What I bought - 30 August 2006

Yet another big week in the comic book world, and I had a lot to read. I even read an issue the excellence of which staggered me. And no, it's not the one you think!

So let's get it on!

The Boys #2 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

Well, this one was better than the first issue, but I'm still not sure I'm going to keep buying it. The next two issues should decide it, as our murderous bunch actually goes after superheroes. We'll see if it will simply be sadistic crap or actually be some fun. Knowing the recent Ennis, I'm thinking it will be the former, but we'll see.

The problem with this issue is in what Ennis thinks is funny. He's always had a juvenile sense of humor, and one of the reasons I briefly dropped Preacher after issue #25 was because of the childishness of it all. I'm glad I went back, but even now, parts of the book make me roll my eyes. Ironically, Hitman, despite the presence of Section 8, was always less annoying in its humor. Perhaps because that bunch was so ridiculous. I don't know. But Ennis has always had that streak in him, and his best work does not wallow in it. So far, this book does. I may be able to ignore it if the other parts redeem it, but so far they are not, which is why I want to see the team in action. If this turns into just another Ennis book about killing superheroes in the most disgusting way possible, I won't be around for long.

Examples, you say? Dogs raping other dogs is simply not my idea of humor. It's just asinine. Let's have less of that in upcoming issues, shall we? The crazy Frenchman wasn't funny, either. Much more annoying than even remotely humorous. Ennis can be very good at writing characters - the two best parts of the book are when Billy is trying to recruit Hughie and when he visits "Mother's Milk" - what the hell is up with that? - and lays down the law to his daughter. These little scenes show us that Ennis is a big softie at heart, who cares about people and respect and how we interact with each other in a society. And then he throws in a dog-raping scene, and I want to pull his tonsils out through his nostrils. Jesus.

After the egregious first issue, I figured I would give it about four issues to change my mind. I haven't wavered from that, because it's still not wowing me. We'll see when the next issue comes out.

Daredevil #88 by Ed Brubaker and David Aja. $2.99, Marvel.

T. may be cranky about Frank Miller taking good old-fashioned swashbuckling Daredevil and turning him into angst-ridden Daredevil, but the fact is - no one gave a tiny rat's ass about swashbuckling Daredevil, and lots of people like angst-ridden Daredevil. That being said, it's a brave thing to take a character and completely change him, which Miller helped do. Usually it only works with low-selling characters (I wonder if T. is grumpy because Len Wein and then Chris Claremont took a series that was in reprints and turned it into a juggernaut - "I want my X-Men reprints back!") and it might not even work with low-selling characters today because of the Internets, but it remains an interesting phenomenon to watch, because if it becomes successful, the radical change becomes calcified and no one else dares change it, even though change was what led to the character becoming popular in the first place!

All this is a roundabout way of criticizing the latest issue of Daredevil, which came out last week but which I did not get until this week. It was an enjoyable enough issue, and the Brubaker's examination of the psyche of Franklin Nelson was wonderful, because there are simply not enough "real" people in mainstream superhero comics. By "real" I mean people who are not heroes but aren't villains, either. Foggy is, I suspect, like a lot of us, in that he wants to do the right thing, but his "feet and hands don't always listen." That's a great way to put it. Most of us, I believe, are not unlike Henry Thomas' character in Saving Private Ryan - but we don't want to admit it (I have no idea if I'm like him or not, having never been in combat, but I suspect I would be, and that bothers me). Foggy is a good person, but he's not a brave one. This issue does a nice job with that.

Until the ninjas show up. Brubaker is trying, it seems, to bring even more of a noir feel to Daredevil than Miller and Bendis did, and ninjas don't fit in with that. When Miller did them, they were cool. Now they are boring. When the mob guy shouts "Ninjas!" I actually chuckled, which I doubt is the reaction Brubaker was going for. The writers of Daredevil need to phase the ninjas out. Please. They're just ridiculous these days. It almost spoiled a nice character piece. Lose the ninjas!

And, if the solicitations are any indication, Matt does a bit of swashbuckling in Europe coming up. That should make T. happy.

Fallen Angel #8 by Peter David and J. K. Woodward. $3.99, IDW.

During Fallen Angel's DC run, the weakest issues were the final two, which guest-starred Sachs and Violens, Peter David's characters from way back when. So far, issue #8 of the IDW run has been the weakest, and guess who guest stars? It's not that Sachs and Violens are all that awful characters, they're just kind of boring, and Lee is much more interesting. In this issue, she doesn't even appear, and although it's not a bad issue, it's not a very good one, either. The most interesting thing is Jude making the citizens of Bete Noire attend church, which Malachi tells him will end badly and does. There's a lot of bloodshed, some gratuitous nudity, and the art looks much more rushed than it has so far in the series. When I first saw Woodward's art in issue #1, I thought there might come a time when he couldn't keep up, and the art in this issue is by far the worst in the series. Again, it's not that it's bad, it's just that it looks sloppy.

It's a "to be continued" issue, so I hope that means it will only continue for one more issue, and I hope Lee comes back soon. A small bump in the road for a very good series.

She-Hulk #11 by Dan Slott, Rick Burchett, and Cliff Rathburn. $2.99, Marvel.

Why is G'Nort on the cover with Jen? I'm just wondering. God, I hate the covers on She-Hulk.

Slott has some very interesting things up his sleeve in this issue, and proves once again that you can write comics that are fun but still have serious stuff on their minds. This issue isn't as goofy as the last one, as Jen must fight for her life against her man-wolf (or wolf-man) husband while Pug's guts spill out on the floor and we find out why Starfox's love effects aren't wearing off. The interesting thing about this is that despite the rather light-hearted way Mallory and Andy's romance has been set up, we really care about it and worry when Mallory starts to question it. The way Slott has conceived not one, but two love triangles in the book and has made them seem completely realistic (despite featuring a block-headed android, a time-displaced gunslinger, a gamma-radiated lawyer, and a lycanthropic astronaut), which is part of the appeal of this book. And, in true long-running serial tradition (screw writing for the trade!), he resolves part of a story just to quickly bring up another conundrum, as Jameson becomes some weird alien wolf-god (and I'm sure someone can tell me when that was first brought up, even though it's not terribly important to the story - unless Slott made it up right now!) but says he'll give it all up if Jen stops being She-Hulk. Oh, the drama!

This is just a very nice issue about what makes us love each other and whether it can overcome adversity. Yes, in an issue of She-Hulk. And, of course, another minor point about the Registration Act comes up that I doubt Millar is addressing in the main title. All of it can be yours for just three thin dollars!

All-Star Superman #5 by That Guy, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant. $2.99, DC.

You thought the excellence of All-Star Superman would stagger me, didn't you? I told you it wasn't the one you thought! Even though, you know, I liked this issue. I find it fascinating that Morrison, one of my favorite writers, is writing a Superman book and a Batman book at the same time, and I like the Superman book more, even though I love Batman. Oh, the irony!

There's a lot to like in this issue, even though it's basically an issue of Lex and Clark walking around the prison while Clark interviews Lex. There's so much to like, in fact, that I don't think I can even get through it all. I can deal with delays in Quitely's work (even though, let's face it, I find it hard to believe it takes him this long to draw something like this) because of the care he puts into each panel, especially the small details. Clark looks so pathetic in some of the panels (which, of course, he's trying to be) and Quitely does a wonderful job of making him a completely separate person than Superman. I'm still not buying the disguise, but Quitely is one of those rare artists where you can see that the people who see Clark can't even admit that he could be Superman. Lex even sees the similarities ("throw in some weight training and that flabby physique of yours could even come to rival Superman's build") but his arrogance won't allow him to see the truth. Usually, Clark is as strapping and handsome as Superman, but Quitely does a wonderful job of selling Clark's doofus-ness.

As usual with Morrison, the cleverness of the script comes through, and his success is usually measured by how clever he thinks he is and how clever he actually is. If he thinks he's clever, that's when it usually overwhelms the rest of the story and fails. Here, there's nothing to overwhelm the interaction between Lex and Clark, so we get a very nice look at the dynamic of their relationship. Small touches tell us all we need to know about Lex. Despite his overwheening belief in the supremacy of human beings in general and himself in particular, he blames Superman for his problems. We are shown, pretty subtly, how ridiculously vain he is when he accidentally rubs off one of his eyebrows and later draws it back on. I wish that hadn't been as obvious, but the build-up to it (I can't actually figure out when he drops his eyebrow pencil, but when Clark picks it up is nicely done and when Lex rubs it off is also nicely done) is quite subtle, as well as Clark's smug superiority when he hands the eyebrow pencil back to Lex. That's a wonderful panel, as Lex again overlooks the obvious about Clark's eyebrows to claim he subconsciously trims his brows to look like Superman, and then Clark tells him "you dropped this earlier" and hands the pencil back to him. It's a wonderful little scene that tells you almost everything you need to know about their relationship. The fact that Lex makes fun of Clark's use of shorthand as unmanly while wearing ridiculously tight shorts and later telling Clark to feel his bicep is also quite funny and reveals a lot about Lex's jealousy of Superman. Is he jealous of Superman because he gets Lois, or jealous of Lois because she gets Superman????

This issue is why I love Morrison. It's not the insanity of ideas, but the way he understands characters and how they interact. Superman never appears in the book, but Clark shows us why he's a hero - he can save the prisoners and guards during a riot without giving away his secret, but more than that, he can act the buffoon and not allow his pride to get in the way of fooling Lex. He allows Lex to feel superior, even as the knowledge that he's not continues to eat away at Lex. You can keep your ninja man-bats - this is why I love the Big Bald Guy.

Ultimate X-Men Annual #2 by Robert Kirkman and Salvador Larroca. $3.99, Marvel.

Ah, the glory that is an well done Annual. Get some talented people (yes, Kirkman is the regular writer on the book, but Larroca is a fine choice for art) and tell a big story that vaguely ties in with the regular book but can be read by anyone picking this up on a lark. Okay, maybe you'll be a bit confused, but Kirkman does a nice job of making us understand pretty quickly everything that is going on. He wisely keeps Jean and the Phoenix/Shi'ar mess out of the book, as well as the Magician junk that's going on right now in the main book, shows everyone using their powers so we don't wonder who does what, alludes to storylines but doesn't let them get in the way, and sets up future storylines in a way that doesn't detract from the main narrative. Nicely done!

This is a resolution of the weird obsession Nightcrawler has with Dazzler, as we learn on the opening page that Kurt has been spending an inordinate amount of time in Alison's hospital room. When she wakes up, Kurt instantly teleports her away and lies to her about an attack on the X-Men and that he has to keep her safe in a cave for a while. He shows up at the mansion, but Logan can smell Alison on him and Xavier can sense that he's got her, so finding her isn't that difficult. The fight between Kurt and the rest of the team is where the issue gets interesting, as Logan tries to reason with him (both he and Kurt were part of Weapon X, after all), which doesn't work, and Kurt starts trashing the team. They win, of course, but not before Kurt breaks down and admits that he was wrong, but he didn't know any other way to try to get Alison to love him. It's a nice moment, but then Rogue touches him. She thinks her powers are gone, but they inexplicably return, and she freaks out a bit. Kurt is taken back to the mansion and kept under sedation, which pisses Alison off, who makes the (probably valid) point that if he had done this to anyone but her (especially Jean), Xavier would be a lot more angry. She leaves (boo - I love Dazzler!) and Kirkman undercuts the other nice moment with Kurt "reforming" when Rogue visits him and tells him that she knows he's a monster because she's been inside his head. Ah, the mutant drama!

All of this makes for a very entertaining read. Kirkman has shown that he has a good grasp of the characters, and the fact that this story comes out of Vaughan's run and also feeds into the main book without losing its one-and-done feel is very nice. It's the kind of comic book that is simply a good read without trying to be anything else. And there's nothing wrong with that.

X-Factor #10 by Peter David, Renato Arlem, and Roy Allen Martinez. $2.99, Marvel.

Maybe I'm stupid, but what the hell is that thing on the cover? I don't see it anywhere in the book. Help me, people with keener eyes and bigger brains than I!

You know, this is another book where it's difficult for me to come up with new ways to praise it every month. David delves a bit more into the mystery of Damian Tryp, who is a lot older than we thought, apparently, as he shows up in plague-ridden fourteenth-century Wales (where I don't think the plague hit as early as 1347, but I'll let it pass) and has a conversation with a young boy with a bunch of power (although he is intangible in Wales, so maybe he's just time-traveling, but time travel gives me a headache, so I'll stop speculating about it). In the present day, a scientist defects from Singularity and shows up at X-Factor's headquarters with news that his employers are working on a new Legacy Virus, which freaks everyone out a bit. One (or two, I suppose, but probably just the one) of Madrox's duplicates scored with both Theresa and Monet the night before, which probably won't cause any problems, right? Pietro explains to Rictor about his new powers, which have a decidedly evangelical bent to them. And the last page is a shocker. I'm serious. Not in the "Wow, the Joker's alive again???" kind of way, not in the "Wow, they asked Arsenal to be in the Justice League but not Ollie? How could they????" kind of way, but in a real, shocking, everything-will-change kind of way. Seriously.

Quietly, X-Factor is cooking along, and it really is one of the better books out there. I just hope the sales are good enough to guarantee it a long run, because David has a lot of ideas, and so far, he's going in the right direction. As usual with David, it requires your patience, but he gives you enough each issue that it makes it worthwhile. Plus, the shocking ending! It's a shock!

Make Baby Jesus happy and buy an issue of X-Factor. It won't hurt!

X Isle #2 (of 5) by Andrew Cosby, Michael A. Nelson, and Greg Scott. $2.99, Boom! Studios.

It's been a while since the first issue came out, and since that one just got our heroes onto the strange island, I read this to see where it went from there.

Well, this is kind of a difficult book to review. If you like Lost, you'll probably like this. It's a perfectly entertaining, weird kind of sci-fi adventure book, and we have the crew of the boat, who basically wants to get the hell out of there as fast as possible, and the scientists, who can't help notice that the flora and fauna of the island is quite weird. Someone dies, someone disappears, guns and lines are drawn, and there's drama. The art is fine, although occasionally it's difficult to tell who's who, and it ends with someone sticking a gun to someone else's head. Fine.

I may sound less than enthusiastic about it, but it's not that. Since it's a five-issue mini-series, Cosby and Nelson (the co-writers) can probably afford a little more to simply end an issue without really resolving anything. Yes, there's a gun to someone's head, but it kind of just happens, and we know the person with the gun to their head is not going to die on page 1 of issue #3. I just wanted to read this to get a sense of what was going on, and now I will wait until it's all done before reading the whole thing. Like I said, it's a decent sci-fi adventure book. I'll let you know if you should get the trade.

X-Men #190 by Mike Carey, Chris Bachalo, and a bunch o' inkers. $2.99, Marvel.

Now that's a cover! Holy crap, that's gorgeous. It totally misleads you about the scene inside, but at least the scene appears in the comic! What are the odds?

This issue was excellent. Yes, this is the issue that staggered me with its excellence. All-Star Superman was good, but I expect it to be good. I have enjoyed Carey's first two issues of X-Men, but this issue, which starts with Bobby Drake exploding (literally), is brilliant. Last December, I picked up Uncanny X-Men #467 on a lark, and thought it was excellent (look out - that's my all-breast post!). This book has the same kind of kinetic feel to it. Aurora and Northstar, under the mental control of Serafina, have attacked the mansion. On pages 1-3 Bobby explodes. It's an astonishing image, because when characters are attacked so savagely in the Marvel Universe it's rarely shown so grandly. Bobby isn't dead, of course, but I'll get back to him. The attack continues on Cannonball, Emma, Cyclops, and X-23 (who gets taken down nicely), while Northstar heads to the cells to kill Sabretooth but runs into Rogue. He's on the verge of killing her when Cable shows up and takes him down. Aurora, meanwhile, is befuddled by Mystique as her alter ego long enough for Bobby to re-condense and defeat her. It's a breathtaking fight, and it doesn't even last the entire issue!

In the aftermath, Serafina herself goes inside the mansion, all intangible and stuff (even though Logan, in a nice panel, senses her), while Cable and Sabretooth get strangely friendly in the cell before Sabretooth tells him that the people who are after them are called the Children of the Vault, they're not mutants but they're not human either (sigh - that again) and the reason they want to kill him is because he knows they exist. Now they'll want to kill the X-Men, too! And then Serafina kidnaps Cannonball for some nefarious reason. Aren't they all?

There is a lot to like about this issue. The fight scenes are great. I love it when bad guys really do a number on the good guys in clever ways rather than just smashing them. Despite the fact that we know none of the X-Men are going to be permanently damaged, there's a real sense of danger in the fight The idea of Bobby evaporating and then re-condensing is nice, too. No writer has really done much with Bobby's powers since that issue so long ago (15 years, about) when Emma possessed his body and then laughed at him because he wasn't as powerful as he could be. Some writers have hinted at it, but this is a nice development that I hope Carey has plans for. I don't really care about Bobby all that much, but that doesn't mean he can't be a good character. The dialogue is nice, too - it's not obnoxiously expository, but we get a good sense of these people and their relationship to each other. Why Cable is there is not really explained (he says he wanted to know what was going on, but that's kind of lame), but I'm used to mutants dropping by the mansion and piercing its defenses like they were Paris Hilton's pants, so I don't question it. Carey is bringing his team together, and although I don't like the team because it is apparently filled with characters I don't care for (Iceman, Cable, Sabretooth - I like Creed, but as a villain), I like the story so far.

Bachalo's art is very good for the second straight issue. As with last time, he's inked by a hoard of people, and I think Marvel needs to keep him on this procrastinator's schedule so that he doesn't have time to overdo it. There's really only one panel that confused me - after Aurora takes out X-23, she appears to rip Jean apart, but I'm not quite certain what happened there. Can anyone clear it up?

The idea of super-beings who aren't mutants but aren't human is an old chestnut, but again, I don't mind ideas being recycled as long as it's done well. We'll see what Carey has in store for us with these "Children." Halfway through this story, he's doing well.

This is a very good issue. It's an almost perfect fight issue, and it has enough exposition to keep the story going. Very nice to see. (Mystique is performing awkward mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Bobby, by the way. Why they wanted to make it look like the two were making out is beyond me. But it's still an awesome cover.)


The American Way #7 (of eight) by John Ridley, Georges Jeanty, and Karl Story. $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

Why is it that I can't do the number 8 followed by a closed parenthesis? It turns into a smiley face. That's annoying. Oh, I'm looking forward to reading this. Soon it will be time!

So that's it for this week. No, it's not Cronin-quantity, but remember - it's all about quality over quantity here at the blog!

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