What I bought - 8 February 2012

And I fervently believe that there will come a time when no one will be burned and no one beheaded; when the criminal will plead for death as a mercy and deliverance and death will be denied him, for life will serve as his punishment just as death does today; when there will be no senseless uniforms and rituals, no contracts and conditions binding feeling, no duties and responsibilities, and will shall yield to love alone, not to will; when there will be no husbands and wives, only lovers ... (Vissarion Belinsky, from Letters to V. P. Botkin, 1840-1841)

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #16 ("Love at First Mite") by Sholly Fisch (writer), Rick Burchett (penciller), Dan Davis (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Dezi Sienty (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Fisch ends the latest "Johnny DC" Batman series with a delightful issue, as Bat-Mite comes to town and falls in love with Batgirl. It's excellent. I will now list 20 awesome things in this comic, one for each page, in random order:

1. A reference to the Dingbats of Danger Street.2. Batman as Lucy van Pelt.3. "The Gotham City Really Big Office Supply Expo."4. An inflatable Bat-suit.5. Batgirl letting Bat-Mite down easy.6. An anvil. Anvils are awesome.7. Benday dots. Benday dots are awesome.8. Bat-Mite putting the romantic moves on Batgirl.9. Zatanna. Zatanna is awesome.10. A romance cover homage.11. Grumpy Batman.12. Batgirl marrying a broccoli-headed alien.13. "I'm frozen like a flippin' flounder!"14. The tantalizing possibility of a Batgirl: The Brave and the Bold comic book.15. A Bat-suit of medieval armor.16. A song from the Music Meister.17. Bat-Mite getting advice from comic books.18. The Mad Mod. The Mad Mod is awesome.19. Bat-Mite breaking the fourth wall to chide Batman.20. Giant scissors.

And that's not even every awesome thing in the comic. If I were you, I'd run, not walk, and pick this up. Put down that depressing issue of Suicide Squad and get this instead!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batwoman #6 ("Drown the World Part One") by J. H Williams III (writer), W. Haden Blackman (writer), Amy Reeder (penciller), Rob Hunter (inker), Richard Friend (inker), Guy Major (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

Amy Reeder takes over the art for this arc, in a move that's sure to be scrutinized by many who think Batwoman isn't all that good but gets props because of Williams's art. That's certainly a point (I think Williams and Blackman have been fine on the writing, but I get the point), so it will be interesting to see the reactions to Reeder, who has a different style than Williams does. She does a Williams-esque panel layout only once, on the title page (a double-page spread), but she still manages to keep the book visually interesting. She uses a thinner line than Williams does, and Hunter and Friend's inks don't help (she's been inked by Friend before, I'm pretty sure, but I'm not sure about Hunter, and I don't think Friend is a good inker for her), as they tend to keep her lines thin when she could use someone beefing them up a bit, as her figures look a bit too wispy, for lack of a better word (I'm sure there is one, but I'm not a walking thesaurus). Kate's new-ish costume (courtesy of the DEO) has a nice sheen to it, and I imagine it was colored directly from the pencils, but the inks don't give Reeder's pencils any personality, and if that's the case, why not forego inks altogether? Guy Major makes Kate less pale than Dave Stewart did, which means she doesn't look like such a ghoul when she's not in costume, which is nice. Reeder does some nice things - the scene with Maro on the beach (see below) is beautiful and horrific, as it's supposed to be, and Kate's conversation with Maggie is handled well. At the end of the book, when Kate is in costume, some of the panels don't work, but the two-page spread of Kate getting shot is excellent, as is the double-page spread of her recovering and telling the bad guys it's time for them to get their asses kicked. Reeder wouldn't necessarily be my first choice to follow Williams on the book (not only because I'm not if anyone can follow Williams on the book, but because her style doesn't seem to fit the tone of the comic), but this is not a bad start.

The story is interesting, and I hope that Williams and Blackman can keep it up to quiet the naysayers. It focuses on five (six if we count Batwoman and Kate as two different characters, which we can't but their stories are segregated, so there's that) different characters: Batwoman, Kate, Kate's father, Maggie Sawyer, Cameron Chase, and someone named Maro, who is involved in the disappearing children case. Batwoman's story is in the present, and the rest are taking place at various times in the past. It's a gimmick, sure, but it's a nifty gimmick, and if Williams and Blackman can pull it off, it will probably be a cool story. It's going to be difficult, I think, because of the page restrictions (this is 22 pages, and it would be nice if DC let them all be 22 pages), but we'll see how it all fits together at the end of the arc.

A few things annoy me, but they're minor. Mrs. Lopez is a total bitch, and I know that losing a child is probably the worst thing that can happen to a parent, but that doesn't mean she has to be such a bitch. I suppose we're supposed to feel sympathy for her, but showing her being a bitch isn't going to do it. Maro says that she wants the people to "start believing in monsters again." Considering she's talking about the people of motherfucking Gotham City, I think that sentiment is quite humorous. If any citizens in the DCU know about monsters, it's Gothamites. And is it me, or does Kate get up awfully quickly from a scythe wound in the gut? I guess she's running on adrenaline, but man, that was weird. Of course, I've never been scythed in the gut, so what the hell do I know, right?

Obviously, this isn't quite as good as the previous five issues of Batwoman, but it's still a pretty neat comic. I'm wondering if Reeder's work will shift to fit the tone of the book more. That would be neat.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Blue Estate #9 ("Survival Instinct") by Viktor Kalvachev (story/artist/colorist), Kosta Yanev (story), Andrew Osborne (scripter), Toby Cypress (artist), Robert Valley (artist), Peter Nguyen (artist), and Andy Kuhn (artist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Blue Estate continues to be wildly entertaining, as the twists in Kalvachev's story keep leading to new, weird places. Rachel and Roy Devine, Jr. are the focus in this issue, as Rachel wants the photographs Roy took and Roy wants money, which Rachel doesn't have, and all the bad guys now want Rachel for one reason or another ... it's still very complicated, but Kalvachev and Osborne have a good handle on all the ways the story has been going, and it's fun to see them rise up and sink back down based on the demands of the overall plot. This is a very funny issue, but one thing that makes Blue Estate so good is that even the minor characters have a lot of personality, so when one of them gets shot in the head in this issue, we actually feel a bit bad for him even though he's a killer for the mob. Over the course of the nine issues, we've gotten to know the characters pretty well, so the violence that affects them isn't just random violence.

Cypress seems to be the main artist on this issue (I could be wrong, of course), but as usual, the many different artists works. Kuhn's pages are the only ones that seem a bit off, and I'm not sure why. Kuhn tends to be more precise than the lines on these pages, so I'm not sure what the deal is. I like Kuhn's art, so if he's in later issues, I hope it looks a bit better.

"Season One" has only three more issues to go, and I'm very curious to see all the twists still in store for the readers. Blue Estate is just a wacky crime comic with a lot of interesting characters. I really dig it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Fearless Dawn: The Secret of the Swamp One-Shot by Steve Mannion (writer/artist/colorist), Frank Forte (colorist), and J. C Wong (colorist). $2.95, 26 pgs, FC, Asylum Press.

I have, as you might recall, a soft spot for Steve Mannion's Fearless Dawn, not because it's all that good, but because it's just insane silliness and sort-of innocent cheesecakery in the best pin-up tradition - sure, there's lots of skin, but it's all in good fun! Mannion, unfortunately, just isn't that great a writer, so his stories aren't that great, but his comics have a lot of verve and they look like sexy Mad magazine issues from the 1950s, and there ought to be a place for that in today's comics world, oughtn't there be?

Take this issue, for instance. Fearless Dawn (I'm not even going to go into why she's a superhero) and her kid sidekick, The Masked Kid, are in a swamp looking for a "secret" elixir that will make you rich. How? It's not important! They meet a crusty old pirate who gives them a locket for protection (how does it work? it's not important!) and then they encounter a monster (there he is on the cover). They defeat the monster and leave. What happened to their quest for the elixir? It's not important! What is important is that Mannion gets to draw a weird monster and Fearless Dawn gets to fight it. That's all that matters!!!!!

There's another two-page story where Fearless Dawn (her real name is Priscilla) gets changed in a phone booth. Yes, the only reason this story exists is so Mannion can draw her in her underwear. There are a couple of one-page stories that are actually pretty funny (one of them involves Will Smith) but also involve Mannion drawing women in various states of undress. It's all in good fun!

Mannion really is part of a long tradition of pin-up artists, and the fact that he simply makes these comics and cares not a whit about logic is rather refreshing. If you've never seen Mannion's art, you should check it out, because he really does have a nice style. He's apparently doing something right now that's pencils only, which should be gorgeous (his pencil work seems more precise than his inked and colored work, which occasionally looks sloppy). Fearless Dawn is certainly a silly comic, but that's one of the reasons why I love it. Mannion is simply having a blast drawing monsters and scantily-clad ladies. Can I get an "Amen"?!?!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Next Men: Aftermath #40 ("Mosaic") by John Byrne (writer/artist), Ronda Pattison (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Byrne begins his final (presumably) story arc on Next Men with Jasmine on an Earth gone mad, as you can see from the cover - there are dinosaurs covered with feathers (I assume they're feathers; it doesn't look like fur), a cave man, Roman soldiers, and that space dude, who turns out to be an actor on a 1950s sci-fi show. They encounter a space ship with a crew that had been on an exploration and can't explain what happened to the world either. Meanwhile, there's a brief interlude in 1975 in which a few people speak cryptically (of course they do), plus the three mysterious strangers watching the proceedings from a hill not far away. The big shock is who those people are, which is revealed on the last page.

Byrne had his characters futz with the status quo at the end of issue #39 (#9 in the IDW series), so I suppose this final arc will be about trying to fix that mistake. It's an interesting beginning - for all his faults, Byrne knows how to tell an adventurous story while juggling a lot of subplots, and that's what we're getting here, it seems. It's probably not the best place to jump on, but it's certainly not the worst place - we don't get a lot of the back story, but if you like a weird, twisty story, this is pretty good, and you don't need to have been reading to be shocked by the reveal at the end. So that's nice.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Northlanders #48 ("The Icelandic Trilogy Part Seven: War 1260") by Brian Wood (writer), Danijel Zezelj (artist), Dave McCaig (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

The final part of the final story of Northlanders begins over two hundred years after the previous one, and Wood examines the Haukssons in their "middle age," so to speak, after they've triumphed over their enemies and are fairly stable and the patriarch, Godar, has no interest in upsetting the apple cart. His son, Oskar, of course wants to go out and win martial glory, and his very own Lady Macbeth, Freya, encourages him in this. Wood often works generational conflicts into his work, and this is an obvious example, as Oskar and Freya decide to defy the old man (but not kill him, as Oskar takes great offense at patricide) and go to war regardless of the cost. Oskar claims that it's necessary, because Iceland has become a prize for Haakon IV of Norway (under whom Norway achieved its greatest extent) and the Haukssons need to stop Haakon from claiming the island (they failed; in 1262 Iceland became part of the Norwegian kingdom and it didn't achieve full independence again until 1944). So this issue is basically Oskar convincing Godar to cede control of the family to him, and the next two issues, I suppose, will see the family destroyed because of Oskar and Freya's hubris. Isn't that always the way? I'm a bit puzzled by the page on which Freya slaughters a lamb. It seems like such a Biblical metaphor, and I'm wondering if she's more devious than we might think. Why else would Wood put that page in the book?

Zezelj returns to the book, and like the other artists in this series, he does a wonderful job with the starkness of Iceland. Zezelj's harsh, rigid lines fit the hardness of the island, and his final image of a crow flying above the father and son as they separate is beautiful. Wood has always made good choices with the artists on this series, and Zezelj is no exception.

I'll miss Northlanders. But that's okay - 50 issues of Vikings is fairly impressive!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Severed #7 (of 7) ("Home Is Where the Heart Is") by Scott Snyder (writer), Scott Tuft (writer), Attila Futaki (artist), Greg Guilhaumand (colorist), and Fonografiks (letterer). $2.99, 28 pgs, FC, Image.

This is the final issue of the mini-series, and I have a lot to write about, so SPOILERS below. You've been warned.

So I'm getting a bit worried about Scott Snyder, because he seems to have some problems ending his stories. His very good run on Detective ended weakly, and now we get the final issue of Severed, which is a really, really bad comic book. I'm sorry, but it is. Let's review:

Jack ran away from home to find his father, who abandoned him and never bothered to look him up. Jack ended up in Chicago, hanging out with a girl named Sam. They met a dude who told them he can give them a ride south to Mississippi, where Jack believed his father was. This dude is a maniac who eats children, and at one point, he killed Sam. Jack still goes with him (he believed the dude when the dude told him Sam just took off), but when they reached the house, Jack realized the dude was playing him and was planning on killing and eating him. The dude tied Jack up, and that's where this issue begins. Now, Sam is dead. I kept wondering if Snyder and Tuft were going to reveal that she wasn't really dead, because her death is absolutely idiotic - she was far too smart to fall for the stupid way the evil dude trapped her, and I think we can even chalk her up as a Woman in a Refrigerator because her function in the story seems to be to get killed so we can see how horrible the evil dude is. Considering that she and Jack had a pretty good relationship, it still seems wildly stupid of Jack to accept the evil dude's explanation of what happened to her (before Jack discovers that he killed her, that is). Her death actually makes me angry, because she didn't seem like a throwaway character and this comic didn't seem like a crappy horror movie like, say, Shark Night (to pull a random shitty movie out of my ass), but I guess it is and the only reason for Sam to exist is so she could get killed.

Anyway, this issue. It turns out Evil Dude was writing Jack letters pretending to be his father in order to lure Jack out. Okay. So then E.D. heats up a cleaver and chops Jack's arm clean off above the elbow. This happens in between panels, mind you. He goes through layers of skin and a bone in seconds, which is pretty damned impressive (it usually takes me a few minutes, at least - wait, did I type that out loud?). He's about to slice up the arm when someone knocks on the door. Jack starts shouting for help. Consider: Seconds earlier, Jack's arm was chopped clean off. Not only is there hardly any blood (yes, you could argue that the heated cleaver cauterized the wound, but let's be serious here), but Jack isn't in shock at all. Really? Then, Evil Dude decides to answer the door, leaving Jack alone. I know he thinks he's invincible, but why doesn't he just ignore the door? Why would the person at the door keep knocking if they thought no one was home? It turns out that it's Jack's adoptive mother, so maybe she'd be persistent, but if no one answers, I imagine she'd come back later. Whatever. E.D. invites her in and drugs her, saying they're going to eat Jack together. Meanwhile, down in the basement, Jack has managed, with one arm, to get out of the ropes holding him suspended above the floor and get a blade to fight the Evil Dude. In the one panel that shows him working out of the ropes, the floor beneath him is covered in blood, yet, once again, Jack isn't unconscious and dying because of lack of blood. I mean, there's a lot of blood, people. E.D. put a tourniquet on his arm (well, a belt), but again, that's pushing credulity. Jack, who throughout the series has acted like a scared idiot, suddenly becomes Rambo and slashes away at the Evil Dude, knocks him down into the basement, and eventually manages to blow the house up. With two arms he could barely tie his shoes, but now he's a One-Armed Van Damme (that was the name of my thrash metal band in college). Then, as the final idiocy, it turns out Evil Dude is immortal. Of course he is. I have no problem with this idea of evil living forever, even though it's a horrible cliché, but Snyder and Tuft don't even try to explain how this dude manages to do it. I mean, yes, it's all supernatural and shit, but they couldn't even try to explain? We've already seen this in Snyder's Detective Comics, where James Gordon Jr. ought to be dead because of all the shit he went through and he's also evil just because. That's not clever and it's not particularly terrifying, it's sloppy.

I'm really angry at this comic book, because it had a pretty good premise but Snyder and Tuft, it seems, went for the absolute lowest common denominator, and the book slowly turned into a schlocky gore fest with absolutely nothing interesting to say. It's just an excuse to show some Evil Dude being evil, and who really cares? Blech. Avoid this comic like the plague when it comes out in trade. You'll thank me down the line.

I liked the first trade of American Vampire, and for the most part, I dug Snyder's Detective Comics, but this makes me nervous about getting the trades of Batman and Swamp Thing. Yes, that's how bad this comic is. That's depressing. Maybe it's all Tuft's fault, but I'm not going to put it all on him. This is a joint effort of suckiness! Too bad.

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ (mainly because of Futaki's art, which is pretty neat)

One totally Airwolf panel:

Zorro Rides Again #8 (of 12) by Matt Wagner (writer), John K. Snyder III (artist), Sendol Studios (colorist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.

I guess Snyder will be the artist for the rest of Zorro Rides Again, which is perfectly fine with me, as I wrote last time around. Snyder has a distinct style, and that goes a long way in comic book art. He really does make Zorro look like a more supernatural figure than Esteve Polls did in the first half of the story, and that works nicely to set our hero apart from the rest of the characters - he should be slightly out of sync with the rest of the world, because you don't see a lot of masked dudes dressed in black riding around slashing people with their swords, do you? Anyway, Wagner has been setting up this new female character for a while, and at the end of this, she's off on a horse to do ... something, so I guess we'll find out next issue!

As we enter the home stretch, there's not much to say about this series, I guess. It's Zorro. It's swashbuckling, it's adventurous, it's exciting, Diego is charming, the poor are being taxed too much and their hero is going all Ron Paul on the alcalde - you know what's going on!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Dotter of Her Father's Eyes by Mary M. Talbot (writer) and Bryan Talbot (artist). $14.99, 89 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Talbot writes a coming-of-age story (sigh) autobiography (double sigh) that's contrasted with a similar story about James Joyce's daughter (hmmm ...). That sounds like a more intriguing take on the coming-of-age story than usual, and Bryan Talbot is, you know, pretty damned good. I ought to read some furshlugginer Joyce one of these days. I've only read "The Dead," and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. None of the really weird stuff. Do I really want to delve into that crap at my advanced age?

The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde by Cole Haddon (writer), M. S. Corley (artist), Jim Campbell (colorist), and Richard Starkings (letterer). $14.99, 95 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Trades are awesome, aren't they?


In our links section, in case you haven't been "Before Watchmen"-ed to death, check out the best Twitter reactions to the news. "Watchmen Babies" by Katie Cook (the first one) sounds like it needs to happen right motherfucking now.

I was listening to Adele's 21 (yes, I still listen to entire CDs occasionally) and I reached the end of it, where her cover of "Lovesong" resides. "Lovesong" is, of course, one of the worst songs ever recorded, and what's interesting about it is that there's never even been a good cover version of it. I mean, the original sucks donkey balls, but I've heard a couple of covers over the years, and they suck too. It's by a very wide margin the worst song on 21, which is ranges from pretty good to hot damn! this is awesome ("Rumour Has It" kicks so much ass). God, I hate "Lovesong." Why on earth do artists like it? It's shit.

In local politics (because you might not be annoyed enough with national politics), the Arizona legislature is at it again, with Senate Bill 1474 heading out of committee for a vote in front of the full Senate. 1474, in case you don't want to read it (boy howdy, it's fascinating!) would allow people 21 years or older with a valid permit to carry guns ... on college campuses. Because I honestly can't think of a place full of more responsible, sober, emotionally stable people than college campuses. The colleges would have the option to ban the guns from classrooms if they provide secure gun lockers ... which the legislature, naturally, will not fund. I always say I hate living in Arizona, but occasionally, it's fun just because of the sheer insanity of our politicians. A bunch of people, including dozens of law enforcement officers, have testified that this is quite possibly the stupidest idea ever, but our politicians, glancing nervously at the NRA representatives and their buckets of cash in the back of the room, ignored them. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! Our cantankerous governor, seen here telling the president to eat his Brussels sprouts, has already vetoed one bill like this (one thing I do like about Brewer is she's free with the veto stamp), but who knows if she'll be able to resist the siren song of the NRA this time?!?!? Oh, Arizona - you so crazy!

In case you don't have enough to do, you can now follow my daughter Norah on Twitter. Yes, my daughter is six years old and she's on Twitter. Okay, it's not really her - as many six-year-olds do, Norah says many wacky things, and my lovely wife used to post them on Facebook, but I told her she should set up a Twitter account for it. So it's my wife posting the oddball things Norah says, but it's still fun. Of all the Comics Should Be Good bloggers on Twitter, it appears Sonia has the most followers with 1505. Surely Norah deserves more than that, because as cool as Sonia is (and trust me, she's very cool), does she describe an eggroll as a "crunchy tortilla with vegetables," as our good Arizona child recently did? I think not!

Yes, it's time once again for The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Good Time Boys"1 - Red Hot Chili Peppers (1989) "We're the best of the west and the west is ours"2. "Jerusalem" - Steve Earle (2002) "Well maybe I'm only dreamin' and maybe I'm just a fool, but I don't remember learnin' how to hate in Sunday school"3. "Misunderstanding" - Genesis (1980) "I was waiting in the rain for hours and you were late"4. "Leave It" - Yes (1983) "Uptown they're digging it out, better lay your claim"5. "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp" - Led Zeppelin (1970) "The road we choose is always right"6. "Vampire" - People In Planes (2008) "Let me taste your blood 'cause I'm in pain"7. "He Got Game"2 - Public Enemy (1998) "My wanderin' got my ass wondering where Christ is in all this crisis"8. "Paperlate" - Genesis (1982) "It's too easy to compute your future, taking no risks, and playing too safe"9. "Sexy M. F." - Prince (1992) "I got wet dreams coming out of my ears"10. "Muzzle" - Smashing Pumpkins (1995) "And the world is drawn into your hands, and the world is etched upon your heart"

1 Once again, a video makes me miss the incredible goofiness that was the 1980s.

2 While I was down in Key West last week, we saw a lot of bar bands. They were all single acoustic singers or two-man outfits, and they were playing a lot of folksy-type music. I said that one of them should play all acoustic versions of rap songs and cited LL Cool J's monumental acoustic version of "Mama Said Knock You Out" as an example, but I also brought up this song, because "For What It's Worth" is such a big part of it. The very next day, we heard two dudes singing a sped-up acoustic version of "Gin and Juice," and it was freakin' awesome. Yes, I know others have done it (here's a good version), but that doesn't make it less awesome. You could have a nice career in bars playing nothing but rap songs on your acoustic guitar, I reckon.

So that's it's for this week. Maybe next week I'll get to read Atomic Robo, which didn't make it to the wastelands of AZ this week. Damn you, Bill Reed!

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