Friday, June 24, 2005

What I bought - 22 June 2005

Well, I'm a father again, but did that stop me from buying and reading comics? Hell no! I have a responsibility to the good readers of this wonderful blog to let them know what kind of good stuff is out there that they might have missed!

It was huge week, too. Let's begin!

Astro City: The Dark Age #1 by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

Busiek's monster AC saga (16 parts!) begins with a solid story, one that I think Busiek can do in his sleep. The story isn't revolutionary - the public is beginning to distrust superheroes at the same time that they're beginning to distrust the government - but Busiek's hook, telling the stories of superheroes but using regular folk as the focus, is a nice angle to take, because it lets us see that what these superheroes do - lots of property damage, mostly - could easily be construed as reckless and silly. It's a scary world when forces beyond your comprehension appear out of control. Ask people in Oklahoma during tornado season.

The story focuses on Charles and Royal Williams, brothers we met in the AC/Arrowsmith flipbook (you all have that, don't you?). Charles is a cop, and Royal a petty criminal. They still socialize, and Charles knows about Royal but lets it slide. Now, however, he warns him that heroes are starting to kill people, something Royal scoffs at. Meanwhile, the Silver Agent is arrested for murder (of a foreign head of state!) and the Old Soldier appears to be fighting for North Vietnam. No one knows what's what anymore.

This is a nice issue. Busiek is making several comments on the comic book industry and the United States as well, without being to preachy about it. If T is reading this, he's probably upset because the Old Soldier is fighting for the Commies, but it's an interesting take on what Busiek has carefully set up throughout the series as a superhero who fights for America. For the past 30 years, this country has had to deal with whether or not we're fighting for the ideals we espouse. That's something for another day, but Busiek has been very clever with his use of the Old Soldier up until now, so when he does show up fighting for the Viet Cong (and, to be honest, he's not really fighting for them, just preventing the U.S. military from destroying a village), we're forced to reconsider what we know about him. Similarly, Busiek (who, from his writing, does not like the "dark" turn comics has taken) is taking shots at the comics of the 1970s, when Batman became gritty and the Punisher showed up. When Royal shouts, "They don't kill, Charles!", it's a cri de couer by all the young comics fans back in the 1970s and '80s, when everyone started killing everyone else. Fascinating.

After the slightly disappointing "Local Heroes" arc of Astro City, this is a fine return to form for Busiek. He keeps promising that the book will be monthly, but we'll see. It doesn't matter though, because it terms of superhero comics, this is one of the better books out there.

Catwoman #44 by Will Pfeifer and Pete Woods
$2.50, DC

Yes, I bought Catwoman. It's the first time I ever bought an issue that wasn't part of one of those godawful Bat-crossovers in the 1990s. Why did I buy it? Because Pfeifer seems like a cool dude. That's pretty weak, I know, but what the hell. I liked some of his H-E-R-O stories, and as he pointed out to me a few months ago, he wrote the Jill Thompson-illustrated Dazzler story in X-Men Unlimited a few years ago, which is awesome, so I thought I'd check it out.

So, how is it? It's pretty good. The art is beautiful. I know Woods has been around for a bit, but I don't think I've ever seen his art. For shame, I know. It's fantastic. He doesn't draw Selina with impossibly large breasts, and everything looks sufficiently grungy without being too dirty. As for the story ... well, it's a nice little heist caper, and it's enough to bring me back, because I like the characterization of Selina. Pfeifer does a nice job getting her free-wheeling attitude, as well as her love of her part of the city. I did not like the inclusion of Hush or the Ventriloquist, especially because the Ventriloquist is dead, isn't he? Did I miss something? Maybe this story was written before that, but I thought he was dead. As for Hush, that story has completely bled out of my brain - who the hell is he? That Tommy character? I don't know, and I don't care. That was a weak part of the story. I'm intrigued enough to stick with it for this arc, but we'll see after that. Pfeifer's a cool guy, though - check out his blog.

Dream Police by J. Michael Straczynski and Mike Deodato
$3.99, Marvel/Icon

Dream Police is a one-shot by the current team on Amazing Spider-Man, and while it's not bad, it's not worth 4 dollars. Deodato's art has come a long way since his days on Wonder Woman, and it's very pretty here. But the story, while clever, is inconsequential. Joe Thursday and his partner Frank Stanford are cops in the world of dreams, and they make sure everyone is playing nice. That means finding a guy who gave a nun erotic dreams, making sure a dream echo (a memory, basically) does what it's supposed to do, and reining in a kid whose monster dream has gotten out of control. Like I said, it's clever, and JMS is obviously chock full of ideas, but it's kind of pointless. I don't know if Marvel is testing this to see if it would make a good series (or - God help us! - a six-issue mini-series), or if JMS used his clout to simply put out one book, but it's kind of a strange issue. Anyone out there know anything?

The Gift #12 by Raven Gregory and Rich Bonk
$2.99, Image

Boy, Gregory gets raked over the coals on the Internet a lot, doesn't he? I don't know how much of it is justified, I'm just saying. I mentioned after last issue that this one might decide for me whether I'm keeping it, and I'm still on the fence. This was a good issue, as Death and the Ancient One talk about their relationship, and a lot of clues about what's ahead are dropped. I still do not like the art, however, and no matter what artist works on this, it doesn't seem to get better. Strange. It's also not as good as it should be, if that makes sense. Gregory obviously has a lot of ambition, and I admire that, but sometimes his writing is a bit clunky. His exposition is clumsy, and his attempts at vagueness are too vague. It just seems like there are a lot of words in each issue that don't mean anything. When issue #13 comes out, I will stand in the comics shoppe and page through it, weighing whether I want to buy it or not. That's no way to live!

Girls #2 by Joshua and Jonathan Luna
$2.95, Image

Here's another book I want to like more than I do. It's better than issue #1, because Ethan is not quite as big a dick, but he's still pretty much a tool. The ending is pretty wild, and makes me want to come back next month, but we'll see if I stick with it. My problem with this is - I don't like any of the characters. This is a pretty character-driven book, so that's a problem. Sigh. I want to like it, I do! Oh, and there are evil rednecks. I just don't like evil rednecks. It seems like such a stupid cliché. Boring.

GrimJack: Killer Instinct #5 by John Ostrander and Timothy Truman

Brian said I'd be happy about this, and he was right. Holy crap, it's still good. The action is well-paced and furious, the characterization is excellent, the surprises are wonderful and I, at least, didn't see them coming, and everything is still up in the air, even though the plot is moving furiously. This is a great mini-series. You must buy the trade if you're not buying the issues. Do it for the children!

The Iron Ghost #2 by Chuck Dixon and Sergio Cariello
$2.95, Image

Brian also mentioned that this is right in Dixon's wheelhouse, and it really is. There's nothing earth-shattering about this book, just a nice, solid read. The Ghost kills some more Nazis, including a radio announcer who reads propaganda about how the Germans are winning the war. The cops continue to investigate, and they discover something interesting about the Ghost's pistols. The Ghost lets witnesses live (a young boy and a woman), which will come back to haunt him, I'll reckon. The decay and decadence of 1945 Berlin are on display. Like I said, nothing earth-shattering, but a good book.

Livewires #5 by Adam Warren, Rick Mays, Jason Martin and Norm Rapmund
$2.99, Marvel

Wow, that's a cool cover. This is basically a big chase issue, and bad things continue to happen to our little group of fake people. I don't think I'm spoiling too much when I say everyone "dies" except for Stem Cell. You had to know it was coming, right? The cool thing about it is that Warren has made us care about these characters in just a few issues, and the chase scene is so well done and drawn that not only are we a bit sad when they die, we're eagerly turning the pages to see how they're going to die! That's pretty cool. I doubt very much if this series is selling anywhere near a good number, but it really is a good book, and if Marvel brings out a trade, you should snap it up. It's really neat.

Noble Causes #11 by Jay Faerber and Fran Bueno
$3.50, Image

See now, this is why I stick with a book like Noble Causes. Yes, it's a chunk of change, and yes, the art isn't great (it's fine, but not great), but Faerber obviously loves the book and has a nice plan for it and tells each story meticulously and so that everything ties together. Unlike Raven Gregory's writing, there's nothing clunky about the dialogue here, and everything is explained so that, even though these stories started MONTHS ago, you're not lost. A nice issue that brings elements we've been following together and sets up more stories. It's harder than it looks, but Faerber makes it look effortless. And Rusty tells Race he cries "like a woman." Funny stuff.

Otherworld #4 by Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning
$2.99, DC/Vertigo

Well, I'm done. This just isn't doing it for me. It's beautiful, and the story isn't bad, but it's too slow and simplistic. Yes, I said simplistic. Factions fighting each other, no one trusts anyone else, a paradise that's really rotten underneath - we've read it all before. I want to support Jimenez's work, for a couple of reasons: he's a very good artist who actually knows how to write; I liked his work on Wonder Woman; he's gay. That last may seem a stupid reason, but it's my reason, damn it, and I'm allowed it. But, sorry Phil, fabulous fashion sense of no, I can't keep up. Add all that to the fact that DC is putting this on hiatus (or are they canceling it?) just so Jimenez can pencil that Crisis thing they have coming up (George Perez, last time I looked, isn't dead), and that tears it. Good-bye, Otherworld. May you find sanctuary elsewhere.

Sea Of Red #3 by Rick Remender, Kieron Dwyer, and Salgood Sam
$2.95, Image

Sea Of Red, on the other hand, gets better and better. This is turning into a really fun book, one in which you can never tell what's going to happen. Joel is even a bigger dick in this issue, but unlike Ethan in Girls, he's a charismatic dick. Just when we think we have a handle on the story, along come sea monsters from the Black Lagoon and start killing people. I honestly had no idea what was going to happen from page to page, which is a great way to read a comic. I know some of you crazy people out there have an aversion to pirate comics and vampire comics, but you really should check this out. The trade paperback should be out soon, so pre-order yours today if you can't find the issues! It's really fun. And I'm still loving the red art. It's unlike anything out there.

Supreme Power #17 by J. Michael Straczynski, Gary Frank, Jon Sibal and Mark Morales
$2.99, Marvel/MAX

I know a lot of people aren't reading Supreme Power because it moves slowly, but that's a pretty lame cop-out, isn't it? I drop books because they move slowly, sure, but if they're moving slowly in a lousy direction, or there's really nothing going on in each issue, as opposed to just not a lot. I mean, Ultimate Nightmare #2 is the slowest thing in the comics universe, and the only reason I kept buying the title was because I knew it was a mini-series and would be forced sooner or later to come to the point. If that had been an open-ended series (I'm looking at you, Iron Man!), no way would I have kept buying it!

All I'm saying is, yes, Supreme Power moves slowly. Mike Sterling cut and pasted a review of the book that completely misses the point. Yes, "Batman" is black. So is the "Flash." And "Wonder Woman" walks around naked a lot. That's just idiotic snarking, though, and it ignores the book's brilliance at really getting under the skin of superheroes and what it means to have power. Mark Milton can't even go to a strip bar, for crying out loud! What's a superhero to do? Actually the strip bar scene is interesting for the very fact that it shows what Superman must actually see with his X-ray vision - and why it might not be the best thing to have. We get a little more tantalizing clues about Dr. Spectrum's spectrum and Kingsley's connection to Zarda, and this little bit is enough to keep the story going and keep everything intriguing. This is a fine comic book, and one that keeps gets more and more fascinating as it goes along.

Ultimate X-Men #60 by Brian K. Vaughan, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger
$2.50, Marvel

Ah, yes, my popcorn title. My junk food title. We all need a little junk food in our diet, don't we? It can't all be serious, can it? I just dig this book. I don't apologize for it! The biggest problem I have with this issue is Immonen's drawing of Logan. What the hell is up with his hair? The fight scene between Deathstrike and Wolverine is nicely done, Wolverine's weakness is a little silly but still plausible, and I like how in this comic, unlike the "regular" X-Men, people sometimes die and the heroes sometimes cause them to. It's not like it doesn't happen, and even though I wouldn't like it if everyone in the book became crazed killers, it's nice to see collateral damage occasionally. I like how these characters are revealed to us, with their actions and interactions and not through dialogue. I like dialogue, but sometimes it's overdone. Here, we learn a lot about Logan and Ororo even though they don't talk too much. It's nifty.

Crap, that's a bunch of stuff. Let it rip, people! Tell me what a fool I am!

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Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Congratulations, Greg!!

6/24/2005 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

As to the comics...

-Woods' art is different than normal, but his older art is great as well. You should pick up some of his Robins. Great work.

-Dream basic thought was "WTF?!" There seemed to be NO point to this comic!

-Girls: I absolutely agree. There is one scene where the cop is being a dick to Ethan, but I couldn't even really react, because ETHAN is such a dick, how can I feel bad for him?

-Otherworld was about as deep as an episode of the Snorks.

-The point I got out of the snark Sterling clipped was that that really WAS all that happened in the first 17 issues.


Still not as bad with decompression as Rucka's Wolverine, though...

6/24/2005 06:58:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

The thing I really liked about AC: TDA 1 was how I got a clear picture of both Royal and Charles' philosophies, and how they meshed with what we saw of the boys in the flipbook. Right away, these guys were believable , and I want to see where they end up as the dark age progresses. Royal's emphatic protestation of "They don't kill!" told me more about those characters than some entire issues of other comics do.

It also helped that they reminded me so much of my own relationship with my brother. I don't know if Busiek has siblings of his own, but he definitely knows what makes them tick.

On another note, great congratulations on your new arrival.

6/24/2005 10:45:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

Congrats, Greg!

I haven't read Astro City, I may give it a shot. I've actually argued politics with Busiek online before, we're polar opposites (surprise, surprise, lol)!

6/25/2005 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger Chad said...

I picked up Catwoman 44 yesterday. I really liked the linework of the art, but the coloring was too subdued and the paper qaulity wasn't so hot either. The story left me totally cold, but the art WAS pretty.

I read all four issues of Otherworld in one go this morning and, shocked though I am to admit it, I think Otherworld is a comic that needs MORE decompressing. I think Jimenez has too many characters that he's trying to juggle. And he seems to be trying to fit as many characters and settings into each issue as possible. I think he should have left it as an open-ended series and just taken his time getting places. But as it is he's cramming too much into each issue and his story is suffering for it.

I liked Ultimate X-Men. I appreciated the way Vaughaun plays around with the longtime X-Fan expectations. And I think Immonem's art is wonderful. And I don't mind his Wolverine. His Wolverine is nowhere near as nasty as the Kubert Wolverine. Either Kubert.

6/26/2005 04:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Dizzy said...

I don't know about that Sterling review. If a reader can't get beyond "OMG, Batman is black.", I really don't think anything anybody else can say can convince him that there is a lot happening in Supreme Power.
It's like saying "Thunderbolt is a left-wing nutcase, Peacemaker is a right-wing nutcase. The Question is a religious nutcase. Blue Beetle is fat. Captain Atom walks around naked alot."
Not that Supreme Power is as good as above series, but in no way, shape or form did nothing happen during those 17 issues.

6/27/2005 04:44:00 AM  
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