What I bought - 4 September 2008

You know, Curran is getting all the angry comments that used to go to me, and I'm getting a little sick of it. So let's see who I can piss off in this post! Plus: My eyes bled as I read one of this week's comics! See if you can guess which one!

The Boy Who Made Silence #6 (of 12) by Joshua Hagler (writer/artist), Kari Marboe (letterer), and Thomas Mauer (letterer). $3.50, 23 pgs, FC, Markosia.

This comic came out last week, but I didn't get it until this week. That's just the way it goes.

I've been a bit effusive in my praise for this comic, and I'm going to keep flogging it until you hunt it down and buy it! This is the last issue for a while, as Hagler explains in a text piece at the end, because he's lost a chunk of money on it and needs to work on the rest (and, presumably, make some real coin). Considering he started working on it in 2002, I hope his statement that he'll start on volume 2 in about a year (meaning it might be 18 months before we see another issue) isn't overly optimistic. Because this is an absolutely brilliant comic book, one of the most astounding you will ever see, and it would be a shame we didn't get a chance to see the end of it.

Yes, I just wrote "one of the most astounding you will ever see." EVER. Hagler has challenged what can be done in comics in the same way that Kirby did long ago and Bill Sienkiewicz and Sam Kieth have done recently. He doesn't use multimedia like Sienkiewicz and Dave McKean do, concentrating instead on painting, but he completely upends what we expect to see in a sequential art book. He has done this throughout the comic, and we can see that he's getting better at it. In this issue, for instance, Nestor is baptized, and although someone having visions while being baptized is nothing new, Hagler turns the book literally upside-down and shows us Nestor's past, including a marvelous section where he and his mother converse in a banal, info-dump kind of way, highlighting the quiet tragedy that Nestor and his mother live with every day. (It reminded me of John Doe from The Heckler in a weird way.) Hagler also makes a valid point about Nestor's miracle and what it means to the town and why he shouldn't do it again. He reiterates this point when the preacher talks about Nestor's miracle, but ironically, even the preacher doesn't get it. This interesting observation about religion is just one of the many things that elevates this comic.

I really can't stop gushing about this book. I do hope Markosia brings out a collection of the first six issues in the interim to goose interest in it. I'm sure you can find the comics on-line, and I implore you to do so. This is a groundbreaking comic, beautiful and haunting and fearless and unique. Even the lettering is fantastic! That's how good it is!

Fables #75 by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Steve Leialoha (inker), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $4.99, 56 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

The war comes to an end in a fairly predictable manner, with shit hitting the fan after everything was going so well, but things work out, as we knew they would (the series is continuing, after all, and it couldn't do that if the Emperor killed everyone, now could it?). As always, it's a wonderful read, plot-wise, and could be better in the scripting. The highlight of the issue is probably Buckingham, whose panels are all from the top to the bottom of the page, stretching across each page. Many of the pages cross the middle of the page - they're not quite double-page spreads, but they are nice and big. It's an amazing book to look at, with brutally beautiful battle scenes and lots of big explosions. BIG ONES!!!! Explosions make anything better. Including Sunday mass.

Fables has been cruising along toward this point, and it's interesting to see it reach it, because it will be fascinating to see where Willingham goes from here. The way he has structured the book is nice, because it builds with a slow burn to a climactic point, and then the status quo completely changes. It's happened again, and I'm keen to see how our heroes deal with it.

The Invincible Iron Man #5 by Matt Fraction (writer), Salvador Larroca (artist), Frank D'Armata (colorist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I still don't know what to do with Invincible Iron Man. There are bits and pieces that work really well, and Fraction's wit comes through, and it's exciting, and then ... it turns into a supervillain fighting a superhero. Really? And the ending is so ... dull. Nobody thinks it's going to stick, and it's so olde-skool, but not in a good way. It's as if Fraction is trying to write an old-fashioned superhero story but desperately wants to make it feel new. Well, it's not new, and sometimes, old-fashioned superhero stories work best without grafting hip new lingo and ironic commentary onto it (see Beetle, Blue). If, in the final issue of the arc, Tony says something like "So, Zeke, this was all about killing me? So you're nothing but a punk out for revenge? How disappointing," then I'll really be put off. It just seems like this could have been a three- or four-issue story about a new, kind of cool supervillain (Stane is kind of neat, after all) trying to kill Tony. By stretching it out and dropping in all sorts of nifty jargon, Fraction is putting lipstick on a pig. And nobody wants that.

I do, however, like the "Tony was right" T-shirt that Zeke (that is Zeke, right?) is wearing on the credits page. I'd buy that!

Manhunter #34 by Marc Andreyko (writer), Michael Gaydos (artist), José Villarrubia (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Middle of a story arc blah blah blah things happening yadda yadda yadda lots of plot threads blah blah blah why is Huntress wearing a green outfit? yadda yadda yadda OH MY DEAR GOD WHAT'S THAT????????

As a public service, I purchased this comic. I knew that there was a possibility of what I'm about to divulge to you, but I bravely soldiered on, thinking that if I made the sacrifice, I could warn you about it and save countless thousands from my fate. That day is today, good readers. If I am the only victim, I will accept it. As long as I can save you from this comic.

Of what do I speak, you might ask? Well, on page 15 of this comic is the most horrific thing I may have ever seen. Yes, childhood (and childish) cartoon characters from 30 years ago getting slaughtered by a mutated dog in the pages of a comic book merrily sold to children cannot even begin to compare to the horror. On page 15, the artist, Michael Gaydos, puts several pencil lines together to render a drawing of ... two men kissing each other on the lips. ON THE LIPS!!!!!! Won't someone think of the children!!!!!!!

"But Greg," you might say, "there's nothing wrong with that! It's just a drawing!" THAT'S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK! First, it's just a drawing, and then, some San Franciscan pillow-biter is knocking on your door and claiming your first-born red-blooded American son for the Gay Movement! Don't you people listen to the Savage Nation? He lives in San Francisco, man! He knows the truth!

I wanted to warn you about this because it's far too late for me. I innocently turned the page and was instantly fixated with horror. But even though I felt revulsion, I looked at the drawing longer than a nanosecond, and now I find myself thinking dark, disturbing thoughts, like how much I'd like to see a Broadway show and that Joan Crawford is criminally underrated and that I really should try to dress better. Dear God, I think I've turned. Suddenly Rupert Everett makes sense to me. Suddenly I understand the appeal of the Weather Girls. Suddenly I'm focusing on different aspects of the highlights of last night's football game, the aspects that deal with well-muscled men in tight pants. OH NO!!!!!!

That's why I'm performing this public service. My poor wife and kids will have to adjust to a whole new me. But it's not too late for you! Please avoid this comic at all costs. AT ALL COSTS!!!!!! You can still be saved from seeing a drawing of two sets of lips, both of which are male, meeting each other. I can't. But with my last vestige of sanity before I buy the Village People's Greatest Hits CD and start my new job as a fashion designer and/or women's shoes salesman, I beg you to put this book aside. Buy something manly with lots of naked women in it. Do it for the children!!!!!!

I just thank God this book came out the same week at the Republicans were holding their convention. It just serves as a reminder why we have to continue the Bush regime this November. Then books like this will be consigned to the flames, just like they ought to be!!!!!!

Noble Causes #36 by Jay Faerber (writer), Yildiray Cinar (artist), Ryan Vera (colorist), and Charles Pritchett (letterer). $3.50, 21 pgs, FC, Image.

Speaking of good old-fashioned superhero books, there's another issue of Noble Causes out, not that it matters now that it's on the block. This is one of those books that you're always pretty sure what you're going to get, but Faerber still manages to surprise - not shock - you. It's always the little things about the book, because the overall plots tend to be much like old-fashioned superhero plots - the bad guys have the upper hand, then lose - but Faerber takes so much time to make sure everything fits together so nicely, and every issue is just a joy to read. Cinar really does a great job with the big fight, too, ramping up the action with asymmetrical panels and characters smashing through the borders. It's cool stuff.

Why do I like this when I can't really enjoy Invincible Iron Man? Perhaps it's in the perception. Noble Causes has always been a soapy superhero comic in the grand tradition of those great books of the '60s, '70s, and '80s. It doesn't pretend to be anything else, and so we can just enjoy the heck out of it. Fraction appears to be trying to make Iron Man something different, but falling back into the old-fashioned patterns. Noble Causes moves fast, jumping from one crisis to another without allowing us to catch our breath, but still finding plenty of time for good character interaction. So far in Invincible Iron Man, the pace is glacial, the characters are cardboard cut-outs (this month's Moon Knight had a more nuanced portrayal of Tony Stark, for crying out loud), and it feels vaguely embarrassed to be an old-fashioned superhero comic. If Fraction just admitted what it was, I think it would work better. Noble Causes has never had that problem.

Four issues left! Jump on the bandwagon now!

Secret Six #1 by Gail Simone (writer), Nicola Scott (penciller), Doug Hazelwood (inker), Steve Wands (letterer), and Jason Wright (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Speaking of good old-fashioned superhero comics (what is that, a theme this week?), well, Simone's new title isn't exactly that, but it's pretty damned good. We'll see where Simone goes with this, but based on this single issue, it might be the best new title of the year. Yes, I make bold proclamations like that! What are you going to do about it?

Simone returns to probably her best DC proper work, the six supervillains united by ... well, sex, apparently, but that's not important right now. What is important is that she manages to do something that's kind of rare these days in comics, especially comics from the Big Two, and that's create a true sense of menace. From the bad guy living in a crate (which isn't as dumb as it sounds, and is actually kind of creepy) to the fact that Batman is worried about what the Six are up to, this comic has a tangible feel of something bad coming down the pike. It's an intriguing set-up, and the fact that these are bad guys and are therefore perhaps a bit more expendable than heroes (not Deadshot, Catman, and probably Bane, of course, but still) makes us a bit more worried about our "heroes." Simone, astonishingly, also makes this a damned funny book, from Ragdoll making jokes about how women react to him to Lawton and Blake talking about Blake's newfound conscience while a grocery store robbery goes on around them to the thug with a life coach. Scott's art, while not as good as Eaglesham's or Walker's, is solid. I'm not sure why Huntress's outfit is green in Manhunter and not here, but whatever.

And, of course, now that I'm putting from the rough, so to speak, the fact that we get a naked Catman just makes this book all the more yummy. Damn! I was trying to suppress it. Didn't work.

If you try a new comic this week, you should try this one. It's a cool little thriller with some laughs and a nice set-up. Let's see if Simone can draw enough of a crowd to sustain an ongoing with these characters, because she's really done a nice job with them.

Storming Paradise #3 (of 6) by Chuck Dixon (writer), Jackson "Butch" Guice (artist), Carrie Strachan (colorist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/WildStorm.

There's not much to say about this issue, as it's squarely in the middle of the series. It's more fighting and bombing and killing with some intrigue thrown in, and it ends rather oddly, seemingly in the middle of a scene. But that's okay - it's built for the trade anyway, so I don't care. It's just one of those comics that is entertaining and has nice art, but we can't really tell if it's worth it until we see the whole thing. So that's when I'll assess it properly.

Universal War One #3 (of 3) by Denis Barjam (writer/artist). $5.99, 46 pgs, FC, Marvel/Soleil.

I missed the second issue when it came out (who knew my comics shoppe wouldn't order dozens of copies of a ten-year-old French comic?), but I got both issue #2 and 3 this past week, so I was able to finish the series. Marvel seems committed to the Soleil books for now, and that's a good thing. Universal War One isn't terribly groundbreaking, but it looks fantastic and is an entertaining hard sci-fi story, with lots of explosions (remember, explosions make everything better) and tense action. Yes, there's plenty of time travel paradox talk, which always makes my head hurt, but Barjam makes sure everything fits together nicely, even if it's easy to figure out soon after Baltimore shows up alive. If certain things go unanswered (what happened to Amina, for instance, and wouldn't they all be stuck in a time loop if things work out the way Kalish explains?), the notions of heroism and how even the lowest members of society can act nobly is nicely examined without being too obvious (Barjam is not as subtle as he could be, but he's not as obnoxious as he could be, either). This has a different vibe than American comics, too, even as American comics move out of the long shadow of superhero comics and into other genres. This is a "mature" book in that Barjam presents adults doing adult things, and not necessarily just because of the coarse language. Too often in American genre comics, we see stereotypes of characters - for instance, a hero who's heroic but still has some issues. In this comic, nobody is a hero, but some characters act heroically. On a different page, they might act heinously. It's not because Barjam is trying to confuse us, it's because they're real people who are simply trying to get by. We see this a lot in independent American comics, true, but it's nice to see that kind of character work in a "big-budget" sci-fi comic. If only this kind of characterization would seep more into superhero comics. Oh well.

That's all I have for this week. I've been trying to think of some way to piss people off, but if Manhunter's assault on American values didn't do it for you, you're probably voting for an inexperienced "community organizer" who's probably Muslim in the upcoming election. No wonder I now think Bowie in the "Spiders from Mars" period is a good role model. It's all your fault! Oh, and Marc Andreyko's.

Nobody guessed the totally random lyrics from last week, which made me sad, as they were from "Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive," one of the best Men At Work songs. So I'll give you an easy one this week, even though it's still totally random!

"Watched by empty silhouettesWho close their eyes, but still can seeNo one taught them etiquetteI will show another me

Today I don't need a replacementI'll tell them what the smile on my face meantMy heart going boom boom boomHey, I said, You can keep my things, they've come to take me home."

I'm embarrassed at how easy that is!

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