What I bought - 6 June 2007

I'm back to normal this week in terms of purchases, and while not everything was good (yes, I bought another Winick book), some were very good.  Plus: am I buying books simply because I know they're going to be cancelled soon?  Come with me and we'll check them out!

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #9 by Robert Kirkman, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks.  $2.99, Marvel.

Here's the first book that I might be buying just because I know it's not going to last much longer (did I see someplace that #13 was the last one, or is that a fever dream?).  I enjoy it, but it's not a wonderful comic.  I love Hester's art, and the scripts are usually pretty funny, but I don't think Kirkman has done a terribly good job making Eric a bastard AND someone we can care about.  Granted, that's a pretty difficult job, but it's what Kirkman set out to do, so we can blame him, certainly.  Take this issue.  Eric is involved with Abigail, and we need the ant in the beginning to tell us that he loves her.  We didn't really get that from last issue, even though Eric didn't totally reject her, so I guess that means he loves her.  Anyway, just because they have a nice relationship doesn't mean Eric's not a jerk and a cheat, and we see that here, as he helps a co-worker get a fake ID from the pawn shop owner to whom he sold his jewels.  That's a nice touch, as he's helping someone out but still doing something illegal.  Perhaps that wasn't "irredeemable" enough, because then Abigail introduces Eric to her son, and he flips out.  Now, Kirkman has established that Eric wouldn't really enjoy dating a woman with a son, but his utter callousness toward her is a bit surprising, and feels wrong.  Eric seems much more likely to simply ditch Abigail instead of freaking out so much and being such a bastard.  Later, Kirkman shows us that Eric does regret treating her so poorly, and maybe he'll do the right thing and return to her, but the way Eric acts occasionally seems to fit the idea of the book rather than how his character has been established.  It's as if Kirkman is merrily going along writing this and then he realizes, "Crap, Eric hasn't been a total bastard for a while.  Let me remedy that," and he does, whether the situation or even the way he's been writing the character calls for it.  Of course Eric is going to freak out that Abigail has a kid.  We know he's a kid himself, really.  But I don't buy him being so angry, and it takes me right out of the book.  Eric can still be "irredeemable" without being such a jerk.

There's a lot to like about the book, and it's interesting that Kirkman's name isn't enough to sell it, but it doesn't appear that it's going to last much longer.  Typical for a Marvel (and DC) book that is a little bit outside of what they normally do.

Black Summer #0 by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp.  $.99, Avatar.

I wish we had more books like this - teasers for 99 cents, just to give you a look at a book.  DC and Marvel do it occasionally, and that's fine, and other publishers do it occasionally too, but I wish it was a standard thing in the business.  Oh well.

The nice thing about teasers like this is that it lets you decide whether you want a book based on something more than just the description.  The description of this book - superhero kills the president of the U.S., presumably Bush - didn't fill me with a lot of hope, because it just doesn't seem to offer too much that's interesting or new.  Well, I'm still thinking that way, but at least I got to read a little bit of how Ellis plans to go about it.  This won't be a bad book, probably, but unless you've never read a comic in which the superhero takes the law into his own hands, you've probably seen it before.  Ellis will probably make it entertaining, and Ryp's art is well-suited for the carnage that will ensue, but it's just not that interesting.  A superhero decides that Bush's invasion of Iraq makes him a mass murderer, so he kills him.  The government responds with violence.  Wow.

Ellis has a graphic novel about the Battle of Crecy coming out soon (I hope it's soon).  That sounds much more interesting.  This is just another violent superhero book.  Do we really need that?

Death and the Man Who Would Not Die #1 (of 4) by James Patrick and Se7enhedd.  $2.99, Silent Devil Productions.

This is the sequel to Death Comes to Dillinger, a pretty cool comic that, I would guess, no one bought.  Come on, people - a western horror comic!  How neat is that?  Well, it helps to have the horribly-named artist on board, because Mr. Hedd is really excellent, giving the West a beautiful and stark look that resembles Hell but is still recognizable as the West.  It's desolate, but stunning.

The Western cliches that permeated the original work are all here, but they're something you expect when you read a Western, and we just move on.  The cool thing about this comic is that some punk, Josiah Clark, has gotten a hold of Death's watch (the one with his particular name on it), and therefore he can't be killed.  Death is unsurprisingly put out by this, and he rides in pursuit of Josiah.  That's basically it for the plot in this first issue.  Patrick, however, like he did in the first series, does a nice job with the ancillary characters - Death himself, naturally, doesn't really have much of a personality.  He meets a woman whose husband and daughter have died and who wants to die herself, but Death leaves her be, which pisses her off and causes her no small amount of despair.  Death rides into the last town where Josiah was seen, and no one there is happy to see him because they blame him for what Josiah has become.  So there's a shootout, beautifully rendered.  Death finally finds someone who might be able to help him track Josiah, and they're off.

Patrick does a very nice job with the stoic Western folk, and he creates a nice sense of menace with Death, even though Death himself isn't evil - he's just doing a job.  It's interesting to see that everyone knows who Death is (he's a skeleton, after all, but they're not terribly surprised when he shows up) and what the watch that Josiah has means.  It lends a sense of creepy realism to the book, as if Death is just someone like the tax collector, showing up and doing his thing, then leaving.  No one freaks out when he appears, which adds to the weird despair hanging over the book.

You don't need to own the first series to enjoy this (although you should get it just because it's a good comic), which is nice.  It's Death chasing a man who can't die.  Just like the title says!  So give it a try!

Detective Comics #833 by Paul Dini, Don Kramer, and Wayne Faucher.  $2.99, DC.

SPOILERS ahead, by the way, just because I want to, and it's not that surprising anyway.



Things I didn't like about the latest issue of Detective:

  • Writers continue to retroactively make characters know each other long before their comics appeared.  It's not THAT big a deal that Bruce knew Zatanna when they were children, but it's just annoying.  And I always just got the feeling that Zatanna was considerably younger than Bruce, but they appear to be the same age in the flashback.  Like I said, there's nothing really wrong with it, and it fits into the story (I'll get to that in things I liked), but it's just annoying that the only people who exist in comics are characters from other comics.
  • The use of the Joker.  The last time Dini wrote a Joker story, it was lame, and he's better here, but I'm just sick of the Joker.  Sick sick sick.
  • Speaking of which, how did Batman hear Ivar Loxias say what he said to Gordon about Barbara?  I can't really tell, but he's standing at least six or seven feet away, and it doesn't look like Ivar is shouting.  Plus, there's a lot of bustle around.  Man, that Batman is like a bat - he has superhearing!
  • Zatanna's not dead?  She got shot in the throat, for crying out loud!  Blood everywhere!  Shouldn't she be dead?  And shouldn't Batman have been expecting Ivar to do something mean?  He's standing right there and he can't stop Ivar from shooting her?

Things I liked about the latest issue of Detective:

  • The brief exchange between Batman and Zatanna about whether Bruce is going to make her feel guilty forever was nice.  The fact that Bruce thinks he should have been better friends with Zatanna was kind of nice, too.  It goes back to the fact that I don't think they should have known each other when they were young, but if you're going to do that, I like how Dini addresses it.  It adds a bit of a layer to an act that didn't have a ton of resonance when it happened.  I mean, yes, Zatanna screwed with Batman, but the fact that she was comforting him when he was young makes it worse.  And then, for Bruce to back off and not push it was nice too.  It still doesn't mean I like the idea of them knowing each other.
  • Batman and Zatanna doing some detecting!  Okay, it wasn't that great of a detecting job, but it was detecting!  Whoo-hoo!
  • The clues to Ivar's identity were nicely placed in the book.  I thought he was a bit of a tool when Gordon told him about Barbara.  Nice job, Mr. Dini.
  • I assume Dini is referring to Grant Morrison's recent issue of Batman with regard to the Joker.  If so, that's pretty neat.

On the whole, it's a pretty good issue.  It's nice to see Dini stretch a bit to a two-issue story, although I wouldn't want him to go any longer than that.  We'll see if this appearance of the Joker is any better than the innumerable ones we've seen over the past few years.

Dynamo 5 #4 by Jay Faerber and Mahmud A. Asrar.  $3.50, Image.

Issue #3 came out two weeks ago, and now there's a new one (the same holds true for Ant-Man, actually - but that had a different artist, so maybe that has something to do with it), which is nice, because I'm really enjoying this book.  When last I looked, a commenter had mentioned that he's been underwhelmed by the book, and that's cool if he feels that way.  I happen to disagree, but his point about the writing being "almost insultingly bad" is interesting, because I wonder what superhero comics he does read, if any.  The writing in this book is better than almost all superhero comics, is my point.  No, it's not high literature, but it doesn't have those pretensions, either.

Anyway, this is a Father's Day issue, which makes it interesting, because after last issue, in which the "real" Captain Dynamo showed up, I expected it to be more about that.  Well, Faerber keeps that subplot going, with a bit at the beginning when a young punk who works for F.L.A.G. tells an old guy to shut up because it's obvious Dynamo is back from the dead (as opposed to being a clone or a shape-shifter, as the old-timer mentions).  It's a nice little exchange between two people who live in a world where superheroes do stuff like this all the time.  Maddie also comes across the revived Dynamo, who doesn't recognize her.  She calls Bridget and wonders why he hasn't contacted her, if he's really back.  This leads into the heart of the issue, in which the various kids deal with their families, as they realize they're losing those ties because of their new knowledge about their origins.  In just a few pages, Faerber does a nice job showing us all the kids and their parents, adds a slightly sinister subplot, and brings the kids together at their father's grave to talk about it all.  We end with a cliffhanger about the resurrected Captain Dynamo, which is telegraphed from the first page, but still makes a nice impression.  It's a smartly-done, well-put-together superhero comic book.  I know, shocking.

Asrar's art continues to look great.  Solid storytelling, distinct characters, good action, and nice interaction between the people in the panels.  There's a very weird panel in which Bridget's nipples poke through her shirt (not literally, but you can see where they are) and she's looking down as if she's surprised to see them.  Every other panel with her in the shirt doesn't show anything.  What the hell?  Other than that, it's a wonderful book to look at, as well as read.  It's not too late to check it out!

The Lone Ranger #1-6 by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello.  $2.99, Dynamite Entertainment.





The nice thing about this "mini-series" (which has now been extended to an ongoing) is that, despite its typical "wait for the trade" six issues, none of it feels padded.  Matthews does a very nice job building on everything that comes before, as John Reid goes through the ambush and killing of his father and brother in the first issue to his rescue by Tonto to his plans for revenge to his confrontation with Julius Bartholomew, otherwise known as Black Bart.  There are some quiet moments in the book, but nothing feels like it needs to be excised, which is too often the case with six-issue arcs.  This is a story of a man getting over his past and becoming a symbol, and Matthews handles it very well.  There's plenty of action and suspense and even some horror, some very nice character moments between Reid and his sister-in-law, who inexplicably survives her encounter with Black Bart (we do learn how, but at the time, it's unusual), and enough dangling threads to give Reid a reason to continue his mission.  We also get the iconic moments of the Lone Ranger, like the whole "Hi-Yo, Silver" thing, but they don't feel cheesy, just natural.  There are a few minor missteps, like the serendipity of Reid finding a silver mine, which is kind of goofy.  The fact that Cavendish is at Promontory Point for the joining of the railroads is a nice touch, but the panel is awkwardly rendered, mainly because it's so obviously a photograph and not Cariello's art.  Other than that, Cariello does a very good job with the Western setting, and his fight between Reid and Bart is handled well.  Cariello has toned down his cartoonishness a bit recently, and he's achieved a nice mix of realism and cartoon.  His full-page drawing of Reid riding Silver with the sun behind him is magnificent.

This will be out in trade soon, and there's always the next issue.  It's a fantastic book, and I hope it does well enough to last a while.

Outsiders #48 by Judd Winick, Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark, Ron Randall, and Art Thibert.  $2.99, DC.

Oh, Judd Winick.  You seemed like such a perfectly nice young man on The Real World so many years ago.  Why do make me hate you and your writing?  Why?????

Yes, it's another installment of the crossover event of the year, as the Outsiders and Checkmate fight through the trap that was sprung on them in the last installment.  It's simply one long fight, which simply serves to get us to the big reveal at the end (with what's-his-name, who was in 52 and whose name escapes me).  I was just reading a series (The Lone Ranger) in which nothing felt superfluous.  This entire issue feels superfluous.  We learn absolutely nothing about the plot, and all we get is the villain behind it all.  It's just our heroes beating up robots and quipping.  Oh dear god, the quipping!

Last time I gave you examples of Winick's dialogue.  Prepare yourself, gird your loins, get your affairs in order, say goodbye to your loved ones, because I'm going to do it again.  I can't be responsible for what this does to you!

Thinker: Download complete.  I think I should warn you all ... I've had a big meal and I'm feeling a little sleepy.

This is from a robot.  Who doesn't really have a sense of humor.  It's stupid, but it does get worse.

Mlle. Marie (as she pushes "Owen" - whose superhero name I don't remember - out of the way of an explosion): Go limp!

Owen (after the danger has passed): That's the last thing I ever wanted you to say to me.

MM: Get your hand off my ass.

Owen: And that's the second-to-last.

Thunder: Well, paint me yellow and call me a cab.  It worked.  [WTF?]

Plus, there's the obligatory coy talking-but-not-really-talking-about-Batman that Dick and Sasha do.  God, that's annoying.

This is a completely unnecessary issue in this crossover.  But we must make it six issues, consarnit!!!!

Uncanny X-Men #487 by Ed Brubaker and Salvador Larroca.  $2.99, Marvel.

This wasn't a very good issue of Uncanny X-Men, which shakes my faith that Brubaker will ever find his footing on the title.  I'm also starting to think that Claremont was the worst thing to happen to this book, because his shadow obscures everything anyone tries to do.  I mean, first Brubaker gives us the space epic and now a Morlocks story, neither of which would have seemed out of place in 1987.  Well, it's not 1987, and it's really time to move on with our merry mutants.  Call me a sucker, but I'm going to stick with this through the big mutant crossover, but if it doesn't improve dramatically, that's it.  I just don't understand how Brubaker can take a mainstream character (Daredevil) and respect his past but still move things forward, while here, he bungles things badly.  Caliban, Leech, Masque, Bliss - they're just not compelling.  Masque has become one of those bad guys who never actually accomplishes anything but always seems to have followers.  Meanwhile, stuff happens at the mansion.  Magneto's alive.  I don't even know or care anymore whether this is from when Wolverine chopped his head off.  He chopped his head off and that didn't take!!!!!  (And no, I don't care about the explanation, so don't bother.)

Larocca's art is pretty ugly, too.  It's that new weird style he's been doing for a while, and occasionally it looks good, but in general it's flat, lifeless, and kind of creepy.  Just draw, Salvador, draw!  You're good at that!

I'll give you a penny if you can explain why this is a good comic book.  I bet you can't!*

*Okay, I'm lying.  Still, it would be nice if someone could explain!

Welcome to Tranquility #7 by Gail Simone and Neil Googe.  $2.99, DC/Wildstorm.

Here's another book that I might be buying just because I know it's going to be gone soon.  As with Ant-Man, I like it (I actually like it more than I like Ant-Man), but I'm not positive I'd stick with it if I knew it was going to survive.

It's a shame, because it is a nice little comic book.  This issue is kind of an epilogue to the first six-issue arc, as we see the town getting back to normal.  Emoticon, who's sitting in jail, begs Sheriff Lindo to let him out, but she doesn't, so someone else shows up and promises to get him out.  Man, you never trust a weird Mark-Twain-like white dude who just happens to appear in your jail cell and makes you take off your mask!  Everyone knows that!  Emoticon's face is disturbing, by the way - nice work by Googe.  Then the dead start coming back.  Oh dear.  Simone also sets up the crossover with Gen13 by having them make a cameo.  All this plus a back-up story with scantily-clad women!  Whoo-hoo!

There's not much to say about this comic book.  It's well-written, looks neat (Googe's idiosyncratic art grows on you), has interesting characters and plenty of drama.  Which means, of course that it must die.  But you should still check it out!

That's all for this week.  I hope everyone found something they liked instead of just dropping three bucks on the seduction of Mary Marvel!

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