What I bought - 9 September 2010

"They were lovers of peace," Gaudior replied shortly. "Your planet does not deal gently with lovers of peace." (Madeleine L'Engle, from A Swiftly Tilting Planet)

Batman and Robin #14 ("Batman and Robin Must Die! Part 2: The Triumph of Death") by Grant "It's late and you'll like it!" Morrison (writer), Frazer Irving (artist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 24 pgs, FC, DC.

So is this comic now bi-monthly? I hope it's not just late, because that would be annoying. I mean, I don't know if Irving is slow (I doubt it, as the first issue was a bit late and he's known about this for some time) or if the God of All Comics is late (far more likely, as he seems to be late quite often). Either way, it's a pain.

It's annoying mainly because Morrison's Batman work can now apparently be divided almost equally into good and bad issues, with approximately every other issue being a good one. As issue #13 was pretty good, that means this ... well, isn't. It's kind of a hot mess, with plenty of Morrisonian energy (and superb art from Irving, especially early on when the Joker confronts Damian) but a lack of direction and focus. I'm sure someone smart like David Uzumeri can tell me why all of this is great, but it's really not. I've been saying this since Morrison started writing Batman, but it's becoming much clearer - this will read much better as one big epic rather than in discrete chapters. However, I'm starting to suspect that Morrison himself has no idea where he's going with this. I mean, he just keeps upping the ante, and there's no real resolution. I thought maybe he'd finally quit when Bruce returned, but apparently that's not going to happen either. If he's never going to stop writing Batman, he needs to make his individual issues better. Just referencing shit you wrote three years ago doesn't make your work good, it makes it complicated. As a story, this is basically a big ol' villain battle with Dick, Damian, and Gordon caught in the middle, and the fact that Morrison keeps recycling through Hurt and the Joker fighting/allying with each other isn't terribly interesting. As it's a Morrison comic, it's fun keeping track of all the various weird stuff that's going on (Hurt's obsession with shooting pumpkins, Joker's poisoned nails/nail polish), but since "R. I. P.," it really does seem like Morrison has been spinning his wheels. Maybe he just really wants Bruce back.

Wouldn't it be nice if issue #15 came out in October? Yeah, that would be pretty cool. Of course, it would be nice if Joe the Barbarian would finish soon. Any time now, gentlemen!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Booster Gold #36 ("This Man ... This Chipmunk!") by Keith Giffen (writer), J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Pat Olliffe (artist), Sal Cipriano (letterer), and Hi-Fi (colorist). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.

That's a pretty excellent cover, if you ask me. I'm just sayin'.

It's extremely weird (to me, at least) how different we feel about certain entertainment through our years of consuming them. I'm not talking about growing up and leaving childish things behind (although that's part of it), I'm just talking about what suits our fancy at any particular time. Right now, for instance, I'm really digging cop/spy/mystery/action shows on television. I didn't always like them, but recently I've just been digging them. Luckily, they're all over the dial (can I even say that anymore, or does it make me sound too old?). I love 'em: Leverage, Rubicon, The Closer, Rizzoli & Isles, Warehouse 13, White Collar, Covert Affairs, Psych, Dark Blue, Bones, House, The Mentalist - they're all basically the same, with varying competence of acting and production, but I don't care. I watch other stuff - Mad Men, Treme, Modern Family, Cougar Town, True Blood (although that's more my wife's show, but it's still fun), and I'm seriously looking forward to Boardwalk Empire - but this summer, it seems all the basic cable channels have those kinds of shows. Even a few years ago, I wasn't into them as much as I am now, and I don't know how long this phase will last. I've kind of transitioned away from big-budget action movies as well, even though it's been a while since I've been able to see movies regularly. It's interesting to me how our tastes change even when we get older and more set in our ways.

I had a point somewhere, I promise. I'm just not sure what it was (it's that age thing again). I guess it's this: Fifteen years ago, maybe even ten years ago, I probably wouldn't have given Booster Gold a second glance. Yes, I had gotten the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League in back issues by then, and I had picked up a bunch of other "fun" comics, but I also wanted my comics to, I don't know, "mean" something. Booster Gold doesn't really mean anything. Maybe Giffen and DeMatteis want it to, but it's so drenched in nostalgia that the meaning gets lost. It's a comfortable comic for long-time fans, trafficking in the very nostalgia that so many other comics these days do, but because the era it's referencing was so much fun, it becomes fun. So much of the nostalgic yearnings we see in comics today try to hide their longings for a simpler time with bloodshed, but Giffen and DeMatteis are far to adept for that. They simply wear their nostalgia on their sleeves, and that makes this comic, while certainly not great, a charming book to read. Booster is torn between his desire to literally live in the past and his acknowledgement that he has grown up somewhat, and in that way, this book, more than most others and certainly more than regular mainstream superhero comics, illustrates the issues so many people have with growing up. There's comfort in the past, and the creators don't shy away from that. They also show how different a person can be from his or her supposed "golden age" and why it's not necessarily a great idea to yearn for that past too much. Booster Gold is far more interesting than it has any right to be, and that's why I keep buying it.

Well, that and Estrogina. I don't know who she is, but I'm smitten!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Daytripper #10 (of 10) ("76") by Fábio Moon and Gabrial Bá (writers/artists), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Sean Konot (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.

Well, goddamn.

I've been raving about this series almost since the beginning (the first issue threw me a bit, but once I realized what Moon and Bá were doing, it made more sense - and no, I'm still not telling the schtick, even though the Vertigo blog itself has), and this final issue is as wonderful as the rest. After last issue's mindfuck, Bá and Moon wrap it up beautifully - I was a bit worried they would do something silly, and while Chad's fake spoiler was actually kind of cool, this ending works very well. There are so many wonderful images in this book, as the writers step back a bit and let the artists do the talking for them. The writing is a bit pretentious, as it's been throughout the series, but by this point, Moon and Bá have earned it (just like Smith Barney), so I don't mind. Daytripper remains a quiet comic, full of reasons that make life worth living, and so it is with this final issue, which ties into Brás's relationship with his father and what family and home mean. I don't want to say too much more because it's such a cool experience to read this, but I can say that I don't see how this isn't one of the top three comics of the year. I'm sure the trade will be a cool reading experience, but as I've been saying, it's been neat reading these 22-page chapters about Brás, and while I think it will be effective in a collection, I'm not sure if it will be as magical. Someone should let me know when the trade does come out. Either way, you should read Daytripper. It's good.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Kill Shakespeare #5 (of 12) ("O Coward Conscience") 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 should point out that the pull-quote on the front of this book proclaims, "You can mark this one in the genius column." I don't know the context of that quote, but while I enjoy Kill Shakespeare, unless that reviewer was speaking of McCreery's hitherto-unknown math skills and was impressed with one of his proofs (man, I loved proofs in junior high), "genius" is not a word I would associate with it. "Genius" gets thrown around far too much these days, and someone should really think about whether they really want to use it before they do so. I mean, it's a nice quote, but "genius"? If you pick up this issue based solely on that quote, wouldn't you be even angrier and less likely to continue buying it if you believe you're reading something that's "genius" but, in actuality, isn't?

I'm thinking too much about weird stuff again, aren't I? Well, I don't care. Kill Shakespeare continues to be a fun adventure comic, with plenty of clever and easily-spotted references to the plays, very good art, and twisty plotting (the writers need to keep it going for 12 issues, after all). The reader may have thought that Hamlet was with Juliet and her rebels for good, but he doesn't want to be her pawn any more than he wants to be Richard's, so he ditches her. McCreery and Del Col do a nice job playing off of Hamlet's dithering without being too obvious about it - except for one scene where his father haunts him. Hamlet ends up with three new characters who will presumably tell him more about Richard and his ultimate goal, William Shakespeare. The characters are Demetrius and Lysander from A Midsummer Night's Dream and a woman named Adriana, who might be from The Comedy of Errors but could just be someone named Adriana. Of course, the bad guys have already found him and plan to track him, and things are all coming to a head, as it seems like issue #6 will mark some kind of break (a "first-half conclusion" according to the inside back cover, although issue #7 has already been solicited, so at least the creative team isn't taking a break).

I'm still keen to know how they're going to make this a 12-issue series, but I like the fact that it seems to hinge on Hamlet's reticent nature. It's a nice shout-out to the play and also makes it conceivable that he would wander around trying to make up his mind. Good show! But not quite "genius"-level yet!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Lucid #1 (of 4) by Michael McMillian (writer), Anna Wieszczyk (artist), and Shawn DePasquale (letterer). $3.95, 22 pgs, FC, Archaia/Before the Door.

Archaia was nice enough to send this to me in the mail, so I'd like to thank them. It's always cool to get a package with comics inside!

You know who wrote this? This guy. That's right, the slightly overzealous preacher dude from the second season of True Blood! The one with the cute wife who gets it one with Jason Stackhouse! (Sorry, that was just an cheap way to link to attractive women.) Anyway, the company that produced this comic, Before the Door, was formed by three dudes, including ol' Spock himself, and McMillian is pals with them, so he wrote a comic for them. Interesting. That doesn't mean it's good, mind you, just that it's an interesting little factoid.

Lucid could be a lot better, unfortunately. The high concept isn't bad - magicians working for the United States government who do mystical wetwork - and this first issue zips along, with Matthew Dee (I'm going to go out on a limb and say the last name is deliberately evoking John Dee), the protagonist, uncovering an evil magician's plot with the help of that foxy female agent on the cover, stopping it, but realizing that there's much more to it. Apparently there's a strange bunch of monsters called the Daoine Sidhe (they're from old Irish folklore) who battled men for dominion over the Earth until Merlin banished them to another dimension. The evil magician was trying to open a portal to bring them back. So now Dee and the government need to figure out who sold the magician the plans to the portal, because it's highly advanced technology.

It's not a bad hook, and McMillian doesn't do anything terribly wrong with it - he sets up the story well, gives Dee a very strange "love" interest (it's in quotes because we never see who or what it is, and it seems a bit freaky), and gets to the point quickly. The first few pages are a fairly dull "Kid in school doesn't pay attention but that's okay because he's really a genius," but then the plot kicks in, and it's fairly energetic. The problem with the story is that it doesn't really have much verve - there's nothing here that blows you away and makes you want to seek out the second issue. If you read it, great, but it's not "appointment comics" (I can appropriate "appointment television," can't I?). I assume this is McMillian's first stab at writing comics, and if so, he does a pretty good job, but he also takes absolutely no chances.

Wieszczyk's art is a bit more problematic, not because I don't like her style (although it's not my favorite). It's definitely manga-influenced, which isn't really a problem, and while her storytelling isn't superb, it's competent. There are some problems, though. Her colors are often murky, which makes it hard to determine what's going on in some panels. There are some production issues, as several figures are fuzzy, and it doesn't appear to be deliberate (a transfer to paper problem, I imagine). The most egregious thing about the art is the blending of Wieszczyk's unusual but decent figure work and the backgrounds, which are often photographs Photoshopped into the scene. Because Wieszczyk does have a fairly distinctive and unrealistic style, putting the characters into fumetti backgrounds is extremely jarring and downright lazy (and I hate saying that about an artist, because that, to me, is a horrible insult, but that's what it feels like). Backgrounds aren't all that important in this issue - there are no wide-open expanses that fill up a page - so why Wieszczyk cut corners on it is beyond me. It really makes the book look uglier than it should, because there's nothing really wrong with Wieszczyk's figure work.

So that's Lucid. I have no idea if Archaia will send me another issue, but I'll review it if they do! It feels like it has more potential than actuality right now, but who knows how it will play out. I'd like to say it's odd enough to work, but based on this one issue, it might not.

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Murder of King Tut #4 (of 5) by Alexander Irvine (adapter), Christopher Mitten (artist), Ron Randall (artist), Dom Regan (colorist), and Neil Uyetake (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

So, I'm going to SPOIL this issue. Sorry!




I'm very puzzled. As I have not read the book upon which this mini-series is based, I don't know how Patterson comes up with his solution to the problem of how Tutankhamun died. But here's what's interesting ... in this issue, Tut dies. Oh yes he does! And it doesn't seem like it could be murder at all. Huh? My mind, it is blown!

So what's the deal? I don't get it. I don't know if anyone has read the book, but I guess Irvine is hewing closely to Patterson's version. If so, why does Tut die the way he does? Patterson could fictionalize pretty much anything he wants, because we know so little about Tut's death (they're fairly sure he wasn't murdered, though, which makes it even easier to make stuff up!). I know that part of the book is Howard Carter searching for Tut's tomb, which might be the focus of the final issue, but there's still lots to wrap up in ancient Egypt as well. The death just feels wildly anticlimactic, and I'm not sure why.

Oh well. Perhaps it will all be explained in issue #5!

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Sixth Gun #4 by Cullen Bunn (writer) and Brian Hurtt (artist/letterer). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

I live in hope. I hope that this book sells well enough that Bunn and Hurtt can continue doing it for as long as they want. I hope Bunn and Hurtt are fast enough that they can keep up a monthly or at least semi-monthly pace. Because every issue of The Sixth Gun is better than the last so far, and I always enjoy that. So buy the book, people! Or at least the trade! You know you want to!

As we saw at the end of last issue, something was just about to leap on the skeletal bad dude and Becky, our heroine, as skeletal bad dude was about to do unspeakably nasty things to our virginal young lady. Bunn explains what that thing is and, in true good horror movie fashion, only slowly reveals what it looks like, so that when he does eventually reveal it, Hurtt gets to draw a full page spread of the monster, and it's quite impressive. Sinclair has planned it so that maybe the monster and the undead general will take each other out, and while that (obviously) doesn't happen, it's still a magnificent battle in a narrow canyon, as Becky gets into and out of trouble while trying to avoid giant claws that swoop down out of the night. Sinclair comes clean about his involvement with the general, and we get a nifty nugget of information about Mrs. Hume and why she looks so young while the general is a gnarly old dude. It's a thrilling issue that also fills in some blanks.

And, naturally, Hurtt is terrific. His detail and pacing are amazing, and he does a great job showing the resolve of both the good guys and the bad guys. What elevates his art on this book as opposed to, say, the work on Hard Time (which was very good, don't get me wrong) is his coloring, which is vibrant and dynamic and makes the pencils really pop (it's probably due to the paper quality as well, but the colors on Hard Time were definitely more drab than in this book). As good as Bunn's story is, Hurtt's art is spectacular, and almost worth the price of admission by itself.

So, yeah. Buy The Sixth Gun. You so won't regret it.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Starstruck #13 (of 13) by Elaine Lee (writer), Michael Wm. Kaluta (artist), Lee Moyer (painter), and Todd Klein (letterer). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, IDW.

If you haven't been buying the remastered version of Starstruck, I encourage you to buy whatever trade IDW puts out collecting it all. It's a wonderful comic experience, a vastly underrated masterpiece, and when you compare the original art to this, it's almost no comparison, as Moyer's paints bring Kaluta's dazzling science fiction world to even more life. Lee's madcap script, which twists back around on itself in this issue and demands several re-reads to catch everything she throws into it, is really one of those things that are so perfect for comics, with its unlimited special effects budget and acceptance of everything wacky. There's so much to love about this series, and I can't wait until I have a few free days to digest it all, because Lee has created such a deep and fascinating world (I've read some, but not all, of the glossary, and what I've read is great) that it's sure to take a while to process it all. But that's okay - it's an amazing work of comic art, and I hope this new iteration means it will get the respect it deserves.

One totally Airwolf panel:

Thor: The Mighty Avenger #4 ("Boys' Night Out") by Roger Langridge (writer), Chris Samnee (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $2.99, 23 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I really can't stop marveling at how much fun Thor: The Mighty Avenger is. Langridge has been giving us lots of adventure so far, and in this issue, he decides to let Thor have a night out. Sure, there's a fight, but that's to be expected with Norse gods, right?

Thor needs a break from trying to figure out what happened to him, and luckily for him, the Warriors Three show up to check in on him. It turns out he's been banished to Earth because of something he did, and Odin wants to teach him humility. Boy, that sounds familiar, but that's okay - as I always say, it's what a writer does with a plot that's important, and Langridge puts that piece of information on the back burner while Thor and his pals try to find Trondheim. They end up in Merrie Olde Englande, where Brian Braddock is having a pint with two of his friends. Of course, when Thor shows up, Brian jumps to the conclusion that they're bad guys, puts on his fighting togs (he's Captain Britain, don't you know), and Classic Marvel Fight™ breaks out that concludes as all Classic Marvel Fights™ do - with everyone getting drunk! Whoo-hoo!

Langridge makes it fun, though, through his attention to detail. There's Brian's female friend, who tells their drinking buddy that Brian is Captain Britain but he's lousy at keeping it a secret, so they all play along. There's the fact that Fandral doesn't know what a phone number is so he misses a chance to get busy with the "serving wench." There's the banter between Thor and his friends, which feels real and makes it clear they've been friends for a long time. Plus, Samnee continues to knock this out of the park. He and Wilson (who's quietly become one of the best colorists in the business) are working really well together, and this is another comic where the art just pops right off the page. It's very cool that Langridge and Samnee are getting a bit of a higher profile, so I hope this book makes it at least to a year. I mean, it can't last much longer than that, right? That would mean people are buying something based on its quality and not because it's "in continuity." We can't have that!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Welcome to Tranquility: One Foot in the Grave #3 (of 6) ("Homecoming Part Three: An Armor of History") by Gail Simone (writer), Horacio Domingues (artist), Jonny Rench (colorist), and Travis Lanham (letterer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Wildstorm.

I was a bit worried about the direction in which Simone was going last issue, and this issue fills me with more trepidation. She's basically giving us a Kid Miracleman scenario, and while I don't have anything against that because, as I believe I've mentioned, it's more what writers do with the plots than the plots themselves (I have mentioned that, haven't I?), but in this issue at least, she doesn't really do anything that others haven't done better. The best parts of this issue are those in which Derek (the mayor's slightly unbalanced son) don't appear - the final fate of the banquet, the fake fruit pie advert (yes, it's been done, but it's still funny), Mr. Articulate at his own grave - but the main story is so dominant that it tends to drown those out. Perhaps it's because this series is only six issues as opposed to "ongoing" (in reality, the first series only lasted 12 issues), so Simone can't introduce so many subplots as she did in the first series, but the story she has chosen to tell just isn't that interesting. It still may be, but so far ... not so much. Oh well. We shall see, shan't we?

Nice cover, though!

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gantz volume 12 by Hiroya Oku. $12.99, 215 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

You know what's in this volume? Motherfucking dinosaurs. That's right!

Shadrach Stone by Stuart Moore (writer), Jon Proctor (penciler/inker/colorist), Jeff Dabu (inker), and Jason Levine (letterer). $19.95, 104 pgs, FC, Penny-Farthing Press.

This is the story of a scumbag literary agent whose life is changed by September 11th (hey, check out the timing of this book's release). It's also, it appears, volume 1. Sigh. Will we ever see a volume 2?

Let's move on to The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. "Alone" - Suicidal Tendencies (1990) "I've seen things, I've seen things you'd never want to see"2. "Living After Midnight" - Judas Priest (1980) "I come alive in the neon light"13. "Filthy Mind" - Amanda Ghost (2000) "Become a recluse, enjoy the abuse, it's better to just get high"4. "Bad Seamstress Blues/Fallin' Apart at the Seams" - Cinderella (1988) "I got my memories, ain't got no home"5. "Shooting My Mouth Off" - James (1999) "Ignore you, it can't be done"6. "A Gentleman's Excuse Me" - Fish (1990) "Can you get it inside your head I'm tired of dancing?"7. "Of Monsters & Heroes & Men" - James (2008) "Here on the ground, we're reckless and hopeless - damned by the slip of a pen"28. "London You're a Lady" - Pogues (1989) "Your heart of gold it pulses between your scarred up thighs"9. "Punk it Up" - Infectious Grooves (1991) "Kick you with the beat, kick you with the groove, kick you in the butt now your booty's on the move"310. "Ocean Size" - Jane's Addiction (1988) "I was made with a heart of stone, to be broken with one hard blow"4

1 Whenever this song comes on the iPod, I tell my kids it's time to rock out. My older daughter does so. My younger daughter is apparently too cool to rock out to Judas Priest. She has no problem dancing to Big Time Rush, though.2 I got the album on which this song appears a few months after its release, and ever since then, this has been one of my favorite songs. It's absolutely frickin' brilliant.3 "Let me tell you something. I sang for Aqueduct Pocket. I sang for Relaxed Atmosphere. I sang for Third World Lover, you heard of them?"4 Nothing's Shocking is probably the best heavy metal album of the 1980s. The only other contender is Operation: Mindcrime. I don't think anyone can argue this. Well, you can, but you'd be wrong.

Hey! What's over there? Why, it's totally random lyrics!

"You look at me so funnyLove bite got you acting oh so strangeYou got too many bees in your honeyAm I just another word in your page?

Every time I touch you you get hotI want to make love you never stopCome up for air you pull me to the floorWhat's been going on in that head of yours"

Don't be shy! Step right up and testify!

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