Thursday, May 19, 2005

What I bought - 18 May 2005; plus an added bonus because it's my birthday

Yes, I turn 34 today. It's also Pete Townshend's birthday, as well as Ho Chi Minh's. What company they get to keep!

First, let's look at the floppies. Then stay tuned for a bonus for you, the readers!*

*I'm totally serious. Would I lie to you?

Batman: Dark Detective #2 by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin
$2.99, DC

It appears that even Englehart can't escape the decompression madness, as nothing much happens in this issue. Joker and Two-Face have a confrontation, and Harvey tells Mr. Joker to stop running for governor for a really lame reason. Silver visits Bruce at the manse and The Brooding One lightens up a bit and shows her the Batcave. It's so nice to see the big penny and the dinosaur and all the rest - I wish they were around more, because just the fact that they're there humanizes Batman a bit. Bruce then gets dosed with Scarecrow gas (we think, although it's not clear) and goes a little nutty. This is the dumbest part of the book, because the art is bad and it's just pages and pages of how sad little Bruce was that his parents died. We've seen it all before. It does lead to him getting busy with Silver, so that's okay - seriously, when was the last time Bruce got laid? I don't think he actually made the beast with two backs with Selina during the whole "Hush" thing. It's not a bad issue, but not really that good. It has made me doubt whether I want to get the rest of the series, however, which isn't a good thing.

Containment #5 by Eric Red and Nick Stakal
$3.99, IDW

The trade of this series should be good, because I think it will read better. It's definitely worth it, because as I've said before, despite ripping off any number of "horror movies in space," this is a tense, tight read. The last issue pretty much plays out as you'd expect from the previous issues, but that's okay, because although it's nothing new, it's well done, and we feel the claustrophobia and fear of the characters and the utter isolation in their situation. The final page is nice and chilling, too. A decent book, if you're interested in zombies in space. Watch for the collected edition!

Daredevil #73 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
$2.99, Marvel

After last month's weaker effort, Bendis and Maleev return to form with this issue, in which a young wife tells of her husband, who happens to be a supervillain who killed a bunch o' people before our pal Matt Murdock took him down. The fight scene is great, but what makes the issue is the confrontation between the wife and one of her husband's victims, both of whom have come to the church meeting to discuss DD. The wife saw a little demon talking to her husband, and the victim doesn't want to hear about it. That sounds silly, but the way Bendis writes it and the way Maleev draws it is totally creepy, and we wonder if the wife really is delusional (although, as usual with the "grittier" and "realistic" corners of the Marvel U., it's hard to reconcile people not believing in demons when Galactus and Mephisto show up quite often). There's a nice twist at the end that will presumably be explained (I'm counting on you, Bendis!). I didn't like the priest, because he seemed like a bit of a wuss, but other than that, this was another example of the goodness that is Daredevil. I know a LOT of you wait for the trades because of Bendis's somewhat interminable style, but I love reading these in monthly format. It's like playing a long-distance chess match.

Easy Way #2 by Christopher E. Long and Andy Kuhn
$3.99, IDW

I wasn't entirely jazzed by the first issue of this mini-series, and I thought I'd give it another chance. I'm still torn. It's nice-looking, and the story is moving along, but it's a little too ridiculously brutal for the story - the drug dealers from whom our intrepid "heroes" stole the cocaine last month seem a little more bloodthirsty than someone who just got out of prison should be, and shouldn't they leave some of their contacts alive? I don't know, as I am not a drug dealer. This series is kind of like the cereal I eat in the morning (I have high cholesterol, so I can't eat the sweet stuff) - it's fine, and I eat it, but it doesn't really make an impression. I doubt if I will finish this, because it's not worth 4 dollars.

Ex Machina #11 by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, Tom Feister, and Karl Story
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

It's really one of the best comics out there, and if you're not buying the monthlies, you really should be buying the trade paperbacks. If you haven't been buying it, here's a perfect place to start, as Vaughan launches into another story of political machinations and Mayor Hundred's attempts to escape his superhero past! This time he's cracking down on fortune tellers in New York, since apparently it's against the law. One of his staff tells him a fortune teller saved her life, since she was advised not to go to work on September 11, so Mitchell goes to visit the fortune teller. She explains that she knew the whole thing would happen, which pisses him off, since she said nothing. It's kind of a weird issue, because we're led to believe that Mitchell will have a change of heart with regards to cracking down on fortune tellers, but at the end, he's more gung-ho about it than ever. Of course, since this is comic book world and not the real world (I'm sorry if I'm about to offend any physics out there or people who consult them), psychics exist and have uncanny powers, so I'm sure this will all come back to bite Mitchell in the ass. It looks like this will be yet another complex story with some requisite explosive action from Vaughan and Harris. What more could you want?

The Goon #12 by Eric Powell
$2.99, Dark Horse

So I caved to all you people out there who insulted my intelligence and bought an issue of The Goon. And like a convert, I will be zealous in my desire to see everyone read it! Holy crap, it's fun. I know nothing about our hero or his loyal sidekick, but I don't care. What a fun book. The art is spectacular as well. The letters column is funny. Man, what a great book.

I don't even want to say much about the story, because it's too fun. However, it's basically a revenge plot, as Dr. Hieronymous Alloy (he of the yellow metal masked face) arrives in the Goon's hometown to wreak vengeance with the help of his army of robots. I would tell you why he wants vengeance, but it's such sheer genius that I won't spoil it. Luckily I had nothing in my mouth while I was reading it, or I would have needed a new copy. And there's a Spanish-speaking lizard butler. Read that again and tell me you can resist this book! I give up, all you Goon lovers out there. I am now one of you.

JLA: Classified #7 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, and Joe Rubinstein
$2.99, DC

So I go to the comic book shoppe on Wednesday afternoon, comb through the various titles, pick up my stash, and leave (well, I paid first), never realizing that I had just purchased perhaps the best comic book of the year. And it's not written by Morrison or Ellis or Moore or Millar or penciled by Hitch or Williams III or Pacheco. No, ladies and gentlemen, I give you "I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League Part 4." You may now stop buying comics for the year.

This is an unbelievably good comic. Yes, it's funny, but the boys tone it down a little (maybe it helps that L-Ron and Maxwell Lord aren't in it - wait, you say Lord is now a "grim-'n'-gritty" Punisher-type? say it ain't so!) and allow the real reason their JLI was so good come to the fore. Why was their JLI so good? The members were friends, and yes they had their fun, but they also were willing to do anything for each other. That's shown beautifully in this issue.

Power Girl and Guy Gardner are fighting their way through hell, until Gardner realizes that if they just lose, the demons will take them to the Super-Buddies. Lo and behold, it works! I like Gardner a lot more as a total jerk who is actually smart than as he is usually portrayed - a total jerk with no brains. Meanwhile, Booster uses his noodle, and Ted praises him for it. More shocks! Guy wonders whether to take advantage of an unconscious Kara, with humorous results. Most of the team reunites, and then the creators reach for the stars and turn a pleasant enough book into pure genius. Last issue Bea saw Tora in hell. This issue Guy finds out. The sheer pain on Bea's face when he snatches Tora and tries to wake her up (blocking everyone out with his ring), and then the beautiful scene when Tora wakes up, is simply wonderful. Etrigan offers the heroes the ol' Orpheus scenario with regard to Ice, and they all start walking out of hell. Why they allowed Guy and Fire to walk in the back is beyond me. We all know what's going to happen, since Etrigan tells them "They always look back," but the five-panel full page of Guy and Bea in the front on the left and right and Tora behind them in the middle is still painful to look at, because we're waiting to see which one cracks. When it happens, we're left with one of the most heart-wrenching (and surprising!) final panels you'd ever want to see. For those of you who thought I was a soulless monster because I didn't like Owly, well despite the fictionality of these characters, this issue really got to me. These are characters we've grown to know pretty well, and to see the sadness and pain on their faces is wonderful. All those evil bastards in comic-book writing who think that the only way to get fans to respond to anything is by blowing someone's head off need to read this issue RIGHT NOW and bow down to Giffen and DeMatteis and Maguire.

Livewires #4 by Adam Warren, Rick Mays, and Jason Martin
$2.99, Marvel

Speaking of treating characters with respect, someone dies in this issue of Livewires, but because it's done within the boundaries of the story and Warren and Mays obviously dig these characters, I'm not mad. It's a good death, as Miller's Batman would say. The art is a little rougher than the first three issues, but it's still gorgeous to look at, and our friendly neighborhood androids are off to crack open the "White Whale" of covert operations. It's a nice stealth mission leading into a battle royale, which is well done both in terms of art and layout. And of course there's a surprise at the end. This is a fun series.

The Manhattan Guardian #2 by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart
$2.99, DC

That sly Morrison is tying things together here, in case you missed it. I'm still debating on whether I should actually read these individually or just wait until all of them are out. This was a pretty good issue, actually. More weirdness, references to Klarion, superheroes acting superheroically - all kinds of Morrison goodness! There's really nothing to say - either you're with him for the long haul or you're not.

Ultimate X-Men #59 by Brain K. Vaughan, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger
$2.25, Marvel

Boy, I really like this book. I like the characterization of both Logan and Ororo, the action sings, Lady Deathstrike shows up, Weapon X is back, and it's just a good solid read. We find out a little about Ororo's past (raise your hands if you didn't know "Yuri" was a woman so I can make fun of you), we get a nice scene between Wolverine and Storm in a pickup truck - not a ton happens in the issue, but what does happen is nicely done. I like how Ororo has subtly become the "bad girl" that Claremont turned her into, without anything drastic like the Mohawk. I also like how, unlike the "real" Marvel U., we can learn a little more about Logan without completely destroying the mystery. That's the way it used to be, but then Logan got too popular and things went on too long. It's nice that here in the Ultimate U., he's only five years old, so the writers can still have a sense of mystery about him. This is a nice superhero book.

Well, I promised you a bonus, and here it is! As it is the celebration of my nativity, I thought I'd have another contest to give away comic books! I already gave away Scurvy Dogs a while back, because it was so freakin' good. Well, now I'd like to give away TWO different books! Of course, it's a contest, so you'll have to do a little work, but fret not - no heavy lifting involved!

First, I'm giving away The Batman Chronicles, DC's reprinting of the first Batman stories in chronological order. It includes Detective #27-38 and Batman #1. It's really a must-have for any comic book fan. Faithful readers of my posts here will recall that I savaged the book here, but despite my gleeful disdain, I really love this book and think everyone should have it. So, I will send you a copy if you tell me why you want it using the most godawful, over-the-top Golden Age or Silver Age comic-book language you can think of. Here's a sample from the very book: "On a hidden altar he burned away my face and features with a terrible ray!" Or, if you prefer, Batman saying "Feet, run like you've never run before!" Yes, Bruce is talking to his feet. Or, if you prefer your melodrama more Silver-Age-ish, here's Doctor Doom from Fantastic Four #10: "I can defeat you in a thousand ways! You are putty in my hands! But I shall not finish you off yet! You are still useful to me! For you shall help me to conquer your three partners!" (Note: exclamation points are essential!) Whoever's reason and dramatic monologue is the best wins!

Second, I'm giving away Nil: A Land Beyond Belief. This is a truly excellent graphic novel that I reviewed here. It's unlike anything you've ever read before, and I can't recommend it highly enough. As it deals with philosophy (sort of), your challenge to obtain it will be to send me the philosophical quote that best sums you up. Say, for instance, you have a penchance for late-19th-century German philosophers with master race aspirations. Then "The disciple of a martyr suffers more than the martyr," a bon mot by Nietzsche, might fit you. Or perhaps your outlook on life can best be summed up by these immortal words: "I like big butts and I cannot lie, you other brothers can't deny when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face you get sprung." Hey - that's philosophy, ain't it? The most clever philosophical phrase is the winner!

If you feel like entering, E-mail me with your entries. I'll run this thing until the end of the month. That gives you slightly less than two weeks to enter. Have fun! Neither of these books will let you down!

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Blogger Brian Cronin said...

- Bruce and Selina had sex in Catwoman, I'm pretty sure.

- The priest WAS a bit too much of a wuss in Daredevil, wasn't he?

- Ex Machina was good.

- I liked JLA Classified, but while it was very well-written, I think it also smacked a bit much like "HA! See, we can write SAD stuff, too!" for me.

A happy balance, guys, a happy balance! Hehe.

- Ultimate X-Men is becoming way too much like the regular X-Men to me.

- Good man, giving out prizes!

- Happy Birthday!

5/19/2005 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Ultimate X-Men is treading a fine line, I'll admit, but I still think it's resisting being too wrapped up in its own continuity. We shall see.

I don't think JLA: Classified is a case of Giffen and DeMatteis showing that they can be bummers as well. Both those guys have shown that they can write very good dramatic stuff, and some of the old JLI stuff was very dramatic before it devolved into slapstick. I liked it because it felt real, and flowed from the whole story. Guy has been shown to be very sensitive when it comes to Tora in the past, so it wasn't a big break in character with him. And Beatriz has always been Tora's best friend. So it felt right to me.

5/19/2005 11:23:00 PM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

Guardian... (The only new comic I bought) just... didn't work for me.

I looooove Pirates. I loooove Pirate comics. And I looooove Subway Pirates.

And, heck I did looooove Morrison and Stewart's Seaguy, but for some reason I'm just not feelin' this book.

5/20/2005 12:40:00 AM  
Anonymous red_Ricky said...

Batman-Dark Detective: Bruce then gets dosed with Scarecrow gas (we think, although it's not clear) and goes a little nutty. This is the dumbest part of the book, because the art is bad and it's just pages and pages of how sad little Bruce was that his parents died.

I don't think the intend was to show how sad little Bruce was that his parents died. I think the previous scenes set up the notion that Bruce would be willing to basically marry Silver if not for the "vow" he made. The Scarecrow gas made him face his fear of "breaking that vow". Overcomming that fear puts him in a mental-place where he is willing to give up being Batman (be with Silver, be happy, etc.) Of course, while he is getting busy; his judgement is impaired and people get killed. Hey, it's an old story... guy hooks up with an old girlfriend, guy shows her his crib, guy and girl get intoxicated... guy's blood rushes out of his brain.

IMHO, It's fun to see that Batman isn't above a Bat-Booty Call. Plus, I'm not too sure Silver St.Cloud is that innocent. But Silver having and agenda is still 10 times more believable than Jean Loring having one. So there's that.

I also liked the Joker's Monologue (it was considerably better than in the first issue); that, and the fact that the Joker's "to do list" did not involve "messing with the Batman."

I loved that. Most if not all of the more recent Joker stories revolved around the Joker egging Batman or getting a high body count just to piss him off. I welcome some originallity for a change.

5/20/2005 11:54:00 AM  
Blogger Rick Jones, really said...

About "I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League:" I knew it was all going to end in tears, I just didn't know they would be mine. Probably the only comic that actually brought tears to my eyes in the last five years or so.

And it works because, at least in the hands of this team, the characters behave as real people. They have both good and bad, smart and dumb, serious and funny aspects to their characters.

5/22/2005 01:35:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Exactly, Mr. Jones (if that is your real name). They're not perfect, so we relate to them.

5/22/2005 11:04:00 AM  
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