Thursday, June 09, 2005

What I bought - 8 June 2005

It was a good week in comics. Most of the good stuff took me a little by surprise, to tell you the truth. I know you're dying for purchasing advice, so let's go!

Action Philosophers! All-Sex Special by Fred van Lente and Ryan Dunleavy
$2.95, Evil Twin Comics

Okay, continuing the indy/mainstream comic debate, which has its merits and its idiocies, one reason someone could make for not venturing beyond the Big Two is because of price - indy comics always seemed to be more money than DC or Marvel. Well, that's by the boards now. So why would you buy, I don't know, JLA #115 instead of this book? I guarantee you will laugh harder when you read this book than JLA. Is it accessibility? Okay, that I can get. My comics shoppe got ONE copy of this - and it's because I ordered it. It may be the erratic schedule of independent comics - that's certainly a factor. Anyway, moving on.

I still haven't gotten the first issue of Action Philosophers (I ordered it, but it hasn't arrived yet - I may have to go directly to the publisher!). If you see this one lying around, however, buy it. It's hilarious. Here's a sample: on page 2, Isaac Newton strangles the cartoonist. On page 3, God gives the world the finger. On page 5, Thomas Jefferson-as-Luke Skywalker battles George III-as-Jabba the Hutt. On pages 13-15, the Manicheaen forces of dark and light look suspiciously like Kirby's New Gods. There's more, but you get the idea. It tells of Thomas Jefferson, Saint Augustine of Hippo, and Ayn Rand. It's chock full of sex (and it's all-ages!). It's freakin' funny. It's 32 pages! The art is good. You'll learn stuff.

Jesus. Hops. Away. On. The. Cross. Holy crap, this is a fine comic book. Demand it today!

Batman: Dark Detective #3 by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin
$2.99, DC

After last issue's somewhat weak effort, this is a nice change of pace, as Bruce and Silver discuss their relationship. I hear Batman Begins is going to focus a little more on Bruce (and stupid Scipio has already seen it, confound him!), which is nice, and this issue focuses also on Bruce more than usual. I'm all for that. Of course, because it's comics, we get a goofy Harvey Dent clone (I wish I didn't have to type that) and another idiotic crime based on the number two (okay, it's a doubleheader - we get it - but how did Harvey know what the score would be?), but on balance, it's a nice issue. This is not changing comics as we know it, but it's a solid story. Two things I hope: Silver is alive at the end (I'm pretty sure she will be, because Englehart doesn't seem like the kind of guy to kill her) and that it's not Jonathan Crane under the mask. I just get the feeling it's someone else ...

Easy Way #3 by Christopher Long and Andy Kuhn
$3.99, IDW

This didn't come out this week, but Chris Long sent me a free copy, so I got to read it early. He also affixed a note telling me I better be honest even though it's free, so I'll try to be. I was lukewarm about the first two issues - #1 set up the story fine, but wasn't anything great, and #2 seemed a little more brutal than it had to be, but #3 is good. The art continues to look nice, and the story resonates a little more deeply on an emotional level and also adds a few twists that personally, I didn't expect (and that may be because I'm stupid). I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that Duncan's family gets menaced - what's the point of them otherwise? - but it still sets up the last issue well. The problem I have always had with this and other IDW offerings is that it has to absolutely blow me out of the water for 4 dollars. GrimJack is doing that for me, but their other stuff isn't. I hope this gets collected in a trade, because I wish comics creators who give me free copies well, but how much is IDW going to charge? It's four issues long. They can't charge 16 dollars for the trade, can they? If it's anything lower, why buy each issue? And if nobody buys the issues, why should they collect it in a trade? It's a vicious cycle! I would rather see them do what Larry Young does - put out original graphic novels and only occasionally delve into monthly stuff. If this came out as an OGN for 10 bucks, I would have no compunction about recommending it. For 16 dollars, however ... it's a bit much. Thanks for the copy, Chris! I will definitely pick up #4, because now I'm interested how the story will turn out. So that's something.

Fables #38 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha
$2.75 (sigh - a quarter more), DC/Vertigo

It gets a little tiresome praising the titles I love every week, but I must. This is basically Boy Blue getting into position to kill the Emperor, and Willingham tries some legerdemain that doesn't work because we know BB is not disguised as the guy we're supposed to believe he's disguised as, but what the hell. It's beautiful to look at, it moves the story along, it has a wonderful cover - there's not much else to say. You're either buying the monthlies, waiting for the trades, or not buying it at all, and to those last people, I say, you're missing out. Oh well.

Gravity #1 by Sean McKeever and Mike Norton
$2.99, Marvel

Here's a title I had no expectations about. (Yes, yes, I dangle my prepositions, but I'm an English teacher, damnit - I'm allowed to!) If anyone out there bought it, can you tell me if you're as jazzed about it as I am? It's really cool. New superhero arrives in New York to go to college. We don't yet how he got his powers. Look! A first issue that doesn't wallow in pseudo-science and boring exposition! He decides to team up with another superhero, except he picks the wrong side of the fight and beats up the hero instead. Yes, it's a cliché, but it works here, because it's not like Greg (our hero!) fights the hero because of some idiotic misunderstanding. He just doesn't know that he's a hero! Awesome. He gets a convenient roommate who happens to worship superheroes and can therefore tell him who's who, he flies around on patrol and makes more rookie mistakes (and although they're silly, you can imagine it happening), does save a life, and is late for his first class but luckily meets up with a foxy co-ed who happens to be late for the same class. It's just a really good issue.

Two things: no matter how much you love 1980s hair bands (as his roommate does), no way to you have posters of Winger or Britny Fox on the wall. Ratt I can see, but even in 1989, college students didn't have posters of Winger or Britny Fox on their walls. Second (and more seriously): Wouldn't it be nice if these titles that Marvel is bringing out right now caught on? They've tried it before (Tsunami, anyone?) and it hasn't worked. Just recently we have Power Pack, Livewires, Machine Teen, and now this. These are books cynical old bastards like me can enjoy, but kids can too, and although they take place in the Marvel Universe and can reference stuff old fanboys can appreciate (was Rage really in the Avengers? help me out, people!), you don't need to be bogged down in continuity to enjoy this. This is a five-issue mini-series, so I'm sure some of you will wait for the trade, but if you happened to pass over this, check it out. It's just plain fun.

Holmes #1/Periphery #2 flipbook by Omaha Perez; Matthew Smith and Brian Horton; Mark Fearing
$3.50, O-P-P

This is a nice pseudo-anthology book, with three short stories in one package. It's a nice idea that I wish we saw more of. I got this because of the solicitation for Holmes, which described the great detective more like Iggy Pop than Basil Rathbone. The story, "Haydn's Head," is very funny. Holmes is, of course, a drug addict (the book says "narcotics," but Holmes used cocaine), and Watson is his enabler. They have all sorts of wild misadventures, in which Holmes makes a complete ass of himself. Holmes in drag might be worth the cover price alone. Good stuff. I haven't seen a second issue solicited (that old indy thing again!), but I'll keep my eye out, because it's fun. The other two stories are okay. Periphery is all Zen and shit, and since I'm a materialistic Westerner I don't get it. The third story, "Like a Rolling Stone," is about cavemen. A sample line: "Whatever happened to the Dirt Age? You all too good for that now?" It's a humorous story. You will chuckle at least once.

This is another book that you probably had to order ahead of time. If you find it, you might want to take a chance on it. The art is solid, two of the stories are good, and you won't be giving your money to Dan DiDio or Joe Quesada! They have enough already!

The Pulse #9 by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Lark
$2.99, Marvel

Last issue was close to pushing me over the edge, and this one did it. It "wraps up" the seemingly interminable "Secret War" story with absolutely nothing even resembling a resolution. I'm a big fan of ambiguous endings, but not endings that seem to occur simply because the page count for the issue has been reached. This is just an awful issue. Wolverine is in it for no discernible reason - yes, I know it ties into his book, but there's still no reason for him to be there - and when did Logan turn into a crybaby? I want my hard-ass Wolverine back! Yes, he was overexposed, but now he's overexposed and a wuss! Danny Rand is a complete jerk in the book. Jessica is Jessica, and I suppose she's turned into a wimp because of the pregnancy, but shit - my wife is almost ready to bear a child and she's not this big of a wimp. Interestingly enough, the only good thing about the issue is how J. Jonah Jameson sweeps the Nick Fury Secret War thing under the carpet. That's neat. Other than that - adios, Mr. Bendis. I'll see you on Daredevil.

The Stardust Kid #1 by J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog
$3.50, Image/Desperado

Brian was wondering about this and if it resembled that other thing these guys did (Abazad - is that how you spell it?), so this is for him. I didn't read the other thing, so I have no idea if it resembles it or not. It's a nifty opening issue, and I look forward to more. There's a young kid, see, who is friends with some weird, millennia-old magical creature. He has abandoned his human friends to hang out with this creature, because, let's face it, Paul (the creature) is a lot cooler than Alana (the stinky human girl). But there's a strange creature growing in the park where they hang out, and all the shit will hit the fan soon, I trust. That's the story.

The art is gorgeous - very whimsical when it needs to be, and menacing when it needs to be. I love DeMatteis's writing. His stories are very good, full of wonder and spirituality and a yearning for humanity to be better. If you're annoyed by his style (which I can see), be warned - his liberal use of parentheses is in full effect here (yes, it's annoying - who would do that to a poor reader?). His slightly twee style jars some people, I know, and I doubt that they will like the book. However, it's very good. Do yourself a favor. Put down that issue of Legends of the Dark Knight (just kidding, Brian!) and pick this up.

X-Men #171 by Peter Milligan, Salvador Larroca, and Danny Miki
$2.50 (bastard price hike!), Marvel

Milligan is slowly finding his way on this book, and I'm glad, because he's a good writer. This is a nice setup to the "bizarre love triangle" story, with a new student basically flinging herself at Gambit, who has got to have a huge stash of porn somewhere or the biggest blue balls on the planet (sorry to be crude, but come on, he's "dating" Rogue, for crying out loud). That he doesn't ... you know ... just because she talks to him speaks volumes for his self-control. Foxx, however, isn't all that attractive, and she's so obvious that it seems like it would be easy to resist her. She should subjugate from within! The nice thing about this issue is that the "bizarre love triangle" applies equally well to Bobby/Lorna/Alex, which Milligan points out. There's some very nice interpersonal stuff going on in this issue, but it never sinks to pure soap opera level. There's also a nod to the fact that the school remains a school and the Jim Lee era of X-Men. Foxx has a strange past that I'm sure will come up soon, and it adds a nice mystery to the proceedings. Oh, and Wolverine's a wuss. What the hell is going on????

I'm awfully crude today, aren't I? Sorry about that. Especially because we had such good all-ages books out today! I'm telling you - find some of these books. You will not be disappointed! Now, I'm going in the pool. Call me an ignorant comic reader if you want to, but I'll be cool!

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Blogger Michael said...

"So why would you buy, I don't know, JLA #115 instead of this book? I guarantee you will laugh harder when you read this book than JLA."

JLA's not really a comedy. Unless you find superheroes talking about how they mindwiped one of their teammates funny.

6/09/2005 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

"JLA's not really a comedy. Unless you find superheroes talking about how they mindwiped one of their teammates funny."

I don't find that appealing on any level, really. Well, okay, I was kind of interested in seeing how they set up Batman vs. the JLA, if that's what they're going for. Damn my love of stock comic plots!

Action Philosophers and Holmes/Periphery sound good, Greg. You're right about availability; even the good shops around here don't carry large volumes of small press stuff, although they will have a few copies mixed in with the larger stacks of Marvel and DC stuff. I have a real aversion to pre-ordering and having a pull list, (maybe because my last shop wouldn't even have anything that smelled of "not Marvel, DC, or Goth," even if I pre-ordered it), but this is a good argument for them. And to add to the size of this paragraph, have you read Tales from the Bully Pulpit? It sounds similar, in that it's screwing around with historical figures for laughs, although it's not educational in the slightest (unless Edison and T.R. really did fight Martian Nazis with the help of Dragon Punching Abe Lincoln. If so, why is that not in our text books? Damn educational system).

6/09/2005 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

Bully Pulpit sounds similar to Action Philosophers, I should say.

6/09/2005 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Damn, Brad, now I'm going to have to hunt that down.

6/09/2005 06:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Ryan Dunlavey said...

Thanks for Action Philosophers plug - glad you liked the book! Anyone who's interested in getting a copy of the Rand issue can order it through online retailer at this link :
Or if you plan on going to the Mocca art fest in NYC this weekend you can pick up a copy right from me and I'll give you a sketch to boot!
Sadly, the first issue is completely sold out, both through us and the major distributors. But hunt around online - I've spotted it on a few comic shop sites like Quimbys and Midtown Comics.

6/09/2005 07:15:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thanks, Ryan. I will have to track down the first issue. I look forward to the next one.

6/09/2005 08:10:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Yup, Rage was an Avenger. Before he was a New Warrior, even. Silly '90s.

6/09/2005 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger chasdom said...

Just wanted to note that Action Philosphers is NOTHING like Tales from the Bully Pulpit, and I think the misconception is due to AP's unfortunate title.

Action Philosphers is solid and true information about history and philosophy told in a glib manner. It's similar to Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe or the more fun moments in DC's Big Books. Historically accurate, but still entertaining and funny.

Tales from the Bully Pulpit is a drug trip of a story where Teddy Roosevelt and Thomas Edison steal a time machine and visit different times and places. Most of these destinations are alternate futures, and the finale is a showdown with Hitler's South American descendant. So, the kind of thing that might be more amusing if you knew the history behind it, but really just pure fantasy.

I just wanted to empahsize this because I did not pick up Action Philosophers #1 because of the bad assumption that it's similar to TftBP. I picked up the second ("All-sex!")issue because of the Ayn Rand content, and I was impressed enough to go back to my store today and buy the first issue. Again, I would compare AP to Cartoon History of the Universe, and if you don't know what that is, trust me, I am paying a huge compliment.

6/09/2005 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Sorta spoiler (although it is really more speculation than spoiler).

If you're reading X-Men, Foxx is obviously Mystique in disguise.

6/09/2005 09:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Stefan said...

Action Philosophers is bar none the best new comic in 2005.

6/09/2005 11:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Alex_W said...

Man I wish my LCS had Action Philosophers...

And man how'd you figure Jessica Jones for a wimp? She knocked the shield guy on his backside for stalling then faced down Wolverine, then Danny Rand, all while one of her arms is in a cast! I sure agree that the Secret War arc has been a write off (and with a House of M crossover coming up - that ain't gonna change), but this issue had enough great character moments and dialogue to really put the book back up there for me.

6/10/2005 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Alex - she just seems to be weepy all the time. Yes, yes, hormones and all, but still. And the characterization just seemed off to me. I miss the old Jessica Jones.

6/10/2005 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger Christopher Burton said...

I believe chasdom provides a very accurate comparison of Action Philosophers and Tales from the Bully Pulpit. I actually exercised the surprisingly good judgment (a rarity) of pre-ordering the first issue of AP. I should be receiving the All-Sex Special with my next monthly comics shipment. Looking forward to it. It's both fun and informative. It's like The Daily Show with John Stewart of philosophy. Or maybe The Daily Show is like the Action Philosophers of politics. (?!)

So far I haven't cared for any of IDW's offerings that I've actually heard about or paged through except Easy Way, the first two issues of which I've enjoyed quite a bit. In this case, I showed the typical lack of good judgment and did not pre-order it. Fortunately, the LCS had a few copies available. If you like crime stories populated with heartless killers and pathetic souls, you'll enjoy this one, I think.

6/10/2005 05:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greg, I told you about Tales from the Bully Pulpit about a month ago. Don't act like you are just hearing about it now in order to play nice. And don't pretend you don't know who this is either.

6/13/2005 01:03:00 AM  
Blogger Matt Brady said...

I also picked up Action Philosophers on a whim, and I loved it. It was actually very educational, with the history and, uh, philosophies of the philosophers explained, but with a lot of humorous illustrations. Good stuff. I think the last page of the St. Augustine section was my favorite part of the book, although the story about Ayn Rand destroying her lover's life's work was also pretty entertaining. I recommend it, and I'm happy that my LCS (Graham Crackers Comics in Naperville, IL) carries it.

6/13/2005 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Sorry, anonymous - I am old, and I forgot about Bully Pulpit. I suck.

6/14/2005 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger Omaha Perez said...

Hi Greg,

I stumbled upon your blog today... thanks for the nice words about HOLMES!

As for issue 2... it's coming but you have it pegged with the "Indy" thing. I've got to squeeze it in between paying work and I don't like to solicit anything until the issue is complete (I've got about 6 pages left to pencil, the rest is fully pencilled and inked). As with #1, I'm sure I'll have it at cons several months before it hits stores.

Here's the cover to #2 if you're interested: . The layout will change but that's the principal image that will be used.


6/17/2005 12:34:00 AM  
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