What I bought - 4 October 2006

I'm approaching Cronin-esque territory with the number of books I read each week, and it scares me. I may need an intervention. But for now, I'll just review them!

(The Irredeemable) Ant-Man #1 by Robert Kirkman, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks. $2.99, Marvel.

Kirkman has been getting some bad press lately, most of it on books I don't read, so I don't have a grudge against him. So far, I've enjoyed (for the most part) his work on Ultimate X-Men, and Invincible is a hoot, and I've always enjoyed Phil Hester's art (although I wish he would write another issue of The Atheist, damn it!), so I figured I would give this book a try.

This is the kind of book that Marvel should be giving us, and I hope it does well. It's in a similar vein of She-Hulk, in that it's not necessarily funny but it certainly doesn't take itself too seriously. "The kind of book" is a book that takes place firmly in the Marvel U. but is enjoyable for what it is, without being densely packed with continuity. Yes, it helps to know who Hank Pym is, but it's not totally necessary.

The nice thing about Kirkman's work in general seems to be a good ear for what people talking in a universe populated with superheroes and villains would sound like. At a poker game early on in the book, we get a discussion about whether Nick Fury is an urban legend or not. Considering it's SHIELD agents discussing this makes it all the funnier. We read these books and just accept the presence of superheroes, but what about the regular people in the Marvel U.? What about someone living in, say, Mesa, Arizona, who might have never seen a superhero? Couldn't that person believe they were all made up? It's conversations like this that strike me when I read a book like this, which winks at the audience even as a SHIELD agent dons a new Ant-Man suit of armor and shrinks.

Our two main characters, Eric and Chris, are low-level SHIELD agents who are forced to guard Hank Pym's lab one night and knock him out when they think he might be a bad guy. They discover the Ant-Man armor and hijinks ensue. Kirkman does a nice job establishing these two guys - Eric is a bit of a jerk, while Chris is more conscientious. He also throws in a nice twist - we're not sure who Ant-Man is. The story begins in the present, when Ant-Man saves a woman from a mugging and then asks her out on a date. We jump back six months (avoiding Civil War - yay! - although I'm sure it's coming) and see all the main action. Then, at the end of the book, we're back in the present, and the person we thought was wearing the armor isn't. It makes for a nice lead-in to next issue, and I'm keen to follow.

This is a fine first issue of what could be a very good series, even though the potential for annoying wackiness is there too. I don't mind a little wackiness, but it grows thin quickly. I'm still not terribly sure why he's "the world's most unlikable super hero" - he's a bit arrogant, sure, but he's a hell of a lot nicer than Reed Richards and Tony Stark, even before Millar dickified them.

The Boys #3 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

I said I would give The Boys until the end of their first mission to see if I would stick with it, so now that the recruiting process is over and the mission is on, I can begin to judge the book.

It doesn't look good.

The mission itself sounds fine. Ennis is obviously going to draw comparisons to every superhero group he can think of, most of them probably from DC, because he's, you know, a rebel, and likes to bite the hand that feeds him. Therefore, the first mission of Butcher and his crew are to smack down a group called Teenage Kix, with members who have excellently clever names like Shout Out, Popclaw, and Blarney Cock (yes, I'm being sarcastic). Next issue promises much mayhem.

The reason it doesn't look good is because of the main supergroup, the Seven. Gee, I wonder if it could be an analogue of the Justice League? Anyway, I may have to go back and read Hellblazer and Hitman again, because I wonder if Ennis is like Mork from Ork - as he physically gets older, he becomes less mature, and soon we'll have Jonathan Winter wandering around making poop jokes. Hitman contained wildly broad humor - I don't think Bueno Excellente counts as "refined" - but it was not really that mean-spirited, and Hellblazer, despite some gross parts, was a very nice examination of one man's refusal to let go of his childish ways and what it cost him. Why then is Ennis becoming more immature? I'm going to spoil some things for you, so if you really care what happens, look away! The Homelander recruits Starlight, a young hero from Iowa, to be in the Seven to replace the Lamplighter (who's on the cover there). She talks about how she met her boyfriend - another hero - at a "Capes for Christ" meeting (that's a great idea, actually) and that's they're "waiting" because they don't want to ruin things. The Homelander says how wonderful that is, and tells her how proud they are that she's joining the group. The last thing she has to do before she's in is ... give him a blowjob. Bwah-ha-ha-ha! And then Black Noir and A-Train (you remember him - he killed Hughie's girlfriend in issue #1) show up, and they too would like blowjobs. She tells them to go to hell, and the Homelander calmly replies that's fine, and wishes her good luck in Iowa with her loser friends. So what does she do? If you think for a section she's not lining up like a seal in front of a row of horns, you've obviously never read a Garth Ennis comic book!

Oh, and of course, after she throws up in the toilet, another one of her idols, Queen Maeve, tells her to fuck off. Charming.

I'd like to comment further on how disgusting this is, but I could go on and on. Why am I going to buy the next issue? Hope, maybe, that Ennis can redeem this somehow. Like I said, it doesn't look good. But we'll see.

Criminal #1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. $2.99, Marvel/Icon.

In honor of Brubaker and Phillips' latest collaboration, let's all sing a few bars from Fiona Apple's "Criminal": "What I need is a good defense, 'cause I'm feeling like a criminal ..." No? Fine, be that way.

I'm sure the blogoverse will be making messes in their pants over this book (see, I can be crude just like Ennis!) and it's certainly a fine comic book, but it's just a noir story. I mean, I'm going to buy it, and I enjoyed reading it, but again, this seems like the kind of thing Brubaker can write in his sleep, and why should I get so worked up about a bunch of unpleasant people doing illegal things? He injects it with a bit of pathos, as our hero, Leo, is taking care of an old friend of his father's, Ivan, who's a heroin addict and afflicted with Alzheimer's, and I'm not saying I'm not rooting for Leo, but he's still, you know, a criminal (it says so right there in the title!) So, although this is an enjoyable book, I don't think it's the second coming of James M. Cain. It might turn out to be, but not yet.

Do I need to go on? Leo is a crook who is approached by crooked cops who want him t help them with a score. He says no, but then the wife of a partner who got killed five years ago shows up and tells him that he should do it because he got his friend killed. Leo feels guilty and signs on. But the cops aren't telling him everything. Didn't see that coming, did you?

As with most noir, atmosphere counts, and that Brubaker and Phillips are very good at. Phillips' rough pencils and inks scream seediness, and Brubaker does a nice job creating characters who, though unpleasant, are interesting, and therefore you want to find out what happens to them. The nice aspect of Leo's personality that Brubaker brings out (through Seymour, one of the crooked cops) is that our hero is a coward. He's never been caught because if he smells a whiff of trouble on a score, he runs away. So he's a good crook, but he's not in the system because of this facet of his personality. Seymour says this to the other crooked cop almost contemptuously, but if more criminals were like Leo, they might not die or get gang-raped in prison as often. Maybe. It will be interesting to see how this works into the story more, as Leo (presumably) will have to make choices about his lifestyle and where it's taking him.

A good start, but let's not anoint it with holy oil yet, okay?

And you know what? I would pay good money to read the adventures of Frank Kafka, Private Eye, a newspaper comic strip that appears on one page. That's gold, baby!

Oh, and finally. One of the pull quotes on the back is from Charlie Huston, the writer of Moon Knight. He says, "No capes, no tights, no super powers in sight; just guns, guts and blood: CRIMINAL is my kind of book." Perhaps he shouldn't be writing a book with a guy in a cape, then. I'm sick of superhero writers dissing superheroes. But that's just me, I guess.

Okay, now I'm done. Let's move on!

Detective Comics #824 by Paul Dini, Don Kramer, and Wayne Faucher. $2.99, DC.

Okay, Don Kramer Haters. Why do you hate Don Kramer so much? Granted, he's not the greatest artist in the world, but he's largely inoffensive. The art in this issue is certainly not as god-awful as Benitez's last issue, and everything flows nicely from panel to panel. I don't get it.

Anyway, Dini must have been possessed by the early 1990s last issue, because this issue is a nice return to form, as Batman (actually, most of the time it's Bruce Wayne) puzzles out how a narcoleptic card player is cheating the Penguin at the re-opening of the Iceberg Lounge. This is, actually, almost a perfect Batman story, except for one small thing, which isn't that big a deal and which I'll get to in a bit. We have:

  • A death trap, this time at the beginning, after Batman breaks into Cobblepot's lounge.
  • Batman escapes easily from said death trap, and Cobblepot points out that he knew Bats would, and that he even left his belt on. Good stuff, there.
  • Bruce Wayne with a vapid date, who just might - might - be a parody of Paris Hilton.
  • Lois Lane showing up for the opening of the Lounge, and chatting amiably with Bruce while she's really discussing what Batman can do about both the Penguin and the cheater.
  • The Riddler showing up in his new capacity of consulting detective (I'm still waiting for the mini-series!) and pining for a life of crime, which Cobblepot poo-poos.
  • Bruce doing some "detective" work.
  • Said detective work entails calling Zatanna (and giving her the Seinfeldian "It's me" - like no one ever calls Zee?) for some information.
  • Batman saves the day, even though it turns out he doesn't really need to, and gives the Penguin his money back.
  • The Penguin actually commits no crime! How cool is that?

As usual, the minor complaint I have is that Batman doesn't really use many detecting skills - he has a lot of technology and he calls Zatanna - but it's still a good, solid Batman story. I enjoy Cobblepot a lot more as a scheming, slimy - but legal - entrepreneur than a hapless criminal, so I hope DC keeps him this way. Some of the better Penguin stories ever have come over the last ten years or so, when he's on the right side of the law but walking a fine line, and let's hope it stays that way.

One more thing: I was reminded of how good Grant "I Was a Teenaged Anarchist" Morrison is when I read this book. There's one line on the last page that Morrison would not have put in this book, and it would have made it more clever and more interesting for the reader. What line is it?????

Doctor Strange: The Oath #1 (of 5) by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Alvaro Lopez. $2.99, Marvel.

Despite the best line in this comic coming on page 1 (Iron Fist: "Yes, I'm Iron Fist. No, I don't know where Power Man is. We're partners, not a couple."), this is still an enjoyable book. I have probably less interest in Dr. Strange than most people (sorry, Neilalien), but I do like the writer and artist on this book, so what the hell. And it's a good comic that promises to be at least an interesting mini-series.

As it is all set-up, really, we come in to it in the middle, which is probably the best way. Wong brings Strange to the Night Nurse's place (and she's really a doctor, but Night Nurse is just so catchy and 1960s!) because he's been shot. Strange's astral form hovers above, carrying on a conversation with her. Apparently Wong has a brain tumor and is going to die soon. Strange refuses to accept it and heads into another dimension to bring back a cure. Before he has a chance to test it, his house is burglarized, the elixir stolen, and Strange is shot. That's where we come in. It turns out that what he brought back from the other dimension is a bit more popular - and dangerous to certain people - than he realizes. Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a story!

As usual with stories, it's how they're executed that makes or breaks them, and Vaughan does a good job presenting this. There are a few missteps - in the middle of surgery, Strange's astral form pauses for two pages and recounts his origin, which is kind of weird. I was expecting the Night Nurse to tell him to get on with it, but instead she says, "You call yourself the 'Sorcerer Supreme'? And you say you used to be arrogant?" You tell 'im, NN! There's also the fact that the god from whom Strange steals the elixir is named Otkid the Omnipotent, which is campy in an early Marvel way but strangely out of place in the modern Marvel world. I'll let it go, though. And I find it humorous that no matter where superheroes (I suppose we'll call Strange a superhero) go in the Marvel or DCU, there are always idiotic muggers ready to thrash them but who end up getting thrashed. Granted, I don't go into many strange shops in New York's Chinatown, but I do go into my fair share of Circle K stores, and I've never been mugged. Why do these morons always pick out the few people in the city who are not only able, but perfectly willing to kick their asses? I guess that's why they're muggers and not accountants.

Anyway, this is a good issue. I'll check back when it's completed, because I don't doubt that Vaughan will make it entertaining.

Eight Way Bandits #1 by Vincent van Hustle, Stevie "Street" Hustle, Federico Zumel, and Jeffrey LaJaunie. $3.50.

Usually, when I am sent something in the mail, I look on it a bit more kindly than if I purchase it. First of all, I don't get stuff from DC or Marvel like Our Dread Lord and Master does, so if I do get something, it's wildly independent and therefore more of a labor of love, and I feel a bit evil picking on it. That's not to say I'm dishonest - if I don't like it, I'll say so - but I do give it more of a benefit of the doubt than one of the big boys.

That being said, I received Eight Way Bandits in the mail, and although I appreciate it and would like to thank Leroy Douresseaux for sending it my way, I didn't really like it. The problem with it is that it reads way too much like someone's first attempt at writing. I'll explain why that's a bad thing.

First, the general story. It's the future, and some people are able to shape-shift. A corporation holds the patent on the shape-shifting gene, and these people are basically indentured servants to the corporation. One of them, our hero, is a QMan - a bounty hunter - for the Gramercy Agency, who uses him to find all sorts of bad and dangerous people. We also meet an assassin whose father is a rich man looking to start a school to train spies. She is out recruiting teachers. Somehow, I presume, their stories will intersect.

It's not the worst set-up in the world, but our writers - the Hustle Brothers - do not do a good job making it work. As I mentioned, this reads like someone's first attempt at writing, especially comics, which is a visual medium. Therefore, it's not necessary to write everything down, but that's what we get. It's tough to give examples, but consider one scene shift, after our hero is getting a verbal thrashing from his boss and we check in on our character, Anisha Rose the assassin, whose day job is (naturally) an elementary school teacher (did I say naturally, because I meant WTF????). The caption box actually reads, "Let's use Boy's little fantasy [he's dreaming about hitting his boss] as an opportunity to visit other players in our little drama." Yes, a "meanwhile" wouldn't work when 16 words will do! The whole book is like this, unfortunately. It's overwrought and overwritten, and becomes comical after a while. In comics, the pictures should tell at least half of the story, if not more, but our writers never allow that, and it drains the book of any momentum it might have had.

The art isn't much better, although the black-and-white interiors have a good, rough feel to them that makes the future look nice and seedy. However, it's far too busy - again, the creators are trying to do too much - and the panel layout occasionally gets confusing. It's strange, because Zumel did the cover, and it's not bad. But the interior isn't helped by all the caption boxes cluttering up the page!

The ultimate example of the overwriting of this book and a symbol of why I don't like it can be found in its hero. He's a black man named Malik Hemmings, but because he's a shape-shifter, he lives as a Eurasian man named Bounyoy Pfau. His "street" name is "the Sheik," which he hates, and he prefers to be called "Boy." Yes, he has four (4) names! Sheesh. It's exhausting. Pick one and stick with it, please!

So I can't really recommend Eight Way Bandits. I wish the guys luck, though, because it's nice to see anyone making comics, even if I don't like it.

Empty Chamber #1 (of 2) by A. David Lewis, Jason Copland, and Jenn Rodgers. $2.95, Silent Devil.

This is another comic book that might be under people's radar, but there's no reason why you shouldn't buy it. It's simply a fun ride of government conspiracy theory, strange men popping out of the woodwork to shoot at innocent library workers, and lots of ass-kicking. What's not to like?

The story begins with two young friends, James Starzwick and Aamer "Matt" Mahtganee. Matt is obsessed with conspiracies and hidden things, something that never leaves him. They discover James's mother lying on the floor of her bedroom one day (and Matt calls her Ellen, which is a bit strange), but we never find out what happened (presumably we will in issue #2) because we jump to the present, and James is in an ambulance, soon to be in a coma, and Matt is working at a Boston university library. He's still obsessed with government conspiracies and whatnot, and luckily for him, he falls right into one. James has sent him a cryptic e-mail, but before he can figure it out, the power is cut and bad men are trying to kill him. He's rescued by Samantha Maddox, who works for the government, and the two of them eventually hook up with another agent, Kelly Alexander. The three of them shoot a lot of people, because they have to!

Meanwhile, we find out that a U.S. general has gone rogue and wants revenge on someone for his mother's death. He's planning something to do with some sort of virus, apparently. That mean, mean general. And Matt is somehow connected to it all. It's all very mysterious.

But that's okay, because this is the slam-bang action issue, and I should think that next issue is the answers issue (with, presumably, yet more ass-kicking). There's nothing all that original about Empty Chamber, but Lewis writes with such verve (and throws in a Big Trouble in Little China reference and a non-Easter Egg) and Copland's art, while not fancy, has nice kinetic energy to it, that this is an enjoyable book. It's thick, too (48 pages, maybe?) for three dollars, so it's a good value! So although it's not going to change the world, it is a blast to read. Ask for it by name!

Fallen Angel #9 by Peter David and J. K. Woodward. $3.99, IDW.

Peter David continues to show why he's a master of the comic book form, as he finishes his two-part story about Jude's attempt to force church attendance on the citizens of Bete Noire with a nice surprise and plenty of lingering plot lines even though he gives us a good resolution. As with any book I like that has been out for a while, it's difficult to talk about this and say anything new, because it's been good for a long time and is likely to remain that way. I'm glad that Sachs and Violens played a lesser role in the book this time, even though Sachs goes after the woman who blew up the church and they have a big fight. I just don't like the characters. Lee returns to town, as well, and Malachi visits Jude to basically say I told you so with regard to the Hierarchy and their disapproval with his church scheme. What's nice about a title that David gets to write for a long time is the fact that everything unfolds at its own sweet pace, and we get little bits of information that become important later. In this issue we learn a bit more about Bete Noire, and how it can keep someone there if it wants to (this has been hinted at, but demonstrated graphically in this issue) and heals who it wants and allows to die those it doesn't need. As Bumper points out while Violens lies wounded, there are no doctors in town, because people heal based on what the city wants. It's a neat little idea.

So Fallen Angel continues to hum along, costing me 4 dollars, which is a bit steep, but it's better than paying 3 dollars for crap. Perhaps you agree, perhaps you don't. It's your money!

Manifest Eternity #5 by Scott Lobdell and Dustin Nguyen. $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

I still don't understand the way this series has been set up. We go back in time again and find Tarkington plotting and using a super-assassin to get what he wants - the heart of a dead religious leader. Nobody cares, though, because next issue is the last one.

It's strange. I may have to go back and re-read all six of these issues when they're finished. Each issue as a discrete entity is not that bad, but they just don't cohere very well. Lobdell's all-over-time approach just hasn't worked, and that's probably what killed the series so quickly. I would imagine DC axed this not long after the second issue came out, which means that people were turned off by the first time we went back in time. I don't know - maybe Lobdell stole his mother's retirement money and fled to Bangladesh, for all I know. It's just a bizarre little book that could have been very good, but went horribly wrong.

And Nguyen's art is a tad better this issue, but I don't think the new style is going to work on many books. That's just my opinion. It's free!

Mystery in Space with Captain Comet #2 (of eight) by Jim Starlin, Shane Davis, Matt Banning, and Al Milgrom. $3.99, DC.

I decided to read the second issue of this before deciding if I wanted to buy the rest, because the first issue was fine but didn't really get going anywhere, existing only to resurrect the Captain (or simply "Comet" as he now tells people to call him, but that only reminds me of the song we used to sing in elementary school - "Comet - it makes your mouth turn green / Comet - it tastes like gasoline / Comet - it makes you vomit, so try some Comet and vomit today" sung to the tune of that song that they whistle in The Bridge on the River Kwai, and yes, I know I'm rambling, but that's what happens when you buy 17 (!) comics on a Wednesday and try to process what you've read, even if you haven't read them all because some are mini-series) and get him going on his adventure. This gets into the plot, and it's pretty good. Plus, the Weird finds out that his new world, Hard Core Station, is pretty bizarre. It's two big stories in one!

I find it humorous that Comet has a new, young body. Ageism of course exists in comics, but occasionally there's a codger running around still mixing it up with the youngsters. Shouldn't the JSA have their HQ in Abraham Simpson's retirement home? Now that would be a fun place to hold meetings! But for some reason, we can't have a 60-year-old Comet running around. Maybe he's going to hook up with that one-eyed chick from last issue, and a 60-year-old hooking up with a young hot chick is just too icky. I mean, it never happens in real life, right, Michael Douglas? Anyway, he decides to find out what happened to him (Comet, not Michael Douglas) and learns that the cops have lost his body. Or, more accurately, someone stole it. He visits his official next of kin, Star Hawkins (whom I'm going to assume is an old character and not a Starlin creation just for this series), who sits around his house getting drunk. Star says that a guy came to see him claiming to be a mortician, and Comet reads his mind to get a picture of the dude. As he leaves, someone drops a big steel container on him, but he teleports out of the way, something he didn't realize he could do. Star calls to him that he saw something, but before he could tell Comet what it was, his brain apparently explodes. But he writes something in his own blood before he expires. The mystery (in space) deepens!

I have a lot of faith in Starlin, so this issue sealed the deal for me. It's a good, solid mystery, with lots of sci-fi extras thrown in, and Davis's art, while still early-Image-like, doesn't piss me off. So I'm kind of looking forward to this. We'll see when it's completed if I still like it!

Of Bitter Souls #2 by Chuck Satterlee and Norm Breyfogle. $3.50, Markosia.

You know, to be honest, I'm just buying this because I like Breyfogle's art. I mean, the story is okay, but nothing great. Our heroes fight zombies, and Sampson figures out a way to defeat them without killing them. It's actually a pretty clever idea. It's a nice enough book, but it's not really worth $3.50 and it's hopelessly behind. Issue #4 says it will come out in October. October 2007 maybe. However, there is an ad in the back for ... Gwar action figures. Holy crappin' crap, Gwar action figures (and what the hell - here's the web site - I don't know if they're out yet). I, personally, have never seen Gwar, but my best friend did (probably more than once), and he waxed eloquently about getting spattered in fake blood for days. GWAR ACTION FIGURES!

So. I can't really recommend this book, unless you really like Breyfogle's art. It's my little book that I like but realize isn't very good. You know, like my Bon Jovi albums (although if you pick on my ABBA albums I will cut you!). So there you go.

The Other Side #1 by Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart. $2.99, DC/Vertigo.

I'm still trying to figure out who the hell this Jason Aaron guy thinks he is, but since Cronin gave him a guest spot at the blog, I guess I have to be nice. It's certainly easy when confronted with a book like The Other Side, which has a lot of potential, even though, as usual, it's a set-up book.

What we get with The Other Side is a look at Billy Everette and Vo Binh Dai, who both fight the Vietnam War for entirely different reasons. It's interesting to flip back and forth between the two as Billy goes through Marine boot camp and Dai trains in guerrilla fighting, because of the similarities between the two of them even as they come from completely different worlds and even view the war differently. It's a hoary cliche that the people who run wars often have more in common with the rulers of the people they're fighting against than with their own people, and that's true for the people who actually, you know, do the fighting, and Aaron does a good job with this. Even their misconceptions about the other side are similar. The Vietnamese say the Americans will cut out their intestines and feed them to dogs, while the Americans believe the Vietnamese chain their children to machine guns. It's sadly ironic to consider that these two main characters are going to kill and die for completely idiotic reasons while their leaders get off scot free. Such is war, after all.

Aaron also adds a bit of creepiness, as Billy starts seeing ghosts of dead Marines (who continue to multiply) and hears his rifle talking to him (rather profanely). Meanwhile, Dai dreams of the Americans in horrific masks carving up his countrymen. It's all very visceral, but speaks volumes about the mental torture these young men went through as well as the physical torture they endured. It will be interesting to see this story unfold.

I do have a few problems, but they're minor. At the beginning of the book, Billy narrates the story of Jon Faulkner, who was blown to pieces by a mortar round (and Aaron picks on the Phillies, too, which was just mean - I'm sure a lot of teams lost on 4 September 1967!). How Billy knows all about Faulkner is never explained. I don't mind too much, as it gets us quickly into the story, but it seemed a little far-fetched. And Aaron, in his text piece in the book, tells us shortly about his cousin, who served in Vietnam and wrote the book on which Full Metal Jacket is based. I'm sure Billy's boot camp experience is close to the real thing, but these days, whenever I read or see anything about Marine boot camp, I think of R. Lee Ermey. It's practically a parody, and it shouldn't be. Every single thing about Vietnam these days features the mean ol' drill sergeant, and it doesn't really bother me, it just bores me. Which is kind of sad. Luckily, Billy's boot camp days are behind him, and now we can get to the killin'!

The Other Side promises to be a good comic. I expect the lives of these two men will intersect in some way. It will be interesting to see how.

Pistolfist: Revolutionary Warrior #1 by J. S. Earls, David A. Flanary, Jr., and Andres Guinaldo. $3.50, Alias.

Perception informs reality. It's true. I don't know for sure if the Mike Miller who is the Executive Director of Alias is the same Mike Miller who whined a few years ago about how DC didn't want to hire him because he doesn't like gay people. I think it's the same guy, but I don't know. My belief that it is him leads me to think that he is a conservative in a largely liberal-dominated business, at least on the creative side of things. That belief leads me to believe that he believes in gung-ho macho things, like how war makes a man a "real" man, and if only those queers could kill someone with a rifle, they'd want a good woman! See how perception informs reality? What has this to do with this comic book, you ask? Well, my belief in all that about Mike Miller informs my reading of this book, in which the British soldiers during the Revolution are all vulgar, horrible, generally evil people, while the colonists fighting for their freedom are all noble and high-minded. Mike Miller didn't even have anything to do with the creation of this book, but it looks like the kind of thing he would like. America needs an enemy, after all - how else would we define ourselves? See what I mean about perception. It's quite fascinating.

The fact that the British are evil and the colonists noble doesn't decrease my enjoyment of this book. It's a solid beginning to the series (which I assume is a mini-series, but can't be bothered to check). Benjamin Franklin returns from Europe on the eve of the Revolution, bothered by his failure to prevent it. Meanwhile, at Lexington, a mysterious hooded figure (that's him on the cover) rides into battle, but is overwhelmed by numbers. He is taken to Fort Ticonderoga, where we find out who he is (I ain't tellin'!), who his captor is (again, I ain't tellin'!), how they captured him (ditto!) and what the connection is to Franklin (you're kidding, right - I ain't tellin'!). I will say it's an intriguing set up that has the potential to say quite a bit about how the country was formed and what it meant for all of its people. It's an Alias book, so who the hell knows when the next one is coming out, but it's a good comic nevertheless.

Yes, the title is stupid. But it's accurate!

True Story Swear to God #1 by Tom Beland. $2.99, Image.

The Other Greg (or am I the Other Greg?) here loves TSSTG. Loves. It. And, despite some dissenters, I ordered this when it was solicited. It's sweet, or so I heard. And charming. And clever. Hey! I like sweet, charming, and clever!

But, unfortunately, this is not good. Not good at all! This book is a perfect example of why I tend to run for the hills when the word "autobiographical" is mentioned in relation to comics. Look, I'm sure Tom Beland is a swell guy. But he's just a guy. Do you want to read about what I did today? Of course not, because I'm just a guy. I did not put out a forest fire today. Nor did I cure cancer, nor lead a troop up a hill and kill a lot of America's enemies. Because I'm just a guy. Just like Tom Beland. Which means his life, like mine, is deadly dull. Not to me (or to him), but to people reading about it. DULL.

Here's what happens in TSSTG #1. Tom and Lily go out to dinner. Tom calls people who owe him money in an attempt to get paid. That doesn't work, so he goes in person to the places that owe him money. He talks to Lily. He makes dinner (this is all rendered graphically on the page, even the making dinner part, so we're watching someone make dinner). He explains iced coffee to Lily (this takes two pages). He talks to her about his comic book, which is buried in a closet. He doesn't want to publish it because someone might not like it (do I sense irony, because he obviously did publish it and is now commenting on how he doesn't want to - it's very meta). He goes to bed. I shove knitting needles into my eyes.

Guess what I did yesterday? I woke up, ate breakfast, took my daughter to school, listened to my other daughter scream because she was tired, picked my daughter up at school, fed them, put them down for naps, typed this up on the computer (that would be the meta part of my comic), talked to my wife when she came home, she complained about her work and I complained about my screaming daughter (who just needs to stop waking up at 6 in the morning!), we put the kids to bed, ordered Japanese food and ate it while watching The Colbert Report. All I need is someone is someone who can draw sketchily and I, too, could write a critically-acclaimed comic book! Whoo-hoo!

I suppose this is a bit meaner than it should be. But this is life, and everyone leads a life. It's not even a terribly interesting life. I mean, early on, Beland is whining (he does that a lot) about how when he visited his family in California after he moved to Puerto Rico, everyone had gone on with their lives. What? How dare they? They should have set up a shrine to Beland and circled it seven times a day, chanting his name! I moved away when I was 22, from Pennsylvania to Oregon, and you know what? All my friends moved on as well. Shocking! And then he talks about his great relationship with Lily. I have a wonderful relationship with my wife, so I don't need to live vicariously through his. The only marginally interesting part is when he's trying to get the money that's owed him, but even that's annoying, as it seems like he's only doing it because he wants to be "manly" and pull his weight around the house. I guess that's fine, but if you want to be manly, couldn't you whine a little less?

I don't hate TSSTG, in case you're wondering. I understand it's a labor of love, and the little (meaning "boring") details that Beland throws in are supposed to make us appreciate the little things that go into building a relationship and how these things bind us together. I get it. But again, I've lived all this. I understand that the little details are where you find the glue that holds two people together. I understand that each day is a small challenge to overcome the fact that two different people are sharing a life. But that doesn't mean I fucking care that Beland puts deep fried onions on top of his tuna casserole!

Sorry, Other Greg. I tried it, but unlike Mikey, I didn't like it. That's the way the cookie crumbles (which Beland would probably take two pages to describe).

[Update: As you can plainly see by the comments, this review may be a bit mean.  I am unsure why Mr. Beland thinks of this as some kind of ad hominen attack on his person, but he does.  If you, as a reader, think that it is far too mean-spirited - not a completely invalid reaction, I grant you - please check out the 27th comment in this thread, where I endeavor to give a "real" review, by which I mean one that basically says the same thing as this one does but with far less inflammatory language.  I stand by the spirit of the review, however.  I always like to hear from people who disagree with me and think I'm a moron.  Believe me, you need to take a number!  Thanks for reading, whether you like my reviews or not.] 


Agents of Atlas #3 (of 6) by Jeff Parker, Leonard Kirk, and Kris Justice. $2.99, Marvel.

This just looks cooler than hell.

A Dummy's Guide to Danger #2 (of 4) by Jason M. Burns and Ron Chan. $3.25, Viper Comics.

Well, according to Burns and next issue's cover, Alan's reporter girlfriend is menaced, which I hoped and prayed wouldn't happen. Still, a private detective with a ventriloquist's puppet who helps him solve cases. Why wouldn't you buy this?

The Winter Men #5 (of 6) by Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon. $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

Wow. An issue of The Winter Men. I'd go back and find out when the last one came out, but I don't really care all that much. Will I care when it's completed, or am I just buying this out of some perverse pride? We shall see.

That's all for this week. See what I mean? I need an intervention. Someone needs to step in, because obviously I can't help myself!

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