What I bought - 8 December 2010

If miracles have been so rare since the appearance of Christianity, the blame rests not on Christianity but on Christians. (Mircea Eliade, from The Myth of the Eternal Return)

Booster Gold #39 ("Letting Go!") by Keith Giffen (writer), J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Chris Batista (penciller), Rich Perrotta (inker), Hi-Fi (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Giffen and DeMatteis bring their storyline about Booster trying to reconnect with Ted Kord in the past to an end, as Booster finally comes to terms with his friend's death. This is why Giffen and DeMatteis are good writers and why it's unfortunate that many comic book writers' only sense of history is dredging up old characters to kill them off - this isn't an overly sappy issue, just a story of a man who was convinced he could somehow bring his friend back to life and refused to face reality, so when it finally hits him, it hits him hard. Like their entire run so far, this issue has far less impact if you didn't read the creators' Justice League run. Even the other issues, while steeped in nostalgia, have been stories a layperson could enjoy - this issue is almost completely about Booster's feelings about Ted, which were established two decades ago. Giffen and DeMatteis don't traffic too much in dull sentimentality - a little, but not much - but they do show a person who needs to let go, and finally manages to. This is the kind of issue that depresses me, not because of why you think it does. You see, this issue reminds me of a time when you could buy more comics because of the price (no, I'm not going to rant about comic book prices, but it's true that if you had ten dollars, you could once buy twice as many comics as you can today), so you could keep track of what was going on more in both the Marvel and DC universes. The only reason I know about these two men and their friendship is because it was confined to a specific title (or a very small group of titles), so it was easy to follow. In an issue below, that's more of a problem (although Johns does a decent job recapping). I'm woefully unaware of the main storylines in the DC and Marvel universes these days, because I'm not that interested anymore, but also because it's too much money to keep up. It's also difficult, with the changes in writers and the fracturing of titles, to build a relationship like the one Michael and Ted had. I'm not as bummed out about it as I'm making it out to be, because it's just a nostalgic tugging - we all get nostalgic occasionally, and it's usually a fleeting sadness before we move on. But when a solid comic like this takes its time to examine a foundation that, even though all the crises and zero hours and reboots of the DCU recently, hasn't changed, it makes me a bit nostalgic. But that's just me.

Anyway, I'm impressed that Giffen and DeMatteis have started developing the character of Rani over this run. Given the way Danny D. looks askance at "their" characters, how long after they leave the book will Rani survive? Only the Grand Poobah knows for sure!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Days Missing: Kestus #2 (of 5) ("The Burning of Alexandria"/"The First Fold Part Two") by Phil Hester (writer), Trevor Roth (writer, "The First Fold"), David Marquez (artist), Digikore Studios (colorist), and Troy Peteri (letterer). $3.95, 24 pgs, FC, Archaia/Roddenberry.

Hester takes the Steward to Alexandria in 48 BC, where he ... does something. He doesn't prevent the burning of the world's most famous library, but presumably Hester is implying that had he not shown up, not only the books but the people in charge of the library would have burned as well, depriving the world not only the knowledge stored in the volumes but the people who could pass along the knowledge after the destruction of the library. Mainly, as this book is about the Steward meeting his lady friend, Kestus, at different points in history, this is a chance for them to catch up, as Kestus, who's immortal but can't fold time, continues to set herself up as a supernatural being (a goddess in issue #1, an oracle in this one). The fact that she lives forever but can't be with the Steward makes her capricious, because she really has no reason to be kind. So the series will, presumably, show how the Steward changes her, but not enough. That's just a prediction!

The Steward does his job, making an impression on a young Jewish slave named Judith, who's smarter than pretty much everyone else at the library even though everyone ignores her because, well, she's young, Jewish, female, and a slave. The library might burn, but the knowledge survives thanks to the Steward and people like Judith. Hester is telling concurrent stories in this series so far - the Steward, who in the first series was rescuing humanity from their excesses, is shepherding knowledge in this one while flirting with Kestus. He's multi-tasking! It will be interesting to see how Hester brings these two themes together, if indeed he does.

This continues to be an intriguing series. Give it a look!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fables #100. "Single Combat" by Bill Willingham (writer), Mark Buckingham (penciller), Steve Leialoha (inker), Andrew Pepoy (inker), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer); "Pinocchio's Army" by Buckingham (writer) and Willingham (illustrator); "The Fables Paper Puppet Theatre" by Buckingham (writer/artist), Dan Green (inker), Loughridge (colorist), and Klein (letterer); "The Perils of Thumbelina" by Willingham (writer) and Chrissie Zullo (artist); "Celebrity Burning Questions" by Willingham (writer), Dave Johnson (artist), Adam Hughes (artist), Kate McElroy (artist), J. H. Williams III (artist), and Dave Stewart (colorist); "A Thing With Those Mice" by Willingham (writer) and Joao Ruas (artist); "Escape to Wolf Manor" (board game) by Willingham (writer) and Buckingham (artist). $9.99, 104 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

There's no reason for this issue of Fables to be so giant-sized except that it's, you know, the 100th issue. I'm not sure, but I think it's only the second Vertigo series to reach triple digits, so that's certainly something to celebrate. But issue #98-99 felt a bit like treading water as Willingham and Buckingham geared up for this one, and it could have easily been smaller and told the same story spread out over two or even three issues. I suppose Willingham didn't want to deal with the aftermath in issue #101, but I don't know. I certainly don't mind spending ten (!) dollars for this, because it's an amazing package with some very groovy extras, I'm just pointing out that the actual story didn't need to be confined to one issue. Oh well.

This issue is, of course, the confrontation between Frau Totenkinder and the Dark Man, which has been building for a while. I don't want to give anything away, but it's a very well done fight - Frau Totenkinder - Bellflower as she's now called - uses clever magic to keep the Dark Man off-balance, while he can't find anything that she's afraid of, and as fear is his main weapon, he keeps finding himself losing. It's amazingly drawn by Buckingham, too, and it looks a lot more like painted art than a usual issue - Loughridge outdid himself on this issue. Willingham intercuts the fight with scenes back at the farm, as Beauty goes into labor and eventually gives birth. This is a crucial part of the series, as Nurse Spratt (who could, of course, eat no lean) reveals herself even more as a hateful woman, and Snow White gives her an unfortunate life lesson (which sounds familiar - is it from an earlier issue of Fables, or did Willingham rip it off from somewhere?). So even though the fight is the centerpiece, Willingham continues to introduce new plot elements - Nurse Spratt and her bad feelings, the new baby, even the prose story about Geppetto that Buckingham writes - I assume the ending will play an important part going forward. I was a bit amused by the baby - again, without giving it away, it seems like the Beast, at least, might suspect something about the baby.

There's a lot of cool back-up stuff, as well. Buckingham's prose story isn't great, but it does introduce an important element to the story. "The Perils of Thumbelina" is a cute little story with groovy art by Zullo. The questions are submitted by a few celebrities who read Fables, including this "terminally hot" one, and they're clever little diversions. (What does it mean to be "terminally hot"? Does it mean she will be hot forever? Or does it mean she's so hot she will kill you with her hotness? The mind reels!) It's mostly a showcase for artists, and while Adam Hughes' pin-up is, unfortunately, a little weak, Dave Johnson, Kate McElroy, and J. H. Williams III all knock theirs out of the park. I dig the fact that, if DC is going to charge so much for this, they make it feel worth it, from the content to the binding (it's square-bound, not stapled, so it feels like a trade paperback).

Of course, because I'm far too familiar with what Kelly Thompson likes in her comic books, I chuckled when I reached page 45, where Bellflower says, "I finally found a good man and we've decided to go far, far away together." Oh, I imagined the steam coming from Kelly's ears! That kooky Bill Willingham, taking one of his better female characters and stating that all she wants out of life is a man! She repeats herself later, just to stick the knife further into poor Ms. Thompson's brain. Here's the reason why it didn't bother me, though (beside the fact that I'm a man and think that all women just need a good man in their lives and absolutely nothing else!) - she's a character who, from what we know about her, spent her salad days eating children. She makes the point that she never got a chance to have a romance, and now she does, especially as it's Ozma's turn to be in charge. I don't know if Willingham, being a conservative, has anything against same sex relationships, but would it have been okay if Bellflower went off with a woman? It's not the "man" part that's relevant, it's that she's spent her life, first selfishly and alone, then in the service of others. She deserves a break! Plus, the way Willingham has developed these characters over the course of 100 issues, it's not a "female" thing here - it's a Totenkinder/Bellflower thing. Each character makes choices, it seems to me, based on their own personalities, and ever since Totenkinder absconded to figure out to fight the Dark Man, she's been heading toward a final confrontation. After that, what's left for her? She gave everything she had, so why shouldn't she be a bit selfish? Anyway, that's my take. I'm very curious to see what Kelly has to say about it.

I know a lot of people read Fables in trade, but I still enjoy the single issues, because it's impressive that Willingham just keeps coming up with new things to write about. He seems to have things set for a while now, so I'm keen to keep reading!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Flash #7 ("What Goes Around, Comes Around") by Geoff Johns (writer), Scott Kolins (artist), Brian Buccellato (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

In the weekly vote for what comics I should buy, Uncle Scrooge got the most votes, but I could not find a copy, even at the bigger, more corporate comic book store in Mesa which usually orders at least one of almost everything. So I went to the next one with the most votes, which was Flash #7. Our very own Sydneysider, FunkyGreenJerusalem (who ought to be offended by this issue because of something in the art, as I'll point out below), has been banging the drum for the new series (among others, but he's the most strident), so while I've never been a fan of Geoff Johns, I figured I could give this a look.

Well, I can say that Johns almost completely suppresses his bloodlust ("almost" because in one panel, someone gets decapitated by a boomerang) as he tells the secret origin of Captain Boomerang. This is a bit troublesome, because while Johns wants to tell a relatively serious story, he keeps doing a couple of things: using dull clichés (wait, his father isn't really his father?) and trying to incorporate DC history, which is, to be blunt, convoluted. Johns does a decent job reconciling all the various incarnations of Captain Boomerang, as he explains why he was such a dick during the Suicide Squad years (besides the fact that he's, you know, a villain) but always watched the backs of the other Flash bad guys (calling themselves the "Rogues" seems like the group of heroes in a certain classic book calling themselves the "Watchmen" - i.e., stupid). But because things are so convoluted in DC history, we get references to old Flash comics, Suicide Squad (which has never been reprinted - yet - and therefore might be unfamiliar to readers), Identity Crisis, Blackest Night, and now Birds of Prey, maybe? Harkness mentions Dove, and isn't she in Birds of Prey these days? Or is this something to do with Brightest Day, as that's above the title on the cover? I don't know, but it lessens the emotional impact of Boomerang's origin and interaction with Reverse Flash because Johns is drawing on so many sources. Boomerang's own upbringing is so riddled with clichés that it's difficult to care about him based on that, so Johns is relying on what we know about him to add to his character. Johns doesn't want us to care about Harkness, not really, but he does want to make him more relatable, and he doesn't, not based on what's in this particular issue. It's not a terrible issue from a writing standpoint, and Johns does get the point across that even for the "Rogues," Harkness is kind of a dick, but if you've ever read a comic with Captain Boomerang, you know he's a dick. Even Brad Meltzer (shudder) made him a dick you could relate to (before he, you know, killed him), which Johns really doesn't do here. It's a straight-forward story that doesn't screw anything up too badly but doesn't really inspire me to go read more comics by Geoff Johns.

However, I can say that Scott Kolins' art is terrible. Seriously, I like Scott Kolins quite a bit, and I have no idea what's going on in this issue - it doesn't even look like anything I've seen by Kolins before. Where's the crazy energy, the crisp lines, the almost 3-D figures? Is Buccellato deliberately softening his lines and muting the colors (I don't know who usually colors Kolins, but his art is often bright and shiny, ready to pop off the page) to make the look consistent with what Manupul has been doing on the book? If so, why? This is obviously a one-off issue after the completion of an arc to give the main artist a break, and even if Kolins is drawing the next issue, the first arc is obviously completed, so a trade will have the first six issues with Manupul's art. I get that if you're in the middle of an arc and the artist needs some help, you might want to try to make the fill-in art as consistent as possible, but this is a different circumstance, and there's no reason to dampen Kolins' strengths as an artist to make the look consistent. If you're going to do that, get an artist whose look is more like Manupul. Kolins has been around long enough that you should know what you're getting with him, so just live with it. If he's experimenting with a new style, that's a whole different animal, and I wish he would stop, because this is just dull and boring linework. Harkness, in particular, looks absolutely ridiculous every single time his face is in a panel (which is a lot, obviously) - Kolins might not be the best with faces, but with his usual style, everything is slightly ridiculous, so the faces don't look too out of place. With this style, which is a bit more "realistic," Boomerang's face looks idiotic. The best part of the book is when Reverse Flash gets out, because Kolins does a really nice job with his manic energy. Finally, he draws two different vehicles in Australia with the driver on the left. I would think that of all the cultural references that you might miss when you're drawing things in countries you may not have visited, putting the drivers on the right in Australia would be one of the easier ones to remember. And this got past, presumably, Johns and the two editors, Adam Schlagman and Eddie Berganza. Oh well.

So I wasn't too impressed with Flash #7. Maybe the first six issues were a hell of a lot better, but this one just isn't that interesting. Too bad. I'd really like to like a Geoff Johns comic that isn't Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E., I really would!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Northlanders #35 ("The Girl in the Ice Part 1 of 2") by Brian Wood (writer), Becky Cloonan (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Holy crap, that's an awesome cover. That might be numero uno on my list when I get around to it. We shall see!

After a disappointing arc, Wood hunkers down and begins a story about an old man in Iceland who discovers the body of a girl in the frozen lake where he fishes. Just like William Petersen, he begins to investigate! He believes that the girl's murder (he puzzles out that it has to be murder) is somehow politically motivated, perhaps taking place at the order of the ruling Icelandic family, the Sturlungar. As a backdrop to all of this, the chieftain, Sturla (who was a chieftain and a famous writer), is calling on all his vassals to fulfill their obligations as the clans prepare for war with Haakon, the king of Norway (who eventually brought Iceland under his control, but not until 20 years after this story takes place). So the soldiers need to quarter two men in Jon's cabin to keep watch. Jon delays them for a night, but he knows they suspect that he has found the body. So the second issue promises to be some kind of race as Jon tries to figure out what happened to the girl while keeping Sturla's men in the dark. It's all exciting!

Wood does a good job building the tension throughout the issue even though nothing violent occurs - it's mostly innuendo on the part of the soldiers and Jon interpreting their subtext. But it's still very well done. Cloonan, not surprisingly, is tremendous - she nails the weatherbeaten faces of the men perfectly, and her female corpse haunts Jon nicely, both with her beauty and the mystery of what happened to her. Cloonan's precise attention to detail has to carry the story because there's not a lot of action, and she does a wonderful job both with the people and with the landscape, which is vast, forbidding, and stark, offering no place to hide. It's impressive how she can make something so wide-open feel claustrophobic, but because the weather traps the men in small huts, she manages.

We'll see how Wood finishes this brief arc up, but I'm hopeful that he's back on track after the weirdness that ended the previous story. Either way, I'll be there!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Starborn #1 by Chris Roberson (writer), Khary Randolph (artist), Mitch Gerads (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Chip Mosher, who's built like a linebacker, is not someone you want to cross. The dude is as mean as a snake, I tells ya! Okay, that's not true - whenever I've communicated with him, he's been swell, and it was cool to meet him last summer. He loves promoting Boom! comics, which, given that he's the company's Marketing Director, is probably a good thing. As some of us have mentioned in the past, he sends us .pdfs of very, very many Boom! releases, which is awfully nice of him. Of course, we don't often review them, and my reason, at least, is that I just don't have time, nor do I like reading .pdfs. I just don't! Plus, I buy enough Boom! comics that I feel I do my part to get their name out there. Boom! has been releasing these Stan Lee-inspired books over the past few weeks, and Mosher teased me in an e-mail that I hadn't reviewed the most recent one - The Traveler, by Mark Waid and Chad Hardin. I just wasn't interested in it, though. However, I saw Starborn on the table this week, and the premise sounded pretty keen - a writer creates a fantasy world that turns out to be real - and Khary Randolph's art was very cool, so I picked it up. Perhaps it will keep Chip's hit squads away from me for a month or two!

Starborn is a good comic, as well, so there's that. Roberson introduces Ben Warner, an office drone who's written a fantasy/sci-fi novel about humans fighting against a hive mind collective that was once human, long ago. Of course, the hive mind wants to assimilate all humans, which kind of sucks. Roberson cleverly puts Ben in a similar situation in an office building, where being a drone gets you riches and women! Okay, maybe not, but it allows you to keep your job. Then Ben tells us that when he got a critique of his manuscript, he was told it was close to the work of an older author whose books he had never heard of. Somehow, however, his manuscript is remarkably similar to the older stuff, only told from a different point of view. Then, of course, people in his office turn into drones themselves and attack him, and he's rescued by a girl he grew up with who has just reappeared in his life. Isn't that always the way?

Roberson does a nice job with Ben, who's just some dude trying to get out of a dead-end job and ends up leaping off a building as it explodes. He's a bit of a doofus, but he's a good character to reel us in, because so many of us are doofuses. Roberson adds some humor, too - Ben is so confident about his manuscript that when it gets rejected, he's stymied (even though anyone who's ever written anything for publication knows what it is to get a rejection letter - I have a whole file of them!). Tara, his dream girl (and of course he never made a move on her), is an intriguing character, too, because she's far more than she seems, and it makes the reader wonder if it's really the girl he grew up with and even then she was something different or if someone is impersonating her to get Ben on her side. Randolph's crisp, angular art is extremely dynamic, and he does a nice job contrasting the novel world, where the art looks a tiny bit softer and Gerads' colors far more lush, with the "real" world, where the lines are bit more crisp and the coloring more muted. It works well and it's impressive when the drones enter the "real" world, because the two styles blend a bit. This seems like a book that needs an energetic art style, and Randolph certainly has that.

I skimmed the first few "Stan Lee" comics from Boom! and didn't think they were for me, even though I tend to like Paul Cornell and Mark Waid. The books didn't seem to interesting, and I'm not in love with Javier Pina or Chad Hardin. This book, however, has a really good hook, a nifty script, and wildly fun art. What's not to like?

One totally Airwolf panel:

Superboy #2 ("Smallville Attacks! Part Two") by Jeff Lemire (writer), Pier Gallo (artist), Jamie Grant (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Pretend you're Kelly Thompson for a minute. We all do this at some point during our days, right? Wait, is it only me? Whoops. (Tom, of course, often dresses like Kelly, but that's a whole other thing we don't need to get into right now.) Anyway, pretend you're Ms. Thompson. You've just sat down in your skin-tight catsuit to read your comics (if we've learned anything about chicks from Kelly's podcast, it's that they always do everything while wearing catsuits, as Kelly herself confirms!). You're sipping on a strawberry-banana daiquiri (remember, chicks don't drink manly alcohol like beer, so no Yuengling Black and Tan for Ms. Thompson!). You're using your boyfriend as an ottoman, because he's just lucky to have you, damn it! You pick up the latest issue of Superboy by Mr. Lemire and Mr. Gallo. Nothing but wholesome, all-American action in this one, right? You read the first page, then turn to page two, where you are confronted by this:

You sputter out your beverage all over your catsuit (your boyfriend dutifully cleans it up, because he's lucky to have you, damn it!), but you don't give up right away. I mean, what's one wedgie between friends, right? So you read on. You turn another page and see this:

You do an even more violent spit-take. Presumably you then throw down the comic, pick up the pliers, and begin to take out your frustrations on the nearest male person. Oh dear. Perhaps we should leave the scene ...

I really did chuckle when I read those first few pages. It's one of those ridiculous things that, thanks to the always-vigilant Ms. Thompson, I see a lot more when I read comics. I don't get as grumpy about it as she does, because I'm a mouth-breathing man, but I have started to wonder more about artistic choices and why on earth Ivy would go out without, you know, picking that wedgie. Plus, I really do fear that she might pop out of that sucker at any moment! I mean, she wouldn't care, being Ivy and all, but what would the DC censors say then?!?!?!? Oh, the horror of a green nipple!

This is a better issue than #1, and it makes me curious about the rest of the arc, so I'm definitely on board. Ivy convinces Conner that she wants to find out what's happening with the plants as much as he does, and he foolishly believes her. Come on, Conner - she's a villain! Don't trust the villain! Plus, as we know, popular culture at large teaches us to never trust the woman, so she's doubly suspicious! Of course she betrays him, but the overall story is still pretty neat - there's a weird machine with weird markings on it, there are creepy alien Amish farmers (well, I suppose they just look Amish, but how cool would it be if the Amish actually were aliens and had come to Earth to reject their alien technology that way?), and there's Simon Valentine, who's quickly become the best character in the book (see below). Gallo's art is still impressive if you don't mind the cheesecake, and Lemire does a good job moving everything along. I don't love an alien invasion plot (which I assumed was the case from the first credits page, which gave the name of the story arc), but as I always say, it's how it's done and not just the plot itself that matters. Lemire has made the first two issues work pretty well (especially this issue), so I'll stick around for a while.

I just hope the discipline doesn't get out of hand!!!!!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Thor: The Mighty Sad Because You Didn't Buy His Book Avenger #7 ("Robot") by Roger Langridge (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.

In Previews a few months ago, this issue was solicited. In the catalogue, Craig Rousseau is listed as the artist. Yet Chris Samnee draws this issue. I don't mind at all - I like Rousseau well enough, but I really dig Samnee - but I wonder what happened. Was it a mistake to list Rousseau as the artist? Was Samnee going to draw this issue all along? Or did they have Rousseau lined up before the cancellation hammer came down and once it did, Samnee decided to push through a few all-nighters fueled by nothing but Red Bull and sexy photos of Bella Abzug to finish this so that the entire run would have a unified look? Only Chris Samnee knows for sure, but as he only speaks Esperanto, not too many people can understand him! Oh dear.

Meanwhile, the collection the first four issues came out this week as well. Langridge writes on his blog that if it sells well, there's a possibility that Joey Q. will deign to allow he and Samnee to finish his grand 12-issue arc with a four-issue mini-series down the line a bit. (Langridge, presumably, had to approach Joey Q.'s throne - made from skulls of creators who displeased him - while bowing the entire way and had to wait until Mr. Q. was done with his meal of baby seal cutlets and Komodo dragon brains, but at least he got an audience and escaped with his life if not necessarily all of his fingers.) So go buy the trade if you've been waiting! It's a wonderful series, full of everything that made you fall in love with comics in the first place! Buy one for your mom for Christmas! Buy one for that grumpy dude down the street who's always letting his dog poop on your lawn, and maybe it will remind him of a time when his heart wasn't a black lump! Buy one for John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, and watch as their partisan shells crack and they realize that what's really important in this world is Thor (and steamy bipartisan canoodling, because this issue will inspire that, too)! Buy one as a wedding present for Prince William and his foxy fiancée, Kate Middleton! Buy one for Brian Wood so he can see what a real Viking comic looks like (oh, I'm kidding, Mr. Wood)! Thor: The Mighty Avenger just might be the book that unites the world in peace and harmony! Can you take the chance that it's not?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Oh, yeah, this issue. It's good. In a much more minor "Don't trust the woman" trope, Jane Foster keeps Thor from finding out what's going on in the town by, well, seducing him. Oh, Thor - you must resist her womanly wiles when bad guys are abroad! Oh, who am I kidding - who cares if the town gets destroyed? Thor got lucky! Whoo-hoo!

One totally Airwolf panel:

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #2 ("Live Fast, Die Young") by Nick Spencer (writer), CAFU (penciller), Bit (inker), ChrisCross (artist), Santiago Arcas (colorist), Brad Anderson (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $3.99, 30 pgs, FC, DC.

Art-wise, something feels off about this issue. I know it's two different artists drawing different parts of the book (CAFU handles the part that takes place in the present, while ChrisCross draws the "secret origin" of Lightning, which is a good bulk of the book), but here's what's weird: Henry Cosgei doesn't look like the same person in the two different sections. Obviously, he's going to look different because of the styles of the artist, but the two artists draw him with a different hairline, which bugs me (and probably only me) and even a totally different facial structure. I kind of wish they had at least tried to make him similar, because it's kind of annoying that the only reason I know, visually, that it's the same person is because he's the only black person in the comic.

It's still a pretty good issue, as Colleen and Toby take the team on their first mission and bicker a lot (Colleen doesn't like Toby). We also see Henry Cosgei and how he ends up working for the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. agents, and it's a pretty good bit of manipulation by the group, because while technically the recruits are volunteers (as Colleen manages to say with a straight face), it's clear they're put in a position where they really have no other place to go. Spencer's prose in the flashback sections is a little overwrought, but it does set up a phenomenal sequence at the end where we see what happens when the agents use their power. It's creepy and scary, but it works really well. So while not a lot happens in this issue, it's effective in getting the reader into the situation that these agents have to deal with. It's pretty keen.

This is the second straight issue that's 30 pages, which is weird. This week we had what I assume is the new DC format, as Booster Gold is 20 pages for $2.99 (and, weirdly, does feel a bit shorter even though Giffen and DeMatteis know how to use their page space very well), the old standard 22-page, $2.99 comic (Flash and Superboy), and this one. I certainly don't mind if every issue is $3.99 if it's 30 pages long, but how long is DC planning on doing this? I didn't bat an eye when they did it for the first issue, because it's a first issue. It's a little more unusual to see it in issue #2. I haven't checked to see what subsequent issues are like (and I don't trust their page counts, because they count advertisements as pages, and I don't). It's just a bit weird.

This is shaping into a pretty good series. As I wrote last time around, Spencer does beginnings very well, but I don't know enough about his writing to know if his endings work. I suppose we'll see soon enough!

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Batman Chronicles volume 10 by various 1940s creators. $14.99, 168 pgs, FC, DC.

This is about the time the Batman comics were starting to get a little goofy. I noticed there's a time traveler from the future in one of these stories. So, yeah. Goofy.

S.C.I-Spy by Doug Moench (writer) and Paul Gulacy (artist). $16.99, 130 pgs, FC, Image.

I've read plenty of Moench/Gulacy comics, so I'm fairly confident I'll like this one even though I haven't read any of their science fiction collaborations. Still, it's weird seeing Gulacy drawing naked women. I'm so used to seeing him almost draw naked women, so the fact that he's unrestrained in this is a bit strange.

I didn't get Welcome to Tranquility: One Foot in the Grave this week because of the weather problems. Oh well - I'll get it next week!

What's over there? Why, it's The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Fire Woman" - The Cult (1989) "My heart's a ball of burning flame"12. "Tiki 4" - Fish (2001) "Too weak for the angels to hear"3. "Higher Ground" - Red Hot Chili Peppers (1989) "I'm so darn glad He let me try it again"4. "Creatures of Habit" - Knots and Crosses (1990) "I reach out my empty hands but all I touch is air"5. "Gold" - Prince (1995) "What's the use of being young if you ain't gonna get old?"26. "Hey, Hey Helen" - ABBA (1975) "So you're free at last and beginning to forget the past"7. "Rastabilly" - Dead Milkmen (1985) "My baby's got a forehead and all the chicken you can eat"38. "Trial Before Pilate" - Barry Dennen, Bob Bingham, Ted Neeley (from Jesus Christ Superstar) (1971) "We both have truths - are mine the same as yours?"49. "Somewhere Else" - Marillion (2007) "Escaped to the car, drove to a bar somewhere"10. "Streetlife Serenader" - Billy Joel (1974) "Midnight masqueraders, shopping center heroes"

1 My wife and I have a long-running joke about how to write a Cult song: Lots of "fire," "woman," "shotgun," "baby baby baby baby baby," and "shake, shake, shake it." Stir, and repeat! You've written a Cult song! Congratulations!2 As far as Prince anthems go, this is far better than "Purple Rain" (and I like "Purple Rain"). It's weird to consider that it's far less popular, based only on musical tastes in 1984 as opposed to 1995. At least, I think it's weird.3 "Yeah, somebody kicked my dog Mavis and I'm gonna find out just who the hell it is."4 I know every single lyric in that musical, because it's awesome.

I forgot to have some last week, but not this week! It's the return of totally random lyrics!

"Do you wanna be the pillow Where I lay my head Do you wanna be the feathers Lying in my bed Do you wanna be the cover Of a magazine Create a scene"

Dang, that's easy. Even Bill Reed might know these lyrics!

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