What I bought - 9 May 2007

No time to chat!  Lots of stuff below the fold!

52 #52 by Geoff Johns, Grant "I did it for the paycheck" Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Mike McKone, Justiniano, Eddy Barrows, Chris Batista, Pat Oliffe, Darick Robertson, Andy Lanning, Walden Wong, Rodney Ramos, and Drew Geraci.  $2.50, DC.

Countdown #51 by Paul Dini, Jesus Saiz, and Jimmy Palmiotti.  $2.99, DC. 

The good commenters here nominated Countdown as the purchase I should get this week, so I figured I'd pick up the final issue of 52 and the first issue of Countdown just to check them out.  I went in with the knowledge that I probably wouldn't appreciate 52 all that much, because of it being the, you know, 52nd of 52 issues, but as we all know, good comic writers make accommodations for new readers.  So I should have been fine, right?  And then I could jump right in to Countdown and all would be well!

First of all, I have to say, Countdown was awful.  Way to not have anything remotely interesting happen in your next big event comic, DC!  But let's take these two comics as a whole.  The final issue of 52, although confusing to the neophyte, did a pretty good job resetting everything for the bold new multiverse.  The biggest problem I had with the actual story is the same one I have with all of these "cosmic" stories that the Big Two give us - the resolution was awfully confusing, mainly because time-travel stuff makes my head hurt.  I mean, I get what happened, but the way Rip Hunter explained it all made my head hurt.  The Ralph Dibny page made no sense whatsoever, and I don't know if it tied into something that had already happened in the series or if it was just a promo for Ralph and Sue: Ghost Detectives, the new mini-series written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Ty Templeton.*  The idea of separate universes, of course, opens up a whole new can of worms, like the status of all those JSAers who were integrated into the one universe after the first dang-blasted Crisis.  There's Jay Garrick on Earth-2, so does he no longer exist on the "real" Earth?  See what I mean?  There's no need for this kind of rigid boundaries.  Do comic book fans really care about this?  I mean, if Will Pfeifer wants to write something in which Captain Atom visits the Wildstorm Universe, does it really need a huge backstory to justify that he could do it?  I mean, he wrote the damned thing, so of course he could do it!  Sheesh.

The whole point of 52 turned out to be getting the multiverse back.  That's not what it started as, but somewhere along the way it became that, and there's nothing wrong with it.  As badly as DC has bungled the One Year Later stuff, they seem to have done a fine job with this.  Of course, the writing is lousy - it's a plot-driven comic book, so none of the four writers have any interest in characterization or logic.  It got us from Point A to Point B, and that's what it was supposed to do.  So DC moved on to Countdown, where presumably the multiverse will be involved.  The buzz is that this will be better written, as Paul Dini is behind it, but I would argue that Waid and Morrison are far better than Dini is, and Rucka is probably on par with him, so that's a wash.  Countdown, presumably, is not only beginning a long-term story on par with 52, but trying to bring in new readers.  People who already know they're buying Countdown no matter what might be intrigued, but for someone on the fence, it's an awful issue.

We begin with Darkseid rambling in third person.  I'm sick of Darkseid.  Let's see him actually accomplish something before we proclaim him the great super-villain, shall we?  How many times has he said something like he does on page three: "I see the time fast approaching when existence itself shall be recreated, and Darkseid shall be its architect."  Wait a second: wasn't existence recreated in the final couple of issues of 52?  And in Infinite Crisis?  Those are just in the past year or so.  Give it the fuck up, DC!  And: shut up, Darkseid.  Like I said, do something impressively evil and we'll talk.  The only time Darkseid has seen like a threat in my experience (and no, I haven't read the old Kirby issues) is in Morrison's JLA.  Yeah, how ironic.  Anyway, when Darkseid's involved, you can all breathe a little easier, because the good guys will win.  Darkseid's a tool.

Then we move on to the Joker's daughter.  She and Jason Todd are the "stars" of this issue.  They fight.  It's dull.  I mean, really?  A fight between those two?  And Duela seems to know about the multiverse, even though, a week earlier, Rip Hunter pledged his co-conspirators to secrecy.  So what's going on?  Who cares - we get to see a fight!  And then there's something with Mary Marvel and something with the Flash's rogues' gallery and something with the Monitors and something with Ray Palmer.  For a big, splashy first issue of a major event, it's decidedly lacking in pizazz.  It might be okay for a quiet issue between the big opening and the dramatic finale, but to hook a reader, it stinks.  Blah.

I wasn't really planning on buying Countdown anyway, but this clinches it.  If it's going to be this boring, what's the point?

* Note: no mini-series has been solicited, it's just me spitballing.

Chronicles of Wormwood #3 (of 6) by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows.  $3.99, Avatar.

It's issue #3 of this six-issue mini-series, which means it's time for ... the treading-water issue!  Seriously, why do we need six issues if one or two are going to be taken up simply by meandering stuff?  In this issue, Danny and Jesus and Danny's talking rabbit (whose name escapes me) go on a road trip to Heaven and Hell, which gets the cardinals in the Vatican all bent out of shape because they think he's recruiting his Army of the Damned to bring about the End Times.  Pope Jacko (and the more I think about it, the better an Australian pope sounds) tells them they all have a good arrangement, so why would anyone do anything to screw it up?  Of course, the Devil is hanging out in Jacko's bedroom, so he's obviously cooking something up.

That's just the machinations of the plot, as this issue allows Ennis to zip around the spiritual realms and expound on what I like to call the "liberal comic-book version of Heaven," i.e., a place where anyone who's a basically decent person can go.  Ennis loves this version of Heaven, and it seems like most comic book writers, who skew left in the political realm, do too (even Ostrander, who was in seminary once and therefore offered a bit more nuanced version of Heaven in The Spectre, eventually came around to this version).  Basically, you go to Heaven if you never did anything evil.  The angel even tells this to the comic book guy who drops dead on the second page (in a pretty funny scene).  I'm an atheist, so I don't really give a rat's ass what happens after we die, but I can't think of a religion that doesn't have rules about getting into Heaven.  Yes, I know that Ennis' point is that religion sucks and that it doesn't have anything to do with God, but the entire construct of Heaven is part of a religious paradigm, so acknowledging the existence of Heaven means you have to play by the rules.  Ennis and others like him would like to believe that as long as they don't have sex with children or commit genocide they'll go to Heaven, but no religion says that.  This is the hippie version of Heaven, and it always bugs me a bit when I see it, because it somehow cheapens the entire idea.  As I wrote, I don't believe a word of it, but if Heaven did exist, it seems like you'd have to work to get into it, not just be a passive non-evil person.  (To be fair, the Muslim suicide bomber in Heaven joke was pretty damned funny.)

But that's just my opinion.  I did like the fact that the angel in the comic book store has found an issue of Miracleman and is all happy about it (it's issue #16, by the way).  The angel wants Gaiman and McFarlane (and anyone else involved) to pull their heads out of their asses and put the comic out as a trade, which made me chuckle, as I own the three trades of this series.  They're now out of print, which is a damned shame.

Anyway, as usual, this will read better in one sitting.  It's nice to look at, but feels like Ennis stepping outside of the narrative to tell us his personal theories.  There's nothing wrong with that, but he's done it before and they never really change.

Cover Girl #1 (of 5) by Andrew Cosby, Kevin Church, and R. M. Yankovicz.  $3.99, Boom! Studios.

This is a decent set-up issue for the rest of the mini-series, as we meet Alex Martin, a 28-year-old struggling actor, who happens to rescue a woman from a car accident as he's coming back from an audition.  The circumstances of the accident are unusual, as there's a cliched black SUV apparently chasing the woman, who tells Alex to tell people about the dromedary before she passes out.  The woman disappears from the story, but Alex gains instant fame, using it to springboard into a pretty darned good career.  When the mysterious men in the SUV try to run him down, his agent and new employer (he's doing a big-budget action movie) decide he needs a bodyguard.  In order that his image as a manly man not suffer, they get Rachel Dodd, the hot chick on the cover.  We meet her on the last page of the comic, setting up the rest of the series.

It's a pretty good comic book, with decent art by Yankovicz and a nice fast pace.  It doesn't require much thought, and it doesn't need to require much thought.  As with most Boom! books (and Virgin books, for that matter), I feel like I'm reading a movie pitch, but as long as it's entertaining, I don't mind that much.  (Kevin says he's tired of hearing that, but when the publisher explicitly states the similarities between the comics and television or movies and talks about things getting developed for the movies, it's hard not to mention it.)  The biggest problem I have with the book is the two writers aren't quite as funny as they think they are.  This comic has a Giffen/DeMatteis vibe to it, but it's not as clever as that.  I don't know much about Cosby, but from reading Kevin's blog, I suspect he had something to do with the joking nature of the comic, but it comes off as a bit too quippy.  You know that hyper-stylized dialogue you get in situation comedies, the kind of stuff no one would say in real life?  That's what a lot (not all) of the dialogue reads like.  It certainly doesn't mess up my enjoyment of the book, but it does feel a bit forced.  Cosby is a television guy, and Kevin writes short, punchy, occasionally snarky stuff on his blog, so perhaps the adjustment to a comic is a bit tough, but they at least know what works in comic pacing.  And some of the jokes are pretty funny, to be honest (his agent calls him "Vancouver good," not "Hollywood good," which is hilarious).

This has a lot of potential.  Be nice to a fellow blogger and buy it!  The man needs whiskey!

Gamekeeper #2 (of 5?) by Andy Diggle and Mukesh Singh.  $2.99, Virgin Comics.

Man, he may be slow, but John Cassaday can draw!  That's a cool cover.

More of the same, as Brock avenges the death of his employer with extreme prejudice, and some secrets are revealed.  It turns out that ten years ago, Brock watched as his employer's partner was killed because he was working on something (a "Dense Plasma Focus Containment System for Aneutronic Hydrogen-Boron Fusion Reactions," if that helps) that the Russians wanted.  Now Morgan (Brock's employer) has been killed for the same thing.  Brock hunts the bad guys down, and now he's off to Amsterdam, working his way up the food chain.  Why does he care?  Well, the bad guys did more than kill his employer.  You know it's coming ... this time it's personal!

I mentioned this last issue - this is a fine Ludlum-esque comic.  It features beautiful art, a gripping story, secrets, government espionage, and lots of corpses.  Just the thing to brighten up your day!

The Incredible Hulk #106 by Greg Pak, Gary Frank, and Jon Sibal.  $2.99, Marvel.

World War Hulk: Prologue by Peter David, Al Rio, Lee Weeks, Sean Phillips, Scott Hanna, Tom Palmer, and Chris Giarrusso.  $3.99, Marvel.


I know these came out last week, but I vacillated over buying them, then figured, what the hell, so I picked them up this week.  There isn't much to say about these issues, except for they set up the big blast pretty well, and the first one features nice Gary Frank art and the second one features a very funny shot at the whole "Illuminati" thing.

I do have a question: why does the "prologue" come after the Incredible Hulk issue?  That seems odd.

Anyway, both of these issues are a good way for Pak and David to set the table and show the various sides of the story.  I'm a tad curious about one thing, though, and perhaps somebody who read the "Planet Hulk" story can enlighten me: the Illuminati (what a stupid name!) sent the Hulk away to a distant planet in the hopes he would never return, and then blew up his wife and unborn child so the Jolly Green Giant would be not so jolly and swear revenge on them?  Is that really how it worked, or is the Hulk being deceived?  I just can't believe Richards and Stark and Strange and Bolt would think: "Hey, let's maroon him on another planet, and if he ever becomes content enough to stay there, we'll blow up any chance he has to be happy!"  That's mind-bogglingly stupid, even for someone who thinks the Superhero Registration Act thing is a good idea.

So it's gotten my interest.  Much better than Countdown did, I'll say.

JLA: Classified #38 by Peter Milligan and Carlos D'Anda.  $2.99, DC.

There's not a lot going on in this issue in terms of plot, but Frank Halloran is still wrestling with the idea that he's Amazo's kid, so he and dear old dad chat a lot about free will and destiny and whatnot while Amazo causes an earthquake in Berkeley and Junior stops it.  Meanwhile, the Justice League argues over whether or not they should intervene.  Flash and Green Lantern (Jon Stewart) say yes, but the Big Three want to give him time to make his own decisions.  J'onn is non-committal, but later he says he scanned Frank to check him out, and he believes that Kid Amazo is on the verge of going insane.  That can't be good.  It leads to the final page of Frank, standing in a lab, in full mad scientist mode.  Typically of Milligan, it's weird.

The sections with Amazo and Frank are far more interesting than the parts with the JLA, because Milligan just doesn't seem to know how to write straight superheroes.  It's like he's incapable.  Yet DC and Marvel keep letting him, which is weird.  His Leaguers don't talk like real people, and although Amazo and Frank don't really either, at least they're discussing philosophical stuff, so it should sound a bit artificial.  But the Leaguers act like jerks toward each other, and their banter is just ... off.  I expected it from Milligan, because that's just what he does, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.  Luckily, the story holds up and keeps my interest.

D'Anda's art is fine, except for a few panels in which J'onn looks absurdly muscled and others in which Diana looks weirdly out of proportion.  No big deal.  His scenes with Amazo and Frank in the center of the earth are neat.

This is a pretty standard story from Milligan, which means it's more interesting than most of what you're going to find out there, especially from DC and Marvel.  I just don't know why the man can't do normal superheroes.  It's a weird flaw in his writing.

The Killer #4 (of 10) by Matz and Luc Jacamon.  $3.95, Archaia Studios Press. 

Archaia, as usual, continues to publish excellent stuff that may cost a bit more, but contains more pages and better stories than most of what's being published for a dollar less.  Case in point: The Killer, which is telling short, two-issue stories inside the framework of the greater whole.  Last issue, our killer returned to Paris because a cop followed him to Venezuela and he wants to know why.  He also has decided to retire and he wants his money.  His fixer tells him he needs some time to get all the money together (red flag!) and offers him a quick job in the Alps somewhere (let's say Switzerland).  His target: a lawyer that a bunch of other lawyers don't like.  He meets the guy, drinks with him, worries that people might have seen them together, and then discovers the target might not be exactly who he was told.  And so the intrigue continues!

As usual with Archaia's books, the comic looks great.  Jacamon's art is slick but not too polished, giving it a spy movie feel with just enough pulpiness to make it gritty, and the colors are vibrant and make the images pop off the page.  Our killer, who is very philosophical, navigates his dangerous world with a kind of sadness and resignation, as if he knows he's not going to be able to retire but he has to go through the motions anyway.  We're rooting for him even as he kills one person and cheats on his girlfriend.  And he realizes that things are going to get bloody before he can walk away.

Yes, the potential for cliche is there, but as with all good genre fiction, it's how the creators bring the characters to life that counts, and Matz has done a fine job with this assassin.  He's a fascinating character to follow around, and that's why we want to.

Archaia hasn't put out a bad comic yet.  They cost a bit more (see below), but they're totally worth it.

Mystery in Space with Captain Comet #1-8 by Jim Starlin, Shane Davis, Ron Lim, Matt Banning, Rob Hunter, and Al Milgrom.  $3.99, DC.







This mini-series ought to be better than it is.  It's not awful, but it's too long, and when you have Jim Starlin - one of the comic book masters at sprawling sci-fi funness - writing a series that promises plenty of sprawling sci-fi funness, well, it ought to be better.  But it's not.

Let's leave behind some of the nagging problems with the "continuity" of the book, which are: If Comet's new body is a clone, and the Eternal Light Corporation is making clones but they can't clone from a clone (or he turns into Michael Keaton, and no one wants that), then why do they want his body so badly so they can make new clones?  Why is Lady Styx, who killed Comet in the first place (back during the Crisis, but I can't remember exactly in which issue; and no, we don't get an explanation), even in this comic, as she sends a few Darkstars to finish the work and then, when that fails, disappears?  In the final issue, the Weird shows up in a panel inexplicably while Comet is standing up to Prime-7, then disappears again, as he hasn't actually defeated Deacon Dark yet, and I want to know what's up?  But let's move past those glitches.  It's a sprawling mini-series, after all, so occasional gaffes are forgivable.

But it's not all that good.  It starts off well, as Comet tries to discover what has happened to him and why his body is missing.  His best friend is murdered, and he must discover what's going on.  I'm not sure where it could have gone, but we quickly get into a story of the Church trying to take over Comet's home, Hardcore Station, from the corporation that runs it.  It becomes a fairly standard adventure story, and it doesn't necessarily have to.  When the Weird is resurrected, he has many questions about identity and meaning, while Comet is struggling to figure out why he was spared.  There are moments when Starlin attempts something a bit deeper than what's there, but he always goes back to the plot, which is mediocre at best.  It's a shame.  As for being too long, there's no way this should have been eight issues, because there's not enough to fill the pages.  So an interesting start and a few nice moments becomes a rather dull mini-series.

Ron Lim does a good job aping Davis in the later issues, but I'm a bit confused by Davis' absence.  This series didn't sell all that well, so it's not like Davis' art is getting people on the book, but DC pulled him off to fill in on their flagship title, JLA.  Wow - that's quite a step up.  But why?  Is the presence of Davis on JLA going to move more copies of that book?  Or does someone high up at DC love Davis' pencils and moved him to the bigger title?  I don't care all that much, because the art on this series, while okay, is far too reminiscent of early Image, but it's this kind of thing that makes me wonder what goes on at corporate meetings for DC and Marvel.

Anyway, Mystery in Space is a disappointment.  Oh well.

Noble Causes #29 by Jay Faerber and Yildiray Cinar.  $3.50, Image.

Ah, Jay Faerber, you magnificent bastard!  Just when I thought Noble Causes couldn't get any cooler, he pulls the rug out from under us again.  What a fun comic book this is.

You see, just last issue, Kitty Blackthorne begged Celeste Noble to kill her because her disease has gotten out of control.  Celeste obliged, but in true horrific soap opera fashion, she didn't realize a few things.  One, Doc Noble had just come up a cure because Zephyr was infected with the same disease; and two, Celeste's lover and Kitty's daughter, Dawn, didn't take too kindly to Celeste killing Kitty.  It's like an O. Henry story!  This issue, there are more promises of retribution, a tasteless fight scene at Kitty's funeral (it's a good scene, but both sides should know better than to throw down at a freakin' funeral), and then Race comes up with a solution.  And his solution makes me love the book even more (and yes, I'm going to SPOIL it below, so be aware!).

You see, when Liz first married Race, back in the original mini-series, the big shock at the end of the first issue was that Race was murdered on their honeymoon.  After a while, Faerber decided he had made a pretty big mistake killing off Race like that, so he simply moved Liz to a different dimension, one in which Race was still alive, and then pretended nothing had ever happened.  In fact, he admitted that he had made a mistake and told readers he would never bring it up again.  So what does Race tell the Blackthornes in this issue?  Well, that Liz came from another dimension, and if Hunter Blackthorne goes to that dimension, his wife (and son, who died a while ago) might still be alive.  So even though Faerber wanted us to forget all about the little glitch in continuity, he doesn't have any problem using it himself.  You may call this dirty pool, but I loved it.  Why shouldn't Faerber use his other dimension?  It's his book, after all.

We'll see how the whole thing works out.  I'm thinking ... not very well.  I'm so cynical!

Outsiders #47 by Judd Winick, Greg Rucka, Matthew Clark, and Art Thibert.  $2.99, DC.

I haven't read a whole lot by Judd Winick, but let me tell you: he's horrible.  Just horrible.  I assume that Rucka and Winick plotted this crossover while Rucka wrote the dialogue for Checkmate and Winick wrote the dialogue for Outsiders, and it shows.  You may not like Checkmate (and question my a) patriotism; b) morality; c) sexuality; d) taste; e) sanity because I do) but Rucka is freakin' Shakespeare compared to Winick.  As usual, Winick thinks he's a lot funnier than he actually is, and his witty banter is just painful to read.  Here are some samples, from this very issue:

Sasha Bordeaux: Normally I don't let someone feel me up until after the second fistfight.

Nightwing: I'm only planning on us having this one, so you'll have to forgive me.

Sasha: Cad [as she headbutts him].

Nightwing: No, card [as he steals her identity card].  As in yours.

Nightwing [as he rescues Great Dane - really?  Great Dane?]: Unlike some people, I was busy not being captured by Checkmate.  What are you wearing?  [She's wearing a hospital gown with nothing covering her butt, a running joke for several pages.]

Great Dane: They crop-dusted me and Thunder and then hosed us down like a couple of Russian hookers.  Can you ace the tech in this hole?  They've got power dampeners or some @#$%&$.  I feel all three-sheets-to-the-wind.

Nightwing: You're an angry drunk.  Shocking.

Nightwing: Hey, you notice anything ... odd?  Where's the alarms?  Where's the pursuit?  I wasn't going for stealth, I expected a bit more -

Great Dane: Gift horse, hot pants.  Just be grateful for - oh Jesus, has my ass been hanging out this whole time?  [See?]

Nightwing: More or less.  Depends on the draft.

There's more, but I think that's sufficient.  The sad thing is, it's a pretty good story.  The Security Council wants to shut down the Outsiders, but Checkmate thinks they can do more good than harm, so they point them in the direction of Oolong Island, where all the mad scientists are cooking up evil schemes to mess up good, freedom-loving folk worldwide.  Checkmate can't go in because North Korea would cause a fuss, but the Outsiders are freelance, so what the hell.  Nightwing doesn't like it, but he's been in a snit for 25 years, so everyone ignores him.  The operation goes wrong from the start, of course, and it's all to be continued.  A nice espionage story that has some potential.  And then they get Winick to write the dialogue.

God, he's lousy.  Yet somehow his books sell, so he keeps getting work.  Such is life.

Phonogram #1-6 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.  $3.50, Image.





The genius of Phonogram, which is one of the best mini-series of the year (2007, that is, even though it started last year), is that everything that should work against it ends up working for it.  Consider: David Kohl, the main character, is a dick.  He admits it, everyone tells him he is, and even though he saves the day, he doesn't really do it because he becomes all noble or anything.  He's certainly less of a dick at the end of the comic than when it began, but he's still a dick.  But he's compelling, and Gillen's portrayal of him is the strong heart of the comic.  Second, the music references.  I get very few of them, and in order to not be reading this until next week, I skipped the glossary and the commentary in the back of each issue (I'm going to read them, because I read the first issue's, and it was interesting, but in the interest of time, I skipped them this time around), so I didn't get enlightened.  I have heard of very few of the bands that David Kohl is constantly talking about, and those I have heard of I don't really like that much (Afghan Whigs? Blech).  So that should turn me off, because it should come across as Gillen being far too smart for his own good.  But it doesn't.  The musical references serve a very specific purpose in the comic, and as smug as they can seem, they also show us how pathetic David Kohl really is.  His referential obnoxiousness is his shield, and although he never admits it, at the end, when he comes through his ordeal, he really is less of an asshole.  That's something.

Throughout the series Gillen explores the idea of music as identity.  I recently read Perfect From Now On, a book in a similar obsessed vein.  The idea of music as identity isn't terribly original, but Gillen does a very good job at showing how music turns us into something else and how it's difficult to come back from that.  Kohl, as a phonomancer (which is never sufficiently explained, by the way), has his identity tied up even more in music, and as he moves through his mission to find out what happened to the Goddess of Britpop (circa 1995), he comes to realize that perhaps having your identity defined by something so exterior to yourself isn't the greatest thing in the world.  Kohl's journey is a fascinating one, and allows us to dig beneath the smarter-than-thou surface and arrive at a universal story: the quest for who we are.  Everyone in the book is either looking for that answer or has already come up with one, and that's why the ending is so sad yet triumphant at the same time.  It could have easily been mawkish, given the lack of sentimentality that David and the comic had shown until then, but it strikes just the right note of hope and nostalgia and moving on.

McKelvie's art helps a great deal, as he channels Dave Gibbons in The Originals (which you should buy) and gives us a sparse landscape with beautifully broken people.  His Beth, both in the vulnerable past and the steely present, is gorgeous and heartbreaking, and Emily, the hard-edged rock to David's faux iron, is sexy and glamorous and dangerous.  When Gillen calls upon him to be hallucinatory, as in issue #4, McKelvie responds with a nightmarish vision of an England caught in the throes of nostalgia.  And his David is wonderful, too, smarmy and charming at the same time, with wounded innocence in his eyes that belie his snotty exterior.

If there was any justice in the world, Gillen and McKelvie would be well on their way to being comics stars.  Until then, you can buy the trade of this that's coming out this summer and look forward to their new projects.  You'll only kick yourself if you miss out!

Rex Libris #8 by James Turner.  $2.99, SLG Publishing.

It took me a long time to read the first seven issues of Rex Libris, because, as many have said before and many will say again, it is one of the densest comics I've ever read.  It takes a really long time to read the confounded things, and considering it comes out quarterly, it's tough to remember what happened, so it's far easier to sit down and read it in chunks.  But I figured, what the hell, and dove right into this issue, because I have an obligation to you, the fine readers, to tell you about comics starring tough-guy librarians who mercilessly slaughter Nazi zombie commandos!

You see, in this issue, Rex is trapped in a book.  Said book is a compendium of various myths and monsters, and they are trying to break out of the book and infect the "real" world.  So he has to fight them and find the library patron who was sucked into the book.  Meanwhile, back in his library, Hypatia and Circe are fighting various monsters who have seeped out into the real world.  So yes, it's pretty much an all-action issue, with Rex chopping Nazis into tiny bits and two lady librarians blazing away at all sorts of squishy ugly monsters.  In the middle, Rex actually stops for a few panels to argue the ethics of killing Nazi zombie commandos.  That is, of course, when the book shifts from lots of fun to sheer brilliance.  Compare Turner's goofy dialogue with Winick's (see above):

Rex: Nazi zombie commandos!  I'd know dat stench anywhere!  Cry havoc, me buckos!  Down with zombie chic!

Rex: Your iron dream is an anachronism, ya putrifying punk!

Man on roof: Now that is one tough librarian.

Rex: Well.  That didn't advance the plot one bit.  Damn chain-smokin', brain-eatin' Nazi zombies!

Rex: That's not fair.  If you can't use gratuitous violence against brain-eatin', chain-smokin' killer Nazi zombie commandos, when can you use wanton, gratuitous violence?  C'mon!

Hippie on the roof: 'There is no way to peace.  Peace is the way.'

Rex: But ... Aw, jeez!  Don't go quotin' Buddhists on me.  They were zombies.  ZOMBIES!!

Hippie: Shame!  ShaaAAAAame!

Rex: Feh!  Whatever.  I'm outta here.

Hypatia: Too late!  Paralyzing psychic field! ... Can't ... move!  Pizdets!  That's it then.  This is how it ends.  I haven't even read Proust. [She doesn't die, as Circe saves her.]

Rex: Hideously intelligent, unspeakably powerful and damn dangerous miasmatic space lice!  Just what I don't need right now!  Look at 'em!  Busy administering their osculum obscoenum to all they can catch!  Walking around suckin' on humans like we were living lollipops!  UGH!

Rex: Hmmm ... What would Dewey do in a spot like this ...?  He'd kick their ass.

It's just no contest.  Plus, there's a Skatina, a mordoboy, an infinite singularity, a revolting, disgusting Xixuloob abomination, Grendel, Phthireans, King Kong and Godzilla cameos, Theromyzons, Nosferatu, a Glurknark, and a Macguffin.  How can you resist????

This comic is wonderful.  And it's four cents cheaper than Countdown!  Why not buy it?

The Secret History #2 (of 7) Jean-Pierre Pecau and Igor Kordey.  $5.95, Archaia Studios Press.

Here's another book that is gorgeous to look at (many, many people have mentioned how nice Kordey's art is when he's not forced to pencil 22 pages in five days, like he was on X-Men) and intriguing to me because of the subject matter - the four superpowered people from the first book are up to meddling in world affairs again, this time in 1176 in the Holy Land.  You know what that means - Crusades!  Various factions in the Kingdom of Jerusalem are pursuing one of the four runestones from last issue, with three of the Archons directly involved.  So there's political intrigue, lots of epic battles, and talk of the Grail (one of the sacred objects represented by the runestones is a chalice, which leads some people to believe it's the Holy Grail).  Historical figures abound, whether it's Chretien of Troyes, who believes in the Grail and presumably uses his experiences in Outremer to write his epic poems of the chalice, or Renaud of Châtillon, who returns to Antioch after fifteen years in an Aleppo prison.  Like the first issue, Pecau does a nice job blending the historical reality with the fantastical elements, and it makes a fine story.  The fact that nobody is really a "good guy" and nobody is really a "bad guy" means it's more interesting, as everyone is governed by their political alliances and their own self-interest.  This makes it a far more fascinating look at the battle over the artifacts than if someone was simply evil.  Renaud, for instance, is sort of a good guy in this comic, even though in real life he was more responsible for the downfall of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1187 than almost anyone.  This kind of moral gray area makes this comic fascinating.

This book isn't for everyone, I understand.  It's six bucks a pop and it's history (yuck!).  But it's a wonderfully detailed comic with a lot of action, adventure, and beautiful art.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the series, however long it may take.

Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four #2 (of 4) by Jeff Parker, Mike Wieringo, and Wade von Grawbadger with Andy Lanning.  $2.99, Marvel.

The second issue of this lightweight mini-series is just as fun and even delightful as the first.  It's instantly forgettable, of course, not because it's bad (on the contrary) but because it doesn't fit in with the way Marvel does things these days.  Parker and Wieringo have given us two issues of adventure, some humor, even a bit of drama, and it's all entertaining.  The nice thing about this series is that the bad guys aren't attacking Earth, they're just fusing with the human population, who then turns against those who haven't changed yet.  The aliens are remarkably efficient, so Spider-Man and the FF can't do anything even to annoy them.  Reed finally decides he needs to go to other planets that the H'Moj have colonized and left to see if there's a clue to stopping them, and while he's gone, Spidey gets "deputized" into the FF.  It appears there will be more adventure, both on Earth and in deep space, before the situation gets resolved, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Boy - fun, simple (in a good way) superhero stories.  What a shock that that's appealing!

Star Wars Legacy #11 by John Ostrander, Jan Duursema, and Dan Parsons.  $2.99, Dark Horse.

I picked up the trade of the first six issues of this comic last week, and decided to get a single issue (and the first part of a story) to check it out.  It's Ostrander writing hard-boiled science fiction, after all, so it should be good!

It's pretty decent, actually.  I have never been terribly interested in buying any Star Wars comics, but Ostrander does a nice job telling his own story and still tying everything into the bigger saga, even though it takes places over a hundred years after the movie epic ends.  Cade Skywalker is a punk who has decided he now needs Jedi training, and his pirate companions are captured by imperial forces and made to reveal where he's hiding.  There's a lot of Jedi-talk, and some nice fighting, both in Cade's head (when he fights Darth Vader) and in the "real" world (when some tattooed bad guys show up at the end).  Duursema's art is less angular and hard than it used to be, as he has softened up a bit, giving his art a more realistic look (even when he's dealing with strange non-human creatures).

The reason this isn't a great book, just a decent one, is because it reads occasionally like Ostrander is writing from the George Lucas playbook.  I imagine Lucas exercises some sort of creative control over the comics (he does over everything else, so why not?), and that means Ostrander, whether by choice or editorial fiat, has to write this comic as if it was the movie.  So we get a lot of Force talk, and destiny talk, and good-v.-evil talk, and it sounds as if we're watching the movies all over again, and you'll recall that dialogue was not the strong suit of the movies (unless Ford was on screen).  Ostrander is a better writer than this, so I wonder how much of this is just because he's doing a Star Wars comic.

It's certainly not a bad comic, but it could be better.  I imagine it will read better as a complete story, which bugs me.  I'll have to read the trade and decide whether it's worth coming back next issue.

Two Guns #2 (of 5) by Steven Grant and Mat Santolouco.  $3.99, Boom! Studios.

Grant's little noir-ish tale continues, and continues to be interesting, with enough twists to keep our heads spinning.  Bobby, left for dead at the end of last issue, is aided by his partner/lover, who tells him to fuck off because he actually did plan to rob the bank.  Bobby doesn't know that Marcus is working for the government, and Marcus doesn't know that Bobby is (sort of, although now that he's actually robbed a bank he's considered a fugitive).  The mysteries keep deepening, like what the hell's going on.  Marcus finds out that naval intelligence wants the bank money because they're envious of the CIA getting all sorts of "off-the-books" cash to run their operations, but other than that, Grant gives out answers only begrudgingly, which is perfectly fine.  This is an interesting book because it seems like we're getting answers as our two characters discover them, which makes for some nice tense moments, as they never know what's coming.  It's a fun way to read a comic like this, because it relies on that tension.

It's good to see this issue so soon after the first one.  Perhaps this will only take five months to come out.  That would be neat-o.


Samurai: Heaven and Earth volume 2 #4 (of 5) by Ron Marz and Luke Ross.  $2.99, Dark Horse. 

I've started reading mini-series as they come out, but this one was grandfathered in under my old policy.  So let's hope issue #5 comes out soon so I can read the damned thing!

Wow, that's a ton of comics.  Lots of them good, too.  I was going to get Iron Fist, but my comic book shoppe got a bunch with messed-up covers, so I figured I could pick it up later.  The first three issues are hard to find, so I might end up with the trade of the first six issues and then go from there.  Anyway, I know people have already sounded off about Countdown, but if there's anything else in my purchases that you want to bash (now that Joe's gone, someone has to tell me what horrible taste I have!), feel free!  We're all friends here!

Spider-Man's [SPOILER] Tries to Deal with the Ultimate Betrayal

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