What I bought - 8 July 2010

Actually, his statement in its entirety was, "The rich are the most discriminated-against minority in the world. Openly or covertly, everybody hates the rich because, openly or covertly, everybody envies the rich. Me, I love the rich. Somebody has to love them. Sure, a lot o' rich people are assholes, but believe me, a lot o' poor people are assholes, too, and an asshole with money can at least pay for his own drinks." (Tom Robbins, from Jitterbug Perfume)

Batman and Robin #13 ("Batman and Robin Must Die! Part 1: The Garden of Death") by Grant "My hair was only stifling all my ideas!" Morrison (writer), Frazer "Don't even ask about Gutsville!" Irving (artist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC.

There's not a whole lot to write about the latest issue of Batman and Robin, as Morrison gets back to slowly aligning this title with Bruce Wayne's return. It's a better-than-average Morrison Batman comic, with a dynamite beginning and a fascinating look at the Joker and why he became Oberon Sexton. As usual, Morrison gets the characters very well - when Damian begins ranting at the Joker, the Joker cringes and says that he sounds just like the old Batman. It's a nifty little moment. Generally, it's just a chapter in the God of All Comics' long Batman saga, and your enjoyment of it will probably be predicated on how much you like Irving. Irving isn't perfectly suited to modern-day Batman work, but he still gives us some very cool images, even though the Joker's head looks weirdly out of place on his body. But it's still Frazer Irving, and I dig Frazer Irving, so I dig this issue. It's MATH!

I should point out that Morrison must have greater powers than I thought. I don't know if you noticed this, but in the center of this issue is the advertisement for that new Wii game that's been running in comics recently. That's the only ad in this comic. Compare that to the issue below this one, which has 9 pages of ads sprinkled throughout. I don't know why Morrison's comic is exempt from the increased peppering of comics with ads, but perhaps it's that funky magic he practices. It has to be something!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman: Odyssey #1 (of 12) by Neal Adams (writer/artist), Michael Golden ("inking associate"), Continuity Studios (colorist), and Rob Leigh (letterer). $3.99, 25 pgs, FC, DC.

I'm sure most people will get this based on Adams' work on Batman 40 (!) years ago and not based on his subsequent comics work, which is spotty at best, but readers should keep in mind that Adams didn't actually write those Batman comics. It's kind of important. I doubt if I will continue getting this because it's 12 issues at 4 bucks a pop and I'm sure the trade paperback will be more economical. Plus, it's kind of a mess.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the art, which is superb. Adams gives us busy and interesting but never confusing layouts, and while his perspective is screwed up a few times to cram more into a panel, it doesn't interfere very much with the storytelling, which is smooth and fluid. Adams draws a powerful and dynamic Batman, and it shows that while Morrison might want to have written a "hairy-chested love god" when he started on Batman, it helps to have an artist who can bring that dream to life, and with the exception of Andy Kubert, he hasn't really had an artist who can come close to matching what Adams can do with the character. This Batman looks like he would burst into Ra's al Ghul's tent, shirtless, and fight him with a sword. It's a gorgeous comic book.

Adams' writing skills, however, aren't up to the task. This is where the book is a mess. I can't even find a good entry point to write about how screwed-up this story is. On the early pages, Batman is trying to stop some bad guys from destroying a train, and he's using pistols to do it. Then it seems that this is happening in virtual reality. Is it? Beats me. Then Kirk Langstrom shows up for no reason, and he's in the cave, he knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, and neither Bats nor Robin seems put out by it at all. Then there's some actually clever misdirection by the Riddler (who doesn't appear in the book; he sends messages to taunt the cops and Batman), but it's still an odd plot that swirls around a bit before it gets going. The biggest issue is with the way Adams writes the characters - Batman is almost goofy in some scenes and completely callous in others, while Robin seems to be the hard-ass. I know that Adams was supposed to do some work on All Star Batman and Robin with Crazy Frank, and this feels like Adams is channeling Crazy Frank but because he's not as crazy, it's softened a little bit. It's really all over the place in the plotting and the characterization. Although I don't mind weird beginnings to mini-series that will eventually work themselves out, just the way Adams writes this doesn't fill me with confidence. I am kind of interested in seeing folk hippie Aquaman next issue, though, but it's not enough to get me to come back.

There is some good stuff in here, but I'm still not going to keep buying it. I wish Adams had either hooked up with a good writer or could write better himself, because this looks so good. But for 48 dollars, it's just not worth it. Oh well.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Casanova #1 ("Execution Days"/"I Think I Almost Loved Him") by Matt Fraction (writer), Gabriel Bá (artist, "Execution Days"), Fábio Moon (artist, "I Think I Almost Loved Him"), Cris Peter (colorist), and Dustin K. Harbin (letterer). $3.99, 39 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

Back when Casanova first started, I wasn't as high on it as some people. Perhaps because of the format, it seemed that Fraction was really jamming stuff into the pages and it wasn't all working. But that was in single-issue format, and as it went along, it just kept getting better and better. So now that we get two issues in one, it's a bit easier to see a grand scheme, but even if you don't and you picked this up because you missed it the first time around, I just want to reassure you that it gets a LOT better. And if you weren't confused about what the hell is going on in this issue, it still gets better!

Of course, the big change is the coloring, which works quite well, especially in the panel below. I dig that they leave the original colors (or, more likely, simply recolor it to look like the original) in the flashback to Zephyr's funeral; it makes a nice contrast and reminds us what it looked like originally. And I have to check the originals, because it looks like this might have been re-lettered - a few words look pasted over something else. But that could just be me.

Those of you who didn't get Casanova the first time are in for a treat. Fraction messes with different timelines, different versions of the same people, and all sorts of wild ultra-violence. What's great about Casanova is that it starts off so crazily but also sets up some wonderful character moments later in the series - we get a sense of Casanova's odd relationship with his sister, Zephyr, in this issue, and it will pay off later. This comic is the reason I was excited by what Fraction could do at Marvel and why I was so disappointed with that first arc of Invincible Iron Man (even if it's gotten better, as I hear). I doubt if Casanova will be a big seller, but I'm sure it will reach a bigger audience than it did originally, and that's a good thing. And hey - this seems to indicate that Fraction will be able to continue with the series now! Yay!

Buy Casanova. You'll be glad you did.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Critical Millennium #1 (of 4) ("The Dark Frontier Chapters I and II: Edge and Verge") by Andrew E. C. Gaska (writer), Daniel Dussault (artist), and Nina L. Kester (letterer). $3.95, 36 pgs, FC, Archaia.

This new comic from Archaia is extremely intriguing, even though it's not perfect (what comic is, right?). It begins with a nice premise - the first faster-than-light space ship traveling to the stars goes horribly wrong, as the crew gradually dies off (or is, you know, killed) and the final survivor enters a strange part of space where his ship is taken apart by black tentacles, strips him naked, keeps him alive somehow, and takes him to a giant floating entity (see below). Then we're thrown back 33 months to find out how everyone got there. It's an old technique, but it's tried and true, and Gaska gets us right into the story with the wild beginning. We're introduced to Thomm Coney and Eryc Kartoneas, two extremely rich young men (Thomm has just inherited the world's largest fortune at 17 due to the suspicious deaths of his parents) who are bored out of their minds. It's about a thousand years in the future, and the Earth is not in good shape. Most of the animals are extinct, the environment is shot to hell, and most of the population lives in squalor. Gaska does a good job showing us how the world is without being too overt about it, and so when we see the prime minister of "India" (it's not called India, but it is, and it's obviously the most powerful country on the planet) help butcher a pod of dolphins (one of eight left in the world) to keep Japanese hunting traditions alive, it's much more visceral than being told the world is going to shit. Gaska also does a nice job showing the racism inherent in the ruling system - in this world, white people are a minority, called "ghosts," and they're living on the margins of society. Some scientists who worked for Thomm's grandfather visit him on his birthday and tell him their only hope to save humanity is to colonize other planets, and Thomm and Eryc immediately sign up. Of course, other forces are trying to get to space as well, which is where the intrigue comes from. And, of course, we know how the mission ends up, so that shadows the book as well.

It's a well-told tale, full of nice details (a space elevator right out of Arthur C. Clarke, for instance) and good political intrigue. For me, good science fiction deviates only a little from our society, in order to highlight the differences but also stress the similarities. So even though the North American continent is largely sunk, we still feel like the people in this book are still dealing with some of the problems we have, with some interesting changes.

Dussault's art is fascinating, too. He really goes all out transforming this crazy script - the opening scenes in space are epic and insane, and his scenes of an overcrowded and dying world hit us hard as well. It's a violent and sexual book, with blood and nudity quite rampant (as befits the life of a bored, rich teenager who likes to shoot things). Dussault also zooms well from crowded and dreary New Bombay to the wide-open beach where the prime minister slaughters the dolphin, and it all looks quite good. He uses an odd mix of manga stylings, a bit of John K. Snyder and even some Matt Wagner to create his look. The coloring isn't perfect - in a world where white people are the persecuted minority, some of the dark-skinned majority look a bit too pale, but that's not too big a deal, especially as Gaska makes sure we know who's who throughout the book. Gaska and Dussault pack the book with information and plot (not a lot of wasted space here), but it still flies along, mainly because they check in on a bunch of different characters and even the plot points are given when something interesting is happening in the art.

This is a pretty cool debut. It sounded intriguing when it was solicited, and I'm happy to see that the first issue, at least, lives up to it. I look forward to the rest of the story.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Demo #6 (of 6) ("Sad and Beautiful World") by Brian Wood (writer), Becky Cloonan (artist), and Jared K. Fletcher (letterer). $2.99, 27 pgs, BW, DC/Vertigo.

If you've been waiting for the trade of Demo, I would certainly recommend it. Cloonan's art has been superb throughout, and one thing Wood is not afraid to do is challenge himself and the readers, even if it doesn't quite work, like this issue. I'll get to that. Wood writes illustrated short stories (which is what these are, after all) almost better than anyone working in comics, and I love reading them even if I don't love the story itself (if that makes any sense), mainly because he's so good at creating real characters so quickly and giving them incredible depth in only a few pages. Even when the story itself isn't great, it's amazing how well Wood gets us into it.

Take this story. Wood tells a tale of two lovers who can't touch each other but also can't leave each other. Both situations cause them actual physical pain and apparently, wounds. Wood doesn't explain this condition, and that's where the story breaks down a bit. Wood, I'm sure, would say he doesn't have to explain it - it just is, and usually I'd agree with him. I didn't care why the dude could breathe underwater or how the girl moved through time, after all. But what he does in this story is take a metaphorical situation - two people who love and hate each other because their emotions are so complicated - and make it literal, and it makes less sense. I can accept two people who don't know how to live with each other but whose passion is such they can't live apart, but when the relationship opens wounds on their bodies and sends them to the hospital, it makes a little less sense, and I wish for an explanation. Without it, it just reminds us of stories where the wounds aren't so literal, and which are therefore more potent. Jack and Kris have a complicated relationship, and I suppose the point is that Wood wanted to show that as obviously as possible, but the great thing about most of what Wood writes is that it's not obvious. This is a poignant love story, but it loses some of its poignancy when Wood externalizes it. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Still, get the trade. The stories, even this one, have many beautiful moments, and the art is strong. We don't get enough of this kind of writing in mainstream comics, so it's cool to see Wood doing it. And I doubt a trade will be too expensive, either! It's Vertigo, after all!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Elephantmen #26 ("Questionable Things Part Three of Seven: Three Wishes") by Richard Starkings (writer), Andre Szymanowicz (artist, pgs 1-5), Vince Lee (breakdowner, pgs 6-13), Moritat (finisher, pgs 6-13), Boo Cook (finisher, pgs 6-13), Axel Medellin (artist, pgs 14-22), Marian Churchland (artist, pgs 23-24), and Gregory Wright (colorist). $3.50, 24 pgs, FC, Image.

Even though this came out a few weeks ago, it just arrived in my mail box (actually next to my door, because the mail guy was nice enough to not jam it into our tiny mail space), so here it is. I'd thank Starkings for sending it to me, but I'll see him in two weeks, so I'll thank him then!

Starkings' story continues to unfold nicely, as he gives us a bunch of threads that make up the grand narrative and will, presumably, come together at some point. We get some background on Janis Blackthorne, the sexy cop on the cover who has a bone to pick with the elephantmen but fights alongside them in this issue, and we also see Sahara disguising herself and wandering the streets, which draws the attention of one of the evil androids. There's a lot going on in this issue, but as usual, Starkings did such a good job laying the groundwork that he can zip back and forth between the stories without leaving us behind.

The problem with the issue is that it's still not settled on an artist, and while that's not too bad a problem when one artist does the entire issue and then another does another entire issue, the shifts in styles in the comic are a bit weird. The transition from Szymanowicz to Lee/Moritat/Cook isn't too jarring because the styles are a bit similar, but Medellin's style is much more cartoony, and then we get Churchland's much softer work, and it's just some odd transitions. Each artist is good in his or her own right (Medellin's is probably the weakest, but it's not bad), but the book has a disjointed feel to it, especially when different characters show up drawn by different people (which Starkings tries to avoid, but it does happen). I don't mind the different artists on individual issues, but it's a bit annoying dealing with it in one issue. I have a feeling that, as Starkings is following different threads, that we'll get this stylistic shift in future issues, but I hope not. We shall see.

Elephantmen is still a fine read, of course. The art notwithstanding, it remains a very thought-provoking and gripping read, and I always look forward to seeing what Starkings comes up with next.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gødland #32 ("Meta-Rumble in the Asphalt Jungle") by Joe Casey (writer), Tom Scioli (artist), Bill Crabtree (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Our own Chad Nevett has his own theory about what happens in this issue, and while I'm not ready to make that leap (although I certainly wouldn't put it past Casey), this is still a typically wild issue of everyone's favorite cosmic comic, and in keeping with what he's been doing recently on the book, Casey is upping the ante once again. A few years ago, I wrote that Gødland wasn't quite as daring as his early Oughts Wildstorm work, but he's been changing that for a few issues, and in this one, we get a faceful of awesome, with Scioli giving us 7 straight double-page spreads to convey the power and impact of Friedrich Nickelhead's war against the Almighty Decimator and what he learns during the fight. The pages are nicely inventive, too, as Scioli manages to tell Casey's story in a straight-forward way even though he's eschewing panel borders and showing all sorts of odd things from Nickelhead's past and what else is happening while the battle rages. Part of the reason Chad thinks what he does is because of the brilliant page where Nickelhead emerges, full-grown like Athena, from the pages of old Marvel and DC comics. It's a tremendous moment in a book full of them. And, of course, there's that final page, which is brilliant as well.

Casey began this series as a cosmic adventure and although it quickly metamorphosed into something a little deeper, it remained a text much like any other text. It's a mark of Casey's excellence that he's kept the cosmic grandeur (aided, of course, by Scioli) but continued to turn the book into something much more interesting and subversive, which is what made those Wildstorm books so good. Every time Gødland comes out, I love it a little more. After 32 issues, that's an impressive achievement.

One totally Airwolf panel (sans caption, but you can click on each side to embiggen them!):

Kill Shakespeare #3 (of 12) ("The Fool Doth Think That He is Wise") by Conor McCreery (writer), Anthony Del Col (writer), Andy Belanger (artist), Ian Herring (colorist), and Chris Mowry (letterer). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, IDW.

I'm not entirely sure how McCreery and Del Col will get 12 issues out of this series, but I suppose they've plotted it out, so there's that. This continues to be a fun series if you don't take it too seriously (the tag line reads something about Shakespeare's heroes fighting Shakespeare's villains, and to be so reductionist about Shakespeare's plays misses the point and simplifies them far too much), especially if you have some vague knowledge of Shakespeare - when we first see Lady Macbeth, for instance, we know immediately that she's bad news, even if her hapless husband does not. And the fact that Falstaff and Hamlet dress like prostitutes to hide from Richard III's men works within the context of the issue but also is a nice callback to men playing all the parts in Shakespeare's plays. Del Col and McCreery continue to give us a nice, rousing adventure, and Belanger continues to make it worth looking at. His work is big and bold (helped by Herring's vibrant colors), even when he shrinks the panels or squeezes a lot onto each page. His Puck is creepy, slightly terrifying, but also radiant, and the final few pages, when Macbeth realizes he's in a bad situation, is scary, as Belanger shows his fate from his perspective, which adds to the terror.

Kill Shakespeare isn't a great comic (it could still be, I suppose), but it's very entertaining. That ain't a bad thing, I tells ya!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scalped #39 ("Unwanted Part One") by Jason Aaron (writer), R. M. Guéra (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Guéra returns after a few issues off, and it's always good to see. The guest artists are generally quite good, but Guéra's look really defines this book, from the characters to the crowded pages to the squalor on the fringes of the pages, and I'm always happy when he comes back. And Aaron picks up the main thread of the story with Carol's pregnancy and whether she's going to keep it or not (all signs point to yes). Aaron contrasts her situation with her mother's, who also wanted to get an abortion and was stopped by Red Crow. Meanwhile, Shunka knows something is up with Dash, who is a bit desperate because he can't find his drugs. Oh, and there's the last page, which is sure to throw a spanner in the works. It's very much a first issue of an arc, as Aaron is taking the pieces from the previous few issues and maneuvering them into place for some kind of devastating resolution. You know, like Aaron does so well.

As usual, this is a very good issue of Scalped. I know, surprise, surprise.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Scarlet #1 by Brian Michael Bendis (writer), Alex Maleev (artist), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer). $3.95, 29 pgs, FC, Marvel/Icon.

Man, I don't know where to start with this. Let's see.

I don't make too much of a secret about the fact that I'm wildly cynical. I'm actually not cynical about individual people - my wife points out that I'm probably too trusting for my own good, while she's too suspicious for her own good - but I'm very, very cynical about any kind of institution. That's not a shock, nor is it too unique in today's world. Many comic book writers, for instance, are cynical! But my cynicism extends beyond the usual institutions to things that good liberals aren't supposed to be cynical about. Which brings me to issue #1 of Scarlet, in a way.

You see, Bendis is cynical in this book about the police. Scarlet, our heroine, tells a story about the time she and her friends were hanging out in Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland when they were hassled by the cops. One cop, who happens to be addicted to cough syrup, starts patting them down for no reason, and when he gets a bit frisky with Scarlet, her boyfriend punches him and then runs for it. A few pages later, the cop shoots Gabriel dead and shoots Scarlet but doesn't kill her. When she wakes up in the hospital, she sees in the newspaper that the printed story makes Gabriel out to be a violent drug dealer and the officer who shot him a hero. There's one line of truth in the story - Gabriel assaulted the officer. Scarlet, bitter with life, decides to start killing criminals. The issue actually begins with her killing a crooked cop. So there's that.

I hated the entire "origin story" of this issue. Bendis might be cynical about the police (or at least in this issue he is), but while I'm cynical about the police, I'm also cynical about his cynicism! So many loops! I have to call bullshit on this story. Maybe cops walk up to people who are sitting, not doing anything vaguely lawbreaking, in a very popular public place where a lot of actual stoners hang out (believe you me) and hassle them, and maybe the cop's partner doesn't say anything at all, and maybe the cop would get a bit "hands-on" with a female suspect, and maybe the cop would follow the suspect into a bookstore without his partner saying, "Let it go, man," and maybe the cop would shoot two unarmed people with, apparently, no witnesses around, and maybe the one newspaper would report it the way that paper does. That's a lot of "maybes," though. I imagine that cops shooting people, especially unarmed ones, is a fairly serious offense (even if the one victim is a drug lord) and Internal Affairs would launch an investigation. Even if the cop's partner protected the thin blue line, there had to be many witnesses in the square and in the bookstore (which I hope wasn't Powell's, because that's awfully far away from the square, but even so, did the cop clear everyone out before killing Gabriel?) to at least make the cop's story sound weak, and if IA investigates anything, they'll discover he's an addict and everything about his story falls apart. It sounds as if none of that happened, especially as it's been long enough for Scarlet to grow her hair back (the cop's bullet creases her skull and the doctors shaved it all). This story stinks, and it seems like something Bendis threw together so that the cop-hating hippies who read comics would shout "Yeah!" when Scarlet starts killing the po-po.

All this is moot if, as the panel below suggests, Scarlet is nuts. She considers the possibility, of course, and I do hope Bendis is clever enough to suggest she was a bit unbalanced either before the shooting or because of the shooting (she does sustain a head injury, after all). Based on one issue, it's crap. But going forward, it might be something Bendis chooses to toy with.

I have yet another problem with this issue, and that's Bendis' habit of overwriting. He begins the issue with Scarlet killing a cop, but then she addresses the audience (part of the book's schtick, although I imagine Bendis will do more with it, as it's a big part of the promotional campaign for the book and isn't, as yet, all that original) for almost the rest of the book, and it really drags at times. Scarlet admits that he life isn't all that interesting and then Bendis proves it, with three pages of panels summarizing her life, only one of which is interesting at all (her favorite thing in the world is the Hawthorne Bridge?). It is really a fairly dull first issue, especially when we consider the other first issues from this post. As weirdly written as Batman: Odyssey is, Adams leaves us breathless with it. Although it's a few years old, Casanova drags us into a bizarre world and packs a ton of information into its pages. Critical Millennium begins with oily tentacles stripping a man naked and presenting him to a giant monster god ... in space. Roger Langridge has the advantage of working with an established character in Thor: The Mighty Avenger, but he still gives us plenty of mystery and some crazy scenes. Scarlet #1 is practically inert by comparison. It's frustrating.

Man, I must hate this issue, right? Well, actually, no. It's intriguing. Maleev does a better job on the art than he did on Spider-Woman, and Scarlet herself is a decent character. I'm very frustrated with the book, but it still has a lot of promise, and when Bendis doesn't do Avengers work, I'm usually pleased. As this is technically a tiny indy book, I'm willing to give it some rope. I just hope Bendis doesn't continue to fall back on lazy clichés to tell the story. I want to like Scarlet and her mission, and I hope we get more about her "origin" in the coming issues. That would be nice.

Phew. That was fun, wasn't it?

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Secret History #11 ("Nadja") by Jean-Pierre Pécau (writer), Igor Kordey (artist), Chris Chuckry (colorist), Edward Gauvin (translator), and Scott Newman (letterer). $5.95, 46 pgs, FC, Archaia.

Pécau has always done a good job incorporating real historical events, both large-scale and small-scale, into these books, and while I appreciate that, in this issue, it feels a bit showy because occasionally (the informer falling out of his window to his death) it doesn't feel much like part of the main story. Reinhard Heydrich's death, on the other hand, feels more logically connected to the archons and their runestones.

But other than that, the story continues to hum along, as we're now in the midst of World War II and all the intrigue of the previous 20 years is coming to a head. There's a wonderful battle between Aker and William of Lecce, and there's also several other nice action scenes. As I've mentioned before, the fact that Pécau has narrowed the gaps in years between issues means that we can get recurring characters, and it's nice to see how they have progressed. And Kordey is great, as usual.

There's just not a lot to say about this. It's good and intricate and beautifully drawn and fun. So there!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Secret Six #23 ("Predators") by John Ostrander (writer), RB Silva (penciller), Alexander Palamaro (inker), Jason Wright (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

I'm always curious about stories like this, which is obviously what they used to call "inventory stories" (and probably still are, although they're not that common anymore) - this issue takes place before issue #19, when Bane blew up the team and Catman went a bit nutty. So was it written back then and stored away, like a true inventory story, for a time when Simone took a month off? (I don't have any idea why Simone didn't write this issue. I don't know her at all. Let's hope it had something to do with two or three young, studly men and mimosas and Costa Rica.) Or was it written recently and Ostrander didn't want to screw with the new status quo of the book and so set it in the past? Inventory stories are kind of neat, aren't they?

Anyway, this is a decent enough book, although it's nothing special. Some rich dude on a Caribbean island sells spots in a hunting party in which the prey are people. No, Ice-T doesn't show up, but the rich dude does make the mistake of bringing in the Secret Six as the prey. That doesn't work out too well. The fun of the issue is seeing how our heroes slaughter those who are trying to kill them. It's fun. Ostrander gives Rag Doll the best lines, of course, and Silva's art isn't terrible but it's not great, either. I don't know - there's not really anything to say about this issue. It's solid, but nothing you have to worry about. I doubt if it will ever have an impact on the rest of the series. I could be wrong, but as every bad guy dies, I can't imagine how it will.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sparta U. S. A. #5 (of 6) ("War") by David Lapham (writer), Johnny Timmons (artist), Darlene Royer (colorist), and Wes Abbott (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

Lapham continues to bring the weird on this book, as the Spartans fight back against the Nazis, we learn something rather odd about the Maestro, something strange happens when the Nazis try to rape Nora, and there's a big betrayal at the end that, while a bit shocking, isn't too surprising. This remains a rickety, off-kilter book that doesn't seem to be coming together as well as some of Lapham's work, but is still interesting to read because it's so all over the map. I'm always willing to read something where the writer simply goes all out instead of playing it safe, and Lapham is doing that here. Parts of it don't work too well, but a lot does, especially the revelation of the Maestro and what it means for the final issue. While I don't love Sparta U. S. A., I do find it fascinating. It might fall apart in the final issue, or Lapham might pull it all together, or he might leave us hanging in some ways, but I have no doubt that it will be a wild ride. But I'll have to let you know if a trade is worth it then. We shall see.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Starstruck #11 (of 13) by Elaine Lee (writer), Michael Wm. Kaluta (artist), Lee Moyer (painter), and Todd Klein (letterer). $3.99, 28 pgs, FC, IDW.

Starstruck, on the other hand, continues to sail merrily along toward its conclusion, and Lee does a marvelous job pulling everything together. So many people are peeved at Bruscilla or Galatia 9 and therefore are heading toward Rec 97 to do some killin', but Lee keeps the tone light as Bruscilla, blissfully unaware that dozens of people are on their way to kill her or her companion, simply wants something to eat and drink. And, just so things don't get too wacky, Lee checks in with Verloona, the girl who, some issues ago, had a creepy attachment to her father and, well, we see where that went. Kaluta, of course, is wonderful, as he shows the paths of so many principals either crossing or almost crossing until Galatia 9 and Bruscilla realize somebody wants them dead. Kaluta also loads the panels with his glorious details, from the architecture to the fashion to the Girl Guides cheating at roulette. Kaluta created such a gorgeous universe for this book, and it's really astonishing to see it every issue and wonder at it all. Hail Kaluta!

I can't wait for the final two issues. I have no idea how Lee ended it, so don't tell me! It's too cool to not find out by myself!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Thor: The Mighty Avenger #1 by Roger Langridge (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I don't quite get this book. It's apparently an ongoing, and it's a Marvel book, but it seems to be completely outside of regular Marvel continuity. I have no problem with that, of course, but it seems like a very odd thing for Marvel to allow. Especially when we consider that the names "Langridge" and "Samnee," as talented as those individuals are, don't scream SALES!!!!!!! As usual, the vagaries of the business decisions of the Big Two must remain a mystery, but launching this book with this creative team and setting it outside Marvel continuity seems to set it up for major failure. Maybe Marvel is hoping the buzz over the Thor movie will help it? I hope something does, because this is a fun first issue.

Langridge sets it in Oklahoma, where Jane Foster is made head of a department at the Bergen War Memorial Museum, which for some reason has several Nordic artifacts. She has a tenuous relationship with her ex, Jim North, a doctor who cares more about his practice than helping people but is still an okay dude. Then Thor shows up. He tries to break into an exhibit in the museum but is thrown out. A few days later, Jane and Jim encounter him getting chucked out of a bar. By Mr. Hyde, as it turns out. He's getting pummeled quite easily, and Jane wants to help him, but Hyde has other ideas. Before Hyde can beat Thor to death (Thor is kind of a wimp here), something happens to him and he has to run away. A reader might suspect he's turning into a Dr. Jeckyll, but we're not certain. Thor has learned some English in the interim, so he's able to tell her he needs to get to the museum. He breaks into the exhibit again and smashes a jar, which contains his hammer. Life is good again for the God of Thunder!

It's a neat first issue, although again, it's a bit strange. We require some knowledge of the character and that of Mr. Hyde, but, like I wrote, it doesn't seem to be part of Marvel continuity. It straddles a weird line that way - obviously, Langridge relies on our knowledge of the character, but as nobody seems to recognize him as Thor, it becomes jarring to the reader. I'm not saying that the book needs to be set in the regular Marvel Universe, you understand - I'd prefer it if it didn't - but if you're going to do that, you're playing with fire when you assume the reader is going to get all the references that do come from the character's past. Langridge does a nice job of making sure you can enjoy the book even if you're not a Thor fan (which includes me, I must admit), and it's a neat mystery he's come up with. I just have a feeling that the mystery is based more on the gods screwing around with humanity and making them forget who Thor is rather than him being "new" to the world. I hope I'm wrong.

Samnee is getting a fairly big-time gig with this book, which is nice as he's done good work for years. Interestingly, either because of the coloring (which, as Wilson is very good, is quite good) or because he's working a bit faster because this is a monthly book, his pencil work looks looser than it usually does and has a bit of Javier Pulido in it, although it's not an angular as Pulido's work. Thor, especially, looks good - not too huge, but definitely a bulky dude, with a rogue-ish attitude that Samnee does a nice job with. It will be nice to see if Samnee can keep up the monthly schedule. I hope so.

So this is a good, solid beginning that, while it confuses me a bit because of the thought process behind launching it, doesn't have any problems in the actual storytelling. If you've never bought a Thor comic before because of the accumulated backstory, here's a book for you! Give it a look!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #10 ("Team Player") by Gregg Hurwitz (writer), Juan Jose Ryp (artist), Andres Mossa (colorist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

As much as I've enjoyed the first two issues of Secret Avengers, this actually might be the best issue yet of that title, even though it's not technically that book. It's Moon Knight coming on board Steve Rogers' little group, and while I enjoy the mission to Mars in the "real" book, this is the kind of mission I hope the Secret Avengers go on a bit more - taking care of scary things on this planet that require a bit more force than regular good guys can bring to the game but more stealth than regular superheroes would bring. In this case, a bunch of pirates led by Captain Barracuda have captured an oil tanker and are killing hostages. Barracuda has in his possession the Glove of Asteria, which produces a column of air moving almost at the speed of light. This has problematic effects on the human body, to say the least. Steve Rogers and his gang have to go in and take out the bad guys without any more hostages getting killed. Of course, Barracuda also has the Horn of Proteus, which means, you know, MONSTERS! Because that's just how they roll in the Marvel U.

It's a quick little tale, with fun asides by Moon Knight (he brings up the incongruity of a covert team going in "dark" when one of their members is riding a big winged horse) and some fun banter between the group. Hurwitz brings up the fact that Moon Knight, despite his protestations that he works alone, has been in groups before. I do wish he and Valkyrie, who fought in the Defenders together, had spoken a bit more, and maybe Brubaker will have them do that in the main title, but that's just a personal quirk. As I mentioned with regard to last issue, I bought this mainly because of Ryp's art, and he doesn't disappoint. This is a more graphic comic than we usually get from the Big Two (it's not necessarily more bloody, because that ship has sailed, but Ryp is so good at detail that it's a bit more graphic, as we can see every piece of flesh the Glove of Asteria flays from a body), but I don't have too big a problem with that, and it's mainly excellent to look at. Ryp's hyper-detail might be too annoying for some people, but the way superhero comics have been striving for "realism" in the past years, it's nice to see an artist who makes leather and armor look like leather and armor rather than just colored skin. War Machine looks bulky, for instance. And Hurwitz and Ryp give us a nice gag when Ant-Man decides to take care of Captain Barracuda in a fun and original way. Plus, Ryp gets to draw MONSTERS!!!!! How cool is that?

Next month we get the first issue of the three-issue mini-series tying Moon Knight into "Shadowland." I don't know what will happen after that, as I doubt the series is coming back. Oh well. I do hope we get some stories like this in Secret Avengers, and I hope Moon Knight continues to play a prominent role in that series. Vengeance of the Moon Knight got off to a rousing start, but Hurwitz never seemed to get a good feel for the character, not like Huston and Benson did. If the regular series does return after "Shadowland," I'll have to see who's writing and drawing it. We'll see.

This issue is pretty cool, though!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Wasteland #29 ("Kick in the Eye") by Antony Johnston (writer), Christopher Mitten (layouter), Remington Veteto (artist), and Douglas E. Sherwood (letterer). $3.50, 23 pgs, BW, Oni Press.

Well, it's somewhat sad news that Christopher Mitten has decided to leave Wasteland. He gave the book such a great look and was such a big part of the book's success (creatively if not commercially) that it's going to be a tough transition. Johnston points out that until the end of this arc, Mitten lays out the pages, so the transition might be easier. Veteto is actually not bad - his pencils are tighter than Mitten's and he doesn't quite have the ethereal quality of the desert and the blasted landscape that Mitten perfected, but we'll see about that. A few panels have some stiff figures and the action doesn't flow as well as it should, but I would say 90% of the book looks quite good. And that's not bad.

Johnston continues to follow one character through the six months following the appearance of Marcus' sister and the attack of the Sand-Eaters. He's following Dexus as he navigates political problems, some of which he's created himself and have gotten away from him, and he's also filling in some blanks from the other stories about what's going on, and of course it's hurtling toward something else apocalyptic. I love this way Johnston is doing it - we see things from the perspective of one character, and then we see some of the same things from the perspective of a different character, and everything gets filled in. Due to the delays in the publication schedule, it's hard keeping track of everything, so this will read better in one sitting, but even with the delays, I'm still digging this kind of storytelling.

It's still sad about Mitten, but it appears that Veteto is a good replacement. It's only one issue over Mitten's layouts, but it's a fine start. I'm looking forward to the book coming out more regularly, so I hope it does.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Young Allies #2 ("Now, Not Tomorrow Part Two: Fall Out") by Sean McKeever (writer), David Baldeón (penciler), N. Bowling (inker), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), and Joe Sabino (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I'm still feeling this book out, as it's only on issue #2, but I'm still making up my mind. Of course nobody died at the end of issue #1, so in this issue we move on and the good guys try to figure out what the heck is going on. Gravity and Firestar check in on super-villain hangers-on and wannabes from her New Warriors days (a great idea, if you ask me) but can't find anything out, so they somehow contact Electro (I don't know how; perhaps someone can explain it to me), fight him, get their butts kicked (a nice bit of realism there), and find out a piece of information about the Bastards of Evil. Meanwhile, Nomad, Araña, and Toro try to find stuff out on the Internets. The Bastards, meanwhile, are pretty interesting, although I would rather see Ember do or say something racist rather than have others say he's racist. But I do like that the Bastards have a popular web site, which I hope will be something McKeever explores - public perception of heroes and villains, I imagine, would be a very interesting social phenomenon in the Marvel Universe. Much like Ember's racism, Toro's illegal status is weirdly brought up here - he brings it up to Araña guiltily, but she shrugs it off. If you're going to have an illegal immigrant on your team, you should deal with it a bit better - in other words, Toro shouldn't go telling everyone about it, and it should be slowly introduced because it's a difficult topic. Why would Toro trust these people and tell them that? I don't think he would, at least not so soon.

You see - this is a weird comic, because McKeever is trying a bit too hard. But when he calms down a bit, this is a pretty interesting comic. It would be nice if he could ease up a bit and trust in his storytelling abilities. Because he's kind of good at that.

One totally Airwolf panel:

BB Wolf and the Three LPs by JD Arnold (writer) and Rich Koslowski (artist). $12.95, 93 pgs, BW, Top Shelf.

I love Koslowski's art, and this retelling of the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs from the point of view of the oppressed wolf fighting against the cops (get it?) sounds kind of neat. I tell you what, it looks superb. I can't wait to read it.

In the world of sports (or "sport" if you're not American), who would have guessed that LeBron James would have chosen to retire and start a career as a comic book writer? I know, I was totally blown away by that revelation. And that his first project would be a Razorback ongoing with art by Chuck Austen? Man, that's weird. Way to go, LeBron!

The World Cup final is set, as one ex-fascist state that wasn't all that good at it but managed to survive for a long time defeated another ex-fascist state that was very good at it (unfortunately) but burned out quickly. There's a lesson there somewhere. I don't really care who wins, although I'm a bit partial to the Dutch mainly because so many people proclaimed that Spain would win at the beginning of the tourney. And it would be kind of cool to see the Dutch win every single game in the tournament, as it's only happened one other time. I don't know what I'll do without the vuvuzelas, but I'm sure I'll survive!

Here, for your viewing pleasure, The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle But Which Often Gets Reset, A Vexing Dilemma):

1. "Nothing Else Matters" - Metallica (1991) "Life is ours, we live it our way"2. "Who Can It Be Now?" - Men at Work (1981) "I've done no harm, I keep to myself"3. "Home Sweet Home" - Mötley Crüe (1985) "Sometimes nothing keeps me together at the seams"14. "Garden Party" - Marillion (1983) "Rugger is the tops, a game for men they say"5. "A Little Concerned, That's All" - Hamell on Trial (2003) "Satan conjures evil and when he's done, there's a silence from heaven, he's thinking 'This is no fun'"6. "S. O. S." - ABBA (1975) "You made me feel alive, but something died I fear"7. "A Gentleman's Excuse Me" - Fish (1990) "But if I told you the music's over, would you want to hear that your dance card is empty, that there's no-one really there?"8. "The Train" - King's X (1996) "Leave all your bags and tighten up your metal belt"9. "Roll on Down the Highway" - Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1974) "We gotta keep movin' if we're gonna make a buck"210. "Come" - Prince (1993) "My tongue's gonna do things that you never seen"3

1 Feel free to hold up your lighters, play air guitar, and take off your shirts. Actually, given that most of the readers are out-of-shape men, ignore that last suggestion.2 BTO and Grand Funk Railroad: the same exact band? Discuss!3 I'm sure you know by now that Prince says the Internet is "over." He must have gotten here. Poor Prince!

And here are some totally random lyrics!

"I have been burned by vague lesson plans and a free-floating curriculum! I like my rules, baby, etched in stone, 'cause you know I am going to stick to them! Can I get a syllabus, a little discipline? Judge me on a scale from A to F! You wasted all my time learning how to rhyme, now let me hang it from a treble clef!"

Yeah, you might only get this is you have young children. But that's what totally random lyrics are all about!

Holy crap, sorry for the delay with this post. Comics coming out on Thursday always throw me off, because I have things to do on Friday mornings and then I often have things to do on Friday afternoons, whereas Thursdays are usually free. Plus, I got so very many comics this week, so that's extra stuff to write as well! So I apologize for my tardiness. But hey! you didn't have to deal with my ranting until the weekend! Bonus!

Forget 'Make More Mutants' - An X-Man Wants to Find Missing Mutants

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