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What I bought – 5 November 2008

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 5 November 2008

Reflecting a trend for me, this week I spent $20 on single-issue comics, and almost $120 on graphic novels and collections. The age of the pamphlet is passing, people! Embrace change! If Skrulls can take over the Marvel U. and a big-eared man can win the presidency (as we all know, big-eared men have always been discriminated against), anything is possible! In another trend, I bought seven comics. From six different publishers. And the second book from DC is a Wildstorm book. I’m nothing if not diverse!

Gemini #3 (of 5) by Jay Faerber (writer), Jon Sommariva (artist), Fco Plascencia (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.50, 23 pgs, FC, Image.

This mini-series has been plagued by lateness (I can’t even remember when issue #2 came out), which is a shame, because it’s a charming story that loses something the longer you wait for it. As a nice, entertaining read, it’s fine, but I doubt if anyone is clamoring for it, and that makes the wait for it too long. Comics like this should adhere to a solid schedule, because they’re not going to be with us for too long, and in a crowded market, it’s easy to forget about them.

That being said, it’s another good issue, as Faerber, the exposition behind him, turns this into a guy on the run, trying to figure out what’s happened to him. The girl who mysteriously appeared at his door last issue has some answers for him, and of course the Constellation is trying to bring him back into the fold, so there’s plenty of running around and fighting when necessary. At the end of the book, Faerber does a good job setting up why two heroes would fight each other. I’m sure the heroes will figure out that they shouldn’t be fighting very quickly next issue, but at least Faerber tries to make it plausible instead of having two heroes bump into each other and let the testosterone take over from there.

This is still humming along nicely, as Faerber continues to show a deft touch with superheroes and Sommariva’s cartoony art fits this issue somewhat better than the first issue, for instance, when Gemini got his head blown off. I’m not a huge fan of the art, but it works pretty well for the book. I just wish the next two issues would get here a bit sooner. We’ll see.

Quote of the book: “I wish there was another way to do this, but we’re short on time.”

Gigantic #1 (of 5?) by Rick Remender (writer), Eric Nguyen (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

The conceit of this book is that aliens created the world and the people on it (only 5000 years ago, if the prologue of the book is believed) for entertainment. In his afterword, Remender writes that once alien races have dealt with all the issues that beset society, they would simply turn to television and video games to wile away the hours, so the aliens at the beginning create the world to entertain the other alien races. Makes perfect sense, if you ask me.

The prologue is actually a disappointing part of the book, because Remender does such a nice job with the main story. We’re in San Francisco, and two young lovers are out having a good time, as Jill poses in street scenes for her photographer boyfriend Chris. Suddenly a giant robot appears and starts destroying things and killing people, including possibly Jill (we’re not sure by the end of the book if she’s dead or if we’ll ever actually find out). It’s a terrifying moment, made even odder by the fact that we quickly realize that the robot probably isn’t a robot and that he doesn’t want to be there and is horrified by the destruction he’s causing. It’s a nice twist on the “giant monster destroys the city” trope Remender is working with, and when the “bad guys” show up, it becomes even more interesting, as our hero is desperately trying to get away because his suit is about to go critical mass, while the bad guys are trying to keep him within the city for the ratings. They yell back and forth at each other, and it’s good exposition – we get a little of what’s going on, but not too much, as befits people talking about something that we know little about but they know a great deal about. And then something really bad happens, but it’s great for ratings!

The reason I don’t like the prologue is because it undercuts the dialogue from the rest of the book and the one-page ending, which would be a jaw-dropper if not for the prologue. We would be off-kilter for much of the book, wondering what the heck is going on with this guy in the fancy suit and his despicable tormentors and why they’re destroying San Francisco, and then the final page would explain it all, much less pedantically than the prologue. It’s not that the prologue ruins the comic, because we get that Earth was created to be part of a television show before the end of the issue, but it seems to take away a bit of the “wow” factor of the book.

Nguyen’s art is decent, even if it’s hard for him to offer a good perspective on the giant guy within the confines of certain panels. He’s trying to get how big the guy is compared to the people on the ground as well as show the violence and explosions that are happening around him, and occasionally some panels get cluttered and confusing. For the most part, however, he does a good job.

Gigantic looks like a pretty neat “giant monster/robot destroying a city” book. Remender probably needs to get back to Chris and Jill (if she survived) next issue, because the book could use needs a human perspective, but this first issue is all about blowing shit up, and it’s pretty fun. Check it out!

Quote of the book: “It is of the utmost importance that this new lifeform be both violent and overly sentimental …”

Grant Morrison’s Doctor Who #2 (of 2) by Grant “I just love messing with your minds, fanboys!” Morrison (writer), John Ridgway (penciller), Tim Perkins (inker), Charlie Kirchoff (colorist), and Richard Starkings (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, IDW.

As with the first Dr. Who book by the God of All Comics, this is interesting more on the level of seeing what Morrison could do early in his career than as a really great story. It’s a time travel story, so it makes my head hurt, but what I always enjoy about time travel stories is making sure they “fit” together, and Morrison takes care to do that. He’s also careful to avoid messing too much with Dr. Who continuity (as far as I can tell, because he offers a hint of overturning things but pulls back, so I can only assume he couldn’t screw things up too much), but still makes the story feel more important than it probably is. Unlike last issue, this is one complete story, so he stretches his legs a bit more and gives us a tiny bit more characterization. Still, it’s all about the twists, and they work reasonably well.

The two issues of Dr. Who stories are certainly not essential comics, but if you’re a Morrison fan, they’re fun to check out. Morrison takes what a standard science fiction plots and gives them enough pizzazz that they’re more entertaining than they probably should be. But they’re nothing to get into a lather about, either. Now that’s a recommendation!

Quote of the book: “We’ve only been here half an hour and already I’ve been prodded by enough semi-evolved apes to fill a zoo!”

Ms. Marvel Special: Storyteller by Brian Reed (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (penciller), Lorenzo Ruggiero (inker), Andres Mossa (colorist), and Nate Piekos (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I was going to skip this, because I thought it was just another padded “special” that didn’t need to be $3.99 because it had 22 pages of story and 10 pages of crap about Ms. Marvel. But hey! it’s only $2.99 for a standard-sized issue, and Brian Reed has done a decent job on this title (not enough to get me to buy it, but it’s not bad) and Giuseppe Camuncoli is always nice to see (and his art here is better than on his recent Iron Fist special). Plus: PIRATES! Don’t listen to Crazy Dan, people – how can you resist that cover?????

Well, the book isn’t all pirates, but it’s 23 pages packed with fun action and nice characterization. The recap page tells us it’s tied into the regular title, but Reed makes sure we’re up to speed on the first two pages, and then he goes nuts with the reality-altering powers of Gavin, a young boy with an overactive imagination. Gavin was a product of an A.I.M. experiment, and when Carol wiped out A.I.M., Gavin disappeared. But now an A.I.M. splinter group is after him, so Carol tries to help him. Of course, because he can alter reality, he doesn’t really need help, does he?

We think the book will be about A.I.M. finding Gavin and trying to get him, but it turns out that Gavin has kidnapped his friend Rich and taken him to a remote island to play with him. Rich, however, misses his parents and is tired of losing to Gavin (who changes the rules randomly, because he can and because he’s a child), and he begs Carol to help him. The book becomes an interesting conundrum – how do you reason with a petulant child with the power of God? Yes, it’s fun, but Reed also hints at deeper ideas, and it gives the book some nice heft.

I suppose this is a “special” in order to entice people to buy the regular book. I doubt if it will for me, because I need fewer comics in my life, not more. But as a standalone issue, it’s quite nice. Camuncoli does a fine job with the outlandish action, and Reed keeps things light even as he skates more serious subjects that will, presumably, be dealt with in the regular title. I would recommend giving it a try. Maybe it will tempt you to pick up the regular book!

Quote of the book: “Pirate Hulk crush scurvy Ms. Marvel!”

Secret Six #3 by Gail Simone (writer), Nicola Scott (penciller), Doug Hazelwood (inker), Jason Wright (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Well, I guess it doesn’t matter what happens in this book, as Deadshot is going to die soon, right? Why does DC let “celebrity” writers come in and shit all over the place? Sheesh.

But maybe Floyd’s not really dead? Maybe Simone, smartly, will simply ignore Kevin Smith’s story! She’ll just keep writing Deadshot in her book, and because editors do absolutely nothing anymore, no one will even notice. Then, at SDCC 2010, someone will ask DiDio why Deadshot was killed but is still alive in Secret Six. DiDio will goggle in amazement, as he’s never actually read Secret Six because it’s, you know, good. And isn’t written by a “celebrity.” Can’t you just see that happening?

Man, I’m bitter. I’m really curious to see what happens with Floyd in this book, because he’s such a fun part of the comic. Simone is veering wildly all over the road in this comic, and although she runs over a few little old ladies here and there (she goes too far with the incest joke, and Bane’s paternalism toward Scandal is bizarre), for the most part she’s doing a great job, and (to extend the metaphor) it feels like we’re skidding everywhere but the adrenaline has kicked in and we don’t care if we’re about to smack into a tree. A lot of her humor hits the right notes (the beat before Catman and Deadshot say “Cheetah’s got it” works beautifully, for instance), she gets a nice joke in about women in refrigerators (seriously), and the darker stuff is still excellent, as Junior continues to be absolutely terrifying (the scene in the phone booth is chilling) and Catman shows again how bad-ass he is. The MacGuffin that the group is pursuing is goofy when we think about it, but it really works in the context of the comic. It’s kind of a perfect artifact of a superhero world, and so we don’t consider how silly it is. And Scott gets better with each issue, especially with the fight scenes. This is the kind of book that, it seems, Simone can do really well – she doesn’t seem to do as well on high profile comics, which might hurt her earning potential, but means she’ll keep doing cool books like this.

I do have one question about Cheetah. She’s wearing pants, right? Why do the pants have a hole in the crotch? I mean, we can see all her bits, right? Or is that a cheetah pattern on her pants? I don’t think it is, because her tail comes directly from her ass. I get that she’s kind of a cat and so it’s not objectionable that we can see her pirates (as a friend of mine once told me his niece called them), but still – what kind of weirdo wears pants like that? It’s just bizarre.

Okay, rant over. Three issues in, this is a very good book. It’s not perfect, but it’s getting better with each issue, and that’s a good thing.

Quote of the book: “Damn twelve-step lovin’ useless, hippie Mexican wrestler types.”

Station #4 (of 4) by Johanna Stokes (writer), Leno Carvalho (artist), Andrea Barreto (colorist), and Marshall Dillon (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

I wasn’t expecting to get a really good resolution to the murder mystery, because there weren’t a lot of clues lying around, but Stokes does a fairly good job with it anyway, as there were a few, even if the clincher that solves the mystery is hidden from us until this issue. That’s okay – the motive is good, ties into the fact that the group is in space, and allows the plot to take a predictable turn that I’m not going to reveal. In fact, despite the fact that this is an entertaining comic and I would recommend the trade if you’re asking, it’s still relatively predictable. I didn’t guess the murderer, but we’ve seen these kinds of stories before, where a group of people are trapped somewhere and not all of them get out alive. We can always figure out who’s going to die and who’s going to live, pretty much (except for when Samuel L. Jackson got eaten by that shark, which was the best moment of that awful movie, but that was more shocking not because we didn’t think he was going to die – we knew he would – but because it was right when he was finishing that stirring speech about surviving), so there’s not a lot of suspense. Still, Stokes has done a good job building tension throughout the comic, and everything ties together well. I hate to say this about Boom!, because Chip Mosher seems like such a nice guy, but I have lowered expectations for their books. What they offer is mini-series that seem designed simply to entertain with the least amount of effort possible, and they usually do their jobs. That’s damning with faint praise, I know, but when I think of Boom! comics, I think of well-paced, easy-on-the-eyes, well-produced, entertaining comics that are somewhat forgettable. A few of them – Cover Girl, Mosher’s own mini-series Left on Mission – rise above that rubric, but most of them fall into this description. I’ve never hated a Boom! comic, but with those two exceptions, I’ve never loved one either. So this is a fine comic, and it’s a good read. But it’s not great. A lot of comics are worse than this, though, so that might be enough for you!

Quote of the book: “I did what I did because I’m a patriot.”

Storming Paradise #4 (of 6) by Chuck Dixon (writer), Jackson Guice (penciller), Fernando Blanco (artist), Eduardo Barreto (inker), Carrie Strachan (colorist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

As usual, I don’t have a lot to say about this series while it’s moving along. Dixon continues to throw in a bunch of scenes that don’t seem to connect, and each one is intriguing, but a bit disjointed. The overall story indicates that the Japanese are hoping to drop an atomic bomb on the Americans soon and the Americans really don’t want that, but we also get the wounding of John Wayne and the continued subplot with Jimmy, the Japanese-American who is discriminated against by his army and, of course, hated by the enemy. It’s a decent read, but seems to be meandering a bit. Once Dixon finishes it, I’ll be able to have a better idea of whether it’s any good or not, but each issue is good enough in the moment to keep me going.

I don’t like the substitution of Blanco as artist for the final 8 pages. It’s not like Guice is the greatest artist ever or that Blanco sucks – I like Guice fine, and Blanco does a decent job aligning his style with his – but once again, I wonder why a mini-series needs a fill-in artist. This isn’t even like Final Crisis, where DC has to publish it because of everything else tying into it. If DC got three issues in the can from Guice and he still couldn’t finish it, that’s just ridiculous. Now, I’m not going to speak out of turn, as something might have happened in Guice’s life to cause him to abandon this. That’s fine. Ultimately, though, this book will live or die in trade, because it’s a WildStorm book, so very few people, presumably, are buying it. Whenever a mini-series gets a fill-in artist, I wonder what the deal is. If Guice has a legitimate reason for not finishing the issue, fine. DC could delay it a while. If he’s just slow, that vexes me. Oh well. It’s never going to change, after all.

So: not a bad war comic, but lacking a focus beyond the atomic bomb plot. Still, it’s exciting and I trust Dixon to pull it all together. The last two war series I read by him, The Iron Ghost and Team Zero, both meandered a bit but came together nicely. So why wouldn’t this?

Quote of the book: “But as soon’s I get to a FPO … I’m cancelin’ my subscription to Life.”

So much for this week. How about some totally random lyrics?

“I was in my room and I was just like staring at the wall thinking about everything, but then again I was thinking about nothing. And then my mom came in, and I didn’t even know she was there. She called my name and I didn’t hear her and then she started screaming “Mike, Mike!” And I go, “What? What’s the matter?” She goes, “What’s the matter with you?” I go, “There’s nothing wrong, Mom.” She’s all, “Don’t tell me that! You’re on drugs!” I go, “No, Mom, I’m not on drugs. I’m okay, I’m just thinking, you know? Why don’t you get me a Pepsi?” She goes, “No! You’re on drugs!” I go, “Mom, I’m okay. I’m just thinking.” She goes, “No! You’re not thinking, you’re on drugs! Normal people don’t act that way!” I go, “Mom, just get me a Pepsi! Please, all I want is a Pepsi!” And she wouldn’t give it to me! All I wanted was a Pepsi, just one Pepsi, and she wouldn’t give it to me! Just a Pepsi!”

All he wanted was a Pepsi, man. And she wouldn’t give it to him. A metaphor for life? Aren’t we all just looking for a Pepsi?

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