What I bought - 8 April 2009

All right, people, knock off the FemSkinning!* Let's get to the reviews!

Captain Britain and MI 13 #12 ("Vampire State: Part Two") by Paul Cornell (writer), Leonard Kirk (penciler), Jay Leisten (inker), Brian Reber (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Wow, it's another awesome issue of CB & MI13. Apparently, sales suck, and who knows how long it will last, but man! it's some good stuff. Cornell sets up a situation where we think the story is going one way, but then he springs a surprise on us that makes so much sense and shows that Dracula is right: The vampires have had centuries to plot, so of course they're going to be a bit out in front of things. Cornell not only gives us a good reason why Dracula hasn't tried an invasion before, but keeps everything logical as he follows the heroes through their steps and Dracula through his. He's not trying to be overly clever, he's just telling an exciting story. And Kirk is phenomenal, getting across with the right sense of horrible grandeur the steps Dracula has taken to make this plot successful. Kirk is getting better and better, and that's nice to see.

This is only part two (of a six-part story), and Cornell has done a fine job so far of not "writing for the trade." There's a lot going on, as befits a war, and I'm looking forward to seeing it play out.

Would it kill you guys to read this excellent comic? I doubt it. So put down that Comics Code-approved killfest with the orange alien on the cover and pick this up!

The Cleaners #3 (of 4) ("Absent Bodies") by Mark Wheaton (writer), Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer), Rahsan Ekedal (artist), Jon Graef (colorist), and Michael David Thomas (letterer). $2.99, 28 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

It's hard to review this, because it comes out awfully infrequently and is a four-issue story, so it's obviously building to that finale. It's certainly horrific, as this issue shows, and while I remember the overall story, I'm trying to remember what the deal is with that cloaked figure on the cover (whose identity is revealed in this issue) and why said figure feels the need to slaughter people. We get some answers in this issue, but of course the major answers are coming next issue, so I'll have to hold off on a positive or negative assessment until then. I will say that Ekedal is doing a fine job with this, with the horror being truly horrible. I do wonder about the strength of the killer - at one point the killer rips the jaw off of a person in one fell swoop, which even with a lot of strength seems physically impossible - but that's just me. The final scene also strikes me as odd. The killer offers our hero, Robert Ballarmine, a choice that seems somewhat easy to make. Not easy to carry out, but easy to make. He rejects it, and bad things stem from it. I wonder why he wouldn't take it. It seems strange.

This is a horror comic in the truest sense of the word, so if you're not into that, you might want to skip this. Wheaton and Fialkov, however, have done a fine job building this sense of creepiness and terror, and I'm keen to read the final issue to see how it all ends.

Ignition City #1 by Warren Ellis (writer), Gianluca Pagliarani (penciller), Chris Drier (inker), and Digikore Studios (colorist). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Avatar.

Warren Ellis is about three years older than I am. Why, then, does he still think toilet humor is funny? I know he's not the only one, as several people who ought to know better think toilet humor is hilarious, but once you get past about, I don't know, puberty, is it really? I only ask that because this comic is marred by three-and-a-quarter pages right in the middle in which Ellis:

1. Writes about a lizard thing with explosive diarrhea, in far-away but somewhat graphic detail;2. Writes about the fact that eating food pills makes your poop tiny and hard, not unlike rabbit pellets;3. Writes a scene in which someone dumps said pellets out a window and onto the head of someone else;4. Writes a brief exchange that ends when someone pukes.

What happens when you eat food pills instead of real food is relevant, I suppose, but 12 panels devoted to someone shitting them out and dumping them out a window? The rest is just unpleasant. That's a shame, because this is a nice story about some things Ellis knows a thing or two about - space travel and mysteries. It's 1956, and Mary Raven, a tough-as-nails (in an Ellis book? SHOCKING!) redhead (in an Ellis book? SHOCKING!) whose father was an astronaut and desperately wants to be one herself, finds out that her father is, actually, dead, so she heads off to a place called Ignition City to collect his effects. According to the bartender she speaks to at the end of the issue, she's not going to like what she discovers about her father. And thus begins the tale!

Ellis does a nice job giving us a lot of information without overloading us or making it boring. We find out that space travel is falling out of fashion because humankind didn't like running into aliens up there, but there's one place launches still go off all the time - Ignition City. We also learn about Mary's relationship with her father, something that will, we assume, be tested as she finds out his secrets. Once Mary arrives at Ignition City (which is an island on the equator), we get a nice sense of its society, as washed-out astronauts wander the streets and get drunk. Plus, there's a time-traveler, which is somewhat odd (unless he's just insane, which is possible). In a few pages, Ellis does a very good job at setting up plenty of story. Of course, he's been doing this writing thing for a while, and he's quite good at it, so it's not surprising.

Pagliarani's full-color art is wonderful. Ellis likes this blend of old and new (it's 1956 and there's casual space flight, after all), and as he showed in Aetheric Mechanics, Pagliarani is comfortable with this. He's called upon to draw dilapidated cars and other outdated stuff alongside floating machines and big ol' ray guns, and it's quite fun. This kind of idea works best, of course, if we believe that this kind of world exists, and Pagliarani is up to the task.

Other than the three pages in the middle, this is a fine comic. Why we need the shit (literally) in the middle of the issue is beyond me. But that's just Ellis being Ellis. You take the very good (the rest of the issue) with the bad.

At the end of the issue, Avatar has a bunch of mail-order forms where you can check off which back issues you want. They're pretty much all Ellis and Ennis books, with the random Jamie Delano comic thrown in, and while they all feature graphic violence, they are by respected creators. I just bring this up because, on a lark, I decided to drag out an Avatar comic from a decade ago and see what you could order from them back then. The issue is Faust/777 The Wrath from January 1999, which is really, really awful. Let's look at the comics Avatar offered back then: Threshold #15 nude variant cover, Nira X: History #2 nude variant cover, Widow X #1 wraparound nude cover and XXX adult cover, plus The Goon #2. Hey, one of these things is not like the other. It's fun to see all the "adult" material Avatar had back then: Solace, with "lots of nudity and sex"; Raw Media, the adults only anthology; Lookers: Slaves of Anubis, with the Lookers going "undercover as scantily-clad slaves." I just point this out because it took years for Avatar to overcome the reputation they had as a "porn" publisher, and they still haven't shaken it completely. Of course, now they're the publisher that publishes Ellis and Ennis whenever those two want to rip people apart as gruesomely as possible, but I guess that's progress!

Plus, there's an ad on the inside back cover of this issue for Comic Book Resources. Does the ad mention the greatest blog in the world, the blog that makes CBR a worthwhile place to stop on the Internet? It does not. I mean, come on, we're totally carrying the Mothership at this point. I don't think that's in dispute.

The Infinite Horizon #4 (of 6) ("That Which Does Not Kill Us") by Gerry Duggan (writer), Phil Noto (artist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Image.

It's been about a year since issue #3 came out. Yeah, that's a long time.

Okay, here's the thing. I was chatting with the dude at my comics shoppe (he's not really a dude, and I don't usually call people dude, but let's run with it), and he said that this is Noto's baby and he hired Duggan to write it. I suppose that's true, because why would the dude lie? Anyway, so Noto comes up with this retelling of The Odyssey, and he finds a writer, and all's right with the world. However, it can't sell all that well, right? I mean, come on. The quality of the book doesn't matter very much at all, and this has been a pretty decent story so far. So Noto has to pay some bills, and he does some work for the Big Boys, which pushes this way late, as it's not making any coin for him. I assume Duggan has been paid for his work, but maybe not. So Noto's labor of love, which won't sell a lot anyway, loses readers because of the gap between issues. Presumably, the idea is that it will make some money in trade format, which leads to my question. If we believe that this is Noto's idea, and that Duggan is a mercenary, then why wouldn't Noto pay Duggan to script the entire thing and then take a few years to release this as a complete graphic novel? If Noto is the reason for the lateness of the thing because he needs to make some money (not a bad reason, of course), then why not work on this slowly, one page a week (or something), wait a few years, and release the whole thing? Reading it this way is vexing, because we know there's a complete six-issue story here and I know it will read very well in that format. I don't get it.

Of course, I could be completely off-base. I'm often that way. But it makes sense, doesn't it?

No, I didn't actually review this issue. Sheesh, you people - think outside the box with me!

Northlanders #16 ("The Cross + the Hammer Part 6 of 6: Brigid's War") by Brian Wood (writer), Ryan Kelly (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Given the fact that Wood dropped a bombshell last issue, I can't really write about this issue too much without giving away said bombshell, and do I really want to ruin it for you punks who sit around and wait for the trade? Well, yeah I do, but I'm not that mean.

Anyway, for crazy people like Bill Reed who think they can't like this because it's all "historical" and shit, this arc deals less with the occupation of Ireland by the Vikings (although there's a lot of that) and more with what drives people to resist tyranny and what drives people to make their accommodations with tyranny. Is it noble to resist, even if you become worse than those you're resisting? Is it okay to accommodate the regime even if you lose a bit of what makes you you? In this arc, we get a nice understated look at the immigrant experience - yes, Magnus and Brigid are the natives and the Vikings are the immigrants, so to speak, but work with me - as Magnus and Brigid find themselves powerless in a land they no longer understand (even if it's their own) and they have to find a way to survive. Of course, there's the idea of conquerors "knowing" what's "best" for the conquered, and Wood has toyed with that idea throughout the arc.

Once again, Kelly's art is absolutely magnificent. The first few pages are wordless, showing a land permanently stained with blood because of what has happened. It's not surprising that the land bred someone like Magnus, slaughtering his way across the fields and forests, and Kelly implies that Ireland itself has spewed up a creation like Magnus to take revenge on the Vikings. Kelly has done a wonderful job with the brutality of life in the 11th century throughout this arc, and here it's integral to understanding what Wood is writing about. Kelly (and Wood) end the story on an image we don't necessarily expect, but it's extremely powerful.

To boil this review down to its essence: Yes, Bill Reed is crazy for not liking Northlanders. But as long as he's wearing his mittens and we keep him away from sharp objects, he's not a threat to himself or others.

Secret Six #8 ("Double Date") by Gail Simone (writer), Carlos Rodriguez (penciller), Bit (inker), Sal Cipriano (letterer), and Jason Wright (colorist). Back-up story by Gail Simone (writer), Amanda Gould (artist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 19 pgs + 3-pg back-up, FC, DC.

Simone manages to give us a bit of a break but still pack it with plenty of action, which is always a nice trick. Scandal, Deadshot, and Jeannette (the Marie Antoinette chick) go on a double date (Floyd and Jeannette are together, and Scandal ... I'll get back to her date), and Floyd and Scandal promise to kill no one. Of course, a neo-Nazi gang tries to get some revenge on Deadshot, so he has to take care of them without A) attracting attention from the non-crazed-killer in the group; and B) not killing anyone. Scandal gets in a dust-up, too, and she has to control herself. It's a nifty single-issue tale that highlights everything that's good about this comic - the interplay between the characters shines in this issue, complete with a brief three-page story of Ragdoll having a very weird dream. It's very funny.

(The gang, by the way, goes to a club called "Hypertime," where everyone is dressed like a DC character, some from different time periods. It's a cool little joke, but it's somewhat sad that the concept only shows up these days as a joke. Moving on!)

I suppose I'm going to be accused of "overthinking" something again, but the first page bugs me. Scandal is shopping in Rutland, Vermont (they're the first words in the book!) when she's accosted by the stripper the gang hired to jump out of the cake at that party she had. I'm not going back to look at that issue, but did that party take place in Vermont? I thought it took place out West, but I could be wrong. If it did take place out West, what's the stripper doing in Vermont? For that matter, what is the Secret Six doing in Rutland? (Rutland exists, by the way - Google Maps is awesome.) It's kind of puzzling. Is that where the House of Secrets has always been?

It doesn't really matter all that much. It's a groovy issue, full of nice moments, and the brief preview of Power Girl #1 looks frickin' brilliant. Amanda Conner is flingin'-flangin' excellent. As I mentioned last month, Secret Six was the only mainstream DC comic I bought in March. I have a feeling it's going to be the only one I buy in April. But you know what? It's because it's awesomer than everything else they put out. Isn't that a good enough reason?

Young Liars #14 ("Pencil Rot") by David Lapham (writer/artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Man, it's just hard to write anything about this, because it's so very fucked up. I mean, by this point, 14 issues in, the "truth" behind what's going on changes almost page by page, and it makes for a dizzying reading experience but it's hard to comment on it as it's going on. It's to the point where you even wonder if Lapham is trying to comment on anything - in this issue, is he satirizing plastic surgery, or is Annie's obsession with it simply part of who she really is? How much is Lapham toying with our ideas of beauty, or does it really matter? The idea of living simply for thrills has been a general theme throughout the series, but is Lapham making any statement about it? Personally, I don't care that much, but it's interesting that despite the wild entertainment value of this comic, it's hard to suss out what Lapham is really doing. Again, it probably doesn't matter that much, I just thought I'd mention it. Young Liars is breathtaking, and worrying about any deeper meaning is for later, once you pick yourself up off the ground after getting run over by it.

And so we reach the end of another week of comics. I really do apologize that I don't read more "hip" and "cool" comics (whatever the kids today are calling them), but until I get some bailout money from the government, that's just the way it is. I wish DC and Marvel put out superhero comics I want to read, but they don't. Blame them! And guess the totally random lyrics!

"Read about some princess and her junkie friendsDidn't start my day off rightOld James Dean jumped from his graveSwore that black was white

Read it in the papers the writing's on the wallAnd someone earns a dollar out of every lieIt don't make no sense worrying at allAnd I wake up and I'm wondering why"

Oh, and by the way: Liam Neeson as Zeus in a remake of Clash of the Titans? I guess, but why remake the perfect movie? PERFECT, say I!!!!!!

* Google it. If you dare. You can't unsee it, remember. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Bloodborne #15

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