Friday, August 12, 2005

What I bought - 10 August 2005

Dave over at Dave Ex Machina has a mission for comics bloggers: go read some comics. Well, I read comics all the time. But he also says we shouldn't talk about them. Oops. That's where I come in. I'm just trying to share the love, people! Is that so wrong?

Let's check out the floppies for this week (minor spoiler when I talk about Fables, if you're interested):

Easy Way #4 by Christopher E. Long and Andy Kuhn
$3.99, IDW

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Well, things wrap up, and it's kind of predictable, but as usual with IDW's output, it's not about the quality of the book, it's about whether the quality justifies the price tag. I will repeat my dilemma with this book: it's fine, solid storytelling, with a vaguely familiar plot line, and there's nothing wrong with it, it's just not worth 16 dollars. I am completely ignorant of the vagaries of pricing comics, because I'm stupid, but I've said it before and I'll say it again - this would work very nicely as a $10.95 graphic novel. Why wasn't it put out that way? I don't know, and if anyone can tell me, I'd be happy to listen. It has a varied cast of characters, a "hero" you can root for even though he's flawed, some nice violence, some small twists that aren't out of the realm of reality, decent tension-building even though we're pretty confident things will work out, and good art. But it's not stunning. It's not something that makes you fall over because it's the greatest thing you've ever read. I doubt if Christopher Long himself thinks it is, and that's fine. It's a perfectly nice mini-series. Years from now I will drag it out of my long box and re-read it and say, "This is pretty good." I just wonder why it was put out in this fashion.

Okay, that's enough ranting about that. Moving on!

Elk's Run #3 by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon
FREE! (Okay, it's 3 dollars, but there's no price listed on it, so it must be free, right?), Hoarse and Buggy

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Okay, so, yeah, I didn't read it. You see, when Guy fell in love with this, I thought I'd give it a try. So I ordered this issue and thought, "I'll just track down the first two in the back issue bins, since I missed them when they came out." Well, of course the first two are gone and will probably set me back many ducats now, but then, when Speakeasy solicited the first three issues as a mini-trade (as part of their campaign to take over independent comics), I ordered that. So I'm waiting for that to come out, because I don't want to jump into this in the middle of the story and get all confused. It looks cool, though.

So that's that. Unless Jason has some extra copies lying around that he wants to send off to a poor little comics blogger, I'll wait on this. My tiny contribution to the independent comics' fund, I guess.

Fables #40 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha
$2.75, DC/Vertigo

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Boy, that's a nice cover.

I bet Brian is all smug and shit because he knew who the Adversary was, but if you saw the cover, you can probably figure it out. This is basically Gepetto's "origin" story, and I doubt if it's a coincidence that the way he became the Adversary mirrors closely the way the Romans rose to power. It was always "in everyone's best interest" and the conquered people were allowed to keep their own laws and customs, just kick back some tax money to the Big Kahuna. What this does, I think, is allow Willingham to show that Gepetto, despite doing some pretty horrible things (especially that one thing with the Blue Fairy - ewww!), is basically a realpolitik politician, and wouldn't be out of place hanging with Otto von Bismarck, Winston Churchill, Truman, or even our current president (I will leave it Avi and T. to say whether Willingham is criticizing the current bossman). We admire the Romans for their willingness to work within the local systems while still bringing "civilization" to the conquered. Yet there were plenty of people who considered the Romans the most evil conquerors in history. In a more modern sense, do we admire Americans for spreading the fruits of their culture around the world, or do we protest when someone tries to open a McDonald's in Oaxaca? What Willingham has done, just with this issue, has called into question the attitudes of all the Fables in Exile. I have a feeling Gepetto will do something truly horrible so that we can all get back to hating him, but I hope not. This issue makes this series, which is one of the best out there, even more interesting.¹

¹ I don't think saying that Gepetto is the Adversary is really giving anything away, is it? It's not like it's THAT big a shock.

Gravity #3 by Sean McKeever and Mike Norton
$2.99, Marvel

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Another solid effort in this mini-series, which is probably flying under the radar in this "House of Crap" summer. As usual, everyone says they want fun superhero books, but fun superhero books don't sell. This is a fun superhero book. That's not to say there isn't drama - Greg gets his butt kicked by Black Death and only escapes through a convenient plot device, and the whole issue is a little darker than the first two, but it's still a book about a young guy trying to figure out if he's cut out to be a superhero, but that's just a metaphor! Yes, it's all a metaphor in this coming-of-age story. Yes, it's all vaguely familiar (my phrase of the day). Yes, the audience is screaming at Greg to just bang Lauren already and stop dreaming of being the next Spider-Man. But he's stupid, people! Weren't we all at 18? Didn't we all dream of something better when hot Indian chicks were throwing themselves at us? And didn't we all know a person who was just trying to help us out (like Greg's roommate) but we were too caught up in our own little drama to notice, so we snapped out at him?

This is not a revolutionary series, people. It is, however, an attempt to bring to this jaded comic book audience the sense of wonder at having powers and using them for the greater good. It's a solid superhero book, and that's all it has to be. And Greg finally figures out that getting your ass kicked by Jack-O-Lantern (yes, he has a cameo) might be a lot worse than making out with a hot chick. Score one for the college student!

Mnemovore #5 by Hans Rodionoff, Ray Fawkes, and Mike Huddleston
$2.99, DC/Vertigo

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Man, this is a creepy book. It would be nice if my copy didn't have a lot of faded dialogue (I don't know what the deal is - some words just aren't there, and others are a lot lighter than the rest of the words - did it happen on the whole print run, or am I the unlucky one?), but it's still a creepy book. Kaley finds the big bad guy and decides to take care of it. Mike shows up and thinks differently. We learn a little bit more about the Mnemovore and where it comes from. Kaley is starting to remember things from before the accident.

I don't want to say much more, because part of the fun of this book is reading it and getting a creepy feeling all over your skin. It still depends on the conclusion, but it's in the running for best mini-series of the year.

Noble Causes #12 by Jay Faerber and Fran Bueno
$3.50, Image

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Although I have bought every issue of Noble Causes in all its permutations, I have been critical of it because it sometimes is definitely not worth the money for the story you get. The past few issues, however, have been very good, and #12 is fantastic. The reason it is fantastic is because this Faerber brings to a close the storyline he's been running for the past 11 issues, and he does it with a nice sense of drama and a little bit of a twist and some revelations that make sense within the context of the book. This feels like a Claremont X-Men book back when Claremont knew how to pull his loose ends together. Faerber even leaves one plot line dangling to tantalize us, which is another thing Claremont used to do well. There's a crapload of action, some nice characterization, and good evil people who get their just desserts. Excellent stuff.

I'm sorry, but if you're buying, say, New Avengers, with Jessica Drew explaining how she makes all the guys horny, or Shanna the She-Devil, where, as far as I can tell, a scantily-clad big-busted chick hacks dinosaurs apart for seven issues, you should put that money to good use and buy a truly fun superhero book that, despite having stories run for 12 issues, is far from decompressed. Okay, I'm done ranting about that for today. What can I rant about now?

Samurai: Heaven and Earth #4 by Ron Marz and Luke Ross
$2.99, Dark Horse

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Ooh, ooh, I know what I can rant about now! How about soliciting things before they're ready? This was supposed to be out a few months ago, and now that it's here, I have to agree with Zilla, who wanted more to happen. It's gorgeous to look at, and the story moves slowly toward its conclusion, and I liked it more than Zilla did, but he has a point. Reading this issue in the middle of the trade (and if you haven't been buying this, get the trade) wouldn't bother me, because we do learn some things that are important to the story. But although I'm sure Marz had the whole thing plotted out months ago, it feels like he thought Shiro was getting too close to Yoshiko and he needed to throw some roadblocks in his way. The assassination plot against Louis XIV feels thrown in, too - not because it's implausible, but because Marz fails to mention the political backdrop of the whole thing. In 1704 the War of the Spanish Succession was "raging," and Marz obliquely refers to it, but doesn't really explain a whole lot. It would not really do to have a historical dissertation in the middle of the book, but a little more background would have been nice.

Anyway, it's a beautiful book and very different from what is usually out there. Look for the trade, my good people - look for the trade!

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #3 by THE GOD OF ALL COMICS, Ryan Sook, and Mick Gray

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Continuing my policy of not reading Seven Soldiers until the whole damned thing is complete, I didn't read this. I will say that this comic probably has more fishnets-per-panel than is allowed by law, Betty Page bangs are so 1997, and if you complain about Marvel's covers being nothing but pinups, you should complain about this one. Is it okay because Zatanna has no ass? Maybe.

I'm sure this is good. Don't displease THE GOD OF ALL COMICS by skipping this!

The Winter Men #1 by Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

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See now, this is a meaty book. There's a lot going on, we understand it all (except for the parts Lewis doesn't want us to, but that's okay, because it's a mystery and all that), the art fits the tone of the book, it's sort of a superhero book but it's more of a spy thriller, it shows us a culture we don't understand - it's a nice start to the series. We'll see if they can sustain it for 8 issues. What's interesting about this is that here in the capitalistic, corrupt West, we don't recognize the nice, pure corruption of Mother Russia. Here, our corruption is much more subtle. In this book, Russia is portrayed (and from the little I know, this seems somewhat accurate) as a primitive society masquerading as a modern one - the strong eat the weak, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Like I said, pure. Kalenov, the main character, is very interesting, because he is not necessarily a good man, but he's trying to be. By the end of this first issue we understand why he might not be a good man, even though we're on his side.

And there's a chilling scene in a baby's bedroom. Cool stuff.

X-Men #174 by Peter Milligan, Salvador Larroca, and Danny Miki with Allen Martinez
$2.50, Marvel

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Remember the good old days of Marvel, when they had a sense of humor? If this book had come out 20 years ago, someone would have put "Warning: not everyone on this cover actually appears in the book!" That's not entirely true - Psylocke and Bishop appear in one panel, but wouldn't that have been fun?

Anyway, it's a book entirely separate from the House of M, which is kind of interesting, and it's the conclusion of Milligan's second story arc, after which I said I was going to decide whether I would keep buying this or not. Well ... I'm still on board, even though this was not as strong an ending as I would have liked. I think the problem is with Milligan's strengths as a writer.

Milligan is good at personal conflict and social satire. His best work - Shade, X-Force/X-Statix, Human Target - delves deep into what binds us together as people and also pokes at the fabric of our society to see what our society actually is. His worst stuff - can anyone say Elektra? - foregoes that entirely. Here, he is trying to do that, and those things are the best parts of the book. However, it's freakin' X-Men, so he has to have superhero stuff in there, and he's not at his best when he's trying to play that straight. Therefore, Onyxx's obsession with Foxx feels stupid, as does the whole discussion about whether Mystique should be allowed into the X-Men. His take on Rogue and Gambit's relationship and how Mystique has messed it up works better, and the mystery of who Mystique is hanging out with is handled nicely. Milligan doesn't like to wrap things up neatly, but here he tries, and it feels forced.

A minor point that really aggravates me about the X-books these days is the idea that Scott and Emma have the greatest relationship ever. In X-time, they've been together, what, six months, if that? We're supposed to believe they're completely devoted to each other and that Scott doesn't feel the least bit guilty about leaping into bed with Emma when Jean wasn't even cold yet. I'm still waiting for the day when Emma revels herself as the evil villain she was BORN TO BE! That will be a good day.

Anyway, I'm still intrigued by this book, because I want Marvel to let Milligan loose like they did on X-Force. I don't want this to be the over-the-top satire that that book was, but anyone who read Shade knows that Milligan can really get under the skin of romance, and really tear characters apart, and that would be cool to see in the X-Men.

Sorry to run on today. Anyone got anything to say?

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Blogger Brian Cronin said...

It IS kinda disappointing that it is Gepetto, though, isn't it?

That was the consensus pick for, like, over a YEAR, now!

8/12/2005 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Aaron Kashtan said...

I'm surprised at how unsurprising this is.

8/12/2005 09:17:00 PM  
Anonymous thekamisama said...

I am pretty sure the lettering on Mnemovore is supposed to be like that. It is on my copy.
But I guess since you didn't mention it, the mistake on my copy is genuine, the first and last four pages are repeated. I thought perhaps the repeat pages and adverts were a way to use a "real life" form of memory invasion through repetition.. now I am kind of disappointed that it was just a screw up

8/12/2005 09:45:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

My cope of Mnemovore did not repeat the pages - that would have been kind of cool. And I wonder, since the other copies are like that, if the lettering is deliberate or just a printing error. It seems to uniform to be arbitrary.

I don't think the fact that it's Gepetto is too disappointing, simply because that's not the point of the comic book. It was a small part of the overall story, but not the main point. And maybe he's not really the Adversary ...

8/12/2005 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Chad said...

Oh, and just for clarification- that was not a minor spoiler. A minor spoiler would be "Boy Blue reveals he once had sex with Bigby." The dientity of the Adversary is a kinda big spoiler.

8/12/2005 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Julio Oliveira said...

X-men #174: My guess about who is the stranger hanging out with Mystique is Phantomex from the Morrison Run. I mean, someone who is a thief by choice and not necessity and talk like some kind of Don Juan?

8/13/2005 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Chad - I just didn't think the whole point of the comic book was who the Adversary was. If we're talking about Watchmen, then the killer is a HUGE plot point. The identity of the Adversary isn't as important, I don't think, as the Fables trying to fight him. At least that's what I think.

Excellent choice, Julio. I hope it is now, simply because everyone else has spent their time ignoring or tearing down Morrison's run, and it would be nice to see Milligan tie into it.

8/13/2005 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Kelson said...

My copy of Mnemovore has the same fading text problem. At this point I'm pretty sure it's deliberate, since it fits in so well with the lost-information theme.

8/13/2005 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Vaklam said...

The fading-text thing in Mnemovore is deliberate. It showed up in earlier issues, too. It's meant to represent the memory fuck-ups that the gross creatures are causing. It's like they're stealing the words from the character's brains before they get a chance to settle into memory.

That's my interpretation, anyway.

8/13/2005 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger Matt Brady said...

My copy of Mnemovore also had that faded text thing. If on purpose, it is an interesting technique that makes it hard to read the story. If not on purpose, it was a lucky error that made them look innovative.

And Greg, you really should read Seven Soldiers. It is a blast following it as is comes out, and if you try to read each miniseries individually after you have them all, it won't make as much sense as if you read them in the published order. And it's only a two-week wait between issues (when it's on schedule)!

8/15/2005 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Matt - I plan on reading them in the order they come out. I am keeping them in order. I just know it's a big honking story, and I trust Morrison to make it good. They sure look pretty, though.

8/15/2005 07:38:00 PM  
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