What I bought - 5 December 2007

Hey, you know that time of the week when I get to write my thoughts about the comics I purchased (or read) this week and you get to tell me how very, very wrong I am and I should probably seek professional help?  Well, it's here again!  Good times!

First, I try to remember to address your choices and why I didn't get them.  I've read a few issues of All-New Atom and just couldn't get into it.  I took a look at the reprints in Twelve #0, but didn't get excited about them.  Maybe I'll pick it up this weekend just to read it.  I read The Sword but plan to review it for my other column (which seems to have disappeared, but I keep submitting things for it).  Anything Hellboy-related I wait for the trade.  I need to remind people whenever a new issue of Invincible comes out that I buy the trades.  That's cool, though - it's neat how many people are enthusiastic about it, so feel free to slam me when it's not on my list!  Overmen #1 looked okay, but not enough to make me drop some coin on it.  I didn't see Negative Burn on the shelves, but I'll have to look more closely.  I read the last issue and enjoyed it.  And Ms. Marvel is decent, but I never seem to be blown away when I read it.  Sound good?  Okay, let's check out the books!

30 Days of Night: Beyond Barrow #2 by Steve Niles and Bill Sienkiewicz.  $3.99, IDW.

I have to admit, Sienkiewicz's art is a bit sloppy in this issue.  Yeah, I know - "How can you tell?"  I'm talking about the transfer from the original to the printed page - there are parts that look fuzzier than they should be, and it doesn't appear to be the way the art originally looked.  I could be wrong, I guess, and Sienkiewicz did it that way on purpose, but I don't think I am.  It makes the scenes, which after all take place at night in a blizzard and therefore are already obscured, even more difficult to decipher, and hurts the storytelling of both Sienkiewicz and Niles.  In other places it doesn't hurt the storytelling, but simply looks sloppy.  That's a shame, because a driving snowstorm seems tailor-made for Sienkiewicz's chaotic way of creation, and he does a very nice job with that aspect of the art.  It's just unfortunate that the book doesn't look as nice as I think it could.  If anyone bought the book, can they see this?  Do we have any theories on it?  I'm just wondering.

Meanwhile, vampires (or something like them) show up and slaughter most of the kooky people who showed up last issue, and two townspeople head out to save them.  Niles, as usual, does a very good job plotting, and it's always about being able to finish with him (and he often does well).  The problem I had is when the vampires (or something like them) attack and we see very little.  I mean, the snow obscures things, sure, but even though I like horror movies where things are left up to our imagination, it would be nice to see a little more.  Part of the problem is that we haven't really gotten to know any of these characters, and so when they start disappearing, especially off-panel, it's not as terrifying as it could be.  Now that we've thinned the herd a bit (as horror always does in the first wave of things attacking), we can concentrate on the survivors and their erstwhile rescuers in the conclusion.  So we'll see how Niles does with that.

By the way, speaking of Barrow, if you're in the mood to give to charity this Christmastime, check out the Project Alaska Turf, which was started by a woman in Jacksonville to raise money to buy a field for the Barrow High School football team, which played last season (2006) on a stony and dusty spot of land.  She raised a bunch of money and bought them an artificial field (which is blue and looks odd in the middle of all that brown), but they're still raising money.  It's a pretty cool cause and you can get some neat Barrow Whalers shirts and sweatshirts.

I mentioned this when I reviewed issue #2, but I'll mention it again: Atomic Robo is wildly derivative, but it's still a whole crapload of fun.  At the end of last issue, Robo found out that a pyramid had uprooted itself and was starting to wander around the desert, so in this issue, he and his team are dispatched to Egypt to stop it.  That's the plot, but Clevinger and Wegener put so much into the details of both the dialogue and the art that it's a joy to read.  Wegener's clean style works very well with both the hero of the book and with the starkness of the desert.  Clevinger does a nice job with the interactions between Robo and his team, and his dialogue is a big reason why the book is so much fun.  When they discuss the fact that the pyramid has apparently decided to head south, one of his group says, "Judging by how these things go, I think it's safer to assume mummies until proven otherwise."  Robo responds, "That's just good advice in any line of work."  So as you go through your day, alway ... Assume Mummies Are Involved!  We also find out that one of his group did his doctorate on Solar Deathray Design.  I really want to live in a comic book world!

There's not a lot that is new about Atomic Robo, but it's still a good book.  It's funny and exciting, and has a lot of charm.  And it features "violent science," so it has to be cool!

(I should point out that the pyramid is, according to the team, making a "bee-line" to Luxor.  How can they tell?  From the looks of it, the direction is correct, but Luxor is so far south of Giza that it would hit several places before that.  Also, it would have to cross the Nile three times to get to Luxor if it's moving in a "bee-line."  And why Luxor?  The book ends in a cliffhanger, so maybe it will be explained next issue, and I suppose it could be a pyramid that is not in Giza, but it's kind of strange.) 

Brawl #2 (of 3) by Dean Haspiel and Michel Fiffe.  $2.99, Image.

There are two stories in this book, one by Haspiel and one by Fiffe.  So it's a nice chunk of comics for three dollars.  For a second issue, it's pretty easy to get into this, as we get brief synopses on the inside front cover.  So we can dive right in!

Haspiel's story involves a space-god who came to Earth eons ago so humans could "steep in its seasons of cosmic love."  Because humans don't love each other enough, it woke up and went a bit crazy, and our heroes, Billy Dogma and Jane Legit, need to figure out how they can help.  It's a very weird little story that is actually rather sweet.  And for some reason, when Billy stops to think for three panels, he goes from a clean-shaven man to one with a full beard.  That was very strange and unexplained.

The second story, "Panorama," is even weirder.  Augustus, a teenager, has run away from home and ends up in an abandoned building with some squatters.  One of them, a girl named Valencia, offers to help him with his problem.  You see, Augustus's body bends in freakish ways, like a grotesque Mr. Fantastic, but he can't control it.  He and Valencia head to the big city, but can he really trust her?  It's another bizarre story made quite unique by Fiffe's amazing art.  It's truly hallucinatory, and adds a wonderful touch of creepiness to the story.  A quote on the back says that Fiffe is if "Steve Ditko and David Cronenberg had a child," and it's true.  He has a very cool sense of composition.  I would say his art is not unlike Brendan McCarthy's, if that's your thing.

Anyway, both stories are interesting and odd.  Check this out!

Countdown: Arena #1 (of 4) by Keith Champagne, Scott McDaniel, and Andy Owens.  $3.99, DC.

Of course I was going to read this, because of Keith Champagne's offer to buy it back if you don't like it.  I didn't want to spend money on it, so I won't be sending it back to Champagne, but I figured I'd see if it's any good.

Well, it's not.  It's not completely terrible, but Champagne really has an impossible task.  I can't believe this story isn't dictated by editorial mandate, and as ideas go, "forcing similar heroes from the various multiverses to fight each other for the 'honor' of fighting in Monarch's army" is kind of dumb.  With so much working against him, I guess it's a credit to Champagne that this isn't completely awful, but it's just a bad idea that doesn't go anywhere.  We have no connection to the characters, so when a Nightshade or a Batman dies, we don't care, and we're not all that impressed with Monarch, either.  I realize I'm not the target audience, as I'm not really invested in the Big Story going on in the DCU these days, but it's not really anything to get that excited about.  Champagne gives us a little bit of nice character contrasts, especially among the Batmen and the Dark Knight Superman who is very unhappy with the Commie Superman, but it's still dull.  There's really not a lot of reason to care.

Champagne seems like a yeomanlike writer, one who can give you a decent story but won't dazzle you.  It's a shame that DC is sticking him on projects that don't seem to have any hope of being good, but just push this Big Story forward.  I guess Champagne gets some credit for moving the plot along, but it's just not a very good comic.  Sorry, Mr. Champagne!

Dynamo 5 #9 by Jay Faerber and Mahmud A. Asrar.  $2.99, Image.

Man, I dig this book.  Superheroes fighting the good fight against evil villains with silly names (Brains and Brawn, a telepath and a big strong dude) while one of their group admits who he is to his mother, another one is still in a coma but discovers his astral form can walk around and listen in on conversations, and the last member pretends to be the one in a coma and does something that earns him a big punch at the end.  The fight with Brawn and Brains is interesting because Faerber doesn't let it play out the way we expect, and as usual, the characters drive the story.  Why is Scatterbrain, who wakes up from his coma and punches Myriad, so upset?  It seems like there's more to the anger than we might think, and it will be interesting to see where Faerber goes with it.  Meanwhile, Asrar's art continues to be excellent.  Faerber promises he's sticking around, and I hope it's true.  His art works very well with Faerber's big-time superhero scripts.

Of course, I should point out that in all my years of ordering pizza, it's never been delivered by someone as cute as the girl who gets abducted briefly in this comic.  I may have mentioned how much I want to live in a comic book world.  Then I could use my Doctorate in Solar Deathray Design to impress the cute pizza delivery girls!

Fearless #2 (of 4) by Mark Sable, David Roth, and PJ Holden.  $2.99, Image. 

I read a review of the first issue of this comic that absolutely ripped it, which was kind of strange.  I mean, I can understand not liking this, but to savage it so completely is weird, because it seems inoffensive.  I certainly am not going to say it's reinventing comics as we know, but it's a solid superhero book with a nice twist, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Of course, that being said, issue #1 was better than issue #2.  This isn't a bad issue, but it's hampered by trying to do too much.  Sable and Roth advance the plot, as Adam tries to discover who kidnapped his mentore, Lionel, while he's trying to figure out if the villains really know his secret, as the end of issue #1 implies.  Sable and Roth are also trying to fill in some of the blanks from Adam's past, as we flashback to his childhood quite often.  Unfortunately, this makes the issue somewhat muddled, as they try to pack so much into the issue it gets a bit confusing.  For instance: Lionel gets kidnapped, and the kidnapper shows Adam a video of him hanging by his ankles.  When Adam confronts the bad guy, it appears that Lionel drops from his perch to his death.  However, the next time we see him, he's tied to a chair in the home of the real bad guy.  We've seen that Adam often thinks about the horrible things that could happen to him, so Lionel dropping could be his imagination, but then what's he doing tied to a chair?  Was he ever hanging upside down?  The book moves at such a fast pace that it's tough to process everything.  Sable and Roth want to get to a certain point, and that's fine, but the pacing is off here.

Holden continues to do a good job with the art.  It's cartoony, but he does well when it gets a bit gritty, which is usually when Adam imagines the horrors of his life when he's exposed as a coward.  The art works well with the story, and that's all it needs to do.

As it's a four-issue mini-series, I imagine Sable and Roth will work the kinks out, and the premise is good enough for me to come back.  This single issue, however, was a bit disappointing. 

The Infinite Horizon #1 (of 6) by Gerry Duggan and Phil Noto.  $2.99, Image. 

I was looking forward to this, because it's a re-interpretation of The Odyssey set in the near future, as an unnamed Army captain tries to make it home from the Middle East after years away in a fruitless war.  I like Noto's art a lot, and if Duggan can make it work, this has great potential.  And now the first issue is here!  So what do I think of it?

Well, except for one page, I like it a lot.  That page is the first one.  Maybe I'm becoming too much like frequent commenter and agitator T., but the first page rubbed me wrong.  Not because I don't agree with the sentiments expressed, which are narrated by the Captain after he returns home and deal with the breakdown of the Long War which is obviously supposed to be the War on Terror™.  He narrates: "I was away for years ... volunteering for Afghanistan, and then sent to Iraq, and later ... everywhere else my country chased shadows.  In the end, the men calling the shots ran terrified when they realized their war evolved into something that couldn't be won with the gun.  Because America doesn't know any other way to fight."  Again, it's not that I necessarily disagree with those statements, even though the implication that it's only America who knows no other way to fight bothers me because, to be honest, almost every country on Earth knows no other way to fight and frequently proves that.  I'm not sure what bothers me so much about the way the Captain speaks.  I don't really want him to be gleeful about killing, but it seems like the war-weary soldier who does what has to be done is such a cliche that I react against it even when I agree with the sentiment.  I mean, it seems like Penelope, his wife back in America, is tougher than the Captain.  She doesn't moan about what needs to be done.  She just does it, and woe anyone who crosses her.  Also, the Captain's bitterness comes through much better in the book when he's not narrating, but just going through the motions of evacuating everything out of Syria and then getting out himself.  His eulogy for a dead soldier and the way he rejects platitudes even as he utters one make his statement more eloquently.

After the first page, the book becomes much better.  The Captain can't get his squad out by air, so they begin a sojourn through the desert.  Meanwhile, Penelope tries to protect her son as her neighbors (the "suitors" of the poem) congregate around her house arguing about water rations.  It's a nice way to introduce that part of the story.  Noto, of course, makes the book look great.  I expected nothing less.

I'm keen on seeing where Duggan goes with the story, but I hope he leaves his soapbox at home.  We can easily takes sides based on the way the story unfolds, not the way the characters give speeches.  That's the best way to criticize anyway, and I hope Duggan remembers that.

Infinity Inc. #4 by Peter Milligan, Max Fiumara, Matthew Southworth, and Stefano Gaudiano.  $2.99, DC.

The weirdness of this book continues, and I don't think Milligan has found the right balance between it and the need to fit this into the regular DCU superhero genre yet.  I really liked the first issue, but since then, it's been trying to find its way a bit, and I'm still wondering if it will.  I like the way Milligan is playing with the characters and their disconnect from normalcy, but he is having some difficulties, it seems, with the idea that this is a superhero book.  It probably shouldn't be, but that's what Milligan seems to be going for, and it's not yet entirely successful.  Kid Empty continues to be very creepy, and the heroes continue to have problems with their powers and what's going on, and it's interesting, but it's oddly out of sync.  I'm still hoping it rights itself, because there's a lot of weird stuff going on that's very neat.  I can wait a little longer!

Justice Society of America #11 by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Dale Eaglesham, Ruy Jose, and Drew Geraci.  $2.99, DC.

I read the previous issue of this book and mildly enjoyed it, so I figured I'd read the next one.  Despite the apparent bloodthirstiness of Johns early in the series, this seems to get some accolades from the comics cognoscenti, and I like Eaglesham's art, so why not?  The problem with this book isn't that it's bad.  It's that it's conventional.  It's a group superhero book, and while it's better than Justice League right now, it's not as good as Dynamo 5.  Your enjoyment of this book comes down to how much you like the characters, because Johns' writing isn't going to make you jump up and take notice, even though it does nothing to drive you away.  As I read this, I just admired the craft of the art, the solid storytelling, and the simple morality tale.  The reason I don't love it is because it's heavily embedded in the mainstream DCU, and what's going on in the mainstream DCU just doesn't interest me all that much right now.  I can deal with a book like Blue Beetle or Catwoman or Checkmate because those books feature stronger writing and comparable art, and they're not as tied into what else is going on.  This is a good comic, but for me, it's not a thrilling one.

I do have a few complaints.  Starman breaking the fourth wall is very annoying, and I really think that tactic needs to go away for a time.  He cutely references the Mega-Event going on right now, which calls attention to its messiness.  Then, the JSA goes off and fights Judomaster and the super-powered Yakuza she is fighting.  I know "Judomaster" is a long-standing DC character, so it's not going to get changed, but two of the characters she fights are called "Seppuku" and "Kamikaze."  Can't they come up with better names?  Sheesh.

So this isn't bad.  If you really love the characters, it's probably better than I'm giving it credit for.  But I don't. 

Lazarus #2 (of 3) by Diego Cortes and Juan Ferreyra.  $3.50, Image/Shadowline.

There's really not much to say about this issue, as Cortes and Ferreyra keep the throttle down, which means we don't learn very much more about James and his uncanny ability to rise from the dead.  We do get a little bit, but it's mostly just teaser material for the revelations that will probably come next issue (unless, of course, this is being planned as a series of mini-series, in which case they might not come next issue).  It's still an exciting read that looks great, and there's a nice twist at the end that sets up the finale well, but it's tough to really say much about it.  I bought it originally because I like Ferreyra's art a lot and the premise is intriguing, and so far it's been a good thriller.  But I can't really say it's a comic worth spending money on until we get the payoff in issue #3.  So far, so good, however.

Northlanders #1 by Brian Wood and Davide Gianfelice.  $2.99, DC/Vertigo.

The big debut of the week (I guess, among discerning readers) is Wood's Northlanders, which is quite a nice comic.  I'm a bit more impressed with Gianfelice's art than the story, because the pencils look fantastic.  Gianfelice evokes a bygone age, with scruffy, hardened warriors, graphic violence (Vikings fought with swords, after all, which make a mess), and absolutely stunning landscapes.  The first page, with two Viking ships alone on the Bosporus near Constantinople, shows how much people of this era were alone in the wilderness and set against it as well.  It links to the final page, in which Sven, our hero, is again alone in a different wilderness, that of the Orkneys.  It's a magnificent contrast and shows how far our hero has come in just one issue, but also how similar his worlds are.

As for the story, well, it's a Viking story (sort of - I'll get to that).  That means we get manly men stabbing each other with swords, and speeches about honor and inheritance and death.  Sven, who has spent some years in Constantinople as a bodyguard of the emperor, returns home because his uncle has stolen his inheritance on his father's death.  Sven doesn't plan on staying in the Orkneys, just taking his money and returning to Byzantium.  However, his uncle, Gorm, is ready for him, and he strips him of his fancy clothes and has his men drag him to his old homestead, where they leave him, thinking he'll die in the night.  Sven, however, has other plans.

It's a perfectly good set up, and I don't have any problems with the actual story.  It's intriguing enough that I'll come back for the next issue, but some things bother me about it.  First of all, it doesn't feel like a Viking story.  What I mean is, it's a prodigal son story to a certain extent: the boy goes away to the big city (in AD 980, Constantinople was the only city in Europe worthy of the name), makes his fortune, returns home when his father dies, and finds that he no longer fits in.  From the title of the book, I'm fairly certain Sven will come to appreciate the simple wisdom of the inhabitants of the Orkneys and stay there, even though in this issue he claims that "these people squat in shit and scrape a living from frozen ground."  Even though right now he misses the city with its "cultures of the world," I'm sure he'll soon realize that those mincing Byzantines don't hold a candle to the salt-of-the-earth Vikings (plus, you know, there's a girl - or maybe two).  So that robs the story of some of its intrigue, because at least for a few issues, we can pretty much predict where it's going.  But, like I wrote above, there doesn't seem to be any reason it's about Vikings specifically except it allows Wood to indulge in some brutal swordplay.

Secondly, some of the speech is wildly anachronistic.  I don't have a problem with the Vikings cursing, but would a tenth-century person really say "I should call this guy on his bullshit"?  It takes us out of the story a bit and reminds us that despite the trappings of the story, there's no reason for this to take place in AD 980.  Sven talks like a 20-something punk of the 21st century, not a tenth-century warrior.  Again, I can deal with it a little, but occasionally it takes me out of the story.

The last thing that interests me (and doesn't ruin anything about the book, just interests me) is Wood setting the book when he does and what he writes in the "On The Ledge" section of the book, where he describes his pitch.  He writes, "What I found most interesting was how the world was at the start of the Viking Age, coming up on the first thousand years of European history.  Why the Vikings had to do what they did, and how, in a relatively short (and incredibly violent) time, they pulled Europe out of its dark ages and changed the world, albeit by swordpoint."  Man, that's a lot of stuff to process in two short sentences.  First, the "Viking Age" clearly began in AD 793 when they attacked Lindisfarne Abbey on the north-east coast of England, so this book takes place 200 years after the "start" of the Viking Age, by which time the Vikings had changed significantly.  Second, by AD 980 they had, for example, established the duchy of Normandy in France (Rollo was the first duke, gaining the territory in 911) and those men, at least, had converted to Christianity, which tended to make them less of the terrors they had been (not much, of course; just ask the English at Hastings in 1066).  The book is actually set much closer to the end of the Viking Age than the beginning.  Plus, whenever you claim that a particular group pulled Europe out of the Dark Ages, you ignore the contributions of several other groups, and although the Vikings had an impact on Europe (especially in northern France, the British Isles, and Sicily), they weren't any more significant than the Irish monks, the Spanish Muslims, and the Byzantines.  In fact, they were probably less significant than those groups.  Finally, Sven calls himself a "Varangian."  Varangians were Swedes who traveled south through Russia, some of them ending up in Constantinople.  Why would his father, who was also presumably Swedish, be in the Orkneys, which were primarily settled by Norwegians?

I'm sure no one cares about these things, but they bug me.  If Wood is going to make grand sweeping statements like that, he needs to make sure the comic reflects accepted history.  The Vikings are certainly interesting, and comics are a good place to write about them, because you can make things look like the tenth century without a budget holding you back.  I mentioned this when the book was announced - it would far more interesting to do something about the Byzantines in AD 980 (which was the beginning of the reign fo Basil II Bulgar-Slayer, who has one of the coolest nicknames in history) or even the Vikings in Sicily, where they ruled for a few hundred years.  Sven could have stayed in the south.  I guess the Orkneys are more fascinating.  I think this issue is pretty good and the book has a ton of potential, but only if Wood decides to write it about actual Vikings and not time-displaced gangsters, which is what Gorm seems to be.  We'll see.

The Order #5 by Matt Fraction, Barry Kitson, Khari Evans, and Victor Olazaba.  $2.99, Marvel.

Fraction continues to make this a very good superhero team book, the kind that makes many others look either overwrought or boring.  His schtick of introducing each team member with their "job interview" for the team hasn't grown old yet, especially because in this one he changes things up and gives us Kate Kildare, who is interviewing for the team's PR rep (does she ever get a job title in the book?).  This is a nice, necessary diversion, as Kate deals with Becky's sex tape and shows us how it needs to be managed even if Becky feels bad.  It's a fascinating subplot, tying slightly into the main plot, which is the murder investigation, which leads to those delightful ladies on the cover, who call themselves the Black Dahlias.  So we get a nice throwdown between the two groups (including a very funny line, as James Wa calls one of the girls "Hot Topic") and a revelation about Mulholland Black.  Plus, Fraction manages to throw in a mutated giant turtle that attacks a snotty starlet driving her car through the desert.  Yes, the mutated giant turtle is but a subplot in the book.  Hence its coolness, when that's not even the main plot.  The book continues to be a wildly entertaining comic, and as Fraction fills out the personalities of the heroes more, it's becoming more and more interesting.

Declarative Rabbit liked Khari Evans pencilling over Barry Kitson's layouts, but I can't agree.  I'm not a huge fan of Evans', because he seems to really tart up his women, whereas with Kitson pencilling, they seem more athletic than slutty.  Everyone's breasts seem bigger in this issue, and Mulholland has that anorexic look that creeps me out a bit.  It's not bad art by any means, but everyone looks a bit longer and thinner and slightly more pneumatic (the women, at least) than when Kitson is doing the majority of the art.  Plus, that blonde girl who is about to shoot James Wa is holding the gun very weirdly, or at least it seems so to me.  Does anyone else think it looks weird?

The art is a minor complaint, actually, because it still does a good job telling the story.  It's just not as good as it has been.  Fraction's script, however, is very good, and the book continues to improve.

Suburban Glamour #2 (of 4) by Jamie McKelvie.  $3.50, Image.

I'm not sure if there's much to say about this.  Can I convince you to go back and get issue #1 and this one?  Maybe.  McKelvie's art is stunning, which isn't surprising (an example: when Astrid's parents ask if she's okay because she wants to spend time with them, and her wonderful facial expression conveys scorn at the question, a forced attempt at unconcern, and a desire to feel safe with the people who raised her - all in one panel!), and we get a glimpse into something beyond this world, which is drawn the same way but with more menace, and he handles that well, too.  The reveal at the end isn't that surprising, really, nor is Aubrey's connection to the plot, and although I'm not terribly happy with the use of standard fairy nomenclature (Titania and Oberon, for example), I'm not that interested in worrying about it either.  What continues to make this a charming comic is the way McKelvie gives us more of these teenagers, who act like teens but aren't complete assholes.  Astrid reacts to the reveal about the way you would expect, but we're sympathetic to her because of the way McKelvie has established her.  He even manages to make her parents real people and not stereotypes, which is nice.  So we're just humming along, with some excitement to begin the issue, a big revelation at the end, good characterization in the middle, and great art throughout.  It sets up the final two issues nicely.  And the David Kohl cameo was very funny, especially given the subject matter.  I suppose it makes better sense if you've read Phonogram (and you really ought to).

Two Guns #4 (of 5) by Steven Grant and Mat Santilouco.  $3.99, Boom! Studios.

Just like I wrote when the third issue came out, it's been quite a while since the first two came out, so I don't really have much to say.  We move neatly toward the endgame, with a woman's life at stake and several questions still unanswered and no indication how everything will play out.  I'm just going to wait until issue #5 comes out and re-read the entire thing.  It's probably for the best.

I am curious about the artist's name, though.  In previous issues it's spelled "Santalouco."  Now it has an "i" where the second "a" was.  Is that a misprint, or is this the way it should be spelled and everything previous to this has been wrong?  The mind reels!

Ultimates 3 #1 by Jeph Loeb and Joe Madureira.  $2.99, Marvel.

Kevin has a very funny post charging Marvel for his time in reading this comic.  I will simply say, it's as bad as you probably thought it would be.  But what's the point of reviewing it?  Most comic fans have made up their mind about Jeph Loeb and Joe Mad.  If you like them, you'll probably like this.  If you don't like them, this won't change your mind.  If you haven't read it, you're probably better off, but imagine what a Jeph Loeb/Joe Mad book would look like.  You're probably pretty close to what this looks like.  But let's go over some of the more annoying things about it.

1. I realize wondering about "real-world" things in a comic-book world is silly, but Hawkeye's mask bothers me.  I assume it's leather or some kind of durable rubber.  If so, how does he breathe?  Or speak?  Or not get sweaty?  I know it looks kewl, but it's really bothering me.

2. Joe Mad's art is just ugly.  When I was a younger lad, I thought it was kewl, but even now that I know better, his X-Men stuff is far better than this, which is murky, muddled, and so over-the-top as to be utterly grotesque.  But Valkyrie leaping into the fray with nipples hard as diamonds is pretty classy, I must admit.  Top marks!

3. I realize wondering about "real-world" logic in a comic-book world is silly, but Venom is looking for a female when he attacks the mansion.  Shouldn't he use her name instead of ranting "Where is she?"  I find that using personal pronouns with no antecedent tends to confuse people.  Of course, one of the Ultimates could, you know, ask.

4. Captain America chides Wanda about her slutty outfits and then discusses Pietro's adverse reaction to his preachiness with the Wasp, who's wearing ... a slutty outfit.

5. Because sex isn't "real-world" enough anymore, Loeb brings us incest.  Nice.

6. Someone takes a shot at Wanda and Pietro chases the bullet around.  I have no idea what's happening in those two pages.  Were two bullets fired?  Why is the bullet so big?  Why does it appear that Wanda dodges it?  Why doesn't she use her powers?  It appears that the bullet misses her, but then zips around like a dragonfly and heads back toward her.  Is that it?  It's kind of annoying to look at the art for too long.

This story is only five issues long, which means in two years fans of the book will get a new creative team and it might return to a decent comic.  This, however, is not decent.  Keith Champagne is lucky he didn't offer money back on this one.  Countdown: Arena is just kind of dull.  This book is terrible.

Uncanny X-Men #493 by Ed Brubaker, Billy Tan, and Danny Miki with Allen Martinez.  $2.99, Marvel.

The vagaries of a twelve-issue crossover mean that we get issues like this and last week's X-Men, in which the plot moves glacially forward because the overall plot can't really support a twelve-issue crossover, but the writers and artists get to blow a lot of shit up in big ol' fight scenes.  (Believe me, I don't mind that the plot is a bit thin.  Previous X-crossovers seemed to suffer because of so many subplots, so the fact that this is Keeping It Simple, Stupid for stupid people like me is welcome.  It's just that it means we get big ol' fight scenes that blow a lot of shit up.)  So in this issue everyone gangs up on the Sentinels who have destroyed the X-Mansion for what seems like the 14,094,874,746,675th time (seriously - how do they keep rebuilding it when Xavier isn't that rich).  It's a nice-looking fight - Tan keeps everything moving and clear, which is appreciated - and for some reason Cyclops decides they need to kill Cable.  "We have to assume the worst," he says, because he lives in Comic-Book Land, where logic is not appreciated!  Of course Cable is the bad guy!  Why, he's always been a bad guy, so he must be the bad guy now!  That makes perfect sense!  I mean, he couldn't have taken the baby for any other reason, right?  Sigh.  I accept the silly leaps of logic in crossovers, but that doesn't mean I have like them.  This particular leap of logic means Scott gets to tell Logan to "assemble the X-Force," which is weird, because it seems like they've already thought this through.  Have we ever seen them discuss it before?  Maybe it happened off-panel.

One thing did make me chuckle, not because it was bad, but because it was sloppy.  James jumps out of a bedroom window to attack the Sentinels.  In the next panel we see Hepzibah clutching a sheet to her body, obviously in a state of post-coital or maybe pre-coital or even mid-coital undress.  In what appears to be less than a minute (if we're feeling generous, I'd go as high as 90 seconds), she's fully clothed and fighting Sentinels.  She even managed to get her pants on over that thick, luxurious tail of hers!  Now that's preparation!  I just thought it was funny.  Also, Hepzibah seems like the kind of lady who would fight in the buff.

Well, that's another week of comics in the books.  The usual good stuff, and a book you should avoid like the plague.  Don't get sucked into Ultimates 3!  It's bad for your health!

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