What I bought - 4 December 2008

You know, just when I want to give up on a guy, he does something like this. How I can join the ranks of the Morrison-haters when Batman #682 exists? HOW????? Plus: Other comics! Better comics! But no other comics with headache-inducing day-glo covers! And that alien invasion thing comes to an end, and I still didn't read it. I flipped through it, and it seemed anti-climactic. Is that just me? But enough of that - comics I actually read on the other side of the jump!

Batman #682 by Grant "Fanboys, fanboys, why hast thou forsaken me?" Morrison (writer), Lee Garbett (penciller), Trevor Scott (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC.

I could have sworn this would be one of the Denny O'Neil issues. Oh well.

After the lousy ending to "R.I.P," Morrison again reminds us that he can write a pretty good story when he feels like it. This "Last Rites" issue brings us up to where Batman is in Final Crisis, and although that itself kind of annoys me (did any of Morrison's Batman run actually "happen" or not?), it's a clever way to continue doing what has been a major focus of Morrison's run, and that is reconciling every single part of Batman's history. So we begin with the scene from "Year One" when Bruce returns from his first disastrous night out and go from there. Morrison, with his obsessive attention to detail, does a nice job blending all the varying stories together (when Alfred cleans up the dead bat on page 4, for instance, it goes from a tiny thing that flew through the window in the original origin to the monstrous one that Miller used) and even making sure the "imaginary" stories are covered. You don't necessarily have to be up on your Batman history to get all the references, although I suppose it helps (on page 7, when Gordon tells Bruce, "And then Rogers said the Bat-Man went through the skylight," it's a direct quote from Detective #27, so maybe it ought to come earlier in the issue than Dr. Death on page 6, who first appeared in Detective #29, but whatever). Anyway, David Uzumeri has annotations up, so if you really want to know where things come from, check that out. More than the overview of Batman's career, this is just a nice way to transition from "R.I.P" to Final Crisis, where Batman has been captured and is being used by Darkseid. It's nothing terribly revolutionary, but it is somewhat clever. It seems like the harder Morrison is trying to make a grand statement, the worse off he is. When he simply concentrates on the absurdity of comics in general, he makes grand statements without trying. More than last issue and its focus on Super-Batman, this issue shows why Bruce is so indomitable and how it's going to be difficult for Darkseid to break him. Although I hope someone can tell me how Bruce discovers that his mind is being probed. It doesn't seem obvious to me!

One last thing: Did everyone notice that Batman's history seemed to end when Dick became Nightwing? Like almost every comic book writer, Morrison can't escape the idea that his favorite characters froze in time at some point, and for Morrison, it's right before the Bat-editors went nuts and decided Miller's template was the only one they were going to use. It's interesting that Morrison ignores the past 20 years of Batman's history. Maybe you think we all should, but I just find that interesting. [Edit: Several commenters have jumped on me to remind me that this is Part 1 of 2, so the latter half of Batman's career will be covered next issue behind that gloomy cover of Bats holding a dead Robin. I apologize for my brain fart. Let's all just move on and never speak of it again, shall we?]

Anyway, this is a nifty little tale. Garbett is almost a clone of Tony Daniel, so there's nothing much to say on that front, but if next issue is the God of All Comics' last on Batman, I'd rather have this as his ending than issue #681.

Charlatan Ball #5 by Joe Casey (writer), Andy Suriano (artist), Marc Letzmann (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.50, 18 pgs, FC, Image.

I promised I would buy this through issue #6, and on the next issue page, Casey seems to imply that we'll get some resolution in #6. Is the series ending? Possibly. But much like every issue of this series, there's some interesting things in here, but it's still a mess. Chuck finally finds out what's going on in this weird dimension, but other than that, it's a lot of noisy fighting for no good purpose. Casey and Suriano are obviously having a blast doing this, but it's just not enough for me to keep up with it. I doubt if I will even pick up issue #6, because I just don't care enough to find out what's going on. Too bad. I'm still glad Casey is trying to do all sorts of weird crap. We don't get enough of that from writers these days.

Criminal #7 by Ed Brubaker (writer), Sean Phillips (artist), and Val Staples (colorist). $3.50, 28 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

Brubaker and Phillips bring their twisty epic to a close, and as you might expect, things end badly for all concerned. But along the way, we learn a lot more about Jacob, and he becomes an even more interesting character, from his visions of Frank Kafka, which become something a bit more deadly in this issue, to his involvement - such as it is - in his wife's death. What's always fascinating about this comic is the way Brubaker has built these characters, so that the crooked cop has a petty but understandable reason for hating Jacob, for instance. Iris is screwed up, sure, but over the course of this story, she's become more sympathetic. And the story ends with Jacob is pretty bad shape, but not necessarily physically. There's something more horrible going on in his life, but perhaps - just perhaps - what happens to him will allow him to get beyond his past. Maybe.

The one question I have is: What happens to Iris? I don't want to give away anything, but her fate is left unclear. I mean, I can guess, but it's never confirmed or denied. Can anyone help me? (And yes, I'm full of questions today. My brain is addled, I guess.)

Brubaker and Phillips are taking a bit of time off to launch Incognito, their new superhero comic. I always question the need for more superhero comics, but it's about a supervillain in the Witness Protection Program, which is a fairly excellent twist. And it's freakin' Brubaker and Phillips, for crying out loud! So by the time the next issue of Criminal comes out, you should be up to date on the trades! Isn't that handy?

I Hate Gallant Girl #2 (of 3) by Jim Valentino (plotter), Kat Cahill (scripter), Seth Damoose (artist), Kanila Tripp (colorist), and Jason Hanley (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image/Shadowline.

The fun thing about this title is that Renée, the spurned superhero who wasn't pretty enough to be Gallant Girl, isn't that nice. She laughs at the real Gallant Girl's misfortune in this issue, for instance. It's refreshing because she's acting like a person who got screwed out of something and doesn't want to forgive and forget. Laughing at the person who took what was rightfully ours and isn't as good as we are is human, after all, so it's nice to see that part of Renée's personality. Damoose has also done a better job making René a bit plainer, although she's still cute as a button. The art fits a light-hearted superhero romp quite well, though.

This is a trifle, of course, but it's entertaining. The reveal of the villain isn't surprising, and it sets up the final issue nicely. It's not a great mini-series, but it has some charm.

The Immortal Iron Fist #20 by Duane Swierczynski (writer), Travel Foreman (artist), Russ Heath (artist), Matt Milla (colorist), and Dave & Natalie (letterers). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Speaking of comics I may or may not drop, the end of Swierczynski's first arc on Iron Fist is a good place for me to jump ship, too. It's not really that this is all that bad, because it's decent in its way. It was nice seeing Swierczynski build upon what Frubaker did in establishing the book, and the next story actually sounds interesting, as Danny and his compatriots go looking for the Eighth City of Heaven. But there's nothing terribly thrilling about the book anymore, to the point where it's just people beating each other up. There's a fine line between wildly entertaining and okay but mediocre, and Swierczynski's first arc falls on the poorer half of that line. Foreman's art does too, because despite a nice style and some dynamism to the fight scenes, it never really gelled into something fantastic. I couldn't get over the obnoxious rendering (see Danny's muscles on that cover, for instance) even though I was aware it was part of the style. Oh well. It's that time of year when I try to cull my purchases anyway, so this makes it easy. I won't be following Iron Fist into the mountains with his boon companions. C'est la vie.

Moon Knight: Silent Knight by Peter Milligan (writer), Laurence Campbell (artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.99, 32 pgs, FC, Marvel.

This is the first of two one-shots I bought this week, and although they're both 4 dollars, at least they have extra pages of actual story. This is the slightly better of the two, although neither are spectacular. I'm always curious about things like these. Was this written a year ago and sat in the drawer for a while? The She-Hulk one-shot is written by Peter David, who's the regular writer, so maybe it was written recently, but these one-shots are kind of weird. But this was written by Peter Milligan! If it's "Good Milligan," it's excellent! If it's "Bad Milligan," at least we can gaze in wonder at the suckiness, like we all did with Elektra! So it has to be worth it, right?

Well, it's "Mediocre Milligan," the guy we had on X-Men, so it's not a bad story but it doesn't soar like Milligan's weirdest does, nor does it spiral out of control into Sucky-Land. In this issue, Marlene prepares a nice dinner for Marc Spector while he's out being crazy. This allows Milligan to contrast Spector's overt craziness with Marlene's more subtle kind, the kind of crazy that allows her to cling to hope in the face of all contrary evidence. Of course, when Marc does show up, he just proves once again that he serves a different lust than that for Marlene. I know, shocking.

It's a rehashing of every superhero personal relationship and why the confounded companies just can't let them be happy! There are a few nice insights, but nothing terribly interesting. Marlene shows a weird ignorance of Marc's superhero activities, which again makes me wonder when this was written. It's just a strange little tale that doesn't suck completely, but doesn't have the manic wackiness of "Good Milligan." Sigh.

Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 #4 (of 6) by David Petersen (writer/artist). $3.50, 23 pgs, FC, Archaia Studios Press.

Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard Mouse Guard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, is that annoying? I don't care. It's Mouse Guard!!!!!!!!! Archaia may or may not have put their troubles behind them, but even if they release their books in a trickle, I'll be happy, as many of their books are really high-quality. Including, of course, Mouse Guard!!!!!!!!!

This is kind of a horror issue of everyone's favorite anthropomorphic rodent periodical. There's a big owl attack, which is awesome, of course, and then there's a trek through the underground bat palace where Saxon, Kenzie, and Sadie found themselves. It's fairly creepy, but there's still room for some quiet moments like Saxon finding a skeleton that means something to him. And then there's well-poisoning going on. Oh dear!

It's been a while since the last issue came out, but there's a nice recap at the beginning, and Petersen's storytelling skills are such that we fall easily back into the world of the Mouse Guard. The triumph of any of these issues is the art, and this doesn't disappoint. The owl is astonishingly beautiful and fierce, while some of the long shots of the underground palace are breathtaking. Petersen gives so much attention to not only the characters but the surroundings, and it's nice to see an issue of it.

I don't know if and when this series will continue or when more Archaia books will come out. But it's always nice to see one. I feel bad for the people waiting for the trade, because the wait will be long. And you don't get installments in between to gaze at the wonderfulness of this book!

Noble Causes #38 by Jay Faerber (writer), Yildiray Cinar (artist), Jacob Baake (colorist), and Charles Pritchett (letterer). $3.50, 21 pgs, FC, Image.

Well, after this one, there's only two issues left, so there's nothing really to say about it, is there? (Man, that's three "theres" in one sentence. That's just how I roll.) It's excellent, as usual. The main story ties nicely back into the incident when Rusty got people killed back in the day, while the mystery of how someone could claim to be Colonel Comet's granddaughter when he has no relatives deepens and will presumably be wrapped up next issue. Meanwhile, Gaia is getting out of jail, and Doc Noble is thinking about it (as we see in an awkward place for him). Faerber hasn't promised any neat wrap-up (he even hinted that there wouldn't be one), but let's hope there's some resolution!

As always, this is a solid issue of an excellent superhero comic. Faerber insists it's his choice to end it, and I have no reason to doubt him, but it's too bad that it's ending. It's such a nice twist on the superhero soap opera that Marvel perfected long ago, and it's been a great time reading along.

But what happened to Liz, Faerber???? Inquiring minds want to know, damn you!!!!!!

She-Hulk: Cosmic Collision by Peter David (writer), Muhmud [sic] A. Asrar (penciler), Scott Hanna (inker), Val Staples (colorist), and Dave Sharpe (letterer). $3.99, 36 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I got this mostly because Asrar drew it, and even though Marvel can't spell his name correctly (seriously, Marvel?), it's still nice to see him get a higher-profile gig. Unfortunately, it's not quite as good as his work on Dynamo 5, and I can't quite understand why. Perhaps it's Hanna's inks, because he usually inks his own work, or perhaps it's Staples' colors, which are darker than Ron Riley's on Dynamo 5. But that's okay - he's still a good artist, and once you crack the Big Two, you can get more work there, although I fear he may leave Dynamo 5 now (although Faerber, again, insists this isn't happening).

David's story is dull, with just enough wit to keep it from failing completely. It seems that there's a female bad guy who is killing female good guys because ... well, no good reason, but the existence of the female bad guy is kind of interesting. It's also nice to see something resolved without a big fight, as David comes up with a relatively clever way of fixing things. David is always good at commenting on the absurd nature of superheroics, and Jen does some of that here. And it's always fun to see a bunch of female superheroes hanging out with nary a man in sight. But it feels a bit perfunctory, and that's too bad.

Oh well. I did learn one thing - apparently Valkyrie is actually a valkyrie. That's weird. She doesn't seem to care if you believe in Norse gods or not, either. Who knew?

So that's the week in comics. In case you think I've forgotten, I will post the answers to my contest this weekend. I was letting the winners know that they won before doing so. That means if you haven't heard from me by e-mail, well, you didn't win. Sorry! But I hope you stop by and check out where all the panels came from!

And now, totally out of the blue, totally random lyrics!

"And next the room was fullOf wild and angry menThey seemed to hate this manThey fell on him and thenThey disappeared again

Then I saw thousands of millionsCrying for this manAnd then I heard them mentioning my nameAnd leaving me the blame"

Chilling! Have fun telling me why a clandestine incursion of emerald non-terrestrials was the bomb, yo! Look at me, using the street lingo!

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