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What I bought – 4 March 2015

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 4 March 2015

I do not remember where I read that there are two kinds of poets: the good poets, who at a certain point destroy their bad poems and go off to run guns in Africa, and the bad poets, who publish theirs and keep writing more until they die. (Umberto Eco, from The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana)

Miracleman #16 (“Olympus”) by Joe Caramagna (letterer), Michael Kelleher (art restorer), Wizard McGee (writer), Steve Oliff (colorist), John Totleben (artist), Thomas Yeates (artist, two panels?), and Cory Sedlmeier (editor). $5.99, 33 pgs, FC, Marvel. Miracleman created by Mick Anglo.

It’s too bad Marvel chose to release Miracleman in this format, because I really have to think it hurt the bottom line. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have released a single, $100-hardcover of all 16 issues – that would have been a reasonable price, I think, as they probably didn’t have to pay the original creators and even they did, at least one grumpus would have told them where to stick their money. Releasing it piecemeal seems like it diluted the impact of Moore’s story – it’s obviously supposed to be a grand epic, and even if Moore didn’t originally conceive of it that way (who knows what was going through his mind in 1982 or so), it quickly morphed into one, and these 16 issues comprise probably the finest statement on superheroes ever written. Even Moore himself can’t escape their influence. I’m very curious what the sales of this looked like, as I imagine the people who didn’t have it might not have stuck with it because of the high price point. Maybe I’m wrong. It’s too bad, because Moore never topped himself when it comes to superheroes (even with Watchmen, and we can argue about whether some of his non-superhero stuff is better), and Totleben’s artwork is staggering in “Olympus” and Leach and Davis do really good work earlier in the epic (the less said of Chuck Austen’s brief contribution, the better). Because I am a sucker, I bought every issue of this reprint (also because I only had this in trade paperback format, and my copies are pretty beat up because I’ve read this so many times), but I really would have loved a nice, complete hardcover. I’m sure it’s coming, but I wonder how Marvel will price it out, given that they’re gouging people on the smaller trades. It’s a shame, because now that this is finally accessible to the wide audience it deserves, I wonder if people didn’t read it because it was too expensive. That would suck.

I’m skipping “The Golden Age” because I actually own those single issues (I’ll take a look at the solicits, however, because I’m curious if Marvel will include any interesting extras in those reprints), but it’s well worth a read, as Gaiman has to take the story in a completely different direction. I still think Marvel should reprint the Apocrypha, because those are some cool stories. We shall see.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dark Engine #5 by John Bivens (artist), Ryan Burton (writer), Kelly Fitzpatrick (colorist), and Thomas Mauer (letterer). $3.50, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

I read a lot of comics, obviously. I think about comics a lot, too, because I’m always curious about what drives people to read the comics they do. I know money is a big factor in what some people buy, and while I do think about money when I buy comics (I didn’t buy the witzend collection, for instance, because it was just too much money), I probably don’t think about it as often as most people. I’m luckier than some people and I also don’t spend as much on other things, so I have enough to indulge myself when it comes to comics. But other than that, I wonder about why certain people buy certain comics. I was talking to some dudes at the comic book store on Tuesday about this, because it came up with regard to something (I can’t recall what). I said that I wonder if occasionally people buy comics that they want to like even if they don’t like them. It could be that they’re fans of the people working on the books and want to support them. It could be that the character is a favorite and they want to see that character’s book succeed. It could be that they like the style of the book and want DC or Marvel to publish more like them. I don’t know. I don’t know if people even think that deeply about the comics they buy, or if it’s just me. Maybe people don’t care for anything beyond “Batman punches a bad guy, and that’s awesome.”

I mention this because I do tend to buy some comics that I want to like more than I do. I don’t give them too much rope, but I do give them a bit more than they might deserve. Dark Engine is one of those, unfortunately. I don’t know John Bivens, but I like his art and think he deserves more publicity, so the fact that he was working on this book meant I wanted to check it out. He has some problems with storytelling occasionally, but he’s quite good, and this issue is his best yet on this series. He gets to draw a giant Cthulhu-type monster called Xurh-Rahab’n in this issue, and the three pages of it emerging from the ocean to lay waste to humanity are unbelievably cool, as Bevins gives his monster an immensity that almost bursts out of the borders of the book. Even earlier in the book, he gives hints as to Xurh-Rahab’n’s size without showing it all, so the anticipation of it rising (Chekhov’s sea monster?) is heightened wonderfully. His quieter moments, as the emergence of the monster is actually a story being told at least a century after the fact, are good as well – one character has a problem with his fingernail, and Bivens does a terrific job showing how much it vexes him (as it should everyone, because a dodgy fingernail is just so fucking annoying). Burton’s story, which has been a bit dicey so far, is straightforward in this issue, as he tells a mythic tale of Xurh-Rahab’n and what it wanted to do.

But the book just isn’t doing it for me. The first four issues are confusing, and while I could easily go back and re-read them, I don’t think it should be so hard to figure out what’s going on. Burton is being deliberately opaque with too much of the comic, and as much as I like Bivens’s line work, some of his earlier issues were a bit confusing in the panel-to-panel work. So I’m not quite sure what to do about this book. I tend to give independent comics more rope because I do want to support them, but at some point I have to start liking it more or I have to cut the cord. I haven’t quite reached that with Dark Engine yet, and this issue is a move in the right direction, but we’ll see. It really bums me out when I book I want to like ends up not being as good as I want it to be. But maybe I’m thinking too much about this stuff.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Supreme Blue Rose #7 (of 7) by Warren Ellis (writer), Tula Lotay (artist), and Richard Starkings (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image. Supreme created by Rob Liefeld.

Over in the Ellis-verse, Supreme Blue Rose comes to an ambiguous end. We’ve all heard the phrase “a solution in search of a problem”? Yes? Supreme Blue Rose is something like that. I mean, Ellis does his thing, and there’s alternate realities and shit, and Lotay is phenomenal, but in the end, what was the point of it all? Why was Darius Dax doing what he was doing? What did he accomplish? What was the point of Diana? What was the point of anything? If you know, you’re a better person than I. It seems like Ellis is trying to explain something that happened in some other comic, but because I didn’t read that other comic, I don’t really know if it existed. Maybe? So we get a seven-issue story explaining something that happened in another comic or might not have actually happened in another comic, but Ellis wants us to believe it did. But this is just an explanation, and it’s a fairly complicated explanation for something that sounds fairly simple. Comics readers are used to alternate realities and “revisions” of universes; it’s how we roll. Even consumers of fiction, I would reckon, are more used to this kind of thing than they used to be. Okay, maybe not people like my mother, who likes her realities solid and well-defined, but my mom is 71 years old and I can’t imagine Ellis cares if she reads Supreme Blue Rose. So Ellis is explaining something quite thoroughly that doesn’t need to be explained, and forgetting to do anything else. This is a primer on the Supreme universe, and it’s seven issues long. I don’t really think it was completely necessary.

As with all writers who are demonstrably smarter than I am (which is a lot of them, true, but in this case, it’s just Ellis), it’s possible that Ellis is simply too far beyond my simple intellect and I just can’t appreciate the subtle genius of Supreme Blue Rose. I wish I did, though, because I like Ellis and I like Lotay, and this comic should be awesome. I just don’t think it does, well, anything. It just exists. It does that well, I suppose.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Cluster #2 (of 4) by Ed Brisson (writer/letterer), Damian Couceiro (artist), Michael Garland (colorist), Cameron Chittock (assistant editor), and Eric Harburn (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

The second issue of Cluster doesn’t give us any surprises, but it continues to be an enjoyable, entertaining read. With the survivors at four, Brisson can spend a little bit of time with each of them, so we find out why Halleran is in prison and why Slarreg is in prison (see below), while we also discover that – don’t be too shocked! – that things aren’t quite what they seem on the planet, as the survivors come across a group of ex-prisoners who claim to know what’s really going on. Of course, Samara is important, as the daughter of a senator, so both the prison officials and Lustig’s gang of misfits (“Lustig” means “funny” in German, by the way) are very interested in her. We also get two pages leading up to what happened to her that landed her in prison, which I suppose will also be important. There’s some good alien-killing action, some good Old West action, and people behind the scenes are making moves. In other words, just like a bazillion other pieces of fiction.

Brisson, however, knows how to write these things. He doesn’t go for showy, he goes for gritty, and you get as much out of this kind of comic as you’re willing to get out of it. I can pick apart its similarities to hundreds of other comics and books and movies and television shows, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. Part of this, of course, is because of Couceiro, who brings the alien world to life nicely but is also able to hint at the totalitarianism of the prison and even the Earth from which the prisoners come (comics art is to comics scripts what good acting is to movie scripts), but it’s also because Brisson knows the beats we expect him to hit, so even though there’s no surprise when he does hit them, he hits them with such éclat and force that it makes them work. He doesn’t just have the prisoners fight a giant alien worm and work together to defeat it, he has Slarreg eat its brain. He doesn’t just have an Old West showdown, he just blasts right through the confrontation without making it one at all. He doesn’t just give us prisoners who don’t get along, he gives us one that might possibly eat the others. So while he doesn’t break any new ground, he tweaks the old ground just enough to make this entertaining. Sometimes, that’s enough. And yes, Couceiro and Garland make the world a visual treat, which goes a long way.

Yeah, I described this comic by using the word “éclat.” Fuck you.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Über #23 (“The Great Burn”) by Digikore Studios (colorist), Daniel Gete (artist), Kieron Gillen (writer), and Kurt Hathaway (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Avatar.

As usual, I’m always curious to see the raw pencils of artists on Avatar books, as the colorists they employ tend to over-render the lines until we get that sludgy mess that we often see with those kinds of colors. Daniel Gete, who takes over as Über‘s regular artist with this issue, has a bit of a Chris Weston vibe to his line work (as Gillen points out in the back matter), but the examples of his delicate line work aren’t shown too often in this comic, because the colors swamp them. The first page, showing Antwerp before it’s destroyed (for that, see below), is beautifully done, with precise line work that gives it a woodcut feel, and this continues through the first few pages, where Gete’s line work resists the coloring. When we get to his characters, however, that changes a bit, and we get those thick folds on clothing and airbrushed skin look that is a hallmark of somewhat lazy digital coloring. Gete’s work is fine – he needs to get better at action, but there’s not a ton in this issue, so we’ll see if he does improve as the arc moves along – but the slickness of the coloring always bothers me, especially when I see the straight pencils of an artist. I haven’t seen Gete’s, but I imagine they’re much better than when they’re uncolored.

Anyway, Gillen sets up the next arc, as the Nazis decide to just start torching cities (hence the name of the arc), the Russians test Maria and find out that her blood has some interesting properties, and Stephanie decides to take a chance with Leah, “HMS Churchill,” the giant, grotesque girl who they’re turning into a “battleship,” and deploy her before she’s fully ready. We shall see how that plays out.

I don’t know if anyone is actually reading Über, but it remains a fascinating alternate war history. I wish the art was better, but that’s just the way it is, I guess.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Nameless #2 (“The Double Headed Horror at the Door”) by Simon Bowland (letterer), Chris Burnham (artist), Nathan Fairbairn (colorist), and Grant “Remember, fanboys – the letter ‘X’ is your friend!” Morrison (writer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

I haven’t seen any reactions to this issue or even the first two issues, because I just don’t tend to wander around comics web sites too often. I know, sacrilege. As I was noting above, I’m really interested in reactions to comics, mostly because when I disagree I think about why I disagree. I don’t know if people are loving this or not – Morrison remains a somewhat divisive creator, mainly because the Whorrisons (of which I am one, to a degree) can’t seem to understand why someone wouldn’t like a Morrison comic. Fans of other writers and artists can either understand why others might not like their favorites or they don’t care, but it seems like you can’t be ambivalent about the God of All Comics – you must love him or hate him! So I wonder how others are reacting to this.

Because I like it, but I chuckle at how conventional it is so far. After the initial burst of weirdness where Nameless is doing his weird thing with the weird lady, it’s a story about a group of people trying to save the world from an asteroid. Yes, Morrison dresses it up with weirdness, but he’s always done that. What we have is a person warning us that things will go bad (the lady writing in blood), the thing that might help save us (the “threescore stone” that you see on the cover), the banter/bickering between the participants that reveals some of their personalities, and the shocking twist about one character that portends seriously bad things. There’s nothing in the script that’s very different from, say, Brisson’s writing on Cluster, except that Morrison uses more words with “X” in them and goes a bit wonkier with the mysticism. It’s entry-level mysticism, though, so it’s not like it’s too convoluted to follow. In this issue, even Burnham has less to do – in issue #1, we got the strange early part, where Burnham got to go a bit nuts with page layouts, and while in this issue we get a tiny little bit of that, Burnham tends to be more conventional here. Of course, his actual line work is still wonderful, and he hasa good working relationship with Fairbairn, who does some subtle work with the blue/yellow complement.

So far, the most bizarre thing about Nameless is the title and, well, how not-bizarre it is. I try to go into every comic without very many expectations, because they’re usually not met, so I’m enjoying this comic while recognizing that Morrison isn’t really challenging himself or the reader yet. But it’s a solid comic. That’s nice.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Descender #1 (“Tin Stars Part 1”) by Jeff Lemire (writer), Dustin Nguyen (artist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 28 pgs, FC, Image.

Speaking of reviews, I read one review of Descender that claims it’s the best comic of the year so far. Wow. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid start, but it’s very much a setting-the-table issue, in that Lemire introduces us to the major conflict, the major character, and some other presumably important people before ending it with a gang of alien punks, which is never a bad way to end an issue. It’s a good issue, certainly, but I’m not sure about “best comic of the year.” Oh well – I know if people cared what I think, they’d think my “best comic of the year” is crazy, too.

So what’s the deal with Descender? Well, in the beginning, there’s a great system of planets and everything is peachy. Then giant robots appear floating around the planets, and they attack and kill millions, devastating the system in the process. What the fuck, robots? Ten years later, a boy wakes up in a mining colony on a moon and discovers that everyone he ever knew is dead … probably (he holds out hope that his mother and brother escaped). Turns out, he’s a robot. Or a cyborg. Or whatever. Meanwhile, back on the main planet, a doctor who knows a thing or two about robots and who barely survived the initial attack is roused from his bed (yes, he’s become a stereotypical burnout) by a government soldier and told that the giant robots’ “digital DNA” matches our friend TIM, the cyborg boy. TIM, meanwhile, receives some visitors, the aforementioned alien punks. So that’s the basic set-up – TIM holds the key to why the giant robots attacked, which makes him hella important. Cue the chase scenes and ultra-violence (which, you know, haven’t happened yet, but I assume we’ll get them)!

Lemire does a good job with it all, as he doles out information fairly organically (well, the fact that Captain Telsa wants Doctor Quon to explain his robot DNA stuff to her even though she already knows it was a bit obvious, but not to bad) and sets up the conflicts well. As with any comic, the art is fairly important, and Nguyen is a good choice for the comic – much better than Lemire would have been. I like Lemire’s work, but his angular style makes the future look clunky – this worked on Trillium, but it doesn’t seem like it would work here. Nguyen’s smoother line work make the future sleeker, and he’s still able to show the destruction that the robots caused quite well. Nguyen’s work has become a bit edgier over the years, so while there’s still a lot of nicely delicate work (the book is painted, after all), he still uses harder edges enough to show how bad the world has become and how scary TIM’s mining colony is. His designs are always terrific, from the giant robot painted that gun-metal gray, looming above the atmosphere before it attacks, to the aliens on the last page, who are a delightfully ugly bunch of motherfuckers. Lemire’s story is perfectly fine so far, but as is often the case, the artist does the heavy lifting.

I wasn’t sure about Descender because I haven’t loved all of Lemire’s writing, especially when he’s not drawing the comic too. But Nguyen is excellent, and DC didn’t publish this, so I figured Lemire would have some more interesting things to say in it. It’s certainly a good start. I’ll wait to decide if it’s the best comic of the year, though.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

G.I. Joe #6 (“The Fall of G.I. Joe Part 6”) by Steve Kurth (artist), Tom B. Long (letterer), Karen Traviss (writer), Kito Young (colorist), and John Barber (editor). $3.99, 20 pgs, FC, IDW. G.I. Joe created by Donald Levine.

Traviss continues to slow-burn through the situation in Galibi and Schleteva (the two fictional Balkan countries where Cobra is acting as a peacekeeper but only kind-of sort-of because they’re, you know, Cobra), and while I have no idea how long this arc is supposed to last, it feels like it’s coming to a head, maybe by issue #8? I don’t care, though, because the fact that that she’s doing it this way and the fact that very little action occurs in each issue and when it does, it’s in very short bursts, is awesome. Yes, awesome. This is how the real world works, with a lot of talking punctuated by short bursts of gunfire. No, Cobra and G.I. Joe aren’t blasting at each other with lasers that never actually hit anyone, and no, no one is wearing outlandish costumes, but Traviss is using these characters to tell a story about how the real world works, even if she cheats a little because there’s no way Rashidov and Isaac survive the attack on them at the end if the people shooting at them are even a little competent. But that’s okay – I find this comic fascinating, simply because I can’t believe IDW published it. This is G.I. Fucking Joe, and Traviss is using them to write a story about negotiating a peace treaty. Sure, the peace treaty probably won’t hold, but still. It’s strange, because while I love art in comics, Kurth (who’s doing good work) is almost an afterthought here. Traviss is a prose writer, so it’s not surprising that this reads like prose a lot, but it’s almost as if she doesn’t even realize this will be drawn. Kurth draws interesting-looking people … who stand around a lot. It’s bizarre. I don’t know if this book will survive or is even supposed to survive past this arc, but if it does, one would hope that Kurth has more to do in the next story. It’s just weird.

But the comic is fascinating. There is that. And now that some shit has hit the fan, maybe the Joes will actually have something to do. That would be fun!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Lady Killer #3 (of 5) by Laura Allred (colorist), Crank! (letterer), Joölle Jones (writer/artist), Jamie S. Rich (writer), Jemiah Jefferson (assistant editor), Shantel LaRocque (assistant editor), and Scott Allie (editor). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

It’s the dreaded “middle issue” of the mini-series, which is never a great sign. I like five-issue mini-series; I think three- or four-issue ones are too short to really get into the characters, while six or more issues often leads to stretching things out a bit too much (this is a wild generalization of course, but it still holds true quite often). But the third issues of five-issue mini-series can be deadly, because there’s often a lull between the initial rush and the climax, and writers occasionally don’t know what to do with the third issue. Jones comes close to falling into that lull, as no one actually gets killed in this issue (I know), but she manages to avoid it completely, I think, because she does take some time to visit with Josephine’s mother-in-law, who thinks Josie is having an affair and, if she found out what was really going on, would probably wish she was having an affair, and we also get Josephine slowly realizing that she has a conscience and her shadowy employers also realizing that, which means her effectiveness as an assassin is coming to an end. Peck, Josephine’s handler, is tasked to eliminate her, and that, of course, will be the driving force moving forward. So while this issue isn’t quite as exciting as the first two, we still get quite a lot of stuff, including a tiki party because it’s the Sixties. Jones, unsurprisingly, kicks major butt on the art, especially with the way she draws the more mundane things like Josie’s house and the house where Josie goes to tie up a loose end, as both the buildings looked live in by completely different types of people, which is pretty clever. Jones has always been terrific with facial expressions and body language, and Josie’s confrontation with the boy whose mother she killed is amazing, as she tries to play it cool as he figures things out and then realizes something when she finally tracks him down. The way Jones lays out the two chases in this book are tremendous, too. I don’t know if Jones is a star yet, but she really should be.

So Jones and Rich avoid the dreaded middle issue syndrome, for the most part. Peck’s conversation with the boss goes on a tiny bit too long, but that’s a minor complaint. Other than that, it’s another good issue of Lady Killer!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Birthright volume 1: Homecoming by Andrei Bressan (artist), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Adriano Lucas (colorist), Joshua Williamson (writer), Helen Leigh (assistant editor), and Sean Mackiewicz (editor). $9.99, 118 pgs, FC, Image/Skybound.

I heard some good things about this, so I gave it a chance. We shall see!

Nailbiter volume 2: Bloody Hands by Adam Guzowski (colorist), Mike Henderson (artist), John J. Hill (letterer), Joshua Williamson (writer), and Rob Levin (editor). $14.99, 104 pgs, FC, Image.

It’s a Joshua Williamson kind of week!

New Lone Wolf and Cub volume 4 by Kazuo Koike (writer), Hideki Mori (artist), Studio Cutie (letterer), Dana Lewis (translator), Everett Patterson (assistant editor), and Chris Warner (editor). $13.99, 248 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

I still haven’t read Lone Wolf and Cub nor New Lone Wolf and Cub, but I will some day!

Money spent this week: $62.68. YTD: $989.13.

**********

All right, it’s time for some links, because why not? This story at GQ is pretty fascinating. It’s about one sub-section of the “Men’s Rights” movement, as the writer goes to a convention and just chats with the men there. He obviously thinks these men (and women) are a bit delusional, but I didn’t think the article wasn’t as mocking as it could have been, but man, the comments are something. Don’t read the comments!!!!

I happened to see this link about J.J. Watt’s house. If you don’t know who J.J. Watt is, that’s okay. The fact that he’s a big liar is funny enough.

I didn’t watch CSI: Cyber, but it sure did inspire some funny writing this week. Danger Guerrero, one of the funniest people on yonder Internets, writes about the ending of the premiere episode, while Mark Lisanti writes about the whole damned thing!

Meanwhile, there’s always some medical study that seems to be a waste of money, and a group of British researchers has just released a study of … penis size. Yep. If you’re one of those people who worries about such things, click that link and find the averages. Maybe it will make you feel better? Of course, it might make you feel worse!

Today’s Top Ten list is my favorite Van Halen songs. I wasn’t going to split this into “Roth” years and “Hagar” years (we will never, ever speak of the “Cherone” years), but as it turned out, all of my favorites are Roth songs. I like Hagar’s time with the band, but only a few songs – “Inside,” “Cabo Wabo,” “Feels So Good,” “Right Now” – are even close to my favorites from the Roth years. I actually don’t own every Van Halen album – I don’t have Balance and A Different Kind of Truth, but somehow I doubt if any of those songs would supplant these ten. So here’s my Top Ten!

10. “Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)” (1982). Is this the best clarinet solo in history? You be the judge! I know that this is a cover, but Dave’s bluesy voice is awesome on this song, and he sells the somewhat silly lyrics wonderfully. Alex plays some terrific drums on this, too. Check out the lyrics here.

9. “Drop Dead Legs” (1984). No, the lyrics are nothing to write home about, but Eddie’s crunching guitar is awesome, and Dave drips lasciviousness, which he does a lot, but in this song, it seems to be a bit more horndog, which actually makes it work better. Here are the lyrics.

8. “Everybody Wants Some!!” (1980). There’s that terrific drum at the beginning, with the trembling guitar beginning to wail and crank in the background, and then it just kicks in, with Dave growling the lyrics, and then that interlude where he talks about the line up the back of the stockings. Sexist? Sure! But we must listen with a grain of salt, mustn’t we? The lyrics are here. (Yes, I first heard this song in Better Off Dead. What a great movie, even if Cusack hates it.)

7. “Unchained” (1981). Fair Warning is probably Van Halen’s best album, so it’s not surprising I like a lot of the songs on it, beginning with this terrific tune. Dave is angry, which is always awesome, and of course the guitar solo is excellent. What’s not to love? Read the lyrics here!

6. “Mean Street” (1981). Speaking of Fair Warning, it begins with this brilliant tune, with a great crunching guitar riff and cool drums, and when Dave comes in, he’s even angrier than he is on “Unchained,” singing about the despair on the streets – “And we don’t worry ’bout tomorrow ’cause we’re sick of these four walls, and what you think is nothing might be something after all” – and the desperation of those who wander them. It probably goes without saying that Eddie’s solo is fantastic, and it ends with a great, almost funky spoken word verse that leads into another wonderful outro. Check out the lyrics!

5. “Little Guitars” (1982). The beautiful acoustic intro to this song leads to an actual somewhat tender love song (by Van Halen standards). Who’da thunk it? The lyrics are here.

4. “So This Is Love?” (1981). This is probably about as funky as Van Halen ever got, with Mike’s bass dominating the intro and providing a loud beat throughout, while Dave almost croons the lyrics (Dave was born to be a crooner; he was just born in the wrong era). Meanwhile, it’s another great Eddie solo! Note the lyrics.

3. “Women in Love …” (1979). Van Halen II ends with two great songs, the first of which is this one. Eddie’s cosmic guitar sounds lead us in, and then Dave actually sings a bit more delicately than he usually does. Yes, Dave doesn’t like lesbians in this song, but that’s the way it was, I guess. It’s still a great song. Here are the lyrics.

2. “Beautiful Girls” (1979). “Women in Love …” is followed by “Beautiful Girls,” one of the more fun songs in the Van Halen library (which is saying something, as they were a fun band). Part of its charm is that Dave is wildly self-deprecating at the end, when the “girl” walks away, and his beach bum persona throughout the song is just infectious. The wordplay in the song is fun, too – “Well, I’m a bum in the sun and I’m having fun and I know you know I got no special plans” – and of course, the guitar solo is awesome. Here are the lyrics.

1. “The Full Bug” (1982). I love everything about this song – I love the bluesy beginning with Dave almost mumbling the lyrics, I love the crunching rock that the song kicks into, I love Dave’s lyrics about gold-digging women (yes, once again, Van Halen has a bit of an issue with women), I love the amazing harmonica solo, and I love Dave’s acoustic and Eddie’s electric guitar parts. This is by far my favorite Van Halen song, even though I like most of their songs a lot. Read the lyrics here.

Okay, let’s check out the Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Poets and Slaves” – Midnight Oil (2002) “You want to go down in flames, you’re gonna crash like the waves”
2. “The Other Half”Marillion (2007) “Air full of signs and strange magic”
3. “Answering Bell”Ryan Adams (2001) “Did I run? I thought I was walkin’ through your inexhaustible gale”
4. “So This Is Love?” – Van Halen (1981) “A man needs love to live, I’m the living proof”1
5. “Pour Some Sugar On Me”Def Leppard (1987) “Demolition woman can I be your man”
6. “Moving Targets”Fish (2003) “There’s no room for pity, no space for guilt, in this murderous city it’s kill or be killed,
7. “Nothin’ But A Good Time”Poison (1988) “I’m really sorry about the shape I’m in”
8. “Running To Stand Still”U2 (1987) “I see seven towers but I only see one way out”
9. “Stylo”Gorillaz (2010) “Yes, this love is electric, it’ll be flowing on the street”2
10. “Scenario”A Tribe Called Quest (1991) “Stay away from crime so I ain’t no criminal”

1 I figured that would happen eventually, what with me doing Top Ten lists of bands I really like. And there it is!

2 Last year, when I asked for suggestions for songs to put on my iPod, this was one of them. It’s a cool song, but the video is awesome.

That’s it for another week. I hope anyone in the Northeast is staying warm and safe – my father-in-law flew in last night from Newark, where he missed his first flight even though he left his house six hours before it was supposed to leave (it takes less than two hours to get from his house to Newark). He’s pretty happy to be here, where it’s hovering around 80. Have a great weekend!

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