What I bought - 5 July 2007

When the mercury hits 115 degrees (that's about, what, 42 for you Fahrenheit-challenged folk), there's nothing better than hunkering down in the AC and reading some comics (and I really wish I were kidding about the temperature, but I'm not - that's what happens when you live in the Basin of Hell).  So let's see what's in the pile today!

I should change the titles of these posts, I guess, because now that I'm "working" for Atomic Comics, I can sign out up to five comics without paying for them.  So I've decided to start abusing those privileges to get books I'm somewhat curious about but didn't really want to pay money for.  So these are no longer exclusively "what I bought," they're also "what I read for free until my 'boss' figures out what a tool I am!"  But that's a bit unwieldy as a title.

Ant-Man #10 by Robert Kirkman, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks.  $2.99, Marvel.

So Ant-Man lurches toward its cancellation, and that's a shame.  I was on the fence about this book after the first six issues, but it's gotten better as it's gone along, but too late, I guess.  This is a fairly typical issue, which is a good thing.  We get the recap ant on the first page, who's joined by the recap ant from the Incredible Hulk, who says he doesn't get to do much over there, so he came over to this book because it's a World War Hulk tie-in.  Then Eric acts like a jerk but not a completely irredeemable one (despite what the title says) and we get the battle everyone wanted to see: Ant-Man versus the Hulk's stomach!!!  And yes, Eric even loses that one.  It's a fun and fine little issue (and you must agree with Eric's criticism of Hulk's wardrobe) and won't make a difference in the fate of the book, I guess.  It certainly feels like Kirkman is rushing to clean up the dangling plot threads, which is good, because even if a comic only lasts twelve issues, if it at least gets to go out with something resembling a resolution instead of just disappearing, that's not a bad thing.  Twelve issues of a decent comic is better than none at all.

I wonder if every Marvel artist wanted to draw the Hulk holding the battered body of Black Bolt, so they demanded that every tie-in have a scene with that.  Is that scene showing up in any other Marvel book I don't buy, like Heroes for Hire or Iron Man?  Just wondering.  Phil Hester apparently reads the blog occasionally, so maybe he can tell us: did he lobby for the inclusion of this scene????

The All-New Atom #13 by Gail Simone, Mike Norton, and Dan Green.  $2.99, DC.

Not many people suggested comics I should buy this week, but more than a few suggested this one.  I bought the trade of the first six issues and enjoyed it, but it didn't really inspire me to get more.  This issue is kind of the same - enjoyable, but nothing that makes me run out and put the book on my pull list.

You have to give Simone credit for doing some nice recapping at the beginning (even getting a Neron reference in) without making it feel too forced (it's a bit forced, but not too much so).  I do like how if you're a hero in a sword-and-sorcery fantasy epic, you must have a woman draped around one leg.  What's up with that?  Doesn't it hinder your sword fighting?  Anyway, Chronos and Ryan and searching for Ray Palmer in the rain forest where he spent some time in that Sword of the Atom series from way back.  Ryan ends up in the midst of the aliens from that series, one group of whom thinks Ray Palmer is the devil, while a group of other aliens thinks he's a god.  One of them is actually pretending to be Ray, which is some good comic relief.  Ryan fights snakes and a crocodile and tries to prevent a civil war, which leads to a funny scene with his ally, who doesn't quite understand the concept of living together in peace.  It's a good swashbuckling adventure that leads, unfortunately, into something to do with Countdown.  Oh well.

Like a lot of Simone's books, this has all the qualifications of being a good comic without really shining too much.  It's fun, it's adventurous, it gets the job done, it features decent artwork by Norton, but it's lacking in spark.  I happen to think she does a better job on Welcome to Tranquility because she created the characters and is therefore more invested in them.  Her work on the mainstream DC titles is competent and generally exciting, but it doesn't have that uniqueness that elevates above the rest.  There's nothing really wrong with All-New Atom, but there's nothing really transcendental about it either.  Maybe Simone will be love with Wonder Woman and bring the same passion she brings to Tranquility.  We'll see.

Black Canary #1 (of 4) by Tony Bedard, Paulo Siqueira, and Amilton Santos.  $2.99, DC.

This is the first book I picked up for free, and like a lot of mainstream superhero comics (including some I buy, I admit), it's a generic action book the enjoyment of which depends largely on how invested you happen to be in the main characters from previous books, not because of what they do in this one.  Therefore, if you love Dinah and Ollie, you'll probably enjoy this.  That doesn't make is a good comic, but it's readable and mildly pleasant.  Dinah and Ollie meet cute (if stopping assassins dressed as Elvis counts) in a flashback; Dinah and her ward, Sin (hence the awful pun on the cover) eat at a fast-food restaurant and Sin gets in trouble with the other kids, who pick on her; Dinah's ex-husband shows up and claims to be in trouble, and Dinah only helps him because Sin wants her to; Dinah's ex-husband is part of an elaborate plot by some super-villain to keep Dinah in Star City.  It's somewhat paint-by-numbers, but there's some charm in the book, and the art is pretty good.  The bad guy, by the way, is Merlyn, but that's part of the problem: I only know that because of other comics I've read.  Nothing in this comic makes us say, "Ooh, Merlyn!  Now I'm scared!"  It's entirely dependent on our prior knowledge.  That's what I mean about this comic being only okay: as an action book, it's entertaining, but it only takes on more sinister aspects if you know something about the characters.  And that's fine, if you're a big fan of the characters.  It's just not interesting enough on its own to keep me around. 

Chronicles of Wormwood #5 (of 6) by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows.  $3.99, Avatar.

Something bothered me about the latest issue of Chronicles of Wormwood, and I'm going to bring it up so that the five people out there who read it can help me.  At the end of last issue, Wormwood and Jimmy the Talking Rabbit pass Judas Iscariot in the street.  Wormwood realizes who he is almost immediately.  He turns and runs back to his favorite bar, where Jesus hangs out, but Jay has already left with Judas.  So far, okay.  But then Wormwood asks the bartender (who still has a penis for a nose, unfortunately) when they left, and he says an hour ago.  What?  What was Wormwood doing for an hour in between the time he saw Judas and the time he reached the bar?  It was weird.  Can anyone explain?

Anyway, as the penultimate issue of this series, things happen, and none of them good (for the main characters, that is).  Satan arrives to claim the Earth (sitting on a platform carried by, among others, Richard Nixon, Saddam Hussein, and Mikhail Gorbachev - who's not, I'll point out, dead) and brings God along to explain his scheme.  God is a typical Ennis creation, which means he's insane and masturbating.  How clever.  Next issue, presumably, is the big throwdown between Wormwood and the masters of Heaven and Hell.

Despite the rather tired storyline, this is an interesting series, for a couple of reasons.  Burrows' art certainly helps, and in this issue he actually gets to draw some viscera, which I'm sure made him happy.  Ennis also puts in scenes that remind us again what a good writer he is.  When Wormwood stomps Judas Iscariot for taking Jay, Jimmy freaks out and gets angry at him.  Wormwood reminds him that he is, in fact, the Anti-Christ, and it's a nice moment because through it all, we too had forgotten who Wormwood really is.  A nicer scene comes between Wormwood and Maggie, his girlfriend who threw him out when she found out he was cheating on her.  It's a great exchange between two people, one of whom is trying to act hurt while the other won't let him.  Wormwood tries to get back into Maggie's good graces, but she won't let him.  In just four pages, Ennis writes a brilliantly real scene with sparkling dialogue, and we remember that "realistic" dialogue is different from Bendis' "actual" dialogue, because when Bendis does it, he puts in all the mannerisms that annoy us when we actually talk to each other.  That's why a writer should write "realistic" dialogue instead of trying to write exactly how people talk.  Ennis is very good at this, and it shows in this issue.  Sure, that's not the greatest reason to buy a comic book, but it's certainly better than "I loved that character when I was twelve so I'm sure he's still awesome!"  At least there's some substance in Chronicles of Wormwood, even if the main plot is a bit hackneyed.

Detective Comics #834 by Paul Dini, Don Kramer, and Wayne Faucher.  $2.99, DC.

This is a nice conclusion to the Zatanna-Joker two-parter, as Batman and Z escape the Joker's death trap pretty easily and then figure out where his big finale will be so they can stop it.  It's partially narrated by the Joker, which is kind of odd, but works for the brief time Dini uses it.

There's not really much to say about this issue.  It's perfectly fine, and Dini's Joker this time is much more interesting than the last time he used him.  The issue primarily exists to show us that Bruce and Zatanna are still friends.  Awwww, isn't that swell?  Dini also shows us, once again, that you really want Batman on your side.  The big battle with the Joker at the end is nicely done, as Z gets really angry but manages to channel her rage into a suitably horrific punishment.  Kramer's art is unspectacular but tells the story well.  I do like how Batman somehow managed to shave between being electrocuted on page 4 and busting out of the chair on page 5, but if anyone could do it in that fraction of a second, my money would be on Batman.

The biggest problem with Dini's run on Detective, as I've mentioned before, is not that the comics are bad, but that he doesn't really do much with the character.  This friendship with Zatanna isn't a bad thing, but it feels forced.  The best issues of Dini's run have been when he's written something that pushes the characters forward a bit (except for the first issue, which didn't do that but featured that beautiful Williams art) - I'm still waiting for a Riddler, P.I. mini-series.  I'm not going to say anyone can write a decent Joker story, but a lot of writers can, and this is just that: a decent Joker story.  But that's all it is.  You may consider that enough, but I don't.  I want to see something more from Dini, and it's vexing not to get it.  You may ask why I buy these issues.  Well, they are decent comics, and I like Batman.  I have mentioned that liking a character is not a good reason to buy a book, but that's when the rest of the book is awful.  If this comic starred a character I had no interest in, I probably wouldn't buy it, but I wouldn't hate it.  If you like Batman, these are perfectly good comics.  They just lack verve.

Dynamo 5 #5 by Jay Faerber and Mahmud A. Asrar.  $3.50, Image.

The only reason I can think of for fans of superhero comics not to buy this comic is because they don't have a familiarity with the characters.  I mean, it has a cool fight with an electricity-based villain, in which adolescent insecurities play a huge part; it has some nice exposition about the revelation of last issue that Captain Dynamo is alive; it has a very nice twist at the end that sets up the rest of the arc.  It looks great, it has believable dialogue and characterization, and the villain is evil.  If this were an issue of New Avengers or Justice League, with all the same dialogue (modified just enough to fit different characters), people would proclaim this the greatest superhero comic on the planet (well, maybe not that, but it would sell more than that crap Meltzer is writing).  I know we don't really need another superhero book, but if I'm going to read superheroes (and why not - I like them), I'd rather read this and Noble Causes and Invincible than Mighty Avengers.  But I guess I'm insane.

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

I had to go back and read the first issue of this series because it's been so long since it came out, but that's okay - I don't mind.  The promise of the first issue - weird espionage conspiracy thriller - is largely fulfilled in the second issue, and although this isn't a perfect comic book, it has a lot to recommend it.  Copland's art works well for a thriller, and when he's called upon to draw something majestic - a "helicarrier," for instance (and yes, a character makes a Nick Fury joke) - he's up to the task.  Lewis' story, which relies on some hoary cliches from the genre - the aggrieved general, the misdirection, the traitor on the inside - is still sharp enough to bring it up a notch to an interesting comic.  This is mostly achieved by the characterization of his main character, Aamer "Matt" Mahtganee, who's a conspiracy theorist of the first order, but uses his nerdy knowledge for the good of mankind.  It's interesting to read how Matt saves the day (sorry, did I give it away - of course he's going to save the day!), because it's a perfectly plausible thing for someone who isn't a trained killer to do.  There are a lot of nice moments for Matt, and he holds the book together.  The other characters aren't as interesting, but Lewis still does a good job making sure they have personalities.  And Lewis does a really nice job working in various real-life events to "prove" that conspiracies exist.  I mean, the Big Dig in Boston can't really be such a mess because of bureaucracy, can it?  Lewis thinks not!

In many ways, this is like lots of other espionage thrillers in comics and movies.  If you're a fan of the genre, though, it's a fine read.  It certainly isn't a great comic, but it's very entertaining, and has enough going on in it to make it good.  And that's what we're all about around here.  Oh, and if you're into value, it's two 34-page issues for 3 bucks each.  Not bad at all.

Faker #1 (of 6) by Mike Carey and Jock.  $2.99, DC/Vertigo.

I have a problem with Faker.  I absolutely loathe the "main" character, Jessie.  It's not the seducing of her professor and then blackmailing him that I have the problem with.  More power to her, I say.  It's that she seems like she hates her friends, and I wonder why they haven't kicked her in the teeth yet.  I guess that's a good thing, that I hate her so much after only one issue, because it speaks well of Carey's craft (in the same way that my hating Megan in Local is a good thing).  The rest of the first issue of Faker is very good, and I encourage you to seek it out or at least keep the trade in mind.

Carey sets up an interesting situation: after winter break at Minnesota University at St. Cloud, Jessie and her friends return to campus.  The night before registration ("Day Zero," because they're back on campus but nothing is going on), they attend a party and then retire to a research lab (with something about "liquid crystal info-storage" that uses "brain enzymes or something," a fact which has to be relevant, doesn't it?) to party some more.  Jessie has a very weird hallucination, but wakes up and it appears everything is fine.  The fifth member of their little band has appeared, and he and Jessie go to register.  That's when things get weird, as no one seems to remember Nick (the fifth member) except for his group of friends.  Meanwhile, another member of the group, Sack (his last name is Saknussen) climbs the clock tower and claims he isn't real.  Well, that's weird.

Carey establishes a nice mood with this initial issue.  We get a good sense of the characters, who are basically college punks, and we get a nice weird mystery.  Before Nick and Jessie leave for registration, Sack is sitting in the kitchen listening to Nick and he starts crying.  Stuff like this heighten the sense of strangeness, because we're not sure if Nick has some sort of power over the others (Jessie mentions that everyone opens up to him) or what his deal is.  And what's the deal with the guy who gave him a ride to school?  Or is there any deal?  We can't be sure until we read more, and that's a good thing.  Of course, the characters are a bit much to deal with.  As I mentioned, they're basically college punks, and college punks are, well, college punks.  Jessie isn't the only annoying one.  But Carey does a good job making us interested in them without asking us to really like them.  So that's something.

It's nice to see Jock hasn't become such a star that he can make money doing covers and selling sketches, like so many other good artists.  He does a good job establishing the bleakness of Minnesota in the winter, and his characters look like college punks.  The sharp angles on his art work well with both the setting and the mood of the book.

Faker is off to a good start.  It will be interesting to see what the hell is going on.

Final Girl #3 (of 5) by David Hutchison, Lee Duhig, and Joe Wight.  $3.50, Antarctic Press.

Final Girl is an odd comic, in that the publishers are inviting people to go to a web site and vote on who gets to survive.  It's kind of sick, if you ask me, on par with asking whether Robin should get killed or not.  This might be even worse, because at least in that comic, Robin could have survived.  Here, you know three people are going to be killed.  Weird.

This attitude is almost enough to make me not even bother reviewing the comic, but I'll give it a quick go.  The story is standard horror fare, with a strange secret from the past and a haunted amusement park.  Idiotic teenagers enter said haunted amusement park for no other reason, apparently, than because they don't really like living.  Let the butchery begin!  They're picked off rather easily by shadowy figures, thinning the herd nicely.  It appears that the girls get split up, which is why they survive to get voted on, but I'm not entirely sure what's been going on in the first two issues to make this #3.  Did we get more background about the weird dude who built the amusement park?  I don't know, and I'm not all that inclined to find out.

Hutchison's art is actually very good.  He uses some photo-reference, but he also uses interesting coloring and some vague pencil drawings to suggest the weird world the kids have entered.  It's actually quite a spooky book to look at, and the murders are nicely horrific, as are the creatures lurking in the shadows.  The art is a highlight, but it only helps distract us from the bland story for so long.

But hey! you can go vote to kill off three young women!  Sounds great!

G.I. Joe #25 by Mark Powers and Mike Bear.  $3.50, Devil's Due.

This is the first of the twelve-part "World War III" storyline, and it's also part of the 25th anniversary celebration of G.I. Joe.  It's not a bad comic, either.  We get a few scattered stories that will presumably lead into the bigger conflict, as Joe stops some Cobra assassins from killing a Chechen rebel leader, while Cobra Commander takes a young soldier to Darfur and convinces him that Cobra is really doing good in the world.  Joe is investigating why Destro would turn "the world's largest manufacturer of advanced weaponry" over to Cobra, which means the poop will hit the fan soon.  It's all very expository, but Powers and Bear add some good hand-to-hand combat with the Cobra assassins, so it's not a boring comic by any means.

Bear's art is very nice.  We get a lot of characters, but he does a good job keeping them clear and not packing the panels with too much detail.  His fight scenes are crisp and fluid without losing coherence, and the colorist (Jean-Francois Beaulieu) does a very good job showing both a wintry setting and the desert of Sudan.  The palette shifts help us shift, too.  Powers, meanwhile, keeps everything zipping along.  This is how you set up a big event - keep it simple, keep it moving, get to the good stuff.  It's not that difficult.

If you're a fan of good, solid espionage comics, you might want to check this out.  The only problem I had with it was taking it seriously.  It's G.I. Joe, after all, and Cobra Commander still looks goofy with that face plate.  It's a minor concern for me, however, and it's my problem, so I don't let it bother me.  I just keep seeing the cartoon from the 1980s and how awesome I thought it was but how silly it actually was.  This comic, however, is quite good.  And that's a cool-ass cover.

Into the Dust #1 (of 12) by Jesse Rubenfeld.  $2.99, Tool Publications.

I really encourage you all to pick up Into the Dust.  Is it a great comic?  No.  Is it a good comic?  Yes, I would say so.  But why should you pick it up over any other good comic?  Well, it's self-published, for one thing, and we should always encourage people publishing stuff on their own.  If you don't like it, don't buy the rest.  It's only 3 dollars, after all.

But the book has merits on its own.  It's a fantasy based on The Wizard of Oz, and in this opening chapter, we get the set up, which is intriguing.  19-year-old Judy, who has moved to 1934 Kansas from Texas after her father died to live with her aunt and uncle, is working on the farm and bemoaning her lot.  It's Dust Bowl time, so of course the land is unyielding.  A tornado blows in, and Judy hides in the house with her dog, Baum, and is swept away.  In 1964, the house lands in a pool in Beverly Hills.  Unfortunately, there was a woman sitting on a pool chair, which isn't a good thing for her.  She, of course, is the Wicked Witch of the West.  She even has a ruby-red car, which her sister (well, I assume it's her sister, although we never find out exactly) gives to her to get back to Kansas.  So she hits Route 66 to drive home.

The parallels to the original story are obvious, but Rubenfeld's time-traveling twist makes this interesting.  Of course, the Kansas scenes are in brown tones, while the California scenes are in color.  What will be neat (I hope) is seeing Judy in a less fantastical setting than Dorothy found herself in, but one that nevertheless offers some weird contrasts to her own time.  The 1930s were quite different than the 1960s (more different than our present day is from, say, 1977, I would argue), so it will be fascinating seeing Judy adjust and seeing what the deal is and if she's actually traveled in time.

Rubenfeld's art is rough, but it works.  The tornado scenes are marvelous, and although the Beverly Hills scenes aren't as glamorous as they need to be, he still gives a modern sheen to everything in 1964.  It's kind of a shame that more of the story won't take place in 1934 Kansas, because those pages have a scratchy beauty that the "modern" pages don't have.  Of course, Judy will spend a lot of time in the desert on her journey back to Kansas, so perhaps that will help.

I really hope that this ambitious project keeps going, because it's very interesting.  I'm certainly not saying this is the greatest comic out there, but it's a nice book that sets up a cool story, and it's something you should check out.  I mean, do you really need to read 20 pages of Donald Blake and Thor rambling at each other?  I doubt it.

(And, if you can't find it, go to the web site and order it there.  Why not?)

Outsiders #49 by Judd Winick, Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark, Ron Randall, and Art Thibert.  $2.99, DC.

I don't want to cry when I read comics, but recently, I've been tempted.  I'd like to ask a simple question: CAN NO ONE END A CROSSOVER CORRECTLY??????  I mean, first we had the abomination that was Justice League of America #10, and now this.  This comic is Sophocles compared to that, but still, Winick drops the ball.  I know, I know, I should review the damned comic that exists, and not the one I want to exist, but still: Chang Tzu is torturing Sasha, and he doesn't get a beat-down.  Why?  Because he vacates the premises before the good guys show up.  Jesus.  I know he's far too important a player these days to actually have him stopped, but couldn't someone actually rescue Sasha and have him get away, or maybe pull the old "He blew up but we never found the body so we're pretty sure he's alive" thing?  Instead, he just vanishes (he appears in one panel of this comic) and leaves Sasha behind.  Did the two teams accomplish anything?  I'm not sure.  It doesn't feel like it.

Also, this issue sets up the big Batman choosing the new team thing, which is all well and good.  However, this is a crossover, so it feels weird when Batman does show up (which he did in the last chapter) just to lead into that.  I get that DC is simply piling big event on big event these days and so they just rush past anything that might slow them down, but shit.  I suppose I should be happy that the Checkmate people show up briefly and discuss what's actually happening, but this just feels way off.  Why on earth does nothing finish anymore?  I mean, I guess that's my problem, because I don't want to buy every single thing DC publishes, but remember the awful X-crossovers of the past?  I mean, the whole point of those comics were to keep things going interminably, but at least the status quo changed a bit.  In that bloated Genosha crossover, Cameron Hodge went insane and didn't the social structure of the country change?  Jesus.  Even though this non-resolution happens in books I like, like, say, Checkmate, in that comic you get the sense that we're building to something.  The last few issues of Checkmate, which are part of the crossover, throw the regular readers a few bones, but they basically stop for a while to have the two teams blow shit up.  And that's fine every once in a while.  Then Winick comes along and blows shit up, sure, but with no real resolution except for the rescue of Owen, Sasha, and Dick.  Well, they were pretty damned easy to rescue, because the bad guy fucking absconded, didn't he?

Kalinara does a much better job ripping apart the particulars of the issue than I do.  I agree with her, and want to emphasize the point about Sasha: her portrayal in this issue sucks.  SUCKS!  Kalinara mentions how she spit on Chang Tzu just last issue, and I'll go back to when Checkmate first recruited her back in Detective Comics: she would not mewl pathetically, "Don't look at me" when Batman picks her up.  Why would Winick even think that?  Jesus.  I know that she loved Bruce once, but that was a long time ago, and he treated her like utter shit.  The "new" Sasha would never have said that.  I suppose Winick wanted a "tender" moment between the two of them, but it makes Sasha the weaker character, and as we've seen from her endurance of the torture, she's not weak.  It's a horrible moment.  Just awful.

I'm actually glad they did a crossover between these two titles.  It gave me a chance to read a book outside my normal buying habits, which is the point.  And now I can forget about the Outsiders for as long as Winick is writing them, and that's a good thing.

All Star Superman #8 by Grant "In the future everyone will be bald and Scottish" Morrison, Frank Quitely, and Jamie Grant.  $2.99, DC.

It's a measure of how good this comic usually is that when we get simply a competent issue, I'm extremely disappointed.  As I read this, I wondered what the point was.  Maybe I just have never liked Bizarro or any iterations thereof.  This slipped quickly into tedious opposite dialogue which went nowhere and the whining of Zibarro, who doesn't really like pizza after all.  Oh, the irony!  (Yes, I know I made the same joke last issue, but Robin Williams has been telling the same jokes for 30 years and he's a freakin' multi-millionaire, so I'm sticking to my guns.)  The most interesting part of the issue is when Lois visits that scientist dude and he explains what has happened to him and shows her that something bad is in the sun.  That's interesting.  Bizarro World?  Not so much.

Compounding the mediocrity of the issue is Quitely's art, which I really want to believe is rough and scratchy because this issue is on Bizarro World.  But the scenes on the moon are kind of crappy, too, so I wonder if Quitely's horrific schedule of pencilling one book every two months is catching up to him (yes, I'm being sarcastic).  That would be a shame.

I'm sure there are plenty of Whorrisons out there who can tell me that I'm a fool for not liking this issue all that much, which is what they did the last time I wasn't enamoured of an issue of ASS.  I'm certainly not bailing on the book, but this just isn't a very good example of why this is one of the most excellent comics out there.  I expect more, I guess, and when it fails to enthrall, I feel let down.  Oh well.

Thor #1 by J. Michael Straczynski, Olivier Coipel, and Mark Morales.  $2.99, Marvel.

Well, the art is pretty, I'll give it that.

Sigh.  I just don't know what to say about this.  It's nice to look at, it brings Thor back in a plausible if remarkably predictable manner (he's a GOD, people!), and it re-establishes Donald Blake.  We get a lot of pseudo-mystical crap about how men decide if the gods live or die (or, you know, the fans) and how something awful is coming that only Thor can stop.  Yadda yadda yadda.

I suppose this is "Part One of Six" or some such, but wouldn't it have been nicer to have Thor just appear, kicking demon ass and spouting crappy Shakespearean dialogue.  He actually gets to fight some ugly demons in this issue, but almost as an afterthought, as if JMS said, "Crap!  These two guys have just been standing around - I better throw some action in!"  As usual with these kinds of things, JMS is relying on our knowledge of old Thor stories to fill in gaps, and to be honest, Thor has never been all that interesting (with few exceptions), so relying on that doesn't make this a good comic, because it reminds us how uninteresting he has been.  JMS is a pretty decent writer (his retcons in Amazing Spider-Man notwithstanding), but there's nothing here that makes me think this Thor will be any different than the dull iterations in the past.  It might be a great comic, but this first issue doesn't really do anything except bring him back.  Well, we knew he was coming back, so skip to the ass-kicking, please.

Uncanny X-Men #488 by Ed Brubaker and Salvador Larroca.  $2.99, Marvel.

This issue is certainly better than last one, but it still lacks the power that Brubaker brings to his other comics.  There are some interesting things going on here, including Masque's attack on the train that leaves everyone scarred, but it feels like it's been phoned in, and that's a shame.  It feels as if Brubaker can't really cut loose like he does on Daredevil because this book sells far more copies and will piss off the hardcore fans if he goes a bit nuts.  Therefore we get a watered-down comic that is competent but hardly thrilling.  The plot is fine, and the brief exchange between Xavier and Valerie Cooper shows that Brubaker can write a nice scene even in the midst of a big-time superhero book, but otherwise, this continues his disappointing run in fairly the same way.  It's Part Two of Five and I'm getting the whole story to judge it that way, but I really wonder why Brubaker doesn't do this book well when he does at least three other comics (that's all he's writing, right?) very well.  Is he stretched too thin?

Larroca's art doesn't help.  His new style is pretty in some ways, but Storm, in particular, looks very odd.  James' fight with the alligator is done very well, interestingly enough, as Larroca's new style doesn't seem to fit well with action.  Here it does.  Otherwise, it has that weird off-kilter way about it that is bizarre without being bizarre enough to be truly great.

We'll see.  We'll see.  Oh, and Hank McCoy does something in the back-up story.  How novel!

Welcome to Tranquility #8 by Gail Simone, Neil Googe, Jason Pearson, Chriscross, Georges Jeanty, and Peter Guzman.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

Was it Cronin who wanted more interior art from Jason Pearson?  It's not much here, but it's something!

This is what I mean when I say Simone seems to be more invested in this book, even though I'm sure her work for the "real" DC pays the bills.  These are just some short stories about the characters of Tranquility, but each one is more interesting, fun, tragic, and even twisted than her recent comics that she didn't create.  It just feels like she's far more comfortable with these creations, so we get a fun story about the "ferocious Lindo sisters" when they were young, the secret origin of Zeke the undertaker, and the really sick secret origin of Emoticon, which is very good and very creepy.  It helps that each story is illustrated very nicely by Pearson, Chriscross, and Jeanty, but still - Simone seems to like this comic more.  The devil in this book is far scarier in four pages than that dean in the All-New Atom is in far more screen time.  The Typist is way more freaky and fucked-up than Dwarfstar in the first trade paperback (although the way Ryan beat that dude was pretty cool).  I'm not saying that Simone's "mainstream" comics aren't decent, but this is better.  I hope it can survive.

Sheesh.  That's a bunch of books.  What do y'all think? 

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