What I bought - 30 May 2012

People often die in the night, devoured by their own nightmares. (Greg Bear, from "Petra")

As you can see, it's a small week - fifth week and all that. It's also one of the few weeks of the year when both kids aren't in school, so while the younger one is at her summer school, the older one is taking the week off. This doesn't mean much, as she's usually watching television (I know that kids shouldn't watch so much television, but as she can't do much else, I hope you'll forgive me for that), but it does mean I have to pay more attention to her. It doesn't help that all three of the comics I actually bought this week were, unfortunately, mediocre. Yeah, I'm not excited about comics this week. Sorry.

I'll still try to make this fun, though. We'll see. I'm just warning you: the comics? Not so great.

Elephantmen #39 ("The Killing Season Part Four of Four") by Richard Starkings (writer/letterer) and Axel Medellin (artist/colorist). $3.99, 41 pgs, FC, Image.

Of course, then the first one we come to is Elephantmen, which is excellent. When I saw Richard Starkings at the Phoenix convention last weekend, he gave this to me but also said it would be the last one I get for free. Is he angry at me? Well, no. But he is very busy and can't really send stuff out very often, so he told me I'd be better off buying the issues. Now, as I have often said that Elephantmen is a comic I would buy if I weren't getting it for free, I have no problem with that. I mean, it's one of the best comics being published right now, so I'd be foolish to stop reading it just because I didn't get it gratis anymore, right?

This is the end of the story arc, which doesn't mean too much in the Elephantmen universe, as there's still a murderer wandering around and Obadiah learns more about how the hybrids are controlled and thinks about neutralizing it. The main plot, however, of the murderer wearing the skull, comes to an end, and with it, several characters are changed greatly, either through death or injury. I'd say the great thing about this comic is that when people die, they stay dead, but Starkings has already brought someone back from the dead, so it's not that, but the fates of those involved in this arc seem more final, and I doubt if they're coming back. This has been a harrowing journey for the main characters, and now that it's over, they do need to deal with some issues that were raised in this arc. Starkings has always written this series on a slow burn, and it's always nice to see things come back around and show up again. He also allows the characters to feel some hope, but we know that's not going to last. Finally, there's always the social implications of the hybrids' presence among the humans and how they can assimilate, which seems like it's going to take on more significance going forward.

Medellin's art is phenomenal, as he continues to improve every issue. He has a lot to draw, because there's a ton of action in this issue, plus some horrible scenes of emotional trauma, but he nails them. The colors in the book (I assume Medellin colored it, because no one else is credited) are superb, ranging from angry red in the more violent scenes to the wonderful blues and greens in Obadiah's wildlife park that makes the blood pop even more. It's a gorgeous book, which makes the tense drama of the story more visceral.

Elephantmen continues to be a brilliant comic book, and I'll keep saying that even when I'm paying for it! Well, unless it starts to suck. I doubt that it will, though!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Li'l Depressed Boy #12 ("Three Sketches of a Workplace Crush") by S. Steven Struble (writer/colorist/letterer) and Sina Grace (artist). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

LDB does his job. Yes, that's it. Okay, the cute red-headed theater manager desperately tries to flirt with him, and he spectacularly fails to notice, until finally, in the last panel, she pretty much decides she's going to have to kidnap him so she can get some ragdoll-lovin', but basically, LDB does his job. Sigh. I did like this comic once. Next issue is the last chance for it, because that's the last issue I pre-ordered. After that ... who knows?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Next Men #43 ("Shards") by John Byrne (writer/artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

At this point, I'm really buying this because I cling to the hope that Byrne will crawl out of his own bunghole long enough to pull it all together. I have no clue what's going on, honestly. There's a New York in the middle of the desert, a superhero who can change gender, time shifts, people disappearing, someone using the word "negress" (seriously - see below!), people meeting alternate versions of themselves - you know, when I read the giant Next Men phone books that IDW put out, everything seemed to fit together fairly well, if you ignored the fact that it was all impossible, and that's why I'm sticking with this. Maybe, just maybe Byrne can get it together for a few more issues, and then I can appreciate this entire thing as his last great epic. Or maybe he'll just keeping piling crap on top of crap until no one can find their way out. Can you imagine that? Everyone crawling through tunnels made of crap, lighting their old copies of Alpha Flight on fire to use as torches, saying "I think I see a way out!" only to be confronted by a madly-chuckling Byrne, wagging his finger and shaking his head at them and saying "Not this way, motherfuckers!" That's kind of what it feels like to read a single issue of Next Men: Aftermath. The crap keeps piling up. Will there be a way out? I'm kind of perversely fascinated to find out.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Rocketeer Adventures 2 #3 (of 4). "Coulda Been ..." by David Lapham (writer), Chris Sprouse (artist), and Jordie Bellaire (colorist); "Butchy Saves Betty" by Kyle Baker (writer/artist/letterer); "History Lesson" by Matt Wagner (writer), Eric Canete (artist/colorist), Cassandra Poulson (colorist), and Shawn Lee (letterer). $3.99, 25 pgs, FC, IDW.

These comics have gotten some very good talent on them, and this issue is no exception. Unfortunately, that talent doesn't really bring their "A" game, as the stories in this issue are probably the worst of the Rocketeer stories in these two mini-series so far. Sprouse's art in the first story is lovely, but Lapham's listless tale of Cliff and Betty imagining domestic bliss is so bland I wonder how the man who wrote Stray Bullets and Young Liars could even get the script out. It's boring, stereotypical, and insulting to not only women but men. Plus, I'm a bit tired of Cliff's anger management problems, or more specifically, I'm tired of nobody calling him out for his anger management problems. Baker's story is the tiniest bit amusing, even though I don't get exactly what's going on. The cameo by the Shadow is a clever touch, but implying that Betty is having an orgasm is just ... weird. Baker does it in his "Deadpool MAX" art style, which I really don't like, but it looks a little better here than it did there. Baker stopped by here not long ago to explain that Marvel wanted him to draw in that style, but I don't know why he did it here. I wish he wouldn't. Finally, Wagner gives us a dull story about how the Rocketeer became some kind of messiah to the future. Canete draws the entire thing in splash pages, which is nice, but the story is a non-starter.

Sigh. It's rare for an anthology to be all home runs, but so far, Rocketeer Adventures has been far more hit than miss. This is pretty much three strikes, with Baker's maybe a foul ball. Still, nothing to see here. Just move on.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman: Death by Design by Chip Kidd (writer), Dave Taylor (artist), and John J. Hill (letterer). $24.99, 104 pgs, FC, DC.

I thought about pre-ordering this, but decided to wait for the softcover. Considering DC still hasn't released a softcover of Superman: Earth One, I'm not holding my breath. Anyway, my retailer had a copy, and I looked at it, and it's freakin' gorgeous. I don't know what Dave Taylor - who's always been a competent but unspectacular artist - has been drinking, but this art is really good. I hope the story is cool, too!

Brian Boru: Ireland's Warrior King by Damien Goodfellow (writer/artist). $24.50, 91 pgs, FC, The O'Brien Press Ltd.

I don't have much to say about this. It looks cool. This is also the first time I've ever had to type ".ie" at the end of a web address, so that's kind of neat.

Uncanny X-Force volume 3: The Dark Angel Saga Book 1 by Rick Remender (writer), Billy Tan (artist), Rich Elson (artist), Mark Brooks (artist), Scot Eaton (penciler), Andrew Currie (inker), Andrew Hennessy (inker), Dean White (colorist), Paul Mounts (colorist), Richard Isanove (color assists), Sonia Oback (color assists), Cory Petit (letterer), and Clayton Cowles (letterer). $19.99, 134 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Oh, Marvel, with your four pencilers, two separate inkers (Brooks gets credit for inks, but Tan and Elson don't), two colorists and two color assistants, and two letterers. For SIX FUCKING ISSUES! How's that overshipping working out for you? Good, I guess, because they keep doing it, but man, even the colorists on this book can't keep the look consistent. Disappointing. The second part of this is offered in trade in this month's Previews. I have to think about whether I actually want it. That's too bad, because that first arc was so danged good.


I don't mean to keep bringing up Before Watchmen, but JMS has decided to "speak" again (and by "speak," I mean tweet), so it's on my mind. I imagine many of you have read this article, which trashes superhero comics, and in which the author goes out of his way to pick on Straczynski's work on He-Man almost 30 years ago. JMS responded, and everyone was reminded why the Internet is, essentially, the Wild West. Anyway, somewhere out there in Internet-land, someone said that JMS' involvement in BW will make them never read anything by JMS again. That makes me wonder about the other creators involved in Before Watchmen, and it gets back to moral/ethical stands. For me, it would be easy to say I'm never going to buy anything that JMS writes ever again, because I haven't liked anything he's written since Supreme Power was a MAX book. But what about the other creators? Are you going to boycott Darwyn Cooke? Amanda Conner? Brian Azzarello? All the others? And, as I mentioned last time I brought this up, where does it end? If you're mad at Marvel for not giving enough credit to Kirby in their movies, should you be mad at Bendis for working for Marvel? If DC is screwing their creators over, should you get mad at anyone who has to audacity to work for DC? I don't know. I found the person who was swearing off JMS' work humorous because I wonder if they were making that stand for all the creators or just the ones they didn't like. Anyway, Before Watchmen drops next week. Are you going to buy the issues?

In our little corner of the world, news is newsing right along. Perhaps you've read about Paige Sultzbach, who plays second base for the Mesa Preparatory Academy baseball team. The team recently won the state championship because their opponent forfeited rather than face a team with a girl on it. The team was from Our Lady of Sorrows, a fundamentalist Catholic school (man, talk about hardcore!) that, according to the principal, teaches respect and deference toward women, and they felt that in the heat of competition, those values might be compromised. I have to call bullshit on this one. Don't they teach their students sportsmanship as well? So why can't they respect the young lady while still competing? It smells like the school doesn't think girls should play a "boys' sport," so they forfeited. What I never understood is, in a non-contact sport like baseball, why there's separation of boys and girls. I see fathers teaching girls to throw big softballs underhand, and I wonder why they don't teach them to throw small baseballs overhand. It's weird. Anyway, in case you think we're living in the 21st century, a school like Our Lady of Sorrows (I bet their proms are bummers!) comes along and reminds us that many people are still living in the 13th. (Grantland has an interesting story about it, in case you're interested.)

I don't really have anything else "in the news," so to speak, so let's get to this week's Top Ten list. In honor of the latest series of Sherlock (which I just started watching last night and have only seen the first episode so don't spoil it for me, please!), here are my favorite fictional detectives!

1. Jupiter Jones of the Three Investigators. I like the Three Investigators more than the Hardy Boys. I don't know why - maybe it's because they felt more contemporary than the Hardys (even though I did enjoy the Hardy Boys, don't get me wrong; but the first Three Investigators book came out in 1964, while the first Hardy Boys came out in 1927) and their adventures felt a bit more dangerous. The Hardys seemed to deal with mysteries that were often about smugglers and bank robbers, while the Three Investigators dealt with some real sadists. Jupiter was the brains of the outfit, while Bob Andrews and Pete Crenshaw were often along for the ride and to provide some muscle, such as it was. I liked Jupiter because he was portly, unathletic, and kind of surly - he was likable, but not a typical hero. The mysteries were complex but not too difficult, and the setting - modern Los Angeles - made this series feel like "adult" books while still being appropriate for kids. I still have some of the books at my parents' house, and I should try to get a complete set. They're fun books to read.

2. Sherlock Holmes. I was not into Holmes for many years, even though I had read many of the stories. Then I got the annotated version that came out a few years ago, and I devoured it. Man, I loved reading those stories. When you get a lot of the context to them, they become far more interesting. Conan Doyle wasn't the greatest writer of mysteries, as the annotations show, and Holmes often gets stuff wrong, but the personality Conan Doyle gave him is so neat that we can't help but be fascinated by him. He's a jerk, but a riveting jerk. And the stories, even the ones that don't make much sense, are interesting and often very exciting. I've warmed up to the Holmes pastiches, too, even though I still like the originals more.

3. Thomas Magnum. My mom used to watch Magnum, P. I. every week, and I, being a young lad who couldn't go out wilding, would watch with her. The great thing about Magnum was that he never seemed like that good an investigator, but when he needed to be, he was. His cases were quirky and strange, he very often took cases for which he knew there would be no payment, yet he didn't care, because he somehow got a job that allowed him to live in a mansion and drive a Ferrari. That always bugged me - did Robin actually pay him, or was the house and the car payment? Robin's rich, so it seems like he would get a good salary on top of the living arrangements, yet Magnum was always poor. Anyway, what made the show work were the relationships between the four leads, but also the unusual ways Magnum would get involved in the episode's plot. It wasn't always just someone coming to him with a problem. Also, the show had some great guest stars - Ian McShane, June Lockhart, Ted Danson, Erin Gray, Morgan Fairchild, Ernest Borgnine, Shannen Doherty, Carol Burnett, Sharon Stone (in a stunning dual role!), Cesar Romero, Norman Fell, and Frank Sinatra, just to name a few. Plus, they actually did crossovers with Simon & Simon and Murder, She Wrote, which were kind of nifty.

4. Hercule Poirot. I have been an Agatha Christie fan for years, but really only of Hercule Poirot novels (the lone exception is And Then There Were None) - I just can't get into Miss Marple books. My favorite Poirot book is Murder on the Orient Express (I like the movie, too), but I don't think I've ever not enjoyed one. I always loved his characterization - he's a fussy little man, who is so off-putting to the suspects in the murders, who always underestimate him. He's also, if possible, ruder to Arthur Hastings than Holmes was to Watson, even though there's also affection between both sets of men. Like Holmes, he can be rather annoying, but in a different way than Holmes. His final case, Curtain, is a brilliant book, fascinating and chilling all at once. And Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov played him excellently in the movies, too.

5. Jennifer Mays and Gabriel Webb of the Maze Agency. Read more about this series here!

6. Dirk Gently. Douglas Adams is, naturally, better known for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and its spawn of sequels, but the two books he wrote starring Dirk Gently are better, and I wish he had managed to write a few more before his death. Dirk is a "holistic" detective, meaning he examines every aspect of the case and/or the people involved to reach a conclusion, which means he often goes "fact-finding" in the Bahamas on his clients' pound, because you never know what crucial piece of information will turn up on the beach! The two books starring Dirk, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, involve ghosts, time travel, aliens, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Thor and the Norse gods, an I Ching calculator, and the selling of souls. Both are wildly convoluted yet amazingly fun to decipher, and I, at least, still haven't figured everything out, even though I've read them multiple times. I would recommend them over the Hitchhiker books (even though I really dig those, two), and I'm recommending them now!

7. Remington Steele. I haven't seen a lot of this television show, but it's another one my mother always liked, and I dig the concept. Stephanie Zimbalist isn't getting clients because no one takes a female detective seriously, so she invents one - Remington Steele - and claims he's her boss. So, of course, Pierce Brosnan shows up and convinces everyone he's Remington Steele. Whenever I watched the show, I liked it, because it has nice sexual tension between the two leads and some deeper-than-you-might-think sexual politics, too. Doris Roberts as the secretary is quite funny, far more than her annoying mother role on Everybody Loves Raymond. I should get this series on DVD. It would be fun to watch more episodes, as I missed quite many of them.

8. Jessica Jones. My post about Alias still has the formatting problems, but you can still read it!

9. Sam Spade. I've only seen the Bogart movie of The Maltese Falcon, but I love everything about his Spade - he's kind of a jerk, tough with the bad guys and ladies, ready to hop into bed with the dame, but never falling for her and therefore able to keep his wits about him. He's only slightly less morally bankrupt than everyone else, which is why he wins out in the end - remember, this was 1941, so a villain couldn't win! This is a wonderful movie to watch again and again, and it would be fun to see it back to back with Murder by Death, in which Peter Falk parodies Bogart's Spade.

10. Daryl Zero. The Zero Effect, from 1998, is a wonderful movie, with Bill Pullman starring as the world's most brilliant and reclusive detective and Ben Stiller (when he was still a decent actor) as his Dr. Watson. Pullman is completely socially inept, so when he falls in love (with a very good Kim Dickens), it's funny but a bit like watching a train wreck. Plus, the mystery is interesting. And it was filmed largely in Portland, which is an added bonus. It's a shame this movie didn't get more love when it came out, because it really is excellent. Go watch it right now!

I know I've missed a lot of fictional detectives, including a certain dude who wears a cape and a bat-eared cowl, but that's the way it is, man! Hit me with yours!

I hope everyone has a nice day and a good weekend. Maybe I'll like next week's comics more than this week's! It's always a mystery!

EXCLUSIVE: Valiant Reveals Covers For Sci-Fi Mystery Series The Visitor

More in Comics