What I bought - 30 July 2008

This week: I'm in a funk. It's ridiculously hot, both the kids are home from school, and, you know. This may or may not be interesting or even coherent. You be the judge!

Blue Beetle #29 by Matthew Sturges (writer), Rafael Albuquerque (artist), Travis Lanham (letterer), and Guy Major (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Sturges' first issue (even though Rogers is credited on the cover) is pretty good. It keeps the fun tone of the book and introduces interesting topical elements, as in illegal immigration. There's a hoary old cliché about how the bad guy infiltrates the hero's inner sanctum (so hoary it's been used in another comic this year), but it's hard to avoid hoary cliché in superhero comics. There's a lot of nice touches, Albuquerque's art is great, and we get a strange ending to the story, with Jaime shouting "I've got bad guys to catch!" It's not terribly dramatic. But the book works well, and it's a good start. As usual, it's one of DC's best superhero comics. No wonder no one buys it!

Catwoman #81 by Will Pfeifer (writer), David López (penciller), Álvaro López (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Usually, I like the Hughes covers. This one is kind of ... weird. Like Selina is ... you know ... expecting something, and is going to enjoy it. You know what I mean!

It's the penultimate issue, so it matters not what anyone says about it, but I always like fun stuff in comics that lets us know we're reading about a weird universe. Why wouldn't there be fetish parties in which attendees dress up as DC superheroes? In our universe, we have Halloween parties where people dress up like DC superheroes, so why wouldn't they in the DCU?

This is another fun issue, as Selina robs her way across Gotham before running into a certain Dark Knight at the end. Pfeifer, as he's done for three years, does a great job putting Selina through her paces, writing great single issues that are a fine part of the larger story, and ending with a bang. It's not too hard to figure out how Selina and Bruce are going to get out of it, but it's a great image. López, of course, knocks another one out of the park. That's a surprise.

I'll eulogize more about this book next issue. You know I will!

Comic Book Comics #2 by Fred van Lente (writer) and Ryan Dunlavey (artist). $3.95, 33 pgs, BW, Evil Twin Comics.

Like the first issue, this is fun but not quite on par with Action Philosophers!, mainly because of the format. It's oodles of fun to read, packed with information, and interesting if you're interested in comics (and if you're not, what the hell are you doing here?), but it lacks the punch of the earlier book, because Van Lente and Dunlavey are working on a longer story. Dunlavey doesn't get as much of a chance to stretch his artistic muscles, either, so although there are plenty of nice touches throughout (including a double-paged spread of Kirby, explaining why he invented, well, the double-paged spread), it's not as crazy as the earlier comic. Still, it's interesting and goofy, and full of fascinating trivia.

Brian mentioned the Alex Cox strip before I could, but he didn't mention that one of the letters is from Pedro Bouça, who often comments here. Like the snotty foreigner he is, Pedro asks if this title will have anything about international comics. Isn't that just like a foreigner? Shouldn't he just accept that the United States is the only country that matters, has ever mattered, or ever will matter? Sheesh.

Pilot Season: The Core #1 by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Kenneth Rocafort (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), and Troy Peteri (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image/Top Cow.

Hickman's contribution to the Pilot Season project is a fairly standard science fiction story, but it's certainly a well-done science fiction story, if that's your sort of thing. Asimov Dedeken is an Earthling who has been accepted into a galactic brotherhood, where he joins a team that takes care of problems that the regular military cannot. Of course, he goes on a mission, and when things look bad, Asimov saves the day and proves he belongs. It's a fun little story, but Hickman obviously has many more things planned (if the book gets picked up, of course), as he adds his trademarked political bent to the book, with a two-page spread that explains the concept of "the core" - the center of the galaxy - and why the ruling states of said core are interested in a backwater world like Earth. It's not terribly original, but it has plenty of possibilities.

Rocafort's art is far better than it was on Madam Mirage, as it looks much rougher and more real. He also gets a chance to draw lots of weird aliens, which is always fun. Of course, there's some cheesecake, including a naked picture of an alien in which her hair covers some of her breasts but not really where the nipples should be, but she has no nipples anyway, so what's the point? I'm not getting into that again, but I wonder why an alien female can't just, you know, lack breasts altogether. Whatever.

These Pilot Season books have been particularly good this year. Too bad most of them will never see the light of day again. But I encourage you to check this out.

Dynamo 5 #15 by Jay Faerber (writer), Mahmud A. Asrar (artist), Ron Riley (colorist), and Charles Pritchett (letterer). $3.50, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Blah blah blah ass-kicking action blah blah blah great art blah blah blah mysterious villain blah blah blah serious look at how people with powers would actually use them blah blah blah more new characters blah blah blah a bit of a surprising finish blah blah blah WHAT A GREAT FUCKING COMIC BOOK. I would beat you over the head with it, but a) it wouldn't hurt, as it's a single issue, and b) then you'd be unconscious (assuming I hit you hard enough) and wouldn't be able to read it. The biggest problem, of course, is the price and the number of pages, but Faerber packs each page with great details, and it doesn't feel like you're being shorted. Plus, that's a great cover. I'm just sorry I can't write anything more than it's a fantastic superhero comic book. But need I say more?????

Mumbai MacGuffin by Saurav Mohapatra (writer), Saumin Patel (artist/colorist), V. Venkata Subramanian (colorist), and Nilesh S. Mahadik (letterer). $5.99, 48 pgs, FC, Virgin Comics.

Virgin is kind of hit-or-miss with me, but I like what they're trying to do - that is, expand the stories of comics to include international (not just Japanese) themes and characters. Of course, this means they mostly do Indian stuff, but what the hell - it's a start! That's a long way of saying that this comic is 6 bucks, so it might be out of your price range, especially because it's a fairly standard spy thriller, but what sets it apart and makes it a bit worthwhile is that it's set in Bombay - whoops, Mumbai - and features a fine look at the culture of that city (well, as much as it can - it's a spy thriller, after all). Ike Flint (Icarus is his real name), a CIA guy, is dispatched to Mumbai to track down the "MacGuffin," which isn't really a MacGuffin at all - I mean, it certainly sets the plot in motion, but it's somewhat germane to the greater story (unlike, say, all that heroin in L.A. Confidential - seriously, did anyone ever mention it after its initial kick-starting of the plot?). It's part of a weather satellite that crashed in India and the CIA wants it back, because it stopped doing weathery things some months back and now has some crucial information on it. Ike hooks up with a taxi driver called CC (his name is actually Chandrakant Chaturvuj Chandraverkar, which is just one of the fun things in this book), who is as inept as Ike is, well, ept. CC helps Ike navigate the Mumbai underworld, Mohapatra skewers religion (Hinduism, of course, not Christianity, but it's still fun to skewer it) and the general underworld culture, and everyone has a groovy adventure. There's nothing earth-shattering about this, but it's actually pretty interesting to read this kind of book set in an exotic place. We recognize the grand scheme of the narrative, but the details make it unique. It's not a great comic, but it's fun and features nice art and shows us a place that many of us are unfamiliar with. So there's that.

newuniversal 1959 by Kieron Gillen (writer), Greg Scott (artist), Kody Chamberlain (artist), Val Staples (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 36 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I mentioned to Gillen last week that I'm not sure if it's kosher to be more excited about this one-shot than Ellis' ongoing series, mostly because he was writing it and I'm kind of lukewarm to Ellis these days, especially when he delves into the overdone "what if superheroes existed in the real world" thing that he's doing with this title. Of course, Gillen does the same thing, but it's a one-shot, and it's set in 1959, which means there will be odd period touches and men with hats. Hats are awesome. I've been watching Mad Men recently (I had the first season recorded but never got around to watching it, so now I'm catching up before I watch the second season), and my wife often says: "Hats should come back." Wear a hat today! I would, but I never leave the house.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Anyway, it's 1959, and there's one of them there "events" (okay, the event occurs in 1953, but the book is set in 1959), and then there's superheroes, and the government doesn't like it. The entire book is about these top secret agents trying to "solve" the superhuman problem. If you know anything about our government (well, okay, the government that comic book writers imagine exists), you know that things are not going to end well for the superhumans, even if one of them is Tony Stark. Gillen does a decent job setting the mood and giving one of the agents a horrible choice at the end, and Scott, who likes the moody art, is a good choice for the book. It's certainly not as good as Phonogram, but it's not bad. Plus, it compresses a lot of story into a small space, which ratchets up the tension. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's a juicy slice of pulp. If that's your thing, check it out!

Northlanders #8 by Brian Wood (writer), Davide Gianfelice (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Northlanders = Good. Do you really need to know more?

Oh, all right. It's the end of the first arc, after all, and Wood does a nice job of pulling the rug out from under our feet, even though he hinted at this kind of resolution in issue #7. This has become a completely different story by the end, and I don't want to give too much away for those of you waiting for the trade, but Sven does grow up a bit and have an epiphany. Epiphanies are always nice. No, he doesn't transform the way we might expect - he never had any interest in ruling the clan, and nothing changes his mind - but he realizes important things about his place in the world and where he can be happy. This is a story about a man who needs to come home to understand what "home" really means, and if I thought of a Billy Joel song while I read the end of this comic, well, I'm sure Wood wouldn't like that because Billy Joel might be the uncoolest "rock" star in the world, but I don't care - I love that song. This comic earns its ending, I'll say that much. Buy the trade!

Oh, one last time (for now, as I don't know when we'll see his art again): Gianfelice is amazing. This is a stunning-looking comic, especially when you consider it mostly takes place in a godforsaken piece of land north of Britain. It's almost enough to recommend the book, but then Wood adds the brilliant story. So nothing's stopping you from buying it!

True Believers #1 (of 5) by Cary Bates (writer), Paul Gulacy (artist), Rain Beredo (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I've been easing off of buying DC and Marvel mini-series, because I know they're going to be collected and they increasingly have no relevance to anything else that's happening in the larger scope of things (and those that are, like the infinite number of Civil War or Secret Invasion or Final Crisis tie-in mini-series, I have no interest in). But True Believers sounded like such a breath of fresh air that I couldn't resist. This is the kind of story (much like "Vanguard" in Marvel Comics Presents) that Marvel should do more of - it's set firmly in a world where superheroes exist and might even star superheroes, but it's not necessarily a superhero comic. This book stars four "superhero" types, but they use their powers to break up underground fight clubs where the combatants are forced into the ring (and forced to wear bikinis) and the onlookers are dressed as Marvel heroes (this is the second book this week in which weirdos dress up like their favorite heroes - and they both came out on the heels of SDCC; coincidence?) S.H.I.E.L.D. is interested, because the people watching the fight club are all powerful people (including a senator), and that helps with the info dump we get halfway through the book - it's presented as a presentation by the agent investigating the group. The end of the book gives us another nice idea - Reed Richards did something bad (I seem to recall that the solicit text mentioned drunk driving, but I could be wrong), and the group gives him a chance to come clean before they expose him. The idea of a group keeping superheroes honest is great, as why wouldn't they do stupid things occasionally and then try to cover it up?

Gulacy's art is polarizing, although I'm not sure why. I'm a fan, and I'm not sure why people object to it. If you do, let me know why. I mean, I admit that I like certain artists that others have good reasons to dislike, but I don't understand the hatred for Gulacy. I can understand indifference to it or even "It's not my thing," but it seems like some people really hate it. Whatever. It looks good here. It looks like Gulacy art, so if you're not a fan, nothing here is going to change your mind.

It's a cool little comic. Let's hope it continues well through its five-issue arc.

Sorry if I'm in a funk. It's astonishing how 110+ temperatures really beat you down. I would quote "Heathaze" by Genesis for the totally random lyrics, but I just used them last week, so let's check out other totally random lyrics:

"Sleepin' alone in the Drone of the darkness, Scratched by the sand that Fell from my love, Deep in my dreams and I Still hear her callin' 'If you're alone, I'll come home.'"

Chew on that, Chu On Dat!

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