Wednesday, March 23, 2005

What I bought - 23 March 2005

Yeah, I'm posting again. You wanna make something of it? It's Wednesday, the Holy Grail day of comics!

Since I bored someone with my contention that comics are mainstream, what I bought today is somewhat mainstream, somewhat not. You can agree or disagree (I'm betting on the latter) with my purchases as you will. Bring it on!

303 #4 by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows
$3.99, Avatar

Nobody does war comics like Garth Ennis, but here, he changes things up a bit, as last issue saw our Russian sergeant walk away from Afghanistan with not much being resolved. Suddenly, we're in the American Southwest, and there's a sheriff whose wife has recently died. He has to deal with a series of gruesome deaths at the local slaughterhouse, but because the manager is a bigwig in town, nothing ever gets done. What the hell does this have to do with our Russian friend? Well, he shows up halfway through the book with a broken leg, being tended by a Mexican who lost some fingers at the plant. The Russian decides some slaughterhouse employees need ass-whuppings. Mayhem, presumably, will ensue (next issue).

It's a good issue. Not as good as the previous three, but it sets up nicely for the last two issues of the series. 303 is excellent comics storytelling by someone who, when he's on, is brilliant. The usual beautiful art by Burrows applies.

The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty #8 by Gabriel Benson and Mike Hawthorne
$1.99, Beckett

The series ends on a sweet note. It's not "sentimental crap," like some series have been described here recently, but it is sweet. Benson doesn't explain everything as much as I would have liked, but it's a fairy tale, for crying out loud! Beckett is putting out some excellent comics. Both this and Fade From Grace are ending, but I trust everyone is picking up Roninhood of the 47 Samurai at Free Comic Book Day, right?

Daredevil #71 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
$2.99, Marvel

Boy, Daredevil is cool. How can Bendis be so good on this and so, well, weak on New Avengers? He doesn't even overdo the snappy patter like he does in Powers sometimes. His run on Daredevil is a masterpiece. Disagree with me at your peril!

Okay, he's still having some trouble wrapping up his storylines. But he has no problem setting them up. This is the beginning of the tale of what happened for the year between Matt kicking Wilson Fisk's ass and the recent events in the book. It's a group of people sitting around a church basement talking about how their lives were changed by Daredevil as Kingpin. Very nice dialogue between the cast, and the girl who tells the main story is both tough and vulnerable and embarrassed about her "relationship" with Murdock. Bullet shows up, but he's just cannon fodder. Maleev's fight scenes have gotten much better, and the whole "Murdock-as-Jesus" thing that Bendis sort of has going is nicely done. Since it's a Ten Commandments vibe Bendis is doing with this story, maybe not Jesus. Maybe just God. It's good. Pick it up!

The Expatriate #1 by B. Clay Moore and Jason Latour
$2.95, Image

I've been looking forward to this book for a while, and it's finally here. I don't have high hopes for it being on schedule, because, let's face it, when was the last time we saw an issue of Hawaiian Dick? (That might not be Moore's fault, however.) This is a cool issue - dirty and rough art, intriguing story, good noir characters. The CIA is after some guy for an undisclosed reason in some banana republic down south. Local politics, lots of violence, people dying left and right, a breakneck pace, mysterious femme fatale - man, this is cool. We'll see if it keeps up - I really like it. And there's a funny one-page "story" by Steven Griffin (get on that next issue of Hawaiian Dick, Griffin!)

JLA: Classified #5 by Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, and Joe Rubinstein
$2.99, DC

If you don't laugh at some of this, you have no soul. That's not to say you should love it, but there's a joke in here for almost everyone. The nice thing about this book is not the rather lame story or the constant jokes at Booster Gold's expense (the marriage to the old woman bit is getting old), it's the fact that Giffen and DeMatteis really make us believe these people are comfortable with each other and love each other. The conversation between Ted and Kara is one of the nicer ones we've seen in superhero comics in a while. Billy Batson gets some nice lines, too. I love Bea, and I like the "mother hen" aspect of her personality with regard to Mary Marvel. At the end of the issue, the team finally goes to hell (thanks to Booster), and next issue we'll probably get some action. This issue, however, is just fine. It's a pleasure to read something like this.

Livewires #2 by Adam Warren, Rick Mays, and Jason Martin
$2.99, Marvel

I wasn't sure if I'd like this series, but the first issue was a blast and a half, so I'm on board, since it's only six issues. Warren is just having fun, and it's kind of a nice change. We learn a little more about the robots (it's quite funny how they don't like that word) and Stem Cell finds out some things about her new consciousness that's pretty funny. The story is a little wacky and probably doesn't make much sense if you really look at it (I choose not to), but who cares? I like the fact that this takes place in the Marvel Universe (Nick Fury has a cameo), but doesn't require you to know anything about it. It's straight fun comics.

The Manhattan Guardian #1 by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart
$2.99, DC

Although I'm totally committed to Morrison's Seven Soldiers epic, this issue was just kind of okay. I like Jake's job interview, and the idea of a newspaper whose readers are the reporters and which decides to employ its own superhero is neat. The Subway Pirates are ... well, unusual, I suppose, but I don't know if they really work yet. It's nice to see pirates, however - first, Scurvy Dogs, then El Cazador (gone but not forgotten!) now this, soon Sea of Red - it's a pirate renaissance! And why are Jake's wife and friend (it's not his father, is it his father-in-law?) Larry taken by the pirates at the end? This is okay, but not as good as the first couple of Seven Soldiers issues.

The New West #1 by Jimmy Palmiotti and Phil Noto
$4.99 (!), Black Bull Entertainment

As much as I hate padding Gareb Shamus's coffers, this is one beautiful comic book. It's way too much money for a two-issue series, but it does pack quite a bit of story into it, I suppose. Los Angeles is experiencing a loss of power because almost a year ago, Korean terrorists detonated a pulse bomb over the city. Not the rest of the country, apparently, so why the power has been out for eight months is not explained - did every other part of the country say, "Ha! Those Hollywood liberal bastards got what was coming to them!"? Anyway, the mayor has been kidnapped, and disgraced ex-cop Dan Something-or-other, who is disgraced because right before the bomb hit he was in the process of getting the mayor's kidnapped daughter killed, has to deliver the ransom (the kidnappers asked specifically for him). He kills a lot of them with his groovy samurai sword and finds out some interesting things about the rest. He also has some sort of relationship with the mayor's wife and a weird relationship with the mayor's other daughter, who shows up naked in his bed early on (he doesn't sleep with her, because apparently she's underage). It's a decent enough book, but I'm not sure it's worth the money.

Pigtale #2 by Ovi Nedelcu
$2.95, Image

I really want to like Pigtale. It's an independent comic, it's whimsical, it's got a nice touch of drama, and it's set in Portland, OR, which might be the greatest city on earth. I want to like it ... but I don't. I can't get past the wacky art, and the talking pig (and all the other talking animals) and how the wolf looks nothing like a wolf. It's a fun little comic, but not worth the money. I'm giving it one more chance - I don't know when issue #3 is coming out, but I want to see if the story gets any better. It's too slight a story, and the art doesn't overcome that.

Trigger #4 by Jason Hall and John Watkiss
$2.99, DC/Vertigo

This is another title on my watch list - the current story wraps up in issue #6, and I'll see then if I want to keep buying it. It's getting more intriguing with each issue, so it might survive, but we'll see. I like that Carter is starting to piece together his memories and try to find out what turned him into a killer, but I'm still frustrated by the story involving Vidalia the schoolgirl - it gets a little clearer this issue, but not much. Is it wrong for me to be bothered by the fact that Ethicorp's executive vice-president, Lucas Darke, is black? That was just ... stupid, I guess. Watkiss's art is beautiful.

X-Men #168 by Peter Milligan, Salvador Larroca, and Danny Miki
$2.25, Marvel

Three issues into my return to the X-books, and I'm a little happier with what Milligan is doing. The X-Men are still zipping around the globe way too quickly (they go from Jerusalem to Los Angeles to Salem Center in this issue - and what was the point of them in Israel, anyway - I know they had to get another monster there, but it was just a weird aside) and the evil mutant, Boy, seems to take over situations remarkably quickly, but I like the fact that Milligan has a good handle on the characters and also is willing to make things a little creepier than the X-books usually allow. The final panel is chilling, and makes me boldly hope that next issue is like issue #6 of Sandman - "24 Hours." It won't be, but I can hope. It's still not the greatest issue, because as effective as the X-Men are one minute, they're completely helpless the next (WTF?), but it's better than the first issue of the arc, and shows more promise than the last issue. Milligan, unfortunately, can't go full bore into the weirdness that lurks in his mind, but he's skirting the edges.

Yeah, it's a lot of comics. The ones I highly recommend: 303, Daredevil, The Expatriate, JLA: Classified, and Livewires. Good stuff, all.

I would be remiss if I didn't pimp my contest. I'm giving away a copy of Scurvy Dogs. If you haven't read it, you're missing out. Anyway, go here for all the details!

I'm done for a couple of days, I promise!


Blogger Lex said...

These recent Giffen/DeMatteis Formerly Known As... stories
piss me off to no end. I was looking forward a good comedy story, but these are just horrid. First, they shift every character's personality around to fit the jokes so characterization is out the window. Hell, Sue Dibney got more characterization in Identity Crisis #1 than she has so far in these JL stories. Second, they beat every joke into the ground and then start beating on it some more. Repetition can lead to great humor, but you can go overboard with it very quickly.

Guardien #1 was amazing! Both the art and the writing were better than sex (so I've heard). Jordan is a great character and I love the update of the Newsboy Legion ("Army" in this story).

Anyone who doesn't recognize the brilliance of subway pirates is a communist! Well, maybe not. But a modern take on pirates complete with a treasure map? It was perfect!

Oh, and I agree with you about New Avengers. I haven't read all of Bendis' Daredevil work, but most of what I've read has been decent. But New Avengers is just trash.

3/24/2005 12:30:00 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

The only comic I bought was JLA Classified #5. The way Maguire captured the "smarmy and proud of it" look on Guy's face ... fantastic. I also got the first Walking Dead TPB in the mail. I'll read it as soon as I figure out how to remove it from the packaging ...

3/24/2005 02:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...


A comic blog with a positive review of Daredevil?...

That doesn't start out saying how much you hated the last storyline, the amount of time Matt Murdock spends out of costume, Maleev's reliance on photo-reference, Avengers Disassembled, and the very idea of House of M?...

That recommend its the book wholeheartedly and not grudgingly?...

... I'm confused.

3/24/2005 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Lex: Sure, the JLA guys are coasting a little, but I still think it's a blast - like I said, the highlight of the book was the conversation between Kara and Ted, not Sue going apeshit earlier in the issue. That was not as good.

I enjoyed the Subway Pirates, but in the pantheon of wacky Morrison characters, I'm not sure if they measure up yet (we'll see).

Matt: Yes, I do love Daredevil. Parts of it have been a little weaker than others, but overall, the best the book's been in a long time. I love that Murdock spends a lot of time out of costume. Of course, I always loved the time Peter Parker spent at the Bugle interacting with all his co-workers, as well.

Keep hearing good things about Walking Dead. See? No one can buy everything that is good out there.

3/24/2005 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

I like Bendis' Daredevil as well, but we seem to be at the point where many writing on the net are not too fond of: Bendis in general, Marvel, slow-paced/ decompressed comics storytelling, or super-hero books with lots of talking heads scenes.

Most reviews of Daredevil (positive and negative) come with an abundance of complaining. Thankfully, yours did not, which made me double check that I was on an actual comics blog.

3/24/2005 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

I hope they put out a trade of Ballad of Sleeping Beauty because it was already 5 hard-to-find issues in by the time I gave Fade From Grace a shot and realized Beckett was publishing some interesting stuff.

Picked up my first issue of Bendis' Daredevil this week because the arc sounded really interesting and I've been wanting to shoehorn it into my pull list for a while now. Unlike you, I'm enjoying his New Avengers so far. It's no instant classic but it works for me as simple-minded entertainment, especially some of the character interactions. Throwing in the Savage Land always helps!

I actually reached for a copy of The New West yesterday and pulled back like it bit me when I noticed it was from Shameless' Black Bull. I've come to really despise Wizard over the past year or so and refuse to put any money towards their stuff.

3/24/2005 04:31:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty trade is solicited in this month's Previews. See what I do for all you guys - ask and ye shall receive!

3/24/2005 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Spencer Carnage said...

Finally. Someone agrees with me on the Guardian. If this was just some stand alone thing, no one would give two shits. But all things considering, its something we'll see all the way through as hokey as the whole idea of subway pirates is.

As for the New Avengers, I like it. Reminds of comics when I was a kid. Nothing too "Oh my god, this is crazy" but enough to get me involved. The more and more I think about it, the more I like the line up. The Avengers should be a rotating line up and quite frankly the only people on the old team that was cool are either on the new one or dead.

3/24/2005 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

ExPatriote, I think, spent too much time making it "different" than a normal comic.

I think Moore should have spent more time inviting the reader in.

First issues of independent comics do not have a lot of leeway to mess around with.

3/25/2005 03:55:00 AM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

I liked the first two issues of Ballad of Sleeping Beauty, but I found the first issue of Fade From Grace to be pretty dull. I haven't read either since. Have to give Beckett props for that price point, though.

3/26/2005 02:23:00 AM  

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