gregg Hurwitz (writer), Juan Jose Ryp (artist), Andres Mossa (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $3.99, 38 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Sigh. I mentioned this before with regard to Vengence of the Moon Knight, and I have to mention it again. I just don't see buying this much longer, and I doubt if I will have to, as it hasn't been solicited for August (there's a "Shadowland" crossover one-shot instead) and I wonder if next issue will be the last one. Our hero is part of the Super-Duper Top Secret Avengers, after all, and maybe Marvel is trying him out there, as this series hasn't really set the world on fire, sales-wise. It's too bad. The previous series was quite good, and the first arc of this started out intriguing and featured great art throughout. But Hurwitz seemed like he just wanted Moon Knight to be a standard superhero, and where's the fun in that? We see what happens with that in this issue, which is a fairly dull superhero team-up that doesn't give us any reason to feature Moon Knight or even Spider-Man. It's just two generic heroes facing off against the Sandman, who seems almost omnipotent yet can't figure out how to break into a museum without attracting attention. There's nothing of Moon Knight's psychoses or even his uglier side of dealing with punks until the end of the issue, when he's sought out by Steve "Tenille Stayed Home Tonight" Rogers. The best part of the issue, script-wise, is the fact that Moon Knight and Spider-Man crash into each other in mid-air, which seems like something that would happen a lot more in the Marvel Universe New York, so it's humorous to see it here. But otherwise, this is a dull script that shows why the book isn't as interesting as it was in the previous series. It feels like an issue from early on in the early-1990s Moon Knight series, when he turned into another generic superhero. It's too bad.

However, Juan Jose Ryp makes the book worthwhile, and he's the only reason I bought this and will buy issue #10. Ryp certainly doesn't look like he can handle a monthly book, what with the insane amount of detail he puts into every panel, but I'm still glad he's getting a higher profile than he can get working for Avatar. His Sandman is simply amazing, as he flows into cracks and through windows and grows to epic size and forms all sorts of wacky shapes with his body. The way our heroes take him down is pretty keen, too. Ryp also does a good job with the non-costumed characters in the book - Sandman, of course, but also Frenchie and the taxi driver, who's a ridiculous stereotype but at least looks like the kind of person you'd expect driving a New York cab. As the theme of this week's comics haul seems to be tremendous artists doing excellent work, it's not surprising we end with Ryp doing a wonderful job with this bland story. I know he has some other Marvel work lined up, which is cool. I hope he works on books I want to read.

It's a shame about the series, because Huston and Benson did such good work on the previous one and Hurwitz started pretty well on this one. But when writers try to turn him into a garden-variety superhero, all the "poor man's Batman" comments come back and start to make sense. Which sucks. Plenty of writers have made him far more interesting than that, but not this time around. Sigh.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Conan volume 8: Black Colossus by Timothy Truman (writer), Tomás Giorello (artist), José Villarrubia (colorist), Richard Starkings (letterer), and Jimmy Betancourt (letterer). $17.99, 153 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Didn't Claremont write a story once where Peter was surgically changed into a black man and call it this? If he didn't, he should have. That would have been much more edgy than turning stinky ol' Frank Castle into a black man!

A God Somewhere by John Arcudi (writer), Peter Snejbjerg (artist), Bjarne Hansen (colorist), and Wes Abbott (letterer). $24.99, 194 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

This looks really cool, and Arcudi is usually pretty decent. When I first saw Snejbjerg, back in the Starman days, I didn't like his art too much. He got better by the end of that run and has just kept improving since. I just re-read The Light Brigade, and man, is his art gorgeous in that book.

Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen (writer) and Stuart Immonen (artist). $14.95, 136 pgs, BW, Top Shelf.

Immonen (Stuart) breaks out his "indy" look in this story about espionage. I love me some espionage, people! And if you don't like Immonen (Kathryn) on Marvel books, give this a try!

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (writer/artist). $24.99, 210 pgs, BW, DC/Vertigo.

So I guess I should have read this 15 years ago. Well, I'm finally getting to it! Are you happy now! When will the persecution stop?!?!?!??!?!?

So Olivia Munn was a correspondent on The Daily Show last night. Fuck the heck? Jon Stewart made it sound like semi-regular gig. Doesn't she already have a job?

You know you're dying to check out The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle But Which Often Gets Reset, A Vexing Dilemma):

1. "K Street" - Fastbacks "Has it all changed so much or is it all in me?"12. "Innocent Party" - Fish (2003) "You were blind in the spotlight you reached out for conspiracies"3. "People Need Love" - ABBA (1973) "Everybody knows that a man who's feeling down wants some female sympathy"4. "Roadkill" - Horse Flies (1992) "Don't blame me if I swing at Bambi I'm just a man tryin' to feed my family"25. "No Man's Woman" - Sinéad O'Connor (2000) "My friends think I'm alone but I've got secrets"6. "Everybody Wants the Same Thing" - Scissor Sisters (2006) "What is it that you want? What is it that you give?"7. "Reflections" - Supremes (1967) "Through the hollow of my tears I see a dream that's lost"8. "Counting Every Minute" - Foreigner (1987) "Can you feel my fingers running through your hair?"9. "Just a Man" - Faith No More (1995) "And every night I shut my eyes so I don't have to see the light"10. "Hasta Mañana" - ABBA (1974) "Darling our love was much too strong to die"

1 Seriously, I can't find a year for this song. It's post-1979, I know that much!2 Some bands would use "roadkill" metaphorically. Not our friends in the Horse Flies! This song is literally about eating dead animals found on the side of the road. Because it's awesome.

I'm a bit shocked that nobody guessed Coldplay's "Amsterdam" as the totally random lyrics - I guess everyone is far cooler than I am and doesn't listen to that shit! So let's see if I can come up with something a bit hipper for this week's selection!

"One day I foundMyself driving myself around,And then I saw 'em,Like a herd sheep callin',"Gimme a ride to the Dead show man,"Well don't be sad,They may be smelly,But they're not that bad"

Easy as pie, right? And I know I didn't buy a lot this week, not only because it was a small week in general but nothing from the Big Two really caught my eye (you'll notice the lack of mainstream DC books in my haul this week). So feel free to talk about any comic you picked up and that I was foolish to pass by. Maybe you'll convince me I missed a gem!

Tomorrow: I decided to skip the review I had planned for today, and tomorrow I'm tubing down the lovely Salt River. I do have reviews to post, I promise. How will you live without them?!?!?!?

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