What I bought - 7 September 2011

"Everything bleeds, Pie. Even God. Maybe especially God. Or else why did He hide Himself away?" (Clive Barker, from Imajica)

Atomic Robo: The Ghost of Station X #1 (of 5) by Brian Clevinger (writer), Scott Wegener (artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Jeff Powell (letterer). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Red 5 Comics.

Ah, Atomic Robo. How can I stay mad at mainstream superhero comics when I know that stuff like Atomic Robo exists? You know how you read those shitty superhero comics that feature, I don't know, a bunch of splash pages of heroes just posing and not doing anything, and how they take about one minute to read? And how the technical skill of the artist might be high but the storytelling stinks or the human beings in the book have two facial expressions based on whether their mouth is curved upward or not? Well, people who buy those comics get what they deserve, and the fact that they might be saving all their ducats to buy a shitty comic written by "Dick Judwin" or "Dayne Tinlo" or drawn by "Neil Brevo" and none of those will fill that empty hole in their souls makes me sad. Well, not the holes in their souls part. If they buy those comics willingly, they should have holes in their souls that they will spend their lives trying to fill with shitty comics. I mean I'm sad because they're saving their ducats for that shit when they could plunk down the same amount (or slightly more or even slightly less, depending on which comic they're buying) for Atomic Robo: The Ghost of Station X #1, a comic that is technically 22 pages long but feels longer because it is packed with content, cleverness, and drawn with precision and passion and by an artist that manages to give a robot - A MOTHERFUCKING ROBOT - more expressiveness than most of those crappy artists give a human being. Those people could fill those holes in their souls so easily, if they would only put that shitty comic down. But no - they buy that one - you know, that one - and they continue to look for fulfillment. Alas, they will not find it.

But what about Atomic Robo? There are some crazy Canadians who occasionally post their unconnected musings right here at this blog who think that cost doesn't matter when it comes to comics, but I have my doubts if Canucks actually use real legal tender to buy their comics (I mean, it has a bird on it, for crying out loud). I do agree with those crazy Canadians to a point, but occasionally a comic appears that gives you so much more value for your hard-earned, actual American dollars (we put a war hero and founder of our nation on our money, but I'm not saying it's, you know, better than any other money, mostly because it goes without saying - U! S! A!) that it's impossible not to be astonished by what some creators can get into 22 pages while others write a script thusly: "Guys in helicopters shoot at a dude dressed like a bat who looks like he's about to have a particularly devastating bowel movement. Make it a double-page spread!" I mean, not only does Robo head into space to rescue astronauts from an orbiting satellite, but there's also a disappearing house in England that he needs to send two dudes to investigate. WHAT MADNESS IS THIS - TWO CONCURRENT PLOT THREADS?!?!?!?!? It's almost as if Clevinger believes that people can actually keep two things in their brains and not be confused! Uncanny! Plus, you know, the comic looks goddamned great.

Furthermore, Clevinger bothers to explain sciencey things in a way that makes little old me, with my right-brained kind of brain (yes, I know it's an abominable generalization, but bear the fuck with me), actually understand them. This won't be the last comic this week that I compare unfavorably to last week's Secret Avengers (and I actually really enjoyed last week's Secret Avengers, but Warren Ellis's jargon can go climb a pole), but it will be the first - Clevinger makes Robo's quick-strike solutions-oriented briefing of his group after learning of the astronauts in peril sound like things that could actually happen. I have no clue if they could or not, but throughout this series, Clevinger has had a grand time debunking silly things we see in comics-related fiction, so I assume he knows a bit of what he's talking about. Even if he doesn't, he doesn't fire off a lot of technie jargon that sounds clever but doesn't get over the fact that time travel is goddamned impossible. What? I'm still peeved about last week's Secret Avengers.

But this is not last week's Secret Avengers. This is this week's Atomic Robo, and it's a comic where a disappearing mystery house with a note reading "The invisible house is the ghost of Station X" is NOT the coolest thing in it. So, yeah. It's better than anything DC is releasing this week!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Casanova: Avaritia #1 (of 4) ("W.A.S.T.E.-Free Wilderness") by Matt Fraction (writer), Gabriel Bá (artist), Cris Peter (colorist), and Dustin K. Harbin (letterer). $4.99, 32 pgs (plus 8 pages of back matter/letters), FC, Marvel/Icon.

Casanova is ...

Casanova is playing flashlight tag all summer. It's exploring your surroundings on your bike and riding further than your mom would really want you to go. It's a root beer float. It's skiing in the Alps. It's dropping your child off for their first day of school. It's stepping onto stage for the first time in front of an audience. It's black water tubing in New Zealand. It's hiking behind a waterfall in Venezuela. It's the sun setting at Karnak. It's sitting at a coffeehouse table that constantly rotates almost imperceptibly. It's driving along the McKenzie river in October. It's seeing, for the first time, the bridge troll holding a Volkswagen. It's jello-wrestling. It's drinking in a collegiate basement bar with a group of friends. It's the first time away from your parents. It's football in the mud. It's taking the hovercraft across the English channel. It's climbing the hill up to Neuschwanstein. It's rushing the field after a huge win and getting pepper-sprayed. It's staying up all night. It's meeting new people. It's singing in a church choir at Christmas. It's drinking in the afternoon at the Prince Alfred hotel in Grattan Street before all the engy students show up. It's watching The Wizard of Oz high. It's the mosh pit at an Anthrax/Public Enemy concert. It's finishing your thesis. It's riding a roller coaster. It's walking around Manhattan. It's Mont-St.-Michel. It's watching Etna erupt. It's having just the right amount of Jägermeister shots. It's your best friend telling you he's gay. It's the first time ever that a girl starts unbuttoning her shirt for you.

Casanova is Pete Giftopoulos intercepting the final pass of Vinny Testaverde's college career. It's Brad Lidge striking out Eric Hinske and dropping to his knees. It's Kellen Winslow being helped off the field by his teammates. It's Luis Gonzalez blooping a hit over the infield. It's Roberto Clemente flying supplies to Nicaragua. It's Don Denkinger missing an easy call. It's Pete Rose wrecking Ray Fosse's career. It's Joe Carter skipping around the bases. It's Villanova beating Georgetown. It's Tony Latone escaping the coal mines. It's Kirk Gibson hitting a home run on one leg. It's giving the Soviets three chances to win a game. It's Gil Dobie never coaching a losing game at the University of Washington. It's Adam Taliaferro walking back onto the field.

Casanova is Emma Thompson asking the judge why a crucial witness was withheld from the defense (or "defence," I suppose). It's Brad Pitt rising up from a bloody floor. It's Keanu Reeves shunning River Phoenix and breaking his heart. It's "they're real, and they're spectacular." It's loving Manimal but suspecting, deep down, that Manimal kind of sucks. It's Linda Fiorentino fucking Peter Berg up against a fence and fucking over anyone who gets in her way. It's Claire Danes realizing what Devon Gummersall did for her but not being able to change anything. It's Double Rush (Double Rush was the bomb, bitches!). It's Mel Gibson dropping a large metal cargo container on top of Derrick O'Connor. It's "I just want ... my country ... to love me ... as much as I ... love it" and living "day by day." It's Orson Welles standing in a doorway as the light catches him. It's "I haven't been fucked like that since grade school." It's Eric Stoltz realizing the girl he loves is right in front of her. It's Katrin Cartlidge dying far too young. It's Sherilyn Fenn for that brief three-year period or so when she was the hottest woman on the planet. It's "What is Chandler Bing's job?" It's Robin Williams telling Amanda Plummer he's not coming up for coffee. It's John Cusack standing up to John Mahoney. It's "I love my dead, gay son!" It's Linda Hunt finally choosing a side. It's "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time ... like tears in rain ..."

Casanova is getting together for a beer with old friends and talking long into the night. It's that moment right before you kiss a girl for the first time and you both know it's going to happen. It's the death of a beloved grandparent. It's saying "I do." It's the birth of your child.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

One totally Airwolf panel:

Kirby: Genesis #3 ("Ancient Evils") by Kurt Busiek (writer), Jack Herbert (artist), Alex Ross (artist), Vinicius Andrade (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

I'm enjoying Kirby: Genesis far more than I expected to - I mean, I know Busiek can write a mean superhero book, but this is just straight-up enjoyable as all get out. Kirby ends up in some weird place where dinosaurs and old German U-boat commanders roam, Roag awakens some fierce-looking chick with whom he plots something dastardly, and the good guy police forces of the galaxy decide to work together. Plus, there's some awesome city where they grow buildings and other structures, and blind guards protecting something majestic - it's all very Kirby-esque (kind of the point, I know), but Busiek is doing a nice job with it, as are Herbert and Ross, working together very well to give the book a cosmic, blow-your-socks-off look. I do like how Roag is never without an epithet (sorry - except once), no matter if someone else is talking about him or he's referring to himself in the third person (all good villains refer to themselves in the third person, remember). In this issue alone we get "the schemer," "the outcast," "the wise," "the lordly," "the leader," "the scientist," "the seeker," and "the betrayer." That's good stuff!

Plus, you know, the ghost of Pangaea. Neal Adams will be proud.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Thunderbolts #163 ("The Great Escape") by Jeff Parker (writer), Kev Walker (artist), Frank Martin, Jr. (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Man, I dig that cover. How much has changed since that first issue lo those many years ago.

For the second (and last) time, let's talk about last week's Secret Avengers. Guess what happens in this issue? The Thunderbolts who escaped last issue somehow end up in 1940s Austria, where they're attacked by Nazis. Does the inestimable Mr. Parker spend four pages trying to explain it? HELL NO! He just waves his magic comic book wand and presto - the Thunderbolts traveled through time! You know what happens in comic books? Weird Shit™. Jeff Parker understands this. He wants the Thunderbolts fighting Nazis so he can guest-star the real Captain America, Namor, and the Golden Age Thunderbolts (oh yes), and by God, that's what he's going to get! Damn the torpedoes, full fucking speed ahead! I really do like Warren Ellis as a writer, but sometimes, the dude just needs to give it a rest.

So: the escaped Thunderbolts are displaced in time and find themselves fighting Nazis. Kev Walker draws it. Yes, it's pretty damned cool.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

X-Factor #224.1 by Peter David (writer), Valentine de Landro (penciler), Pat Davidson (inker), Jeromy Cox (colorist), and Cory Petit (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Peter David does what I imagine these .1 issues are supposed to do: Having wrapped up one storyline, instead of introducing another right away, he takes his time, showing Jamie and Layla visiting the home where Jamie used to live while the rest of the team investigates something odd in town. This allows David to let Jamie tell strangers about the group's powers (which is part of what a .1 issue should do, right?) and allows de Landro to show them using their powers (through the magic of the narrative voice-over). Only at the end of the issue does David introduce the next main plot, and as usual, it hits the reader right in the gut (poor grammar notwithstanding). I haven't read most of the .1 issues, but some of them were as strong as this one, while others, from what I read, were clusterfucks. I know some people here on the blog do not like Peter David because they hate puns so much (frankly, we should all hate puns, but to hate them so much so that you can't appreciate all the good stuff David does is not how I want to live my life), but as I've written before, the dude can put together a single issue of a comic book really well. The pacing is nice, the foreshadowing is nice, and the final page is devastating and makes me, at least, want to read the next issue right now! I don't know - that seems like a good writer to me.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot by Jacques Tardi (adapter/artist). $18.99, 96 pgs, BW, Fantagraphics.

Here's another hard-boiled Tardi adaptation of a Jean-Patrick Manchette novel. I liked the other one I read, so I assume I will like this one. But it will have to wait for a while, as I'm still far behind with these longer comic collections and graphic novels!

The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Oh Virginia" - Blessid Union of Souls (1995) "I can't wait to get there and tell 'em that I miss my second home"2. "The Ghost of a Smile" - Pogues (1990) "Don't wait too long or I'll be gone"3. "Garden" - Pearl Jam (1991) "After all is done, and we're still alone, I won't be taken, yet I'll go ... with my hands bound"4. "Secrets" - Van Halen (1982) "She's as strong as the mountains, walks tall as the trees"5. "Dum Dum Diddle" - ABBA (1976) "And you're only smiling when you play your violin"16. "Stone in Love"2 - Journey (1981) "She found me singing by the rail road track; took me home, we danced by moonlight"7. "Hail"3 - Hamell on Trial (2003) "Down on earth, he held her tight, she held her tight, he held him tight"8. "Foolin'"4 - Def Leppard (1983) "Just wakin' up from what we had could stop good love from going bad"9. "Put the Message in the Box" - World Party (1990) "He don't want tomorrow if it's just crumbling into sand"10. "Woman Oh Woman" - Foreigner (1977) "And your love flows down like a river 'til it reaches down to the sea"

1 Yes, this is a song about a guy who doesn't notice a girl because he's too busy playing his violin. That's why ABBA rules, man!

2 This video is a parody made by some dudes, but it's pretty funny. I still don't know what "stone in love" means, though.

3 I've linked to this video before, and you really should check it out. Ed Hamell is very good on albums but he kills live.

4 Among the many ridiculous things in this video (Joe Elliott strapped to that thingy in those skin-tight white pants), I had forgotten the harp. The harp pushes it over the top, in my humble opinion.

Last week's Totally Random Movie Quote was quite easy, but that's why they're Totally Random! Let's see what we have this week:

"Look, the first thing you do when you start a band is talk about your influences. That's how you figure out what kind of band you want to be. So who do you like? Blondie?""Christina Aguilera.""Who? No. Come on. What? You, Shortstop.""Puff Daddy.""Wrong. Billy?""Liza Minnelli?"

Yeah, that's probably pretty easy too. Oh well. Get to it! And have a nice day. The high here this weekend is supposed to drop below 100. Whoo-hoo!

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