What I bought - 3 November 2010

"It's the worst thing you'll ever do in your life," she said, "helping the people you love to do something that in your heart you believe is deeply wrong." (Orson Scott Card, from Xenocide)

Avengers Academy #6 ("I Dreamed a Dream") by Christos Gage (writer), Mike McKone (penciler), Dave Meikis (inker), Rebecca Buchman (inker), Andrew Hennessy (inker), Rick Ketchum (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

FOUR inkers! Wow. It's implied that Mike McKone is off the book, as Gage writes in the letter column that they're welcoming Tom Raney next issue, and he doesn't say it's for a guest spot. I don't have an issue with either McKone or Raney, so it's a six-of-one, half-dozen of the other sort of thing, but I wonder why Marvel and DC even bother announcing one creative team anymore - they should have two artists attached to every project, because that's the way it goes, apparently. DC is upfront about the fact that J. H. Williams III won't be the only artist on Batwoman. I mean, that's a given and we know it, but it's nice that DC anticipated it.

Anyway, the final issue of the introductory stories gives us Reptil, who is elected class leader of the group and spends the issue wondering if he's capable of being the leader. It's not a bad issue - we get to check in on the various subplots that Gage has begun over the course of this initial arc, as Humberto keeps noticing that something strange is going on between Finesse and Quicksilver (and since Finesse has decided to use him as her sex toy, he brings it up either post-coitus or pre-coitus - I'd go with "post-," even though they're clothed, because of the dialogue between them - which would seem like the absolute worst time to bring stuff like that up); tries to point out that Hazmat and Mettle ought to hook up, which they don't think is a good idea; and has a chat with Jessica Jones about her time being possessed by the Purple Man after his mind is briefly taken over by Mentallo and he goes full dinosaur, biting the villain on the shoulder. Gage does a nice job showing how Humberto is feeling out being a leader - he wants to lead by example and not talk so much, he gives credit to others, he meddles in Hazmat and Mettle's conversation, and he realizes he needs to talk about Mentallo and about Norman Osborn messing with him. It's a nice, solid comic.

I should point out that in a comic book where Reptil and Finesse are having sex out of wedlock (the horror!) and it's been implied that Finesse is boinking Quicksilver (the HORROR!), Gage goes out of his way to have Jessica tell Humberto that the Purple Man didn't rape her. Now, I don't have my issues of Alias right in front of me, but wasn't it fairly obvious that he did, in fact, rape her? I seem to remember her standing in front of him in her underwear and him talking about some icky things he was going to do. I know that she's been integrated into the "kid-friendly" mainstream Marvel Universe, but it seems odd that in a book where two young people are having sex and we have possible statutory rape (is Finesse supposed to be a teenager, or in her early twenties?), Gage takes the time to assure us that, in fact, the Purple Man didn't rape Jessica. At least, I found it odd.

I usually decide about new comics after the first arc, and I think I'll stick around for a while with this. Gage has done a good job with the characters, and I like the central hook of the book - that these are kids the Avengers have to keep an eye on. We'll just see how many issues Raney draws before he needs a break!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman and Robin #16 ("Black Masks") by Grant "Yeah, it's out of order - wanna make something of it, fanboy?" Morrison (writer), Cameron Stewart (artist), Chris Burnham (artist), Frazer Irving (artist/colorist), Alex Sinclair (colorist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $3.99, 32 pgs, FC, DC.

Morrison's Batman endings always fall short of his set-ups, and this is no exception. I mean, it's just Dr. Hurt getting beaten up again, innit? That being said, it's still a cool issue, for many reasons. On the first page, Morrison quotes directly from Milligan's "Dark Knight, Dark City" arc, which is where this whole demon thing comes from. He also doesn't forget the girl/sacrifice, who shows up in this issue and suffers a horrible fate. Morrison writes Bruce particularly well - his dialogue feels spot-on whenever he shows up, and that's no exception here. I was a tad bit disappointed that Alfred was, actually, in a trap filling with water - it felt very much like a lie just to get Batman off Hurt's trail, but that's just a minor thing. I also like that Damian defusing the bomb doesn't get much screen time - Damian tells Bruce that of course he doesn't need his help, and that's the last we hear of it. Those little touches always make Morrison an interesting writer, because he often zigs when we expect him to zag. And, you know, Gordon in a dress. Awesome.

Of course, the art is amazing. Stewart, who draws the first 15 pages, is tremendous, with the two pages of fight scene between the Batman gang and the 99 fiends a wonderful visual treat. Burnham shows why he's probably going to get higher-profile work in the future, and Irving is excellent as usual. The art styles clash quite a bit, but at least the three artists work on separate sections of the book - Stewart has the flashback to 1765 and the initial big fight, Burnham handles Bruce running through the mansion trying to rescue Alfred, and Irving wraps up the Professor Pyg stuff and the Joker/Hurt stuff. The way Irving shows what the Joker does to Hurt is particularly effective.

The biggest problem with the book is that it came out before The Return of Bruce Wayne #6, so we still don't know what the deal is with the cliffhanger at the end of issue #5 of that comic, plus it came out before Batman: The Return, which renders that book irrelevant (okay, probably not irrelevant, because I don't know what that book will contain, but still). Obviously, the Justice League's fears about Bruce's return were kind of silly, but it's annoying that it doesn't seem to have mattered at all. Whatev. I do like how Morrison establishes the idea of Batman, Incorporated - it allows him to have Batman going all over the place in that title while still having a Batman in Gotham, and who's to say Bruce won't hire some other dude to be Batman every once in a while so he can take a vacation? If anyone could make that work, it's the God of All Comics.

While I know Morrison is capable of excellent endings, the fact that this resolution isn't great doesn't bother me too much. The entire "Dick Grayson-as-solo-Batman" era has been forgettable except for some clever characterization, and it's a bit frustrating that DC would allow it to happen, because it leads to a fairly dull conclusion - we know Bruce is coming back, it's just a question of when. Still, the Morrison magic is sprinkled throughout this issue and this run, which is nice to see. I'm looking forward to what he does with all the "Batman meets International Batmen" stuff.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Bullet to the Head #5 (of 6) by Matz (writer), Colin Wilson (artist/letterer), Chris Blythe (colorist), and Chris Caniano (letterer). $3.99, 29 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

Philip and Jimmy, the cop and the hitman, continue to hunt down the people who killed everyone they know, and while there's some violence, most of the book is Matz contrasting these two, much like he did with Jimmy and Louis earlier in the series. There's an undertone of sudden violence, though, because we're never sure if Jimmy is going to turn on Philip or if Philip is going to try to arrest Jimmy, and that makes the proceedings all the more tense. Wilson does his usual stellar job, with the art occasionally looking a bit like Eduardo Risso's while remaining firmly Wilson-esque - it's a nice trick. In a book with a lot of talking, Wilson gives us scenery of the streets around where the two men talk, making it visually more interesting than if he focused on their heads all the time (and he does that often enough, so when he pulls back, it's a good change of pace). It's a good penultimate issue, with some of the violence taken care of but not too much, so the final issue is sure to be a bit bloody.

The two men hide out in Chelsea late in the book, and it takes an odd turn. There's a lot of talk about gay men and how much Philip, in particular, hates them (Jimmy doesn't seem to mind as much). It's pretty nasty talk, but it's interesting because it makes Philip much more believable - why wouldn't he be uncomfortable around homosexuals? The reason I point it out is because so often in comics, the characters don't have many opinions about things everyone has opinions about. There's not a lot of talk of politics, religion, or cultural issues. Sure, Jimmy and Philip can talk about which hot actress they'd like to nail, but that's not much, is it? I don't want comics to turn into deep philosophical discussions about meaningful things, obviously, but it's interesting that when the topic comes up, Matz doesn't ignore it and by making Philip a homophobe, he might make him less likeable (depending on your stance; maybe you think all gay people should be rounded up and shot because you're, you know, an idiot) but he makes him more interesting. We wonder more about this guy after his outbursts than before, and he's more of a human being than before. A less likeable one, sure, but at least more of one. But that's just my opinion.

Oh, and Chad Nevett gets quoted extensively on the back of this issue. That Canuck is smart, eh?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Days Missing: Kestus #1 ("Part One: The Sword"/"The First Fold") by Phil Hester (writer, "The Sword"), Trevor Roth (writer, "The First Fold"), David Marquez (artist), Digikore Studios (colorist), and Troy Peteri (letterer). $3.95, 24 pgs, FC, Archaia/Roddenberry Productions.

The problem with the first Days Missing mini-series was that it was a bit unfocused. Each issue had a different writer (Hester did the first and last ones, if I remember correctly) and a different artist, and while the art side wasn't bad, the fact we couldn't get a good handle on the Steward, the central figure of the book, because I assume no writer could impose his will on the character without a different one coming along and messing with it made the book a bit more potentially good than actually good. It wasn't bad, certainly, but the idea - a man can erase certain days in humanity's history before events on those days cause grievous harm to humanity - remained a good one that needed to be fleshed out a bit.

It was intriguing enough, however, that I wanted to get the sequel, especially because Hester and Marquez are doing the whole thing, so perhaps the Steward will get some more personality to go along with the weird plots. Hester does that right out of the gate, introducing a possible love interest for the Steward, a woman named Kestus who apparently is much like him, only without a conscience. She's living on the Asian steppes, ruling as a goddess (she's lived a long time) over a horde of warriors who are about to overrun a town where lives a young man who is fairly important to the future of humanity. I won't give it away - Hester makes it pretty easy to guess - but it's a nice tale, as the Steward meets Kestus, flirts with her, shows the young man how to make iron weapons (thereby promoting war even more, as iron is stronger than bronze and makes for better killing), and proves to the hordes that their goddess might not actually be heavenly. Presumably each chapter of this series will be a point in time when the Steward comes across Kestus and we'll see how their relationship changes over the millennia.

Marquez is a decent artist - we can tell who's who, the art looks digital but not too stiff, and the special effects are keen. It's not going to make me change my religion, but it's pretty good. I always question the logic of having women 2500 years ago dress with a lot of skin showing - I'm not saying they didn't, but I wonder - so the fact that Kestus wanders the Asian steppes with no pants on is a bit perplexing, but as we have no photographs of women from the Asian steppes 2500 years ago, I'll give Marquez the benefit of the doubt. Like I wrote, I can tell what's going on in this comic, and if that sounds like damning with faint praise, remember that on some Big Two comics, it's occasionally difficult to tell what's going on. So Marquez gets points for that!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Generation Hope #1 ("The Future is a Four-Letter Word, Part One") by Kieron Gillen (writer), Salvador Espin (artist), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), and Dave Sharpe (letterer). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I'm a bit excited about Generation Hope because I want Gillen to write a high-profile comic that I want to read, and while this isn't as high-profile as Thor, he was never the permanent guy on that book, I wasn't interested in it, and this one has the chance because it's X-related. "So was S.W.O.R.D.," say the smart-asses among you, and sure, sort of, but this is moreso - look, it has Wolverine in it! And Gillen is a really good writer, so I'm always rooting for him. In this first issue, Hope, the mutant savior, has "activated" four new mutants (she can do that, apparently) and this book begins with the group flying to Tokyo to collect the fifth one. Unfortunately, before she can get to the mutants, their powers go a bit nuts, and that's what happens to Kenji, the fifth "light" (as the new mutants are called). The first two pages of this comic are actually kind of creepy, as Kenji goes a bit nuts, and then Gillen introduces the team, your typical group of teenagers who don't want to be mutants and are kind of grumpy about it. Cyclops and Wolverine are already in Tokyo, Rogue flies the rest of them in, but Kenji goes even nuttier before Hope can touch him (which will calm him down). When Hope goes into Kenji's apartment alone to help him, things get worse. Oh dear.

So that's the basic plot. Gillen does a nice job with the dialogue, which isn't surprising - he's quite good at that. I understand why he used first-person narrative to introduce all the characters, but it does become a bit heavy-handed, and it would have been nice to see the kids' powers and innermost thoughts introduced over the course of a few issues. Like I noted, I'm sure Gillen did it to get everyone up to speed quickly so people don't lose interest in the series - it might be a mutant book, but it also has a bunch of unknown characters - but it's a bit depressing that that's probably the reason. If every narrative caption was deleted from this book, it would still be an exciting read and we'd probably know enough about the kids to move on. That being said, when Hope finds Kenji in his apartment, his narrative captions are pretty keen. Simple, but keen.

The real revelation for me is Espin, whose art is really good. Most of the time, I've seen Espin doing the Kid Marvel stuff, which calls for a different style, but this is grittier, more realistic, and definitely creepier. He channels Katsuhiro Otomo in the big splash page late in the book, but it's still a horrifying image. There's even a bit of a difference between Hope and her charges, who are teenagers, and Rogue, who's still young (she can't be more than 25, if that, right?) but has lived more than they have. I don't know how many issues in a row Espin will be able to do, but I'm very happy that he's on the book - when I heard his name, I was a little leery, but he's put those fears to rest with only one issue.

This is $3.99 mainly because it's a #1 issue from Marvel, but also because we get Hope's back story, which means eight (8!) pages of explanation tacked on. Issue #2 is $2.99, so if the price is making you balk, give it a try knowing that the price will go down. It's a very good comic. I'm going to talk more about it when I get to the second #1 issue I bought, down below, so there's that to look forward to! I'm sure you're trembling in anticipation!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gødland #33 ("Døgland") by Joe Casey (writer), Tom Scioli (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

You know, at this point, I honestly don't know what to write about Gødland. Casey ramps it up further every issue, as Friedrich Nickelhead continues to chat philosophically with the butterfly while Basil, who is still attached to the crotch of a giant robot (although not for long) continues to battle the Almighty Decimator as the world goes to hell around them. In deep space, Adam visits Maxim's homeworld, where things get ... even more cosmic, if that's possible. Meanwhile R@d-Ur Rezz escapes but meets a thing with no name, and their battle changes things ... back on Earth. Yes, it's all twisty and wacky, but it's ridiculously entertaining, and although it's a long wait between issues, I don't care. Every issue is a blast of pure comics wonderfulness, and I am tingling with anticipation about how Casey and Scioli are going to wrap this thing up. We know it's coming soon, we just don't know when (issue #36? further than that?). Until then, I will simply love reading every issue, and then, I will sit down and re-read the entire series, and my mind will be blown again! Who wouldn't love that?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scarlet #3 by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alex Maleev (artist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $3.95, 25 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

Scarlet continues to piss me the hell off, but hey, I keep buying it, right? Damn you, Bendis!!!!

Okay, so why does it piss me off? Well, I still think the premise is ridiculous and even stupid, but now that Scarlet is killing cops, the fact that the cops might be corrupt goes right out the window, because she's lost any moral high ground she had (especially by the end of this issue, where she really goes around the bend). As has been the case from the beginning of the series, if Bendis is leading us to a point where we understand that Scarlet really is insane, this might mitigate it a bit, but I fear he's not going to do that. And then there's Gabriel's best friend, Brandon, whom Scarlet recruits for her mission in this issue. Bendis goes back to the "one panel depicting important moments in lives" schtick that he used in issue #1, and it's less clever and even more clichéd than that one (they trade baseball cards - really, Bendis, in the mid-1990s?; they play hookey; they sneak into The Matrix Revolutions; they play XBox; they cheat off each other; they go see Arcade Fire), and then she gets Brandon to go along with her, filming her at the end when she takes things up a notch. Poor Brandon. Will he be sacrificed for Scarlet's greater good? Who knows. I guess I can't feel too bad for him - he doesn't exist, for one thing, and when Scarlet told him what she had done, he didn't immediately call people to take her away to the asylum in Salem. So he's as dumb as she is!

What bothers me most about this issue and the series so far is how Bendis has stacked the deck so much. Scarlet is like the Joker in The Dark Knight - she's a super-terrorist who, despite appearances, apparently has everything planned out months in advance. The cop who wrote in after issue #1 gets a letter printed about issue #2, and he's right - the cops cannot be this inept: the only reason they know who killed the cops is because Scarlet calls them and tells them. Some guy writes in calling that cop full of shit or clueless, because he (the letter-writer) knows all about corruption in the police department. Heck, so do I - I grew up near the town that convicted Mumia Abu-Jamal, after all, and, to remind people, the town where the mayor once bombed his own city (yes, he really did), but while the letter-writing cop might be a bit naïve about police corruption, he's right in this letter about the ineptitude of the cops, who have no idea what's going on even though Scarlet visited an ex-cop in issue #2 and basically told him what she was going to do, plus she left fingerprints and DNA everywhere at the crime scene. (Yes, I know Guzman is supposed to be cowardly, but come on, and I know the cops just discovered the body, but it wasn't her first murder, after all.) So we have idiot cops and a girl who apparently can do everything. It's just stupid.

As always, you might wonder why the hell I'm buying this book. Well, Maleev's art helps, of course, but Bendis does know what he's doing, and when he's not doing superheroes, he's capable of greatness and at least interesting stuff. I'm certainly willing to give him a long piece of rope, because I do have some faith in him. We shall see how long it takes before I cut it.

Oh, and Bendis/Maleev on Moon Knight in the spring? Yeah, I'm there.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Six #27 ("The Reptile Brian Part Three of Four: Masked and Masked Again") by Gail Simone (writer), Jim Calafiore (artist), Jason Wright (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

I read somewhere that Simone is very happy with DC censoring Secret Six because of all the stuff they actually let her get away with, and that's fine and dandy, but how cool would it have been if they had allowed a "fuck" to slip in here? You know where! That would have been awesome. Would anyone have raised a stink? Do parents let their kids read this comic?

As Bane lies dying (he doesn't), Jeannette tells both teams to knock it the hell off, because, as she puts it, "no one is supposed to die" when two supergroups fight. That's a nice meta comment. So the two groups go their separate ways, but they're still on opposite sides, so of course they end up squaring off again. That won't be pleasant.

The biggest problem with this arc, as I've mentioned, is Skartaris itself. Yes, it's a fun place where dinosaurs roam and all, but Simone really digs into the DC archives with this, as Machiste and Shakira (singing sensation AND woman warrior of another world!) figure they need to resurrect Deimos to fight the intruders. Simone does a decent job of giving us the basics about these people, but man, that's a lot to process, especially when we consider that Travis Morgan is dead, killed off at the end of the latest series, a series no one but Mike Grell and Mike Grell's close relations read (I suppose DiDio might have read it, but that's just a guess). So that came as a bit of a shock. Still, the fact that Simone is referencing either really old stories or recent stories that no one read makes this a bit more opaque than usual. But otherwise, this isn't a bad issue, and we get to see what happens when Thomas Blake goes native. Okay, more native than usual. And, of course, Waller. And, of course, Rag Doll in Superman underwear. You WILL be disturbed!!!!!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Superboy #1 ("Smallville Attacks! Part One") by Jeff Lemire (writer), Pier Gallo (artist), Jamie Grant (colorist), and John J. Hill (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, DC.

And so we come to the comic that you, the readers, chose for me. Actually, if you want to get technical, more people suggested I try Jonah Hex #61, but I had a few reasons for not choosing that one. As commenter Philip pointed out, I bought a few issues of Jonah Hex a while ago, and while I didn't hate it, it just seemed like the same thing over and over again. Kind of like those old DC war comics - sure, it's fun to see the soldiers fight dinosaurs every single issue, but I'd rather get that in Showcase format for 17 bucks rather than plunk down three dollars every month. I do like seeing the art, but not enough to get me to buy it. More importantly, I didn't get to the shoppe early on Wednesday, and by the time I got there, Jonah Hex was sold out (they don't order many for the shelf; I think there are usually two copies out). So I missed it. (This is also why I didn't buy Chaos War #3 or Strange Tales II #2 - they too were sold out by the time I got there.) Superboy got only one fewer vote than Jonah Hex, and they were by far the most vote-getters, so it was easy to pick this one up. The town full of Hitlers looked pretty cool, though (and I am planning on getting that trade, in case you want to know).

So. Superboy #1. It's not bad. It's enough to get me to come back for the second issue, which I guess is all it really has to do, right? It begins with Conner Kent hanging out in Smallville when the Phantom Stranger shows up, speaks all mysteriously ("There is a darkness blowing in on these gentle Kansas winds. Something sinister incubates within these rich oil fields ..."), and then disappears. To be fair, Conner calls him on his bullshit, but the Stranger, as is his wont, doesn't stick around long enough to get a punch in the face. So Conner goes to school, brushes off Lori Luthor, Lex's niece, who's totally hot for him (does he brush her off because she's sort-of his cousin, or because her uncle is EEEEEEvillllll?), and finds out that his best friend, Simon Valentine, knows that he's Superboy (because Simon tells him). Oh, and some old fart lectures him because he doesn't know that the day is the 154th anniversary of the Smallville's founding. (Conner should have said, "Look, I'm just passing through this podunk town on the way to the big city - you know, Topeka - so STFU, Andy Rooney") Then the Parasite attacks. Superboy beats him, natch, with some help from Krypto, and then discovers that things are still not jake in Smallville - the plants are going crazy. Who on earth could be connected to that?????

It's a pretty good first issue - Lemire introduces a conflict and some important characters, and Conner narrates enough about himself so we get a good handle on who he is. I don't love Gallo's art, but it fits the cornfed, all-American, clean style of a Superman/Superboy/Supergirl comic, or at least what I think that style should be (it's not always so, I know). He draws a pretty good Parasite, as well. I know this might be sacrilege, but the fact that Jamie Grant is coloring this gives it a strange, Quitely-esque sheen to it, not unlike All Star Superman. I'm not saying Gallo is better than Quitely or that Quitely is better than Gallo (I prefer Quitely, but I know he has his detractors) or even that their styles are similar, but the vibe of the book - the brightness of it, the almost airbrushed quality, the precision of the line work - reminds me vaguely of ASS. I still love that acronym, I tell ya.

Okay, so we have two #1 issues from the Big Two - Generation Hope and Superboy. Recently a wacky Australian with too much Carlton in his system suggested I hate DC (oh, I'm joking, you wacky Aussie - I'm sure it was Tooheys). But here we have an interesting test case - two inaugural issues by writers I really like starring characters who have some baggage. Why do I like the Marvel book better? I like Superboy, but I like Generation Hope more, and if I had to choose, I'd choose the latter. I'm not sure why. They both feature a good fight and explain the situation fairly clearly, and they both end on pretty good cliffhangers. They're almost identical in their plot patterns. I have been thinking about why I like Generation Hope slightly more, and it comes down to a difference in tone. In the Marvel book, it feels like something is changing, and Gillen is moving the narrative forward into the future. In the DC book, Conner is entrenched in Smallville with Ma and Pa Kent, he fights an old villain, and it feels like it's just a superhero book that will feature Connor simply defeating villains. It does not feel like there's any forward progression. Note that I say "feels like," because as we know, mainstream superhero comics rarely change, so the illusion of change is important. Change isn't always good, of course - Hope's back story is already ridiculously convoluted, as the prose section in the back of the book makes clear, and she's only dealing with the last five years of mutant history. But it feels like Gillen has an agenda with the book - Hope is activating new mutants to save their race - and it doesn't feel like Lemire has much of one beyond writing a solid superhero comic. Again, there's nothing wrong with writing a solid superhero comic, and perhaps the Phantom Stranger's appearance means that Lemire will move things forward, but I'm talking about my own personal biases here. They can be irrational if they want to be.

And let's look at the "coming soon" page at the back of Superboy. Generation Hope doesn't have one, but at least we know what the first arc is about - Hope and the others trying to deal with Kenji. in the back of Superboy, we have a promise of a Kid Flash/Superboy race. Really? I mean, I know Marvel does this too - how many freakin' times is Ben Grimm going to become human again? - but the Flash vs. Superman race is so, so dull to me, and it's part of the reason why it feels like Lemire is just tapping a nostalgic vein. There's a promise a yet another iteration of the Titans and Superboy meeting Superboy, which makes me think there's going to be close interaction with the Legion of Super-Heroes, a group I simply have never been able to get into. The entire page screams "comfort food," meaning that Lemire is just going to tread very familiar ground with regard to the character and DC history. Again, Marvel does this too, don't get me wrong, and it's one of the reasons I don't read Avengers, for instance. I don't read a lot of the main superhero books for that reason. But the DC books I do read - Booster Gold (for now) and Secret Six, as well as Morrison's Batman (and this is partly because it's Morrison and partly because I love Batman) - at least try to move things forward. While Marvel still spins the wheels of the big franchises, much of their B- or C-level output seems to have far more interesting storytelling than DC's B- or C-level output. Let's face it - Superboy isn't an icon, especially this Superboy. So the fact that this feels really traditional kind of bums me out, even though it's well done.

I don't know if any of this makes any sense. Part of the problem with DC has always been the iconic nature of their heroes, and that idea filters down to the icons' knock-offs like Superboy. I mean, JMS can change Wonder Woman's status quo, and I don't care because there's no way it will last. Marvel tries to change the status quo and while we know it will usually revert, very often it doesn't do so right away (Steve Rogers still isn't Captain America again, for instance). Marvel, despite being a conservative corporate entity, manages to keep the feeling that their characters grow and change. DC keeps replacing their new characters with the originals from the Silver Age. More than anything, that's why I tend to like Marvel more. But that's just me.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Unknown Soldier #25 ("Beautiful World: Conclusion") by Joshua Dysart (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist), Oscar Celestini (colorist), and Clem Robins (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Unknown Soldier ends pretty much as it has to, and while this issue isn't all that great (the first part is intense, but then Dysart has to wrap things up pretty quickly, so he goes the old "prose telling us what happens to the characters" route, which gives us a lot of information but isn't that interesting), it is a nice coda to the series, which ended too soon. The final image is both chilling and hopeful, which isn't a bad way to go. It would be nice if DC would bring out a nice 25-issue omnibus kind of thing, because this series deserves it. It started slowly, but Dysart and Ponticelli quickly made this a must-read, one that never shied away from the harsh reality of war and highlighted a conflict in a part of the world Americans know very little about but which, like all wars, shouldn't be ignored. Dysart was a decent writer when this series began, but he's really become a very good writer as it's gone on. It's too bad Unknown Soldier couldn't get a bigger audience, but I would implore you to get the trades and prepare yourself for a gripping read.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Young Allies #6 ("A Change of Mind") by Sean McKeever (writer), David Baldeón (penciler), N. Bowling (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), and Joe Sabino (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Well, another book I read gets cancelled, and I'd like to consider this and Avengers Academy, which apparently is doing fine, sales-wise (maybe it's not, but at least it gets to go on past issue #6). It's interesting to consider why a book sells, even though it's wild speculation. Some books hit a nerve at just the right time, and that's great. Some books - far fewer than I want to admit - sell on the strength of the writer or, more likely, the artist (art, being more visually interesting, is probably easier to hook readers). In mainstream superhero comics, it seems, the biggest reason a book succeeds or fails is because of the characters. That depresses me on many levels, but let's check out these two books. Avengers Academy and Young Allies are both written by pretty good but not superstar writers and drawn by pretty good but not superstar artists. They both feature characters who aren't terribly popular and don't have much history. Both are good superhero books. Avengers Academy, however, is tied into Marvel's biggest property right now, and Young Allies isn't. That, apparently, is enough to keep it afloat. The psychology of the consumer fascinates me, as you can tell. If you're Typical Consumer A, and you walk into your local comics emporium and see these two books on the shelf and you can only buy one, with all other things being equal (i. e., you're not Sean McKeever's mom or you don't have a huge crush on Mike McKone), what differentiates these two books? It's not the main characters, certainly. It's the fact that the non-cancelled book has "Avengers" in the title and when you flip through it, you might see Hank Pym or Quicksilver, characters you know! I'm just speculating about that, but when there's such a miniscule difference between the quality of the books, something else must be driving sales.

Anyway, this actually is the weakest issue of the series so far, which is kind of a bummer. It's possible (probable?) that McKeever meant it to somehow lead into the next arc and had to rework it a bit, but I don't know. I guess it doesn't matter. McKeever screws up in the back and thanks every member of the creative team, including Joe Sabino, but doesn't mention the inker, the mysteriously named "N. Bowling." Bowling works with Sotomayor at Sotocolor, so I guess thanking the colorist and his "cohorts" is enough, but poor Mr. or Mrs. Bowling, who doesn't get thanked and doesn't even get a first name. It's very sad.

I thought this series would have an uphill climb, and it turns out I was right. Oh well. Everyone will come out of it okay. And we'll all move on. One Marvel series dies, another is born - it's the circle of life!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Xenozoic by Mark Schultz (writer/artist). $39.95, 352 pgs, BW, Flesk Publications.

I don't know if the stories in this volume are any good, but damn, the art is fantastic. Very cool stuff!

As I continue to track the unholy Disney-ESPN-Marvel trinity, in the latest ESPN the Magazine (published in New York City the City!), there's a Nathan Fox drawing. It's not a particularly interesting drawing - it's on the first page of an article about coaches who scream a lot and shows one coach in varying stages of screaming - but it is, you know, Nathan Fox. I saw it and thought, "That looks like Nathan Fox," and then checked the credits to confirm. I read way too many comics, don't I?

I hope everyone in the States voted on Tuesday, just because no matter how cynical you are, it's always good to vote. I'm not too bent out of shape about the Republican tidal wave - people might be doom-saying throughout the country and the world, but I remain calm! The reason I'm not bent out of shape about it is because people vote very weirdly, often to throw someone out rather than to get someone in. They might be dissatisfied with the way Obama is running the country, but now the Republicans, with their renewed pledges of fiscal responsibility and smaller government, have to stop spouting slogans and figure out how to do these things. Cut welfare? It's already cut to the bone. Destroy Obamacare? Good luck with that. The two biggest government programs are defense and Medicare. Have fun trying to cut those, Republicans. I imagine it will be business as usual in Washington, and in two years, there might be a surge in the other direction. In Arizona, the weirdness of voters was highlighted by the fact that we voted for a governor who, in her brief time in office (she replaced Janet Napolitano, so she hadn't been elected yet), had done nothing to stop the state from hemorraghing money, yet because she signed one piece of legislation, the ludicrous anti-illegal immigration bill, was swept into office. Governor Brewer has the potential to be the worst governor in the country, yet she dominated in the polls because of one bill. Yet Arizona, which could make a claim to being the most conservative state in the country, rejected two ballot propositions that would have gutted a land preservation fund and a children's education fund in order to help balance the state budget. Land preservation and public funding for schools - two areas that are now traditionally "Democratic," yet voters in our state told the Republican-dominated legislature to leave them alone. Elections are always interesting because of stuff like this. I'm curious to see how long it takes for power to go to the Republicans' heads. It always happens!

How about we gaze upon The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Miss America" - Styx (1977) "Next year, what will you do when you have been forgotten"2. "Incommunicado" - Marillion (1987) "I want to do adverts for American Express cards, talk shows on primetime TV"13. "Hard to Handle" - Black Crowes (1990) "I'm advertising love for free so you can place your ad with me"4. "Lie Lie Lie Lie" - Chumbawamba (2000) "You watch Friends together, then you break up"5. "What About Livingstone" - ABBA (1974) "Wasn't it worth the while traveling up the Nile"6. "W. H. Y. B." - Liquid Jesus (1991) "Love is the key, and music's the thing that's burning in my soul"7. "Immortality" - Pearl Jam (1994) "Some die just to live"8. "Supper's Ready" - Genesis (1972) "The frog was a prince, the prince was a brick, the brick was an egg, the egg was a bird"29. "Send His Love to Me" - PJ Harvey (1995) "This love becomes my torture, this love my only crime"10. "Man of a Thousand Faces" - Marillion (1997) "Pass me a microphone, I need to testify"

1 In case you didn't notice, last week I started linking to videos of these songs, either the actual videos or live performances. Because I don't spend enough time looking for non-comics links in these posts! Anyway, I don't know if anyone cares to look at the videos, but I encourage you to check out the one for "Incommunicado," because it's hilarious. A late 1980s video, full of big hair, goofy clothing, and really bad dubbing. It's a good song, but the video is so-awful-it's-awesome. And thank all that's good and decent that Fish started shaving his head, because he looks really goofy.2 I couldn't find any decent concert footage of Genesis performing this song. I'm sure it's out there, I just couldn't find it.

Hey! It's totally random lyrics:

"'Cause I'm just a problem For you to solve and Watch dissolve in the heat of your charm But what will you do when You run it through and You can't get me back on the farm"

Don't forget to change your clocks this weekend! We don't do that here, which is actually more annoying, because everything on television shifts to one hour later in the day (except the nightly network shows). But you should remember!

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