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What I bought – 9 September 2015

by  in Comic News Comment
What I bought – 9 September 2015

“I suppose one could say that Hitler didn’t betray his self.”

He turned.

“You are right. He did not. But millions of Germans did betray their selves. That was the tragedy. Not that one man had the courage to be evil. But that millions had not the courage to be good.” (John Fowles, from The Magus)

Gotham Academy #10 (“The Cursed Play”) by Becky Cloonan (writer), Brendan Fletcher (writer), Karl Kerschl (artist), Serge LaPointe (colorist), Msassyk (artist/colorist), Marilyn Patrizio (letterer), and Rebecca Taylor (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Since Gotham Academy returned from the “Convergence hiatus,” it hasn’t been quite as good as before, and that’s too bad. And it’s getting worse, which is even more distressing. This issue kind of encapsulates the mess it’s become – Fletcher and Cloonan are jamming too much into each issue, the consequence of which is that everything feels very scattershot. The through-plot this time is that someone is sabotaging the school’s production of “Macbeth” (which, okay, is funny), but the villain is kind of lame and even somewhat of an afterthought. Meanwhile, the overarching plot is still about Olive’s mother, but it seems to be spinning its wheels a bit and comes with too much requisite teenage pettiness (Maps is mad because Olive didn’t tell her something first, even though Pomeline just happened to be right there and it’s not like Olive didn’t tell Maps, she just didn’t text her right away). Except for Olive and Maps, the characters have very little personality, so the fact that Kyle appears in only one panel in this issue ought to feel important, but doesn’t, because he’s still kind of a blank slate. I don’t know how Cloonan and Fletcher split up the writing duties, but neither of them are very experienced, and the pacing of the issues just feels off. It’s not that the plot is bad, it’s that the writers are lurching around a bit, and it makes for a disjointed reading experience. It’s frustrating, because it’s still a charming comic, but charm isn’t enough.

Kerschl is assisted on art by Msassyk – Michele Assarasakorn – but I’m not entirely sure if she’s just inking him or not. There’s a harder edge to his line that has been missing during the run, and it’s actually quite nice – it grounds the artwork a bit, gives more definition to the characters, and doesn’t get washed out by the colors. Kerschl’s layouts are still a bit too frenetic, but nothing too egregious, and the harder inks help keep the special effects – which still make the book look a bit too much like animation cels – further in the background. The over-rendered coloring is used in better places, too – for a few very brief flashbacks, which helps it stand out without overwhelming the rest of the book.

I still enjoy the series, but I do have some trepidation about it. Writing a serial comic is a delicate art, and not everyone can do it. Cloonan and Fletcher have a big plot, which is keen, but their issue-to-issue stories could use some help. That wasn’t a big deal in the first arc, when they were bringing the band together, so to speak, but it becomes a bigger problem when you’ve shot that arrow. I will read on, hope springing eternal!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Wicked + the Divine #14 by Clayton Cowles (letterer), Dee Cunniffe (colorist), Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Matthew Wilson (colorist), and Chrissy Williams (editor). $3.50, 25 pgs, FC, Image.

This is the first, but not the last, time I will write about covers in this post. This is the variant cover of issue #14, and just look at that sucker. I tend to like buying regular covers when they’re a standard format, which The Wicked + The Divine has, but I could not pass this sucker up. It’s by Grimes, who I guess sings or some such (like I keep up with popular culture!), which makes it perfect for this book and this writer. It’s weirdly beautiful and even adorable – that creature in the lower right has a nice bow in its (?) hair, but it’s also grotesque, which is also pretty cool. I love how the white birds are juxtaposed with the white streaks in the creature’s hair, but everything about is neat – the bone necklace, the blood seeping from the eyes, the saliva on the tongue. I couldn’t resist it!

The issue is a gimmick, and while it’s not a bad gimmick, it’s also an infodump, so it’s kind of a weird read. Gillen uses art from previous issues to create this, and I guess they used art from Sex Criminals, too? It’s very inside-baseball, and it doesn’t work as well as Gillen would like it to. He and you know I’m in the bag for him, and I appreciate that he tries something different, but the novelty doesn’t quite justify itself. It might have been better had it not been an infodump, but what are you going to do? The problem with infodumps is that they’re often necessary – and this one may or may not have been, but it’s still pretty nice to get – but they’re not always interesting. Gillen’s actual writing in the issue is fine – Woden’s point about “the patriarchy” is well argued, and the way the plot is laid out from a different perspective is interesting – but it is a bit much for one issue. The “special effects” of the artwork are well done, even if there’s a bit of a feeling of inertness to it all. This is a comic book trapped in amber, and it’s the kind of thing that Gillen can get away with only because he’s built up some goodwill. Plus his writing is still cheeky enough that the book doesn’t become too much of a slog. But only just.

Gillen often writes “liner notes” about the issues on his blog(s), and I rarely read them because I forget about them and I don’t have time. I’d be interested to read this, though, just to see some of his ideas about creating this issue. I’m sure I could go back through the issues and find out where everything came from, but I don’t have time for that, either! I have things to do!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Rebels #6 (“A Well-Regulated Militia Part 6 of 6”) by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Jared K. Fletcher (letterer), Andrea Mutti (artist), and Brian Wood (writer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

The first arc of Rebels ends oddly, as Wood seems to be trying to write too many things. The tension between Seth fighting the war while abandoning his wife and son has always been part of the story, but in this issue, Wood simply ditches the war part and takes us to the end of it, when Seth returns home and finds – shocking! – that everything has changed. His son is six years old, his wife doesn’t really like him very much anymore, and his best friend is dead. Wood is an interesting writer because he finds things to focus on that you might not expect him to focus on, so he changes things up by making this more of a domestic drama than a war story, but he doesn’t quite pull it off. He spent quite a lot of time making Seth’s decision to fight the war important and his ideals about independence the bedrock of his character, but the jump to the end of the war is jarring and throws off the pacing of the book. As this is the first time we’re meeting Seth’s son, John, his separation from him isn’t as emotionally powerful as it should be. Wood tried to swerve in this last issue, away from the war and back toward Seth’s family drama, but he hasn’t spent enough time with the family, especially Seth’s sadness about being away and his wife’s anger at his absence. She explains to us (while talking to him) that he stopped writing letters, but again, that’s after the fact. The idea of someone fighting for something more important than himself (or herself) but neglecting the tangible things in their lives is the stuff of classic fiction, and it’s fine that Wood went to that well, but because of the time gap, it feels like he just went for the payoff without putting in the grinding work of getting us to care about Mercy and John and even Seth in this context. I cared more about Seth and the way he was trying to fight the war and Wood’s comments on how the New Englanders were different than the Middle Atlanticians or even the Bostonians than the fact that he left his wife and son behind, because until this issue, his son didn’t exist and his wife was kind of a cipher. In fact, even after this issue, she’s a bit of one. Early on, Wood made her a potentially interesting character, but once Seth went off to war, she ceased to exist. It’s frustrating.

Wood is a good writer, and I’ve had issues with some of the things he’s done in the past and it hasn’t driven me away from his work, so this misstep in the final issue won’t deter me from picking up issue #7 (which is a single-issue story, if I remember correctly). I dig the idea of Rebels, and the five issues preceding this were quite good, so the fact that I don’t think Wood sticks the landing doesn’t bum me out too much. Still, if you’re interested in getting the trade, it’s a solid story until this issue, and Mutti’s art is quite good. He and Bellaire make Vermont in the fall lush and gorgeous, and Mutti sells Mercy’s pain and anger better than Wood does. It’s a nice-looking comic, which is nice!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Injection #5 by Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Warren Ellis (writer), Fonografiks (letterer), and Declan Shalvey (artist). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Image.

Ellis explains a bit more about what’s going on in this issue of Injection, which is nice, and we also get the not-safe-for-work stuff that you see below, and hey, Wayland Smith from Fables shows up, too! Shalvey continues to kill it on the art, as he continues to smooth out his rough spots just a little but keep the hard edges that make him such an interesting horror artist. Bellaire, I imagine, assists with this, as her work softens it a little without obliterating the lines, so that the synergy the two have gives us this great-looking comic.

None of that is important, however, because Ellis is still nattering on about sandwiches (or, as they should be know as, “sammiches”). Fuck the actual heck, Warren? I actually love this – the hidden meaning of the Injection is that it makes people hungry for sammiches, and eventually it will be revealed that everything all these characters have eaten over the course of this series has become sentient and takes them over. We see the beginnings of that in this issue, with the plants possessing the people – perhaps they ate salads!!!!! Maria’s obsession with a sammich early in the series has turned into a kind of code – when that one character whose name I forget (okay, it’s Brigid) offers that non-wizard whose name I forget (okay, it’s Rob) a sammich, it’s a clue that they have all been mysteriously linked by what’s in their gut. Later, two other characters drink beer. Ellis has always had beer-drinkers in his comics, but when we combine it with the sammich-obsession, it’s more of a motif than anything. Read between the lines, sheeple!

I, for one, welcome our new sammich overlords.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Tet #1 (of 4) by Paul Alloe (writer/letterer), Paul Tucker (artist), Andy Schmidt (consulting editor), and Bobby Curnow (consulting editor). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, IDW/Comics Experience.

I heard about Tet last summer in San Diego, and I’ve been anticipating it ever since. First of all, it’s a murder mystery, and I love me a good murder mystery (I’ve often said that when I’m a big-time comic book writer, I have only one Batman story I want to write, and it’s not even really a Batman story, but it’s a murder mystery that will blow your motherfucking mind), and it’s set during the Vietnam War, which is nifty. Murders during wars or outside the norm of jurisprudence are even more interesting, because the spanner in the works aspect can be bedeviling, and it’s clear that Allor is going for that, as the investigation begins the day before the Tet Offensive begins. So, yeah, that’s going to gum things up. (Allor somehow gets a circumflex and an accent aigu over the “e” in “Tet” and “Hue,” but I can’t figure out how to type that, so I’m leaving both off.) I was keen to read it, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this gripping. Even as a first, set-up issue, this is a very good start.

As I mentioned, it’s a murder mystery. Eugene Smith is a translator assigned to Hue in 1968 after a horrific incident in the field left him a bit traumatized. He has hooked up with Quang Hà, a Vietnamese woman who wants to live in the States with him. Allor does something very nice early in the book, flash-forwarding to show Eugene back in Marion, Indiana, in 1984, seemingly Hà-less, so we know that won’t work out, and by doing this, Allor takes away the tension we might feel over whether the love story will end well but he increases it from the standpoint of the reader waiting to see how it all falls apart. Meanwhile, Eugene bids farewell to a friend of his, Charles “Chip” Lindsay, who ends up dead in an alley next to another corpse, a city official. Eugene is given the case because he can speak the language, but the real point man is Inspector Nguyen Báo, who seems to dislike Americans (given what Americans did to Vietnam, perhaps that’s not surprising). Allor already shows that there are insidious layers to this case, but he also does a nice job embedding us in Vietnamese culture of 1968 – the Tet celebrations begin at the very end of the book, right after Eugene gets the case, so that will play into it, but he does good work showing that Hà and Báo are far different from Eugene, and among Vietnamese society, there are sharp divisions, as well. The scene in 1984 is done well, too, as Eugene is obviously bitter over his past, and even in his present things are going poorly, and it can all be linked to the war. I fear that Allor won’t be able to examine all the facets of the conflict that he brings up in this issue – it’s only four issues long, after all – but it’s nice that he puts them in here. The murder is a convenient way to get into the story, but it’s obvious that Allor has more on his mind than just that.

Tucker is a solid artist, although there’s nothing spectacular about his work. His figure work is a bit stiff, which isn’t surprising for a younger artist, and while it doesn’t hurt this issue, I imagine there will be more action to come, so we’ll see how he handles it. He gives us a little bit of how Hue in 1968 might have looked (and did look, for all I know – I wasn’t alive in 1968), and the characters are distinctive, and Tucker does some nice work with body language. Eugene’s relationship with Hà is particularly well done, as she both wants to leave but also respects her own culture, while he is struggling to understand her customs and trying to dampen her enthusiasm for the States a little, as she thinks it’s Oz. It’s well done. Tucker colors the book, too, and he uses some nice lurid colors in Vietnam, both to heighten its exotic setting and to show that Tet is a time of celebration, and it contrasts well with the brief scene in Marion, which occurs in winter and is dull and sad. Eugene probably wouldn’t choose to be in Vietnam, but Tucker’s colors imply that he was more vital there, which is another theme of the book that Allor might explore.

I’ve been impressed so far with the Comics Experience stuff that IDW is publishing, and I’m glad Tet is off to a good start, because I was very keen to read it. I hope Allor and Tucker can keep it up!

(Plus, this is another terrific cover. The bold, negative space white is inspired, as we don’t think of soldiers’ garb as so pristine, and the clever use of fireworks to simulate eyes and a nose is superb. The red smearing around the edges of the bursts add just a soupçon of violent imagery, which also works.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Atomic Robo and the Ring of Fire #1 by Anthony Clark (colorist), Brian Clevinger (writer), Jeff Powell (letterer), Scott Wegener (artist), and Lee Black (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Atomic Robo is back, which is always cause for celebration, and the fact that it’s now at IDW means, let’s hope, that its audience will expand and Clevinger and Wegener will reap many financial rewards, as they justly deserve. When last we left our heroes, Robo had secreted himself away in Ye Olde West so that his pals, the fightin’ scientists of Tesladyne, could find him in the present, so now we’re in the present, where … things are pretty bad. Cast your mind back to the mini-series before the Old West one, in which Majestic 12 wiped out Tesladyne. Oh, such dark days! Well, now Majestic is running a lot of the world’s security, and our heroes are outcasts and fugitives trying to find Robo (once they figure out that he wasn’t destroyed by Dr. Dinosaur). So they do. Sort of.

I’m sure these comics actually require effort from Clevinger, but he makes it look so easy, as each Robo mini-series has a wonderful mix of action, humor, irony, and cleverness. In the “Mission Impossible” style Robo-rescue in this issue, we know something the characters don’t, which makes their puzzlement funny without being obnoxious. The Action Scientists’ plan is thought out well, and they improvise very well – Clevinger makes them humorous not because they’re incompetent (like many writers would do), but just because they’re funny. Meanwhile, he buries the frickin’ lede, almost, as the fact that this is basically Pacific Rim yet we get very little information about the giant monsters menacing the world. Clevinger is confident enough that he trusts we’ll care more about the scientists’ quest for Robo than we do about the Godzilla-level event, and in this issue, at least, he’s right. The fact that the world is facing imminent destruction just isn’t important enough yet. Take that, Marvel and DC events!

Meanwhile, Wegener remains awesome. He has always been great at facial expressions, and in a comic without his relatively blank-faced main character (although I’ve written before about his amazing ability to give Robo facial expressions), he’s called on to do more, and he nails it. The early parts of the comic are very wordy, and Wegener doesn’t get to do too much, but once the heist swings into action, he lays the pages out really well, packing quite a bit onto each one, and does nice work with the basic emotions (mostly fear) that the scientists feel as they try to escape from Majestic 12. One thing that really looks great is the coloring in conjunction with the line work. Anthony Clark is back on colors, but the art looks even crisper than it did on Knights of the Golden Circle, and I wonder if the paper is sturdier and holds Wegener’s lines better or if Clark has just gotten better. The coloring isn’t as bright as when Nick Filardi was coloring the book, but the muted palette reflects the “somber” tone of the story (it’s in quotes because this is, after all, Atomic Robo), and Filardi was problematic for other reasons, so it’s nice that Clevinger and Wegener have found a new colorist who’s able to work well on the comic.

IDW is releasing the first three trades in a giant omnibus, and if you’ve resisted getting into Atomic Robo because you’re, I don’t know, a crazy person, now is the time to start! Man, first Casanova, then Phonogram, and now Atomic Robo returns. It’s a good year for comics!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Ms. Marvel #18 (“Last Days Part Three”) by Adrian Alphona (artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer), Ian Herring (colorist), G. Willow Wilson (writer), Charles Beacham (assistant editor), and Sana Amanat (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I don’t really have much to say about this issue. It’s perfectly fine, and it looks nice, and Wilson is wrapping things up pretty well before the reboot (where I may drop the book, as I can’t believe it will stay at $2.99 – the first issue is already 5 bucks!), and we get a good cliffhanger, and it’s all good. So there.

I did have an interesting conversation with a dude at the comic book store about this book. I don’t know if he’s ever read it, but he claimed it wasn’t very good. Fair enough; that’s his prerogative. He wondered why Marvel is publishing it, and I said it was a good comic. But that cracked me up, because this dude is a perfectly reasonable guy who reads a decent variety of comics (too much Marvel for my taste, but still), and he wonders why Marvel would possibly create one (1!!!) title that doesn’t cater to him. He might not have been implying that, but it felt like he was. It was as if he couldn’t imagine a world where Muslims, or teenaged girls, or even women, would read comics. Now I am none of those, and I still read Ms. Marvel, because I limit my reading only to books I think are good, but it’s always fascinating when I’m at the comic book store and someone casually mentions that they can’t believe why a certain book is being published. Maybe it’s that one dude thinks the art is godawful, or that the main character is a Muslim teenager, or that they’re trying to gender-switch a character, or they’re trying to publish six comics starring Harley Quinn. It’s very weird, because there are a lot of comics out there, and publishers should be trying to expand their readership base, so why wouldn’t they try new things? I know that publishers tend to be conservative, so they stick with what works (BATMANBATMANBATMANBATMAN!!!!!), but they also do try to bring in new people. If you don’t like something, why would you wonder why it gets published? If enough people don’t like it, it won’t be published. I can’t even make it through five minutes of The Big Bang Theory, yet it’s the most popular show on television. But I recognize that my tastes are different from everyone else’s. It always makes me chuckle when other people don’t recognize that.

Anyway, this comic is ending and relaunching. What a brilliant move, Marvel! It worked so well for DC!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Fuse #14 (“Perihelion Part Two”) by Shari Chankhamma (colorist), Ryan Ferrier (letterer), Justin Greenwood (artist), and Antony Johnston (writer). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

Johnston is creating a Short Cuts kind of comic here (I’m sure there’s a more contemporary reference, but I’m ooooollllddddd, man!), where there are all sorts of things going on and many characters cross paths with each other and everything will probably come together in some way. In the first two arcs, the focus was more on Klem and Dietrich, even as Johnston was giving us a sense of the Fuse and the people who live there. Now, even though it’s clear our two police heroes are the main characters, there’s a lot of stuff going on that may or may not concern them, and it’s interesting seeing how they relate to the general idea of law-and-order, rich-and-poor, tourists-and-lifers kind of thing that Johnston is building in this series. He’s tweaking culture a bit, too, as Klem points out when Dietrich thinks that the giant centipede model that the people parade through the square is a religious thing and she disabuses him of that notion. Johnston has shown that he can build a culture on books, and while he might not be the best writer at it, he’s pretty darned good, and in this arc, he’s doing some fine work.

Greenwood is still making progress – I don’t think he’ll ever be my favorite artist, but his lines continue to get stronger, he’s able to draw a lot of characters well, and his use of blacks in this issue is very well done, as the perihelion brings things into stark relief (see below). Greenwood’s using motion lines better, so while The Fuse is probably never going to be the most action-packed comic, when it does get into that a bit, Greenwood is doing a decent job with it. Chankhamma gets to color the book a bit brighter, too, which is nice, as the Fuse itself always seems a bit dour, so opening up the shades and letting the sun in (so to speak) makes her colors a bit friskier, which is always nice to see.

This continues to be a solid comic. That’s nice.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Harrow County #5 by Cullen Bunn (writer), Tyler Crook (artist/letterer), Ian Tucker (assistant editor), and Daniel Chabon (editor). $3.99, 23 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

Harrow County was supposed to be a horror comic, and the first arc featured a good dose of it, and this issue features the weird-looking creature seen below, who seems pretty horrific, but it’s weird, because the tone of the book has shifted dramatically in this issue. Emmy is now the … I don’t know, witch doctor? of the county, and she talks to the monsters and convinces them to live in peace with the people. That’s fine, and I like this issue and the shift, but it’s kind of weird. I mean, there’s the guy who wants Emmy to kill a guy he thinks might be cuckolding him, and there’s the cliffhanger, which doesn’t bode well for Emmy, and there’s even the weird-looking creature hiding in the wooden shack out in the forest, so there’s plenty of opportunity for bad things to happen to Emmy, but they don’t seem like horror things. This is a breather issue, where Emmy is coming to terms with her new life and what it means, but it still seems that Bunn has spun away from straight horror. I imagine that was the plan all along, but I do find it interesting that Dark Horse pushed this as a horror comic, and it really isn’t. Well, maybe it will be, but it just doesn’t feel like it.

Crook draws cool monsters, too.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Bunker #14 (“The Connections We Make”) by Joshua Hale Fialkov (writer), Jason Fischer (flatter), Joe Infurnari (artist/letterer), James Lucas Jones (editor), and Robin Herrera (editor). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

I like this comic, but it drives me nuts. I occasionally read comics like this, where I know in general what’s going on, and there’s nothing really wrong with any one issue, but I can’t remember too much about it. I don’t even what the deal is with every main character, much less the ancillary ones who show up in this comic. I mean, I know both Future Grady and Present Grady are douches, but other than their plan, I don’t remember much about what’s happening. What the hell is wrong with me? Should I just give up on the comic? Unlike Fialkov’s other recent comic, The Life After, I dig the high concept of this book and Fialkov’s more grounded (relatively) storytelling is interesting, and I like Infurnari’s art more than Gabo’s. But it’s just really weird. I just don’t remember very much about this comic issue-to-issue. Strange.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Letter 44 #20 by Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque (artist), Crank! (letterer), Dan Jackson (colorist), Charles Soule (writer), and Robin Herrera (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, Oni Press.

Soule has done a very nice job recently on this comic, as the early issues, which were fine but a bit unfocused, have led to tighter plotting and clever twists – in this issue, we get more than one – and much more tension. The stakes up in space feel higher, even though they’ve always been pretty high, and the plots and counter-plots are swirling on Earth. Ex-President Carroll’s grand scheme is a bit clichéd, but what’s nice about it is that Soule didn’t really telegraph it, even though we can see that Carroll is just megalomaniacal enough to think it’s a good idea. Meanwhile, the big explosion in this book was surprising, and should cause plenty of new problems with President Blades moving forward. Soule “solves” the problem of the asteroid heading toward Earth with a nice twist, as well. Soule is a pretty good writer, and it’s nice that he’s been able to get this book going while he’s writing 50 Marvel and DC comics at the same time.

Alburquerque, meanwhile, continues to be a very good artist for this book. His people are sinewy (for the most part) and just warped enough to add an extra layer of surreality to the comic, and his alien stuff is very alien and strange. He’s done a nice job making Carroll look terrifying, even though he’s just old and liver-spotted. Jackson’s colors are terrific, too – he uses not-quite-drab coloring on the Earth stuff, which allows the brighter palette of the space stuff pop more and add to the exotic nature of the “Builders.” He colors explosions well, too, which I know is a bit weird, but it’s totally a thing.

I don’t know how long Soule is planning to do this thing, but I guess it’s selling well enough that he can keep doing it, so good for him! It’s gotten better, which is always nice to see.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Maxx: Maxximized #23 (“Having to Believe”) by Dennis Heisler (letterer), Sam Kieth (story/artist), William Messner-Loebs (scripter), Ronda Pattison (colorist), Jim Sinclair (finisher), Michael Benedetto (assistant editor), and Scott Dunbier (editor). $3.99, 22 pgs, FC, IDW.

Man, this book is getting really hard to read. Not because it’s bad, but because Kieth and Messner-Loebs are really going for the emotional jugular. Dang.

Yeah, I don’t have much else to say. The comic is 20 years old, people!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Section Eight #4 (of 6) (“In Your Satin Tights, Fighting for Your Rights”) by Pat Brosseau (letterer), Garth Ennis (writer), John Kalicz (colorist), John McCrea (artist), Brittany Holzherr (assistant editor), and Marie Javins (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC, DC.

Let’s unpack this cover a bit, shall we? First, it’s an homage/parody of classic James Bond/action movie posters, except that instead of the person in the background being the one in charge, it’s Wonder Woman in the foreground. Wonder Woman’s magic lasso, always a bit of a weird bondage thing, is even more so in this image, mainly because of the presence of Bueno Excellente, who of course would dig being tied up with a rope by a woman. Check out his face in the drawing! Conner draws him in a strange, inverted pose, which – along with where his “girlfriend” and the Grappler are placed, adds to the weird sexual undertone of the whole drawing, and Conner even manages to contrast the majesty of Wonder Woman herself with the utter ridiculousness of Section Eight. It’s a really neat cover, for all that it’s fairly simple in terms of a layout.

I’m always disturbed when writers use head trauma as a source for humor, mainly because that’s not how head trauma works, but I give Ennis a pass here because of a few reasons: 1) it’s a superhero comic, where reality works differently; and 2) he’s so obviously playing it over the top that it becomes ridiculous. Wonder Woman, who refuses to join Section Eight until Baytor accidentally smashes her in the face with a giant mallet, thereby altering her personality, is used to show how idiotic the tropes of standard “womanhood” are, as she plans a wedding for Bueno and his girlfriend and giggles while the others look on his horror when he kisses the “bride.” Baytor finally puts a stop to it the same way he started it, which again just highlights the silliness, but then Ennis turns on a dime and once again shows why he’s such a great writer, as the end of the book wrenches us back into the “real” world far more than any cartoon-like head trauma could have done. Ennis is excellent at drama when he wants to be, and while this is a goofy comic, it’s clear that he’s leading us at least close to something very serious, and I love it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Starve #4 (“Blood and Sausages Part 1”) by Dave Stewart (colorist), Steve Wands (letterer), Brian Wood (writer), and Danijel Zezelj (artist). $3.50, 22 pgs, FC, Image.

One of these days I will read an issue of Starve that I haven’t reviewed yet. But that day is not today!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl #2 (of 6) (“Girl Anachronism”/”The Ice Storm”) by Clayton Cowles (letterer), Jamaica Dyer (artist, “Storm”), Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist, “Girl”), Matthew Wilson (colorist, “Girl”), and Chrissy Williams (editor). $3.99, 27 pgs, FC, Image.

Gillen often writes about image, and what that image means, and how it affects everyone. So it’s not surprising that the latest Phonogram is about image, as Emily and Claire have switched places and Claire decides to upset Emily’s image. Emily has been very careful about how she projects herself into the world, and while she’s caustic, she’s not necessarily cruel, but Claire takes that and pushes it just a bit further, so that the objects of her attacks believe that Emily could easily be speaking. That’s Emily’s tragedy, and it’s why Claire is able to destroy her so easily. Images abound in this comic – David Kohl’s image is photographed by someone planning to use it in a ritual (he’s just happy nobody is going to masturbate to it), Emily has become an image, one whose meaning shifts, and the “devil” in this book is nothing but static, confounding the image-centric nature of television (although this probably has to do with the fact that he’s Michael Jackson and Gillen/McKelvie couldn’t use his image, which just adds another layer of irony to the comic). Gillen chooses two of the most iconic videos of the 1980s – “Take On Me” and “Material Girl” – in which to trap Emily (ignoring her brief sojourn in another iconic video, “Thriller”), which just plays up her desire/need to be an image herself and again ties in with how she presents herself to the world, which Claire subverts. It’s interesting that McKelvie draws Claire as far hotter than Emily, an interesting idea, as Claire is desperate for attention herself, so she subtly alters her hair and drastically alters her clothes to present a sexier version of Emily … who then, of course, appears in the video in which Madonna was, perhaps, her most beautiful. These are fascinating layers of the script and the art, and if anyone can pull them off, it’s Gillen and McKelvie (with the typical amazing assistance of Wilson, whose colors – especially during “Material Girl” – are terrific; and Cowles, whose “computer” fonts for Emily’s travels through the videos suggest the time period but also a coldness that is in contrast to Phonogram‘s usual messy magic), and they do it with aplomb. McKelvie’s sketchiness during the A-ha video portions is wonderful, both exactly like the video it’s mimicking and also a nice shift in style from McKelvie’s usual tight line work, and his work with Claire as she casually wrecks Emily’s life is stunning. As I’ve noted before, Gillen and McKelvie are both fine creators when they’re not working with each other, but they definitely bring out the best in each other. This issue is just another example of that.

By the way: YAY! Phonogram is back!!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

New Lone Wolf & Cub volume 6 by Kazuo Koike (writer), Hideki Mori (artist), Studio Cuti (letterer), and Dana Lewis (translator). $13.99, 263 pgs, BW, Dark Horse.

I assume one day the Lone Wolf & Cub stories will end and then I can read the entire thing, but man, there’s a lot of it, isn’t there?

Virgil by Chris Becket (colorist), J. D. Faith (artist), Thomas Mauer (letterer), and Steve Orlando (writer). $9.99, 88 pgs, FC, Image.

The back cover of this reads that it’s a “queersploitation” revenge story. Just the coinage of that word makes me like it a little less. It still looks awesome, and I’m still on the fence about Orlando, so this should help me out!

Okay, let’s check out the hottest new feature on any review post in the comics blogaxy: checking the solicited shipping dates with the actual ones!!!! WHOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Gotham Academy: 9 September. Right on time, not surprisingly.
The Wicked + The Divine: 9 September. Keeping on schedule!
Rebels: 9 September. Is this a trend‽‽‽‽‽‽
Injection: 9 September. Holy schneiky!
Tet: 9 September. Alert the media!
Atomic Robo: 9 September. It’s a phenomenon!
Ms. Marvel: 19 August. Holy cow, it’s a late comic!
The Fuse: 9 September. Back on track!
Harrow County: 9 September. Yippee!
The Bunker: 26 August. A little late, but not too bad.
Letter 44: 9 September.
The Maxx: 2 September. Only a week late!
Section Eight: 9 September. DC keeps it on pace!
Starve: 9 September.
Phonogram: 9 September.
New Lone Wolf & Cub: 2 September. Why a week late?
Virgil: 9 September.

Man, that’s a good week. Only a few late books, and even those aren’t that late!

Money spent this week: $68.73 YTD: $4826.14

**********

Man, lots of links this week. There’s a-doin’s a-transpirin’!

In idiotic comic book news, Marvel placed some of those “Look at our shiny new books!” inserts in such a way that they broke up double page spreads. Some talking head at Marvel (Alonso? Brevoort? if I cared, I’d know) said it was a mistake. Ya think?

In comic-adjacent news, AMC is ordering Seth Rogen’s Preacher. I’m wildly ambivalent about this. Preacher is just a bit overrated, but it will probably work well on television, but AMC? Has any AMC executive actually read Preacher? For that matter, has Rogen? HBO might find some of its content objectionable, and a gutted Preacher on AMC would be awful. I mean, are they really going to have the meat-fucking guy? I don’t even think AMC allows the word “fuck.” Stay tuned!

Here’s a fascinating article about Marville, the infamous abortion of a comic from Bll Jemas back in the day. This writer rakes Jemas over the coals, and while I haven’t read Marville but have no doubts that it’s as awful as this person says, let’s all remember that the Bill Jemas era is still the creative high point for Marvel over the past 25 years.

In non-comics news, Barbie has an Instagram account mocking hipsters. Any mockery of hipsters is fine by me.

I’m sure you connected people have heard about Ronda Rousey doing a Road House reboot, but there’s the story. I don’t care too much about this, but I always find it fascinating when people try to remake movies that are so tied to a specific time or a specific actor. It’s why the RoboCop reboot didn’t work, for instance. Road House is as much about it taking place in 1989 as it is anything else, and its success has to do with Patrick Swayze not looking like an action hero but still kicking ass. So more power to Rousey, but can’t someone just write a brand-new vehicle for her? Anyway, Grantland breaks down the possibilities for a Ronda Rousey Road House movie. Hilarity abounds. And here is a totally gratuitous Ronda Rousey photo:

Because this is Arizona, a kindergartener has been denied entrance to a Scottsdale Christian school because of his father’s porn past. Yes, let’s punish the children for things we don’t like about their parents. That’s a fine Christian way to think!

Speaking of moral outrage, were people really outraged by Alyssa Milano’s breastfeeding photos? I mean, I don’t quite get why anyone posts breastfeeding photos on social media, as with a lot of photo-posting (says someone who posts photos on Facebook), it seems more about whining for attention than anything else, but I don’t really care if they do. And while Milano’s whining about Miley Cyrus’s clothing smacks a bit too much of “get off my lawn”-ness, she does have a point. I just don’t get objections to breastfeeding. It’s weird. And as one of my Facebook friends pointed out, wasn’t the Internet kind of invented solely so we could look at Alyssa Milano’s breasts? The answer to that is “yes.”

In totally random news, here’s a clip of America’s tallest model standing next to Kelly Ripa, who’s not very tall. It’s amusingly bizarre.

And in bizarre news, the headline of this item, which perfectly sums up the actual story, is almost enough to keep you laughing, but the actual story might be far more disturbing and sad than the headline.

Football is back, and while Penn State still sucks (even though they managed to win yesterday), I’m really looking forward to the Eagles’ season. The bright spot for the Nittany Lions so far has been … their kicker, Joey Julius. Why is he becoming a folk hero? Check this out, and then go follow him on Twitter!

I don’t know if anyone saw this, but the Washington Football Team (WFT) continues to be an absolute train wreck, and the story of the general manager’s wife accusing a reporter of giving blowjobs for news might be my favorite train-wrecking story from Maryland of the summer. I mean, this is just wonderfully perfect. Man, some people are just that stupid.

In case you missed the first game of the season between Pittsburgh and the New England Cheaters, you may have missed Antonio Brown’s awesome haircut, which launched many memes. If I could cut my hair like that, I totally would.

Speaking of the Eagles, they cut Tim Tebow last week, and Tebowites sent some Philly sportswriters some emails. Oh, they’re something, all right. People who like Tebow seem a little out of touch with reality. They’re like comics readers!

That’s all she wrote for this week. I apologize for the lateness of the post – my parents came to town on Friday, and whenever they’re here, I find it hard to get time for typing. I’m going to get the Previews post up tomorrow (I really hope!), but then on Tuesday I’m heading off to Portland for the Rose City Comic Convention, so I’m skipping next week’s comics. Have a nice day watching football, everyone!

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